Yet again, I begin a blog post by telling you about a dream I had. It was a funny and weirdish one, but it’s still interesting how even the funny/weirdish ones can propel you forward in helping you see certain things about life and yourself…
I was supposed to meet an old friend for coffee on a morning I was scheduled to teach yoga. I awoke late and was rushing out the door and into my car. On my way there, I took a wrong turn and ended up in a lake, in my car nonetheless. I remember splashing in and thinking, “Umm.. what just happened? Did I make a wrong turn?” But I was okay. My friend came to help and we were off to the coffee shop. We took our lattes to-go, since I was already running late. And when we got there, the studio was FULL of people – young (and I mean, toddler age) to elderly, experienced yogis to ones who had never been on a mat before. It was comically chaotic. But I took it all in stride and went with the flow. I called Sun As and Sun Bs and we moved in a circular fashion around the studio. (Something I’ve never actually done before in yoga (moving in a circular formation), but it seemed to work in my dream.) And while I was trying to call movements, my mouth kept filling up with bread. (Ok, I really have no other explanation for this except that sometimes I trip over my words while teaching. Or maybe my throat chakra needed balance.) It was frustrating and funny all the same. But help came to my rescue once again in the form of my friend, my 200-hr instructor and owner of the studio I frequent. We guided everyone into shavasana, then I woke up… waking late for my own practice this morning.
Lesson taken –
Take yourself lightly. Opportunities will present themselves. Be open.
Michael Johnson, of Clearlight Yoga, was recently at Yoga Den for a weekend workshop on Yin, Ashtanga, Jivamukti, and Bhakti Vinyasa Yoga. Bhakti and Ashtanga I’m familiar with, yet Yin and Jivamukti were completely new to me. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make the Ashtanga flight, but the other 3 were all kinds of awesomeness. There was so much wonderful information that it took several days for me to come out of the cloud and process everything.
Here are some of the things I learned:
— I don’t know much about yoga! Haha, in a good way. This guy is a fountain of knowledge, and I was so very grateful to be there learning from him. There’s SO much more to learn and I am so excited!
— There is a yin and a yang to everything in life. A balance. An equilibrium. And if that balance is off, our life as we view it and experience it is not in order. Yin yoga is a nice balance to our hectic, everyday lives. It’s a slower paced practice, holding postures for 3-5 minutes or longer, using breath and meditation to stimulate circulation, increase flexibility, calm the mind, and ease the soul.
— Pain is necessary in life. It is a natural need for survival. We must know what is harmful in order to avoid or free ourselves and others to stay alive. However, suffering is not. Suffering is the multiplication of pain or an unhelpful reaction to pain. With the practice of Jivamukti using breath and deep listening, we learn to halt the unhelpful reactions and let go, finding “liberation while living”. Grasping is the root of all suffering. If you learn to expect life’s ups and downs and not grasp onto the emotional roller-coaster, you will find your center and stay centered even through life’s chaos.
Does this mean we should go through life nonchalantly, not feeling the negative NOR the positive? Not at all. Emotions are normal and should be acknowledged and felt. However, through breath, movement and thought processes, we can learn to redirect our minds, reduce the negativity bias and live a happier life.
It is believed by many, including professor/author Steven Pinker, that we are experiencing a Great Peace. That the last 50 years, even though the news has us thinking otherwise, has been less violent than prior; less humans killed or harmed at the hands of another. And that we as a world community could go either way from here – back to being more violent or continue to move towards less violence. In most of our everyday lives, violence comes in the form of words we speak to each other.
— Here enters Bhakti yoga. The yoga of Love. At first I thought it was a practice of moving and breathing to a 4-count rhythm with each movement synchronized to an inhale or exhale. But upon further study, it is so much more than that. It is listening, singing mantras, remembering, “walking the walk”, honoring, saluting, service and friendship. It is the way of life and style of yoga I mostly identify with.
We are all part of the same big picture. We are all part of the same ocean. Some of us (animals included) may be bigger waves than others, yet not one of us exists solely on our own. Over-simplified, each one of us exists because of two other people. I’m sure there is the rare instance of one person living completely on his/her own without any connection to other humans, however it is an exception. We need community. We need others to live.
When he was talking about this, I couldn’t help but remember a quote from the movie “The Whale”. Yes, this is a movie about a killer whale named Luna, but again, we are all part of the same circle, whether or not we speak the same language. Luna was searching for friendship and life through connection…
“Both humans and orcas have learned the same thing. In solitude, we are incomplete. Many scientists think that this kind of complex social life requires the most intricate intelligence of all. You have to be smart to get along. Maybe when we humans looked in Luna’s eyes, we saw something we recognized – the intent, the awareness, and the longing for a fully conscious life… He too had carried that need for others through the greatness of time because it was necessary. Not optional.”
The next time you take a good look in someone’s eyes, you’ll notice (perhaps even feel) their spirit and know that even though they may appear different on the outside or live a completely different life than you, your intent is the same. To live a life free from suffering.
Our negative thoughts towards ourselves and towards others are our worst enemy. If you found yourself in a room with a hungry 300lb tiger, you would be considered a warrior for freeing yourself from said tiger, by escaping or killing. But a tiger can only kill you once. Negative thoughts can, in essence, kill you over and over again. YOU are the spiritual warrior who learns to fight and redirect negative thoughts to live a life free of suffering.
11% of the population are simply born chipper. The majority of us have to work at it. So for every negative thought, we should have 3-11 happy thoughts to counter our negativity bias. The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt talks about this. It was recommended to us, and so far it’s a great read.
It’s so easy to want to stay in that moment of a yoga workshop, especially when the learning experience is so enjoyable. But that’s not realistic. We all have a life outside of the studio with people who depend on us. The challenge is weaving yoga into our daily lives and relationships.
I began the weekend thinking I’d learn more about yoga – and that, I did. However, I learned more about myself than I had expected. To help the world and those around us, we must spend a little time on ourselves, looking at ourselves, and caring for ourselves. For what we see, how we view the world and treat others is a direct reflection of how we feel inside, the state of our soul.
What I touched on here is simply the mere surface. It takes years of practice to fully appreciate and comprehend. That’s why it is said, “Yoga is a practice.” I am humbled and honored to have been part of such a wonderful group of people and to share in the knowledge offered by Michael Johnson. Thank you.
This week as I sang mantras and did yoga in my head to a 4-beat rhythm (his CD was on repeat in my car all week long), people spoke to me about the quality of life vs. the quantity of life – how we should always aim for greater quality. A long life doesn’t necessarily equate to a good life. One of those persons was a patient in my office, while the other was my father. We all know that quality is better than quantity, at least we should. However sometimes it takes a little reminder to flip the switch. Again.
lokah samasthah sukhino bhavantu
“May all beings, everywhere, be happy and free. And may the thoughts, words, and actions of my whole life contribute to that happiness and freedom in some way.”