Saturday, February 19, 2011

New Blog

For various reasons, I've moved my blog to another website and will now be blogging more regularly (2 x/week), so please visit: yogainraleigh.wordpress.com

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

WWTD? (what would a tree do)

There's something about being in nature that feels inherently good, balanced, supportive and in harmony. Living in the city, I can't access those immense energetic affects daily, so engaging nature's wisdom requires periodic visits and then visualizing and embodying it's essence.

In tree pose, I'll often send my 'roots' down into the floor, the 'earth', and feel the affect this has on me - structurally, emotionally, etc. It's amazingly peaceful and having established a firm foundation, deep roots allow for freedom of flexibility in the 'trunk' and 'branches'.

In mountain pose, I embrace the solidness of my structure and support from the 'earth' which provides me a base from which to support other living beings.

And, in meditation, I'll sometimes view my mind as a lake. As fluctuations (thoughts) 'ripple' across the surface, beneath there remains an immense calm and clear stillness.

Like a tree, I am rooted, balanced, and in harmony.

Like a mountain, I am strong, stable, and supportive.

Like a lake, underneath the ripples I am calm, clear, and deep.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bringing the outside, within

Grounded means to live from the inside out. Noticing warmth or coolness, tingling or pressure, pain or joy, boredom or intensity. Being present in the moment. Bringing the outside, within. Embodied.

Being grounded does not promise a joyful life. However, when the journey is not easy, an embodied response feels supported throughout the entire process, by my structure, by the Universe. A grounded life encourages authenticity by providing a more accurate experience of, and response to, the moment. When I'm grounded, I feel that my experience of the world is based on my internal environment, which leads me to take greater responsibility towards my own happiness.

Being grounded does not mean that I must always be thinking about the present moment. It means I can consciously choose to reflect into the future or on the past, and then return to the present moment without getting lost in my head.

We spend way too much time in our heads creating stories which justify our actions and circumstances or provide some sense of security. At best, these stories separate us from the present moment and at worst, create further suffering.

That said, the mind is not our enemy – it is an extremely valuable tool in navigating the world. Therefore, the next time you feel stuck in your story, here's how grounding yourself can help you to change the channel.

1. STOP
2. notice your BREATH, the inhale and exhale
3. THANK the mind for all the wonderful ways it helps you maneuver in the world
4. tell the mind that it is NOT BEING HELPFUL right now
5. connect with your breath
6. GROUND yourself - feel the body from the inside out: breath, sensations, heat, coolness - whatever comes up.

As the mind attempts to reassert itself with a story, again thank the mind and ground yourself in bodily sensations.

The practice of living a grounded life can create freedom from the tyranny of your thoughts and lead you towards a path of authenticity, wisdom and wholeness.

Surely there is no greater gift.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Change the Channel

This week we experienced the first snow of the year. Everything (except the roads) received a beautiful light white dusting. There was excitement in the air and we found ourselves periodically just gazing, quietly, out the window - not at anything specific, just the view. Somehow, a change in the environment can alter one's inner landscape, which changes everything. That's also what happened to me this past week during a Yoga retreat.

Upon returning, I felt a little lighter and began seeing things differently, unstuck from some particularly worrisome thoughts. It's as if I'd just changed the channel.

It's not unlike the affect that our Yoga practice has on our psyche. People come to class sometimes with worry on their faces, having something heavy on their mind. During the hour and a half, they decide to suspend their preoccupations and commit to practice. At the end of class, there is usually a lighter look on people's faces, as the group takes cohesion and absorbs into a more peaceful space.

It takes faith in the process, a belief that we each have limited control, and a knowing that connecting with our breath, our bodies and our peaceful spirit, will lead to greater insights on the other side. It's not all up to us. We can access a broader knowing. Yoga can help you to alter your internal environment, as if a light dusting of snow had just fallen on all the surfaces and made everything bright and new.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Mindfulness

It's almost two weeks into my daily mindfulness practice. Although I've taught and practiced mindfulness for years, I've often accessed it only 'as needed' and not as a way of living, every moment of every day.

This doesn't mean that during the past two weeks I've been completely present. Daydreaming and editorial commentaries have been rampant. Setting awareness as my intention means that when I catch my mind wandering, I return to the present.

The impetus for this change started with a recent Harvard study which found that people who live in the present moment are happier. Perfect timing for me as I was preparing to teaching a mindfulness meditation class - nothing like a little scientific research to provide motivation and credibility. As a result, one of my Chair Yoga students decided to take on the practice as a way of living in order to handle her negative thoughts - and it was working. Ultimately inspired by her, I jumped on board.

It's still early, but here's a little from what I've learned...

* Mindfulness becomes easier with practice. Think of it like learning a new musical instrument. It needs daily and regular practice to feel comfortable. Unlike a musical instrument, practice does not make perfect. That's just the way it is. When you need motivation, remember the reward - a happier life. A wandering mind tends to be critical and negative. The present is neither good nor bad. It just is. Keeping your awareness on the present is like placing the mind in neutral.

* Mindfulness makes life more vivid. You'll notice things you've never noticed before. You'll be more aware of what's going on around you, as well as the subtle sensations that occur in your body and their pure intelligence.

* Sometimes mindfulness is boring. When this happens you'll notice the mind creating stimulating thoughts or 'drama' so as to avoid any semblance of boredom. Since the state of boredom is short-lived when you're being mindful (as are all mental 'fluctuations'), be patient and it will soon shift. This technique is abundantly more healthy than enduring all the waves that occur from drama.

* Mindfulness requires an awake brain. You will begin to notice the affect that food, stimulants, sleep, activity and thoughts have on the strength of your mind and that a weak or dull brain has trouble being mindful. As you begin to strengthen the mind through meditation, mindfulness, physical activity (circulation) and good nutrition, the mind becomes clearer and can more easily stay present.

* Mindfulness gives a more 'real' view of the present. Unaware, we tend to downplay some actions and lift others to higher importance, thus giving a skewed view of reality. In addition, our habitual negative commentary slants the truth. Mindfulness offers a more honest landscape and an opportunity to respond in a proactive (as opposed to reactive, based on previous events) manner for more real interactions.

* Since beginning the practice, I haven't lost or misplaced anything ANY THING. This is huge!

* And, mindfulness reduces the amount of mind yacketty yak (chatter).

There are times when all of us need to bring your mind into the past or future - to plan an event, for example. A mindfulness practice means that you purposefully engage the mind in this manner as needed and then return to the present.

As I'm still on retreat, off to my noon-time meditation. Peace.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Back to the well

Like clockwork, it's day 4 of my Yoga retreat and I've finally smoothed out. When I'm on retreat, it often takes me 3 days to iron out the static and connect with the flow. During my first day in particular, the silence feels loud as the mind is exceptionally chatty. It's almost as if the brain knows it's about to be quieted for an extended period of time and therefore throws it's last hurrah.

But today is different. The mind is on check and my energy vibe has flattened out.

All of us have our ways of connecting and finding our peaceful center. And although my regular practice of asana, meditation and pranayama create the space and time for me to be mindful, a periodic retreat allows me to deepen and broaden my connection to wholeness.

And all my layers know when I haven't gone down to the well in awhile, as my center begins to feel a bit parched. But that was yesterday.

And today is different.

Now back to a bit more ommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Putting the Pieces Back Together Again


You know how it is when you wake up on one of those mornings when your head feels foggy from not enough sleep or too much, or after strange dreams whose meanings preoccupy the space in your head.

It's these mornings when I lie down on my Yoga mat and hug my legs, rock gently back and forth and connect with the feeling of my back on the floor, that I begin to feel myself coming back together again.

This simple and self-nourishing form of Yoga literally feels as if the scattered pieces of some abstract and complicated puzzle are finding their way back to a complete and whole picture. Thus begins my personal practice, enticing me to return soon and regain my wholeness anew, ready to exchange some good vibes.