Tag Archives: meditation

30 Days of “A Year of Living Your Yoga” — Day 10: Insecurity & Control

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Welcome to Day 10 of my blog series. This series is based on Judith Hansen-Lasater’s “A Year of Living Your Yoga.” While the book has 365 quotes, I picked only 30.

I will try to keep these posts to less than 500 words. (These words don’t count — ha ha, nor does the quote.)

Here is the quote:

February 23 — Insecurity leads to more attempts to control. We feel insecure when we forget our connection to ourselves. Then we feel afraid and try to control everything around us. Instead, spend five minutes today sitting quietly, focusing on elongating your exhalation; it is the breath of letting go.

Then spend the rest of your life getting with the program. Because that is the art of living: letting shit go.

One of my favorite breathing exercises in yoga is to breathe in for a count of five and then gradually extend exhale after the first breath, to a count of 12. It’s the same amount of breath coming in and going out, every time (well, actually it might be more as time elapses because the lungs adapt and stretch) but you are never releasing more air than you took in on the inhale.

When we deepen and extend the breaths, we are activating what’s known as the “parasympathetic nervous response” which is better known as “freak-out / stress” breaths, but it’s really the extended exhale that does it. I believe I’ve mentioned this before: cigarette smokers have that breath DOWN PAT. Just take away the cancer stick and they’d be good to go.

(My apologies to any smokers out there, I realize it’s an addiction; I also realize that you need to stop smoking.)

I don’t think I was ever really a “control freak.” I know that when I was younger, I wanted what was best for my mother, and that was usually at odds with what she wanted for herself, but I never organically controlled things. I remember throwing out her cigarettes and other things she occupied her time with that resulted in moments which scared me, so yes, I was afraid and tried to control things (1 point to Lasater); but as I grew up and matured, I have never attempted to influence an outcome after I realized it had zero to do with me.

That’s hard: focusing on yourself when you know you don’t want to. When you’d rather point the finger at other people whom you believe are acting like jerks.

When I was in PTA, I had to let just about everything go (which wasn’t hard) because I knew what I was good at and what I wasn’t good at. If stuff didn’t get done, the world wasn’t going to end. Letting things go also enabled me to see where others simply couldn’t and that taught me that when crap hit the fan with those people that it had nothing to do with me. Their white-knuckled grips on whatever was sifting through their hands was all they thought they had; it was their only stroke of relevance in the world and it wasn’t until I opened up my eyes and saw that life is so much grander and bigger than the things we “do” that I was freed.

One of the meditations I like to do with students at the end of a vigorous class is the “squeeze it all out and then let it all go” release: sit or lie back and think of everything that gets under your skin: global warming, famine, Justin Bieber, addiction, corruption, open carry, American Idol, traffic, barking dogs, laundry, Sarah Palin, feeling unseen and unheard, cancer … breathe, inhale again and tighten your fists, legs, butt, face, jaw, gut, back, thighs, toes, eyes… all of you and again, breathe…. and THEN: exhale and release it all and let it go.

So yeah, let it go. I encourage you to sit five minutes today thinking about something you absolutely can’t control. Go on, find a nice comfy chair and set a kitchen timer for five minutes. Then sit in the chair, take a big breath, let out the breath and sit there and realize that LGO (life goes on) with and without you.

Thank you.

Missives from the Mat 9: Trust #yoga #fear #love #ego

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I’m going to try to keep this short.

I have been a yoga student for almost 16 years. I have taught children as a volunteer, I have taught friends as a gift and I’ve recently started giving private lessons.

I just returned from providing a private lesson to a good friend and her husband.

As I’m not yet certified, I feel odd asking for payment or even suggesting a rate despite my experience. But my friends have insisted.

For today’s session, I drove to her. The private time it afforded me back and forth in my car was so nice. I heard no requests for a cookie or a question about a video game. I just listened to my yoga music and stayed in my space.

True yoga is not about pretzel bodies, or heat-induced hyper flexion, or pinky-finger balances. It’s been so contorted (ironically) by the media and the craving of the masses to come up with something new — as if 5,000-year-old yoga and meditation on their own isn’t good enough; people have to go inventing new versions of it: yogalates and hot yoga… soon there will be pogoyoga on pogo sticks and YOLOyoga where you do poses on Jersey walls or during bank heists. “Stick ’em up into Virabradrasana I, I want your arms sky high and hold that for 50 breaths until my yogi and I can clear outta here… then take a five minute svasana. Go somewhere special in your heads, somewhere without demands on your life. Namaste an’ shit… y’all. YOLO.”

There is no mat for the egos. Neither the teacher’s nor the student’s. We all start from where we are at that moment.

Where we are –at that moment– naturally varies from day to day; minute to minute. What felt tight one moment might feel loose the next. What felt fine one moment might indeed ache the next. We must be present, honest and aware, in our minds and in our hearts — both as teachers and as students — to truly grow.

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That my friends have trusted me with their health, bodies and their spirits (of their own or their children) is so humbling. That my friend’s husband smiled even after I pressed him further into a pose and told me where the “money poses” were for him… That he said, “I almost went there…” after we transitioned from svasana warmed my heart. It made my spirit soar.

People who take yoga lessons might think that they’re getting a great release, a wonderful lengthening, a challenge to their core or their legs and a 90-minute break from the hither and dither of life, but they’re not the only ones. For the teachers, the moments and space of trust and peace and company are truly: priceless.

I think that’s also why I am uncomfortable taking a fee for the lessons: what we share, what I give and what I get simply can’t be quantified… but I know its value.

I am forever thank-full.

Thank you.

Missives from the Mat 6 — Meh-tough-is-icks. Re-entry and Resuming #numerology #kundalini #yoga #chakras #nabhi #kriya #bacon #metaphysics

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Metaphysics. Argh.

So, coming back from the retreat, I’ve got lots of woo-woo on the brain. It’s normal and the week at the beach helped me to distill it with my logistical reality.

At the retreat I ate this:

vegetarian polenta lasagne. lots of amazing food like this for 16 days prepared by a professional chef. i was spoiled.

caprese salads and vegetarian polenta lasagne. lots of amazing food like this for 16 days prepared by a professional chef. i was spoiled.

At the beach I ate this:

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bacon. tons of it. prepared by another and wholly separate (former) professional chef who also spoiled us.

My re-entry has been relatively smooth. There are bumps here and there. I’m trying very hard to get back into the yoga practice I enjoyed while on the retreat. It’s hard. I did a couple days’ worth before the beach trip but then I had to put the brakes on that completely while there because I didn’t want to draw too much contrast to what I experienced in the mountains versus what I was experiencing at the beach. Plus, if I’m paying any attention at all to the lessons learned or at least taught on the retreat, it’s two things: 1) to live in the moment and enjoy where you are; and 2) that there is no difference, per se between the experiences and no judgement of either. We are all existing together, not separately. It’s just the venues and the players that have changed, but in the essence of life: we are all doing the best we can every day to do the best we can.

So this morning, I was ready. I set my alarm last night and I woke at 6:30 (got out of bed at 6:45) to go to my office with my books and resume the mediation and the kriya assignment I’ve been encouraged to continue (start) to address my “path” number, 3, which also represents the 3rd chakra, which as the fates would have it, has really been my lifelong challenge/opportunity. So, yoga being what it is, it’s all tied together: the meditation and kriya is called the “nabhi kriya” and it also addresses the 3rd chakra. The 3rd chakra is the Nike chakra, the “just do it” chakra. It is represented by the color yellow (which is often a significant part of my dreams). Threes are sort of the middle child of the numerology world (from http://www.numerology.com/numerology-numbers/3) …

The number 3 is like a gifted teenager who is still under the protection of its parents: a bit spoiled, certainly scattered and perpetually in need of guidance. However, the most obvious traits of the 3 are in the creative field. A powerful need to express feelings, ideas and visions of the imagination, coupled with an extroverted personality, makes it likely that a person with 3s in key points of their Numerology chart will seek a career in art, especially the verbal arts. His or her social skills are also excellent. Charm, wit and a sense of humor help a 3 individual along his or her path, and if that weren’t enough, good looks and compelling charisma make this “kid” particularly attractive.

Blah blah blah. Tell me something I didn’t deny know. Look! There’s Elvis!

I have known for years, nay, decades, that I’ve had a special on-off relationship with my 3rd chakra. I love the guts it gives me to do some things and I bemoan the guts it requires of me to do other things. I’m great as a first-responder: I’m there with a lasagna, a joke and a shoulder when someone needs it. But when it comes to me… erm… Elvis? Anyone?

No wonder so many are drawn to those with 3s in their charts. Followers are even willing to forgive less favorable traits exhibited by 3s, like a lack of focus and direction, a tendency to procrastinate, an inability to finish projects and an unwillingness to take responsibility. On the other hand, there is a superficial side to the 3 that can be harder to look past: a narcissistic streak, a vanity, a need to be the center of attention. It is easy for the optimistic 3 to enjoy day-to-day life as long as all is well, but when challenging issues arise, it can become quickly apparent that most of the 3’s focus has been on that sunny exterior, leaving its internal fortitude lacking. Without much moral strength or spiritual depth, a 3 can easily succumb to difficulties unless friends and family move in to support it.

‘Internal fortitude lacking.’ OUCH. It explains some of my stomach issues, some of my food “sensitivities” and the fact that my lower back hurts because I perceive my lower abdominals as weak (I refer to the zone affectionately as “Midge”) and I honestly can say that I feel it “talking” to me from time to time.

For the 3 to become a well-rounded, balanced and happy person, it must learn discipline. Some lucky 3s who exhibit talent early in life (such as gifted dancers or musical prodigies) are placed in an environment with just the sort of discipline that a 3 needs to protect these talents. Another unique quality of the 3 is its tendency to be “lucky,” or rather, to be in the right place at the right time. This may be connected to its innate sense of rhythm; timing can be measured in seconds or in years, by the beating of a heart or by the movement of the stars. It is all only a matter of scale, either way, the 3 seems to be in tune with the cyclical nature of our surroundings.

Yes, I am keenly aware of timing, both internally and externally. I can sometimes feel my heartbeat in my forearms and ears if am still. I can hear it when I sleep, which I reeeeeeally like to do, so yep: guilty as charged on that whole ‘discipline’ thing. I used to be really disciplined… that’s the bad side of a 3: we can be obSESSive… (as I sing the “sess!” part).

So, my 3 needs work. My spiritual and effective weakness in this area was made crystal clear to me during the retreat. We were on the deck one day and were going over the chakras as manifested in the physical sense. I volunteered to demonstrate my 3rd chakra’s solidity and grounding anemic condition for all my soul sisters to see. It was humbling. I knew I was “weak” in the Nike department, I put up a good front and I do lots of physical and personal growth things that other people don’t or won’t do, but the thing I really want to do, the thing I was bred, raised, educated and groomed (and apparently numerologically destined) to do: write a book and get it out there, is my kryptonite.

Yet despite all my “YOU CAN DO IT!” memes, I’m still hiding in the corner under a threadbare blankie, looking for Elvis.

The way this yogini went after my 3rd chakra intention was with loving and supportive compassion, but with the precision and aggressiveness of an excimer laser. She was amazing. Why did I subject myself to this? Because I paid almost $4,200 for the entire thing and by God, I was going to get all I could out of it.  

I knew it then and I know it now: It’s no surprise to me that my 3rd chakra is out of balance. I even knew it was really out of balance. What blew my mind was that it was part of my numerology. But of course! Why wouldn’t it be part of my numerology? Fine… but my PATH? The very thing … the essence of what will bring me to myself?! Phuuuuuch.

So I’m in. I commit to at least 40 days of the nabhi kriya.

This morning I’m all alone; and that aloneness makes me very self-conscious. For the first time in a while, I understand what “strength in numbers” means (all references to numerology notwithstanding here).

What I learned this morning is that I’m rusty. I forgot to rub my hands together to create a connection between the left and right hemispheres of my brain. I forgot to put on some sort of music to keep me from wondering if anyone was walking outside the room.

Once I figured that out, I tuned in: I chanted “Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo” and totally forgot to breathe correctly. I ran out of breath. So I had to start again. I rolled my eyes at myself, which I can’t believe I did, so I immediately apologized to myself and said “Self, get over it, you’re rusty. It’s OK. You’re trying. Start again. Remember the hands this time.” So I did. I found the music, I rubbed my hands together, I inhaled deeply and I chanted.

I.

Felt.

Like.

A.

Dork.

So.

Vulnerable.

I immediately missed my friends from the retreat. I opened my eyes and looked around to see if anyone was laughing and pointing at me. Of course no one was, I was alone, desperately alone in fact, but I was still terribly self conscious.

But I realized I had an ally: my beautiful wool and silk light blue shawl that I bought at the retreat. I had a new blankie. A power blankie. No! A cape! My kundalini cape! I could not only hide under her, but she could bring me some focus too, and some strength, and identification with growth.

She would remind me of those days when I wore her on the deck in the chilly morning fogs. She kept me warm. She allowed me to feel a part of the tribe there, she also helped to feel safe doing what I am earnestly committed to doing: creating a solid 3rd chakra point in my body and my spirit to push me to get things done.

that's me in the background.

that’s me in the background. just seeing this picture transports me to that awesome deck and all those wonderful souls. the woman in the foreground was my roommate. aren’t the shawls gorge?

So I got her out and smelled her gentle woolen scent and I unfurled her and got started.

I warmed up. I closed my eyes again and mustered my courage. I did the sufi rolls and the “washing machine” torso twists (elbows up, hands on shoulders and twist from side to side inhaling on the left, exhaling on the right) and some other arm thingies and …

Then I determined it was time to do the kriya to address my 3 life path and my 3rd chakra.

Find the book that has the kriya. Find the book. Where is the book? Where is the freakin’ Kundalini Yoga book? Did I leave it at the retreat? No. I’ve had it since coming home.

Fine. Do the other kriya, the Adi Shakti.

No. I’m here to start the nabhi.

On and on it went. I consumed about 30 minutes looking for the book. Then I found it. Then I looked at the kriya.

Ooofda. Leg lifts. A freakin’ ton of leg lifts. Well, doing 40 or 90 or 180 or 1,000 days of this on a daily basis should definitely resolve any “Midge” issues… 

It reminded me of the calisthenics we used to do at day camp. I still haven’t done any comparative analysis on the matter, but the timing of Yogi Bhajan’s arrival to the United States to share the technology of kundalini yoga dovetails suspiciously close to the fitness trend of calisthenics that I remember my mother doing three times.

Irony in the irony: today’s experience directly showed me how out of balance my 3 is: I was logistically unprepared. I started at 7:00am, but I didn’t have my stuff. I went online to find the kriya and meandered the yoga sites. I found it, several times, but I talked myself out of using the online ones because they weren’t >insert Veruca Salt< The One In The Book!

I wasted time, being self-indulgent. Trust me… I see it all now, I’m paying attention and I was paying some attention then too, but I told mySelf to shut up. By 10:30, I was finished, I was committed. It might’ve been the world’s longest nabhi kriya ever, but I did it.

I did almost all of it for the recommended times too. I am pleased to announce that my core is strong, but my low back needs some support, so I allowed the support, no judging. I can tell you this: when I’m done, my abs are going to be insane. I read online that someone said this kriya saved her life. I am just hopeful it will give me mine back.

I feel like all I’m doing is barking at you guys… please chime in and say hello. Ask me questions! I’ll be happy to answer them!

Thank you.

Friday #Fiction 2.1 — Perfect is the Enemy of Good

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Although she was not normally a morning person, Claire relished this time of day: dawn, in the “donzerly light” (as she used to call it as a little girl) and watching the sun rise, crest the tops of the baby green leaves on the tallest oaks and poplars by the river and see its climb to the high noon. It’s when she did her best thinking, her only thinking, really. She felt melancholy, but couldn’t understand why. She felt distracted but didn’t know by what. She felt unsettled but everything was in place in her world.

This is a fourth in a series; please go here for the first “chapter”: https://mollyfielddotcom.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/friday-fiction-friends-2-0-familiarity-breeds-fonder-over-greener-ponds/

She unlocked the boathouse door, walked inside, flipped on the light, unlocked the padlock and hoisted up the roller door to let out the barely lit into the darker. She saw her shell, “Claire-ity” sighed and said aloud, “Girl, it has been toooo long, it’s so good to see you.” The water had warmed just enough for single rowers could take out their shells and go it alone. She wouldn’t be alone though, she had her memories with her and the geese and cormorants and fish and frogs, her long-lost friends. Crickets were still chirping outside the boathouse. She turned to grab a dusting cloth from the musty racks and gently wiped down the shell’s periwinkle fiberglas hull.

“Oars first. With the water bottle, check,” she said quietly to herself. “Being off the water for several months, even though you mostly know what you’re doing, does not mean your first time out will be flawless. Perfect is the enemy of good. Perfect is impossible, clarity, yes. Perfect, no.” She said as she lifted the oars out of the rack, signed them out of the log and headed down to the docks, leaving her water bottle behind.

“How many times do I have to forget to learn?!” she whispered to herself. “Just one more time, Master Bruce,” she answered to herself as Michael Caine. She kept walking down the slope to the dock, she had decided that the water bottle would have to wait.

The dock was barely visible, save for the abrupt reflection of the water when it met its sides. Claire had been to the boathouse so many times though that she could walk to that ramp with her eyes closed.

“End of the dock, smoother push-off,” she said gently to herself. “It’s all coming back now…good,” she had learned to be kinder to herself and allow tiny moments of praise when she had figured things out. The concept of self-congratulation was foreign to her. She grew up in a world where adults abdicated their responsibilities to their children to desperately flee their reality. “If no one dies or winds up under the table with a bottle, we have achieved success. Today,” was how she encapsulated her life as a child, teenager and young adult.

The guilt from being unable to fix her mother and perform her father’s bidding to try to fix her mother was just too much at times. It hung around her neck on a 10-pound choker, like a 100-pound iron weight on a 50-pound chain and Claire weighed only 140-pounds so, it held her down from time to time even now, in her late 20s.

She placed her oars at the end of the dock and as she turned, the sun was lighting the sky although she still saw Venus behind her near the moon to the west. “Venus, you beautiful thing! Go to bed!” she shouted at the sky, laughing to herself and startling a heron perched on the water level sign about 12 feet off the shoreline. She jumped when the heron barked at her, “the feeling’s mutual, bird!” she said to the tail of the great gray bird who silently coasted above the water landing on a log floating on the surface.

“Looks like it’ll be a row in the cove today,” she said to herself, taking notice of the debris floating downriver from the recent rains. “Yup. Not going on that with no one else on the water.”

When she approached the shell, she squatted down to make sure the bolts and riggers were still in shape and to inspect for any signs of rust or bugs. A small red spider dropped down from inside the port hole cover on the bow of the boat as if to greet her. “Sorry chap, no free rides today,” she said to the spider and grabbed its web as she gently placed it on another rack. She checked her boat’s position to the other riggers and her riggers to the other hulls and mentally prepared to remove the shell.

On a mental count to three, she squatted back down, straightened her back, leaned in, shuffled her feet out and lifted the shell. Her bow ball tapped into the floor, sending a vibration through the shell and Claire overcorrected, slamming the stern into a rack. Crestfallen, she apologized to the shell and took a few deep breaths saying to herself, “Easy now. Do NOT let this get to you. First time out is always rusty.” She got her bearings straight and smoothly executed a “lower to the waist, water-side down” so she could exit the boat house with the riggers pointing up and down and narrowing her chances at hitting anything else in the boathouse. With the boat in her hands, she looked down and saw her water bottle, again, all by itself. “You will just have to wait,” she said.

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The sky was much brighter now and rays of the sun’s telltale white glow were shining above the treetops. She was relieved that she was no longer in the dark. Carrying sculls is one thing, carrying a 25-foot, 31-pound racing shell in the dark was quite another. As she approached the dock, she saw a pair of slings ready and waiting for a shell like a cradle waiting for a baby. She put the boat in the slings and turned back to get her water bottle.

Once on the water, things started to click into place. She felt her muscles ease into their old motions and she thought actively about her form. “Press through the heels, straight back, left hand over right, straight back, square the blade, drop the blade, pull the handles, feather the blade, roll back up, press through the heels …” and on and on. Again and again, taking her to her zone, her place where she was most alive and free from the weight of the world. A fish jumped beside her shell leaving the water in ripples and her scull blades did the same. Down, whoosh, slide, up, back, down, whoosh, slide. She was warming up and felt a bead of sweat under her baseball cap. Her skin was cooled by the gentle breeze her rowing provided. She was at peace.

She decided to practice some balance drills.

Lay back, pull in the handles, hover the blades, hover … hover … skimming and shisshing is okay… shisshing is ok, hover … hover… shish…balaaaaance… hands together… silence! annnnd roll back up to the catch, repeat the drive and hover…. balance … balaaaaaaance… skim… roll back up to the catch…

“This. This is MY happy place,” she said with a mild swelling in her heart, a little tear in her eye and an effortless smile on her face. It had been a long winter for Claire and now it was spring and she was ready to begin anew.

© 2013 Molly Field :: All Rights Reserved.

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Thank you.

Next round: https://mollyfielddotcom.wordpress.com/2013/05/17/friday-fiction-2-1-pants-on-fire/

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Here is today’s prompt provided by the lovely World’s Worst Moms: “Let your characters work through the old saying, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” 

That’s it. piece of cake. Cupcake.;)”

Check out the posts from our other Fiction writers today:

http://clearlykristal.com/?p=3532

http://wp.me/p2FdGQ-1mK

http://worldsworstmoms.com/friday-fiction-part-16-the-ties-that-bind/

http://debiehive.blogspot.com/2013/05/fiction-friday-challenge-impossible.html

http://neargenius1.blogspot.com/2013/05/fiction-friday-may-episode-2.html