right right

To think that… (one of those pauses to gather thoughts that unintentionally add suspense… yeah, like that) one is worthy of such wonderful things almost feels arrogant or assuming, maybe presumptuous is the word… and thennnnn we listen, or rather read, and maybe hear the words spoken inside one’s own head, the wise, simple and profound words of DR Butler, asserting that our life is what we focus our attention on, and the realization dawns on the horizon, peeks it’s brightness from yonder in the distance, that wasn’t really distance at all, cuz it was always already just right here… and so here it is… and here we go… for the ride that is our life, and we are in charge, so to speak, in the driver’s seat, steering the way, the direction of our day, the plan for our lifespan is moment by moment creation…like poetry we create reality with words, with images painted with words, with daydreams dissected letter by letter and put back together like a puzzle… puzzling isn’t it to conceive of such great, vast, infinite power right at one’s fingertips, or yes, lips, all in how we think, see, speak, move, act. … behave….

hmmmmm… makes me think of bee hive… yeah like the hive that was mysteriously attached to my house for that brief period… lessons there… lessons everywhere… are we paying attention? are we learning anything yet? bee hive… bees… bees are all connected by the queen bee…. all is done for the sake of her (god) and the hive (everyone, the collective, the universe–which is ultimately all god), and there’s a communication (by dance, come to find out!)… as if they are all connected.

similarly, we humans are all connected, and there is no separation by time and space… (or so is claimed by some great teachings, like in DR Butler’s The Course).

…put this into practice .. don’t just theorize, philosophize, and discuss lofty ideals. this shit is real.. who and what we are….real and also unreal, like the side mirror, things are not as they appear to be…similar, but different, manorama says, “feel it, feel it, feel it”… pema chordran invites one to lean into the discomfort, as my sweet camille friend reminded me today, “lean into it.” scott marmorstein said, “be the light.” and so we do, offer light through our thoughts, through our words, our deeds … and as Thich Nhat Hanh teaches, they all merge as one and become prayers. my buddy, billy quoted someone in the buddhist community saying, “right thoughts, right words, right deeds”… something to that effect…

and what’s the effect?

i’m reminded of a quote from a child’s book a friend gave me, “sometimes everything being right makes a kind of a sound.”

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forbearance and the “me” factor

“some of god’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers,” sings good ol’ Garth Brooks.

i face inner struggle… resistance to what is… urges to fall back into familiarity in the face of the big bad scary (insert suspenseful horror movie background music) UNKNOWN. (scream)

dramatic i know… it keeps me entertained though, and man, if we can’t be entertained by the endless happenings on the stage of life, it’s going to be a bad movie! and i want my money back!

i felt like that this morning at my Bikram class. despite all my years of asana practice, and my experience as a teacher, i was that student who hated everything in class today — myself, my appearance, the teacher, the smell of the carpet, any excess talking from the teacher, any corrections received from the teacher, and especially the bee keeper lady who kept me up late waiting for her call and then also woke me up at 2 am and proceeded to talk way too enthusiastically for the time of night and act as if it was completely normal to do such things at 2am and behave in ways so that i judgmentally dub her as a drug addict…hmm that’s a whole other thing… the point is, Bikram is a set sequence of 26 postures in a really hot room that’s always that hot! the variables are dramatically limited; we’re down to the teacher, the time of class you attend, and you. you (or me rather) (er uh i…) can contain numerous variables — what we eat, quantity and quality of our rest, regularity of practice, knowledge of alignment, attitude, will power, inner resiliency, the quality of our patience and forbearance.

forbearance really hits the nail on the head: “patient self-control; restraint and tolerance.” ooooh! tomorrow’s word of the day!

first, variables…. so when the variables are minimized it’s very easy to see that when you have a “bad” class, it’s not the sequence (again, in Bikram it’s the same every time), its not what the teacher says (most of Bikram is scripted— yet the teachers still ad lib, and that can be aggravating), it’s probably not the time of day, (unless you know you’re a morning person and you go at night or vise versa, but that still falls under the “me” factor), it’s you! my friend used to say, “what’s the common denominator in this equation?” (it’s me… er you)… sigh… so there’s that… it was me. it was me the whole time, and i knew it. i got through the class. savasana was so restful. i literally melted into my mat/towel. i was very grateful for un-talkative ladies in the restroom. and yet it seems that may be some of what i needed– some interaction. for on my car ride from the studio i made a couple of phone calls, one to my paw paw who i don’t get to talk to much. i adore him. he lives up in minnesota with his lady and they often make crafty things, like right now they call it “lawn art,” pretty flowers made of various metal scraps that they paint. i’m always impressed with his interest in life, his continual creativity and quest to be involved. just getting to talk to him briefly started to shift my mood.  then i called two girl friends and my twinny and left them nice messages. much better… i dorked out at Wholefoods… mission: drink green juice first after Bikram, cuz otherwise i might dive into an all out binge… (“know thyself”) (“forwarned is forarmed” – Lee Lozowick)

also, one of my girls facebook messaged me and shared some of her honest suffering. initially i see the surface of it as different than me. as i sit with it though, i see her suffering is the same as mine, despite varying physical circumstances. this realization helps me to settle, feel a sense of connection, and thus have compassion. instead of wallowing in my ick, i can reach out and write her a message to offer her some connection, love, and hopefully share some wisdom, for so often in reaching out to others i share exactly what i need to hear.

(i’m going to do that now) (stay tuned… unanswered prayers… then forbearance….)

and we’re back!… (uproar of applause)

chuckle chuckle… so back to the song. i’m a not-so-in-the-closet country fan (i was raised with it in the background), and this lyric came to my head today after reading my friend’s facebook message, “some of god’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” gotta love garth brooks… or you don’t and you just judged me and decided to stop reading my blog and never look back, and probably defriend me on facebook and certainly talk poorly about me behind my back… blink blink… … … blink…

anywayz…

unanswered prayers– the gist of the song is that the singer’s life turned out beautifully and perfectly and he only realized this when he saw an “old flame,” the one he’d always wanted and prayed for, and yet when they saw each other at this stage of life they had little attraction and nothing in common. “just remember when you’re talking to the man upstairs, that just because he doesn’t answer, doesn’t mean he don’t care.” the point: we face discomfort in the face of not getting what we want…

(reminds me of another song, by wah: “she gives you what you want and hopes that someday you’ll want to take what she has to give.”)

… subsequently we feel anxious urging toward that familiar place of comfort. yet, that place of familiarity is not where we grow, says DR Butler… he says, “We can no longer afford to allow ourselves to be hypnotized by familiarity. To allow the familiar to continue to be the fundamental reality is like functioning in this world asleep. When we do this we unknowingly create outer appearances of our fears and anxieties — all because we have no awareness or appreciation of the power of attention, the effectiveness of a conscious intent, and the final declaration of will.” (from Living in the Truth of the Present Moment.)  so, the consequence of choosing to be in the unfamiliar for the sake of “waking up,” as they say, is that you feel uncomfortable… “comfort” was a yogahour word of the day a few weeks ago. i discussed how it was an advanced concept that the yoga asana should be “steady and comfortable”, as stated in “the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,” for only through dedicated practice over a long period of time does one accept, and thus get comfortable with the sensations that arise in the midst of transformation.

(((in the new super man movie superman’s father tells him (us): continue to push limits, test your limits, to see how strong you can get )))

so this too applies to our lives (for doesn’t it all?), in that in the discomfort of our life’s MG9952-Mcircumstances we have the opportunity to fall back into old ways, old habits, and tendencies for the sake of comfort, ease, familiarity, OR we have the opportunity to endure the discomfort with strength and sensitivity– not a teeth grinding sort of endurance, but rather an openhearted willingness to feel the gift of the moment. (manorama says in a decrescendo ending in a breathy whisper, “feel it. feel it. feel it.”) for that is what every moment is, a gift. and as we unwrap the gift fully in the moment, we receive as much as we are ready for, (or as much as our curtains’ openness allows for the light to poor in– Swami Gurumai Chidvilasananda). and this readiness expands as we practice being with whatever unfolds in the moment. thus it was all there the whole time, “always already there,” as Mr. Paul Muller Ortega says, and it is our perception that expands (HA! again! the “me variable!!!”)

(took udu doggy fer a walkee. nice night! big moon! it’s actually called a “supermoon!” yep, not making it up… two people confirmed it who don’t even know eachother. lol … it’s supposed to be the biggest moon of the year… and of course there’s symbolism there, right hippy?! the notion of dark becoming light. and how this moon at it’s brightest represents how we too have the capacity to achieve our fullest potential and shine at our brightest…. man this goes right along with what i’ve been writing about. so perfect, of course)

back to the point (Manorama moment…what’s the point?)

now on to forbearance…

such a fine definition my computer dictionary offers! “patient self-control; restraint and tolerance.”

this is precisely what yoga offers us the opportunity to cultivate (and it is always an offering, an opportunity, “an invitation,” as Mr. John Friend used to say… it’s never an obligation… for we don’t have to do anything, life beckons to us and we always have the option to refuse. to decline… to say no… hmmmm… but why not say yes? … and see what happens… fyi, you’re probably going to get uncomfortable… hahahaha). patient self-control; restraint and tolerance. the Bikram practice in a relatively small room heated to or over 105 degrees Farenheight, in which students face a large mirror, are not supposed to talk, fidget, wipe sweat, or even drink unless at a specified break… needless to say, all your buttons are pushed… and then what…? Ha!… this is an instance in which peer pressure is of great service. (do i really want to be the only person scowling and making a fuss?) you can really tell the newer students, as they’ve not figured out these subtle rules that you learn as you go… no body really tells you overtly, you just learn as you go, and everybody begins to conform in this beautiful synchronized unity that perfectly exhibits the very definition of yoga. (so i’m on a Bikram kick right now… doesn’t mean that other styles don’t offer these attributes, it’s just that this is the style i’m focusing on right now. i’ve experienced the same phenomenon in the Ashtanga method, and in Yogahour with Darren Rhodes, and in certain teacher’s offerings of Anusara Yoga, and John Friend and Desi Springer’s “Roots” Practice…) i learn to not express my emotional outbursts through mindless fidgeting, dramatic facial expressions, or talking. i come back to tadasana (steady mountain pose –the steadiness offered from within my own self), and seamlessly onto the next pose. these styles of practice are a beautiful metaphor for life, in that it’s always on to the next thing.  (reminds me of a time Christina Sell was teaching about inversions and quoting one of her teachers said, “Don’t freak out about your freak out.”)  in Bikram they say, “Let it go.” In a recent Lesson from DR Butler, he commends the “many principles of Truth exemplified in the world of sports,” and he quotes head football coach at Cornell University, a former Rhodes scholar, and ‘very intelligent man,'”To me, the number one thing is to play the next play and forget the last one. The last play is not relevant to the next one. The most important play of the game is the next one, not the one already behind you. You have to learn to forget quickly. It does not matter what happened before — drop the baggage, drop the pressure, and just play.” on to the next moment. may we move into each moment untethered to the drama of the past…

…through the practice i face my thoughts, my emotions, my “ways of being”… and practice moving in the face of them…

i continually recognize my tendencies to think poorly of myself, to talk badly to myself, to want to quit, give up, to be tempted to wallow in self pity, to feel isolated and singled out, uncertain, overwhelmed…(this helps me to feel profound connection to my students, especially the beginners and to really appreciate the intensity yoga presents in a matter-of-fact sort of way, like, “here it is.  here’s the path.” the rest is up to us… walk it, or don’t– no judgement.)

and then there’s the next pose, and tadasana, and the next one, and tadasana, always coming back to center — physically and mentally.  through practice i can now recognize which postures the final postures, signaling that class is closer and closer to savasana (which ultimately means death — how much we long for this relative peace, ease, and comfort!). this familiarity with the set sequence brings a sense of calm to the mind, knowing the finish line is near… (i always hear my twinny’s voice — which funny, sounds like mine… “you can do it steffi, you’re almost there”) and the pranayama comes and then we die…

the end… you’re dead “did you do.. did you do all you could?” (sings Ani Difranco)

 

 

 

 

 

 

let go…

really!? 1.19.13 already????

time floats by….

best to be in the moment either way…

it’s just perfect, just as it should be…

 

that reminds me:

 

quote from dr butler:

“Listen to the ways certain people who consider themselves to be ‘on the spiritual path’ might speak. They repeat homilies and platitudes like: We are all one. God is love. Everything is a play of Supreme Consciousness. Yet there is very little actual practice of these principles of Truth in moment-to-moment life. We learn to think certain ways that we presume are ‘more spiritual’ than the ways we used to think. Yet do we actually live our life differently than before? Do we experience ourselves and others in a greater way? Do we truly see the divine play in everything?”

 

Important things to contemplate… (these are yes… i chuckle, cuz i accidentally talk like yoda sometimes…) Like in 12-step recovery they say, “we practice these principles in all our affairs.” Very important, this consistency. To be a good person in one arena does not guarantee the same integrity will be available to you in another situation. It’s our responsibility to work to cultivate this integrity as our preset point. Paul Muller Ortega, one of my teachers, says that we have an ‘identity assemblage point,’ or you can call it ‘ego’… the point is the place where we collect who and how we are… and according to Paul, this point shifts with practice. He specifically refers to meditative practice, but I believe any practice applies. For what is practice but cultivating new habits, retraining our tendencies, rehearsing. Whether it’s asana, meditation, pranayama, tai chi, kung fu, aikido, playing a musical instrument, writing, climbing, recovering from addiction… it’s a process of training. Training and retraining, for the mind is so forgetful! Practice helps to build strong connections in the brain, so that the default position shifts. Manorama, another of my delightful teachers says (something to the effect of), “you practice everyday even when you don’t need it so that when you need it its there… or something like that *** look up that quote*** so we practice on the days and at the times that it seems unnecessary, inconvenient, tedious, monotonous, unfruitful so that it becomes our first programmed response to be in the way we have practiced. For example, in yoga asana we practice smooth breathings to promote clarity in the mind, freedom in the body and yet some poses demand shallower breathing for their successful consummation. Through practice, the mind has been trained to be clear and calm, so when such an occasion arises we can sip the air and still maintain inner steadiness, rather than react in an undesirable way. If however, the breathing, and thus the mind, has not been trained default position wins and freak-out occurs. Silly, funny, and so true… How this applies in every situation! How are we training ourselves? What is our default? do we wash the dishes or leave them sit for days? Do we offer compliment when the thought arises or do we let the opportunity pass? Do we help open the door for the older woman with her arms full or watch until it’s too late and regret missing the chance to be of service, always committing to do it next time. … … … DR Butler quoted one of his teachers and so now i quote his quote (chuckle chuckle) “If you wait, you wait forever.” so profound. do it now…

 

there’s this lovely plant in front of the window where i write. i always admire the new growth. it’s exciting to see! as pleased as i am to witness and marvel at it as simply that, it comes to me now as such beautiful symbolism… new growth is always happening… every day we are growing. every day we are shifting and evolving. and so, what are you cultivating?

 

We can just as easily cultivate misery as we can delight. It’s a choice that needs to be consistently re-chosen! In the tradition of Gurdjieff and the fourth way (I’m no expert, just read some and heard a little…) there’s a concept of multiple facets within oneself, various selves, so to speak… versions of yourself. Further, the same aspect of yourself that choses with such high resolve to do such-in-such is not the same version of yourself that later, or amazingly even not so later, decides to completely disregard those very same aspirations. In a recent workshop with Christina Sell she said that we aim to bring more and more of ourselves together, to reach our intention, so that more and more of ourself is united toward the same goal. I appreciated her offering as it resonates with my own experience.

It seems like devoted, disciplined practice over a prolonged period of time can positively impact the other aspects of self. Once the rebellion of other sections is acknowledged and accepted, and if discipline remains constant, things shift… This reminds me of massage– when there’s a “knot” in the tissue i can apply pressure to the point and after a while the tension just releases, that which was resisting lets go. Similarly, the more discipline is followed, practice is maintained, the more the contrasting aspects of self “fall in line.” … our default position shifts.

 

let go laughing!

i got to see Les Miserables tonight with Tanya and some girlz. I arrived later than the others, as i was on my bike, so sweet Tanya bought my ticket and saved me a seat. Guh, what a heart-wrenching movie! i loved it. I’m a sucker for musicals and dance movies, not going to lie, but this one touched me deeply. favorite line from the movie, “to love another person is to see the face of God.”

sigh… so good.

merry christmas!

this morning after my usual yum-yum green juice, and many text messages to friends and family, i played ball with my doggy, Udu, at a nearby park. we ran around a lot. he likes it when i chase him.

i’m grateful i live in tucson where it is invigorating to ride my bike in december rather than impossible. although the studio felt quite far today… i aimed to make it to Tanya’s holiday class, but by the time i was ready to leave, realized that i wouldn’t make it… oh well, i shrugged. i left anyway, and figured i could always just practice in the smaller studio. perfectly, as always sweet music helped to shift my mental state as i road to the studio. the lyric that helped the most: “let go laughing!” i had a nice inversion practice, supta padangustasana, abs, backbends, handbalancings… just about an hour and 15 minutes.

then rode to the movies… both the yoga studio and the movies were packed! good ideas!

 

 

waking up the callus

my blog my blog my blog

Right… commit to what I set out to do.

Tuesday today’s word of the day: repetition.  Repetition warms up the body, readies it for deeper actions, poses, skills, sets the stage for insight.  The same applies with our mind.  The key, as it always seems to be, is mindfulness, attention, awareness.  Are you awake amidst the repetition or does the repetition lull you to sleep?  In various activities repetition serves to create a numbing or callusing effect.  For example, in martial arts one might repeatedly kick dense surfaces to de-sensitize the area and thereby enable it to handle greater and greater intensity.  Also, climbers and musicians acquire calluses on their hands so they can more do what they do for a longer period of time.  Although valuable, I’m not really talking about that kind of repetition.  I think of a recent workshop with Manorama in Austin, TX.  There, she made a sweet and subtle display of whispering to her cells to wake up… She leans over and whispers to her knee to wake up, to her toe, “wake up! wake up!”.  It’s like that.  Amidst the repetition that’s always already happening, can you wake up?  Can you pull yourself out of the ‘numb’ and into the present moment?  Can you dig yourself out of the callus and open to new insight, depth, wisdom?

Sunday’s word of the day was abhyasa, Sanskrit for consistent practice over a long period of time, done with devotion.  (Are we seeing a theme here?)  Mr. BKS Iyengar says it is, “constant practice.”  The beautiful part of this for me is the devotion aspect.  Certain circles, like 12-step groups, assert that Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  And yet… that’s exactly what we do in yoga.  Awareness is key.  Even in 12-step groups their first step is admitting powerlessness and the unmanageability of their lives.  They recognize where they are.  A story Manorama told about her “Guruji” comes to mind.  He tells a story about being lost in the subway.  A sign tells him, “if lost, pick up the phone.”  When he does the operator asks him where he is.  He says, “I’m lost.”  She asks, “Well, where are you?”  He replies, if he knew he wouldn’t have picked up the phone.  To go anywhere we must first recognize where we are, become aware of the place from where we begin.  This beginning point shifts as we evolve.  We are always beginning again.  So, consistent awareness throughout the process is what transforms constant practice into revelation.  Rather than banging one’s head up against the wall to no avail, (the saying, ‘banging one’s head up against the wall’ actually means, ‘to continually try the impossible.’ It’s a perfect for yoga!  It’s only impossible until it’s not! ), the impossible becomes possible.  Dr. Douglas Brooks says, “What a difference a difference makes.”  The ‘difference’ is the degree of attention we pay to what we are repeatedly doing.  Through practice are we desensitizing or refining?

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