Archive for the 'spirituality' Category

devote yourself

So many things on my mind lately:

Ambiguity
Grief
Uncertainty
Attachment

These things have been taking me away from my work. (Worries can be so demanding…)

In an effort to refocus, yesterday I made a list of things to bring attention to this week. One of my list items is

devote time to new website.

I spent a while looking at the word devote.

Devote, devoted, devotion.

From the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 9 Verse 26:

Whatever is offered to me with true devotion — if only a leaf, a flower, a fruit or a sip of water — I accept it because it is given with love.

It’s not what is given, it’s the feeling and heart in the giving.

Perhaps even my worry, my grief, my non-productivity is my offering. That is what is here, what is real — it is what I have to give.

There is also a devotion that comes from discipline and commitment. Moving through resistance and into my passion — which will be captured on this new site — connects me to my heart’s work, and there is nothing more devotional than giving from the heart.

The Gita continues in 9.27:

Whatever you do, make that an offering. Whether it’s eating, sacrificing yourself, giving help, or even your suffering, offer it to me.

It’s not about personal gain or getting something in return. It’s an offering. A gift.

Devoting time to the new website gives it the time and attention it deserves. The inspiration was offered to me; it is my responsibility to put back into it equally.

I like to think of joy and play and pleasure here as well. There’s joy in giving yourself fully to something, and play and pleasure can be beautiful forms of devotion.

How different would my life be if my actions came from a place of offering and devotion rather than personal gain or guilt and force?

1.  I would practice my guitar with a spirit of play rather than perfection.
2.  I would sit it the morning not because I have to, but because it is my way to offer peace to the world.
3.  I would work on projects from a place of service rather than what will I get out of it.
4.  I would cook (and eat) in celebration and appreciation of this body and what I am able to do through it.
5.  I would reconnect with teaching as a service to other people instead of harping on my preoccupation of how I am perceived.

And the list goes on…

How would your life be different if your actions were a form of devotion?

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reward the slightest try (part II)

Effective training (whether it’s dog, kid or self) involves small steps, incremental changes and positive reinforcement for any effort made in the desired direction.

I continue to re-learn this lesson in working with Cowboy.

I wrote about it last fall in reward the slightest try (part I).

There is still so much to learn. So much that I need a part II.

Cowboy and I recently had our first formal lesson. What I wanted was a riding lesson — tips on technique and etiquette. What I got was more groundwork — exercises to strengthen the bond and clarify roles for me and Cowboy.

The purpose of one of the exercises is to get Cowboy to lower his head when I’m taking off or putting on his halter.

Let’s say I want him to lower his head to my waist height so I can untie the knot and take off the halter:

Holding the lead rope where it attaches to the halter under his chin, I give a pull downward. As soon as Cowboy lowers his head—to any degree—I am to release the pressure and let go.

The point is not to get him to lower his head down to my waist height on the first try. The point is to get him to lower his head at all.

This sounds deceptively simple, but boy is it a hard lesson: to not need to go all the way, to acknowledge small efforts made by him, to literally let go of the rope.

By repeating the exercise several consecutive times, his head may end up at my waist height. And by practicing this for several consecutive days, he now lowers his head all way without any pull from me.

I’m just a horse

I recently came across a quote by Krishnamurti:

When the movement in the direction of becoming something other than what you are isn’t there anymore, you are not in conflict with yourself.

Gah.

I keep reading this quote over and over. Each time its texture changes and it reflects a new shade of light. It melts me completely.

The freedom of not being in conflict with myself? I can hardly imagine it.

To be honest, I don’t know exactly why this quote is so mesmerizing right now.  Surely it has to do with vulnerability, it’s definitely related to my little kidneys and it’s about noticing the tendency toward separation — all clear themes in my life right now.

I know that when Cowboy offers movement in the direction that I want, I release the pressure on his rope and we are not in conflict.

I know that when I am not fighting with him about however he is that day, I am not in conflict with myself.

I know that when he’s had enough of me being gooey and philosophical he throws me a face that says, Hey, I’m just a horse.

So that’s me. Grateful. A little bit uncertain. And so in love with this horse!

And you?
What small steps are you taking?
How is it for you to let go?
What does conflict feel like?
What are you in love with!?

+++

One more pic, cuz he’s so pretty. Happy Monday!

separation

I Go Back To The House For A Book
by Billy Collins

I turn around on the gravel
and go back to the house for a book,
something to read at the doctor’s office,
and while I am inside, running the finger
of inquisition along a shelf,
another me that did not bother
to go back to the house for a book
heads out on his own,
rolls down the driveway,
and swings left toward town,
a ghost in his ghost car,
another knot in the string of time,
a good three minutes ahead of me —
a spacing that will now continue
for the rest of my life.

 

Isn’t this how we go about most of the day? One part of ourselves in last week, one part in a future conversation, one part stuck in 1982. Only the poets, and perhaps only Billy Collins, can put such heartache into an endearing story of lightness and familiarity.

 

Sometimes I think I see him
a few people in front of me on a line
or getting up from a table
to leave the restaurant just before I do,
slipping into his coat on the way out the door.
But there is no catching him,
no way to slow him down
and put us back in synch,
unless one day he decides to go back
to the house for something,
but I cannot imagine
for the life of me what that might be.

 

Pema Chodron calls this separation “splitting off” and describes how it takes us from peace to war:

Let’s say you’re having a conversation with someone. You’re one with the whole situation. You’re open and receptive and there and interested. Then there is a little shenpa pulling-away, a kind of uneasy feeling in the stomach—which we usually don’t notice—and then comes our big thought. We are suddenly verbalizing to ourselves, “How am I looking here? Did I just say something stupid? Am I too fat? That was a stupid thing to say, wasn’t it, and I am too fat….”

Some thought or other causes us to split off, and before we know it we’re completely self-absorbed. We’re probably not even hearing the words of the person we’re conversing with, because we have retreated into a bubble of self-absorption. That’s splitting off. That’s dividing in two.

 

He is out there always before me,
blazing my trail, invisible scout,
hound that pulls me along,
shade I am doomed to follow,
my perfect double,
only bumped an inch into the future,
and not nearly as well-versed as I
in the love poems of Ovid —
I who went back to the house
that fateful winter morning and got the book.

 

This “splitting off” from oneself is perhaps the most dangerous kind of separation, no? Feeling incomplete, compartmentalized, like a puzzle with a missing piece.

Or maybe it’s not the fact that we have different selves, different sides and facets, but the way we often disown those “other” parts of ourselves out of fear or shame.

Those are the moments I feel separation from myself as well as from those around me. It’s isolating and lonely.

What about you?

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It’s National Poetry Month, lucky for me. Lots of poems in circulation, and you know how much I love poetry. Feel free to share a favorite… and be sure to ready Billy’s again and aloud. Nothing like feeling the words through your mouth.

 

heavy machinary and vulnerability


photo credit

Stopped at a red light yesterday, I looked at a construction site across the street where a tower crane was hoisting a giant steel beam from one spot to another on top of a new building.

Looking at the tiny man in the cab some 75 feet up (and not knowing the first thing about the mechanics of a tower crane) I wondered about the degree of danger in this job. I’ve heard of tower crane accidents and it seems like a pretty delicate system of pulleys, weights, and counter balances.

My gut thought was How does he do it? Go out everyday knowing the risk? Risking himself.

Ordinary scenarios start running through my head: I’m driving a car, I ride a horse, I’m in relationship as a wife, a stepmom, daughter, friend. Which turned into the reflection that each of us risk ourselves every day. To share your thing, to raise your hand, to smile and say hello. We put ourselves out there. We make ourselves vulnerable.

Vulnerability and Shame

Brené Brown has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, authenticity, and wholeheartedness. She talks in her work about how shame is the biggest obstacle to living a life rich in these qualities.

Shame shows up in our fear of being laughed at, in thinking we can’t do enough, in feeling unworthy. So to protect ourselves, we stop making ourselves vulnerable.

The most compelling piece about vulnerability as Brown describes it is this: we don’t want to make ourselves vulnerable for fear of embarrassment, failure, discomfort, or judgment, but the other possible result of vulnerability is joy, fulfillment, gratitude, growth, and connection.

And here’s the thing — you can’t exclude just one set of emotions. If you block vulnerability because of the possibility of disappointment, you also block the possibility of joy. The outcome is not selective.

Out of my comfort zone

This perspective is coming at me through a megaphone.

Although Brown doesn’t address it in the work I’ve seen, I suspect the more one makes herself vulnerable, the easier and more comfortable it becomes. Likewise, once one shuts down vulnerability, the more impossible and frightening it seems.

Post-sabbatical, going back to teaching felt like a giant leap of vulnerability. For a month I hid behind the computer, in front of the TV, in the back of the class, and I didn’t have to put myself out there. The longer I went, the harder it was to think of going back.

Knowing yourself is not as important as loving yourself

This is my favorite piece out of Brown’s recent PBS special.

Yoga practice is arguably all about knowing yourself. But for whatever you find, none of it matters, none of it will change your life if you don’t love yourself. In spite of, because of, or anyway, you gotta love yourself.

***

How does this all settle for you? Thoughts? Reflections? Step out, make yourself vulnerable. The result might be a deepening of connection, intimacy, and friendship.

morning ponderings

Ponderings this morning. Inspired by poet and teacher David Whyte.

Part of the gift of being human is that we are made ripe for change by getting tired of ourselves. When we tire of the story, the habit, the behavior, we come into a place where we are more pliable. There, it is possible to make change.

Part of the origin of the word “destiny” is to follow a star. In literal terms, following a star means sometimes going through brambles, dense forest, and dark valleys where we lose sight of the star. We are asked to keep faith and know it’s there. We may catch glimpses through the trees, and with perseverance we get heart-fluttering feeling of reconnecting with it.

To receive a blessing, we must be broken open and expand from our current state and size to meet the greatness of the blessing, stepping into a larger version of ourselves. We must do this — match the greatness of the blessing — in order to receive it.

***

I hope you are having a glorious morning and a moment of pause to be right where you are.

p.s. I really want the print of the horse for my new living room. Isn’t it beautiful? See more of Svetlana Novikova’s work here.

 

dean and rasta wisdom

Leave it to a self-described not quite Rastafarian to tell it like it is.

Dean.

He calls everybody Man.

He smokes weed, reads the Bible and meditates every day.

He lives a very simple life on the island of Ambergris Caye in Belize. Cares for a woman’s yard and flowers in exchange for board.

And he can’t understand why the rest of us have so much stuff.

One of his four sisters lives in Brooklyn and is a special education teacher. To hear him talk about her you’d think she lives on Jupiter. Dean visited the States once and couldn’t take the pace and lifestyle. Too much goin on, man.

As you know, retreat life was quiet, simple, and uncluttered. It was just what I needed to unlayer some of my habits of busyness and reconnect with the essentials.

My conversations with Dean helped deepen these reflections.  Aside from his iPod (which is non-negotiable because he’s got to have da music) Dean’s possessions are few. He worked in the jungle as a researcher for 7 years and had to travel light. Having a bunch of stuff is also counter to his faith: God, nature, and kindness are all der is.

The morning of my departure Dean and I were chatting over breakfast at the bar.

An, man, yu peepole ar always on da compewtr, he said emphatically, throwing rasta signs with his arms.

Oh that. I admitted to being one of those peepole.

Why would you do that, man? The world is so beautiful. I want to be outside, in nature, or reading one of my spiritual books. I don’t get it, man. Everybody checking out and missing this beautiful world.

I slid my cell phone across the place mat and under my hat. And truth be told, I had two other computers in my bag: my laptop which I’d brought to check in on studio stuff (thankfully I wasn’t able to do much of that) and an iPad that sweet Bubby brought to give me for my birthday.

This hits a nerve because it’s balance I’m continually trying to negotiate.

Simplify. What does that mean?

Usually what comes up for me is get rid of it all! Sell everything, move to Belize and live in the moment happily ever after.

I tend toward extremes in situations like these.

Here’s what I’m trying instead: we returned the iPad (I don’t need another reason/way to be on the computer); had a Feng Shui consultation (if you’re in Sacramento, Jodi is amazing); and I’m dramatically simplifying my schedule (recess).

The last thing? I’m going to devote my online work life to exploring this im/balance. If you haven’t signed up for news and notifications on my new project, you can do so here. I’m planning to launch in February.

***

How do you keep things real and simple? What unexpected people or moments have helped you deepen your understanding of yourself? What do you consider to be your life philosophy?

Finally, let’s throw it down to my friend, Dean… Absolute Love, man.

sparkle

December 16 Friendship
How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst? (Author: Martha Mihalick)

***

Was was going to be my answer, what is my answer, has been expressed more beautifully than I could have here.

There’s nothing more to say.

***

the gloves are off

Reverb10
December 2
Writing.
What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?
(Author: Leo Babauta)

My first internal response to today’s prompt was, “I answered this on Sunday.”

And yes, for me, social media, obsessive feed scanning, and stressing over the perfect tweet serve as wonderful distractions from writing and the rest of life. There’s fear, doubt, and some good old fashioned avoidance wrapped up in that package.

But there’s more.

Complaining.

Not something I do outwardly every day, but certainly the 8 Track (it’s that old) of wishing things differently affects my writing in other ways.

It keeps me from being with what is actually happening, from the fullness of reality where my senses are alive and inquisitive.  It drains me of energy, creativity, broad view, and curiosity.

Picture me: gloves on, dukes up, shadow boxing. Useful? No. Funny? Maybe.

And of course, even this can be turned on its head. If the battle is on and you are completely disconnected, then you write about that (à la David Whyte). It’s another way to take the gloves off. Turn toward the frustration, denial, anger, etc. and see it as it is. Write about it. But don’t fight with it. That’s just silly.

Hiro Boga offered some wise advice yesterday: Use your practice to grow the aspects of yourself that remain undeveloped. Be it my writing practice, my yoga practice, or my spiritual practice (all the same thing anyway), to stop complaining and embrace life will help me live in the “affluence” I seek.

***

Isn’t Reverb10 fun!? What habit keeps you from your thing? How can you “grow the aspects of yourself that remain undeveloped?”

And I love the Reverb badge. (I hope to have a badge to offer you soon!!)

what does it meeeeean?

I’ve always been of the mindset that everything happens for a reason. There’s a lesson behind it all. There’s meaning in everything.

I’m not saying I don’t still mostly subscribe to this.

But lately I’m wondering.

Am I so busy looking for the reason, the meaning, that I miss living the moment? In its uncertainty and non-answer. In its unknown.

And by knowing, concluding, naming, I am limiting the possibilities of what something might be, how it might turn out.

What if I didn’t do this?

What if, instead of every single thing meaning something, every thing just is. What if I could be with it just as it is?

This sounds scary and ridiculously simple.

I know the mind, the ego, wants hard lines, rights and wrongs. Scary and simple don’t go over well with the ego.

So I turn to the poets who can camouflage simple in story and beauty, so that it sneaks up on you.

There’s something special about hearing a poem. If you have one minute and thirty eight seconds, please enjoy being read to. Just click the MaryO link. The text is also included below.

MaryOpoem

Snowy Night

By Mary Oliver

Last night, an owl
in the blue dark
tossed
an indeterminate number

of carefully shaped sounds into
the world, in which,
a quarter of a mile away, I happened
to be standing.

I couldn’t tell
which one it was –
the barred or the great-horned
ship of the air –

it was that distant. But, anyway,
aren’t there moments
that are better than knowing something,
and sweeter? Snow was falling,

so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more

than prettiness. I suppose
if this were someone else’s story
they would have insisted on knowing
whatever is knowable – would have hurried

over the fields
to name it – the owl, I mean.
But it’s mine, this poem of the night,
and I just stood there, listening and holding out

my hands to the soft glitter
falling through the air. I love this world,
but not for its answers.
And I wish good luck to the owl,

whatever its name –
and I wish great welcome to the snow,
whatever its severe and comfortless
and beautiful meaning.

let there be light

Ah, the dualities of life are so poignant right now.

First, the excitement of a new man in my life.

Then, the other end of the emotional continuum, finding out that Miss Roxy has cancer.

Duality. Joy and sadness, praise and blame, gain and loss, light and dark.

***

We gather for Teacher Training again this weekend. It is one of the long weekends (16 1/2 hours of teaching in three days). I need to gather myself and focus on these bright beings journeying through some of their own dark places.

These past two weeks the trainees have been learning about Saucha, the first Niyama or observance, which translates from Sanskrit as cleanliness, purity, light, illumination.

When I look over the last two weeks and all that has happened, I am struck by the presence of Saucha. The way the heart is striped, purified down to the essentials in times of intense joy or pain. What is truly important in life becomes clear very quickly—a “cleaning” of priorities. The light itself is changing as well. Rising later, setting earlier. The angle and tones of the sun are softer.

In celebration of Saucha, here are some photos from the last couple of weeks. Humble moments of purity and illumination. Life coming through in the light.

Sunrise from my dad’s porch in (true) Northern California. I sure miss seeing the start of a simple day on the horizon.

 

Also at my dad’s: Roxy trying to figure out what those birds are. And whether it would be worth the energy to chase them. I took this through the window and the yellow-orange light, along with the hint of a reflection of the inside of the house, carries some emotion for me.

 

This was a “mistake.” Cowboy was walking in a circle around me and I couldn’t get his whole body, in the proportion I wanted, in the frame. He looks a little misshapen because he was in motion and I caught him in step. But I love the light rays. Are they coming toward us or from us back to the sun?

 

There was a photo shoot at the studio few weeks ago. I’ve taken many yoga photos with this photographer in our studio space and I’m always amazed at the beautiful light it holds*. The reflections off the floor, the way the curtains dissolve into haze. It’s a very special place.

*Moment of shameless horn blowing: To see some of said pictures, check the first frame here, or the cover of the current PrAna catalog, or pages 66-69 in the November issue of Yoga Journal. That’s me! Super fun.

 

Cowboy and I went on our first ride yesterday. Very exciting. It’s been a long time since I saddled a horse. We just rode around the enclosed pasture at R&R, but it was sheer bliss. The sky was mostly gray, but the sun peeked through for a few minutes and I was able to see myself in our shadow. Thanks to the light.

 

This last one is of Cowboy and I going for a walk. I love the shadow, the clearness of the sky, the light on his neck as he turns, his mane in the wind.

I don’t know what he was looking at, but what I said to him was, There’s no going back, Cowboy. There’s no going back now.

***

Any moments of clarity or illumination in your life? How do adjust to the changing light?


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