Welcome

This blog includes reflections, creative work and resources. It is a glimpse of one person's journey within the realm of inquiry, experience with the human body and spirit. Look for ideas rather than answers. No claims are made. Perfection is not implied. I write as inspired to do so. Take what works for you, leave the rest. If you share anything from this blog, either verbally or in writing, please do your best to give credit where credit is due. Thank you for visiting.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Nuchal Ligament

I recommend Christopher McDougall's book Born To Run to anyone interested in human evolution, anatomy, kinesiology, inspiring characters, health, fitness, clearing the mind, competition and of course, running!  I've read this book a few times, each time coming away with something more.  The last time around, it was the nuchal ligament.  In short, it is found in distance running animals and aids in holding the head up.  Cats, pigs and primates do not possess the nuchal ligament.  Cats run, and run fast, but they run short distances to catch prey. 

An informative link:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuchal_ligament


Learning about the nuchal ligament inspired me to add the awareness to the runs I occasionally take through the park.  Then horses kept coming up in one way or another, during runs and elsewhere in life.  Eventually I found an online course in horse anatomy with an equine massage school.  [There's no intention to become a horse massage therapist!  Nor do I imagine I'll own a horse anytime soon.]  So far the initial part of the study involves comparing horse & human anatomy. 

I started riding lessons last week. Something that may be interesting is the shift from the time spent with predators (dogs & especially cats) to the behavior of prey animals.  I have a feeling this just may shift something within me on this and other levels.  Word has it horses read the rider's body and fortunately not the rider's mind.  In a sense, it seems riding is a body-meditation: being in the body, communicating calm & balance even when the mind is excited or afraid of an "unplanned dismount".  In order to accomplish this equilibrium, there has to be the presence of mind to be aware, to breath.     

Reminder for Neti Pot Users

http://health.yahoo.net/news/s/nm/cdc-strengthens-brain-eating-ameba-neti-pot-link

I no longer use a neti pot on a regular basis but carry a bottle of saline nasal spray in my bag.  Having it on hand is helpful after I've come in contact with a sick person.  Sometimes I use it as soon as I know someone is sick, excusing myself to use the ladies room where I squirt my nose.  If you know someone undergoing chemotherapy you may want to suggest they speak with their oncologist about carrying and using saline nasal spray to prevent illness.   

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Yoga Props

A student in class asked about props.  Since 1996 most props I've purchased have come from yogaprops.net.  I prefer the cheaper, thinner mats over thicker and slicker ones.  When requiring cleaning I wash them on gentle cycle and hang to dry for a day or two, flipping every so often.  I like sturdy black blocks and wood blocks. The wood set I have was made by a friend but surely the ones available on line are as equally lovely.  When I first started practicing props weren't readily available.  The teacher suggested making your own blocks by duct-taping together equal stacks of old paperback books. If your mat wears out don't toss it as it can be handy for other purposes.  For example, I use an old one on the floor beneath the feet of an aluminum ladder for added safety.  

http://yogaprops.net/

Friday, August 17, 2012

Farm Tour

Writing about a tour I attended at Essex Farm may not seem fitting for this blog but actually it is.  These farmers seem as interested in consciousness as they are interested in feeding people.  They don't come out and say as such but it is how I hear their message.  The tour didn't include a hay ride, petting goats or learning about their greenhouse.  As we walked fields of produce, passed barns and stopped at the draft horse pasture Kristin & Mark Kimball (Mark especially as he is the extrovert) provided their perspectives:

- "Sustainable" is a term some organic farmers prefer not to use.  It is an ideal to aspire towards but mostly a fantasy in the more real sense.
- They make choices daily which, for the most part, have to do with time.  Saving time now (a gardener can fuss about little things, whereas a farmer concerns him/herself with the best choice in the moment for the sake of efficiency) and what this choice means for future time (tomorrow, next year, 5, 10, 50, 100 years & on from now). 
- The questions they ask themselves continually, always weighing choices such as is this a time to just start up the tractor or should the draft horses be hitched up?
- The big concepts human kind has asked for ages and how they find these ideas and questions touch-down on their farm.   
- Human resources management and interacting with CSA members are the major relationships that go along with farming. 
- At the beginning of the tour Mark stated how our species will probably die-off as pretty much every species goes extinct eventually.  I agree with this notion and strangely felt at ease knowing our guide for the day was someone willing to discuss important, yet perhaps somewhat taboo subject matter.  I don't think we're all doomed in the near future in some end-of-2012-ordeal but over the long-term, well...  When we know nothing lasts forever, don't we appreciate the preciousness?
- Something returned to again and again:  MONEY.  The Kimballs seem concerned about their farm maintaining fiscal equilibrium.  I'm thankful and willing to pay a farmer who endeavors to make available healthy, organic food.  In survival there are the rules of 3's: generally a human cannot survive beyond 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter (maintaining 98.6 can be tricky), 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food.  Being a well-fed Westerner I struggle when skipping 3 meals in a row, in the case of surgery preparation for example.  I'm grateful to those who know how to produce food, are willing to take the risks necessary to do so and go through a lot of hard, hard work in the process. 

Essex Farm maintains an idealistic quality but in a form where questions seem to float in the atmosphere in a palpable sort of way, at least on the enlightening farm tour day. The parents with children may have expected more entertainment for their little ones.  As one who desired an educational experience of the farm I wasn't disappointed.

It was also a pleasure meeting the other attendees.  As we walked we discussed our own ideas, what we are doing and hope to accomplish in the future with the combination of seed, dirt, air & water and with animals.  Some were gardeners, some were farmers.  My future hopefully includes a decent-sized garden, some chickens and other animals to sustain my husband and myself with leftovers to share and trade.  We may even lease land to organic farmers.

If you would like to know more about Essex Farm and the Kimballs read The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball.  They are also featured in the documentary Small Farm Rising directed by Ben Stechschulte.  Stechschulte directed the documentary Three Farms, also filmed in Essex County New York, my currently part-time and hopefully full-time-in-the-future neck of the woods.  A director's cut of Small Farm Rising is due out at some point.  It is apparently even better than the original, which had to be edited to fit a PBS television time-slot.

Links:

http://www.kristinkimball.com/

http://smallfarmrising.org/

http://www.amazon.com/Three-Farms/dp/B001IV60TU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQ-EgT1Llcg

Zentangle Workshop

Several weeks ago art teacher Kim Herman gave a Zentangle workshop at MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) in Virginia Beach.  Zentangle was developed by Rick Roberts, a devotee of Eastern meditation and Maria Thomas, a letter artist.

The story of its beginning is basically as follows.  One day Maria was in her studio engrossed in drawing intricate patterns and the design of a single letter.  Rick entered the studio to speak with her.  She was so entirely focused on her piece Maria did not even realize he was there.  Later they discussed the incident.  Realizing her experience with concentration was much like his in the depths of meditation, they began to explore the idea of shaping the process for all, artists and non-artists.  They've broken the materials down to simple form:  small-sized, sturdy Italian paper that can be held in a person's non-dominant hand so a drawing surface is unnecessary, a small pencil, a black pen, a smudge stick and a little drawer string sack to carry everything.

The process brought me back to the ink flower-doodles found in my notebooks from grade school through college!  


Of course you can "Zentangle" without the little kit.  I appreciate the middle-ground Roberts & Thomas have found between being capitalists and generous.  As far as I understand they do not hold copyright on the Zentangle name.  In fact books have been published, You Tube videos and websites have been posted by many people to support the work.  It seems to be a community of people excited to share.  Roberts & Thomas hold a week-long training workshop in Rhode Island for those interested in teaching or simply wish to experience an in-depth period of drawing and collaborating.

Here is a link to the main website:
http://www.zentangle.com/

If you are interested please refer to You Tube and other website searches for more information.  For those who live in Hampton Roads/Tidewater, here is Kim Herman's contact information:  kim.herman@verizon.net   757-373-9735.

Below are snapshots of what I brought home from class.

It is suggested you date and sign the back of each piece when finished.
This is the first piece we worked on.  Patterns are named.  Kim introduced us to 4 with the first exercise.  Part of the fun is finding new patterns by studying repetitive forms found in nature and human-manufactured items and goods, translating them into a Zentangle, naming and sharing them. 
Here is an example of a start to a piece.
1) Make 4 dots in pencil, one in each corner of the paper. 
2) Create a frame, also in pencil, connecting the dots.
3)  Again in pencil draw a "string", a loopty loop if you will, within the frame.  Now you have sections inside the frame.
4) In pen begin your pattern within one space at a time

.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Message From My Father

My father was an aqua guy.  He LOVED the water.  Close to 82 years old, he road ocean waves weeks prior to his death.  I often think of him during my ocean swims, imagining being together or he is at least smiling through whatever veil separates us currently.  This sense was with me yesterday as I bobbed around the waves.

Last night in a dream my father and I were swimming together, diving through the surf, talking in-between.  Through this experience I received a message about an acquaintance in waking life.  This acquaintance lost a father recently.  I came to understand how the father's death relates to a situation someone else, a person close to me, has to handle.  Due to the nature of our relationship it was appropriate to relay the insight.  We'll see if it helps.  Maybe, maybe not.  That's the way these things go. 

Beneath the surface of normal waking experience is a flood of energy, information and ideas.  Stephen King refers to it as mining fossils.  Alan Moore describes it as a river.  Isn't this the concept referred to in the title of Edgar Cayce's biography There Is A River?  It has been pondered, written about and discussed for ages.  When I'm lucky or open (or quite thick to the point of desperation, "in the squeeze" I call it), it gets tapped, somehow and sometimes without trying.

My father was not one for discussing the unknown, the mysterious but he did so for the first time (with me anyway) less than a year prior to his death.*  The conversation seems to have been preparatory.  Since his passing there have been notable experiences where he has reached me. It goes with who he was/is: a soulful, helpful person.  His return to lend support doesn't surprise me, especially since that one notable discussion took place.

Although recollections are vague his guidance from the other side is subtle.  I hold on to less and less detail as I've learned to keep loose with regard to mystical experience so as not to strangle the flow.  But what strengthens is the knowing of when the deep, strong cord of mystery has been touched. 

The healthy skeptic within says perhaps all this is the subconscious at work.  This is fine too.  I do not resist healthy doubt.  And isn't the mind a mystery onto itself anyway?  But... I've seen enough to feel the forces exist to assist.  Thank God.  I will not suggest anyone believe it its existence.  Whether others believe or not is their business, not mine.  

* See the post from November 1st, 2011

Grit

Stephen King, Alan Moore, Joseph Campbell and William Blake all appreciate/appreciated flaws, grit, the need for change as portals for the divine.  Be it grains of sand in an oyster transforming into a pearl or the editing process of creative work:  The Call invites Grace.  We are not alone in the quagmire.  Powers greater than ourselves enter to assist.

If there's a stone in your shoe sometimes you just have to pull it out and move on down the road.  Other times your job is to step outside habit, let go and partner with and listen to the accompanying force.

I feel how this is a theme in The Bhagavad Gita and I experience the story in a new way now.  [Wisdom contained within sacred texts sometimes enter awareness in between reads.  Insightful while reading, yes, but sometimes one drops into new levels of understanding after the book has been idle on the shelf.]     

To move beyond mind constructs with all its excuses, fear and denial is the practice, or at least a beginning?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Julie Rappaport

I contacted Julie Rappaport, author and compiler of the book 365 Yoga, to request permission to copy one of her passages on this blog.  She gave permission and asked if she could post my 4/13/12 Yoga Lineage essay on her blog, to which I said yes of course. 

See 6/26/12, 4/13/12 and 4/9/12 for the posts of and about Julie's work.  

Link to Julie's website:
http://yogabliss.com/

Amazon link:
http://www.amazon.com/365-Yoga-Julie-Rappaport/dp/1585423246

The Equilizing Nature of Nature

Last Sunday while swimming in the ocean a little fish hopped into my mouth.  This was a first.  After I spit it out, with the lingering taste of well, fish, my mind journeyed through the idea that something like this was bound to happen.  My first ocean swim launched from my father's arms when I was 9 months old (while members of the immediate and extended family freaked out from shore).  Since then I've spent a lot of time in the ocean and other open bodies of water.  As though the little fish incident was a badge of accomplishment or something the ego-self attached to it with the assuming streak of aquatic specialness.  I had united with nature in a new way and in a manner I figured few had. 

A few days later while walking my dog, something I'd never seen before fell from above past my head and landed near my feet onto the end of a neighbor's paved driveway.  Then another.  The shape and color looked familiar only it was sized-down.  I stepped back, looked up and made out the faint shape of a squirrel in a southward sweeping live oak branch.  I was almost shat on by a squirrel for the first time.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Creative Expanse


I've heard the phrase "life is a school" enough to know it doesn't resonated with me.  I prefer to embrace the creative principle instead.  We are here to explore the miracle of our creation.  Asking questions along the way will not only serve in the direction of humility but keep one bright and inspired.  I aim to observe rather than claim something in particular.  It’s a little anarchistic but to nail down a “this is it, this is the answer” is a presumption I am not ready to make, and maybe never will.  For me, a reductionist approach doesn't work.  Casting a wide net makes far more sense.  In doing so, it is interesting how seemingly unrelated experiences and things share common threads.  Maybe the "life is a school" phrasing will align with my senses if I recall the handful of teachers and subjects that helped me see the expanse, where and how it connects and what it means to me as a human being. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Peak Experience While On The Land

I was away in the North Country with my husband for about 10 days.  Although I brought my laptop for blog writing it never made it out of the bag.  When I'm up there a lot of time is spent outdoors. In college I read Woodswoman by Anne Labastille.  I recall how she described the way her body would firm-up within a week of returning to cabin life and soften again when she re-entered "civilization".  Now, my lifestyle up there is nothing like hers but I do a lot of physical work.  And physical work being good for the soul is what I'm going to write about here.

The stance on physical labor can go in several directions.  If you have to do it, it's not so pleasurable.  Where I'm with it, at least right now, is more like George W. Bush clearing brush on his ranch.  I could hire locals to do the things I'm doing but I want to engage and do it myself.  If you've ever seen the cult film Office Space, you'll remember the appreciation for outdoor physical work summed up in 2 words and repeated twice towards the end of the movie: "F***in'-A."

While stacking a cord of wood by myself I had a peak moment.  [I need to record the 5-6 peak life moments rattling around in my head.]  It was a hot, humid day.  It was a lonely couple of hours spent behind the garage going between the north-side where the stack was being created and the east-side where the guy dumped the pile.  There's no view except for many white pines, the county road, an A-frame house belonging to a quiet night-shift worker & day sleeper and a trailer where an elderly man with a colorful past lives with his kitten. But he's slowing down and he doesn't come out to visit as much anymore.  The man that is.

Towards the end of my task I decided to use the pickup truck to move the last of the pile a little closer to the house.  Keeping most of the wood away from living quarters is best because field mice and ants take up residence.  But when several feet of snow is on the ground reducing the snowshoe distance in half can be a relief, especially when the Arctic wind cuts down the river valley, into the lake valley then into our open meadow.  So, I loaded up the bed of the truck and while driving it around I turned on the radio set to a classic rock station.  Parked at the edge of a high ravine I stacked overlooking hills in a pre-sunset and pre-storm period.  As I unloaded and stacked wood thunder rumbled. Led Zeppelin played on the radio. My right wrist twinged from overuse, my left arm was bruising up from using it to cradle wood, my skin was drenched with sweat, the yucky "land clothes" were yuckier and my tangled hair surely held bugs. It was bliss.  I thought, "If lightening gets me right now I will die happy."       

This is nothing profound but in that moment I reflected on asana and how it is physical work we voluntarily engage in.  I thought about our woods class back in Virginia and how I'm not sure if I'll really synch with indoor classes again.  I thought about my possible future and how it may take me to live in the North Country.  Where will asana fit in my life outside of being a form of physical therapy?  Would I even approach the body in asana form to feel the deep life energy when I feel absolutely alive breathing deeply out of necessity and applying my physical being to shape the land in order to sustain and nourish myself and others?

So as I sit here now, the deltoids that were full and strong 4 days ago are getting smaller by the day.  My middle is plumping up.  Without some sort of seemingly contrived effort I doubt my legs will be challenged like the were when I was cutting 4' tall weeds in the southeast field around the blackberry canes and loving every second of it.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

On Being Clouded By Personality Patterns

Here it is again:  I'm wavering today between what I feel to be Truth and Freedom and the deep patterns held in my personality.  It is a wave of a closing-off squeeze with a sense of ahhhh... there it is, who I truly am, a child of God if you will and the ability to see others as indeed children of God, making their way through life here on Earth!

I grew up rather fast, having a certain amount of responsibility without power to maneuver through. When my feet hit the ground upon adulthood I engaged with power, became very responsible for myself, for others and overextended my time and energy for years.  [The jury is definitely out on causes but I did come down with a deadly cancer by age 37.]  Although I'm getting out of the enabling business, I find myself occasionally livid with other people's behavior.  This, of course, comes from my fantasy that others are actually going to meet my expectations.  Now, STANDARDS ARE GOOD.  They tell us who fits and does not fit into our lives and to what degree.  What I need to navigate is the minefield of emotion during the decision process.

So... today I'm in the muck and the sunshine.  There is a waving between love, truth and understanding and the basics of navigating my way in life, deciding who is to be part of mine and to what extent.  My choices are for the greater good:  inner peace. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Geography Of The Body by Julie Rappaport

These words by Julie Rappaport align nicely with the woods class:

Geography Of The Body
The sacred geography of the body is viewed by yoga texts and Vendata as a microcosm of the universe.  The body itself becomes a temple, and thus the need for external places of worship becomes superfluous.  Ancient practitioners used forests and caves as places of meditation, relying on the inner sanctum to meet God- their own true Self.

- #199 from the book 365 Yoga

Monday, June 18, 2012

What is asana practice about if the body is in a state of dis-ease or phase of decline?

Asana practice can be and is about building the body up so the speak:  more fluid, flexible, stronger, more agile and less tense with more awareness.  And, your body in the moment is the body you are working with.  The practice is always within the context of NOW.  This is where honoring the nature of duality* comes in.  We move with and work with the vitality and accept the impermanence of our physical form.  So using the same list from above, it's sometimes appropriate to let go of the idea of improvement and say to yourself a little more fluid, a little more flexible, a little stronger, a little more agile and a little less tense with more awareness.

Self-improvement has its place.  It is the expression of Rajas.  And I've seen a lot of unhappiness (imbalance) come out of the notion that we (and others) must always be improving or else _____________ (fill in the blank).  "Unfortunately, by constantly comparing yourself to an ideal standard, you conclude that self-improvement is necessary for self-acceptance." - Byron Brown, Soul Without Shame, Chapter 12.  [I am no master and humbly admit to being in a place (a lifetime!) of balancing the expression of control related to a self-improvement compulsion with the sense of Tamasic release.]  

As the saying goes, "the only constant is change" or "change is the only constant".  This and the balancing of duality are core aspects of Eastern thought.  If the physical form is in a phase of perceived decline or in a state of dis-ease, there are opportunities to work awareness of the changes and find equilibrium with the body you have today. 

There is one practice which addresses, and perhaps celebrates in a quiet way, the ultimate physical change.  Most everyone does this in just about every yoga session.  Perhaps appropriately, it is not talked about much but Savasana translates as "corpse pose".  It is an opportunity to prepare for the biggest body transition we will all face, and that is death. Ultimately we will let go of physical form.  The idea, if one wishes to embrace it, is to practice for the transition.  Whether you actually reflect on this deeper idea or simply rest at the end of asana practice, in Savasana we let go of the body.  We let it release and go to the back burner so to speak.  In physical rest, we allow for awareness to step forward. 

Remember, acceptance is part of asana. Listen to your self talk.  Would you say these things to a person you care about?  Another person in class?  What would you say to a friend who is frustrated with her body with regard to asana?  Sometimes we speak to ourselves in ways we would never speak to people we care about.

*Tamas-Rajas, Yin-Yang, Masculine-Feminine, Sun-Moon, Heat-Cold, Right-Left, Inhale-Exhale

Upcoming Gentle Yoga Classes in the Park - 8:30 AM

Monday Classes in the Park:  June 25th, July 16th, July 23rd, July 30th

In case of rain, I will send out an email regarding whether we will cancel or meet at an indoor location.  

With the summer heat, it is advisable to bring a bottle of water. 

Please note the 8:30 start time.  We will return to 9am in the fall.

Although participants can "take what they need and leave the rest", the emphasis of this class is to cultivate awareness by using the body & breath and the natural environment as tools for concentration.  I hope to help participants build a foundation for bringing yoga practice into regular life, even if in small ways.  In the process we do indeed build muscle, stretch, move toward fuller diaphragmatic breathing and thus move closer to a little more physical harmony. 

There is no class fee.  Donations are accepted and these funds cycle back in to support my teaching path. 

Part of the way I teach is through the blog, a good portion of which centers on my practice and understanding of yoga.  In learning about my comfort with an inner world I've come to find writing is a way for me to bridge that world with the outer.  But there are simple resources on the blog too. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

It's easier to learn to do without some of the things money can buy than to earn the money to buy them.  - Dolly Freed, author of Possum Living

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Private Self, The Embarrassing Aspects, What We Keep From Others

One of the assignments at the end of chapter 12 in Soul Without Shame is to list the things kept hidden.  In doing the assignment there was the realization of how I've judged myself as a phony because there are parts of my human experience I choose to hold back from society.  Of course there are things to tuck back and not expose to the world.  TMI = too much information.  And, it is empowering to look at them squarely.  [Pen and paper or a word processor are wonderful tools.]  The assignment allows one to acknowledge and consider, as applied to the self, the existence of such things as resentment, greed, anger, laziness, denial, not to mention cellulite, warts, gas and pimples. 

What I'm learning with self-study and maturity that comes from time is the idealist part of personality can be a stumbling block.  Maybe you have to read and follow the book to understand what I'm getting at in this post.  I do hope to convey here that we have things hidden away and it may be helpful to look squarely at them in written form as a point of observation.  Thus, there is a little more space for your true, pure, radiant self to shine through.

Yama & Niyama Fall In The Center

I have written that one can enter onto any limb of yoga.  This notion is not my own as I've heard it from others.  This post is to explore that statement.  There's nothing wrong with questioning!  Please post a comment if you have something to share from your experience.

In approaching the 8 limbs of yoga, reading and understand the lead-up in the yoga sutras is helpful.  The first 28 verses present how to embrace the yogic system.  The 8 limbs fall in the center of the text.  A foundation of understanding is helpful...  AND... isn't it just fine to approach yoga any way one is introduced to the practice?  In the case of America today, most likely through asana initially?  

As mentioned previously, I am studying Soul Without Shame: A Guide To Liberating Yourself From The Judge Within by Byron Brown.  Interestingly, about mid-way through the book on page 158, he mentions something the inner judge does which is akin to Yama and Niyama:  "... two broad categories: those designed to maintain control over "bad" or unacceptable parts of the self and those designed to move you toward your ideal of what a good person should be."  Yama are things to abstain from; Niyama are observances to move toward, personal conduct in particular.  Now, just as Patanjali did in the yoga sutras, quite a bit of lead-up has been provided by Brown on to how to go about approaching these aspects of human experience. 

So, again, please comment if you have insight into the notion of how to approach yogic philosophy as structured by the 8 limbs.  I'm not one for dogma and yet, will continue to reflect since my personality is one that appreciates efficiency. 

How To Study The Philosophy Of Yoga

In class this week someone requested more information on the study of yogic philosophy.  Here are some suggestions from how I have and continue to study. 

The philosophy of yoga can be found in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita.  There are many translations of each.  The Sutras read like a manual.  About mid-way through the 8-limbs of yoga are covered.  I read a word-for-word translation with commentary by V.S. Rao.  The Gita is written in story form.  I have read several translations but usually turn to Graham Schweig's Bhagavad Gita: The Beloved Lord's Secret Love Song or an audiobook of Stephen Mitchell's translation. 

Here are some links to Amazon Books:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=yoga+sutras

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_8?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=bhagavad+gita&sprefix=bhagavad%2Caps%2C148 

One source is the Self Realization Fellowship which teaches Paramahansa Yogananda's Kriya Yoga.  His book Autobiography of a Yogi is one I have read half a dozen times.  For a very low fee which covers paper and postage you can sign up to receive a lesson per week.  http://www.yogananda-srf.org/

If one wants to commit, a training can be most helpful.  There are many available all over the country.  Some are specifically for people who want to teach.  Anna Pittman's training is a year-long, meeting one weekend per month with assignments in between.  Here is a link to her information:
http://thebreathingspace.org/teacher-training.html

One way to study on your own is to choose a concept and apply it to your life for a period of time, such as a week or a month.  Now, it is not about memorizing or cramming for an exam.  Read, embrace, let it soak it.  Relax and allow for "ah-ha" moments rather than perfecting anything.  Reflect on the concept, write about it and perhaps connect with a study partner to discuss it.

For example:
- yoga sutra #4 is chosen as a concept to apply to one's life for a period of time
- VRUTTI SARUPYAM ITARATRA
VRUTTI = modifications of the mind-stuff
SARUPYAM = assumes the forms
ITARATRA = at other times
V.S. Rao has translated this as, "At other times, that is, other than that of concentration, the Seer is identified with the modifications."  And he continues with, "For example, someone abuses you; this produces a modification, VRITTI, in your mind and you identify yourself with it, resulting in anger and misery.  You seem to have lost your original identity and have identified with your throughts and body.  Suppose I ask you who you are if you do not identify with anything whatsoever.  If you say 'I am a man' you have identified yourself with a masculine body.  If you say 'I am a millionaire' you have identified yourself with your bank account.  But without any such identifications who are you?  If you detach yourself completely from all the things you have identified yourself with, you realize yourself as the pure "I AM".  In that pure "I" state there will be no difference between you and me.  And all is BRAHMA."
- To apply this concept to your life you can watch for the experience of identifying with whatever it is you habitually blanket over your pure being.  Chances are great (although it's not impossible?) you will not forever remove the habit in one week.  But as you practice you are strengthening the part of you that is the observer, creating a little space between the habit of placing outer circumstances onto who you really are.

In my experience, philosophy is about gradually introducing concepts into life.  There was a period where I got too ahead of myself.  It led to more confusion with some major stumbling blocks. My own habits are in themselves enough to deal with!  So, I suggest a bit-by-bit approach to the material. It's far more important to apply what you can grasp rather than take outer concepts and force them on yourself.  Good teachers are important in helping you do just that at an appropriate pace with essential guidance to prevent stumbling blocks.  

Nanny in a dream

In a dream this morning I was a nanny to a boy and a girl.  I encouraged the boy to lighten up and enjoy his life.  With the girl I talked to her about how to recognize feelings and gain intuitive wisdom from them.  The job was more enjoyable than my waking self could have anticipated.  That said, upon waking I felt happy about the dream and a little relieved too.     

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Enter Onto Any Limb

Note:  As you read this post it may be helpful to refer to the 11/3/11 post on the 8 Limbs Of Yoga.

The 8 limbs are not necessarily linear.  I see the limb system as a framework, a network, mesh.  A new yoga practitioner may embrace just Asana for many years or a lifetime.  Maybe some personality types enjoy a compartmentalized experience, sensing just the physical exercise.  Separation does not happen with my more intuitive nature as I connect the subtly or seemingly unrelated together somehow.  But that's me.  The limbs interweave, link up in my experience.  And surely I've mastered none of them! 

Another perspective: some may be practicing a limb without even knowing about yoga.  A limb can be descriptive, giving form to something a person is already doing, such as devotion to the Divine (Dhyana).  And that's fine too. So, if a person goes to Asana class and has their own spiritual practice or observes devotion to God through religion, than indeed, they are observing more than one limb. 

All this said, I feel it is educational for those interested in yoga practice to receive from somewhere a general knowledge of yogic philosophy.  A teacher providing the information does not equate any sort of requirement on the part of the newer practitioner.  Nor does the lesson have to be exhaustive.  A general outline to possibly plant a seed can be plenty.  From there one can find the teacher, class, materials and guidance that makes sense. 

In closing, yoga is a practice, not dogmatic religion. 

Anjali Mudra, Gesture of Prayer or Prayer Hands


When bringing the hands together in front of the heart chakra, allow some space between the palms.  If you wish, imagine this space to hold the energetic dance of the right brain-left brain or masculine/yang-feminine/yin.  Can you feel the meeting place of the "positive space" (fullness of the flesh & bones of the hands) and the "negative space" (the seemingly emptiness between the hands)?

Within this mudra is opportunity to turn to a softened heart, even for just one breath cycle. 

Affirmations to partner with this mudra:
"Everything is good & perfect." Or Gertrud Hirschi's suggestion, "Full of thankfulness, I receive the good that waits for me."

Friday, June 1, 2012

Gifts To Come Out of Angry Feelings

Life situations will always keep coming.  It's always something!  When facing an issue I am learning to look at my tendencies squarely.  I also open-to the silver lining, in the outer and within the inner world.

Today I experienced, really felt, how anger points to where external circumstances poke at the sense of who we think we are.  There's that part of ourselves and then, the deeper and the truer.  There is the unshakable, beautiful Self that is a child of God.  No matter what life tosses on our path, the source is there deep down, deep within and can be touched in the silence. When accessed, we soften. 

It has been tempting for me in the past to judge myself for getting angry, even more so when I judge the situation to be trivial.  With this more recent ta-do, I rode it out, allowing for the experience.  I used the feelings as a point of entry into the body.  Interestingly, the chapter I studied in Soul Without Shame called for just this!


Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Few Words On Anger & Strength by Byron Brown

"... anger is the cork in the bottle of true strength.  Anger calls upon your vital aliveness and gives you access to its power." - page 147, Soul Without Shame: A Guide To Liberating Yourself From The Judge Within

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

As my skin and muscles sag at middle age
 it is my approach to situations and relationships
that is finding tone


Ancient Saying

"Without growth there is no development.  Without control, hyperactivity will lead to harm."

A Link To An Article Entitled "How Not To Buy Happiness"

http://www.amacad.org/publications/spring2004/frank.pdf?partner=yahoo-smb

Outline of the 5 Element Theory or Wu Xing

The concept to the 5 element theory is vast.  This post will provide just a brief outline.  I'm going from memory and gathering from various sources found in an old notebook.  If you are interested in learning more let me know, seek out books or search the internet.

To approach 5 Element theory, a background in Yin Yang theory is primary.  The blog uploads with the more recent post first so although I am covering the material backwards it will fall into place as it needs to. 

The 5 Elements

Fire
Earth
Metal
Water
Wood

"Without growth there is no development.  Without control, hyperactivity will lead to harm." - Ancient Saying

The elements fall into in a circle.  This is called the supporting or creation cycle.  In the most simplest terms:
Fire burns, the remaining ash turns into Earth.
Within Earth we find metals.
Whether through human engineering or simply Water falling on or through Metal within the Earth, Metal channels & directs Water.
Water helps trees (Wood) grow.
Wood produces fire.
What remains of the Fire turns to Earth...

When charted in a circle with starred arrows in the center, a controlling cycle is found inside:
Fire forges & shapes Metal
Earth channels Water as in shapes of rivers, disbursing it into mud or containing it as ponds or lakes
Metal (in the form of an ax or saw) cuts Wood
Water extinguishes Fire
Wood controls Earth (shading it, roots moving it, shaping it, its debris building it)

A harmful promoting cycle also exists which can be approached another time. 

There are no hard and fast rules.  For example, dumping dirt on a fire will extinguish it.  Although there are stronger tendencies, the dance and interplay can move in many directions. 

Each element has corresponding meridians (lines of energy points used in acupressure & acupuncture) and organs, emotions, physical & personality characteristics, season of the year and influences interpersonal relationships.

Corresponding Meridians
Fire:  small intestine, heart, triple burner, conception vessel meridians
Earth:  spleen, stomach
Metal: lung, large intestine
Water: kidney, bladder
Wood:  gall bladder, liver

Emotions
Fire: joy & happiness
Earth: sympathy, love
Metal: grief, sadness
Water: fear
Wood: anger

Characteristics
Fire:  Most yin of all, a more active, flamboyant person, the dancing flame, sometimes exhibiting too much courtesy, red glow to the face, laughs a lot, tends to use humor to hide true emotions. 
Earth:  Day-to-day worker, maintains, nurtures, gets things done, has endurance and stamina, perhaps heavier in the hips, can be depressed and have a martyr or victim image as often the personality is one quite busy supporting and nurturing others.  The negative state of an Earth type is worry.
Metal:  Very yang, logical, organized, perhaps has a monotone voice, slow to trust others, generally "metals" tend to be wealthy, has a very good or a very bad sense of smell
Water:  On the positive, displays courage; on the negative displays fear.  Sleep is necessary for good health. Family stress can be problematic.  Deep emotional therapies are helpful.  
Wood:  Sometimes tall, thinner, tree-like.  Enjoys planning, design.  Although strong and flexible with deep roots there remains a vulnerability to the wind, winds of change.  When angry, will clench their jaw, fold their arms or maybe throw stuff.  Although we may associate Fire with anger, the real heat of this emotion is found closer to the burning Wood.  

So far, do you really identify with one of the elements?  Now, some people identify strongly with one, while others may easily have predominant characteristics of two.   

I most identify with Wood yet see myself in all of them.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Watching The Ego Try Something New, Shift, Stretch

I'm watching the ego with the frustration and anger I wrote about the other day.  It's interesting to explore the range of emotional experience.  There's a sense of Renaissance.  For the first time, perhaps ever in this life, I feel no guilt for the having such anger.  I am trying to manage over correction.  The ego is moving away from finding satisfaction with feeding on "being liked" to nourishment through a sense of "being treated with respect".  "At all costs" is something for me to observe.  If I act on the notion I will then have to account for it.  The character Grace from the Lars von Trier films (Dogville, Manderlay) is someone with whom I identify.  Thankfully, to a much milder extent!

During silence practice today I could feel the mightiness, the fighter within reaching across and through the web of timelessness.  Although the current life situation is not important in the big picture, I sensed this current anger and the way I'm managing it as groundwork for a higher calling where a fighting spirit is for the highest good.  Maybe it will be this lifetime, maybe another. And then I let it go...

A person I know who is "on-the-path" had an incident where she got in a yelling match with someone in her neighborhood over her dog relieving itself.  It was unsettling for her to have the inner tiger roar.  It was the "old her" she said. She did not realize the seed was still there. The best part about it was she did not keep the incident to herself!  In leading a group study she brought it up.  Revealing her vulnerability, a few tears flowed as she reflected and discussed the experience.  Now, as a spiritual teacher had she kept the experience a secret who knows how it would have resolved within her, if ever.  I will never forget her courage.  Strength is demonstrated when we are honest.

Change is a constant.  For once (finally) I am feeling it as neither positive or negative necessarily but rather the expression of energy right now.

From the M.C. Yogi song Son of Shiva the lyrics include: "now Shiva's like this: truth, consciousness & bliss but he's crazy when he's angry so don't get him pissed".  Afterward in the story there is ensuing chaos, loss and grief but thanks to the gods, it all works out. Here is the link to the song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGdRRZCjxhY

So, I turn it over to a force much greater.  Relationships are more important than the worldly situation.  Perhaps eventually there will be forgiveness all around.  Maybe relationships will mend.  Maybe we'll be better off not reconnecting. What is most important for me though is growth from the experience, reaching beyond old patterns

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Anger & Opportunity

OM...

I write this in the raw state I've been in for a few days.  But my intention is to allow it to be instructive, with any luck. 

So many times I have felt anger and with it, the false notion that since I am supposedly on-the-path I should be some sort of flower child and in an "it's all good" state.  Wrong.  The path I've been on in recent days has been more like a war path!  That was written in jest of course.  It's not a path of action actually, but I am riding with changes within myself, the relationship I have with a few people, using my tools and opening to growth. The other positive is my husband and I are growing together in this.  We are adjusting our ideas of what we consider appropriate with regard to relationships with others, the type of people we welcome into our life circle, how being nice includes setting boundaries along the way, how we humans owe it to one another to speak up and how relationships do not have to go beyond anything more than being on a "hello" basis.  And how sometimes other people's actions create the type of relationship that is appropriate. 

I had a palpable body experience yesterday.  My body was alive with anger, every cell vibrating.  I breathed.  I and my husband coached me to do so.  I got in the ocean.  I took a walk.  During it perspective pulsed in and out. 

The situation is out of my control.  A decision was made by others that very likely effects my husband and me (and perhaps other people) financially, socially, aesthetically and energetically.  And... I know there is enough strength within me to triumph.  There is a silver lining.  I'm seeing it already.  If I found the silver lining other times, I will certainly find it in this. 

The other interesting thing is my husband and I are observing the meanness rising up from within and coming out in our words as we process our experience.  We are taking turns pointing out that we don't intend to go down such roads but rather acknowledge the existence of anger.  As opinionated and strong as he is, he is often more soulful than me!     

Interestingly, the chapter my partner study and I are on in Soul Without Shame is entitled "Strength".  I am experiencing strength.   I am growing.  I am growing up.  

God grant me the wisdom to accept the things I cannot change.
Courage to change the things I can.
And the wisdom to know the difference. -Serenity Prayer

Whew.  Thank you for reading.  Again, I hope the risk I took here is for the highest good. 


Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Camel's Nose

"Never let a camel get its nose under the tent."

It is an art to set boundaries a little here, a little there, with a happy, light attitude than well, the alternative!   

Neale Donald Walsch asks Eckhart Tolle a very good question

I've always appreciated Neale Donald Walsch's authenticity.  Enjoy this 6 minute video as he asks Eckhart Tolle a question regarding something I completely relate to!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zTgZctIeXI

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Free 3:30 lectures at Association For Research & Enlightenment

For those of you who live in Tidewater, Virginia, here is the link to the May lecture schedule:

http://edgarcayce.org/are/pdf/05-12.pdf


Kara & the Crow

Kara was a lovely, wonderful dog.  If it makes any sense, she was the most mystical dogs I've ever known. Either she would send mental messages or we were somehow in deep synchronicity together.  Even before we met, it seems she picked up a message from me or I from her.  That story will be a separate post, which will appear above this one on the blog, in good order. 

At 17 and already quite aged, her legs were giving out.  As difficult as it was, the best thing to do was to give her a humane end.  Like the first night I ever had with her, I slept next to her on the floor. [Being a Newfoundland-Lab mix Kara was always hot anytime it was over 40 degrees (no exaggeration) so she did not like sleeping on the bed.]  She came to us in late August 1993 when my husband (boyfriend at the time) rescued her from a city street.  Kara had street dog habits so needed to be in a crate.  I slept on the floor next to her that first night.  Sometime during that last night while next to her, I spoke with Spirit and asked for a sign.  Although a humane end seemed appropriate I needed to be sure.

The story goes back a ways first.  In the late 90's a yoga teacher told me about crows and how they signal the connection between this plane and the afterlife.  Although we both live in Virginia Beach I had not seen her in years.  Earlier that month I saw her in Chapel Hill at a yoga workshop. 

So, the day after sleeping next to my dog for the last time, I drove her to the veterinary office.  My husband was to meet us there.  While we waited I took her out of the car so she could be in the grass.  Then I noticed something I've never witnessed in my life and I grew up with plenty of crows in the neighborhood.  A crow was on a lamp post about 15  feet away and 15 feet up, looking down at us, cawing.  It was not upset but just, well, communicating and did not cease.  When my husband arrived I asked him to tell me what he thought, "Is that crow speaking to us or what?"  He said yes, indeed it was.  Trust me, he is a science and math guy and does not embrace "the mystery" as readily as many.  Although I feel the decision to give Kara a humane end was the best one, the crow's call was just what I needed to hear.  When we came out of the office with Kara's body wrapped in a blanket* the crow was gone. 

*We learned a long time ago to allow the other animals at home to see the body of the deceased pack member.  At the time of Kara's death we had 2 other dogs and a cat.  Watching them process the situation is amazing.  It only takes 5-10 minutes for everyone to seemingly understand and there is no mourning period afterward like we've seen other times without this opportunity.  I could write an essay just about this!

Photo of Kara, she's the fuzzy one in the foreground:


Monday, May 21, 2012

Birds

With keen awareness nature, especially animals, offers cues and connection.

Joseph Rael, a very inspiring Native American teacher, tells the story of a bird who helped him avoid a fire.  The bird swooped around him where hot ash burned without Joseph realizing it. The story is told in the book Being & Vibration.

I have a milder swooping bird story.  My husband and I were running the same system of trails but separately.  What we do is plan to meet at the trail head at a certain time and otherwise go our own way.  I was on the return trip, jogging a long and mostly uneventful stretch.  A bird never swooped in front of me over the course of the hour, except this one time.  The bird's swoop from my right to my left caused me to turn to watch it.  In doing so I caught sight of a figure in my peripheral vision, behind me about 100 feet back.  It was my husband who I had not seen in nearly an hour.  In fact, I had not seen many people at all over the hour.  It was as though the bird was a partner, providing a signal.

There's another significant bird story but the connection has as much to do with the human being in-tune as the bird.  Back in the 90's I was expecting someone at my home one afternoon.  She is an intuitive, giving and compassionate person, with people but especially with animals.  I spent the morning in the yard doing chores with a complete lack of significant wildlife connection.  As soon as the woman arrived an adolescent blue jay landed on the fence close by, looked at her and started (I kid you not) conversation.  He then landed on her, played with her hair, chattered, swooped around her head.  I was uneasy since at the time I was recalling being dive-bombed by jays as a kid.  But my guest wasn't.  She understood, listened.  Long story short, it was determined by a wildlife rescuer that the jay was raised by a human and then released.  A few years later a new friend told me his daughter-in-law was a bird rescuer.  As we became acquainted we realized our blue jay connection.  She had the jay and was planning to keep him in the aviary for life since he was still attached to people. 

Somewhere on this blog is the story of the crow outside the vet office the day we said goodbye to our old dog. 

5/22/12 Update:  After looking around it seems I have not posted the story of the crow and my old dog.  I'll create a separate post for it. 

Change Your Brain, Change Your Life

From Daniel Amen, MD, the author of the book Change Your Brain, Change Your Life:

"Meditation activates the most thoughtful part of your brain, leading you to make better decisions, feel happier and be more intelligent."

Half Smile

A slight smile hints to tranquility and joy.  Try it yourself.  How do you feel?  Is your mood lifted?  Do you feel gentle happiness?  How do the muscles in the rest of your body feel?  The point is not to contrive some sort of fake expression but allow the physical to gently invite a more delightful state of experience. 

"A tiny bud of a smile on our lips nourishes awareness and calms us miraculously.  It returns us to the peace we thought we lost." - Thich Nhat Hanh

Observe classic works of art for this expression.  Raphael's cherubs are a perfect example:
http://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images?_adv_prop=image&fr=yfp-t-701-s&va=angels+raphael+cherubs 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

When you hear the cue to breathe...

... what does it mean to you? 

World's Oldest Yoga Teacher

Tao Porchon-Lynch has traveled to Virginia Beach a couple of times over the years to lead workshops.  She is very sweet and to say the least, INSPIRING!  At one workshop I participated in she had recently undergone a hip replacement.  Tao said she could do everything she wanted, only slower. 

There's a story behind how she connected with Virginia Beach.  If I have the story right, in the early 2000's a male teacher from one of our local studios was in New York attending an advanced class.  In walked an older woman who set up beside him.  In his mind he wondered if she realized it was an advanced class.  Well, he was delightfully surprised to witness her abilities.  Afterward, he got to know her and told  her she must come to Virginia Beach sometime.  She did!  A couple of times!

I will never forget Tao. 


http://www.wellandgoodnyc.com/2012/05/17/guiness-finally-names-tao-porchon-lynch-worlds-oldest-yoga-teacher-at-93/

Never Give Up

Perhaps we find forks in the road.  Maybe we have to let go of situations, people.  But never give up on yourself. 

Enjoy this video...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qX9FSZJu448

Friday, May 18, 2012



What does it mean when the yoga teacher says, "BREATHE"?

What does it mean when the yoga teacher says "BREATHE"?  Is it a command to inhale?  Is it a command to exhale?  Is it a reminder to not hold the breath?  Is it a cue to direct the idea of breath energy into the body? My answer?  When I say it, my intention is to help the student remember not to hold the breath and to synthesize body-mind, let it swirl together.  I hope it does not come across as a command to inhale or exhale.  And, that said, if you find yourself inhaling when the teacher says, "breath" try the opposite by exhaling when the teacher says breath.  Most people don't do this.  The exhale is a beautiful way to unravel tension and anxiety.  So, sort of flip your mind around and see the breath as starting with the exhale.  At the very least it is useful mental gymnastics.

I think it is a worthy question to ask any yoga teacher.  What do they mean when they say "breath..."?

Breathing Basics

Healthy breathing is, well, healthy!  In addition to the physical benefits of good respiration, resting the mind on the breath provides a point of concentration, opening one to meditative experience.  I often say the breath is a portable meditation tool.  It's always with us! 

The information below comes from some of my answers to the Barratt Breathworks Level 1 written exam from June 2001.  It is a simple outline the basics of healthy, natural breathing.  I will eventually create an audio guide as body and breath education.  But, for starters, this Monday morning we will explore the lessons in class.

Primary Muscles of Respiration:
diaphragm
intercostals
4 layers of abdominal muscles


Secondary Muscles of Respiration:
sternocleidomastoid (SCM)
scalenes
pectoralis minor
upper trapezius


The basic movements of the central, pelvic and vocal diaphragms during inhalation and exhalation:

The central diaphragm drops on the inhalation, moving the internal organs and creating a greater amount of space in the chest.  With greater pressure outside the body, air moves into the lungs to balance out this pressure.  With the exhalation the central diaphragm relaxes and billow back up into the chest, pushing the air out of the lungs.

The pelvic diaphragm and the vocal diaphragm play a secondary role in respiration and are less known for their role in breathing.  Each supports the central diaphragm by allowing it to function effectively.  The pelvic diaphragm drops and broadens on the inhalation.  It retracts and narrow on exhalation.  The vocal diaphragm lifts up on the inhalation and drops with the exhalation.  

The three phases of optimal breathing in sequential order:
1. abdominal   2. thoracic   3. clavicular

A review of the Yogi Complete Breath, the movements of the breath and the body during this form of breathing:

The Yogi Complete Breath is the way we are designed to breath, engaging all three breathing spaces:  low, middle and high spaces in the respiratory cycle.  Diaphragmatic in nature, it is integrative, fundamental to the core and foundational in pranayama practice.  It is not a technique, although it is sometimes used in conjunction with yogic breath techniques.  Breathwork is a process of dismantling and freeing the innate breath, clearing the interference of a natural process leading to full expression of the Yogi Complete Breath.  It is a deep full breath beginning in the belly, which rounds gently.  Moving into the lower ribcage and sternum, this area expands in the front, the sides and back.  As the breath moves the belly draws in slightly guiding the breath through the middle breathing space into the upper breathing space.  There is a sense of fullness without strain.  The inhalation connects with the exhalation.  There is no pause between the in-breath and out-breath.  With the exhalation there is a sense of complete emptying, the chest drops followed by the middle and then lower breathing spaces.  There is a pause at the end of the exhalation.  The inhalation rises gently from the pause. 

The basic movements of the breath through the abdomen, central diaphragm, intercostals during inhalation and exhalation in unrestricted breathing:

Note what is described below is unrestricted breathing.  If your experience does not relate at all or in part, relax!  This is why you are learning and practicing!  This said, let's explore the optimal. 

One should move towards allowing the breath to emanate from the particular area of the body rather than forcing a mechanical movement.  The breath will swirl-in and fill space.  The movement of the breath is different from movement of the body.  If areas of restriction are sensed, rest with the feeling rather than judging or resisting.  In this way, there will be no strain in the breath or body, particularly in the areas perhaps not fully engaged in the act of and opening-to breathing. 

Abdomen  A hand can be placed on the abdomen initially to gain a greater awareness.  In unrestricted breathing the breath should be sensed and felt in the abdomen when the hand is taken away.  If awareness is lost, return the hand to the abdomen.  The breath should rise and gently fall in this area without a feeling of effort.  It will feel familiar, natural.  The back and sides of the body will softly expand with the inhalation and retract gently on exhalation.

Diaphragm  The breath at the diaphragm will be sensed at the lower ribs, where they join the waist.  Again, the breath should rise and gently fall in this area without a feeling of effort.  With unrestricted breathing it will feel familiar, natural.  The back, sides and front of the body will expand as the inhalation carries the breath in to fill the space.  A gentle retraction, tightening of the abdominal muscles yet a letting go in the upper body comes with the exhalation.  It will feel natural and easy to breath in this area in unrestricted breathing.

Intercostals  Intercostal movement of the breath is felt around the upper ribs, front, sides and back.  With inhalation, the spaces between the ribs will expand as the breath enters and fills the space.  Exhalation brings a slight and gentle retraction.  Breathing here should feel effortless.  Chest breathers will experience ease and a natural feeling breathing in this space.  Chest breathing serves us well in aerobic activity but can be somewhat anxiety producing if it a habit.  


On a personal note, prior to meeting Kathleen Barratt and being guided by her, I did not understand breathwork and what is had to offer.  Fortunately I had "a little asana under my belt" so there was at least an elementary understanding of synthesizing physical and mental awareness.  The more yang pranayama practices in yoga class served to only heap more tension onto and into my body.  Breathwork was the gentle unraveling I needed.  In time I could approach more structured pranayama.  More importantly however, breath awareness became and is a tool for my gauging experience in present time: be it anxiety, recognizing an intuitive sense, self-assessing being off physically and making adjustments accordingly.   


Self-Worth

You know a relationship is a good one, including the one you have with yourself, when there is generally a spirit of seeing and honoring self-worth. 

Pop Song Wisdom


So many times it happens
we live our lives in chains
and we never even know
we have the key
 - Eagles, 1974 Already Gone

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Toolbox

On the journey belief in the unknown has been strong and at times more in the background.  What has been most supportive is the understanding of opportunity: the practice and the tools are there regardless of how in-touch I feel with the mystery.  Of course trust in the presence of God remains, even if the connection feels lighter, softer.  I feel the wax and wane is a positive, for me anyway. 

This morning's class is canceled

Due to rain there's no class today.  Let's look to rain or shine next week and we'll go indoors if necessary and possible.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Next Yoga In The Park Classes - 5/14 & 5/21 at 9am

Two instructional classes are scheduled for May.  If the weather is not favorable I will send an email out by 8am that morning.  Class will be canceled or we'll meet at indoors at a student's home on 65th Street. Class is free with love offerings accepted.  If there's something in particular you'd like to cover you can let me know.

In June I'd like to have a mysore/individual practice including a reading every 10 minutes or so.  We did this once with interesting results.  As Angela Farmer says, the body loves metaphors.  When movement, awareness, poetry and the natural environment come together it is enriching!

I'm back...

I've missed posting on the blog but other life duties have required attention.

This week expect a post from my Barratt Breathworks final from June 2001.  I came across the written exam and find it to be an informative outline.  Universal Brotherhood Movement had a call newsletter articles and I thought I'd submit one.  When finished it will be posted here.  And expect a post on the benefits of inversions.  If there's a topic you have questions about please let me know.  

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Little More About Yoga In The Woods


I've written previously about woods yoga. Below are additional thoughts.  
The idea to have class in the park began in 2006.  A friend and I walked the trails discussing Richard Louv's Last Child In The Woods.  We made the connection between his thesis and yoga.  Within the month a class built momentum.  Since then we've experienced yoga in the natural environment which includes all kinds of weather and happenings.  A feisty house cat has joined us in recent classes.  Dragonflies land on uplifted fingers.  The breeze picks up at interesting moments.  The sun shines between clouds.  The sun and clouds can bring relief depending on the season.  We've discovered, unlike the Wicked Witch of the West, we do not melt in light rain.  There are days of misty rain and if you bend your mind a bit, you discover you're practicing within a cloud.  We've learned the ants prefer bread crumbs over our us but only one of us remembers to actually bring the bread crumbs.  As for the sand, some don't mind it at all while others spread a big sheet on the ground to keep clear of it.  Our meeting place is adjacent to a military base so the sound of artillery is something we've heard.  A Naval Air Station is 10 miles south so the jets fly close enough to give us the lesson on "all inclusive experience" but the noise isn't too much.  In essence, we're not insulated or sheltered in a climate controlled space. 
Our culture is blessed with the bounties of prosperity. People residing within cities and those who rely upon every modern convenience are sometimes disconnected with nature.  This can extend to the relationship with their own physical form.  Like many, I learn balance from experience with nature and find great treasures in environments unshaped by humans.   Feelings and insights can be gained.   I see the body as both a portable concentration tool and nature experience: a landscape of sites, sounds and sensation to explore. Eckhart Tolle and other great teachers say there is only life in the Now. The body and breath can be a very useful portal into the experience of presence. Nourishing breath, postures, practices and movements provide a structure for reconnection.  Each practice session is like a ceremony of reconnection with not only the Self but the Self and nature.  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Managing Health


Managing health is an act of responsibility. There are rewards to making the best choices possible. Of course wellness is not the expectation to have a complete absence of aging and dis-ease. In fact, maybe there are gifts within illness or issues. Time, genetics, the environment and gravity present their share of effects. It is through the body that we find peace, contentment. It offers the opportunity to surrender, meet challenges and become aware. In the process we learn to meet our body where it is and nudge it into new territory.  Often, as we approach health with non-attachment to outcome, we can be pleasantly surprised at results and discoveries!
There is risk in creating. 

Taking Care Of Business

This week I've been working on updating insurance policies and refinancing our mortgage.  This sort of business on the heels of tax season has been a little much!  Yet, within it there have been lessons.  First, I learned to let people do their jobs.  For whatever reason in my psyche was the feeling I had to know and handle it all.  Fortunately I noticed this tendency early on so was able to release control, let people do their thing. Second, I am under no obligation to anyone.  Although the relationships are equitable, I brought my business to the professionals:  the insurance agents, the lawyer, the loan officers.  Third, although I consider myself in some ways adverse to authority, where did these experiences come from?  They're all based on falling into line.  The answer to this final question is in process.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Yoga In The Park

The mist was present when we started practice this morning.  The sky cleared on and off throughout with full sun at times.  I was indoors most of yesterday.  There was little to stop me from getting outside.

The next instructional class is planned for May 21st at 9am.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Soul with a Capital "S"


"Now this is the most single important thing that we can ever attain, the knowledge of our own Self.  And yet there are a frightening amount of people who seem to have the urge not to just to ignore the Self, but actually seem to have the urge to obliterate themselves.  This is horrific but you can almost understand the desire to simply wipe out that awareness because it’s too much of a responsibility to actually possess such a thing as a soul, such a precious thing.  What if you break it?  What if you lose it? Might it not be best to anaesthetize it, to deaden it, to destroy it, to not have to live with the pain of struggling towards it and trying to keep it pure."
- Alan Moore

Friday, April 20, 2012

Pratyahara (Sense Withdrawal) & Life On Earth

We, here on Earth
face the taunt, 
the considerable mountains of sense desire.

A good!
My husband is home with chocolate.
(Seriously, he is.)

The Silver Lining

So many times
stuck in the mud

 I know
I know the balance-out is around the corner
The silver lining 
The knowing is balancing
before the silver lining
even reveals itself. 

If Grace had a color, it would be silver.
 

Shifting To A New Spiritual Ideal & Related Reflections

Edgar Cayce spoke of setting a single spiritual ideal.  Would it not be useful to set love, service, peace or forgiveness as a guiding light?  Usually the ideal is more or less out of reach, a little over one's head so to speak.  One's ideal shifts, grows.  Currently I'm transitioning from Inner Peace to Harmony.  

In making the shift from inner peace there is recognition of a new phase.  It's time to interface with the ideal of harmony now.  Of course inner peace will not be abandoned. There is no real separation between guideposts. Currently I look to engage the ideal of harmony on the level of thought, speech and action in relationship with individuals, community and the greater good.  When faced with a fork in the road, I wish, to the best of my ability, to take the direction in support of harmony.  What I expect is to not always know why a certain direction feels more supportive for harmony until circumstances unfold.  This is where intuition, faith and the mystery play their roles.

I also expect to fumble, forget, face imperfection of course.  I've struggled and with certain people when it comes to interpersonal communication, especially related to a compulsive desire to help.  Instead of listening, I've too often given advice, tried to fix situations or sell another on an idea.  I will trust in my skills of concentration (Dharana, the 6th of the 8-limb path of yoga) in order to become a better listener.  So, instead of charging into speech &/or action thinking I am working towards finding solutions for a situation, I will seek to inquire into and return to the ideal of harmony.  When relating to others this begins with listening.  More than anything people want to be heard. 

Another aspect of harmony for me is how it ties to a certain experiential state, namely the dance with duality.  The word dance is stressed here as it signifies movement, getting unstuck from duality.  For me the understanding of harmony will be not only a mind-spirit pursuit but also on the level of body since I feel there's considerable groundwork in place with movement and somatic exploration. 

If you are interested in learning more about how to select and be led by an ideal, please refer to the Cayce material on this subject since I do not do it justice.  He himself and others authors and speakers present the material more correctly with deeper understanding.  There is a chart available to assist in the process. 

If you are interested in exploring the teachings of duality, there are many forms of approach:  Tao Te Ching; Yin-Yang theory; the 3 Gunas of Yoga; Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus; Masculine-Feminine study (as presenting by David Deida for example); and from childhood we have Goldie Locks' exploration of the cabin and stuff of the 3 bears!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Vapor

To loosely quote Alan Moore, we are heading in the direction of turning to vapor.  Often, life follows art..  Artists feel the pulse of evolution before anyone else.  This idea and Moore's can be seen in the art of the last century.  It became less dense, more abstract and a celebration of light, as in the impressionists. 
When reflecting on Moore's idea I recalled this drawing class homework assignment from my teen years.  We were to select a photo from National Geographic.  From it, work through a progression of abstraction all the way to the non-objective.
I remember feeling a transformative effect during the process.  It felt, at least a bit, in line with what the great abstract artists were getting at.

We are at a time of union.  Astronomers, astrophysicists, theoretical physicists, mystics, intuitives, and the teachings of the great masters are blending.  The essence of viewpoint and understanding merge.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Creating & Being Inspired By An Altar

I never consciously set out to create an altar.  It happened over time.  Just like everything, it changes, evolves. It gets cluttered then clarifies.  Without realizing it, its orientation shifted from my facing West to East when I  rearranged the room. Behind it is the Atlantic Ocean, perhaps 1500 feet away?

Each piece has meaning.  There are reminders of ancestry, friendship, kinship with fellow students, support, new energy, great masters, art and creativity.  The senses are included.  I used to have books on the altar, but no more. 

There is a play on words:  alter and altar.  One is a verb, one is a noun. The words have different meaning.  Yet, there is a subtle difference in the essence of the meaning behind each word.  Indeed, an altar does alter something within us.

Soul Without Shame, Chapter 9 of Partner Study

We're on Chapter 9, which covers personal will.  I've had a number of insights, most of which will not be shared here.  One has crystallized to a new level.  I've transitioned from judging what's best for others to being aware of engaging in the habit.  Now there is awareness of refraining from doing it.  At some point the idea of judging what's best for another will not even enter my awareness.  It seems to be a stepping stone to the notion "the meek shall inherit the Earth".  True and strong humility is hopefully ahead!  All of the greats demonstrated this quality, consistently and beautifully.

Mindscape of Alan Moore

I watched (absorbed) this documentary for the 6th or 7th time over the weekend.  This insightful film offers a glimpse into the philosophy of an avant garde, brilliant mind.  The video can be viewed for free on You Tube and Hulu.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Favorite dialogue from a favorite film, Harold & Maude

From the final scene, while saying the final goodbye:

Harold:  I love you Maude.
Maude:  Oh Harold, that's wonderful.  Go and love some more. 

This final exchange is so wonderful and significant.  We can move beyond attachment to a specific person to experience love.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

It goes without saying but...

... no one should use anything posted here as a substitute for sound medical, psychological, legal, or financial advice.  There was no particular reason for my writing this but for the sake of clarity this statement will be re-posted every so often.