“The Art of Stillness”

This book was one of the recommended books at the Invitational by Judith H. Lasater, PhD/Yoga Teacher/PT and this quote from the last page resonates with me this week. Don’t get me wrong, we need to exercise, move, dance all those but somewhere during the day and night … take a moment (75-90 minutes yoga class would be ideal:).

“In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow.  In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention.

And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.

You can go on vacation to Paris or Hawaii or New Orleans three months from now ( I wish !), and you’ll have a tremendous time, I’m sure.

But if you wan to come back feeling new – alive and full of fresh hope and in love with the world – I think the place to visit may be NOWHERE.”

– Pico Iyer

I wish I wrote the above because it’s my sentiment exactly & Pico Iyer says it so well. Sitting still is not meant literal of course (while Zen at a monastery is certainly a training) but he means that we can all weave in a moment of reflection, repose, a conscious time-out – that moment of PAUSE even during the movements. Our self-worth is not measured by how busy we are.  Rather, by paying attention, our mind clears up and our body is more in tune with our inner wisdom  – all of which yoga teaches us so well.

And this is the sentiment because I am breathless running around in flurry of self imposed activities trying to pack to get off to Asia this week.  Yes, I am going Somewhere … bearing gifts, with baggage and all.  Things to do list piling up and anxieties over not getting them done mounting every minute. Still I am proud of myself that I retained my yoga practice and even slipped into Knee Workshop and … most memorable yoga class on a Memorial holiday (Yoga Therapeutics by Harry’s LAST CLASS – tears and laughter as he bids goodbye to start his new chapter …) so now going into a tailspin as the week restarts but somehow amidst the juggling, there’s that PAUSE where the debris settle to the bottom of the swirling well and only the distilled essence can be bottled. How to pause?

Stop.  What’s the worst that can happen?  What is most essential to this life I live? There are those who depend on you, yes, but … what do they treasure in you?

***

Deep Breath.

Invite the stillness; the tranquility to approach all those things on the list with

serenity and grace.  Is that even possible.

To make the impossible possible is my intention this full moon week

by living my yoga – We can even “stretch” time … Namaste.

Spring: Time to focus on “Wood” element

木 林 森 木 林 森 木 林 森 木 林 森 木 林 森 木 林 森 木

In the woods by the foot of Mt. Shasta here … in alignment with the theme of the season:)  It’s a season symbolizing GROWTH, RENEWAL and HOPE as we celebrated Easter and Passover. Then next month,  we honor our mothers on Mother’s Day here on Mother Earth and to those past on to reemerge as Celestial Mothers… our guardian angels and ancestral gene pool with unique genetic codes… celebrated.

How can we weave in the seasonality into our practice?  And why should we even do that?  So many ways and that’s why the mindful reminders in Niroga yoga therapist training is so unique and precious. In order to really be Present as we are often told in the yoga classes, it’s not only the breath to breath moment to moment renewal but also the distinct season of the year we want to be so conscious of and embrace because … while eternal, time never stops:)

So noticing the markings on our time line as we journey on our path. With all five-senses, taking in the sight, sounds, smell, feel of the woodsy hike and taste the pure fresh water of the spring water.

Let’s grow that tree within:) There’s strength, balance and focus – all in one in Vrksasana:)

It is said in Chinese Medicine that Spring is a time when we pay special attention to Liver/Gallbladder meridians.  The energetic pathways or the meridians that affect our Liver health affects the health of not only those particular internal organs but our overall health.  With an intention to spring clean those pathways, and to achieve an overall balance … here I am, growing a tree pose balancing on a wooden plank supported by river rocks – of a “bridge” – more centered and grounded you allow yourselves to be with one-pointed attention (drishdi), more balanced you become.  Your mind is as clear and lucid as the spring waters bubbling up and flowing at the base of Mt. Shasta.

When our liver/gallbladder meridians are out-of sorts, we experience various physical illnesses and emotionally, we become prone to agitations whether it be minor irritations and frustrations to all blown out unleashing of  … anger.  Have you noticed there are a lot of angry people these days and they don’t even hide that ugly lack of control  … as they are unable to.  What do they need?  Yoga works.  Anger is the outward manifestation of what resides deeper within …that of fear.   Yoga is all about becoming less fearful, more fearless you are less guards you put up, less closed off and protective you are – more tolerant or even open and welcoming of new and diverse ideas and people – life is delightful – when one is fearless.  Becoming fearless … Being fearless, to be brave is to  cultivate peace within in and that is the most advanced practice of yoga; some people may call that stress reduction or stress management  … but at a deeper level, it’s more than that.

Today, I received some lovely complements from some students and I was happy that I saw my own growth in receiving the positive reinforcements without weird sense of pride called ego – because I know it’s the yoga not me – I am just a conduit, mirroring their own beauty they had forgotten. I was just happy that I was able to transfer what I learned from so many great teachers a little bit better.  It was not ego but just sheer joy and gratitude that someone, some people do understand that I am – yes, merely a conduit, simply guiding or facilitating their own transformations, with an intention to simply be a reflection of their own luminescent Self full of limitless possibilities.  If I had impurities and clouded vision and mind, I cannot serve so … I have to keep up my own practice.  As young ladies worry about the upcoming bikini season,  it’s time to just really own the body we have – live in our skins – truly embody the body we are given and … perhaps your weight will settle where it is meant to be. There’s no shame to be that perfect imperfections that we all are.

Of course we have to eat right but it’s not about depriving ourselves – sometimes you have a slice of cake, a cupcake, a deep fried veggies – called tempura – donuts even (yes, jelly filled donut in New York …) I mean … it’s okay.  When eaten with delight and appreciation, the body will lapp it up and turn them into nourishment.  Our body has the power to convert the negatives to positives; even poison into elixir of energy … then surely it turns stored fat into energy. Yoga, not simply calorie burning exercise, makes a difference because it’s about lifestyle change and shift in self-awareness and self-love.

So … reevaluate what self-care truly means and what yoga is really about – it’s about “transformation”.  Maybe not an “enlightenment” yet but moving into that direction … allowing your body to eliminate the toxins and the knots and stress; so that we may meditate with ease.  Every transformation happens in baby steps with a regular practice in which we “yoke” the mind-body to enliven our spirits.

Namaste:)

Power of Meditation

  • Believe it or not,a “regular” practice of meditation proven to be more beneficial than than taking a vacation ! Reference this for further read.
  • Decreases inflammation at the cellular level – yes, it’s true. Here
  • Decreases perception of pain and boosts our immune function.
  • Increases brain’s grey matter – yes, good news, the practice makes us smarter; Studies shown to help prevent or better manage dementia and Alzheimer’s.  Here:) Love it:)  Here:)
  • Lowers anxiety and prevents or relieves depression.  Here:)
  • Improves attention, focus and general cognition. Here
  • Improves our creativity and imagination – a critical skill that cannot be taught. Here.
  • it’s about cultivating resilient by fully embodying our body, owning and celebrating being in our skin authentically as we cultivate being fully centered and being more grounded. It all comes with “regular” practice – not about intensity but regularity with which we engage in this kind of mindfulness practice that yields the most benefit.
  • improves our social interactions by strengthening our sense of interpersonal connections -Being better wired, that neuroplasticity improves our sensitivities and promotes smoother regulations of not only our own emotions and feelings but tuned into  others’ emotions and needs.   Thus, making us warm, caring … a more empathetic humans.  Empathetic compassionate beings have better abilities to connect with others to seek and receive support and love.

There are even more benefits to meditation that I can add on to the above list but all you have to do is google search “meditation benefits” and there, you will have it.  We live in a world where we need not go to zen temples (would love to though!) and ashrams (show me the way!) but just pop on the various apps available some here listed BUT ideally, the direct tribal experience of a “regular” ritual of a sacred practice alone and with others in a group of the like-minded resonates with me more.  While being spiritual is not the same as being religious or faith, the practice to bring about inner peace shares a common thread.

So to me, it’s not about “efficiency” and “effectiveness” and improving productivity or improving the bottom line by cutting medical expenses and producing happier workers – although CEOs engaging in regular meditation or mindfulness practice is well publicized.  To self improve or self tune and self care may initially start out as maybe even cold and lonely task but to me, it’s about “eventual” arrival  – arriving to that place of connection to others, compassion for others, about community as we are tribal and going at it alone can serve 10-50% of the time but the other 50% and up, a group practice seems more human – there’s that human connection and warmth – without even exchange of words – just that aura we emit – which translates to something magical – it’s energetically and vibration-ally super charged !

Yet if you cannot run into a yoga studio then …

*apps like Headspace or Meditation Oasis
*the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center

*Stanford Meditation center Here

* the Chopra Center
* meditation taught at SF Zen Center in the tradition of Shunryu Suzuki  ; Art of Living – Sri Sri Shankar.  In Western medicine, there’s Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.  “Mindfulness” is basically another more mainstream way of referring to a kind of meditation … that’s more about being fully engaged and aware, attentive to what’s happening all around you as you engage with the outer world. Meditation on the other hand is more about taking an inward journey; to sit with one’s thoughts and emotions to reach Samadhi (that blissful place where you need nothing more; want nothing more to be utterly content and at peace).  To yoke mind and body to bring about such transformation…

As for yoga, one can calibrate the practice by dialing up or dialing down the intensity to  meet your own unique needs.   Practices such as Yin or Restorative styles of yoga sets the stage for that practice of mindfulness fusing mind-body-spirit for a better sense of well being.  Even in a more active, Yang style practices, by focused attention to how we move our body, one can engage in a form of meditation – so then in both cases, emptying the mind to rein in thoughts that does not serve as we integrate the Yin/Yang blended practice during savasana at the very end.  We can all improve our health by detoxifying and eliminating negative, self-sabotaging, overly-judgmental or simply busy busy planning worrisome thoughts about the future and regretful thoughts about the past – patterned and habitual thought pattern to be first – recognized – then finding that place of equanimity for us to find more space … more freedom … to take in the miracles of life all around us.

Namaste:)