Laugh and the World Laughs With You

Most of us are well-acquainted with the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And of course, this is an excellent rule to follow, as it offers us sound advice as we navigate our way through life. But how many of us are familiar with Rule Number Six? If you are not yet familiar with this rule, consider the following story:

“Two prime ministers are sitting in a room discussing the affairs of state. Suddenly a man bursts through the door in a fury, shouting and banging his fist on the desk. The resident prime minister quietly looks up says to the young man, “Peter, kindly remember Rule Number Six.” Instantly, Peter regains his composure, restores to complete calm, apologizes for the interruption, and leaves the room.

The politicians return to their conversation, only to be interrupted yet again by a hysterical woman, sobbing uncontrollably and gesturing wildly. Again the host prime minister quietly says, “Marie, please remember Rule Number Six.” Much like the gentleman before her, Marie calms down, apologizes, and exits the room.

When the scene is repeated for a third time, the visiting prime minister says, “My good friend, I have seen many things in my life, but never anything as remarkable as this. Pray tell, what is this Rule Number Six?” “Very simple,” the host prime minister replies. “Rule Number Six is ‘Don’t take yourself so damned seriously.’” After pondering this rule for just a moment, the visiting prime minister asks, “And what are the other rules?”

The host’s reply? “There aren’t any.”

As most of you well know, life can be pretty heavy sometimes. Our families and friends, our work, even our own well-being require constant and attention and care. And not only do these aspects of our lives require us to tend to them, but we also need to take them seriously in order to do so. Most simply said, sometimes life is no laughing matter. And yet while it is important to take our lives seriously, it can also be to our detriment to take things too seriously, all the time. Doing so can lead to burdens or problems that may not otherwise exists, a skewed or negative outlook, and undue stress and anxiety.

Because of this, it can be to our advantage to know when to lighten up bit. Whether that means making time for play, enjoying your loved ones, or finding the humor in life, enjoying the lighter side of life encourages us to make the most of we have. It can even help us put life into a healthier perspective as we focus on what is most important, letting go of what is not, and leaving time and energy for the things that matter most, such as our loved ones and our interests and passions.

Today, I encourage you to embrace the lighter side of life. Keep in perspective your responsibilities, your stressors, and the bumps in the road. Remember all that you have to enjoy in life. And maintain your sense of humor, as it is a strength beyond measure to laugh with others and appreciate what there is to love about your surroundings.

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The Practice

{Sthira sukham asanam}  : Strength and ease within the pose

Sthira:  This word translates as firm, stable, resolute, changeless. Sthira speaks not only of challenge, strength, endurance and fortitude, but also vigilance, the ability to pay attention, and to be present. It is the opposite of agitation and refers to both physical and mental stillness: a controlled, fully engaged body and a focused mind.

Sukha:  This word translates as pleasurable, joyful, agreeable, easy, comfortable, happy, prosperous, relaxed. It is the opposite of discomfort, suffering or pain, or resistance.  This also ahimsa, or non-violence and self-acceptance and the nurturing of the self.

Asana:  This word translates as position, posture, seat, or a way of sitting that prepares the body for seated meditation. In the more expanded view of yoga, asana occurs not just on the mat or in meditation, but it is also the foundation from which we act in daily life, which means that we as we live life, we are present in the body, in existing, inhabiting and living fully.

…In yoga, we create unity of all things, including the above terms, for Yoga means “to yoke” or to “create union”.  This the MindBodySpirit connection that is yoga.

It is the ritual of entering and holding the posture without interruption for a period of time, being fully present with all the details, sensations, and experiences that occur in the body/mind. It is the qualities of engagement and letting go, the balance between tension and relaxation, effort and ease.  It is a state of equilibrium that is without agitation or inertia.  It is the marriage of the body, the mind, the spirit, and  all else.

…And as teachers and students, this does not stop here, and it goes much deeper and becomes much more personalized with practice, driving deeper into the heart and soul of the practitioner.  Because this, THIS, is where philosophy meets and unifies with practice.   And THIS is what is yoga.

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The Lower Bod

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…In my yoga classes this week, we have given extra-special attention to the hips and lower-body regions. And this feels oh-so-amazing! And even more so amazing than that is the extremely important, yet often over-looked, aspect of this hip-opening practice… which is the emotions that are stored within the lower body regions.

As a yoga instructor and therapist, I feel that it is extremely important to bear in mind that our bodies do NOT operate alone. Rather, our physical bodies are just one aspect of a very complex and intricate system that makes up our entire being. And it is our lower bodies that often store emotions in need of further attention, processing, and healing. These processes occur in many shapes and forms and are healthy for us to experience, despite the fact that they may be uncomfortable, especially when they become substantial and important. Yet, even so, these sensations are to be welcomed, as they are good and necessary. So run into the feelings that arise, rather than running from them, feel what you don’t want to feel, and diffuse them with breath.

So, as you move forward in the practice, I would like you to keep your entire self (mind, body, spirit) in mind. And, as you do, listen closely to your own self. Check in. Ask questions. Notice and observe. Know that your practice will take you deeper than the physical realm. Revel in the magic that happens in all dimensions. And radically accept who, and where, you are now.

Fear vs Love

Several years ago, in my yoga study, I was given the assignment to journal and reflect on the connection between love and fear. Our homework began with the task of taking note of the what we are afraid of as well as the things that we love.visit it

We were reminded that our feelings of fear and love come in many forms: our fear may be experienced as fright, anxiety, apprehension, or insecurity, while love may be expressed as demonstrations of emotional investment, passion, fondness, or true love itself. After mindfully noting such emotions, we were instructed to analyze our feelings to decipher what exactly our attachment is, with the intention of detaching just a bit, and thus gaining a new perspective on life or a deeper understanding ourselves.

This assignment is based on the theory that fear and love are the only basic emotions that we feel, and everything else stems from them: greed stems from a fear of lacking, anger from a fear of perceived threat, humor stems from a love of the lighthearted, joy stems from a fulfilled love of some sort, and so on. And while you may online casino or may not agree with this theorizing, my homework showed me that there is a definite connection between love and fear. That every single day we experience some kind of love. Likewise, each and every day we encounter something that we fear.

…If you take a moment to think about what that means for you personally, you will likely discover that there is a connection for you as well. And as you see fear as an attachment to something you love, you may also find that fear itself is not be so scary after all. Of course, there are plenty frightening things that may or may exist, that may or may not happen to us in our lives, but fear itself is nothing more than a feeling. It is just one of many emotions that we may feel at any given time. It is natural, it is okay, and it is useful. Fear is always looking out for our best interest. It demands our attention, warning us of potential threats, and it guides us toward safety and security.

However, because fear is just an emotion, and it is just like the rest of them, it is up to us to be aware of our feelings, prioritize them, and act on those that best serve our higher purpose, even in the face of fear so that we do not become its prisoner. So when we feel frightened, what might we do? It seems to me that before we do anything, we should slow down and acknowledge our fear. Really examine it. Take note of it has to say, and ask ourselves if that is worth listening to or if we are better off ignorning it. And then, we can make one of two choices. We can choose to do what fear tells us to do, at the risk of doing nothing.asia Lambda sensor

Or, we can remember the words of Franklin Roosevelt, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself,” and call upon our courage and act anyway.

Pause

Consider this passage from the book, “Radical Acceptance” by Tara Brach.

“In the 1950s a few highly trained pilots in the U.S Air Force were given the task of flying at altitudes higher than ever attempted. Going beyond the earth’s denser atmosphere, they found, much to their horror, that the ordinary laws of aerodynamics no longer existed…a plane could skid into a flat spin…and tumble end over end towards the earth.

“The first pilots to face this challenge responded by frantically trying to stabilize their planes… The more furiously they manipulated the controls, the wilder the ride became. Screaming helplessly to the ground control, “What do I do next?” they would plunge to their deaths.

“This tragic drama occurred several times until one of the pilots inadvertently struck upon a solution. When his plane began tumbling, he was thrown violently around the cockpit and knocked out. Unconscious, he plummeted toward earth. Seven miles later, the plane reentered the planet’s denser atmosphere, where standard navigation strategies could be implemented. He came to, steadied the craft and landed safely. He had discovered the only lifesaving response that was possible in this desperate situation: Don’t do anything… Take your hands off the controls…It counters all training and even basic survival instincts,…but it works.”

We have all been there, in one way or another. We have all faced a situation in life that has literally thrown us for a loop, brought us to our knees, or knocked the very wind from our sails. We have all experienced some situation in life that we simply have not known what to do.

When we are faced with such circumstances, it is quite natural to do everything we can to control the situation. But imagine for a second what it would be like to deliberately take our hands off the controls. To interrupt our normal patterns of thinking, feeling, and doing, and instead take a moment to pause and observe what is going in our surroundings and inside of ourselves.

And while taking our hands off the controls certainly does not solve all of our problems, it does suspend time just long enough to gaze inward instead of outward, and re-evaluate where we are, who we are, and what is happening in the deepest, most intimate parts of our hearts and souls.

When we take a moment to pause, we may not know what will happen next, but we open ourselves to subtle messages, new possibilities, and potential clarity. We develop the capacity to stop running, hiding, controlling, and camouflaging, and instead accept our immediate inner experiences.

Ultimately, we open ourselves to who, what, and where we really are…at that moment.

Now and then, considering giving yourself permission to take your hands off the controls. Find the power of the pause, and observe what is going on inside of yourself. Accept the experience that you discover, and learn, most of all, something from it.

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{YAM} Heart-Openers and Back-Bending:

These poses, hence their name, involve the opening and blossoming of the heart. Which inevitably exposes the most intimate and vulnerable parts of our internal and external self.

And not surprsingly, this can feel scary, uncomfortable.  Yet, it can also feel beautifully and incredibly naked and raw, as these poses gently encourage us to peel away our protective layers and let the magic of our hearts shine.  They force us to drop our head and mind back into the unknown behind us, expose our neck and throat, drive our chest forward, and allow our heart, soul, and intuitive gut lead the way and journey blindly into the unknown before us.

Yet, as scary as this may be, we need not move in the direction of fear, or we will forever be stagnant.

Instead, move in the direction of your heart. Let it open. Expose yourself. Be authentic, raw, and naked. Liberate yourself. Dance with life. Open up to the cosmos.

Redefine Struggle

My sister recently sent me an article entitled, “Struggle for Smarts”. The author opened his article with a story about a fourth grade classroom in Japan. In this story, the teacher was teaching his class how to draw three-dimensional cubes. As he observed the class, the author noticed that one of the boys was struggling with the concept and appeared unable to draw the cube correctly. The teacher noticed this as well and invited the youngster to draw the cube on the board in front of the class. Doing as he was instructed, the boy went to the front of the class, and drew the cube to the best of his ability, but he still could not complete the cube correctly. After his first try, the teacher asked the class, “How does that look?” The class confirmed that it was drawn incorrectly, so he tried again. Every few minutes, the teacher would ask the class if he had gotten it right, and each time, the students would look up from their work and shake their heads “no”. As the hour went on, and the boy had still not completed the cube correctly, the author realized that he had begun to perspire as he watched the boy anxiously and worried that he would become discouraged and begin to cry.

But, to his surprise, he did not. He diligently persisted, drawing his cube incorrectly each time. Try after try, he continued to draw his cube until, he had gotten it right. And when he had finally drawn the cube with mastery, the class broke into applause and he was able to return to his seat with pride.

Like the author of this article, many of us become uncomfortable when we imagine this young boy struggling in front of his peers in such a way. We think, “Why would the teacher do that to him, knowing that he was unable to draw the cube correctly? That poor boy! I feel so badly for him!” Yet, while this boy was struggling to master the task of drawing the cube, it does not appear that he was struggling emotionally. So why is it that we assume that he was? And why is it that we ourselves shift uncomfortably and feel badly for this boy who struggled to learn something new? It seems that many of us tend to view struggle as an indicator that we, or someone else, is lacking or “less than” in some important way. That we are not as intelligent, not as capable, not as resilient as we “should be”. That because we do not have it figured out yet, we are missing a skill or trait that we should otherwise possess.

Yet, if we were to adopt a perspective that is similar to the Japanese classroom, we would realize that struggle is an inherent and predictable part of life. It is part of learning, part of mastering a skill, part of figuring things out and finding our way. As this classroom knows, to struggle is not a sign of weakness. Rather, to struggle is to be presented with yet another opportunity to overcome challenge and to learn. To struggle is an opportunity to be proud of ourselves and satisfied with our efforts as we work through something difficult and overcome an obstacle.

The Silver Lining

2015 was a tough year for many.   We each in our own way have struggled with adversity.  We have experienced pain, suffering, and hardship in one way or another.

We have been put to the test, we have questioned our beliefs, and have challenged our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.  We have questioned our identities, struggled to remain well, and persevered in any way that we could.  Our hearts have ached, and our heads have searched for answers that may not exist.  We have adapted to change, overcome adversity, and done everything in our power to remain positive.  In many ways, we have felt that life has fallen apart all around us.  And in many ways, it may seem that it has.

But you know what? Whether or not we have been through tough times such as those described above, our lives have not fallen apart completely.  We still have so much for which to be grateful, so much to hold on to, to love, and to live for.  We have our friends, our families, our passions.  We have a purpose, our health, our spirituality.  We have sources of strength.  Sources of joy.  Sources of hope.  We have our lives to live.  And it is my opinion that we have the responsibility, as well as the opportunity and the pleasure, to live our lives as fully as we are able.

As tempted as we may be to reflect back on the struggles that we have been through, I believe that it is even more important to consider how things will fall back together, even after they have fallen apart.  There may have been times when we ourselves have crumbled, and yet even when that happens, it seems that things always have a way of coming together again.  Sometimes we may watch the pieces fall together right before our eyes.  Sometimes it may take us time to realize what has happened.  And other times, we must take control and put the pieces back together again.  But no matter how it happens, it seems that most things in life usually do fit back together again somehow.   They may not look or feel the same as they did “before”, and that might be painful or it may be a pleasant surprise.  Yet whatever this new picture looks like, it is up to us to find new meaning in it.

It is up to us to influence or change what we can, have the serenity to accept what we cannot, and to make the most of the gifts that have been bestowed upon us regardless of the situation at hand.  It is up to us to keep searching for the light, even in the face of total darkness, and have faith that “this too shall pass” and brighter day will come if it hasn’t already.

Regretfully Speaking…

 

I have often read that we, as live-ers of life, should have no regrets. That we should, in some sense of the word, forget about the finer details of our past and instead be grateful for the opportunities and the gifts that have been bestowed upon us through the process of living. That we should embrace all that we are, for better or for worse, because of what we have been through and the choices we have made.

And to a certain degree, I agree with this. I agree that it behooves us to spend too much time in our past, whether we are fretting over things that we have done, or worrying about that which we have left undone. It does us no good to berate ourselves for our mistakes or relive days gone by, wishing that we had done things differently. After all, what does this accomplish? Precious little, indeed.

Even so, I have to admit that I do have regrets. I have done things that I am not proud of and over-looked things that I should have been more mindful about. I have been reckless at times, selfish, and even hurtful. As I look back on the twenty-nine years of my life, I see with unmistakable clarity that I have consciously and unconsciously made poor choices. Choices that have been foolish, short-sighted, and negatively impactful. And, these things are uncomfortable to think about. They are difficult to speak of. And they are nothing short of humbling.

Yet, even as I think about the regrets that I do have, and I reflect on where I was at in my life when I made those choices, I cannot help but to ask, “Is it really so bad to admit that we have regrets? Is it so bad to look back on the decisions that we have made and wish that we had done things differently? Is it so bad to look behind ourselves every now and then and realize that we could have done better? ” I must say that I think not.

I say that I do not think it is so bad to have regrets because regrets really are a part of life. Regrets, in essence, are nothing short of lessons that we have learned as we journey through life. To feel regretful is not to say that we are bad. On the contrary, to feel regretful is to say that we now see things differently than we had before or to acknowledge that we are no longer where we once were. It is to recognize that something was to be learned, and that we have changed or evolved because of our experiences. It is to agree that hindsight is indeed twenty-twenty.

So, when you find yourself tempted to deny ever having regrets, rethink what that word really means to you. Remember that it is a rare soul that truly has no regrets, and that there is no shame in using the feeling of regret to propel us forward as we learn from our misgivings.

Friendly Reminders

We are all human. And as humans, it would follow that we all have good and bad days, now and then. So as a fellow human, I would like to share with you a few of the reminders that I give myself to achieve mental and emotional balance as I make my way through this very human experience that I am having.

Do not lose sight of what truly matters. Your definition of what truly matters will be your compass, your North Star. It will help you remember that petty things do not, in fact, signify the end of the world, and it will redirect you to what is truly important to you.

It is okay to be alone. When you find yourself cocooning, remember that it is okay to pull back from the world, to take rest, to re-evaluate, and to take time. Quite often, this quality time with yourself, this time of hiatus, is also a time of profound healing, growth, and transcendence.

You are not always in control. Recall the Serenity Prayer. Whether we like it or not, we are not always in control. We cannot predict the future, nor do we always know what is “best”. It is during these times that we are best served to “let it go” so that we may instead “let it come”.

What other people think is irrelevant. Of course, we want people to think of well of us. And this is okay, because it means that we care. Yet, in the words of Dita Von Tess, you can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there is still going to be somebody who hates peaches. As such, we must accept, and move on from, the fact that we will not always be accepted as we are. And this is okay.

Do not give up. Ever. Never lose sight of what you are fighting for, and why. Likewise, do not confuse “giving up” with letting go, and surrendering to something greater.

You need not know all the answers, all the time. Quite often, not knowing what to do means that it is not time to do anything at all. So, learn to embrace uncertainty, as uncertainty is certainly part of life, and living the questions is often the source of enlightenment.

You are enough. You are. And that is enough. Give yourself a chance to prove what you are really made of. We need not conform to our own limiting beliefs, much less the limiting beliefs of others.

Be here. Now. Stay present. This is hard, as we have a tendency to relive the past and lean into the future. Yet, doing so changes nothing about what has been, nor does it control what will be.

Your feelings will not kill you. Despite what it feels like, feelings are fleeting. Just as joy does not last forever, neither does heartbreak. Find the strength to ride the wave, and you will find that you can endure anything.

You are human. Therefore, give yourself credit for your triumphs, and forgive yourself for your short comings. You will have many of both, so rather than clinging to them and tearing yourself down, build yourself up, and embrace everything about this very human experience that you are having right here, right now.