Category Archives: Teachers

Reach Out, Reach In

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When you are stuck
in doubt and fear
don’t stay there!
Take a deep breath
and reach out to your teachers.
You have them,
everyone does.
Reach out to the ones
who remind you who you really are,
the ones who hold you in the space
of lovingkindness, acceptance, compassion.
If you can’t think of anyone
who can do that for you right now,
then it’s time to do it for yourself.
Reach in to the teacher inside,
the one who remembers
that you have a purpose to live out
in this world of changing weather.
Reach in to the one
who knows how to breathe deeply,
to the one who gives you permission
to be exactly who you are right now,
and who knows how worthy you are
of loving and being loved.
Whether we reach out or we reach in
we will find rest and peace
in the space
of silent, clear awareness.

May the Teachers Guide Me

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May the teachers guide me on this path
that my heart remain open
and my mind clear,
that I remember who I am
and where I’m going,
that only the clearest intentions
motivate me forward,
that my thoughts words and actions
be of benefit to all beings,
that my presence might help
alleviate the suffering of this world.
Om.

Perfect Teachers

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You don’t have to go looking
for the perfect teachers,
the ones with the right wisdom to wake you up–
they follow you wherever you go.
They are beside you,
in front of you,
behind you,
above you,
below you,
circling you always.
Open your eyes and heart and mind,
and see the Teachers, always there.
You cannot escape them,
even if you move into
a new apartment
or arrange
a marriage annulment.
They remain attached, in sight
even if you put on kingly robes
and make an entire nation crumble
with your might.
The question isn’t
Where are my teachers?
but
Are my eyes open, my ears?
Listen.
They are your hopes and fears
your neuroses, your reactivity,
the words you say,
your actions,
your deeds–
awareness of all of these,
consciousness,
this is what feeds your growth.
How much you open,
how much you awaken
determines what you can learn
in this lifetime of yours.
Do not search for the perfect teachers
out there, somewhere.
The perfect teachers are in you.

I Breathed

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This morning
as I sat in stillness and listened,
I received these instructions
from my Teachers:

Breathe in,
Welcome the moment as it is,
Breathe out,
release expectations.
When you can let go of your ideas 
of how things should be,
you have space in your mind
to enjoy them as they are.

So today I was reminding myself,
Breathing in, I accept this moment as it is.
Breathing out, I let go of expectations.

Breathing in, I welcome this moment with open arms
breathing out, I feel gratitude for what is

Breathing in, I feel love in this moment, exactly as it is,
breathing out, I express this love in my thoughts, words and deeds.

And you know what?
I remembered to breathe!
And you know what else?
It felt pretty darn good!

It helped me to relax
when I felt hurried to get out the door
and was on the verge of expressed irritability
because my kids were moving so slowly.

But I did not yell.

Instead I said aloud:

Breathing in, I welcome this moment as it is,
Breathing out, I let go of expectations.

I breathed.

They watched me breathe and were curious.
They heard me repeat the words and grew silent.
I slowed down, let my shoulders drop away from my ears.
They took a deep breath with me;
we all relaxed and enjoyed the drive
to meet my mom for lunch.

I might just go pat myself on the back now.

Yoga is for Everybody

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HEY EVERYBODY!

After reading this post over at Elysha Lenkin’s site , I was inspired to discuss some of the common misperceptions surrounding the practice of yoga in hopes that anyone who reads this and who doesn’t currently practice might give yoga a try.  One of my goals in LIFE, not just in my professional journey, but in my LIFE, is to witness fellow human beings awakening to their true nature, and assist in that awakening in any way that I can.  This is the reason I became a yoga teacher, and this is why I love my job so much; I have the great honor of watching my students transform from stressed out and uptight to relaxed  and serene, right before my very eyes, in the span of one class.  I have seen this happen time and time again, in students of all ages, shapes and sizes and whose experience with yoga ranges from profound beginner to advanced practitioner.

In the course of nearly nine years of instructing yoga, I have gathered enough data for myself to feel 100% confident that every single person on this planet could find some form of yoga that would resonate with them and benefit them holistically–on the physical, psycho-emotional, and spiritual levels.  This may seem like a fantastic claim, but having worked with students from so many varied backgrounds, states of health, financial situations,  students in wildly different living conditions, students with different jobs, different family structures, different religious affiliations–and having seen the same transformation taking place in all of them, I know my claim to be true in the deepest fiber of my being.

Before I go any further about how wonderful yoga is, here are some common misperceptions that I’d like to bring out into the open for consideration.  Let me know if any of these are thoughts you have had in the past or thoughts that you currently hold as true–I’m completely open to a discussion and encourage your input!

1) “I can’t do yoga, I’m not flexible enough.”

Gaining flexibility, my friends, is one of the main reasons that we go to a yoga class in the first place.  In the course of practicing, we become more flexible.  It just happens.  Naturally.  Without any apparent effort on your part, besides the effort of showing up in the room.  I jokingly say that if you’re flexible enough to walk or wheel yourself into the room, you’re flexible enough for yoga.

2)”I can’t do yoga, it doesn’t mesh with my religion.” 

Anybody, of any religious belief, can safely practice yoga without angering their god or their fellow believers, because yoga isn’t a religion, it is a practice of self-awareness.  If anything, yoga can enhance one’s experience of  one’s chosen religion, by helping the practitioner to be more deeply attuned to the spiritual currents running through them.  Whatever your vision of god is, you can bring that god with you into your practice and make the whole thing one long prayer of gratitude, one long statement of faith in action.

3)“I can’t do yoga, I’m not a spiritual person.”

It’s fine to not believe in a spiritual power.  It’s fine to have no belief in the existence of awareness that extends beyond the realm of the physical.  One the very most basic of levels, yoga brings great benefit to the body by encouraging deep breathing, the release of muscle tension, the stimulation of the lymphatic, digestive, and circulatory system, and the potential for concentrating the mind.  As a thinking person, you can discard any of the “woo woo” stuff that doesn’t jive with your world view, and come for the physical benefits alone.  If you are a person who doesn’t enjoy explorations of spirituality or believe in the possible existence of a spiritual realm, I totally get it, so I recommend searching for a teacher who focuses primarily on alignment and the physiological aspect of the practice.  The medically proven physical benefits of the practice are the best argument I have for making yoga a part of one’s regular routine, all spiritual stuff aside.

4)“I can’t do yoga, I don’t look good in those tight little pants.”

Underneath the layers of our flesh, muscles, bones, and mind, there is pure awareness.  My intent as a yoga teacher is to guide students to this essential state of inner awareness during class so that they may experience their inherent wholeness, which is possible regardless of the state of their bodies or minds.  When we settle into relaxation and close our eyes, it doesn’t matter what we look like–because we are navigating beyond the physical realm into the realm of pure consciousness.  Beyond body consciousness there is being.  This is where yoga takes us.  If you have fallen prey to current societal standards of beauty and consider your body less than desirable (according to whom, to what??)–and this belief is keeping you from attending a yoga class, I invite you to summon all of your courage, remind yourself that you are truly beautiful exactly the way your are, and get yourself to that class!  You can view your practice as a doorway opening into a whole new world of authentic self-love and acceptance.  Unshakeable, unconditional self-love is the greatest gift we can give ourselves, and by extension, the world.  It might take great strength to take that first step, but know that there is a teacher out there for you who descends from a long line of compassionate yoga teachers and who will be overjoyed to take your hand and guide you back home to your precious essence.  So what are you waiting for?

5)“I can’t do yoga.  I went one time (or a few times), and didn’t like it.  It’s just not for me.”

This one is a tough nut to crack.  When I hear this one, the first thing I do is ask the student to describe their first yoga experience(s) and tell me what they didn’t like about it(them). Sometimes, it’s the teacher:  their personality, their voice, their choice of music, of incense, the way they interacted with the students.  Sometimes the sequence of poses was far too challenging and may have left the student feeling disgusted with their own body and its apparent lack of physical strength, flexibility, and stamina.  Maybe lots of thoughts and feelings unexpectedly arose during the class, and that was alarming to the student; while they were expecting a physical workout, they weren’t prepared for a mental and emotional roller coaster, and this scared them off.  Any number of factors can influence a student’s resistance to giving yoga another chance.  I have seen people discuss their hesitation to practice because they were the racial minority in the room, or their age put them decades ahead of their fellow practitioners.  At the very base of all of these experiences, we are dealing with discomfort, anxiety, annoyance, and other emotions that we have a tendency to suppress or at least run away from at the first sight of them.  To this I would say, “What a juicy opportunity to take charge of your mental landscape and learn more about yourself and your patterns of thinking.”  Yoga isn’t just about physical flexibility and strength–we gain immeasurable amounts of mental flexibility and strength as we attend a regular practice.  Welcoming students with compassion right where they are, and finding a class and a teacher that will meet their individual needs can involve time, and lots of trial and error.  But if there is even the slightest willingness to try, and to try again, then a miracle might happen!  Just one class in the presence of a kind and knowledgeable teacher can help a student to feel calm, clear, and relaxed.  Think of what many classes with such a teacher would do. If you have gone to yoga and didn’t like it, I invite you to give it another go.   Don’t give up, my friends.  Search and search until you find a teacher that you love.  He or she is out there somewhere for you, bearing wonderful gifts!

This is all I have time for right now (I’m about to leave to teach a restorative yoga class!), but following this post I’d like to address which kind of yoga practice might be right for you–because there are many, many different kinds of classes out there.

And I’d really like some help from those of you who don’t want to try yoga for reasons other than those I listed above, because I certainly didn’t list all of the reasons.  Could you please let me know what is keeping you from yoga?  I’d very much appreciate opening a dialogue and discussing with you if you’re willing.

 

Heart Centered Awareness

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After meditation this morning, like every morning, I sat in stillness and received instructions from my inner teachers:

Stay centered in the wisdom of your heart.  Imagine breathing in and out through your heart.  Imagine speaking from your heart.  Imagine receiving through your heart.  Stay centered in the wisdom of your heart, and be amazed at how naturally and lovingly everything around you unfolds…the spaciousness, the beauty…

Awareness of my heart’s wisdom lasted probably all of five minutes, until I got downstairs and was thrown back into the breakneck pace of the nuclear family superhighway, replete with laundry, dishes, breakfast, children, husband, cats, you know–daily life–and I was only just beginning to really feel like myself again after having been ill since last Thursday.  What a relief it was to not feel nauseous, and I certainly enjoyed breakfast with the family,  but I could feel the resentment creeping in mid-morning, when my husband announced that he was going outside to mow the lawn, which left me on my own with the kids, on my own to be the sole party responsible for meeting their varied and endless needs–and like I said, I was only just beginning to feel like myself again after having been ill.

Every once in a while, I attempted to remember my heart and its wisdom, to imagine I was breathing in and out through my heart, but it was just about the time that I was collecting up four days’ worth of dirty laundry to take down to the washing machine, after having filled the dishwasher with the sink full of dirty dishes that my husband didn’t have any qualms about abandoning last night (the nerve)…it was right about then that I was assailed by the thought, “Here I go again, doing too much when I haven’t even fully recovered from being sick, from not getting sleep, from not eating enough for the past four days.”  It’s hard for me to not feel resentful when I’m feeling sorry for myself, and it’s hard for me to not feel sorry for myself when I’ve been ill and have had little time to rest and recuperate.

Chiding myself in an attempt to keep it together and not send any undeserved resentment toward my husband, I began feeling truly irritated about how out of balance life really seemed to me in that moment, and I was wondering what I needed to do to bring it back into balance.  Every time I reminded myself to breathe it was quite mechanical; I was silently repeating to myself, “I’m aware that I am breathing in, I’m aware that I am breathing out,” but I wasn’t actually taking deep slow breaths because the phrases were being repeated very rapidly with no connection to my breath; I was just reciting the words over and over again.  A couple of times I actually stopped, stood still, and took a few real breaths, which brought a sensation of relief to all of the places that I was tensing up in my irritated state.

Looking ahead into the day caused even more irritation…my husband had a meeting with his colleagues scheduled right after the private yoga lesson I was teaching, and then a few hours after that he had a well-deserved massage scheduled.  I knew he wouldn’t be coming home between the meeting and the massage, and I didn’t think that he should or anything, but the prospect of even more time on my own with the kids when usually Monday is a day for us to spend together as a family threatened to send me over the brink.  And I’m only just beginning to feel better after having been sick for multiple days…I couldn’t get that thought out of my head.

On my way to teach the private yoga lesson I remembered that I didn’t have the crucial element with me–the yoga blankets we use as props.  I didn’t have the blankets because I hadn’t had a normal Sunday what with my illness and all–I hadn’t gone to the studio to teach last night, which means that I didn’t leave the studio with the blankets like I normally do. So I had to make a trip over to one of the studios to grab some blankets, which tacked ten additional minutes onto the drive, which meant that we were going to start the lesson ten minutes late, which meant that my husband had to bring the kids to me ten minutes later than we had originally planned, which meant that he was going to start his meeting ten minutes later than the time upon which he and his colleagues had originally agreed.

Oh time, you cruel, cruel tyrant.

All’s well that ends well.  My private clients and I had a pleasant yoga session, my husband brought me the kids shortly thereafter, he went to his meeting, I took the kids to a lovely playground, and even though my daughter was fussing up a storm because she took a spill in the grass shortly after exiting the car, we managed to have a good time on the swings, the slides, the see-saw, all the ladders and other climbing features.  Back home, I needed to round up something edible for dinner, settled on some rice and peas and leftover chicken, and was grateful that the kids ate enough to keep them happy through the night.

Admittedly, we ended up watching quite a bit of My Little Pony while waiting for it to be bath time.  I was feeling thoroughly exhausted and wasn’t motivated enough to take them outside, or plan a craft, or read to them, or do anything a half-way decent parent would do besides plunking those impressionable young minds right in front of the TV. Ah well.  I’m only human, and parenting has got to be one of the most exhausting things one can do in a human life.

My husband came home after I had given the boy a bath and was getting him ready to go upstairs.  Husband read son the book Going on a Bear Hunt and put the boy to bed, as I was getting the girl child into the bath tub.   The hubby took over for me at that point, gave the girl her bath, put her to bed, and I was finally free to contemplate how little I actually stayed centered in the wisdom of my heart today.

Here I sit, a bit dismayed, a bit disappointed that after all this time, I still feel irritated by little recurring daily life things.  Why can’t I remember my heart’s wisdom more often?  Why is it so easy to get caught up in my head?  Why does the resentment feel so familiar, comforting even?  When will I be able to meet the daily challenges with peace, and perhaps a beatific smile every now and again?  And why do I have to be so hard on myself for being me–a woman who is just getting over an illness and who is struggling to remain positive when faced with so much responsibility all at once?  I know my story is a common one.  I know that many parents face these same kind of challenges.  Am I the only one who gets so caught up in her stories?  When I imagine other mothers doing what I’m doing, they’re all waaaaaay more patient and positive than I am.  They are enjoying all of the little moments, and remembering that this time with the kids when they’re this young is fleeting.  They certainly aren’t losing their patience.  They’re not raising their voice, they’re not groaning, they’re not becoming frustrated.  They are all so much better than I am.

Maybe being centered in my heart’s wisdom means that I can soften around the expectations that I have of myself.  Maybe it means that I can witness my impatience, my exhaustion, and not heap guilt on top of those already uncomfortable feelings.  Drawing on what I’ve learned from my yoga practice, I remember that it is of no use chastising myself for not being more loving, more enlightened today–but I can begin now, in this moment, to identify the self-made blocks to love and to light, and to do what I can to dissolve those blocks so that I can allow more good to flow through me.

Time for meditation, but first a poem.  Something about listening with the heart, and knowing beyond the mind.

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If you want to know what true love is
stop the chatter of the mind for a moment
and listen with the ear inside your chest.

Here there is beauty and kindness and wisdom beyond measure
but you have to be still to notice it–
it hides where you would least expect it,
so cultivate a keen sight beyond the body’s eyes.

Here there is an exquisite music that would bring
the most faithless among us to their knees,
crying in penitence,
but the heart song is a whisper,
and to hear it you must listen in silence.

Stop with the constant busyness
Stop looking outside for what cannot be found
Sit still.
Listen.
Close your weary eyes and turn inwards
and remember that all you have been seeking is here, now.