12 Habits

The focus of the closing session at most retreats that I’ve attended is how to bring what we have learned and discussed into everyday life. This is often the challenge – not the lack of brilliance or discovery in these sessions but rather the discipline to put the lessons into practice.

Each year, I try to come up with a meaningful resolution for the new year. But long ago, I realized that I cannot change my life in one day and have it really stick. Starting with last year, I do one small thing a month. Last year, I resolved to write one meaningful post each month (and I was basically successful although I was a bit late some months!).

In 2020, I resolve to create a habit each month based on what I have learned during my personal retreats, accepting that although I am made of stardust (as we all are) I am terribly imperfect and will more than likely fail repeatedly before I am truly successful. And success will look very different than the vision in my head before I begin, but it’s all part of the learning process.

This is roughly how I want to tackle the 12 habits:

January: Meditate for 5 minutes in the morning and in the evening (this one is easy as I’m pretty close to this timeframe already… but I need to start slow here!)

February: Yoga for 10 minutes in the morning and in the evening (so important when I’m not running, so achy all over… I probably spend 5 or so minutes doing this already, but I’m going to actually time myself starting in February… yikes!)

March: Add 5 minutes of meditation mid-day and 5 minutes of yoga mid-day (now it’s getting serious)

April: Learn the Hanuman Chalisa (finally)… It has been years since I’ve been chanting right along to this one and I’m about 3/4 of the way there but this year is the year!

May: Go back to being mostly vegan, having a kid has made this difficult as I don’t like to force her to follow my eating habits.. but I want to make more of a commitment this year

June: Celibacy… this is not hard for me as I love being alone and haven’t met the right guy yet! Knowing me, this will probably be the entire year actually… So I guess this just means I get a break from forming habits in June!  (still, it counts!)

July: Increase my water intake. I’m so bad at this.. July seems like a perfect month to add this one in!

August: Catch up on all my doctor’s visits. I’m a little behind and since I work in healthcare, I don’t like our healthcare system and try to avoid doctor visits. But during the slow summer months, I’m going to catch up.

September: Pick up my paintbrushes again! I’ve taken a long break but I really miss having a creative outlet…

October: Speaking of creative outlet… I haven’t played guitar in months and when the weather starts changing, I will need some quality indoor activities

November: Less TV… boy is this one hard with a kiddo in the house. We used to play games, now she wants to watch TV all the time. I don’t watch a lot but would like to cut us both back.

December: Vacation as discipline! I have fallen off the vacation wagon big time. Mainly because I’m a freelancer and need to work even while on vacation (not so fun), but this is the year that I start to get back into the vacation swing of things.

Here’s the best part… my plan is to journal the experience so that I know what works and what doesn’t and can keep better track of where everything is falling apart. If you’d like to join me, please share your own list… maybe we can all learn from each other!

Have a wonderful holiday… and best wishes for an amazing new year.

Om Shanti. Shanti. Shanti.

 

 

messengers

In yoga class, we often talk about “messengers.” Aches and pains in the body that provide information and call to us – or even scream at us – to pay attention to alleviate the suffering or address a small issue before it becomes a bigger issue.

It’s also called “tuning in.”

But it extends beyond the physical realm, it also applies to the people in our lives who are messengers. We don’t learn and grow solely from healthy, mature, nurturing relationships, and the biggest opportunities for growth and change are in challenges and conflict.

This is what is most exciting about yoga – you can heal the body through the mind, you can heal the mind through the body, you can heal the body through emotions, and you can heal emotions through the mind. And all of it in reverse or vice versa or whatever… you get it. It’s all connected.

And it’s a practice that you can work on and get better at over time.

When you have a niggling ache or pain in the body, don’t take pills or a shot or numb it, lock up and turn away. Ease into it and try to unravel it, figure out the source and solve it for good. Then move on.

With people, it can be more complicated.

Messengers are not intentionally trying to be helpful to us, rather they are usually attacking us or tearing us down in some way because that is their path and often has very little to do with the person they are undermining.

But they offer a valuable message. The reaction we have is filled with treasures. If we are annoyed, irritated and have a flight or fight response, we miss out on the opportunity.

Sitting with the feeling and recognizing what is really happening, these are the treasures. Recognizing that the attack may have nothing at all to do with us, and instead feeling compassion because the person is suffering. Then having compassion for ourselves by staying strong, voicing true feelings and beliefs, and understanding the dynamic is the gift we give ourselves.

Unwrapping our reaction to better understand what is inside, why we are triggered in certain ways and why someone else’s opinion may have a negative impact is the practice.

As I tell my students, negative people and bullies don’t come after you because of who you are – they go after you because of who they are. There is only one person who gets to decide who you are – YOU!

Once you know who you are, their efforts to make you feel horrible are stripped away and with practice, their efforts are futile.

I love my family and friends, but I also love the people who have kicked sand in my face and left me lying in a gutter because these people gave me messages that changed my life. These messengers led me to magnificent lessons and gifts that I now treasure.

OM Shanti. Shanti. Shanti.

 

 

 

OKT: Yogaville 108k

woodstock Guru
Sri Swami Satchidananda speaking at Woodstock in 1969

The Spiritual Life Board at Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville has approved my request to run 108k on the trails of Yogaville to honor Sri Swami Satchidananda, the ‘Woodstock Guru’ as this year is the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock.

I’ll be running the “Only Known Time” for 108k at Yogaville on my birthday weekend at the end of March. This run will be different than any other trail run that I’ve ever taken on since I will be primarily focused on honoring Gurudev and the Ashram.

The significance of 108 is that it is the number of beads in mala beads, which are used for prayer and meditation. In addition, the number has a scientific foundation as the circumference of the sun times 108 is the distance between the sun and the Earth as well as the moon and the Earth. There also are 108 nadis – energy channels – in the body.

Yogaville is located at 108 Yogaville Way in Buckingham, Virginia. Swami Satchidananda chose the location from a helicopter as he recognized the area as a spiritual place and the preferred site of his dream of ‘heaven on Earth.’

Yogaville follows a Daily Schedule that includes meditation in the morning, at noon and in the evening in addition to a morning 90-minute Hatha yoga class, as well as an evening Hatha yoga class. I will be participating in all meditation and yoga sessions during the run. When available, I will be stopping for Puja at Kailash as well. In addition, I will be taking my shoes off to walk through all sacred sites and will stop to show respect at Kailash at the Nataraja Shrine, Chidambaram, and LOTUS on each loop.

I will follow the general guidelines of Yogaville – no meat, fish, eggs, alcohol and only minimal intake of sugar and caffeine. My phone will be off throughout the weekend.

Yogaville encourages a monastic lifestyle to quiet the mind and bring peace. The message that opened Woodstock 50 years ago remains the powerful message of Yogaville – Always choose peace by seeking the kingdom within.

The run will be a moving meditation for me, each step will be guided by Gurudev and the beauty and peacefulness of the magnificent hallowed ground beneath my feet. The opportunity will allow me to promote the message of Yogaville and importance of appreciating the peace, stillness and happiness that is ever present within each of us.

Nothing brings me greater peace than becoming one with nature by freeing and opening myself to the freedom that is available when fear drops away and the journey fills with pure possibility. To bring this passion to my experience on the trails at Yogaville is a profound, magnificent opportunity.

My sangha – spiritual community – at Yogaville has changed my life. I am deeply grateful to Siva, Prem, Santoshi, Swami Mataji, the Spiritual Life Board and all the beautiful people who have inspired me during my sacred times at the Ashram.

While I haven’t decided on the path that I will follow, I’m estimating 2-mile loops on trail primarily, with a few brief road sections within the LOTUS gate and on Karuna Lane leading to Kailash. Not only will I be following a “leave no trace” approach on the trails, but will stop to care for the trails as necessary.

I will be camping during my entire stay and will arrive early to first establish a greater sense of well-being before beginning the run.

While I still have more planning to do, I am thrilled to find more ways to honor and respect Gurudev, my sangha, and the Ashram through this moving meditation.

Peace, love, joy to all.

Om Shanti. Shanti. Shanti.

 

Go with the flow

flowThis book – Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – was on my reading list for as long as I can remember and it did not disappoint. It is a book about yoga… it is a book about running… it is a book about life and how to find happiness.

Not the superficial kind of happiness that leaves you feeling hollow but the deep-down rock-your-world happiness. In one word – flow… it’s all about flow.

Csikszentmihalyi defines flow as ‘the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.’ (Sound familiar, ultra running friends??)

He cautions that problems can arise when people are so fixated on what they are trying to achieve that they don’t derive pleasure from the present moment (the golden present!). Here he starts to uncover the secret to contentment in life…

Many beautiful concepts in this book center on the ability to find enjoyment and purpose regardless of external circumstances. Again, meaning of life stuff and reminiscent of many foundational yogic philosophies that connect state-of-mind and perspective with inward bliss.

So many profound truths in this book, here are a few:

  • We create ourselves by how we invest our energy
  • Attention shapes the self, and is in turn shaped by it
  • To improve life one must improve the quality of experience
  • The meaning of life is meaning: Whatever it is, wherever it comes from, a unified purpose is what gives meaning to life

When I read this passage, I put the book down and cried happy tears for a while because it perfectly describes the flow experience that I have had difficulty relating to others who aren’t familiar with or who don’t regularly experience ‘flow’…

Flow helps to integrate the self because in that state of deep concentration consciousness is unusually well ordered. Thoughts, intentions, feelings and all the senses are focused on the same goal. Experience is in harmony. And when the flow episode is over, one feels more “together” than before, not only internally but also with respect to other people and to the world in general

And…

The self becomes complex as a result of experiencing flow. Paradoxically, it is when we act freely, for the sake of the action itself rather than for ulterior motives, that we learn to become more than what we were. When we choose a goal and invest ourselves in it to the limits of our concentration, whatever we do will be enjoyable. And once we have tasted this joy, we will redouble our efforts to taste it again. This is the way the self grows.

All truly dedicated yogis/yoginis and runners and lovers of life know what this is all about, but it helps to refine our thinking around the flow experience and this book explores every dimension in-depth.

Check it out!

OM