Like many small business owners, I wear my heart on my sleeve these days. My thoughts are dominated by a yearning to move forward. I’m doing my best to be pragmatic when looking at things through the local lens. But I have worked hard the past 10 years to get where I am and watching it dissolve is disheartening. Why can I drive by Menards on this sunny day and see a parking lot full of cars but my business has to remain closed? What is Right Action? How do I let these hard lessons come through and trust the process when there is so much anger on all sides?
Below are thoughts I wrote May 1, 2009, while creating a mission statement for my business. I don’t think it is an accident that I stumbled on them last night. Reading my own words was the necessary agony of teaching the teacher.
“Give students the ability to further their spiritual growth through the practice of yoga. Create a sense of community and friendship where you have a group of open-minded individuals who are all on their own spiritual path and support each other. Offer a space where people feel safe and comfortable when going through difficult times. Challenge them to connect with themselves in a more intimate and brave way even when it is uncomfortable. Empower them to take care of their own health and control their own mind. Get them to recognize and live by their personal values. Remind them that regardless of our differences, we all experience similar obstacles and the same joy when we overcome them.”
The spiritual ride continues, but our training wheels came off. Bear Foot Yoga is just brick and mortar. The studio inside of you is still open to explore your spiritual path. Keep showing up and moving forward even if you feel stuck. The subtle energy body is the more enduring body; it does not wax and wane with the hard lessons of the collective conscious – the Lila or play of life. And protect yourself and support yourself in whatever way feels like Right Action for you. Take this situation seriously. Have a sense of humor. Learn something new. Do exactly what you normally do. Stay active. Sleep More. Be in the unknown and uncomfortable. Recognize and focus on what is expected and familiar. Live small and be private. Know yourself better through your connections and relationships. Be in a funk. Be jubilant. Ask for your highest good. Hold space for others. Watch the birds and the buds move and change. Trust that the planet is the same.
Please continue on your own journey; it is not inside a yoga studio or any other building. Your path is spiritual. So is everyone else’s. Part of trust is accepting your karma and not judging others for theirs. Don’t let anger drive you to act in ways that are not an expression of who you are. If you catch yourself doing that, come back. Spirit is always connecting us. The core center of self is divine love. There cannot be fear or loneliness in love. Let the bad guys battle it out. Please Choose Love.
Have you considered going on a spiritual quest? The short, cold days and holidays season provide a particularly inviting opportunity and energy to explore spirituality. But the problem is we cannot take a spiritual journey because we are spiritual beings having a human experience. What we can do in the dark of winter is garden our soul.
On our human journey, accomplishment and success are measured by our intellectual pursuits that are sustained by what we learn and do in the external world. Make no mistake; how we interact with our outer environment is critical. But as spiritual beings, we have the innate ability to perceive our outer environment through intuition instead of intellect. Intuition is sometimes a soft voice inside ourselves, but more often it is a feeling in the body – the heart racing or butterflies in your stomach for example. These voices and sensations are misread or missed entirely because of the constant stimulation in our outer world. Even though intuition is our essential nature, it needs to be cultivated like a garden through meditation or another practice of inner knowing. When we purposely get quiet and still, intuition becomes the all powerful weather app for Spirit. Except, it actually predicts correctly because it relies on our internal senses.
In spiritual practices, there is an image that is widely used of the body being the temple of the soul. I prefer to think of the body as a greenhouse. Everything we take in with our five senses is a seed that is planted in our greenhouse. Our words (to ourselves and others) are containers of energetic vibration that we put the seeds in. The enlightened spiritual Self is the gardner who decides what to water and where to make the best use of our Light energy. Spirit gardens from a higher sense of knowing than intellect, even though it may defy reason and logic. It is the mind that often makes the mistake of providing the wrong seeds. The seeds of the mind can either take us toward or away from our recognition as Spirit. The good news is that even when we unconsciously plant rows of weeds, and no matter how much they take over, the spiritual gardener can step in and pull them to make space for new plantings.
When you know your stress is at an unhealthy level and things are so overgrown in your greenhouse that they are blocking out the Light, 2 things can happen:
Option One – the glass on your greenhouse will break; the body will experience anything from a cold to slight physical discomfort to disease.
Option Two – you can remodel, split the heathy plants, reuse what you want and reseed. Sometimes that includes making changes in relationships, jobs, or moving. If external changes can’t be made (at least right away), there is the opportunity for climate control within the greenhouse; establish and honor boundaries. Spirit as the gardner has the right to say “no” to anything that is detrimental to our Being-ness. If visitors to your greenhouse are annoyed by your boundaries, it is because they are the ones who benefit from you not having any. In recognizing that we are spiritual beings, we can offer unconditional love to others from the heart, but not like what they do or let them seed our mind. It’s the heart, not the mind or body, that is in tune with our infinite nature. In remembering this we transcend the stories and trauma on the human journey.
When I live from my soul as Spirit, I am empowered to honor the notices the gardener posted in my greenhouse:
Refuse to just cope with things or settle. Unfortunately, our human system is hardwired for that – coping or settling. The proof is in our tendency toward addiction and all the drugs created to mask pain, depress emotion, function with disease etc. When I remember I’m a spiritual being, I want more. Joy is the natural state of Spirit, but it doesn’t fall into your lap on the human journey. I’m disciplined and motivated to find happiness.
Refuse to be a victim. No matter what difficulties I experience, it is only the mind that can take me away from spiritual wholeness; and only if I let it. Pain is real – physical and emotional – but the mind can make me a victim of that pain or lead me to my true nature as Spirit, where every difficulty, flaw, and failure is an opportunity for growth and transformation.
Refuse to have expectations. As humans, we need to have desires and goals to guide us. But Spirit asks that we include a clause that when we ask for something, we understand that we only get it if it is in alignment with the highest good of all. In yoga, this is referred to as ishavara pranidhana – surrendering to a force greater than ourselves. Failure does not need to cause pain and suffering; it is a flaw of the mind and ego. Spirit does every action for the sake of itself and not for reward.
Refuse to feel alone. I am never alone when I am in the presence of my higher power. It also helps to be grateful for and keep contact with my friends in the garden club.
Peace and Light,
In the Irish tradition, honeysuckle was believed to have power against evil spirits. In other places it’s believed that grown around the doors it will bring good luck. Its clinging nature in the language of flowers symbolizes, ‘we are united in love’.
The Significance of Setting Intention in Yoga
The word yoga has 2 meanings in Sanskrit: one definition is to yoke or union, as in the way we bring together the physical body and mind with postures and breathing. We also use the word yoga to describe a state of being where we do everything in life with more awareness. What we do and say to ourselves in class becomes a mirror into who we are and our self talk in life. How do we respond when we are challenged in a pose? Do we painfully push our way through, degrade ourselves, get angry, or compare ourselves to others? When the practice appears easy or uneventful, do we mistake relaxation for boredom, have difficulty surrendering or does our mind wander off?
An important component of yoga as a state of awareness is setting an intention. An intention can help guide us through the physical poses and choose the modifications that are right for our body and mind that day. Heartfelt intention also brings positive energy like gratitude, acceptance, peace or unconditional love to ourselves and others. The teacher will typically ask you to set an intention at the beginning of class. It is your responsibility to bring the mind back to your personal purpose throughout class. When the intention is made from the heart, it is simple, pure and feels expansive, as if it is already a part of us that maybe we just forgot about or misplaced. Intention may be the same for days, weeks, or even years, and comes out of a commitment to support our highest self. Where there is nothing wrong with doing yoga just for the exercise and physical benefits, setting an intention helps to make yoga part of your life!
A few suggestions if you are new to setting intention:
Sometimes an intention doesn’t come up right away. Don’t pressure yourself. Keep the space open for something to formulate any time during or after class.
Simply ask yourself any of these questions: what brought you to your mat today? What does grace mean to you? What makes you feel strong? How do you find calmness? What can you let go of today?
Think of something or someone you are grateful for; or think of the idea of gratitude.
If you come up with several purposes for your practice and have a difficult time choosing one, politely ask your heart what it wants.
When you are experiencing physical discomfort or disease in your body, set your intention to continually send healing thoughts and energy into that place.
Ayurveda sees the Self as a 3 legged stool; one leg is the physical body, one is the mental/emotional body, and one is the spiritual body. If one leg of your stool has been neglected, set your intention to focus on that leg!
Feeling exceptionally joyful? Consider dedicating your practice to someone else who could benefit from your practice like a prayer. Imagine them watching you and send them your blessings at the end of class.
If the spiritual, esoteric and philosophical components of yoga do not appeal to you, set an intention purely for the physical body. On a scale of 1 to 10, with one being completely easeful and 10 being extremely challenging, pick a number for your practice and honor that.
And if you don’t practice yoga, you can still benefit from the daily mindfulness of intention.
I celebrate Earth Day coming from the inside out. Like the hatchling, I break out first. You may see it as a crack or a hole.
My specialized egg tooth is meditation; well equipped on the inside. Breathing the air deeply I ready myself to break free; the air that is within the egg. Like the egg tooth itself, all dissolves.
Then I have to peck to break out. This takes consistent effort. Rajas – passion, energy and motion. Not just when my butt is on the cushion or the mat is rolled out; daily with self-love and discipline; striving toward my goal. The yolk that sustains me is tapas – the fire of desire.
Working in circles, using its wings for propulsion and feet to kick, the chick takes rest in between pipping. Permission to spend more time on the inside to strengthen when what is outside is hard. I cannot break out until I land.
Some chicks are preoccupied with the pecking itself…always trying to do, learn, expectations, accumulations, letting busy be a distraction. Mistaking grace for boredom. Release and allow.
My tendency is to let the shell become armor for the Self. I will not let it harden ever again. Rest and peck the way nature intended. Too much substance breeds self-doubt. Tamas – complete darkness holding and limiting me. Engage in outer activity. Break that shell.
Be open to the forces coming from the outside. Who breaks into me? Teachers? Loved ones? Difficult neighbors? View them all with a non-rejecting mind. They are here to help me find freedom. Agitations and affirmations coax me out equally. They peck in as I peck out.
My pecking out. Their pecking in. They lead to the same place – life history, experiences, stories, all that is in my shell. In me, but not me. I will break out.
Mother Earth supports transformation in spring. This chick will decide for herself when she is ready. My only goal is to break out. The final push, with no urgency to fly.
Love and Light,
There is a pine tree on the golf course across the road where I live. I remember the day it was planted over 35 years ago. I was 9 years old with a new golden retriever puppy and given the grown up responsibly of walking her. I would take her to that tree and let her off the leash to swim in the river while I rested my body on the wobbly trunk. Eventually, the branches made a good perch. This is how life flew though my childhood summers…walking to that tree with my dog and a smile in my heart.
Now I am older with 3 dogs and the wacky Wisconsin seasons test the hearty winter lover in me. Some days the walk is a chore. However, a small miracle occurs at that pine tree. It is too large to climb, but instinctively, my hand reaches out to touch the trunk; a warm flow of energy goes up my arm to my heart, and I smile unintentionally.
You see, that tree is me.
The once flexible branches, are no longer able to bend on a whim with the wind. Where the outside was once smooth and soft, weathered lines appear on the thickening bark. Yet in the harshest of winters, the roots have been nurtured, growing deep and strong. As the tree grew bigger, it took on more responsibility; providing a warm shelter, restful shade, and happiness for the creatures who come in contact with it. If we could see the rings, we would know the inside has not died or changed; it still radiates with pure childlike love.
In memory of my first 4 legged love, Heather.
Raw and scared and hopeless and unsure and angry and revengeful: Hatred is a result of all of these faces. There is no need to see photos of victims, know their names or hear their stories; I choose not to know so please don’t talk details. My protective cover is on. The sensational story lines are for the primitive brain where we chose to attack or hide. My heart already knows them as me.
Each time it happens, being alone is where I release. How do I know how long to keep the band-aide on? As long as the wound is healing, it needs to be in the dark where all filters are off. In daylight, I walk a line between not suppressing my emotions and trying to hold space. One morning I don’t want to leave meditation because that may be the only place all day I don’t feel guilty for smiling and not attaching to the madness. And the next day I want to scream at the top of my voice “I am tired of all this shit you hateful pricks”. I also cry unobstructed without needing to explain why. “Stop your crying. Act like a big girl.” That is the bad advice I heard the mother tell her child last week. I am a big girl and I do cry. I allow myself all this and more. Each emotion has it’s own energy. I feel their sensations in my body and give permission to go there. I can hold myself in sacred space. And whatever they may be, I make peace with my thoughts.
Somewhere along the way, I learned it is not in my job description to tell others who I am. No matter how long or how well you know someone, you never truly know them. People are not put in my path so I can tell them about myself. They are here to teach me about mySelf. They expose my difficult parts so I can grow spiritually. What makes me weak, angry, judgmental? Please push those trigger points. I will embody a stronger vibration. But when the world feels this broken, part of me feels the need to explain myself – that I am like a bear and my method of self-nurturing is hibernation. It doesn’t mean I don’t care or am in denial or avoidance. Solitude is where I dig deepest into my heart space beyond all that is black and dead.
“Don’t look for the light to find me, become the light.” The first glimpse is not going to come from the evening news, on social media or in an emotional discussion on current events. I find it alone in my wounds. If I let myself get caught up in the stories and conversation, even with the best of intentions, I stay in the dark. The wounds become universal wounds – my wounds. Evil prevails and too much energy goes toward trying to fathom the despise in another soul. I am my thoughts. Why do I want them to repeatedly be of hateful humans and tragedy? They want me to be scared and judgmental. Protect yourself. Don’t trust each other. Instead I will be stronger in my resolve to see myself in others; because it is not death I fear – it is a world of better people living IN fear.
Hatred is a small child throwing a tantrum. It has limitations and will exhaust itself. It is only satisfied when it gets attention and recognition; Enter the Aquarian Age of information where Mass Media nurtures hate. Love knows no boundaries, has no agenda and tiptoes quietly through the human madness. The energy of the heart heals. The mind judges. The heart is empathetic and compassionate. The mind wants revenge and justice. Nothing sinks us into survival behavior faster than allowing hatred to gloat; or it sends us into an emotional upheaval that society then tells us to restrain; or into the ego where anger lives. We are certain we are better than the perpetrator. I tell myself my hands are not weapons of hate. But what are the small ways that my words and thoughts harm others?
Today is a full moon. I choose to magnify love.
Thank You for applying for the position of yogi/yogini. This position is not to be underestimated or taken lightly, but a sense of humor is encouraged. During your initial yoga internship, you may commit to only one or two class per week. Before you can make a decision to accept a full-time position, you have to show up for yourself. Eventually, becoming a yogi will require more time in the form of every day mindfulness with family, friends and total strangers. You may be training for this position while doing things that bring you joy as well as with people who deplete you.
Perhaps you think you are applying for a seasonal position and a 3-6 month commitment is sufficient. This is accurate if you plan to return to your current position. However, you cannot place a time restriction on transformation.
Please detach yourself from any outcome. Things happen that we cannot plan for. Do not quit. Always code your program with the belief that you are capable and deserving.
You are encouraged take your work home with you; a home practice is highly recommended and could include a few postures, meditation, or taking time throughout the day to observe your breath. This will promote self-study, increase productivity and promote happiness. You might even sleep better and like yourself more.
You will need to gain strength, flexibility and balance. These are mental traits. At times, you will be asked to slow down and under-do. You will also be taken outside your comfort zone, dig deep within yourself and stay present for whatever arises. This is a prescription to reduce your own suffering, be more compassionate toward others, and uplift you from a state of ordinariness.
This position requires you to accept that you are a multi-dimensional being. Yoga is meant to release karmic bonds of human suffering using the Panchamaya Kosha model; there is a unique physical body (Anamaya Kosha), a breath body (Pranamaya Kosha), a mind/senses/emotions layer (Manomaya Kosha), a deeper intellect representing the relationship between self and the universe (Vijnanamaya Kosha) and the even deeper layer of pure, unbound bliss (Anandamaya Kosha). We can get stuck in any of these layers. What on the surface appear to be physical postures will bring about changes to your whole being. Working with any one of the Koshas can ‘unstick’ all layers.
To say this position is in the field of health care is accurate, but understand that you are starting with all the healing tools you need already within you. And while long-term health is important, please find who you are in spiritual terms.
Don’t worry about a dress code. You will be observing yourself from the inside. What you may come to see is that you are a spiritual being dressed in a human form. And the human form can be uncomfortable. Over time, you will begin to see possibilities in yourself. You will want to change, or so it appears. But what is really happening is not a change as much as it is a shedding of anything that didn’t fit you to begin with.
There may be tears. Thank them for carrying the agitated energy out of the body. You are not the first one to wet an eye pillow in savasana.
And know that if you chose not to show up for class, your teacher and co-worker yogi’s miss you and may even worry about you. By coming to class, we extend our own life energy to others.
This position is permanent and you are everyone. The main qualifications are self-love and discipline. Are you ready?
Light and Love,
Perhaps it was the soaked soil after several days of straight down rainfall that motivated me, but it was the first time in 2 summers that I got into the garden to weed. I used to do some pulling and transplanting in spring then leave things like watering and expansion to Mother Nature. The motto was “only the strong survive”. In spite of all the years of thoughtful tending, and in a relatively short time, the 16-year-old garden has morphed into a forbidden jungle. What were clearly marked flagstone pathways have perennials of all sorts growing in the cracks over the stones. One particularly invasive ground cover strangled out some favorite flowers. Certain plants that are tall and strong still manage to bloom, but it is officially the “in spite of me” garden.
Squatting in the soft rain with soaked gloves and mosquitos buzzing made me realize how much life is like a garden. Low maintenance is preferred and something grows even in complete neglect. There are still good seeds in there somewhere, they just get overtaken when we stop working. But there is no such thing as no maintenance. When you can no longer see the path, it is hard to take the next step.
Sometimes we don’t see the work that someone else puts in. My neighbor has what appears to be several acres of natural, unkept woods. Every spring, he spends hours in the thick of forest floor clearing out garlic mustard and buckthorn. Inner work is like weeding. You need to be alone in a sacred place similar to the garden or woods. Being in that space encourages transition and growth; yet, you will feel uncomfortable and in the dark at times. And it will seem as if no one else appreciates the amount of effort you put forth.
It is said that yoga therapy is waste removal; substitute ‘weed’ for ‘waste’. If you pull enough weeds, the light will touch the things that are already planted that you want to develop. In removing the weeds, you are also clearing space for new seeds to plant themselves…even if it is in the cracks.
Living on a lake in the midwest is a sensuous experience. It is not as much about the sight or touch of the water as it is the sound. The softness of waves hitting the seawall create the perfect accompaniment to crickets in the summertime. But it is the groan of winter water that talks with intent.
In the early hours, my eyes are closed. Without a moon, it is too dark to see the still gleam of the ice anyway. Everything in the outside world seems useless and dead asleep; storing energy for the rebirth of spring.
Consciously feeling my body and breath, I eventually all together forget where I am. Until the rhythm of nature offers its daily lesson. The lake wakes in a fitful dream. Lacking the snow to muffle it, its voice continually carries out at different decibels and pitches. First, a soft explosion, then some scratchy cries followed by eerie moans of pain. I smile as I realize, it is teaching me what it feels like to expand.