Dear Yoga Friends,
Dear Yoga Friends,
Deep breathing and focus on the breath is just one beginning practice towards meditation, yet, Meditation is not this.
As an artist I could get “lost” in my work. Deep in concentration. I often get lost in ecstasy when dancing, I lose track of time similar to meditation, yet this is not meditation either!
If you get lost in asana practice, nature,making music or art or gardening, you may have entered an altered state similar to meditation, many would call this meditation. I would call it a taste; there is vastly more.
I had learned and share guided relaxation decades ago. I practiced techniques to “cool-down” students ending fitness classes. Now I do this in savasana and restorative yoga classes. Students greatly appreciate these moments of peace. The benefits of deep relaxation practice are numerous; calmer mind, increased energy, release of tensions in the body, Yet, this is not meditation.
In the early 1990’s I attended a meditation class taught by Deepak Chopra, He did a guided meditation that was a profound experience for me. I think of him often now, and have read his books, though for many years I didn’t practice meditation.
In the mid 90’s I met an extraordinary individual who was able to move and heal with energy. He spent many hours a day in meditation. At that time I didn’t understand the connection. I was blessed to have had those years of friendship and healing with Jeremiah. He practiced meditation and many people received profound healing and guidance from him. He was a great teacher, a fountain of love. I met him when he was in his 40’s. He had survived a tragic accident at 19 years old. After this injury (broken neck) he lived decades longer,surprising medical experts. He was genuinely at peace, even though his body suffered much pain as a quadriplegic. He practiced meditation daily!
In the late 1990s I was introduced to HeartMath biofeedback. Direct measurements of the metabolic and systolic heart rhythms combined with techniques to calm the mind showed directly in the program’s feedback. I used this program myself and with children who had experienced trauma. HeartMath is great technology and the HeartMath Institute is growing in it’s scope. It is a marvelous tool to help in relaxation and self awareness and self control (emotional health, PTSD)
This is not meditation, though it is a very good starting point for many people.
Discipline and daily practice opens up worlds of possibilities and awareness.
In 2009 I began study of Reiki, my Masters (teachers) instructed me to do it every day. I did Reiki meditation and energy work on myself daily for a year. This form of meditation I was able to stick with. Within months I began to shift into more awareness and profound peace. After Level 2, I began working on others as well and “saw” everyone’s inner beauty and a flow of love. Reiki meditation and healing opened up new sensibilities and awareness. I continued Reiki training to (Masters) Level 3. I came to understand more of what Jeremiah and Deepak Chopra were teaching! Other healers and traditions from many cultures; meditation is at the center of their practices.
These experiences where a good foundation for true meditation.
In 2010 I had the opportunity to take over a yoga class which I had been attending. I knew from past training that if I was to teach yoga, I had to practice asana and silent seated meditation daily, which I began in the months before taking over the class.
I got to where I could sit still for an hour meditation, yet, I would only have fleeting moments where there was peace, where the mental chatter would subside.
These brief moments where so profound that I continued finding it well worth the hour of sitting every day!
Silent meditation showed me how noisy my mind was and even now, how noise my mind can be!
Now, often during the day no matter how “stressful” or what events are going on, I can return to that peace within a few conscious breaths. This allows me to stay authentic and present. When I have peace with-in I can be present to others in a meaningful way.
Have I experienced enlightenment?
Yes! and no, and yes! It can be fleeting and can be found again in meditation.
True enlightenment is when that peace is carried out into every part of every day.
Personally, I do yoga asana to quiet my mind and prepare my body for seated meditation. When I began daily practice of both, I experienced amazing healing for my mind and body, and more… beyond words, language and description! I have also come to understand the energy that is within and around us.
Asana can lift us out of discomfort in the body. Meditation can help us have peace even when the body is in pain.
“Illuminated emancipation, freedom, unalloyed and untainted bliss await you, but you have to choose to embark on the Inward Journey to discover it.” BKS Iyengar
“disturbances of the mind and emotions fade away, and we are able to see true reality.” BKS Iyengar
It means we face life head-on! We look at the hard stuff inside of us and outside in the world. That inner peace, is a reserve, so no matter what is going on outside, you are coming from a place of peace, rather than fear, anger, hatred, greed or pride.
As yogis we discover another reality beyond hype and fear. We chose compassion over and over. We show up to create another reality beyond the divisiveness of racism, sexism, classism, anti semitism. We look outside our individual socio-economic, racial, political, cultural bubbles to understand those we disagree with and those who we have been conditioned to see as “other”. We have the courage to build bridges daily.
We continue to reflect and improve ourselves and how we interact in the world. Svadhyaya – Self study, Sva means “self’ adhyaya means “inquiry” or “examination” This is the 4th Niyama (Niyamas are one of 8 limbs of yoga) .
We heal our emotional wounds. Often, especially in times of turmoil, we forget to go to the stillness and listen, to feel, to let our broken hearts weep, to grieve our losses. Personally sometimes…. I felt so domesticated, so numb, so stoic, so inexpressive, yet, now I am learning to tap into those wounded places and give them voice. I have been finding where the old wounds live in my body and discovering ways to move/ wash/ breath them out. Doing this work is not pretty, calm or subtle, it is powerful, and can be fierce and messy, but it does not mean your hysterical or insane, you are just alive!
Here are some article links which I have chosen for you, who want to delve further, ( this is also recommended reading for those of you attending the Women’s Healing Yoga Journey on February 18th).
I am writing from my own study and understanding of first two limbs of the Eight limbs of Yoga, Yama and Niyama. This is an introduction. Further study of the Yoga Sutras is advised for continued learning.
It is important when practicing these restraints and disciplines to be kind and non-judgemental of yourself and your progress.
These are not things generally mastered, one by one, these are similar to lamp posts to guide your way at night or similar to a compass for your journeys. Yet, sometimes lessons will come from wandering off course and in the dark.
They are not mastered in any order, but studied and contemplated frequently. These are ideals that speak to our highest self, but we are here as humans and will likely fall short, maybe even frequently. It is better to have this moral compass, even if we forget to use it, we can learn from wanderings, learn from our errors… and then study them again with new insight. Mindful progress over time and progress is certain.
First consider all Eight limbs (in the usual presented order)- not as steps, for it is best to think of them as 8 spokes of a wheel.
The 5 Yamas (Universal Morality) disciplines or self restraints that are primarily concerned with the world, and our interaction with it, in our day to day life.
1. Ahimsa – Compassion for all living things Ahimsa implies that in every situation we should adopt a compassionate attitude and do no harm.
2. Satya – Commitment to Truthfulness
Satya means “to speak the truth,” and is based on the understanding that honest communication and action form the bedrock of any healthy relationship, community, or government. Asking yourself before speaking, is it true? is it kind? is it necessary?
3. Asteya – Non-stealing
Take nothing that does not belong to you. The practice of asteya implies not taking anything that has not been freely given. This includes fostering a consciousness of how we ask for others’ time, for example demanding another’s attention when not freely given is, in effect, stealing.
4. Brahmacharya – Sense control
Brahmacharya is abstinence, particularly in relationship to sexual activity. Brahmacharya suggests that we should form relationships that foster our understanding of the highest truths. It does not necessarily imply celibacy. It means responsible behavior, that we use our sexual energy to regenerate our connection to our spiritual self. It also means that we don’t use this energy in any way that might harm others.
5. Aparigraha – Neutralizing the desire to acquire and hoard wealth
Aparigraha means to take only what is necessary, and not to take advantage of or act with greed. Aparigraha also implies letting go of our attachments to things and an understanding that impermanence and change are the only constants.
The 5 Niyama (Personal Observances) The second limb usually refers to self discipline and also with our actions towards others in our day to day life.
1. Sauca – Purity
Sauca is purity and cleanliness, outer cleanliness, daily washing etc, and Inner cleanliness for healthy, functioning of our bodily organs and also the clarity of our mind. Practicing asanas and pranayama are means for inner cleanliness. Asanas tone the body and removes toxins while pranayama cleanses our lungs, oxygenates our blood and purifies our nerves. Most important is t cleansing of the mind of toxic emotions – hatred, anger, lust, greed, delusion and pride.
2. Santosa – ContentmentSantosa is modesty and being content with what we have. To be at peace within and content with one’s lifestyle, finding contentment even while experiencing life’s difficulties then life becomes a process of growth through all circumstances. We begin to accept that there is a purpose for everything – yoga calls it karma – and we cultivate contentment to accept what life sends us and flow with it.
3. Tapas – Disciplined use of our energy
Tapas refers to the activity of awareness and control of the body’s energy. Literally it means to heat the body and, by so doing, to cleanse it. This is the understanding that we can direct our energy to engage life and achieve the ultimate goal of union with the Divine. Tapas helps us “burn up” the desires that stand in our way of union. Other forms of tapas are paying attention to what we eat, to body posture, , eating habits, and breathing patterns.
4. Svadhyaya – Self studysvadhyaya. Sva means “self’ adhyaya means “inquiry” or “examination”. All activities which cultivate self-reflective consciousness can be considered svadhyaya. It means to intentionally find self-awareness , even to the point of welcoming and accepting our limitations. Learning to be centered and non-reactive to the dualities, and to dispel self-destructive tendencies.
5. Isvarapranidhana – Celebration , devotion to the Spiritual
Isvarapranidhana is contemplation on God (Isvara) It is the recognition that the spiritual is everywhere and through our deepening awareness we can attune ourselves with our role as part of the Creator. The practice requires that we make time, each day, to recognize that there is some omnipresent force larger than ourselves that is guiding and moving the the universe. this might be meditation, prayer ,study or service.
2016, this too, shall pass. Whew!
Maybe this crazy time is meant to awaken us to new ways of being.
The darkest is right before the dawn.
Let’s be the dawning.
~~~~ Some ideas for creating deeper inner peace ~~~~~~~~~~~
~ Awake with a prayer or sense of gratitude for another day. Look at the sunrise or anything beautiful for a few moments before starting your day.
~ Be receptive, allowing, and curious. Be willing to forgo your schedule. Try setting this as an intention before getting out of bed; see it in your mind’s eye! Be ready for surprises; keep open to the freedom of the unknown. Change is the only constant.
~ Walk in the great outdoors – with curiosity and wonder! Walk tall, without fear into whatever arises.
~ A daily spiritual practice ~ You do have time! Try setting your phone timer for 2-3 minutes and focus on your breath, slowing it and deepening it, receiving nourishing oxygen from the Universe on your inhales, and Letting go of tension on your exhales. When you’re done, notice how you feel. Do it daily. This is meditation, one of the 8 limbs of yoga! ~ Spiritual practices are nourishment, elevating your vibration to help you have power to react creatively and constructively to what comes up in life.
~ Stay in the moment- Now is where life happens. The present is our point of power. To live in the moment is so fulfilling. This is liberation. No matter what is going on outside of you, open up to the possibility of experiencing freedom in this moment.
~ Lift your energy in a private session with me! We will discuss what is up for you and find new tools that support your moving forward. I offer yoga including breath work & adjustments, reiki, or a healing session using all of these.
Whole-hearted thank you for the support and co-creation this past year. I look forward to evolving with you in 2017!
Love, Love, Love Christina
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
One aspect of the eight limbs of yoga is Ahimsa – Compassion for all living things. Ahimsa means not to injure or show cruelty to any creature or any person. Practicing kindness, and compassion towards all living things.
We are all citizens of Earth. A small number of people who have power and immense wealth live in so much fear and isolation that they act with outrageous insane greed. They’ve worked tirelessly for generation after generation to manipulate the rest of us to judge and fight among ourselves so we won’t rise to power. Most of the manipulation is subtle and all of it pervasive, some of it costs lives, creates wars, poisons rivers and destroys ecosystems.
It tells us that one group of people, women, people of color, people of this or that religious faith, are somehow less than human, and that everyday violence against a group of people is excusable.
As a US citizen, at this point in history, I will state where I stand. I have been following what is going on at Standing Rock, ND. This could be the beginning of positive change, or end horribly for the planet. I believe it is up to each us to make sure the outcome is positive change even though it isn’t easy change… even if it changes our holiday plans.
Please ponder the following;
At this time, with the current political climate, maybe it is the love of the Land (purple mountains majesty…) and the love of ideals of the US Constitution that will bring diverse women and men together, from sea to shining sea.
I believe this has started at Standing Rock. I believe We the People are vastly more powerful than our “elected representatives and leaders”.
Patriotically & peacefully yours,
Schedule for December – No classes at Rio Grand Center for Spiritual Living or Garden Gate December 19th – 27th. No Individual sessions 19th-27th. There will be a Sub (or no class) at Versatile Vitality on the 21st. I will keep you updated here, on Yoga trail, and the Versatile Vitality schedule.