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Come Out and Play

14 May

“We have not come here to take prisoners
but to surrender ever more deeply
to freedom and joy.

We have not come into this exquisite world
to hold ourselves hostage
from love.

Run my dear,
from anything that may not strengthen
your precious budding wings.

Run like hell my dear,
from anyone likely to put a sharp knife
into the sacred, tender vision
of your beautiful heart.

We have a duty to befriend those aspects of obedience
that stand outside of our house and shout to our reason,
O please,
O please,
Come out and play.

For we have not come here to take prisoners
or to confine our wondrous spirits

but to experience
ever and ever more deeply
our divine courage, freedom
and light.”

-Hafiz

make-a-wish-2

Wishing you all a playful, joyful weekend!

Get-Outside.png

Namaste.

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On Letting Go

13 Apr

“He who stands on tiptoe
doesn’t stand firm.
He who rushes ahead
doesn’t go far.
He who tries to shine
dims his own light.
He who defines himself
can’t know who he really is.
He who clings to his work
will create nothing that endures.

If you want to accord with the Tao,
just do your job, then let go.”

-Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
translated by Stephen Mitchell

Seahawks & Yoga

5 Sep

As promised, for all my yogi ~ Seahawks fans: 

“The timeworn strategy is, of course, to be a hard-ass–think Bear Bryant banning water breaks, Vince Lombardi screaming and yelling, Mike Rice throwing basketballs at players’ heads, Nick Saban berating his team on the sideline. Carroll craved a chance to reimagine the coaching role in the NFL. “I wanted to find out if we went to the NFL and really took care of guys, really cared about each and every individual, what would happen?””

– ESPN.com

 

Photo: ESPN.com

 

Also!  Be sure to read this New York Times article Title for the Seahawks is a Triumph for the Profile of Yoga by Lynn Zinser, and ESPN The Magazine’s article Lotus Pose on Two: Seattle Seahawks Believe their Kinder, Gentler Philosophy is the Future of Football by Alyssa Roenigk. 

Photo: ESPN.com

“Men and athletes doing yoga is not new. Basketball’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was an early proponent, as was the tennis star John McEnroe. Most recently, Andy Murray credited part of his recent tennis success to Bikram yoga. Stanford’s football team has incorporated yoga into its training program.”

NYTimes.com


 

Meditation Motivation

1 Aug

Stroke_Of_InsightThis Ted talk by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroscientist who speaks eloquently of her experience having and recovering from a stroke, is always so compelling, inspiring and empowering. What a beautiful reminder of our interconnectedness with all of the universe, and how we are empowered to practice accessing the place within that is always at peace.

Her book is just as great at the talk. You can find it now at the Center’s Lending Library!

“I believe that the more time we spend choosing to run the deep inner peace circuitry of our right hemispheres, the more peace we will project into the world, and the more peaceful our planet will be.”

~Jill Bolte Taylor, PhD


 

My teacher often cites an ancient adage that I think sums up this topic beautifully: “Where attention goes, energy flows.”  We have a choice: we can focus on the pain and suffering in the world, worrying and feeling into the sense of lack and fear, or we can direct our focus on cultivating an inner space of love and peace, which will radiate out and create more of these qualities in the world around us.

We are familiar with methods that get us out of the left hemisphere, like yogasana, concentration, breathing, meditation.  How do we continue to reside in that place of inner peace once we leave the yoga mat or the meditation cushion?

Namaste.

Reflections on an Academic Year: Surrender & Trust

10 Jun

Rialto_Natarajasana

“You need to be able to dive into your own heart and find that place of deep, deep nourishment inside.  And then you get happy for no reason.  Sometimes you think there is a reason, but there is no reason.  It is your natural state!”
~ Swami Shambhavananda 

Deep breath … I have made it through my first year back to school!  And now it’s summer ~ gratefully, a time for really diving deeper into my yoga practice, friendships, gardening, and adventure!  Although school certainly allowed for constant opportunities to practice yoga: to surrender, to find balance between effort and ease, and in letting go of the type of student I used to be.  I discovered that I was very attached to being a straight-A rockstar student, and that attachment really caused me a lot of suffering as I navigated through these new math and science courses that provided tremendous challenge for my more artsy, creative brain.  My undergraduate degree in Creative Writing came so easily; my 4.0 GPA felt effortless back then, and I was expecting that returning to school this time around, with 6 years of post-graduate Life Experience & Wisdom behind me, would be a breeze.  It wasn’t!  But in this challenge, I experienced so much growth!  I learned that I am capable of more than I ever thought possible, that I really do have a choice in how I respond to the myriad stresses and demands of academia.  It is not my favorite culture, but I learned that a sense of centeredness (my meditation practice and how its effects seep into daily life) makes anything possible.

It turned out that the college experience is really the ultimate teacher for me at present.  Not necessarily the topics that I am learning, but the way I choose to spend my time and find balance in my life.  My former self would spend hours studying until my brain felt swollen and my eyes were sore ~ all in pursuit of the grade.  I am learning that it is not worth it ~ in fact, all those hours of pouring over my books is actually counter-productive; that a sense of balance and happiness, connection with friends and family is more important than being a top-ranking student.  In my heart of hearts, I do not believe the current educational system (huge lecture classes, not enough time to develop connections with professors or peers, a competitive atmosphere) is as good as it could be ~ I believe that there are better ways to train our minds ~ but it did me no good to agonize over it.  Once I made that mental switch, I was able to really focus on balancing work and play, and to deeply surrender to and trust the experience.  Magically, though I wasn’t studying as much, my brain seemed to work more efficiently, my mind was clearer, and I was happier ~ not only that, but when I stopped worrying so much about doing well, even my grades improved!  These are the boons of finding a deep sense of balance.

I was fortunate to have been hired as a yoga instructor at Western for the past 3 quarters (my class schedule does not allow for me to continue teaching in the fall), and what an incredible growing experience that was.  Teaching a class of 30 students in 40 minutes was certainly an invitation for me to become more concise and efficient with my cueing and instruction, and also to really trust that students were going to honor their own limitations and not injure themselves!  I learned that I have a hard time with that ~ I like to be very protective of my students and make sure they are not compromising their physical bodies during asana practice.  But in a short time with so many students, I can’t possibly get around to everyone in every pose to make physical adjustments and individualized corrections, so this too took a great deal of surrender and trust.  Additionally, I was so inspired by how much my students really loved meditation and mindfulness practices.  They recognized that yoga offers the ultimate antidote to the huge amount of stress and pressure they are exposed to as students.  I am so grateful to be in a position to be able to offer these life-changing teachings.

Michael_Jess

Me and Michael, meeting to organize an event called Prostrations for Peace

I remember my first yoga class, back at Columbia College with Michael McColly.  He was teaching a Freelance Applications of Fiction Writing course, and I (like many American college students) was struggling with an anxiety disorder and depression, being medicated, and told by my doctors that I would be taking pharmaceuticals to help deal with my issues for the rest of my life.  Michael started our first class by asking us to push all the desks to the perimeter of the room.  He had us gather on the floor on hands and knees (in our skinny jeans and Doc Marten bots because we were all trendy art students) and breathe through some yoga postures.  After just 10 minutes of breath and asana, I felt better than after I took a Xanax, and that was the catalyst that set me on my path of yoga.

Now it feels like full circle, offering this practice that has totally transformed my life to college students ~ many of whom are in the same boat that I was at that time of my life.  It is such a gift to be in the position to offer this practice.  I am so grateful.

And I am also very humbled, because this quarter ~ this school year ~ showed me more than ever that I still have so much to learn and gain from yoga.  This practice is not something you master; it is ever-growing, ever-expanding, and there is always more depth to find.

I am filled with so much gratitude.  For all my teachers, past, present and future.

ॐ Om shanti shanti shanti.

3 Uplifting Films

28 Dec

Winter is a beautiful time for slowing down, taking this season for introspection and reflection.  For me, this often means revisiting my past year and re-establishing my life’s intention.  Sometimes, though, winter can feel like a time of stagnation.  I’d like to offer three options for you, if it’s dark and dreary and you just don’t want to leave the house.

Yoga-In-Snow

I’ve seen 3 documentaries recently that I found to be positively uplifting and inspiring ~ solutions-based ideas for our dynamic world.  They’re just the right medicine for a dreary day.  Do a few warming sun salutations, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Oh!  If you’re like me and can’t quite swallow the idea of a movie without popcorn, here’s a recipe to at least do it the Ayurvedic way, from Eden Ayruveda.

In a hot fry pan add spices in this order, toasting each a few seconds before adding the next. I like to toast the spices in whole form and then grind them all together.

  • 1 tsp black pepper corn
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ajwain
  • 2 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp hing

When they have all released their fragrances grind them in a mortar and pestle or food processor and add:

  • 1 tsp amchur powder (dried green mango—you might also try ground pomegranate seeds or sumac?)
  • 1 tsp unrefined sugar
  • 1 tsp saindouv or Himalayan salt

Sprinkle over popcorn freshly popped in ghee!

~ Eden Ayruveda

Once you’ve got your popcorn ready, light a candle (I prefer 100% beeswax tealights from Quiet Light candles!), coze in and enjoy:

Movie #1: The Spirit of Good

A short-but-sweet preview of a full-length to come about the inspiring Mycologist Paul Stamets, who is perhaps most famous for his Ted Talk “Six Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World.”  This film, by Louie Schwartzberg (whose other works are well worth checking out, here), is a brief call to action paired with incredible time-lapse cinematography.

 

Movie #2: Dirt!  The Movie

I thought the same thing when I first saw this come across my Netflix “recommended for you” cue.  A documentary … about dirt?  But trust me, the inspirational, timely, motivating visionaries and voices in this film can change your life!  And it’s so beautifully well-done.  Give it a try!  Here’s the trailer below, and you can rent it or find it on a variety of online video rentals.

 

Movie #3: I Am ~ the shift is about to hit the fan

There are tons and tons of docs you can find about the problems humanity faces in this time of overpopulation, climate change, species loss, food shortage and more.  I love this film because director Tom Shadyac (yeah, the guy who did movies like Ace Ventura Pet Detective and Bruce Almighty) approaches the world’s spiritual and intellectual leaders to ask about solutions.  The film ended and I felt uplifted and ready to make a difference.  I think you will too.  Great part: you can watch it on Hulu, for free!  Below is the trailer.

 

Movie #4 : YogaWoman ~ the film

I know I said three films, but I had to include this one, too.  It’s affirming and sweet, and just might inspire you to roll out your mat and get moving!  A history of yoga’s evolution and women in the west.

 

 
Add in a few yoga postures between scenes, or you could try watching in Upavistha Konasana!

Let me know what you think!

Namaste.