* Beyond Ego

 

ego and self image

Time for an other exploration into ego 101 based on my personal experience and reading.
Ego has come about as a reflection of how others responded to us as babies and young children. All of us come to adulthood with a self image and how we view ourselves. Yep – we all have an ego.

As adults we continue to monitor how we are doing in relationship to other people.  We want others to see us in a certain way. We also believe that this image is how we should be and how others should be too.

In our culture it is reinforced over and over again. To acquire certain things, to look a particular  way, to be part of a certain group. etc etc.

We create stories about how we are doing in relationship to others. What do they think of me? Why won’t they listen to me? I’ll show them what’s right. Will they like what I’m doing? My way is the best way. How do I compare with them? I must win! Am I doing it right? I don’t want to look … nervous, stupid, big headed, ignorant, like my father …

When we see an other, or ourselves acting differently from our ideal image, we are quick to judge. We believe this is the truth.

Ego is the preserver of our image of ourselves.

Looking back on my life I can see how my ego has evolved based on those around me, the beliefs and the culture. Some people will hold on to this image of themselves until the day they die, but more and more of us are waking up to seeing beyond our ego and self image.

We begin to recognize that other people have the same issues, yearnings and fears as we do. We recognize that we all wear masks.

We find compassion for others and their imperfections. And then find compassion and kindness for our own failings.

We realize that we are also part of something much bigger that connects us all.

you inverseWe are part of a bigger consciousness that has been named the Universe, God, Spirit, Source or Presence.

Our ego keeps us feeling separate. Yet within each of us is an element that is spirit and transcends our human bodies and ego.

I believe that we can find our true Self beyond our ego but can never let it fully go if we are to live independently in the world.

It is also the part of ourselves that we all struggle with in our spiritual journey. In yoga, this “i”ness is called Asmita, and is one of the five kleshas or causes of our suffering in the world. It keeps us separate and apart from others and the higher consciousness.

Let your higher Self embrace the smaller ego self like the child it is.

When we do this we find we become less attached to things in this world.

And happiness opens up within us.

Namaste

* Become Aware of Silence

lotus

“When you become aware of silence, immediately there is that state of inner still alertness. You are present. You have stepped out of thousands of years of collective human conditioning.”

Eckhart Tolle

What a great reminder that we can be more than beings of habit and conditioning. Becoming the witness to this inner still alertness, opens a door within each of us. The door that leads to freedom and peace.

That is how yoga and meditation enriches my life. I have just returned from a YTT 500 hour teacher training module about Yoga and Transformation at Kripalu.

I see clearly that it takes dedication and a willingness to put in effort, to get to this place of inner freedom and peace.

Being disciplined was never a strength of mine – I rebelled against being told what to do, even by myself! Until I realized that discipline comes from the word disciple meaning follower.

What do I choose to follow? Can I continue to do this? This becomes a much more loving approach…. and one that I continue to take.

Beating myself up for being weak or not being good enough will never make it happen.

Reading about it and expecting it to magically happen will never be enough either.

The answer lies in each of our own experience, and tuning into to this still alertness within us. This is the spark that is alive in us. In each moment.

When we find ourselves off the path, remember that the inner stillness and alertness is just a breath away.

Why not take this moment and let yourself come to this place right now….

Namaste

* Soothing Words for Every Day

There are words that I say every day as I guide my yoga peeps into Savasana. Savasana or corpse pose, is the final pose before meditation, where we lie down and allow the body to relax, and nourish itself.

I haven’t shared this mantra here…. and it is time :)

savasana to let go

“Breathing in

light …

lightness …

and nourishment …

Breathing out

toxins …

negative energy …

and letting go of whatever needs to be let go of today.”

Whenever I say these words I pause and my heart opens.

May these words bring you to your Middle Ground and center you for the day ahead.

Namaste

 

* Insights from my Kripalu YTT 500 Teacher Training – Mod 4

When I was at Kripalu last week I met amazing teachers from the world of physical therapy, structural therapy and nursing, as well as wonderful yogis who teach and inspire a diverse range of people.

You don’t have to be fit, flexible and under 40 to do yoga or enjoy all its benefits! But it is important to find a teacher with experience and skill to avoid injury or making your condition worse… That is why I attended this module.

I have acquired more knowledge and skills for safely teaching people of all sizes; those recovering from illness; moms-to-be; kids; seniors and people with disabilities; people impacted by trauma, depression or anxiety and a large population of shoulder and back pain sufferers. For the yogis out there I also learned about how to support people in rebalancing their doshas and bringing mind body and spirit into harmony.

Val's yoga class

This module was called Teaching Special Population Groups, but it seems to me that most people I come across fall into the one or more of the above categories.  The norm is in fact special. I like that :)

The main theme was to support whoever comes into a yoga class with compassion and skill.

The supporting theme that became evident early on is that sitting is bad for your health and well being. We are a chair culture and it isn’t doing our bodies any good.

Lee Albert said that sitting is the new smoking! Its bad for everyone’s health. If you want to find out more about his perspective as an Integrated Positional Therapist, then there are lots of tips on his website.

Our bodies were built for walking, squatting and lying down. Sitting on a chair or in the drivers seat for extended periods of time creates misalignments that lead to chronic back pain and shoulder issues, as well as other health problems.  Specific yoga poses can counteract this … and lead to better alignment and healthy backs and shoulders.

Yoga has its roots in spirituality and the journey to oneness, but it has evolved into an amazing tool box full of tools that can support every body in bringing peace of mind and physical well being.

I feel grounded in this knowing, yet am excited to share these new perspectives with my yoga peeps.

* Back from Kripalu Yoga Training

 

spider web

I thought I needed to disconnect. To let go.

Gosh – that sounds pretty earnest, doesn’t it.

I realize that so many of us hold on to the need to disconnect so much…

What I found was a real  opportunity to step back… and then take some delicious time for myself to help me serve others. The weather was also wonderful, with crisp mornings and a warm sun and brilliant blue skies during the day. What a treat :)

Going to Kripalu gave me an expanding and supportive opportunity to be with my true self, and learn from some very skilled teachers and amazing fellow students. I melded into a  community focused on  the art and science of  yoga …  and living, loving and being in the world. My heart is full of gratitude and appreciation!

light spider web

And  now I come back refreshed, nourished, and inspired.  Expanded and stretched in mind body and soul. Think of a spider web that meets the light of the early sun, glistening and connecting to the world around it. Pretty cool!

And then add a large practical tool box of expertise to serve and support our aging population, people recovering from surgery, illness, and chronic back pain sufferers. As well as pre natal moms-to-be and people with bodies of all sizes. And of course, peeps needing to relax and pause from their busy, multi tasked demanding lives.

Wow – I learned a lot  and it affirmed so much :)

All of this will take a few days to integrate and absorb.

Thank you for holding this space for me. It is precious… as are you <3

Val

 

 

 

* Yoga and Happiness

I am excited to join Kyle Williams tomorrow at Awaken in Media to begin teaching our 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training program.  One of the first questions we will be exploringom symbol is “What is Yoga?” I’ve read many interpretations that have arisen from the original text in The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali.

My favorite interpretation comes from Georg Feuerstein. He has such knowledge of the original texts and philosophy of Yoga and is skillful in bringing yoga from a very different time and culture, and making it meaningful for us today.

“The complex five thousand year old tradition of yoga is about a very simple thing: happiness (ananda). Yoga tells us that in order to realize lasting happiness, we must discover our true spiritual nature. This requires that we commit ourselves to nothing less that self transformation and self transcendence. For although our true nature, or spiritual Self, is always the same, it tends to be obscured by our conventional thoughts, emotions and patterns of behavior. The yoga tradition compares this circumstance to the brightly shining sun, which is ever radiant but periodically hidden from our view by drifting dark clouds.

Yoga Val

Yoga helps us to remove all obstructing (mental) clouds, so that we may come to enjoy the sunshine within. It is an extensive program of reeducation though which we learn, step by step, to live in the light of our true nature. Only when we have truly found ourselves will we be able to live in peace, harmony and happiness in the world. This is what is sometimes called the sacred life….

For many people, practicing yoga means to do yoga postures once or twice a week or even every day. Although this approach can yield many benefits, such as better health and greater vitality, the real power of yoga is unleashed only when we engage in yoga as a way of life, twenty four hours a day. Yoga is universal and applicable in all situations. It is first and foremost a mental or inner discipline. Even the postures (asana) have a spiritual purpose and must be practiced with full awareness. Every single yoga technique is a tool for discovering the abiding happiness of the ultimate Self or Spirit.” 

My gratitude goes to my teachers Nicole and Joe at East Eagle Yoga; to my current teachers at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health; my Sangha community of fellow teachers and yogis; and to Kyle for being my partner in the continued growth and evolution of our path of yoga and service to support the well being of others.

Namaste

* A Yoga Haiku

This is dedicated to all my beautiful yoga peeps.

with love,

Val <3
Yoga from the inside out

A being centered

in melodies gentle flow

breaks open my heart

~~~

A being open

to life energy within

lets her soul soar free

~~~

A being in awe

of  the fullness of Presence

brings light and lightness to all

~~~

* Breathing to Let Go

letting go

Every inhale brings in new life, nourishment and energy.

Every exhale is a release and letting go.

Our breath reflects the ebb and flow of life itself.

This quote stood out for me today:

“Sometimes you don’t realize the weight of something you’ve been carrying until you feel the weight of its release.”

When you find yourself tense, overwhelmed or feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. Take a moment and connect with your breath.

Do you notice that there is a slight pause at the end on the inhale as you hold onto the air? This holding on creates more tension in our body and it feels so good to release some of it in this simple exercise:

Take a nice big inhale and then sigh on the exhale. Really focus on the noise you can make when you breath out! Make it loud and long. The biggest and best sigh in the world.

Next, If this feels good, bring your shoulders up to your ears on your inhale and then release them down your back on the exhale.

You may want to bring in some shoulder rolls now. Inhale raising your shoulder up and then exhale releasing forwards. (3 times) Then inhale raising them up and exhale releasing them backwards (3 times).

The weight of the world is being lifted off your shoulders. As you practice this can you feel the burden releasing?

…and breathe <3

 

* Your Breath is How you Live your Life

Do you know how are you breathing right now?

Take a moment and simply notice your breath. Perhaps place your hand on your navel and the other above your heart.  Notice the movement as you inhale and exhale.

breath awareness

We breathe in and we breathe out. And for the most part we take it completely for granted.
Until something happens such as asthma, a cold, allergies or worse. When we notice it is difficult to breathe we appreciate it so much more.

How we breathe is not only a reflection of the health of our lungs, but also a reflection on how we live our life.

Did you know that our breath is connected to our emotional state?

When we feel:

Panic – It is short, fast, shallow breaths. Trying to get more air in by speeding up.

Anxious – It is shallow breaths seeking more reassuring air.

Tense – We hold onto the inhaled air, pausing at the top of the inhale before we let it be released, sometimes with a sigh.

Anger – It is long forced inhales and exhales. Fueling the flames like a bellows.

Calm – It is slow and steady breaths becoming shallower with relaxation.

Happy – It is long inhalations and long exhalations. Slowing it all down.

Did you also know we can change our emotional state by changing our breath? We can bring mindful awareness to our breath and create the emotional state that we seek.

Practitioners of Meditation and Yoga have done this for millennia – using awareness of the breath to come into the present moment, and bring about a more relaxed and centered state of being.

Science shows that when we slow the breath it signals to the brain and the parasympathetic nervous system that everything is well. No need to be on guard … its okay to relax and restore your natural balance.

So if we want to alleviate stress and become calm, slowing the breath works!

Try counting between 4 to 6 in your mind for each inhale and exhale. It can really make a difference. Why not set aside a few minutes and try it for yourself. It may feel awkward and take some practice but your body, mind and emotions will thank you for it.

Bringing awareness to our breathing is such a valuable guide to how we live our lives in that moment. With awareness of this comes choice. Please click here to explore more about your breath.

If you want to live your life fully then practice breathing fully.

Namaste

* Dealing with Stress and my Inner Teenager

waves of lifeOn Tuesday I had a stressful day. A dip in the highs and lows of life day. It wasn’t surprising. I had some concerning news that took the wind out of my sails, and I developed a pressure cooker of a sinus headache. I was in a trough. I know how my mind and body are connected. My body tells me quite clearly when I have to pay attention to what is happening around me and what I am feeling. The message is clear –  take care of my well being. Pause. Connect to my Self.

In hindsight it is easy to catch, but at the time it may take a bit longer to realize that we are under stress. In this particular occasion it became very clear as I went through emails and started to read updates from fellow bloggers. As I painfully squinted at the screen. I was no longer present, but my inner judge was! “What do they want? … Why bother me with this?… How stupid! How superficial!… They are so self centered!… Don’t they get it?… This is trivial! Who has time for frivolity? Pl-ease get to the point.”

My thinking revealed that Val was not present or in balance. My defensive inner teenager had been Teenage bratunleashed.

Everyone was dumb. They didn’t get it. They didn’t see how much pain I was in. They took advantage of me. They tried to control me. All the unmet needs from the past were right there demanding attention.

Our inner teenager  is challenging and requires some kindness and understanding. Its in pain – emotionally and often physically. It has so many unmet needs and is trying to figure out how to get them met as they move from childhood into independence.  It is our ego at the height of all of its immature defensive glory.

One part of me was determined to be miserable and show the world (?) that I had every right to be. Thankfully the part of me who has learned to be a compassionate observer knew that it was time to unplug. NOW!

You are stressed. Take care of yourself  and find your middle ground. Be gentle and kind. Let things be as they are.

Stones surrounded by rushing waterIt was easier after I had taken half a Sinutab and put on my favorite restorative yoga music. I embraced everything that was coming up. I noticed resistance. I breathed and didn’t push. I found my middle ground and was able to stay there. Healing tears fell softly. I meditated and lost track of time. My husband came and went and let me be. He knows better than me sometimes <3

I began to feel better and went to watch tv to distract myself … and found I had no appetite for it at all. ZERO. I wanted to stay in solitude. I journaled instead.

The old habits of distractions, shopping, cleaning, entertainment, drinking and eating had lost their pull in that moment. By being fully present and knowing how to ride the wave and find my middle ground helped me center myself.

So I honored the request to be alone and put my teenager to bed early. I woke up as a headache free and stress free adult once more. Ready to approach the day with a sense of curiosity.

Thank you to the makers of Sinutab, yoga and meditation, journaling, my husband and friends who support and nourish me, and to those of you who read this today!

May we all find our middle ground in the waves of life.

<3 Namaste <3

 

* Yoga is Timeless

As I look forward to teaching tomorrow morning, I recalled an inspiring quote from Michael Stone. This is the yoga practice that I feel most connected to and am drawn to share with others.

being still in nature

“Yoga is timeless. This does not mean it is eternal or ephemeral, but simply available, always in each unfolding moment, when we settle into the essence of who we are. 

The great questions of life and death are settled in the stillness of the mind and the direct actions of a self unfettered by itself.

River GangesA seeming paradox at first, the yoga practitioner is nothing other that the vast range of the universe…. The essence of the body is discovered to be nothing other than the great rivers of the earth, the vast sky, and the winds of the breath.

 

We practice in whatever conditions we find courageous yoga poseourselves: depressed, flowing, polluted, clear, transparent, slow or thick as mud.”

Michael Stone from “The Inner Tradition of Yoga”

Namaste

* She Let Go

Val Boyko:

If you haven’t come across this poem yet that Geena shared … check it out at Yoga With Maheshwari. She shares a personal story of letting go in the moment.

May we all find our way to letting go.

Namaste

Originally posted on Yoga With Maheshwari:

I read this poem by Rev Safire Rose on Elephant Journal and found it quite beautiful and thought I’d share it:

She let go.
She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.
She let go of the fear.
She let go of the judgments.
She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.
She let go of the committee of indecision within her.
She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.
Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.
She didn’t ask anyone for advice.
She didn’t read a book on how to let go.
She didn’t search the scriptures.
She just let go.
She let go of all of the memories that held her back.
She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.
She let go of the planning and…

View original 195 more words

* When the Mind is Calm

I’m inspired by these wise words from Swami Rama today.

keep calm

“When the mind is calm, it does not create a wall between you and the Reality, and you can see the Reality face to face.
That is called God. God is the center of power, life, light and love.”

Swami Rama

Whether we call it God, the Divine, Source, Enlightened Presence, Atman, Consciousness, the Universe … it is our inner guide. Meditation is the doorway to the realization of this Reality.

* MMM Moments

I was thinking about the little rituals and moments that I have during my days that bring me back into the present moment. We don’t need to go on retreat or drive to a studio for group meditation or yoga. Although it is really beneficial to have a formal daily practice, it can be difficult to schedule in at times.

Having something to keep you on track can be very helpful.

It only takes a moment to come into the present.

mindful ladybug

… There you are :)

When we create rituals we bring more awareness into our days. When we are observers of ourselves we can step back and see possibilities, let go of what isn’t working for us, and make more conscious choices and decisions.

Pausing for a moment to connect with our inner being can make a huge difference to how our day unfolds.

Here are some daily rituals that remind me to check in with myself. I call these moments Mini Mindful Moments. MMM’s.
(Apologies to those that thought I was about to announce the next generation of M&M’s)

MMM’s

♥ As I wake up I notice my breathing. I take several deep breaths and allow myself 5 or more minutes to be right here before the need to get up. I ask: What can I look forward to in this day?

♥ Washing my hands with tender care using an aromatic foaming soap.

♥ Choosing specific music that signals meditation time. Its like Pavlov’s dogs … It takes me right there in an instant!

♥ Using the Chakra time mediation app on my smart phone. It goes off at 8 am and 1pm. An easy reminder to pause and breathe. Coming into the present moment.

♥ Listening to my own 2 minute mini meditation:

♥ I also ask myself these questions during the day:

Am I present?

Is my heart open or am I in my head?

What’s alive in me?

Do I need to take time for myself – a sacred pause?

 ♥ Using sticky notesQuestions to become present

Being conscious in the moment is freeing!

What MMM’s do you have that support you in being mindful and staying present during your day?