* The Wise Woman and the Precious Stone

This is a story from an unknown author that I came across in a lovely collection of poems, prayers and stories to end a yoga class called Soul To Soul by John Mundahl.

precious stone

Once a wise woman was traveling in the mountains and found a precious stone in a stream. The next day she met another traveller who was hungry and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveller saw the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him. She did so without hesitation.

The traveller left rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a lifetime.

But a few days later, he came back to return the stone to the wise woman.

“I’ve been thinking” he said, “I know how valuable this stone is, but I give it back to you with hope that you will give me something more precious. Give me what have within you that enabled you to give me this stone.”

Sometimes its not the wealth we have, but what’s inside us that others need.

This is dedicated to all of you who bring wisdom and light to the world and those around you every day. Never forget that what you have inside is what others are drawn to.

Namaste

* Layers of Being

I woke up to cold temperatures, however the sun was shining and the forecast was for the day to become surprisingly warm. I thought to myself “This is a day for layers”.

layers

Layers are practical. We put them on and take them off depending on how our body feels. I like the whole idea of layers … and it made me think about the other types of layers that we have as human beings.

How easy is it to add them and how easy is it to shed them?

As we add layers they protect us, yet weigh us down over time… For example, when we pretend to know something because we are afraid to let others see that we don’t know. Ego protecting strategies easily become burdens that are hard to let go of.

As we shed layers we become more vulnerable, yet at the same time we get lighter and more free. For example, taking off our “I am strong” mask and letting someone see that we need help, allows us to be authentic and true to our own feelings and thoughts.

Appreciating this can bring a new awareness of ourselves and our inner being.

Can you imagine yourself as a layered being?  Like one of those Russian nesting dolls.

Russian dolls

 

I love the yoga philosophy approach to our individual layers. They are called the 5 Koshas, which means sheaths in sanskrit. They are:

Physical – The outer sheath is our physical body. How it looks and functions. Our Annamaya kosha. We are well acquainted with this layer. It faces us in the mirror every day.

Energy – The next layer is our life energy. Like the Chinese Chi, yoga energy is called Prana. This is our Pranamaya kosha. We can’t see it, but we know it is present in our breath and our sense of well being.

Mental – Beneath this is the layer of  our thinking and emotions. Our mental body is called Manomaya kosha. This is the controller and director of operations.

Wisdom – The fourth sheath is our inner wisdom and being a witness to our selves. Our Vijnamaya kosha. I like to think of it as our intuitive layer of unconscious wisdom and knowing.

Bliss – The innermost layer is bliss. This is a place of beauty, joy and peace which surrounds the divine center of our being called the Atman. The Anandamaya kosha connects us to a Universal Consciousness, Source or Divine Spirit.

 

peacock feather

Like the eye on a peacock’s feather, each layer creates a beautiful whole.

I believe we are spiritual beings encased in sheaths. To live life fully we must learn to bring awareness to each layer and how it shows up, not only in our yoga practice, but in our daily lives.

Finding our Middle Ground opens the door to exploring these inner realms. In shedding our layers we connect more and more with our spiritual Self and inner Being.

It is there for each and every one of us.

Namaste

 

* What are you waiting for?

waiting

When you pause, is it something that is imposed or are you drawn to it?
Are you alert and waiting for something to happen?
Is there an expected outcome?
Are you pausing in order to take a break from thoughts that stimulate or frustrate?
Or do you pause as the gateway to stillness and as a way of connecting to your inner world?

When we are wrapped up with expectations of others or from ourselves, we lose touch with the sacredness of the simple pause.

There is nothing to wait for.

 

* Mantra for Today – from Brené Brown

Todays mantra is taken from from Brené Brown’s book “Gifts Of Imperfection”. This is the place to come to when you feel insecure, nervous and vulnerable, especially in new situations.

 

“Don’t shrink

Don’t puff up

Stand on your sacred ground”

This sacred ground is the place of embracing your authentic self in the moment.

No need to think you are not good enough or that you are better than others.

Simply stand in the knowing of who you are.

Most of us find it when we have experienced some struggle in the highs and lows of life.

Its the most powerful place to truly Be.

When I read this I think of standing in Mountain Pose or Tadasana in Yoga. Rooted to the ground, yet tall and strong. In this moment you become the mountain.

Namaste

* The Quest

everest quest

“The inner meaning of life does not readily reveal itself; it must be searched for. Such a search is the Quest.

When a man begins to seek out his real nature, to find the truth of his real being, he begins to follow the Quest.

The Quest is a veritable re-education of the self, leading in turn to a noble transcendence of the self.

Some come to the truth in a roundabout way.

The Quest is direct.

The Quest is spiritual mountaineering.”

Paul Brunton taken from “Yoga Gems” edited by Georg Feuerstein

When I read this I like the idea of spiritual mountaineering. A direct route for the courageous!

And yet we can also come to the truth in a round about way.

It is there for each and every one of us … one step at a time.

Namaste

* Reflections on Ego – “I” and “i”

I have been reading more about ego as part of my exploration of the self in yoga. For practitioners (and interested peeps) this is the fourth observance or Niyama called svadhayaya.

What I’ve discovered is that what I come across, builds on the foundations that I have written about before here and here.

And … you don’t need to be on a spiritual path of yoga to appreciate this wisdom.

This particular insight into ego really resonated with me.

woman looking sat self

“The ego is a reflection of our true Self on the mind. The two appear to be the same, but one is the original, the other a reflected duplicate. 

These two “I”‘s are often referred to as the little “i” and the capital “I”.

What is the difference? Just a small dot, a little blemish of ego.

The capital “I” is just one pure stroke, just as the highest truth is always simple and pure.

What limits us and makes us little? Just the dot.

Without the dot we are always great, always capital “I”.  All the practices of yoga are to remove the dot.”

Sri Swami Satchidananda

… its just our little dot …

Namaste

* Inspiration – from the quietness

This is a beautiful observation about what can happen when we find the quietness with us. When we find our Middle ground.

In this space is more than calming the mind or exploring our spiritual path, it is vital for our overall wellbeing.

Take time to pause in your day and find the quietness within.

wholeness and freedom

“From the quietness, we can make healthier choices about our actions.

From choice comes freedom.

From freedom comes wholeness.

And wholeness is the state of yoga.”

 From Judith Lasater’s “Living Your Yoga”

* 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

~~~