Awakening to What?

Those of us who see ourselves on a journey of self realization or spirituality, have a sense of awakening. But an awakening to what? I wonder if we all awaken to the same thing, or if we awaken to whatever we are ready to awaken to…

Whatever it is, when we find it we think “This is it!” But it is really so? Is it the final piece of the puzzle or just an other piece along the way that finds its rightful place?

woman in blue and white floral long sleeve shirt holding a round shaped puzzle

Photo by Wesley Carvalho on Pexels.com

As I reflect on my life there have been moments of awakening, when it seemed like my inner world and outer world launched into a new way of being. Yet, on reflection it is now clear that these have just been pieces of the puzzle.

These pieces connected to each other, yet they revealed only a part of a great unknown picture. Here are my reflections on my journey towards the unknown and the awakenings along the way.

Life Awakenings

I can only imagine what it must have felt like when I first discovered I was no longer in a dark and nourishing space merged with my mother. This experience is beyond my thinking,  but I can imagine how traumatic and profound it must have been becoming separate and in all that bright light!

The next awakening was when I learned who I was in relation to other things and people. My ego developed as I grew into a separate human being with preferences and beliefs. I learned how to get what I wanted, how to be in relationship with others. I created beliefs about who I was as a girl child, daughter, sister etc…

Not long after this revelation came, the waking up to feeling hurt when I didn’t get what I wanted, or when I was not seen in a way that I wanted to be seen, or when I felt abandoned and unloved. I believed that there was something wrong, and it was me. I wasn’t good enough. So I would try to be good and perfect.

This part lasted for quite some time. I continued to learn who I was in this world from those around me, and in the roles I played. I was looking outward for validation and love.

Then as an adult I awakened to the part of me that wanted to express herself fully. To slough off the conditioning and expectations of others. I started to look inward so I could find the real “me”, not through anyone else’s eyes, but through my own… Awakening to myself as a strong individual who mattered… Stepping into my own shoes and expressing myself to the world.
From not being good enough, I realized I was precious, unique and strong. I could make things happen! I took on challenges and overcame my fears. It was a period of tremendous personal growth.

Around then I began training to became a life coach. For the past 20 years I have worked with people to discover who they are as unique human beings who can overcome challenges and be their authentic best in the world.

Yet, this was not the end. From this place of self growth, confidence and expansion, an other kind of awakening started to unfold. One where I started to question who “I” was.

self inquiry

At a time when I was disillusioned with the competitive, self absorbed human beings around me, I fully embraced yoga and took my first yoga teacher training. Unlike a lot of yoga trainings nowadays, our practice was more than postures, sequencing and breath work. We had time for self reflection, we read yoga philosophy, and committed to following the eightfold path of Patanjali.

Through yoga I became aware that my personal “self” was made up of my thoughts and beliefs. The world around me mirrored my own perception of it.  I had been creating stories about who “I” (this “small self”) was. I had grown as a person, but had replaced stories of not being good enough, with new stories about all I could achieve and show the world.

A part of me still got caught in patterns of self-doubt, fear and worry. I also had moments of glory and immense satisfaction and had glimpses of the timeless beauty and mystery of being alive.

In yoga I felt drawn to the belief that we are all connected and share the same Source or Conscious Presence. When one says “namaste” in greeting and farewell, it means that one recognizes the light shining within each of us.  This inner light is our true spiritual Self.  We connect to something more that our human body and thinking mind. Whether we call it God, the Divine, Brahman, Source, Presence or the Universe. There is a part inside of all of us that is connected to an infinite beingness, that words can’t fully describe.

Then something happened. It was like the outer shell cracked and the gloriousness of what was within was revealed. From understanding in my mind, I experienced a overwhelming feeling of love and connection with my fellow human beings, animals and nature.  There is a deep sense of oneness that is profound, no matter what is happening in life. It is hard to put into words, because it feels beyond words.

If I were to try to use words, it was be something like a veil had been lifted to reveal what had always been there. It is something that once felt, can always be accessed.

The aum symbol of yoga symbolizes this seeing beyond the veil and embracing an unchanging reality of oneness with spirit or pure consciousness.

aum symbol with meaning

Finding Your Middle Ground

Finding your middle ground is the gateway to this awakening.  The starting point is when we take time to pause and become self aware. We begin, by simply learning to slow down and noticing what is going on inside: our thoughts, judgments, emotions, body sensations … and al the stories we make up about ourselves and the world around us.

I like to think of it as the phase of personal expansion and growth. Its a place of new perspectives, letting go of the past, and understanding and truly accepting ourselves as imperfect human beings.

We start to explore new aspects of ourselves, our passions and what gives us meaning in life. Taking time to pause and ask ourself the deep questions that we want to know the answers to, allows us to go beyond what we know in our mind and tap init the wisdom in our heart.

From this place of mindful awareness, we can come new insights into who we are beyond our beliefs and conditioning. Beyond our own small separate self.

With more compassionate self awareness, meditation and mindful living, a new way of seeing ourselves and the world unfolds.
We realize that we are not separate, but are connected to something so much bigger, and to each other.
We come to know that we are not the master of the universe, but are simply a part of it all.
There is no right or wrong, because we know that it’s our thoughts that make it so. Everything becomes as it is.
We stop resisting life, and begin to let go into its own flow.
We let go of ego and surrender to being small as we connect to the Source of being. From wanting to be somebody, we embrace being nobody.

Wherever we are on life’s path, we can open ourselves to new insights and awaken to a new way of expanded being.

As human beings perhaps our purpose is to awaken to what we are ready for, and to be open to surrendering to the next unknown.

Thank you for joining me on this journey to freedom.

Namaste

Let Go of Something

woman walking on fence

Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

Let go of something,
somewhere. Use yoga
to become aware, to
touch what lies beneath
the surface of the skin.
Is there tension longing
for release; a knot of
fear so deep and familiar
that you believe its
part of who you are?

Ease into dark corners,
locked rooms, unexplored
hallways. Gain entry
not by force or will
but only by softness.
Enter on the wings of
breath, and turn the
key of self-acceptance
to let go of something
somewhere.

~ Danna Faulds

 

Enter on the winds of breath and turn the key of self acceptance … oh yes.

Namaste

Haiku – beyond thoughts

calm young woman with shadows on face

Photo by Anderson Martins on Pexels.com

~
You are not your thoughts
Discover what’s beyond them
Find Your Middle Ground

~

One of the biggest steps towards awakening is to realize that we are not our thoughts. When we sit quietly we begin to notice that our thoughts come and go. We are not the thoughts themselves, so we can come to witness them, our beliefs and the stories we create about the world, our ourselves.

As long as we believe that what we think and believe is the truth, we will stay in an unawakened state. In yoga this is called Avidya, or ignorance.

This is especially hard right now, with all the conflicting stories, beliefs and versions of the truth that we are being exposed to.

Taking time to pause before reacting to whatever you are reading or watching is key. This is when you can step back and see if this is true or not. It may be contrary to what you believe, and therefore you think it is wrong. Or it may be exactly what you think, and it becomes the truth.

Be discerning rather than judging right or wrong.

This is a time to become a witness to our thoughts and stories, and our own susceptibility and gullibility as human beings.

Namaste

Authenticity and Tension

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

Are you dealing with constant tension in your body? … Have you considered that you might be living out of alignment with who you truly are. Could you be living an inauthentic life?

These are powerful questions that came up as I was revisiting John J. Prendergast’s book: In Touch How to Tune in to the Inner Guidance of Your Body and Trust Yourself. (Highly recommended for seekers, meditators and yogis)

Our body is a powerful teacher about how we live our lives. It stores trauma and joy and everything in between. When we tune into the sensations in our body we can begin to not only release the tension but become more open, authentic and true to ourselves.

“Tension is inevitable when we live a lie and try to appear different from how we actually are. We don’t want to appear vulnerable or needy. We don’t trust that we are fundamentally enough as we are, even with our struggles and shortcomings.

We compensate outwardly by trying to do things that will prove our value to others. We also edit our self image as we describe our life to ourselves and others – the image maintenance project.

Often, this habit becomes so automatic that we are unaware of it. We unknowingly adopt a mask and mistake it for our real face, assuming that our chronically tense and armored body is natural. It is normal, but it isn’t natural.”

Natural is about feeling in balance, nourished and connected to ourselves.

Real Yoga

silhouette of man sitting on grass field at daytime

Photo by Spencer Selover on Pexels.com

For most people, yoga is a type of physical exercise that takes place in a studio or gym. It’s advertised as being good for the body and helps you become more flexible and fit.

I hope readers of this blog now realize that there is so much more to yoga. Modern yoga has dropped much of the older yogic practices, such as working with the breath (Pranayama), locks (Bandhas) and cleansing practices (Kriyas) which were key to yoga as a path to awakening.

Rather than lamenting how things are not like the old days … I will share some timely wisdom from Judith Lasater:

“To practice yoga in its deepest sense is to commit to developing awareness by observing our lives: our thoughts, our words, and our actions. There are many yoga techniques that can support us along the way, such as yoga poses, breathing practices, and meditation. But these are not ends in themselves, but means to the Self.

The real beginning of spiritual practice is evident when we accept responsibility for ourselves, that is, that we acknowledge that ultimately there are no answers outside of ourselves, and no gurus, no teachers, and no philosophies that can solve the problems of our lives. They can only suggest guide, and inspire.

It is our dedication to living with open hearts and our commitment to the day to day details of our lives that will transform us. When we are open to the present moment we shine forth. At these times we are not on a spiritual path: we are the spiritual path.”

~ Judith Lasater, from “Living Your Yoga” Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life

I feel honored to be a guide on this journey to awaken our true Self.

Namaste

Find Your Middle Ground and Yin Workshop

I am so excited to offer this special workshop offering via Zoom! Join me and a group of like minded people yearning for nourishment and peace in these stressful times.

Saturday August 22nd 11.00am-1.00pm EST courtesy of Good Karma Yoga and Barre 

Saturday August 29th 12.30pm-2.30pm EST courtesy of Hummingbird Yoga and Massage 

alone autumn beautiful bloom

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It’s so important for us to take time out and step away from the Yang oriented external world and look inwards for supportive Yin energy. Late Summer is the time of year for bringing nourishment and stability to body, mind and spirit. In traditional Chinese Medicine, the season of Late Summer and the Earth element correlate with nourishing the body, our emotions and our relationships. Mother Earth helps to ground us, she recycles our stuff, she cares unconditionally, and she provides us with the nutrients we need.

Join Val for a special two hour online workshop that brings together compassionate mindfulness, self inquiry and gentle yin yoga.

  • Pause, reflect and journal. Honor where you are and listen inwards for your own intuitive guidance.
  • Explore gentle Yin Yoga postures that open up the Stomach and Spleen energy channels, to bring comfort and wholeness for Late Summer.
  • Release tension, let go and nourish all aspects of your being.

Venue: via Zoom

Cost: $30 Reserve your space ahead of time

Saturday August 22nd 11.00am-1.00pm EST via the website https://goodkarmayoga.us  or MINDBODY at Good Karma Yoga and Barre in Media, PA

Saturday August 29th 12.30pm – 2.30pm EST via the website https://hummingbirdheals.com or the MINDBODY app at Hummingbird Yoga and Massage, Bryn Mawr, PA

Once you have reserved your place, you will receive by email, confirmation and the Zoom link.

Thank you.

 

Pain as Your Teacher

woman reflecting

“Pain is your best friend. It is infinitely more honest with you than pleasure. Despite what you might think, the painful experiences you have had benefit you far more than the pleasurable ones, even though most of us spend our lives trying to duck and hide from them.

But when you can center yourself and be open to look pain dead in the eye, then you have transcended the limits of your ego and this humanity. It is then that you enter into the possibility of becoming a great being.”

~ Swami Chetanananda

When I first read these words I wanted to reject them. How could pain be my best friend?

Yet, looking back on the painful, challenging and disappointing experiences in my life, I understand.

Through dark times we find courage and resourcefulness that we may not have thought we had within us.

We break open and feel into what matters.

We learn about ourselves and grow as human beings.

We are able to see the pain in others and feel more connected to them.

We enter the possibility of becoming great beings.

… and knowing this helps.

Namaste

 

 

 

Inspiration from the Buddhi Bird

Why is it that some of us are suffering right now, while others are doing well, despite immense challenge and adversity?
How we relate to what is happening in our lives comes from our mindset and beliefs, and our experiences in the past.

Let me bring you back to story of the two birds, as a way to see more clearly into your experience.
two birds in a tree
In Mooji’s words:
“Some time ago I saw a picture depicting a parable from the Bhagavad Gita. It showed two birds in a tree, and one of them was building a nest. This one is flying off collecting things, arranging the twigs – its active, doing many things.
Above this bird, on another branch, is a second bird. It looks identical to the first bird, and it’s not building anything. It is just observing. It’s not building a self-image out of its perceiving, and its not deeply interested in any aspect of what it sees. Its perceiving is happening quite spontaneously without effort or judgment. There’s a silence there, that feeling of Being without thought. Just looking.

This is a beautiful portrait of who we are.
These two birds are connected. The first bird represents our dynamic being, the self that is engaged in the world, in future and past, in growing. It is the aspect that is living life with the sense of my family, my children, my work and so on.

The second bird represents that conscious witnessing within us. It is the ability to observe life taking place and activities unfolding, but it is not actually doing anything…

Initially the first bird who is building the nest, may not be aware of the second bird. As soon as it is able to be quiet, it becomes aware of the second bird, which is actually itself at a deeper inner level.

When the first bird’s mind is synchronized with the second bird, the activities become much more gracious. There is a sense of unity, a oneness… The second bird represents the change of perspective from the mode of the person to the state of presence.”

Self isolation and sheltering in place, offers us an opportunity for retreat and to get to know these two different aspects of ourselves.
The first bird engages in the world around it and is also called the I-maker or ego mind. It is the part of ourselves that creates stories about life and how we are experiencing it. It is easily influenced by our feelings, especially fears and desires. For example, when we feel threatened it can create a story about being a victim or create an other version where we become the hero. It can make us feel unworthy or let us believe that we are most worthy, while others are not.
It is the judge, jury and creator of how we believe we SHOULD be living our life.

In times of challenge, this part of ourselves takes center stage. The old ways of being, the habits and the comfort of everyday life as we know it have been taken away.  The I-maker is fearful of being out of control and threatened by the unknown and possible harm.

Have you noticed this part of your being on overdrive these days?…. I certainly have.

The second bird, or other part of ourselves is a conscious witness within us, at a deeper level. Sometimes the I-Maker is called the small self, while the other is referred to as higher Self. The higher Self has a bigger and broader perspective of life. It can see through the stories the small self makes up and sees beyond them. It is without judgment and is always present when we allow our attention to go there. It is called Buddhi and is close to Divine Presence or Source.

I believe that we can touch this deeper part of ourselves when we take time to pause and turn our attention inwards. When we Find our Middle Ground.

Now more that ever, take time to find some quiet space and reflect on this significant time of change. Take time to pause and create a space of Retreat and Reflection. Notice what stories you are telling yourself to try to make sense of what comes up. Notice resistance to the changing reality. Notice how you distract yourself from the discomfort and fear. Let go of judgment and be kind to this part of yourself.

Mindfulness and meditation will open up a bigger part of yourself, and create an anchor in the present moment. If you haven’t practiced meditation or yoga, then this is a wonderful opportunity to come to it. There is much being offered online and with apps such as HeadSpace.

A walk in nature and ten minutes of legs-up-the-wall are my practices these days, when I am not teaching yoga. I find them grounding and approachable. Take the time to explore what works for you.

Namaste

Embrace this Liminal Space, Sing and Let Your Yoga Dance!

liminal space

Today I attended a powerful meeting via Zoom from Michael Meade and the SAND community. SAND represents the cross pollination of ideas from science and spirituality. Michael Meade is a renowned author, and scholar of mythology, anthropology, and psychology. He took us into todays’s crisis and explored the myths and stories from ancient sources that can help us navigate this time of transition and transformation.

Where we are today is Liminal Space.

The word liminal comes from the Latin word ‘limen’, meaning threshold – any point or place of entering or beginning. A liminal space is the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, a time of waiting and not knowing.

Liminal space is where real transformation takes place. When we learn to look into the space beyond, we find new insight and can follow our calling in the next chapter of life.

Author and theologian Richard Rohr describes this space as:

“where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin. Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible…This is the sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed. If we don’t encounter liminal space in our lives, we start idealizing normalcy. The threshold is God’s waiting room. Here we are taught openness and patience as we come to expect an appointment with the divine Doctor.”

A threshold of waiting. Between the step before that was the past and the step forward into the unknown future. It is often seen as a sacred time where we retreat and contemplate the world as we have known it, and our place in it.

It feels just right for these times.

As I was exploring I came across more inspiration:

Sing to the shadows, sing and do not fear

But sing them into love little by little.

Begin the song exactly where you are.

And so I start again here in the middle.

– Malcolm Guite, The Singing Bowl

Yes, sing and transform fear into love. Start in your Middle Ground.

Coincidentally (or not), yesterday I attended a Kripalu Let your Yoga Dance class via Zoom with Jurian Hughes. We paused, then moved, danced, breathed, sang and found our own joyous rhythm in community. It was so uplifting.

Each one of us can find the joy and open our hearts to love. Find your voice, your song, your passion, your joy and a new rhythm for these times.
I truly believe that when we do this we will be better prepared to meet the collapse of the old and embrace the new.

Namaste

 

Breathing to Let Go

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 to sit comfortably and simply notice your breath.

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.

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 with 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 away from your ears 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).

As the energy moves, can you feel the shift? A lightening. As you practice this can you feel the burden releasing?

Namaste

 

You Don’t Have to Be a Yogi to Do This

Today I am sharing a yoga practice with a chair. You don’t have to be a yogi to do this!

Please join me for centering, letting go, and getting a good stretch. You can even do it at your desk.

Let’s find our middle ground together!

 

Chair Yoga with Val from Val Boyko on Vimeo.

May you find peace today and everyday.

More Than Ever – Find Your Middle Ground

nature forest waves trees

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

These are such challenging and fast moving times aren’t they. I have been reluctant to post about COVID-19. There have been too many conversations about the threat of the unknown and constant updates in the media.
Last Thursday I stopped teaching classes in public and I lost the structure of my days. I told myself it’s like a “staycation”. What a great time to reconnect with Don and enjoy our lovely home and garden together.
I found myself getting addicted to the need to know what’s happening. I thought this would make me feel more in control, but the opposite happened. I began to feel adrift.
I felt more and more disconnected and anxious, the more I engaged.
Like a stick in a raging river, with no rudder or direction, I felt out of control and scared.
Then I realized, its okay to feel like this. This is the reality right now. When I accepted this, there was an inner shift. I realized that I needed to find my own middle ground. Not just to talk about it for others, but to make it so. Now more than ever.
Today I am now focused on making it so for myself, so I can support others.
There is a lot of inspiration out there. I will share what I come across, as well as delve into my archives to share posts that feel right for these times.
I have also started recording a yoga class from home on Vimeo. I hope you yogis here enjoy this first attempt. It ends abruptly as I ran out of disc space.
Take care of yourself and loved ones.
Take time to pause and reflect on whatever is coming up for you.
Now, more than ever, take time to find your middle ground.
Namaste