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Doves and Serpents

9 Oct

Visit me on Sundays at the new and hip blog, Doves and Serpents. I’m writing and hosting (and taking submissions!) for the Sunday column: Sanctuary: mind, body, soul.
Preparing for the blog has been exciting, and the contributors are amazing and smart and witty. Jump in over there, and don’t hesitate to send me a submission – among other things, we’re going to be chatting about yoga. A lot. Jump on in!

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I just can’t get enough…

2 May

of my new book: The Gift, poems by Hafiz the great Sufi master, translations by Daniel Ladinsky. Suzanna had this book available at Teacher Training today and I got so absorbed in it that I almost dropped everything in my very busy day to curl up in a corner and read. On the way home tonight, my car drove itself to Barnes and Noble where I was forced beyond my control to shell out $16.00 that I didn’t have to buy my own copy. Now if only I could go to bed instead of mooning over Hafiz.

HAFIZ

It

Is all

Just a love contest

And I never

Lose.

Now you have another good reason

To spend more time

With

Me.

THIS SKY

This

Sky

Where we live

Is no place to lose your wings

So love, love,

Love.

BERSERK

Once

In a while

God cuts loose His purse strings,

Gives a big wink to my orchestra,

Hafiz

Does not require

Any more prompting than that

To let

Every instrument inside

Go

Berserk

My favorite:

IT WILL STRETCH OUT ITS LEG

All the classes you have sat in,

All the money you have paid

For “truth”,

Something must be wrong, though,

If your eye still wanders through the streets

Acting like a beggar.

Why not try this:

Let all the fake teachers starve.

Picture one of the great masters

In your mind,

Put your lips against his cheek

Each morning.

Say, keep saying,

“Dear Beloved, pinch me.

I want proof You’re near —

A love-bruise on my rump will do.”

The Friend is an unfathomable well

That knows everything;

Draw from that safe luminous sky.

Stay near this book,

It will stretch out its leg and

Trip you;

You’ll fall

Into

God.

Need a new inspiration?

13 Nov

Now who can we get to teach us third series at Cosmic Dog?

Gorgeous

6 Oct

Thank you Karma Club members and teachers for spending Saturday with me and producing such beauty. You really are amazing models. My job really is too much fun…

Dina and Danielle fountain winnerDina flips the dog

Katie blossom crop fadeKatie faded turtleKelli and Jason profile fadeAh! Marcella slays the peacockJason Vasi fadeKelli Marcella Vasi BW CropLaurie Arm Balance FadeSmall Group Child's Pose FadeKelli MasterpieceKelli Peeks under arm Fadekelli portrait 2karen's paschi tight bw

Marcella backbend FadeLesley Eagle FadeMollie flies fadeRick Canon hand to toe BWRick paschi bwSmall Group Child's Pose Fadecircle of love fadeclass triangle close up fadeDonna and Gator Fadegirls train 3 leg up fadegroup forward fold fadeherringbone fade

From Adyashanti

13 Jul

Adyashanti wrote:Life itself is nothing but relationship. In the ultimate view of things, it’s the relationship of the One with the One, of Spirit with Spirit. Then there is the appearance of this relationship — the dance of relationship, the dance of life. And in this dance, it is absolutely essential that we not hide from anything.

If you do try to hide from something — if you are in a relationship that is dysfunctional or a job that is tremendously unsatisfying, and you choose not to deal with it — the consequence of that denial is that you will not truly be liberated. You won’t ever be capable of being fully free, because any area where we choose to remain unconscious will ultimately have an impact upon us, as well as upon others.

The call to come out of denial is not something that is imposed upon life. It may sound that way; it may sound like I’m saying, “Here’s what you need to do, here’s what you’re supposed to do, and if you do it, you’ll be a better person and have a better life.” It may sound that way, but it’s not at all the perspective from which I’m speaking. I’m simply saying that awakened consciousness moves in particular ways. It does not deny anything. It does not hide; it is not avoiding any part of life. That which we are, that which is fully awake, is also utimately fully engaged and fearless. It moves the way it moves, out of unconditional love and truthfulness. It is only the fear in the mind — the fear that constructs the illusion of ego — that causes one to recoil from this phase of the spiritual life.

I want to emphasize this. If you avoid those aspects of your life that are not in harmony, those aspeccts of your life where you may still be in denial, that kind of avoidance is going to hinder your spiritual awakening. In the early stages, it may not have much of an effect. But later, as we get into the more mature opening of realization, there is no more room for denial. This is something that a lot of people don’t count on. A lot of us think that somehow enlightenment is going to allow us to avoid dealing with those things in ourselves that we find uncomfortable.

Awakening can be the ground from which we meet every person and situation. It can be the ground from which we relate to all the circumstances of life. But this takes a lot of courage and a lot of fearlessness. It also takes something I continue to emphasize: a very simple sincerity. This kind of sincerity arises from that which loves the truth and sees that the truth is the greatest good.

To be anything less than real, to be in avoidance of anything at all, diminishes our experience of who we are. As I often say to my students, to be less than truthful with the people and situations in your life is to withhold the expression of who you are. In the end, we must come to see that truth itself is the highest good, that truth itself is the greatest expression and manifestation of love. Ultimately, love and truth are identical; they are like two sides of a coin. You can’t have truth without love, and you can’t have love without truth.

Pacific Ashtanga

1 Jul

Yesterday, I thought I would jaunt down the street to Pacific Ashtanga. What could be better than yoga directly across from the bay at Dana Point? Plus, there’s something completely decadent about having a yoga studio within walking distance. Not that I walked.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t in the mood for the predictable Primary Series, so I chose a class called “flow”. Sounded nice and, well, “flowy”. You know – the sort of class one might want to take while on a beach vacation after just completing over 100 chatarunga pushups with Geo the Pokemon Yoga Master the day before. Yea, Flow sounded great.

Well, I”m glad t say I don’t know what the hell I really want after all.  Had I known what I was in for, I never would have gone to class, even though it was exactly what felt delicious, adventurous and was exactly what I needed after all. I went to class and to my surprise, at Pacific Ashtanga, “Flow Class” really is code for: Ashtanga’s Primary, Second and Third series on crack. Mmm Hmm… it was that addictively good.

Class was taught by Diana, the owner and there were only 5 students. We proceeded with the regular deliciousness of the Primary warm up: 5 Surya A, 5 Surya B. I was on auto pilot when I heard: the sequence go: Utkatasana, bakasana, Mukta Hasta Sirsasana (tripod headstand), directly to chatarunga, urdvha mukha, adho mukha, a bunch of warrior variations, vinyasa, then jump from down-dog to bakasana, back to tripod headstand, back to baka, and through the rest of the vinyasa… crazy! We did that 5 times and Diana proceeded to add fun variations, headstands, and such craziness as peacock in lotus (which I got!!!!), and Crow pose in Lotus (which I almost got). We did delicious backbends, drop backs, mukta hasta sirsanasa to eka pada bakasana, and all sorts of variations. We sang the Patanjali invocation and the Ashtanga closing chant.Diana’s practice is insanely advanced and she is a really great teacher.

I reveled in the Indian lineage that permeated the studio. After coming from Yoga Works the day before and enjoying class immensely, wandering into Pacific Astanga was like adding the frosting to a cupcake. The studio is presented with so much devoted attention: the altar with photos of Guruji, the beautiful statues, the candles and lanterns, the chanting, and the sheer dedication of the instructor to her own personal practice, was a cut above anything I could ask for. If you’re ever in the OC… do yourself a favor and check out Pacific Ashtanga. They also offer Ashtanga Prep classes if you’re not craving a little Ashtanga on crack like I am…

Today, reveling in my Ashtanga drug of choice from yesterday, I’m reminded of the words of Lao Tzu: “There are many paths to enlightenment. Be sure to take one with a heart.”

Climbing

22 Jun

Years ago, I read an article in the local paper about a woman who had run a marathon. She was a senior and if I remember correctly, she was in her 80’s. The race officiators extended the time limit of the race because she was determined to finish. The interview she gave the paper included a quote from her that I think of almost daily. She said, “Nothing could be easier than putting one foot in front of the other.”

I almost canceled the nature retreat I was leading yesterday. Only a few people had signd up, and I knew that preparing for it was going to be time consuming – and time is the one resource I just don’t have right now. I had already spent 3 hiking days looking for a good open, safe spot for the yoga portion of the retreat and couldn’t find anything that wasn’t crowded, full of poison oak, or hot and sunny. A little voice inside of me though, told me to hold it anyway. Then, my doctor told me to as well.

You know you’re not making things up when you explain where you’re at to your GP and she nods along and looks like she wants to give you a hug. My doctor was a great listener and I was reassured that she wasn’t just a meds only kind of doctor. We talked about where I was with my depression, and she said that the therapy, the yoga, the meditation, the stress-management was going along just as she would suggest. So here I am once more,  back on meds for a while.

Why is it so hard to talk about? So hard admit? I know where I’m at – I’ve been here before and I want to nip this in the bud before I digress too far. I’m not embarrassed to ask for help, or admit that I need it. Still, it would be dishonest not to admit that there’s a little part of me that feels like, “is there anything I can master? I’ve done this before, why am I back here? Why isn’t all of the management working?” There is definitely a part of me that is disappointed in myself for not being more of an optimist. And somewhere lurking down deep is the thought that I am supposed to be the teacher. Even though my conscious mind knows I am the eternal student, the tangible ego-ic world is quick to remind me that I should be the master. After all, I’ve helped many people through this before. I’ve managed my state of mind without medication for several years now.

I know how ridiculous that sounds. I know that I am one of the most positive people on the planet  most of the time. The big truth for me though, is that everything really is impermanent, and for me it’s humbling to note that nothing is more impermanent than my own state of mind.

I’m dealing with the internal and I’ve become pretty good at that. Dealing with the external was something I’ve learned to manage through boundaries and saying NO to doing too much. So here I am realizing that if I want to keep my life as dream-filled as it is, I have to do more than is ideal for me personally. That means that there is a lot more stimulus going on both externally and internally, more than I can keep up with.  Being mindful and accepting is really helping.

I say it to my students so much it’s become a joke. “Suffering is optional”. So this time around, as I notice that it’s really hard to make it through a day without yelling at someone, composing myself and apologizing, or I’m just not sleeping because I’m anxiously running over all of the things that need to be done, or I’ve just lost that desire to do anything – I know it’s time for help. I’m not going to suffer this time until my family is suffering with me. So, I’m trying a new medication called Pristiq. (I’m very skeptical of the name… terrible name!) As with most depression meds, there is an adjustment period. So for the next couple of weeks I’m dealing with a bit of nausea, being tired, and shaky hand syndrone. Kind of like being pregnant again. But, it’s all good – I feel like I’m climbing out of the hole again except this time it’s not scarry or overwhelming. It’s just is what it is.

Yesterday, the retreat was amazing, simply amazing. The six of us rolled out our mats on a wide stretch of cleared and packed trail. We were next to a creek-bed and huge trees wove overhead providing shade. I spoke as little as possible so that rather than worrying on form, we could move organically into our own natural expression of being. The birds chirped, the breeze sung through the branches of the trees, our drishti was a leaf, the spiders crawled around our mats and our feet rooted right down into the earth. Sirsasana (headstand) and Urdhva Dhanurasana (backbend) gave me a liberating new view of my world upside down with blue skies peaking though the branches of the big oaks. Those sirsana feet were reminded to reach up into the clouds just like the trees. It was downright magical.

Nobody cared that we had to shift plans slightly or that we started out a bit late. We all shared food and climbed through the beautiful foothills and canyons of Mt. Diablo, really enjoying a real connection with each other. I enjoyed listening to my friends and getting to know them better.  For a whole morning, I forgot how tired I was, and how I couldn’t keep myself from shaking during yoga and how I almost wanted to throw up, or about what I needed to do next or where I needed to be on time.  I felt so grateful to live in such a gorgeous world. We climbed up the last steep hill and it was so effortless for me.

Climbing out of this hole of anxiety and depression feels good.  There’s no fear or despair this time, just acceptance of where I’m at. Nothing is easier than just putting one foot ahead of the other.