This morning I was doing mantras on my beloved mala beads off the Exuma Islands in the Bahamas on our good friend’s catamaran.
It suddenly started to drizzle, then rain – quite abruptly and hard. My husband who was doing his own yoga on the other hull and I ran to the back of the boat where we were greeted with a beautiful rainbow.
Wow… It stopped me in my tracks. How beautiful. And how beautiful to see a full rainbow on the horizon. We are so lucky.
I couldn’t help but think of the state of Ukraine and her beautiful human citizens who are not so lucky. These past few days I have instinctively wanted to use personal mantra to will something positive or hopeful to the outcome of this unnecessary war. But I also remembered that mantra is personal and will not work for anyone outside yourself. I briefly wondered just then as I have for the past several mornings why then do we use group mantra to raise consciousness or send faith outward?
The answer was in front of me.
The rainbow. I marveled at the colors. The anagram of ROY G BIV that I learned around the kindergarten years. The order holds true no matter where you are.
About 10 years ago while listening to U2’s song Ultraviolet, I contemplated and then researched the meaning of colors and the length of their spectrums. As I started to get back into art a few years later, I considered the meaning of colors even more. The way they blend, and how a color wheel can seem continuous from red to purple, it’s really not. Purple to red is the only place on the wheel that isn’t quite part of nature. What happens between those two? Is there a real place between them?
White light contains it all. The earth bends the suns rays and we get the rainbow to the visible eye. But what is beyond that? We know about infrared and ultraviolet, but what is there that we can’t see or detect with the combination of instruments and our 5 senses?
Universally red is considered basic and instinctive while purple is considered spiritual and highly conscious. Red is larger and takes up more space on the rainbow. Purple is smaller and is only accessed by passing all of the rainbow’s outer colors.
What lies past purple going inward?
What can’t we see?
I stared at this gem that appears when the elements of fire (sun) and water mix into the element of air seemingly right into the element of earth’s horizon.
The purple color starts to go within.
Going within is the key. It’s the path to something deeper, meaningful and what isn’t just a mirage or hologram, but what is real and we can’t see or detect with our eyes.
We can all go within and quiet the mind of excuses, fears, worries, selfish desires, etc to find the right answer to anything. The answer that is ultimately right for the world, not just the human who is asking.
Those fears, excuses, desire, etc are the other “colors” you need to pass through in order to find the peace within.
The place within where field or maybe plane of existence of the personal self does not matter. What matters is what is real and what is for the greater good.
So perhaps the question I wondered about mantras for personal matters vs mantras for others was right there in the rainbow. It is the bridge between personal self and greater good. I can do mantra to seek my own higher consciousness, which is ultimately for the greater good. Or I can chant with others in community for the greater good.
It all works if the intention is to leave all the material and selfish behind and pray for peace and harmony for all.
Regardless of species, race, skin or hair color, or beliefs anyone was taught.
If you truly truly go within, you too will know that none of anything material or visible matters if what you wish for others is what you want for yourself.
We are a product of nature. The things we do, the thoughts we have, and the habits we gain or lose mimic the physical world around us.
I would liken trying to do something or working toward a goal to climbing a mountain. At first it is very difficult. The road is all uphill. Once you reach the top you can pause and take inventory of what is around you. The road down is easy and faster.
I have really, really, really slacked on the past few weeks of keeping up with the 7 weeks of lent. I posted the last blog for the 4thweek and the heart chakra 11 days ago already. Palm Sunday is only 4 days away.
I have been blogging about the journey toward shedding old habits for lent and relating the journey to opening the 7 chakras during this 7-week period; while on my own sobriety journey.
While the chakras themselves are aligned from dense to light, so is the work. The motivation varies. My writing has reflected the motivation. I can explain further.
At first when making the firm decision to give something up like many Christians do for lent, there is a lot of motivation to do this. The will is there and it is something we think about constantly. As we start up a long mountain road one step at a time, it seems like a really huge task that will require a lot of work to get to the other side. Each step feels momentous.
As we continue up the mountain and toward the habit we can see the progress, but the road ahead is still long.
As the weeks go on, the actually shedding of the habit could be as difficult as the start of the journey up the mountain. At some point we reach the top and are able to look around and see the beauty of our work. But it is not over – we still need to go back down. Going back is so much faster and easier.
I took most of this time to get to the summit.
Last weekend my husband came over to where I am staying. I hadn’t seen him in nearly 6 weeks. We talked and caught up on all that we have missed. We enjoyed one another’s company. We went out for dinner and had tapas. We had breakfast the next morning and we spent much of Sunday talking and walking the dog. We decided to put our rings back on and see where the next few months takes us. We will continue to live apart and came up with a living arrangement that works for the both of us. I’m excited about this journey with him. As excited as I have been about my own individual recovery.
From that point the last few days have seemed easier. Akin to coming down the mountain. I’ve slept better than I have in over a month. I’m more focused. I’m more determined than ever to stay on this new path. I’m on the other side of the mountain now. It is a new place I have not seen before. I do not know what it will bring or what other mountains I need to climb, but I’m excited and I really don’t want to know. Discovery is part of the fun.
To wrap up this chakra series I will write about the last 3 in one blog.
The 5th Chakra is Vishuddhi. It is also known as the throat chakra. It is blue and located in the region of the throat.
The 6th Chakra is Ajna. It is known as the Third Eye. It is Indigo or in some places it is shown as violet. This chakra is located right between the eyebrows. One of my teachers often quotes that we have two eyes to look out, and one to look in.
The 7th Chakra is Sahasrara or the Crown chakra. Depending on what material you read this chakra is violet, white or crystal – meaning it contains all the colors of the spectrum. It is located at the top of the head.
The three below symbols are in order from 5, 6, and 7. I painted these in January of this year.
In this area we use our voice. We speak up and communicate what we believe in. Similar to the Root Chakra, the triangle points upwards. In this location it symbolizes “the gathering of knowledge toward enlightenment”. The Vishuddhi chakra has 16 petals. There are also 16 vowels in Sanskrit. The number of petals symbolize the light, breathy sounds of vowels and liken this to the quality of air.
The element associated with Vishuddhi is air. We communicate through air either through voice, audibly with vibrational or radio waves, written language that see with our eyes through the medium of air, or even telepathy.
The throat chakra is associated with truth, self-expression and communication. Communication not only with others, but within toward our own self and our higher power. When in balance it is easier to communicate with others and to be honest with ourselves. When this chakra is not in balance, we may experience a communication breakdown. We may not be able to allow ourselves to be effectively heard or able to really listen to others or our own higher self. All that passes through this area can either help or hinder the opening of this area be it love and truth or lying, gossip, smoking, drugs and overeating.
The element associated with the Ajna chakra is ether. Or space. Or Light. It is something lighter than air that connects us all with one another and the unseen. It is an element that remains more of a mystery because we know it is there but it’s not as tangible as the others. This element and the third eye are the gateway between the known and unknown.
The qualities of this chakra are intuition, inspiration and inner vision. When in balance we are able to trust our intuition and tap into our creative imagination. When out of balance it may be difficult to channel our energy toward goals.
The Sahasrara Chakra is the divine connection to all that is. The circle holds the risen energy and there are innumerable petals of the lotus.
There is no element associated with this chakra. It is pure consciousness.
The qualities of the Crown Chakra are divinity and limitless wisdom. It helps us to recognize our true nature and our connection to all that is. When in balance we are able to connect with the world around us and partake in the serene understanding that we are all one. When out of balance it is difficult to see through the chatter of the mind and we may be consumed with the accumulation of stuff and other distracting activities that cut us off from our true nature and connection to everything else.
Similar to Maslow’s triangle, the top is smaller and easier to transverse. The qualities associated with the upper chakras are where we begin to understand ourselves and how we fit into the universe and can use our gifts to aid in it. At the top part of the Hierarchy of Needs we find, morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, and acceptance of the facts.
It is if all the chakras are clear and the connection from the base of our humanity is directly in contact with the celestial world where we accept things as they are and use our tools and gifts to navigate the cosmic waves.
I love this quote. We cannot control the sea, but we can control what we do in it. Once we accept the world as it is and people as they are, we can learn to use our own tools to not be afraid and navigate with ease.
I have been writing about the koshas for the past several weeks. The 5th and inner most kosha is the Anandamaya kosha. It is known as the “bliss body” or the “bliss sheath”. It is where we connect to our higher self that is always here within us in a central, calm, harmonious state. This serene, still place cannot be affected by outer circumstances.
All three of the higher chakras (throat, third eye and crown) are associated with the Anandamaya kosha.
Only the Throat chakra and the Third eye have seed mantras.
The Crown chakra’s sound is silence.
The seed mantra for the Vishuddhi chakra is HAM.
The seed mantra for the Ajna chakra is AUM or more commonly said as OM.
Chanting HAM when creating a new habit would assist with the desire the hear your inner voice more clearly to make better decisions. Chanting AUM would assist with connecting to your intuition to do what is right.
Of the three higher chakras, only the Throat chakra has a prana vayu associated with it. Udana is known to govern speech, growth, and upward movement. It helps to promote mental clarity. The triangle pointing upward in my artistic version above symbolically pulls the energy up from the lower body to the higher parts of the self.
As we reach the summit of molding new habits or breaking old ones, it becomes easier. We tell ourselves more truths, it is more difficult to make excuses and easier to listen to our intuition and higher selves when an old craving starts to creep around. That upward moving energy of the three higher chakras makes the end easier than the beginning where every step was an effort. Similar to how it would be coming down from a mountain.
Today is day 42 in my sobriety. Lent is almost over and all of those who have chosen this sanctified time to give up a habit have almost hit their sacred 40 day mark. In my first blog I wrote about the sanctity of the number 40 and why it is a marker in many religions and texts.
Living without an old habit should be easier by now and hopefully a new lifelong practice is in place. If you have gone over your own big mountain as I have, you are in a new place too. I’m thrilled to be here. It’s a place I have not gone before. There is a new path to navigate, new unknown places to check out, and undoubtedly new mountains to climb. With the knowledge and lessons learned from finishing this recent climb, we now have some firsthand tools to make the next one a bit easier.
Hopefully you learned a thing or two about your energetic system and the chakras along the way and can keep them open and flowing for your upcoming life’s adventures.
Some poses to keep these last 3 chakras open are:
Throat chakra: Neck stretches, Shoulder stand, Bridge, Fish
Third Eye chakra: Forehead to ground – as in Child’s pose
Crown chakra: Inversions, particularly head stand
My last 3 short videos cover a few more basics and are not particularly aligned with the suggested poses above.
I cover Downward facing dog in Week 5, the Half-lift in Week 6, and finally Tree in Week 7. Tree to balance it all out – because hey… who doesn’t need some more balance in their lives?
So grab a mat and let’s do a little tune up on these basics.
This is another week I have been very hesitant to write. An even more emotional week as I journey through sobriety. The emotions I am facing are difficult, but when I truly accept in my heart what others are telling me out of love, it is uplifting and feels like years of emotions are spread.
I hit one month of sobriety this week and was given a one-month coin electronically.
Week 4 of lent. Perhaps many days into giving up an old habit that no longer serves you. It may be a time when the new habit or letting go of the old one is really taking shape and we start to feel the rewards. We may question why we were doing what we were doing in the first place. We may feel like beating ourselves up for doing something stupid, waiting so long or not even seeing the harm it was causing.
The fourth chakra is the Annahata chakra or the Heart chakra. It is green. Unsurprisingly this chakra is located at the heart.
Below is my painting of the Anahata chakra.
The heart chakra is right in between the 3 upper and 3 lower chakras. The two triangles that are upside down from one another symbolize this connection. According to Learn The Meaning Behind Each Chakra, Anahata “Fuels your compassion towards yourself and others…. The six-point star in combination with the 12 petals in this symbol represents your 72,000 energy channels, or nadis (6,000 x 12 = 72,000). This is also representative of how Anahata is the central chakra that connects the whole system”.
In a way I feel as if this week I have been able to start to move away from the focus of myself to how I have related to others. This is not a new expedition, but it is one that I am looking through a new lens. A lens that does not involve alcohol. A lens that doesn’t get blurred when I don’t like what I see and drown it away. Without a mind-numbing substance, it’s far more difficult to not feel all of life’s emotions, the good/bad/ugly. My heart is there and feeling as it never has before and the sludge of inebriation doesn’t cover all that the heart is trying to tell me.
Someone who asked me to not mention them in their blogs had a very difficult and honest conversation with me last weekend. This person never told me the things they had before about ways in which I had hurt them. The things they said sounded familiar – as other family members have told me the same thing before; but due to circumstances I would rather not get detailed about; I was unable to take them seriously.
I apologized profusely. I heard & acknowledged their pain. But I was shocked and very upset that this person never told me this before and was now quite angry with me. I was immobilized for hours and cried non-stop. My heart actually hurt and was undulating waves of pain. As it started to get dark out several hours later, I felt like I had to get out of the place I was staying. I went for a drive and cried some more. I had a strong desire to write, but I had nothing but my phone with me. I went into Walgreens and bought a notebook. I sat outside and started to write, and write and write. Pen to paper, like I haven’t done in years. I wrote about how hurt I felt. About why this person and seemingly everyone else around me are deciding now to tell me what they don’t like about me as I’m working my way through these early days of sobriety. I was feeling sorry for myself.
At some point I somehow made my way into just writing things I did not want to admit that I don’t like about myself (my shadow side). I was digging deep to keep finding more things after I exhausted what was at the surface. As I took them from my mind onto paper, I was surprised and also relieved to see these in a tangible manner. My first instinct was to destroy this paper afterward, but I kept looking at what I wrote.
Slowly I was able to look at these “things” and make a connection about what people have told me they worried about. It propelled me to begin writing all the things I have remembered they said that I didn’t believe or acknowledge before. Sitting out in the cold, I realized with both surprise and relief that I do these things. I do them, they are not ok and I have justified them.
As long as I could remember I did not even understand that certain things were not ok. There was a point in my not so distant past where I did realize they were not ok by other’s standards and did what was needed for everyone else’s sake; but in my heart I still felt they w ere ok. That evening my heart too understood what was not ok. I was overwhelmed with grief at this realization. I wanted to run and apologize, but it is going to take a long time down the sobriety path for those who were close to me to grasp that I really am finished with alcohol.
What may have happened to me last weekend as I wrote and felt sorry for myself and then compassion for others was where the heart chakra joined my higher and lower self.
I’m visiting with my aunt in Florida at the moment I am writing this. A few nights ago over dinner she told me something about how she understood my husband. When I woke up in the middle of the night (as I always do these days), in the twilight of my consciousness I thought about her words; and again – like a veil being quickly lifted from my eyes this time; I was able to see something else that so many people have told me. People who love me dearly and others who are quite neutral. I started a separate blog about this. I did not cry but I was overcome with emotion. I actually stopped and decided to lay there in the dark and just allow my heart to feel and process the emotions. I remembered to do some of the grounding techniques that I have learned over the years while I just let myself feel and process. It was exhausting to be honest. I fell back to sleep (which is unusual) and woke up feeling like I understood something new.
The heart is the only part of our body that makes its own electricity. That electricity gives us life and connects us to the energy in the world that we interact with. We don’t know precisely where energy comes from. It is as if the heart connects the physical world to the spiritual. In the same way it connects the 3 lower chakras (basic survival & human connection needs), with the 3 upper chakras that provide a deeper understanding of the cosmos and our role within them.
What truly connects us to everything else is love and acceptance. There is a reason why we equate love with the heart. When we open our hearts, we feel the universal love that is all around us. As we allow it to penetrate our own being, we become more accepting of the world around us just as it is.
Of the 5 elements (earth, water, fire, air and ether), the Anahata chakra is associated with the mobile, light, cool, dry element of air. Air is what we breath in. It is how that life force of prana I wrote about in week 2 moves about. The heart and the breath are what sustain life. When those ultimately stop, so does the life energy. The body is still physically there, but the conscious life that propelled it to move, think and act in the physical world is no longer.
The quality of this chakra is love. To accept and love all that we encounter as it is; to accede that life is oneness. It is nearly impossible to love and accept if we are not comfortable and love ourselves first and foremost. If we can’t forgive ourselves and understand our own human nature, we cannot give that gift to others. Our hearts are ultimately blocked from living life in an open and fulfilling way. When we open the heart chakra and experience self-love, we can then be open to the unconditional love of all else.
I think on Maslow’s triangle this chakra falls between last week’s layer of friendship, intimacy, sense of connection and the next layer of the triangle where respect, self-esteem, strength, and inner freedom reside.
Self-esteem. I always thought I had self-esteem. I now question if I do, because I am not sure if I love myself. While I lived about in the world as I have most of my life and no one challenged my behaviors, I felt good with myself. Now that I have been challenged, I have to take a step back and question why I couldn’t see what I see now. Why was I confident?
This is a tricky part. I know I should still love myself. I did not intend harm, in fact almost every intention I have had in life was out of love unless I felt under threat and reacted as if my life were at stake (oh the lovely tribulations of PTSD). But it’s difficult to take a step back and acknowledge that I hurt people that I love and/or think very highly of. It’s challenging to accept that I did harm (unintentionally of course). I love the saying, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions”. Having an intension and carrying out love are not the same. I do ultimately love myself, but it’s a little shrouded with surprise and wonder about how blocked I was. My self-esteem has dwindled.
I can’t help but think of the line in the Lords Prayer – “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. If we can’t forgive ourselves, if we can’t forgive others, we cannot receive it back; because it means we truly do not understand it and the power of freedom that it possesses. Love and forgiveness are in a way very similar.
There is no way I can move about the world with love and acceptance of others, until I love and accept everything about myself. Just as it is. I will get there. I just need a little time to process how I have lived my life until this point. Just on the other side of acknowledging the discomfort of this, is love and freedom.
It’s important to move past this when shredding old habits or building new ones. There is a reason we usually want to give up something we don’t like. Although it does, it shouldn’t come to a surprise when we do let something go or create something better that we can learn how the previous behaviors were causing damages that we were unaware of. All the previous self-esteem or self-love in the world could knock someone down with a harsh realization of the harm one has done. Either to themselves, the environment or others. Accept it, process it, and move on (easier said than done…).
When the Heart or Anahata chakra is in balanced and open we feel the universal connection to love. Our heart feels both full and content. We express our outer selves with our inner values. There is nothing blocking that direct connection. Not substances, habitual actions or habits, addictions, excuses, blindness to how actions hurt… Just a direct flow of what we intend from inside to the outside.
When this chakra is out of balance we feel withdrawn, lonely, possessive, jealous… It is difficult to understand ourselves & others. Without that that balance we cannot forgive. We hold grudges. We try to keep the heart safe, but we are really hurting it by limiting its potential to love and to be free.
I have been writing about the koshas and how they are like 5 sheaths that are layered in between our own individual light or soul and the outside world. The 4th sheath is called Vijnanamaya. It is known as the wisdom sheath. The Yoga Sanctuary writes “Vijnanamaya encompasses intuition and intellect. It can be thought of as the witness mind, or that aspect of our consciousness that is not entangled in what we are doing or thinking, but rather, acutely aware of what we are doing and thinking. Vijnanamaya kosha is awareness, simply put.”
Our heart knows better. It is the other layers of the koshas and the strong human/animalistic pull toward base emotions and survival (lower chakras) that prevent us from clearly hearing what our inner goodness is communicating to our mind.
The seed mantra for the Anahata chakra is YAM. One way to harness the power of this sound would be to chant it with the intention to be aware without judgement or emotion of how we and others are interacting with the world. I justified all kinds of reasons about why I was drinking. I was not looking from a neutral role at my situation. Only when I accept that the reasons I used to justify drinking were because I did not want to stop yet, will I have the power to stop. I believed my own reasons and was entangled in what I was doing and thinking. YAM helps to clear that entanglement and just see things as they are.
As I have written in the earlier weeks, the Prana Vayus are the 5 ways in which energy or life force moves throughout the body. The prana vayu associated with the root chakra is called Prana. The Prana Vayu is centered in the chest around the heart and is known as “forwarding moving air”, it is directed inward and upward. This vayu directs the other four. It makes a good case for how life should flow from the heart region. And how life (prana) is connected within and around the heart space.
As we are in the thick of lent and hopefully conquering whatever we gave up , use of the Prana Vayu can help to propel us up and forward to a new and better future. One that we are in charge of and are directing.
Yoga poses that aid in opening the heart center are ones in which the heart is open such as sphinx, cobra, locust, bow, camel, fish, puppy pose, upward facing dog, cow, reverse table, flip dog, dancer, low & high lunges with an arched back, wheel, bridge, and warrior 1 to name a few. Cow is one of the easier ones to do because there is a lot of support while you are on all fours. It is important to ensure you come into your cow and push the heart out and open from a solid table foundation.
This week’s back to the basics pose is Table Top pose. Table is mostly a transitional pose but there are many poses that are built directly from it such as cat, cow, sunbird, rainbow, gate, and childs. Before moving into any of those it’s important to have the start from table down pat. So… grab a mat & let’s practice some table.
Last Friday was my birthday. Before the invention of Facebook and smart phone, my family would always call. I would get a few cards in the mail from family, in-laws and old friends. It felt very special.
For the past 12 years-ish, it is an avalanche of birthday greetings on social media, text and messenger apps. The calls and cards are nearly gone. Times have shifted. It is very nice, but it does not feel as authentic. Quantity does not trump quality.
Every handful of people takes some extra time to write a few lines about how happy they are for me, or how they see my pictures and it looks like I’m doing so well. It is kind of them to put in the effort to reach out and say something specific to me. However, I realized last week that they are only seeing the façade that social media unwittingly enforces.
We’ve all fallen prey to believing what we see, forgetting that as humans we aren’t capturing painful moments with our cameras; or putting out the dirty laundry for the world to see. Social media platforms are full of the good times, the beautiful moments, platitudes of gratitude, showcasing political affiliations, hating on articles or something that happened to you, asking for prayers for a situation, etc.
But how many people are being truly real? How many people do you see wear their heart on their sleeves or share with the world how they are suffering with personal issues? Or tell the world their worries about their loved ones (outside of disease or death)?
I find it ironic when I talk to people off of social media that I do not know too well; they will comment that I wouldn’t understand something they are telling me because I don’t have issues with my family, that my kids went to college, or that I have a healthy life. I question why they think this, but it’s obvious that they see my feed where it’s tulips and daisies.
I’ve used my blog in the past to communicate more heart wrenching stories. Honest truths about things I suffer with and unpleasant things that have happened. Most who read it thank me for being open because it helps them to realize we are all alike and suffer similarly. Some others question how I can possibly put it all out there? I’ve even been accused of being too negative on my blogs.
Yikes. You can’t win.
I don’t post or blog for anyone’s benefit. I don’t post to make people feel good or bad. I post and write from my heart about what I’m experiencing in that moment. Life’s moments are not all good. It’s just as normal to feel negative emotions as it is to feel positive ones. So why pretend we are always happy and that everything is great?
I’m day 18 into sobriety.
On February 8th I had an alcohol induced mental breakdown and went a bit crackers. It has resulted situation I never thought I would be in. It damaged relationships and my self-esteem.
I’m getting the level of help I never wanted to ask for because I saw such things only for other people. I believed that only a failed, broken person needs intensive level of services. Where did those beliefs come from?
They came from my environment. From stigmas. From the false belief that something is wrong if you aren’t happy because look around at everyone else – they are blissfully happy. Even though I share the ways in which I’m not happy, most people still see the tulips and daisies.
Human connection is at an all time low. We have so many platforms and mechanisms to communicate, but they strip away authentic relations. It’s easier than ever to show the world only what you want the world to see. When everyone does that, everyone else thinks they are the only ones who suffer and feel more alone and ashamed than ever.
We end up trying to live up to unrealistic expectations of what it means to live out a human experience.
I don’t want to do that.
I have quit drinking for good. I have PTSD and it affects the way I perceive situations. When I drink and my brain slows down all bodily reactions, it also slows down my rational mind to pick up the signals that what is happening around me is not what my body’s fight or flight auto response thinks it is.
I need help. Help to stop drinking and help to process old trauma that comes up because it would like to leave and finds opportunities when I’m not paying attention (drinking) to burst out.
I’m getting help. I’m not perfect. Not getting help sooner has done a lot of damage. Some damage cannot be undone.
It takes a village for each individual to be the best version of themselves. If a village has no real connection and facades of perfection, the result is that the people in the village are going to feel damaged, alone, anxious and depressed.
Being real is what makes life and relationships real. Without pain there is no opportunity for growth or change. Pain is part of life too. It’s real and no one amongst us doesn’t feel it.
I am asking anyone reading this who sees me in real life to honor the fact that I am no longer drinking. I’m asking anyone reading to be real with me about your life or anything I’ve done and how it has affected you positively or negatively.
I’m real. I’m imperfect, angry, sad, hurt and suffering from my past and an unhealthy way of dealing with it (alcohol). I’ve hurt others because of this and trying to make it not true about myself. But I’m also really loving, funny, kind, creative, brainy and friendly.
When I meet anyone and they first learn I either do or teach yoga, for some reason they feel compelled to tell me about their own experience with it. They tried it in the past and it was awful, they love it now, they have a friend or relative who likes it or teaches it… and/or more famously something along the lines of “I’m not flexible” “I had some sort of injury/surgery/etc” “It’s not for me”. One of my favorite funny lines is from the owner of the studio where I used to teach who said something to the effect of Saying you are not flexible enough to do yoga is like saying you are too dirty to take a shower.
If you’ve never done yoga or are a newbie to it, how can you already know it’s not for you? It’s kind of an everybody thing. AND it’s probably not what you think it is.
You don’t have to be flexible or even “in shape” at all. I wouldn’t sign up for anything called “Power Yoga” or the hot yoga classes if you’ve never done it. If you read the description of the class and it says all levels are welcome, they mean it. If it says experience needed (which most don’t) those would be the ones to initially stay away from.
So what happens there?
You bend yourself into a pretzel of course… OH I CAN’T EXPRESS HOW MUCH I’M KIDDING. But I do feel like that is what people think when I tell them I do yoga.
You stretch and move. Often slowly and mindfully. You breath in a way that you control the breath and can notice and appreciate it. Nearly anyone can keep up. Most of the classes I’ve ever taught were to an older, less flexible population who tends to come back regularly because they start to feel a positive shift within themselves. Micro changes in their body, minds and spirits that become macro changes over time.
Folks with all kinds of injuries or past surgeries often attend. In fact, many a student finds yoga after surgery because their surgeon recommended it as helpful and one of the initial few activities the patient can engage in. Unless you are a well-practiced yogi I wouldn’t attend if you are pregnant, have osteopenia or osteoporosis. There are special classes for those students. If you are worried about a medical condition, don’t hesitate to call ahead of time or let the instructor know before class begins. He/she has heard it all before and may often some advice to modify. However the bottom line is always, if it hurts don’t do it.
It’s Movement rather than Exercise.
Yoga is not really exercise as we know it. It will not be as if you are in a group gym class spinning on a bike or doing aerobics, and if you lose pace you have to work to keep up. The teacher is not going to yell at you to keep it moving (high tail it out of there if they do). Most students in yoga classes understand that everyone is at a different level and will not become frustrated if someone is falling behind – if there was even a way to ‘fall behind’. It’s not that type of thing.
Yoga is about listening to your own body. The instructor is providing direction, but you ultimately decide how far you want to go in a pose or stretch. Yoga should never hurt, burn, or pinch in any way. If it does it’s vital to pull back from whatever just created that feeling and either ease into it another way or stay where you were a moment ago. A good teacher will create a space where students are not looking at one another or judging anyone else. Once you understand how the practice works, you will learn there is almost no reason to look past the bounds of your mat (except occasionally to view the teacher). The practice is about you, in your own space, on your own mat – connecting movement and breath.
That’s all you need to do. Move and breath. Then magic happens. Just from doing that somehow all types of benefits begin to occur.
I am inspired by a yoga teacher training today that I was part of. During a conversation about mantra, the topic of Grace came up. On my way home I listened to U2’s song “Grace” and couldn’t help but walk in the door to my computer and write.
The topic of Grace was only a small part of an amazing day and didn’t last long. But it did leave an impression on me. We were reading the book “Healing Mantras” by Thomas Ashley-Farrand and discussing the topic of karma. On page 39, someone read a paragraph that I have read before but never quite understood.
One of my teachers that was leading that section stopped a bit to talk about a few things. The one of which that sticks out most is the equation of Effort + Grace = Results.
One of my classmates asked her to repeat it so she could write it down.
Either before or after the equation, my teacher (Shelley) was talking about how escaping karma means leaving little to no ‘wake’. The same classmate asked her to define wake. Wake was meant in the context of how a boat makes a wake in the water.
Hmmm… Did it make sense? Yes, to me; but in some way I wasn’t sure and noted it was something to sort out mentally later.
Then another classmate shared how she understands what Grace is, but would struggle to define it. The question was left open to the floor. Lots of ideas circulated. As the group talked, U2’s song “Grace” played in my head. Particularly the part where Bono sings: “She travels outside of karma”.
That line is stimulating, and along the lines of the text in our book. I mentioned the U2 song. Then someone else mentioned the song “Amazing Grace” and precisely the line “How sweet the sound”. Earlier in the day we had an Ayurvedic lesson and looked at a chart of the journey of consciousness in conjunction with an extensive conversation about how the material world and the non-material trickle into our own selves. It’s the concept of prakriti and purusha mixed with some prana. But not to bore anyone to tears with this yogic speak, one of the basics that may or may not have been in that particular conversation but is scientifically proven is that we are all but a vibration. One of my teachers pointed that out.
“How sweet the sound”.
That is deep but we took it a breath deeper to discuss that the old testament many of us are familiar with, is that one of the first lines is In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
A classmate makes a little sound of an exploding head. Yes, this is a head exploding part. But the Word was God. Sound over light as the classmate who brought it up expressed it. Vibration itself as possibly a higher vibration that light?
Wow, where did the question of “Grace” go? And what did it have to do with this conversation.
Another classmate took it down a few notches to say that her concept is of Grace is the following:
You have kids and they break something in your house. You yell.
You have kids and they break something in your house. You tell them you understand and it’s ok.
The latter is Grace.
Suddenly the Jesus analogy made sense. There is something you aren’t proud of, and someone else takes it on and forgives you. I said this during class. My other teacher said, yes – it’s as if they take the shame.
Great conversation, but we had to wrap it up and straighten up because a community mantra class about going to start soon. Mantra conversation to be continued at a further time.
Fast forward about two hours later and I’m driving home listening to music. I’m inspired and excited, but what I’m listening to is sort of dragging me down. I ask Siri to play U2’s song “Grace”. The earlier conversation started to take a lot more shape for me and inspired me to write.
I don’t think I can fully grasp the depth of this beautiful word, but I feel I’m “One Step Closer to Knowing” [me shamelessly stealing another song title from U2].
If I had to describe my understanding of Grace at this moment, I would explain that it’s a person’s ability to realize that we are just a piece of all consciousness experiencing itself through a pointed view of ourselves. Or in simpler terms, a soul watching events unfold. Nothing matters.
When you get this from a core/soul level you do realize that nothing matters in the end. If you take on the shame or sins of others and free them from their suffering, you can release it from yourself because you understand that what happens ultimately doesn’t matter. It’s the highest form of vibration. It’s the stillness between the good and bad.
We are here to learn and it is all welcome. Once you can take the hurt away from others, onto yourself and release it – you move past the karma cycle. It’s the famous Christ analogy I never understood nor could anyone in my Catholic upbringing explain it to me. I still don’t propose to know it, but I do feel I’m “OneStep Closer to Knowing”
Lyrics below with my thoughts in blue.
Grace She takes the blame She covers the shame Removes the stain It could be her name
Grace It’s the name for a girl It’s also a thought that Changed the world
And when she walks on the street You can hear the strings (sound/vibration) Grace finds goodness In everything
Grace She’s got the walk Not on a ramp or on chalk She’s got the time to talk
She travels outside Of karma, karma She travels outside Of karma
Once you master this and do it, you understand how both good & bad are both part of the physical world and welcome. You can move past the circle of karma
When she goes to work You can hear her strings the vibration again Grace finds beauty In everything
Everything is beautiful because it’s a part of life so it belongs
Grace She carries a world on her hips No champagne flute for her lips No twirls or skips between her fingertips
She carries a pearl In perfect condition What once was hurt What once was friction What left a mark No longer stings
Grace takes that shame without strings. Just removes it and leaves no wake. Not a good or bad wake. Just working through life and bringing things back into balance where everything is as it has always been – in perfect condition.
Because Grace makes beauty Out of ugly things
Grace finds beauty In everything
Grace finds goodness in everything
If you enjoyed my writing, consider leaving a comment, sharing with others, or following my blog
The pear has little to no reputation. It is in a few desserts. It isn’t as popular as the banana. It’s not used in any popular lessons (such as the famous non comparison- apples to oranges). It’s not considered exotic like a papaya or coconut, it’s not a popular “pick your own” fruit, was never “in” like the avocado, or so heavily used in food or drink like the grape that fields and farms are required to keep up with the demand.
It’s just an unassuming pear, which is why I chose to paint it.
The pear is like almost every other living thing amongst us. And like most things we don’t give it a second thought most of the time.
The pear, the apple, the banana, the trees that produce these fruits, the flowers, our pets, sea life and of course humanity all live through a cycle. It’s as natural as nature itself. Humans are the only ones who sometimes fear or fight it. The rest of the planet accepts it as the flow we live in.
The flow and these cycles are shown to us by nature and what governs living. Particularly through the seasons.
The pear painting goes from left to right, top to bottom through it’s very own abridged life cycle.
Winter Winter is when most consider their surrounding closest to death. Life as we know it rests and hibernates. We hunker down and wait out the storm, most of us complaining along the way and wishing away the time until spring.
However, in the midst of the storm, under ground, and right below the surface, Mother Earth is preparing for the next cycle. The frost and subsequent defrost are laying the ground work for what is coming. Perhaps we may even consider it to be where life truly begins.
Like the architect on an empty lot where a new building will one day stand, the architect is surveying the surroundings and mentally creating what will later manifest as a structure using what is available in that time and place to make it so.
In that time where there appears to be nothing, there is a vision of the future bubbling right under the surface- waiting to be put into action once the sketch is complete.
Winter is the sketch. It’s the time to not do, but just be and know that the spring will come, and with it there will be work to do.
Under ground the trees and perennials are preparing the seeds that will come forth in the spring. Compared to sentient creatures such as us humans, it is the time when the mother’s egg prepares to be fertilized.
It’s actually where all the magic is taking place. All that we cannot see or understand in the material world. It’s that beautiful dark little slip of space and time where the spiritual world intersects with the physical one. It may be the most auspicious time of the year.
Spring The thaw. The flow of water and life. The sun is with us longer. Dirt is tilled. Seeds are planted. The egg is fertilized.
Of all the planted seeds (the seed of man and animal as well in the form of sperm), only a small percent actually sprout forth into life. The lucky seeds that mesh perfectly with the womb of mother/Mother Earth, the ones that happen to have the prime conditions that nurture it’s growth, are so very lucky. We take it for granted, but we are fortunate to be alive and to experience life. The spring is the time of rapid growth where what makes it lives through its early days to survive through to maturity.
If we are looking at spring through a seasonal lens, it’s the time we lay the seeds, nurture what is planted and help it along until its strong enough to be on it’s own for whatever reason it is here to be.
Ayurveda calls this time “Kapha”. It’s cool, wet and dense, just like the earth in the spring. It is strongly rooted to its source; very grounded. It grows quickly, and puts on weight easily.
In the chakra system it’s close to the roots. It’s red in color like the root chakra. All life needs a strong root to connect to the earth and then hold it strongly enough to keep it safe but light enough to allow it to grow.
Through the lens of a human, it’s the time of fertilization and early growth until young adulthood. Baby fat, rapid physical maturation, rosy cheeks, dense, learning-growing, needing a bit more nurture and support from the source as the child matures. For the mother who housed the egg and was in rest during the “winter” of the relationship with her own child, the work arrives in the form of carrying the child and then helping it arrive safely in young adulthood.
The pear… it isn’t quite ripe. If it is off the tree, it will be light in color; tinged by that red root that held it close to the branch. If eaten it’s a bit bitter, not quite ready. It has yet to mature. It’s a child. It’s in the spring or Kapha cycle.
Summer Sun. Teaming life. Hot. Moving for purpose. Lighter, a bit dryer & quick to inflammation.
The earth and it’s fruits are mostly in full bloom. Growth slows but it’s at the peak of maturity. The seeds no longer need help- they have the ability to live on their own, fighting off bugs and weeds without much outside help. The result of those spring planted seeds are here doing and being precisely what they are meant to do and be.
In Ayurveda this is “Pita”. Hot, quick to fire. Sustaining of life as we know it. Chakra-wise it’s lighter, and yellow like the sun. It is the chakra of digestion. It gives and supports life by helping everything keep moving as it should. Like digestion it’s lit by “Agni” or that internal moving fire.
Humans are now young adults to middle aged. In their prime. Taking care of both the young and old. They have an inner fire to make things happen, to sustain life, get things done, and keep the world going. They are the largest source of income generation. They have the energy and drive to keep it all going. They are like the full summer blooms, doing what they were meant to do.
At this time the pear is ripe. Mission accomplished. It’s the time to eat it or bake with it. Despite its color, it’s tinged with yellow undertones.
Autumn The change. Colors deepen. The temperature starts to cool and the air is lighter and drier. The days begin to darken. It feels like a welcome relief. The trees start to relax and succumb to nature. The leaves allow themselves to deepen, change, and finally let themselves go. Before the leaves do let go, that tree never seemed so beautiful.
Ayurvedically speaking this part of the cycle is “Vata”. Whether you are a half empty or half full glass type of person, it can be seen as the time of death or the agent of change. The necessary change that needs to take place so the next cycle of planning and development can take place. Chakra-wise we move up the body to the color blue or the throat chakra. The throat representing voice. With a mature and wise mind, humans have less energy but are able to speak their truth and guide the next generation.
Humans at this part of life also begin to slow down and let go. They often feel colder and have a more deep and philosophical understanding of this cycle and their own part it in. They are closer to spirit and that magic time of “winter” so to speak. Generally they have more trouble keeping on weight and become drier. The skin is tinged with blue and darker undertones. They are like the fall.
The pear, if uneaten, becomes darker too. Blue & brown undertones. Overripe. More age spots. Soft to the touch. But the sweetest and juiciest it will ever be if you can handle the mess! Another proverbial day or two in its own cycle and it just becomes a pile of mush. Mush to turn the seeds inside to something new perhaps? The opportunity to begin the cycle again as we head back into winter.
Circle of Life It’s a beautiful cycle. It is nature. Each part has its very own purpose and feeds right into the next. There is no real beginning and no real end.
We should keep in mind that there is truly nothing to fight. Try… but we will not win. It’s easier to just understand nature and accept and open up to where we are are in it.
Nature is bigger than us. She will carry us through each awesome, perpetual, ongoing, self sustaining cycle so we can play our own special part.
Like the seed that created the unassuming pear, we are each a seed lucky enough to have made it.
I painted two versions of this. One with the raw primary colors and the other with a softer tint of each.
Below I used photography and light alteration to show the same concept.
The original pear this blog was written about is the one to the bottom left of the first photo.
If you enjoyed my writing, consider leaving a comment, sharing with others, or following my blog
There are some experiences in life that seem almost magical or other worldly as they happen. Sometimes it is when you meet someone and you get a sense of ‘deja vu’ or a flash of unexplained feelings. Or when you hear or read something that just seems to strike some sort a cord within you about its unexplainable truth.
One of the dozen or so times this happened to me is when I had first readthat the soul is the connection to divine (God, nature or whatever you chose to call all that is). I was so moved by this simple statement. The truth of it was so obvious to me at the moment, that it sparked one of those other worldly flash feelings. The article discussed how the soul doesn’t dish out advice like our loud, animal mind brains do. But if you ignore or quiet the monkey brain and ask your soul for advice, the right answer is always there waiting to be heard.
I knew that somewhere but didn’t realize it until then. A few hours later after mulling it over I posted something on Facebook about it- a short quote I made up as my own interpretation of this. It had very few “likes”. Guess my Facebook tribe didn’t get it.
Not long after I heard a podcast about the moral compass. The speaker explained how we experience negative emotions (depression, hopelessness, anxiety, etc) when we aren’t living according to our moral compass.
Right- that makes sense too! And in my own interpretation I understood that moral compass connection to be through the soul which is connected to all that is. When we can’t hear or follow that sound advice and live against it, we feel unhappy.
Then, not long after I started to better understand the deeper meaning of the yoga I was attracted to. The focused attention of breath and movement quieted the monkey mind. Meditation and quieting the mind is a ticket to really hearing sound moral advice from my soul- that without question always knows the right and loving way to be in this world.
I feel so inspired to write this morning because when I opened my email amongst the midst of things was the start of a sentence that caught my eye strong enough for me to open it. It read “God does what God is: Love. God does not love you if and when you change. God loves you so that you can change!”The email was a few paragraphs long. It is a daily mediation that I signed up for from the Franciscan priest Richard Rohr who wrote a book I recently finished calledFalling Upward.
The email this morning brought the message of the soul and compass home for me. The email referenced one of the famous lines of the Bible where man is created in the likeness and image of God (the divine, nature, whatever you connect to spiritually). That likeness is LOVE.
One paragraph states “Love is who you are. When you don’t live according to love, you are outside of being. You’re basically not real or true to yourself. When you love, you are acting according to your deepest being, your deepest truth. You are operating according to your dignity.“
Love… Love it. To me that says it all.
Maybe, just maybe… the allegory of the apple and ensuing suffering was having doubt about pure love. Not living by the advice of the soul. Not having faith in all that is.
The soul knows. Perhaps we should listen a bit closer. It’s always there- the good angel on our shoulder, NOT jumping up and down loudly like a child with a pitch fork such as the little fiery red guy on the other shoulder. Maybe listening to it really is a key away from fear & suffering.
Hey… it’s worth a try!
If you enjoyed my writing, consider leaving a comment, sharing with others, or following my blog
Always do your best. What you plant now you will harvest later.
In the yoga classes I’ve taught this past week, the theme I have been focusing on is “The Harvest”. The chosen reason is the time of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere, especially where we live in New England. The purpose of this theme however is not about the crops we need to harvest before the first frost (which was last night), but all ‘seeds’ and ‘harvests’ for the future.
Not sure what it has to do with yoga? If you are still with me, please allow me to explain.
A seed is just a seed all by itself. A lettuce seed alone has nothing but the potential to become lettuce. If I plant lettuce seeds in the ground in the month of April (appropriate for our Connecticut hardiness zone), there is a decent chance it will grow lettuce. But if I plant a cucumber seed in April, it will absolutely not grow into lettuce, and there is a slim chance will grow at all. Cucumber seeds can only thrive after the last frost. Hence, it would be best to plant them in mid-May for any hope of having a cucumber in August.
So far I have a seed, dirt, and weather that will hypothetically allow me to harvest cucumbers. Seeds, dirt and weather are not that insanely different from the potential we have as humans to manifest goals or create the type of life we desire. In churches and other spiritual communities and texts we will often hear the phrase “As above, so below”.
What does that mean? It means the physical world is not all that different from the mental and spiritual worlds. Even though we can’t see those other worlds, the laws of nature are consistent.
Like seeds, our thoughts are just thoughts alone. The properties of a thought will only bring forth that thought. If I’d like to lose 10 pounds, it’s only a thought or wish until I do something with it. Additionally, wishing it will not yield me a promotion or the improvement of a relationship that I’d like to enhance… obviously. With me so far?
Next that thought is planted or ‘sown’ in my mind. The mind is not so dissimilar to the soil that we plant our seeds in. The thought that I would like to lose 10 lbs in a mind racing with anxiety, wrought with depression, or full with a stressed out ‘To Do’ list will only go into a abyss of other competing and negative thoughts. Similar to how planting a cucumber seed in sand, in the snow, or even in April; the mind’s condition would not be right to help a positive thought manifest into the raw potential it has.
This is where yoga comes in.
Yoga is not soley about moving around in different poses (or asanas). Yoga means to ‘yoke’. This sacred Sanskrit term is used to signify the connections between spirit, mind and body. Whether we are moving through poses, meditating, chanting, doing breath work, etc; what we are really doing is creating a connection of our physical body to our mind and spirit; creating a sense of equilibrium between all three – which are really one beautifully operating unit. It’s difficult to have anxiety when the mind, body and spirit are yoked in meditation or savasana (that last pose in most yoga classes where you actually enjoy laying around doing nothing for a few minutes).
When we are in balance, the mind is clear. When we sow thoughts in a clear mind, it is akin to planting seeds in proper conditions. When the mind is not clear, thoughts will still grow in murky conditions. These conditions often generate unwanted outcomes. For example anxious thoughts will thrive and create even more anxiety in a busy mind. The mind is constantly creating whether we get involved with what is put in or not. Analogous to how weeds will grow without involvement.
Yoga helps clear the mind through pointed focus and awareness. Focusing on breathing while mindfully moving from posture to posture in an average American yoga class (which is what comes to the minds of most when they picture yoga) helps us to stay in the present moment and pay less attention the wandering mind. When we are on the mat and feeling the slight shifts and sensations of our bodies, we are connecting our physical body with our inner selves. While sitting in a posture for a short while, if the body is relaxed and the mind wanders; it becomes very clear what is in there as thoughts arise.
A beautiful characteristic of yoga is that the habits we build on the mat will begin to stay with us off the mat.
A remarkable trait about thoughts is that you can change them.
If we don’t like what is coming up, we don’t have to actually keep thinking them. With a little practice of strengthening the mind, we are able to notice thoughts that aren’t aligned with the life we want and modify them.
Ignoring or changing unwanted thoughts and clearing our minds creates the proper soil and weather conditions to grow an aspired thought into reality. This will give us the boost to perform the last and third step of harvesting what we would like. That last step is the physical work.
If we plant cucumber seeds in mid-May and walked away… maybe we will have some cucumbers, but not likely. Chances increase if we ensure the seeds are properly watered, have the right amount of sun, and weeds are kept at bay – at least initially. As the season progresses and cucumber buddings begin to grow and get stronger, we still need to keep an eye on them; but weeds and unexacting sun and water levels are less likely to halt the progression of physical cucumbers.
We have to do the work. Once new habits are built and ingrained into our neuropath ways and routines, less focus needs to be put on sustaining the desired result. Keeping 10lbs off is easy with good habits because we essentially reap what we sow. Physically and mentally. If you don’t have a crop harvest right now, it only because you didn’t plant seeds and nurture them in the spring.
The laws of nature as we know it work the same in the mind/spirit world.
Yoga helps us to create the harvest (albeit “life”) we want by cultivating a healthy mind-body-spirit connection. The take home – mind your thoughts, as they can and will create the life and harvest you have.
Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant
Robert Louis Stevenson
If you enjoyed my writing, consider leaving a comment, sharing with others, or following my blog
Today I woke up anxious. Physically I had a slight tightness in my chest. My heart felt like it was a little heavy, but the worst was my breath. I couldn’t help but sigh every few moments. Obviously releasing some kind of tension. I felt slightly lost. Not sure where my life is going. Not but an hour later I was laughing and feeling like wherever my life is going it doesn’t matter and I’ll get there as I need to.
These are the “Gunas”. Fluctuations that are normal in the universe. They are everywhere. In the weather, in our moods. It’s a universal law. What goes up must come down. What swings one way will swing the other.
The Gunas are a term I learned in yoga teacher training and were often discussed. It’s now a part of my regular vocabulary and thought process. We don’t stay in one mood forever. Nothing stays in its state forever. We are supposed to feel good and bad. It should be expected that good things as well as bad things will happen. Fighting it is what leads to suffering. In Buddhism a key tenant is that any attachment causes suffering. Even attachment to feeling one way (like happy), being attached to an outcome you want, or any objects/feelings/desires/etc. The Hindu tradition (yoga’s roots) describes the same concept but in a different way.
A guna is an attribute of nature, according to Hindu philosophy. In Hinduism, there are three gunas that have always existed in the world in both all living and non-living things:
• Tamas (darkness, destructive, death)
• Rajas (energy, passion, birth)
• Sattva (goodness, purity, light)
Here in our Western world we are not taught to think in this way. We seem to feel that if something goes wrong or we don’t feel well (mentally, physically or spiritually), that something is wrong with us. Imagine we were taught that both elation and depression are normal and to be expected? Neither will stay. Both are an experience of being alive. The more we attach to any experience (the good or the bad ones), the more we will ‘suffer’. Suffering really meaning anything from disappointment to despair.
I’m signed up for daily emails from Richard Rohr. He is a Franciscan priest that wrote many books on spirituality. I recently finished “Falling Upward” which was amazing! Much of it was about how we need to fall in order to learn and grow. How opposite things are complementary and part of life. I will paste a quote from the Tuesday mediation.
“If we are going to talk about light, then we must also talk about darkness, because they only have meaning in relation to one another. All things on earth are a mixture of darkness and light, and it is not good to pretend that they are totally separate!”
Understanding the Gunas is one of the many ways I am learning to accept life as it is. When I remember them when I’m feeling down I almost embrace it as the full experience of life. Not always, but more & more often.
They have helped me- and if you have read this and are willing to try, perhaps that can help you or a loved one too!
Peace & Namste
If you enjoyed my writing, consider leaving a comment, sharing with others, or following my blog