The Chakras and Lent – Weeks 5-7

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.

Throat chakra 

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. 

Third Eye

The seat of intuition. The downward facing triangle here “represents the knowledge and lessons of the lower six chakras being gathered and expanded into your divine consciousness” There are only two petals on this symbol Lens Eye writesthis “ transparent lotus flower with two white petals, [is] said to represent the nadis (psychic channels) Ida and Pingala, which meet the central Sushumna nadi before rising to the crown chakra, Sahasrara” These two nadis from my understanding are major energy changes that run through the body. They are similar to the Yin Yang in that Pingala contains Yang qualities and Ida contains Yin qualities. They help to keep us in balance. 

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.

Crown Chakra 

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.

Thanks for taking this journey with me.

Namaste! 

The Chakras and Lent – Week 1

The Chakras and Lent – Week 2

The Chakras and Lent – Week 3

The Chakras and Lent – Week 4

If you enjoyed my writing, consider leaving a comment, sharing with others, or following my blog

https://esterinaanderson.com

The Chakras and Lent – Week 4

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. 

Until next week! 

The Chakras and Lent – Week 1

The Chakras and Lent – Week 2

The Chakras and Lent – Week 3

If you enjoyed my writing, consider leaving a comment, sharing with others, or following my blog

https://esterinaanderson.com

Demystifying Yoga: Movement over Exercise

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.

 

Myth buster:

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.

 

From The American Osteopathic Association and Yoga Journal some benefits include

 

Physical:

  • increased flexibility
  • increased muscle strength and tone
  • improved respiration, energy and vitality
  • maintaining a balanced metabolism
  • weight reduction
  • cardio and circulatory health
  • improved athletic performance
  • protection from injury
  • improved posture
  • prevention against cartilage and joint break down
  • better bone health
  • increased blood flow
  • enhanced balance
  • decreased blood pressure
  • regulates adrenal glands
  • boosts immunity
  • eases pain
  • supports connective tissue

 

Mental

  • manage stress
  • maintains the nervous system
  • releases tension
  • improves sleep
  • increase body awareness
  • sharpens concentration
  • helps to center attention
  • provides peace of mind
  • gives you inner strength

 

If you already engage it in you likely know this. And if you don’t – give it a try!

If you enjoyed my writing, consider leaving a comment, sharing with others, or following my blog

https://esterinaanderson.com

On Grace

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.

Photofox1.png

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.

 

Hmmmm….. interesting.

 

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 “One Step Closer to Knowing” 

Lyrics below with my thoughts in blue.

Namaste,

Esterina

Grace

U2

Grace
She takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name 

Christ analogy

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

images.jpeg

If you enjoyed my writing, consider leaving a comment, sharing with others, or following my blog

https://esterinaanderson.com

 

The Unassuming Pear

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

https://esterinaanderson.com

On Navigating with Love

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 read that 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. 
Wow. Yes. 
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 called Falling 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

https://esterinaanderson.com

On the Harvest and our Minds

Always do your best. What you plant now you will harvest later. 

Og Mandino

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.

NAMASTE

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant

Robert Louis Stevenson

Unknown-1

If you enjoyed my writing, consider leaving a comment, sharing with others, or following my blog

https://esterinaanderson.com

On the Fluctuating Gunas (The What???)

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.

From Yogapedia: https://www.yogapedia.com

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

https://esterinaanderson.com

On The Monkey Mind vs Spirit

We are born with nothing, even clothes. At the moment of death we might be donning some attire, and perhaps be clutching something –a person, animal or object (or all 3). But those physical remnants remain. We come into the world with nothing physical but the body. When we leave, we leave even the body behind. The only thing that goes is that light in our eyes, our spirit.

Unknown.jpeg

So why do we become attached to anything? Why do we spend that precious time between life and death hauling around stuff? Worrying about stuff? ‘Stuff’ being our cars, clothes, friends, jobs, or status. The only thing that really matters is the imprint we leave on the planet, created through our spirit. We can’t haul anything but our spirit out of this world, so why isn’t the spirit the main focus of living? Why are we focused on stuff?

I started yoga like many others for the physical practice. My first experience was with a VHS tape at home in my living room. “This is easy!” I thought. It must be because I’m flexible and was a dancer when I was young. I moved from position to position and sat there waiting to see what I would be told by the TV to do next. I ignored the cues to breath “Geez, I know how to breath” and ‘open up’ “Isn’t that what I’m doing?”. I was annoyed at the end when the suggestion was to lie on my back for several minutes. “What a waste of time!”

I went to actual classes a few times, but I didn’t quite understand it. I only did yoga at home because I heard it was good for you. I didn’t particularly enjoy it and I absolutely skipped the lying on your back part at the end.

Until one day I went to a class at a local chiropractic office that was offering free classes for a week. The classes all had different names. I couldn’t tell them apart and really didn’t care. The time I was able to get home from work and get my husband situated with the kids was far more important. I went to a class Monday and Tuesday. Same experience, but this time I had to lie in silence at the end. I really disliked that part. However, the Wednesday class was life altering. It was called “Love your body yoga”. Yoga was yoga to me. The postures all even seemed the same. But there was something different about this class. Perhaps the teacher’s voice or encouragement, I don’t know; it was too long ago now to remember. Somehow though, I was able to do the postures better. I listened to the cues to breath and expand in certain parts. I moved slowly, mindfully, and with grace. At the end I was looking forward to the lying meditation (known as savasana – pronounced “shavasana”). During savasana the teacher came around with an oil for our foreheads. When she gently put her hands on my temples I felt at such peace I almost wanted to cry. The smell was like light and citrusy, but like incense. The experience was so comforting. When I left class I kept touching my forehead and smelling the oil. I felt a sense of peace.

My practices at home became a little different after that, although I was never able to get into a good routine and reap the benefits of yoga. Years later on a whim I signed up for a local class at the Park & Rec. I knew yoga was good for me, I knew how to do it (I thought), and I wanted a steady place where I knew I wouldn’t be lazy and skip it.

The first class was amazing. I drove away with a sense of bliss. That night in bed when I turned over in the middle of the night I felt space in my body as well as an overall sense of harmony. I kept going and the benefits kept getting better and better. It wasn’t very long before I had my first cry on the mat while in pigeon (something I now know is quite common). Soon after that; the mind, body, spirit connection was undeniable. Where has this been all my life? Do other people know about it? Why isn’t this more well known??? Our spirit is the key to life.

I didn’t know it until long after I started yoga teacher training, but the word yoga means “to yoke”. Particularly; to yoke the mind, body, and spirit. I know there are many other ways to link the mind, body and spirit. Others have found the answers in various different ways, but have come to the same sense of yoking. Once you sense that connection to the mind, body, and spirit it’s difficult to go back to the material way of living because you know deep down that it doesn’t matter.

Unknown-1.jpeg

Yoga isn’t a magical cure that works all the time. In fact many times I move through a whole practice and never feel ‘settled’. The difference is that I know my mind, body and spirit are disconnected and that I do not like feeling that sense of separation. I know that giving into that separation by trying to fill the space between with stuff only leads to suffering and a sense of even more separation. I know this and most of the time cannot master it. But the time in between remembering where the sense of true peace comes from grows a tiny bit each day.

The time in between birth and death is our life. In that life we accumulate things. Physical things. We become attached to those things. We become attached to people. We become attached to happiness and think something is wrong when we are sad. We need to eat, sleep, and eliminate to order to function and stay healthy. To stay healthy through eating, sleeping and eliminating we need stuff. So we spend our lives from birth to death hauling around stuff. Stuff to eat, stuff to sleep, stuff to look good in the eyes of others. At any moment in time we are likely hauling stuff, whether it’s a wallet, purse, tube of lip balm, or like me – bags and bags of food, drink, or ‘stuff’ I might need.

images.jpeg

I’m not proposing that we don’t have stuff. We absolutely need to haul around things from day to day, or house-to-house, or city-to-city in order to function and stay alive. The disconnect comes in two forms: 1) From taking more than you need. 2) Becoming attached to that stuff.

There are two ways to not take more than you need and/or become attached. 1) You can listen to authorities that preach this. 2) You can discover for yourself.

The problem with number 1 is that most of those who preach it and know it at a spirit level do not practice this. Our parents taught us not to take more than you need, but we then probably watched them eat, buy, shop, and generally consume more than they needed. We observed as they became attached to their jobs, cars, houses, other people, stories, the news, etc. The same went for teachers, preachers, friends, family… the society that shaped our thoughts growing up. The message was conflicted and if you are anything like me, didn’t even question the confliction.

Discovering this for yourself is a whole different ballgame. Once you realize that non-attachment and taking only what you need is the key to liberation, it’s hard not to incorporate it into your decisions. Before the discovery on your own, the hypocritical authoritative voice in your mind may have caused a sense of guilt; but the knowing it is not right through your very own voice is far more powerful.

Old habits are incredibly difficult to break. There is not a switch that goes off where one starts to make perfect decisions from here forth. In fact there is more debate, guilt and remorse over not making the right decision than ever.

Wikipedia describes the Monkey Mind as a Buddhist term meaning “unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable”. The monkey mind is the voice in the head that never stops talking. Like a monkey it cannot sit still. It jumps from thought-to-thought, worry-to-worry, new shiny object to new shiny object, without a care in the world. It is like a toddler that never grows up. It responds to the wiring in the brain that lights up “like” impulse. It likes stuff – food, taste, status, objects. Its concerns are all about ‘me, me, me’.

The spirit on the other hand is quiet and all knowing. It knows right from wrong. It will make the best, most loving, decision on behalf of the good of your body and the the world every time. The spirit doesn’t talk to you, but if you ask it – it will give the mind the right answer.

Here is where you learn that the habits formed in your physical brain wire faster and respond more quickly to your mind than what your spirit speaks to it. Your mind has been accustomed to ignoring that wise, quiet, but all knowing spirit within because that monkey chatter is so loud. We give into it as we might a toddler, just to quiet it down. It’s why yoking the mind, body and spirit are so important. Once they are all on the same page – there is no conflict. The right path is clear.

Even if you haven’t yet made the mind, body and spirit connection on your own or have no idea what I’m talking about and are curious –

  • Consider not hauling around so much stuff – whether it’s physical or emotional.
  • Become unattached, knowing that nothing ever lasts.
  • Take only what you need.

Know with practice and time, the space between remembering becomes greater and greater…. and with that comes a sense of peace.

Unknown.png

DailyPost: Haul

If you enjoyed my writing, consider leaving a comment, sharing with others, or following my blog

https://esterinaanderson.com

On the Mysterious Secret of Slowing Down

Last Sunday evening after dinner I was washing a pot. I was washing it very mindfully.  I was noticing the feel of the warm, soapy water on my hands. I thought about how the pot was made and how I infused the homemade vegan chili in this large, heavy blue pot with love. Most importantly I was slowly and methodically removing the food that was stuck to the bottom of the pan. I thought back to a lesson I just cannot seem to always remember – “To go faster you must slow down”.

Unknown-1.jpeg

I led a fast paced adult life until about 2 years ago. So fast that I hardly had time to think. Washing a pot with food stuck to the bottom has always reminded me of this paradox; thanks to a visit from my mother a few years before she passed away. When my children were young and I was first married, we had little money, but I kept a really good home. I felt very on top of things. But I was rushed back then too. I was so rushed that I never really had time to deal with pots that ended up with years worth of stains on them. In late 2001 my mother came to visit with her new husband Boris. I had only just met him, and I know he made my mother very happy. He was from Venezuela. My mom talked so much about how laid back he was and how he got her to slow down, grow out her hair, and stop fussing so much with make up and keeping up the house. I made a big dinner when they came to visit, and afterward there were many pots and pans that needed cleaning. My mother and Boris came into the kitchen to help and stationed themselves at the sink; she on dish duty, he on drying duty. What seemed like only moments later while I was putting the leftover food into containers, I noticed Boris drying off one of the pots. What caught my eye about a particular pot that usually had brown and black soot on the bottom was that it was so shiny and clean. Years worth of food and cooking build up was gone! I asked my mother how she did that and so fast… she only smiled with a glint in her eye and said “Boris showed me how”. She never told me with words, but with her eyes she told me to slow down and go easy. The next time I had to clean a pot and ever since I’ve taken my time, used far less pressure than I ever would have and they have always come clean. Working in a rush and with too much pressure used more time and never yielded the same results. I never understood how, it’s just the way it works.

I learned this 17 years ago, but I still don’t always remember or practice this principle. Two years ago I slowed down immensely, truly savoring the small, day-to-day moments, and oddly enough I found myself to be happier, more at peace and with more time than I ever had. It’s not only time, but also about ‘less’. Doing less, trying less, having less… all equal less stress and more joy.

Last week I had the luxury of traveling with my husband and a group of amazing individuals from my yoga studio to a jungle sanctuary in Costa Rica. Getting to this sanctuary required two commercial flights, a puddle jumper plane, a 45 minute car ride, and then a 20 minute hike crossing a river four times. It was hot and humid; the type of humidity where you never dry off, even after a shower.

The only way on and off the sanctuary is a 20 minute-plus hike. On the last full day of the trip, my husband Daren and I ventured off the property to the sanctuary’s closest neighbor Nena, in pursuit of pure organic extra virgin coconut oil. It was a short walk over a bridge that overlooks the ocean to Nena’s house. For the previous two days, Daren & I opted to take some excursions off the property with our group. Both days were a little hectic and obscenely hot at times. I felt ambivalent all morning about whether or not we should take the walk down the hill to get this coconut oil, mainly because it was hot. For some reason I said I’d like to go but I wanted to walk slowly. So off we went to Nena’s house for coconut oil.

Daren and I really took our time. We stopped and looked at monkeys. We watched little birds. We passed our friend the white cow. When we left the property and crossed the street we stopped on the bridge. Actually, Daren on the bridge and called out to me “Babe, look at this view!”. Slightly annoyed, I stopped to look. I was initially feeling rushed, looked at my watch and started calculating how much time it would take to get to Nena’s, buy this coconut oil, trek back, “relax” at the pool, and then dash off to the next yoga class. However, when I turned my head to the left and saw the scene, my heart rate actually slowed down a bit. I couldn’t believe I was about to just walk by and miss this scene! I took it in. While standing there I couldn’t help but notice this insane harried American thought pattern and I pushed it completely away. When I stopped and didn’t worry about the time, I was able to remember that I was here in this beautiful place, at this beautiful moment, with my beautiful husband and a group of beautiful well-lit individuals. I stopped my physical, then mental body from the rush of insanity and fleeting thoughts to appreciate the view and the view of my husband appreciating the view.
We stood there a while in silence. I took a few pictures and resisted the urge to snap more. More is not better. More pictures, more talk, more activity… more, more, more… No, no, no… I know this, but I live in a world that tells me the opposite; so it’s easy to forget.
It was I who broke the silence after a long while. I had the profound realization that because we walked slowly we weren’t as hot as we were the rest of the trip. I intellectually knew that before we walked and even made that suggestion, but it was even more profound to experience that it worked. It dawned on me that every time I go anywhere where the weather is warm all the time, the locals move slowly. I heard other Americans and Canadians joking about how the natives live on “Costa Rican time”. I’ve heard the same joke in other places. All these Americans and Europeans thinking it’s so funny to crack jokes about how slow everyone moves, when really the joke is on us. What is wrong with us? We are the dummies sweating in the sun because we are rushing around like lunatics. It’s our culture that is uptight, wound up and stressed. What are we in a rush to do anyway? At that moment on the bridge I decided to put my watch in my pocket and let the day pass as it may. Strangely there seemed to be just the right amount of time for everything once I stopped worrying at all about it.

IMG_E1457.jpg
Daren with our friend the pretty white cow who was often on the path onto and off the sanctuary.

IMG_E1458.jpg
The view I nearly just didn’t notice

When we start to move too fast, we often do not see what we need to see. (Huffington Post 2015 – Why Going Slow Will Make You Go Faster). This applies to work, our lives with our families and friends, or achieving any of our goals. Maybe it’s not just what we need to see, but what will enhance our everyday experiences.

In the midst of this jungle last week we were surrounded by wildlife. It was beautiful, simple, exotic, intoxicating, and natural. This was a yoga group at a yogic sanctuary. Yogi’s might be more aware than most about the beauty of being conscious, but are no less human and subject to falling prey to being unconscious in a world that keeps dangling shiny temptations all around. One of my teachers deliberately did not go on one of the daily excursions on a day that every other single one of the group did. She said she did not want to feel rushed, and she sat watching monkeys for several hours that day instead. The message she took away is that the monkeys were there all along, providing the same level of awe and entertainment, but had one not taken the time to just stop and observe, it would have been missed.

images.jpeg
The evening we returned to Connecticut from Costa Rica, Daren and I found ourselves on a line at a McDonald’s drive through on the way home from the airport at 11:45 at night. By that point in the day we had been up & en route home since 5:15am. We had only one square meal. We were tired, dirty and stressed. Hurry up and wait. We almost missed a connecting flight because Passport Control was a hot mess when we got back into the U.S. We were waiting on a very long car line at 11:45pm for an absolutely nutritiously poor meal (well Daren was waiting, I was looking forward to some soup at home). We were stressed. Daren was tapping at the wheel. I was mentally trying hard to not fall into the trap of ordering something greasy or feeling upset over the slow moving line, all while trying to stay cheerful so my husband could stay positive too. In my mind I was doing math again about the number of things I needed to do the next day to get ready for the week, wondering how I could fit them in. How much mail was there? Who is taking the dog to the vet Thursday? What should I pull out for dinner tomorrow? Should I go shopping? I needed to inventory the food situation at home first, right? With every thought I felt my blood pressure rising. And every time I noticed my breath becoming rapid and shallow or my heart racing, I made the conscious decision to breath deeply and live in the moment. That only lasts a few moments out here in the “real world” until the thoughts & heart start to race again. How could you explain this feeling to someone in the third world?

We may have been in the middle of the jungle, but the concrete jungle creates artificial stressors that make living life to the fullest impossible. It’s impossible because living life to the fullest was taught to me that one need to fit in as much “fun”, work, and activities that one possibly can. This means learning as much as you can, moving quickly, multi-tasking, making lots of money to do these amazing things (because heck they aren’t free!), AND providing these amazing experiences to our offspring. Making money means more rushing and more stress. For most, making money means sitting in a car or in some form of transportation for unfathomable periods of time each day, to do a job you hardly ever see the results of or feel connected to, for far too many hours each day. Then rushing home to activities and usually harried, unhealthy meals – if you are lucky with loved one(s). Weekends for the most are spent putting your living quarters back together from the rush of the busy week by cleaning, doing laundry, shopping, shuffling other humans around and spending “quality” time with other humans you are supposed to care for to keep your social life active and your role as a parent connected with your children. In between you must squeeze in the “fun” and “experiences” you are going out to make all that money for, but also it’s very important to exercise, meditate, perform self-care, visit the doctor-dentist-optometrist regularly, prepare healthy organic, locally grown ingredient-based meals at home and sleep enough hours per night just so you don’t get fat, stressed or sleep deprived. You know… so you can be happy and experience life to the fullest. Sounds insane to me!

The Harvard Business Review writes about how this slow to go fast paradox works in business as well. When we take the time to get things right, rather than plow ahead full bore, we are far more successful in meeting objectives (Harvard Business Review 2010 – Need Speed? Slow Down).
Physics teaches us that time is relative. Slowing down means time slows down with you. I can’t explain why this is, it’s just is. Another exquisite paradox is that it also helps you appreciate and truly experience more. Additionally life and experiences become less expensive, less material and far less stressful. This article is a bit more on the holistic side, but resonates with me because it talks about how when you work less you work better, find what really makes you happy, have the ability connect with others, and are able to savor life (Wholesome Living – 10 reasons why you should slow down to go faster).

The overall message for me is that slowing down = living life to the fullest. I keep forgetting, but the time between which I do is growing larger and larger. I hope that others who haven’t given it a whirl do! There’s nothing to lose but old, tired ideas of what it means to life our lives to the absolute fullest.

Unknown

IMG_E1435.jpg
Sunrise one morning from the Tower at the Sanctuary

IMG_E1455.jpg
Sunset one evening on the beach of Santa Theresa Costa Rica

images-1.jpeg

 

If you enjoyed my writing, consider leaving a comment, sharing with others, or following my blog

https://esterinaanderson.com