Wednesday, February 11, 2015

You're Better Than You Think

Paradigms and Emergence

Those who know me well, know I like to clean things out....

I clean out the old, ALL THE TIME.  My poor kids.  We are always going through the toys and clothes they no longer use, and we move them on.  I don't hold onto things that are not working for me, whether its an actual item, or a situation or idea.  Just the other day, we were talking about Winnie the Pooh movies, and we had a hankering to watch a few.  But guess what!  They were gone.  Moved on to another home.  I guess I had a longing for some of that feel good about yourself messaging that is laden in the Winnie the Pooh stories and movies.  Maybe I just was reminiscing on the little toddlers I once had in contrast to the teenagers I am about to have. 

This idea- that you are better than you think, is a prime theme in those stories.  But if you read through the Yoga Sutras, or any ancient text, or modern self help, you find the same theme.  And it may sound a bit "woo woo" or "new agey".  But maybe your oversimplifying it.  If you ever have a moment of despair, and feel like hope is lost, that you keep running into the same problems over and over in life, or  you just feel like things are not flowing well in your life, you haven't quite figured out that you are better than you think.   Maybe you need to watch some of those movies too.

I believe that the problem is that we get stuck in what we believe about ourselves, about our environment, and we just can't move past it, only because we won't let ourselves.   We get stuck because of a Paradigm.  A Paradigm is a distinct concept or thought pattern.  We believe that these paradigms are true to the core and there is no possible way anything could be different.  We might believe something about ourselves, "I can't do ...."  "I am only good at..."  "This is what I am."  It doesn't matter what it is.  What matters is that we don't think anything else is possible.   Pick a core thought about yourself, one that might be limiting you in some way.  What if it wasn't true?  How do you know, without a shadow of a doubt, beyond 100%, that its always true?  And what, just what if, it wasn't true.  What would your life look like in that case?  Play this out for yourself, and watch your paradigm shift...

In yoga we say its most important to be aware of what is happening.  We don't even need the intention of changing it, we just need to be aware of our thoughts around it.  This paradigm is the key to the yoga practice. Action happens, change happens, simply by the ever deepening layers of knowing that we have thoughts but they don't always have to be TRUE.  We see our true state is beyond what our thought state is, and in this way we become better than we think. Emergence:  the process of coming into view or becoming exposed after being concealed.   WE step into our biggest self, our most important self that feels connected, we EMERGE.

Emerge with me...

Friday, February 6, 2015

Inspiration in a mustard seed...

I have a theory of life.  That we all long to connect and to live a life of meaning and inspiration.  Now these might seem like HUGE topics that are overwhelming, some grand life event, but think about it for a minute.  How often does a tiny moment inspire you?  This morning, a friend reached out to me to ask how she can make her days more stress free.  She was going though a rough time, and she needed a boost.  I spent a few minutes typing out how a regular yoga practice and meditation really can help, I said a mantra can make a world of difference, and gave her some ideas, and offered her a video on EFT tapping, and she perked right up.   It went a little further, after she said she was trying to help everyone, I said you really can only help yourself.  The rest was their work.  Her perspective changed. There was hope.  I told her just a few minutes of consistent practice can change her life, and then to let that radiate to those in need.  It felt great to a: connect with her, she's all the way across the world!  and b: feel like I was helping through this struggle, even if in a tiny way.  She perked up after reaching out to connect, and knew that someone was behind her and giving her a boost.

This all happened in a span of about 2 minutes.  I felt inspired.  There was meaning in that moment. If we can just find the tiny moments to connect, if we focus on them, we can watch that effort grow exponentially in our lives.  It depends on what story you want playing in your head, and where you choose to put your attention.  I remember having a bracelet my grandmother gave me.  There was a tiny glass ball, and a note etched on a little golden plate: "If ye have faith as large as a mustard seed, no thing is impossible".  Those words etched themselves onto the plate of my mind.  Inspiration can be tiny.  But it grows.  It isn't always the big moments that make our lives magical.  Its usually the tiny ones.  Watch for them.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

More thoughts on Joy, inspired by Sandra Dodd

"Try the idea that it might be enjoyable to do work.  To clean, cook, type, compute.  Happiness might last a few seconds, but joy can be ongoing, can be felt before, during, and after our goals. A tiny moment can be enjoyed.  Warm water over your hands when washing. Light and shadow on the floor.  Pictures in the clouds.  You don't need permission from someone else to experience JOY.  Whether or not what you thought gave you joy is up to you.  Your life is yours and is being lived NOW.  Do not wait for approval.  Do not wait for instructions.  Have all this joy you want.  Help your children, family, friends to find this joy too...."

 Blizzards of Abundance!

We spent yesterday camped out in the house.  After our morning practices and some time filming (more on this later!!), we cooked a HUGE pot of bean soup, and played some  math card games & connect the dots (this is a new pastime for us, Ellessia and I found it amusing to see what shapes emerged!).  That's my kind of day!  This was the day of the "crippling storm of the century".  I don't know about you, but the sensationalism of the weather gives me quite a laugh.  We ended up with about a foot of snow. A fair amount, but not exactly crippling.  Now I can't speak for the entire range of the weather, some areas were harder hit.  However,  no matter what the snow fall, there is no need to hold the space for expectations of "crippling" weather.  The storm is of course a metaphor for anything in our lives that creates upheaval and is a disruption to our routine.  Our family has personally weathered several major "life storms".  None of them were easy, and a few required some time to process to move forward.  I have found that my daily practice helps me to weather these times more easily, and I look at them through a different paradigm.  Looking for the abundance in any moment, what can I be grateful for, even though the skies are grey. We can look at any time of seeming stress or intensity and keep our center with a few daily practices:

1- Connect with your physical body EVERY DAY

This is up to your interpretation, but it means some kind of physical activity.  Yoga is great, and is ONE of my own preferences, but you may the person who saves this for a weekly class, that's ok.  Maybe you stretch a little bit, or you go for a daily walk (this is my other daily preference).  Maybe you like to dance, hula hoop, or vacuum the house!  Whatever it is, move your body and make it an intentional action and you will feel more alive.  This will lower Cortisol levels- your stress hormones, and help you to manage stormy times.

2-Find Gratitude

Basic but essential.  Take a few minutes out of your day to recognize the wonderful things you do have.  I have joked in classes that having your spine and breathing mean life is good!  But some days, that may be all there seems to be for you.  That's ok!  What is important is that you recognize the good.  Maybe you wish your significant other did more for you, or that your kids tried harder or helped out more.  Instead of nagging them and making a negative situation all around, what if you did the opposite? This is called "pratipaksha Bhavana" in yoga.  Cultivating the opposite.  You may want to nag and complain, but what if you took a mindful moment to say "thank you" for some small thing they did instead.  What if you appreciate that spine, that breath, or some other personal goodie.  Create a more positive space for yourself and your loved ones.

3- Repeat a Mantram

Daily repetition of an intentional phrase can make miracles.  Mantra is a tool for the mind.  It takes the wild paths the mind likes to go on, and reigns them in.  Repetition is KEY.  Whenever the mind wants to stray, pull it back by coming to your mantram.  Eknath Easwaren says that taking a fast walk while repeating your mantram can be life saving.  I agree.

Some sample Mantrams:

Om Om Om- Connecting to the source
Om Tat Sat- I am that- Source
Sat Nam- Truth is my name
So Hum- Oneness
Om Gam Ganapatayea Namaha- Remove my obstacles

Pick one and make it yours.  Make it your best friend, your daily prescription.  There are NO SIDE EFFECTS of Mantram!  Test it out, and let me know how it makes you feel!

And ultimately, if times get you down, and even if your daily practices of health and wellness don't seem to aid in pulling you through.  See if you can "FAKE IT UNTIL YOU BECOME IT."  Sometimes you have to trick the mind to bring yourself to a place of wholeness.  Put your all into feeling and being well.  One of my departed love teachers, Jyoti Haansa used to tell me "Do something CRAZY".  It works!  It helps to rework negative patterns.  You may have to fake through it, but it just may turn into truth for yourself.  So turn up the music loud and dance like no one is watching.  Do a cartwheel, eat something wild.  Build a snow man- plenty of white stuff out there to do that with!  Make a fort out of your couch cushions.  JUST DO CRAZY (healthy and well, of course).   And become your change.

All Love,


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Just a Quote on Joy...

Sometimes I read Sandra Dodd, and I feel that I am reading deep spiritual writing.  It touches my very soul.  Here is a quote from her.  My share for the day:

"Your life is yours, and it is being lived even as you read this. Do not wait for approval. Do not wait for instructions, or for a proctor to say "Open your lifebook now and write." Have all the joy you want, and help your children, neighbors and relatives find some too. Joy doesn't cost anything but some reuseable thought and awareness"

A little paradigm shift, inspired by Sandra Dodd.... Instead of happiness, seek JOY. Joy is in the present moment, filling your fibers and cells, instead of something we seek. Find the JOY in cooking food. Find the JOY in working with your children. Heck, find the JOY in work. Find the JOY in cleaning your house. Find the JOY in the crisp cold air that greets you when you step outside. Practice experiencing joy, and you will enjoy your new experience of life.

Enjoy.... In love.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Passion of Unschooling

I like to dance with ideas.  I flirt with them.  I think of the thought, consider, read, experiment, and test some more.  Then I like to read reviews and see what others say against my idea.  I feel permeable, able to absorb information that works, leave behind what doesn't, and forge ahead with a new permutation of the idea.

As a Homeschooling mom, when my children were very young, 4 and 6, the concept of Unschooling was not familiar to me.  I hadn't hear of it. I struggled with making my oldest follow a curriculum, couldn't figure out how to "get" her to read, or "make" her learn her facts.  I assumed I was doing it all wrong and threw my hands up in the air.  Let the schools do it, I didn't have a clue what I was doing.

So off they went, to kindergarten, and first grade (even though my oldest was ready age wise for 2nd, I didn't think that was a good place for her).  She started the year off great. Excited at the possibilities. Granted, they missed homeschool club the most, and had fond memories of romping with children of all ages, playing games, taking art classes, eating loads of snacks...  One of my biggest concerns with sending the kids to school was needing to be on a strong schedule and not being able to snack when they wanted!  The teacher assured me there were snacks in the classroom, and no one would starve.  The girls started to make new friends at school and things went well.

About 2 months in, I was called.  My eldest was struggling with the curriculum and wasn't making "academic" gains.  We started having meetings.  Specialists were called in, studies were made.  She saw a reading specialist, a math specialist, and speech and language specialist.  I started to realize it wasn't me!  I wasn't doing something wrong, because the experts couldn't figure this out either.  Even after several major studies and analyzing with Psychologists,  and Special Education teachers, several years later, we never found a specific diagnosis.  Non-specific learning disability.   She was taken out of classes she liked,  like Library,  to go be with Special Education teachers.  She was singled out among her peers.  Different... not able.

I keep saying in meetings, "Can't we focus on her strengths instead of her areas of weakness?"  Wouldn't that be the most logical approach?  If I am not great at carpentry, doesn't it make sense to hire out the carpentry work, and do the job I am good at instead?  Isn't that why we have specialists?  We all have a unique gift we can share with others?  But I was told the school didn't have the resources to work in that way.  She would come home in tears over homework, telling me she knew she wasn't the smartest kid in the class.  As she approached pre-teen years,  I saw her recede more.  Only the beginning stages, but I knew that social pressures would mount, self identification with not being good, smart, would add to big trouble in her teen years.

We considered private schools but really they were too expensive.  Luckily, I work from home and decided to give it another go and to try this homeschooling idea again.  I came across this concept of "Unschooling".  My first thoughts were "crazy, ridiculous", how could that work?  Just let them do what they want??  But as any with seed, it started to grow.  I started to see the wisdom in child driven learning.  And the research mounted again. Suddenly it made so much sense, and mirrored some yogic practices as well.  Learning comes from within, it can not be forced from the outside.  We think its important to study for the standardized test, to pass it well, but what did all that time, effort, and energy really do for us? Well, it made some money for folks at the testing industries.  But what did we gain?  Some facts?  Some ability to work through math problems that we rarely, if ever, face in our day to day existence? If we truly needed those skills, couldn't we figure them out when necessary?  Don't humans excel at figuring out what they need to do, and learning how to do it?  Isn't this whole model causing so many of our adult issues, feelings of inadequacy, not belonging, self identification?  We don't know what we love, or what to do, we don't feel creative.  Because it has been driven out of us.  Worst of all, we all KNOW this is true, because we felt it ourselves when we were children.  Innately, we sense its wrong, but we accept it as a social norm, and going against that takes a strong person.

So why force another curricular system in place of the other?  Why play school at home?  I am choosing to take the bumpy path, and let my kids decide what is important, and then support them 200% in their personal interests. Mom, I want to make a shirt... ok.  Lets do it.  Mom, I want to make a website... ok, lets do it.  Mom, I love minecraft... ok, lets get it for your computer.  Show them you trust them, and you are there to help them, and amazing things start to blossom.  Who cares if they don't score well on that standardized math test.  Doesn't happiness count for something anymore?  Or are we too use to having that beaten out of us too...

I decided to look up what these grown unschoolers actually do with their lives.  Isn't that why we send our kids to school anyway?  To prepare them for an adult life and career?  Turns out, they can get into college just fine without curricular math and LA, Science, etc...

The following is an excerpt from a Blog report on a study of unschoolers as adults.  By Luba Vangelova:

"Overall, 83 percent of the respondents had gone on to pursue some form of higher education. Almost half of those had either completed a bachelor’s degree or higher, or were currently enrolled in such a program; they attended (or had graduated from) a wide range of colleges, from Ivy League universities to state universities and smaller liberal-arts colleges.

Several themes emerged: Getting into college was typically a fairly smooth process for this group; they adjusted to the academics fairly easily, quickly picking up skills such as class note-taking or essay composition; and most felt at a distinct advantage due to their high self-motivation and capacity for self-direction. “The most frequent complaints,” Gray notes on his blog, “were about the lack of motivation and intellectual curiosity among their college classmates, the constricted social life of college, and, in a few cases, constraints imposed by the curriculum or grading system.”

Most of those who went on to college did so without either a high school diploma or general education diploma (GED), and without taking the SAT or ACT. Several credited interviews and portfolios for their acceptance to college, but by far the most common route to a four-year college was to start at a community college (typically begun at age 16, but sometimes even younger).
None of the respondents found college academically difficult, but some found the rules and conventions strange and sometimes off-putting. Young people who were used to having to find things out on their own were taken aback, and even in some cases felt insulted, “when professors assumed they had to tell them what they were supposed to learn,” Gray says."

So if they can get into college, and are self motivate, more so than many of their schooled peers, and they do well, have careers, and happy lives... why make them waste their childhoods studying for tests that have no meaning?  Don't you want your life to have meaning?  Doesn't this become the estranged theme of adulthood?  Is it because we once knew, but we were forced to follow another path because someone else knew what was best for us?  What if they were all wrong???

And whats more... These grown unschoolers tend towards creative entrepreneurial jobs, instead of cubical tell me what to do jobs... no big mystery why...

"The range of jobs and careers was very broad—from film production assistant to tall-ship bosun, urban planner, aerial wildlife photographer, and founder of a construction company—but a few generalizations emerged. Compared to the general population, an unusually high percentage of the survey respondents went on to careers in the creative arts—about half overall, rising to nearly four out of five in the always-unschooled group. Similarly, a high number of respondents (half of the men and about 20 percent of the women) went on to science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) careers. (The same held true in another recent survey of unschoolers.) “STEM careers are also kind of creative careers—they involve looking for something, seeking answers, solving problems,” Gray says. “When you’re looking at it that way, it sort of fits.”

The reason for this correlation is something this survey can’t answer. “Maybe unschooling promotes creativity, or maybe dispositionally creative people or families are more likely to choose unschooling,” Gray says. “It’s probably a little bit of both.”

Additionally, just more than half of the respondents were entrepreneurs (this category overlapped considerably with the creative arts category). But what Gray found most striking is the complete absence (in both this and his Sudbury study samples) of “the typical person who gets an MBA and goes on to become an accountant or middle manager in some business. People with these educational backgrounds don’t go on to bureaucratic jobs. They do work in teams, but where there is a more democratic relationship within the team.”

We fear.   I see it all the time as a yoga teacher.  More so than not being able to do something, we are afraid of the possibilities.  Because we don't trust ourselves.  Why should we, we were told our ideas, interests, were not as important.  We were told to be quiet, and to listen.  Not to voice ourselves, or express ourselves, or pursue our own interests.  I want to change that, in the classes I teach and in my own kids.  I want to support their strengths, not their perceived weaknesses.  I want to see them live in passion, and interest, and to be excited to wake up and face the day and do what they love.

 Don't you want those things too???

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What is in a name...

Whenever one names something, people start asking, "What does that mean?".  The first name I gave to my style and school of teaching was a loan from my training school:  Shakti Yoga.  Shakti is the expression of the devine feminine that exists in all of us (male or female).  It is the flow, dance, and spark of energy that animates all of life.  I connected immediately with this idea, and could not think of any better way to express it.  So I lived with that name for a while. But people were constantly asking me what it meant, and it seemed confusing.  It is also linked to the Tantra practice, and I received  a few very strange phone calls  from people thinking I offered Tantric practices.  So I thought it would be better to find a different name instead of continuing to borrow my teachers name.

So there were many forms and ideas of the name, and moments of "why do I need a name anyway!".  There is a tiny rebel streak in me.  I don't like to conform, so maybe I could be the yogi formerly known as... or the unnamed... but that didn't last long.  I could just use my own name, and have been in that state for a while.  When designing the Yoga Teacher Training program, I knew there was an idea that would be important for me. There is a line in the Tao Te Ching- in reference to the Tao being expressed by the "Myriad Forms".  This idea always inspired me.  Myriad means: countless, or of an extremely great number.  I have always said that there are as many styles of yoga as there are teachers and practitioners.  That we each bring our own unique expression to the practice.  Each pose, each movement, each breath becomes one of the many beads on the string of the practice of yoga.  So there are Myriad forms of yoga.  But these are really all just expressions of the one.  So it becomes a bit of a paradox.  That there are many countless forms and expressions, but these are expressions of Oneness.  You can think of it this way:  There is one "you".  But "you" may be a mother or father, an aunt or uncle, a son or daughter, a cousin, a husband or wife, a friend, etc... there are many relationships and versions of you.  But the "you" doesn't change.  The unchanging part of the "Myriad" one might call "God" or "spirit" or whatever suits you best.  The Myriad expressions point to the unchanging part.

When we practice yoga, each day it changes. Today we feel open and alive. Tomorrow perhaps we are more tired and slow.  And this changes further, from person to person.  In our teacher training, I emphasize that there is no one correct alignment for a posture.  No one right way to practice and many possibilities to explore. This can seem overwhelming to those who need to "know the answers".  Or it could be completely liberating, depending on your outlook.   In the Kirtan practice, we chant the many names of the divine.  Again, the myriad expressions.  But again, its essence is just one.  Like the Inuit tribes that have many different words for snow, its all still snow.  The words describe different expressions of the same substance. So the word "myriad" expresses a truth.  The truth of oneness behind the many forms.

When you practice with us, myself and the teachers who have trained at Myriad Yoga, you will be honoring your own needs and aligning with your inner truth. There will be no worrying about your pose looking like a textbook, or even trying to get into the pose in the "one right way" because there is no such thing.  We will  always look to the possibilities and help you to explore your own willingness and curiosity to move body, breath, and mind with strength and integrity in the spirit space around and within.