Thursday, December 18, 2014

Silent Night

Winter Solstice; Returning of Light.
     More days of tradition are approaching. Just as we finish a day of shared gratitude, it's time for the jingle jangle part.

My tradition includes discovering new traditions every year. It may sound like an oxymoron, but it may also be a legitimate tradition. Either way, planned gatherings are sometimes the focus on the 24th, 25th, 31st, and then some. This year, we're taking a break from driving and being overly social. Some possible activities may include washing windows (this is more fun than it sounds), building a fire, and a whole lot of aromatherapy (including fresh nutmeg, essential oils of pine, peppermint, and orange). 

Winter solstice feels like a real highlight among the holidays. I love that it can be celebrated anywhere, includes nature, and always has a present moment aliveness to it. Shortly after contemplating the returning of light, my mind starts to welcome in the tune of "Silent Night", (mostly for the silent part). The anticipation of a silent, healing night has long replaced the anticipation of present unwrapping. 

When we finally cease to scramble, there is a felt sense of our collective holy presence. I hope you will experience this too. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Time to Learn; Yoga as Therapy

Color Therapy in the City.
     I've been back in Minneapolis for just over a month now. The pace of a less frantic lifestyle is still with me. The idea of packing too many engagements into the week feels like a thing of the past. I can only hope this is true. The backdrop of autumn has also encouraged me to move more slowly. I know I wasn't the only one taking long walks this past month, while my eyes (and chakras) bathed in the brilliance of color.

A couple of weeks ago, while taking a break from autumn's color therapy, I spotted a flier for a fascia & asana workshop. Looking closer, I noticed the workshop had already happened, but kept the flier. Maybe the hosting yoga studio would have other interesting workshops in the near future. Checking their website later that day, I noticed a 500 hour therapeutic yoga teacher training program had just begun. It fit my interests in every way. In my research of yoga education options, I only knew of one program that was in line with what I most wanted to learn, but it seemed inaccessible (due to location and program fees). This new option was coming from Yoga North in Duluth! The only studio in a reasonable radius that is focused on therapeutic yoga education. For the first time, they were bringing this training to the Twin Cities. My eyes felt like they were popping right out their sockets with readiness.

Wisdom & Calligraphy by Thich Nhat Hanh.
I spent two days contemplating whether I would really be willing/able to shell out the money/time for this training. I also sent a message to Yoga North to see if it was even possible to join the group and make up the weekend I had already missed. I was feeling a strong "yes", but also a huge doubting "no" lurking in the corners of my mind, and gut. We've all heard the saying, "listen to your gut." My gut was in very noticeable pain, which could have been taken as a sign to forget about the training. Becoming more familiar with the tension patterns in my body, I finally translated the pain. It was just fear trying to run the show.
Recognizing the fear pattern, I decided to trust my decision to ignore it. I joined the training, and just finished the first fulfilling days of it. 

My own body is already feeling the effects of a somatics focused practice. How wonderful not to feel rushed in yoga, or in daily movements. Still very conditioned to hurry through things, I'm making a point to notice this conditioning and frequently ask, how could I slow down right now in order to be more present? How can I enjoy a cup of tea without needing anything else? Practice.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Seasons Change: Letting Go of Alaska

Me and my very wise teacher.
     Experiencing the changes of the Alaskan seasons has totally refreshed my being. Instead of a clock, I have watched the Fireweed bud, grow taller than myself, bloom in glorious stages and now turn to white fluff blowing everywhere. Snow on the mountains was abundant when I arrived, disappeared, and very soon will return.

While here, I've learned to drive a boat, clean and can salmon and identify new plants. Digging up potatoes and winterizing the retreat center will be next, in addition to making jams from our wild berry picking expeditions. My taste buds still cheer thinking about the many buckets of blueberries, black (and red) currants, raspberries, watermelon berries, and salmon berries consumed these last few months. On a soul level, I've learned some things that are still hard to express with words.

It does seem curious that I ever questioned spending this time in Alaska. I had wondered if it would be "too long." Too long for what?! It has been the necessary amount of time to witness the natural world, with all of it's leisurely changes. It has been the right amount of time to really be here.

Fireweed in September
Together with the external changes in nature, I've noticed change within myself. An abundance of fresh air may be the reason for an increase in my strength and energy. This environment has promoted a true sense of balance, and reduction in overall stress. I feel closer to nature and much more, a part of it.

The closure part of this experience has begun. The inspiring child I've spent the summer with has started school. This has made it necessary to take longer trips to town. Slowly, I expect these town trips will help me welcome the return of cars and roads back into my life, along with commerce of all kinds.

Glacier kayaking
During this time, I am reminded of the wisdom pointed out in a dharma talk by a Vipassana meditation teacher. She mentioned that it can be a great challenge for some, to let go of formal meditation. At the time, I could not relate to such a dilemma. Letting go of  meditation was the easy part. Getting into it, the challenging part, right? Soon after that talk, I noticed a participant who was clearly immersed in the 10 day retreat. Sometimes, during retreat transitions, out of the corner of my eye, I imagined this person as a very advanced practitioner. At the end of the retreat, the man chose to continue his silence, while the other participants shared their insights and experiences. Suddenly, I wondered if he was someone who had difficulty letting go of retreat. Of course I didn't know his actual story, but the lesson from the dharma talk suddenly made more sense.

Mountains in early May
It is important to let go of our experiences (wonderful or otherwise), in order to continue to be present in life. May yoga & meditation practices help us be resilient, open to life, and willing to let go when necessary.

I may not kayak with a glacier again, but my mind/body/spirit will never forget the many gifts that being in Alaska has brought to my life. May adaptability be one of those many gifts as I get ready to switch gears.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

5 Reasons I Enjoy Being a Nanny

Kid lead exploration
     Although I am not a parent, I'm grateful for those who have chosen to be. If it weren't for them, I would not have the privilege of experiencing the everyday pleasures brought by the company of children. Sure, there are times when I've been able to relate to movies like "The Nanny Diaries," but the joys have far outweighed any undesirable elements.

Nanny positions have had a perfectly timed way of dropping into my life. I have come to recognize this work as part of my right livelihood. My current position (for the set period time of five months) is an ideal mix of teaching yoga, massage therapy, and spending time with children. There is also the added entertainment of living in community. Although this nanny situation may be unique, there are 5 things I have noticed about being a nanny which have been consistently wonderful:

1: Lightheartedness Required

There is no time for being grumpy. Going with the flow and not taking things personally are important job skills, which also happen to promote happiness!

2: Laughter & Learning

We all know laughter is good medicine and kids are inherently hilarious. Even though caring for children has plenty of challenges, frequent laughter keeps my overall stress level low. Along with the laughing, I learn (and relearn), many things forgotten. Kid's are constantly teaching me how to see life with fresh and original eyes.

3: Lack of Agenda

Children generally do not live for some other future moment in time. I find this lack of agenda refreshing. They prefer to linger in the moment (true quality time), with very few references to past or future. Since children prefer the present moment, it encourages me to stay in it too.

4: Supports My Yoga Practice

There are times throughout the day when children are engaged in something (alone or with siblings/friends). I take some of those moments to fit in a yoga or short meditation practice. Sometimes this catches their interest and they will join me. It must be an approachable, flexible practice, in case it needs to be abandoned it in a hurry. Practicing random yoga adds to a positive atmosphere for everyone.

5:  Unconditional Love & Honesty

Emotional ups and downs happen to everyone. I love how children tend to wear their hearts on their sleeves. I respect their directness, honesty, and most of all the generous sharing of unconditional love. One moment I may get an earful of opinions and frustrations, in the next moment there is a hand reaching out to hold mine. Grudges are very short lived, and forgiveness happens fast.

Sea star with hula hoop

I imagine that my life will continue to include the company of children. Finding a young friend to spend the day is always just a phone call away. Child energy puts more sparkle in my step. I may not otherwise think of photographing a sea star with a hula-hoop, wearing a bathing suit over my clothing, jumping on a trampoline dressed as a ninja, or having a luncheon in a cardboard box. Suggestions like these have become very important to me.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Living in Community

Community Living with a View.
     Personal dynamics are always shifting, making it impossible to maintain constant harmony in social situations, no matter the people involved. It's easy to understand why some choose to live in caves (or the modern version; a small studio apartment). Yet, cave/studio dwellers may not experience the internal struggle that comes when someone is blocking your way to the teapot in the morning. Keep reading to find out how this predicament might be valuable.

It could be loud chattering, a dismissive encounter, a distracting conversation, or some other unwanted scenario that becomes a stress trigger for someone. "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff (and it's all small stuff)," wouldn't be a best seller if it wasn't commonplace to have strong reactions to inconsequential things. We all do it.

Even under the most ideal conditions, collective living can still challenge my sense of sanity. Opportunities to bump up against the edges of my comfort zone seem limitless. Like many people, my comfort zone tends to expand and contract in accordance to my likes and dislikes. Once the ebb and flow of this equation is made obvious, detaching from personal preferences makes life breathe easier.

Observing habitual reactions during meditation is one thing, but being mindful in the presence of other people is arguably why we meditate in the first place. In meditation we watch thoughts come and go. In social living situations we have the same option, though the mind/ego may prefer the drama of taking every interaction personally.

Community living is showing me where I get stuck (lack of compassion), and how to get unstuck (compassion). In this five month experience, we are all working and living collectively to run a retreat center. I am so thankful we practice yoga and have the option of meditating together. These practices remind us all to live peacefully with ourselves, so we can leave peacefully together. So far, we are doing an amazing job.

The following mantra helps me during challenging social situations: We are all (including myself) doing the best we can in every situation.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Meditation Spaces

A space to meditate.
     In meditation our eyes are generally closed or downcast. Why then is an effort made for the beautification of meditation spaces? What is the purpose of making an altar when our focus is suppose to be inward?

I see the adornment of space as an intention to see beauty in whatever arises in the mind/body during practice. If my mind starts to feel too cluttered during meditation, I can reflect on the simplicity of my surroundings for support in coming back to the present moment.

On days when meditating seems impossible, setting a heartfelt tone for the space tends to change resistance into gratitude.

I have practiced meditation in yurts, halls, domes, and even in a meditation tower. Docks, big rocks, decks, and bedroom floors make perfectly fine practice spaces too. Some believe you should not meditate where you sleep, and never use sleeping pillows as meditation cushions. I have taken this advice, since meditating on a bed tends to bring on a serious case of drowsiness.

Simple altar.
Wherever you can find space to meditate, take a few moments to set a contemplative object (flower, stone, candle, or anything from nature that catches your attention). It's as if these objects continue to hold the physical space, so we can more easily move toward the adventurous journey of introspection. At the end of practice, opening our eyes, we are welcomed back to our surroundings with the loving tone that got us started.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Yoga & Kayaking

Meet the changing sea.
     It should no longer surprise me when the practice of yoga compliments other activities. Every moment is a backdrop for conscious awareness to reveal the innermost self so that we may experience a state of yoga (union).

Yoga helps me recognize both the stuck and freely moving energy in my mind and body. The awareness yoga brings keeps me interested in a sea of mental, emotional and physical fluctuations, as they arise and pass away.

Summer Solstice in Halibut Cove, Alaska.
When kayaking we also need to find a centered seat of awareness to enjoy the ride. Once seated and relaxed, kayaking can become an incredibly soothing, moving meditation.

If you prefer to have a frustrating time while kayaking (you never know), then try to use only your arms to move the craft. However, if you want to open and strengthen your whole upper body with ease, move from your heart and navel center to power the kayak. The lower body becomes the foundation, while the uplifted torso rotates evenly, side to side. The power for the rotation and the origin of your movement comes from the navel and solar plexus region. Begin the rotation from that place, just as you would with a sitting twist. As always, keep the rotation within your active range of motion.

Once an ease in movement is established from the torso, paddling in sync with the breath becomes second nature (especially if you already have a yoga/meditation practice). Keep the arms lifted (like forward tilted cactus arms) yet relaxed through the shoulders. Draw the tips of the shoulder blades into the back to keep a strong connection with the arms and torso. The paddle takes a quick dip into the water and fluid, gentle rotation takes you to the other side. All the while, staying centered in your seat.

Now for the really fun part: Can you imagine a light shining in all directions from the heart chakra. With each rotation your body becomes an energetic lighthouse, sending and receiving love.

-You can practice these movements from any sitting position, with or without a kayak.
-It's useful to practice at least 10 minutes of asana before and after kayaking. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Spaghetti & Moose Meat

Wild Alaskan Salmon on a Stick
     The retreat center (where I'm working this summer), serves pescetarian meals for the guests and staff. Stepping off the retreat campus, many of the locals hunt for their dinner. I have been cordially invited to try moose ribs, spaghetti & moose meat, and even bear.

As a yoga lover, I am often assumed to be a vegetarian. In reality, I relate most to being a "flexitarian," with a strong preference for organic and locally grown food. So yes, I did try the spaghetti & moose meat! I didn't completely savor it, (unlike the salmon on a stick we made the previous week), so I stayed with the small sample, and relished the experience of sharing a dinner with the generous hosts. This worked out especially well, since I then had accommodations for a locally made rhubarb pie.

I'm intrigued by the diets people choose for themselves (in places where the luxury of choice exists). One of our staff members went from being a raw food vegan for over twenty years, to a now paleo diet (from no meat, to mostly meat). Research and experimentation has led her to what she feels is best for her body. I have also met people who claim to live on coffee alone, and others who are happy getting every meal at a restaurant. Some regularly deprive themselves of food, while others consistently overindulge.

In a New York Times Magazine article, Our National Eating Disorder, Michael Pollen questions the common practice of anxious and guilt ridden eating. It turns out that obsessively counting calories most likely interferes with the wisdom of our senses, causing stress instead of enjoyment at meal time. Unfortunately, stress and proper digestion do not work well together. So what is the "right" way to eat?!?

Surely there can not be one "right" plan for everyone! Personally, I believe that a meal obtained with compassion, cooked with love, and consumed with gratitude is the most important criteria for a healthy diet. What works best for you?

Friday, May 9, 2014

No Cars, No Roads

No cars, no roads.
     Ten days in Alaska. Ten days without the sight or sound of cars. Ten days of eagle watching. With extended daylight hours, ten days has felt more like twenty.

Something about the stillness here at Stillpoint Lodge has amplified my awareness of the noise in my head. This is not a ten day silent retreat, but such retreats have helped me prepare for the drastic transition here. Eventually, I expect the inner noise will grow more quiet, like my surroundings.

A sea otter spiraling through the water reminds me to enjoy the day. It's my day off. There are no shops, nothing to purchase, no admission fees. Away from urban living, I no longer need my google calendar! Life has finally become simplified. I'm still adjusting to the these new found freedoms. Everything feels surreal, some things are uncomfortable. At times, it is hard to grasp spending five months in this remote setting. Thought waves of disturbance try to interrupt the possibility of contentment.

The one constant is nature. The snowcapped mountains have felt welcoming since the moment I spotted them from the plane. They are the anchor for my experience here. Sitting with them, they hold the space for all of my encounters (real and imagined).

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Turn your Commute into a Yoga Practice

Commuting with Kindness
     When driving becomes a stressful, or burdensome task, consider turning your commute into a beneficial yoga practice. Here are some ways to transform your commute:

1) Acceptance: Whether you take the "wrong road," find yourself in heavy traffic, or notice the car is falling apart with each unavoidable pot hole you hit, acceptance is a great way to stop the suffering. When expecting an uneventful commute, a variety of unpleasant circumstances can still arise. Thankfully, most of them are non-emergencies, though our minds often don't know the difference. Accept the pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral moments of a commute, for a powerful way to practice yogic living.

2) Compassion: Shouting at the "idiot"on the road, leaves me feeling like the idiot. When another driver does something hazardous or unkind, instead of insulting their imagined character, try connecting for a moment with the humanity of that driver. This effectively brings about a state of compassion, rather than hostility. Maybe the problem driver is unfamiliar with the area, new to driving, ill, elderly, etc. Instead of assuming the driver is an unintelligent, or terrible person, try having compassion for all drivers (including yourself). Being confined to a machine with wheels can be the perfect space for finding our tender hearted selves.

3) Non-Greed: Needing to be at the front of the lane at all times, cutting in front of someone for a gas pump, or not stopping when pedestrians are present, brings a spirit of greed to the road. We can change an attitude of violence, greed, and stealing (e.g.; running a red light) into an experience of yoga. Non-greed and other important ethical guidelines of yoga are addressed in the yamas. Our commute gives a chance to practice them.

4) Noticing Bodily Sensations: It may be that you are stuck in traffic, despite the extra time you allowed. Whether it is the driving atmosphere contributing to tension, and/or the mental processing of the day, yoga is available to us all! Noticing where you feel tension in your body is a great way to begin the physical practice of yoga. Try tuning into the places that are gripping (jaw, hips, glutes). Become aware of the tightly held areas in your body. Use commuting time to get acquainted with where you feel open, uncomfortable, tight, easeful, etc. Notice how compassionate awareness can transform tension. Turn your commute into a yoga practice by being present in your body.

5) Breath Awareness:  Turning your commute into a yoga practice may feel impossible at times. In this case, there may not be a better time to focus on yoga's chief tool, the breath. That's right, just keep noticing your inhale/exhale. An anxious mind calms down when there is something productive to focus on. Why not let your mind become interested in the act of being alive? Use the breath as a relaxant for the body with natural breathing. Breathing through the nose when possible, allow the breath to be just as it is. Notice, breathe, repeat!

What if you are not the driver?
As the driver or passenger, commuting can be a highly stressful event. As a recovering "backseat driver," it is an on-going struggle to practice yoga from the passenger's seat. Passengers have little say over the driver's style and conduct. For me, it becomes necessary to crank up my practice of acceptance, breath awareness, noticing bodily sensations, and compassion for all drivers. Jack Kornfield has outlined a traditional loving kindness practice, which is not only effective, but feels great.

Practicing one or more of the above suggestions while in a car, will change your commuting experience for the better. Don't forget to give yourself more travel time, share the road, accept present moment circumstances, and develop compassion for all drivers! Once you arrive at your destination, don't be surprised if your practice has a positive impact on the rest of your day.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Stopping & Feeling

Plants adjusting to the season.
     I feel caught between the seasons, as winter takes it's leisurely time to transition. Today, I am aware of an inner sludge like feeling. The dregs of winter are stuck within me. This spring transition is not feeling smooth or particularly cheerful. Yet, somehow I know it's important to experience it all, as it manifests in and around me.

When it comes to plants, we carefully choose the right conditions for their  successful transition to the outdoors. Some people claim that talking to the plants will help with this. Working with children has taught me the most about the importance of transitions. Making a big deal out of a transition involving a child, usually backfires, Trying to sneak by and ignore a transition can be a big mistake too. When children transition, we accept that there may be crying, extreme excitement, heartfelt protest, or falling into a deep sleep. The energy present during transitions of all kinds, seems to be extra charged. Thoughts and talk about the future during a transition often leave us clinging even more, to the present. Letting go of a long winter should be easy, but there is still a transition, and a clearing that needs to happen within.

Ideal conditions for times of transition include slow moving yoga classes, where there is time to feel and experience the spaces between the poses. It feels so life affirming, to sense and acknowledge whatever arises, moment to moment, seasonally, and in all of life's transitions. If a yoga class is not available, there is almost always a space for legs up the wall (viparita karani).

This week I'm giving myself extra permission to play in the muck of my own feelings and surroundings. If may involve guilt-free napping, moving very slowly, not over socializing, quiet meditation, gentle yoga, and anything else that gives me time to feel. I am crawling into spring this year, and feeling my way out of winter.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Circling Back to Alaska

A window display captures wonder.
While contemplating new ways of creating balance in the Twin Cities, an unexpected opportunity popped up. A seasonal job at an Alaskan retreat center was suddenly back on the table. I was reminded that the swirl of life is never final, and accepted the position I'd applied for more than a year ago.

At age 5, I had been in Alaska just long enough to vomit on the capital steps. It had taken us a long time to drive there in a van filled with rotating hitch-hikers. Upon arrival in Juneau, I heard murmurings that we had run out of money. It was already time to turn around! This was clearly a direct experience of life being about the journey, not the destination. I remember thinking that I would just go back another time. Because of this, my inner child is pretty excited to be circling back around to Alaska! My job description includes (teaching yoga, massage, cooking, etc.), but my main responsibility will be caring for a 6 year old girl. Again, my inner child is jumping for joy!

Five months in Halibut Cove is sure to highlight the pain of my attachments too. I will miss the familiar everything of home, but looking at life from a wider lens is always appealing. There will be plenty of time to make friends (or not) with my attachments and aversions. With Mother Nature as my guru, there will be plenty of lessons in flexibility, strength, and trust. I will keep you posted, and hope to hear comments and insights from your "road" too.

Monday, February 10, 2014

True Love on Valentine's Day

Alley heart in Minneapolis
   There is no one in the entire Universe who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself. As the holiday for romantic love approaches, so does the temptation to get swept up in thinking that the love we seek is outside of ourselves. Feelings of loneliness and separation may be clamoring for your attention, especially if you are experiencing strain in a relationship/marriage, or if you feel a sense of urgency to meet that special someone in order to finally experience a full heart. Our yoga & meditation practices help us connect to our natural state of true love. 

A short practice to connect with true love, now: 

Begin sitting or lying down. Place one palm on the center of your chest and the other on your navel. Relax your whole body and breathe. Imagine that you can actually expand your capacity to love with each inhale. It may help to picture a shining gem right at the center of your chest. Each time you bring your presence and attention to this area, imagine the gem being brightly polished. Allow this shining gem of compassionate light, to bring healing to all that is unsettled in yourself. Continually allow your awareness to be drawn back to this true love at your own heart's center. We are never lacking in love. On your exhales, share love with the rest of the world. Breathing love out into your surroundings and beyond!
                     *Repeat for as long as desired.

“Love is never lost. If not reciprocated, it flows back, to soften and purify the heart.”
-Washington Irving

Monday, January 27, 2014

Cross-Country with Yoga

Lake Superior

     When I first set out on skis, I am quieted by the stillness of my surroundings. Every in-breath seems to bring along elements of vast sky, flowing river, quiet snow, stable ground. Each exhale, removing whatever is stale, in exchange for what is now. The body on skis becomes a new vehicle. At times, gracefully gliding from one moment to the next. Other times, struggling with some aspect of the experience.  

Sea Caves at Mawikwe Bay, WI
Like a yoga practice, cross-country skiing is sure to bring up diverse feelings and reactions to whatever is currently happening in life. To get past these reactions and into the now, breathing leads the way. A moving meditation is established, in sync with nature. 

Swishing past trees, I take in nature's demonstration of strength, beauty and perseverance. This demonstration encourages me to find those qualities within myself. Cross-country skiing explores a lot of ground, inside and out.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

How to Win a Climate Contest

A resting hill
     Sub-zero temperatures encouraged many Minnesota businesses and schools to close this week. This kind of week may cause people who live in warmer climates to feel extra fortunate, and blessed. While I agree that pleasant weather conditions are generally preferred, I'm also aware of the teachings and blessings that come from the cold as well.

If you have friends and relatives in year-round warm places, you may have participated in what sometimes feels like a climate contest. If you live in the mid-west, you're automatically considered the loser in this contest. I have heard shocked and disgusted reactions from those living in warmth. If it's cold or conditions are challenging in your area, you must be suffering constantly, insane, or unimaginative to be there, right? Perhaps some light can be shed on these judgments by reading this old Taoist parable, a reminder that none of us know what is 'good' or 'bad'. 

It is nice to be on a winning team, live in a winning climate, part of a winning marriage, relationship, job, etc. This sense of success, may even bring out the nasty old habit of gloating, defined as; "contemplating or dwelling on one's own success or another's misfortune with smugness or malignant pleasure." 

I've decided that the secret to surviving a climate contest, and competitive mind games of all kinds, is to create real joy. This kind of joy is highlighted in the Buddhist practice of mudita, or empathetic joy. Developing mudita, we learn to appreciate human nature and our ever changing circumstances. We recognize everyone as being complete and complex, and see the futility in making comparisons. The Buddha taught four sublime mind states, considered to be social attitudes as well. They are mudita (empathetic joy), loving-kindness, compassion, and equanimity. Mudita is a quality of joy available to everyone at all times, regardless of circumstances. This mind state is a salve for times when we feel the desire to feed off of the challenges of others (gloating). Mudita is also a remedy for resentment and envy, sometimes experienced as a response to the joy we see in another. In a state of mudita, the heart is full.

Click here for audio reflections and to read more about mudita.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Doubt is a Terrible Party Guest

Street art in New York City
     Spending time in a yoga community at the end of a year and into the next has become a mandatory ritual in my life. This year, I noticed that it had become too mandatory. After all, it seems more nourishing to ring in the new year with an open mind, rather than a doubting, or rigid one. At 8pm on New year's eve, I had finally found the perfect way to end the year. We would go to the Jivamukti Yoga School for some kirtan (music), followed by mauna (silence). However, my loved one and I had already agreed to watch some fireworks from the ferry. A compromise was made, we would spend a little time in silence at Jivamukti, and then go to the ferry.

Walking into Jivamukti, I felt the beauty created by an intention filled atmosphere. It was an honor to meet the space and community on a night of ritual. After relishing the silence for some time, we felt satisfied, centered, and ready to mindfully change gears. Or so I mistakenly thought. At the ferry building, I began browsing through the yoga program handed to us on our way out. I learned there would also be arati (light ceremony), prasad (blessed food), and an uplifting message from the revered founders of the yoga school. The evening program allowed folks to come and go, so in my mind, we could still go back!
Fireworks from Staten Island Ferry
Suddenly I was not where I wanted to be. I was trapped on a boat with my wonderful boyfriend, fireworks (thought by some to scare off evil spirits in the new year), and Ms. Liberty shining at us. Why was my mind resisting the last few hours and moments of the year? I read somewhere that doubt is a form of storytelling, or the lies we tell ourselves. My doubt story included the need to teleport myself back to the yoga school. If we wanted to have a proper meaningful time, we would have to get off the boat and run! I didn't realize I had invited doubt to my new year's eve celebration, but it showed up anyway.

Ultimately, doubt gave me the unexpected gift of compassion. Yes, doubt knocked at the door, and I let it in for an extended stay. I spent the end of the year dancing with it. I'm sure I will continue to greet doubt when it comes, but in the new year, I don't want to spend all night listening to it's tall tales.