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.