Friday, July 31, 2009

Synergy

*A little tree pose with the trees*
Friday before the long weekend and my office is a strange mix of anticipation for the coming break and impatience for the day to be over.
My charity yoga in the park is coming close to an end and I think yesterday was one of the most beautiful days I’ve had to teach in so far, although standing outside with the grass and birds is always pretty cool. My students last night were nice enough to hold a little Vrksasana (tree pose) for me so I could catch a picture of them. It’s weird in the Western culture where we promote individuality so so strongly to get the opportunity to see everyone moving in the same way at the same time. I read a study in the paper yesterday that said when kids are really young they think that it’s cool to emulate the people they worship like an older brother or sister, by doing all the things they do. But then by the time they’re 9 or 10 they have a very clear idea about what’s cool and what’s not and it’s based strongly on expressing their individuality. I think the urge to find and express our individuality just grows from there. And I know that’s all ego (mind made personal construct) placing the importance on proving we’re special to ourselves and everyone else, and I’d never say people should always do the same thing everyone else is doing, but putting our ego’s aside I think it’s really amazing to feel the power of people doing the same thing at the same time. The synergy of like minded movement definitely has power. You’ve probably felt it if you’ve ever sang the national anthem in a really large crowd or seen people dancing in time at a show. Yogis use this synergy in the form of asanas (yoga poses) meditation and mantras (chanting), and when you’re not in the energy created by these experiences it can look a little funny watching these occurances from the outside, but if you can be brave enough to take a chance and step into that moment with everyone it can be so much more powerful than the power one person generates. So Namaste to all the yogis and yoginis who worked synergistically with me last evening. It was wonderful.
And on another completely unrelated note we bought a tortoise this week and I just hadn’t got the time to pop her picture up here like a proud parent. Her name is Eddie and I don’t actually know if she’s a girl or a boy but it’s probably irrelevant. Apparently she should be around for the next 30 to 100 years so I guess I’ll have a lot of time to speculate which sex she is. And she also gives me a reason to try to live as long as I can, or put her in my will, either one. We’ll be hoping for some nice weather so we can take her out for some Vitamin D and to let her stretch her legs. Hope you all get the chance to do this too!
Have an awesome long weekend!


*The red on her face is strawberry carnage.*

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My 'If Only's- for Kait

My sister asked me last night if I wished she would change. The question struck me as funny at first because it made me picture Kait as a little caterpillar I was waiting so patiently to turn into a butterfly. I asked her what she thought I wanted her to change and she said she thought I’d want her to be more responsible and motivated. *Smiles* Because that’s what I do, sit around and dream about the perfect sister: Hmmm, let’s see. She’d be 6 feet tall and drive a 1970 Corvette Stingray which she’d take me for rides in every day and she’d always give me first pick of the cute guys when I saw them… LOL! When my sister was little I used to chase her around the house threatening to lick her forehead because she was so afraid of germs. I used to take her crying baby doll and leaving it screaming buried at the bottom of the toy box because she hated to waste batteries. In short I tortured her royally. If anyone could have asked for a different sister I think it would have been her. I’ve been having a great time. If my sister was perfect I’d have to find a whole new target to pick on. *Wink*

But I guess it’s not really that silly a question. I don’t know how often we try to change the ones we love, and base our requests for those changes in the hopes that when those changes are made they’ll bring us happiness. We usually phrase our wishes with the words “If only…” “If only my husband would leave the toilet seat down…” “If only my kids wouldn’t scream in the house so much…” “If only my parents would give me more credit…” And the end of these thoughts is that if only these changes would occur we’d be happy. When ever I start to think ‘if only’ I wonder what ‘if only’s people have for me. I wonder what people are waiting around for me to change so they can be happy. I want to tell them if they’re going to sit around waiting they’ll never be happy. Half the time your ‘if only’s for another person don’t bug that person one bit and for all you know the things that you hate are the same things they pride themselves on. But it’s not uncommon for our egos (our mind made selves) to try to shape and control everyone else’s egos. What a strange battle of wills as we all try to bend each other to our ‘if only’s. And even if everyone responded to our wishes would we be happy?
I don’t think so. I think our egos like to create drama and find different faults in people to try to change so they can draw us further and further from our goal of happiness. Our egos don’t have the goal of happiness, it would make them pointless.
So I will issue my last ‘if only’ and if any more come forth from me I will cancel them out and replace them with this one… “If only we would all realize that we are already happy and that there is no person, situation or concern that can take that away from us unless we choose to let it. If only we would choose to be in our happiness and give everyone around us the freedom to choose to do the same or not. If only.”

I love you Kait, no ‘if only’s.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Best Intentions...

In yoga we talk a lot about our intention. We set them before the class and try to hold them in ourselves during the class and then following the class we are asked to take them with us out into the world and apply them to our everyday life. When I read books by David Hawkins and Eckhart Tolle I hear a lot of the same message as well, it’s not what you’ve done or not done, it’s what your intention was. Like if you offer someone a ride in your car and then you take a busy road and get them stuck in a traffic jam and make them late for work it’s pretty easy to feel like maybe it would have been better not to have offered the ride. But if your intentions were good then there’s no good reason to make yourself feel bad. We can’t choose the outcomes of our actions, only our actions.

Another important idea around intentions is that your life will flow in the direction we intend it. We could also call this our ‘mind-set’. Sometimes we set our mind in a certain direction on an unconscious level and end up directing our lives unintentionally, in a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. So if you go through your day telling people that you have no friends and no one likes you then maybe by the end of the day this unintended intention will true. And that’s not to say there aren’t outside factors we have no control over, but if you intend to focus on all the bad things in life then you’ll most likely see all the bad things in life. I know this idea may offend some people because it’s not a happy thought to think that we are solely responsible for how we perceive our lives. That is to say that we can not decide the outcome of our lives but we can decide how we perceive our outcomes and in that we are our own masters.

So as I’ve been writing this I’ve been thinking about why I teach yoga. I’ve been considering what my intentions for being a yoga teacher are and so far I’ve realized that I would like for everyone to know that just a little yoga in their life could make a huge difference.
Even if a person only practiced deep breathing once a day or practiced being present once an hour, or did 15 minutes of yoga poses 3 times a week I know it would make a huge difference for them. That’s the tricky part, I don’t care if people pack into yoga centers wearing spandex and stretching 3 hours a day if that’s not their thing. That’s not my thing either. I practiced yoga on my own for almost 8 years before I ever attended a class. I think centers provide great opportunities to build community, and find guidance and refresh your personal practice, but I think it’s more important to take what you learned into your daily life and find where it fits for you.
So that’s what I’m trying to do with my yoga teaching, but the tricky part is reaching the non-yogis and helping them find the validity for yoga in their lives, even if it is just for ten minutes a day. I’m setting my intention in that direction and hoping that the answers come to me as to how to achieve this. If anyone has any ideas I’d love to hear them.
Namaste!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ishvara Pranidhana


I’ve decided to boycott the weather channel for the rest of the summer. Before I left to teach yoga outside last evening they were calling for hail and thunderstorms and as I looked up at the perfectly blue sky and enjoyed the warm breeze during the whole yoga session I questioned which part of Ottawa the weatherman lives in, because it definitely wasn’t the part I was in. I send thanks to everyone that braved the predicted storm to come out and do some yoga. I had a lot of fun!

Today I’m finally bringing to a close something I started when I originally began writing this blog over a year ago. When I started writing I began with moving through the Yamas and Niyamas of Patanjali’s 8 limbs of yoga. I started with ahimsa (non-harming) and explained it to the best of my knowledge. I then continued through the other 4 Yamas and 4 Niyamas. When I got to the last Niyama- Ishvara Pranidhana- I got a little hung up, but I feel it’s time to take this challenge and present it to you the best that I can.

Ishvara Pranidhana- Which I keep having to copy and paste on my screen because the spelling trips me up- is simply the process of surrender. And even the word surrender is enough to scare most people away from this yogic observance. Very rarely do we use the word surrender in a positive sense. I tried to find a more suitable word but others were worse- abandonment, abdication, My favorite synonym was eating crow. *Smiles* What a funny way of putting it. So I’ve decided to rename this observance letting go, yielding or releasing. Even putting it as mildly as that this is still a tough thing to do. A lot of our societal beliefs centre on controlling every aspect of our life.

I watched a lady order a fancy coffee last week, one of those frapimocha latte thingers, and she watched the guy making it as she barked out orders “More caramel!” “Less expresso!” And by the time it was done she still wasn’t happy and she demanded a free coffee and even after she got that she said she’d be talking to the owner of the store, maybe even the district manager. Wow! Obviously this is the extreme side of our need for control. But sometimes it feels like we hold so tightly to the little things that we burn ourselves out over useless details.

And that’s the whole idea of Ishvara Pranidhana- slowly releasing our need to control every little thing. Another part of this practice is trusting in something greater than ourselves to send us in the right direction if we let it. I think this is another stumbling block for the practice because many people don’t like the word God and they don’t like the idea of trusting anything greater than themselves. I’m not here to promote religion, I wasn’t raised in it myself so I wouldn’t even know where to begin, but I offer the argument that there is ‘something’ greater setting the flow of our lives. Anyone who doubts that can think about all the chaos humans create in this world with our wars and our hate groups and all our fears. There are so many things that present a challenge to our species and yet we still hug each other and love one another and sometimes we hold a door for strangers. If the world was just a big melting pot of self created and controlled chaos than how could any of us find it in ourselves to do something for the sole benefit of other people and the world around us.

And that’s the true spirit of Ishvara Pranidhana. We may not always be able to physically help those around us but even setting a personal intention of putting the well being of people around us before ourselves, without concern to what gains this involves for us, is an important step in reaching inside and bringing the best part of ourselves to the surface.

But first we need to surrender to our own lives. Learning to give ourselves rest when we need it, and exercise when we need it and healthy food when our bodies would benefit, as well as forgiveness and love and all the other things we need to help us be healthy and whole so that we can have the health and energy to move past ourselves and start considering others.

It can be a challenge to find the balance we need in our lives but learning to let go of all the things we are trying to control one piece at a time helps bring us closer to that balance point.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this topic.
Happy thoughts! Namaste.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I'm beginning to wonder if automatic-flush toilets are really a good idea...

I’ve been asking myself this question for a long time. I recently started working in a big office where everything in the bathrooms is automatic and I find my greatest daily battles to be with mechanized porcelain that chooses to either not flush without repeated button pushings (defeating the point of the automatic part) or flushes right in the middle of me sitting on it (ya, cause that’s way more sanitary than flushing it yourself). And as I continue these daily battles I can’t help but question why we keep moving in this direction with computers working along side us to prevent as much contact with humans and the outside world as possible (And I question this as I type away at my blog and check my phone for texts and emails).

It reminds me of when I was in grade-school and they came up with this whole ‘no-touching’ rule. That meant that if you purposely touched (I mean touched, no hit or punch) another person you were suspended. That rule made me feel so sad, picturing kids going through their whole day without human contact. Not a hug, not a hand on the shoulder, no nothing. I imagined if any of the kids I went to school with had families that didn’t hug them goodnight they would go through their whole lives without knowing what other humans felt like.

In China they did studies on the baby girls that get left in the orphanages due to the one child policy and found that babies placed in orphanages without enough workers to hold the children had drastically under developed brains as they grew older, to the point of causing mental disability.

And yet we continue in this direction of making our world a no touching place. We don’t open doors, we don’t speak to strangers. We base our choices on fear of germs and rejection. We have a thin Purell layer between us and the world.
I’m afraid to teach partner poses in my regular classes in case it scares people away.
I hug people by mistake sometimes, (a knee jerk reaction) and notice them go rigid and still as if they think playing dead will prevent me from eating them.

Internet dating, drive through coffee, groceries ordered by computer or phone… I could go on. And I’m not trying to whine and complain about how things are going, but I am trying to figure out how to connect more people in real situations and how to diminish the fear of things outside ourselves.

I’m hoping the weather will play along for my Charity Yoga this week. If you have time come out, although you may have to connect with another person. I’ll bring the Purell, promise.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Happy Friday!

failblog.org

Hey Everyone,

Just wanted to remind you on this lovely upcoming weekend to take the time to look up and take in all the awesome things around you.

Have a great one!



Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dukkha

I’ve recently come across the word Dukkha in my search for something and it’s left me feeling a bit scattered lately. They say the well know Buddhist quote “Life is suffering.” Is actually a poor translation of what should be “Life is Dukkha.” And like many of my favorite French expressions there is no direct translation for this word. I’ve been sitting here trying to think of a way to explain this concept that hit me so hard. Dukkha is suffering, Dukkha is pleasure, Dukkha is the transient nature of all things. That’s just a start. Dukkha is what Mugison would refer to as “The Great Unrest”, it is everything and anything we become attached too (Asantosha) or grasp for (Parigraha). Dukkha is the person who has everything but still wants. The child who can’t wait to grow up and the adult who wishes they were young again. It is everything. And that is why Buddha said “Life is Dukkha.”

The part that really rocked me is trying to conceive all things as transient, my desk, the ground, my thoughts, my beliefs. All of them can come and go and the true cause of suffering for all humans is not that everything moves in and out of existence, only that we perceive these things as ours and try to hold them and push them into ourselves as part of who we are.

I read at one point that humans are mistaken to picture all humans as bricks held together with mortar. With spaces between us and the ability to pull out just one brick and hold it. The truth is human and all things in existence are waves of a greater ocean. Waves come into existence and then recede back into the ocean that they never ceased to be of. And no one can ever hold a wave, no matter how hard they try.
(What a comical image that is too- to picture humans running around the ocean trying to catch waves in their arms, only to come up with a mouth full of salt water. No wonder we’re sputtering all over the place.)

And still all this does not perfectly describe what I’m trying to get my brain to conceive and maybe it’s not something for my brain to hold, and it is only grasping when it tries.

Links to what I read…

Dukkha- This one messed me up...
Dukkha- This one is friendlier...

Monday, July 6, 2009

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes...

Here come the clouds again, I think Ottawa is competing for some ‘Weirdest Weather’ competition the residents of the city aren’t aware of. Oh well I’m sure sunshine on a day in the office would only make me pout.

I was up early to see my osteopath this morning and he made it really obvious to me how connected everything in our bodies can be. He had one thumb on my jaw inside my mouth (that’s my karma coming back to me for putting off the dentist visits) and his other hand on my occipital bone and as he was moving skull stuff around my right foot just kept falling, falling, falling down. He spent the entire hour moving bones in my head and now my hip bones feel like jelly and he never even touched them. It makes me wonder how people can ever think that any action they take won’t affect other people, or how people can think they have a perfectly controlled scientific study. I mean there are so many variables and we don’t live in a vacuum. Just our breath can affect so many things around us in too miniscule a way to understand fully.

But then it’s easy to mentally put yourself on center stage in your mind and think that as the primary character in the play the only effects of actions that matter are the ones that affect you.
And then on the flip side we can’t consider all the consequences of any action we take mentally because it’s just too much for our brains to consider and coordinate at one time.

For this reason I’ve settled on a middle ground (how Buddhist). In the yoga fashion I will try to make my choices to cause as little harm as possible (ahimsa) but also recognize that when bad things happen to people it’s not always a bad thing.

One of my favorite illustrations of this was when I worked at the Woman’s Breast Health Centre and we spent the whole day telling women they had breast cancer and then counseling them, which could be a bit dreary (obviously). But what was neat was what you saw when the women came in for a follow-up 6 months later. It didn’t matter whether they still had the cancer or not: Their lives were visibly and often drastically changed. Women who always wanted to start a new career had made the changes to move in that direction, women who wanted to spend more time with their kids did so and cherished it, so many alterations and benefits of one piece of bad news.

So I recognize that bad circumstances are not something to wish on people but if my choices unexpectedly bring about negative occurrences I’m choosing to drop the guilt. Who knows what changes that may bring?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Yoga in the Park II

So I finally finished setting up both the charity yogas I wanted to get set up for the summer, one for the East side of town and one for the West side.

Click on the posters below to open, save or print them:

*East side yoga is at the Science and Tech Museum every Wednesday from 7pm until 8pm, running until August 12th.

* West and Central yoga is at the Adult Highschool on Rochester st from 5pm to 6pm every Thursday until August 13th.

Any questions feel free to email me at jayna_moar@hotmail.com