Leaves Falling: The Beauty of Disillusion

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The following is a version of an article I wrote for Conscious Life News

 
Dogma of Fall Leaves

I wish I knew the beauty of leaves falling.

To whom are we beautiful when we go?

~David Ignato


And to whom are we beautiful as we go? This poem seems to point to the fact that even in our failing, there is a part of creation and therefore a part of ourselves that can grant a magnificence to any loss.

A beautiful concept. A bittersweet truth. Perhaps this is why Autumn is so colorful: it is the opulent  funeral procession of the death of so much. It is the rush of fireworks before the quiet stillness of winter.


Shiva Nataraj

Shiva

Many of the Hindu statues tell stories and offers insight which transcends dogma. The Shiva Nataraj, the Dancing Shiva, is a storytelling icon depicting Shiva, the creator of the universe, and illustrates his five acts which, in part, give understanding of death and dissolution. Through understanding the Shiva Nataraj, we too might understand "the beauty of leaves falling" as penned by poet David Ignato.

This statue depicts a person with several arms holding different tools, his hair on fire, body wreathed in flames, standing on an impish creature with one leg, and his other leg in motion.

Creation

In his first hand, Shiva holds a drum putting everything into motion through vibration. It's true that everything from the smallest particle to the largest galaxy, even the Universe itself, is in constant motion. As a musician, I love the idea of DJ Shiva laying down the backbeat that sets the Universe into motion. This represents the birth and spring in our lives and the events and circumstances therein.

Sustaining

His next hand holds a mudra or a gesture called the abhaya mudra. This Mudra is the power of sustaining. It's like Shiva is saying, "I've built this, now I'm supporting and nourishing it." For me this represents summer time when everything is in full bloom and thriving. It's also a reminder to be present, especially to our tendency to get attached to things when they are going well, or looking over our shoulder for the other shoe to drop. If possible be right in the moment as things are. The subtle message here is that things are in flux and don't get either attached or resist what's inevitably in flux.

Death and Disillusion

In his third hand, Shiva is holding a flame suggesting not to get too attached because just as soon as he will give birth to and sustain something, he'll also burn it down. This flame reminds you that not only does everything has a life cycle, but that even as things are changing and dying they do so as part of a perfect cycle. Shiva has no remorse about any of this, he simply stares straight ahead with a little grin as if to say, "This is what death looks like," meanwhile the beautiful fall colors are exploding in their passing.

Concealment

So, when you're at your lowest point, your house has just been razed to the ground and you're really hoping Shiva will give you a helping hand, he does just the opposite. His fourth arm is concealing his heart. At the moment when we are humbled and look to a higher power at our low points he covers his arm to say, "You don't learn heart of God for free." Sometimes this feels like just when you couldn't get any lower, you in fact do.

This lowest point is what Shiva is standing on, a little demon thing called the apasmara and represents the unrealized, naive or innocent part of ourselves. Shiva is standing on this representation of a part of ourselves, not in any way to be mean or spiteful, but rather as a way of literally taking a stand for our higher selves.


Revelation

Revelation Scott Moore Yoga

And once the old self has fully been put asunder, with the only limb left, Shiva last leg is swinging upward to invite you back into the a new and elevated cycle of new birth, sustainment, death and dissolution, concealment and revelation. Here is where everything is revealed and we continue to ride the circle in a spiral of evolution and growth. After such revolutions, there is no going back. And after several times around one might begin to start to expect the different cycles as they appear.

With the full picture in mind, whenever we encounter death, change, or dissolution we can resist it less and perhaps see if for what it is, one of the beautiful steps on our way to our full understanding being.

Mary Oliver writes about learning to accept death and loss in her poem, Maker of All Things, Even Healings. I love the title of the poem because it suggests that the healing, the bringing back to life for a fuller measure of life as in the Dancing Shiva, comes only after accepting death which she does so humbly.

All night

under the pines

the fox

moves through the darkness

with a mouthful of teeth

and a reputation for death

which it deserves.

In the spicy

villages of the mice

he is famous,

his nose

in the grass

is like an earthquake,

his feet

on the path

is a message so absolute

that the mouse, hearing it,

makes himself

as small as he can

as he sits silent

or, trembling, goes on

hunting among the grasses

for the ripe seeds.



Maker of All Things,

including appetite,

including stealth,

including the fear that makes

all of us, sometime or other,

flee for the sake

of our small and precious lives,

let me abide in your shadow--

let me hold on

to the edge of your robe

as you determine

what you must let be lost

and what will be saved.




As we celebrate the panoply of fall colors, may we, too, remember the beauty of leaves falling, the beauty and magnificence of this amazing dance in which we are all twirling, living and dying.

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Why I Wake Early

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Sun Salutations

I awake today and sit enjoying the silence of a beautiful morning. Even as I sit, I'm watching the bright morning sun dance its procession around my front room. It is playing with the crystal hung in my eastern window and splattering rainbow prisms across each wall.

Even as I look, the color changes and fades, showing me that the earth is revolving around this sun. Things are changing. As I look out the window the sun is celebrating these early autumn trees with its light, making the yellow leaves explode with color against a cloudless and pale-blue sky. I see a small bird sitting in a shadow who decides to leap up higher and rest in the bright sun's warmth. And then it begins to sing.

Aren't we all like this bird, eager for the creature comforts of warmth on our skin, eager to leave the shadows for the sun and the opportunity to feel life pulsing through our veins, eager to feel how we may reflect that same brightness and joy through our song?

And perhaps this is why in yoga we practice celebrating the sun with Surya Namaskar, or sun salutations. Surya means "sun" and Namaskar means "a deep honoring." You might notice the same root word Namas as the base of the word Namaste, another Sanskrit word meaning to honor the True Nature or heart of hearts, the most sacred element and potential of another. Surya Namaskar is like offering a Namaste to our source, the sun, as it brings life to us and everything on this planet and we're dependent on it for all aspects of our well-being. Sun salutations are also a physical practice, a ritual, for acknowledging and honoring anything else you feel is your source (God, Creation, the Universe, Buddha nature, or whatever). But just as important, this practice reveals that we are part of that source and reflect a bit of that same light within ourselves. By acknowledging this similarity between ourselves and our source we empower ourselves with the memory of our True Nature. We are not dark creatures in a dark world, and where there is shadow, we can choose to leave it for the sun or shine light into it. We are beings of light, filled with life and love. And we are here to celebrate that, to learn from it, and to shine our light everywhere.

Mary Oliver.jpg

Uinta Mountain Yoga Retreat October 5–7, 2018

Mary Oliver says in her poem Why I Wake Early:

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who made the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety -

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light -
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

Please join me this week as we practice Surya Namaskar and other poses to remind ourselves of this bigger picture. We show gratitude, rekindle our fire, and celebrate our own light.

Scott

Yoga Hawaii.jpeg

Valuing Perplexity

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Yoga Nidra Training

We all have problems. We all grapple with the unknown, about the big things like the origin of the Universe, sure, but more specifically about our own complicated life. We all want to solve our problems as quickly and painlessly as possible.


But sometimes it is only by questioning or struggling that we are driven to earnestly understand an otherwise hidden part of ourselves. Sometimes it is working through our struggles that we truly come to understand our full potential. Our questions fuel us to open our hearts, to seek for inspiration, to perform the necessary work, and more profoundly, to abandon our will to the grander wisdom of the Divine, whatever your concept of that is.

We must at once be willing to seek and do. What's most difficult is that we must also be willing to sit comfortably and simply be with what we don't know or understand. And sometimes to get real answers we must be willing to sit in our own darkness for a while.

This human tendency for control occurs regularly in our yoga practice as many of us strive to either know everything there is to know about yoga or try to perfect our poses.

Instead, let us practice this week the yoga principle of Santosha, or contentment, by learning to sit with and even value perplexity, to sit in the not knowing. There is a practice of allowing things to be just the way they are, perfect with our problems, as unseen forces that are working in mysterious ways to evolve your body, mind, and heart. 

The following poem by David Whyte seems to speak directly to learning from the not knowing and leaning into the darkness rather than running from it.

 

Sweet Darkness
by David Whyte
 

20-Hr. Yoga Nidra Training

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September 28–30 2018

When your eyes are tired

the world is tired also.

 

When your vision has gone

no part of the world can find you.

 

Time to go into the dark

where the night has eyes

Meditation for Sleep

to recognize its own.

 

There you can be sure

you are not beyond love.

 

The dark will be your womb 

tonight.

 

The night will give you a horizon

further than you can see.

 

You must learn one thing.

The world was made to be free in.

 

Give up all the other worlds

except the one to which you belong.

 

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet

confinement of your aloneness

to learn

 

anything or anyone

that does not bring you alive

 

is too small for you.

How To Meditate: A 30-Day Meditation Challenge

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How to Meditate.jpg

I love to teach yoga and meditation because I feel it's my calling to help people become the best versions of themselves so that they can go and bless the world in best ways they know how. 

The world needs people who are present, living their lives mindfully, and growing into their True Nature with a regular, dedicated meditation practice. The world needs YOU to be operating at your highest potential. 

Regular meditation is perhaps the most effective way to evolve into your highest self. Presence is the key to experiencing your birthright of magnificence. A group of meditators benefits the world in vast ways, bringing magnificence into the world like expanding ripples in a pond.
Some of the most common personal benefits of regular mediation are:

  • Spiritual awakening
  • Reduced stress
  • Greater focus
  • Understanding your purpose for the world
  • Greater compassion
  • Being less reactive more responsive
  • Greater happiness


Like any worthwhile endeavor, meditation takes practice. So let's do it together!

Join me in a meditation challenge, a group that will meditate every day for 30 days. This challenge will benefit you personally and will make the world a better place. 
 

The Challenge:

insight-timer-app.jpg


You will meditate every day for 30 days for 15 minutes or more. That's it. With the support of the group, you will have the encouragement and connection to tap into the power that happens when a collective of people are meditating together. Even if you meditate at different times, the power of intention that connects us will empower you and enable your greatest benefit.  

If you are new to meditation, this is a perfect way to start a new life-long practice. You will receive in-depth explanations, teachings, and follow up to demystify the art and science of meditation, and establish yourself firmly in your practice. 

If you are an experienced meditator, this is also a perfect way to join this powerful collective to bring new heights to your practice and open new doors and awarenesses. 

While I will be sending out guided meditations, you can also choose any style of meditation you'd like. We will each be tracking our meditations every day using Insight Timer, a mobile app designed to help you time and track your meditations.

Once you register, you'll receive emails and resources to encourage you and support you along the way, including teachings and explanations about the why and how of meditation. Plus, you'll receive an invitation to some live group meditations via Zoom or in person depending on where you live. Live sessions will be held in Salt Lake City, Utah. You'll be able to see and comment to the others in our group who are also doing this 30-day challenge. 

This next 30 days will change your life as well as the lives of everyone around you! 

Walking mediation.jpeg


Once you Register


Once you register, you'll receive a welcome email with information about:

  • Specifics of the challenge
  • Live meditations
  • Many forms of meditation you might choose to do
  • Downloading the app
  • Live group meditations, virtually via Zoom, an online meeting platform or in person
  • A catalogue of guided meditations, both my catalogue of recordings as well as literally thousands on Insight Timer, which you can keep to help support you on your medative journey.
  • Receiving supportive emails 

What does this cost?


I'm more interested in you succeeding and the world becoming more mindful than I am making money, so here's what I'm offering:
The 30-Day Meditation Challenge costs $30, so that you'll commit to it. And everyone who completes the challenge, meditates everyday using the app for 15 minutes or more, can opt to get a FULL refund of their tuition. No hassle. No questions. So, essentially this is free! My deepest desire is that I don't make a dime on this project!


I invite you to commit to your own wellbeing. I know you can do it and I'll support you every step of the way. Join me!

Register

Fill out the form and press submit, then click on the PayPal button.

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After the Fire

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Shiva Nataraj.jpg

I closed two yoga studios about 4 years ago. Running and closing those studios has been two of the most challenging things I've ever done.

It's really difficult to run a small business. I fought every day just to keep the doors open. Eventually, we had to close our doors; the studios weren’t sustainable. I wish I knew then what I know now about running a business. Ironically, I learned volumes about running a business by closing my business. One of the most important things I learned was how to rebuild my life when things don’t turn out the way you hoped they would.

At the time of my businesses closing, I wished there were a manual for how to rebuild your life after you’ve just suffered a massive blow. During that difficult time, I received some divine guidance during a meditation, instruction that seemed absolutely perfect for me in my life, like a manual to start to rebuild. 

Step 1. Put out any fires that are still burning.

Step 2. Practice forgiveness as the key to allow forward movement.

Step 3. Allow for new possibilities without the story of the past to jade the future.

In order to get some clear perspective, I had to get out of town for a few weeks to clear my head. I closed my studios and literally one week later got married to the love of my life. Yes, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

My wife and I went on a honeymoon to Europe coupled with me teaching a yoga retreat and getting out of town really helped me to gain perspective. I felt reinvented as I came home from Europe, ready to tackle some of the challenges that were still looming as the result of closing my studios.

The situation still felt raw, like was just coming to, sitting on a neighbor’s lawn, my face black with smoke and soot, my old house just burned down. And in a real way, many things about my old business were still smoldering and smoking but that old thing, that old life, old bachlorness, that old business, was razed. To. The. Ground. There was only one, exciting thing left to do and that is build a new life forward. And while this situation was scary, it feel freeing to look forward into the future. 

The Shivanataraj is the statue you often seen in a yoga context. It’s a depiction of the Dancing Shiva and represents the male/female creator of the universe in the dance of birth, sustaining, death, disillusion, and ultimate rebirth . . . over and over and over again. This statue teaches me that I’m involved in a process, one that will probably happen several times in my lifetime.

This understanding of moving in cycles made me feel better, like all of this was expected somehow. The Shivanataraj statue shows Shiva’s many arms and legs gesturing in the dance of all this continuous change while wreathed in flames. And despite all the craziness, despite the all the change, despite the fact that Shiva’s hair is on fire, Shiva’s gaze is calm, steady, forward. Shiva even has a calm little smile on his face like this is just another day in the burning universe.  

We are all somewhere in this process of birth, sustaining, death, disillusion, and rebirth. What are the things you need to do, need to avoid, need to plan for in this life that is burning in this moment.?

And finally, while our universe is spinning and we are all dancing around with our hair on fire, may we keep our steady gaze forward, centered in our most divine Self and the Divine, whatever form that may take for you.  

Here’s a poem I love that speaks to discovering the new chapter in your life.

The Layers

BY STANLEY KUNITZ

I have walked through many lives,

some of them my own,

Hawaii Yoga

and I am not who I was,

though some principle of being

abides, from which I struggle

not to stray.

When I look behind,

as I am compelled to look

before I can gather strength

to proceed on my journey,

I see the milestones dwindling

toward the horizon

and the slow fires trailing

from the abandoned camp-sites,

over which scavenger angels

wheel on heavy wings.

Oh, I have made myself a tribe

out of my true affections,

and my tribe is scattered!

How shall the heart be reconciled

to its feast of losses?

In a rising wind

the manic dust of my friends,

those who fell along the way,

bitterly stings my face.

Yet I turn, I turn,

exulting somewhat,

with my will intact to go

wherever I need to go,

and every stone on the road

precious to me.

In my darkest night,

when the moon was covered

and I roamed through wreckage,

a nimbus-clouded voice

directed me:

“Live in the layers,

not on the litter.”

Though I lack the art

to decipher it,

no doubt the next chapter

in my book of transformations

is already written.

I am not done with my changes.

Psyche and Eros: Greek Gods Who Are Dying to Live Part 1.

Psyche and Eros: Greek Gods

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Greek Gods

It is said that long, long ago, in mythic times, there was a woman named Psyche who was the most beautiful woman in the kingdom. She was a Greek God without knowing it. In fact, she was so beautiful that all the eligible men thought her out of their league so she never got asked out. Here's Psyche, the most gorgeous woman in the land, staying home on Saturday night and helping her mom weave instead of partying with her sisters and friends who were hanging with the fine fellas.

Time went on and Psyche's parents began to get worried, all of Psyche's friends were getting married and having families and here's Psyche, as beautiful and sweet and smart as could be but without anyone to share her life with. And it wasn't like she wasn't trying. She'd go out and try to strike up a conversation with the man down at the Frozen Greek Yogurt shop but he would always turn his head away, all bashful like, and eventually start talking to some of the lesser ladies. This happened time and time again much to Psyche's disappointment.

So, Psyche's parents decided to stage an intervention. They decided to go to the great Oracle at Delphi and ask her what to do about their oddly destitute daughter. And with clarity and wisdom, greater than Psyche's parents could understand at the moment, the Oracle told them that they were to take Psyche out to the bleak and craggy cliffs along the shore and leave here there to die. Perplexed and disturbed but faithful, Psyche's parents did just that.

 Photo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVMVEXd9WQk

Photo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVMVEXd9WQk

Revelations

Now Psyche, bewildered and forsaken, resigned herself to her fate as she lay on the rocks ready to die. She knew that nobody would ever love her and that the only fate for her was death. In this desperate condition, she fell asleep while waiting for the inevitable messenger of death and when she was sleeping, she was visited by a god, but not the one she was expecting. Instead the great god Eros came down and discovered her there distraught and ready to die. He fell in love with her upon first sight, as is want to happen with Greek gods, and asked his friend, the West Wind, to carry her to his palace.

 Photo cred: wallsave.com

Photo cred: wallsave.com

Psyche awoke in Eros's palace. It was dark and even in the shadows, she could sense its opulence and majesty. She didn't know where she was or how she got there. Assuming she had died, she was perplexed because this wasn't what she had understood the underworld was supposed to look like. Where was the river of Styx, where was that terrible underground path winding downward, where was Hades, the god of the underworld?

Soon a figure appeared in the darkness. Though Psyche could not see his face, as he spoke to her she could sense his gentle and kind nature. He explained that he was Eros, that he loved her, and that she was in his palace, and could live there the rest of her days. He told her that she could have whatever her desire fancied so long that she was never to see his face; therefore, he would only meet her in the darkness. Eros then vanished. Finally, her desires to be in love had miraculously been fulfilled.

And so during her days she was treated to scented baths, servants, delicious food and drink, private yoga classes, and anything else she could possibly want. Each night Eros would visit her. Sometimes they would make love, sometimes they would eat together, but they would always fall asleep together.

Disruption in Paradise

 Photo Cred: mythman.com

Photo Cred: mythman.com

However, each time Psyche awoke in the morning, Eros was never there. Psyche had never seen Eros's face, for that was the agreement. Well, Psyche became lonely and one night as Psyche and Eros were enjoying a little pillow talk, she asked him in the darkness if she could have her sisters visit her here in the palace. At first, Eros was adamantly opposed to the idea but he loved Psyche and wanted her to be happy so eventually he relented and allowed her to summon her sisters for a visit.

Psyche's sisters came and fell in love with the place. They loved the palace, the servants, and all the amenities.  Psyche's sisters were perplexed that she had never seen her lover, Eros. The more questions they asked about him the more she realized that she really didn't know much about him at all. "How can you be sure that he's not some monster, some beast who is holding you captive here in this place?" they asked.

This planted a gnawing seed of doubt and curiosity in Psyche's mind. So, later that night after her sisters left, and Eros came for his nightly visit, she lay there in the darkness and waited for Eros to fall asleep. She crept out of bed, grabbed a candle, lit it, and fisted a knife incase indeed he was a monster whereupon she planned to kill him. She crept back to where Eros lay sleeping and as the first ray of light shone upon Eros's face, a shockwave of astonishment sent surged through Psyche's entire body. Never had she seen anyone as beautiful as Eros. Surely he must be a god, she thought. She shivered as she looked at his beauty and the movement caused a drop of wax to drop from her candle and land on Eros's shoulder waking him. When he realized what she had done, he lamented that she had broken the rule and that as a mortal she was bound to leave the palace and never return. And in a flash the West Wind carried her back to that desolate craggy shore where Eros had first laid eyes upon her.

The story will be continued . . .

Life Lessons

So, like many of us, there were aspects of Psyche's life that didn't seem to be working well. That old life needed to face a sort of death in order for a rebirth to happen. It meant the end of her old life as she knew it. And though her new life with Eros was something new and exciting, it wasn't without sacrifices.

Often times when life isn't working, maybe it's an old relationship or job or belief system that doesn't bring us alive anymore, that old life has to suffer a death. In this myth, the Oracle represents our deep inner-wisdom that prevails over any conscious or rational thought. This wisdom can also be facilitated by a teacher or mentor who might be able to see clearly. The Oracle could also represent the mysterious circumstances of life that sometimes simply work themselves out in a way that end up being perfect for us in the long run.

And even though Psyche's new life seemed perfect in some ways, Psyche had the wisdom to betray the old, rigid beliefs, value systems and agreements, the dogma of her decision with Eros which kept her captive in a realm that she thought would make her happy but was itself a limiting paradigm. Something told Psyche that this wasn't the end of her evolution, that some bigger step needed to occur even though it probably wasn't a conscious decision. In this first part of the story there is little or no effort for any of these decisions, things simply happened and appeared for her.

What are the parts of your life that need to die? Old beliefs about place, self, work, family sometimes need to die in order to find a new version of ourselves. I don't know what I feel about reincarnation, but I certainly feel like I've lived several lives within this life. I'm someone very different than even five years ago. Can you resonate with that? What are the ways that your life seems to have changed? Have you experienced any sort of death re birth, maybe without very much effort on your part? What are the old agreements and beliefs you need to let go of in order to truly embrace this new life for yourself.

Join me next week as Psyche starts to make some very conscious decisions. . .

Scott

Beach Paradise Visualization.jpeg

The Courage to Take Plan B

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Salt Lake City Yoga

It took a lot of courage to pick up our roots in Salt Lake City, leave the familiar, what we were good at and what was easy, to move across the country to New York and start over new with the hope of what was calling to us. I believe it took even more courage to acknowledge that the original plan wasn’t working out, and despite the fact that we don’t have a solid plan for what’s next, to move away from NYC because it’s the right thing to do.

Normally, I think that being in this position, not knowing exactly what’s coming next, would scare the shit out of me, but somehow I’m strangely calm and excited for the adventure of living in the not knowing. Seneca and I feel extremely lucky to be able to come back to SLC for a while as we are figuring out our next move.

We both realize that despite our short tenure in New York, there was no failure in moving away and that moving there a year ago was the right thing for us to do, just as it’s the right thing to move away now.

New York taught us both volumes about ourselves and what is important to us. Here are a few of the things that New York taught me . . . .

The biggest lesson, and most important by degrees of exponents, is how much I love Seneca, how important she is to me, and how lucky I am to have her as my partner in life. At first, I was attached to the idea of staying in New York but soon moved beyond that as I realized that what we needed as a couple and a family is a place where we could all thrive in body, mind, and spirit.

Next, I had a year of mostly teaching weekends and evenings and being at home with Elio during the days. It was great to be a dad. We tore up those Brooklyn playgrounds, I tell you what! We made great friends with our local bagel lady, Maria. Plus, Elio was so good at meeting new kids wherever we went. This year together was a special opportunity to deepen our bond.

New York taught me bundles about teaching yoga. I took classes from some truly incredible teachers who influenced me tremendously. I feel like I always try to bring my A-game whenever I teach; however, New York made me stretch in both bold and subtle ways. New York gave me a good look at all the ways I had become rote or at least perhaps too comfortable in my teaching and stretched me to expand who I am as a teacher.

There’s nothing like changing your environment and audience to refine your craft. New York yoga audiences can be hard to read and with such great yoga going on there, even harder to impress. I used this opportunity of being in a new town to experiment by consciously changing up many of my most common teaching practices, all the while still being Scott Moore (whoever that is). I consciously experimented changing a few critical teaching practices because I wanted to teach myself how to be more dynamic as a teacher and meet the needs of an even broader spectrum of people.

20. hr. Yoga Nidra Immersion

July 20–22 

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One of my biggest worries moving from Salt Lake City to New York was whether or not my teaching would translate to a different, bigger audience. I mean, some of the best yoga teachers in the country work in New York. I remember one of my long-time yoga students graciously telling me upon leaving SLC to simply be myself and that students in NYC would appreciate it. That was a great bit of advice, one that I applied from the get go. I still told stories, used humor when it was appropriate, played my clarinet, etc.  

After one of my first yoga classes, a student approached me and told me that she thought I was a great teacher and refreshingly different than many NYC teachers, that I taught a great yoga class while not demonstrating too much self-importance. That meant a lot to me. And one of the things I learned in New York yoga studios was how to blend in even more into the background and let the yoga do the teaching rather than my personality.

Another thing I learned was the art of the hussle. New York is a big town with a lot of people and it felt like very few things there were fluid, easy, and streamlined. You had to be very patient, creative, and economical with your all of your tasks and time. I found I simply couldn't stack my day so tightly because NYC’s volume of people and its infrastructure makes impossible to do as much. In Utah, people can get in their car and go to Costco, Home Depot, and Ikea all in the same day and still have time to come home and clean the house before going out to an outdoor concert that evening. In New York, you’d see a guy on the subway with a roll of bubble wrap under his arm and a self-satisfied look on his face like he had really accomplished something important that day and was going to go home and celebrate by cracking a beer.

I also learned how fun and stimulating a big city can be. New York is a great town! I saw some great concerts, ate and drank at some incredible restaurants and bars, and loved just being in the city, walking those city streets, strolling the parks, and hoisting the stroller in and out of the subway stations.

I met some lovely, warm people in New York. I am very touched by all the regular students who frequented my class. Much like Salt Lake, New Yorkers are very dedicated to the teachers they like. It was certainly sad to leave them but hopefully we can stay connected through my blog, online courses, retreats, this newsletter, and hopefully frequent visits back with the promise of workshops and classes.

So as Seneca and I are back in Utah, while we figure out our next step, we are committed to staying connected to our hearts during this transition so that whatever decision we make for home and work is rooted in our heart rather than our head, or even worse, our fears. We are both giving ourselves more time for our meditation, yoga practice, journaling, visioning, and fun. Surely this is the recipe for creating the conditions to discern the direction for our family.

I’m so grateful for Salt Lake City’s warm welcome and the opportunity to teach classes at 21st Yoga as well as corporate gigs, privates, retreats, workshops, and immersions. I’ll keep my schedule updated on my website so you can see what’s coming up. If you live in Salt Lake City, I’d love to see you at class soon. If you don’t live in Salt Lake City, consider joining me for a retreat or join me virtually for the Yoga Nidra Immersion, July 20–22.

I know that I’m not the only person with questions about the future or who is in a state of transition. So, here’s to whatever’s next and resting in the unknown!

May we all have the courage to draw inward and open our eyes see our guiding stars in the universe of our hearts. And may we be quiet enough in mind and open enough in spirit to hear those soft and true words which will illuminate our paths.

What do you do to stay grounded during periods of transition? Please leave a comment below. 

Thanks!

PS

The following is a great article about Yoga for Men that I think you'd appreciate, whether or not you're a man. 

Hawaii Yoga

The Magic of Going with The Flow

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It’s been almost two weeks since I finished my yoga retreat along the Amalfi Coast in Italy, just enough time to come home, get settled a bit, and fly to Ireland to support my dear friend, Kim Dastrup on her retreat along the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.

 

All the heavy work for the retreat happens the months prior to the retreat through bookings and emails and such but once we are all there, I can lean back and settle into that thing I truly love to do which is to teach yoga and meditation. There’s so much planning involved for every little detail of the experience. I really want everyone to feel nurtured for the entire event and provide the right conditions for them to touch that deep part of themselves that only yoga and meditation can. However, one thing I’ve had to develop is the skill in being able to learn to read the energy that is coming toward you and to go with the flow rather than trying to push the current. It was a lesson to learn to be spontaneous despite all of the planning and wanting to control things to be perfect. Somethings you simply can’t control and to try to do so will diminish the opportunity.

 

Every day on the retreat was excellent but one day was impossibly perfect mostly because of our ability to just go with the flow and accept everything that came our way.

 

Amalfi Coast yoga

We woke up for our early morning sun salutations, pranayama, and meditation session, had breakfast, and then did our mid-morning flow practice. I had a set plan for each practice but based on how people were moving, what everyone was feeling, I altered each practice despite my plans. For example, I intended for a long meditation in the morning practice but I could really feel the groups need to move. Still, I knew we’d be hiking later that day so I didn’t teach too many poses that cooked the legs.

 

After, our morning practice, we ate lunch then embarked on a hike for the afternoon with the possibility of a swim in the cerulean blue ocean of the Amalfi Coast.

 

Before we left for the hike, Franz, one of our Italian hosts, pulled me aside and quickly informed me that his cousin (he seems to have an entire country of cousins) was planning a “sunset concert and pizza party” and that it would cost about €15 per person but if we wanted to we could do that for dinner rather than having our regularly planned dinner at the retreat center. He gave me no other details.

 

This was certainly a deviation from our plan but something told me despite the relative lack of details, this was going to be really cool. So on a whim I made the executive decision that this is what we’d all do for the evening, despite the lack of details.

 

Amalfi Coast Yoga
Amalfi Coast Yoga

Molly, our other Italian host, left with us do drive a to where we would begin the hike. Again, we didn’t have all the details of the trip but knew it would be cool. People wondered how strenuous the hike would be, how deep the water would be, what the temperature would be, and honestly I didn’t know. Even with our host with us who had hiked this trail many times, we simply couldn’t plan for all the details of the rigor and temperature etc. but then again, nor could we plan  for or expect the stunning beauty we experienced along the way.

 

We parked the van and began our long hike which we learned was a pretty steep downhill. It finished up at a tower overlooking the ocean, something which looked straight out of Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. To the side of the tower was a slightly sketchy path leading down to the ocean and some of our group decided that the hike was enough and hedged their bets and didn’t hike down to the ocean. For those of us who did, we found a 20-ft. cliff and further down a slight ledge from which to jump into the swelling, lapis currents of the ocean.

 

Each ocean has its own personality and this one was deep and blue and welcoming. Soon several of us were in the water and a lightness and gaiety took over the attitude of the group. People were laughing and jumping from the cliff. Even after a small jellyfish stung two of the swimmers there was a bit of hilarity examining the sting marks on one of the retreater’s butt.

 

After a good long swim, we got out, dried off, and made the ascent back up the hill. It felt much steeper on the way back, especially carrying my now sleeping toddler.

 

Panting, hot, and sweating (and some of us taking turns carrying a sleeping child) we crested the hill feeling exhilarated by the ocean and the hike. At the top of the hill, not far from where we had parked the vans, a few men, in typical Italian restaurant owner fashion, gestured for us to sit at an outdoor table, nothing more than a plastic folding table and some chairs, for a glass of water, limoncello, or beer. It took exactly no coercion for us to sit at their table and order their food and drink and we cooled off, laughing about the hike, the swim, and jellyfish.

Amalfi Coast Yoga
 
Amalfi Coast Yoga
Amalfi Coast Yoga
 
Amalfi Coast Yoga

Once we got home and showered up, we enjoyed a relaxing afternoon practice, with a much needed dose of Yoga Nida (guided guided meditation). Again, I’d planned a bit of movement for the afternoon practice but feeling the energy of the group, I kept it very chilled out and focused largely on the Yoga Nidra.

 

After practice we got dressed up for our sunset concert. I was expecting a garage band in noisy town square with pizza from a nearby mom ’n pops. But instead the van wound its way up the steep hills near Sorrento, latticed with vineyards and lemon orchards, only to stop at an majestic, private villa. We got out of the van and marveled at the stunning villa and walked its immaculate grounds overlooking the bay of Naples. The villa was hundreds of years old and restored to a stunning rustic elegance. We sat outside under a gazebo, sipping prosecco and watching the sun dip into the bay. Meanwhile my little guy instantly made friends with a few older Italian kids whose parents had brought them.

 

 

After a about a half an hour of settling in, happy to be resting our legs, sore from our hike, to our great pleasure, two musicians in tuxedos came out, took a graceful bow, and sat down and began effortlessly and flawlessly plucking away at the most sublime classical music for mandolin and guitar.

Amalfi Coast Yoga
Amalfi Coast Yoga

 

A collective smile spread across our faces as their music stirred our hearts, their perfectly harmonizing notes echoing off the hills. It all felt so perfect and impossible. After each song we erupted with applause and bursting with joy and happiness over the perfection of the moment.

 

After a few numbers, another man in a tuxedo came out and began singing Italian and Spanish opera selections with a powerful but smooth tenor’s bravato. Not only was the music enchanting, but the joy of the musicians as they played and sang that was positively contagious. After each number, we offered a genuine smiles gushing applause and the musicians beamed with smiles and laughter and the joy of it all.

 
Amalfi Coast Yoga
Amalfi Coast Yoga
Amalfi Coast Yoga
Amalfi Coast Yoga

Eventually, with the sun set and music done, we stood around and marveled at the surprise and beauty of such a fantastic evening. Soon, a beautiful old woman began bringing homemade pizzas from the kitchen, baked in its original wood burning oven. The pizzas were unbelievable and we all stood around sharing stories and laughing while night deepened.

 

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Periodically, I’d meet up with Elio who had spent the entire night thrilled at running around with his new buddies. At one moment, Elio took me by the hand and led me away from the party to the dark edge of the property, intent on showing me something very important. He led me by the hand to the dark edge of the spacious property and pointed into a grove of lemon trees lit up by hundreds of miniature shooting stars, the fairy-glow of fireflies. “Can you see the monster eyes, Papa?” Elio said in wonder.

 

 

New York Yoga Teacher

After the party wound down, we were still on a high and forced the van driver to stop off for some gelato in the nearby town next to the retreat center. We came home with our faces sore from smiling and laughing and marveling over the unforgettable day, everything from the yoga, the hiking and swimming, and then the unforgettable concert and party we had at the villa. None of it could have been expected or planned for. It all just happened and was beautiful and magical.

 

This experience clearly taught me how when you go with the flow rather than trying to control every aspect of every detail, you open yourself to things otherwise magical and unknown.

 

Tell me a story about when you were surprised by going with the flow.

Truth in 15 Words

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DSC_4766.jpg



Success isn't about fame or fortune. Success is only measured by happiness, awareness, and love.


Period.


(Drop the mic. Walk off stage)



How do YOU measure success?

 


 
 
Truth in 15 Words
 
 
 
 
 

How To Relieve Stress

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 Photo by David Newkirk

Photo by David Newkirk

learn how to relieve stress

Can I get real for a sec? 

I freak out sometimes. 

People often assume that because I teach yoga I never get stressed. I assure you, nothing could be further from the truth. NYC has been great, it's been fun, and it's caused me to stretch and grow in ways I didn't know imaginable. But sometimes it feels like this town is kicking my ass.

Fortunately, I've got some tools. 

I've taught Yoga for Anxiety courses, not because I never get stressed, but because sometimes I freak out too and sometimes I use the tools yoga has taught me to help me manage stress. Don't get me wrong, I don't pretend to always have the answer for stress. Despite my experience with meditation, breathing techniques, and stress-relieving yoga poses, sometimes I still find myself self-medicating with Ben and Jerry's.
 
Here's what I do when I get stressed and I'd love to hear what helps you when you get stressed.

First, I take a bunch of fat sighs out my mouth, mostly when I'm driving or alone and can really let it fly without turning heads. I try to make it as dramatic as possible. I think this helps. This is a natural tension releasing technique that a lot of mammals use. Also, I'll try to relax my jaw and notice whether my stress lessens even by doing just a couple of sighs. Sometimes when I’m really worked up, I'll sigh for 5 minutes or so.

Next, I'll practice ujjayi breath, whisper breath. A lot of you know this but it's the breathing you use during yoga practice where you breathe in and out of your nostrils and put a little whisper in the back of your throat, elongating your breaths. It really helps. This form of breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system, the opposite of your flight or flight nervous response. Try it, it's a miracle for stress.
 
Often when I feel stress, I will also do something physically active, like go to a yoga class, put on my running shoes and hit a trail, or even just take a 10 minute walk around the block, even if I don't have the time to do so. It's incredible how my perception changes when I get outside or at least get moving for a bit.

Wallace Stevens once wrote, "Sometimes the truth depends upon a walk around the lake."

Yoga explores the relationship between mind and body. If my body can relax, maybe my mind can follow. Putting some endorphins in my body and some oxygen in my brain is a great way to make me feel good and clear my mind.
 
Next, I'll actually look the bull straight into the eyes and see my stress for what it is. I'll try a meditation technique where I try to adopt the role as the observer rather than the one who is oppressed by stress. The other day, I felt like I was feeling a lot of stress and caught myself trying to avoid it or pretend it wasn't there. I had a few minutes to meditate and instead of mentally escaping it, I decided to look at it straight on. I closed my eyes and noticed how my body felt in response to the stress. I observed the images in my mind and emotions in my heart and thoughts in my brain, everything associated with this stress and tried to just observe it rather than fix it.

As I looked inside, this feeling inside me felt like a cold, metal vice along my chest. The more I looked at it, and just observed it, the more I realized that what I was feeling was more like protective armor than oppressive stress. It suddenly felt less like worry and more like my call to action to both do something about what was worrying me as well as practice self care.

Through my meditation, my observation, I was able to see this feeling for what it was instead of trying to avoid it and worry about the monster I felt was breathing down my neck.
 
Overall, I'm doing wonderful in NYC. These stress relieving techniques certainly help when ever I feel less than wonderful. I

can assure you I'll continue to use these techniques throughout my life. Maybe you can use some of these techniques if you find yourself freaking out. Try to do some breathing techniques, come to a yoga class, or try to meditate.

Of all these aforementioned techniques, I realize, too, that the only thing yoga class does not incorporate is the Ben and Jerry's therapy. Maybe after class we should go and get some ice cream and talk about our problems. 

What are the tools that help you work with stress?

I've built an entire learning module complete with stress relieving Yoga Nidra practice, breathing exercises, discussions, and additional recourses. It's built like my online courses. This is free awesome and totally free. 

Let me know how it goes!

Grand Theft Auto: A Study in Mindfulness

Yoga Amalfi Coast

Yoga Retreat Along the Amalfi Coast

May 26–June 2 2018. Only 3 Spots Left!

Part 1: Chubby Hula Dancer's Last Ride

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Ever feel like life is all some absurd cartoon? Let me fill you in. This story is how my truck got stolen and how it helped me be more mindful. 

See, I used to drive a wonderful old truck ('93 Nissan) which was very generously given to me in February 2006 when crisis came to visit for a winter. Different story, different day. 

chubby hula dancer.jpg

My truck's name was Nina cuz she was red and sultry like Nina Simone and sounded like she'd been smoking without a filter and drinking gasoline her entire life. Over the years, I'd put a little money into her to keep her running, but largely she was a wonderfully reliable part of my life.

Nina was a great old lady. She was missing a tailpipe, her radio was broken, sun visors missing, driver's side mirror broken, and one of the windows on her shell was shattered, but she started up almost every time. It was a stark moment when I realized that the exterior had reached such a point of dereliction that washing her would only harm her more. 

I had a constant companion riding shotgun in this rusty ride. Affixed to the dash was Chubby Hula Dashboard Dancer. Over the years I'd learned that we share a love for jazz organ music. I know this because that's when did her best dancing. I mean she REALLY got into it. I'd often car-dance along with her but I couldn't compare to the sweet moves of Chubby Hula Dashboard Dancer.

1"

Another fun feature of my ride was the sticker on the back window which read 1". You know those stickers people post on the back of their cars that simply say 26.2? They are bragging rights for those who have trod the distance of a marathon. Well, I made a sticker in the same style that simply read 1". And yes, in a hyper-masculine world of lift kits and truck nuts it takes someone very secure in his manhood to roll around town with a 1" sticker on the back of his truck.

The sticker is a references to one of my favorite poems by Wendell Berry called "A Spiritual Journey." 

"A Spiritual Journey"

26.2.jpg

And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,

no matter how long,

but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch,

very arduous and humbling and joyful,

by which we arrive at the ground at our own feet,

Nina 1 inch.jpg

and learn to be at home.

To me, this poem reminds me that the greatest journey I will ever travel or the greatest place I might ever hope to arrive is the distance of 1", to the ground at my own feet, the awareness of my True Self, the real, Divine me, and to feel at home in my own heart, and to know whatever lives there.

Honeymoon is Over

So, in August of  2014 my wife and I were living in Salt Lake City. We'd only been married for a few months and already we had been through tremendous highs and lows. Literally one week prior to getting married, I'd closed the doors on the two yoga studios I owned, both of which had been limping along for years. But getting married was bliss and we'd just come home from our honeymoon to Greece and Spain where we lay on the beach, ate pastries with abandon, and fell deeper in love with each other.

Before getting married, I had been under enormous stress and now, back from our honeymoon, I was eager to move forward in my life with more bliss, happiness and stability.

Not long after coming home from our honeymoon, Seneca's car, received a terminal diagnosis from the auto shop and we decided to sell it—I posted it online and it sold in 14 minutes for cash. So, for a few weeks were sharing my truck. Sharing a car made getting around a little tricky but we managed. Compared to the stress I'd already had that summer, the stress of sharing a car was nothing.  

Super-human Core Strength

One Saturday we decided to drive my truck down to the Farmers Market. We parked and walked the few blocks over to buy our produce. 

On our way back, we returned to the place I'd parked my truck and it wasn't there. Instead, it was parked about 100 feet away in a different spot. Confused, I started to think through the possibilities: Had I left the truck out of gear? Maybe it started to roll and someone had kindly parked it on flat ground for me? Was I parked illegally and law enforcement had moved it? Was there a free valet service at the Farmers Market? I hadn't given anybody my keys.

 

None of these options made sense and as I got closer to my truck I saw someone milling about it and it dawned on me what was happening—someone was stealing my truck at that moment!

I broke into a dead sprint toward my truck and the Truck Thief. Truck Thief saw that his heist's owner was bearing down toward him and panicked. He immediately jumped into the cab and started the engine. I saw that he had parked in front of a large concrete barrier and couldn't move forward and I soon arrived arrived to the back of the truck before he could back up preventing him from getting away. I began to scream at him to stop stealing my truck. 

At that moment, Truck Thief and I had the exact same thought: There's no way to steal this truck with someone standing behind it. Truck Thief soon thought of a different option, one I had not considered up to that point, which was to run over the lesser of the two obstacles blocking his way (read the crazy dude standing with his hands on the back, screaming).  Without a hesitation, Truck Thief threw Nina into reverse and floored it. Fortunately the tires we pretty bald, giving me a warning screech and a half of a second delay to jumped out of the way. 

As the truck whizzed past me,  I did the first thing that came to mind which was to grab onto the half-rolled window on the driver's side and proceeded to run with him as he was backing at an incredible speed. I don't know what I was hoping for with that desperate action. I'm a yoga teacher and I know that with enough core strength you can do anything. Perhaps I thought that if I could just lift the car up, immobilizing all four wheels, I could hold it there until the cops came. For a brief second we were our faces were mere inches apart. And though I was so close, I honestly can't say what his face looked like because it wildly distorted with a look that said, "Holy shit! That dude's running next to me and holding onto the window while I'm stealing his ride!" 

He then popped the truck into gear and shot off, ripping my hands from the window and tearing out of the parking lot then down the road like a fugitive, leaving me standing there like an idiot—but an idiot who didn't get ran over. Seneca stood 50 feet away and watched the entire event transpire in complete horror.

After it was all done, we stood there staring at each other with a look like, "Well, that just happened." It was over in 10 seconds or less.

We called the police. They filed a report.

Then we walked a half block to one of Salt Lake City's best coffee shops, The Rose Establishment, to have some coffee and wait for someone to come and give us a ride. While waiting for our ride, I posted on social media, "Because when someone has just stolen your truck, you deserve a really nice cup of coffee." While waiting for the baristas to make our brew, it dawned on me that in a matter of two weeks, we had gone from having two cars, to one, to none. And while we don't mind walking, it feels differently when you gotta walk cuz someone ripped off your ride.

Mindfully Pissed

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Here's where this get's a little deep. This might sound out there but, even while my truck was being stolen and then directly after, I felt a strange sense of grand awareness about the whole thing. Even while it was happening, I could see that in the big picture, what's true is that getting your truck stolen really isn't that big a deal. In fact, in some ways it feels completely absurd, like I'm staring in my own cartoon, as my friend Nan puts it. I'm sure I'd feel differently if the guy had ran over me. 

Yet with the very same awareness that getting your truck stolen is ultimately inconsequential, came the realization that what is also true is that my smaller self has real and intense feelings about getting my truck stolen. Despite my intermittent "grand awareness," the stoic and bland "it-is-what-it-is" mindset doesn't cut it with me. Not entirely. "What it is" sucks! And to deny that is to deny the part of me that despite not having the grand awareness, still exists, at least to some degree.

Yoga and meditation has taught me not to deny my feelings but rather to drink them in and thereby use them to illuminate the True Self, tools for practicing being aware. 

Awareness of the True Self is actually about freedom. The freedom , for example, is to be absolutely present with emotions, not to deny them. So with that in mind, I felt free to choose to be mindfully pissed off and honored my primal need to shout loudly through my clenched teeth every four letter word I know . . . besides love . . . and hope . . . and nice.

I wonder if Truck Thief was thinking to himself, "I'm very mindfully pinching this dude's ride. Vrrr-Ommmmmm."?

As I saw my truck reseed into the distance, my 1" sticker reminded me that the crucial step along the journey toward the True Self is to be at home in my heart and to learn to be comfortable with everything as just it is. This spiritual journey of 1", like Wendell Berry says,  is "arduous, humbling and joyful by which I arrive at the ground at my feel and learn to be at home." And at that moment I was forced into learning this lesson which lay at my feet because for the unforeseeable future, I would be walking. 

Driving It Home

May our practice, whether on or off the mat, be to strive to always experience this "arduous, humbling and joyful" journey of the human experience to the fullest, and use the events which befall us as tools to become ever more aware of our True Self. Be the small self of emotions and the True Self with the grand perspective. Practice this and be responsible and kind to other people. 

 GIF at https://tenor.com/

GIF at https://tenor.com/

Sometimes this life really does feel like some wild Sponge Bob Square Pants episode that the Divine is Netflixing alone on some late night while drinking a beer and eating some non-GMO corn chips and salsa.

In the big picture getting my truck stolen wasn't very important. I actually enjoyed riding my bike for a while, burning off some of the pastries I ate while on my honeymoon, and simultaneously burning off some of the anger resulting from getting my ride pinched. 

I'm sure Chubby Hula Dashboard Dancer never danced for Truck Thief as wildly as she did for me. 

And while I pedaled around Salt Lake City,  I hoped that Truck Thief would return my truck with a full tank of gas.

The story continues . . . 


3 hours of relaxing Guided Meditations for Sleep Plus Much More.

Guided Meditations for Sleep is an complete system designed to promote deep, nourishing, and peaceful sleep. It incorporates body, mind, and spirit to calm the nervous system, quiet the mind, and relax the body, essential conditions for good sleep. In addition to the extraordinarily relaxing guided meditations, you'll also receive, calming music, pre-sleep breathing practices, yoga postures, checklists, and general guidelines, as well as other empowering information about how to sleep well. This is a digital download with 13 files total. While you can download it on your phone, it works best to download it on your computer or laptop.

    I Don't Know The Name of This Bird

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    wolf creek snow.jpg

    White Eyes

    White-Eyes
    by Mary Oliver
     
    In winter
        all the singing is in
             the tops of the trees
                  where the wind-bird
     
    with its white eyes
        shoves and pushes
             among the branches.
                  Like any of us
     
    he wants to go to sleep,
        but he's restless-
             he has an idea,
                  and slowly it unfolds
     
    from under his beating wings
        as long as he stays awake
             But his big, round music, after all,
                 is too breathy to last.
     
    So, it's over.
        In the pine-crown
             he makes his nest,
                  he's done all he can.
     
    I don't know the name of this bird,
        I only imagine his glittering beak
             tucked in a white wing
                  while the clouds-
     
    which he has summoned
        from the north-
             which he has taught
                  to be mild, and silent-
     
    thicken, and begin to fall
        into the world below
             like stars, or the feathers
                  of some unimaginable bird
    that loves us,
        that is asleep now, and silent-
             that has turned itself
                  into snow.
     
    I read this poem and imagine this Spirit-Bird wrestling with its ideas in the tops of the trees manifesting as the brilliant winter storms we sometimes experience in winter.

    I think of this Spirit-Bird as something large and definitive, a creator or director, or maybe simply a grand observer, who puffs and blows the turbulence we all sense in the storms of the sky, and the storms of our lives. I imagine this Spirit-Bird as blustery at times, yes, but also as a being who ultimately touches me with Divine love, a real touch, by sending gentle, delicate, and cold kisses floating through the air in the form of snowflakes, landing silently on my face and shoulders and eyes.

    Like Mary Oliver says, I don't know the name of this bird. But I can feel it whatever it is. Sometimes, it stops me in my tracks along this tempestuous journey of life, ankle-deep in dark and cold, my brow furrowed and mind brimming with business, and lifts my gaze for a moment to watch its dazzling spectacle of fat, silent flakes filter through the streetlight or moonlight.

    The beauty of it all!

    I don't know the name of this bird, but I can feel its breath move through me in yoga. It makes my body move and sway, undulate and reach. It arrests my busy mind and opens my eyes.

    Come out of the cold, both physically and spiritually, and warm up with a yoga practice. Watch as The Spirit-Bird, or whatever name you give it, slowly unfolds its ideas and gives you divine kisses through breath and movement. Then you'll feel it too outside in the form of snow or rain or cold, anything, but nevertheless touches everything around you. 


    Selfie Conscious

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     https://9gag.com/gag/ag3Pe1K/mona-lisa-selfie

    https://9gag.com/gag/ag3Pe1K/mona-lisa-selfie

    The following is a rewrite of a piece I did a few years ago and which was recently published on Medium  under the title Selfie Awareness. It outlines and experience I had which taught me more about being conscious with trying to capture the moment with photos and selfies. 

    A few years ago, I was in Paris for the first time, visiting the Louvre, perhaps the finest art museum in the world. While there were many paintings I’d been waiting my entire life to see, and I know I’m cliché here, the Mona Lisa was primo on my list.

    I mean, almost 60 years ago, they tried to insure the Mona Lisa for 100 million dollars* but had problems because many felt that the sum was much too low, and that was 1960s dollars. Today, they value the painting at closer to 800 million!

    Fun fact: Napoleon used to have the Mona Lisa hanging on his bedroom wall and would spend hours in rapture starting at it.

    So finally here, and giddy with anticipation, I stepped into the spacious, well-lit gallery, dying to get a glimpse of the most (in)valuable painting in the world. There she was at last! At a distance, I could see the renaissance rockstar enshrined on her own dedicated wall, protected behind a guardrail and bulletproof glass, and flanked by two bouncers.

    Suddenly, the hallowed hush of the Louvre was irreverently replaced by the din of excitable tourists. As I approached her, I felt pressed in a hot vice of adoring fans, all craning to ogle the most mysterious woman on canvas. The venue felt transformed into an arena at a rock concert where I was squeezing through hordes of fans, desperately hoping to making eye contact with that infamous seductrice and her inimitable half-smile.

    As I jockeyed my way forward, I began to notice something very peculiar. Nobody was looking at the paining. Not really. Rather, everyone was looking at the viewfinder on their smartphones, tablets, and cameras. More than taking a moment to drink in this priceless work of art, most people were worried about getting the perfect photo of it.

     http://catnapsintransit.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/1382338_10151797344753183_1393716417_n.jpg

    http://catnapsintransit.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/1382338_10151797344753183_1393716417_n.jpg

     http://www.bbc.com/news/av/entertainment-arts-35031568/does-mona-lisa-have-a-hidden-personality

    http://www.bbc.com/news/av/entertainment-arts-35031568/does-mona-lisa-have-a-hidden-personality

    And as I looked around at the crowd, I noticed a distinct pattern. People would fire off several photos, including a few selfies with the Mona Lisa, then without so much as a pause, would scurry off to some other masterpiece to do likewise. For what? To brag to their friends that they were in the same room as the Mona Lisa but never took a second to actually see it?

    Something about this phenomenon is natural human behavior. Hasn’t everyone been guilty of experiencing something extraordinary, a resplendent sunset, an aromatic cup of coffee, or a masterpiece like the Mona Lisa, and we’re afraid the moment will end, so we try to capture it with a photo because doing so and posting it to social media will somehow make it permanent?

    And have you ever tried to show some innocent, unsuspecting person the photos of that moment? It goes like this, “Here’s the great hotel I stayed at, only it’s so much nicer than the photo suggests, you should really see it. Oh, and here’s the most amazing latte I had at the perfect café, but you had to be there, this photo doesn’t do it justice. Here’s the Mona Lisa but she’s much smaller than you’d expect. . . ”

    This is when you look up to see your friend’s eyes gloss over or start to check their watch. The photos don’t translate because the optics of the picture represents only the smallest part of what you hopefully experienced in the moment. Or which perhaps you didn’t experience . . .

    Trying to capture any moment ironically prevents you from having it in the first place. It’s because you’re thinking about the future rather than experiencing the present. To really experience a moment requires a practiced presence with all of your senses. Your senses are an incredible tool for presence.

     Photo permission by John Cottrell

    Photo permission by John Cottrell

    Without being present to the experience, when you’re back at home, looking at your dozen or so selfies with the Mona Lisa, you’ll have no connection to that moment. The photos will mean about as much to you as they would to your friend whom you abused with photos of your latte The photos won’t recall an experience you thought you had because you never really had the experience to begin with.

    And this is getting a little Zen here, but since our identity is the product of our ability to pay attention, if you weren’t present with all of your senses, there was really no “you” to have the experience in the first place.

    I’m just as guilty as the next guy of trying to capture the moment with a photo. But by bringing my unconscious actions to consciousness, I can deliberately make a choice to do something different.

    So never take photos, right? Never post anything on social media? No, let’s not be luddites. But maybe try having the moment first, then if you want to, take a photo to remember a moment you truly experienced.

    And sometimes, try allowing yourself to simply experience a moment without a camera. Soak it up and be 100% there by consciously involving all of your senses, raw and unfiltered.

    Before there were cameras or smartphones, people had to use memories to recall experiences. Go old-school and create a real mental repository of experienced events. What did the light look like in the gallery? What does the smell of paint of canvas evoke to your imagination? What sounds did you hear in the gallery? What were the textures and temperatures you felt on your skin? How did it taste? And remember that if you try to taste the Mona Lisa you better be prepared to lose a tongue.

    I realize that it’s a little glib to simply say simply, “be present.” But practices like yoga and meditation help us to establish presence as our default when we are having any experience, whether mundane or extraordinary. And with presence, even an otherwise mundane experience can prove to be extraordinary once your come senses alive.

    Without presence, even the miraculous or priceless moments (read experiencing the Mona Lisa) will pass you by without leaving an impression. I’m thinking about those simple but perfect moments like hanging with our kids, focusing on good work, or experiencing live music, dance, or poetry. To receive the gift of these moments truly requires presence.

     

    The immortal poet Rainer Maria Rilke speaks to being existentially destitute as the result of lack of presence in his rather stark poem, "Already The Ripening Barberries Are Red."

    Rilke.jpg
    Already the ripening barberries are red,
    and the old asters hardly breathe in their beds.
    Those who are not rich now as summer goes
    will wait and wait and never be themselves.
    Those who cannot quietly close their eyes,
    certain that there is vision after vision
    inside, simply waiting until nighttime
    to rise all around them in the darkness
    it’s all over for them, they feel old and tired.
    Nothing else will come;
    no more days will open,
    and everything that does happen
    will cheat them.
    Even you, my God. And you are like a stone
    that draws them daily deeper into the depths.

    He’s saying that without presence, without any poetic imagination for things as they are or could be, you’ll never experience the heaven which is here. Indeed, he suggests that even the notion of God offering you a future heaven is itself like a stone drawing you deeper into the depths of hell, the product of unconsciousness.

    I teach yoga for a living and sometimes in a yoga class, I see the fidgets, the distant stares, and the vacancy of someone whose mind is somewhere else. It happens to all of us sometime or other. Still, I want to say, “Come back. We’ve missed you. Be here now. Be there later.”

     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._Miyagi

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._Miyagi

    When you sense you’re having an extraordinary moment, or hell in any moment, try closing your eyes and run through all of your senses for a minute or two. Then open your eyes and add the most dominant sense. Ask yourself, how does this make me feel? Truly involve all your senses to practice being completely present to the experience.

    This might all sound like a Mr. Miyagi mantra and probably is. But hey, that dude could break boards with his forehead so that’s gotta count for something. Plus you can’t break boards with your forehead if your head is somewhere else.

    This week, I invite you to practice being fully present in all your experiences whether mundane or extraordinary. Be completely present by using all your senses and truly experience the moment.

    When that’s done, then you can take your selfie.

     

    Have you had an experience like this? Have you ever tried to capture the moment and realized that by doing so, you actually lost the moment? Leave your comments below. 

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