Living On The Edge

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Yoga Nidra Training

I’ve been practicing all my life. Since childhood I’ve practiced everything from music to magic, baseball to baking. So when I started practicing yoga and meditation it just felt natural to begin a new practice. One day when I was a kid, I was practicing the saxophone and I realized something essential about the notion of practice: practice is the end, not the means to the end. Sure, I get better at playing the sax by practicing it, but the point is to be playing. Practice is being at the edge, at the frontier of experience. Also, sometime in the last 20 years of practicing and teaching yoga, it dawned on me that there’s never a yoga performance, no yoga recital. It’s always only a practice.

Today I want to talk about the practice of living at the frontier. I’d like to invite you to reconsider the purpose of practice. Consider that maybe the goal of any practice isn’t to improve, it’s simply to be present at the frontier. I know, I know, I know, why do we practice if it’s not to grow? The thing is that you do grow when you practice but maybe growth is just the byproduct, not the purpose. Being at the frontier means regularly leaving the comfort of what we know, abandoning what’s automatic and easy, and stepping onto unsure ground to truly learn to know ourselves. Therefore, it’s our life’s practice to simply be at the frontier.

Frontier=Presence=Self-Knowledge

To my mind, the word “frontier” conjures images of gritty people working with the land and wrestling with the unknown as they learn and grow. Our frontier could be our edge in a yoga posture, our edge in our awareness in meditation, or perhaps simply the edge of entering a new stage in life. Being at the frontier isn't always easy but isn’t that the point? While it’s not always easy, it is always real. Our frontier is a place we’ve never been before and being there helps us to truly come alive because it quickens our minds, makes our senses come alive, and forces us into radical presence. There is no coasting or autopilot at the frontier.

For me, traveling has been a practice of being at the frontier. More than geographical frontiers, traveling regularly takes me to cultural, philosophical, and humanitarian frontiers I would have never known had I lived out my days in Smalltown, Utah where I was born. But more important than learning about another place, traveling always involves a healthy dose of getting knowing myself—there’s usually a steep learning curve to making your way somewhere else, one that unavoidably makes you look inside. More than learning about someone else, traveling puts you at the rugged frontier of knowing whoever the hell YOU are, a frontier that is invariably west of wild.

While our goal in practice may not necessarily be to grow, it happens regardless and you can’t grow without challenges. I once heard someone say, “If you ever find yourself coasting in life it probably means you’re going downhill.” In yoga philosophy, this heat necessary for growth is called Tapas and is the driver toward self-knowledge. Experiencing Tapas, being a little on edge or confronted with challenges, is an essential part of our awakening because in a very real way it wakes us up from the anesthesia of easy, and puts us into a place of fierce presence, and presence is the secret that whispers to us our true, universal identity. Presence teaches you who you are.

Flowing At Your Edge

Sometimes breaking out of the stupor of easy to be present means doing something big, something drastic. I can tell you from experience that nothing wakes you up like a psychedelic trip with a shaman in the jungle or jogging around the conservative state capital wearing nothing but your best set of briefs, running shoes, and your hands-free device. But a regular practice of being at your frontier doesn’t mean regularly stepping to the edge of stupidity. For example, it’s hard to be present to the full grandeur of the Grand Canyon when your toes are dangling over its edge. Instead, you’ll grow far more from your every-day practice if you allow it to be a comfortable step away from both boredom and your absolute edge.

Steven Kotler is a NYT Bestselling author who studies and writes about how uber-performers thrive at their edge by achieving a state of flow, an optimal state of consciousness where people can both feel their best and perform their best. One of the ways he’s discovered that people can get into flow is by regularly stepping up to their comfortable edge. Steven Kotler has learned how to write while in a state of flow and through his words how to put his readers into the same state. In December of 2018, right on the frontier of embarking on my journey to live and work in France, I attended Steven Kotler’s Flow for Writers Workshop in San Francisco. For three days, our intimate group of writers holed up in a chic San Francisco loft as Steven revealed to us some of the secrets of good writing where he taught quite succinctly: write from your edge and readers will read from theirs.

And while performance maybe isn’t the point of practice, being at your comfortable edge is the secret sauce to great performance. Whether it’s writing or rock climbing, being at your edge and in flow stimulates your brain into a deeper awareness that illuminates the microscopic but essential details that would otherwise fly under the radar. Being at your edge and in flow releases all the feel-good chemicals in your brain. Chemicals that catalyzes your performance around the subject by focusing your mind on its subtleties and nuances, by illuminating long-chain connections to otherwise disparate ideas, and by unlocking your boundless creativity. In yoga class, I encourage my students to negotiate their edge of each pose by finding the version that is just north of comfortable, what I call the “comfortably-intense” version of every pose. Also, I often ask if they could become just 10% more relaxed.Flow simply can’t happen when you’re either bored or panicked to tears.

The Only Way To Get There Is To Be Here

After developing a regular practice of being present at our edge and bravely taking those essential, small steps forward, one day we’ll look back to see that we’ve covered a lot of ground. When you look back, it will feel like you’ve spanned a damn-near impossible distance. But here’s the deal with forward movement, whatever your next horizon—be it it be becoming more flexible, more focused, or more financially sound—the only way to get there is to be here. Be exactly here at the frontier that presents itself to you at this moment. But the thing about here is that it’s always changing. No sooner do you get comfortable with the grass at your feet than do you naturally grow toward your next horizon.

When you take ambition out of the practice, you give yourself the perspective of working with your actual edge rather than the edge you hope to be at one day. It’s being present at your actual frontier that gives you the firm ground to step forward into that next step, and the next, and the next… For example, I can’t learn to play Coltrane until I first experience the frontier of learning to play the sax, how to read music and the rudiments of jazz, etc. It’s not until I’m present at those frontiers that new frontiers will open up until one day I’ll find Coltrane’s masterpiece, Giant Steps, dancing out of the bell of my horn while wondering, “How the hell did I ever do that?”

It’s presence that promotes growth because it’s the only thing that’s real. Sure, find your star that guides you forward in your endeavors but the practice itself keeps you grounded in the frontier of the moment. Isn’t that what life is, being present at our frontier of experience while watching our own inevitable evolution? Growth will naturally happen as you’re present with your frontier and making the essential trek of 1 inch, the spot directly in front of your toes.

Finally, the paradox of the frontier is that you’ve already arrived and arrival means never stopping. We must find home by being comfortable in our discomfort. This home is our birthright and the eternal and joyful journey toward our highest self. We have arrived the moment we put ourselves at the frontier and open our vision to simply witness ourselves grow.

Conclusion

Several years ago, I experienced a great revelation about the importance of regularly visiting my frontier through practice. I was leading myself through a Yoga Nidra practice and wanted to hear the wisdom of my own heart to hear whatever it might tell me. I visualized the wisest person I could think of in order to tap into my own inner wisdom. A vision of my favorite prof from college popped into my mind with stark clarity. All my senses were popping: I was sitting in his office and could smell the oiled wood of his desk, see it’s tight-knit, tawny grain, and could hear the buzz of the lights and the squeak of his chair as he leaned back, pondering at the ceiling. There was a moment of generous silence between us as he stroked his beard. Then he looked at me out the corner of his eye. And with a sly, paternal, and loving air said something I’ll never forget. He said, “Whatever you believe in . . . practice it every day.” This event never happened except for in my mind but the truth of it became more real that if it actually had. This was my wise inner-self reminding me to always be at my frontier through practice.


If you’re interested, click here to listen to that same Yoga Nidra practice where I lead you hear the wise person inside of you.

I invite you to consider reevaluating your relationship to practice from being something you do in order to improve to something you do in order to regularly be at your frontier. I invite you to forget about the ambition of practice and simply be present at that frontier and watch how growth naturally happens. And I invite you celebrate the many frontiers you find yourself at in this moment of your life.

Whatever you practice, do it regularly. I hope to practice with you soon

PS

Yoga Nidra

I used to drive around town with a sticker on the back of my truck that read 1,” a nod to a poem that speaks to the greatest frontier I ever hope to arrive at.

“A Spiritual Journey” by Wendell Berry

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 feet,

and learn to be at home.





Meditations on Happiness

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Meditations on Happiness

We all just want to be happy. We all search to be happier. We are all scouring for clues to solve that mystery as to why we aren’t fully satisfied in life? So we turn to things like yoga and meditation to help solve the happiness mystery. Surely yoga and meditation will help us to be happy, right? Yes they will but maybe not how we think they will. Much of the immediate “happiness” we get from yoga and meditation is fleeting and finite: a nice yoga butt, the ninja-like ability to do a handstand, 5 minutes not worrying about your finances while sitting in meditation. And as soon as we’ve finished class, we often find ourselves disappointed to be in the exact same place we were before class.

The problem occurs when we use yoga and meditation as self-improvement instruments. We say to ourselves, “If I could just improve my flexibility, forget my aching heart, and calm my busy mind, then I’d be happy.” But what if yoga and meditation aren’t for self-improvement at all? What if they are merely tools that help bring us to Awareness? And that’s it. These practices aren’t for self-improvement because the Self doesn’t need to be fixed.

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But beyond that, in a very practical way this Awareness also helps us to find happiness by clarifying to our conscious mind both what we really want in life as well as helping us recognize it when we’ve received it. In truth, Yoga and meditation simply help us to practice Awareness which in turn reveals the true mystery of happiness: that happiness is presence.


Secret No. 1: Don’t Wait for Happiness, You’re Already Perfect


First, and this is one of life’s biggest lessons, yoga and meditation make you happy by giving you the Awareness that everything simply exists and is perfect in that existence. Including you. You’re already perfect. This Awareness also reveals that happiness just exists, the same way everything else does.

One of the secrets to happiness is to realize that we can’t wait for the events in our lives to align perfectly for us to be happy. You gotta stop waiting for the world to make you happy cuz the world just doesn’t care. You gotta start making the decision to be happy despite the events and circumstances in your life because there will always be something other than yourself to blame for the fact that you’re unhappy. You’re in charge of your emotions. Nobody else is responsible for that job, not your partner or spouse, your kids, your job, your teachers, God—nobody but you.

The stone-cold truth is that the events in our lives are neither good nor bad. They just are. It’s the meaning we assign to those events that triggers the emotions we associate as good or bad. And guess who gets to choose the meaning of each event that happens. You do.

Awareness shows you that this moment is all there is. Stop waiting for happiness. There’s never a more perfect time to be happy as the eternal now. Awareness shows you that you gotta stop looking for happiness outside of yourself. You’ll never find it. It doesn’t exist. If you can’t find happiness inside, you’ll sure as shit never find it outside. That’s just Truth with a capital “T.”

One of the oldest vedic mantras, the Gayatri Mantra, thousands of years old, says that if I truly understood the fact that everything comes from Source, I’d see that I’m no different than the happiness I seek, I’d see that happiness is my essence. (Click below to listen to me chanting this mantra.)

I know what you’re thinking, “That’s shit! life’s hard.”

Sure, life’s hard. Yet through Awareness there’s a happiness that can’t be touched by life’s difficulty. Life is beautiful even in our hardest moments because our struggles represent our growth-evolution of learning to see ourselves as the perfect beings we already are. Our life’s struggles are just like those of a new butterfly struggling to break out of its chrysalis, to unfold into its own magnificence. A butterfly won’t survive without those struggles. And like the joy of the butterfly bouncing triumphantly on the wind, one day we too will celebrate every stitch of pain that birthed our unknown wings.

The late, great Leonard Cohen said it perfectly in his lyrics to the song Anthem:

Ring the bells that still can ring,

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack in everything,

And that’s how the light gets in.



Even the rhyme is broken yet these are perhaps some of the most succinct and poignant lyrics ever to remind us that we aren’t perfect despite our brokenness, but because of it.

In order to see our perfection through our brokenness, we must learn to be present when painful emotions arise, enough to feel them fully but without letting them define us. The practice is to realize that while we may experience emotions, what we are is fundamentally larger than emotions. And as much as you can be present with emotions, no matter which one, that presence actually serves to reveal the perfect, luminous thing inside of you which is larger than emotions, call it Awareness, Source, God, Spirit, your True Self— whatever. What you are is Awareness experiencing itself as an emotion, like an otherwise unknown being trying on a costume to understand itself. It’s by being present to your emotions through Awareness that reveals the happiness inside of you, a happiness that can’t be touched by events and circumstances

Being present with your emotions is opposite of pretending that emotions don’t exist, especially difficult emotions.They do exist. They just don’t define you. Plus, remember that every emotion is in flux, here one moment and gone the next. Just like everything else in this loving Universe, it’s part of an orbit. Emotions are part of the game of life, a part of the dream. Awareness is the part of you that’s having the dream, the part that never changes, despite any emotion that may visit. In fact, it’s things like emotions that help to reveal yourself as Awareness.

Yoga and meditation cultivate the Awareness that what we are is a spiritual being having a physical experience. We are coming to know ourselves as the Divine, a force that is fundamentally reduced to love. Divine love is in you and in everybody and everything else in the Universe. When you know that, when you feel that, come what may, nothing can touch you. You’ll even be able to experience things like heartache with love.

So while on the surface, yoga and meditation don’t make you happy, they do cultivate an Awareness which reveals some key secrets to happiness. Namely, it reveals that you are a perfect, Divine being, that you can only find happiness within, and that you’re in charge of defining the events that happen in your life. It’s the challenges in our life that help to illuminate our perfection. Awareness teaches you that what you are fundamentally is happiness (Gayatri Mantra) and that you can’t wait for life to align perfectly to “find” happiness. It also teaches us to be present to our emotions because they don’t define you but are valuable tools that help to illuminate the happiness that exists despite the events and subsequent emotions of life.



Secret No. 2: The Cosmic Taco—Place Your Order, Please.

Another way that Awareness leads us toward happiness is by giving us the clarity to know what we really want in life. Despite the fact that we are perfect just as we are, we are nonetheless hardwired to grow and to evolve. This means that it takes Awareness to realize when we’ve outgrown our current situation. Sometimes our growth is cued by a feeling of being disconnected or unsatisfied with what is. Often this is the Universe saying that we’ve outgrown our current condition and that we need to find something else, like a hermit crab whose outgrown their shell.

The dark side of being hardwired for growth means that for some of us, we are always looking for greener grasses. But with presence, we can hold the paradox that this moment is both perfect as it is and that the Universe is calling on us to grow and move away from it. With presence we also recognize that our current situation is the best and only platform for us to step into our next stage of evolution. In fact, failure to do so—both failure to acknowledge our current situation as well as our failure to grow into what’s calling us forward—ironically traps us in what fundamentally isn’t working for us, just like a prison cell. Failure to evolve from a place of grounded presence traps us in a vicious cycle of reliving our old lessons until we are ready to move on. It’ll be just like Groundhog Day but instead of Bill Murray, it’ll be us living out that drama.

Many of us mistake our itch for growth as unhappiness when it’s really just our own call for evolution knocking on our door. It’s like looking down and seeing that the pants that used to fit you just fine are now riding up around your shins. What’s worse is that most of us might feel the need to grow and look for something new but don’t even know what we are looking for. Here’s a perfect example…

Several years ago I needed to find an apartment. I had exactly one week to find a place and move out and I was really feeling the pressure. Despite the fact that I had looked at literally dozens of apartments I felt like my search was going nowhere. I realized that I was looking at apartments and not really knowing what I was looking for. After examining yet one more apartment that left me massively underwhelmed, I realized that I didn’t even know what I was looking for. So, I went home and wrote down precisely what I wanted, about 15 different criteria, everything down to which neighborhood, the price, what kind of amenities—even the architectural style and age of the building. The very next day, I looked at yet another apartment. It didn’t meet the majority of those criteria. That’s because it met ALL of them— Every. Damn. Detail. I went on to spend some very happy years in that apartment.

Many different yoga and meditation traditions say that consciousness precedes form. It was like the Universe was just waiting for me to put in my order, like the invisible person that lives in the speaker box at the drive-thru, happy to serve me as soon as I made up my mind and tell it what I want.

I believe that the Universe is constantly waiting to give us what we want and like any good teacher, if we’re not asking, it’s not giving. Asking for what we want, visualizing it in a way that is current, possible, and positive, is a way that alerts the Universe that we are ready to receive what the Universe has been waiting to offer all along.

I told this story to a good friend and she told me, “You could probably ask the Cosmos for a taco and open up your hand and, boom, a taco would drop into your hands.” Thus a new term was born, “The Cosmic Taco.” I now use this term to refer to telling the Universe exactly what you want. “Um, yeah, could I please get a beautiful place to live, in France, along with my adorable family, a great job that I love that makes me feel loved, fulfilled, and useful? Oh, and could I get that with avocado and hot sauce? Thanks!”

What do you want on your Cosmic Taco? Make a list. Be specific.

Yoga Nidra

Telling the Universe what you want on your Cosmic Taco is useful for so many reasons, but specifically it clarifies to both your thinking mind and simultaneously to Universal Consciousness what you want so it can begin to dish it out. Like I said, most of us are walking around looking for something other than what we have and we don’t even know what it is we are looking for.

For many of us it’s a matter of what we feel we are worthy of. Remember, you’re the Divine having a human experience. It’s your birthright to have EVERYTHING. Don’t be afraid to ask for exactly what you want. You more than deserve it.

As you get clear with what you want, I promise that you’ll start to notice those thing coming to you from many directions. Don’t be surprised if you start to be bombarded by clues, synergies, and opportunities. Even the songs on the radio will start to get on board to somehow sing to what’s coming through for you. Recently I had a powerful experience where I was feeling overwhelmed by the simple perfection of the lyric, “All you need is love,” and a fucking beetle came and literally landed on my hand. “Yeah, Universe, I know it’s the Beatles.”

Has something like that ever happened to you? Probably. Why is that? It think it’s because the Universe operates in an order and once you get onboard with a trajectory, you’ll see how that ordered thing begins to play out. Chances are, these clues for what you wanted were passing you all along but since you had such a dizzying array of options in front of you, each one just as viable as the next, you were simply blinded by all the myriad options to notice them.

One of the things I’ve learned from Yoga Nidra, the fascinating and transformative type of meditation I’m so passionate about, is that the past and future are abstract concepts and the eternal part of us, the one that’s connected to Universal Consciousness, only exists in the now and exists in a universe of YES—always has, always will—so you have to talk to it in ways that is current and positive. It helps to put yourself on your pathway of growth by creating mantras, aphorisms, or prayers that make a positive statement of truth that will help you grow in that direction, like a pole lashed to a tree to help it grow straight. Don’t speak to your perceived lack or the incompleteness, speak to your inevitable wholeness, to what is real and true in the moment and what is leading you to the next thing layer of wholeness. I heard Judith Lasater once say, “What is worrying but praying for what you don’t want.” Pray for what you do want.

Here’s are two examples for a positive mantras that speak to the power of the moment:

“I’m currently on my road to _____________,”

“Inside, I already have everything I need for____________.”

Both of these examples are realistic, positive, and happening in the moment. Both reflect what my therapist has been telling me for years, “Reach for the stars and keep your feet planted on the ground.” Both are mantras that communicate to the Universe what we want and positions it to help us manifest those things.

Awareness therefore brings us happiness by helping us realize that despite being perfect beings living in a perfect moment, we are nonetheless hardwired to grow. It helps us to know when we need to move on, it gives us the clarity to know what we are looking for, and it does so grounded in the positive reality of what is.

David Whyte is a rockstar in my world. Check out what he says about growing into what we feel we are worthy of in this world.

The True Love

The True Love

There is a faith in loving fiercely
the one who is rightfully yours,
especially if you have
waited years and especially
if part of you never believed
you could deserve this
loved and beckoning hand
held out to you this way.

I am thinking of faith now
and the testaments of loneliness
and what we feel we are
worthy of in this world.

Years ago in the Hebrides,
I remember an old man
who walked every morning
on the grey stones
to the shore of baying seals,
who would press his hat
to his chest in the blustering
salt wind and say his prayer
to the turbulent Jesus
hidden in the water,

and I think of the story
of the storm and everyone
waking and seeing
the distant
yet familiar figure
far across the water
calling to them

and how we are all
preparing for that
abrupt waking,
and that calling,
and that moment
we have to say yes,
except it will
not come so grandly
so Biblically
but more subtly
and intimately in the face
of the one you know
you have to love

so that when
we finally step out of the boat
toward them, we find
everything holds
us, and everything confirms
our courage, and if you wanted
to drown you could,
but you don't
because finally
after all this struggle
and all these years
you simply don't want to
any more
you've simply had enough
of drowning
and you want to live and you
want to love and you will
walk across any territory
and any darkness
however fluid and however
dangerous to take the
one hand you know
belongs in yours.

~David Whyte


I love this because your True Love could be your partner/spouse, kids, job, beliefs, or anything.

What is YOUR True Love?

Secret No. 3: What We Need is Here

Not only must we be clear with what we want, but we gotta learn to recognize it when it comes. I think that between knowing what you want and recognizing it when it’s come, the later is the more difficult and will lead us more quickly to enduring happiness. We cant get so driven to see over the next horizon that we fail to recognize that what we wanted all along is actually lying at our feet. It’s the story of the hero’s journey.

Yoga Nidra

Presence opens our eyes to see what is here and what is real. It teaches us that now is a perfect moment, despite whatever’s happening, and that there will never be a better moment than now. Presence shows you that what you want is here. What you want is not the thing over the next horizon, what you want is being here. Being here is being home. Check out what

I love poets because they have to be so present in order to articulate the moment that’s happening right before them. Check out this showstopper by Wendell Berry:

What We Need Is Here

Geese appear high over us,

pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,

as in love or sleep, holds

them to their way, clear

in the ancient faith: what we need

is here. And we pray, not

for new earth or heaven, but to be

quiet in heart, and in eye,

clear. What we need is here.


~Wendell Berry

Yoga Nidra


I invented a magic mantra for happiness that helps me to see that what I need is here. It helps me to realize that this moment is as perfect as any other can be. That mantra is, “This is EXACTLY what I want to be doing in this moment.” I repeat this phrase even and especially if it feels like what I’m doing in this moment is pretty mundane or average because each time I do, it opens my eyes to the perfection of the moment. The perfect moment is defined by what’s happening but rather how I’m choosing to pay attention. Repeating this mantra instantly locks me into presence and takes me out of perpetual search mode. It helps me to lift my head, open my eyes and all the rest of my senses. As I’m writing this, a nice glass of Bordeaux next to me—fruity and bold—and some dark chocolate with sea salt, I feel myself swinging in the flow of this writing, the keys popping rhythmically under my fingers, and I acknowledge that, THIS is EXACTLY what I want to be doing IN. THIS. MOMENT. This is what I want. I can’t tell you how immensely satisfying it is to acknowledge that. This phrase helps to realize that I’m not waiting for the perfect moment, I’m watching it unfold before me.

And as I clarify what I want with presence, I realize that if I’m on my road to higher growth and I’m actively doing what it takes to move me along my path, then this is the only place I can be and therefore exactly where I want to be. So, yeah here is where I need to be and is the essential ground leading me to my next step forward on my path for growth and discovery. This is the harder lesson.

The last poem I want to share, a poem that has become a beloved friend to me, one which express this vital truth of presence, written by one of my heros—the woman, the wonder, the legend, drum roll please — Mary Oliver!

Mindful


Everyday

I see or hear

something

that more or less

kills me

with delight,

that leaves me

like a needle

in the haystack

Yoga Nidra

of light.

It was what I was born for —

to look, to listen,

to lose myself

inside this soft world —

to instruct myself

over and over

in joy,

and acclamation.

Nor am I talking

about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,

the very extravagant —

but of the ordinary,

the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.

Oh, good scholar,

I say to myself,

how can you help

but grow wise

with such teachings

as these —

the untrimmable light

of the world,

the ocean’s shine,

the prayers that are made

out of grass?

~Mary Oliver


I love this poem because it points to presence as the key to happiness, to satisfaction. And that without presence, we will never realize it when what we are searching for has arrived at our feet.

It’s my prayer that you find yourself in the Awareness that you are perfect just the way you are. May you have astounding clarity about what you want in life. And may you find yourself reading this and repeating the magic mantra for happiness, “This is exactly what I want to be doing in this moment.”

Thank you for sharing this moment with me.

Going deeper:

  • Remember that you’re perfect the way you are

  • Put in your order for your cosmic taco, make a detailed list of what you want your life to be

  • Regularly practice the magic mantra for happiness, “This is exactly what I want to be doing in this moment,” no matter what you’re doing in that moment.

Please share this with someone. Comment below about what you feel are YOUR secrets to happiness.


Guided Meditations for Sleep

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.

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.

(GTA) Grand Theft Auto: A Study in Mindfulness pt. 2

Part 2: Chubby Hula Dancer Rides Again!

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This post won't make sense unless you read pt. 1 so go back and read the previous post and then come back to read this one. 

GTA

(Grand Theft Auto)

GTA.JPG

When my truck, Nina, was literally stolen from out of my hands, being very nearly killed in the process, it gave me a lot of time for reflection if only for the simple fact that it takes longer to walk places instead of drive. And despite being "mindfully pissed off" about the whole thing, I also had time to reflect on the many family members, friends, and acquaintances who had stepped up to help me,  whether that was to loan me their car, offer to take me somewhere, or simply share space, laugh, and swap stories. 

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After telling the yoga community about getting my truck stolen, many people said that they would also like to have a 1" sticker on the back of their car because it reminded them of the Wendell Berry poem that states that the greatest journey we will ever travel is the journey of 1" "by which  we arrive at the ground at our feet and learn to be at home."

I made more stickers and sold them to anyone who wanted them for $5. If I could only sell a couple thousand of those stickers, I could buy myself a nice reliable car and enjoy the metaphor of the ground at my feet rather than the cold, hard truth of it.

One woman, Penny, who bought a sticker also gave me a bag of Four Barrel coffee, the brand of coffee the sell at The Rose Establishment, (the coffee shop I went to directly after getting my truck stolen) and attached a note to it that said, "Because anyone who just got their ride stolen deserves a good cup of coffee." I was touched that she'd not only remembered my story but would also go out of her way to give me such a special, and heart-felt gift. Plus, it was damn fine coffee. 

My friend Nan let me drive her car for a few days.

My dad is awesome. He's retired and during my transportation crisis he allowed me to borrow his car for a few weeks.

Then, my good friends Christy and Brian called me and said that they owned two cars and were looking to get rid of one, the one parked in an auto-cocoon in the driveway which needed some repairs on the clutch. It was a 2001 Subaru Forester. We agreed that we'd tow it to my trusty mechanic, Peak Performance, and if the repairs weren't too extensive, I could pay for the repairs and $500 for the car. Fortunately, the repairs were only $300 and so for $800, I scored a car that ran better than my previous ride.

She's had low miles, clean interior, AC, cruise control—the whole bit. Getting that car felt like a big win. My dad also helped me get the Subaru to the shop and even sat with me at the DMV while I registered it (I know, right?). Then we went the Red Iguana for Mexican food, because everyone who just got a new ride deserves "killer Mexican food."

I had wheels again! And as I rolled down the street, I was overcome with the generosity of my friends and family. 

I brought the Subaru home and parked her in the driveway and what really made the experience complete is when I put another 1" sticker on the back. Then, she really felt like part of the family. 

Then, just two day after I started rolling around in my sweet, sweet Forester, I received a phone call from the police department informing me that they had found my truck! They asked me if I could come right then and pick it up. It wasn't far away, stashed in the parking lot of an apartment complex about 5 miles away.

I told the SLCPD that I was literally about 5 minutes from jumping in and teaching my Thursday morning 10:15 am Restore Yoga class and that there was no way I could come right then, but that I'd be free in about an hour and a half. They informed me that they had called the fingerprinting team who needed to dust the truck before they could release it to me anyway and that if I called back as soon as I was done with my class, there was a possibility that I'd avoid having to pay tow and impound fees.

See, in order to protect my vehicle from whomever stole it, the police have to tow it from where they found it and impound it so Truck Thief can't come and move it somewhere else. The down side is that this isn't a service the city offers for free. I'm the one who has to pay for tow and impound, usually runs around $200.

So, as I'm teaching my Restore Yoga class, questions like, "What kind of shape is my Nina in? What did they take and does it even run?" were swimming through my head and making it difficult to concentrate. After class, I wasted no time calling the police department and told them that I was on my way. They informed me that they had already called the tow truck but if I got to Nina before the tow truck did, I could avoid her from getting hoisted away.

I was off and soon learned just how speedy my new Subaru could be as I broke a few land speed records to get there. Just as I showed up, the tow truck operator was at that moment hoisting Nina onto the back of his truck. She looked frightened and battered but generally ok. I approached him and explained the situation. He told me flatly that he'd been given orders by the cops to tow my truck and that nothing but the OK from the cops could stop him from taking it. I tried fruitlessly to explain and even tried calling the officer to have him explain the situation but my phone at the time was in its palliative care stage of its life. Like many in this state, was about  to go to cell phone heaven and the battery just wasn't working well. Every time I connected to the SLCPD my phone decided to spontaneously power down and preventing me from getting the OK not to tow my car.  So, exacerbated, I told the guy, "Fine,  tow it and I'll meet you at the impound yard so I can talk to your boss."

I zipped over to the impound yard, a lovely place that looked like a parking lot for zombies. I entered the make-shift office, a long narrow room with dirty carpet, a couch that looked like it had been towed from off on the side of the road, and an obscenely large television blaring loud day-time TV commercials.

Behind the desk sat someone who upon first sight clearly displayed a super power—apathy.  I pled my case to Apathyman. I told him that I didn't want to have to pay $200 to impound and tow my car when the police said I didn't have to pay. He began using his super power immediately and mumbled something about being powerless, other than his obvious super power for Apathy, of course. Defiantly, I asked to talk to his boss.  Apathyman gave me a number to call to Bossman, who must have taught Apathyman everything he knew. He only said, "Let me make a phone call." Five seconds later the phone in the office where I was standing rang. It was Bossman talking again to Apathyman. In mere seconds, Apathyman hung up the phone and informed me that they were going to impound my car. To see them work together was almost inspiring, they were like the Stokton to Malone duo of shittiness.

To add insult to injury, Apathyman also told me that I couldn't just pay the fee and roll away. I didn't even know if my car rolled. He told me that in order to get my truck back, I'd need to go to the DMV to get an impound release form then bring it back to the impound yard, pay the fee and then I could take the car. It's easier to adopt a baby from Russia than it is to get your car outta hock. 

I left my truck at the impound yard and rolled away fuming mad. I had another yoga class to teach and I wondered how I was going to try to teach being centered when things were so crazy in my own head. 

I made arrangements with my good friend John to pick me up after my class. We went to the DMV and then back to the Zombie Parking Lot and the House of Hopelessness, home of Apathy Man, to get my truck back. We spend all afternoon running around and attending to the minutia. Finally, I'd retrieved the necessary forms, paid the fees, and Apathyman reluctantly gave me back the keys to my truck.

Just then it dawned on me that I hadn't even seen the inside of my truck. I wasn't sure what they'd stolen, what condition it was in, or if the truck would even start. So with reticence, I approached Nina. As I opened the door, I saw the front console was torn up a bit, the result of stealing my car stereo that wasn't working anyway. I think there's a special pawn shop for car stereos that don't work, very valuable in certain markets. Truck Thief had ransacked everything leaving it a total mess. I opened the shell and looked in the bed and saw that they had stolen my and my wife's yoga mats, cuz even truck thieves need to get centered and loosen up the muscles that tighten up during dramatic heists. I hoped that one day I would see him in class reevaluating the direction of his life. 

Then it dawned on me—something important was missing. More important than my stereo, more important than my yoga mat. Oh, no! Where was Chubby Hula Dashboard Dancer! She wasn't on the dash! They kidnapped her, NOOOOOOOOO, those bastards!

Feeling broken hearted, abused, and completely frustrated, I tried my best to put my dashboard back together the best I could. Then I sat in the seat and put the key in the ignition and prayed she would start. Can you fuel a car on anger and despair?

Even before she was stolen, Nina sounded pretty hard thanks to her rusted out muffler and non-existent tail pipe. To my great surprise she did fire up however, now she sounded more like Howlin' Wolf than Nina Simome. But at least she ran.

I rolled out of the Zombie Parking Lot and waved a thank you to my friend John who sped away. I drove straight to my trusty mechanic, Peak Performance. They kindly looked Nina over and informed me that she was basically fine but that Truck Thief had stolen the catalytic converter, part of the exhaust system, because there is some precious metals in there, like palladium, the same stuff my wedding ring is made of. I would have to get that fixed if I wanted to drive the Truck. I drove directly to the muffler shop and asked them to please hook me up with another catalytic converter and while you were at it, fix the tailpipe, all of which was going to cost me around another $450.

I took the bus home feeling sorry for myself after such an emotional and harrying day. But as I was walking home from the bus stop I couldn't help but think of all the people who had helped me out. I thought of everyone who had wished me well and offered condolences and an understanding moment of bewilderment after seeing my ride stolen. I thought of Nan who loaned me her car for a few days, and my dad,  who let me tool around in his truck for almost two weeks. I thought of Brian and Christy who gave me a screaming deal on a new ride. I thought of how nice it was to ride my bike places. I thought of how nice, accommodating and professional, Peak Performance had been to have fixed my new ride and advise me on my old one. I thought of John who helped me out by running me all over town, who had shown up on my door steep the day Nina had been stolen asking if there were anything he could do, like run errands or just offer a listening ear. I thought of the cops who'd found it and who despite everything really had an air of generosity in their tone. All of that. My pity party didn't last long in the face of all that generosity and good will.

So, the next day, I rode my bike a few miles to pick up my truck from the muffler shop. I put my bike in the back of Nina and drove away, quieter than ever I can remember her sounding, feeling like this truck hadn't run that well and sounded that good in several years. And even though I knew it would add to the rust, I decided to go against protocol to give Nina a wash. I took her to a car wash and spent the better part of an hour cleaning her inside and out. I wanted to get the kidnaped feeling scrubbed off of her. It was a little traumatizing to see my fingerprints still smeared on the dirty window on the driver-side from where I'd tried to hold on as the guy was literally stealing my truck from my own hands. You see, I caught him in the act but not fast enough to stop him from bolting off and almost running me over in the process. I reassembled the dash, the result of ripping off my stereo. Then, other than the hole where my stereo used to be, everything was back to normal. Better than normal, really.

chubby hula dancer.jpg

And then to my immense surprise and pleasure as I was vacuuming under the seat, guess who was hiding? Yes, Chubby Hula Dashboard Dancer!  From what I can deduce, sometime during her kidnapping, she used all her hula-power strength  to unstick herself from the dash and jumped down to hide under the seat to wait for the storm of car thieving to pass. I picked her up, brushed the dust off of her blue plastic grass skirt and placed her redemptively back on the center stage of the dash.

As I dove away from the carwash, without a song on the radio (without a radio), just the satisfaction of a clean car and my Chubby Hula Dashboard Dancer swaying to the smooth purr of a well-exhausted engine, I felt that everything was right in the world.  Watching Chubby Hula Dashboard Dancer's happy dance reminded me that somehow, every moment is an opportunity for celebration.

Whoever stole my truck, my stereo, my catalytic converter, and my yoga mats also gave me something in return. Something very small but unspeakably valuable. Resting in the seat next to the dismantled dash and various trash, was a blue rubber bracelet honoring the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombing. Fascinating, right? This bracelet is a symbol of people coming together in the time of such tragedy and horror.

Boston Bracelet.jpg

And that's exactly what this bracelet did for me. This bracelet reminded me that despite any tragedy or fiasco, ranging from a bombing to getting your ride stolen, human beings have an amazing power to come together and to show up, love, and support to one another in the face of hardship. I roll more smoothly and with more ease after all this truck stealing business.

For a few years,  I kept that blue bracelet in the hole in the dashboard where my stereo used to be. I rarely think of the guy who stole from me but often think of those who gave to me, so generously and lovingly from their hearts at a time of trouble. That bracelet reminds me how good people can be.

Despite everything, getting my car stolen has shown me that yes, there are some careless, rude, and probably desperate people who might steal your ride simply for the low-hanging fruit of its parts and almost worthless stuff inside, but that there are dozens more people who will freely give of their love, help, and support quicker than you can say "hotwire my ride." This experience of getting my truck stolen has reinforced my faith in people more than tarnished it. And even though the whole thing experience me around $1500, I'm the richer for it. I'm rich in the form of friendships, love, and support. I'm rich in the mere experience. The story itself makes me rich. 

It's my prayer that as we practice yoga and meditation, we look inside and see is a being filled with love and light. May we understand our own brightness and then spend our energy shining our light into the dark corners of the world. My invitation to you is to choose some way to shine your light to others today. Send a text and let someone know you're thinking about them. Offer to help someone out on the side of the road. Understand your light and use it to brighten everything around you. Maybe this good will is what really makes Chubby Hula Dashboard Dancer move. Not jazz organ. 

The way to steal someone's heart is by giving your own. 

Who knows, maybe one day while teaching a yoga class, I'll recognize my yoga mat under someone else's feet. I'll know that the person on that mat is on their way to finding the light that is within them, regardless if they stole a ride to get there. We are all on this journey together, though some of us tend to take the long and hard road to get there. 

Namaste, everyone, including you, Truck Thief. I honor the light that shines inside of me and shines inside of you . . . somewhere. Thank you for ripping off my ride to show me the meaning of generosity, love, and kindness. 


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. 


To The Brim My Heart Was Full

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Lake District.jpg

Do you remember learning about William Wordsworth in your high school English class? He was a big deal among the British Romantic poets, lived late 18th/early 19th century, was Britain’s poet laureate for a spell, and was the kind of poet that other poets write poems about. (By the way, in case you were wondering, this is what an English major ends up doing for a living—teaching yoga, writing about it ad nauseam, and making endless references to poetry and poets and how they are all basically pointing to the same thing—presence.)

So, as a child, Wordsworth and his siblings were basically orphaned. Though relatives became reluctant guardians, from an early age William had enormous pressure on him to choose a respectable career which would enable him to move out and support himself and his sister, Dorothy. William was incredibly close to Dorothy, who was of a social class that simply wouldn’t allow her to work.
 

His guardians expected William to become a vicar for the Church of England, a respectable career, but one for which Wordsworth had no love. William’s love was poetry, but to his guardians, poetry was the career-equivalent of homelessness.

As a young man, one early-summer’s morning, Wordsworth was walking across the meadows and heathlands toward his home at Hawkshead, no doubt burdened by the tension between following his passion of poetry and taking a job doing what others expected him to do.

As he walked, the sun began to rise and light up his senses with a splendor of the majestic landscape, also brightening and dissolving his dark and heavy worries. Soon, he was brimming with joy, drunk with the dawning light on the meadows, the dew and vapors on the heath, and a vision of the “sea laughing at a distance.” He speaks to this magical moment in perhaps his finest and most enduring poem, Prelude, in which he says,

     Ah! need I say, dear Friend! that to the brim
     My heart was full . . .

And then, with his heart brimming, with his senses thrumming, the dawning light of the morning began to work a miracle on his heart by illuminating it to the sure and deep knowing of its gift for the world as a poet. It’s as if God, the Cosmos, or Creation—whatever—spoke and made promises to him that he must follow poetry, must offer it as a gift to the world, and that it would all work out.

Check it out. In the same poem he says,

     . . . I made no vows, but vows
     Were then made for me; bond unknown to me
     Was given, that I should be, else sinning greatly,
     A dedicated Spirit. On I walked
     In thankful blessedness, which yet survives.

 

Boom! Drop the mic. Walk off stage.

 

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And from that moment forward, with such clarity, joy, and peace in his heart, Wiliam never doubted his purpose again.

And speaking of the Church, with this sure knowledge of his heart’s gift to the world as a poet, Wordsworth felt he would be sinning greatly against an even higher power than the Church if he didn’t honor the vow which was so clearly made to his heart.

Spoiler: being a poet worked out great for Wordsworth. Actually, more than great because Wordsworth devoted himself to poetry and set up a house for himself and his sister where they could immerse themselves in the craft of poetry. Dorothy was also a poet and this setup gave her the freedom to write. William and Dorothy were a poetry tour de force as they lived a life of all things poetry. They would discuss, analyze, and workshop poems and upon completion, Dorothy would pen them in her immaculate handwriting.

Perhaps most importantly to William, his sister Dorothy was his purest love, his North Star, and his muse. If he would have relented to a career in the Church, he would have been exiled from his two loves, Dorothy and poetry.

 

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Ultimately, my point here is that with presence you too can hear (or have heard) the vows that the world is making to your heart about your gift to the world. It may not be as public or as grandiose as William Wordsworth’s but regardless, is nonetheless just as important, the world needs it just as much, and it is your own private marriage to the world.

I always say that poets are yogis with a pen, or yogis are poets with poses. In both disciplines, one comes to know themselves, their True Nature, by practicing regular and abiding presence. Whether poet or plumber, it takes a fierce presence in conversation with that thing that is larger than all of us, but to which all play an integral part, in order to do any good work in this world.
 

This week, I invite you to practice listening. Go to a yoga class. Sit and meditate. Go on a walk and leave your phone at home. Open up to creation by drinking in your senses, a profound and delicious way of practicing presence. Listen and hear the world speak to your heart. Allow your heart to speak to your mind.

I also invite you to join me for my next Yoga Nidra course: Sourcing Your Heart’s Gift, a supportive practice that regularly takes you deep inside to hear and develop your heart’s gift for the world.

This is the last week to register!

Namaste,

Scott


Sourcing Your Heart's Gift: an online meditation and yoga course designed to help you to dive deep into your heart to discover and develop your purpose and courageously share it with the world.

February 12–March 25 2018