Tuition for Life Lessons: A Mediation on Resentment

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Several years ago, while I was still in college and before I started on my yoga career, I worked in a little loan company processing loans. The man who owned this company (we'll call him "Jeff," mostly because that was his name) taught me several valuable things, many about people and others about myself. While some of the lessons he taught me were very costly both in money and in hurt, it was all great tuition for some essential life lessons.

One of the valuable things Jeff taught me, something I'll remember for the rest of my life, was that even more important than processing people's loans, my real job was connecting to the people I served through the loan business. He taught me that It doesn't matter if you're a doctor, teacher, or loan processor, you're real job is to connect to people. Your 9–5 is just the particular lens through which you're called to connect to others.

He also taught me how to focus under pressure and how to organize my tasks around priority. He taught me things about working with people that I've used everyday since I worked there. He showed me parts of myself waiting to come out.

But this article is about what he taught me about forgiveness. 

Everybody has their Kryptonite. Despite Jeff's shining attributes, he wasn't a very good business person. I grew very concerned the day that my paycheck bounced. When I approached him with this dilemma, he asserted that even though the company was in a little slump, everything would soon be ironed out.

It never was.

I liked Jeff and wanted to hang in there for him until he got things figured out. But eventually, I could see the writing on the wall and after a few months of not getting paid, I finally left. When I walked away, he owed me these few months of back pay. What he owed me was a lot of money for a starving student, not to mention that all this happened coincided with Christmas and the tuition deadline for next semester. 

Even though I was the one who offered to stay, I really thought that Jeff would come through and was really hurt when he didn't. I felt really betrayed. Jeff stopped returning my calls. My feeling of hurt turned into betrayal, turned into a bitterness, turned into obsession. I just couldn't let it go. For a while it was all I could think about.

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I wanted some recourse so I called the Labor Commission and filed a complaint, adding to the other employees at the failed loan office.The process was fraught with bureaucracy and dead ends—unfruitful and painfully slow. Eventually, the courts began to subpoena Jeff to arrive in court. I soon realized that I could easily gain my money back if I were only paid five cents every time I heard the Labor Commission say the phrase, "Your file is under review and we'll notify you once we know anything different."

This empty search continued for over two . . . (I pause for effect) YEARS. Each new attempt to resurrect my file brought me more pain and frustration.

Then one night I had a dream. I dreamed that I met Jeff. I saw him not as the evil person I'd made him out to be but as just a simple dude with a five-o'clock shadow (that's the way he always looked, even at 8 am). In my dream, as soon as I saw him, I suddenly got tired of holding this grudge. I forgave him of the whole thing. Completely. In my dream, Jeff didn't seemed very thankful or changed by that fact, nor did he seem really to even notice, but that didn't matter because I had changed. Instead of angry and dark, I was light and free. So, I woke up that next morning let it go. I let it all go. I was astounded how easily it was to forget about after that moment.

It took me several years to understand that even though Jeff had done me wrong, he still taught me some very valuable things. I began to think that my lost wages as a tuition paid for some very valuable lessons. Unbeknownst to me, my lessons weren't over yet.

One day, more than a decade later, I heard something on the radio that reminded me of Jeff. I hadn't even thought about Jeff since I'd had that dream about a decade previous. By this time in my life, I lived in a completely different town more than 50 miles away and had given up the world of mortgage lending for yoga teaching. I don't even remember what it was on the radio but whatever it was reminded me about all the great things that Jeff had taught me. I felt not only healed from all the resentment and pain but like I'd even grown from the experience I'd had at the failing mortgage office. Proud, I said to myself, "If I ever meet Jeff again, I promise that I will vocally forgive him and thank him for what he has taught me."

Something else I've learned is that when you call out to Destiny, prepare for an all-out a bare-knuckle brawl. She'll come and she'll test you just like you asked her to. She'll give you what you wanted but expect a little more blood—your blood.

Beehive Tea Rom, the cafe where I saw Jeff

Beehive Tea Rom, the cafe where I saw Jeff

So, almost exactly an hour later after calling out to the Universe that I'd forgive Jeff if I ever saw him, I was nursing a cup of Raspberry Mint tea in a cafe when over my shoulder I heard a disturbingly familiar voice. I didn't have to turn my head to know that it was Jeff and despite the warm tea, my insides turned to ice. 

I sat there listening to his voice as I burst into a cold sweat. And despite the fact that I'd just told Destiny that I'd forgive Jeff if I ever ran into him, now that it came to it, I wasn't so sure. I hadn't seen him in a decade. There was bad blood between us. I'd even subpoenaed him in court. Would he even remember me? Would he want to hit me?

As I debated within myself, he started to get up to leave. If I was going to act, it had to be now. I took a deep breath, stood up, and stepped toward him. "Hey, Jeff. I don't know if you remember me but I used to work for you at the mortgage company." He paused for a moment with a stunned look in his eyes. He took a step back probably wondering if I wanted to hit him. I explained to him quite frankly how he had hurt me then just as mater-of-factly said, "But you know what? I forgive you." I then explained to him all the things that I learned from him and that if I ever ran into him, I'd thank him for those valuable life lessons.

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He just stood there stunned. He made no apologies, no explanation. He simply told me that I made his day. I made mine, too.

And no, he didn't write me out a check for the back pay.

That day, I realized that the money I'd lost was a relatively inexpensive tuition for the life lessons I'd learned. Some of the biggest lessons I learned through that experience were that holding a grudge only hurts me and forgiveness heals that hurt. That and to watch out when you call out to Density.

Our yoga and meditation practice is one way of creating intention and therefore dancing with Destiny. It's a way of producing an Awareness to see that even the muddy waters of our bitterness and pain can lead us to see the lotus of our own love, the nature of our True Being. Ultimately, we'll find that our blossoming love rests in our ability to be flexible and teachable to the lessons that beset us each day.

 

Would you mind sharing this?


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Pratyahara: Meditation and Breathwork for a Deep Inner-Journey

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I want to talk about Pratyahara and offer a helpful breathing practice to accompany it. First I feel I need to give it a little context.

Yoga 101

Yoga is old. One of the earliest mentions of yoga comes from the Rig Veda, one of the oldest vedic texts dating somewhere around 1700–1100 BC. So, OLD.

Patanjali was a yoga scholar (some say a school of thought—doesn’t matter) around 200–500 CE who wrote a generalized guide to yoga called The Yoga Sutras. Sutra is a Saskrit word meaning suture or stitch. The Yoga Sutras are therefore 196 verses “stitched” together in order to create a larger patchwork of what yoga’s main goal is and how to practice it.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali starts by defining yoga as the ability to calm the mind into stillness to arrive at a state of Oneness with all things. He outlines 8 limbs of yoga or ways to practice arriving at this Oneness. These 8 limbs are presented from gross to subtle ways to practice yoga.

The 8 Limbs of Yoga

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The first limb is the Yamas or outward observances, the way we treat the world. If we’re assholes to everyone around us, we’re missing the essential point that somehow I’m everything and only hurting myself.

Second is Niyamas, or inner observances, the way I treat my inner comportment, my cleanliness, contentment, and ability for self-discovery through work and submission.

Third comes yoga Asanas, or the poses, how literally applying this knowledge to the body, mind, and spirit of my personal being and attempting to discover the unification of all of these. This is what most of us refer to when we think of yoga. That’s fine—you don’t have to start practicing at the beginning—whatever gets you onto the path.

Fourth, Pranayama refers to how this work affects one’s energy through breathwork and other energy manipulation through the chakras, or primary energy stations located along our spine.

Fifth, and this is what I want to talk about most today, come Pratyahara or gaining control over external influences and learning to withdraw from our senses as the entrance into the inner-being.

Photo by  Alex Adams

Photo by Alex Adams

Sixth is Dharana, or fixed concentration on one thing.

Seventh, Dhyana, deeper concentration where you begin to lose your sense of individuality and the object you’re observing start to merge.

Lastly the eights limb is Samadhi, or the state of Oneness.

So now you’ve got probably more information than you need about yoga philosophy and ancient texts, what does this Pratyahara business have to do with me?

If you’ve ever tried meditating, you’ve likely tried at least a few ways of meditating and discovered one or two ways that really help you to go deep into your meditation, where something begins to happen and we start to get that meditation hit that everyone is talking about. In part, this ability to go deeper into ourselves starts with Pratyahara.

The senses are a wonderful tools of cultivating presence. Paying attention to our senses help us wrangle in our wild and wandering mind to a state that is here and now. We’ve used our senses perhaps with the “There Is” Practice or similar practices. However, getting stuck into this mode of paying attention to what is outside maintains external attention and might prevent a deeper inner-journey. So, learning to move beyond our senses inward to a state of raw here-and-now-ness may deepen your meditation practice.

Your senses are always firing and constantly giving the brain information. In fact, there’s so much information happening all the time, that our brains have to learn to filter and select what is essential and what it can turn off. Pratyahara experiments with learning to turn ALL the senses off to find a state of deeper inner-awareness on our pathway to discover that the answers are within instead of outside of us.

To to practice Pratyahara start by listening to your senses and then go inward beyond them.


Breathing Practice to Complement Pratyahara

Here’s a breathing practice followed by a meditation that can help you with just this

Brahmari: Bumble Bee Breath

Brahmari breath is kinda weird so bear with me. What you do is sit, close your eyes, and place your hands on your face with your index fingers over your eyebrows, your middle fingers covering your eyes, fourth fingers just below your nostrils, and little fingers under your lips. Your fourth and fifth fingers therefore create a cradle around your mouth. Your thumbs gently plug your ears. This closes all the exits, except your nostrils. Now, you release your pinkies to take in a big breath through your mouth, replace your pinkies and close your mouth and let out a long hum until you have no more breath. When you’re empty, breathe in again and do another round. Continue for several rounds. Have fun with this: try high pitches, low pitches, make up little tunes— whatever. Ideally, you’ll drown out all other senses except the sound of your own humming in your head.

You may also choose to omit the crazy hands-to-face business and use earplugs and an eye mask—less adventurous but probably just as effective.

This practice will confirm to your neighbors peeping through the windows that yes, you finally have gone nuts and that they should probably look for another neighborhood. Better just to have some private space to do this.

After several minutes of this, keep your eyes closed and choose a meditation that cultivates a strong internal focus, something like mantra meditation or mindfulness meditation.

I might suggest using the Insight Timer and setting your timer for 20 minutes using an interval bell to ding after 5 minutes. Do the Brahmari breath for 5 minutes and after the interval bell dings, try a mantra or mindfulness meditation for the remaining 15 minutes.

This will be a great 20 minute practice to really cultivate inner-focus.

If you’re curious, give this a shot and let me know how it goes.

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31-Day Meditation Challenge: Your Most Most Incredible 2019 Starts With This!

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Christmas is Over, Now What?

Meditation

You’ve indulged. You overate, you overdrank . . . and might just be feeling in sum: over it. Hopefully these next few days before the new year can be quiet and simple. Consider my up coming 31-Day Meditation Challenge.



The week between Christmas and New Years is actually a very special time. It’s that dead-of-winter time where you get to hibernate, meditate, and plant the seeds for what will live for you in the new year. What are you visualizing for 2019?



Power of Visualization

I have a faith in visualization that borders on religious—religious, because it work miracles, both in my life as well as the lives of millions of other people. My belief is simple: If you can see it, you can live into it.



Modern neuroscience agrees with me. Scientists say that the brain does not differentiate well between the images it translates through the eyes versus what it translates via thoughts, images, or ideas. Think about watching a thrilling movie— your heart pounds and your hands sweat, though your rational mind knows they are merely images on a screen.



This proposes a provocative idea: if your brain can’t differentiate well between reality and other images, why not visualize your ideal life and enjoy the feeling of success now? Speaking of seeing is believing, my wife has brilliantly constructed images set to music that reflect her ideal life using “mind movie” software, which she watches on a nearly daily basis to see where she’s directing her life.



Just like countless world-class athletes have shown, visualizing yourself succeed floods your system with all those feel-good and excitement chemicals like Dopamine, Serotonin, and Oxytocin, just like if you had recently accomplished your dreams. It makes you perform at your peak. Plus, since seeing is believing, visualizing yourself succeed shuts off the amygdala, the part of your brain that puts the brakes on doing scary things like jumping out of airplanes, risking talking to your boss about a raise, or hell, quitting that soul-sucking job once and for all and stretching yourself to do that thing you’ve always dreamed of doing. In short, when you see yourself succeed, you live into your vision of it.


This is because you are truly more powerful than you can imagine. Most likely, the biggest thing holding you back from experiencing your own innate magnificence is your lack of vision for it. Do you ever get comfortable with “good enough,” lose your sense of purpose, or busy yourself so much as to distract your mind from what it truly makes you feel alive?



Well if so, starting today, that’s going to change. I invite you to join me for a revolutionary, 31-day meditative journey that gives you the tools and the support to visualize and live into your own magnificent life.


31-Day Meditation Challenge

We’ll start together on New Years Day with a guided and vivid visualization of what your incredible life looks and feels like. This meditation will relax your body and put your mind into a flow state that boosts your creativity, optimizes your learning, and inspires your productivity to work toward the fulfillment of your dreams. Then, for the the entire month of January, you’ll meditate every day for 15 minutes a day. You’ll regularly revisit your visualization for the year as well as use any other form of meditation you like.



Once you register, you’ll get all the details for how the challenge works as well as information about several styles of meditation you can choose to do in addition to our New Year Visualization.


If you’re new to meditation, no problem. You’ll love this. If you’re an experienced meditator, great. We can use your meditation muscles to bolster the spirit of our group. Either way, this will be a fantastic opportunity to join a group of people all over the world benefitting the world with greater mindfulness. All month I’ll be sending you regular emails that offer instruction, support, and encouragement.



This will be fun, easy, and the perfect way to start 2019.


This 31-Day Meditation Challenge will also bless the lives of the people around you. In addition to visualizing an incredible life in 2019, regular meditation will also:

Yoga Nidra Meditation

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  • Lower your stress levels

  • Decrease your reactivity

  • Increase your mindful responsiveness

  • Improve your sleep

  • Reaffirm your sense of purpose

  • Give you personal and spiritual insight

  • Improve your overall happiness


Do this for yourself. Do this for those privileged (or not so privileged on those off days) to live around you.


This costs only $31. And guess what, if you complete the challenge, you may opt to GET. YOUR. MONEY. BACK. (drop the mic).


Please join today and share bless the world with a more-mindful YOU. Please share this with anyone who would benefit.


Happy New Year!


Meditation
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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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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.

I Have A Dream

I Have a Dream

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12 hours before the March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would deliver his iconic I Have a Dream speech, he still didn't know what he was going to say. But on that historical day, August 28th 1963, Dr. King lead the march, and on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial delivered one of the most important speeches in American history. 

 

In his speech, Dr. King references the opening lines of Shakespeare's Richard III's when he said, "This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn. . ." portending the change of season in America's social climate.

Free At Last!

But toward the end of his speech, something miraculous happened. The famous gospel singer Mahalia Jackson was nearby and used her commanding voice to shout, "Tell them about the dream, Martin."

At that point Dr. King stopped delivering his prepared speech. He stood powerfully and began preaching to the quarter of a million people in attendance on the lawn of the memorial, and prophetically to the millions and millions of people who have since heard his words, punctuating each point with "I Have a Dream."

According to U.S Representative John Lewis who also spoke that day, "Dr. King had the power, the ability, and the capacity to transform those steps on the Lincoln Memorial into a monumental area that will forever be recognized. . . he educated, he inspired, he informed not just the people there, but people throughout America and unborn generations." more than 50 years later, we are those generations.

 

Free at last!

Part of the power of Dr. King's I Have a Dream speech was his important references. In it, Dr. King references not only Shakespeare, the Bible, gospel spirituals, political and religious leaders, the Emancipation Proclamation and the Constitution, but also Dr. King's speech and entire social message was a strong, tacit reference to the principle of non-violent revolution for the sake of making lasting social change. This principle of non-violence was championed by the social revolution led by Mahatma Gandhi who referenced the ancient Yoga Sutras. In Sanskrit the word Ahimsa means non-violence. The Yoga Sutras state that in order to become one's highest self, one must embrace the seminal principle of non-violence which is truly the gateway of unconditional love.

In fact, Dr. King was so inspired by Gandhi that in 1959 he visited Gandhi's birthplace in Gujarat, India. This visit left a profound impression of the concept of non-violent civil disobedience and further strengthened Dr. King's commitment toward America's struggle for human rights. And just like in India, it was a non-violent revolution that drove lasting change in America's social attitudes.

Free at Last!

In his speech, Dr. King also references transformational heat. In the Yoga Sutras, Tapas is defined as the heat necessary for transformation, like pottery fired in a kiln. Yoga means union. In yoga, we practice implementing this transformational heat to bind body, mind, and heart in our own person to work toward our highest self. With this proverbial heat, we then direct and bind the larger body of our family, our community, our nation, and our world in the spirit of its highest self. Growing pains are evidence of Tapas. Certainly there were growing pains in the Human Rights Movement. This heat was Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus. It was The Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. It was The March on Washington in 1963. It was Bloody Sunday in 1965. The heat that causes change can be necessarily uncomfortable, sometimes outright painful. Dr. King was on the burning tip of the spear of social transformation, a searing heat that would eventually take his life. But because of the heat of this social movement, The March on Washington and the I Have a Dream speech were two events that helped signal America's transformation of becoming a greater nation. That speech marked and catalyzed significant growth in this country. We are still growing. 

Transformation starts with an individual. Gandhi said,

"If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.... We need not wait to see what others do."

How are we willing to step into that heat of personal transformation? Are we willing to personally grow to ensure a strong body, bright mind, and open heart and grow into our highest potential? Are we willing to stand up for an injustice? And how do we make that change both as an individual and as a nation that allows all parts to grow stronger rather than being cut or compromised? Surely this is a difficult task. To ensure mutual growth, we change while practicing non-violence, Ahimsa. Like Gandhi and Dr. King discovered, Ahimsa is both the personal and global non-violent revolution that makes lasting change. Whether it's internal change like greater mindfulness or a more healthy body or external political or social change like gun control, same-sex marriage, political partisanship, undocumented immigrants, or anything else, the question is how can we instigate a change that invites all parts to grow in the process?   

 

We've grown as a nation since 1963 but we still have much more to do to honor all the beings who live here. It is because of leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. that we have a strong foothold on freedom, a firm platform where we can step into America's future and truly become the nation that our forefathers like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Kennedy and leaders like Dr. King believed we could be, one where people dare to dream. We can't go back and we can never unlearn what we've learned.

We can move forward. We can grow individually and as a nation by referencing the past. We can reference both the failures of social inequality, and the inspiration of the I Have a Dream speech, as mile markers that will direct us toward protecting the freedoms that make us all grow closer to actualizing our highest potential, individually and as a nation.

And we can use the principles of non-violence (Ahimsa) through understanding the principle of heat necessary for transformation (Tapas) to help us in this practice. We can practice moving toward a future where, like Dr. King says, children of all races (and I believe given current social and political issues he would include people of all sexual orientation, documented and undocumented immigrants, gun lovers and gun haters, Republican and Democrats etc.) could all hold hands and with exuberance shout the refrain, "Free at last! free at last! thank God almighty, we are free at last!" 

Join me this week as we continue Dr. Kings legacy by practicing transformation through non-violence and growing individually as the first step to continuing our growth as a nation.

Holding Space

salt lake city yoga

We don't need to change or be better than we are. We practice deep compassion as we extend this same privilege to other people and things around us and allow them to simply be, especially those things that would easily turn our hearts bitter.

As we practice yoga and meditation, we cultivate and practice being. We also reduce the suffering known as Dukkah, which would hold us back from experiencing our highest self.

One act of holding space is allowing yourself to be with a person or thing and allow them to be just as they or it is. I'm thinking of a friend who is sick or experiencing something mentally or spiritually challenging. Simply being with that person and holding space for them, without the need to fix or change anything, just being, allows a deep compassion to exist between the two of you.

Another act of holding space is the decisive act of making room in your heart for that which would sooner canker your heart with feelings and make your mind fester with "shoulds" and what-ifs." When you hold space for someone or something, you don't have to fall in love with this person or thing but you are simply offering compassion toward them or it by not becoming sour toward it. And by so doing, you ultimately offer your own heart and mind in the same compassion--the heart that flourishes when it feels abundance and love, not bitterness, and the mind that abounds when it is sheltered from shoulds and what-ifs."

Here are a few examples of holding space:

The NYC 4 Train: stopped en route causing me to miss my flight home (years ago).
Me: bought a NYC 4 Train T-Shirt--holding space for the 4 Train.

World: Just as it is.
Me: Accepting the world as it is.

Holding space is often the first part of forgiveness toward yourself and others.

This week, practice holding space for things that your either don't understand or which bother you.

Scott

This Is What I Believe . . .

Ever think about your beliefs as a part of your yoga practice? Believing isn't an indicator of truth or non-truth. It's just what you believe. But knowing what you believe is a great way of practicing understanding yourself. It makes us inquire. And through this inquiry, we can play at the edges of knowing, as poet Mary Oliver says. Also, sharing your beliefs, especially in a respectful way, opens your heart and allows others to see a real and honest part of you. This is about truth, the Sanskrit term Satya. Not that what you believe is true (it may be) but what is true is that you feel it and that you are honest and brave enough to share it. I invite you practice sharing your truth and watch as your life opens up; notice the ways others around you also open up as you share your truth.  

So, here's a practice for me. This is what I believe: 

First, I believe in people. I believe that people are not only good, they're amazing. I believe in the human spirit and its capacity to dream, innovate, work hard, and accomplish, sometimes beyond all odds. This human spirit has sent people to space, we have figured out how to see planets hundreds of million light years away. We make astoundingly beautiful art and movement. We dreamed up Hobbits and Star Wars and the The Royal Tenenbaums. We invented Oreos. Need I say more? We help each other out in times of personal, national, or global crisis. I believe that people, no matter what, somehow to their core, are driven by love.

I believe in yoga and meditation.

I believe in personal growth.

I believe in the power of a good movie.
I believe a good talk can work out most things.

I believe in respect, honesty, and integrity.

I believe that the Universe is mysterious and big and fascinating and that I'm somehow part of this big beautiful thing, planets hundreds of light years away and all, and by understanding myself better, I understand the Universe.

I believe in trying your hardest, even if you can't win, that trying your hardest is winning.

I believe in putting your heart out there, speaking your truth, and letting the consequences happen as they may.

I believe in love as the panacea to fix most everything.

I believe things have flaws and cracks and problems and they are perfect like that because through those cracks, as Leonard Cohen says, that's how the light gets in-our flaws are the avenue to growth and understanding to the Divine.

SAN FRANCISCO YOGA TOUR

MAY 19-22. 

I believe that I see the Divine in every person, creature, plant, and rock. I believe that the Divine has infinitely many forms and what does the Divine care if your offering to the Divine is religious service, or a prayer in the form of a decadent flourless chocolate cake to share with family and friends (for example). And since the Divine comes in so many forms, it is indeed the Divine who accepts your gift with gladness and thanks. Why not pray with your gifts, with what makes your heart sing, indeed that is a true offering.

I believe in a steady groove and a line of notes blown out the end of a saxophone.

I believe in people coming together to make miracles happen.

I believe in Girl Scout cookies.

I believe in traveling, getting outside your box, your neighborhood, and learning what's going on in this complicated, intricate and incredible blue marble of ours.

I believe in developing compassion by putting yourself in another person's shoes.

I believe in listening, and why not listen on a great sound system?

I believe in discipline with a healthy dose of conscious indulgence.

I believe in local business. I believe in helping out the little guy.

I believe in helping each other make our dreams happen.

I believe in showing up.

I believe in giving someone a chance.

I believe in music.

I believe in caring about our environment because I believe that we can individually make a difference.

I believe in standing up for what you believe, especially in a way that is honoring, respectful, and non-harming to others.

I believe in trail running.
I believe in watching others shine.

I believe in a good belly laugh until tears flow down your cheeks and you become hysterical.

I believe in the benefit of the doubt.

I believe in miracles.

I believe in accomplishing your wildest dreams.

I believe in making your space beautiful.

I believe in creating sacred space.

Again, I believe in love.

 

I believe in sharing. Please share what you believe.

 

Scott

 

The Cosmic Taco

 

The Power of Intention
 

Several years ago, I decided to move to a different place in town. I had been looking for a place to live for a while and had even committed to leave my old place by February 21st. I looked and looked and looked. Nothing. Nothing that made me feel comfortable enough to move. I soon found myself with 5 days left to find a place, sign a lease, and move and I had no real prospects. Needles to say, I began to get a little nervous.

Maybe its because I'm a slow learner but it suddenly dawned on me that maybe I wasn't finding what I wanted because I didn't even know what I wanted. So, I took literally 30 seconds and wrote down about 12 things that I really wanted in a place. I didn't compromise, I didn't hedge what I wanted. I just laid it out: how much money, how much space, where, architecture type and era. Everything. Why not?

The very next day, I found it. Not just something that sort of matched what I was looking for. Everything I was looking for, down to the neighborhood, price, and even charm factor. Oh, and it had to be clean.

I was certainly pleased but not terribly surprised. Things like this have happened to me before. One dear friend says that if I really wanted a taco (perfectly Random), all I have to do is intend it and watch as my cosmic taco appears from the sky. Now I'm not so naive as to think that I get whatever I want from life, I have my share of disappointments, but I do see the effect of regularly setting intention manifest itself over and over in life. I feel that and meditation is simply a concentrated form of setting intention.


I don't believe that I'm particularly charmed, but I do believe that we should all be brave enough to ask the Universe for what we want. I think it has something to do with what we feel we deserve.

What do you deserve?

In yoga we call this Sankalpa. It is the practice of setting an intention like planting a seed or finding a star by which to navigate your ship through this existence. This Sankalpa is one of the ways by which, I believe, we have commerce and conversation with the world that is bigger than ourselves.

Try it out. Plant your seed of intention. Choose your star. Then devote your yoga practice and your practice of everyday living to this intention and keep your faculties of attention acute.

Watch out for falling tacos!


Scott

 

 

I Love Good Humor

 


I love good humor. I love the perfectly delivered punch line, packaged with impeccable comedic timing. To deliver good humor with an unmovable poker face is nothing short of an art.

More than humor I love music. As a musician, listening to music is very important to me. One of my greatest pleasures is to listen to a CD in the isolation of my car and as I'm driving around, digest the entire album over the course of a couple of days or a week. I listen to the album over and over, like reading a book, hearing the way the chapters/songs relate to each other, picking up on the musician's overall character, finding musical jokes, tragedy, irony, and connecting musical themes. I feel the sound of the entire album.

One of my other guilty pleasures is listening to radio talk. I guess I like to overhear others' conversations.

Well, one day I'm was on my way to teach a morning yoga class when I opened my car door to discover that someone had broken into my car and had stolen my car stereo. I was devastated. My car was locked, there were no broken windows, and the door didn't look forced open. Judging by the skill and ease of this job, the guy who robbed me seemed to me to be the Bob Villa of car stereo thievery. Normally, when people steal your car stereo, the damage they incur trying to get your stereo out exponentially outweighs the value of the stereo itself. Fortunately, this guy was very thorough and created no other damage to the car than a hole in my dashboard with a few neat wires sticking out. In fact, the job was so neat, that I half expected to see the wires twisted off, taped, and labeled for me.

The only sloppy part, the part that added insult to injury, was the fact that while so skillfully absconding with my stereo, the thief ate an ice cream bar and decided to graciously leave the used, sticky wrapper in the front seat of my car. The Pink Panther leaves a single white glove; this guy chooses as his signature to leave an ice cream wrapper. Go figure. I picked up said wrapper and, fuming, was about to throw it away when I noticed the label on the wrapper, the irony of which almost smacked me across the face. It said in nauseatingly bright and happy colors, "I Love Good Humor." I was too upset to get this sick joke and appreciate the "humor" of the situation, although I sensed that there may be some rich lesson here. Instead of throwing it away, I placed the wrapper in the now vacant cavity that used to hold my stereo and drove away, brooding.

It's like my arm had a mind of its own. No sooner did I start to drive away than by complete and mindless habit did my arm attempt to reach over and turn on my stereo, only to nudge the wrapper sitting in the stereo's hole. I looked over to see "I Love Good Humor" in all its happy and sticky arrogance, gloating back at me. This did not improve my mood. The silence in the car was a screaming reminder that I felt someone had seriously wronged me. Perhaps 30 seconds later, again my arm attempted to turn on my stereo only to receive a similar result. My mood was changing from bad to worse. I lasted maybe another strong two minutes before my now music-starved arm reached out to fill the deafening silence in the car, only to hit the same infuriating wrapper. "OKAY, UNIVERSE. OKAY! HARDY HAR! JOKE'S ON ME! ONE OF THE THINGS I LOVE MOST IN LIFE HAS BEEN CRUELLY RIPPED OFF AND NOW I HAVE TO DEAL WITH IT OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN BY LOOKING AT THAT STUPID WRAPPER. VERY FUNNY!"

Despite my internal rant, I kept the wrapper in its new home. I drove around that day, and the next, and the next, catching myself occasionally trying to turn on my new ice cream wrapper. It didn't work.

After about a week of sulking, something magical happened (no, the wrapper didn't spontaneously begin singing show tunes), I decided to try chanting while in the car. It felt good, really good. Then after a few days I tried singing to myself. My voice rocks when no one else is listening. I prayed. I also began to keep quiet and think about the yoga class I was about to teach, picturing which students would be there and what they might need from a yoga class. I began to notice amazing things, breathtaking things, things like the silhouette of the mountains against in the moonless, pre-dawn light of the morning. I noticed the way that the car felt as I drove it, the way it would take bumps, the vibrations of the engine tingling my hands on the steering wheel, the rush of acceleration. I began to notice with acute clarity my emotions and thoughts. All this silence was giving me an incredible opportunity to direct my attention inward.

My teaching and my personal practice improved almost immediately. I began to arrive to class much more ready to teach. I was less distracted, more focused, and could read the needs of a class much quicker and effectively. I found myself finally saying the things that I'd felt but could not find words to express. I said the right things because my mind had been "in class" since I left home. As I practiced yoga or meditated, I no longer spent the first half of practice trying to get the last song out of my head.

One of my most stark realizations was the understanding that I was completely addicted, not just to music, but more pointedly to the need to have some noise present, the perceived need to be drawn away from my own center and hear someone else's conversation, someone else's music, someone else's jokes. It was only then that I understood the looming joke resting quietly, stone-faced, in the car stereo cavity of the dashboard of my car. It had taken weeks but one day, while driving around, I finally got the joke! The comedic timing had built to this fantastic climax: here I was, a yoga teacher, traveling around like a mad man, music and chatter blaring in my head, only to screech to a halt, run into the studio, sit down, and talk about getting quiet. Ha! I wasn't practicing what I was teaching. What's more I finally got a taste of the brilliance of silence. I got it, Universe! I got it! The joke was on me. It took this lesson of "grandmotherly kindness," the ultimately compassionate lesson where your master beats you over the head with a stick (or steals your car stereo), to teach you something crucial. For me this lesson was how to know and appreciate stillness.
 
It took about a year until I eventually got a new stereo. Still, I learned something very valuable in the silence, something I wasn't entirely ready to give up. I learned that no matter what our work is, if we want to do good work, we need to have a solid relationship with silence. This is what we are practicing in yoga and meditation. Now, I listen to music as a choice, not a compulsion. Now, I listen to the silence.
 

I love good humor. 

What It Means to Be a Man

Photo by Dallas Graham

Photo by Dallas Graham

Yoga means union, in part union of masculine energy and feminine energy. The marriage of these two seemingly different parts creates a whole that is both balanced and interdependent. What better week than the week of Valentine's Day to celebrate this union as we practice understanding the marriage of these energies within us through the practice of yoga. Let me be clear: we all have both masculine and feminine energy regardless of our gender or sexual orientation. This week, I want to talk about the masculine, and though we all have both, some of us exhibit more of the masculine and others more of the feminine. To make it simple, I'm going to label the masculine as "man."

To be a man means to be courageous. Courage literally means full of heart. Therefore, being courageous is being connected to emotions, not divorced from them. Embodying this kind of courage has been a theme in my inter-personal work over the past few years. To be courageous you must know your own heart and that means doing the work, getting in there and finding who you are inside. It means meditation and yoga. It means soul searching, often times on a solo retreat, or a daily meditation or yoga practice, sometimes for an extended period, then coming back to your family, your relationships, your work, passions, and hobbies with that courage, that conviction and that strength of spirit to share that knowledge and stability as a gift to the world.

To be masculine means to be conscious. It means being spacious, holding space for the dynamic and beautiful qualities of the feminine. The quintessential archetype for the feminine is the dancer, the beautiful, expressive, dynamic, and changeable presence. The changeable world-nature, time, and everything that moves-is part of this feminine realm. So, anything that is changeable is an expression of the feminine. And the masculine's job is to be able to stand and witness this beautiful dancing feminine, to look it straight in the eyes and let it dance. Hold space. Going into nature and witnessing that realm of growth, decay, expression, and beauty is a marriage of the masculine presence and the feminine dancer. Of course this consciousness also extends into the realm of holding space for the women in our lives with honor, love, and respect. To be a man means to appreciate and celebrate what it means to be feminine, in the interdependent balance of wholeness.

Men are protectors. But to be a protector a man must be vulnerable. Protecting means going into the darkness to explore the unknown in order to make safe what you love. It means leaving the warmth and light of the fire to explore the sounds coming from the dark woods. Nature is feminine therefore the masculine can help protect it by giving a shit about our air quality and natural resources. Being a man means protecting the feminine. Women are certainly powerful. Let's not forget that the lioness is the fierce hunter of the family. But like a pride of lions, the protective males respond to any abuse of the female. Like lions, men must help protect women.

It's a tragic truth that one out of three women in the world have been, will be, or are currently subject to physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Being a man means creating a line of warriors, of lions, that will stand up to any abuse and say, "not on our watch!" It means being conscious of a problem and saying, "no." It is about marrying the male consciousness and the feminine call to action in order to make a world where all our brothers and sisters can enjoy living safely and nobly. True strength is not about muscle, it's about courageously exploring your heart, it's about consciousness, and it's about being willing to be vulnerable in order to protect nature, women, and all of us by sometimes challenging the status quo. The yoking or yoga of these elements is the true expression of masculinity.

In the name of standing up in opposition to the abuse of women, I invite you is to look at this wonderful cause, One Billion Rising. This cause is dedicated to creating a voice for the abuse of women, raising consciousness, and making a difference in women's lives. Any abuse of any one of us hurts all of us.

Choose this Valentine's Day, the day dedicated to those you love, to evoke the spirit of masculinity and stand up for women.

Check out this beautiful video "Man Prayer," words by Eve Ensler. It made me cry.


The Woman I Love

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I'm married to the greatest woman in the world.

I just LOVE her! She's the perfect partner for me. One thing about her that I discovered about her early on in our relationship was that because of my relationship with her I was a better man and a better person. She sees and celebrate my strengths. I want to step up to the occasion to be honor such an incredible woman as this. THAT'S how I knew that she was the woman that I'd spend the rest of my days with.

I'm so happy to have celebrate that love with her this Valentine's Day weekend by collaborating with her to host our Couple's Retreat.

We try to treat our relationship like yoga: as a practice. We all know that with relationships, just like with yoga, we can get out of practice, we can get into ruts, and we can down right suck at relationships sometimes. Sometimes the circumstances of a relationship can be out of your control. Sometimes you can steer things differently. Even when things are going really well, there is always something to practice.

Truly relationship (any relationship) is just the closest mirror to the growth that is happening within yourself. If you're not growing, your relationship is not growing. And vice versa.

Like yoga, we can always practice. Practice gives us permission to learn without the need to be perfect. Practice lets you use all for faculties and experiment until you start to get it dialed in. Practice lets try again if you've messed up.

I invite you to treat your relationships like a practice this week. Remember, the greatest gift we can give any relationship is PRESENCE.

Because the Woman I love lives
Inside of you,

 I lean as close to your body with my words
As I can--

 And I think of you all the time, dear pilgrim.

 Because the One I love goes with you
Wherever you go,
 Hafiz will always be near.

 If you sat before me, wayfarer,
 With your aura bright from your many
Charms,

My lips could resist rushing to you and needing
 To befriend your blushed cheek,

 But my eyes can no longer hide
 The wondrous fact of who 
You Really are.

 The Beautiful One whom I adore
Has pitched His royal tent inside of you,

 So I will always lean my heart 
 As close to your soul
As I can.

~Hafiz

“The Woman I Love” by Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky from The Subject Tonight is Love by Daniel Ladinsky, published by Penguin Compass. Copyright © 2003 by Daniel Ladinsky. All rights reserved

There's Something In The Tea

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I lived in Korea for a year teaching English and studying meditation. I loved to explore the locals-only part of this fascinating country.

One day a few friends and I wandered into a tea shop in the old part of town. At the back of the shop was a man, dressed in the Han Bok, the traditional Korean habit, who noticed us enter the shop.

Without a word he began to prepare tea. It took us a few moments to wander to the back of the store. By the time we noticed the man sitting behind a small wooden table, the water was hot. He motioned for us to join him. Delighted, we sat on a few cushions lying on the floor in front of the low table. He poured the tea into the pot and allowed the tea to steep.

After a few minutes, he laid out a few delicate tea cups and performed the proper ceremony to serve tea.

He didn't speak English. We didn't speak Korean. Together we spoke the language of human beings sharing tea. We simply sat in each other's presence and enjoyed tea. We didn't need to make small talk. We didn't need to make charades. Words would have been excessive.

Several long minutes passed. Then, we rose and bowed humbly to him. He smiled and bowed humbly back. We left the shop but he has never left our hearts.

There's something in the tea.


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You Can Never Go Back

standingatthecrossroads

The crossroads is a magical place. It’s the place where the ethereal, spiritual, and philosophical meets the physical, real, and practical. Where these two roads intersect is the holy ground of transformation, it’s the place where we have to drop our one-track thinking and see the many roads. Practicing yoga means to be at the crossroads.

crossroadsyoga

One legend of the Crossroads involves the King of the Blues, Robert Johnson. It is said that one night, deep in the South, the Delta, Robert Johnson left home and as the clock struck midnight, he found himself standing at the intersection between here and there, now and then, this way and that way. There he found the Devil who showed him what was possible with a guitar and told him he would never amount to anything unless he sold his soul in exchange for learning how to play the guitar like nobody’s business. Robert Johnson weighed his options and cashed in his soul (or maybe found it) by making the deal with the devil. He threw his guitar over his shoulder and walked down the road to there, possibility, and everything, giving up on the roads from there, safe comfortable, and the predictable. As he strutted down the road he said to the Devil, “I am the blues.”

These crossroads don’t only involve the devil and the blues. Crossroads exist all over the place, wherever the other world meets this one, wherever the spirit world meets the physical one. Places like churches, temples, and holy sites. Places like your yoga mat. It’s like a tabernacle, what ancient people used as a traveling temple. Your yoga mat is the traveling temple where spirit and body meet to show you what’s possible inside of you. And yes, I’ve meet the devil there before. I’ve seen him in sitting on my tight hip in kapotasana, pigeon pose; on my steel hamstrings in hanumanasana, the splits pose; and I’ve seen him doing a victory dance on my quivering raised leg in that damned standing splits pose. I’ve come face to face with my physical limitations, yes, but also with my own neurosis, my deepest fears, self-limiting thoughts, and deep, deep wells of grief. I’ve seen that everything is linked to everything else. I’ve meet the divine on my mat as well.  I see regular joy in handstands, pleasure and peace in savasana, fun in transitions, and possibilities in postures. I get regular hits of insight, of purpose, and a deep sense of belonging. Most importantly, at the crossroads of where physical meets spiritual, I get regular glimpses of the real who and what I am.

yogacrossroads.jpg

Robert Johnson sold his soul, meaning he gave up the simple, naïve way of seeing the world for a richer, more comprehensive and real view of the world. And for us to experience the larger view of ourselves we have to give up something. I believe instead of selling our soul, we sell the armor that protects us from experiencing only the good, the simple, and the happy. I believe that sometimes we must walk down the roads of grief, struggle, and pain to see how immensely beautiful life is. It’s the larger view. It’s the view of heaven and it will cost you your life. At least, the way you’ve been living it before now. And you can never go back. But in the end after seeing what’s possible, would you want to?

This week, meet me at the crossroads. Meet me at Centered City Yoga on your yoga mat and explore that place where heaven meets earth.