How To Relieve Stress

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Photo by David Newkirk

Photo by David Newkirk

learn how to relieve stress

Can I get real for a sec? 

I freak out sometimes. 

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

Fortunately, I've got some tools. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are the tools that help you work with stress?

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

Let me know how it goes!

Time Is a Phony

The ancient and epic poem the Ramayana says that long ago there was a powerful Demon king named Ravana. His power blinded him with pride, deceived him into thinking he was larger than Dharma or Truth. Ravana stole a princess, Sita, another's wife, and a war was waged to get her back.

And though Ravana was often blinded by pride, he was not completely blind to profound understanding. There was a moment in the tale where Ravana is mentally preparing to go to battle against Rama, the unbeatable prince, God incarnate. That night, he went up to a great tower, onto the roof of his palace, and suddenly had a great insight regarding time. With this understanding, he suddenly had a great feeling of freedom like a band had broken from his chest. He danced for all of the heavens looking on and with his last step felt as though he'd crushed the tight hold with which time had him.

On his way down the stairs from the ramparts, Ravana is confronted by Kala, the god of time. Kala is old and decrepit and wasted like a skeleton. He tells Ravana that soon he will be in time's power and that Ravana will have to spend the rest of time paying for the sins of his lifetime.

Ravana listens for a moment then scoffs, "You little liar!"

Kala retorts,"What? You stole Sita and you'll pay-".

"You are the thief and not I," said Ravana. "For a few moments' pleasure you take whole lives in payment. And whatever you give you steal back, by fraud, from hiding, when you're not watched. Death and misery are your good friends-but you are yourself unreal: you do not exist; you cannot steal from me."

"Do you know who I am?" cried Kala.

"A marketplace of sorrows," Replied Ravana

 Kala said, ". . . your home is empty your friends have died and all the good times are long gone . . . all must change and die . . . ."

"We know better than that," said the Deamon King, "Love is eternal and we are beyond your reach. . .  But I must be on my way now, I can't be late, and my time is far too valuable to waste on anything but daydreams. . . Good love never dies."
(Buck, pp. 334-9)


Despite his faults, Ravana exposes a startling truth: the past has dissolved, the future is an abstraction (has never been, really). All we have is now. We are always in the present. But despite the unreal natures of past and future, we seem to spend a lot of time there. Pining or regretting the past, biding time or biting our nails waiting for the future. What we need is here. What we have is now. I think what we really practice in yoga is presence. Presence with our breath. Presence with our muscles and bones in postures. Presence with other practitioner's in class. What we pay for when we go to a yoga class isn't the space, isn't the time to do yoga, isn't even necessarily instruction. What we get when we do yoga is a reminder to look inside and experience the timeless, the result of living continuously in the present.

One morning I was sitting in Small Town Coffee House in Kapa'a Kauai soaking up the morning sun, feeling the tropical sweetness, and savoring a cup of jo when I looked over to the clock on the wall and instead of numbers pointing to the hour, each hour mark read, "Now."

I believe clocks are mostly misunderstood: they only point to now but we translate what we read into what has or hasn't happened, into past or future.

This week, break the illusion of time and practice being present. Yoga is a wonderful reminder about presence. We can practice presence at any moment of the day.
 

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
 

Works Cited:
Buck, William. Ramayana. Berkley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1976

Scott

 

A New Meditation for a New Year

SOURCING YOUR TRUE POWER an online Yoga Nidra Course.

 

Basic Information:

  • 6 modules
  • Includes audio recordings, discussions, chants, lectures, videos, etc.
  • Recordings are yours to keep, repeat as often as you like
  • Connect to other students via social media
  • Perform at your own pace, at a time that works for you

Happy New Year!

We made it!

We've got a bright new year ahead of us, full of possibilities and opportunities. 

This is a great opportunity to set a powerful trajectory forward for possibilities in your life through setting intentions by practicing yoga and meditation.

Intentions are powerful. They streamline our forward movement. You ever hear the phrase, "If you're not sure where you want to go, any path will take you there?"

There's untold power in simply knowing what you want, even if you're not sure how to get there. A mentor once told me, "First, figure out what you want, then you'll figure out how you'll do it."

Both understanding what you want and setting the intentions for possibilities in the new year takes practice.

So I've created something to practice. It's a Yoga Nidra (guided meditation) recording designed to help you become very relaxed, define what amazing things you want for yourself, and then visualize what your life is going to look like when this thing happens. It's is an extremely powerful tool to help you to set forward motion for yourself.

The meditation is about 31 minutes long, so plan on setting aside just a little bit of time take care of yourself in this way. Plan on getting comfortable, lying down, and setting aside all other distractions. It's designed to make you feel very relaxed. Don't worry if you fall asleep, the part of you that I'm speaking to is still paying attention.


In yoga, Sankalpa means a slow growing seed of intention you plant in your heart through intention. This meditation plants the seed and starts to prepare the soil for it to grow and to bloom. With the help of this meditation, you'll find your life begin to open up in new and exciting ways.

I've made two versions, one with background music, and one without. You can stream or download them by clicking the buttons below. 

I hope you enjoy this recording, everyone. Share it with anyone you want. Consider practicing it regularly, maybe daily for a week or so, then at least once or twice a week after that. Come back to it regularly to keep your mind and heart honed to your forward motion of 2017. 

And if you're interested in learning more about the mind-blowing practice of Yoga Nidra, consider registering for my online Yoga Nidra course, Sourcing Your True Power.  It's dedicated to the idea that you are more powerful than you can imagine and through this illuminating practice of Yoga Nidra, you can Source Your True Power. I loved putting it together and I'm really proud of it. You can see more details below and I'll be sending out more information about it. 

Happy New Year! 

Scott


Download

Stream

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

Lionel Richie is My Guru

Lionel Richie Plaque.jpg

A few years ago, my wife and I were driving home from dinner at my Dad’s house.

During dinner my dad was playing what I felt was some god-awful, nails-on-the-chalkboard, Soft Rock musical desecration on the stereo, Lionel Richie’s Greatest hits or something, I can’t remember, but on the drive home, I couldn’t stop going off about how terrible the music was and why was it that my dad even like that shit in the first place, and bla bla bla.

After several long minutes of spewing my terrible opinions about the music I felt I’d been subjected to, it was suddenly as if the Universe had heard enough of my verbal vomiting and pushed mute on my mouth. With a stroke of sudden self-awareness, I heard myself blathering on about something so inconsequential and for no reason other than to satisfy some habitual downward spiral of negativity. With clarion insight, I checked my complaining mid-sentence and the next words that came out of my mouth changed my life: “I don’t need to have an opinion about that.”

This phrase immediately canonized into my mind as my new mantra. At that moment, I saw both how useless my ranting was as well as the immense energy I was putting into spewing my acrid opinions all over those unfortunate enough to be in my company. God bless my wife, Seneca, who said nothing the entire car ride home but who, I’m sure, was enduring every Soft Rock epithet with thinning patience.

“I don’t need to have an opinion about that. Who cares if my dad listens to Lionel Richie’s Greatest Hits?!” From that moment forward, I decided that Lionel Richie was something I simply didn’t need to waste calories criticizing. And more importantly, I discovered the magical truth that I have the choice to turn my opinions off and that when I do, I feel empowered, unperturbed, and frankly happier. So simple!

Can I suggest that you begin using this mantra immediately for massive and astounding results for not only your attitude toward the world but also the world’s attitude toward you? I’m really not over selling this.

Online Yoga Nidra Teacher Training

The people with whom I’ve shared this mantra are loving it. I shared it at a meditation event I cohosted a few weeks before the holidays last year. A few weeks later I received a message from a couple who had attended the event and who said that the mantra, “I don’t need to have an opinion about that,” had single-handedly saved Christmas. Another woman wrote me recently to say that as she was driving to do be interviewed on television, she confronted the nervous knots in her stomach with “I don’t need to have an opinion about that,” and watched her nervousness completely dissolve. These people are not alone. In fact, since I’ve been sharing this mantra, I’ve received such a preponderance of positive feedback from it that I’ve decided this mantra deserves its own post.

Simple mantra. Profound implications. One reason it’s profound is because it provokes us to change our identity from one that defines itself by the mosaic of our ever-changing opinions, to one that identifies with the unchangeable Observer Self.

The credo of the Opinionator is “I critique therefore I am.” But the Opinionator fundamentally misunderstands their identity. Despite the fact that negative opinions are insidious, addictive, and low-vibration, opinions are fundamentally changeable so identifying with opinions and indulging in their fleeting existence sets us up for a massive existential disappointment.

Instead, identifying as an observer, even momentarily by doing something like repeating this mantra, is identifying with something much more real, what sages and spiritual traditions like yoga call the Observer Self, or True Self. The Observer Self is larger than our opinions and has the presence to pause and watch an opinion form and perhaps even choose to let it float on by down the river of consciousness.

This practice of merely observing something rather than reacting to it with an opinion is what Krishnamurti meant when he said, “The highest form of intelligence is observation without assessment.” Practicing this kind of intelligence leads us toward experiencing the state of our true inheritance, that of boundless equanimity, a state that can’t be shaken, not even by the immense weight of Lionel Richie’s Greatest Hits. Boundless equanimity is the natural comportment of our Observer Self and practicing identifying as the Observer Self rather than the Opinionator not only feels better but will also lead us to deeper stages of consciousness that can only come by deep observation.  

As your consciousness develops by practicing and living this mantra, you’ll feel more at one with the world and it will feel more at one with you. You’ll be surprised to see new and old friends materialize around you, friends who maybe shied away from the cantankerous person you used to be. Suddenly you’ll have friends again, and together you can talk about Lionel Richie!

Since Lionel Richie was the guru to bring me to this practice of objectivity, then perhaps I should be dancin’ on the ceiling . . . or place a shrine for him on my alter . . . or at least not be such a hater.  

Truly at the end of the day, I realize that with a little distance and some objectivity about my opinions, I actually really like Lionel Richie’s music. He’s a happenin’ soul artist whose work has endured for decades. My previous opinions were undoubtedly wrapped up myriad other things that had nothing to do with Lionel. Once I could get some breathing distance from my opinions, I could recognize that.

Yes, yes, yes. It is true that we do need some of our opinions. It’s true that we must very deliberately add our conscious opinion and deliberate action to help make a better world for everyone. I would proffer nonetheless that the more we practice the no-opinion mantra about small stuff, especially stuff around our family (man, that’s a difficult practice!), the more we will be able to apply our energies toward those issues that truly deserve an opinion and action. And we will act from a conscious place of response rather than unconscious reaction.

Plus, as practiced Observers, we will gain the compassionate ground to discuss and even debate important issues from our highest nature, with respect for those who have different opinions. And as practiced listeners and not reactionary opinion-spewers, maybe we’ll be able to inspire a similar respect from others.

May we learn first to listen, to our hearts as well as those of others, and then respond to the call to action and not be pulled off our compassionate ground by circumstances, the rash opinions of others, or the incendiary sounds of Soft Rock. Practicing the no-opinion mantra is a powerful practice to that end.

I invite you to start using “I don’t need to have an opinion about that,” today, at least for the small stuff.

And if after all this, you decide that you’re really happy with your tired menagerie of opinions. . . well, I don’t need to have an opinion about that. 

Meditation

What Is Mindfulness

 

What does it mean to be mindful? I'm sure we could all describe it in a different way. Some might say focused, conscious, alert, aware. How would you describe mindful? I believe that being mindful is the goal of yoga, it's what we practice, and all the other stuff like peacefulness, health, clarity, wellness, those are all byproducts of mindfulness.

Once we become practiced at mindfulness, we'll find ourselves applying it to all the other things we do in life: work, our relationships, how we spend our free time, even how we do those things we don't love doing like taking out the trash. And let's not mistake being mindful for perfect or blissed-out or even happy. It's just mindful. To have an emotion, for example, and to be perfectly mindful, is to allow yourself the capacity to be completely aware of it, completely involved. And that goes for anything. To really appreciate time with our kids, practicing yoga, the enjoyment of a meal, or enjoying whatever we like to do, we need to be mindful, lest that fun or those flavors pass by unnoticed.

But maybe because of this mindfulness, we'll have experiences and see that what we are isn't defined by them, that what we truly are is bigger than that emotion, that time with our kids, or that yoga posture. And it's by being mindful we can actually use the experience of an emotion or yoga pose or whatever to witness our true identity, which is mindfulness itself. The emotion or whatever is simply the brushstroke on the canvas of mindfulness. Don't mistake the brushstroke as the painting. If it weren't for the canvas, there could be no brushstroke.

So as we are in yoga practice this week, let's practice understanding our True Nature by practicing mindfulness. I also invite you to practice being mindful as you leave your house to go about your day or drive to work. Notice everything: the feeling of the steering wheel (or handlebars), the feeling of the road beneath you, the flow of traffic, the song on the radio.

See you in class.

Scott



A Life Burning Well

saltlakecityoga

Have you ever found yourself saying things that you didn't know you knew? What's that about? I think it's about understanding yourself deeply. There is something in the articulation of an experience or thought or feeling that taps us into our deeper knowledge. Writing, dance, photography, and blogging could all be part of the creative process that helps articulate an experience. I love poetry and I think that's what the essence of poetry is: understanding one's self and life's grand mysteries through bite-sized bits of awareness. Like the legendary Leonard Cohen says, "If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash." The creative expression itself isn't the experience; it's a product of the experience. More than the craft and beauty of their writing, we love poets for the people they are to write such words. We love who they have become by writing their poetry.

I suppose I've been trying to learn about who I am my whole life. The same way writing or dance could tap this deeper wisdom, for me yoga and the separate practice of teaching yoga has been a creative avenue of personal growth and understanding. Yoga and teaching yoga has showed me hidden gifts. It's challenged me to confront my largest weaknesses. It's showed me how much I love people and love to be involved in their own personal growth. What a privilege! And in the process of practicing and teaching yoga, I've learned a bunch about myriad topics like philosophy, spirituality, anatomy meditation, etc. After learning about all this fascinating, intricate, and sometimes esoteric stuff, I invariably come to the same fat and resounding question: SO WHAT? What does any of this have to do with my daily life, or other people's lives? What does any of this stuff have to do with going to work and walking my dog and having relationships and fulfilling our dreams?

My search into "SO WHAT?" has led me to the wonderful and challenging and enlightening practice of writing this thing every week. This weekly blurb has been my wisest teacher. It's here, in this creative expression of my own inquiry, where I find myself saying the things that I didn't know I knew. I'm just happy that people want read my rantings. I don't write about what I want others to learn, I write about what I'm learning in this moment. Then when I teach it all week in yoga classes, I have so much more I want to say by the end of the week because I've learned so much more by the process of teaching it, a different creative expression. I should offer a post script to this thing at the end of the week to fill you in on what else I've learned along the process of articulating it.

I can't be having all the fun here. I'd love to invite you into this beautiful process of unfolding, knowledge, and experience, of finding your own deeper wisdom, by making your own personal expression of anything you do in life. I'd love to hear about or invite you to find yourself saying the things you didn't know you knew.

Here's my invitation:

  1. Do something. Anything.
  2. Document it in some way: journal, poem, Facebook Post, blog, photo, draw, dance, whatever.
  3. Do it again
  4. Document again, maybe this time explain it or teach it to someone.
  5. Watch to see yourself say things you didn't know you knew. Watch for the insights that come naturally.
  6. Then tell me all about it, because I'll be curious.

The end.

See you in class. 

 

 

   

 

Shoveling Snow With Buddha

I love this poem. It's perfect for today and expresses my thoughts on mindfulness better than I ever could in my own words. 

Enjoy!

Shoveling Snow With Buddha by Billy Collins

In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over a mountain
of his bare, round shoulder,
his hair tied in a knot,
a model of concentration.

Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.

Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.

This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside his generous pocket of silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.

After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?

Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck.
and our boots stand dripping by the door.

Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade again
deep into the glittering white snow.

Billy Collins

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.

FOR THE LOVE!!!

Gratitude is a miracle! It is the antidote to selfishness, hurt, grief, animosity, and vengeance. To borrow a phrase, it’s what drives us toward the better angels of our nature. It reframes the entire world with beauty and grace. I also believe that gratitude is a practice, one you can practice in yoga and in the practice of life. You can become good at gratitude and you can suck at gratitude. Stretch your gratitude muscles this week!

Gratitude is love. For me to simply express gratitude isn’t enough. I want to beef up that emotion and really give myself a moment to gush about those things I love, truly love. Love is the graduated form of gratitude.

Here goes . . .(tissue, please?)

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First of all, I’m married to the most amazing person in the world. She’s brilliant both in that she shines with an amazing spirit and she’s wicked smart. She is the best baby-mama there is, so patient and loving with our little guy, Elio. She puts up with me, a that fact puts her in the running for a humanitarian award. She’s brave. She’s fun. She’s funny. She’s HOT! She’s an amazing partner. I’m so lucky to have her in my life and everyday I celebrate the fact that we met and fell in love and are working out this life together. She’s changed my life forever and I’m so in love with her. There’s not enough room in the cornucopia for this kind of a love. It’s like after your third plate o’ potatahs, turkey, and oh yeah 3 more of moms homemade rolls cuz their too good AND another piece of pie, the pecan this time cuz you already had a piece of pumpkin and apple, it’s like that kind of full of love with this woman. I love her! Most importantly, and the way I knew that she was the woman for me, the partner for my life, is that she makes me a better man. She sees and celebrate my strengths. She understands and loves me with my failings and shortcomings. She can laugh at my idiosyncrasies . . .unless that idiosyncrasy is pushing snooze for the fourth time and going back to bed, waking her up every time J. She is an amazing woman and like every couple, we are figuring it out with each other and through life as we go. We don’t have it all figured out, we know that we must forge this path as a couple. But we know that we have each others back and that we compliment each others strengths and that our love will be the machete that cuts through the tangles that impede our way toward our purpose together. I’m so thrilled to be living my life with her. I love that woman with everything I’ve got. I’ll go to the ends of the earth with her. My greatest work is to be the other half of this amazing coupling. She’s the yin to my yang, the cream in my coffee, the peanut butter of my chocolate. She is Venus De Milo. She’s the Mona Lisa’s smile. She’s Monet’s Water Lilies. As we were falling in love, we went to Paris for a week. It was her first time. I have so many wonderful memories from that trip together but there is a flash in my head of seeing her from behind as we were running in the streets like children, in love with life and each other as we ran from shop to shop to look at the jewelry in the windows. I remember the explosion of simple love I had for her, perfectly represented by her red sun dress she was wearing. I shall never forget that burst of an image. Surely it will be with me as I die.  She’s my everything. I mean check out the look in this woman’s eyes right before she married me! I see pure love and adoration. Not to mention that she looks as bright as a sunrise in this picture. Damn! I’m simply so full of love for this woman. M! M! M!

Next comes a love that I don’t even know how to describe. People warned me when Seneca was pregnant that I was going to experience a love like nothing else when Elio. Sure, sure. Kids are great and you love ‘em, right? They are cute and cuddly and what not. After being with Seneca through her labor process and watching this kid come into the world I looked at him almost afraid to touch something so precious and pure. He just looked around the room and at me with a look that said, “holy shit this is a big world!” Here he was! Sure, I’d seen ultrasounds and could feel him kick inside Sen’s belly (I swear that kid’s going to be an MMA fighter with those kicks!) but to see him in flesh and blood, ready to take on whatever this incredible world will teach him, I felt an enormous responsibility to protect him from the dangers of the world but more importantly to teach him how beautiful and loving the world can be. After he was born, he was hanging out on Sen’s chest for the first few hours of life, connected to that heartbeat, his guiding rhythm, that had brought him into the world and which would continue to guide him as long as his beautiful mother is alive. But when it came time for ME to hold him and I felt his little frame in my arms and pulled him into my chest and looked at his face as he looked at mine, it hit me. It was what everyone talked about, that tsunami of emotion. To call it love would be far too small a word to describe what happened in my heart.  Now, 5 months later, In the mornings when I’m home when he wakes up, I’ll go into the bedroom and greet him and give him loves and good mornings while he looks up at me doing his baby stretches and I’ll bask in the sunrise of his smile (he gets it from his mother). His new trick is to stick his tongue out so he’ll stick his tongue out and smile at his Papa and is so happy, pure happiness, to see me after a long night, so content and thrilled to be alive and stretch his little body. I love, love, love, LOVE that little kid. It’s a love that makes me stop writing because words can’t describe it and trying to do so seems to reduce it to something you could even describe and you can’t.

Did you know that I have a twin? Yeah, we are identical. I love him too. He lives in New York and is an amazing guy. He has 4 kids and has really been the perfect role mode for being a dad. He’s an incredible brother. If you were to hear our voices on the phone, you probably couldn’t tell who was who. He’s an amazing person and someone who has shaped me probably more than any other person. Growing up it was truly like having an alternate existence through this other person who shared a bedroom with me. When we were babies, we learned to speak late because we already had a language all our own that we would use. When we were small enough to share a crib, our parents would put us on opposite ends of the crib and in the morning we were snuggled up next to each other, just like we were when we were in the womb. When we were old enough to have our own cribs, our parents would come into our room to see us standing up at the ends of our cribs, talking to each other in our own language, like neighbors leaning on the fence and gossiping about the neighborhood. I love him.

I have an amazing family, two great sisters and two parents who are all supportive and loving. I love them. I have friends who are family to me. I love so many people who aren’t born as family but who have become family to me, friends that I just love to pieces.

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I love music. I love jazz. I LOVE playing with my soul band The Soulistics. There’s nothing like standing on a stage in front of thousands of people at a festival blowing your guts out through a saxophone with an incredible 9-piece rock band laying it down behind you. Damn! Such a rush!

I love sitting on on the deck with Sen and Elio, grilled veg off the bar-B and a glass of wine, soaking up the summer evenings. Perfection.

I love a good read. I love listening to a good podcast while on a long run along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. I love to practice yoga. I love to teach yoga. I am THRILLED     to make a living doing something that I love so much. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world.

I love you! Life is so incredible!

I offer you THE LOVE LIST CHALLENGE (dammit! Sorry, I just get so excited). Set a timer for 5 minutes and free write all the things that you love. It’s ok to repeat things. Just keep your pen moving, a skill my dear friend Nan taught me in her River Writing workshops. Skip gratitude. That’s been done and is tired. Go straight for the jugular. Go for loooove! Write it down and share it with me and everyone else who is doing this on Facebook or you’re welcome to post it in the comments section of this blog. Maybe share it with a few people on the list.

Intelligent Movement

There are several avenues to understand and experience your highest being. The mind and heart are only two avenues. Have you ever considered that you can understand and experience “enlightenment” or realization or whatever you want to call it by mastering the knowledge of your physical being? Yoga is about understanding ourselves through listening—paying attention to anything, including our physical body. The body isn’t something to master or to subdue on the road to higher consciousness. Rather, it’s a fundamental tool, a vehicle, that drives us toward our ultimate understanding of Self. Understanding how the body works, how to be efficient and powerful with it, is a mastery that will serve us our entire lives and will even give us great insights into all other realms of our being, including our heart and mind. Perhaps on our quest to expand our minds, we must first learn to expand our hamstrings.

My car mechanic knows how to drive my car better than I do because he understands much better than I do about the underlying form. His knowledge changes the way he drives because he understand deeper what makes it drive. Similarly, as you understand how to move not just the human body but YOUR human body, you’ll learn to operate it in a way that will increasingly build presence. I proffer that with presence you will move better. Your conscious movement will build greater presence. And the cycle continues.

I’m thrilled to explore an entire day devoted to intelligent movement with my upcoming day of workshops at Snowbird THIS SUNDAY, November 1 from 10 am to 4 pm. My good friend Maya Christopherson is an expert at intelligent movement and will be my co-teacher. I’ve personally learned so much about my yoga practice from practicing Pilates with her. We’ll be practicing and discussing Pilates and Yoga, exploring their similarities and differences and celebrating intelligent movement. Then your tuition gets you into the world-class Cliff Spa to relax after our day together. You don’t want to miss this!

Please find the details by clicking here. Space is limited so please register soon.

Scott

Not Troubled

saltlakecityoga123

Yoga gives us a chance to start seeing our reactions: our aversion to suffering, and our clinging and attachment to pleasure and joy. It gives us a breath, a pause, a chance to ALLOW for the world and our lives to play themselves out, even if it is uncomfortable or awkward or even painful sometimes. We can take lesson, as usual, from nature, of which we're a part...
      The Buddha teaches his servant Rahula:
     "Develop a state of mind like the EARTH, Rahula, for on the earth all manner of things are thrown, clean and unclean, dung and urine, spittle, pus and blood, and the earth is not troubled or repelled or disgusted...
     "Develop a state of mind like WATER, for in the water many things are thrown, clean and unclean, and the water is not troubled or repelled or disgusted. And so too with FIRE, which burns all things, clean and unclean, and with AIR, which blows upon them all, and with SPACE, which is nowhere established."
(From "The Glass Palace," by Amitav Ghosh)

May we see the beautiful world we live in. May we breathe and move, and practice less attachment and aversion this week. I hope see you in class (but I’m not attached!).

The following is an ancient mantra that my teacher Erin Geesaman Rabke taught me:

May we and all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.

May we and all beings be from sorrow and any causes of sorrow.

May we and all beings never be separated from the sacred happiness which is beyond sorrow.

And may we and all beings live in equanimity, without too much attachment or aversion.

And may we live recognizing and honoring the equality of all that lives

Sarva mangalam. (May the greatest goodness unfold)

Scott

Why I Wake Early

yogasaltlakecity1

I wake today and sit enjoying the silence of a the morning. Even as I sit, I'm watching the bright morning sun dance its procession around my front room. It is playing with the crystal hung in my eastern window and splattering rainbow prisms across each wall. Even as I look, the color changes and fades, showing me that the earth is revolving around this sun. Things are changing. As I look out the window the sun is celebrating these autumn trees with its light, making the yellow leaves explode with color against a cloudless and pale-blue sky. I see a small bird sitting in a shadow who decides to leap up higher and rest in the bright sun's warmth. And then it begins to sing.

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

Mary Oliver says in her poem:

Why I Wake Early
 
Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who made the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety -
 
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light -
good morning, good morning, good morning.
 
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.
 
Please join me this week as we practice Surya Namaskar and other poses to remind ourselves of this bigger picture. We show gratitude, rekindle our fire, and celebrate our own light.