The above is one of the attitudes that is listed in the Yoga Sutras, the version I like is The Secret Power of Yoga by Nischala Joy Devi, This particular line sticks with me as it is not an easy one but it has had a special significance for me since the election and then came up for me again in February. The full sutra is:
1.33 To preserve openness of heart and calmness of mind, nurture these attitudes:
Kindness to those who are happy
Compasion for those who are less fortunate
Honor for those who embody noble qualities
Equanimity to those whose actions oppose your values.
Last month at Tranquil Space we had the theme of Compassion, loved it and thank my fellow teacher Kat Buechel for picking it, which may seem an easy focus until you get into the details. The teaching of this sutra in concept may appear easy but then it is putting it into practice in our everyday lives. While I will acknowledge that I am not always filled with compassion as I am human, it is the last one that I have always thought to be my biggest challenge. It is the one that stopped me when first reading it to really sink in and it is the one I come back to the most.
Devi talks about this equanimity in that "forgiveness is often misunderstood. There is a reluctance to grant it," because there is the thought that by forgiving the person does not have to answer for their offense. What forgiving actually does is allow us to let it go so we don't carry with us the negative feelings. Showing compassion to those whose actions oppose our values, helps us keep our own self power and self worth. Holding onto the negative feelings is allowing someone else to hold a part of our heart.
Years ago when I was in therapy and before yoga, this idea came up as I was treated unfairly by someone I thought was my friend in college. While telling my therapist about the incident, she asked me why I was still letting her have that power over me? That made me stop and realize that I had not moved on from the hurt, instead I was allowing that hurt to keep me years in the past. I wish I could say that I now let go of what I see as wrongs done to me but no, still working on it which is why this attitude is one that will keep coming up. When I focused on this attitude in my classes I invited students to have compassion toward themselves if they found they had a hard time digesting this one. I also invited them to practice a loving kindness meditation. This can be done toward yourself or to another, in this instance I asked students to picture someone whose actions they felt opposed their own values. Then to say:
May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be peaceful.
I invite you to try this meditation, you can start by saying it toward yourself. Then focus on someone you love and then finally someone who challenges you. Observe how you feel after doing it, for me I feel settled so I hope you find it peaceful too.
It has been a busy week for me with lots of teaching, getting back to running and watching the Olympics. I love watching swimming, I swam in high school and like the world I am amazed by the talent of Michael Phelps and of course Kaite Ledecky (I mean wow). They are both fierce in the water, focused on their goals and realize their own potential. I do know there are many other atheletes and people that have the same fierceness and focus on their own potential. I find these people motivating and inspiring particularly those that are also humble, kind and respectful.
Part of my week was spending two afternoons leading a great group in Tranquil Space's Level 1 Teacher Training at the Arlington studio. They were fun, curious and open to learning which is always so motivating and moving to me. We all hit times in our lives or weeks or days where motivation to do anything is sadly lacking. Sometimes we need to shake things up like experiencing something that scares you (maybe a workshop) or sometimes we just need to really look at those around us. Here are some things that kept me motivated this week:
My motivation in this moment is to enjoy this very summer weekend with my family, probably with a run, yoga, some pool time and anything else to keep us cool.
What a week it has been, flew back from the Gulf Coast last Wednesday and started teaching again the next day. I am very blessed with my occupation, the people I get to meet and share the practice with every class. I do feel like I could have used one day to settle back into life in DC. Instead I taught and my kids started different camps this week. Selfishly this helped with the emotional tears my daughter sheds every summer when we have to come home as she misses her beloved cousin. My sweet niece also sheds tears as we leave but I think my daughter is the bigger weeper. Basketball camp, her first time playing or trying the sport, has been a huge hit, helped her adjust back and softened her loss of being with her cousin 24/7.
What surprised me this year coming back was how emotional my son was about both going down to my sister's and coming back. He was excited to see his beloved cousin, my very patient almost 15 yr old nehphew, but did not want to leave his daddy. My husband could not join us this year so tears from both kids leaving their dad. When it was time to return, my son shed many tears about not wanting to leave his beloved Thor, my nephew whom I also adore, but he did want to come home to see his daddy. My post on emotional rollercoasters did pop into my head when dealing with their feelings.
My own sadness of leaving my sister and her family gets pushed to the back as I try to be present with their feelings. I guess I did this too well as my daughter asked me if I was sad to be leaving! I assured her I was but explained that I have lived very far from my family for over 20 years now, so I know I will be leaving but I also know that I plan to go back. Hard for my kids to understand completely at 9 and 5 but we fortunately will always be greeting new people and experiences, in turn we will also always be saying goodbye to people and experiences. Does not make it easy but to be healthy emotionally we all have to figure out the best way to process the feelings.
That is why I think for me I need to allow a day to transition back, one where I can just be present to process the joys of having seen my family, the sorry for not living closer and the hope of being together again in the near future.
To find the balance between between being engaged while being at ease has been the focus of my classes this week. On the mat this might seem easy but as one moves through a practice being in a pose breathing, is when the mind may find it a challenge to be at ease. I don't mean that the body (or the mind) is not being challenged but can we be at ease knowing that we don't know how long we will be there?
This is frequently similar to our lives off the mat. I know in my life there are daily challenges where I may not want to be engaged so in turn I am not at ease. My jaw gets tight as do my shoulders, my breath becomes short & shallow clear indications I am not at ease. This is my body's stress response so the challenge is to find how I can be engaged while my body and mind are also at ease?
"Free yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds."
- Bob Marley
At the end of last week I ventured to Hershey Park with my kids to meet up with one of my dear friends and her kids. I love rollercoasters but have not ridden any in about 10+ years due to kids. I was looking forward to the coasters and riding them with my kids. My expectation of sharing the fun was one I had a hard time letting go of, something I talk about in my classes. I encourage my students to let go of their expectations of what they think should happen and just be in the experience. It would have been good for me to have remembered that a bit sooner during our trip.
My expectation that my kids would love rollercoasters as much as I do was not to happen. Looking back I wish i had softened my grasp of this expectation, but instead I could not understand why they didn't. I went from having fun to frustration, to enjoying the time to back to frustration with their fear and/or anxiety. So, while I was not riding many coasters physically with my kids I was riding one heck of an emotional one. Not one of my more stellar parenting moments but my reflection back on it will hopefully help in the future.
Our lives are typically filled with ups, downs, slow rise and fast drops, twists, spins, turns and feeling like we are upside down. The more we fight to change others versus our own reaction makes the ride more like the old wooden coasters, very bumpy where you feel like you are getting beat up, so my emotional ride last week was more like a wooden coaster. This week the ride has been more like the newer rides, still has the thrills but much smoother.
The horrible tragedy in Orlando and then hearing about the 2yr old boy killed by an alligator was too much for me. I honestly have only taken in a few details as I just cannot emotionally handle the sadness those details would deepen. Ripple effects,
We are impacted or notice the ripple effects of those around us even if we have no relationship or conversation with them. When a person is smiling it is hard not to smile back. While I was driving to teach this week I saw a man dancing with such joy along 13th St NW to the music playing in his ears that the ripple effect on me was first a smile then joy.
As you move through your weekend notice how the energy of those around you have ripple effects. Frustrated children I know has a direct ripple effect on me as does the laughter of a toddler. We cannot of course bury our heads or isolate ourselves but we can allow the positive energy around us to have a ripple effect on us. Likewise we can take notice when negative energy is in turn bringing us down and choose the best way to handle. Maybe that means walking away or for me acknowledging the tragedy but not needing to imerse in the details.
I wish I had a picture of the man I saw dancing to share as it really was such a positive ripple effect.
Making plans for today, next week, next year and daily to do lists are elements of many lives. Some of us do it as a necessary part of keeping our lives in order, or even our menatal sanity. I know some that plan out every moment of every day and others that don't plan anything. Personally I fall in between, I like having a framework of events, appointments, activities filled in to my calendar but I have learned to scrap those plans when needed.
After I first had my daughter I had a very grand idea of what I would get done while working from home with an infant sans help. For any fellow parent you probably LOL on that one. Reality set in quickly and once I let go of my expectations, I was able to actually be present with my baby and keep my sanity, somewhat. This was easier with the second as I knew going in to not expect to get anything done work wise, so when I did it was a huge accomplishment.
My lesson over the years has been to learn to go with the flow more, to look at my plans and know that they may need to be adjusted or scratched at any moment. Feelings of disappointment, frustration or anger still arise but I try to remind myself that plans are fine to make but be ready to watch them wash away with the tide. Don't get me wrong I am still learning and still working to find the balance between getting those items on the list done while enjoying the moments that are right in front of me.
As the school year is wrapping up for my kids we have lots of unscheduled time, sprinkiled with a vacation and camp, that I hope to simply enjoy being with my kids. My fond childhood memories of summer in Texas were spending every day at the pool (and I do mean every day and all day), riding my bicycle and days at the beach. No plans, now as a mom in 2016 the idea of no plans in one respect sounds great and then sends me into panic. So, now I will breathe, and remind myself to look for the joy in each moment as they come instead of trying to plan for them.
"My body is a present of perfect design.
My mind is a power as endless as time."
From I'm Thankful Each Day
by PK Hallinan
The above is what I recited at the end of my classes this week which is from a book that I read at the end of my Tots & Tykes class as I love the message and think that we as adults need to hear, myself included. Our bodies are a present, one we should take care of by keeping moving, learning and feeding it the healthy food it needs. No worries I am also a big supporter of treats (hello chocolate) and enjoy my Chardonnay but of course all in balance. Honoring the gift of our physical form in this lifetime with all its unique characteristics is a new perspective I am working to take in place of viewing my body as having imperfections.
You see our "mind is a power as endless as time" as if we change the story, the narrative we can view ourselves in a new way. My children have expressed dislikes toward their own physical appearence, my son in a minor way in regards to his hair and a particular mole. My daughter has expressed her dislikes in a way that pulls my heart when I hear it. My husband and I ask questions to understand the source, then talk about our own characteristics and work to reinforce her own uniqueness. Sometimes we are more successful than others and I hope that this is part of growing up, being more aware of the social aspects is normal but I hope that we can help her to recognize that her body is a perfect present and her mind is her own power that is endless. It would be good for her mom to walk the talk so that is what I am working to do.
I ended my classes this week with the mantra Om Namah Shivaya, Thomas Ashley-Farrund in his book Healing Mantras says to "Chant with the idea that all of us should become perfect, each in his or her own way." That idea makes me smile so I hope it does for you too.
Truthfulness or in the Yoga Sutras it is Satya, saying the truth but not doing so in a way that is harmful, as that would not be practicing Ahimsa (no-harming). My British mother always told my siblings and I if you don't have anything nice to say don't say anthing at all. While I agree there are times that speaking the truth is necessary.
I am known for my directness, I am honest but truly work to do so in a way to promote growth and positive reinforcement. I have done this as a swim coach, trainer in all my past jobs, as a teacher trainer, manager of the teachers at the studio and so far I have worked to be up front and honest with my kids when they ask questions. Now I try to tailor it to age appropriateness, like when my daughter asked when she was five about how people die. Now my son has asked the same question but also will I die and his daddy. The balance of course was being honest that yes we will but doing it in a way to not freak him out. Not easy believe me.
This week I had to have more of a rogue mole removed and honestly the bandage on it looks pretty bad. My daugther knew I had to go back to the Dermatologist so she was not as worried but when my son saw it, you could see his fear. It took some quick thinking on my part to be honest but soothe his fear that one of his would have to be taken out. I talked to him about it and he seemed to calm down but I am anticipating another conversation once he sees the stiches.
The whole truth and nothing but? Or should it be honesty given with a sense of balance toward what will aide in the other person's growth. I am honored that my kids trust I will tell them the truth in an honest but safe way and I am also honored that those I teach with also know I will be direct but with the intention of their aiding growth.
So, next time you are asked for feedback or a question take a moment to find the balance of telling the truth but with the intention of aiding growth.
Do you have a question in your life that you wish you had an answer for but struggle to find? I have, there is a question I keep asking the universe and spin in my mind trying to understand but have yet to come up with an answer or explanation. In many religious traditions as well as in the study of the Yoga Sutras it is said that our attachment to finding all the answers is the source of our own suffering.
In my case my spinning of why is actually making me feel worse and stuck. Our theme for the month at Tranquil Space, where I teach, has been surrender. Along with that theme I read a poem this week in my classes, "Black-Eyed Susans" by Danna Faulds, which ends with these lines:
Answers not found in the
fresh faces of the flowers
are simply not worth seeking.
When this question of mine has come up this week I have recited these lines to myself, as logically I know the answer I seek is not easily found nor understood but my heart is struggling. The question instead I have been asking my heart is, is it really worth seeking? I won't find the answer in the "fresh faces of the flowers" so it is time to surrender it to the universe and allow myself to move forward. Easier said than done but isn't that part of the lesson?
I am a DC based yoga teacher, wife, mother of two kids and three animals who is using yoga both on and off the mat to find balance.