Monday, February 21, 2011

Week 1: Ahimsa, Non-violence and Balance

I thought my first week of experimentation would be easy. I picked the question at the end of the first chapter that I hadn't yet done or really even considered in previous journeys through this book (The Yamas and Niyamas by Deborah Adele). I picked the question for exploration that said, "Guard your balance as if it were a precious resource..find guidance from the messages of your you need more sleep? Exercise? Act on of the messages of your body and explore what balance looks like for you...notice the effect on you and on others."

Like I said, I thought it would be easy.

I live a quiet life, a simple life. I'm usually in bed by 9p and like to spend the mornings walking with my dog and drinking tea. Perhaps that I picked this one because I thought it would be easy says more about me than the experiment itself..hmm.

I tried to do what I usually do, only the social floodgates burst open upon me and I was swept up into staying up late, drinking more wine than usual, sleeping in, not walking Che as much, not reading by the fire and taking more naps. Not to mention that I was already working out some "kinks in my spiritual muscles" simply from living this complicated life (I have to give a shout out to Jennifer Imsande for that lovely metaphor).

Which leaves me wondering if somehow my habits and ego went into revolt as soon as I tried to make balance a "doing" rather than a "being" thing. Or it could have been that I needed some socialization and needed to stay up past my bedtime (That's the fun thing about yoga experiements, there aren't even any real clear answers, only more questions!).

The effects of my actions and the difficulties I faced not only in finding balance but recognizing that I already had some and had to make my way back to it, led me to believe that it was more the former than the latter. I am still tired. I am still catching up on homework and voicemails.

I do have a more concrete idea of what balance means to me and I certainly know how to knock my life completely out of that loop. All in all, it served as a lovely reminder for me.

Coming up: Satya or Truthfullness. This one is a favorite.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Yamas and Niyamas: A Ten Week Experiment

I'm always up for a good experiment, especially one that brings more awareness into my day to day life. I have worked with the Yamas and Niyamas (system of yogic ethical practice) in trainings and workshops and have dabbled on my own, going so far as to tattoo "Ahimsa" or non-violence, the first Yama, on to my forearm so that I wouldn't forget.

Well, I still do. We all do, don't we?

So I thought I would committ to a ten week practice of experimenting on myself and then blogging about it. I will be using Deborah Adele's book "The Yamas and Niyamas" which is available here if you are interested:

Week 1 will cover an experiment in non-violence. I often find this one to be a lot of fun because most of us think of non-violence as being an external issue. We think we have to stop harming others or the planet. But Ahimsa also begs a different question, what if you started with non-violence to the self? What would that look like? And how would it ripple outwards to the rest of your family, friends, community and the world?

As within, so without!

Alright, I'm donning my lab coat.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Ligaments, Muscles and Joint Capsules. Oh, My.

Kiki and I were discussing yoga and anatomy today and Kiki, in her style, deposited yet another jewel of wisdom in my lap. I had been pontificating about body awareness and my journey from "severe lack of" to "semi-consciousness" regarding the various body systems and yoga when Kiki said, "If our skin were invisible, that would make yoga different wouldn't it?"

And I thought, "Sheesh, it sure would." I imagined seeing not only the occasional strained face as I looked out from my perch at the front of the room, but also flaming joints and burning, torqued bones and muscles. Eeek.

I was once myself a yoga practioner with flaming joints and a myriad of aches and pains as a consequence. I liked to push and strive and really was not aware that I had a skeletal system or a muscular system and I had stopped listening to the messages from my nervous system years before; I may have smelled something burning but I just kept on mindlessly pushing.

My journey to semi-consciousness has been aided and abetted by chiropractors, massage therapists, yogis, teachers, friends, books, trainings, posters and mirrors. I have only recently come to realize just how much is going on in an asana or yoga pose when it is being expressed by myself or another practioner.

I mean, think about it for a second. All of the neurons sending information through the nervous system, muscles lengthening and shortening, ligaments stretching, it's amazing to ponder!

To uncover and discover the mysteries of our individual bodies is a wonderful gift and exciting exploratory journey. Listening to the messages the body sends is a beautiful opportunity to cultivate deeper body awareness and a more sustainable yoga practice. Moving in the range of motion that is available to us, while being conscious of pain, clicks or clunks is a great way to begin to understand the multi-faceted functioning of our anatomy which in turn brings more consciousness to our yoga practice. It's like "Choose Your Own Adventure" meets "Nancy Drew" meets "Patanjali" (compiler of the yoga sutras).

What fun!

What would it look like if you listened to your body as it moved into and out of the poses? Have you ever isolated a particular muscle, ligament or joint into your sphere of awareness?

Happy exploring!


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Enlighten Up and Stay Young at Heart

If you haven't played Hide and Go Seek lately, you are missing out. If you haven't played Hide and Go Seek lately with a group of young adults, in the dark, with only a head lamp on the strobe light setting for the seeker, well, then you are really missing out.

You will laugh like you haven't laughed in years. You will laugh so hard you might cry. You will stumble and grope and laugh and try to squeeze yourself into a small space. Adrenaline will flood your body as you see the strobe light coming down the hallway. You will run and flee the Seeker, laughing and sweating with your fellow Hiders. You will have memories that make you smile and then laugh some more.

In our externally focused culture not only do we obsess over aging, we put all of these rules on it, trapping something fluid into a little box covered in duct tape and razor wire. We cement beliefs about ourselves. We become more rigid, less playful. We forget how to let go. We forget how to lighten up. We forget how to stay up past our bedtime. Sometimes, we can even forget how to laugh or enjoy the company of others.

As I ride the high from a wicked game of Hide and Seek, I remember and laugh at what it is to be alive, to have fun, to be child like and curious, to break the rules and the contraints that we set for ourselves...and I invite you to do the same. How long has it been since you played a game? Took a midnight trek through the woods? Laughed out loud and almost peed your pants?

Grab some kids, grab some friends and play!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Che as Teacher

We can learn a lot about ourselves from those we live with, including the animals in our care. Che has been a constant companion of mine for almost four years. Our journey has been wrought with peril and adventure and through it all I have again and again been shown, my-self.

A simple example of this would be that Che used to love getting into the garbage. If I would leave him home alone and there was any type of teeny tiny savory tid bit in the garbage, I was guaranteed to find a gale force mess in the house when I returned. I used to get angry, until Che taught me that a good dog owner actually puts the garbage can in a place where a pup can't reach it.

Che, as a living breathing experiencing being, has also taught me the importance of daily walks in nature. If Che does not get his daily walk, well then, I can expect to be followed around by him, staring and pouting. When we walk together, we are both invigorated and nourished by the fresh air (even when it is 20 below) and we return home ready for a period of rest, which is another very important lesson.

Che has modeled for me the perfect life; eat, sleep, walk, sleep, play, sleep, eat, sleep. Periods of activity puncutated by periods of rest, genius! There are many of us who could benefit from this simple lesson.

Recently Che taught me an invaluable lesson when he allowed his life to be a mirror for my expectations. Expectations are really quite sticky anyway, those hopes, fears, wants, desires all tangled up in another. And even worse than that is what happens when expectations fizzle and die and disappointment ensues.

Well, last week I was left holding that bag of disappointment and I was left sitting with my own choices in a big fat cosmic giggle kind of way.

You see, I suddenly had the brilliant idea that Che must be lonely and in need of a companion. I thought, perhaps he wouldn't pout so much, perhaps we could walk less often, perhaps he would have someone to stay home with while I was away. So, we drove for 6 hours to Wisconsin to pick up a puppy.

To make a long story short, we ended up driving 6 hours back to Wisconsin a couple of days later after consultations with a dog trainer, the adoption agency and the foster parents of the pup as to why Che just didn't seem to care to have a sister.

I admit, I was perplexed, how could Che not want a sister? How could he ignore her, nip at her and be just down right mean to her? It was then that Che taught me another lesson, that dogs don't speak English and their needs may not exactly be in line with our own.

I was beginning to feel like a big dummy at this point, especially when looking at the larger ramifications of my behavior. There was a lovely kernel of truth in what had happened, that I had pushed my expectations on to another and had been sorely disappointed. Eeek.

So there it is in all of its shiny wisdom, other's needs may not be in line with our own and our expectations can fog up our own ability to see. And even though Che's inability to speak English, or more aptly my inability to speak fluent Dog influenced this event, I am certain that it is also true that this type of thing happens often between humans, who often do speak the same language.

Its funny, when Che came into my life I never expected that I would learn so much about myself or that it would be MY behaviors that would need to be modified rather than his. Oh, the irony.

If you've got a furry friend, perhaps this story will make you curious about what little kernels of truth might be embedded in your relationship with them.