Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Year!

Happy 2011 blogverse!  Long time no see.  I had fully intended on posting between Christmas and New Year's...and then the universe decided to dump a massive amount of snow on the east coast and turn everyone's travel plans (including mine, alas) upside down!  Long story short...I was without access to a computer and frankly, without access to much zen!  Things weren't so bad, though, and we eventually made it to our destinations safely.

And now I'm back in my favorite city for one of my favorite, favorite, favorite times of year!  I'm such a New Year's Resolution geek.  I always want to write a list of them about a mile long.  I've tried to shy away from that, afraid that I'm setting myself up for failure, but my beautiful friend and fellow yogi and yoga teacher Katie Hartke had an inspiring and positive way of looking at it.  Instead of being afraid you're setting yourself up for failure, just do what you can and after the year (or whatever 'deadline'), congratulate yourself on what you've done instead of letting what you haven't yet achieved block your view of your accomplishments.

As I sat at my journal to start 2011 and to suss out all I want to achieve, I did what I usually do around the new year and looked at my January 1st entries of last year and a year or two further back from that.  I noticed something rather startling - a tradition I hadn't even remembered starting!  In 2009 and 2010, I made two lists in addition to my resolutions (I'm a listing nerd):  one in which I stated things I was proud of myself for accomplishing (or things I survived/dealt with) for the past year and one in which I stated things I was not so proud of or happy with.

This seemed like such a cool and rewarding and enlightening idea that I couldn't believe I forgot about it!

Something else I noticed - my number one resolution last year was to "get back on the meditation wagon," which I fell off spectacularly after falling head over heels in love.  Needless to say...that resolution didn't quite work out.  So top of the list again this year - daily practice, or sadhana.

In journaling, I realized that although I have a lot to be proud of in the past year in terms of working on and growing my career as a yoga teacher, along the way I lost a bit of just being a yogi.  Being a teacher depends on being a yogi, but you can do one without the other.  You just probably won't teach as well or authentically.  Anyone can stand in a room and call out poses, but that would be an incomplete representation or embodiment of the whole practice.

I'm getting a little ramble-y here, but my point is this.  My career as a yoga teacher is deeply important to me on a personal level and on the obvious level where I need to make money in order to pay for food and my rent and my bills.  But I started as a devoted yogi, in love with the practice and in love with the positive changes I've seen it create within myself.  Like anything else, though, you either use it or lose it.  That doesn't just apply to the flexibility of your muscles, it applies to the flexibility of your mind, your spirit, your patience, and your feeling of yoga - union - with yourself and all that is around you.

To get myself started in my daily meditation, I decided to really specify it at first.  Part of what can keep me from the mat is the intimidating vastness of possibilities in meditation.  Should I do a silent mantra?  Should I just focus on my breathing?  Should I do a visualization?  Even answering one of those questions leads to a billion more.  What kind of mantra?  There are ZILLIONS!  What kind of visualization?  Unless I make a decision and stick to it, I'm potentially doomed to sit and debate my method of meditation and then let my mind go off and do its natural thing - planning - until my timer goes off and I feel bad about myself for being a bad meditate-or.  So unbelievably silly.

So here's my plan.  Using a mala, I've chosen a mantra for my japa practice (basically meaning a practice where you repeat a mantra).  A mala is a necklace with 108 beads (or a bracelet with 27) plus an extra bead to mark the 'beginning/end' of the necklace.  You sit in a seated meditation, hold the mala in your hand, and repeat your mantra once for each bead, moving on until you hit that 109th extra bead (there's usually a tassel or charm at the end to let you know you've gotten there), which completes your practice.  Most teachers recommend 40 straight days of a japa practice to get all the spiritual punch you can out of it.

The website I linked to is run by a fellow Karma Kids teacher and absolutely lovely yogi, Camy Becker.  She started making malas this past year and they are simply stunning.  She hand makes each one herself and can custom make a mala for anyone.  She can be found at http://www.mala-madness.com.

So that's my starting plan.  40 days of my mantra - I started that specific practice on Monday, so I've got until February 12th.  After that, we'll see what further sadhana adventures lie ahead for 2011.

Anyone else have any yogi-fied resolutions, or anything to share for the new year?  I think it's going to be a beautiful one!

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