Thursday, June 28, 2012

Inspiration Quickie

Hello blogverse!  Not sure if it's the onset of the dog days, my schedule being crazy busy and up in the air as it transitions from "spring semester" to summer camps, or my impending teacher training and then trip to Florida to find my wedding dress, but I am 1,000% without a clue as to what to blog about this week.  I've searched, I've tried, I've racked my brain and I'm coming up empty.

The best thing to do when that happens, I've found, is to seek out other people who ARE feeling a little inspired and hear what they have to say.  I now give you, from MindBodyGreen, a fabulous list of 8 Yogic Quotes and the compiler's thoughts on them.  Enjoy, and I'm sure next week I'll be bursting with inspiration and tales from the Karma Kids Yoga Teen Teacher Training this weekend (for which you can still sign up last minute!)  I'm so excited to get started with it tonight!

Stay cool, y'all...

8 Amazing Yogic Quotations and Reflections

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mind Over Madness

Yoga is a scientific system that makes you the master of your senses
Instead of being a slave to them.
Yoga is not just standing on your head, as many people think, 
but learning how to stand on your own two feet.
Yoga is not a religion. Yet it embraces all religions.
Yoga can teach the young the wisdom of age
and teach the old the secret of youth.
Yoga will introduce you to someone you might not know.
Your Self.

-Swami Satchidananda-

The lovely passage above was read by Laughing Lotus co-founder Dana Flynn during the evening class (the which culminated at sunset!) at Athleta's Mind Over Madness Summer Solstice in Times Square yesterday.  I attended the FOURTH class of the day - I can't begin to imagine how hard all the organizers worked yesterday herding thousands upon thousands of yogis in the busiest place in New York City.  Not to mention the intense, intense heat the first day of summer brought us yesterday.  It was a great event and a wonderful way to bring us into summer!


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Book Report: The Joy of Living

Yesterday I finished reading The Joy of Living by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche for the second time.  It's a great book, and I highly recommend it to anyone - particularly if you're interested in science, Buddhism, how your brain works, and how you can be happier.  (I'm pretty sure that should cover everyone, right?)

Although I am a yogi and this book is technically right up my alley, I'm also a speed reader who prefers a page turning Stephen King or memoir over denser nonfiction.  I knew as soon as I finished this book that I'd need to read it again because it was a little challenging to get through for me at some points, despite the fact that Rinpoche's narrative voice is wonderful and he's very, very clear.  He's just dealing two very intense subject matters - Buddhism and Biology - and sharing with us how the intertwine, parallel, and intersect each other.

Another reason I knew I wanted to reread it is because it gives you so many practical tips and techniques on meditation I knew it would take forever for me to remember them all and give them a try.  Some stuck with me the first time I read it while other pearls of wisdom stood out more this time.

Probably one of the most practical pieces of meditation advice I took away from this book was this:  Whatever technique you're utilizing, whether it be repeating a mantra, focusing your eyes on a single point (a candle flame, for example), or counting your breath, it's important to take a break from that technique within that seated meditation practice.  For example, a practice could be composed of about two minutes of settling in, two minutes of a mantra, and then a minute of letting the mantra go and allowing your mind to rest without needing to cling to any technique - and then see what comes up.  Then begin to repeat the mantra for another few minutes, rest for another few minutes, and so on.

This is something that was huge for me.  For one thing, it makes the practice feel less like work.  Rinpoche explains:

It's very important to practice in short sessions and then allow your mind to rest.  Short practice sessions followed by periods of rest allow this new awareness to stabilize - or, in Western scientific terms, give your brain a chance to establish new patterns without being overwhelmed by old neuronal gossip.  Very simply, when you get go of practicing, you give yourself a chance to let the effects simply wash over you in a flood of positive feeling.

I related to it by comparing it to weightlifting or running.  After you've put your muscles through stress, you need to give them recovery time to rebuild the new strength and recover from the stress you've put on them before you can go on to the next run or the weightlifting session.  It makes sense that the brain would operate the same way.

Rinpoche's voice throughout the book is utterly charming, disarming, and such a pleasure to read.  He's very funny and silly and doesn't ever make you feel like you're being lectured by someone more enlightened than you.  I'll end with this lovely advice from him, which I think applies to much more than just meditation:

...the mind is always moving, always processing new ideas, new perceptions, new sensations.  That's its job.  Meditation is about learning to work with the mind as it is, not about trying to force it into some sort of Buddhist straitjacket.

We think we're being diligent by sitting down to meditate for hours at a stretch.  But real diligence doesn't mean forcing yourself beyond your natural limits; it means simply trying to do your best, rather than focusing on the result of what you're trying to accomplish.  It means finding a comfortable middle ground between being too relaxed and too wound up. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Well well well...

I'm nominated for a blog award!  Not exactly sure how that happened or who I have to thank for it, but thanks!  Happy Thursday, everyone.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sugary Sweet Ahimsa

The mayor of this most fabulous city, New York, has recently proposed a ban on the sale of all soft drinks (sadly not including diet) sold over 16oz (one pint) in public venues such as bodegas, movie theatres, ball parks, restaurants, and anyplace that has to submit to a health grade rating from the city's Health Department.

It's being hotly debated now, with many decrying his desire to be overly controlling, and still others thinking the ban doesn't go far enough.  I've been thinking a lot and reading a lot about it, and trying to reconcile the fact that, in my heart of hearts, I don't think it goes far enough but...there are plenty of issues I feel strongly about that don't necessarily feel like need to be legislated so the world can be forced to agree with me.

This article by Mark Bittman, however, really helped clarify (and frankly, justify) my viewpoint.

When observing the yogic yama ahimsa, you strive for non-harming of all creatures, including yourself.  Can we ever stop people from making decisions or doing things that will harm themselves?  Of course not.  It's part of being human, and it's part of the freedom that we're so lucky to have in America.  Lord knows I've had too much to drink, too much chocolate, too much sun with too little sunscreen, too little sleep - you name it.  We all do, and it's part of being alive.  The idea is to do the best job you can and be as aware and conscious in every single moment.  Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't - but as we tell the kids, it's a yoga practice, not a yoga perfect.

Swinging back to the article and the issue at hand, Bittman justifies his position on Bloomberg's proposal (spoiler alert - he's in favor of it) by "loosely" paraphrasing Oliver Wendell Holmes:  "Your right to harm yourself stops when I have to pay for it."  Saying, in essence, that the addiction to the nutritional wasteland that is soda doesn't just harm yourself, it harms our society as a whole.

Bittman explains with much more eloquence and intelligent detail than I could hope to achieve, so I'll turn it over to him.  Read his article, read about the issue, and let me know what you think.  It's a tricky one to call, but something very worthy of discussion.

"What is Food?" by Mark Bittman.

Resurrection of a blog (and a hip)

One year ago today - on a much cloudier, much colder, and quite frankly very hungover morning - I went out to run.  My goal was either 4 mil...