I’m not sure how I’m going to flow with this today. I just know that today and tomorrow are my last days teaching upon this month’s “Karma & Karma Yoga” focus, it’s a Blue Moon, and I need to write the Monthly Class Focus blog.
During August I did three things consistently: I practiced Crow Pose aka Bakasana; I studied the “Karma: Causality” chapter from Michael Stone’s “Yoga for a World out of Balance;” and I witnessed how my actions cause certain outcomes.
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The Bakasana practice I took on as a literal exploration of karma’s rule of cause and effect. For example: I practice certain mechanics, alignment and strengthening over a period of time (cause) in order to improve my Crow Pose (effect). Sometimes I need very tangible manifestations of ideology in order to truly embody those ideas. And the Bakasana workshopping definitely brought it home.
On my own, I am not a consistent “student” who studies/practices in order to build knowledge and expertise. I can be (i.e. preparing for a job) and I have been (i.e. completing Yoga Teacher Training). But I need specific motivation. For instance, if I get asked to play percussion on a tour or if I am nearing my summer camp percussion teaching stint, I practice and rehearse and fine-tune. I am lucky like this. Very lucky. I typically don’t have to practice daily in order to perform well.
The question is: Are my skills improving; is my talent developing; am I learning anything new?
I have been popping into Crow Pose for years. Most arm-strength poses come easily for me. But this year, my Crow Pose started to feel very heavy – and it looked heavy, compared to photos of my peers and master teachers. So for the month of August, as a way to dig into physical karma, I practiced Crow. I asked instructors for suggestions (they generously gave them!) and I took those recommendations to heart. I practiced daily, and, I taught these same tips to my classes.
The outcome? My Crow is starting to fly.
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“Karma…is a tool designed to help us see the intimate nature of all relationship. How I talk with you affects the quality of our communication, affecting how I feel, how you feel, and how others who come into contact with us feel about our contact in that moment. Karma is not some kind of spiritual air-mile system with merit and demerit added by some divine teller. Rather, karma points out the importance of purifying our actions of body, speech, and mind, so that the way we live our life benefits all with whom we are in relationship.” – Michael Stone
I want this. I want to live my life in this way. I want to feed into beneficial intimate relationships in this world. And Yoga and Buddhism teacher Michael Stone lays out the “how-to” simply and clearly – purify my actions of body, speech and mind.
Some yogis and teachers might argue that the act of serving others comes first, and is the gateway to my own healing and purification. And I might agree that this works for me, sometimes. Yet, more often than not, what really works for me? Starting each day with a strong yoga practice – including Asana, Pranayama, meditation, chanting and praying for others (Ah! There it is!) – which unfailingly removes disturbances from my mind, and prepares my heart, my soul and my entire being to treat others well.
Morning Sadhana (routine) is like taking out insurance for a good day. And note – I did not say a “great” day. A good day – where I enhance my well-being, where I wish well for others, where I take responsibility for my actions, where I am honest, and where I aim to sustain my own peace and therefore support the peacefulness of others – is sufficient for this yogini!
Also, taking yoga’s 1st limb – the five Yama – seriously and aiming to practice those principles in all my affairs undoubtedly sets a tone for positive, healthy actions. The 1st limb recommends five actions that we might cease in order to live more constructively. Michael Stone describes them simply as: “nonharming, honesty, nonstealing, wise use of energy, and nonacquisitiveness.”
I am infinitely grateful for teachers who 1st brought yoga’s Eight Limbs to my attention way back when, and who continue to prioritize them in their teachings. Focusing 1st on letting go of unhealthy actions before processing through the remaining seven limbs has definitely liberated me from unhealthy patterns which harmed both others and me, making room for both a yoga practice and a life which encourages positive action.
That brings to mind the theme of Abundance, and today’s Blue Moon. A Blue Moon is not blue in color at all; it simply signifies a 2nd Full Moon within one month’s time.
Focusing on what I have also adjusts my brain toward an attitude of gratitude. This exercise, much in the spirit of Pratipaksha Bhavana (replacing negative with positive thoughts), erases my very valid fears about what I don’t have. I say “very valid” because there are times that I wonder where my rent, food and living money will come from, because I have been without full-time work for quite some time; there are times that I imagine myself dying alone in a gutter, because my past mistakes have left me without savings for a secure aging process and without family to take care of me; and there are times that I yearn for a loving life partnership, but due to being a late bloomer in the relationship world, worry it might never happen.
So how do I replace these fears with a positive attitude, insuring that I then treat others well throughout my day and my life? By making a Gratitude List.
My Facebook status before bed last night read: “On past Full Moons, I might have meditated on Manifesting Abundance, or something similarly demanding. Tonight, as the waxing rare ‘blue’ sphere floats overhead and invites me to ‘do what’s seldom done,’ I will instead meditate on Recognizing Abundance, and then dream overnight of all that I have. Big fat Gratitude List in the works… Good night, y’all.”
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I watched myself this month. I witnessed as those fearful thoughts took over at times. I observed how wallowing in that self-pity negatively affected my behaviors with those around me.
But I also want to give myself some credit. More often than not, I caught myself – I used my yoga and other tools and stopped the negativity dead in its tracks. I took things at face value. I reminded myself, “This too shall pass.” I focused intently on, embraced warmly and inhaled deeply the positive sides of my worries and woes. I found that a lot of the time, my negative stories were bigger than they needed to be, or just plain made up!
And guess what else…when I was in a positive mind (cause), I treated others quite well (effect).
C’mon, I should know by now – I’ve survived through and thrived after many years of pretty tough realities in life. There is always – ALWAYS – a light at the end of the tunnel. I might have to wait for it! Still, one thing’s for certain: if I choose to live in, exude and spread positive vibes (cause), there will be more positive energy in the world (effect). And it’s likely to make its way back to me at some point. And I can continue to share that healthy mind, heart and soul with all.
And that feels like a cycle of good karma to me. OM Shanti Shanti Shanti.