The Urban Yoga Den

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Surrender, Recovery and Death January 22, 2014

“OUR TIME ON THIS EARTH IS SACRED,
AND WE SHOULD CELEBRATE EVERY MOMENT.”
~ Paolo Coelho

This morning I am saying goodbye to a treasured DC friend, Sovani Meksvanh. Since before Christmas, I have been posting on my personal and Urban Yoga Den Facebook pages about his battle with late-stage cancer, and how touched I’ve been by his balance of strength/action and acceptance/surrender. Last night, I posted my final thoughts about this beloved soul…

*  *  *

ON SOVANI’S PAGE:

I know that Sovani is not reading this, but his beloved family is. Your father/son/brother has always been a very special being to me. I will never forget our first social outing. Somewhere around 2005, he hustled up and down the ramps of RFK Stadium at one of the 1st Nationals games, taxing the heck out of his lungs, and putting up with my crazy baseball fandom the whole day. Over the years I’ve seen him help dozens (if not hundreds!) of people who are in recovery…from many different “ailments.” He is, to me, the perfect example of a Spiritual Warrior – one who shows up for life and all of its trials knowing that his Higher Power has simply sent him to live out a purpose more significant than his own human will, to strengthen from that ultimate surrender, and to use that strength to be of service to others.
All this time, over the past few weeks, I’ve never “cheered him on,” encouraging him to fight. Not because I want to let go of him, but because I want him to let go of fighting – I’ve wanted Sovani to give himself a break. And then there was a point where he started writing about feeling safe in His hands, and I exhaled so profoundly, knowing that Sovani finally melted into the care of his HP instead of fighting so hard…
Well, that’s how I perceived it. And it helped me so much, to observe what I saw as pure surrender and devotion.
I have been meditating and praying and crying and loving for weeks…and all of this is a tiny fraction of the support and commitment and effort that you have offered him, consistently and honorably. What an amazing family you are. I send my love and my comfort from Nashville…I wish I were there…

FROM MY PAGE:

I dedicate this song (Te Extraño by Marta Gomez) to the strong spirit of my dear friend in DC, Sovani, whose cancer battle I’ve been writing about since before Christmas. His condition has worsened – since Saturday, he has been on life support, and today his organs started to fail.
Bless his beautiful young daughters, mother and family members who have been by his side through this journey, and updating us on Facebook the entire time – which to me, has been precious, since I moved away from DC in September. Despite the weeks of meditation, prayer, tears and love in his honor, I am feeling a bit useless. And I miss him. I wish I were there…
Bless Sovani, who – as everyone knows – has been the strongest fighter one could ever meet. I mean, he was diagnosed with cancer 17 years ago, folks. And all along, he has insisted on, taken risks with and surrendered to the most experimental and progressive treatments available. But the surrender that impressed me the most was over the past week or so, when Sovani started posting about his surrender to the loving care of his Higher Power.

Photo: Michaela Ringerson

Photo: Michaela Ringerson

So, this song is for Sovani, and, for his amazing family. Sending so much love to DC tonight, through the wind, through the cold, through the snow. 
Sometimes, for me, all love songs are simply conversations with god. LOVE LOVE LOVE.

Pero te extraño hace tantos días

que las palabras se confunden con la voz
los sonidos ya no hablan de tu amor
no imaginas la melancolía que se cuela en mi ventana si no estás
y el silencio que me obliga a recordar
tantos años de vivir
toda mi vida junto a ti
tanto tiempo, tanto espacio para ti.
¿Cuánto tiempo hay que esperar?
¿Cuántas miradas recorrer,
para sentirte en un abrazo
y no verte envejecer?

But I miss you
It’s been so many days that words and voice have been confused
And sounds still can’t speak of your love
You can’t imagine the melancholy that creeps into my window when you’re not here
And the silence that obliges me to remember.
So many years of living all of my life with you, so much time, so much space for you.
How long must I wait? How many visions must recur…to feel you in an embrace…and to not see you grow old?

*  *  *

What could I add to that today? Hmmm…one thing. I am in the midst of a new phase of adult life, having moved to Nashville from DC to be closer to my soon-to-be 86-year-old father, who is struggling with dementia and increasing physical challenges. I am also deepening my relationship with my sister, from whom I was separate for decades, due to my addict lifestyle. As most of you know, I have now been clean and sober for more than 11 years. And thankfully, over the past few years, my sister has graciously invited me back into her life. She lives a bit south of Nashville, and we are teaming up to support Dad. So, this new phase is not always comfortable – but the three of us are doing our best.

My biggest challenge during this new phase of adult life? Dwelling in and acting from love and faith.

And so, to Sovani and his family, I say: THANK YOU.

CoelhoOurTimeOnThisEarthIsSacred(Jan14)

Image: Journey to Peace

I am grateful to Sovani and his family for Facebook-ing their journey over these recent months; I am grateful to Sovani for always sharing about his family so lovingly; I am grateful to have witnessed the gracefulness and transparency of his daughters as they navigated this process; and, I am grateful to Sovani and his family for sharing about their Faith so openly. I have learned so much from all of them; and I thank them for teaching me the best way to step forward in the journey with my own father.

With this family’s example as my inspiration and motivation, I shall aim straight and high to celebrate every moment of this sacred life.

From Sovani’s family this morning: “After careful and thoughtful consideration of the medical team’s advice, the Family has decided to remove Sovani from life support to relieve him of needless pain and suffering. God Almighty, Our Father in Heaven, Creator of the Universe please forgive his sins and receive his Gentle Soul into Your Arms.”

*  *  *

This is my 1st formal blog since before September, and my move from DC to Nashville. The intensity and quantity of challenges that have arisen over these five months prompted me to use Facebook more often, for briefer and more expedient updates. So much has happened since September. Sometime in late Fall, I drafted an update blog called “Shalom, Y’all.” But it fell to the wayside as more important priorities – my job search, my care for dad, my general adjustment to TN and my grieving of my beloved DC – took precedence. I didn’t realize that grieving a long-time friend would also become a priority.

I am posting “Surrender, Recovery and Death” on my Urban Yoga Den blog, because I like to pass on spiritual lessons as they happen in my life. Plus, there is so much yoga in the story of Sovani’s dying days…

In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, “Isvarapranidanani” (there are many alternate spellings) is the 5th virtue discussed in the 2nd limb of yoga. The 2nd limb, or “Niyama,” suggests 5 ethical values to follow if one wants to live the yogic life. “Isvarapranidanani” has been described as “surrender of the self to God,” “offering everything to the Lord or to Humanity,” “sacrifice of all to the Lord”… You get the picture.

I yearn for this kind of surrender. I know it would help me when I feel frustrated with and harmed by my father – who can be quite hostile due to his illness. I know it would help me when I feel scared of losing my dad. I know it would help me when – due to such heightened vulnerability from the move, from my lack of sustaining work, from my family situation – my old core wound of being a problem rears its ugly head while dealing with my father, my sister, and others in my life…causing me to react like a threatened child.

When I look back at the peacefulness and grace that Sovani and his family portrayed through their process, I am compelled to reach deeper into my own soul for the surrender that I crave…or, should I be reaching more widely beyond my own self for that surrender? More will be revealed.

From experience, I do know this – like the 12 Steps of recovery programs, the 8 Limbs of yoga are in order for a reason. And for me, there have been many parallels in my practice of both the Steps and the Limbs.

So in this case, if I want to access the surrender I seek, I must re-commit to study and practice of Limbs 1 & 2 – the Yama and Niyama (the 10 suggested virtues). And, I must broaden that commitment to include Limbs 3-8…a process of reaching my most ideal way of living, which includes: Asana (poses), Pranayama (breathing exercises), Pratyahara (regulation of the senses), Dharana (single-focused concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (“enlightenment,” or in my own simple terms: when my actions and behaviors portray the intentions and virtues that I have been aiming for since Limbs 1 & 2).

I must also energize my commitment to integrating the 12-Steps into my daily life. As Step 12 suggests, I aim to practice the program’s principles in all of my affairs, in order to carry a healthy message and be of service to others.

Photo: Sovani Meksvanh (I loved his shameless selfies...especially these, while I was so far away.)

Photo: Sovani Meksvanh
(I loved his shameless selfies…especially these, while I was so far away.)

And so today, I am saying out loud: I re-commit to the deepening of my spiritual practices, so I may replace my fear-based reactions with a god-based surrender, faith and love…and therefore, act toward others with love and in service.

Let’s see how that goes (she says with a slightly mischievous, quite human and very forgiving smile)…

I’ll close with another timely parallel between the tools of yoga and recovery:
In his commentary on the Niyama (yoga’s 2nd Limb and collection of 5 virtues to observe), Sri Swami Satchidananda says: “All spiritual life should be based on these things. They are the foundation stones without which we can never build anything lasting.” And, in the two primary texts for 12-Step recovery, Bill Wilson and his co-writers say: “There is a direct linkage among self-examination, meditation and prayer. …when they are logically related and interwoven, the result is an unshakable foundation for life.” And, in relation to the 3rd step, which invites me to turn my will and life over to the care of god (and I’d say that’s the surrender I’m seeking!), “…this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom.”

I am grateful for both of these influences on my life, and that they both led me to a very significant relationship with an amazing man named Sovani. May god bless you and keep you, my friend. Love love love.

*  *  *

HAH! In true Holly fashion, I just spent the morning side-stepping my grief…expressing it in a very structured and intellectual manner…writing, quoting, analyzing, learning, sharing…  And later, I’ll read everybody’s loving and honoring posts on Sovani’s page.

NOW, in true honor of Sovani and my relationship with him, it’s time to get messy, surrender to my heart, and let the tears flow (oh, god – even as I proofread this piece – here they come)…into music and nature I go.

Thanks for reading. And thanks for your love. OM Shanti.

{PS – Please forgive WordPress for posting inappropriate advertising at the bottom of my posts…I can’t afford to upgrade, and they need to survive!}

 

Gratitude, Samtosha and Pratipaksha Bhavana (From The UYD Archives) November 28, 2013

This post was originally part of my “Ahimsa Now” series regarding Peace Tools – everyday yogic actions that can create peace in our inner and outer worlds.  Today I post it as a NOTE TO SELF: reminding Holly to put these tools into action, particularly during this difficult time of transition, responsibility, instability and sadness. (Cliff Notes version: I moved from Washington, DC to Nashville, TN in September to support my aging father, and have hit some big bumps along many avenues since.)

*  *  *

RockCreekFallenTreeCntr2(Jan13)Peace Tools: Pratipaksha Bhavana, Samtosha & Gratitude
(Originally posted June 2012, proving that Gratitude is not just for Thanksgiving, y’all!)

Thank god for great teachers.

I got my butt kicked yesterday morning in an Intermediate Vinyasa class.  Well, admittedly, I often get my butt, hips and thighs kicked in this teacher’s classes!  (But it’s a sweet, Ahimsa-like kick.)

Today, however, the real smacker was when the teacher told a story about wanting something she didn’t have.  She was feeling stressed by being without this particular thing (a typical modern household convenience item); and she believed her stress would be relieved if she had this thing.  Life, in general, would be better.  Then, someone close to her pointed out that if she had that thing, she would inevitably be challenged by its related stresses and difficulties.  And, this someone added, there are places where they don’t even have access to such a luxury, and where they make out just fine.

Thank god for great teachers – in the form of those certain someones who bring perspective.

Perspective can bubble up from many sources.  If I am willing to hear it, I can use perspective to practice “Pratipaksha Bhavana” (replacement of negative thoughts with positive ones) and “Samtosha” (contentment).  And, if I really want to live the concept “Ahimsa” (non-harming) and cultivate inner peace, I can carry my positive thought and contentment a step further to practice “Gratitude” (gratitude).

Because by allowing myself to stew in negativity and malcontent, I am harming myself.  When I harm myself, I am far from peace.  And when I am far from peace, I am closer to harming others.

*  *  *

Sunday morning, when my yoga teacher told her story in class, I immediately thought about my long period without full-time employment, the related fear and stress (which has come to quite a head lately), and, my frequently repeated statement of: “If only I had a job, everything would be better.”

Would it?  I can attest to the harmful wear-and-tear of being in the wrong work situation – whether it’s being underpaid, overworked, over-ego-fed, physically strained, sexually harassed, verbally abused or mis-matched in any way – and how that discomfort can negatively affect everything in my life.  So the last thing I want is to desperately jump into any ol’ job.

In addition, having the “right” job can also add stress to life.  Less free time.  More suits.  New relationships.  Office politics.  And so on.  “Everything would be better” is inaccurate after all.

Still, being without a full-time job over the long-term is a seriously challenging state.  I don’t simply “want what I don’t have” – on a fundamental, life-sustaining level, I actually don’t have what I need.  So how do I nurture inner peace when the justifiable anxiety of  “If only I had a job…” pops into my mind?  What is the antidote?

Pratipaksha Bhavana.

In his book “Raja Yoga,” Swami Vivekananda explains, “When thoughts obstructive to yoga arise, contrary thoughts should be employed.”  In simpler terms, when my inner peace is rattled, I can restore serenity by replacing negative beliefs with positive thoughts.  This is Pratipaksha Bhavana, which is mentioned Book Two of the Yoga Sutras.

This doesn’t mean replacing “If only I had a job…” with “If only I had a financially sustaining job that enhances my emotional, physical and spiritual well-being and complements my lifestyle…”  Because the fact is, even if I had this supposedly ideal thing, there is still no guarantee that “everything would be better.”

The only true, guaranteed, peace-inducing contrary to “If only I had a job…” is “I have a job.”RockCreekPileBranchCrossroads(Jan13)

Bingo!  I have a job!  In fact, I have many jobs – some with traditional paychecks; some with other types of “payment.”  I teach yoga part-time; I manage a yoga studio part-time; and each year I teach percussion and yoga full-time at a summer camp.  I was recently invited to guide Latin dancing lessons for a group of school kids because of my background in Hispanic culture.  I sometimes accompany great songwriters on tours and gigs.  And because of my music and yoga background, I am invited to play Kirtan.  I play volunteer roles in my community, and I play supportive roles in my family.  I could not ask for more wonderful jobs.  I get paid to pass on the beautiful teachings of yoga.  I get paid to contribute to a yoga business’s well-being.  I get paid to facilitate youth’s arts education.  I get paid to play music.  And I have the opportunity to be of service in many ways.  Through these “jobs,” I receive more than money.  I enjoy unlimited, much-needed, free yoga classes where I teach.  I feel the satisfaction of using my operational skills at the studio.  I get to hang around kids eight hours a day for the six weeks of summer camp.  I get to work alongside amazingly talented musicians.  My yoga and music communities are strong and the circles are widening.  I enjoy true friendships.  Overall, I receive immense “compensation” being involved with yoga, music and youth.

A life of this much purpose and passion certainly can sustain me through tough times…when I focus on the positive.

*  *  *

“If only…” in itself is a negative belief.   When I walk around thinking that everything would be better “if only this or that,” I am existing in illusion.  I am negating the worth of the present moment.  And I am living in complete malcontent.  What is the ultimate remedy for the “If only…” plague?

Samtosha.

Instead of thinking “If only…”, I aim to embrace whatever is directly in front of me as my path, my work, my opportunity.  Life is exactly as it should be, right now, with all its struggles and surprises and ups and downs.  Now is all I have.  So why not accept what currently exists and choose to be content?  And this is Samtosha – being at peace with whatever exists at this very moment.

Can I be content with my nearly jobless, penniless existence?  And if so, how do I get there?

For me, contentment requires a blend of footwork, surrender, acceptance and faith.  Footwork means I am proactive to my best ability.  Surrender means I acknowledge how much is beyond my control.  Acceptance means I embrace all outcomes.  And faith means I believe that I will be OK no matter what.  Inevitably, when I practice this combo, I feel content.

For example, in my work search, I must take appropriate action by applying for jobs that make sense for my long-term goals and sustainability.  After I make these efforts, I must remember that there are way too many factors that figure into these scenarios, and therefore completely let go of the results.  I must accept any news without getting stuck in pride, disappointment or resignation.  And when the news is bad, I must believe that there is something worth waiting for – and what helps most here is remembering exactly how big the “Big Picture” is.

“As a result of contentment, one gains supreme joy,” Swami Satchidananda says of Samtosha, in his exploration of the Yoga Sutras.  Who could ask for anything more?

*  *  *

Practicing Pratipaksha Bhavana and Samtosha, I can be positive and accepting instead of negative and wanting.  Usually.  But can I gain “supreme joy” and true serenity?

The truth is, most days I am still trying to shake off the nagging belief that I might never have what I need; that stability and security are impossible; that I am destined to die homeless, jobless and penniless in a gutter.  Those days, more than any others, it is imperative that I practice Pratipaksha Bhavana and Samtosha, and that I take the extra step of doing a Gratitude List.

Monday, 18 June, 2012 – I am grateful for…GreatFallsYomKippur20099(Brighter)

  • Part-time work that I absolutely love.
  • Talents, education and experience to lend to new jobs.
  • The “umph” to keep on keepin’-on despite challenges.
  • Free yoga where I teach.
  • Living in a city with many free activities.
  • Friends who treat me to baseball games so I can relax.
  • A caring circle of family, friends and community.
  • My mom’s and dad’s inspirational work ethic.
  • My dad’s unending encouragement, confidence and support.
  • My sister’s love, understanding, advice and periodic butt-kickings.
  • Beautiful spring/summer weather.
  • Living near Rock Creek Park for hiking.
  • A lifetime of tools and resources for trudging this road – and the willingness to use them.
  • So, so much more.

I am truly lucky to have so much.  I may not have everything I need, but I do have a lot.  And when I reinforce appreciation, the self-pity dissolves, the worry of paying the bills decreases, the fear of becoming homeless disappears, the anxiety of the unknown dissipates.

When I practice Gratitude, I can actually forget what the problem is…I can relax…I can smile!

*  *  *

It’s a lot of work to manage and reduce stress.  Why do I do any of this?

The concepts of Pratipaksha Bhavana, Samtosha and Gratitude do not change the fact that, month-after-month, I wonder whether I’ll be able to pay my rent.  That stressful reality definitely exists.  But as practices, they can change my state of mind during these challenging times.  Instead of dwelling in worry, fear and anxiety – when I am willing to hear perspective and embrace these practices – I can dwell in presence, hope and joy.  Instead of harboring self-harming thoughts, I can enjoy inner peace.  And I can share that peace with all around me.

Ahimsa Now!

OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

 

Holly Go Lightly June 15, 2013

Filed under: Inspiration,Philosophy,Spirituality — Holly Meyers @ 5:56 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

Image“There is a light and it never goes out.”  ~ Morrissey

*  *  *

There’s some drilling or sanding or sawing going on in one of the apartments beneath me; and it’s piercing enough to make my skull feel like there’s a dentist office in its core.

I’m using all of my yoga tools to navigate this minor annoyance.  Slowing my breathing into three parts through the nostrils; listening to the whisper of each inhale and exhale; releasing the tension in my jaw with each breath out.  I’m also tapping into the Somatic Experiencing Therapy practices I’ve learned in my PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) treatment.  Softly focusing my eyes on the room around me, feeling the contact of both feet on the floor, observing sensations in my body.

PTSD exercises to address some bothersome construction noise?  Well, yes – because before this morning’s noise came last week’s bad news.  And I’ve been in and out of my body ever since.  Trauma includes experiencing, witnessing and/or absorbing violation or shock.  Responses to trauma vary, and can include physical pain and dissociation.  So last week, when I was blindsided by some tough news about a loved one’s hardship, my body tightened to the point of deep pain.  And I checked out.  I checked out of my body.  (This response, BTW, can happen to anyone, not just trauma survivors.)

Since last week, I’ve jumped into action to respond to the situation, and, I’ve committed to a healthy amount of self-care for stress relief.  Still, there are times when small annoyances – such as unexpected and seemingly endless piercing noises – can increase stress and consequently trigger the physical check out.

Hence the yoga and Somatic practices in response to this morning’s noise.  Because I need to feel my fingers in order to type.

*  *  *

“Murdha jyotishi siddha darsanam.”

Aphorism III.33 in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (one of yoga’s primary ancient guides) describes a light at the crown of the skull, which – after steady practice of concentration and meditation, and, a consequent liberation of the mind – illuminates great knowledge, lessons, teachers, masters.

I’d prefer to have a light in my skull than the sensation of a dentist’s drilling!  Thus the importance, for me, of practicing yoga’s Eight Limbs, and, including Chakra-based Hatha Yoga exercises.  Beyond the instant gratification of simply getting on a mat and moving my body, Chakra work and the Limbs offer me long-term solutions for life off the mat.

As described above, through the practices of Dharana (the 6th limb, concentration) and Dhyana (7, meditation), we can reach Samadhi (8, liberation).  Clearly, though, there are five limbs before these final three.  I believe that when the Eight Limbs are practiced in order – either within one session of yoga practice, or, as applied to specific life situations – they become a journey from the basic human condition of challenge, distraction and frustration to the liberated state of enjoying an easeful body, peaceful mind and useful life.

The first two limbs have nothing to do with the physical exercise that most consider as “yoga.”  The Yama (1, things to abstain from) and Niyama (2, things to practice more of) invite us to consider values-based or ethical intentions.  Only then, after setting intentions for how we want to behave toward ourselves and others, do we step into Asana (3, poses).  Once the foundational bodily systems – the digestion; the organs; the nerves; the joints and muscles; and everything in between – are stimulated, balanced and strengthened through physical exercise, the body presents fewer obstacles to mental focus.  In addition, after Asana, our lungs are primed for Pranayama (4, breath regulation), which connects our physical attunement to our ability to concentrate.  There are many forms of Pranayama, and they are all designed to decrease distractions such as emotional imbalance (anxiety, anger, etc.), environmental discomfort (heat, cold), and even fatigue.

Through Asana and Pranayama – or, Hatha Yoga – the Chakras can be activated.  Chakra work is part of Ayurveda, India’s traditional medical system.  Loosely described, Chakras are energy centers throughout the body, which affect our physical and psychological functions and well being.  In yoga, we primarily explore seven Chakras along the top half of the body, from the tailbone to the peak of the skull.  As with the Limbs, I believe that our Chakra work is progressive – through poses and breath work, we initially activate the energy at the base of the spine, and then make efforts to raise that vibration to the crown of the head.  In the first three Chakras, we visit our basic foundations of origins (tailbone), connections (sacrum) and identity (belly).  In the next three Chakras, we ascend through our higher centers of passion (heart), expression (throat) and intuition (forehead).  The crown Chakra represents an energy of great clarity and illumination.

This is an extremely simplified description of the Chakras.  Chakra work also includes Ayurvedic diet, “Kriyas” and many related practices, and, would take an entirely separate blog (and much additional study) to describe.  I highly recommend attending Chakra-focused classes and workshops to learn more and feel the profound affects of using poses and breath work to become physically and emotionally balanced.

Getting back to the Eight Limbs – Pratyahara (5, senses regulation) comes prior to the aforementioned trifecta of Dharana/Dhyana/Samadhi (6, 7 & 8), takes many forms of practice and addresses sensitivity to external distraction.  So, by the time we reach Dharana, we have deliberately pointed the mind, awakened the body and shaped the breath toward intention; the senses have softened; and concentration can deepen.  When our single-pointed focus deepens to the point where we no longer concentrate on something, but actually experience it, we have crossed the line to Dhyana.  For example, when silently repeating a word or mantra, such as “Peace” or “Shanti,” at some point, the meditator may actually begin to feel peaceful.

Ahhh, the 8th Limb…Samadhi.  My favorite way for describing Samadhi, or, liberation, is to compare it to “The Zone.”  When an athlete is “in The Zone,” she has finely-tuned her practice with such resolute intention and action that she no longer has to think about her feet, her arms, her technique, her pace, the goal post, the plate, etc.  When in The Zone, she becomes one with her purpose and easily flows toward it.

The Patanjali’s Sutras prescribe practicing yoga much like a disciplined athlete prepares to perform – consistently, over a long period of time and with total earnestness.  As we say in addiction recovery programs, the steps are in order for a reason – and so are the limbs and the Chakras.  We grow through each; we take two steps forward and one step back; and if we have an issue with one limb/Chakra, we can retreat to the previous for its wisdom and strength.

*  *  *

I just spent the month of May digging into our class focus on “Light,” and exploring Sutra III.33 and the Chakras.  The timing was perfect.  Because when I got punched in the gut by bad news last week, although initially rocketed into anxiety and worry, I was able to navigate toward solution and action.  I posted a vague update on Facebook and then stayed off for a day.  I drew upon all of my healthiest resources (which, due to my history of trauma, extend way beyond yoga alone) and was able to – despite extreme stress – show up for life.

The evening after receiving the news, I jumped onto Facebook to check in…

“Hello out there. I am hopping onto FB to thank everyone for responding to last night’s post with messages, texts, comments and calls. I feel your support, care and love.
Last night I received blindsiding news about a serious situation in a dear one’s life. It is not a health situation; it is, however, a very private situation. And it will demand a lot of my energy, immediately and over the coming months.

“Yoga, Judaism, addiction recovery, spirituality, mindfulness, intentional living…thankfully, all of these wonderful influences fuel me with everything I need to get through any situation. And I feel comforted to know that, if I run out of fuel, the community that has emerged from my life circles will lend me some of theirs. I am so, so grateful.

“You are probably familiar with the airlines’ brilliant philosophy to ‘put your own mask on before attempting to help those around you.’  I am taking action toward simplification, fortification and self-care. For example, a visit to the chiropractor and a heart-opening practice with my teacher got me back into my body this morning. Plus, I ditched my current Ayurvedic cleanse/New Moon fast plans and am diving into healthy sustenance…ok…and some comfort food…! And sadly, I had to cancel/postpone some of my volunteer projects; but I am still hoping to serve in simple ways. Because being of service not only supports others – when I am struggling, it truly strengthens me.

“I am neck-deep in calls and e-mails and action about this situation; so please forgive me if I haven’t responded to your messages. Again, thank you for reaching out. I will reach back as soon as I can, because I treasure you and want to connect. Sending so much love. OM Shanti.”

*  *  *

Approaching yoga through the Eight-Limbed journey – particularly when we reach Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi – we are promised an “everyday enlightenment.”  Through consistent focus on, attention to and respect for the Eight Limbs and constant awareness of Chakra energy, I’ve enjoyed longer and longer periods of union with my highest values, therefore supporting sustained ease, peace and service.

I aim to access that light at the crown of my skull, not for the sake of being higher or better or separate from other yogis or beings, rather, in order to find my teachers, discover my lessons, deepen my knowledge and work toward mastering my craft of living life on life’s terms.  For me, the teachers have appeared in many different forms – including tough experiences.  Phew!  Thank goodness, after a long life of hardships, I became willing to learn; and I have discovered a valuable lesson from every challenge.  Over time, I have learned how to apply yoga, related resources and an eclectic toolbox to address all of life’s annoyances, traumas and tough news.

Today, I can walk lightly despite very heavy realities.  And may you, as well.  OM Shanti.

*  *  *

“Lead me from that which is false, dark and temporary to that which is true, light and everlasting.”  ~ Hindu Prayer
“I stood in the sunlight at last.”  ~ Bill Wilson, Co-Founder of Alcoholics Anonymous
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  ~ John 1:5
“Blessed are You, L
ORD, Who creates the lights of the fire.”  ~ Jewish Prayer
“May the light of truth overcome all the darkness.”  ~ Integral Yoga Prayer

 

Namaste: A Journey From Resentment To Relief April 21, 2013

Namaste.

I honor you. All of you.

The good and the bad.
The light and the dark.
The divine and the human.

NashvilleClouds2Flipped(June2011)I honor every part of you.

The parts that doubt.
The parts that feel certain.
The parts that don’t know.

The parts that leave.
The parts that stay.
The parts that hide.

I honor the whole you.

The you that stumbles.
The you that falls.
The you that rises…and falls again.

The you that gracefully balances.
The you that is rooted.
The you that is buoyant.

I honor you.

The you that is hurting.
The you that harms.
The you that grows.

The you that loves.
The you that can’t.
The you that will.

I bow to you. I bow to you. I bow to YOU.

*  *  *

My first yoga teacher used to tell us, “I’m just an old junkie, passing on what helped me change. Sat Nam.”

With a strong Kundalini practice and immersion in American Sikh communities for the first 10 years of my yoga journey, “Sat Nam” became an everyday greeting. Whether I said it silently or out loud, I reverently offered this prayer to my friends, to my co-workers, to strangers. “Sat Nam: I honor your truth.”

As with the Native American, Yoruban, Jewish and other spiritual perspectives that started shaping my view of myself and others in the early 90s, I embraced the inclusive nature of “Sat Nam.” When someone pressed their palms into prayer position at their heart, and said, “I honor your truth,” I felt genuine and total acceptance.

When I started practicing Vinyasa style yoga in about 2001, I heard a new greeting. Teachers would end class saying, “Namaste: the light in me bows to the light in you.” Or, “Namaste: the divine in me bows to the divine in you.” Or, “Namaste: I bow to all that is good and light and divine in you.”

Ick.

Sorry, but that was my first reaction! “Ick.” What about the imperfect, the dark, the messily human parts of me? If you know even a little of my story (and you might guess some of it, based on my respect for NashvilleCloudsLines(June2011)and admiration of my first yoga teacher), you know that those very non-good, non-light and non-divine parts ruled my world for a good long time. I also grew to understand, accept, appreciate and deeply love those parts after yoga came into my life in the 90s, and I started growing toward a healthier balance.

Yoga continued to be a huge part of my life; and I started to feel defensive at the end of classes, when teachers pressed their palms into prayer mudra at their heart and – with all the best intentions – bowed to the light in me. Sadly, I grew to resent this highfalutin’ “Namaste.”

*  *  *

After 15 years of yoga practice, I decided to become an instructor. I chose the residential Integral Yoga Teacher Training at Satchidananda Ashram in Virginia. At the IYTT, we ended classes (and meetings, texts and e-mails!) with “OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.” I didn’t notice at the time, but am now realizing that I did not hear one single “Namaste” during the four weeks. As the days passed, our immersion in the Yoga Sutras and the Eight Limbs nourished my craving for a sustainable inner peace – and, my yearning to share yoga’s tools for cultivating that peace. I became very comfortable ending classes with “OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti: Peace, Peace, Peace.”

Then came the dilemma. Teaching at studios in DC, I would end sessions with “OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti,” and some students would bow and answer “Namaste.” Ack! Did these students think that I didn’t appreciate their light? Mama mia. Quickly, I had to let go of that worry and continue to believe in my choice to simply wish my students peace.

*  *  *

Over recent years, I started hearing different definitions of “Namaste.”

In 2011, I attended a yoga workshop with Max Strom. He both greeted us with and explained “Namaste.” “I bow to you,” he said, firmly. “That’s all it means. If you go to India, you will be greeted the same way by everyone, whether saying good morning at a temple, or, buying a drink at a tea shop.”

In 2012, one of our summer camp teaching assistants was from Nepal. He told me that in his Hindu culture, “Namaste” (or “Namaskar”) is a basic greeting. As common as “Hello,” and as meaningful as “I honor you.”

Earlier this spring, 2013, at the Shiva Navaratri ceremony I attended, the Hindu priests would periodically invite devotees to take some “Namaskaram.” I saw people doing prostrations, offering themselves in deep bows and lowering themselves to the ground. With this visual illustration, I finally understood that Namaskar is the most humble way to show respect, honor, gratitude. (It also redefined my own practice and teaching of Surya Namaskaram, or, Sun Salutations.)

Quite recently, I noticed a residual jolt of resentment when someone offered a bow to the divine in me. I’ll admit it – I needed academic validation that “Namaste” is inclusive of our entire being. I asked a Sanskrit expert for the literal translation. His response: namas = I bow/ honor/salute; te = NashvilleCloudsThunderhead(June2011)to you. “I bow to you.” “I honor you.” “Salutations to you.” It is a reverential expression of greeting and/or thanks. Used as hello, goodbye, and thank you.

What a relief!  No matter what other teachers say, I can finally focus on the true meaning of the greeting when I hear it.  I can feel the essence of unqualified acceptance.

*  *  *

I’ve chosen to continue closing my classes with my IY-influenced “OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti…Peace, Peace, Peace.” But for the month of April, I have been experimenting. Replacing “OM Shanti” with “Namaste.” And I have to admit, it still feels very uncomfortable. Because I know students have heard other teachers share their adapted definitions of the greeting. And I don’t want them to think that I only honor the good, the light, the divine. I want them to know that I deeply bow to every single part.

From this, the above poem evolved.

I will always remember and yearn for the humility of my first yoga teacher. That old junkie, just sharing what changed him. So whether I offer “Namaste,” “Sat Nam,” “OM Shanti,” “Yo, wha’s up?” “Hi!” or even a silent smile, I offer my greeting with 100% honor for the whole of you.

*  *  *

I still wonder: What influenced the new “Namaste?” Where did the good/light/divine skew come from? Why would millions of yogis – in the studios and the trainings and the magazines and the videos – want to stray so far from the real thing?

Well…that’s another can of worms, for a different writer to tackle!

OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

 

Karma & The Big Blue Moon August 31, 2012

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.

*  *  *

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.

*  *  *

“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.”

*  *  *

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.

 

The Yoga of Getting Tattoos August 21, 2012

I WANT IT NOW and TRUST THE PROCESS don’t exactly go hand in hand.

That’s why it’s important to practice yoga and get tattoos.

*  *  *

Lately, I’ve been grieving…OK, OK…I’ve been whining in self-pity about what I don’t have.  I have completely forgotten: Be Grateful For What You Have; Time Takes Time; Everything In Its Own Time; Patience Is A Virtue; Good Things Come To Those Who Wait.

Because I want it now.

Thankfully, on my arm is a new, half-finished tattoo that is cracking and flaking all over the place.  A new tattoo forces me to be patient, accept things exactly as they are, and yes, trust the process.

*  *  *

“DO NOT PICK OR SCRATCH YOUR TATTOO.”

Tattoo aftercare instructions are simple and clear.  Wash it a couple of times a day to keep it free of infection.  Avoid soaking it.  Moisturize with a light lotion to support a healthy peeling process.  And do not pick or scratch it.

No matter how tempting it is to speed up the process.  No matter whether that one little piece looks like it’s about to fall off so I might as well help it along.  No matter how gentle I think I am.  No matter if one eye has completely flaked off and the other is still caked with ink.  No matter how gross it looks to have deeply crevassed, nearly indistinguishable blobs of color on your arm.  No matter how much I want to cover it up during its ugly stages.  No matter how badly I want my tattoo to be finished and pretty and picture perfect.

LEAVE IT ALONE.

DON’T FORCE IT.

LET IT HAPPEN.

Not that I have to completely disengage from the process.  As mentioned, I have to take good care of my tattoo.  I have to give it space and air to transform properly.  I have to prioritize its good health and nourish the skin.  But under no condition and in no way may I rush its natural development into the beautiful piece of artwork that lies beneath a sometimes messy outer layer.

Yup – the healing process of a new tattoo is just like the process of life.  Few things happen overnight.  I must do the footwork – then surrender, trust and be patient.

*  *  *

Practicing yoga is also a great remedy for self-pity and “I want it now.”  Yoga’s Eight Limbs are designed to cultivate peace of mind through any of life’s challenges, including desire and dissatisfaction.  In fact, the ancient text of Yoga Sutras promises, “Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodhah” – yoga restrains disturbances of the mind.

Regarding desire, it’s easy to make a literal comparison to the process of developing an Asana (yoga pose).  I have reached few goals immediately in physical yoga practice.  Over two decades of practice, it took many years to build proper strength or proper mechanics for certain poses.  Currently, I am spending a month trying to improve my Bakasana (Crow Pose).  My version feels heavy and low at the moment; and I’d like it to feel lighter and liberated.  Although “I want it now,” I can’t rush this transformation.  It will take dedicated time, energy and practice.  I have to let it evolve, day by day.

Still, after a month, my Crow Pose might not be what I wished for.  And I will have to accept it and move on – either toward more Crow practice, or if an improved Crow is not accessible, to another pose altogether.

From yogic ideology, the concept of Samtosha means practicing contentment.  Instead of dwelling on what I don’t have, I am invited to embrace things just as they are at this very moment.  Dissatisfaction is erased, and “I want it now” becomes “I have it now.”  Samtosha requires a deep acceptance of the infinite factors affecting any given situation – factors beyond my knowledge or control.  Rather than complaining, I can choose to be curious as I live in present circumstances and stop wishing for something different.

Do I want to dwell on (and in) dissatisfaction, disappointment and the “have not’s?”  Or do I want peace of mind?  With the acceptance, curiosity and trust that come from practicing Samtosha, I can be serene despite circumstance.  No more pity party.

*  *  *

And so, if I don’t accomplish my vision of the perfect Bakasana; or, if my tattoo looks flaky and strange; or if I don’t have the life I am envisioning (yet) – I have to trust that the present state is serving the best purpose for my journey.  Even if the outcome looks nothing like I imagined.  Even if it feels unfair.  Even if it hurts.

Both yoga practice and new tattoos reinforce my long-held belief that life’s process, although ugly at times, leads to great beauty.  If I surrender my impulse to rush things and allow life to happen, that is.  At the very least, the current influence of both yoga and tattoos guarantee that this phase of whining and self-pity will be short-lived, and I can return to gratitude for the abundance that I should be enjoying day in and day out.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti.

 

Peace Tools: Raja Yoga August 14, 2012

(Note: Much of this is adapted from my May 2010 post on “Transition & Balance.”)

According to my teachers, the ancients invented Hatha Yoga so people could sit longer during a specific task.

Back then, yogis were sages who were meditating toward the highest state of harmony, otherwise known as Samadhi.  In his commentary on The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Integral Yoga Hatha founder Swami Satchidananda describes physical yoga as a process created for practitioners to eliminate physical distractions such as body aches and digestive imbalances through Asana (poses); enhance detoxification and energize the body using Pranayama (breathing exercises); reach Pratyahara (softening of the senses) as a result; then, settle comfortably into long periods of contemplation via Dharana (concentration) and Dhyana (meditation).  These are just five of yoga’s Eight Limbs – an eight-step system for reaching Samadhi – which are thoroughly explored within Patanjali’s ancient Sutras.  The Yama andNiyama (ethical considerations) comprise the 1st two limbs; and Samadhi is the 8th limb.

Today, yogis are regular-old-people who are sitting through work days, concentrating on family affairs, digesting world crises and seeking peace in daily challenges.  Our contemporary version of reaching Samadhi might be fulfilling our highest intentions for living mindfully on any given day.  Personally, the Eight Limbs have taught me tools for addressing all of this and more.  Their physical and ideological recommendations have been the greatest gift of my life.  Thus far.

Contemporary commentary on the Sutras has become progressive and expansive, enhancing what used to be mere physical exercise for many modern yogis.  Thankfully, there are more and more writings on Raja Yoga – the philosophy and ethics behind yoga’s “spiritual” side, or values-based practices.

When I say “spiritual,” I generally mean ethical, mindful and service-oriented; to me, a spiritual life maintains these qualities.  To achieve this intention for a values-based life, I focus on the tangible benefits of Hatha Yoga; and, I also contemplate the “spiritual” foundations for cultivating emotional and psychological balance within myself in order to share it with the world.

In my understanding, Patanjali’s Sutras are recognized as the most comprehensive treatment of Raja Yoga.  I have been most influenced by the following explorations of the Sutras:

  • The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – translation and commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda (www.YogaHealthBooks.com)
  • Raja Yoga – by Swami Vivekananda (www.YogaHealthBooks.com)
  • Why We Fight: Practices for Lasting Peace – by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait (www.HimalayanInstitute.org)
  • Yoga Journal, May 2010 Issue – “Love In Full Bloom” by Frank Jude Boccio; “Journey to the Light” by Kate Holcombe (www.YogaJournal.com)
  • Integral Yoga Magazine, Spring 2010 Issue – “Yoga Sutras Unveiled” section with multiple authors (www.IYMagazine.org)
  • And numerous teachers’ blogs.

In my personal Raja Yoga studies, I turn to four favorite Sutras for nurturing balance in the midst of life’s twists and turns.  I think of them as Peace Tools.

*  *  *

HOLLY’S FAVORITE SUTRAS FOR CULTIVATING INNER PEACE

1 – A PROMISE

Early in Book One, Sutra 1.2 says, “Yogas Citta Vrtti Nerodhah” or “Yoga restrains the disturbances of the mind.”  We’ve probably experienced a bit of this at the end of a luscious yoga class!  That remarkable liberation of the mind, free of worry and forgetful of fear, glowing with presence and brimming with confidence.  So in the very beginning of Patanjali’s aphorisms, we are assured: using yoga as described in the Sutras, we can still the mind and show up for life with serenity and peace.  We don’t have to force our mind into restraint – YOGA does it for us.

2 – A PRACTICAL TOOL

Sometimes I need more than my regular Asana practice to restrain disturbances of my mind.  If I sneak forward to Book Two, I find the remedy.  Sutra 2.33 says, “Vitarka Badhane Pratipaksha Bhavanam” or “When disturbed by negative thoughts, contrary thoughts should be employed.”  There are days when I find myself repeating “Pratipaksha Bhavana!” like a mantra, in order to snap out of negativity.  My Uncle Bill was the king of replacing negative with positive.  I remember one conversation in particular.  I was feeling hopeless and believed I’d made too many mistakes during my early adult life to ever repair the damage and pursue my dreams.  I’d been swimming in self-pity and doubt for a while.  As I defended my despair, Uncle Bill interrupted – “Well, Holly,” he said with his soothing Tennessee twang and churchgoers’ faith, “I believe you sort of lived your life backwards – when you were younger, you made all of your mistakes and somehow survived all of your trials.  Now you get to move forward based on what you’ve learned and live a better life!”  And you know what?  Since learning to replace negativity with positive or constructive thoughts, many of my dreams and intentions have been realized!  Pratipaksha Bhavana, indeed!

3 – THE FOUR LOCKS AND KEYS

To further pacify the citta (mind), we backtrack to Book One.  Sutra 1.33 says, “Maitri Karuna Muditopeksanam Sukha Duhkha Punyapunya Visayanam Bavanatas Citta Prasadanam.” The many lengthy translations and commentaries on this aphorism offer an overall belief that there are four locks in our own minds and in the character of other people: happy, unhappy, virtuous and non-virtuous.  To confront these attitudes – whether ours or others’ – Patanjali suggests: “Befriend the happy; have compassion for the unhappy; delight in the virtuous; be indifferent toward the non-virtuous.”  To properly discuss this Sutra would take many blog entries.  I refer you to the Yoga Journal articles and Pandit Rajmani Tigunait book cited above for my inspirations to have mercy toward unhappy mindsets (i.e. being compassionate with myself when feeling low) and to compassionately detach from non-virtuous acts (i.e. the violence of murder – see my November 2009 “Compassion for Killers” post).

The previous Sutras offer immense assurance.  If we practice yoga in this way, we can count on these results.  When we show up for our practice in this way, we give back to the world with these offerings.

And then comes…

4 – THE ULTIMATE PROMISE OF ALL PROMISES

Sutra 2.16 is my most favorite idea in the whole-wide-world.  “Heyam Duhkham Anagatam.” “The misery which has not yet come is to be avoided.”  By using yoga’s tools on and off the mat, we can avoid future suffering!  Yea!  Not only can we decrease physical injuries by practicing Asana with respect for our bodies, we can also decrease mental anguish by embracing Raja Yoga’s ideas.  This doesn’t mean that we can avoid bad experiences, because life will deal us whatever cards we are meant to hold.  But we can decrease and abbreviate misery and suffering while going through any difficulties by utilizing yoga’s resources.

*  *  *

For me, the most beautiful thing about these promises and suggestions is that, at any time of the day or night, no matter what is happening, I can reach into my Peace Toolbox to deepen my practice, my inner peace and my connections among others.

I don’t ever want to take this for granted.

OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.