The Urban Yoga Den

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Gratitude! October 28, 2011

We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.
– C. Day Lewis, The Poetic Image

Over the past few months, a number of new people have subscribed to the blog, have “Liked” certain posts, commented on posts, and/or, have “Liked” the Urban Yoga Den page on Facebook.  I just want to say thank you.  It’s good to know you’re out there.  OM Shanti.

(Thanks to “Inspired day by day” blogger, Susana, for the quote!)

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December Focus: Abundance December 4, 2010

Snowflakes are falling on the homepage of WordPress. I’m listening to Arcade Fire’s “Neighborhood #1” in which young lovers dig a tunnel from house to house after the neighborhood is buried in snow. And outside, for real, it’s finally Winter cold.

I’m fasting today. Liquids only.* There’s nothing like an empty body for writing about fullness! In this week’s yoga classes, we are introducing the new monthly focus of Abundance. Having just wrapped up a month of Gratitude reflections, we have an easy task, right? Perhaps we could list loads of stuff we appreciate in and around our lives. Perhaps we feel full of and surrounded by abundance.

At some point during this month, we might look ahead to the New Year and envision our intentions and goals. What will our “New Year’s Resolutions” be?

I’ve already made my 2011 New Year Resolution. Actually, I’ve made a resolution for this final month of 2010 – to NOT set intentions for 2011 and instead, to focus on the abundance of the present moment.

A friend recently responded to my resolution to not have resolutions by sharing “I find if I just lean into this moment with love, everything else sorts itself out.”

How often do we make space – internally/mindfully and externally/physically – in order to allow new or unexpected and maybe even unwanted things to flow in and enhance the abundance that we so forcefully cultivate through planning, goal listing, intention setting?

Can we expand, lengthen, release in order to create space?

Can we gently nurture that space with positive thoughts…even love?

Just asking.

Back to that concept of emptying the body to reflect on fullness. It works, it really does! In order to invite authentic abundance, I must make room. Yoga practice so beautifully offers us a platform for psychological reflection, expression and growth. “Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodhah” – Yoga ceases the disturbances of the mind. Its eight-limb process is designed to offer ethical considerations, then regulate physical discomfort and external distractions so we have room to be mindfully present with what is.

When we make room, we can see that “what is” is all we need.

The following quote from writer and yoga teacher Max Strom popped up on Facebook recently; and it reminded me to make space for an abundance of anything. If I cultivate space (vs. holding back or holding in or holding tight), I can see that even the unexpected or “unwanted” can bring contentment. I must remember – if happiness does not manifest immediately, more will be revealed.

“We hold back from life so much. We literally refuse happiness because we demand to have it in a certain way – and this precludes our getting it.” ~ Max Strom

We had abundant snow in DC last year! Maybe this Winter it will – again – afford us the unplanned space to explore the new, embrace the unexpected, work with the unwanted.

OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti. h*

* “Liquids only.” My liquid fast, for two reasons, admittedly includes one mid-day miso soup with lemon juice, turmeric powder, fresh garlic and seaweed/spinach. One, I have to take my Holy Basil (aka Tulsi) supplement with a meal. Two, I am hypoglycemic, therefore the miso’s protein and greens’ amino acids balance my blood sugar. All ingredients facilitate continued cleansing. Other than this, throughout the detox I drink: room-temperature water with cayenne, lemon, honey and electrolytes; and fresh ginger root tea. Upon awakening, I drink one cup of classic India spice tea with clove, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, etc.

 

Focus Wrap Up: Gratitude November 30, 2010

Thank god for Facebook!

I NEVER, EVER thought I’d hear myself say those words. Yet indeed, I am grateful for the social media connector that I ignored for years.

Why?

Because my Facebook community brims with love-filled, purpose-driven, truth-telling, soul-baring, mistake-making, frustration-sharing, poetically-waxing, wisdom-seeking yogis and other beautiful humans who strive to live an intentional life. Throughout the day, if I need inspiration, I scan their motivational posts and move onward energetically.

To complement my FB “friends,” my “Like” organizations and businesses also share enriching information and shares. Links to blogs, videos, articles and more have brought me to smile, weep, laugh and chant!

As a yoga teacher, my News Feed provides infinite resources for designing classes, attending workshops and growing toward new influences. I appreciate and learn from everything that fellow teachers, students and others post!

This week someone quipped that I need a Facebook intervention. True that if I had a day job, I might have less time for page surfing. When I get that day job, I will happily devote my attention there. Wish me luck. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy reading about moving speeches, devotional songs, yoga classes around the world, daily intentions and even husbands who water the silk plants instead of the real ones.

Hindu deity Saraswati nurtures creative community, eloquent communication and learning. I pray for her guidance as I continue to connect through social media.

On this final day of our November Class Focus of Gratitude, I give thanks for…of all things…Facebook. Strange but true. Thanks for being there!

OM Shanti.

 

Spiritual Activism November 3, 2010

“I don’t want to talk anything political, and will stick just to music and other art forms. There are instant super stars and they also fade away very quickly. What is it that gives the staying power? It is when you can communicate…to your listeners and touch their soul.” – Ravi Shankar

This past Saturday, you could hear a pin drop in my 200+ resident apartment building.  My entire neighborhood was as hushed as during a blizzard.  The “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” was in full throttle down the hill.  I was home, doing this and that.  My Facebook status read, “I am not at the rally.”  Two people “liked” it.

Today – on Election Day, three days after the Comedy Central rally and during a thick period of “activist” invitations via Facebook and e-mail – I am preparing my “Yoga Update” e-newsletter, wrapping up our September/October “Yoga In Action” class focus.

I’ll be frank – the term “yoga activism” is not my personal fave for describing how I might take my practice off the mat and into the world.  Born in DC in 1965 and having grown up here, the word “activism” reminds me of raised fists, raised voices and raised conflict.  I understand that folks want their values, their yearning for change and their messages to be seen and heard on a wide scale; yet I tried that “raising” in my college days and it just didn’t feel right.

Thanks goodness for yoga.  Through its “Karma Yoga,” “Seva” and “selfless service” teachings I have discovered my most comfortable and therefore effective venue for what I (and countless others) call “spiritual activism.”  What distinguishes it from “yoga activism?”

In recent years, many yoga organizations and practitioners have stretched Karma Yoga (or Seva) to a level of “activism,” offering trainings, organizing groups and sponsoring events that raise awareness about causes, purpose and service.  Over this time, I have observed four distinct ways that “yoga activism” manifests.

  1. Some yogis believe in their responsibility to participate in traditional activism (protests, rallies, petitions, campaigns, etc.) to carry messages;
  2. Some share their yoga with at-risk populations, having experienced their own transformation from the practice, and wanting to pass along those tools for change;
  3. Others see the yoga practice itself as a form of values-based activism – in other words, living a spiritual life is the activism.
  4. And others devote themselves to all of the above.

To me, anyone with sincere intentions to carry a message, inspire change and share values through their own attitudes and actions is a spiritual activist.  For me, #3 above is the most natural way for me to express my yoga in action.  In that spirit, I also do a fair amount of #2-like work.

Yoga’s ancient book of Sutras generously offers a design for living where my personal choices can be productive, useful and helpful.  The only thing I have to “raise” is my consciousness.  In this subtle venue, I can indeed be “seen” and “heard” – perhaps not by massive crowds, politicians and media, but definitely seen and heard.

Recently, the barrage of well-intended e-mails and Facebook campaigns, the swarm of do-good organization canvassers on every DC street corner and the excitement-driven pressure to “sign-on” started to feel as assaulting as uninvited telemarketer calls to me.  So I invite you to please let me know if I ever seem pushy or invasive about the things that inspire me.

I earnestly applaud yoga activists for expanding yoga’s purpose and reach.  Most of the time, I feel accepting of their way, my way, all ways.  I may not always hit the mark, but my intentions to live spiritually are strong and in-check.  Some may think I have my head in the sand; I think I have my head atop my neck, hovering above my heart center.

OM Shanti,

Shanti,

Shanti.

Peace,

Peace,

Peace.

 

Bi-Monthly Focus: September/October – Yoga In Action September 4, 2010

September marks the beginning of our new focus for yoga classes. Over July and August, we reflected on “Why Yoga?” and wrapped up by exploring the idea of giving back.  Our quote by Max Strom (see “Focus: Why Yoga? – Giving Back”) reminded us that only by focusing first on our own healing can we effectively be of service to others.

These next two months, our focus is “Yoga In Action.” We will explore self-care, being cared for, community, self-inquiry, acceptance, gratitude and other practical elements of yoga.  In relation to those actions and attitudes, we will see how our healthy, supported selves can sustainably offer our yoga in service to the world around us.

As mentioned in my “Giving Back” post, there is a broad range of ways to move our yoga into action.  Perhaps a restorative Asana class gives us the peace of mind to face a stressful situation; maybe yoga’s overall gifts inspire us to share that gift as a volunteer.  And so on.

On Facebook, “Yoga In Action DC” (a local effort of Off The Mat Into The World, for whom I am an ambassador) launched a “30 Ways in 30 Days” campaign, inviting yogis to report how they take their practice off the mat and into the everyday world, every day of September.  We invite you to chime in to our campaign!  Please log on to Facebook and search for the “Yoga In Action DC” group page.  You can see how local yogis like Caitlin Uzzell (of Flow Yoga Center and Anahata Grace), Charlotte Raich (Seva Coordinator at Yoga Alliance and loving mom), Caroline Millet (yoga teacher at Past Tense and Tranquil Space), Maggie Cunha (Seva Coordinator at Past Tense and AIDS relief worker) and others are setting intentions.

In the classes that I teach, we are kicking off our Yoga In Action focus by continuing a self-care theme.  Remember, as they say on the airlines, “In the case of a change in cabin pressure, four masks will drop from the overhead compartment.  Please put your own mask on first, before attempting to help those around you.”

Put your own masks on, yogis.  Take good care.  OM Shanti.

Check out:

– Yoga In Action DC group on Facebook

– Off The Mat Into The World at http://www.offthematintotheworld.org

– Anahata Grace at http://www.anahatainternational.org

– Yoga Alliance at http://www.yogaalliance.org

– Past Tense at http://www.pasttensestudio.com

– Flow Yoga at http://www.flowyogacenter.com

– Tranquil Space at http://www.tranquilspace.com