The Urban Yoga Den

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A Warm & Fuzzy Feeling November 18, 2012

Filed under: Gratitude,Inspiration,Life — Holly Meyers @ 11:29 pm
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Today I am applauding the little kid who assaulted me in June.  I dedicated my morning yoga practice to this child; I am smiling; and my heart is singing.

For the back story, please read “Peace Tools: Infinite Compassion” from June 2012.  To summarize – one evening last spring, a familiar kid (about 7 or 8 years old) from the neighborhood impulsively hit me as I passed; I learned from his pals that he had acted-out due to misguided anger; I insisted on and received an apology; we talked and came to understanding. *

I see this group of neighborhood kids all of the time.  Drawn to their energy and mischievousness, I used to approach them to say “Hey” and chat a bit; but since June, I’ve taken to quickly and kindly greeting them, enjoying their antics from afar and sending Metta.  I figure, regardless of our past interactions, most kids want to be left alone by grownups; and so I give them their space.

Last night we were all out and about in the ‘hood – it was inevitable on a beautiful autumn evening.  I kept my distance and sent loving energy their way.  At one point, I was chatting with some street vendors and the crew passed by.  My kid – the one who hit me last spring – veered away from the others, walked over, gave a little wave and said “Hi.”

My soul softened.  I felt such love, hope and joy for this boy.

His greeting showed me that he is not harboring resentment about what happened in June.  He knows that everything is OK between us.  Some children never get the chance to experience the process of reconciliation after harm has been committed – by or against them.  For example, in the midst of troubles at home, I grew up trying to navigate very complex thoughts and feelings without guidance, which led to unprocessed (aka “stuffed”) or misguided (aka “acted out”) emotions.  In my case, unaddressed emotions lead to depression, addiction and destructive behaviors – toward me and others. **

So last night, when my little neighbor approached me with kindness, my heart swelled.  Our efforts last spring – addressing the violation, listening to each other, taking responsibility and coming to understanding – truly healed the situation.  We experienced reconciliation.  Now, we have both moved on and can interact normally.

Ahhh…  This is my warm and fuzzy story.  I hope to bring you more and more and more.

Infinitely grateful for yoga and all that it offers.  OM Shanti.

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* This is a separate incident from my mugging, which happened in June of 2011, involving a different pair of older neighborhood boys, and about which I have little closure. (For background, see The Yoga of Being Mugged from June 2011)

 ** Out of respect for my family, with whom I am experiencing great healing, I want to reinforce that I am not blaming anyone for my challenges.  My upbringing was the result of two parents – whom I love deeply and who navigated their own troubled upbringings – doing their absolute best.

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Ahimsa Now: 100 Days Of Intention – The Halfway Mark May 29, 2012

Filed under: Inspiration,Life,Spirituality,Yoga — Holly Meyers @ 8:39 pm
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Back in April, I launched a 100-day exploration of “Ahimsa” – the Sanskrit word for “avoidance of violence” or “avoidance of harm.”  Each morning, I light a stick of incense and say, “Ahimsa Now” – the name of my envisioned non-profit organization.  Ahimsa Now’s mission is to use yoga and related practices to address emotional pain and increase inner peace within at-risk youth and those that serve them, consequently decreasing violence within at-risk communities.

During this deliberate, one-day-at-a-time journey toward July 13th, my intention is to deepen my understanding of the human impulse toward harm, and, to explore every available practice that impedes that impulse.

So far, I have unearthed the depth of my own fear of being harmed – and how that fear can drive me to harm myself and others.  Not in hugely violent ways.  In ways like: pushing away or running away from situations and people when a small-ish instance of harm makes me feel greatly threatened – and then feeling the painful consequences of those self-generated losses.

I’m wondering if this sounds familiar to anyone…

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Over the past 50+ days, I have curiously and patiently observed my impulse to Get The F*** Out.

I have been hurt – seriously hurt – too many times in life.  So it takes great effort to remain in a situation where I sense potential harm.  I must be acutely aware of my own fear’s ability to make something look worse than it is.  I must investigate.  I must root myself in trust, gain counsel and stay the course.  Life itself turns into a practice in times like these.

Maybe one day, all this practice will pay off and I’ll be able to just peacefully hang out in life.  Until then, “practice makes perfect.”  Or perhaps – practice makes acceptably imperfect.

Over the past 50+ days:

– I navigated a lot of loss (mine and others’) without getting too hypersensitive in or reactive to non-related situations.  I was mindful that painful situations can bring out the worst in me – but don’t have to.  I remembered to take good care of myself during the stress, in order to focus on my friends’ struggles, take my own pain out of the middle and be of service to others.  Among other things, I attended lots of yoga classes, workshops and Kirtan.

– I left a part-time job where someone verbally attacked me during the above-mentioned time of loss.  I was coached by others to separate the attacker’s action from the attacker herself (just like in Sutra 1.33), to have compassion and to return.  In the end, I just didn’t have the strength to potentially endure more hostility.  I’ll admit that I wish I’d taken a break instead of leaving altogether; because today I could walk in as strong as ever.  And now I am without that income, which causes stress.  Live and learn.

– I resolutely stayed with a rather rewarding part-time job despite challenges.  There are just some situations where the pros far outweigh the cons.  And in this case, my own fears created imaginary “cons.”  Thankfully they were elbowed out by very real pros: the faith I have in my talents, the support I receive from leadership and co-workers, and the security of working with a very caring and committed team.  Chanting the “Asato Ma” definitely helped clear my mind, so I could see that I would not be harmed there!

– I walked away from a difficult conversation with a friend and have not touched base since.  I definitely felt the threat of being emotionally harmed; but I am not yet certain what in the world actually happened to build to that point.  I just knew I felt triggered and had to get out.  So I did.  As in all conflicts with tried-and-true friends, I hope for reconciliation.  But for now, I need some time.

– I ended a dating relationship.  I stayed present long enough to discern whether my fears were telling me stories; I gained counsel because my dating experience is thin; and I was able to recognize simple incompatibility.  No fooling myself until the discomfort became conflict or blame or harm.  No disappearing act.  Just an honest explanation and a respectful good-bye.

I minded my own business when witnessing violence in my ‘hood, instead of being triggered into interference, which could lead to being harmed – among other things.  This is a huge area of growth for this paradoxically street-tough yogini.

In all of these situations, something existed that made me feel potentially threatened.  In my habit patterns, my options would be to get out, push away or close in – and therefore cause harm to others and myself.  Instead (when I could) I paused, took a breath, grounded myself – then used the tools of gaining counsel, trusting self-knowledge, exercising discernment and surrendering to the care of a higher being.  If I made a mistake along the way, I examined my motives, explained my actions, took responsibility for any harm I caused and offered amends.  And I felt love, compassion and forgiveness toward myself despite these mistakes.

I continued to grow toward Ahimsa.

So yes, I come from a challenging background which at times triggers a huge fear of being harmed.  But as luck would have it, I have been placed on a path that has been chock-full of opportunities for, tools for and teachers of transformation, healing and growth.  I have no option but to bounce along.

If I always get the f*** out, I don’t have a chance for growth.  But if I reprogram this default reaction and stick around, I can change my next response.

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50 days of observation has reinforced my belief that people cause harm when they are in pain. 

Pain is inevitable.  And because painful situations will always occur – IF we want to decrease the cycle of harm and violence by increasing our own inner peace – we need tools for working through and addressing our own pain before we inflict it upon others.  We also need tools for deep acceptance, compassion and forgiveness when we do lash out, in our naturally imperfect humanness.

Yoga gives us positive alternatives to living in emotional pain.  Yoga is a safe venue for releasing pain.  Yoga cultivates inner peace despite pain.  Yoga reinforces non-violence as a resolution against causing more pain.

In the coming 40-something days, I will be sharing “Peace Tools” – a series of blogs sharing the yogic and related practices that help me stick around when I want to run, open my mind when I want to judge and take a breath when I want to control.  Basically, “Peace Tools” are my favorite practices for cultivating an accountable and serene life – despite painful situations, painful inflictions and painful emotions – so I can hopefully feed into a cycle of peace and non-violence.

Ahimsa Now!

OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

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The Roots of “Ahimsa Now: 100 Days of Intention”

“Ahimsa” is a Sanskrit word meaning, “Avoidance of Violence.”  It is mentioned in many ancient texts, including the Yoga Sutras, a collection of aphorisms handed down by yogic sage Patanjali approximately 5- to 7-thousand years ago.  In the Sutras, Ahimsa is one of the “Yama” – five recommended abstentions, or rules of conduct rooted in abstinence.  The five Yama comprise the first limb of Patanjali’s prescribed Eight Limbs of Yoga.

Avoidance of something takes great effort.  And if violence were not naturally inherent in human beings, we wouldn’t have to try to avoid it.  So, dreaming of launching Ahimsa Now – a nonprofit whose mission is rooted in Ahimsa – my responsibility is to come to understand the human impulse toward violence, and, to explore every available practice that impedes that impulse.

Let the exploration begin.

 

Focus: Yoga In Action – Forgiveness October 14, 2010

I started writing this post during our 1st month of the Yoga In Action class theme.  During September, we explored self care as an avenue toward selfless service.

The anniversary of 9/11 was looming when I started this post.  On the 10th, I’d flown back to DC from Nashville, where I spent Rosh Hashanah with my dad.  Each year, observing the Jewish High Holy Days launches an earnest exploration of forgiveness and reconciliation.  So the visit to TN was good but intense.  Coming home from the airport, I drove past an outdoor Ramadan break-fast.  All women, seated at a super-long banquet table, eating and smiling and festive.  Beautiful.  10 days later, on Yom Kippur, I would be observing a similar ritual.

The next morning, 9/11, I drove past the Pentagon on the way to teach a class in Virginia.  I was unexpectedly shaken.  Although a friend died as a result of the New York attacks, I’m never sure how the anniversary will affect me from year to year.  This year I cried in front of my class while talking about Sutra 1.33 (the Four Locks & Keys) and how this practice can lead toward forgiveness.

The Sutras teach that the goal of yoga is to clear disturbances from the mind.  Sutra 1.33 suggests practicing compassion to the unhappy, friendliness toward the happy, delight toward the virtuous and compassionate detachment from the non-virtuous. Not just essential for our own peace of mind, these practices help us see all beings as fallible and worthy of love.

I’ve written and shared about the four locks and four keys before.  Almost always, I center my thoughts on how we can use these tools toward others who disturb us.  For the sake of our Yoga In Action focus – particularly in prioritizing self care – can we offer ourselves that compassion, friendliness, delight and compassionate detachment? Can we forgive ourselves when unhappiness grips the day, and/or when we have acted less than virtuous?  Can we delight in our virtues and befriend our happiness?  Can we see ourselves as worthy of love?

Let’s try.

During this year’s High Holy Day process, I meditated and reflected on both forgiveness and self-forgiveness.  The wisdom of aphorism 1.33 from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is helping me have compassion toward myself and detach from my honest human condition and mistakes – so that I may focus on the positive, and when necessary, make authentic, non-guilt-filled amends and work toward reconciliation.  This is Yoga In Action.

This timely juxtaposition of the Jewish New Year, Ramadan and 9/11 gave me the opportunity to consider yoga’s ideological wisdom as part of my High Holy Day reflections.  By including forgiveness and self-forgiveness in my New Year intentions, I am committed to self care and therefore able to offer my peace of mind outward, in service to others.

OM Shanti.