The Urban Yoga Den

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Haters Gonna Hate November 7, 2016

“Our world is wounded, fractured, broken and burning. We are products of this place and it is our job to heal the world through the healing of our selves.” ~ Chani Nicholas

The difficulty of maintaining peace of mind during this world’s current upsets is obvious. On the eve of the U.S. Presidential Election, I am preparing for a week (or potentially, a much longer span) of holding sacred, peaceful, neutral space for the staff and students of the yoga studio where I teach and manage…the neighbors I pass on the streets…those sharing bus rides with me…social media friends…and many more beings.

How? By clinging to, relying on and willingly using tools that have saved my ass during times of suffering, frustration and discomfort. These practical resources include prayers, yoga and meditation practices, breathing techniques, spiritual teachings and quotes, recovery meetings, talk therapy and more.

I recently saw a meme: “Prayer does not change the world. Prayer changes us, so we can change the world.” Peace begins with me. And perhaps you.

Here, I share readings, tools and experiences that are helping me immensely these days…

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“We put our hope in the awareness and in the promise that there will come a time when greed and injustice will be gone from the earth. We hope for a world completely repaired, all the inhabitants of this planet turning to each other in reconciliation, realizing that no one shall be excluded from the security of life.” ~ Jewish High Holy Day prayer

“May all of creation form a single bond with a balanced heart. May this occur soon in our lifetime.” ~ Jewish High Holy Day prayer


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“OM Sahana Vavatu. Sahanau Bhunaktu. Saha Viriyam Karavavahai. Tejas Vinavadhita Mastu Mavid. Visha Vahai Hi. OM Shanti Shanti Shanti. (May we be protected together, be nourished together, work together with great energy. May our study together be enlightening. May there be no hatred between us.)” ~ Sanskrit Chant

Some people love to hate. They use hatred of the Other to validate their own worthiness – when, the only thing that truly validates worthiness is LOVE. Therefore, people who love to hate are actually deficient in love.

People who love to hate fear that, if the Other receives love, there won’t be any left for them. If the Other is validated, they go unheard. If the Other wins, they will lose their security. Haters believe they must blame, alienate and separate from the Other so they can receive praise, acceptance and inclusion.

Some hateful people believe – at their deepest and often most wounded core – that they are not worthy of praise, acceptance, inclusion and love. They do not understand that they are in dire need of positive validation; so instead, they pursue allies in their hatred – fellow haters, bullies, gangs, cliques and activists that validate their negative beliefs of Others, and, that reinforce their negative image of self.

People that love to hate are looking for love in all the wrong places. They cannot recognize true love when they see it.

Until…we choose to love them despite their hatred.

Why do I know so much about haters? Because I’ve been one. And I’m guessing, so have you. What yanks me out of hatred faster than anything? Remembering that we are all human.

“Meditation on the principle of compassion is a means of erasing our own hatred, cruelty, and fear, and replacing these traits with love, kindness, and a deeper understanding for others. Those who meditate on compassion rise above the primitive urge of self-preservation, and thus their reactions toward others are not motivated by fear.” ~ Pandit Rajmani Tigunait

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“By cultivating friendship with those who are happy, compassion for those who are suffering, cheerfulness toward the virtuous, and indifference toward the non-virtuous, the mind retains undisturbed calmness.” ~ Yoga Sutra 1.33

I have forgiven the man that raped me, the men that mugged me, the people who abandoned me, and those who betrayed me. Not overnight. No, no, no. Not overnight. Over years and years of commitment to healing my wounds, I have grown to see my perpetrators as suffering beings who deserve compassion, and, their harmful acts as separate. Consequently, over time and with dedication – and after grieving with support – I became able to let go of the traumas. What do I gain? Liberation. Peace of mind. A healed heart. My whole self.

“These four keys should always be…in your pocket. If you use the right key with the right person you will retain your peace. Nothing in the world can upset you then. Remember, our goal is to keep a serene mind. From the very beginning of Patanjali’s Sutras we are reminded of that.” ~ Swami Satchidananda

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“Yogas Citta Vritti Nirodhah. (Yoga clears disturbances of the mind.)” ~ Yoga Sutra 1.2

This promise is the 2nd sentence in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – four long chapters about yoga’s eight-limbed design for living. Because it all comes down to this: the more I know about yoga, the deeper my practice becomes, and, the more inner peace I enjoy.
August in DC was a burning hot month. Hot temperatures. Hot tempers. Heated debates. Desperate actions.

As unrest continued to build, conflicts continued and November approached (you know what I’m talking about), DC only burned hotter.

Still – you can keep your cool as the heat rises and arises. Practice Sitali Pranayama (the yogic cooling breath) and Naadi Suddhi (alternate nostril breathing). Attend Restorative and Slow Flow classes instead of intensely heated or extremely powerful classes. For your own good – and, for the good of those around you – you can keep the peace. You can increase the peace. You can teach peace. You can breathe, embody, sweat peace.

“If my body is made primarily of water and animated by the breath, is it possible to call the water in the body ‘mine’ and the air outside of my lungs ‘the world?’ …and so it becomes hard to talk about a body practice as separate from a world practice. I move my body and I’m moving a corner of the world.
“Yoga occurs when our inner work manifests in the world around us.
“The world of mind and body, in the nondual tradition of yoga, is inseparable from the larger world… The interconnected reality we call ‘yoga’ orients us toward a mode of perception that sees reality as an interconnected web in which our own small story line is only a part and certain not the most prominent.” ~ Michael Stone

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Translated literally from the Sanskrit, “Namaste” is a simple greeting meaning “Salutations to you.” It is not offered to a certain kind of being, nor to a certain part of each being. It is offered to the whole of every being.

Even haters.

“Namaste” cannot mean that one life matters more than another at any time – it means that all lives matter equally at all times. “Namaste” cannot mean that elevation and separation are the keys to justice – when historically, they have been the keys to conflict. “Namaste” cannot mean that out of guilt or pity, we move to “be of service” to those we see as having less than us – it must mean that we see ourselves as equals with those different from us in any way, and, stand together in a solidarity of humanness.

“Namaste” means that compassion is an equal opportunity offering.

It also means that I stop writing about “those haters” and start admitting that I’ve loved to hate.

We cannot truly come together until we can salute the whole of each being and all beings as a whole.

“Mother Teresa diagnosed the world’s ills in this way: we’ve just ‘forgotten that we belong to each other.’ Kinship is what happens to us when we refuse to let that happen. With kinship as the goal, other essential things fall into place; without it, no justice, no peace. I suspect that were kinship our goal, we would no longer be promoting justice – we would be celebrating it.
“Kinship – not serving the other, but being one with the other. 
“Only kinship. Inching ourselves closer to creating a community of kinship such that God might recognize it. Soon we imagine, with God, this circle of compassion. Then we imagine no one standing outside of the circle, moving ourselves closer to the margins so that the margins themselves will be erased. We stand there with those whose dignity has been denied. We locate ourselves with the  poor and the powerless and the voiceless. At the edges, we join the easily despised and the readily left out. We stand with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop. We situate ourselves right next to the disposable so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away. The prophet Habakkuk writes, ‘The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment and it will not disappoint…and if it delays, wait for it.'” ~ Father Gregory Boyle


Haters gonna hate until our love erases their reasons.

Thanks for reading.
Namaste. OM Shanti. Peace.


Yoga Class Focus: The Freedom to Heal August 29, 2014

Make space. Clear the way. Widen the paths. And in this liberation…heal.

The theme of my July classes was FREEDOM; and we kicked off our month of focused practices with a special “Declaration of Independence” workshop.  I teach this July 4th workshop annually; and each year, I’ve approached the session with a hint of motivational speaker style. “You can liberate yourself of obstacles and declare new truths!” Together, in the spirit of our forefathers, we celebrated Sankalpa – resolute intention for change.

MatFeetJournalCandleIncense(Summer2014)This year was different. This July 4th, the fires of freedom were not blazing with glory. I toned down. I got real. I simplified. And I asked: “What is your dissatisfaction with life? Could you still find inner peace if nothing changes?” Because life is a mix of action and change, and, surrender and acceptance. Yoga does not promise us that everything will be exactly as we wish it to be. That if we set a Sankalpa, have strong resolve and work to manifest our deepest intentions, everything will go our way. Nope. On the contrary, “Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodhah” – the 2nd aphorism in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – teaches us that, even when things don’t go our way, we can still enjoy a calm mind.

So, mirroring the motivations of our country’s founders, we spent the morning of Independence Day professing our dissatisfactions. And then, we got on our mats to explore how we can cultivate flexibility, patience, curiosity, willingness, acceptance, surrender in our bodies. After our Asana practice, we invited those same concepts into our minds and journaled: “What if the change I seek can’t happen right now? What if it can never happen? What if the outcome of the change is not what I expected?” Wrapping up the morning with Yoga Nidra and a guided journey, we invited this spaciousness into our lives.

Over the month, we continued with similar themes, discovering physical liberation in twists and binds. With the Yoga Sutras as our guide, and “Sthira Sukham Asanam” as our mantra, remained devoted to balancing effort with ease in order to unlock life’s pressures. We affirmed that, even in a bind, we can feel free.

Freedom! Freedom to move with ease. Freedom to let go of expectations. Freedom to accept things – and ourselves – exactly as they are.

In August, with spaciousness as our best friend, we moved on to our new class focus: HEALING.

Our precious ancient Sutras promise: “Heyam Dukham Asanam.” As Swami Vivekananda translated: “The misery which has not yet come is to be avoided.” Not “can be” avoided. Not “might be” avoided. IS. TO. BE. AVOIDED. I don’t know about you, but every time I read this aphorism, I breathe more freely. Because I remember our ancient yogis’ simple formula – if I practice yoga as described in our foundational texts, I will sidestep future physical AND emotional pain.

So at this point in development – after setting foundations (June’s focus) and cultivating freedom (July’s focus), there is room to heal. With devotion toward practicing with a balance of effort and ease, action and surrender, and, change and acceptance, I have the spaciousness to heal past pain and patterns, and step into the future with wholeness.

This is not just a monthly theme for practice. This is not just a Sankalpa set for class. This is not just my body on the mat. This is not just my journal in a workshop. This is life.

Note to self…

Thank you for reading; and, thank you for practicing with me – even if/when you are miles away. OM Shanti.


Yoga Class Focus: Foundations for Freedom July 2, 2014

During June, my class focus was “Foundations.” I told students that I felt like I was starting over as a teacher, after a 7-month absence from the Washington, DC yoga community. So together, we started from scratch.

September 2013 "farewell" party with DC teachers and students. Little did we know, I'd be back in 7 months!

September 2013 “farewell” party with DC teachers, students, friends. Little did we know, I’d move back from Nashville after 7 months!

Each practice, we arrived together. With the Eight Limbs as our guide, we observed and then shaped our thoughts, our physical being, our breath and our senses. We meditated on Sankalpa (deep intention or purpose), and then chanted OM to transition into Asana. We flowed through six traditional Integral Yoga sun salutations, focusing on each of the 1st three Chakras for two repetitions.

Always, we set these foundations of the Limbs, Sankalpa and the Chakras. And OM. That essential syllable that syncs up the room’s vibrations.

And then the practice opened up for variety. One week we explored Yoga Sutra 1.2: “Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodhah” (“yoga calms the mind’s disturbances”) with a heart-centered set. Another time it was Sutra 2.46: “Sthira Sukham Asanam” (“postures are both steady and easeful”) with a set of strong lunges and chair poses. Next we deepened our Pranayama (breath work) and Dharana (meditation) skills. Finally, we wrapped up the month with the story of Shiva, the original yogi (or, the O.G. – Original Guru, LOL) and an intensive on twists.

The beautiful morning light at my yoga HOME in DC: Embrace Yoga.

The beautiful morning light at my yoga HOME in DC: Embrace Yoga.

And yes, we practiced twisting from the foundation of the spine.

Personally, I cannot imagine practicing yoga without these foundational elements. Therefore, I certainly cannot imagine teaching without them, either.

I feel extremely grateful that my teacher, Faith Hunter, invited me back to my twice-weekly sunrise yoga slots and sub regularly at her studio, Embrace Yoga DC after I returned to DC in March. June was, indeed, a fresh start for my teaching. And thanks to my students, my personal practice is also rejuvenated.

Our July class focus is “Freedom.” For Asana, we will build on last week’s twisting set, and explore how physical mechanics can liberate the body for safety and ease, plus, strength and stamina. Conceptually, we’ll discover the Yoga Sutras’ keys to freedom from resentment…freedom from attachment…freedom from whatever trips us up, pushes us down or holds us back.

In fact, my July 4th “Declaration of Independence” class, 10-11:30am at Embrace, addresses exactly that: What do I want to be free of in order to live my truth? As the amazing 70s soul band Funkadelic said, “Free your mind…and your a** will follow,” brilliantly illustrating how Sankalpa (shaping the thoughts) should always proceed Vinyasa (flowing yoga poses). Heeheehee. Join us on Friday and witness the proof.

Thank you for reading; and, thank you for practicing with me – even if/when you are miles away. OM Shanti.


Full of Shift: 30 Days of New Energy – Week Four January 26, 2013

One month ago, on the December 28th Full Moon, I started a 30-day practice.

Daily, I lit a stick of Maroma’s “New Energy” incense; asked myself, “How will I sustain my total holly&buenagirl2(edit2012)well-being in order to serve others and live on purpose;” sat to chant 108 repetitions of the “Asato Ma” prayer (Lead me from unreal to real; from darkness to light; from that which dies off to that which is everlasting.); then posted the day’s thoughts on Facebook.

Each week, I compiled the Facebook posts with additional reflections here, on this Urban Yoga Den blog.  This is the Week-Four compilation.  Today is day 30.  I am done.  So to speak.

This week’s Facebook posts, below.  Tomorrow, a more thorough wrap-up of the outcomes of this month-long effort.  Thanks for reading.  OM Shanti.

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Mon, 01/21/13. Day 25.
Five days left in this exploration. Already I’ve received so many answers to my inquiry, “How will I sustain my total well-being in order to serve others and live on purpose?”

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Tue, 01/22/13. Day 26.
Reflecting on what’s come to my attention over recent weeks.
Cultivating gentleness and nurturing toward others is an obvious calling. During our Prison Yoga Project teaching training last December, founder James Fox modeled the nurturing teaching style that works with incarcerated people. I agreed immediately with its appropriateness.
Now, fears are arising. I wonder…
Who will I be if not my trauma-surviving, tough, tell-it-like-it-is, scrappy little punk? Will at-risk communities be able to relate to the gentle yoga lady? Will I lose my ‘street cred’ if I get too soft? Will I lose my street sense, my security in my ‘hood?
Do I have to give up my edge? My tattoos, jeans and boots, my rock-n-roll and my urban excitements for a life of quiet New Age music and loose, flowing clothes?
I do have a soft, gentle nurturing side. I do value vulnerability. Still, for the sake of relationship health and serving others effectively, how will I reconcile my two sides? More will be revealed…
(Pictured – Me with Mucha Lucha cartoon character, “Buena Girl.” She’s tough and she’s girly and…she stands for all things buena!)

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Wed, 01/23/13. Day 27.
Continuing to reflect on what’s come to my attention over recent weeks.
At times I feel immense self-doubt after I make a harmful mistake – particularly if I feel unforgiven by others. This comes from a core wound I have from childhood (put briefly) of feeling like a big fat problem and therefore unwanted.
So my internal work when such self-doubt arises is to direct the essence of Yoga Sutra 1.33 toward myself, the same way I would direct it toward others who commit harm: I aim to cultivate compassion and detach from the harmful action. Add to this – I aim to forgive. (After or along with processing my emotions, so as not to “Spiritually Bypass” that essential step in healing.)
Forgiveness does not mean I condone harmfulness. Therefore, when I make a mistake, I must simultaneously reflect and take action on how I can avoid making the same mistake again. How I can observe and exemplify Ahimsa – the avoidance of violence.
This is why I am able to do the work that I aim to do – sharing yoga with people who make mistakes and who commit harm. With people who others might deem unforgivable. I believe in every person’s ability to recover, rehabilitate, grow and serve. I believe in forgiveness of all. Ohhhh, it can be hard at times – I have been seriously harmed! But if I yearn to live a yogic life, to sustain inner peace, and therefore to be able to show up for others in service…processing my emotions AND using Sutra 1.33 as an avenue to forgiveness and moving on is essential.
So…what do I do if mindful reflection on the Sutras does not erase my self doubt? I take Swami Satchidananda’s suggestion to throw myself into loving devotion of a higher power – a devotion, he says, that will remove all doubts. For me, this power is nature. Nature, with all of its organically forgivable, chaotically beautiful messiness of process. Nature affirms that I will continue to drop leaves, tangle branches, flood, blow things down, burn…and…that I will recover with new blooms, deeper roots, a more gentle flow, a softer breeze, a guiding light.
When I plunge into nature, my process, my intentions, my growth and my usefulness are validated. Devotion erases doubt; inner peace returns; and I can serve effectively. And especially when others lack forgiveness and compassion – mine must be doubtless, faithful, sustaining.
So. Into nature I go…

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Thu, 01/24/13. Day 28.
The Full Moon in Leo approaches this Saturday – the final day of “Full of Shift.” Continued reflections on what’s come to my attention over recent weeks. On boundaries and integrity:
I’ve been writing and sharing about mistakes. There are some mistakes that I NEVER want to make again – the mistakes that lead to me being harmed, due to my own poor choices, faulty judgment and lack of discernment.
May I always make healthy decisions for myself.
May I enjoy situations, circles and relationships of shared honesty, transparency, truth, trust, reciprocity, accountability, responsibility, respect, loyalty, commitment and anything else that yields non-harming conditions.
May my relationships brew faith, love, devotion, passion, compassion, forgiveness, acceptance, understanding, tolerance, health, change and growth.
May I continue to work toward embodying, vibrating and sharing all of these values within my own mind, heart, soul and life.
And may I not settle for less.

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Fri, 01/25/13. Day 29.
Leo Full Moon tomorrow – the final day of “Full of Shift.” Continued reflections on “How will I sustain my total well-being in order to serve others and live on purpose?”
On work ethic, discernment and freeing my heart of unresolved pain:
– “Those who want to be prosperous must first make others prosperous.” (Yoga Bhajan)  This I believe. I approach “jobs” – whether corporate, nonprofit or yoga work – with the intention to support my employer’s success. I aim to contribute to a strong, healthy business by doing my assigned job well, by making effort beyond expectation, by being dependable/reliable, and by being a cheerleader for the organization/owner. I don’t know any other way to serve at work.
– “When anything comes to you, first ask yourself, ‘Will I be maintaining my peace by getting this, or will my peace be disturbed?’ Ask that for everything.” (Sri Swami Satchidananda) When I first read this quote years ago, I was reminded of the addiction recovery program inquiry, “Are you going toward or away from a drink?” In early sobriety, I became very accustomed to making decisions by asking myself whether a choice would make me feel serene or not. If a choice made me feel ill at ease, I was at risk of “going toward a drink,” and losing my emotional, or, lord-forbid, my physical sobriety. This style of discernment is still a great gauge for me today.
– I need to address unresolved anger and therefore liberate my heart from pain that makes me overreact to perceived threats of harm from well-intentioned people. With a 47-year history of trauma, violations and abuses…how? Lobotomy? “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?” More denial? Hee hee. Seriously, I have spent ample time and energy “doing the work” – looking squarely at, understanding and analyzing my past. I know everything about my pain. I write about it. I teach about it. I can run circles around it. Most of this “work” has been in my brain. Still, there seems to be something very un-brain-related about the residual emotion that gets twisted into misguided emotion today. I know I’ll never be trigger-free – this is the reality of having my past. Still, I (and my friends) would like some solutions. So I’ve been asking, “What can I do to address/process unresolved anger?” Suggestions/reflections thus far: SPEND REGULAR TIME IN NATURE; PRACTICE THE BUDDHIST TONGLEN MEDITATION; WRITING/BURNING RITUALS; RESTORATIVE YOGA & YOGA NIDRA; CHAKRA DANCE PROGRAMS; TAKE A GUIDED YOGA RETREAT; CULTIVATE JOY THROUGH A REJUVENATING VACATION. Anything else you’d like to share?

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Sat, 01/26/13. Day 30.
Wrapping up the ritual today, day 30. Under a Leo Full Moon, teaching, practicing, relating, connecting. Kirtan later tonight. Moon peaks after 11:30pm EST. All is good.


Haiku for George Zimmerman April 12, 2012


And justice for all:

May peace – and not resentment –

Guide our hearts and minds.

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In the very first pages of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras – one of the ancient texts that guides yoga practice and teaching – we learn that yoga’s primary purpose is to cultivate a peaceful mind.

The text then offers us four books (or chapters) of recommended practices to attain and sustain this peace.  One practice is known as the Four Locks & Four Keys – described in Sutra 1.33 – which invites us to cultivate an attitude of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight toward the virtuous and disregard for the non-virtuous in order to retain our own calm.  In his commentary on this recommendation, Swami Satchidananda encouraged, “Whether you are interested in samadhi (loosely translated as “enlightenment”) or plan to ignore Yoga entirely, I would advise you to remember at least this one Sutra.  In my own experience, this Sutra became my guiding light to keep my mind serene always.”

Mine, too.

And even more so after I studied an interpretation of Sutra 1.33 by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, Ph.D., of the Himalayan Institute.  About 10 years ago, I clipped his Yoga International Magazine article shedding an uplifting, shining light on the aphorism’s most difficult plea (for me, at least) to cultivate disregard for the non-virtuous.  Because I feel if I am disregarding someone, then I am committing harm; and therefore, I become non-virtuous and perpetuate the cycle of violence.

I was so deeply moved by Dr. Tigunait’s interpretation that I have kept the article and often refer to it when wrestling with the unfortunate reality of our violent world.  Here are some excerpts; I hope someone finds this useful if questioning any act of violence, harm or disregard.

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None of us has the power to force others to rid themselves of darkness.  The only power we have is to demonstrate how delightful it is to live in the light.

According to yoga, one who cultivates transparency of mind, clarity of thought, and firmness of will becomes light and cheerful.

[Regarding] indifference toward the non-virtuous:

We each have our own definition of “virtue,” and if someone is “non-virtuous” according to our definition, the judgmental part of our personality immediately comes forward and we label those people “bad.”  This colors our thought, speech, and action toward them.  We try to maintain a distance, either by withdrawing ourselves or by pushing them away from us.  Or we try to force them to change.  Any of these actions sets the stage for violence.

Again, the only way to change this pattern is to change our own attitudes.  Those whom we consider reprehensible or wicked are living according to their own level of understanding, and trying to correct them by criticizing their way of life and values is counterproductive.  According to yoga, if it is possible to model the higher values of love, compassion, selflessness, and non-possessiveness for the “non-virtuous,” then that should be done.  Often a glimpse of the higher virtues is enough to cause someone to reevaluate his or her behavior and to find a way to begin the process of self-transformation.

If we have not acquired the skill of leading someone who we believe to be non-virtuous gently in the direction of self-transformation , the only other option is to cultivate an attitude of indifference – not for the doer but for the deed.  Cultivating indifference for people we believe to be non-virtuous damages our sensitivity to others and destroys our capacity for forgiveness, kindness, and selfless love.  But by cultivating indifference toward the deeds themselves, we remain free of animosity for those whose action are non-virtuous.  We allow them their rightful place, and by refusing to associate the person with the deed, we avoid becoming smug and punitive.

Practicing these four principles will purify the mind and heart.  And once we have developed friendship for those who are happy, compassion for those who are unhappy, cheerfulness toward those who are virtuous, and indifference to the actions of those who are not, we will no longer pose a threat to others, and they will be neither defensive nor self-protective in our presence.  Pure love, compassion, selflessness, and self-acceptance radiate from us when we have purified our hearts.  …  Love, compassion, cheerfulness, selflessness, and self-acceptance will begin to radiate from the individual level and affect the community, the society, and finally the world.

…there will be nothing to fight about.

–  From Yoga International Magazine; adapted from “Why We Fight: Practices for Lasting Peace” by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, Ph.D.

*  *  *

So how does Sutra 1.33 help me digest the story of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman?  First, it reminds me that in order to be of service in any way in this world – whether that’s sharing an opinion or joining a social justice action – I must maintain my own inner peace.  Second, if I think and act from a place of peace, then I do not judge, I do not attach personal resentments, I do not confuse unrelated history with this unique story – instead, I am able to be fair-minded.  When I am fair-minded, I can see the pain, misfortune and unhappiness of all involved.  I can have compassion.  I can keep my peace.  I can be of service.  I can be fair-minded.  I can have compassion.  I can keep my peace.  I can be of service.  I can…

And instead of perpetuating the cycle of violence, I am cultivating a cycle of peace.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti.  Peace.  Please.


Ahimsa Now: 100 Days of Intention April 6, 2012

Beautifully hopeful mural in my neighborhood.

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In a recent blog entry, I mentioned “Ahimsa Now” – my idea for a non-profit organization whose mission is to use yoga and related practices to address emotional pain and increase inner peace in at-risk youth and those that serve them, consequently decreasing violence in at-risk communities.

When I called my friend Ronni to tell her about this long-envisioned, presently hibernating dream, she responded, “Sounds like it’s time for another 100-day ritual!”  She’s referring to last year’s “Happy Heart Project,” during which I awoke each morning between August 28th & December 5th, lit a stick of incense, and affirmed: “My intention today is to grow toward joy.”  My main takeaway after 100 days?  I grew to embrace that there are no goals, only intentions – reinforced frequently, through a process of openness, willingness, action and growth.

Equally as important – I came to profoundly accept, appreciate and stop apologizing for my humanness.  Now that’s a happy heart.

*  *  *

Ronni joined me in last year’s Happy Heart Project, burning her incense and meditating on her own intention.

So here we are again, launching a deliberate, one-day-at-a-time journey toward July 13th.  This time around, I am simply saying, “Ahimsa Now” as I light my incense.  “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.  In the Sutras, Ahimsa is one of the “Yama” – five recommended abstentions, or rules of conduct rooted in abstinence.

Ahimsa is a principle that I aim toward every breathing moment.  It can manifest in many ways – not causing emotional harm for others through gossip or careless remarks; not taking my bad day out on those around me; not harming my own body by practicing unmindful yoga; not harming my own heart by insulting myself; and on and on.

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 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.

*  *  *

What are the alternatives to violence?  Luckily, yoga offers many; and I will write about them this April, during which my Monthly Focus for yoga classes is “Peace.”

More will most certainly be revealed.

OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.  Peace, Peace, Peace.


Heart Is Where The Home Is March 1, 2012

Filed under: Inspiration,Life,love,Relationships,Yoga — Holly Meyers @ 6:48 pm
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In my last post, I wrote, “I feel at home in my heart these days.”  What do I mean by that?

In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the idea of “Samtosha” (sometimes spelled “Santosha”) signifies contentment.  For me, cultivating Samtosha requires a combination of understanding, acceptance and surrender.  When I feel upset or rattled or troubled (vs. content) about something, I ask myself, “Is this something I can change?  If so, what action makes sense?  If not, what practices will help me reach acceptance of and surrender to this uncontrollable concern?  How can I grow to be content with things just as they are?”

First things first – I have to accept that I have little-to-no control over the situations, things and people around me.  I am, however, 100% empowered to change myself.

Interestingly, my life circumstances that seem unfortunate or tragic have actually fortified me – because these hardships drive a commitment to self-knowledge for the sake of personal transformation and serving others.  I have studied and witnessed my behaviors, growth and change as a human being.  So I can’t say enough for self-awareness as a tool for accepting humanness in general.  I don’t even need to understand others – just myself.  When upset by someone, I can either stew in resentment, or, I can change my negative opinion by remembering my own past, process and fallibility.  Acceptance leads me to surrender any illusion of control over people; and this surrender leads to inner peace and contentment.

Second, I must consistently cultivate confidence in, acceptance of and love for my self.  I have to grow to be at home in my heart.  And this take practice.

One of my favorite yoga tools is “Pratipaksha Bhavana” – replacing negatives with positives.  Sometimes my own negative opinion of myself can cause problems all around me!  So I try to use Pratipaksha Bhavana to tune into the positive and cultivate a content mind.

When Pratipaksha Bhavana is not enough, I have to dig into my heart center and find its ever-positive truths.  To do this, I like to use an exercise called “Write from the Heart,” which came from a 2005 issue of Body & Soul Magazine.

In this exercise, I: Identify a specific concern at the top of a piece of paper; write, “I know in my heart…” and finish the sentence with a natural, immediate response; after repeating this about 10 times, I pause, breathe, then keep going until out of things to say.  Knowing that no one has to read this, I can be totally honest, dissolving resistance and building confidence.

I was drawn to write today’s blog because I am in conflict with someone who is dear to me, and, I know that this conflict is a result of the stress, self-doubt and uselessness I’m feeling due to unemployment.  I understand my part (a fear-triggered mind, not shifted quickly enough by the above-described practices!), I accept the other person’s humanness (I felt wronged, but hindsight is 20/20), and I surrender to whatever the situation may bring (we have plans to talk next week).

Still, my heart and mind feel troubled.

So right here, right now (after a pause to brew tea, breath and meditate), I am going to “Write from the Heart.”

  • I know in my heart…there is a chance for healing with this person.
  • I know in my heart…I will find the right work situation and be safe, secure.
  • I know in my heart…my fears are valid but temporary.  I honor them as teachers.
  • I know in my heart…I am not PTSD-triggered and insecure…although sometimes, due to certain situations, I can be.
  • I know in my heart…I am not an aggressive person, although due to some situations, I sometimes can be.
  • I know in my heart…I am a loving, caring, generous and connecting person.
  • I know in my heart…I deserve.
  • I know in my heart…the right job awaits me.
  • I know in my heart…there can be healing with this person.
  • I know in my heart…I have already learned about myself from this situation.
  • I know in my heart…I am useful, helpful and of service.
  • I know in my heart…although my past sometimes trips me up, my present is bright and hopeful.
  • I know in my heart…I do not need to be afraid.
  • I know in my heart…I am loved, thought about, cared about.
  • I know in my heart…all will be exactly as it’s meant to be.
  • I know in my heart…I yearn to and have tools to come from my loving, confident, clear, true heart.
  • I know in my heart…how lucky I am to be willing to grow and learn and change.
  • I know in my heart…love is out there…and in here.

Wow.  (Big exhale.)  That was intense.  And awesome.

When I am accepting of and surrender to the truths in my heart, I feel at home there.  This healthy heart then rules my perception, my thoughts, my actions, my interactions.  I might not have control over situations, things and people – but my truthful, accepting and content heart may certainly have an effect.

I know today is March 1st, but I want to thank you, dear readers and students, for spending the month of February moving, exploring, and opening your hearts with me.  I am honored.  OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.