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Thursday, 25 August 2011

The Yoga of Life.

"Yoga practice is like life
Each circumstance in which we find ourselves is like a pose.
Some poses are hard to hold, others are pleasant.
It is how we hold the pose that determines whether or not we will suffer or grow
And whether or not we will listen to the drama of the ego or the wisdom of the spirit."

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Summer of Love

"Falling into prayer is the same thing as falling in Love. It is an infinite fall. You can never come out of it. And in all of human existence these two experiences are the highest"

Yogi Bhajan

When I went to my meditation cushion this morning, a quiet rain fell soothingly outside and I realized that in a sense, this has been the summer of love.

As I watch everyone around me finding their perfect soul mates, dream jobs, dream homes and marrying the love of their life, I am quietly cultivating my own inner love for myself, my life and all the blessings that have come cleverly disguised as obstacles. This summer I am re-discovering my love for the outdoors, for cycling, for rock climbing, for practicing yoga (without the busyness of a hectic teaching schedule), and for living without expectation. I am practicing taking a good hard look at myself and what I've allowed to influence me over the last few years. And I'm acknowledging, for the first time really, just how much certain events have affected me and altered the course of my life.

For me, one of the biggest obstacles seems to be Trust. Or, maybe it's Faith. The two seem interchangeable sometimes. In a recent Anusara-inspired teacher training, we were taught about the Universal Principles of Alignment - not only to help our physical asana practice, giving it a more therapeutic advantage, but also to assist with the alignment of our inner attitude. The very first UPA is - Opening To Grace. Sounds so lovely doesn't it? Open To Grace. Yet, I struggled with understanding this. I mean, I understand it, but I don't think I really knew it.

I've always been a Do-er. I act. I work hard. I DO a lot of things, all the time. Talking about what you want only gets you so far. I'd rather take action. My mantra, for most of my life, has been "If I don't do it - who will?" and often "If you want something done right - do it yourself." I've always considered this a positive thing. Yet, it's come to my attention recently that in all my Do-ing I've somehow forgotten how to just BE. And with a significant deficiency in Trust/Faith, too much Do-ing can actually inhibit the flow of love, abundance and opportunity in one's life. Too much Do-ing is strikingly similar to escapism isn't it? Sometimes trying to "do" everything, all on your own, is akin to running away from all the things that present to try and assist you on your path. Without proper balance, too much of this inner attitude that one must accomplish everything on one's own is really just a lot of stubborn-ness and an obvious inability to open one's heart and just be vulnerable sometimes.

In the Anusara tradition of Yoga, this practice of Opening To Grace is the first alignment principle because it is from this that all the other principles stem from. When you are Open to the flow of Grace in your body, in your mind, in your life, there is a bright radiant quality to all that you do. To align yourself with Grace is to align with all that is Divine - love, forgiveness, truth, gratitude and following your heart.

In the words of John Friend, Yoga Teacher and creator of Anusara Yoga:
"Opening To Grace is about opening to the universal source of energy. It’s about remembering the highest purposes of the practice. Throughout the class, there should always be some instruction to remember the universal, to remember the big picture. The details should be put in context of the universal source, That’s really the overriding principle of Anusara, to remember the universal. And that universal spirit is one that’s grace-filled, so it assists us in our awakening and in making beauty through our yoga practice. it’s big for me."

At the starting of this year my intention was to listen to my intuition more closely and to surrender more. In a sense - to Open To Grace. To trust. To relax my compulsive need to control the outcome of so many situations that are just better left to the powers-that-be. I can honestly say I feel I'm getting a little better in that department. Although there seems to be a lot more room for improvement! So I keep practicing. I keep observing. I keep forgiving. And, slowly, step by step, I walk towards my heart's desire.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Ananda Fest

What a beautiful weekend.

I had the tremendous honor of being a participant in the first annual Anandafest - a weekend yoga retreat gathering of amazing music, incredible teachers, inspiring speakers, unbelievable food and an undeniable feeling of complete joy. Not only was the weather absolutely pristine in Keswick but the Loretto Maryholme Spiritual Center is a place of utter serenity and true natural beauty. Ananda, in Sanskrit, means Bliss. And, for me, that's exactly what the weekend embodied.

It was my first time at the Loretto Maryholme Center and I arrived with a bit of trepidation - not really knowing what to expect. But I was immediately calmed, as soon as I stepped onto the property. It helped that the place is gorgeous and that the grounds were full of smiling, beaming, positive people doing yoga, playing music and sharing stories about their loves,their lives, and what it means to commit to being yourself in a world that's constantly trying to make you something else. It was an absolute pleasure and I was so incredibly humbled and so touched to even be invited to take part.

I was reminded this weekend just how important community is. That feeling of being around passionate like-minded people who are all working in the world in a way that strives to create healing (both for ourselves and those we work with); is something that is so sacred to me. Sometimes it's so easy to disappear into our relationships - trying to make one other person our whole world. I see so much of this. People secluding themselves away into their little corners of the city trying to "make it work" by isolating themselves into their own private perfect little worlds. When the reality is that it really does "take a village" and life really is more fulfilling when we are growing, learning and working within a supportive framework of community.

Something powerful comes out of the ability to get together, to share and connect with others; to let yourself be seen...and to see without judgement. When we do that we realize we really are all the same. When you let go of all the pretentiousness, you realize we really are all working on the same shit, longing for the exact same things. The illusion of separateness dissolves and our hearts open just a little bit more. Powerful things can come out of isolation too. But the opportunity to really learn, reflect and grow increases exponentially when we connect.

One of the highlights of the weekend for me was listening to a couple of talks by both Jeff Brown (author of the book Soulshaping) and Colin Matthews (owner of Kula Yoga Studio in Burlington.) It was so interesting to listen to these men speak about their experiences of relationship as a spiritual practice, about taking responsibly and about what it means from a dude's perspective to really live authentically. Jeff put it so eloquently while speaking about 'The Awakened Man' when he said "Success without integrity is karmically incorrect." And that most men are searching for their power and their meaning in life by getting power over others (through various forms of competition) or by becoming attached to all the stuff they "have" and how much money they can make. The point was made that more than half of all yoga or self-help groups are women. Why? Simply - because the work hasn't proven itself yet as economically viable. Men are still so attached to just that one side of themselves. Why explore feeling? What's the point?

Colin continued along that line during his talk when he spoke about the importance of staying connected to yourself and not trying to have all the answers. Instead - experiment constantly. Keep listening and asking yourself - How do I feel? How am I making others feel?

He said the Universe never asks - why me? But instead - What of me? What is this situation asking of me?

When we shift the inner focus like that an answer comes. Always. And, there will always be a call to action. Always. He said, for him, that question was constant in his relationship(s) - What of me? The most powerful thing we can do is to sit, fully, in our own heart; even when we're hurting. To be able to say "I'm really angry right now." without blame or judgement. To own, fully and responsibly, all our 'stuff' without trying to make someone else to blame. Colin said - "As humans, if we can sit in a place where we can understand each other's needs - we will always get our needs met."

Essentially the whole weekend was a reminder for me that we are all, always, constantly creating our own reality. And that my intention is to live authentically at all times. To sit in my heart, even when I'm hurting. When we focus on being truly our authentic selves it's easier to accept things as they are. It's all ok the way it is. It's a practice of showing up, being fully present, as me, myself, and being fully receptive. I don't have all the answers. If you know a way that I can show up in the world that will make me feel better, happier, more fulfilled - please - share! I'd love to know. And if at first I don't understand - please - be patient with me so we can both grow.