Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Words to Live By (or at least they are for me)

This poem by the Sufi poet Rumi has helped me through when life has seemed too difficult, through times when I have questioned my own feelings and experiences. It has helped me when things have seemed unfair or uncertain, or when I have been hurt. This poem has served as my guide and companion, my mantra and my prayer.

 As I prepare to turn forty, I feel an energetic shift emerging, a change of tides, and Rumi has been popping up very frequently around me. Recently, I was at the library with a book in hand, ready to leave, when something told me to look on the other side of the shelf. I walked around, and the crimson and yellow detail of a cover caught my eye. I picked up that book and the title was "The Forty Rules of Love - A Novel of Rumi" (Elif Shafak). Of course, I knew this book had my name on it.  I checked it out, went home and began to read. I got goosebumps when I realized that this book contained not only a story of Rumi, but another main storyline about a women on the verge of forty. Wow, coincidence, I think not.  So, I hope if you have never heard of Rumi before this poem will open the door. 

I think of Rumi as one of my guardian angels in this life and I feel a debt of gratitude to him in my heart and my soul.  Light and love to all.      

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~ Rumi ~

(The Essential Rumi, versions by Coleman Barks)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Autumn and Moving Inward

  Fall has arrived! In my yoga class today I talked about fall being a shift in energy from the outward flow of spring and summer, towards introspective energy which lasts through winter. In fact, this dance of expansion and contraction is everywhere, all around us. It is the pulse of the universe itself.

 Our breath is a flow of expansion and contraction, our heart beats by constriction and release, every cell of our body joins in this rhythm. The seasons follow this energetic loop. Spring and summer are times of birth and growth, the expanding energy. Fall and winter are times of drawing inward, conservation and stillness. All of this is emblematic of the cycles of birth and death, both figurative and actual.

  Use this season as a time to nurture and sustain yourself. Relish the crispness that calls you to cuddle up under a blanket, or next to a fire, to read a good book or write in your journal. Get out and enjoy the beauty and bounty of the season and then take time to meditate and reflect. Allow yourself the opportunity to dig into the rich soil of experience and to plant seeds of intention for new growth.  Also let this be a time of deep surrender, to let go of things that are no longer useful or healthy, giving them back to the earth. Fall is a special time of gathering, pausing, inspecting, slowing down to be nourished and replenished, so the seeds of new growth and possibility can begin to take root.

Happy fall!! Namaste.   

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bust a Move!

  In my last post I talked about trying new things and bringing aspirations and dreams to life. I also believe in trying to practice what I preach. In that spirit I went to my first hip-hop dance class last night.

I have always loved to dance but have never received any sort of formal dance training. I am a certified Yoga Dance teacher and that training opened me up to new worlds and possibilities of movement. It brought me home to and validated the dancer in me unlike anything before, but to take a straight up dance class at a dance school caused me a bit of trepidation. What if I found myself ungraceful and uncoordinated? What if I couldn't get it? What if I am not good enough? That last question is the perennial one of my life, it is the fear that I walk through, and it runs deep. Somehow, when it matters, I have found ways to challenge that fear and show up. My slogan could be, "I am terrified most of the time but I just show up anyway."

    I tell yoga students very often to be a C student, I say in this blog that the beauty of life is not in perfection, it is in embracing and loving the mess, and I reminded myself of that on the drive over. I got to the class and softened as I saw some of my friends there, and those of us who were first timers supported each other and got encouragment from the veterans. We went into the studio and I found a good hiding spot at the back of the room and focused on my yogic breathing. Then the lights dimmed and the music came on and I found myself, as I always do, in the beat and primal pulse of the music, and we began to dance. I watched the steps carefully and fumbled around a bit, but then I allowed my body to do the thinking and I began to get it! By the end of the class I was lit up, having fun and busting a move. After class, the teacher said to me " Hey, you were really good, you were jamming back there! Not bad for a yoga chick."  Yep, this yoga chick was a bit terrified but showed up anyway and found her groove. Now, repeat again and again, looking inward and moving and grooving forward.

Dance on everybody, whatever your dance might be! Go ahead, bust a move!           

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

An Experience of "Tri"umph

  On Sunday I completed my third sprint triathlon and it was a truly amazing and inspirational experience. Sunday was also the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Just like that day ten years ago the skies were clear and the sun was stunning and brilliant. Under those perfect skies gathered 500 women of all ages, shapes and colors. We made our way clad in wetsuits, swimsuits, swim caps and goggles down to the cool sand of the beach. There was a procession of honor and dedication with bagpipes and flags raised, there were tears and prayers, the song Amazing Grace and silence to honor the day. Suddenly, it seemed, to do this race, on this day, with all these women was the perfect tribute. We showed up to be in this temporary tribe, to share in an experience of strength and endurance, walking, or more accurately, swimming, cycling,and running through fear to personal triumph. We showed not only physical strength but mental as well, and even more than that, so much strength of spirit. It served as proof that we could rise above darkness, grief and fear. It seemed to symbolize unity and strength, exactly the focus needed on such a day.

  On a personal level every race I do brings me up against, fear, doubt, and insecurity. Every time I endure and push through to cross that finish line I bust through those barriers. I think it is vital for personal growth and evolution to take on a challenge and walk though fear to achieve something you dream of doing, no matter how far flung or unlikely it may seem. People can do most anything when they have the passion to step forward and try. It is never too late or impossible to grasp a dream and bring it to life.

What do you dream of doing? What are you waiting for?           

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lessons in Powerlessness: Part 2 Lights Out, Enlightening

  The morning Hurricane Irene arrived we got up and watched some news on the television but mostly just stared out the windows and listened, as the rain pounded, the wind howled and our backyard brook roared. The storm was intense but less so than we had anticipated and she was quickly downgraded to a tropical storm. So we had breakfast and went about doing chores and trying to make it a productive day. Around eleven we all gathered at the computer area as my husband, Stephen, was trying to post a video of the brook, and I was checking email.We figured we had got by with no damage and no loss of power, and then it happened. The lights went out, came back on for a minute of brown out, and then gone. This was Sunday morning and we would not regain power until Friday night. We would all learn from this experience.

Stephen and I have talked about this, and what our learning boils down to is a realization of our attachments to many things that we usually don't consider. Attachments to hot water, dishwasher, refrigerator, washing machine, and stove, having light when and where we want it, to clocks, and stereos, but most of all to our televisions and computers. We were lucky to have a small generator to keep our refrigerators cold, give us minimal lighting in the early morning and evening and to give us a couple hours of precious television each day. We had our cell phones to stay connected. I know and complain about my kid's attachment and reliance on television and computer but this experience showed to me that the parents in this house are reliant and very attached too. It brought to light for me how I rely on technology to occupy the kids so I can get other things done. Enlightening indeed!

The week seemed to drag on endlessly in some ways and in others was refreshing and fun. We spent time as a family playing board games , we had a fire pit with our neighbors one night and the kids played flashlight tag. I took the kids on outings during the day and the time became a bonding experience. We learned a lot in that week. We saw how we could pull together and adapt to circumstance. Most importantly it proved that despite the irritation of not having all these things we are attached to, that as long as we have each other it will always be alright. The experience inspired gratitude for all we are blessed with, and brought into perspective the depths of the real difficulties that others endure. I recently saw this gem, ironically on facebook, " You only lose what you cling to."  The lesson time and time again is that the real suffering does not come from the event or the loss but from our attachment and clinging. Life is trying so hard to help us learn if only we could trust it more. I will keep on trying.            

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Lessons in Powerlessness: Part One, The Hurricane and the Mountain

  If it seems like it has been awhile since I have posted you are right. I was, the entire week last week, without power, so no computer but lots of learning and experience. First I want to write about all that led up to that adventure. A week and a half ago now my community was buzzing with the news that Hurricane Irene had her sights set on Connecticut. She would be due to make landfall on Sunday morning and had the potential to be the worst hurricane event in decades for the state. The collective anxiety began to swell and by Friday you could feel it in the air. The stores became hives of fear and grasping, the water and bread sections emptied out, batteries were like gold and generators a treasure to find. Panic had made it's landfall, the storm before the storm.

  I had yoga classes to teach the Friday and Saturday before the storm and brought this event right onto the mat. This is the stuff from which we gain the greatest insights and growth as yogis seeking liberation from suffering. This kind of event goes right into the heart of our deepest fear, the fear of death. How can we use our practice to take on our deepest fear and aversion? The answer that came to me was the simplicity and strength of the mountain. Mountain pose to steady and calm the body and mountain consciousness to still the mind. The mountain reminds us that we are rooted and secure with our feet on the earth, that the body rises up from this base with ease and energy, and although still on the outside the inner mountain pulses and flows with breath.

   Steady on this breath, the mind becomes like the vast sky surrounding the mountain. Mountain consciousness is the witness, or seer. In this state we are like the mountain letting whatever might unfold around us to unfold, without the need to judge or react, no need to evaluate or change. The mountain weathers storm and sun, night and day, winter as well as summer always rooted in it's own simple being. Clouds might fill up it's vast sky but they are temporary. The sky is always there, ever present, waiting to be seen again. Our thoughts and fears are like those clouds and when we can remember to see them for what they are, temporary phenomena, often as wispy and illusory as the form of a cloud itself we can then move back to the witness, free of desire or aversion, free of the "story".  When we come into tadasana or mountain pose in our lives we connect to our deep wisdom and knowing instead of the ego driven story which brings reactivity and suffering.

It is also useful to remember that sometimes what the earth needs and what we need is for something to be destroyed or transformed to become the fertile soil for some new seed to sprout or for something to bear fruit. Often our suffering in life seems senseless at the time it happens but when we look back on it weeks, months or years later it makes perfect sense and we can see how without the trials of life we would be robbed of it's gifts.  The majestic mountains we adore came mostly from great and cataclysmic shifts of the earth or were forged by fierce volcanic eruptions. Such is the nature of life, things are born and they die, sometimes we are in the energy of sustenance and sometimes we are in the energy of transformation and both are necessary for us to grow and awaken.

In the end, my community did not suffer any major damage and for that there is cause for much gratitude. My heart goes out to those who lost their homes and will struggle for a long time to come  because of this, but even in those cases the mountain with it's strength and clarity, existing in the simplicity of the present moment and the breath is there, it is our birthright and our true nature.

Here is a touching song I used in those yoga classes. Namaste.