Monday, January 30, 2012

Different Roads We Travel Together

   So much can be learned right in our own homes with our families. One thing I am learning about in my home, from great teachers, is diversity and tolerance, especially in the area of spirituality and religion. My husband Stephen and I began our relationship with not much consideration, really, about our spirituality or religion. We really didn't pay much attention or give it a whole lot of thought. We were young, starting careers and having fun with friends. Sunday mornings were about sleeping in, lazy lounging, cups of coffee and being carefree. The closest we got to church was a momentary pause flicking through channels past various preachers, or church bells ringing off in the distance.

 Today we are in our forties, have three kids at home, our world has changed dramatically. We still don't go to church. This fact has caused me some internal turmoil. As I listen to other moms talk about Sunday school, first communion and other facets of their communities of faith and the instilling of religious values in their children, I have wondered if I am cheating my children. I have wondered if I am doing them wrong. In reality I know I am not doing any harm, I am being true to myself and that is a vital quality for my children to know and experience. I know that our approach has also opened the door for them to have a self discovery of faith (or not).

 As it goes, along the way I found yoga and it has become my life path, my spiritual path, my holy ground. Stephen has discovered Buddhism and its non theistic spiritual discipline.  We each found our practices when it was right and when we were ready. Our kids see us doing our practices and we talk to them about what we have chosen. They see my altar everyday, as well as meditation cushions, Buddha and Ganesha statues aplenty. Our bookshelves are full of diverse titles on yoga, spirituality and philosophy. We have created an environment that encourages awareness and inquiry. I do yoga sometimes with our daughters and our son is occasionally persuaded to meditate.

  This environment has created interesting results. Mason, our 13 year old son, is a self proclaimed "atheist who believes in the scientific method". He announced this to the family at dinner one night with real conviction and empowerment. Part of me felt a strong resistance coming up and a desire to react and argue, but instead I found myself smiling and saying how interesting that is. Avery, our 10 year old daughter asks me questions about god and life and we have discussions and sharings. I have told her that if she wants to go to church or explore anything in particular that I will be more than happy to take her. Her response is "No, I believe in god. I'm good." Harper, our six year old daughter, just before Christmas this year told me, " I think I want to be part Jewish and part Christmas." When I asked her if this decision was based on increased presents, she smirked and giggled.

 This shows me that at their different ages they have developing interest and organic understanding of where they stand and how they feel. It is so amazing and cool to behold their individuality and to see them each unfolding and blossoming so beautifully and perfectly. I am so interested in where each of their journeys of inquiry and experience will take them. When I was thirteen, I never would have,even in my wildest dreams, guessed that at forty I would be a mother, a dancer, a teacher, and surely not someone devoted to a spiritual life and path. And yet, here I am. Knowing that I evolved, expanded, and arrived at my true place gives me the courage to let them do the same. All the while I will be here to support them and love them through all the good and bad, the pleasant and unpleasant that that journey might bring.

  Even if you don't have kids there is a lesson here. Trust that everyone is here exploring and evolving in life. There are as many ways to do that as there are stars in the heavens each shining and brilliant in their own way. The Dalai Lama says, " People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.”    How true this is and what a better world if we all had a basic respect for each other even when we feel different or don't agree. We all deserve respect and compassion.        

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Attitude of Gratitude:Bless the Body

   Out on my eight mile, clear my head and body run, I found myself contemplating my relationship to my body and how society tends to teach people to treat and relate to their bodies. My body, like most, does not come close to fitting into the very teeny tiny (but tall) box of the media driven concept of beauty, even though my body is fit and relatively lean. I considered this, and then my attention was drawn to my movement and breath. This incredible symphony of sensation and energy, a dance of body and mind so amazing and miraculous, so full of wisdom and intelligence.

 The title of my blog is The Magnificent Mess, and so much of what we experience and encounter in this world is just that, but the body really is only magnificent. If we perceive anything in this body as messy it can only be because of our lack of understanding, our own misjudgment and ignorance. The way we treat and relate to our body might be messy but the body does not own any of that. The body operates with its own intelligence, following the pulse and dance of all creation, and each body is unfolding perfectly in each moment. The body is constantly shifting and changing, adapting and responding. Life and death a constant going on, things coming and going, emerging and then receding, a universe within so complex it is truly awe inspiring. The body communicates internally in a language of its own, beyond our ability to comprehend, and science is proving that the intelligent body does understand our minds language and responds to positive messages with healing and harmonizing energy, and to negative language with disease.

  When the body is sick or injured it knows so much more than the story or perception of the mind and moves to heal. We do have a choice in the way we talk to our bodies to help create healing or hinder healing. When the body is in pain or ill what if instead of judgement and internal impatience and negativity we treated the body like our own child that has fallen or is sick? We take the child in our arms and give her comfort, care and tenderness. The body will always seek harmony and balance and it will arrive there more easily when we attend to it in a nurturing and loving way.

 For the rest of that run I focused on giving attention to every part of my body and acknowledging with deep gratitude all that each part does. A million thank yous are owed to these feet for journeying and dancing, running, and keeping me connected to earth. These legs that hold warriors and down dogs, strong and sturdy, beautiful. These hips that swing and sway, that have held the miracle of my children, birth and creation, sensuous and powerful.  My spine, that from root to crown is a sacred river of energy and consciousness, that lets me rise up from the earth and connect to the heavens. Shoulders and arms that reach out from the jewel of the heart, to hold and hug, expressions of grace, wide and open to the world. My head that lets me see and hear, sense and feel, observe and respond. Heart and breath the keepers of the rhythm of life. Every cell a celestial body. Every part such a wonder to behold!

Take some time to bless your body and your body in turn will be the biggest blessing to you. No matter its shape or size, whether it is young or old, whether it is strong and healthy or on the brink of death, the body is a gift and a wise teacher, a temple of the divine.        

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Parenting: The Most Magnificent Mess Of All

 I have many roles in my day to day life but none is more important than my role as mother. Parenting is bliss and parenting is agony. Being a mother or father is so terrifying and terrific, like riding the most insane roller coaster in the world or white water rafting over a waterfall to plummet to who knows where. I posted yesterday on Facebook that parenting is the deepest most powerful yoga of all. I know that to be true to the very core of my being.

  I have recently had events with my children which have called me into conflict. I have had to step forward into battle even though it made my stomach churn and my knees shake. This is the heart of it though. In the opening of the Bhagavad Gita, a revered text by many, and yogis in particular, Arjuna is resisting and fearful of the battle he is about to enter. He does not want to harm anyone and is embroiled in internal conflict. Krishna advises him he must go to the battle. He says, "Know what your duty is and do it without hesitation. Blessed are warriors who are given the chance of a battle like this, which calls them to do what is right..."

 Then comes the crucial point and one which I think is the struggle of life and in no case more than in the yoga of parenting. Krishna says, "The wise man lets go of all results, whether good or bad,and is focused on the action alone. Yoga is skill in actions."  This is so hard, beyond difficult. I love my kids with a depth and intensity that is amazing, and also one which leaves me open to intense pain. This is because I want it to be good for them, no, better than good , the best! I would jump in front of a train for them, walk on fire, anything at all. Like Arjuna, despite my doubt and fear, I was called to and entered the battle and have tried to do it skillfully, but I want it to turn out for the good. I am attached to an outcome, a favorable result.

 That attachment permeates my parenting. Here is where parenting can be the deepest most powerful yoga. How might I face the challenge of mothering everyday, do my best, be as skillful as I know how and then let go of the result?  Could I surrender a bit, and acknowledge that they have their own perfectly constructed dharmas (life paths) waiting for them, and that to a certain extent I would best serve them to get out of the way?  I think the yoga is to seek a middle road, one where I know that they are their own people. To find a parenting path that honors that it is not skillful to control them or define myself through them, but to hold space for them in their journey and support them with fierce compassion.

 I am thinking out loud here, and now will leave space to ponder. I shall certainly come back to this topic soon. What do you think?  Namaste everyone! 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year: What Do You Yearn For?

"Is life not a hundred times too short for us to stifle ourselves?" ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

"Don't be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson 

I saw the first quote above on a friend's Facebook page yesterday and thought, "No shit! Time to take stock of what I want and where I am headed, make adjustments and Go For It!" The second quote is one I think of often. I think of it when I get scared, which is almost everyday. Deep inside, I know that what I am doing right now in my life is my dharma, it has my name on it. I have always had a yearning to create and perform. My soul nature is to move and dance, to sing and express and yet somewhere on the journey from childhood to adulthood I disconnected from that and ended up working in the business sector. I also got disconnected from my passion, my source of joy.

Then I found Kripalu Yoga, I found Let Your Yoga Dance, I found a community of support and like minds, I found me. I have spent the last decade studying, practicing, training, teaching and growing. I have achieved so much, and now, as this New Year arrives, the question that comes to me is "So, now what?"

 I have recently had various people, teachers, students, friends making offers and suggestions of things I could do, challenging me to consider expanding my vision and getting even bigger. I have found myself asking these people and myself, "Really? Could I do that?"  Here is where I come up against fear and resistance. I find that others often have more confidence in me than I do, and see me differently than I do. I am afraid to get bigger, I am afraid to fail. However, even greater than the fear is the yearning to explore, to grasp opportunity and step forward. My commitment in this New Year is to follow the path that is opening in front me and to say "Yes!". I will trust that what others see in me is not only possible it is the universe pointing the way.

I also know that even if I fail, if I fall, I will grow. I say it in my yoga classes all the time, if we are not willing to fall, we cannot grow. In fact, we have no business staying small, staying safe. If we let fear win we rob ourselves and the world of receiving our gifts.

What yearning has your name on it? Go for it and grow!