If we could have a word of the month this month it would be balance. When you sit down and look at it, balance is a part of everything we do on (and hopefully off) the mat. As we strive to cultivate health and happiness balance is a guiding concept. In physical terms we hope to create balance between our left and our right, our upper and lower bodies, our ability to have stability and flexibility. In each pose we are working for balanced action between all the parts involved in that pose. In yoga our philosophy is that nothing by itself is better than it’s opposite. The golden goodness is in balancing the parts. Flexibility is great, but without steady action to balance it we get injured. A lot. Strength is great, without flexibility we also get injured. I could spend a lifetime seeking balance just in the physical realm.
And, of course, you know by now that the yoga we do together is far more than just the physical work. What else needs to be brought into balance? Here is a hint: what is out of balance will not feel good. Feeling stuck? How can you balance the steadiness of your routine with some freedom and play? Feeling over taxed? How can you balance what takes energy with what gives you energy? Feeling disconnected? How can you balance your healthy solitude with fostering connection with others?
As we move through this month, I encourage you to look at everything that “doesn’t feel good” through this lens of balance.
As my daughter said yesterday, “Autumn is coming”. It’s the season of bright leaves, cooler breezes, and for many of us a sweet turning inward. As the plants draw their energy down into their root systems we’ll be using our time on the mat to draw into a nourishing and grounding study of our own. This fall we will delve into the yogic study of deeply knowing ourselves. It’s one of the deepest things we can do on the mat: discover more about who we are, and who we aren’t. In my Sunday classes we will look at the ancient teachings on this, and read quotes from amazing thinkers and mystics on the subject. But most importantly we will find ways of accepting the yogic invitation to look deeply at the question “Who am I?” for ourselves.
Here is a quote from John O’Donohue that I find myself coming back to again and again. It, for me, summarizes this journey and study of self-discovery.
“Your identity is not equivalent to your biography. There is a place in you where you have never been wounded, where there is a seamlessness in you. There is a confidence and a tranquility in you. And I think the intention of prayer, spirituality and love is now and again to visit that inner kind of sanctuary.” Jon O’Donohue. (From interview on Speaking with Faith)
That interview is here, I highly recommend it!
We will be playing with arm balances to keep in light, and integrating plenty of hip openers and even a few restoratives into our Autumn practices to keep us grounded in this Vata season.
Now more than ever, it is essential that we make time to breathe, move and connect with each other. In times of great stress and uncertainty it can be very easy to allow our bodies stress response to overwhelm us.
It takes considerable, conscious effort to do what needs to be done to counter all the effects of accumulated and acute stress. But here is the thing – if we don’t manage our stress it will effect our health, our ability to think clearly and even our ability to invent creative, positive solutions to the problems we are facing. The effect of stress on our health is clear, but did you know that when our body is in a strong stress response it is also very difficult to access the part of the brain that allows us to have creative problem solving, compassion and connection?
If we don’t have our health, clarity, sense of connection and compassion intact, it will be very hard to be the beacons of light that are needed in our world. Tomorrow marks the celebrations of Imbolc, a day that celebrates the Goddess Brigid, and the Feast day for St. Brigit (her Christian counterpart). This fiery being is a fierce peace keeper.
Today is a potent time to investigate what you are doing to bring more harmony. peace and love to the planet. This may be raising your children with mindfulness, it many be calling your representatives every day, it many be in your work life – maybe all three! Whatever you are doing, please add a strong commitment to carve time out to release your own stress. So you can stay healthy and fully resourced for all that you do.
Three very powerful ways of managing stress are: deep breathing, whole body movement, and mindfulness. Sound familiar? Your time on the mat is training you to stand strong in these times. To be a fiery peace maker in your way. So, now more than ever, take a little time to breathe deep, move and connect in the present.
Blessings for all you do,
You can use anything, truly anything to grow your consciousness, compassion and ultimate joy. This is one of those spiritual ideas that seems “nice” but in fact is super powerful and incredibly hard to live in to. For me it has taken every moment of the last 15 years of practice to really lean into that idea again and again. It’s a key idea in Tantric yoga, and one that time and time again I have experienced, eventually, to be true.
This morning, after staying up too late in a state of shock and mild terror (OK not so mild terror) I eventually came back home to this idea. The heartbreak I am feeling now, even the fear I am feeling now can be a clear clarion call to inspire growth and action in these challenging times. These after-election day feelings, whatever they are for you can lead you to help build the kind of world you wish to see. Really. Last year I went deep into the mysteries of the Divine Feminine with Andrew Harvey and Sally Kempton on their beautiful Shift Network course “The Evolutionary Goddess.” One of the many beautiful slices of wisdom that came through that course was Andrew Harvey encouraging us to find what breaks our hearts about the world – and to let that lead us to our mission, our service to the greater whole.
So today, if like me, you are heartbroken, I encourage you to lean into that feeling in anyway that is appropriate for you. You may wish to have a walk in the woods, spend time on your yoga mat, take a bubble bath, do a seated meditation, journal, paint, talk it out with beloveds. There are so many ways to do this deep work of allowing yourself to feel what you are feeling and really follow the threads to understand what is bubbling up for you. You may find you are terrified for the natural world, or for women’s health, or for our ability to connect rather than be divided. Once you find that heartbreak let it lead you to action. No matter who is in office, you can be a light. You can volunteer, donate money, raise awareness on any of the issues that you are heartbroken about. Use this potent time and clarity to step up and into your Seva (selfless service). Maybe you’ll decide to run for office yourself? Invest in solar energy? Create a charter school? Or just get your office to recycle. If we all do what we can – given the demands of our lives – each small action added together can create a tidal wave of positive growth for this country. Regardless of who is in the white house.
I have one last thought for you today, which is this beautiful poem. I’ve been reading it to myself all day:
The Buddha’s Last Instruction
by Mary Oliver
“Make of yourself a light,”
said the Buddha,
before he died.
I think of this every morning
as the east begins
to tear off its many clouds
of darkness, to send up the first
signal — a white fan
streaked with pink and violet,
An old man, he lay down
between two sala trees,
and he might have said anything,
knowing it was his final hour.
The light burns upward,
it thickens and settles over the fields.
Around him, the villagers gathered
and stretched forward to listen.
Even before the sun itself
hangs, disattached, in the blue air,
I am touched everywhere
by its ocean of yellow waves.
No doubt he thought of everything
that had happened in his difficult life.
And then I feel the sun itself
as it blazes over the hills,
like a million flowers on fire —
clearly I’m not needed,
yet I feel myself turning
into something of inexplicable value.
Slowly, beneath the branches,
he raised his head.
He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.
Happy Autumn everyone!
One of the things I talk about often in my teaching is the incredible importance of the sacred pause. In order to have action we have to have in-action. In order to raise our awareness and shift our consciousness we have to have moments of incredible, mindful, stillness. There is an ebb and a flow to all things. A balance of doing and being. This is spanda, this is balance between divine masculine and feminine.
And so it is that I’m realizing that I need to take a little moment of stillness to listen deeply, nourish my family and my own body/heart/mind/self, and allow the next steps of action to emerge from the stillness. This is the first time I’ve done such a little retreat in 15 years of teaching!!! December is the darkest time of the year and is just a perfect time for such a deep going with in. So, for the Month of December my public classes will have a little “sacred pause”. That means logistically that I will not be teaching any of my public classes in December. My Wednesday classes will start their sacred pause on the Wednesday before thanksgiving and continue through January.
Join with me if you like and take one thing off your plate so that you can make more time for meditation, walking in the woods, journaling and listening deeply to hear what is next for you!
I may continue blogging during this time. I may be deciding to offer a special class or two during that time… like on the Solstice for example… If I do I will for sure announce this through newsletters – which you can sign up for here. I’ll also be posting on my new updated facebook page… here.