Make it Easy on Yourself, Trust the Process

“But, whether the form be perfect or imperfect, the Being of the form is perfect [wisdom] power, substance, and intelligence.” The Life and Teaching of the Masters of the Far East, David T. Spalding.

I was married in my early thirties to an academic, a social scientist.  I’d been raised by a father who was protestant farmer turned highly successful businessman, a capitalist.  His advice to me when I was growing up was that I could have whatever I wanted if I worked hard.  My husband the academic found this very funny, as he observed me struggling to climb my way up the corporate ladder.  “You think hard work will save you.  This is a faulty philosophy.” I resisted his analysis, but I never forgot it, and as the years went by realized that there was some truth to it.  Shortly before my father passed away I spoke to him about my occupational struggles and he said, “Well, I guess I just got lucky.”  These days, I understand that perhaps success is a result of combination of things.  I have accepted the idea that it really isn’t hard work alone.  My ex-husband would have broken down the various obstacles to receiving (or not) rewards for hard work as some combination of class and economic oppression.  This may be true from a certain perspective.  But there are those, like my father, who successful slip through all those obstacles and find themselves successful, sometimes wildly unexpectedly, as in his case.  From the yoga perspective, whether on the mat or off, the key to successful navigation of the complex landscape of our lives is a combination of focus and spiritual alignment, or steadiness and spacious, or stability and ease – all these being expressions of the dynamic play of the opposites threaded through the universe and managed through the practices of yoga.  This month we are contemplating the idea of sukha (or comfort, ease, sweetness, joy) which Patanjali, a well-respected ancient sage and expert in yoga, advises is a key component of a successful posture.  One key to bringing sukha into our practices on and off the mat, is to identify  where we make things harder than they are, and let go of that. 

One of the first things we can get hung up on is doing the posture “right”.  Doing the posture “right” is very hard work, and well, there isn’t a lot of agreement about what is “right” in a posture.   Even the shapes themselves change in time.  If we try to get all the details “right” we can end up working too hard prematurely. We might be better served to consider just doing a posture well – meaning, weight balanced, reaching in all directions of the body equally, being present in  our bodies and breathing.  You will get there.  In time, the details will fill themselves in.  You will grow from feeling your feet on the ground, to feeling your toes and your navel and your shoulder blades.  The body will wake up through breathing and quieting the mind.  We don’t have to think about the postures.  We feel them and do them.

Another thing we can get hung up on is unrealistic expectations.  I remember taking Bikram classes in New York City.  Bikram had a standard set of instructions that the teachers memorized.  One of the instructions was to touch the top of your head to your toes in seated forward bend.  I yanked and pulled and sweated for years until finally one of the teachers said “Maybe two people in the world can get their head to their toes.  But we show up and we do our best and we benefit just from that.”  I lightened up on myself a lot of after that and my postures lightened up as well.

Another way a person could work too hard in asana would be expecting that our progress would unfold in a straight line.   It seldom does.  Yoga brings into alignment infinite aspects of our being.  Sometimes regression in one area (say the physical) brings progress in another area (say, the spiritual).  In the school where I studied the folklore was that if you injured yourself it was a call to meditation and a change in the quality of the  relationship with the body.  Indeed.  Becoming comfortable and easy in our practice is partly about allowing those fluctuations in experience without resistance.  We soften into spaciousness around the moment and open to what needs tending to.  Sometimes we soften the  physical effort and discover that there is a subtlety in the body that we are invited to tend to, say, microscopically adjusting the position of our little toe (and then the whole leg shifts). 

Breathing. Feeling.  Being.  Maybe this is the essence of sukha, to remember that we are not working machines, made to be constantly doing, but that we are breathing feeling whole beings  meant to be living and unfolding gently, powerfully and lovingly into an experience of magnificence which is unimaginable but ever present, like the blossoming of a flower. 

Oh, and, when my father passed away he left me a little bit of money.  I was getting nowhere in my corporate ladder climbing and so I followed by heart and stopped doing those late nights at the office and attended a yoga teacher training.  Surprise, surprise, when the year ended and I graduated from teacher training  I was rewarded with a raise and a promotion at my corporate job.  They were pleased at how I had changed.  Hmmm….

Trust the process.  Trust the process of yoga.  Maybe it is all easier than we think. 

Processing…
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Established in yoga…while moving through it all…

I fractured my wrist at the end of October. The cast came off, December 11. During the time in the cast I floated through time and space, a little removed from life, a little removed from pain, a little removed from sitting with this unexpected event in my life. I did some responsibility taking around that somehow, but generally, I was floated by my spiritual practices in this place beyond time. I didn’t struggle against the weight of the cast to do asana (physical postures) practice, because I understand true healing to take place on the level of consciousness, first. Lots of healing happened on that level, and then the cast came off, and I plummeted back to Earth.  I was back in my body, remembering the accident and the pain, and meeting and seeing the limitation now embedded in my physical body. I was in shock. When I left the hospital and climbed into my car, I burst into tears. It wasn’t victimy. It wasn’t woe is me tears. It was sadness for the whole world, all of us, going through this experience of restriction. It was a visceral experience of the sense of vulnerability of our bodies and the sense of vulnerability to all kinds of forces external to us. This month in my classes we are talking about pratistayam, or to be established in.  In Patanjali’s  yoga sutra Patanjali refers to yoga as a state where we dwell in our true nature and the text builds a pretty good case that where we seem to dwell in the external world is intimately related to where we dwell inside. To make a choice to dwell in our true nature is to become established, and that is to position ourselves in such a way that the impact of external forces on our ability to move through the world is diminished. We become conscious co-creators of our life experience.

When I was in the hospital, initially, after the break, I was there four days. A significant amount of the time was spent discussing pain. This was what the hospital staff worked with me on. The managing of pain. The avoiding of pain. I liked the underlying message which was, you don’t have to suffer pain. I’d spent many years with the belief that I did have to suffer pain. Of course, there is that meme “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional”. I will say that what when you extract the suffering, it’s no longer pain. It’s just powerful sensation. But therein lies the rub. We have to choose not to sit in the state of mind of our own suffering. Randy, the very kind, bright-natured nurse who was my primary “pain coach” advised, “You don’t want to chase pain.” What does that mean? She explained that it’s very difficult to reduce the pain once you’ve allowed it to take hold. So, the process is to ward it off in advance, in this case by regular systematic taking of meds as the doctors prescribed. Every X number of hours. Isn’t that interesting? Patanjali advises the same thing. He says future suffering is to be avoided. And I think it’s good to note that Patanjali is not just one guy with one idea, but he organized all the information from what people who were practicing in that day were doing so, you know, it’s not the kind of information that gets outdated.

So if future suffering is to be avoided, how is this done?  Yogically, there are a number of different interpretations of what that means but for today let’s just consider that part of it, avoiding future suffering, is that we train ourselves through asana pranayama meditation and good old fashioned discipline to stay anchored, to stay established in our true nature. Part of that training is learning to catch ourselves when we are not in our true nature. Randy advised that pain was a tricky thing. In my post cast life I feel what she meant. It’s random and it’s stubborn – arising with no apparent logic. Although, the mind will try to give it logical source, ‘I ate french fries yesterday and must be inflamed’. But then one might notice the pain lingers long after the french fries are gone. 

The time came last week to remove myself from painkiller killers. You can’t really take Tylenol or aspirin, in large doses, forever. I’d left the high-octane painkillers behind while still in the hospital. There are herbs and there is homeopathy. Last week I began physical therapy and what I didn’t realize was how painful the process of rehabilitation would be. I’ve spoken before here about the releasing of fascial tissue and trauma stored within it. Now I’m living that daily and an important side note – when fascia is releasing you relive the pain of the trauma itself. Medicating at that point is thought to interfere with the release process. On some level, you have to feel it to heal it on the level of consciousness.

Just transcending just moving out of the place of awareness of the pain

might support psychological health in the moment, but holistically transforming the pain creates a more integrated healing. About three days into my PT exercises a return to a generally full asana practice, as I lay down to sleep, my whole arm caught fire with pain. It was clearly a fasica release, as I could feel the impact traveling through my body, as it had at the moment of the accident, dull but shocking. I already taken my herbs for the day. That was it. I was left with chamomile tea and deep breathing, as my only recourse. “I’ve entered the world of pain.” I thought, knowing that millions of people abide there full time. Now, I have some inkling of their experience, and I am awed by it. What that must be like to live there, in pain, through your whole body, all of the time. I think to myself that I don’t want to live in the world of pain. So as I breathe deeply and consciously, I effort to reorient myself to be situated, established, not in the pain, but in the calm center I have touched many times over my years of practice. Pain is tricky. It is seductive and magnetic and absorbing. This requires some effort.

But I really don’t want to live there. I chose to dwell in my true nature. The pain is not receding, but it ceases to be me. And instead, the sensation becomes an experience I am having. It sounds like splitting hairs. But when I pull myself out of the pain experience, it’s just another experience. I know that there is some experience within me at all times, that is not pain, and that somehow I will find my way to dwell in that space. I woke up the next morning amazed that I slept. Funny that, right? We think a billion bucks is the goal but how valuable is a good night’s sleep? The big deep pain of that evening is gone, but it still comes and goes both emotionally and physically as I reclaim the use of my arm as part of the whole of my body – and work to expand my reach. And now I feel really connected to a whole new level of this pratistayam thing – to master being able to sit in that calm sweet place as I deal with the challenges of the world. The practice becomes a a deeply essential life skill to have. It’s been very exciting. I was able to use my left hand to take some vitamins yesterday. And that was a big leap. And I’ve enjoyed creating sequences without the Down Dog for the time being. No plank, no Chaturanga. And a world of creative movement has opened up too.  My treatment goal is down dog. Okay, so two months ago, right before the accident I was jogging and doing a forearm stand and enjoying the process of reclaiming each little step. And now and then, I feel a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, my yoga practice will evolve into such a grand adventure, yet again.

Destination Sovereignty: Ready, Set Action!

Action Plan, Timeline, Quality Assurance

If you’ve been following the yoga posts on my blog, you know that I often refer to an understanding of yoga through which we become aligned with our true nature, which is composed of divine qualities.  I think it’s important to understand that while yoga, like many spiritual systems,  can subtly slide into putting forth dogma, in my opinion, it’s not intended to be that way, even  if, maybe especially if we follow the formulas outlined in the sacred texts.  In that vein, the “divine qualities” or true nature referred to in the texts would be the highest expression of a particular quality as opposed to a reflection of moral purity.     When we begin to speak of taking actions on our dreams and visions, my experience is that it works best when coupled with an understanding of myself becoming the person who would take those action, and in order to do that, I often need to nurture my expression of particular flavors of qualities.  This week as we begin to translate our dreams into action plans  I suggest that we incorporate into our action plans and timelines the inner qualities which support our ability to draw forth that which we are creating. 

Say, for example that we want to draw in a new romantic relationship.  There are many flavors that such a relationship could manifest in.  At some times in our lives we might want passion and adventure.  At other times in our lives, sweetness and harmony.  The thing is, if I want a passionate adventurous relationship, I better be brining some passion and adventure into the relationship as well.  If I want stability, I better bring some of that in as well. If I want sweetness and harmony I better bring some of that to the table as well.  So what I do  is, I add those qualities to my action plans.  At the top of my daily action plan, I consider the actions that I plan to take, and I list the necessary qualities at the top.  If it’s a relational day, I put kindness and graciousness.  If it’s an administrative day, I put effectiveness at the top of the list and if it’s a day of teamwork, I might start my action plan with an intention to embody  collaboration.

Because co-creation is part of a yogic lifestyle, I try to express the qualities in terms of that which would be in alignment with the beautiful qualities which we all share.  So, if my vision is to become World Tennis Champion, while my first instinct is to conquer or defeat my competitors, as I reflect  on the yogic foundation, I know that will move me away from a state of yoga.  It creates division.  Instead I might say “Personal Best in very single match I play this year. “  Think about this in terms of sustainability.  I could become the World Champion through an accidental tennis blooper of some kind.  But my personal best will transform me into a champion as a person, and then I’ll have something lasting.  What’s my action then?  Practice every day, study the moves of the masters, 5 minutes a day envisioning my perfect serve and my competitor shaking my hand with glee because it was so much fun to for them to play against the highly skilled player I’d become.  I mean really, what could be a better victory than one where your opponent concedes that you played the best game!!!

The timelines to envision, are pretty classic, 10 years,5 years, 3 years, 1 year, 3 mos. 1 mos. I week, 1 day might be a general guideline. Of course you aren’t going to do all of them every day or month or even quarter – that kind of rigidity might create restriction rather than expansion.  But checking in at systematic intervals keeps the vision grounded.  One of the things I’ve learned is that magnificent visions can emerge , powerfully from tiny steps taken in alignment.  I was on a whole other career path when I discovered yoga, and I never intended to leave that path for yoga.  But I found myself spending a lot of time on my yoga mat, loving what I was doing and just wanting to do more of it.  It all emerged from there.  The other career which I charged through and sweated around, never amounted to much of anything, either internally or externally, a paycheck and some transient glimmers of accomplishment.  But the yoga became a rich and transformative life path for me.  When we are aligned with our deepest selves our thoughts visions and dreams become powerful, and it allows for a more organic unfolding, with minimal struggle. 

Action steps?

Similar to the manifestation, actions steps and time lines involve sitting and writing.  How do I envision this ten years, five years etc.  And know that my success in the ten year plan is going to be connected to my success in the one day plan and will be supported by my steadiness in my yoga practice. Some days moving off the action plan is the action plan!  Yoga develops our discernment to detect if our inspirations are divinely guided detours or laziness and fear.  If you haven’t yet started practicing yoga, you can begin just by sitting and breathing easily for 5 minutes with your eyes closed. Or you can come to take one of my classes!

Perhaps I will see you on Saturday when we will gather to review the process of co-creating and share the visions we’ve been nurturing the last few weeks.  Sharing the vision can be a powerful means of energizing our visions, and allows us to cheer each other on!  Pay what you are able and feel comfortable with. 

Please register at the link below

Register in advance for this meeting:

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcrd-qtrjIpH9z4EHsJhn1lvDoFmiAib_6h

Destination Sovereignty: Co-creating your next step, Pt. 3 – the vision board

I was newly divorced and starting a new life in a new town.  I’d set my sights on aligning myself more deeply with my heart’s desires, and that meant I was reading new age magazines and trying out all sorts of new and different ideas and lifestyle choices.  One night I was leafing through an issue of the New Life magazine when I spied a picture of this man and I thought, “He is going to be my next boyfriend.”  I laughed at myself and shelved the magazine and that funny thought. 

A month or two later on Memorial Day, I walked 2 miles from my house to the home of a woman who hosted the our local coop.  It was pretty hot outside.  I lived and worked in the New York City area, so I had no car.  At the food coop, I was offered a ride home by a women I met there.  As we chatted in the car I kept getting this nagging feeling that I should ask her about the fellow in the magazine. I finally did.  It turned out, she had known him a long time, and was very fond of him.  She had nothing but the kindest things to say about him.  I was wondering if I should take his class, and so I did.  And indeed he turned out to be my next boyfriend.  The woman who knew him actually became a more important figure in my life than he was, becoming to me a student and then a friend and then a neighbor and  then a teacher.  One day when we were first neighbors she invited me to a two days sales conference she was going to.  I went.  The man leading the program told us a story about a woman who cut out a picture of a guy from a magazine and then ended up marrying that very guy!!  This is not to promote magical thinking, but it illustrates an important idea for us to consider.  We are swimming in possibilities all the time, and on some level we are aware of them.  The co-creative process is one in which we can draw down those possibilities and playful plop them into out lives and see how they fit. 

Now, lots of things can interfere with that process.  Fear, obligations, fear, doubt, fear, fickleness and so on.  That’s not to say that we are in some way flawed if we don’t create apparent successes.  It’s always successful on some level if we think in terms of the yogic pathway, because it’s a mode of coming to know who we are, really, in a rich and abundant way.    But I like a story I heard once about Paul McCartney. When asked where he got his songs from, he responded that “You just reach out and pick one.”  This aspect of co-creation really shines forth when we begin the process of a vision board.  While a very strategic vision board is possible, most people I know just reach out and pick what they want from the world around them. It adds a lighthearted energy to the process of creation.

Give yourself some time with this one.  You can do it however you want, painting, collage, etch-a-sketch, whatever gets you thinking and dreaming.  I usually cut pictures out of magazines and mail and wherever, all year round so I have them to draw on when I’m ready to start my collage.  I never finish it in one day.  A big part of it is allowing the intuition to flow around what belongs and what doesn’t.  Part of the reason I started saving images all year was that sometimes I would really really like something, but, I didn’t want it now.  So, I would tuck image into the collage drawer for next time.  The flip side of that was allowing myself to put images on the vision board that I really didn’t see happening in my life, but that I really liked or loved.  It’s been interesting how the items have shown up in my life.  For years I put a little round image that said “I am loved” on my vision board.  It kept showing up in my life, and I kept putting it on  my vision board. Last week my new employer walked into the office with an “I am loved button” on his hat.  That wasn’t quite what I’d envisioned but on reflection I realized that I truly was living in a deeper state of love, generally, than I was a few years ago.  Seeing it on his hat just provided the opportunity to reflect on that.

So how do we approach the vision board itself?  Basically it’s just a 2 or 3 dimensional vision of what you want in your life and it can be whatever you want….words, pictures, drawings, sculpture.  Have fun with it.  I’ve known people who do whole notebooks of vision collages. These days I do five different sections and then piece them together in one collage, like a quilt. One section each for each aspect of my life., financial, relationship, health, creativity, wisdom, travel and helpful friends, prosperity.   This year as I worked my vision boards it was harder to separate everything out into those categories, they overlapped a lot. I’ve spent much of my year in my studio apartment during the shelter-in-place, so indeed, the separate facets of my life are all merged together. And that is just to say that, as with yoga, as with healing and personal growth, that honoring the process is part of the process. 

I like to be resourceful with my boards, using whatever is around.  Junk mail, flyers, card board from the backs of tablets, paper bags.  I like to create a life creating, pulling things together, versus having them drop out of the sky, so, my process reflects the process as I enjoy living it.  I generally do not try to re-create what I’ve put on my goals or list on my board.  I love  to see how the words and the images merge together in the lived experience of my life in a variety of ways.

Oh, and , as always this works well when coupled with some form of awareness practice like meditation, chanting or yoga, and is, in itself an awareness practice.

If you like, you can come share your vision board with us on the December 26th, 4 PM Pacific Time on Zoom.  Pay what you are able to and comfortable with.

Register in advance for this meeting:

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcrd-qtrjIpH9z4EHsJhn1lvDoFmiAib_6h

We look forward to visioning with you! 

Destination Sovereignty: Co-creating your next steps


From here to there. Assessing and re-assessing where we are and where we are going.

As we work on our co-creative skills, the ideas we hold for any creations may seem like distant horizons, and indeed at that moment they are. It can be frustrating. At I time like that I know for me it can feel like the person I am is trapped in a life that won’t let me be me, and I long for the day when I am situated in a way that support this freedom of personal actualization. The trick is that we have to actualize internally to get to the place where that freedom becomes apparent externally. In the end we discover it’s been there all along, within us. Perhaps we slipped slipped past opportunities in our limited perceptions, not seeing them for what they were or, in some cases, we were to lost in our limiting beliefs or perceptions to consider that we could succeed in the opportunity. In Sanskrit and the yoga practice this is called “chitta vrittis”. This can be loosely translated as our mental contents including beliefs about ourselves and the world. Fear not! Yoga is one of the many universal spiritual curriculums which align us with our inner guidance, and open a gateway to the divine qualities which exist in the realm of possibility within and around us. These curriculums are pathways to get us from where we are now, to the place of co-creation and sovereignty. Spoiler alert: When you get to a place on the path where the expanse of possibility opens, you see and know and experience that these possibilities were in you all along, and that you cannot lose them. You will were already there. When we aren’t in that limitless spaciousness we traverse the path from here to there. From who we are now to who we want to be. Each moment practicing the steps which move us forward with the faith that we are who we envision we might be. On any journey, you need to know where you are, to get where you are going. This week, while doing our daily and weekly visioning. we incorporate the periodic re-assessment of our visioning.


I’d like to emphasize today the importance of an awareness practice in the process of co-creation. It’s important, and is illumined in the assessment process process which we’re adding on this week. Some visions which appear to be unrealistic to the small self when in critical mode are perfectly reasonable from the perspective of your highest self. A vision drawn from our smaller self may be attainable. But we may discover that it costs us our connection to our higher wisdom, and we can’t see this when we’re completely absorbed in that limitedness. Nurturing higher awareness allows us to access these different perspectives. Anything which opens the mind to more expansive realities will be helpful: yoga, tai chi, meditation, chanting, and esoteric music studies. The list is endless. I’ve known people who could do anything as an awareness practice that somebody else might not do as an awareness practice their meditation was golfing, painting etc.. It’s how you do it. It’s being willing to spend that time, just fully absorbed in an activity and opening yourself to higher realms. I teach yoga asana because that is my primary tool for opening the gateways to a higher vision in a balanced and grounded way, and it works for me. I need that grounding.

The assessment process is about refinement not judgment. Our first creative impulses may be what the personality wants versus what our deeper self wants. There’s nothing wrong with that. But our personalities in part are created by either conforming to or resisting the world around us. The higher states of consciousness unfold a deeper level of personal desire, which is unique, authentic and true to ourselves. They also open a path to navigate through the world to a destination, harmonious with that unique inner unfolding. So I encourage nurturing a consistent personal awareness practice that you enjoy.


So what do we do to assess our inner vision? This step has two stages.


1. How do you feel?


First, I periodically check in to see how I feel about the larger vision. Last January, I envisioned 30 people in every yoga class I taught. Now, that goal is not that important. I’d rather have 30 people a day reading my blog posts and listening to podcasts, and allow the classes to arise organically from that. Last year, I couldn’t have imagined that. I was enmeshed in a studio system which obscured my higher vision. During the years worked in the studios, I worked my inner program and now, I can make choices which feel more organic and natural to me. I expect these more organic foundations will yield stronger structures in my creative work. So the first step of assessment is to see how I feel. Oh, and to allow myself to adjust those larger visions accordingly.


What do you see if you zoom out beyond your biggeet vision?

As I zoom out from what I know: a yoga class with thirty people, I see that vision is a little small. I refine it to be a little more effective and a little more spacious: a financially successful business writing, speaking and teachin. It’s broader, it’s more inclusive and it contains more possibilities within it. I had had been nursing a desire to break free of the studio system but a year ago, I couldn’t have seen how. That has transformed in part because I keep aligning with my higher self, and it’s evolved into a more expanded vision. Rather than counting the heads in class, and imposing my will for more people to come, I’m focusing on what I really have to share. Spaciousness is key to reassessing, so…zoom out.

Who do you want to be?

Part of the process of co-creating is allowing ourselves to be changed into the people we envision ourselves to be in our grand vision. Who do I need to become to participate in the vision? It’s common to perceive that achieving the external goal will transform us into the person we want to be, but it’s actually the opposite. While I’m creating my vision. I’m invited to become the person who will live comfortably in that vision. This can happen instantly, or if it’s more comfortable for us, it can take a little longer. The step by step daily visions are useful here. To be successful. That’s one of my goals. To be succesful I must be confident and focused in a healthy way. So I enter that on my daily vision. Not necessarily in those words, confidence and focus may feel far away and daunting. But it might be something like. “Today I’d like to effectively complete the following tasks”. And through those tiny steps I build focus and confidence that I can accomplish something that I want to accomplish. My daily vision includes a couple thing I am certain I can do. I set my self up for an experience of success that way. These things they sound so mundane, right? But it’s just my experience that larger, more exalted visions do best when grounded, and a lot of the grounding process is through detail. That’s true in yoga asana, as well. A lot of what grounds a posture is subtle transformations of movement as opposed to larger gross movement. To embody a relationship, I want to be gracious and loving, and to hold loosely. And so every day, I make it a part of my practice. Today, just create the intention to be a little more gracious and a little more loving. Part of that is honoring the tiny ways to do that. putting my hair up a little more carefully, ironing my blouse a little more crisply. That’s something to me that is kind of gracious that embodies a certain graciousness that kind of care taking of presentation. At work, bringing a little more attention to a task was gracious , thinking about things to do that will make others comfortable, or happy in small ways. This brings us back to the foundation of creation in yoga, that every step we take as a creative one, and that by bringing consciousness to each step, we become intentional co-creators.


Our steps so far are as follows:


Stage one

Write out a big vision for the year including all areas of the life

This works best with 10 or less items. Then write out bite size visions for the week or day. Incorporating steps towards the larger vision. Follow through on the daily vision, as best you can.

Stage two

Refine and Reassess


Periodically reassess so we go back to the beginning we review what our visions are, how they feel. Do they still bring us joy.


Every Wednesday I’ll be posting about some creative process steps for envisioning the new beginning for 2021. On the 26th, we’ll gather on zoom and share our visions. That day we’ll actually talk about the importance of sharing the vision and rooting for each other.

Destination sovereignty: Co-creating your next step

Over the next 4 weeks we’ll follow a program of co-creating as follows (note, of course you will be inspired to veer into your own way of doing these things…I’m just sharing what I am doing);  You’ll want a notebook, and a nice pen, and for the third week, collage materials, magazines, or junk mail, I grab anything that might have words or visions which I can create into a vision board.  You can also draw your own items.

0.  Awareness practice

1.  Big picture, Little picture

2.  Revise, re-frame, rearrange the picture as you go.

3.  The vision board

4.  Action plan/timeline.

This week I invite you to consider, your big picture and all the little pictures that you are creating within that big picture.  We can split this up by time, and also by subject.  Larger segments of time (the year) and smaller (the day).  Larger categories of life (all our relationships, the world) and smaller (my family).  I’d like to propose that as you consider the course you want to chart this year, that you craft and design your plan with a mind to the big picture and the little picture. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra he tells that, when we arrive at the end of a series of steps, we see how we got where we are. We can flip that teaching around and understand that conscious decision making is a step by step process and that the steps we take to get from one place to another are happening continuously in a stream which is, for the most part, not conscious.  Until we decide to make it conscious, which is part of what we are doing here. We make thousands, maybe millions, of decisions a day. Intending, crafting and charting your course, moment by moment is a way to co create a life. Co create meaning We are Creating with the highest wisest aspect of ourselves with which we reconnect through our yoga practice. ‭For years I did this visioning once a year, vision board, goal setting. Everywhere, sometime during the year it would get lost. Years ago, I went to my first seminar about this, and the facilitator encouraged us to keep working and revising our plans throughout the year. I was so rigid at the time, I couldn’t do that- I couldn’t even imagine doing that. But as I worked with this idea from the Yoga Sutra of step by step conscious decision making, I learned to be more fluid about my outer destinations and more anchored in my inner destination. In my opinion, this was the basis of my successful pivoting throughout the past year during Covid-19. Successful being defined as never feeling thrown off course, always celebrating each new trail and never dissolving into defeat. This is a part of it, it’s a good idea to celebrate the journey to completion rather than the completion of some projected big dream.  Each step on the journey will contain little victories and little victories add up to big accomplishments.  The understanding of the little relationship between the little pieces an the big pieces is part of working the first creative step:  Big Picture, Little picture. 

One of the things I learned as a conscious co-creator was that I could create castles in the air and actual opportunities galore. But there was a big disconnect with my ability to manifest the opportunity and my ability to ground those opportunities into tangible successes. I might get 30 people in a class if I desired it, but they were a hodgepodge of people so diverse that my teaching became fragmented, and no good roots were grown which sustained the work into the  future.   As you craft the big picture those roots ar important…where is the desire coming from and what is it really about?  Perhaps the beautiful new home you dream about emerges from a place of love for beauty and craftsmanship, or perhaps it has significance in the realm of extended family. Perhaps the new romantic relationship you desire is a desire for  sharing or collaborating or good old fashioned enjoyment.  Perhaps the new career path is about discovoring and embracing your own gifts and value.  It’s good to turn the larger visions over like precious gems, investigating their many facets.

When crafting the large vision, be prepared to revisit and rework it periodically, and reflect on it often. 

I then begin a process of working the vision everyday in some way.  I make a quicker more mundane list of the ten things I want to experience each day, maybe effectiveness or communication, joy or flirtation.  At the end of the week, I review those lists and my larger vision, and create a 10 item vision plan for the week.  Once again I repeat the daily vision plans. Make note as you do it, that each time you work your program, you are planting seeds of creation.   

The little plans were powerful. They became actual action plans towards my goal, so at the beginning of the day, I committed to what I wanted by scheduling actions related to the large goal.  This moved things forward but it also did something more important. It acted as a filter. Perhaps I envision a work role or romantic partnership. When the time came to take action toward the goal arrived, I would find myself resisting, never sending the resume, never meeting the fellow for coffee. I learned that somehow I wasn’t aligned with those goals right now. As much as I thought wanted them, I wasn’t ready to have them.  So, I would just “turn them over to spirit” and re-frame the bigger picture vision.

So that is a way to develop and work with these visions in time.  Remember though, that a miracle can happen in an instant, so taking the time to do this, isn’t because the goals take time to develop.  It’s to get ourselves ready to receive.

Spend Day 1 of week 1, writing out your big vision.  In the big vision, I suggest that you include all the different areas of your life, relational, financial, social.

Each day of this week, between our posts, go through and craft your little big, little picture list. What are you going to take from those large visions into your day? Note any feelings or resistances that come up.  By December 26 your vision will be clearer and more embraceable.   Because actually, we’re going to we’re using these steps to develop the big picture that we want to launch our new year.

Each morning think about how you want your day to go. Refer to the vision and integrate relevant action steps into your daily obligations. It’s likely during the day that you will forget, get distracted and redirected. These are excellent times to stop do a little breathing or a yoga posture.   Check in to see how you actually want to move forward with your list. .Which brings us to an important piece.  The best visioning includes a foundation of an awareness practice. Yoga, meditation, dancing.  Whatever it is that allows you to step outside of who you believe you are for a few minutes and connect with your highest and wisest self. 

That’s it for today, I hope this helps you to get started with charting your course for your next new beginning.

To register for the gathering on December 26th where we will share our visions, please sign up here:

All my classes are offered at this time as pay what you are able and are comfortable with via Venmo, PayPal or Zelle, radhanatalie63@gmail.com

Register in advance for this meeting:

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcrd-qtrjIpH9z4EHsJhn1lvDoFmiAib_6h

The Healing Narrative

About three weeks ago, I spent a few days in the hospital after having emergency surgery for a fractured wrist. As the physician’s assistant reviewed the x-ray’s with me before my discharge, I mentioned that this would be a time of learning about how hands and wrists work. I am yoga teacher, and know that sometimes this is how we learn the best, through healing,  through putting it all back in order.  He responded that he was glad I was approaching the process this way.  Some folks just want to be fixed and other folks are prepared to do the work.  For each there is a path.  Hatha Yoga, traditional healing practices, to me fall in the path of work.  A Muslim client of mine once told me that Allah, God, could heal through any path she chose.  I believe this to be true.  I also believe that we are responsible for consciously aligning with and choosing our path and our healing team.  I have received much spontaneous healing, and much healing work in which my role was to receive.  But in all cases, my healing required that I show up and do the work of healing, whether that meant changing my lifestyle, my attitudes, forgiveness, practicing, getting up and taking a walk every day, or just plain old deciding that I don’t want to feel bad anymore and I’m willing to change.

The healing narrative that I live and share is that empowerment and healing comes through self-mastery, responsibility, and surrender.  It’s a working path.

So in this narrative, what is the place of rest? What is the place of receiving?  For me it’s being spacious around my willingness to change.  Much of that is about being willing to soften my opinions and resistances and expectations, allowing them to be transformed.  Much of that is about accepting things I may not be able to change and allowing myself to accept what is. Sometimes it’s about accepting discomfort. But my ability to do that well, arises from the work that I do.  The surrender and the work are inseparable.   The work of yoga, of healing, trains me to step beyond my habitual ways of doing things.  Beyond those habits, those ruts of thinking I have created, is the inner teacher.  Like a wisdom field behind a stone wall, the practices are the gate.  So maybe the surrender piece, is, once I’ve opened the door, to be willing to lay down in the wisdom field and let the light shine over me.  Or maybe the effort is the knocking on the door, and the surrender piece is the willingness to step through the gate whenever it opens and waiting until it does.  Either way, as we walk down our paths it’s good to be conscious about our choices, bearing in mind the use of the particular tools we have access to, and what they are for and who to find to help us use them.

Our outer teachers train us to use the tools, so we might have the tool when we need it.  I’ve found my outer teachers were always spot on in identifying my major obstacles. That often hurt.  I find my inner teacher steps in and speaks the loudest when I’m trying to fix the television by banging on it with a hammer.  (stop! stop!) We need the right tool for the job.    That hurts sometimes too.  But it’s like a surgery.  I’m very grateful they cleaned out and rebuilt my wrist.  I couldn’t have done that myself. I find the inner teacher is the quiet voice which directs me to the right tool, the right person, if I’m listening.  Sometimes they aren’t what is the most comfortable for me. But if I’m spacious sometimes I find I’m being shown a new way I’d never considered before, or sometimes one’s I have rejected.

In a way the healing narrative comes down to whatever is needed for you, or me, or whoever, to change the story line which is not in alignment with our highest best mode of living and loving. And to change that narrative requires that we let go of the story our personality has created about who we are, and be open to becoming an expression of our true nature, and the gifts that we are here to share with the world.  Those gifts are like the sun, sometimes hidden behind clouds.  In this sense healing is not a fixing but a growing, an allowing, a fulfillment of promise.

So what is the action step? Know our healing narratives. Explore the stories we tell ourselves. Start out creating the willingness to live a different story, if we want a different result. That is all. A little bit of willingness goes a long way.

Surrendering into Power

We’ve been dancing around the practices of kriya yoga: Tapah, Svadyaya, Ishwara Pranidhanani.  They are central to the practice of yoga, on and off the mat. They are embodied in trikonasana and they are a simple doorway into the deeper dimensions of the practice.  These three building blocks of the yoga practice can be loosely translated into English as: effort, self-reflection, and surrender. Ishwara Pranidhanani, so-called “surrender”, may appear to be the antithesis of power. The translation of surrender, carrying as it does the connotation of defeat, may bear a coloring of sacrifice.  A closer examination yields a different point of view.  Surrender is required anytime we are invited to step up our game.  Ishwara is the “one beyond form “ and “Pranidhanani” is to bow down to.  The bowing down is not to make oneself less than, but rather to soften our rigidity that we might be transformed into something greater. .  The formless quality of Ishwara allows us to utilize any variety of divine entity or quality in our practice   Think: caterpillar, butterfly. It is that simple.  What do we wish to transform into?  Practice reveals that Ishwara Pranidhani is the most powerful of the three practices as softening our rigidities opens the door to great fullness of our being. This is great power, albeit of an inner sort. When we relinquish the struggles and conquests of our limited personalities, the spiritual power of our connection to source is moves through us, transformation occurs.  We all know our best relationships occur when the two of us together are better than each of us alone.  This requires a little softening.  It requires a little alchemy. It invites us to get out of our own way so to speak. This moment is about relationships, healing occurs when the us and them dissolves.

Ustrasana, camel posture, embodies this.  Our personalities and sense of conventional power are seated in the third chakra in the solar plexus, the heart resting right above this.  Relinquishing the tight hold of our personal power in the solar plexus region invites the flowering at the heart center.

Finding OurSelves – losing ourselves

Finding OurSelves – losing ourselves

We’ve spoken in these posts about yoga in terms of “yoking” or joining with, our higher self, God (dess), love or truth.  We’re always going to join with something.  Most of us are joined, intimately, with our personalities and the conditioning from our past experiences.  The yoga practices are designed to liberate us from the confinement of those identities, opening up fields of possibilities which are obscured by those limited perspectives.  The practices open us up to the vastness of our sacredness, our divinity and to an experience of life which is larger than ourselves.  But we live in a field of influences.  As we open up it’s important to be clear in our elevated personal intention. i.e. “I wish to yoke to the greater  creative force of the universe”. Otherwise it is all too easy to find ourselves swept away by a tidal wave of charisma, affection, or illusion.  I believe this is the source of many controversial events in spiritual history.  Participants got involved to find themselves and lost themselves instead.  It can be a very easy thing to do, getting lost.  In order to navigate the fields of liberated consciousness it’s wise to learned to stay centered as you practice (tapah), to develop your self-awareness of your own inner feeling states of consciousness (svadyaya), and to clear that you are surrendering your own restricted consciousness states to a higher consciousness state appropriate for you.

There are numerous techniques to stay centered in your practice.  Two widely used and simple techniques are the focus on the breath and the focus on the third eye center which is between the brows and slightly back.  Both techniques can be used in asana practice, in meditation practice, in bed, standing in line or on the bus.   It can be helpful to learn with eyes closed, but both techniques can be practiced with eyes open.  To focus on the breath, direct your inner gaze to the tip of the nose and watch each breath as you beath in and out through the nostrils.  To focus on the third eye center, direct the inner gaze to a space between the brows and slightly back, and allow it to rest there.  For both practices, the gaze can be directed either by moving the physical eyes or just directing the attention.  When you discover your attention has wandered, just bring it back again.  Try starting with 5 minutes and build from there.

Self-reflection is a perpetual on going process.  It may begin with noting your emotional states, and then deepen into subtler states of consciousness.  Just practice checking in with how you are feeling, and then what you are feeling underneath the feeling with a receptive and gentle awareness.

In the practices of bhakti yoga, practitioners nurture a relationship with what is called their Ishta devata. The Ishta Devata is their preferred form of God (dess), or guru.  Many western practitioners begin by working with Hindu deities they feel an affinity, a guru or or even Jesus.  Mahatma Ghandhi worked with truth.  You can take a quality that you aspire to embody in your practice and work with that.  Then the practice is to allow oneself to surrender into that.  For example, say I aspire to beauty and graceful femininity.   I find a symbol of that…a flower, a book, an image of Venus, and I focus on that, or in my asana practice, I dedicate my practice to aligning with that.  My experience is that it works well if you don’t use other people for this, or you can develop their flavor of the qualities instead of your own.

These practices work best when we hold them gently, training ourselves to rest in our own sacred centers and intentions rather than creating rigid boundary lines which we then defend by pushing the outside away.  Nurtured carefully, gentle centering practices allow us to stay clearly on our own path while opening up, connecting with others and accessing higher states of consciousness.  As the inner doors fly open, we find ourselves within ourselves, rather than losing ourselves in others.

On healing and empowerment….

We roll towards November in a sea of circumstances no one, I mean no one, is particularly happy with.  When we take our yoga off the mat to become conscious creators of our lives…it can be befuddling.  How did I get here? 

I’m typing this with one hand.  While it’s true, I am lucky, it’s my dominant hand, the creative in me loves the energy that comes with bilateral creativity – structure and freedom.  I’m having an empowered moment in a yogic sense, although I am well in the midst of an unconscious creation – my left wrist is fractured.  I tried several times to write the newsletter which I had planned for the, but  I surrender to the pivot in my journey.  Unconscious creation is something I’ve seldom heard discussed in manifestation circles.  My experience is that it is part of the process of creating.  If Cinderella hadn’t lost the shoe, if she hadn’t gone back into the realm of her step-family after losing her shoe, the story would not have been complete.  Boring, actually.   Makes me wonder if maybe that time back in service to the step-family helped her to know she was a princess through and through.  A dignified, gracious elegant expression of princess.  My understanding of spiritual practice is that we don’t have to create suffering to grow, but that sometimes our darkness needs to come to light in order for it to be transformed.  In this sense an unconscious creation is not about making a mistake, but rather about healing.  In this context, by healing, I mean the process of remembering that we are whole,  and growing into the capacity to express that wholeness.

My days in the hospital were full, and not painful at all.  I felt charged with energy of healing and inspired by the competent knowledgeable people on my healing team.  In particular, I felt nurtured by the brave strong women responsible for my daily care.  The nurses and their assistants were my main companions, and so, I heard their stories of growing through healing to become the women they are.  They were key to my process.

I’ve mentioned that in this integrative process of yoga that sometimes “a tangle” arises.  A place where the wholeness of the spirit is blocked from shining through.  In listening to the nurses and engaging the healing process, my inner “brave strong” was ignited and given space to shine.  I realized that, in my role as a legal assistant, and even to some degree in the yoga business,  I’m invited on a daily basis to just shelve that and be a passive participant in the process, do what I’m told and what is expected of me.  So I suppress it.  For me to express wholly it needs its voice.  Those qualities must be reintegrated into my life.  My spirit has just declared ‘NO’ to it’s suppression in no uncertain terms by creating this situation in which I can express brave strong.  As I move forward in healing, it’s my job to find a healthy venue for my brave strong, so I don’t create this kind of thing again, and that’s the work.  To use the unconscious creation as a vehicle for evolution. In my opinion this is a powerful understanding to nurture when we encounter obstacles in our yoga practices.  They are vehicles to move towards the remembrance of who we are – whole and complete.

How to work with an unconscious creation – when moving in a positive direction, full of good intentions and the whammy hits.  Once again from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, the practice of kriya yoga (tapah, svadyaya, ishwara pranidhanani) can be useful. Kriya is purification, and any process of purification on the level of consciousness is healing.   Some ways in which I’ve applied  the practices:

  1. Owning the unconscious creation.  I took responsibility for the presence of this event in my life.  This acceptance is a form of surrender, or ishwara pranidhanani,  Releasing of blame empowered me to move out of victimhood.   “I don’t know how I created it, but I did”.   In asana practice, be willing to consider that taking responsibility for your physical challenge opens the door to the possibility of change  in the body.
  • Saying “I don’t know how I created it” fostered spaciousness for svadyaya – self-reflection.  By releasing self-blame clarity arose in my self-reflection, allowing perception of possibility – in this case of healing.  This process is supported through meditation, or just simple resting in the breath – in the body. In asana practice, consider that the permanent may not be permanent, or perhaps our legs are not so long that we will never reach our toes.
  • Take action.  The first morning after  I woke up in my own apartment, I rearranged the furniture in my dressing room where the accident occurred.  I made myself good food to eat even if I didn’t feel like it (because I’m worthy of that) and I did my homework for my computer class with one hand.  Healing is sometimes just about doing things differently, so I open to those little rearrangements.  This is tapas, effort, commitment, you take a step forward maybe a small one, no matter what, in alignment with what you now know to true about you – your divine qualities.  It could be brave and strong or kind and forgiving or creative and fun, whatever calls for expression. 

This month we’ll be moving forward with Ustrasana, camel posture, with a consideration that our hands are the vehicles of our hearts. Expect some upcoming work with the hands, and the end of the year will bring us into downward facing dog.

Class schedule will remain the same, please note that I won’t be demonstrating most postures for the time being. 

May you be healthy and well!  May the practices of yoga support you in the creation of a joyful life.  I look forward to seeing you in class soon. 

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