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Saturday, September 24, 2011

I Chose Meditation Over Whiskey! *High Fiver to Me*

I'm now into Day 17 of my 108 Days of Svadhyaya (Self-Study).

I've been learning a lot and it's nothing like I thought it would be, not in the feelings I have or in the methods I have actually embraced. I'm going to choose one subject of the 108 Day journey I am surprised about. 

 : BRAG ALERT: This is a very monumental accomplishment for me. 

I've practiced yoga almost 20 years and have tried and tried to practice meditation in a way that made me crave it. After trying dozens of methods of meditation, Tratak meditation (candle gazing) has been my meditation of choice until a good friend of mine I met via Facebook offered me a 15 minute meditation consisting of pranayama, visualizations, chanting, self-inquiry, and dedication of offering. This has been the PERFECT meditation for me. This is keeping my anxiety in check and the levels of anxiety I feel are much lower AND I feel more connected to my purest self and the world as a whole. While there are many more topics I could write about in this Blog today, one thing I KNOW about this moment, is I have 20 minutes to write this, no more than that and that is enough and THAT is what meditation is teaching me.

 Through this new meditation method I have realized I am attached to negative labels *shudders*, labels that I tell everyone else to reject. "Refrain from negatively labeling yourself, you will become dependant on it," I often say. It turns out I have been attached to my label as a person with anxiety AND have spoken openly about my Cracked Out Monkey Mind that I feel gives me spunk and helps me accomplish my many projects (with a smile on my face). I am happy to announce I've not been feeding my monkey crack anymore and I still have spunk....spunk with clarity....and I'm getting more accomplished now than I ever thought possible...with less mistakes even......and my smile is almost so ridiculous it could be on a Orbit Gum commercial with sparks of stars flying off my teeth it's so bright.

So, I am detaching myself from these labels that no longer serve me. I am changing my Labeling of Cracked Out Monkey Mind with Anxiety and am now calling myself a Serious Meditator in recovery from anxiety. I knew my new label was working when I had an exceptionally challenging day a few days ago and wanted a quick fix of  Wild Turkey 101 and Coke Zero so I could relax while I was cooking dinner for my family. Instead, I put down the chopping knife mid-bell pepper, went to my Sun Room and practiced meditation. I craved it. In that moment I KNEW I had become a consistent Meditator (with a capital M).

So, naturally, the first thing I did was create my meditation space and I documented it with a couple of photos. I have had a chair in my Sun Room for a couple of years with stuff piled on top of it (the stuff changes) and so, I dusted it off, fluffed the cushions and sat down to begin dusting off my mind. It's a beautiful journey and my 20 minutes is up. Enjoy the before and after pictures of where it all happens. I wish I could show you a picture of my brain activity also, it's probably all Zen like with only a few cobwebs here and there. So in-love with this journey. 


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Certified Authentic, Sold As Is

Most anyone practicing yoga will tell you they are on a path of self-improvement and probably on some sort of mission to change something within the world. Yogis have admirable and lofty goals, but along the way they often become confused about their true identity, adopting “what-they-believe-the-yoga-community-deems-proper” personas.

I have witnessed teachers and students beat themselves up because they eat meat, party like an un-yogic rock star, feel feelings of anger, or physically struggle to practice arm balances and inversions. On the flip side, I’ve witnessed teachers and students subtly and overtly judge each other for all those same reasons. If yoga is ultimately about Unity with the Divine and unity begins with self-acceptance, why then do we not allow ourselves and others to BE “real” at any given time without labeling one reality better than another? What is it to BE anyway? It’s just what it says: “authenticity” in a much shorter word.

When we begin practicing the Niyamas or personal disciplines, the second limb of The Eight Limbs of Yoga, we are challenged to “get real”. Svadhyaya (Self Examination or Study) is the fourth of the five Niyamas and it is a swift kick in the asana. Svadhyaya means to intentionally find self-awareness in all our activities and efforts. It teaches us to be truth centered and non-reactive to what we label “good” or “bad” about ourselves. It eventually exposes what we can change and what we must simply accept as a part of who we are.

As we study, we are forced to ask: what is real and true? What are we making up through cloudy perception? What serves us, what doesn’t?

What ultimately serves us is embracing our authenticity by learning tools to express ourselves as compassionately as possible. What gets in the way of authenticity is fear of rejection. To protect ourselves from rejection, we build a walls around our hearts. And we create different masks to wear, believing these will help us become more acceptable, more loveable, and for us Yogis, more “Yogic”.

e.e. Cummings said it best, “To be nobody but yourself in a world that's doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting.” To practice this quote is to be brave, to risk being disliked for who you truly are, but the reward for this bravery is that you are loved for all that you are, imperfections and all.

My Grandfather recently passed away and he taught me, above anything else, to be myself. He never actually told me to be myself; he simply modeled it for me through what my Mom calls “being eccentric to the extreme”. What I once saw as embarrassing or overtly opinionated, I now see as bravery through self-love and acceptance. My Grandfather was the same around everyone because he didn’t have any of those silly masks to hide behind.

I believe the practice of Yoga as a philosophy leads to the burning of masks. In order to do this, we must look at where we maintain false realities based on fear and rejection. Honest evaluation of these false realities is where healing begins. As I am prone to say,”Heal yourself, heal the world.” Nobody said Svadhyaya was easy. My own path of self-discovery and healing has been ugly and painful … but no more so than anyone else’s. And I still have a lot of work to do. Sometimes I want to hide behind a mask or start building up another wall around my heart, but then I remember who I am, that I am doing my best and that even my best won’t ever be good enough for some. I remember I am Divine Love (and so are you) and just so I don’t forget this, I’ve tattooed Aham Prema (I Am Divine Love in Sanskrit) on my wrist and when I doubt myself, I close my eyes and chant this mantra: “You get me, as I am, flaws and all. I accept you, flaws and all.” I believe, at our core, Divine Love is a piece of us all. As we examine ourselves further, practicing Svadhyaya, ultimately this is what we learn. We cannot learn this lesson without the study.

I am on day two of my 108 Days of Svadhyaya adventure and well, it's not going as planned and what I am learning is plans mean nothing and the waves of the Universe will re-direct your plans as needed, whether you think it is good for you or not {meditates on wrist and repeats mantra}.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Declaring Technology My Zen Kill

I am addicted to the convenience of technology and while I appreciate the opportunity it provides me to multi-task like an Octopus on Crack, it's getting in the way of my Zen (whatever that is, I don't really remember anymore).

So, in order to prepare for my 108 Days of Svadhyaya beginning Sept. 6th, I am purging situations in my environment that no longer serve me and the first thing to go is the FB application on my phone. I just removed it {bites fingernails and considers assuming the fetal position and rocking back and forth in a nearby corner}. I'm also no longer going to be using my phone while driving. This simply means, no more texting, emailing, or even talking on the road. I'm going to be present with everything I do, so when I am driving, I will be driving (and singing most likely...I won't give up singing). I do realize I will need to leave my phone far away from reaching distance in the beginning in order to resist that instant urge to pick it up and "get ahead" by doing two or three things at once and because I know this, I will leave it in the trunk of the car until all urges pass and I drive, fully present, just like I used to in the Olden Days before smart phones existed {looks up thinking about the good ol Olden Days}.

So, I am declaring my phone EVIL, or at least, not healthy for the 108 Days of Svadhyaya I am about to embark upon. It does not serve me, it never has, I just never felt sick enough to do anything about it. Not being present causes my anxiety and the anxiety is telling me I am sick. So phone, it's not me, it's you. Actually, it is me, not you, but I am breaking it off. It's over. You will see much less of me. Everyone will see much less of me, but I'm setting this boundary and I'm worth it.