Everything Flows Onward

finding my dharma. living my dharma.

Ashtanga Adventure, cont. June 28, 2009

Filed under: adventure,Uncategorized — Jenny @ 4:16 pm

I really love Ashtanga. So it’s very interesting to me to notice just how ardently I adore Saturdays and Moon days. By Thursday or Friday each week I am constantly reminding myself that a day off is just over the horizon. On Saturday I am overjoyed. I love the rest.

And then there is Saturday night.

Saturday night I am giddy with anticipation of Sunday and picking back up. I can not wait to get on my mat. I miss my Ashtanga. Sunday is one of my best practices. It’s devoted, it’s focused, it’s powerful. And the cycle begins again.

It occurs to me that this is part of the process of Ashtanga. No doubt, discipline is a major principle here. It’s so easy to say, “I just don’t feel like it today.” It’s even easier not to do it for that reason. It’s hard to get on the mat some days, knowing what task lies ahead. But always, no matter what, the reward comes at the end of the practice. You body and spirit are so thankful for what you’ve done.

I love Saturday because I know I’ve earned it. I know on this day my body is not just resting but sorting through everything it has done in the week prior, organizing and carefully filing all its new capabilities, lessons, etc away. This is why Sunday is so strong. That one day of rest is like making a spectacular marinade of the week’s practice, allowing it to fully absorb and then flavor the following week. Delicioso.

In other Ashtanga news/ development, today I did my first practice without the guid of the David Swenson DVD. The DVD has been great guidance for this beginner, but over last week’s practices I noticed that, not only did I have the series memorized, but that I didn’t need his vocal cues anymore. I was yearning to go at my own pace, and to explore certain poses that the DVD didn’t give me time to explore. Finally (I swear, I can be so slow sometimes) it dawned on me that I was ready to set the DVD to the side. It was a very interesting practice. It was much more a “mediation in motion” than when I used the DVD. Simply because it was quiet and I wasn’t listening to where David was cuing me to go. I was responsible for myself and my own practice now. It was up to me to continue to push, to explore new areas of postures, etc. Furthermore, there were poses, especially in the closing series, that I wanted to spend more time on but the DVD moved quicker than I could. So I was able to spend a little time on those poses and poke around the depths of their intricacies. It was a really good experience. The only thing I used the DVD for was the guided relaxation at the end. I still have a little trouble if there is nothing to bring me out of relaxation. I end up spending the whole time focused on how long I have been there and how much longer I should stay. Suffice it to say, it’s not so relaxing after all.

At any rate, I will probably use the DVD occassionally just to hear his cues and maybe hear something new from what he has to say. I’ll also need it when I’m ready to progress farther into the Primary Series,  since I don’t have that part down in memory.

Every day, every week continues to be a new adventure in Ashtanga. It’s always fun, never easy and constantly presenting a new challenge. I am again grateful I’ve found this practice. It is exactly what I have been needing for a personal practice.

 

Then and Now June 27, 2009

I happened upon a website started by Rainn Wilson (maybe you know him as Dwight Schrute on “The Office”) the other day called SoulPancake. It might surprise you to learn that this website is all about fostering spirituality through creativity. They ask what are called “Life’s Big Questions” and request readers to participate in the dialogue. It gives readers something to think about. Presented in a fun and semi-light-hearted way, the website really asks the audience to find a way to answer the tough questions.

Yesterday a found the following post: Plenty O’ Priorities by SoulPancake

It asked readers what their top 5 priorities were in the past, what they are now and if there any overlaps. I thought this was a pretty awesome blog prompt.

For starters… I had to really stop and think about it. What ARE my top priorities in life, right now? What is important to me? What am I living for? What is my purpose? What am I seeking? Honestly, I had to think for a bit. So I thought on it, wrote some stuff down, and thought I’d share what I came up with:

I started with my priorities from my last years of college and they were as follows:

1. Get far away from my childhood home.

Since I’d been in high school I equated success with moving away from where you started. To me it meant that you recognized the world is bigger than what you know. The more places you’d been meant the more you would understand about the way life is. To be totally honest, at the end of the day what I really imagined was using this as a way of someday returning to people from my past and having great stories to tell that no one could compete with. It would make me better than them and it would make them wish they’d included me more when we were in school. It would make them jealous. (I’m not going to pretend it was a super-up-standing philosophy but at least I am being truthful!) The same was true of me in college and I continued to do a lot of things simply to have the story I could tell people. The plus side is that I got to go to France, which was a catalyst for a lot of changes in my life and I also ended up here in Evansville, another life-changing event. So despite my wicked intentions, I am thankful for that drive that allowed me gain every good thing that I have now.

2. Get straight As (aka Be perfect aka Know all the answers)

It’s not secret that I had control issues. If my grades were perfect, I was perfect. It was very important for me to feel in control of things and never to be out of the loop about anything.

3. Get skinny/ be skinny/ stay skinny

This one goes without much explaining. I placed a lot of emphasis on this one.

4. Explore the world

I wanted to be a nomad, a sight-seer, a traveler. I wanted to have been lots of places and seen lots of things. This kind of goes along with the first one I listed but also was less wicked. I loved (and still love) knowing that there is so much of the world I haven’t seen and know nothing about. Geographical exploration is a great thing and it is so important to understanding the connection we all share.

5. Get boys to notice me

If you had asked me then, I would’ve said my priority was to find a boyfriend but the truth is, I just wanted to be noticed. I went most of my life being the fat friend and when that wasn’t the case anymore, I relished in the response it got from boys. Finally they were looking at me. Nevermind that they weren’t looking at me with respect or compassion. They were looking and I did all I could to let that continue. It resulted in some pretty questionable decisions. I don’t regret anything I’ve done but I do offer tons of gratitude up to the Universe and the Powers That Be for keeping me safe and mostly healthy throughout it all.

Then I thought about my top 5 priorities now. Had they changed much? Here’s what I came up with:

1. Build a stable foundation

For as much as I wanted to be a nomad then, I now have a healthy respect for stability. I love the life that I have built for myself and it is so fulfilling to have a homebase and great people who I know will always stick by my side. It is not a lonely life I lead and it is so helpful knowing that no matter what life throws at me, there is something here to catch my fall.

2. Explore life

Whereas I previously wanted to explore the world to learn about life (and that is still true to an extent) I believe I’ve realized that I don’t have to leave in order to be able to learn about life. There are lessons in every moment, but it is important for me to be present for them. So in a way before I was trying to run away to get the answers, but now I see that I can find so many good lessons right where I am.

3. Be healthy and happy

I don’t want to be skinny anymore as much as I want to be healthy. I want to feel strong and capable. Furthermore, I want to be happy. I didn’t get happier as I got skinnier, not by a longshot. But as I turned it around, got healther, stronger and more capable, then I became happier. I don’t feel the need to know all the answers before the question is even asked. Instead, I rest in the comfort of knowing that whatever happens, I am strong and I will make it through. I have found the seed of my power.

4. Develop healthy, lasting relationships

I don’t even mean this romantically. I mean really, truly, surrounding myself with people who lift me up, and who I lift up. I don’t want people just to look at me, I want people to see me and I want to see them. I want to play with our connectedness, to feel it and recognize it. I want to build bonds and I yearn for compassionate relationships. Romantic relationships are honestly not at all a priority for me (at least it didn’t make my top 5 anyway…), but I am now in a place where, if it should come along, I will be looking for a companion. A partner.

5. Make a comfortable living out of what I love

For the first time in my life I feel as though I know what I am meant to do. It’s safe to say that my list here of priorities may not be in order of importance because I would honestly say this one is my top, top, top priority. I am putting my heart and soul into this one. I can’t presently see anything else that I am better suited for. Over time this may change, but what I mean here is that no matter what it is, what it becomes, what it will be, it is my intention to make what I love the same thing I do.

So what about you? What were your top priorites a few years ago? Maybe even a year ago? What are they now? How have you evolved? Or have you not evolved so much as you have flat out changed? Share with me. I’d love to read and find out.

 

Excitement June 20, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jenny @ 2:52 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Quick post because I have to leave the house in a few minutes. But I just wanted to say– dang y’all. There is some exciting stuff on the horizons both for me and for people in my life whom I love dearly. I will post more in detail when I have it but I hope that this feeling of light, hope, faith and joy is in your life and in your heart as well.

It’s a time of transformation and growth for so many of us. I am so looking forward to hearing good news from friends and family about their own things and also to be able to share some myself.

Namaste.

 

Intention June 9, 2009

Intentions:

“I was going to copy my blog from today about setting intentions, but I decided that I wouldn’t. Most of you know about setting intentions and you probably live by them, or at least use them frequently.

I find that setting intentions often is the best way for me to get anything accomplished. Some may argue that intentions and goals are the same thing, but not for me. Goals are hard to tie down, intentions are things that I work on.

What sorts of intentions do you use or live by? What intentions bring your spirit into a better place?”

Yogirev (from Yoga Journal Community)

I, in turn, went to respond to Yogirev’s blog but my comment turned into a blog of it’s own and because of that, I am posting it here as well! Enjoy!:

I agree with your differentiation of “intention” and “goal” completely. Goals to me are more black and white (“I want to do x by this time next year”), and are backed with ambition, while intentions are more encompassing (“My intention is to live with compassion”) and are backed by subtle energies.

I have two intentions that I gravitate towards, and I often end up using them as mantras. Much in the way we often recall intentions during yoga class to keep ourselves in the present moment, I will often repeat my intention to myself several times during the day.

The first one is from the poem by Rumi in which he says, “Let the beauty that we love be what we do.” I first began using this one on the mat, to encourage myself to stay dedicated to making my practice an artistic expression of divinity, and then I realized that it was equally, if not more important to do this off the mat as well. At the end of the day, the intention is to practice authenticity no matter the circumstances. It reminds me to stay true to myself in all situations and to act with strength, flexibility, grace, compassion. It amazes me that it can be such a subtle shift in my energy but it completely changes interactions with people around me. I work at a very, very busy Starbucks and sometimes when things are absolutely crazy, I can lose myself to frustration and forget that at the end of the day, my job is simply to make the cup of coffee that makes someone else’s day. When I remember this quote during these times, I can come back quickly from that edge of frustration and appreciate that it might just be a cup of coffee someone wants, but it is also that “coffee shop” interaction they are looking for. And I will quickly see that the beauty I love is that interaction, so I can let that be what sustains me. The moment I authentically connect with another person, my spirit feels completely realigned.

The second intention I set is also one that began and the mat and turns into a mantra through out my day, as well. That is, “Meet life where it is.” On the mat, it started off as, “Meet yourself where you are.” Obviously, it was a reminder that I change from day to day and that I have to use the present moment,  always, as the starting point. It doesn’t matter if yesterday my hips were more open than they are today. Today this is where I am and this is my starting point. I’m one of those yoga students who always choses the challenging variations and who is never one to back off, so this became very important for me to use on the mat so as to avoid injuring myself and so that I will not have to give up my practice to nurse any injuries. Again, this mantra is incredibly important off the mat, too. How many times in our lives do we get upset because of the way things are and because we can not change it? This intention has done wonders, for me at least, to remind me that it is not life I should wish to change, but instead I should change my reaction to life. Thich Nhat Hanh often says in his books that we have no reason to ever be upset with our circumstances, because 1) maybe we can change the circumstances and if so, we should do it and then we will not be unhappy and 2) maybe we can not change the circumstances and if this is the case, why waste time dwelling on that which can not be changed? We have to meet life where it is. Use the present moment as the starting point and work with what we are given. For me, this mantra/intention is a call to action. It’s saying, “Don’t sit there and dwell on the situation, stand up and deal with the situation.” For me, if I give myself the chance to slip into frustration, it is nearly impossible to come back from it. I use this mantra to catch myself from falling into my ego’s trap.

The power of intention is amazing. It boggles my mind sometimes how miraculously these two intentions work for me. They keep me from the depths of frustration, keep me in the present moment and keep me moving forward with grace.

 

Ashtanga Adventures June 8, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jenny @ 8:15 am
Tags: , , , , ,

One of the (many) things I took away from Gabriel is an understanding of (okay, and new adoration of/love for/enthrallment with) the practice of Ashtanga. I knew very little about it beforehand. And by that I mean, I had heard the word “Ashtanga” and understood that it was a style of Hatha Yoga… (Two cheers for context clues!) Upon receiving this new knowledge, I realized that Ashtanga is very well suited to my personality. In fact, I’ve only been working on the first half of the Primary Series (and using David Swenson’s DVD “Ashtanga: The Practice” as recommended by Gabriel), but as I do it each day, I am certain it is “home” in my Hatha Yoga heart. For one thing, it suits the part of me that desires a really physical practice. I find for myself that I have an easier time getting in touch with my subtle body, staying present and focused, as well as finding silence at the end of practice when my physical body is offered a greater challenge. It suits the part of me that likes to have clear-cut goals, something to work towards always. It provides a yard stick for progress, set backs, etc etc. I can notice changes in my body and mind daily. If something is easier today, harder today, tighter or more open, I can see this and I can fine tune my senses and become aware of what may be going on that is triggering these changes (be them in my body or my mind). Honestly, I have done my practice every day for almost a week now and not one day, one practice has been the same. It’s also perfectly suited for my home practice because the series doesn’t change and so I can stay out of my head and with my intention and meditation instead of pausing to consider what to do next.

Furthermore, I am in love with the history and lineage of this practice. The importance of the student-teacher relationship and then the continued emphasis on private practice both bewilder me. It’s like the perfect combination of “I, as the teacher, will give you these tools, yet you, as the student, must take responsibilty for your practice and discover how to lead yourself to divinity without my continued guidance.”

Am I getting the gist of this correctly, Ashtangis? Please… correct me if I have anything wrong about the practice. I am so very new to it but I am trying to read as much as I can to understand the principles of the discipline to the best of my abilities. I hesitate to use the word “religious” to describe my idea of the practice but our language is failing to provide me with a word carrying a better conotation… It’s not so much a religious practice but I guess the word I’m thinking of is closer to “devoted.” It is such a devoted practice and despite it being a physical challenge, that, for me at least, is not where the devotion lies. I have such a deep respect for Ashtanga, for the path that it lays down ahead of me. It’s like the next great adventure, involving a world of discovery inside and outside of myself.

And the more I am looking into Ashtanga, reading about it and things, it seems that a lot of teachers practice Ashtanga for their private practice. I knew it was a widely popular style (despite only just really learning about it myself) but I guess I had no idea how many people practice it at home. I guess I was thinking more along the lines of “classes available at studios” (and here in Evansville, IN…. well that just isn’t anything that we’ve got going on…). It seems to me the more I look at it, the more I am seeing Ashtanga as “the tie that binds,” which gives me even more to be in awe over. There’s something about knowing that so many of us do it privately that makes me feel it is even more devotional and connecting than I ever could have imagined.

At the end of it, I feel blessed to have been introduced to such a wonderful practice. I had the sense that I was wandering around the world of Hatha Yoga, knowing in my heart of hearts this is where I belong yet not all the way sure where I fit in, but Ashtanga has suddenly given me a foundation. I have found it easier to teach my classes (and to get off my mat as a teacher!!) this past week. I am able to give more attention to my students and focus on their practice during classes. I feel like I am more self-empowered and capable of leading. It’s like they have trusted me all along as a teacher but now I am so very assured (by myself) that there is reason to trust.

This is only the beginning of my Ashtanga Adventure, I can feel it. I am very excited to continue, learn more and go deeper in this new world.

Namaste.

 

Immersion and Transformation #3.3 June 4, 2009

May 31- Yin/Yang Practice and the end of the workshop

The Yin/Yang practice was about the miraculous balance of strength and surrender, masculine and feminine, unchanging and changing. This is the dance of life, an intricate movement requiring intention, focus and compassion, centered on prana (breath).

We have pushed ourselves this weekend. We have pushed ourselves mentally and physically. I can no longer see the world through the eyes of weeks past, or through days past. I am in a new posture. During backbends, Gabriel challenged us, “Bend back and see more than you did before. More this time, more, more, more.” I see more, more, more now. I am transformed and continue to transform. My mind has opened to experiences it was previously closed off to. Maybe it is only a mere crack, but it is a new place to start. I can meet it there, work in it, investigate it, peek through the opening and see glimpses of the beauty beyond. The mere desire to experience it confirms to me that I will.

My ideas and understanding of community have deepened. I have a greater feeling of our connectedness, of the work we do together, of the power we harness. So much of my yoga has been inside work, to heal myself. I have made great strides, to the extent that I feel an ever-expanding sense of completeness in my being, and that I am now coming from a place where my practice can shine outward, into the community. My yoga has served the purpose of healing me, and now I must take what I’ve learned and share it. It was a gift given to me that I am not meant to keep for myself. It was a gift meant for all.

This weekend was a similar gift. One meant for us all in attendance to have for ourselves only at first, but now we must take it out to our broader communities. I am inspored to action now, to continue transforming and sharing, to expand all aspects of my practice, to live off my mat with the same intensity and devotion I have on it.

Gabriel has been a blessing to me. He inspires awe. He has opened a windo and I have felt the breeze. I see more and I trust, led by his example, that as I continue to bend, more, more, more will come. He shows me what I am capable of becoming through my practice. My divinity is stirred awake further. This is leading me down my path, and that guiding light, I now know, is coming from within. It shines brightly, as it has been polished by myself and those around me. With my own personal strength, and the strength of my community, this light will never go out… it can only reach out and touch the oneness that connects us all.

 

Immersion and Transformation #3.2 June 3, 2009

May 31- Ashtanga with Gabriel

Another yoga session equates to 3 or more life lessons learned! This morning, Chris, Nate, Stacey and I were invited to experience Ashtanga with Gabriel. It was so good because last night Gabriel explained to us the principles of the practice in such a way that we came into the practice with the right frame of mind. Like Hot Yoga, it consists of series of postures. But because of Gabriel’s explanations last night, I understood that although it is repetitive in nature, one can never become bored or unchallenged when fully dedicated to the principles of Ashtanga.

1.) First lesson sinking in: my perception of Hot Yoga is now transforming. When I complain that it becomes boring or monotonous, perhaps it is because I am not dedicating myself to the principles of the practice. Perhaps I am not pushing my envelope. As I explore the realm of Hot Yoga going forward, it is necessary to be dedicated to the principles of Hot Yoga. Not the principles of Vinyasa, which I realize now is what I have been carrying with me to the hot room. I see now that the principles are, therefore dedication must be, different between the two.

2.) I said to Gabriel last night that I feel Evansville is so limited in what we can experience, and I find it unfortunate. In earlier conversation, he mentioned that there are limitations that I am putting on the students and the community that I needed to let go of. (He said many times over the weekend “Your body can do more than you think. You can handle more than you think. Push, go further.” I realized I was putting limitations on what I thought students were capable of…) This must change. I should let up the limitation and allow openness to foster and grow. Furthermore, we as teachers can bring new experiences here. We don’t need to be convinced that Evansville must always be three steps behind. Experience is always open to those who recognize and embrace it.

3.) The silent aspect of Ashtanga puts an emphasis on just being with the community and creating energy and beauty. Our studio certainly has created a spectacular community, and we should strive to always be harmonious in what we create together and remember that we are one. As one we should take our energy out to the world, our greater community, and give it the light it deserves.

Tomorrow: Final thoughts as the workshop comes to a close.