Monday, May 24, 2010

setting an intention for yoga class?

Here in Chicago, it can be customary to walk into a yoga class which begins with the teacher asking students to "set an intention for your class today."

Hmmm. What does this mean, exactly? Growing up Catholic, I'm familiar with the idea of setting a lofty intention for the day (so ambitious that it's almost impossible to keep), bringing a special intention to God during a Mass, offering prayers for the intention of another person . . . lots and lots of focused intention.

But in the context of yoga, the idea of setting an intention is intriguing, if it can go beyond the obvious: I want to stretch my muscles, I want to ease the pain in my lower back, I want to get a good workout, I want to chill out . . . .

Once you've become bored by the obvious intentions that may have brought you to yoga in the beginning, what next?

One way to think about yoga is as a moving meditation, a prayer that comes not from the mind, but from the body. In that context, your body might have an intention for yoga practice that it hasn't even revealed to you yet. Your mind may be the last to know!

In setting an intention for your next yoga class, try asking your body what it wants. The answer might surprise you.

Are you familiar with the bookending device of setting an intention for yoga classes you teach or attend? How has this practice affected you? And, care to share an intention or two?

Monday, May 17, 2010

how will you paint your canvas today?

all the colors of the world are in you!

what's your favorite inspiring video?

Monday, May 10, 2010

"you have to seek joy first, and that gives you the strength to change your circumstances."

As the recession drags endlessly on, and I continue to find new ways to stretch the grocery budget (one 10# bag of potatoes can be the basis of a diet to feed one person for approximately three weeks -- who knew?), the following quote by Paraympian Bonnie St. John is a great bit of advice:
"You can't wait for your circumstances to change to find joy. You have to seek joy first, and that gives you the strength to change your circumstances."

It's so easy to become discouraged when one slow month becomes one miserable year, which may stretch to two years, three years, how many?

It's at times of frustration like this when the practice of yoga is such a gift. It can be difficult to sit for meditation when the mind refuses to cease worrying, but there is always the moving meditation of surya namaskar (sun salutation). There is always the peace that comes from simple repetitive motions combined with deepening and slowing of the breath.

To those who are unemployed, underemployed, or self-employed during these times, please don't forget your yoga! If the idea of seeking joy seems too ambitious, seek peace in your favorite asana. From the ground of peace, the root and stem of the lotus may grow, blooming into joy.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

emptying my mind to see who is really in there

I've always thought that, no matter what I achieved, I've been sneaking in the back door and would be found out and severely punished someday soon ;-) .

Over the past few weeks, a novel idea has been presenting itself to me again and again: What if you're just as good as everybody else? What if all of the life difficulties you're concerned about are nothing more than a tornado going on inside your head?

Have you ever heard the phrase "get out of your own way" and thought that was a great idea, but how?

In the words of Anne Lamott:
"You have to make mistakes to find out who you aren't. You take the action, and the insight follows: You don't think your way into becoming yourself.

"I can't tell you what your next action will be, but mine involved a full stop. I had to stop living unconsciously, as if I had all the time in the world. The love and good and the wild and the peace and creation that are you will reveal themselves, but it is harder when they have to catch up to you in roadrunner mode. So one day I did stop. I began consciously to break the rules I learned in childhood: I wasted more time, as a radical act. I stared off into space more, into the middle distance, like a cat."

It can feel so disastrously self-indulgent to stop everything. Last week, I wrote about taking a three-minute break -- a break so short that anyone can justify it. But what about a silent, 15-minute break right in the middle of the workday, or carving out 15 minutes to empty your mind in the maelstrom of a weekday morning, or . . . precisely when is this downtime supposed to fit in?

I think the radical act in all of this is the refusal to live a driven life as measurable by the opinions of others. Hmmm. How to get started?

For me, it means mindfully stepping off the hamster wheel and realizing that, if I accomplish 80% of what I set out to do on any given day, it's enough ;-) .

For a wonderful 10-part Korean drama on this very subject, see New Wise Mother, Good Wife (and if you're not yet familiar with the wonderful genre of South Korean tv dramas, soon you will be hooked!).

And here's the full article by Anne Lamott.