keep the teachings current and fresh

February 13, 2011 Leave a comment

One of my favorite teachers Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche said, “If we regard knowledge as an antique, as “ancient wisdom” to be collected than we are on the wrong path.”  One teacher experiences the truth of the teachings, and hands it down as inspiration to the student. The student is inspired as the teacher was before them. Then the student hands down the teachings to another student and the teachings are always up to date.  On and on. So they are not really ancient or old legends. They are current, up to date and are a real living experience.

There is a saying in Tibetan scripture: “Knowledge must be burned, hammered and beaten like pure gold. Then you can wear it as an ornament. ” Receiving spiritual teachings from another is where we learn to cultivate our own critical thinking about the actual teachings. We aren’t afraid to express how we relate to it or what it means to us. It’s an open discussion.  There is freedom in that. We are able to honestly examine the teachings with our own fresh perspective. We aren’t asked to just blindly accept and understand them because they exist.

It’s good to question the teachings. After being given the teachings we burn them, hammer them, beat them until the bright dignified color of gold appears. Then we can practice living with them. Questions will always remain. Living in the questions is a lifetime practice.

Dharma is available to all of us no matter what our current condition. It has a living quality. We aren’t trying to duplicate or imitate our teachers. The teachings are an individual and very personal experience to help us live our daily lives, while being awake.

Enjoy the questions-

Yoga Jane

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the beauty of space

January 31, 2011 Leave a comment

“Without great solitude no serious work is possible.”
– Pablo Picasso

I’m at a point in my life where I love and appreciate lots of quiet time and space. That can mean many things. It can mean saying no to things I really don’t want to do, including being around people who wear me down. It can mean sitting quietly after my yoga practice and just zoning out with nothing going on. Or watching my dog nap. Or staring in space. Fear not, I’m not losing it. I just notice that when I’m quiet and still more often, beautiful things happen. Including a more creative and clear flowing mind. Peace in my heart. More love. When there is too much noise, too many commitments, too much talking and too many people it feels tight and cramped. Full. And when it’s full there isn’t space. There isn’t room for anything, let alone creative flow.

Each of us are in charge of creating our own space. No one will knock on the door and say, “Hi…I’m here to help you create space.” If this is a problem in your life, relax. Take baby steps. Start with simple and small things that allow you to feel more confident during the process. I find that waking up earlier helps. Get up and get your routine going but take an extra ten minutes just to zone out and sit quietly. Try not to talk to anyone or hear any media noises. No computer or phone would be on the no-no list. How often do you get up and turn your phone on right away? Or computer? Or TV? Try taking a break from that. All of the news will still be there ten minutes or a half hour or hour later.

Expand on what happens once the space starts to open up. Perhaps a little writing or painting or creating something. Each day find a new time for space. Let that grow. Notice what happens when you start doing this. How does it feel? Where do you feel it in your body? As a yoga teacher I appreciate the art of checking in with my somatic state or “body mood.” Gently allow yourself to get off autopilot and come into the now. The now of being with what is happening in this moment. Lovely present moment. Breathing in calm, breathing out peace. Then feel the space that was created during that simple action. Those of us who meditate believe that a regular sitting practice helps to open up space.  While that is true, I also find that just doing nothing is dreamy. I find that I have regular creative insights when I’m completed unplugged.

Enjoy the experience-

Yoga Jane

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daily yoga practice

January 12, 2011 9 comments

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If the concept of a daily yoga practice is daunting to you, fear not. You are not alone. Even though Yoga Journal reports that 23 million Americans are regularly practicing yoga, the real world tells a different story.   Maybe some people some of the time are practicing yoga,  but the truth is probably more like a daily yoga practice is some sort of fantasy never to be realized.

Following are some insights on my experiments over the years in daily practice.  I could write about this for days on end,  but in the interest of blogging a shorter read I won’t do that to you.

It’s hard to say this any other way than, you just have to try it, do it and stick to it.  Each day find time to practice. Yes! I did say each day. Startling. Everyone will be different. Some people choose the same time each day, some choose different times each day. Try not to get too heavy handed about when you practice because after awhile the practice will speak to you. It will tell you, “no I don’t want to practice after eating…ever again!” Or it might say, early morning or late afternoon please. Figure it out based on how you feel and what you body mood tells you. I find it helpful to journal about it. Write down anything that happens without judgment. You’ll begin to see your patterns and learn from that. Similar to meditating you will hear your own stories and learn how to discern. Try not to read celebrity yoga books and stories. Who cares. You are your own expert. Your mat and your practice is your greatest teacher.

Waiting for the perfect space to practice in or perfect stress-free time of life will forever put you on hold. There is only now. Taste it, feel it, live it. Now, now, now. There is no waiting. Or as Yoda says, “Do or Do Not, There is no Try!”

Whatever miserable conditions exist, lean in and start. Shifts will happen. Trust me on that. It might not be very easy. Ooops! Right, this isn’t a fools game. It’s a real practice of awakeness. All cards on the table. The gentle part comes from how you react to your own reactions. Seeing the emotions for what they are. Changing, not real, ANNICA=IMPERMANCE. Nothing solid, which if understood is a good thing due to it’s liberating qualities.

In my perfect yoga world a full daily practice would include pranayama, asana, savasana and meditation. I would be practicing for almost two hours. If you don’t like the freedom presented by all of the possibilities here, then write down a practice and do it your way. Less of each element to start developing a solid practice. Over the days, weeks and months change whatever you need to. Your life is always changing and so may your practice. It’s a relationship. Constantly evolving.

SSSSHHH.  I suggest not announcing to the world that you’re doing this. Keep it simple and to yourself at first until it becomes real. Input from others may not be what you always need. Hear your own voice. The quiet moments of your practice will guide you if you slow down, listen and wake up.

After a long while you will have it in you, and it will have you in it. The separation will be gone and the practice is yours. Yummy.

Write to me about this! I love hearing from you.

Peace,

Yoga Jane

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happy new year! practice for today

January 1, 2011 5 comments

Wishing everyone a beautiful new year full of love, goodness, learning, prosperity and mindfulness. I’ve been sticking to a daily practice for quite awhile now.  It’s never easy to do but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…”yoga takes away that icky feeling.” Stay on the path of daily practice and when you fall off no problem. Just get back on with a gentle intention. Eventually you will see the light. Patience is truly a virtue. Maintain beginners mind.

Here is a nice practice for today or any other day very soon. Be well!

mandir

Om Om Om

Tadasana (mountain)-calm breathing and abiding here for 3 minutes

Side Angle Standing Bends-each side for 1 minute, repeat twice, generous breathing into side waist area

Vrksasana (tree)-each leg for 1 minute, repeat each side, grounding and opening through breath

3 Sun Salutations series A, 3 Sun Salutations series B

Straddle Forward fold w/chest expansion arms-practice twice, holding 1 minute each, releasing through exhale

Triangle into Warrior 2 into Prayer Twist, each side repeat twice

Pyramid pose-extend long and relaxed over each leg for several long breaths

Garuda Pose, twice each side

Balasana (childs pose) 2 minutes with deep breathing into upper back and back lungs

Camel Pose (make modifications) 3 times in a row, holding for 5 breaths, childs pose in between, be present

Paschimottasana (seated forward fold) 3 minutes with deep intentional breathing, sink into legs, lengthen spine

Navasana(boat)-5 times, 10 breaths each round

Halasana (plough) 1 minute, creating space for shoulder stand (sarvangasana)

Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) 3 minutes, opening into space and mindfulness, be present

Release slowly and lay on mat with knees bent in for awhile, quietly reflect

Spinal Twist-each side twice held for 1 minute

Happy Baby-2 minutes, soft tailbone and open chest breathing, let go through shoulders

Deep Relaxation (Savasana) 5-15 minutes in corpse pose, mindfully resting with unhurried breathing

Om Om Om


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happy holidays, stay on the path

December 21, 2010 6 comments

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What occurred overnight had not happened since 1638, making it the darkest day in 372 years – or 456 years, depending on what astronomer you talk to.

The winter solstice arrived today, meaning we’re at the first day of winter, and so we’re having our shortest day and longest night of darkness of the year. Living in Minnesota makes it laughable that today is the first day of winter. We’ve been getting clobbered with snow for weeks now. Real snow. Big fluffy snow. Mountains of it. Everywhere.

The moon went into kind of a partial eclipse at 1:30 a.m. It then turned red like a sunset until 3:30 a.m.  By 4:25 a.m.  the moon was slowly returning to normal and was set to regain its normal glow and color by 5 a.m. The moon was painted red just in time for Christmas.

The gathering of family, loved ones and friends can be fraught with stress or used as an excellent opportunity to practice peace, love and joy.  We already know that this season presents all sorts of stress, both good and bad. There is no better time of year to stay on the path than right now.

Be open to the wonderment of this time of year.  The way the lights and candles sparkle. Reminding us of our higher illuminated self. The light within. Our light filled radiant self. Be in that space as often as possible. Sit still, breath gently and observe light.

Write down what happened this past year. The good, the bad and the ugly. It’s cathartic to get the words out. Take some quiet time to slow down, sit down and write like no one is watching.  Notice patterns and themes. What are you most grateful for? There is so much to be grateful for and sometimes it gets clouded over by the buzz of everyday life.

What needs to go? Honestly looking at what isn’t feeling right and is causing suffering in your life. Doing your best to move beyond with patience and gentleness.

Hopefulness. Setting intentions about what you want your life to look like moving forward.  Journaling about creative ideas you have for your work, your personal life and world. Get the brain juices flowing forward. I recommend lighting a candle, playing baroque music and practicing stream of consciousness writing for 1/2 hour. No editing. Enjoy the experience of writing without being attached to the outcome.

Forgiveness. Forgive yourself for harm you’ve caused to your own being. Forgive yourself for harm you’ve caused other beings, along with forgiving others for harm they have caused you, is the groundwork for letting go and feeling generosity. Generosity is a way to be in the world so that abundance and other spacious qualities can be observed. Space helps us to feel open to new possibilities as well as adapt to change.

Adventure. Go ahead and make a plan to do something that isn’t comfortable for you. For yoga students that might mean attending a retreat or attending a new class. Making a commitment outside of your comfort zone. Be careful not to be too practical about it all. Sometimes you have to jump off and learn to fly on the way down. Stop letting fear dominate.

Seek Joy. My shaman friend reminds me of this every time we meet. That means doing things that bring joy into your life and your loved ones lives.  Your joy spreads to those around you which spreads out into the world. There is great power in that. You may not always be able to access joy depending on your situation,  yet if you focus on finding joy in small things it builds and over time becomes big joy.

Merry Merry Happy Happy-

Love,

Yoga Jane

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candle light meditation with snow in the background

December 3, 2010 Leave a comment

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Today it’s snowing heavily and is quite beautiful. I love the way fresh snow dances in the sky and then gently lands on the ground. There is something restful and comforting about the winter. I’ve never felt the need to dislike the winter too much. To me it’s like a free pass to go inward and get comfy and grounded. Hibernate like a bear.

During the darker days prior to the December solstice,  is a great time to practice candlelight meditation. It helps us to create peace, feel how light illuminates our lives and calms our bodies and emotions. Here is a way to practice:

OM OM OM

Find a quiet, warm and comfortable space in your dwelling.

Sitting on the floor on a meditation cushion or pillow,

Set a white (preferably) candle about 2 ft. in front of you on the floor.

Sit comfortable in a meditation style seating arrangement.

Light the candle and set an intention to practice stillness and silence while gazing at the candle.

Simply begin by connecting to the natural state of your breathing while holding your gaze at the candle flame.

Keep your focus on the flame, and the natural flow of your in-breath and out-breath….steady and calm.

Continue evening out the breath while holding the gaze softly…

Stay like this for as long as time allows, between 10-30 minutes.

OM OM OM

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Love. Love. Love.

November 13, 2010 Leave a comment

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The Dalai Lama says there is no other way to cultivate compassion for others, than to begin with yourself. No other way. And I believe that is true. You simply cannot just skip that rung on the ladder and expect to be kind to others from a ground of self-hatred, or self-judgement. I like to remind students that yoga doesn’t always need to feel strenuous. Sometimes after a long day we just need to practice more gently to feel the benefits.

Try this at home to help you develop your personal practice in a gentle way!

Sit quietly and feel how you are breathing. The breath is the most immediate and personal reminder of the precious moments of our lives.

Feel your rib cage, every rib and the muscles in between, all the way to your collarbones, under your armpits and finally down the sternum. Often when we think of opening our heart, we get too harsh and end up pushing our rib cage forward which doesn’t really open anything and in fact, smushes the back of the heart area. We need to move in two directions (yoga, right? union = integration of oppositional energies) to create opening. To cultivate lovingkindness those two forces can be gentlessness and fearlessness, but never aggression.

To create more awareness of how to create a gentle opening of your heart try these poses:

Downward puppy, tread feet in place.

Kneeling side angle pose which also opens side ribs, hips and shoulders and your mind. Practice two times on each side.

Chest expansion, gently and really feeling the heart opening!

Several Sun Salutations with arm variations

Powerful warrior with prayer twists knees together

Now we are warmed up and ready to sit quietly for Maitri Meditation.

Most of the time we relate to things and beings in three categories:

1. Attachment: I love this/you. I never it want it to end. I never want this moment to change!

2. Aversion: I hate this/you. I wish it would stop. I can’t be happy until this person leaves!

3. Ignorance: I’m so spaced out that I have no idea what’s going on.

We tend to box up our methods of relating to others in these ways, and even in how we relate to ourselves. We like to blame things on others, too, in these ways. You know, my relationship would be perfect if it wasn’t for my partner…or my yoga would be perfect if it wasn’t for my short legs…etc. etc. etc.

Lovingkindness is a new paradigm that invites us to be unconditionally kind to all beings everywhere. That is a sea change for most of us so we have to practice it. And we can, beginning with mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation is a way to clear the palate before we start to work with our thoughts.

There are many methods of meditation but they all fall into two major categories: mindfulness and contemplative or analytical. The first is a way to get to know our mind (“GOM, ” Tibetan for familiarization) so that we can work with it more effectively, and the second is a way to use the capacity of our mind, thinking, to develop ourselves in whatever ways we wish.

Here is a very simple Maitri (lovingkindness) Meditation:

May you be safe

May you be healthy

May you be happy

May you live with ease

Visualize someone you love unconditionally, then someone you are having a problem with, then a neutral person and each time say the above four lines. We extend this to all the people in the room, your neighborhood, the city and on out.

Then opening your eyes, just sit quietly and meditate for a few more minutes.

OM OM OM

Peace,

Yoga Jane

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