The Truth is – You’re Not Who You Think You Are

Throughout our lives we are subjected to impressions of who we think we should be. We absorb these distorted beliefs and allow them to influence us. A lot of times we even define ourselves by them. Why do we do this?

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Because our minds are quick. They receive stimuli and respond immediately. When we instantly react to situations, we are functioning on a purely emotional level. Usually these responses come from a place of fear or conditioning – from sources that are generated outside ourselves. In order to recognize the truth of who we are, we need to provide time and space for inner reflection.

So, when a feeling rushes in, take a moment to observe what has come into your mind. Is this thought really accurate? Is it who you are? This is the first step toward connecting with your authentic spirit.

To gain space for true perception, you’ll need to release those random thought patterns. The ones that spring out of emotion-based thinking. A simple way to remove “mind banter” is to use the technique called Neti, Neti, Neti.

Sit quietly and focus on the space between your eyebrows. Attempt to clear your mind. This will be a challenge as thoughts will definitely arise. When they do, silently chant the words: Neti, Neti Neti.

The first Neti means “I am not this thought”, the second Neti signifies, “I am not this thought that is thinking I am not this thought” and the last Neti points out that, “I am not thought at all.”

Practicing the method on a regular basis will give your mind the opportunity to empty. Clear space will then enable new thoughts to arise, thoughts that give way to the true You that is within.

If you’d like to begin building a steady meditation practice, join me on my July Challenge.

Namasté!

 

YOLY Challenge #51: Time For Solitude

stadium-165406__340As the summer solstice approaches, now is the perfect time for seeking solitude for yourself. Periodically remaining quiet increases your awareness and lets your mind rest.

Your challenge this week will be to receive solitude by spending time alone each day. Walking in nature or watching the sunset or sunrise are good ways to soak up some solo time. Also, consider your speech and how much you talk. Curtail your urge to speak a bit this week to bring more reflection and centeredness into your life.

Or, you can choose to be in solitude with others by practicing the concept of mouna or silence.  A good time for this is just prior to or following a meal. Another effective time is the first thing in the morning or the last thing before sleeping. If you live with others, make this “silent time” a period for eliminating the television, computer, or any other device that produces sound. For 10-15 minutes (and ear buds plugged in do not count), try to keep the silence with reading, drawing or writing. Eventually, slowly phase out these activities and find a comfortable place to just be still together. During this time, consider your thoughts and observe what surfaces. This is a great prelude to meditation.

Performed on a regular basis, mouna becomes an important tool for generating increased awareness. The yama of asteya or non-stealing in the form of words, can also be a consideration for keeping the virtue of silence. When you practice silence, your thoughts become quieter, and, ultimately, you will find that you are able to pacify your emotions and soften your personality.

Enjoy the stillness!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YOLY Challenge #42: Don’t Super Size It!

hamburger-19264__340When you hunger for something, you want it, you need it, in fact you may not be able to function without it.  Your mind becomes attached to that “thing”. You may think that you want it with all your heart, but you really want it with all your intellect.  Your mind is the possessor here, not your eyes nor your ears. In the end, this can make you scattered, obsessed, and completely unaware that others may be affected by your desires.

Through yoga, we can address this attachment, this extreme possessiveness, with the concept of aparigraha. Aparigraha is the 5th yama or abstinence in the 8 fold path of yoga.  For a review click here.

In sanskrit, the word aparigraha is broken down into graha = to take/grab, pari=all sides & a=against. So, aparigraha means “against taking all” or non-greed.

But it’s not just about hamburgers. We can certainly have attachments to physical things but we can also be possessive on an intellectual or verbal level.

This week’s Year of Living Yogically challenge is to find freedom through non-attachment.

Here are some basic methods for practicing non-attachment or aparigraha:

Practice Yoga Joyfully – Practice what you love.  Be honest about what you need from your practice.  Don’t overdo and strive for poses that you feel you should do because you would be “less” without attaining them.

Simplify – Only possess what you need.  Some objects such as excess clothing, gadgets for the home and collections are only cluttering your space and take up time to maintain.  Go through a closet or even a drawer and begin to discard.

Listen – Be open to what others have to share.  Pay attention that you don’t talk too much and hoard conversation.

Eat Less – Use your own judgment here.  It isn’t about dieting.  Its about consuming. As you fill your plate, take a bit less than you normally would.  If you are still hungry after a few minutes, take a little extra.  Be more objective about how much you eat.

Let Go – This is more intellectual than physical.  Allow your mind to give up and relax once in awhile.  Remember, if there is one thing we can count on it’s change.  Give yourself permission to flow down the river without grabbing onto the logs that block the current.

When we practice non-attachment, we are learning to clear the mind so that the act of possessiveness does not occlude our life force. We can (and should) still enjoy “things” in life.  But, not to the detriment of others or at the risk of becoming unbalanced.

In the end, non-attachment opens the way to freedom for the soul.

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YOLY Challenge #35: Clearing the Mind’s Path

bridge-19513__340As we continue on our purification journey, it is important to remember that the mind requires cleansing as well as the body. In our quest to create a clear path, we should seek to avoid all things that are destructive and unhealthy. This is tremendously important for our state of mind.

Mind purification or saucha is a deep subject. In order to begin, we need to remove the congestion and false perceptions.

The first step in this challenge is to view things as they truly are through healthy detachment.  As we move through life, negative emotions are all around us and inside of us. This way of thinking can become toxic to our minds. Therefore, we should attempt to detach from negative thoughts and feelings.

Quiet and focus the mind on a negative idea/feeling that you hold onto. Acknowledge this attachment. Then see it as a separate entity – this thought/feeling is not who you are. Place it to the side and see yourself without this burden in your life.

In this way, little by little, we can learn to put aside attachments such as greed, fear and any other unhealthy desires. A mental pathway free of negative emotions leads to keen self-awareness.

The next step is to create more compassion for your mind. As I have reiterated in class many times: “We are here to learn from one another, with one another and through one another…”  – a valuable quote from Goswami Kriyananda that defines compassion in a nutshell.

Share the benefits of your practice with those around you – not by trying to get them to do yoga or insisting that they make changes to their lives – but by respecting, accepting and viewing others with non-judgement.

Removing obstacles and living with compassion for self and others provides a clear channel for your health, your joy, and your sense of purpose.

Be well!

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Spell Out Your Truth

The fifth chakra Vissuddha focuses on the area of the throat – the place for communicating your truth.

To look further at communication, we can consider the ethical quality of the yama known as truthfulness. The yamas (and niyamas) are the first step in the 8-fold path that is yoga.  As a moral principle, truthfulness or satya, as it is called in Sanskrit, asks us to convey truth responsibly.  Like the other yamas, we should consider truthfulness in thought, speech and action.  That includes the manner in which we listen. To be true and clear in communication is to really hear what someone is saying.

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To draw out your truthfulness or balance your throat chakra, try some of the following techniques:

  • Sing, dance or read poetry out loud – express yourself with one of these creative methods
  • Write – although it’s not the spoken word, it is an act of communication
  • Try Chamomile tea or essential oil – a natural remedy for sore throats, its relaxing effects release tension
  • Meditate or marinate under the clear blue sky – blue is the color of this chakra
  • Ask for what you want

…we should progressively embrace what is real for us, so that we may find health and harmony. As you go deeper into yoga, remember that you are doing this study in order to remember yourself, to come home to all of you…  – Rolf Gates

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A Modicum of Moderation

On this our sharing day, I would like to address the idea of moderation.  I believe that it is the key to balance and the answer to many of the everyday choices we have in life.  How much do you eat? How often do you practice yoga and for how long? What is the correct amount of sleep? sun? or even sex?

If you can, be moderate.  Choose the middle.  A little of this and a little of that.                                                                                         telephone-1822040__340

Certainly a life lived in moderation should be a consideration as you develop your practice of ahimsa or non-violence.  And, like ahimsa, moderation is one of the yamas (restraints) within the 8 limb-fold of yoga. Its sanskrit name is brahmacharya.

If you seek to balance your tendencies, you will definitely honor your limitations.  Excess is almost always harmful.  Ever hear of too much of a good thing?

Lately, I am working on establishing reasonable limits for time spent on my computer and phone. It certainly has been a challenge. At the very least, I am becoming more mindful of some of the nonsensical ways that I use these devices.

What do you find most difficult to moderate?

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In Keeping With Our Theme…

This wonderful quote has always been near and dear to my heart. The words reflect the value of ahimsa, non-violence. I received the message through my teacher training back in Chicago. Those were truly my formative years.

landscape-1115428__180Restrain from thoughts, words and actions that are destructive to your life and to those around you. Observe that which strengthens you 
and expands the horizon of your awareness.

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