Kimi Marin Yoga

Honor limitations. Transcend Boundaries.

Archive for the tag “present”

The Brilliance of Now

What is it about the present moment that makes us want to escape? How much of your day do you spend thinking about the past or day dreaming about the future?  I often drive  around Portland in auto-pilot as I latch onto fantasies, dwell in my jealousy, or turn to the past and linger in a memory. These are tools to escape my present. Pema Chödrön writes in Taking the Leap that the three classic styles to find relief from the present are “pleasure seeking, numbing out, and using aggression: we either zone out, or we grasp.” But what is so wrong with the present that we need to find “relief”?

Ms. Chödrön says that “the ego is the experience of never being present.” I interpret this to mean that it is our ego that gets so wrapped up in the emotions that arise in our mind and body. We are unable to enjoy the flux and uncertainty of life and let each experience be a personal indication of something greater. Yet when we relax and settle into the Now, the ego is not involved since we are an observer and participant instead of ego dictating that our experience is the moment.

When teaching yoga, in poses (especially those held for periods of time) I watch students struggle with their present: they fiddle (pleasure seek), they ride on the their thought waves (numbing out), and tense up (aggression). What they are escaping — what I am escaping–is the reality of who we are. Yet the feelings we have, the anxiety, the sorrow, fear, happiness – all reside in the future or past. Feelings and emotions stay connected to an experience outside of the moment. The present is about being alert to the changes in our body and mind.

I had a realization the other day. I was working in staying in my moment — to notice the sidewalk, listen to my feet on the pavement, feel the sun and cold–and fear arose. I  was afraid that if I stayed in the present moment and didn’t fixate on the future, my motivation, my drive, my inspiration would be gone. I was afraid that by being in the moment and not fixating on other things, I would lose my inspiration and creativity. How absurd! It hit me that inspiration, motivation, creativity, do not come from hashing things out in my head but from a pause– simultaneously tuning within and without. The gift I was receiving was deeper insight into how I work — fears, joy, anxiety, truth, etc.–and opening me up to witness the brilliance of the Now.

Stop, pause, be in your moment. Enjoy the flux of emotions and the unpredictability of life…that is where dreams and reality merge.

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Peeling Layers

At the end of April, the 40 Days to Personal Transformation program began at Yoga Bhoga (a Portland yoga studio).  This program follows the principals and laws Baron Baptiste presents in his book 40 Days to Personal Revolution. Through meditation, yoga, journaling, weekly meetings and diet changes the participants of the program move on a journey of self-exploration and self-awareness. By becoming hyper-aware of oneself, we bring to the surface buried emotions, thoughts, habits of avoidance, denial, and self-sabotage. Only from recognizing these behaviors, are we then able to remove them, to change our patterns, in order to find a place of ultimate joy.

B.K.S Iyengar said “Asanas penetrate deep into each layer of the body and ultimately into the consciousness itself.” In yoga classes, asana refers to the postures but asana literally means “seat.” In the 40 days program, we are asked to find a seat within ourselves and begin to observe who we are.  By sitting with ourselves, listening to our thoughts, witnessing our reactions to daily life, we allow our bodies and minds to feel both the positive and negative emotions within us.  As I begin to root down into my internal seat, mindful to the moments of my life, pleasant or not, I am little by little beginning to remove my layers, slowly exposing the consciousness I long ago hid from myself.  The idea of transformation is not about changing who I am or looking to become a new person but rather it is about removing what binds me to discover who I already am.

In this program, a component to restoring mind, body, and spirit involves going through a 3-day cleanse that consists of eating only fruit. The first day I was surprised to find I was neither uncomfortable nor hunger. I felt good eating fruit salads and I discovered that the addition of mango slices made each meal a special treat. On the second day I woke up to a headache…and a fuzzy mouth. As the day progressed, I found myself craving almonds and thick chunks of sourdough bread with melted butter. I was mildly surprised that I did not crave more luxurious foods…or even full meals. More importantly, on the second day, I painstaking came to understand the weight loss I desired from this fruit cleanse is not from losing water weight but from the metaphorical shedding of emotional layers due to the lack of distraction brought on by comfort food, alcohol, and caffeine.

What was hard for me during this cleanse was the emotions it brought to the surface. Primarily, the urge to quit the fast – that it was too hard.  The desire to quit, to eat a piece of bread began to spread and I found myself angry at everything. Scared of my anger, I wanted to stuff my face to prove I was in control of the situation; to say “Screw it!” and eat cheese fries. I wanted to stop feeling so turbulent inside.  And suddenly I realized: I am a quitter. I tend to quit, sabotaging my own growth and potential when things become uncomfortable. In yoga, holding a pose my muscles may burn or emotions may bubble to the surface so I move in ways to stifle the emotions, to relieve the discomfort, in order leave my layer in place.  In love, for years, I would run away, lick my self-inflicted wounds rather than stay and lose control in a relationship with no guarantees. I quit in order to remain in control, to avoid failure, to avoid the unknown. In my kitchen, unable to eat and stuff out my emotions with food, I faced a choice: Do I continue the fruit cleanse and sit with my truth or literally eat my emotions away and continue avoiding the unknown within me?

Staying in the moment, I began to realize that the urgent need to escape back into my comfort zone, to not face my fears, stemmed from my own knowledge that I needed to rest during this week. I became angry that I did not have time to rest, that I did not have time for myself. I got mad at the fruit cleanse, the program, even my husband, and then I realized that I was blaming everyone else for my inability to say “no”. I stood there and asked myself “if I never say ‘no’, what is my ‘yes’ worth?”  In my aerial classes we are taught not to swing our bodies into a position because swinging only creates more swinging. When we swing our body, it moves to the opposite point from where we want it to be. Only by mindfully engaging muscles, can we shift our body and place it where it needs to be. Right now, my pendulum is swinging, constantly moving, and all I want to do is slow down. In order to slow down, I must stop. I must stop going full force, stop worrying about others, stop brewing anger, stop blaming others for my inability to rest, to renew, to move past being tired.  I must stop and begin to remove each layer, shedding old habits, resisting urges to flee and control what is not stable. I must stop, breathe, see where I am, greet who I am, and begin anew, mindful, aware, intentional and, yes, slightly scared, until stepping outside of boxes becomes natural.

Do You Mind? If Not, What Do You Miss?

Right now I am absorbed in Thich Nhat Hanh’s book Peace Is Every Step. The book is full of quick anecdotes, stories and meditations (no more than 2 pages) that invite the reader to tune into their breath and become aware of their own body, mind, and how they interact with the people and environment around them. I find that each entry has a perfect place for every day. I try not to read more than 3 passages a day…and often, needing to process the the words a bit deeper, I reread what I read the day before.

A few posts back I mentioned that I am a fast eater. I am working on this and recently told my husband that I felt we needed to eat at the table. We have a habit of making dinner, putting out television trays and watching a movie while we eat — not fully processing the food, not talking to each other, detaching from not only our own mind and body, and also separating from each other. Because of this tendency (and my obvious over-awareness of my mindless, speed eating) I was drawn to the passage “Eating Mindfully.”

In “Eating Mindfully,” Nhat Hanh discusses the importance of sitting to eat without distraction; being mindful of not only your food but also those who you share this meal with. I began to think, by turning on the TV, by distracting ourselves with outside stimulation, rather than sitting at a table, face-to-face, sharing a meal, what is it that my husband and I avoiding? Are we avoiding each other? Are our lives so hectic that we escape to the artificial world rather than tuning into ourselves and each other?  I am not afraid that my  marriage is failing nor do I feel that we are in a bad place. I just wonder what aspects of our relationship are we not nourishing because we tune each other out just as we tune out the food we eat, the air breath, and refuse to let our minds settle on our breath. On a larger scale, how does this behavior translate into relationships I have with friends, families, students and acquaintances? As I ponder these question in my own life, I ask YOU: How does your behavior affect both you and others? What do you miss by mindlessly distracting yourself from being completely present?

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