Kimi Marin Yoga

Honor limitations. Transcend Boundaries.

Archive for the tag “yoga”

Life’s Most Daring Adventure: Contentment

kimi beach4

The  saying “the grass is always greener on the other side” sums up humankind’s tendency to grasp the external for pleasure, happiness, and fulfillment. Many of us spend our entire lives looking outside of ourselves to find inner peace. As we do this, we  see how other people’s lives and circumstances seem to look better than our own lives.  As a consequence, we begin to believe that happiness is about acquiring more: bigger houses, more clothes, fancier shoes, busier social lives.   Yet, this insatiable quest to buy or acquire the elusive happiness only leads us to a place of discontent.

The second niyama (an attitude we hold toward ourselves) is Santosha or contentment. Santosha is to find happiness and peace in your present life and not to keep searching for something more, something external, to gain security, joy, and contentment.  Life is not about comparing yourself to your friend, your neighbor, or an ideal society declares your life should look.  Life is rich in experiences to aid you on your inward journey of fulfillment…and your fulfillment, your contentment, is the greatest contribution you can give to the world. When you live from a place of contentment, you attract beneficence to you, and find an ease in which to move through the world.

We are often told that life is not a destination but a journey. Santosha wants to be your companion on your life journey. Santosha does not mean that you are always happy with how things because, honestly, life can sometimes suck. But santosha asks that you embrace that time, realizing each moment will change and your perspective, your attitude will make all the difference in handling difficult circumstances. We are not to live looking for happiness but instead to recognize the gifts of the moment and find contentment within. When we spend our days yearning for something else – a different lover, to be single, to be rich, have more clothes, then we are unhappy. We are unhappy because we have come to believe that we need these things to have a sense of worth and happiness.

If you are not content with as aspect of your life – CHANGE IT. Seriously. Listen to your excuses why you cannot be happy. Listen to how many times you say “but,” “should,” or “would” when focusing on your ideal life.  Personally, I would like to write more but… I can come up with a thousand excuses why I do not write – and all of them are legitimate and hold weight. But the ultimate truth is I am too lazy and too afraid to change my habits to start doing what I really want. My challenge is to dig deep, make small changes to start writing. And those small changes lead me to santosha. Even as I write this I feel a sense of calmness and peace. I am not comparing myself to someone else, I am not berating myself, I am living my life as I want to live.

What in your life is not fulfilling you? What excuses are you making? What are your desires? Is anything keeping you from truly enjoying the present life you are in, or are you too busy making excuses about how you don’t have time? Do you tell yourself you are too busy with the kids, school or are broke? Will there ever be a good time? Right now is the only time you have and if you aren’t truly content, if you aren’t truly happy, it is time to sit with yourself and find out what it is you need from you. Being joyful, being happy, is a state of being, a perspective of the world. Alter yours to be filled with light and love and bestow all that wonderfulness and everyone around you. You are a magnificent being, accept your greatness, smile and shine.

Riding Your Own Current

There is energy all around us: the energy of the sun, the energy it takes to move an object, wasted energy on unrequited love, energy of thoughts (i.e. scattered, constricted, and mental blocks). Yoga is a process to allow for a free flow of energy to move through you. According to Erich Schiffmann, “your body’s ability to function as a clean efficient channel is limited by stiffness, lack of strength, and lack of endurance” (65). As we remove blocks, limit discomfort, heal wounds, release tension, energy flows more freely, we are more at ease and comfortable in our bodies and in our life.

Many of us are ambitious, have dreams and drive. Yet, we learn time again that we cannot force anything to happen. Everything — our relationships, our careers, hobbies, talents, and dreams — take time to grow, develop and mature. I have a quote on my fridge by the Greek sage Epictetus that says “No great thing is created suddenly. There must be time. Give your best and always be kind.” Epictetus believed that we cannot control our external environment, we can only control our actions. For him, happiness was living in accordance to nature, “which means (a) pursuing a course through life intelligently responding to one’s own needs and duties as a sociable human being, but also (b) wholly accepting one’s fate and the fate of the world as coming directly from the divine intelligence which makes the world the best that is possible” (Seddon). We suffer when we try to control what is out of our control and ignore what is within our power to change.

In yoga, as in life, we often force ourselves to go further than comfortable or place our value in terms of what we can accomplish. Our mat is a microcosm of our behavior in the world. What happens on our mat, how we drift, daydream, force, embrace, and breakdown, is how we also react to situations off the mat. Yogi Joel Kramer summed it up when he said “The quality of mind that you bring to yoga is of the utmost importance.” Yoga is not about working to accomplish something, yoga is about being present, to remove the blocks that prevent us from understanding our true nature. Kramer mentions that when we force ourselves into postures, when we move to accomplish something, yoga becomes a series of repetitious exercises with a goal rather that a process of profound transformation.

Instead of forcing yourself into a posture, tune into the subtle energy currents that are moving through your body. In yoga, when we turn into ourselves, become aware of ourselves, we find that our bodies continuously give us feedback.  You can notice where you are tight, in pain, open, and parts or sides you are favoring. More importantly, you can tune into the parts of your body and poses you can control. There are energy lines moving through your body. The energy lines start at your core and move into your limbs. Our center is our pelvis and the “most important line of energy, always, is your spine” (Schiffmann, 67). Each yoga pose consists of at least two energy lines and you must learn to focus on your internal sensations to move energy into parts of your body.

When working with energy lines, work to channel your energy within your limits. There is no forcing or pushing because this will only create more tension. Think about if you were to push against a closed door, all your muscles are engaged you tighten up and the door still won’t budge. You run the risk of injuring yourself rather than opening the door. Become as relaxed as possible and feel your body sink deeper. As muscle tension releases, your body will go deeper into the pose naturally. This surrender to what you can control can be applied into everything  in your life. Follow your breath within and notice your own energy currents. Extend them, relax them, and watch yourself grow at your rhythm. Knowing when to rest, when to expand, and where your limits lie, you will find that most everything will come at a greater ease and your life will be full of more joy.

“Epictetus,” by Keith H. Seddon. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. n.d. Web. January 21, 2013.
Kramer, Joel. Yoga as Self Transformation. Yoga Journal May/June 1980. Web.
Schiffmann, Erich. Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness. New York: Pocket Books, 1996. Print.

Softening the Hard Edges

“Practice leads you in the right direction, while non-attachment allows you to continue the inner journey without getting sidetracked into the pains and pleasures along the way” – Swami J

Nohoch Mol, Mexico 2007

Nohoch Mol, Mexico 2007. Afraid of heights, this  climb brought many mental “distractions” to the surface.

In my practice, I am working to soften – to let go of the push of trying so hard. I began this in my asana practice and have found, like most things that start on the mat, to be leaking into different aspects of my life. Maybe you, too, have noticed that what you practice on the mat begins to infiltrate into different aspects of your life. To yield into the poses is to let go of the need to have to do them correctly, or have to be perfect. To yield and soften into the poses, is to trust that I am alright as I am. For each of us, to surrender to the moment and to place trust in the universe can be frightening and difficult.

The word yoga has several different interpretations: to unite, to yoke, to tie the strands of the mind together. In the second sutra, yoga is defined as “the ability to direct the mind exclusively toward an object and sustain that duration without any distraction” (Heart of Yoga, 149). The object is our intention, our sankalpa, our desire or goal. The distractions are life: our sorrows, our joys, whether someone likes us, whether we get positive or negative feedback from a friend, co-worker, boss, or stanger. The distractions are life experiences that we often, mistakenly, wrap our feelings of self-worth around. We are happy when someone likes us and want to hide from the world when someone doesn’t.

Yoga is a way to be completely engaged in the action of your present moment knowing that life experiences are only experiences and not a reflection of your self-value. Yoga teaches us to move steadily in the direction we want to go but without the attachment to our desire or expected outcome. This is the balance between steady effort, abhyasa, and letting go, vairagya.

I am a strong believer in persistent, patience, and consistency. To reach our dreams and goals is not an all or nothing experience but a steady climb that we achieve over time. As we pay attention to our actions, as with move with steady effort, abhyasa, we see our path, where we are going and how to get to our desired end. When we see where we are going, when we take the time to notice the present moment no longer are we caught up with the pains, the joys, the sorrows of each of our experience. We can see embrace our experience as the changing opportunity for growth without attaching our worth to the outcome. This allows us to move without gripping, with detachment, with vairagya – this allows us to soften.

Nohoch Mol at the top — steady effort and letting go

Breaking Wind: Yoga and Gas

Gas.  Farts. Toots. Whatever way you want to say it, we all pass gas and most of us pretend we don’t.  In yoga, we bend, twist, and contort our bodies in various directions and, sometimes, flatulence is a result. Passing gas is a topic that we all have an opinion on but rarely talk about. Especially in yoga class.

I spent years practicing yoga in hot power classes.  During those years, I strongly objected to anyone farting. My thought was “if I can hold it, you can too.” Mainly this was because in a hot class, the gas seemed to linger in the air and in 100 degree heat breathing was already a challenge.  As a yoga teacher my viewpoint is different.

As a teacher, I applaud the body’s natural process. If we think in terms of Prana, our vital life force, there is apana vayu, the downward flow of energy.  Apana, the life force that governs the lower abdomen, is responsible for the elimination of bodily waste products as well as creating grounding forces that allow for stability. As anyone who has ever tried to stand up knows, we must push down to rise up. We need apana, and elimination, for our bodies to work efficiently and pranic energy to flow freely. Yoga even has a pose for this natural bodily function: apanasana, wind-relieving pose. What a nice way to put it.

Although, flatulence is a normal occurrence, when done in the presence of others, it almost always causes embarrassment.  We all know what goes in must go out and, often, beginning students are more likely to have to let loose in class than the advanced student. This is not because the beginning student has more gas, but because their body may be detoxing not accustomed to the pressure put on the internal organs in various poses.  But even the most advanced students may find their bodies expelling air more on some days than others — anybody who teaches a class the day after Thanksgiving or Super Bowl Sunday can attest to this.

When it comes to the etiquette of relieving wind in class I have two ways of thinking – neither is right, neither is wrong. As a student, my mind thinks “please, just don’t.” As a teacher, I believe to hold gas is neither healthy nor comfortable. Often gas is caused by eating certain foods, drinking carbonated beverages, and not chewing thoroughly. If flatulence is a problem think about coming to class on an empty stomach – after about 2-3 hours after eating. Also, a cup of peppermint or fennel tea after a meal supposedly helps to improve digestion and reduce flatulence.  Ultimately, if you pass gas in class, own it and accept that we are all adults in a yoga class or, like most yogis, pretend it wasn’t you. If someone near you lets one slip, just ignore it. We have all passed gas in class and we will all do it again.

 

 

 

Tapas: The Fire of Flow

Dancers at Burning Man, Temple Burn 2011 photo by David Frank

My favorite Hindu myth involving the sages Vasistha and Vishvamitra entails a lesson in tapas, “inner heat.” In my simplified version of the story, Vasistha gets mad and curses Vishvamitra to become a heron. Vishvamitra retaliates by cursing Vasistha into a crane. As a heron and a crane these sages began to fight. Tearing at each others’ throats and flapping their wings, they topple down mountains, destroy living creatures, and knock the earth over.  The Hindu god, Brahma, witnesses the devastation these two are causing and strips them of their bird natures.  When they calm down, Brahma chastises the sages and exclaims “You are both creating obstacles to your tapas by your passionate anger, so give it up!” The two sages, ashamed, hug each other in forgiveness. 

Tapas, often translated to mean “inner heat,” or “fiery discipline” is a tool to achieve personal and spiritual enlightenment.  Tapas is sometimes considered a rigid practice of castigation and severe discipline, yet, according to T.K.V. Desikachar in The Heart of Yoga, tapas is not penance but “the process of inner cleansing” by building heat through asanas (poses)  and pranayama (breathwork).  Like Desikachar, when I hear the word tapas I do not associate it with austere, strict, and rigid behavior. Rather, I connect tapas with the consistent flow of energy generated through our thoughts, the beat of our heart, and the intention of our actions.  I believe tapas to be the perseverance and faith we dedicate to our path.

As humans, we have wishes, we create goals, we dream of desired outcomes, and from these dreams we brew the energy needed to transition our dreams into reality. Yet, as humans, in one way or form, we also experience mesmerizing enchantments that tempt us away from our path. In the story of Vasistha and Vishvamitra these two sages fall from their path. Like us, they get seduced by emotion and thoughts.  We all get swept away and tapas is the energetic force that helps us realign our focus with our heart.

We can spend so much of our life being angry, blaming others, and all this external focus will only result in destroying ourselves. As fire burns things up,our energy can burn us up, burn us out, or fuel us; we need to harness our energy and direct it in a mindful manner.  We must speak, listen, and act as if everything we do has significance. We must act as if our hearts are beams of light and what we direct into the world, good or bad, will be absorbed by the people meet, the trees we see, and the air we breathe. When Brahma scolded the two sages, he scolded them for generating such heat in negativity: what we think, we can become.  Our own energy is the power that can steer us. Like Vasistha and Vishvamitra, we can allow it to overpower us in devastating ways or we can open ourselves up to the bright potential that lies within us.

Desikachar, T.K.V.. The Heart of Yoga: Developing A Personal Practice. Rochester: Inner Traditions, 1995. Print.

**Previously published at www.yogabhoga.com**

Yoga: Reigniting Former Flames

For years, I have heard stories about people who have not only benefited from yoga but have had a phenomenal transformation due to their yoga practice: yoga helped them walk again, or touch their toes, or find balance, or lose weight, or get off medication…the list goes on. I have read the anatomy books and articles on which poses strengthen which parts of the body or how different poses alleviate different health conditions. I instruct students on pranayama, breath control, and balance. On the street, I speak of the wonders of yoga. Yet, I never had my own real yoga story to tell.

Until now.

At age seven I started running. At age twelve running was something I did. At age sixteen running was how I found adventure. At age twenty running was my meditation.  At age twenty-four running was in my soul. At age thirty-one my knees gave out.

During my early thirties I made excuses (none made sense) as to why I didn’t run: no nearby trails (I was a trail runner), too much graduate school, I rode a bike, I had a dog. The reason I was not running was simple: I could no longer run. My knees hurt. I tried to run through the pain, I tried to lose weight, I tried different shoes. I just could not run. Over the last six years, every few months I put on my running shoes, ran out the door only to return hobbling — the pain was too much.

During this time I discovered yoga.  More precisely, I discovered power yoga. The transition from running to yoga was almost painless as I sweated out toxins, frustration, and stress in a hot room with other A-type personalities. But, at times, I missed my first love: the sound of my breath as my feet hit the ground, running along mountain trails, stumbling over roots and rocks. The excitement before a race and the medal afterwards. The runners high.

Over the years I became serious about my yoga practice.  I went deeper within myself. I began teaching. I left power yoga and discovered the vast array of yoga styles offered. I stopped flowing so much and started to concentrate more on muscle engagement and alignment. I began to let go of the ego, and start over with the fundamentals of each pose.  I let myself experiment, fall, and find out what happens with my body in each pose. How the lift of  my quadriceps, an inner thigh spiral, or engaging my core affected my entire body…mind included. I played with my breath and how that could take me deeper into shapes.  I began to move beyond the physical and into the different koshas, or bodily layers, to find a mind, body, and spirit connection.

Something happened. Not overnight. Not suddenly. A few months ago I went for a run, no pain. I kept at it, no pain. I increased mileage, no pain. I picked up my pace, no pain. I felt like Garuda, the mythical bird, shinning brighter than the sun and soaring through the heavens.

At one time I ran six days a week, I now rejoice I run three days a week. I am thinking of running a race. Ideally, I would love to win a medal like I could years ago and here is where my yoga practice serves me. Not the asana practice, but the practice of mindfulness, compassion, and non-attachment. The part of my practice where I notice when my ego gets in the way. At those times, I remind myself, I am simply content that I am running.

The New Kid: My Yoga Experience at City Studios

I feel like I have fit myself in a yoga box – only experiencing yoga through the lens of the teachers and studios where I teach. Do you do that? Always go to the same studio, same teacher,  place your mat in same spot ? I needed to get a fresh perspective – step off my rectangular mat and expand my mind and body by experiencing yoga around my city, Portland. I took classes at multiple yoga studios around town. I’ve braved the drive across bridges, across neighborhoods, across east and west boundaries, and I’ve discovered what the yoga scene in this city has to offer.

Yoga for Night Owls at Yoga

I am not a night owl and getting to a 9:30p.m. class was a struggle, but the struggle was well worth it. I felt like I was with a different crowd and Darren Littlejohn was a different teacher.  Gone were the polished students with designer clothes and instead were night owls with worn t-shirts, sweats, and faded tights. Littlejohn teaches more from his heart than any other teacher I’ve taken class with in Portland. With his full voice and constant enthusiasm his love of teaching, and his love of yoga, were obvious. And his students seem to love him right back. When I first arrived and mentioned that I had never been to the studio before, several students immediately told me I came to the best teacher. With his smile inducing “y’all” and constant adjustments (loved the adjustments!) he let his authentic self shine. Although I didn’t agree with some of his breath cues or teaching cues, his style worked.  He had something to say, to teach, and most importantly, students responded. The class is taught in candlelight, which, surprising to me, made it hard to balance. But my struggle dissipated into a long corpse pose with a neck rub and a foot massage. I left relaxed and not at all minding that the class lasted over 90 minutes, that it was after 11p.m. and I had to teach at 6:15a.m. the following morning.

Free Class at Lululemon

I went to Lululemon for a free yoga class. It turns out they were teaching Qigong that night instead. I feigned interest, signed up, and then left. I’m not proud of my behavior.

Bob Marley: Yoga Music Series

I do not have an ear for music or how beats work so when someone like Chris Calarco, who loves music, comes along, I hop on board in awe. The Yoga Music Series is put on by Calarco and usually has a live DJ (with wine afterwards!) and a featured music artist. I went to the Bob Marley groove and it was terrific. When Calarco said that beat of the music was like the beat of a heart, he surely was right. It was easy moving into the flow, his alignment cues took me deeper into the poses, and his words of the heart harmonized with Marley’s lyrics. Most intoxicating was Calarco’s pure love of the music. Calarco teaches from an enraptured connection with the musical beats, the lyrics, and our breath

 

Yoga Foundations

“I am from Boston. In Boston people come in and you start your practice–just do it. Here in Portland, the teacher sits up front and says something profound, Well, I have nothing deep to say” and with that a great class began. Maria Guerrero had plenty of deep wisdom and information to share.  As a yoga teacher I know how hard it is to teach a beginner class. How hard it is to find the right balance of information, instruction, and depth; Guerrero walks that tightrope with ease and agility. She has a gift for teaching the basics of how-to do a pose and always offers why we do it. And she tells students what the Sanskrit words mean. Beforehand, I thought I was going to a class that would be based on breaking down the poses and that I would spend most of the ninety minutes watching the instructor, but that never happened. Guerrero leads students through a challenging class, breaking down poses, giving background, and cues, all the while muscles shake and we return back to the basics.

Community Class

Jessica Garay started class by relating her dream the night before. There is something open and relaxing about her. I am not too comfortable with chanting but Garay dispelled anxiety by explaining what we will chant and why we are chanting the words she had for us that day. Having a bit of background and understanding of what I was doing helped me open to the experience; I chanted with hesitant gusto. This was how she led the entire class – with a clear path as to what and why we were doing the poses. Garay led students into a practice that required focus and strength and was always fun.  She exudes comfort while teaching which creates a relaxed atmosphere in which to learn in. The community class is an all levels class, and Garay seamlessly met everyone at their level.

 

 

Sadhana Practice

Okay, this was a bump on my yogic path. The early hours of the morning are considered the ambrosia hours – the auspicious, favorable, hours for success. I decided to try a kundalini class that ran from 4:30a.m.-7 a.m. This is early, even for a morning person like me.  I read on the website to wear a scarf on my head to keep the energy in my body, so I did. Thrilled just to be going, I donned my black sweatshirt, navy blue sweatpants, and my scarf adorned my head like a stylish Parisian. I arrived at the center to find people in all white and wearing their scarves wrapped around their heads more like turbans than a fashion style.  I didn’t feel exceptionally welcome, and, being new, I felt self-conscious. Add in the fact that I knew none of the chanting, the songs, or the movements, I felt like a big dark spot in the midst of white light; I snuck out after an hour into the practice into the two-and-a-half hour practice. Yeah, I snuck out. I was that person.

Forrest Yoga

Willow Ryan is a woman whose strength and embodiment of power was a tad intimidating yet her smile instantly soothed my nerves. Ryan teaches a strong, alignment-based class interspersed with breath work to help students get deeper into their body. She is very knowledgeable about the body and her experience as both a yoga teacher and practitioner is evident in her ability to pinpoint how a student needs to readjust their body to move into a posture fully and with ease. I left this class fulfilled, yet wanting to cry. I heard a rumor that Forrest yoga can have this effect on a person. I don’t know what long-buried emotional baggage I released in Ryan’s class but I feel lighter because of it.

Budokon

My first question: what is Budokon? The founder, Cameron Shayne, describes it as a “living art” that incorporates ancient and modern yogic and martial arts. This class was fantastic. Nathan Mills is a teacher whose patience and non-judgmental demeanor made me feel welcomed. Also, watching his amazing ability to control even the minute movements of his body made him an inspiration. As I watched him demonstrate a sequence, a movement, or shape, I thought “Damn! I want to do that!” simultaneously with “Sh%T! I could never do that!” Budokon movements are fluid and soft, a continuous exploration of bodily strength, alignment, and balance. I especially loved that I was doing yoga and at the same time using my body in new ways through martial arts.  The spinal rolls felt good in my back, caused me to note my strength and forced me to check in with my weaknesses. The animal shapes he had us do for conditioning, made me laugh and feel like a child exploring nature; and the kicks and punches just made me feel strong–even when I had no idea what I was doing.

Something To Remember

I found this quote in the most recent issue of Yoga International and believe it is worth sharing:

There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.” — Richard Buckminster Fuller

Bend, Balance, Breathe: A Little Life Ditty

In December, I found myself in life’s equivalent of half-pigeon, a pose that is not only physically intense but requires mental stamina to stay present. Life had put me in an uncomfortable, and unfamiliar, place and all I could do was breathe and stay with the moment. I told this to a girlfriend and she said that pose for her is virasana, or hero’s pose. It occurred to me that life is made up of different yoga poses, or rather, the lessons learned from particular poses. Just like dogs have been bred to highlight particular traits or abilities for specific jobs, asanas bend our bodies and affect our minds in different ways to pin point the varieties of life’s particularities: backbends are energizing, heart and hip openers are emotional. In class, we also are reminded that yoga is a practice. But what  are we practicing?

A teacher used to say that what we do on the mat is indicative of what we do off the mat. Or as a girlfriend of mine says “where you are, there you is” – meaning we do not change who we are and what our tendencies are just because we have changed our clothes, moved to a new location, found a new partner, or stepped on our mat. How we react on the mat is how we react off the mat. If your tendency is to avoid conflict, on the mat you may daydream or leave poses as soon as the emotions, tensions, and body trembles begin. How many times in utkatasana, chair pose, or in a twisted crescent lunge do you tap fingers, twitch your face or scrunch your shoulders wishing the teacher would move on to the next pose?

When you are on the mat and you find yourself thinking about how you hate the pose you are in, can’t stand the teacher talking, or wondering when it will all end, you are reinforcing negative thoughts in your day to day life – not just the 60-90 minutes you are on your mat. Working to stay present, working to be mindful and move with integrity, are skills you are strengthening for times off the mat. As we all know, life is hard. We have relationships start and end, bosses and demanding deadlines, familial responsibilities, and the unexpected events that knock us off our paths. In yoga poses, especially the ones that require us to become focused and aware of the triad of mind, breath and body, we are learning to live in every moment. We are learning to revel in the joys and breathe through the sorrows.

When you are moving into a difficult pose and the person next to you makes it look simple and elegant, instead of comparing yourself or competing against them, find santosha, contentment, with what the pose looks like in your body. Finding contentment on the mat, you are practicing contentment off the mat; experiencing, accepting and honoring your limits and your edge.  When you are in a pose for awhile –sometimes 10 breaths, sometimes 3 minutes—“stuff” arises: thoughts, feelings, repressed memories, nausea, etc. When we let the emotions arise, when we put ego to the side, attempt to conquer our distractions – even practice a little svadhyaya (self-study), we notice the tools we use to distract ourselves: day dream, fidget, negative thoughts. When we settle into the pose and breathe, when we remove distractions and sit with who we are, the fundamental core of our being, we learn to be present, be still, and then we learn our own strength, our own power in the uncertainty that is certain in Life.

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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