Ultimately, as I reflect, the greatest obstacles I have faced in life have molded me in to the person I am. Injuries have made me a clearer and safer teacher, times of financial hardship have given me insight into the value of money and empathy toward others who struggle with it, experience both first and second-hand with depression has gifted me with the ability to hold space for myself and others at their lowest. Moving to a new land where I do not speak the language or understand the cultural nuances gives me a small glimpse into what it feels like to be invisible or powerless. It has also given me a greater appreciation for the ways in which I am incredibly privileged. When I offer gratitude to my challenges, when I meet my "enemies" with thankfulness and compassion, it transforms me. Even if the person or situation is not changed at all, I am. How I see and feel and taste hardship changes. And, in my limited but real experience, it makes a profound difference.Read More
I recently completed my third weekend of buddhist studies immersion and meditation instructor training with the Interdpendence Project. This weekend was comprised of roughly twelve hours of instructing, receiving instruction or discussion on compassion and loving-kindness meditation. A lot can touch your heart when a group of people come together and focus two and a half days on these practices. As the weekend slowly fades in the distance of my “busy” New York life, I am left with a sense that what transpired was a dance of the heart. It was a dance to help us all remember that even in the darkness of our worst self-aggression, glimmers of true happiness arise. And even in the shadows of ourselves where envy, ill-will and judgement dwell, the opportunity to see the light that casts the shadow is ever greater….
Compassion practices take us home to the tenderness of our hearts, which is both incredibly powerful and quite jarring at times. Practices like metta (loving-kindness) ask us to work with not only those people who inspire and support us, but also those with whom we may have conflict or challenge us in some way. Metta doesn’t stop there. It further looks at the ways in which we move away from the open heart, ways that we cling to or create conditions for the love we give to ourselves and others.
So nothing about Metta is fluffy. It is not all love and light, and that is what makes it such profound work. One of the things I appreciate about this work, is that it very much forces us to keep it real, to look at our shadows with great gentleness and work with the things that bar us from the vast capacity of our own heart.
Dancing is also not just fluff. It is gritty, sexy, light, fluid, graceful, sometimes awkward, still or frenetic, intensely sad or humorous. While remaining a serious discipline it also evokes all of the hues and saturations that color a life.
As we sit down to open our hearts, we might contemplate our work as a dance. We can approach it with a real sense of discipline, but we will not be surprised when it evokes tears or tightness in our throats or deep longing. We can work with these emotions just as we work with the heart: with gentleness, openness and hopefully an occasional giggle or fit of laughter.
may you be protected and safe.
may you be light of heart.
may you be in tune with the rhythms of your own body, mind and path.
may you be naturally unfettered, unadorned, and at ease.
…. my own interpretations on the cushion with lovingkindness (metta/maitri) meditation. what words or phrases work for you?
It has been admittedly hard to drum up the courage to even look at the news these last days since Hurricane Sandy hit our shores. I think I join many when I say I have felt fear, helplessness, relief at the safety of my loved ones, heartbreak upon witnessing the loss others are enduring, guilt, compassion, and honestly numbness.
I thought I would share a practice that I think is essential and helpful to all who have the ability to sit for a few minutes. It simultaneously opens your heart and connects you to all those who are suffering or in need. There are many variations on the phrases presented below, but the intention is always the same: extend loving-kindness and compassion to ourselves, to our loved ones, to strangers, to difficult people, and to all beings.
These four simple phrases can be used.
“May you/I be safe”
“May you/I be happy"
"May you/I be healthy”
“May you/I live at ease in this world”
Traditionally you start at home, with yourself. Find a comfortable seat and start by watching the breath. Notice its texture and feel. Note that your seat supports a tall spine and easeful breath. After a few moments of settling in, you may start with the inner contemplation (or you may say out loud if that feels more appropriate). Start at the beginning and move through the phrases giving yourself time to really see yourself in your mind. "May I be safe"… Pause and reflect upon what that means. "May I be happy"…. and so on.
You then may extend this out to a loved one, a friend, a neutral person, a difficult person, and then all beings (or maybe it’s easier to start with everyone in New York, or the East Coast because that feels more immediate).. I think it’s important to stay with that for a while, to work with all the tragedy we have seen and allow that to sink in and open our hearts to the tenderness we all share.
You may do this for any amount of time. You may go back and start from the beginning and repeat. If you do have the ability to take time from your day to do this, it may help you feel that you are more connected, less numb, more able to be present with yourself and everyone around you, and perhaps more settled in the reality of what has happened and is happening all around us.
May you all be safe, happy, health and at ease in this world.
Yoga that crosses lineages and includes music from DJs = amazing. Add a significant and worthy cause = unforgettable.
Over $1,000 dollars raised for Japan and we spanned the scope of Anusara, Vinyasa, a little YogaWorks method and incorporated Buddhist Tonglen and Metta practices… Amazing.
Thanks to Yogaworks for hosting and organizing. To Julie and Elizabeth for co-teaching… And Carson and Nikolai for an amazing music experience.