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 shared this a while back on FB but never here... I am in the process of sending a newsletter; something I haven't done in over a year since Miya was born. In order to streamline where people can check in with me - I thought I would repost. Enjoy. Much love.
All any of us can do is stay true to our convictions and pair those convictions with a willingness to stay curious and open hearted. Certainly there are times when we need to shift directions or accept defeat or decide that another way is a better way, but there are many other times when we must continue to face our fears and challenges and disappointments head-on. In those moments we must remind ourselves of our highest aspirations, lest disheartenment get the best of us and the world sadly miss out on our greatest gifts.Read More
I've been talking about the five wisdoms or Buddha families in class the last two weeks. I would love to write more about them but I just don't have the time currently as I prepare for the therapy immersion I'm co-teaching next week with Stephen Thomas...
BUT! If you want to read more on this beautiful and interesting take on the energy of the world around us and in us, take a peek at this article:
At that basic level, we are incredibly tender. We are completely vulnerable. And while we are not depressed at the notions of life and death, there is a deeply moving quality to reality.Read More
The "Right View" (here right is not right or wrong but means something like thorough and profound) is the one that is not conceptualized. It does not create good or bad. It does not state that only under certain circumstances can we appreciate our life. To paraphrase Thich Nhat Hanh, it is the very concept of what we think will make us happy which prevents us from actually touching happiness.Read More
I told one of my students, Annie, in NYC over a year ago that I would do podcasts for all my New York students when I moved to Zurich. A lot has happened since then - getting married, becoming pregnant, having a baby and moving overseas... but I finally did it! And on her birthday as a surprise. Happy birthday, Annie!
The end cuts off without any fanfare or clear ending, but baby was waking and I thought something is better than no thing.
I definitely need some help with simplifying the editing process, so if anyone has pointers, shoot them my way!
What are you doing right now? What is the smell in the air, the taste in your mouth, the feel of the phone or the computer on your fingertips? What is happening with your right knee or your left shoulderblade? How is your breath? What is the quality of light in the room in which you are sitting?Read More
We certainly are reminded of the great need for mindfulness when life hands us intense shifts such as the loss of a loved one or the birth of a baby. But the teachings as well as our own experience tell us that actually our life is worth tending to in all moments.Read More
I do realize that we are in a very privileged place if we can contemplate leaving our job for any reason at all. When we contemplate right livelihood I also believe we must contemplate joblessness, unemployment, disability, poverty, famine and war.
So please feel free to consider the following, but also consider the many many people who are unable to work or provide for themselves or their families at this time. Perhaps when you contemplate your own work you can also offer compassion to those who are unable to work for any reason.
Right Livelihood pushes us to look at our work and also how we use the money we earn and what kinds of businesses we support with our earnings. Here are a few contemplations on right livelihood.
Does your job fulfill you? Does it inspire and motivate you to show up and be truly present in your work? Is there some other work that calls to your heart? Is there a possibility you could pursue something more in line with your heart's work?
Does your job create suffering in yourself or others? If so, does it have to? Is that an innate part of the work (like being a butcher or selling guns)? How do you feel about the suffering it creates? Is there another way to direct your energy in a way that enables you to provide for yourself and your family?
Is your workplace connected to or supporting other organizations that support violence, inequality, hatred or greed? Is there a way you can loosen or sever these ties?
When we look deeply at right livelihood, we can actually see that there is no way we can remove ourselves completely from violence, inequality, poverty, hatred, war, destruction and greed. Whether it is the company we work for, a stock or savings account tied to a bank, or a brand of clothing or food we buy, so much of what we invest in (with time or money) is connected to unethical practices. We are deeply woven into the fabric of greed and exploitation that encircles this planet.
In considering Right Livelihood, let us begin by making a commitment to become more aware of the ways in which our livelihood and our money support life and peace and freedom, or how they support injustice and suffering. Let us challenge ourselves to continue to push toward honoring each other and the planet with our work and the way we spend our money. Educate yourself and try to use the time and money you invest in your life to go toward that which sustains life and happiness and health for all.
Please do not hide yourself away in the face of the world's broken heart. Continue to look deeply, with love at your own heart. Sometimes it may need protection but other times it is important that we step outside of that which covers over our tenderness and humanity. Our world needs us more than ever.Read More
A recent foray into practice through deeper listening took me to the wall to open my spine while stabilizing my pelvis and SI joint. Deep listening is an implicit aspect of Right Speech.
As I mentioned in last week's post, I am spending these eight weeks on the Noble Eightfold Path as part of the ground for both my weekly teaching and as I prepare for the teacher immersion I am leading in September which has roots in this very same system. This week's focus is on Right Speech, which in sanskrit is Samyag Va, and is part of the Discipline group (Sila, in Sanskrit) of the eight steps. Right Intention, last week's step, is part of the Wisdom group (Prajna, in Sanskrit).
It feels like such a poignant time to contemplate Right Speech with the advent and rise of social media. At a time when our world feels so polarized, we are caught in the crossfire between unprecedented access to news and information and unprecedented amounts of tabloid, extreme or just plain false communication.
When we contemplate the way our voice and communication manifest, we can consider four aspects of Right Speech. The first is refraining from lying. The second and third, which I think work in tandem, are avoiding slanderous speech and harsh words. The final is avoiding gossip and idle speech. Another way to reframe this with a positive spin is to base our communication on honesty, to speak with kindness and compassion, and to speak only when it benefits others and ourselves.
The other half of this equation which is implicit but not explicitly mentioned is what I might call Deep Listening. When we speak we have a basic desire to be heard, and so the act of listening goes hand in hand with the way we speak to others, but also in the way we speak to ourselves.
As I have grown older and my practice has shifted, most especially since I was pregnant, I have found so much benefit in the art of listening on the mat. I also have spent more time weeding out some of the negative, self-aggressive commentary that perhaps served some purpose at some point, but now that I have a daughter I do not wish to pass on such a torch. Removing aggressive messages and communication leaves more room for listening. More listening creates an environment where informed and honest action can be taken. This is true on and beyond the mat.
May we all benefit and be of benefit to others through this attention to honest and empathetic communication and deep listening.
Some ways to play with speaking and listening this week as we contemplate and practice:
How can we cultivate our communication in person with thoughtfulness and care? Can we listen to our partner or our children more intently? Can we put down the phone or turn off the computer for an extra moment so we can hear what our loved ones wish to share?
How can we cultivate our communication on social media with greater attention to kindness and honesty? In an age of intensely different opinions, and very serious life and death matters, can we maintain a steady even tone and refrain from slander? Can we perpetuate a sense of striving to listen rather than a striving to be the loudest or the most incendiary?
How can we cultivate our communication to and with our own self with more tenderness? Can we notice when we are being self-aggressive and could we reframe our internal dialogue in a sense of self-care instead? What does that look like on the mat or cushion?
I have spent most of my writing time this week pondering the violence that has shown its face in the U.S. yet again, and per my last post, I ended up simply not sharing my thoughts because it all feels too raw and unclear - not a good recipe for starting dialogue about such a sensitive topic.
I haven't forgotten that I have intended to share a weekly theme for classes and it is still my mission. My apologies for the delay on this week. Between a jet-lagged baby and my whirling mind post-travels, I hadn't been able to land on a topic.
Finally while practicing today during my daughter's nap I decided to dive into the Noble eightfold path and share a piece of it each week I am teaching. This is leading up to my teaching immersion which is directly influenced by the very same structure. The Noble path has a lot in common with Patanjali's Ashtanga eight-limbed system so if you are more familiar with that, you may see some similarities.
The original order of the eightfold path begins with Right View, but I would actually like to start with Right Intention and END with Right View as the outcome of all seven other aspects of the path. While this may make sense in a linear way, I also recognize and hope to share that the path is circular, or perhaps more like a spiral. The Buddha might say we all already have Right View, we just have to uncover it through practice. But since we are in a learning environment let us turn that on its head and begin first with practice to arrive at Right View.
My daughter is stirring from her nap so let me at least publish this!
A few questions to ponder this week:
What is your intention/s for practice? For living your life? Are they different?
How has it changed over the years and with different life experiences?
When you set intentions are you also loading yourself with expectations? How can the former exist without the latter?
Please feel free to write in comments or questions. Much love.
When I was living in New York, I marched in the streets for Black Lives Matter. Several times, marches would happen while I was working so I could not attend, but I had the sharply poignant experience of teaching yoga as crowds of thousands marched past our class on Broadway. I remember the roar of the protestors drowning out my own voice as they passed and I stopped class on more than one occasion so that we could listen and offer our silent support, sometimes for many minutes. It was a humbling and important metaphor for how big the movement was and what must take precedence in times like these.Read More
The Bhagavad Gita discusses action without attachment to the fruits of that action. The Yoga Sutras discuss abhyasa and vairagya, practice and non-attachment. The Buddhist literature takes this idea to the next level with the Heart Sutra's dive into the river of interbeing: nothing exists by itself in a vacuum and therefore all of the things we try to hold onto as singular (our opinions, our bodies, our relationships) are impossible to grasp because in some sense, they do not exist - at least not in the very simplified and solid way in which we tend to view them.Read More
In Buddhist meditation, you do not turn yourself into a battlefield, with good fighting against evil. Both sides belong to you, the good and the evil. Evil can be transformed into good, and vice versa. They are completely organic things.
If you look deeply at a flower, at its freshness and its beauty, you will see that there is also compost in it, made of garbage.
The same thing is true of your happiness and your sorrow. Sorrow, fear, and depression are all a kind of garbage. These bits of garbage are part of real life, and we must look deeply into their nature. You can practice in order to turn these bits of garbage into flowers. It is not only your love that is organic; your hate is, too. So you should not throw anything out. All you have to do is learn how to transform your garbage into flowers.
From You Are Here by Thich Nhat Hanh
If we become more generous and open by removing our façade, we are much more kind and loving to ourselves. Then our outside projections become kind to us as well. So the whole world becomes a loving world, one without aggressive conflict. Therefore, you discover that the world is filled with compassion.
You want to be human. Be angry, it’s okay. But not to practice is not okay. To be angry, that is very human. And to learn how to smile at your anger and make peace with your anger is very nice. That is the whole thing—the meaning of the practice, of the learning. By taking a look at your anger it can be transformed into the kind of energy that you need—understanding and compassion. It is with negative energy that you can make the positive energy. A flower, although beautiful, will become compost someday, but if you know how to transform the compost back into the flower, then you don’t have to worry. You don’t have to worry about your anger because you know how to handle it—to embrace, to recognize, and to transform it. So this is what is possible.Read More