Sprinter

 

The other day on Facebook I read a post that said New England is now experiencing a new season called Sprinter.  Ugh, as I write this on April 19th there is snow and freezing rain falling outside my window.  Sprinter is not about running a short but fast race, it is winter conditions even though the calendar says we are technically in springtime.

Sprinter, makes my mind start to churn, and churn, and churn. Last month in my yoga class we talked about cultivating the opposite to calm your churning mind.  Students asked why and how do they cultivate the opposite.  Sprinter gives us the opportunity to practice cultivating the opposite.

Before you can cultivate the opposite you must identify what you are feeling in the first place.  So how does hearing the word sprinter  or looking out the window on April 19th and seeing snow make YOU feel?  Not your spouse, kids, friends or coworkers but you what are you feeling right now? Sit with that for a moment, experience and identify the feeling and emotion that arises.

If you are a skier you might be joyful, ski season is extended for you! Your mind is not churning.  If you are like me and want to work in your garden or get outside for walks and to enjoy sunshine and warm weather the feeling might not be so joyful.  Your mind might be churning.  Now sit with the churning, feel it, recognize the emotion and name it.  Until you name it you can not cultivate the opposite.  Once you name it and recognize it you can begin to cultivate or contemplate the opposite.

That opposite is also very individualized.  Lets look at some examples, sprinter might make you feel sad, angry, frustrated or worried just to name a few.  Now you have to decide what is the opposite for YOU.  The opposite of sad could be happy, blissful, joy, contentment so many choices, that you must identify for yourself.

Once you have identified the opposite can you cultivate it?  How my students ask? To start to cultivate the opposite you can begin by contemplating the opposite.  How do you feel when you are happy or joyful? Focus on that feeling, bring that opposite emotion to the forefront of your thoughts and choose to feel that instead of letting your negative emotions set your mind a churning.  You may even have to fake it till you make it a few times, but each time you choose to cultivate the opposite you are training your mind so that it is not always churning and leading you into negative thoughts and emotions.  You are training your mind to let yourself choose how you want to feel! Don’t let sprinter get you down, after all spring temperatures will eventually arrive, now how does that make you feel?

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My Inner and Outer Critic

via Daily Prompt: Criticize

How do I criticize myself?  Let me count the ways.  Self criticism is so internal that no one necessarily knows I’m doing it but me.  The thousands of thoughts that run through my head on a daily basis are rarely positive.  I’m fat, frumpy, not good enough a failure, etc. Why are we so hard on ourselves?

Like any problem realization and acceptance are a start to stopping the inner critic in my mind. Like most problems I face my  yoga and meditation practice helps me to begin to control my inner thoughts. Yoga helps me still the constant replay of mostly negative thoughts.  In fact the goal of yoga is to still the modifications (thoughts) of the mind.

There is a flip side to self-criticism, I am not unknown to criticize others.  Often when I think or say something negative about another it is not to their face.  So I realize I can and should be kinder to myself and others.

The word itself criticize has a negative connotation, but constructive criticism is helpful, necessary and often provides an opportunity for growth.  So much of whether criticism is helpful or harmful is in the delivery.  So before I speak to myself, to others and especially about others I am going to pause, think and maybe rephrase to positive, constructive statements! How lucky I am to have found Svaroopa(R) Yoga to help me along the way.

Modifications of the Mind

One of the most famous text on yoga is Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. In the text Patanjali explains what yoga is.  In  Sutra 1.2 he says:

“Yogas citta-vrtti-nirodhah”

I.K. Taimni translates this as:

“Yoga is the inhibition of the modifications of the mind” 1

Your first question might be what are modifications of the mind?  We just don’t speak like that today.  Modifications of the mind is the chatter that at least for me is constantly going on subtly in the background of my mind.  Citta-vrtti is the sanskrit for these modifications and it always strikes me as the word itself almost sounds like chatter.

The modifications and chatter in your mind takes me back to 8 track tapes.  In the 70’s you could buy an album on an 8 track tape to play in your car.  In what now looking back was a rather large player that attached to your car radio.  We didn’t have car stereos back then and certainly couldn’t carry a whole collection of music on one little tiny I-pod. I guess I’m really showing my age.

This sutra reminds me of 8 tracks because in most peoples minds there is usually several streams of thought (tracks) going on at any one moment.  Fewer streams since I started yoga but always more than one.  Stop for a moment, close your eyes and notice the thoughts in your mind.  How many different tracks do you have?

Everyone has constant thoughts going through their head.  Yoga helps you stop the modifications of the mind, stop the chatter, stop the chitta-vrtti’s.  This is why yoga helps you calm and quiet the mind.  This for me is why yoga is so helpful in easing stress and anxiety.  If the thoughts going through your head are of constant worry and fear what will that do to your body?  To your mind?  Yoga’s tools of poses, breathing practices and meditation can be used to help you calm the chatter.

Practicing yoga helped me go from 8 tracks of thoughts to one or two at a time.  So don’t let the chatter exhaust you, don’t let your thoughts turn you into a hamster on a wheel constantly replaying things over and over in your head.  Take a yoga or meditation class and start to still the modifications in your mind.  See how much better you feel!

  1. The Science of Yoga I.K.Taimni p.6

Empty Nestor and Not Hating It!

Okay, another week has gone by and this empty nest thing is not going away, but it is getting a little easier.  I definitely still don’t like the overwhelming quiet that pervades the house, but there are some benefits.

The house stays cleaner, neater and tidier, there is less laundry to do and don’t even get me started on the beautiful state the bathrooms stay in.  How come I have 3 children but there always seems to be 9 dirty towels in the the bathroom?

Our food bill at the supermarket has gone down. This is relative in that I try not  to think about the enormous amount we paid for a meal plan at their universities. To be honest I will take every penny I can save along the way.  We had a coupon for our local supermarket and we had to spend $140 to reap the benefits and just couldn’t spend that much, oh how times have changed. That is another benefit, we can eat what and when we like!

The positive and negatives aside what I am really feeling is that most things in life are not all good or all bad.  The key is to just live in that moment, experiencing it, feeling it, living it.  Yoga says you can only control your reaction.  So when the empty nest sneaks up on you, and it really does, how are you going to react?  First I cried, then I did a yoga and meditation practice, then I blogged.  For me these were all things that help me process this life changing event. The yoga and meditation keep me grounded and help me maintain my yogic steady state even when I miss my children.

In fact the process helped me realize it’s not all negative, this is an opportunity to open a new chapter for my husband and me.  A time to reconnect and discover our own hopes and dreams not just what we want for our children. Now after 5 weeks I can look forward to parents weekend and going to see my daughter, hopefully I won’t cry when we leave this time. Even if I cry I know that I’m okay with returning to the empty nest. I’m living in the moment, in this new chapter I may not love it, but I don’t hate it.

Empty Nester and Not Loving It!

This fall my youngest left for college.  It is a new phase of life, a new stage.  How did this happen? It seems like just a moment ago I was holding each of my 3 children in my arms as newborn babies.  in that instant I was filled with so much joy, love and happiness and now already the last is leaving the nest.

So my nest won’t officially be empty for 4 more weeks when my oldest son leaves for Thailand to go and teach there for a year.  It seems so very far away and almost incomprehensible that we won’t see him for almost a year.  My second son is back at college for his Junior year, and my youngest is having a great start to her Freshman year in college. I am so proud of each of them and happy to see them moving forward in their lives, this is exactly what my husband and I want for them! So why is it tinged with sadness for us and most other parents?

I find for me there are several reasons. First, while yes I am still their mother there is a change in that identity.  I am not needed to mother them every day.  Unlike when they were younger they don’t need me to drive them around, make them a snack or tuck them in at night. I am still their mother, but like a cousin once removed, I now mother from a distance.

Some of the sadness comes from missing the daily communications. My house is so quiet, no more noisy dinners as we hear about everyone’s day, no more friends dropping by filling the house with noise and laughter. No longer can I hug them when I notice they are having a tough day.  Communications are planned, first texting “are you available to Skype at 8?”, then waiting till 8 o’clock and hoping the technology will work for us.

What does yoga have to say about this?  Yoga says that your attachment to an identity causes pain, the feeling of loss of the identity of mother causes pain. Even though I am still their long distance Mom, it is a loss, a change in that identity, it can and should be mourned. Yoga says your happiness should be independent from the events that are happening around you.  I can’t let my happiness be dependent on my children being home, this would not be healthy for them or me. They are doing what they should be doing, what we have encouraged and prepared them to do. they are moving on growing, learning and becoming beautiful independent young men and women that my husband and I are incredibly proud of. The way they are stepping into their new stages of life with grace inspires me to do the same.

Finding Balance

Several years ago I was out with my Mom, sisters, niece and daughter looking for bridesmaid dresses for my sister’s wedding.  As we were in the dressing room my Mom said “you can put your trousers on standing up? I can’t balance well enough to do that anymore.”  This really made me pause because as we age balance is so important and becomes such a big issue for the elderly.  Now I use “putting my trousers on standing up” as my baseline.  I know if I can’t do that I need to work on my balance!

In Svaroopa(r) Yoga we say that balance can not be forced or created but like your bliss is found within.  If your mind is churning with thoughts, you feel worried, anxious, or distracted you are not going to find balance in your body.  When your body and mind are out of balance this will spill over into your life.  So how do we find balance?

Yoga gives you many tools for keeping or regaining your balance.  One of course is to first learn to balance on two feet standing in Tadasana and letting your weight lean through your leg bones and into your feet.  Allowing yourself to feel grounded and connected to the floor.  You can also practice balance poses like Tree or Stork, you can use a wall for support and practice standing on one foot.

There is another way to find the balance that is within and that is to work on your mind. Using meditation to quiet your mind will first stop the racing thoughts in your mind and secondly as your mind balances your body will naturally follow, becoming more centered and grounded as you stand on one foot.

If you can’t put your trousers on standing up and you can tell you have poor balance it can become a viscous circle, where do you start?  When you practice Svaroopa(r) Yoga you will use poses that are reliable to release the core tensions in your spine and when these tensions release your balance in your body will automatically improve, your mind will begin to quiet and your balance pose will become more steady.  All this from releasing the tensions in your spine starting at your tailbone and working up to your rib cage.

If you want to experience more balance in your body, mind and life join me Sunday May 17th at Sohum Yoga for a workshop on balance 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM.  This workshop is suitable for the beginner to the experienced yogi! Can’t make it this Sunday try any Svaroopa(r) Yoga class to experience profound changes in your body and your mind.

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