Arunachula at sunrise

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Trust, surrender and feel

The theme that seems to be up in my life these days is surrendering and trusting in the unknown. Plans and paths that seem so open and right have taken unexpected last-minute turns, doors that have invitingly opened have suddenly closed, and I've been put into situations where I have the opportunity to face some of my deepest fears without letting these fears push me into "forcing" a solution.

My habit has been to have things planned, to smooth out rough edges and make the package all neat and tidy. This level of perceived control has given me a sense of calm throughout my life, so that when other areas get rocky, I can rely on the solid known quantities to help me to feel at ease. So the learning for me seems to be surrendering to the chaos, trusting that the solutions will come without me "efforting" my way into one that may not feel right. The lesson expands into looking into various paths and trusting my body and my inner knowledge as well. If something feels a little off key, even if it seems like it might be the easiest path, perhaps I can start to listen to that information and trust that the path that is tuned up perfectly will present itself.

Yoga has become one of the only "known quantities" present in my life right now. I can soothe myself with my breath, I can calm myself with gentleness, with meditation, with feeling into the positives and gratitude and beauty that is all around me, even when the suffering has such an inviting hook. I can practice feeling good, and at the same time REALLY feel the fears, the self-doubt, the desire to "fix" without letting the mind attach stories to those feelings. .

So what is the solution? In my own internal experiments these are my findings:

1) Resistance, denial and repression keeps these feelings deep inside of me and allows inner turmoil and conflict to flourish. I tend to unconsciously react to situations, compromise myself or let small amounts of the energy out through passive-aggressive means.

2) Obsession, over-thinking and story-telling bring the energies to the surface, but these techniques feel like they feed the energy and intensify it. The energy builds and I begin to identify with it, feel like a victim or have violent thought toward myself or others. Meanwhile, my mind is cluttered and I lose my ability to quiet down enough to feel/hear a solution.

3) Feeling without story-telling has seemed to prove the most effective method. Feeling without charging it up with thought seems to be the key to truly heal and begin to dissipate those energies that subconsciously run everything in our lives. This can be tricky--we have a really strong desire to "know" what feelings are about. I still often want to know, and even allow myself to explore the feelings short term on a mental level, just enough to satisfy my mind. But the true healing and movement and release of my fears and emotions seems to occur when I feel the sensations and resist the temptation to give it the fuel of my stories. It's pretty miraculous--I can actually feel the intensity build, move through my body and dissipate.

I am so grateful for yoga (and Yoga) for assisting me in feeling and noticing, for showing me how to notice inner contractions and expansions to give me feedback, for helping me learn how to turn the volume down in my mind enough to let feelings have a place in my life. And I give gratitude and honor to all of my teachers, my mirrors, my experiences as they shape me one moment at a time.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Musings on the Heart

Since I began doing yoga many years ago, teachers have directed me to bring attention to my heart. I always found this difficult--I had a really clear knowledge as to where it is in the body (I took gross anatomy, after all) and I knew where the energetic center was (from years of working on people).

But when I have been asked to tune into my own heart, I have often felt like I was pretending to tune into it. I had this vague sense of "yep, this is where the energy should be", but I had a hard time feeling it. I spent years meditating and visualizing this great big ball of energy that radiates out through my entire body and out into the world. I occasionally would feel emotions around it, but it still felt nebulous and unclear. How could I spend day after day feeling energy in other people, in my hands, over my head and around my body, moving up and down my limbs and my spine but not feel the expansiveness in the heart center? Backbends weren't cutting it for me; they worked amazingly well at vitalizing me, but the energy just seemed to skip past my heart and went straight up to my crown.

I have spent the last couple of years doing a more introspective, gentle and watery style of yoga. I kind of gave up on "opening the heart" in the traditional way. I have long known that I have had an area right behind my heart that is held in extension and twisted--it's an area of my scoliotic spine that I have always thought was a compensation for my larger twist at the back of my solar plexus. It's an area that hurt during inversions, collapsed in down dog and plank. Since spending more time working with the connective tissue, doing a lot of forward bends and really going inside myself during my practice, I have realized that the back and sides of my heart are where I am tight...and that if I continued to push my heart forwards with backbends, that poor heart was never going to feel supported. I was accentuating a movement that was possibly causing my inability to feel there--it was a position that offered me protection for many years--because when the heart center isn't really in your body, you don't haveto feel it.

This awareness also led me to realizing that if I have compensated in some way from feeling in some area of my body, the bottom line is that I haven't felt safe to be there. Laura Tyree's workshop reminded me of how essential the root chakra is, and got me thinking that if I don't feel supported and solid on the earth, there is little chance that the rest of me will cooperate with this whole "living on earth" thing. Maybe that is the key to unwinding not only the twist behind my heart, but perhaps all of the twists in my spine.

I am starting to feel my heart more and more--I'm finally getting what my teachers were trying to teach me. And I am starting to finally realize why sometimes I need to stand up during my yoga practice, feet solidly planted on the ground. Safe.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Listen more, react less

As I was meditating this morning, these words came to me. I reflect on the ways these words fit into my life, where I need to increase my listening and decrease my reactions.

On the mat, listening more brings me into my body, shows respect and love for what my body needs, and by not reacting to my findings, I can take the time to choose a response to the information in a way that helps my body.

In my daily mind happenings, I can be more open to experiencing the actual going-ons around me and again, step away from reactions to what my mind may initially say. I can listen for how certain thoughts make me feel and choose to not react.

In my interpersonal happenings, if things get difficult, I can listen with openness and love, noticing my feelings and body responses without going into the habit of reacting, defending, freezing or retreating. I can listen to myself and the internal feedback I get to help me respond in a way that serves me better.

Listen more. React less.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

those voices of insecurity

I am constantly amazed at how new and deeper layers of the same old thing just keep popping up. I figured that out a long time ago, but somehow i just sit in awe every time I start to hear those old thought patterns creep in again. It would be really easy for me to just go into the pattern that I used to go into: hear the thoughts and believe them--let them take me on an emotional journey into self-doubt and shame. It's interesting how seductive that path of ease can be, even though I know from deep in my bones that it's something that is harmful to me--that those thoughts and emotions no longer serve me.

These days I (usually) can catch myself starting down that road before the energy gets too strong to resist getting swept away by it. It can actually be a little amusing and curious to see the old patterns present themselves--it can be kind of fun to see how a little comment inside your head could easily spiral into a reaction process that could take days to get through. It's a lot more fun if you can see it and feel it without letting that process HAPPEN--but even if it does, at least you can be aware of the process and fascinated by it.

Doing something new always seems to spark that voice of insecurity inside of me, so deciding to teach a class that is different than the classes I have taught before makes me feel a little vulnerable. I watch the people around me who are just AMAZING teachers and the comparisons start. And I can feel how my body reacts to the self-shaming, how it contracts. And how that contraction gives my mind permission to start bringing up other ways to be self-critical. I actually started laughing when I watched the latest of these thought processes. As I rolled out of bridge pose I heard, "I can feel my scoliosis. My body is defective too."


So what is cool about observing that process is that I could really see that I had a choice to laugh off the thoughts that came up and choose to listen to different ones, or I had the choice to believe them and fuel the old pattern. And I also had the choice to beat myself up over still HAVING these thoughts or to be grateful and celebrate this amazing opportunity to let some of the energy behind those patterns burn off.

Not really a very difficult choice...

**these blog posts are also posted on Lulu Bandhas new interactive blog site, "The Garden"

Thursday, May 13, 2010

you're grounded!

If only those words produced the actual results of grounding, I would have been oh-so there as a teenager. But unfortunately, I actually have to do some (ok...a LOT of) work to feel like I am happily inhabiting my body. My intention through yoga over the past several years has been trying to bring an increased awareness to my body and to act from a centered place.

We hear these words "grounded", "centered" and we have some sort of vague notion about what that means. As I have been tuning into the energy body more and more, I have become hyper-aware of how disconnected from my physical body it can become throughout the day. I mean, I'm still here, I still can function and think and act...but I am noticing that when I'm "in my head" or "ahead of myself", that my energy level and vitality drains from me much more quickly. I notice that I can more easily drift off into thought, or bump into things or miss my exit, for example. And that interacting with others, especially during my work can really drain me if I am "putting myself out there" too much. And try being a good listener when you aren't in a centered place.

So being the curious experimenter that I am, I have played with noticing what is happening inside during my basic daily activities and if I notice that my attention/intention is outside of myself I try to tune my awareness to bringing that vitality inside and literally try to center it in my body (which for me tends to be bringing it down and toward the back of my body). It's actually pretty fun, and I feel so much better when I can really be in there. The most fun I have is while taking a walk outside. I will sometimes intention my energy in different directions and feel what it does to my body. Then I try to move and walk at different paces while trying to stay in the center.

Being light and airy by nature, it's really been cool to feel how heavy I can actually feel, how connected I actually can be with the earth. I get to really experience how amazing it is to be here, in this body, on this planet. (Something that has taken me years, maybe lifetimes to appreciate fully)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

surreal fitness

i think there is a really good market for this type of idea in a yoga class--who's game?

Monday, April 5, 2010

so this is how yoga tends to look at my home too. (except i keep losing my drishti point):