Category Archives: Gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving. (Be like the sponge)

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For some of us, gratitude doesn’t come so easily. Or maybe it’s not the gratitude itself, it’s just hard to receive the things that are offered or given. It’s kind of like the dried out sponge. When you try to wipe up some water with it, the hard sponge just pushes the water around. It can’t absorb what’s there. It isn’t until the sponge has a little time under the running faucet that the outer layers get soaked and expand. The water makes it’s way deeper and deeper until, eventually, the very center of the sponge gets to be pliable and soft and absorbant. After it’s soaked, it can be squeezed out and that’s when it becomes it’s most absorbant self. That’s the cycle. That’s what helps the sponge to be able to bend and flex and hold so much.

My wish is that each of us gets soaked with exactly what we need over and over again. That we get filled and nourished to our very deepest parts. When we are, as we are, we can offer and receive. We can bend and flex.

I’m filled up by this special community of readers, seekers, and students every week and I’m thankful for each of you. Blessings to you and your dear ones on this day of Thanksgiving.

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Start 2017 off right!

Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali 8-week Workshop

c60a222648d350f0e6a193b3146ee9e9The Yoga Sūtras is an ancient and fundamental text of Yoga. Even though it’s over 2,000 years old, the 196 aphorisms continue to be relevant to our modern day practice and life. In this course, we’ll dive into the second Chapter and right into the heart of the yoga journey, looking at what yoga is and what it helps us overcome. Through chant, discussion and practice, we’ll learn how to cultivate balance, clarity, and more meaning in our daily life.

January 12th – March 9th, 2017 (no class 2/2)

Thursdays, 9:30 – 11:00am

Private Studio, SW Austin, TX

$150* through 12/15

click here for more info and to register:
http://www.amandagreenyoga.com/workshops-special-events/

 

The help of a good teacher

Alexander Technique work at the Ojai Women's Retreat.

Itsuko and Carol offer hands on help with Alexander Technique at the Ojai Women’s Retreat 2016.

I have a pretty good sense of what is going on in my body and I think a lot about what is happening in my spine, so it’s so wonderful when someone can help me to see or understand something that I haven’t felt before. This happened during my retreat experience in Ojai, California last week.

The retreat was interdisciplinary. I taught a daily yoga practice and yoga sūtras and Carol, my wonderful teaching colleague, presented the parts of the workshop on Āyurveda and the Alexander Technique. I didn’t have any experience or expectations of the Alexander Technique, though I knew it had something to do with improving posture and letting go of tension in the body. Carol did a great job introducing the technique and giving us ways to practice the principles of the method. We had language to help us remember and stay with the main concepts, and with the help of another wonderful AT teacher, we each received some skillful and gentle hands on work.

It was during this part of the classes that I had a remarkable experience. Itsuko worked with me and as she gently slid her open hand across my lower back, it was able to let go a little bit. It felt easier and lighter there. Her soft and skillful touch at the back of my neck let me feel that I could move my head forward and up and let go of some of the holding and tension there. I could sense the length come. And then her hand went toward my mid-back. She said something like, “you don’t have to work so much here” and I felt, for the first time, the reaching and straining that was coming from that place. I made some subtle adjustments and noticed the back of my spine round slightly toward her hand. This was fine and pleasant. Something also happened in the front of my spine. In a place tucked in behind organs and protected by the lower ribs I began to release. But this time I didn’t feel ease. I had the ache of letting go of something that I’ve been gripping for decades and whatever was being held in started to spread. I imagined a jar that’s been sitting at the very darkest spot under the sink catching years worth of drips from a very slow leak… I had knocked it over and it was spilling into me. I felt relief, but I also felt some sadness and confusion. I had to sit still for a few minutes and notice that.

There’s so much we can learn with the help of books, stories, self-observation and reflection. It is a valuable and essential part of the work that we do. But having the support and guidance of a knowledgeable and attune teacher is also very important – even essential. There are things that we can’t see about ourselves because we’ve been with them for so long that they no longer operate at a conscious level. Kind of like the joke where one fish asks his fish friend, “how’s the water?” The other fish says, “what the heck is water?” The help of a teacher or someone who can help us to see our own structures or patterns in a kind and truthful way is an invaluable part of our learning and growth. I’m greatful for Carol and Itusuko for being those teachers for me this week.

 

It’s hard to be happy when we’re worn out

tree rings

The other day, Hazel came back from a weekend at girlscout camp. The camp was wonderfully exhausting. She loves her troop and all the adventures that go with hundreds of girls and cabins and camp activities, though three days of it left her introverted soul worn out and in need of a recharge. She came home still buzzing with excitement but within an hour, the exhaustion overcame her. She retreated to her room, flopped on her bed, and stayed there, sad and crying for a long time.

After a while she came and found me.  We talked about feeling sad and not knowing why. She wondered if this big mood swing was normal or if something was wrong with her. I assured her that for a lot of us, being physically tired goes along with feeling sad or having negative thoughts. We talked about puberty, too. Her body is in the midst of a big change and these changes aren’t just happening in the body…they happen in the mind and the emotional parts of us, too. Even though the sadness can overtake her, it isn’t forever.  When I asked her if it was there during the weekend, she said it wasn’t. That morning, she was happy to be with her friends and was looking forward to coming home from camp. What a big change a few hours can make.

Yoga’s pañca maya model* has helped to make the relationship between body, breath, mind, personality and emotions more clear to me. It speaks to the interconnectedness of all aspects of our being. Any shift, for better or worse, at any of these levels, sends a ripple of an effect through all of the layers. For worse—a tired, sore, worn out body may leave us sad, crying and catastrophizing. For better – we’re rested, well fed, and with time to recharge, then our thoughts are positive and we have feelings of peace. Yoga Sūtra III.9** says, there are patterns of distraction, OR patterns of attention playing out in our system at any given time. When patterns of attention predominate, this extends to the whole system. This is nirodha pariṇāma. In other words, when we make efforts to find or maintain balance and be attentive at any level of our system, this extends to our whole system. Attention and balance in our mind, goes along with ease in our body, long and smooth breathing, and peace in our personality and emotions.

These teachings have helped me to better understand the relationship between these different aspects of my being. I’m grateful for yoga, and my teachers who have helped it to come alive for me. And I’m so grateful that I get to be Hazel’s mama. It’s very possible that Hazel has more emotional intelligence at twelve than I have at thirty-nine. She can watch and identify when she feels sad. She can tell what happens when she feels this way. She asks for help to understand it and to normalize it and is learning to see the connectedness of it all along the way. She is one of my teachers, too.

 

*The pañca maya model describes 5 layers or ‘veils’: annamaya (body), prāṇamaya (breath or prāṇa), manomaya (mind, intellect), vijñānamaya (personality), and ānandamaya (emotions or bliss)

**Yoga Sūtra III.9 vyutthānanirodhasaṁskāroḥ abhibhavaprādurbhāvau nirodhakṣaṇacittānvayo nirodhapariṇāmaḥ

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Interested in learning more about the deeper teachings of yoga and applying them in your life?  Join me in Ojai, CA this August for a 5-day retreat!  http://handson-retreats.com It’s going to be great. 

What my camping trip taught me about yoga…

Camping!

Last weekend, I packed up the kids and the car and went out of town for a camping weekend. When the girls and I found the campsite, it was already amazing. Jenn and her girls had gotten there in the early afternoon and set up. She had coolers full of food by the picnic table, chairs around the fire ring, and hammocks swinging from the trees. We unloaded and settled right in. After Sloan arrived with her bags of food, folding table and another hammock it was like camping at the Hilton.

We spent the weekend visiting, singing, eating and laughing. Hazel dedicated some of her time to making a case for leaving early, but I didn’t give in. The kids braved the freezing cold swimming hole while Jenn and I sat in the sunshine and Sloan read her book in a hammock. Nora and the younger girls traveled to neighboring campsites making friends along the way. The kids floated sticks downstream. They peed in the woods…and all over shoes and pants. We still have some training to do in that department.

There was a quiet moment on Saturday afternoon when all campers engaged in quiet activities and I made my way to a hammock. When I got in, my body conformed to the sling shape and the fabric sides of the hammock nearly closed up around me. I was the delicious filling of a hammock soft taco.

With the sides of the hammock covering my peripheral vision, I could only see a narrow strip of the sky and the canopy of trees above me. In the few minutes that I was taco-ed up, I became more settled and calm. My eyes had a direction to go and something to focus on. I saw so much more of the trees and sky through this narrow opening than I did when everything was wide open.

It made me think about this thing of directing our attention – something that yoga helps us to be able to do. When my eyes weren’t attempting to take in the huge span of what I could see right to left and up and down, I felt different. When I let myself stay and my eyes be still, I  really saw the canopy of the trees. I watched and thought about only that, and I relaxed. Our senses seek stimulation, and each has its own particular ‘foods’—colors, noises, movement, and sensation. The senses wander around looking for this, but when the senses line up and follow the direction we choose for them it feels different. Less frenetic. More purposeful.

There’s a way we can create hammock tacos for our senses when we are wanting to connect to the special things in life. When we direct our attention and can be fully with an experience, our system feels different. Focus and attention feels good. When we are with our friends around the campfire and our senses are listening, feeling, and seeing that, then that’s what we get to take with us. That’s what we connect with and that’s what we remember.

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Registration now open!

Ojai Women’s RETREAT

AGY readers receive a $200 discount on or before May 15th! IMG0172

REAL LIFE. REAL TOOLS.

AUGUST 31ST TO SEPT. 5TH, 2016

This 5-day retreat is specially designed to teach you the art of unlearning and letting go of old patterns that have long since lost their usefulness while also providing precious leisure time which allows these new skills and understandings to become more rooted in your daily life.

We teach YogaAyurveda and the Alexander Technique in a practical and meaningful way so that when you return home you will have useful tools to keep this new, balanced relationship going—not only within yourself but with everyone around you.

Carol P. Prentice ~ Amanda Green ~ Sydney Laurel Harris

Enter the code *RENEW2016* in your registration form under questions and comments to receive your discount. (*cannot be combined with any other discounts)

Thin Places

FullSizeRenderWe’ve all had the experience of hearing a song we haven’t heard in a long time and then it reminds us of who we were and the people we hung out with at a time when we listened to it a lot. And I had this experience yesterday.

When I was in high school, I had a friend who was killed in an accident. I still think of her often, but the thoughts don’t stick around for long and they don’t trigger a lot of emotion like they once did. But one day this week, Dave played a song on the guitar and it happened to be a song that Lori danced to in a talent show when we were in school together. As he played, I was overwhelmed with the feeling of Lori. This fullness of memory, images, feelings, colors, emotions, things I hadn’t experienced in years came to me in an instant – I closed my eyes hoping I could better watch what was happening —how she danced, the line of her perfectly even front teeth, the way she held her head a little sideways so her side-bangs wouldn’t hang in her eye, the weight of the bones of her shoulders. I could feel how she smiled and how funny she was. She was so bright and so nice to me. With tears streaming down my face, I could feel the wonderful 15-year-old love I had for my friend and I realized how much I love her still. This was such a gift.

Later in the day, with Lori still on my mind, I reflected on this experience and about thin places, an expression I came across in a reading about Celtic spirituality. These are places where the veil between the physical and spiritual realms is barely there; where sky meets water or where people worship, where we may sense the ephemeral and more easily move in and out of time. I love this and it resonates with me after having this experience, though I have to admit that I was sitting on my brown couch amongst a motley crew of hand me down furniture in my living room when I had my experience. This is a setting that wouldn’t strike anyone as particularly ‘thin’.

Yoga is mysterious. It starts out feeling like it’s about stretching, or breathing or taming the mind or maybe even finding peace, but then it so much more. It’s such a deeply personal practice. There’s a way that yoga practice helps me to feel more open to these moments. The separation between myself as a spiritual being doesn’t feel so separate from the rest of me because of yoga. Yoga has a way of letting my system be a thin place. Quiet attention to breath and movement and the intention of coordinating all of that in one direction might have started as a way to feel better, but along the way, this same simple work is so much more.  The other day, I stopped what I was doing and watched as time folded in on itself and something amazing came. I was so close to my teenage experience and to my friend and to love.

Foolproof way to amp up your gratitude this Thanksgiving

chair

Thanksgiving is my long-time favorite holiday. It earned that superlative for the family, the turkey, and the day off of my regularly scheduled activities. Thankfulness is part of it, but historically, that part comes after the pumpkin pie and whipped cream and right before the nap. This year is different. Giving thanks has a deeper meaning for me than it has before and it’s been a pivotal piece in helping me to see that every moment of my life is a sacred gift. (How’s that for gratitude?)  It didn’t just happen. My yoga practice has made this possible, along with a special and ongoing meditation practice that I’ll share below.

I can now see that I can be grateful for every single thing in my life because none of it came from me. None of it is owed to me or is my due. It has all been given. Everything I enjoy, everything I do, every experience, my basic existence has been shared, lent, or given as a gift by someone or some power beyond my own. When I think about it now, it is so very humbling and my heart feels so big.

I’ve described the meditation below.  There are lots of places that this process can take you and you’ll make it your own. It’s wonderful to practice again and again and the cumulative effect is pretty darn sweet. (see above paragraph)

Think about something in your life. When you begin, that may be too broad. I think it’s nice to think about something that you are touching or even the room that you are in.   You might become aware of the floor or walls, an item of clothing, a ring on your finger, a chair, the air around you.

 We’ll start with the chair I’m sitting on.

 Notice how the thing feels .

It’s sturdy. The seat is firm. It’s a good height.

–Think about who made it or where it came from most recently.

 This chair belonged to my mom and dad. My mom gave it to me. I remember when the seat broke out of this chair 3 years ago. My mom went online and found a seat bottom that have a bird nest design. She got the replacement seat, stained it to match and repaired the chair.

Thank you online vendor and factory people. Thank you to the people that made the little nails that hold in the seat. Thanks to the craftsperson who designed the little bird in the nest. Thank you mom.

 —Where was it before that? Who was involved in that process and what happened then?

 This chair probably came into our family because someone sold it at a store.

Thank you person who showed up to work on the day that someone I know needed a chair. For helping in whatever way you did. For providing this service.

 —And before that

Someone made the chair. Someone with training and interest. Someone else who showed up to work (even though there are always so many other things that we might need or choose to do), and physically made this chair.

Thank you chair maker.

 —And before that

Someone designed the chair and came up with something that is both sturdy and beautiful.

Thank you person, who designed this chair. Who took time to learn what a good chair needs, what materials are involved and how to make something with tools, hands, and creativity.

And before that

The chair is made of wood. That wood came from a forest and someone cut the wood from the forest, made it into lumber so that it could become this thing that I am now using.

Thank you lumber people.

Before that it was a tree, growing. The tree could only grow with dirt, air, water and an ecosystem that supported it.

Thank you nature and ecosystem, air, and dirt.

 —Before that, the tree was a seed that had some genetic code that held all the information that allowed the tree to grow.

(There’s always a point in this meditation where people are no longer the connection and at this point, I think about Higher power. Seeds and genes and the miracle of life blows my mind and it isn’t something any person made or did and yet, there it is and here we are. I refer to the higher power in my life as God.  Your meditation might take a different turn. You might see it as nature, biology, evolution. It’s a bigger order. It still totally works.)

Thank you God for this miracle of the seed that grew this tree.

 So at this point, I’m usually crying because it’s all so amazing. On the rare day I’m not, I might just sit with this feeling of gratitude because it takes a while to let this stuff sink in: it’s not just the chair I’m sitting on that has come to me in it’s own amazing way, but everything. Everything I’m touching, along with the stuff I can’t actually touch but touches me, have come because of something other than myself. And I like the feeling and the reminder that I’m blessed to be touched by so much.

 

Happy Thanksgiving, readers. I’m so grateful for each of you.