Yoga is a consciously created experience

I have a memory of sitting on the floor in my elementary school library, listening to a special guest who was there to talk to us about dental hygeine. I guess she was a hygenist from a local dentist’s office because she wasn’t someone from the school. Her hair was neat and she had an overly enthusiastic, “talking to children so they’ll be interested” voice, but I still liked her. She sat on a child-sized chair, which meant when she brought out the model of perfect, plastic, bright white teeth and a giant toothbrush they were right at eye level. She showed us how to brush the teeth and gums in circles. She even let a few of us take a turn. After that, she brought out the dental floss and went through that routine. That’s the first day that I ever remember hearing that I should floss my teeth.

In my twenties, I got married and moved to Seattle. I went for a dental check up at a new office. I didn’t like the dentist, but I had a great hygenist and she was a committed advocate of flossing. I think she talked about it for half of my cleaning. She said something like, “Do you brush your teeth twice a day?” I made a sound something like aaah-haaa. “Well, it would be better for you to replace that second one with flossing. You’re only cleaning two sides of your teeth when you brush! People are shocked when I say that, but it’s true. The floss gets the other two sides that your brush can’t reach.” That made as much of an impression on me as the lady in elementary school. Still, I remained only an occasional flosser.

Then, the day came when I had my first cavity. It was two cavities, actually. They found some dark spots on an x-ray between two of my back molars. I’d have to get fillings. I went to the appointment and it was really unpleasant. Nothing hurt, exactly, but I didn’t like the smells, the powder that came off the drill, the grinding, the hands in my mouth or the ache of my jaw when hinged to extra-wide. I didn’t ever want to have to do that again. It wasn’t just knowing I should floss, it was having the experiencial knowledge of the alternative that motivated me to chage my behavior. I began flossing regularly.

Experience is a great teacher. Things that reach us or affect us at an emotional and experiencial level have a much greater impact on what we do and how we respond than mere theory, ideas, or principles. Sometimes things happen in our lives that change us for the better. Sometimes experiences do the opposite. How do we have the kinds of experiences so we’ll benefit and develop into the kind of person we want to become?

We can’t leave it up to chance. As my teacher says, we need to have experiences that are consciously created so that we can connect with what we need to grow. If we spend time each day in a state that lets us feel, understand and experience attention and focus, peace, balance, nourishment, or healing, then it will gradually change us. Sometimes we need the experience of patience so we can weather difficulties we’re facing. The experiences we have stay with us. Yoga is a practice of consciously created experiences. It’s a time-tested system that uses movement, breath, visualization and meditation and when applied in an individualized way, these tools become the means to changing our behavior and way of thinking so that we can have meaningful relationships and lives. If you’d like to know more about this practice and how it can help you, let’s get in touch. I’d be happy to help you experience your best self.

 

 

 

 

As my life shifts and changes … so does this blog

 

Let’s see what’s coming next…

Over the last few months, I’ve been thinking about this blog—how and why I started writing, the friendships and connections that have come because of it, how it has changed as I’ve changed, and where I am now. I’ve taken the last two weeks to see how it feels to pause my weekly writing practice and to reflect on what I’d like it to be now.

This blog started out in 2011 as a way to articulate and better understand things that were happening in my life as a result of yoga. I’d learn something then see it show up in my relationship with my kids or while I was driving or in the midst of an epic battle of house rats, and then take time to put it into words. The process of writing and reflecting provided me with the opportunity to spend more time with some whisp of intuition or to more carefully observe the slippery inner workings of my mind. By attempting to translate the experience or feeling into words, I had something of substance that I could work with and reflect on. It helped make manifest something important yet ephemeral. The process was exhilirating and meaningful. Nearly every week, as I wrote, published, read comments and had conversations my heart would pound in that way that confirmed how important this was to me. Blogging reminded me, in all the right ways, that I was alive, that writing is alive and that I am connected to the people, the ideas, the experiences and the feelings that I want to be connected to.

Flash forward to today, 2017. The experiences, feelings, and insights that were once ephemeral now have substance and staying power in my life. They are foundational to how I operate in my relationships and my teaching. I certainly don’t do it ‘perfectly,’ whatever that might mean, but I am more able to tune in, observe and listen to these more subtle aspects of myself and to operate from that place. Thanks to my friends and teachers at YATNA, my personal practice, and the individual guidance I receive from my yoga mentor, Chase Bossart, I have much of the needed language and framework for understanding what is happening in me and how to respond. Something else has happened, too. I’ve noticed that my attempts to write about all of this aren’t coming as easily. The personal work I’m involved in now is so incredibly intimate and I’m less willing or just less interested in putting into words the mystery of my unfolding spiritual adventure.  This inner work of yoga is really something.

So a change is a-coming. I’ll continue to reflect on what this blog will be for me and for us or maybe we’ll just watch it unfold together as I try out a different format for my posts or shift my focus to something that makes my heart do that thing again. I’ll still write and post, though on less of a fixed schedule. I do hope that we’ll keep in touch in a regular way, dear readers. If you’ve been considering deepening your yoga practice and would like to work together, let’s set up a time to talk – 20 minutes, no charge, and you can ask questions and we can see what we can do together. I’m in Austin, TX, but I’m also online (which means I can meet you anywhere!) CONTACT ME by clicking here.  If you aren’t already on my mailing list, there’s a button on the sidebar of the blog page or you can click here: SIGN UP FOR THE AGY NEWSLETTER  and you’ll get a monthly update on classes I offer, the annual Ojai Women’s retreat, links to yoga research, recipes that support a healthy lifestyle, or other offerings that I think you should hear about. Yay for change. Yay for 2017.

Until next time…

 

It’s easy to have faith when everything is going my way

Thomas Prior‘s heart-racing photographs from the National Pyrotechnic Festival in Tultepec. — Click image to check out more fireworks photos on wired.com

I’ve noticed that when things are going well, then I have no problem having faith in the order of the universe or believing that the direction of life is guided by a higher power. I can embrace the principle of Īśvara-pranidhana: we aren’t in control of everything that happens and yet we are held. The tapestry is bigger than the small part I’m seeing. I may not understand how things will work out, but they will. This is all very comforting during times in which I’m already quite comfortable.

When things aren’t working out the way I think they should, or something ‘bad’ is happening, then a very different mode kicks in. I become afraid. I start fretting and worrying. I read, read, read and think, think, think about whatever it is as if knowing more about the situation will change what’s happening. Then I begin to spin my wheels about what I am going to do about it. It reminds me of a time I was in Mexico and happened upon a saint’s festival in the town’s plaza. When it got dark, these young men put on what looked like back-packs made of twigs and then took a match to them. There were fireworks on these backpacks and once lit, they shot out blasts of sparkling white lights, causing parts of the backpack to spin furiously and for a few seconds, they lit up the whole plaza. The young men ran around, and we all screamed and cheered because it was exciting but also because we were afraid that they’d light themselves, or us, on fire. These were a glorious, emotional few seconds and then the fireworks were all used up and the show was over. That’s how it feels with me.

There’s no śraddhā or faith here. I forget all about universal goodness and comfort and the support I feel the rest of the time. I forget all about the bigger tapestry and I narrow in on the little part that doesn’t and can’t possibly fit in with anything else. I’m not plugged in to an infinite energy source, I’m burning through something limited and small. This shift makes hard times worse because even if I read and think and act out with every second of my day, some things aren’t within my power to change. Trying to change these things causes more grief and further extinguishes śraddhā.

Śraddhā and Īśvara-pranidhana, a sense of faith and trust, are comforting in the good and easy times. In order to connect with them during difficult times, I have to be willing to let go of this mode where I flail-around attempting to control things that are beyond me. There are certainly things I can do, but changing the outcome of an election, or curing someone’s cancer, or putting an end to a Syrian tragedy aren’t within my power. I have to be willing to accept that I’m not in control. But there’s more.  There’s also remembering that the power that is at work in the good and joyful moments is also working in the difficult ones as well. I’m finding that this takes a lot of trust to loosen my grip and find the feeling of faith in the order of the universe or believing that the direction of life is guided by a higher power even when things are difficult and scary.  It’s a different than something that burns fast and then burns out. It’s like moving into the flow of something that keeps offering light in a steady enduring way. Love. Faith. Trust.

We passed through the darkest night of the year and now welcome the growing light of the season. May we all bask in the enduring light.

Lots of love to each of you,

Amanda

Fear effects our thinking, actions and relationships

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There are times when we must endure life-threatening situaitons and fear is a part of our mechanism for survival. There are also times when something in our life feels threatened, and this, too, can arouse fear and the host of symptoms that go along with it. When fear is operating at the lower levels of the spectrum and the symptoms are more subtle, we may not even be aware of the effect it is having on our thinking, actions, and relationships. But it is. Fear is powerful.

There was the time when my manager thought we should change my class schedule and drop one class. I freaked out. I couldn’t even consider the proposal. I started to worry that I was less popular than the other teachers and no one would come to class ever again and how would I make up the income… I put all my energy into fighting to keep things the way they were. I couldn’t see it any other way.

Since the election, the same thing’s been happening. I’m freaked out, and I keep feeding this fear with news, news, conversations about the news, and more news. It has been obsessive and I’ve been distracted by it. I must also be uncharacteristically short tempered because last week my girls both asked me if I was mad at them. This made me stop and think about my tone of voice and my lack of patience. I pulled them in close and apologized and told them a little bit about what was going on (none of it is their fault). Then I turned off my NYTimes alerts on my phone and started to wean myself off of talk radio.

The yoga sūtras give us a list of five ways that we can incorrectly perceive something, the kleśas (YS II.3-8). Patañjali says there is a general misperceiving, avidyā, we mis-identify, asmitā, we let our likes or preferences decide for us, raga, or we let our dislikes to determine what we do or don’t do, dveṣa. The last one in the list is abhiniveśā, or fear. Patañjali describes this version of misperceiving by saying that when we experience it, it’s like it mounts us and tells us where to go. The rider is directing our action and behavior. The rider is fear and our body, system, mind, responses… those are the horse. (YS II.9)

And that’s totally how it is. That’s what this obsessive behavior feels like. Part of me is watching while I read another alarming article and it’s like the watcher has almost no power to stop the doer from doing it. Something else is in charge. The fear.

So what do we do about it? Patañjali offers two very useful suggestions:

  1. If you see a kleśa, take action! Do something to oppose the symptoms when they are small and make some effort to come back into balance (II.11). This might be yoga practice, taking a walk in nature, disconnecting from devices and connecting to a person you love, or taking care of something – your garden, your pet, your house, someone in need.
  1. Meditate on something that is appropriate (II.12). When you give your full attention to something, as with meditation, your whole system benefits. The appropriate thing might be something that helps you feel connected, safe, or loved. It might be something that gives you hope. If you have a prayer practice or a connection to higher power, this can be very helpful.

I’ve finally had some breakthroughs with my most recent fear. I’m starting to notice a cycle and a process that I go through when something seems new and threatening and that cycle takes time. Neither of the solutions above are instant fixes. They are ongoing and helpful practices. As I start to feel a little less afraid, the concerns haven’t gone away, but the fear-based responses have less of a grip. I imagine they aren’t gone for good, but I find it so helpful to remember and connect with these teachings from the sūtras. I hope you do, too.

Conversations with a tween

The girls are both delighted to be posing with their dad for the Christmas photo!

The girls are both delighted to be posing with their dad for the Christmas photo!

I have a tendency, these days, to talk less. I really value quiet. I like the pauses in conversation to be with what was just said. I like to listen to where people go with their thoughts when given the time. I enjoy being around people and noticing what that feels like, seeing what they do and what I do– maybe listening to breathing.

Though this has been really nice in a lot of relationships, I’m starting to see that it may not be the best strategy with my tween daughter. Hazel doesn’t ask me what I think very often. She’ll tell me something about a friendship or something that makes her laugh, but it’s usually brief and it comes when her mind is there, still with her friend or connected to the funny thing she saw on pinterest. In these moments, I don’t get the feeling that she really wants to talk with me and that leaves me unsure of what to do. If I just sit there quietly, then she’ll eventually wander off. Though she’s not engaging me in conversation with her comments or passing thoughts, she is talking to me. In order to help get a conversation going, I have to push past my enjoyment of quiet and the awkwardness of not knowing exactly what to say and I need to make the effort to engage her. It seems so obvious now that I’m writing it down, which is good. There isn’t much that’s obvious in parenting a tween.

This weekend, I tried it out. Whenever Hazel said something, I thought of it as an invitation to connect. I’d ask her a question or talk about what I thought or a time I felt that way. It rained all weekend, so we spent a lot of time in the house together and I had many opportunities to practice. I’m pretty sure I talked more in one weekend than I average most weeks. It was a different way to be together. I felt closer to her and I could see that this way of connecting was working for her, too. On Sunday night at bedtime, I bent down to kiss her goodnight and give her a big squeeze. She didn’t let go right away, and so we stayed there, quietly hugging, feeling each other breathe. And then, she told me she’d had a really nice weekend. I don’t remember what I said, but I do know that my heart swelled and I felt grateful for her, for the time we spent talking and for all the quiet moments in between.


Clean Tweets

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I have to be sneaky when I talk about the yoga with my daughter, Hazel. She has a tendency to roll her eyes if I say anything that she might sniff out as a yoga-teaching, “Mo-om (changing pitch half way through), you aaaaah-lways talk about yoga…” But this week with high profile politicians getting heat for twitter comments, I thought it was worthwhile to talk about śauca, the niyama that teaches us about cleanliness in all aspects of our lives.

The two of us laughed over some clever #trudeauEulogies. We talked about the W. Virginia mayor and city employee who lost their jobs because of a racist tweet-exchange and we talked about Trump’s recent four-word tweet after learning of Fidel Castro’s death. Hazel gets that even though we may have a reaction to something that happens, that’s often NOT what we want to say or send into the inter webs. I didn’t grow up with social media and it’s a good thing, too.  I wasn’t good about restraint or conversational cleanliness, but what kid does? Growing up now, in this time of texting, social media, and the internet, has it’s gifts, but definetly has it challenges. Kids need to embrace śauca, cleanliness, more than ever.

If Hazel doesn’t leave her books, laundry and dishes all over her bedroom floor, she’ll be less likely to trip over them later.  She’ll have fewer stains to scrub out of the carpet and fewer things will get broken because she’s taken care at the front end. Habits of cleanliness are important on the internet, too. All digital exchanges leave a record and internet messes are a lot harder to gather and throw into the washing machine. Digital stuff can be spread far beyond the intended audience. Your peers can hold onto those akward photos sent via text, and they can unearth the inevitable mis-steps or clumsy trial-and-error social experiments long after they should have faded from memory. What pre-teen kids do, say, write, and post can follow them. How can they possibly get the potential impact of that since they’ve only been on the planet for a decade or so? Luckily, we have some fine teaching examples.

The practice of cleanliness is about more than maintaining clean surroundings. The practice has the potential to teach us things about our life and our true nature. If we take care of the stuff we have, we’ll come to understand that the cost of posessions goes beyond the initial price tag. Practices that help us to maintain a clean body, clean thoughts, cleanliness in relationships, and cleanliness in how we conduct ourselves in the world offers other experiential teachings and an opportunity to get to know our tendencies and habits. When we take care in this way, we uncover important truths. In The Heart of Yoga, Mr. Desikachar says this about the result of the practice of śauca (YS II.40), “When cleanliness is devleoped it reveals what needs to be constantly maintained and what is eternally clean. What decays is the external. What does not is deep within us.” Through śauca, we come to know our nature. We can know who we truly are.

Desikachar , T.K.V. (1995). Heart of Yoga, Developing a Personal Practice. Rochester,Vermont: Inner Traditions International

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:
https://www.amandagreenyoga.com/workshops-special-events/

 

True or False? Something outside of me can make me unhappy

 

This is my grandpa, Henry.

This is my grandpa, Henry.

The kleśas are afflictions—things that cause us suffering. The five kleśas suggest that the root of our suffering is misperception. If we misperceive or understand something incorrectly, we take action based on this bad intel. When action is based on a kleśa or misperception, our action isn’t correct. This causes a lot of problems for ourselves.

Two of the kleśas I’d like to highlight today are raga and dveṣa. When raga is at work, I act from an incorrect belief that something outside of me can make me happy. Dveṣa is the belief that something outside of me can make me unhappy.

Take that in for a moment. The implications are huge.

Sure, our circumstances can cause us problems. There are some pretty horrible situations at work right now and it’s okay and very human to have emotional reactions to those things. But here’s the thing. Patañjali teaches that even when circumstances or experiences are very difficult, we don’t have to be happy or unhappy because of them. Our sense of peace or upset doesn’t depend on things going on around us. There’s something within us that can be steady, clear, and with peace all of the time. No matter what.

Even though I’m not in a constant state of equilibrium and peace, I have a lot of faith in the practice of yoga. So much of what’s presented in the yoga sūtras has been right on, describing my experiences and the growth I’ve had as a result of practice. So I’m holding on to this possibility, too. And I’m hopeful that as I continue to embrace this perspective I can be at peace even when I have to take action that’s difficult. I can be at peace even if I strongly disagree with someone’s ideas. I can be at peace and show up for my family, students, friends, community and country in that way. And this peace can spread.

Signs and symptoms of shock vary…yoga offers a path of recovery

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I thought these lists of symptoms might be helpful as you try and make sense of what you’ve been going through.

Signs and symptoms of shock vary depending on circumstances and may include:

  • Cool, clammy skin
  • Pale or ashen skin
  • Rapid pulse
  • Rapid breathing
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Changes in mental status or behavior, such as anxiousness or agitation

http://www.mayoclinic.org/first-aid/first-aid-shock/basics/art-20056620

Emotional Symptoms of Grieving

A person who is dealing with grief will most likely display some of the emotional symptoms associated with grieving. The Mayo Clinic lists the emotional symptoms found with prolonged, or complicated, grief. These can include:

  • Increased irritability
  • Numbness
  • Bitterness
  • Detachment
  • Preoccupation with loss
  • Inability to show or experience joy

While these emotional symptoms are normal in the days and weeks after a traumatic event, they can be indicators of a more serious disorder if they do not fade over time.

Physical Symptoms of Grieving

It may come as a surprise that grief is not entirely emotional. There are very real effects that grief can have on the body. Some of the physical symptoms of grieving, according to the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, are:

  • Digestive problems
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Chest pain
  • Sore muscles

Though these symptoms are normal during the grieving process, you should remember to contact your doctor if you experience any severe physical symptoms.

http://www.psychguides.com/guides/grief-symptoms-causes-and-effects/

I’ve felt a lot of the above symptoms in the last 24-hours. In addition, I only want to eat toast. I’ve had moments when I believed my legs were going to buckle out from under me. I’ve felt myself dissociate—floating out of my body while I fixed my gaze on this tiny red decoration in my kitchen. And I’ve had eight to twelve seriously messy cries.

In the midst of all this, I’ve also felt something else: A need to take care of myself.

You know those people who have a fine-tuned moral compass? The ones who can identify and support the things that align with their values and call out the things that are not? The ones who have a clear sense of right and wrong and are able to move and act on that inner guidance with clarity and courage? The people who stand up for others and for themselves and don’t miss a beat? The ones who can lead? The ones who can follow a great leader? The ones who dedicate themselves to a cause worth fighting for? I want to be well resourced so I can be one of those people. I want that for you, too.

To do any of this, we have to prepare. It occurs to me that maybe the last eighteen years of yoga practice have been preparing me. Maybe you’ve been preparing, too. We aren’t done. We need to care for ourselves and continue to practice. With this, our ability to pay attention and stay focused will improve. Dhāraṇā —dhyāna — samādhi[1] describe the progression of deepening focus.

Attention is important for several reasons. One good reason? It comes with a side of praśānta[2]peace. Yoga describes peace as a symptom of attention. Peace doesn’t mean that everything around us is perfect. It’s a feeling that we can have on the inside even when the outside looks bleak or threatening. Nirodha — a deep state of attention and the flowing peace that comes with it are felt everywhere in us –in our body, breath, mind, and emotions. This is important because attention with peace can give us equanimity. When we can hold the binoculars steady and bring the little bird in the nearby tree into focus, we have a chance at seeing it clearly.  Attention, like binoculars, is a tool that can help us to see something we couldn’t see without.

Patanjali defines three aspects of a yogic path: tapas – effort, svādhyāya- self-reflection, and Īśvara-pranidhana –acceptance[3]. Do some work. Think about what motivates your actions. Know that you won’t always get everything right, and that’s okay. This is ongoing, moment-by-moment kind of practice. It involves Abhyasa and vairagyam[4]making efforts and relinquishing what gets in the way of those efforts. And you know what helps a lot with this? Śraddhā – a conviction, abiding faith, or something you can believe in. Patañjali says when we know and can feel this deep faith, it is a sign that we are very near our goal.[5]

Acceptance doesn’t mean going along with everything is happening. It does mean that we allow ourselves to see our current situation clearly and accurately. Prāmaṇa[6] is clear and accurate understanding. If we can see and understand a situation, then we can address what’s actually going on. If it’s not a good situation, we can go inside ourselves and listen for the guidance that helps us to know what we can do about it. We need viveka – discernment, to do this work and to make sense of the many things that go on in our inner world and the world around us. There’s a lot going on all of the time and viveka is helpful when we need to discern between the stuff we should witness compassionately or even dispassionately and the call to stand up and act.

Let us really take care of ourselves during these next 4 years and beyond so that we are nourished, resourced, clear, perceptive, and strong. May our efforts and practice continue, re-invigorated by our circumstances. Yoga, or whatever practice you cultivate, is going to be as important as ever in helping us all to be the kind of humans and the nation that we want to be.

[1] YS III.1-3

[2] YS III.9

[3] YS II.1 – kriya yoga

[4] YS I.12

[5] YS I.20

[6] YS I.7

Cosplay as meditation

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Halloween is a favorite holiday for our clan. The girls love face paint, costumes, and walking the streets of the neighborhood after dark. It’s also the only time of year our house has gobs and gobs of candy stashed in the cabinets. This year, we had double the excitement because on the Saturday before Halloween, the girls dressed up as characters from the British television show, Doctor Who, and Dave took them to a Comicon convention where they could mingle with other science-fiction and super-hero fans. He even dropped some cash for a photo op with the Dr. Who celebrity, David Tennant and Billie Piper.

In preparation for comicon, Dave and I did some internet research. We found that there are a whole bunch of us who spend a few hours and way too much money to put together a cute or even clever costume. But there are also people who have taken this to a whole other dimension. There are a number of professional convention-goers and cosplayers who construct amazingly accurate character costumes. There’s a performance art and role play feel to what they do. They might be hired to make an appearance at the various conventions or to pose for fan photos. Some particularly skilled costume makers construct complicated components for other people’s costumes and make money doing it. We watched a video about a couple that met through their cosplay endeavors and have since married. The young woman talked about why she loves this so much. She spends hours collecting and assembling the different elements of a costume she’s making and she likes thinking about the armor, the weapons and even the personality of person she’ll get to be. She says that when she’s dressed up as powerful, super-hero women, she feels more powerful. People look at her differently. It sounds like some of those super-hero qualities rub off on her.

There are meditation practices that employ religious iconography as the object of focus. If an aspirant spends time, again and again, reflecting on the image, the tools, and the qualities of a figure, then the special figure or diety can have a very powerful influence in a person’s life. Repeatedly thinking about Durga’s lion might inspire courage. Time spent reflecting on Saint Francis holding a small animal or the mudras or hand gestures of the Buddha would offer a different experience. The feelings evoked in this kind of reflection or meditation stay with a person.

Meditation isn’t about “having no thoughts.” A meditative state can come as a result of our efforts to keep the mind directed and engaged with an chosen object of focus. It’s a link, as Chase Bossart says. The stories, images, special gifts, and symbols that go along with the icons can serve as anchors to help us stay connected and engaged and can support the meditative experience. That might be done in contemplation with the eyes closed while sitting on a cushion or in prayer. Or maybe it comes from joyfully recreating every detail of a cosplay costume, thinking about a character’s origin story and adventures, and then spending time embodying the power and the qualities of that character.

St. Francis, Aidan Hart Iconography

St. Francis, Aidan Hart Iconography

Durga and her lion

Durga and her lion

Buddha

Buddha

wonder woman cosplay

wonder woman cosplay