Category Archives: Nature

Five essential elements needed to make something wonderful manifest in your life

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There’s a creation story  that comes from the Samkhya philosophy – one that describes how the material elements came to be. This story informs both Yoga and Āyurveda. The simple version goes something like this:

First there was unified consciousness, puruṣa.

From the cosmic vibration oṁ came ETHER or SPACE, the background or void in which other things could exist.

The ether began to move and there was AIR.

As the air moved and created friction, there was light and FIRE.

Fire transformed and liquefied what was there and then there was WATER.

Particles of water became solid. That was EARTH.

The story is Āyurveda’s foundation for many of its ideas about how we are in the world. It is from this story that we can begin to understand the doṣas (vāta, pitta, kapha) and why something we eat or the season of the year has an effect on how we feel and what kinds of problems or emotions come to the forefront of our experience. But the thing that strikes me today is the possibility that this is not only a story of the material and manifest world at the beginning of time, or even how the world around us can affect us. This is a story that describes how each of us can create and make something manifest in our lives now.

So here it is…

Five essential elements needed to make something wonderful manifest in your life:

  1. We need space. If our days, minds, or hearts are completely full, there won’t be the necessary space to start something new. If I am convinced that my partner is totally wrong, and there’s no space in my heart and mind to hold the possibility that he could be right in some way, then it’s not going to be productive. If I want to begin a daily yoga practice, but my schedule is packed, then it’s not going to happen. So first, we need space.
  1. Once we have the space, we take action. The way in which we feel the air or notice it’s presence in the world is when it moves and we feel it across our skin or we see it blow the leaves in the tree. Movement in some direction is required in order to get to the next step. Even if the first attempts aren’t in the perfect direction, you’ll find it out by trying and sticking with it.
  1. From movement comes fire: light of knowing and the process of transformation. Fire is represented in our world with the sun, which gives us light and makes it possible to see.  We can also think of the campfire, which transforms the logs into fuel and leaves them different then they were before. Transformation is possible because of the element of fire.
  1. From this transformation comes a flow. Water carries something from one place to another. Think of the fluids circulating in the body or the movement of the waves in the ocean. Think of the minerals that build up around the kitchen faucet and become hard and solid. The solid stuff is carried in the water.
  1. When something is in us, and the thing we desire is part of us and of our lives, then this is earth. It’s solid. It has some weight. It’s the minerals depositing themselves inside of us becoming our new habit, our new way of talking to our partner, our better way of caring for ourselves.

Part of the richness of this creation story is the map it lays out for bringing something wonderful into our lives. Even though this is presented as a list of one through five, what we really should have is 1a. 1b. 1c. etc, because all the elements, all the things we need in order for something to come to be in our lives, comes from space/ether. Space moves and there’s air. Air, which is made up of ether, is the fire. The fire becomes the water. The water becomes the earth, but it is all made up of the #1 essential element: space!  Space is where it all begins.

 

 

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If you’ve been considering it, now’s the time! Give yourself the time and the space to create something new in your life.

A Quiet mind may be the ticket to a fulfilling life

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This morning I had a yoga class to teach. I’ve been teaching at this place for four years now so I’ve got a well-worn path from my house’s garage to the studio. I left on time, drove over, and parked my car in the employee section of the lot. I walked along the back of the building toward the loading ramp. I didn’t even notice the commute. Saṁskāras, patterns and memory, got me there.

As I walked toward the building, my mind was whirring with my plan for class, thoughts of my sister’s wedding weekend, the half-finished project I left at home and probably a few other things, too. I got to the edge of the parking lot and stepped onto the path and these two pigeons were right there, less than a foot away! The birds freaked out when my shoes hit the gravel and in a terribly disorganized escape effort they fluster-flapped off the grass, and toward the nearby tree. Their crazy take off startled me and I was jolted out of my head and into my body. I saw where I stood, felt my heart racing, and I became aware of the really loud low-frequency whirring noise of huge air conditioners.

I felt a camaraderie with these startled birds and started to think. Pigeons, like most prey animals, are wired to do one thing above all else and that’s survive—it’s in their nature. A main survival strategy for birds is staying a safe distance from predators. But that’s not what happened to these two. The noise of the machines made it so they couldn’t behave in the way that nature has wired them to respond. This background noise meant that I snuck up, undetected, and it wasn’t until I was way too close for comfort that they realized the threat. The noise meant they missed out on important survival information.

That struck me so hard.

I realized it is possible that, like the birds, the stories and thoughts running in my head are like the industrial air conditioners, keeping me from being able to hear to my essential nature. I might miss messages that are deep inside because of all of this unfortunate background noise. And like today, there’s a lot of time when I don’t even notice them running. They are there in the background having a dulling effect, and I’m just going along, unaware.

Virāma means “absolutely quiet.” It’s the word Patañjali uses in Yoga sūtra 1.18 to describe a highly refined mind. The sūtra goes on to say that in this state of mind, we aren’t run by saṁskāras and mental disturbances. We can be spontaneous and present without operating on patterns. Virāma. Absolutely quiet. I think this is so beautiful.  I have a strongly held belief that we are here, in these lives and the bodies we’ve been given, to do certain things. By doing them, we can have a fulfilling and meaningful life. But we have to get quiet, really quiet, and listen in order to know what those things are. We listen to the things that excite us, the things that satisfy us deeply and the direction we’re called to go. This knowing comes from within and we hear it best when we are our most centered, quiet, and calm selves. What a profoundly good reason to work toward an attentive mind and a calm system. This quiet, calm place can help us to know our true nature and essential self and just may be the ticket to a fulfilling life.

 

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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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