Category Archives: Ongoing Change

It is so much easier not to…like so much easier.

staying warmI’m usually a super early riser and I like getting up at 4:00 to 4:30am.  I realize that it is crazy early, but to me it is a very special time of day.  It is like extra time or the day become 26 hours and yet despite my wife’s rolling of her eyes or the “you need to be quieter as you get up in the middle of the night” remark sometime in the mid morning, it still just feels good.  But as of late since I got back to Canada, I’m struggling to get out of bed before 7am.

I’ve not been in a winter this bad in years.  There is a lot of darkness, cold and in general just shitty, stay inside weather.  Granted at 7am, it is still dark out (yaaa Canada!), but I can’t help a feeling of being behind when I do get up at 7:02 (still pushed it 2 extra minutes).  The bed is so dam comfy, the blankets are heavy and warm and the air in the apartment is chilly.  ”Why the hell would I want to get up?” is often the first full sentence that runs through my brain.

So it is much easier not to get up and skip practice.  But like all things worth doing, it is important to push through that resistance and urge to fall back into the easy. That one act of closing my eyes and dozing is in that moment, the easy choice but it will make the rest of my life more difficult.

If I can make that “difficult” decision (#firstworldproblems I know) of pulling back the covers and get up, then so many other things in my day will be easier.

If I do practice, then:

  • I keep my commitment to the tradition and lineage ofAshtanga
  • I sync my mind and body together via the breath and have that feeling of wellbeing all day.  This then makes my interactions with people, challenges, and thoughts, not only more pleasant, but much more honest.
  • I’ve done it and no matter what else I do all day, is not as hard and what is hard is put into a much more manageable perspective.
  • I’ve already spent 90-120 minutes alone with my thoughts and have a good handle on the quality of my mind (i.e. what’s on it for example) before I interact with anybody.  This dramatically raises the quality of my conversations, my ability to listen, and send meaningful emails and messages
  • I keep chipping away at yoga.  Yoga takes time and the more I do it, the deeper I go not only physically, but mentally and emotionally.

So yes, giving up in the cold, dark early hours is the easier path in that moment.  But given all the moments in the day, learning how to not give into my primal urge to stay warm and sleep more, creates a much easier and enjoyable day. And yes, the quote by David Swenson always rings out in my head every time I feel myself wanting to drift back into a sleepy haze “I’ve never regretted getting up to practice, but I have regretted not”.  Works. Every. Time

Photo Credit

Just one of those days…

Eka Pada SirsasanaI’ve been sore all week..  Between Kapotasana, walking 10Km a day into town and back and practicing in the cold weather, I’ve just felt more aches and pains than I like.  But with some great baths in my mum’s full length tub, lots of hot tea and some very conscious breathing both in practice and in pranayama, despite the soreness, practice has been fun.

Today when I woke up, I wanted to give my front a rest (and lower back a little) from Kapotasana.  I’ve been doing 3 Kapos a day for a while now and after the long walk yesterday, I just wanted to practice primary.

But like it has been happening, my leg behind the head has been staying longer and longer, and today things just felt right in supta kurmasana.  So after practice, I played around with it.  I got the 5 breaths on the right leg and about 2.5 breaths on the left.  I know I need to get it further back and sit up straighter, but without trying to avoid a pun, today I got a foot hold on the pose.   I’m not normally like this but I literally just sat around the house for the next few hours grinning.

Book Review: Taking the Leap by Pema Chodron

Taking the LeapIn a word: her best.  I loved the ease and practicality of this book.  I feel that the book gives just the right amount of theory with an equal dose of “how to”.  Some take aways from the book are:

1.  She had a great analogy of how humans are like little kids with a case of poison ivy.  When we feel discomfort, like the itch of a rash, we instantly need to escape from it.  To scratch if you will.  We spend a lot of time trying to escape our reality by trying to scratch our way to feeling better.  And you all know what happens when you scratch the poison ivy rash.

She then takes this analogy further into the Buddhist idea of Shenpa (or getting hooked).  She explains it as feeling discomfort and then spiraling into patters that we desperately try to escape.  It is a chain reaction where something, your thing, gets you and then the kicking in of the pattern you have with dealing with (or not dealing with it in this case).  Somebody says something, an addiction tempts you, a relationship dynamic kicks in…..you know what I’m getting at. They are those moments in life that you really feel that you have no control and watch yourself almost as a third person keep demonstrating the same behavior over and over again

2.  The importance of pausing between stimulus and your reaction.

3.  Be honest with yourself via:

    1. Listening to your natural intelligence,
    2. Show a natural warmth to yourself and others, and
    3. Remain open to people, experience and yourself.

4.  If you can drop your story line of judgement or predictions, this lessens the Shempa…it reduces the ease of which you get hooked or set off and allows you to remain in the present moment.

5.  Meditation is not a striving but a way to relax.  You have what you need already, and meditation is there to help you see that rather than convert you into something better or new.

6.  Make friends with yourself and be OK with things as they are.  If you can make friends with yourself, have compassion for yourself, then you can have compassion for others.  This is demonstrated in 3 steps:

    1. Maitri–loving kindness towards all living beings as well as trusting oneself.
    2. Act from the heart towards others
    3. Put others before you and expect nothing in return.

7.  Tonglen is a practice of taking in and sending out.  The idea of taking in the world around you and giving part of yourself back. It removes the “all about me syndrome”

Those main points are ones that really stuck with me.  To sum up, this direct quote from the hard cover book (p.86) really spoke directly to me after my experiences in Mysore, India when studying at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Center (KPJAYI).  I’ve been there two times in the past year and each time I’ve gone, I can’t believe the level of ego, unfriendliness and self centeredness by the majority of the Ashtanga Yoga students.  All of those hours on the mat and listening to Sharath teach yet they go right back to “I’m the center of the universe” mode after they roll up their mat.  Pema’ writes:

“I’ve known many people who have spent years exercising daily, getting massages, doing yoga, faithfully following one food or vitamin regimen after another, pursuing spiritual teachers and different styles of meditation, all in the name of taking care of themselves.  Then something bad happens to them and all those years don’t seem to have added up to the inner strength and kindness for themselves that they need to relate with what’s happening.  And they don’t add up to being able to help other people or the environment.  When taking care of ourselves is all about me, it never gets at the unshakable tenderness and confidence that we’ll need  when everything falls apart.  When we start to develop maitri for ourselves, unconditional acceptance of ourselves, then we’re really taking care of ourselves in a way that pays off.  We feel more at home with our own bodies and minds and more at home in the world.  As our kindness for ourselves grows, so does our kindness for other people”

That was the big take home.  I’ll be posting up more on Mysore and my experiences there this year but her writing in the above paragraph was my mindset as I walked around the dusty streets of India very perplexed at the overall atmosphere of a so called yoga shala.

You can get her book here on Amazon and I’d be interested to know your thoughts or point of view or how it helped you.

A collection of asanas

 

The dropback, coming up and walking the hands towards the ankles