Beckoning of the Season

Over the last few weeks we have focused on letting go and letting be.  In this season of release, we quite literally observe a constant state of letting go all around us.  We see this shift in the trees and plants releasing their flowers, seeds, and leaves as they begin to move their energy inward.  This is a natural shift toward conservation, a need to let go in order to preserve life's energy.  

We too feel this energetic shift to soften and turn inward, but often times our culture does not support this natural calling.  Only weeks before the autumnal equinox we return to our schedules, be it school or a more vigorous work cycle and begin to kick things into overdrive.  Unfortunately when we work against nature in this way we find ourselves feeling depleted, tired, and ready for a break.  This is our body's way of responding to the natural order of life, encouraging us to seek respite and honor this time designated to slowing down instead of overriding nature's call.  When we become aware of this need for self care but feel challenged by obligations, we find ourselves locked in a struggle between our internal needs and outward demands.  This is when we begin to seek middle ground.  Taking a cue from yoga sutra 2.46 sthira-sukham asanam, simply translated to "the action of dwelling in a good space".  When we choose to take time for self care like a walk outside or less caffeine and more sleep, really just a little less effort and a little more ease.  We become more attuned to that which is necessary, a call of your soul and that which is the depleting beg of the ego.  This awareness allows us to have the strength to follow the path of  nourishment.  It's no surprise that all of these practices can do wonders for the human psyche, and when you allow yourself to be in a state of ease life itself simply becomes easier.  So slow down, take a breath and trust your instincts The hardest part is trusting the natural flow of life, which often proves to be the most rewarding action you can take.

Experiencing Connection

Have you ever experienced a moment where you feel everything is in alignment, all in it's place and simply perfect?  This is the big squeeze, one of the moments where you briefly experience Bodhicitta.  Bodhi translates to perfect knowledge and Citta translates as that which is conscious, this is the experience of the enlightened mind.  These are the moments when you are completely connected to universal spirit, your infinite connection to all life.  In these fleeting moments it is almost as if time stands still and you can feel the synchronicity of all beings living as one.

Once we begin the process of awakening we are even more sensitive to these experiences and begin to seek them out.  When you get to this point you could potentially identify as a bodhisattva or someone who wishes to attain enlightenment.  These flashes of awakening can happen at any time, spontaneously or in meditation.  Awakening can come on slowly as you begin to digest the experiences in your daily or weekly yoga practice or it can be brought on suddenly by deep meditations or even trauma to a chakra.  When you step into this place you begin to feel an unshakable urge to practice presence.  This can involve longer than normal meditation or pranayama sessions where you become completely absorbed. You may have even visions or experiences beyond your current understanding that have a sensation of safety or a home-like feel.  Sometimes these strong sensations and desires can be unsettling for you or your loved ones as the changes you are undertaking are observed.  When you come to these experiences it is best to slow down.  Begin to pull yourself away from trying interactions as best you can and schedule more time for you to "just be in your transformation". 

Whether you are currently undergoing your own awakening or just seeing snipets of the big squeeze take time to enjoy it.  Savor your experience by sharing it, or saving it for yourself.  What feels best for you is ultimately the proper way to move gracefully into these experiences of fullness, aliveness and connection to all. 

To practice connection in your asana practice try standing in tadasana or mountain pose on the earth with relaxed arms and shoulders focus on the sensations under your feet.  On your inhale direct your breath to the soles of your feet and on your exhale feel or imagine the earths energy moving upward into your body through your feet.  If you'd like more practice a few sun salutes on the earth.  Focus on linking your inhales on upward motions and exhales on downward and backward motions. When you've finished take the same stance and observe the difference

Ego and Soul

By now you have most likely been exposed to the concept of your ego, in sanskrit we refer to this as ahamkara the "I -maker".  If you are new to this concept here is the breakdown; we all have egos, just like we all have souls and bodies, your ego is the place where you extract your "I-ness".  These are the features and characteristics that create the human expression of you. The interpretation of your unique experiences and the labeling you create to define yourself. 

In our current existence it is not only useful but necessary to know how we identify with who we are and in turn apply that information to how we interact with others. So why is it that the ancient texts ask us drop our ego?  There is a fundamental flaw with the "I-ness" (asmita) side of the ego.  As members of the human race we all share the same emotions.  We each have different triggers but we all know the experience of shame, pain, bliss and love.  These emotions are ego responses to external factors, not your actual truth, but shades of truth colored by your unique experiences. This is where we get caught up in the I's, me's and mine's.  This "I-ness" we identify with begins to create judgments in the name of protecting the ego.  When we are operating from our ego space it becomes nearly impossible to see the full picture of the soul, or your connection to the divine.  For many of us this connection to universal consciousness is the ultimate carrot on the stick.  So what is the connection to the divine and how do we get there?  to keep it simple the seat of the soul is where God or Universal Spirit lives in each of us, each and every single expression of life is a part of this divine connection, from humans, insects, plants and possibly beyond, and is often referred to as universal consciousness.  Many yogis and spiritualists work to avoid ego attachment in order to access this space within.  However turning your back on your ego is a denial of the human experience and a judgment  in and of it's self.  I say embrace your ego, get to know it, chances are that the expressions of your ego are directly related to the desires of your soul or your soul's work in this lifetime. This ego speaking is your souls way of breaking through to the surface of your awareness. This allows you to complete the actions your soul is seeking through your sensory life experience.

IN PRACTICE
Begin to learn how to listen to your ego's chatter, notice all of the I, me, and mine statements you make and begin to become aware of the underlying message or need.  Is it fear based, goal oriented or simply curiosity?  You can observe these thought patterns in meditation and in daily life.  Make notes of your ego, notice when you feel flooded by emotion and record the sensation and experience.  With this work eventually you will begin to notice the difference between "I-ness"  and the ego's work in service of the soul. Once you become more clear on the content of your mental chatter then you can begin to direct your actions to meet the needs of your souls efforts.  Continue to use these tools and experiences to uncover the peace that lies within, ultimately living your most authentic life. 

Connect, It's Yoga

On the heels of March I find that I am feeling steeped in gratitude of the connections we are fostering with one another.  Many of you came out and supported the Fox Valley Montessori School fundraiser with a little family yoga playtime.  I loved watching the connection you share with your sweet ones, as well as the adaptations you took to some of the poses.  To see pictures from this event and others follow me on Instagram @108.sarah. 


Considering the concept of connection brings me straight back to my roots; beginning with my own mother and the connection we share through the process of creation through connection. Our lives at the fundamental level are actually built upon connection and so is also the entire practice of yoga.  The word yoga literally translates to yoke or join.   So why do so many of us experience lack of connection when it is such an integral piece to our survival, and how do we shift toward regaining those important connections? It all begins with the practice of pratyahara. Sometimes you may hear this fifth limb of yoga referred to as a turning in of the senses or likened to a turtle drawing in its limbs. Pratyahara it is the practice that links your outward experiences to your inner self.  To practice pratyhara  you begin by withdrawing from unhealthy outward experiences, negative media, unhealthy foods and toxic social interactions.  Simultaneously you bring in healthy experiences, good food choices, and positive interactions.  This is done through control of the senses. When this is well practiced you have set the stage for a healthy mind body connection in turn allowing you to be truly available for those deep meaningful connections you seek. So what practices are best to foster connection?. 

  • Schedule less
  • Say no to commitments that drain you, likewise say yes to the ones that cultivate healthy connection
  • Meditation on an object that promotes a sense of well being   
  • Mantra, chanting AUM or OM aloud in the morning or evening for several minutes, 108 times or quietly repeating it throughout the day. AUM is the universal sound, the sound of all energy connected

Focus your intention of connection for these activities and over time you will gain a deeper more intimate connection with yourself and deep fulfilling relationships in the world around you.  Above all else know you are worthy of all the wondrous experience that are coming

EMBRACE WITH GRACE

Watching the world begin to wake up from the deep sleep of winter is almost magical and may very well be my favorite time of the year.  During this natural awakening many of us find we have the desire to sleep, and eat less than we did during the colder winter months.  We naturally begin the shift to more active practices, simply moving and doing more as our energy increases. With the reemerging of life comes great transformation, often times we unknowingly feel this call for transformation creep up within us fostered by the lengthening of sunlight in the day and the promise of warmer weather.  With this wet and warming Kapha season upon us (similar to spring in Auyervedic terms) experiencing the axial tilt toward the sun, has many of us feeling the pull to create and work to embrace the changes in our midst.  Much like 2018 thus far, March is also unique, in that the spring equinox falls a day earlier than usual on March 20 and Mercury is entering retrograde on the 22nd.  With this these energetic changes it is no wonder that some of us have been working more on embracing transformation gracefully rather than initiating it! 

So how do we manage the sometimes stressful experiences of change? Practice, patience and discipline, these are the works of tapas.  As Yogis we often look to the Yamas and Niyamas as our guiding principals on how to live a more peaceful and fulfilled life. Tapas is the 3rd of the Niyamas or personal practices, it is often translated to heat, austerity or discipline.  Through the practice of conscious choice or discipline we learn that being present with this internal friction and discomfort is where the action of change is cultivated. While often times we feel the urge to run or shift our focus when we feel these changes begin to emerge, (unwanted or intentionally manifested) it is best to practice patience here to support this action of change holistically.
  
Here are 3 ways to support transformation with grace.

  • Practice Mindfulness - Choose your practice. Yoga asana (poses), pranayama
    (yogic breathing), or meditation. To initiate a daily practice try mantra or a phrase that reminds you to embrace transformation."I grow in the light, I gain wisdom with transformation and peace with patience." If you want to work with a Sanskrit chant use the Gayatri Mantra.
  • Patience - Allow the seeds you have sewn with intention, action, and mantra to take root. This rooting action is one that requires patience, you must allow the roots of patience to move deeply into your intention to truly reap the rewards of this work, otherwise just like a young plant with weak roots your work could be washed away with the first heavy rain.
  • Discipline - Continue to cultivate discipline in the action of not only mantra but continued daily activities that support your intention and transformation. Just as you would water a young seedling to support its growth, commit to your daily practice, make YOU a priority on your to-do list.

YOGA + LOVE

It is so hard to believe that January is in our rearview mirror.  I know that for me the first month of 2018 came in with a bang!  Dealing with a water claim from a bust pipe as my family and I arrived home from our winter visit in Missouri to see the faces of my dear family.   This event has given me a new appreciation for the words SIMPLIFY, PURGE, ATTACHMENT, and DESIRE.  Looking at the piles of stuff all over my house, I am inspired to let go. Over our lifetimes we accumulate so much, and we use these objects to remember special moments in our lives when in fact, if we are more focused in being in the moment we actually retain the memory better than when our focus is on finding the perfect souvenir or capturing the best photo.   So here at the close of the month for intentional living, I like so many others choose set intentions for change and  have began to manifest for my future. 

Here we find ourselves in the midst of the next holiday theme, the season of love.  When considering love and yoga the first thing that comes to mind is Ahimsa, which is the first of the Yamas or guidelines for ethical living.  Ahimsa literally translates to not harm, "a" means opposite of and "himsa" is harm, if you are not harming than you must acting with compassion or love. This season can be a challenging one for many people, maybe due to the loss of a loved one or perhaps a feeling there is no one to love in their life or to love them.  This is where I like to consider directing this action of non-harming to myself, bringing my focus to MORE self love.  For me it is when I bring this sense of self love into my daily routines and yoga practice that I begin to notice shifts in my thinking, feeling and functioning. I begin to observe all kinds of improved daily experiences like, being kinder and more patient with my loved ones, weight loss, and a renewed sense of joy and passion. Some of the ways you can welcome love into your life are

  • Meditation practice, this is best at the same time each day most are happy with meditating in the morning before showering or just before bed. don't overthink it, 5 minutes in a quite space simply observing your breath is a great place to work.
  • Write a love letter...to yourself! At first this can be a challenging task. But just try to see you through the eyes of others and all the amazing qualities you possess.  If you are stuck write a list of qualities that make you loveable (remember you always have been and always will be).
  • Tell your self "I love You",  Look in the mirror everyday and say aloud "I love you". Make eye contact with yourself and say it everyday!

I hope these actions begin to get you thinking about ways to improve your own self love and assist you in becoming love abundant!

Welcome

Welcome yogis! I am beyond thrilled to be launching my yoga site and blog. You will be able to see my upcoming classes, teaching skills as well as other nuggets.  

Thank you for following me on my own personal journey, continuing in my discovery to find my true self and my path towards enlightenment.