Last night I babysat for a three and a half year old, lovely bubbly little girl, full of energy. SO much energy that she was running up and down the halls, climbing on furniture, playing with my neighbour’s dog, etc. She finally cuddled in front of the tv but kept on rolling around. I took my eye off her to look at the older child next to me for a sec, and the cutie patootie had rolled around and ended up bumping her head, ouch it hurts. Woooaah I thought. please no concussions on my watch! so I said hey come snuggle on my lap and watch for a bit. She couldn’t sit still.
There is a certain fascination that little children have with their experiences. They go up to the TV to touch it, thinking it is real. Imagination and exploration are key components of their day and waking life is fun, they go from activity to activity with novelty. And, every moment has the potential for huge joy.
Fast forward to the adult mind where the more wandering there is, the more stress, anxiety, drama, sadness. We tend to fall out of love with the present moment and lose a connection with gratitude and our authentic peaceful, wonderful self. A moment gets lost in phrases like “I have no time” or “there isn’t enough time” and “I don’t have a minute to breathe”.
Well it may be true that you live with time constraints and a full schedule. Sometimes though, we waste our time and energy by making non-nourishing choices. If you want to change those habits moving forward, train yourself..Just momentarily checking in with yourself, with your breath, not your thoughts, is what mindfulness training begins with. If you want a five minute practice, check out my Yoga Mind Cd or just give yourself permission to check in and let go right now with your breath and heartbeat, slowing them down, and giving up the need to evaluate yourself…how do you feel?
Quality of Life: cultivating a quality of life on a daily basis through the practices of yoga…what does that mean to you? “At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want” Lao Tzu
“The key element of an optimal experience is that it is an end in itself……The autotelic experience, or flow, lifts the course of life to a different level. Alienation gives way to involvement, enjoyment replaces boredom, helplessness turns into a feeling of control, and psychic energy works to reinforce the sense of self, instead of being lost in the service of external goals. When experience is intrinsically rewarding life is justified in the present, instead of being held hostage to a hypothetical future gain” ~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Yoga has fast become an activity to many, whereas it is a seamless practice of awareness and considerate actions, a moving meditation. As we have read and discussed here this week, cultivating mindfulness over time can lead to a more positive state of mind, that can get you through the thick and thin of life.
When you go within on your mat, you have to navigate the body with a wordless intelligence. This state of flow or concentration, if you start to engage it more off the mat can lead to a more enriching experience even when things are challenging or stressful
Word of the day: acceptance. “Accept – then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it…this will miraculously transform your whole life” ~ Eckhart Tolle
In working with the present moment, one of the qualities you can cultivate is acceptance. You may be familiar with the opposite of acceptance, resistance. In fact, you may encounter it on your mat, when you are attempting a forward bend, and your hamstrings say, “hold on a minute, not ready! not willing! not able” and instead of waiting or backing off, you push through…maybe injure yourself.
“Why are some people weakened by stress, while others gain strength from it? Basically the answer is simple: those who know how to transform a hopeless situation into a new flow activity that can be controlled will be able to enjoy themselves, and emerge stronger from the ordeal” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
This is a quality that needs to be practiced (usually anything does) to see the results. There are times when we have to warrior it up to get through something, and these are times when our perspective either hinders or supports..
the present moment
harmony is created by practicing present moment awareness…
we continue to focus on the present moment as the week of posts continues…Yesterday we used some quotations from the above author, Eckhart Tolle, and today we resume, and add on other insightful reading
“Take the past, for example. We think of it as something, but it is really nothing. Go looking for it, and you will never find it. We all think of ourselves as being shaped by the past, and many of us think we are limited by it. The truth is, you and I both have a past. It’s powerful and often painful and has shaped us in ways past knowing. Having said that, I invite you to forget it. The past is, quite literally, irrelevant. It has power over us only if we give it the power each moment. You give it power by the moves you make in each moment. Each day you and I are offered the opportunity to recreate the past or to create a brand new future. Take your mind off the past and the future, and focus instead on the moments that are occuring constantly. If you do this, I guarantee you will not regret it.” From Conscious Living, by Gay Hendricks.
Cultivating presence through yoga is a multi faceted process. I mentioned mindfulness the other day and suggested an exercise on my Yoga Mind Cd to help you along on the journey.
Eckhart Tolle is a wonderfully inspired and inspiring author on the subject of presence and the present moment; “Emotion in itself is not unhappiness. Only emotion plus an unhappy story is unhappiness”
Alertness, awareness, mindfulness are all words that require us to be with – be present with- experience. If you can be quiet enough inside to recognize what is happening (whether in your head, your body, your environment) you can react less and respond more. “Awareness is the greatest agent of change” (Eckhart Tolle, A NEW EARTH)
It is, of course, way more common to have a scattered mind, where, although the brain is active, it is unfocused typically, and just basically follows one thought after another. This creates stories and layers of confusion in the mind, as well as doubts and fears. On the other hand, the calm state, or sattvic state (you may have felt in touch with this after deep relaxation) will foster seeds of awareness, discrimination, positivity and an equilibrium which is less inclined to react and more inclined to respond (from clarity).
mindfulness matters on and off the yoga mat
“The mind is the vital link between the body and consciousness. The individual can live with awareness, discrimination, and confidence only once the mind is calm and focused, Yoga is the alchemy that generates this equilibrium”
“When the mind is fully absorbed by objects seen, heard, smelled, felt or tasted, this leads to stress, fatigue, and unhappiness. The mind can be a secret enemy and a treacherous friend,. It influences our behavior before we have time to consider causes and consequences.” BKS Iyengar
The way yoga practice works is that it trains your mind to stay still instead of jumping around so much, therefore taming and quieting impulsivity and reactivity. Discrimination and evaluation faculties improve as well so that the objects and situations we “see” do not have such a powerful hold on us. The mature and practiced mind builds awareness and thus can target bad habits, improve mood, and take note of repetitive behaviours that are not so good for us and replace them with nourishing thoughts and actions.
I have an easy to practice 5 minute mindfulness of breath practice on my YOGA MIND cd. Keep in mind that this is a journey, and practice is cumulative.
meditation for beginners:
If you are just starting out on a yoga-meditation-stress relief plan, this quote may be informative to your practice: “Meditation is not to escape from society, but to go back to ourselves and see what is going on. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. With mindfulness we know what to do and what not to do to help.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Contrary to some belief, stress relief via mindfulness practices does not mean that you get to hide from stress or necessarily avoid it altogether. Yoga is actually a system designed to help cultivate the inner witness, that place beyond the noise of the busy mind. Just focusing on the present moment and its wholeness, gives us this gift of returning to our inner peaceful core. This in turn gives us the ability to breathe and calm ourselves during stressful times, get objective, or just respond from a better place, even make healthier choices in the beginning.
If you are struggling with the postures in yoga, you can check out a short but sweet practice on my YOGA MIND cd, called “5 minute mindfulness retreat” which will help you learn how to focus. Awareness really is the building block for the deeper states of meditation; it tends to evolve with patience and practice, not by chasing it or trying to push aside reality. the important thing is not to be the drama you are watching, but rather, associate with the peaceful witness.
meditation for beginners
We all have an internal search and know engine, a GPS. I think Yoga is a powerful tool for getting in touch with these instincts. The trend today is for fast-paced everything. Sometimes we by-pass mindfulness this way. I have a few practices on my Yoga Mind cd that you can practice as a complement.
Yoga – Tension Tamer
It’s hot summer and tempers can flare. Sometimes an active yoga session is less desirable than a restorative one. That’s why you need tension taming tools in your yoga practice toolkit.
Here is a great set up for mindfulness and is also a great way to practice pranayama lying down. We positioned a bolster with a shelf of folded blanket so that the forehead is higher than the chin, shoulders cascade. Small of the back is snuggled right up to the end of the bolster. Student on right side needed a little extra blanket support for lumbar. I especially like this variation because it opens the chest, so if you sit rounded over a computer a lot (or driving), it will give you a little extra something special.
For those with very busy minds, you have to look upon this pose and the time spent in it as a practice to soothe tension, without actively chasing any thoughts away. Your best bet is to acknowledge thoughts and emotions without getting lost in them; remain a calm witness on a journey. Naturally, the first few minutes, the mind may fight you off, so see if you can just make up your mind to be in it for 5 minutes or more, to really feel the effects of settling in and settling down
This is perfect for a Saturday post ~ enjoy the day!
Pause, linger, enjoy. Take a few more breaths in a pose. Try a relaxation exercise before dinner or a walk through the park. Life really is fast, so if you don’t stop yourself, you could be missing out!
Yoga practice is a holistic way to learn how to mindfully enjoy life