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Something Beautiful

In your ocean, I’m ankle deep
I feel the waves crashin’ on my feet
It’s like I know where I need to be
But I can’t figure out, yeah I can’t figure out

Just how much air I will need to breathe
When your tide rushes over me
There’s only one way to figure out
Will ya let me drown, will ya let me drown

Hey now, this is my desire
Consume me like a fire, ’cause I just want something beautiful
To touch me, I know that I’m in reach
‘Cause I am down on my knees, I’m waiting for something beautiful
Oh, something beautiful

And the water is risin’ quick
And for years I was scared of it
We can’t be sure when it will subside
So I won’t leave your side, no I can’t leave your side

Hey now, this is my desire
Consume me like a fire, ’cause I just want something beautiful
To touch me, I know that I’m in reach
‘Cause I am down on my knees, I’m waiting for something beautiful
Oh, something beautiful

In a daydream, I couldn’t live like this
I wouldn’t stop until I found something beautiful
When I wake up, I know I will have
No, I still won’t have what I need

Hey now, this is my desire
Consume me like a fire, ’cause I just want something beautiful
To touch me, I know that I’m in reach
‘Cause I am down on my knees, I’m waiting for something beautiful
Oh, something beautiful

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I’m a Realist

This is another interesting phrase in my life recently and one I’m finding to be rather peculiar.  In general, the people I know that call themselves “Realists” I usually find to be pessimists.  However, they don’t feel they are pessimists because “Realists” are merely just speaking the truth about how the world operates.  The “Realists” I’ve known in my life believe they are the midway point between optimists and pessimists.  And yet, I can’t seem to recall an instance when a realists has ever given me a “good truth”.

People are bad.  People are evil.  Humans disgust me.  The government is corrupt.  They’re just trying to take your money.  True love doesn’t exist anymore.  I don’t trust anybody anymore.  People are liars.  Life is hard and unfair.  Life is miserable.  I’d rather be alone.  Better I hurt them before they hurt me.  People only care about themselves.  I only care about myself.  People are selfish.  Why would you want to have babies and bring them into this corrupt world?  The list can (unfortunately) go on and on.

I hear people talk like that and I just shake my head.  There is just so much pain and negativity there and yet they defend that there’s just telling the truth, they’re just being realistic.  But none of those things are REAL to me… That’s not the world I live in.  And yet we live in the same world so how can that be?  Which one is the truth?  And maybe the bigger, more important question, “What IS real?”

This quote by Anais Nin sums it up perfectly, “We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

That got me thinking… If everything we perceive to be real comes from within us, doesn’t that make us ALL realists??  Wow… that’s been a paradigm shifting thought for me the last few days.  Given my new definition, I’m a realist too.  It does make me a little sad to think about the reality of these other people who see/feel so much negativity in the world but it’s not my place to judge.  Rather, as I have talked about in my last few posts, it’s another opportunity to practice compassion and understanding.  And it’s not my job to challenge their reality and convince them otherwise.  Instead, my job is to just keep living and growing my reality.  To find truth, understanding, peace, and acceptance in a reality truly and uniquely my very own.

Yes, I am a Realist.

Namaste.

Keep Doing You

I have received this (and many variations of it) advice a lot recently.  Keep doing you.  Take care of yourself.  Do what’s best for you.  Respect yourself.  Look out for you.  And on and on.
It is very valid advice and given with the very best of intentions.  I have said many of those same phrases to myself and others as well.
So why my recently interests in this? Why is this causing a dilemma for me?

I care for people.  A lot.  They inspire and motivate me.  They give me strength.  I would like to think one of my biggest purposes in life is to be a teacher.  Some of the greatest satisfaction I have in life is watching (and hopefully, helping) others succeed.  I truly believe in the student passing the teacher.  I draw so much faith from people, sometimes it’s hard to believe.  I truly believe in having a servant’s heart.  One of my favorite quotes and advice comes from Jim Rohn.  He says, “Find a way to serve the many, for service to many leads to greatness.”  The greatness I strive for in my life isn’t about awards or recognition or praise.  It’s about doing good for friends, family, strangers… the world.  THAT’s the greatness I strive for.  The satisfaction of knowing the world was hopefully a little better because I was in it.

And that’s where the dilemma comes from.  When my focus is only on myself, my world shrinks and I sometimes get extremely frustrated.  I’ve spent too much of my time and life living in a fishbowl.  My strength comes from people.  Helping others is what I DO.  I am at my best when that’s my focus.   It’s my purpose.  When that happens, my fire burns very brightly and the world is not enough.

The reason this is on my mind is because the one’s who give me this advice the most are also the one’s letting me down the most recently.  I’ve been depending on them for various reasons yet I’ve found myself trying to wait patiently because they’ve been too busy focusing on themselves.  So I waited and waited and waited.  I even did my best to cater to their schedule.  Moving things around to make it happen only to still be let down in the end.  And you know what? “Keep Doing You” started feeling more like an excuse than a reas0n.  There are things I’m STILL waiting for.  Maybe small and insignificant to them but it was pretty important to me.

I’m not trying to say these are bad people because they’re not.  They’re good people with a lot of good qualities.  In this particular area, I think we just have different values.  For some, their vision is centered on themselves, while other’s vision is centered on the world.  There is NOTHING wrong with either choice.  Both are fine, both are ok.  I think the bigger point is understanding which one you are and which one they are.  In this way, we can lessen our frustration and increase our compassion.

Yes, I will “keep doing me” but only to an extent.  The world is my playground and being able to help others is truly the best way I know to “DO” me.  To do anything less would only be a disservice to my Self.

Keep Doing You?  Yes, as long as you are aware of what you need to DO.

Namaste.

Values and Acceptance

(Excerpt from my Meditation journal)

This morning’s session was interesting.  Since yesterday, I’ve had a few moments of disconncect and frustration… With others.  With things.  With myself.  I brushed it off as nothing until a friend called me later to ask if I was ok.  It’s interesting the tricks your mind can play on you if you let it.  Speaking of this friend, my friendship with this person has seemed very distant in recent weeks, a fact that definitely worries and saddens me.  Yet, nothing is wrong.  Friendships, I value very highly in my life.  Time, money, consequence, etc. I find are very small consequences to show a friend you care.  My faith and value system is strongly rooted within people (I’m sure my kapha dosha strongly influences this personal trait).  I rarely let “life” get in the way of my friendships/relationships.  However, it can also be a source of frustration for me as not many people hold this value in such esteem as I do.  I am ready, willing, and able to care for people at any hour of the day.  It’s one of my greatest strengths but also one of my greatest lessons.  Things I am willing to do with little hesistation are seen as inconveniences to other people.  Are either of us wrong?  No.  When those moments happen to me, I do my best to remind myself that perhaps we have different values.  A person who chooses an apple over an orange is merely honoring their best interests and what they feel is right.  When talking about values, the process is still the same.  It’s a lesson I remind myself of constantly.  When someone does something I think is wrong  or don’t agree with, I just remind myself that perhaps they just have diffent values than I do.  It allows me to practice acceptance and compassions, two things that are always good to work on.

This is very much what my meditation was focused on today.  There were many distractions this morning, both internal and external.  There have been many (unfounded) moments of dread, loneliness, confusion, and not being in alignment (with others, myself, and the universe).  Much citta vritti to work through.  I even needed a song (Krishna Das- Baba Hanuman) to begin and help me settle into my meditation.  A meditation that required a bit of reflection for me to feel good about it.  A lesson in acceptance for sure.

Just another step along the path.

Namaste.

 

A Year Ago Today

A year ago today, I attended my first yoga class and my life has never been the same.  I am so blessed to have this gift in my life.  I remember walking in and not having any idea what I was getting myself into.   All I knew was that it might be a good way to exercise and become more flexible.  If I could go back today and say something to myself, it would be, “You are only touching the very tip of the iceberg.  You ain’t seen nothing yet…”

A year ago today I could barely touch my toes, I had back problems, I was overweight, I was hiding much turmoil in my personal life, etc.  The list could go on and on. My life was so unbalanced and in ways I barely understood.  Today, my light is shining very brightly again.  Do I still have a list?  Of course, we all do.  But now I am much more prepared and aware (mind, body, & spirit) to handle the challenges.  I know that the present is just a mere breath away.   I know that the best way to face fear is to first bow humbly then take it’s hand and overcome it together.  I know that where your eyes are looking isn’t always your focus.  And I know that sometimes, the only way to balance your life is to flip it upside down.

It’s also amazing to know that in just a few short days I will have completed  my yoga training and once all my qualifications are completed, I will be a certified yoga teacher… Whoa!!! I think I would enjoy teaching a class or two in the future.  It’ll be a great goal to strive for in the near future. 🙂

One of the greatest gifts I’ve received from yoga is the amazing people who have come into my life.  They have cheered me on every step along my journey and patiently waited for me during times of struggle.  Always a shoulder to lean on and ears to listen.  The light and energy they have brought into my life I can’t describe but I am honored and humbled to call them my friends.

The only regret I have on this day is being unable to thank the person who introduced yoga to me.  For many months, I thought about and planned what I would say and do but alas, it was not to be.   Although a part of me still wanted to, no outward expression was necessary.  I silently gave thanks to this person many times throughout the day and hope that she feels my energy, gratitude, and love.  I wish her only happiness and peace.

Finally, I wanted to share a small accomplishment I achieved on the eve of my yoga anniversary.   The class was called, “Finding Lotus”.  To be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to this class because my hips were one of the tightest areas in my body when I started.  Hips and backbends were always my toughest classes.  The very first time I did urdhva dhanurasana (upward bow) and felt full extension was an amazing, exhilarating feeling!  However, I always felt like padmasana (lotus pose) was a pose that would take me awhile.  I knew my hips were slowly opening up more and more but I was in no rush to “DO” padmasana.  It would come when the time was right.  But as we went through class and I was sitting in half-lotus, the thought slowly started creeping into my head, “Hmmm, I seem so close… Could I?  Am I there?”  And so with caution and respect, I slowly grabbed above my ankle and brought my leg atop the other.  Still not the greatest and my hips do need to be opened up a little more but, viola… Padmasana!  🙂

It brought a big smile to my face and just seemed like such an appropriate representation of my yogic evolution.  An amazing journey that started…

A year ago today.

Namaste.

For Giving

“Always give without remembering, and always receive without forgetting.”

-Brian Tracy

A few days ago I attended a powerful workshop by Max Strom entitled, “The Power of Forgiveness”.  I’ll admit that prior to the workshop I really knew nothing about Max Strom other than having a fellow yogi that just raves about him.  After attending one of his classes, I definitely understand the respect and adoration for this man.  A caring teacher and so much intelligence behind his words.  I look forward for another opportunity to attend his class again in the future.

But back to the workshop, even without knowing who Max Strom was, this was the class title that jumped out to me immediately when I first saw the schedule.  Anyone who’s read my blog knows about my journey through pain, heartbreak, struggle, and healing.  For a long time, I struggled everyday trying to find peace and forgiveness.  It was a long time before I could genuinely smile and fill my heart with love.  It was the longest, loneliest, most painful road I’ve ever traveled but I’d like to think that I am a better man today because of it.  That being said, it’s still a work in progress.

So what is forgiveness?  Forgiveness is the antidote to anger.  Where anger is swallowing a hot coal and letting it burn you from the inside out, forgiveness is finally being able to spit out the hot coal.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean denial, forgetting, or condoning.  Forgiveness is freeing your heart and mind from pain.  Forgiveness can never change the past but it can change your present and your future.  Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.  Happy lives require us to know how to forgive.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

~Lewis B. Smedes

Max shared a heartbreaking story of forgiveness that illustrated his point so beautifully.  A few years ago, Max was waiting in line at the dry cleaners and was watching a serial killer’s trial on tv.  Prior to the conviction, family members of the victims were allowed one-by-one to address the serial killer and say whatever they needed to say.   Still too heartbroken and stricken with grief, most family members could only say a few unintelligible words before crying and walking away.  As this was going on, the serial killer simply sat in his chair, leaning forward, looking at the ground, and being despondent.  Eventually a father walked up to the podium and looked at the serial killer for a long time.  Eventually he said, “I’m trying to forgive you,” and silently stared at the killer again.  After a long pause he finally says, “I forgive you..” and walks away.  As he is leaving he is immediately flanked by the media and reporters asking how he could forgive the man who took the life of his daughter??  In response, he simply said, “Because I still have 4 other children to raise and I can’t be a good father to them if I hold onto my anger.”  Wow… I can’t even imagine the amount of strength and faith it would take to embody that type of forgiveness.

As I sat in class listening to Max, my mind quickly began processing all this information and I begun thinking about the people I need to forgive and how I should do it.  Two people in particular jumped out at me because their actions and my subsequent anger completely altered and led my life along a serious detour for nearly 3 years of my life.  The first person, a childhood friend, who completely wrecked my personal finances.  Lost my entire savings, maxed out my credit cards, ruined my credit, and put me on the verge of bankruptcy and foreclosure with only the money in my wallet.  And all this, 2 months after I had quit my job to chase my dreams.  The 2nd person, a business partner who overnight ended my business and passion because of a misunderstanding unknown to me until it was too late.  A business and business partner that I poured my heart and soul into (especially because of the events w/ person 1).   I poured every ounce of energy I had and mentored this person day and night only to have her make a business decision based on emotion rather than logic.  She let a personal issue affect and sabotage her (as well as my) business success.  And while the first incident was a tremendous setback, it was the second incident that did the most damage.  It killed my spirit.  I gave up on my biggest passion.  My purpose in life had died and I began living in mourning and denial.  I was a changed man.  There was no fire burning within me anymore.  I became a shell of my former self, afraid for nearly 2 years to show everyone the real me.  I was too scared, embarrassed, and ashamed to let people know the “failure” I had become.  It altered the entire course of my life because I held a burden where I once held a fire.  Everything changed… business, family, friends, relationships… Love.  I may never be able to put my thoughts into words but I truly feel that these incidents were at the core of my losing Love.  There was an emptiness and darkness inside and I had no idea how to ask for help because, well.. it terrified me.  Had I known how to forgive, perhaps my life would be drastically different.  Perhaps my life could have been simplier, easier.. happier.  Perhaps if I could have let go of the darkness, I wouldn’t have lost the woman I’ve loved more than anyone before.  Perhaps I could be loving her instead of trying to find forgiveness.  Perhaps I would be writing about my happy ending instead of my rebirth and redemption.  Perhaps… I should stop right here with the shoulda, coulda, woulda’s and get back to reality, the present moment.

For a long time I stayed angry, refusing to spit out the hot coal.  I wanted it to burn because my fire was gone and I needed something to fill the void.  And for awhile, my denial made the coal and fire feel the same.   But deep down, I knew the difference.  I was suffering, just too proud to admit it to anyone else.  Max shared that when you are suffering you become self-centered/selfish but when you heal, you become self-less.  It’s very true.  When you’re in pain, it’s hard to see past yourself.  It’s hard to see beauty and love when you’re sad.  When I lost Love, I spiraled downward and crashed hard.  I was so depressed, moody, frustrated, confused… I felt so much pain, I didn’t even want to be there for me, much less other people.  And I may have shared this before but at my lowest point, a friend that I had previously ALWAYS been there for abandoned me because they were only interested in having fun instead of continuing to be a friend to me.  But there were other friends who understood I was suffering and allowed me my time to heal.  They continued being my friend knowing that my suffering was causing me to be self-centered.  They understood it was a reaction to what I was feeling, not the person I was/am.  They were my friends and patiently waited for my true Self to return.  I’m sure you can relate because these are the friends you’d do anything for.

Back to those 2 people I mentioned, as Max was talking I began thinking about meeting with them, how I would do it, what I would say, etc.  But then Max said something that made a lot of sense.  Sometimes you just need to forgive people in your heart.  The other person may not want your forgiveness.  They may still be holding in anger and blame you.  Their suffering could still be causing them to be self-centered.  A few days later I was sharing this info with a friend when he made a point that reinforced Max’s message.  Forgiving should be a self-less act.  Meeting with these 2 people so I can tell them face-to-face that I forgive them is selfish.  I’d be doing that strictly for my own benefit and so I could feel better about myself.  That’s not true forgiveness.  Then I began thinking of the word forgiving.

For Giving.  At the heart of forgiveness, you must give.  When I realized that, I began to finally understand what forgiveness really is.  Like the quote I used to begin this post, “Always give without remembering…”  Give because you want to not because you hope to get something back.  Give because it is who you are.

I found tremendous peace in that revelation.  I no longer feel any need to forgive these people in person because I don’t think it would serve any of us.  They are living their lives and I am living mine.  I shall continue to wish them the best as I hold forgiveness in my heart.  I realize now that the only person the hot coal was hurting and affecting was me.

Once again, I’m ready to give.

-Namaste

P.S.  As you can probably tell, writing this post stirred up a lot of emotions within me.  Samaskara‘s (scars from the past) were resurfacing and I began feeling the pain again.  I knew this would be a tender topic for me to write about but I knew it was something I really wanted to share.  Hopefully sharing my story didn’t overpower the message of forgiveness that was the main point of this post.

As part of my yoga training, I am learning how to sequence an asana class.  A few nights ago I did a test run on my very first asana sequence.  The theme was hips and my peak pose was Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana (Revolved Half Moon).   So how did it go?  I was pleasantly surprised how well my sequence flowed.  It definitely built up some tapas (heat/fire) and was challenging without being exhausting.   It definitely needs a few tweaks but I came away thinking, “I could teach this to a class!”  Overall, the sequence was about 70 minutes so taking a few delays and/or tweaks into account, this is very doable in a typical 75-90 minute asana class.  But regardless if I ever use it to teach a class one day, I thoroughly enjoyed it as a home practice sequence and look forward to practicing it again soon.

————-

The second part of this post is about “Breath as Music”.  Recently I found an interesting blog post entitled, “Eminem In My Yoga Class” which discusses is music REALLY needed and/or appropriate in a yoga class?  Does it help enhance your practice (physical, mental, and spiritual growth) or turn yoga in to an exercise/aerobic class?  For me, I’ve always used music during physical activities. Work, sports, exercise… music always helps it go faster.   But I also have come to realize that it is also a distraction, especially when things are difficult.  In times of weakness and fatigue, I’ll concentrate on the lyrics until that next burst of energy gets me going again.

But is that the direction I want my yoga practice to go in?  Maybe a little obvious but doesn’t that mean music is preventing me from being fully present?   As I think back to some of the classes I enjoy taking, there are a few teachers that use music throughout their class.  Sometimes just for background music and other times as a teaching aid.   To be honest, I really enjoy those classes and do not see it as a hindrance or distraction to asana practice.  However, it is in my home practice where this article made a more meaningful impact.  Whether it be an asana or meditation home practice, the first thought that usually comes to mind is, “What am I going to listen to today?”  It’s been a forgone conclusion that music is REQUIRED for my home practice… It’s a habit, it helps put me in an exercise mindset, and it serves as a necessary distraction for being home (the thought of having to stare at my bed or dresser or whatever rather than being in a space dedicated to yoga was very odd and really bothered me.  Having to stare at my hamper during surya namaskar’s made me acutely and painfully aware where I really was…).  But after reading that article, I felt a change (or at least an experiment) was in order.  Could I find my “Yoga Zone” without any external factors, namely music?  So I practiced in silence…

And it was awesome!  I focused on my ujjayi breaths and it truly was music to my ears.  I was so fully present, time just flew right by.  I just flowed with complete awareness and fluidity.  And when I finished, I felt so liberated!  It was probably the first time it truly hit me that my true teacher is ME!!  I wrote this asana sequence and no matter if it was good or bad, it was truly and uniquely me.  To say I finished my practiced feeling good would be a gross understatement.  I wasn’t just “doing” yoga, yoga was a part of me and my asana practice was an outward expression of that.  An outward expression of happiness, joy, passion… love.

Whoa… quite a powerful experience while experimenting with (or more accurately, without) music.  So what’s my verdict?  Is music necessary and/or appropriate for yoga?  My answer is, “It depends.”   There is definitely a time and place where music is very useful and appropriate.  I have a teacher who uses music beautifully in her classes and it just helps put you into another world.  In fact, I took one of her classes yesterday and it was easily the best class I’ve taken in weeks.  I felt so calm and centered not only when we were finished but WHILE practicing.  It was a practice that definitely embodied, “Sthira sukham asanam” (Yoga Sutra 2.46: In every asana, there is steadiness and ease).

I feel like I really gained a lot and it will only help in my continued exploration into the ancient science of yoga.  What an amazing feeling and a wonderful gift.  I am so fortunate.

Thank you for sharing in my journey, I appreciate you.

Namaste.