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Archive for April, 2010

Guidance

The following is the text for Scroll X of Og Mandino’s “The Greatest Salesman in the World”.  While working on a blog post for the last few days, I have listened often to the words in this scroll.   As such, I decided it deserved it’s own post and it will serve as a prequel for my next post.  In place of the word “salesman”, I think of “yogi” instead.  I hope you find the words as powerful as I have. 

Namaste.

Scroll X – I Will Pray for Guidance

Who is of so little faith that in a moment of great disaster or heartbreak has not called to his God?  Who has not cried out when confronted with danger, death, or mystery beyond his normal experience or comprehension?  From where has this deep instinct come which escapes from the mouth of all living creatures in moments of peril?

Move your hand in haste before another’s eyes and his eyelids will blink.  Tap another on his knee and his leg will jump.  Confront another with dark horror and his mouth will say, “My God” from the same deep impulse.

My life need not be filled with religion in order for me to recognize this greatest mystery of nature.  All creatures that walk the earth, including man, possess the instinct to cry for help.  Why do we possess this instinct, this gift?

Are not our cries a form of prayer?  Is it not incomprehensible to a world governed by nature’s laws to give a lamb, or a mule, or a bird, or man the instinct to cry for help lest some great mind has also provided that the cry should be heard by some superior power having the ability to hear and to answer our cry?  Henceforth I will pray, but my cries for help will only be cries for guidance.

Never will I pray for the material things of the world.  I am not calling to a servant to bring me food.  I am not ordering an innkeeper to provide me with room.  Never will I seek delivery of gold, love, good health, petty victories, fame, success, or happiness.  Only for guidance will I pray, that I may be shown the way to acquire these things, and my prayer will always be answered.

The guidance I seek may come, or the guidance I seek may not come, but are not both of these an answer?  If a child seeks bread from his father and it is not forthcoming has not the father answered?

I will pray for guidance, and I will pray as a salesman (yogi), in this manner –

Oh creator of all things, help me.  For this day I go out into the world naked and alone, and without your hand to guide me I will wander far from the path which leads to success and happiness.

I ask not for gold or garments or even opportunities equal to my ability; instead, guide me so that I may acquire ability equal to my opportunities.

You have taught the lion and the eagle how to hunt and prosper with teeth and claw.  Teach me how to hunt with words and prosper with love so that I may be a lion among men and an eagle in the market place (world).

Help me to remain humble through obstacles and failures; yet hide not from mine eyes the prize that will come with victory.

Assign me tasks to which others have failed; yet guide me to pluck the seeds of success from their failures.  Confront me with fears that will temper my spirit; yet endow me with courage to laugh at my misgivings.

Spare me sufficient days to reach my goals; yet help me to live this day as though it be my last.

Guide me in my words that they may bear fruit; yet silence me from gossip that none be maligned.

Discipline me in the habit of trying and trying again; yet show me the way to make use of the law of averages.  Favor me with alertness to recognize opportunity; yet endow me with patience which will concentrate my strength.

Bathe me in good habits that the bad ones may drown; yet grant me compassion for weakness in others.  Suffer me to know that all things shall pass; yet help me to count my blessings today.

Expose me to hate so it not be a stranger; yet fill my cup with love to turn strangers into friends.

But all these things be only if thy will. I am a small and a lonely grape clutching the vine yet though hast made me different from all others.  Verily, there must be a special place for me.  Guide me.  Help me.  Show me the way.

Let me become all you planned for me when my seed was planted and selected by you to sprout in the vineyard of the world.

Help this humble salesman (yogi).

Guide me, God.

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Natur(e)al Lessons

I’ve had an interesting couple of days that gave me a lot to think about.  As I shared earlier, I enjoyed a great class on Saturday.  Despite some physical limitations I was able to find steadiness and ease and enjoyed the class.  However, one thing I was disappointed with was having to leave about 15 minutes before the end of class.  I missed the last pose or two plus something I’ve come to really embrace, savasana.  During a time when one of my main focuses has been on balance, I was wondering if missing out on savasana would make my practice feel incomplete.  Luckily, no such thing happened but I have no intention of leaving class early again and finding out.

The reason I had to leave class early was because I had been invited to a golf outing by a business associate.  As much as I enjoy golfing, I really wasn’t that interested in going.  First, it was cutting into my yoga time, which is of the utmost importance to me.  And second, I haven’t played or practice in such a long time I wasn’t sure what to expect.  However, for professional reasons, it was important for me to attend.  One of the nice physical benefits from yoga I noticed immediately was my back was very loose.  Especially coming directly from class, I didn’t need to stretch it out like I normally had to. (In fact, I’ve had pretty much NO back pain anymore since starting yoga! Awesome!)  My golf that day was nothing exciting to write about.  I was very rusty so no surpise that I struggled a lot.  However, I did make an interesting observation.  When I used to golf a lot, one of the main things I enjoyed was being out and enjoying nature.  Spending a few hours surrounded by trees, green grass, birds, etc.  I would just enjoy nature and the tranquility I felt on a golf course.  However, that day felt a little different.  Although it was still nice, it wasn’t ACTUAL nature.  And although there is definitely nothing wrong with that, it suddenly felt very man-made.  Having spent a lot more time recently hiking and going to the beach gave me a deeper appreciation for nature in it’s raw, untouched, natural glory.  So while I enjoy many of our man-made pleasures, escaping to enjoy nature has become more and more appealing to me.

Sunday, we had a friend from the mainland visiting so my family spent the day at the beach.  We talked, BBQ’d, sat in the sand, jumped in the water, and just had a nice, relaxing day.  One of the highlights for me was riding in kayak for the first time.  It was a 2 man kayak so my cousin and I jumped in and gave it a shot.  I don’t consider myself a great swimmer so it was a little daunting but having a life jacket on made it a little easier.  After a little bit of trial and error, we started to get the hang of it and paddled probably about a 1/4 mile down the shoreline.  From there we decided to make a u-turn and head back.  As we were trying to figure out which side we were supposed to paddle on to make the kayak turn, the waves were quickly pushing us towards a rock wall.  The water had gotten very choppy and it was getting a little scary.  My cousin and I started paddling really hard and we narrowly avoided the wall.  We were actually so close that at one point, I could see the rocks in the water almost directly underneath us..  Having survived our first scare, we still had the issue of turning around and heading back.  Eventually we were able to turn around but in the process were getting farther and farther from shore.  Whereas we started only 40-50 yards from shore, I think we were close to 70-80 yards out now.  As I mentioned, I’m not a great swimmer so couple that with the fact that the water was really choppy and the current was slowly pulling us out, fear was starting to set in.  My heart was racing and thoughts were swirling in my head but I refused to panic.  As much as I wanted to paddle as hard as I could to get closer to shore, I wasn’t sure if it would scare my cousin (or if I was just overreacting).  Slow and steady we made it back to a more comfortable distance for me and we slowly made our way back.  Overall, it was definitely a great experience for me and I’m very glad I did it.  I met my fear head-on but rather than let it paralyze me, I continued on in spite of it.   I tried something new and added another experience to my life.  Another lesson I learned was the strength and power of the ocean.  For those few harrowing moments, I felt the raw power of nature and it definitely deserves our respect.  At that moment, I felt very humbled.

And finally, on Tuesday my uncle, cousin, and I took our mainland friend hiking.  Although we had only planned to do one, we ended up with enough time after lunch to do another nearby one.  Neither were very long or strenuous so doing 2 in a day wasn’t very difficult.  Although I did one trail before when I was a kid, I didn’t really remember it so they were both basically new trails for me.  But to be honest, I was a little disappointed in both trails.  Much like my experience at the golf course, these trails were very much man-made and didn’t feel like I was really experiencing nature.  One was even paved the entire trail?! Definetly not what I was expecting…  Another thing I noticed was that these 2 particular trails weren’t really anything to look at.  In fact, on both trails a person on their way back down, looked at us and said, “Keep going, the view at the top is worth it!”  And while they were right and the view at the top was awesome, the one thought in my head was, “But what about the journey?”  Knowing you’re going to end up at an amazing destination is great BUT isn’t the journey just as important??  Is the destination supposed to make the journey worth it or vice versa?  I am finding in my life that I’m enjoying and appreciating the journey much more than just trying to reach a destination or goal.  I know I have big goals and dreams in life but if I can’t enjoy the challenges, setbacks, learning experiences, and victories along the journey, is the destination really worth it?  More and more, I am finding a better balance between the things I have and the things I want.  If I spend my whole life chasing, true happiness will always be just outside my grasp.

Hmmm… There has been a lot for me to ponder recently.  I’m sure I will think about this often in the days ahead and will continue to find joy and appreciation on my journey toward my True Self.

Thank you for allowing me to share.

Namaste.

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Steadiness and Ease

Sthira sukham asanam

“In every asana, there is steadiness and ease.”

– Yoga Sutra 2.46 –

My instructor shared this Yoga Sutra verse during class on Saturday and I have thought of it often throughout the weekend.  Although I entered class feeling pretty good, once we started I quickly realized various aches and pains I was carrying in my body.  I had pain and tension in my left shoulder/neck, left ankle, and right hamstring/groin.  No surprise that my asana’s were very challenging, especially the portion in class where we hold each pose for 5 deep breaths.  5 breaths is only about 1 min but when your muscles are sore, it sure seemed much longer.  It was also hard to find a rhythm and my poses felt out of sync.  Mentally, the poses just felt weird although I’m sure I was doing them correctly.  Regardless, I did my best to keep my focus from drifting and many times repeated the sutra above to assist me.  “In every asana, there is steadiness and ease…  In every asana, there is steadiness and ease…  In every asana, there is steadiness and ease…

In every asana, there is steadiness and ease.

Isn’t that so true in our lives as well?  In it’s simplest form, so many things are so simple and easy yet we sometimes find ways to make things much more difficult than they really are.  What if this happens?  What if I’m wrong?  What if nobody believes me?  What will others think of me if I did this?  What if I fail?  What if… what if… what if…  As wonderous and amazing as our minds are, it also has the ability to hold us back and live in fear… IF we let it.

Well what if we just focused on steadiness and ease instead?  What if we just enjoyed the moment?  What if we smiled even in moments of pain and despair?  What if we stop letting our thoughts get in the way of our actions?  What if we just took a second to relax and just breathe..?  Imagine THAT!

Class on Saturday was challenging because my body never felt quite right.  Poses I’ve done many, many times that day felt… weird.  Good but not quite right.  So while the possiblity presented itself for class to be very frustrating and annoying, I instead choose to honor the state of my practice TODAY, and not what it could or should have been.  I enjoyed myself because I knew that this yoga was still mine and is still beautiful in it’s own way.  I learned more about my body that day and that means I made progress.  I was exactly the person and yogi I was meant to be that day. 

Yes, I do believe I found steadiness and ease.   It was a good day.

Namaste.

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If you didn’t know, April 18 is the 108th day this year.  The number 108 carries a lot of significance in many cultures, religions, and philosophies on life, nature, the world, etc.  Yoga is no exception.  Mala’s usually have 108 beads (or some fraction of that number such as 27 or 54).  In pranayama, it is said that if one is able to be so calm in meditation as to have only 108 breaths in a day, enlightenment will come.  Some say that 1 stands for God or higher Truth, 0 stands for emptiness or completeness in spiritual practice, and 8 stands for infinity or eternity.  But the reason I will be using for this blog post relates to the Heart Chakra.  The chakras are the intersections of energy lines, and there are said to be a total of 108 energy lines converging to form the heart chakra. One of them, sushumna leads to the crown chakra, and is said to be the path to Self-realization.

Ahhh, Self-Realization…

As you can see from my recent blog posts, self realization has been a major focus for me in my yoga practice and life.  As such, on this 108th day of 2010 I would like to reflect on my yoga journey since the beginning of the year.   Although I attended my first yoga class around Oct/Nov of last year, January 1st was really the beginning of my yoga journey.  That was when I really began to take yoga seriously and incorporate it into my life. 

As I think back to the beginning of the year, I really can’t believe it has only been 108 days… It truly feels like its been a lifetime since then.  Here are some of my lessons along the way:

  • My year started off with 50 straight days of at least 1 yoga class a day (2 a day when I had the time and energy).  I enjoyed this immensely and it really helped me to refine my asana poses.  Poses became easier and much more familiar.  As I become more comfortable with the basics of each pose, I was able to explore it more fully and learned to listen more to my body and adjust accordingly.  As much as I enjoyed my asana practice, I also realized how much of yoga I had yet to learn, most needing to be done in my own time, outside of the classroom. 
  • I attended my first Kirtan a few months ago, hosted by the yoga studio I attend.  It was a very uplifting experience and the energy, love, and joy you could feel around the room was just amazing.  One of the highlights for me was having to sing, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.  Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine” aloud, one-by-one to the rest of the class.  It was a nerve-wracking experience (especially since I had to go first) but the feeling of accomplishment and pride for facing this small fear felt so good!  We weren’t just singing lyrics to a song, it was sending a very important message straight to our soul.  It helped me remember just how important it is to keep this little light of mine burning brightly within me.
  • Also attended my first satsang which was focused on ahimsa (non-harming/violence).  I gained a deeper understanding and appreciation for applying ahimsa into our everyday lives.  It is instrumental to my development not only as a yogi but as a human being as well.  One of my biggest lessons is making sure to also practice ahimsa on myself in my words, actions, and thoughts.  Forgiveness is also an integral part of ahimsa.
  • Started blogging.  The inspiriation for this blog came from reading a book called Living Your Yoga by Judith Lasater.  I highly recommend this book! It helped me so much in learning how to live my yoga off the mat as well as on the mat.  It gave me direction and guidance when I felt my yoga practice had hit a lull and was unsure what the next step in my journey was.
  • I’ve learned how to quiet my mind much more now during asana practice and slowly being able to incorporate that into my everyday life.  I remember when I first started how scattered my thoughts were during asana practice, especially once I started feeling my muscles burning.   During those times, all I was waiting for was the teacher to hurry up and go to the next pose already.  But now, my mind is much quieter and during times of struggle, I am doing a much better job now of focusing on my breath and practicing ahimsa in my thoughts.
  • I am gaining a better understanding of my body.  Physically, it’s amazing that we can control different muscles through practice and awareness.  To understand how the most subtle movements can be the difference between doing a pose correctly versus “looking” like you’re doing a pose but could be causing an injury in the future.  I am more flexible and loose.  I have less body aches and pains.  I am more conscious of the things I eat and drink because they do have an effect on your body and how it operates.  Having much more awareness and respect for my body makes me think twice about eating unhealthly junk food.
  • I am beginning to find my spiritual family.  I have made great, new friends but also lost others who are on a  different journey in their lives.  I thank the ones who are no longer here for helping me learn and grow and I honor new friends for their motivation and support.

The list goes on and on.  As I keep rereading this, I realized just how much I have learned but it’s more than I can fit in a single blog post.  I’ve grown as a human being, mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  My life has been filled with much joy and sorrow, smiles and tears, Love and heartbreak, and much more.  January 1st sure does seem like an eternity ago which amazes me when I think how different my life has become in just 108 short days.

After a short moment to reflect, I am now ready to continue on my journey and look forward to the new lessons and adventures the next 108 days will provide me.  Let us continue to move forward and find within us our Divine Self, full of truth, happiness, awareness, understanding, compassion, friendship, and most importantly… love. 

Love Is So Amazing.

Namaste.

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Finding Forgiveness

This past weekend I attended my first satsang which was focused on ahimsa (non-harming/non-violence).  It has taken me a few days to write this post because I’ve been thinking long and hard about how this knowledge and information can affect my life.  Sometimes when I share, I get the feeling like I’m just giving you a play-by-play rather than my feelings so instead of just telling you what happened, I’m gonna try to share what this satsang (and in particular, ahimsa) meant to me.

 As fulfilling and satisfying as I found the satsang on Sunday night, Monday morning turned out to be quite the opposite.  A few “interesting” things happened that morning that ended up putting me in a funk.  And as much as I tried, I couldn’t quite shake the feeling and it ended up carrying over throughout the day and into the next.  My thoughts were frustrating, sleep was restless, and my emotions were scattered.  And as much as I just wanted to block it all out, my mind was very much preoccupied trying to figure everything out.  I wanted to figure out why I’ve been having such a hard time being happy.  Some days brought me such peace while others, only frustration.  And while I’ve had my share of heartache and tough times recently, I didn’t want to use that as an excuse.  We all have these moments in life and many people much worse than I do.  With so many blessings in my life, I shouldn’t be complaining.  So why then am I struggling so much? Why do I feel so frustrated and lost…??

I spent Monday morning feeling very conflicted and tried to bury myself in my work to try to distract myself.  But no luck, my mind was hard at work trying to figure this out.  Eventually, I started to reflect on the conversations we had at the satsang about ahimsa.  As much as ahimsa is about non-harming and non-violence to nature, animals, human beings, the world around us, etc. it is also important to remember that it is also towards ourselves.  We must practice ahimsa on ourselves first before we can successfully practice it on others as well.  Afterall, how can I give something to others that I do not yet have for myself?

And so in need of some much needed motivation and positive thinking, I popped in my headphones and starting listening to Og Mandino’s Secret Scrolls.  (NOTE: Secret Scrolls is the audio version of Og Mandino’s book The Greatest Salesman in the World.  However, this book is much more about personal development and motivation than sales.  The premise of the book is each chapter is a scroll but rather than read the book from beginning to end, you are supposed to read each scroll everyday for 30 days before continuing to the next. Personally, I have enjoyed the first 3 scrolls so much that up to this point, I have never listened to the remaining 7 before.)  As I was listening, Og said something in Scroll 5 that struck a chord in me, “…I will waste not a moment mourning yesterday’s misfortunes, yesterday’s defeats, yesterday’s aches of the heart, for why should I throw good after bad?  Can sand flow upward in the hourglass? Will the sun rise where it sets and set where it rises? Can I relive the errors of yesterday and right them? Can I call back yesterday’s wounds and make them whole? Can I become younger than yesterday? Can I take back the evil that was spoken, the blows that were struck, the pain that was caused? No. Yesterday is buried forever and I will think of it no more…”

I’ve spent too much time recently living in my past… living in my memories.  Too much time sulking in my misfortunes and hard luck.  Too much time mourning my losses.  2 1/2 years ago I made a decision that I knew could influence and change the rest of my life.  And while the decision was simple, I knew it wouldn’t be easy.  I knew there would be struggles and tough times.  However, I definitely wasn’t prepared for the barrage of challenges I’ve been facing, both professionally and personally.  Although I have chronicled my heartbreak with Love, most of the other challenges are beyond the scope of a yoga blog.  Suffice to say, as much as I try to remind myself to “Keep Moving Forward”, a part of me is still having a hard time letting a bunch of this stuff go.  It was then that I realized how much these thoughts have been in the back of my mind and holding me back from REALLY moving forward.  I realized how much a burden these thoughts have placed on my soul.  I realized why I wasn’t centered and the source of imbalance in my life.  And most importantly, I realized…

I had to forgive myself.

I lost my Love.  I lost friends.  I’ve had business partners walk away in the middle of a deal.  I’ve had investments go bad.  I’ve witnessed and/or experienced marriage and divorce.  Experienced the death of my grandpa and having to now take care of my grandma.  I’ve gone to court.  I’ve been in debt.  I’ve been betrayed.  I’ve had problems with family members.  The list goes on and on…. This has been the most difficult and trying times I’ve ever had in my life.  I have experienced back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back (and on and on) heartbreak and my will and determination have definitely been tested.  However, the point isn’t to paint myself as a victim.  Everybody goes through a plethora of these things plus many more devastating experiences.   The point is that somewhere along the line, I’ve started storing all these setbacks in the back of my mind and during times of struggle and heartache, they all come pouring out again.   Somewhere along the line, I let fear in and it has been working hard to undermine my determination and spirit.  I’ve let pain settle in and as the old saying goes, “Misery loves company.”

As I listened to Og say “Can sand flow upward in the hourglass?”, a light clicked in my mind and a flood of emotions hit me… HARD.  I realized that I’ve been holding in all these negative emotions because I’ve never forgiven myself for them.  Yes, I’ve made many mistakes but I also know I’ve always tried my best and always had the truest of intentions.  I may not have always succeeded but I always tried to do what was right.  And though I may have failed many, many times, I’ve always gotten back up and tried again.  For the mistakes I’ve made, the people I’ve hurt, the struggles I’ve faced… I have to forgive myself.  To share another quote with you, “It is in the struggle that we find peace.”  I must accept that I have truly tried my very best and forgive myself for my shortcomings.  To experience peace now and in the future, I must first make peace with my past.

As I said earlier, if I am to understand ahimsa, I must practice it on myself first before I can truly share it with others.  I must forgive myself so that my thoughts are truly non-harming and non-violent.  And as I’m sure you know, our internal dialogue can be our biggest critic.  I realize that this “action” of forgiving myself is not a one time thing.  It is a thought I will continually need to remind myself of.  To be honest, I have been reflecting on this lesson of forgiving myself for the last 4 days and I readily admit that I’m not quite sure that I really have forgiven myself yet.  Amongst other things, losing Love still weighs on my mind heavily.  But I know that I must continue on.  I cannot live in the past any longer.  I will hold my head up high, greet the new day with love in my heart, and continue along my journey.

If ahimsa is my destination, then forgiveness is the first step.  I know I can.

This is what ahimsa means to me.

Namaste.

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What a day!  It has been much too long since I attended a yoga class so being able to take a class today brought me great satisfaction and enjoyment!  Recently my focus has been concentrated more on the mental and spiritual aspects of yoga versus the physical aspects mainly because my mental and spiritual yoga practice felt severly imbalanced compared to the physical.  It was important for me to find a balance so that these three aspects could work in harmony with each other and provide a much more meaningful yoga experience/practice for me.  That being said, today was the day I planned to treat myself to a yoga class! 

The last few days have provided my with tremendous feelings of peace, love, strength, and happiness.  Where my life was filled with much distress and confusion (as I’m sure you could tell from my previous posts), I’ve recently experienced much more contentment and understanding.  As I drove to class I felt it would be very important to bring a bhava (an intent to class and/or devoting my practice to someone/something) to class today.  My bhava came immediately to me: 1) To myself, for strength to continue my journey in self-realization and becoming a better person, and 2) To Love, to thank her and honor the beauty in her yoga practice and life.   As I said those words aloud to myself in the car, the huge smile it brought to my face confirmed to me I had found my perfect bhava for today’s practice.

Entering the yoga studio felt so good.  To see the smiling face of my instructor and a fellow yogi made me very happy and welcome to be there.  Class started a few minutes later and though my body was no doubt tight, the poses felt familiar and satisfying.  As is the focus of this particular class, we start with a pranayama exercise followed by a moderate vinyasa flow to help create tapas (“heat”) to awaken and cleanse our mind and body.  Class went fairly quickly and during moments when my muscles were burning, I did my best to clear my mind, focus on my breath, and remember the bhava I brought to class today.  The last portion of class which is focused on gradually cooling our bodies down included a few supine twists, inversion, foward fold, and culminating with an extended 15 minute savasana to end class.  I found savasana particularly satisfying as I thought ofen of my bhava and felt very grateful and peaceful.  I think I honored my bhava very well today.  Class finished with a single OM and I whispered a silent Om Shanti to myself and Namaste to my instructor, and a wide smile on my face. 

Today was a day dedicated to strength and Love and I’d like to think it has helped me become a better person.  Tomorrow I will strive to take the next step forward in my journey.  May love continue to surround us.

Namaste.

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Visions

For the last few weeks I’ve had a peristent vision pop into my head. Sometimes I am in a zen garden or times at the beach and sometimes in a grass field. The environment changes but in every vision I see myself sitting there cross-legged , eyes closed, and my hands in either Namaste or resting on my thighs. The only sounds I hear are the birds chirping, wind blowing, or the ocean waves crashing. There is nature and nothing else, only silence.

I do not know why I have consistently had these visions but they bring me great peace and tranquility. Sometimes I see myself sitting there quietly and it makes me want to learn more about meditation. Other times, I wonder if it is a vision of me in the future. To be able to live my yoga in the most natural of settings… IN nature. Perhaps this is my backyard and sitting there in peace and quiet is part of my daily life? Perhaps it is in an exotic land during my dream vacation? Perhaps it is my mind rewarding myself for striving to always fill my heart with love? Or maybe it’s just merely a thought that helps bring a smile to my face?

Whatever the reason, I really enjoy this vision and I do hope it is a glimmer into my future. I look forward to the day this vision becomes a reality. What a grand day that will be! 🙂

Namaste.

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