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Archive for October, 2010

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.

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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.

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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.

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A thought I just had and a thought I must remember.

For love of Self.  Family.  Friends.  Life.  Dreams.  Purpose.  My light burns for them all.  And the stronger they are, the brighter my light becomes.  And hopefully one day, my light will help brighten the world.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.  Let it shine.  Let it shine.  Let it shine.

Namaste.

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Hurdle Day

Ever since making the decision to heal a few weeks ago, my life has been filled with so much light, friendship, laughter, and energy.  I’ve felt so fortunate and blessed and have wondered on many occasions, “How did I get so lucky?”   Things I had put off for so long just suddenly seemed to be falling into place.  It’s just been an amazing couple of weeks.  But I have a confession to make, yesterday was the first time since my decision that I’ve really thought about and missed her.  I know my life is exactly where and how it’s supposed to be but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss her.  I miss the person that used to be my best friend.  I miss all the things we used to do and all the time spent together.  I can’t help but wish that person was still in my life.

But alas, she’s not and for the most part I’ve come to accept that.  I’ve made much progress but there are still samaskara’s I’ve yet to burn off.   As I’ve shared before, yoga has been my biggest source of healing and I really don’t know where I’d be without it.  But that being said, it is also my biggest reminder of her and a gift I am thankful for everyday of my life.  Love and heartbreak are tough emotions to feel at the same time.  I still take the scenic route to the yoga studio, not quite strong enough to drive past her house each time.  I am still reminded more often than not that we are running on similar, parallel paths.

And then, the memories… Those are still the hardest.

But I must live in the present, not the past.  To love and appreciate my life.  To laugh, smile, and wish her the best.  There has been a big transition in my life because while I have an inner circle stronger than I’ve ever had before, I do not always see them on a regular, consistent basis.  Weeks and months can go by before I see some of them and I’m not really used to that.  I spend a lot of time alone and on my own.  Thankfully, for the most part, no longer lonely but still alone.  I see the people I once called my close friends going out, having fun, and it does hurt knowing that I am no longer included or invited but I also realize that I am at a much different point in my life now.  My energy no longer vibrates on the same level as theirs.  It still hurts but it is also for the best and the way it’s supposed to be.

So where am I going with this blog post?  I guess it was just something I felt I needed to detox from my thoughts.  My healing process has gone better than I could have imagined but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any hurdles.  Yesterday was definitely a hurdle day.  A hurdle I will no doubt face a few more times along my journey but a hurdle nonetheless.  One lesson I did learn was understanding the circumstances that brought up those feelings and now having a better understanding of correcting (or avoiding) them.  One day when I am in a similar situation, I will have alternatives.  A tough hurdle no doubt but my focus is still firmly planted in the journey not the obstacles.

Yesterday’s hurdle was met with trepidation and uncertainty but the momentum I’ve gained will hopefully have me sailing effortlessly over the next.  And when I do, I will meet it with a smile. 🙂

Namaste.

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To The Edge

“Being still and doing nothing are very different things.”

-Jackie Chan, The Karate Kid

One of my yoga teachers shared a great lesson on ahimsa (non-harming/non-violence) a few days ago.  Most people, myself included, think of ahimsa as not doing the things that harm or cause violence.  To bite their tongue instead of saying an unkind word, to unclench their fist rather than fight, to walk away instead of argue, etc.  For many months, my personal struggle in living ahimsa was trying to use time to heal my wounds… to find peace in silence.  In other words, to do nothing (yet expect change).

But my teacher offered a much better view of ahimsa.  Ahimsa IS about action.  It’s about going right to the edge… and stopping.  To the edge of fear, hatred, violence, injustice, etc but rather than engage, to be still.  To go right to the edge and take a stand for what is good, whole, right, etc.  Let me share a story of Gandhi to illustrate my point.  In 1930, the British installed a salt tax in India making it illegal to produce or sell salt (thus creating a British monopoly).  Believing this new law was unjust, Gandhi wrote a letter requesting the British to remove this law.  Seeing no response, Gandhi coordinated a non-violent march in opposition to the British Salt Tax.  Gandhi and his followers even when beaten with clubs by the British, refused to fight back.  Instead, they walked right to the edge and stood still.  In the end, Gandhi achieved his goal as the British rescinded the salt tax.

Another example of practicing ahimsa comes from Mother Teresa.  Mother Teresa would never attend an anti-war rally, rather she preferred peace rallies.  Essentially, the goal was the same: Stop War.  However, the focus is drastically different.  An anti-war rally is still focused on one thing: War.  Sad to say but how many anti-war rallies end in civil disobedience and violence?  The intent is good but the focus is lacking.  But a peace rally is just about that: Peace.  It’s standing right on the edge of war but showing love rather than defiance.  That subtle change can make a world of difference.

So let me ask you a question.  Will you stand on the edge with me? For love?  Peace?  Happiness? Dreams?  Life?

On the ground doing nothing? Or to the edge and being still?

The choice is yours.

Namaste.

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Part Time Vegetarian

Food (or more accurately, my eating habits) has been an interesting journey since starting yoga.  For about 6 months, I had no desire to make any changes.  I grew up my whole life eating meat and I think especially in our society, meat is the main course of every meal and all the others dishes are a compliment to it.  A meal without meat was more like a snack.  Ok, maybe a bit of an exaggeration but you know what I mean.

However, as my yogic journey evolved, I became much more conscious of my eating habits which stemmed a desire to eat healthier.  I’ve never been a big advocate of dieting or suppression, instead believing that moderation is key to change.  Especially if you wish to make drastic changes in your life, I believe in taking small steps toward a goal.  In baseball, four singles achieves the same result as a homerun… 1 run.  However, the difference is that in the first example, the bases are loaded and ready to bring in another run.  A homerun puts you back to square one.  So many people only want to hit the homerun.   They only want to be Mighty Casey….. except Mighty Casey struck out.

There is much debate about yoga and vegetarianism.  Do you HAVE to be vegetarian to be a “real” yogi?  And is vegetarian really enough or do you have to be vegan?  And for me, my honest answer is, “I don’t care.”  I’m sorry, I just really don’t.  Aren’t some of the benefits of yoga: Self-realization?  Honoring your Self?  Awareness of breath, body, mind, and spirit?

So why would I try to fit into another’s mold?  Why be similarly them instead of uniquely you?

I know my eating habits and I accept them.   There are foods I’ve naturally begun cutting out of my diet that make me feel lethargic, such as steak, which is very understandable.  However, I still love a burger and fries or slice of pizza from time to time and see no need to cut them out, at least not yet.  I know they aren’t the healthiest things for me to eat but it’s also the comfort food of my upbringing so not an easy habit to break.

However, I think the main point is not giving up the things you enjoy but rather finding new things you enjoy just as much.  For example, I love acai bowls!  There is a health bar across the street from my yoga studio that makes the best acai bowls and is the perfect ending to a yoga class.  A friend also introduced me to a small vegan eatery that opened just a few months ago that is awesome!  Everything I’ve eaten there is delicious and fulfilling.   I’ve also eaten vegetarian meals at restaurants, get together’s, etc that I thoroughly enjoy and no longer leave me “lacking”.  In fact, when I am at a restaurant I usually check for vegetarian dishes and decide if I’m in the mood for a meat or vegetarian meal.   It has become a natural progression that hardly takes any effort at all.

At least for me, that is how I’m going to make healthy, lasting changes in my life.  Will I ever be vegetarian?  Umm, I’m really not sure… But for the time being, I definitely enjoy being one part time.  And for now, I think that’s enough.

Namaste.

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Tarot

Sunday I received my first Tarot Card reading and it was quite interesting.  I had only planned to watch but decided to give it a shot since it only takes a few minutes.  Feeling like I am entering a transitional period in my life, I was curious to hear what my reading would be.  The 3 cards above indicate my past, present, and future.  Here was my reading:

Past: The Temperance card says I have been going through a lot of personal changes in my life.  Very introspective and keeping to myself.  A lot of changes in life, some good some bad.  Staying quiet.  Patient.   Trying to find peace.

Present: The Empress is a maternal card.  It is about love, peace, acceptance, etc.  Things in my life are exactly as they should be and I have found peace in that.  I am there for people and very supportive.  Very loyal.  I live my life for myself and just as important, to help others.

Future: The Justice card is about karma.  Just keep doing good and working hard and my time will come.  All the things I want in life are working their way towards me.  I just need to stay patient and keep being the best me I can be.  I will get what I deserve.  Just keep doing what I’m doing and my dreams will come true.

The last thing she shared with me is if you look at the background of my cards, they are filled with bright, light colors.  The background of my past and present cards are water and earth, respectively.  These elements are very grounding, heavy, expansive, nourishing, etc.  Coincidentally, water and earth are also the elements of my dosha, kapha.  If you look at some of the qualities of a balanced kapha, they include: compassionate, patient, forgiving, gentle, emotionally stable, calm, nurturing, romantic, accepting of others, etc.  It was a very good reminder from the cards of who I am/can be when I am grounded and at my best.

Pretty interesting, huh?  As I sat there listening to my friend share my tarot reading, I wish I recorded everything she was saying.  It would have been really interesting to listen to again.  I know I missed a few things she said but it seemed like a pretty accurate reading.  My past was filled with much turmoil and confusion, my present has surrounded me with peace, love and friendship, and if I keep living the life I meant to, my future will be filled with continued happiness and success.  Seems like a formula I’m willing to follow.  It reminds me of a Zen proverb I recently learned, “Before enlightenment: Chop wood, carry water.  After enlightenment: Chop wood, carry water.” (I just realized something… Wood/Water = Earth/Water.  Another interesting note: One translation of my first name means “From the forest”)

Hmmm…. A lot for me to ponder on.  Very interesting… Thanks for letting me share.

Namaste.

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