Sunday, December 19, 2010

Believe Once More

And the Grinch with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?
It came without ribbons.  It came without tags.
It came without packages, boxes, or bags.
And he puzzled and puzzled 'til his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before:
What if Christmas, he thought doesn't come from a store?
What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?
How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Dr. Seuss

     The Grinch, that despicable, green skinned, Christmas killer with a heart three sizes too small, was envious of the Whos and their Christmas celebration, the ribbons and packages and decorations, even the ham.  Does anyone ever stop and wonder, whatever happened to the Grinch causing him to have such a distaste for  Christmas?  At what point did he choose to live in a cold, hard reality of fear and doubt and scarcity?  Why did he not choose, like the Whos, a Christmas filled with magic, wonder, anticipation, abundance? 

     It is Christmas once again.  Many of us are choosing to live a life during this season of the year full of overindulgence of food, alcohol, spending, partying....  We live a life of distraction, numbing ourselves to the celebration around us for a myriad of reasons, which range from childhood trauma during the holidays to financial choices which have led to lifestyle instabilities.  We fill our celebration of Christmas with unnecessary, expensive behaviors that do not lend meaning to the truth of Christmas and what it means to each of us individually.  As Upton Sinclair so aptly states "Consider Christmas-could Satan in his most malignant mood have devised a worse combination of graft plus bunkum than the system whereby several hundred million people get a billion or so gifts for which they have no use, and some thousands of shop clerks die of exhaustion while selling them, and every child in the Western world is made ill from overeating-all in the name of the lowly Jesus."   As many who celebrate this sacred Christian holiday will tell you, we are now in the final stretch with only five days left til Christmas.  The clock ticks down and we continue with our "traditions" of putting up holiday decorations, baking, and the never ending purchasing of the perfect gift for all those we love.  Harlan Miller postulates that "probably the reason we all go so haywire at Christmas time with the endless, unrestrained and often silly buying of gifts is that we don't quite know how to put our Love into words."  Wouldn't it be refreshing, to stop the unnecessary in our Christmas preparations and to simply "smile at our loved one, offering them our hand." (Mother Teresa of Calcutta). 

     There was probably a time in each of our lives, when we were aware of the true meaning of Christmas.  Rather than numbing ourselves into unconsciousness with endless preparations for the holiday celebration, we were able to "see" clearly what was important to us in this season of celebrating "perfect love made human".   Often, as children, before we began to look at life as hard, heavy, or evil, we saw the world as the most abundant place, filled with all we needed and more.  Christmas was filled with anticipation, magic, simple joy.  As we have grown older, we became aware of dreams not fulfilled, suffering surrounding our lives and those we love, evil and lack which is a part of many of our brother's and sister's daily existance.  We lost the magic and wonder of Christmas.  Thus, we now numb ourselves to the greater truth that is with us not only on Christmas, but throughout the year:  The world is no less a magical place than it was when we were children.  The manner in which the universe operates has not changed.  It is our beliefs and expectations which have shifted, causing us to behave in such a way through our overindulgence and excess that we become numb to what we knew as children. 

     How do we gain back our childhood wonder and magic?  The Grinch thought that he could end the magic of Christmas by stealing the superficial trimmings of the celebration.  What he found was that for the Whos, Christmas still came with all its wonder and joy because they still believed in the goodness of those around them and the world in general.  We must trust that all is right with the world and we are right where we are meant to be providing love and service to those in our family, our neighborhood, our community.  It is a universe of infinite possibilities and limitless abundance.  Chosing to believe in the inherent goodness all around us, we must be vigilant and committed to our conscious choice to believe in the wonder and magic of Christmas.   Allowing our hearts to grow three sizes larger as the Grinch did when he became conscious of the truth of Christmas, we will know that truth as well.  Christmas is not about wants and needs.  It is not about how many Christmas trees are beautifully displayed with hundreds of twinkling lights in our homes.  It is not about finding the endless list of gifts our loved ones feel we need to purchase and wrap and give to each of them.  No, the wonder and magic of Christmas is best known through our reaching out in love to our family, friends, neighbors, community, the world.  Allowing God to love others through our deeds, words, thoughts...  And like the "simple shepherds, we hear the angel and find the Lamb; like the wise men, we see the Light of a star and find our wisdom." (Fulton J Sheen)

     So I close with a blessing from  Fra Giovanni in 1513 A.D.  "And so at this Christmas time, I greet you.  Not quite as the world sends greetings, but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks and the shadows flee away."

May you find gratitude and peace during this most holy of Christmas seasons,
Namaste, Joan

Christmas Quotes:
Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind.  To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.  Calvin Coolidge

I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all year.  Charles Dickens

Christmas is the time when you get homesick-even when you're home.  Carol Nelson

Christmas is most truly Christmas when we celebrate it by giving the light of love to those who need it most.  Ruth Carter Stapleton

Probably the reason we all go so haywire at Christmas time with the endless unrestrained and often silly buying of gifts is that we don't quite know how to put our love into words.  Harlan Miller

To perceive Christmas through its wrapping becomes more difficult with every year.  E B White

Wretched excess is an unfortunate human trait that turns a perfectly good idea such Chritmas into a frenzy of last minute shopping.  Jon Anderson

It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you...Yes, it is Christmas every time you smile at your brother and offer him your hand.  Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Consider Christmas-could Satan in his most malignant mood have devised a worse combination of graft plus bunkum than the system whereby several hundred million people get a billion or so gifts for which they have no use, and some thousands of shop clerks die of exhaustion while selling them, and every child in the Western world is made ill from overeating-all in the name of the lowly Jesus.  Upton Sinclair

The simple shepherds heard the voice of an angel and found their Lamb; the wise men saw the light of a star and found their wisdom.  Fulton Sheen

And so at this Christmas time, I greet you.  Not quite as the world sends greetings, but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks, and the shadows flee away.
Fra Giovanni

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Unending Yellow Brick Road of Consumerism

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed.  Mohandas Gandhi

Consumerism:  (Wikipedia)  A social and economic order that is based on the systematic creation and fostering of a desire to purchase goods or services in ever greater amounts.

Enoughism:  (Wikipedia)  Theory that there is a point where consumers possess everything they need, and buying more actually makes their lives worse.

Take just a moment and walk into your closet.  How many shirts do you own?  Shoes?  Handbags?  Walk into your pantry and count how many cans of soup or cereal boxes or bags of chips.  Take a peek in your bathroom and note how many bottles of shampoo and conditioner and soap are sitting around the edges of the bathtub or shower shelves.  How many cars do you own compared to the number of drivers in your family?  Are there any rooms in your home that go unused on a regular basis?  Do you live a life influenced by consumerism or enoughism?

Pam Danzinger, an internationally recognized expert in understanding the mind of consumers and author of Why People Buy Things They Don't Need, is quoted as saying "...Virtually every American wants a better, more satisfying, fulfilling life, and they buy things to experience a better quality of life."  The top categories of things we buy include the following:  Videotapes, Music Tapes, CDs, and DVDs; Books, Magazines, Newsletters; Greeting Cards and Stationary; Personal Care Products (beyond every day brands); Candles; Home Textiles; Flowers and Plants; Kitchenware and Accessories; Christmas and Seasonal Items; Toys and Games.  "Consumers today spend proportionately less on basic necessities, such as food, clothing, and shelter, than they did 25, 35, or even 50 years ago.  But they spend more and more money on discretionary purchases that are motivated by emotion and desire."  Pam Danzinger, Why People Buy Things They Don't Need.  It is estimated that we spend $3 trillion annually on discretionary products and services.  Those living in high income countries consume 81.5% of the total private consumption expenditures, while those in the world's lowest income countries consume 3.6%.  With this in mind it is evident that our personal and collective consumption has reached a crisis level in terms of incurred debt, strain on the environmental resource base to support this consumption, and skewed ideas of necessity versus want among people of all ages and socioeconomic status.  It appears that our journey down the yellow brick road of consumerism is never ending.

In yoga, to help us understand consumerism, enoughism, and our roles and responsibilities within our society in regards to our consumption, the yama (moral guideline) of satya or honesty helps us to shed light on these issues.  If we are able to still the distractions in our mind and to be present to what is happening in our lives in the current moment, we can then make choices regarding our personal and societal consumption that are conscious choices, rather than unconscious ones.   Through honest, conscious choice in consumption, we are able to shift from consumption for conspicuous display of our wants and follies to consumption for meeting basic needs. The inequalities between high income and low income citizens could be lessened with a sharing from all of us out of our largess, regardless of how much we do or do not have.  Consumption patterns would be indicative of everyone's needs resulting in less production of unwanted and unnecessary discretionary items which utilize our planet's limited resources.  We must become conscious of the fact that our planet simply cannot "sustain our obsession with converting more and more resources into accumulating more and more overpackaged and useless products."  (Michael Stone, Yoga for a World out of Balance).   By making a conscious choice in terms of consumption, we may become one who in "our affluent society, is driven to prefer 'poverty,' to choose it, rather than submit to the desolation of an empty abundance." (Michael Harrington).

Consuming things we do not need does not lead to a fulfilled, peaceful life of service.  Rather, it offers a dissatisfied mind a temporary and elusive grasp of reality.  We have all been caught in this cycle.  There is that article of clothing, piece of jewelry, BMW car, or larger home on the lake with a backyard pool that we know is going to make our life perfect.  We may scrimp and save and fantasize as to how great our life will be when we get this "thing" or, worse yet, we may head right out and use our magic, plastic card to purchase this highly desired, life changing item.  Once purchased, we may "share" it with all the significant and insignificant people in our lives, totally enjoying all the oohs and aahs and back patting.  The security we are seeking from these objects and desires is superficial and fleeting.  We will wake up in time, look around and suddenly realize we really need something else to make our life perfect.  So we wander from one unconscious purchase to another, never really finding the fulfillment and security that we are looking for. 

We will never be fully satisfied when looking outside ourselves.  Yoga challenges us to be in this world in a conscious way using nonviolence and honesty to guide our journey.  If we remain rooted in the practice of yoga, we are aware of the interrelatedness of our world and the choices that we make regarding consumption.  Through nonviolence and honesty, we no longer allow ourselves to become numb to the suffering of those who have less than us or those who have more than us.  We no longer allow ourselves to presume that those with the most toys are winning and thus happier and more fufilled than the rest of us.  Many of the great people of our world choose simple lifestyles of service to others through spiritual inspiration, including St Francis of Assisi, Ammon Hennacy, Mother Teresa, Mohandas Gandhi to name but a few.   Though they made conscious choices to live in the world simply and to consume only what was necessary to sustain their lives, they each contributed to the service of mankind through nonviolent and honest lifepaths. 

Unfortunately, we live in a culture which is caught in a cycle of overconsumption and overproduction to meet our exponentially rising desire for more as individuals and as a society.  With courage and awareness, we may chose to make conscious choices regarding our personal consumption that is based in nonviolence and honesty in terms of what we need to sustain us versus what we are told we need.

May you find peace and gratitude in every moment.
Namaste, Joan

"To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird's nest or a wildflower in spring-these are some of the rewards of the simple life."  (John Burroughs). 

The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.  (Eloise Boulding)

Everything we possess that is not necessary for life or happiness becomes a burden, and scarcely a day passes that we do not add to it.  (Robert Brault)

Oh for the good ole days when people would stop Christmas shopping when they ran out of money.  (Anonymous)

Simple Living Blogs

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Peace Pilgrim

"As I looked about the world, so much of it impoverished, I became increasingly uncomfortable about having so much while my brothers and sisters were starving.  Finally, I had to find another way.  The turning point came when, in desperation and out of a very deep seeking for a meaningful way of life, I walked all one  night through the woods.  I came to a moonlit glade and prayed.  I felt a complete willingness, without any reservations, to give my life - to dedicate my life - to service.  'Please use me!' I prayed to God.  A great peace came over me."  Peace Pilgrim

A serious student of yoga often begins a well rounded practice with studying and learning how to apply the first limb of yoga called the yamas.  The yamas are guidelines which form a foundation for our spiritual practice in terms of our relationship with other humans, plants, animals, architecture, city planning, growing food, daily living tasks; all aspects of our human existence.  The yamas include nonviolence (ahimsa), honesty (satya), nonstealing (asteya), wise use of energy (brahmacarya), and nonhoarding (aparigraha). 

Satya or honesty focuses our awareness on the true relationship between the actions of our body, speech, mind and the effects of these actions on our world.  For there to be true change in our world toward one of respect for all beings, both human and nonhuman, we must still the distractions of our minds to "grasp the truth" (Mahatma Gandhi) of how we affect our world.  As the Dalai Lama  states, "I believe in justice and truth, without which there would be no basis for human hope."  Through this moving into stillness of mind, we are able to live our true, higher purpose; that of serving and supporting others where there is suffering with compassion and justice.  Our interconnectedness results in our choices having a significant effect on others and our world, which may move us towards hope for the human condition or that of despair.

How does one still the mind?  What are the choices we have that could have such an effect?  The brain is a magnificent organ which is able to process thousands of subconscious stimuli while allowing us to focus on one thought at a time.  Over the course of time, these thoughts begin to flow one into the other, much like waves in the ocean.  Thoughts may be about our trying to relive a past event or worrying about future events.  In yoga, we attempt to keep our thoughts focused in the present moment, releasing ourselves from a preoccupation with our personal history.  Often, our minds will focus on what is known and comfortable, whether it is painful or joyful.  It is far easier for us to fall into thought patterns that are comfortable, habitual, and prejudiced rather than being open minded, interconnected, and intimate with ourselves and others.  We must bear in mind that "thoughts we entertain are a force that goes out and every thought comes back laden with its own kind" (Ralph Waldo Trine). Remembering that for this moment we are safe in who we are, we can chose to release those thoughts that do not help us to attain our highest purpose.  We are more than our thoughts...

"To be at one with God is to be at peace...peace is to be found only within (one's self), and unless one finds it there he will never find it at all.  Peace lies not in the external world.  It lies within one's own soul."  (Ralph Waldo Trine)  Yoga is a path of peacemaking in our thoughts, words, and deeds.  The emergence of peace will only come about when we have learned to respect the rights of others: people, animals and other living things, our planet earth.  Respect is evident by our honest appraisal of our lives in relation to others, sensitivity to the injustices endured by our brothers and sisters, and experiential changes that are consciously determined by what we know to be true.  We do not turn from our own or others suffering.  Rather, we look through the lens of compassion at the reality of our world.  In honesty, we see the injustice around us and we begin to look after ourselves and one another in a kind, sensitive, and healing manner.  We find our voice and begin to speak out in love and truth for those who cannot, ourselves included.  As Jimi Hendrix sang, "when the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace."  Where once we routinely closed our eyes and returned to the safety of our habits and unconscious actions, we now have the ability to open our eyes to what is happening around us and respond with honest actions out of compassion.  This is our spiritual journey, moving from unconscious to conscious choices in our thoughts, words, and deeds leading to a life of simplicity and harmony.  This is our path to peace.  As stated by Martin Luther King, Jr., "Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal."

Mildred Lisette Norman, better known as Peace Pilgrim, was just a normal person, like you and I, who took on a personal mission for the last 28 years of her life to bring awareness to peace among mankind.  On January 1, 1953, she began her personal pilgrimage for peace and walked 25,000 miles until her death on July 7, 1981.  On her pilgrimage, she vowed to "remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food."  She lived a simple life as a pacifist, vegetarian, and peace activist.  There was no organizational backing for her pilgrimage and no money to provide food and shelter.  Her only belongings were literally the clothes that she wore, a  blue tunic which read "Peace Pilgrim" on the front and "25,000 miles on foot for peace" on the back of the tunic.  Her message was simple,  "This is the way of peace:  overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love."  By the end of her life, Peace Pilgrim became a frequent speaker at churches, universities, and for local and national radio and television programs.  Peace Pilgrim was able to respond to the suffering she saw in the world around her by opening not only her own eyes, but those of the people around her.  She was able to bring awareness to others of the need for peace through the simple act of walking.  "No one walks so safely as those who walk humbly and harmlessly with great love and great faith."  (Peace Pilgrim)

I simply step out into this world with my eyes open to the suffering around and within me.  With simplicity and harmony, I seek the path of peace through my thoughts, words, and deeds.

May you find gratitude and peace in every moment.
Namaste, Joan

"When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.  Inner peace is not found by staying on the surface of life or by attempting to escape from life through any means.  Inner peace is found facing life squarely, solving its problems, and delving as far beneath its surface as possible to discover its verities and realities."  Peace Pilgrim

"We who work for peace must not falter.  We must continue to pray for peace and to act for peace in whatever way we can.  We must continue to speak for peace and to live the way of peace; to inspire others.  We must continue to think of peace and to know that peace is possible."  Peace Pilgrim

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Earth's Hope

"When despair for the world grows in me, and I wake in the night at the last sound in fear of what my life and children's lives may be--I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water and the great heron feeds.  I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought or grief.  I come into the presence of still water.  And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light.  For a time, I rest in the grace of the world, and am free."  Wendell Berry

     August 20, 2008, my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversay in typical Travers' style with all the hoopla such festivities will incur.  After the vow renewal and reception with family and friends, we found ourselves headed for Kona, Hawaii.  What we remember most about this beautiful island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean was the water teamming with sealife--coral reef, sea turtles, dolphin, ...  Having lived in land-locked Indiana since 1995, we spent much of our time enjoying the beauty of the water through boating, snorkeling, and what not.  It was a special time on the water, where we would find ourselves recognizing the beauty of the earth surrounding us.

     In the Northern Pacific Ocean there is what is called the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, a slow moving, clockwise spiral of water currents created by a high pressure system of air currents.  It is an oceanic desert with only tiny phytoplankton living there, no big fish nor mammals, including fishermen, can be found in this area.  However, if one were to go there, they would find in the water with the phytoplankton millions of pounds of trash,  with an estimated 90% of it being plastic.  This is the largest landfill on planet earth; floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean -- two large masses of trash.  The Eastern Garbage Patch floats between California and Hawaii and is estimated to be twice the size of Texas.  The Western Garbage Patch floats from Hawaii to Japan.    The plastic in the Pacific Garbage Patch outweighs the plankton by a ratio of six to one.  Of the 200 billion pounds of plastic produced in the world ten percent ends up in the ocean.  Plastic does not biodegrade, it merely breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces, remaining in the ocean.  It is estimated that over one million birds and marine animals die each year from consuming or becoming caught in the plastic and debris of the Pacific Garbage Patch.  When standing on the beaches of Hawaii and looking out to sea, I can tell you that you would never realize the damage we have brought to the Pacific Ocean.   If the "supreme reality of our time is ... the vulnerability of our planet," as stated by President John F Kennedy, we, the human race, must find a way to live in harmony with the earth rather than "fouling our own nest." (President Richard M Nixon, "What a strange creature man is that he fouls his own nest.")

     The practice of yoga is the practice of "being" with the reality of what is.  Regardless of whether the present moment is painful or pleasant, we focus our attention to what is happening in the now.  This may be difficult for us because when we stop and see our past choices, we may become aware of the unconsciousness that accompanies many of our daily activities.  For instance, have you ever sat down to see who has been on facebook, began playing Farmville, and realize two hours have passed by?  Perhaps you are driving to Target, your cell phone goes off, you begin talking to your spouse, and suddenly find yourself in a parking space at the store, but no recall of the actual drive there.  Maybe you start tossing the spoiled food in your fridge out, plastic packaging and all without a thought as to what could be recycled.  When we become aware of how much of our lives are lived on automatic pilot, we can make a change in our habits towards awareness of our choices and actions.  Through this awareness, we are able to make choices which are nonviolent towards others and the earth, which is the essence of change needed to bring healing to our earth.  As Margaret Mead stated, "never doubt that a small group of thoughtfully (conscious) committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."  So as committed citizens to protecting our earth for our children's children's children (bearing in mind the Native American Proverb, "We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children."), we must bear witness to what is happening around us and throughout our planet.    It is important to work on diminishing our capacity for apathy, distraction, laxity of attention, hyperactivity, which all decrease our awareness of our choices and their effects on the world.  We must bring clarity to how we live each moment, enabling us to serve others and protect our earth.  When we realize our interrelatedness to all life on this earth, how the dying of marine life in the Pacific Garbage Patch is directly related to our choice of automatically using plastic bags at the grocery store rather than reusable ones, we may begin to chose a vitality and clarity of action, which will protect the earth.  As Wendell Berry tells us, "The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility.  To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope."

With hope that I can begin to make a more conscious choice in what I use and how I use it and how I ultimately dispose of it, I take a step towards living each moment in awareness, which ultimately will bring healing to our planet.

May you find gratitude and peace in every moment.
Namaste, Joan

"If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracles of technology.  We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through using it."  President Lyndon B Johnson

Saturday, April 17, 2010

We are more...

"My religion is based on truth and nonviolence.  Truth is my God.  Nonviolence is the means of realizing Him."  Mohandas K Gandhi

     I am lying at the base of a tree and looking up at the long trunk through the branches to the blue sky above.  This is a new way to look at the tree, oriented lying below it and looking up.  It takes a moment of quiet, focused awareness of my breath and allowing the sounds of nature to soften my perceptions.  I begin to look at the branches and try to notice where they begin at the tree's trunk.  I ponder where do the tree's roots begin from the trunk under the ground.  The edges of the branches and the roots are blurred into the trunk; flowing into one another.  The interconnectedness of the parts of what I think of as a tree becomes apparent in my struggle to find where the tangled roots and uplifted branches become separate from the trunk.  I realize that the names I have for the parts of the tree do not indicate the complexity of what actually is a tree. 

     Recently, I was speaking with a distant cousin, whom I had not heard from in quite a long time.  In the course of our conversation, we began discussing book ideas, as aspiring wannabe writers will do.  He announced that he was considering writing an autobiography with the lead sentence of the book being, "I am a musician, who is blind, gay, and both my parents were moderately mentally handicapped."  While he thought this sentence encapsulated the truth of who he was, I began to think about how we define ourselves and hide the complexity of our true identities through our names, roles, ideas, disabilities, abilities, wounds...

     In yoga, we become aware of the interrelatedness of all things.  We  realize a basic unity when there is no more black versus white,  gay or straight, disabled and nondisabled, haves or have nots.  In wisdom, we no longer have just facts and knowledge, rather we see the truth of what our words are pointing towards, giving meaning to our lives.  We must be open to who we actually are rather than who we hope or expect or are told we are. 

     Yes, my cousin is all of these things, blind, gay, a talented musician, and raised by mentally handicapped parents who did the best they could and loved him with their whole hearts.  He is much more than just these mere words.  I would include courageous, whitty, handsome, sometimes happy-sometimes sad, a child of the Most High God, a man who has created a good life for himself and his partner despite great adversity, and so much more...  I look at my cousin and wonder, where does one description of him begin and another end.  How has the sum of who he is come about to create this valued human being. 

     The complexity of who he is, or any of us for that matter, is not immediately apparent upon first sight.  All aspects of who we are (spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental) become interconnected in such a way as to create each of us, each perfect in our own selves.  When we become aware of this interconnection, we may practice a kindness towards ourselves that is based in personal nonviolence.  Nonviolence forces us to find and search for the truth that honors this interconnection of who we are for ourselves and for other living beings.  Living a life that looks beyond our personal labels, roles, names, ideas, allows us to live in peace and nonviolence, inspiring and inviting others to be nonviolent towards themselves as well.  As Gandhi stated, "My optimism rests on my belief in the infinite possibilities of the individual to develop nonviolence... in a gentle way, you can shake the world." 

     Out of compassion towards myself, I gather up the courage to act with respect, honor, and reverence for my own being and that of others.

May you find Gratitude and Peace in every moment.
Namaste, Joan

(Tree discussion adapted from Yoga for a World Out of Balance, Michael Stone, Shambhala Publications, Inc., 2009.)

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Path Begins

Every yoga class I teach begins with my students lying on their mats and becoming aware of their inhalations and their exhalations.  As they explore their breath, I gently remind them that yoga is the union of our breath with our spirit, mind, emotions, and body.  Often, as I am saying these words, I wonder if they understand what I am truly saying to them.

We live in a world of distractions, where taking time to move inward is often frowned upon if not openly criticized.  We live 48 hour lives in 24 hour periods not taking time to eat nutritionally, to get enough sleep, to exercise regularly.  We spend more time watching television than interacting with family members.  In our distracted, busy, entertainment driven life, it is hard to slow down and pay attention to that which is not fast and flashy.  This distraction makes it difficult for us to settle into ourselves and center, becoming more aware of our breath, our thoughts, our physical body, our emotions at that moment.  We live life in our small little world, with our "eyes wide shut" to the outer world in which we live.

When we take time to be more flexible, patient, sensitive, centered, we can open ourselves to the world around us.  We become aware of the changing of the seasons; the elderly neighbor who has lost her husband of 60 years on Christmas morning; the mother who has sent her only son to war; the  gradual loss of the rainforest; the miles and miles of plastic bags floating in the Pacific Ocean killing the marine life; the sun setting on the horizon with its brilliant colors of pink and orange and deep blue; a baby's chuckle; our pet's warm greeting when we walk in the door.  As our awareness of life happening around us increases, we often feel an awakening to the effects of our actions on the world around us.  Becoming aware that we can make a difference now, we may begin to strive to live in a more respectful and sustainable way towards the world and all the sentient and nonsentient beings living on this globe with us.

In yoga, as we connect our breath to our flowing in and out of our poses, we may allow ourselves to still our body and mind, while releasing the negative emotions and tensions that we may be holding in our body.  In this moment, we can engage ourselves, putting down our defenses that separate us from one another and the world around us.  We may make a conscious choice to accept our interconnectedness with one another and the world, much like the waves of the ocean flowing into each other with a blurring of where one wave begins and another ends.  Just the flow of the waves rising up and expanding, then falling and softening.  So we begin by lying on our mats and becoming aware of our breath.  On the inhale, we feel the expansion, the rising.  As we exhale, we feel the softening, the letting go....

May you find peace and gratitude in every moment.
Namaste, Joan