Tuesday, March 29, 2011

aMUSEing: Book Review

So tonight I think I'll give a suggested reading for anyone interested in yogic thinking/lifestyle.
I happened upon this book at a store in Florida quite a few years before I began a dedicated yoga practice, and looking back on the events that led me to complete my first yoga teacher training, this book came to mind.

"Conversation with God: an uncommon dialogue (book 1)" by Neale Donald Walsch

This book was the only text to date that really sat well with me in terms of the G word. The book begins with a really coherent way to understand language based communication, how limiting this type of interaction is, and how the book works within this paradigm.

The dialogue itself illuminates a particular modality of thought that I find ubiquitous in an off-the-mat yoga practice. It's this idea that the whole point of the human experience - the reason we are here - is to realize "who we really are." In Bhuddist philosophy, this is talked about in terms of the cycle of samskara and awakening to your life's purpose in terms of a macrocosmic picture of the universe (think: reincarnation, choosing one's parents and partners prior to reentering the human form).

In yogic philosophy, this is discussed in terms of enlightenment, that transcendent state of self-realization and stillness. The 8-limbed path of yoga which leads a practicioner to achieve enlightment has many facets which all help to peel away the layers of illusion, twisted and inaccurate perception and imbalance so that the purest self is realized and (through the practice) becomes pervasive.

"Conversations with God: An Uncommon Dialogue" is a text that revolves around this concept of waking up and realizing who you are, what you want, and why you will have it. It's philosophically challenging and touches on a huge array of everyday issues and stressors. Relationships, money, politics, the perfect job...no subject is left out of this conversation between the author and his channeled God character.

Check it out!

Be well,

Sunday, March 27, 2011

aMUSEing: Poetress

So here's a short list of things that I love:

1. TED talks
2. smart friends who share cool things with me

Below is a talk given by a 22 year old spoken word poet/teacher/business director.
There are many reasons for why she is inspiring, but the one I'd like to focus on right now is the point she makes mid-way through her talk where she begins to explain why she writes. In essence, Sarah Kay confesses that she writes in order to make sense of things that she doesn't understand, and that the process of writing sometimes leads her to realize an answer, and sometimes it doesn't.

Life, writing, practicing yoga, making art...it's all a process of creation! Whether the results reveal the vision or spark still more exploration, it is a necessary and often cathartic expression.
Check out her awe-some talk:

Friday, March 25, 2011

Poetry: Update

So the KillRadio.org show was a lot of fun! I'll post a link when the archive file is up.
I was invited back next month for National Poetry Month, so look out for April 5th...there will be a mess of poets and spoken word artists offering some sexy ass wordplay for your listening pleasure ;)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thursday Thought Flow: Non-Attachment

Tonight I taught my second to last graduate teacher class at Black Dog Yoga in Sherman Oaks. I threaded the theme of non-attachment into the sequence, explaining that when I think of why I do yoga, it's to put my mind in it's place. If you know me personally, you are well aware of my ability to analyze, over analyze and completely indulge in a thought. For me, the practice of yoga brings this overindulgence into focus, allowing me the time and discipline to cultivate more balance.

In Sanskrit the word for non-attachement is aparigraha. It translates to "non-grasping" and generally implies a non-attachment to material possessions, kind of like the concept of greed. But deeper studies reveal that non-grasping also means not holding onto more abstract possessions, like ideas, opinions and belief systems. Aparigraha does not mean that we should free ourselves of desires entirely, but rather, to cultivate an awareness of the source of these desires, and to accept that this, like so much in the human experience, is temporary.

I explained that our mind will take advantage of moments of stillness. While the students moved through a challenging transition from full crescent lunge into downward facing dog, I encouraged them to breathe fully in order to synchronize with the breath. This would allow them to stay in their bodies rather than paying attention to any self-evaluation coming from the mind.

I repeatedly said, "Let your breath move freely," because even great students will hold their breath moving through a challenging posture or transition. Cultivating a practice of "non-grasping," on and off the mat can be very difficult because so much of our lives are spent evaluating, being self-conscious, speculating, and comparing. It is important to have a vision of yourself that you work to create. But sometimes we allow the mind to get carried away, which causes us to lose touch with that seed-vision, that original feeling that inspires us to change and evolve.

I closed the class with an explanation of Patanjali's definition of yoga:

Yogash Chitta Vritti Nirodha

Yoga is the stopping of the twisting of the mind.

The mind is a sticky thing. It attaches to so much...ideas, opinions, belief systems, elaborate fantasies...the observance of aparigraha offers us the opportunity to draw supportive boundaries for our mind to respect, so that it can serve it's purpose to evaluate and analyze experiences in order to bring clarity - not to fog it up!


Monday, March 21, 2011

Mantra Monday: "So-hum"

"So hum" is a sanskrit phrase which means "I am that."

Working with mantra is a way to bring the mind into an empty focus by repeating a phrase repeatedly for several minutes, usually in conjunction with a breath technique.

The "So Hum" mantra come from the Hindu tradition which literally translates to:

so = that, divinity
hum = I am

Here's one way to incorporate it into your yoga practice:

Lay on your back with one hand gently resting just below your belly button and the other hand gently resting just below your ribs. Close your eyes and begin to breathe deeply through your nose. Allow your shoulders to relax away from your ears and feel your lungs expand as you inhale. Continue to breathe deeply and completely.

As you inhale, say the sound "So" to yourself. As you exhale, say the sound "hum" to yourself. Inhale the sound "So," for the entire breath, pausing at the top, and exhale the sound, "hum," for the entire breath. Continue this cycle of inhaling deeply the sound "so," and exhaling the sound "hum," for several minutes.

When you feel you have reached a comfortable end to this practice, complete a final cycle of the So Hum mantra and exhale all of the air from your lungs. Your belly button will contract toward your spine as you empty the lungs. Relax your breathing pattern and remain laying down with your eyes closed for a couple of breaths to absorb the benefits of this practice.

Be well,

Sunday, March 20, 2011

An Exercise: Sharing Creates Space for More

We've got breadcrumbs!

My boyfriend has a monthly at this spot in Downtown hosted by The Movement. The founder also hosts a spoken word open mic in LA. I come as a featured poet for the open mic. Another featured poet, James Maverick, hosts an internet radio show and invited me on as a guest.

So after nearly 3 years, I return to the open mic forum to share and make connections, only to expand in collaboration! Nathan played some ambient soundscapes while I read and now we are both invited to share our collaborative energy. Neat!

Check it out this Tuesday, March 22 at 8pm (Cali time).

"The Ninth Level" with James Maverick