Another yoga joke for you on a Friday afternoon…
(Thanks to YogaDawg!)
Another yoga joke for you on a Friday afternoon…
(Thanks to YogaDawg!)
I took the Dalai Lama out for pizza once. He went up to the counter and said, “Make me one with everything.”
(I am ridiculously pleased by this joke (which I read on Facebook, so thank you, Roger) because it involves both the Dalai Lama and pizza, two things that are awesome! But it’s not as funny when you say it out loud. Just ask F. He didn’t get it.)
“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
– H.H. the Dalai Lama
In all of the political and social hubbub going on in the US right now surrounding the issue of gay marriage, one of my friends shared this lovely quote from the Dalai Lama. It’s such a wonderful thought that warms my heart.
Last fall I had what was a big revelation for me: for yogis and for Buddhists, religion, spirituality, and faith is a personal issue. Christians have it on good authority that they should preach to others – Jesus specifically said to go out and spread the good news, after all – but in Eastern religions, there’s no such mandate. Yogis and Buddhists, in an ideal world, just go about their business, conducting their lives according to their own beliefs and without any imperative to share their faith, although they may if they wish, if they’re approached by someone who genuinely wants to know. I love this concept, that belief is a personal matter. Think about any conversation or argument. We get so focused on making our point, making the other person see things our way. When we remove that desire to win the argument, then that frees us up to behave differently. When we don’t have to convince the other person, we have more freedom to see things from the other person’s perspective. We can act more kindly. It’s a quieter sort of faith system: you don’t have to prove the strength of your conviction to anyone but you.
I think much of what’s wrong with my country right now can be traced back to a need to proselytize. There’s a difference between sharing your ideas and telling someone about your beliefs, and forcing someone into following your beliefs. Many people get hung up on the idea of converting others, enforcing their own values, winning an imaginary war. But what’s the point of that if you hurt other people in the process?
I think Jesus’s phrasing is interesting because with news, even good news, you can take it or leave it; you can allow it to affect your life, or, like a story about a puppy rescued from a well, you can think, That’s nice and move on. Jesus just said to spread the news, he didn’t say to impose it. The counterargument to that would be, I think, that in other places in the Bible Jesus says that he’s here to make a new covenant, to which my response would be, first of all, show me the spot where Jesus says who can marry whom, and secondly, wasn’t his big new commandment about loving others? Don’t you think Jesus would be on board with the Dalai Lama’s statement here? Jesus certainly acted as though his religion was kindness. I wish that concept, the way Jesus behaved, was valued and acted upon more often in some Christian communities.
Can you imagine if we all loved our neighbor unconditionally and treated others as we would want to be treated, the way Jesus told us to do? Can you imagine what would happen if we all decided that our religion was kindness?
I’m still way behind on my YJ reading – have a stack of them from the fall and winter to go through – but I am at least trying to keep up with the current issues. The May 2012 YJ is the Creativity Issue.
The creativity article, “Express Your Self”, was interesting, but most of it wasn’t anything I hadn’t read in YJ before, I don’t think, although I did like the little profile of Ann Patchett, who I really admire (but in the photo she totally needs to be holding a cup of tea). My big take-away from the article was the bit on “creative mindfulness” (page 101), which cites Jeffrey Davis, an apparently well-known teacher of yoga and writing. This is an intersection I’m really interested in, and I’m looking forward to checking out his book The Journey from the Center to the Page. Along the same lines, the reviews section includes a review of Hidden Treasure by Gangaji, which encourages students to delve deeply into their own personal stories and narratives to better understand the core Self. Just based on the descriptions, it almost sounds like the two books would be complimentary: Davis using yoga as a muse and a tool to help center you when you sit down to write, and Gangaji using writing/storytelling to help you connect with your spirituality. I’m excited to check out both books and see what different things they’ll bring to my practices (of poetry and yoga, and of eventually teaching the two).
Elsewhere in the issue, one little blurb I found interesting described the idea of community-supported yoga, or CSY. Students buy a monthly “share” and in return are guaranteed a spot in a weekly class. The example given is of a teacher in Amherst, who has an 80-member CSY with shares of $30 ($6.00 – 7.50 per class). The idea is similar to buying a class card, but different too: a class card is a business transaction where you’re straight up plunking down money in exchange for classes, and if you don’t use the whole card, you feel like you’ve lost out. I think a CSY, much like a CSA for locally grown veggies, would feel more inspirational, and if I didn’t make it to class, I wouldn’t care as much because I’d feel like I was supporting something valuable in my community. And at that price, you can miss a class or two and not get upset, since a $15 drop-in rate is pretty standard for most yoga classes. I ripped out the article for future reference.
Another little blurb brought my attention to yogitunes.com, which has thousands of yoga-inspired tracks and playlists. Some playlists even benefit specific causes, such as Yoga Aid and Off the Mat, Into the World. Definitely something I want to check out at some point.
Lately I’ve been loving the Yoga CD from Putomayo Presents. It seems really cheesy, I know, but I’ve generally liked the Putomayo collections I’ve heard.
Kyle has a copy of this CD at Awaken, and one week I forgot my iPod and needed something to play instead. Now I’ve been listening to it a lot and not worrying about bringing my iPod anymore.
This week, Stacey was my only student, so since we both like the CD I put it on. I think I must have turned the volume up a little louder than usual, because at the end of class, she said, “Was that the same CD?” I felt the same way – it sort of changes and grows on you the more you listen to it, and hearing it a little louder made it into a whole different experience.
The collection includes some artists I was already familiar with, like Krishna Das and Ben Leinbach, but most of the musicians I’ve never heard before. Overall it’s hard for me to list stand-out songs (other than the Krishna Das, since he has such a distinctive style) because the whole album just blends really well together and evokes a mellow but uplifting mood. Most songs keep up a good pace – not really fast or pumping enough for a vinyasa class, I don’t think, but definitely upbeat enough to keep your hatha practice moving and inspired.
However, there’s one track that really does make the album for me: the second-to-last song (track 13), “Offering Chant”, by Lama Gyurme and Jean-Philippe Rykiel. It’s absolutely amazing, just a Buddhist lama chanting over a beautiful piano piece. So simple and so lovely. It’s a perfect savasana song, at least for me. If you take an extra-long savasana, the final track, “Bliss” by Yogini, is also very pretty and savasana-appropriate, but I honestly never get there because the offering chant just fills me up.
Overall, I highly recommend the Putomayo Presents: Yoga album as a soundtrack for an introspective and inspiring practice!
It’s Sunday morning, and after F and I had just woken up, he turned on the radio. I was a little annoyed at first because I’d been thinking I might go back to sleep, but we heard the most remarkable story on NPR, an interview with Matthew Sanford, a yoga teacher and writer who’s just published a memoir, Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence. In the interview, he had so much energy and joy, and everything he had to say really resonated with me. And about ten minutes into our listening, we found that Sanford is also in a wheelchair because he’s been paralyzed from the chest down since he was 13 years old.
Sanford was talking about the mind/body connection, and we missed the first part of the interview, but I think he was saying that it’s possible and good for anyone to deepen the connection between mind and body. He mentioned how, before he found yoga, he thought of himself as a disconnected torso, but now he’s totally rooted in his body, even the parts he can’t feel. His work on the mind/body connection has led him to some interesting realizations.
The interviewer read a line from Sanford’s book about how he’s never met a person who, after deepening his or her mind/body connection, didn’t become more compassionate. This was one of the things that really resonated for me, because it’s something that I’ve thought about and experienced, just not in those terms. Just a few months ago I was thinking about how I’m less able to tolerate violence in TV and movies. At the time I attributed the shift to the fact that, being immersed in yoga study and yoga philosophy, that the concept of non-violence and being one with all beings was seeping into my consciousness, bringing my spirituality forward in a different way. Sanford would say that I’d been deepening my connection with my body – he feels that when a person is truly present and connected to the body, that person feels more connected to others as well. And it’s true, throughout my yoga teacher training I became much more aware of and connected with my body. What an interesting way of looking at it.
Sanford seems to be really good at reversing common modes of thought. The interviewer asked about how people will often say things like “My body is failing me”, particularly as they age and find their skin sagging, vision blurring, and muscles not working the same way anymore. Sanford looks at it in a completely different way. For him, the body isn’t a machine that fails and needs repair – a classic concept we use to separate our minds from our bodies. For him, the body is always working, always striving to keep you alive. The body will keep on living and healing, even through the worst injury or illness, for as long as it possibly can. From this viewpoint, the body is your partner and your friend, capable of remarkable things.
I was so inspired by what I heard that I pretty much had to get up and write a blog post right away to share this with you. Sanford is truly inspirational in so many ways, and I can’t wait to read his book. Hearing this interview also deepened my desire to work with differently abled people. As a yoga teacher, Sanford teaches able-bodied people and also adapts yoga for those with disabilities and injuries, military veterans, everyone. And he does it from a wheelchair, or from a mat where he can’t move around. Sanford talked about the adaptive power of yoga, how yoga can be modified and adapted so that anyone can do it. It’s not about doing the “perfect” pose, it’s about doing the pose you can do and learning from it. There’s just so much power in yoga to help and to heal.
You can hear the entire interview here at On Being’s website, and learn more about Matthew Sanford and the work he’s doing.
Lately I feel like I’ve been getting hit with a lot of requirements and tasks that I should be doing “every day”. Being pregnant, there are a whole slew of things that I’m supposed to do: eat healthy foods, take vitamin supplements, watch my protein intake, get plenty of sleep, do prenatal exercises. I’m supposed to do daily “kick counts” to keep track of the baby’s activity level at different times of day, so I’ll know if suddenly he or she is less active, since that could be a bad sign. And now that I’m farther along, I have a host of tasks I’m supposed to accomplish every day for my childbirth class, like listening to my joyful pregnancy affirmations CD and practicing my hypnosis techniques. And all the pregnancy daily tasks are in addition to the things I do regularly and have a passionate interest in. I want to practice my yoga and my meditation every day, write in this blog, keep up with reading to improve myself as a yogini and as a teacher. And then there’s my writing – I should certainly be doing that every day, especially if I don’t want to lose track of myself as a writer in all this motherhood stuff. I need to be reading poetry, writing new poems, revising my poems. I need to go to work every weekday, too, commuting there on the train and then completing all the variety of tasks that make up the job for which they pay me. And all of that is in addition to the regular tasks of daily life, like fixing breakfast, washing dishes, doing laundry, and keeping the house tidy. My husband was just away traveling for a full week, and all of those duties somehow took up most of my time when I had to do them alone. And that’s just the daily stuff. I also need to make progress on long-term projects like preparing the baby’s room, keeping up with friends and family, someday putting together our honeymoon album, sending my writing out to journals, trying to build my portfolio as a freelance writer and sending out book review and article queries to magazines, then writing the book reviews and articles. And I have to be doing all of these things, every day, while I am more consistently tired than I’ve ever been in my life, while I am metaphorically carrying around two bags of groceries at all times, while I am moving much slower than I’m used to doing.
The only thing I don’t have to do every single day is shampoo my hair, because with the preggo hormones, my hair has become thick and shiny and lustrous and for the first time since I was a kid I can go a good three days without washing it and it still looks great. And I feel so overloaded with everything else that not needing to wash and dry my hair every morning has been a gigantic relief. Two weeks ago I told F that I wanted to take a bath that night, but then said it seemed like too much work. He asked, like what, and I said, you know, like filling the tub and stuff. He looked at me like I was insane; he’d thought I was going to say something about cleaning the tub first (as it needed to be cleaned, which I’d forgotten about, and which made the prospect of my pleasant bath even more intimidating). But that’s how tired I was.
The result, of course, has been that I just ain’t getting shit done. Most days, in addition to routine life maintenance, commuting, and work, I can manage to do one extra thing. Sometimes it is a yoga thing, like teaching on Tuesday nights. Sometimes it’s a writing thing – I have a packet of poems I’ve been carrying with me on the train and I’ve been working on them slowly. Sometimes it’s cooking a fancier-than-usual meal, or paying bills, or clearing a box of crap out of the room we eventually want to put a baby in. Occasionally it’s taking a nap, but not nearly as often as my body would like. Sometimes I can do two things at once, like reading or working on poems while I’m on the train, or listening to my childbirth hypnosis stuff while I’m sleeping (which they swear works anyway). But I just can’t seem to manage doing more than the one extra thing, at least not on a week night.
My usual instinct is to get upset with myself for failing as a wife or mother or friend or independent woman. But that’s not going to do anyone one iota of good. I’m trying to practice ahimsa and satya, my two favorite yamas. Satya: The truth is that I am slow and tired and heavy, and there are many things on my plate. The truth is that I can only do what I can do. Ahimsa: There’s no use beating myself up about the things I can’t manage to do. Instead of getting upset and angry, it will be far more beneficial to me to practice kindness and love and give that to myself instead. If I’m supposed to be eating healthy foods so the baby gets good nutrition, it’s got to be at least as important to feed myself healthy emotions so the baby gets a good daily dosage of love instead of sadness.
Here are the things that I commit to doing every day:
I brush my teeth.
I tell my husband I love him.
I tell the contents of my uterus that I love him or her.
I do the best I can with everything else.
And that bath two weeks ago? I cleaned the tub, I filled up the tub, and I took the bath anyway. With bubbles, and chocolate truffles. It was lovely.
Last week one of our homework assignments for my birth class was to keep track of everything I eat, how many grams of protein I eat, and how much water I drink. It was a really informative assignment because I’ve wondered for a while if I’m getting enough protein.
First, I was happy about the things I’m doing right. Turns out that Arnold’s whole grain breads have tons of protein, so go us for spending a little more on the all-natural rather than the generic store brand wheat. I was also delighted to find that a Philly soft pretzel is also packed with protein – half a regular salted pretzel has 7 grams of protein! And of course if I’m buying one I always eat the whole thing. This made me feel a lot better about one of my favorite guilty splurges. Overall it was no problem to get the 70-80 grams of protein per day that’s recommended for pregnant women. And I typically drink 70-80 ounces of water per day: I have an 18 oz. Klean Kanteen that I just always carry in my purse all the time, and when I actually kept track of how often I completely drain and refill it, it turns out that I drink the whole bottle at least three, usually four times a day. Good stuff.
Of course we had to make some diet improvements too. We had switched from dairy milk completely to almond milk, but it turns out that cow milk naturally has more protein, so milk’s coming back to my cereal bowl and we’ll be a double-milk household again. No big deal. Almond milk’s great for cereal, but dairy’s fine too, and I like dairy milk better than almond milk in my Earl Grey anyway.
I’d already been eating one hard-boiled egg with lunch every day. The nutritional guidelines they gave us in class suggest that pregnant women should have two eggs a day. That’s an easy fix – we’re already boiling the eggs, we’ll just boil more and I’ll have one with breakfast and one with lunch. We made this change immediately at the beginning of the week and it resulted in me being able to hit the target 70-80 grams of protein pretty easily. And once we were keeping track and looked at the protein I eat in a normal breakfast with cereal and a smoothie, breakfast clearly stood out as the lowest protein meal of my day. I definitely need to up my intake there anyway, so it’s a natural fit. But this child is really going to love eggs.
Here’s a quote for today:
“Those whom summer’s heat tortures yearn for the full moon of autumn without even fearing the idea that a hundred days of their life will then have passed forever.”
– Buddha Shakyamuni, quoted in Mathieu Ricard’s Happiness, page 227
I love this quote because it’s so relatable: we all have a favorite season and a least favorite. Personally, I don’t like winter. I’m the kind of person who’s always cold, so in winter I have to wear layers and layers of clothes. My skin gets dry and itchy, especially with scratchy sweaters piled on, and I feel very uncomfortable most of the time. In winter we also get a lot less daylight, and that strongly affects my mood. I much prefer summer, when my skin can be out and about, unrestricted in the warm air, and there’s plenty of daylight to go around! But this quote reminds me to appreciate every day of my life, even in the winter; the seasons will come and go, but my life is finite, and I only have so many winters to enjoy. I don’t want to spend a whole season feeling grumpy and sad – it’s just not a good use of my time. So in winter I try to find the things that I do enjoy and appreciate: hot chocolate, freshly made soup, fuzzy socks, curling up with a blanket and a good book. I love the holidays, too, and in the region where I live, it’s not possible to get to Christmas without having some winter along the way.
On the surface, this quote is just about seasons and weather, but really it can be about anything that “tortures” you, making you yearn for something else. An illness, a job you don’t like, or a bad living situation can all represent seasons in a person’s life, difficult to get through. It can be tempting to think, Once this is over, then I’ll really be happy! Then we regain our health, find a new job, move to a new home, and something else becomes our challenge, and we defer our happiness again. This quote reminds me that the time to be happy is right now, regardless of what else may be happening. When we’re ill, there are still many joys we can appreciate even if we don’t feel well enough to do what we used to do. When we’re stuck in a crappy job, there are always plenty of things happening away from the office that fulfill us. Finding ways to enjoy where we are right now, even if it’s not ideal, will make us happier in our day-to-day lives, and when we feel more fulfilled in ourselves, we have more to give to the people around us as well. Don’t let a hundred days or even one day of your one precious life slip past you!