To Meditate - or Not

Savoring the beauty and stillness of my dear friend’s home in Northern Michigan, I picked up her Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo. Thumbing through, this parable jumped off the page and into my heart.

"When Akiba was on his deathbed, he bemoaned to his rabbi that he felt he was a failure. His rabbi moved closer and asked why, and Akiba confessed that he had not lived a life like Moses. The poor man began to cry, admitting that he feared God’s judgement. At this, his rabbi leaned into his ear and whispered gently “God will not judge Akiba for not being Moses, God will judge Akiba for not being Akiba”. 
                                 From the Talmud (the central teaching of Rabbinic Judaism)

I have lived my life feeling that whichever way I turned, I was a square peg in a round hole. I have carved my own path relying on my instincts (which were not always correct) but feeling and inviting my way. My meditation practice illistrates this reality succinctly. Having been trained both in Vipassana and Transcendental Meditation, I have not engaged in either method consistently. 
 I guess I'm a bit of a meditation flunky!!!!...but maybe not :)

In very simple terms, Vipassana is the gradual cultivation of mindfulness or awareness in which the student's attention is directed to an intense examination of certain aspects of his own existence; while TM Transcendental Meditation involves the use of a sound or mantra. 


I came to this conclusion after reading the passage above: Whatever one is trained in, the beauty begins when one makes it their own.

Finding meaning through creating one’s own recipe.
One day my meditation may take me on a walk or a run, stopping in the middle of the day to eat a meal in silence, moving in meditation through a yoga practice, or
sitting in meditation in the early am or late pm.
I know what the studies say about consistency, timing, vibration, positions etc -
But, just as the same medication does not work for every individual, neither does the same meditation.
I will proceed in my attempt to cease judging myself for not being able to follow “the rules” as stated by one method or another, but to celebrate the tools I have found which support and enable me to enrich the tapestry of my being.

 

This is my offering to you  today...

...namaste´friends. 

 

Inspired by His Life, May We be Motivated by his Death

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Nelson Mandela is being memorialized around the world, we in the yogacommunity must add him to our list of true teachers. While not a traditional“yogi” in our familiar usage of the word, he is nonetheless a guru ofillustrious distinction.Ahimsa, the practice of nonviolence, the first yama of the eight limbs ofyoga, is something that Mandela took very seriously. He overthrew an oldand racist government after spending 27 years in prison…all the whileforgiving those that imprisoned him.Nelson Mandela - a great, humble, passionate, inspiring, generous man.It makes one think about one’s own life and death, doesn’t it? Listening andreading about this incredible man causes reflection on one’s own life. Haveyou ever thought about what might be said about you upon your owndemise? Have you ever thought about writing your own eulogy? It maysound quite strange and unsettling but it also may offer an opportunity tostep outside yourself and consider the life you are leading.For what do you want to be remembered?By whom do you want to be remembered?What type of footprint will you leave upon this earth?The answers to these questions will say a lot about what is important toyou, and may give you impetus to move forward or in an alternate directionin your life.You may not want the whole world to mourn your death, and have everynews channel do a story about your life, or maybe you do. Or maybe you

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today is Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Yesterday I attended the world premier of I Believe - a Shoah Requiem, composed by Daniel Gross. It was a Detroit community-wide interfaith observance with 6 adult and 2 children’s choirs, representative speakers from the legislature, the Archdiocese of Detroit, Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, Russell Street Missionary Baptist Church, Greater New Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, St. John Armenian Church, and Rabbis and Cantors from many of our local synagogues and temples. My brother was a member of one of the choirs - his passion for singing is as great as mine is for yoga.

Although through the practice of yoga, we are instructed to stay in the moment of each breath, we are also taught to honor, study and remember - but not to dwell. Viktor Frankl, who not only survived the nightmares of the Holocaust, wrote one of the greatest books ever written about the spirit and courage of the human condition, Man’s Search for Meaning:

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Many of us have bleak, dark days and while most of us have not suffered in any way, shape or form what those who experienced the Holocaust or the millions of other people who have been tortured, maimed murdered and objectified in the name of politics, religion, nationality and/or a myriad of other supposed reasons, these days and feelings should not be minimized. We feel what we feel and it is real. But, our yoga practice gives us tools to manage these days by observing and using our breath, not to change our circumstances but to manage through them. Live through them so that we can add the experience to our repertoire and develop the compassion and motivation to change. To see the light through the darkness...

The final chorus of I Believe was based on an unassigned inscription found on the wall of a cave in Cologne where Jews had been hiding. Translated from the original French:

 

 

I believe in the sun 

even when it’snot shining

I believe in love

even when feeling it not.

I believe in God

even when He is silent.

 

 

“They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Viktor Frankl
May our yoga practice support our ability to to experience the darkness yet open our hearts to the light. To remember, but not to dwell, on either evil or goodness. To walk our paths hand-in-hand, breath-by-breath as one, honoring the divine spirit within each and every one of us.

The Heart of the Matter

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Ala., city bus. That courageous act resulted in her arrest, sparked a year long bus boycott & helped give rise to the Civil Rights Movement. Today, February 4, 2013, Parks would have been 100 years old.

Today, John Conyers Jr. and other congressional representatives will present a resolution to designate every Feb. 4 hence forth as a National Day of Courage. He shares that Rosa Parks never sought the limelight, in fact, preferred to avoid it. He states “I think the best way for people to honor her is to exemplify her ideas in their own lives, to continue to struggle for justice for all and to resist discrimination of any sort.”
What is courage? The word courage comes from the French word coeur, meaning heart. At the heart of the matter, when we are afraid we hunch our shoulders, protect our hearts as our breath becomes shallow. If you could imagine a posture of courage it could only be one with an open heart, lifted chest, strong back and full breath.

Yes, I am addressing the outer form, the positioning of our bodies, that reflects courage. And yet, this outer form gives evidence of our inner self. This is our journey in yoga; the body as a door within as well as a door that lets out, or mirrors, that which is deep inside. At times, we can create courage through a strong yogic posture, like a backbend, that allows us to feel strong and empowered. An accomplishment on this level may stimulate the courage needed to stand more firmly in one’s beliefs. On the other hand, a release of tension in the body through deep and slow stretching, done with mindfulness and patience, may accomplish the same goal.

Psychologist Carl Jung suggested many years ago, “The only way out is through.” In other words, the door can swing in both directions. You can “act” courageously before you truly feel it and be amazed that the feeling comes. Or, you can feel it and then act.

Step on your mat today and explore your courage. Know that what takes you courage to do or say is very different than your fellow practitioner on the mat next to you. But, make today’s practice and this day that honors the legacy of Rosa Parks, and all those who have performed in a manner that stand for equality and justice, by being courageous in a positive way, a way in which makes your world and the world for those around you, a better place.

Parks said in her autobiography:
“I have spent over half my life teaching love and brotherhood, and I feel it is better to continue to try and teach or live equality and love than it would be to have hatred or prejudice. Everyone living together in peace and harmony and love...that’s the goal we seek, and I think that the more people there are who reach that state of mind, the better we will all be.”

What might your coeur inspire you to do today?

Share your gifts and change a life

Many times we underestimate our ability to change lives.  We speak or write our words without really paying attention to the deeper meaning.  This video demonstrates how powerful words can be and that a gift shared can change a life.  Watch this beautiful video for inspiration