Day Four~ Along the Rational Edges of Spirituality

        Ahimsa as the first word for 2019

The concept of Ahimsa is a basic tenet across religions and philosophies~translating as non violence~ or to do no harm~ it is a nod to the sacredness of all life and perhaps the simplest and most encompassing of all directives!

To do no harm~ might seem impossible!
and yet, study of this one pithy word could offer the greatest opportunity for growth. 

While our first impulse in regard to Ahimsa might be to look to we how we treat others,     it is important to first look inside to consider how we treat ourselves.
Typically, we are our own harshest critics~ we cause ourselves harm in our thoughts and words of self-judgment, negative self talk, the grimace we make as we look in the mirror, the exercise of shoulds and self-loathing, feelings of inadequacy and the guilt we pile on ourselves without even giving it a second thought.  In years past I rationalized that the voice under my breath, calling myself an idiot, or saying my theme song was “if I only had a brain” were expressions of simple humor, or not taking myself too seriously, or harmless self-deprecation. But it just isn’t true! In saying things like this, we block the benefits of unconditional love from ourselves. Self harm is a funny thing and insidious by nature~ it is like the barely perceptible slow trickle of water that wears away solid rock~ we don’t realize the injury, the limitations to our joy and happiness we impose upon ourselves and by extension to others and even the planet.

It could be as simple as forgiving ourselves our imperfections! For me it is a practice of walking the walk.  ..of taking in the words I offer to others, especially in Yoga classes. Phrases such as “Offer yourself the love you would so freely give another” or, “Let yourself feel held and supported as the divine child that you are” or, “honor your body” or “offer yourself an extra dose of compassion today!” or “be pleased with yourself, perfect just as you are in this moment.” 

These heartfelt words are offered in love and compassion~  yet, it took conscious realization, reminders from others and practice, to truly offer them to myself! Lately, I’ve been practicing being kind to me! and I can feel the difference~ I’m happier, lighter, more patient and satisfied with the way things are. Recently, I made a conscious effort to smile at myself when I look in the mirror and I gotta say it is so much more pleasant than those shudders of judgment and “ughs” I had been inflicting on a dear and vulnerable human being.  It is delightfully amazing how when we offer ourselves love and kindness, the whole world is sweeter, more loving and kind. The more appreciation and joy we have for the little things, the more circumstances there are to enjoy and appreciate. 

As we step into this new year, perhaps the greatest gift we could offer ourselves, is the practice of Ahimsa. If we allow ourselves child like joy and appreciation for ourselves, for our lives and our “being” perfectly imperfect as we are, we not only treat ourselves well~ we naturally share that joy and sense of well being with others.    Jai!

Day Three~ Along the Rational Edges of Spirituality

Day Three Along the Rational Edges of Spirituality ~ Each our own Hero’s Journey
 
The beauty of living in the moment is the ability to begin a conversation at any time ~ with anyone who is interested in conversing~
 
It seems like is always easier to appreciate the integrity, beauty and grace in others and their lives than it is to see the beauty within our own. Compassion is a funny thing and the big lesson with which to begin is to have compassion for ourselves first!
 
Ahimsa is the first of the Yamas the “restraints” in the first limb of eight as laid out in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The first two limbs the Yamas (restraints) and Niyamas (observances) kind of go hand and hand, but ya gotta start somewhere right?!
 
After years of study and a variety of modalities, I come back to the Sutras as a worthwhile point of beginning for anyone interested in developing his or her self~ Sense of self that is, as an awareness of person, as an individual in a variety of contexts~ essentially toward the development of consciousness.
 
So, while we enjoy talking, reading and watching about other people’s stories ~admiring them and somehow thinking of ourselves as less than~ it is important to appreciate our own stories. We may not be larger than life in our small selves, but it doesn’t mean we aren’t larger than life in spirit. If we believe that all life is interconnected and for the sake of this writing that is a basic premise, than it means that that other is simply a reflection of our higher selves. When we love and admire the life of an other, we can feel it for ourselves as well~ that we are lovable and admirable.
 
It means having compassion for ourselves first. That is Ahimsa, a first do no harm directive in our inquiry into self. Seriously! no judgement~ it means just allowing oneself to be present with oneself without recrimination, guilt or shame~ No judgement.
 
To simply be ok with who we are as we are in the current moment~ to look in the mirror without apology or criticism~ to simply offer acceptance and even love for this person ~ this personality who is only a partial representation of our higher selves~ of our spirit.
 
It is only when we are truly loving and compassionate with ourselves, with this sweet particularity of personality that we can truly offer love and compassion to an other!
 
It is not to say that there isn’t room for improvement in actual thoughts and actions, but until we can offer ourselves acceptance as we are, it is a struggle to make lasting changes.
 
If the intent is to raise the level of our consciousness, than we are seeking to raise the vibration of our being and offering ourselves acceptance and even love is the quickest way to allow that to happen.
 
And that’s why there are the other yamas and niyamas ~ those points of focus that allow us to enlarge our view of the truth of our being. For today, however, let’s embrace the grace of compassion~ offer yourself a smile, that lightness on your cheekbones, the sweetness behind your eyes~ that look of appreciation for you~ you beloved person! perfect~ just as you are!

Day Two~ Along the Rational Edges of Spirituality~

Evidently the journey of 108 days takes as long as it takes.  Six months have passed since I last set out to write a post and much has transpired ~   I will leave out any narrative of explanation, however, and simply pick up again where we are today.

In the past I have used the term “we” as a rhetorical device to be inclusive of the community at Bliss – It feels a little funny and maybe just a little too personal to me, to use the simple personal pronoun I.  For when I write, it isn’t just about me~ though I am included~ it is also about the various teachers and facilitators and students and the actual place of YogaBliss ~ the physical space of the studio as well as the energy of all of the good intentions and peaceful vibrations that have been held there.   When I set out to open a Yoga Studio, it was important to me to dedicate the “space”  under the guiding principles of love, grace and gratitude.   It was and still is very important to me, and I believe to all of us who find our way to bliss, that we have this sacred space where we can feel safe to inquire within.

I  wrestle with the notion of being authentic for both myself as a human being, as well as being a teacher and director of the “studio” as a business, juxtaposed with it being a community centered space.   And so enter the use of the majestic or papal “we” – the we that is used by a person who holds a “higher” office ~ to denote more than the personality and being of the individual.

The higher office I seek to hold, is one available to anyone who seeks out the deeper meanings of life~ who follows the charge, to Know Thyself and lead an examined life.   I choose to live the life of philosophy~ to be a lover of wisdom~ to enjoy explorations of consciousness through nature, community, yoga, song, dance, conversation, meditation, laughter, and so many other activities in the desire to be in the realm of Truth, Goodness and Beauty~  It is my heart’s desire to live my life, fully embracing my humanity as well as living in alignment with my highest ideals – that is to dwell in the realm of infinite intelligence and unconditional love~ How truly wonderful life is~ to live in peace and joy in the light and energy of love~

happily and humbly in bliss,

mc

Day One~ Rational Edges of Spirituality

Recently, on assignment to explore classes at other studios as part of their Yoga Teacher Training at Studio 4, a couple of yogini’s found their way to Yoga Bliss~ a couple of lovely young women, obviously dedicated to their practices and graciously exploring other spaces.  My mind immediately went to what classes we offered that would suit them in the manner they typically do yoga.  The upbeat, more rigorous classes….  and then I smile, because of course they were not simply looking for more of the same~ (which we don’t offer anyway)  they were looking for what is different, in whatever variation.  While they love the Hot Yoga tradition in which they are being trained, they are also curious and appreciative of what other studios may offer and perhaps in our case, as one of them mentioned, the “Spiritual” vibe of Yoga Bliss.

This was not the first time the spiritual vibe of Bliss has come up and it makes me wonder what it means to people when they consider  what “Spiritual” means.  For many, Yoga evokes the notion of bringing together mind, body and spirit, and in that regard perhaps it is considered a spiritual practice.  And at Bliss we do seek to offer safe space to consider body, mind and spirit.   But for me, engaging in the practices of Yoga is also a rational and pragmatic endeavor.  Rational in that there is a logic to the practices and pragmatic in that there are benefits of daily/weekly practice.   For me, Yoga is Philosophy, Art and Science in a quest for healthy, conscious, compassionate living. It offers daily practices in the pursuit of happiness so that we might live lives of liberty.  It is a quest to cultivate a calm peaceful presence which allows for the development of witness consciousness ~ a mindful consideration of what is, with an openness to what might be given the understanding that we can always gain broader perspective in which to see.  It is a quest to be open to possibility~ to question ourselves and our human constructs in order to approach with respect and begin to comprehend the wonders of the universe as well as the minutiae of our daily existence.

 

To see a World in a grain of sand,

And a Heaven in a wild flower,

Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,

And Eternity in an hour.              William Blake

 

ahhhh, the power of meditation and contemplation and poetry!

So without apology or expectation, today I begin a writerly journey along the rational edges of Spirituality.  My aim is to write each day for 108 days as a practice, as my yoga.  Topics will come as they arise and maybe after time some organization will come through, though I’m not worried about a thing – just giving myself permission to write and enjoy the process~

I Can’t Believe I Just Ate That! by Kelly Pickering

I Can’t Believe I Just Ate That!

By Kelly Pickering

Have these words ever crossed your lips?  They’ve certainly crossed mine, but I now know that the only purpose they serve is to invoke guilt and excuse me from my own power as if it were someone else’s hand that magically put that food in my mouth!!

This brings me to the concept of “mindfulness”. Clients often ask me “what exactly IS mindfulness and how do I practice it effectively?” I describe mindfulness as “paying attention on purpose”, and like any other practice, it takes time, awareness, and being present to become habit.

In our everyday lives there are many decisions we give thought to and plan for on a regular basis. Some decisions are big ones that have a long term impact and others require minimal thought with less impact on the big picture. Then there are small decisions that can have long term effects and consequences. The weight on thought when it comes to making decisions is often a matter of priority, i.e. how important is this thing we’re making a decision about? Let’s build a couple of scenarios for making decisions around food.

Scenario 1: You’re having supper at a friend’s where you had a couple of cocktails and a 5 course meal and you just can’t eat another thing. Your friend brings out a slice of chocolate layer cake and because she went to the trouble and you don’t want to appear rude, you say you’ll have a bite or two and take the rest home for tomorrow.  Your friend sits down and you continue visiting. Within 10 minutes the piece of cake is gone and you barely remember eating the first 2 bites!! How did THAT happen and what are the consequences?

– guilt (why did I do that? I was “bad!”)

– powerlessness (I have no discipline.)

– possible gastro issues (over indulgence)

– possible heart palpitations (sugar, caffeine)

– interference with sleep (sugar, caffeine, full stomach)

 

Scenario 2: You come home from a stressful 7am to 3pm nursing shift and change into some comfy clothes. You’re a little bit hungry and there’s a nice juicy organic orange on the counter as well as a couple of homemade chocolate chip cookies. You impulsively choose the cookies and curl up on the couch. Mmmm!  Five minutes later….

– Why did I do that? (no discipline, powerless)

– I should have had the orange!  (guilt, shame)

– My blood sugar is rising (physical consequence, crash and burn)

 

With the first scenario, there’s definitely an element of mindlessness that occurred.  But in both scenarios, there is another element that might help explain the question “why did I do that?” Sometimes it’s not the cake, or the chocolate chip cookies, the bowl of ice cream, or the bag of Doritos that we want, but instead, what we want is how having them makes us feel!  Comforted, decadent, cared for, safe, loved, etc. These are emotional attachments that may very well be subconscious and have nothing to do with discipline.

So circle back around to the concept of mindfulness and “paying attention on purpose”.  Being present and having an awareness (think yoga!) around our thoughts and emotions where food is involved is key.  When the opportunity arises to make a choice around a less healthy food, first take 10 slow, deep cleansing breaths in through the nose and out with a sigh. Then check in with yourself with these few questions.

– Am I sad? (grandma always gave me food to make it all better)

– Am I lonely? (food is my friend and it loves me unconditionally)

– Am I stressed? (life is an emergency and I need to store fat)

– Am I angry? (food doesn’t fight back)

– Am I hungry? (food vs feeling)

– What am I hungry for? (a hug? conversation with a friend? a walk in nature? a more fulfilling life? a massage?)

– And, how will having this cake/ice cream/cookies/Doritos, etc. make me feel? (guilty? ashamed? sick? bloated? powerless?)

 

By the time you’ve checked in with yourself you have, at the very least avoided making an impulsive (or compulsive) decision around food.  Then you can practice saying the 2 most influential words we can ever say to ourselves… I AM!

– I am loved/lovable

– I am worthy/worth it

– I am powerful

– I am in perfect health

– I am grateful for my body

– I AM

 

In closing, mindfulness is also about planning ahead so that you have more healthy choices available to you and always remember… it’s not what we do once in a while (lose the guilt!), it’s what we do most of the time that will have the greatest impact!!

Raw and Unrefined! by Diana Domingo

 

When we use our voices in the world it can feel like a performance – saying what people want to hear – trying to always sound perfect, finding the perfect buzz word or not saying what’s on our minds because of how we may be seen or the effect our thoughts may have when they are unrehearsed, raw or unrefined…

 

With practice and dedication, we may be able to ultimately perform a song or speech in the perfect pitch and using the right notes: There is a time and place for this, if this is what is desired! How do we ensure, though, that these are our notes that derive from our own true voice versus the ability to match pitch to create a certain sound – a sound that we believe will be pleasing to others? What would happen if we sang our songs and used our personal voice directed from the heart? Would it waver – sound shrill – embarrass or humiliate us?

 

Intense Emotions that create discomfort open gateways to what wishes to be heard, cleared and expressed within us! The Mission of Diana Domingo is to bring to light the True Voice that is often muted by fear! To learn to sit with and move through feelings of awkwardness and embarrassment, while singing and connecting with others, until the inner light is revealed. For some this is closer to the surface – for others perhaps buried deep below a layer of self-consciousness and doubt! Once we are able to bring our true expression to light, we are free to be heard by all in the purest form – first and foremost by the self – even when it is raw and unrefined.

 

This is the path of vulnerability that leads to truth! Using vocal tools and exercises, Diana helps you to access and connect with your deepest and strongest levels of support, which gets the energy moving within the physical body on a molecular level. By engaging the body and its power as a vocal instrument through the use of breathing exercises, vowel tones, chakra tuning, original song voicings, Aum/Om and mantras, songs and chants, we create a buzzing, tingling and a vitality within to unlock energy centers which may normally go unused or are unexpressed.

 

There is no wrong way to tone – this exercise begins the journey to inner truth and is strongest when approached with childlike enthusiasm. This method of Sonica Voice Play opens the gate – gets us vulnerable and ready to dive into the truth of our unique vibration. There is no censoring the sensations that are felt – this is not a performance! This is a meditation that opens the door to images, color and internal guidance. Once this is accessed, there is the opportunity to ask for an inner sound to detect or remember what the tone(s) of these inner messages would be. This yields a series of Soul Tones that are an outward expression of these energies in the form of sound – using the voice. This activation can be profound – what comes through is unrehearsed, authentic and real!

 

We can get to the truth of our inner being through this Invitation to Vulnerability and the willingness to be Raw and Real in a supportive environment. Through voice play and movement, we discover that the ability to unleash and direct inner power to accomplish our dreams and communicate our goals effectively, authentically, inspirationally and in our own personal notes…is always a breath away.

 

To sign-up for the “Ignite the Radiant Heart: Realizing the Power of Voice!”, Click here:

 

To reach Diana Domingo go to: www.centerforsong@gmail.com or email: diana@centerforsong.com

 

Kirtan Celebration with Prema Hara

Kirtan ~ the heart or essence of Bhakti ~ is in one sense Prema Hara1impossible to define. It defies measurement and resists categorization. Kirtan means to share to celebrate, to praise and to glorify.

Kirtan forms a bridge between your outer and inner identities, expressing our desire to know and love the divine absolute. It is utter devotion towards God. The different Ragas and melodies create different moods of spiritual feelings from great joy of intimate association to deep spiritual lamentation in separation of God.

Kirtan transcends the artificial barriers imposed by the external world. It rises above skin color, age, gender, race, religion, or creed and does not depend upon classic vocal training or musical abilities. It is sung from the heart; it is raw, joyful, primeval.

September 26th 7:00-9:00pm

$15 in advance $20 at the door. Seating is limited~ please register in advance.
register here ( click on the month view of classes and click on Kirtan )or call 894-7086