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The Buddha said, “I am not enlightened, I am merely awake.” What does it mean to be awake? Most of us spend our lives in relative states of “un-consciousness.” Sometimes we undergo a big, dramatic, once-in-a-lifetime awakening—such as a near-death experience—or we can occasionally experience subtler awakenings, such as hearing a story that resonates deep in our beings and creates a shift in consciousness.
Mantras are powerful—so powerful and potentially destructive, in fact, that it makes sense to notice which ones we’ve embedded in our psyches. A lot of mantras are so ingrained that we don’t even realize they’re there, replaying themselves over and over in our heads, creating a rut and defining who we are. I’m talking about mantras like “I am not enough,” or “Nothing ever works out for me,” or “She is smarter,” or even, “I can’t do yoga because my mind is all over the place and I am not flexible and I don’t have time.”
Insomnia can deprive us of the joy of the day by creating anything from a fuzzy brain, to an agitated nervous system, to lousy digestion, to a compromised immune system. How do we get a good night’s sleep when our minds are on overdrive, and our muscles are bound up? One reason for insomnia can be that we haven’t used our legs enough during the day; when your legs are restless, it is difficult for your body to relax. If you can’t get off the “go” mode, sleep may be illusive—after all, for incessant worriers, what better time to worry than when you should be sleeping?
In 2006, Rodney and I had the privilege of taking a few classes with Mr. Iyengar. When it came time for Headstand, I informed the yoga master that I didn’t do them — I have a seizure disorder that I always felt was aggravated by Headstands. He told me, in no uncertain terms, to stand on my head now! And I did. I stayed up, and only came down when he said it was time.
By then, the rest of the class had moved on to Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose), and, trying to be a good student, I came down from Headstand and sat right up to join the rest of the class. That’s the point at which he slapped my back and said, “That is your problem, not Headstand: You transition too quickly and mindlessly. I am sure that you do this in your life as well. You never let anything settle in.” Wow, what an acute teaching for a chronic issue!
Yoga students often wonder, “Why do we use Sanskrit terms when learning the poses? Is it important? Do we have to learn it?” I can relate because I once asked similar questions.
“Your mother has been telling me for 65 years that miracles happen. I am now 84 years old, and I believe.” This is what my father said to me yesterday.
My father has been ill for several years. He spent most of the last year bedridden. One day a beautiful calico cat showed up. It was a wild cat. My dad fell in love immediately. It put a light in his eyes that had been dulled by the enormous amount of pain he has been in for years.
Gandhi says that an impotent man is far more dangerous than a violent man. The more that I spend time in this body and in this world, I am starting to get a sense of what he may have been saying. It takes energy to move from fear to love. It takes momentum and courage to change from selfish to selfless. A violent man can re-direct his energy, whereas an impotent man or woman has no energy to re-direct. My mom and dad always told us to mind our own business, but Gandhi says that if you see an act of violence on the street and simply walk on by, that is not non-violence, it is cowardice.