I don’t like being upside down and backwards. This makes Handstand a challenge for me. I don’t trust that my fellow students can hold me steady while I substitute my hands for feet. It’s a reflection of my own limited thinking, not an accurate assessment of their competence.
Still, I try. I go to class and work gradually. First, I achieved Headstand, which I couldn’t do a year ago. It’s a stepping-stone to the loftier goal of Handstand.
Yoga is always putting new challenges in our paths. Just when we think we have achieved a difficult asana, we discover that it was the modified version. It taught me to give up hope.
It’s raining. The tears are streaming from my glass panes and I cannot see clearly. I knew there was a forecast for difficult conditions, but I wasn’t expecting this downpour.
It’s not the unpredictable that I don’t like. Give me sun, snow, rain or wind, and I can stand tall and adjust my layers accordingly. Any element that surprises me is just another opportunity to show strength, perseverance and flexibility.
As I watched my girlfriend plant the asparagus roots in the freshly tilled soil this past weekend, the thought finally hit me: I might yet stand a chance.
Seeds are amazingly simple in design for what they are meant to do. Soil, water, warmth and a bit of faith creates a plant that provides food, generates more seeds and nurtures the soil, all while cleaning the air and water. It was the cultivation of a few seeds that gave me a completely new perspective on absolutely everything in my life.
There is an old Hindu spiritual teaching called “The Snake and the Rope.” As the tale goes, a man walks into a dark room and sees something coiled on the floor. In a gut reaction he mistakes a coiled rope to be a coiled snake. When he collects his frantic energy enough to turn on the lights and the darkness vanishes, what is illuminated is the true nature of the object. This analogy for mistaken identities and meanings is as applicable on your yoga mat as it is in your life.
I often say to students that you cannot stay the same when you practice Kundalini yoga. The very nature of what we do is to awaken the energy of consciousness, to practice in a way that sheds light on our self-imposed limitations, and invites us to think out of the box and develop our intuitive mind. Being able to live from our intuitive mind is one of the main goals of a Kundalini practitioner.
I practice and teach both Hatha and Kundalini yoga. I see my Hatha practice as daily maintenance — a great way to work out kinks in my body, get grounded and calm. My Kundalini practice is a place of transformation.
I am sitting in a hotel in Phoenix, Arizona, at the Celebrate Your Life conference. I have the honor of being here to facilitate two workshops and to participate with a number of speakers and teachers who have inspired me over the years. As I sit here, I am bathed in a sea of gratitude for the amazing life that I am privileged to live.
You can make the holidays a time of dramatic change and healing by using your innate intuitive abilities in a conscious and directed way.
Holidays are supposed to be a time when families unite, when you are reminded of your childhood or revisit the memories of yourself over the years. You may be spending this time alone or far from home. But no matter where you are or who you are with, the holidays provide you with a unique opportunity to heal the inner patterns and relationships that have been obstructing your life and hindering your dreams.
Kenyan environmental activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Wangari Maathai wouldn’t suffer a single tree to be cut down for her coffin; her body was laid to rest in a casket made of hyacinth, papyrus and bamboo. At her funeral service this September in Nairobi’s Uhuru Park, which she fought to save from obliteration by a 60-story skyscraper, her family planted a tree in her honor. That brings her total up to roughly thirty million and one.
As the founder of the Green Belt Movement — a reforestation project that paid impoverished Kenyan women to plant seedlings in order to renew the environment and increase their access to firewood and clean water — Maathai was responsible for the growth of some 30 million trees. Her battle with ovarian cancer ended on September 26; since then, environmentalists, feminists, and democracy advocates have voiced their grief and admiration.
I host a monthly free teleconference called “Community Conversations.” We recently discussed the ego and how it was playing out in our lives. So, I will pose the same question to you that I asked the group: “Are you in charge of your ego or is your ego in charge of you?”
There are a few definitions of ego: the self, especially as distinct from the world and other selves; in psychoanalysis, the division of the psyche that is conscious, most immediately controls thought and behavior, and is most in touch with external reality; an exaggerated sense of self-importance; conceit, appropriate pride in oneself; self-esteem. I believe that we all experience the good news and the interesting news of our ego and how it affects our lives. However, more often than not, the ego quietly affirms separation, lack and limitation.
We are now well into 2011, and many people are deep into the discussion of the shifts occurring on this planet. Some feel they are directly tied to the Mayan Calendar and predictions for 2012. Others feel that we are in the center of a transformational movement unlike any other in history.
I recently spoke at a wonderful conference in Sedona, Ariz. The whole theme was about transcendence and how we navigate the waters of the shifts taking place. As I contemplated my talk, it became clear to me that WE ARE THE GIFT in the shift. Each one of us is here for a unique purpose, and each of us has been given all of the tools that we need to be fulfilled and make a difference on this planet. If that is true, then the question becomes “What is in the way of us soaring?” I believe it is because we are stuck in the muck of consistent mind chatter that tries to convince us that we are victims of inevitable doom. This is fed by the intense news reports, old familial belief systems and inaccurate information passed down from various arenas.