Monday, May 26, 2008

Inner Asteya

Sharath gave a conference last night and I was reminded of a practice I had last year when out of frustration I choose to quit early.
I was fed up, had had enough, my back was sore, I had no energy, and in my mind I wasn't "progressing."

As I left the shala my teacher looked at me and said, "weak mind". Something sunk in my chest. I was heart broken, angry, and wanted to cry. But honestly, Sharath was right, he had nailed me. Of course this led to a little reflection for me...

The yamas are known in the yoga sutras as the mahavratam (the great vows). These fundamental teachings are the corner stone of yoga. Asteya is the third yama, and is translated as “non-stealing.” For most of us it is obvious we must not steal in order to maintain our practice of ahimsa (non-violence). We know that if we take something from someone else we are harming him or her.

But what about stealing from ourselves?

We all face challenges both on and off the mat. One challenge I have in my practice is urdhva danurasana or back-bends. It's not so surprising that this posture became much easier when I realized I was actually sabotaging myself with my mind. (Ok... that's a picture of Harmony not me)

I had developed a pattern of berating myself, and it needed to be broken. Somehow a resistance towards bending-back had crept in, along with an attachment to what I believed was “ideal progress.” I realized that I needed to release the feeling of fear I was having patiently over time. I needed to stop stealing my ability to see the positive.

This brings up the question: “How do we steal from ourselves both on and off the mat?”
Do we steal time from ourselves? Do we push into and through pain in an unhealthy manner? Are we overly critical of ourselves? Do we mentally beat ourselves up?

We can start to find our own answers by asking ourselves the right questions: Am I being patient with myself? Am I allowing myself enough time to learn the lessons I need to learn before moving forward?

Louise Hay, in her book You Can Heal Your Life, asks her readers to: "Stop for a moment and catch your thought. What are you thinking right now? If it is true that your thoughts shape your life, would you want what you were just thinking right now to be true for you?"

This is a great question to ask your self. Are we thinking supportive thoughts? Or are we playing old tapes in our heads that no longer add value to our present circumstances.

Are our thoughts, and consequently our lives, filled with the mantra: "I can do it!" or are we in subtle ways stealing happiness and contentment from ourselves simply because we have not examined our own patterns of thinking? It is so easy for the mind to simply default into its old self-sabotaging patterns, so we need to make a conscious effort to increase the awareness of our own thoughts.

Ultimately we need to support ourselves in the yoga practice we have chosen. This is vital. We need to give ourselves lots of positive encouragement the way we would encourage others. Learning to love and approve of our actions in every moment is one of the most important practices that we can do.

I leave this week with one more quote from Louise Hay: "If we want a joyous life, we must think joyous thoughts. If we want a prosperous life, we must think prosperous thoughts. If we want a loving life, we must think loving thoughts. Whatever we send out mentally or verbally will come back to us in like form." (You Can Heal Your Life)

If it is true that we only get what we give, then perhaps it’s time to reflect upon what you have given or withheld from yourself lately.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Moving Into Mysore

After 44 straight hours of travel, sleeping seat-belted in airplanes, muddling through various time zones, enduring indigestion from bad airplane food, and finally surviving a scary Indian car ride, we are back in Mysore!
Mother India always presents a plethora of sights, sounds, smells, and tastes – a real smorgasbord for the senses!
And all I can say is ... Yippee!!
The effort to get here is a small price to pay for the great blessing of being back to study with our teachers.

Thank God for the next three months! While we are here in Mysore, the practice becomes the sole focus of our attention, pretty much of our whole existence, and although three months might seem like a grand amount of time, for us it seems more like a short, but intense, check-in. It is nice to have some time to step away from the demands of “big city living,” to find a quiet space to sink into where we can practice, study, and delved deeper into the inner-Self once again.
The truth is that most of us need to deliberately dedicate some time every now and again to make our yoga practice the focus of our attention. Amidst our busy lives we need to find those moments where we can rededicate ourselves to a consistent practice and review our growth along the path.

As we move through life, a multitude of things can become obstacles to our spiritual growth. The daily demands of “modern living” are just some of the obstacle that can take a toll on our mental, physical and spiritual well-being. With the help of our yoga practice we can begin to recognize a little sooner when we need to take a personal “time-out” to rejuvenate, re-vitalize, and possibly modify our approach to the journey.
Taking time to focus on what we really want, both on and off our mat, and pausing to honestly assess the barriers on the path is a very important process. It is satya (truth) that helps us find the answers to the questions that lie within ourselves.

Sometimes it is only after taking a step back that we can truly assess our choices and correctly decide where to invest our energy and resources. Life is a series of choices, and as Louise Hay would say, "the point of power is always in the present moment."
Breath, Be Present, Choose Well!