In the desert, Spring is special as it is our pause before the extreme heat. If we are mindful, we make the most of these mild days. We enjoy the ability to cease heating and/or cooling our homes, cars, offices. We sleep with the windows open. We enjoy the wild flowers.
I said goodbye yesterday to a group of Catholic clergy I have been working with for 7 weeks. I teach a “Mind, Body, Spirit” Seminar for a clergy sabbatical program here in Tucson.
Essentially, I give them an ecumenical model for how yoga, meditation, and mindfulness “work” and then we spend the majority of our time engaged in gentle, relaxing, and prayerful practice.
As a closure, I asked them to tell me what stuck with them from the practice experience, what they would be taking away into their lives and ministries.
Here is a summary of their list for all of us to remember:
- Breath. How important it is to breathe consciously and to notice our breath holding patterns.
- Gentle Movements. How much can happen with simple, mindful movement.
- Simplicity. Stand against the wall for a few moments. Fold forward ½ way with your hands on a table top. Lie down and let your body open.
- Alignment. Notice how the body contracts and rounds and the difference you feel when you adjust and align more with gravity.
- Respect. Work with your body in this moment. There is no need to force, strain, or effort for something particular.
- Relax. Notice the way we rush, lurch, tense, grip as we are acting. Consciously relax within the effort and notice how that also affects your mind.
- Grace. In movement and in the whole experience.
- Space. It helps to have the right environment and we become the right environment- our body/mind state.
- Focus. The mind on the body, the body as a worthy focus for attention, prayer, communion, insight.
In truth- this isn’t their list exactly. That arose on the white, dry erase board and then was dissolved as we talked about yoga styles out there in the wider world. This list is what I remember and what I have embellished a bit. Yet, it’s the same and different every time I teach. What makes it different is the alchemy, the respect we have for ourselves and each other as we commune on this day. Goodbye Fall Sabbatical Group, it was lovely to share my yoga ministry with you these 7 weeks. God Bless us all.
If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together. Aboriginal Activists Group, Queensland
When considering what to share from my practice this month, the idea of pace came to mind as a relevant theme.
As I tried to write about it, it became overly complex. So I am going back to basics and simply sharing some personal thoughts that I hope are useful for you.
Years ago, I read an article by the excellent teacher of the Vedic sciences, Robert Svoboda, regarding the cultivation of Prana. Prana is the Sanskrit term for subtle energy, similar to the Chinese term Chi.
The article had a wonderful effect on me during an especially difficult period of life. I felt stuck and thwarted in many ways then, and was undoubtedly being hard on myself. Why was I so slow? Why did I have no energy? These were constant, semi-conscious questions I circulated in my mind.
I share with you the first paragraph of this article and a few reflections about how it helped me and informs me to this day.
Whoever you may be, and wherever you may live, you live your life well when you live it at the right rate. Plow your way through life and life will wear you out; poke your way along and your life will grind to a halt. Find a pace that suits you, though, and amble along it accordingly, and your world will spontaneously level a path for you.
The article goes into some depth about yogic matters that I jive with, but what struck me right away was the possibility that slow was my pace. That being upset about my pace was perhaps the drain of energy. That maybe it was time to surrender to a deeper understanding of my rhythm, and to life’s rhythm for me.
This insight paradoxically allowed me to slow down more, to drop down deeper, to rest and rejuvenate, to ask different questions, to hear from my heart, and to follow my heart.
In this period since, about 5 years now, I understand my pace more and I do my daily best to honor it and amble along accordingly. I don’t expect the world to spontaneously level my path but I do seem to understand more what is meant by such a statement.
Our pace connects us to our heart. Our heart emanates our unique emotional and spiritual longing. This is what influences the course of our path.
May you know and honor your pace. May your heart illuminate your path.
May our practice and our healing be of benefit to the whole world.
Here is a link to the entire article for those that are inspired: Prana
Here are some reflections from my practice and hopefully some inspiration for yours:
This winter and spring I have been concentrating on getting stronger through hiking. It has felt important as I enter into middle age to not just move more, but to be in nature and to be reminded that my body is a vehicle for connecting with the wilderness.
My asana practice is simple and sweet these days. I don’t try and get much out of my body- rather I attend to it so it feels good and balanced. This attitude has been distilled from years of practicing in ways that were not necessarily simple and sweet.
Even though I have always gravitated to gentle styles and found teachers who understood the meditative and spiritual dimension of yoga, I still pressured myself to do more and more. I imagine I thought that was my duty as a professional yoga teacher. It took some time to realize I was inflicting pain upon myself rather than resolving it, and that was serving no one!
This is really a lesson regarding the Mind. I didn’t know I was being aggressive. I didn’t know I was off track. My teacher Rama always emphasized a will-less way of progressing and I loved the message. It just took years to bear fruit and flowers. Perhaps there is much more to come. Meanwhile, I am pain free, at ease, and in awe with the way my practice has evolved.
This brings me to the concept of Mind/Body that I am playing with lately. In the new brain science we see more than ever that the mind and body are integral, not distinct. The mind is the body, the body is the mind. Awareness and sensitivity are keys to integration, thinking and dissecting are disturbances. Yogis and Buddhas and Mystics of all stripes have essentially agreed upon this- now there is a modern wave of contemplative science and study that affirms and explains the phenomena of integration.
It is an exciting and exhilarating new way of conceiving of self and human potential. What does your body tell you? How does the thinking and judging mind distort the information? How do we enter into the energy and information of the mind/body, learn from it directly? How do we translate this integration of being into our lives and world? What might it mean for the future?
In regards to your practice, I hope you have the opportunity to move more and the wisdom to will-less from your body. I wish you the enjoyment of nature and the opportunity to touch into wilderness. I pray that your own mind/body journey flowers into good health and spiritual integration. And that each of our practices aids to the healing of the world.
Blessings and Light, Natasha
Our normal daily life creates a pattern of mental focus that often takes us out of our physical, present moment reality. Our attention goes away and in many directions, often for long periods of time. This way of being, while it may seem necessary, productive, and even creative has many limitations.
The primary limitation is that it accentuates the mind/body disconnection- our body is doing one thing, our mind is doing many other things. This disconnection makes us highly susceptible to physiological stress or sympathetic nervous system arousal. That means our bodies are revving up to prepare for danger and emergency, its information is based on our conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings, and in most cases there is no danger- the threat and thus the stress is in fact, unnecessary. This unconscious and unnecessary ‘’revving” of our nervous system agitates, confuses, and exhausts us creating less productivity and more vulnerability to illness and accident.
The secondary limitation of our attention moving around constantly away from the present moment, is that we do not get to live our moments fully. We in fact feel less because our senses are not activated and our emotions are not integrated into what we are doing. While this can be a relief sometimes to just “do” life, if this doing prevails we are more prone to over-indulge the senses- which in turn exacerbates physiological stress, and we are easily overwhelmed by our feelings.
With the Mindfulness practices offered below, you can begin to gradually shift your attention back to the present moment reality. This simple act of harnessing your attention, will help you develop your mind body connection, reduce and manage stress, and bring more beauty and balance to your life. With practice, you will see that learning to attend to yourself is an act of intelligence and self-worth and that you are better able to attend gracefully to all that is needed in your life.
- Be aware of your breath. Simply notice. No thinking necessary.
- Be aware of your body sensations. Simply notice. No thinking necessary.
- Move your body mindfully, focusing on the experience of sensation. No thinking necessary.
- Shake. Rattle. Roll. Rub. Hop. Yawn. Sigh. Stomp- whatever connects you to your body now.
- Be aware of raw feeling states. The feeling of yes. The feeling of no. The feeling of maybe-so.
- It doesn’t matter what you feel. It does matter that you notice how you are feeling.
- Notice your thinking, imaging, inner dialogue. Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it skillful?
- Notice that awareness- this faculty that can notice- is bigger than thinking.
- Sensations, emotions, thoughts drive impulses, actions, behaviors, consequences.
- The future is shaped moment by moment- be intentional and notice when you’re not.
- No judgment necessary.
I used to teach a lot of yoga, hours every day. I joked that I was a marathon yoga teacher. I taught different types of yoga practices in those many hours, it wasn’t all super physical. It was also in one facility, so I didn’t have to drive hither and yon. I loved what I did and I made a good living in the days when yoga teaching wasn’t really a profession.
It is said you teach what you most need to learn, maybe that is true. I guess I needed to learn how to be in my body, how to be myself and connected to something more. I also learned a lot about teaching, communicating, relating. For me learning is primarily about self-awareness, and secondarily about information. This is why I teach Yoga and not history, which was incidentally what I studied as an undergraduate.
For some reason, my desire to talk about the breath today brought me back to reflecting on these early days of marathon teaching. I taught this morning, a short 75 minute class and everyone was very focused. It felt like what it took me many years to learn were transmitted and absorbed by everyone in the room. It was a bit of a time warp really, it felt like we must have practiced for hours to get that deep. At the heart of this story is the breath.
If you have practiced yoga with me, you will know there is a special way that we breathe. This comes from my teacher Rama and is the essence of her method, which she will not name. She calls it Yoga. There are lots of layers to this method, but in a nutshell it is a way of using the breath to create shifts and changes in our being without activating the ego or the will. It is a way of working within the yoga poses that takes you into deep states of meditation where subtle conflict is resolved. It is a way of converting the oxygen we breathe into the prana or energy we need to be both transformed and to maintain our integrity.
How does all this happen through breath? I wish I could describe it here, I actually have been trying (and editing it out) but it is really something you have to experience. For now I will simply say what I have said billions of time by now, breathe.
Meditative Yoga Practice Series
Saturday, February 20 – The Fifth Chakra: Heart’s Desire
Saturday, March 26 – The 5 Flows of Prana
Saturday, April 23 – The Third Chakra: City of Gems
Saturday, May 14 – The 5 Mind States & the Breath
This series of practice days grows out of a desire to support our continued healing, growing, and awakening. The beauty of Yoga is the experiential process; this strengthens our connection to inner knowing, the inner teacher or Guru. Longer practice sessions, well-paced and designed, are an important part of our development. These sessions are open to both new and experienced practitioners. Each Saturday will have a similar format yet there will be distinct themes and practices. Here are some other thoughts about how a day of practice can benefit you:
* Extended practice increases your concentration and stamina, which will translate into all you are doing.
* This meditative way of practicing will help you stay in and expand your comfort zone, you will be invigorated rather than exhausted.
* I have taught Days of Mindfulness Practice for many years and see how profoundly it affects people; there is even research that indicates that a day of meditation can affect gene response in a positive and measurable way.
* You will explore and refine your general practice, so you understand anew how Yoga works for you outside the class structure.
$100 for the day or $325 for the series.
Please contact me to register.
Full Day of Meditative Yoga Practice
9:30 – 4:30 $100
This is the first of what will be a series of practice days designed for students who love Meditative Yoga and want more than the 90 minute class experience. The day will include a variety of movement, breathing, sound, and meditation practices; while most practice is solo, there will be some interactive components as well. Pace & sequencing will match the natural flow of the daylight and guide you effortlessly to the deeper healing and regenerative dimensions of Yoga. In honor of the Martin Luther King holiday this month, the theme of our practice day will be ahimsā (non-violence). This is an important principle in Yoga that inspired Ghandi and then King’s civil rights philosophy’s.
Please contact me to register.
Vedic Astrology Highlights Fall 2015 & Super Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse September 27th
We have a Solar and Lunar Eclipse this month. Here are the Highlights of what is UP.
The Solar Eclipse will occur later this night that I write. It is partial and will not be visible to us in the USA. Yet the energy of an eclipse effects the whole planet, perhaps more so where they are visible.
This occurs in the sign of Leo, in the later section of the constellation called Purva Phalguni- it is associated with wealth so there is some buzz in the astrology community about this having impact on the global economy. Some say the wild ride the stock market just took is indicative of this energy fluctuation. Particular effects may be felt for 6 months.
Eclipses are considered inauspicious periods to initiate new endeavors. They are auspicious for spiritual attunement and refinement. As we know, life often insists we do things in spite of the signs and omens. Truly, the key is to have a daily practice that purifies your heart and mind in some way. This is the key to weathering whatever will come.
It is also considered helpful when the solar eclipse happens before the lunar. We always have eclipses in pairs and this time the lunar eclipse will follow and be fully visible for us in Tucson. It is quite powerful as it is a total eclipse and the moon is close to the Earth in its orbit- this is called a super moon. It is also interesting as it happens early in the evening- it will be fully eclipsed around 8pm Tucson time. Easy to witness and meditate upon.
Again, there is lots of lore regarding everything and it is said that it is not good to be outside during an eclipse- that you are personally negatively affected by it. But in this day and age, when we are disconnected from so many natural rhythms, I sense it is a remedy; a way to honor the subtle and the shadow element of life, to witness the celestial phenomenon and strengthen our commitment to light.
The lunar eclipse occurs Sunday night, September 27. It occurs in Pisces, in the section called Uttara Bhadra Pada. It is associated with the flow of water, purification, renewal, and release from long held patterns. It is the water that smooths the stones. I hope you get to experience and enjoy this event in some way.
Mars in Leo: September 16-November 3
Mars is leaving its 2 month sojourn through the sign of Cancer, which is its sign of debility/ difficulty.
This is a big shift for Mars energy. In anyone’s chart Mars signifies raw energy, courage, power, brothers, and land. In the fire sign of Leo the King it regains its sense of being a spiritual warrior. This is very significant if you are Aries or Scorpio Rising or Moon by birth. You will feel empowered again.
Sun in Virgo: September 17-October 17
The Sun will soon change signs- from Leo to Virgo. There is quite a bit of intensity in this yearly visit as Rahu is here and Mercury turns retrograde this same day. September 22-24 are very intense Solar days. Be extra mindful and curious.
Mercury Retrograde: September 17-October 8
Mercury is retrograde in its own sign of Virgo, that is good in ways as it spends more time in one of its places of power and amplifies all kinds of Mercury and Virgo related things: intellectual and organizational activities, service and healing matters especially. It backtracks right into the Sun, full combustion, September 29-30. These are days that Virgo or Mercury people could feel inspired yet depleted. It retrogrades into Rahu October 7-8 and then goes direct. These could be interesting days for Mercury’s mental energy- creativity and innovation abound. But be careful with important decisions. Rahu is a trickster energy!
Wisdom speaker Natasha Korshak, will be at Sacred Space with Stephen Pedone accompanying on gutiar Sunday 8/9/15 at 4:15pm
Natasha will explain to us the foundations, guide us, and help us practice Yoga Nidra also known as iRest (not an apple product). This traditional Yoga practice helps heal ills such as anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, and PTSD. Yoga Nidra is a simple and doable meditation that reminds us of our intentions and our potential to break through limiting perceptions that generate stress and tension. Natasha’s teaching will also help us understand how this practice can be applied to daily life.
Natasha Korshak is an Interfaith Contemplative Minister, Yoga Teacher, and Director of the Mindfulness Programs of Tucson.
Stephen Pedone is an aspiring accountant, musician and renaissance man.