Welcome to the Fall Season. It may be helpful to remember that this is a transitional time …and a Jimmy Buffet song that packs a profound mindfulness message.
Awareness and Kindness are both integral to the development of mindfulness; and while I am being poetic, you are probably reading this because you have heard some of the science. Mindfulness is a mind/body skill that measurably benefits us in a variety of physiological and psychological ways.
With awareness of the present moment, your busy mind will not be an obstacle. I heard this poem read in a meditation class, early in my mindfulness journey, and it has always stayed with me.
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
Mindfulness is sometimes referred to as self – recollection. I offer a few simple examples of how this can work, and benefit you in profound ways.
- You are lost in thoughts (a form of virtual reality) and you realize that you are gone, and then direct attention to the feeling of body and breath, room and present moment reality. This is a basic self-regulation skill, it helps to keep the nervous system from unnecessary activation.
- You are talking about something and realize it may not be that appropriate or useful and come back to the point and the attempt to express yourself or dialogue with others. This is a basic relational skill, it helps us build respectful connection.
- You are doing something and notice that it may be a diversion and pause and consider, is this the best way to spend my time right now? This is mindful time management.
- You realize you are anxious or agitated by something or someone and you give yourself permission to acknowledge it, make space for it and make intentional choices regarding it. This is basic emotional intelligence, our emotions provide vital information.
- You realize that persistent memories come to mind and create emotional upset in your body and mind, you notice and breathe and honor what is arising naturally this is the skill of restoration, integrating the past into the present as it is tolerable.
The space of infinite awareness
See with clarity
Silver edged space
Vast open awareness
The rhythm of space
Burning up the seeds of fear
To be who you are now and now and now
That dissipates all raw emotions
And the space
That releases denial and coverup
And the space
That is awareness breath clarity
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.