The holiday season can be a bit of a conundrum. Although this is supposed to be a time to slow down and reflect on that which matters most, it often seems as though there’s so much that needs doing that there’s nary a moment left for contemplation, and time to connect with our true self.
It is essential that offer ourselves compassion and time to reconnect and recharge, in order to really show up for those that we love. Sometimes we need to take a walk outside, prioritize extra rest or talk to a good soul-friend when we are feeling stirred up emotionally.
We don't need to struggle. we don't need to fall into the patterns of stress and overwhelm. We can chose ease instead. We can slow down, simplify, and be mindfully present to our life right now, with all of its blessings and abundance. We can seek rest even amidst all that we need to do, and practice kindness towards ourselves and others that’s born of a deep knowledge that we’re enough, in every moment, exactly as we are.
Mary Oliver speaks to this beautifully in her poem, Wild Geese:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
I think Mary Oliver is right: we don’t need to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting, we just need to be completely who we are. The world needs us, our strengths...and our "imperfections."
This holiday season, when it seems as though there’s too much to do, let’s stop, just for a moment, take a gentle breath, and ask, “Is ease available even here?” Let’s look for the place of rest right in the middle of the chaos. What if nothing at all “out there” needs to change, and perhaps we don’t even need to change? We can discover that place of surrender where everything is alright just as it is, and where we’re all perfectly imperfect, and exactly enough, just as we are.
MEDITATION: Take a few moments to pause in the next few days. Each time you feel yourself start to fall for struggle, simply stop whatever you are doing. Take a few moments and sit with yourself, finding the place of ease within. Close your eyes for a few moments and imagine breathing in through your heart, and spreading the energy of loving kindness through your entire being with each exhalation. With each inhale, feel as though you were taking in the breath through an opening in the heart, and with each exhalation, let this glow of love spread. Melt into the warmth of your own heart-----trust me....you have time.
Glowing Heart Guided Meditation (8 minutes)
Mayuri Gonzalez is the Director of the School Yoga Project for Little Flower Yoga and Co-owner of Prasanthi Studio: Family Yoga & Wellness in Pelham, NY. She teaches weekly meditation and yoga classes and is available for private mindfulness and meditation session in person and via phone and Skype.
Choose one room of your house and for one week try leaving no trace that you've used that space. The bathroom or kitchen works best for most people. If you've been doing something in that room, cooking a meal or taking a shower, clean up in such a way that you leave no signs that you've been there, except perhaps the odor of food or the fragrance of soap. (From the book "How to Train a Wild Elephant- and other adventures in Mindfulness" http://www.amazon.com/How-Train-Wild-Elephant-Mindfulness/dp/1590308174CONTEMPLATION
The exercise puts a spotlight on our tendency to be lazy. The word lazy is a description, not a criticism. If we live less than wholeheartedly, we often leave messes for others to clean up. We enter and leave rooms completely unconscious. We are always rushing, rushing, rushing----buried under our massive, unrealistic to-do lists. It is so easy to wash the dishes but not put them back in the cupboard. It is so easy to skip our meditation or prayer when our life gets hectic, without even skipping a beat. This practice demands us to fully begin and end our tasks----to uni-task. We often are juggling multiple activities in every moment, unable to efficiently complete any of them. It makes us feel stressed and insane! So much peace can be gained from simply devoting our self fully to the task at hand and completing it through till the end. DEEPEN YOUR PRACTICE
First practice leaving no trace. Than practice leaving things better than you found them. Mayuri Gonzalez teaches yoga, mindfulness and meditation classes, workshops and trainings at Prasanthi Studio-Family Yoga & Wellness in Pelham, NY. (www.prasanthistudio.com) She is also the Director of the School Yoga Project for Little Flower Yoga, bringing yoga and mindfulness programs to school children throughout the greater NY area. (www.littlefloweryoga.com) For more information or to schedule a private session, email email@example.com or call 914-380-4668.
I am loving this Buddhist teaching and yet this is a tricky truth for us to work with. It is always easier to point the finger at someone else, seeing someone else as the cause of our intense or nagging suffering. What this teaching is telling us is: whatever happens, don't ever blame anyone or anything else; turn the mirror back on yourself. This is dangerous because it is not blaming ourselves in the ordinary sense. Most of us are experts at this kind of "blame," beating ourselves up calling ourselves all sorts of names when we make a mistake or don't make the best choices. This negative self talk isn't the blame that I am talking about. Drive all blames into one
means that you can't blame anyone for what happens. Even if it's actually someone else's fault, blaming them will be utterly unhelpful and unproductive. This teaching challenges us to take full responsibility for everything that arises in our lives, understanding that what is manifesting in our outer world is a direct reflection of the state of our inner affairs. More importantly, this teaching reminds us that our reaction is always our "fault." No circumstance or person can make us feel any kind of way without our permission. Something happened and since it did, the only thing to do is to make use of it; we can make it a part of our path, an opportunity for growth and transformation. Everything that happens, even the most disastrous, has potential benefit and rather than wasting time reacting unconsciously and looking for blame, we can make it our job to find the gem in the situation.
When we are faced with an unpleasant or challenging situation we can chose to face it and bring some light to what is truly showing up for us rather than getting caught up in complaining and whining. We can break the blame cycle and look for the wisdom. We can ask ourselves questions like: What can I learn from this situation? How can I make use of it for the path? What am I going to do from here?
There is no place to go but forward, and there is no other option for what has been other than what was. We can move forward with strength, wisdom and resilience cutting through the habit of feeling powerless and a victim of others and life's happenings. We can start living right now in a way that is true, powerful, and wise leading with the soul and manifesting our true desires. For more information about Mayuri's programs and Family Yoga and Wellness Center in Pelham, NY, visit www.prasanthistudio.com
or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
When things go right, we are cheerful----we feel good and have positive feelings----but as soon as bad things start to happen, we get depressed, unravel at the seams, or at the very best, we deal with it and cope- bracing ourself through the storm. We certainly don't transform our mishaps into the path. Why would we want to transform something that we want to be gone as soon as possible? The first thing that we need is deep patience. I am not talking about the passive, wishy washy patience that we tend to relate to in modern society. I challenge us to look at patience in a new light----as the capacity to welcome change and difficulty as it comes with an attitude of strength, resilience, endurance, and forbearance.
To practice this type of patience we can try to observe the obvious and more subtle ways that we try to avoid difficulty when it arises. What do we say and do? How does our body react to difficulty? Can we be quiet enough to notice if we clench, contract, and grip when someone says something or does something that we don't like?
Rather than reacting unconsciously, we can be fiercely present with the things that challenge us. We can catch ourselves running away and reverse course coming back to what is really happening. Chances are it is not that serious and scary that we need to run for the hills. We can face what itThe "mishaps" on the path become opportunities to practice our mindfulness, to wake up and offer compassion to ourself and others, rather than an excuse to be in a bad mood or go back to being asleep or unconscious.
THE POWER OF GRATITUDE
by Mayuri Gonzalez
“There are two ways to live your life: One is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is a miracle.” ~Albert Einstein
Without stopping to pay attention, we miss a lot of life’s little treasures and gifts. Our focus can be so skewed towards the negative and what is “wrong” with our life. Just think about it. We can easily rattle off all of the reasons why we are stressed and in a bad mood, or list the things that annoy, anger or sadden us. Mass media operates in a
similar way, often focusing on all that is going badly without presenting a balanced perspective of all the good in the world. How much of your day do you spend thinking or worrying or resenting what is wrong? Is it just as easy to list all the treasures or things that are “right” and beautiful in your life?
PRACTICE: 5 Minute Gratitude List
In your notebook or journal, take five minutes to list the things for which you are grateful. Your list can be inspired by major components of your life such as family, friends, shelter, education, etc. or subtler things such as the warmth of the sun on your skin, the smell of dinner being cooked, or the smile of a stranger. Make this list of reflections current and relative to your own experience. If you get stuck or run out of “gratitudes” before the time is up, try not to get frustrated. Instead sit quietly in reflection and see if more come naturally. This is not a contest but a simple practice exercise. The audio below is a timer to help you keep time.
To help balance and open to a wider view on life, we turn to gratitude. To practice gratitude is to intentionally focus on and appreciate the things that give meaning to life.
In nadi shodhanam, we breathe through one nostril and then the other, alternating sides in rounds. This breathing technique helps to calm, balance, and regulate both physical and subtle energies. Nadi shodhanam pranayama offers many benefits. It helps to balance and harmonize the body and mind, while deepening inner awareness. While practicing nadi shodhanam pranayama, you are breathing deeply and consciously. This practice is used to balance the 2 sides of the nervous system----the sympathetic that controls “fight or flight” and the parasympathetic that manages “rest and digest”----to regulate stress and relaxation.
Cup your nose with the thumb and the last 2 finders of your right hand. Place your thumb against your right nostril and your last 2 fingers against the left . Press your thumb to close the right nostril while relaxing the fingers to leave the left nostril open. Inhale through the left nostril for a 5-10 count, hold the breath for the same count, and then press your fingers to close the left nostril and exhale on the right side for the same count. Now do the same with the other side by keeping your fingers pressed on the left nostril, while relaxing your thumb to leave the right nostril open. Inhale through the right nostril for 5-10 counts, hold the breath for the same count and then press your thumb to close the right nostril and exhale on the left side for the same count.
Inhale left, hold, exhale right, inhale right, hold, exhale left. (One round) Repeat 5-20 rounds.
The 2/1 count meditation is similar to the 10-count meditation, but instead of counting to 10 with each inhale, you will internally say 2 and with each exhale say 1.
This technique is great because it keeps you present without feeling like you are trying to finish something. It is easy to get caught up in the counting and the 2/1 practice allows you to soften a little deeper into the Self, while supporting your mind with “something to do.” Starting with the 2 count on the inhale goes against the natural tendency enough to keep us present without feeling like there is an endpoint to accomplish. Try to sustain this practice for 5-20 minutes daily.
For classes and programs with Mayuri, please visit www.prasanthsitudio.com.
This ancient pranayama technique works with breath retention. Retaining the breath brings us back to the two most primitive aspects of the mind: desires and aversions. This breathing practice brings us back to the root of our desires: the craving for life itself and the root of our aversions----the fear of death. As we move through the practice, we notice this desire, and we soften, knowing that we are not drowning, choking, or dying. We are examining the mind at its core, watching what happens, and training our being to breath with more balance and intentionality.
The basic pranayama technique comprises of the following three parts:
- Puraka means controlled inhalation
- Kumbhaka means retention of breath
- Rechaka means controlled exhalation
Pranayama Instructions Start in a comfortable seated position. Allow the spine to be upright and the shoulders to be directly over the hips. Bring the awareness into the body and feel the movements of the breath within the body expanding and contracting. In this breathing exercise, the inhalation, the space between the inhale and exhale, and the exhalation are all of the same length. Start by lengthening your inhale and exhale to a count of 6 or 8. Continue to inhale and exhale like this for several rounds. As you settle into a pace of inhale and exhale, retain the breath after the inhale. The retention of the breath should be the same length as the inhale and the exhale. Inhale and exhale for a count of 10 each. Repeat several times. Then inhale for a count of 10, hold the breath for a count of 10, and exhale slowly for a count of 10. Repeat 3-5 times and then come back to a moderately paced breath. For information on classes and trainings with Mayuri, visit www.prasanthistudio.com
by Mayuri Gonzalez
We live in a society where we pat ourselves on the back when we are multi-tasking and juggling. The truth is, that nobody can truly do more than one thing at a time. We are never fully engaged with anything when we are multi-tasking and divided attention always leads to some degree of suffering, now or in the future.
We’re most comfortable and calm when we’re mindful and that’s easiest to do when we’re doing one thing at a time. I know, it’s not always possible. But most of us can do less multi-tasking, and become more efficient. We can make a conscious effort to do one thing from start to finish before moving on to something else. Much of the clutter in our homes comes from launching into something before fully completing something else. Think about it. Do you arrive into your home and finish the process of arrival by taking off and putting away your shoes, unpacking the stuff that you have on you, and putting everything away in its place; or do you find yourself walking in the door and throwing your coat off and your shoes off and leaving a trail of stuff following behind you. (like me!). Are you eating at a table or a space you have created for meals, really appreciating, sensing, and tasting the food you have prepared or are you sitting down trying to get caught up on the news or cleaning out your email box on your iPhone while you haphazardly stuff some food into your mouth?
Chose how your spend your time with awareness and reflect on how it is working out for you. Check email every 20 minutes instead of every time one comes in. Turn your cell phone alerts off so that you’re in charge of when you respond to texts or emails. You don't need to be on call all the time. Remember when we didn't have cell phones? We chose the force they have over us.
Give yourself permission to focus on what’s important to you and take it one thing at a time.
NAMASTEMayuri owns a family yoga and wellness studio: Prasanthi Studio in Pelham, NY with her business partner Lindsay Malejko. For more information about classes, workshops, private sessions, and trainings, please visit www.prasanthistudio.com.
This is a time of year that many of us take the time to reflect on the past year and envision the year ahead. This can be a powerful practice which can set the stage for transformation and awakening. However, be leery of the negative dialogue that can beat you up reminding you of all the things that you should have already done or the inner critic that tears you apart. What is done is done. There is no other option for what was. All we can do is reinvent this moment, and each moment after that. One moment at a time. One breath at a time.
In yoga, we practice with the body we have right now and make space to grow and develop into the being that we deeply desire. So allow your 2013 to begin with courage and connection, rather then getting frustrated with yourself and your lack of progress or discipline doing what you "should" be doing. Make a conscious commitment to deeply love and care for yourself.
Plunge into 2013 with love, courage and confidence.