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.
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
Life is so brightly colored and fascinating if we just truly open our eyes and allow our self to take in the vast beauty and power that exists in the present moment. We get so caught up in the routines and mundane activities that we often fail to see what is familiar to us.
MINDFULNESS WALK INSTRUCTIONS:
If you live in a neighborhood with trees, or other vegetation, take a walk by yourself or with the kids around a few blocks. See how many different trees (or flowers, or grasses) can be found.
What can you notice about these trees that you have never seen before? How do they look, smell, and feel different from one another?
Afterwards perhaps spark your creative energy and draw and color the different leaves and trees you noticed or collect some different leaves and make a collage of the leaves (flowers or grasses) collected, individually or as a family.
Find yourself in a crowded location like a bus stop, train car, restaurant, supermarket, or a park bench. Sit comfortably, relax and bring your attention within, wherever you are. Close your eyes, and begin by breathing down deeply into your belly, down into your feet and into the earth. Bring your attention into the heart region of your body. Sense the rhythmic pulsing and beating of your heart. Breathe into it, fill yourself with love and exhale.
Open your eyes and really look around you. Look at each person you can focus on clearly, one at a time. Look into their eyes, watch their expressions, their gestures, listen to their voice and really see them. Look at them without judgement, without criticism, aversion or desire; just take them in. Take in their presence of being. Allow yourself to focus on their heart. See their human body cradling this human heart. Allow a sense of compassion to build up within your heart for that person. Breathe into this compassion allowing it to expand and grow, and exhale and release it. Without words or movement, imagine a beam of energy running from your heart to theirs. Send them love, ever so simply. Send them love and release it without expectation or the need for recognition. Just send them love. Complete the exercise here or move onto another person.
When you've had enough, close your eyes and return to your own heart, nestled deep within your chest at the very center of your being. Offer yourself the same simple compassion and love that you offered the other person. Breathe into it to send it deeper. Breathe into it, fill yourself with love and exhale.
"If you have high blood pressure or know you are at risk for it, yoga postures, breathing, and meditation can be powerful tools in your self-care regimen. Several studies have shown that yoga can lead to significant reductions in blood pressure, most likely thanks to its ability to calm stress which can be implicated in the long term development of the disease. " (Carol Krucoff. Yoga Journal. March 2012)
Chose daily practices that help you to "undo" the high intensity activities and mental stresses that flood our lives. Find time for quiet, simplicity, and relaxation. Restorative Yoga is a great option. Try to settle into one of more of these poses for 5-10 minutes, cultivating the ability to release tension, slow your breath, and calm the chatter of your mind.
Lie on the floor with your legs resting on the wall or on a chair, arms at yous sides, palms up. Place a blanket or small pillow under the lower back if needed for comfort or to release back pain.
Supported Child's Pose
Sit upright on your knees with your hips resting on your heels. Extend your upper body forward onto a bolster or a folded blanket. Adjust for total comfort.
Supported Seated Forward Bend
Sit on a folded blanket and stretch your legs in front of you. Fold over and rest your forehead and folded arms on a chair or bolster.
Jack Cornfield tells us; "Work with compassion practice intuitively. At times it may feel difficult, as though we might be overwhelmed by the pain. Remember, we are not trying to “fix” the pain of the world, only to meet it with a compassionate heart."
in most of my classes this week, we will explore compassion. I hope to see you on the yoga mat, and if not, please enjoy the contemplations and meditation exercises below.
Here is to a beautiful week filled with compassion!
Mayuri CONTEMPLATION OF THE WEEK
Start by examining your feelings when thinking about suffering. Don't sensor yourself, look at this openly and ask yourself freely: Do I want to suffer? Do others want to suffer and where can I see this demonstrated in others lives or behaviors? Do I wish anyone else to suffer? Can I wish to be right without wishing for someone to suffer by default? What is so special about me, that I protect myself and not others? Can I forgive my enemies for being imperfect humans, just like me?
You may wish to jot down your thoughts on these questions in a journal. 6 Simple Steps to Compassion Meditation
- Sit in a soft but upright posture: spine is straight, hands rest on the things; arms, shoulders, jaw and neck are at ease; eyes are closed or gaze is downward
- Gently bring focus to the heart region of the body, breathing in and out from this area; notice any sensations you may feel in this region of the body
- Begin by allowing loving, accepting and kind
feelings toward yourself. Notice and release any judgmental thoughts that may arise
- As you breathe in and out, silently repeat
the words: "May I be free of distress and suffering"
- Continuing to breathe in and out, repeat the words, substituting "I" with an individual's name, an animal or situation you wish to feel compassion for. "May _____ be free of distress and suffering."
- Come back to the heart region of the body. Reverently and lovingly place your hands over the heart. Stay with the heart for a few more moment, noticing any sensations that arise
This week I come to you with a few words on compassion. I have really seen how compassion is the energy that can really make or break a situation. Compassion by default, breaks down the barriers between humans and allows for us to accept and love humans regardless of how extreme or painful the circumstances. The tendency for most humans when confronted by interpersonal challenges is to defend ourselves and snub the other. We want to be right and the other is wrong. Unfortunately, this is what most of us do. People don't have to deserve our compassion. We can offer it freely and its power is transformational. Learning to have more compassion involves making the radical shift to assume the best in others and sit in their shoes offering them the loving thoughts wishing for their stresses, pains, suffering, and discontent to be relieved.
All of the moments in our life have led us to the present moment. All paths have led to this one destination. Our state in this moment has been created by the thoughts and the beliefs we have held in the past. These thoughts and beliefs have bred feelings, some warm and fuzzy and some not so much. We have all felt the pulls of dissatisfaction and remorse for the cards that have been dealt to us. These thoughts "If only I had"....or "It should have gone like this" create patterns within us of suffering where we subconsciously buy into the idea that the universe isn't caring for us, protecting us, and giving us the best. We buy into the pattern and feeling that we aren't good enough or that others are somehow out to get us.
The past is over and done with. There is no other possibility for the past other than what has been. Get it out of your head that there was any other option for any situation other than what was. There is no opportunity to change the past and spending time locked in these patterns of thought often lead us to feelings of resentment, guilt, fear, and pain. Walking in this world peacefully requires total responsibility for one's state of being at ALL times. We have to consciously choose the thoughts that will serve our highest good and actively choose alternate thoughts when we are experiencing suffering.
The point of power is always in the NOW. Don't wait for some sign that you are on the right path or spend too much time fussing over the past. It simply doesn't matter. All that matters is the choice that you make right now! What are you telling yourself? What do you believe about yourself? Don't judge that thought. Just start by witnessing whatever you are telling yourself. Spend time in meditation or engaging in mindfulness based practices to learn how to witness these thoughts and create the space to see what is operating within. If you see the shadow operating loudly within you, you don't have to believe it. What an idea! We don't have to believe everything we tell ourselves! Think about it for a minute. We all criticize, judge, and badger ourselves all the time. We simply don't have to believe these thoughts and we can place them back in the stream of consciousness where they can float on by without taking a hold of us and choose another more loving thought in its place.
Engage in some time with yourself where you can tell yourself some powerful, affirming, and loving thoughts to give strength to the voice within you. Claim the life or experience you are seeking with enthusiasm and faith.
Step into the now and fill your life with thoughts that will make your spirit soar.
VOLUME II ISSUE III December 28, 2011. 11:51am EST
Volume II- Issue II Tuesday, November 2, 2011; 2:29pm
This theme has been coming up for me a lot lately. There is so much going on in my daily life that is is so easy to be driven, seemingly to madness by the endless stuff and things to do all around me. The children, the house, work, laundry, phone calls, emails....and the list goes on. i have an immensely full, rich and abundant life. I am truly blessed! I am taking on online course right now, called "THE WAY OF THE CROW" with my meditation teacher Harshada Wagner (www.livingmeditation.org), and he has been asking us to contemplate the question "What is standing in the way of my happiness right now?" It has been a really rich experience to reflect on these 11 words. Whenever I am feeling off, uncomfortable, irritable, annoyed, stressed, or exhausted, I have made it a spiritual practice to pause and ask myself this question. "What is standing in the way of my happiness right now?" The answer was quite unexpected and very powerful.
The nectar has been in the "pause". The suffering that I experience is when I fail to pause, to stop and check in with myself. It comes when I am constantly on the go and totally unconscious. I am just a moving machine doing stuff! In this space of pause before the answers arose, i remembered the sweetness of bringing myself mindfully into the present moment and even taking the time to ask my own self to speak to me. I ask my body and spirit to endure and put up with so much every day, but how ofter do I stop to give myself or ask myself what I need in any moment I can press the pause button whenever I chose, and bring my energy back within. When I asked myself this question, my awareness dropped into my heart effortlessly. I somehow knew that the keys to unlocking my happiness resided in my heart. This simplicity of stopping for a moment to breathe, connect, and pause has completely altered my state. When I am having a manic moment, where the stresses are mounting, I pause....and, the beauty is, no one has to know what I am doing from the outside. i can indulge in this practice in the supermarket, while making dinner, feeding my son, or writing this reflection on my computer. I have been doing sadhana for almost 20 years and this practice is changing my outlook. I have read and studdied so much from many amazing teachers. I am definitely guilty of collecting spiritual teachings, upon spiritual teachings which i have filed away somewhere away in this brain of mine. And yet, this question, I am certain will stand out and stay with me for years to come.
What keeps me for being truly happy right now......is always FORGETTING God. (Whatever name that God is called)
What keeps me from experiencing joy is forgetting to connect, failing to take the time to remember what is real in this life. What keeps me from my own joy is forgetting about my soul as I move about my day. What keeps me from my joy is forgetting about the divine order of this universe, and placing my belief in the day-to-day nonsense. It is so damn distracting, and has a way of feeling so insanely important. The beauty has come with the shift. Sadhana is truly about practice. There is a reason why they are called spiritual practices. With practice, the shift becomes easier. I have come to appreciate this practice of stopping and connecting, and remembering God, and it has been so much easier to remember the divine in the middle of the muck, mess, and stress. The divine is always there. What creates all of my suffering is forgetting!
Because I am a thick headed human creature who is distracted easily (lol) I have set an alarm on my phone to go off one time an hour- my phone rings to OM every hour on the hour and a pleasant message to myself comes up on the screen that says——-
By Mayuri Gonzalez
Volume II- Issue I Wednesday, January 19, 2011
I am rereading Ekhart Tolles "A New Earth." Powerful stuff, I must say, and timely for all of us. I loved this idea that he spoke about in Chapter 3 that the classic Rolling Stones pop song "(I can't get no) Satisfaction" should be the theme song of the ego! “I can't get no satisfaction I can't get no satisfaction 'Cause I try and I try and I try and I try I can't get no, I can't get no”
Hilarious and oh so true! Everything that keeps us unhappy or discontent is ego. And we try, and try, and try, and try………and somehow always end up missing the mark, forever unsatisfied. Why do we make it such a struggle? Perhaps the answer is that we try too hard, forgetting to trust and go inside to listen to our inner voice. We live in an outer world where we are taught that we “can’t get no satisfaction.” Think about it, when was the last time you remember feeling deeply satisfied? And when was the time before that? How much of your day do you experience contentment and peace? In contrast, how much are you spending stressed, unhappy, driven, exhausted, lonely, confused, or even numb? "I can't get no satisfaction." This is the mantra of the ego. This becomes the theme song to the soundtrack of our lives if we forget about the soul, about our true self. This underscores a life where we are looking for the answers outside of ourselves.
Everything that keeps us reaching for something else or something more... is ego.
Everything that insists that we must be unique, special, stand out from the crowd, and one-of-a-kind... is ego.
Our incessant need to be in control and fear of faith and trust.... is all ego.
Our insatiable appetite for more that leaves us feeling incomplete, madly driven, and discontent... is just the ego.
Our need to be right and defend ourselves.... is the voice of the ego.
Our natural desire to gossip, judge, name drop, condescend, blame, resent, praise, idolize, pity, and criticize...these desires are all mechanisms of the ego.
Ultimately, everything that separates us from our soul, our true essence is ego; all we need to do to break through this cycle is steady awareness. It takes nothing more then a shift of focus. When we can see the ego operating rather than the person (or our self) it’s easier to gain a little space from the ego and not take the manifestations of these egoic patterns personally. It can be an exercise in compassion and understanding. We realize that people themselves, (well, the essence of the person) aren't trying to wrong us or hurt us; it is just the ego operating in that person. All of a sudden, we are able to look at even our greatest enemies or the relationship that we struggle with deeply and see the ego creating the dysfunction. People don't create dysfunction. The out of control ego, housed within people creates dysfunction. The dysfunctions and disconnects that we experience with the people in our lives stem from ego and forgetting that we all share the same essence. This beautiful energy of the creator, or source, makes up the core of every human and everyone on the planet. The ego just makes us forget this essential truth.
As I walked through grand central this morning and into the subway for my trip to work, I really looked around. I really opened my eyes, asking myself to lead with my soul rather than the ego. It was a trip. As I walked with eyes wide open, I saw the ego on every face. I saw the ego on the businessman rushing, slamming into others, panic stricken, looking at his watch; obviously stressing and obsessing over being late. Why could he not see that there was no other possibility for the present moment? Why couldn’t he see that he was in the perfect place at the perfect time; late and all? I saw the stresses, anxiety, disconnect, drive, and irritation on 98% of the peoples faces as I walked through the terminal aware. How many of my fellow commuters were sharing my sentiment and thinking of the heart, of soul, of gratitude, of surrender? Any? I looked around and couldn't see a single person that seemed deeply happy or content. I looked long and hard searching for that spark in people's eyes and hearts, and I couldn't find it. I smiled at the people that uncomfortably, accidentally made eye contact with me and sent them real love from the depths of my being, recognizing that we are cut from the same cloth. I lovingly recognized the ego in the faces of my fellow commuters, and as a result brilliantly recognized the ego in myself.
Today, I set the intention to fall back into the arms of soul, rather than run through my day with the ego. When I started to feel unpleasant in any way, I asked myself; where was the ego? Where was my soul? Where was my relationship with God in that moment? When I felt stressed, rushed, and filled with anxiety, I stopped. I turned my attention back inward and remembered that this was just the ego distracting me. Everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) in this world is impermanent, and therefore unstable and unreliable. The only thing that we can know to be permanent is the formless, the soul within all of us. And for me, this brings me tremendous peace. Why identify with the outer craziness, when complete contentment is mine at the calling?
How do you see the ego and how will you loosen its grasp? The ego always wants "something else." Satisfaction lies in the arms of the soul, never to be found or counted on in the external, ever-changing world. What would happen if we instead remembered the perfect peace that is always there within us?
To participate in this online blog-----please visit http://bethelight4all.weebly.com/
By Mayuri GonzalezVolume I- Issue VII Saturday, September 18, 2010 Why do we take everything so personal? Taking it personally reinforces the false belief of separateness, allowing our ego to leave us feeling disappointed or abandoned when people don’t act the way we would like. The world is a playground for our egos and spirit, always challenging us to rise up above the illusions and the “smoke and mirrors” and remember the true nature of reality; a reality filled with love and perfection.
We share space with dozens of people every day as we go about our business, whether it is co-workers, family members, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, cashiers, cab drivers, train passengers, or random faces. Some of these faces we are emotionally invested in, and others we may never see again. In truth, all of the faces are manifestations of the Divine. We allow our very center of gravity to be shaken by others and blame anyone but ourselves when we are less than satisfied. In truth, there is no one to blame including ourselves. Blame can only exist if we don’t trust in something higher or a cosmic order to everything. If we trust in God, and are able to greet others with compassion, then we are able to find peace in the present no matter what the outside world looks like or feels like.
When we can look past the face, the insult to the ego, the disappointment, or the words, we are able to witness what is really operating within that human being we are sharing space with. Many times, we can listen to that inner voice and offer a speck of wisdom or a glimmer of hope. Sometimes it is in our highest good to simply walk away and take some deep breaths, until we can return to the space where we can stand firmly in light, love, and compassion. We have to remember that all of humanity is equal. No human being on this planet is greater than another regardless of position, race, gender, age, or economic status. One can even take it a step further and declare that humans are equal regardless of their behaviors or choices. Every person on the planet is given access to their own inner divinity and infinite possibilities to manifest a truly awesome experience; some people will not awaken in this lifetime to walk the way of spirit or consciousness. What separates people are the vibrations each person chooses to align with, either consciously or unconsciously. When we stop taking it personally, we are able to stop fighting battles for others or defending our own ego or pride. We can lovingly look to others with compassion and understand what vibrations they are succumbing to. We can disengage and choose to step off the emotional roller coaster. We can hold up the mirror and gaze lovingly at our own reflection in others to gain greater wisdom and acceptance of all. This week, make a pledge with yourself to not take the actions of others personally. Vow to honor the divine spark that unites us all and stand firmly and peacefully, recognizing the collective energy that binds together humanity. To participate in this online blog-----please visit http://bethelight4all.weebly.com