sprite

Mystical, magical, full moony night
In the cast of your shadows
I encountered a sprite
Oh luminous one, with your eyes all aglow
Please grace me your wisdom
I long for it so
Her eyes shown so playful
As they smiled into me
And filled me with laughter
Like a birds melody
Her light steeped inside me
Even now, yes it’s true
She lives here inside me
And now,
In you too…

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Skillful Use of the Past

Someone asked me hopefully the other day, “It’s all about being in the now, isn’t it?  We’re always either stuck in the past or living in the future, but we just need to be in the now, right?” Which seems to be a common mantra right about now, and in its essence, holds a lot of truth. 

I’m reminded of Utah Phillips’ and Ani DiFranco’s song, Bridges, on the album The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere, when Utah says, “I always thought that anybody who told me I couldn’t live in the past was trying to get me to forget something that if I remembered it would get them into serious trouble…” (if you’ve never heard the song check it out here: http://grooveshark.com/#!/s/Bridges/iTzz7?src=5 and really listen to the words).

I find it useful to make a distinction between living in the past, or being stuck in the past, from how Utah describes the past as informing the present, and that the lessons of the past are available to us in the present when we are open to accessing them.  And what Buddhist monk Thanissaro Bhikkhu refers to as a skillful use of the past in his insightful and practical writings on meditation and how the lessons we learn through meditation translate into and are applicable to the rest of our lives (which are distributed for free online here: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/meditations2.html).

A skillful use of the past means paying attention to intentions and actions and noticing the results as they unfold in the present moment, allowing discernment, perspective, and wisdom to grow as the present becomes the past, preparing us to deal as skillfully as possible as the future becomes the present. While each moment is a completely new experience, for the variables have never come together exactly as it is right now, the present is created by the past and directs where we are going in the future.  It’s all a continuum.

“Time is an enormous long river…and I am standing in it just as you are standing in it…My elders were the tributaries, and everything they thought, and every struggle they went through…flows down to me…And if I take the time to seek…I can build that bridge between my world and theirs…I can reach down into that river and take out what I need to get through this world…bridges…from my time to your time, as my elders from their time to my time…” Utah Phillips…

Being in the now is not tunnel vision, it includes an awareness of all that came before and all that will become in the future, in the peripheral vision, like a visual dristhi in asana, or physical yoga practice.  By focusing on the present, or the breath, or the visual focus point, we still see everything in the periphery, without having to stare or block anything out either.  We are focused at the center.  Which helps keep us from getting thrown off balance.

“We all put into the river, and it flows away from us…till it no longer has our name, our identity, it has its own utility, its own use, and people will take what they need and make it part of their lives…” U.P.

asymmetrical adaptation

Something that I have noticed experientially through my own yoga practice and in working with others is that our bodies are not symmetrical, and we benefit from working with each side of the body uniquely as well as a part of the whole organism.  I often do slightly distinct sequences on each side in my own practice and when working with others individually, adding in extra poses to help prepare one side for a pose that is difficult on that side, or holding some postures longer on a tighter side and others longer on a weaker side.  Finding approximate balance within the realities of an asymmetrical body by working with each side from where it is coming from.

While teaching group yoga classes though, I have been taught and have found it is functional to do the same sequences on both sides, and hold each side the same amount of time.  As teachers, we are offering a general potential template to fit a wide variety of students, and while we can offer suggestions on placement and alignment, and variations we have seen be useful for others, and assists that accentuate the possibilities of the posture, it is ultimately up to each student to experiment with the template and find what fits the uniqueness of their bodies.  In class I often suggest exploring in each posture to discover what is useful from the internal experience of your own body, rather than trying to fit your body into a preconceived idea of what the posture is meant to look like from the outside.

This is one place where individual instruction and personal practice can really be useful, both on its own and as a compliment to group practice.  Without the pressure of keeping up with the class, you can take the time to listen and respond to the cues of your body, exploring what is useful in that moment.  Being willing to notice what isn’t useful too, even if that is in conflict from what you think you want… This point is an essential ingredient to keep from ignoring what you don’t want to see, and only taking in what you like.

All of this can be done in a class setting too, yet an individualized practice allows the sequencing and timing to cater specifically to your own eccentricities.  And practicing on your own can help facilitate discernment through the yogic principle of svadhyaya, or self study, of when we are listening and responding to subtle cues versus pushing our own will, by noticing the intention behind the action, and its result.

All of which helps train our minds and our intuition to notice and adapt in other areas of our lives as well.   Then in the moment, in yoga class or anywhere, you can take in what is being offered generally to the whole and mindfully experiment with how it uniquely applies to you – and in terms of asana, or yoga postures, to each side of your body…

The way to balance, adaptation, depends on where you are coming from…

simple warm-up sun salutation

Appropriate for beginner to advanced…
Sun salutations, the foundation of vinyasa flow yoga – basically, placing your attention with intention on moving the body in rhythm with the breath – focus the mind on what’s happening while its happening, helping us notice the subtleties of actions and their results, as well as warm up the joints and muscles to prepare before or reset between longer held postures. Sun salutations are a useful way to begin a practice, and can be great as a short stand alone practice anytime.
I came up with this sun salutation at first for people who couldn’t or didn’t want to do a downward dog, or before coming into a first downward dog in a yoga practice. At this point I utilize this sequence myself before my own practice most of the time and begin most classes with it for everyone.
If it is too much pressure in the legs, or anywhere, to come into child’s pose you don’t have to bring the hips all the way to the feet, and if it is tender in your back you could go back and forth between upward and downward facing cat on the hands and knees instead of bringing the belly to the ground for upward facing dog. If your knees are tweaky this may aggravate them, yet if you feel alright to try it, putting a towel for extra cushion under the knees can help and go really slowly through the transitions. And if you want to add a downward dog, one fits nicely between the upward dog and the forward bend at the end. If you have any questions, let me know, and enjoy!
With props to my videographer Philip O’Sullivan and his iPod touch 5… 🙂

 

 

Hide and Seek

Incandescent orb shimmering
Melting snowcovered seascape of sky
Waves of lithe clouds swimming
Intermittently veil and revealing
Feminine contours of mountains
Modest confident majesty 

Enclosed inside my temperate auto
Slowly curving alongside the river
Silent for the wheels upon the road
I gaze soft focus through my windowpane
Entranced by the serene fluid stillness
Frozen, yet liquid, and vapor, and light
As sunlight escapes briefly
And illuminates the horizon
And then falls behind cover
And hides from me again

Stillness in Motion

As I step into motion, may I avoid being consumed by the busyness and the noise, and stay connected to the stillness within each moment of the movement, the silence everpresent behind the sound, and be guided by this…