Monthly Archives: November 2010

Re-discovering The Body’s Natural Rhythms

Since I started teaching a Sunday 12:30pm class, my Saturday nights are pretty much shot. Honestly, I’m not that upset to see them go. Instead of staying out late spending money with the rest of the weekend warriors, most weekends find me at home, working on music or enjoying time with my partner. If I don’t have plans on Friday night, chances are pretty good I’ll fall asleep around midnight naturally. Which means that I go to bed and wake up at more or less the same time every day. Seven days a week.

This is new for me. I used to be one of those people who stayed up until 3am on weeknights and had a job that started later in the morning that I was always late to anyway. I used to pride myself on how little sleep I could get and still be functional.  I knew my constantly “on” lifestyle was not healthy, but I kept trying to squeeze every second out of 24 hours until…until I got sick and really really tired, started noticing changes in my mood, how focused I was at work, and my appearance.

Re-discovering my body’s natural rhythm has been humbling. It’s tempting to make jokes about “getting old” but when I look deeper, it’s really about “getting honest.” I’m at a phase in my life where my yoga practice and healthy relationships are more important to me than being out on the scene. Getting a good night’s rest has become more important than staying up late.

I think we are all somewhat out of our natural rhythms. The 24-7 lifestyle is pushed by the media and made possible by all manner of gadgets which predictably need updating every 6 months to make our 24-7 lifestyle even more 24-7!

Slowing down sometimes seems revolutionary. It most certainly will require a revision of priorities. But if you give yourself time to let your body and higher intelligence tell you what needs to happen, it will. You don’t have to “figure it out” overnight or even next week. Maybe just do a little less.

Instead of focusing so much on the fruits of our action, we can focus on the quality of our action. The focus becomes how we do something rather than why. As I become more attuned to the natural rhythms of my body, I discover that for years, decades even, I have controlled my body’s rhythms, rather than letting my body dictate what my rhythm should be. In the extreme, this is recipe for stress, disease, burn-out.

Letting go of achievement and wanting and tuning in to the quality driving my actions has not been the easiest transition for me. At first I wasn’t even aware that I was pushing so hard. I believe it has been difficult due to how much I had accepted society’s memes about “work hard and succeed” or that to “make anything” of myself, I would have to put in Herculean effort because “successful people aren’t lazy.”

I am slowly accepting that I go to bed early now, even on weekends, because my body just wants it that way. I no longer equate a slower pace of life with being “lazy.” I find that I am more aware of everything when I am moving more slowly. Awareness brings clarity, which can be translated into precision, in asana practice, in speech, in thinking.

Give up pushing and receive awareness. Not a bad trade-off. Even if it means occasionally feeling like an old fuddy-duddy.

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Full Moon in Taurus at 29 Degrees – November 21, 2010

Today at 12:28pm EST, we find the moon full in Taurus, opposition the sun in Scorpio. The full moon occurs in the last degree of Taurus, and anytime we reach 29 degrees of any sign, it is considered a “master degree” where all the lessons of that sign come to full fruition. Taurus is a fixed earth sign represented by the bull. The natural ruler of the 2nd house of the zodiac, Taurus rules possessions, values, and money. Taurus is concerned with the material in life, and as such, approaches life via the senses: touch, smell, feel, taste, etc.

During this full moon, the energies we put forth during the waxing moon time (from the New Moon to the Full Moon, when the moon is growing) should be coming to fruition. The New Moon in Scorpio, Taurus’ opposing sign, occured on November 6th. Scorpio New Moon brought in the energies of transformation, of starting anew, as a new moon starts anew the cycle of growing into fullness. With the energies of the Scorpio moon, we were supported in bringing our inner world into alignment with our outer world. These energies were even more focused as Venus was in retrograde, also in Scorpio. All retrograde periods are times for the “re’s”: re-evalution, re-consideration, re-integration. During the last month, we have been called inside to explore what really lies in our hearts, and the desire to unify our deepest feelings and most strongly held values with our external, daily lives has become a strong theme.

With the move of the moon into mutable, energetic, mercurial Gemini and the Sun into expansive Saggitarius, we are supported in bring the internal work of the previous month into being.

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Midheaven and Nadir – karmic revelations

It has to do with the midheaven of the chart. What sign is on your midheaven is how you interpret your existence, your subjective experience of it, along with the style of that sign. Opposition the midheaven, the nadir or lowest point of the chart, is the inner journey, the karmic lessons you must face, the truth of the matter. The shadow, the subconscious, which is imprinted not just from this lifetime but from past lifetimes, is what must be resolved and integrated.

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What is Dakini’s Bliss?

I was first introduced to the concept of Dakini’s Bliss in an article I read about Pema Chodron. There was an excerpt from Pema’s book “Taking the Leap” where she described a feeling of fear, terror even, and the resulting physical symptoms that accompanied it. She described anxiety, rawness, and a sense of not knowing what comes next, what my teacher Paula likes to call “free fall.” Pema went to her teacher, Dzigar Kongtrül, to share these feelings and seek some understanding as to what was going on in her life. After listening to her, he brightened up and said “Ani Pema, that’s the Dakini’s Bliss. That’s a high-level of spiritual bliss.”

After my teacher training ended, I felt anxiety bubbling just below the surface. I was “fine” and managing in life, but I could not deny a feeling that seemed ready to burst forth at any time. At just that moment in time, I found the article about Dakini’s Bliss and I could not contain my excitement and happiness: it all began to crystallize into the understanding I needed to make sense of what was happening at that present moment.

We are conditioned to fear our fear. The moment we begin to experience sensations of anxiety, discomfort, fear, uncertainty, or disconnection, we are conditioned to push these feelings down and deny their existence, or at the least pretend we are not being acted upon by these forces. But if we open to these sensations and let them teach us, we can experience life in a holistic way, where the periods of not knowing what comes next are a moment of total possibility instead of abject dread.

The reason I chose this name for my blog and my growing practice is because I know that in the darker episodes of the soul, there is so much healing and love to be gleaned. None of us get a free pass from experiencing the dark night of the soul; this is an archetypal human experience. The shadow is simply the other side. All experience contains within it the seed of its opposite. The manifest contains the seed of the un-manifest; the night contains the seed of the day. Instead of turning away from or fearing the shadow, why not meet it with love, acceptance, and a willingness to learn?

In yoga, our shadow can appear in any number of ways, from anger or frustration to not being able to achieve an asana the way we think we should, to a gripping quality of practice where “doing” the pose becomes a fixation, obsession even, and we move further and further away from the breath as we literally force ourselves into a shape which we are truly not ready to express. In meditation, the shadow can appear to us as an inner battle when the thoughts inevitably come, or in our practice of the yamas and niyamas, as self-doubt or resistance.

I have experienced the most profound self-growth when I have given up fighting the fear and gone directly into it. There is much to be learned here, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. The dakini is a tantric deity said to be enlightened energy in female form. When confronted with the immense power of the shadow, we can find bliss if we simply continue forward, experiencing the sensations and softening to the lessons contained therein. In Dakini’s Bliss, we find peace in the midst of turmoil, and experience ourselves and existence in a holistic, full-spectrum way.

Here is an excerpt from Kahlil Gibran’s poem “On Joy and Sorrow” which reflects this same idea of Dakini’s Bliss:

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater thar sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

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Inspired

I was inspired by the class I took this evening at, of all places, a super swank condo building in Brooklyn. The Toren building in downtown Brooklyn has its very own yoga studio, and the teacher tonight was wonderful. I yoga-stalked her, Googled her name to find out where she teaches, and found her website, which is also a lovely blog. I had for some time been thinking about starting a blog that would also be my yoga website, and well, here it is.

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