Tag Archives: confidence

The Sum Total

20130126-180326.jpgLet’s talk about hobbies. When you were a kid and someone asked you what your hobbies were, what did you answer? I asked the question in this morning’s yoga class, and some of the answers I got were dancing, playing in nature, and playing dress-up. Everyone found something in childhood that, after discovering it, found so much pleasure in it that they and (possibly) their friends made it their hobby. What growing up inevitably led to, for those of us who didn’t excel at sports or have the proclivity to do what later was admired, was the moment in the teenage or pre-teenage years when all of a sudden it didn’t matter what your favourite pastimes were, what mattered was what was “cool.” In the name of fitting in and being accepted, we all, to greater or lesser degrees, let what made us happy fall by the wayside, and we re-directed our efforts as best we could to be cool.

The best example of this for me was in high school. All my classmates listened to Pink Floyd and thought they were the dog’s bollocks. I bought the cassettes and CDs, listened to them over and over again, and searched with every ounce of effort possible to find some redeeming quality to the songs so that I could relate to my peers and be able to consider myself at the same level of cool as I held them up to. I went over the songs incessantly, desperately trying to hear what everyone else seemed to be hearing and loving. Suffice it to say that I never heard it (apologies in advance to all of you Pink Floyd fans). I don’t listen to them anymore, but if I should happen to overhear one of their songs playing somewhere, I still find myself searching for something good in it 😉 [SIDE NOTE (and possible future blog): That which is commonly accepted as being good is only popular because it’s commonly accepted. It doesn’t mean it will resonate with you, and it doesn’t mean that you’re missing some chromosome just because you find yourself in opposition to the masses. The masses have been wrong on countless occasions, so believe in your own intuition and forget what’s commonly believed to be true. It’s all relative and subjective.]

My yoga practice very much mirrors what I’ve brought up. I started practicing yoga at home, softly, on my own with flash cards, TV shows with guided classes, books and magazines. And I absolutely loved it. I then inched my way into the yoga community where all of a sudden I felt the pressure to let go of what had initially charmed me so that I could go through the motions of the more intense and physical classes, desperately searching for some redeeming quality. I ended up finding some, thankfully, but nonetheless fell into the same pattern of thinking that the two worlds were mutually exclusive. My initial inquisitiveness and appreciation of yoga as a soft, comforting practice seemed at odds with what I was discovering the deeper I delved into what the yoga community deemed as wonderful. They didn’t need to be at odds, and I have found myself gravitating back to a comfortable middle ground, where the spiritual and philosophical have meshed with some degree of the physical.

Your yoga practice, your career, your relationships and your studies should all be the sum total of who you are and always have been, complemented by what your new experiences bring you. It should be what you want it to be, while remaining open to see what else you can learn, live, and absorb to contribute to bringing you closer to who you are destined to be. Don’t ever feel that you have to give something up to be able to experience more. Not for a yoga class, not for a man, not for a woman, not for a job, not for anything or anyone. Don’t be afraid to incorporate what you already know and love about your life thus far into whatever it is you’re learning. Bring yourself into everything you do.

Chisel Away

As many of you who have taken class with me can attest, I hold a high regard for yoga’s teachings, for the opportunity of self-study with the hope of moving further and further away from what binds us to the physical and tangible and allows us to connect to a place of non-suffering, a place of heightened consciousness and connection to that which is unchanging. Basically, I fully believe in and endorse moving away from the daily events that we find ourselves constantly managing, reacting to, and trying to avoid, while keeping in the forefront of our minds that there’s something greater than all that, a higher energy source that is makes up everything we are. It’s through the connection to the energy that unites us all that I find inspiration to continue exploring not only myself, but all aspects of humanity as well…understanding that the more I learn about myself, the more I learn about humanity, and vice versa. Sometimes it’s way too easy to be completely oblivious to our own habits and behaviors, because we don’t see ourselves moving through our lives the same way we see others…we’re not (hopefully ;-)) holding a mirror up to ourselves to watch our every move and gesticulation, but we can always depend on others to give us more insight into ourselves. The more we know about ourselves, the more we can stand back to a place of equanimity and look at what we need to do to make ourselves be truly seen and heard as we are, as our true selves are. It may sound ridiculously easy, but it has proven to be incredibly tough for many people.

I’m constantly trying to inspire new ways to look at our existence to my students and readers, incorporating the Yoga Sutras and other texts, as well as the insight I have as a result of my experiences…and I’m constantly talking about the impermanence of our energy, of trying to re-connect to the source of that energy and let go of the dramas that are constantly stirred up by our jobs, our relationships, our politics, etc…I firmly believe that when we can identify and relegate most of what we do and live as being temporary, it will allow us to live our lives with more perspective and be able to let what really doesn’t matter pass us by with little or no fallout. I try to ask questions that will provoke thought for those listening to me, in the hope that people will take as much time as they can for some self-study…and in keeping with that ultimate goal, something crossed my mind earlier today that I thought was worth sharing.

I have been defining yoga for years as a tool that allows us to be the clearest version of ourselves, a tool which allows that version to shine through the years of defense mechanisms and masks that we have slapped on in the hopes of being socially accepted and acceptable. Analyzing this led me back to something I once heard about Michelangelo…I remember hearing that when he wanted to sculpt anything, a man, an animal, whatever, he simply started removing the excess marble or other type of rock until his subject was visible. Just like that, like unearthing something that was submerged underground and simply brushing off the dirt. And so bringing it back to ourselves, maybe that’s a different angle from which to approach making ourselves visible…really visible…blindingly visible, maybe for the first time in decades…what do you need to chisel away, what do you need to remove so that you can be truly seen as you truly are to the world around you? We often believe that we have to assume other roles or personae in the aim of being respected and acknowledged, but the contrary is actually true. What make us shine is when we stand out from the crowd and inspire others to feel empowered to do the same. It’s not about being anyone else except yourself.

Living a life in yoga brings many things to mind, one of which is the subject of reincarnation. I’m not sure how many of us believe in reincarnation, and I’m not sure how many of believe we only get one life. But I know that  many of us live as if we have unlimited lifetimes ahead of us, affording us the time to coast through life with little regard for our well-being and that of the people and world around us. So I have a(nother) question to throw out to you all: what if we only get one life? What if this is it? If this is the only one we’re offered, and time is a non-renewable resource, what do you need to shed to be able to come closer to the surface of your truest, clearest self? I’ve heard it said that we spend the first half of our lives learning, and the second half unlearning what took years to learn so that we can come back to our natural state of being. What do you need to unlearn? Do you need to shed anything? Think about what you’ve done to make the “right” impressions…and then think about what might need to be undone. You have the chisel and you know the subject. Now it’s time to let us know. Let us see. And step up into the light so we can see you. We’re waiting.

Learn more about YIOM, follow the bloggers participating, and catch up with our twitter feeds at http://theveganasana.com/YIOM.

The Sum Total

The more work I do in Yoga, the more I realize that my focus is to help people realize their greatest, most expansive & ideal selves…to permit them to dream bigger than they ever thought acceptable, and then to pursue those dreams with unflinching confidence and determination. Whether these dreams embody one’s desire to live free of insecurities, or whether one dreams of being on a stage in front of tens of thousands of people, the road to realizing our greatest hopes is the same. In this era of shameless self-promotion, driven by the irrational hunger for fame (often with nothing to offer in return once the fame is achieved), we are conditioned by society and the media to focus on our selling points…how absolutely fantastic we are…how marketable, how picture-perfect, how dumbed down we can allow ourselves to get in order to be adored and devoured by the masses. It is exactly the flip side to this approach that fascinates me and which I encourage those who hear what I’m saying to pursue…to focus on what makes us different, what is unique to each of us, often tapping into that which remains buried under layers of defense mechanisms and insecurities. The traits and attributes that are specific to us as individuals (and that may have at one time or another been a point of embarrassment and shame) will largely determine how we are remembered, and it is in nurturing these differences that our greatest potential often unfolds.

The book I’m currently reading, Cutting For Stone, tells the tale of Abu Kassem, a merchant who held onto an old, deteriorating pair of slippers until they were falling apart, but when he finally tried to rid himself of them, disaster ensued. “When he tossed them out of his window they landed on the head of a pregnant woman who miscarried, and Abu Kassem was thrown in jail; when he dropped them in the canal, the slippers choked off the main drain and caused flooding, and off Abu Kassem went to jail…”

One bystander who is listening to this story remarks, “Abu Kassem might as well build a special room for his slippers. Why try to lose them? He’ll never escape.” After pondering this comment, the other people gathered for the storytelling realize the truth in the old man’s words. “The slippers in the story mean that everything you see and do and touch, every seed you sow, or don’t sow, becomes part of your destiny…The key to your happiness is to own your slippers, own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have, and own the ones you don’t. If you keep saying your slippers aren’t yours, then you’ll die searching, you’ll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more. Not only our actions, but our omissions, become our destiny.”

So what are your slippers? And how long have you been trying to lose them? Have you succeeded, or are you still trying?

From Behind Our Own Shadows

We are surrounded by doubt and fear, from all directions, all around us. We are bombarded by images of who we should be, what we should wear, eat, and drive, and how our bodies should look. All these “standards” that we inevitably hold ourselves up to (in spite of ourselves and our better, innate judgement) succeed in driving, and sometimes even creating, that fear. Fear of not fitting in, of not belonging, of being outcast…and all the while, the only thing we are accomplishing is the complete and utter suppression of our true selves…of our innate light, of our inspiring individuality that stems from the source of all energy which we all come from and to which we all return.

Our minds tell us stories…incessantly feeding us judgements of ourselves and others that have not one shred of truth to them, but we rise to the bait regardless, making “agreements” with these tales and allowing our decisions and beliefs to be based on them. We allow ourselves to be guided by doubt, giving room, and therefore legitimacy, to said doubts, eliminating certainty and peace from our lives.

So how do we deal with the endless world of possibilities that present themselves once we awaken from this state of suspension and lethargy that has silently been holding us back from becoming our ideal selves?

The best place to start is at the beginning. Tapping into who we are when we’re alone, when we’re with our families (immediate and extended), who we were as children before we began being fed the steady stream of conformity-based propaganda that modern-day, urban society dishes out for no apparent reason (other than the obvious financially-based ones). And most of all, agreeing to stop listening to those stories that the mind creates. To quote Cat from Jivamukti London, “Stop paying attention to those stories. None of them are true. That which does not serve you, let go of.”

The perfect place to put all this into practice is exactly there…in your practice. Every yoga class/practice/session will present you with a challenge, an opportunity to face your fears. Do it. Face them. Nothing is ever as daunting in actuality as it seemed in theory. When that voice the mind conjures up as you’re preparing yourself for an especially challenging asana starts rattling off every reason why you’ll be unable to move fully into the posture, let your active voice be stronger. Remind yourself that you are indeed more capable than you could possibly imagine, and that the only person standing in your way is yourself. Let yourself soar to the heights that you always imagined possible but never dared to attain for fear of seeing just how capable you actually are.

Once you’ve gone there, once you’ve experienced what it feels like to jump beyond yourself, remember your essence. Let go of the ego and feel your connection to all things, and offer up that courage that it took to draw your magificence out into the open to everyone and everything around you. Understand that to shine as brightly as you can is to inspire those around you to do the same. The brighter we are as a collective whole dictates where we move towards as a community and a society…and the stronger our intentions, the more likely that destination will be back to that same light we’re drawing out of ourselves. Full circle.