Tag Archives: love

On Our Love

I haven’t seen my mum in a month…and it’s been an intense one. She’s completed her second round of preventative chemotherapy for a cancerous gene, and as one would imagine, it hasn’t been easy. With only two more rounds to go, she is physically and mentally doing amazingly. She is barreling through this like a woman on a mission…and what a mission it is. This is really the first time our family has ever been through something that could potentially shake us to the core of our being. And I have to say that I am so proud of her…proud of her strength and her certainty in how she has to deal with what she’s going through. And I feel horrible because I’ve been dealing with a cold for a month now…the one that comes and goes and comes back and goes and comes back again…so I can’t expose her to this super-irritating-won’t-go-away-nuisance-of-a-cold. But I know that she’s got all the support she needs, because my father is with her.

My father is the strong, silent type. In fact, he’s the poster boy for it. But boy is probably the wrong word to describe him. If “manning up” has any validity as a real term in our vernacular, then my father is re-defining it. He is doing everything in his power to make sure my mother has everything she needs…and every thing she wants. Running her errands, sitting by her side during her treatments, being her pillar of strength. My mother has already lost her hair, and that alone is a lesson in re-assessing how we identify ourselves, especially for a woman who admittedly has never swam with her head below the water line for fear of ruining the coiffe that she has proudly displayed throughout the decades, full peacock-style 🙂 Throughout everything that is currently unfolding, my dad is fully present. He wants to take care of her. And every time my mum mentions him her voice breaks and I hear the emotion as she fights back the sobs of love and gratitude. It happened again last night when we spoke on the phone. And for the hours after I got off the phone with her, before I went to sleep, I found myself in tears, marvelling at my parents’ love affair in total awe and reverence.

Throughout my life, and still to this day, my parents have used an expression to convey the magnitude and intention behind whatever it was they were talking to each other about. They would either start or end a phrase by saying, “On our love.” And they’ve never once been irresponsible in the usage of it. My parents love each other. They’ve even had an article in the Montreal Gazette written about their relationship. After over 45 years of being married, after raising three boys, and after everything that happens to and around a couple living full, demanding lives, they are more madly in love with each other now than ever. This has been my example for 38 years. And I fully understand the blessing that has been bestowed upon me.  My parents love each other for who each of them is, and they love each other despite who each of them is. They love fearlessly and fully. Unconditionally and completely. They have a real, modern-day love affair that just gets stronger the longer they go on. And it makes me proud to have them as role models, and it makes me well up with admiration…and I feel the depth of my mother’s love for my father as she tells me how he’s helping her along this path she’s found herself on. And being privy to this real-life romance serves absolutely no one if I can’t pass it on and share it with everyone.

When my mother found out that she was going to have to go through this treatment, I told my mother that the journey she was facing would result in the most blinding of beautiful things…and I was right. I love you Mama & Papa. Thank you.

The Yoga of Letting Go

I have spoken in many of my classes about the body’s tendency to react to the events that we encounter in our daily lives…the seizing up of the shoulders towards the ears in moments of stress, the habit of rounding the shoulders to unconsciously protect the heart center when feeling like we’re the target of an emotional onslaught, the tightening up of the hips and groins when dealing with breakups and relationship woes. The physical asana practice is already known to lengthen and tone the body’s muscles, as well as to open and create space in the joints of the body, allowing toxins that have stored themselves there to be released with each fresh rush of blood to the area. On a much more subtle level, however, the physical yoga practice also allows us to shed what the body stores, and after reading Alanna Kaivalya & Arjuna van der Kooij’s book,  Myths of the Asanas, the way we behave as humans dealing with the events of our lives has been intelligently and refreshingly put into perspective.

Based on what they have written in this amazing collection of mythological tales of the Hindu gods and goddesses (that inform & define the asanas), I find my belief system towards how humans deal with trauma and shock reinforced by some very simple words. When we look at the names of the yoga postures, we find many that refer back to animals, as well as to the earth and to all other beings. We take the forms of all these other beings to be able to put ourselves in their situations and embody their existences and realities, all in the aim of strengthening the connection we have to all other things that make up our reality on this earth. When we take the form of the tree, we establish the connection to the earth through our standing leg while allowing for the body to sway, as if being blown in the wind with our branches outstretched.  When we take the form of the cat, the dog, the cow, the locust, the snake, the eagle, and all the other animal-embodying poses, we assume their identities, forms and realities to gain insight into conditions other than our own. All in the hope that we can move toward a place of compassion for all things because we all co-exist and it is through that unifying fact that we understand how to hurt one being is to hurt all beings and to cherish and preserve all beings is to cherish and preserve ourselves.

In keeping with this notion of our commonality, when animals are hunted and escape, or suffer trauma and do not succumb to it, they don’t spend years afterwards discussing it and seeking out advice on how to deal with it. As I’ve seen with my longtime companion Oliver, the most animated of Jack Russell Terriers, despite his having lost both his sight and hearing, if he takes a wrong step and crashes into something, he takes a step backwards, shakes his entire body as if shaking off the event from wherever his body may have felt or stored it, and then continues on obliviously, never looking back on the event as something that scarred him. Now I’m not saying that when we fall victim to trauma or find ourselves the target of a crime, we can just shake it off and pretend nothing happened. I believe that everything that happens in our lives serves as the container of a lesson that we are meant to learn, and we have the capability of rational and analytical thought at our disposal so that we can assess what happened and learn from it, regardless of how severe the event may have been. What I am saying is that occasionally we allow these events to become THE defining moments in our lives, relegating us to a place of fear and alienation where our social and interpersonal skills become stunted and sometimes atrophied as a result of the fear that has settled in as we have spent our time analyzing what happened.

And so yoga, once again, allows us to step back from our behaviours and see them for exactly that – something we do, but by which we do not define ourselves. For those of us who feel like we’ve given enough time and energy to something that has happened in the past and which we cannot change, let’s try infusing our yoga practice with the intention of embodying the earthlings that are able to escape harm, shake it off, and continue to barrel forwards with strength and certainty, confident in their roles and duties. As the authors of Myths of the Asanas state, “Fear lives in us as tension, and asana postures are designed to release tension from our bodies. The absence of tension is the absence of fear. And the absence of fear signifies the presence of joy, love, and open-heartedness.” Let’s dedicate ourselves to moving away from fear, towards a place of peace and certainty in who we are and our roles here in this life, on this planet. Let’s allow our pattern of chasing the temporary to slowly whirl down to a full stop, so that we can begin to live in the permanence of our connection to each other and to the soul that exists in every single one of us, so that we can start reminding ourselves what we already know but have at some point lost sight of. That is Yoga. That is the meaning of life. That is letting go.

Addendum: I’m so happy to announce that I’ve been added to a list of yogis from around the world who will post 3 or more blogs per week (with an ultimate goal of one each day) about some aspect of yoga throughout the month of April.  Blogs may be about asana, meditation, philosophy, experiences, yoga types, yoga history, Sanskrit scholarship, etc. and can focus on any type or style of yoga.  The goal is to share yoga with one another and with others, to illuminate the full range of yoga possibilities that go far beyond the stereotyped “yoga butt” seeking gym enthusiast to a process of  creating peace, unity, and oneness through the practice.  Each post will contain the YIOM (Yogis Inspiring Oneness Month) logo and will link back to the original source and creator of the project, TheVeganAsana, where a full list of participants is found. So consider this post my first for the month, and stay tuned for the ones to come!!!!

When Everything Aligns

Do you ever have those moments when everything seems to fall into place? When you suddenly look around and see everything that was there all along, but the lighting is somehow different…there’s a certain clarity or focus that brings everything down a notch, into a realm of peace and silence….I seem to be having moments like these more and more this year…moments where I feel perfectly connected to the sky above me, the ground below me, and the people around me.

My classes seem to be morphing into more than I ever thought they could be: an extension of myself. An opportunity to infuse the instruction with my own insights, encouraging the students to connect to their innate sense of peace, into their own intuition. An opportunity to guide them closer to a meditative state, allowing the breath to lull them deeper and deeper into their Selves, regardless of how challenging any given posture may be at any given moment during the class. It’s after classes like these that I make my way back home, hyper aware of the colour of the clouds over my head, of the strength of my love for everything and everyone that plays a role in my life, and the significance and weight that my words carry.

Bliss seems to be in abundance for me as of late. My partner and I will have our civil union ceremony in 2 days, and what started as a simple desire to solidify our rights in a province that affords us the luxury to do so has turned into one of the most beautiful catalysts for a massive surge of love and light in both of our lives. The outpouring of kind words and sincere love is almost overwhelming, and even the energy amongst my brothers, my parents, and myself has somehow increased to the point where I keep finding myself recognizing the importance of every single moment…taking mental snapshots to ensure that I do my best to remember the smallest detail…the texture of the fibres of the rug in my father’s den, the way the halogen lights pool onto the mahogany of the bookshelves. I never would have guessed that the universe would have this kind of intensity in store for us, and it’s exactly because of this revelation that I find myself insanely humbled. It serves a a simple reminder to me that the universe really does provide everything we need, even when things don’t seem to be going all that well. Every second is a gift, every stumbling block is an opportunity to get back up, taller and more capable because we know that the energy driving us is bigger and monumentally more beautiful than anything we could imagine.

I originally left my past career to see if I could make my professional life as rewarding and beautiful as my personal life…and just when I opened my eyes after blinking, they both suddenly appeared more glaringly bright and beautiful than I ever hoped possible in my craziest dreams. And I’m so grateful. To you all, to everyone around me, but most of all, to that little feeling in the recesses of my soul that fuelled my search and continues to do so. And so the most obvious thing for me to do at this point is to pass it on. In the spirit of Jivamukti Yoga, Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu – may all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

Shanti, shanti, shanti…

Universally Speaking

Living my life in Yoga has brought me many things including an overall sense of peace coupled with the desire to know and be able to pass on all insightful information, but one of the greatest things I’ve found myself enriched by is the need and ability to process and deconstruct said information and be able to contest what I find questionable. My first couple of hours in teacher training in 2009 found me ready to abandon my plans as a teacher simply because some of what I was hearing from those leading the course conflicted greatly with what I then felt strongly about. I brought my concerns to friends, who reminded me that regardless of my eagerness to start a new chapter of my life and wanting to absorb as much information as possible, I always had the right to take what information I deemed relevant and leave that which I felt didn’t serve me. It was with that ambitious reserve that I threw myself back into my training with abandon and into my career to date.

There is a lot of information to process from the Yogic teachings, all of which can discombobulate the most grounded of people. Filtering through and processing it all may indeed prove to be exhausting, but allowing yourself to challenge what you consider true is always enlightening and more often than not, illuminating. One aspect of Yoga continues to this day to challenge my beliefs, and I believe that it poses some of the same questions for others as it does me. The Yogic scriptures and teachings bring everything back to one thing: union. The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit root word yuj, which means to unite or to yolk. We refer most often to the union of the mind, body and breath…the aim of which is to return or reunite with the source of all life, which is most often referred to as God in the teachings. This poses somewhat of a problem for me.

I am not a religious person. At all. I was raised in a Jewish environment, being brought to synagogue for all the High Holidays throughout my youth until I absolutely refused to continue participating in what I felt was a ridiculous farce to mask superficiality and ego in the shroud of tradition. My experience with synagogue was being surrounded by men and women dressing up to the nines boasting about their possessions and accomplishments, all the while gossiping about each other and then “humbly” returning to their seats to mumble through the prayers. I played the game myself, bringing my own reading material to hide behind the prayer-book so that I wouldn’t go out of my mind with boredom listening to what I felt was an incredibly archaic system of demonstrating one’s faith. I have since heard similar experiences being recounted my friends from other faiths, which reinforced my aversion to religion. All of that combined with the knowledge that mostly all religions across the spectrum are exclusive, telling us that we are the chosen people, that others are somehow “less than” we are, completed my break from organized religion. Yoga teaches that we are all connected, that there are no levels of worth and that the ego is our greatest enemy, something I have believed from the time that I first learned to think for myself.

With all that said, I do believe in a higher power from which we all derive and from where the essence that we all possess resides. I understand that it is this power and essence that is referred to in the Yogic teachings, but I still have a problem with that word which has been appropriated to many of the world’s greatest organized religions…that word God. It is with this aversion that I find myself passing on my teachings carefully and with full awareness of my words. Yoga is often mistaken for a religion by those who have dipped a toe or two in the teachings, and who have subsequently ran away from the unbelievable possibilities that yoga can bring us. I firmly believe that before the word God is brought into a class, a workshop, an article or a teacher training, it needs to be redefined and clarified as having nothing to do with religion.

I believe that despite there being many common teachings throughout Yoga and religion (restrictions as to lying, stealing, coveting, etc…), I have found that Yoga endorses laws of the Universe, those that apply to all, as opposed to those that apply to some which are proselytized through religious laws. The notion that Karma guides us all, that everything you do has a consequence, that your words and deeds carry immeasurable weight…this all falls under universal law. Yoga encourages love and gratitude…for oneself, for all others, and for everything around us. It allows us to be as spiritual as we want to be with absolutely no association of fear or guilt attached, and allows us to become more than we ever thought possible as opposed to feeling suppressed and repressed. Again, this is what I believe based on my life experience, and I would never insinuate that those who are finding light and love through religion are misguided. Whatever works, as far as I’m concerned.

For those of you who find yourselves sharing a yoga class with me, please keep all this in mind when I relay the Yogic teachings. Understand that the word god can be replaced with light, or love, or energy, or a million other all-encompassing beauty-laden words. Understand that if it separates us, it can’t be good. Understand that we are one. We always have been and we always have been. These are the teachings that we’re born with under the guise of intuition and that get smothered by conditioning and conformity. Allow yourselves to tap back into the source of all things…back into light, back into love…back into God.