White Tara Thangka, Chautauqua County, NY (c) 2012 barefoot photos
After a mass request from Garchen Rinpoche to recite the White Tara Mantra for all those who are suffering from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, I created this video, so that you may join me and learn the chant too.
Please sing along or recite silently as you learn the phrases. Listen to the sounds of the syllables mindfully as you utter them.And feel the vibration of each part in your body.
Homage to she who protects from the eight perils!
Homage to she who blazes with auspicious splendor!
Homage to she who blocks the door to evil destinies!
Homage to she who guides on the path to the higher realms!
You have continually accompanied me.
Pray protect me evermore with compassion!
Maple leaves in Chautauqua county NY (c) 2012 barefootphotos
6AM: woke up and since I had done supta padanghustasana 1 before falling asleep,I drew up both legs for urdhva pascimottanasa for 3 minutes, then Happy Baby. Thought about the relationship of HB and Supta 2 with the outer rotation of the leg in the hip socket.
Then a series of twists: supine cross- legged, crocodile, revolved belly, half supine virasana, gentle bridge 3.
Was going down to the studio at 7:30, but then S. skyped me from Poland. People first. Karma yoga in action. LOVE. Asana Practice could happen later.
After our call, I cleaned the studio and picked, prepping for the 10 AM class.
I’ve been reading student meditation journals most of the afternoon, so still have not returned to an asana practice.
This evening, though, I took a break and meditated with one of Susan Piver’s 20 minute guided practices. susanpiver.com If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend you subscribe to this very accessible meditation teacher’s online OPEN HEART PROJECT. Susan’s got me thinking about the soft front body and the strong back body in meditation posture. How there is no boundary. How they exist simultaneously. How awareness shifts from one to the other. How difficult it is to hold them BOTH in awareness. But in a strange way, it’s comforting to know they are both there. Both.
10 PM In the studio for a two hour session. Pigeon (still difficult on left side as it activates the sciatica), Half handstand, Wide angled seated forward fold with twists, cobbler pose, Downward facing dog pose,sphinx, bow, camel. Really paid close attention to camel as I looked up several articles online regarding alignment. Kept repeating as I played with alignment.Headstand for 4.5 minutes, Child pose with close attention to maintaining hips resting on heels and releasing spine into front of body. Shoulderstand and a quiet Legs Up The Wall, hips on the shoulderstand stack of blankets. Connecting the soft front of the body with the strong back body.Comforted, I was satisfied and went to bed.
A beautiful way to bring yourself home to your own beautiful presence is through centering awareness in the breath.
This is the very first and most important practice of all breath work. Before beginning to consciously control the breath, it is important to grow the awareness of how the breath is moving, or not, in this moment. We practice without criticizing, without judging, and without creating stories about the path the breath is currently on. When critical voices begin yammering inside, honor them as a part of you, and then, with kindness, come back to the breath. As judgments arise, name them simply, and come back to the breath. As thoughts flow through the mind, allowing them to flow, rather than holding on and developing them, enables awareness to gently sit in the breath.
If you would like to be guided in a Breath Awareness Practice, here is a short video.
Do you wish you could live more fully present in your life? I sure do, so I am working on expanding my sensory awareness. There is so much that passes me by, that never registers in my consciousness every waking (sleeping!) moment
What is sensual living, but a life spent paying attention. It’s a physical life. A receptive awareness. It is presence. Experiencing all that is. Touching, feeling, seeing, smelling, moving (yes, the body has that kinesthetic sense), listening, tasting. Any and all of these modalities can become meditations if you ramp up your awareness and really open yourself to what you are experiencing. Yoga itself becomes a powerful tool for meditation this way.
I just finished reading A HOUSE BY THE SEA by poet, May Sarton. Sarton describes living a sensual life in on the coast of Maine. I feel as if I’ve lived at Wild Knoll and pulled goldenrod from her delightful garden and sipped chablis on the patio in her colorful tapestry of existence beside the sea.
Here is a video that I found inspiring and hope you will too. I can’t wait to make my own BOOK OF SENSES. I invite you to live sensually for one month. Maybe we can compare notes afterwards.
As a person who makes up names for people, I thought I should flip the cart and look at my own names.
Recently someone asked if I preferred Carol over Carolyn and immediately I quipped about how my birth family never got that my name was Carolyn since they all still call me Carol. The truth is who cares?
I’ve been called worse, such as the childhood name used by my older siblings, CurlyBeaver. You can see in the photo that I am definitely not curly….more likely it was Curly from the Three Stooges TV show. Thanks guys. The beaver part came from the buck teeth they told me I’d have because I sucked my thumb for so long.
My Baptismal name comes from the holy day I was born near: a Christmas carol. And Carol is a beautiful name that means “song.” However, my second grade teacher was annoyed that I switched between the different spellings and said I had to decide; was my name Carol or Carolyn? I chose the latter, but it was too late; my fam continued to call me Carol.
My ancestry shows up, not only in the French version of the first name I chose, but also in my middle and confirmation names. My middle name is Ann, the name of my Bavarian grandmother. When I made my Confirmation, the sacrament of officially becoming a practicing Catholic, I chose Priscilla, the (Polish) name of my mother.
Since I was born into a traditional Roman Catholic family, I was also named for a saint. The saint that goes with Carol is St. Charles Borromeo. Now I really resented that! Named after a boy saint…ugh. To make matters worse, I was a bit of a tomboy. Lo and behold,one day long after I was grown and my kids were grown,I came across a couple of prints of my guy, Charles, at the Indiana University Art Center. He’s the patron saint of the plague! He was a healer who ventured into areas no one else dared to go. Hey, not a bad guy to be named after, I thought…smiling with pride, for a change.
Other names:I was named Sherebiah when I lived in the Atlantic City Children of God commune at 17. It means, Flame of the Lord, according to one source. He was a Levite priest, a “man of understanding” according to another source. …not a bad one to be named after either, I guess.
You probably know LaughingYogini…I gave that one up because I didn’t want my site here confused with laughter yoga, which sounds like a lot of fun therapy, but not what I practice….though I do enjoy laughing a lot and engage in comical endeavors whenever possible (on or off the mat).
Then there’s Kalyani, the Sanskrit name my meditation teacher gave when I was initiated into that lineage. Said it would be a good way to mark the changes I would undergo as I practiced. It means Beautiful; Auspicious; Blessed. It’s certainly the prettiest sounding of all my names. I’d like to think that I possess all of those attributes as well. I’m no longer a practicing member of that lineage, but I do like it the name! Feel free to use it whenever you like
So what meaning do I gather from my names? A reminder that I am all of these and probably a good many other things that folks have called me. And I am none of these as well.
I can add “I am not my name” to the set of verses I often meditate upon. Or I can spend some more time with one of the names and invite the attributes it embodies to deepen my life. Can’t go wrong either way.
Bouanchaud:Choosing meditation according to one’s affinities also brings mental stability.
Iyengar:Or, by meditating on any desired object conducive to steadiness of consciousness.
Fuerstein: Or restriction is achieved through meditation (dhyana) as desired.
Desikachar: Any inquiry of interest can calm the mind. Sometimes the most simple objects of inquiry, such as the first cry of an infant, can help relieve mental disturbances. Sometimes complex inquiries, such as into mathematical hypothesis, will help. But such inquiries should not replace the main goal, which remains to change our state of mind gradually from distraction to direction.
GRADY: Do we accept our own spiritual practice as a valid means to enlightenment just as we accept others’ paths?
Do we rely solely on the asanas for development of mental stability or Do we choose meditation as a means for mental stability?
Do we continuously strive to eliminate distraction and develop direction in our lives?
Practicing yoga postures without breath awareness sustains physical benefits such as increased flexibility, deepening strength, improved balance.
Seeds at Watson Lake, Prescott AZ (barefoot photos)
When breath becomes an integral component of asana, the mind focuses and can achieve the single-pointed awareness so often mentioned by the ancient sages.
Breath awareness is key for deepening yoga practice because it links the mind-body into a unified being. As it anchors the mind to the physical movement (or non-movement), it awakens the body’s intelligence, as B.K.S. Iyengar says.
Mindful awareness then turns the practice from a purely physical level into meditation for the practitioner.
Breath awareness is also key to opening into more mindful awareness of life itself. When my thoughts or emotions start to spin out in their all too often merry escapades, I find that checking in on my breath can slow the wild energy down and I can more easily glimpse the reality I am experiencing sans whatever emotional or mental machinations surrounding said reality.
A simple practice for increasing your conscious awareness of your personal breath patterns is to simply notice the breath and then give it a short name, such as rushing breath, or lazy breath, or not-breathing (yes, breath holding is more common than you might think), or hyper-ventilating.
Checking in with the breath, once per day, will increase your mindful awareness of the moment. As a bonus, you may find, as I have, that breathing FEELS good. Through continued practice, I have found a beautiful relationship developing with my breath. It’s a marriage that gives me much pleasure.
In Western New York, Spring, the mud-licked goddess of joy and rebirth, has floundered through the melting snows of March and found her way with the warmer, softer breezes, flowering snowdrops, and brilliant birdsong.
Neighbors are sweeping off salt-littered stoops and chatting in the street. All agree: it’s been a long, tough winter.
Mindfulness meditations can bring me right home into the season. I practice opening to what is happening during this, the most ephemeral of all seasons. Sometimes I sit with a palm outstretched and filled with sunflower seeds for the chickadees.
Whether they land or not doesn’t matter. I’m offering and watching.
Sometimes the garden bench is the most inviting place in the world. I practice listening and find it much harder than watching. Doesn’t matter though. I continue and begin to feel as if life itself has slowed its push and shove. I am no longer a tacit observer of the environment, perched on the bench, waiting for life to begin. I feel the vibration of the sounds move through me. A slight shimmer passes inside my arms and I breathe through the heart center. I am no longer an alien entity; I’m a living being in an alive environment. A sense arises from deep in my spine that I’m home again.
Early spring meditation: Open a window or door, or even better, sit outside in a garden or park, tune your ears to a specific bird call and listen as long and as carefully as you can. If Mind wanders about in that spring restlessness, gently bring it back to the song. Just as you would observe your breath, observe everything you can about this particular song.
The rise and fall of the melody,
the harshness or softness,
the duration of the notes,
Can you hear other birds responding?
Can you feel the sound entering your ears?
What happens when your consciousness is attuned to your hearing, does that affect what or how you hear?
Invite the song to permeate your being.
Allow your life to become this birdsong. Where do you feel it?