Tribute to the Body Moving

Yoga is the dance of bodymindspirit. We say meditation in movement. Each one of us finds our unique expression of this ancient art. Your pose may not look much like mine. Doesn’t matter –The point of practice lies deep within. It’s a journey of the soul, mind, and body. All equal participants.

This morning I heard stories of how the previously posted and popular piece on Matt Harding’s version of the Gratitude Dance had rocked it’s way around campus at the end of the semester, so I thought I’d look into what Matt is up to now. Turns out he’s made another gorgeous globe trotting vid, this time using local dancing styles. Not exactly Yoga. But it is Body. It is Heart. And Mind is there as well. Hope you enjoy the dance around the world. Hmmm, Maybe it’s time we found a sponsor to YOGA around the planet.

Or maybe you’d like to send in photos of your Yoga in unusual locales. We’d love to see them and will post as able. …Maybe another video in the works!



Dianthus (barefoot photos)

Are you holed-up and snowbound today?  Home with the flu? Just plain lazy, lethargic, tamasic? Sounds like a good opportunity to watch an inspiring TED talk.With grateful permission, I am reprinting this post from Online

15 TED Talks to Help You Find Happiness

Everyone finds happiness in something. Whether it be the exhilaration that swoops in after the completion of a new creation, or enjoying the cool air of a sunny autumn day or learning anything and everything about the world, even those who struggle with their moods still occasionally enjoy the concepts of joy and satisfaction. Though nobody’s journey completely parrots that of others, this eclectic selection of TED Talks showcases how nearly all people work towards one almost universal goal.

1. Stefan Sagmeister: The power of time off: Everyone knows the value of rest and respite — it recharges the mind, body and spirit and maximizes productivity. For designer Stefan Sagmeister, closing down his studio for a year and spending the time traveling and conceptualizing actively stimulates his creativity. Without it, he says, he never could have produced some of his favorite works. This TED Talk showcases some of the different projects he conceived while on sabbatical, and discusses how to make the most of scheduled downtime.

2. Philip Zimbardo prescribes a healthy take on time: Renowned Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo delves deeply into how cognition and perception play a role in establishing happiness, comfort and stability. He cites the “time paradox” as one of the major stress factors in peoples’ lives, suggesting a shift in understanding how it works can alleviate a goodly chunk of the problem. Awareness of one’s mental and physical orientation in the past, present and future makes it much easier to set firm priorities and goals. Based on his research, Zimbardo outlines what he believes to be the healthiest, happiest, most productive strategy for time management.

3. Nic Marks: The Happy Planet Index: Although the old adage dictates that money rarely purchases happiness, nations still tend to rank their success more on economic productivity than the true satisfaction of its citizenry. The Happy Planet Index attempts to juxtapose resource consumption and overall personal contentment, and the most joyous locales on Earth are not necessarily what one would assume. Through complex statistics and painstaking research, Nic Marks challenges many of the common myths regarding the relationship between finances and emotions.

4. Srikumar Rao: Plug into your hard-wired happiness: Persistently questioning and pining away for possessions and affections remains one of the most common roadblocks to discovering happiness. Most people never seem to realize that sloughing off such a mindset significantly improves their outlook on events both major and minor. Fortunately, Dr. Srikumar Rao makes a compelling case that most (though not all) people are born with the capacity to forge their own individual sense of satisfaction — largely free of over-preoccupied thinking.

5. Paula Scher gets serious: For creative types especially, designer Paula Scher’s lecture perfectly sums up the oft-lauded joy to be found in the human imagination. In spite of the title, her “serious” work nevertheless resulted in a gratifying life, and she shares with viewers some of the projects that proved the most enjoyable. Though many compartmentalize their lives into “fun” and “career” designations, it is entirely possible to fuse the two together for the ultimate happiness experience.

6. Nancy Etkoff on the surprising science of happiness: While it’s relatively common knowledge that emotions directly impact human physiology, most popular discussions regarding happiness tend to focus more on the more abstract mental health components. Nancy Etkoff looks at the ever-elusive concept through the lens of cognitive science, exploring how the body conditions itself for negativity and oftentimes compromises its own satisfaction. Though despite biology and cognition’s hold, there are still a few things people can do to work around them.

7. Matthieu Ricard on the habits of happiness: Religion and spirituality are not necessarily everyone’s preferred route towards discovering happiness, though millions still find them an indispensible facet of their lives. Former biochemist Matthiew Ricard discovered his calling as a Buddhist monk, and the lecture pulls from this eclectic background to offer some personal thoughts on one can achieve personal satisfaction. He makes a case for clearer consciousness and self-awareness as the cornerstones of forging the best life possible.

8. Laura Trice suggests we all say thank you: Some days it seems as if the tenets of common courtesy have emulated elderly elephants and disappeared to perish in some secret, mysterious locale. This counselor earnestly believes that a simple resurgence in pleasantries such as “thank you” can make a massive difference in society as a whole. Both the speaker and the recipient walk away from those two seemingly small words feeling gratitude and harmony — feelings that can very easily carry on to others they encounter.

9. Stuart Brown says play is more than fun: It’s a thesis sure to satisfy pretty much everyone — taking time to relax and play around makes for one of the very best things anyone can do for his or her health and sanity. Juxtaposing animal behavior (including macaques and polar bears) with human habits, Stuart Brown illustrates how taking time to indulge the imagination opens up plenty of paths towards the ever-elusive happiness. Children especially benefit from such leisurely jaunts, as playing pretend games help strengthen the skills needed for success once the realities of adulthood descend.

10. Aimee Mullins: The opportunity of adversity: Aimee Mullins was born without shinbones, but in spite of this setback, she still managed to enjoy an eclectic, exciting life of sport and art. She cites the physical challenge as the single most motivating factor in her pursuit of modeling, activism, acting and participating in the Paralympics. Without it, she claims she never would have discovered such a profound satisfaction with her life — proving that sometimes the darkest moments result in the greatest personal triumphs.

11. Nick Bostrom on our biggest problems: Death, aging, “existential risk,” poor motivation and depression formulate the core of humanity’s greatest roadblocks towards happiness. Oxford’s Nick Bostrom finds hope and solace in transhumanist science and philosophy, explaining how many of the emerging technologies might very well reverse some of these serious ills. For viewers interested in amazing leaps in science and engineering, this lecture offers up plenty of intellectual questions to ponder.

12. Alex Tabarrok on how ideas trump crises: Plenty has been said about the role creativity, innovation and an active imagination help combat more negative emotions and mindsets. With the rise of a global economy and free markets, some believe that today’s economic climate — tempestuous as it is — actually provides some exhilarating challenges for those who derive enjoyment from such things. From a broader perspective, one can easily see how tragedies can slowly turn to victories with some hard work and even harder thinking.

13. Benjamin Wallace on the Price of Happiness: Many old proverbs and folktales warn against placing too much satisfaction in money and material goods, but that still doesn’t stop many people from trying. One particularly interesting study revealed that when the same wine first presented with an average price, then again with something higher, the latter garnered much more praise. Benjamin Wallace makes a compelling argument for pulling away from pursuing money and possessions as anything beyond means to caring for one’s needs.

14. His Holiness the Karmapa: The technology of the heart: For the more spiritually inclined, this lecture by one of Buddhism’s most revered clerics fuses religion and science in a manner that he claims maximizes happiness. No matter the myriad progresses made in the technical sector, he believes that true joy comes from peace of mind and body — though there exists plenty of pleasures to be found externally. And, of course, in forging loving and mindful connections with others.

15. Eve Ensler: Happiness in body and soul: Vagina Monologues scribe Eve Ensler found fulfillment in protecting women from abuse and marginalization. Both her writing and her activism brought happiness and peace to numerous victims, serving as an inspiration to those hoping to promote justice. She also believes that embracing one’s body and sexuality as something lovely rather than shameful will also help forge a positive personal pathway.

Happiness and Mind Training

flower seed head (ckg photo)

For Sean P. O’Rourke (1985-2009)

This has been a season of death. On Saturday, three young men died in a tragic car accident. One of them was the son of a long-time friend and writing group buddy, a member of the extended “Penelope Writers” family.

Watching the faces of the O’Rourke family as they followed the coffin wrenched my heart. What sadness! Sadness heaping upon sadness these past three months.

What’s a YOGINI to do?

It’s healthy to feel emotions, to give them space to exist and pass through. It’s not so beneficial to hold onto them or to stifle them — though that is EXACTLY what I’d often like to do. Sometimes I just want to wallow in negativity, feeling sorry for myself, feeling a victim to circumstances, wishing the world would shake its collective head and join my sad little pity party.

Fortunately,yoga and meditation are such life-changing tools that these depressing emotions can flow through me as if they were rain water washing through sandy soil. I don’t need to IDENTIFY with and embellish the stories that coincide with these emotions. I cringe at how I did exactly that in the past though!!

FURTHERMORE, science is now clearly showing the plasticity of the mind that yogis have claimed for hundreds of years. I’ll collect some of this research in a future post, but for now, check out Buddhist priest, Mathieu Ricard’s take on happiness and mind training from TED. Some call Ricard the “happiest man alive” because of the results of his brain scans.

I’m sure many of the readers of LY have seen these sorts of changes happen in their life. How have you dealt with overwhelming grief?  Have you noticed any effects of your practices on your emotional life? Please share them with us!

Mathieu Ricard’s blog is also enjoyable as well as thought provoking. The link is a page translated from the French.

contentment sutra

I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of contentment. It’s an old topic, one the ancient Indian sage Patanjali included in his Yoga Sutras.


(trans. Bouanchaud)
II.42 samtosad anuttamah sukha-labhah

Samtosat: through or by contentment

Anuttamah: the strongest

Sukha: of happiness

Labhah: obtaining, gain
Contentment brings supreme happiness. (B.Bouanchaud)
From contentment one gains unsurpassed joy. (D. Brooks)
The result of contentment is total happiness. (Desikachar)
From contentment and benevolence of consciousness comes supreme happiness (BKS Iyengar)

Is contentment the aim of yoga practice?

Is all suffering alleviated through contentment or do we look at the sufferings in our own lives in a contented fashion?

Does happiness imply a different vision of suffering? Or can the two emotions exist simultaneously?

Is total happiness only possible through a practice of contentment?

If all life is suffering as the Buddha tells us, why should we bother trying to attain happiness?
Does contentment imply a turning away from the difficulties of life, an acceptance of poverty, cruelty, and violence in the world?

Won’t we be missing out on much of our human emotional range if we practice contentment? Won’t we become zombies? Can one’s passions be ignited while one is content?

Are there any other effects or side effects of contentment?

Is it possible for contentment to exist on a greater scale, say in a community or in a nation? Would this be the same as peace? What is the relationship between contentment and peace?

Is there a relationship between contentment and the practice of svadhyaya (self-study)?

What is the relationship of asana practice and contentment?

wet leaf (Zoar Valley NY - MPG))

The sutra tells us there is a direct relationship between contentment and personal happiness. With contentment, one’s emotions are brought under an even keel, the fluctuations of the mind are stilled. Isn’t this the purpose of yoga?

I try to search for sukha in each pose, to achieve joy while my body works on the edge of pain. This has incredible implications when suffering from emotional lability. We learn to accept where we are at at any given moment; this is contentment and the sages tell us that if we work on this, we will attain the supreme gift of happiness.
Patanjali tells us something profound, yet really simple: be content and you will be happy. Want what you have and don’t want what you don’t have. A recipe for happiness that has one ingredient: contentment.

Geek’s Guide to Happiness

There is an entire field out there called Positive Psychology–hey, somebody is finally catching on to what yogis and meditators have been saying for, oh, a couple thousand years. There are actions you can take, things you can say, and ways you can think that WILL train you to live with more happiness. By now you’ve figured out that this blog is not about the cult of Laughter Yoga–though the Laughing Yogini sure does laugh a lot and she and her students consciously strive to have FUN in yoga classes. We are a sort of Happiness Cult as we try to make changes in our lives so that what we do reflects who we are. Though it would probably be more accurate to call us a Bliss Club because I’m not sure that happiness equals bliss. To me, happiness is an ephemeral feeling, whereas bliss is closely tied to equanimity. Bliss, equanimity, satisfaction– these emotions are rooted in deep life choices, whereas feelings like happiness, euphoria, or ecstasy are usually related to events of much shorter duration, and the feelings pass on much more quickly.

My experience with both yoga asana practice and seated meditation has been that they definitely increase my happiness, even my bliss and equanimity in the short term, i.e. they feel good–that’s why I keep coming back to the mat! As I have slowly learned to hold onto that peace throughout my daily life, my general level of happiness has increased. As I have made various lifestyle changes–ditching the crap that was bringing me down–and focusing on what gives me greater satisfaction and joy–a not-so-surprising transformation has taken place: I FEEL GREAT about myself and my life. This all sounds so easy, but it wasn’t. At times I felt as if my Self was wrenching apart at the seams. In many ways, the seams, the assumptions that held me together so precariously and so well, unhappily, NEEDED TO BE DUMPED. For a very long time, I did not believe I would or COULD ever feel this way. as Far as I’m concerned, my state of being is nothing short of miraculous.

Enough said, I am a documentary junkie and I found Canadian Broadcasting Company has an RSS feed to the DOC ZONE–enough docs to feed me for quite a while I’d say. If you want the latest research from happiness pundits, watch HOW TO BE HAPPY, 48 minutes of your life that will be well spent. There are plenty of links to happiness-related sites on the page too. There’s even a quiz, just in case you need a number to tell you how happy you are!

And as for our personal efforts towards increasing WORLD HAPPINESS, let’s try incorporating the activities “the experts” recommended in the documentary:
1. Experience Pleasure
2. Contribute to the Greater Good
3. Express Gratitude

These are, or should be, aims for any yogi/ni’s life.