Practicing Gratitude, Head Balance

HURRICANE IKE hit and the gang in Houston remains without power. Dinners have become very interesting. And the nights are long. A great time for meditation! By the way, Laughing Yogini’s server is wrapped in plastic in a bathroom until power returns. If you have left a comment, it won’t be approved until nutopia is back on line. Try re-submitting to the yogini at laughingyogini dot com and I’ll see what I can do from here. Lots of lovingkindness meditations going out to those whose lives have been shattered by the storm.

We all have an opportunity to practice gratitude – name 5 aspects of your life that you are grateful for. Can be anything …here are a couple of mine: the smell of my shampoo, the delicious cup of coffee I enjoyed this morning, the sweetness of the breeze upon the skin of my face, being able to tie my shoes, a very cool student who smiled at me this morning. Do this every day, either in meditation or in your journal, and the practice will go far towards alleviating sadness and depression – those “I feel so sorry for myself” moments that come upon us even in the best of times.

chair head balance

My own many years-long struggle with head balance surfaced in a dream. Yogis need to constantly work against the inevitable frustration that comes from self-imposed goals and standards. I work at letting the frustration become the guru! Sitting in my heart, the frustration offers a lesson of acceptance, very tangibly. Surrendering into self-acceptance, my asana begins to take off. And if it doesn’t soar in a way that LOOKS better, it most certainly FEELS better, enabling access to the particular energy flow of the asana.


Dream of a Perfect Head Balance

In the screened sunroom of this dream,

your long white hair and fierce sapphire eyes

shone like far-away stars. I was teaching you

how to stand on your head—

separation from your wife had left you

a quagmire of guilt, a swamp of suffering.

Night surrounded the room as it usually does

in my dreams, but we worked in a circle of light.

Kneeling in the middle of the reed rug

I explained how to press your ulnar points,

how to lift through the shoulders, how to reach

through the balls of the toes.

Though I have yet to do this in my life,

I demonstrated a perfect sirsasana

without any wall for support.

You nodded, attentive to every detail.

I assured you regular practice of head balance

would discipline your mind, broaden your spirit,

and warned heart trouble was a contraindication.


Then there are those poses that, well, you really can barely make an attempt. For me, those are the arm balances. I set up my props, and psyche myself by visualizing myself in the pose, and blam…the lift-off does not happen. At that point, it’s either a flop into frustration OR I can choose to enjoy the ride. In this case, the ride doesn’t go very far, but hey, it was fun falling on my face a few times. Afterwards, as I curl into Child Pose, the seeds of gratitude for even being able to attempt such the inversion, germinate, filling me with light. Laughing at how silly I must have looked trying fuels the spirit of exploration that’s so important for a healthy yoga practice. It breaks the chains of competition in class too because every student is trying to challenge individual, personal edges.

How do you deal with frustration in your daily practice or in group classes? Do your frustrations surface in your dreams? Have you written about them?

Have you found any satisfaction from practicing gratitude?

How does this relate to contentment …to peace…to compassion…in your life?

Why Practice? A Disaster Named Ike

What is life? What do we expect?

In the Western world we have expectations of personal as well as global peace and happiness every single day. Of course, that is NOT the case. As Jon Kabat-Zinn reminds us in his book, FULL CATASTROPHE LIVING, life is more or less a series of catastrophes, one after another. Why we expect it to be otherwise, who knows?

This has certainly been true during the past few days as Mike and I waited anxiously to hear word of our boys and Elisabeth in Houston, hunkering down during Hurricane Ike.

They are OK, sleeping on the tile floor in the RICE University Campus Center – better than so many who lost everything they owned. D. volunteered to cook for the “refugee” students holed up in the Center. He made a couple hundred gyros. Nate & Elisabeth’s apartment suffered minor water damage. One of the labs Nate uses has water pouring out of the electric sockets – probably not a good thing, but his ultra-high-speed laser is OK – so he’ll probably be able to get back to work on Tuesday. Fellow physics grad. student, Mark Knight rode his bike ten miles into Houston center to shoot some video of the after-effects of the storm, only to get a flat tire from broken glass. It was a long sorry walk back.


What are we learning as we practice yoga and meditation day after day? We discover that this is drama, pure and simple. We find that there is a place within, a center of equanimity and stillness that we can access, even during our most troubling times. Is that happening for you? Are you finding some semblance of quietude during your catastrophes? Do you think this is possible? Can you sit in the anxiety? I had trouble sleeping as well as meditating.


Stretching out in forward bends helped when I wasn’t on the phone to family. Let’s remember that this is a practice, not perfection. In the face of something as large as Ike, we are only human after all, despite years of practice. Acceptance of our suffering and raggedy edges comes with the territory. Despite saltines and peanut butter, no electricity and a mere trickle of water, day after day, even in 90 degree heat, there is opportunity to practice compassion from whatever softening crying hearts can muster.

Our prayers go out to you Texans. May you experience an eye of stillness within your storms.