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!
You don’t need to espouse Buddhism or Hinduism or any religion at all to practice yoga and meditation.
However, we can learn much from the Buddha’s life and the practices he developed and incorporate them as a means of deepening our own spiritual journey.
Here is the fascinating story of Siddhartha’s life from the BBC and Discovery channel, directed by Clive Maltby. I found it on You Tube via dharmicjourney. The story of the archeological finds which helped piece together the Buddha’s human life is interesting in its own right. Hold on for the second half of the film which explains the obstacles Buddha faced during meditation and how he dealt with them.
Before you begin the film, pour yourself a cup of tea and make yourself comfortable so you can settle in for nearly an hour. It’ll be worth your while.
Poetry can be used as a wonderful tool for your meditation. There is a layer of a good poem that is “off the page.” When I teach poetry, I ask my students to try to understand, not only the literal interpretation of a given poem, but also whatever levels they find off the page.
Often, we read this layer with our hearts and have a difficult time explaining that level of the poem to another person; we’ll say it’s hard to put into words or we’ll say “you know” a lot while nodding our heads. It’s the layer of the poem that speaks to us the loudest and with a universal message of what it means to be human. We know, and again it’s a nonverbal knowledge, that the other person understands, or maybe I should say FEELS what it is the poet is trying to convey.
When listening to or reading poetry, RELAX open your heart center, and invite your Self to become the poem. If that sounds too airy-fairy to you, just sit back and softly focus your awareness on each line of the poem.
And if they don’t speak to you, don’t worry, I’ll post something completely different next week.
After you have “experienced” each video, you may wish to sit quietly with your eyes closed for a few minutes and let them reverberate in your heart and mind. As you do so, welcome whatever bubbles into your awareness consciously. Then let that thought go as you create room for whatever else may come before your mind. Do this as long as you feel comfortable.
If you’re inspired, by all means pick up your pen and paper, or head to your keyboard and let loose. Mevlana would be pleased with your efforts, I’m sure.
Alternative medicine often refers to the mind-body connection. But what does it really mean? How are our minds linked to our bodies? Is this even possible?
In this culture, we’re all taught a very powerful message that separates the mind from the body. The body is usually considered subordinate to the mind, as in “Mind Over Body.” The body is only worthwhile insofar as it is useful to make money, as int he case of athletes, or when it can be a tool to accomplish something, such as painting the house. Many other times, the body is considered a hindrance, when it becomes ill or injured. And on top of its other faults, it is the seat of sin, wittingly or not, carrying out our base desires.
The mind is not off the hook though, just because it may be “on top.” It can also become sick, “Worrying us to death,” for instance. The mind contains the seeds of all those wicked cravings, let’s not forget. And then there are those, well, you know, those delicious, though perhaps unsavory images that root about our gray matter when we least expect them.
Long ago, somewhere in India, some folks discovered another avenue for existence. It’s a path of union. Through their own experience, they found that the mind and body can be trained to work together. We call this journey, yoga.
I just finished reading a very powerful memoir by an accomplished and unusual yogi:
WAKING by Matthew Sanford, creator of Mind-Body Solutions in Minnesota. Matt shares the lessons from his own life and makes them applicable to every life. Because of a tragic car accident when he was 13, he is paralyzed from the nipples down. His struggle to become fully embodied in areas that do not have neural sensation are more intense, but otherwise not really different from every other yogic practitioner who tries to find the intelligence in their toes, or shoulder blades, or wherever there is numbness and lack of consciousness.
Matthew received the VOLVO For Life Award. The video carries an important and inspiring message.
Please watch it, and then listen to The Body’s Grace on Speaking of Faith, an interview on Public Radio with Krista Tippett. We’d love to hear your thoughts afterwards.
And next time your yoga teacher asks you to move your shoulder blades towards your kidneys, think of Matthew Sanford and try to go deeper with your awareness.
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.
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?