Meditation

Practice, contemplation, and insights

Random Quote for the Day (Atharva Veda)

Sometimes when I am looking for inspiration, I take a book off of my shelf, let it fall open where it will, and see whether there is a sentence or phrase that resonates for my day.  Here’s my random quote for the day:

“May we be without fear/ by night and day!/ Let all the world be my friend!” Atharva Veda, XIX, 19 (Raimundo Panikkar, The Vedic Experience Mantramanjari)

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Sometimes

After I have been working and studying intensely, I sometimes find myself called to lie underneath the cats and read fiction.  Just because it isn’t hard work, doesn’t mean I won’t find treasures that further my explorations.  This bit, for example:  “Then he felt his heart floating again, sunlit and serene, impossibly heavy, impossibly light; he felt the earth itself balanced on his outstretched finger.”  Patricia A. McKillip, Alphabet of Thorn.

 

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Web Version of May Newsletter–Invitation to the Dance

Dear Friends,

One of the most captivating elements of dance as artistic expression for me is that it has the capacity to show the beauty in the full range of emotions.  Whether the choreographer is telling a story or sharing an impression, making a political statement or expressing a feeling, the dancer’s inherent grace can show us that there is beauty in all things, helping us through the artistic medium to abide with what might otherwise seem emotionally intolerable and to celebrate more fully that which would naturally make our hearts sing.

Since I first began practicing asana, it has been for me an embodiment of the dance.  The exquisite technique of the Anusara® principles of alignment  transformed healing work into a dance of exploration.  The expansion of my strength and flexibility in middle age — when because of my dance history I thought only would contract with age — allowed me to express progressively more fully the joy I find in my body.

This year, John Friend’s overarching theme for his workshops and trainings around the world is “Dancing with the Divine.” The theme resonated especially fully for me because I started attending regularly last fall the Sunday contact improv jam on Capitol Hill and have been re-exploring dance after all the shifts I have made with an ever-deepening asana practice.  It has been with an eye towards not only my own dance, but the connection of the community, and our dance of relationship with our living planet that I am choosing which trainings and workshops to attend this year.

When deciding what my study priorities are for the year, I look first at where my practice and teaching could benefit from some deep attention and wisdom offerings.  I look to the local offerings to deepen my connection to my home community and to minimize the environmental impact of getting to be in the same room as the teacher.  I am thoroughly appreciative of how wonderful it is to have a burgeoning and dedicated local community that has incredible teachers and draws others.  When planning which workshops or trainings with John Friend I will attend, I look at whether there is an opportunity to combine a training with a visit to friends or family or an opportunity to see art exhibits or museums that are of particular interest to me.  I like to go to any trainings that I can get to by train and, like even better when it happens, where I do not need a car once I get to the training/workshop location.

Next dance for me with the bigger community is the Anusara Grand Circle in Stratton, Vermont for the summer solstice.  My heart expands with the anticipation of being in the mountains of Vermont with clear, starry nights and bright, vivid almost endless days for a gathering of fellow yoga dancers, those I already know and love, those whom I will get to know better, and those I will meet for the first time.

It is especially exciting to know I will have the opportunity to study with some of the incredible teachers in the international community I am honored to know, but from whom I have not yet had the privilege of taking a class.  It is also a great opportunity to be with people who are just beginning to get excited about Anusara (gatherings like this are a great opportunity to study with John Friend without having the formal application process.)

Local yogis, I look forward to seeing you in regular class offerings in the neighborhood and Willow Street, including just until the end of May, Thursday night restorative yoga.  I expect delightedly to see you, too, as fellow students at many of the incredible offerings both in and around DC and the country.

And if any of you are interested in coordinating a trip to the Grand Circle to celebrate the solstice, send me an email.

Peace and light,

Elizabeth

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A Flash of Abhuta

I contemplate (practice bhavana on) the yoga principle abhuta (wonder) on a fairly consistent basis. When we can find wonder in sheer miraculous diversity of manifestation, we can enter a space of joy whence we can more likely respond in the highest.

This afternoon, perhaps because I have so recently gone on a practice intensive, I experienced a spontaneous uprising of delighted wonder on receiving an email that would otherwise cause me some consternation and annoyance. Instead, my first reaction was, “My goodness! Another one just like the others, but still new and different! Amazing how that happens. And now I will have to respond.”

I felt that way again as I joined the rush hour crowds on my way from work to go lead the restorative class at Takoma Park. (If you’re in town, drop-ins welcome. Thursdays at 8pm at Willow Street Takoma Park through the end of May).

Peace and light, E — Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

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Making Your Practice an Offering to Yourself

This morning, when I was walking to work, a young mother stood on the sidewalk talking with a friend. Her daughter, who was perhaps a little over a year and new to walking, lit up with a huge smile when I came within range. She dropped her mother’s hand and ran over to me, holding out a flower petal. That her hand was slightly grubby and the petal crumpled only made it more adorable.

Nearly eleven hours later, as I get ready to leave the office and head up to Takoma to teach a restorative yoga class, I find myself recalling the offering, with such innocence and joy, of the flower petal.

What we want to do with our practice and teaching is to have it be, at least on one level, such a spontaneous, delighted, and innocent offering that any perceived obstructions or interference with a sense of grace (such as a long hard work-day and attendant fatigue) dissolve. We can melt into the knowledge that practicing and making offering is just the right thing to bring us back to our own fullness (purna).

What we choose as the particulars of the practice, of course, will be tempered by our physical and mental condition.

Peace and light, E — Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

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High Desert (and the Plains of Consciousness)

I am not drawn to the desert.  I prefer the lush fullness of a wetter climate, but the very otherness of the desert from my usual environment fills me with awe and appreciation for the immense variety of existence.  I went to the desert on this trip because that is where my teacher was teaching, and the teachings were more important to me than any preference for visiting a particular outer landscape.  One of the great benefits of combining intensive meditation with travel is that it can demonstrate at the most profound level that the infinitude of the inner landscape is the same no matter where we are and no matter what are the features of any outer landscapes we visit.

 

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Balance of Stability and Freedom

Last night, we were talking about the parameters of cultivating a steady and fruitful meditation practice, and Paul Muller-Ortega suggested that it was about the balance of stability and flexibility. He had learned the principle from a different source, but I have contemplated and explored the principle in depth from teachings I have received from John Friend.

A critical aspect of the Anusara alignment principles is to find the perfect balance of stability and freedom. We need stability to stay fully and safely in each pose. We need freedom to achieve the fullest and most delightful expression of the pose.

We find the stability both by making certain that we have established our foundation (which is an aspect of the first principle of opening to grace). By then using the three aspects of muscular energy–hugging the muscles to the bone, drawing into the midline, and drawing energy from the periphery to the focal point, we make possible an expansion of our edge, whatever that might be. Having a solid, aligned foundation and affirming our very core with these actions, gives us security and balance. We also want to reach out, to be playful, to expand to our fullest, which we do using the expansive, outreaching organic energy — from focal point to the periphery, from the midline to our outer edges, from the very marrow of our bones through bone, muscle, skin, and beyond.

If we over-emphasize (including natural inclination) stability, then we can get stuck. If we just let ourselves be free, then we end up all over the place. When these elements are perfectly balanced, we can safely find our deepest freedom of expression.

When I teach this principle as the focus of a class, I always invite my students to think of how important the balance of stability and freedom is for every aspect of our lives.

The discussion last night put this principle in the context of the regularity and steadiness of our practice, with the recognition that to stick with our practice, we will sometimes need to vary the time or amount of our practice, or what elements are included in the practice.

To get the fullest benefits of a practice (this applies to any practice and not just to meditation), we need to show up consistently and to practice in accordance with how we have been taught. To stay steady, though, we need to give ourselves the permission or freedom not to show up, or within appropriate parameters, to modify the practice when life gets in the way of what we think would be the ideal practice. If we think we have to do things at the exact time and place every day in a perfectly precise way, we become rigid. On the other hand, if we are loosey-goosey about it, then we do not have much of a practice and will not realize the benefits that we could get.

Where in your practice or life would more stability and steadiness give a field for greater freedom and happiness? Where could you give yourself a little more flexibility so that you feel that steadiness brings the possibility of joy, rather than tying you down?

Peace and light, E — Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

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