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A Dream I Won the Lottery

I dreamed last night that I won 30 million dollars in the lottery. I had no recollection of having bought a ticket (in waking life the only time I ever bought a ticket was 17 or 18 years ago as part of a 15-person group of co-workers who collectively bought two tickets when the prize was 75 million; we were going to quit en masse if we won).

In the dream, an acquaintance also won the same amount. She immediately quit her job and started engaging in activities about which she had previously only imagined doing.

On learning of my windfall, I stopped and paused and found that I didn’t want too much change right away. I deliberated about whether to take a lump sum or an annuity and to whom I would give the money. I wondered whether I could take a couple of months leave and then go back to my job part-time. I thought about whether I would like to move or set up a charitable foundation or teach yoga full-time. I found that after having been given financial freedom, I was still content to work and to live comfortably, but relatively modestly. I wanted to take time to deliberate where I could make the best offering with this outrageous stroke of luck.

The dream reminded me of the Zen proverb that was popularized in the 1970s: “Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.” What was beautiful about my dream was a sense of a deep acceptance, a sense that even with my desire to grow and change for the better, that in my middle age, I am essentially comfortable with how I am living. I will keep seeking a deeper and more loving and compassionate way of being, even as I recognize that there is no prize that will transform me from the challenges of being human.

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What If?–Part II

Yesterday I asked about setting an intention to be blissful in every thing we do for a day. Having the intention is a good start (I might not even have thought of such an intention without my yoga practice). What I really want is to be able to manifest that intention. For me, I know that it is important for me to live more consciously and with more subtle discrimination (viveka) if I am to come close to living such intention.
A rare few live in bliss without effort. For the rest of us, that is why we have the practices. So we can practice moving into and resting in bliss.

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Giant Grasshopper from Outer Space (and Maya)

The camera may not lie, but it certainly, like our own perception of things relative to that of others, have a distorted or unique perspective. One of the essential principles of the yoga world view is that of maya or illusion. In classical yoga, everything in the world is illusion; the only thing that is real is Atman–ultimate consciousness or god. In the tantric world view, the role of maya is more complicated. It essentially boils down to the idea that we are under an illusion when we think of the world and divinity as separate, and that this illusion of separation leads to a suffering of the individual spirit. Whether one hold with either of these world views or not, it is always true that thinking our limited perception is the only truth will likely lead to discord, misunderstanding, and strife.

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A Key to a Steady Home Practice (Letting Go of Preconceived Notions)

One of the things most likely to keep us from having a steady home practice (whether asana or meditation or both) is being unable to live up to our own expectations or preconceived notions of what is a proper or good home practice.  If we think that we need to do a certain amount for an established length of time or that we have to feel fit enough to do a particular range or poses than inevitably we will be challenged in practicing regularly in a busy life.

It is good to have a set time and place for our practice and to try and practice for a length of time that will foster the growth and balance in ourselves that we seek from our practice.  To stay steady, though, we have to be flexible with our expectations.  When we are sick or injured or exhausted, it will be appropriate to do restoratives or a gentle practice rather than a more vigorous one, even if we are accustomed to doing more advanced asana.  If we are pressed for time, even if we like to spend 45 minutes to an hour in the morning, perhaps we will do 25 minutes.  If we usually meditate in a special place in the house, but we have to leave for the airport at 6am, we can find a quiet moment to breathe for three minutes before we leave the house and then meditate on the plane.

This morning, for example, I knew that the only opportunity to have a walk would be early morning because the electricians are coming for more work towards installing the solar panels.  Having a walk on days I am working at home is critical for my ability to sit at my desk and concentrate.  Instead of doing my usual 45-60 minutes of practice, which gives me time for some asana and pranayama before sitting for meditation followed by savasana, I chose to sit for 25 minutes and then go for a walk.  I will practice more this evening when I am off work.

Once we give ourselves permission to be flexible about how much to practice and what, then it will be easier to stick to practicing.  I think it is far more important to practice several times a week than to have a practice that is thorough and “by the book” but is only done sporadically.  What are your challenges in developing a steady practice?  If you have a steady practice, what has helped you stick to it?  Have your expectations about what a practice should be interfered with your practicing?

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