A Poison Tree [poem by William Blake]

A Poison Tree
William Blake

I was angry with my friend
I told my wrath, my wrath did end
I was angry with my foe
I told it not, my wrath did grow

And I watered it in fears
Night and morning with my tears
And I sunned it with smiles
And with soft deceitful wiles

And it grew both day and night
Till it bore and apple bright
And my foe beheld it shine
And he knew that it was mine

And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree

Yin Yoga: Hurts so Good

I was first introduced to Yin Yoga while on a retreat in South Africa.  We all gathered in the small chapel for our 100th class that week (ok, probably something like our 5th… yoga twice a day can get intense).  The instructor told us we were going to try something different.  She had us lie on our backs and hug our knees to our chest.  For two minutes.  I distinctly remember wondering how we were going to make it through an entire class holding each pose for this length of time.  Then she said these magical words, “This is the easiest pose we will hold, so enjoy it.”

We proceeded to move through a series of stretching poses, holding each for 2 to 5 minutes.  Sometimes it felt amazing.  Sometimes it was hell.  Holding pigeon for more than 10 breaths really makes you aware of just how much tension you are carrying in your hips.

Ever since that day I have come back to yin yoga.  It is essentially a massage for the joints.  Holding each pose for so long helps release tension and increase flexibility.  I find that my regular practice greatly benefits from this type of yoga, especially when my hips become tight from walking/running.  It just hurts so good.

But more than a good stretch or a sense of light torture, yin yoga teaches the art of surrender.  In order to hold the poses, you must surrender to the discomfort.  The tricky part is not to let yourself out of the moment, not to run away, but to stay with the feeling and breathe into it.

In life there are uncomfortable moments.  Our yoga practice teaches us that we can make it through them and come out on the other side ok… different, changed, but ok.  When you can breath through pigeon for 5 minutes, sitting through an interview is cake.

If you are new to the concept of yin yoga, try finding a class somewhere in your area (they seem to be few and far between) or you can follow this wonderful video by Esther of Ekhart Yoga:

How to Meditate [poem by Jack Kerouac]

How to Meditate

                      -lights out-
fall, hands a-clasped, into instantaneous
ecstasy like a shot of heroin or morphine,
the gland inside of my brain discharging
the good glad fluid (Holy Fluid) as
i hap-down and hold all my body parts
down to a deadstop trance-Healing
all my sicknesses-erasing all-not
even the shred of a “I-hope-you” or a
Loony Balloon left in it, but the mind
blank, serene, thoughtless. When a thought
comes a-springing from afar with its held-
forth figure of image, you spoof it out,
you spuff it off, you fake it, and
it fades, and thought never comes-and
with joy you realize for the first time
“thinking’s just like not thinking-
So I don’t have to think
any
more”
-Jack Kerouac, 1967

No Man is an Island

Yoga helps us to go inward and connect with our higher self, the Seer.  But we are still part of a community.  No matter whether we want to be or not.  

This week in class I read a quote that has always stuck with me from Dawson’s Creek.  The main character Joey is having a conversation with her college professor about Walden Pond by Thoreau:

Mr. Kasden: [reading from a book] “Near the end of March, 1845, I borrowed an axe and went down to the woods by Walden pond. Nearest to where I…”

Mr. Kasden: What’s the most important word in that sentence?

Joey: Woods?

Mr. Kasden: Borrowed. The important thing to remember about The Transcendentalists, is that while self-reliance is a most admirable trait, Thoreau wasn’t really all that alone out there by Waldon pond. He had neighbour’s, friends, people he could rely on. We should all be so lucky.

Each of us is part of a larger community.  We have our family and friends, acquaintances and strangers.  These people have helped us to get where we are today.  We are all connected to these networks of people, these nets that hold us and keep us from smashing to pieces on the ground.

The great thing about community, large and small, is that they are there to support us in our endeavors.  In this business of yoga and “finding ourselves” it takes more than a mat to get us to enlightenment.  We need the people around us to help us grow.  It can be as simple as needing someone to watch your kids while you go to class or having a buddy ask how your practice is going to remind you someone cares.  These people lift us up and support us.

Directly after the quote read by Mr. Kasden, Thoreau goes on to say.

It is difficult to begin without borrowing, but perhaps it is the most generous course thus to permit your fellow-men to have an interest in your enterprise.

Allowing other people into our story brings it to life.  Think about how it feels when a friend shares their goal with you.  You feel a part of their success.  You take a vested interest in their endeavor.

To this end, I have started a small meditation support group with a few of my friends.  I had wanted to include more meditation in my daily life and I asked for the support of my friends to push me along and keep me honest.  Today is day 10 of 30.  One-third of the way to the goal.  It has been great to hear feedback from others going on the same journey and having people who care how I am doing with my goal.

Is there something you’d like to achieve?  Can you invite someone along to motivate and support you?  I never knew how good help was until I asked for it!