Why You Shouldn’t Start Yoga

You shouldn’t do yoga… unless you want to change your life.  Yoga will change your life.  Whether you openly invite it into your life or begrudgingly tag along to the studio with a friend, it will change your life, for better or worse.  It will grab you and shake you and force you to take a look at all the skeletons you piled in the closet.

How do I know this?  Because it happened to me.

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A Tree Says…

IMG_1387“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men,

IMG_1314 like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farm boy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

IMG_2369A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neitherIMG_1357 here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.”

― Hermann Hesse, Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte

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Summer Nights

There’s just something about a summer night.  The sun drops slowly, and the air starts to cool, just a little.  The chorus of crickets begins to sing, orchestrated by the stars as they appear overhead.  A breeze brushes past and your skin buzzes.  Possibility fills the air.  Anything could happen.  You sit and watch dusk turn to dark and let all your secrets out.

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To me summer was always camp.  Going to camp, working at camp.  It was all the same.  A bunch of people who saw each other once a year, or maybe met once and never again, come together and share experiences that bring them together like nothing else can.  It was the place I shared things that only my journal got to hear the other 46 weeks out of the year.

This summer I did not work at camp.  I longed for just one “summer night”.  Just one night where I let my guard down and let the magic of summer envelop me and the person I was with.  I’ve had a lot of great nights this summer, dancing and laughing and having fun.  But something was missing.

This past weekend I went to visit my friend in Brooklyn.  We walked to the park and drank smoothies.  We laughed as all the owners let their dogs run free and hump one another.  We talked.  Deep.  Frustrated.  Angry.  Loving.  And when we had finished we climbed up onto her roof.  We meditated, right on the edge, floating above all the twinkling city lights.  We were filled with possibility.  Anything can happen.

It was the perfect summer night.

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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

The Greatest Challenge

The greatest challenge of life is to hold all beings as equal.  To loose and lose our chains ofjudgement and break down the walls that we believe separate us.  All other philosophy stems from this notion.

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Some of the greatest principles of humanity, such as “Do no harm” and “love your neighbor as yourself,” boil down to equality.  We must dissolve all feelings of separation, before love, true love, is possible.  It is not possible to love your neighbor as yourself if you see your neighbor as less than yourself.  Love is only possible when the mind recognizes what the soul already knows, we are all equal.

Stop and think about that for a moment, or rather feel on it for a moment.  Let the tendrils of the soul infuse the word with new and brilliant meaning.  Equality is overused, abused.  It is an ordinary concept of the soul that has been elevated to a radical notion by and through our humanity.  Close your eyes and know, we are all equal.  Even that stranger you saw begging on the corner.

We must recognize the inequalities we have created.  In order for us to feel special we have placed many beneath us on our imaginary ladder of successful life.  These are the people we pity and loath.  The ones for whom we make donations while scorning their bad decision.  We can recognize that we see them as lesser and do our best to replace our pity with true compassion and love.

Then there are those that we see as more special than ourselves (which might be why we feel the need to step on others, to bring back some of our “power”).  This is the flip-side of the inequality coin, placing some above us.  When we are told by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras to “Do No Harm” (ahimsa), this includes in thought, word and action.  Jealousy, envy, and disdain are three harmful emotions that manifest from feelings of inadequacy, from seeing ourselves as less than another.  In this way we have the potential to harm others through pent up frustrations.  In addition, we harm ourselves, feeling unworthy of love or just plain stupid for what we do or say.

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In this way, we create idols, people who are more special than ourselves and others around us.  This person can become our source of happiness, needing their approval or recognition or love in order to feel whole.  In Spirit Junkie, Gabrielle Bernstein reminds us that we do not only make romantic relationships special.  We can place our need for happiness in anyone’s hands, and it usually has something to do with how “cool” we think they are, and how cool knowing them will make us.  We separate ourselves from them, believing them to be better than us, therefore creating inequality where there is none.

There are wonderful people in this world; there are plenty of gorgeous souls you will want to emulate.  Give yourself permission to learn as much as you can from the people you admire.  Feel the weight of their worth in your life.  BUT don’t put them on a pedestal.  They are not super human or superior human.  Maybe they have made it further along the path of enlightenment, or just have more life experience, and they deserve respect, not worship.

Identify one person whom you have made special in your life, someone you feel is superior to yourself.  Meditate on this person, repeating “[Full Name of person] and I are equal.  We are equal.  We are the same.”  Notice if this changes the feelings you have about yourself.  Maybe just identifying this person will give you an idea of the type of person you want to become and the qualities that you must nurture in yourself in order to become a fuller person.

Meditation Monday

Here is a short meditation to start your week right:

Find a comfortable seat.
Close your eyes and bring your focus to your breath.
Lengthen the inhales and exhales, creating deep even breaths.
Feel the breath draw down into the body, grounding through the sitz bones as you inhale and circle back up the spine and out the crown of the head as you exhale.
Envision everyone in the room (or maybe building if you are alone) breathing together.
Expand your vision slowly to envision all people on your street, then your town, your state, etc until you bring awareness to the whole earth breathing together.
Hold this vision for a few minutes, noticing any feelings that come up as you envision the whole earth breath as parts of a whole.
If you want you can then bring to mind someone with whom you feel disconnected and repeat. Hold this person in your mind’s eye and perhaps dedicate your practice to them for the next few days.

How did you feel?

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