Friday, January 30, 2009

Inspiring others

I subscribe to a daily newsletter, the Daily Om. Today's entry is here:

Expanding Their Vision
Nine Ways To Help Others Awaken to Consciousness

1. Living by your values allows you to become a positive source of inspiration for others. Don’t hide – express yourself and embrace life without reservation. By simply being yourself, you can help the people in your life see how one person can make a difference by being a living example of consciousness.

2. When you communicate your views, do so casually and in a nondogmatic manner. Allow the people you speak with to ask questions. Offer only as much information as they are ready to hear.

3. Igniting the spark of consciousness can be as easy as giving someone a gift. A favorite book, a medicine bag, or a beautiful gemstone can pique your loved ones’ curiosity and prompt them to begin an exploration of the soul.

4. Teaching a friend, relative, or colleague to meditate or chant can put them on
the path to consciousness while simultaneously reducing their stress levels.

5. Others may want to know more about living consciously but are unsure of how to
begin. Starting a discussion group – even a virtual one – can help you reach out to individuals that are eager to learn.

6. By recognizing and acknowledging the inherent value in everyone you encounter, you can teach them how to value others. Sometimes, the easiest way to encourage people – even challenging ones - to respect others is to respect them first.

7. Invite people from your personal and professional lives to join you in attending a ceremony or ritual. The experience may touch them in a profound way or introduce them to a new spiritual path.

8. Casually point out the interconnectedness of all living beings using concrete, everyday examples. Many people are unaware of how their actions affect the world and are intrigued when they learn of the power they hold.

9. Introduce your loved ones to conscious living in a lighthearted and enjoyable way. Serve delicious organic recipes at gatherings, volunteer as a group, and show them how wonderful it can feel to be truly aware and connected to the universe.

[from January 30, 2009]

I think there is an important difference between trying to convert others to your way of thinking and trying to inspire. I would never force yoga on anyone; however, it has had such a positive influence on my life and I would love to share it with as many people as possible. I myself am constantly being re-inspired by those who simply live their beliefs. Inspirational leadership is so important, and I hope I can learn to live my life in a way that inspires peace in others.

Inspire is an interesting word. Originally it meant to breathe in and had the sense of bringing something into the mind, often by divine agency. Perhaps this offers interesting insight into why we are so inspired by those who simply live out their values rather than pushing them on others. We can absorb their passion and their ideals simply by breathing them in!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The leap of faith

Saul David Raye is a yogi with a beautiful, peaceful and compassionate soul. The few classes I have been privileged to take with him have always been exactly what I needed at the time. His newsletter arrived in my inbox today, and once again, really spoke to me:

"I recently read somewhere a wonderful quote that really touched me. I have tried to relocate the source but have not been able to as of yet. It was something like this "sometimes the only next possible step is a leap of faith!" In my own life this seems to be all that is happening; whatever I know, whatever I have believed to be true is no longer working. When I make choices from my heart, from the inner wisdom and creativity that is in each of us at every moment, the results are amazing. The energy we set in motion when we are resonating at the frequency of our hearts is truly miraculous. Blessings along the path you walk...and to the leap of faith that you are being asked to make in your life right now!"
How did he know? :) My life, too, is demanding of me a leap of faith. I feel myself in one of those moments that define a life and cause it to branch off in a new direction, if I have the courage to make the right choice from the heart.

Once again, there is a parallel on the mat. From my asana practice, I am reminded of the lessons of Urdhva Dhanurasana, known in English as wheel pose or upward-facing bow. This pose for me brings a feeling of joy, even elation, and a rush of energy. Indeed, one of its uses can be to reduce depression. Being comfortable in the pose can feel incredibly uplifting. However, the pose is a challenging one, and has posed some particular difficulties because of my ongoing wrist issues, and because it is a fairly deep backbend. It requires a good warm up, and some strength and flexibility.

However, the main challenge of Urdhva Dhanurasana for me has been mental. Coming into the pose from a supine position requires an initial push to come to the crown of the head, and another push to straighten the arms. Although I have done this pose successfully many times, and it is one of my very favorite poses to do, I have also many times failed to find the strength - or perhaps the commitment - to come all the way up into the pose. Every time before the initial push I feel a great sense of apprehension and fear. It is very difficult for me to commit my energy and breath to lifting into the backbend. I have been doing this pose for several years, but it still requires each time a leap of faith to attempt it.

And the rewards are great. In this pose, with the heart open to the sky, the spirit soars.

I feel myself, in my life off the mat, lying supine, placing my hands on the floor above the shoulders. Taking some deep breaths.

May we all have the courage to take the only possible next step.


Thursday, January 22, 2009


I know I have said before here that what happens on the mat is often a microcosm of what happens off the mat. I have been reminded of this connection again recently. Take, for example, the notion of alignment. If you are new to asana practice and you have a good teacher, you will probably hear her saying things that you don't understand or simply can't do. There may be nagging questions that recur every practice - "What does she mean, lift the palms?! I can't do that." "Spiral the inner thighs outward?" "Push into the feet and lift your hips towards the sky?! My hamstrings are screaming. What does he mean, push into the feet?" When you first start practicing, you may not be aware of your body and it can be hard to figure out whether everything is lined up correctly, and tension in the body can prevent the right alignment from occurring without modifications.

If you continue to practice with patience, one day something will be a little bit different. Perhaps you do a different sequence of poses to warm up, or maybe you practice at a different time of day, have been doing more yoga, or are simply ready. Alignment is one of those things in life that you might wonder if you're experiencing when you don't have it right, but when you get it, you know. It's also one of those feelings that can be very hard to put into words. When the
principles of alignment are applied correctly, energy flows freely through the body and you can find ease in the pose. The body feels both lighter and more grounded. The spirit is joyful.

I know I have written in
this blog about a teacher who talked about balancing the past and the future. His class focused on opposing forces: energy both rooting or grounding behind (into the past) and reaching forward (into the future). The grounding of energy allowed a lightness and freedom, allowing the forward energy to flow freely. It is important that this process does not involve clinging to the past or grasping for the future. The body remains balanced between opposing forces, firmly in the present.

Recently, I experienced this phenomenon off the mat. After months of struggling with life, experiencing the emotional equivalent of tight hamstrings, I had an encounter that left me with a very distinct sense of grounding into my past. As I considered this over the coming days, I suddenly experienced the sense of alignment, of my life path falling into place ~ and of a sudden freedom to reach into my future unrestrained. The sensation was very similar to that I have experienced when finding the right alignment in a pose - the same lightness of being, the sense of balance and grace. While both past and future are essential to this experience, the ultimate result has little to do with either ~ it is rather a sense of being completely present and in the right place.

I wonder if I had not been familiar with this experience on the mat, would I have recognized it off the mat? Would I have overly fixated on the past or the future and missed the opportunity to be fully aware of where I am?