True Empowerment

Talking with a dear friend and colleague the other day, our conversation turned to empowerment. Just what was this thing?  We can point to a creative and focused person in our midst, someone who has it all going on, and might say 'Oh, there is an empowered person'. Okay, assertive, having access to resources, yes, but from where does this come? People have all different gifts and needs, so the manifestations of empowerment are many.  What is it feel like to be empowered then, where does it spring from?

To be truly empowered is to be connected - to YOURSELF, to who you are and what you really want. Empowerment is essentially and inside-out job. It arises from a belief in one's own value and capacity,  and a trust in a friendly universe. To be empowered is to say yes to Life, and to Yourself, to know that life is flowing and fulfilling itself through you. How do we cultivate that?

As a teacher and a mentor, my intention is to facilitate the empowerment of my students and clients. This is where practice comes in. To find that wellspring of truth and 'fire' that is our personal power,  we must learn to listen to our heart....and then to trust what we hear and have the courage to act on that knowing.  These skills of listening and courage are like muscles - they get stronger the more we use them. The inner focus of meditation strengthens these skills in so very many ways. It is the inroad to voice of our heart, and that is where the true empowerment begins.

The Abundant Life

Abundance is one of those words, like sustainability, that gets used often but means different things to different people. The last few years of economic change in our world have been an invitation to re-visit our definition of abundance and the values that move and motivate us. Our response to that invitation includes looking at our language and the ways we use it to describe what is meaningful to us. I take a broad view of abundance and consider it an approach to life; a perspective rather than the harvest or goal of labor. The best model of that is our own human heart.

An abundant approach to living is seeing with new eyes....seeing with the eyes of compassion and sense of possibility. A willingness to trust in what we have to work with, our self, and life. Our compassionate heart knows that we are all vulnerable, we all have something to give, and we are all in this together. All - the planet, the animals, the plants. Seeing with the eyes of compassion, trust and Love is an act of abundance and generosity. An abundant perspective  is willing to look beyond what seems to be lacking to what is being given, what is being learned, what is being asked of us.

              "Things don't change, we change"   ~ Henry David Thoreau

When we trust in enoughness and plenty, we give, we open to receive and we let ourselves love and be loved. Our hearts are abundant, this universe is plenty....it is our choice to open to that. We are being asked to let go of all that we thought, all the conditioned views of plenty that have gone before and set us up for struggle. Our Mother Earth is teaching us, the children are here to help us remember, and all the wisdom traditions have pointed us in the direction of our own heart. We have all we need. We.

 "Our duty as people is to proceed as if limits to our abilities did not exist. We are collaborators in creation"  ~ Pierre Chardin

Sustainable Self-Care

Sustainability is a word we hear often in these days of waking up to the real needs of our planet and our communities. The heart of sustainability is in our own relationship and care of our body, mind and spirit....unless we are connected to our self and our own true needs, we cannot be sensitive to those of the world around us. True sustainability starts with sensitivity and intimacy...the willingness to look and listen without our own preconceived notions. Sustainable self-care starts with deep listening to our body and heart...listening deeper than we think. Therein is the information we need to thrive, to grow and to be whole.

It takes practice to develop that kind of listening. The practice of quieting our mind and developing the inner stillness to hear the voice of our heart and feel the guiding feelings of our body can be cultivated with mind/body practices such as Yoga and meditation. For some, time in nature, journal writing, prayer, or deep dialogue with a beloved friend can facilitate deep listening. Whatever the practice of coming home to ourself we choose, it is that connection to our own heart and spirit that is the foundation of sustainability.

The word 'sustain' means to encourage, to support, to nurture, to hold up. To do that for ourselves means we attend not only to our body, but our creativity and our relationships as well as our home. Cultivating and feeding your soul by doing the things that make your heart sing and getting enough rest are important parts of 'sustaining' your vitality and well-being. Developing your gifts and your strengths fills your cup so that it overflows to your world. When we take the time to listen and care for ourself, we can give our best....and give our Love unconditionally. And it is our Love that our world needs...

"Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination, nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, Love, Love...that is the soul of genius"   Mozart

Heart Math

Their name may sound like an oxymoron, but the folks at Heart Math Institute have done some serious scientifically based research that illustrates the power of our Hearts. One of the things they have discovered is the importance of coherence. All the systems of the body follow the 'lead' of the heart. When the heart is stressed, anxious, or contracted by negative emotion, our chemistry and biology reflect that. The opposite is also true, when the heart is harmonized and the heart rate is shifted to more equilibium, the rest of the body systems follow suit. That equilibrium and harmony is referred to as coherence.

What the Heart Math work has proved that we have, and can develop, some control over our Heart coherence. With our conscious intention and simple practices we can return to coherence and ease in the body/mind system. The benefit to our health, relationships and quality of life are profound and far reaching. The practice below is a simple example of a heart coherence exercise (don't be fooled by the simplicity - it works!)

Take a few minutes (not when you are driving) and close your eyes if you can. Begin by bringing your attention to your heart and breathing in and out of your heart area. Slow down your breath if  you can. Bring to mind a positive image and feeling of someone you love, maybe a place or a pet, something the evokes a feeling of Love, appreciation or joy. Breath that feeling in and out of your heart, and really feel it as deeply as you can. Let the image fall away, and maintain the feeling if you can. Feel it radiate through your body for a few moments.

Yes, that's it. It does work - if you do it. It literally shifts your chemistry. Try it, do it as much as you can and notice if it shifts anything in your experience.

 

 

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Breath - The Open Secret

So what is the secret about the breath? Our breath is a doorway we can go through to come into this present moment and come down out of 'stuck' in our heads and return to balance.  A doorway to happiness? Maybe...It sure is a great start. Yes, we are breathing all the time (I hope), but here I am referring to a conscious and intentional breath that can shift your nervous system and change your physiology in minutes.

Our nervous system has two poles; the sympathetic nervous system is the flight/fight/fast action side and the parasympathetic nervous system is the relax, digest, trust side. When the fast action fear side is stuck on, which it often is in our overstimulated world, we feel stressed and amped, often with 'can't turn it off' anxiety. That constant defensive mode can, and does, lead to a world of hurt...and directly away from happiness. The secret? We can switch on the relaxation and safety side of the nervous system with deep slow belly breathing.

Now, take a moment to breath in through your nose (if you can) slowly and let the breath expand the diaphragm and the belly. Easy does it. Now, slowly exhale from your belly, taking your time to empty all the way. Continue for a minute or two, slowing down the pace of your breath. (It helps to loosen anything that might be tight around your belly and to relax your jaw). There, you did it. Now it will be easier to respond rather than react, and tune into your wisest self.


It takes just a only a few moments to shift your nervous system and 'reset' and relax, but the trick is to do it often enough to retrain your nervous system and brain. Make it a habit, in other words. The good thing is that you can do it anywhere! In the car, at your desk, standing in line - just like that you can reset and shift your chemistry back to sane. And when you do you can make a choice...to respond in a way that actually supports your happiness and wellbeing. Reset, come back to yourself and choose something new, choose feeling good, choose a healthy and peaceful focus. Just start with the breath.

There are short, guided breath practice podcasts here at the site to help give you some pointers with your breath...Give them a try.

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The Yoga of Yes

This morning, like most mornings, my practice helped me get to Yes. Yes to life as it is - the yes that opens my heart to my own experience as it is showing up. On the other side of my ideas and ideals, is the compassion of Yes - the willingness to receive this moment, inside and out, whatever is arising.  It all seems to start with that...anything real or tender or empowered starts with yes.

This morning I found my way to my heart. I vowed to stay there in my seat, on my mat until I did. It can happen in a breath, or it might take many breaths to blow away the clouds. It may be a moment, or maybe many, for the fist of no to let go. Not always easy, but always worth it.  That it why I practice, to return to Love, to yes, to compassion for myself, to welcoming whatever the moment is bringing. Though there are lots of great reasons to practice, it comes to this for me. I practice to awaken my heart....for me it is the deepest and truest self-care, and the best way to start my day. It is a way to make room in my heart for whatever the day might bring.

 

Costa Rica - Pura Vida!

I have just returned from a month long adventure in gorgeous Costa Rica! Wow, it is such a lively and lovely country, filled with a rich, diverse and wild vitality.  I loved it, and the people were great - the 'ticos' or natives as well as the ex-pats from many places around the globe. Although not a 'quiet' place - there are always monkeys, and other creatures reminding you of their presence - it invites you to a simplicity and ease that is irresistable. Pura Vida means good life - and indeed it is.

My good friend, Lela, and I hosted a retreat at the exquisite Samasati Eco-Resort on the Caribbean coast....and a treat it was. They took great care of all of us - I can give them the highest recommendation. I got a chance to see a few areas of Costa Rica - there is sooo much to see there. It really is like one big natural wonder - so many parks and adventures to go on. It left me wanting more...my favorite parts of the country were the mountainous, volcanic inland and Lake Arenal area, off the beaten path of the hot coastal beaches. I look forward to going back to spend more time there soon.

Next up in Costa Rica - 200 and 500 Hour Yoga and Meditation Teacher Trainings. Check back here and at oneyogalove.com for the upcoming schedule. Pura Vida!

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The Heart Knows

“The mind creates the abyss, the heart crosses it”    ~  Nisargardatta Maharaj

Scientific research about who we are and what makes us ‘tick’ is creating a quiet revolution in our understanding of the power of our Heart. Studies show now what the wisdom traditions have known for ages….the the heart is not only the center of our biology, but the source of our highest intelligence. More than one half our our heart (!) is comprised of neurons like that in the brain, and broadcasts an electromagnetic field 5000x stronger than the brain (in the same way a tuning fork radiates sound through a field). Imagine becoming an ‘intentional radiant energy field’. Well, that is your potential !

Often when the heart is referred to, it is minimized to represent an emotional or sentimental way of knowing; here I am referring to the heart as the hub of our spiritual perception. The heart radiates and picks up information in a holographic and integral way, interfacing and overlapping with ‘other’ holographic energy fields (aka, other sentient beings). We might say ‘the Heart goes before us’ – incoming information first impacts the heart. From there the info is sent to the brain to be processed and ‘translated’ further. The heart is our primary knowing.

It is helpful to realize that our culturally overdeveloped left brain is a binary operating system that creates a either/or sort of separation in the framework of time and space, and this can limit our creativity and synergy with others. The heart and the right brain, on the other hand, perceive the holistic view of our interconnectedness in the timeless present moment. We need both…when we are cut off from the knowing of the heart, we are disconnected from the meaning, magic and sacredness of life. We function best when our thinking mind is in service to the knowing heart.

Our beloved practices of meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and other body/mind wisdom arts put us in touch with our heart, our somatic intelligence and our innate wisdom. When the body is relaxed and open, a deeper heart/mind/body confluence comes alive, and offers us a more complete view of life and our place in it. We need this intuitive insight to grow, to thrive and truly connect. Even more motivating is the knowledge that everything we do to become more coherent and compassionate reverberates through the field to all. Awakening our heart is something we do for ourselves as well as for others, and brings our world to life in such a deep and fulfilling way. It is our true empowerment and the key to our wholeness.

“As great as the infinite space beyond is the lotus of the heart. Both heaven and earth, fire and air, sun and moon, lightening and stars are all contained therein. And whether we know it or know it not in this life, everything is contained in that inner space”

~ The Upanishads

 

Gratitude

Thank You God for this most amazing day

i thank you God for this most amazing day,

for the leaping greenly spirits of trees

and a blue true dream of sky;

and for everything
 which is natural which is infinite which is yes.

(i who have died am alive again today,
 and this is the sun’s birthday;

this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:

and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
 breathing any–

lifted from the no 
of all nothing–human merely being 
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and 
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

~  e.e.cummings

 

Grounded Grace

‘Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.’  Chinese Proverb

Many of us have been brought up to value ambition, goals and the importance of working toward something. This forward and outward orientation is indeed a fine thing, it is an important part of our capacity to create, achieve and grow. But it isn’t the whole equation. There is another part of our nature that simply is. It is the being behind the doing. In our culture, that side of us is often ignored or denied (unless we get sick), and stillness is seen as a passive luxury. We seem to think that we hold our world up with our thinking and our constant activity (Which is not only false, but exhausting!).

Our yoga and meditation practice is an invitation to balance, to ‘plug in’ and connect to our Source and our inner self. What often happens when we go out of balance in favor of doing and getting is our body starts to talk; a split starts to happen between the ‘self’ in the body and the ‘self’ in the mind. The result is unease, stress, anxiety or even illness. Our body never lies – it talks when we are ignoring some part of ourselves. One of the most precious gifts of a regular practice is staying in touch with our inner life, the life of our body and spirit  – intimacy with our self. The time we take for our practice becomes a sacred container where we cultivate our wisdom-heart, and create a larger context of meaning for the day to day stuff we all deal with. Rather than ‘checking out’ we are ‘checking in’ so we are more truly available for the demands of life. And we need that in order to learn to reconcile all the paradox of our humanness…and welcome all of it. Just as it is.

With intention and practice we can naturally develop a healthy balance between being and becoming - what I think of as Grounded Grace. Connecting with ourselves helps us to stay clear and choose activity that is true and aligned with our deepest needs and values. Our physical practice helps create the vitality and resilience we need for our daily activity. Our  practice can be alive and integral and serve all aspects of our rich and multi-dimensional being…and becoming!

 

Mastery and Mystery

“Our duty as people is to proceed as if limits to our abilities do not exist. We are collaborators in Creation”.

~ Pierre de Chardin

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What do you think of when you think of ‘Mastery’ – a virtuoso musician or an Olympic athlete, maybe? Of course, the refinement of a skill can define the word, but I am referring to self-mastery not as a goal, but as a journey…the progressive refinement of our potential as a human being. It’s not reserved for the uber-talented or special…it is the process of getting on a path and staying on it with perseverance and commitment – and that is the power of practice.

We are amazing creatures..and life takes on a depth of meaning when we begin to see it as our art. Self-mastery is not about reaching some ideal of perfection or getting it all figured out, but how we meet our life each day.  When we use all of our gifts and capacities with the intention of presence, grace and love, right action and fulfillment naturally flow.

Mastery is how we meet the Mystery. The Mystery of this life – the awesome and ordinary miracle of it, with all it’s uncertainty and opportunity. The mystery of life calls us to our mastery…to be all we can be. And it for us to say Yes each day with our intention and attention (and some days it is easier than others!). Therein lies the importance and art of practice. Just as mastering a skill or an instrument takes perseverance and discipline, so does the mastery of these instruments of our body, mind and consciousness. I love sharing Yoga and meditation at this level of creativity –   as tools that clarify our intention, hone our attention and refine the gem of our being. And when we bring the heart of devotion to our practice, we can realize our true potentials.

Mastery is how we meet the Mystery; how we ‘dial in’ our vibration each day, the energy we radiate and share, the quality of presence and attention we bring to each moment. This is how we can love ourselves and our world…

 

Do What You Love

‘There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way’  ~ Buddha

There is alot of research being done these days about happiness and the actual elements of happiness. One of the most important of these is doing the things that you love to do, and spending time actually creating the ‘grooves’ of joy in the brain and body. Whatever that may mean for you, it first begins with actually having the intention of happiness. It starts with an inner decision. When we set a sincere intention, we are drawn to the practices and people that support that quality or experience in us.. And so with all our dreams of growth and becoming – they start with intention.

Now is the time to be the change – don’t put off  your happiness, don’t delay investing in yourself and what you love and dream of. Magnify your trust and go for it.


 

Vibrational Currency

 ”I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of humans to elevate their lives by conscious behavior”.

~ Henry David Thoreau

It is no secret that these are potent and amazing times. How is it showing up in your life? This life is a supreme invitation to a deeper honesty with ourselves about the quality of our own lives – the vibrational currency we are sharing. Science is telling us now that the universe – reality – is energy, consciousness. What does that mean in our daily lives?  It means that we are accountable for how we direct are energy… thought, word, action, emotion. Once we accept the responsibility of that, we can actually realize the freedom of it!

Every time we open our heart to ourselves or another, each time we use positive, life affirming and inclusive language, each time we decide to direct our thoughts constructively and lovingly…..we are uplifting our vibration. Even a smile lifts your vibration! And that is felt by everyone around us. You are always broadcasting the quality of your thinking and feeling states. Wow!

Yoga and meditation support our practice of doing that broadcasting with awareness, choice and freedom. Accept that challenge and you change the world by changing yourself. It isn’t us against them anymore – it just does not work. No matter what your right action is in this revolution – let it begin inside your own being. As Albert Einstein said  ‘A problem cannot be solved in the same consciousness in which it was created’. In other words – Be the change you want to see. Choose love. Choose happiness. When you do it for yourself, you do it for everyone.

 

Compassion Starts Here

What is the body? That shadow of a shadow

of your love, that somehow contains the

entire universe.  - RUMI

There is a magic that happens in the practices of yoga and meditation. When I go inside and turn my attention toward my body and breath, my heart softens..there is a tenderness that arises toward myself. The body contain just such wisdom – when we walk through that doorway we can walk right into the truth of our own heart, our real right now experience.

That is what it really means to be compassionate – to welcome what is here, to open to what actually IS. No small thing. We learn true compassion by offering it to our self first, and not turning away and rejecting parts of our own experience (even when we would very much prefer it were something else). When we learn to hold our self in loving kindness, we can truly offer it to others. And it is tremendously liberating be grounded in our own self love so we’re not stuck in expecting others to do that for us. We are taught in this culture to be escape artists – it is so easy to get away from our self, our feelings and even our gifts. (The Internet makes it easier than ever!) But when we bail out and distract and disconnect, we ultimately cheat our self – we don’t grow, and we can’t love fully.

The precious thing about the practice is it can break through to our hearts again and again, and we find that we really can learn  to stop struggling against our own experience. When we come home to our body and breath, we make room for all that we are. It takes practice to find this ease and grace – and it is so worth it. And it so sweet and motivating to know that we are not just doing it for our self, we are are doing it so we can be more real and loving to others, as well.

It is our body that teaches us to rest in our heart…where there is room for everything. To cultivate this in ourself is the deep work of practice. When we can think with our heart without judgement and criticism, we can truly SEE with the eyes of love. It is compassion that transforms our intelligence and intuition into the wisdom from which clarity and right action can arise naturally. From our heart.

 

Wild Heart

I want to unfold.
Let no place in me hold itself closed,
for where I am closed, I am false.
I want to stay clear in your sight.

-Ranier Maria Rilke

When we hear the word wisdom, we often think of hard won experience, or (hopefully) one of the advantages of aging. But our Wild Wisdom is inborn, it is the instinctual and intuitive guide that knows one rule: Follow your Heart. The wildness of our heart is on the other side of the boundaries of our self-image and the societal roles that we have inherited. It is the deep knowing that calls us to become our self, to be who we are no matter what. This is where our personal art and our unique contribution comes from – and the more we believe in it, the more it guides us. We feel it in our body and in our belly, and sometimes it arrives with an agitation or fear and resistance. It takes courage to follow the promptings of our wild heart – and we can numb that voice, or run away from it – but we really can’t save ourselves from it. Rather it is the voice of what can save us.

My yoga and meditation practice helps me be honest about the voice of my wild wisdom heart - and gives me the stability to follow it in a way that is not impulsive, but true to my particular nature. I think that it is a lifelong practice to learn to link our inner wisdom to outer action that feels authentic and in harmony with the world. To create that space every day where all of myself can be held and welcomed rather than domesticated and dismissed, is one of the most important parts of practice for me. In that space, all of my experience, and all the wild longings and knowings of my being have a place. It is my own indigenous nature, native to the earth, connected to everything, belonging to everyone…without this heartbeat, there is something missing. And it is all contained in my body and in my heart – a spirituality that leaves nothing out. My practice helps me to tune in and listen…and learn. It is the art of personal practice to stay connected to and live from this wild and sacred Heart.  In doing so, we claim our true health and happiness, and which naturally influences and benefits others.