Keep Calm & Carry OM

I love to chant OM in Yoga class. 

Oh, I’m out of key sometimes, sure, but I still love the vibration that comes with a long and heartfelt OM.

And, I’m so inspired when everyone else joins in with me in class. 

In our new Yoga studio, the walls hum with the magical and healing vibration of OM.

OM is considered the sound of the universe — the universal hum that gives us all fuel and life.  To chant OM is to honor the energy that surrounds us and to tap into it for our own healing and calming needs. 

When we all chant OM as one in class, we join our energy together making it even more powerful. 

When the whole room OMs, my entire body vibrates with a wonderful, radiant and healing energy.

During the Second World War, the British government printed a poster that said simply, “Keep Calm & Carry On”.  Its purpose was to inspire the population — telling them to stand up to the urgent and dangerous threat of the enemy by continuing their daily lives in a show of strength and defiance.  By keeping calm, carrying on, the British could stand up to any dangers and any threats before them.

So, when I saw this version of the old British poster I had to smile and smile and smile.  Because OM gives us the same empowerment, the same strength, the same encouragement.  It’s the same reminder that our inner strength can overcome any threat. 

Thank you to the anonymous, and incredibly clever, online OMster who shared this with us all!

Health Is Your Birthright ~ A New Year’s Blessing

I share this each year in our New Year’s Day Yoga class.  Instead of bogging down your heart with a list of insurmountable “resolutions” … how about a simple reminder that you are worthy of a year filled with good health, strength, joy, and blessings? 

These words come from Swami Satchidananda, who brought Integral Yoga to the United States in the 1960s.  (If you’re from Virginia, then you may know Swami Satchidananda from his ashram at Yogaville.)

May your year be healthy, strong, joy-filled, and peaceful …

“Health is your birthright, not disease. Strength is your heritage, not weakness. Courage, not fear. Bliss, not sorrow. Peace, not restlessness. Knowledge, not ignorance. The person who aims for good health and strength of both body and mind is a gem among all humanity. Such a person possesses the true treasure.” ~ Swami Satchidanada

So, Let Us All Be Thankful …

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“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”

~ The Buddha

During this time of Thanksgiving, it’s nice to sit back and reflect on the many things for which we are grateful. But, sometimes, as we tote up our lists, we can lose sight of the basic, simple things in life which are deserving of our gratitude, but often get lost in the shuffle.

There is a sweet cartoon from Patrick McDonnell — who does the Mutts comic strip — where Earl the dog asks Shtinky the Little Cat, “Hey, Shtinky, what are you thankful for?” And, Shtinky says, “This moment!”  Earl asks, “Anything else?” “Yes. THIS moment!”

this moment mutts

That cartoon is 10 years old, but I think of it often (and, as you can see, I know it by heart).  Thanksgiving is a lovely time to tell the people we love “thank you.” To sit and reflect on the gifts in our days that make our lives special.

But, we should also remember that each moment is a gift — whether a special moment or just a very simple one.

So, every once in awhile, just stop and say to yourself. “THIS moment.” And, let that be your little prayer of thanks.

 

Feeling Blessed? Here’s more on gratitude from our Yoga classes …

Click here for the timeless and inspiring Thanksgiving blessing from W.E.B. du Bois.  It is the blessing that I share at the end of every Yoga class at Thanksgiving: Give Us Thankful Hearts

Click here for the Gratitude Savasana and Energy Bridge instruction:Thanksgiving Yoga ~ A Blessing, Part 1

Click here for another beautiful blessing that guided our meditation at the end of one Thanksgiving Yoga class: Thanksgiving Yoga ~ A Blessing, Part 2

For “Thanksgiving Yoga: Rekindling Our Light”, click: Rekindling Our Light

And, for a beautiful poem of Gratitude from Harriett Kofalk that served as the foundation of another Thanksgiving Day Yoga practice click: I Give Thanks

Who Decides What’s ‘Proper’ Anyway?

“There’s no ‘properly’. There’s just how it makes you feel.”

~ Keith Richards describing playing guitar

Maybe it was only rock & roll that Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones was talking about, but he did an incredibly good job of summing up my Yoga path and practice, too.

Yoga is about feeling … and letting that feeling blossom from within. 

Yes, there are great books of Yoga wisdom and sutras to guide and inspire us. But, they are just that — guides. They are meant to guide us so that we may find the true reward of Yoga ourselves. From within. Both on and off the mat.

Let’s just talk about the “on the mat” part today.

I know that a lot of my students wish I would spend more class time pushing them into poses … or pulling their arm one way and their leg another.  Isn’t that what Yoga teachers are for?  Pushing or pulling you into something deemed ‘proper’? Something someone has decided is correct or, even, perfect.

But, as I think most of my students know, that’s not my style. Afterall, I could sculpt a body into a beautiful Downward Dog or Warrior Pose. I could move a limb here an inch … or push your hip a schooch in the other direction.

What does that give you? It gives you a fleeting moment of something that may look like it belongs in a Yoga magazine, but isn’t really your Yoga.

It may look all pretty on the outside, but it may hurt on the inside. It may make a muscle tense or a joint ache. You lose the ease. You grit your teeth. You count the moments until you can come out of the pose. 

You lose the Yoga.

I may move a student or encourage a change in the pose with my touch, but that’s merely a suggestion or an invitation to move out of discomfort. But mostly I like to adjust my students with my words, with verbal suggestions that allow a student to find the pose from the inside.

Yoga is about finding the pose on your own … truly owning it and feeling it within you. No teacher can move you there. You have to find it yourself. And, what a great feeling it is when you do.

I wonder if Keith Richards has ever done Yoga? He should. He’s got the right heart for it.

Because Yoga isn’t about doing something ‘properly’. It’s about feeling the spirit of the pose inside, letting it come to life, and letting it shine out.

I hope you’re feeling some good Yoga!  Rock on, Yoga friends!

(And, yes, I AM reading Keith’s autobiography ‘Life‘ … again. One of the five greatest rock-and-roll books of all time. And, a great read whether you love the Stones or not.)

A Day With The Dalai Lama

Last week, His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited Charlottesville, Virginia.  I was fortunate to be able to attend both of the events where he spoke.

I took lots of notes, because remembering the things that people say can get in the way of the experience. I have a tendency to forget. It’s much easier for me to just write down the things I want to remember.

I posted a few short reports on my “other” blog: Baseball, Yoga, Life … (and me).

But, I wanted to include the links here as well …

In Part 1 of my “Day with the Dalai Lama”, the Dalai Lama talks about happiness and the benefits of being positive.  Click here.

In Part 2, His Holiness discusses cricket, exposes my baseball-watching habits, recommends a good night’s sleep, and inspires my cat Stevie.  Click here.

There is a Part 3 coming soon … and it will include a discussion on comfortable and fashionable footwear … so be sure to check back.

And, you can always sign up to receive posts from this blog … and from my “other” Baseball & Yoga blog … via email. A sign-up form is on every page.

Namaste!

One Wild & Precious Life

Oscar is my cat.  He’s 20.

Although he has his share of stiffness and achy joints in recent years, he can still hoist himself up on the barn roof for an afternoon snooze.  Just yesterday, for instance.

I share him with you, because he’s a good reminder of Poet Mary Oliver’s words:

“Tell me what it is you plan to do with your one wild & precious life.”

Oscar came to us about eight or nine years ago.  So, he already was an older cat — nearly elderly.

But, he was unhappy with his people up the road, I guess.  And, so he packed up and moseyed through the fields.  A half-mile.  He just showed up one day.  Moved in.  And, never left.

We always joke that he saw our place as a retirement home.

But, in fact, he didn’t retire.  Instead, Oscar found a second chance and a new life — rich, rewarding, active, and comfortable.

And, his decision to make a fresh start … at an age when he should have been winding down … is a daily inspiration to me.

It’s never too late to start again.

So …

“Tell me, what it is YOU plan to do with your one wild & precious life.”

P.S. Oscar would be delighted, I’m sure, if you would share his photo, and message, with your friends and loved ones.  Because he carries Mary Oliver’s inspiring words.  And, they are very good reminders that we all should live our lives to their fullest.

Sometimes A Flower Is Only A Flower

Sometimes a flower is only a flower. 

There’s no real reason for this post.

Except that this morning, I went out to take a photo of the single sunflower blooming in my garden. 

But, that photo didn’t turn out.

And, then I saw this tiny little morning glory, just tucked in amongst the weeds and vines.  And, so I took a photo of it.  And, the photo was sweet and the morning dew looked so glittery.  

So, I didn’t get the photograph of the flower I wanted.  I got something I didn’t expect.

This flower is only a flower.

And, there is no purpose to this post.

Except that sometimes a flower is only a flower … and that’s quite simple and beautiful enough.

The Heart Sutra

Wednesday’s Yoga class was “Heart Opening” … and we began and ended with the chant of perfection and wisdom known as the Heart Sutra.

As I said in class, many Sanskrit blessings and sutras rise above mere mortal translation.  They are about vibration and energy and while they may not translate into words easily, their effect can be profound and transformative.

In Sanskrit, the Heart Sutra is this:

Teyaté Gaté Gaté Paragaté Parasamgaté Bodhi Soham

So, while the Sutra defies easy translation, here is the basic intent of the chant:

Empty body, Empty mind.  What is left is the divine and pure energy of the heart which entwines with all others.

In other words, a simple translation could be: I am not my body and I am not my mind.  I am the pure spirit of my heart — the Purusha.  And, the pure spirit of my heart joins with the spirit of all other beings.

Of course, there are many true scholars who spend many many years absorbing and studying these beautiful sutras.  They offer much deeper and far more complex translations, but this simple translation serves me well and I love to carry this Sutra in my heart. 

Yangjin Lamu is a Tibetan woman with a beautiful voice … she sings the Heart Sutra with such sweetness and strength.  Her video on YouTube is so worth the visit!

Yangjin Lamu sings the Heart Sutra

I hope that it touches you deeply and feeds your heart.