Saturday, October 30, 2010

Reading the Journals

Part of my homework as a yoga teacher training teacher is to read the homework students turn in. Part of their homework is to journal on the yamas and niyamas (see sidebar if you forget what they are).

I am always so inspired to read people's struggles, victories, notes to themselves, notes to me and Kat, musings, drawings, everything. It always leaves me feeling good, to being in a place of "possibility." I look forward to reading a pile of journals, to deciphering the handwriting, to putting the name to the face in the early days, to listening in close to a story.

The big feeling I'm left with after reading people's journals in the exploration on the yogic path is LOVE. I'm moved by our courage as people to face life's struggles. I'm impressed by people being right where they are even if that place is uncomfortable. I giggle at the funny parts. I breathe through the tougher parts. Sometimes I'm moved to tears by people's embracing of their own humanity.

It reminds me that the practice of the yamas and niyamas is so critical to the path. The alignment of your asanas is secondary to the alignment in your life. When we connect to our own lives and what's really happening for us, it allows us to be connected to other people and events in our lives.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Portable Yoga

This week saw the release of a new app that actually appeared as a blip on the world's radar that my little company made. That's Happy Hips Yoga with Tania Frechette. When I looked up "yoga" in the app store on my new iPad last night, Tania's was the first thing that popped up. So cool!

In response to that, we immediately dropped the price of Yoga with Jamine and Louise's Hot Yoga to $1.99 to see if that price will move them a bit more. Sorry if you paid more - it's definitely worth it! - we're just trying to find the right spot where we can hold the pose and let the energy flow.
And of course, there's still the free app, if a buck 99 is too much to try.

More apps will be coming out as we can get the content from people and get all of the bugs fixed. It's been an interesting process and I'm definitely impressed with the products we've turned out. As I sit here in an apartment in Gatineau sitting on the floor with shag carpet listening to the click click of my programmer's keyboard, I reflect on how far we've come. It's been amazing to watch my dream become a reality!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Radical Thoughts

I had a sort of insight last night that I doubted as it came through - this is sometimes how I feel when I get a message delivered to me via my higher self. I've been thinking a lot about life on the planet after watching that video I posted a few days ago, and consciousness as I tend to do, and now I'm training my brain everyday with these exercises, and it got me to thinking that wouldn't it be amazing if everyone on the planet worked together towards making life better on the planet? Here's the thought that came through - people on the planet already are working together.

What? Yep, we are already working together towards making life better on the planet. But what about war and greed and fighting and corruption? Those are things that are sort of a side effect of our progress and over time those things will fall away as it's time and we mature. Sort of like brothers and sisters fighting. They just do until they grow out of it. It doesn't mean they won't grow up to love each other and work together.

Hmm. That message surprised me. It didn't make me feel like I should stop trying to live a better, kinder, smaller, bigger life. It just had me sort of relax and feel that people are good as a whole. We are doing what we can as group to do better for everyone. Along the way it might seem sloppy and as new information arises new action will be taken and we are doing the best we can. When we feel like we aren't it's just that we're looking at it too closely and if we pull back, take a different view, we'll see that we are already working as a team.

Every once in awhile I get sent a zinger of an idea like that and it challenges me. Challenges my belief system. Causes me to step back and consider. What if this is what it looked like for everyone on the planet to be working together towards a better life and better conditions for everyone? Then I wouldn't have to resist what is. I could just know it's part of the process and keep working towards freedom and health as I do my best.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Travelling Inexpensively

I love to travel. I hate flying but I love where flying gets me. The trouble with going someplace on a plane is that it usually ends up being expensive. This weekend I saved some money but I still had that "going on a trip feeling" as I headed out towards the Ottawa airport early in the morning. I turned off the Airport Expressway before reaching the airport and onto Hunt Club where I found myself at the door of the Mushfiq Music School for an early morning performance of Indian classical music meant to be played early in the morning.

I found out about the gathering because I'm on the mailing list of one of my old students whose husband brings world class musicians to play for Ottawa's fans of Hindustani music.

Due to the early hour there were few guests in attendance. I didn't know what to expect because I hadn't been to this place before, but the email had a few details of the performance, which made me think I'd want to go. I asked a couple of people if anyone wanted to get up early and go on an adventure but the answers came back no. I quickly decided I'd just go by myself, and there I found myself, basically in the basement of this guy's house, tears streaming down my face, sunlight streaming across the coloured leaves in the back yard, as I listened to Anol Chatterjee in from Kolkata and the Hashimy brothers, originally from Afghanistan, performing world-class morning music meant for the heart. They were playing directly to me. Bliss.

Another cool thing about the concert was that it included brunch. I found out I'm not the only one who prepares pancakes for her students as I chatted with the musicians and guests in the kitchen drinking masala tea and learning about their music school. When I asked when their next performance is I found out it's this week as Mushfiq Hashimi will be a part of the Taxi Stand Jam on Thursday night at the Arts Court.

The next time an email comes across my path like that I won't hesitate for a second. The trip was short but so deep, plus I saved quite a bundle on airfare.

The first video is Anol with other musicians and the second one is the Ottawa-based musicians in a concert in Toronto a few years ago.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

This Life - Thanksgiving

Homemade Spacecraft from Luke Geissbuhler on Vimeo.

I watched this video a few days ago and a couple of times a day since then. There are a number of things about it that are moving - the fact that they did this amazing feat, the relationship the parents and kids have, the ease with which they do something our ancestors would not be able to believe - and for me, something happens when I see the view of space with the awareness that it only took just over an hour for that balloon to achieve those near space heights.

I mean, I've seen space views before, but what this video did for me was provide a bridge between where I am now to where that place is. Other space views have seemed impressive but somehow disjointed because there was something missing for me. This one captures it and allows me to imagine that space so much clearer.

I'm going to bring it around to yoga teaching because that's what I do. I've often felt that many of the teachings about yoga are so lofty and so out there that people can't see the bridge, or the link to how they could have those teachings alive in their lives. A recent book I've found this in is Rajarshi Muni's Tenets of a Spiritual LIfe. In one part he talks about how aparigraha, or non-attachment can result in yogis being able to pee on a rock and turn it into gold, that's how non-attached they can get. Hmpf. That seems not likely and the teaching becomes not useful for me in having more non-attachment in my life. When we practice the yamas and niyamas in a more grounded, practical way, we can see results in our own lives. Simple practices might be letting go of actual stuff that we don't need anymore. It might seem really basic, but it can have amazing results.

While we're on the yamas and niyamas and today's Canadian Thanksgiving, we could talk about santosha, or contentment. Counting our blessings or thinking about the things we're grateful for can help us into a place of santosha. Santosha isn't the same as being happy. For instance, you could be dealing with an immediate loss in your life and to think you could or should be happy in that place is probably a bit harsh. What you could do that would seem perhaps more realistic and closer to what I think santosha is, is somehow be content or not suffering yourself while you go through the pain of the loss. Grief isn't a happy place usually, but it can be a place where we are content even amidst the turmoil of life's circumstances, we can tap into the gratitude we have for our own lives, for life itself, which brings us all experiences, both the unpleasant as well as the pleasant ones.

When I see the video I've posted here, I feel such an intense (almost double rainbow intense) sense that this is my one life. And that the way things are going on this planet, because yes, I'm on a planet as the video reveals, is just one way they could go. We have a thin layer of atmosphere. A small space where we can live as we are and not need equipment to breathe. In that space there are other creatures and gardens and lakes and it makes me so grateful to be given the opportunity to experience life on this planet, besides the fact that it's the only one I've got, it's profoundly beautiful.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Working on my Brain

I'm pretty sure I've blogged about this in the past, because I found it fascinating that researchers have discovered that the brain has a sort of plasticity to it and that things like yoga and meditation can be helpful in maintaining and improving the brain's health.

Dr. Norman Doidge was in the news recently as his documentary about the brain's ability to change, even as we get older, was shown on CBC. I find it really interesting and my experiences with yoga and meditation have shown me that beyond a doubt, the biggest factor in determining the quality of my life at any rate, is what's happening in my mind. There are many things that contribute to that including my physical health and my surroundings, but if the brain isn't healthy, then things won't be as great as they could be, in my experience.

I followed a link on his site that took me to a brain fitness company and I ordered the product. It's not cheap at all and it's sort of in beta in my opinion, so I wouldn't say it's ready for everyday users on their own, but it's been pretty interesting. One of the principles that Norman Doidge mentioned is that the brain keeps thinking things and I think I heard him say, "thoughts that fire together, wire together," so what we think about sort of forms a rut and then we're trained into heading in the same direction by habit. I would call that a Samskara. Sam Dworks, my yoga teacher, taught me about this with yoga and injuries and how the brain gets wired to send stress signals a certain way, which is why we tend to get stressed in the same way repeatedly. More on that on his site.

One of the things that struck me this morning on a short walk though was how I'm training my brain to remember better and be sharper and at the same time, I'm aware of so many things that I feel a sense of longing to forget. I don't want to remember that I'm going to die and so are the people around me. I don't want to remember that even though I moved into the house I'm in 7 years ago as a temporary measure that it's likely this is where I'm going to live for the rest of my life. I don't want to remember I'm behind in an assignment I gave myself. I don't want to remember that I'm probably not going to have anymore kids. I don't want to remember a whole bunch of stuff and I can't help it. So there's a part of me that feels comforted by the promise of a diminished brain as I get older. Fortunately, that's not the part of me in the driver's seat and my sense of health and well-being is stronger than that little scared, sad place.

I have a hunch that training my brain to be as healthy as it can be, which includes eating well, sleeping well, practising yoga and meditation, and having good company, on top of these computer fitness exercises, will help to fend off those feelings of wanting to forget and help me be happy right where I am with everything I have in my life, as well as everything I don't have. I'll let you know how the program goes as I progress through it.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Biking in Ottawa

I'm listening to a guest on the radio this morning and she's echoing what I've been feeling about biking in Ottawa that I had to interrupt my morning routine to shout it out on my blog.

Bike paths are beautiful and nice for leisure riding but if you're trying to get someplace on a bike (like from where I live to where I teach), you're taking your life in your hands. If I want to ride safely in my neighbourhood I either need to get on the sidewalk at times, breaking the law, or take up a whole lane, which gets me yelled at - GET A CAR - (don't you know I HAVE a car and LOVE it?), or get touched by busses, yep right where a woman was hit the other night I was grazed by a city bus while I tried to hug the curb. Or I'm asked by the city to come right into the middle of it all (see Rideau, or how about that bridge outside of Sears) or my bike lane comes and goes without notice.

So I've had it. I'm not riding in Ottawa anymore. And I like to ride my bike. It's been in the hills of the Hudson Valley. It came with me and rode along the sea in Cape Town, pumped up dusty hills in Johannesburg, all while I was pregnant. I like to just ride my bike to get places. But I'm not willing to have the emotional upheaval that comes for me when I face riding in Ottawa.

I fear for my daughter on her bike. I love that she knows how to ride but the thought of her riding legally from Sandy Hill to the Market could give me heart palpitations.

Until Ottawa makes it safe to be a cyclist on the city streets, I'm not doing it. I'm taking my car.

There's a meeting about it tonight at the Museum of Nature at 7. To do anything other than fund biking infrastructure would be foolish for our city.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Watering Your Plant

Let's face it, if you don't water your plants they'll wither and die. Unless your plant is out in a habitat where it gets rained on the right amount and it taken care of by its environment, it will need some care.

Most of us are like house plants and we're not in an environment that naturally sustains us. We have to remember to water ourselves. And unless you're a great indoor gardener, you might not notice it's time to water the plants until they start to show signs that they need to be watered.

Living the way we do in our culture means there's a lot of watering that needs to be done. We need to take vitamins, even vitamins that replace the nourishment we'd get by just being exposed to sunlight. We need to go to a gym to mimic the exercise we'd get out in the world if we had to work that way. We have to schedule social activities so we make sure we're not bored and that we're being stimulated and having fun.

Sometimes we will have missed something that needs tending to and will only notice when that particular plant starts to wither. What does it need? Sleep? Company? Exercise? Meditation? Nutrition? It's hard to know when it's not obvious.

Some indoor plant problems get solved by just moving the plant to a different room. So we have holidays and go on vacations to breathe different air and get different light.

As we age we have to be on top of what's in our indoor garden and keep a special eye out for plants that may be withering. And again, we may not notice until something's out of sorts. As a parent I'm providing what I think is needed for my daughter, but listening for feedback from her, making sure she's thriving in all areas that I'm aware of and adding water or vitamins when I think I notice withering.

Different people need different amounts of watering and it's not always obvious. Yoga is what we do that helps us thrive. Surviving is okay; it's ordinary even. But thriving and growing is what we're aiming for.