Everything is medicine, and everything is poison.

The climate, literally, and in a broad view of humanity and politics, is feeling pretty v(olati)ile at the moment. And so, our opportunity to discern – to really truly get honest about what is helpful and life-affirming, and what is blighted behavior – is real. As autumn’s patina wends its way into the high desert sunshine and the gardens dry, I marvel at what the last year has brought. What a story I am tempted to tell about our lineage of human relationship with each other, and the planet! And I am aware that knowing what has gone down and how it got us to where we are, is invaluable information, but that the story, which lends itself to blame and shame, is venomous, and nary helpful.

In just the right proportion, at the right time, and for all the right reasons, we can take in poison, and heal. Shiva did it, we all have. I’ve also dosed inappropriately something I thought was “good medicine”, and made things way worse. Peppermint tea isn’t actually a panacea, and neither are antibiotics, this is the premise of the medicine-poison thing; nothing is for always.

People can also be medicine, and poison. Those we learn from, whether it feels delicious or bitter, are catalyzing change. We are all medicine people if we walk with awake eyes and hearts to how we affect each other, and we are pushing poison if we walk with closed-minded attachment to what is no longer true. Life is powerful! It is no small gift of being that we incarnated with human life. Wise living strikes the ultra-fine equinox balance between healing and harming inside of each breath.

And since we’re s’posed to be talking yoga, the asanas, pranayamas, and deep wisdom teachings of the yoga are also, medicine and poison, alike. Maybe one day a posture feels magic, and another, it causes pain. The pranayamas, inappropriately used, diminish life force, create stress, and can do serious harm. And scriptures written for the climate of a few thousand years ago may not be applicable verbatim to us, today in 2017, trying to figure out how to “be ahimsa”, or “cultivate peace” in the wake of bigoted buffoons playing as world leaders. Reading the news by default negates our opportunity to focus only on breath all the ding-durn day. We can’t do both, see? It feels dangerous to pretend to “stay cool” while watching devastating images of life destroyed, and a t-shirt that says “Namaste, Bitches” doesn’t feel loving to me, but who am I to say? Prescribed snippets of media-free moments, and critical doses of stress-relief during urgent times set the tone for healing in the now, and in the ancient ways. Small acts of self-and-together-care help us to rise from the ashes of judgement that keep us all down, and move forward in equity, respect, health, and love.

This is what healing looks like. I do believe that a guiding light and divine wisdom – God – is everywhere. And I commit to making and tending a thread of personal connection (context), between individual and the vastness, or else, I’m just prescribing unrealistic and ofttimes harmful concepts and practices. Anything we learn from is a guru. Taking the reins, then – even taking power back – is a process of making choices in every moment with intention (the thread), and willingness to transform (openness and humility amidst the vastly immeasurable spiritual stew of life-altering potential) through the experience. In the brewing process, maybe we learn to put poison into context, and make medicine with our words and actions that will actually begin to heal the wounds of the past? Apply love liberally.

Blessings for this equinox time, friends.

In deep respect,

Suki Ola

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Walk Strong, with a Gentle Heart

Current political circumstances are intense. To say the least. With blatant outright bigotry, lack of tolerance, and escalating violence it is nearly impossible to stay away from, or uninformed of, the present political environment. In such palpably contracted times one’s commitment to their yoga practice, or any mindfulness practice for that matter, must be exercised as diligently in the world as it is on the mat in order to walk strongly with a gentle heart through this crazy realm.

At times like these apathy has no place. The fundamental teachings of yoga demand attention too higher ethical and moral values. Ahimsa-lovingkindness; classically non-violence, is at the top of the list. And what is lovingkindness? In its simplest it is the pure intent to love all with kindness and care. It is easy to get caught up here. Does lovingkindness only exist for that which an individual knows and understands, resonates with and is aligned to in belief? No. Lovingkindness is the most basic notion of its value as the first Yama-precept for being with the world, (and self must be included in this) has to extend to all existence. So then the question becomes, must we be loving and kind to people who actively hate, are violent, seek out ways to harm others maliciously and subversively? Yes. If your aim is to truly practice lovingkindness or non-violence then yes, the teaching demands that you love them in the company of their faults. However, the word love and the practice of love is not synonymous with making oneself available for abuse, nor acting and speaking out in alignment with something bigger.

Mindfulness practice means using the mind in a discerning manner. In this vein to use the mind to acknowledge that while a human or a group of humans are severely misguided they are not outside the circle of deserving love. This discernment is then followed with action. What is the appropriate action to take in the face of true racist hate? When the teaching is to love? Love exists with boundaries. There is too much awareness, knowledge, wisdom, and understanding in this world to play ignorant to the harm racism, bigotry, and simply the belittling of any human for any reason. Therefore appropriate action in the company of such ignorance is to first acknowledge with love the lack of value in such awareness and behavior, and to withdraw contact with such a person until the time when they can see beyond the limited vales of their perception. To share the premise of your choice with such a person may or may not be valuable to them, but is ultimately valuable to the greater good. To do so with words that emanate from love is to act in alignment with the precept of Ahimsa. This is Sakriya-with action; one who performs one’s responsibilities; putting into effect what one has learned from their spiritual teachings. Acting with a moral compass.

To do nothing. To say, “it is all good.” To say, “I am practicing non-violence and lovingkindness and they are only doing the best that they can.” To be apathetic. To avoid confronting the ignorance for fear of making waves, especially when the hatred is espoused by someone you deem friend or family, this is Niskriya-without action; one who does not perform one’s responsibilities; one who does not put into action what one has learned.

Apathy, fear of rocking the boat, just plain old doing nothing does not cut it for the sincere yogi. Such Niskriya is far from in alignment with a good moral compass. This is nowhere near doing the best you can.

A true yogi assigns themselves to shining the light of awareness into the darkness of ignorance. Lives in their responsibility of practicing the Sakriya of love in the abyss of discrimination. From love, with love, for love.

A Yogi has a large toolbox from which they can pull the correct tool for the situation at hand. Mudras are such tools. A mudra is a hand gesture which correlates reflex reactions from hand to brain. Mudras are powerful tools which redirect energy flow. And in the case of standing strong with a gentle heart in a crazy world, mudras can bolster a yogi’s capabilities. A combination of Varada Mudra and Abhaya Mudra can be used to support and enhance a yogi’s aptitude of Sakriya in harmony with Ahimsa.

Varada Mudra is represented with the downward facing palm of the left hand. It is the mudra of the accomplishment of the aspiration to devote oneself to human salvation. The five extended fingers of the mudra symbolize respectively; generosity, morality, patience, effort, and meditative concentration. This mudra expresses not only the act of giving and benevolence, but also the act of receiving. Varada Mudra is seldom used alone and is regularly used in combination with Abhaya Mudra.

Abhaya Mudra is represented with the upward facing palm of the right hand. This mudra is not only known worldwide as a gesture of waving and salutation; it is also known worldwide as a gesture which means “stop.” Abhaya in Sanskrit translates to fearlessness, and the mudra is also one which dispels fear and symbolizes protection and peace as well as being seen as a gesture of good intentions, offerings of love, and reverence to the highest.

Together the combination of these two mudras powerfully express an individual’s capacity to simultaneously be generous with love and maintain discerning boundary. This is what is called of all humans who seek to live in the awareness that dispels ignorance in this world, at this time. This is what is called for from those who have committed themselves to the primary tenant of yoga, Ahimsa. As crusaders of awareness, as practitioners of love and non-violence, it is a yogi’s responsibility to hold the human race to a higher standard, knowing that standard can be met. To say “they are only doing their best” when one knows that they can do better if they are liberated from the veils of limited belief, is to be apathetic. Is to walk in Niskriya. This is not the time for apathy this is the time for courage. Now is the time for Sakriya. To speak and act with love and a gentle heart.

With Love, Always, in All Ways, For Giving, In Joy,

Genevieve

Shanti Mantra

Maybe I’ve already written about this mantra before, but holy Ma, has it been soothing my fires of late, and so, I’ll lay down the Shanti Mantra for you again. Shanti means peace in Sanskrit. What is happening in the world at large is discordant and uncomfortable. In my smaller world, I find myself ridden with anxiety and less-then lustrous behaviors, poor knock-offs of my fretfulness for the big issues. On the bright side, I am alight with fresh fervor to ease the disharmony that is born in hatred and judgement. And I know that I am not alone.

Translated through my heart and head, and with the help and guidance of the luminous Joe Barnett, the mantra goes thusly:

Aum sahana vavatu: Maha (big, humongous, ever-alive) mantra aum – sound and vibration of all things in the perhaps not infinite, but immeasurably large universe – may our practice be protected. May the practice space be safe for all beings, and a sanctuary from the distractions of the external world, and its fleeting states of chaos. May those who partake be held in the nourishing net of good support and community, and do no harm to themselves or others.

sahanau bhunaktu: May the practice be pleasant. Let’s be honest, if we don’t like it, we won’t come back. There is plenty of yuck and crud up, there must be a bit of pleasure left in the world, hey! Let it reverberate and come through our work together. And may we be filled up, nourished and fed with the deliciousness of rekindling connection to our bodies, minds, and souls. Let the practice beget more joy, as in the sharing of joy, great growth occurs. Rather than suffering, may the practice spread comfort, ease, and happiness.

sahaviryam karavavahai: May the practice be courageous. It is not without effort that we will turn this shitpile of misunderstanding and mistreatment of ourselves and others into wine. We are going to have to be wholly courageous, full of vim and vigor and unyielding vigilance to stop the disharmony from further jarring our communities, our entire population, our planet, and our connection to all that is beyond our imagination. (Interjection of my belief : the damage is not done, but there isn’t a moment to spare. Never has been.) It is the selfsame fires of our commitment to study that will conduce productivity, making our practice potent and sufficient. May we not doubt our capacity, but have faith in the process.

tejas vinavati tamastu: Through the efforts of our practice, may the effulgence of understanding move and spread between us. Let’s turn all this effort into good energy, good feeling, and good will. Nature’s way is collaboration and balance, and compassion is a force of light that will cut through the murk of enmity, which is not the nature of humanity.

maa vidvishavahai: Dispelling hatred is just what this light of understanding will do. When the lights go on upstairs and in our radiant hearts that we are all connected and in this together, may polarization and judgement disperse and be gone. This light is not harsh, but gentle and yielding, integrating of all life force as it brings all beings together in life, and love. That’s how powerful we are, people! Go.

aum shanti shanti shantihi: and fostering peace peace PEACE. Peace in our minds, in our hearts, and in the world. Peace in all the worlds. Peace throughout the humongous vast universe that begins at home, and on the mat.

For aspirant and teacher alike,the request is the same, as the journey we take in a class, and in the world, is one of together energy.                                               

                                                                                                                                                                                I love you. Suki Ola

Aum sahana vavatu                                                                                                                                                                      sahanau bhunaktu                                                                                                                                                                     sahaviryam karavavahai                                                                                                                                                                        tejas vinavati tamastu                                                                                                                                                                           maa vidvishavahai                                                                                                                                                                                 aum shanti shanti shantihi

 

 

 

Hurdling the Monkey Mind

As humans it is all to easy to get myopic in our view. The minds tends to eclipse broadened perspective with the excessive cataloging, sorting, dialoguing, and chatter of the mind. Practices such as meditation and yoga have for centuries been medicine for this, and many other challenging aspects of the human experience.

Simply being in concentrated relationship with the breath enables the faculty of the mind to do what it does best, focus. The continued focus of the mind on the breath relieves the mind of its grasp on the other stories it has latched onto. Similarly, a challenging and vigorous asana practice directs the minds attention to sorting the movements of the body in concert with the breath. In essence this distraction liberates the mind from the ceaseless chatter of monkey mind.

If we sit long enough with our breath, if we practice hard enough on our mat, there is a moment of freedom. And while this moment might be fleeting, the space experienced there expands into a subtle yet sustained spaciousness that spans the course of a lifetime. If not more.

Practice is a discipline that leads to freedom. It may require hurdling the monkey mind to get to the practice. But once arrive, the gift of the spaciousness that is your natural heart space will be revealed there. Worth the leap every time. Even when your feet get caught up on the hurdle along the way!

A simple practice for these coming weeks in the epoch of eclipse season where the mind moves fast, and then faster, is the practice of sama vritti pranayama. This is a simple breath practice of inhaling and exhaling in equal portions. The basic rhythm of this breath practice enables a calmer mind and a calmer autonomic nervous system response, naturally reducing stress hormones in the body.

To practice this simple, yet profound breath exercise, begin with a comfortable seat. Take a few moments to watch your breath rise and fall in its natural, unadulterated rhythm. When you are ready inhale for a count that does not create a feeling of anguish or anxiousness, a count that you can sustain without extra or exerted effort. At the top of the inhale pause momentarily in the feeling of fullness. Exhale for the same length of your inhale. Again, pause momentarily at the bottom of the exhale in the spaciousness of emptiness. Continue like this for as long as you are comfortable. Attempt to continue beyond the agitation of monkey mind discomfort and into the spaciousness of your heart. A general marker for a beneficial meditation practice is 20-25 minutes. However, three breathes may be enough for you. The beauty of designing a practice that enhances your life is that you get to decide.

No matter what course you choose for your journey may it be a course that brings you into the light of your own innate beauty.

With Love, always, in always, for giving,

Genevieve

Contemplations on Supreme Consciousness

Everything is supreme consciousness. Supreme consciousness is as the heart of all things and simultaneously permeates all things. It is muted by the laws of maya, the veils of the koshas, and the bondage of the malas, appearing to be something other than it is. Atman, pure divine consciousness is as much a part of every living thing, as death is the fate of all things living.

Maya creates delusions of appearance. Also from maya arises illusions of reality. Such illusions are tied intrinsically to perceptions of identity, perceptions of ego, and perceptions of self in place. The essence of supreme consciousness is an eternal dance of Shiva and Shakti, the knowledge and the expression, the energy and the form, united and forever bound. In the Koshas, maya is the Shakti (the creative force of the universe) pulling us away from ourselves while simultaneously manifesting all that is beautiful about life itself.

Revealing themselves in five sheaths the koshas expressions are explained as follows. Annamaya Kosha, the physical sheath or even more literally the sheath of food. The body needs food for survival, without food hunger limits perception of the divine. Pranamaya Kosha, the energy or prana sheath is the vital force which produces the subtle vibrations related to breath and connects the physical body to its senses allowing the Atman to animate in the manifest world. Pranamaya Kosha ties perception of divine to the senses, if it is not tangible it does not exist. Manamaya Kosha, the sheath of the mind. The mind is the supervisor of information reception and distribution. Manamaya veils the capacity to clearly perceive thoughts and emotions without doubt and illusion. Vijnanamaya Kosha, the sheath of wisdom, the knower, the judge, the discriminator. In the delusion of the veil of maya the Vijnanamaya Kosha attaches wisdom to the story that is written by the outer sheaths. The koshas simply tie our identity to their veils of delusion. Liberation from these veils of consciousness enables supreme consciousness to reveal itself as the eternal center of experience and knowing. As the veils of the Koshas are lifted, perception expands.

In consort with the veils of the Koshas are the malas, the delusions of impurity. Anava-mala, Mayiya-mala, and Karma-mala all manifest in the human experience to create the illusion of finite and mundane experience. Anava-mala generates the experience of feeling incomplete and imperfect, it is the primary structure that creates the basis of the limited illusion of finite life. Mayiya-mala forms the perception of separation, the “I am alone and will always be alone” thoughts. Karma-mala creates and sustains the perception that one is unable to do anything of worth or value, that all efforts are without aim or satisfaction.

Why would supreme consciousness manifest itself hidden in the veils of such limited perception? Why would feeling incomplete and insecure be built into the fundamental principles of human being? Why would the capacity to know oneself as the essence of the nature of the supreme be veiled from consciousness by design?

It is said that the reason for human life in general is that supreme consciousness wanted to experience itself so it veiled itself from itself to be rediscovered again. In rediscovery is the revelation that generates such a spaciousness within that the amrita, the nectar of the bliss of knowing the nature of the divine becomes so sweet its flavor cannot be ignored. In revelation is connection, in connection is bliss. In life is forgetting so the dance can be done over and over again. Forget, remember, experience bliss, forget, remember, experience bliss, and on and on. The experience of the bliss becomes the incentive to stay committed to the practice of remembering. Over time the waves between remembering and forgetting get closer, get smaller, and are perhaps completely washed away when all that remains is supreme consciousness.

Additionally, when we allow ourselves to perceive everything as supreme consciousness than we allow ourselves to remember that are never really truly alone. Through such a perception we remember that we are connected by the web of consciousness, the breath of life, that from which all arises and all returns. We remember consciousness is what is at the heart of all energy and is what enables energy to align intelligently, to manifest into life forms that are more than rudimentary and single celled. We come to know without question that consciousness is what generates thought and simultaneously the energy that turns thought into action. If all of life arises from consciousness than all life is connected through consciousness. Even when the energetic imprint varies, it is consciousness that makes the imprint. So while an experience of life is so often singular, it is also an experience of consciousness as a whole, which ties all things together. Consciousness is the thread of connection, from nothing to something, from breath to action, from thought to form, from heart into the world.

Through the awareness of consciousness and the realization of deepest connection as a result of the web consciousness weaves we have the great opportunity to step out of questioning and self-consciousness and into confidence and community. The veils of maya lift, the bondage of the malas is broken, and all that remains is the supreme self. Self with a capital S.

 

With love, always, in all ways, for giving, in joy,

Genevieve

 

 

June 20th, 2017

Aum asatoma sad gamaya tamaso ma jyotir gamaya mrtyor ma amritam gamaya

For the solstice I had big plans to write on a mantra I very enjoy. From the Upanishads (some of the OG texts on Hindu spiritual life and practice), it acknowledges the consistent transformative nature of nature – that all is always changing – and appeals to Aum, the vibration of all things, to lead a transition toward spirit. One might say it’s a prayer for immortality, and so stretches to the depths of the yoga practice. I have always seen the prayer to taste the nectar as a metaphor for absolution from a fear of dying. Years ago when I first really listened to the mantra (oh, these songs we listen to in yoga class are ancient prayers that carry with them eons of experience?!?!), I was struck with the practice of sipping in the nectar of the moment as best I could. I began acknowledging – out loud, and often – that I might be going soon. This birthed in me a sense of urgency, and a new peek into relationship with these funny fleeting shapes we get to live in and play with called bodies. While I was really sitting with the practice saying adieu like “I hope we get to see each other again,” and making plans like “Maybe tomorrow… if I’m lucky,” I fell really in love. Looking through, I see how the mantra helped me to keep calm in the face of quite a delicious drowning, as life turned topsy in a wash of passion and authentic partnership. For the first time, I tasted loving that did not disturb or rewrite my own story, and only brought more light and positive vibration to my every day. What a sweet gift of nectar.

The literal idea of the mantra is to move from : asat (untruth), to sat (truth); tamas (inertia, darkness), to jyot (divine light); and from mrtyor (death, impermanence), to amritam (the nectar of eternal life and bliss). I like to read it like thusly:

Aum, lead me from unreality, obscurity, and fear of death to reality, illumination, and eternal bliss.

I quite like the story of my own process with the mantra, but wanted to tell a bigger picture. Yearning to share a shade of the idea of how big this prayer can be, I thought about all of the ways to play translator to these powerful words, and I got stuck in the mud of tamas. Maybe my curiosities about if the Sanskrit word for death is the root word for martyr are not the way to go for a solstice supplication. Instead of a literary probing, here’s the poem that popped out instead. Happy solstice. Love, Suki

 

As time comes to pause

and the sun stands still

you

too

stand

toes in the mud

surrounded by snail shells, floating.

Their story rides below the surface

untold

as their soft bodies are gone

and only brittle bits of a home remain.

 

You imagine that their life was good

full of laughter

and sunlight streaking from above the surface tension

into the depths

of a pond’s murk, and quiet.

It is in these deep spaces

that life

breathes, amphibian.

Here, the snails are celebratory

for each duckweed bit that drops

for the diffuse light

down in the mud

for another day respiring 

at a snail’s pace

whatever that may be.

It is here that fish burp

and sway

sending up bubbles that tickle your ankles

in the shallows

where the sunglow still reaches.
And so

nature converses

sending messages

from one height to another

from darkness to lightness

and back around again.
Thank you

you say aloud

into the willow’s branches

and the message

slowly reverberates

and

perfectly sinks

to silt.

 

 

Resilience and Adaptabilty

Resilience and adaptability are an intrinsic part of nature. Weeds survive, cockroaches will inherit the earth, and water will always find its way. Unfortunately, the possibility that one can become stuck in a rut of being, obdurate and unable to be fluid like water, is as great a potential as falling in love. 

Nevertheless, life invites us to be flexible. Too much fragility and we will crumble under life’s pressure. Too much rigidity and we will stubbornly refuse to adapt with changing times. Get left behind, looking out at an unfamiliar world from an inner gaze hardened by our own stubborn shortcomings.

So much of this journey of life is a dance among paradox. Dancing between stability and freedom is the dance of liberation. Freeing ourselves from our attachments to the past and desired outcomes, yet holding the gaze steady on the intent and the motive is the recipe for a vibrant life. Despite the length of that sentence, the concept is still much easier said than done.

None of us are outside the circle of loss. None of us are exempt from desire. None of us are without needs. Life, being what it is, will test our capacity to meet ourselves in the company of ourselves, during loss, overcome by desire, with needs unmet. What we do when we arrive at thes thresholds is what becomes the fluid and flexible bouncy of resilience or hard brittle bark of unfluctuating obstinacy. The most beautiful part is that we get to decide. We get to decide how to respond to life’s undulations.

The key ingredient is knowing that responding is not reacting. Life happens. Take a breath. Connect to the deeper part of you. The part that evolved with the ever evolving universe, conscious, adaptable, resilient, and remember what drives your heart. Take another deep breath, move away from the drama, exhale. Take another deep breath, choose the direction you wish to go, take one small step in that direction. Responding mindfully to life’s unsavory as well as life’s more rich and delicious circumstances is like becoming the resilient and ever buoyant material of a trampoline. Not only do you bounce back but you catalyze movement into the future.

Regularly returning to practice returns you to your capacity to connect to your breath. Regularly returning to your practice invites deeper connection to your adaptable and graceful heart. Regularly returning to your practice reminds you of your ability to skillfully spin, twirl, and jive on the paradoxical dance floor of life. Stepping gracefully between stability and freedom, acknowledging your innate ability to be simultaneously fragile and rigid, embracing your innate ability to be resilient and adaptable, will bring you ever closer to the vibrant freedom of peace you were born to enjoy. Carry on!

With Love, always, in all ways, for giving,

Genevieve 

Building Personal Capital 

One of the great gifts of this life is that we can all learn to skillfully respond to life’s challenges and build personal capital. i.e. build confidence through inner strength. This is great because I think it is safe to say that no one of us actively seeks to experience shame, guilt, and remorse. It is not part of our nature to seek suffering, though it is part of our nature to relive our suffering over and over through the obsessiveness of our minds. Suffering is in fact a quality of the mind, the quality of attachment. When we attach ourselves to an idea of how things should be or how things were, then we do not permit ourselves to experience things as they are, in peace, spaciousness, and a willingness for the potential of things to get better.

 No matter who we are, what our backgrounds or trajectories, life will challenge us, life will bring us to our knees. Not all challenges are devastating, but life in its essence tests our concepts of comfort and ease. Sometimes it’s just a simple conversation with a loved one or a co-worker that sends us reeling into a flurry of inner turmoil and anguish, other times it’s something greater like the loss of a job or home. No matter what the trial is, the opportunity to meet it with composure and equanimity is also there.

 What does that mean exactly? Well rather than flying off the handle because your mom pushed that same button for the nine-thousandth time, you can calmly respond with a request to not go down that road again. Or rather than respond to the trigger, guide the conversation into neutral territory, into gratitude, into love. Rather than going into a tailspin of depression or substance abuse at the loss of a job or after an intense personal attack by some mindless person, drink a cup of chamomile tea, take a hot bath, take a walk, take a deep breath. Gather yourself and be mindfully and courageously in the company of the discomfort, rather than taken out by it.

 So few of us actually have skills to use in the face of life’s challenges, rather we have coping mechanisms. And our coping mechanisms are often synonymous or entangled with behaviors that are less than those we would feel proud of sharing with the world. I know that one of my coping mechanisms is to be mean to others when I feel vulnerable. I regret this behavior after I have expressed it. I feel guilty for hurting someone else because I felt vulnerable. I feel ashamed when I behave this way and I know I could have behaved better. I have learned that in order to not have to visit ourselves in the waiting room of shame, guilt, and regret, we can cultivate skills to respond to life’s challenges that enable composure, equanimity, restraint, mindfulness, patience, and calm.

 When we know and accept that life will challenge us and press up against the rough and sometimes sharp edges of experience then we can more actively step into our bigger selves, to see our potential to react, and rather than react, respond. Respond with composure, self restraint, calm and equanimity. To live fully in the company of grace.

 Our time on the mat is valuable because it translates. Asana practice pushes us up against the boundaries of our comfort zones and into the rougher sharp edges of where we are not comfortable. Through mindfulness of breath and our thoughts we can learn to be in the company of the discomfort in a state of composure and equanimity. This translates off of our mats and into our lives, so that when life pushes us into the uncomfortable experiences of our everyday we can restrain from behaviors that leave a residue of inner turmoil and exercise skillful responses. Knowing that you are the only person in your life who can make it more comfortable gives you the power to do so. This is the great gain of confidence ind inner strength that comes with building this kind of personal capital.

Yoga is not about being anything at all. Many of the Greats would say that if anything, yoga is about becoming one with everything, and so, about being no thing. There are hosts of ideas, thousands of years of scripture, and a billion and one styles of yoga in the modern world to fiddle with the big (and small), ideas of the practice, but my truth is that the yoga is about: being many things, learning many things, digesting many things, and then being free and capable to make informed decisions about what I might like to repeat. It’s about being supple, in body and mind, and keeping my heart open to the mystery. For that all to work out, it’s got to continue to change as I do. Over the years, different aspects of the yoga have enticed me, and for different reasons. In allowing transformation to happen, even seeking it through a variety of models of praxis, the yoga has become integral and linked to every encounter and breath. And seriously, I feel it is just beginning.

I have a teacher who likes to say that if you have found an idea or a practice that you enjoy and the concept of “rinse, lather, repeat”, is enticing, then you have found the impetus to practice. It is from this desire (tapas), and curiosity for process that we begin to understand what it really is that brought us to ask for practice at all. One can’t know what the end result is before it has come, but we have to strive for resolution and goals. Without direction, we are rather lost at sea. I like to look at the yoga – and especially something like the Root Down challenge – as an invitation just to set a course. It may be an arbitrary thing to attend 20 classes in 30 days, but that might just be the gift. Somewhere in all that breath and time with community, inspiration and deep wisdom will rise from the depths and the roots.

The Root Down Spring Yoga Challenge is on, as of today, and I am feeling all the feels about it. Already I’ve worried about how all that time traveling to and fro, and being on the mat at the studio is going to happen. But I know from experience that the yummy part of the challenge isn’t completing it, but witnessing the inevitable shifts that take place in the middle of it. Picasso said it nicely, “I begin with an idea, and then it becomes something else.” He spoke directly to the surprise embedded in any commitment’s fibers. Just start, and see what unfolds. Join me for 20 in 30 days this spring. We can help support each other in the ebbs and flows of all that asana, remind each other to stay hydrated, and to stay open to the wild growth that will come from our setting strong roots into practice.

Love and giant respect, Suki Ola

Perfection and Relation

It is all to easy to hold ourselves to unattainable standards. Especially in the world of yoga today where so often the images of physical perfection permeate much of our visual concepts and by proxy our deeper understanding of the practice. Instagram, Facebook, yoga journal, the list of images of what it’s supposed to look like goes on and on. And in the midst of the sea of perfect postures the ultimate value of the practice gets lost.

At the heart of spiritual philosophy the understanding of perfection is that all things are perfect no matter how they are revealed. However, when we look at ourselves the natural tendency is to see imperfections before sorting through the critical dialogue and seeing the innate perfection. Constant asana practice does over time generate more skill in the asana postures, but more importantly it generates a presence of mind that enables sorting through criticism, judgement, fear, and more, to arriving at spaciousness with a perspective that is life enhancing rather than depleting. A perspective that honors the way one feels before what one looks like.

Bringing attention to a more subtle value inherent in the practice is not meant to diminish the value of striving to achieve an image of beauty in the form of a pose. Rather, bringing attention to such nuance increases the capacity to experience grace where we are. And in the company of grace energy softens, the form of the asana softens, the light that shines innate perfection from the inside out radiates, and no matter the level of skill expressed in the form, beauty is there for all eyes to see. In this sense the standards of perfection that one may wish to hold oneself to become more attainable, in asana practice as well as life off the mat.

Through a practice that is focused more on the inner experience rather than the outer presentation a deeper connection to self is gained. And this is one of the greatest gifts of any spiritual practice (and yoga is inherently a spiritual practice), to gain a deeper connection to self. Not only the self that is associated to personal identity but more importantly that self that is connected to the inherent perfection of all things. Such a connection provides not only the grace that softens asana, but more palpably the grace that softens perspective in the face of the difficulties of life. This is where the practice translates. Not in Facebook likes or Instagram views, but in spaciousness of spirit and palpable heartfelt connection to the deepest perfection of an evolving animate relational world.

With Love, always, in all ways, for giving, in joy,

Genevieve