Tag Archives: self reflection

Open to all the possibilities

The point of the To the Moon and Beyond yoga challenge is as you like it. There is no intended goal beyond an invitation to take a peek – a glimpse into what might benefit you to bring into your life, and what might be ready to drop away. We’re banking on the idea that in the stages along the way from dreamy conception of a commitment to practice thirteen times sandwiched between the new and full moon, to the dripping pomegranate seeds of culmination with the full moon and new year, there is magic in the mix that couldn’t have been imagined at the outset.

Personally, I’ve not seen the end of the yoga tunnel. There have been fruited apex moments on the mat, sure, and progress and happiness in relationships off the mat that I have been able to cast clear linking lines to the yoga. I can only truly say that thanks to my time exploring this yoga stuff I’ve : gotten better at moving in my skin; gotten better at dealing with conflict; gotten better at taking deep breaths when I’m stressed, when I’m resting, and when I might otherwise retreat into headspace and check out; gotten better at taking care of myself and others; I’ve gotten better at being me. And there is oh, so much more coming down my line and more fruit, for sure.

I’m curious to see what pops up with the commitment to be at the studio a whole bunch, to forgo other things in lieu of the grind of practice, to sit with what is stirred up to begin and what the gates will close in upon and finish, and to be with other people embarking on their similar and all the way original journeys at the turn of a new moon cycle and year. All in the light of the magic, reflective, and constant love of the moon, for who better to witness the outer work of all that asana on the surface, and to measure the profound alchemy that just might unfold in the dark cave of our hearts?

Ready.

Love, Suki Ola

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When the sun is standing still.

Go to the place within you that is both silent and cacophonous in the same breath. It is there, in the moving within the stillness, and the light inside the dark, that all is. And it is there that all is happening.

I have learned in some years of “practicing”, and “refining”, and “being good”, on and off the mat that nothing that seems to be the real goal, is it. There are endless caverns of respite within effort, and deep tides of peace that only come from restlessness and disease. I believe that it doesn’t have to always be this way, but that for many, like myself, we must crawl through the rocks on our knees to find what is real. And simple. And good already, birthed from the sweat and grunt of time. Looking back, I heard this wisdom from many mouths, but who was I to listen? And who is any teacher to tell? We all must learn and find ourselves.

It is now, facing the winter solstice 2016, when the world is been cracked open, yolk broken and spilled, once again, and I feel it is safe to relax and begin anew. There is no less passion, just less me in the way of the work. And oh, so much more urgency for the process of unveiling the truth about real: medicine; politics; religion; health and wellness; love, trust, and compassion than ever before. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it once again, as many times as needed: a mantra, a prayer – practice is over. No more suffering at our own hands for perfection, only forward motion and steps toward something we can all feel at home in.

As the sun comes to a momentary pause, may we also sit still and source a link to the rhythm of the movement that is never absent, in all things. Blessings for your own moments of stillness, may they bring to you just what you are seeking and need – healing, rest, self-reflection, irreverence, reverence, faith, or just the chance to BE, and quit doing, if only for a breath or two.

Love and respect, Suki Ola

Making yoga

What a whirl. This month has been, in my humble: tough, uncomfortable, awkward, baring, totally expected (did I really think we as a country were in for anything less than a straight shot to the heart?), and raw. Movement and meditation offer a fine tether to peace and calm, especially in strange times. It is a part of the practice to accept that there are always more factors than the business reports, the polls, the media could ever reveal. To know that no thing is severed from the truth, coincidences and circumstance are in fact, alignment, and the result of past thought and action, and anything that makes you feel, is your practice. The Universe is a vast and immeasurably large thing. Yoga helps me to see this and remember the delicate balance inherent in each living, breathing moment. .

In the bared face of our country’s state, I am heartened to hear conversation, rather than silence. I am waking up. I am thankful to know that other people are waking up, too. And I’m crying a bunch, as things are cutting deeper lately, hitting home and so, opening gateways for communication – that butterfingered pathway of speaking the heart’s world through the mouth, so oft and ungracefully led by the mind. I believe though the stakes may seem incredibly high, that we as a populace of loving and respectful beings, can overcome hatred and bigotry, we can foster trust even in the bungling waves of the body politic, we can forgo destructive behavior and choose salubrious habits for the earth of our bodies and the body of earth, and we can write a future tale that is peaceful and hearty. There may be no training program to download and unpack, that kind of practice, with a standard protocol for all, is over. But we can all tap in and find a way that is clear for us.

Recently, I led an evening of deep healing at Shree Yoga with two dear friends who I have learned and grown with, like, a ton. The event is called R&R+ and the offering is a two hour restorative yoga practice, with reiki and really sweet singing. It seemed like perfect timing, what with all the difficult truths and future challenges presenting themselves so blatantly, for a shared space of rest and mellow. We’ve offered R&R + three times now, and for some mystical reason, in the preceding days to the most recent gathering, numerous people asked in class about their role in the singing portion. “How will I know the songs?”, many asked. No verbiage was changed in our promotion – we sing to you is the whole idea, while we offer reiki, and allow the nutritive effects of gentle restorative postures to do their work. I think the current situation is asking everyone to step up, and this collective call to participate, make better, and GROW UP was directly reflected in the conversation. This is good. We have to ask now what we can do, how we can help. And we also have to take care and rest, in the same moment, same breath. This is masterful practice, friends, and no small feat.

May we learn to settle our minds, and bridge the gap between true feeling and phrase. May our actions reflect the highest. May we all find a path that calls to us, and follow it into our particularly individual, completely irreplaceable, and perfectly generous role of making a difference. Coming together, not all isolated and alone, but courageously as a community of individuals, is the answer. These down-to-earth words from Sri Nisargadatta have been helping me, maybe they are encouraging for you, as well. I brought them to teach with on election day and found my fellow teacher, Sonya Luz had brought the same exact quote to class. “The real world is beyond our thoughts and ideas: we see it through the net of our desires divided into pleasure and pain, right and wrong, inner and outer. To see the universe as it is, you must step beyond the net. It is not hard to do so, for the net is full of holes.”

In the Middle

My obsession with finding resolution has led me down some strange, and awkward paths. Looking back I can see quite clearly how choices I made as a younger human were tethered to some deep yearning within myself to fix… everything. It didn’t matter if it was my motor broken or someone else’s, but just that there was something to repair. Recently as a student (which is, like, my favorite thing to be), in Kelley Tredwin’s Breathing is Good Medicine workshop on mindfulness based stress reduction and the power of the breath, I was rekindled to the knowing that a mind needs to complete a thought. Oh, poor mind, ever-destined to chase resolution around like a mystical bone in a world of unfinished, and beautifully undone cycles.

Kelley used the example of mulling thoughts over until far too steeped in the middle of the night. Without the clarity of daylight, a brain will just continue to ramble about, trying to resolve an issue that cannot, by default, be solved by thinking alone. Some dilemmas, like: the crumbling vitality of our environment; deep veins of hatred and judgement that perpetrate all manner of disgusting behavior; war; and the proliferation of over-packaged, processed food that neither nourishes nor sustains life, just cannot be solved in one act or one day. Even a year with superb collaboration from all beings everywhere might not save the planet, but I believe that even so, the actions we take today matter. What paradox. Dear mind, be patient.

The character of Shiva in the pantheon of deities and gravitational heavyweights of Hindu thought is well known for his offering of destruction, oft-named Lord Destroyer. But dissolution is only one of Shiva’s five acts, or states, of the eternal. The first four of Shiva’s acts are creation, sustenance, concealment, and revelation. Each of these five states charges toward ultimate dissolution, which is perhaps why he is so well known for the end. But every end has a beginning, and a middle, and a place where the path is lost, and then found again before meeting itself in resolution. And upon complete dissolve, an energy has the capacity to be reborn and begun, again.

As I understand the concept, all things in the universe are ever acting amidst the reality of one of these five states. The first and the final – creation and dissolution – are fleeting, maybe even momentary. From the conception of a human being to the emergence of a thought, creation happens in an instant. Often the end of a concept, body, or belief occurs in a similar tiny time frame. In science, such momentous shifts are called quantum, and can be proven to not be arriving out of nowhere, but to be the result of much courting, conversation, and collaboration.

Most of the time we spend in our bodies is settled in the state of sustenance, or maintenance. The acts and habits of preservation that sustain life are where we spend the most time and energy, while living. Though landmarks and aha-moments do plant their stakes into the fecund soil of our consciousness and tissues from time to time, the majority of the day-to-day is just that; brushing teeth and little greasings of the wheels that keep things rolling. To live fully in the act of sustenance is by default, to not know what is to come, but to trust. And unless one is dying to die, and can’t wait to dissolve into the ether in an act of solving all the issues of having a body, for now, let go. I encourage myself to savor the good stuff in the middle, and let more than a few strands remain frayed and untied, just for today.

Love and peace with the messiness,

Suki Ola

Autumn Manifesto

Tomorrow’ s equinox is a call to harvest the year’s bounty and begin focusing on storing energy and resources for the future. I’m hearing and feeling the call. Especially up at this elevation and in this wild climate, wrapping up of annual inspirations happens at a time that also requests solid self-care and tending at the gross physical and mental levels. I know, I know, now is the fleeting and extra special opportunity to be present. I speak for myself as an act of, and in the spirit of, living the life I have been asking for. Here is my autumn manifesto.

Accept the gift and revel in the generosity of spirit that breathes into your body from the wellspring of life force energy. Do pranayama to rebuild stable space within for energy and rest. Just like the web of diversity that holds all beings together, these two apparent opposing forces are intimately linked. Know that they become one another.

Call upon the ancient asana shapes that science is just now coming forth to declare they: improve circulation, promote brain function, regulate hormones, support digestion and elimination, strengthen joints and bones, affect better lymphatic flow, promote healthy body weight, enhance sleep. The list goes on, but especially, asana allows freedom of movement in the world, and exploration. Practice because you like it.

Sit in meditation not just because it has been proven to calm the nerves, clear the mind, invite creative thinking, and foster connection to spirit, but because it makes the day easier to face. Reflect upon the benefits in direct relationship to your life. Sit. It feels good.

Study the far-out ideas, and philosophy to connect to something greater, and remember that all sacred writings are only meant to widen a lens of perspective. See a bigger picture with every mindful, grateful breath. Recognize yourself and everyone you know living their own version of the great odysseys and journeys to the depths of the soul. Stay humble and confident in the face of all our great adventures.

Quality first. Yoga improves the quality life, and so, wish for quantity of life. When the waves of radiant health are rolling, welcome more time embodied to exact positive change as in individual, and in the greater collective community. See where your gifts are needed, and offer them without draining resources of energy. Be truly generous, hold safe boundaries.

Look beyond the surface, to see youthfulness below. Tend your inner playful self and revamp a spirit of possibility. Openness to change is an invaluable skill and practice to tend it. Despite all you have endured and seen, stay curious. And practice for the sake of, and by the virtue of, just what makes you feel quite young.

With love and peace on peace day,

Suki Ola

We live in a culture that affords little room for acceptance when it comes to the big green monster of envy. As children we are taught to feel shame about such a yearning for what another has. This leads to a whole culture who lacks language and tools for looking across the river and seeing something you like in another’s bountiful field. Step one in accepting jealousy is to distill this strange cultural conversation around shame. You are not a bad person to wish for something more, end of story. Step two hurdle: acknowledge the despair and self-pity that can follow on the heels of jealousy. To look with honesty at the situation often proves to absolve despair, and can even be an outlet for opening deeper conversation. By seeing that all is not entirely ruined, a path may begin to present itself. In this conversation, it is safe to ask “what are you going to do about it?”, and wait for an answer of empowerment and a plan.

Perhaps a new perspective is in order on the completely natural experience of wishing for what is out there. In the realm of pure potential, the teaching is to accept the possibility of anything you desire becoming real. This is one of the tenets of the yoga, yes? That with practice, over time, a human will be capable of breaking the bonds of limitation that a human form experiences and be immersed in pure unbounded bliss. Rarely, I think, do we as humans on the ground feel jealousy for such enlightenment, more like inspiration. This is a sweet teaching in and of itself. If the highest order of desire is something we see in another and only respect and admire, can’t we get past coveting the small stuff?

A higher teaching on jealousy is to look to the immeasurable means of loving, mudita. Mudita translates to sympathetic joy and is an offering of the heart’s highest to look with happiness upon another’s good fortune. The principle behind this practice speaks to the Dalai Lama’s invitation that we raise the opportunities for joy by 7 billion plus by celebrating another’s good tidings. But this is a high form of peace. My offering today is to look for the good in the discomfort of feeling jealousy. Accept the gift it is to have a model for what you wish. It is truly abundance in reality to be able to look to another for an example of how to climb the peaks that seem so daunting and faraway. What a sweet gift it is to have a teacher, and imagine, gasp! We would bolster the courage to ask them for insight and guidance for the journey.

Love and Peace for what is, Suki

Ever-evolving trust and small cheese

Discomfort, bred from recognizing what would benefit to change, comes with the territory in any self-awareness practice, like yoga. To see the habits, thoughts and attachments that no longer serve the highest is the beginning of purifying the mind and body to serve the spirit. It is just this awkward state of self-reflection that has driven much of my yogic studies along. I feel liberated when I realize an old pattern has changed, and despite knowing all it takes to transform, am tickled by the occasional feeling that it that all arose out of the blue. Sometimes I forget where I began and sometimes it just takes that long…

What a yogi chooses to do with this knowingness is a key to maintenance of happiness and ease. One option is to focus the mind on releasing that which so blatantly blocks evolution. “I will no longer eat cheese”, (as it upsets my stomach). “I will stop talking negatively to my body”, (for I believe that I am well). “I will release a poverty consciousness around earning and allowing for abundance”, (I know that I am worthy). Here are examples of affirmations I have fiddled with in the past. Their repetition and practice served, in a way, to infuse my world with new concepts and perspectives, surely.

But I found myself fixated on more adversity than I had hoped for. “Cheese”, “negative talk”, and “poverty consciousness”, were words I was repeating daily and my mind was lapping it up with a big spoon. The mind can only do so much with the information it is served and will focus on what is presented with regularity, whether or not it is the heart’s desire to shift just that thing. All this time and my practice was attaching deeper roots to just what I wished to forgo. My small prayers were contradicting the natural course of their very spacious nature.

Lately, as laissez faire as it may seem, I choose to pray big and accept that now is the time to release ALL that no longer serves. Trust in the process anchors such a capacious invocation. With these words, I honor all the work that has been done to carve deep canyons of possibility into the matter of mindstuff, and bodystuff, and all humankindstuff. This new way is neither positive nor negatively charged, it simply is full reverence for the magic power of manifestation. As little habits slither off into oblivion, deeper patterns of thought and behavior are also sent down the happy path of letting go. All in the universe is metaphor, each singular thing reflecting and refracting the light of another, and we as light beings are doing the same. Why not trust that one wide current of calling is enough? Now we’re talking powerful stuff, which is prayer, if we leave the gates open.

With love and respect for the process, Suki

Creativity as a cave and you, a candle.

The smallest amount of light can dissipate much darkness, but what is the danger of the darkness? I have to ask as we approach the twilight season, and the High Holy Day of Yom Kippur when light is cast into the beginning of the new year, what, pray, is wrong with the darkness? It is in the dark where our ideas are seeded, in the dark where they take root and begin the slow and earnest process of seeking a path toward the light. Long before the early blooms of spring flowers arrive, the dark womb of the earth holds space for life to move and shake beneath the surface. In this antipodal season of Autumn as the plants begin to wither and fall away, there is still ferocious life-force flowing, though slowing, beneath our skin. It is our work as yogis to honor an interval of less velocity by continuing to stoke the fires of life-force within. With practice, we learn to keep the deep channels open for prana to flow as our leaves begin to fall, so to speak.

It is the murk of unknowingness, the quieted senses harvested in stillness and meditation, and the screaming for change that swells from our darkest days that impels transformation. In the Hindu Goddess tradition, from Kali’s timeless, terrifying cave, Saraswati emerges. Saraswati’s pure course mothers inspiration, learned craft and arts, knowledge, clarity, intuition, and creativity. But the pulse, the drive to create is what comes before in the dank and quiet cave. In the predawn tickle of sounds and bare beginnings, harmony is formed. It is in these places of unfinished business, even untapped resource, that creativity dwells in her ferocious garb.

The just-before-moment, when words swell at the tip of your tongue is the time when yoga, a connectivity to the source and creative force of the Universe is most ripe. Enjoy the overcast, shadowed, and fearful caverns of imminent announcement that rise, curling like smoke from the slow-burning fires of verve within you. Settle in and enjoy the flavor as best you can, for without attuning to our deepest urges, the pleasure we experience on the outside is but a sprinkled on a shell. Cast loving light into the cave of your heart, your fear, and your silence and watch what rolls out from there, with each measured breath.

To your darkest hour, I bow.
Love, Suki

An Invitation to the Core Episode #1

There is nothing that you can do, or can change about yourself, to do better yoga. There is no goal you can set that will make you better at yoga. You can apply yourself, with discipline and love, attention to detail, mindfulness to progress and respect to your practice, and then you will be doing yoga. But there is not one thing in the world, beyond self reflection (which has no goal, no expectation, and no externally focused result attached to it), that you can switch on and in so doing, deepen your practice of yoga.

By becoming more self reflective, we do not learn to become perfect, but rather learn to notice when we are moving further away from perfect. Behaving badly does not necessarily cease when we become “yogis”, it just turns into something recognizable. Advancing the practice looks like noticing sooner and sooner when the crappy behavior is settling down to stay. Master practice is nipping poor behavior in the bud faster and faster along the way. In learning to accept and recognize where we lose the path toward more goodness, good feelings, good relatedness with the world around us and ourselves, we learn to make yoga. Sharon Gannon, the co-founder of Jivamukti Yoga says, “You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. All you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state.”

To truly notice what is in the reflection, we must be connected. In our bodies, connection looks like strength, or an interlacing to center. Core strengthening exercises, then, are the seed at the center of the asana practice. Cultivation of the strength it takes to truly look within is the beginning of yoga. The exercises will ask you again and again to look closer. This week, find one fun new way to make core strengthening a part of your everyday and enjoy what arises from your very own depths. To come in episode #2: some playful ways to build deep core.

Love, Suki