Monday, June 30, 2014

what is your awareness aware of?

I was in my Friday morning yoga class, sitting patiently on my bolster for my teacher to start his opening remarks. This teacher is a Buddhist Meditation Teacher & Yoga Teacher by trade...hence the reason I love going because I get the wisdom and the movement double whammy in his classes. It's about 15 minutes of pure meditation training and insight, then 60 minutes of asana flow, where I open my hips, my lower back releases, and I feel completely juicy.
On this particular morning, my body was feel agitated, tight, and wound up, like a piece of marine rope tangled and left on the shores for someone to save. 

His talk started. "What is your awareness aware of?" Huh, I thought. Interesting idea. I closed my eyes and sank deeper, trying to be present, trying to do meditation. Ahhhh...I see my problem, I instantly thought. I am so programmed into doing, that I never get to just be aware. Huh. Of course, my mind was blown. I started down the rabbit hole of where this shows up in other areas of my life. For example, being at home. I have the hardest time just being at home, reading, sitting, listening. I become agitated quickly, running to the next chore or task to check off the list. I see...I am succumbing to the human condition. 

"What is your awareness aware of?" He continued to ask this question probably every five minutes for the rest of the class. For me, my consciousness went something like this...
My calves are tight. Oh, I can feel that in my hamstrings...why is my back so tight? I need to go to yoga more. I need more routine in my life. I need structure. I want to be home more, making dinner. I need to clear out my clutter. That would feel good. Pack up some books...downsize.

And then..."What is your awareness aware of?" Boom. Shot back into real time. 
Can I tune into my breath? oh yeah, that feels good. Deep breathing. Release. Ahhhh....breath. Now I am into it. I am aware of my body, strong body, healthy body, resilient body. Oh yeah. That's nice...big stretch, opening of my hip. In my body. 

On and on this went for the next 50 minutes or so. It was lovely. For the first time, I was able to be in my body, feel every little muscle, bone, fascia, tendon, ligament...stretch & release. 

I totally loved the class as you can probably tell. As Jack Kornfield says in his book A Path With Heart, our minds are puppies and it is our job to train them. We do this not my doing meditation but by being aware. What is your awareness aware of? Try that on for the next 10 minutes, how about the day, what about the rest of your life? This is the juice. This is the work. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

notes on transition

 I attended a women's retreat over solstice for four days. The theme of the retreat was, "Navigating Endings & Welcoming Beginnings." It was marvelous. For four days, I shared joy and tears, taught two movement/yoga classes a day, walked the trails and enjoyed the wind and sun on my skin, ate delicious meals in community. Pure bliss.

Like any retreat, the fruits of insight don't show up until days, weeks, sometimes months after the retreat. With that said, I have had some fabulous learning appear for me since reintegrating into life this week.

The More We Live in Black/White, Either/Or, Good/Bad Thinking, The Less Access We Have to Magic. I used to be a very black/white thinker. Granted, I think there are moments in our lives when this type of thinking is either pay your taxes or you don't, you either love the person or you don't, you either stop at the red light or you don't. Although all those are good examples when thinking like that works out, I have changed teams and now bring with me a curiosity and inquiry into why things are unfolding the way they are unfolding. We never know why someone shows up the way we do...we must listen deeply, hold the space, and let the navigation be done at a pace that works for folks.

We Are All Dying. I am not intending to be Ms. Bleak here but this is the mother of all lessons...impermanence. A lot of the women in my retreat were on their other half of life and very clear, present, and matter of fact about it, yet they had some softness to their attitude about it all which I found so inspiring and humbling. Death and dying brings up so much...too much to unpack here, but I will say that I got really clear on how this unfolds in the witnessing of my grandmother in hospice. I traveled back for her 90th birthday in 2012 and about three weeks after that, she passed away. I experienced the rawness, teh compassion, the realization of what matters. I will never forget the moment where I held her hand and she looked at me and told me what a beautiful woman I had become. She told me to follow my heart, forgive, be strong and love people.

Transitions Take A Lot. Of time, energy, work, emotions, physical takes a lot and it can leave us feeling depleted, overwhelmed, emotional, and resentful sometimes. It comes back to the infamous circle of self-care and a deep listening of that place deep within ourselves. Find practices that are grounding, friends and family who can hold you, and time alone to process at your own pace.

I love this article my teacher shared with us on retreat. Post it on your fridge, your nightstand, your bathroom mirror, your work locker. Come back to it again and again. Remember, the only thing permanent is change.


"When going through a transition one tool I have found invaluable is to adopt a beginner’s mind. This comes from Zen Buddhist practice."
  • Accept nothing at face value, and adopt a healthy skepticism;
  • Let go of everything you have learnt from experts, teachers, or gurus;
  • Drop the language of should, must and have to;
  • Stop, appreciate and experience the present moment fully;
  • Notice what is unusual and unique in every situation;
  • Reflect on the big questions and simply allow the answers to come;
  • Look for one uplifting thought or idea in your conversations with others;
  • Adopt a sense of newness with people you have known for a long time;
  • Do something small, different and unexpected every day;
  • Take one step at a time without worrying about the future;
  • Immerse yourself in your life and forget what is going on around you;
  • Enjoy being surprised especially when things do not work out as expected;
  • Celebrate falling down as well as getting up again;
  • Learn to embrace the unknown and live each day to the full; *Practice saying “I don’t know” at least once a day.