When you are quiet, you are the source of peace.

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I believe we are genetically programmed to want enlightenment.

We are bliss-seeking creatures, and we’ve heard good things about nirvana.

The absence of suffering and confusion.

Absolute clarity.

But clarity sorta sucks. Sometimes it brings the suffering of others into excruciating focus. You’re hit with a barrage of emotions, and then clarity is gone.

You have to learn to be still amid the chaos, to avoid stirring up all the shit, to look life in the eye and say, “okay,” and let go.

So that’s why I meditate.

Because I am a shameless spiritual junkie. Because someone said life is suffering, and I’m the kid trying to prove them wrong. Because I know if I am still, right here and now, I can find quiet. Because I just got back from a week-long visit with my family, and I didn’t fight with my dad or anything! Because I was looking for truth and someone said, “inquire within,” and it’s by far the most useful piece of advice I’ve ever been given.

In just a few days, I’m offering my first Introduction to Meditation workshop at Shakti Studio in Arnold, MD, and I would love beyond words to have you there.

Here’s how you register:

Go to this link. You will probably be prompted to create an account. Do that, and then you’ll see the class schedule, etc. Click the “Workshops” tab at the top of the page, and you’ll see several workshop descriptions including the “Introduction to Meditation.” Click the blue button that says, “Sign up now!” Follow the instructions from there.

Also, join the Facebook event for the workshop so we can get in touch. There, you can ask me questions if needed or get in touch with other workshop participants.

If you have any trouble signing up, please send me a note or just show up early so we can get you all squared away.

xoxo

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My Favorite Yoga Class

René Descartes' illustration of mind/body dualism.

My favorite class that I teach right now is a chair yoga class for people dealing with cancer. There is no vinyasa in this class. We don’t even get on the floor for savasana because some students might not be able to get back up afterwards. But that doesn’t matter — they do yoga. They practice at the level that’s appropriate for their bodies and their current level of health. The purpose of their practice is not to master every pose but to find peace in a body that is anything but peaceful. Once again, I am learning more from my students than they are learning from me. I show up and give them a few exercises to do, and in return, they teach me about choosing serenity in the midst of chaos and suffering.

Asana practice is about establishing a relationship between mind, body, and breath. Too often, we see ourselves in a disjointed way. We think the body is one thing, the mind is another, and the soul is yet another thing. We’re not in touch with our bodies, and we don’t have an accurate perception of how we look or what a healthy body looks like. We fail to see ourselves as whole, integrated beings and ignore the fact that what happens to the body affects the brain and shapes our entire experience. And when the body is gone, as far as we know, so is the mind.

Still, this lack of appreciation for the body persists across cultures, and it’s especially problematic in the US. Here, we see ourselves as being separate from nature, better than animals, above it all. Thinking that we are civilized, intellectual beings, we divorce ourselves from the body and spend our lives feeling like that little alien living in the man’s head in Men in Black. So, asana practice is about coming back into the body and inhabiting it in a healthy and joyful way.

The poses don’t matter that much. Each pose has a unique effect on the body, the breath, and the energy level, so it matters in a sense, but we basically choose a practice that produces the effect we want. Some people love hot yoga because it’s exhilarating. Some people crave the soothing atmosphere of a gentle class. Some people need a teacher who will push them hard to improve themselves. Some people need a teacher who will allow them to be vulnerable. That’s all fine, and it’s all yoga.

We learn various poses, breathing techniques, mantras and whatnot. Sometimes we get little glimpses of something bigger than us. That’s a very pleasant experience, but if it doesn’t make your day-to-day life better, then it’s hard to stay with it. Your practice has to be sustainable in order to make a lasting difference in your life. Find a practice that is sustainable — any practice that helps you make peace within yourself. You don’t have to be able to do a handstand. You don’t even have to do asana. Just find a way to make peace, and keep doing it. That’s your yoga.

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Yoga Sutra 1.2: Quieting the Mind

Yoga Sutra 1.2

YOGAŚ CITTA VRTTI NIRODHAH.
The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga.

I’m studying the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali again these days because sometimes I need to remind myself of why I practice yoga and why I teach it. Although I’ve been steeped in yogic practice and philosophy for nearly half my life, sometimes life gets chaotic, and I lose focus. On this latest return to the sutras, I’ve been moved to write some reflections on them. I’m no sanskrit scholar or philosopher, but the great thing about the sutras is that you don’t have to be those things to learn from them. They have something to offer us at every stage of our practice. I’ve written before about sutra 1.1, so today I want to share my reflection on sutra 1.2.

Yogas citta vritti nirodhah.
The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga.

The mind is a busy thing. It is always moving. Even when we sleep, the mind is fluctuating, making up little stories, tossing flashes of color and light around, reenacting or inventing conversations and scenes that feel like reality while we’re experiencing them. Only when we wake up do we realize our dreams were “just dreams,” no matter how real they felt. We’ve all heard of lucid dreaming, right? Some people learn to recognize that they are dreaming while it’s happening, and that changes the dream. Similarly, we become lucid in our waking life when we learn to tell the difference between what is real and what is just mental noise.

If I experience anxiety, I might have all kinds of crazy scary thoughts. I might think the world is a terrible place, no one loves me, and I’m doomed to be a failure. But the practice of yoga is about cultivating the awareness to ask, “What’s really going on here? I feel panicked but I don’t know why. The thoughts I’m having are unreasonable. They’re not an accurate reflection of reality. Perhaps I could choose to think something else.”

The same practice can be applied to many areas of life. If you’re driving and someone cuts you off, you get mad, right? You think, “Wow, that guy drives like a jerk! Why didn’t he look where he was going? And then he had the nerve to honk when I passed him! I hate people.” But you know the way someone else drives doesn’t have anything to do with you. And in reality, you probably don’t hate everyone. The truth is, we may feel and think a lot of different things depending on our circumstances, and while we can’t always control our circumstances, we have a choice about how we respond to them. We can choose to indulge negative, fatalistic, and panicked thoughts, or we can let them go.

Our perception of reality is strongly colored by our choice of thoughts. This is one of the simplest truths in the world and one of the hardest things to remember when the going gets tough. That’s why we have our yoga practice to use as a tool. Asana (poses) helps us create the link between mind and body. This helps us to stay present in the moment and to gain control over the fluctuations of the mind. As we create a state of ease and health in the body, we also create a sense of peace and quiet in the mind. Only when the mind is quiet can we begin to experience true yoga or union.

So … How can I apply this to my life right now? Having recently been struck with a sneak attack of the flu, I need to slow down and be quiet for a while. Rather than pushing harder, teaching more classes, perfecting harder poses and so forth, I need to reconnect with that deep well presence. I’ve been pursuing the career side of things, the outwardly visible trappings of so-called success rather than focusing on my own basic wellbeing. That’s essentially the opposite of what my yoga practice is all about, so even though it may look like I’m doing tons of yoga, keeping up this pace for too long can become counter productive. Luckily, this little virus came just in time to put me back in line without doing too much damage. Now, it’s time for more self-care, rest, and quiet reflection.

Peace!

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Namaste

Namaste

If there is one thing I really want to get across to my students and readers, it would be the meaning of namaste.

There is a lot to learn in the world of yoga and meditation. There’s a lot to experience and deal with in the world around us. There are infinite books to read, people to meet, thoughts to have. There’s so much to choose from that it’s no wonder we lose our way so often.

If you never find a spiritual teacher, never put any faith in any leader or healer, never take a yoga class or even sit for meditation, although all these things can have enormous benefits, if you at least know the meaning of namaste, you can start there and get just about as far as any other human being.

So, what does namaste mean?

A good, simple translation is, “The light within me bows to the light within you.”

Or there is always the very simple, “I honor the spirit in you, which is also in me.”

This is all built on the idea that we are all essentially the same, and that each of us is, at our core, divine. Now, I’m not a religious person, so I’ll let you decide what divine means. But there is something that animates us, something that has prompted us to exist, something that grants us consciousness and a drive to live. You can call it whatever you want, but once you connect with it and see it in yourself and others, it will change the way you interact with the world.

Dive beyond the ever-changing surface of desires and fleeting thoughts and find that place in yourself, and you will find that it is reflected in everyone you meet.

The more you can keep this truth in your sights and operate from this place of truth, the more your life will evolve toward enlightenment.

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the real reason you did it in the first place

The whole internet 2.0 thing (or whatever-point-oh we’re on now) can sometimes be so much about self-promotion that it makes me sick. When people start using “authentic” as a social media buzzword, I authentically fight the urge to scream and pull people’s hair out. (This is my yoga today: walking that fine line between moral decency and self-righteous obnoxiousness.)

When Danielle LaPorte launched her book, she worked really hard to promote it, and she had a lot of success, but despite all her effort, she didn’t make the New York Times bestseller list. In her blog post about it, she references Seth Godin’s writing about false metrics and how he thinks the list itself is corrupt.

So I’m reading these blog posts about metrics … another buzz word that gives me authentic rage. But then I’m struck by this one phrase: the real reason you did the project in the first place. 

I had a little light bulb moment.

The real reason you did the project in the first place … It’s like a magic incantation, I swear. If you put this verbal idea filter over anything in the world, you can get down to the nitty gritty of what it’s all about.

I became a yoga teacher because I am the kind of nerd who, when eating at a restaurant with paper table cloths and crayons, leaves yogic graffiti to try and spread the love.

The real reason I became a yoga teacher … is that yoga is the best way I’ve found to create peace in my own life and come to terms with my own flaws, and I believe it’s a powerful tool for bringing peace to other people.

The real reason I wrote my graduate thesis… is that I wanted to get at the mysteries andthe mythologies of modern life.

The real reason I write this blog … is that I enjoy developing these little ideas of mine and putting them out there for the world and that I hope to occasionally inspire someone to see things a little differently.

The real reason I write poetry … is that it makes me happy.

And it’s not a massive divine revelation or anything. Like I said, it’s a little light bulb moment. But it’s a nice one.

Because when I know what my motivation is, I also know what my motivation isn’t.

I did not become a yoga teacher because I believe in the power of skinny women in expensive yoga pants. In fact, I think yoga pants as a concept are simply fucking ridiculous. And I didn’t become a yoga teacher because I wanted to quit cursing, either. So there.

I didn’t write my graduate thesis for the honor of trying to mangle it into some kind of marketable shape.

I don’t write this blog to become famous because if that was my real purpose, I should have given it up years ago. I could’ve accomplished a lot more in that regard by posting naked photos on the internet, but that’s not what I’m here for.

I don’t write poetry to get rich. Because … hahahahaha. Right?

I do not live my life in hopes of getting retweets, likes, upvotes or karma. It’s important to remember that.

Anyway, happy Monday. <3

Miss Dirt

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