Tuesday, 30 August 2011

just stay...

I have been a runner. Not athletically, but as a way of dealing with life. In my actions, and in my mind. I'm regularly thinking of what's next. Instead of reveling in the beauty of my life right now, I think of what I will do next, where I will move next, who I might meet next. I enjoy my life, enjoy where I am, but I am usually moving on to the next thing, at the very least, in my mind. Can any of you out there relate?

I left my cozy family home at 18, and have been on the move since then! University years, teaching in England, traveling the world while working on a Cruise Ship for a few years, I never stayed in one place for more than a year or two. I've now lived in Ottawa for 6 1/2 years, which amazes me. But even while my body has stayed in this beautiful city, my mind is regularly planning when and where I'll go to next. I'm a little bit of a gypsy, in my mind at least :) In my jobs and careers, while I take pride and work diligently at whatever I'm doing, my mind is thinking, planning, wondering what will be next, when I'll leave. And, to be honest with you, in relationships, I do find myself thinking, how long will this last? Who will move on first? Is it possible, or even a good thing, to find "forever"? And, (god, I need to do some more therapy, or deep meditation :)), what if I need to run?!

I am aware of these things in me. Loving all parts of me, I learn to embrace these parts with compassion. But it came up in a most interesting way, in my yoga practice the other day.

I was doing my practice in my living room, on my mat, facing my sunny windows with a gorgeous view of the Gatineau Hills. I became aware, as I moved through my asana (physical postures), that I often only hold a pose for 3 or 4 breaths. I thought, let's see if I can hold for 10 breaths. Let's see what happens, energetically and physically. It's fun to play with your practice.

So I moved into Warrior 1, a lovely strong backbend. I focused on my balanced, abdominal breathing, and held. 3 breaths, 4 breaths, 5 breaths. And then something began to stir inside of me. Frustration. Irritation. I began to sweat crazily, and began to feel nauseous. I brought my attention back to my breath, and tried to talk myself through it. "Angie, you're ok. You can hold this. Just stay". It wasn't that I was in pain, that my body couldn't hold the pose. My body felt great. It was completely psychological and emotional! I wanted to move. I wanted to do what was next. I did not want to stay. My breath became rough and ragged, I desperately wanted to get out of the pose, I felt hot and bothered. It was such a crazy visceral reaction, to staying in one place! I breathed through it, held the pose for 10 breaths, and sat quietly, to regain my breath and my centre. What a funny experience! My mind became flooded with all these things I run from, the way I move through life, so quickly, always thinking about what is next.

What a lesson! Again, my asana practice revealed some funny patterns in my life, and in my mind! Man, this yoga is the coolest thing ever. I love all I learn from it. And as I become aware of the way I live, often unconsciously, I can allow those things to come up, and deal with them. With love and compassion.

I still want to run. Still want to move on to whatever is next. But today I am a little more aware than I was before, and that is one of the wonderful things about this yogic path. Because with awareness can come change.


Tuesday, 23 August 2011

A little fun article...

Hey all, I was featured this week on UOttawa's online magazine, the Gazette. See my interview on the left side of the front page. Just a little fun! Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The gift of teaching

Last night, I taught a class at http://www.lenordik.com/, this lovely Scandinavian spa outside Ottawa, on the Quebec side. I teach there each Monday evening. It is such a treat to teach there, because of the beauty of the place. Nestled in the Gatineau Hills, it is a perfect place to unwind, with pools and waterfalls and fireplaces and steam rooms sprawled among the hills and trees. I feel so so lucky to be able to teach here. People come with the sole intention to relax and unwind, so it is delightful to be able to teach people who are there to find a bit of quiet and calm.

I had a very full class last night, 21 people. It was such an interesting mix of people. There were a few actors and dancers from a local summer theatre group. There were three chi-gong instructors in my class, one of whom is traveling around the world with her teachings. There were a couple of ladies who didn't bring any yoga clothes and hid out in the back of the room in their bathing suits, but were wonderfully committed to doing a class. I was really aware, and really thrilled, with the variety and mix of people in our class. I noticed a great joy in the class, right from the beginning. I believe each student brings their own energy into each class, and the energy last night was joyful.

We did a lovely class together, and students came into the apex pose of pigeon, initially sitting up in the backbend of pigeon, and then allowing their bodies to release forward into lying pigeon.

As I looked around at my students, I saw such releasing in their bodies. I heard some gentle sighs, saw muscles relax in backs and legs, and felt a release in the energy in the class. It is a challenging pose, and it can bring up a lot of thoughts and issues and such, because of the work that is done in the back of the hamstrings and glutes. But as I encouraged them to breathe through the sensations that were arising, there was a real sense of release. After a few gentle counterposes to this, students came onto their back, into apanasa, and eventually into savasana. I simply reminded them about releasing, letting themselves sink into their mat, and allowing their breath and mind to soften. And the most beautiful thing happened. They did! I could see it, across the room. People were letting go. Softening. Coming to that still, quiet place. People often wonder, what does the teacher do, while students are lying still? Well, I don't know about other teachers, but I observe my students. I observe their breath. I notice how soft their breath becomes, as they let go. I do watch, in case someone gets anxious or uncomfortable as they lie there. Yesterday, as I was observing my students lie there, I had such a sense that they were lying there like children, fully free, fully relaxed, not a care in their minds. I don't know if that's true, but that is what was radiating up from the group. An ease, an effortlessness, a quiet calm. A total innocence. It was so beautiful, and again, I was reminded what a gift it is to be a teacher. To have students place their trust in me, to lie there so simply, to make themselves vulnerable. I am so grateful. To be able to observe such softness, such innocence and peace. It brought tears to my eyes.

After savasana, students came to sitting, and we chanted Ohm three times, to close our class. The ohms were so beautiful. While, in our opening chants at the beginning of the class, there were voices and pitches all over, the closing ohms were different. They were so rich and resonant and all in the same pitch. The vibration was very powerful and very unified. For me, this is how I sense my students have been able to go to a lovely place in the class, when all our vibrations begin to match. It's such a beautiful thing.

So, again, I am grateful. For the gift of teaching. For the blessing of sharing the beautiful teachings of yoga. I am delighted. I am blessed. Thank you to each and every one of you who has ever been a student. You give back so much more than you know! Namaste.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Three Things...

I have just 3 things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.    
      ~Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher, 6th century BC

Isn't this a beautiful thing? Just reading those three words makes me sigh deeply and sweetly. Oooh, I love the idea of living through these three concepts. In each moment of my day. On and off my yoga mat.

Imagine, a simpler life. It IS within our grasp, if we truly want it. I can simplify my schedule. I can choose to simplify my social schedule. I can simplify my thought life. I can simplify my yoga practice. Recently, I've gone to a couple of classes where there are complicated, sexy, twisty poses. And to be honest with you, some of them I can't do. And I find myself feeling insecure, and hear my inner talk getting self-critical. Right now my practice is quite simple. The classes I teach are quite simple. I truly believe that simple can bring wonderful, deep experiences of joy and calmness. But when I'm exposed to complicated, twisty, complex poses, and they look like fun, and I can't do them, I decide I must therefore be a failure. Hmmm. Maybe I'll try to bring myself back to being ok with simplicity.

Patience is perhaps my biggest challenge in life :) I want things done NOW. If things aren't the way I think they should be, I want to act, now. I want others to act, now. I go crazy when I have to wait. Whoooo, even writing that, I get all spinny and anxious inside. See, in my mind, I have figured out what my best life will look like. And I figure it should all happen right now, please and thank you very much. (oooh, I've learned to giggle at the thoughts in my mind :)) So one of my lessons in this life, I am quite sure, is to learn to wait. To be patient. Patience till the next bus comes. Patience till the man of my dreams comes :) Patience with others, when they're doing what they want to do, and not what I want them to do. Patience with myself, when I'm not quite all I want to be. On the mat, I tend to get impatient with myself, my body - I get impatient with myself, that I can't go from low plank to upward dog yet. Or I get impatient, when a teacher asks us to hold a pose and I want to move, to change, to act :) Ahhh, patience... such a gift.... I choose to let that grow and develop in me :)

The delightful trait of compassion is a gift you can't miss, when you've had it extended it to you. I hope you can take a moment to remember when someone showed you compassion. Remember it, feel it again. so warm, and lovely, and loving. The first person we all need to show compassion to, is ourselves, I believe. When we stop to listen to the thoughts that race in our minds, they are often very unkind, uncompassionate thoughts toward ourselves. With angry thoughts spewing at ourselves, how can we show compassion to others? It's that old adage, you can't give what you don't have. So take time to challenge those unkind thoughts toward yourself, and have gentle compassion for yourself. You are absolutely doing the best you can with what you have. And then, let that softness and compassion flow to others around you. Compassion for the people in your family. Compassion for the homeless guy you walk past every day. Compassion for the guy in the car that just cut you off. Compassion for the telemarketers who call you on Saturday morning (am I going to far?!?) The truth is, we are all doing the best we can, with what we have. So why not soften toward ourselves and each others? And to bring it back to the mat, show compassion to yourself, as you are in your poses. Compassion to your body. Yesterday I participated in a class, and it was a wonderful class with a wonderful teacher. But I pushed myself, too far in a pose my body wasn't ready for, and now my hip really hurts. That wasn't very kind toward myself. I knew, in the moment, that my body wasn't ready for what I was asking it to do, but I pushed forward, without compassion, and now I'm in pain. Hmmm. Lack of compassion causes pain. To me. To others. Hmmm.

So. Simplicity. Patience. Compassion. These three are the greatest treasures. I think I believe it!

Have a lovely weekend, and I wish you more simplicity, sweet patience, and overflowing compassion for yourself and those around you.


Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Do nothing?

Do less and achieve more. Do nothing and achieve everything.

Whoa. What does this crazy quote mean? How is this possible? Isn't this contrary to everything our society embraces? My active, spinning, busy mind rebels against this thought. My need to be in control rises up against this thought - but no, I need to do, I need to act, I need to take charge, I need to do something! I can't sit, and rest, and do nothing. Then nothing would get done!! I alone am responsible for making everything happen and everything work. (sarcastic, yes, but I think I really think this is true!! how kooky!!) I can't do nothing!! And how in the world could I achieve everything, by doing nothing?

Let's look at how this relates to asana, or the physical postures. Sometimes, we go into postures with a lot of effort. We're holding a pose, and we feel tension build in our body, and we begin to feel pain, but we're going to hold it anyway, because we are used to "acting", to doing. But the truth is, if we're in a pose and unable to find sthira and sukham (steadiness and comfort or ease), our bodies remain tense, and we can't fully experience the benefits of the pose. If we can back out of a pose, find that ease, and just breathe, we will actually go deeper into the pose and our mind will become quieter and more still. The less we do, it seems, the more we "achieve". After a physical practice, we lie in stillness in savasana (corpse pose). In this place of stillness, of doing nothing, our bodies, on a subtle, deep level, integrate the physical work that was done before. Our breath quiets, our mind comes to stillness and quietness, and perhaps, we drop into a deeper, altered state of consciousness, where only light and clarity and beauty exist. In this act of doing nothing, we achieve everything. Everything that is truly important. A connection with our true, higher Self.

The truth is, this is the opposite of what our society embraces. Our society values busyness, values doing and acting and moving, in order to achieve. Think of the people who have the title of "successful" in our society. Usually, they are A-type personlities, involved in a multitude of projects, high-paced, their days are planned out minute-to-minute, and even their holiday time (if they take holiday time!) is tightly structured. They are busy, doing much. And perhaps they feel they are achieving a lot. Certainly, career-wise and materially they may be! But with such busyness, and doing, I wonder if they come to a place of stillness and quietness, ever. If they ever get to stop, breathe, and appreciate what is in them, and around them. Maybe they do, and if so, I applaud them! But the people I've chatted with, who live such active, doing lives, never seem satisfied. There is always one more thing to be involved in, one more thing they should be doing. 

What do I know? These are just my observations. But take a moment to think about it, if you will. 

I know, certainly, when it comes to life things, such as relationships, and job searches, and friendships, there are things I need to do. I need to invest time. I need to send out resumes. I need to show the people I love, that I love them. But I'm sure I can simplify. And I KNOW I can allow my mind to rest more. I've written about this before - my mind spins and worries and tries to figure things out. And tries to act in desperate ways, to make things happen. But, when I let go, when I release, when I can breathe and trust, I seem to "achieve" more. When I can let go of all effort, when I can stop worrying and spinning and scheming, life evolves, naturally and beautifully and effortlessly. Probably in the way it would have turned out, with or without my worrying. Except I feel peace. And calm. And clear. And quiet. And connected. To Myself and the beautiful Universe and everyone around me.

And perhaps, right there, in doing nothing, I have achieved everything. Hmm.