Magical Moments of Gratitude and Abundance

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Yoga is the flow of energy – within our selves and everywhere. For we are comprised of prana, the life force, and as yoga connects us to our selves we connect to prana. We are made up of our parents’ genes, our unique talents, skills and personalities, to the elements, to one another, and to so much more. With continuous yoga practice, one begins to experience the flow as it is as well as where it may be stuck in our bodies or minds.

Each morning during vacation I practice for several hours with the ocean as the backdrop. The sound of the tide connects me to the rhythm of my own breath and to my movements. For all yoga is attention training. As we focus on the ever changing flow of energy – of our respiration, in and out, of the elements of the pose and all of our subtle adjustments – we then stop, remain still, and experience the essence of the pose and the fullness of the moment. All dualities slip away and we are here. And here in the moment, I experience a deep sense of connection to everything. I feel such gratitude and abundance, and contentment flows, like my energy or prana.

My discovery of yoga in my early twenties was simply a surprise and a blessing. I have never wavered in my practice or studies since my first class 36 years ago. My awareness of consciousness and my appreciation of the vastness and beauty of the minutiae of the present moment continues to deepen as does the connection that I feel to the breath, the pause, the flow. One late afternoon I watched a lone swimmer quite far out in the ocean until my eye could no longer see him. As he vigorously swam for miles I knew that I was witnessing a most incredible expression of the mind-body-breath connection. As I watched his prowess, fluidity, rhythm, speed, and focus, I was amazed. I felt immense gratitude to observe such a incredibly beautiful moving meditation, and another example of the flow of energy.

Recently, I had a very meaningful dream. A white baby goat was the dream symbol that spoke to me as clearly as a bell ringing across a meadow. In my dream, I am sleeping and the goat is curled against my side next to Sarah, my black cat. As I am leaving my dream state and gradually awakening, I am confused and upset for I realize that it is only Sarah who remains next to me, in real time. In despair and still half asleep, I ask out loud, “but where is the goat?” All day the imagery of the goat stayed in my consciousness. I was struck by the contrast between the white and black and thought it suggested dualities. My husband suggested that I research its meaning. As I read I was excited to learn that dreaming of a white goat is a symbol for good luck and happiness and that it further symbolizes balance, respect and grace. But what I found really interesting is that the most common meaning is that of abundance and mirth.

Receiving my morsels along the path of yoga are like the crumbs discovered by Hansel and Gretel guiding them on their journey home. As I meander down my long and winding path tasting the rewards of yoga, I recognize that yoga has taught me devotion and has granted me many gifts: serenity, health, balance and joy. It has also provided me with a space to be – to find stillness and softness, strength and balance. From adolescence to middle age, from being single to married and through three pregnancies and deliveries, with the pillars of love and loss, wherever I am at in any given moment in time, yoga has been my Light and has ignited my own inner Light. I have learned to be present, to find space around my heart, and to connect with others, heart-to-heart. Daily I sit in gratitude and abundance. Perhaps my goat will come again soon to visit.

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Mindfully Celebrating the Mundane and the Magnificent

Lying in the tent, loud thunderclaps overhead and heavy rain pounding the canvas,
one wonders what else there is to think about?

For the rain is relentless and intense and really the only thought is whether we will stay dry or not. The rhythmic loud sound is like a mantra and keeps one fully present in the moment. Camping in Zion National Park in southern Utah is a blessing. Stunning golden and salmon coloured cliffs and bare rock with distinctive ponderosa pines ring the canyon within which we remain. We spend our days hiking, creating with our cameras and relaxing with one another. Yesterday after our hike, I sprawled in the lazy river and felt the coolness of the calm green water as it gently glided over me. Yet today, the incredibly fast flowing river brings dangerous and deadly flash floods and the muddy brown water declares its unsurmountable power. Every moment in nature is an opportunity to observe constancy and change, to cherish wide open expanses, and to internalize the richness of this deeper reality. To be fully present, to go within, and experience something much greater than my self – this is in part what yoga means to me.


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We become so bogged down with the incessant details of daily living – the myriad of responsibilities, distractions and stressors to be managed. These are of course a natural part of life but the tendency to equate this busyness with meaning is a falsehood. When we are distracted by the fast pace, the to do’s, the external trappings, and the ever present information, entertainment and stimulation that technology brings us, we may lose sight of what is truly valuable, including the joy and pleasure of the simple things. If we stay stuck in the web of busyness and distraction, we may potentially squander the opportunity to celebrate our lives. The celebration includes the spectacular grandeur of our daily blessings, both large and small. We must not forget to celebrate the truly important gifts that we have been given – the gift of life, our breath, our health and our loved ones.

Yesterday, seated cross-legged among the trees in shade high up in the mountains, I watched the clouds as they continually moved across the sky, dancing their own private dance with the mountain peaks. This moving palette certainly makes for a far better viewing than the massive TV screens that are a constant wallpaper in our homes, doctor’s offices, restaurants and even elevators. I meditated on the changing light and landscape, and listened carefully to the gentle breeze, the rustle of the leaves, and the song of the bird nearby. I noticed the textures and shadings of the rocks and the mountains, and I appreciated the canvas of red rock, blue sky, and green trees. My husband was nearby with his camera, slowed down by his art. Refusing to give up film, and steadied by the tripod and his mind, he was an art form in this fascinating landscape to observe and appreciate as well. Celebrating a milestone anniversary together with the start of the Jewish New Year in such a magnificent magical place as Zion, feelings of immense gratitude, contentment and love flowed through me as the Virgin River flows through this sanctuary.

Yet the challenge when I am back in my normal environment is to remember to remain cognizant of what is really important and meaningful in small glimpses and moments of time: to breathe slowly and deeply with awareness, appreciating that each cycle of breath is a gift of the Divine, indeed of life; to focus with fresh eyes on our loved ones, to truly see them and listen to them with tenderness, respect and receptivity, appreciating their uniqueness; and to be present, moment-to-moment, breath by breath, celebrating the joy and beauty of each day.

As a yogi practising my yoga in both enclosed and wide open expanses, I recognize the sacred trinity – a finely woven thread as silken and delicate as a golden one – that runs between my mind, body and spirit. This thread is my sharpened focus that enables me to set my intention to remain awakened, and to celebrate daily both the mundane and the magnificent. Of course, the challenge is more easily met when settled in such natural and exquisite surroundings. So I will try to sustain these sentiments and my commitment to remaining mindful of that which has true meaning. In doing so, I hope to remain connected to all that is important and to celebrate the many blessings that comprise my life.

Finding the Stillness

Life doesn’t wait for nor consult with anyone. Change can occur in any moment. So practise. Be present. Learn where your center is and how to access it for when you need to go there. My sweet fifteen year old, a strong athletic intelligent beauty had a sports injury a few months ago. An emergency room doctor’s use of the wrong splint on her fracture resulted in a hospitalization and two serious infections, one life threatening. Thankfully, antibiotics and time facilitated the healing and we averted having to face anything worse than a terrible interruption in our lives and a scare.

The second time in a year and a half staying in a hospital advocating for loved ones, I again had to know where to go inwardly in order to remain grounded, calm and focused while still occasionally moving at a frenetic pace. In the first situation, my parents were both hospitalized at the same time. This past February, the work was endless supporting our daughter while trying to prevent her from slipping through the cracks in the system, unsuccessfully. However, I am grateful beyond measure for the many years of yoga practise that helps to weave together the fabric of my life. From this practice and the acquired skills and lessons learned, I was again able to tap into the source of my stability when needed, and for this, I am most grateful.

When life is spinning fast, and stress penetrates the skin, when change is in every moment and time just marches by, I try to move through the concentric circles that protect my heart. This is done symbolically while standing still in Tadasana (mountain pose). As I breathe, I ground through the soles of my feet, engaging muscles while quieting the mind, and I move in to access inner stillness. I am thus able to stand inside of the stillness for postures are tools to help reach deeply into yourself. I remain on my yoga mat, literally and figuratively, for as long as I need to.

The yoga mat is a symbol of the practise. It is a concrete manifestation that delineates the sacred space that one goes to when practising. It is a living mandala. For standing in the centre of the mat, the path leads home to one’s own inner point of stillness. This is found inside of the heart. When change arrives, in its simplest or grandest form, what is constant remains. The consistency of the practise, the strength of the connection with the Divine, and the rhythm and mystery of the breath… this is what remains constant and what pulls you towards where you need to be.

It really is simple. It is committing to remaining present and aware, awakened in each moment – breath by breath, moment to moment. Life passes. Time moves in one direction. But my yoga has taught me to stand still in the fullness of each moment. When I tune into this place, my reality has meaning. My practise has taught me to keep coming to the mat, year in and year out, to keep learning and to live my life with the understanding of what it means to be alive and to be present. My practise has taught me what yoga really is.

I don’t know what curve ball will be heading in my direction next. But I do know without a doubt that there will be one. And with humility and gratitude, I will continue to step onto my mat, to pause long enough to breathe with awareness and serenity, and to remain present in the Now. I will be standing still to catch the ball.

The Joys and Rewards of Living Life through Yoga

Yoga has provided a baseline and a framework for my life. For the past 30 years, I have never missed a day of yoga practice. I view my world from the yoga ‘lens.’ Yoga is so much more than just the physical process. It has enabled me to integrate all aspects of myself and to strive to live an authentic life in which work, family and personal needs merge and balance.

The yoga philosophies, both ethical and moral constraints, the lifestyle of moderation in diet and all endeavors, walking the middle path, interacting without judgment and with compassion, and understanding the interconnections among all living things are just some of the ways in which yoga permeates and guides my actions and thoughts.

Through my yoga practice, I have been able to create time for myself. While savoring the solitude, the practice provides me with a balance against the myriad of responsibilities I face, as well as the hectic pace of life.

During my practice, I draw inward and access the ‘Divine’ within. I experience my creative spirit, and my intuition. It is from my inner core that I am able to experience my authenticity, my strength, and my stability. When practicing pranayama, or breath control, I connect with my breath, and with my inner organic body. From this point of stillness and integration I feel energized and calmed, and am thus able to interact with others with clarity, patience and compassion.

Yoga has been a gift of health to me in my life, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It has helped me to maintain my physical strength and flexibility, to increase balance, coordination and grace. It has enabled me to move through three pregnancies with joy, awe and appreciation and has further assisted me in my acceptance of life stage changes and my transitions through them.

I am honoured to be a conduit to pass on the blessings of yoga to my mother, my three young children, and husband, and to my students.

Lessons of Truthfulness and Integrity (Satya)

Lately, I have experienced different situations in which dishonesty has upset the equilibrium of a normally balanced existence. Individuals can be robbed of their sense of trust – in the short-term, by means of words and manipulations, or in the long-term, by actions. Most recently, I had experienced verbal onslaughts and distortions of reality by someone who intended to be hurtful during a time of family crisis. Then, my Ipod was stolen from my beach bag in an area that had long been considered safe. This brazen action occurred right next to my husband and daughter who were both napping at the time.

Another incident that affected me in the past month occurred over a decorative bench. In my efforts to source one for our bedroom, I found a bench in an antique store and bought it with the understanding that I could return it for a full refund if not suitable. The owners also told me that the bench was from the Victorian era. When the upholsterer came out to provide an estimate for recovering it, a story of deceit began to unfold. He said that the bench was a replica from China, and that he could not recover it. When I contacted one of the owners of the store to inform her that I would be returning the bench as previously agreed upon, she now stated that her policy was “store credit only.” The money itself didn’t matter to me at all; the feeling that I had been intentionally misled prevailed and disturbed me. It was the blatant lack of integrity and truthfulness that I found extremely upsetting in these different situations.

Satya, meaning truthfulness, and honesty, is the second of the five Yamas, which are considered codes of restraint and self-regulations, and involve our relationship with other people and the external world. Sutra II, 36, of the second pada, or chapter of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras states, “Dedicated to truth and integrity (Satya), our thoughts words, and actions gain the power to manifest.” Thus, for one who increasingly practices honesty or truthfulness in actions, speech, and thoughts, his or her will is naturally fulfilled. We are encouraged to practice exercising care in speaking truth, and that truth is concurrence between thought, word and deed. We are encouraged to be always mindful of the most important practice, which is to cause no harm. The same principal applies to practicing the other four Yamas.

These experiences, though very disheartening, remind me of what is really important, and how being ethical, kind, and honest is of utmost importance. My father has always said that a man’s word is his bond, and that there is nothing more important than that. As we learn to live in Satya, we become familiar with where truth and integrity lie. When someone chooses to take advantage of another, and manipulate circumstance in their favour without regard for anyone else, it is extremely disturbing.

As these simple lessons guide me to remain focused on what is meaningful and what is right, the bench has become a symbol of what platform I wish to stand on and speak from. The Buddha taught us about the Right Path, and Patanjali provided us with the Yoga Sutras. Though misled, set-up, and stolen from, these incidents were opportunities to view my path with greater clarity and purpose. In so doing, I renew my commitment to practise mindfulness and Satya every step of the way.

“Most people will not remember what you said or what you did. But they will remember how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

Awakening to the Divine Light – Thanksgiving weekend, October 2009

Some of my best yoga moments are not when I am on the mat.  Years of devotion to yoga have helped me to learn how to see that which is worth seeing and how to recognize value in what is really important. I am thankful to have learned how to be fully present in the moment and how to capture the experience with awareness, awe, and appreciation. The colours of the fall palette right now are at their warmest. They are stunningly rich and deep, and I simply love them. The crimsons and reds, ochre and mustard, rust, cornelian, apple greens, lime and dark greens – these colours are at once calming and inviting, and I am intrigued and excited as I stare unabashedly. Contentment and gratitude are my companions. Yesterday, amidst a sky of thick clouds, there was a fleeting moment during which the clouds separated and a small ray of light permeated through. The sun’s late day light cast it’s reflection on the water as it danced and shimmered across the lake’s surface. And today, when the sun emerged in the late afternoon, the light was again spectacular. As my kayak slowly skimmed the edge of the bay, I was enthralled by visions of the trees around the bay’s edge. In one section at the front of the forest three exquisite birch trees created balance and contrast. The environment beckoned me as I took in the glistening drops on the leaves from an earlier freak snowfall; the sun setting across the lake; the vivid torquoise sky; and the blending of a multitude of colours amongst the trees. Grateful to have the opportunity to be here as I brace myself against the bitter wind, I am a solitary figure on the water.  I steer the kayak around the lake on this cold Thanksgiving weekend, and it is breathtaking. The cold wind and fresh air are invigorating. The intimacy that I experience with nature and with God uplifts and inspires me. In viewing this masterpiece that is God’s creation, I understand what is meant by “the oneness of all things.”  The words of the yoga philosophies speak clearly to me. During my participation in a very challenging yoga Intensive this summer in France, many questions about yoga arose for me. Some of the clarity that I have been seeking as I explore what yoga means to me, and what I want from my yoga practise, came to me during my kayak rides this weekend. Some of the insights pertain to my asana practise and what it should be comprised of.  For many years, I have believed and have stated repeatedly, that what yoga truly means is living it each and every day both on – and off – the yoga mat.  This understanding continually deepens for me. Today I did my asana practise before my foray into the cold air.  My yoga practise, no longer about performing the asanas, later continued on the lake without any separation or break having occurred. Among the lessons learned from studying yoga are the understanding that what is really important is to open the heart to each moment; to share the fullness of that moment with those you love; and to be an honest, kind and good person. It is recognizing and appreciating the divine light in all. And, it is being fully awake for the ride. 2009

Celebrate yourself everyday…

During the past week we have felt that first bite in the air. The new sharp crispness combined with diminished daylight hours means that fall is upon us, and that the winter months will soon be here. Putting aside our sandals for boots, summer harvest for more dense root vegetables, and preparing to mentally and physically slow down and become more introspective in the coming months are some of the ways that the transition into fall occurs.

Whatever your pleasures are, assess which ones take precedence and try to ensure that these include healthful and wellness promoting activities. Put these on your “to-do” list. Tune into your heart, listen to its messages, and to your body (it sends you messages for what it needs to be in balance and to function well), and commit to self-nurturing activities every day. Occasionally, I am challenged when someone questions me on whether those fifteen-minute blocks of time for oneself can really make the difference. I invite you to make the commitment to create time for your Self each day by choosing something that really speaks to you – a small yoga practise, a walk in the fresh autumn air, sipping a cut of hot tea or coffee, or just simply relaxing. Discover how this commitment to taking care of yourself on a daily basis will transform your health and well being.