Reverence and Radical Self-Awareness

“Your crime lies in your ignorance.” Cicely Tyson

Greetings, darlings, and happy almost Valentine’s Day!

This time last year, which seems like a lifetime ago, I was up at Kripalu in MA for several days of self-care, yoga, meditation, music, dance, and continued learning. As a matter of fact, I intentionally planned that little retreat as a Valentine’s Day gift to my Self. I finally put gift certificates I had received for my birthday, the previous October, to good use!

Little did I know that, within weeks, everything was going to shut down due to the global pandemic and the art of quarantining becoming a “thing.” Little did I know that the days I spent at Kripalu were the launching pad for a 2020 filled with lessons and blessings of all kinds. That stay at Kripalu, and our subsequent “stay at home” mandate propelled me into a year of continued learning and personal growth. If you know me, follow my blog, or just happened to come across it, you know I’m all about the learning, inspiring, having a growth mindset and a commitment to self-inquiry and inner-investigation.

So… it should not have come to any surprise how my 2021 started. I knew “Reverence” would be my word for 2021 and, therefore, I had to take a deep dive into the reverence and sacredness of ALL things….my thoughts, actions, choices, decisions, practices, habits. It called for radical self-awareness. And what better way to delve into all it than to go back to Yoga’s roots, its history and philosophy!

Given the state of our world and all of us being called to unite to “help heal the soul of our nation,” it only seemed the logical thing to do. After all, the healing, revolution and evolution must first start within each and every individual! As with all things divinely ordained, a long time mentor and yoga teacher, whose online yoga community I’m part of, started our 2021 practice with weekly themes based on the ethical precepts of yoga philosophy otherwise known as the Yamas.

This is just what I needed! The 4 weekly classes and monthly processing call with Seane Corn offered us an invitation to deeply explore these principals. True to form, she also offered questions for us to explore and work on (often times when we were holding poses)- which I will share with you in a bit. Because you know how I feel about sharing. Sharing is caring…wink, wink.

You see, you don’t have to be a yogi to explore, employ and embrace these practices. They are simply ethical principles which guide us in how we relate to ourselves, others, our actions, thoughts, speech, the world, our planet and all sentient beings.

The purpose of this blog is to invite you to do some of your own radical self-awareness. Perhaps inspire you to look at ways you’re living and contributing, or not, to unity, peace, equity, justice, and healing our individual and collective souls.

My intention is not to go into the deep teachings of each of The Yamas, but to simply list them and some of their meaning and provide you with self-reflection questions. You can investigate them on your own with just a few clicks on your keyboard.

Ahimsa – Non-violence, non-injury, do no harm, loving-kindness, compassion for all beings:

What negative self-talk or unkind messages do you tell yourself each day?

Have you engaged in hurtful, harmful, judgemental, or negative talk, including gossip, to someone behind their back? Can you name a recent event where words or action caused harm?

Does your interaction with the physical world create harm or suffering? What about the food you consume, products you use, or the impact your diet has on our animal friends?

Do you watch movies, or read social media, or books that cause stress, fear, or frustration and perpetuate feelings of lack, comparison, or not enough-ness? How does this impact your well-being?

Satya- Truthfulness, right communication, honesty in behavior and thought:

Where are you with your integrity? With your truth?

In what areas of your life are you being dishonest and out of integrity?

How does truth inform your choices?

How do non-truths perpetuate harm? In what unconscious ways do you perpetuate harm?

What would it mean to live in truth and in love? What would need to shift within yourself for that to happen?

Asteya- Non-stealing, non-covetousness, not taking what isn’t freely given:

Where do feelings of “not-enoughness” show up in your life?

How are you robbing yourself of joy, contentment, or peace by playing small, negating or minimizing your talents or skills, or by overextending yourself?

How are you stealing from yourself or others by taking more than you need, including resources, time, money, food, attention, or even credit for ideas or visons that may belong to someone else?

In what ways do you steal from this world by not showing up fully as the authentic person you truly are?

Do you know what cultural appropriation is? And for yogis out there, how does Asteya apply to cultural appropriation and yoga?

How have we stolen from the oppressed to enhance the dominant culture? How have we benefited from it? Exploited it?

Brahmacharya- Moderation in our actions, turning inward, dedicating our energies to both our inner and outer work in the world, merging with the God consciousness and the Divine:

Since we went into lockdown this past year, what are some of the ways you have experienced excessive or indulgent behavior? It it in your sleep patterns, eating habits, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, TV, screen time, online shopping…?

What would happen if you chose one of these behaviors and committed to doing a “detox” for the next week?

Where do you experience a sense of lack or not enough-ness? Is it material? Physical? Since COVID, did a sense of lack show up in your need to stock up on toilet paper, can goods, hand wipes, etc.? How did you respond to that feeling of lack? What are other examples of lack in your life and your response to them?

Excess can include overthinking, overworking and over-consuming: things that our US culture often values above moderation and balance. Who would you be if you slowed down? How would that affect your identity? Where dod you learn that more was better?

Aparigraha- Non-grasping, non-greediness, non-possessiveness, non-attachment:

How do your wants differ from your needs?

Do you really need more things? If yes, what do you actually need? What are the things that bring you joy, and is this happiness fleeting or sustainable? Do you need more to sustain your joy?

Do you live minimally and sustainable, or do you covet and hoard? Is you stuff important to you?

In what areas of your life are you accumulating “things” just for the sake of having? What would it feel like to declutter you life and give things away or get rid of them?

Do you have a fear of losing what you appreciate and cherish? Do you cling to things too tightly?

How can you be more balanced and judicious in how much you take, use and keep?

Do you sometimes overeat, over-consume, overthink, overwork and how does this make you feel? How do any of these impact your identity or your attachment to how you are perceived by other people?

What limiting beliefs do you have and what is your attachment to these narratives? These include resentment towards other people. What would you experience if you could let go of these resentments? How has it served you to stay stuck in the story and unwilling to see a bigger picture as to why things unfolded as they did?

What does aparigraha mean to you and why is it a restraint? How does practicing non-grasping, non-possessiveness, non-attachment deepen our relationship to the Divine and move us towards liberation?

Darlings, there’s a whole lot of food for thought here! For me, this was the reset and focus I needed in my quest to bring more reverence and radical self-awareness to 2021.

There’s no excuse for ignorance or not doing better when we know better. Not in today’s world and not with all the available resources we have at our disposal….many of which are free!

I hope that in some way, shape, or form this blog has helped or inspired you. I hope it has got your wheels spinning or lit a fire under you. I hope you feel compelled to determine what radical self-awareness means to you and make a commitment to honor it. Lastly, I hope that you share this with anyone you feel could use it.

In closing, I will leave you with this beautiful and appropriate quote by Gabriel Garcia Marquez:

“Human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers gave birth to them, but…life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”

May we continue to rebirth ourselves and move forward with reverence and radical self-awareness so that we may heal our souls and the soul of our nation! JTC

Be a Queen & Own Your Power

“May you listen to the voice within the heart even when you are tired. When you feel yourself breaking down, may you break open instead. May every experience in life be a door that opens your heart, expands your understanding and leads you to freedom.” 

In honor of Mother’s Day,  I didn’t want to approach this blog in the  traditional way of celebrating all our mothers and everyone out there, men included, who do their fair share of “mothering.” Instead, I want us to celebrate the Mother who lives in each of us. Where or how do we start? Well, going within of course!

Please pause for a moment to center yourself. You may want to clear your space with some sage , incense or even light a candle. Take a few deep, slow breaths. As you do so, feel your heart expand. Feel the Love that is the essence of who you are. You may want to close your eyes here, and take as many breaths as you need to feel grounded, centered and serene. When ready, ask yourself these questions….. and you may even feel inspired to journal away!

  • How do you mother yourself?
  • Do you listen to the great mother voice within?
  • If so, how? If not, why not?
  • Do you allow your inner Mother to take care of you?
  • If so, how? If not, why not?
  • Do you approach your inner Mother with a heart wide open?
  • If so, in what ways?
  • Do you approach your inner Mother from a place of loving-kindness, compassion, understanding, and wisdom of the ages that has been handed down to you?
  •  If not, why not?
  • Do you operate from a place of Love, or do you keep your heart padlocked under lock and key?
  • If your heart is secured tighter that a federal reserve bank, what are the blocks, obstacles or limiting beliefs that are keeping you from operating from a place of Love?

The art of writing / journaling offers us opportunities to delve deep. The deeper we dig and go within the heart and soul, the more layers we peel away, the more cobwebs we clear away, and the more we will be able to step into our power…the more we can claim our glory. And if that isn’t liberating, then I don’t know what is!

In honor of our inner Great Mother, I want to share something that was written by Oprah Winfrey. I found it in one of my many notebooks, of course, as I was trying to piece together inspiration for today’s blog. Another source of inspiration came from one of my beautiful teachers who planted the “inner mother” seed in class today, and it got me thinking…. So, on this Mother’s Day;

Be a Queen…Own Your Power

Be a queen. Dare to be different. Be a pioneer. Be a leader. Be the kind of woman who in the face of adversity will continue to embrace life and walk fearlessly toward the challenge.

Take in on. Be a truth seeker, and rule your domain, whatever it is: your home, your office, your family – with a loving heart.

Be a queen. Be tender. Continue to give birth to new ideas, and rejoice in your Womanhood.

We are daughters of the “Goddess” here to teach the world how to Love. It doesn’t matter what you’ve been through, where you came from, who your parents are, or your social or economic status. None of that matters. What matters is how you choose to express that Love through your work, through your family, through what you have to give to the world.

Be a Queen. Own Your Power and Your Glory.

So on this Mother’s Day,  regardless of your gender, love your inner Mother.  Love her some more. Better yet, just love more. Love everyone and everything. Glance at strangers, and send them love too. And remember to send out your love to our Great Mother Earth while you’re at it!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

 

Soften Your Edge

Being relaxed, at peace with yourself, confident, emotionally neutral, loose, and free-floating- these are the keys to successful performance in almost everything you do.” -Wayne Dyer

Soften your edge is another term we hear in yoga class a lot and one that can be applied to our everyday lives. When I heard my teacher-friend, the lovely Tara, say these words in class the other day, I once again thought it would be a good topic to write about (much like a previous blog, Just Linger, inspired by yet another wonderful teacher, Erin).

We can go though life in a state of perpetual conflict, grievance, sadness, anger, frustration, disappointment, resentment and constantly hit brick walls, or soften our edge, sink in, open up and flow with effortless ease. And it is this state of calm, ease, peace, expansiveness and flow that allows us to be in balance. The more we tap into practices that keep our mind, body and spirit in that state of balance and effortless ease, the more we realize we don’t have to struggle or force anything to go our way. It just happens. The disciplines of  Yoga and Ayurveda teach us that the path to perfect health is learning to maintain balance……in mind, body and spirit. And that is why I LOVE YOGA. It changed my life!

Yoga philosophy can be traced back more than 5,000 years. This practice is much more than physical poses. It encompasses physical, mental and spiritual practices which allow us to “unite” our mind, body and spirit. These practices, or disciplines, are based on moral and ethical principles that allow us to align all parts of our being with our thoughts and actions. They afford us tools that will allow us to approach life from a place of equanimity and equilibrium.

The practice of yoga offers us opportunities for self-reflection, self-regulation, the practice of kindness, self-compassion and self-awareness. It’s an inside job! A job that is not dependent on external circumstances; yet, it rewards us with much success and is one that enhances our performance in ALL areas of our lives.

Since I’ve been immersed in the world of yoga, I’ve heard sooooooo many people say,  “I’m not flexible, I can’t do yoga.” Unfortunately, that is a false perception and misunderstanding. There was a time in my life I had a limited range of motion due to surgery as a teen and, I too, subscribed to that limited mindset. Over the years, there have been times I’ve been more or less flexible as a result of subsequent orthopedic surgeries and joint replacement appliances. However, we do NOT have to be  contortionists to do the “physical” practice of yoga.

Yoga is so much more that those physical postures. It requires us to tap into ourselves, our minds, emotions and belief systems. It’s about meeting our body where it is, honoring what it can and cannot do, exploring our edge, and respecting it. Much as in life, when we engage with others, we should be able to meet them where they are, explore our similarities and respect our differences. In order to do so, we need our spiritual toolbox and resources.

The practice of yoga restores harmony in our mind, body and spirit. It’s about going within and loosening every thought pattern and emotion that grips at us and takes over our minds and, oftentimes, makes us act unskillfully. The inner work and exploration we do as a result of our practice allows us to relinquish the grievances, resentments, anger and unresolved issues that are holding us hostage and keeping us stuck at every turn. It frees us! It’s not uncommon to hear a yoga and meditation practitioner say that they felt “at home” when they found yoga. That’s what yoga does, it brings us home to ourselves….to the very core of who we are. It brings us back to a healthy and renewed place of calm, ease, equanimity, loving-kindness, compassion and self-awareness.  Yoga softens our edges.

Our breath is another tool that allows us to soften our edge. It’s brings us back to the present moment instead of being stuck elsewhere. And that “elsewhere” is usually a dark, anxiety ridden, self- induced little shop of horrors. Something as simple as connecting with our breath diffuses the volatile diatribe waiting to explode within us like projectile vomit. Not a pretty sight!

When we are in the present moment, and have a clear head, we realize that we are the ones making something the struggle that it has become. We have been the ones adding fuel to the fire. There is absolutely no need for that – we can remember that at any given moment, we can connect with our breath and make a different choice. How liberating is that? Bringing ourselves back to the present moment allows us to shift our perspective from being “stuck” to one where we are able to see the infinite possibilities and choices that truly exist. As Deepak Chopra says, “We gain access to the creative and nurturing flow of our own nature.”

And on this note, I will leave you with a passage from the book, The Golden Present, for you to ponder.

“Health is your birthright, not disease; strength your heritage, not weakness; courage, not fear; bliss, not sorrow; peace, not restlessness; knowledge, not ignorance. The person with health and strength of body, soundness of mind, with morality and spirit is a real gem among all humanity. Such one possesses the true treasure.”

 

Wishing you a relaxing, peaceful, blissful, free-floating kinda day xo

Inhale love & light…Exhale grace & gratitude, JTC