Sunday, August 17, 2008

the "I Want It So Bad" meditation

Based on my many, many, many attempts at sitting still to meditate, my first thought when I first read that title was, "I like it already!"

I've been going back and forth in my head, thinking about the things I want to do in my life (always the existential question), whether these things I want to do are REALLY what I want to do, in my quietest, most honest state... and whether these dreams are what will fulfill my purpose. In perfect timing, I stumbled upon this article to provide some needed direction and clarity.

Click here to read the article from Yoga Journal on a guided meditation practice for the specific intention of "I Want It So Bad."

So set up your meditation space, wherever that is... light a candle (or not), play some music (or not), and have the printout of this article in front of you (that I really did), then set your intention and breathe...

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more lessons from my nephews

Lesson #2: Find that which puts you in the "zone" -- that place where time stands still.

A sitting meditation hasn't always been the high point of my yoga practice. I'll be the first to admit, I'm not very good at sitting still. I do practice -- I set up my space, my music, candle, blanket, etc.... but as the name suggests, my meditation practice does require practice, and it is always a work in progress.

Meditation for me is most often a moving meditation, which most often is swimming. I love it. Many times I find myself rushing home to change out of my work clothes and run to the pool. I just jump right in, having the water all to myself. I've always considered myself an antisocial swimmer. So much that when a child started to talk to me as I was swimming, her parent called out, "Honey, don't talk to that lady, she wants to swim!" As I swim the breast stroke (or at least my version of it), I get into a calming rhythm of kick, glide, pull. It puts me in that "hit the pause button" mode. I don't know if my "moving meditation" will be frowned upon by meditation masters or gurus, but that's what it is to me... it's almost an escape. It reminds me of that sense withdrawal practice in yoga - bhramari, or the "humming bee" breath.

Here is a definition from my yoga teacher training book:

"Bhramari is a breath that calms the mind through nada (inner sound). The sound is very similar to a humming bee. Bhramari can be used in the place of chanting and mantra meditation. To practice bhramari, begin with a long, complete inhalation and exhale through the nasal cavity while constricting the glottis and softly hummng. The humming sound comes from the back of the throat. You will feel a vibration behind the soft palate and in the nasal cavity. This completes one round.

Shinmuki mudra is often used during bhramari and is extremely helpful in finding one's inner sound. Shinmuki mudra is done by placing the thumbs into the ears, closing off external noise. The forefingers are laid over the eyebrows, the middle fingers over the closed eyelash line, the ring fingers rest above the nasal rim and the little fingers are beside the edges of the mouth." (Anna Ferguson & Lennessa Trent, Tymeless Health: Guide to Practicing, Teaching, and Living Yoga). The purpose of this mudra, or "seal", is to withdraw the senses -- any external sights and sounds or any other distractions-- bringing awareness to your inner self.

(photo by Anna, at our yoga teacher training)

It probably sounds a bit strange as you are reading it. But I remember the first time I tried it at my yoga teacher training, and what a powerful experience it was.

Needlesss to say, swimming gives me that same powerful experience of just being, and time seems to stand still. Kick, glide, pull, breathe.

But whatever it is that puts you in the "zone", whatever it is that makes you feel like nothing else matters - be it hiking, taking photos, cooking - go ahead and do it. That's what I love about this photo of my 2 nephews above. I love the look of concentration on their faces, and how their heads were even tilted in the same direction! All that mattered was that house/castle/fort that they were building. They were in their zone, oblivious to me and my camera, and the noise from the throngs of kids and adults swarming around.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

lessons in yoga and life, from my nephews

Lesson #1: Apply yourself fully to whatever you are doing.

Whether you're in a yin-style restorative forward bend or in the challenging urdhva dhanurasana (wheel) pose, or doing a breathing exercise. Whether you're running, writing, or gardening. Whatever it is, give it your all. Your body, mind, and spirit deserve nothing less.

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hit the pause button

One of the highlights of my family's visit is my 94-year-old grandmother. Isn't she beautiful?

At 17, she was a beauty queen. At 94, after trips to Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, and finally the United States, she was deservingly nicknamed Mrs. Grandma International 2008. And she even said she still wants to go to Rome. She was definitely bitten by the travel bug.

After not seeing her for a few years, I have to admit it took some adjustment for me to accept the changes in her. Sometimes she doesn't remember me. Sometimes she doesn't know my name. During those weeks that she stayed with me, sometimes she doesn't know where she is and whose house she is staying in, although she does know for certain that she's in America.

In some moments, however, the sparkle in her eye comes back. An almost naughty sparkle, in fact, as she starts giving me advice about marriage (despite how far it is from my mind right now). She looks at me with certainty as she goes through her mental list of "qualities to look for in a man", counting them off with her fingers. And when she does have that look of recognition in her face, when she is lively, alert, and witty, I wish there were a "pause" button I could hit.

One thing is certain though -- all her life she's been one tough cookie. A phenomenal woman, indeed. She lived through World War II and took care of everyone and everything when my grandfather was away. She learned to make do with whatever she had, while still making sure there was enough to go around for the large family - to include cousins, aunts and uncles -- enough to always offer anyone to come and eat, and insisting at least 3 more times that you do so (for those of you who know me, now you know from whom I inherited this practice). She saved everything -- she exemplified a "waste not, want not" way of living. In my grandmother's life, green living is not new. (In fact, I first learned about washing and re-using Zip-lock bags from her, years and years ago.)

Now, she doesn't have to worry about any of that. She does as she pleases. She listens to her body. She sleeps when she has to, eats when she has to. She eats ice cream whenever she wants. She hits the "pause" button. She stops -- truly stops -- to smell the flowers.

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I've committed a blogging sin. I have not written since.... May 30th! A few people have wondered and asked whether I left the country! (thanks for loyally visiting my blog, and for being patient...)

The past few months have been wonderfully crazy, thanks to my beautiful family visiting this summer. In re-connecting with them, I've had to disconnect with my blog for a while.

New posts soon...

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