Category Archives: Stillness

The Power of Stillness

b-edit_MG_6892-1There was once an Indian sage who performed amazing miracles. One day a woman who was deeply distressed approached him. Her daughter was getting married and the family, who had no money, needed 15 grams of gold for her dowry. The sage reminded the woman that he was not a goldsmith, and advised her to sit in stillness, focus on her breath, meditate and wait patiently for a solution to her dilemma. In the meantime, a wealthy merchant and long-time disciple of the sage approached. He had just been given the news that he was in declining health, due to a pre-diabetic condition. He asked for the sage’s prayers and blessing. The sage told him to stop eating sugar and assured him that if he followed this advice all would be well. In gratitude, the wealthy merchant gave the sage a leather pouch as a gift. Without hesitation, the sage found the woman whose daughter was to be married and gave her the pouch. When she opened it she fell to her knees in gratitude, for inside the leather pouch she found 15 grams of gold.

b_MG_7446Sometimes being still is the most powerful thing we can do. Rather than acting on the advice, “Don’t just sit there, do something!,” we are better off taking the advice, “Don’t just do something, sit there!” That’s when we discover that just because we aren’t doing something, doesn’t mean nothing is happening.

We live in a culture that places more value on doing than on being. We attach our worth to our accomplishments. We value how much we do, and how busy we are, more than what we do or how we do it. We miss the point that sometimes doing nothing is more powerful and productive than anything you can do in a situation. But being still is an art that requires practice. It’s easier said than done.

Many of us have learned to associate being still with being lazy. We consider it a waste of time. Or we may worry that taking time to relax is selfish and end up feeling guilty. Sometimes we’re afraid to be still because when we stop filling every moment with activities, we encounter feelings and thoughts we’d rather avoid. Sometimes we are afraid to do nothing because our mind tells us we’ll never be able to realize our dreams if we take time out to be still.

Actually when you are still you are better able to quiet your mind and listen more deeply to your heart and soul. It’s in these moments that you can hear the still, small voice within that speaks quietly and with confidence from a deeper place of intelligence than your thinking mind. When you act from the depth of your soul, and deeper guidance, your actions carry a force and energy that bring you into harmony with life. You will likely find yourself to be the right person, in the right place, at the right time.

b_MG_7448Sometimes you have to slow down so that the world around you can catch up to your vision. There are certain moments in life and situations where there is nothing for you to do but be still. Acting out of impatience won’t necessarily make things manifest more quickly, but will instead cause you more stress and suffering. Rather than forcing things into existence, slow down, practice being still, silent, and waiting patiently. Connect with the flow of life that already is.

Silence has a sound of its own; listen for it. Stillness is just another form of action. Revel in it. The real power of living isn’t just in the actions you take, but also in your stillness. This is not an “either or” proposition. There is a time for doing something and a time for doing nothing.

Use the time you are doing nothing to reflect, restore, rejuvenate and to prepare yourself for action. If you don’t, when the time comes to do something, you may be depleted from all of your busyness and unable to be at your best when it counts the most.

Learn to trust life.

Slow down.

Listen to the silence.

Enjoy a meditation practice.

Try Restorative yoga.

Don’t just do something.

Sit there.

Be a human being, not just a human doing.

Namaste

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Love Is Patient

“That could take some time.” –Dr. Gopala Aiyar Sundaramoorthy

In Chinese folklore there once was a wise and humble man who had the most extraordinary gift. He could relate to anyone and got along with everyone. He never argued with friends, family, co-workers, or even strangers. His marriage was happy and his children were well behaved, respectful, kind and polite. He enjoyed remarkable harmony inside his home and out.

News of this amazing man traveled to the Emperor, who was so intrigued by the man’s reputation that he ordered him to come to the palace in order to meet him in person. After their meeting, the Emperor ordered the man, by royal proclamation, to write a 10,000-word document describing how everyone in the Empire could create peaceful relationships as he had done. The man was then sent off to write.

Five days later he returned to the palace with a heavy scroll that was immediately taken to the great hall and rolled out across a huge table. The Emperor’s court stood silently by as the Emperor began to read the scroll. Much to everyone’s delight,  in just a few minutes he nodded his approval . The man had written 10,000 words as the Emperor requested – but it was the same word written over and over and over again: Patience, Patience, Patience.

Patience is the ability to experience difficulty or inconvenience without complaining. Love is its foundation. Every loving heart overflows with patience. It is the way a mother shows her love to a toddler having a melt down, or the love a husband shows his wife when she’s running late, or the love a son shows his mother learning to use the latest technological gadget. Love and patience go together, hand in glove.

Patience is the loving response to frustration. Have you ever watched a small child trying to pour a glass of milk with unsteady hands? Can you wait to see if he actually needs your help to avoid a spill before you grab the milk carton and pour it yourself? If your wife (husband) is driving to a destination and going a different way than you anticipated, can you wait to see if she (he) asks for your help before you offer directions? How much frustration can you tolerate before you intervene with a solution to someone else’s problem?

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Patience is measured by the ability to put up with something you’d rather not; falling in and out of a handstand before you nail it, waiting for the relationship you long for to manifest, waiting to hear the outcome of an important job interview, or for an injury to heal or an illness to abate. We wait patiently not for the sake of endurance but in the recognition that in a breath or two, “This too shall pass.”

A frustration, an unpleasant experience, or inconvenience does not last forever and it is the power of an open heart that gives us the strength to look toward a brighter future. Patience makes room for the power of love to work on a troubled relationship. It empowers love to care for a troubled child, and to take care of our selves when we are troubled.

Achieving a balanced mental outlook and inner-peace requires patience. Patience is the ability to remain open to love in every moment. It’s easy to love every moment when things are going well, but how do you do it when you are suffering?

To learn patience, practice being still. Slow down. Take a moment each day just to notice your breath. Is it fast or slow, deep or shallow? Slow it down. Deepen it. Savor it. Take the time to glimpse a rainbow, smell a rose, hear a baby laugh. Be still. Make a practice of waiting patiently. Love is patient. Just when you think you have come to the end of your rope and your patience has run out, love empowers you to endure just a little bit longer.

Namaste

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Looking Back

An Akan proverb, or the Sankofa tells us “We should reach back and gather the best of what our past has to teach us, so that we can achieve our full potential as we move forward.”

It is hard to believe that the close of 2013 is just weeks away. I feel like this is a good time to circle back and highlight some thoughts I’ve shared over the past 12 months. I chose past writings that speak to some of the holiday ups and downs most of us experience in hopes my words will bring you greater well being and, as always, continued growth! Enjoy…

LIVING HEROICALLY
As far as I know my father never once stepped onto a yoga mat. Yet it is through his example that I learned what living yoga off the yoga mat really means. It’s about attitudes and actions that keep you focused, calm, and non-reactive in the face of life’s challenges. It’s about doing what’s right, not what’s easy.

Lt. Colonel Frederick L. Parker, USAF

Lt. Colonel Frederick L. Parker, USAF

He did this throughout his military career by valiantly fighting, at his own peril, for freedoms that were not always granted to him, because it was the right thing to do. He demonstrated courage by standing up for and insisting on equal treatment for all, even in the face of overwhelming opposition. He proved that obstacles are overcome by committing to relentlessly following your purpose, no matter who or what opposes you. He demonstrated that living life heroically means living life authentically and facing your fears head on, everyday, with an open heart.

LIVING FULLY
leg up framed-_MG_2724To live life fully we are called to live a life of service to others. Ask yourself each day upon awakening, what difference you want to make in someone else’s life. It doesn’t have to be a monumental difference. It could be something as simple as offering a listening ear to a friend in need, making a phone call to someone you’ve been thinking about, or running an errand for a neighbor.

LIVING HOPEFULLY
web_b_MG_6940Do not let limitations or barriers keep you from pursuing your dreams. No achievement comes without obstacles. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and continue moving toward your goal. Remember no effort you make goes unrewarded. Keep looking for a job if you’re unemployed. Keep applying to schools until you’re admitted. Finish what you start. Don’t give up.

LIVING MORE SLOWLY
b-edit_MG_6892-1For many of us doing has become more important than being. Even though we long for rest and relaxation, these are needs we tend to ignore. We have to talk ourselves into the practice of slowing down and being still. A culture of doers, we have places to go, people to meet, things to do. The only thing we think we can’t do is nothing.

LIVING OPENLY
b_MG_8295The problem with carrying around a secret is that it can be toxic, costing you peace of mind, happiness, even your health. Keeping secrets interferes with your ability to be yourself, and to be intimate with others. It doesn’t matter what your secret is; keeping secrets is a form of dishonesty that causes harm to us physically, psychologically and spiritually, and sometimes causes harm to others.

Yoga teaches us that truthfulness is a guiding principle of our practice both on and off our yoga mat. We learn that by shining a light on the hidden places within ourselves we can safely avoid their stress-related consequences. Even though the thought of revealing a secret can seem scary, once you take that first step, it gets easier.

LIVING WITH STILLNESS
october blog“Go to your room!” “Sit still until I tell you to move!” “You need a time out!” For those of us who grew up hearing these words when we misbehaved, is it any wonder that as adults we have an aversion to being still, to being quiet, or to being alone? When stillness, time-out, and alone time are used as forms of punishment, how likely is it that we would look forward to, much less be able to delight, in stillness?


LIVING WITH CONTENTMENT
grayweb-edit_MG_4513Contentment should not be confused with complacency, which is a state of stagnation, or no growth. Rather, contentment is a sign that we are at peace with our circumstances, and ourselves. Being content does not mean that we have to settle for what we don’t want, whether it is a toxic relationship, unbearable living conditions, or inhumane working conditions. Contentment starts with accepting reality as it is, not as we want it to be. Accepting reality can lead us to make the necessary changes that result in an overall sense of well-being.

Contentment is not the same as happiness. We all face difficult times in our lives. But it is possible to find contentment even in painful circumstances through acceptance of the situation. In the case of a devastating illness, loss or other unwelcomed circumstance, we may go through various stages of emotional turmoil such as denial, anger, and depression before we reach acceptance. But it is possible to find contentment and inner peace, even then….No matter what your circumstance, there is always the possibility of living life more fully.

Contentment is the ability to appreciate how much you have, rather than how much you want.

LIVING LIFE WITH CHANGE
b-edit516Change is risky and can be accompanied by sadness, fear, regret, anger, and disappointment. If you stepped on a nail, it would obviously be painful and you would want to remove it. But before it feels better, removing the nail hurts, sometimes more than staying on it. Truth be told, there are times when we’d rather adjust to and accept a familiar hurt than risk the discomfort of change, even if the change we face leads to something better. But you can’t “put the past behind you and move on” without saying goodbye to what you are leaving.

There is wisdom to be gained by reflecting on change, its inevitability, and how to gracefully accept it. The ability to embrace change is an essential part of living. Accepting the pain that sometimes comes with it is fundamental to the embrace of life itself. Where there is life there is change. Without change there is no growth and no life. To align with life, we must become one with change and “go with the flow.”

 The Rune of Termination and New Beginnings
“The life you have been living has outgrown its form, and must die so new energy can be released. May you undergo a death within your self. You are always free to resist, but remain mindful that the new life is always greater than the old. Prepare then for opportunity disguised as loss.”

Namaste

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The Art of Soulful Living

Ponder the soul; for it is the source of all our inspirations
for material, mental, and spiritual success. ~ Paramahansa Yogananda

When the Peace Corps sent Susana Herrera to teach English in northern Cameroon, she was ecstatic. In her book, “Mango Elephants in the Sun,” she describes how she wanted to blend in to her adopted village, to drink deep from the well of the spirit of Mother Africa – and to make a positive difference.

edit_MG_7112The villagers, however, regarded her as a rich privileged American tourist, a nasara (white person) who had never encountered hardship and suffering. The women in the village stared at her in silence when she went to the village well to pump water to fill her bucket. They laughed at her when her foot became entangled in her sarong causing her to trip and fall as she tried to balance the water bucket on her head. When she attempted to break the ice by engaging the village children in play, they ran from her screaming in fear. This was not the experience she expected.

Susanna didn’t want to be an outsider, but she could not have felt more isolated and alone. As she watched the village women sitting in their sacred sister circle, she noticed her neighbor Clotilde, also an outsider, arriving at the well. Clotilde had made friends with the women and had become a part of their daily lives. Intrigued by their acceptance of her, Susanna watched closely as Clotilde greeted each of the women asking, “Jam bah doo nah?” It means, “Are you in your skin?” or more accurately, “Is your soul in your body?” They respond to her enthusiastically exclaiming “Jam core doo may.” “Oh yes. I am in my skin. I am alive and in my skin. My soul is in my body.”

edit_MG_7008Each of us, like Susanna, has a need to belong, to feel a part of a community. We long for connection with others. It is natural. Being an outsider can cause us to feel the pain of alienation so we sometimes sacrifice our aloneness to be with others, trying to fit in, even when we are not welcomed. Although the circumstances vary, each of us at various times in our lives has had to confront our sense of isolation. As painful and scary as it can be, experiencing your aloneness can teach you how to enjoy the pleasure of your own company ~ how to welcome and fit in with yourself. Embracing aloneness teaches you how to sit through the discomfort of loneliness so you can get to the other side of it and realize it didn’t kill you. Embracing aloneness teaches you how to be in your own skin and prepares you for being in healthy relationship to others.

Sitting with our aloneness requires courage and begs the question, “How do I live in my own skin? How do I live with myself as an autonomous being?” Rabbi Tamara Kolton teaches that loneliness should not be avoided because it is the soul’s longing for itself. Loneliness, she says, is a sign of spiritual hunger pains.  It is the longing for connection not just to others; it is the invitation to come home to Self. Learning to cherish and enjoy your solitude rather than fearing and avoiding it allows you to actively begin to know and like yourself. It gives you time to think about how you want to be treated by others and time to practice treating yourself the way you want others to treat you.

Author Elizabeth Gilbert says that during her “Eat Pray Love” journey being alone prepared her for meeting her soul mate. Rather than avoiding her aloneness, she decided to treat herself like she was her own amazing boyfriend, taking herself on great dates, offering herself words of comfort, and asking herself everyday, “What do you need, dear one? What can I do for you?” She says she had the time of her life just being with herself enjoying the pleasure of her own company.

That is our work as evolving human beings. Before we can create optimal relationships with others we have to create optimal relationships with our Self. How? Learn to love your Self. Spend time alone with your Self. Loneliness is the opening to step more fully into your Self, into your Soul. To be able to enjoy aloneness we need to learn to endure loneliness, to go deep into it, and make friends with it.

When we miss the company of a friend, we reach out. We don’t hesitate to call, text, e-mail or visit.  So the next time you feel lonely, before you distract yourself by seeking the companionship of someone else, eating another cupcake, going shopping and spending money you don’t have, turning on the TV, or reaching for another glass of wine, put in a call to your Soul. Instead of reaching out, reach in and ask your Self, “Am I in my skin? Is my soul in my body?” Sit in your aloneness until the answer is “Yes, I am alive and in my skin. My soul is in my body.” And when that answer comes you know you have come home to the most important company you will ever keep – your Self. This is the art of Soulful living.

Namaste

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Delight in Stillness

“Go to your room!” “Sit still until I tell you to move!” “You need a time out!” For those of us who grew up hearing these words when we misbehaved, is it any wonder that as adults we have an aversion to being still, to being quiet, or to being alone? When stillness, time-out, and alone time are used as forms of punishment, how likely is it that we would look forward to, much less be able to delight, in stillness?

Dr. Gail Parker

Even though this may be unconscious, on top of associating being still with being “bad,”  many of us associate being still with doing nothing, and we associate doing nothing with being lazy. As children many of us were criticized and made to feel ashamed of being lazy. No one wants to be judged as being either “bad” or lazy so we keep busy. A lot of the time we are not really accomplishing much, we’re just busy being busy to avoid the unpleasantness we associate with being still.

Take Sunny for example. Busy all the time, she rarely takes time out for herself because there is always so much to do for everyone else. As the primary caregiver for her aging parents, full-time teacher, wife and the mother of three school-aged children, she has her hands full–which is the reason she gives for not being able to slow down and relax. She wants to enjoy taking time out for herself, but never seems able to manage it.

On the surface, given all that’s going on in her life, it makes sense that Sunny is in perpetual motion. When she began to dig a little deeper to find why she was unable to enjoy being still, she noticed that whenever she tried to relax she became physically and emotionally agitated, which to her way of thinking defeated the purpose. So she avoided being still and relaxing even though she knew it would be good for her. “It makes me feel anxious and guilty,” she would say.

When Sunny began to practice yoga, she felt calmer until the final pose of the practice, savasana, which she regarded as a waste of time. This is where you lie awake in stillness, tuning in to your body, your emotions and your mind, letting go completely as you enter into a state of profound relaxation. Sunny was quite unfamiliar with this state of mind. Inevitably, her unconscious “stuff” would come to the surface. The good thing about that is, it allowed her to become aware that she associated being still with being punished. This awareness helped her understand her resistance to taking the time to be still, both on and off her yoga mat. With this awareness she was able, with intention and practice, to learn to associate stillness with something positive that could enhance her life.

Dr Gail ParkerIn order to delight in stillness, we need to have pleasant associations with being still.

If you have trouble being still and relaxing unless you are asleep or distracted by television, music, or some other passive activity, here are some suggestions for making stillness a pleasant experience.

While you practice being still:

Engage your imagination by visualizing a game from childhood that requires stillness. Freeze tag, Statues, or Red Light/Green Light are some examples. Remembering how much fun that was will help you associate stillness with something joyful.

Imagine all the good things you have to look forward to, or recall all the good things that have happened to you during the day.

Remember a pleasant time of being still, a day alone on the beach enjoying the warmth of the sun with no place to go, and nothing else to do.

Envision holding a baby close to your heart, feeling his/her warmth and synchronizing your breath and heart beat with the baby’s.

Come up with your own version of what makes stillness a delight, and soon dropping into relaxation will become a pleasure.

Relaxation is not a waste of time, and the benefits are worth it. Decreased heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, and anxiety are just some of the benefits. Relaxation also increases your energy level, stimulates memory, improves your ability to focus, enhances sleep, strengthens your immune system and gives you an overall sense of well-being.

Make time-out a reward, not a punishment. Remember, just because you seem to be doing nothing doesn’t mean nothing is happening.

Namaste

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