A friend of mine from high school, Dee Meyer, just sent out a beautiful quote by Rumi: “Whatever you love, you are.” It reminded me of another quote, which is perhaps the flip side of this, by Tennyson: “I am a part of all that I have met.” We love, and we become that which we love, and we, in turn, become part of that which loves us back. Good, bad, or indifferent, it is not possible for us to go through our days and not leave a trace. In sanskrit, the word for this energy exchange or pulsation is “spanda.” We live within this rhythm, touching not only people, but the world around us, in ways that often go by us unrecognized. Perhaps today is the day to be intentional about what we love, how we love it, and the trace that we leave.
Ever have one of those days (or weeks, or months . . . ) those times when it all seems a bit broken beyond repair, or at least breaking up? I was in full tilt of that feeling, when I walked out our door and found this askew angel, wings broken off, after a mighty wind (we have them a lot around here). Later, I was reading the insightful blog of Bridget Lyons, an Anusara yoga teacher in Driggs Idaho, who spoke of the Hindu goddess, Akhilandeshwairi. Her name, translated from the Sanskrit, literally means “the goddess who is never not broken.” Turns out that she rides around on a crocodile, a creature who kills its prey, not by merely clamping down with its mighty jaw, but by thrashing it around until it becomes dizzy to the point of senselessness (and then pulling into the water to drown). Apparently, Akhilandeshwairi is a gal who knows how to ride the tides and storms of life. Her place is one of reminding us that, many times, in some part of our lives or world, that’s the way it is, and the only way through it is . . . well, through it. As Bridget writes: “Akhilandeshwari’s reality is one of fragmentation. She is like a prism, taking in white light and breaking it up into the beautiful color spectrum. In doing so, she creates more beauty – out of the brokenness. We are like Akhilandeshwari, and the ways in which we fragment are unique to each one of us. Our fissures make us who we are.” Sometimes, we need to look a little deeper, to find the beauty that bursts out of those broken places.
“Spanda,” is the idea of all things existing in a rhythmic state of expansion and contracting, of pulsating energy. We live with this pulsation constantly — from our first inhalation and cry of exhalation at birth, to the final inhalation and exhalation at death. We are able to work with the flow of this as we hug our energy inward and expand it outward. And, let’s face it, the sanskrit word “spanda” sounds a lot like “spandex,” which both expands and hugs, all at the same time 🙂 Come to class and join invite the flow of spanda into your practice!
In yoga and Nia, we’ve been focusing on the core — that grounded center of the body, source of our sense of personal power and firey energy — and how that translates into the ways in which we claim and exercise our power in the world. A hero claims personal power and then uses it with great wisdom and courage. We (perhaps especially women) sometimes have an uneasy relationship with personal power. We are quick to give it away, and uncomfortable claiming it as our own.
Claiming our center, our core, our power, isn’t easy. I’m reminded of someone who came up to me after class, face glowing, and said “Wow . . . how did you get me to do that?” I responded by saying “YOU did it . . . all I did was provide the safe container, and the community around you provided the energy that helped give you the courage to go for it!”
On of my yoga teachers, Tiffany Wood, who has been in Moscow at Nourish Yoga teaching this week, spoke last night during class of the “Guru principle.” My take away from that class is that the guru isn’t a person, but rather that which opens your heart to its full potential. It is anything that teaches your entire being, even for a moment, how to sing. The guru connects the heart and the center — the true self and the source of power — and thus mentors the hero. As Tiffany said, your guru might be a blue yoga block, which when hugged tightly to your body, teaches it to open in a new way.
The guru and the hero are both, ultimately, inside of us, inviting us to know ourselves as we are, nudging us toward who we are becoming. Thanks to my teachers and to my students for being gurus and heroes this week.
So here’s the deal (this just in via CNN). Russian scientists have recently cultivated this beautiful plant from seeds that were deposited in a squirrel burrow over 30,000 years ago [imagine the squirrel from Ice Age here]. Thanks to the permafrost that encased the soil, they were preserved, and scientists were able to extract them. They took “placenta tissue” from the immature seeds, grew that tissue into “mature seeds,” and then planted those seeds in rich soil. The result? These gorgeous, pre-historic flowers.
In both Buddhist and yogic tradition, there is much conversation about “bija,” or seeds. “Bija” are described as those habits, actions, and thought patterns that become habitual. They are said to leave impressions that guide our behavior, not necessarily in helpful ways.
All this makes this curious, spiritually-inclined yogini wonder: What type of bija am I cultivating in my lifestyle, habits, and actions right now? If someone dug up my DNA 300 centuries in the future and grew its essence, what would it look like? Can I live this moment, this life, in a manner that cultivates an inner beauty and awareness that will blossom and bear fruit? Can I find the balance of repose and action that leaves a trace of justice, a hint of something more, long after I’m dust? Knowing that our bija leaves a trace, in ways we cannot possibly foresee, far into the future, how do I mindfully journey through this day?
What have I planted, so far, on this day?
Have I sown the seeds of compassion and kindness for which I long?
Have I been too tired and preoccupied to care?
Have I stopped long enough to listen, so that something of you may be planted within me?
Do I care enough about myself to press loving hands to fertile soil, to knead the clods and open the rich secrets of the earth, so that new life can grow?
Have I loved as I would be loved?
What have I planted, so far, on this day?
Both yoga and Nia give us the opportunity to strengthen our core. Focusing on our core energy brings us right into the grounded, centered part of ourselves. I like to think it brings us in touch with our authentic, inner hero. The core brings us to that place of our will, our intent. To know that we are able to hug into it and expand out of it gives us a quality of confidence and assurance in our practice that can also be a lead for us as we face the challenges of daily life.
My dear friends, Bob and Marj, are simply amazing. Among other activities, they’ve been doing yoga for a whole lot of years. Recently, Marj took a spill on some black ice and broke her ankle. She’s approaching rehab with her characteristic blend of serenity and good humor.
Here’s a beautiful poem she wrote in 1986 about a yoga pose called ardha chandrasana (see below):
(I was really thinking of the half-moon pose, whose asana name I don’t know.)
leg oak-strong, ground-planted,
arms and face reaching skyward . . .
If I can reach, supple-spined,
and hold a free leg balanced back,
a taut but pliant bridge from here to there . . .
Then my soul will quietly stretch with vibrant strength
to touch the places where it needs to be, hour by hour,
at rest amid the pulsing flow of eternal energy. – Marj Grunewald, Feb. 20, 1986
During yoga and Nia yesterday, we were reflecting upon the way in which, when kids play, they become totally immersed in whatever it is they are doing . . . They live fully in the moment. My friend, Patricia, just sent me this photo of a group of women on Cannon Beach celebrating the 50th birthday of one of them. A good reminder that we can play at whatever age! In a world that often distracts us, we can bring “lila,” or play into our lives by fully saying “yes” to the moment we find ourselves in . . . Another way to take yoga off the mat, or dance out of the studio, and into life!
Last week, we spent some time in the wonderful world of back bends, using the concept of lila, the sanskrit word for “play.” Back bends open the heart as well as the spirit. It was an amazing week, watching people finding their ways into asanas like urdhva dhanurasana, or wheel pose, who never thought they’d be there! If you’ve ever been in a yoga class doing back bends, it also makes everyone quite giddy . . . the yoga of a good laugh is great for the spirit! As a teacher, it was amazing to watch the difference between the attempt to “effort” into something, versus lightening up a bit, letting it be playful, and seeing where that playful immersion will take us. Pure joy!
“Do or not do . . . there is no ‘try.’ Be open to yes.” -Yoda
Little did I know, when I was coming up with a name for my website, that Yoda had already beat me to it! I love that the little green guy with the pointy ears came up with the idea first. He’s such an iconic yogi! My friend and teacher, Nancy Burtenshaw, speaks of being “open to yes” as the expression of yoga that we take off of the mat and into our lives. The first principal of Nia invites us to “choose the sensation of joy,” and then to dance and be that joyful presence in the world.
As a yoga and Nia instructor residing in an area of eastern Washington/Northern Idaho we fondly call the “Palouse,” being open to yes is a way not only to practice yoga and dance, but to live. As your teacher, we work and play together to find beautiful and creative ways that we can nurture your ability to say “Yes” to the things in your life that will enable you to live more fully and congruently. As this website develops, I hope it will help you find encouragement, inspiration and an online community forum that will nudge you toward your own expression of “Yes.” Please come back as content is added, including my class teaching schedule, class prices, events, and more posts.
Are you game? Then ready, set, go!