Monthly Archives: June 2015

SUMMER SOLSTICE + MINDFUL LIVING

by Sarah Norris

The summer solstice is the day of the year when the sun shines on us longer than any other. It’s the ripest time to come together and celebrate our lives and honor our intentions with 108 sun salutations. The number 108 has so much significance, and here are a few reasons why:

108 connects the sun, moon and earth as the average distance of the sun and moon to earth is 108 times their respective diameters.

108 is the number of beads on a Catholic rosary.

108 is the number of beads on a Tibetan mala (prayer beads, analogous to a rosary).
108 is twice the number 54, which is the number of letters in the Sanskrit alphabet, one set masculine (shiva) and one set feminine (shakti).

108 is twelve times the number 9, which is the number of movements linked to breath in a sun salutation.

Last June during the solstice, I was away in Virginia for a month of tantric yoga training, living in a house of eight women. We did a ton of work on ourselves in order to get clear about what we really want. The most surprising part of this was seeing that, mostly, what happens when we’re asked about what we want most of all in the world, is we get really…angry. People get defensive and upset when asked about their dreams. That sounds crazy, right? But doesn’t that make total sense? That question brings us right up against all the things we’re doing INSTEAD of manifesting our dreams, or, what we do that are exactly counter to that fulfillment.

So, for this month of training last summer, the eight of us lived in a pressure cooker in which we got clarity about what we want, our heart’s desire.

We were forced to look at the ways in which we weren’t supporting that, often by telling ourselves we don’t have time. To that end, we had to list ways we waste time:

Complaining

Gossip

Social media

Talking about the past

Worrying about the future

Then we had to choose one thing on our list that we were really and truly ready to give up in order to make room and have energy to invest in what we most want, so that it could become like a happy, chubby, juicy baby. In this way we would have to stop telling ourselves the story that we don’t have time for what’s most important to us. Because we would carving out the space now, deliberately. We did this, ultimately, with an incredible fire ceremony. One by one, we had to throw into the fire what we were giving up.

Into this fire, I threw “talking about my past relationships.” With love, with compassion, with gratitude, I set free the men I had loved or was hung up on in some way. It was a moment of reckoning for me. I was sabotaging the fulfillment of my dreams by focusing on relationships that no longer existed. My teacher and I talked about it, and she warned me, “Once you give them up and give up the energy you give them still, they will come into your life full force. Be prepared to hear from your past loves, names on this list and then the men who you’re not even aware now that you’re still carrying around with you in some way. They won’t know why they find themselves suddenly wanting to reach out to you. It will be because you’ve cut the cords and set them free. And this liberation has to come form a pure, pure place within you. You cannot do this if what you actually want is to be together with one of them and are hoping in some way that by going through the motions of setting them free, they’ll come back to you.”

We talked especially that last part, about how if, for some reason, I were to end up in love and together with someone from my past, it could only happen after I did this clearing out and my intentions were clean and open. I was fresh out of a three-year relationship, and this untangling was taking up a lot of my heart and my life. Setting us free from each other, I knew, was a necessary thing. Letting go of trying to protect him from himself, letting go of feeling his feelings, of taking his issues on as my own because I’d felt I needed to. Letting him go in order to save myself and live in the present. I prayed over this list, I meditated on it, I danced with these ghosts — literally danced, like a wild woman — and I laughed and cried and wrote in my journal and felt all of the feelings: joy, love, private moments shared between two people that I was leaving behind.

When I’d looked at first at my list of time vampires, this was the one I felt the most resistance about. It played itself out as an internal conversation: “Sarah, are you willing to give up complaining in order to live the life of your dreams?” And the answer, immediately: Yes, yes, of course. That’s how I felt about the others on my list, mostly, except for this one. “Sarah, are you willing to give up your past loves in order to make space for what you most want in your life now?” The answer, more slowly: “Ehhhh do I have to?” I didn’t want to, not really at all, at first. But the more I considered it, the more obvious it became that I had to. So I said goodbye to these men, from my heart. I prayed for the men I had loved and, one by one, I let go of residual attachment I had to living in the past. To living in the past, period, and to talking about it.

My teacher said, “Sarah, get ready. Now they come.” As if these exes would pop up be like a game of Whack-a-Mole, to test my resolve. I thought she was out of her mind, saying this because why would guys I’d not talked to in years — years — get in touch now? You can guess what happened, right? That very afternoon, I got an email from the boy I dated my junior year of high school. And the next day I heard from my an ex in Connecticut, with whom I’d not talked in more than three years. And it was like this for a few months. Or, rather, I should say it’s been like this for a year. I’ve been doing nothing differently and I can’t think of any other explanation but I’ve been hearing from my past.

For the most part, I have stayed the course. The test has been not to go searching for my future by digging through my past and recycling. The result of consciously liberating something that’s taking me away from my dreams is space and energy and time to invest in my own well-being and spirits. It’s alchemy: turning one thing into another. The tradition of practicing 108 sun salutations together is so powerful in this capacity because we connect to our respective purposes and close the distance between where we are and what we want. The extent to which we feel and believe our dreams are coming true IS the extent to which they are coming true. That’s what this practice is about. An invocation of honest mindful living. Embodied joy and space making.

A LETTER FROM YOUR TEACHER

By Sarah Grace, Bikram Yoga Seattle

Summer is stretching ahead of us, but for me, the HYEN Hot Yoga Teacher Training is getting close, and I am excited, eager and ready. I already know that teacher training in Nashville this fall is going to be an awesome experience. After spending time in Nashville at HYEN a year ago, with its warm, friendly, and dedicated group of teachers and students, I can’t wait to come back and help launch the first-ever HYEN Hot Yoga Teacher Training. And I am truly honored to have the opportunity! This has come from a slow evolution, a gathering of experience and education. Some years back I started teaching not only yoga classes, but some workshops and private lessons. Eventually I was invited to teach workshops for teachers, and a section of a teacher training at a Seattle studio. This last winter, I created and taught (with the help of a dedicated team of experienced teachers) a teacher training program at my home studio, Bikram Yoga Seattle. It was successful (our trainees are now real teachers!) we all learned a lot, and it was fun. And I think I know why:

I love to teach yoga, and it becomes really extra special in the context of working with other yoga teachers, or teachers-to-be. We are united in a special love for yoga and our quest for greater understanding of it. When are there other opportunities to truly geek out, for lack of a better word, about a practice, a process, a way of being that so utterly changes our lives, pulls us into its depth and immensity? There are so many ways to approach this huge body of knowledge, but at the end of the day, we all approach it in the same fundamental way – through our practice: on the mat, in our poses, seated, with the breath. With dedication and humility, with effort and awe. Through practice we study yoga, and through practice we start to understand that really what we are studying is ourselves. Through practice we learn about ourselves, we are better able to connect with others, and be at ease in the world. This incredible gift comes straight from practice. I love to teach because I get to witness this process again and again in my students and in myself.

Why else is teaching so satisfying? I get to listen and observe. I now understand that teaching is is not about me (what a relief). There is exciting, tangible fulfillment when students have a moment of understanding, whether about a pose, a philosophical point, a specific anatomy question. Teaching is creative, and requires total focus, concentration and energy in order to be effective. And back to the root of it all – I get to see students connect with their true selves and in so doing become more at ease in the world. With ease comes laughter, love, fun, and a greater sense of curiosity. There is nothing better!

I am really looking forward to the HYEN Hot Yoga Teacher Training. It will be a unique process that will allow our hearts and minds to grow bigger as we learn together, knowing it is all in service of our students.   See y’all soon!

 

 

 

 

MINDFUL EATING – A MINIMALIST PERSPECTIVE

By Josh Garcia

Over the past 18 months, I have actively pursued a healthier weight through more mindful eating. The journey has not been without its setbacks, but I nevertheless derive great satisfaction from reflecting on how far I have come. I regularly receive compliments on my forty pound weight loss, but for me the truest satisfaction lies in the changes I have observed in my relationship to food.

The works of Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, Gabrielle Bernstein and many others have guided me toward an approach to eating that centers on food’s value as a fuel and nutrient source. This description may seem bland, but it is in reality quite the opposite. When prepared and consumed mindfully, a meal can become a beautiful and exciting act of self care. As I have moved along the path of mindfulness, gradually transforming eating into a studied act of love, all other dietary factors have naturally fallen into place. The internet is replete with healthy recipes and weight loss meal plans, but I have learned that none of this knowledge could have an effect on me until I accepted a simple truth: my issues with food were emotional issues, and thus had to be resolved on an emotional level.

The process of unpacking and releasing my emotional attachments to food has been long, but rewarding. It has involved a great deal of self study and patience as new habits began to form. If you are seeking to develop a healthier relationship with food, take comfort in the knowledge that many of the specifics will sort themselves out after you get your emotional house in order. There is no need to rush out and immediately buy a new diet book or health shake: the tools and teachers you need will appear when you are ready for them.

Begin simply by planting the seeds of mindful eating within your psyche.  With time, they will grow. Know that no specific action is required on the physical plane; your practice of conscious eating will yield deep, sustainable, and tangible changes in its own time. Slowly, the seeds of mindfulness will grow and transform your life. You cannot resist this gradual, seismic shift toward your best self, not even if you wanted to.

Each time you prepare to eat, ask yourself one or all of the following three questions. Then take three normal breaths and allow mindful eating to run its course.

“Am I hungry right now?” Isn’t it amazing that such a simple question can cut to the core of compulsive eating? 

“What am I hungry for?” Hungry for love? Success? Peace of mind? Food can only eliminate physical hunger. Sit with this knowledge for a moment. 

“Why have I chosen this food?” It isn’t a sin to choose food because of taste, convenience, or even emotional reasons like nostalgia. Remember that the goal is not to berate yourself for making “bad” choices. Your aim is simply to understand your thoughts and the decisions you make. 

I would conclude by reminding anyone interested in this journey that mindful eating is a practice, not a destination. There will be times when your focus on healthy portions and nutrition is impeccable and borderline monastic. There will be times when you find yourself eating robotically and blank eyed while driving down the highway. As with a dedicated yoga practice, the only goal is to continue showing up, day after day. Surrender your attachment to outcomes, so that the vibrant, perfect, present moment may (at long last) arrive.