Taozi Tree Yoga

The seeds we water are the seeds that grow.


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Stop “Should-ing” yourself.

china

I knew I had a problem last week when I “should-ed” myself at least a dozen times.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda…We carry enough on our backs to be adding unnecessary self criticisms and complaints about what we “should” be doing differently. This is a short piece on how we can let go of the constant self judgments and transform them into positive growth. 🙂

I know I’m not the only one that struggles with this.  Sometimes, when I am not performing at my optimal level, I get caught up in negative thought cycles which although seem harmless, are detrimental to my own well being as well as those around me.

Especially as  yogis/yoginis we “should” know better. AH! Damn. I “should-ed” again…

As yoga practitioners and teachers, we might be a little more sensitive to the thoughts that role around in our heads…or the actions that accompany them. They are no different then anyone else’s (crazy thoughts and actions).  However we may just more aware of them when they are “bad” things because we, while on a spiritual path to Samadhi, “should” know better… Oops! Again.

I “should” not think this.

I “should” not drink that.

I “should” not go there.

I “should” not eat those.

I “should” not buy them.

Positive sunshine rays “should” shoot out of my eyeballs.

Blah, blah, blah…

Time to get over it people because no one likes someone who “shoulds” all over themselves.

Fellow yogis, we are human and life happens to us, within us, around us, just like every body else.

Also our emotions and feelings will constantly change depending on a number of variables. Hormones, diet, exercise… It’s not always going to be pretty!

As teachers we may find this difficult as others are looking up to us as “spiritual gurus” (I suppress a chuckle here). It is the highest form of a compliment and yet… we may all too often berate ourselves when we feel we “should” behave, act, perform, or feel a certain way just because we are under a lens.

I will never forget one of my first real life yoga teachers. I totally looked up to her in my early twenties and could not believe how “cool” she was. Peaceful, beautiful, and so centered! I unknowingly put her on a pedestal. One day I got news of a total scandal she had been involved in. It was awful and I was shocked. How could she have? I then felt incredible sympathy for her and saw for the first time that she was human. Guess what, we all are. And we all grow the same way… through learning from our mistakes and thus discovering what doesn’t suit us.

When yogis make a consistent effort (practice abhyasa) in working with the yamas and the niyamas… the path will naturally get narrower and we will naturally and easily be guided to where we are supposed to be in our practice.

When we think something, drink something, go somewhere, eat something, or buy something that feels wrong to us… we need to recognize it, make a mental note that “hey, this isn’t working” and decide what actions can be taken to change. ACTION. Not simply a statement of “should”. A serious look needs to be taken at how the behavior, thought, or action is affecting us and  then what actions can be taken to change it. There is always something that can be done. We can commit to putting the energy into the action and then, we move on. Let go. Letting go is practicing vairagya, which is the complimenting principal to abhyasa/consistent practice.

Instead of “should-ing” ourselves we can practice gentle smriti. According to the sutras:

Smriti is cultivating a constant mindfulness of treading the path, and of remembering the steps along the way. This memory is not a negative mental obsession, but rather, a gentle, though persistent awareness of the goal of life, of faith in your journey, and of your decision to commit your energy to the process.

When we falter while trying to break old habits that no longer suit us, and it’s likely we will,  we just keep trying. Consistent practice guarantees results!  “Should-ing” all over the place is messy and it accomplishes nothing.

*http://www.swamij.com/yoga-sutras-11922.htm


2 Comments

Hey! Hey! We’re the monkeys….

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I recall vividly the discussion with Peter Clifford last year in Bali about the one thing we practice yoga to relieve. Monkey Mind. We all suffer from the workings of our mind. A constant stream of thoughts that jump around inside of our heads like a hyper wild monkey. It is hungry and feeds off of the attachment to thoughts. With out awareness of this condition we  go through life latching on to whatever seemingly important thought enters our heads and then we instantly attract a gaggle of other jumping monkeys to join in. The thoughts will come regardless if you are aware of them or not, the trick is to let them go, only then the mind is tamed. The ultimate objective of yoga is to TAME the workings of the mental ‘chimpanzee’ through asana (postures), pranayama (breath), and dyana (meditation)… How appropriate it is for us that we are practicing the taming of mind surrounded by actual monkeys while behaving like the animals ourselves.

Don't feed the monkeys.

Don’t feed them. They will keep on coming.

Some days it is easy and I float through the day feeling Ommm-tastic and light.  Other days it isn’t so easy and after a few hours of class I feel exhausted from my over active mind. There is so much to think about these days… Getting married, moving “home” (wherever “home” might be)… what to DO with life… add infinitum.

Monkeys! Outside the classroom, with Veronica and I.

Monkeys! Outside the shala, with Veronica and I.

Monkeys inside the shala (normally unacceptable but they got in anyway) hahaaa.

Inside the shala (normally unacceptable but they got in anyway) hahaaa.

We literally spend 10 hours a day in our yoga shala. 10 hours! Some of it is sat directly on the concrete floor, some of the time we sit propped up in our castles built of bolsters, pillows and yoga blocks. We practice 3 hours of asana a day and have the occasional opportunity to “monkey” around with our postures. The majority of the time is spent listening to our incredible teachers, Baskar: yoga philosophy, Natwar: Anatomy and asana, and Roshon: an entertaining, heartfelt and spontaneous flow of anatomy and his personal philosophy combined. Each teacher has a unique style that we have come to love. For example, Baskar (philosophy) spends the hour of class time telling us fables or “short” stories that have a faint link to whatever sutra (from Patanjali’s famous Yoga Sutras) we are studying. Often the stories are hard to follow but we all hang on knowing that the punch line will be well worth it. He also has a repertoire of “jokes” that are hilarious (coming out of him)… he shares them at the end of class, time permitting… we LOVE them.

Roshan...

Roshan…

Natwar, our fabulous anatomy and asana teacher... shows us how its done...

Natwar, our fabulous anatomy and asana teacher… shows us how its done…

Monkey see, monkey do. Josh ;)

Monkey see, monkey do. Josh 😉

Baskar's lecture...

Baskar’s lecture…

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JOKE EXAMPLE: There were 3 ants walking along. The first ant said, “There are 2 ants walking behind me”. The second ant said “There is one ant walking behind me.” The third ant said, “There are three ants walking behind me”. Why did the third ant say this?

Answer: He was a baby ant! Intellectually unstable he was… there weren’t really three ants there… it was a crazy talking baby ant.

There are 10 of us from all around the world taking the YTT 300 together:  Hugh, Kristen, and myself (US), Veronica (Mexico), Ross (UK), Stine (New Zealand), Pricilla (Brazil), Naira (the UAE), Josh (Canada) and Chuu-I (Singapore). Then there is Faraaz, a young Indian man who joins us for our classes and has facilitated a number of his magical yoga nidra classes (yogic sleep). It’s a great group and the variety of personality types and styles of BEING have provided each one of us ample opportunity to grow. We help each other by simply being us…

Precious Naira.

Precious Naira.

Hugh, Stine, Ross, Kristen and I.

Hugh, Stine, Ross, Kristen and I.

Josh and Pricilla, "monkeying" around...

Josh and Pricilla, “monkeying” around…

The "gangsters" with Faraz, and Ross

The “gangsters”Pricilla and myself with Faraaz, and Ross

So far it has been a spectacular few weeks… as I write this we are sitting overlooking the Ganges River at Devraj Coffee Corner German Bakery. There are monkeys frolicking around the wires of the bridge and a few sluggish cows that have decided to take a wander across it, unaccompanied. Ross and I wonder what business they have waiting for them on the other side. Something interesting always happens while watching the Ganges… yesterday we saw a floating body, today we saw a dramatic bull fight on the bridge in which people had to jump out of the way to avoid being pummeled by the giant animals. Oh India. We sat down at the coffee shop next to a kind man named Jim, from Tampa bay Florida. He studied yoga at Sivananda Ashram here in the 70’s. A recovering human soul… he specializes in yogic therapy for people with addiction/mental health problems, we hit it off and had plenty of things to talk about. What a coincidence/blessing to sit down next to exactly the man I needed to talk to. We had a very moving conversation over looking the river and I had to say it was for sure a huge God moment.

Jim, Ross, and myself overlooking the Ganges.

Jim, Ross, and myself overlooking the Ganges.

Rishikesh, India.

Rishikesh, India.

Tomorrow it is back to class we go, heading into the final weeks of our India trip and also ending our year long global adventure. There will continue to be plenty of time for us to practice working with our monkey minds.  Just like when one gives a monkey a biscuit, it attracts more monkeys, the mind is the same, if you entertain one thought it invites others to follow. The biggest lesson I have learned so far is that I have a choice about whether or not to keep feeding my monkey mind. It has taken a long time but gradually it is getting easier to ACTUALLY follow my breath rather then jump onto any engaging or seemingly important thought that enters my mind. When I make the conscious decision to follow my thoughts, I know I can expect more hungry monkeys. Today I decide whether or not to feed the monkeys. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t, but today there is a choice. Thank you yoga.

Ross teaching a class.

Ross teaching a class.

Stine and Ross listen to Roshan intently...

Stine and Ross listen to Roshan intently…

Kristen and Hugh study up...

Kristen and Hugh and Josh study up…

Monkey waiting for class to start...

A monkey waiting for class to start…