Taozi Tree Yoga

The seeds we water are the seeds that grow.


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A parable on Santosha: “It is what it is.”

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The literal translation of the second niyama is contentment. I believe that an applicable way of explaining Santosha is simply,  that it is having trust in a guiding supreme universal force, whether it is Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, or the ocean breeze. Santosha is about believing in every moment that all is exactly as it should be. This reminds me of a beautiful parable of a Chinese farmer…

“It is what it is”

A man named Sei Weng owned a beautiful mare which was praised far and wide. One day this beautiful horse disappeared. The people of his village offered sympathy to Sei Weng for his great misfortune. Sei Weng said simply, “That’s the way it is.”

A few days later the lost mare returned, followed by a beautiful wild stallion. The village congratulated Sei Weng for his good fortune. He said, “That’s the way it is.”

Some time after, Sei Weng’s only son, while riding the stallion, fell off and broke his leg. The village people once again expressed their sympathy at Sei Weng’s misfortune. Sei Weng again said, “That’s the way it is.”

Soon thereafter, war broke out and all the young men of the village except Sei Weng’s lame son were drafted and were killed in battle. The village people were amazed at Sei Weng’s good luck. His son was the only young man left alive in the village. But Sei Weng kept his same attitude: despite all the turmoil, gains and losses, he gave the same reply, “That’s the way it is.”

Obviously, the meaning of this story is that everything happens for a reason and things can’t be defined as “good” or “bad”.  Life contentment is found by not attaching oneself to these external circumstances, as hard as it may be.

When things feel up in the air… return to the breath, the moment… and know that you are being supported by your higher power always.

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How to plan for the future in the present moment…

How does a yogi plan for the future while staying in the present moment???

 Our minds are normally like a constant stream of babbling monkeys… are they not? One of my favorite yoga teachers, Peter Clifford, accurately describes our minds attempts to analyze and define everything as “Monkey Mind”. They are constantly planning, plotting, and fanaticizing about what has been in the past, and what is to come in the future.

Monkeys! Outside the classroom, with Veronica and I.

Monkey Mind! 😉

Here is my question. How does a person, a normal person, not a monk living in a cave, make and face day to day life decisions while constantly staying in the moment?

A yogi  wants to “see there own true nature” while maintaining a perfectly still mind. Alas, we still have to plan and make life choices that will inevitably lay a framework for the rest of our lives, and this is challenging, right? Career paths, relationships, and families are all huge parts of life and can’t be made or taken apart, without a bit of responsible foresight.  Does this mean that if we think about our own destiny, if we do not always have a still mind, that we are going to be left behind, never to “see our own true nature” like the rest of the ascending yogis? No. When we make life plans, we get to learn lessons of our own.

The good news for us, when we have to take steps to plan for our life…, is that while we accommodate in our minds, fantasies about what life should become or be, sometimes they manifest and sometimes the Universe has something else in store for us. So when the time comes and we get a “No” from the Universe, we get jolted by the unexpected detour. This “jolting” or period of pain, forces us to look beyond ourselves and into the realm of the spiritual.  The disappointment we face as a result of our own unmet expectations actually provides us with the fertilizer for our own unique opportunity for spiritual growth.  This quiet space between the surrendering of our own ideas of what should be to acceptance of  what the universe hands us is where we will find peace.

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It’s the same peace a monk meditating in a cave has, it’s just a different way of getting there.

And it is here, while resting in faith in our own supreme higher power… that we start to see that we are intimately connected  with the universal power.  So, getting a “No” from the Universe isn’t a “bad” thing.  Whether you are a monk living in a cave or a planning, plotting, person of the modern world, you will always have plenty of opportunities to grow, and to “see your own true nature” as life events come and go. Especially when you are told “No”…  Keep on moving forward and things will change, and you will be right where you are supposed to be the entire time.


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Live with Open Palms

Home is where my feet are.... on my mat.

I remember  seven years ago as I was preparing to move to China, I was in incredible fear, and pain. I was upset about leaving a relationship I was in, I was scared out of my mind about moving to a country I knew nothing about, I was sad about leaving behind my gorgeous sisters, my adorable Daddy, my lovely mother, and whoa is me… my friends! On and on my list of grievances went. I met with a spiritual teacher of mine named Maureen, and shared my uncomfortable state of mind with her. Such an AMAZING women! She told me simply to open my hands. I did. She faced my palms facing up. She told me to stop holding on to everything so tightly! LET GO. Have trust. She demonstrated that everything in life drops into our hands and then leaves again. Our families, our friends, our kids, our youth, our jobs… everything. Nothing is ours so don’t bother trying to physically or emotionally hold on to any of this “life” stuff. The most uplifting part of this demonstration was when she explained that when we are willing to live with open palms, trusting in a power greater then ourselves, that incredible and magical things will come to pass. Nothing can be delivered into a pair of clenched up tightly waded fists.

Alternately,  ANYTHING can come into palms that are patiently waiting openly. My experience since hearing this, and frequently thinking about it, has been that it is TRUE. So true. I occasionally fall into a space of fear, anxiety about the future (It is soooo unpredictable!) or I will tightly grasp something I don’t want to lose and then I immediatly  feel the consequenses. A tightness that  doesn’t feel good. Now I know what to do. I visualize opening my hands. I let go. I trust that I am right where I am supposed to be and all things will come and go as they are supposed to.

open palms

The underlying theme for all this open palm business comes from the Yoga Sutras, aprarigraha, the last of Patanjali’s moral restraints, other wise known as the yamas. Aparigraha is non-possessiveness or non-attachment. I believe that these two definitions can be divided as they are essentially two different things, culminating as the whole result of freedom. Non-possesivness, relates to our belongings, all physical things in our life. Non-attachment is about our reaction to the coming and goings of the people, places, and situations in our lives.

The primary reason for needing to do this, is when we are trying to walk the narrower path of the right minded, wholesome, yogi-like life… holding on to possessions, people, places and situations is simply painful. As I experienced  before leaving the United States for China (and many times since 😉 ). The gifts however of learning to let go, to be open and non-attached are exponential.

Let the magical author and poet Kahlil Gibran take it from here with both an amazing drawing and two deeply meaningful poems:

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Non-possesivness: On Giving 

You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow?
And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring to the overprudent dog burying bones in the trackless sand as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city?
And what is fear of need but need itself?
Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, the thirst that is unquenchable?

There are those who give little of the much which they have–and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.
And there are those who have little and give it all.
These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.
There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.
And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.
And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;
They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.
Through the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth.

It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding;
And to the open-handed the search for one who shall receive is joy greater than giving.
And is there aught you would withhold?
All you have shall some day be given;
Therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors’.

You often say, “I would give, but only to the deserving.”
The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.
They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.
Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights, is worthy of all else from you.
And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream.
And what desert greater shall there be, than that which lies in the courage and the confidence, nay the charity, of receiving?
And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride, that you may see their worth naked and their pride unabashed?
See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving.
For in truth it is life that gives unto life while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.

And you receivers… and you are all receivers… assume no weight of gratitude, lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him who gives.
Rather rise together with the giver on his gifts as on wings;
For to be overmindful of your debt, is to doubt his generosity who has the freehearted earth for mother, and God for father.

Non-attachment: Children Chapter IV

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, “Speak to us of Children.” 
And he said: 
Your children are not your children. 
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. 
They come through you but not from you, 
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. 
You may give them your love but not your thoughts. 
For they have their own thoughts. 
You may house their bodies but not their souls, 
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. 
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. 
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. 
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. 
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. 
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; 
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

These poems are beautiful and clearly illustrate a concept that is so vital to our spiritual growth, yet incredibly uncomfortable for many of us. How does it feel to internalize that your children are not your children? That your parents are not your parents? Does it upset you? Do you regard it as “new-age” non-sense? In a way I find comfort in the notion that nothing is ours, it is all Gods, given to us for a short time to borrow. Brining this attitude toward everything in life is where the ultimate freedom arrises. Allow  me to finish with a beautiful quote from Osho that was in this mornings daily meditation:

On Madness

When that attitude (of possessiveness) is dropped prose is no longer the center, but poetry; purpose is no longer at the center, but play; money no longer at the center but meditation; power no longer the center but simplicity non-possessiveness, a sheer joy of life–almost a madness. 

open hands


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Start talking to yourself… NICELY.

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Action Step: Talk to yourself, very very nicely, ridiculously so…

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For today, try being that crazy person that talks to themselves.  You should say things like, “Gee wiz! I look lovely today!” and “Wow, I am just so happy and nice!” “I feel so healthy and joyous and free!”Be dramatic… Fake it. I know that no one is going to say these things to them selves and instantly feel it, but give it a try. I guarantee there will be a micro-shift somewhere in your being by a few simple nice words to yourself.

Peter Clifford, my amazing guru that I had the opportunity to study with in Bali at Santosha’s Yoga Teacher Training, would consistently say that we must speak to our bodies positively and tell them what we want. He claimed that this energy will change our cells at an intrinsic level. This is something I think about all the time. Our negative thoughts? The body hears them and responds in kind. Our positive thoughts have more power and our bodies follow suit. If we say we are happy, the body begins to believe it and make changes to correspond with the thought.

WHY!?  Ahimsa, non-violence. Time to stop trash talking yourself and treat yourself like the goddess, god that your are (no you are not a god but a part of you is!) Ahimsa is the first Yama of Patanjalis 8 limb path found in the yoga sutras.

 Patanjali wrote the Yoga Sutras nearly 2000 years ago. He isn’t the author as such but he compiled the ancient traditions of his fellow brothers into a format that everyone could use. It is from these sutras that modern day yogic philosophy has branched. To get right to the point, the 8 fold path, or Ashtanga yoga, it is the means by which a person takes steps to reach Nirvana, or Samadhi. * Note that this Ashtanga is different then the Vinyassa Flow Ashtanga started by Patabi Jois within the last 60 years.

The first step towards mastering the mind is to master the Yamas. The Yamas are all about mastering ones social conduct. Many believe this to be first limb because as Socrates so vigilantly believed, we are all social beings and as such we must behave according to human law in order to live harmoniously.  Thus the yamas are a guide to what principles should be obeyed in public in order to begin the journey toward liberation from the mind.

Socrates.

Socrates.

The Yamas are broken down into 5 parts.

Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharia, Aparigraha. More to come on them later.

Ahimsa, non-violence is a key guiding principle in Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. This is where the vegetarianism in these religions comes from. Don’t hurt other living beings. Period. I have also been taught that it means, don’t hurt yourself, as you are ALSO a living being.

I believe that people most often hurt themselves by the negative talk. It has become such a sneaky soft voice that perhaps you don’t notice it, but if it’s there… it’s time to try something different. We will gently push the negative voice out by speaking to ourselves in a positive way. Drama. Like I said, I know this isn’t easy. So first, we will make a list of the things we like about ourselves, or that we know others like in us.

 I am a beautiful young woman.

I am soft spoken and wonderful.

I am aging so gracefully and beautifully.

I am a fantastic cook.

I love my family deeply.

I have amazing daughters who love me very much.

I have a job where I can help people everyday.

I strive to learn more.

I am going deeper spiritually.

I look fabulous in these jeans.

I am a careful and alert driver.

I am a creative and artistic soul.

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Get a pen and paper and make the list. Make the list as long as you can. The statements should be positive affirmations about who you are or who you want to be. This list is your first attempt at being nice to yourself. Throughout the day… simply continue to speak kindly to yourself. Give yourself a hug occasionally. Again, in the end of all this life business, it’s all about you learning to love yourself. If anything I have learned so far is that often, we have to pretend we are who we want to be before we actually become that person. It’s ok. The age old saying goes, “Fake it till you make it.” So fake it up, have fun with it. Be cheesy and if you have the heart, attempt to be genuine and authentic. You gorgeous, happy, sweet, loving, creative, magical, being you.