Month: April 2021

Last week in the topic around compassion, I was struck by these words out of Jack Kornfield’s book, “The Wise Heart'”:

“The courageous heart is the one that is unafraid to open to life without armoring. As the poet Rilke reminds us, “Ultimately it is on our vulnerability that we depend”.”

After having collected so many ‘tools’ for our backpack as we journey through life in these practices for the past couple of months, this quote was making me contemplate laying it all down. Laying down all of our tools,  thoughts, essences of self, and just stepping forth with wild abandon!  I have this image of a Being, naked and hair blowing in the wind, standing tall in the face of the thick and dangerous forest; holding nothing and yet so unafraid.  This Being exudes such grace, strength, love, boldness, and true sense of Self. 

What if you began to let go a little more each day of the things that you don’t need. What if you donated some of those clothes in the back of your closet? What if you cleaned out that cupboard of mugs that you rarely use? What if you let go of that belief that you’re not worthy of love? What if you quiet once and for all that voice that tells you you’re not capable?

Of course I think of Marie Kondo, and Minimalists, including my husband, but I also think of aparigraha, non-possessiveness.  If you want an INCREDIBLE organizer for your life, look no further than Inwood, NYC, by the way!  Call Amanda Sullivan, The Perfect Daughter, for ALL your needs!  I know from personal experience how wonderful she is!  She helped me organize my taxes before I had a husband that LOVED doing taxes, but she also will organize your house, closet, or whatever else you want to clear up!  And, buy her book, “Organized Enough: the anti-perfectionists guide to getting – and staying – organized”.  And, no, she doesn’t even know I am putting this in my blog, lol.  This is NOT a paid advertisement, lol!

Ok, back to your regularly scheduled programming…

Aparigraha Is one of the five yamas, or “restraints”, within the ethical practices of yoga as laid out by the sage Patanjali’s in his texts, the yoga sutras.  

In her book on the yamas and niyamas, the Deborah Adele writes, “What if we could trust life like we trust the breath? What if we could take in all the nourishment of the moment and then let it go fully, trusting that more nourishment will come?”-‘The Yamas & Niyamas: exploring yoga’s ethical practice’

What if we really and truly trust life is always sending us the next nourishing and supportive thing in perfect timing? In her book Deborah Adele introduces the idea of the trapeze artist; hence my trapeze pictures from 2012! Trusting, they have to let go and then be suspended for a brief moment midair as they reach for the next, and then take a hold. If they hold on too long they’ll miss the opportunity of receiving the next swinging bar that’s coming for them. So many questions pop up in my mind’s I am when I think of this, such as; How do we know when to let go? How can we trust our own innate timing more? How can we ultimately trust that the universe has our back?  How can I live with a sense of wild abandon?!  And to that I answer with this quote…

“You cannot travel the path until you have become the path itself.”-Buddha

To know we are life itself, to know we are love itself, to let go of the idea that there even is a path to begin with, this is to let go of that illusion. We are divine, we are life, we are the expansion and contraction and everything. We are this moment.  Trust. Use your intuition and discernment. Listen to your heart, it knows.

Rupi Kaur writes, “You do not belong to the future or the past, you belong right here.”


“Aparigraha invites us to practice divine play, experience full intimacy and contact with the moment, and then to let go so the next thing can come. It is how our adikara, or competency, grows and how we become more who we are capable of becoming.”-Deborah Adele.  We can build our competency and our capacity!  Capacity to let go and to be ever more present in each moment, present to life.

But even as I write those last words above, I feel and hear that innate whisper in my mind that this is a difficult task, to attempt to truly stay in the moment. As example, I’ve lived some really beautiful experiences in my lifetime and I’ve known some very difficult moments, but can I let go of the past? And, as another example, I have great dreams for the future of myself and my family! I don’t want to give up striving towards them. But this is where I think there’s a little distinction between surrender and non-grasping, at least in the way i am thinking about it these days…

To me, surrender is more of a giving over and a letting go in a way where there is less action. Aparigraha, non-grasping, causes me to feel that they’re still actions being taken. This is where the wild abandon comes into play. This is not abandonment. This is a wild abandon that is remembering that we have all the tools we ever need within us, we always have, and we always will. So we can step out boldly, not holding on to any idea of who we are or who we think we need or should be, or who we’re even becoming, but to just be all in in the moment, be fully present, and go for it!  What if we could trust life like we trust the breath?!  And if I am life, this means I’m trusting myself!  I belong here!

“Anything we cling to create some maintenance problem for us. The material items that we hoard, collect, buy because they are on sale or take because they are “free,” I’ll take up space and demand our attention. Storage boxes and sheds become an easy way to fool ourselves. Settle attachments come in the form of our images and beliefs about ourselves, about how life should be, about how others should be. These images keep us in bondage to our own learning and growth. Clutter in our physical space blocks our ability to physically move, while clutter in our minds blocks our freedom to expand and have space for the next thing life wants to bring to us.”- Deborah Adele

Out of her blog, Karen Karbo brings up the image of the big wave surfer, Laird Hamilton, and talks about wild abandon. He rides three-story tall waves! He has prepared and planned, but ultimately he has to let go and trust and feel and breathe. He has to ride the wave, he becomes the wave and the wave becomes him. There is no path, we are the path itself. He is all in! When was the last time you were all in? Was it on the dance floor at a party? Was it singing Happy Birthday for a friend? Was it having a serious talk with your partner or your children? Was it having a heart to heart with your parents? Was it soaking in a well-deserved bubble bath taking care of yourself? Was it sitting in meditation?  All these questions make me want to ask the one great question, when was the last time you were your authentic self?!

In classes we used Ganesha mudra and I would close the class with Ganesha’s mantra, ‘om gam ganapatayei namaha’.  Ganesha is the elephant deity who’s the remover of obstacles. Anything we hold on to is a maintenance problem said Deborah Adele, so may we remove the obstacles of seeing our self as less than, may we remove the obstacles of having too many physical items that we just never use, may we remove the obstacles of illusion, and may we dance freely sharing all of our beautiful colors to the world!

In some of my classes we worked up to the posture of svarga dvijasana, or bird of paradise pose. I love how ‘dvija’ means twice born. Even though the posture is named after the beautiful flower, birds are born twice. Once as the egg, but then the egg cracks revealing the raw, precious, infant bird who will continue to grow, spread its wings and fly!  Aparigraha and non-grasping makes me feel like cracking our own shells, dropping the armor, and allowing our self to be vulnerable. On our vulnerability we depend. Step out wild and free.

I ended most of the classes with this Gabrielle Roth quote, “In many semantic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions: when did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop being comforted by the sweet territory of silence?”

Much Love,
Shawna

Breathe and Believe.

compassion

I love this simple picture of Max and Quinn.  He is holding her hand to both guide her and protect her from running into the street.  It was a reminder for compassionate acts of kindness and consideration that we can offer ourselves and each other.

As we continue on the journey of the essence of different tokens and magic to bring along in a journey, how could I forget one of the most important ones?!

Compassion. By definition compassion is ‘sympathy and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others'(Oxford). It’s also defined as ‘sympathetic consciousness of others distress together with a desire to alleviate it'(Miriam Webster).

After visiting action last week, I was in a real need for both emotional, as well as physical, space to soften.  I was thinking of synonyms to softening, relaxing, slowing down, practicing some self-care, things of that nature. It took a little bit of thought, but then I realized that this is all compassion. Offering myself compassion.

But then a week passed.  I wrote this blog, and had it as a saved draft in my emails.  A lot transpired in this past week. George Floyd’s case continued on as the officer, Derek Chauvin used the 5th amendment, and chose not to speak at his own trial for the death of George Floyd.  Duante Wright was shot by police, leaving his young son fatherless, and a mother and entire community grieving in Minnesota; the same city George Floyd was killed. And, 2nd Lieutenant Caron Nazario was peppered sprayed in his car, wearing his uniform, being asked to both keep his arms out of the car and to get out of the car at the same time.  All I can do right now is grieve with them.   Hold their grief in my heart with compassion, because God knows I want to alleviate their pain, bring their boys/sons/dads/uncles/husbands/partners back to life, but I can’t.  When I listened to Duante Wrights aunt speak, I balled.   When will this stop?  The racism, the hate, the brutality?  I don’t know when, but I pray it DOES.  And, I will continue with my compassion, as much as action to ending suffering for my Black, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Trans, Gay, Brown, People of Color, and more.  EVERY PERSON DESERVES TO FEEL AND KNOW THEIR WORTH, and to experience a life that is free and loving.

Jack Kornfield in his book “The Wise Heart: a guide to the universal teachings of Buddhist psychology,” writes that compassion is our deepest nature. It arises from our interconnection with all things. Immediately I think to my two-year-old, And how she can so innately notice if I’m sad, if I’m frustrated, or if I’m happy.  When she sees I’m sad, I see her body get still and her eyes continue to observe me. Sometimes she even comes over to me and just hugs me. Sometimes I have changed my appeared emotion so she doesn’t take on my pain.  The scientific proof of our compassion came in the way of discovering our mirror neurons.  In the 1980s the scientist by the name of Giacomo Rizzolatti, and his colleagues, had discovered some brain cells that were later called mirror neurons. They found that ‘we could actually feel the emotions, movements, and intentions of others’. Researchers talk about this natural empathy as part of our social brain that connects us intimately in every encounter we have with anyone.

In my classes during this week of intention around compassion, I invited people to practice specifically self-compassion.  Jack Kornfield writes, “compassion for our own fear and shame opens us to others,” and that “compassion is only a few breaths away”.  

I invite you to take a deep breath, deer reader. Take a moment to reflect on all you’ve done today, done in the past week, lived through in the past year, lived through in the course of your entire life up to this moment. You’re doing great things. You’re doing great things just by being a compassionate human being. You’re doing great things because you’re here. Your body is doing amazing things right now inside of you, your heart’s beating and your lungs are pumping. You’re doing big things! Offer compassion to yourself, offer compassion to your body, offer compassion to whatever emotion arises, offer compassion to whatever thought arises.  Now notice, what has changed through offering yourself compassion?

“The courageous heart is the one that is unafraid to open to the world. With compassion we come to trust our capacity to open to life without armoring. As the poet Rilke reminds us, “ultimately it is On our vulnerability that we depend.””-Jack Kornfield.  I feel here that vulnerability comes as way of openness, willingness, and availability.  When we can be compassionate to what is real and true within our hearts and within our self, then the armor falls. Just like when we are true and real in compassionate ways with others, the armor and the guardedness falls away.  We open to each other, when we open to our self.

“Living with compassion does not mean we have to give away all our possessions, take in every homeless person we meet, and fix every difficulty in our extended family and community. Compassion is not codependence. It does not mean we lose our self respect or sacrifice ourselves blindly for others. In the West we are confused about this point. We mistakenly fear that if we become too compassionate we will be overwhelmed by the suffering of others. But this happens only when our compassion is one-sided. In Buddhist psychology compassion is a circle that encompasses all beings, including ourselves. Compassion blossoms only when we remember ourselves and others, when the two sides are in harmony.
    Compassion is not foolish. It doesn’t just go along with what others want So they don’t feel bad. There is a yes in compassion, and there is also a no, said with the same courage apart. No to abuse, no to racism, no to violence, both personal and worldwide.  The no is said not out of hate but out of an unwavering care. Buddhists call this the fierce sword of compassion. It is the powerful no of leaving a destructive family, the agonizing know of allowing an addict to experience the consequences of his actions.
    Wherever it is practice, compassion brings us back to life.”-Jack Kornfield, ‘The Wise Heart’.

“With compassion one becomes courageous. Compassion brings triumph when attacked; It brings security when maintained.”-Tao Te Ching.  I personally have been really focusing on the last piece of Lao Tzu’s quote here from his wisdom, the Tao Te Ching.  All of last year, nothing felt secure nor maintained.  Rather, everything felt uncertain, scary, and at best, just trying to get by day-by-day.  The idea of stability, maintaining life, or maintaining a vacuumed floor or washed hair, seemed exhausting and not so possible.  But, when I practice compassion towards myself in the moments when I feel underwater, then I DO feel secure within the knowing of my heart, that everything will be ok; everything IS ok.  And, not only do I feel secure, I can choose to maintain the security thru maintaining the compassion.  

“Work with compassion intuitively. At times it may feel difficult, as though you might be overwhelmed by the pain. Remember, you’re not trying to fix the pain of the world, only hold it with a compassionate heart.”-Jack Kornfield, ‘The Wise Heart’

I invite you to sit with the Karuna mudra. Karuna is the Sanskrit term for compassion.  Cup your hands like the letter ‘C’, ‘c’ for compassion maybe?!  wink wink.  Then. place your left fingertips at the base of the right fingers, at the top of the palm.  Now, rotate your hands so that the right palm is facing out, left palm facing in. Right palm out is compassion for others, left palm facing in is compassion for yourself. 

If you like, use the mantra, “Om Mani Padme Hum”.  The Dalai Lama’s meaning for this mantra is so beautiful; the be on a path of intention and method to be compassionate with wisdom.  Yes! Read it HERE.
om = om
mani = jewel
padme = lots
hum = indivisible

May we all continually offer compassion for ourselves, and compassion for one another.

Love,
Shawna

This week in my classes, after a hiatus in the month of March to be with goddesses during women’s history month, we are back inside the larger overarching intention of aspects needed when in the journey of life.  In the past, we’ve been through consideration of beginnings/starting a new, mastery versus success, surrender, and balance.  This week we take action!

 
Seated with the abahya mudra for fearlessness, protection, peace, dispelling fear, and following Dharma, we embarked in our practices into some kriya yoga. Kriya means “action, deed, effort”.  The beginning of patanjali’s second book in ‘The Yoga Sutras’ is all about practice, sadhana.  The practices laid out give a strong foundation for more subtler practices to follow, as well as the foundation for transformation and self-realization.  This second book starts out with the thread of wisdom that yoga in practice is a purification process, burning out negativity, blockages, old beliefs, and more.  It’s about having all these things removed so that we may meet our true essence within, we can know love.  Once we begin to understand this, but more importantly, to feel this, then it becomes easier to begin to take actions out in the world from an aligned place within our self.
 
“How wonderful it is that nobody need to wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”-Anne Frank. You don’t need to wait a single moment because you’re reading these words now.  And in reading these words, hearing these words, receiving these words, you’re in the practice. You’re taking action to change your thoughts and focuses towards positive. It’s imperative to start within One’s Self in order to realize how you are truly affecting the world, and therefore improving the world because you’re doing your own inner work. This self-study and inner work is svadyaya.  
 
Svadyaya, with ishvara pranidhana/surrender, and tapas/to burn, are the three major components of kriya yoga. 
 
Throughout my classes this week I constantly invited people to name their experience in the moment.  Whether it was a physical sensation of their body they were experiencing, or an emotion, or naming a thought that was present, or just simply naming each inhale and exhale; this practice of naming the moment drew them into the moment. This is surrender, opening our heart to the moment, giving ourselves over to the moment and the experience. Letting go into the love of the universe and trusting that as we take action of learning our true essence, as well as stepping out into the world, when we do these things first from a place of alignment within our self, then we need not worry.
 
“Decide whether or not the goal is worth the risks involved. If it is, stop worrying.”-Amelia Earhart.  This quote remind me of the component of discernment that we explored with the goddess Saraswati, read it here; which requires of us to be in resonance with our head and heart.
 
Being in the moment also offers us the spaciousness of being able to move without the weight of the past upon our shoulders, as well as not being pulled into the future. We can just be here now.  By being present in our bodies, we were able to move and to open, to strengthen, as well as take action. Action not only in our consciousness and our hearts, but also in our bodies.
 
Action can come in many ways shapes and forms.
 
“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
 
“If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl, but by all means, keep moving.”-Martin Luther King Jr..  What incredible wisdom MLK, Jr. has.  The feeling that I get from this quote from Dr King is that no matter what your physical body may be capable or incapable of doing, you still can take action from the place within your heart and your mind. To always be choosing kindness, consideration, and compassion*.
*Compassion is next weeks class and blog!
 
Sometimes the transformation will come because of actions we take consciously and spiritually, and at other times the transformation will come because of actual physical movement and actions that we take out in the world.  “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”-Winston Churchill.
 
All of these practices from the mind, to the heart, to the body, burn out, “tapas,”  the negativity in the darkness within our self. All these practices are also the way to create, “tapas,” and lights the fire, the torch, that guides us to our deepest knowing of who we are ultimately, eternal and infinite.
 
“Stop being afraid of what can go wrong. Start being excited about what can go right.”-unknown
 
Align within your Self!
 
“Forget conventionalisms; forget what the world thinks of you stepping out of your place; I think your best thoughts, speak your best word, work your best works, looking to your own conscience for approval.”-Susan B Anthony
 
As much as I am a believer in our power of our thoughts and conscience, I’ve been loving this Irish proverb, “You’ll never plow a field by turning it over in your mind”.  Sometimes, we just need to start, and take that first step in faith!  
 
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”-Wayne Gretzky
 
So, “whatever you do, always give a 100%. Unless you’re donating blood.”-Bill Murray
 
Love to all,
Shawna 
Breathe and Believe.
Lakshmi

Where do you see beauty around you right now? How do you remind yourself to see the beauty in all things?  Take a moment to reflect.

 
Now, I invite you to name at least one area of your life in which you are abundant. Are you abundant with the amount of shoes you have? Are you abundant with the amount of free time you have?  Are you abundant with love that you offer yourself and others?
 
The Goddess Lakshmi invites us to remember that abundance is our birthright. She is the Goddess of the abundance and beauty.  Her name means “She who leads to one’s goal”.  
Lakshmi arrived bringing the ‘nectar of immortality’ to all; self-realization is the goal of yoga and the knowledge of immortality of our essence is the nectar that she brings.  She brings with the nectar, four qualities that make transformation in our human world possible; dharma, kama, artha, and moksha.  She imparts these qualities and wisdoms so that we may experience that transcended state.  In our classes, we dove into the four qualities in the four hands that Lakshmi brings in order for transformation in human life possible; dharma/right way of living, kama/desires and longings, artha/purpose and wealth and goals, and moksha/transcendent state and liberation.
 
“I live in unlimited abundance.”
“I live in a universe of infinite supply.”
“I see beauty all around me.”
“I see the beauty within me.”
“I am abundant.”
Just a few mantras to try out; which one resonate with you most in this moment?  Is there another one that comes to you that you can make uniquely yours thru these suggestions?  Use the one that resonates most.
 
“The story of Lakshmi’s appearance conveys the essence of the journey of spiritual growth we all take sooner or later. In you and me, the churn of the ocean of consciousness is the conscious, self-willed transformational process in which we engage to produce spiritual growth. The Vedas and other Eastern spiritual texts all conclude that the end result of any truly spiritual transformational process is immortality.”-Thomas Ashley-Farrand, ‘Shakti mantras’.
 
When you feel lacking, unworthy, not beautiful in spirit or body, how do you turn the milky ocean of your consciousness towards abundance and beauty?  The way in which Lakshmi appeared, came because both demons and gods and goddesses alike had to work together in order to turn the milky ocean of consciousness. They knew that if they wanted the nectar of immortality, that they had to come together to turn the ocean powerfully enough so that the nectar would arrive. What I draw from this story and what I find beautiful about it, is that it is as if we must befriend our darkness, and our shadow sides, inviting them into the Light in order for the light and darkness to merge and for transformation to take place. In order for us to turn our thoughts always towards the Light, we must transform the darkness. Through this process we come to know our highest self, our eternal self.
 
“If you want love and abundance in your life, give it away.”-Mark Twain
 
So what happens when you truly feel like you’re at the end of the rope and have nothing left to give? Or just simply have nothing at all?  Here’s where I bring in Bryant McGill’s quote, “Abundance is the process of letting go; that which is empty can receive”.  
 
May you open your heart and shift your vision towards abundance and beauty, and in this spirit see how not only you can flourish, but everyone can flourish and thrive!
 
“Abundance is not something we acquire, it’s something we tune into.”-Wayne Dyer
 
Lakshmi invites you to meditate towards the world’s support and abundance. You could do this, if you’d like, while you’re simply walking down the street the next time you go outside. Are there birds chirping? Is someone laughing? Is a baby giggling? Just the other day my son and I went to the zoo.  We were in the kids petting zoo and I had not thought to bring cash in order to feed the animals. Before we knew it, this kind woman was handing us $0.50 so that Max could get some of the feed from the machine in order to enjoy having fun feeding the goats and the llamas. What abundance and beauty of heart!! 
 
And as for physical beauty I’ll leave you with this quote from Coco Chanel, “You can be gorgeous at 30, charming at 40, and irresistible for the rest of your life.”!!
 
 
Whether you’re able to see the beauty and abundance within yourself, and the beauty and abundance around you, or not, I invite you to keep practicing. Have patience, and keep going.  Next week’s blog is all about action!  And to remember Lakshmi’s companion, the white owl; for the owl represents patients, intelligence, and wisdom. A symbol of universal wisdom with the ability to see beauty in spite of the dark.
 
Love to all,
Shawna 
Breathe and Believe.