There is joy, a winelike freedom that dissolves the mind and restores the spirit, and there is manly fortitude like the king’s, a reasonableness that accepts the bewildered lostness.
Abhyasa: continuous endeavor; constant practice; repetition; exercise; exertion (from A Concise Dictionary of Indian Philosophy; Sanskrit Terms Defined in English)
“And so I practice without knowing how it will all turn out. Clearly, along with clarity and faith, my commitment requires some will and effort. As Patanjali says in verse 14, establishing a firm foundation in practice requires sustained exertion over time. Commitment to practicing means I practice if it is easy for me, and I practice if it is hard for me. If I am bored, I practice; if I am enthusiastic, I practice; if I am at home, I practice; if I am on vacation, I practice. There is a saying in Buddhism: If it is hot, be a hot Buddha. If it is cold, be a cold Buddha. This is the consistency and determination in practice that Patanjali means when he speaks of abhyasa. In the beginning, this sustained exertion may be an act of will, an act of ego. But as we continue, the practice itself creates a momentum that propels us through the difficult moments of fear and boredom.”
-From Yoga Journal article, Hot Buddha Cold Buddha by Judith Hanson Lasater
Being able to stop and be aware of the present moment is part of the definition of happiness. It is not possible to be happy in the future. This is not a matter of belief; this is a matter of experience.
Be courageous and discipline yourself.
Work. Keep digging your well. Don’t think about getting off from work. Water is there somewhere.
Submit to a daily practice. Your loyalty to that is a ring on the door. Keep knocking, and the joy inside will eventually open a window and look out to see who’s there.
-from The Sunrise Ruby by Rumi
Being able to lighten up is the key to feeling at home with your body, mind, and emotions, to feeling worthy to live on this planet.… This earnestness, this seriousness about everything in our lives – this goal-oriented we-are-going-to-do-it-or-else attitude, is the world’s greatest killjoy… When your aspiration is to lighten up, you begin to have a sense of humor. Your serious state of mind keeps getting popped. In addition to a sense of humor, a basic support for a joyful mind is curiosity, paying attention, taking an interest in the world around you.… Curiosity encourages cheering up. So does simply remembering to do something different… Anything out of the ordinary will help. You can go to the window and look at the sky, you can splash cold water on your face, you can sing in the shower, you can go jogging – anything that’s against your usual pattern. That’s how things start to lighten up.
-from Comfortable With Uncertainty by Pema Chodron
“This first glance of a soul which does not yet know itself is like dawn in the heavens; it is the awakening of something radiant and unknown.”
―From Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Sometimes we hitch ourselves to large but essentially empty dreams, maybe because we are so busy just getting through the day that we don’t believe we can actually live according to our deepest, most genuine desires. But the truth is that right here in our daily life, every breath and every step can become a concrete part of making our true dreams happen…. If you feel that your dreams aren’t coming true, you might think you need to do more, or to think and strategize more. In fact, what you might need is less – less noise coming to you from both inside and outside – so that you have the space for your heart’s truest intention to germinate and flourish.
Those who train wholeheartedly in awakening … are called warriors – not warriors who kill but warriors of nonaggression … They are willing to cut through personal reactivity and self-deception. A warrior accepts that we can never know what will happen to us next. This not-knowing is part of the adventure. It’s also what makes us afraid.
Wherever we are, we can train as a warrior… Our tools are sitting meditation, tonglen, slogan practice, and cultivating limitless qualities of loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity.
The training offers no promise of happy endings. Rather this “I” who wants to find security – who wants something to hold onto – will finally learn to grow up. If we find ourselves in doubt that we are up to being a warrior-in-training, we can contemplate this question: “Do I prefer to grow up and relate to life directly, or do I choose to live and die in fear?”
-from Comfortable With Uncertainty By Pema Chodron
May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day.
May I be able to live fresh, solid, and free.
May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.
“These meditations help us water the seeds of joy and happiness in our consciousness store. How can we touch true joy in every moment of our lives? How can we live in a way that brings a smile, the eyes of love, and happiness to everyone we encounter? Use your talent to find ways to bring happiness to yourself and others… Meditative joy has the capacity to nourish our mindfulness, understanding, and love. Try to live in a way that encourages deep happiness in yourself and others. “I vow to bring joy to one person in the morning and to help relieve the suffering of one person in the afternoon.” Ask yourself, “Who can I make smile this morning?” This is the art of creating happiness.” ”
-from Nourishing Happiness by Thich Nhat Hanh
For almost ever, there has been nothing that paralyzes me with anxiety more than wearing a bathing suit in front of people. This was highly inconvenient growing up on waterfront property and living in a town where life happens on The Bay. Not to mention that Summer is about 8 months long. A crippling negative body image settled in to my psyche around five years old. And has pretty much held a grip on me (manifesting into a rock hard ball of tension in the core of my belly) until very recently.
Last year when I turned 40 I ‘gave’ myself Restorative Yoga for my birthday. Basically I allowed myself to use more of my mat time in less vigorous practices.
A couple of funny and wonderful things have happened. My active practice has evolved into a few times a week doing the traditional Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Primary Series (which has always seemed ‘out of reach’ physically but is now quite joyful). I do restorative poses daily…sometimes as a full practice, sometimes just one or two poses. Really whatever time and schedule allows. Everyday I take my restorative medicine. Everyday I allow myself to meet my inner state. It, like daily meds tend to do, has profoundly affected my overall mental state in a most positive fashion.
When the editor of Access Magazine called and said she wanted to feature me in the April issue I was flattered and grateful. But then the ‘dreaded’ details emerged…”Oh, I have to wear a bathing suit?” My auto-pilot defense mechanisms immediately surfaced and I almost declined, as it would be unfathomable for me to pose in front of a camera in my most vulnerable state. But as if someone else was speaking I heard my voice say, “Yes. Where do I show up?”
I’m not sure what force intervened that day and helped me accept this great honor and offer by the magazine. But I do know that as shoot day approached, with nervousness rising, I just–did what I do- pause, turn in, focus on breathing, calm again. Repeat. My daily practices of yoga and meditation continue without fail no matter what is happening, so I always have the support of my ‘meds’.
I carried my yoga practice with me to the shoot and throughout the whole day. The most liberating part about the whole experience was that I felt comfortable and confident in my skin. I had a blast trying on as many bathing suits as time would allow. Who is this person?!?!? It was fun. I felt great. And I am not only still breathing, but excited to get out on the beach in a bathing suit this Summer!
Thirty-five years of the shackles of severe self-consciousness issues…gone bye-bye! Bathing suit shopping here I come! I could not have arrived at this victorious moment without my yoga. I bow to it and to a new found 40 year old inner peace and calm…the depths of which are apparently endless.