Friday, May 10, 2013
Sunday, January 30, 2011
"It's no mystery. It's no big secret. It's just as easy as one, two, three - eat healthy, exercise and be positive."
Relentlessly inspiring people to push themselves, Jack LaLanne often did the impossible. His feats of strength, endurance and willpower still defy the imagination. Jack wanted to test himself and to motivate people to get in shape, eat healthfully and feel good.
At age 43, towing a 2,500-pound cabin cruiser, Jack swam the Golden Gate Channel. The cold, swift ocean currents made this 1 mile swim a 6 ½ mile test of strength and endurance. On his 61st birthday, he swam the length of the Golden Gate Bridge (1.7 miles), underwater with 2 air tanks, for a second time, handcuffed, shackled and towing a 1,000-pound boat. Still challenging himself at 70 years old, he towed 70 boats with 70 people from the Queen's Way Bridge in the Long Beach Harbor to the Queen Mary, 1½ miles. Again he increased the difficulty by being handcuffed, and shackled. Unbelievable but true.
Jack's message was consistent. If you don't use it, you will lose it, and it is never to late to get into shape and be healthy. As a kid, Jack was out of shape and overweight. But after hearing a nutritionist speak, he started exercising and eating whole, unprocessed foods. His headaches and anger disappeared, and he felt like he was reborn. Ultimately practicing good health leads us to our highest potential and Jack was the living example of this truth.
A pioneer, a man with a vision and ahead of his time, he started the first fitness gym. Back in the 1940's and 50's doctors believed that working out with weights would give people heart attacks. But Jack lived to be 96, lifting weights until he died of pneumonia. His book "Live Young Forever" was published when he was 95.
A true yogi lives a life of dedication, discipline, service, and integrity. Jack LaLanne was bringing these principles of yoga into the American mainstream way before yoga became popular in the USA. On your mat is the perfect place to practice these principles with the intention to bring them more fully into your life off the mat. Be curious about your body. Feel as many muscles as you can imagine. As Jack said, know that your body is a temple of the divine. So respect it. Listen to it. Learn from it. Give your yoga practice your full attention and test your limits within your practice. Engage your muscles deeply, breathe fully, live completely in the present moment.
There is a deep truth to Jacks words, "I have a spiritual experience all the time! When I wake up in the morning, man, I'm telling you—I have hands, I have feet, and I praise that omnipotent power that gave them to me, whatever it is. We don't know what it is, but we've got to know that there is some power that's beyond our comprehension." When you open yourselves to that power that lives in you, around you and through you, you open to a world of magic, power and beauty.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
True listening is not easy. It requires being open to the possibility of change, being open to our beliefs being questioned, and being fully present in the moment.
How often do you have a conversation with another person who is distracted when you are talking or just waiting until you finish talking so they can go back to their point of view? Are you sometimes that person in the conversation? When you walk away from a conversation like that, it feels empty and unsatisfying because there was no real connection.
When you have a conversation with someone who is truly engaged in listening, and interested in what you are saying, a totally different dynamic happens. There is a connection. Both people grow and learn from the interaction.
We can hear the sound of birds more or less as a background noise without really paying attention. But when we really pause, when we begin to listen to the melody of their song, when we feel their song in our hearts, our world becomes more expansive and alive. We become more attuned to nature.
The same is true of listening to our intuition, our inner guide. Our bodies our giving us messages all the time. How often do we ignore them and pay a price?
We need to quiet our minds to truly listen. Darkness can accentuate our hearing capabilities. There is actually scientific proof that blind people have more acute hearing than people with sight. When we close our eyes, we can often focus more on listening with our inner ears as well as our auditory ears.
Yoga can teach us to listen better. When we listen to our breath, it guides us in and out of poses. It takes us to deeper places within our bodies giving us a more in depth understanding of the mind/body connection. Making deeper connections with our bodies, our intuition, and nature, helps us to realize more of our full potential. It supports our true nature which seeks harmony and is generous in spirit. In yoga we open our bodies, we create space for movement and stillness. This allows us to be receptive and strong. Through meditation and focusing on just the breath, a higher level of our subconscious can be accessed.
Listen for the things that are hard to hear - the gentle passage of the breath in your throat, the emotion or intention behind the words, the voice of your intuition. True listening is a gift we can give to each other and to ourselves. It leads to feeling far more powerful than words. To paraphrase a quote by the Greek philosopher Epictetus, God gave us two ears and one mouth because listening is twice as hard as talking. So take a moment, close your eyes, and listen.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
It is easy to lose something - anything: a thought, an object, confidence, our way, our health, motivation. If it is important, we seek to find that which is lost. But often we have to balance our desire to find something with the acceptance of its loss.
The other day I went to my hiking spot in the woods and as I was pulling my keys out of my pocket I heard something drop on the pavement. I saw the carabiner I used for my keys had opened but I did not see anything on the ground so I went for my hike thinking that the sound was from my dog's collar and leash I had also pulled from my pocket. When I got to my next destination I realized I had lost my house key. So I went back to the spot where I knew I had lost it. I looked all around the area I had parked my car before, but could not find the key. Finally I accepted it was lost and decided to take advantage of the beautiful day and go for another unplanned hike since I was there anyway. I moved the car to get it off the road more and took off into the woods. As I was coming back to my car, I started thinking about the key again and there it was, right under my car door. Somehow I had parked my car in the very spot where the key had bounced to.
Why did I move my car to the exact spot where my key was lost? I don't know. If I had stubbornly kept searching for my key, I might have found it but missed another chance to be immersed in the peace and quiet of the woods. If I was not thinking about my key as I walked back to my car, I might not have seen it. Patient awareness with the acceptance of an unknown outcome has its own rewards.
Yoga is the union of opposites. In losing something, we find something else. When we engage our muscles to create a strong foundation, we have to let go of some muscular energy to find a softness and expansiveness in the pose. We lose our breath on every exhalation, but that creates room for a new breath full of fresh oxygen to come into our bodies. If we release the busyness of our minds, we can find a deeper inner awareness and contentment.
Lost and founds are everywhere. Sometimes we need help to find what we lost. Other times we just need to take a break from our search and whatever was lost magically reappears. Life always comes back to balance, at least temporarily. Some kind of divine providence eventually provides us with what we need to ease the feeling of being lost and find peace within ourselves.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
When someone is dedicated we can feel it. There is no doubt or questioning. Dedication runs deep and is inspirational to others. It calls to us to aspire to our true potential.
There is a true story of dedication and loyalty about a dog named Hachiko who was born in Japan in 1923. He was adopted by Eisaburo Uyeno, a professor at the University of Tokyo. Hachiko and Eisaburo established a strong bond and every day Hachiko accompanied Eisaburo to catch his morning train at the Shibuya station. Without fail, Hachiko would go the station by himself in the evening to wait for the professor's return home.
One day Eisaburo suffered a stroke at the University and died before he could return home. Hachi never forgot his best friend and continued to go to the train station every day at the same time to await Eisaburo's return. He was such a familiar sight that people gave him food and attention but he never would accept a new home. Even though he was with the professor for only a little more than a year, he continued his nightly vigil for 10 years before he died.
A former student of Eisaburo's was particularly interested in Hachiko and wrote a story about him and his dedication that was published in one of the country's major newspapers. People were so moved by his story that Hachiko became a bit of a celebrity and in his old age a bronze statue of him was erected where he waited at the train station. Even after his death, the dedication Hachiko showed towards the professor continued to inspire and touch the hearts of the Japanese people and his statue is a famous and popular rendezvous spot.
When we dedicate our yoga practice to something personal and uplifting, our yoga can move to a different dimension than just practicing to stretch our muscles. Set your foundation with dedication and devotion. Fuel your practice with steadfastness and open your heart without reserve. Your breath is always dedicated to your best interests. Listen to it. Your body is so powerfully wise. Tap into that wisdom with awareness. When you dedicate yourself to something or someone out of love, a shift happens. You tap into more of your own power and the power of the universe works with you and through you. You can feel it and it affects others around you.
Hachiko's dedication never wavered because it was powered by love. Dedication gives meaning and purpose to life. It is not always easy, but without it life is dull and empty. When you dedicate to something higher than yourself, just as Hachiko dedicated himself to love, you become what you are dedicated to. When you become love, when love pulses through your whole being, you can overcome any obstacle, your life feels full and rich, and as the Beatles simply put it: love is all you need.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.
Considered one of the greatest minds of modern times, Albert Einstein was a scientist and a physicist who developed the theory of relativity and won the Nobel Prize for his explanation of the photoelectric effect. His curiosity was endless and he considered imagination his most important scientific tool.
Einstein believed in magic. Nature inspired him to probe deeply into the mysteries of life. We tend to think of scientists of being more in their heads than their hearts. Most people would consider artists to work more from their hearts than their heads.
If the mind controls language and things that can be explained by language, and if the heart represents the mystery of life and that which cannot be explained, then true art and science are a blend of both the mind and the heart. Scientists on the cutting edge of science are motivated from their love of science and their quest for a deeper understanding of the unknown. Artists need to have some kind of technique to express their art or their ideas would never be transformed into a physical form for others to experience.
Sometimes we may be more in our heads. We try to figure things out, but if we ignore the feeling that something is not quite right, we will regret it later. Other times we may be more in our heart, but if we ignore our inner voices we also may find that things don't work out because we were unrealistic or impractical in our plans or expectations.
Our fullest yoga practice comes from working with our minds and our hearts. Our minds tell us the details of how to set our foundation, when to breathe, where to place our arms and legs, which pose to practice. Our hearts help us to feel something that goes beyond the pose that cannot be expressed in words. When we experience a sense of wonder and mystery in yoga, it is more complete and powerful. There is always a pulsation in yoga. Our breath reminds us of that with each inhalation and exhalation. So we pulse between our thinking knowledge of a pose, and feeling something new and different every time we practice.
Experiencing the essence of a person, event, action or just about anything doesn't really happen by chance. It is a result of cultivating sensitivity and cooperation with our minds and hearts working together. Einstein didn't just live in his head, he knew the power of the heart. Our minds and hearts feed each other and we totally depend on both for survival. When you feel out of balance, remember in the dance of life the heart and mind are equal partners and together they create harmony and contentment.