Sunday, April 26, 2009

Changing your point of view

There was once an old woman who spent all her days crying over her two married daughters. The older daughter was married to an umbrella salesman. The younger daughter had married a noodle maker.
When it was sunny the old woman cried for her older daughter thinking no one would buy umbrellas and surely her daughter would be poor and not have enough food to live.

On rainy days the old woman thought of her younger daughter and cried because noodles cannot dry without the sun and surely her younger daughter would suffer from not being able to make a living.

So the woman would cry on sunny days for her daughter married to the umbrella salesman and on rainy days she would cry for her daughter married to the noodle maker. Month after month she cried incessantly and became known as the weeping lady.

One day she met a Dharma master who told her she should change her point of view, "When the sun is shining, think of your daughter with the noodles. She will be selling lots of noodles and make a good profit. When it is raining, think of your other daughter selling lots of umbrellas. She also will prosper."

Hearing the wise words of the master, the old woman recognized their truth. Now when it is sunny she is smiling thinking of her daughter selling noodles and when it is raining she is smiling thinking of her daughter selling umbrellas.

The old woman transformed from the weeping lady into the smiling lady.

When you practice yoga and feel frustrated because the pose is too difficult, bring your attention to your breath. Take a full deep breath and feel your inner body expand. Let go of some of your muscular trying and focus on connecting with an inner power and a feeling of being supported and uplifted by your connection to the Divine. Know that there is as much power in letting go as there is in holding on. Know that action is more important than form.

We all have different talents and weaknesses. Our weaknesses can teach us if we allow our focus to stay positive. When it rains the noodle maker's wife may not be able to dry her noodles but the wheat needed to make the noodles will grow. When the sun comes out again she will be able to dry her noodles. Life ebbs and flows. The more we allow ourselves to step into that flow, the more we will feel a smile on our faces.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tapping into our healing powers

Dandelions burst forth in the spring with an energy that seems boundless. They show up almost everywhere. Although small in stature the dandelion possesses powerful qualities. The French origin of the word - dent de lion - means tooth of the lion. The power of the lion is behind its soft outward appearance with strong healing medicine in all its parts.

The leaves are extremely nutritious containing multiple vitamins as well as beta carotene, iron, calcium, biotin, inositol, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc. The roots can be used to strengthen the entire body, especially the liver and gallbladder, where it promotes the flow of bile, reduces inflammation of the bile duct, and helps get rid of gall stones. Dandelion leaves are a great digestive tonic and increase energy.

Adaptability allows the dandelion to live under the most adverse conditions. They are independent, wild and free. What a wonderful energy to be blessed with! If you damage a dandelion, it will regenerate with ease. It reproduces with wild abandon being a great lover of life. Shining with a cheery disposition, the golden color of the flower radiates like a bright smile.

Emulate the dandelion as you practice yoga. Feel the energy of the feet and hands rooting into the earth energy like the tap root of the dandelion. Be aware of how that rootedness gives a stability that allows you to be flexible and strong. Practice feeling the power from within extending outward with softness. Feel the freedom of adaptability. Radiate your inner energy outward in all directions. Know that inherently you possess great healing powers. Yoga helps to make you aware of those powers and gives you the tools to access them.

Bring the energy of the dandelion into your life. From a center rooted in compassion, freely share your unique gifts with others. Take a moment to look at the beauty of a dandelion puff ball. Notice how each individual seed pod is like a star with a soft white brilliance. Breathe in an intention. With an exhalation send the seeds on a journey. Watch as the seeds scatter with the lightness that can only be found when we accept our journey wherever it may lead.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Things are not always what they seem......

A young man was serving as an apprentice to a wise zen master desiring to learn the ways to enlightenment. Part of the apprenticeship was taking care of the master - making his meals, keeping the house clean, and various other daily chores.

However while the apprentice was sweeping the floor or making a fire, he would suddenly feel a swift blow to the back of his head from the stick of his master. He was surprised and hurt by this treatment. It happened again and again when he least expected it and he never saw it coming.

One day the master was squatting by the fire stirring some soup completely absorbed in his cooking. Frustrated from the repeated blows from his master, the apprentice decided to teach the master a lesson. He crept up slowly and silently behind the master with a big stick intending to strike the master as he had been stricken so many times.

Just as he was bringing the stick down on the master's head, without looking up, the master took the lid from the pot, brought it up behind his head and blocked the apprentice's intended blow. The apprentice was amazed at the swiftness and calmness of the action.

Then it dawned upon him that the master had been trying to teach him how to be truly aware and sensitive to everything around him. The blows from the master came from compassion, not from malice. The master wanted the apprentice to learn a much deeper level of awareness than the apprentice had ever imagined.

Practicing a particular yoga pose may seem uncomfortable and sometimes a bit crazy. But the intention of the pose is to create more strength, openness and freedom. The message from the pose may seem obscure but by being aware we can begin to appreciate the pose and gradually go deeper, both physically and emotionally.

You can be focused on one aspect of the pose but still have a sensitivity the bigger picture. There needs to be a balance of inner and outer awareness. We need to connect with our core and our inner beauty while at the same time realizing that we are just as connected to others and to our surroundings.

As we journey through life, we want to be sensitive to others and our environment. There are lessons to be learned from the most unexpected sources. Teachers come in many guises and the road will often twist and turn in unforeseen ways. Appreciating and accepting this truth gives life its joy and meaning.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Spiraling Out of Control

Deciding to be creative, I started sculpting one of the bushes in front of my house into a spiral shape. I had no experience in topiary but I had a vague idea of what needed to be done. At first I was a bit hesitant taking a few snips here and there, not knowing for sure what to do and doubting that I would really complete the transformation of my bush.

Soon I realized I had to fully commit to creating this spiral and be more confident in cutting out the shape. After trimming for a while, I stopped and stepped back to get a better look from a distance at my progress. This would inspire me to go back and work some more.

The more I progressed and kept taking a step back to relax and re-evaluate what to do next, I began to see the bush and notice its inner branches. I began to realize that exposing their shape was an intricate part of the design. The more space I opened up in the bush, the more it began to change and reveal its beauty.

When I finished my project the final picture was not the same as my original idea but it had the feeling of the spiral with a lot of openness and character. When I was able to let go of my preconceived idea, I began to tap into the energy of the bush.

In yoga when we are learning a new pose it is like my experience of shaping the bush. At first we are a bit hesitant, trying to figure out what to do next; maybe not quite sure if we can really do the pose. But once we commit to the pose and experiment with where to be strong and where to be soft, we begin to feel our way into the pose.

Then we pause, come out of the pose and then try again with a new understanding and more confidence. We need that moment to step back and view the feeling of the pose from a different perspective, a place of rest. Learning the pose is a dance between playing with what we know and allowing the pose to reveal itself to our body and our abilities.

Life is the same. We test the waters, commit to action and step into the flow. We need to let go of the idea of being in complete control. The more we can remain open to possibilities and be willing to allow the universe to reveal its lesson to us, the more we will grow and come to understand our own true nature.