Sunday, August 23, 2009

Kindness: the ultimate renewable resource

Kindness feels good. It is contagious and totally renewable. There are scientific studies done about the health benefits of kindness. Endorphins are released and stress-related health problems improve after you perform an act of kindness.

There is a true story about a man that held a sign on a busy street corner saying, "Free Hugs". At first people passed him by pretending not to notice. But then one tiny woman stopped to tell him how her dog had just died that morning. How that morning had been the one year anniversary of her only daughter dying in a car accident. How what she needed now, when she felt most alone in the world, was a hug. So they hugged and she smiled.

That first hug turned into an outpouring of people hugging. The feeling seemed to grow after that first hug. At one point the police stopped the hugging, tried to fine the man holding the "Free Hug" sign and ban the public act of free hugging. But after 10,000 signatures were collected on a petition, free hugs were reinstated. People want to hug and connect with each other.

Being kind includes being kind to yourself even when no one else is involved. Kindness comes from love. If we can support ourselves with kindness and self-love, we will have the willingness and openness to practice kindness as a habit that comes almost without thinking. Just a generous smile to a stranger could brighten their day.

Practicing yoga is an act of kindness to our bodies, minds and spirit if we practice in a mindful way. We need to embrace ourselves lovingly. Being unkind to our bodies even in yoga can lead to injury. So let kindness guide your actions. We want to practice in a way that feels good and not forceful. Kindness involves sensitivity and compassion. So we practice yoga by hugging our muscles to the bone as a gentle embrace. The hugging action is contractive but the feeling created is expansive. There is power in softness. There is power in kindness. And it is a resource we can never run out of.

Friday, August 21, 2009


"From naive simplicity we arrive at more profound simplicity."
Albert Schweitzer

Simplicity isn't always simple. At first something may appear to be simple. But as we learn more, it becomes more complex. When we simplify something that is complex, it becomes profound.

Some might say that simplicity is inferior to complexity. Simplicity implies that something is easy to understand. If a person is thought of as simple. one might consider them to be unintelligent or even stupid. But is this true?

We pulse between simplicity and complexity. This pulsation is how we deepen our understanding of life. Simplicity is about the essence of an idea, person, theory, thought, etc. Complexity involves many layers, and details and can get confusing. Simplicity is very clear. We often get glimpses of simplicity that become clouded with complexities. "Less is more." This oxymoron lies at the heart of the meaning of simplicity.

In yoga we pulse with the breath. The inhalation and exhalation are opposites: one brings the breath in and the other sends the breath out. But together they make up breathing. They are necessary for the other. At first a pose like down dog may seem simple. But the longer you stay in down dog, the more complex or difficult it may become. As you practice and understand the complexities of down dog, it comes back to feeling easier to hold and simple in the sense that we do not feel overwhelmed in down dog.

When practicing yoga or when things seem overwhelming, stop and focus on your breath. Fully appreciate the energy and vibrancy of the inhalations and exhalations. When we simplify our focus, life become easier. Simplicity leads to understanding. It is the luminous treasure that we all seek in this journey of life.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


"Contentment is natural wealth. Luxury is artificial poverty."

Recognizing our innate goodness, our divine nature and how we are all connected and supported by a higher power is the root of contentment. Contentment is like the bed of a river. The water flows, rises and falls, shifts happen but the bed of the river gives shape, support and constancy to the river. Contentment is part of who we are. If we are always looking for something more outside of ourselves to be happy, we will never be truly content.

Contentment does not mean sitting around and doing nothing. Although sometimes if we do sit around and do nothing, we can still be content. Challenging oneself and having goals can either lead to contentment or frustration. If our motivation is trying to be better than someone else or we feel we need to be better to be happy, we will only achieve a false contentment that will not last.

Is the glass half full or half empty? Contentment is not about seeing the glass as half full. The glass is both half empty and half full. Recognizing this and feeling good even though the glass is not completely full, is being content. Contentment is being OK with what we do have now.

In yoga when we are aware of our breath and move from our core our poses will have a feeling of steadiness and freedom. We want to express our poses from the inside. Inner contentment leads to a practice that is non-competitive and will protect us from injury. When we practice a twisting pose, if we try to force our twist to be deeper by using more muscular energy, we can hurt our backs. But if we allow our bodies to expand into the twist from within with our exhalation, we can go just as deep safely and without force. When our strength comes from contentment we do not overextend ourselves. We know when we need to rest and rejuvenate.

Practicing yoga involves testing the edges and coming back to the middle. Exploring our choices, our limitations, and our strengths helps us to find balance. Contentment comes from connecting with the bigger pulse, from energy that ebbs and flows. It is this constant pulsation that connects us to the essence of yoga.

Socrates had great wisdom and always believed that he knew nothing because the world is full of mystery. He was content with this belief. Contentment is like wisdom. It cannot be taught. It comes from how we live our life. Clinging to material wealth will lead to spiritual poverty. Be appreciative of the natural wealth you have with the gift of life. Simplicity leads to the greatest wealth of all.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Why pretend you are lame?

Deep in the woods there lived a fox with no front legs. A man living nearby saw the fox and wondered how it was able to survive. Then one day while watching the fox, the man saw a tiger approach with fresh game in its mouth. Lying on the ground the tiger ate his fill and left the rest for the fox.

The next day the fox was fed by the same tiger. The man began to think, "If this fox is taken care of in this mysterious way , its food sent by some unseen Higher Power, why don't I just rest in a corner and have my meals provided for me?"

Having great faith, each day the man waited patiently for his food. Nothing happened. He kept losing weight and strength until he was nearly a skeleton. Then he heard a Voice that said, "You have mistaken the way, see now the Truth. You have both your arms and legs and should have followed the example of the tiger instead of the disabled fox."

The mistake the man made was waiting too long for something to be done for him. He acted as if he was disabled. He only saw one side of the picture. The fox was receiving but the tiger was giving. How often do we see only the thing we want to see that will benefit us? Do we stubbornly cling to an idea even when we are receiving messages that we need to change our course of action? The man was starving but he still did not see that his plan was not working.

In yoga we need to actively participate in each pose. There needs to be a balance of giving and receiving. We open up to grace, to the possibility that we can expand and learn something new with every pose. We give our attention to a strong foundation. to engaging our muscles and hugging inward. Flexibility comes by balancing the inward actions with outward releasing. Pulsing with the energy of our breath and the bigger pulsation of nature brings our pose to life. If something is not working with a pose, if we are not breathing, we need to stop and re-evaluate what we are doing. We can learn lessons from our own practice and from the experience of others.

Learn from the tiger and the fox. There are times when we have the opportunity to give and share. There are times when we need to accept help if we are in need. But to ignore messages that are our plan is not working can be devastating. Use your talents and resources. Don't ignore the gifts you have. Strength balanced with softness, giving balanced with receiving and a mind open to change, will allow us to prosper and experience the fullness of life.