Sunday, April 25, 2010

Planting a garden

Gardens are a way of working together with nature to add beauty and nourishment to our lives. The more we understand nature and collaborate with her, the more plentiful, healthy, and beautiful our garden can be.

First we start with an intention to create, nurture and be open to what our gardens will teach us. Preparing the soil is the foundation of a healthy garden. Timing when to plant the seeds is important. Waiting for the right time of the year and even the right cycle of the moon can influence the health of our garden.

The life of a plant starts with a tiny seed. The seed naturally sends roots downward and the body of the plant upward. Seeds need a balance of water and sun to thrive and grow. We can cycle different plants that do well in different parts of the growing season. Some plants need more shade and some need more sun, so we can arrange our garden with the taller plants needing sun to shade the plants needing more shade.

Feeling the earth under your fingers, and getting a close look at the growing plants connects us more intimately to a world that we can easily take for granted. There have been books, studies, and documentaries showing that plants can sense the emotions of living things around them. Taking the time to slow down from our busy lives and find a connection to nature through our gardens is very calming and healing.

Practicing yoga has many similarities to planting a garden. Setting an intention for our practice is like planning our garden. Grounding downward through our pelvis and lifting upward from our core gives us the same rooted and expansive qualities found in our garden. As our practice unfolds, it is like a garden coming into bloom. Just as a plant reaches towards the sun, our goal is to create an expansion that gives fullness and life to a pose.

Planting a garden can be a metaphor for anything we do in life. Plant your seed with awareness, water your garden with love and dedication and fully savor the fruits of your labor.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Transformation can happen in an instant or gradually over time. It can be something we create or something that happens to us without our control. It can be subtle or dramatic,

When Mount St Helens erupted, the landscape was dramatically transformed in an instant. The forces of nature had been invisibly at work before the eruption but the actual physical change happened without warning and the landscape was changed permanently. Powerful acts of nature like earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis and hurricanes can cause this instant transformation.

People can be transformed instantly in an accident becoming paralyzed, losing a limb, losing their sight or losing part of their memory from a stroke. These transformations are beyond our control. Afterwards we have a choice with how we deal with the changes but life gives us unexpected challenges.

Over time as we age, transformation happens gradually. No one can stop the aging process but we can control how dramatically it happens by our lifestyle. People who stay active with their body and mind typically age more gracefully than someone who is inactive and doesn't challenge themselves physically and mentally. Habits like smoking and excessive drinking can negatively impact how we age.

People can transform their physical appearance through diet and exercise. When someone loses 20 - 150 lbs the transformation can be very dramatic. This transformation takes place gradually over time with our concentrated efforts. When our bodies undergo a change like this it often changes our mind and attitude about ourselves because we feel better.

A chance encounter can be transformational in gradual subtle ways. We could meet someone who we end up marrying or starting a business with. A person might introduce us to a sport or art process that becomes our passion in life and transforms how we identify ourselves.

Yoga brings about a gradual transformation in our bodies and how we view life. The practice of being gentle with ourselves combined with discipline and concentrated awareness on the mat can help us to be more forgiving with ourselves and others off the mat. Yoga invites to explore parts of our body that are forgotten and in that process we can open up both physically and emotionally. We play a part in that transformation but other aspects of our transformation may occur as a side benefit to our efforts.

Real transformation requires a significant energy exchange. It happens when a huge amount of energy changes something quickly like a volcano erupting or when consistent energy over time creates a substantial lasting change like changing your eating habits for optimal health. Something quick and easy like cutting your hair to change your looks would not be a transformation. Energy transformation is happening all the time within us and around us. Instead of letting life overwhelm us with unwanted transformations, we can mindfully focus our energy to create the positive transformations that bring joy and contentment.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Wake up call

Wake up calls demand our attention. We can be so absorbed in our emotions and habits that in a way we are in a kind of sleep. Wake up calls abruptly make us stop what we are doing and at least temporarily take a look at something that we have been ignoring.

For example someone who has smoked for many years may get pneumonia and the doctor tells them if they do not quit they could die. This kind of wake up call gives many people the incentive to quit smoking. The impact of the consequences is so devastating that they take action.

Runners may run for years without stretching or without good technique. Over time they get stiffer and stiffer, developing chronic pain. The pain is not bad enough to make them quit running or really question if there is something they need to change. Then one day they tear a hamstring that forces them to stop running. This is the body's way of getting their attention.

There is no guarantee that a wake up call will bring permanent change. Old habits and patterns have a strong hold on us. Sometimes we can make an instant change because we know intrinsically that this wake up call is in our best interest and helps us to make a change we have wanted to make but just did not want it enough to do the work required to make the change.

Death is the biggest wake up call we can experience. If we lose someone suddenly who we deeply love, we realize we cannot take life for granted or the beings in our life for granted. Some people have been pronounced clinically dead but come back to life. This near death experience has a profound effect on how they view life and death.

Sometimes people start practicing yoga because of a wake up call. They might be so stiff or stressed that they decide to give yoga a try. Yoga begins the gradual process of opening up tight muscles and relaxing the body and mind. The more consistent we can be with our yoga practice, the more benefits we will see. Yoga can give us gentle wake up calls. We may discover how tight we really are in our shoulders or hips. We may realize how difficult it is to focus or how impatient we may be with ourselves when we find a pose difficult to do.

Wake up calls are immediate but the changes we need to make often take time. It may take a series of wake up calls to help us stick with our new habits and not revert back to the old ones. A big part of making the changes can be to consistently renew our intention. Wake up calls may not always be pleasant, but there is always something to learn from them. If we can slow down or stop long enough to view our situation with a fresh perspective, we can shift our lives in positive ways.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Listen to your inner voice

“Your mind knows only some things. Your inner voice, your instinct, knows everything. If you listen to what you know instinctively, it will always lead you down the right path.”
Henry Winkler

Our inner voice speaks gently with a deep wisdom. This voice does not nag or repeat itself incessantly. It is more like a gentle nudge to a greater awareness.

We have many voices in our heads. Our minds are constantly chatting up a storm. Too often that chatter is negative, derogatory and repetitive. These voices are the ones we need to change. They do not help us but rather hold us back.

The inner voice that comes quietly often urges you to do something beneficial. For example it might remind you to put on gloves when you are pulling weeds in an overgrown area. If you ignore that spontaneous thought you could end up with a bad case of poison ivy.

It is easy to ignore our inner voice because we become so preoccupied with other thoughts of the future or the past. Sometimes we are just caught up in our emotions and refuse to stop and do what our inner voice is telling us. For example sometimes when you are upset with someone and are about to say what is on your mind, a thought might pop up that says this is not the right thing to say. So you either listen to that guidance and probably have a better conversation, or you ignore it and typically end up hurting the other person and not really accomplishing what you wanted anyway.

In times of real danger or fear this inner voice can come as a stroke of insight. It could let us know the course of action that is safe. The voice comes in a flash and then is gone. It does not hang around and repeat over and over again. But somehow we have a sense that the voice is telling us the right thing to do.

Yoga can help us be more receptive to our inner voice. Just being with the breath and being aware of our bodies with a deep focus helps to filter out the mindless clamor of our random thoughts. It is not always easy to come to the mat when times are difficult or when we are busy. But if you can just start with a simple pose that may be enough. Or you may find you just keep going once you have started. You may even receive little internal messages while practicing that will guide you to enhancing your pose.

Our inner voice sounds tiny but it is huge. It is connected to the supreme consciousness. It has our best interests at heart. So next time you hear that tiny voice telling you to do something that you know instantly is the right thing to do, don't ignore it. Time after time you will learn that paying attention will give the most reward.