Sunday, May 30, 2010

Order or chaos, which do you prefer?

We adore chaos because we love to produce order.
M.C. Escher

Is there more random chance or more predictability in life? Is there security in order and danger in chaos? Or is there boredom in order and excitement in chaos?

Do people tend to prefer order over chaos? Some people like to have schedules, they like their lives to be organized and they like to have a plan. They function best this way. Other people like to live spontaneously, schedules seem restrictive and they prefer to do things on impulse. But the orderly people still seek some kind of spontaneity and the spontaneous people still seek some kind of order.

Scientists have often found systems that seemed extremely disordered but were actually following strange and intricate patterns. Water crystals forming on glass show high level of organizational structure from the random motion of water molecules.

They have also been baffled to find chaos in systems they thought they were more orderly. Ary Goldberger of Harvard Medical School found that when comparing the variations in the heartbeats of a healthy person to those of one suffering from heart disease, the healthy heartbeat was actually the more chaotic.

It is difficult to know if order precedes chaos or if chaos precedes order. But what we do know is that both are contained within the other.

Yoga has a blend of order and chaos. First we open to grace, we open to the world of endless possibilities and mystery that is bigger than all of us. Then we use a sense of order to create stability in our poses using principles of alignment. Ultimately each pose will be an expression of our own unique individuality that has an expansive unbounded quality. We continually pulse between order and the uniqueness of our own individuality. Without order we would have nothing to guide our practice and without chaos, the chance of learning something new, we would lose our incentive to come to the mat.

We all need some kind of order in our lives or we would go crazy. If we could not count on anything, life would be tragically difficult. Yet chaos is like a breath of fresh air. The unexpected is needed to keep us feeling alive, curious and to grow as an individual. Chaos and order are like two perfectly matched partners that move together in the dance of life.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Being in the zone

We have all felt it at least for a moment. Time becomes irrelevant and there is a sense of being connected with a magical flow. You become so immersed in your activity that there is no separation and it feels effortless. Thinking and feeling come together in a sublime dance. Instead of questions there is a deep sense of knowing. Being in the zone is when the mind, body, and spirit are in perfect balance.

Once we have experienced the zone we want to return. What does it take to be in the zone? It takes discipline. loving what you do and the ability to let go. Being is the zone is a gift but it also has to be earned. When you see someone doing something that looks effortless, it is the result of hard work, focus and dedication. Being in the zone is the reward for all these efforts.

The observer can feel and easily see when someone else is in the zone. There is a sense of peace, a touch of euphoria, a feeling of being relaxed and the appearance of being connected with something beyond that individual. It is inspiring and exciting to witness.

Many athletes experience being in the zone from time to time. Surfers must have a keen sensitivity to the power of the ocean. They need to connect with that power to ride the wave. The smoothest rides happen after years of practice building the proper muscles, learning how to catch the swell and having a calm mind. As Laird Hamilton, one of the surfing legends describes it, "It's almost like the twilight zone where time stops for a moment and you're in a place where there is no beginning and no end. It's probably one of the truest forms of living in the moment that we have on this earthly plane -- before we go."

Yoga is about union and balance. Many yoga poses are difficult and take practice and skill to accomplish. But even a basic pose can be challenging when you focus on it completely and use your breath to go deeply into the pose. We can experience being in the zone in yoga when your body and mind work together to find balance and equanimity. No ego is involved. No matter what pose you are doing, it feels open and free. Meditation can bring us the feeling of being in the zone. Sitting with a quiet mind is one of life's biggest challenges.

We can't predict or control when we will arrive "in the zone". Once we become aware of it, it's gone. When we are in the zone we can lose our egos without feeling lost. But we find ourselves in a place where our inner and outer worlds come together in seamless harmony.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The inner and outer worlds of water

Water flows in us, through us and around us. Between 55 to 75 percent of human body weight is water. Our brains are about 70% water.

Water seeks movement by gravity, diffusion, wind and pressure. Water is heavy but it moves with grace, power and ease. Seventy percent of the earth's surface is covered by water. Life as we know it could not exist without water. It is constantly changing through movement. We usually think of water in its liquid state but it can also change to a solid (ice) or a gas (water vapor).

A Japanese entrepreneur named Masaru Emoto began to photograph water crystals through a microscope as they started to melt after being frozen. These crystals emerge for only 20 - 30 seconds. He found that the water crystals had beautiful shapes when they were from clean water sources but were almost formless, ugly shapes when they were from polluted sources.

He also experimented with distilled water, the most neutral form of water. He exposed the water to words, either spoken or written, and the vibration of these words would cause the crystalline structure of the water to change.

Negative words caused crystals to form that were like water from a polluted source, very ugly and dull. Words that have a positive meaning formed brilliant crystals. Love and gratitude together form one of the most beautiful crystals (seen in the photo above) that Dr. Emoto has photographed. Just as water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen, love and gratitude work together to complete a key vibration.

Dr. Emoto's experiments have not been validated by other scientists. But what a beautiful metaphor he offers us for the connections between our inner and outer worlds. We know our bodies are more than half water and we can feel how emotions affect our bodies. Could it be possible that the crystalline shape of water is transformed through energy vibrations?

When we practice yoga we want to feel love and gratitude in our hearts and minds. If we practice from a place of self-criticism our practice will not flow with grace and ease. Holding our breath or not breathing fully restricts our practice. If we focus on our hamstrings being tight, our body will tighten in response to that thought. But if we direct our attention to feeling gratitude that our hamstrings have something to teach us and they can change, it will help the hamstrings to open more naturally. When our thoughts are stagnant, they have a direct impact on the condition of our bodies.

Try sitting and thinking of the words "hate and despair". How does that feel? Now sit and think of the words "love and gratitude". Do you feel different? Love creates an opening and expansion and gratitude creates a grounding and wholeness. What we feel on the inside is reflected on the outside. Make a practice of focusing on love and gratitude and observe how your life will unfold.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Parable of the white horse

There is a parable about a farmer who owned a beautiful white horse. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. "Such bad luck," they said sympathetically. "May be," the man replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it a dozen wild horses. "You are so lucky," the neighbors exclaimed. "May be," replied the old man.

When his son tried to ride one of the wild horses, he was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. "May be," answered the man.

A few weeks later military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. "May be," said the farmer.

Many unexpected things happen in life. Initially we may feel each one is either good or bad. But we need to accept what has happened and move on with our lives without letting that event define us. Be willing to be open to new possibilities and release any feelings that may hold us back from experiencing the fullness that life offers. We cannot know everything, but we can appreciate how vast and amazing life is.

Important lessons are often learned in hard times. Life is full of change. We will always experience times of joy and times of sorrow. This is the fabric of life.

Sometimes we are forced into change we do not want. For example someone may lose their job and feel depressed and worried about the future. But out of necessity they may find or discover a new job or career that uses more of their natural talents and skills than their previous job. It is best not to get too upset or attached to what happens in life.

Yoga teaches acceptance. It teaches acceptance of each moment, respect for our bodies and equanimity of our minds. Yoga can help us be more aware of our gifts and limitations without becoming egotistical or depressed. We can learn that each moment changes and some days are better than others but nothing is static for long. Just turn to the breath, the essence of life, and use that to guide your practice.

Every day brings new challenges and rewards. We can experience our sorrows deeply and then let go. We can fully delight in our joyous times which will inevitably be interrupted. And we can appreciate the moments of stillness and peace that refresh and replenish us.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Clouds are familiar but elusive and mysterious. From a distance they have a shape but when we are inside a cloud the rest of the world is hidden.

No two clouds are identical. The three main categories of clouds are cumulus, stratus and cirrus. Cumulus clouds are puffy, dense and tall, sometimes extending upwards hundreds of meters. Stratus clouds are more horizontal and spread out like a blanket and can extend for many kilometers across the sky. Cumulus and stratus clouds are the clouds we commonly see in the sky. Cirrus clouds are very wispy and feather-like and are composed of ice crystals. They are almost translucent and form about 7 kilometers above the earth's surface. Cirrus clouds are the highest clouds are not seen as commonly as cumulus and stratus.

Each cloud is composed of an astronomical number of nearly invisible small drops of water. Each drop of water is less than a thousandth of an inch across. A small cloud just ten yards on each side contains as many drops as there are stars in the galaxy.

Even though they are far away and untouchable, clouds greatly affect our lives. We can get an idea of the weather from their formations, they provide us with rain and relief from the hot sun, and they recycle the earth's water supply. And they capture our imagination.

Clouds are always changing. They change shape, size, direction and color. They can appear playful or dark and threatening. When a cloud touches the ground it is called fog. When clouds are in the sky they look as if they could be touched. But when they are close to us on the ground as fog, they are impossible to grasp.

Our energy bodies are like clouds, expansive and spiritual. They cannot be totally explained or understood. But we know they are there. They are connected to our physical bodies when we are alive. At death they detach from our physical bodies but continue to exist in the spiritual realm.

The practice of yoga involves our physical bodies but it can also be an expression of our energy bodies. Like clouds our poses have shape but the edges are soft, expansive and changing. Standing poses are like the cumulus clouds, very strong and tall. Reclining poses are more like the stratus clouds with a horizontal feeling. Meditation has more of the quality of cirrus clouds. Both have a feeling of lightness and detachment. Yoga helps us to feel like we are grounded in reality but our spirit is reaching for the clouds.

Clouds are a link between the earth and the heavens. We are a link between our physical form and the supreme consciousness. Allow your imagination to soar with the clouds.