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HAPPY New Year! January 1, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Bhakti, Changing Perspectives, Donate, Faith, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Japa, Japa-Ajapa, Karma Yoga, Life, Love, Mala, Mantra, Meditation, Mysticism, New Year, One Hoop, Peace, Philosophy, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Vipassana, Wisdom, Writing, Yin Yoga, Yoga.
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[“Happy New Year!” and “Kwanzaa, yenu iwe na heri!” – “May your Kwanzaa be happy!” to everyone who is celebrating!]

"Observe"

Part of the 6-piece “Monumental Moments” series by Anthony Shumate, 2015 (located in Buffalo Bayou Park, along the Kinder Footpaths)


TRANSFORM • RENEW • HEAL • ENERGIZE

Celebrate the New Year with 108 Sun Salutations 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM CST!

AND/OR

RELAX • RELEASE • REST • RENEW • HEAL

Celebrate the New Year with Yin+Meditation

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM CST!

The New Year is a beginning and an ending… and it is also a middle. On New Year’s Day we honor and celebrate transition with 108 Sun Salutations in the morning (10 AM – 1 PM, CST) and/or a Yin Yoga plus Meditation practice in the evening (5 – 7 PM, CST). We also put things in perspective. These practices are open and accessible to all, regardless of experience.

Please wear loose, comfortable clothing and make sure you are well hydrated before the practice. It is best to practice on an empty stomach (especially for the 108 ajapa-japa mala), but if you must eat less than 1 hour before the practice, make sure to keep it light. Make sure to have a towel (at the very least) for the 108 practice. For Yin Yoga, a pillow/cushion or two, blocks or (hardcover) books, and a blanket or towel will be useful. I always recommend having something handy (pen and paper) that you can use to note any reflections.

Use the link above for login information (or click here for more details about these practices and other practice opportunities related to the New Year).

The 108 playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “New Year’s Day 108 Ajapa-Japa Mala.”]  NOTE: This playlist has been revised for 2022, but should still sync up with the 2021 recordings.

The Yin+Meditation playlist is part of the “12042020 Bedtime Yoga” available on YouTube and Spotify.

Both practices are online and donation based. If you don’t mind me knowing your donation amount you can donate to me directly. You can also email me to request my Venmo or Ca$hApp ID. If you want your donation to be anonymous (to me) and/or tax deductible, please donate through Common Ground Meditation Center (type my name under “Teacher”).

Please note that there is still no late admittance and you must log in before the beginning of the practice (so, by 9:45 AM for the 108 or by 4:45 PM for the Yin+Meditation). You will be re-admittance if you get dumped from the call.)

"Reflect"

Part of the 6-piece “Monumental Moments” series by Anthony Shumate, 2015 (located in Buffalo Bayou Park, along the Kinder Footpaths)

 

*Anthony Shumate’s “Monumental Moments” sculptures are located in Buffalo Bayou Park, along the Kinder Footpaths in Houston, Texas. They are unexpected reminders to “Explore,” “Pause,” “Reflect,” “Listen,” “Emerge,” and “Observe” – all things we do in our practice!

### NAMASTE ###

HAPPY New Year! January 1, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Bhakti, Changing Perspectives, Donate, Faith, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Japa, Japa-Ajapa, Karma Yoga, Life, Love, Mala, Mantra, Meditation, Mysticism, New Year, One Hoop, Peace, Philosophy, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Vipassana, Wisdom, Writing, Yin Yoga, Yoga.
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[“Happy New Year!” and “Kwanzaa, yenu iwe na heri!” – “May your Kwanzaa be happy!” to everyone who is celebrating!]

TRANSFORM • RENEW • HEAL • ENERGIZE

Celebrate the New Year with 108 Sun Salutations 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM CST!

 

AND/OR

 

RELAX • RELEASE • REST • RENEW • HEAL

Celebrate the New Year with Yin+Meditation

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM CST!

 

The New Year is a beginning and an ending… and it is also a middle. On New Year’s Day we honor and celebrate transition with 108 Sun Salutations in the morning (10 AM – 1 PM, CST) and/or a Yin Yoga plus Meditation practice in the evening (5 – 7 PM, CST). These practices are open and accessible to all, regardless of experience.

Please wear loose, comfortable clothing and make sure you are well hydrated before the practice. It is best to practice on an empty stomach (especially for the 108 ajapa-japa mala), but if you must eat less than 1 hour before the practice, make sure to keep it light. Make sure to have a towel (at the very least) for the 108 practice. For Yin Yoga, a pillow/cushion or two, blocks or (hardcover) books, and a blanket or towel will be useful. I always recommend having something handy (pen and paper) that you can use to note any reflections.

You can scroll down (or click here) for more details about these practices and other practice opportunities related to the New Year.

The 108 playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

The Yin+Meditation playlist is part of the “12042020 Bedtime Yoga” available on YouTube and Spotify.

Both practices are online and donation based. If you don’t mind me knowing your donation amount you can donate to me directly. You can also email me to request my Venmo or Ca$hApp ID. If you want your donation to be anonymous (to me) and/or tax deductible, please donate through Common Ground Meditation Center (type my name under “Teacher”).

Please note that there is still no late admittance and you must log in before the beginning of the practice (so, by 9:45 AM for the 108 or by 4:45 PM for the Yin+Meditation). You will be re-admittance if you get dumped from the call.)

 

### NAMASTE ###

And Here Comes The Sun! December 21, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Faith, Healing Stories, Hope, Japa-Ajapa, Life, Mala, Mantra, Mathematics, Meditation, Mysticism, Philosophy, Religion, Robert Frost, Science, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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“Happy Winter Solstice!” to all who are observing.

[The 75-minute Common Ground Meditation Center practice, in the spirit of generosity (“dana”), is freely given and freely received. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You can request an audio recording of Monday’s practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

If you are able to support the center and its teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” my other practices, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

Check out the “Class Schedules” calendar for upcoming classes.]

“One of his longtime students, Patricia Miller, who now teaches in Washington, D.C., recalls him leading a meditation by offering alternatives. He instructed students to close their eyes and observe the space between the brows, and then said, ‘Think of God. If not God, the sun. If not the sun, your parents.’ Krishnamacharya set only one condition, explains Miller: ‘That we acknowledge a power greater than ourselves.’”

 

– quoted from the Yoga Journal article entitled “Krishnamacharya’s Legacy” by Fernando Pagés Ruiz

There is a great power in the sun and great power in harnessing the sun’s power. Even before high school students used a magnifying glass to boil water or start a fire and long before people attached solar panels to their homes and businesses, people worshiped and honored the sun – and figured out ways to use the sun’s power. And long before Sri T. Krishnamacharya told his students to meditate on the sun or showed them how to “salute the sun,” people around the world told stories about the sun. For instance, in ancient Māori mythology and other Polynesian traditions, a clever and precocious young man named Māui figured out a way to quite literally harness the sun. With the help of his siblings (and sometimes using his sister’s hair), he lassos the sun and slows it down in order to give humankind more daylight to work, find food, and eat.

The indigenous people of islands in Central and South Pacific Ocean are not the only people with stories about the significance of the Sun. In fact, many cultures consider the Sun to be a god or goddess who flies through the sky at regular intervals. Their stories speak of an anthropomorphized deity who heals people and provides them with sustenance. Sometimes, he is depicted as part bird (e.g., the ancient Egyptians’ Ra); sometimes he has a winged chariot (e.g., the ancient Greeks’ Helios and the Hindus’ Sūrya); sometimes he has both bird characteristics and a horse with wings (e.g., Turkish sun god Koyash); sometimes he was a former human with noble qualities (e.g., the Aztec’s Nanāhuātzin); and sometimes, as I mentioned before, he is she – like Sól (or Sunna) in the Old Norse tradition and the goddess Amaterasu in Japan’s Shinto religion. Although these different cultures portray the Sun as more powerful than mere mortals, in most myths, the Earth (and its inhabitants) are still the center of the Universe.  

“This invocation, these our words may Heaven and Earth, and Indra and the Waters and the Maruts [storm deities] hear. Ne’er may we suffer want in presence of the Sun, and, living happy lives, may we attain old age.
Cheerful in spirit, evermore, and keen of sight, with store of children, free from sickness and from sin,
Long-living, may we look, O Sūrya, upon thee uprising day by day, thou great as Mitra is!
Sūrya, may we live long and look upon thee still, thee, O Far-seeing One, bringing the glorious light,”

 

– quoted from “Hymn XXXVII. Sūrya” (verses 6-8) in the Rig Veda (translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith)

Today, we know that the Earth revolves around the Sun and that it does so while also tilted and revolving around its own axis. This tilt, the way the Earth revolves around its own center, and the way it orbits the Sun results in the amount of daylight (and nighttime) we have at various times of the year as well as the change in temperature related to different seasons throughout the year. More often than not, we do not notice the gradual changes between dawn (“morning twilight”), daylight, dusk (“evening twilight”) and night. And, let’s not even get into whether or not we even know to notice the difference between the degrees of civil, nautical, and astronomical twilights – which are based on the position of the Sun (in nautical terms) or the Sun’s geometric center in relation to the horizon. More often than not, we notice what might be considered the end of these transitions – i.e., the quality of dawn, daylight, dusk, and night.

In the same way that we barely register the gradual changes during a 24-hour period, we may not always notice the gradual changes between seasons. Four times a year, there is a moment where the Earth is tilted and turned in a way we can perceive and have learned to understand. We know these four times as Winter Solstice, Vernal (or Spring) Equinox, Summer Solstice, and Autumnal (or Fall) Equinox.

The word “equinox” comes from the Latin meaning “equal night” and marks the point, twice a year, when the Sun is directly over the equator (or you can think of it as the equator being closest to the sun). It marks the beginning of astronomical Spring and Fall. It is often explained as the time when everyone in the world has the same amount of daylight and nighttime, but that’s not exactly true. It’s more precise to say that we have equal amounts of day and night on the “Equilux” (which is a word derived from the Latin meaning “equal light”), but people don’t necessarily know that’s actually a thing. Unlike the equinox, which happens at the same time for everyone, the equilux is based on latitude and happens a few days before or after the equinox (depending on the season and where you are in the world).

“He will not see me stopping here   

To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

 

My little horse must think it queer   

To stop without a farmhouse near   

Between the woods and frozen lake   

The darkest evening of the year.”

 

– quoted from the poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost

The word “solstice” comes from the Latin words meaning “sun” and “to stand still.” The solstice marks the moment, twice a year, when one hemisphere is tilted toward the Sun while the other is tilted away and it appears as if the Sun is hovering over one of the poles – thus creating the longest day (and the longest night) of the year. In the Northern Hemisphere today is Winter Solstice. It’s our shortest day and longest night, but it also marks the moment when we begin to perceive longer days (i.e., more daylight).

Throughout history, cultures all around the world have celebrated the Sun during this darkest (and longest) night. Specifically, people celebrate the Sun returning to their land and give thanks for the benefits of having sunlight. Traditional celebrations include the use of candlelight, bonfires, and Yule Logs. Some people will “sweep away” the old year and as they might during the other big season changes, some people mark this transition by practicing Sūrya Namaskar (“Salutes to the Sun”) 108 times.

There are different types of “Sun Salutations,” but it is traditional viewed as a series of twelve poses and, therefore, a practice of six (inhale-exhale) breaths. The movement mimics the body’s natural tendencies to extend, or lift up to the sun, on the inhale – which is the solar breath – and get closer to the earth on the exhale – which is the lunar breath. It is a mālā (“ring” or “garland”) meditation practice involving ajapa-japa (“not thinking-repeat” or explained as “repeat-remember”), similar to a reciting, chanting, or praying with a rosary or beads. In fact, there are chants and prayers which are sometimes used along with the movement. Not coincidentally, 108 corresponds with the way people use mala beads and the old fashioned rosaries – which had beads to recite 10 decades (10×10) plus 8 beads (for mistakes) (and the cross as the guru bead).

“According to the Surya Siddhanta, an ancient Indian astronomical work, the sunlight moves at a speed of 2,202 yojanas in 0.5 nimisha. One yojana is nine miles. 2,202 yojanas amount to 19,818 miles. One nimisha is equal to 16/75 of a second. Half a nimisha amounts to 8/75 of a second, which is 0.106666 seconds. A speed of 19,818 miles in 0.10666 seconds equals 185,793 miles per second. This is approximately in line with the modern calculations, according to which the speed of light is 186,282 miles per second. Modern science has arrived at this number with great difficulty and all kinds of instruments, while a few thousand years ago, they got this number by simple observation of how the human system and the solar system function together.”

 

– quoted from a talk about during a “Mahabharat – Saga Nonpareil” event by Sadhguru (Jaggi Vasudev)

There are a ton of reasons why 108 is considered auspicious, and these reasons come from a lot of different traditions and disciplines – not all of which are religious, spiritual, or metaphysical. The number 108 pops up in mathematics, geometry, physical science, and even baseball! Astronomically speaking, the sun’s diameter is just a little more than 108 times the diameter of the earth’s diameter and the average distance between the earth and the sun is almost 108 times the sun’s diameter. Additionally, the average distance between the moon and the earth just a little more than 108 times the moon’s diameter. Consider that evidence shows the sun’s diameter has increased (over centuries) and the moon’s diameter has decreased (also over centuries) – which means that there was a time when the ratios were presumed to be exactly 108. If the math is throwing you off, just remember that 108 is why the sun and moon appear to be similar in size (even though the sun is about 400 times bigger, and further away from us, than the moon).

Speaking of the way we perceive those gigantic objects in the sky, this year’s December solstice overlaps with “The Great Conjunction” or “meeting” of Jupiter and Saturn. People have been watching the two planets coming together over the last couple of nights. Shortly after sunset (Monday night) the two largest planets in the solar system will appear to merge. This happens about every 20 years, but this year they are the closets they have been in the last 800 years. People are referring to the appearance as “The Christmas Star” or “The Star of Bethlehem” and they won’t be this close again until 2080.

“To be a star, you must shine your own light, follow your path, and don’t worry about the darkness, for that is when the stars shine brightest.”

 

– Source unverified

There is no playlist for the Common Ground practices.

 

CHECK OUT THE CALENDAR! The First Friday Night Special in 2021 is on January 1st. You can kick off New Year’s Day 2 ways: with 108 Sun Salutations at 10:00 AM or with a Yin+Meditation practice beginning at 5:00 PM. All times are Central Standard. Details are posted on the class schedules calendar.

 

### SUNRISE ###

Can You Handle the Truth? December 23, 2018

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 108 Sun Salutations, 40-Day Challenge, Abhyasa, Bhakti, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Dharma, Faith, Fitness, Food, Gratitude, Hope, Japa, Japa-Ajapa, Karma, Kirtan, Life, Mala, Mantra, Meditation, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, Mysticism, New Year, Peace, Philosophy, Surya Namaskar, Tantra, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Twin Cities, Vairagya, Wisdom.
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This time last year I wrote, “2018 promises to be a year full of challenges.”

Little did I know how true that statement would be.

Oxford Dictionaries define “true” as an adjective meaning “in accordance with fact or reality…genuine…real or actual…accurate or exact…. in tune.” True can also be used as a verb when applied to something that is bringing “(an object, wheel, or other construction) into the exact shape or position required.” It originates from Old English words meaning “steadfast, loyal” and is related to a Dutch word meaning “faithful” and a German word meaning “loyal to.”

I could continue going down the rabbit hole, examining the meaning and origins of all the target words, but ultimately we know the truth when we see it…or hear it. Or do we?

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking promotes the power of insight and intuition; of knowing without knowing why we know something is true. Yet, Malcolm Gladwell also points out that, “We have, as human beings, a storytelling problem. We’re a bit too quick to come up with explanations for things we don’t really have an explanation for.” In other words, the brain gets in the way of the heart.

Our brains make us humans notoriously bad witnesses. Our brains fill in the gaps to make sense of puzzles we’ve created and, theoretically, to preserve the idea that we are not ignorant about things we are supposed to know. We make up stories, even when we’re the only one paying attention to the story in our head. In Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Dr. Oliver Sacks wrote, “The brain needed to stay incessantly active, and if it was not getting its usual stimulation…, it would create its own stimulation in the form of hallucinations.”

Oxford defines “hallucination” as “an experience involving the apparent perception of something not present.” This last year, really the last two – going on three – years, it’s felt a little like the quality and state of being true was a hallucination. People say one thing and do something completely opposite. People accuse one another of lying. Technology allows us to morph our faces, our voices, our words, and to create realistic holograms of people who are no longer living. More and more it seems that everything real is an illusion.

Of course, the idea that everything we are experiencing is a dream, an illusion, a delusion – or a computer generated program – is nothing new: It’s part of the foundation of many philosophies, including yoga. Another part of philosophies like yoga and Buddhism is that there is a path to seeing things clearly, and that seeing things clearly is liberation.

“To live on a day-to-day basis is insufficient for human beings; we need to transcend, transport, escape; we need meaning, understanding, and explanation; we need to see overall patterns in our lives. We need hope, the sense of a future. And we need freedom (or at least the illusion of freedom) to get beyond ourselves, whether with telescopes and microscopes and our ever-burgeoning technology or in states of mind which allow us to travel to other worlds, to transcend our immediate surroundings. We need detachment of this sort as much as we need engagement in our lives.”

– excerpt from Hallucinations by Dr. Oliver Sacks

The fourth and final section of the Yoga Sutras focuses on liberation. Liberation, as Patanjali describes it, involves lifting the veil of ignorance and seeing the truth about everything, including ourselves. Patanjali also explains that the barrier/veil of ignorance can be thinned and then dissolved by birth, herbs, mantra (ajapa-japa), tapas (practices of intense discipline/austerity), or meditation. (YS 4:1)

Clarity; right view; seeing the truth – whichever way you describe it, it seems to be lacking in our current version of reality. And, as the war on truth continues, more and more people will desire it. If you are longing for a new year where you are in tune with your core values and connected to your intuition, consider starting 2019 with a practice, like yoga, which fits into that final definition of truth (see above): something that is bringing (an object, wheel, or other construction) into the exact shape or position required.

The following practices include at least three of the liberating methods mentioned by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras:

Monday, December 31st – New Year’s Eve:

7:30 PM – 12:15 AM, Annual New Year’s Eve Celebration and Potluck, Common Ground Meditation Center (PLEASE REGISTER HERE)

 

Tuesday, January 1st – New Year’s Day:

9:00 AM – 11:00 AM, 108 Solar Powered Sadhana with Susan Meyer, Yoga Center Retreat (Please register)

10:00 AM – 1:00 PM, 108 Sun Salutations with Myra (reservations required, THIS EVENT IS FULL)

10:00 AM – 11:30 AM, New Year’s Day – Restorative Yoga with Shelly Pagitt, Yoga Sanctuary (please register, only 2 spots left as I post this!)

10:00 AM – 12:00 PM, New Year’s Day – All-Humanity Class with Matthew Sanford, Mind Body Solutions (Please register)

10:30 AM – 1:00 PM, New Year’s Day Yoga with Nancy Boler (reservations required, THIS EVENT IS FULL)

10:30 AM – 12:30 PM, 108 Sun Salutations + Champagne with Meghan Foley, UP Yoga (please register)

11:00 AM – 12:15 PM, New Year’s Donation Class with Indu Arora, Devanadi Yoga (please register)

11:00 AM – 12:30 PM, Vinyasa, Minnehaha Yoga

12:00 PM – 2:00 PM, 108 Sun Salutations with Greg Hines & live Cello music by Cory Grossman, Yoga Sanctuary (please register)

12:00 PM – 1:30 PM, New Year’s Day Sankalpa with Justyn O’Neill, Radiant Life Yoga (please register)

12:15 PM – 2:15 PM, 108 Sun Salutations with Jennifer Davis, Blaisdell YMCA (open to YMCA  members and their guests)

12:30 PM – 3:00 PM, Sankalpa~New Year Intentions workshop with Shelley Pagitt (please register)

2:00 PM – 4:00 PM, Ganesha and New Beginnings for 2019 with Tara Cindy Sherman, Yoga Center Retreat (please register)

2:00 PM – 4:00 PM, Sankalpa Shakti: The Power of Inspired Intention with Ben Vincent, One Yoga (please register)

4:30 PM – 6:30 PM, Restorative + Yoga Nidra with Tara Cindy Sherman, Yoga Center Retreat (please register)

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM, YIN Yoga + Meditation with Myra, Nokomis Yoga (reservations required)

 

Saturday, January 5th:

1:00 PM – 3:30 PM, New Year’s Intention Setting Ritual with Amy Patee (please register)

 

Sunday, January 6th:

9:30 AM – 5:30 PM, Vincent Yoga New Year’s Retreat: A Day of Reflection, Illumination and Resolution

 

My apologies to any teachers or studios in the Twin Cities who are hosting an event that is not listed above.

 

~ OM SHANTI ~

RELAX * RELEASE * REST * RENEW * HEAL – NEW YEAR’S DAY 2019 December 18, 2018

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 108 Sun Salutations, Advent, Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Daoism, Dharma, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Football, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Hope, Japa, Japa-Ajapa, Karma Yoga, Life, Mala, Mantra, Meditation, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Mysticism, New Year, Passover, Peace, Philosophy, Religion, Surya Namaskar, Tantra, Taoism, Twin Cities, Wisdom, Yin Yoga, Yoga.
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Start the New Year with a 2-hour retreat into yourself. Enfold into the wisdom of your heart and let your heart’s desire unfold. Be inspired.

Despite our modern day penchant for fireworks and parties, a new year begins much as it ends: quietly. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, we observe the secular New Year when much of nature is hibernating. We hustle and bustle, struggling to start, continue, or end. Meanwhile, beneath the surface, things and beings are waiting.

Waiting…it seems so passive and unyielding.

Waiting…it is easy to forget the importance of resting, relaxing, and being still…letting things germinate and take root.

Waiting…. In many philosophies and religions, including the Abrahamic religions, great emphasis is put on the importance of waiting, specifically because something or someone is coming.

Yet, no one really wants to wait for our dreams to come true. We want it now! And, we want to be actively working towards that goal. Unfortunately, sometimes, we forget about the importance of waiting…resting…reflecting…planning.

As one year ends and another begins, we are given the opportunity to reflect and plan. We can reflect on the events of the previous year – and how we dealt with them. We can plan for a new year of events – and how we want to deal with them. Making a resolution, even informally, seems natural to some and inevitable to others. It can also seem futile when you consider that (according to some statistics) only about 8% of people who make a resolution actually follow through with them.

Why are resolutions so hard to keep?

Resolutions are just like any other goal or dream that has a lot of expectation attached to it. In order for us to succeed we have to be all in – otherwise, we falter at the first obstacle. In order to be all in, we have to understand what it is we really want or need.

Ask yourself, how does this goal or desire serve me?

Every goal, every desire, every resolution has a purpose. Tapping into the power of the purpose, how the goal or desire serves us, allows us to connect to the underlying intention. Intention is compelling. Intention is the driving force that allows us to see an opportunity to succeed where we might otherwise falter.

Consider this sports analogy: Let’s say you’re a football team with a stellar passing game. Everybody knows your team has a stellar passing game; but, when you’re in the zone it doesn’t matter that the other team is trying to sack your quarterback or intercept every pass – there’s always a pocket, there’s always a hole. The problem comes in when you’re not in the zone and/or when you’re playing a team with an exceptional defensive line. A professional team, ideally, has practiced other options. However, even the pros play to their strengths and, sometimes strengths become blind spots. When it feels like everything is on the line – but nothing is going their way – that’s when we hit our blind spots. And, even the pros can end up in a situation where they’re strengths no longer serve them. Even the pros may forget that there are different ways to achieve the goal.

In The Four Desires, Rod Stryker outlines a formula for success which he calls the Creation Equation. Simply stated, the sum of the intensity of your desire plus the intensity of your efforts to achieve the goal has to be greater than the intensity of the resistance. Keep in mind, the resistance can come from a lot of different sources – including other people. Another thing to keep in mind is that sometimes the intensity of the resistance increases when your desire gets misplaced or transferred.

In the aforementioned sports analogy, for example, both teams have a strong desire to win. Each team’s desire represents a portion of the other team’s resistance. When practicing, however, the team with the stellar passing game focused their desire on having a stellar passing game. On the other hand, the exceptional defensive line focused on stopping everything. When it’s game time, the latter doesn’t care what you throw at them, they’re intense desire (i.e., their focus and their intention) is on stopping everything – by any means necessary. That intention puts them in the zone.

Every year, at the end of the 108 Sun Salutations, I lead a guided meditation which includes a group sankalpa that I then incorporate into my Saturday classes at the YMCA. The word sankalpa means will, determination, vow or intention. It can also mean resolution. But, the difference between the English and the Sanskrit is that within the Sanskrit word there is the vow and the way to achieve the vow, there is a guiding principle and the dedication to following it. A sankalpa combines the desire with the effort. To connect and to stay connected to that highest vow, it is important to clear the mind and focus/concentration/meditation on the heart’s desire.

When outlining the philosophy of the yoga in the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali put particular emphasis on the combined power of the last three (3) limbs of the practice: focus, concentration, and (perfect) meditation (YS 3:4-6). He also mentioned that there are five (5) ways, including tapah (“training the senses” or “austerity”) and samadhi (“meditation”), to reach higher awareness (YS 4:1).

The New Year’s Day japa-ajapa mala if 108 Sun Salutations is a vigorous practice which fits into the category of tapah and can involve samadhi. While not vigorous, a Yin Yoga practice, which involves settling into a special series of poses for long holds, also fits into the categories of tapah and samadhi. Both can clear the mind so that you can bring your full awareness to your heart’s desire.

My 2019 New Year’s Day mala is full, but I will post other practice opportunities. Also, I am excited to offer a Yin Yoga practice with guided mediation (5 – 7 PM). If you are interested in joining me for this special candlelight practice on New Year’s Day, please email me (Myra at ajoyfulpractice.com).

WHO: Everyone is welcome!

WHAT: A Yin Yoga practice addresses the deep tissue and connective tissue through a special series of supported poses held for 3 – 5 minutes. Props and awareness of the body creates an opportunity to relax the outer musculature. This candlelight practice also includes guided meditation.

WHERE & WHEN: Nokomis Yoga at 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM

WHEN: Tuesday, January 1, 2019

COST: This is a donation-based event. Since space is limited, please email Myra at ajoyfulpractice.com to save your spot.

~ HAPPY NEW YEAR! ~

Going With The Flow, When There’s An Obstacle In The Way December 31, 2017

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 108 Sun Salutations, Abhyasa, Books, Changing Perspectives, Faith, Fitness, Healing Stories, Japa, Japa-Ajapa, Life, Mala, Meditation, Minneapolis, Minnesota, New Year, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Surya Namaskar, Tantra, Twin Cities, Vairagya, Vipassana, Whirling Dervish, Wisdom, Yoga.
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If we learned nothing else in the last year, it was that things don’t always go according to (our) plan.  2017 was a year that, for some of us, seemed to go awry even before it started. There were times when we fell down and wanted to throw our hands up. But, instead, many got up…and kept moving forward. There’s merit in that.

I didn’t think I needed a personal reminder of the merit of moving forward, no matter the obstacles. But then I started confirming my plans for the New Year’s Day 108 Sun Salutations and well…let’s just say William Butler Yeats had it right:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

In 2013, I started leading a New Year’s Day morning japa-ajapa mala practice of 108 Sun Salutations. A year later I added an afternoon practice. At times I thought about renting a space and combining the two, but I ignored the writing on the wall. I was in the flow of my own making, totally and utterly attached to the momentum that worked for me.

So, this year I was thrown into a bit of a tailspin when I discovered I needed to relocate the morning practice. I kept moving forward, confirmed a new location, and, for the sixth year, the practice is full.

Then, on Wednesday, I learned about a scheduling issue that resulted in the cancellation of the afternoon 108 practice at the Downtown Minneapolis YMCA. Thankfully, anyone who was planning to attend that practice can scroll to the end of this blog post for options which will allow them to keep moving forward.

And there’s merit in that. Not just merit in the idea that we keep moving forward, no matter the obstacles. There’s something to be said for letting go of our attachments and going with the flow.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that we rollover and play dead when things don’t go our way. Nor am I suggesting that we jump on a band wagon headed for Hades just because there’s a lot of momentum pushing us in that direction. Instead, what I’m suggesting requires going a little deeper – into ourselves and into the situation – in order to leverage the momentum in a skillful manner. What I’m suggesting requires understanding the powerful dynamics of movement(s).

Vinyasa, a popular form of Hatha Yoga (the physical practice of yoga) is often referred to in English as “Flow” or “Yoga Flow.” Three (3) of the 12 poses in Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) are so ubiquitous in the West that some practitioners think those poses are what makes something a vinyasa practice. All of which contributes to people overlooking a key element of the style and tradition: the meaning/intention underlying the practice.

The word “vinyasa” comes from the words “nyasa, “ which means “to place, to touch, to apply” and “vi,” which means “in a special way.” In a Vinyasa yoga practice, poses are placed so that, in theory, the movement matches the human body’s natural tendencies (to extend/expand on an inhale; to flex/contract on an exhale) and practitioners can move one breath (to) one motion (i.e., flow). When we match the movement to the breath, the movement becomes seamless and very much like a dance – or a moving meditation.

Similarly, the name of the insight meditation technique and tradition “vipassana” literally means “to see or to recognize” (“passana”) “in a special way” (“vi”). In Insight Yoga, Sarah Powers wrote, “So vipassana is the art of seeing or relating to life freed from the mesmerizing power of our entrenched prejudices and preferences. This unconstricted view breeds insight into the underlying nature of things.”

Therefore, if we can see and/or recognize the underlying nature of ourselves and our surroundings (causes and conditions), if we have insight into the evolution of ideas (starting with the desires, which are the seeds of these ideas), then we may place or apply ourselves in a way that works with the flow of energy, rather than against it. The very thing that stood in our way (the obstacle) becomes our way. Or, as Marcus Aurelius wrote is his personal notebook, “Our actions may be impeded, but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

In a 2014 Psychology Today review of Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle is the Way (which is a great handbook on old fashioned stoicism), Dr. Alex Lickerman refers to situations that train us to deal with challenges, stating, “… when victory over external barriers is contingent upon victory over internal ones, the greatest benefit a situation has to offer us is training—by which I mean a challenge that forces us to grow in a way that makes achieving our goal possible.”

To me, the physical practice of yoga (any style or tradition) or a seated meditation practice are ways to train the body and mind for the challenges of life. Each practice comes with a different set of challenges, and a different set of obstacles. Every practice, in its own way, pairs internal barriers with external barriers, and (because so many of my practices are vinyasa practices) a different set of ways to go with the flow.

2018 promises to be a year full of challenges.

Let’s start it off with a practice, or two.

Monday, January 1st – New Year’s Day:

9:00 AM – 11:00 AM 108 Sun Salutations with Susan (Yoga Center of Minneapolis, St. Louis Park – REGISTRATION)

10:00 AM – 1:00 PM 108 Sun Salutations with Myra (reservations required – THIS PRACTICE IS FULL)

10:00 AM – 12:30 PM “Set Your Course!” with Nora Gordon (Big River Yoga – REGISTRATION)

10:30 AM – 1:00 PM New Year’s Day Practice with Nancy Boler (reservations required – THIS PRACTICE IS FULL)

12:00 PM – 2:00 PM 108 Sun Salutations & Restorative Yoga with Vie Boheme (Radiant Life Yoga – REGISTRATION)

12:00 PM – 2:30 PM 108 Sun Salutations with Aubrey Weger & live music (Yoga Sanctuary Mpls – REGISTRATION REQUIRED)

12:00 PM – 2:00 PM 108 Sun Salutations with Kate L and Rachel R (CorePower Maple Grove)

1:00 PM – 2:30 PM New Year’s Day with Ian M (Downtown Minneapolis YMCA, members & their guest)

1:30 PM – 4 PM “Sankalpa Shakti: The Power of Inspired Intention” with Ben Vincent (Vincent Yoga at One Yoga – REGISTRATION REQUIRED)

2:00 PM – 3:45 PM 108 Sun Salutations with Jennifer Davis (Blaisdell YMCA, members & their guests)

Tuesday, January 2nd – “What’s In A Name?”

Wednesday, January 3rd – “New Beginnings”

Saturday, January 6th – Epiphany / “Manifesting Your Intention”

~ SEE YOU ON THE MAT ~

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Remembering Things To Come – Getting Ready for 2015: A New Year of Possibilities January 3, 2015

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 108 Sun Salutations, Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Faith, Fitness, Health, Hope, Japa, Japa-Ajapa, Karma, Mala, Mantra, Meditation, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, New Year, Philosophy, Science, Suffering, Surya Namaskar, Twin Cities, Writing, Yoga.
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“It is happening again. It is happening again. [Deep breath in. Deep chuckle out.”

– from D. J. Shadow’s “What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 1 – Blue Sky Revisit)” / “Transmission 3” on Endtroducing…

If your computer, iPod, Cd player, or other music maker is on repeat – and you’re listening to D. J. Shadow’s debut album – the end is the beginning, and the last words are prophetic.  Sometimes when I play this song in class, everything syncs up and we are starting the second side of a challenging sequence: so, we are at the beginning, the end, and the middle – and the words are highly prophetic. Last year, as I prepared to lead 108 Sun Salutations for New Year’s Day, I realized everything was syncing up: we were at the end of one year, the beginning of a new year, and in the middle of a week – and I was getting ready to do 108 Sun Salutations three (count them, 3!!!) times. Suddenly, D. J. Shadow’s chuckle was highly prophetic.

But, the fact that I counted out 324 Sun Salutations – and that several people (myself included) spent part of New Year’s Day thinking D. J. Shadow’s highly prophetic words with utter disbelief – isn’t what started me thinking this song should be one of our 2014 theme songs. No, my reasoning was a little deeper than that.

“Why would we want to go back to where we were so many years ago?” (D. J. Shadow)

We just can’t seem to help ourselves. On the mat, we find our thoughts involuntarily wandering to situations and people seemingly out of context. Try as hard as we might to stay focused on the here and now – as opposed to that arbitrary thing that happened in 1979, with that person who shall remain nameless – our mind seems to have, well, a mind of its own. It goes back again, and again, and again, like a random paragraph from Swann’s Way.

Somatically speaking, such thoughts may not be as random as they appear. Yoga teaches us that we hold our experiences in our bodies. So, it stands to reason, when we’re working the body we are also working though our years. The physical practice sometimes becomes a practice of systematic reflection. Pose-wise, we often move from Child’s Pose (Balasana) or Corpse Pose (Savasana); through the approximation of learning to stand and walk – think Table Pose to Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) to Forward Fold (Uttanasana) to Equal Standing/Mountain Pose (Samasthiti/Tadasana) (video); then we explore and play; until we slow down, move into Corpse Pose (Savasana), and ultimately roll over to start all over again. Energy-wise, we typically move from our childhood (first chakra/wheel), through our developmental stages (second and third chakras/wheels), into our “maturity” stages (fourth and fifth chakras/wheels), and then to the unknown that lies beyond (sixth and seventh chakras/wheels).

But, even people who don’t practice yoga spend a fair amount of time reflecting on their lives. At the beginning and end of a year, right around our birthdays, whenever we experience one of life’s big milestones, and/or when the seasons change, we think about where we’ve been and where we’re going. Making resolutions (or just good old-fashioned planning) seems like a natural part of this reflection process, because as long as we are are actually living there is some part of us wanting to learn and grow. Yet, a good portion of us will get stuck thinking about the past, and approximately 80% of us will set goals we won’t achieve – which, at some point will have us lamenting the past. Perhaps equally significant is the fact that regardless of when we celebrate a new year or a birthday – or even observe the changing of the seasons – we will almost always find ourselves in situations we’ve dealt with in the past.

“And why should we want to live a life that’s past and never more?” (D. J. Shadow)

The wise old wives tell us we’ll repeat the same situations until we learn the lessons. And, let’s be honest, sometimes we’re that kid who keeps failing the class. What the wise old wives don’t tell us is that we can move on to the next grade, but we’re still going to be struggling with the same material. We can blame our (master) teachers, we can blame life, we can even blame the wise old wives; however, at some point we need to cowboy (or cowgirl) up and take responsibility for being where you are.

Karma is a word we throw around, sometimes without really thinking about what it literally means. We focus on the idea of destiny, fate, or retribution and reward. However, karma is the Sanskrit word for work, action, deed. It is everything we think, say, and do. Obviously, one way to think about karma is in the context of reincarnation. But, what if you don’t believe in reincarnation or the idea that you will keep living lives until you live (or get it) “right” – whatever that means? Have you considered what happens if you just look at this life you’re living and the ramifications of the work/karma you’re doing? Have you considered the fact that everything you think, say, do in this moment leads to another thought, word, and deed in the next moment? Look back at that last link where Don Juan speaks to Carlos Castaneda in Journey to Ixtlan.

So, in that interest, have you assumed responsibility for being here?

“This is not a dream….We are unable to transmit due to conscious neural interference….You are receiving this broadcast in order to alter the events you are….” (D. J. Shadow)

At some point, on or off the mat, we all want to skip to the end and reap our rewards. We want to ignore the seemingly random thoughts and sensations so we can get to the good stuff. We want, not only a passing grade, but all the accolades which come with it. We want, not only what we’ve earned, but also what we desire. And, at some point, on and off the mat, we are confronted with….what we’ve already done.

I started this post on January 3rd (2014). It was intended as a “sample” of themes and motifs for the year (2014). But, the year got away from me – and this post sat over in the draft column…waiting to see if I’d dust it off and update it. Or, if I’d just trash it. I’d like to say it was waiting patiently. But, that’s not how my mind works. So, sometimes, it was taunting me. Other times it was encouraging me. Finally, it was speaking to me.

Not surprisingly, a year later (to the date) it sounds a lot like D. J. Shadow….

Things that are happening again:

108 Sun Salutations – New Year’s Day 2015

7 Saturdays – Journey On and Off the Mat (Dates TBA)

Exploring the Wren Cycle – March 17, 2015

Kiss My Asana Yogathon – April 2015

New Things: ?????

 

~ May your new year be happy and free ~