Kindfully + Mindfully

Wherever there is a human being there is an opportunity for kindness. ~Seneca

There’s something so powerfully simple, profoundly beautiful, about the Dalai Lama’s quote: “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”

If you were to adopt one central tenet for your life, a single word to live by, you might do no better than to live a life of “kindness.”  Kindness is certainly a philosophy worth exploring.

Kindness can guide every interaction you have with others, can guide your life’s work, and give meaning to your life.

All else will melt away, if you let go of it, and leave only kindness.

Doing to others IS doing to yourself

The Golden Rule goes something along the lines of, “Treat others as you’d want to be treated (in their place).”  But in another conception, how you treat others is how you treat yourself.

Consider: when you react to others with anger or meanness, you are putting yourself in an angry mindset, a bad mood. You’ll likely feel pretty crappy for at least an hour, if not all day, for something so silly as getting bumped by a cart in the grocery store.

When you are uncaring or indifferent to others, you also create an empty, blank feeling in yourself, a void that cannot be filled with gadgets, social networking, shopping, food, or possessions.

But instead, if you choose kindness, you build a good feeling within yourself, you make yourself happy. In effect, you are being kind to yourself.

Other outward-facing actions have a similar inward effect: if you want to learn, teach. If you need inspiration, inspire others. If you need a smile on your face, cheer someone up.

mindfulness + kindfulness

It is near impossible, in my experience, to transition towards kindness without being mindful. Thoughtlessness leads to unkindnesses.

You must be mindful of every interaction with another human being. Approach each person mindfully, with your full attention, smiling, seeking to understand them, trying to interact with gentleness, warmth, compassion.

When someone comes to talk to you, when your kid tugs on your pant leg for attention, when your spouse or best friend starts speaking, turn to them without distraction, putting everything else away, and give your full attention. Listen.  This is not a simple thing to do with nine tenths of your mind scattered.  Be mindful.

Here’s something beautiful: by treating others with kindness, you will create a happy feeling within yourself, effectively creating a positive feedback loop for your mindfulness. This will encourage you to be more mindful throughout your day, which will help you to treat others with yet more kindness, and so on.

Mindfulness and kindfulness feed on each other in a wonderful cycle.

Practicing the religion of kindness

This all, of course, takes careful practice, and the more you practice, the better you’ll get at it.  Practicing “random” acts of kindness is merely the starting line.

There’s an evolution in kindness, a process in which kindness slowly infuses your life and transforms everything you do, becoming so much more than just a random action.

Relationships: Your interactions and eventually your relationships with others, including friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, will slowly grow more positive, stronger.

Parenting: If you are a disciplinarian parent, learning to make every interaction with your child one centered on kindness will create a new type of relationship, and will teach your child how to be kind to others, by your example. Your actions are a much better teacher than your words.

Work: It might seem unrealistic, but it is possible to center your work around kindness. Gradually and purposefully make your work a living expression of your kindness, your love, in your interaction with your customers, co-workers, colleagues, the world … in what you produce and put out there.

Eating: A vegan diet is perhaps the kindest diet, all things being equal. This is from the belief that animals suffer when we put them in miserable living conditions, maim and shock them, kill them, for our pleasure. I’m not saying this to be self-righteous, or to make anyone feel guilty, but only for your kind consideration — to consider the animals as you eat. Consider also, as you are contemplating kindness, your eating’s effects on farmers and workers, on your health and the health of your family, and on the environment.

Conclusions

It isn’t easy to be kind in every possible human transaction, in every interaction we have throughout the day. It’s far easier to be thoughtless and react in the lowest common denominator. It can feel better to get back at someone when they are unkind to you (at least, it feels better at first). It takes less effort to not care.

But when we touch another person’s life, our lives are being touched as well. Our effort to be more mindful and more kindful can shape not only our own lives, but the lives of friends, neighbors, and strangers.

[Editor’s Note: This article borrows liberally from a post by Leo Babauta on Zen Habits.  Leo kindly “uncopyrights” all of his Zen Habits material so it can be shared far and wide on the Internet.]

Yoga…in a perfect world

Found these insightful ruminations on Tumblr about one yogini’s (julia lee yoga) realization about the essence of a yoga practice:

In a perfect world (or in a world where money grows from trees), yoga would be freely accessible to all. There would be no such thing as $100 spandex pants or exorbitant yearly pass prices. Unfortunately, the world is not a perfect place – nor does money grow from trees.

Let’s face it – I’m far from rich. In fact, I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum. I’m a student. In other words, I survive off student loans and the clearance rack at the grocery store, which offers brown bananas and bread that expires that day. Living on a student budget and immersing myself in yoga has been challenging, to say the least. There have been times when I have neglected my practice completely for weeks due to financial or time constraints. At these moments, I feel guilty; guilty for putting yoga on the back burner and not making my practice a priority in my life.

Lately, I’ve been hit hard by a wave of yogic desire, and I’m itching to start a regular practice again. I spend most of my free time researching yoga studios, festivals and workshops, and then staring sadly at my empty bank account. I’m a bad yogini, I tell myself. Real yogis and yoginis travel to Yoga Journal conferences and study with master teachers. Real yogis and yoginis do asana practice at real studios with real teachers.

Then, suddenly, I came to a realization. I realized that my definition of yoga had been tainted and warped by the influence of the modern world. Yoga isn’t only about sporting the top-of-the-line clothing and accessories, and studying with “yoga celebrities”. That’s probably the worst interpretation of yoga there is. Yoga is a lifestyle, a conscious decision to make the world around you a better place. Just because I practice to online videos on a mat in my room doesn’t make it any less worthwhile. I am living my yoga when I do kind things, when I act with mindfulness and intention. Each day I embrace the true principles of the yamas and niyamas, I am engaging myself in the practice of yoga. So what did I learn today? I learned yoga doesn’t equate to dollar signs, and that I can be a true yogini after all.

Fall in love with less for stress-free living

Stop buying unnecessary things.
Toss half your stuff, learn contentedness.
Reduce half again.

List 4 essential things in your life,
stop doing non-essential things.
Do these essentials first each day, clear distractions
focus on each moment.

Let go of attachment to doing, having more.
Fall in love with less.

“Be Content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” ~ Lao Tzu

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” – Albert Einstein

“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say let your affairs be as one, two, three and to a hundred or a thousand. We are happy in proportion to the things we can do without.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” – William Morris

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.” – Will Rogers

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” – Hans Hofmann




Time to Simplify and De-Junkify!

Yoga for Dummies, p. 277

Yoga encourages you to cultivate the virtue of greedlessness in all matters.  The Sanskrit word for this is aparigraha, whcih means literally “not grasping all round.”  The yoga practitioner who is well-trained in the art of greedlessness is said to understand the deeper reason for his or her life.  Behind this traditional wisdom lies a profound experience:  As you loosen your grip on material possessions, you also let go of the ego, which is doing the gripping or grasping.  As the ego-contraction relaxes, you increasingly become in touch with the abiding happiness of your true self.  Then you realize that you need nothing at all to be happy.  You are unconcerned about the future and live fully in the present.  You are not afraid to give freely to others and also share with them your inner abundance.

Lately I’ve felt a strong desire to simplify and reduce the number of needless possessions I’ve accumulated over years of mindless consumption.  It’s shocking to step back and take a no-holds-barred inventory of all the junk filling up space in every corner of my house.  Over the Christmas holiday I got the organizing bug and decided it was time to purge the bookcases in my home office, which I had jokingly nicknamed the “Harry Potter room” because there was no telling which piece of paper stuffed into the shelves was magically holding everything together.  Unfortunately, even after buying three new bookcases, the purging turned out to be more of a paper shuffle, and now a month later I’m still feeling a bit overwhelmed by crap on the shelves. That’s just one room in the house. Obviously, more bookshelves wasn’t the correct answer.

I now realize I didn’t need to be better organized (although organizing the stuff you truly need isn’t a bad thing), I needed to get rid of stuff and stop buying things I don’t need.  Of course, deep down I think I knew that answer all along, but that’s a tough pill to swallow.  It’s hard to explain the mind-shift that I’m having right now about consumerism, but it’s almost as if  someone grabbed me about the shoulders and shook me back to reality.  It’s about time to start living more simply.

Of course, renouncing all possessions simply does not present a realistic approach to minimalism and simplicity.  Most of us have families, jobs, lives, and unless we’re willing to give up those lives, our approach won’t be so drastic.

What we need is a realistic approach to change.  Slow change is best for most people.

Here are 10 steps to minimalism as adapted from one of my favorite blogs, mnmlist, that I intend to implement over the next month:

1. Stop buying unnecessary things.  Only buy the necessities, and always ask yourself: is this truly necessary?

2. Get rid of the obvious things. Stuff that’s getting in your way, that you rarely ever use. You can often fill up a few boxes immediately, put them in your car, and donate them to a thrift shop or to friends and family the next day.

3. Get rid of more obvious things. Now that you’ve cleared up some of the clutter, you can take a look around and start seeing other things you rarely use. Box these up as well.

4. Clear the clutter on your floors. If your floors are barely visible because you have clothes and boxes and different items all over the place, start clearing your floors.

5. Clear other flat surfaces. Shelves, table tops, counter tops. They don’t have to be completely clear, but should only have a few essential objects.

6. Start going into closets and drawers. One place at a time, start clearing out clutter.

7. Cut back another third. At this point, you should have simplified drastically, but you can revisit what you still own and see things you don’t really use that often.

8. Start letting go, emotionally. For emotional reasons, there will be things that you “just can’t part” with — clothes or shoes or books or mementoes or gifts, childhood items. This is difficult, but given time, you’ll learn that such attachments aren’t necessary.

9. Get rid of another third. At this point, you’re pretty minimalist, but you can cut back more.

10. Et cetera. The process will never end, until you actually give up everything.

I intend to blog about my de-junkification project over the next month and would love to hear  any experiences or insights you might have on the process of creating a more simple, minimalist life.

43 Creative Ways to Reuse or Recycle Your Old Yoga Mat

Let’s face it, even if your favorite yoga mat is bulletproof and will never ever wear out, there’s still a decent chance that you have a collection of yoga mats laying around the house, most likely never to be used for their intended purpose ever again.  Eventually, one day you may decide to tidy up the place and gaze in astonishment at all your mats. First, you’ll wonder where the heck they all came from.  And second, you’ll wonder what the heck to do with them since you really don’t need old, worn-out mats filling up the corners of every room in your house, do you?

Well, it certainly looks yogic to have a mat in every corner, but then you think to yourself there must be something practical I could do with all these extra pieces of large, spongy, colorful, plastic rectangles.   The simple answer:

REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE

After a little personal introspection and Internet research, I compiled this list of 43 creative ways to reuse, recycle, and extend your old yoga mats’ non-yoga related usefulness.  Sound fun?  Get your scissors ready.  Off you go:

My Personal Top 10 Reuse/Recycle Options:

  1. Turn your mat into a bleacher cushion.  Great for those hard bleachers when watching sporting events.  Here’s how:  Step 1) Cut the mat into equal pieces to make one top and bottom (the size of a newspaper laid flat); Step 2) Punch holes about every 2 inches with a paper hole punch all the way around (both top and bottom); Step 3) Take a couple of days worth of newspapers and lay them between the top and bottom (or if you have another old mat to sacrifice, chop it up and use it as the cushioning); Step 4) Use yarn, ribbon, rawhide, etc. to lace the holes and tie off.  Oh yeah, pretty sweet, huh?  To re-stuff, untie and add new newspaper.  Easy to store, lightweight, washable, reusable, and comfortable
  2. Leave the beach towel home and bring your old yoga mat to the beach instead (caution! may induce spontaneous yoga poses on the beach 🙂
  3. Save your floors and roll out the old mats for the kids to do messy craft projects on
  4. Along the same lines as number 1, fold mat in four, place in a pillow cover, and you have a cheap and comfy meditation cushion
  5. Donate your old mat to a mat recycling program such as Recycle Your Mat, an eco-conscious organization whose goal is to re-purpose or recycle the world’s unwanted yoga mats.  Apparently Manduka offers 20% discount on your next mat purchase if you go this route!  Jade Yoga also offers a 3R Program where yoga students can drop off their used up and unwanted mats to participating studios who, with Jade’s help will find local resources to reuse or donate the mats.  I’m sure there’s more recycling programs like these, so feel free to comment if you know of other programs that deserve a mention
  6. Enjoy yoga in the wild! Use old mats as a “Guerrilla Yoga” mat alternative (okay, I just mean plain old outside yoga, but Guerrilla Yoga sounds so much more primitive).  Most, if not all, “eco” mats are susceptible to damage by the elements and using them for outside practice is not the best idea.   Now you don’t have to jack up your good mat doing it
  7. How could the computer geek inside me resist a nice, thick, cushiony yoga mouse pad for surfing the Internet
  8. I really hate rattling stereo speakers.  Place cut out yoga mat squares under those noisy stereo speakers to reduce vibration rattle
  9. Do you absolutely love the feel of yoga mat on your feet?  Why not cut out yoga mat insoles for all your shoes.  Now you’re a true yogi!  Oh, wait, no your not unless you’ve tried number 10…
  10. True yogis don’t wear shoes, right?  Why not make a pair of flip-flops out of your yoga mat?!?  Click the link and/or watch the video below for everything you need to know.  You’re going to need these for going to the beach (see #2 above)

Click through the jump to see the rest of the list… [Read more…]

The Art of Doing Nothing

Isn’t it nice to have those moments in life when you’ve checked off every last box on your agenda and can just let your mind and body relax?   I’m sure that happens to you all the time, right? Yeah, right.

Are you still waiting for all that free time to show up before enjoying the fruits of doing absolutely nothing? Do you know how to “do nothing?” Are you too busy or have too many thoughts running through your head to relax and enjoy those ever-present moments of  sweet nothingness?  Do you even know what that is?

For some, doing nothing is a waste of time, but for others it can be an art form that enhances their ability to enjoy the simple pleasures of life.  Follow this simple plan to master  the Art of Doing Nothing, and in the process improve your life, melt away  stress, become more patient, and make yourself more productive when you actually do have stuff to do.

Step 1:  Start small

Doing nothing, in the true sense of the word, can be overwhelming if you attempt to do too much nothing all at once.   Most of us simply don’t know what to do with ourselves when we have nothing to do, which is why it’s best to start small.  Focus on 5-10 minutes at a time, and start your practice sessions in a safe place — at home, not at work or in a busy public place.  Find a time and place where there are not many distractions, not much noise, not a lot of people to bother you.  Just make sure your surroundings are quiet and comfortable.

Step 2:  Remove distractions

Shut off all distractions — TV, computer, cell phones, regular phones, Blackberries, and the like.  I know this might feel impossible to do, but doing nothing is tough when you’re surrounded by blinking gadgets beckoning for you to do something.  Although you may initially get that panicky feeling that swells in your chest when you realize you drove all the way to the grocery store without a cell phone, I promise, it will be all right.  I’ve been there, and I lived to tell about it.

Now, close your eyes, and do nothing.   Do nothing.  Simple, huh?  Perhaps doing nothing is more of a meditative mindset than a physical possibility.  Of course, you’re always doing something — you’re sitting, you’re thinking, you’re breathing — but if someone were to call you and ask what you’re doing, of course you’d say, “Oh, nothing.”  But luckily you’ve already turned your cell phone off, so you don’t have to worry about pesky distractions or telling others that you’re busy doing nothing.

Just sit there for five minutes and do nothing.

This is all you have to do to attain a basic level of do-nothingness.  Commit to this practice for five to 10 minutes a day and observe what happens.  To take this practice to the next level, continue on to the next step.

Step 3:  Breathe

The first place to start to master this simple art is  with your breath.  If this sounds suspiciously like meditation, just remember you’re not meditating, you are doing nothing.  (Okay, you can call it meditation if you want to:)

First, breathe slowly in and slowly out.

Next, on the inhale, notice how the breath enters your body through your nose, journeys down to your lungs, and expands your diaphragm.

On the exhale, feel the lightness of the air as it slowly escapes the body.  Feel the satisfaction of empty lungs.  Try to do this for 5-10 minutes.

You may notice while you are doing nothing that your mind starts to tell you that you need to do something.  If it makes your mind feel better, go ahead and trick it by telling it that you are “doing” breathing.  The mind just wants something to do.  Of course, you’re not actually doing anything since you can’t help it whether you breathe or not.  You’re just letting the body do what it does naturally:  BREATHE.    No effort, no work, just simply doing nothing.

Conclusion

Amazingly enough, if you commit to just this little bit of doing nothing, chances are good that you’ll find that you like it a lot.   Of course you won’t become a master of the Art of Doing Nothing overnight, but once you become proficient with these simple steps, don’t be surprised to find yourself wanting more and more nothingness.  Doing nothing is not easy.  It takes practice.  But, if you commit to taking a few minutes each day to do nothing, it will become easy, natural, and a definite item to check off your daily to-do list.

[Inspired by Leo at Zen Habits]

Save money, Use less plastic, Buy a Sigg!

Apparently advertising works because after months of seeing Sigg water bottle ads in Yoga Journal I found myself a few days ago at the Whole Foods Market in Charlottesville, VA, dropping over $20 for a .6 L Sigg.  It wasn’t exactly an impulse purchase since I was shopping specifically for a water bottle, just not one quite that expensive.  After two days at a legal conference of buying multiple flavored beverages throughout the day, I realized that bringing my own water bottle might save me a little money (and use a lot less plastic).  So, once I came across the Sigg, it didn’t take much rationalization to convince myself that we were MFEO.

Here’s one reason why the Sigg rocks:

Many people think that they are helping the environment by refilling their plastic PET water bottles. But are you helping yourself?

“Disposable PET bottles are designed for one time use,” states Simran Sethi of The Discovery Channel. “Refilling them can release harmful toxins from the packaging – especially when it gets heated. If you’re tasting plastic, you’re ingesting plastic.”

In 2008, many major North American retailers discontinued selling reusable plastic bottles made from polycarbonate #7 (brands such as Nalgene) due to concerns that these bottles were leaching Bisphynol-A. A report by Health Canada called this chemical (BPA) “dangerous.”

And not all metal water bottles are alike. Very recently there have been major recalls of Chinese-made aluminium water bottles for lead in the paint. Tests have shown that Chinese-made aluminium water bottles, like many polycarbonate #7 plastic bottles, also leach the chemical BPA.

A SIGG Bottle is your healthy and safe choice for your body. The baked-on, crack resistant bottle liner makes sure that you drink what you want to drink – and not unwanted chemicals. The SIGG bottle liner is leach-proof and resistant even to energy drinks, fruit acids and carbonation.

SIGG bottles are manufactured in Switzerland with no BPA, no lead, no phthalates – in other word, no risk to you!

So far, I think my favorite part about the Sigg is that water actually tastes like water.  No more plastic taste, no more leftover flavors like in a plastic water bottle.  It’s really nice and I’m very happy with it.  Highly recommended!

Mayo Clinic – Do Yoga to Improve Your Stress Management and Relaxation Skills

Check out the following article from the Mayo Clinic for a basic introduction to yoga and the variety of health benefits enjoyed by its practitioners.

Yoga: Improve your stress management and relaxation skills – MayoClinic.com

77 Health Benefits of Yoga

If you’re still looking for a few good reasons to try yoga or do more yoga, here are 77 of them.  The list covers everything from “health benefits without,”  “health benefits within,” “emotional health benefits,” “body chemistry,” “exercise benefits,” “disease prevention,” and “symptom reduction or alleviation” that are brought about through regular yoga practice.  The list also has some good links to resources if you are interested in doing some further research.  It seems that modern science is slowly beginning to catch on to what all the old yogi scientists of yore already knew.

The same blog also has a great listing of yoga resources you may wish to browse.  There were a few sites I’d never seen.

First Yoga Class in Four Years

It’s been almost four years since I actually stepped foot in a yoga studio. You’re probably thinking that’s a bit insane since I have a blog about yoga and you’re reading it. There’s a multitude of reasons why I rarely go to yoga class. First and foremost, I’m cheap, especially when I feel like I’m paying for something that I could just as well do in the comfort of my own home for free. Not that I won’t spend all sorts of money on books about yoga and stuff. In fact, just last night I ordered The Shambhala Guide to Yoga by Georg Feuerstein. Right now I’m rereading Baron Baptiste’s Journey Into Power, Stephen Cope’s The Wisdom of Yoga, and Paramahansa Yogananda’s The Yoga of Jesus. (I’m a bit of a multi-tasker when it comes to books, which drives my wife batty). Thing is, I don’t mind buying yoga books because I know I’ll use them again. It’s just that somewhere in the back of my mind I’ve convinced myself that it’s ridiculous to pay someone to tell me how to do something I could teach myself from a book and do at home. The funny thing is that despite my sketchy belief that paying for yoga class is an unnecessary, superfluous expense, I remember quite vividly the handful of times I have attended class.

Well, these last few weeks I’ve been more diligent in my home asana practice. Although work has been a bit stressful, life is settling down and I’m figuring out my schedule. Right now I’m on a business trip in Dayton, Ohio, and I decided to pack my yoga mat so I didn’t get out of the habit. Hopefully I don’t offend anyone by saying this, but downtown Dayton leaves much to be desired as far as I can tell. However, yesterday in my exploration I happened upon a yoga studio about a block away from my hotel called Practice Yoga. When I walked past the studio it looked like it was closed so I hurried home to see if I could find out more about it. I came to find out that the studio opened about two weeks ago. After looking at the class schedule for a while, I came to the conclusion to attend the Ashtanga for beginners class the next day after my estate planning seminar ended. After making that decision, I spent most of today feeling nervous about what to expect in class.

Of course, type-A personality that I am, I showed up for class before anyone else. Instead of going in though, I waited across the street next to a lamp post until more people trickled in so I could sufficiently blend into the background. As I stood there waiting, I realized that I hadn’t been in a yoga studio in four years. When enough people seemed to have shown up, I finally crossed the street. The place was nice and uncluttered, with a few pictures on the walls. At the entrance there were a few chairs, a table with papers to read and sign, and cubicles for storing personal items. Kim, the yoga instructor, told me they lock the doors once class starts so everyone’s stuff would be safe. Anyhow, since the class was for beginners none of us milling around in the lobby really knew what to do next. Kim eventually herded us into the practice room and we unrolled our mats. Unfortunately, none of us really knew what to do once we had our mats out. Thankfully class started soon and the awkward moment passed of trying to figure out what to do. The class was really basic, which was fine with me. We went over Sun Salutations A and B and then did a few other poses from the Primary Series. As things started to heat up I thought to myself, maybe I don’t go to yoga class because I’m embarrassed by how much I sweat. I think I need to take a towel next time so I don’t slip so much. Hopefully I didn’t get any on anyone else. In the end, the class was great and I feel like I got a sweet deal for my ten dollars. I’m planning on going back on Thursday for a Primary Series class, and maybe even tomorrow at lunch if I have enough time.

In the final analysis, I’ve decided there’s something unique about attending an actual class that simply cannot be replicated in a solo practice. Home practice is great, but sweating away the day’s worries in a room full of people doing the same thing is an enriching and satisfying feeling that we should all take advantage of as often as possible.

The beauty is that people often come here for the stretch, and leave with a lot more. ~Liza Ciano (Co-owner and co-director of Yoga Vermont).

Living Yoga

Logo for the film, Living Yoga, the life and teachings of Swami SatchidanandaLiving Yoga looks like an interesting documentary exploration of the history of yoga in the West. I always love Woodstock footage. My mother-in-law went to Woodstock, which makes me laugh every time I think about it.

Yoga for Men

I love books! I especially love free books! If you don’t mind reading books in PDF format, I ran across Yoga for Men by Thomas Claire on Scribd. It’s probably not the top book on my list of places to start reading about yoga, but it’s pretty hard to beat free! In perusing the book, I was surprised at how much information Yoga for Men contained, especially concerning different styles of yoga. While some of the information is targeted towards men, most of the book just deals with yoga subjects that would appeal to anyone interested in yoga. One of my favorite parts of the book was the depth of resources the author provided for further study. If you’re looking for a good list of yoga books to read, I highly recommend checking out the additional resources at the end of each chapter.

There are quite a few books uploaded on Scribd (some yoga related), making it a decent place to look if you want to preview a book.  I also found Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi, one of my all-time favorites.  If you’ve never read it, you’ll eventually end up buying you’re own copy.  I like the Scribd version because I can put it on my Pocket PC for reading late at night in bed.  Good stuff!

How to Listen

“When we listen as if we were in a temple and give attention to one another as if each person were our teacher, honoring his or her words as valuable and sacred, all kinds of great possibilities awaken. Even miracles can happen. To act in the world most effectively, our actions cannot come from our small sense of self, our limited identity, our hopes, and our fears. Rather, we must listen to a greater possibility and cultivate actions connected with our highest intentions from the patient and compassionate Buddha within us. We must learn to be in touch with something greater than ourselves, whether we call it the Tao, God, the dharma, or the law of nature. There is a deep current of truth that we can hear. When we listen and act in accordance with this truth, no matter what happens, our actions will be right.”

—Jack Kornfield, from A Path With Heart

Learning to Listen


Yoga Journal’s New Look

Been over to Yoga Journal.com lately? I’m not going to lie and say that I’ve spent a lot of time over there, but I have noticed that there’s been a major update on the site. So far I’m pretty impressed. Somebody at Yoga Journal finally realized that a community oriented site attracts viewers more frequently and for a longer duration, which obviously equates to increased advertising revenue.

It’s now possible to leave comments on articles or save favorite articles to a profile. Equally impressive is the Sequence Builder that makes it possible to create customized yoga workouts. Plus, if you think you’ve put together the perfect routine, you can choose to share the sequence with other members of the community. You can even save notes for each of the poses. My only complaint is that you can’t click on the images for a detailed description of the pose. Oh well.

I’m sure there are a lot of other great new features, but I’ll let you head over to YJ to check them out for yourself.

Yoga Mats

Yoga for Work

Lucky for me, I’m not currently sitting at a computer 14 hours a day. Hence, I’m less in need of ideas for getting some physical movement in during the day while at work. But, for most people some simple stretching, breathing, and mind-centering during the workday could make a huge difference in productivity as well as physical and mental well-being.

I ran across a series of ten minute video clips designed by a yoga instructor for bringing a little bit of yogic awareness into the workplace and thought I’d share. The exercises are designed to counteract the effects of sitting down hour after hour. So, if you’re stuck at a desk for most of the day, use a few breaks during the day to do some desk yoga.

.MOV files .WMV
Part 1: Introducing the Exercises (9:40 minutes)

14 MB

Part 2: Linking the Exercises to Your Breath (12:17 minutes)

16 MB

Part 3a: Varying the Exercises (9:57 minutes)

14 MB

Part 3b: Varying the Exercises (8:40 minutes)

11 MB

Interview with Krishna Das

krishna-das.jpgI just ran across an audio interview with Krishna Das done a few months ago by CBC Radio. I enjoy listening to his music and thought I’d share. To listen to some of Krishna Das’ music, check out the Box.net music folder in the right column. Or instead, if you want to listen to the entire Pilgrim Heart album, click here.

Here’s the introduction to the interview:

The Devotional Chant of Krishna Das

When he was growing up on Long Island, his name was Jeffrey Kagel. A trip to India and a meeting with the renowned guru Neem Karoli Baba would change the course of his life. And his name. Krishna Das, the name his guru gave him, would become famous around the world for his kirtan – devotional chant. Kirtan is an ancient spiritual path – part of the tradition of Bhakti Yoga – yoga of the heart.
So much has changed for Krishna Das since his first trip to India – but the Jewish guy from Long Island is never far from the surface. The sense of humour, for starters.
Krishna Das has been chanting on a regular basis in yoga centers all over the world. He has taught with Ram Dass and sung for many saints and yogis here and in India. Krishna Das is Mary Hynes’ guest this week on Tapestry.

Listen to the interview with Krishna Da
(runs: 46:06)

RealPlayer is required to listen to audio files.
Download the RealPlayer plug-in for your browser.

 

Some Good Advice for the Soul

MeditationThe Ririan Project blog almost always has great tips on personal development, but today’s post, Get Your Soul In Shape With These 11 Most Deeply Held Wisdoms, was fantastic. Many people only focus on how to have a nice looking outer appearance, but utterly fall short in terms of having a beautiful spirit as well. While many of the ideas included on the list are probably second nature to some yogis, I imagine that you might find some new ideas for living more peacefully, such as by hanging your troubles on a tree (see #4) or developing compassion by saving tears in a cup (see #11). Here’s the list:

1. Learn to quiet your mind.

Is your mind awash in all kinds of debris – trivia, worries, “to do” lists? We tend to be unaware that we are thinking virtually all the time. The incessant stream of thoughts flowing through our minds leaves us very little respite for inner quiet.

But our most valuable and profound moments in life happen when our thoughts become momentarily quiet, and we open up to a direct heartfelt encounter with the world around us. So try some very basic meditation and remember, you’re striving for a quiet, focused mind. Don’t be discouraged. Learning to quiet your mind may take some time. Just keep trying.

2. Develop the happiness habit.

And do this by always looking at the bright side of life and endeavoring to be happy. Don’t let some outer circumstances decide your happiness for you. Happiness is here, within you. Just calm your mind and stay relaxed, and you will experience it. Happiness is inherent in our souls; it is not something to be gained anew, and all that is necessary to do is to uncover it.

3. Just lighten up.

Lighten up. Spring is here at last. The sun is shining, birds are singing and life in general seems that little bit brighter. G.K. Chesterton wrote: “Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly.” And what works for angels can’t help but be good for us. Levity addresses worry’s tendency to obsess, scoffs at the demon of perfectionism, and exposes the self-absorption that lies at the root of unhappiness.

4. Hang up your troubles.

Before entering your house at night, walk over to a tree and close your eyes for a moment. Rather than taking your worries inside your house, hang them on that “worry tree.” You won’t believe how well it works, and when you’ll pause in the morning to collect your worries, most of them will be gone.

5. Develop tolerance, patience, tact and consideration for others.

Respect is key to our ability to function. It really is following this simple rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. It is the value that makes the world a more decent and civilized place. And when you learn to acknowledge, accept, and value yourself and others you fundamentally shift your perspective in a way that changes how you think and act. So develop tolerance, tact, patience, respect and consideration for others.

6. Soulful housekeeping.

When you want clarity, joy or sexiness – de-clutter on the basis of your intention for a room. Be brave, be bold, be relentless. Once a room is set up, when you bring one thing in, take one thing out. You have to attend to it the way you attend to a garden. It’s about how you nurture yourself: if you’re not doing it with your home, you’re not doing it with yourself. De-cluttering is about the transformation of self. The relief you feel when you let go is amazing. You cannot carry your life around with you.

7. Conjuring everyday bliss.

To be happy we don’t need beauty, but we must accept and like ourselves. Instead of fame, we need optimism. Rather than wealth, we need a purpose. We don’t have to have a special talent but need a job or activities we enjoy. We need wisdom rather than intelligence, autonomy rather than conformity. Happy people resist social pressure and exert personal control. The things needed for happiness are all within our control, and we can work toward them. Act now!

8. Unwrap the present.

Accept the past, focus on the present and don’t stress about the future. The past is over and the future so uncertain. Nostalgia dwells on loss, and expectation is often nothing more than premeditated resentment. But when you reject them both – by wanting what you have, doing what you can, and being who you are – the gift of time is yours to savor.

9. Pray for someone you hate.

Have you ever tried to pray for someone you haven’t forgiven or you hold anger? Hatred was never good for the soul so close your eyes and imagine your enemy’s face in your mind; and then pray, “May so-and-so find peace within his or her soul.” It always works, you simply can’t hate a person and pray for him at the same time.

10. Take the love drug.

What does science know about love? Not much at all. But we do know that people who are in committed relationships and people who are sexually expressive are less depressed; a romantic-love relationship allows both partners to fill their physical, emotional, and intellectual needs without any losses or compromises. Such a relationship provides major personal benefits and increased pleasures from life. So immerse your soul in some love.

11. Pool your tears.

Learn from the ancient Hebrews, they kept tear cups on their mantels – those little porcelain cups in which they saved their tears. Next time you’re crying, try blessing your tears as they fall. And when others grieve, recognize your own tears in their eyes. When we pool our tears, they do everyone a world of good. When we wallow in them, we drown alone.

Creative Commons

38 Ways Yoga Keeps You Fit

If you are looking for some motivation to practice yoga more often, check out these 38 Ways Yoga Keeps You Fit. They are sure to inspire you to get on the mat more regularly. Here’s a sampling from the article at Yoga Journal:

11
Yoga lowers cortisol levels. If that doesn’t sound like much, consider this. Normally, the adrenal glands secrete cortisol in response to an acute crisis, which temporarily boosts immune function. If your cortisol levels stay high even after the crisis, they can compromise the immune system. Temporary boosts of cortisol help with long-term memory, but chronically high levels undermine memory and may lead to permanent changes in the brain. Additionally, excessive cortisol has been linked with major depression, osteoporosis (it extracts calcium and other minerals from bones and interferes with the laying down of new bone), high blood pressure, and insulin resistance. In rats, high cortisol levels lead to what researchers call “food-seeking behavior”
(the kind that drives you to eat when you’re upset, angry, or stressed). The body takes those extra calories and distributes them as fat in the abdomen, contributing to weight gain and the risk of diabetes and heart attack.

16
Yoga encourages you to relax, slow your breath, and focus on the present, shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system (or the fight-or-flight response) to the parasympathetic nervous system.
The latter is calming and restorative; it lowers breathing and heart rates, decreases blood pressure, and increases blood flow to the intestines and reproductive organs—comprising what Herbert Benson, M.D., calls the relaxation response.

26
Yoga can ease your pain. According to several studies, asana, meditation, or a combination of the two, reduced pain in people with arthritis, back pain, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other chronic conditions. When you relieve your pain, your mood improves, you’re more inclined to be active, and you don’t need as much medication.

So, there’s three good reasons, now go check out the other (38-3:) = 35!

Photo: Ric Poli on Flickr

Observing Aparigraha

Before the new week starts and we all head back to work or school, take a moment to ponder these words on non-coveting by B.K.S. Iyengar in Light on Yoga:

The yogi feels that the collection or hoarding of things implies a lack of faith in God and in himself to provide for the future….By the observance of aparigraha, the yogi makes his life as simple as possible and trains his mind not to feel the loss or the lack of anything. Then everything he really needs will come to him by itself at the proper time.

Read “Gotta Have It?” by Sally Kempton at Yoga Journal for additional perspective on aparigraha.

Take Action to Simplify Your Life

Simplify, simplify… Most everything is a distraction.

This simple quote by Thoreau embodies much of what we want in life–simplicity. Most of us know that many of the “necessities” of life, while far from being extravagances, are in reality unnecessary distractions that pull us away from the simple kind of living that is conducive to a “quiet mind.” Interestingly enough, the word “simplify” actually is an action word, indicating that in order to have have fewer distractions we have to recognize those unnecessary distractions in our lives and actually do something about them if we want to eliminate them. So, do something to simplify your life today. At the same time, be mindful when confronted by those distractions you can’t do anything about. Take action, and your life will be simpler!

[Photo originally uploaded on Flickr by dwrawlinson]