Thursday, January 27, 2011

Moderating and Transforming Intensity

Bad things happen; bad things can make us feel like sh*t; shitty feelings can be very intense. And you know what? Those feelings can be very, very UNcomfortable.

So what do we do with intense uncomfortable feelings? I meditated about this earlier this week after my mind felt unable to deal with some seemingly unreasonable anger. After meditation and then an intense, forceful asana practice, I came to the conclusion that yoga has an important lesson about this: moderate the intensity to turn the intensity around!

Pushing too hard in asana practice counteracts the surrender that is necessary in some part of the pose. But we can moderate the push that we feel the need to force out into the world. Energy is energy, but energy can move and change. Just as in asana, the flow of energy can support us or work against us; that energy working against us is the same energy that supports us. If we want to transform negative emotional energy, we can sit with it, experience it, and offer ourselves compassion and love. As we offer compassion toward our negativity, we find the power of transforming it. And the more we practice the transformation, we can turn that intense negativity into intense positivity--joy, love, compassion, and kindness. INTENSE joy, love, compassion, and kindness!

It sounds kinda simple and easy, and also kinda ridiculous. Which might be why I like it. I think, "yeah, that makes sense" while simultaneously thinking "that is incredibly impossible." But if you find that you can believe the first half of the statement, even a little, then your mind is open enough for it to work. Practice the transformation of energy on the mat, and find it ripple through your life.

I took that anger and transformed it, flipped it, and experienced some lovingkindness. It wasn't quite as intense as the anger was, but I know I've got more time to keep practicing. Which is a little more positivity.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


I'm running a workshop series over three weekends to LOVE YOUR BODY. We all treat parts of our bodies poorly at some time, whether it is through food, alcohol, drugs; by being inactive; or by being inauthentic in expression toward others. But just because we've done these things in the past doesn't mean we need to keep doing them! The theme of the first workshop of the series was "Shifting Perspectives," which we did literally by focusing on inversions.

Shifting our perspectives for this next journey around the sun; what a worthwhile intention! What a hard goal.

Coming home from the workshop, I felt uplifted, light, and grateful for the time that both I and the workshop participants had spent upside down. (Yes, I'm obsessed with inversions. But it's one of those healthy addictions, right?!) But, at the same time, I felt a little anxious. What was I thinking? I felt a little like an impostor. I've certainly come a long way in my yoga and body love journey. But I'm not "there." I'm not totally shifted. In fact, the evening after the workshop, I felt positively disgusted with my body, following a mini post-dinner binge on pretzels and licorice.

But, reflecting on the workshop and my own experiences, it's the intention that matters. I love that word so much. I think it's so much more positive than "goal" or "aim" because there is no opportunity to fail with an intention. Merriam-Webster days that an intention is "a determination to act in a certain way" ... contrasted with goal's definition: "the end toward which effort is directed." Since an intention is open-ended, there is no timeline. There is no deadline. There is only space. Space to practice that intention and continue to work on it. I have my whole life to practice yoga, and my whole life to live with my intentions. So, I return to my intention.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

... Wait for it...

One of things I have the most trouble with is one of the things I love the most about this world: that nothing ever stays the same. I’ve blogged about this before, but I have to remind myself of it so often, that I think it’s worth blogging about again. I know that all things are in a state of flux, but some days it’s hard to remember it. Sometimes things seem terrible, and it seems if they will always be that way. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had some hard days—not due to any external events, mostly just internal craziness. Yoga teaches us to be patient and endure when a difficult situation arises, rather than react.

Being patient is hard! But being patient for long enough brings change and the time and space to find contentment. There will always be something else we feel that we need; some other thing that we are waiting for that will bring the happiness we expect. But if we instead are patient and content with what we have, we can find the fulfillment that is already there.

I can’t help thinking that patience is one of the hardest lessons to learn. We strive for instant gratification. We are used to fast food, instant messaging, and lightening fast replies to emails. Waiting isn’t something that is valued in our society. We get angry when we see the line at the post office: we panic about what will be lost, what won’t be completed, and what we will have to sacrifice. Instead we should savor those moments—those times when we can practice our patience. We can gain something, find some completion, and surrender to the experience.

Patience is what will get us through. Because things are always changing. And if you can’t find the internal fulfillment just yet, don’t worry. Just be patient.