Practice Project 2.0 ~ Fall 2017!

Practice Project Victor Wooten PROMOSo about a year ago I started thinking a LOT about what it is that gets a person going from, “I know I need to do more of XYZ in my life,” to “I’m so glad I have XYZ as a regular part of my life.”

And it came down to this: Practice. There’s not really a magic formula. There’s no magic date or moment when you suddenly do the thing you know you should do, and you magically become the person you want to be.

Really, its about setting a new habit, that eventually just becomes part of what you do. Like the way you order your burger with blue cheese every time because WHY WOULD YOU NOT?!

And good goddess don’t we know that setting new habits can be a challenge. They are not usually comfortable at first. But this got me thinking more: When there actually IS a magic moment in the middle of the thing you’re resisting that you are so damned grateful for getting your booty to XYZ, and you go from resisting to sheer and ultimate delight and relief. What IS that? And how can you re-create it so that you actually WANT to do this every day?

That. Is what the Practice Project is about. Its not about being perfect. Its not about getting into a headstand. Its not about bragging on social media. Its about finding those little details that allow you to feel that sense of release. And its about giving you a little more info than you’d get in your average yoga class so that you can figure out how to re-create this pattern and that feeling for yourself on your own at home. It’s about helping you develop… yep, you guessed it: a PRACTICE.

Which is simply about being here to do it.


Sign up for the #YogaWithCalley Practice Project 2.0 by emailing calley@calleybliss.com

Sundays from 12noon – 1:30 p.m.
Modus Locus ~ The Place To Be Yourself
3500 Bloomington Ave. S
Minneapolis, MN 55407

October 1
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October 22
~ BREAK ~
November 5
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Read more: yogawithcalley.com/practiceproject

Yoga For You? Yes. Yoga With Calley? You Be The Judge.

Hello readers –

I start teaching TWO NEW CLASSES this week at Modus Locus, a community space in S. Minneapolis, starting bright and early tomorrow morning at 8am. See the calendar with class descriptions here on the Modus Locus website.

We all know “yoga is good for you.” I’ll refine that a bit and say that gentle movement of the body that activates the muscles and mobilizes the joints in a safe way, while stretching the brain’s concept of “body awareness,” is, indeed, good for you. In a world where there are free yoga classes in every park, how do you decide what is the right place for you to familiarize – or continue – the learning process of your body and life through yoga?

I’ll start with a caveat, focusing on my word above – safe. This could be a whole other soap box for a whole other blog post, but for today I’ll just say this: in a world where many of the images of yoga we see as marketing material are very skilled practitioners with advanced practices doing advanced poses, its easy to get away from the fundamentals and foundation of what a yoga practice is for.

So here it is, folks: My “THIS IS THE YOGA I TEACH NUTSHELL”:

A time and place to unify your body, mind, life experiences, and spirit into safe and applicable movement and stillness for you, as they exist today. 

So THIS is what I aim to teach every day. Where are you today? Where is your life? Where is your body? Where is there mobility in your body, where do you feel your breath? In our western establishment of medicine, we largely treat our bodies like a sum of parts. The reason I have stuck with yoga and opted out of sparkly ideas about getting a nursing degree, or a behavioral counselor’s license is this: I am interested in not only getting you to think about the sum of your parts. I’m interested in getting you to think about all of what makes your body and your life. Your body is a system, just like your life. Yes, there are parts. And yes, occasionally there are parts that break down, or get injured. But those parts are connected to other parts. Learning to connect your body to work together as one optimally productive unit is like an insurance plan for when one of the parts breaks down – it has a strong connection and access to the strength of all those other parts.

In the last year I’ve been specifically doing a lot of reading about the nervous system. As a creative mind myself, I spent eleven years making a living in a performance and performance-teaching realm, all the while learning and bulking up my knowledge base of yoga and related healing practices and modalities. After eleven years of study and practice, and after learning how to transform my own body from a sickly pile to a resilient, strong being, I took a dive into this world of “teaching yoga.” And as a person who gets giddy like a goldilocks about connecting the concept of “create,” and “body state,” in ways that can be practically explained and practiced, the nervous system is, to me – and in our modern world of medicine – the vast mystery we are trying to learn more about in quantifiable ways. THIS IS WHY I TEACH.

I’m fascinated by the effect that experience has on us. When you go to a concert of music you love, when you are engaged in building something, or riding a motorcycle, or reading a book, or maybe even writing a book – any activity that brings you joy – when you are actively participating in the thing that brings you joy, you feel different. You have a sense of care-free-ness. You feel light, and happy.

By contrast when you’re presented with a problem – you get an awful cold, your boss gets mad at you, you are the boss and you’re mad at an employee, something in your house breaks, or, you know, something in your life breaks… you feel stuck. Frustrated, angry, or just plain sad and miserable. All of these experiences play out into our bodies, in an over-simplified explanation through small individual components called neuropeptides (among a host of other physical functions that are simultaneously happening – remember, the body is a system.)

So these neuropeptides are like signals for the nervous system. As stated by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “neuropeptides are the most diverse class of signaling molecules in the brain engaged in many physiological functions.”

THIS IS MY JAM, FOLKS! And its why I play specific music in my classes. It’s why I cue you to feel where your breath feels good. We all want more good in our lives. And while we can’t avoid the reality of “oh shit, that just happened,” what we are learning is that through PRACTICE, we can learn to participate in the very basic functions of our brain, and therefor body. We can chose to turn our attention, our focus, to practice and breathe in a certain way. We can choose to address or ignore the “parts” of our lives that are causing ailment. We can create guidelines, which, with practice, become habits that help us to move forward in the ever-changing wheel that is life.

We learn to observe all the parts of our lives, so that piece by piece, day by day, pose by pose, we can create a life that is abundant in health and happiness.

This. This is what I aim to teach. Yoga is so much more than poses to me. And we are so much more than just a pile of skin, muscles, and bones, just as our lives are so much more than just making money and owning things.

We are a complex system, us humans. I am endlessly inspired and energized to participate in learning about my own existence and health, and to aid in that process for any who come to take yoga practice with me.

Namaste, CalleyYOGA WITH CALLEY2

To Get In The Water, You Have to Trust It

Tonight is the YOGA Garden Spring Equinox class! All proceeds benefit Planned Parenthood of Minnesota. Here’s the schedule:


Meditation – 6:00 – 6:20, $5 (lead by yours truly)

All-Levels Vinyasa Yoga – 6:30 – 8:00, $15 (taught by all the YOGA Garden teachers)


 

With the Equinox, as the sun is half way between our darkest day of the year, and our lightest day of the year, our seasons are starting to follow that light, and come into the time of WATER. This class is first for the YOGA Garden studio and community, tagging on the popularity of our Winter Solstice class, and following our studio theme of using the five elements and the concept of cycles as descriptors for the physical body and our lives.

WATER COMING OUT OF EARTH, THE NEXT CYCLE OF THE YEAR:

WATER is motion, and fluidity, and flow. It is the first stage in any progress. It is change. It can also be chaos, and upheaval, and destruction. It is said to be the most powerful of the elements because it can move earth, cause wind, extinguish fire, and interact with ether in the form of clouds. Here in Minnesota, we get seasons that allow us to see a cycle mapped onto the calendar year very clearly: While we’ve been in the part of the year that signifies earth, our world has been (largely) frozen. Things are still, and dark, and quiet. This concept is where support lives. In yoga poses, it is our foundation – our feet, hands, knee, whatever body part meets the mat. In our lives it is our home to protect us from the elements (or predators, if we look at the history of human-dom). It is our supply of nourishment and financial means. When the concept and quality of earth is in excess, it is also where things get stuck and stifling.

BUT NOW, WE ARE MOVING INTO THE TIME OF WATER

AND SO A STORY!

(Duh, this is me writing.)
Cynthia Occelli seed quote

Just like the new seeds that will soon be making their way out of the Earth as plants, they
need water before they can bust open and start growing. Just like a pose that you want to be able to do… Just like a goal that you want to achieve in your life… Just like the notion that cellular turnover within the body promotes healing and growth… we need water before we can grow.

Yoga is not a path to achieve perfection.

Of course, Instagram might imply otherwise, but go with me for a moment: If you got into ANY new venture expecting perfection you would surely receive a fat dose of disappointment – ahem, the ol’ “you can’t learn to swim ’till you get into the water.” (See how I worked that in there??) Now for some of us, we love a new adventure – we’ll throw caution to the wind and try anything for the sake of “let’s see what happens.” Bravo to us. May we have excellent health insurance for the times when we go too far in that direction.

But the idea of getting into the water is terrifying for some of us.

We don’t know how deep it is, we’re not sure if we’re going to like what it feels like, and what’s more, we have no idea what’s under the surface or where we might end up once we GET into the water… These are real feelings, and they are real limitations. Sometimes our limitations protect us. And sometimes they hold us back. So, let’s look at the process:

Theres No Such Thing As PerfectJust because we can’t be perfect (there’s no such thing as perfect – click heels – there’s no such thing as perfect – click heels…) doesn’t mean we don’t want to be better. We all want to improve, and we want our improvement to have a ripple effect to allow us to better our family, financial status, community, etc. But getting into the water requires a lot of trust.

And so if you’re not a person who can easily embrace the adventure, the challenge, the flowing rush that water can bring us; If instead, you’re stuck in dread or disapproval of the inevitable change, I’ll steal one of the teaching concepts of classical yoga:

Aparigraha or “non-possessiveness.”

It is one of the five Yamas or “restraints,” which is one of the eight limbs used to explain and describe the path to enlightenment, as per classical Astanga (or eight-limbed) yoga. Now, in Tantric yoga, we take these concepts and tools for “enlightenment,” and observe how they weave through the process of creation down here in our current life on Earth.

So…. non-possessiveness. Letting go. Allowing your fear, your resisting, your anxiety to be separate from you in this moment. Allowing yourself to try something new, even when you don’t know what its going to be like. Even when it seems a little awkward. A little weird. And even if you can’t shake these feelings, if you can’t figure out how to allow trust to replace these feelings… Maybe you just take your anxiety, and your fear with you. Let it sit there, but ask that it also allow room on the mat for trust. Trust, that you are in the presence of friends, and competent teachers, who will allow you to try and fail. Who will allow you to test the waters. To find your own flow, your own fuel.

It takes a lot of TRUST to get in the water.

Namaste, Calley

Healthcare Is A Basic Right

ofa-obamacareDear readers! I usually leave my blog content to that of an informational nature. As in “here are some ideas for how to take care of yourself,” or “here are some interesting ways to think about how to apply the teachings, philosophy, and practice of yoga to your own life,” or “here is a silly video or idea to make you laugh, and help you realize that being a yogi is not about being perfect, its about being a ridiculous human (considering the human experience IS kind of ridiculous… and beautiful and challenging.)”

But today, I’m posting THIS LINK to encourage you all to protect your right to get help when you’re NOT healthy, as is bound to happen to all of us, as part of the human experience.

Today, I’m encouraging you to use what we know from yoga philosophy: we move forward no matter what. Weather we are active in that motion, or passive… we need both for balance, and on any given day you’ll need more action or more passivity in your life… Today, I’m going to ask you to choose ACTION.

One of the reasons we have a constitution is to protect basic rights of individuals. Even though we live in a world where even our very government is built upon the foundation of a financial system, which requires the virility of the institutions keeping the wheel turning… I’m reminded of a conversation I had with a dear friend many years ago. His comment burned into my then-twenty-five-year-old idealist art/musician brain:

“When do we have ENOUGH?”

When the insurance companies are doing fine… when their CEO’s are taking vacations, and their employees are not just raising families and paying bills on time, but are getting annual bonuses… but thousands of people across the country are selling body fluids to make ends meet, and then can’t get access to healthcare they can afford…

Something in the moral scale is way… WAY… off. There is enough out there. There is enough available for all. But we must demand the protection of those who are too busy working a minimum wage labor job to ever even see this pretty pretty graphic that the OFA put out to fight for them… will you? It’s just your name, email address, and zip code. That’s it.

And that’s enough for today. Namaste.ofa-obamacare

Dr. David Simon on KFAI Radio Twin Cities

“We remind them of their capacity to create inner joy… and what we find is their illness gets better… most likely whatever the psychological or physical illness you’re suffering from will become less.” – Dr. David Simon on KFAI Radio Twin Cities

THIS IS THE SHIZ, FOLKS.

imgresOk, I know I tend to get a little pedantic and dramatic. (Imagine that, a yogi and creative type.) But seriously, when I opened up the live stream of Radio KFAI on my computer for the first time, thanks to my student Genna (THANK-YOU GENNA!), I immediately started writing this blog post based on the program that just happened to be on: Health Notes (KFAI Monday nights Minneapolis folks, 6:30 – 7:30). Take heed: a Neurologist, also an expert in Ayurveda, is telling us that at healing retreats where he hosts patients with ailments as serious as cancer, he doesn’t focus on their illness at all. He focuses on getting them to find joy in their own brains, by triggering ideas and situations which bring those feelings. With that feeling of joy, they bring gentle movement to the body through yoga, tai chi, etc.

This is where it gets interesting… With all that movement, while focusing on the feeling of joy, we enable all those happy hormones to infiltrate our whole bodies – our blood stream, our cells, our selves… and thankfully, we have research to show us that there are HUGE physical and mental benefits to bringing more of these happy hormones by way of cellular turnover to further and further corners of our bodies. With practice, and at our own pace, we see-saw from comfort zone to just beyond comfort in order to get into those tense, never-before-reached bodily corners… and with lots of breath.

This is what I have come to believe as the most direct path to health. Is it an absolute guarantee that we will STAY healthy all the GD time? No. “Absolute” is – aside from being a delicious vodka – a **concept** sold to us in order to get us to buy in.

Taking those happy thoughts and feelings, and getting further into those corners is the tricky part. That’s why there’s a word for it in Yoga philosophy: Dharma. Meaning work or purpose.

Let’s look at this see-saw idea with a bit of a storybook approach. We’ll call our story,

THE DARK TEACHER and the JOY FINDING FAIRY:

The counter to the concept of focusing on what makes us happy is not to say that we should just pull up our boot straps and look on the bright side every time. When I teach, I often try to remind students that we are always moving in two directions. We are pushing down from our pelvic floor / belly through the legs into the feet, while also drawing that energy from our very connected-to-the-mat (aka grounded) feet back up into the stability of our pelvic floor… and there’s a lot of surface area between those two points, might I add, which is why this stuff is never immediate, and why PRACTICE (broken record, Calley…) is still… yep, the most important part.

So, enters the Dark Teacher, an opposite force to our protagonist, the, ahem, Joy Finding Fairy. Sometimes you have to sit with whatever crappy situation has presented itself to you. And, one step further, we are best to really sit and look at all that **stank** and spend some time assessing how it came to us, and what can we learn from this situation… looking at the mess – weather its a physical injury, an emotional scar, or some kind of situational turmoil – and being willing to question how we really feel about the situation is a humbling humbling teacher. (Mutter expletives under breath at Dark Teacher.) Sometimes we need these Dark Teacher(s) for a moment… They give us new awareness IF we choose to look at it that way… but when these Dark Teachers stick around too long – THAT is when things get, well sticky. We get stuck. Depression. Anxiety that won’t go away. Or, to put it more literally, perhaps a broken arm that we just can’t seem to stop using long enough to let it heal…

And so these are the trying times – to get away from the stuck place, where we go again and again and again toward the power and pull of the Dark Teacher, and we start to think that this is just the way it is. This is where we figure out how to find and follow the Joy Finding Fairy. For which, I’ve linked some great articles by clicking here, and scrolling down to the stress, anxiety, and depression section.

So, really, the thing is we need the Dark Teacher to, well, teach us new things. But we also need the Joy Finding Fairy when it seems like our lessons of darkness (mwa ha ha ha ha ha ha) are consuming us day in and day out.

Namaste.

 

Snuggle Up To Shakti

ny-day-yoga-2017I’m teaching a class on New Year’s Day at my favorite Minneapolis yoga haven YOGA Garden. As I thought about what I would use for a theme, I wasn’t too excited about the regular old 108 salutations, or the popular Sankalpa (“inspired intention”). While those are great ways to inspire and start your new year – or anything new for that matter – I wanted to continue on the themes I’ve been building in class lately, and it seemed like a perfect time to pause and dive into Shakti – the energy behind inspiration, behind action, behind consciousness. As you start a new year, bring the last year with you to assess where your energy is right now.

So! We’re gonna get snuggly with Shakti on New Years Day.

Shiva is sure a popular guy – ahem, deity. How many variations of “Om Nama Shiva,” have you heard sung, chanted, called, themed, etc. in yoga classes? In the dual-energy concept (which could be related to our western-scientific notion that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction) of Shiva and Shakti, he certainly gets a lot of attention.

But as we enter into a new year in the middle of winter, where days are shorter in the northern hemisphere, and – unless you’re in a marine bubble like San Fransisco or Ireland – its noticeably colder. Things are naturally slower, less energized. Plane fares drop, the economy generally slows at this time of year… this slow, still, darkness is all around us. This is a great time to let Shakti get to work. It makes sense – especially in our modern times with a resurgence of civil rights movements – that Shiva has gotten more attention in general. He is the process of liberation. The one that helps us get out of stuck behaviors, old patterns and habits, and helps – ahem – liberate us from our current state. When you’ve got that frustrated, oppressed, angry, stuck, how-do-I-get-outta-here feeling… liberation sounds like a fantastic thing to focus on.

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Kenneth G Libbrecht, Professor of Physics at Caltech, snowflake designer

As a creative mind, I like to see Shakti as that beautiful soft phase which allows us to be in the flow of creation. Before the heat and motion of liberation you get to slow down, and not just “do what you’re supposed to,”but listen to that little inner voice. Listen to the state of your body as it is today. Allow these concepts and this energy to guide your thoughts, your action, in a way that is sustainable and realistic. It’s creation at work: A little more red in the painting… nope, that’s too much. This recipe needs salt… and maybe some fresh herbs or citrus zest… lowering yourself in cobra enough to soften your stuck shoulders, and use your ribs and breath more… The process is often slower than we thought it would be to creating something new, and its often filled with side-steps (which can feel like missteps) and countless rounds of edits… but instead of seeing it all as a frustrating block to where you want to be, I like to see it as a gentle see-saw, going back and forth, slowly getting closer and closer to where it is that you want, what feels right.

Shakti is the power of consciousness. Your car is what will get you to the party, but with out fuel it has no power. Your body will carry you around all day, but if you weren’t alive, with the energy of life, you would move, well, nowhere.

Shakti is manifesting energy.

At the end of the day you’re tired, and you couldn’t do something concrete -something productive- to save your life. Your physical body – which is the physical piece of matter that you have to deal with, no matter the state its in as you exist today – is only as strong, and as capable as the energy you have to put into that matter. Your matter – your shiva – your “consciousness-in-real-time” we’ll call it, is kaput without the POWER of consciousness.

So hopefully this has given you some ideas about how you can better listen to your own inner energy, so that your inspirations and actions can take form in way that actually helps brings about the change you seek.

dear-2017-1-2And while we’re at it, I’ll put in a short plug that this where my own energy built into a project I’m running this winter called The Practice Project: Nine weeks of focused practice with a small group to create support around change. If you’re curious to join in, I still have slots open for the Saturday morning slot, being held at Modus Locus in S. Minneapolis on Bloomington Ave.

 

Happy 2017, all!      – Calley

MBSR Weeks 7 & 8: The Definition of Depth

mbsr-week-7-8Holy shit folks. It’s been a bit of an active couple of weeks. Like most of you (probably?), I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed, and its taken me until now to sort out what it is that I’m even feeling about my life, our lives, the collective. Let alone have something cohesive to say in a blog post?!

Six days after the election I had my final class (week 9) of MBSR. And pretty much since then, I’ve been feeling like a royal f#%* of emotions, thoughts, and whirling “what-do-I-DO-now?-let-alone-SAY-something-intelligent???,” thoughts and feelings.

On that ninth and final class, I was reminded  of what I believe in. (It seriously took me till the last class, on the last day to come full circle… this is why practice, and for me patience, never become irrelevant (As annoying as that concept is even to me. Not torch-passing-teacher-of-yoga me, but impatient-human-working-on-my-own-patterns me.) It may seem simple, but I hope at least not trite. (Although, let’s be real, shall we? I’m a white woman in the midwest, with white mid-western woman problems.) If there’s anything all these years of practice and study and travel have taught me – including my recent 9-week foray into Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and all its proven clinical studies – its that our simplest thoughts are often the most powerful, and what propel us into greater states of intellect by way of mind AND body consciousness…

It’s only in recent years – and in relatively small circles – that we’ve come to see the value of the wisdom of the body in addition to the mind. The more I learn about the idea of consciousness through yoga philosophy, the more I see that my body knows things that sometimes my mind is blind to, because I’ve spent the majority of my time each day shaping my mind a certain way…

So here is what I’ve come to, with an attempt to be clear, honest, and intelligent (fingers crossed, here we go):

  • I believe that life is about balance: Our selves in personal physical / emotional / mental / spiritual balance, in whatever ratios work for us individually. Our communities in economic / social / educational balance. Our states, our city – to – country relationships… all these things affect the greater balance of our nation. Though my leanings toward certain political beliefs are obvious to any who know me well, I aspire to be someone who is always more interested in the effort of balance, than the effort of, “I win.”
  • In this light, I understand that to believe and / or expect EVERYONE in the human race to be well, fed, loved, and mentally stable… well, kind of a farce-based notion that we do-gooders are having an awfully hard time letting go of. Does this mean I wish it were possible? Yes. Does it mean I wish harm on anyone? No. It means I understand that the very notion of balance (and ultimately the necessity for the dark and the light, shiva and shakti, to reference it to yoga) requires both sides of the equation. It is what makes us alive. It is what allows us to understand pain and suffering so that we can better appreciate health and abundance.

Now back to that bit about balance…

  • Our nation and culture has been changing a lot in the last ten years. And I believe there is a large portion of the population that has been left behind in recent years, leaving more imbalance than we’ve seen in half a generation.
  • I believe that the way out is NOT just through “love and kindness.” It IS about a LOT of that – and perhaps even shifting our focus to that — but it is also about learning how to live with tough decisions, about fighting and conceding… Especially for some of us who have had a “larger piece of the Comfort Pie,” it is about stepping outside of the comfort zone… or perhaps its about you pushing someone else’s comfort zone in order to push an idea forward.
  • Like yoga, it is about learning to deal with temporary discomfort in pursuit of something bigger, stronger, and more evolved than the current state.
  • It is about evolution.
  • Really, its the only thing Mother Nature / God / Buddah / Government / Allah / The Great Bambino-Bambina / the Magic Poobah has to offer us: a way forward.

That’s it folks. We have to move forward. The place where we now have choice is in weather or not we participate, and to what extent. Weather we act in motion or in sitting still, the clock will bring us forward no matter what.

 

That’s what I believe. That’s what I can stand behind. I believe in science to show us trends. And I believe in individuals to push the parameters, realities, and societal expectations of those trends. I do believe in acceptance of different types of people. I believe in listening. I believe in expectations. I believe what my therapist once told me that anger is evidence of a value being mis-met.

This is what I practice, this knowledge, so I can better see where I am, and where my fellow humans are, to understand how to move forward, and not leave others behind due to anger, or frustration, or fear, or greed. It doesn’t mean I won’t feel these things, or have to deal with those who feel these things… it means these feelings come from somewhere. And that somewhere is real, and it deserves some attention.

This is what I was reminded of in my last week of MBSR. And in reflecting on the election. And in hosting Thanksgiving for my family for the first time, with my partner’s family and my 94-year old grandfather who survived the great depression, WWII (including Normandy Beach on D-Day), raising children in the midwest on a mechanic’s salary, the red scare, the 60’s, the 70’s, 2001, 2008, breaking both hips, and losing his wife of 70 years. SEVENTY. The man has survivedHe has WORKED.

And we would all be well reminded of the work (dharma) we have to do. The universal element is that none of us are immune to the work of being human. None of us are immune to the charge of surviving of our own (rather entitled in this corner of the globe, yet not immune to suffering) lives. The practice of work – shaping and refining the way we work – the way we practice – the way we practice work… that’s what yoga has taught me.

 

That is what I got, my friends. This is what feels true, inclusive, and honest.

 

 

I hope to practice with you very, very soon. With love,

Calley

MBSR Mindfulness Week 4: Discipline

mbsr-week4This week’s class reminded me that even if you have been practicing yoga, mindfulness, breathing, meditation, etc. for a number of years, WOW if we don’t still have ingrained patterns. Mine? Issues with discipline…

Which also reminded me that the point of this stuff is not to “fix” something. (Which seems counter-intuitive, I know.) The point of this specific class, and these tools, is purely to bring awareness around that which already is. (MBSR is based on Vipassana Meditation which means to “see things as they are.”) Ok two soap boxes right off the bat —

  • #1) This is the reason I took this particular class, (MBSR) instead of any number of other workshops, classes, info-sandwhiches that I could have spent time and money on this fall. There has been a pervasive theme in my teaching and practice this year around OBSERVATION. The pure and simple act of not trying to change something, but just look at it. Spend time observing it, noticing it, assessing it. Which leads me to the second soap box.
  • #2) This is why practice never becomes something you don’t have to do anymore. OBSERVATION is not meant to deliver the win, the goal, the sudden “I’m all better.” Which is a very challenging concept for our minds that have been attuned to a culture of  “I want to achieve X,” and “I want to have Y,” and “if this, then that.” The point of this stuff is to expand what you know – what you are aware of – by observation. THEN you can make a more informed decision about how to act.

It’s a tricky little step that we like to skip over. We are so concerned with gettingif-this-then-that someplace the fastest way possible, that we forget the incredible value and learning potential of taking time to stand still and just watch what is already happening.

Amazingly, I’m four weeks into this course, three years into teaching this kind of thing, and thirteen years into practicing it…. and this week I was reminded that my old habit of trying to skip over and take the fast track has been winning my attention without me realizing it. What does this mean? It means, I tend to go with where I want to be, instead of practicing discipline to go through the steps that someone has laid out for me (with mountains of research to show that this process is important.) Here’s how this has played out for me:

I have a silent meditation practice that I very much enjoy. I get to take time to breathe, and bring breath and energy into the places of my body where I think I need it, when I feel that I need it within the time frame of sitting. MBSR asks the participant to listen to a 30-minute body scan every day. A voice slowly guides your attention to different parts of your body, feeling your breath, noticing this and that. Personally, I tend to find the recording distracting, and not nearly as pleasant as my silent meditation. And I have been justifying the prioritization of my silent meditation over the body scan because I strongly believe that we all need to do a better job of listening to our bodies, and I found it easier to listen to my body in silence……… ahem, and I’m also incredibly stubborn and struggle with focus and discipline.

I suddenly saw that my patterns – which I am theoretically aware of, due to former “yoga-piphanies” (realizations) during practice – were keeping me from fully engaging in THIS process… from choosing discipline which is required to try a new process, over what I know and am comfortable with. Gulp. Humility, you’re such a stubborn bitch sometimes.

Now does that mean my silent meditation practice is bad, and this other practice will be better for me? No. It means I became aware of a pattern of mine rearing its head again. Even when I was trying to be proactive, or thought I was being proactive. I am going to have patterns – we are all going to have patterns – and that is ok (and in fact good) because our patterns help us to have structure and be comfortable. On a very primal scale, our patterns help us to survive by defining when we are hungry, when we are in danger, when we need sleep, etc. But being aware of our patterns allows us to try on something different. It gives us options, and sometimes we find that our patterns are actually not serving us always, every time.

What is does mean is that we’re always going through life, so as long as we want to stay current, and have our greatest capability and potential to evolve and be present, we must must must must practice…

if-this-then-that-copy

We often think that when we have completed our study of one, we know all about two because two is one and one. We forget that we still have to make a study of “and.”

– Arthur Eddington, Astrophysicist

MBSR: Mindfulness Weeks #2 & 3

So, I live in a bubble. Actually, we all live in a bubble.

mbsrWe usually don’t like to THINK that we live in a bubble. It’s much nicer to our ego to assume that we are worldly and aware. Except that what we know from science, and what we know from practice, is that our reality is shaped by our experiences. You cannot know that which you have not experienced. Hence, innately, you have a limited perspective. It’s not your fault. It’s not my fault. It’s no one’s fault. Its just the way it is. #YoureOnlyHuman #GiveYourselfABreak

This is part of what mindfulness teaches us. It is also what the act and process of learning teaches us. (Thank – you Dad, the career educator who jammed all kinds of statistics about learning (10-year-old-Calley-eye-roll), and processes (double yen-year-old-Calley-eye-roll) into my young brain. I finally appreciate all that research information, and have accepted my own human-imperfect-state enough to say out loud, “YES, I LIVE IN A BUBBLE, AND MOST DAYS I’M NOT EVEN AWARE OF IT.” Until I am. Until we are. This is also why classes and groups are a great way to learn new things. Because while you are learning one thing, taking in information by understanding things as they relate to you, someone else is learning something entirely different, based on their experiences and way they take in information. You’re both in the same class, but your experience of the class is going to be different.

So here is what I learned about my buuble this week, by observing my experiences against the others in my MBSR class. And it was a good reminder of something I try to be very conscious of in my teaching, and to explore in my own mind, body, and breath: Practice is something that takes… well, PRACTICE. As someone who’s been practicing sports and dance and music since I was 5, and practicing yoga since I was 19, I have come to love my practices. Sometimes I do the imperfect human thing and have a little trouble making time every day for my current practices (yoga, meditation, singing, writing), but almost every time I practice, I love it.

But not everyone feels that way.

You mean, not everyone is just all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to get down to practicing!?

snow-white (,said Snow White…)

No… No.

Often, beginning a new practice is uncomfortable. Often it feels odd, and unsettling, and we loose a sense of “I know what I’m doing.” We all want to know what we’re doing. But that’s what learning and practice are about. They are about un-doing what you “know,” and exploring what you think you “understand.” And I remember that when I, myself, have been going through tough times, the actual process of a practice might not be entirely pleasant. We’re faced with fears, which we rarely like to admit. We’re faced with insecurities and negative beliefs about ourselves, and – gasp – weaknesses. We’re faced with the scars of our unpleasant life experiences. And we’re faced with stuff we didn’t even know we were dealing with, or hiding, or trying to get away from, or thought we had dealt with. So this whole practice thing takes a lot of work, and humility, and courage to go through – not around, or between, or skip onto the “fast track” stones, but THROUGH – all that stuff buried in your psyche.

But once you DO go through it… once you allow yourself to sit with it, and look at it, and just accept that its here. It’s in your lap. It’s covering you in something stanky… once you can just be there with it, and then get pulled away… and come back to it for a little more time… and then get pulled away… and come back, and get pulled away, and so on and so forth… there is something at the end that feels really really good. Like you figured something out. Like you worked hard. 

And so, after 3 weeks of my MBSR class with Terry Pearson at The Marsh, I am reminded that I have learned to enjoy the process of practice like an old good friend who will sit with you when you scrape your knee. Because they are a good friend, they’re sure-as-shit gonna pour something on that scrape that’ll hurt for a second, or maybe a minute. But its temporary, and then they’re gonna say, “hey, you can cry (scream / sweat / bleed / fart / etc.). It’s ok, you’re dealing with something, I’m here for you.” I have come to enjoy the benefit of that process, and focus on that benefit over the discomfort that the process sometimes brings.

But not everyone is there. And hey – I don’t know their experiences – maybe its way more painful for them than it is for me, I don’t know. I can’t know. And some days its not roses for me either. But I recognize that with so many years of practice under my belt, my mind is perfectly happy to be in a place of “practice.” Things do get easier with time, and I literally have thousands of hours of time in practice to my experience. But setting the foundation for a practice takes ….well, I bet you can finish my sentence…

practice

Which is why I freaking LOVE this video that simplifies and de-bunks common thought about meditation (from the perspective of those who have not developed a practice.):

 

How

HOW -Its all just information. What you do with it is what we call practice or process. How you practice shapes the patterns of your life.

Ok, you’re stuck.

But when we don’t know HOW to get better, move past it, get over it, shrug it off, push through, etc., it can feel like a lost cause. We all – myself included – have fallen subject to that old voice that tells us that we’re different… a loner… an odd ball out. Someone offers a remedy – a correction – and the immediate pattern of the mind goes to, “They don’t understand.”

Which may be true! They don’t understand. But that is not the point, right? The point is you feel lost and frustrated as to why you can’t seem to do the thing you want to do. You’re stuck. And this always happens. And you don’t know why it always seems to happen to you.

Ok, what does this have to do with Warrior II? Yoga is about bringing a union – a connection – between what we think, what we feel, and what we do. Meaning that every idea we have, has a physical pattern in time. When our thoughts about our physical abilities are challenged… and changed (wink, wink)… and the physical result of that is being able to perform a new physical pose… well, then, what does that say about our other thought patterns? Which brings me to my new favorite phrase of late:

THOUGHTS become THINGS

 

 

 

 

 

It’s easy to forget – or maybe you didn’t know – that the brain is able to change beyond stuck. (Thanks Dr. Ruth Buczynski PhD.)

When you can look at your problem, and the factors which contributed to why you are stuck, with different eyes… maybe hear it as a different problem… maybe just be willing to try something different even if you’re 99% sure its not going to work… now we’re getting to the inside of HOW.

SO THIS IS THE TRICKY LITTLE SWITCH TO FLIP.

When you don’t know how, or you’ve lost your hope that you can figure it out…well, you have to be willing to try something different. And you may not know immediately if this idea / remedy / tool / practice tactic is going to work, but in order to even try the idea / pick up the tool / attempt the practice tactic, you have to make that switch from impossible to possible. And it can be helpful to know that the very pattern of the mind that got you here, can help you get out. WHAA??  Ok, this is cool, stick with me.

Observe where you are for a moment. Observe what was either lacking or in excess that put you in this place. Now imagine that the very process which brought you here to this crappy, stuck place, is the backwards process to getting out of it. Here’s 3 ways to look at this idea:

#1) SIMPLE WORDS

MIND –> perceives what it sees (influence).
 
FOCUS –> shift from moving out a.k.a. “external experience,” to moving inward a.k.a. “internal experience.”
 
FEEL –> use perception and labeling of external to perceive and label internal
 
–> From here, we learn to feel MORE, and in DIFFERENT ways
 

#2) UNDERSTANDING NEUROPLASTICITY

 Print

#3) TRY IT BACKWARDS

Try It Backwards
Hopefully this gives you a new way to look at HOW… which is how it happens in the first place. ✨✨✨✨