Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Being Still

There is a certain meditative quality to gardening. When you are pulling weeds, walking back and forth pushing a mower, or deadheading spent flowers, the task at hand requires just enough of our attention to keep our mind from going into over-drive yet open enough to listen to our heart and our mind, offer prayers or just listen. 

I thought of this this afternoon while deadheading my butterfly bushes. I want to keep the shrubs clean for the photographers who frequent the garden so they can capture images of the butterflies and humming birds without worrying about big, dead blooms ruining the shot.  And truth be told, I like things a particular way and spent flowers do not fit into my garden vision.

As I stood there, deadheading the shrubs, I thought about prayer and how we, or at least I, spend a lot of time talking, praying and not a lot of time listening. We pray to talk to God. We talk to our friends and our family as well but when we talk with them we know, unless we are fabulously socially awkward, to let the other person respond. Do we remember to pause and let God respond?  

I have been reading about the Blessed Mother. She was visited by an angel who told her the greatest news. If she was constantly talking to God, or running around or intensely absorbed with her routine and chores, would she have heard the angel? A rather unfair example I admit since she was unique among all women. But it is still a good example for us. If we are to hear the messages God has for us, are we being quiet, calm and still long enough to hear Him?

Gardening can be a spiritual practice, if you are open to it. You work with your hands, touching the earth, the plants and the bugs. Gardening takes our attention away from ourselves and points it towards others. Gardening helps us to stop thinking about what we want and need, and think about how what we are doing can be of benefit to others, caring for plants, feeding and sheltering birds creating beauty for our neighbors or visitors to a park. 

When we stop thinking I we can hear responses to our prayers.

Be Quiet
Be Calm
Be Still

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Not Sure where to begin

I have been away from this blog for a rather long time. So, I feel comfortable just writing, not planning out well crafted posts that are hopefully meant to drive readers to this page. I am starting a new project, Oh No!! Darryl will say--I have a lot of projects and sometimes, I get behind on some AKA my yoga classes :-(
Anyway this new project is more of a spiritual journey, perhaps, that may be inspired by research for a garden book. I say perhaps because there are two things happening at once. I am starting research on a garden book that could be a spiritual journey due to the nature of the  book. Second, the world is amazingly scary and, violent and screwed up right now. Anyone who sees even a glimpse of the news can tell you as much. I see the beginning of another Holocaust-  terrifying to me. I see a vast majority of people doing nothing, saying nothing. i do not see the news reporting the truth, the entirety of what is happening- too gruesome to go into great detail here, but it involves exterminating Jews and Christians..

All of this horrific news has stirred something inside me- a desire to explore my faith. I miss Catholic Mass. Why I have not been going in years need not be discussed now. I do go to the Pilgrim Chapel at times, but it is more community and social than spiritual to me. I long for the ceremony, tradition, reverence, quiet prayer, the symbolism and yes, even the statues of the Blessed Mother, Jesus and the apostles- they are all the fabric of my faith and I have come to learn that not seeing them leaves a bit of a hole in my heart. I feel a bit lost, underground - adrift.

As I start his new research project for the garden book I may discover that I have a shallow soul, that my faith and heart are weak and that a deep, honest relationship with God, my faith and myself is something I am simply not ready for or able to achieve right now. 

Isn't this part of the journey though? Venturing into the unknown, not knowing where you will end up, not knowing if you can make it to the next place in your spiritual self? It is scary to think i may be shallow- what will I do with that  should it come to pas? 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Getting better ... Sometimes

Sometimes I feel like I am getting better on the mat and other days not so much. I was MIA for a week due to a crazy schedule and not feeling quite right. That first day back on the mat felt wonderful. I could tell I was out of practice but it was not like starting from day one.

I started writing about my yoga practice here, but then an opportunity came up to share my thoughts on Shine Yoga Studio's blog, where I go for classes. For my most recent entry for Shine I wrote about leaving our competitive nature at the door when it comes to yoga. 

"When we practice yoga we focus on the positive, being happy about where we are and finding our own limits rather than where we think we should be. Replacing those negative thoughts, those feelings of, I will only be good, achieved, a master when I ... is replaced with positive thoughts and feeling about yourself, your body and skill by realizing what you are doing in that moment is fabulous.How often do you get to say, what I am in this moment is fabulous and is exactly where I should be? Not often. And I think we could all use a little more, I am fabulous as I am, in our lives!"

Monday, January 13, 2014

Easing Back to the Mat

Saying I had to ease back to the mat this week after only being a student for a few months sounds a bit strange until you hear why I was AWOL for over a week. I had the flu. I joked the other day that I would rather have a cold than one of my migraines, and well, I got one heck of a cold and flu. Note to self- be careful what you wish for!

A few sad attempts at working punctuated a week spent taking hot baths, sitting with a heating pad set on hot and lots of sleeping.  At least once a day I tried to spend some time on the mat. Poses that stretched the back and shoulders were a great relief for tight, twisted muscles that ached and joints that seemed to crack like brittle wood. Moving, stretching and getting away from the sick bed and sofa for a few moments on the mat where I feel energized and strong helped me feel healthier.  Finally, Monday, I made it to a class and it felt wonderful! Felicia reminded me that I only have to do what I can. If it is a short morning routine on the mat at home, sitting on the mat for ten minutes, even thinking about yoga- it is all good. You do what you can.

You do what you can. Why is that such a hard lesson for us to learn? We want to push ourselves. We want to present, with a puffed out chest and slight weary look on our faces, our laundry list of what we accomplished for the day. Why? Yes, there are things that must be done but to what cost do we push ourselves to get it all done plus ten-fold more in one day? I am certain if I listened more to my body and rested earlier in the week the illness would not have lingered so long.

Yoga teaches us to take small breaks in our practice, if only for a moment. We learn to take a deep breath, push ourselves a bit, but not to go to the point of pain.  We should carry that forward to the rest of our day.  

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Short, Sweet and Restorative

It was only a half an hour, but that time on the yoga mat this morning was exactly what I needed. Yoga mat spread out by the Christmas tree for the last time, snow coming down outside the picture window and a cup of hot coffee close by; it was a slow, gentle start to the day.

I had a two hour yoga class yesterday! I will admit I was a bit apprehensive about tackling two hours, but new friends and wonderful teachers made for a fabulous class. I was reminded (I wonder how long it will take to really learn this lesson) that it is not how much you do, it is just the act of coming to class and doing your best.

After class and a fun gab chat at the coffee shop with two new friends, I was out of commission with one of my worst migraines ever. I cannot complain, or perhaps I should not complain considering I used to get them a few times a week. This one was a whopper and it left me feeling very sore and worn out this morning. It's like getting hit by a truck. So I took it slow this morning and already I can feel the tension in my shoulders and neck melting way and the hurt from yesterday's migraine dissipating.

After a morning of photography at the park and writing, I think a slow 30 minutes on the yoga mat will be in order this afternoon to keep the muscles relaxed and limber and correct from hours spent sitting at a desk.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Learning to Think the Truth

Felicia started today's class with a reading from Eckhart Tolle. She read and spoke about understanding the difference between thoughts and facts- what is an what we create in our mind. I read Eckhart Tolle many years back during a transitional period in my life. What I found particularly helpful is his conversation about Ego and understanding how we react and what we are thinking is often not truthful. Many times what we think and feel about a situation is not based on the situation at hand but on what is happening now plus how we are still dealing with past events, trying to guess what the other person is thinking or feeling, our own doubts, insecurities and fears and a slew of other emotions all swirled together and attributed to the situation at hand. Whew... Needless to say, what we are thinking and feeling is not the truth about the situation at hand. There's just too much baggage muddling our thoughts and feelings. 

Here's another way to look at it. Sometimes on our hikes there is someone who feels defeated because she is the slowest or takes the most rests climbing a steep hill. She may say- I am horrible at this, I am just not a hiker.  That's her thoughts, her mind interpreting, to her detriment, its impression of the facts at hand. Fact: she is hiking a long hike, maybe 12+ miles. Fact: it is a STEEP hill. Fact: most people don't walk a mile more less take on a fast paced hike with others who hike weekly. Fact: she is simply tired, pushing herself harder than ever before, a bit out of practice...  But she is a hiker, because she is hiking. 

Instead of seeing the positive and the accomplishment of the day's hike, if she lets her thoughts rule her heart, she will see the day as a failure instead of the wondrous day it truly was spent outside, with new friends, in the woods, getting a heck of a good workout and a well deserved post-hike beer.

In my yoga classes I am trying to take this one step further. I do not want to compare myself to the other students and risk judging my own progress based on what they are accomplishing with the posses. Nor do I want to get lax and think to myself, well at least I am here. The honest responses I think should be, this is hard, this was easier, I feel weak here, oh, I feel strong here, look my foot is flat on the floor!  I want my practice in yoga to teach me to think and feel in direct relationship to what I am doing on the mat in that moment. And that is all. 

Art: Serene, by Bella Dos Santos

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Morning Prayers and Shaking Off Bad Dreams

Some dreams leave me laughing and scratching my head and others slightly annoyed; like when I dream I am up dressed, showered and ready for work only to wake up to realize it was a dream and I have to do it all over. Arghh. At least I know what to wear. Then there are those that leave me sad. They are strong dreams; dreams that take hold of me and follow me around the morning like a dark cloud.

There is so much to do today and tomorrow morning, plus work, that I wanted to get up and start knocking things off the list. Then I saw my yoga mat. Reluctantly I sat down and tried to ignore my nagging to-do list and my grey dream cloud. It's Christmas Eve, a day of rejoicing, peace and new beginnings. I needed to get my balance back.

I did a little yoga, just a few poses, and I prayed. I sat quietly and said a prayer of gratitude and pictured warm, bright light illuminating my dark dream cloud. 

I really cannot speak too much on what Yoga is; I am far too new to the practice. I do know that classes are infused with time for finding balance. Sometimes it is guided meditation, sometimes it is holding a pose and just being in that moment. In my Sunday morning class we begin our time with some wondrous insights and words of reflection by Karen, our teacher, and we conclude class with quiet meditation.

Is't that prayer? It is to me. In the quiet times of classes I pray. 

This morning my yoga mat reminded me to stop, let my body and mind awaken and spend time in quiet prayer.