Santosha – Contentment

This Wednesday marks three years since I started meditating daily. I celebrate today by writing about my yoga book club topic for this month from the Niyamas – Santosha.

This concept, contentment, has been an enjoyable one for me, especially considering the ways in which the messages we receive via so many channels are meant to induce longing within us. They convince us that we lack something outside of ourselves to be happy.  The emotions we feel then drive us toward what brings us pleasure, and move us toward avoiding discomfort or boredom.

By staying centered and aware of what is going on within us, we can stay in a place of contentment rather than longing. We can be grateful for all the amazing gifts this life brings, and the plethora of blessings that have come our way. We can realize the freedom that most of us enjoy to choose the responses we want to bring to our circumstances.

Santosha with Willy
My cat Willy is very good at Santosha, something I am still learning.

I am starting to understand that life is about 50/50 – about half positive emotions and half negative. Without some of each, we would never know true joy, and we would never be able to empathize with the pain we all experience as humans.

When we come to accept this reality, and to feel content without constantly seeking, we experience what Swami Rama noted, that “contentment is falling in love with your life.” Nothing is missing in this moment. Life is complete as it is right now.

Are there places in your life where it is hard to be grateful? What if you could embrace all of the changing dynamics in your life, and dance with them? What if you could see them as temporary, as ever-changing, and just a part of the greater flow? 

***

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Time as a construct

I danced on Sunday at a place that’s become a favorite gathering at least once a month for me, and for a fellow yoga teacher who first invited me there.

It’s called “Dance Church” and it takes place at the Tapestry Folk Dance Center in Minneapolis from 11am to 1pm most Sundays (check their facebook page first in case there are other events).

She looked at the clock which read 12:45 and said: I didn’t realize the time had gone so quickly! Me, thinking that people had forgotten to turn the clock back thought: 11:45! I thought I had been dancing for longer than 10 minutes! In fact, the time was ~12:05…

dance church graphic
Graphic from the Dance Church facebook page.

I hadn’t looked at my phone and wasn’t wearing a watch. Eventually someone got up to change the clock to the “correct” time.

But the point had already been made for mewhen you are lost in a moment of flow, or the pure enjoyment of a moment, you lose all sense of time.

Also, the idea of “correct” time had me thinking of the fact that time is designated purely for arbitrary and convenience reasons. Daylight savings time changes are archaic back and forth switches that mess with our natural circadian rhythms.

It has been difficult for me to explain to people that when I am completely in “writing world” or perhaps doing something I enjoy, like dance, yoga, or sometimes even working at my new job, time can feel suspended. I have no sense of the “feeling” of time passing.

In contrast, when I am doing something I do not enjoy, or immersed in chores that aren’t my favorite, I am keenly aware of the time passing.

When I first started to meditate, I could sit for maybe 3 minutes before I would want to bolt. All of that silence got my mind stories to play far too loudly and it was hard for me to relax. I’ve since learned that anchoring with the breath, with sensations in the body or the sounds around me has helped reduce the “noise” of my mind.

People who study quantum physics, as well as many mystics, often say that time is an illusion. When the leap was made from linear, 3-dimensional thinking to quantum, infinitely dimensional thinking, suddenly the space opened up for new relationships with time.

What is your relationship with time? Do you think there is never enough? Do you feel an abundance of time when you can be fully present? 

May you, my dear readers, be curious and open to the experiences that captivate your time.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Yoga for over-thinkers Week 4 – Brahmacharya

This week’s yoga class will focus on the 4th of the Yamas, Brahmacharya, or non-excess. The term literally means to “walk with God” and it is a guideline to leave greed and excess behind while we experience the world with wonder and awe. When we attend to each moment as holy, we are less inclined to feel lacking, and to over-indulge.

Salad from Campus Club
Rather than eat ALL of this beautiful salad in one sitting, I got a to-go box to eat half of it later. Serving sizes are so big!

My experience with this concept is first as a practice with food and with consciousness around eating. For many years I struggled with this, since food was used as a coping mechanism in my family, a way to dull our feelings. We were not allowed to express anger, and I recall getting ice cream more than once when I was sad rather than just being able to cry.

I have since learned that all feelings, even difficult ones like grief or loneliness, are tolerable if we sit with them rather than resist them. Acknowledging that our feelings are valid, and having compassion for ourselves (practicing ahimsa) and our basic humanity, can go a long way toward curbing any sense of “lack.”

Sometimes uncomfortable truths can emerge for us, and that can lead us to want to eat, or spend, or distract ourselves rather than to courageously act to improve our situation. This is a natural impulse, to stay with our familiar patterns rather than to move outside our comfortable habits.

Many of us can relate to an excess of busy-ness in our lives, a pull to be “always on” and always positive. And yet, acknowledging our need for rest, for pauses in our day, and for experiencing the whole spectrum of emotion is how we realize we are whole. We are never lacking. In every moment, there is abundance, if we can take the time and space to become present.

May you, my lovely readers, take time to slow down, take good care of yourself, and realize the abundance within you.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

Yoga for over-thinkers Week 3 – Asteya

Asteya, the third of the Yamas of yoga is about living with integrity and reciprocity in our lives. It is about noticing the abundance of each moment, so we have no need to “steal” from it by obsessing about the past or worrying about the future.

In the same vein, asteya challenges us to work for what we want by building our competence. The Sanskrit word adikara refers to the right to know or the right to have. The concept is about exercising our intention and our practices in order to align those goals and desires responsibly. Our adikara helps maintain the “container” for what we receive in our lives.

calvin-during-savasana.jpg
My cat Calvin joins in during my Tuesday savasana practice. He knows when Mom is blissed out and cozy. 

When we are on a path that honors our greater sense of purpose in the world, we have no need to envy other’s accomplishments. We can feel joy on their behalf, as we acknowledge universal possibilities for success. We can feel curious about others and excited to connect and learn from them.

Practicing asteya can help us understand how to lift others up without putting ourselves down. Of course, it is always important to keep the first two yamas of ahimsa (non-violence) and satya (truthfulness) as a foundation to this practice.

At times we steal from our own energy when we feel compelled to work beyond our needs for rest, for example. We then risk working beyond healthy boundaries, and not honoring our truth in needing replenishment. This can arise from a scarcity mindset.

When we live in our own abundance, we notice just how many beautiful gifts surround us. Whether they are parks, libraries, forests, lakes or rivers, these gifts represent grace that we do not earn. We can contemplate how to live in reciprocity with this beautiful earth that we will steward for our collective future.

And on to design some practices to embody this concept. Did I mention how much I love teaching?   🙂

***

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Drama vs math – on financial clarity

On Tuesday I was set to do my semi-monthly financial accounting. I did not want to do it, and I could feel myself procrastinating and avoiding it as much as possible. So I practiced something I have learned to help me figure out my thoughts when I am having trouble moving forward – a thought download in my journal.

Our thoughts create our emotions, our emotions drive our actions (or behavior), and our actions are what determine our results. I needed to figure out which thoughts were causing my resistance/discomfort which was driving my avoidance. What I determined that I was creating drama about what the numbers would mean, ahead of the clarity of even knowing them. In the end, my bank balances, investments and credit balances are just math.

I was afraid I would beat myself up for not saving enough, or feel a sense of scarcity as we get to the end of my “runway” as far as getting more income rolling by this point. But then I realized that I am committed to this journey, and while things may be tight for a while, I have a lot of options to consider.

picture of money in hand
Photo credit link

Even before I got the numbers down on paper, I decided to think different thoughts, like: what a blessing it was to have saved up the money to have time off between my job and my new venture. I can also think: I am resilient and always figure out what I need to do next. These thoughts are true, and felt better than the scarcity thoughts I had manufactured.

Once I got the numbers down on paper, and figured out where things stood, I felt so much better. Nothing is worse that feeling of confusion or fogginess about reality, and not being able to make good decisions as a result. I realized, through a bit of self-coaching and compassion toward myself, I could choose not to get caught up in story or the drama my mind was creating.

Now that I am clear on where things stand, I can make better decisions going forward. Looking at the math, and evaluating the situation based on a more generative and abundant mindset was key to getting that task done. I am grateful that I have learned tools for emotional management that will serve me well going forward.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com