If you want to be successful in something, you have to show up to practice, study and go through all the lessons that go with it. This is true of our yoga practice as well. Yoga is a great journey. And the biggest step in that journey is just showing to class, rolling out our mat and surrendering to the practice - without ego, without goals, without expectation.
Have you shown up for your yoga journey today?
This month, I held a special yoga party and invited some of my closest friends along to join me. Our theme was "Let Go!" We practiced several yoga postures, letting go of the tension in our muscles and joints. And then we committed to making our lives better by letting go of the things in life which hold us back and no longer serves us. It was a fun and nourishing practice.
So what's holding you back? What do you need to let go of to lead a healthier and happier life?
Let me hear from you!
Here's a photo of me and Kristin Dickerson of NBC5. Kristin did a wonderful report on meditation and its many benefits in promotion of an upcoming free lecture and guided meditation event to be presented by Brother Bhumananda, a monk of the Self-Realization Fellowship Monastic Order. I was so honored to be a part of this news story. You can watch the video by clicking here: NBC5 News Story on Meditation
Let me know what you think of the story! And join us for the free lecture on Wednesday, April 11th, 2018 at 7pm at Unity of Dallas, 6525 Forest Lane, Dallas, TX 75230.
Hello, Friends! I hope you've had a fantastic beginning of spring and that your 2018 is living up to all your hopes and dreams for it. If not, there’s still plenty of time to turn it around and bend it to your will. But to bend it to your will, you'll need enormous will power and for that you’ll need an equally strong mind.
The mind is a wondrous thing, an instrument that few have mastered and most don’t understand. We can be slaves to our minds, letting it rule us through endless desires, beliefs in our own limitations and unworthiness, likes and dislikes, prejudices, ignorance and more. On the bright side of things, the mind can be one of our greatest friends and allies in creating the life we want, a life of peace, prosperity, joy, love and health.
Though the mind is a mystery, most of us do realize that the mind is ever busy — processing numerous sensory perceptions, working, worrying, creating and recalling memories and understanding (and misunderstanding) all sorts of things.
With our restless minds always at work, wouldn’t it be nice to quiet the mind and take a mental vacation, freeing ourselves from the endless cravings and non-stop thoughts? That mental haven is completely possible with the practice of meditation. Meditation allows us to hit “pause” on our crazy, busy lives, to create space between our thoughts, to consciously connect with our higher self and to delve deeply into an inner peace that expands our consciousness, allowing us to feel more love and joy and our interconnectedness to all beings.
Meditation is a beautiful practice and it is available to each and every one of us.
I invite you to join me at "Finding Peace Through Meditation" a free lecture and guided meditation event on Wednesday, April 11th, 2018 presented by Brother Bhumananda, a monk of the Self-Realization Fellowship Order. The lecture is on the Kriya Yoga teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, author of the highly acclaimed, spiritual classic "Autobiography of a Yogi” and founder of Self-Realization Fellowship. Come join me for this enlightening and peaceful event.
In addition to teaching yoga, I also make films. Most recently, I wrote, produced and directed the short film “Priyanath.” (You can view the film trailer and learn more about the project here: Priyanath Short Film.) The film was inspired by a story found within “Autobiography of a Yogi.” Published in 1946, the book has sold million of copies, been translated into forty-eight languages and inspired countless individuals worldwide. I find myself continually inspired by the book and the Kriya yoga teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda. Come learn more about the man and the teachings first hand at the upcoming meditation event. And bring a friend. All are welcome to attend!
In Peace and Love,
For the past several years, the advertisements for Shen Yun, the Chinese classical dance performance have popped up on cue just like the holidays. The show blows into town at the top of year bringing promising to be a spectacular event. The reviews are filled with comments like “exquisitely beautiful”, “an extraordinary experience” and superb!
Well, this year, I finally had the opportunity to see the show and I was blown away. It was superb and magnificent, all the reviews had stated. I was enchanted and captivated by the music, the colors, costumes and, of course, those most extraordinary dancers. My eyes were glued to every move they made. Their movements were graceful and soft, powerful and explosive, rhythmic and ephemeral, meditative and entrancing. I was amazed at how they moved with precision, grace and strength. Truth is, I’m always amazed at how dancers move, how they find beautiful, unparalleled expression through their bodies and how they can accomplish this with their bodies when the rest of us with bodies cannot. It mesmerizes me and it reminds me of the practice of yoga.
While dance is meant to entertain, transport and transform the audience by expressing the human condition through movement and music, yoga transforms the individual through movement, concentration and breath, improving our personal human condition and bringing us more love peace and happiness. Both dance and yoga require practice; and both are arts that bring about incredible healing.
Sitting watching Shen Yun, I thought about the incredible discipline and all the hard work it takes to be one of those dancers. How much they give up for their careers, for what they love! And so we yogis must also be disciplined, hard working and persevering, giving up all attachments to find the enlightenment we seek. Know that it’s out there as we move, breath and dance in this wide, vast universe.
While watching the show, the emcee explained to the audience that the meaning of Shen Yun is “the beauty of divine beings dancing.” I thought to myself well how apropos because the show is spectacularly beautiful and so was each one of the dancers. But the beauty doesn’t end with the dancers or the show. It extends to the audience and to each and every one of us for we are all beautiful, divine beings dancing. Dance on, my beautiful, extraordinary friends. You are light, love and joy!
Thinking over the wonderful experiences I had last year, I remember one of my favorites was the opportunity to share yoga with the hard working employees of Dallas County at the Dallas County HR and Sheriff Department Health Fair. Over the course of the day, I met new friends and had the pleasure of introducing them to yoga and meditation. Having heard about the many benefits of yoga and being curious about the popularity of the practice, many of them were willing to try yoga with me there at the fair for the very first time.
We stretched, breathed and found a little peace and silence together in the span of just a few minutes right there in the Central Jury Room at the Frank Crowley Courthouse. Many of the new yogis felt renewed and relaxed after those few short minutes of yoga practice. One woman even got instant relief from a migraine under which she had been suffering. It reminds me that it doesn’t take much time or even much effort to practice yoga on a daily basis. Even a few minutes of mindfulness or conscious breathing at our desks or in our cars can bring us a welcome break from our busy days, instantly uplift us and give us a greater peace of mind.
Want to try it? Take a few moments to connect with your breath right now. No worries. I’ll wait. :-)
(Be sure to consult with your doctor before performing yoga or breathing exercises to make sure you’re within your healthy range of activity.)
Close your eyes. Sit up nice and tall, lengthening the spine. Place your feet flat on the floor or sit cross-legged. Rest your palms face up or down on your thighs. Scan your body for places where you may be holding tension and consciously relax those areas and the entire body. Make sure you loosen the jaw and relax the shoulders.
Take a moment to notice your breath. Are your breaths long, short, shallow, steady? Just make an observation, noticing how you feel.
Now begin to lengthen your breaths. Inhale deeply and smoothy for a count of 6. Then pause or hold your breath for a count of 2. Then exhale steadily for a count of 6. Then pause or hold your breath for a count of 2 then return to the inhale breath starting the cycle over again. Note: your counts may be quick or slow depending on your lung capacity. Either is fine. Continue this breath for two to three minutes. If at any point you feel lightheaded or discomfort, stop and return to normal breathing.
Once you complete the exercise, notice the difference in how you feel. Do you feel more calm, grounded, balanced, clear headed, connected? I hope so. (You can let me know in the comments below.) It doesn’t take long to create more serenity in your life. If my new friends and I can create a few moments of peace in a courthouse, I dare say peace can be found anywhere we take a moment to consciously connect with our breath.
Just keep breathing.
There is so much going on in the world today - so many atrocities, tragedies. Sometimes the things I see on the news or read in an article make me angry or upset or bring tears to my eyes. But it also makes me grateful for what I do have and for the blessings I have in my life. Not that I need to see the sufferings of others to make me grateful because I am grateful already. But it just magnifies the blessings that I have. Recently, I walked through a new, big and beautiful Whole Foods grocery store. I saw all the people walking around buying their expensive this, expensive that, fancy food items, fresh waters, teas, fancy beers and whatnot. But what stuck in my head at that moment were the pictures I had recently seen of Rohingya Muslim refugees living in squalor in make-shift camps in Bangladesh.
Comparing and contrasting the clean beauty and bountifulness of the Whole Foods and the misery and destitution of the Rohingya Muslim refugees reminded me of how truly blessed I am as so many of us are. The simple pleasures of clean water, hot meals, warm beds are so often overlooked in our materialistic society where we want more pleasure, money, comfort and convenience faster than ever.
Santosha asks us to be content with what we have, to not take more than what we need and to accept others, ourselves and our circumstances as they are, meeting life with equanimity despite its ups and downs, successes and failures and numerous struggles. The magic is that when we are able to meet all of life’s circumstances with equanimity, we are then able to ground ourselves in unshakeable peace. Sure, it’s a tall order, but the sages and saints proved it can be done; so we can dive right in and try too.
One of the ways we can get to that unshakeable peace is to practice gratitude, which I see as an important part of santosha. I believe it’s harder for us to be unhappy and dissatisfied with our lives (including what we have or don’t have) when we are focused on how blessed we are and feeling gratitude in our hearts. For example, its harder to be angry about a morning rush hour traffic jam when we are actively contemplating the fact that we are lucky to have a job to go to that provides for us and our families and that we have four reliable wheels to get us there. This doesn’t mean we don’t look for a new job that might bring in more money or make better use of our skills and talents because we are grateful for the current job. Rather it makes us focus on the sunny side of things. Yep, gratitude makes us more optimistic and happy, helping us delight more in the blooms of life instead of cursing the thorns. And that goes a long way to making life better for ourselves and spreading joy around us.
I’ve blogged about gratitude several times this year because it seems it’s something that has been steady on my heart since earlier this year. I guess it’s apropos to end the year once again talking about gratitude, especially since this is the season of gratitude, a season for us to hold our families closer and to be thankful for what we have - family, friends, health, jobs, goals we met and making it through another year.
It’s also time to make our New Year’s resolutions, to set our trails for 2018. There are several goals I have for the new year, but one thing I really want more of in the new year? Well, gratitude — because gratitude opens our hearts, fills us with love and humility and makes us present to the joy and blessings of the moment. And really, who wouldn’t want more of that? So, this year as you make your list of things you want to have, do or accomplish in 2018, consider all the goodness you already have in your life and the great things you have already achieved. You may feel a lift in your spirit where happiness resides.
With Love and Gratitude,
Having the pleasure of hosting two of my young friends visiting from out of town for the week, I knew I had to make sure they witnessed this week’s stunning solar eclipse. At the ages of twelve and seventeen, they had never had the opportunity to see one before. So bright and early on Monday morning, we traveled to a local planetarium where we waited to buy a couple pairs of the remaining 140 pairs of solar eclipse glasses the planetarium had left. When we arrived at the planetarium about two hours before the glasses were to go on sale, there were a dozen people ahead of us. This is what happens when you wait until the last minute to take part in such a spectacular event. Getting up early and seeing the people ahead of us gave me flashbacks of Black Fridays past. With our arrival at the planetarium, we eager eclipse watchers quickly organized ourselves and decided to pass out numbers to all present according to arrival time so as to avoid any confusion or chaos when the glasses went on sale. Seems none of us wanted a Black Friday brawl over a chance to stare at the sun. Perhaps these sun gazers were also peace loving treehuggers, just my kind of tribe.
By the time the planetarium ticket office opened, the line of sun gazers had curled upon itself. Luckily for us, our early arrival guaranteed us the solar eclipse glasses we needed to feast our eyes upon the sun. But before the big event, we sat down to enjoy a show in the planetarium’s dome theater.
As we settled into the darkness and viewed the countless stars above our heads, the planetarium’s astrophysicist showed us the planets in our solar system, the sun, the moon and explained what happens during a solar eclipse. But before ending our lesson and ushering us out to see the big event of the day, he did one of my favorite things. He showed us our solar system and then zoomed out from the solar system to show us exactly where we are within the Milky Way. If you’ve never seen this before, it’s amazing. We are minuscule! We’re on a minor arm of the Milky Way called the Orion Spur and the solar system isn’t visible without zooming way, way in. The vastness is mind blowing for me every time! And it puts everything into perspective for me, reminding me that we are so infinitesimal that we aren’t even the ants of the universe. Thanks for that, Mr. Astrophysicist.
At the show’s end and now knowing our sun’s place and our place in the galaxy, we ventured out into the sunlight to see this much anticipated event of the day. Donning our retro, yet futuristic solar eclipse glasses, we gazed up at the sun and watched the moon coolly pass over it, creating a beautiful crescent sun. My friends, my cousin and I decided it was a perfect moment to share in savasana - a resting yoga pose. So, we stretched a blanket out on the ground and partook in this resting yoga pose and glanced up at the wonder in the sky.
Lying there in savasana looking up at something much larger than ourselves and yet something so tiny in the universe, I realized the perfection and connection of the moment. Patanjali’s eightfold path of yoga includes the yamas and niyamas which form a moral code of conduct. One of the niyamas is Ishvara pranidhana which basically means surrender to something larger than yourself. Surrender to love, to peace, to God, to the Universe. Surrender to and serve something larger than yourself. At that moment, staring up at the sun and moon, I couldn’t help but think how millions of us across the country at that same moment were collectively surrendering to something larger than ourselves whether we realized it or not, bringing us closer in love and spirit. And at a time of such virulence and divisiveness in our country, it is desperately needed. So let us continue to do it!
Ishvara pranidhana, my friends. Surrender, surrender, surrender.
I am grateful for this harmonious experience and I am forever changed.
Much love! Namaste!
Well, we are nearing the end of the Memorial Day weekend. It’s a welcomed, much needed, three-day vacation for many of us and the unofficial start of summer. But we must remember it is so much more. The holiday is meant to honor and remember those who served in our military and paid the ultimate price for our many freedoms.
Our freedoms have been costly. And it is those brave heroes who went into battle for love of country that we have to thank. So, together let us be grateful for the many blessings we have as American citizens, blessings secured for us by the men and women who have served and laid down their lives for the causes of our country.
Yogi Bhajan has said, “The attitude of gratitude is the highest yoga.” And today, we can all be yogis by simply being grateful because Memorial Day is indeed all about gratitude.
Today, I hope that each of us can take a moment of silence to express deep gratitude to those who have lost their lives serving our country. And may we also remember those who are currently serving in our military. Taking a moment to be grateful adds beauty and peace to our lives. It doesn’t require us to pull out our yoga mats or stretch ourselves into the fullest expression of a yoga pose. But it does expand our hearts, filling us with more love and a deeper connection to others and the world around us. And for that I am grateful.
With Gratitude and Love, Namaste
Anietie blogs about what moves her which is usually yoga, the arts and love.