Out of all of the ways my seat has shaped and continues to shape me, I have sensed its ripples most through gratitude, mindfulness, and lightness.Read More
To get caught up in our own heads and hearts is inevitable, as we exist in this world as particular beings. And truthfully, honoring that individuality is what empowers us to move out into the world, to create change and spread love in ways that only we can.Read More
"We will not discover our place in the world. We must design our place in the world." –Courtney Romano, author of "The First Ten Years"
Choices. Our lives are laden with them, and the spectrum across which they exist—from insubstantial to life changing—is extraordinarily broad. A number of choices I made last summer provoked massive change in my life, and ripples of those same choices have continued to bubble at the surface of my headspace and heart, stirring up a fierce desire for further change and, more specifically, a life of my own design. I recognize that seeking such a goal is a luxury, a product of my country and relative economic status, so for that I am grateful and even more determined to pursue what my freedom and privilege makes possible.
My overarching career goal at this point has triggered great transformations in my work life and offered up free time in a way I haven’t experienced since childhood. This shift in my work-life balance is immensely exciting but begs for an investigation of the self, or svadhyaya, as we identify self-study in the realm of yoga. Where do my priorities lie in regards to the larger sectors of my life and within each of these arenas? How must my daily, seemingly inane choices be altered to serve my greater goals and values? Perhaps most importantly, how will I muster the necessary courage, patience, perseverance, and compassion to support me through an ever-evolving process and nudge me closer and closer to what I hope to achieve?
I’ve realized lately that in pushing so hard in pursuit of the life I’ve dreamed for myself, I have largely disregarded the inevitable yin and yang balance that becomes requisite in sustaining a purpose-driven life. In yoga, we speak of the warmer and cooler sides of the body, linked to the Sun and the Moon, the masculine and feminine energies. To ignore this duality that so clearly exists in both our bodies and the natural world is to negate an inherent structure of our nature. To dismiss our potential for coolness through rest, relaxation, and reflection counters one’s opportunity to be balanced. Heat, fueled by and for our passions, jets us ever forward, always toward something more. Tapas, as we identify this barreling fire in yoga, ensures we do not lead complacent lives, filling our time with action and growth. But is it not incredibly valuable, too, to recognize that which we have already accomplished? To not get entirely carried away by ambition? Sitting where we are even for a moment or two throughout a day to dig our heels deeper into the ground we have set builds a more solid foundation from which to spring. Indeed, we rarely arrive at our destination as we imagined, if we even make it there at all; our paths have so many forks that we could never anticipate, no matter how we’ve strived to manicure them for success. And so our groundedness, our cooler edges, serve as our anchors through these unpredictable times. Interacting with ourselves in realms that calm and quiet us reconnects us to what it is that sent us off on harrowing dream journeys in the first place. This rest, too, can offer us the time to recalculate as more forks appear; our subsequent choices, then, can arise from the depths of our centers, rather than brushing hurriedly off our restless surfaces.
Now, of course I share all these ideas but certainly struggle to follow through with them myself. In amping up my risk-taking, I’ve gotten so fired up I can hardly exhale. I can barely let go of whatever hold on my future I imagine I have, nor can I let go of the physical stress that has stealthily crept into my body and taken up residency as I’ve stubbornly trudged forward. We know any sort of natural fire’s burn eventually comes to an end, so why do we push ourselves to such high peaks where we crash from lack of fuel? Our yin sides must not be diminished.
In her book, The First Ten Years, Courtney Romano sets intentions for herself and her readers:
To free fall into the life we were meant to live, not the fabricated one we’re always measuring ourselves against. To find abandon and order in the pathway to more creativity, more risk-taking, and more real world effectiveness.
To free fall and find abandon, as well as order…these statements validate and encourage a looser, more balanced grip on our reality. As I see it, we don’t look to be set beings, destined for a predetermined existence. So why do we become fixated on living smooth, linear lives? As humans, our lives are pockmarked with success, failure, confusion, clarity, indecision, passion, all of which knock us up and down and up and down again. In order to honor this continuous ebb and flow, we must first acknowledge and defend the dichotomy that lives within each of us. Whether you have been racing for days or even months and need to slow down or stop entirely, or you can’t seem to light a fire beneath you to shake up your status quo, comprehending and accepting our right to choose, especially our right to choose a move that veers from whatever cycle, or samsara as we speak of in yoga, we have gotten caught in can empower us to be bold and design a life that exposes our talents, skills, hopes, and dreams in ways they deserve to be shared. What arises so beautifully out of all this mindfulness and courage, too, is the change that billows out into the world as a result of our personal growth. Even our smallest choices can shift the landscape of our surrounding world. So in considering all of this, how is it that you will transform yourself, and our world, for the better today?
The following post was written by TaraMarie Perri, the Founder/Director of The Perri Institute for Mind and Body. Her professional work is dedicated to yoga education and research, holistic health therapeutics, and the integration of mind/body practices with the arts and sciences. TaraMarie holds an MFA and serves on Faculty at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. She maintains private practices in New York City and Brooklyn.
This spring, I have been carrying Merce Cunningham’s Other Animals: Drawings and Journals in my bag. Merce is world-renowned as a groundbreaking choreographer. Did you know he was also a visual artist? Flipping through his book, Merce’s creatures are playful, odd, and not surprisingly, drawn with a persuasion of physicality as if he was tempting them to jump right off the page! When reading journal excerpts which accompany the drawings, one can imagine how work and play might have co-mingled in his world.
It was Merce’s routine to wake and draw animals and creatures before going about his other activities. His drawing practice began as a way to pass the time during an unexpected morning travel delay on tour with his dance company. That singular experience quickly led to personal time he looked forward to each day. As the joy of painting has recently entered my life over the last year, his sentiment deeply resonates:
One of the pleasures of drawing for me is the rapidity with which one ceases to have concerns about oneself. The intensity of trying to capture the line and the sense of something in nature becomes absorbing enough to hold all one’s attention.
Considering the benefits of meditative practices, it is my belief that his fearlessness in observing the world unfolding and changing around him as he drew contributed to how he kept his signature fresh spirit. His choreographic pursuits evolved organically as he was influenced by nature, music, visual art/design, technology, and contemporary culture. His work was never stale or derivative. He was ever-present as an artist (with a capital “A,” as my friend Liz likes to say!). I honor his approach and aspire to bring a similar comparative and open-source philosophy to my own life’s work.
As a teaching artist, I bring the work, musings, and inspirations of icons and collaborators into my classes and class preparations. I am fortunate that my work and play flow easily in this manner. I find endless resources to challenge teaching concepts while forging new relationships with my broader research into the mind/body arts. As a personal practice for spring, I have taken a cue from Merce and began an almost-daily practice painting loose and flowing watercolors. It has become a welcome companion to my morning tea and Manhattan skyline viewing routine. I look forward to the warmer temperatures arriving and taking it up to the roof!
Do you have an avenue for how your work and play might mingle? Do you have a time of day when you let your mind quiet into another focus or dream into a new flow? Spring is the perfect time to investigate how this might be possible for you.
I’ll use a couple of Merce Cunningham’s drawings to animate my suggestions:
Discover a New Vantage Point
Days are getting warmer and the daylight hours are lasting longer. Spring is the perfect time to climb out of your winter nest and get back on your feet. Stand tall and look all around you. Stretch your legs and walk a new path to work or take a detour on your way home. Expand your field of vision to see what is out there in your world to inspire you. Maybe a new outdoor café popped up. Perhaps a new public park or art installation is underway where you can sit on a sunny day. Did a new building pop up on the skyline? What flowers are in bloom this week? When you recognize the growth and expansion in the world around you, you can more easily understand the impulses within which inevitably rise up this time of year. Strut your stuff and go for it!
Climb up. Get down. Look more closely at the world around you. The phrase “stop and smell the roses” is not an arbitrary one. As you observe the beauty of spring growth in nature, take a moment to stop and appreciate it. Not only will this cause you to slow down and pause, you will also set new pathways in mind of practicing gratitude. You may then begin to interact with your peers and projects at work in a similar way. You may rediscover a creative project at home with new interest. Could your favorite window or the corner of your desk benefit from a bright green potted plant or a vase of spring flowers? By enhancing beauty in your surroundings, your inner landscape also benefits. Beauty in its truest form is not just an ideal. Appreciating beauty is a teacher for all of us. To pause in our busy lives and truly appreciate beauty means we are connecting to the present moment and that is a worthwhile pursuit.
Don’t be afraid to share your inner desires for work/play balance with others. Maybe the winter quiet tuned you into something deep down in your heart that needs to be cultivated this spring. You might be surprised how many of your friends are also craving new outlets. The spring season supports the spirit of change, personal growth, and new adventures. When we give ideas vocalization, they become more real. By giving our thoughts audible sound, we also give them physical weight in the world. Only then can we consider how to bring them to life. Share your intentions for personal growth or creativity in your life with loved ones, and support your friends in their own investigations. You might be surprised how many inspired conversations and play dates you will have on your calendar!
You do not have to follow anyone else’s formula for an inspired life. Spring gives us much flux in weather patterns and the necessary earth and water to plant your seeds of growth. Plant as many as you wish and see what sprouts! Do you like to read? Do you like to draw? Would you rather run barefoot up a trail? What inspires you? If you don’t like to wake up and draw, then don’t. If you’d rather listen to your favorite heavy metal ballad while writing a poem, do that. There is not one way to awaken the personal dance of work and play. The only way to find this out for yourself is to experiment and investigate.
May spring be a season of personal discovery and growth for each of you! And when you need inspiration, simply recall Merce’s memorable creatures that embody the qualities of the season.
- TaraMarie Perri
Photos by Richard Rutledge. Drawings by Merce Cunningham from Other Animals: Drawings and Journals.
The following post was written by Liz Beres, a NYC-based dancer, dance teacher, and yoga teacher certified by The Perri Institute for Mind and Body. Liz currently teaches yoga privately and at various gyms, including that of the Federal Reserve Bank of NY through Plus One. She is continually intrigued by and appreciative of the power of mind/body practices, and is grateful for the chance to share her musings on MindBodyBrew’s digital platform.
Mindfulness meditation, especially when it is understood as being a way of living life as if it really mattered, moment by moment, rather than as a technique…is one powerful vehicle for realizing such transformative and healing possibilities.
-Jon Kabat Zinn, founder of MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction)
A month ago, I closed one of my yoga classes with the quote above. We had been focused that hour on moving slower, settling into most of our asana for longer durations, purposefully drawing forth distractions and barreling streams of thought. This welcoming of a busy mind set the stage for our application of mindfulness, of attempting to replace the rush with a steady attention on each moment, each breath, and the subtler facets of our movement. After class, a regular student of mine requested to hear the quote once more, as he was getting married in a few hours and hoped to carry the message with him into his day. This definitely was one of my most thrilling exchanges with a student. And yet, what generated even more excitement in me was his story upon his return to class weeks later—how he had felt so inspired by our mindfulness work that morning that he had incorporated mindfulness as a way of living into his marital vows. To commit with such depth, he told me, seems to require a persevering presence, one that must be continually cultivated so that the connection and love between two people in such an intimate relationship can survive, and ideally grow, as the years pass by.
My student’s integration of our work on the mat into a milestone of his life touched me rather profoundly. What a way to enter into a marriage, with such thoughtfulness and trust in the process of building a life together. His pull toward mindfulness in the midst of such a momentous event so vividly illustrated to me the power of this practice. The ways it can deepen our life experiences personally and in relationships with others is unfathomable.
I find its impact difficult to comprehend mostly because of the magnitude of choices we are faced with every day. I read an article recently that regarded every thought, feeling, word, and action as health creating or health negating. To consider this turns mindfulness into a real ally. Without thoughtfulness in our words and actions, we can rapidly spiral away from our values and goals, being swayed instead by convenience, peer pressure, and a host of other persuasive elements. It’s not to say that we should expect perfection from a stronger adherence to mindfulness, but in living in closer contact with each and every moment, we can spin our lives’ tales into ones that are much more centered around the core of our being. Mindfulness meditation offers tools that can break a habit of getting swept up in life’s rush; it can slow us down and steady us, so that we can recognize what reality is in front of us and what options forward from that real moment exist. The act of being mindful very much impacts our relationship to time—not getting lured by past affairs or imagined future happenings—and to our core. From a sharpened attention can come more specific, deliberate actions that ground us in our essences.
But to really tap into the power of mindfulness, to draw it off our yoga mats or meditation cushions as my student did, requires an honest understanding of ourselves: flaws and all. A recognition and trust of our intuition must exist too in order to believe what we feel and ‘know’ to be right, and from there, to accomplish feats that fulfill our deepest needs and desires.
The last few months, I’ve been working with a friend as she establishes her life coaching practice. One exercise from our sessions that has especially stuck with me is what she calls the ‘distilling of essence.’ Without giving away her prized methods, the distillation process went something like this: She requested that I ask ten family members, friends, mentors, those who know me best, what qualities I bring to a space. From there, she sifted through that mass of information to arrive at five words: love, compassion, curiosity, joy, and radiance. To brew on these words is fascinating in and of itself, but to use them alongside our mindfulness ally hugely elevates their value in my eyes. Within our essences live answers to who we are and who we can become if we can stand by that irrefutable core. Since offering me these words, my friend has encouraged me to meet difficult and easier matters with the question: Am I living by my essence? How powerfully and directly can essence guide our choices and the course of our lives— or at least the pieces that lie somewhat under our control.
Now of course the tricky part of all this is the fact that we are constantly evolving beings, so to fully know ourselves at any given moment is probably an impossible task. But as the saying goes, you don’t have to have it all figured out to move forward. If that’s the case, then is it not worthwhile to try to slow down, to try to interact with those people and elements in our surrounding environments on a more palpable level? To take the risk of deriving choices from a place of mindfulness, even if those choices lead us down unfamiliar, and perhaps intimidating paths? As author Erica Jong wrote, “[T]he trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.”
To hear of my student charging into marriage with such an appreciation for and comprehension of the value of smaller moments is insanely beautiful and inspiring to me. But I don’t think it should take a momentous event to draw mindfulness to the forefront of our life experience. How can we, even amongst the mundane activities of an average day, cultivate the tenets of mindfulness? How could these practices, even on a smaller scale, shift our world—our visions of ourselves, our relationships with others, our care of the planet and the world beyond? The power of choice is an unbelievably remarkable opportunity we humans possess. Let’s use it to create good, and to propel even more goodness into our world.