One of the first aspects of meditation I was introduced to is that it can be taken anywhere and practiced at any moment. But over my first few months of consistent practice, I developed an increasing aversion to finding new spaces in which to meditate. I had my ideal space at home dedicated to my practice, which felt like enough when I considered...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
I don’t remember why I first went in—it’s not like I have a thing for bagels. But I entered the shop into a long line and began the difficult process of not being a “bagel regular” and having no idea how I wanted to eat these plump round rolls with a belly button. (NYC bagel etiquette #1: Never call a bagel a roll.)
“Next!...Next!” The whole shop was a wave constantly shifting forward as customers shouted their orders à la carte to the men behind the counter. Dishes of flavored spreads are in tinted pastels. Would I like it toasted? …um, yeah? Three sets of arms fly through spatulas, grills, and toasters true to the noise and speed of a New York minute. I hear someone behind me request a plain. You have a plethora of options and you order a plain??…with regular cream cheese…?! Siddhartha Gautama grew up as a prince with wealth and plenty.
When I make it to the register, there it is, miraculously waiting for me, gift-wrapped and slid into a paper bag with shoved-in napkins. I’m spit out the door in under five minutes and five dollars. Made-on-site, I’m eating a morsel of NYC tradition and history. I’m gonna let you make my day dear bagel. At an outdoor table nearby I relished this brilliant orchestration of breakfast. The sun was shining and the event kept coming back to me.
On my next trip, I’m ordering for two and need to make a close train. My blood sugar is low and blood pressure high. My bag is extra heavy and forehead dewy. I can’t make a decision. I hate making decisions. Nothing sounds appealing. What a chore! It’s so clamorously LOUD in here. “NEXT!!” Oh! I spill out an unconfident order and anxiously twiddle my thumbs—at whatever pace the line is moving, it’s not moving fast enough. The cash register dings and I realize nothing aboutthe bagel shop has changed, but the experience I was hoping to repeat had vanished.
The third time, it’s the quietest I’ve seen the shop and there’s no line. A woman in white polka dots orders a large coffee with skim. Her pleasant expression is framed in air-drying ringlets. She’s bent over the counter while the cashier explains that she’s handing her one single, and then one five. She’s blind. I watch her leave with her hunched back reaching down to the harness her dog wears because it’s one that sees the streets.
Just outside, a woman with a healthy set of white hairs poking from her chin is clothed in an oversized tee that reaches her knees. A caretaker is nearby and her eyes don’t look like they’re registering anything. Does she ever get outdoors? Siddhartha steps out of the palace and sees illness and age for the first time. Or maybe he stubs his toe on the daily newspaper. Difficult realities can be a necessary attitude check. I sit underneath a park umbrella thinking.
So I had a mystical and humbling set of experiences sponsored by a bagel shop: a high, a low, and a dose of hardship. I learned a few lessons from my three sandwiches, but what happens the hundredth time I go? (Whoa—I don’t want to think about eating that many bagels!) But how do I sit for the thousandth time on a meditation cushion? Or always walk the same path to work or pick up a fork to yet another meal? We endlessly rise to another twenty-four hours of day separated by the concepts of months and years.
Yoga to me is more about the relationship and routine than about what’s being practiced. The material doesn’t change, yet we approach it in different ways and with different levels of education. I’ve heard Marianne Williamson describe a miracle as “a shift in perception.” We all have our own bagel shops, mats, and routines where we can compare our perspectives. Our practice is in understanding how we perceive and in coming back to the awareness of that fluctuation. What is the constant underneath? This can be pulling teeth or randomly easy.
I can have a euphoric sense of oneness and think that I’ve got “it,” but I know how often the cash register DINGS! me back awake, and I feel shameful about how I project my negative moods upon those close to me. The classic Buddha story covers ignorance and avoiding, or overly seeking, until there’s acceptance. I repeat this pathway on an hourly, if not moment-by-moment basis. If you really pay attention and are curious and observant in your routines, I think you’ll find the same lost and found repetitions. Life is all of these.
I don’t know the ultimate key. I don’t think there is one. All I can tell you are the times that I’ve been humbled and how many times I’m willing to try again. I can tell you that I prefer a bagel with the right “pull” and inner consistency, but how it tastes will depend on my perspective. And it won’t always be the latter half of bittersweet. Can I have two eyes, a slice of reality, and a spread of gratefulness on a WHOLE wheat EVERYTHING.
Photo by Callie Ritter
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.
I have always had a proclivity for the early-to-bed-early-to-rise lifestyle. Perhaps it was the physical demands of days spent dancing or my over-functioning brain needing to reset, but sleep would often overwhelm me, sometimes at most inconvenient times. Pulling an all-nighter to write a paper in college or grad school was virtually impossible. I rarely made it to the bitter end of 90s NYC nightclubbing excursions, concerts, and other assorted gatherings with friends. Clearly rock star status was not in my future. It is difficult as a New Yorker of 22 years not to feel a small pang of failure when I realize I will never be one of the city’s dark, sexy set of night owls.
Most nights I go to bed by 10pm and rise, without an alarm and well-rested, at 6am. Friends who witness my eyes getting sleepier by the minute can sometimes misunderstand my intentions. I do want to stay up and spend time with them. I am not anti-social, and my days are filled with adventures and encounters to prove this. But my body is telling me to go to bed—sending me the signal. I can’t argue with its internal clock…
The confession: I genuinely prefer being a morning person. I love the morning—the light, the quiet, the clarity of mind. I feel better too. To prepare for the work I do, I cannot afford to show up feeling less than optimal. My students and clients depend on me to be sharp and focused and grounded. The other gain is that I do not feel rushed when I wake without an obligation to immediately step into the pace of the workday. When I wake at 6am, the morning is mine. No one is expecting an email response or texting to distract me at that hour. I paint; I think; I read; I write; I meditate and stretch; I pack my bag for the day; I sit in silence, and I eat breakfast. I slowly move about my morning doing the activities I am inspired to do, so that I can honor my needs before I honor the needs of others. The most welcome result of the early-to-bed-early-to-rise routine? I end my days with a sense of unwinding, relaxing, and processing, and begin my days with calm, presence, and focus.
As I dive deeper into studies of Ayurveda and Tibetan Medicine under the tutelage of my mentors, I’ve discovered that what my body already knew is also supported by ancient wisdom. One of my lamas, Cary Twomey, recently shared the following explanation:
In Ayurvedic & Tibetan Medicine we know 10 PM is the time to have our head down on the pillow. At 10 PM, the fire element begins to rise and the body kicks into a deep and gentle detoxification while we are sleeping. There are several important metabolic actions going on during this time, and if we are not asleep when fire element rises, these rejuvenating actions don't occur and we miss out on a natural balancing and revitalizing process that happens each night between 10 PM and 2 AM.
Secondly, if you are up past 10 PM, you will surely get a second wind as fire rises, because fire is stimulating. You'll likely stay up until around 2 AM, when the fire finally begins to wane. When we stay up instead of getting to bed, we are likely to commit what Ayurveda calls Prajnaparadha—crimes against wisdom. Prajnaparadha are actions that generate imbalances rather than balanced health.
Crimes against wisdom? Well, now I have yet another reason to stick with my routine! I take the pursuit of wisdom very seriously.
Even if you are a proud night owl, I encourage you to try this earlier bedtime routine for a couple weeks during spring, while your body needs the most support for digestion, healing, and cleansing as it prepares the body for the entire year ahead. To join the early morning revolution, here are some tips to help you hit the sack by 10pm:
1. Turn It Down
Lower the lights and sounds in your home space and begin to lower the brightness ratio on your computer and devices around 8pm. Not only will the light changes coax you into a less-stimulating environment, it will allow your brain and body to notice the darkness outside which lures you into a natural desire to rest. You will get to bed on time and be ready to fall asleep!
2. Soak it In
Warning: Once you start doing these luxurious self-care rituals, you may never want to skip them again! Before bedtime, soak in a bath and sip calming tea. Light a candle, unwind your mind, and soothe your body. I also give myself a sandalwood/sesame oil massage (Abhyanga) on most nights before I get into the tub. Again, the environment of warmth and water allow us to call upon our natural sleep cycles.
3. Gear Down
I know this one is tough because modern world habits are in place, but give it a go. Browsing Instagram or Facebook during your last hours before bed is not really the best use of your time (nor is it the first thing you should be doing when waking…but that is another topic entirely!). Not only will the light keep you over-stimulated, it causes the mind to be restless. We all speak of wanting more time to relax or to feel less busy. Instead of Netflix nights, snuggle up on the sofa with a pet, good friend, or loved one and enjoy time alone or together in conversation. Maintaining in-person means of connecting with yourself or those around you will give you real grounding in this fast-paced world where we often feel unsupported and alone.
4. Gear Up
Make sleeping fun. Choose materials for bedding that allow you to breathe and regulate temperature for your personal sleeping comfort. Pick pajamas you like to put on with layers that allow for ample movement as you sleep (yes, sleeping in your birthday suit counts!). If you like the environment you create in your bedroom around sleep, you will want to go there.
5. Go “Old School”
Get an alarm clock that is not your cell phone. Ideally you should not have a TV or computer or phone device in your bedroom at all. By nature of your dwelling situation you may have to keep those items in your bedroom. If so, turn them OFF (sleep mode doesn’t count) and put them away in a drawer or closet or cover them with a beautiful tapestry. These devices are always sending out unfavorable electromagnetic frequencies that radically disrupt your Prana, your healthy life force energy. The result is dried-out body tissues and immunity depletion. I think we can all agree that we already live too many hours led by computers and devices. Use bedtime to balance.
When you wake from a good night of sleep and rise early, you are given a rare gift every day—a quiet, spacious morning all to yourself. You may even notice you no longer say you have “no time” to yourself. You’ll discover plenty of time to think, dream, wander, wonder, and be.
One of the city’s night owls I will never be. I hope you’ll take my contemporary advice, supported by ancient wisdom, and try out the 10pm – 6am sleep cycle this spring (and maybe forever). Early riser rewards are real and yours for the taking!
The following post was written by Katherine Moore. Katherine has been teaching for The Perri Institute for Mind and Body since 2013. You can find her running all over New York City, working as a teacher, choreographer, freelance dancer, and writer. Relax with her at Steps on Broadway on Friday nights at 6:30pm for restorative yoga.
These are the lazy, hazy days of summer. The days are long and hot, many people are on vacation, and projects are put on hold until after Labor Day. There's a sense of relaxation in the air, the urge to rest and recline takes over even the busiest brains. And yet, especially for the future-minded schedulers extraordinaire out there, the sense of anticipation for fall planning and activities begins to rear its head even though the true beginning of autumn is over 6 weeks away.
This summer I've been taking a step back from some of my usual commitments, freeing up some time to figure out what really belongs in my day-to-day life and what doesn't. While I prepare for a new season in NYC this fall, I long to leave space in my schedule that will allow me to carry a sense of summer along the way. In particular, I want to take that stretched out sense of time that comes from a summer day. A summer solstice baby, I was born on the longest day of the year. Summer feels like my time. This year over my birthday I was able to take a lengthy vacation, spending time with family both in the Midwest and California. In both places, the idea of time kept cropping up across my path.
I spent a day wandering through the old redwood forest at Muir Woods National Monument in California. Nothing beats the sense of quiet and age that you feel amongst those trees. To be surrounded by living organisms that existed long before I was even thought of has a certain way of putting things in perspective. What are my worries against the long path of nature?
I also spent some time in Kentucky, surrounded by misty, forested hills and lakes that practically ooze history. At the prow of a boat, surrounded by a landscape rich with American history from the civil war to the Bourbon Trail, I was reminded that world is indeed, old.
Even my vacation entertainment suggested something about the age of the Earth. While Jurassic World was perhaps not the most important film in cinematic history, there's something about contemplating the existence and demise of dinosaurs that puts one in her place. I also re-watched Lord of the Rings, encountering fantastical, ancient tree-like creatures called Ents that speak slowly, walk slowly, and...think......slooooowly. So perhaps I spent my vacation as a true nerd, but this concept of time that I encountered has continued to follow me back in real life in NYC.
When dealing with troubling emotions, particularly anxiety and frustration, I find it helpful to think about time. I actually quite literally think about the dinosaurs, and then the age of the whole planet, and then the very, very, very small slice of time that humans have existed. Geological time is often best demonstrated with a clock; if the history of the Earth could be condensed into one hour, human life doesn't even come into the picture until the minute hand is at 59min. What?!!
This broad perspective of time really puts me in my place. I feel like I can relax against the whole huge history of the world and let my worries lessen. It's not that my life suddenly becomes insignificant, quite the contrary. Something about this long view of time, especially in relation to nature, actually makes me feel much more connected to the world. There is safety in knowing that the universe has existed long before my troubles and will continue to exist long after my worries have gone, but that me, and my worries, and my joys, are all part of this continuum of time and space.
During my break I also had the privilege of reading Ethan Nichtern's new book The Road Home: A Contemporary Exploration of the Buddhist Path. I know many of us in the Perri Institute community have added it to our summer reading list, and I think any contemporary, literate person would find this book to be both inspiring and immediately useful to his or her own life. The subject I found truly interesting, and most applicable to this post's discussion on time, is karma.
Karma, while a term that is pervasively used in popular culture, is also often misunderstood. I'll let Ethan explain in his own words:
We often view karma as some indictment for all the awful things that have happened to us, and all the awful things that have happened in this world. For example, after hearing a bit about karma as a child I remember thinking that, as someone with asthma, I must have done something terrible in a past life to not be able to breathe very well sometimes. That kind of “blame the victim” approach offers us a convenient new narrative for the recurring story of our self-aggression, as well as a reason to continue to isolate ourselves from the plight of others…This kind of isolated worldview cannot hold up when we look at the larger interdependent forces that shape our world and when we recognize that everything and everyone’s actions are affecting each other all the time, that nobody lives in a vacuum of their own making.
Ethan goes on to explain karma in more detail, eventually moving into a discussion on past and present, and the Buddhist approach to working with both:
…if we reflect on the past with the clear intention to illuminate our experience in the present, and we learn, through both our own meditation practice and guidance from others, how to let go of our tight grip on the past narrative at the exact point the mind begins to fixate on it, then our understanding of the relationship between past and present can come into balance and harmony.
The teachings on karma demonstrate a very important point about the past: the fundamental force behind our conditioning isn’t stupidity or evil, nor is it a flaw in our genetic design. We adopt habitual patterns to begin with as the result of misperception, or lack of awareness.
If we view the root of the problem as a misperception about the nature of experience, then forgiveness is always possible. We can rise out of feeling ashamed at our habitual confusion…We have to forgive ourselves for being stuck in habits and addictions, for being caught up in the commute. Working with karma is something that everyone has to go through; none of us are free of conditioning.
I could go on and on, but I’ll just let you read the book yourself.
What I found most interesting in this explanation of karma was the idea that I could be living a life where my past and my present were not in balance and harmony. Upon reading Ethan’s text I was struck by the idea that perhaps my attempts to live a more mindful life in the present moment, in the here and now, were not actually helping me slow time, but really making it go faster because of a lack of scope about time, and my life in time. Perhaps a broader view of my life, or maybe even past lives, would increase my sense of awareness about the interdependence of my world and all the people, ideas, and redwood trees inside of it. Without reconciling my past habitual patterns with my experience of the present moment, my perception of the here and now will always be a little lacking.
I know I’m barely scratching the surface here, and my philosophical understanding of karma is basic at best, but I think my point in all this talk on dinosaurs and summer and cycles of time is that from my experience, just saying “Slow. Down” as an antidote to the crazy fast pace of life isn’t quite enough. Sure, taking some time off and lessening my workload and sleeping more will make me a happier, healthier, more relaxed person. This is true of most people. But I am beginning to think that without an actual change in perception, without a shift in perspective about how my mind works with the present moment AND the past, I will continue to be unsatisfied by the ever quickening pace of life, no matter how much I pledge to “unplug.” I will continue to long for the stretched out days of childhood summers.
Being in nature most certainly helps nurture this relationship between past and present. As a young woman of 28, I can stand next to a 130-year-old tree and feel young, but I can also look into the nest of hatching birds on that tree’s branches and feel quite old. Can we work with our mind in the same way? How can we experience this full range of our life in the present moment? Can we actually shift our perception of time?
I don’t presume to know the answer, but as we enjoy sun-filled days on the beach and make plans for fall, I might suggest that we remain curious about what it really means to slow down. Does is it mean take a day off to sleep and order takeout and watch a movie? Maybe. Or maybe it’s something else a little less concrete, a little more subtle, and a bit more interesting.
I recommend thinking about the dinosaurs quite often. It really does help.