Most of these summer days, the sky tips our faces upward and it feels good to remember just how small we stand amongst all this wonder.Read More
Acts of meditation take many forms—creative, written, movement, quiet breathing, dream journeying, visualizations, compassionate acts, and thoughts. As someone who has been cultivating meditation practices for several years now, I strongly advocate fluency and fluidity in allowing your meditation practices to shift as they need to. While it is important in our present-day world of distracted behaviors to refine your meditation techniques and maintain a certain dedication to their presence and stillness in your daily life, it is also crucial to listen to cues that require you to practice differently.
For a few years, writing was my primary outlet, and in the last year or so, painting and journeying have become more prevalent in my daily practices. Writing is not forgotten at all but refocused at this time into other outlets. Instead of questioning the shift, I wish to share expressions of my brush as well as the pen while they are flowing through me.
Personally, painting or drawing meditation time is a time when I feel completely free. I do not worry about product or technique or subject matter. I treat the act of composing on paper or canvas as an extension of my journeys, dreams, emotions, and energy. I paint and move from my body and gut rather than directly from my head. Sometimes what comes out surprises me! It could be an image from a visualization I had months ago or a visceral reaction to today’s news. What is clear is that the body is processing, and I am enjoying the release. Time passes, space opens up, and I feel grounded.
We decided to begin a visual series of my selected loose-and-quick painting/drawing meditations on our Instagram. We will also feature some of these mediations here on MindBodyBrew to continue my regular contributions to the blog. Sometimes the visual will connect with a quote or a story or a nugget of wisdom, and sometimes the images will speak for themselves. We hope you enjoy this new multimedia approach to our beloved blog! –TaraMarie Perri
Blue and Green
Summer is blue and green. Look around you: water and sky, trees and distant mountains, grassy fields and rivers. The cool, bright hues of summer blues and greens will soon give way to the warmer hues of fall. Dip your toes in a river or the ocean, or take a nap in the tall soft grass under a huge green tree. Appreciate nature's wise support to cool off your summer fires, allowing you space to breathe outdoors before fall's work begins.
Painting meditation by TaraMarie Perri. To follow the full series, follow us on Instagram: @perriinstitute.
MindBodyBrew is ultimately about providing a space for written reflection at every step along the yoga path. We hope that by sharing assignments from our Teacher Trainees, we can expand their deep investigation into community-wide dialogue. The following is a piece written by one of our newest, current trainees, Nicholas Jon, about recent yoga classes with TaraMarie Perri and Maggie Gavin.
In classes with both TaraMarie and Maggie over the past couple of weeks, there has been a heavy emphasis on concepts related to the transition from summer to fall, and how this impacts the body, the mind, and the spirit. These ideas really resonated with me, as my life over the past couple of months has felt like one long transition: not only in terms of seasons, but also from college to the “real world,” from a set schedule to an open-ended one, and from being a practicing yogi to being a yoga teacher-in-training. It has taken me a few years to finally feel adjusted to living in New York City, but finishing school has forced me to reexamine and shift my mindset in order to adapt to new ways of experiencing the city.
The class theme of leaning into transition periods has supported me through this time and informed my daily life. A specific example that I really connected to was a class structure in which TaraMarie had us practice savasana multiple times throughout class. I have always understood savasana as having one specific purpose: allowing the work of class to set in, and relaxing the body while keeping the mind alert enough to process the physical and mental changes that have occurred. But allowing this experience to occur four or five times during one practice enlightened me to some of its other benefits. Every time I entered savasana, I had a more intense experience. The work in between was challenging, so physical exhaustion caused my body to feel more relaxed every time it was still. But at the same time, my mind became more invigorated and alert each time, with a sharper focus and a clearer ability to scan my body and notice any shifts that had taken place.
This dichotomy was a beautiful reminder of a way to cope with tricky transition periods. Though everyone has different reactions to transitions, I know they tend to overwhelm me. It’s not often that I allow myself ample time to relax and process what I’m going through, let the work I’ve been doing settle in, and get a firm grasp on my state of mind and body before allowing myself to move forward. Rather than forcing myself through transition periods, it’s better to let them happen at their natural pace without focusing on what just happened or what’s about to happen. The transition itself is just as important of an experience, and an inability to exist within it can hinder one’s ability to progress through it.
In The Wisdom of No Escape, Pema Chodron provides brilliant perspective on this subject. Her discussion of impermanence sparks the idea that our lives may actually be just one long transition from birth to death--“once you are born, you immediately start dying”--or maybe a series of extremely short transitions from our in-breath to our out-breath. In this way, the transitions that we often feel overcome by are just part of life’s natural cycle, and should be taken in stride. If we get caught up in overanalyzing these transitions or trying to escape from them, we may never feel like we've gotten to the other side of them. Even when things seem tumultuous and you might not know how to proceed, what’s important is that “you’re able to recognize [when you have met your edge] because you are open enough to see what’s happening.” If you can identify this and be okay with it, it becomes easier to embrace the fleeting nature of life, and see transitions as what they inherently are: temporary.
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.
The following post was written by Liz Montgomery, a dancer/choreographer, writer, and teacher for The Perri Institute for Mind and Body. She currently co-teaches the Grow Your Practice seasonal series with TaraMarie Perri, and is involved with various aspects of the institute’s growth and development. As evidenced by her constant recipe sharing, Liz loves to feed people.
As the temperature climbs higher still, it's tempting to forgo breakfast altogether. Don't do it! The quintessential summertime breakfast, the smoothie, has been around since the 1970s, but has recently seen a surge in both popularity and creativity. Gone are the straightforward banana/strawberry swirls of my childhood. Now, smoothies are expected to have complex flavor and be chock-full of nutrients. Since I am a yogi on the run (and I suspect most of you don't have time to kill in the morning), I've provided two ways below to combine your breakfast with your morning drink-of-choice. That's right, no more juggling multiple mugs on your commute!
Lime Green Smoothie
3/4 cup coconut water or 1/4 cup greek yogurt plus 1/2 cup water
1 handful baby spinach
1 frozen banana
1/4 of an avocado
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 teaspoon Matcha green tea powder, optional
Maple syrup to taste (sometimes I add it, sometimes I don't)
Combine all ingredients and blend until smooth.
Beans and Nuts Smoothie
1/4 cup cold brew coffee or 1 shot espresso
1/2 cup milk of your choice (cow, almond, hemp)
2 Tbs almond butter
1 frozen banana
A dash of cinnamon
Combine all ingredients and blend until smooth.
And here are a few tips to help you become a smoothie pro:
- Pre-freeze your bananas. Anytime you've got a bunch and one starts to go brown, peel it and toss it in a bag in the freezer. I can't tell you how much easier this makes things.
- For the tea drinkers: invest in some matcha! Creamy and mild, matcha is a varietal of green tea processed into a powder. It is known for its ability to simultaneously increase both alertness and calm.
- For the coffee drinkers: cold brew your coffee. With just a bit of foresight, you can be out the door without ever needing to turn on your kettle. I find cold brew to be so much better on my finicky tummy--the acidity can be as much as 65% lower than coffee made with heat! A quick primer: take 3/4 cups of very coarsely ground beans and 4 cups of water and place in a glass container at room temperature overnight (12 hours), then strain with cheesecloth or a fine mesh sieve and refrigerate.
- Get creative... but not too creative. It is very easy to end up with too many competing flavors. When in doubt, make a small test batch. Some things you can add that will give your smoothie more oomph and texture while preserving the taste include: chia seeds, hemp hearts, ground flax seed, and rolled oats.