Just a few days ago, I met with a mentor of mine, a woman who has known me since my first adult steps back in college. As I laid out a multitude of questions and choices flitting about me, she astutely inquired whether I’d checked in with my body in considering it all. Her suggestion was a simple one, yet resonated so profoundly within me. I’d become stuck in the chaos of my mind, thoughts darting...Read More
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu— May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.Read More
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.
The following piece was written by Brianna Goodman, copy and features editor for MindBodyBrew. Brianna teaches yoga with The Perri Institute for Mind and Body in New York City. She currently attends Fordham University, where she is pursuing a degree in English and creative writing, with a minor in communications. Catch her class Sunday and Wednesday mornings at Steps on Broadway.
“If you want people to listen to you, you have to listen to them.
If you hope people will change how they live, you have to know how they live.
If you want people to see you, you have to sit down with them eye-to-eye."
-Gloria Steinem, My Life on the Road
In this passage from Gloria Steinem’s new memoir, Steinem describes bits of wisdom received in India from a group of Ghandians, members of a land reform movement inspired by Ghandi. Their wisdom: listen, learn, and see. While this advice was, for Steinem’s purposes, in regards to the organizing work that would become her career and legacy, this advice is also pertinent to everyday life. How often do we preach before we listen, or give advice before we fully understand the situation we’re advising on? How often do we demand attention, or expect an audience, before we do the work of earning that attention, and also paying attention in return?
When our lives move so quickly, and opinion pieces are written faster than the events earning those opinions can unfold, it seems required of us to formulate our own opinions and voice them immediately. But in this eagerness to describe the world in is and isn’t, in rights and wrongs that are easy to pinpoint, perhaps we are neglecting to honor the uniqueness of each situation and of each human being, with their singular circumstances and individualized history. We learn this in our yoga practices—no two bodies are the same, and often a choice that’s right for the person to our right is not what’s best for us. Yoga requires us to continuously evaluate our bodies and our minds—where is my body today? What does it need? Where is my headspace, and how does this knowledge inform my practice today?
So, how can we carry this practice of self-study off our mats and employ it with those around us, whether they be family, friends, coworkers, or strangers? Can we catch ourselves in those moments when we make snap judgements, and instead remind ourselves to ask questions and reevaluate the circumstances of a given scenario? In what ways can we make time to listen, not lecture; learn, not dismiss; and see, not simply demand to be seen?
Are there times you find yourself wanting to speak before you’ve heard? How do you incorporate the tools of svadhyaya—self-study—into your interactions with others?
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.