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
The following piece was written by Maggie Gavin. Maggie has been teaching yoga for The Perri Institute for Mind and Body for five years. She is currently pursuing her MSW at Fordham University, to learn how to support mental health through yoga. Catch her class at Steps on Broadway: Fridays at 12 PM.
Thank you so much for the time you put in to read this post. Without you, this blog wouldn’t exist. The fact that you take the time from your day to read about my thoughts and musings means a lot to me. Writing for an audience isn’t something I do often, so I appreciate your curiosity and consideration. You are a much-valued member of this mindful and thoughtful community. I’m so grateful that we’ve come in contact.
If you must look back, do so forgivingly. If you must look forward, do so prayerfully. However, the wisest thing you can do is be present in the present…Gratefully. —Maya Angelou
If you must look back, do so forgivingly…
How many times have you read about letting go? How many times have you heard your yoga or meditation teacher say it? How many times does the song from Frozen play on repeat in your head whenever you hear that particular phrase? For many of us, letting go of the past with compassion is an act wrought with fear. It can feel as if we lose a part of ourselves in the process. However, when we look back with forgiveness, we can acknowledge our mistakes, be grateful for knowledge gained, and move forward.
Here’s an idea: with a pencil, write down something from your past that you feel is preventing you from taking the next step forward. Place it next to you as you engage in a meditation or other form of mindfulness. After letting your brain and body process what you’ve written, erase your words. Look at your clean slate.
If you must look forward, do so prayerfully…
What does it mean to have faith? Maybe it means trusting in a higher power to guide your path. Maybe it means stepping off the hamster wheel of anxiety about the future. Maybe it’s having confidence that the work of the present moment will grow and change and sustain you to the next place. Forgiving the past means letting go of regret. Praying for the future means letting go of worry. How? Develop a sense of trust.
Here’s an idea: identify one small risk to take today, something you wouldn’t normally do as part of your daily routine. What’s the worst that could happen? Maybe something wonderful.
However, the wisest thing you can do is be present in the present…gratefully.
How does expressing gratitude connect us to the present moment? Remember the last time you looked someone in the eyes and sincerely thanked them for their effort on your behalf. How about the last time someone did that for you. How did it feel to be on either side of the grateful moment? Gratitude, then, is essentially an appreciation of a shared moment as it’s happening. Practicing gratitude means the moments do not slip by without notice. A simple “thank you” has the power to uplift, to change someone’s day.
Here’s an idea: this week, write a thank you note to someone who made a difference in your life. Yes, a handwritten note that you send through the United States Postal Service. Notice how you feel writing it, and imagine how the other person will feel to receive it.
Tried any ideas in this post out for yourself? Leave a comment to let us know how it went!
Photo by Flickr user
The following piece was written by Kathy Hartsell, a fellow yoga instructor and mind-body practitioner who studies alongside the Mind Body Dancer® community. She writes from Boston, MA.
I recently sat in the audience of a ballet performance to watch Yury Yanowsky mark the end of his epic twenty-two year career. Yury danced with his wife for that last show, their relaxed approach to movement sharpened by the poise that comes from experience and by the lines that come from discipline. Together, they painted steps and stories onto the spotlight's white canvas. Even from the very last row where I chose to watch, their mutual gratitude and respect seeped from the stage, sedating the theater like a relaxant. The usual low buzz of an audience was quieted, nervous systems' down-regulated by the resonant beauty of this exchange.
From Helen Reiss's TED talk on Empathetics, the neuroscience of empathy, I learned about the South African greeting "sawa bona." The phrase translates into "I see you," and the customary response, "sikhona" translates to "I am here." This refined greeting came to mind as I watched Yury and his wife dance for one another - unrushed with communication...direct with connection...unwavering with support. Though Yury was dancing his farewell performance, he was in every way saying "hello" to the moment and to the people co-creating it.
At the end of the show, Yury bowed his head and lightly pressed one hand to his chest, reminding me there is not only an art to movement. There is also an art to presence. An art to gratitude. An art to letting go. As he took his final bows, the audience stayed with him, suspending time around him like a warm embrace. We see you. We are grateful. After humbly resisting this attention, Yury filled the space being held for him. I am here. Thank you for seeing me and my work. I see you too.
In ordinary days, perhaps in response to so much stimulation, we tend to block out many faces (familiar and new) that animate our outer treks. We often choose the shortest greeting possible, if we notice each other at all. We barely have room for politeness, many shades inferior to kindness. Even the internal sensations, the layers that give our yoga practice depth and meaning, can get little more than a curt nod from our awareness. We have become quite skilled in filtering out all that matters in exchange for keeping up. But that day at the ballet, as the beauty of connection spiraled inward and rippled outward, I felt humanity circling back home, even if just for an instant. I left the theater savoring the flavor of undistracted presence and enunciated gratitude. I also left remembering how powerful the intentions behind our movements really are.
Particularly as winter clears and reveals space for spring, sawa bona and sikhona has become a theme for my yoga practice. As I drop into meditation, I practice warmly greeting the thoughts and sensations that punctuate the moment, without rushing. As I flow through sentences of poses, I slow down to explore the layers of inner experience--the ones so easy to ignore or repress. With a compassionate hello to all that I find, I discover that no matter how flawed my efforts are, it connects me to deep gratitude. I see you. I am here. As I take sawa bona and sikhona into my exchanges with other people, something that resembles the day in the theater emerges. Like it is on my mat, my practice is flawed in the world. But even so, the nectar of connection, the very essence of yoga, arrives.
As a teacher, I am always looking for inspiration. Undoubtedly, there are times of year when I feel tired or burned out. I have not lost my love of teaching, but the inner fire of my teaching spirit is lower than usual, diminished by long periods of time in the classroom. It is part of the job to have those moments of needing to renew. As I reset between Spring and Summer semesters, I have been thinking about “lineage”.
Lineage speaks to that which has come before us and that which we pass on to future generations. In education, we honor the teachers of our teachers. I consider it a great gift that in my pedagogical repertory I teach one subject that is from ancient roots. Through oral tradition, old texts, and translations of the practices for today’s world, yoga studies remain richer than ever. I honor my teachers who shared this practice with me, who made it something I could teach to my students.
As we honor graduates of various sorts of schools, we must also celebrate the great, long lineage of the teaching profession itself. Teachers, regardless of subject, carry on the tradition of learning, thinking, questioning, advising, mentoring, challenging, and embracing the pursuit of greater knowledge.
I share with you a poem by Charles Olson. It will help me to keep my inner teaching spirit bright for another year.
whatever you have to say, leave
the roots on, let them
And the dirt
Just to make clear
where they come from
- Charles Olson
In my interpretation this poem honors lineage. I cannot help but think of the great responsibility and humility of my career path. In this poem, I also find gratitude for all of my teachers, those I have learned from and those I have yet to meet.
A throwback to our post on Thanksgiving of last year - my, how quickly a year flies by! - with the hope that its simple suggestion offers the chance for a momentary rest from the holiday craze that has already erupted our streets, stores, and gatherings of family and friends. Happy Thanksgiving to all!
This week’s tip is a little different.
You may expect me to share a posture for detox after big Thanksgiving meals or even offer a mantra for gratitude.
Instead, this week I encourage you to take 10 minutes somewhere in your busy schedule, whether you are spending time with family and friends or not, and just sit alone. Grab a cup of tea or hot cider and find a cozy, relaxing space and sit by yourself, with yourself.
No need to meditate. No need to have a purpose or a discovery or even a result. No expectations!
You might be surprised what just 10 minutes spent alone brings to you.