Certainty is a relic, an atavism, a husk we ought to have outgrown.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 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?
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.
“We do not succeed in changing things in accordance with our desires, but gradually our desires change. The situation that we hoped to change because it was intolerable becomes unimportant to us. We have failed to surmount the obstacle, as we were absolutely determined to do, but life has taken us round it, led us beyond it, and then if we turn round to gaze into the distance of the past, we can barely see it, so imperceptible has it become.” - Marcel Proust
At one point or another, we’ve all heard it: ‘The only person you can change is yourself.’ It is wise and—as far as I’ve discovered—true, but from time to time it’s easy to forget. Often we so adamantly seek some sort of end goal, whether it be a lifestyle, a relationship, a career, etc., that the people and obstacles that block our way feel like variables that must be conquered. If we could only convince her of this. If we could only make him do that. If only the landlord would lower our rent, or the subway would arrive quicker, or this specific agency would read my work, or the street noise would grow quiet when I’m trying to fall asleep—then I could have what I want. But of course life doesn’t work that way. And often when we view the uncontrollable not as antagonists, but as welcomed events of our grander life story, we discover that our narrowed focus was actually not the ideal—that it prevented us from experiencing all that was at our disposal. A one-track mind is unable to recognize that what it thinks it wants might be nothing like what it actually needs. It seeks a reality that does not exist, a reality that tears our focus away from the reality we should be focusing on: the one that we’re living right now.
Ambition can be fruitful—but not at the expense of an open mind. Goals inspire us and encourage us, and they inspire passionate work that is very positive. But goals do not have to be immovable. They do not have to be un-malleable. Our desires, as Proust writes, change. So, in both our yoga practice and in our daily lives, perhaps we can find a balance that allows us to work towards our destinations, but to be present to the possibility that the destinations might change. Life might take us left of where we think we should be going, but, as it turns out, left might be exactly where we now want to be.
Are there goals or desires you cling to that perhaps no longer serve you? Are there moments in which you fight to change circumstances—or people—that just can’t be changed? Are there changes you desire that can be achieved by a shift in your own mindset, or a willingness to be open to alternative possibilities?