Even when my mind is open, my focus is centered, and my body is still, my hands feel the agitated need to move.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
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, Marissa Wiley, regarding one of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.
Yoga Sutras 1.8: Misconception is mistaken knowledge, based upon a misperception of the form of the object.
In the Yoga sutras, Patanjali states that yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the consciousness, and that there are five fluctuations--knowledge, misconception, conceptualization, sleep and memory. These fluctuations of the mind bring you out of the present and therefore take you away from the moment. Thus, making your life less enjoyable.
“Get a little messy.” This was the main piece of feedback that I took away from yoga teacher training this weekend. It was a little hard to digest at first.
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always been eager to please. I am a people pleaser and I will admit it right now. I don’t like it when things are bumpy and awkward. I like to have things planned, organized, and figured out. I like to be in control. When I started this yoga teacher training, I was happy to find a lot of structure in the planning of a yoga class. However, I may love structure a little too much. I like to believe that I’m a fairly creative person, but I quickly became stuck in some habitual sequencing and cueing. I was mindlessly repeating cues and perfecting this sequence that I was growing to memorize.
Get a little messy. Why didn’t I want to be messy? Because it was awkward and embarrassing? Maybe. I think more so it was because I was afraid, afraid of showing how nervous I was, afraid of not being a good yoga teacher, afraid of falling on my face in front of my peers. I’ve come to terms with the fact that these fears have absolutely nothing to do with my peers and their judgment of me. It has everything to do with my misconception and me. My peers and teachers weren’t and aren’t going to point and laugh at me when I fall on my face, all they’ll do is pick me back up and dust me off. It’s come to a point in my training that I’ve realized that I can’t be so stuck in my ways. I need to get a little messy, to try new things and see what works and doesn’t work, to not be so serious.
This too can apply on the mat. How many times have you been stuck in your yoga “routine” that as time goes on you feel as if you aren’t growing in your practice anymore? How many times have you opted out of finding your edge in a posture because you think that someone in the room will judge you for trying? Let’s let it go and remind ourselves why we practice. We practice for ourselves and for our own personal growth. So why are we getting in our own way?
This can apply to all aspects of life really. How many times do you change your intent or actions based on what you think someone else will say, think, feel, or do? Probably a lot, maybe even a lot more than you think you do. Do you ever not say something or not do something because you’re afraid you’ll be judged? Or maybe you mask a part of yourself that you feel shouldn’t be shown. Have you ever realized that a good portion of the time it’s all in your head? And it’s taking you away from the present. It’s making your life less enjoyable. If you’re a little controlling like me, and maybe worry a little too much about what others think of you, just let it go and go for it.
So get a little playful. Be a kid again. Fall on your face and get up laughing. Be curious and passionate. Have fun. Enjoy the little things and just be present. Don’t worry so much about what others are thinking and just do you. Get a little messy.
In the Northeast, it appears winter is finally here. New York City had a snowfall that stuck to the ground and accumulated (a rarity), and my friends who live on Lake Champlain report temperatures that will freeze the lake well into March. Perhaps you are a Winter Adventurer excited for cross-country skiing and ice-skating. Perhaps you are of the Winter Hibernator variety, preferring reading and fireside tea-drinking. Regardless of your winter activities, we all share the experience of succumbing to the season’s nudge to spend more time at home. When we do leave our warm caves, however, the art and science of layered dressing is a necessity.
You may be familiar with pop culture references teasing about the claustrophobic sensation of extra socks and long underwear. One of my favorites is depicted in the holiday movie, A Christmas Story, when Ralphie’s little brother is so bound up in his snowsuit that he repeatedly falls over in the snow, unable to get up again because his range of movement is so limited. We might laugh in empathy, but is there some truth to this bound-up feeling as a companion to the winter season?
The challenge we face in the winter is that our bodies feel tight and restricted most of the time, due to the weight of our layers or the boundaries of our homes. Consequently, we may close off to others. Our eyes drop down, our chests cave in, our shoulders roll forward, our spines get rigid, and our hips and legs stiffen. If you prefer a suppler body, open and at ease, being comfortable in your winter body can feel hopeless.
Only recently did I notice a twist in how we experience our mental and physical bodies in winter—one that is unique to the season. Typically we equate being outside with freedom, and being inside with time to connect to our personal space. When we go outside in winter, however, we must wrap up to protect ourselves against the elements. The result is we tighten up and contract our bodies. In some way we might be more closed off to our environment than in the other seasons. Conversely, when we come home, we strip away layers we don’t need and are more available physically to stretch and expand—but only to a certain degree.
Contraction and expansion have value and it serves us well to spend time with each experience. What are the benefits to enjoy and how can we counter the limitations of the winter condition? What if we made the layered dressing and undressing process a mindful physical practice of sorts?
Try out the following practice at least once this season. You may not do all of these tasks each time you gear up for winter weather, but they might make the process more fun if you do! If you can only find the time to add one element to your routine, I recommend you adopt the scarf ritual outlined below:
Sit on the edge of a chair and curve your spine forward to put your socks on—one at a time—and to tie your boots. Notice the snuggling of your toes in the socks, and the path from your foot to your leg as you pull up the sock or lace up the boot. At the same time, allow your neck to relax and your back muscles to lengthen from head to pelvis. When coming home, mindfully unlace the boots, and then playfully kick your socks off and wiggle your toes, allowing them to be free again!
What about laying down on your back and putting your pants on one leg at a time, while stretching and mobilizing your leg and hip joints. Lift your pelvis up for a mini-backbend similar to bridge pose, and pull your pants over your waist—thus providing a little hip flexor extension. You can reverse the pathways when undressing.
Upper Body Layers/Gloves/Hats
Can you put on and take off each layer with care, stretching and pulling the arms, hands, and head through the various channels with curiosity and sensitivity to the different textures and weaves? Sense the weight of extra layers as they go on. Notice the freedom of your limbs and skull when you remove them. Open your chest and stretch your arms overhead to release tight shoulders and look to the sky.
To me, the scarf is the magical winter layering element that signals the beauty of mindful dressing practice. The graceful winding of a long beautiful scarf around our neck wraps us with care, protection, and love as we brave the cold. We can take our time and connect to the sensation of tucking in. In contrast, the revealing unwind of our scarf when we come home indicates a letting go, freedom, and reclaimed space.
Whether you take on the full practice, or just the wisdom of having a scarf ritual, we can imagine we are wrapping and unwrapping a present as we prepare our bodies for outdoor and indoor settings. Perhaps the present is the moment we walk outside, or the moment we come back home. Perhaps the present is the symbol of winter’s gift: a beautiful landscape, and the natural quiet in our hearts and minds.
- TaraMarie Perri
Summer. When I think of this season, words like freedom, play, and adventure emerge in my mind. Vivid memories crop up too – of long afternoons at the beach, enveloped by a sound score of crashing waves, giggles, and screams; of countless scoops of ice cream melting in my mouth, so satisfying especially on the hottest of days; of grass squishing underfoot as I run through sprinklers in my backyard…there’s something so timeless about summer’s long days and warm nights. Most of my oldest memories exist in the summer months of my childhood. I still largely operate on a school-year schedule, so when summer rolls around I inevitably look for opportunities to play, to mix up my daily routine in an effort to recharge and revel in summer’s fun.
Our yoga community at The Perri Institute for Mind and Body is drawing playfulness into our class offerings all summer long. Spies and mysteries abound, and cheaper classes, as well as pop-up classes across the city in unexpected sites, are keeping our students on their toes.
And why not shift our typical patterns during the summer months? Ever since college, I have endeavored to travel and reenergize my studies over the course of the summer. The ways I’ve met such intentions were sometimes more extensive – traveling to and through Europe to engage in various dance workshops, meeting artists with shared interests yet completely different backgrounds and modes of living and art-making. Other times such goals have been met more simply – attempting to learn a few words of German or a few chords on a guitar (even if it all was forgotten soon after). Regardless of the mode of play, I find such beauty in the way that free time and fresh experiences can infuse us with newfound enthusiasm and simultaneously inform us with hindsight. Have you ever been away from home, even for a weekend, and suddenly sensed this clarity arising in your mind or heart regarding something that has been milling about within you for weeks or even months? When it feels as if your intuition has been ignited and that answer you have been desperately trying to grab hold of falls into your lap in a most organic and unexpected way?
While this summer has brought relief to me after an exhausting year, certain situations and outcomes have reminded me, or perhaps encouraged me to use my free time not to grasp for answers that tell of my future but instead, to use what freedom I have to explore and reconnect, so that I can meet what unfolds rather than force what I think I want into being. My boyfriend introduced me to a catchy tune recently that speaks to the journey of discovery at its close. The last minute and a half of Jason Mraz’s "Song For A Friend" swells from a quieter instrumental interlude to a full, vigorous choral setting that repeats, over and over:
Climb up over the top.
Survey the state of the soul.
You've got to find out for yourself whether or not you're truly trying.
Why not give it a shot?
Shake it. Take control and inevitably wind up
Find out for yourself all the strengths you have inside of you.
As I read those lines and listen to them set to music, I’m reminded that each of us bears the responsibility of surveying the state of our soul as the days and years pass by if we are to delve deeper and deeper into the essence of who we are and what we can be for the world around us. The ways that we examine and shake matters up will inevitably differ, as each of us operates on inimitable wavelengths, but no matter what our mode, we ultimately guide our growth. For me, traveling and delving into learning spark an evaluation of where I have been and where I am living presently; assessments like these often can instigate a repatterning of habits we’ve developed that no longer serve us. And yet I believe that between our considerations and our actions there lies a subtle interplay on the part of the universe in relation to our circumstances. It’s as if there’s this middleman – the Universe – that emerges after we shake things up and guides us back to the path of control and routine with a touch or punch of intuition, depending on how he presents himself. We do initiate growth on behalf of ourselves, but at the same time, I can’t help but give credit to the mysterious, spy ways of the Universe that move me down surprising paths when I remain open enough to see, listen, and feel its advice.
If you were to consider your parking spot on the road of your life right now, what are those matters that seem like they could use some shaking up? How will you find or create space to climb to the top of your life’s mountain to survey your body, mind, spirit, and surroundings?
As the heat bears down on us and the smell of barbecues permeates the air, let us toast to summer’s offering of play. Through diversion may we gain even more of an understanding as to where we are and a stronger intuition as to where we must go and what we must do from here.
- Liz Beres