What pain can teach us about not suffering

quote about surrender

In Buddhism, suffering refers to a dissatisfaction with what is, or conversely, an attachment to what isn’t. And, to release ourselves from suffering, we must recognize that life is impermanent, and relinquish attachment to a certain want or result.

In Christianity, the concept of faith plays out by relinquishing control to God.  Putting faith in the fact that God has a plan.

When it comes to physical pain, we often make matters worse by creating additional suffering. The Buddha compares being afflicted with bodily pain to being struck by an arrow. Adding mental pain (aversion, displeasure, depression, or self-pity) to physical pain is like being hit by a second arrow. The wise person stops with the first arrow.

There are tales of Buddhist monks with cancer or other chronic illness that are in pain and yet, they experience serene peace.

I tried to test this concept of ‘letting go’ on myself when I was sick recently.  There were moments when my head hurt really bad, or I was upset about being sick, or angry with my body and the hand ‘I’ve been dealt,” and I tried to melt into the emotion and sensation, become one with it instead of fight it.  However brief, the pain lessened as I gave up the struggle with what was actually happening physically.

It’s the emotional equivalent of unclenching your fists.  Try this: physically stiffen everything in your body, make fists, squish your face, hold your breath.  This is struggle.  Now, let go.  This is surrender.  Which one feels better, more at peace?

Surrender can take many forms: prayer, meditation, emotional release, expression, forgiveness, and acceptance. Sometimes just saying the words out loud, “I surrender,” can help.

All pain can teach us something, we just have to be willing to try and find the opportunity for faith and healing instead of firing another arrow at ourselves.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

Photo: Pinterest

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Worry about your Self

Know thyself bhagavad gita

When I was little and I was too invested in what someone thought of me, or what someone else did in comparison to myself, my mother would say “Just worry about you.”

Often, this was said when I was concerned that my brother had an extra Oreo or was able to get away with something I previously hadn’t, but the saying still plays out in my mind — often.

If I catch myself pontificating about why someone isn’t meeting an expectation, I parrot her words to myself, “Just worry about yourself.”  We are the only ones we can control after all, and even that is questionable. We can control our own actions and how we respond to situations, but not the situation itself (unless directly caused by our actions).  As Thich Nhat Hanh once said, “My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand.”

It might initially sound very ‘un-yoga’ to suggest that you worry about yourself, but I’m not talking about becoming self-centered, without regard for others.  But, rather focus on knowing your Self by acting with love for others, and not allowing your mind or ego dictate your worth.

The Bhagavad Gita talks, in length, about the “Self,” particularly about getting to know the infinite self — the self that is beyond thought, beyond change.  Through meditation and living a sattvic life (a life of goodness and purity), we will know the self that transcends manifestation and destruction.

Sounds ethereal and unattainable, but I like to break it down into individual moments.  How can I know myself?  I can become aware of my emotions, actions and reactions.  I can attempt to observe these actions as a witness.  I can do my best to act with purity of heart.

We can also become aware of when we experience ‘want’ and compare ourselves to others.  On the yoga mat, for example, worry about yourself — really.  Don’t worry about what your neighbor is doing or what you think your practice should be.  Just focus on your breath, your SELF.

I came upon a YouTube video recently that reminded me how much I use this method of quelling desire.  It’s of a little girl named August who’s trying to get her seat belt buckled all by herself. It’s hilarious.  You’ll watch it over and over like I did.

When we truly know our own ‘Self’, we transcend reaction and suffering.  And, we become infinite.

Namaste.

Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Uplifted Vibrations)

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Stand still among the trees this Earth Day

stand still in the forest

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you

are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,

And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,

Must ask permission to know it and be known.

The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,

I have made this place around you.

If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.

No two trees are the same to Raven.

No two branches are the same to Wren.

If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,

You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest

Knows where you are. You must let it find you.
– David Waggoner, Lost
Happy Earth Day & Namaste.
– Your Charmed Yogi
(Photo: DeviantArt)
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Liberation is a truck stuck in the mud & a yoga mat

Yoga freedom quote

I’m going to admit something publicly that very few people know.  While I typically avoid reality television like the plague, I’ve succumbed to the fantastic spectacle that is ‘Duck Dynasty.’  I don’t know how it started, but the friends that know me find it quite amusing because my ideologies and theirs couldn’t be more different.  Or are they?

I don’t own a firearm (we’ll steer clear of this argument for now), I don’t hunt or kill anything for fun, and I’m not exactly conservative.  That said, there have been some (dare I say insightful) quotes to come out of that show that have made me think.  We all of the same basic needs and desires; at our inner most core, we act from a place of love; and we all want some sort of freedom.

In one particular episode, the characters have an argument about becoming ‘too corporate’ which leads to an ‘off road’ tantrum of mud bogging only for their truck to get stuck in the middle of nowhere.  The parting quote made me laugh out loud, “If you are going down the road and see a truck stuck in the mud you know what happened… liberation.”

We all want freedom.  Freedom from obligations, freedom from constraints whether it be work, health, finances, dependence or family. Liberation can take on any form, and is different for everyone.  For some people, liberation is jumping out of an airplane.  For others, it’s sending the family on vacation and curling up alone with a book for the weekend, and for others, it’s getting a truck stuck in the mud.

While I’d love to go ‘off the grid’ at some point, for now, I find freedom in other ways. For me, time on my yoga mat always creates space for liberation within.  Even if it’s only 5 minutes, I find liberation from thought, obligation and time.

“Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you,” -Jean Paul Satre

Where do you find liberation?

Namaste.

– Your charmed yogi

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Refilling your patience carafe

wine carafe

At some point, we all struggle with patience. It’s definitely not one of my strong suits. In fact, I was recently joking to a friend about those days when it feels as if you have a finite amount of patience, and when it’s gone it’s gone — like a carafe of wine. This, of course, let to a hilarious philosophical discussion about how our carafe’s depth varies from day to day and that we have a seemingly infinite supply of patience in our carafes when it comes to animals, children, and students.

Some days, the carafe is overflowing and all seems right with the world, while others it seems to have a crack and a slow leak. Some days, my carafe is quite plentiful in the morning, but by evening rush hour, it’s dry as a bone, and I watch the last drop dry up from the seat of my inner witness. Sometimes, merely bringing attention to the fact that our patience is challenged, releases the ego’s grasp on our need ‘rightness’ or vindication.

So, how do we keep ourselves from draining our carafe of patience Bordeaux dry? By doing things that replenish your spirit. Taking some time for yourself — even five minutes — to do what brings you peace and rejuvenation can keep you from feeling depleted and drained of loving energy. For some people, it’s a bubble bath alone with a book, and for others it’s prayer.

For me, it’s writing, meditation, spending time with my dogs, and of course, yoga.  I need the time on the mat to ground and center myself, and reconnect with my true nature so that my thoughts, words, and actions come from a place of compassion.

Take time each day to practice the same loving kindness towards yourself that you want to extend outward. Refill your carafe everyday, so it’s available when you need to pour a big glass of patience to someone else. And practice non-judgement and non-violence toward yourself during those times when you can’t seem to harness the patience you think you should have.

What refills your carafe of patience?

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Design Rulz)

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How yoga can transform a life

Rasham Nassar’s life changed when she went to college. Like many students entering university, she was shocked to realize that life wasn’t what she had always known, and coped with changes and life pressures by abusing alcohol.  Alcohol took over her life, and by age 26, she entered rehab.

She found inspiration in the  yoga teacher at the center, and found solace in her own hear. By turning inward, she was able to walk out of the prison she had built for herself.

Produced by Schecter Films. More at Niroga Institute.

Video from KarmaTube

Follow your breath, and walk out of the prison you’ve built for yourself.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

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Rethink your limits

limitless

If you haven’t seen this TED video talk by Amy Purdy who lost her legs and went on to become a professional snowboarder, grab some tissues and get ready to rethink the limits you tell yourself you have.

Without limits.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Pinterest)

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Use what you have

use what you have

Every few months I take inventory of my ‘stuff’. I peruse my closet for clothes and shoes that are better served as donations;  I take a trip down ‘expiration date’ lane and go through vitamins, prescriptions, lotions, makeup, etc.; and, I take inventory of my physicality. That is, what am I not using very much that I SHOULD, what am I afraid to let go of, and what should change?

Let’s face it, when you hit 40, your body changes.  The exercises that used to come easy, may be the ones that could now cause injury.  And the workouts we shy away from, might just be what cures an ache or pain.

Not too long ago, I was a die-hard Surya Namaskar (sun salutation) junkie.  My mornings consisted of an asana practice that featured a lot of sun salutations with standing, balancing, twisting and inversion poses mixed in, but I noticed that injuries were creeping in.  “Is yoga bad for me?” I wondered?  No, my practice had become, in itself, a samskara — a pattern that wasn’t serving me anymore.

After some assessment, I found that I was gravitating to poses that were easy much to the demise of other parts of my body.  I also noticed that I was avoiding poses that caused pain — and rightly so. But, I decided to investigate the root cause rather than give up altogether.  I’ve since made adjustments to my practice that are specific to my body’s needs, and try to mix it up regularly.

While yoga IS very beneficial for everyone, it’s not once size fits all.  We all can’t be Kathryn Budig (God love her), but like she says, we can “aim true.”

Take stock of your life — physcially, spiritually, emotionally, and posessions-ally. Get rid of what no longer serves you, and use what you have to your fullest (safest) potential.

Namaste,

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: A Lifetime of Wisdom)

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Walk the plank of life with acceptance

walking the plank

It’s funny how life has a way of smacking you upside the head with messages if you’re awake to them.  I shared a quote on Google+ that I saw recently, “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.” ~Thomas Jefferson. But then someone responded to my post with this and I loved it even more, “When you reach the end of your rope, Let Go.” ~Buddhism.

Acceptance can be tricky.  Easy to say, often hard to do. The catch-22 is that the one thing that is hardest for us to accept, will set us free when we do. Some people struggle with accepting divorce, others with loss, and others have a hard time accepting that their life just didn’t turn out like they thought it would, and it’s the struggle itself that causes much our suffering. For me, it’s managing a chronic illness. Continue reading

The day I talked to a tree

girl talking to a tree

I’ve been blessed with great friends, including one with whom I’ve recently reconnected.  We reunited at a yoga workshop last year, and have stayed in touch ever since.  Our paths have crossed too many times to ignore, including our attending the same yoga teacher training program a decade apart. We’ve shared common memories of the program including some of the rites of passage that we experienced in our separate journeys. I’m honored to have this  guest blog post from my friend, fellow yoga teacher and inspiration, and truly one of the most authentic people I know, Amber Barry.

———————————————–

I’m an all-American girl, raised on MTV and Julia Roberts movies. Never spent much time in the woods before I got into yoga. So, when my yoga teacher training (YTT) mentor asked me to tell my life story to a tree, I thought he was out of his mind.

It was September 2002, the first weekend of YTT. I was working toward my certification, which meant 200 hours of classroom training in 5 months. I knew it would be a lot of work, but nothing could have prepared me for all it would entail.

In the first two days of YTT, I practiced yoga for twelve hours, cleared my chakras, experimented with transcendental meditation, and participated in a Native American smudging ceremony. I felt like Alice in Wonderland, tumbling down The Rabbit Hole, wondering what was next.

That first weekend of YTT was scary, fascinating, and overwhelming all at once. By Sunday afternoon, however, I was tired and wanted to go home. As we packed up our mats, water bottles, and notebooks, our homework was assigned:

Before we meet again in two weeks, spend a full day alone in the woods. Get there early enough to watch the sun rise. Tell your life story to a tree, and write an essay about the experience.

SERIOUSLY? I can’t do that.

I thought about quitting the course, but something inside me told me I shouldn’t.

The next morning, I pulled out a map, and made a plan. I worked full-time in Corporate America back then, so tree-talking had to wait until the weekend. I dreaded it all week.

Saturday finally came. The weather was cold and drizzly when I awoke at 5:30AM, so I packed a lunch and a raincoat. It was a 40 minute drive to Sweetwater Creek Park, and I spent the entire ride wishing I could call it off.

Instead, I walked into the woods as the sun rose. No compass (forgot it), no trails (huh?), and terrified that I might get lost.

Ok, so how do I know which tree I’m supposed to talk to?

I picked the fattest tree I could find, and sat down, and started talking.

It felt silly, baring my soul to a tree. I kept looking around to see if anyone was watching. I went back and forth between hoping someone would rescue me, and fearing what might happen if someone did find me. Why am I doing this?

I didn’t get it. But I did as I was told, and kept talking. From birth to age 30, I laid it all out. My hopes, dreams, and fears. Traumas and dramas that had never healed. Secrets I had never told another soul. Mistakes I had a hard time admitting, even to myself. And then I was done, with nothing left to tell. So I went home.

It was an unforgettable day, that taught me something extraordinarily valuable:

We all have a story about who we are, and we tell it to ourselves over and over again, until it becomes our “truth”. The problem is that there is often great disparity between our “truth” and reality. The story is founded in perception, yet we build our entire lives around it. Through repetition, the story gains power, and ultimately prevents us from finding happiness.

With time, and a lot of yoga, I learned how to reject the story, so that I could live my life with clarity, awareness, and purpose. And in the process, I found that the happiness I craved was actually inside me all along.

(Photo: Jeremiah Morelli, Mor Jer’s Art)

Amber Barry is a yoga instructor, wellness coach, blogger, wife, and mother of three amazing girls. She has spent over 20 years learning how to be healthy, and loves inspiring others to do the same. You can find her blogging at mycrazyhealthylife.com, tweeting as @crazyhealthy, and updating her status at Come On, Get Healthy!

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