Letting Go: A New Year’s Resolution

This month’s blog is dedicated to Colleen Collins, a former student who recently passed. Her passing was sudden and without much ado. Colleen was not the easiest personality to get along with, honestly, which personality is? We all struggle with our own idiosyncrasies.

Colleen inspired me. She wanted her journey to be sacred, and was aware of her shortcomings, reminding me that even when we are aware, it is nevertheless hard to manage and navigate. Frankly, it’s a daily struggle.

She didn’t give up, but she was learning to let go.  Letting go is the hardest part of the journey. I am going to use her inspiration to practice letting go this year. I am letting go of things, thoughts and habits that no longer serve my life’s  goal:  to be my best self (notice I didn’t say ‘perfect self’).  This year, I want to let go, embrace my humanity, and grow spiritually. In order to give the world the best of ourselves, we must first learn to let go.

Back in 2013, Colleen gave me this poem (below) She Let Go. It is no coincidence I saved it in my journal, to share with you today. Thank you Colleen for your inspiration. May the sun and the moon shine with you, forevermore.

She Let Go

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go. She let go of the fear. She let go of the judgments. Let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head. She let go of the committee of indecision within her. She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.

Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go. She didn’t ask anyone for advice. She didn’t read a book on it. She didn’t search the scriptures. She just let go. She let go of all the memories that held her back. She let go of all the anxiety that kept her from moving forward. She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

She didn’t promise to let go. She didn’t journal about it. She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer. She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper. She didn’t check the weather report or read the daily horoscope.

She didn’t analyze whether she should let go. She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter. She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment. She didn’t call the prayer line. She didn’t utter a word. She just let go.

No one was around when it happened. There was no applause or congratulations. No one thanked her or praised her. No one noticed a thing. There was no effort. There was no struggle. It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad. It was what it was and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be. A small smile came over her face. A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.

The Essence of Giving

The Essence of Giving

Giving is not an unusual topic this time of year. Every single advertisement is about giving, as we all work on our gift lists, scurrying around to find the right gifts. However, the real  giving has little to do with buying  gifts.  As I delve deeper into the spiritual aspect of my life, I realize that giving is a profound state of being.

We are in a constant state of giving. We give to our family, our friends, our work, our neighbors, our community and our country. The most important thing we give comes from our Self.  We give our love, our attention, our compassion, our kindness, our time, our listening, our understanding, our help, our commitment and our labor. We give without being asked or feeling obliged. There is no special holiday that deserves these gifts, there is no hubbub or big celebrations.   

It’s the time you took to create the meal for your family,  the time you took to listen to someone who was needed to be heard. It is the time you pitched in to help clean up the local pond or work at the food pantry. It is the time you drove your friend to her doctor’s appointment or the time you gave someone a big hug. It is the time you called your friend just to see how they were doing, and the time you cared for your sick spouse. This is the essence of giving.

Giving are all of those actions that comes from your heart, even the seemingly insignificant ones. The main principle in true giving is that you expect nothing in return. NOTHING.  It is not “well I did this for her so…..” or “I let him use my stuff so…” or “how can she after I did…”  True giving expects nothing in return…ever.  It is not a tit for tat, there is no running tab or score keeping.  True giving is altruistic. True giving is selfless, whether you get credit or you are thanked, or get anything in return. True giving is a spiritual path. It is the path of knowing you are serving a greater purpose.  You are serving life itself.     

This holiday season give from the heart, put love into all of the things you do, without expectations.  Do it because it helps preserve the sanctity of life. It helps make the world a better place and it costs nothing. 

Namaste, <3 Grace*  

Service is the Highest Form of Yoga

“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson
One of my favorite poems is by Ralph Waldo Emerson “…to know even one life has breathed easier, because you have lived.  This is to have succeeded.” These words are a guiding force in my life. As the physical part of my yoga practice has deepen, so has the spiritual. I believe we are all interconnect, each of us a single thread in an incredible tapestry. The Sanskrit definition of yoga means “union”. In the physical practice of yoga, it means union of breath, body and mind.  In the spiritual practice, it means union with the divine, the life force that exists in each of us.  We acknowledge this every time we say namaste to each other. 
As a teacher I want my students, not only to be fit and flexible, but also to live their lives with a sense of overall well-being. So part of my practice as an instructor is to serve, with compassion. I try to make myself accessible, approachable, to listen without judgement, and help whenever I can, even if it’s a hug and a smile. I believe we rise by lifting others. If we are all connected, then if you’re ok, I’m ok, that’s how it works.
A big part of why I am this way, is because of the example my family gave me. Growing we did not have a lot of money, although I never felt it, because they made sure I had everything I needed. My father had skipped town early on and my mother barely made ends meet. Thankfully my grandparents we’re instrumental in raising me. Nevertheless, my family was always helping others. Always. There was never a time I can remember when they were not doing something for somebody, which they still do to this day. It made my world feel rich, abundant, regardless of any material possession.
Recently a friend gave me this One Person Can Make a Difference poem (read below) on my birthday. I held back tears, truly that someone would think of me when they saw this.  Then I remembered my mission statement. It helped remind me what I was capable of, and why I started this journey.  I am not perfect, far from it. The layers of struggle I’ve had to work through, sometimes by my own design, rivals the best of them. Nevertheless I am grateful for the opportunity to serve, because service is the highest form of yoga. Namaste.

 

The Intimacy of Yoga

The intimacy of Yoga. What does it mean? Yoga becomes sacred when you start to develop a relationship of love and respect with your body.  They always refer to yoga as the mind-body connection because your mind is focusing on your body, and through that focus and attention you begin to discover that you are more than just a body.  Your breath becomes your spirit, linking body and mind.  Yoga is not just the connection between mind and body, it is the connection of mind, body and spirit, or shall we say “self”.   

As you quiet the mind and focus inward you uncover the “self”, the presence within that has always been there, and will always be there.  A presence that is infinite, boundless and timeless.  A “self” which is connected to something bigger, more expansive then just the constructs of the body or mind.  If you tune in with non-judgement during your practice, you will begin to feel the self.  Its beauty and power cannot be measured, only felt. 

That “self” is the essence of you.  An essence that is omnipresent like the oxygen we breathe. We do not see oxygen, nevertheless it is always present.  It sustains us.  It is the same with our spirit, our self.  Most of us focus outward, using judgement, material objects, titles and other superficial measures, trying to find our self-worth, when all we need to do is search within. Our self is whole, it is complete, there is nothing missing, there is nothing wrong.  All of the issues we create in our head is false. I love that quote don’t believe everything you think.

Yoga is a journey through the self to the self.  I have often said “music and dance saved my life, while yoga healed it”.  It is true.  Yoga help me find my way back to my spirit, to uncover my soul, with every breath, every twist, every warrior, and every tree.  It asked me to be presence and accept myself as I am.  It is that process of showing up, the discipline of being present and the commitment to care for my “self” with compassion and non-judgement.  I AM HERE right now and I am ok just as I am.  There are no labels on you mat, no discrimination, you’re not playing one of your many roles, it’s just you.

If you allow it, compassion will evolve and love will replace doubt, that’s when real healing begins. It is a connection through the self, to the self.  So when you feel disconnected, lost or at odds with your life…find your way back on your mat.  All of the answers are there, within, located in the essence that is the self.

The Yin Yang of Yoga and Dance-and why it’s one of the best combos!

 

It’s funny when students who take my yoga classes, see me for the first time teaching Zumba. They are genuinely surprised, if not a bit shocked…LOL. I get all kinds of remarks from “it’s like watching another person” or “one would never think from your yoga class…”  It’s true, dance and yoga are my Yin Yang.  They balance each other perfectly.  They not only provide all of the necessary benefits to help keep your body healthy and fit.  They also provide emotional and spiritual health and well-being.  They are two-sides of the same coin.

Dance (the Yang), ignites your high energy, enthusiastic side.  It is the “language of the soul”.  While Yoga (the Yin) inspires beautiful focused movement which flows with breath.  It is the “poetry of the body”.  There is a lot of synergy between both practices. Both require focus and controlled breathing for stamina.  Both develop strength in our bodies.  Both help develop rhythm and coordination.  Both help us to be present, and most incredibly dance and yoga unites us, as we move as one to the beat and in the flow.

Dance, as a cardio based exercise, helps our body burn calories, however more important than that, it makes our heart pump faster, which helps to strengthens it.  The heart is one of the hardest working muscles in our body and perhaps the most important.  Cardio from dance also creates “the dancer’s high”, it’s a process in which the body releases endorphins, known as the body’s natural anti-depressant.  The natural euphoria helps heal your mind, body and spirit.

Yoga, is typically associated with flexibility, however there are greater benefits.  One important benefit which is often overlooked is “breathing”.  The focus on breathing throughout the practice is very important. In yoga, attention to breathing is used to helps focus the mind, relax muscles groups and build stamina in order to hold difficult poses. Yoga also builds muscular strength, creates balance and develops coordination.  It is a gift to your “self”.

Spiritually both practices inspire me to no end.  Both dance and yoga allow me to be a “better version” of myself.  They help me connect to a wider world, and they help me heal when I am broken.  Both require hard work and discipline, and while I am teaching others, they remind me that I am first and foremost a student. Emotionally, both practices help keep my keel even.  It’s a blessing to navigate through life and its storms, feeling centered.

If you’re not doing one or both…..whatcha waitin’ for?