It Starts with Each One of Us

Recently I was having a conversation with a friend about the current state of affairs. She lamented that even with the great injustice of racism, the looting that came after was inexcusable. I agreed.
She said  “…we haven’t had a Gandhi or Martin Luther King in so long.” I could tell in her voice the anguish of not having a savoir, a living model of non-violence, to protest injustice in a peaceful way.
Years ago when I started my yoga journey, the school I attend had these words on the wall “Heal Yourself, Heal the World”.  I struggled to understand its meaning, but they stayed with me. Periodically I would reflect back on them, researching, trying to understand its deeper meaning.
Fast forward to my current training, after years of teaching and studying I have come to fully understand its meaning.
Our teacher, on the second to last day of our class, addressed the violence that had recently taken place prior to our meeting. She shared her feelings and ended with this realization “…that it starts with each one of us.”  In other words, we are responsible for our own spiritual development and personal growth. On the last day, Dr. Dugliss, the creator of Heart-Based Meditation concluded with  “…as we raise our own vibration, we raise the vibration of the world”, thus heal yourself, heal the world. 
 The essence of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jesus and Buddha is present in all of us. Our guru lives within as Ram Dass discovered. It takes discipline to practice non-violence. In yoga, Ahimsa is one of the Yamas, in the eight-limbs of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. Yama is the limb of self-restraints, and Ahimsa is the practice of nonviolence. It is inspired by the premise that all living beings have the spark of the divine spiritual energy; therefore, to hurt another being is to hurt oneself. It includes not only physical violence, but hurtful thoughts, deeds, actions and words. We are more powerful than we understand. 
 I recently listened to Gandhi’s autobiography “My Experiments with Truth”. It was one of the most amazing and inspirational stories I have ever listened to. His every thought, word, deed and action was guided by Ahimsa. Even in those times that his life depended on it. Many may think “yeah and see where it got him, he was gunned down.” His accomplishments were unprecedented, he inspired the whole world and still to this day his work is revered.  As the example of my friend​s’​ lament “we have not had a Gandhi in a long time” shows us. The concept of Ahimsa is not exclusive to yogic spiritual principles, it has also been an important part of Christianity and Buddhism.
 It’s easy to feel helpless and overwhelmed by the state of the world at any given time. However we can do our part by making sure we’re doing the necessary internal (spiritual) work, so our thoughts, our actions, and our deeds are not contributing to the mayhem that negativity and violence create​s​.
Let us be co-creators of the world we would like to live in. Gandhi said “be the change you want to see“, it’s the same as heal yourself, heal the world. And it is never too late to start.

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*  

My Yoga Journey

Next weekend I will begin the next step in my yoga journey. For several years I have thought about getting my 500-hour teacher training certification. The programs I considered were either too expensive, required lengthy stays or were not well-developed. I had let it go and decided to just take workshops with different instructors that appealed to me. However, my visit to Dragonfly Yoga Barn in NH last May changed that. They were offering a well-developed program, in an intimate setting designed for growing and learning. In addition, the program is created by owner Katie O’ Connell, someone who loves every aspect of her work and lives a yogic lifestyle. I was so inspired, and with the support of my family, I enrolled.
The program is a 300-hour advanced yoga teacher training approved by the National Yoga Alliance. For the next nine month I will be going to NH for a four or three-day weekend which will focus on specific modules, taught by instructors who specialize in those areas. They will also be traveling from far and near to share their knowledge and wisdom. I am beyond excited for this incredible opportunity!
The areas we will be focusing on and studying are Yin Yoga, Restorative Yoga, Yogic Philosophy & Lifestyle, Heart Based Meditation with Paul Dugliss, Thai Massage, and Therapeutic Yoga and Anatomy to name a few.  Naturally, my concern is balancing my currently busy schedule and home life with this new endeavor. Fortunately, my family is supportive, however I’ve had to cut back a few classes from my regular schedule.  It’s for a worthwhile cause.
My passion for yoga is both professional and personal. Personally, yoga has changed my life for the better, therefore it deserves my curiosity and dedication. I have been on a spiritual journey for many years and yoga offers an opportunity to explore its spirituality.  I know this training will move me outside of my comfort zone, and change my inner self in ways I cannot image right now. Professionally my students and private clients will benefit, for they are on this journey with me. I am sure, as I evolve, I will lose students and gain new ones. It is the law of attraction.
I am allowing myself to “trust in the process of life”, and go with the flow. My desire is to learn, practice and grow. Hopefully, to share my wisdom along the way, in order to help others along their journey. I will be blogging and sharing my experience at Dragonfly Barn, so stay tuned in! Namaste <3

Wellness Versus Fitness

I think of fitness as the physical aspects of keeping one’s body strong and healthy through active exercise, and good nutrition. Wellness, on the other hand, covers the essential areas of our life, which effects our overall health, because it includes the mind, the body and the spirit.
I have been in this business for almost ten years,  I have seen fit  people, crippled by personal trauma and mental health issues like anxiety and depression. People who suffer from low self-esteem, no matter how great their bodies look, they are not satisfied. I’ve meet people who lack spirituality, therefore making them feel isolated and alone. In one of my workshop,  the speaker asked everyone to anonymously write a question for him, someone wrote how do I like myself?
Being fit is a great endeavor. It’s the goal to take care of your body. It helps optimize your physical health, allowing you to enjoy life. It is essential to overall wellness. However, the same attention we give our bodies, we also need to give our mental and spiritual well-being, because they are integrally connected. A healthy part is necessary to create a healthy whole.
It is work most people don’t like to do. It’s hard to develop clarity, perspective, and dedication to the “whole” self. It takes commitment to make real changes in your thinking and lifestyle, in order to keep the triangle balanced. Nevertheless, it is important work!
Take time to evaluate these  areas of your life and develop a plan. It can be  as simple as outlining three goals in each area.  List three things that would help you feel better. You will create a map. You’d be surprised, even unconsciously, how you will start working in that direction.
Think of your health, your wellness, in broader terms. Connect mind, body and spirit. You will feel more alive, when all of the parts work together to support the whole.