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The Ego is not Necessarily the Enemy February 23, 2009

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There are times when life seems to be perfectly aligned with your inner purpose and everything is completely effortless, but then out of the blue, you find yourself feeling lost and totally disconnected. I spent years staggering between extremes. I was either feeling good or bad…up or down…in one direction or the other. One moment I indulged in every desire and the next I sought out simplicity and purity. I felt bipolar, as there was a part of me that loved to be wild and crazy, but then there was another part of me that liked to be settled and virtuous.

Living from one extreme to the next left me exhausted and yearning for balance. Why couldn’t I find a happy medium where both the fun wild party girl and the meditating peaceful yoga girl could live in harmony without feeling like it had to be all or nothing. It took many years of living between the two worlds before I learned how to peacefully incorporate the two. My yoga practice and commitment to spiritual growth is what brought equanimity and ease in to my life.

In finding balance and keeping my body and mind connected, I’m now aware when my ego starts to take over and pull me in a different direction because I can see the shift happening, as I find myself skipping yoga practice, being more judgmental, making excuses as to why I can’t meditate, craving sweets and partying like a rock star.  Things that don’t typically bother me start to get to me and I tend to react instead of handling conflicts more passively. A fire blazes through me, as my wild child unleashes and suddenly I become stubborn and liberated with no sense of grounding.

When these things start happening, it’s a clear indication I need to pull back the reins a bit and come back to a place of equanimity, but before I can do that, I have to look at my life and figure out what caused the shift. An imbalance usually means something isn’t working. There’s a relationship that has gone awry, a job that needs to end, or some other change that needs to happen. When something is out of sync, the sympathetic nervous system kicks in to fight or flight and I go in and hide, as the protective ego steps in to save me. I use to think the ego was bad because it took me away from my healthy yogic lifestyle, but now I see it as my body just trying to get my attention. 

I don’t have to run anymore, as I now honor the presence of the ego as my protector. I witness the body shutting down. I see the signs. I’m aware of being ungrounded and not centered or aligned with my higher purpose and the moment I become aware is the moment I find my way back to the mat and to the daily morning ritual of sitting in meditation. It doesn’t take much for me to remember my true essential nature and be back in touch with my higher self. I don’t have to live in extremes anymore. I can live in a place of balance without having to swing between the bipolar worlds of self and ego.

If familiar negative habits and patterns start showing up in your life, then it’s a pretty good indication you need to get back on the mat or do something to nurture yourself. The longer you wait, the longer it will take for you to get back to a place of center. It’s truly about living life more consciously and being aware of your habits so you can see shifts happening before they overcome you. Once the pendulum swings back to neutral, the things in your life that caused you to sway from your path will magically fall by the wayside. Everything in life is interconnected so listen to your body and honor yourself. It is your inner experience of self that guides you…not your thoughts or emotions, but your true higher self. The only way you’ll know when it’s time to end a relationship or change jobs or make a positive change in your life is by quieting the mind and going within to the inner sanctuary of self, which is where the rest of the world seems to fall in to place.

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A Home Practice July 30, 2008

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Two weeks and my neck injury continues to offer new insights about myself and my practice. I went to a couple yoga classes after my teacher convinced me to get back on the mat, but I felt restricted as to what I could do. I pushed myself a little too hard because I was in a class setting where I was use to moving through the asanas with strength and vigor.

I spend a lot of time telling my students to be gentle with their body…honoring wherever they’re at…allowing the breath to take them deeper. I tell them yoga isn’t a performance-based practice. It’s not about being perfect or competitive. It’s not about pushing beyond the edge. It’s about compassion, understanding, and honoring the body.

I hear myself telling my students this yet here I am in class trying to push myself farther than I need to go. I’m just so use to working my body hard that sometimes I forget what first pulled me to yoga and the benefits I’ve seen from moving slower and more consciously. Yoga provides so many more benefits than most exercise regimens because it incorporates all the major muscle groups providing strength and balance for the body in a way other workouts can’t provide. I, like so many other people, are conditioned to think we need to sweat and be out of breath before our bodies get a workout, but that is not the case. I’ve actually seen my body transform more through yoga than any other workout I’ve ever done…kickboxing, taekwondo, aerobics, running…you name it.

I practice here and there on my own and it always feels good, but never like it does going to a class. I know it’s because I don’t give it a chance. I never treat it like a real class. I just sit and stretch without tuning in to my body and allowing my intuition to move me through a full practice. I’ve been telling myself for months to roll out the mat, but for some reason I was resisting. I fell in to a habit of going to classes taught by other teachers because I felt like I couldn’t get the same experience at home. I wanted a work out and if I didn’t get a work out then I wasn’t going to do it. Right? Have you ever told yourself the very same thing? That’s the ego and how silly. I knew better than that yet I still couldn’t get myself on the mat so the Universe gave me a little push.

I went to sub a class for a friend of mine and ironically nobody showed up so there I was in this big open room sitting on my yoga mat with nothing to do, but practice yoga. That’s what I call cosmic humor! Since I had  to be there the entire time, I decided to treat it like a real class. I moved slowly…mindfully…in a place of silence…just me, my breath, and my body moving rhythmically from one pose to the next. I practiced for over an hour and it felt amazing. I left feeling high and I realized something very beautiful. The yoga high we get from practicing yoga doesn’t come from the teacher…it comes from the place of stillness that rests just beneath the busy mind. It comes from being fully present in the body and being mindful of the breath.   

Attending class is great, but there needs to be a home practice to fully appreciate the teacher within. It’s about balance and bringing both in to your life. You are the one who comes to the mat…whether the mat is at home, in a studio, or out in nature somewhere. You need to be able to intuitively know what your body needs and move from a place of knowing instead of a place of doing. Honor yourself by getting on the mat and listening to the place within you. A good teacher knows her body and what her body needs so delve in and listen to the greatest master of all…you!

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Yoga Teacher Training June 25, 2008

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Yoga Teacher Training is a remarkable journey! I graduated the 200 hour course at Peachtree Yoga Center in February 2008 and then went directly in to the Advanced Teacher Training program. Combined, these courses literally revolutionized the way I live. At first, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to get out of it, but I knew intuitively it was something I needed to do.

I went in thinking I knew who I was, but found out there was a completely different person beneath all the layers of memories, experiences and influences programmed from the past. I spent my whole life reacting to life and then suffering from the consequences of my reactions. My mind defined me according to my career, material possessions, relationships, social status, and other things that lived outside of me (having nothing to do with “me”).

Teaching Training explored not just the physical, but the emotional, the mental, and the energetic body. We were given the proper tools to get in and change old self-defeating thought patterns and emotional programming. This purification led me to a place of stillness and balance. I didn’t realize the importance of Pantanjali’s 8 limbs of yoga until I took the course and was taught the value of incorporating these principals of moral conduct in to my everyday life. It wasn’t just about the physical practice or learning how to teach the poses. It was about being ethical and having integrity and living life from a place of authenticity. It was about having self-discipline and detaching from the external world and the roles we play . It was about breathing and cultivating a sense of internal awareness of who we are beyond the labels and material possessions. It was about concentration and meditation. It was about enlightenment being a journey and not a destination.

It was about finding a delicate balance of effort and inertia. I spent years trying to achieve a place of equanimity where the lows weren’t so low and the highs weren’t so high, but it wasn’t until teacher training that I learned how to achieve a place of stillness amongst the activity of every day life. I didn’t want to become a monk and go live in the mountains and meditate. I wanted to live every day life with every day people without being attached or having expectations or letting the world’s suffering affect me. I wanted to experience life from a place of peace. I wanted to dance with life and breathe in to existence without feeling fear or anger for all the ignorance.

The 8 limbs helped me understand why balance was so important and why asanas on their own couldn’t bring a state of equanimity. It was an enriching and profound discovery that led me to adopt these principals personally and professionally.  The mediation and pranayama played a huge component in my transformation. By use of a mantra I was able to empower myself to go beyond the ensuing thoughts. I was able to drop in to a place of silence where I experienced an eternal freedom. I found a place of stillness where there was infinite possibilities and untold wisdom. Once you know who you are the world opens up to you…the sky’s the limit. The world becomes yours because you realize you are the world and the world is you…there is no separation of self and the whole…there is no longer an ”I.” It’s about union…the divine whole of all the individual counterparts that make up the universe.

When you reach this place, which is your true essential nature, everything in your life changes. Your relationships improve because you finally have the ability to communicate from a place of truth and truth is always about love…loving yourself and the world in which we live. It makes you a better teacher because you are practicing what you teach.

I will be forever in debt and utterly grateful to my divine teachers at Peachtree. Teacher Training gave me a safe space to do the work I needed to grow and open my eyes to something far greater than anything I ever expected. I weaved myself a little cocoon where I went deep within myself and flew out a beautiful radiant butterfly who was finally free. Peachtree is the Mother Tree and Graham and Ursula are the inner being of that tree. They are the soul of the studio and they speak the truth…they live the truth…they are the truth. They truly get it and they dedicate their lives unselfishly to helping others find their own truth…their internal light…the light that shines out from within.

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