Every second counts
byÂ Jill Sockman
I spent the entire day yesterday watching college football. Â It’s an occasional indulgence, mostly at the holidays and generally always with family. I was indoctrinated at an early age (or perhaps am genetically predisposed), and it’s more of an addiction than just a family tradition. Â Anyway, it was fun to be a part of game day, Sockmans across the country screaming at the television.
After the Big Game (go Bucks!!) I morphed into my chair and watched another rivalry: Â Alabama vs. Auburn. If you missed it, you missed something really incredible – and I don’t think you need to know about football or care about college sports at all to appreciate it. It made no difference to me whatsoever who won that game. But it was a remarkable illustration that every second counts, don’t give up, and you just never know what is going to happen.
It was looking like game-over for Auburn. You’d never have known from the fighting spirit of the players, but time was running out. A touchdown toward the end of the 4th quarter tied the game – OT was inevitable. A long review of the last play of regulation showed Alabama had stepped out of bounds with one second left on the clock. One second? What’s the point? All the same, one second on the clock, please.
So, with one second on the clock, Alabama decided to try for a field goal – a 56-yard long-shot. Why not go for it, right? Nothing to lose. Well, the kick was short, Auburn caught the ball in the end zone, and proceeded to run 108 yards for a touchdown and a win. That one second changed everything. It was the most amazing sporting moment I’ve witnessed.
I have no idea what my point is here. But I just can’t get this “fantastic finish” out of my mind. There’s something about the inevitable not being inevitable. Â The impossible becoming possible. One second changing everything. I was moved, inspired, amazed. Â And I’m pretty sure there’s something in there for all of us to savor… Â If you figure out exactly what that is, let me know. 🙂
Put the Phone Down
by Jill Sockman
I grew up in a home where the phone was considered a tool – or an appliance maybe. Not unlike an oven or a drill, it had a purpose, generally work-related, and otherwise one should leave it alone. Time chatting on the phone was limited, and even as a teenager I was not permitted to have a phone in my bedroom. In fact, I clearly remember my disciplinarian father telling me (in no uncertain terms) that the phone was NOT a toy. My, how times have changed.
Fast forward to the present. During training last week, I was staying in a cabin, on a ranch about halfway up the mountain from Carbondale to Redstone, Colo. I had no cell service. And unless near the main lodge, no Internet either. Heaven. In every way. And it got me to thinking.
Between the (forced) opportunity to be technology-free and topics of the lectures I was attending, now more than ever I am making a conscious decision to PUT THE PHONE DOWN. I sat in the airport and watched couples, friends, families not speaking to each other, heads dropped into the world of Angry Birds and Facebook. Is this productive, helpful or healthy? It would seem a lot of yogis aren’t even doing their practice without Phone In Hand. Seriously? Is that actually yoga? How many times a day do you check your e-mail? Yeah, I thought so.
For me, connecting online is, many times, a decision (conscious or unconscious) to NOT connect – whether that is with another person, with the internal landscape of my mind and body, the external landscape around me or simply the moment at hand. We don’t have enough time and aren’t experiencing spaciousness because we aren’t giving ourselves the opportunity to have it.
Repeat after me: PUT THE PHONE DOWN. There will be a period of withdrawal. But you can do it. Take a deep breath. Look up at the sky. Feel fully 100% of the moment you are in. We’re here for a very short time. Don’t miss it.
Judgement of That Which is Non-Yogic
by Jill Sockman
It can be all too easy to fall into that dualistic mind of partitioning the world into things/people that are yogic and those that are not. Ultimately unhelpful, but this is what we do. The recent effort across the broader yoga community to block YogaGlo from patenting the recording of yoga instruction during a live class (what?!?!?!?!) is one example which has ruffled a lot of feathers. And don’t get me wrong: I think it’s even crazier than trying to patent a sequence of asana which have been performed by millions of people over thousands of years. But it got me to thinking…
If I’m not careful, I can move pretty quickly into Judgement of That Which is Non-Yogic. This, from a person who should truly be banned from ever even driving a car for the number of “un-yogic” thoughts, words and probably actions that stem from said activity pokies free online. (Yogi, Know Thyself) Teachers spouting more sales pitches more than sangha and self-promotion than self-inquiry, we yogis are just as susceptible to the un-yogic as those who’ve never even heard of Downward Dog.
Here’s the thing. We can’t do anything about others’ behavior. But we can – and should – work on our own. And for me, the practice of non-judgement of myself and others is a constant. So what do you do when you see yourself behaving in an un-yogic way? First, take a breath. Whatever you’ve just done or said doesn’t make you less of a yogi, it just makes you human. We’re here because we’ve got some shit to sort out. As yogis, we just need to get real about looking at the stink pile, and sorting through it. Use that energy to cultivate and spread the light from the inside out instead of pointing the judgement spotlight somewhere else. Do the practice. All is coming.
Step outside the Kingdom of Comfort
by Jill Sockman
So, here’s a little question for you. How much are you missing out on in order to stay warm, stay dry, stay safe or stay comfortable? I’m beginning to realize that the older I get, the more I just might be missing.
There was a time in my life when adventure was de rigueur. I was pretty uninterested in comfortable, as it generally meant *boring*! While I suppose there are elements of maturity and practicality at play here, there are also elements of complacency, fear, laziness and wayyy too much time spent in my comfort zone.
Oh, the beloved comfort zone. A while back we posted a cartoon on Facebook with a sketch indicating the location of all of the good stuff as decidedly outside your comfort zone. Ha ha, yes, so true, Like!, I agree, blah blah blah. But what are you doing about it? How much time do you really spend outside your comfort zone? Do you know what it feels like? Because very often it’s cold, wet, hot, sticky, tired, nerve-wracking, anxiety-producing…UNCOMFORTABLE! Until it isn’t…and then it’s exhilarating, spectacular, breathtaking, deeply freeing.
When did you last stay up half the night to see a meteor shower? Walk barefoot in the pouring down rain? Climb a mountain? Fly a kite? Try something– ANYTHING– new (and well outside your usual range of activities)? Have you created your own, personal Kingdom of Comfort, including only people like you and doing only the things you’re good at? Well, join the club.
I say we disband the Comfort Club. Today, this week, this month, I invite you to try something new. To do something a little differently, to let go, lose control, act silly, have an adventure, mess it up, get it wrong, be vulnerable. Why? To open you up to more life. More love. More joy.
Let’s try, shall we? And if you do, take a picture and tag us at #bluelotusnc. We’ll do the same.
Deciding for your highest and best interest
by Jill Sockman
So, I was giving some thought to how we make decisions. In personality tests, this process is often broken down into two categories: intellectual/factual or emotional/intuitive. As I understand it, most of us have a primary method (one or the other) as the place from which we decide.
I’d like to add another element, continuing on from my ramblings last month. How many of our decisions are truly decisions and not just default reactions? How many things do we do without much mindfulness or introspection? And even more, how many of our choices are based on erroneous beliefs and patterns of behavior (samskara!) instead of in-the-moment presence with what is best?
My answer is too many, and I want to change that. I’ve come to recognize that I make a lot of decisions that are in the best interest of others (or so I’d like to believe) and not really the best choice for me. What I am slowly, glacially beginning to understand is that if it’s not the right thing for me (in the bigger “highest and best” sort of way) it’s not the right thing for anyone else either. Seems simple enough, but a little tougher to implement when you’re not in the habit.
This is the thing about sva dharma- your own personal path/truth/way. When you are doing the right thing, at the right time for you, you’re actually serving the collective in ways more far reaching than you can imagine. We are all connected, and as you walk your own way with clarity and integrity, you are in exactly the right place to help others do the same. So as you make that next decision, maybe the first question to ask is, Is this in my highest and best interest? And go from there.
Get out of your groove
by Jill Sockman
Yoga classes, magazine articles, songs on Spotify…everyone’s talking about letting go. What the heck does that mean? And how are you supposed to do it?
Whatever it is that you are holding on to — and the list of possibilities is long: childhood baggage, unforgiven hurts, unhealthy habits, toxic relationships, I could go on and on — chances are good that you didn’t pick it up last week. Part of the holding on is, itself, a habit. And a habit takes time to really cement into your way of being.
So you recognize that you’ve got something tight in your fist (or your mind or your heart) that is holding you back. Whether it’s animate or inanimate, it regularly has your attention, your time, your energy, and you’ve determined that there are better places to put those precious resources. How do you actually let go?
I love the quote “the only difference free online pokie machines between a groove, a rut and a grave is depth.” In yoga, these habits, or ruts can be called samskaras. For a quick definition, a samskara is the way you’ve always done it before- always leading to the same result.
While eventually we’d like to be free of samskaras, living ever-present in the eternal Now, that’s a pretty lofty aspiration for most of us on the mortal plane. Unless you’re clothed in gossamer, wings a-trailing behind you with a harp soundtrack, that might just not be for you this go round. What to do?
Start by doing something different. Make a new, healthier, more productive, accepting, compassionate groove. See the pattern about to repeat itself, white-knuckled and closed-hearted, and make a change. It can feel terrifying or exhilarating, but over time it feels lighter, more free. And eventually you look down and see that closed fist has softened to an open hand. Ready to receive something new.
Seeing with new eyes
by Jill Sockman
I took last week off to get in a 5-day Tantra intensive with my teacher. There was a very small group of us for this training — only 22 — and the training was held in a retreat center on the Baja peninsula — about halfway between Cabo and Todos Santos. For those of you who don’t know the terrain, it’s beautiful desert land along the rugged Pacific coast. There’s a striking beauty to the contrast between the dry scrub and cactus and the wild sea that feels so powerful, so raw.
The center where we stayed (we’ll be taking a retreat/continuing education trip there next year!) was amazing. Completely off grid, no traffic, no noise but the wind and the sea, no light pollution — away from the many distractions of urban life. It was the perfect place to get quiet and experience the expansive states that we often just read about in books or talk about in theory.
After an especially long day, an old friend and I settled onto the rooftop to do a little star gazing and the night sky was spectacular. So far from a city, the stars illuminated the velvet black sky in known and unknown patterns and before long we started to see the shooting stars.
I’ve had this experience once before, but it had been so long, I’d forgotten the magic: the sky is *full* of shooting stars. All the time! But in our backyards, with the lights from the city all around us, we just can’t see them. But they are always there. We just need to step away a little deeper into nature and take the time to look up.
It got me to thinking. What else is around us all the time that we can’t see (and often forget about) until we stop, go to a quiet place and look with new eyes? Quite a lot, I’d say.
In the habit of busy?
by Jill Sockman
I’m a list maker and I always have been. I think the source of the habit is two-fold: part because of the inexplicable glee I get from crossing items off said list and part because my brain is incapable of remembering more than three things at any given time. And so I have lists: things to do, groceries/supplies to buy, books to read, projects to begin/complete — even the list of lists is endless. They live in multiple notebooks, on my computer, in my phone, on the back of receipts in my wallet and in general, I am not sure if I’m bound by or held together by these endless notes.
In this lovely week away, where I’ve been given ample space and time to be with my best (and not best) self, I have found that I am at a bit of a loss when I not working my way through something (often in order to get to something else.) I’ve come to see that these notes are sometimes my things-to-do-other-than-what-I’m-currently-doing lists, or more honestly, ways-to-avoid-My-Stuff lists. Sound familiar? Even as I type this, I’m feeling the resurgence of an oft-repeated theme about productivity and responsibility, in contrast to relaxing, being and going with the flow. That definitely sounds familiar.
With the crashing waves and salt air as requisite catalysts to see myself with a little extra clarity, I recognize that I’m again in the habit of busy. It’s not *real* busy, it’s faux busy. Monkey busy. And so here with the sea, blue sky overhead, Boo snoring at my feet and dear friends working and playing on the adjacent porch I hereby make a pledge to be lazy. Present. Grateful and spacious. At least for the last 24 hours of my stay. And I send a little of that home to you, too.
The Power of Place
Allow me to tell you about my home practice space — not because I think it is an ideal model of peace and perfection, but precisely because it is not. When I am not teaching or practicing at the beautiful blue sanctuary, my mat unfolds between my dresser, my desk, a coat rack, and sometimes a laundry basket, piles of books, or my husband’s work boots. Is this sounding like a yoga oasis yet? I thought not…
But once I unfold my mat, usually after first sweeping up the latest deluge of dog hair, something wonderful happens. Not right away, but slowly, with a few deep breaths and maybe a closing of the eyes.
My cluttered, cramped, and multi-purpose room is transformed into a space that holds infinite possibility for relaxation, renewal, and all the other joys of yoga.
A thirteen-year relationship with my yoga practice has revealed at least one truth: no matter where or when I unroll the mat and begin to move and breathe, I am coming to a place that is familiar and a lot like home. In this place, offered by the mat but also from within, I can recognize that part of myself that does not change no matter what the external craziness looks like. I can connect to purusha, the authentic self, who fortunately does not mind the pile of clothes and books.
Svadhyaya (self-study) is around every corner
by Jill Sockman
During a heated conversation this weekend, I was informed that I am uptight. What?!? Me?!?! UPTIGHT?!?!? (DO YOU WANNA SEE UPTIGHT?!?!?!?) After about forty minutes of mental yogic breathing techniques, I was able to return(-ish) to the conversation as a human being rather than a rabid Grizzly. But later on, it did get me to thinking…
My life is built around a somewhat inflexible set schedule. Not only the classes, workshops, meetings and trainings that comprise my workweek (which is a 7-day endeavor), but my own routine of getting up early, doing my practice, walking the boo, drinking my tea… It’s a rhythm that, when well in place, is very healthy and helps keep me in balance. So the question I came to was, when does balance become boring?
I’ve heard that our greatest assets are often our greatest liabilities. Or said another way, our greatest strength is also our greatest weakness. I’m super organized, reliable, productive, responsible, capable, etc. That’s the upside, I think. But the potential downside is (apparently) the tendency to be controlling, to lack spontaneity, to be, in a word, uptight.
As much as I wanted to stuff this nugget into the nearest bin, preferably on fire, I am trying to use this tidbit as an opportunity for a little svadhyaya (self-study). What are the times, where are the places, when do I have the opportunity to flex my flexibility muscles? Can I simply lighten up a little? What would that look like and how would it feel?
When you hear something about yourself that you don’t like, do you go on the defensive? Make excuses? Lay the blame elsewhere? Even in the most heated of arguments, there are often elements of truth that come out. Can you find the yoga even there (or if not there, a little later in the privacy of your own mind) to see where you have some work, some baggage, some potential to grow?