Awake Your Soul
There is a line in the Mumford and Sons song, Awake My Soul, that says:
“Where you invest your love, you invest your life.”
I came across a picture recently of someone who had this line tattooed on his arm. It struck me still and quiet for moments after I saw it. Not because it was a new idea or concept. It was so impactful because the meaning of the song was already inside me. And the reading of it on that person’s arm was the remembrance of it for my own life.
How much of your day is invested in what you truly love? How many of the conversations you have, the connections you make, the job that you do and the people you meet are rooted in the space of love? Not the romantic love, or the love you have for your kids or friends. But love without labels and conditions. The definition of love is, in my opinion, light and joy. Plain and simple.
Take note of where and how you invest your time today. And what’s the ratio of love vs. non-love interactions? It’s not to judge. It’s simply to assess where you are and if things need to shift in order for you to be the person you know yourself to be.
Awake Your Soul, friends.
‘Tis the Season to Slow Down
The language of our lives can oftentimes resemble that of a racetrack — especially this time of year. How many times a day do you find yourself uttering something that sounds like: I’ve got to run to the grocery store. I’m just going to jump in the shower. I’m going to grab something to eat. Do you have time for a quick call? I’ve got to squeeze in a workout. I’m running late. Hurry up!
Overcommitted schedules and distracted lives driven by checklists can stress us out like nobody’s business. We rush through our days, from one task to the next, and feel like, no matter how good we are at multitasking, there’s just never enough time.
Or is there? Are we rushing because we are under a lot of stress? Or are we stressed because of all of our rushing?
When we think and feel about what is really, truly important in our lives, it can become easier to see our daily agenda a bit differently. And with perhaps more ease and space.
My “slowing down” is a work in progress. Meditation is a key element to that process. The time I take each morning to sit and breathe sets the pace for my day.
Once I started to notice what happened to me physically, emotionally and energetically when I “hurried” (all, by the way, in the category of “not beneficial”), I also noticed that hurrying really wasn’t getting me where I needed to be any more effectively.
I can’t say I excel at planning a calendar with the appropriate amount of white space (read “breathing space”) in between appointments, obligations, and events. But what I do know is that even when it looks like one solid block of a day, my intention is to move through it all more slowly — mindfully, with breath, and awareness.
What about you? Could you go about your life just as effectively at a slower pace? Maybe just for today?
Start by taking five minutes. Right now. Sit. Breathe. Make space. Feel groovy.
“Suzanne, why do you do yoga?”
If I had a nickel for every time I was asked this I would be really rich. REALLY rich. I have come to believe that the people who ask are the ones who are looking for one of two things. They genuinely hope I will say something so profound they will immediately see the light and understand what brings me to the practice. Otherwise, they hope I might say something that sounds so outrageous they will laugh and be able to place me in the category of “that strange yoga person.”
So what answer do I give? I am sure that over the years I have given plenty of both types of answers, but these days I usually say, “It is a really personal practice and what I get from it matters to me.” It is that simple and that complex.
The practice is a commitment and may engender comments from those around you. Some will be good and some may not be so good. Regardless, I am grateful for those who share the practice with me, because it means they are taking care of themselves. My hope for you is that when you get asked THE question you can look the person in the eye and say, ” I do it because I matter.”
Hardening against the uncomfortable
by Jill Sockman
This morning I suited up to take Padma for a walk just as I have for the past week or so: sevevteen layers, complete with ski socks and a hat. By the time I got back to the house, I was sweating (profusely) and cursing my inability to gauge the outdoor temperature with more — or any — skill. It made me realize just how much I’ve been bracing against the cold.
I grew up on the north shore of Ohio. (I know, you didn’t realize Ohio had a shore, right?) For all of the things you might or might not know about that part of the country, perhaps you’ve heard of something called Lake Effect Snow. What is that? Well, basically it boils down to what happens when you live to the south of a giant body of fresh water with Canada to the north: in the winter months (there are about six of them) you get DUMPED on. Driving along the country roads with 8-10′ snowdrifts on either side of the road was normal. Bottom line: Cold. As. *$(*^#. So I should be immune to our coldest 20-30 degree days, right?
Apparently not. Even with the many layers, I curl in, harden, truly brace myself as if cold is somehow detrimental to my very being. As though it is trying to get in and steal my soul. (It might be, it really might be.) Today’s weather made me realize just how much I have been futilely guarding myself, and how that hardening against what is uncomfortable is a habit not solely confined to the cold.
What would it feel like to soften, accept, allow the discomfort in our lives, in the many forms it comes — from the bitter cold outside to the dis-ease of change on the inside? Perhaps on this mild day, it’s a good opportunity to try and see. Shall we?
Practice Gratitude Every Day
Gratitude connects us to presence. Even the simplest expression of gratitude connects us to others. Today, choose something that you are grateful for and then consider who it is around you that makes it possible. Maybe it’s the barista who makes your latte, or the sister who cares for your parents. Or maybe it’s the friend who makes you smile, or the coworker who hears you out. Whomever it is, find a way to let them know you are grateful they exist.
As we lift up those around us, we too, rise up.
Fear or Faith?
by Jill Sockman
The Path of Fear is haunted by our regrets and worries. It is laden with the obstacles of indecision and doubt. Its winding way distracts us, and leaves us with feelings of unworthiness and discontent. The Path of Faith is no less haunted. There are no fewer obstacles. It is every bit as windy and steep. The paths, I believe, look exactly the same. The difference is you.
You are equal to the size of your faith. And it’s a choice you make each and every day. Shraddha (Sanskrit for faith) isn’t a belief in something intangible, outside of yourself. Shraddha is the deep and abiding knowing that you have everything you need. The resources — acceptance, courage, peace, inspiration, discipline — are all already inside of you. And the lessons you need to learn — whatever they may be — are all around you, all of the time. You must only open your mind, heart and hands to welcome them in. What I need is what I have. What I have is what I need.
Choose to walk in the fear that you are not enough, that you’ll never get there, that it’s too hard, too long or too far away. Or walk in faith that this body, this mind, this job, this relationship, this life is exactly as it should be for you to become who you are meant to be.
It’s up to you.
Unplug to Connect
by Jill Sockman
As I’m writing this, I’m in the process of getting ready to leave for Pinehurst for a weekend of teaching some of my favorite material. I love Pinehurst, our host, the deep-diving nature of the work I’ll share there, getting away, great food, intimate community… But one of the things I am looking forward to the most is getting unplugged.
We live in a world where we can “stay connected” not only in bustling urban centers, but in tiny villages, beaches and jungles in most distant places. Our “staying connected” to news, to home, to work and to all the many distractions of a smartphone or computer often gets very much in the way of being connected to what is in the here and now, of every moment, wherever we are.
We know this, we’ve experienced it, we’ve heard it before. My teacher tells the story of sitting on the patio of a guest house in India with two of his kids, overlooking the sacred Ganges at sunrise. I’ve been to the place — it’s MAGICAL in the MOST MAGICAL kind of way. His boys saw a family on a patio below where everyone at the table was looking not out upon life on the river or the rising Indian sun, but at their iPads. WTF, people?!
That’s an extreme example, but there is beauty, perfection, magic in every moment. But we have to be paying attention to see it. Every time I come back from a time unplugged, I vow to do so more often. I’m usually pretty good about it at first, but then regular life and work charge in and I’m back to it. But it’s a reminder, each time, of where and how I want to be.
What would happen if you turned off your phone for your Saturday? Leave it at home for a dinner out with friends? How much more connected could you be, to nature, to life, to the people around you, by simply unplugging for a few waking hours each and every day?
Ahimsa on the Inside
by Jill Sockman
If you’ve hung around a yoga studio with any regularity, you’ve probably heard the word ahimsa before — usually translated as non-violence or non-harming. Seems pretty simple, as the “thou shalt not kill” of the yoga world. And that’s not incorrect, of course. Killing is pretty much off the menu for any spiritual tradition that I know of, and the notion of doing the least amount of harm seems to fall right in line with a kindly “love thy neighbor” approach to life.
Unlike the Niyamas (observances), which are more personal and address how you treat yourself and till the inner soil, ahimsa is one of the Yamas (social restraints) in the Yoga Sutras. It is meant to be an instruction about how you deal with the world around you, as part of a universal code of ethics. Now, I’m not trying to challenge Patanjali or stir the Yogic Pot, but if you’re anything like me, ahimsa on the outside is pretty easy most of the time. Well, except for when I’m in traffic, but you’ve heard all about that before.
The real challenge for me, and I think Patanjali could get on board with this if we could have a chat, is ahimsa on the inside. If we could make an expanded Yama and Niyama list, I’d like ahimsa in both categories, please. Yes, it’s absolutely necessary in terms of how we operate in the world on the obvious level (not maiming/killing others) and on the subtle level (showing kindness and compassion to all). But how about some non-harming and non-violence toward self? From what we eat, read and watch, to the way we overwork, overpractice, overtrain, and overstimulate, to the disempowering, unkindly, ungenerous ways that we talk to ourselves, I’d say ahimsa as a Niyama would be a welcome addition to the practices.
You with me on this? Can we make a collective move toward a total non-harming attitude — not just to others, but to ourselves? As you move through your day, be watchful for the little insidious unkindnesses you put upon yourself. Choose something else, whether a healthier snack, an uplifting book, a couple of hours off to just relax and unwind, or a kind and compassionate word to yourself when you stumble, struggle or fail. After all, I think the full line was “love thy neighbor as thyself” and that last bit makes all the difference.
Create your reality
by Jill Sockman
I change my mind about as much as the next person. At least as far as I know. Sometimes my opinion or viewpoint shifts from experience or new information, but other times it is a random change of perspective that feels as unmanaged as the weather.
A number of years ago, I wrote about this idea in regard to a student in class. She was a long-time student of mine, and one evening I watched her struggling with her body (mind) in a pose, and I offered the question, “What would happen if you decided that you liked it?” As I recall, the question was received with hissing and thorns and perhaps expletives. But The Lesson was clear? We are as attached to what we don’t like as what we do like. And it’s a choice. We resist an experience or we receive it. Period.
Recently, I had this particular teaching come around again…as they always do. I was in a situation (not particularly unpleasant or at all harmful) but I watched my mind spinning in the 3-year-old-tantrum “this isn’t what I want!!!” space. Apparently there was a pause, as seemingly out of nowhere, I heard a voice offer, “What would happen if you decided that you liked it?”
The nice thing about repeat lessons is that however slow we are, eventually we catch on. It gets easier. Less resistance and less pain. I actually laughed to myself, and changed my mind. And you know what? It worked.
I’m not suggesting that you use this as a way to rationalize painful or navigate unhealthy situations. But when faced with the day-to-day ego-driven “I don’t like it/want it” tantrums, what would happen if you decided that you DID want it/like it? How much better would the experience be for you and anyone around you?
We have the power to decide. The mind creates the reality.
Change. Your. Mind.
Operating in the Present, Committing to Change
by Jill Sockman
I’ve heard over and over again from students, teachers, strangers, and the voices in my own head: it’s been a rough year. Whether it’s in the stars, in our karma, or in our minds, I believe there is something in the collective human experience driving us to make changes. Big changes.
We are out of alignment with the rhythms of nature, with the communities around us, and with the deepest callings of our own souls. If in fact the world outside is a reflection of what is inside of us, it’s no real surprise we’re in quite a mess.
I’m writing this to you as I prepare my outline for leading the What’s Next retreat (don’t let the “retreat” part fool you) and putting the finishing touches on the 40 Days of Yoga event we’re kicking off in September, so it’s no wonder transformation, alignment, and getting to the center of truth is on the tips of my fingers. How do we change? Get into alignment? Find truth?
Humans, for the most part, are not driven to seek pleasure. That’s right — hear me out. We’re not, really, or we wouldn’t be so easily offended, so quick to anger, so utterly shackled by our bad habits. We’d be out catching a wave, flying a kite, watching the stars, making love, baking cakes, taking naps. What drives us, most of the time, is the desire to avoid pain. We select our present moment reactions and choices based on past experiences and outcomes. We are not in the present. We are in the past. A place where nothing can change.
When we’re not in the present, we’re not fully available to the current natural cycle, community need, or internal calling. We’re too damn busy trying to manage that which cannot be managed, and control the uncontrollable. Unable to access the inner voice that knows What’s Next, what’s right, what’s true, we bumble around in the darkness of the past, our conditioned behaviors and habitual responses.
This weekend, I’ll be asking a group of yogis to dig in for the answer to the question “What’s Next?” In September, we’ll be asking you to dedicate yourselves as individuals and a collective to transformation and community in 40 Days of Yoga.
Today, I’m suggesting you set a timer for five minutes, close your eyes, and do nothing but relax your body and watch your breath. Be in the present and let the light shine through the crack of the space you have created. Repeat tomorrow. And the next day. And the next…