I am preparing to lead my first in-person retreat since the Before Times. The focus of our time away is around the practice of vichara, or self-inquiry. It’s a combination of unwinding the story of your past and keys to unfolding the life you want. I always hesitate to call it a retreat, because that word conjures up lazy days of rest, exotic locations, and a vacation from work of all kinds. It is decidedly not that. Training is also not the right word, as that implies I’ll be imparting information that can be learned and studied. I suppose what I am preparing to do is guide a vigil, an inner journey, a pilgrimage of sorts where the destination is the Self.… Read the rest
One day last week (we will call it “one day” for the sake of conversation) I was feeling unproductive, weary and heavy, and while I continued to press through the day, it was with the near constant question/mantra “Why am I so tired?” I wandered from task to task, unable to muster much energy or enthusiasm all the way into the early evening- when I was simply waiting for it to be late enough that I could call it bedtime.
The amount of energy I put into the self-interrogation about my tiredness, combined with the effort of pushing against what was with full resistance could likely have been better directed.… Read the rest
Earlier this year, I turned fifty. Whether a by-product of the preceding year we all enjoyed so much or an inevitable part of my own process, I had some pretty strong feelings about it. They were not the good ones. It’s quite an odd thing, as I have many friends who are older than I am, and I always have. When I look at them, I have never, ever thought “YOU ARE SO OLD” (with an accompanying judgment of old as bad) and so I cannot explain why that was the precise reaction I had to myself on this milestone birthday.… Read the rest
Last week I had porch coffee in the blazing heat with a dear friend. It had been a while since we’d caught up, so we were sharing all the latest events and feels when she asked, somewhat out of the blue, “what do you miss the most?” Without skipping a beat (or even weighing the context or the options) what came out of my mouth was “the illusion of certainty.” The idea hadn’t even crossed my mind before, so I’m pretty sure it was, straight up, a message from The Universe. The illusion of certainty. Pause for reflection.
If you’ve been on the planet long enough, I imagine that you, as I, have survived at least your share of life pulling the rug out from under you.… Read the rest
Me: “How did I get here AGAIN?”
Self: “Bad decisions?”
Me: “Very funny. I’m serious. I’ve already learned this lesson!”
Self: “Um, apparently not.”
Me: “But I did. I’ve already been through this.”
Self: “Let me put it to you this way. If you’d actually learned the lesson, you wouldn’t be here again. But you didn’t, so you are. We thought you’d like another chance!”
Does this sound familiar to you? While the specifics of your inner dialogue might be a little different, I have the feeling you know what I’m talking about. One morning you take a look around with that unsettling Groundhog Day feeling.… Read the rest
I had a great exchange with Kathleen this week about a student complaint. If you haven’t been in class with Kathleen, or have never had the chance to read anything she has written, you might put it on your to-do list. She has a sharp, clear mind and a way with words that I find to be so brilliant, so true, funny and precisely to the point every single time. In our chat, she was talking about being “in your practice” a turn of phrase from another teacher, from another time. To be more accurate, she was actually going on about what it looks like when you’re not in your practice, but that exchange, and the one which inspired it have been with me these past few days in a churning way.… Read the rest
While I occasionally have a plan for what I’ll talk about in the opening meditation for class, most of the time it’s a surprise even to me what comes out. Sometimes, it’s what has been showing up in my own life and practice, what I’ve been reading about or what I am consistently hearing from students. Other times the message seems like it is arriving from the universe as a dharma lesson for me personally as much as it might be for anyone else in the room. Over the many years of teaching, I have come to trust the impulse of what rises whether planned or unplanned, comfortable or not.… Read the rest
If you’ve spent much time with me in classes, workshops or trainings, you’ve likely seen me make a hand gesture with my palms facing upwards, side by side. No matter the topic, the dialogue accompanying the self-created mudra is always about two seemingly unconnected or even conflicting ideas, truths or options. And the challenge of the moment is never about figuring out which is right or better, rather, it’s opening the mind to the possibility of both/and. The contents held in each hand, no matter how incongruent they may seem, are rarely mutually exclusive. What if it’s this and that? What if both are true?… Read the rest
by Jill Sockman
At the end of Patanjali’s list of niyamas (personal observances) is ishvara pranidhana. I tend to believe it was placed at the end for a reason — a culmination of sorts, and some great commentators on the Yoga Sutras argue if one can master this niyama, there is no need for anything else. No surprise then, that perhaps it’s the hardest to do.
As with everything else in Sanskrit — and yoga for that matter — there are many definitions and interpretations of ishvara pranidhana. To wrap them up, boil them down, titrate to the essence, I offer you this: to dedicate our efforts to present moment awareness without attachment; to be in a continual state of offering our actions to something bigger than ourselves; to ever surrender our small, individual will to that which is greater — whatever your personal interpretation of “greater” might be.… Read the rest
Honoring who you are
by Jill Sockman
I go on a lot about honoring where you are and the importance of in-the-moment acceptance of yourself at any given time. Whether acknowledging anger and disappointment or recognizing success, tiredness, overwhelm — the list is endless — there is value in shifting out of the ongoing internal dialogue we engage in about what is, and into feeling it in the moment and letting it go.
Alongside the development of mindfulness as a practice of self-care is the task of accepting yourself as who you are. I haven’t yet decided if one is easier or harder, or if one should come before the other.… Read the rest