Mantra Monday: “I Practice Non-Attachment.”

Aparigraha or Non-Possessiveness is the fifth and final yama. When studying this yama, I learned another way to view non-possessiveness is through the lense of non-attachment.

Attachment is still something I struggle to understand and it is talked about considerably when discussing all branches of the yoga tree and through The Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali.
Pantanjali defines attachment as “the consciousness of self-mastery in one who is free from craving from objects seen or heard.”
Awesome. Did that make sense to you? It did not to me the first, second and third time I read it. We discussed this concept at length throughout my yoga teacher training and attachment always seemed to be at the core of any sense of suffering; physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, etc.
For awhile, I struggled with the thought process that maybe I was not supposed to care about anything? If caring about something or someone led me to be attached to them and the fear of losing them led to attachment, well, should I just not care?
Not caring can be a freeing concept in some respects. Not caring so much has helped me deal with some forms of my anxiety where maybe I am not caring so much about my appearance, about how fast I can run, about how far I can push myself in a yoga pose.

But, there are some things, or mainly, people, I have a hard time not caring about.
My biggest attachment and thoughts that cause suffering relate to the fear of losing people. My core group of loves ones (husband, step-son, family members and friends) are treasured and dear to me and the thought of anything “bad” happening to them or an untimely death causes me to have anxious thoughts.
I was confronted with this construct pretty head on when my dad was murdered four years ago. My biggest fear and source of anxiety up to that point was losing someone I loved and then crash, bang, boom, I did.
Does non-attachment tell me to not care about what happened to my dad or my healing process? The way I am understanding attachment is that it does not mean a lack of care, but a lack of investment to an expected outcome. I am trying to be at peace with whatever outcomes may come in regards to the things and people I care about.
Non-attachment to outcomes has helped me not suffer as much through the legal process surrounding the arrests made in my dad’s case. The legal process is still dragging on and I work to be at peace with whatever may be and not let the results affect my own personal healing journey.
I believe attachment is the main source of the anxiety I experienced for so many years. Although it still creeps in from time to time, having an awareness of what is going on has helped tremendously in dealing with the racing thoughts.
There was an incident a few months back with my step-son’s school bus. He was almost at school when a stolen truck crashed into the bus. The driver of the truck got out to run and the cops begin shooting at him. Right.next.to.the.bus. Everyone was OK. The driver was arrested. The kids made it to school safely. My step-son was fine.
The next day as I drove to work and thought about him on that bus, I constructed a whole alternative, catastrophized scenario in my head. I decided to never let him out of the house again and cover him in bubble wrap when we needed to go outside for some requisite sunlight.
I am exaggerating, but I am sure you can imagine how this event sent my anxiety soaring, but I was able to recognize it before it spiraled out of control. I beging using the mantra “I do not own safety. I do not own people.” My step-son is one of the greatest blessings of my life, but he does not belong to me. I have to work to be at peace that the universe, his guides and god will always protect him.
I used tree pose or vrksasana to demonstrate non-attachment or possessiveness. I love how this pose feels both grounding and lifting simultaneously. In order to stay stable in this pose, the standing foot must be firmly grounded and connected to the earth. The breath has to flow calmly and freely, the body lifts and the crown of the head connects to a higher source. If you hold your breath, become anxious or overthink it, you will fall out of this pose. Tree pose takes both tremendous focus and freedom of the mind, just like the journey to non-attachment.

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Mantra Monday: “I Maintain Vitality.”

Brahmacharya, or chastity is the Yama I focused on last week.

Chastity is not a very popular notion. Many modern day yogis, myself included, might not be so keen to the idea of brahmacharya, if celibacy were a requirement for adhering to the yamas.

A more modern interpretation of brahmacharya is maintaining vitality or tempering excesses. Ancient yogis would practice chastity in order to have more energy to devote to yoga, meditation and raising the collective consciousness.

This idea makes a little more sense to me. I am definitely a person of excess and seem to completely throw myself obsessively into habits, both good and bad. Moderation, balance, a little of this and that has always been a problem for me. I ran a marathon before ever running a 5K or half-marathon. I have a real problem with eating till I feel like I am full, instead of satiated.

I do not maintain my vitality or energy very well. I go all in. This has not worked out that great for me. It leaves me feeling drained, spent and takes the joy out of previously enjoyable activities (like running).

Yoga has helped me become more aware of maintaining vitality and trying to practice moderation. I have been trying to temper my excesses and question my motivations before I throw myself into something.

I chose Child’s Pose or Balanasana to practice brahmacharya. This pose is calming and helps to re-regulate the breath. I often remind my students that this is a pose they can come to anytime during class, whether it is cued or not. This is a pose to find when you feel you have lost your breath, when you need to sit a pose out or when you simply need a moment of privacy.

I have been much better about being honest with myself in my yoga practice, and finding this pose when I am feeling overheated or overworked. However, I still need to work on finding the principles of this pose off of my mat. Can I take a moment to stop and re-connect with my breath before I make a decision? Can I pay more attention to my breath and body to maintain more vitality?

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Mantra Monday: “I Am Abundant.”

This past week, I explored the yama of asteya, or non stealing.
Much like ahimsa, I thought this was one I did not have much work to do on, because I had already mastered non-stealing. I used to be very good at stealing, in fact, and then I got really good at non-stealing.
When I was in middle school, I started shoplifting and begin to do it on a frequent basis. I wore big pants and cut holes in the pockets and stapled cut pillow cases all the way down to my feet so I could shove tons of merchandise all the way down my legs. I brought a backpack with me when I entered a store and would find a secret spot to fill up. I took clothes, make-up, hair accessories and many other oh so necessary things to my middle school mind. I would give things away to friends and became known for being an impressive thief.
Until one day I wasn’t and I was caught.
 I was super embarrassed and ashamed to have my mom have to pick me up at the police station after I was arrested. My mom came down on me hard and the worst part was I had to apologize to my younger sisters for being a bad example to them.
I learned my lesson and stopped stealing, never to pick the habit up again. I still wanted things, so I baby-sit and cleaned houses to buy my own Herbal Essence shampoo and glitter eye shadow.
I am a reformed thief and complete winner at asteya.
Well, like the other yamas, the more I studied, the more I realized I still had more work to do. This yama is about abundance and not needing to take anything from anyone, because there is abundance.
In thinking about abundance, I have tried to be more mindful of how much I focus on lack. I complain about not having enough time and steal joy, peace and a sense of presence from myself by becoming frustrated over a lack of time to accomplish the tasks that I created for myself.
Often times, I create my own busy-ness and stress. I deem it necessary to “have” to attend certain yoga classes, cook certain meals, spend a certain amount of time at the gym and attend various social events. And just like the importance I was placing on the silly things I was literally stealing in middle school, I do something similar with needing to do “things” as an adult and steal sleep, alone time and relaxation from myself.
The mantra I chose to associate with this yama is “I Am Abundance.” I first was using “I Have Abundance” but then replaced it with AM. To have something indicates that one day, you can not have it. I would rather work towards embodying abundance as opposed to having it and no longer focusing on misperceived lack. It also helps remind me that I am enough and do not constantly need to work towards changing or improving. I am working to find a more balanced relationship while still growing spiritually.
I chose Mountain Pose with hasta mudra to demonstrate asteya and abundance. In the hasta mudra, the pinkies touch and the palms are open, indicating an overflowing of enough and a willingness to give.
asteya
Do you find yourself focusing on lack? Can you change your perspective to one of abundance?

Mantra Monday: “I Am Truthful.”

satya

The next Yama I am exploring is Satya, or truthfulness. It’s very easy for me to automatically say, “I am always truthful, I never lie!” However, when I take the time to truly explore truthfulness both on and off my mat, I realize there is still work to do.
I learned a long time ago that I am not a good liar, and I work towards always being honest with others so I do not have to remember what non or half truths I told them. This has not always been easy for someone who does not like to speak up for herself, cause confrontation or say anything upsetting to someone. However, I have learned it’s much easier to just be honest.
The work that I need to do is mostly in being honest with myself, particularly in what I am currently capable of doing (or not doing). I set grand goals for myself each week. I hope to get in both a yoga class and gym workout or run everyday. I am starting to realize this is pretty unrealistic and also harmful for my body and overall, unreasonable. Last week, I had a nearly week long migraine that made me get real honest, pretty quick about what I have been pushing myself to do. I tried to run 4 miles, when I really should not have. I needed to practice something I tell my yoga students often, practice with the body you have today! Not the one you had five years ago and not the one you want to wake up with tomorrow, but where you are today.
I often think about days when I used to train for marathons and tell myself four miles is nothing, but that’s not where I am right now and I need to learn to practice contentment with this and slowly work towards where I want to be.
The other area I need to work on in truthfulness is saying Yes, when in fact, I meant NO. I often over-commit to things and end up feeling drained, resentful and dreading the tasks ahead of me. I have a hard time saying no and disappointing anyone and I generally want to do everything, however, sometimes, I do not stop and look at my current commitments and how taking on additional tasks will make me feel. This will be a hard one for me, but I need to remember a great quote that I heard, “NO is a complete sentence.” I know learning to say this when appropriate will help me feel less stressed.
Where do you feel you could be more truthful in your own life?

Mantra Monday: “I Am Non-Violent.”

Ahimsa is the first of the yamas that I will be exploring. The yamas are one of the branches of the yoga tree and are a guideline for behavior towards yourself and others.

Most people would probably deny that they are violent. They may even say they dislike violence. They may have never been in a physical fight and dislike blood and gore in movies. I am certainly one of those people, so when I begin to study ahimsa, I thought, “I got this one!” Ahimsa is the basic tenant of the way I choose to eat and why I follow a vegan diet. Look at me and how good at I am at ahimsa.

Ha.

The more I studied and explored, the more I realized there was more than one way to be violent.

One of the ways we can be violent to ourselves and others is through our thoughts, which turn to attitudes, which turn to actions.

Oh. I guess I am not so good at it after all.

I can be down right murderous to myself. I can chew myself up mentally and completely change my perspective on a situation.

As I taught this concept to my students this week, I tried to be extra mindful of the violent thoughts I had towards myself. I really took note of this past Thursday. I normally wake up at 4 AM to meditate and journal, but I overslept and woke up in a rush at 5:15. I had an appointment at the gym at 6:00 and still needed to prepare breakfast and lunches for myself and my family. My first thought was “you really fucked up.” I said that over and over as I stumbled out of bed. I begin to talk myself into how the day was now off to a bad start and how I just could not seem to get my shit together. I caught myself about mid-way through the tirade, I took a deep breath and reminded myself I was doing the best I could. I reminded myself that I would still have time to accomplish everything and would be fine.

That happened about 50 other times throughout the week.

I am only half-kidding. I realized I am pretty hard on myself and although I do not need to let up on reaching my goals, I do not need to rip myself apart on the way there.

I tried to make my students more aware of this on their yoga mats. Instead of jumping to “I suck at this pose” can we reframe the thought as “I am still working this pose.” Small shifts in language have made such a big difference in the perspective I take both on and off my mat.

The pose I chose to demonstrate ahimsa is Goddess pose with Lotus mudra. Goddess pose feels so beautiful and feminine to me, with great strength and balance to make it work. The Lotus is a symbol of beauty amongst difficulty. Lotuses rise above mucky, muddy waters and provide beauty in a dirty situation. As we live in this violent world, can we be that lotus that displays kindness and beauty? Not only for others, but also for ourselves?

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Mantra Monday: “I Honor My Connection to the Universe.”

The crown chakra is associated with being connected to a higher power. You can choose to sub in God, the Divine, my Inner Wisdom or any word/entity that better resounds within your soul. The Universe is what makes most sense for me. I feel that it covers all beings, nature and celestial entities.

Deficiencies in the crown chakra are associated with a lack of connection, skepticism or confusion. Excess energy in the crown chakra can manifest itself in hyper-spiritualization and a lack of grounding in the real world.

Forced religiosity and a lack of questioning or exploration of spirituality can also throw the crown chakra out of alignment. For myself, I believe my crown chakra has always been seeking a type of connection, but it did not find it until I became an adult. I was not finding it in church while growing. I had so many questions and things being taught were not adding up to me. For a few years in my early adulthood, I tried to shut my crown chakra off completely and deny any connection with a higher power or spirituality. In the past few years, I have been working to re-establish that connection in new ways, which sparked the development of this blog.

I chose lotus pose (padmasana) to work on my crown chakra. Lotus pose is both grounding and lifting. Sitting in the stillness of meditation with the intent to listen and connect opens up the crown chakra. Meditation is what has helped me establish and explore my connection the Universe, the Divine, God and my Inner Wisdom.

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Mantra Monday: “I Manifest My Vision”

The third eye chakra is located at the center of the forehead, between the eyebrows. It is associated with intuition, wisdom and higher knowledge. If the third chakra is off balance, illusions, anxiety and over-thinking can occur. This can manifest itself physically through vision problems and headaches.

This is my most out of control chakra. My throat chakra is the one that is naturally most closed and I have done so much work in opening. My third eye chakra is often far too open and I need to ground it back down.

I have been studying Anodea Judith’s book Eastern Body Western Mind over the past year, to slowly digest and understand the chakras. I definitely recommend this book if the chakras are of interest to you and you want more information. The thought of “illusions” felt a bit esoteric to me and I did not see how I was experiencing them in my own life. However, Judith describes illusions as the “SHOULDS” we tie to our egos. I should myself to death. I obsess, stress and become anxious of what I think I should be doing, who I think I should be or how I think I should look or act. It’s no wonder I have both vision problems and migraines.

I have also realized and prided myself in being a great judge of character, perceptive and intuitive and possessing a great degree of empathy. My impressions are generally spot on and I have a natural thirst for higher knowledge.

My third eye chakra is strong, but sometimes too strong. I need to work on grounding it down, and balancing it through meditation.

This chakra is about manifesting your visions, it’s about shifting your intuition and wisdom into action to meet goals and achieve unlimited potential. Judith discusses the notion of vision in her book by asking the readers to think about the information they take in visually. If we are seeking to manifest a certain vision, what are we feeding ourselves visually? This has been great for me to reflect upon as I think about who and how much I look at social media or choose to focus/obsess upon.

I chose eagle pose (garudasana) to work on my third eye chakra. The foot that is connected to the earth needs to be firmly planted and rooted. The legs and the arms are intertwined with their opposite limb. The breath must be flowing consciously and freely to maintain balance. The hips are sinking back, but the arms and crown of the head are lifting up. There is both the sense of grounding down and lifting up. So much focus goes into staying balanced in this pose and when my focus is on my breath and body, it isn’t on whatever petty thing it was obsessing on before I came into my practice.

If I can breath while literally being all twisted up in this pose on my yoga mat, can I do the same thing when I am off my yoga mat?

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