Matthew Kane photographing yoga session on the beach. Reminders to awaken your mind and find extraordinary beauty in every day.

“The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.”~ Henry Miller

One of my yoga teachers, Dave, spoke about awakening and uplifting the mind from the body. Or something very similar. It’s hard for me to listen to every single word when I’m wrapping, binding, and then positioning myself to stand in the bird of paradise posture all without toppling or crying. But I’m not supposed to listen and stay up in my head space. Inversions, well, I need to uplift my mind from my body, for sure, because the head trip that is flipping my feet over my head…. Yikes! The very purpose of my yoga practice is to help me find that state where I can awaken and uplift my mind, my heart, and my body, and connect them.

Matthew Kane photographing yoga session on the beach : Shirshasana

What this means to me is a reminder to get out of our heads. To dial in, turn in, and develop awareness of the extraordinary wonders in completely ordinary moments. How many times have you driven yourself to work and not remembered the drive? How many times have you paused during an that early morning commute, or the late drive home, and took a silent moment to quietly remark on the orange hue of that sunrise or sunset? Finding something beautiful and extraordinary in a routine motion.

We can live numbly and in a semi-conscious state concerning ourselves over ironing, IRA and 401K growth, shrinking the AMEX bill, or what stupid thing said in front of 100 coworkers in a meeting weeks ago. Ok, those may be some of my obsessions, but I know I’m not the only one.

We can stop the distraction of guilt for having all of that dessert or the extra pint of beer had during laugh out loud happy hours with friends. Or the nagging interrupted attentiveness of wondering about the creep who didn’t call. Or of the one who won’t stop calling, et cetera et cetera, blah-da-da-blah-da-da-blah.

The possibilities of berating and bemoaning the things that are not right are unending, if we let them. And when we let them, we become distracted and lose presence.

By being present in each day of life, I’m probably going to – you’re probably going to – come out a winner on top anyway. So, Dave gave the reminder, that I’m passing on to you, to stop hitting the figurative snooze button on our wake up alarms and be awaken, every day.

Vivo — “alive”
Sveglio — “awake”

Awaken to moments of merriment, delight, and discovery. To be awake = breaking down indifference that leads to taking life for granted and missing chances to realize and savor life’s best moments.

Matthew Kane photographing yoga session on the beach : Hanumasana

POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS MAY INCLUDE: moments of elation, a fulfilling happiness, the ability to appreciate our reality and acknowledge the gifts we have in our very own lives.  Sight lines to see small miracles and wonders everywhere. YOU SHOULD NOT CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN IF: happiness sustains for hours, days, or even longer periods at a time.

Let’s hear from you! What are the ordinaries you fret  about that you want to put away to make space for extraordinary moments? Comment below and let us know?

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I’ve been carrying an affirmation in my wallet for a week, now. I feel as though I am still forcing an emotional numbness, and am not really ready for me to open my own floodgates. I find myself repeating to myself, and vocalizing to a few unfortunate ears, “this is not my life,” whenever I turn my thoughts to the utter shit blizzard through which I’m trekking, and it feels like I don’t have a reliable compass, either. But, “this is not my life,” doesn’t cut it, because my reality has been redefined, and very quickly and very dramatically, my reality has changed. In a lot of ways that are not for the better. And, I continue to hear expressions of admiration and praise about how strong I appear, and how I am “keeping ‘it’ together,” and how focused I am, and how much grace I have. But all that people see is just how much of “it” that I decide I want to keep at home versus what I’m willing to carry around with me to work, etc. I really wish to be someone who enhances the lives and experiences of others, not detracts from them; I want to be someone who brings a benefit, not is someone they have to overcome to get to their destination.

Last Monday was set to be my return to work. My plane landed Sunday afternoon, and an angel was ready to pick me up and bring me home – the same angel who helped count out to make sure I packed enough tights, panties, and tees to make it through my travel back to Alabama to bury my dad. And Monday morning came too quickly.

As did the calendar in my head: last Monday was, two weeks ago, the day my dad died. Fourteen days my dad had been dead.

(And, today, Monday, three weeks ago, was the day my dad died. Twenty one days. But, at least I look like I’m keeping “it” together.)

Last Monday, I wasn’t ready to face people. I did not feel the strength in me to face the faces of sympathy, the uninvited hugs from people not in my close circle of people I want touching me, the conversations of condolence. And, I know I sound like a jerk, but that is the space I was in at that time, and after being so task focused and driven during the previous two weeks, I just needed space. And I craved solitude. So, I headed, instead, to a new yoga class. First time in the yoga studio, first time with the instructor, and I was ready for a noon-time power yoga class that I prayed would kick the sadness out of my ass.

She explained about listening to a lecture from one of her gurus, and how a particular line in his lecture struck her. She encouraged us to listen to the words she was about to share with us and think about how that applies to our practice.

“…increasing evidence from pain studies, that the greater the intensity of the distressing sensations, the more awareness strategies are beneficial and the less distraction strategies are effective at bringing relief. Tuning in trumps tuning out.”

I instantly got chills and goosebumps all over my body. After all, I was sitting in this precise space because I so desperately wanted to tune out of the excruciating pain and distress of returning to life in the wake of losing my dad. And, during what continued to be a totally aware and strong practice, I had another beautiful moment that still blows my mind. Toward the end of practice, I’m balancing in a shoulder stand, and she comes up to me, and she wraps her arms around my shins, just above (or below, because my feet were far above my head), and she leans her body into me, making significant contact, then she pulls upward thereby lifting up a decent amount of my body weight, and I become lighter on my inversion as she picks up the burden of my heaviness on my shoulders. And, what beauty for me at that moment, as I started to feel the swell of emotions coursing through me, to think about how much love for the purpose of being love came to me through this yoga instructor whose name I didn’t even know! What a beautiful thing, for how much I was struggling (still am) to be strong and steady (much as I struggle to stay strong and steady in an inverted yoga asana) and supporting people in my family who want to lean and depend on me to find someone who does not offer nor ask, but simply comes up to me and takes my weight away from me so I can know what it feels like to be supported? And for this relief to come to me in an inversion, the most detested of postures (but a series that I committed to doing with more bravery this year), to me?

After the class, she gave me the affirmation, and I pulled it out at least once every day since that day, to see her script, written in pink ink, and to remember while I am in what has become the most isolating, frightening, overwhelming, exhausting, and discouraging challenges of my life that turning my attention to the causes of my distress and pain will help me manage and overcome the source rather than giving in to numbness. Her name, is Harmony. And from her words to her support to her hug she gave me when I shared her impact on me that day brought forth to me some harmony among the cacophony of thoughts and stimuli circling within and around me.

Tuning in… trumps tuning out.

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I’m still in my “dating mode” of trying to find a new yoga studio. I went sort of ballistic on the Living Social, Groupon, and Deal Chicken sites by snatching up studio memberships here and there and there and here and everywhere. My gosh, I almost feel like that little bird in Are You My Mother?, except instead I’m asking a studio to match me. Who knows, maybe I’m the Goldilocks of Phoenix studios. I’ve certainly had enough lukewarm or even full out nose wrinkly reactions to four studios already, and am working on my fifth studio. I loved At One Yoga! And then the studio location by my house closed and I just couldn’t make that drive up to North Scottsdale as frequently each week as I needed to justify my monthly membership costs. But, I think Urban Yoga might work for me. A bonus is it’s super close location to my little pad, which is a matter of convenience that At One lost for me when they closed the Lincoln Drive location. AND — some of the At One instructors also teach at Urban Yoga.  YES!

I left work too late to hit either the ashtanga or power classes, but I could still catch the flow to zen practice, which was a hybrid of faster vinyasa (eh, not really) with a restorative practice. So here’s where it gets good. At one point, I thought I wasn’t even going to be able to lower myself from a plank position into cobra or upward dog because my back and triceps still hurt so much from Saturday’s rock climbing. Sierra’s slow flow was really sweet, and she even gave us some opportunity to play with our own flow, so I hopped into the flow series I learned from Anton. Because it really does feel that fun and trippy cool to do with my eyes closed.

Then, the restorative started.

And it was all perfect. Until… she wanted us to rest in hanumanasana for what felt like freaking forever! I hadn’t been to class in a little while, I hadn’t done hanumanasana in a couple of weeks!

My legs were tight and they didn’t want to go into the splits, yuck, yuck, nooooooooOOoooooOOOOOOOOoooOOO!

So, while I’m stuck in something that translates roughly to monkey pose, my monkey brain starts screeching and hopping. The barrel full of monkey thoughts is screaming about how uncomfortable I felt. And it would have done no good for me to sit on a blanket or a block, because I was on the floor, I just didn’t like it.

Aaaaaah, the sneaky fun about yoga. Yoking the mind and the body.

I really do think, I feel better after a good, deep, restorative class than I do after a massage. Minute for minute, the same comparable time, I think the yoga does my body and my monkey brain a better service.

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This post comes a little late – traveling yesterday was followed by the mad scramble dash to buy groceries and unpack to restore myself to my normal routine as quickly as possible so that my final day of vacation could be spent running the insanely long list of errands before I return to work tomorrow.

I took over 10,000 pictures in 2011. A picture should be worth 1,000 words, so I’ll spare you pontificating this morning. 10,000 pictures taken, 10,000,000 words not spoken. 12 months, 12 pictures for you as we welcome in ’12.

 

Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man. ~Benjamin Franklin
Works for me!!!
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