Resolving your intentions

Tranquility

For the first week of January, I danced in the realms of intention and resolution. I looked at the definitions, I talked in class about them, began and ended each class with the Sankalpa Mudra and flowed with it throughout our asana practice. This exploration helped me realize how they both play an important role in our lives.

The thought with which I ended, suggests that Intention is the basis of our Resolution. To me, resolutions ended up being more of a to-do list. We see a problem and we resolve to fix it. They are the details of our life. But we have to know what the whole picture is to make sure the details are appropriate. We shouldn’t be drawing palm trees if our picture is of the desert.  Aligning ourselves with our highest truth, connecting with our Dharma and walking the path of intention allows our to-do list to be acts that keep us on our path. If an aspect of my intention is to be an artist, then my resolutions need to reflect that by including art in my daily/weekly activities. In yoga, we set an intention at the beginning of class and sometimes it is soon usurped by thoughts about the postures, about the teacher, other students, how we look in our yoga clothes, and a plethora of other tangent thoughts. It’s during these times that coming back to intention is crucial. It allows us the opportunity to weed out the irrelevant and stay true on our course.

Ultimately, the union of our daily, “individual” energy and our eternal, “universal” energy allows us to vibrate at our  highest frequency. This isn’t that easy, however. If we are lucky enough to have discovered our dharma, we may still be trying to alter our lifestyle in order to live it. And even then, shit happens and then shift happens. Using a mantra with the breath can help us quiet the distractions in order to get back to our essence.

The mantra, then, is a way to experience nonlocal consciousness. Aborigines, Indians, Native Americans, and many other traditional cultures have used it for thousands of years. In every tradition mantras involve chanting to create special vibrations, sounds of the universe that create something from nothingness, that move energy from the unmanifest into the manifest.
Deepak Chopra

It’s a continual commitment to maintain an awareness of our intention. To help, there is the So Hum Mantra, recommended by Deepak Chopra for synchrodestiny. The So Hum Mantra helps us connect with pure consciousness and to tap into the space where we connect with the universal vibrations. We quiet our minds and listen only to our breath to release distractions and create a space where we can just be…we can just exist. No thoughts, no emotions, no desires, no expectations…just the So Hum of our breath and of our existence.

 

Listen to the audio version here.

Find a quiet space and a comfortable seat. Soften your quads and your hips. Make any movements you need to find comfort. Engage your core bringing your navel in toward your spine to support the lower back. Elongate through the spine, stacking each vertebral body on top of each other. Soften your shoulders back and down, chin is parallel with the floor. Bring your hands down to your lap, palms face up. Eyes are closed. Bring your attention to your breath. Listen to your cadence and the length of your inhales and the length of your exhales. Feel the breath as you inhale it in, expanding through the lungs, lifting the chest; and, feel the breath as you exhale it, drawing the chest and the core in toward the spine, as the air leaves your body. Listen to yourself for a few moments…feel your own vibrations. Listen as your inhale whispers So…..and your exhale murmurs Hum. So…Hum…Stay attuned to the So Hum until your breath quiets, and your mind quiets. If your mind starts to wander, no worries, just let go of the tangent and come back to your So…Hum…until you disappear into the space of pure vibrational consciousness and being.

 

Breath

I’ve spent the morning deepening my relationship with my breath. I listened, I watched, I experimented, I balanced. I took in as much as it as I could and then deflated my lungs completely. I practiced sending it to various parts of my body to soothe, energize, heal. Breath is our unique rhythm, rhythm is a dancer, it’s our souls companion (yeah, I went there). What is the quality of your breath right now?
    

 

It’s been a while

Open Mouth Exhale

It’s been a while. I was even a little nervous. What was it going to be like? Was it going to be hard? Was I even going to be able to make it for the entire hour? I have this crick in my neck, my back is stiff, I’m not even sure if my hips remember what it’s like to be open. But I need it, I need it bad.

And so I laid my mat out. I inhaled and told myself that whatever happened, it was going to be exactly what I needed. I set my intention on just observing. I found my way to my childspose and started to lengthen.

I lengthened out of my hips, into my spine and through my shoulders. I worked each vertebral body into alignment from my coccyx through my lumbar, up my thoracic and out my cervical spine. The power of the bone elements ignited as the flexibility of my intervertebral disks expanded. I felt the strength of my practice take hold of my energy as the class began and I started to reconnect with my self, and with my breath. And as I listened to the teacher take over the thoughts in my head and lead me through an exalted and nurturing practice, I recommitted myself to my mat.

Find a comfortable seat. Feel your ass cheeks spread across the surface. Lean forward and back, maybe make some circles with your hips. And then find stillness. Push your butt into the mat and become aware of your core strength. Engage it as you start to stack each vertebra on top of the one below it. Discover how much space you can put between your hips and your ribs. Reach the crown of the head up to the sky. Find space between your shoulders and your ears. And watch your breath.

Open Mouth Exhale

Exhale

Take a Break

Open Mouth Exhale

Take a break. Just breathe. Be present for a few moments. Close your eyes if you’d like. Relax the shoulders back and down. Take a huge breath in, suspend it for a moment, and then release it out.

Open Mouth Exhale

 

Feel better?

 

It’s important for us to take the occasional break during the day, the week, the month, life. We are an on-the-go society and that’s fine. It works for most. Keeping yourself healthy and aligned during the chaos is important. And sometimes that requires us giving ourselves permission to take a break, to step away. It could be from the computer, a goal, a relationship, a job, life in general. And it could be for 30 seconds, minutes, days. And that’s not to insinuate that what we are doing is bad, we could be dedicating our energy to cultivating beauty in our lives and manifesting our dreams, and still need to take a break.

I sometimes use breaks for reflection. I like to see from where I have come, how I have grown and who I am now. I feel like we all change so much and sometimes don’t even realize it ourselves and then one day we look in the mirror and holy shit how the hell did I get here and who is this person with the green hair and tattoos looking back at me. It can definitely be a giggle. Sometimes it’s a lesson that I need to learn so I can move forward with ease. Those moments when you see your dream and you keep bumping up against the same wall, the same damn situation and how the hell do you shift in ANY direction just to experience something new and hopefully rewarding this time. And we learn how to release stuck emotions and energy patterns. And sometimes it’s those times when you look at yourself and realize you need to reconnect with yourself and love yourself again b/c you have lost your connection with your divine soul.

It’s important to listen to your intuition and to be able to read the signs that say it’s time for a break. Otherwise it’s like a tree in a Primorye winter whose sap is freezing and expanding…it expands until the tree bursts, unable to contain what was growing within. And when an explosion like that happens, there is no going back, there is no putting the tree back together, scooping up the sap and stuffing it back into the tree.

So when you start to feel a little claustrophobic, overwhelmed, a little crazy, before you get to bat shit crazy…give yourself permission to take a break. Breathe, reflect, release, do whatever you need to do to feel better. Enjoy yourself, your life, your relationships. And just exist, in the moment.

 

XOXO

 

 

This IS your life. It already started

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“This is your life. It already started.”

These words brushed across my ear as I was stretching my body into a forward fold.

I had just spent the last couple of hours painting. I was trying to stand and paint. I sit all day so I try to paint standing now. Counterbalance my day with my night.

I was changing my painting a bit, getting freer with it. I started this painting a while ago and I reached a point and simply stopped. It’s a habit I have. To start something, reach a point, stop, and walk away from it. I sometimes think I have a fear of completion. But I’ve been working on that idea. Finishing things. Do you have that problem? I love to start things, it’s all exciting and fresh and new and then I become critical and stop. I’ve really been trying to not do that with art.Not being afraid of what the outcome will be but simply trying it. What’s the worst that could happen? I’m releasing the fear…fear of, well, probably tons of shit. But it’s better to just try it and actually do the art, than have a ton of blank or canvases half-finished sitting around me. If I am going to buy the canvases, I need to fucking paint on them.

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I’ve been working on discovering a safe place to paint from. I have so many critics in my head that I have had to learn to shut them up so I can just get shit done. I’ve started to do that with meditation on the breath. And more than that, awareness of the breath and meditation on my art. I am aware of my breath, that I am breathing, where I am sending that breath (when I paint it’s usually to my hand to help me make smoother strokes). It’s been creating more of a tranquil space. My mind kind of leaves for a while…takes a break from the day life, and I just flow. I just create. I just, paint. Most of the time it’s not any good, lol. But I’m less scared about that and more excited about the release I am experience and about the space I can visit for a while to relax.

So I was in this space when I had taken a moment to consider my painting. The voices suddenly decided to make an appearance again. “Name it Creative Energy” came into my mind. I looked at the painting, heard the name and liked it…saw how I could grow it and how that idea gave my painting life. Gave it a direction. Before I had just been painting, but now…now I knew where I had been painting from and what I was painting. I became excited about visualizing what that name meant and what I wanted to do with the painting now. “Make that area pulse more, add life here, why is this so dull, make it stand out…”And the voices started to grow, I was losing my breath. I was leaving the meditation state.

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I looked at my bookshelf, picked up a book, and opened up a page. I have no idea why. I haven’t looked at this book in ten years, but I opened it and read:

“Listening carefully to the tone, where or how does it move and in which direction? When you discover the answer, the tone itself will reveal many directions. do not try to control it yourself!” – Miyajima Sensei

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I instantly focused on my breath, quieted my mind, went back to my easel and began painting again. I trusted in my connection to the universe and didn’t try to control my brush. I had been given a name for the painting, and I breathed that into my body and embraced that concept, and I breathed it out through my brush onto the canvas.

I continued painting for a while and came to a natural stopping point. And it was here that I was in that forward fold. I was doing some gentle yoga moves to release my muscles and my body. I was slowly releasing the intensity of painting and equally as slowly was allowing the mind back in.

And I started thinking…I wonder if people will like this new direction…I wonder what everyone is doing…I wonder if I have a text message…I wonder if so-and-so is angry at me because I needed to stay home and do art…I wonder if it’s stupid that I chose to stay home and do art instead of going out…I should have just gone out…I’m not going to have any friends…well, I do have so-and-so and so-and-so…I’m not completely alone…but I won’t have those friends…they should be okay I’m in this space…You can imagine this went on for a few more thoughts and it ultimately it ended with an, “as soon as I’m…” statement. I have this vision of who I should be and what my life should look like. And most of my thoughts end there. I think it’s one reason I don’t finish paintings…I have an idea of something, but I’m scared it won’t turn out. And so my thoughts turned to, As soon as I’m…

A new voice piqued in and shrugged, and said, “This IS your life. It already started. Don’t miss out on what’s happening now for what you are hoping for in the future. The future will come regardless, enjoy now so you can enjoy the future. Live now.”

I’m making the choices and the decisions right now that are not only making me happy, feeling healthy and right, but are also growing me for the future I think the universe has planned. But to get there, I have to live now.

This IS your life. It already started. Don’t miss out on today waiting for tomorrow.

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Lines of focus

I forget the breath, and start to analyze

Breath in. Breath out. I’m watching the breath, being the breath, embracing the breath.

Breath leads my focus. It’s where the meditation begins. Going deeper into the breath narrows my focus. Distractions drop away as I consider the breath, the aspects and what it is saying. I look at my canvas, I pick up the brush – all with the rise and fall of my breath. The lines begin.
Line leading line following line.

lines
Line after line line

 

I deepen the gaze, narrow my focus. I unfurl my brow and breathe in the lines. I lengthen my breaths, matching exhale to inhale. It invigorates. I think to myself, “I think I am actually present right now. How awesome. I should tell —- . I wonder how I did it.” I glance at the lines, they have taken on an interesting flow as I lost my breath and entered into my mind. I had started analyzing. I brought myself back to my breath. I sat in stillness. Reconnecting to the breath, allowing energy to flow through me. I stopped analyzing the lines and just became the lines. The lines were expressing what I needed to express, what I needed to channel. I don’t need to analyze it yet, right now I just need to do it, to breath it, to create that focus. The lines, my focus, the union of body and breath. I took a breath and picked up my paintbrush.

 

I forget the breath, and start to analyze
I forget the breath, and start to analyze

 

I became entranced with the movement of the lines, the quality of the lines, how the brush was setting paint down and how if I adjusted my hands mid-flow it altered the line. What it looked like was unimportant, the breath and energy I was channeling was creating a focus I need. The chatter in my head is overwhelming, frustrating, distracting and inhibiting. The focus that connecting my breath to painting lines is a relief. It focuses my mind so I can find a bit of peace and quiet. The to do lists on 20 different projects drip away, the awkward conversation I had that afternoon and analyzing people’s reactions seemed ridiculous to waste my time on. What my schedule looked like seemed manageable and I started to trust in myself and in the universe. People may actually like me…and quieting my mind and using the breath and my art to release some ideas and thoughts no longer serving me. My breath drank in creative energy as the line danced upon the canvas. And my breath distinguished the destructive energy I was holding on to.

Lines of focus
Lines of focus

I hung the painting back on the wall and just kind of stared at it. My mind still quieted from the artistic mediation I just experienced for two hours (time flew). I just looked at it for a while and then cocked a hip and leaned to the left. In doing so I realized the interplay between the lights and the darks. The lines all depend on how you look at them from a specific angle. Which is exactly what my thoughts try to do…consider all of the perspectives. Glancing at it now, it pulses with energy…seems like all of the thoughts I usually kept in my head were expressed in the lines instead. I channeled them onto the canvas so my mind could quiet and enter a focused, artistic meditation. For those two hours my mind took a breather and my destructive energy was creatively channeled from my chest, down my arm, into my fingers and along the lines of my brush and into the focused lines on the canvas.

 

Depends on how you look at it
Depends on how you look at it

 

And then I went out to my balcony to enjoy the fresh air and to release and restore in my hammock.

 

Tense up to fly

As I was planning one of my Vinyasa classes I realized how many of the asana’s named for birds require some sort of tension or even a bind first.

Bakasana (crow) needs a squeezing in of the the forearms and the shins. A tightening of the Uddiyana Bandha and the engaging of the Mula Bandha. (For more information on Bandha’s click here.)  All of these areas need to be engaged in order for flight to occur. Svarga Dvidasana (Birds of Paradise) requires that you squat down, bind, and then root to rise, extending the leg out.

What’s obvious about these postures when you think about them, is that sometimes adversity leads you into flight. Utilizing tensions, putting them where they belong and where they are appropriate, can free you. In crow, if you don’t engage the Bandha’s it’s harder to life and easier to fall on your face (it’s not a far fall! Doesn’t hurt…much!) Maybe the lesson in that statement is that if you embrace the tension and learn to live with it and breathe through it and use it, it will prevent you from falling.

And really, this is true about everything from art to music to work to life to love. Obviously I’m not some insightful genius that had an epiphany strike my brain. Well, actually, that did happen but it’s not unique to me. It’s everyday we encounter tension, and we can either succumb to it or use it. We can run from it or learn to understand it and grow from it.

Of course, that’s the kind of statement that’s easier said than done, and oft times when currently in the tense moment, especially the really bad ones, we all want to cry bullshit and crawl under our pillows. And fair enough. I highly recommend doing just that. And under that pillow, just breathe. Not in the Faith Hill “Breathe” kind of way, but in the Willie Nelson kind of “Just Breathe.” (Pearl Jam does a great cover). The kind of breath that allows you to feel pain. The kind of breathe that allows you to feel comfort and love. The breath that accepts the gamut of emotions that we as human beings experience.