Thursday, April 26, 2018

What are you Manifesting?

When we were moving from Chicago 6 years ago, I came to New Jersey on a whirlwind tour of houses and preschools.  Since we had moved around a bunch while my older children were little, I had seen many, many preschools, but when I walked into “the one” and met Grace*, within minutes of seeing her classroom, her interactions with the children, and having a brief conversation with her, I knew she was the one my son needed to be with. She was such a source of help and strength for me that, a couple of months into that first year, I told her I was going to have to have another baby so we could stay in the school for many more years and she could keep helping me learn how to be a good parent.  So I did, and now my 3rd child has had her for several years, and my middle son has continued learning from her in the religious school program. Over the years she was someone I went to for advice about parenting and childhood issues - even when my children weren’t her students at the time - and she has always been there for me with a listening ear and thoughtful, helpful, relevant advice.  
(*Grace is a private person, and I am purposely not listing the name of the school and have changed her name to respect her privacy).  

I learned last week that her husband has had metastatic cancer for the last 8 years. As long as I have known her. She is a private person and didn’t want to bring her sorrows to work, so none of her students or their families knew. What affected me most deeply about this was how she was not only able survive herself and support her husband and her own 3 children through this time, but that she thrived.  Instead of his illness beating her down, which I’m sure it must have in some ways, over the time I have known her she has evolved as a teacher, always learning and doing what is best for the children. She shifted and changed the class’s curriculum based on her learning and the needs of the students, she presented at teaching conferences, developed a large online following for her early childhood work, inspired and taught hundreds of children, and coached me and so many other parents in being the best parents we can be.

Humans are powerful beings.  We are manifestors and creators, but it’s easy to forget we have that power, especially in the face of illness or injury.  When things aren’t going our way, it is so easy to feel like the victim, but there is another way. Grace could have easily let this tragedy pull her down into a dark place, she could have easily felt powerless in the face of the illness eating away at her husband.  Instead she harnessed the power she did have to create stability and magic and radical growth for so many children. 

It has been a hard year for me personally. It feels like the bad news keeps coming. I keep writing about it and about connecting to my power because it is what I need to remember for myself. All of us have struggles - busy schedules, injuries, illnesses, losses, and all of us are living in a toxic political climate in which many of us feel very powerless.  And yet, we have the ability to use the power that is available to us to manifest amazing things in spite of, or perhaps, in some mysterious way, because of it. I remember hearing an interview with the Great Mohammed Ali a few years ago, in which his speech was so slurred due to Parkinson’s disease that they had to have subtitles on the screen so we could understand what he was saying.  The interviewer asked how he got through every day, this man who had been the pinnacle of strength, fitness, and vitality for so many years, but who now could barely even speak.  He replied “By doing what I’ve always done, focusing on what I can do rather than what I can’t.”

When we practice yoga, we harness the power of the muscles and bones to transform our bodies. We harness the power of the breath to create vibrancy and health and connect to that which is infinite and ineffable inside us. We harness the power of the divine flow of life that moves through us to create the life we desire. It works. I have been able to use this practice to transform my own life. When I reflect back, I can clearly see all the ways that I have used my power to transform and shift and change things that needed to shift during times that I was particularly attuned to it.  It’s easy for me to write about this, but the practice requires work.  It’s not even such hard work, but it does require dedication and commitment.  We have to get on the mat or meditation cushion every day and DO it, do the practice. Doing so keeps us connected the inextinguishable spark of life inside us that is beyond our humanness, so the light of who we really are will rise up in the moments we need it to. Which, if we’re being honest, is pretty much every moment. As Christina Sell writes: “yoga [is] not a “time out” from a busy or stressful life, but [is], instead, a training in warriorship, a preparation for service, and an exercise in compassion.” Train on my friends. 

Off the Mat:
Notice all the ways you feel “the victim” in your daily life.  All the times “Why me?” thoughts arise.  When they do arise, focus your attention back to your power of manifestation. Remember what it is you want to bring forth in your day, in your life, and guide your awareness back to those thoughts and actions.  It is helpful to have a mantra or affirmation you can repeat to yourself in these moments to help turn your mind in the right direction.

Springtime is the perfect time to tap into your power of creation, when life is exploding into glorious wonder around you.

On the Mat:
Harnessing your power of manifestation starts with a vision.  Springtime is the perfect time to begin planting seeds you want to grow. What do you wish to manifest in your life?  What do you want to create?  Really, it all starts with love, the ultimate creative force of the universe.  What do you love?  What wants to come forth, through you? In each pose you create in your practice, begin with a vision, this is the moment of Opening to Grace where we soften and recognize our power. Then practice poses that reflect that highest vision you have for yourself, ones that help you connect to your power to create beauty and strength and express your intention through your practice. 

For the Anusara junkies:
Open to Grace: Soften and open to the power of the universe that exists inside you. 
Feel the power of the universe that comes to you as the breath, each time you inhale imagine you are bringing in all you wish to draw to yourself today.
Soften and know that even though we don’t have ultimate power over everything, we have the power to choose our experience in each moment.

Muscular Energy: Draw to midline to connect inside to the power of creation
Hug in to the place inside that is untouchable by the human challenges we all face.
Activate the wonder twin powers of your legs to manifest (your pose)
Turn on the power of your legs to ignite your creative power.

Organic Energy: Expand the dynamic potentiality of your power through your whole body.
Expand your vision into your being.
Shine the highest vision of your heart out to light up the world around you.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Fire at Shree

At 8:30 this Sunday morning, April 8, we began our regular offering of yoga classes. We enjoyed a lovely flow class with Valerie. The 10:00 am Beginner class, ever popular, went off without a hitch. However, in the middle of Elizabeth's Restorative Yoga and Meditation class at 11:30, a gust of brown acrid smoke belched into the studio around the beam that connects into the bathroom area, filling the studio. The class disbanded, our students being as always, so gracious and helpful exemplifying the sense of community that is found at Shree. Elizabeth called me and she moved all the props away from the wall to protect them. She opened and aired the smoke out of the studio. Fire department and police were called. The men doing the renovations had been using a welding torch and the area around had caught fire. Though a fire extinguisher was used to put out the immediate flames, the two fire departments that arrived on the scene found more smoldering burning insulation with a heat sensor. Bathroom walls were ripped out and water was hosed into the area. We stood outside praying that the water wouldn't penetrate into the studio. A miracle. It didn't. 

The studio is bone dry, fully aired out, smells fresh as a daisy and all classes are taking place as scheduled.  We are open.  We haven't missed a beat.

I feel such a sense of gratitude. We could have been burned to the ground - those old wood buildings that give Shree its unique airy and welcoming feel, can catch quickly. A big thank you to Elizabeth for handling the situation until I arrived, and staying with me throughout. And, to my husband William, right there by my side.

The biggest gratitude goes to the Saddle River Police and the many volunteer fire fighters of Saddle River and Wyckoff, the Fire Chiefs and Fire Marshall Rich, and others I wasn't even aware of, who came out on a Sunday afternoon - ready to battle the flames and restore order. Selfless Service or Seva is one of the great yogic components. We do yoga inside the studio, they do yoga outside the studio with their actions and generosity of time, skill, courage and caring. One kind volunteer fireman kept checking the studio to see if water was coming in and giving me the thumbs up. So thoughtful and kind. Blessings abound.

I am reminded of an oft touted saying, "life can change in an instant".  While this was a scare that could of ended in disaster for our beautiful studio and the important part it plays in many of our student's lives, not just as a physical practice, but as a provider of emotional and spiritual support, we were spared.  Carpe Diem.  Seize the day. Practice now while you can.  Live fully.  Life can, and does, change in an instant.

With gratitude,

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