SOFT ON THE OUTSIDE, STRONG ON THE INSIDE
February 11, 2011. Here on Day 2 of blogging about love for 21 days in 2011 I guess I should explain why I am embracing the Year of the Rabbit. I met someone. And when you meet someone you really want to spend time with in one place then the quiet concept of "Love is Patient" takes on a whole new meaning. My yoga on the mat has served to make me strong enough now so that I want to practice the Yoga of Home and Yoga of Relationship more than ever. To me after the hardest pose of being ourselves then the next hardest yoga pose is making a relationship with another human being that is calm and content. What the ancient yogis call Santosha. Not the New Years Eve fireworks crazy amped up experience but the gentle force of kindness. "Love is Kind" in action. I recently did a cyber interview for Xinalani Resort where I'll be leading a yoga retreat February 26-March 5th. Part of that interview is here:
Xinalani: How did the two of you meet?
Jacob: We met on a train in Italy...yes, it was one of those romantic things you read about in books, and yes, we get asked every trip about it. Perhaps that is one of the incentives for coming on one of our trips?
Silvia: The way Jacob tells the story makes everyone cry every single time. It was exactly as Rumi writes, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” In that moment of meeting I was returning from a Yoga Retreat in Tuscany where I had found much healing and growth. I had ever more fully let go of the barriers to loving myself. I was truly awake and more openhearted than ever before. And that is when Jacob found me.
Through this yogic practice I have been able to get stronger on the inside so I didn't feel like I had to maintain the walls and barriers up on the outside. As a result I got softer on the outside. In that softness love felt more welcomed. Although I hesitate I feel I should caution you a bit here: When you arrive at that place where you are willing to be open to grace and be more gentle outwardly you will get hurt. Some will take advantage of you. You might wonder so how many times has my heart been broken? Well, more than most. But would I trade this letting go of barriers to have it any other way? No I would not. Once you start the practice of yoga the process takes over and what you thought was important before evolves to a whole new level. You put your energy on creating and deepening the poses of your life and away from holding back or closing off. It is in that receptivity that the yoga of relationship love will find you as it did me. So today sweat off the old hardness, knock down the walls and welcome LOVE! Love yourself, love your day, love your life! Silvia
*Join me on a yoga retreat www.alchemytours.com
CHEMISTRY OF TRUTH
"Let go of your worries and be completely clear-hearted, like the face of a mirror that contains no images. If you want a clear mirror, behold yourself and see the truth." - RUMI
OCTOBER 10, 2010
The mat serves as a mirror for each of us. The opportunity to let go of anger, fear, stress allows us to open up to our happiest selves. This process requires we see ourselves honestly. Its easy to stay upset and hold on to grudges and muddy up the picture of what we really feel or who we are. So this experiment is quite radical if you're used to masking or hiding from your truth.
There is a Chemistry to Truth. And we have in every moment a choice about how to influence the balance with the chemicals of our thoughts and our breath. If you do not breath out fully you are in fact poisoning yourself. Or if in your thoughts you are self-critical or judgmental this drama is creating a stress and hormones like cortisol are being released.
Writes Donna Farhi, New Zealander yoga teacher, in Holding Your Breath (Yoga Journal, April 1996): "Stress may be real or imagined. Just imagining a stressful event can reduce inhalation volume. When we are continuously exposed to stress, then the body just forgets to relax." Obviously, the breathing pattern changes, and "it just might become a statement about what happened in the past rather then what is happening to us in the present".
Every exhale, every pose can help us relieve the past and be more conscious of the moment we are living. You can by breathing wisely and thinking healing thoughts dilute the concentration of the harsh chemicals in your body. But first the practice of studying yourself, svadhaya, asks that we see ourselves truthfully. You engage when you hold your breath, where you get overly dramatic for no reason, where you are making yourself TOXIC. And the diluting can be accomplished through mantra as well, what you are thinking on purpose. A favorite of mine is the lovingkindness meditation:
Think of yourself, offer healing and a way to let go of sadness, anger, worry saying inside:
May I be happy
May I be peaceful
May I be loved
Then think of a challenging person, who you need to heal the relationship and say to them inside:
May You be happy
May You be peaceful
May You be loved.
Then think of how to influence the chemistry of the world (of which you are a part of) by saying to all people:
May We be happy
May We be peaceful
May We be loved.
The answer to stress, anger you feel towards a situation or a person or thing is not eye for an eye. Fighting is only going to make it more acidic, more poison will kill us eventually. The only answer is love. Love dilutes the pain, the worry and relieves us of this toxicity. And in that truth we see our best most beautiful selves! Love your day, love your life, love yourself! Silvia
DOES YOGA MAKE YOU SEXY?
SEPTEMBER 11, 2010 NEWSLETTER
Salutations Friends on the Path!
This week the hot yoga topic in some circles has been about the marketing of yoga to make you slim and sexy. My first concern as a yoga instructor is not so much about sexiness as it is teaching folks that yoga is really about the Science of Happiness. I know that with consistent, regular practice you will reconnect with what you're feeling, learn healthy stress-reducing techniques (like breathing on purpose), appreciate your life more and generally engage the world in a kinder way.
As yoga teacher Donna Farhi says, "What the world needs are kinder, more compassionate, generous people." The time on the mat is our opportunity to cleanse the mind of all its distractions that make us less attractive. And as I often say in class, the biggest obstacle to a happier life is our own busy mind, and yoga is for the mind (which we access through the vehicle of the body).
Does yoga make you sexy? Well I guess so. When we are feeling peaceful and centered our faces do look prettier. And when we are kinder and move more fluidly we are more attractive. And the yoga does slow us down to make more heartfelt connections to other people. So if you come to yoga for the mental or physical reasons it doesn't matter you are a complete package as a human being and you will receive ALL the benefits: happiness, sexiness, calm. And most importantly you will naturally engage more unconditional love into your life! So love yourself, love your day, love your life, Silvia
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MARCH 27, 2010: Your life is the way it is because of YOU. Can you imagine a world in which everyone holds themselves accountable for the quality of their life? I dreamed of a place where no one places blame on anyone else for the circumstances of their life. There is no longer a victim mentality or as Rusty Wells said, Yoga is the anti-victim mentality. Your life is the way it is because of you.
When I first figured this out as part of yogic teachings the thing I was most blown away by was that this meant I had to work at my own development, happiness and spiritual growth. This in yoga we know as Sadhana, we work daily as a practice on our own inner evolution. This evolution is where we take responsibility moment by moment for what we say, how we act, how we breath, what we think.
This active living of life or as a best dear friend always says, “Try Life. Live it.” Makes it clear that we are living and learning from the experience of life moment to moment. And that this is true living of life is only taking place in the present. We can too easily fall prey to lamenting the past and pushing blame on things that have expired or forecasting some neurotic tendency towards the future. If we are taking full responsibility then we are living on purpose right now. Everything we do is on purpose or with conscious intent. Even something like kindness, where I go to sleep each night and say to myself “tomorrow I am going to be 11% kinder” requires me to stay present to each situation, person or thing that I encounter and see the best in it.
Kindness takes work. Taking responsibility for one’s life takes work. But the good news is that then we get all the credit too.
Every time we come together in yoga class I realize that my dream has come true. What we do person to person on the mat is hold ourselves accountable pose to pose and at the end we celebrate by resting in quiet meditation known as savasana. Well deserved too! So join me on the mat, become part of my dream…more importantly become part of my reality of making this world the best place possible. Love! Silvia
FEBRUARY 22, 2010 "True giving radiant giving comes from the same inner place as deep happiness. It's having the self-esteem to feel that what we have to offer is valuable - our advice, wisdom, expertise, skills, physical labor. The manner in which we give these gifts is a reflection of who we are."
Philosopher Maimonides pictured giving on 8 spiritual levels. The top two are these here that Yoga really gets to the heart of right away.
1. "The motivation for real giving finds its source in the internal self, not in the expectations of others."
2. "Anonymous giving - happy people don't expect a return. They give because it comes from the heart and they believe that joy and happiness are abundant. They aren't going to run out."
In yogic philosophy the opposite of taking or stealing is giving and sharing (Asteya). And we are either living from a viewpoint of abundance or one of mental scarcity where you are hoarding or rationing for fear you are going to run out. You see these concepts are mutually exclusive. You either are practicing living life from one or the other. This idea that giving comes from a place of deep self-love and happiness has been one of the greatest lessons I take into my everday from this practice. The yoga has strengthened my confidence and instead of contracting when times are challenging I am able to maintain a self-generating self-esteem that reminds me to give with all my heart be it wisdom, love, affection or friendship. Everyday I practice yoga makes me want to open my heart up bigger to do more good in the world, to be a better friend, a more generous partner, a kinder sister, a more loving daughter.
My sincere wish is that you stay with this practice long enough to experience this for yourself. Love yourself, love your day, love your life! XXOO Silvia
MAKING HEALTHY CHOICES BY LIVING YOUR YOGA
JANUARY 13TH, 2010: Yoga is about wholeness, healthy & vital living in the body, mind, & spirit.
The foundation for this is based on fundamental yogic philosophy written in the Yoga Sutras Chapter 1.30 to Chapter 1.33. The sutras speak about the potential imbalances we may encounter on the physical, mental and emotional levels. They obscure the knowledge of our true nature, which is happiness. Offered are various ways to prevent these imbalances as well as ways to regain balance if lost. They show why the peaceful path is often like walking on the razors edge. The most practical advice teaches how to “informally” integrate these suggestions into everyday life in addition to the “formal” practices of doing yoga poses, breathing techniques and meditation.
The Yogic model proposes that the four keys to an open heart and calm mind are to nurture these attitudes:
- Kindness and friendliness to those who are happy
- Compassion for those that are suffering or less fortunate
- Respect and honor for those that who embody noble qualities
- Equanimity for those whose actions oppose our values
At first these four keys to help enable us to retain our inner peace in all circumstances seem easy. But applying these in day to day life is more challenging than we think. We often fool ourselves into believing we are kinder than we really are and can use this practice to really see where our actions are not aligned with what we believe ourselves to be. Most of all this teaches us that we are responsible for co-creating our life. We have the four keys to our happiness. Love in all ways, Silvia
10% KINDER SPREAD SUNSHINE AND GOODNESS
SEPTEMBER 17, 2009: I was saying to a friend that when I got to bed at night I appreciate all that I attempted during the day no matter how it turned out, I acknowledge I did my best and right before I go to sleep I promise myself that "tomorrow I will be 10% kinder."
Life moves so fast on a day to day basis that sometimes it seems like we don't have time to be kind which is really another way of saying we don't have time to connect with other human creatures, they aren't important enough. Yoga teaches us that a root cause of our suffering is isolation; disconnection from others for it is against our very nature. When we actively practice kindness it brings us closer to other individuals. Every day I also say to myself "am I serving as an example or a warning" to the people I am in contact with? I hope my life right now serves as an example, that no matter how difficult the challenges I might be facing I am still above all else kind.
One of my heroes Jack Kornfield writes, "The work of your heart, the work of taking time, to listen, to help, is also your gift to the whole world." I found that quote in a little book titled GOOD PERSON given to me by my loving friend Nancy. I keep that book next to my bed to remind myself that above all else that is really what influence I hope to inspire others by. I may not have millions of dollars but the beauty and value of being a good person seems far above an impressive bank statement. And the good news is that as JM Barrie says, "Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves."
We can light up the lives of all whom we think about, touch, email, talk to, and work with, love. Each of us has this responsibility to be a good person. If we sit back and wait for the world to be made better, well the funny thing is we are the world. We are the ones that by being 10% kinder can make an enormous difference.
"There is in each of us so much goodness that if we could see its glow, it would life the world." Sam Friend
I have to be honest many years ago I didn't have the guts to articulate this. I was too embarrassed and afraid what other people might think of me (it's usually a whole lot easier to sit and complain the with the majority of how terrible life is) so I had to do a lot of soul searching to grow up spiritually from babyhood to be able to say without hesitation "I want to change the world.' Yup, it may be one down dog at a time, one mindful breath at a time but at least I am trying in my own way. And the heart of the effort comes from being 10% kinder each and every day. Today can you join me in this effort? "Thank you to all the people in the world who are always 10% kinder than they need to be. That's what really makes the world go 'round." (Helen Exley)
Your goodness knows no bounds and is unlimited in its potentiality, do it your way but please accept the responsibility to care enough for yourself, this world we share to be 10% kinder each and every day! Love to you with lovingkindess (metta), Silvia
WHY PRACTICE YOGA? TO LET GO
AUGUST 24, 2009: I asked myself today these questions: Why practice yoga? What about practicing yoga today seemed like a good idea?
I want to share with you what I discovered. For me I come to the mat sometimes to celebrate, to do some deep thinking, to remember myself, to feel more…but really more often than not I come to the mat to LET GO.
I practice yoga to let go of the pain caused by someone hurting my feelings so I don’t consume myself with replaying them over and over. I let go of worry (everything from what the weather will be like for the Cubs game on Wednesday to how will the rest of my life turn out). I let go of worldly pressures, to decompress from stress. The practice helps me let go of the seriousness of meeting life’s challenges. I come to let go of the complexity of life. On the mat all we have to do is one pose at a time and breath while experiencing it. I come to let go of self-doubt and regain clarity.
What about practicing yoga seems like a good idea? I find my best self and let go of all those things that might cause me to lose sight of how important my life is and that the person who must appreciate it the most – is me.
In the Yoga Sutras Chapter talks about what we can do to maintain equanimity and inner joy. On the mat we let go & practice the following:
1.30 Perception of our true nature (joy, peace) is often obscured by physical, mental, and emotional imbalances.
1.31 These imbalances can promote restlessness, uneven breathing, worry and loss of hope.
1.32 These imbalances can be prevented from taking over our lives by consistently practicing yoga.
1.33 To preserve openness of heart and calmness of mind, nurture these attitudes:
· Kindness to those who are happy
· Compassion for those who are sick or struggling
· Honor and appreciation for those who we admire
· Equanimity to those whose actions oppose our values.
COMMITMENT TO KINDESS
APRIL 3, 2009: The John Mayer song “Say” has this lyric that goes, “Even if your hands are shaking. And your Faith is broken. Even as the eyes are closing. Do it with a heart wide open.” It’s easy to stop being kind to ourselves and to others when we’ve been hurt or we see negative behavior around us. But that’s not excuse. To me it comes down to this, If tomorrow is going to look any better than today we have to commit to the possibility of kindness. We cannot abandon it. If the tomorrow after tomorrow is going to look better for our children and the children of our children we must commit to kindness.
A great way to change our energy and perhaps wipe the slate clean from previous negativity or frustration or hurt is to practice the Metta Meditation. Metta is the pali word for Lovingkindness. Here is my version:
May I be happy
May I be healthy
May I be peaceful
May I be loved
This then sets the tone for our practice and for our day. I don’t want you to get all worked about about what you look like, how you practice and whether you're doing it perfectly. I really don't want your yoga to be another opportunity to practice the self-abuse of perfectionism or be less than kind in yoru thoughts or actions. I just want you to be YOURSELF.
You need not overwhelm yourself on purpose. To practice lovingkindness go easy on yourself STRUGGLE LESS, STRIVE LESS, ATTEMPT LESS AND ENJOY MORE! Pace yourself to enjoy your practice to enjoy your life and let the ripples of lovingkindness impact the way you see the world. Or as Swami Satchidananda says, Look within. If you don't see the peace in you, you won't be able to see the peace outside. You have to have that peaceful vision, because it is you who sees the world outside.
LESSONS FROM MY TRIP THIS WEEKEND
FEBRUARY 2ND: My Dear Yogi Friends, as you know I was away this weekend for four days in Colorado. I was totally getting that Rocky Mountain High: breathing, skiing, yogaing, enjoying the sunshine! I benefited from many life lessons as a result of this trip that I will share in classes this week related to yoga philosophy. As always the most important of which is to wake up, pay attention and BE PRESENT in order to live life more fully in each moment. A fave quote that speaks to this is:
“Most of the time we don’t even pay attention to the depth of life. We only see flat surfaces.” -Anonymous
Some other topics that came up during this weekend: AHIMSA - a fundamental principle of yoga often known as non-harming, kindness and safety. Every day we are fighting for our lives but how do we do so without hurting others. How do we create a safe situation for ourselves where we aren't driven by fear but by the desire to be kind? COURAGE - not the front page stuff but the quiet courage that requires trust, faith and a really brave heart. HABITS - those habits with attachments that prevent us from growing spiritually. You know those one's that give us a false of sense of ease because we grow dull doing the same thing over and over again. OPENING UP - When we close down we are like fish moving towards dry land, when we open up and even allow vulnerability we flow with grace towards the ocean. The mountains helped me remain open even though all I wanted to do was contract during challenging moments. BE PRESENT - It is easy to see everything as flat and "ok" but that means we really aren't paying attention. This is when we are not awake for if we were living in the moment (where true happiness lies) then we'd see the depth, like the mountain ranges I experienced this weekend.
Ok, many other lessons learned over the weekend like Managing Doubt, Simplicity, Facing Our Fears, Body Prayer, Spirtual Seeking, Peace of Mind, but I'll save those for my book. Please join me this week to learn more about these key one's above. I look forward to being with you on the mat! And remember today is not a rehearsal - this is IT! Love to all, Silvia
AHIMSA: KINDNESS, SAFETY, SELF-LOVE
Every day we are fighting for our lives but how do we do so without hurting others. How do we create a safe situation for ourselves where we aren't driven by fear but by the desire to be kind? In learning how to ski again I got a guide, a ski instructor, Patrick Vaughn. He helped me stay safe, control my speed so that I wouldn’t run other people down nor would I hurt myself. This was an expression of kindness all the way around. But the key thing here is to know it wasn’t about fear. That’s something different to live in a way that restricts us because we are afraid all the time. I have been there – I spent a great deal of time in my past afraid and basing my actions or inactions on fear. That’s no way to live. It drains you, it creates a constant feeling of being unsafe. The potential for danger constant.
One of the most interesting things about fear is that it exists in relationship to the future. So making sensitive adjustments going down a slope means you have to do so by staying present to all those that exist around us (life as we know it is not a game of solitaire) as soon as you get afraid in the what ifs then you move out of the present, you tune out, you drop out and you literally WIPE out.
Ahimsa is directing our actions from a kind place of gentle thought. The toughest practice of Ahimsa is paying attention to negative, violent thoughts. And if we are really honest we all have to admit we don’t always think kind thoughts towards ourselves (or others for that matter). But our existence as a global tribe requires we figure out how to manage kind thoughts because they lay the foundation of kind actions. It is the intention behind the actions not the actions themselves. Otherwise we fall into the trap of being afraid to hurt others and then act in ways that can often hurt ourselves.
We are all critically important to the universe. I saw this on the mountain it literally took a village to run the place. So we all can work together in a kind, loving way and suffering will be reduced in the world (not eliminated). Pay attention to your breath and it will give you a sense of your depth of kindness internally, are you cutting yourself off from breathing? Is this a form of violence towards self, isn’t it life diminishing?
So today let’s invite kindness, peace into our practice. On the plane I would say to myself ‘I am peaceful, I am feeling peace, I am peace” Take this as my gift. The best practice of Ahimsa is making time for ourselves (like my mini holiday, or you being here tonight in class). We are obliged to take time for ourselves the sutras teach us. And it is much more pleasant and fun to do willingly before any disease invites itself into your life.
LOVE FOR ONESELF IS LOVE FOR ALL.
BE GOOD TO YOURSELF DAY
NOVEMBER 9TH, 2008: Today we declared BE GOOD TO YOURSELF DAY! It was great! According to statistics 40% of working women say their stress level is High, 56% of men and women say stress I hurting their relationships, as Americans we take less vacation than anyone else in the world, we work longer hours, 22% of us say we’re too busy for a lunch break and the list goes on. You can easily see why it is vitally important to declare today a special holiday, Be Good To Yourself Day.
We did this by asking ourselves throughout our practice what is it that I need for myself here? What is the kindest approach, the most compassionate way of being in my body, my heart? The inspiration today was a 50th wedding anniversary I attended the night before with the key advice from the couple when asked “how to stay together 50 years” was BE KIND. Yup, that was it in a nutshell. Well ok, then let’s practice being kind to ourselves. May you be happy, healthy, kind and peaceful. With Metta (lovingkindness), Silvia