By Laura Mills
My adulthood so far has consisted of two phases: “Before Yoga” and “With Yoga.” In the first phase I worked a fine job and maintained my home life and body in the way I thought best for me. The plan worked, for a while, but by my late-twenties I had wedged myself into a meltdown between grief and confusion. In its midst, yoga seemed like something worth trying…and thus began the second phase. Since then, I’ve learned what changes to make and how to make them, as well as how to coexist with all aspects of my life (even those that didn’t turn out the way I originally wanted). I’ve also learned to honor myself ALWAYS as a unique and beautiful being.
Whether or not a yogi’s story involves major life alterations, at some level the practice changes all of us. Even if we only try yoga because it looks fun, or we want to someday balance on our hands, the practice leaves us in a place different from the one in which we began. I consider all the yogi stories I’ve heard since I started my own practice: among many others, stories involving stress reduction and recovery from tragedy or illness; stories of yoga as a hobby, as cross-training for other sports, as a component of an overall fitness program; stories about yoga feeling good, teaching people about themselves, and enabling them to meet their spirituality. I love yogi stories. To me they represent the tremendous spectrum of human experience and the fact that, no matter who we are or where we come from, we all revolve around the same amazing center.
The eyes of some of my non-yogi friends widen when they see me order a turkey sandwich for lunch or take a diet soda from my fridge, reminding me that many people maintain a preconceived notion of what a “yogi” is or should be.
I do consider myself a yogi. But I don’t grow my own anything or regularly buy organic. I forget to bring reusable grocery bags to the store. I know nothing about herbs or essential oils. I am ridiculously impatient (just tell a hungry me I have to wait 20 minutes for a restaurant table…). And yes, I occasionally eat meat and have a one-diet-soda-a-day habit.
When the questions come—the ones I ask myself as well as the ones others ask—they also remind me that being a yogi entails much, much more than any one aspect of life. It’s a person’s openness to love of self and universe. Yoga involves caring for ourselves and others and the Earth, the practice of physical poses as well as breath, and ever-deepening meditation; however, we don’t begin our practice incorporating everything at once. We explore, we integrate, and little by little we add the elements that bring better balance to our lives…our amazing, beautiful, unique lives. And we don’t do it all overnight. We may not even do it all in a lifetime.
Perhaps the next time a non-yogi friend asks me to explain yoga, then, I should begin with, “It’s a process by which I continuously learn about my true self….”
ARE YOU GROWING? A TEST OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH
March 20, 2011. I often ask myself what is the true test of my Spiritual Growth? Or more simply put I meditate on the question "Am I still growing?" When I was little my Mom measured us (me and my brother) against the door in our house and marked the little lines proving I was actually growing physically. You did that too, right? Well, I loved that. I was sad the day she stopped doing it and I stopped growing.
Well that's speaking to physical growth. I am as tall as I'm going to be (although to be honest by practicing yoga I've gotten a little taller, just a quarter inch but that's pretty cool).
However what I'm speaking about is emotional and spiritual growth. My aspiration continues to be that I grow into the BEST version of myself. And that's what I hope for you too.
Or as True Nobility is defined: it is not about being better than anyone else, it is about being better than you used to be, much better. This is the barometer of our ability to raise our spiritual energy. Are you better than you used to be? Are you growing?
"The only difference between a flower that is alive and one that is dead is that the live flower is still growing." - Dr Wayne Dyer
For me I received so much nourishment, like a flower, from my daily yoga practice that I wanted more. That's when I started taking yoga workshops: first they were the 2 hour kind, then the half day, then the full day, finally entire weekends both locally and eventually I started traveling all over the U.S to attend 2-3 day trainings and workshops until I went all the way by signing up for a one week yoga retreat in Italy with Sadie Nardini. Well that did it for me. I could experience for myself that to keep growing I had to keep investing in myself and more time dedicated to evolving my consciousness was required to do that. And traveling to new places and exploring new territories externally matched the growth I was making internally. They went hand in hand.
And that's when I made the commitment to start leading yoga retreats combined with other ways to express one's yoga and vitality like cycling and hiking. I want to give everyone a chance to really invest in your own growth and raise your energy by visiting places that support your evolution.
You see, until the last breath, I don't buy into wellness as defined by the AMA as the "absence of illness". I believe in the potential for radiant health (shakti) as the World Health Organization defines wellness. I am growing! And I am learning. And the higher my vibration the softer I get on the outside. I am kinder, more patient, nicer and easily more loving. I think we all are when we're growing. So make that commitment to yourself keep affirming your life! Love yourself, love your day, love your life, Silvia
In the words of Lao Tzu,
"At birth all people are soft and yielding
At death they are hard and stiff
All green plants are tender and yielding
At death they are brittle and dry
When hard and rigid we consort with death
When soft and flexible we Affirm Greater Life."
ANCORA IMPARO I AM STILL LEARNING
Like a bee seeking nectar, seek teachings everywhere. Like a deer, seek a quiet place to digest all that you have gathered." -Dzogchen Tantra
February 5th, 2011. I am a student of life a dedicated love anthropologist. I wear on my wrist Ancora Imparo words spoken by Michelangelo at the age of 75 years old. Translated this means "I am still learning". And anyone who knows me knows I take my love of learning seriously. I am dutifully always trying to live in a way that acknowledges the significance of each precious moment and what it teaches me.
The Yoga is always our best teacher. It stretches our mind muscle and teaches us how to connect with ourselves and accept the sense things make or make sense of things as they are. Its like working a puzzle which requires concentration and persistence in our bodies and in our hearts. It is not achieved without interest in our own learning.
So today start with the answer YES to all questions by opening up to the teachings that flow in your path whether they be good, difficult, interesting, or funny. Try to learn from all of them my friends! Keep close to heart some final inspiration from Michelangelo "And I hope that I may always desire more than I can accomplish." With heartfelt hope for us all to be students of life in the world with the desire to keep learning! Love yourself, love your day, love your life! Silvia
PS Join me on retreat this year www.silviamordini.com Moab April 16-19, 2011 and Tuscany June 19-25, 2011 coming up!
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A YOGA STUDENT ADHIKARA BABY!
SEPTEMBER 16, 2010
Super Duper Namaste,
During the month of August I devoted myself to Adhikira. Adhikara translates as studentship. So this means I made a full-hearted effort to be a student of yoga. Martha McQuid says, “In Sanskrit, adhikara refers to being spiritually open, or ready, for spiritual study (in Sanskrit, Sadhana). It also implies a level of ownership and willingness to take responsibility, as well as dedication, for the subject that is being studied. (*More on adhikara below)
During that month I explored a wide variety of studios and tried over 20 teachers! I know we say that yoga is non-comparative, that on the mat we don’t compare ourselves to others, but how do we know without trying different teachers what we like a little bit better or what suits our tastes or personality. The point is to keep trying and give everyone a shot. Being a student of yoga means that you are open, dedicated and willing to try other teachers. It doesn’t mean that everyone’s style or personality is going to suit you. You might find some teachers more to your liking. But don’t stop trying, don’t refuse to have the pleasure of learning from someone new.
That’s the most important part. To be a student of yoga means to embrace everyone and be open to the holistic experience of what is possible. And to me it also means that each of us as students is responsible for making that class the best one of our lives! Being a great student of yoga is co-creating right along with your teacher the most delicious alchemy where we become yoga (yoked, in union). It is then when we are living our Namaste: the light of what is good in me sees and celebrates the light and goodness in you, and together we celebrate the beauty and love that exists within us and outside us! From my heart thank you to all the teachers at TBY that subbed for me, and special maholo, love and respect to all the students at TBY who opened their hearts to new teachers. I NAMASTE YOU! Love yourself, love your day, love your life! Silvia
*ADHIKARA CONTINUED “Thus, a student that is brand new to yoga wouldn’t begin a practice in an advanced level class, despite excellent physical conditioning, or a background in dance or gymnastics. There is a linear rhythm to learning anything - music, mathematics, language. We always begin with simple ideas and then move forward into the complex. For example, when you learn a musical instrument, you don’t start by trying to play a Mozart concerto. We begin by learning the notes and where they fall in the musical staff, then fingerings, then scales, then simple tunes and over time with dedicated practice, Mozart! A newer student who pushes too hard can get an overload of this energy and not understand it or be able to contain it. In order to prepare the body to receive this energy, we take a methodical approach to practice. In yoga philosophy, this idea is supported in The Yoga Sutra’s of Patanjali 1:14 which is translated as ‘steady practice over a long period of time.” Now apply this to a new yoga instructor. They are trying their best, and the only way they can get better is if you allow them to practice and grow. I promise you they will exceed your expectations if you just give them even just a little while to evolve.
AFRAID OF BEING AFRAID
SEPTEMBER 12, 2010. Some years back I as talking about how yoga helps us to face our fears (remember that first time doing crow pose or kicking up into a handstand or feeling the sensation of pigeon or even just standing still in mountain pose). After class a student came up and told me I should never talk about fear and if I do she will never come back to class. Guess how that made me feel? Yup, I was totally afraid of her. I was afraid of what she'd say or do or tell people and I was afraid of what if one day I forget and she was in class and I said the word what would she do. I resolved not to talk about Fear at that point because I WAS AFRAID OF BEING AFRAID. That went on for over a year. Then the more spiritual reading I did and the more Anusara Yoga became part of my life I realized there was something inauthentic about denying fear. Anusara teaches us to embrace the full spectrum of who we are, even when we are afraid.
Mariann Williamson says, "Love is what we are born with. Fear is what we learn. The spiritual journey is the unlearning of fear and prejudices and the acceptance of love back in our hearts." So first thing we do when we come to class is as Baron Baptiste says, "drop everything you know." From there we heed the sage advice of Yoda in Star Wars, "YOU MUST UNLEARN WHAT YOU HAVE LEARNED."
Interesting enough this works hand in hand with what positive psychologist (and favorite Harvard professor) Tal Ben-Shahar's lectures talk about that drills down into this: "to be a happier person give yourself permission to be HUMAN." Otherwise when we suppress what we feel it creates more problems. This is what "he refers to as ironic processing, which promises that suppressing an emotion will only ensure its clear announcement later." Yoga is the science of happiness and encourages us to practice unconditional love for ourselves and what we practice on our own lives we know how to share with others. You can't teach what you don't know. You can't live what you don't know. In great part the reason I teach is to be that spark to explain how yoga works so you too don't stay stuck in non-life affirming qualities of your humanness and realize that once you accept who you are, you can unlearn what you know and expand into your happiest life ever. I want that for me, and I really want that for you. Love yourself, love your day, lover your life! Silvia
THE JOY OF BEING A STUDENT OF YOGA
"Take the attitude of a student, never be too big to ask questions, never know too much to learn something new." -- OG MANDINO
AUGUST 3RD, 2010 This practice of yoga has taught me above all else how to be a better Student of Life. No matter how you might judge me as a "yoga teacher" or "life coach" I can honestly say that my best skill set is of being an amazing student.
I AM TEACHABLE.
I never for a moment assume I know too much. Actually ever year of this practice I learn more and realize how little I actually understand. My time on the mat reminds me to stay thirsty for knowledge. It inspires me to get off my mat and apply this "TEACHABILITY" off the mat. And I do. Of course not without some lifted eye brows and sometimes harsh criticism from some folks.
I take great honor in saying every year I take time off from teaching and go to study with my teachers. I sit in the SEAT OF THE STUDENT an open vessel soaking in the open hearted wisdom of my teacher. This last week has been an amazing experience studying Vinyasa Yoga with a great teacher of yoga and life.
I have been inspired, and challenged and prodded and supported in new ways. I want to say thank you first to all those that would judge me for making time for myself to be a student. You too have been some of my greatest teachers. For without your friction I would not have had to dig deep to still do what I knew was best for me. And to all my students, friends, clients who have kindly supported me every year to keep learning I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for being my root chakra when it would get shaken and I'd wonder should I make time for me or not?
There are wisdom teachers everywhere and as Students of Life the point is to be open to seeing the teachings that surround us every day of our lives both formally and informally. Sometimes our most difficult teachers are our best teachers. And that's ok: pleasant, unpleasant, neutral. It's all good.
And finally what I hope everyone learns no matter your opinion is to step outside your comfort zone and KEEP LEARNING. Do not atrophy. REMAIN TEACHABLE.
Teachabiilty and being lovable are intimately linked as sweethearts.
May you all find the courage to expand your knowledge! With compassion and peace to you all, Silvia
PS - Join me for my certified yoga teacher training program starting October 15th, 2010 at total body yoga
LOVE IS A SKILL
FEBRUARY 10, 2010: I again today was inspired by Us Weekly and People magazines. If you look at the cover each week there is always someone angry at someone else and then there’s a story about love gone wrong – and tantalizing unkind things related to that. So here’s the thing if you practice being mean you get really good at being mean, if you work hard to be angry you’re getting skilled at being angry, if you are always sarcastic your sarcasm skills will bloom, if you speak to yourself internally with negativity you’re going to get really skilled at putting yourself down.
Love is a skill too. If you practice love, move like love, think loving thoughts, behave in a loving way then you’ll get really good at this too.
Yoga presents us with the opportunity on the mat to hone this Love Skill on ourselves first. Yoga is first and foremost a practice of self-love. And the time we set aside for us to work on Self-Love.
“Love is a skill, a precious skill that can be learned. There are many other skills that are useful, even necessary, but in the end, nothing less than learning to love will satisfy us. The saints and mystics tell us that life has only one overriding purpose: to discover the source of infinite love and then to express this love in daily living. Without love, life is empty; without love, life is meaningless. The only purpose which can satisfy us completely, fulfill all our desires, and then make our life a gift to the whole world, is the gradual realization of the Self (LOVE) within, which throws open the gates of love. We cannot dream what depth and breadth of love we are capable of until we make the discovery that this divine spark lives in every creature.” —Eknath Easwaren
With Valentines day approaching think of this practice as being your OWN valentine. And then thank yourself for practicing yoga, each moment of yoga is the best expression of RADICAL SELF-LOVE. Rock on with that. Love yourself, love your day, love your life! Silvia
WHAT WE LIKE, WHAT WE DISLIKE: FINDING CONTENTMENT IN ANY SITUATION
FEBRUARY 3, 2010: I went back to read Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and what I was focused on today as I prepared for Yoga Teacher Training focused on Inversions and Arm Balances was where she writes, “You must be polite with yourself when you are learning something new.” This could be applied to any situation whether it be a pose or a relationship with our partner. That we be polite with ourselves and see each situation, each moment as new so we grow our insight.
It is easy to let ourselves believe that doing only what we like (same old thing) will make us happy and doing what we don’t like will make us unhappy. Yogic philosophy would have us understand that this is too narrow a definition of happiness and that it actually sets the stage for unhappiness because our degree of contentment becomes based on something outside ourselves. For instance, if our partner does exactly what we want (meets all sorts of conditions) then we will be happy. Or if we have chocolate then we are happy, or if we lose 5 pounds. However true happiness is UNCONDITIONAL. This is defined as a state where we find contentment in any situation (tough pose, stuck in traffic, our partners moodiness, no milk in the house, illness, job loss).
So on the mat we meet poses that are our nemeses. We actually make ourselves face our discomforts to come to terms with why we don’t like something. Is it fear, or worry or embarrassment? And how do we respond: ignore them and don’t try, approach them timidly, get overwhelmed, get angry, blame the pose? What is really going on?
I promise, if you practice yoga you will learn to find more effective ways to face the challenges of your life. (You know the nemesis moments, your dislikes). YOGA IS A STUDY IN HOW YOU DEAL WITH DIFFICULTIES IN YOUR LIFE. That’s it. And can you make peace with what life is trying to teach you? Lessons in patience, in humility, in acceptance?
If we don’t apply this then we will continue to live imbalanced lives thinking that true happiness alludes us because it is only as a result of doing things we like (or having our family members or partners or bosses or colleagues do it all our way.). Essentially what’s strong will get stronger (our ego) and what’s weak will atrophy. We need this practice now more than ever! Mostly because the world is not a game of solitaire, this is a group activity. We share this space ship we call Earth with a lot of other creatures and the sooner we stop blaming others for the quality of our life the sooner the whole world will become MORE POLITE WITH ITSELF.
Love yourself, love your day, love your life, love everyone in your life! Silvia
CAN YOU LIVE YOUR NAMASTE - WHY ALL YOGA IS GOOD
Namaste Beautiful Friends,
I was with Kishan Shah recently, Ayurvedic doctor living in Southern California and he said 'We must Namaste everyone." Yes! I love that. I get it as I believe in my heart fundamentally we are all the same. And as such deserve the same respect, honor and love. So what does Namaste mean? Well, "Nama" means bow, "as" means I, and "te" means you. Therefore, Namaste literally means "bow me you" or "I bow to you." It is a gesture of pure compassion and recognition. That we bow to the true self inside each one of us. Of course there are many interpretations of Namaste including: I see and celebrate the Love that you are.; The Light in me recognizes the Light in You; I honor the light and love within you; I greet that place where you and I are one.; I see and honor in you the place where the universe resides.; When you are at that place in you, and I am at that place in me, we are One.
So in effect if we are living our NAMASTE we are unlocking the love in our own hearts to include everyone. To see not that which divides us but that which brings us together. To me this is why ALL yoga is good. This is the whole point of yoga.
So there is no need to put down another person's yoga. If a teacher says to you they teach the "only" real yoga is this opening or closing one's heart? If a teacher says they know everything, well the reality is that no one knows everything. In the words of Michelangelo at the age of 75 "we are all still learning." (Ancora imparo) To live our Namaste means we see the good, the universal in all yoga. And since we as students and teachers of this practice are all but babies on the path we should embrace one another. The Yoga Sutras teach that a root cause of suffering is separation and isolation but connectedness (yoga "union") removes the veils of separation so we can be in that place where we are One. One World, One Heart.
If we are to come together united in this world during our lifetime we must Live Our Namaste. We can do that by seeing the good in ALL yoga whether it's a set sequence, hot yoga, power yoga, yin yoga, restorative yoga, warehouse yoga, Anusara yoga, acro-yoga or Vinyasa Yoga. Namaste it ALL and you'll change the world!
In the words of Manitongquot, "Oh humankind, do we not all want to love and be loved, to work and to play, to sing and dance together? Love is life - creation, seed and leaf and blossom and fruit and seed, love is growth and search and reach and touch and dance. Love is nurture and pleasure,
Love is life believing in itself.
And life is singing to itself, dancing to its drum, improvising, playing and we are all that Spirit, our stories all but ONE COSMIC STORY that we are love indeed. That perfect love in me seeks the love in you and if our eyes could ever meet without fear, we would recognize each other and rejoice, for love is life believing in itself."
And in case you're wondering, I practice all forms of yoga. I like it hot, strong, easeful, gentle, athletic, fun, creative, precise, elegant and even a bit silly. The more yoga I love the more love that grows inside me, and the more I love everyone. With a heartfelt, humble Namaste to you all...please love in all ways! Silvia
THERE IS A LIGHT
ANCORA IMPARO – These are the words of Michaelangelo when he was 76 years old. The translation is “I am still learning.” We are all students and as Anna Quindlen writes in “A short guide to a peaceful life” we are still learning every day how to be human. The learning is offering us a way to see the light!
Here is a writing by Thich Nhat Hanh titled Twenty Four Brand-New Hours from his book Peace in Every Step:
Every morning, when we wake up, we have twenty four brand new hours to live. What a precious gift! We have the capacity to live in a way that these twenty-four hours will bring peace, joy and happiness to ourselves and others.
Peace is present right here and now, in ourselves and in everything we do and see. The question is whether or not we are in touch with it. We don’t have to travel far away to enjoy the blue sky. Even the air we breath can be a source of joy.
We can smile, breath, walk and eat our meals in a way that allows us to be in touch with the abundance of happiness that is available. We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma, and are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive. Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy and serenity. We need only to be awake, alive in the present moment. This is an invitation to come back to the present moment and find peace and joy. Peace is every step.
So we keep learning. Even from simple stories like this one about 3 bowls of water:
Imagine there are 3 bowls of water. One is really cold on the left, one is normal in the middle, and one is really hot on the right. When you take your hand out of the really cold water and place it in the normal water in the middle, the normal water feels really warm. However, when you take your hand out of the really hot water and place it in the normal water in the middle, the normal water feels really cool. In both cases, one's perspective of "normal" is skewed by their own reality. Such is life. When we take our hands out of the madness, we recognize the normal temperature, the underlying reality. Love, light and peace.
So as we learn from the challenges of our life (the darkness) we are making progress towards our dreams, the light. The Alchemist answered “What you still need to know is this: before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve moved toward that dream.” So as we journey forwards towards the light of love we learn many lessons. But the point is to be so interested in our lives we want to keep learning! Love yourself, love your day, Silvia