Its been a year with many blessings as well as challenges, and I am sure I am not the only one who feels that way. The blessings I count this year are:
- Continued good health
- the love and support of an extended family near and far away
- living in the tropics where everyday I am immersed in amazing nature and fresh air,
- easy access to delicious, nutritious food
- technology to be able to stay in touch with loved ones, and work with those around the world
- amazing teachers/spiritual guides
- a daily spiritual practice
- all the dogs and cats that teach me through unconditional love
The challenges do not outweigh the blessings by any means, and none of them have been insurmountable. I feel as though they are the same types of stress most people are experiencing these days. There are those who have passed away that I miss, loved ones facing health problems, the continued stress of a pandemic, world issues that I care deeply about, all the divisiveness in the world, as well as the many hats I wear to spread the benefits of yoga.
I am continually working on how to travel my path in balance — so that I am present for what is, and not too attached to how I wish for things to be, nor grieving what has past. Some days my balance is better than others, and that is truly the joy of living in this world, that I get to be human!
While I am not one for only setting things I want to do with my life once a year (its really almost a weekly, if not daily thing to check if I am on or veering off my path), I have been finding that I have less numerous things I wish to accomplish, and they all keep coming down to one main thing. All that I am here to learn and be has to do with love.
The majority of my life has to do with figuring out how I can exist in the state of love while also living in this world. Spoiler alert: I am not very successful at this yet. From the extensive time I have spent both in studying and practicing yoga, I know that in essence, yoga is love. Following practices outlined in the hatha and tantra yoga traditions, lead me to a state in which an overwhelming radiance overtakes all else, and the only possible word that comes close to describing this state is love. I’ve only had glimpses of this state, yet enough that it has verified things I’ve always felt about life, but wasn’t sure were true.
These glimpses make me wish for more, though I don’t know whether that’s really necessary or just desire talking. What these glimpses really do is make me wish everyone could have this experience. Because I am definitely changed as a result. I come back feeling a deep sense of unity, or oneness. I have much less judgement of good or bad. I can see moment to moment the beauty in all things, whether I am watching a hummingbird or stepping in a pile of dog poop.
Like I said, I don’t exist in this state all the time. It does fade, and I go back to going on rants, being critical, seeing “others” as wrong and me right, etc. I forget that I am Love. I lose touch with my True Self. So while I am certainly not the person who can tell you how to keep yourself in this state, I do want to tell you what I have found does and does not help me regain this place of peace. Lets start with what takes me away from it.
- Spending time on social media
- Spending time watching or reading news
- Watching reality shows
- Eating junk food
- Drinking alcohol
- Recreational drugs
All of these things can simply make me feel like crap, whether the feeling is on the physical body level or on the energetic level. Please know that I am no saint, and I am not saying that I don’t love doing some of this stuff at times. Yet I also know the real consequences of my choices to do so. When I am not doing these things, I can feel a different level of energy within me that supports a reconnection to my Essence, Love. I have less desire to talk about other people negatively, less need to make others less than me to feel good. I can feel the inner talk arising if I allow myself to start scrolling through my social media feeds, judging what others are posting and judging myself in comparison to others. I can sometimes catch myself and realize how scrolling is robbing my energy that I know has better uses. Yet, like the addict that I am, I sometimes can’t put it down.
In terms of the food, drink, and drugs, no surprises here. What I put into my body always has a discernable affect on me. Remember the old IBM saying: Garbage In, Garbage Out. I do have a silly fondness for Twizzlers and Flaming Hot Cheetos, that I indulge when I visit the US. It is fun and satisfying to eat them, but I know they are not good for me. I can give you examples of the few types of alcohol or recreational drugs that I still enjoy at times, but you get the point. When I am working with being clear and strong in my energy, I simply do not do any of this.
Ok, now you know my kryptonite!
Here are the things that help me find that state of Love:
- Doing my yoga practices (asana, pranayama, meditation)
- Eating healthy, regular meals
- Being an active member within my community
- Connection with spiritual companions
- Study of wisdom texts with qualified teachers
- Continued growth as a human (working with my shadow side, svadhyaya [self-study], seeking clarity on my “blind spots” as a teacher/student
- Continued work on my teaching skills and knowledge
- Being in nature
- Time with friends and family
- Journaling or writing
- Great music
All of these things uplift me, and I am so blessed to be able to live with so much of this naturally in my day to day life. I know how to get back to love easily. I can find rapture in seeing the growth of an orchid blossom each day. I can find love in scooping up the plentiful dog poop around here (with six dogs and four cats, its inevitable). I can delight in moving my body, breathing fresh air, then savoring the sweet stillness of Savasana. I fall into the spaciousness and release of my pranayama and meditation. My senses are in ecstasy with each meal, each sunrise and sunset. And when I stay away from my first list, the sense of love fills me, and I feel the light.
Next month, I’ll tell you about my biggest challenge, even when I’m keeping my energy up, and not indulging in my kryptonite ways. I’d love to hear from you about how you maintain your energy – what’s your kryptonite and what’s your power boosters? What do you think about the idea that Yoga is Love?
Wishing you a joyful end of 2021, and a new year filled with love and compassion.