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Meditation – Where do I begin?

December 6th, 2014

By Céline Peccatte and Nancy J Curran

meditation-techniquesWhen many think about starting a meditation practice, often there is a feeling of great uncertainty.   Where do I begin?  That is the question for the beginner meditator and for the instructor when answering that question.

The simple answer is to begin by meditating.  We know both the truth in this, and the pitfalls.

Without some form of support or guidance we can often find ourselves frustrated, confused, and in a pool of self-judgment. One of the collective misconceptions about meditation is that it helps one to stop thinking.  This is an impossible task even for a seasoned practitioner.  Because of it, one quickly concludes:  “ I am not good at meditating!, I can’t stop thinking!”  Wondering why we are doing this, in a state of judgment and defeat, we give up!

 

Yes, like many things that are new when you begin a meditation practice you will find the joy of conquering and discovery, at the same time you will be faced with roadblocks that will test you, and ask you to grow and change. In the beginning it is so very supportive to have resources that will help you along the way.  A meditation teacher, or meditation mentor, being part of a group, taking a class, reading about other’s journeys along the way are all great ways to help you when you are faced with some element of the practice that becomes difficult.

For some finding a group to meditate with is helpful, especially if there is some guidance or discussion within the time spent together.  Meditation is a deep practice that brings you to sit with yourself, observe and practice non-judgment.  In doing that you will sometimes feel quite isolated, alone and separated.  When practicing with a group there is a space created that helps the beginner to feel part of something, and supports you along the way when things may get trying.

In the beginning having support also helps to identify the benefits that you are receiving from the practice.  Let’s be honest here, most people don’t continue to do something if they do not perceive a benefit.  At first you may just feel more relaxed after the session, then you might start to feel the sense of calmness pervading throughout your day.  Other benefits include a calmer sense of emotions even when there are stressors, clarity of mind, physical well being and an uplifting sense of personal power that enables you to meet life in all its spectrum, as it is. The benefits are not goals to reach; they might just happen as secondary effects some days and more than likely a delightful breakthrough over time.

If you feel really at a loss, start by talking to others who meditate, asking them about their experiences.   Find out how they began or if they recommend any thing to consider as you begin your practice.  Consider taking a workshop that will help you to understand the different ways to meditate, which will help you identify what may be a jumping off point for you.  You will also want to learn about some of the roadblocks along the path of meditation, and then what tools to use to help diminish them.  If you are someone who likes to read about your interests, try Meditation for Dummies by Stephan Bodian.

Again we go back to the simple answer, just meditate.  Even for just 5 minutes, sit with yourself or lie down and be aware of your breath.  Free of judgment, you become aware.  You let go.  You struggle.  You are amused.  You create, and let go again. Eventually, you will find your way to come sit, meditate, observe the mind and in the end no matter what transpired you offered yourself a moment of kind attention.  Meditation can be as simple as that.  Welcome to meditation!

Want to learn more?  Céline will be teaching a Meditation Workshop on March 7, 2015

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Perfection in Practice

November 1st, 2014

perfection alignmentI love those moments when I truly discover “perfection” in my practice.

Yesterday I found it as we completed class, looked up to see a rainbow in the sky. Today I found it when I paused with my breath and felt my body and mind align. I felt the celebration that accompanied the moment.

For me it never seems to be about accomplishing a pose, nor does it have to do with achieving something. I have come to understand that perfection is related to the natural occurrences that simply happen and are accompanied by a sense of inner gratitude. Alignment of “this” with “that” tempered by joy, appreciation and/or love seems to express the essence of perfection for me.

How do you find perfection in your practice?

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WELL BEING – a holistic way of living

October 1st, 2014

happy woman in grass istockWhat is this thing called Well Being?  That is the question I asked myself as I began to prepare to teach a workshop during our recent retreat in France.  We all strive to find a taste of it, or have it be our root practice on our life path.  But what is it?  And then, how do I live in a state of it?

Let’s begin by looking at a couple of definitions of Well Being.

Wellbeing is not just the absence of disease or illness. It is a complex combination of a person’s physical, mental, emotional and social health factors. Wellbeing is linked to how you feel about yourself and your life. Source

This quote brings up the understanding of Well Being that it is related to how you FEEL about yourself and your life.  A yoga practice gives us the space to see what is really happening (clarity of mind), from there we can begin to change the way we feel about the situation.  This raises our sense of Well Being.

Well-being is most usefully thought of as the dynamic process that gives people a sense of how their lives are going, through the interaction between their circumstances, activities and psychological resources or ‘mental capital’.  Source

Well Being is a dynamic process, one where we may not be able to control what is happening around us, but we sure can use emotional intelligence and our internal locus to create a state of being that feels GOOD to us.  Just like any ‘workout’, when we begin to stretch our state of mindfulness and awaken to how we are reacting to a given situation, the process of Well Being begins to take root.

We no longer live feeling a victim state of our situations or circumstances.  We have the opportunity to see clearly, and then manage our emotions around what is occurring.  Well Being not only is a result of how we feel, but it also begins to “propagate” so that our viewpoint is nurtured by the ever strengthening state of feeling WELL.  The more we feel well, the more we see, experience and offer to our community wellness.

Did you know that according to Sovereign (an organization in New Zealand), for every one happy friend in your social network, your own chance of being happy rises by 9%. This is a wonderful example of the perpetuating nature of Well Being.  It is exponential within us, and affects those around us.

Wellbeing is about the combination of our love for what we do each day, the quality of our relationships, the security of our finances, the vibrancy of our physical health, and the pride we take in what we have contributed to our communities. Most importantly, it’s about how these five elements interactSource

What is so often missing as we outreach toward improving Well Being is that we look at things individually rather than holistically.   We think fiscal improvements will improve our Well Being, so we focus only on that neglecting our family or social relationships.  Anytime we focus solely on one aspect AND neglect the other aspects of Well Being we create a sense of isolation, which often undermines our sense of happiness, or at the worst creates our suffering.

Well Being is described as having 5 elements.

WellBeing

Take a week and notice if your way of living is a balanced sense of these 5 elements of Well Being.

  1. Community Well Being
  2. Professional Well Being
  3. Personal Well Being
  4. Fiscal Well Being
  5. Global Well Being

Are you involved in your community?  Do you have a good feeling about the community you live in?

Do you love your job and have good relationships with the people you work with?  Do you feel competent, and well compensated for what you do?

Do you take care of yourself, eat well and exercise?  Are your thoughts self loving and caring, or do you tend to think with self critical thoughts?

How do you feel about your financial self worth?  Are you comfortable giving to others fiscally, and receiving?

How do your actions and choices impact the planet we live on?  Are you conscientious of your consumption of resources?  Do you recycle, reuse, resource?

Most importantly, begin to see how these 5 elements interact with one another.  When you are doing work you love and feel well compensated, notice how you may feel better about volunteering your time or finances into your community.  When we are happy at home we are more apt to work efficiently so that we can spend more time with our family.  When you love where you live, how does that affect your daily choices across the other 4 elements of Well Being?

Lastly, here are 5 ways to Well Being that you can begin to explore.  Remember to work with all of them.  Don’t be overwhelmed but find some balance in your approach.

Connect – talk and listen, be there, be connected

Give – your time, your words, your presence

Take Notice – remember the simple things that bring you joy

Keep Learning – embrace new experiences, see opportunities, surprise yourself

Be Active – do what you can, enjoy what you do, move your mood

Moment to moment, day to day, your sense of Well Being will rise.  It will be subtle at first and then become very clear to you that your sense of live is improving.

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A Challenge to my fellow Yoga Teachers

September 1st, 2014

LOVE_3

As a yoga teacher I know the Yoga path is one of great learning, challenges and tremendous gifts rooted in deep personal growth.  We are constantly offered the space to step onto this path that is paved with the powerful element of yogic philosophy, as we traverse the landscape of profound and mystical teachings from the wisdom of ages.  Somewhere deep within in each of us we understand these teachings. They call to us and yet we are equally steeped in a culture that clashes with them.  The root of the challenge we share is found in that clashing of the softness of our understanding and the firmness that our cultural upbringing holds on us in the subconscious.  Raising awareness is our way.

To embrace the teachings, to infuse our life with them, to shed the Samscara (habits) of our cultural up bringing, and to shine the light of the true yoga path is our trial.

As I challenge myself each class, I invite you to join me and challenge yourself to bring forth the voice and words that reflect the yogic path.

Starting with Namaha, bowing to the greater esssence, find words that invite your students to explore the poses and unlock their bodies.  Let go of the words that reflect statements rooted in Ego and express what YOU want from or for them.  Does it matter at all what you want?  Catch yourself when you begin to say, “next I want you to…” and convert it to a statement of offering that brings them to becoming aware of their body or breath in the pose.

Bring your words that cue into the transformative experience that will help the students learn to self-love themselves rather than self abuse.  It may take them some time to hear you clearly, as their habit of self-criticism may translate what you are saying.  The challenge I extend here is for our practice of alignment with the tenants of yoga to be expressed from our own loving kindness, into the cueing expressions we use and the actions we take.  Repeat over, and over again to help them to hear this powerful message.

Make your cueing be full of allowing and diminish the importance of how things “should” be.  Guide them to feel what is available to them in each moment, each posture, each transition as they self discover and expand their own potential.  For instance in Warrior I, is the angle of the back foot the focus you are encouraging them to explore, or can they find the position from the hip?  What happens when you invite them to start from the hip and place the back foot in a position to support their own hip flexibility, rather than telling them to put the foot at a 42.5 degree angle?

Open your own heart as you listen to your cueing.  You will slip into your own habit of cueing, born from your teachers (and their teachers) and hear yourself say, “Next I want you to…”  Take that moment to smile, self love and transform again.  Look for how you can ask them to explore their practice, feel their experience and align from there.

I am offering this opportunity as a challenge of self growth. As you take this challenge your teaching will grow, as your heart expands.   Let me know how it goes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Looking Back, Feeling Present

July 1st, 2014

As we celebrate our 14th season of teaching Yoga on the Beach I looked back into our vault of blogs for this month’s posting. This excerpt comes from a post from 2009, and 5 years later reflects the experience of YOTB to this day.  Enjoy!

Supine, Divine

Supine, Divine

The Beginning – Yoga Defined

I was first exposed to outdoor Yoga classes in 2000 when Don and I began to winter in Key West, FL. What a treat we thought, yoga classes on a beach. It wasn’t long before I discovered the gift of outdoor classes, although at first I found only frustrations. “How can anyone relax with all this noise”, I heard my mind chattering away. I would get so frazzled with all of the life noises of a city beach, from cars, tour guides, walkers deep in their conversations, sirens, Harleys, even the more serene sounds of birds overhead would set me off. One day during Sivasana it began to rain and nothing happened except my mind chatter. “Why isn’t she saying anything?” “Why aren’t we getting up?” My mind was incredulous that here we were with rain coming down and no one was doing a thing. As quickly as it began the rain stopped, and I got the joke. The sense of unity began to permeate me. “I am part of this, and this is part of me,” is what my whole being began to remember. It is temporary. From then on I realized if I could find my center, a deep sense of peace with all that goes on in an outdoor class, I could find it all day long in real life! I am not apart, I am united.

The Path – Lessons along the way

One of the basic and more prevalent meanings of Yoga is to unite, while another definition is “Yoga is ecstasy.” The path of Yoga, for me, has been deeply carved by a connection to nature. I can find threads of that connection now in any class (indoors or outside) that I take or teach. It is alive in me, yet I find a whole network of connection when I am outdoors doing Yoga. It is a gift to be able to teach in the ever-changing environment of nature. One student recently chuckled and said, “Thank you for creating such a beautiful studio complete with a background that is in constant creation.” I laughed back and said, “No problem I have hired coworkers to stand and spin the backdrop for you.”

With trees surrounding our class I connect to the symbiotic relationship that unites us through the simple act of breathing. As each of us breathes in, we are in the receptive energy, breathing in the fresh oxygen right from the source. Then with each exhalation we give, consciously give, of our breath and the carbon dioxide back to the trees. It is reciprocity in action, yoga uniting man and nature. How ecstatic to experience this connection in the consciousness of mind and the physical moment at the same time. The direct connection with other living beings inspires “direct knowing”, and stimulates the meaning of “Yoga is ecstasy.”

To be witness to our own breath while breathing with the negative ions that are stimulated by each ocean wave uplifts us. To hear each wave as it ripples through us, unites us. To be inspired by the movement of dolphins swimming by, or the stillness of the trees, and the omnipresence of the wind awakens a state of ecstasy within. Ah, the wind how it does awaken so many things from, appreciation to frustration. Some days we are in great appreciation as the wind helps to keep us bug-free, while other days it can blow so hard that although there are no bugs, the sand begins to blast on our ankles. I have learned the lesson of non-attachment in many different ways, as every day is unique on so many levels.

Non-attachment, oh what a vast precept of Yoga. Nature offers such a fertile field to practice non-attachment, and encourages surrender. I share with my students the concept of surrender as “a conscious decision to go with something that is greater than you are.” Feeling the Earth directly underneath you in a pose and surrendering to that support can be profound. Feeling gravity drawing you into the Earth and learning to go with it, rather than resisting it awakens the understanding for many of surrender. We can quickly recognize the force of gravity as something much “greater” than we are, and then look for ways to ease into a pose using gravity. Uniting with a force that is greater than you are brings us back to the meaning of Yoga. There is a great sense of peace that comes when we are united in our consciousness in this way.

The first time I knew I was mastering this inner sense of peace, in a world that seemed so chaotic, was the morning a motorcycle with a loud set of mufflers drove by the platform and all I heard was AAAaaauuuuummmmmmmm. What a tickle went through me. I realized that all resistance to the sound had vanished and oneness was pervading. I felt the absence of Avidya, misapprehension, slipping away as I was not hearing the sound as something to reject (dvesa). What I heard was the Universal sound of Aum vibrating all around me. In the moment there was nothing else. Divine!

Samadhi – Realization

In studying Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras we come to the concept of Isvarapranidhana, surrendering to a higher power. Whatever name you may call this power, from the tradition or religion you may come from, teaching Yoga classes on beaches offers a direct experience with it. Nature offers us the opportunity to recognize beauty all around us, and we see the divine. The spirit that shines outside, as sunlight sparkles on the water, parting through clouds or dancing on leaves demands your awareness that something greater than you is at hand. And you remember that you are part of It.

Namaste – Takes one to know one

We open our eyes at the end of a class and we see such beauty. Through yoga we learn that our perception is guided by our experience and understanding. To be able to recognize beauty outside of ourselves it must exist within us. In seeing beauty surrounding us from the dance of light in tree branches, to the gliding of a bird overhead we are recognizing beauty from a place within us that knows beauty. It lives in us. In each class we honor the light that exists in us and in all things around us with Namaste. How delicious to embrace this sense of honoring through a connection with Nature’s expression of it. We are truly blessed in our yoga studio called Nature. Namaste.

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