Let’s Talk Equanimity

“A modern definition of equanimity: cool. This refers to one whose mind remains stable and calm in all situations.”
~Allan Lokos, Pocket Peace

Every so often (or more), there comes a day that challenges my sense of stability, peace, or safety.   You may be familiar with this phenomenon. The morning news stirs up emotional responses, nothing seems to go right, every stop light is red, and rushing to catch up or move beyond only seems to increase the effect of frustration, or the feeling of unsettlement.  The solution to days, or moments, like these can be found in Patanjali’s Sutra 1.33.

Maitri karuna mudita upeksanam sukha
duhkha punya apunya visayanam
bhavanatas citta prasadanam

The mind becomes tranquil through
the practice of friendliness toward the happy,
compassion toward the miserable,
joy toward the virtuous, and equanimity toward
the non-virtuous.
[Gary Kissiah]

Upeksha, or equanimity, is a state of even-minded openness.  Even though we may be stirred or moved by outer circumstances, and are motivated to make things better, our deep inner stability and serenity remains undisturbed–if we have developed equanimity.  We are better able to respond in balanced and clear ways, rather than reactively.  A balanced heart feels without grasping, pushing, or pulling.

We never know what changes, or consequences, each day will bring.  Equanimity allows for things to be just as they are.  The qualities of friendliness, compassion, and joy are balanced by the stability of equanimity.  This enables us to offer an open heart in all situations, without expectations or attachments.

On the mat–and off–we have many opportunities to practice kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity towards ourselves.  Each time we fall out of a pose, compare ourselves to others, break that favorite cup, get cut off in traffic, we can repeat to ourselves, “May I not be caught in reactivity.”

As we enter the hot months of summer, we will be working with managing our inner tapas (fire), and developing non-reactivity.  See below for one of the cooling pranayam (breath) exercises we will be practicing.

See you on the mat!

 

Sitkari Pranayam
  • This pranayam can be practiced anywhere, anytime.
  • Gently press your upper and lower teeth together, and part your lips comfortably so that your teeth are exposed.
  • Inhale slowly through the gaps in your teeth, and focus on the hissing sound of the breath.
  • Close the mouth, and exhale slowly through the nose.
  • Repeat up to 20 times.

The Lotus Heart

One of the early ancient Vedic Sanskrit texts, the Yajurveda (1200-1000 BCE), puts forth the first suggestion that the essential self dwells eternally inside the heart.  It suggests that the union or merging of opposites (male and female, active and passive, the two sides of the body–the sun/surya channel on the right and the lunar/chandra channel on the left) is celebrated as “always dwelling in the lotus heart.”  When opposites are profoundly integrated, the heart takes the form of a lotus “imbued with devotional sentiment” and leads to “a spirit of unconditional acceptance.”

A well-balanced heart is a compassionate, empathic, and tender heart.  Hardness is tempered with softness.  Softening invites connection, openness, and reception.  We move from doing to being.

This month we play with balancing muscular strength and yielding softness, moving from effort to surrender.  We will also explore the body/breath/heart connection through pranayam practice.  The breath is central to unlocking the body and opening the realm of the heart.  Each inhale brings spaciousness and expansion to the body.  Each exhale invites softening and release.  What journey will your body and breath take you this month?  Come find out!  See you on the mat!  

**I am excited to be subbing this coming Thursday, 5/11, 7:30-8:45pm, Candlelight Flow at Breathe Together Yoga, Los Gatos!!**

Varanasi, India, March 2017.

Tied on a short lead, no water or feed available, I reached over and rubbed her head, scratched around her ears. Her eyes closed, and she pressed her head against my hand, asking for more touch, more contact.  So I gave more.  Love in its most simplest of forms.  Asked for, and given.  Along my trip it was tiny moments like these that broke my heart open the most.

The Heart of the Matter

Namaste my fellow yogi/yoginis!

“Love was born first, the gods cannot reach it, or the spirits, or men…Far as heaven and earth extend, far as the waters go, high as the fire burns, you are greater, love!  The wind cannot reach you, nor the fire, nor the sun, nor the moon:  You are greater than them all, love!”
–Atharva Veda 9.2.19

This month we focus on our center of peace, the still center point of our energetic body–the Anahata (Heart) Chakra.  This peaceful, loving, compassionate energy is reflected by the Golden Rule:  Treat others as you would wish to be treated.  Love yourself, as well as your neighbors.  What you wish upon others, you wish upon yourself.   Where in your life are you being less than any of this towards either yourself, or others?

The element associated with the Anahata Chakra is air.  Air is most commonly associated with expansive knowledge, openness and spaciousness, freedom to breath and a sense of lightness.  This love is empathic, compassionate, and is experienced within us as a state of being which is not based on need or desire.  We will work with prana (breath), back bends, and chest openers to help us connect with some of these elements.

For your meditation practice, I offer you the seed (bija) sound for the Anahata (Heart) Chakra:  Lam.  Repeat this seed sound silently to yourself as you gently follow the rise and fall of your breath with your attention.  You might also envision a green, glowing light centered in your chest.  Feel this essence of compassion, drawing it in on the inhale, and radiating it out on the exhale.  

An interesting side note:  The translation of Anahata from Sanskrit is “sound that is made without any two things striking.

A couple updates to my teaching schedule:

1)  I have stepped out of the Saturday morning Vinyasa class rotation at the Palo Alto Family YMCA.  The class will continue to be taught by the remaining teachers on a rotational basis.  Check the online schedule at: http://www.ymcasv.org/paloalto/html/downloads.html

2) The Friday Breath & Meditation class at Breathe Together Yoga is at a new time:  2:30-3:00pm beginning Feb. 17th.

See you on the  mat!

 

Metta For These Times

I close each of my yoga classes with an offering to all beings everywhere, that they may have happiness and be free from suffering.   These two wishes are part of The Four Immeasurables, as described by Lord Buddha, which consist of loving-kindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity.  We work with these four qualities so that we may cultivate wholesome attitudes towards all sentient beings.

Loving-kindness, the first immeasurable, is the wish that everyone, without exception, have happiness.   Loving-kindness feels much the same as the sincere good wishes a mother feels toward her new-born infant–that he or she will enjoy good health, be intelligent and successful, and make good friends.  This immeasurable counters ill-will.

Compassion, the second of the immeasurables, is the wish that everyone be free from suffering.  When we witness suffering by those close to us, family, friends, even a pet, we experience the ordinary quality of compassion.  To reach the sublime level of compassion, is to extend it out to all sentient beings in all realms of existence.  This immeasurable counters cruelty.

My wish, as we navigate our post-election world, is that we remind ourselves on a daily basis to connect with loving-kindness and compassion.

See you on the mat!


THE FOUR IMMEASURABLES

May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May all beings never be separated from the happiness that knows no suffering.
May all beings live in equanimity, free from attachment and aversion.


 

Compassion in Action

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded.  It’s a relationship between equals.  Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others.  Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” –Pema Chödrön

Compassion in action begins with self.  Notice how many moments during your average day, when you are unkind to yourself.  Self-judgement, feelings of unworthiness, comparison of self versus another are just a few of the ways we are unkind toward ourselves.  This month we will explore the many ways we can soften the relationship we have with self and others.

See you on the mat!

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