Star Power

By approaching the night sky with fresh eyes, you become more intimate with the world.

By Mark Coleman (originally posted here in Yoga Journal)

nighsky

When we spend time in the wilderness, it can be tempting to focus our awareness on “doing” something: taking pictures; getting a certain amount of physical exercise; traveling from point A to point B; naming all the species of birds we encounter. While nature photography is a lovely craft, and we need to exercise for good health, and understanding what lives in our environment is a valid part of deepening our relationship with the land, these activities can separate us from a more intimate experience of the natural world. It is all too easy to forget to actually experience with all our senses that which we are busily capturing and identifying.

The natural world invites us out of our world of fixed concepts and into a closer proximity with reality—what Buddhist teachings call “nonconceptual awareness.” Experiencing the natural world with nonconceptual awareness means that, rather than seeing a [small] black bird and thinking, “That’s a starling, a nonnative bird introduced from England several centuries ago,” we stop and see each particular bird’s incandescent blue-black velvet feathers, piercing amber eyes, and delicate, wiry feet. Instead of encountering the world through a filter of ideas, memories, and labels, we connect deeply with the unfiltered and vital pulse of life in that moment.

If we’re not mindful, intellectual knowledge can easily cloud our direct experience. When we’re guided through life solely by our intellect, by our ideas of what we know, we’re robbed of a sense of discovery. A nonconceptual awareness allows us to approach each moment as fresh and new. A depth of wisdom can arise from such immediacy, and lead to greater wonder about the mysteriousness of life; we may realize just how little we can ever know.

Whatever we experience most often provides us with an excellent opportunity to cultivate nonconceptual awareness. My garden sits in the shade of an old California oak tree that has a wide trunk, deeply veined and wrinkled. The gray-brown bark has deep, dark, vertical grooves intersected by thinner lateral lines——on some days it looks to me like a lopsided checkerboard. Where limbs once grew, there are large knots on the trunk the size of dinner plates. The tree curves gracefully skyward, supporting branches laden with young, shiny, dark green leaves holding their palms to the sun.

When I look at this oak without any preconceived ideas, it is a “different” tree each time I encounter it. My awareness or mood may be slightly different, altering how I see it. Depending on the time of day or time of year, shifting light changes its color. Gentle breezes and strong winds bend the tender limbs into different shapes. From this perspective I forever see it anew. Instead of relating to it solely through a static concept of “oak tree” or failing to see it in all its living, breathing aliveness, I can take it in with fresh eyes. This tree is my constant mindfulness companion, mirroring to me how present and open I am to the freshness of the moment.

The challenge is to be present to all of our experience with such wakefulness. Our concepts of time, of good and bad, of right and wrong can easily distort our ability to see the world clearly. Abiding with nonconceptual awareness allows us to observe the natural world, as well as the people and opportunities we encounter, without the lens of our fixed concepts, views, and opinions. Similarly, we can begin to look at ourselves with a fresh perspective in each moment, without any preconceptions or predetermined limitations.

Read more here in Yoga Journal

Excerpted from Awake in the Wild: Mindfulness in Nature as a Path of Self Discoveryby Mark Coleman.

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Yes! Saturday classes this weekend!

Make plans to attend one (or both… 🙂 Saturday classes this weekend.

Flow Class: 8:30-9:30AM $10 Open class. Beginners are welcome!
Therapeutic Class: 10:00-11:30AM This class is gentle movement and stretching and is suitable for all experience levels. $15 per class. Beginners & Injuries Welcome!

And, have you reserved your space for the next Restorative Session — this Friday, May 16th?
This session starts at 7 and lasts until 9PM at Balanced You Studios. Plan to arrive ten minutes early for set up. Cost is $25.00 for a single, $40.00 for a couple.

Please email me: pattyyogamail@gmail.com or text me (951.6024) to reserve your space. I hope to see you this weekend!

Let’s Meditate – A Beginner’s Guide

A beginner’s guide to meditation practice.

By Mara Carrico (Originally posted here in Yoga Journal)

yoga_meditation crop

Although you don’t need to formally meditate in order to practice hatha yoga—nor is the practice of hatha yoga mandatory in order to meditate—the two practices support each another. Through your practice of yoga, you’ve enhanced both your abilities to concentrate and to relax—the two most important requirements for a meditation practice. Now you can deepen your understanding of what meditation is and begin a practice of your own.

What Is Meditation?

An exquisite methodology exists within the yoga tradition that is designed to reveal the interconnectedness of every living thing. This fundamental unity is referred to as advaita. Meditation is the actual experience of this union.

In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali gives instruction on how to meditate and describes what factors constitute a meditation practice. The second sutra in the first chapter states that yoga (or union) happens when the mind becomes quiet. This mental stillness is created by bringing the body, mind, and senses into balance which, in turn, relaxes the nervous system. Patanjali goes on to explain that meditation begins when we discover that our never-ending quest to possess things and our continual craving for pleasure and security can never be satisfied. When we finally realize this, our external quest turns inward, and we have shifted into the realm of meditation.

By dictionary definition, “meditation” means to reflect upon, ponder, or contemplate. It can also denote a devotional exercise of contemplation or a contemplative discourse of a religious or philosophical nature. The word meditate comes from the Latin meditari, which means to think about or consider. Med is the root of this word and means “to take appropriate measures.” In our culture, to meditate can be interpreted several ways. For instance, you might meditate on or consider a course of action regarding your child’s education, or a career change that would entail a move across the country. Viewing a powerful movie or play, you may be moved to meditate upon—or ponder—the moral issues plaguing today’s society.

In the yogic context, meditation, or dhyana, is defined more specifically as a state of pure consciousness. It is the seventh stage, or limb, of the yogic path and follows dharana, the art of concentration. Dhyana in turn precedes samadhi, the state of final liberation or enlightenment, the last step in Patanjali’s eight-limbed system. These three limbs—dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (ecstasy)—are inextricably linked and collectively referred to assamyama, the inner practice, or subtle discipline, of the yogic path.  Read more here.