Loosing the Battle, Winning the War

Over the years of my life my morning routine has varied greatly. For years it was necessary for me to have a coffee and a smoke before doing anything else in order to meet the day, and people in it, with an inner sense of calm and outer display of good nature. Though there are many reasons to say this is a poor way to start the day, it worked for me for a very long time. Yet, like all other things, I have changed and so has my morning routine. Now rather than coffee and a smoke, I prefer meditation and writing. What hasn’t changed though is the fact that if I don’t, for whatever reason, get to my morning routine before other things call on my attention, I lean toward intense irritation and discontent. Before, when nicotine was a part of the equation it was easy to blame my poor state of mind on a chemical imbalance, now, not so much. Now, the only person to blame is me, and the only one responsible for making it better is also me.

Knowing that I am easily irritated when I don’t attend to my morning rituals I do my best to give myself ample time to do so even if it means getting up at “ungodly hours” as my husband says. It for me is an empowering practice of discipline and my way of “winning my daily private victory.” But life does not always abide so politely to my plans and my best efforts. This is why I have my practices and return to them with discipline, because there will always come a day, if not many, when I am faced with the ugliness of my own inner discontent, and the true battle of righting my way toward inner peace and ease will really begin.

Today was the kind of day I do my best to not have. The morning began with demands that required my attention and were more important than “winning my daily victory.” Having integrity to the meeting of and attending to my responsibilities is a cornerstone in my personal philosophy, and therefore off to the gamut of other tasks I went. As the morning unrolled, I snapped at my husband, spilled my coffee, and observed that most of my thoughts were criticisms and complaints. In the observation of myself I had a significant moment not only of self awareness, but also of payoff for all the work I have done to be aware of myself, in such a way and I realized that the only one who had control of my irritation was me. The circumstances of my irritation were far out of my control, but the way I choose to respond to them was within reach. Finding my way to a more spacious state of perception and feeling was not instantaneous, however, as I click the keys on this keyboard I acknowledge that I am much less irritated, and far more pleasant to be around as a result.

Life is full of choices, we often perceive the choices that will make us happy as the big ones, like who to marry, what job to take or car to buy, or where to live, when in fact it’s really the little choices we make that have the biggest effects on our lives. Choosing to “win our private daily victories” such as meditation practice, yoga practice, spiritual study, writing and creative ventures, meeting responsibility with integrity, living in unconditional love, these choices may seem minor in the eye of the simple bystander, however over time, these little victories become the artillery that enables us to win the battle of our happy lives and live in more inner satisfaction, fulfillment, and peace more of the time.

Today I lost the little battle of my little victory, but I won the war against inner discontent, and it only took about an hour. As a result, I offer to you that this year as you set your resolutions, may you set them with little victories in mind. What can you attain today that may benefit you down the road when your plans fall apart and life arrives? Through the discipline of your return you will find freedom when you least expect it.

Blessings and best wishes in the New Year,

With Love, Always, in All Ways, For Giving, In Joy,

Genevieve

Knocking on the Door of What Serves

There are many common misconceptions of yoga, one is that yoga is just exercise, another is that just by practicing yoga you are becoming more spiritual. As a yoga teacher I find I spend a bit of time in my classes trying to clear up these misconceptions and more, as well as explain the value of a spiritual practice that uses the physical one as a vehicle. Just to be clear here, from my understanding and background there is no right way or wrong way, only what serves. What serves however, changes, and the practice of yoga is deep enough and spacious enough to make room for all changes in the search for what serves. From the place of yoga as exercise to yoga as spiritual practice and everything in between there is value to be gained. How deep any seeker goes is up to them. With all that being said, there is an essential focus to better oneself by knowing the trappings of ignorance and the value of awareness. In the wake of ignorance is often hurt and suffering, therefore the more one pursues awareness the more one may experience peace and contentment.

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In Spirit Action

I remember when I first heard inspiration broken down into the phrase “in spirit action,” it struck a chord in my heart that reverberated into the marrow of my bones. For myself the feeling of being inspired is to feel a lightning strike of awareness that echo’s beyond the essence of myself and into the unknown, a feeling of magic in action, or as it was so sweetly stated to me the feeling of being “in spirit action.”
In my human desire to create a mold of the life I want, and like some malleable material form myself to fit that mold I find myself rather surprisingly organically winding up where I am. The journey itself feels as I imagine a river feels as it makes its way to the ocean. Sometimes rough waters move fast and create waves of great turbulence, other times the current moves more slowly and the stillness of the waters surface appears as if nothing is moving at all. Even though I hold fast to a mantra that came to me in a blast of inspiration many years ago guiding my life always in perpetual positive progression, I sometimes like the river, find myself stagnant and in an eddy as I try unsuccessfully to move back upstream, afraid and anxious of what lies in the current ahead. I find this is when spirit shows up and with a rumble the lightning strike of inspiration crackles across my inner landscape, turning me back in the direction of the current, to continue downstream into the mystical landscape of the unknown.
Inspiration moves us beyond the veils of what we perceive to be the truth and into more expansive states of knowing. Inspiration comes, sometimes when we are prepared for it holding our pen and our paper, and other times like a shock to our hearts. Inspiration leads us into the crags of our fears and invites us to become stronger more beautiful people while we explore our mortality there. Inspiration whispers to us from our hearts when it is time to let down the walls we have built to protect ourselves from our vulnerability. Inspiration is our invitation to step forward in spirit action, no matter what anxious, doubtful, fearful thoughts may be trying to maintain a stronghold on our experience of life.
Taking a leap of faith is heeding the call of inspiration, and no matter the result on the other side of the leap, spirit is always there to catch us. To uncondition ourselves of the hardened walls we have built to protect our hearts from preconceived ideas of hurt and maintain stories of self-defeat and insecurity, we must learn to listen to the whisper and thunder of spirit when it invites, or demands, us to leap and to soar on its wings.
Living our lives in this kind of freedom, in spirit action, fulfills not only our hearts in every moment of unconditioned love we allow ourselves to give and receive, but also, like a child on a treasure hunt, leads us to the most surprising unexpected and brilliant of places on this mystical journey of life.
May we all become more courageous in heeding the call of spirit, rowing confidently while we laugh all the way downstream, rolling on spirits invitation to action no matter if the mold holds or breaks.
With Love, All Ways, For Giving,
Genevieve

Personal Evolution

Some say, people don’t change. Perhaps they are right. I believe that people do change. Given the right circumstances, support, information, and an ability to surrender the old, change will occur. I don’t claim to know much about science however, … Continue reading

Dancing to the DJ of Perfect Timing

Some days it seems to me that time drifts by so slowly, and yet I find myself rushing to complete tasks, trying to make the most of my productivity as if I am attempting to live out the lyrics of a Righteous Brothers song.  Other days go by so fast it feels as though I blink and the crisp brightness of morning has flashed into the dark of night, leaving me breathless with wonder watching the day go out like a blister in the sun.  

Admittedly, doing nothing, is not an easily found skill in my skill set.  I like a honey bee, buzz around all day picking up, putting down.  Some days there is clear vision behind the movement, a more beautifully choreographed dance of this and that, stuff and things.  Other days, I am a mish-mosh of clamoring about like a heavy footed boot wearing grunge kid in a mosh pit, moving deliberately, without much grace.

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Falling Into Grace

In the last year my life has changed remarkably, surprisingly, and mostly against my will. At the beginning of last July I unfortunately fell down a flight of six stairs. I had never fallen down stairs before and I only imagined how painful it would be. Being a kind of clumsy girl I found it fortunate for me that there aren’t’ a whole bunch of stairs to fall down in Taos as most buildings are one story and the front entryway is even with the earth. Though before last July I had yet to fall down stairs in my life, I wasn’t new to falling. I had more than once slipped on the ice, stumbled over after one to many beverages of the saucy kind, or just being my clumsy self tripped over something outside my range of vision. As a tall person, falling in general, isn’t’ much fun. I lament my height as I watch children fall and bounce right back up without much more than a whimper. Over my many years as an avid snowboarder I became more accustomed to falling. However, when playing in the snow one does their falling in the snow, which has a generosity in it’s reception of a body no matter it’s size. Falling into snow that has freshly fallen is as delightful as falling into bed when you’re exhausted, it’s a welcome surrender. Falling down stairs, not so inviting, and falling down stairs when you have placed your foot where you see the step to be, and you step with the confidence of someone who has managed to stand upright for more than three decades, is a far cry from a welcome surrender. After I tumbled down to the bottom of the flight of stairs, body facing up the direction I had come, in acute and shocking pain, feeling like something beyond the veil of my perception had pushed me I questioned, “How did I miss that step I was so obviously taking?”

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Stand Still Like The Hummingbird, For Ed

Late last month another friend left this Earth. He was a man of many talents, much wisdom, and deep generosity. More than anything he was a man who truly lived his life fully, present in every moment.

Ed Morgan was husband to my dear friend Virginia Morgan, who I spend a great deal of time with at Shree Yoga Taos. Virginia and I began our yoga journey right around the same time nearly a decade ago with our dear teacher Suki. Over these past many years much in all of our lives has changed and we have, through our shared love of the practice, had a shared space of understanding through which we together have journeyed through these many changes in each of our lives. Suki and I joke that Virginia spends more time at Shree than either she or I, and in fact this may be true, as Virginia takes multiple classes a day, multiple days a week. Her devotion to her practice is inspiring in it’s depth and the reflection of its power in her life off the mat as well. Virginia is the spryest and youngest woman over 70 you may ever meet! She and Ed had been married for the last 30 plus years and their love was the kind of love that feels contagious. Being that Virginia loves yoga, over the past many years she has introduced most of her family to it, bringing sisters, children, and grand children to class with her. The one person who never came along to class was Ed. In all reality and truth, I cannot say I know Ed well because I didn’t, I know Virginia. However, I always felt I knew Ed through knowing my husband.

Oswald is also a man of many talents, much wisdom, deep generosity, and fully truly living his own beautiful life. He and I have such a wonderful time together, and though it may not always be easy between us, there is always love. Like Virginia and Ed, Oswald and I do not have the same interests or the same life pursuits. What we really share is our love for each other. Oswald is an outdoorsman, I like to go outside but for rest I prefer to be in a hot bath, or a cozy bed watching TV. Oswald loves to enjoy beer and his idea of a great breakfast is chicken fried steak, I prefer water these days and my ideal breakfast is a smoothie, or salad with an egg on top. Oswald likes to sleep till noon and I like to get up with, or before the sun. I not only like to do yoga, I have made it my lifestyle, and Oswald like Ed, prefers to stay home. Every once in a while though, Oswald does come to class, maybe it’s to humor me. After his last class, he told me he spent three quarters of it trying not to hate me. I shared with him that in my opinion that effort was good yoga, and I didn’t take it to heart. Oswald could care less about my spiritual practices and what makes good yoga on or off the mat. It’s not a conversation we have regularly, and we don’t have to because I know that just because Oswald doesn’t do spiritual like I do, does not mean that he does not do spiritual. I always imagined Ed and Virginia’s relationship to be similar. I imagined Ed saying, “Sure honey you go to yoga, Hell No I don’t want to go, I’m happy here making my art.”

Virginia asked me to share some words at the celebration of her husband Ed’s life over the weekend and being that I did not know him that well I was very honored by this request. Ed was, as I said a man of many talents, and in his last many decades he was an artist who used a dying medium. He engraved his pieces in metal plates and ran those plates through a gigantic press, pressing the art into a three dimensional image onto paper, he then embossed that art with silks and paint. His work was intricate, beautiful, detailed, and inspiring. Over the last couple years Ed became very sick, multiple forms of cancer moved into the domain of his body and eventually took from him the strength to engrave, slowing his art production to a very bear minimum. The last piece he was able to make was a hummingbird. He made many of these hummingbirds, and in his generous spirit gave these pieces to those who were a part of this hard chapter in his life.

Many moons ago, way back at the beginning of my relationship with Virginia, Suki, and Yoga, a book was put into my hands titled, “Stand Still Like The Hummingbird” by Henry Miller. It is a book of essays, which with similarity to yoga, my relationship with Oswald, Suki, Virginia and Ed, the World Cup Cafe, being ejected through a windshield at 15, and more, has made a marked impact on my life. It seemed to me the most valuable words I could share for Ed were from the final essay of the same title, Copyright 1962. I share Henry Millers paraphrased words with you here.

“It was on the jet from New York to San Francisco, at an altitude of thirty to forty thousand feet and never so much as a tremor, that all unwittingly I moved a few centimeters into the future. It was the comfort, the motionless motion, the unaccustomed perspective which doubtless threw me. We [man] were of the airs now, and they were filled with secret vibrations, with rays invisible and of power unimaginable. Yes, though only a few inched from the ground, so to speak, we were already verging on the carrefours of uncharted lanes of force, mysterious, magical force destined to alter not only our concepts of life but our very being. Out of our limitless universe and into the blue–the blue of the poet and dreamer, the blue of the mystics. Perhaps into the “upper partials” of some divine musical space.
We speak so glibly of the speed of light. What reality has if for us, this speed of light? Man’s struggle, ever since he ceased to grovel like the worm, has been to equate imagination with deed.
The universe has no armature, no weight, no substance. No purpose even. Neither is it dream and illusion. It is. The highest thought can neither add to it nor subtract from it. It grows, changes, responds to every need, every demand. It can exist with God or without. It is like a Mind which asks and answers its own questions.
Our needs…What is it that we need”? Certainly the more liberated one feels the less one needs. The sage demonstrates it daily, and the idiot too. Just to breathe, to know that you are alive, isn’t it marvelous?
[Man] has come to perceive that life is everywhere, in all things, at the edges of the universe as well as the center, and that nowhere is it absent, even in death. Why cling to it then with such stubbornness? What can be gained that is not already lost? Surrender! whispers the still small voice. Overboard with the baggage!
Grappling with the problem of speed–or is it the riddle of light?–it becomes more and more evident that there is no such thing as motion, or gravity, or heat, or light. Any more than there are atoms, molecules, protons, electrons. Only gods and devils, birth and death, ignorance and bliss. Nothing out there can possible be more mysterious, more enigmatic, than here within our own breasts. The corporeal is the phantasmal, the shadow realm. Mind is all, and its realm is reality. What is, defies knowing. With regard to the tiniest, the most insignificant morsel of this unsubstantial universe, thought wears itself out.
We are so accustomed to thinking in terms of death. Yet death promises nothing, solves nothing. Life does not begin in some remote, ideal world, some paradisiacal hereafter; it begins and ends here, wherever we are, in whatever circumstances. That is the meaning of life, that is it infinitely variable, inexhaustible, inextinguishable.
There is one comforting truth which is inescapable. Each time we run away from ourselves we are driven home again with greater force. Every effort to break out only pushes us further back into ourselves. It may be possible for man to reach the outer edges of the universe, but the importance of it will lie not in the getting there but in knowing more about ourselves. If we could pick up a stone in the field and truly grasp its nature, its essence, its being, so to speak, we would understand and know and appreciate the whole outer universe. We would not need to fling our bodies around like comets gone wild. Being fully here and of the moment, we would also be there, anywhere, and of all moments.
Thus I mused as we lumbered along at five hundred miles an hour. Tomorrow, a thousand an hour; the day after, five thousand. Multiply it by a zillion…what difference? Are we getting somewhere? Where? Is the body and mind of twentieth-century man geared to cope with all this abstract jazz? Ought we not first learn to fly backward too, or stand still in the air like a hummingbird?
Buddha gave us the eight-fold path. Jesus showed us the perfect life. Lao-Tzu rode off on a water buffalo, having condensed his vast and joyous wisdom into a few imperishable words. What they tried to convey to us, these luminaries, was that there is no need for all these laws of ours, these codes and conventions, these books of learning, these armies and navies, these rockets and spaceships, these thousand and one impedimenta which weigh us down, keep us apart, and bring us sickness and death. We need only to behave as brothers and sisters, follow our heart not our minds, play not work, create and not add invention upon invention.
I could not help thinking what this continent of ours was like before the white man took it over. It seemed to me that silence was a great factor in the world of the Indian, that he made no unnecessary stir, that he took the long way about rather than the short cut. Perhaps his mind was at rest. Certainly he had no need of stock exchanges, iron foundries, sheet and roller mills, Krupp works, laboratories, newspapers, mints, ammunition dumps. He had need of nothing it would seem, which to us is so indispensable. Not that his world was a Paradise. But it was never a senseless world. It had beauty, depth, great interludes of silence, and it vibrated with feeling.
From the clouds all that appeared to be left of this ancient world was the great barren stretch which begins with the Far West. The most beautiful, the most exciting part of the five-hour spectacle. Deserted though it was, an air of peace pervaded it.
For a brief moment I had the impression that I was riding our of it, leaving it all behind, permanently.”

Ed Morgan was a brave man who lived the last year of his life in the honesty of the reality of death. He did not need to practice yoga, or claim a dharma to live a spiritual life. Looking at his art, his home, his family, his circle of friends, anyone can see the attentiveness and mindful awareness he gave to detail. I feel that the passage of Miller’s “Not that his world was a Paradise. But it was never a senseless world. It had beauty, depth great interludes of silence, and it vibrated with feeling.” Paraphrases Ed’s life so very sweetly. His life was a spiritual life, and the presence of that knowing is apparent in the feeling of the vibration he left behind. It was an honor to know, even if very little, such a beautiful human being.

I cannot imagine what it would feel like to lose my beloved, my best friend, as Virginia has. Yet, daily I witness her in this great transition and I am humbled by the power of surrender in her practice. I am inspired as I admire the courage she faces each day with. I continue to learn from her as I appreciate the example of deep spiritual practice she displays for me and all else in our community, on and off the yoga mat.

In witnessing Virginia through this journey of Ed’s I am reminded, to truly love someone for a lifetime is to prepare for the greatest surrender and heartbreak of all, as all we love will change, and each of these mortal bodies will meet their demise.

In this knowing I offer that while we are living, we live true to ourselves no matter the rules and regulations, codes and conventions. We love one another like brother and sister, sharing in generosity and appreciating the gifts of others, as we are each a unique piece the divine’s creation. May we live mindful lives, aware of the details of all we create, thoughts, relationships, and deeds.

May the vibration of an unconditioned heart be each of our spiritual legacy.

With deep admiration of a life well lived,
For Ed.

With love,
Genevieve