Murmuration: Patterns of Movement Within Us

In my yoga classes, I have been analogizing the movement of our cells, the flow of the body into a yoga pose, to the murmurations of starlings; the clouds of black birds flying in huge numbers, an ariel synchronistic wonder floating and swirling across our autumnal skies. 

Here is a beautiful photo of a murmuration:

And here is an amazing video of a murmuration, especially around 1 minute into it:  

Patterns of nature are reflected in our bodies. It’s all very Tantrik. 

Namaste’ 

Teachers in Unexpected Places Series: Life Gurus

 Teachers in Unexpected Places: Sugar Addiction and  Yoga 

Life is full of “teachers”. Each moment brings us something new to consider or realize as a truth we can use.

As a truth that we are.

Addiction is usually defined as a physiological and psychological need.  The physiological need is “in the body”; the cells have become accustom to operating with a chemical component (let’s say refined sugar, for example). When the refined sugar is not there, or not in the amounts formerly available, the operations of the cells becomes “awkward”…seems to be sluggish. Like something is missing.

And there is.  It’s the sugar.

It’s not uncommon to have a whomping headache for days after eliminating refined sugar from your diet. This is a physiological shift occurring in the body.

It’s known as withdrawal.

Yoga can help with lessening the physical withdrawal symptoms as the cells make the shift.

Yoga also allows us to “be with the body” as you would a friend recovering from an illness or going through a treatment.

And this is the lesson, the teaching of truth that withdrawal, whether from sugar, or alcohol and drugs, or from a toxic relationship brings us:

Healing at the physical level begins with Loving Kindess to the self.

Also known as Maitri.

A Yoga pose to cultivate Maitri (and soothe that booming headache):

Viparita Karani

This pose can be done with legs up a wall or on the seat of a chair with the back on the floor. A low support under the back allows the natural curve of the low back to be supported so you can relax fully. Place a rolled towel under the curve of your neck to support the structures/muscles of the neck. The finishing touch is an eye pillow which allows the energy of the eyes to relax back into your head. Ahhhhh.

Now really ALLOW yourself to “experience” this rather than “think” it.

May this work allow you to “be present” with your own healing journey.

Namaste’

Would like to know more about this approach to addiction?

please email me: maitriyoga@roadrunner.com

Becky Morrissey, RYT500, PCC, LICDC

Jai Life!

How many times has your life splashed into vivid new color; expanded, changed, and dismantled into something new over the course of your yatra- journey?

That is what has recently occurred in my  world; a new working environment; a  new city; a new relationship; new friends; new yoga kula; a new ME. A  celebration of  expansion via Shakti flow on full blast!

It’s been wonderfully crazy.

The dismantling accompanying the expansion has been very frightening at times.  The shadow in all the dazzling light, cool dis-ease when you most want to be happy. It’s that fear that I react to, recoil and wiggle away from; and I do it by “checking out”, not really being in the present moment of my own expansion. Instead of celebrating, I check out by torturing myself with ridiculous inner dialogue:

“Is this real?” Well, it is happening, isn’t it? 

“Do I deserve this?”  Who would determine that anyway? 

“What would so-and-so think?”   Again, why are we giving power to so and so? 

“Will it last?”  It has a better chance if you stop this ridiculous questioning!

And I question everyone around me..

“Are you sure?” Yes, that’s why I am here. 

“How do you know?” Why is the sky blue? 

“Convince me you care.” Give me a chance. 

I am strangling my own happiness with this fear management style I attend to. I resort to it because culturally we are educated to “research the situation and protect ourselves”…to prudently ask the questions so we will to not be proved “stupid” later. That’s the “smart” thing to do.

But sometimes,

when those questions really have no sure answer

Life reminds me to Believe. 

It turns me on my head

expands my heart

and suddenly

I am right where I should be, despite all my “intelligent” checking out, questioning doubts, anxiety-ridden inner dialogue.

Jai Life!  Celebrate its joys and shadows.

One of my favorite writings, from Tao of Healing by Haven Trevino, meditation 36: 

To create, dismantle first. To expand, contract first.

To attain clarity, allow confusion.

To become civilized, first live in the wind. 

The balance of all things is in their opposites; the truth points in both directions.

Thus the clenched fist holds weakness..and the open hand offers the hidden power of the suns!

Lovely Summer Solstice to you.

Namaste’

The Beauty of a Spinning Mind

Golden Dragon Acrobats, photo by mcline

 

Lately I have been ruminating on the spinning nature of mind : ). And a new friend inspired me to write about it.

Intrusive thoughts, such as the song you can not get out of your head, or what you would have said if you had thought of it in that not-so-wonderful interaction you had with so-and-so, or the worry you have about something happening in a certain way for you…these thoughts are distracting and highly energy consuming.

And like everything in this crazy yin-yang life, intrusive, ruminative thinking, even obsessive-compulsive second guessing, does have benefits and costs. Light and shadow. Movement and “stuckness”. 

Spin Surfing, photo by mcline

 

The yogis taught the concept of Brahmacharya, discernment regarding how much we want or should invest of ourselves in any activity (like rumination). I like to think of Brahmacharya as a light of wisdom in my heart that can be used to reveal the color, texture, and evolutionary movement of the spinning, churning mosaic of the beautiful mind. It’s my way to be in the center of the spin without being consumed by it. 

Spin Fire, mcline

 

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna teaches Arjuna how to know Brahmacharya: 

10:11 Because I am compassionate, I dwell in your heart, and from there remove the darkness of ignorance with the light of wisdom.  

I once heard a fellow yogi liken brahmacharya to an oil lamp, a light of wisdom, that is fueled by the oil of contentment. The container of the oil is discernment. So if one knows and uses discernment, one has a container, a space, for contentment. 

Your heart is the container for the wise light of discernment while the mind organizes the directive energy to act upon it. Discernment, as a form of wisdom, does not come from the mind alone..perhaps that would be prejudice or discrimination, but not discernment. Discernment is compassion and wisdom woven together. Brahmacharya is the action of the discerning, wise, and often spinning mind. 

If we allow ourselves to “witness” the spin of the mind via meditation and therapeutic ways to compassionately work with obsessive-compulsive thinking, limitations and potentials are revealed. Some things are clear for our discernment…others are a blur of movement that will need time to understand. 

Overhead Spin mcline

 

Here are some ideas for working with a spinning mind. Adapted from Jeffery Schwartz’s Brain Lock Unlock therapy, and Becky-ized to blend with an anatomic and yogic approach, I love how this allows me to intellectualize, visualize, somatize, and embody Brahmacharya. May it be a help to you too, my friends. : ) 

“Getting Unstuck: Surfing the Spinning Mind” 

Mental “Stickness”: holding on to worries and/or becoming compulsive and driven by “habits” (obsessive thinking about worries, excessive concern about what others think about us, self image, the body, low self esteem, substance use, eating, compulsive second guessing…)  

How to Get Unstuck: Intellectualize the Process  

When we make a mistake, the following process happens: 

  • We get a “mistake feeling”, the nagging sense that something is wrong.
  • We become anxious, and the anxiety drives us to correct the mistake.
  • Once we have corrected the mistake, an “automatic gear shift” in the brain allows us to move on to the next thought or activity. Then both the “mistake feeling” and the anxiety disappear.  

Brain Anatomy: We detect mistakes with the orbital frontal cortex. It activates the “mistake feeling” via neuropsychogenic pathways.  

The cingulate gyrus receives that activation, and triggers the drive to correct the mistake. The cingulate gyrus is part of the limbic system, or “emotional brain”, and therefore the central nervous system. So we feel anxiety emotionally and physically (heart palpitations, perhaps nausea). A feeling of dread persists until we “fix” the issue. And sometimes afterwards. 

The caudate nucleus is what allows our thought to flow away from the issue once it has been fixed, unless it is “sticky” with neutral pathway stimulation that does not cease below the “activation” threshold.  

A malfunctioning caudate is one that is being overstimulated with signals from the orbital frontal cortex. This leads to hyperadrenal issues, panic attacks, and other psychogenic problems. 

Spinning Landing mcline

 

 Somatizing and Embodying the Healing: Two Key Steps to “getting unstuck” (getting the orbital frontal cortex to spin down): 

  • Relabel” what is happening to you, so that you realize that you are experiencing not the specific content of the worry, but an episode of  “worry stuckness” , perhaps a “worry attack”, or how about a “worry spin-out”. You could say to yourself, “yes I do have an issue right now, but more  it’s me being “stuck” in worry, or having a worry spin out, than it is a crisis situation.” This allows a sense of separation, which begins to grow new neural pathways, diverting the flow from the overused “stuck” pathways to the new, fresh and unstuck ones.
  •  Do not focus on the content of the worry; refocus on a positive, wholesome, pleasurable giving activity when you have a worry spin out. This releases dopamine, and creates new neuropathways. It is essential to physically DO something so the caudate “shifts” manually. Meditate, yoga, walking, running,  listen to music, talking about other subjects with a good friend…spin yourself right out of the stuckness and flow into a clarified state that allows you to approach the problem from a perspective of “thinking bigger”.

A meditation for you: 

 May I love myself just as I am.  

May I sense my worthiness and well-being.  

May I trust this world.  

May I hold myself in compassion.  

May I meet the suffering and ignorance of others with compassion.  

Many ways to Be mcline

 

Namaste’ my friends!  

Join me for “Yoga and Your Brain: A Love Story”, a workshop revealing the effect of yoga upon the brain’s neuroplasticity, its ability to change ; complete with a practice to embody the teachings. July 18th 1-3:30 pm at the Bryan Center. Check out “classes and workshops” for cost/register info.

A Yoga Home Practice: NOT what you think!

Bluegrass Glass.....photo by matt cline

Beginning a Home Practice: Not What You Think! 

Mahima (Ma-HEE-ma) is the yogic principle of expansion…of the body, of the mind, of the heart. In order to “commit” to “practicing at home”, I believe a mahima, an expansion of the definition of what yoga IS, is in order! Is yoga ONLY getting the mat out at a studio, or even at home, and doing some exercises? Or is yoga walking the dog…doing the dishes…talking to a friend…walking in the woods….or crying your eyes out when you feel like it. : ) Once we realize that we are practicing yoga all the time (as the word “Yoga” does mean “union”, after all) then we realize that the poses are themselves metaphors; for understanding how we habitually relate to ourselves, and how we could interact more naturally with our own lives.  

For instance, triangle pose…it has us going in 6 directions at once, much like life! So when we “practice life” in triangle pose, we find that we do have the strength to withstand, and even gracefully balance, having our energies “pulled” in several different directions at once! This is the blessing of yoga.

 A broadening, or expansion, of the terms “home” and “practice” is also needed to really “get” what yoga IS. “Home” simple means “where you are” and “practice” does not have to indicate a specific class or studio experience, or even performing a certain sequence of yoga poses! We come to realize that we “practice yoga”, or “union”  every time we take a breath, with every action and interaction we have. With this realization, or transformation in how we relate to yoga (from just exercise to a natural way of being) a “practice” becomes a spontaneous exploration of a body stretch in the kitchen, or a twist in the chair at work, movements that are quite irresistible and most times almost spontaneous! You will find yourself striking a pose, doing yoga, whenever you need a release of tension or a boost of energy-confidence (“if I can do a revolved triangle for 5 breaths without falling over, I certainly can find balance in other ways!”). 

When yoga becomes a knowing in your life, it becomes effortlessly easy to set aside time to have an asana-meditation practice, because the definition of what yoga practice is becomes “a natural expression of who you are”, not what someone else tells you it has to be.

Namaste’ my friends!

Spring eMERGEnce

Drops of Bliss bk 2010

Often I find my inspiration to live simply and fearlessly from observing, and listening, to the visual love-speak of Mother Nature.

Spring is the epitome of emerging…and isn’t emerging a fantastic word! A coming out…and a reaching out…a seeking to MERGE with everything around us.

Inspiration to merge with your own soul.

Flowing Soulwater bk 2010

I have been dancing in my mind with Yoga Sutra III.45. The third book of the Yoga Sutras, the Vibhutipadah (Exceptional Faculties) is very esoteric and wonderful to pour through the soul of your yoga practice. It asks you to fearlessly, openly use your yogic imagination and see an emerging newness about yourself:  

“With samyama (meditative study) on the physical elements** and their essential nature, an understanding of the soul emerges”  (translation my own)…

**and these are not your usual physical elements. They are things like lightness, expansion, reduction, vastness. Check it out, especially Bouanchaud’s edition The Essence of Yoga; Reflections on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Or comment/email me for a copy of Sutra III.45 :  ).  

This sutra inspires us to ask questions of our habitual, conditioned thinking about everything. We can easily take what we think we know (whatever “know” means) as “all there is to know” and not look any deeper. But that’s like quitting before we even get started!! Instead, we could allow ourselves to open in this imaginative, very human way. Why is this so hard sometimes? Fear. It’s that simple.

Every yoga asana is a personal springtime emergence, a blossoming of body-mind. The next time you are in your favorite energetic pose, find the mahima, the physical element of expansion/growth, in everything about the pose… the body sensations… and in all that is swirling in your mind in that moment. See the emergence of Present Moment…and move deeper into it, move deeper inside the “landscape” of the pose. Blossom fearlessly, like a March flower, and find something new.

Sat Nam: What IS mcline 2010

Springtime flowers are so inspirational to me, and to everyone I think, because they are not afraid to blossom in the NOW. Springtime conditions are very transitional…for one living in fear of the Now, it might seem best to wait, and blossom closer to summer, when there is less threat of a chilling freeze.

But how sad would that be for us, who take such delight and inspiration in seeing the emergence of these tiny, but so delightfully fearless beacons of  the coming of Light.

Springtime flowers teach us not to be hostages of our conditioning…they MERGE with what is in the moment, express themselves authentically, and adapt accordingly.

Not afraid to blossom…wow. We can learn a lot  from flowers. : )

Fearlessly Adaptable mcline 2010

 Namaste friends! With joyful peace-light, b

Mindtangle: Pride Pathos

Sun Lit Ice Jar, photo by b krebs

 
Has Life Guruji ever asked you to experience the liberation of laying down your pride?
 
If guruji ever does visit that upon you, I recommend you take advantage of the opportunity every time you can. Lighten yourself and expand into your soul. Soak in non-struggle until you are prune-y.
 
I would not have said that until recently. But I was given the opportunity to be spit out of a mindtangle of pride; the key teaching was to go down when everything inside me said stand up. It hasn’t been easy. But it has been expansive. Liberating. Free.
 
Isee this same experience  in a Gandhi movie I am now watching as it snows, yet again, outside my window. I was touched by a scene of an early-to- his- cause Gandhi leading a protest in South Africa. Indians were declaring their place in the English empire, despite hateful, at times lethal opposition. At one point in the march, policemen on horseback charged the group at full run. The protestors did not scatter; instead they all laid down together in the dusty road. As I watched the scene, I thought for sure they would be trampled by the hooves…my pride would have me standing up with an unmistakable gesture as those horses came stomping over me. But to my, and I am sure the protestors’ delight and surprize …the horses stopped. They would not, or could not, trample the protestors! Despite the policemen kicking them in their sides, the horses danced and reared up, but would not step on the bodies of the marchers. The policemen rode away in a huff and the dusty protestors stood up. Without the gesture. : )
 
What a lesson, a metaphor in how to surf through the mindtangle of pride. Just lay down…and allow “Whatever” to charge at you. We do not have to take the Will Hunting approach (remember, he chose the wrench for his beating from his foster father because in Will’s estimation ” he better beat me good if he’s going to it”) to seemingly unfair circumstances. When we don’t puff up or  the pride, when we stop trying to fix the unfixable, and just go deeper into the experience instead of always fighting our way through things…the beautiful happens. Those unfair circumstances are the key to our freedom!
 
The pathos of pride lights us from the inside as it burns away the veils of ignorance. We are free at last!!!!! No wonder Martin Luther King dug Gandhi so much.
 
namaste my friends!