Pondering, Yoga off the mat

Impermanence

We try to be aware and accepting of impermanence. Tibetan sand mandalas are probably the most popular example of tangible impermanence, as well as practice in non-attachment.* These painstaking and beautiful pieces of art, created over hours of meditation, are simply blown away.

My toddler likes to “find the rainbows” that the morning light sometimes throws around our house. The spectrum shining on the carpet or the wall isn’t always there, and it always changes and disappears. So young, we begin training ourselves in impermanence.

These are two beautiful examples, but life is about balance. Sometimes things aren’t beautiful. Maybe you have knee pain. Or the world is caving in and it seems you’ve been dealt a “sh!t sandwich” as some might say. We need to remind ourselves that ugly, unpleasant things are also impermanent. Even our own negative thoughts, self-criticism… these moments, these feelings…

Whatever is. Whatever was. Nothing lasts forever.

Note: While I use the sand mandalas as an example to illustrate a point, we can’t forget that Buddhism and yoga are not the same thing.

 

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Home yoga practice, Music and yoga, My YTT

Singing can be yoga

We had our May YTT intensive this past weekend. We sang a lot. We learned a ton. So, so much.

Just this morning, while doing laundry, I found myself singing while meditatively folding my family’s clothing into stacked bundles. I decided to go with it, and after singing / folding for about ten minutes, I found I’d worked up quite a bit of heat.

When I finished, I drank a glass of water and my two year-old and I shared a pear. These simple things felt like a full, gratifying morning.

Sometimes yoga is something other than a “workout.” Sometimes it is sitting with friends and and connecting by singing. Sometimes it is doing something for you, even while conducting the most commonplace tasks in life. Whistling while you work, so to speak.

“Don’t worry about how well you carry a tune or whether you know all the words… Come. Sing along. You’ll have the time of your life.” Melody Beattie,”Journey to the Heart,” page 147.

Home yoga practice, meditation, Music and yoga, Yoga off the mat

Music as meditation

I listen to a lot of music. It occurred to me that music has been my meditation since I was about seven years old. I imagine it’s not uncommon.

The ancient philosopher Plato wrote about music as being “most sovereign because… rhythm and harmony find their way to the inmost soul and take strongest hold upon it… imparting grace, if one is rightly trained… ” (The Republic, III, 399e). As an undergrad, I heard Ted Romberg summarize another of Plato’s views on music, which I remember as, “Music is the most perfect way to divide and account for time.” (Paraphrasing… )

Each time you listen to or play music to indulge, to set or change a mood… that is a form of meditation. Also singing. Putting headphones on as way to zone out, on the sidewalk, or on the train, that is a form of meditation. I started doing it when I was young, as a means to curb social anxiety, but it is what it is.

When we listen to music as we walk or run, it sets the pace, it makes us happy, it distracts us from the slog of the jog. We are training our mind to let go of the boring or painful parts of an activity. Music, to many of us, becomes a focus. It is a meditative device.

As a yoga teacher in training, I take my playlist preparation seriously. Music isn’t required, but it certainly can compliment a yoga class, especially if you like to flow. It is an accompaniment.

Books about yoga, meditation, My yoga teacher said...

Not now

I learned something new today. A cue to get your mind off of something, whether you’re fixated on the seven minutes you will be late getting to a meeting, or you’re trying to meditate. Whenever you are wondering, worried, or find your mind wandering, say to yourself: “Not now.”

You are going to be late, whether you worry or not. Bring yourself back to calm. “Not now.

Often in yoga, we say to focus on your breath to clear the head. But sometimes this becomes an overthinking about the breath. Not now. Don’t think about that now.

The technique was written about in Meditations on Intention and Being, by Rolf Gates, and my mentor gets 100% of credit for introducing this to me by reading the passage at the end of class today.