Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Folding Moments Into Moments

Our practice, like our lives, does not arrive fully unfolded.  
Our work is to practice in such a way that makes sense for our 
particular life but also challenges the stories of ourselves 
that enclose our lives in cycles of habit.  
With clarity, flexibility, and steadiness, yoga teaches 
us how to move responsively through the details of life.  
This is possible in every unfolding of reality.
~Michael Stone

Last night I was doing laundry ('cause that's what you do on Saturday nights when
you're 43). It had been an extremely hot few days, so almost all of the studio towels
had been used and were being washed. When the dryer buzzer went off, I
scooped the load out and it was huge... beyond huge! As I walked the load
into the living room, my arms were full all the way up to my chin.

The mountain of laundry before me looked almost insurmountable. I started with one
towel... breathe in, breathe out, fold. Then another... breathe in, breathe out, fold.
Followed by another towel and then some socks and more socks (who's wearing all
these socks in this weather!?). Breathe in, breathe out, fold. Repeat.

So there I was folding, and it seemed as if I wasn't even making the slightest dent in the
pile. I folded and folded and the pile didn't seem to get any smaller. And so I
surrendered to folding without worrying about finishing, without wanting to be done or to
be off doing something else. Piece by piece, breath by breath, fold by fold I continued
until I came to the end of the pile and realized that I had finished without struggle,
agitation or impatience.

What's more is that all I remembered of the experience was the texture
of the towels, the fresh, clean scent, the softness of the t-shirts, the warmth of the
socks. It made me think that this is mindfulness practice in a nutshell, except instead of
towels and socks, we fold moments into moments. We are present to the texture and
feel of what's happening. We are alive and awake in our life.

Oftentimes, we look at the state of our minds and are shocked at all of the
busyness, the chatter, the years and years of accumulated "mind junk" and it seems too
daunting to sift through, so we don't. Instead, we just keep stuffing ourselves chock full
of noise thinking that at some point it - if we ignore it long enough - will somehow go

But it doesn't.

We have to make a conscious decision to fold one moment at a time, to practice over
and over again until we are living our days without looking at the mountain of work in
front of us. Just taking one thought, one task, one breath at a time until one day we
suddenly realize that we have been intimately connected with our moments and what
we remember about them is their texture, their freshness, their softness and warmth.

What if we just folded one thing at a time? 

Start now...


Allow your body to become still. The posture is relaxed, awake, and dignified. The
hands resting gently. The eyes simply resting the gaze on a fixed point inside (3rd eye,
heart, navel) without thinking too much about what you’re viewing. Settling into this
moment, begin watching the breath.

Become aware of the fact that you’re breathing. Become aware of the movement of the
breath as it flows into and out of the body. Feel the breath as it comes into the body and
as it leaves the body. Simply remain aware of the breath flowing in and flowing out, not
manipulating the breathing in any way. Simply being aware of it and noticing how it

When your mind becomes distracted—and it will become distracted— simply return to
the breath. No commentary. No judgment.

Allow yourself to be with this flow of breath, coming in and going out. Notice the feeling
of the breath as the lungs fill with air on the in-breath and deflate as you breathe out, the
chest expanding and collapsing. Perhaps feeling the breath in the abdomen, rising as
you breathe in and flattening and sinking as you breathe out. Allow your attention to
gently ride on the sensation of each breath, not thinking about breathing, without the
need to comment. Simply watch your breathing.

Allow the breath to naturally breathe itself, not needing to change it in any way, giving
full attention to each breath. Observe the full cycle of each breath, locating the very
beginning of the breath, as it enters the nose or mouth, and following it as it fills the
lungs and expands the chest and the abdomen, then comes to the gap where there is
neither in-breath nor out-breath, before it turns around and makes its journey out of the
body. Simply remain present for the cycle of each breath, being there, letting your
attention gently float on the awareness of your breath.

After a short time, you may notice that the mind wanders off to thoughts of the past,
fantasies, memories, or regrets. Or it may move to anticipation of the future, planning,
wishing, and judging. You may find yourself thinking about what you’ll do after this
exercise, what you have to do at work, things that you have to do.

As soon as you become aware that the attention has moved off the breath, guide it back
to the next breath with a gentle and firm awareness. There’s no need to give yourself a
hard time, saying, “How did I become so distracted?” Simply come back to this breath.
Watching the breath and the arising thoughts without judgment, simply observing. Once
again, bringing the attention to this breath, in this moment. Breathing in with the inbreath,
breathing out with the outbreath. Feeling the movement in your body. The
breath anchoring the attention in this moment.

When the mind wanders, bring your attention back to the breath, knowing that you can
always use the awareness of your breath to refocus your attention, to return to the
present. Whenever you notice that you have drifted from the present—when you
become distracted, preoccupied, or restless—the attention on the breath can be a
powerful anchor to this moment and to this state of awake stillness.

And now, for the time remaining, let go of all particular objects of attention, allowing
yourself to simply be here, simply present. Breath moving, sensations in the body,
sounds, thoughts, all of it coming and going... allow all of it... and drop into being,
into stillness, present with it all, as it unfolds, complete, as you are, whole.

You have to remember one life, one death – this one! To enter fully the day, the
hour, the moment whether it appears as life or death, whether we catch it on the
inbreath or outbreath, requires only a moment, this moment. And along with it all
the mindfulness we can muster, and each stage of our ongoing birth, and the
confident joy of our inherent luminosity. ”
― Stephen Levine

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Garden of The New Year

I spent the last hour of 2010 in silent meditation. The year had been a tough one. John and I had each suffered from serious illnesses that took time and patience to recover from. It had also been a very emotional year for me - a time of looking deeply inward to investigate and come face-to-face with some things that needed to shift and change. So, it was fitting for me last New Year's Eve to end the year in the sweetness of solitude and introspection. In the quiet, waning hours of 2010, I sat in silent meditation and found clarity. In the stillness, I set my intention(s) for 2011. They were simply to love more and to let go.

It's funny, looking back through the days and months of 2011 to see how, as a result of setting these intentions, the universe provided everything I needed and more to manifest them. This doesn't mean that the going was easy. There were times that were downright painful, but each experience brought me a little closer to realizing my vision for the new year.

The "loving more" part of my intention was nurtured easily through connecting more with others, cultivating community, and finding clarity in my practice through time spent with an amazing teacher.  Loving more also had its painful moments when presented with challenging situations that called for cultivating a great deal of compassion - both for myself and for others.

The "letting go" part of my intention arrived slowly, with a lot of introspection, and not at all as I had envisioned, but somehow more beautifully than I could have imagined.  Funny how that happens, isn't it?

The new year is a natural time to think of starting fresh.  I like to think of it as if we've been given a fertile patch of freshly sown earth that's free of weeds, stones, and all the blockages that keep us from living our deepest purpose.  It's there just waiting to provide us with abundance and fullness.  As we unfold into the new year, we cultivate that patch of earth by planting and watering the seeds of our intentions with our awareness, our actions, compassion and mindfulness.  The more we water and nurture our garden, the more we can reap the rewards of its bounty.

Wishing you a fertile and bountiful new year.  

Until next time...

To Students and Friends

Paramhansa Yogananda, Inner Culture, January 1937

The New Year has come to greet you with new hopes, new determination, new will-to-achieve, new activities. In the Temple of the New Year renew your reverence for the unlimited hidden power of God within you. The trails of trials and the yawning chasms of woe have been left behind in the dark night of the past–now you are entering the daylight of a new-born hope of the New Year. Cast off the coil of the decayed thoughts of the past years; be reincarnated into vital living of the New Year.
Every regret for shattered hopes of success must be transformed into the joy of new achievements during the New Year. Old sorrows and disappointments must be buried beneath the sepulcher of the past year. Those dark bandits of discouragement must not remain any longer to steal the wealth of your desire to succeed.
Every day in the New Year must become an altar for the God of new living, new achievements in wisdom, and new joy. Every day in the New Year must bring hope and cheer to yourself and all humanity.
Take all the salvaged treasures of good experiences from the sea of past experience and use them to buy new accomplishments in the New Year. In the garden of the New Year culture the seeds of well-planned new activities until they grow into fragrant flowering plants of diverse successes. Let every day in the New Year become a step upward on the ladder of your Self-Realization. Make every day of the New Year a better day than the previous one for greater effort to succeed in business, family happiness, and increasing the ever-new joy-contact of God in meditation. The old year has gone, but the New Year is full of treasures for you to use.
Bury the bad habit of failure in the tomb of the old year and reincarnate your life energy in the vitality of the New Year. May the New Year spread the example and message of your renewed life and renewed power unto all Creation.