#PeaceDay 2017

Aum Shanti, Shanti, Shanti. This simple phrase is regularly uttered or chanted during yoga practices because it is an invitation of peace. It is a request that yogis, people who practice yoga, will find it possible to engage with Yoga Sutra 1.2 during practice, and beyond. The Yoga Sutras are a series of guidelines for living, you know like: be kind to others, and written by the sage Patanjali who also introduced us to the Ashtanga, the Eight Limbs of Yoga.    

Yoga Sutra 1.2 specifically reads yoga-chitta-vrtti-nirodhah, which has been directly translated by many Sanskrit, the language of yoga, scholars. I am by no stretch (pun intended) of the imagination a Sanskrit expert, but after reading a few of the direct translations by the experts, and through my yoga studies with some long-standing and well respected yoga teachers in my home state of Minnesota, I’ve come to understand this particular Sutra to mean the ability of oneself to clear the uncertainty of the mind, and live in a space of peace of body, mind and emotion.

For many of us that seems like a nearly insurmountable goal, and why would anyone create a goal for themselves that cannot be attained? I mean failing doesn’t feel good to anyone. But, if we look at the concept, the idea, that we learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes, maybe peace isn’t all that unavailable to us after all? For instance, if we try for peace, and instead get caught up in emotional stress and react in anger or fear instead of reacting peacefully, but we sit and reflect about why we were truly stressed out in the first place, then we can learn to break the pattern of anger and fear and next time do better. Isn’t that what second chances are all about, anyway?

Yoga is the practice of second, third and 1-millionth chances. When we practice, whether in a studio or on or off our mats, we get to try again and again and again. Much like falling out of a yoga pose, when we get back up and try again, we’ve learned and adapted our way of practicing the pose to be better at it the next time. We can do the same with our practice of peace, remembering that there is always more than one truth available because we all come from different perspectives and experiences. This Thursday marks the 36th year of International Peace Day, and the United Nations has plenty of suggestions about ways to celebrate, check out their website http://internationaldayofpeace.org/get-involved/ and decide how you’d like to get involved, because if we’re peaceful on the inside then we’re more likely to be peaceful toward others on the outside, too. Feel free to let us know how you choose to be peaceful through Twitter, Facebook or Instagram; we’d love to share the peace with you!   

We (will be) all one, as long as we work at it everyday…

Yoga, to yoke, means union; yoga at it’s essence is the definition of non-dualism. Non-dualism is the concept, idea, that everything around us, seen and unseen, known and unknown, are the very same thing as we are, and what we are is energy. According to the principles of yoga we spend our entire Earthly lives working to break through our perceptions of reality into what is bliss, true knowing. This is definitely a heavy topic, and not really the topic of this week’s post. It is however a good opener for the true purpose of this post: “We are all one.” It’s a pretty simple statement that packs with it a big punch, so to speak. 

You see, everyone in the Universe is made of the same basic components and we all come from the same Universal energy, whatever that energy looks like to you. And then, due to our own dualism, our perceptions, we have created a space in which we are only different, and because of those differences we’ve decided put people into categories, classifications. How silly is that? We classify, for the purpose of clarity, fruits, flowers and animals, but people… The classification is simply people. No one, and I mean no one is better than anyone else, we are all people, and with that we carry our own unique talents and strengths; we are truly better when we work together. 

And yet, sadly, there are some people for whom the skin-deep differences are enough to sub-classify human beings into a lesser category of people, and that is unacceptable. This month we, at the Playful Yogi, are hoping you will join us in celebrating all kinds of diversity. Diversity is everywhere, it is the differences we possess that makes us a whole community, complementary to one another, like puzzle pieces fitting together to be the best sangha, community, that we can be, all of us – together. 

Now, we could say, “We are all one,” and leave it at that, but that would irresponsible to the people who have not been treated like one since the beginning of this country, the United States. Celebrating diversity means seeing it, not ignoring it; we need to see what people have gone through, historically and culturally so that we can one day live up to the principle that we are in fact all one. Unfortunately, we’re not there, yet. We have a long way to go in helping our fellow sangha, community, members lift up to a space where we can live on an even-playing field, and until that day comes, a day in which everyone, everywhere is afforded opportunities and circumstances meaningful to their own lives, we are responsible for changing the playing field so that everyone can live well.    

We believe, do you? 

Welcome back to school! Sure, some of you have been back for about week already and others of you attend school all year long, but for many, like me, the school year started again today and that is very exciting! Each new school year provides an opportunity to begin again, to learn more and to show just how intelligent we can be. 

Intelligence is an interesting concept, it brings with it a particular idea about who an intelligent person is and what they might look, sound and act like. The good news, intelligence, just like any other characteristic can be a part of anyone. There is a learning principle called the growth mindset, and the idea is that learners are only capable of learning what our grown-ups tell us we can learn, i.e. if we’re told that we can learn anything, and are given the space to do so, we can in fact learn anything. 

Sure, we each have our own gifts, things we are predisposed to learn more easily than the other things we learn, and that’s in-part due to the fact that we have an interest in learning those things. It doesn’t mean though, that there are things we can’t learn, but we have to believe that we can learn something otherwise we give up often without having ever even tried. A growth mindset comes from a place in which the people responsible for helping us learn believe that we can learn the information, tell us that we can learn the information and then let us try without getting frustrated with the length of time it takes us to learn and master the information. What’s more they won’t let us get frustrated with ourselves either.

Believing in yourself takes confidence, but having confidence often requires that we first have patience and love for ourselves. We can seem outwardly, on the surface, to believe that we can do anything, but believing it’s possible and giving ourselves the time and space to achieve our goals is something else entirely… We know you’re smart, you know you’re smart, everyone who loves you knows that you’re smart, and now it’s time to treat yourself with loving kindness so that you can demonstrate your intelligence. 

Try working with your heart chakra, wheel, the Anahatha Chakra to give yourself more love. Consider taking a long blanket and rolling it up so that it’s the shape of a long tootsie roll, then lay it flat on the floor. Lay your body from tailbone to shoulders over the length of the blanket, and bring the bottoms of your feet together and knees reaching towards the floor for Supta Bhadda Konasana, reclined bound angle pose. Close your eyes and imagine a bright light holding and filling your heart, stay there for 3-5 minutes. While you’re there practice the breath affirmation: inhaling – truth, exhaling – uncertainty. 

Because the truth is that only you have the power to overcome doubt; you must believe in yourself in order for anyone else to believe in you. And, when in doubt, know that we at the Playful Yogi believe in you 100-percent!