Spring Workshop: Yoga for Your Poise

On a walk this morning, I saw the skeletal wintery wisteria has been newly adorned with young garlands. No leaves yet, really, but the soft purple flowers are opening. And so fragrant. To me, they smell like sugar.

The paperwhites on the hill rise through the pickleweed. Along the freeway, brilliant orange poppies unfurl like dervishes to mesmerize traffic.

Spring is springing!

As we move together into this time of renewal, it’s worthwhile to consider how we too spring. Consider… how do you continue to grow and what rebirth is on your horizon? You may also ask yourself… what seeds have I planted and which of them are worthy of tending?

Paying attention to the seeds we’ve gathered is important. Even more essential: recognizing the way we let them grow.

Let’s face it: it’s been a tough year. Many of us have experienced isolation, financial strain, illness anxiety, loss and the sad reality that we may not be able to connect with those who would mourn with us. Still, we’ve had so many opportunities for sublime lessons. We’ve had to learn how to nourish ourselves, to engage in new ways, to confront our loneliness. We’ve seen conditions around us shift and felt the instability. While life is always a game of calibrating our balance in response to change, this past year really wanted all of us to share the experience together.

Despite our very good efforts to maintain equilibirum through these times, we may have accumulated a few habits, discomforts, judgments, aversions. In truth, it may be the case that much of this accumulation is the result of our efforts to keep stable. So goodness bless it and now we choose whether we’d like to nourish all of it, some of it, none of it.

For example, maybe you started baking during your time at home. What a lovely new skill. Maybe you’ve also discovered that your sugar intake is higher than normal and you no longer go through a day without craving some sweets. Or maybe you started running. Maybe you’ve run so much that you feel aches and pains in your feet but you’re unwilling to slow down. Conversely, maybe you’re learning a new language and really want to remain committed.

The seeds are benign, gathered for our interest, but the way we grow them reflects our deeper patterns. When we learn to see clearly these seeds, their source and our attitudes toward both, we’re establishing a practice of equanimity. I think a beautiful word to describe equanimity is poise. We stand with grace and balance in the midst of all conditions. We maintain an even posture and attitude regardless of circumstances. This doesn’t mean we don’t cry or feel anger. It means we maintain our bearing as we welcome and allow emotions to move through us.

How do we establish our poise? How do we learn to offer equanimity? Through practice. Preferably, daily.

As we move into Spring, please join me and other friends to discuss, stragtegize and implement personal yoga practices to establish poise – both physically and mentally. To this end, I’m offering a three-week workshop series over three consecutive Saturdays: April 3, April 10 and April 17.

Let’s call it Yoga for Your Poise. This is a workshop for you to learn about yourself and respond to your personal needs so you can stand with strength and ease.

Week One: We’ll begin our work together with gentle breath-guided movement to familiarize ourselves with simple, restorative postures that we can weave into short personal practices to suit our goals. We’ll also discuss the ways we alleviate or strengthen certain energies so we can be attentive to our moods and habits. Students will receive sample practices to explore over the following week.

Week Two: We’ll return to our breath-guided movements and explore certain mantra or sounds in the practice. We’ll discuss how we might incorporate brief breathing practices to suit our energies. Students will explore patterns of breath over the following week.

Week Three: We’ll come together in breath-guided movement once again and incorporate short and sweet prompts to capture and hold our concentration for meditation and wonder.

All students are encouraged to schedule a 20-minute check-in with me so we can fine-tune the development of a personal practice. Ideally, this will be scheduled during the course of the three-week series or in the three weeks following. But whenever works too!

This will be an educational and practical workshop geared toward those who are ready to be guided and to guide themselves. Committing to all three sessions of this workshop is essential. Recordings will be available if you find yourself unable to attend but live attendance (online or in-person) is strongly encouraged.

  • Date: Saturday, April 3, 10 and 17
  • Time: 10am to Noon, Pacific Time
  • Location: Online or in-person in San Diego, CA (zoom link and physical address provided upon signing up)
  • Cost: $150 or as your heart desires

Please RSVP below. You’re welcome to send payment through venmo or paypal, or any alternative arrangement. I look forward to working with you!

The Coincidence of Vulnerability

Oh relationships. The benefits they add to our lives—in companionship, support, community—teeter-totter so enthusiastically with the challenges they pose to our peace of mind. Among clients (and in my own unremarkable life) I’ve been watching those sublime trials that intimacy initiates in otherwise steady lives. I’ve even considered, as a preventive measure, whether solitude might be the simple solution to maintaining calm.

This idea, I confess, isn’t my own. It’s ancient. We see ascetics and monks and nuns and the occasional good friend opting out. They say no to the deep, personal, mundane connections with family in favor of that profound connection with their own spirit and community. In talking with a respected mentor about this same subject, he acknowledged that he keeps his distance in friendships and love because of the distractions they provoke. In his mind, they’re obstacles on his path.

Honestly? I’m not comfortable with that. Seeing our fellow travelers as barriers to the self-understanding inspired by a yoga practice is a bit like looking at a door and believing it a wall. While I agree that most of us share a funny habit of letting the lights in our lives dim our own, that doesn’t mean the habit is intractable.

The key, I think, is to remember (again and again and again) that the only person in this world subject to your control is you. Which means that the behavior of your companion isn’t for you to manage. Or change. Or manipulate. It’s their behavior. And your reaction to it is up to you.

The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali provides a helpful reminder on making this possible. (Though, truth be told, Patanjali makes it pretty clear that certain relationships, like, you know, with that funk-you-up flavor, are just not gonna jive with your practice. But if I know you, you’re probably feeling the left-hand path a little more on this one. Am I right? Anyway.)

First, remember that the main obstacle to our greater peace is our own ignorance. Ignorance underlies all the other afflictions—like ego, attachment, aversion and fear— that keep us from realizing the potential of our consciousness. That ignorance in you is what prevents you from seeing how so much of what you do could be done better.

Once you understand that you can open your eyes a little wider, you’ll start taking in a little more light, and seeing things for what they are. Your partner is someone who will never be under your control. It’s a silly (ignorant) thing to believe otherwise. Which means it’s up to you. You get to control you. And as you do, here’s a lovely little helper: this moment.

When you find yourself struggling to keep your cool in the heat of a situation with someone, pause and come home to the present. I think of it as home base. It works just the same. You tag home and you’re safe. No one can make you ‘IT’. You get to catch your breath, feel your place in the universe, notice the way you’re feeling. You even have time to deliberate over your best response.

And here’s a lovely fact about hanging out in the moment. In the sanctuary of home base, you’re perfectly situated to intentionally look for the vulnerability in the person before you. And to remember that you, too, have been vulnerable. You can look and see that your friend is uncertain, or afraid, or insecure. Just like you’ve been. Because we all pray for safety. Because we’re all people with just a bit of flesh protecting everything inside.

Having used the moment to exercise this bit of compassionate seeing, you’re now free to invite your companion to join you at home base. He or she may not want to come along. And that’s fine. But an invitation to share a moment of safety with someone will bring you together. And a reaction against someone’s fear or hurt or uncertainty won’t. It’s always your choice.

Which doesn’t mean it’s easy.

But it is a choice. And it’s a choice that can become better used with practice. Again and again. Practice. So don’t be afraid to love. But always remember: the present moment is your sanctuary. From home base, you can learn to respond instead of react. You can learn to see that the union between you and your loved one isn’t just about the beauty of togetherness, but the sublime coincidence of vulnerability.

From that place, you can learn to care even more deeply.

Let me know if this helps.