I am looking forward to offering another Mindfulness Meditation Series this coming January at Yoga Yoga North. I continue to explore and experience profound benefits from this practice and love the opportunity to share it with others. Below is a short description and link to more details and registration.
Forty seems to be a big milestone for many. I am not sure that today will really feel any different from the days passed, but yes, there was a lot of personal growth that happened for me in the decade prior. And I anticipate more will come with time. A friend asked me what might be some highlights of my thirties. Easily, the biggest highlights were the birth of my two sweet girls. Having the opportunity and fortune to bring two lives into this world is the most amazing and life changing thing that I have experienced yet.
So today as I turn forty, I can’t help but want to celebrate my Mom. It was forty years ago that she endured great pains to bring me into this life. And today is really a celebration of that labor and love. Without her, I would not be here today. Being a mom myself, I now know the patience and the selflessness that goes into nurturing life. I believe it to be the closest thing to unconditional love that I have known, both as a mom and a daughter.
So thank you Mom for all the times you have supported me, for all the times you have been patient, for the many times you forgave like only a mother can. And thank you for extending that spirit of love and nurturing to Sonia and Sophia. We are so blessed to have you in our lives. Today at forty, my heart is filled with immense gratitude for you.
You can run, but you can’t hide. Sooner or later the truth catches up with you. I have found it’s ultimately easier to know and speak your own truth than to hide behind what appears to be good or right. Sure I want to be kind and compassionate, but at times all I feel is anger. I want to be generous, but sometimes I feel greedy. I want to care and be engaged, but sometimes I feel indifferent and lost in my own stories. These are the three poisons according to Buddhism. Greed, hatred and delusion. These are mental afflictions we are all vulnerable to.
Without embracing our truths, we cannot move forward. Instead we remain stuck. Stuck in a life that doesn’t feel authentic. Stuck in appearances that look clean, but are messy and absolutely human on the inside. Being authentic and truthful is the ground to start from. No truth. No ground. Say your truth out loud so you can hear it. Share it with someone you trust.
It’s like being a child who is taught to color within the lines. Sure it would be nice if all our drawings looked that clean, but it’s rarely the case. My daughter, Sonia, is such a great example. We all went to Pinot’s Palette as a family last year. The instructor was giving us step by step instructions so that the painting would look as close to the original as possible. Sonia followed the directions to a T until the very end. There was only so much of staying within the lines that she could tolerate. She finally took out her black paint brush and painted her heart out all over her previously colorful and clean looking painting. She had the courage to express herself as she was, instead of the clean appearances that were expected. If only we could all be so bold and so honest.
So admit to yourself all the ways in which you are not so put together. All the ways in which you don’t feel so kind or generous. It’s ok. We are all in it together. We don’t have to keep up appearances as tempting as it may feel. Once you can be honest about where you are, you have something to work with. Somewhere to begin. Your truths may look messy. Big deal. So do mine. It doesn’t stop me from staying on my path. In fact, it is my truth that keeps me there.
I often find myself saying the following in my classes. ”Encounter everything that arises with care and softness.” As my husband would say, yoga is full of these simple, pithy phrases, all of which are extremely hard to put into practice. Truth be told, what I share in classes is precisely what I need to hear and be reminded of. And kindness and compassion have been a recurring theme for me in this past year.
I have found that the moments where I feel aggravated and angry are exactly the moments where my yoga practice kicks in. One of three scenarios tends to happen. I feel aggravated and before I know it, I have acted out with the harshness that arose. Often after steeping in the anger for some time, I see my behavior more clearly and it is there that I need to remember that I am on a path which is far from perfect. I need to give myself room to be human and to continue onward.
The second scenario is similar in it’s outward actions, but different in the experience on the inside. I feel the aggravation. I have the capacity to see how it affects me, to witness it so to speak. However, as human as I am, I continue to act out on my impulses rather than a more skillful response. There too, there is the calling to relate to myself with care and kindness.
The third scenario is the one where some real big insights take place. I see the aggravation. I witness it. I am fully aware of the harshness that arises within me. Though tempted to act out, instead I let the harshness in and hold it softly. At the same time, I begin to see the perceived source of my aggravation, perhaps someone. I continue to notice as feelings and thoughts arise, persist and dissolve. And then my awareness shifts to the person that I am interacting with, the person I blame for my aggression. I begin to feel what they may feel. I begin to imagine their discomfort and their pain. I see that what they are saying or doing is not meant to cause my aggravation. That is all my own doing. They carry their own pain, their own stories. This is empathy, to feel what another may be feeling. To see past my own ego, my own stories. And from here, it is inevitable for compassion to arise. The hope to relieve the pain or discomfort of another. These are the moments that melt me, where the harshness dissolves like snowflakes falling from the sky. Yes, in order to move past the anger, I can’t just let it go. I first have to really let it in. I have to see my own aggressions with clarity. I have to know it and feel it in the most intimate way possible when it arises, before I am drawn to believing it.
This is powerful stuff. I know I will have many obstacles along the way, but yes, I do aspire to encounter everything that arises with softness. That does not mean that skillful and firm action cannot be taken thereafter, but hopefully it will be one that is thoughtful and carried with kindness of heart.
This past weekend I had the amazing opportunity to be a part of a fundraising gala for Pratham, an organization whose mission is to spread the gift of literacy and education among the poorest children in India. And with this gift, the hope of giving them the chance to transform their lives. As a mother of two sweet girls, their cause easily speaks to my heart.
The gala was organized around a ‘Dancing with the Stars’ theme. They picked seven amateur dancers to be paired up with seven experienced teachers. Yes, I was among the amateur group. I have always loved dancing, but never had the formal opportunity to learn. This was that chance, and not only, it was the chance to be paired with my very talented sister, Priya Jhawar.
So you might be wondering – What does this have to do with yoga, meditation or your thoughts on day to day living, as these are often the themes I write about. Well it has plenty to do with all of that.
Preparing for this event allowed me to explore so many of the same things that I find both on my yoga mat and in life. First off, it pushed me to be persistent, to work hard and to believe that I could do it, regardless of the outcome. There was no way around that. My sister and I had chosen a more classically oriented dance which she choreographed. The moves did not come easily. Beyond persistence and diligence, this performance was to be given in front of more than five hundred people, easily nudging me outside of my comfort zone. By now, I have had the opportunity to speak in front of groups of people, sometimes larger groups, but nothing close to this. To add to that, this was something that I was not accustomed to doing. Delving into artistic expression and dance in front of a group that large was new and a bit scary to be quite frank. As trite as it sounds, it was a real lesson in courage and facing one’s vulnerabilities, self talk and fears. There was an almost exhilarating feeling that accompanied this willingness to step out of one’s element in support of a meaningful cause.
The dance itself taught me to build an attention to detail, to timing, to the moment, to the rhythm, to the mood, the expression across body, mind and spirit. I can easily see why dance can get one into the zone, so to speak. Almost a kind of samadhi, where you are one with the body and music. It was a beautiful and growing experience on multiple levels.
I cannot end this post without giving immense thanks to my sister, Priya. For those who don’t know me personally, I have been affectionately called ‘Big Momma’ in our family, always finding the need to take care of things and people, perhaps even when the need has been long gone. This was a sweet reversal of roles where I was taken under the wings of my sister, her craft and her teachings. Thank you Priya for being an amazing partner, teacher and soul sister.
It was an honor to support this very worthy cause and event. If you are interested in reading more about Pratham and how you can get involved, please follow the link below:
If you are interested in reading more about my sister and her journey into yoga and dance, check out her blog at:
Lastly, I’ll include a link to the aforementioned dance for your viewing pleasure.
The Tuesday noon series at Yoga Yoga North is off to a great start.
We have, however, postponed the Tuesday 9am meditation series to begin on September 10th at the Yoga Yoga 360 location instead of Westgate. Hope to see you there!
Below is short description of the series:
The Mindfulness Meditation series is a six week series. Each weekly class is 75-minutes long. We will explore the specifics of Shamatha and Vipassana methods, as well as ways in which we can prepare for meditation. Practice time will be supplemented with the rich wisdom behind these contemplative traditions. Through these methods we will venture to more deeply understand the nature of our minds and how it affects us in our day to day. Classes will include discussion, gentle hatha practice followed by guided meditation. Over the course of the series, guided meditation will lead into longer periods of quiet sitting.
You can call Yoga Yoga at 512-381-6464 to register.
When questioned whether I carry any major stressors in life, my initial thoughts are no big stressors for now, knock on wood. Yes, there are the everyday challenges of family and work, but I do yoga and meditation. I couldn’t possibly be stressed. Right? Well, maybe wrong. A friend of mine said to me, “Sheila, you don’t have to be an animal in the wild being attacked by a lion to be under stress”. So true.
If you are interested in learning ways to counter and manage stress, check out my six week Mindfulness Meditation Series being offered at Yoga Yoga beginning September 3rd.
Follow the link for information:
I spent most of my day celebrating the father of my two girls. And yes, celebration was in order. He is a wonderful and sweet Dada, as Sonia calls him. He is tender, loving, engaged and, most of all, absolutely silly and goofy. We love him with all our hearts and couldn’t be luckier to have a father, a husband, a friend like Herb.
Even amidst the celebration, my Dad was in the back of my mind. I almost didn’t pause to really give him my full attention. I think I was hoping that the day would pass without tears. And mostly it did. Finally, though, I made the time to sit (meditate). And within minutes, I was sobbing uncontrollably. It was as if my body had a mind of its own. To be honest, my mind has come to terms with my Dad passing seven years prior. I know that we will all move on. Everything is transient. I understand that. But body and heart have a different way of coping. And today it was through the tears and the sobbing, even if for only a few minutes. It was in the quiet place of solitude that I could allow myself to be present to those feelings.
I have a lot to be thankful for, but it’s ok for the heart to feel slightly heavy now and again. I just have to be brave enough to allow the feelings to come and have space, knowing that they too will pass when the time is right.
Where does the intersection between what happens on my yoga mat and what happens in my life really lie? It’s a question worth considering.
I was having a nice weekend with my family. A very ordinary and fun weekend, running some errands, spending time with the girls and taking care of ourselves in between. Now and again, the small ordinary things can snowball into bigger, not so ordinary, almost frustrating situations.
We were in the kitchen, about 6 pm Sunday evening. The day had been busier than usual for us. So first, let me confess. I have this horrible habit of cleaning up after people in the kitchen, almost to the point where I have cleaned and put away things, unknowingly, even as the appliances or utensils continue to be used by others. And this is exactly what happened while Herb and Sophia were in the midst of making some candied ginger. Though my intention is always to be helpful, the outcome doesn’t always seem to feel that way to others. I accidentally put away some parchment paper and trays that my daughter had taken out, thinking she no longer needed them. I was happily walking away from the kitchen when all of sudden I heard both Sophia and Herb saying “Where is the parchment paper?”. ” You did it again. You put everything away before we finished using it.” I’ll spare you the details, but the conversation began to go downhill, at least in my mind. I was at my low point for the day in terms of energy and I knew very well that I did not have the capacity to skillfully hold this conversation with Sophia and Herb. A few minutes into the situation, I looked up at both of them and said, “I think Mommy needs a time out”. With my girls I don’t even use time out languaging anymore, but essentially I needed to pause and be quietly to myself.
Pausing – one of many seemingly simple, yet difficult lessons that yoga teaches. It’s not how to do float backs or bakasana, but rather how to have enough self awareness to know when I am not able to manage a situation with skill, patience and kindness. I have learned that that is exactly when I need to take a breath and give myself permission to pause and be to myself, when the kids can be in responsible hands of course. I could tell you pretty confidently that jumping into bakasana at that moment in the kitchen would have done me little to no good. In fact, my family might have thought I had gone over the yoga edge. My mat is where I prepare for all these moments. Sure the asana is fun and it’s one way to learn these more subtle things. But the real difficult work, in my experience, happens pretty far off the mat and outside of that 75 minute class I take when I can.
To answer the question that I began with – for me my family, my relationship to others and myself is where the Real Yoga happens. And I am happy to have my yoga mat to help prepare me for it!
I am so happy to be offering another Mindfulness Meditation Series at Yoga Yoga Westgate, beginning next Thursday, May 9th. The 1st session was well attended with a group of such inquisitive students. They came with open minds and really questioned the material, enabling me to become a student along with them. And my study and offering of the material only helped to embolden my conviction in the benefits of this practice.
I also had another opportunity to study with Sarah Powers last weekend here in Austin. Her teachings and led practices have once again committed me to my meditation practice with renewed vigor. Interestingly, not only did it recommit me, but my husband as well, as I found myself meditating side by side with him in the early morning hours this past week.
During this six week session, I hope to offer detailed methods of both Shamatha and Vipassana practice. I will supplement practice with teachings that will give the methods a greater purpose. And of course, all of this with a lot of time dedicated to guided, as well as self led practice time. The format will allow for a lot of individual questions and answer, and discussion as a group. I hope you will join me!
Below is the link to the series on Yoga Yoga’s website. This will be offered both at noon and 8pm.