Post Ten-Day Walk Yoga Meditate

yogaChallenge results? I did it. Well, 95%. I missed one day of yoga. Blame it on the holiday Monday. Blame it on me deciding to plant my garden. Blame it on friends dropping by. Excuses: always plenty of them and easy to find.

I am still happy with my record. It was tough to find the time to make this daily commitment. Am I stronger, slimmer, fitter? Shrug. What did I learn? Just this: I need to make a commitment to the 365-day yoga/walk/meditate plan. Because if I am going to see results, that is the reality.

Yikes.

Today is already going to be a fail. I have more excuses: lunch with friends, critical errands, and catching up on a bunch of stuff that went sliding over the past ten days. And tomorrow I head out camping for two days. Goodbye yoga studio, hello tent. I could slip away and do yoga in the woods but, honestly, I know I won’t. I will stretch though and walking is built in to a camping weekend. Meditation is staying on the agenda. First thing each morning.

My new commitment is, therefore, to say yes to walk/yoga/meditate every day. For at least 95% of the time. Going for 365 now.

Speaking of meditation: this morning was HARD. So much for keeping to the trail (see major bragging in previous post). My mind looped and curled, shimmied and shook, ran away, refused to come back.

Back to start. Sigh. Back to start.

 

Walk Yoga Meditate

Walk Yoga Meditate

yoga
I am on the 5th day of a 10-day walk-yoga-meditate challenge: my intention is to walk for an hour, do yoga for an hour and meditate for 30 minutes every day for ten days (or more if I can swing it). So far the walking has been the easiest piece. The goal is to exceed 10,000 steps a day on my step counter. Most days I surpass 15,000 steps. One tough part is walking up the Mount Albert hill which has become a kind of mini-challenge: to make it up that hill every day. My leg muscles, especially the Achilles tendon, complained bitterly the first morning after.

For the yoga piece, I found a new studio in Keswick, only 15 minutes from home, which offers a 30-day pass for $30, an amazing bargain. Simplicity Yoga offers a range of classes seven days a week so I have no excuse to miss a day.

The meditation piece is purportedly simple: sit on my mat. 30 minutes. Be still and quiet the mind.

Today, I felt a tug of resistance to sitting on my mat. But sit, I did. Like yesterday, I counted 108 breaths. Once done, I counted more breaths rather than respond to the urge to check how many minutes remained on my timer. These are the small victories on the mat, like making it up Mount Albert hill without stopping until I reach the top. But meditation isn’t a victory march — even though I did congratulate myself on reaching the goal as laid out by the Dalai Lama in Stages of Meditation. How Western-minded of me.

Meditation can be like climbing a steep hill sometimes. According to the Dalai Lama, the ability to follow the breath for 108 inhalations means I have reached level two or maybe even a level three. Woot! Go me! Of course, as soon as I pat myself on the back for reaching a particular level, I might as well trudge back down to the bottom of the hill. But as I stand panting at the foot of the hill once again, I am still pleased that I managed to count 108 breaths. This means that I am beginning to get it.

These days, my mind in meditation is less like a rocky mountain terrain full of steep cliffs and unreachable peaks shrouded in fog, and more like an ordered procession of steps circling and ascending ever higher. Now, when the timer goes off, I am no longer camped out on the low slopes, engaged in rearranging my backpack or making daisy chains in the meadows. I am climbing with care, placing my awareness on the breath, keeping my head up, watching for the next sketchy foothold or a sudden rock slide. The air is thinner up here but I have learned to place each boot deliberately, one after another. If the fog rolls in on the mountain path, I keep my focus on my boot laces, ignoring the fact that I can’t see what lies beyond the tip of my toe. The goal is to  ascend to the peaks where the air is sharp and clear as glass. Someday, perhaps, I will no longer need hiking boots or even legs for climbing. I will simply float up the mountain on an updraft. For now, I will keep my ropes handy and breathe deeply of that thin air.

 

Tweet-sized Yoga Sutras: A Dialed-Back Translation for Modern Minds

Tweet-sized Yoga Sutras: A Dialed-Back Translation for Modern Minds

As part of my yoga teacher training, I am required to read the Yoga Sutras. The sūtras are a set of wise and pithy aphorisms as presented by Patanjali who is, according to translator B.K.S. Iyengar, “an evolved soul incarnated of his own will to help humanity.” In other words Mr. P is the original downward dog master. He does his downward dogs while levitating over hot coals and inhabiting the body of a twice-reborn cobra so we might want to pay attention.

Reading the Iyengar translation is slow going. Iyengar can take a typical sūtra of four Sanskrit words and extract four intricate pages of elucidation on their meaning.

The first sūtra goes like this: atha yoganusasanam.That’s it. Apparently Patanjali is the forefather of twitter. He practically invented tweets. Iyengar’s translation of those two Sanskrit words, in part, goes like this: “the disciplines of integration are here expounded through experience, and are given to humanity for the exploration and recognition of that hidden part of man which is beyond the senses.” Gah. Each time I read that sentence, my head gets itchy. In an attempt to figure out what Iyengar is talking about, I decided to try to paraphrase the translations in a way my kid (and me, okay I admit it, me too) can get it.

Forgive my impertinence (call this my way of trying to keep up with my homework), but here is the results of my translation of the first 30 sūtras in tweetable length (you can check back later for the next batch, as soon as I wade through the text and figure out the meaning of life).

Yoga Sūtras of Patanjali: a Modern Tweetable Translation.

I.1 The time has come so listen up, kids: here’s all the rules of yoga. Pay attention because I’m only going to say them once, straight up.

I.2. Yoga is about sitting down and shutting up. First, sit down. Tell your brain to shut it, now. Shut Up. Shut up. Shut up. That’s it. Keep doing that.

I.3 When you shut up, you are cooler than cool.

I.4 The rest of the time, you are just a damn fool.

I.5 There are five ways to be conscious. If you think you know the score, think again.

I.6 Your mind can be stupid, distracted, agitated, focused (one-pointed) or controlled. Probably the first one.

I.7 Correct knowledge is direct (you know what you know), inferred (you guessed it) or transmitted by your guru (better hope he knows what the hell he’s talking about).

I.8 You get crap knowledge from crap inputs.

I.9 Your untethered imagination will produce nothing but crap.

I.10 Sleep: you’re probably not doing it right.

I.11 Your memory is a collection of shite. Don’t rely on it.

I.12 Don’t get attached to anything. For example, be indifferent to chocolate. (I know, eh?)

I.13. It takes a lot of practice to shut the mind up. Don’t give up. But don’t sit too long, you will begin to stink. Do planks. Have a bath.

I.14 Practice every day. If you think you are getting really good at yoga, go back to start, do not pass go.

I.15 No sex, chocolate and fluffy pillows for you. Sorry, baby. The web of pleasure is a sticky, bad place. If it feels good, renunciate it.

I.16 You gave up chocolate five years ago. If you still want chocolate, you are doing it wrong.

I.17 You are an arrow. Or a bow. Or the air. Or the target. Being the target sucks.

I.18 You can get stuck partway up the ladder to spirituality.

I.19 If you go flying around outside your body, you may not make it to the top of the ladder to spirituality. Stay on the ladder. Become one with the ladder.

I.20 Throw everything you’ve got at your practice. (It won’t stick and it won’t be enough.)

I.21 You need energy to reach the goal. A giant bucket of coffee may help.

I.22 There are many levels of slackers, keeners and in-betweeners on the path. You are all of the above.

I.23 Surrender all to the Universal Soul. Meditate. Bonus: you don’t ever have to do the dishes or laundry when you spend all your time on your mat.

I.25 God (the Most Awesome Universal Soul) ROCKS!

I.26 Are you listening? God really kills it! He’s the man. [He. Him. His. So patriarchal. Don’t get hung up. All religions do it so it MUST be okay.]

I.27 Om is the word. It even has it’s own dictionary.

I.28 Om: one word, all the time.

I.29 Bird flu, leaving the dishes in the sink until morning, thinking you are too fat in those pants, texting while driving, watching American Idol, pigging out on brownies, smoking your neighbour’s homegrown, delusions that you are the most awesome universal soul, not working out, playing Drawsome: all this stuff will block your path. [I know. Not quite tweet length. Sue me]

I.30 Stay focused. ADHD sufferers need not apply.