The Blog

The First Day of Spring and the Fetal Position

At the end of each yoga practice, we move from corpse pose (savasana) into the fetal position. It struck me while teaching this morning how especially significant and symbolic that transition is today on the vernal equinox.

Photo courtesy of Petras Barcas Photography | www.flickr.com/pbarcas

Photo courtesy of Petras Barcas Photography | www.flickr.com/pbarcas

Like our transition off of our mats back into our lives, the first day of spring represents fresh starts, clean slates and new beginnings.

Spring is all about renewal and rebirth. After a particularly long and brutal winter, this spring feels even more fertile and ripe with opportunity than usual.

In nature, seeds go through a dormant period, when they are in survival mode to sustain through adverse conditions unfavorable for growth. We humans are no different.

In our practice and in our lives, there are times of great creation and change, followed by periods of stasis with hardly any detectable progress or movement.

In some ways, it’s human nature to resent and resist these plateaus. We sometimes characterize these periods as stagnation, with a negative connotation, but even periods of imperceptible growth serve as a necessary preparation.

In people as in plants, both external and internal conditions must be right for growth to resume after dormancy. An article published by North Carolina State University’s Department of Horticultural Science frames it this way:

Internal conditions of the seed must be favorable for germination, that is, any physical, chemical, or physiological barriers to germination must have disappeared or must have been removed by the propagator.

What barriers may have disappeared for you in recent months or what blocks are you now ready to remove in order to pave the way for renewal this season? What new fruit will you bear this year?

It’s time to emerge from our Chiberia-induced hibernation and reap what we’ve sown. Under the right conditions, some seeds, even those that you may have planted long ago, could start to come to fruition in the approaching days, weeks or months.

Each year on the spring equinox, we reach an equilibrium as day and night are matched in length after a period of imbalance. The coming days will continue to increase the power of the sun, extending our exposure to light and reducing the time we spend in the dark.

This spring, give yourself the light and the space you need to reflect on what you’re cultivating in your life and explore the areas in which you can challenge yourself to open up to new growth.

March 20, 2014 0 Comments

Wayne Dyer on Wrong Roads and What Ifs

A week ago today, I got into a very minor fender bender.

No one was hurt and there was virtually no damage whatsoever, but for days afterward, I couldn’t stop replaying it over and over again in my head.

Photo courtesy of Petras Barcas Photography | http://www.flickr.com/pbarcas

Photo courtesy of Petras Barcas Photography | flickr.com/pbarcas

“What if I had just left a few minutes later? What if I had missed that light or taken a different route?”

I tortured myself mercilessly by running through an aimless and endless list of “what ifs,” all geared toward regaining control, changing the outcome and preventing my perceived misstep.

Blame it on my Type-A, control-freak, perfectionist tendencies.

The only way I could find relief was by reframing the accident as a good lesson for the future and the means to a greater end.

It was in that state of mind that I stumbled across this quote from the wise and wonderful Dr. Wayne Dyer:

There are no wrong roads taken to anywhere; there are no accidents. As we go along there are course corrections that we can make, and every experience that we have in our life is there to teach us something.

In terms of fitting quotes and perfect timing, that ranks pretty high up there on the list for me. I’m filing that one alongside another similar message I love from the late American zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck:

Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment. This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor (or employee), every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath. Every moment is the guru.

When wrestling with regret, or a need to control or change situations or people, this perspective offers peace of mind and applies quite nicely.

March 6, 2014 0 Comments

Self-Acceptance, Appearance and the Academy Awards

Self-acceptance and self-love are worthy pursuits, and the pull toward perfectionism and external validation are common pitfalls along the path.

Kim NovakOnce a Hollywood icon and sex symbol, 81-year-old Kim Novak has been in the news since last night’s Oscars ceremony. The Chicago-born beauty agreed to make a rare public appearance to present at the Academy Awards, and has since been lampooned for her apparently altered looks.

Without speculating on Kim Novak’s mindset or motivations, I think many of us can relate to the exhausting pursuit of perfection referenced in this blog post on the topic of her appearance Sunday night. It’s heartbreaking, exhausting and pointless.

Blogger The Siren refers to this feedback Novak received early in her career.

The card at the modeling agency where the 20-year-old was working said: “Hands, marginal; legs, hefty; neck and face, flawless.”

It’s no wonder so many in Hollywood seem to have such a fractured image of themselves.

If we ever hope to be comfortable in our own skin, we must aim to accept ourselves as enough first and foremost, regardless of outside approval or opinion.

It reminds me of a quote I heard once from Chicago politician Carol Moseley Braun:

Defining myself, as opposed to being defined by others, is one of the most difficult challenges I face.

The same goes for accepting ourselves, although self-acceptance is even more fundamental than self-definition. Necessarily, accepting ourselves in our current state must come as a predecessor to defining any path for self-improvement or growth.

You’ll never arrive at your desired destination without first identifying your starting point. Before progressing along our path, we must first find, accept and acknowledge ourselves where we are in order to chart the direction in which we need to travel. Without knowing your place of origin, it would be impossible to know with any certainty whether you are moving forward or backward.

But before delving into self-improvement, our challenge is to reconcile the judgmental imperfections of the outside world with our own self-worth by cultivating a view of ourselves as whole as we are, rather than a hole waiting to be filled by external affirmation.

March 3, 2014 0 Comments