Honest Yoga

For many years, my main goal in yoga was to achieve perfection in postures. I yearned to try harder, to push myself further, to look magazine-perfect in Urdhva Dhanurasana. These days, each time I step on the mat, I strive for an honest practice that illuminates for me what should be my area of focus. This approach keeps me curious. On most days, I start with dance or Pilates, then venture into a flowing Vinyasa practice. This practice can feel at once familiar and new. Some mornings, I work on back bends, gradually opening my heart as I move toward a deeper variation of each pose, feeling more awake, alive, exhilarated as I broaden through my clavicles and lift through the scapulae. On other mornings, particularly when I’m low on energy and need to wake up gently, slowly, a lingering flow in Cat/Cow helps me to loosen up before melting into long-held Yin postures.

Some days, I fall out of inversions. I’m reminded, then, to sit in meditation for a while longer, allowing myself to feel supported by the earth while remaining present with what is before me, with the images and stories that my mind presents on the big screen of its unhinged forefront. I observe with curiosity, allowing it all to appear and then dissolve as I descend deeper, unfolding layer by layer. On other days, the path through the layers curves sharply, causing me to careen back to the starting point. The choice is always available, and neither option is advantageous nor unattractive. It’s simply there. Will my will power and curiosity win over, or will I take the simple route by letting go of effort? If I should choose the latter, will old samskaras of guilt haunt me throughout the day, reminding me that I should have tried harder? Will I succeed in silencing them?

Today, my hips thank me for a luxurious Yin session and sleeping swan pose practiced with full acquiescence, with permission to luxuriate, to let go of control, to feel pleasure and pain melt away into nothing until my body becomes a heavy vessel for my breath. Whatever the day might bring, I will show up on my mat with the same honest sense of curiosity, ready to move, ready to pause, balancing effort with softness, setting the tone for whatever the day might bring. Staying true to this commitment is easy when honesty feels safe.

What is your interpretation of an honest yoga practice? Please leave a comment below. 

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Loving-Kindness for Paris

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I read the news last night. I knew it was too late to be in front of the computer, but my family and I had just finished watching a movie and I wanted to check the weekend weather forecast before heading to bed. I read about Paris and my heart tightened. I experienced a similar sensation several times in the past, including an occasion when an attack had taken place close to my dad’s workplace. Last night, overcome with sadness, unable to find the words to express the heartbreak that millions felt at the same moment, I tiptoed into the bedrooms of Wanderlust Juniors, ensured that they were asleep, and leaned in to give them kisses, to whisper ‘I love you.’ I repeat this ritual every night, but some nights are more emotional than others.

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Mr. Wanderlust and I visited Paris and other cities in France on our honeymoon in July and August 2006. Today, we are praying and sending love to everyone affected by Friday’s tragic events.

This morning, with bittersweet determination, I guided my Saturday morning yoga class through Metta (Loving-Kindness) meditation. I turn to this meditation practice when I feel instability and unease in my life or in the environment around me, when I experience conflicting emotions and struggle to tune into a compassionate space. Metta meditation helps to build community by reminding us to let go of judgment toward ourselves and others, and to focus instead on acceptance and kindness. Today, I will share this meditation with you.

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Feel free to light a candle and settle into a comfortable position in a quiet space. Take several deep breaths to invite yourself to tune fully into the experience.

Start by sending love and compassion to yourself. If this feels challenging, start with one aspect of yourself that you admire and build up from this space. I naturally gravitate toward the image of myself today embracing myself as a young child. Stay with this stage for as long as you need, breathing smoothly and evenly and radiating kindness and compassion. Next, send loving-kindness to a person whom you love deeply. This can be a good friend, your partner, sibling, child, or a pet. Visualize yourself embracing that person and radiating love toward him or her. The third stage is to send love to a person toward whom you don’t experience any strong feelings of like or dislike. The four step can be somewhat challenging, as you are invited to send loving-kindness to a person with whom you do not get along. Instead of focusing on judgment toward the person, work to strip away all those layers to find the being within, who is very much like you, who wants to love and be loved, to experience personal safety and peace. Stay here for as long as you need. The final step is to send Metta to all the four individuals whom you visualized earlier; then, continue to expand your beams of loving-kindness to the entire world, to every being on the planet, sending healing kindness and compassion. Visualize every being on the planet feeling healthy, peaceful, and joyful.

Close your meditation with a few centering breaths and thank yourself for your time and attention.

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I would love to read your thoughts and experiences with this meditation. Please leave a comment below. I would also like to read about how you navigate turbulent experiences. Where do you turn in times of need?

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Magical Catharsis

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I reach for my journal, find the end of the satin bookmark wedged between the pages, patiently waiting for me to pick up from where I last left off, ready to receive my lazy drone of ramblings or precarious staccato outpours. The mood will reflect that of my day and the state of my mind. Do I feel calm and contented, full of gratitude and wishing to share it here, on this page? I write in order to help myself make sense of the stories that twirl in my head. Theirs is a wild dance, at times fluid and graceful, and at other times intense, turning from a moderately paced waltz into a passionate tango that morphs into an expressive modern-style outburst, culminating in a supine crescendo on the floor with pieces of the current version scattered around.

With fluid black ink at the tip of my pen, I pick up the loose pieces and watch as the words take shape on the page, creating a story that is more cohesive, more disciplined, now resembling a classical ballet. The emotions are expressive. The style is elegant, but like a skilled dancer, it leaves an impression on me as I feel everything the character feels. As I sit back and watch my pen move across the page, from left to right, again and again, it all slowly starts to connect. There is magic in catharsis. My mind is clear now, ready to experience anew, to absorb, to contemplate before once again, working to make sense of the stories that will start to weave themselves.

Writer Dani Shapiro, in a video she shared on Facebook on Sunday, introduces us to ‘commonplace books’: small books that she carries with her and in which she records poems, quotations from books, etc. She allows herself time to contemplate those pieces, letting them take their own shape and forming a type of memoir. She refers to the commonplace book as the antidote to social media. It’s a resource that allows her to mindfully absorb its content, moving through it at her own pace. In addition to my dancing stories, my journal also contains quotes and poems that move me and help to propel my own life story forward, influencing its present and future chapters.

The practise of writing for ourselves is slow and mindful. As I move away from a habit of frequent sharing on social media and toward personal contemplation, I make room for silence. I create new experiences and keep them to myself or share them with my friends and loved ones who are there in person, or to whom I will tell my story later. They are my secret vignettes of curious exploration, allowing me the freedom of choice and – yes – at times indulgence, and reminding me of the importance of mindful connection.

What meditation is really like.

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This is a candid account of how meditation sometimes feels, even after many years of semi-consistent practice. I wrote this piece for a writing course that I took last fall, and it has become a favourite. I wanted to share it with you as a reminder that we all deal with the chattering monkey mind. Whenever I feel impatience and frustration start to arise, I remind myself to approach my practice with a sense of humour. Who said meditation has to always be taken seriously? Be patient with yourself and perhaps, for just a quick but important moment, you can step into the temple and live fully in it.

Stillness. One of the doors into the temple. And how illusive it is!

“Ooh, I just sat for a few minutes without thinking a single thought!”

Inhale. Exhale.

“Sssshhh! Quiet! That was a thought.”

Inhale. Exhale. “Continue to focus on your breath.”

Inhale. Exhale. “It will lead you to stillness.”

Inhale. Exhale.

Inhale. Exhale.

“What should I make for dinner?”

“Thinking.”

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

Silence. There’s suddenly nothing but silence and the sound of my breath, travelling. My thoughts continue to circulate, but I’ll keep them in that perpetual vortex, allowing them to spin without escaping through the door into the temple. Oh no, this temple deserves peace. This temple only welcomes silence, but it tolerates the hum that continues to buzz just outside its front door. Accept it, but keep it on the other side.

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New from the workshop:

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This is a Maori-style Hei Matau (fish-hook) design, made of beautiful chocolate-brown Cocobolo. The inlay is made of pale yellow crushed shell. 

Although this piece is so new it has yet to be added to our online store, there are other pieces in the shop that might appeal to you. Pawel has been working on custom orders recently and would be thrilled with an opportunity to create a special piece for you. So, drop us a line to let us know what you have in mind.

Favourite links:

Here are a few interesting articles I read over the past week and would like to share with you:

Skills in Flux

A New York Times article about the skills we need to develop to succeed — socially and professionally — in ‘today’s loosely networked world.’ This article resonates with me — an INFP with a small circle of friends whom I hold very dear and work hard to keep the connection alive. I often have to negotiate extroverted social networking, followed by periods of relaxing a bit more when I have a chance to get to know a person better and build a true connection. It’s a lifelong learning process that demands evolution of various communication and social skills.

Bare essentials: Learning to live mindfully with objects that ‘spark joy’

This article almost made me want to take a 2.5-hour road trip to London to check out this exhibit. However, having recently been on such a road trip for a work-related meeting, and given that I don’t enjoy driving for longer than an hour at the most, I am reluctant to make the time for the trek. In any case, I wanted to share this article with you because it brings focus to a mindful lifestyle in a tiny home, living with the bare essentials, which is a fascination of mine. We are currently living with as few possessions as possible, though I know we can downsize further. I found it interesting to read the comments of other readers about what possessions they would keep if they had to leave almost everything they own behind. What would you keep if you were to downsize and move into a (tidy and uncluttered) tiny home?

Minimalist Living: When a Lot Less Is More

An article on why the current generation of 30-something adults is embracing the minimalism trend. This is a fun read and even features a quiz to help you find out whether you just might be the owner of too much stuff or if like me, your results will be, “You’re a minimalist. Live a little.’

If you are enjoying this blog and would like to read more about our journey along the path of mindfulness, please feel free to subscribe to be the first to receive our updates in your inbox once (sometimes twice) per week. Please also feel free to SHARE this post with your friends via email or a social media platform.

Thank you for you support!

Wishing you a fantastic weekend!

Birthing with Ganesha, or a way to deepen your meditation practice. And an exciting holiday sale announcement!

I have been meditating, off and on, for the past 17 years. I would love to be able to say that throughout those years, my practice hasn’t wavered, that it has stayed consistent. But as with the myriad other fluctuations that come with life’s events, my practice has waxed and waned, stagnated, and at times did not happen for months at a time.

Early in November, I made the decision to deepen my practice and make it to my meditation cushion on a daily basis, for 15 minutes each day. I could write about the profound ways in which meditation continues to transform my experience, and the ways in which my view of my inner and outer world continues to evolve. Those words would either be received with enthusiastic ‘YES’ nods from those who share my experience, or might not make much sense to others. I do encourage you to give this meditation ‘thing’ a try and see what you make of it. Like me, you might find it a bit frustrating at first and leave it for a short — or a long — while. I do encourage you to stick with the practice, because that’s exactly what it is, a practice. As with any other practice in life, your meditation will not always be flowery and light, but the roots we plant by sitting each day continue to deepen, inviting us to delve further into the raw honesty of our experience. That experience itself is not perfect or pretty, but that is precisely the magic of being here. Everything else falls away as we recognize the answers that have been before us all along.

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I also encourage you to try different forms of meditation. I tend to practise mindfulness meditation, but another form to which I come back when I feel some anxiety about a situation is japa, the repetition of mantra. For japa, I use a mala with 108 beads. As I allow each bead to slide between my fingers, I repeat a mantra, for a total of 108 times. We started making malas a few months ago and have added them to our webstore over the past weekend, after previously only showcasing them at craft shows.

The beautiful mala pictured above is made of Bayong, Whitewood and Sandalwood beads, and the pendant is made of Orangeheart, with turquoise inlay. The image in the centre is of the elephant deity Ganesha, the remover of obstacles.

My Reiki teacher introduced me to the Ganesha mantra in 2008, and that chant has led me to further explore japa meditation. While giving birth to our second child, as Pawel held my hand and our two midwives worked at the foot of the bed in our bedroom, I silently continued to chant, Om gam ganapataye namaha, over and over again. As the pain I felt due to the baby’s posterior positioning intensified with each contraction, I continued to chant and trust that all was going to be well. Our Ganesha malas were inspired by this and other incredible, honest, deep experiences we have been fortunate to live through.

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Each of our malas is unique and was designed and assembled by yours truly. As with all our other pendants, the ones on the malas were crafted by Pawel. We hope you will enjoy them.

We’ve even made our jewellery easier for you to enjoy with our special big holiday sale. For the next two weeks, any item in our webstore is 25% off, and we will cover the shipping anywhere in the world when you place an order of a minimum of $100. This is the perfect time to purchase unique gifts for the special people on your list.

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Wishing you a great week,

Katia

 

Meditating with crossed fingers. Or, Meditation for Busy People

At 6:35 in the morning, the house is quiet. Well, at least, I would expect it to be quiet at that time. This is my ‘me’ time. I wake up at 5 o’clock on most mornings and proceed with my daily ritual. While oil pulling with coconut oil for 15 minutes, I feed our two ever-starving cats — seriously, those two cats have the biggest appetite — and get dressed. I brush my teeth and drink a tall glass of warm water with lemon juice. Then, it’s time for cardio, weights, pilates, or yoga, or a combination of the above. After an hour, I sit down to meditate.

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My body and mind are fully awake, and I’m ready to sit quietly for some time before my day begins. I set my meditation timer app to 15 minutes, and assume my typical mudra of crossing the middle fingers on both my right and left hands over the index fingers. Oh, wait… I sense some hesitation on your, the reader’s part. You’re telling me you’re not familiar with that mudra? Why, that’s the universal ‘Keeping my fingers crossed’ sign, isn’t it? Moving on with my story… Don’t look so puzzled, please. I promise to answer your question shortly.

You see, dear reader, my meditation practice is different every day. Some days, my mind slips into a calm state with ease and satin-smooth elegance. On other days, my brain decides to talk to me. I ignore it, gently brushing it off with a polite smile — no, it’s actually a smirk that hints to my brain, politely, to ‘shut it.’ What does it say when it speaks to me? Let’s see, let’s see…

“Maybe I should have started this meditation first thing after waking up?”

Then I pinch myself and think,

“No way! I’m not awake enough at that point to commit to a meditation practice.”

And then a typical soliloquy begins:

“The kids will be up soon. I need to ensure I have enough time to cook steel-cut oats for our breakfast. And I still have to pack lunches. I should probably prepare the slow cooker for tonight’s dinner, as I will not have time to cook later this afternoon.” And so on…

Thankfully, I do have more calm meditation practices than those soliloquy-ridden ones. And I keep coming back to my cushion.

So, at 6:35 on this particular morning, as I sit on my cushion in my quiet practice room that also doubles in purpose as a ‘TV room’ (the only one in the house with a TV set in it), I am suddenly asked by my younger son to come out of my meditation. I hear his little bare footsteps as he’s walking down the stairs. I can picture him hugging his well-loved bunny with his right arm, sucking the thumb on his left hand. He stops behind me and says, “Can I watch TV… A little bit?” And so ends my ‘me’ time and begins the typical busy morning of a mom. As for the meditation timer? I look down at my iPod and see that I still have eight minutes to go until the lovely bells ring thrice to bring me out of that blissful meditative state. Obviously, that timer has got nothing on my child. Do I wish that the timer app would win from time to time? Heck yes! Hence my crossed fingers mudra! 😉

What’s the moral of this story? We’re busy. There, I said it, and I will not repeat it again because I don’t believe in giving that banal discussion any more time than it deserves. Many people try to start a meditation practice. Many more practice yoga, the kind of yoga that makes us move our bodies to still our minds. But as for traditional seated meditation? How many of us actually make that commitment?

I decided, recently, to treat my seated meditation practice with the respect it deserves. Some days, I will find five minutes to sit, and on other days when I feel like I’ve won the lottery, I hear those sweet little bells after 15 minutes and sigh happily. In any case, the important factor is that I made the time to sit on my cushion and dedicated time to this ever-evolving practice. It keeps me curious.

Here’s my offering to you: a free five-minute guided meditation practice.

The entire video is longer than five minutes, simply because I provide a few guidelines for those who have always been curious about meditation but haven’t had a chance to try it before. I hope the introduction will help to ease any tension you may feel about trying to meditate for the first time.

As always, feel free to leave a comment below.

Thanks for reading, watching and meditating!

Katia

Dharma Wanderlust