Body as a Vessel

I was in an emotionally-charged spiritual group meeting last night and had the following download.

Though I am a broken vessel

I am the perfect container

for the Divine to shine forth

and provide guidance and support

to me and to all who come to me

I am full only with Thee

there is no other experience

substance or distraction

that can take Your place

I am fulfilled.

Have you thought of your body as a vessel? This language is familiar to me as I grew up in a Catholic school/church system, but as I read back over what I had written, I was surprised. It didn’t come from me. I “know” that the body is the vessel for the soul…a container, but last night was the first time I had thought of (and felt) the body as a container for the Divine. It was a new perspective. It doesn’t matter what condition the container is in…it can be somewhat damaged physically, emotionally, or spiritually, but it is always the perfect container for the Divine to act through.

I think when we feel down, we collapse inwardly. It is harder to find the Divine within during those times. We tend to see the Divine as outside ourselves and pray to It/Him/Her for relief and assistance. But when we are happy, or in a state of equilibrium, it can be easier to serve and connect with each other, and from that place, we feel the Divine as part of ourselves.

We do have a responsibility to take care of this container. That is part of the job of life. But even if we feel a bit “cracked” or “broken,” we know that we are full of Divine love and wisdom to be in service to each other. So how do you take care of this vessel? What do you do to keep it together?

For me, I do the best I can to take care of myself. However, there are times where I don’t feel like I am enough. Insecurity is a huge burden, and I think I feel the collective crisis as well. When I feel insecure, I don’t feel like I am able, or worthy, to put myself out there as a source of comfort or hope to people. The message last night was clear, though. It doesn’t matter what emotional burdens we have or what insecurities we are facing if we trust and surrender to the Divine, we become fulfilled.

 

 

 

In Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, I am so grateful for this life…my family and friends, students and sometimes strangers that offer a smile when I’m feeling down, the studio, my yoga practice and the beautiful yoga tradition I am so privileged to belong to. Those who know me will not be surprised to hear that I am also so grateful for books! This holiday, I offer you the beautiful, inspirational words of Swami Vivekananda that I read today:

Therefore, stand up, be bold, be strong. Take the whole responsibility on your shoulders, and know that you are the creator of your own destiny. All the strength and succour you want is within yourselves. Therefore, make your own future. “Let the dead past bury its dead.” The infinite future is before you, and you must always remember that each word, thought, and deed, lays up a store for you and that as the bad thoughts and bad works are ready to spring upon you like tigers, so also there is the inspiring hope that the good thoughts and good deeds are ready with the power of a hundred thousand angels to defend you always and for ever. From a lecture “The Cosmos: The Microcosm” delivered in New York on January 26, 1896.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

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You Are a Blessing

I do not know who to credit this image but it is fabulous!

It was my birthday recently but I am determined to celebrate every day of this month-not by boozing-up or eating cake every day but by taking care of myself and celebrating my life.

In the past, I’ve had little enthusiasm for my birthday. But, someone gave me some great advice last year that shook me–it changed my way of thinking and being.

She asked me “What are you doing to celebrate your birthday?” I gave my usual response…oh nothing really I don’t like to celebrate it very much.” (The fact was for some reason I always felt melancholy on my birthday.) She said to me “What happened to you? When did you stop celebrating your life?” That question hit me like a blow to the heart. Did I not appreciate my life…was I just floating by? As painful as it was, I knew the answer…

My husband committed suicide on Ash Wednesday in 2003. He did not seem depressed to me…he wasn’t lying around in bed moaning about the darkness and hopelessness of life. He was going to work and getting things done. I was oblivious to what was going on inside him. At that time, family doctors were giving out samples of “mood managing” pills with a “let’s see how this one works” approach. I don’t think they realized the damage they were doing in the constant stops and starts. I am sure this contributed to his instability. I didn’t even know he was taking anything until after he died.

I am sure he felt out of control. He did not ask me for help. He did not confide in me the depths of this overwhelm. Sure, he complained to me about this or that but never said he was in danger of committing this act. We had fun times, went on dates, he still did so much for me. The day before he died we took the little ones to see Barney Live (creepy dinosaur!) When we got home he ran me a bath and poured me a glass of wine. He took care of me. The next day we met at the Cathedral for the noon Ash Wednesday service. I took my daughter to art class, he went home and killed himself. Who knows why people do what they do.

It is so important to me now to help people find the tools they need to nourish their mind and heart. My grief (and my guru) led me to the study of Yoga and Ayurveda. I have learned so many things about myself and what I need to reduce my own pain and suffering. I do still suffer though…obviously. I have dark moments, dark days where I feel overwhelmed and exhausted. Some days it is harder to find light than others. This is the stuff of life. But despite the details, despite my depression, despite my anxiety, despite my PTSD from finding my husband’s body in the garage, despite my overwhelm there is a bottom line and here it is: It is a blessing to be a human being and to be alive...I am a Blessing! The details of your life may not be ideal. You may be suffering in health, finances, creativity, depression, sobriety, relationship…any number of things. But, your heart knows the truth of this bottom line. Say it to yourself over and over. Let it inspire you to keep going. Ask your Divine for help or direction if you need to but stay with the bottom line. There is a reason you are here. You are a blessing. Believe that.

Healing is Holistic

What is the number one therapy? Change your life. Oh, but how do we do that? If we have a goal of reducing stress, losing weight, reducing our depression or anxiety, we typically go through a process of mentally trying to figure it out, or we kick in our willpower and forge our way ahead. Unfortunately, using these methods, we run out of steam very quickly and fall back into old habits.

The sages of the East have long known that we are multifaceted beings. Specifically, in yoga philosophy, it is known that we have three bodies ( the gross body, the subtle body, and the causal body) and five layers or sheaths (the food sheath, the energy sheath, the mental/emotional sheath, the intelligence/discrimination sheath, and the bliss sheath). Sometimes, you will see the layers represented visually as a spiral. These sheaths intertwine and interconnect. To achieve our goals of health and well-being, we have to take care of each of these layers.

When I work with clients, I  assess, and bring attention to, all of the layers of their being to promote the desired result. For example, it is documented and scientifically validated that if one does not breathe deeply and diaphragmatically, there is a greater occurrence of anxiety. So sometimes, to treat anxiety, I need to teach clients how to breathe as well as modify their nutrition and provide tools to calm the nervous system.

Also, we are all different in our needs, and one method that works for one may not work for another. The treatment modalities of yoga therapy and Ayurveda are centered on the individual, not on the particular imbalance. This is why it is best to find a guide for your health and not simply grasp at answers that you find on social media or the Internet. Self-care means taking care of each layer of ourselves, constantly assessing how we can nourish ourselves.

The physical body, the outer-most layer, requires nutrition and lifestyle modifications that are specific to one’s physiology. The energetic layer requires breathwork training to keep the nervous system calm and less prone to episodes of fight or flight. The mental/emotional layer requires meditation, prayer, and study to understand the root of one’s state. Unfortunately, we are not taught how to manage our mental and emotional life. There is no class called “Acceptance 101” or “Managing Life 101.” We do try to manage the ebbs and flows, the highs and lows on our own, usually by using rationalizations or intellectual analysis, unfortunately, a lot of times in isolation. Finding healthy nourishment for the mind (mantra, affirmations, inspiration, loving community in which to share) is essential. Practices in developing one’s intuition help build internal trust and resilience, and we find a healthy level of discrimination from which to operate. Finally, connection to the spiritual, one’s concept of the Divine, helps to move through one’s daily struggles in a posture of surrender. It is very stressful to believe that we are alone in this world, solely responsible for ourselves, our happiness, and our well-being.

Once we understand our duty to all of the layers of our being, accepting the ebbs and flows with equilibrium and grace (a practice for sure!), then we become more compassionate with ourselves and the world.

Fortunately, the sciences of yoga and Ayurveda supply the tools we need on our journey of self-discovery. The purpose of these philosophies is to establish a way of living that removes pain and suffering so we can live in a state of joy.

If you are interested in working with me to find your joy and balance…shoot me an email at justina.namaste@gmail.com, and we’ll work together to find the best fit.

Thank you for your interest in my work and my blog.

Namaste.

 

Reading in Yoga

I am experiencing heartbreak today. I am sad, disappointed (in myself and other), and feeling generally like a failure. These tears are purifying me and letting this negativity pass through me. I know that (mind), but I’m trying to know that (heart). I am a sensitive person and easily overwhelmed with emotion sometimes it’s hard to see beyond the rush of feeling. Once I know, the pain is processed through, and my heart speaks up to remind me that I am on the right path, no matter how hard the road seems. ‘Don’t get so attached,’ it tells me. Remember we are all one and here fulfilling sacred contracts. Ok, I say, but for now, I’m going to sit with my sadness and disappointment and cry.

One of the ways my heart guides me is through books. Magically, a book will be presented for me to read (recommended by a friend or I’ll just randomly pick up and open to the “right” page), or a memory from something I’ve read will pop up to soothe my aches. Today I am thinking of Viktor Frankl, not because my pain is anything close to what he experienced (as if there were a pain scale) but more because I need to be reminded of a bigger purpose, a more expanded view of life.

Viktor Frankl was imprisoned in several concentration camps during WW II, Theresienstadt, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Kaufering, and Turkheim. His optimism in the face of unspeakable cruelty, constant abuse, and unimaginable hardship confirm the belief that once an individual finds a meaning for life, then any situation can be endured. He promises that “suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.” Frankl is not suggesting that we suffer unnecessarily–that would be masochistic–rather, we find meaning and purpose in our suffering.

Frankl practiced logotherapy, meaning-centered psychotherapy. The root logos is Greek for “meaning” or “will to meaning.” This therapeutic technique allows an individual to encounter and then reorient one’s life toward that meaning. In other words, once an individual finds his/her dharma, hopelessness and futility fade. Dharma is a Sanskrit word that means the role we are to play in life, our duties to perform. It is one of the four principle aims of human existence as illustrated in the ancient texts of Vedic philosophy. The other aims are artha (prosperity, wealth), kama (pleasure, self-gratification), and moksha (liberation). Dharma is a personal code of conduct that helps us secure our place in society and our path to liberation, and a successful life.

But, as Frankl asserts, “what matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.” This can only be determined by practices of constant self-inquiry and self-reflection. Be mindful of conformism, only performing actions because everyone else is doing it, or doing what other people want you to do (totalitarianism). The only remedy is to offer oneself in service to life. This means performing our actions with heartfelt love, for love itself, rather than any reward or recognition. He reminds us, too, that “human kindness can be found in all groups, even those which as a whole it would be easy to condemn.” We cannot discriminate, but treat everyone with love and respect as we perform our duties. This is the ancient wisdom of Yoga also.

One of the most important steps in discovering our meaning in Yoga is to practice self-inquiry (svadyaya in Sanskrit) and to acknowledge all the wonderful things you have accomplished. Perhaps you could create a “life resume.” What have you done that you are proud of? Then, ask yourself, what is mine to do going forward? You may need to ask this of yourself moment to moment. When confronted by a request of action, ask yourself, is this mine to do? Take a few moments to reflect and answer honestly yes or no. Look back at challenges and your “knee-jerk” responses, are they helpful or harmful? What patterns of behavior do you see in yourself? What patterns of thought?

Healthy mental tension (these acts of self-inquiry and self-dialogue) suspends an individual between what one is and what one is to become moment-by-moment. The confusion of “figuring out” what we are meant to do next is healthy. It helps us improve our discrimination in determining ours and not-ours. Surely, if we try to run from our responsibilities and what is ours to do, the karma will catch up to us sooner or later.

Practice right living, finding the meaning in your life moment to moment. Start by reading the book “Man’s Search for Meaning”…it may provide you with the inspiration that you need. Then maybe you too can remember it during challenging times so that you can be motivated to push on…fulfilling your Divine path and purpose.

         In a word each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible. Viktor Frankl