Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Caring for your Soul

You have the need and the right to spend part of your life caring for your soul. It is not easy.
You have to resist the demands of the work-oriented, often defensive, element in your psyche that measures life only in terms of output - how much you produce - not in terms of the quality of your life experiences.
To be a soulful person means to go against all the pervasive, prove-yourself values of our culture and instead treasure what is unique and internal and valuable in yourself and your own personal evolution.

- Jean Shinoda Bolen

As we begin a new season, this quote is my mantra.  To care for, to cherish, to honor my soul…what brings me particular happiness. I recognize that it is not only about me and my happiness, yet I know that when I am taking time each day to nurture myself, to do the things that fill me up that I am more able to appreciate those qualities in others, more able to teach my children to nurture their own unique and individual souls, and hopefully inspire my students to do the same.

Let’s clarify this a little bit – the kind of happiness and entitlement I’m talking about here is not able to be earned.  It is intrinsically the birthright of each and every person.  It’s not the surface, physical, sensory (and therefore fleeting) pleasure of indulging what you want in each and every moment.  It’s doing deep soul searching for that which brings you profound and abiding contentment, what we call ananda in Sanskrit.  It’s the bliss that arises from doing your life’s work, not the fleeting gratification of pleasing the senses. 

Caring for your soul is the frosting of life – as Elizabeth Gilbert says: “what makes it amazing is its non-essentialism”. It’s like art: on a practical level art is basically useless. It is nonessential joy for the sake of joy, and yet it’s what makes life beautiful and worthy. It is not a need: not food, water, shelter, medicine, insurance, taxes, but it is what makes all of those things tolerable, and what makes life beautiful.  It is what enables you to do your J-O-B, pay your bills, keep your body healthy, and overcome the endless cycle of the day to day with joy and fulfillment. I’ll admit that what keeps me from doing this is that it often seems frivolous and indulgent to take time from work to do this soul work, yet when I’m not doing it, my work suffers because my life feels dull and uninspired.  I suffer because life turns from technicolor to black and white, and everything gets filtered through the mental prism of “doing” rather than “being”. 

Yoga gives us access to our soul – to the nonessential beauty that is who we are rather than what we do.  Yoga gives us access to the part of ourselves that is unapologetically content with who that person is.  So whether it is yoga, gardening, roller skating, painting, reading, hiking or any other pastime that is non-essential and yet essentially joyful, give yourself over to it without reservation for at least a few minutes every day.  Make sacred time for soul-care, and let the quality of your life experiences be the measure of your success.

On the Mat:
This week in my classes we worked first on connecting to the breath. In Hebrew the words for breath and soul are the same, so doing breath work is a portal into soul care.  In asana we worked on nurturing our hearts and souls through some backbending warm-ups, leading to pinca mayurasana (forearm balance), which requires our hearts to be cradled in the support of the shoulder blades and muscles between them.

For the Anusara junkies:
Open to Grace: How does the universe wish to move thru you today?  What does your soul desire? As you deepen your breath and awaken to your soul, let those desires fill you up.
Open to the ways your soul wishes to express itself.

Muscular Energy: Firm your muscles like a warm embrace, treasuring what is unique and valuable in yourself

Shoulder Loop: Plug the HABB and embrace/care for your heart as you feel the shoulder blades pull in towards the spine.
Muscles embracing/nurturing heart/soul, creating sacred space for the soul to dwell.

Organic Energy: Let your soul shine through your skin.
Let the inner beauty that is your true nature illuminate your pose from the inside out.

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