Saturday, August 20, 2011

A photo essay

There is a very sweet and beautiful photo essay about orphaned baby elephants in Kenya on National Geographic. Check it out here!

Friday, August 19, 2011

A willingness to ask for what you want

When it came to dinner tonight, on my evening home alone, I knew exactly what I wanted: Greasy chinese food, delivered to my door, cheap & easy. (Oh, and it was such a delicious indulgence. Thank you Hong Kong King in Salem, for your perfectly fatty crab rangoun and veggie lo mein.)

When it comes to what I want in life...well, that's a lot more difficult to pinpoint, now isn't it?

I came across this lovely article in August's Yoga Journal about having a more playful spirit. As someone who (just recently, hooray!) graduated from a 200-hour yoga teacher training specifically for teaching yoga to children, I completely believe it how important it is to play! Kids need it, and quite frankly, adults need it, too. We teachers-in-training were ALL too willing to play along with the games, crafts, and creativity involved in our practice-teaches to each other. We don't get many opportunities in grown-up life to be silly, to be creative, to giggle. For one reason, or 100 reasons, we've lost some of that child-like wonder that many of us enjoyed as children.

The article gave a few suggestions to bring wonder back into your life, like spending time with a child or an animal - watch how they play and discover the world again through their eyes. But another one really struck a chord with me. It said, "Instead of thinking about negative "what ifs," play the positive "What if" game. Ask yourself, "What if I get my dream job?" "What if I open deeply to love?" Let your dreams become reality by asking, "How could this get any better?" And live the answer!"

I find it so easy to spiral down a path of negative worry about the future...In thinking about becoming a School Psychologist in 2 short years, it is so easy for me to worry...What if I fail? What if I make a grave mistake? What if I am not successful? What if I end up hurting someone I am supposed to help?

I don't think I'm alone in this worry, especially after a few useful activities from our recent counseling class. But I find that it is easy for me to worry about other things too...Alex isn't home yet? And he didn't call? Oh my god, what if he got into a car accident?

Thankfully, yoga has taught me to nip that last one in the bud, so I usually tell myself- it's unlikely that he was in a car accident, and very likely that he forgot to charge his cell phone. Don't worry about it, until there is really something to worry about!

But I haven't quite been able to shut up all my fears just yet. And why is it that we don't often play the positive What If game? I think, as I've reached my mid-twenties, that we really, officially are not even close to being kids anymore. And when we were kids, we could say, I want to do X, Y, or Z "when I grow up," and no one said, "Well, gee, you're not real close to achieving that goal, are ya?" or "Wow, that's going to cost a lot of money" or "That's ambitious." Not that most people would actually say that to us now, I just feel like there is more of a deadline now. Before college, it was like all you had was time ahead of you. And now it's like, well, better get to "successful" before 30, because aren't you planning on having kids? I think it's mostly internal judgment, but there's also less obviously external judgment, in looks and eyebrow raises.

I think now, too, it's hard to play the positive what-if game for two reasons. 1) It takes real, hard work to achieve ambitious goals. And man, wouldn't I like to watch Gilmore Girls and knit all day? and 2) is that ever-persistent fear of failure. If I announce these dreams of mine, say them out loud, type them in black and white....then you and I will both know if I don't achieve them.

But this is so preposterous! I need to know what I want in order to get it! I need to ASK the universe, please, could I have some chinese food? before it will be delivered on my doorstep!

So what do I want? Lord knows, I'm still not sure. But I think I really would like to be a School Psychologist, and just maybe help some kids and parents and teachers. I'd really like to teach yoga to some kids, and give them a space where they can be safe and relaxed and maybe let go of all the craziness for a little while. I'd like to be happy. Next Saturday, when I teach a kids class at the Holistic Health Festival, I'd really like some people to take my business cards, look up my website, and maybe hire me for some paying teaching jobs! (Links to my in-progress website, coming soon!)

What do YOU want out of life? What's your positive What If question?

Friday, August 12, 2011

An overview of the chakras

When my teacher said we would be spending a day talking about chakras in our yoga teacher training, I anticipated that it was a topic I would feel somewhat skeptical about. I was just a little resistant to it before we began, because...well. Isn't this just some hippie hoo-ha? Chakra energy bodies don't show up on CAT scans, or in an autopsy. I didn't think they were "real."

But I was surprised at how much they resonated with me, after all.

The basic idea is that the body has 7 energy centers, or chakras, with the word "chakra" translating to "wheel," running in a line from our tailbones to the top of our heads along the spine. Each one is associated with an area of the body, a gland in the endocrine system, a color, and a more esoteric function that it represents.

Putting it very simply, they are:

1. Root - Red, Grounded-ness and security
2. Spleen - Orange, Emotions and desires
3. Stomach - Yellow, Personal power
4. Heart - Green, Love and compassion
5. Throat - Blue, Communication, speaking your truth while listening
6. Brow - Indigo, Intuition and creativity
7. Crown - Violet, Spirituality and higher self

(This chart is useful if you're interested in more info.)

I really like the concept of spinning energy, because really, we are made up of bundles of nerves and electrical activity in our bodies. Plus, everything seems to boil down to the concept of "balance" and "variety" for me. People are not simple creatures. We are complex beings with many interests and many parts of our personalities that, combined, make us who we are. And when one part of ourselves becomes too small or too large, it sort of throws us out of whack. We can't be ALL love and compassion, because otherwise we may not also be creating or speaking our own truths, or tapping into our spiritual selves. We can't be ALL spiritual, because otherwise we would be floating off in la-la land and forgetting to keep our feet grounded in the real world.

I also like that the chakras are usually associated with an affirmation, or a mantra. For example, for the root chakra, "I am safe and secure." This is another place where elephants come in for me! The elephant is associated with the root chakra typically, because it is such a heavy and grounded animal. It can be a good one for people like me to meditate on, because it can be so easy for my mind to spin out of control with anxious feelings. Thinking, I am as firmly grounded as an elephant, I am here, I am present, I am securely tethered to the earth - this can help calm down my tendency to worry about the future.

To reference Eat, Pray, Love again, the author mentions that Saint Teresa of Avila, a catholic in the 1500's, wrote of "union with god as a physical ascension of light through seven inner mansions of being." For some reason, the fact that other people, in other places, of other religions, also wrote about the concept of 7 places in the body that lead to an enlightenment of some kind, solidifies it for me. We can all have our own interpretation, our own metaphors, but there is something there. I believe there is, anyway.