An excerpt from the guide “Dynamic Language and Heart Opening Themes” on Danny Arguetty’s website: Nourish Your Light. When we, as teachers, use varied language, creative words, and clear instructions, there is a more complete quality to the practice at hand. Our language supports students in remaining more present to their own internal experience while […]
The other weekend in a yoga teacher training, we had a lovely woman guide our group in the basics of restorative yoga. At the end of the night, seeing my students in the sweet, post-practice daze, I tried to recall the last time I put my legs up the wall and covered my eyes with my lavender eye pillow. It had been a while.
Life as a yoga teacher can get busy. E-mails, cooking, writing, leading classes, planning, marketing, meeting with students, Facebook updates, and studying are only the beginning. Throw in social engagements, kids, community work, an additional job, and phone calls to loved ones, and there are simply not enough hours in the day.
“The beginner’s mind is the mind that faces life like a small child, full of curiosity, wonder, and amazement.”
At age 16, when I learned how to drive, my dad insisted that I start with a standard/stick shift. Although I had resistance at first, I warmed up to the idea and have been driving a standard ever since. I’ve owned my current car, a Honda Civic Hybrid, since 2004 and love its zippy yet eco-friendly nature. The other day, while backing out of a parking spot, I encountered a familiar problem: trying to put the stick shift into reverse was literally sticky. I usually take the gear to first then back toward reverse a few times and the problem clears up. I always assumed it was simply due to my car getting old but, as it tends to happen, a new lesson just was around the corner.
My friend Katie was in the car with me and advised that I let go of the clutch and then draw the stick shift back into reverse. It worked like a charm and I thought to myself, ‘Are you kidding me? I’ve been battling this #@** gear for years, and all I had to do was reset the clutch!?’ I was also thankful for the tip and thought about what a beautiful example it was of the benefits of employing a beginner’s open mindset.
In the early morning hours, when the sun creeps in and the symphonic sounds of nature begin their song, there is an air of potency. In a culture obsessed with fast pace and endless to-dos, we are gifted a spacious segment of time every 24 hours when we can choose to begin our day in tune with nature’s grace.
Breakfast—the sacred ritual of breaking the fast of the night cycle—is the perfect opportunity to commence the day with mindfulness and an open heart. Instead of the usual frantic rush of a meal eaten on the go, or with news in the background, or in the midst of a stressful conversation, what would shift for you if this meal was taken in quiet sanctuary? To come into the kitchen, feel the ground below, make the connection with food, and prepare the meal with intent? To sit and take a breath, feel the air above, and offer gratitude for seed, farmer, and cook? To chew one bite at a time, notice your internal dialogue, and make the choice to stay present? All of these inquires of awareness are ones I was introduced to at Kripalu back in 2003 when I started volunteering. Each morning meal at Kripalu is taken in silence: It’s a time to start the day in a mindful space of being.
Reflecting back on the last 10 years of my life, I smile in sweet remembrance on one particular incident that nudged me on a path I never imagined. In 2000, lost and confused, I went back to school to get my master’s degree. In one class, an off-the-wall yet brilliant professor pointed me in the direction of a mindfulness retreat, where I was introduced to seated-, walking-, eating-, and nature-based meditation techniques.
I wasn’t sure what awakened in me after the retreat, but I knew something had shifted. I was no longer satisfied by the surface-level elements that held value in my life. Worthiness from a car, self-love related to money, and constant thoughts of superiority were no longer feeding me in a sustainable way. I recognized what Rabbi Hillel encapsulates so beautifully in his quote, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am for myself only, what am I? And if not now, when?”
It is the practice of meditation, hatha yoga, and other contemplative methods that empowers me to step back, observe, and make more conscious, empowered, and nourishing decisions around what I think, feel, say and do in my life. In this process of stepping back and seeing more, I awakened to my interconnected nature with others as well as the natural world. Today, I find myself infatuated with our blue planet as I recognize that its health is the prerequisite that allows me to live the life I love.