Monday, September 9, 2013

Pranayama: Breath Extension

The fourth limb of Patanjali’s eight-fold path is pranayama. Prana is often more simple translated at breath or energy.  Richard Freeman, is his book The Mirror of Yoga, states that prana can be more thoroughly understood to be “the substratum of all sensation, feeling, and thought, the medium through which all experience within the body presents itself.”  The word, ayama, means to not restrict or control – ‘a’ being a negation in the Sanskrit language and yama meaning restraint, as in the first limb of yoga. Together these words have come to be known as the set of breath extension techniques that affect the nervous system and subtle body in various way in order to prepare the body and mind for the inner limbs of  the yoga practice. Rather that elaborate on these varied breath practices and their effects, I’d like to focus on the breath as it relates to asana or posture practice.

There are many subdivisions of prana that describe the wide range of its movements and patterns inside the body, but two are the most important for our yoga practice, prana and apana.  Prana is the physical pattern of rising up, blossoming and spreading out. The prana pattern is associated with the inhalation and is said to dwell at the core of the heart, or the anahata chakra. Note that the word prana is used to describe both the pattern of the inhaling breath as well as the general idea of the breath.  Prana’s direct opposite is apana, the pattern of downward, inward and rooting movement in the body.  The apana pattern is said to live in the muladhara chakra, which is located in the center of the pelvic floor.  If you imagine a tree you can envision the joining of an expansive pattern with a grounding pattern.  As with the tree, these patterns are intimately linked – without the stability and nourishment the roots provide the expansion at the top of the tree would not be possible, and without this expansion there is not point in rooting.  They are like two lovers – yin and yang in the Chinese Taoist system – each in the heart of the other.  We may separate them in our minds in order to think about and experience them, but ultimately they can never truly be separated. 

These patterns initiate and inform the movement and alignment of the body in asana in such subtle and obvious ways that the entire practice can come to be seen as one continuous pranayama practice.  The breath is constantly providing a ripple of sensation for the mind to observe to the extent that it becomes the internal organizing principal of asana, the foundational form of practice within hatha yoga.  For example, the transition into the first position of the sun salutation when arms sweep upward and outward mirrors the prana pattern while the second position expresses the apana pattern by moving down and into a standing forward fold.  On a deeper and more complex level, these patterns of breath inform the positioning of each and every one of the body’s joints in each and every posture. Further, each joint continually combines a different degree of prana and apana thereby balancing primary action with counteraction and making it non-static, constantly changing and dynamic experience. Freeman defines the underlying process of hatha yoga is to explore the relationship of the inhale and the exhale; to discover the root of apana in the prana, and the expansion of prana in the apana. We do this initially by uniting the ends of the breath through observing and cultivating opposite physiological patterns.  When we inhale and the blossoming pattern naturally dominates we allow the mind to drop down to the roots of the body and the breath. To use the example above, when inhaling into the first form of the sun salutation we concentrate on the perineum and beyond into the legs and feet, which our extensions of the pelvic floor.  In this way we remain connected to the earth rather than floating off into the mental projections inherent to the stimulation at the top of the inhale.  Then when we exhale into the second form of the sun salutation and the rooting pattern is naturally dominant, we allow our mind to remain in the center of the heart. In this way our heart stays open and we are not overwhelmed by the seriousness of the exhalation that quite naturally brings sensations of fear, anxiety, dissolution and death.  The breaths relationship to the movement of the shoulder join in reverse namaste (hands folded behind the heart in prayer position) is such that we may use the primary action of internal rotation (apana patern) to enter into the basic form of the upper arm bone but then the counteraction (external rotation) is applied to keep the heart open as we fold into parsvottanasna or pyramid pose. The learning curve is such that we may first discover and cling to one extreme end of the prana-apana continuum, then, in compensation we may grasp onto its opposite.  In time, though this back and forth continues, it lessens and brings about a sense of integration and balance.  Through consistent practice we may eventually experience physically how the intertwining of the two breathing patterns affect the entire structure of the body and mind. 

With the opening of the “yogic body” in asana practice we learn to consciously join the prana and apana patterns.  We are able to draw the essence of the apana pattern up through the central axis of the body while simultaneously pressing down on the prana pattern causing them to ignite in the roots of the navel. The movement of breath can be imagined as bright tubes opening up from one central channel into many branches that then return into a single tube within the core of the body.  In hatha yoga these tubes are referred to as nadis. Nadi means “little river.”  For most of us, our small rivers of breath and energy are all out of balnace. Some flow a little, some not at all and still others are flooding the system all the time. Different classical yogic texts refer to different numbers of nadis but all give special attention to the ida, pingala and sushusmna nadis.  The ida nadi is considered to be the moon channel, which is said to be cooling and calming and is accessible through the left nostril.  The pingala nadi is considered to be the sun channel, which is heating and energizing and is accessible through the right nostril. These two “side channels” are also associated with different states of mind and it is said that when you stimulate one of these two primary channels you experience characteristic moods or modes of thinking associated with the temperament of that side.  The sushumna nadi is the empty channel right in the center of the core of the body and can be accessed through the root of the palate. Anatomically, the root of the palate begins in the soft palate in the back of the roof of the mouth where the uvula hangs down.  He root is like a cup immediately underneath the pituitary gland.   Yogic texts describe a nendlessly extending flower called the sahasrara chakra, or the thousand-petaled lotus, originating at the root of the palate and opening through the crown of the head.  From the base of the sahasrara is the gateway to the central channel.  Here the three nadis, the central staff of the sushumna, the ida and the pingala from a caduceus.  Just like the wand of Hermes in Greek mythology, the two side channels wrap around the central staff so the two opposing qualities of the breath find their resolution and balance in the central axis.

The practice of yoga asana and pranayama prepare the body and mind for this resolution.  If you even have a glimpse of the uniting of the complementary principles of sun and moon, prana and apana, inhale and exhale, something begins to occur in the pelvic floor.  According to yoga theory, the two streams of breath are allowed to unite when the blockage, or kundalini, between them is removed.  The root of the word kunda is “coil” thus leading to the image of a coiled serpent lying asleep at the base of the spine where prana and apana are attempting to unite.  To again quote Richard Freeman, “pranayama could be explained as various techniques for breathing that consciously join prana and apana as a means for freeing the inner breath so that it can unfold into its true liberated state.”  When the goddess of prana is freed the inner breath, the kundalini, uncoils and stands up straight along the central channel.  In other words, the breath becomes still and is concentrated in the central channel, allowing the normal world-constructing and world-interpreting activities of the mind to temporarily suspended and the mind enters a state of pure awareness. Recall Yoga Sutra I.3 – yoga is the suspension of the fluctuations of consciousness (yogas-citta-vrtti-nirodhah).  In the context of asana practice we skillfully extend the length and smoothness of the inhale and exhale as we churn and wring out the body in order to allow the prana and apana to unite, flow easily into an unobstructed central channel so that deep levels of meditation or samadhi can arise. Because the image of the goddess standing upright in the base of the pelvis is so vivid and colorful it is important to remember that the process of yoga is really about the observation of what is and not the reduction of it to our theories or images of what we’d like it to be.  Internal imagery may help us to observe and experience the subtle and blatant effects of the breath but if we hold onto them too tightly we may miss the experience we are seeking all together.  So as a final metaphor for the breath, through our practice we must cultivate the razor’s edge of intelligence that occurs in the balance of discriminative awareness (inhalation) and complete non-attachment (exhalation) in order to see everything, just as it is, without the mind’s overlay of theories, preconceptions and expectations.  This is the yoga of action – on and off the mat.

This brief, and albeit superficial, description of pranayama is based primarily on my experience at Richard Freeman’s 2012 Teacher’s Intensive and my own personal experiences with asana and pranyama over the last ten years.  Richard’s book “The Mirror of Yoga” is highly recommended to anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the concepts presented above.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Santosha: Contentment

John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.”  A culture raised on the grass-is-greener principal, in a country indoctrinated in the church of hard work dogma, is it any wonder that while we hurriedly prepare for life’s next big event and advertisers magnify this sense of longing in us, the second niyama, santosha or contentment, is constantly just out of reach. Yoga reveals the path to the innate calm and abiding stillness that we are.

Patanjali states in Sutra 2.5, “Lacking self-awareness, one mistakes that which is impermanent, impure, distressing and empty of self for permanence, purity, happiness, and self.”  This ignorance weds us to a perpetual wheel of suffering.  We think we are free but in truth, we spend vast amounts of energy clinging to that which gives us pleasure and avoiding that which puts our pleasure at risk or we see as repulsive.  Further, we expect our preferences to be a source of eternal bliss yet their achievement is often anti-climatic or disappointing and, without much ado, we are off striving after the next “if only” key to supreme happiness. Yoga philosophy tells us that all things are inherently neutral.  The full spectrum of sensation, energy, emotion and thought are simply exquisite feedback mechanisms aiding us in our journey to become sensitive and effective caretakers of our being.  It is our personalized labels that color experiences in a way that makes them appealing or repulsive and keeps us spinning.  All this maneuvering between pleasure and avoidance shows up as the physically feeling of gripping in the body.  The first nine months of my relationship was long distance.  Each time my boyfriend and I would have the chance to see each other there was a simultaneous clinging to the joy of being together and a tense defense against the unpleasantness of our inevitable parting.  Seeking and avoiding are expensive uses of our energy that result in a failure to appreciate the moment.  Yoga Nidra teacher, Richard Miller, offers that in order to set energy free to experience the moment, we not only agree to ride life’s waves but we actively welcome them.  As Bob Marley put it, “Some people feel the rain.  Others just get wet.”  We can always trace our emotional disturbances back to ourselves and thus, we keep ourselves out of the contentment we so desperately seek. 

The 13th century mystic poet Jelaluddin Rumi expresses this coalescence of extremes:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.  I’ll meet you there. 

When the soul lies down in that grass,
The world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other doesn’t make any sense.

Finding and remaining in this place of equanimity is simple but not easy.  As with most things, it takes consistent practice over a long period of time. Each time we step onto the yoga mat we have an opportunity to cultivate contentment by genuinely listening to the many cues our body/mind offers and choosing to honor that feedback by modifying or intensifying the pose as appropriate.  This is done without comparison to what the pose looked like yesterday or in anticipation of what it will look like tomorrow. The balance of effort and ease in any given yoga posture is a constantly changing dance with the breath. Quoting the late master teacher Pattabhi Jois, “Yoga is an internal practice.  The rest is just a circus.”  An advanced practitioner hovers on the cusp of his or her intelligent edge of sensation - a place that is neither too much nor too little.

Contentment also requires a healthy dose of surrendering to the great many things in life that we cannot control.  There is a paradox to contentment: the more we seek it or need it to look a certain way, the more it eludes us.  It is easy to feel happy when life is going our way but what about when chaos abounds?  Discontentment is the illusion that there can be something else in the moment.  There isn’t.  The moment is complete exactly as it is.  The paradox of contentment allows us to appreciate what we have and to fall in love with our life.  Next time you are feeling bored, depressed or overwhelmed consider making a gratitude list.  Whether mental or hand-written, list everything for which you are grateful.  From the moon and stars to the shoes on your feet nothing is too small.  I have a gratitude jar.  In it are little reminders of life’s fullness that I will review at the year’s end.  Practicing gratitude cultivates the fertile soil for contentment to take root by keeping us centered in the joy and abundance of our life. Contentment is like a tall tree so rooted in the Earth no storm can topple it.   

Friday, March 8, 2013

Saucha: Cleanliness & Purity

Before we begin our study of the second limb of yoga, niyama (personal observances), let us review the five facets of the first limb of yoga, yama (universal observances). The yamas acknowledge that we are social creatures living in a world full of other life forms. The five yamas invite us to see past our individual needs in order to consider the needs of the collective. Ahmisa (non-violence) turns us from harming self and others through the cultivation of kindness and compassion.  Satya (truthfulness) turns us from lies and half-truths to expressing our individuality and authenticity.  Asteya (non-stealing) turns us from theft to developing new skills and abilities.  Brahmacharya (non-excess) turns us from greed to a balanced appreciation of pleasure and joy.  Aparigraha (non-hoarding) turns us from attachment to intimacy without possession. These five universal disciplines form an inner compass that guides us into harmony and right relationship with the universe and its inhabitants.   The niyamas on the other hand develops our relationship with ourselves by shifting attention from a social focus to an internal focus through the study of five personal observances.

The first niyama, is saucha. The saucha is a twofold process that includes cleanliness and purity.  Cleanliness is a process of external scrubbing that affects our outer appearance. Purification cleanses our insides and affects our internal essence.

Often external cleanliness is defined by environment.  Soil outside the yoga studio is Mother Earth’s magic; inside the studio its just plain dirt!  The four walls of the studio create a boundary that defines it as safe and sacred space devoted to self-inquiry and study.  Cleanliness might manifest as studio etiquette that includes anything from a pre-practice hygiene regimen to “propasana,” the mindful replacement of props after class.  

Yogic philosophy places great emphasis on both external cleanliness and internal purification. Saucha is important in the yoga tradition because a great energy lies, mostly dormant, within each one of us.  This is the energy of consciousness or True Self.  We have all felt glimpses of this energy and long to linger in the residue of its movement.  I call them “ah-ha” moments.  My teacher, Richard Freeman, refers to them as aesthetic experiences: moments when beauty captures us in wonder; moments when love and gratitude fills our eyes with tears; moments when a deep sense of knowing guides us from within; moments when life-force electrifies the body; moments when contentment fills us with ease and well-being.  Yoga students spend a lifetime searching for enlightenment when in fact it is always here waiting, slightly obscured, and just beneath the surface of a very dusty awareness. Making ourselves available for these moments of Truth, is the work of saucha.  As we cleanse ourselves from the heaviness and clutter of physical and mental toxins we gain clarity and increase our ability to meet each moment with integrity and freshness.

Yogis have developed many elaborate purification practices many of which seem bizarre and uncomfortable by today’s standards.  Fortunately other, more approachable, purification practices exist. Yoga asana (posture), pranayama (breath techniques), dhyana (meditation) and the following of an ethical system such as the yamas and niyamas purify our vessel physically, mentally, emotionally and energetically. Cleansing need not be weird and extreme.  It can be as simple as drinking more water and setting aside quite time to process unfinished business. Cleansing also means being transparent with ourselves.  It means we neither hide nor cling to our thoughts and feelings so we are able to witness the fullness of the moment by allowing it to be as it is.  In her book "The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga's Ethical Practice," Deborah Adele offers, “ (saucha) asks us to subtract the illusions we impose on the moment, it also asks us to gather ourselves together so that our whole Self shows up.” Ultimately, saucha invites us to make full and honest contact with the moment so there is nothing lost and no regrets.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Brahmacharya: Non-Excess

Brahmacharya: Non-Excess

The Yamas & the Niyamas are the foundational principles of all Yogic thought. Yoga is a philosophy of existence that extends beyond the physical postures that have facilitated its rise in mainstream repute. Yama is the first limb of Patanjali’s Eight Fold Path of Yoga. The Sanskrit word Yama literally translates as “restraints.” In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali details five universal Yamas: non-violence (ahmisa), truthfulness (satya), non-stealing (asteya), non-excess (brahmacharya) and non-possessiveness (aparigraha). Over the course of the last three months Mountain Yoga has explored three of the five Yamas. This brings us to the fourth jewel, brahmacharya. Brahma is the Sanskrit word for Creative Force or God. Charya means, “to follow.” Though brahmacharya is classically interpreted to mean celibacy or abstinence, it has been secularized for today’s modern practitioner and is often understood as moderation. Yet the practice of non-excess can also be seen in an expansive light that invites us to welcome the sacredness of all life through a careful attendance to each moment as holy, and this dear ones, includes our sexuality.

We live in a culture of excess. We overdo food, work, sex, entertainment, material possessions and exercise. Not to call anyone lazy but some of us even overdo relaxatio. Why do we continually move beyond the place of contentment into excess? Yogic thought tells us that it is because our mind has an emotional investment in certain foods or activities. As we begin to become more aware of the ways in which we indulge in excess, it is important to discern the difference between what the body truly needs and the story the mind is telling us. In her book “The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice,” Deborah Adele shares:

“We are on this world, in part, to feel enjoyment and pleasure. If we are in pleasure and not addiction, we are practicing brahmacharya. If we are feeding our mental stories and have moved past bodily comfort, we are in addiction and out of harmony with this guideline….Non-excess is not about non-enjoyment. The questions before us are: Are you eating the food, or is the food eating you? Are you doing the activity, or is the activity doing you?”

A discussion of brahmacharya wouldn’t be complete without some mention of its implications on sexual energy. Someone once shared a definition of brahmacharya that stuck with me, though the person’s name did not. This person said that in practicing the first three Yamas – non-violence, truthfulness and non-stealing - within our sexual relations we, by default, practice brahmacharya. This definition is particularly relevant when considered within the framework of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. The Yoga Sutras are a series of 196 terse aphorisms that define the method and ultimate aims of Yoga. Sutra means thread. The Yoga Sutra is a carefully woven and masterful tapestry in which no word is superfluous and each thread relies upon the previous. The order in which the Yamas appear in the Yoga Sutra therefore holds significance just as kleshas (afflictions) appear in geniuses order; ignorance (adviya) being the field in which all other root obstructions grow. I digress but I hope you will humor me and give this idea some consideration.

If we find ourselves living in the throws of addiction in any facet of our life, a period of fasting or celibacy can be very useful in returning to a place of balance. These practices are powerful tools that pull in the reins, cultivate contentment and help us to regain our center. We have all, at some point or another, moved beyond the line of bodily satisfaction and discovered lethargy. That’s the thing about overindulgence; it smothers our life force like too many logs on a fire. Practicing non-excess preserves the life force within us so we may live with clarity and purity.

Brahmacharya beckons us to acknowledge the sanctity of all life and the interconnectedness of all beings. It invites us to open to the magic and fullness of each and every moment. When every task, no matter how mundane or familiar, becomes an opportunity to be amazed an avenue for gratitude is created. With an attitude of gratitude, there is no need for excess. At times, I struggle with a nagging sense of dullness that leaves me feeling sad and afraid. Deborah Adele suggests that this is a result of maintaining too fast a pace for too long. I concur. In my world this pace eventually results in living life on autopilot. She also states that we wear our busyness like a badge and go to bed with a sense of accomplishment because we checked a lot of things off our task list. “The ego likes to feel important, and it doesn’t feel very important when I am resting.” Deborah has me pegged. The desire to get comfortable in the uncomfortable place of stillness was one of the promises that first drew me to Yoga. Though I have learned to sit in silence, honor my limits and make time for the spaciousness of Mother Nature, I am still a recovering Type-A Personality. As I write these words, I can’t help but be amused and honored by how the process of Yoga continues to stealthily grant me opportunities (i.e. writing about non-excess) for self-inquiry and growth.

Brahmacharya reminds us that we are embodied to serve the world with our passion and that that vitality is best cultivated through moderation, not excess. In the words of Howard Thurman, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Friday, January 4, 2013

2012 Body Prayer Playlist

2012 Body Prayer Playlist

 1). Om ~ Jane Winther ~ Mantra

2). Prana (Sahana Vavatu) ~ Shiva Rea Yoga Rhythms 

3). Invocation ~ Ty Burhoe, Krishna Das, Manorama, John Friend & Amy Ippoliti 

4). Guide My Way (Om Asatoma)  ~ Steve Gold ~ Let Your Heart Be Known 

5). Somewhere Over the Rainbow ~ Israel Kamakawiwo'ole ~ Alone in IZ World 

6). Imagine ~ Eva Cassidy ~ Imagine 

7). Orange Sky ~ Alexi Murdoch ~ Time Without Consqeuence 

8). Beloved Rafe Pearlman ~ Live From "Church"
9). Long Time Sun ~ Snatam Kaur ~ Grace 

10). Be the Change (Niraj Chag's Swaraj Mix) ~ MC Yogi ~ Elephant Power 

11). Om Namah Shivaya (feat. Bhagavan Das) ~ MC Yogi ~ Elephant Power
12). Across the Universe ~ Rafe Pearlman ~ Live From "Church" 

13.) Om Namah Shivaya (Bigger Mix) ~ Steve Gold ~ So Much Magnificence 

14). Night Mantra ~ Renee & Jeremy ~ It's a Big World 

15). Exploded into Love ~ Bob Schneider ~ Lonelyland 

16). All is Full of Love (strings) ~ Bjork ~ All is Full of Love 

17). Sea of Love ~ Cat Power ~ The Covers Record 

18). Ganesh Under Moonlight ~ David Newman ~ Stars 

19). Bija Mantras: Watering the Seeds ~ Ben Leinbach & Jai Uttal ~ Loveland 

20). Balance ~ Benjy Wertheimer ~ Voice of the Esraj
 21) Shanti (Peace Out) ~ MC Yogi ~ Elephant Power 


1/1/2012 Body Prayer Themes & Readings


The Opening of Eyes by David Whyte 

That day I saw beneath dark clouds 

The passing light over the water, 

And I knew then, as I had before, 

Life is no passing memory of what has been 

Nor the remaining pages of a great book 

Waiting to be read. 

It is the opening of eyes long closed 

It is the vision of far off things seen for the silence they hold 

It is the heart speaking out loud 

Into the clear air 

After years of secret conversing. 

It is Moses in the desert, 

Fallen to his knees before the lit bush. 

It is the man 

Throwing off his shoes as if to enter heaven 

Finding himself astonished - 

Opened at last, 

Fallen in love with solid ground. 

Buoyancy by Rumi 

Love has taken away my practices 

and filled me with poetry. 

I tried to keep quietly repeating, 

“No strength but yours,”

but I couldn't. 

I had to clap and sing. 

I used to be respectable and chaste and stable, 

but who can stand in this strong wind 

and remember those things? 

A mountain keeps an echo deep inside itself. 

That's how I hold your voice. 

I am scrap wood thrown in your fire, 

and quickly reduced to smoke. 

I saw you and became empty. 

This emptiness, more beautiful than existence, 

it obliterates existence, and yet when it comes, 

existence thrives and creates more existence! 

The sky is blue. The world is a blind man 

squatting on the road. 

But whoever sees your emptiness 

sees beyond blue and beyond the blind man. 

A great soul hides like Muhammad, or Jesus, 

moving through a crowd in a city 

where no one knows him. 

To praise is to praise 

how one surrenders 

to the emptiness. 

To praise the sun is to praise your own eyes. 

Praise, the ocean. What we say, a little ship. 

So the sea-journey goes on, and who knows where! 

Just to be held by the ocean is the best luck 

we could have. It's a total waking up! 

Why should we grieve that we've been sleeping? 

It doesn't matter how long we've been unconscious. 

We're groggy, but let the guilt go. 

Feel the motions of tenderness 

around you, the buoyancy.


The Wild Geese by Mary Oliver 

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. 

Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again. 

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things. 

Swim With The Tide
Except from ‘Go In and In’ by Danna Faulds 

Let go of the ways you thought life would unfold;
the holding of plans, or dreams or expectations – let it all go.
Save your strength to swim with the tide.
The Choice to fight what is here before you now will only result in struggle, fear, and desperate attempts to flee from the very energy you long for.
Let go.
Let it all go and flow with grace that washes through your days whether you receive it gently or with all your quills raised to defend against invaders.
Take this on faith: The mind may never find the explanations that it seeks, but you will move forward nonetheless.
Let go, and the wave’s crest will carry you to unknown shores, beyond your wildest dreams or destinations.
Let it all go and find the place of rest, and peace and certain transformation. 

Let Your Heart Open Gently 
Excerpt from 'Journey into the Heart’ by Melody Beattie 

Let your heart open – gently, safely, surely and certainly.
Do not let others decide when or even if you will open your heart, when or if you will embrace love. Those choices are too big, too important to let others make for you. Only you can decide when and how. There was a time when it wasn’t safe to open your heart. Pain was all around you. You were not equipped to be that open. That time is passed. You have learned. You have grown. You have learned that you are a loving being. You know now that your love comes from within you. It is safe to open your heart. The universe awaits, ready, willing, delighted to be able to help you open, the same way it aids the opening of a flower with the sun, the rain, the earth. To deny your power and ability to love is to deny joy. To deny your loving essence is to deny yourself, and the Divine within you. Look around. It is not your location that makes you safe. It’s where you are in your soul, mind and your heart. That place is good. That place is safe. Open your heart. Embrace life. Go joyfully on your way. 


Love Is Who You Are 
Excerpt from Until Today by Iyanla Vanzant 

Love is who you are. How you see yourself, how you treat yourself, how you express yourself is a direct reflection of your true beliefs about love. When you can be gentle and compassionate with yourself, you will feel love. When you can be non-judgmental about yourself, you will experience love. When you can trust yourself and tell yourself the truth, you will express love. When you can see and celebrate your worth, value, and your beauty as a divine expression of life, you will be love. 

Love is the cooperative, harmonizing, accepting, forgiving, essence of your soul. Love does not give up. Love does not demand what it does not have. Love doesn’t force itself on others in order to feel better about itself. Love doesn’t attack to avenge itself. Love does not withhold itself. When we learn to see ourselves as love and to be present with others in loving ways, love will be anchored in our consciousness and on the planet. 

Until today, you may have been trying to figure out what love is and how to find it in your life. Just for today, be aware and accept yourself as an expression and example of the love you are seeking. 

Recognize Your Strengths
Author Unkown 

A water bearer in China had two large pots hung on the ends of a pole, which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it; the other was perfect. 

At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the perfect pot would always be full of water, but the cracked pot would arrive only half full. For two and a half years this went on every day, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots of water to his house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. 

After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, the cracked pot spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to the house.” 

The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always know about your flaw, so I planted seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.”


Our Deepest Fear by Marianne Williamson 

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. 

We ask ourselves, who am I
to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be? 

You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened
about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure
around you.
We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is
within us. 

It is not just in some of us, it is in everyone.
And as we let our light shine,
we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. 

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence
automatically liberates others. 

Life Loves You 
Excerpt from the book, ‘Until Today’ by Iyanla Vanzant

Listen Carefully, as if someone were whispering into your soul. There is something you must know. It is very important, no, imperative that you receive these words into the core of your being. These words are essential to your very existence. They will feed, nurture, and nourish you. They will support, assist and guide you. When all else fails, these words will give you the strength and courage you need to weather the storm and walk through the fire. These are simple words, yet they are powerful, if you can accept them in the spirit in which they are given, you will be blessed. Receive these words— LIFE LOVES YOU!
Life loves you enough to live as you, to breathe through you, to express itself as you. Life loves you so much, it does everything in its power to stay in you, to be with you and to allow you to depend on it. Life is, at this very moment, totally and absolutely in love with you! Life wants to look like you, be like you, live as you because it respects and honors all that you are.
When life sees you coming, it gets excited! It can hardly contain itself! Life is ready to fill you up, spill over through you and experience the best it has to offer you, as you. If you were to ask life what it is about you that makes you so lovable  the answer would be simple. You are alive! That is all it takes to make you loved, loving, lovable. Now isn’t that good to know that you are loved?
Until today, you may not have realized just how much life loves you. You may have believed that life was not on your side. Just for today, be devoted to honoring, cherishing and enjoying life’s love for you. Sit silently and ask life to fill you with its love. 


Giving Up Is Not An Option 
Excerpt ‘Journey into the Heart’ by Melody Beattie 

Somehow, in the midst of what seems to be the worst possible thing that could happen, you must find the strength that you need to persevere. You must develop the courage that will be required to take the next step. You must face the challenge eyeball-to-eyeball in order to realize that challenge comes to make you, not break you. Losing a job, home loved one can be a devastating experience. Your challenge may be a child or family member who has gone astray. You could be faced with an unexpected change like a divorce or an illness. Whatever the challenge may be, it could rock you to the core. Somehow you must remember that you are up for the task. remember that you do have the strength. remember that you can trust life to give you the courage that is required to do anything or face anything. As painful or frightening as the difficulty may be, you will do what needs to be done because you have no other choice. Giving up in not an option. Give yourself a moment to take a breath. Allow everything that you are feeling and thinking to move through your body. The moment that you feel that you can’t take it or you won’t make it, reach down into the essence of your being. From that place pull out a scream. Then pull on your power, your strength, the divinity of life within you. Tell yourself, THIS IS GOING TO MAKE ME STRONGER. THIS IS GOING TO MAKE YOU WISER! This challenge, no mater what it is, have come to make you bigger, brighter, stronger, more loving and compassionate. It will not break you! Trust yourself. Trust life. You will make it through this. Until today, you may have been feeling as if you were about to break down. Just for today, call forth the strength, courage, wisdom, insight, power and love of the spirit of life. As that you be guided through the next minute, hour or day to a place of peace.

Be A Lighthouse 
Excerpt from ‘Until Today’ by Iyanla Vanzant 

At night, the ocean can be a huge, dark & scary place. When riding on the seas, you can never know for sure if the water will be calm or turbulent. You never know if you will drift off course, or run aground. That is why there are lighthouses. When ships lose their way, they are guided by the lighthouse. When there is trouble or danger at sea, you can seek refuge by the light of the lighthouse. In the midst of a storm the lighthouse will always guide the ships safely to shore. Best of all, there is always someone in the lighthouse. 

Be a lighthouse. Let your life be a shining symbol for others. Let everything you do be in service to someone. Stand tall in the knowledge of who you are. Stand proudly in the midst of difficult times. Be aware that who you are and what you have to offer can be a beacon to some lost soul. 

Be a lighthouse keeper. Be on the lookout for lost souls. Be alert to those who may be in need and have nowhere to go or no way to get there. Be a lighthouse to a child. Guide a child. Protect a child. You don’t have to say much. Just let the child know that you are there should a need arise. Be a lighthouse to an elder, someone who has traveled the sea of life, but now needs a little warmth and comfort –perhaps a cup of tea or some interesting conversation. Be a lighthouse to a young man or woman who has lost their footing or may be losing their direction in life. Remember, no matter what condition a wind-blown sailor reaches the lighthouse in, the keeper is always welcoming. The keeper always encourages. The keeper always has something on hand or knows what to do to get you up and sailing again. 

Until today, you may have been wondering how you can be of greater service to your family, your community or the world. Just for today, be the keeper of the lighthouse. 


Excerpt ‘Journey into the Heart’ by Melody Beattie 

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow. 

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was “thank you,” that would be enough.  
~ Meister Eckhart 

The miracle of gratitude is that it shifts your perception to such an extent that it changes the world you see. ~ Dr Robert Holden 

At times our light goes out and it is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. ~ Albert Schweitzer 

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~ John F Kennedy 

Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving. ~ Kahlil Gibran 

Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, ‘you owe me.’ Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky. ~ Hafiz 


The Journey 
Excerpt from “Journey into the Heart” by Melody Beattie 

You are opening up more and more. You are becoming clearer each day. Embrace the changes taking place. They are good. They will last. They will take you and your life to someplace you can’t fully imagine now because it’s so different from where you have been.
All will be changes. Your love, your life, your friends, your work. Your quiet moments and your times of sharing. Your playtime, Your rest time. Your attitude will change. Your ability to fully and joyfully experience your life will change. 

Things that used to bother you, hold you down, hold you back will easily roll off you. Problems that used to plague and pester you, making you feel weighted down, will be lifted easily. You will know and trust that the answers you need will come to you.
Your powers will increase. You will find yourself doing, knowing and feeling things that you thought only certain others could do. You will find yourself gliding through life in a way that brings you joy, and touches and heals others. 

You will laugh a lot. And yes, you will cry a lot too, because an open heart feels all it needs to feel. But you will not think twice about your emotions. You will feel them with the purity of a child and the wisdom of a sage. You will see, touch, taste, and feel life’s magic in a way you never imagined. You will love, and you will be loved and you will learn that it is all the same.
You are open now; more open than you’ve ever been. Trust the process and trust your heart. The journey is not in vain. Its purpose is to lead you to love.