Archive for January, 2014

So, here it is January 30, 2014.  Pretty darn near the end of the month.  Yes…my “month of good intentions”.  No, wait. It was “An Intentional Month”…I didn’t promise the intentions would be good! ;-).

I started out great.  As intentions are wont to do.  And then Life intervened.  And doesn’t it just??  How many times have you been on a roll, and suddenly Life intervenes.  There’s just no rhyme or reason.  Life happens.  Sometimes it knocks you for a loop.  That’s how I feel right now… knocked for a loop.  And in that fell swoop, my intentions collapsed.  My meditation practice ceased altogether…didn’t even enter my mind (no pun intended! LOL).  The cushions and yoga mat are still where I’d left them three weeks ago – spread out on the living room floor.  I ran twice in the past four weeks so now I’m really de-conditioned, to make matters worse.  I was completely unable to get up before 6:30 any given weekday morning, and I don’t recall having had breakfast at home before work any morning this month, as I’d intended to do.  And, I haven’t done yoga nidra more than twice this month, and those times were in the first week.

I have, though, done a fair bit of knitting…I’m not sure why that one prevailed, but I’m really happy it did!  I finished the second wrist warmer – Yay for me!  I haven’t sewn them up yet, so have no “finished project” pic to post, but I have renewed that intention and will do so this weekend.  I’ve also picked up another unfinished knitting project – a sweater I had begun a few years ago for a 2 year old who is now 5 years old…but I’m doing well with it and it’s progressing, albeit slowly.  It will just go to another 2 year old :-).

But, and perhaps this is the one that bothers me the most: my blogging suffered.  I had intended to blog three times per week.  That went right out the window!  I felt as though I had nothing to say.  Maybe because I tend to only want to express myself when things are good?  I don’t know.  Did I simply “reset the thermostat”?  Restore the status quo?  Did I allow my vikalpa to take over, thereby ensuring I would not manifest my sankalpa, the affirmation I’d written that will allow me to fulfill my dharma code, my life’s purpose?  Could be.

One thing led to another with no active input from me.  I wanted to be like a tree in a storm, bending gracefully and going with the flow whichever way the winds blew.  But I really think I am more like a rock – landing with a thud and losing my momentum in the process.  I know that if I continue to sit here, feeling bruised, nothing will happen.  I won’t move forward, and I can’t depend on someone else to move me.  I’ve got to have faith that the winds of change will blow softly upon me once again, and I’ll find the requisite inner strength to push myself up from where I landed, bruises and all, and carry on.  I don’t particularly feel that wind billowing around me at the moment.  I’m confident it’s in the air though, heading my way.  It’s never failed me yet, faith.  It’s just that sometimes we have to dig a little deeper to find it. 

So tonight I blog despite not feeling that I have anything worthwhile to say.  Other than this:  sometimes, intentions are all we have.  I see them as faith, as the sankalpa – the affirmation of my highest truth that enables me to live, to prosper, and fulfill my dharma code.  The sankalpa is – it’s not a wish, or a resolution.  And nope, it’s not an intention.  It sure isn’t a month of intentions, at least not this month’s.  It is a statement of a deeply held fact.  Which means that no matter what winds buffet about me, my foundation doesn’t have to crumble…because it’s solid, and it’s been there holding me up all along.  And I’ve been buffeted about before.

What I will do then, because “right action” is required, is re-align myself with the four desires:  purpose, happiness, prosperity, and freedom.  And know that once I am out of the loop I was knocked for, however shaky I may feel my foundation will support me.  And I will take deep breaths, meditate a time or two and, like those unfinished knitting projects, pick up from where I left off.  I will brush off the cobwebs that grew around my intentions, knowing the intentions are still there, waiting for me. 

Just because we haven’t finished something, doesn’t mean we failed.  We only fail when we never pick it up again. 


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It’s Jan 7, the eighth day of my intentional month.  Just over one week.  How am I doing?  Not bad.  I meditated for the first four days in a row; I did the yoga nidra three times; I blogged twice, and I knit twice. Check, check, check, and check.

I’d also signed up for Yoga International’s 7-day Challenge:  Overcoming the Five Universal Obstacles, with Amy Pearce-Hayden – this is a daily challenge in which you learn about the five kleshas (obstacles): fear (anxiety/worry), false-identity (ego/self-judgement), attachment (expectation), aversion (resistance), and ignorance (judgement of others) — afflictions that Amy says are “the keepers of our happiness.”  Each day I received an email with a video describing a klesha, and I was to reflect on it and become aware of when it presented itself throughout my day…as they invariably will!  I learned a lot about myself from this, in particular that the two areas that presented themselves most frequently were resistance and false-identity.  I’m sure the frequency of these changes at various times throughout one’s life, and it’s probably possible to experience more than one of them simultaneously.  It was easy to see that they are all part of me, and refreshing to note and observe them without judging myself for them.  Now that I am aware of them and how they affect me, I can’t return to that state of not knowing about them.  I like that.  There is something freeing in being aware…it’s like an inner waking-up.

So what have I taken from this?  I realized that I do experience fear, I identify with things that are not “me”, I attach to outcomes and experiences, I resist what is, and I judge others.  I also don’t.  And now that I am aware, when I do these things I can observe them, and observe myself, and determine how to act in response to a situation rather than merely (and often on auto-pilot) react – it’s a much more empowering and compassionate approach!

I’m also still getting my head back into work mode as I return after a two-week holiday break.  I’m quite productive, and note I am bringing the results from my inner work with me – it’s making a difference to how I approach my work.  I feel more grounded than I had previously.

Italian classes resumed tonight – what a lot of fun we had this evening!  I’m so happy to be in this class.  There are just ten students, and it’s a group who have been meeting regularly for a few years so the atmosphere is inclusive and positive.  I was happy to see, when I did my “compiti” (homework) last night in preparation for today’s class, that I was able to write a full-page summary of a film, Pane e Tulipani (Bread and Tulips), in Italian, and it was fun!  Even though I was tired last night, I became energized from the homework.  I had been feeling tired prior to class tonight as well, but was energized when it ended, so much so that I thought in Italian all the way home!  That’s what Italian does for me. It’s a keeper.

The tiredness is just part of the return-to-work adjustment.  It will dissipate as the week progresses and my schedule becomes more routine.  I am also getting back to running after a month’s hiatus…ouch, I know!  That requires the absence of the kleshas, for sure:  no fear, as I get my ass out the door (or rather, when I get my ass out the door); non-resistance, to the reality that I am de-conditioned after a month; non-attachment, to the outcome; non-judgement, of myself; and non-ignorance, being aware of all of the above.

So, all is good.  And now, since I am being stared at really intently by a cat who has been trying to tell me for the past half hour that it is past our bedtime, I am hitting the “publish” button.  Blogging during week 2:  check.

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Resistance is futile, according to the Borg in Star Trek.  Sounds like intimidation, to me.  Or, knowing the principles of the Star Trek crew, in their case likely a challenge they’d be happy to meet!

Resistance implies a struggle.  Should I/shouldn’t I?  Do I want to, or not?  Push/pull.  Will I win, or will I lose?  The little child on the playground, bullied for their allowance or lunch money, quickly learned that resistance was futile unless they were prepared to be hurt.  Sometimes we love to give in and stop resisting, like with temptation – that first bite of a piece of decadent chocolate cake tastes almost sinfully good.  But often, after we’ve given in we feel guilty.  So we endured a mental battle with ourselves, and for what?  Giving in was only momentarily rewarding, and now we are left with a new mental battle as we attempt to deal with our guilt.  Or maybe it’s not guilt; maybe it’s just regret.  Or disappointment in ourselves.  None of which is a positive feeling, though.

I think that more often than not, all we need to do is just pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and try, try again.  The more we do that, the greater our chances of success.  And that’s the thing…I think we become too focused on whether we’ve succeeded (immediately, of course!) or failed.  Just because we didn’t do something 100% the first time, or even the fiftieth time we tried, doesn’t mean we failed, nor does it mean we are a failure.  I think the failure is in giving up completely.  The in-between attempts, well, that’s just learning!

We also resist good things.  We resist going to bed at a reasonable hour that would give us seven or eight hours’ sleep.  We resist the call of the alarm clock that tells us it’s time for our morning workout, convincing ourselves that an extra half hour of sleep is really what we need and we’ll make up the workout after work or in the evening.  How often do we follow-through on that?  Not often.  And aside from the disappointment in ourselves at, once again, not following-through on our promises to ourselves, now we’re also not enjoying that extra half hour of sleep because there is a mental battle going on in our head, interfering with that sleep we told ourselves we needed!  If we’re lucky enough to go back to sleep, though, there is bound to be regret when we do get up, over not having gone for the workout.  Or it will surface throughout the day, like when we find ourselves irritated for no apparent reason.  On reflection later, we’re saying “right, well, if I had just gotten up when the alarm went off and did the workout, this could have been avoided.”  But then we do it again, and again, and…

I’m interested in why I resist doing things I have told myself I want to do, like meditate.  I have meditated, so I know I am capable of doing it, I know how to do it, and I enjoy it.  So why hasn’t it become a daily practice?  Intellectually, I get that it doesn’t require much of my time…in the course of 24 hours, less 8 if I get the required sleep I need, and say 8 hours for my job, and 2 or 3 for daily travel, errands, meals, and 1 for exercise, 1 for pleasure like reading, that still gives me over 1 hour each day unaccounted for.  Meditation only takes ten or twenty minutes.  It’s certainly do-able.  But I somehow “forget” about it.  But with some things, like meditation, my spirit or soul keeps bringing it back to me.  I first meditated probably more than twenty years ago, and between then and now I’ve taken it up and put it back down a number of times.  I’ve taken classes, I’ve done a variety of meditations, and yet it hasn’t become a regular practice.  But something within me still wants me to do it, or else why would it keep presenting itself?

This is when I believe resistance IS futile.  Futile means “incapable of producing any useful result; pointless”.  My resisting meditating IS futile, because it does absolutely no good.  The desire or thought or wish, keeps coming back to me.  I’m not, therefore, giving in to it; rather I am hearing its message.  It’s a sign, and I haven’t been paying attention to it.  I’m going to honour that tug, and be open to it.  It’s not meant to be a struggle.  Meditation can only produce good or useful results.  Not that practitioners focus on the results, of course!  That would be making meditation a means to an end, which it is not.  It’s also not a goal to be reached, so there is no striving involved.  It just is.  I don’t actually have to DO anything…just show up.  Meditation will teach me what I need to know about it.  Each session is unique.  Having faith in the process really takes the weight off me for having to “do it right”, for instance.  Yes, there are some basic precepts, but it’s not like dancing where a foot placed incorrectly can lead to disaster.  There is no right or wrong way to sit, there is no right or wrong bench, cushion, pillow, or chair.  There is no right or wrong chant, if one chooses to chant.

It’s about tuning in, calming down, going quiet, being still.  It’s a relief!  It’s such a relief to do that…  Yet that is not to say it’s “relaxing”…it can be, but for the most part it’s not.  It’s a way of hearing one’s spirit speak, getting in touch with one’s heart.  Resistance to that?  On the contrary, I’m grateful for the persistence of my spirit to continue to knock on my door, and equally grateful for my having responded to it and now having established the intention of making meditation a daily practice.

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Happy New Year, 2014!  I haven’t made any resolutions per se; rather, I have set intentions.  There is a subtle difference between the two. I see resolutions as something arising from my mind or my ego, suggesting that something must change, that perhaps something is “wrong” or “lacking” either in my life or…within me.  Intentions, though, I see as stemming from my spirit or my soul.  Intentions are literally heart-felt.

I’ve set intentions for the month of January, and I will document here the process/progress I’ve outlined for myself.  Some intentions are to be done daily, others three times per week, and I will note how things go throughout the month, keeping flexible and adjusting as needed.  For instance, I am going to meditate daily.  The meditation practice is just that – practice – and I will start with a 10-minute guided meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  To me, meditation is not about tuning out, but rather about tuning in, and I do well with guided meditations as they help me focus on the breath; I don’t find the vocal component at all distracting, and often it can be soothing.  I have also meditated, in the past, with eyes softly focused on a candle and flute music playing in the background.  I have meditated in complete silence.  I’ve tried morning, evening, ten minutes, twenty minutes.  I’ve taken meditation classes.  My intention is to be open to the many ways of practicing meditation, and to keep consistent with it during January as I believe a full-month of practice will establish it within my life.  For now, ten minutes of guided meditation early in the morning before heading off to work will suit me very well, and I have the option on the CD to extend the practice by going directly into a second ten-minute session or to do a ten-minute standing yoga practice, or even a full body scan.  Three times per week minimum, I will practice yoga nidra (a practice of deep relaxation while fully awake, in corpse pose (lying down), as a way of reinforcing my intentions before sleep.

Another intention is to note my observations in this blog, three times per week minimum.  I could write daily, and had considered it; however, I don’t want my intentions to be “the thing I must do, or else!”  I want them to be achievable, and inspiring, not a regimented “chore”.  It feels…vulnerable…blogging to the world, or at least to the world wide web, for sure.  But I am in very good company :-).  I need to express myself in writing – that’s just a part of who I am – and I want to explore and expand it, hone my writing skills, and in the blogging world I will be in the company of many liked-minded writers.  It feels right.

This has all manifested through a personal/professional course I took recently at the university where I work, called Life on Purpose.  The program is based on the book The Four Desires:  Creating a Life of Purpose, Happiness, Prosperity, and Freedom by Rod Stryker, an American yoga and meditation teacher.  The opportunity to participate in the course came at just the right moment in my life, when I knew I wanted to explore “purpose”, namely my purpose, but wanted a teacher.  What’s the saying…”when the student is ready the teacher will appear” – it’s true!  I will write about the program in future blogs, as it has had a profound impact on me.  The course provided the basis for the follow-through I am now embarking upon, and I am grateful to the time I had during the Christmas holidays to research some of the aspects I wanted further information on, as well as for the time I had to reflect on the key areas.  I now have my dharma code (my soul’s unique purpose), am aware of my vikalpa (those deep beliefs that obstruct the attainment of one’s soul desires), and have established my sankalpa (my vow or intention to align my actions with my dharma code) – these are loose definitions and come from my “beginner’s mind”.

An Intentional Month is all of the above, and more, I hope!  It’s apropos of the start of a new year as well…timing is everything.

So, as I wrote on a social media site today, “May all your intentions be realized, and your inherent true nature guide your choices during this year.”

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