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The Practice of Intention: Moving Out of Fear into Love

The Practice of Intention: Moving Out of Fear into Love

Today, I am inspired by the writings of John O’Donohue, who wrote,

Beauty dwells at the heart of life. If we can free ourselves from our robot-like habits of predictability, repetitions and function, we begin to walk differently on the earth. To bring consciousness of living into our everyday tasks is at the heart of living a soul existence.

I asked myself most days, “Laura Jane, is this learned or is this you?” I question if all my habits are ways to avoid living fearlessly. At the basis of my existence is human survival. I am in this body; and in this container, I am reminded that at some primal level of my existence, I am only a hunter and gatherer. I am food for the lion, and I must eat to live while alive.

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At this place is the food chain, I must be given the right to kill for food. Hunting, conquering and surviving is based on this human instinct. I will tell you there is no joy, nor happiness, nor peacefulness, when living in this state of mind. The truth: everything alive is dying and life is impermanent. Such a cheerful thought, one which we avoid discussing and accepting since this is the ego’s greatest fear.

I know my entire life is a series of actions running from this truth. My intention, or deepening desire, is to break open into a higher consciousness and move the mind of fear into thriving in love. I never take for granted how blessed I am to have the time, the energy, and the luxury to choose. In today’s world, most souls are just caught in the poverty of daily struggle for shelter, food, warmth and human kindness. It’s so difficult to be living in a world so rich and abundant, and yet so many are not able to share at the table. I am fully aware the gift to be able to sit and write these thoughts with the luxury of a full heart.

Another mass shooting this weekend. The cry of pain once again expressed through the rage of a gun. Once again the heart breaks for the victims, and then the voices rise up with the need to “defend”, as fear creates another justification for killing. The human instinct to fight back is wired into our nervous system. All throughout time, human beings have gathered into tribes of belonging in order to feel protected with a false sense of belonging to the same like-minded gang of support. Feeding anger is so easy. The challenge is shifting the habit of reaction (which only leads to justification for revenge) to thrive.  Thousands of years and humanity is still struggling with our primal fears. People building more war heads, more armor and more hatred as the reflex to cope with fear. 

 Do we really understand the word, love? Since the intellect is wired in our nervous system as fear, it takes great effort to move into something which has nothing to do with one’s instinct. Love has nothing to do with our intellect; it arises out of pure intelligence.  My teacher would say, our true intrinsic nature is love. The word itself is too small for the experience of being loved. Therefore to even write about it gives nothing to the essence of the experience.

The yoga tools of living the YAMAS and the NIYAMAS, the restraints and observances, offer a gateway into the path. Staying on it is a daily practice, and not without great desire to be really good at loving. This is my intention, and it brings me to my knees, because what I think is love is often my need to control, to manipulate and to push away what I don’t like for the pleasure of what I do like. I am always reminded that being really good at loving is messy, heartbreaking, and at times exhausting. It’s not glorious to be with a dying parent, navigating a divorce, leaving a home, letting go of a friendship, nor holding a space for differences in our divided world views. To disagree with others in my personal relationships does not give me permission to shame or reject anyone. Boundaries are not walls of separation, and sometimes offering acts of loving kindness might look unkind when we grow and change. Love arises from all directions allowing grace to move into the open space of the heart. 

The first Yama, Ahimsa,"thou shall not harm," is the gift of wisdom. When do I harm? When I am afraid. I am harmful in my thoughts and words when I use the habit of ego to tell me how unworthy I might be, or how I failed, or how I’m not ever good enough. A learned mind pushes me to move into false beliefs. I bite back when I’m tired, hungry and not feeling safe. When I am in my animal instinct for hunting, my tone can harm and my sarcastic wit can shame.

Satyam is to speak truth. Children learn to lie when they are afraid of being punished. We keep the habit when we continue to be afraid of speaking the truth. And not just outlaid but by keeping the inner lies to ourselves. They become the inner secrets of shame hidden in the deeper aspects of our learned personalities. To hide the truth is to become sneaky, often spinning the truth to avoid right action or change. How dangerous it is to learn to manipulate in order to hide our deeper fears of revealing the truth! 

Asteya means non-stealing. There is a motivation directing the little mind to take something that is not ours to have, and whether it be out of need or want, it stills arises from a fear of NOT having. Stealing from others whether it be someone’s dreams, hopes or creativity. It’s the patterns cultivated by envy, jealously or profound revenge. To steal is to create a world of distrust and dishonesty; and yet, we see everyday permission to cheat, lie, and steal to win the outcome.   

Brahmacarya, healthy boundaries—both inner and outer, is to live with the structure of inner integrity and use appropriate ways to express the values of self esteem with patience persistently. Reflect on how time might be spent in living a healthy lifestyle. Does procrastination or avoidance come into living? By seeking pleasure over choosing to take action in much needed tasks will only lead to suffering.  To make clear choices without being colored by habits of fear for taking the action or inaction is the highest good for all. 

Aparigarha, non-hoarding, is to clear out the mind of habits based on fear, doubt, and worry that prevents us living our best and most noble selves. To shine the inner light and not hold back on who we truly are. Our true self is not the basis of fear, but love, and wants to share this truth. We can look at greed, lust, and hoarding as a learned habit of the fear of not having. Lack, despair, and feeling of hopelessness over life’s hardships will prevent any letting go.  The mind will never trust an empty vessel that is shamed and made to feel guilty. To be able to receive the blessings of beauty in life, one must constantly clear out and clean the mind of false fear. The mind is tricky and will constantly be presented with the challenges to move beyond fear.  

Fear is wired into our nervous system and yet, to live free of this state is to embrace to tools of the Niyamas. The tools to move the mind into the heart.

Purify the mind and practice, “sauca.” Clear out the impurities of fear and replace with a daily commitment to bringing in Prana, the intelligence that rides on the breath. This intelligence is love! The vibration of the breath is the vehicle needed for life. Breathing is taken for granted and so we forget the value of learning deep exhales. Our bodies will not only survive, but our souls can now thrive. To feed and nourish our true selves, we must first clear out the old patterns of learned habits that keep me a prisoner to those false reactions. 

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Let’s practice the three tools of Tapas, Svadhaya, and Isvara-pranidhana. By making effort everyday to clear out our small thinking with observing the beauty in everyday life. Replacing our "robot like habits" with an deeper appreciation for the wonder of life in our daily tasks. Living the practice off our mats, everything takes on a greater purpose. No longer is the outcome our motivation. We are not linking to the fear but to the love of being alive. If we appreciate today, our bodies are breathing, our hearts are breaking open, and our thoughts are mindful of the moment. We are fully alert to what is being presented, the miracle of this life and living NOW. We might feel waves of sadness, grief, fatigue and joy at the same time.

I might have moments of doubt while writing this post, and yet Satosha is present as well. How blessed to be able to sit and share my deepest thoughts as I journey deeper inward and offer my heart. Love is not preaching, nor convincing, and my way is certainly not the only way to live. I have found that these tools are the best possible path for me to keep living fearlessly in beauty. I can be in grief today for the horrors of behaviors linked to fear and still choose to be the best expression of love. Today, I can appreciation the gift of these yoga tools by living them.  I accept being an on-going “work on progress” as I strive to be really good at loving today.

Phoenix Rising

Phoenix Rising

Again I am waking up at 3:00 am to the tossing and turning of my chatty mind reflecting on the memories of the past. Something deeper is stirring within me as a constant shaking to pay attention to the night’s secret language. Encouraging me to listen to my  heart’s longing to journey into new horizons. Something is changing in my life and its big.

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My one and only daughter is turning 18 in a few weeks and graduating from high school. She is going off to college, and her daily life under my roof is quickly shifting to a new frontier. She will be leaving for college in upstate NY, and I am terrified, thrilled, joyous and deeply saddened at the same time.

My heart is shouting,”I am ROOTING for YOU,” while my head is filled with the dread of letting go. I am human and aware of those mixed emotions. So I wake up to give myself permission to feel them all and not worry that my daily life is getting in the way of my desire to just BE with it all.

Why do I have to function when I want to just crawl into the woods and sit by my favorite tree and ask God, “ok, what’s next”?  How am I to move forward into this uncertainty of my future without the daily rituals of cooking dinners, watching basketball games, washing vast amounts dirty sports uniforms, and delighting in those small moments when she shares a special laughter on the many drives back and forth to school.

Now, I will be starting medicare as my daughter embarks on. her new journey.  I am being asked to surrender parenting her, as she would say, “like a fifth grader!”

The change is everywhere and I am a witness to the many stories everyday that are being presented in everyone’s lives. From the awakening in our country of the hidden shame of racism, to the angst of women’s voices needing to be heard, to the anger of bias opinions that our learned tribe holds rigid over the right to choose birth control or the ending of an unwanted pregnancy, to the constant fight to carry fire arms as a moral need.

Growing up in the 70’s was a time to embrace feminism knowing that the world was always going to make me somehow a second class citizen to the economics of my male colleague. I have always been clear that no one owns my soul, and maybe thats why today I struggle with the confusion of roles.

I am more than my role, my outer identity. Yet as I begin this new path, I feel like the structures are crumbling and the walls are shifting as I fall to the earth and ask, “who am I?” 

The yoga center has been my safety. My belongings exist in these rooms and my purpose was to commit to maintaining a home for all souls to grow and be seen beyond the outer identity of a body. Teaching yoga is my gift. Living yoga is my daily effort and practice as I struggle in my need to hold on to what I know is familiar.

Now I am being asked at those early morning wake up calls with the Divine to move into a new phase of sharing my heart and soul. I am being asked to risk and go into the confusion of not knowing anything!

Last week, I went through my own phoenix rising, as I watched the burning of Notre Dame. Like the long-lived bird in Greek mythology who cyclically regenerates and is born again. A phoenix obtains new life out of the ashes of its predecessor. Beginnings arise when the old is burned away and the purification becomes the new life at rebirth.

To witness the immense fire on that April evening was tragic, and I grieved with the world as we saw over 800 years of beauty in structure and form representing the lives of so many worshippers all around the world. I grieved the memory of all those who spent their entire life building the church with care and craftsmanship unlike anything we see today.

In the morning, however, I saw the remains of ash and empty spaces where the wall and roof once held the sacred artifacts of history. The outer beauty might have been destroyed, but the invisible beauty of its pure spirituality was revealed in that early morning light. The cross was left in the ash, and the stain glass window reflected the light of the morning sun.

God had room to breathe into the new expansive awakening of the true heart of Christ’s healing and love. Choir voices rang outside in the city’s streets, and the people cried, hugged, and grieved as if they all experienced the loss of something familiar.  The bittersweet of memory opened up to possibility, and the beauty of the human soul breaking open.

Sometimes, the beauty is felt in its most pure essence as the invisible. A collective embrace with the divine. April 15 would have been my parents 69th wedding anniversary. I had spent the day in reflection missing them and yet celebrating their sweet love affair. I remembered all the tragic events six years ago when bombings killed innocent runners and spectators at the Boston Marathon. I also remembered April 15 was the date Abraham Lincoln was shot, the date of the sinking of the Titanic, and our tax day.  

On this particular date, we also struggle with the great division in our landscape of moral compass when we either see our leaders as villains or victims, and long for the return of a collective hero. The news stories were full of April 15, as they were on the full moon of April 19 as a completion for Good Friday and Passover into the holy day of the Christian church of Easter as we again witness mass murder in Sri Lanka.

Yes, it has been a ride this month into the depth of humanity as a reminder of endings beget new beginnings.

I am reflecting on what is coming into my life now.  My necessary surrendering into a new role while I seek the courage to embrace unknown new adventures. Stepping into new experiences.  Fully letting go is the most love we can share, since the concept of "giving love" might imply a deeper need to get something in return.  

When I embrace the abundance of life in the fullness of love and light, then the intelligence of spirit flows through me, and I am reminded that love is all there is. The forms will change, the roles will change, my body will age, and yet my soul is more alive in the invisible space of this truth. I can feel the invisible embrace of beauty.  

Sometimes life will present our own internal fire of such deep purification that we, too, will rise up as the phoenix and expand our wings. Each new day is our beginning. Each day is a practice with the inner presence of being fully alive to all the creative, brilliant possibilities that await.

Embrace this mystery with curiosity and passion as the secret ingredients for staying in love. The breath is the invocation of life. May we be willing to accept change as a gift and a blessing. I am fully awake now and ready to say, “yes.”

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I extend the Celtic blessing for this season of change:
”May the light of your soul guide you.
May you see in what you do, the beauty of your own soul.
May you release within you wellsprings of refreshment, inspiration, and excitement.
May you be present with what you do.
May the day never burden.
May dawn find you awake and alert, approaching your new day with dreams, possibilities, and promises.
May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.
May your soul calm, console, and renew you.”

I love you Colby—go fly. Together let’s enter into this journey with wings. 

With love,
LJ

The Celestial Treat of Spring

The Celestial Treat of Spring

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Welcoming the return of Spring is a celestial treat for my soul. Right as the sun moves into her presentation of longer days on our side of the earth, the glorious full moon is holding her own precisely on the equinox. It is not very common for the solar and lunar calendars to converge and when they do, it is a sign of more synchronized moments to follow. It is an auspicious time to be celebrated.

This is the holding of pure balance between the opposites when dark and light, yin and yang are in perfect balance and harmony. Beginnings are once again presenting their gifts through nature as the life buds and the trees are regaining their garments, and the sounds of spring are awakening. We are witnessing what true miracles as the mystery of intelligence says I AM.

The next 30 days are a gateway for listening. A great time to redefine who you are, reinvent yourself, return to your body and decide what part of your personality or life you need to liberate in order to gain the gateway into your true self.

The ritual of Spring Cleaning is upon us. Our own divine inner self is calling to purify and let go of what is no longer serving the greater good.  Whatever has not been properly allowed to become conscious cannot be digested nor assimilated and therefore cannot be properly eliminated. We hold on to the past as a safety net of regrets covering our possibilities forward. Fear gives us hidden permission to stay stuck in our own muck! 

My teacher, Mr. TKV Desikachar, would say that the practice of yoga is 95% purification for 5% percent of awareness —that the tools of breath must be established for the lungs to help with the purifying the blood.

A breath of air is inhaled, and the oxygen from the air comes in contact with the impure blood through the thin walls of the blood vessels in the pulmonary capillaries. As oxygen comes in contact with the tissue, a form of combustion takes place. The blood takes up the oxygen and releases carbonic acid gas generated from the waste products which has been gathered up by the blood from all parts of the body.

Now the purified blood is assisted by the circulation of the heart. From the capillaries, the lymph of the blood exudes, bathes and nourishes the tissues of the body. The tissues take up the oxygen and leave the carbon dioxide. The impurities travel up the veins to the right side of the heart where the cycle begins again with every breath and heart beat.

Life is happening as the miracle of our intelligence. We take for granted the incredible working of our brilliant systems. However, the moment we consciously exhale longer and begin a slight pause after the exhale, well life has the assistance to flow in with a greater abundance of vital Heath. To actually begin a practice of breathing, we are in co-creation to our divine nature.

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But Spring is the time we are renewed with the magic of our inner wizard allowing us to wake up and connect to the miracle of life simply in saying YES. Go out, walk, and take in the beauty of the birth. Take in the fresh scent of life as we enter sweet April, which in ancient mystic teachings is considered the month of miracles.

In our hemisphere, spring means longer days and the birth of life. The full moon holds the female energy of going inward as the sun brings forth the male energy of action. The full moon equinox gives us the power to complete things we started in the past and could never muster the desire of will or energy to bring into fruition. Doors are now opening and opportunities are being presented with the return of this magical season.

I welcome Spring especially after this crazy winter polar vortex! The blessings bestowed are so appreciated as I continue our commitment to renewed health of mind, body and soul with the fires of enthusiasm at YAF as we take in another April fools day as God’s fool. That fateful beginning is the  comic joke of synchronized timing which never ceases to make me laugh. Having opened on April 1, 1998, I never doubt the pure fun of my inner mystic! 

I hope to inspire anyone that wants a deeper understanding of these ancient tools of living life with more joy to consider my teacher training that starts in September. It’s a way to go deeper and nourish that hidden unspoken place of longing to grow. It’s not the outcome, but the journey, and it’s a great opportunity for understanding how the tools of Yoga heal! The course is for those students who either want to explore teaching or just want their own practice to be more defined. Julie Pate and I will be hosting an information meeting and discussion on Saturday, May 4 from 1-2pm for those wanting to learn more. You can also visit teacher training on our website.


Blessings,
Laura Jane