Happy New Year to you all!
The sunrise was magnificent over the Alberta prairie on this first morning of a brand new year. I got up extra early (not having attended any late night bashes!) and found myself sitting ever so peacefully in mindful meditation with a big smile on my face. Part of it was because of how happy I was to reflect on all of the positive changes in my life (in body, mind and spirit) that I have experienced this past year (the highlight being my yoga retreat in Spain, which you can read more about here); but, also, I found myself bathing in the wondrous melody of Daniell in the Sea, a truly ethereal and angelic lamentation of the human soul by the inspirational Icelandic duo artists Jónsi & Alex. To hear this awe-inspiring song, click on the link below:
As the New Year begins, I feel both excited (if you could see me, I’m grinning cheek to cheek) and also nervous (I have been guilty of overpreparing/overthinking as a litigator) about the path my journey will take in the days and weeks ahead. The Anahata Rising 200-hr Yoga Teacher Training at my home studio Bliss YogaSpa (click here for more info) begins in exactly two weeks’ time.
Being the nerd that I am, I of course went out and bought all of the required and recommended readings well in advance of the first day of training, and have dove head first into some of the required texts (see for ex. Self-observation by Professor Robert Moore, PhD (pen name Red Hawk) pictured at left – this book is MUST read in my view if at some point you wish to deepen your yoga practice).
This was probably not the best approach to take given day one has not yet even arrived and I already have a thousand questions about what I’m reading!
As such, I figure the better approach will be to record my reflections on these works as I go through the training with my learned instructors. I’m quite certain that what I think of the things that I’m reading about now will surely take a different trajectory as I apply them to my yoga practice.
You don’t know what you don’t know.
I decided also today to step outside of my comfort zone and try a hot vinyasa (for those who are wondering, vinyasa means to place your body in a special way) flow class with an instructor that I have never attended class with since I started practicing yoga 17 months ago. His name is Ricky Brennan.
I had heard many great things about Ricky from fellow colleagues in the yogi community – that he has a “gifted” yogi body, for example, and that he is known to offer his students very challenging poses even in a regular hot flow class – but I resisted for all these months thinking I was just not skilled enough to take his class. And so I never showed up to his class to see for myself if it was something I could handle.
You know what the funny thing is? We don’t know what we don’t know. Ricky is quite simply a marvellous and talented instructor. During this morning’s practice, my body felt unusually strong and unified in Ricky’s class. At times, I felt like I was light as feathers, and truly doing yoga as union. This is what my instructors have always instilled in me (i.e. with the discipline of practice comes lightness and strength). When I was focused solely on my breath, the physical asanas flowed almost naturally. All of the pranayama and asana training I had received this past year and a half from my principle instructors – Lindsey, Sheena, and Josh – had all seemed to jive in the moment and it felt like true bliss. And you know what else? I didn’t have to reach for my water bottle once in class. This was a first for me (and so a big deal), and it was another significant revelation in my yoga journey. Our mind-body connection is truly amazing. It continues to astound me each and every day I step on to my mat.
The other great thing about today is that I also learned several new asana poses which I would never have learned had I not got of bed this morning, put my ego aside, and registered for Ricky’s class. In the end, I couldn’t have been happier to have welcomed the New Year with a new instructor and fellow yogis itching to start of 2016 with a hot flow bang!
To Ricky, although you may not know it, thank you for the gift of your instruction and for challenging me in my practice this morning.
Although you may not know it, thank you…
As I write these words, I am drawn to the work 365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life based on the true story of lawyer-author John Kralik.
The central message of Mr. Kralik’s book is self-evident from its title. Here is a lawyer who finds himself at the depths of despair in his professional and personal life. He has lost virtually everything that is of worth to him, and finds himself on a hike on New Year’s Day that ultimately leads to a place of inward reflection and contemplation.
How have we not also, like Kralik, in our own journey, founds ourselves feeling hopeless in the sea of external chaos that surrounds us, seeking desperately to find answers from within?
For Mr. Kralik, the path out of his desperate situation was to turn inward – to recognize what he was grateful for, and to send a thank-you note each day for one whole year to a person who had delivered a gift of kindness to him.
Although Mr. Kralik does not refer to it in his book, his act of writing thank-you notes is yet another robust example of mindfulness in action. It is the act of present-moment attention and awareness in action. And it is a beautiful example that everyone should emulate.
Today, Mr. Kralik is a sitting judge of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, California. He credits his act of daily gratitude as having changed his life. I thank Judge Kralik for his inspiring book, and his example of mindfulness in action.
This year, I commit myself to undertaking a daily practice of gratitude for those who have blessed me with a gift of kindness.
Although you may not know it, thank you…
I hope that if you are inspired by this post that you might also make a similar commitment this year to honouring those who have blessed you in your life in some way.
In closing I offer the words of Thich Nhat Hanh who writes:
Reflections in the Heart
Everything – the trees, the wind, the birds, the mountains, everything inside us and around us – wants to reflect itself in us. We don’t have to go anywhere to obtain the truth. We only need to be still, and things will reveal themselves in the still water of our heart.
(Your True Home: The Everyday Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh)
I wish you abundant love, happiness, light and wonder as we embark on a new year ahead. May the energy of yin and yang guide and protect you, always.
The divine in me bows reverently to the divine in you, always.
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti. Peace Peace Peace.