Developing a daily yoga practice cultivates a new way of being, and creates new growth to the possibility of living a happier and more peaceful life.Read More
I was depressed, the time was very dark; two women who I am very close to reached out to me and said “do you want to go to yoga?” My first class was with Phil Urso, he put me in the middle of the room, I had no clue as to the cost or what I was stepping into, it was hot, I couldn’t breathe, help me escape from this, I wanted to run out of the room. Phil put me in child's pose, I spent a lot of time here praying “Dear God; please remove these thoughts” I began to pray for others and in that first class my head began to empty. In my first 90 minute class I found peace. After leaving I thought I need to go back so I went back the next day, body cramping all I could do after class is lay on the couch and hydrate, I fell in love. Yoga began to transform my thinking, my actions, my way of being, the person walking out after class was a different person than the one who walked in; this was just a start. I then found another yoga studio and met another Baptiste teacher, holy cow in this small town there are so many Baptiste teachers; I began to be curious. My teachers would talk about Baron this and Baron that... I wanted to find out more so I signed up for level one... in Hawaii.
Level 1 began the transformation process, it opened my eyes to a bigger picture, I found myself in a large group session clearing away the blocks, creating space for healing, in this group of 129 people here I was on the floor in a little ball crying. During this period I was very passionate; (obsessed) about yoga and what it was doing for my mind and body. I began to transform my thinking, my actions, I knew I wanted to share this possibility with others, but first I have some work to do.
The Work as I like to call it is through meditation, and inquiry, two of the Baptiste principles, Baron says in his 40 Days to a Personal Revolution "you can do yoga til your blue in the face and all that you will be is blue in the face" to transform you have to be willing to shift your whole way of being. I became an awesome ex-husband and defined my personal philosophy towards my former wife, When I married her I said "I loved her"; is love like the trash something that gets tossed out when it doesn't work out? I committed my life to her and just because we were divorced does not change the fact that she is the mother of my children, it does not change the fact that if she needs help am I going to turn my back on her? This little ditty of philosophy is the bomb, it has saved me from countless hours of confrontation and anguish; our two boys are rocking the world because of Baptiste Yoga and because they are important to me! Many men in the world could use this philosophy.
I chose Baptiste Yoga to learn how to forgive, it starts in my heart, how to be curious, compassionate, kind and generous. Learning about the yoga sutras and Hindu mythology has opened my moral world to do the next right thing, to take a stand for those who cannot be a stand for themselves and trust in God i.e. Universe. I found healing.
I chose Baptiste yoga to learn how to understand meditation, to accept meditation. For many years I tried to meditate, I stopped over and over because I thought I was not doing it "right", there is no wrong way to meditate. You sit. You get present to your body. Get present to your breath. Then you see how long you can maintain this connection, be the observer.
Meditation led me down the road of inquiry, being present to my thoughts I can connect to what I am afraid of, I can connect to what is important, I can begin to shift and transform. For those that have known me can see the transformation. Stirra Sukha, the hard and the soft, (I Like the soft).
Another great reason why I chose Baptiste Yoga is because of what it does to my body, I am 52 years old with a replaced hip and I am in the best shape of my life. Using the 40 Days to a Personal Revolution brought me front and center with my diet, this combined with a regular practice resulted in a 20lb weight reduction. There is some level of pain in my body when I do not practice regularly. Through the practice of Baptiste Yoga I am able to look myself in the mirror and accept the man looking back at me and I was finally able to empty my head into nothingness. I have dropped my story and am aware of the creative nature that comes up when a story is created and how the energy focused in this area will undermine my ability to share this with other and make a contribution to the world. Am I perfect, by no means but I strive for perfection, it’s good to have a goal.
If you are curious about Baptiste Yoga, or about transforming your life the hardest part is stepping forward. When the student is ready the teacher appears.
See you on the Mat.
One of the challenges we all face is the uncomfortableness of our decisions. I spent 30 or 40 years trying to please everyone and ended up insecure and unsure of who I was. As I embarked upon this journey of yoga my head was a mass of confusion and fear, which is strange as I had been studying the Course in Miracles, reading Ann Lamott, Maryanne Williamson, Thomas Merton, Sun Tzu in an attempt to find my path or to find myself. What I was missing is the true application of the readings as a compilation instead of each standing on their own. The human condition; my human condition seeks community, a belonging or acceptance and appreciation, I have felt this over time but it has been fleeting, coming and going. What's different now? I suppose we should go back to the beginning; in Hinduism the sanskrit word "Sanskara" is defined as the culmination of experience one has from birth to death. These experiences shape our lives and shape our minds. I grew up in a very reactive family, I didn't really like it; the reactiveness at a young age I began to pursue an escape never staying in one place long enough to allow anyone to get to know me. I took jobs that fed this desire to remain distant and I ended up alone, in retrospect I feel that the challenge I faced in my life was standing in the storm, dealing with the feelings and nurturing that inner confidence and trust of self. This inner confidence should not be confused with the EGO; on the contrary the EGO is what kept me from trusting, kept me from developing real relationships and essentially if I had a choice or say in the matter I would choose differently. I have dealt with this by using a rational view or understanding of my parents Sanskara's, or their experiences, their percents experiences dictated or defined who they are and how they responded to the world.
I was married in my mid thirties and divorced 12 years later, my wife gave birth to three boys, Michael, Liam and Jeremiah; unfortunately Jeremiah had Trisomy 18 and did not live. Many of you have heard me speak of my former wife and my two boys, you may have had the pleasure of meeting them. When I was experiencing the death of my marriage I was broken and damaged and was feeling totally unloveable, the time was very very dark! In that space I had no love for myself, I was giving up. You see "my story" from my Sanskara was this; I wasn't going to get married because I didn't want to experience divorce, I didn't want my kids to experience it and that which I dreaded most came front and center. I was born in 1963 in Bozeman Montana, my father I never knew because he and my mother divorced shortly after my birth. I have heard stories but in truth they are just that stories, without the experience of knowing him the stories never touched my heart. Some time after the divorce my mother moved to Utah and remarried; in part I think out of survival, the survival of her children. My stepfather was not a kind man, myself and my siblings were treated with a strict discipline. i remember my first trip to the "woodshed" it didn't contain wood but was a place where no one could hear my screams as I receive the lashings of my stepfather. My crime? This is unclear but it had something to do with a 5 year old's ability to discern the true from the false. I recall the words don't lie to me, tell me the truth, well I had no clarity on the truth and this began the doubting of my heart and cracked open the door of insecurity. While this is a reflection of the beginning for many years I fed this insecurity and lack of trust, I attribute it to self will or self reliance and more importantly lack of faith.
The Shift Hits the Fan
In 2011 I went to Hawaii oh how awesome, I had been practicing yoga for a short time and was diving into the deep end with my first Baptiste training. On the first night the Baptiste team had the large room set up and on the walls were many posters about Baptiste Yoga the one that stood out and resounds in my heart was "You Are A Concern for Looking Good". I meditated on this and thought about it for a long time, what it meant was a culmination of my whole life, how I lived in an attempt to do or say the perfect thing so that I would be accepted and that you would like me. Thus started the changes on the inside, it not always smooth sailing when you start to change, you no longer accept being treated poorly and you no longer accept the lie that we tell each other and you begin to look for the truth. The truth is this we are living one very short life, in this life if your intentions and attitudes are right minded you will find joy. If your concern is to ease the suffering of others, evolve as a human being and take a stand on who you are and what your a stand for you will find joy.
Joy and happiness come from the present moment, this moment where ever you are whatever you are doing be here in this moment.
Do the work find healing.
I am coming to the understanding of why I have lived my life like a stone in a river rolling along with the current and not really staying in one place for any extended period of time. This is unlike the water plants growing in the river; their roots holding them in place against the current even as the rains come and the river grows stronger the plants stay firmly rooted in place.
Unlike the plants and the stone; the mind is what causes me to stay on the move, it's the uncomfortableness of sitting; sitting with thoughts or feelings of worth, loneliness, sadness and grief. I began to look at this and realized when I had them and when I didn't, what I found is profound and enlightening. When I have a daily practice of meditation this can sometimes exacerbate the dilemma as my mind was I disciplined to question or be curious as to the truth behind the thoughts. The Truth meaning can it pass the same test that philosophers have posed around the universe and wether or not we are even real; for example Descartes stated "I think therefore I am" meaning if I can think then surely I exist; frequently my mind will have thoughts of what is this life all about my struggles with loneliness and depression. I really believe that perhaps I am not the only one who has thoughts like this. What is true and profound is that these thoughts pass, they don't stay around for long, unless I give them power and energy, then they are detrimental to my mental health. I have found that focusing awareness on the present moment, honoring the here and now, combined with a daily ritual; a walk, silent meditation or prayer these feelings do not come up or when they do they pass quickly.
For me this is my life's work, I have seen many people experience this similar experience and when we become curious about them and realize their origin (in our mind) we can then begin to get control over our thinking. The old adage holds true, right thinking leads to right action.
Trauma is any experience that causes pain, suffering or misery, says I. With great difficulty I am writing this piece, the difficult part is opening up to vulnerability, letting you see the real me and letting go of the concern of what you may think about it. My intention in sharing this is to give you strength, courage and perhaps pull at your heart strings just a little. I have been a rolling stone for many years; chasing the dollar while working for some great companies with good people. Last year I took a job in Danbury Ct and shortly after that cashed in my retirement to open a yoga studio. On the surface it may seem a little crazy but in reality it is a great way to get to know people and build a community. This is my intention behind the yoga studio.
Last week on a flight to British Columbia I watched "Monday's at Racine" this show put me in touch with the finite element of life, It also places me with a feeling of how I can impact the world with the remaining time I have left on the earth, this is what is finite; time. Often as I go about my life I find myself wrapped up in day to day activities, I work as a Project Manager, however; this is not how I want to be defined, instead I want to be known as the man who provides support and comfort to those who are suffering. Now I am not sure how I do this other than to avail myself to others by creating space to serve the community, the community being the world which I live. This takes energy, my energy and the energy of others, every moment we have the opportunity to create or co-create this energy. It can be as simple as eye contact, touch or smile, it can be helping our elders, volunteering at our hospitals, cancer recovery centers, homeless shelters, centers for battered women, reaching out to our military, or as simple as taking the time to listen.
We age every day, and every day new precious life is brought into the world, this is evolution. I turned 50 last year, around the same time I began to notice a pain in my hip. I have had a very active life style and have focused much of my attention on being active. The pain in my hip really never improved so I sought medical advice I went to an orthopedic specialist who x-rayed my hip and advised that I had arthritis. I continued my active lifestyle; practicing yoga, playing basketball; basketball was the worse; after playing I suffered greatly, as I tried to sleep I experienced tremendous sharp stabbing pain in my hip, I knew this was a bigger problem. I went to see my Primary Doctor (PCP) and what I wanted was an MRI or CT scan, after dealing with the insurance we received approval for the CT scan. The CT procedure was pretty simple, I requested a copy of the scan and googled "how to read a CT Scan" well this was not very fruitful impossible for me to know and to know I mean have the real knowledge of truth about what is going on. Dr Pelligrino my PCP read the results and told me I have severe Osteoarthritis. What came up for me was denial, not me, I am invincible, well my hip hasn't gotten any better. Then I thought I should go back to the orthopedic surgeon for his evaluation even perhaps get a few opinions. The result was the same.
Depression set in as the reality that I am going to need my hip replaced. I mask this really well, I don't want you to know I am suffering, I don't know how to ask for help; perhaps this post and every word that leaks out of my mouth is the plea for help. Yes I want your help, I want your love, it is this that scares the hell out of me as I don't know how to receive it.
You see I really know very few people here, and my pride stands in the way of asking for help. I really admire the family unity I see around me; I have some amazing yoga students and co-workers. I know in their hearts they do not want to see me suffer or anyone else for that matter. When I moved here. My finances were limited so I looked on craigslist for a place to live and met an amazing guy who is married to a sweet beautiful woman. Our friendship has grown, he helped me with the studio, and has been very supportive.
You see in my head I make myself lonely, while in reality it is far from the truth. This is where the idea comes in that I am not my thoughts (Byron Katy) I am much more than that and my heart is filled with gratitude. On April 29 I am having my hip replaced, I am very healthy and will heal fast. I want you to know this so that you can share what you are going through with others. It is through sharing that we help heal the world. I appreciate your love and support and look forward to teaching you yoga by May 15.
Why is a practice of yoga so important? Why is developing the discipline to maintain and continue your practice relevant? These questions should be asked by every person interested in finding out what yoga is all about. As we go through life we have experiences. If you are lucky these experience fill your heart with joy. If you are like say 95% of us your life is filled with ups and downs, struggles to understand the world we live in wondering if we are accepted and liked. Way too often, we are our biggest critic.
In order to answer these questions on why the practice is so important we need to get honest about why we are curious about Yoga in the first place. When I began practicing I was depressed, broken, damaged, and my mind was a whirl of how I would enact my revenge against the world for some ill perceive harms that were not even true. During my first class I emptied my head of all thought and began to tap into the power of prayer albeit in the pose of child as I was trying to regain my breath. What is funny about this story is I had been pursuing a life of peace and harmony since I was 24. It began when my life was spiralling out of control, as I started to turn it around I was introduced to a new way of living, stopping the heavy drinking, and dipping my proverbial toe into the pool of meditation and prayer. I never really trusted my own instincts or the guidance of my heart. I was trying to please others in order to be accepted or rather perceive that you liked me.
After finding yoga all of the pieces of my path began to come together like a puzzle; my teachings from studying the Course In Miracles, reading Marianne Williamson’s interpretation of this book combined with my own understanding of God created the space to trust in my inner guide or my Godlike Consciousness, all of the stories created in my head are based on fear, by trusting in the Universe or God I am able to see through that and find faith. Having finally discovered what I had been seeking all along I now had a fabulous kit of spiritual tools to help me formulate the way I was going to live my life.
I practice some form of yoga every day, it helps me stay connected to my body, grounded in my beliefs and most importantly helps me to trust that the Universe has a master plan. I also combine this with a daily meditation practice to develop this trust and as a result my life is less chaotic and I am equipped to face it head on. I should be clear that I still have episodes of anxiety and depression, but with the support of my yoga community, meditation and physical Asana, I am able to face these and create the space that allows this to move through me.
I often mention the idea of creating space – this is the effect of yoga through a practice of asana, the mind empties leaving the Yogi with the space necessary to shift the energy in his/her life to see what may be possible for you now. Yoga is a process. At first, yoga is totally new and exciting, and then the work begins; developing discipline to keep with the practice in order to create the space in your life is real work. It took me years to work through some stuff.
You hear that showing up is the hardest part. This is true but really the hardest part is admitting to yourself when you don’t want to show up, you do so anyway. Let go of the story, let go of reason; take a moment the next time you are in a packed yoga class, notice the energy, notice the feeling you have inside before and after class…then the next time you start feeling that you don’t want to go to yoga tap into the experience you noted in your psyche and head to the mat. Will this get me closer to perfection? You are already perfect. Will this save my marriage? Probably not but it will help you to be a supportive, loving ex who wants nothing more than the partner that you committed your life to, to be happy. Will yoga cure my financial difficulties? No, but you will be able to see the truth and be able to accept it.
When I fully trust that the universe has a grand plan only then can I be at peace. See you on the mat. Namaste
For more than 20 years I have been working my own acceptance of life as it happens. Can you believe that? Twenty years? One could say I should have mastered that feat by now. Perhaps I am one of the few, unique in my own neurosis that struggles trying to arrange all of the little pieces of theuniverse in a particular order that suits me. Mind you this order has to be precise and specific to my liking if one little piece is out of place watch out.
Can you identify with this idea? How do you respond to the world when you are threatened or percieve a threat to your personal well being or livelyhood? Do you scramble in an attempt to "fix-it" or do you sit with it and really "feel" what is happening. It is difficult sometimes to separate the thoughts of fear or percieved threat from what may be really happening because our constructs (the thoughts we create in our mind) may be slightly off center. You may have heard the terms "centered or grounded" both have differnent meanings but can be used as tools to we can pull out when life is slightly challenging.
First become centered, coming back to that safe place in your life where feel totally secure, this is a mental movement and not physical. Mentally through meditation come back maybe to the kitchen with your mother who just baked you cookies and is there to listen to your day, or perhaps it is with your partner who lying next to listens to your struggles and dreams while being wrapped together in a loving embrace, or perhaps it is an active discussion with someone you have 100% trust in, they have your back and you know it, you can open up to them about anything and you know they will support you without judgement.
Second, grounding. Grounding is becoming clear about what is true, identifying self-limiting beliefs and letting them go and getting present with your reality. To get grounded first you have to be willing to become centered, then you honor what is true. To honor what is true you take an honest, fearless look at your life as you know it, bounce that off of someone who really, truly knows you and ask for their feedback. Once you really know where you are, sit with that in peaceful meditation; I like to pray to God asking for the strength and courage to face the truth.
In my Yoga Practice the focus on Ujai breath brings this all together. For me it is a place where I totally empty my mind of all thought by bringing my inner focus on the breath which in turn creates space for sentering and grounding during quiet meditation. Most important in all of this is to come from an posture of willingness. Being willing to accept life as it happens, knowing that you will be okay. The truth for me is this; when have I never been okay? If you know me and know my story you know the answer.
Next up letting go.
Where have I been? With the studio opening and the juggling of a full time job, teacher schedules and community building I have neglected to write the words of wisdom that comes from my inner core. Last weekend I attended the Baptiste Art of Assisting facilitated by Paige Elenson of the Africa Yoga Project and Kiersten Mooney of Bala Vinyasa located in South Florida. Going to the training my intention was to check the box of assisting, I had been assisting in the classes I teach for a couple of years; what I received was so much more. With all Baptiste training's we start off practicing yoga, opening us up to possibility, meaning what is possible for me in this training? Interesting how this shifts on day three comparing back to day one, I left the training energized and wanting to share this energy with the world. The world being my community, my teachers, my students.
Facing the facts. We are all one. Sure we live separate lives, each of us has our own story, for some of us it defines us, it defines how we react or respond to life's events and experiences. What if you had the power inside of you to positively impact someone else's life? You do, we all do; the blocks created in our lives keep us from tapping into this energy. I have suffered, struggled and also lived an incredible life. I remember as a boy walking through fields exploring nature, stepping barefoot into muddy clay, floating down rivers and streams, I also remember the pain, the suffering that I experienced. I long not to remember or re-experience the pain and suffering but to let that go and heal. I long for the walk in the field with the child like sense of curiosity that reminds me how every experience is new. What opened up for me during this weekend was the idea that I could change the world using three tools at my disposal:
- Eye Contact
Notice in your body how you respond when someone smiles at you, now notice your response to touch and eye contact. I take a stand for contributing to the end of suffering in the world.