Tuesday, April 30, 2013

So Why Bother?

A few days ago, I was lying in bed just thinking about life. Thinking about what I chose to do with it, what I do differently from the majority of people out there, what I'm trying to work on both internally and externally. This one thought eeked its way into my head.

"Why do you even bother?"

I stopped and listened to that question. It felt like up until then, everything had been floating in bliss, searching their way through the ether of the universe and boosting me along. Then, the question popped into my head and it all dropped to the ground. Why do I bother being a vegetarian when almost everyone I know could care less, "likes meat too much," or thinks I'm a picky eater? Why do I bother with this spiritual journey, learning to be more mindful, and being more at peace with myself and others when they're all hollering at me and using me as target practice for their own misery? Why bother loving? It can fucking hurt sometimes. Why bother being there for people when you find yourself completely alone when you need company the most?

Why bother? What is my reason? This wasn't supposed to be easy. If it were, then everyone would be enlightened Buddhas stepping lightly around with a half-smile plastered across their faces. All of our gazes would be eternally soft as we live our lives in semi-meditation mode. Instead, we're stalking around with a scowl, bleating at people, and hurting our environment. 

There are philosophies meant to keep everything in focus such as Great Law of the Iroquois which implores you to think seven generations ahead for every action and decision you make. It's kind of scary to think that what you do right now can hold a lasting impact for the next 140 years. It certainly makes me feel better about the eco-friendliness of my vegetarian lifestyle. However, how does my spiritual growth right now affect any of these next seven generation? 

Granted, it can help make my life more bearable for my short time on Earth, but how important is it really? We're just tiny ants with heavy burdens on our backs and eventually we're going to get stepped on and disappear. I know it sounds depressing, but that's exactly where my thoughts wandered. And I know some of you are probably saying that mindfulness is all about not letting your mind wander down paths such as these. But my problem was, I needed to know. I needed to know why. Am I so important that I must be enlightened? Why do I deserve that? Why does it matter?

The only answer I could come up with was that it was just right to do. It's the right thing. Loving people even though I get hurt? They needed that love and I was the one to give it to them despite whatever happens. Being there for people? I can't not be there for them. I can feel their pain almost as purely as they do and all I want is to give them what I would want if I were in their situation. There aren't any other options.

So why do I bother? Because there are no other options. Selfishness isn't an option. Hiding isn't an option. Pain and suffering is a part of life and in a way, it reminds me that I'm doing the right thing. The least I can do is leave a trail of good where I go.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Notes on "Peace is Every Step" by Thich Nhat Hanh

My boyfriend gave me this book to read when he felt I needed it most. He was right. I needed it more than I thought. 

As I was reading it, quite a few quotes and phrases stood out so I thought I write them down. Maybe I was hoping that it would help ingrain them in my mind or that I'd have the sense to go back to it one day when I needed it again. Either way, I want to share them with you. 

Some of this are direct quotes and others are just paraphrases and interpretations of my own.

  • "Peace is in the present."
  • Smile. When you wake up, go through your day, and get ready to sleep. Always smile.
  • Think less. It allows us to let go of the sorrows of the past and the worries of the future. A significant amount of our thinking is an inefficient use of our energy.
  • Our senses are our windows. Opening them allows the whatever it is on the outside to come in and permeate us. Be mindful of what you choose to open your windows to.
  • Breathe mindfully wherever you are. "I am breathing in. I am breathing out."
  • You may move during sitting meditation as long as you do it slowly and attentively. This made me cheer, no more uncomfortable sleeping leg syndrome!
  • Meditation is not an escape from your problems.
  • Eat mindfully.
  • "Walk as if your feet are kissing the earth."
  • Wherever you go, there you are.
  • Drive consciously. Let each red light be a "bell" of mindfulness.
  • De-compartmentalize. Separation and avoidance causes distress and negative energy.
  • Coordinate your movements with your breath to feel less tired and increase awareness of your body and surroundings.
  • "Don't just do something, sit there!" 
  • Pragmatism, looking things with the intent of gaining something, inhibits your mindfulness. 
  • Art is acting in the moment.
  • Hope is an obstacle. Spend all your energy looking to the future, and you cannot be in the present.
  • "Simple practices like conscious breathing and smiling are very important. They can change our civilization."
  • Don't be angry at your anger. Then, you'll have two angers to worry about. 
  • Transform, do not let go or remove, the negative into a positive. Like anger into understanding.
  • The seeds of negativity must be addressed and transformed into positivity before you can confront the person who sowed them.
  • ""Suchness, the essence of particular characteristics of a thing or person, its true nature." Once you understand the suchness of a person, you can live peacefully and happily with that person."
  • "Most of us are victims of a kind of living that is not mindful."
  • "When we look at your parents with compassion, often we see that our parents are only victims who never had the chance to practice mindfulness."
  • Every seed of negative or positive emotion manifests more seeds. Anger produces more anger. Joy creates more joy.
  • "Each one of us needs a reserve of seeds that are beautiful, healthy, and strong enough to help us during difficult moments."
  • If you have a friend or loved one who makes you happy and feel better, invite her up into your consciousness and "breathe together."
  • We always focus on what is wrong when we should take the time to ask "What is not wrong?"
  • "We cannot resist loving another person when you really understand him or her."
  • "Anyone who made us suffer is undoubtedly suffering too."
  • Thoughts manifest words and actions. Having love in your heart brings about miracles through thoughts, and consequentially, words and actions.
  • Hugging meditation: Take a deep breath in and out to bring yourself to the present in the moment before a hug. While hugging, consciously breathe in and out three times. Your mindset with transform and your hug with take on a deeper, more powerful meaning.
  • Friends and community are investments in finding comfort in difficult times and having those with whom to share joy and happiness.
  • "Real strength is not in power, money, or weapons, but in deep, inner peace."
  • "The forests are our lungs outside of our bodies, just as the sun is our heart outside of our bodies." We must have "both" bodies to find our true self.
  • "Because we are so distant from our Mother Earth, we become sick."
  • If we seek peace, can we find it through loving, peaceful words?
  • "If we cannot smile, we cannot help other people smile."
  • "Peace is based on respect for life. Not only do we have to respect the lives of human beings, but we have to respect the lives of animals, vegetables, and minerals."
  • "I am your brother. I am your sister. We are all humankind, and our life is one."
  • Sometimes, we don't intend to hurt, but in lacking mindfulness and the skill of compassion, we can say hurtful words. Mindfulness helps us speak in a way that is loving and kind.
  • "When you see in yourself the wish that the other person stop suffering, that is a sign of real love."
  • What you are looking for is already in yourself. The clouds and river are one. You and your enemy are one. We are inter-being with each other, the world, and everything within. There is nothing to chase after.
Did any of these stand out to you? The bolded words and phrases were the one that struck me the most out of all my notes. They are either things that I adored or that I needed to become more mindful of. This is, by no means, a "Cliff's Note" of Peace is Every Step. If you have the chance to read it, do it, you'll be grateful you did.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Yoga, Confessions, and Marilyn.

Yoga, yoga, yoga has been on my mind and rightly so. I guess I might as well just put it out there, I'm going to train to be a yoga instructor this year. If all goes well, by December, I'll be a real, bona fide yoga teacher (with a job, hopefully.) I'm super-excited and have yet to shut up about it. You'd think I'm already an instructor now, the way I talk.

Lest I get ahead of myself, I need to make one tiny little confession. While I'm a huge yoga fanatic, (I will tell you that yoga is the answer to all your problems. Then, I'll trap you until you admit that "yes, yes, yoga will solve your problems." Sorry about leaving my fingerprinted red marks on your wrist, but hey! There's a yoga move that can help that!) I've been to only a handful of actual yoga classes.

Gasp! Sacrilege!

Yeah, I know. It's terrible. It's practically hypocritical, but Hulu and YouTube are free and actual classes... are not. Besides, it's a little bit nerve-wracking to face going into a class and confronting all these yoga snobs. Damn yoga snobs. And here I am, planning to teach 'em. What's wrong with me? My logic is screwed up. (I can sense my boyfriend agreeing. Shh.) Anyway, I decided to go to one at my local Rec Center last week and boy, that was an interesting experience.

I got there just before class began and everyone was all set up in a dim, eerily quiet room. Of course, just as I walked in, I realized I completely forgot my yoga mat. Facepalm moment. Could I have looked any more like a yoga newbie? Once I got all set up, the class began. It was led by an older Indian man which made me all giddy. A yoga session led by a man who hailed from the birthplace of it all? Yes! Sadly, I was disappointed. Though it was really nice that he demonstrated each asana along with us, they were very watered-down and simple. This wasn't a beginner's class, mind you, but I was hoping to learn a new vinyasa or asana or something

Then, we began a downward dog sequence. I was so worked up (read: embarrassed) from the whole yoga mat fiasco that my palms started to sweat. Needless to say, the 8 (eight!) downward dogs were excruciating. My hands would slide forward at 50 mph each time and nothing I did fixed it. I wiped my hands on my pants over and over again, I turned my mat around, I flipped it, nothing... worked. And all the while, I'm trying, and failing, to not create a ruckus. I was so ready to bail. Finally, they were over and we moved on. The relief was so great that my palms dried out, instantly. Awesome.

Luckily, for every bad, there is a good. I spoke with the instructor afterwards and he complimented my form. Yes! Score one for Beatrice.

It goes to show you that it doesn't matter if you're really experienced or a complete newbie, you're going to have some crazy moments in a yoga session. I've learned you just embrace it and move on. And bring chalk for your hands if you're me.

Also, another random and very cool yoga fact, Marilyn Monroe was also a yoga fanatic. There exists a collection of about 21 photos of Miss Monroe in various asanas, some are actual while others are clearly beauty poses but positioned in such a way that it's obvious she is experienced in yoga training. As always, she is absolutely gorgeous. Check them out here: Marilyn Monroe Does Yoga.

Did you have an embarrassing moment or a funny story about a yoga class? Share them below!