Yoga, Ethics, and Integrity: a Recipe for a Saner Life

Yoga, Ethics, and Integrity: a Recipe for a Saner Life

Do you have something you are avoiding right now? Something you promised to do, or some emotion you’d rather not feel? If you say no, I’m pretty sure you are lying (if only to yourself). Every one of us is out of integrity in some way. The state of being human is also the state of imperfection. Our willingness to look at and own these imperfections is what keeps them from unconsciously owning us and is a key piece of the elegant system for living that we call yoga. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the word integrity has two definitions: “the quality of being honest and fair” and “the state of being complete or whole”. Unfortunately, it seems we have interpreted the first definition too loosely and disregarded the second. Honesty and fairness have gotten mixed up with morality and virtue and in doing so, we’ve lost track of why they are important. Integrity is not about right and wrong, it’s about what is functional. Offering to help others even when we know we will drain or deprive ourselves is not functional. Neither are breaking promises, chronic lateness, or shoddy work. Making time for self care is functional. Burning the candle indefinitely at both ends definitely is not. The more that we live our lives with integrity, the worthier we will feel. Not the sort of worthiness that implies a hierarchy (as in, worthier than thou) but the worthiness that we all share as living beings. An internal sense of this kind of worthiness helps us to enjoy the preciousness of our own lives and see other lives...
The Breakfast Dilemma

The Breakfast Dilemma

Breakfast. Sometimes called the most important meal of the day, I call it the most troublesome. When I wake up in the morning, I feel groggy and it takes a while for my brain cells to settle into their proper places. I do try to get up extra early to compensate for this, but still rarely have the time or energy to cook a complicated breakfast (much less clean up afterwards!). Aside from the few enviable ‘morning people’ who spring out of bed each morning with bright eyes, most of us face a similar conundrum. I believe this lack of mental clarity in the morning leads us to make more emotional and less rational choices for what to eat in the am than we do at other times of day. In this article, I will share several solutions that have helped me to deal with the breakfast dilemma. At the end, I will share my family’s top-secret recipe for a quick and easy breakfast that is nutritious, detoxifiying, and delicious. The problem with cold cereal No wonder so many people resort to cold cereal, pop-tarts, or cereal bars. They are quick, tasty, and look – the box says “fortified with essential nutrients”. But even the advertisements for cold cereal state that it is “part of a complete breakfast” – not a breakfast by itself. And if we had the time and energy to cook that complete breakfast, well we probably wouldn’t choose cereal in addition to eggs and toast. Many argue the place of these heated, sugared, and extruded grains in our diets at all. Nourishing Traditions is one...
One small trick for dealing with big emotions

One small trick for dealing with big emotions

I hate crying! I’m not talking about the occasional tear of either joy, empathy, or sadness. I’m referring to the racking sobs that make my face puff up, my nose stuff up, and my brain shut up. I’m willing to admit that such cathartic release of emotions is probably healthy on some level but the physical sensations plus the mental reaction that follows cause me to avoid anything that might trigger such a downpour. I think I spent nearly a decade of my life doing just that. I can’t remember crying, really crying, between the ages of about 15 and 24. At 24 the catalyst that re-opened my tear ducts for real were the hormonal changes of pregnancy. All of a sudden I was crying all the time. Really crying. And I hated it. What happened to me, little by little, over the ten years that followed my emotional re-awakening, is that I figured out that most of the suffering I experienced through these “negative” emotions was caused by my resistance to them. I learned this on an intellectual level as I studied yoga philosophy and related wisdom traditions, but that type of knowledge only goes so far – we can know a great number of things intellectually that we have no idea how to put into practice. I also learned it on a subconscious intuitive level, which it turns out was much more practical. In the yoga sutras, patanjali describes aversion (dvesha) as being one of the five kleshas or causes of suffering. Perhaps you have heard the saying “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”. This concisely points...
Why You Should Befriend Your Shadow

Why You Should Befriend Your Shadow

Do you have a part of you that just creeps you out? An aspect to your personality that you’d rather nobody knew about – even yourself? Do you have a persistent dysfunctional pattern that you keep thinking you’re over – until it pops up again? Of course you do. We all do. And it’s often referred to as our “shadow”. Just like everyone’s body makes a dark reflection on a sunny day, all of us have a dark element to our selves. For most of us this is not news, but the idea that you should actually explore this element of your self might be. And it’s no surprise that our shadows tend to come out around the people we love & trust the most. The people we least want to hurt. The ones whose shadows are spilling out over us in return. In service to them and to ourselves, the icky sticky work of befriending our shadow is a worth endeavor. I’ve learned to recognize my own shadow by my desire to run away, hide my head, and look at anything else but that. In fact, I feel a resistance to even writing this post. But the problem with running away & pretending it doesn’t exist is that it doesn’t do any good. No matter how much we run, hide, or pretend, our shadow will catch up with us. In fact, it is unlikely to ever go away completely. So like it or not, our shadow side is a constant companion. Sometimes silent & unobtrusive, other times impossible to ignore, our shadow has the most hold over us...
Is it better to give or to receive?

Is it better to give or to receive?

Solomon peed on me the very first time I changed his diaper. I took it as a sign of affection. I drove the hour plus to Spartanburg, SC to visit my friend Kristin and her new baby on a sunny Saturday afternoon with my 9 year old daughter. Just one week old, Solomon has it made. Adoring mom, doting dad, and two (much) older siblings very much in love. This baby is not neglected (understatement). When he’s not nursing, he is being cuddled by one of his other family members. Every time I tried to hold him my own daughter begged for a turn. Rarely does his adorable little butt get put down. I marveled at the softness of his skin and the floppy mobility of his little body. I smelled his head, brushed my lips over his cheek, and stroked his neck. What an incredible adaptation for such a tiny vulnerable being to become so adorable that every human in sight wants to not only protect, but practically worship him. A friend of mine once told me that we love babies and animals because they are such generous receivers. We usually think of generosity in terms of giving. But what if receiving is as much of a gift as giving is? Many of us have an unhealthy relationship with receiving; we think of it as being greedy or weak. When we see in those terms, we set up a power differential between giver and receiver. This causes us to either avoid receiving at all costs or accept the generosity of others at the cost of our own self...
Yoga Question: What’s the best time of day to practice?

Yoga Question: What’s the best time of day to practice?

Q: I’ve heard that it’s best to practice yoga in the morning, is this true?  My mornings are so rushed I can’t imagine adding anything else to them, but I want to make sure that I’m getting the most from the time I do spend on my mat. A: One traditional way to practice yoga is during the Amrit Vela or time of ambrosia, just before dawn.  It is thought to be a powerful time for spiritual practice.  And there is something special about waking up early to do your rituals, whether you consider them to be spiritual practice or self-care.  In addition, when you practice yoga in the morning, then it is done and over with for the day, and you are less likely to get distracted or tired and skip yoga altogether. Doing your yoga practice at the same time every day is a great way to notice subtle differences day to day.  For most people, this also speaks in support of an early morning yoga practice.  Our morning rituals and habits tend to be more regular than any other time of day.  Plus practicing yoga in the morning allows you to start your day on the right foot and reap the benefits all day long. Another factor to take into consideration is that you will feel stiffer in the morning than later in the day.  If you are already flexible, than a morning practice will feel richer and more beneficial.  If you are dealing with chronically stiff muscles and joints, than a later day yoga practice will allow more ease and more enjoyment.  This is helpful because the more you enjoy your yoga...