"The aim is to balance the terror of being alive with the wonder of being alive." Carlos Casteneda
I’m a planner. I haven’t always been so dedicated to careful forethought about my life though. I think it’s one of the skills that motherhood has forced me to develop. In general, when I plan ahead, things seem to go a lot smoother. We get out the door in time for school, the meals are mapped out for the week, my class ideas are formulated and I even carve out daily pauses for my own self-care. I love it when my attention to good planning and preparation yield the results that I am envisioning. However, as we all know, life doesn’t always deliver on our expectations. Shit happens. All the time.
So how can we best prepare for those times when, despite our best laid plans, the universe has something else in mind?
Trying to change what we cannot control and force our desired outcome only creates greater tension, stress and resistance. It is at those times that we need to learn to quickly and efficiently adopt a fluid and open response to whatever circumstances arise.
We have to practice shifting to neutral.
Instead of rushing into problem solving mode, the very first thing I do is ask myself this question: What is this perfect for? The power of inquiry is that it opens us to a state of receptivity which allows us to shift from dilemma thinking (there is only one "right" choice) to creative solutions (there are several possible "right" choices I can make). This particular inquiry will catalyze the movement from overwhelm to openness and position us to consider the potential opportunity in an unplanned or unwanted experience. It orients us in the direction of neutrality and prepares us for the next step.
Next, we have to call on the power of our neutral mind which we develop, specifically, through meditation practice. The Kundalini yoga tradition recognizes three different functions of the mind: the negative mind, the positive mind and the neutral mind.
The negative mind is protective; it is what tells you where danger is and helps you avoid the things that might harm you. The negative mind in itself is not all "bad", especially when we are in real danger. However, when its grip takes over the entire subconscious mind things can spiral downward into a pit of despair.
The positive mind is supportive and encouraging. It tells you what is good for you and guides you in that direction. This isn’t all good—too much positive mind can actually get us into situations that might not be in our best interest and could potentially become harmful. Our positivity can act as a veil to the reality of a situation.
The neutral mind is objective and integrative of both negative and positive minds. It is the centered place between the polarities that gathers all the information and allows us to make the best decisions. It is our link to our intuition and will tell us what is right for us and what we should do.
The “bhavana" or feeling tone of the neutral mind is stability, steadfastness, elevated consciousness, and objectivity. It is not swept up by emotion or clouded over by excessive thoughts. The neutral mind is what draws us from duality to divinity and establishes a connection to our soul. True stability can only come from our connection to the infinite. Therefore, we must develop access to this state through the cultivation of our meditative mind.
The effects of cultivating a strong, stable center in the mind allow us to establish appropriate boundaries. Also, we turn inward to look for completion. We become magnetic; attracting what we need to feel whole, satisfied, content and contained. As we learn to nurture ourselves in this way, we can give up the exhausting search outside of ourselves for love, peace, validation and acceptance.
Any mediation will help you cultivate neutral mind. Here is a simple Kundalini mantra you can use to help you shift into your neutral mind any time. I even use it while driving or moving through my day. You can begin by connecting to the mantra and mudra in this way :
Sit comfortably with your spine upright, heart lifted and chin drawing slightly in and down so the back of your neck is long. Place your palms facing up in your lap with your right hand resting on top of your left; thumbs touching. Take a few breaths to settle yourself into your body and bring your awareness to your spinal column. Simply returning our awareness to the central channel of energy in the body, our axis, will support neutrality in the mind. Next, begin to chant the mantra Wahe Guru (Wha-hay goo-roo) which means “Infinite identity from darkness to light.” Continue chanting for at least 3 minutes and work your way up to 7, 11, or 17 minutes. Practice looking at your life through this neutral lens and allow it to help guide you to your right next action.
You will find that even after one minute of focused practice, you will begin to attune to the higher mind. Meditation is "mind training" and requires commitment and consistency for best results. If inspired, I would encourage you to do this meditation practice every day this month. Decide how many minutes you will practice and do it!
When we are able to perceive our lives from the level of the infinite consciousness, regardless of the situations that come our way, we are blessed with the capacity to recognize that life doesn’t happen to us, it happens for us. Rather than victims, we become victorious participants in the unfolding of our lives each day even if things don't work out exactly as we planned.
*A note on the image above: Sri Yantra is considered to be the "mother" of all yantras (sacred geometric designs) in the Hindu tradition. It is a symbolic tool for awakening the pineal gland and bringing balance to right and left hemispheres of the brain. Sri Yantra means "holy instrument" and contains all form of sacred geometry and represents the union of the Divine Masculine and Feminine. You can use this powerful symbol to meditate by focusing your eyes on the bindu or dot in the center. It's effects are deeply healing and often used for amplifying our manifestation capacities.
That's the pride of a teacher: that he has the privilege to serve another student, because somebody served him. ~Yogi Bhajan
I never consciously set out to be a yoga teacher, instead the door opened for me to step into the teacher’s seat when one of my instructors was moving and asked if I would take over her class. I had begun my personal practice many years prior to teaching because I was seeking alternative ways to heal my depression beyond prescription medication. I wanted to get to the root of my illness and deep down I knew that yoga offered a vital piece for my healing. I loved the way the postures challenged me physically and opened me to cultivating a more loving and hospitable relationship with my mind. Slowly, over time, I began to feel happy for no apparent reason. I was changing from the inside—out. This is one of the unique aspects of yoga that separates it from other forms of learning and personal growth: it is an embodied practice. It’s effects are much farther reaching than our physicality or our intellect. Yoga is a technology for transformation and it is designed to awaken us to our true nature as limitless, infinite beings having a human experience for just a short time. And, just ask anyone who practices: it works!
I have been teaching yoga for more than ten years now. My favorite thing in the world is sharing my passion for this sacred practice with others and witnessing their transformations before my eyes. It is amazing to see all types of healing occurring from a committed practice--I've seen countless physical issues such as chronic pain being alleviated or altogether eliminated, weight loss and complete injury recovery, as well as the most commonly treated mental illnesses like anxiety and depression being significantly improved and effectively managed.
The transition from being a student to a teacher felt, in some ways, very natural for me: I was basically doing my practice alongside others and guiding them through my words. I was figuring it out as I went—watching how their bodies responded to the postures and reading the energy of the room—relying on my intuition to offer adjustments or suggestions that would be of benefit. However, I knew that if I wanted to continue to teach I really needed to avail myself of more specific techniques to keep the students safe and inspired to grow in their practice. This is where my yoga teacher training was invaluable. I was given much more of the technical information with regards to anatomy and alignment; sequencing and adjusting. The personal mentorship and support of the other trainees helped me gain confidence in my ability and begin to discover my unique voice as a teacher. Yoga teacher training not only made me an 'official' and employable Yoga Alliance registered teacher, it made me more effective in my role as a guide for others and continues to open me to access new levels of my own potential.
Over the course of the last decade I have seen a paradigm shift taking place from health care to self care. Many people are no longer content to view pathology from the single focused perspective of disease as final prognosis but rather as a pathway to greater health and wellness. Like me, many are using their diagnoses as a platform to explore a multidimensional approach to healing and wholeness. We are expanding our understanding around what it means to care well for ourselves and learning a new language for how to access the intuitive wisdom that lives within us for our greatest benefit.
It is a privilege and an honor to be able to teach in this capacity as the need is growing in our modern world for practical tools to recalibrate our taxed nervous systems, maintain equilibrium for our overactive minds and awaken us to the depth of our own soul soaked truth. I am very excited to be taking my own teaching to a new level this year by facilitating the next One Integrative Yoga Teacher Training at One Yoga and Fitness beginning this September. I believe that choosing to step into a teacher training of this kind is to receive a call that you may or may not yet fully understand. Not everyone that feels compelled to do a teacher training intends to teach. Many individuals embark on the quest for their own interests. Whether you are looking for a new career, a part time pleasure or simply to make a personal pilgrimage, you will most assuredly experience the following by saying “yes” to this call:
Due to the steadily increasing research around the benefits of complimentary practices like yoga, mindfulness and meditation, the wellness industry is becoming one of the most robust industries in America. It is a wonderful time to decide to be a part of the solution for the myriad health related issues that cause many to suffer. If you are curious and feel the call to learn more about this training or have specific questions, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call One Yoga and Fitness at 407.900.8039. I would love to have you join me!
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