Check out this article in Chicago Tribune by Kate Thayer on a way to know the tools of yoga are being used to ease our troubled thoughts and moods during this cycle of politics and elections. Laura Jane Mellencamp and Ann Walther contributed.
With political angst running high as midterms approach, voters on both sides worry: What if things don't go my way?
People on both sides of the political spectrum describe feelings of angst as the midterm elections approach. While Democrats are still reeling from Trump’s victory, those who are more conservative say they still recall a long eight years of feeling unrepresented under President Barack Obama.
Laura Jane Mellencamp said she often hears from her students about their reaction to the political divisiveness of the country. The political climate has people riled up, she said, and looking to her to help calm their nerves. Attendance is up at Mellencamp’s studio, Yoga Among Friends, in Downers Grove.
“They are coming in with great sadness or anxiety … to the point where I see people having more migraines or stomach disorders,” she said. “It’s definitely affecting people’s well-being.”
Our world needs all of us to join in loving kindness and to forgive ourselves for learning wrong.
This past week has been one of incredible sadness for the state of mind acting out in violence. As a teacher, mother, and friend of many, I make the effort to be living in a state of consciousness where I am fully awake to the witness of my thoughts. I am asking my little self, “Is that thought bringing you into a better place of ease or is that thought colluding with the worry and fear of what your eyes are seeing?”
My outer self is being bombarded with profound images and sounds of hatred, provoked by the extremes of radical thought. It is taking greater effort to come back and delink from my reactive habit of presenting anger and rage. I am hurting deeply.
The pain I feel is immense, and yet I am also holding amazing love and compassion for all beings as I am experiencing their pain. We are all in this together! While I want to separate and judge, I need to be fully engaged in the world and take part in my daily roles. I cannot go live in a cave and isolate.
I am living a path of Karma yoga in service to the life I have been given. I just have to make choices and it starts with my thoughts. From every thought I have, I move into sound and action. I ask myself, “Is this thought leading me in better direction or am I only feeding the small mind of ego wanting to be righteous and react with unkind tones?”
Habits of behavior are learned. If I continue to feed the mind that is afraid, I only resist LIFE. I fall into life daily with my practice and yet the outcome in not mine. I want a place that feels alive with a radiant sense of belonging. We all want to be seen, feel valued, and be honored as human beings. In a world today where we separate and judge ourselves on the outcome, we rate our effort "not good enough" if it isn’t seen. We value the product the winner, and the loser is the one without the stuff of material worth or without a personal relationship.
I want a shirt that has a huge “L” imprinted on the front. I am claiming that letter as my true self; it stands for love, laughter, light, LIFE! Let's choose the word that arises from the right thought and be the action of that which moves the heart forward.
Our world needs all of us to join in loving kindness and to forgive ourselves for learning wrong. I invite you to chant, sing, write poetry, breathe into the right brain, and activate the space that cultivates consciousness, the space of awareness and love. I invite you to practice being awkward to the intellect of the left brain and begin to live life in a mind balanced between intellect and your greater intelligence. This is the gift of being present.
In a time of turmoil and unrest, practice daily coming back to stillness. As winter's darkness approaches, make a commitment to light your inner candle and feel the grace of the illuminated Self expand and send that vibrational tone by chanting OM. As Gandhi would say, “Be the change, you want to see in the world”.
Hope is not in the intellect, for it will judge and argue until I find myself spinning down the drain of despair. I will simply thank my mind for the thought and not engage to change it. Instead I invite my awareness of the thought (or emotion) into my practice by thanking it and then immediately choosing to feel the opposite as a somatic experience.
When you place the mind into the body with the breath (or touch or sound or mantra), you begin to feel the sensory sensation of being present. Your heart expands and becomes fuller, and you experience your true self resting in the heart. Try it. From this place of aliveness, begin your day being truly SEEN.
“When you receive whoever comes into the space of NOW as a noble guest, when you allow each person to be who they are, they begin to change. To know another human being in their essence, you don’t need to know anything abut them—their past, their history, their story. We confuse knowing about with the deeper knowing that is non-conceptional. One is concerned with form, the other formless.”
This is the path of sharing the teachings of yoga:
to meet and greet the pure essence of one’s inner being;
to hold a safe place where the little mind can let go of the form and experience something perhaps unfamiliar and awkward;
to allow an awakening of something greater that has no form but moves us forward into the pure gift of life.
This has been and will continue to be the way we can teach self love. This is our community at Yoga Among Friends.
I am today and everyday grateful that I followed an inner voice that tapped me on the shoulder and brought my ego to the knees. The depth of going into the dark night of our soul is not to harm but to offer the gateway to our inner light. I pray for the courage to live beyond my story, my fears and bias opinions—to live without the striving for the outcome.
I had no idea that inner knowing would lead me to establish a yoga center in a town call Downers Grove—to hold a space that would become a community safe haven for so many.
On Saturday, September 22, we will celebrate our 20th anniversary as a yoga center with a party. An event that could not happen without all of the many beautiful individual lights that have participated in the journey of yoga.
Without community, nothing can thrive and grow, and so we hope you will join us in celebration. Come honor your teacher who has helped to see you not in form, but in the place of acceptance that everyone matters as radiant life. Come fete your fellow yogis who have journeyed along with you. It might take one vision to plant a seed, but to help nourish and care for the plant takes a combined effort of loving commitment. We are community and belonging is where we can meet with our differences and be seen for our true self.
We are all teachers for one another, and we at YAF have learned much from you, our students, and we are truly grateful. May each day offer another opportunity to continue our learning together.
The great meditation teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, often speaks of nourishing your love. If we know how to feed our love every day, it will stay for a long time.
One way we nourish our love is by being conscious of what we consume. Many of us assume our daily nourishment only in terms of what we consume as food. But there are many kinds of food that we need in order to thrive. Yes, edible food nourishes our physical bodies and nervous systems, but we need sensory food as well: what we smell, what we hear, what we feel, and what we touch.
In addition, the intention of thought is food for moving us in love and the ability to experience consciousness. This includes our individual food of conscious awareness for both those around us and for our environment. To be fully alive, we must be fully nourished to thrive and maintain our full capacity to love.
When we are malnourished in unhealthy thought, our habits of wrong thinking bring on actions of bad behavior. Our lifestyle becomes one of limited love, resorting to small thinking and selfish actions. The teachings of yoga says that energy goes where attention goes. Unplugging from all the media, and letting go of all the daily roles we have at home, is one of the most important things we can do to maintain the nourishment of this inner landscape of loving kindness.
Our retreat this past month in Greece was just that, a time to unplug and seek out sensory nourishment. The light of Greece was healing. The brilliant blue tones of the sky meeting the water and the vibrant painted doors against the white of the buildings were breathtaking. The sensory pulse of the wind against the ocean crashing waves. The robust favors of the delicious culinary dishes combined with the radiant passion of the Greek people, who joyously shared their loving smiles and full hearts!
The trip fully embraced the meaning of the Greek word for love, agape. This is unconditional love for humanity in the presence of shared respect for mankind. We fed our souls by offering service projects and shared in a coming together as one community. Each day welcomed us with the friendly hello of good day, kalimera! Reminding us we were blessed! Greece was truly a bounty of life’s true abundance in all that nourishes!
Creating a sacred space to feed the deeper aspects of love is the joy of my teachings. I am passionate about feeding the soul. The soul needs to live, to dance, to laugh, to cry and to be actively engaged in feeling. We need to share hugs, be outrageous and also feel safe enough to be seen by others with loving eyes. This is agape, the love for all beings, the love that perhaps the great mystics and teachers inspired us to live. We need to trust that humanity is good and that life is full of love.
In this spirit, I invite you to come celebrate our 20th anniversary with the sharing of nourishing food and the abundance of stories on Saturday, September 22 (a new date). We're hosting a big bash, and everyone who has participated in the journey of yoga is invited to celebrate! And hopefully, this will also inspire you to nourish yourself at our winter retreat in Cabo when we return the week of February 16-23, 2019. It's never too early to reserve your place at the table of LIFE. Love and blessings, Laura Jane
I am leaving on my first summer retreat to Greece on Monday morning. Seeking the light and beauty of the Greek Islands with fifteen adventurous souls willing to seek higher ground. I am always open for the unexpected and feel that the opportunity to travel offers a profound opening for magic to unfold. Travel is not necessarily only an outer experience where the senses get an abundance of new awakenings; the travel I seek also nourishes my inner landscape and awakens my deeper soul’s need to grow.
This is been a difficult time in our world, and the past year has exhausted my spirit. It is so easy to be distracted and project outward with reactive emotions. To hold the space of opposites is a very important tool of yoga, and looking inward is the only way to have clarity when we are navigating our outer landscape. Polarity is everywhere, and I am saddened that dialogue and listening are being replaced with sound bites. The angry tension of confusion that what we think is right is wrong, and what we think is truth is not.
When we refuse to hold the light on both, we loose our balance and project from memory into future. I struggle with getting out of my anger when I feel gaslighted with what I hold as a moral compass. I grew up in the rebellion of the 70s, and my entire life has been to see the world with possibility and freedom. I believe in women, the power of voice, and the integrity to have one.
I have to remind myself to come back to my physical breath and witness how I am contributing to this disharmony with my thoughts. I will not lose my voice, but I can change my tone. I can inspire harmony within my thoughts and go to the opposite.
In the yoga sutra 2.33: Vitrka-Badhane Pratipaksa-Bhavanam, when we are bound by negative thoughts, the opposite thought should be cultivated. Rather than in indulging or rationalizing negative thoughts, Patanjali prescribes direct action, the cultivation of reframing the mind into a new thought.
These teachings tell us we have no idea of what someone is experiencing until we can put ourselves in someones else’s shoes. To walk in their shoes is to get out of our own way. If there is fear, cultivate courage or confidence. Where there is doubt, cultivate an inner confidence of knowing truth. Where there is hatred, cultivate compassion and kindness.
We can extend ourselves beyond our typical ways of approaching things. Learn by doing and make effort to move beyond our normal habit of thought. We must be willing to risk being awkward and uncomfortable when moving into a new way of handling a situation.
Perhaps sit and listen to someone that sees differently. In my own family, I am at times a lone pioneer in seeing outside the box. Growing is my soul desire, but living my best self means sometimes I am just wrong in my thinking! I have found myself moving into judgement.
At other times, I find my moral compass is strongly activated to speak and act in kindness, but I refuse any collusion towards bullying, defending or shaming those that proceed to put me into a box. Name calling is harsh, and it hurts. I will try and listen and be present, that is my yoga practice.
I hope that as the heat of summer continues to warm our sweet planet, we can find a way to cool the agitation of our differences and meet at a place of balance, holding onto the conscious awareness that life is only a pair of opposites. As life is only pairs: sun and moon, light and dark, inner and outer, small self and the greater self, sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, and inhale and exhale. In its pure state of being, life is wholeness.
When we hold this awareness, as the mind moves deeper into a state of yoga, we find an inner state of balance. Yoga is tools for seeking balance. Please look inside and appreciate the grace of the present moment to respond as loving and compassionate listeners as we proceed forward in love.
May this summer bring sweet opportunities for travel, not only to distance lands, but into the vast inner landscape of our true selves. Let's be willing to keep growing and extending the olive branch of forgiveness. Let go of resistance, fear, and live in peace. Happy summer!!