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Day 464

Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make makes you ~ John C. Maxwell

I didn’t feel up to doing Yoga With Adriene’s 33 minute Balancing Flow this morning, so instead I did a new video by Fightmaster Yoga – a 20 minute Morning Stretch .  It was okay, but I wasn’t a huge fan of needing blocks (which i didn’t have at the time!) for the first pose (so I did my own thing), or a strap for the 2nd pose (so again I did the stretches without a strap which was fine), and the rest of it was just…okay. I did get a bit of a stretch, but i wouldn’t necessarily call it a suitable morning video (maybe it would be to some, but I just wasn’t feeling the ‘morning yoga’ vibe from it – at least not at just before 6am!).

I followed it with the Daily Calm meditation which talked about how tiny choices can add up to big changes in your life. If you just make one small change, and stick with it for the long term, them you will end up seeing big changes! Maybe that’s in your health (swapping out cream in your coffee for maybe the low calorie nut milks), or financially (not buying a Starbucks coffee one day a week), or in your relationships – if you leave the house in the morning without saying goodbye to your partner (who might still be in bed as is the case with me!) maybe leaving a goodbye, have a good day, love you note!

After work I’m going to do Yoga With Adriene’s Balancing Flow. But I wasn’t up for a vinyasa flow so early in the morning!

I worked on some assignments for Week 4 of the De-Mystifying Mindfulness Course. First the peer-reviewed assignment, which was to consider Commercialization of mindfulness.

The topic was: The relationship between commercialization and mindfulness is controversial. In this short reflection, you should spend some time formulating your own opinion on the ethics of commercial mindfulness, making use of reasoned argument and material from this module, but also balancing this with your own felt-sense of this relationship from your own experiences. Perhaps you believe that commercialization of mindfulness is a great way to assist and support people in their practice, or is a legitimate way to support productivity in corporations and businesses? Or perhaps you believe that commercialization exploits the vulnerable? Whatever your view, use this as an opportunity to make your case as persuasively as possible.

And here was my (rambling and ranting) answer:

I subscribe to Yoga Journal magazine – and about half of each issue is advertisements – yoga clothes, jewlery (malas etc), , health-foods, retreats in exotic places etc. And in this months’ issue, there were a few ads for new and re-designed meditation benches! (very fancy and futuristic looking and I’m sure also quite expensive). I’m all for popularizing mindfulness in order to bring awareness of mindfulness to more of the general public, so that they can learn to practice it and reap the benefits, but I have to say I am a little bit put off, (or even shall I say disgusted?) when I see all these tons of ads hawking their wares to the so-called ‘ethically minded’ population of yogis (and meditators in the same vein). It is verging on too much and too in your face. I subscribed to the magazine to advance my yoga practice and read some educational and enlightening articles, not to feel as if I’m being bombarded by sales people asking if they can help me the second I walk into a retail shop! (I HATE that!). I’m not all about needing to wear the fanciest yoga (or meditation in this case) clothes, or jewelry (though I DO want to get a mala necklace), or herbal supplements… I understand that these companies are jumping on the mindfulness trend in order to make money (and help their own businesses) but I feel it does take away just slightly from the whole mindfulness ethos. I get not wanting to practice in threadbare clothes, but do you really need to spend $100 on a pair of flashy pants?

I do agree that commercialization of mindfulness does allow for assisting/supporting people in their practice (like Prof. Goto-Jones said, if they want to buy a new cushion, or some mala beads to help with concentration, then that’s fine, if it helps your practice). But at the same time turning it into a fashion-trend of sorts, really bothers me. Or making ‘celebrities’ of mindfulness gurus (or yoga teachers). These people (in my opinion) shouldn’t be put on a pedestal (not even Ghandi or Thich Nhat Hahn! Yes, they do great work and spread a great message, but they are just people too). People will jump on the ‘bandwagon’ to look cool and trendy in jewelry and clothes, not actually taking into account (necessarily, I’m sure there are many people that do!), the actual spiritual or cultural meanings behind what they’re using (cultural appropriation perhaps?). It just kind of rubs me up the wrong way. Which is why I’m stopping my subscription to Yoga Journal once it ends (it was a Christmas gift last year).
If people are serious about mindfulness, they will explore it, and come across the commercialization of it in some form or another. And it’s not bad, as long as the intention behind it isn’t bad (in my opinion). If they’re (businesses) are just out to make money, I don’t agree with it. If they make money plus help with education about mindfulness perhaps, or maybe support some sort of charity or something, that’s another story. But jumping on the mindfulness bandwagon for capitalist reasons only seems entirely antithetical to the entire mindfulness ‘movement’ as it were!

Sorry, I feel I’m starting to rant here…but the commercialization of something that I find so personal and sacred just rubs me the wrong way (but that’s also not to say I’m entirely innocent myself – I have bought a new meditation cushion fairly recently (only because my old one wasn’t the best, and I do plan on buying a mala bead necklace to help with my practice – and they are available, so why not?).

Then I did the journal entry after this week’s meditation practice:

This week’s meditation was a 30 minute silent meditation with a bell. That was really tough, i have to say! Maybe because I was listening to it on my phone…and so got distracted about halfway through when a thought arose, and I stopped to look stuff up on my phone (bad, I know!). I found the 30 minute silent meditation very difficult. Usually I only do 10 minute silent meditations (if i do them at all), so this was a challenge. Mind you, really it was a 40 minute meditation, because I had done a 10 minute guided meditation just before it, and then I thought it would be a good time to continue with meditation (since I was alone in the house and it was quiet). Maybe if I hadn’t just already meditated for 10 minutes, the 30 minute silent one wouldn’t have been so challenging! I do enjoy the bells chiming in every so often to bring your mind back to the present if it has wandered off… but another thing I’ll do in the future is not to do any silent meditations with my phone (or at least have my phone far away from me and not right next to me as a temptation for distraction!)

At the moment, I am not a fan of silent meditation. I feel like I need to be DOING something (e.g. focusing on my breath, or doing a body scan, or counting my breath or paying attention to sounds), but just sitting in silence (with a bell to bring you back to the present moment) seems to FOREIGN to me. Maybe that’s why i’m so averse and struggle with it. But what is it that they say, that the thing you struggle with is what you need most? So I know I need to be patient and gentle and compassionate with myself, and not ‘run away’ from the silent meditation practice, and not be harsh on myself if I get distracted and ‘fail’.
I think it is probably one of the more powerful practices out there, if only I can manage to make peace with it and learn to just be with the practice, whatever it ends up being like. It’s funny, because I’m an introvert, and so you would think I would enjoy a silent practice, but I do prefer to have some object or something to help guide me (even just a few words here and there to lend me something to focus on). My goal is to continue with the silent practice until I make friends with it, as challenging as that might be (but it would definitely help me grow in practice.

 

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Day 463

The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why ~ Mark Twain

This morning I did Yoga With Adriene’s 38 minute No Fear Yoga following my breakfast of a small cup of green smoothie since I still have no appetite. It was great…I even attempted crow pose again (but totally didn’t do anywhere close to how I usually do it (which still has never been really achieving it for longer than 3 seconds).

The Daily Calm meditation today was about the Japanese concept of Ikigai which means: your unique passions and interests, something that makes us get up in the morning – and it can offer hope and bring meaning to life, it can give joy and a reason for being.

I got a head start on week 4 of the De-Mystifying Mindfulness when I got back home before my husband.  This week’s topic is the Politics of Mindfulness – if a Mindful society could be a utopia or dystopia. And also how Mindfulness works in education and also the Mindfulness ‘industry’ or the commercialization of Mindfulness these days.

Day 462

Through judging, we separate. Through understanding, we grow ~ Doe Zantamata

This morning my dog barked to be let out at 5:40am. So since I was up anyway, I thought I’d do my yoga and meditation and then go back to sleep. So I started with the newest video from YogaTX, a short 15 minute Deep Stretch for Back Pain, since I have back pain after moving our old massive TV with my husband out of the living room and halfway up the stairs to the landing, because we bought a new tv online and it arrived yesterday after a week and a half (and only after we spent time putting the legs on and finally getting it up on our tv cabinet did we realize it was broken! There was a big hole in the screen at one side and lots of cracks radiating from it! Very frustrating. So we repackaged it, and took it back to Costco ourselves, and then had to bring our massive old tv back downstairs and onto the cabinet! So my back is feeling a bit strained and achey today. Then I did today’s Yoga with Adriene video, her 15 minute yoga for zombies practice (so gakf hour in total).

Then I did the Daily Calm meditation which was about Understanding. I was quite tired so I think I may have fallen asleep a bit during it? Anyway, it talked about how we should strive to understand others instead of immediately just judging them, because we don’t know what they’ve been through, and we should put ourselves in others shoes more often. Good advice! But hard to do.. judging seems instinctual, really (why? Why are we human beings so judgey?)

 

Day 461

Storms make trees take deeper roots ~ Dolly Parton

I started my morning with a short Slow Stretch 10 minute practice by Sarah Beth Yoga, and then did my 10 minute Daily Calm meditation which was about weathering ‘storms’ – that turbulent emotions like anger and sadness can come up, in practice (and in every day life!) and how meditation can help calm those emotions – or at least be present for them and just allow them to happen, without any judgement or criticizing yourself for having ‘stormy’ emotions or thoughts or feelings. After work I’m going to do the Yoga With Adriene practice for today on the December Find What Feels Good calendar which is her 25 minute Balancing Ocean Flow video, which I’ve done a few times before and it’s a good, vigorous workout.

I finished week 3 of the De-Mystifying Mindfulness course today –writing a journal entry on the site about the meditation practices this week (which were 1) an open awareness practice which combined awareness of breath, body, thoughts/sounds, emotions and feelings – basically all the meditation practices we’ve done so far in the course – into one 40 minute meditation! It was very difficult to sit that long and I was very distracted (and to be honest I stopped a few times to check my phone (Facebook etc. bad me! I know!). I was also really tired when I did the practice too (last night at 8pm). And 2) a sitting with difficulty meditation – some uncomfortable area in your body.
But what I learned from it (and what I wrote in my journal for the class this week) was: I have learned not to get frustrated when I can’t focus or get settled in a practice, as I’ve practiced. Also, I’ve got a bit more comfortable sitting for so long (I’ve never done a 40 minute meditation before!), and it’s getting easier. The guided meditation helps as well, to bring me back, when I lose focus, so that’s nice, especially as a fairly novice meditator. Which is why I particularly enjoy the body awareness/body scan portion of the open awareness meditation, because again it gives me something to focus my attention on so that my mind doesn’t wander (as frequently!). And same with paying attention to sounds, I like that because it’s something to bring my attention to – but I have to remind myself not to strain to listen for stuff, just listen for sounds as they come – not search for them. I find it difficult to focus on my thoughts, because in general, I feel I don’t have too many thoughts? (but maybe I do and I’m just not really realizing it!).
The sitting with difficulty reminded me of a meditation I learned during a MBSR workshop, which was called the pendulation meditation (for dealing with pain or discomfort in the body) – to bring your awareness to the area of discomfort and focus on it, and then bring your awareness to another area that doesn’t cause you pain or is uncomfortable, and then go back to the painful area – moving back and forth from discomfort to ease like a pendulum, and to see if your perception of discomfort changes as you return to it each time. It allows you to slowly get ‘comfortable’ with it, just by focusing on it for a short time, then moving away again. It’s like dipping your toe in the pool first, instead of jumping straight in. I found it difficult (ironically!) to sit very long with difficulty…but I am working on it! And that’s the whole point, right?- it is a practice towards being able to be with yourself more easily

Day 460

We must not allow other people’s limited perceptions to define us ~ Virginia Satir

I was glad that this morning’s Yoga With Adriene video (Yoga for Anxiety), was only about 15 minutes, and that it was a nice, gentle low to the ground sequence because I’m still not feeling 100% with whatever sort of stomach bug it is that I have! So i’m just taking it easy (I’ve also cancelled my yoga class tomorrow too because I’m not feeling 100%). So it was a nice easy start to the day (after having a late night going to a concert and not getting to bed til after midnight (and getting up at 5:30am for work (well, work but also to make time for yoga and meditation!).

Today’s Daily Calm meditation was about Transformation – or, rather, personal transformation, and how other people’s ideas of who we are (or who we used to be!) can limit our transformation to a new, different person, and it might take awhile for others who know the ‘old’ you to accept the new, transformed, changed version of you (whatever that may be!). So that was an interesting thing to think about, really. Something I’ve never really thought of before!

Later today I’m planning on doing the meditation practices for this week’s Demystifying Mindfulness course which are sitting meditations (two 40 minute meditations!), and dealing with unpleasant experiences and recognizing them and what makes them unpleasant(about 20 minutes). I might not do ALL of them tonight though, but I’d like to at least do one…

 

Day 459

Real learning comes about when the competitive spirit has ceased ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

Today’s Yoga with Adriene December video was very apt for me – a Let It Go Yoga Flow which I took to mean that it’ll help me let go of worrying about this stomach bug that I have, and maybe even physically help me let go of it (i.e. get rid of it!). It was a great, short 20 minute flow (but I felt a bit nauseous doing the forward folds if I must be truthful so that wasn’t the best…).

Today’s Daily Calm meditation theme was Self-Competition (hence the quote at the top of the page). It talked about how some competition is good, competition with others (say in a race) is good sometimes. but definitely not to compare yourself to others all the time, because that would totally destroy your self-esteem and self-worth. But self-competition can also be good and bad. It makes you grow because you’re competing with yourself to be a better version of yourself. But if you’re a perfectionist, then the competing never ends and probably puts more stress on you than is necessary because you will NEVER be perfect (no one can be!). But a little self-competition is healthy, it helps you improve and grow and challenge yourself.

I got my final grade from my restorative yoga practicum tonight – i got 18/20 (an A!). The feedback I got was:

Areas of Achievement:
Excellent awareness to describing to client what you are offering or about to offer throughout the session.
Excellent introduction of movements at beginning of session and then integrated throughout the session.
Excellent guiding and teaching; very clear and supportive.

Areas for Growth:
Support self being calm during sessions.  If you notice your breath becoming short and shallow, cultivate long, calm breath for self.
Remember to respond to all expressions of choice and need from client with “thank you” ( I did sometimes but forgot other times – oops!)
Replace the words, “if there is anything I can do”, with “if there is anything I can offer” –
I totally didn’t even realize it but apparently I kept saying ‘do’ all the time (and not ‘offer’) OOPS again!

Overall I’m happy with my mark and my feedback , and especially with the fact the teacher said if I ever have any questions about anything to not hesitate to reach out to her which I thought was really nice!

Day 458

Rule number one is, don’t sweat the small stuff. Rule number two is, it’s all small stuff ~ Jack Kornfield

Today I still wasn’t feeling well, having constant stomach pain since Saturday night. So I went to the walk in clinic (where I was told I probably have some sort of stomach bug or bacteria and to take a laxative for 3 days to help flush it out of my system!).

But before I did that (wisely or not so wisely, i’m not sure), I did today’s Yoga With Adriene calendar entry for today – her great (and fairly new!) 36 minute Yoga Morning Fresh video (I just took it easy and didn’t really do any real twists).

And when I got home from the Doctor’s I did today’s Daily Calm which was about the Japanese work Ukiyo-e which means ‘floating world’ and mainly is a type of Japanese art, but in this context it was talking about not sweating the small stuff as the quote above says. Not making a big deal of every small issue so that when something actually big (and possibly negative) happens, you can more easily deal with it! For example if someone gets annoyed or frustrated when they drop their keys or the printer at work breaks, they make such dramas out of tiny things, then if something actually big happens, lime their basement floods, thru have trouble dealing with it!

Today was the start of Week 3 of the Mindfulness course – talking about the Philosophy of Mindfulness and the Buddhist tradition (and Sati or mindfulness), and also the philosophies of Vipassana (insight) and samahta (concentration) forms of mindfulness which can be joined together (and also seen as Dharana and Dhyana in Yogic philosophy). It also talked about Zen Buddism and Taoism (or Daoism, and the philosophy of wu or nothingness); as well as moving onto Greek Stoicism philosophy and then more modern contemporary philosophy of mindfulness or consciousness (or more specifically stream of consciousness developed by William James.

My reflective post on the philosophical framework was this:

It is interesting that so many different (or most I guess!), have their own ideas of mindfulness and they all boil down to the same thing.  I think stocism – or the continual self-monitoring of thoughts and actions as they happen in the here and now, just sounds darn tiring! And almost impossible to do because that’s all that you would be doing! But using philosophy to inquire about the nature of the world, and trying to live within that world to the best of your ability really resonates with me (also I am a big fan of Aurelieus’ Meditations!)

Like stocism, the fact that Zen buddhism says that suffering is caused by our faulty perspective of the world around us – that how we think distracts us from the truth of how things really are, mkes a lot of sense. And like Zen with ‘suffering’, Daoism says mindfulness allows us to reduce that suffering – that it is (again) our faulty view of the world that allows for suffering, and if we only change our point of view (positive pyschology perhaps? or thinking positively/with affirmations like is so common today with the law of attraction etc.

modern psychology/consciousness/introspection, pure experience – the stream of consciousness, and the idea of learning from looking within (which again is sort of similar to the ancient Stoicism, Zen and Dao/Taoism and mindfulness in general),  looking within instead of without at the world (which is different depending on your perspective!). And James’  ‘pure experience’ comes before our interpretation and judgement of the experience – that was really interesting to me! that we react physically to a situation, and then our emotions about the experience follow. That was very thought provoking.

How you feel about your relationship with mindfulness now? this just opens even more avenues and things to explore and look into! each one is valid for the time and place they were ‘invented’ (for lack of a better word!).

As for my identity in this world… I think I probably relate most to modern ideas of mindfulness (like Jon Kabat-Zinn’s thinking in a certain way, on purpose without judgement), and introspection – fits most easily with my daily life.

I replied to someone else’s post on the forum where they said that mindfulness allows them to: “recognize the distraction and let it go”. And that really resonated with me. specifically just the ‘let it go’.. I think that could be what Mindfulness could be boiled down it (in a very simplistic way of course!) – to let go of everything in your life that causes you suffering (in Buddhist thought) or stress or anxiety, and letting go of all the barriers and ‘masks’ we erect to help us through life. By letting go, we can allow ourselves to turn inward (introspection) more easily and get to know ourselves better and perhaps get closer to our true nature (or Inner Self or Supreme self or The Witness or Consciousness (from different theosophical backgrounds) or whatever you want to call it. Thanks for that – it’s opened up lots for me to think about!

The meditation practices for this week were exploring sitting meditations and also exploring unpleasant experiences and what make them unpleasant (following on from last week’s pleasant experiences exercise). The assignment this week was to look at the different traditions

Today’s Peer-Graded Assignment was:

What can you take from these different philosophical traditions to inform your daily practice?

I think stocism – or the continual self-monitoring of thoughts and actions as they happen in the here and now, just sounds darn tiring! And almost impossible to do because that’s all that you would be doing – critically examining all your actions, thoughts and emotions (everything!), and not actually living and experiencing life! But using philosophy to inquire about the nature of the world, and trying to live within that world to the best of your ability really resonates with me (also I am a big fan of Aurelieus’ Meditations!)

Like stocism, the fact that Zen buddhism says that suffering is caused by our faulty perspective of the world around us – that how we think distracts us from the truth of how things really are, mkes a lot of sense. And like Zen with ‘suffering’, Daoism says mindfulness allows us to reduce that suffering – that it is (again) our faulty view of the world that allows for suffering, and if we only change our point of view (positive pyschology perhaps? or thinking positively/with affirmations like is so common today with the law of attraction etc. This view really appeals to me. That our life is shaped by how we experience it from the inside (our own internal perspective)

William James’  ‘pure experience’ – that experience that comes before our interpretation and judgement of the experience – that was really interesting to me! that we react physically to a situation, and then our emotions about the experience follow. That was very thought provoking. It reminded me of how animals react to stress in the wild – they literally experience something negative and then ‘shake it off’, and then the trauma is gone (i.e. no lingering ’emotions’ (or interpretatons/judgement. They just move on). So I think James’ Experience – Action (or reaction!) – Emotion makes a lot of sense to me. And someone said something in the forums about ‘recognizing distraction and then let it go’ And that really resonated with me. specifically just the ‘let it go’.. I think that could be what Mindfulness could be boiled down it (in a very simplistic way of course!) – to let go of everything in your life that causes you suffering (in Buddhist thought) or stress or anxiety, and letting go of all the barriers and ‘masks’ we erect to help us through life. By letting go, we can allow ourselves to turn inward (introspection) more easily and get to know ourselves better and perhaps get closer to our true nature (or Inner Self or Supreme self or The Witness or Consciousness – terms from different theosophical backgrounds) or whatever you want to call it.

What I can take from these different traditions is I need to let go, not overly examine everything (which I tend to do! I’m an over-thinker), change my perspective when things bother me.