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Helm of the Heart

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The most transformative process I have ever experienced in my life so far has been pregnancy and sharing my body with the little soul that grows within me.

I am now entering the third trimester and I can definitely say that time flies by when you are trying to prepare yourself physically, mentally and emotionally for your child. The first few months were the most challenging thus far due to the constant nausea and the mistakes I made in reading about all of the things that you are NOT supposed to do during pregnancy. Subsequently, I had multiple anxiety attacks over eating a ham sandwich (many people say that you are not supposed to eat lunch meat while pregnant due to the risk of listeria) and also after having fresh spring rolls with raw bean sprouts in them (they apparently house E. coli). Some even claim that you should not eat raw vegetables at all, which seems absurd to me.

Ultimately, I learned that pregnancy is something that everyone seems to have lots of opinions about, but that the very best thing for my baby is to have a happy, relaxed mother. So I stopped stressing over all of the things I shouldn’t do, and with the background knowledge of pregnancy dos and don’ts, and the advice of my doctor, I started making my own informed decisions.

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Also, comparing our stress-ridden culture (in which people seem to think that a pregnant woman’s body is everyone’s business and that they have a right to give strangers unsolicited advice, or share their pregnancy/birth horror stories) with the laissez-faire culture of the French, (who basically continue living and enjoying their lives as usual and eat all the soft cheeses that they want) I decided that I needed to strike a balance somewhere in between. And I am so much happier for it.

My yoga practice has also changed considerably since discovering I was pregnant. I had previously practiced hot power yoga, something that did not appeal to my rapidly changing, hormonal self. For the first few months, I felt so exhausted and worn down that I barely practiced at all. I just didn’t feel up to it. Around my the start of my second trimester I began to have a lot more energy and slowly started up my own home practice. I purchased a month-long pass for a mellow yoga studio close to home (non-heated) and got back into a regular yoga practice, although in a much more passive and receptive manner.

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After my month long pass expired I decided to just practice at home. Currently, I practice for about 40 minutes 4 days a week (some weeks more, some less). This has helped greatly with my lower back pain and some of the other physical changes that have manifested as my body continues to grow and expand. I am still practicing supported headstand because I have been practicing this for years and I know that I am safe to do so, although I imagine I won’t want to invert in a few weeks as the third trimester progresses. Again, I am just listening to my body and to my little one inside of me. I feel so very connected to him and I can tell that he is relaxed when I am practicing yoga and breathing deeply.

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I feel so blessed to have yoga, and I respect its healing and nurturing energy now more than ever. I see how it has shaped my relationship with my own body and allowed me to embrace the rapid changes taking place.

♥/☼
Amanda

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I’ve been thinking about duality a lot lately. It’s a concept that is so deeply embedded in our paradigm, that at first glance, it seems very simple and straightforward.

  • night and day
  • good and bad
  • black and white
  • yin and yang

Of course there are many more examples, but in very simple terms, duality can be defined as:

“The quality or character of being twofold; dichotomy.” (freedictionary.com)

I think that most people view duality as “right or wrong”, “this or that”. It is a way that we identify, judge, value, and categorize information. Duality is a way of identifying ourselves and others, but it also extends past the traditional view, moving into things like “I’m an American and he is foreign”. Or “I’m a mother and she is childless”, and “I’m a teacher and he is a parent” and so on and so forth.

I have a lot of appreciation for self-exploration and awareness, but I feel that the concept of duality has created a bipolar culture. One blatant example is the “Madonna-whore” complex, where women are either a) pure, saintly, motherly figures or b) debased prostitutes.

I have become more and more aware of this in popular culture and media, as I’ve started recognizing a very overt reinforcement of this concept. How many sweet, innocent (often produced by Disney) young girls emerge with “fresh faces” and “wholesome appeal”, only to transformed right before our eyes into something hypersexualized? The “good girl gone bad” story is told time and time again, usually in a rather predictable manner.

Viewing ourselves in this dualist framework is ultimately, in my opinion, dishonest and destructive. We all have many roles in our lives (I’m a wife, sister, daughter, friend, teacher, yogi.. just to name a few) and although it is natural to shift and change to meet each role, I think that true authenticity can only come from integration and acceptance.

Furthermore, the more that we focus on what we are not, denying things that might be natural, the more that our shadow side has power over us.

♥/☼
Amanda

 

 

introvertWhen I was in middle school, I was introduced to the concepts of introverts and extroverts. From my understanding at the time, I was definitely an extrovert. I love conversation, performing and being silly, and I have always had widely varied group of friends. In my mind, extrovert made sense, so I assumed that I was Amanda Panda: extroverted Sagittarius, born in 1986, year of the Fire-Tiger. Boom.

Last week Aimee had me take the Briggs-Meyers personality test. Since I have an obsessive sense of “self-exploration”, I was happy to take it. I really tried to be as objectively honest as possible, answering questions with my authentic, most recurrent tendencies (rather than what I’d like to think is true about myself or I feel should be true). I’d love to say that those are one and the same, they are ever-so slightly different.

The Meyer-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) was originally created by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Meyer. It is a psychometric questionnaire based on the works of Carl Jung. The test contains four main categories or functions that each have a spectrum, resulting in 16 main personality types.

  • Introversion -Extroversion
  • Sensing – Intuition
  • Thinking- Feeling
  • Judging-Perceiving

It doesn’t mean that you are one or the other, most people exist somewhere in the middle but have a tendency towards one end of the spectrum. Each person contains all functions, but this test is supposed to identify our individual “functional stack”, meaning what traits are extroverted (presented to the outside world) versus introverted (directed inwardly). Each of us has a combination of both introverted and extroverted traits, but in a different order of strength, as well as direction. Here’s a helpful website with tons of information about this: http://personalityjunkie.com/functional-stack-myers-briggs-theory/

I’ll break mine down a little further, but unless you are Aimee, (who got the same result-INFJ), your profile would be quite different, even if just one letter is off.

Amanda- INFJ (Introverted-iNtuition-Feeling-Judging)

1. Dominant- Introverted Intuition (Ni) First mode of functioning is internal. Much is subconscious, often through visual imagery and symbols. Ni notices broad patterns and trends and is able to synthesize them.
2. Auxiliary- Extroverted Feeling (Fe) This is the reason that I might be seen as an extrovert. The fact that I extrovert feeling, even in my auxiliary function, means that I am sensitive to the feelings of others, surveying for ways to improve interpersonal interactions and morale. Fe is what helps a person to read body language and nonverbal cues. It is interesting that because since feeling is extroverted (rather than introverted), combined with my introverted intuition, I am usually a sponge for other people’s emotions, but not always completely aware of my own feelings about things. This is a perfect example of how Fe (extroverted feeling) and Fi (introverted feeling) are very different.
3. Tertiary- Introverted Thinking (Ti) This tertiary function works with Fe to refine judgments, fact check, weigh logically, and on the flip-side: create self-doubts. As I am an INFJ, the J stands for “judging” although it has nothing to do with being judgmental. Based on the test you either prefer to extrovert your judging function (thinking or feeling), like me (that would be my extroverted feeling Fe), or your perceiving function (either intuition or sensing). If I were more drawn towards perceiving, I would be an INFP and then I would extrovert my perceiving function, which in that case would be intuition, Ne (extroverted intuition). Sounds confusing, but the website I gave you about has a really in-depth explanation if you want to take the test.
4. Inferior-Extroverted Sensing (Se) This is my inferior function, meaning the one that I have to work to develop. This was fascinating to me, because this extroverted sensing is the cause of much strife in my life. I am both very aware of beauty and material comforts, as I extravert this sensing, but this often clashes with my ideological/intuitive understandings. Also, because my sensing is not introverted, I am often out of touch with my body. Yoga is definitely a helpful way for me to deepen my connection to my body.

You can take the test using the link below, if you’d like. Afterwards you should tell me what you are and whether you find the description to be accurate 🙂

http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp

I wanted to share something that I thought was very helpful and fascinating in understanding my own processing, and it was also kind of liberating to see myself as more of an introvert. It’s funny, but both my mother and my husband have made comments that made me to realize that I’ve always had an introverted tendency. My mom mentioned to me that even as a child I’ve always need time by myself, and that I usually need to “recharge” my batteries after a lot of socializing, usually just by being by myself and reading a book.

My husband completely embraced my “introvert designation” (apparently I’m in my head a lot) and it was really neat to compare our results to one another- he is an ENFP and his functional stack is literally the mirror image of mine. I am Ni-Fe-Ti-Se and he is Ne-Fi-Te-Si (basically we favor the same functional ordering but where he extroverts, I introvert and vice versa).

Have fun 🙂 Here’s a neat little chart with a brief description of each type. There are tons of websites for each personality type, let me know if you want recommendations.

mbti

♥/☼
Amanda

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Holi, the festival of colors, is a celebration of winter’s end and the arrival of spring. There are many myths surrounding this tradition; stories of good conquering evil, as well as tales of Krishna mischievously applying color to his beloved Radha’s face, embodying the lively, carefree nature of this tradition.

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What I love most is that Holi transcends age, ethnicity, class, and all superficial boundaries. People come together for live music, yoga and food, partaking in merriment and reverie.

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Happy spring! Happy St. Patrick’s day, too 🙂

♥/☼
Amanda

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Lately I have been fascinated by symbols- what they mean, where they originate, as well as their use in fashion and popular culture. One symbol that has always stood out to me is the “Hamsa Hand” or “Hand of Fatima” (Islam), “Hand of Miriam” (Judaism), “Hand of Mary” (Christianity). This symbol permeates through boundaries of time, space, and faith.

The Hamsa also has a special place in Hinduism and Buddhism. In these religions, the hands are a source of healing. Mudras are spiritual gestures or energetic seals that are used for various purposes. The five elements are associated with the five fingers that are used in mudras:

  • Agni- thumb- fire
  • Vaayu- index finger-air
  • Akaşa- middle finger- ethereal
  • Prithivi- ring finger- earth
  • Apas- pinkie- water

There are many different origin stories and meanings given to this symbolic hand, but what I love is that this symbol seems to belong to every faith, in some manner. Some see the Hamsa as God’s hand in the earth. When I think about how much I rely on my hands to do everything- typing, eating, bathing, showing affection for others or lending a hand to those in need. It is really quite profound to think of our hands as a part of God, or a higher power, allowing us to be creators ourselves.

Across every faith I have mentioned, the Hamsa is a symbol of protection. Some say that it wards off the “evil eye”, and many believe that displaying a Hamsa in the home protects from disasters or negative energy.  This symbol also represents the Goddess energy, or divine feminine. The divine mother lends her hand to ward off negative intentions and radiate love. It is thought to be a talisman for abundance, fertility, luck, and good health. The hand is often pointing down, showing the protection from above.

It is a symbol of our human connection, our ability to create, transform and love.

♥/☼
Amanda

 

 

This film shows the moon in full color with some amazing discoveries. Some of the narration is a little silly, but it’s less than an hour and incredibly thought-provoking. Let me know what you think 🙂

Creativity is simultaneously exalted and undervalued in our culture. We have produced some amazing artists and invented groundbreaking technology. In our current state, art and music are all but absent in schools and the majority of musicians that are successful in our country (and others) have been manufactured by producers that write the music and create “images” for our culture to worship, rather than paying attention to what is going on around us.

Don’t even get me started on the media and Hollywood.

I don’t mean to get on some high horse and proclaim that all pop music is terrible or something, because I certainly enjoy modern artists. I could go on forever about the deterioration of creativity via our education system, and about how we are now just taught to be unhealthy consumers, only focused on acquiring MORE, but I’ll save that for anyone that wants direct engagement on the subject. If you are reading this, chances are I’m probably preaching to the choir.

Anyway, I saw this Einstein quote the other day and it made me think about how vital creativity is to my life. I have never considered myself to be an artist. I’ve always loved to draw, but I’m not particularly good at it. I’ve always loved music, but I don’t play any instruments or sing. I’ve always loved acting, dancing, and theater in general, but for some reason it never seemed like the path to follow.

Daniel is someone that I would consider to be an artist, through and through. He draws beautifully, in my opinion:

If you’d like to see more of his art, go here: http://pinterest.com/pandayogi/the-creations-of-daniel/

He taught himself to play the guitar, and seems to figure out any instrument he picks up to some degree. He is also an incredibly talented photographer, cook, and interior designer. He has a gift for making something out of nothing.

What I appreciate about him the most is that he has always thought for himself. He broke away from the religion he was raised in at a very early age because he was disgusted that women didn’t have the same rights as men, and that there were obviously racists components within the religion. He still got up early to go with his family to services, but he would wander around outside because he felt a much stronger spiritual connection to nature, rather than the inside of a building. I commend his parents for allowing him that freedom.

The term artist is interesting because it means so many different things to so many different people. I would define an artist as a person with a very specific view of life, a person that is usually quite sensitive and observant of the world around them.

Daniel insists that I am a creative person because I celebrate the beauty around me and I think in a creative way. It is hard to define myself as an artist, but perhaps some day I will learn to play an instrument (I’d love to learn the harp or the violin) or maybe I’ll take some painting classes. Either way, I figure artists need other creative types to appreciate what they do.

Creativity is indeed a manifestation of intelligence, or “intelligent at play”, and I think it is vital for any healthy individual or society because it stimulates evolution and new ways of thinking. In order to solve the problems of our world, we need to develop new ways of thinking and being.

I get so tired of the political discussions because I feel so disillusioned with it all. I see our system as a dysfunctional giant that distracts us with semantics and ridiculous policies that are designed to fail. We need our artists now more than ever. We need people to reflect on the world, people with perspectives that are different than the status quo.

♥ /☼

Amanda