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Helm of the Heart

We are the ones we've been waiting for

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It has been far too long since I came here to reflect and record my thoughts. Part of it might be due to my new job working at an online charter school, typing and staring at a computer screen all day. But mostly, I think I have been in the throes of abundant change.

Leaving Northern California and my former school behind was difficult, but my nomadic lifestyle has hindered my ability to take root and marinate on the changes taking place both internally and externally.

There are many aspects of living in Southern California that are wonderful. I get to see my family and friends more frequently, and Mexican food now makes up approximately 30% of my diet.

There is definitely a different “overall vibe”, however. I’m not sure if it’s all the lifted trucks, orange skin and plastic bodies, because these features exist in Northern California, although seemingly to a lesser degree.

I don’t know know if it’s the fact that all the groupons and livingsocial deals in my inbox used to feature museums, yoga studios, and exotic foods, whereas now I receive constant deals for Botox and eyelash extensions.

I really can’t put into words why two parts of the same state seem so different. What I’ve come to realize is that it really doesn’t matter.

Having true “peace of mind” means that you are unswayed by your external stimulus.

I certainly wouldn’t claim that I have achieved this. I’m not sure if it is something to be achieved. It’s more of a practice, like yoga. Something that you constantly work towards, bringing your everyday awareness into harmony with your inner truth.

Since moving down here, I have been practicing at CorePower Yoga. Many people critique CorePower for being “too Western” or “gym yoga”. In essence, I think that many yogis see the chain of studios and the franchise-esque feel and they are turned off. I initially chose these studios because they are all over Orange County and San Diego, and since I am moving around a lot, it’s nice to have that flexibility.

While I loved my studios in San Jose (Just Breathe Yoga & Downtown Yoga Shala) and I credit these studios and their teachers for nurturing my own path as a yogi, I have also found solace in creating my own personal tranquilly, without my beloved community.

I aim to examine the seemingly difficult or frustrating aspects of my life as “catalyst for growth” rather than dwelling on what isn’t the way I think it should be. Throughout this transition, yoga has been one of my constants, and while it may not be in a studio adorned with the works of local artists and we don’t chant, and no one has had me scream with every ounce of my lung capacity before savasana (that was awesome, Noell!), I still crave the time I have on my mat to forget everything and just absorb.

We refer to yoga as a “practice”, but most important things in life should be viewed that way. By letting go of the images and constructs of what we think we should be, and acknowledging our progressions and regressions, we can actually accomplish more.

♥/☼
Amanda

Hanuman

Most yogis have a pose or two that they avoid like the plague. For me, that pose is called “Hanumanasana”, also known as “monkey pose” or the splits.

Even as a child in gymnastics and dance, this was extremely challenging for me, and I never mastered the splits in any way, shape, or form. When I began practicing yoga regularly, I was saddened to see this pose as a part of my practice because it always meant that I would have to hold myself up high on my hands or use bolsters/blocks to even hold the shape remotely.

Often I would become so frustrated that I would resign myself to a half hanuman, sitting on my back thigh. I told myself that my body just doesn’t bend that way. Every body is unique and we all have our own strengths and limitations. Honoring these limitations is beneficial, but creating a mental block can be a trap.

Lord Hanuman has an interesting story, which you can read about here: http://www.hinduwebsite.com/hanuman.asp

Symbolically, Hanuman represents a pure devotion, a complete surrender to a higher power. His ego is completely absent and he demonstrates what is possible when we completely let go of our attachments and expectations.

Hanumanasana embodies Hanuman’s great leap from the southern tip of India to Sri Lanka to save Lord Rama’s beloved wife Sita. Hanuman represents the magnificent feats that we are able to master when we let go of the fear and the uncertainty in our “monkey mind” (the lower, turbulent forces that keep our minds from calmness and peace) and surrender ourselves to something higher.

Today in yoga, the teacher guided us into Hanuman, and I was instantly filled with dread. I decided that instead of feeling frustrated, I should just do my best and hope that an ounce of progress might be made. On the first side, things were still pretty shaky, but when I switched to my second side, I was amazed to see my hips sink down further into the pose than I have ever been in my life! It wasn’t perfect, and I still had a few inches from being flat in the ground, but it was a huge milestone for me! It made me rethink the stories that I have built up around my body. The things people have told me about myself, as well as the expectations I have created on my own. Realizing that these are all just stories that rattle around in my mind and that they have very little relevance is incredibly liberating.

We all have stories that we carry with us, and usually for a reason. In my quest to embody a guru mentality, I have been trying to judge myself less. Being able to get deeper into a yoga pose is not an end result. The greater flexibility and space in my body is a direct reflection of the space in my mind that is clearing and making way for new possibilities.

♥/☼

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 🙂

Daniel and I are currently house sitting in San Jose. I’m going to yoga school, he’s digging through our storage unit, gardening, and taking care of Daisy (she’s such a sweetheart). We’ve been indulging in television since we don’t usually have it, so basically we’re watching The Food Network, Animal Planet, and Antiques Roadshow. Go figure.

Miss Daisy

We were watching The Colbert Report the other night, although I think it was an old one, and there was this guy that came on and spoke about a documentary film that he made in which he posed as a guru named Kumaré.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGIkf3vo2dw

Kumaré basically believes the same same thing that the actor/film maker believes: that every individual has the power to be his or her own guru (guru is sanskrit for teacher or master). Although there were a lot of mixed reactions to his little experiment, a lot of Kumarés followers were empowered by the message that he delivered, which is that each of us has the powers within in us to heal ourselves and become our own masters.We don’t really need to follow “gurus” or other religious leaders in order to gain the type of fulfillment that we seek.

This doesn’t mean that our teachers aren’t vital; we all have room to grow and we can all serve as teachers for one another in some manner. I think that it is important to understand that we all have the ability to lead the type of life we want.

This got me to thinking about how differently I would live my life if I had people following and emulating my every move. I guess having children is similar in some ways, although children rarely follow every action of their parent. But in a scenario where a person is responsible for truly leading and living by example… well that would probably change some of my behaviors.

So I’m challenging myself. I’m going to start with one week where I am going to try to live my life as if I needed to be a constant example for others. If what I am doing is not something I would encourage others to do, then why would I do it myself? The main areas I think will be impacted by this are my eating habits and the way that I nurture my mind and body. Who knows though? I’m sure there are plenty other aspects of my life that could be influenced with this kind of challenge. I’m not claiming that I will be living in some perfect, enlightened state for the next week, but I hope to gain some perspective on the idea that we are each our own guru. That each of us can be a positive reflection for the beings around us.

I’ll keep you updated on my guru experiment, and I encourage anyone reading to try the same- even for just a day. Let me know how it goes!

♥ /☼

Amanda

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

There is something innately comforting about being around family and friends that have know you for decades.

My mother’s home is definitely a safe-haven for me. It’s always clean, comfortable, and there is usually a baked good of some sort that has been freshly made. I came back to my mom’s after taking an intense, heated yoga class at Core Power, and was greeted by a tray of freshly baked brownies. Hot yoga + brownies = balance. Right? Right!

It has been a long time since I took at heated class, which I find to be both magical and exhausting. Magical because my muscles become so warm and flexible that I find poses like “Bird of Paradise” to be so much more accessible. There’s nothing quite like the post yoga “glow”, and when you take a heated power class you end up completely drenched in your own sweat. But when you leave the studio, the outside 86 degree weather feels positively frigid! And the shower after is the best thing in world.

I’m going to take my first PiYo class this evening with one of my dearest friends Rachelle, who described PiYo as “yoga on crack”. Should be fun!

♥ /☼

Amanda

It’s been awhile since I spent some time reflecting here on pandasana, and it feels great to be back. The past month or so has been ripe with changes of all types.

I recently wrote about the “Cycle of Dissolution” and about how I felt as though I was in the Kali or destructive/rebirth phase, and because of this, I have begun a creation phase that’s a pretty radical departure from my previous life in San Jose.

I really only moved a few hundred miles down the coast of California, but moving is always an adjustment. We took our belated honeymoon in France from June 26-July 10th and it was an amazing experience that really helped put some things into perspective.

Before we left for our trip, we had every intention of returning to San Jose, finding a new apartment (our lease was up at our previous place in downtown San Jose and since they have raised our rent over 400$ in the past three years, we figured it was time to move. We had all of our stuff in storage and we planned to find a new place upon our return.

Daniel’s parents have been generous enough to offer us a place to stay in Dana Point while we find new jobs and look for a new place to live, and Daniel and I both felt like it was a good step for us, for a variety of reasons.

I will miss Northern California very much, but since I am still going back pretty regularly until September when I finish yoga school, I have a little time to soak it all up and say goodbye. Mostly, I’m going to miss the school I taught at for four years and the amazing friendships I’ve made. That part hasn’t really hit me yet, but I’m sure it will soon.

Anyway, I’m happy to be visiting my mom right now, smelling the amazing aroma of her cooking and having a few minutes to write and reflect on all that is changing. Being close to family and old friends is definitely making the transition comfortable.

It is interesting that I seem to have a four year cycle of transitions that take place in my life: four years of high school in San Diego, four years of college in Irvine, four years of teaching in San Jose. Each stage has had highs and lows, but I am able to observe some pretty significant differences in who I’ve become through each stage.

I am excited for creation. Building something new is always a little scary, but I know that I am always evolving into something better, stronger, and hopefully wiser.

Regardless of where I am, I’ll be yoga-ing 😉

At the airport in Toronto

In Père Lachaise

More later, I promise. In the meantime…. lots of  ♥/☼

Amanda