cultivate calm

by stacy on November 17, 2010

I love the fall. I love fresh apples, crisp sunlight, hot coffee, and the chill in the air.  I also love my down vest. In September, our family schedule resumed its organization around school, and I once again found a more predictable rhythm to my days.  I find that for teaching yoga and writing,  daily practice is a must.  Now finally in November, nearly Thanksgiving, I have found a structure that will keep me going through the gray of winter.  Winter is my creative phase, the time when I can have more quiet time to reflect and conjure, and conjure I have.

This past weekend, I spent a morning with a group of friends; one of whom is quite ill.  We carried on as we usually do, our friend on the coach.  We talked,  we drank coffee, and we spent the morning literally resting in each others company.  It was comforting, nurturing, and wonderful to be in a place where being real is the only acceptable way to be.  And, I might add that it cost nothing to gather in a friend’s apartment and didn’t require getting dressed up.

Right now, I see it as essential to savor the small things and cultivate calm amid the very real concerns we face daily:  jobs, the economy,  health concerns, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, local and national politics, and so fourth.  And, let’s not forget that we have holidays coming quickly which can be tremendously stressful for numerous reasons,

I decided that it was time to go cultivate calm and sink into it.  So, a few nights ago, I went to a deep relaxation class to refuel.  During the dharma talk, I began to think about two yoga beliefs:  1) yoga philosophy warns us that there will always be suffering, and 2)  yoga philosophy teaches that there is a light shining in each of us that is free from suffering.  I brought these two ideas together and came up with the following:  In the practice of yoga, we can learn to bring light (compassion) to our own grief/discomfort/suffering and cultivate compassion for the suffering of others at the same time.  They really come from the same source.   By cultivating compassion for self it becomes more natural to extend it to others.  Find something that you ride yourself about.  Then, for just a week, whenever you go into the habitual pattern of riding yourself, pull back and instead ask yourself what else you can do about the issue that would be more positive.  Substitute one set of thoughts for another positive set.  Banishing negativity doesn’t last long enough and drives deeper into unhealthy patterns of thoughts and actions.

Recently I went to hear Paul Loeb speak about community involvement for personal and communal transformation.  I bought his book  Soul of A Citizen which is a refreshingly positive book that talks about what’s wrong, but also about what we can do to feel better and make a difference.  I highly recommend taking a look at this book or any other book that doesn’t just point out problems, but offers solutions.  I find that I feel better if I even make small efforts to bring about good.

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