I just returned a couple of days ago from two phenomenal retreats in Mexico – my annual Yoga & Spirit Retreat in Sayulita and then a Cultural & Culinary Retreat in Oaxaca. Fourteen incredible days filled with adventure and abundant heart connections. I left Mexico feeling light, inspired and joyful.
And while my intention was to try and sustain this post retreat high for as long as possible, in less than 3 days I began to falter under the pressures of my long post trip to do list. How easy it is to fall back into habits that create contraction and tunnel vision. Anyone relate?
So today I took some time in front of my altar to sit, close my eyes and just breathe. And within just a few moments I could sense more ease and flow.
The breath is the thread that connects the body and the mind. When the breath is easy and expansive, then the mind and the body will also express these qualities. It can be easy to forget this – it happens to me all the time. But then I remember and with the next breath everything can change.
The term sthira-suhkam is often used to describe this state of being, where sthira means steady and stable and sukham means comfortable and ease-filled.
Whatever is happening for you right now, join me for a moment and become curious about your breath.
- Start with the exhalation. Watch the out-breath with an inquiring mind. What does it feel like? What does it sound like? Pay attention and practice watching until you know everything out your exhalation.
- Now focus on your inhalation, with the same level of curiosity.
- Stay relaxed. And simply observe your experience.
So now turn off your computer. Find a comfortable place to sit, maybe even with some sunshine. Close your eyes. Breathe. Repeat.
love & pranams,
In celebration of Valentine’s Day today, I would like to share with you a special meditation – the Inner Smile. This is a Taoist mediation which activates loving kindness within your smiling inner heart. It is said that your inner heart is the portal to a direct experience with your soul.
The essence of this practice is a smile. The universal language of a smile speaks straight to the heart, bypassing the intellect and ego. Smiling to others and ourselves is a gift of love. It is an elixir filled with powerful transformation and healing energy.
- Find a comfortable seat, and close your eyes. Let the spine be tall and allow your entire body to relax. Let your tongue rest on the upper pallet behind the front teeth (to activate the microcosmic orbit – a body energy circuit). Take some deep breaths focusing on a releasing exhalation.
- Relax your facial features and take your awareness to your third eye (the space between the eyebrows). In that space imagine someone or something that brings you great joy. Raise the corners of your mouth into an easy smile.
- Sit with the feeling of that smile in your body for several breaths.
- Now take this smile now into your heart. The heart element is fire, which can activate anything. Love, the most powerful energy of all, resides in the heart. Allow your inner smile to activate the vast love contained within you.
- Let your heart continue smiling and radiating this love throughout your body. You can imagine your body as hollow and the smile as a glowing ball of light filling every dark corner. If you have certain areas of your body that need more attention, pause there for several breaths allowing the healing energy of the inner smile to bathe that body part in healing light.
- When the inner smile in your body feels complete, begin to send out your inner smile to the world. Give yourself several breaths to allow your smile to become more and more expansive and luminous. Notice how this feels.
- Complete the meditation with a few deeper breaths and a closing that feels right for you (bowing, hands to heart, a prayer).
I hope you enjoy this simple but profoundly effective practice. As Mother Theresa said, “Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”
love & pranams,
The final kosha is the Bliss Body – or Anandamaya Kosha. This is the sheath that is closest to the Atman, the Essential Self. The Bliss Body has the capacity to permeate the entire being with pure joy. Here everything is integrated, whole and you sense a feeling of having arrived at your destination. In the Upanishads, this bliss body is described as having “joy as the head, contentment as the right arm and delight as the left, bliss as the heart, and Brahman [universal self] as the foundation.” We all have experienced glimpses of the Anandamaya Kosha – a delicious savasana, an ecstatic moment of dance or music, holding a newborn child. It is in these types of experiences that we recognize our connection to the Divine.
Before we delve into something totally amazing, I want you to close your eyes and connect into your body. Take a deep breath in, pause for a moment and then let it out. Repeat a few times. Notice what it feels like.
When a breath enters our body, it brings in all the components of the surrounding air. This then interacts with all the cells in our body before being released back into the atmosphere. So you might see the logical link that breathing beings occupying a similar space will share part of the breath in some way.
But did you know that one of the components of air is the element Argon? It comprises only 1% of the troposphere which is the lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere. But in that 1% is an astounding number of Argon atoms – about 3 X 10 to the 19th power. That’s 30,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms representing 60 trillion tons of Argon on the planet. And because Argon is an inert gas, it means that the amount we inhale is also the amount we exhale.
Astronomer Harlow Shapley has calculated that the Argon you have exhaled will cross the country within a week. A year from now those same atoms will have traveled the entire planet and 15 of those atoms will have made it back specifically to you.
But wait. It gets better. Shapley says that your next breath will contain 400,000 Argon atoms that Gandhi breathed during his long life, Argon atoms from conversations at the Last Supper, and from recitations by great classical poets like Shakespeare. Yes, that means that in your next breath, you are sharing Argon atoms once inhaled by Mozart, Buddha and the dinosaurs. We share the every human’s first and last breath. We inhale our ancestors and we exhale to all future generations.
So go ahead now and close your eyes again. Take a few more deep breaths in and out savouring this new knowledge. What do you notice? Has anything changed? Does the breath feel more sacred? Do you sense a deeper connection to all living things – past, present and future? Send me a note I’d love to hear about your insights and experiences.
love & pranams,
Today, with these hands, I shall guide myself with radiance. I shall touch tenderly myself and those around me I feel I can share with.
With these hands I shall craft my world as I desire, and I shall find infinite strength within the lines of these hands.
Our hands (and feet) are considered the end points of our primary energy lines within our bodies, so it is important to be aware that what we touch we both transfer our energy to and receive energy from.
Today I shall get lost in the galaxy that exists within my hands.