November 2018 | Poetry, Kindness, Humanity

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Within the depths of despair and sorrow, we are also able to find our depth of love and our extent of kindness. When we find ourselves experiencing the loss of someone we are close to, a relative's despair, or the exhilaration of entering a new chapter in life, have you ever noticed that we can often have a more rich and profound response if we read poetry or listen to music that inspires or speaks to us? The music or poetry deepens our connection to our shared humanity, our shared experience. Poetry can give rise to an array of emotions often igniting a shift in perspective or giving us access to a closed off space within the heart. And then like magic, sometimes we find a different way of engaging with the world that allows us to take a step outside our own lives and enter in to a broader stream of human experience. The more we immerse ourselves in this vast stream, the more we understand how the things and people of the world resonate and harmonize with one another. This is my hope and intention with the workshops and classes I offer, whether it is Pangu yoga, a Mini Retreat or some of the new and exciting offerings I'm creating for 2019! I hope you enjoy this poem below. Its one of my favorites.

Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the
Indian in a white poncho lies dead
by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone who journeyed through the night
with plans and the simple breath
that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness
as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow
as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness
that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day
to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

                                        - Naomi Shihab Nye
 

Love for the journey,
Anisha

October 2018 | Compassion for Our Stories

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Sometimes writing a blog post is hard.  I want to say something meaningful and impactful.  I want to offer something that is worth taking the time to read, that reflects what's simmering in the public arena, and though my heart and intellect constantly churn ideas, capturing one to bring to you is sometimes like trying to catch the wind on paper.

I recently taught a Pangu Yoga class themed around compassion and forgiveness. It was not the easiest task to deliver. Because how do we define compassion? What IS compassion? And how does it apply to us, specifically, today?

I believe compassion arises when we truly realize we are all equal and that we are ALL suffering. Let’s start there. Perhaps it is a deep empathy accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering, and the ability to see clearly into the nature of the suffering; to stand strong and also to recognize that I am not separate from this suffering; that it and I are the same; that we all carry a piece of each other's suffering in this grand interconnected collective web of humanity.

Did you know that scientific research has shown that compassion creates neurological integration? It stimulates the motor cortex, integrating all centers of the brain. That, to me, is astounding. So it gives us the desire truly to want to transform suffering, and to engage in activities that will transform suffering. Being compassionate doesn’t mean we have to take on anything. In fact, the more we cultivate compassion the more resilient we become, with an ability to return to baseline much faster.

However, there is another component to compassion that is truly essential: that we cannot be attached to the outcome. Being attached to the outcome would distort deeply our own capacity to be fully present to the whole catastrophe or situation.

SO, if compassion is so good for us why aren't we teaching it to our children, or health care professionals? Why isn't it a part of our educational curriculum?

For many people, even though compassion is one of the inherent qualities of being human, those seeds of compassion have not yet been watered and nourished. We need particular conditions in order for  compassion to be activated. Our own suffering, our own hardships, are some of the conditions that ignite compassion, making us feel and say "yeah that happened to me, too, and I have your back", or "I deeply understand; how can I help or ease your pain?"  And that kind of cultural progress can't be taken away from this world, no matter what.

There are stories we can't tell because we feel wrong, we feel shame, we feel embarrassed and we can't even admit them to ourselves. There are huge powerful reasons why people can't share or tell. And as we start to share, what's hidden becomes revealed, and the love and compassion we feel from another begins to transform the suffering into strength, a willingness to stand strong and to do something to change the world.

Forgiveness then happens naturally. I believe it is a result of compassion. It isn’t something we do, it’s something that arises from the inner cultivation and work we’ve done. It's something that then becomes effortless and, in some cases, isn't even needed. Just like the trees in Autumn, as we heal from the scratches, bruises and storms, we stand taller and broader, covered by less.


Love for the journey,
Anisha

September 2018 | Quiet the Negative Voice

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Have you ever had the thought, "If I expect the worst, I'll never be quite as disappointed" ?

Thinking negatively, expecting “the worst,” seeing the downside of positive situations, and even downright expecting failure, all convey a kind of backwards thinking, an emotional insurance policy.  It happens subconsciously and it goes something like, “If I expect a catastrophe, then I won’t be quite as disappointed when it takes place and won't have to feel badly."

A beautiful scene, a piece of art or person might be right in front of you.  It’s sophisticated, artistic, perhaps the result of deep love and devotion.  The colors, patterns and characteristics are like no other—they shine brightly and leap towards you.  And yet, maybe you choose to fixate your eyes on the tiny, dark bug that has landed on the edge of this masterpiece, or the one thing that annoys you about this person.

Why?

People who are habitually negative thinkers are often proud to describe themselves as “realists.”
The “being realistic” pronouncement is a favorite among cynics everywhere.  And, in a way, they are correct.  But only because negative thinking causes the human mind to give up on everything—to not even try, or to give a disorganized, half hearted effort—so the negativity itself influences the end result.  In this way, self-fulfilling predictions like this really do happen. 

What makes all of this even more alarming is that negative thoughts can plague us even when life is going relatively well.  For instance, have you ever had the thought “This is much too good to last!”?

This can quickly wreak havoc on a positive situation. It’s as if there’s a special mental block filtering out all the positives and only letting in data that confirms the negative biases we have. 

To change our thinking, it helps to have a better understanding of what we’re thinking in the first place.  When a troubling (negative) thought arises in your mind, instead of ignoring it, pay closer attention and then record it.  For example, if you’re sitting at your desk and you catch yourself ruminating about something negative, pause and write it down immediately.  Get that raw thought out of your head and down on paper—just a short sentence or two that honestly depicts the specific thought that’s presently troubling you:

“I’m not good enough for the job I’m applying for because I don’t have enough experience.”

Then, identify what triggered the thought.  Again, be brief and specific:

“I’m new to the company, and therefore I’m feeling out of my comfort zone.”

At the very least, this process of evaluating negative thoughts and their underlying triggers helps bring a healthy, objective awareness to the sources of negativity or anxiety, which ultimately allows you to shift your mindset and take the next positive step forward. Encourage yourself to see all the in-between places of a situation. Thinking in extremes, as I have learned over and over, is a fast way to misery, because it basically views any situation that’s less than perfect as being extremely bad. Most of life occurs in a grey area-- between the extremes of bliss and total devastation. Traffic that has slowed down the commute back home from work can turn into “it wasted my whole evening and ruined the night!”

What if we could remind ourselves that we just need more practice. We have to find a happy medium of accepting ourselves as we are, and then committing to personal growth.  If I think I am absolutely “perfect” already, I will not make any positive efforts to grow.  But, constantly criticizing myself is just as counterproductive as doing nothing, because I will never be able to build new positive changes into my life when I am obsessively focused on my flaws.

What if we changed our internal conversation from, “I have to be better,” to, “I will do my absolute best today.”  The second statement is far more effective, because it actually prompts us to take positive action at any given moment while simultaneously accepting the reality that every effort may not be perfect.

So, do your very best to catch yourself today and quiet the negative voice. :)

Love for the journey,
Anisha