A Season of Change

In seasons of deep transformation, silence will be your greatest guide.”
      …Shauna Niequist in Present Over Perfect

Change of Season imageWe clearly see the physical transformation of living things around us in the fall. Deciduous trees are among the most visible of autumn’s shapeshifters. Their cloaks of green transform to yellow or orange or red or burgundys and russets. And when the trees are ready, sensing the shortening hours of light and feeling the cooler temperatures, the transfer of water to each leaf and food from the leaves ceases. The trees surrender their leaves to the earth.

We notice too a change in the air. Coolness descends in the late afternoon and lingers into the next morning. Squirrels work diligently to fill their larders for winter. The insect voices so characteristic of hot August evenings diminish. The evening is quieter here along the Conodoguinet now.

I, too, find myself thinking I am in a time of transition. Over the years I have seen how my yoga practices have helped me to open to risk and change. I tried new things: teaching a new class and workshops as well as letting go of classes; taking on the study of Vedic Chant; attending church; trying a different strategy to deal with anxiety and depression; deciding I needed to live more completely in sync with my values. For all of this, yoga and the support of my teacher have given me guidance and courage.

Now, I feel again in a place of change, hoping to be more fully present in my relationships, to deepen my learning and teaching of yoga, to work on what I can do to live in harmony with Mother Earth, and to find joy in living each day. Focusing on these priorities requires paring back some activities and maintaining more white space on my calendar. Simply, but not simple, is the need to give myself more space. Like the trees in this fall season, I have to let go of some things to nourish other things, including myself and those closest to me.

What will sustain me in this time of transformation will be my yoga practice, my communities of support, and the quiet in which I can hear the leanings of the spirit.

I wonder how many others of you are feeling the same draw to transition in your lives. If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to email or call me. You may find, as I did, that this is a journey that needs a community of support.

Autumn Notes

Path

Each year as we make the transition from the warmth and bright sun of summer to the waning light of autumn, I feel changes in my system that require changes in my yoga practice, diet, and lifestyle.

Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of life, gives us a non-Western lens through which we might understand the effects of the seasons. We are told in the teachings of ayurveda that each person has a “birth constitution,” which consists of a unique arrangement of three different doshas or energies. The vata dosha controls body movement and is concerned with the nervous system. The kapha dosha controls body stability and lubrication and is concerned with the tissues and wastes of the body. Pitta dosha involves digestion and concerns the body’s endocrine and enzymatic systems. Our particular arrangement of these energies, along with our diet and lifestyle, affects how we respond to life and seasonal changes.

Each season also has a dominant dosha, with its own characteristics. Autumn’s dosha is vata. As vata is about the energy of movement, fall is characterized by the movement of air and wind, which has the effect of drying things. Wind, too, stirs things up. Think about the reds, yellows, oranges of autumn leaves, that eventually dry and brown and roil and rustle in an October wind.

We are affected by autumn’s energies and may be vulnerable to imbalances in our own systems. When vata is out of balance within us, we may experience creaky joints, constipation, dry eyes, hair, and nails, difficulty sleeping, nervousness, forgetfulness, and mental distractedness. If we are in a vata stage of life, mid-50s and up, we are even more vulnerable to such an imbalance, particularly in autumn.

If you find yourself feeling out of sorts with some of the symptoms of autumn’s vata dosha, you can explore some of suggestions that follow:

  • Allow your approach to yoga practice to be attentive and meditative. Keep your focus on cultivating a feeling of groundedness, staying one or two breaths in your postures.
  • Choose activities that support a calm mind and heart.
  • Include soups and stews in your diet, using vegetables and fruits from our local bountiful harvests.
  • Hydrate your body by drinking water throughout the day.
  • Add good oils to your diet, olive and sunflower, as the weather cools, and in winter some sesame or fish oil.
  • Oil your skin before you take a warm shower, using sunflower oil or sunflower mixed with sesame.

Much information exists on the subject of the ayurvedic constitution, and you also can work with an ayurvedic practitioner to learn about your birth constitution. But we all can begin by paying attention to how we are affected by the seasons, our diets, and our lifestyle choices. Then, we can adopt strategies to maintain a sense of comfort, stability, and balance.

If you would like to have me teach you a personal yoga practice you can do at home, as well as receive diet, and lifestyle recommendations to address your needs this autumn, you can reach me at 717-645-0067 or eterryyoga@gmail.com to schedule an appointment.

Fall Foliage Yoga

Fall foliage

 
Come Celbrate Autumn’s Beauty
Led by Elizabeth Terry

 
Saturday, October 14, 2017/strong>
Loaves and Fishes Farm
1810 York Road, Dover PA 17315

Yoga from 10:00-11:30am. Light lunch and fun to follow!

Bring your yoga mat, walking shoes and farm friendly clothes for yoga and checking out the goats, petting donkeys, visiting the sheep and enjoying the fall foliage at the farm. Yoga practice will be outside, on the green, in the leaves. In case of rain, practice will be inside. A free will offering will be accepted to support the work of Loaves and Fishes Farms

Please reserve your spot by October 10th:
Elizabeth Terry eterryyoga@gmail.com or (717) 645-0067

 
For more info on the farm, check out their Facebook page – Facebook.com/LoavesAndFishesFarm or contact:
Farmer Jen Briggs jenbriggs@comcast.net or (717) 774-0794
Farmer Bonnie McCann bonniejmccann@comcast.net or (717) 319-7721

When you become part of the Loaves and Fishes Farms’ family, you join us in our commitment to grow and eat healthy food that replenishes the soil and protects air and water.”

 
Directions (from Harrisburg area)

Interstate 83 south to the Yocumtown Exit. At Light make a left and then an immediate Right on to Taylor Road. Follow that road for about 3.5 miles. You will cross over Rt. 382 (Lewisberry Road) which then becomes York Road, this is curvy and you will pass the Susquehanna Speedway and the farmer market on your left and you will pass a church and school on your right. The Loaves and Fishes Farm is on the corner of Red Bank and York Road. It is a white house with green shutters – the kitchen is in the garage (doesn’t everyone have a kitchen in the garage?)

1810 York Road
Dover, Pa 17315

Full Moon – “Let the Water Settle…”

Full Moon

Let the water settle and you will see moon and stars mirrored in your being.”
     …Rumi

Observing the gradual waxing of the moon this month, I reflected on how this celestial body might offer timely support in our yoga practice. Everyone who knows me has heard me talk about the moon and moonlight, and about the cool, calm, nourishing, healing qualities that we might link with as we focus on the image of the moon. I love this image of the moon and the real possibilities meditating on its qualities offer as an antidote to the often overheated lives we live in the 21st century.

The association of the moon with coolness, nourishment and healing in yoga comes from its ancient roots in the Veda-s. The Veda-s, a vast collection of scriptures in the Sanskrit language, are the oldest record of the Indian culture.

One of my favorite Vedic chants is a salutation to the moon. This mantra (a word which itself means “that which protects” ), can be roughly translated: “Nectar from the full moon nourishes the healing herbs.” The beautiful images of “nourishment” and “healing” are linked to the full moon and received by the herbs, all plants, and then ultimately by us.

When we meditate in yoga, we link to an “object” that has positive qualities we would like to bring into our life. But meditation isn’t easy for most of us. What is most challenging about meditation is our mind. I love these lines from Rumi: “It is agony to be still; the spool turns when mind pulls the thread…,” and the spool is often turning at a dangerously high speed for many of us.

But we are reminded by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutra that we have tools to help us quiet the rough waters of the mind. When we practice appropriate yoga poses, consciously linking movement and breath, the mind become less distracted. When we practice regulating the breath in an appropriate pranayama, the mind can settle. When we use sound in a chant, the mind can focus. By doing this, we create space in the mind so it has the possibility of linking to the chosen image or concept. We have set the stage for meditation.

What I am suggesting here is that in this season of heat, with lives overcooked by work, demands at home, social activities, and 24 hour news, focusing on the moon in meditation, with its cool, nourishing, healing, calming light, can move our bodies and minds to a deeper, quieter, more peaceful place. We might use a picture of the full moon or the moon in one of its phases, of the light of the moon, of the moonlight reflected on water, or of any other image that evokes the moon and/or moonlight. Then we continue to focus on this image, eyes closed, letting it fill our awareness.

When meditation becomes an exploration in a regular practice, without judgments and expectations, we begin to notice the effects. As we are all unique individuals, how we experience such a practice will vary from person to person. But, I think you will notice something. And, if Rumi is right in his quote beginning this blog, it will be good.

If you would like to explore yoga meditation or a meditation on the moon more intentionally, please let me know. I am planning a workshop on this topic in the fall and am available for working with you individually to develop a personal practice.

Japan Reflections: Respect

6/03/17 blog image

On our recent yoga retreat to Kyoto and the village of Kurama, our group of seventeen visited many shrines and temples. With each one, our wonderful guide, Chiharu, explained not only the history and significance of each sacred place, but she also unfolded the beliefs and concepts underlying the two religions of Japan: Shintoism and Buddhism.

At one point in our travels, as we stood before a Shinto shrine on the path up the mountain to the Kurama-dera mountain temple, Chiharu said, “Religion in the West is more about believing, religion in Japan is about respecting.” She, of course, was talking about “respect” in its deepest sense, something like “reverence,” “veneration,” even “love.”

I couldn’t help but wonder what it means to live one’s life with such an attitude of deep respect.

In Japan, we observed “respect” practiced in many forms: in how people always bowed to one another and to us; in how the meals were served with great care; in how the city streets were clean and without litter; how even the trash trucks were freshly painted and their fenders shiny; in how ancestors are honored and remembered. Respect was also apparent in attitudes toward nature: a reverence toward trees, some of which exceeded a thousand years in age, toward mountains, which are worship by some as links between earthly life and deities. In the deer park in Nara, I even witnessed a young man, probably of high school age, bowing reverently to the deer who approached him, deer who are considered sacred in this city.

It appeared to me that a deeper connection to and reverence toward nature and the seasons exists in Japanese culture than here in the West. I can’t help but wonder what it would be like if we held as a cultural value an attitude of reverence and caring toward the forests and waters, the mountains, the air, and wildlife. Would we not take care of, rather than polluting, the waters so they would be clean and pure; revere, rather than remove, our mountain tops, preserve, rather than destroy, forests and habitats for wildlife. I love the lines from Joy Harjo’s “Eagle Poem,” which, though she is Native American, seem to express the kind of reverence that I sensed in Kyoto.

We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the upmost care
And kindness in all things.

The concepts of “respect” and “reverence” are very much the underpinning of the teachings of yoga. What are referred to as the first two “limbs” of yoga recommend five ethical practices (yama) and five personal practices (niyama).

The five ethical practices are: non-violence, truthfulness, honesty, moderation, non-covetousness. The five personal practices are: cleanliness, contentment, a disciplined life aiming for mental and physical balance, self-study, devotion to a Higher Principle.

Each of the ethical practices implies living with respect toward all sentient beings and taking care not to cause harm, which are necessary in order to have a peaceful mind. Nicolai Bachman in his book the Path of the Yoga Sutras states: “Each yama is a guideline for behaving in a benevolent manner toward others so as to support the process of quietly turning inward and discovering our true nature (140). The respect we show through the practices of the yamas implies a respect and reverence toward ourselves since we each share the same inner light as all other beings.

Sometimes obstacles can limit our ability to live with the attitude of respect and care for ourselves that the niyamas imply. Many of us received teachings growing up that taught we should always put ourselves last to be a “good” person and that our most important goal should be serving others. I know for myself and many others with whom I have spoken that focusing on self-care or personal practices can raise feelings of guilt. Yet, if we do not take care of ourselves, how can we care for others? If we truly believe all beings, including ourselves, share a divine light, how can we ignore working to remove obstacles to our health, well-being, contentment, and peace of mind. How can we ignore caring for what is a temple for that light?

I am grateful for the guidelines for behaving and living that yoga’s yamas and niyamas provide. And, I am very grateful for the awareness raised by my time in Japan. Cultivating an attitude of respect and reverence “in all things” supports my commitment to practice the ethical and personal practices of yoga and deepens the peace and joy of living each day.

For your consideration: What might your life look like if you consciously lived with an attitude of respect and reverence in all you did each day?

Yoga 4 Summer Solstice

Sunflower image

 
On the green, under the tree!
Yoga for the Summer Solstice
Led by Elizabeth Terry

 
Saturday, June 24, 2017
Loaves and Fishes Farm
1810 York Road, Dover PA 17315

Yoga from 10:00-11:30am. Light lunch and fun to follow!

Bring your own yoga mat, walking shoes and “farm friendly” clothes for playing with the goats. A free will offering will be accepted to support the work of Loaves and Fishes Farms.

Please reserve your spot by June 20th:
Elizabeth Terry eterryyoga@gmail.com or (717) 645-0067

 
For more info on the farm, check out their Facebook page – Facebook.com/LoavesAndFishesFarm or contact:
Farmer Jen Briggs jenbriggs@comcast.net or (717) 774-0794
Farmer Bonnie McCann bonniejmccann@comcast.net or (717) 319-7721

 
Directions (from Harrisburg area)

Interstate 83 south to the Yocumtown Exit. At Light make a left and then an immediate Right on to Taylor Road. Follow that road for about 3.5 miles. You will cross over Rt. 382 (Lewisberry Road) which then becomes York Road, this is curvy and you will pass the Susquehanna Speedway and the farmer market on your left and you will pass a church and school on your right. The Loaves and Fishes Farm is on the corner of Red Bank and York Road. It is a white house with green shutters – the kitchen is in the garage (doesn’t everyone have a kitchen in the garage?)

1810 York Road
Dover, Pa 17315

One Day at a Time

One Day at a Time

Swan in lake

This week I had an awakening. As a friend reflected upon the slogan “one day at a time” and how important it was in her life, I realized how much stress and anxiety – what yoga calls duhkha or “suffering” – my calendar was causing me. Of course, it was not the calendar causing this, but rather my attachment to it.

I admit to loving my monthly planner, how it lays out each day in tidy 1.5 x 1.5 inch white boxes. And this habit of keeping a calendar to look ahead over a month has served me well in the past. It allowed me to plan, to reduce uncertainties, to be prepared, to control and order events and responsibilities in my life.

But my use of the calendar to assure my life in the future would be manageable has been making it unmanageable in the present, along with my propensity to add too much to too little time. My mind constantly visited the weeks ahead, reviewing what I needed to do and how I would manage to do it.

Yoga teaches that when we are unsettled, unhappy, or disgruntled, mental or emotional afflictions called klesas usually are at fault. Lack of awareness or knowledge, avidya, is the primary klesa. When avidya keeps us from seeing clearly, then we make choices that cause us pain or unhappiness. One of avidya‘s step-children is fear. My attachment to my calendar is a way to manage my fear of being unprepared or taken off guard, as a way of providing some certainty even while knowing intellectually there is no certainty.

Yoga gives us tools to help us see ourselves clearly and to keep klesas small by helping us move away from those things causing us suffering so we can reach a place of balance and peace of mind. The Yoga Sutra suggests that when we are caught up with a mental/emotional affliction, we should look at how we can move in the opposite direction, what is called pratipaksa bhavana. For example, we may be working on a project that challenges us and makes us fear whether we can succeed. A pratipaksa bhavana might be “courage.”

If my attachment to ruminating over the events on my monthly calendar causes me anxiety, I can cultivate the opposite by focusing on “one day at a time.” I can put the monthly calendar in my desk drawer, look at it periodically, and place a calendar showing only one day on my desk. I can focus on “one day at a time” in my yoga practice.

After all, this one day is really all that any of us have. Living each day in the here and now, paying attention to each dish I wash, each person I meet, each bird I listen to, each word I speak or write means I am present in my life – the only life I have. “One day at a time,” that is the way we find joy and peace of mind.