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Are you ready, willing to BLOOM?

blooming flower on branch

With Spring in full BLOOM, the metaphor of blooming takes on a whole new level of appreciation and application. In the Spring, we enjoy the fruits of our Fall labor of harvesting and cultivating AND the introspection and rest of Winter. Seeing sprouts of green break through the wet, damp soil and colorful bursts open to the sun, reminds us that life is a circle, a circle of energy, a process of recycling and rebirthing. Blooming and Spring as metaphors for rebirth are analogies for understanding identity development, the discovery of our independent sense of self. The yoga practice is the fertile soil in which we learn to be our true self. It’s less about becoming someone new and more about remembering and re-learning how to be the fullest, best expression of our authentic self. Yoga is the practice of union. It could be said, yoga is the practice of human being rather than a human doing. The practices of asana, pranayama and meditation serve as the strategies for cultivating union within, in relationship and with the world as a whole. Western psychology defines identity development as the defining challenge of adolescence. Yoga philosophy expands this “phase” as the entirety of life. I tend to side with the life-long process. 😊 I don’t know about you, but I’m not done becoming. What Spring means for us at Life’sWork Yoga is an opportunity to #BeginAgain. Specifically, offering a fresh start to Yoga as a strategy for living well. YOGA LIVING is just that, a guided program to build (1) disciple for daily practice, (2) confidence in knowing how to adapt and tweak, and (3) connection with others who have committed to living more mindfully in alignment with yoga principles. Judith Hanson Lasater (author of Living Your Yoga) defines the practice of yoga as a three staged journey of (1) accepting personal responsibility, (2) engaging in communal relationships and finally (3) uniting into the oneness of the whole world. Sounds like identity development, to me! 😊 Although not separate and distinct, these three stages help mitigate the evolving practice of blooming as evidence of the independence necessary to cultivate appreciation and responsibility in order to accept the interdependence as a choice of union.

Philosophy of Blooming

I like the idea of blooming as the corresponding action of hope. It prompts me of remember Anais Nin:

“Then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Two Yoga philosophies come to mind in exploring this metaphor of BLOOMING and the concept of living well and becoming our best selves. Patanjalis’ Sutras and the Vedic concept of Abinevesa. Pantali offers insight on HOW to live and Abinevesa addressed the challenge of dying and letting go. Both offer insight into one’s identity development. Let’s explore these philosophies. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras describe kleshas as impediments to spiritual growth. Yogic practices, such as meditation and pranayama breathing exercises, provide methods to overcome abhinivesha. The ethical principles of Yamas and Niyams provide practical application for living the principles of yoga. The Vedic (pre-yoga folks) teaching offers a framework for suffering, defining five causes (klesas or kleshas) or kinds of hinderance or obstacle to inner peace, bliss, samadhi. Or as I define it, obstacles to living intimately with inspiration. These five Kleshas, or mental mind states of suffering include:

  1. Avidya – ignorance;
  2. Asmitaa – to regard the soul and the mind as one and the same thing;
  3. Raaga – attachment, the love of pleasure;
  4. Dvesha – aversion or avoidance of the unfavored;
  5. Abhinivesha – the fear of death.

Abhinivesha is a Sanskrit word meaning “will to live,” referring to the fear of death, the death of self, AND the incorrect perception of the true self as defined by the temporary physical body or Earthly world. As one of the kleshas, abhinivesha blocks enlightenment and liberation. The closest Western concept to this notion of Abinevesa is Ego, and in the extreme, Narcissism. When the individual identity of “me” becomes DOMINANT over the communal identity of “we”, the union of life starts to deteriorate. All of us experience moments of strong identity declaration. In fact, it’s healthy and necessary to establishing clear boundaries and even make decisions about, well, everything. Most of us oscillate between moments of wanting to be seen in our individuality and wanting to belong to a community or group. This is NORMAL and HEALTHY. It’s when we lose the perspective that these two identities actually co-exist and are NOT contrary to one another that we lose our way. I like Judith Hanson Lasater’s three tiered approach to yoga… we can start with one level and move the next, or explore one value across the three layers to build our capacity for living yoga in our every day tasks.

Practice of Letting Go

Sometimes the hardest part of Yoga is letting go of habits or practices that even though they no longer benefit us, they provide a degree of confidence and competence. We’re good at doing them, which results is a dopamine hit (the reward!) in the brain. Relearning is not an easy process, especially when the habit is new and not yet producing the desired results. Think about it, once the results kick in, it’s a whole lot easier to do the things that bring the result. But in real life, results are not instantaneous, despite what the media wants us to believe. All the more reason for community connection and a daily practice to affirm and ground our energy in the transition. This is why I built the Yoga Living program. It’s the strategy I developed through trial and error over ten years to redesign and rebuild my life using yoga principles as the foundation. Like most things of value, a garden takes time, effort, and patience. Inherent in the process (and any process for that matter) is a balance of risk and reward. If risk is the challenge to blooming and becoming, vulnerability is the practice to facilitate the transformation and receive the best possible reward: authentic connection! In my own garden, I’m constantly re-doing what I thought was “done”. This Spring I have plans to rebuild a retaining wall that I originally built 5 years ago. Ten years ago, I would never have been able to rebuild or re-do without feeling some level of failure. Admiting failure was the worst kind of vulnerability for me. Oh how I’ve grown! Now I see these opportunities as a chance to refine the end result as well as practice the skills of doing. The good news is I now have a better idea of what I want for my garden project and have some improved (maybe?) skills to apply to the undertaking. My mantra “BeginAgain” has been a critical ingredient to the process. Brene Brown (author and shame researcher) provides important clarity on the value of vulnerability. In fact, Brown names 10 gifts of imperfection (in her book by the same title) as related to one’s willingness to practice vulnerability. In a nutshell, all 10 gifts boil down to letting go of something in order to cultivate space for something else… sounds a bit like gardening to me and a lot like Yoga Living.

Let go of…

Cultivate:

What other people think Authenticity
Perfectionism Self-compassion
Numbing & powerlessness Resilient spirit
Scarcity and fear of the dark Gratitude & joy
Need for certainty Intuition & faith
Comparison Creativity
Exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth Rest & play
Anxiety as a life-style Calm & stillness
Self-doubt & “supposed to” Meaningful work
Always being in control Laughter, song and dance

What I LOVE most about Brown’s work is that she recognizes the relationship between letting go and receiving, like the relationship between the inhale and the exhale. You can’t have one without the other. In short, you can’t have authenticity without vulnerability any more than you can have a harvest without the toil of gardening or life without breath. There is no bloom separate from the labor of becoming the flower. Blooming is the fullest expression of being our truest self. From rooting, shooting, budding, to blooming…it’s the process of growing. They say the acorn contains all the ingredients for the full oak tree. And yet without sun, water and soil, the acorn will not become its full self. When we allow our true self to bloom, to be seen, others can’t help but pause and revel in beauty that shines from within. Yet the cycle continues even after the bloom. Just as petals give way to seeds and eventually become compost for the next generation, the cycle of life and growth continues. The problem with living is NOT dying, it’s never really fully living while we have the chance. Yoga is the strategy that has equipped me to live fully, to live in authentic alignment, to live vibrantly! It’s a practice that is open to everyone!

Bow and A Blessing

As you may know, I end Yoga practice and coaching sessions with a bow and a blessing as is traditional in Yoga. This blessing is a gesture of gratitude and humility to all the teachers who guide us on the path of authentic, aligned living and a reminder of the simplicity of the task of living well. #JustBreathe In addition to the greeting Namaste, which translates to simply “hello” or “the light in me honors the light in you.” As a person of prayer, I like to equate Namaste to Amen, “may it be so”. Or for the Trekkies, “Make it so.” 😉 Additionally, I add: “May you breathe deeply, move freely, labor lovingly and live vibrantly. “

We already have everything we need to bloom, we just have to let go of that which is not our true self and embrace the Union that already exists. The great Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo is quoted as saying,

“The sculpture is already complete within the marble block… I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.”

Becoming our best self is a practice in it of itself. Yoga simply gives us the strategy and structure to explore all the dimensions of our identity, values and truth. This journey of blooming and becoming is about learning how to live vibrantly. The strategy to Breathe, Move & Rest is the simplest (and MOST EFFECTIVE) way I have discovered to stay the course. Community supports us along the journey.

Yoga practice helps us shed the layers of protection and posturing to reveal our true self and to see with increased clarity. This is the letting go process. By letting go what is not our true self, we remove the obstacles of clear seeing, not just from our two eyes, but from the compassionate heart that lives within. This is the cultivation process, or as Michelangelo described, the artist’s process.

Are you ready? Shall we #BeginAgain? Shall we practice?