A child sits mesmerized and in total delight with a box of crayons, full of wonder and expression as she draws a landscape, a farmhouse, workers, and animals. The picture is vivid and evocative of the feelings that swirl and move in her. After completing the drawing, she takes the picture to her Mom to share in the creation of what was once inside and now made real, on paper, for all to see.
“Oh honey,” the Mom says with an aspirated groan and forced sweetness.
“Grass is not blue, you better go change that.”
What is it in us that constantly needs to find fault? What is the seed of resistance that coils our minds into reactivity and criticism?
I was walking down the street the other day while out on some errands. I walked through the downtown district of the town I was visiting and after about 30 minutes noticed that I was lost in thought. Taken into a chain of inner dialogue which consisted of random, unnecessary chatter and critical fault finding. I was finding fault with the way people drive, the way people walk, and talk, and sit. I was astonished to see that I was able to find fault in anyone for any reason. I then noticed that my face was hard with a furrow of contention, my gate was harsh and forced, and my mood was generally displeased.
I recalled a conversation I had with a friend that very morning about therapeutic practices for creating intimacy in a marriage. “Catch someone doing something right,” she said with a smile and twinkle in her eye. In the moment I was inspired and thought, “Yes! I see it.” The value of this little turn of phrase was so obvious and yet, there I was, walking down the street silently tearing a little hole in each person I saw. I laughed a little at the absurdity of catching myself behaving this way and before my mind stepped in with all the usual justification about how “they actually are doing something wrong”, I chose to enact the practice.
For each person that I saw for the rest of the walk I chose to “catch them doing something right.” After a few steps down the street I noticed that my face was soft and slightly smiling. My mood was better, and my walking had slowed and become light and gliding.
The point here is not to only look at the good and color the world rosie with our intentions. The point is that, especially when it counts, we as humans have the power to affect those around us in ways that enable them to feel seen in a true and honest light. We have the power to really contact another and create intimacy where we might, out of habit, disconnect and cause harm.
When we catch someone doing something right, we allow instead of control. We influence the goodness that is in someone to expand and grow. When we catch someone doing something right, we view them from presence and look upon them with attentive regard and admiration. When we catch someone doing something right, we quiet the sneaky and immature sides of our personalities which are always on the prowl to point out the mistakes of others.
Finding fault kills Love
By finding fault we cut love into pieces. The justification of which is invariably some perceived rightness, upheld by a narrow bandwidth of perception and preference.
Consider this: Fault implies blame. Blame cannot be actually found. Blame can be given and taken and it just cannot be found. No matter how hard you look, blame operates in a perpetual shitslide, forever rolling down the hill of life until arrested and enforced by law or capitulation or consensus, or willfully stopped by someone willing to be the bottom line. Even when there is consensus or admission, blame is either thrust upon someone or nobly taken. Yet in practical terms, it is still not found.
I have been working with these words, “Finding fault kills Love”, for the last 9 years of my life. I can attest without a doubt the very real and practical experience of these words. As I have over and over again failed in the real moments when it counts, I have come to find a little momentum in catching someone (whom I love) doing something right. The results speak for themselves and I’d bet we could all get a lot of value out of doing it even a few times a week.
Catch someone doing something right 3 times per week for 5 weeks. Write down your insights and attempt to make it a habit every week for the foreseeable future, until it is a life habit.
By: Brent Kuecker – Yogi. Musician. Educator.
I have a friend who on April 27, 2007 was brought back to life after being dead (for long enough to make it real) from an electrocution accident while working for a power company. His report is that in the gap of ‘time’ that he was dead, all that was was darkness and silence. No time. No demands. No self. No identity. No problems. Stories of these experiences are very powerful for us to hear as humans, for there is no denying that in general, we live in a phobia of death and by proxy, the ‘unknown’.
What do you feel when the lights go out? When there is no longer contact with the known World? My experience tells me that ‘no light’ and ‘no contact’ is the base ground, or context in which all experience rests in and upon, rises from, and subsides into. And still to this day, whenever I genuinely consider the end of the life of this body, a real and convincing terror is present. Not in a conscious way, yet it is here and mostly I live in any way possible to avoid that feeling.
I have noticed that there is a trend in popular Yoga in the West to give Shavasana as an option at the end of class. At the same time, Shavasana is talked about as the ‘most important’ pose. Why the turning away from it? What are the motives of taking away the practice of seeing and feeling into the real and unavoidable fact that dissolution of matter and energy is happening, has been happening, and will continue to happen regardless of how much resistance and denial of said certainty is applied? It feels to me that this turning away from the practice of Shavasana is somehow subtly suggesting that death is an option…
…Which doesn’t seem to me a problem in and of itself, but rather a symptom of a deeper underlying issue at play; that the fear of death is motivating our decisions and actions unconsciously.
Look at it. Until we as a race crack this particular life hack and death is really an option [using all available resources to continue living indefinitely] it is going to continue. And likely even after. Nothing is free in this life, and it is likely to cost a lot to keep ‘life’ going indefinitely (see the ‘Borg’ from Star Trek). Again, not a problem. Just saying…
Break down of the word ‘Shavasana’:
Shava – Corpse
Asana – Pose, posture, seat, gesture
The practice of Shavasana is both the simplest and most challenging Yoga pose. Basically you just lay there. The difficulty comes in when we are faced with the challenge of staying still and letting go.
Shavasana is that practice of being a corpse. Think of it as a dress rehearsal.
Corpses do not generally move. Unless you count zombified necrotic tissue or the continual degradation of cells and atoms into the basic building blocks of further creation [which I do on both accounts].
Shavasana is a practice of relinquishing. Relinquishing control, holding, grasping, and all interference. The form is prone; lying on one’s back. The action is non-action. The doing is non-doing. The choice is singular; to come again and again, actively into the passive state. To be receptive. This requires and calls of us the power of our presence and attention to be active (literally the only active part of the pose).
When we have no power over letting go, we will most likely find that we are not making the choice to be present and attentive.
When we have no power to engage our presence and attention, we will most likely find that we have been taken out of the moment and are lost in an imagination land, or the depths of unconsciousness.
What Shavasana has to teach us:
*** Amongst so much more, these are just a few considerations***
- The current limit of our power to let go
- The current limit of our power to stay attentive
- That darkness and silence need not be associated with fear
- “I” am always moving
- The temporary Nature of all creation
- That life and death are not separate; they come as two parts of a whole
- That from darkness and silence comes all light and sound
- “I” am always moving
I’ll leave you with a poem that illuminates some of the power and possibility in the practice of Shavasana:
I want to write about faith
About the way the moon rises over cold snow
Night after night
Faithful even in its fading from fullness
Slowly becoming that last curving and impossible sliver of light
Before the final darkness
But I have no faith myself
I do not give it the smallest entry
Let this then, my small form
Like a new moon
Slender, barely open
Be the first prayer
That opens me to faith
By: Brent Kuecker – Yogi. Musician. Educator.
My girlfriend and I moved to Boulder, CO in December of 2016. I started attending Yoga classes at local studios and have noticed that the ‘level’ of Yoga practice is quite strong and demanding. A lot of the people who attend classes in Boulder appear fit; and why not?? The Denver metro area (including Boulder) has been ranked as one of the “fittest cities in the U.S.” for many years. There is no doubt that the environment of Boulder encourages and stimulates folks to get out and get fit; the majestic flatirons of the Rocky Mountain foothills, 300 days of Sun per year, the altitude, the vast and open landscapes that surround, and of course, the cultural connotation of mind/body wellness that covers nearly every square foot of Boulder’s business and media communication.
A person might see the types of people doing Yoga these days and in the observation of them wonder, “How fit do you have to be to do Yoga?”
The short answer:
“Not that fit…”
The long answer:
To do Yoga, one must embody the practice; to live in the World day to day in a way that honestly reflects the vision of one’s practice and respects the current conditions and situations of one’s life. To sincerely honor the past line of teachers that have committed their being and humanness to serve and advance the practice. To hold space in one’s self for growth and change going forward. My conjecture is that by proxy of having a body, a mind, and a complex nervous/emotional system, one is fit to do this.
The Devil’s advocate:
We have limits. Real limits: physical, mental, emotional/nervous limits, among others. These limits are very convincing and regardless of what we learn or want to learn, do or want to do, these limits will be present, consciously, subconsciously, and especially unconsciously.
Advancing the narrative:
What is fitness?
Let us see what old Webster has to say about this: with a little of my own commentary
- The condition of being physically fit and healthy : “If that is not didactic enough for you…”
- The quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task : “Now we are getting closer…”
- An organism’s ability to survive and reproduce in a particular environment : “I know I have bumped right up against my question of survival in some Yoga practices, and hell if Yoga teachers aren’t reproducing themselves in the particular environments of Yoga around the World…”
It seems to me that fitness in Yoga [particularly in the West] is often measured by a narrow bandwidth of physicality and form, of which as far as I can see has the byproduct of a degraded mental image of one’s own fitness in relation to the practice. My experience is that Yoga allows a much more fluid, accepting, and expansive view of fitness; that a practitioner’s relative fitness bares no final judgement on their potential for practice. In this regard, let us take the word ‘fitness’ and apply it to the whole body/mind:
- Cardiovascular fitness – the ability of the heart, blood cells and lungs to supply oxygen-rich blood to the working muscle tissues and the ability of the muscles to use oxygen to produce energy for movement.
- Digestive fitness – the ability of the salivary glands, mouth, esophagus, stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, small intestine, colon, and rectum to get food into and out of the body and to make use of it.
- Mental fitness – *The following 3 definitions are the view of the writer
- The ability of the mental faculties of a human being to take in, digest, and make use of the input.
- The ability of a mind to stay in a non-conclusionary state.
- The ability of a mind to be non-dogmatic.
*** WE HAVE NO CONSENSUS ON THIS!!! Everywhere we look: business, psychology, medicine, coaching, etc. all seem to make up their own definition of what mental fitness is. I suggest finding out for yourself.
- Nervous/Emotional fitness – The ability of the mind/body to perceive the present sensation and feeling of what is, without habitual mental reaction or clinging to any one sense or feeling. *The writer’s view again
*** Many definitions of emotional fitness have to do with thinking positively in the face of any emotion or feeling. The reason I do not consider this emotional fitness is that it depends on the mind to only think positive thoughts, which is as far as I can see is a vast denial of a majority of our being, a dishonest demand on World culture, and frankly, putting the cart before the horse… Not to mention the source of spiritual bypassing… Rant done. Thank you.
Sincere Yoga practice builds [or at least offers the possibility of building] fitness in all categories of life. If I had to wait until I was “fit enough to do Yoga” I would never start! I suggest to leverage your strengths in fitness, be they physical, mental, or emotional. At the same time, sincerely study the tradition of Yoga to discover what it has to offer to increase the fitness of your weak areas. Above all, take no bullshit feedback that is not verified in the honest and deep listening into your body, mind, sensations, and feelings.
By: Brent Kuecker – Yogi. Musician. Educator.
Join us at the second annual Udaya Live, Yoga and Music Festival. Share in diversity and acceptance of Yoga practitioners from around the World! Music, meditation, more Yoga than you can dream of in 5 glorious days! Fitness for the mind, body, and heart!
The closing ceremony of the 1st annual Udaya Live had just finished. The mood in the air was astounding. Everyone at the festival glowed with delight and joy while looking grounded in the intimacy of connection and celebration. My girlfriend and I both performed at the festival. She and I, still awed from the festival experience, walked down to the main hotel lobby from a small reprieve in our room. We ran into a glossy eyed and smiling Yariv Lerner, the founder of Udaya.com and the man responsible for Udaya Live. We expressed to him how well we felt the festival went. His reply was short and sweet, “It was because we had the right intention.”
The softness and insight of these words stuck with me. I think often about the role our intentions play in the results we experience in life. In this case the role of intention with a large group of people gathering to practice Yoga, celebrate life, music, culture, and art. One thing I have noticed is that sincere Yoga practice makes intentionality strong.
In the Yoga tradition, Sankalpa is taught to generate intentional power. Sankalpa is the harnessing of the individual will to motivate an action which mirrors directly and accurately a predetermined aim. In its ordinary passive state, the individual will can appear cast about, distracted by influences and tending toward losing its aim. The Yoga practitioner draws out the skill in action through learning to observe the will in action. Present in one’s thoughts and movements, sensations and feelings, the Yogi comes to a ‘true heart intention’; Sankalpa. A one-pointed determination which fuels the consistent follow through of intended action.
Intentions arise from many places in the human being. Sometimes they come from only the mind, or only the emotions, or only the nervous and instinctual body. Yoga teaches that the ‘heart’ from which sankalpa arises is the present time simultaneity of all three. A ‘true heart intention’ never dies. In a strange way, it is never fulfilled (like the ‘new ferrari’ can be). The ‘true heart intention’ constantly brings us back to asking more of our self than we are today. It is applicable in all life circumstances for it touches Life beyond the ordinary while requiring it to be played out in the ordinary. Sankalpa is a sincere prayer that the limited power of will that we experience as an individual will grow stronger and possibly give way to an unending stream of manifesting power.
Etymology of Sankalpa
- Sam – One, unitive, integrated, total, collected, being
- Kalpa – to do, to act, to perform, to achieve, measurable, doing
Check out these word pairs:
- To do oneness
- To act unitive
- To perform integrated
- To achieve totalness
- Measurably collected
- Doing Beingness
** I point out the word pairs not because they define a good intention for yourself. I put the words together to point toward the moods which intention setting aims at in its wording.
What makes an intention practical?
- Posits us as working within a limitation.
“As an individual, a specific entity, you have physical, mental, and nervous limits, among others. If you know you own limits and try to stay within these limits, you are free.”
– Swami Prajnanpad
Swami Prajnanpad reminds us that our limitations are best treated honestly. Notice that he says your being free (high on the top ten best intentions of all time list) is not acquired by transcending your limitations, but by knowing and acknowledging them. That as I accept and work within my limitations, however difficult the struggle, I can gain skill in application. And that the skillful performance of activities which used to frustrate and confuse me, might instead allow the natural delight of being to bubble to the surface.
Sankalpa is a statement of assertion that arises from an honest and clear account of what is, and complete trust in one’s whole being; to allow from the dignity and sanctity of silence, an intention as strong as sincere wedding vows to arise.
It sounds like,
You fill in the blank.
By: Brent Kuecker – Yogi. Musician. Educator.
So you started a Yoga practice in January and now it is March or April and you are finding that your schedule is somehow not allowing time for your new found interest. You began with fervor and excitement and now attending a Yoga class or setting time to practice at home is being pushed out by the life you knew before Yoga. You find yourself saying, “I don’t have time to do Yoga”.
As I get older, I feel like time is speeding up. The days, weeks, months, and even years seem to evaporate like so many icebergs in an ever increasing world climate. More and more conversations I have with friends revolve around ‘the busy contest’. Life’s demands and responsibilities compound, tipping and toppling the priority scale away from ‘leisure’ activities. It seems that there is virtually no downtime. Where does Yoga fit in a life situation such as this?
Priorities and Positions
Do I fundamentally see Yoga as something to ‘unwind’ or ‘de-stress’? Is Yoga my ‘treat’ for working hard? Is Yoga my ‘entertainment’? Maybe, and I would say there is nothing wrong with these views and applications of Yoga. What I want to point out is that these viewpoints seem to posit Yoga as an ‘addition’ to life. It puts Yoga as something I do aside from my life, as if Yoga is some kind of supplement, prescription, or hobby. And, like most hobbies, life has a way of scaling them down and out of its availability in time.
The longer I practice, the more I feel that the practice of Yoga is a natural response to being human. That to study and self-examine is being responsible for mind and life choices. That to stretch and strengthen, as well as eat well, is being responsible for this body and it’s functions. That to meditate is to be responsible for this intellectual and emotional experience. This position and view is of Yoga as a lifestyle.
You probably wouldn’t say, “I don’t have time to check my social media,” or “I don’t have time to watch Netflix,” or any other activity which is habituated into daily life. It really comes down to being willing and able to be outside of your comfort zone long enough to get your Yoga ‘habit’ formed. To be willing to assume Yoga as a lifestyle, not a life-fixer upper, not an antidote to life, not a prescription or supplement. A lifestyle.
Is time speeding up?
Time is a social construct, just as religion, manners, and values. What gives us the perception of time is change, or oscillation from one state to another: Change of seasons, change of sunlight throughout the day, change of positions of stars in the sky, etc.. Nothing changes, no time is perceived. The faster things change, the relative perception of time also changes.
Humans evolved in a life with no clocks, no punch cards, no facebook posts, or iOS updates. Change was as slow as the growth of grass and the gentle crawl of the Sun and stars through the sky.
Sundials and calendar ‘structures’ on Earth date as far back as 5,000 B.C.. The first personally usable sundials did not arrive until around 800 B.C. and universally functional sundials not until around 200 B.C.. Mechanical clocks were invented in the 14th century and the pendulum clock in 1656. Now we have atomic clocks, which work on the same principle as the pendulum clock, but instead of measuring the second as one oscillation of a pendulum, it measures a second as exactly 9,129,631,770 oscillations of a caesium-133 atom in a specific state.
The rate of change in technology, economy, politics, etc. is likely to increase for at least the foreseeable future. We can’t expect time to slow down or for life to somehow adjust to suit our wants and whims that we can then practice Yoga.
Accountability – What gets measured, gets managed
You don’t have time for Yoga??? My bet is that there are at least 10 minutes of everyday (and probably way many more minutes) which for all intents and purposes go unnoticed, unrecorded, and unremembered. You really could not tell anyone about those minutes, because, well, you weren’t really there.
Time is a measurement. Of what? Well, movement in and through SPACE! When things get measured, something in a human activates, like a compass pointing toward magnetic north, of how to be, and what to do. Without measurement, we are left with a ‘best guess’ or a ‘passive submission’ to our habituated behavior.
To measure your time usage, you could try committing to writing down a number on a physical calendar. One simple number that everyone around you can see. This calendar is posted on your wall at home and has no other purpose than to represent the number of minutes you practice Yoga each day. My bet is that you will find the will and drive to practice increases with the acknowledged and accounted usage of your time each day.
Another great idea is to enter a 30 day challenge. These challenges help to get your Yoga ‘habit body’ formed so that it can carry you through when you are not feeling up for practice or your other life habits want to take the place of practice.
Udaya.com has Yoga classes ranging from 5 – 60 minutes. And yes! 5 minutes is enough to count as a practice. I would bet that 5 minutes of practice for 40 days straight would render far better results than 200 minutes of practice in one day (and probably less injury).
You have time for Yoga!
- Measure your practice time
- Build your Yoga ‘habit’
- Assume Yoga as a lifestyle (not a hobby)
By: Brent Kuecker – Yogi. Musician. Educator.