Navigating the Journey
Author: A Peaceful Hippy Girl Living a Peaceful Hippy Life
Peace Begins Within
In the upcoming posts I'll be starting the climb up the Tree of Yoga. The 8 Limbed Tree, that begins deep beneath the roots and saturates itself with the earth's precious resources of nourishment. Just as a tree reaches in all directions to receive what it needs, we too can reach out in all directions to find what nourishes our limbs, our bodies, our minds and our souls. I'll begin at the roots, where we can set a solid foundation for healing and growth.
Patanjali's Yoga Sutra 2:35-2:39 speak of the first limb, the Yama as the moral qualities that are necessary for connection to our Soul nature. Whether you believe you have a Soul or not, we can all connect to some form of relationship with nature, the cosmos, the earth... Or perhaps you connect with the vibration of peace and calm versus the "busy" energy of today's rapid-paced world.
Speaking of the world, I often feel as if the world appears to be in a downward spiral. However, I also believe peace appears to be on the rise. I know peace doesn't seem apparent as of late, with all the shootings and natural disasters and everything in between, but with the significant imbalance the world is currently experiencing, peace is the path we all need to take.
If you have read my previous blogs or instagram posts, you may noticed a repeating pattern of peace. My Yoga company is named, Peaceful World Yoga. My students are affectionately called the Peaceful Tribe. The little people I work with are called Peaceful Mini Hippies and the senior citizens I work with I've named the Peaceful Wisdom Keepers. A pattern of peace is a pattern I could get used to and can never speak enough about.
So where does peace begin? The first limb on the 8 Limb path of Yoga is Yama. The Yamas are the moral qualities that are necessary for connection to who we truly are. These are the behavioral foundations that make life more comfortable and often time more spiritually fulfilling. As humans, we work to cultivate a balanced of healthy relationship with our Self, the community, and the world at large.
Ahimsa is the first of the five Yama and means peace. Peace towards oneself and peace towards others. Ahimsa has been defined as non-violence, non-harming, and non-injury. How I've experienced ahimsa is that ahimsa brings peace from others. When we are able to give up our hostilities and/or our aggressions, others feel as if they can let go as well and allow the automatic response process to be turned off. Have you ever felt that unspoken presence of peace when you are in the company of someone who exudes peace and calm? So I'll ask again, where does peace begin? Can we say that peace begins within? Let's examine what you can do to cultivate that inner peace that can be expressed outwardly and with grace.
First of all, I feel the need to remind myself again and again that peace begins with me and exists internally within my own heart and mind. Looking for peace in the external world is a waste of time (for me anyway). I'm not saying that there aren't things in the external world that make me happy. There are for sure. The ocean, sand, friends, family, dogs, clothes, a roof over my head, delicious foods, traveling, and so much more. What I'm saying is that those things can't make us happy if happiness doesn't already exist at some level in our hearts and minds.
So where do we begin to create peace if that feeling is missing from your life? With the cultivation of ahimsa towards yourself and all beings. When you can accept yourself exactly how you are, in the present moment, you are creating ahimsa, peace within. When you take action and stand up for all living beings with kind words and actions, you are creating peace within. This begins to turn itself around and exudes the very essence of peace and calm. Easy? Not at all! Impossible? Not all all! So how do we cultivate peace within? What experiential practices can we do on a daily basis to allow peace to take up permanent residence within each of us?
Here are a few daily practices to get your started. Try and choose one at a time and watch with loving awareness (no judging yourself or saying things like, "I can't...." or "This is stupid because..." or perhaps, "I don't have the attention to keep up with this...." There are as many excuses as there are people walking on this Earth and yet this can be done. This has been done by many and peace is growing exponentially. Let's explore some of the easier practices that take little or no time to try each day.
The first practice I always recommend is Watching the Breath. The reason I begin with breath is that we are always breathing. Are we always breathing with awareness? No, that's a lot of work! However, we can set reminders to ourselves throughout the day to remind us to breathe deeply. Breathe waaaaay down into the belly and allow the breath to reach into the low back, in behind the kidneys and adrenal glads. Allow the side ribs to push out and expand with each inhale, and as you exhale, you allow everything to decompress, naval pulls towards the spine, and you release all that no longer serves you. Stress. Anxiety. Tension. Worry. Pain. We can count the inhalation length and see if we can match the exhalation length. There are hundreds of ways to shape the breath, but for today's purpose, we are only working on deep, belly breathing. We can work on the deepening, smoothing and lengthening of the breath but embedded within the practice of belly breathing.
Another practice, Watching the Thoughts. Watching the thoughts can be woven into every thread of our life. Being aware of what we are thinking, feeling and sensing takes practice. Many times I have felt as if my thoughts were being led around by an untrained puppy that relentlessly pushes, pulls and drags my attention all over the place. Emotions and feelings have their highs and lows. We can feel elated one moment and then turn around and feel fear, anger, discontent, jealousy, doubt, or thoughts of despair and insecurity. All of these emotions may negate peace. How can we stop? Watching the thoughts and when we notice, we break the pattern of the thoughts that don't serve us any purpose. The practice is replacing (not burying or ignoring) negative thoughts. When we can stop, bring awareness to a negative thought AND (bonus points) can also notice the sensation and impact thoughts have on the body, we can make tremendous movement towards peace as a way of life.
I'll leave you with these two practice to try this week. There are several more that I practice regularly in relation to Ahimsa and I'll share those in the next post.
In the meantime, allow yourself the gift of awareness. The awareness that you can shape your own breath to allow you to relax more, lower your own blood pressure, calm yourself and so much more. Keep a breathing journal and notice the benefits you experience. Noticing and keeping a personal record all for more direct awareness practice. OR, what the thoughts. If you are new to a sitting practice of any time, don't try and get rid of thoughts. That's almost impossible. Thoughts have a purpose but their purpose is not to take you on a wild ride. Mind practice is like taking a puppy to training when you first bring he or she home. They are wild, they need to run free and let loose of course, but they also need to learn to "come," "sit," "stay," and all those personalized commands you provide them to find peace within themselves so they can feel at peace within as well as show peace to others. Is your mind like the crazy off leash dog running wild at the local dog park, or does your mind behave more like a service dog? Or something in between? That's perfectly fine. Don't judge. Just observe with curiosity. And remember, this is a practice NOT a perfect!
I leave you with peaceful thoughts,
and peaceful actions that come from your hearts.
Until next time...stay safe, stay connected and find joy within.