"Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think.
Suffering follows an evil thought,
as the wheels of a cart follow the oxen that draw it.
Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think.
Joy follows a pure thought,
like a shadow that never leaves.
"He was angry with me, he attacked me, he defeated me, he robbed me" -
those who dwell on such thoughts will never be free from hatred.
"He was angry with me, he attacked me, he defeated me, he robbed me" -
those who do not dwell on such thoughts will surely be freed from hatred.
For hatred can never put an end to hatred;
Love alone can. This is an unalterable law.
People forget that their lives will end soon.
For those who remember, quarrels come to an end."
-Chapter One, 1-6, Twin Verses, The Dhammapada, commentary by Eknath Easwaran
One of the joys of Buddha's teachings, at least for me, is that it's always easy to see the merit in what is being shared. 'We are what we think' is both simplistic and powerful, let us be aware of what we fill our minds with. Let us cultivate positive thinking, train our mind's eye to see the beauty in all situations, and to find gratitude, even in life's challenges. Let us cultivate a razor sharp will and train our minds to be useful tools that better ourselves and others.
The Buddha describes the untrained mind in such metaphors like "The untrained mind is like a fish thrashing on the banks of the shore" or , "An intoxicated monkey who's being stung by bees."
I am sure we have had moments where we can relate.
We see in the next verses, two choices are again presented. The one who holds onto grudges and hostilities, ruminating and stagnating in their negativity and hatred; this person remains trapped in a cage, with the key on the floor.
The latter, is the one who chooses to let those experiences pass, much like wind through the branches of a mighty tree. He remains free from hatred, his heart light and available to the moment at hand.
Verses, 5 and 6, touch on the universal power of love and kindness.
We can change the world by changing ourselves. The only way to spread peace is by being peaceful yourself, in the same way, love alone can put an end to hatred, anger, jealousy, and violence.
In the words of Swami Satchidanada, "Pouring love on hate is like pouring water on fire."
Verse 6 touches on our mortality, and again is profoundly simple, life is too short to be spent in anger or bitterness. We all have challenging moments in life, and are especially tested when we begin to connect with spiritual values and virtues. This is natural and to be expected along the way. The Buddha advises us to remember that life is short, and while we may not be able to escape quarrels all together, we have the choice of how we react to them. Forgiveness and Love will always uplift you and keep you moving forward, remember this and that Love Alone is one of your greatest tools on this journey of awakening.
May you be happy, healthy and full of light,
Yoga is often translated as union, union with the breath, union of mind and body, union with the present moment, union with the Peace within.
Having recently spent a week vacationing in the Outer Banks, N.C. and being able to connect with the local community there, I have returned with a renewed sense of purpose, of devotion, of clarity.
As a yoga instructor I feel that it's crucial for me to continue being a student, and to frequently take time to nourish and reconnect with what inspires me.
Getting back in touch with my roots so to speak, has rekindled my love of yoga and allowed me to remember how it has changed the way I interact with my self, others and the environment. So, why was I drawn to yoga in the first place? I remember reading Ram Dass's "Be Here Now", and having it resonate with me on many levels. I had been interested in the prospect of meditation and expanded states of consciousness for some time already, and felt that inner peace was all I had been searching for all along, but the "peace of mind" i felt was always temporary, or induced by some kind of outside stimulus. When Yoga found me again, things gradually began to change. Yoga became like the inner pilot of my being, guiding me back to a place of physical health, greater awareness of my thoughts and life style choices, and brought incredible healing to my spirit, my family, and relationships. Through the asanas and kriya yoga, the inner fire that yoga practice generates, also known as the tapas and agni, my physical body became strong and flexible and I found myself alleviated from "common" ailments and states of dis-ease. I felt brighter and lighter and connected to this deep well of pure energy. It was during the intense concentration that a physical yoga practice demands that I began to find stillness within.
I found myself always interested in the tales of Tibetan Lamas and the states of consciousness they could access in deep meditation, the stories of siddhis and Indian masters living off of air alone in the high solitude of the Himalayas, and the Shaolin monks training body and mind day and night with a will as strong as the steel they broke with their fists. Suddenly an intense inspiration burned in me to go beyond the limitations of the body and mind, and access a deeper well of power and strength, to reunite with the Source of all things.
And as I did this, a lot of things naturally fell away, or at least my desire for them did. I was no longer interested in being "the life of the party", I was too busy enjoying life for all that. Eventually my diet changed to better accommodate my sense of well being, and the compassion and respect I have for all life. A lot of people I thought were close friends of mine stopped calling me, and I came to the realization that the only constant thing in life is change. People and places come in and out of our lives for only a season sometimes. Despite all this, an inner knowing told me that I was doing what I needed to do, that I was becoming who I was meant to be. There were, and still are, many times, where I was forced to face my demons, where life's challenges beat me down, and where loneliness, low self esteem and doubt came at me with all they had. I am grateful for all these things, and even more so for a practice that has allowed me to examine, hold and feel what arises without judgement and with a tender loving-kindness. For these things bother me less now, have taught me a lot and my pack has become a little lighter.
As the years have gone by, and the seasons turn one into the next, my practice has also gone through seasons and changes, some more deeply committed and intensified, others restful and relaxed, with a loose focus on always serving, loving and being kind to others, connecting with the Earth, and training body and mind. After this past vacation I found that my seated meditation practice had taken a backseat for the week, and I noticed that I needed it again, the way I need a drink when I'm thirsty. I couldn't wait to rest in silence and turn the gaze inward.
If or when you find yourself with this kind of desire for practice, hold it and cherish, for it is a beautiful thing when this kind of love and devotion arises.
There's an old saying, "Better to never begin, once begun better finished." The ironic part about this, is that on the spiritual path, there is no finish line waiting for us, we don't get a retirement party, even after the goal of yoga is achieved, even after enlightenment, life must go on, and the teachings must continue to be shared.
So, this week has reminded me to follow my heart and be the light that shined for me when I first started, to be that source of encouragement for others to commit deeply to this practice, and to keep doing there best. To be a gardener, planting seeds of love, gratitude and kindness in the hearts of others.
All is Love,
Bryan Josiah Nupp, RYT 200
I'd like to make more mistakes next time.
I'd Relax. I'd limber up. I would be sillier
than I have been on this trip. I would
take fewer things seriously. I would take more chances.
I would climb more mountains and swim in more rivers.
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.
I would perhaps have more actual troubles, but
fewer imaginary ones...
You see, I'm one of those people who lives sensibly
and sanely hour after hour, day after day. Oh,
I've had many moments, and If I had to do it over again,
I'd have many more of them. In fact,
I'd try to have nothing else. Just moments, one after another,
instead of living so many years ahead each day. I've been one those persons,
who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat, a parachute.
If I had to do it over, I would travel lighter than I have.
If I had to live my life over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring
and stay that way later in the fall.
I'd go to more dances.
I'd ride more merry-go-rounds.
I'd pick more daisies.
written at 85 years old,
Imagine, you're at work, it's a Monday, it's about half way through your day, and before you start contemplating what you'll have for lunch, you have the opportunity to change into some comfy clothes, play laughter games with coworkers, take a constructive rest, listen to awesome music, dance a little, sweat a little, relax, unwind and restore yourself for the rest of the day ( and then enjoy lunch)! This is a reality for some people and could be for you too if you had a yoga instructor come to your work place!
A growing and progressive field has been bringing yoga and meditation to the office. Western scientific research studies have been conducted over the past few decades into the subject of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness. One of the questions WAS, "Could it help reduce stress and increase efficacy in the workplace?" The answer was always obvious and apparent, and yoga has become associated (in U.S. culture) with relaxation, increased flexibility, reduced stress, and an improved sense of well being.
Currently I am working with a business, the local library and an elementary school, (with a couple others in the works) where I go right to their work place to share the joys of yoga with them. It's amazing the transformation process that occurs over our hour together. People sometimes come in stiff, anxious, cold, or stressed and always leave a little warmer and lighter, usually with a smile on their face. It is a blessing being able to work and play with individuals at their work, there's something special about it for myself and for them. For them, being able to take a rest from their busy schedules and do something proactive, lighthearted, healthy, and fun, and to bring some balance and break up stagnation during their day is Huge! Participants get to share a memorable experience with their coworkers and friends, and all around feel good about themselves, without having to drive anywhere else before, after, or during work. The convenience factor is probably most appealing.
As for me, I'm just sharing what I love. It's a total win-win.
Below is a file that lists some ways you can share a few laughs with people at work, and how laughter can change your environment.
Interested in bringing the joys of yoga to your work? Contact your favorite practitioner or a local yoga studio and get on board with the largest growing field!
With Love and Laughs,
Bryan J. Nupp, RYT 200
Recently I've been certified as a Laugha Yoga Leader, and let me tell you about what a fun weekend that was! Aside from playing a lot of games, and using laughter as our main form of communication, there were several deep insights that revealed themselves to me during this time.
You know, most people wake up and don't know when or where their next laugh is going to come from. Worse still, some people can't remember the last time they laughed. They wake up, run out the door balancing a cup of coffee, cellphone on speaker, trying to slip on their shoes and get the car started, and while the very sight of this is hilarious, laughter is far from their mind as they rush to the next thing.
Fortunately, I've discovered that laughing is easy. And we don't have to wait around for it! I get up and walk over to the mirror for a good laugh every day! HAH Even better, we can laugh for no reason what so ever! That was the first big realization I had. Sometimes we spend a long time waiting for permission to laugh, waiting for a joke, a funny movie, a night out with our best friends, or some bodily function to carry us past our serious edge and into a place that seems appropriate to laugh. You can laugh right now, try it! HAH So why wait? This same principle applies to a whole array of situations, waiting for the perfect mate, waiting for the perfect job that we love, waiting for the right time to get away on that dream vacation, waiting to finish that project that's been drawn out for way too long, and the list goes on and on...but really. What's keeping us? We get this life, that we are aware of, why wait around and leave it All to chance? I want to be happy, I don't want to have to wait for some outside circumstance or rare super moon to guide me in the direction. All I have to do is be happy! Being proactive this way can really do a 180 to our current emotional state and perspective on things.
In fact, walking my dog this afternoon I realized, "I haven't really laughed yet today." Before I let this alarm me I quickly opened up a little can of chuckle, "He-He" Whew, what a relief.
And this leads into one of my new favorite realizations, "Fake it til you make it." Some of you may be all too familiar to the concept already, but that's for another time.. The brain doesn't know the difference between a real smile and a fake one, a real laugh or a fake laugh, the same "feel good" chemicals are released and increased. This is really good news, because even if we "aren't in the mood to laugh" we can easily enhance our mood and sense of well being by practicing the "fake it til you make it" principle. The fake laughter often flips into the real thing.
So anyway, there I am, with my little dog in her cute pink sweater, lighting up the fuse to a long bout of laughter. Instantaneously my mood was lifted while simultaneously affecting those around me, I could see people's faces as they slowed past the "crazy laughing man walking his little dog". Most of them cracked a smile, a few veered over the double yellow, but I like to think that I did myself and them a favor. Combine the laughter with some weird eye contact for special results haha
Laughter is great medicine, so try brewing some of your own and see what happens. I encourage you to get into some serious setting, like a grocery store line, the bank, in traffic, or while you're alone on your walk, and just start with a little inner smile, gradually build up your inner laugh til it has to leave your lips. You don't always have to force it either, you can laugh expressively of the way you feel. If you're tired, what does a tired laugh sound like? An Indifferent laugh? Angry laugh? Tense laugh? Scared laugh? Aroused laugh? Hopefully you've been trying these as I list them hahaha
Laugha Yoga gives us insight and permission to be happy everywhere, laugh anytime, and really enjoy life in a whole new way.
All Is Love,
Bryan Josiah Nupp, RYT 200
Sometimes, people are "turned off" by chanting in a yoga class. And if people even a yoga class can't seem to get it, what does everyone else think? Recently during a webinar training I asked Amanda Correa, E-RYT 500 about how she deals with introducing mantra to an all levels class. She replied that she briefly explains what a mantra or sound vibration is, what kind of a frequency/feeling it produces for her, and that if someone isn't comfortable saying it with the class, just to silently observe the effects of the powerful sound immersion. Just take the opportunity to notice what arises, and this is where the real practice of yoga begins.
I have had many people ask me the same question about one sound in particular, "OM", probably the most universally recognized (and trendy) of all mantras and symbols. My intention here is to hopefully clear up some misconceptions about"OM", and share from my own direct experience. This will be brief compared to the nature of the subject... but as Buddha said, "The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step."
You see, mantras don't always have a direct translation, rather they are the experience of something. OM can be broken down intellectually, analyzed, and written about, yes, there's value to that but it's a limiting approach in my experience, compared to the depth available when you take the time to be present with and feel into the mantra.
Wait a second, what is a mantra exactly? Webster puts it like this,
Mantra- (originally in Hinduism and Buddhism) a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation.
Chanting could be considered an invocation of a very special frequency. One tuned in to a "spiritual station", one that will connect us with our Highest Self, with our Highest Nature. From this space we become good instruments to serve others selflessly and realize our own innate Wisdom.
I remember as a kid, seeing one of my friends close his eyes and in a very stoic and focused way begin to hum, "OMMMMMM". I guarantee you that we were never exposed to this sort of thing at the private school we attended but still somehow knew about this sacred sound and its calming, balancing properties.
OM is a mantra, or sound vibration, which is very powerful, and is also used to initiate other mantras. OM is used in a yoga class setting, most often, to bring an uplifting vibration to the room, unite participants with that space of Love and Peace within, and on a physiological level, brings balance to the hemispheres of the brain. It is everywhere and it is within everything. If you were to sit very quietly, with a stillness penetrating deep beyond even the internal sounds, you would reach a vibration within that is OM. All of the Saints and Sages, from different parts of the world have accounted for and verified similar experiences.
OM, according to "Sutras of Patanjali" Book 1:27, is the mystic sound that is the embodiment, experience, and fullness which is God. In Swami Satchidananda's commentary he says,
"There are hundreds and thousands of names for God, but none convey the exact idea of God. They may help us picture or conceptualize one aspect of God, but not the Fullness, the Limitless Nature of God. God is, was and always will be- infinite and omnipresent. Such a Great One should have a great name, that through even repeating the very name manifests God in you. The name "chair" may remind you of a chair, but you can't sit in it. "Sugar" reminds you of something sweet, but you can't taste it. God's name should denote the Fullness, represent God and also bring God to you." Sounding out OM is one way of achieving this union.
Repetition of a mantra (or positive affirmation) can be a great aid in developing concentration, and clearing obstacles on your path during meditation and other breath-body practices.
At first I wasn't so sure about all this mantra business, but I tried it and stuck with it. I continued to research and practice it. Slowly, as I nourished this seed that had been planted, beautiful things began to happen, I would find a little peace, some respite in between thoughts. Other times, profound experiences arose working with the mantra. Now it's become less about me focusing on or "forcing" the mantra, rather, it finds me! I'll be doing some kind "mundane" activity or task, landscaping, painting, chopping vegetables, going for a walk, doing laundry, driving, etc. and that sound or short phrase will start up again. The mantra always finds me when I need it most, and it is a magnificent tool for training the mind.
I hope this text finds you well, and full of Love.
Blessings of Peace and Love,
OM Shanthi -Peace-
Bryan Josiah Nupp, RYT 200
It is easy, with spring fast approaching and that entails, to get caught up in future plans and obligations. The beauty of yoga, is that it is a practice of the present moment. Right Here, Right Now, Being with what is and accepting that with grace. Things happen outside of our understanding of why and they happen at their own pace, it's the nature of things in this life. So, without getting caught up in the story of "why?", or letting the river of thoughts that the mind generates sweep you downstream, start right here, by taking a deep breath and anchoring yourself in the moment at hand.
Remind yourself, All Is Well, and then refocus in to the task at hand, coming to it with full attention and awareness.
Not only will life become a bit more peaceful, but being present opens up all kind of possibilities that we couldn't see before when we were stuck in our inner melodrama!
I encourage you, as I encourage myself every day, from moment to moment, do your best, take a deep breath and relax, All is Well. You Are Beautiful!
"The past has flown away...
Future Weeks and Years Do Not Yet Exist..........
All that we have is right here, in this tiny point in the present moment."
-A Wise Man
By: Sandra Amrita McLanahan, M.D., additional notes by Bryan Nupp, RYT 200
How Each Part of an Integral Yoga Class Helps
The Entire Class at a Glance.
Yours In Yoga,
Bryan J. Nupp, RYT 200
Hey there Yogis and Yoginas, Snow Shoveler's and Hybernatees,
Today's focus is a deep release for the back and hamstrings with a just a few basic stretches that you can incorporate into your day in only 15 minutes. This was inspired by an acquaintance of mine who suffers from sciatica and lower back flare ups. It happens to be great for all of us who spent the past few days digging out of our houses and driveways. Yes, here you are presented with "Yoga for a Healthy Back: Mini Series". There are definitely many more asanas (steady comfortable poses) that could supplement this mini series, but lets cover the basics!
Let's get started...
The Cat/Cow Warmup: Warms up the entire spine, increasing flexibility, and stimulates nerves along the spine. Start in that neutral table top position, wrists stacked under elbows, stacked under shoulders, knees under hips. Inhale drop belly to floor, exaggerating the natural curve in the spine, look up with the head, neck and chest (Cow). Exhale, Round the spine, tuck the pelvis under the body, tuck the chin. (Cat) Let your breathing carry back and forth between the two postures, close the eyes and feel this movement along each vertebrae, in each muscle being engaged. Variations. Look over right shoulder, and left. Hip Circles. Anything else that feels right.
Hamstring Stretch: Relieves tension built up in the backs of the legs (hamstrings), increases flexibility, and helps to prevent back injuries. From a kneeling position, step the right leg out in front, (low lunge with right leg out in front, keep the leg at a 90 degree angle/ keep the ankle in front of the knee). Inhale deeply, Now Exhale, lower the hands or fingertips to the floor or blocks and sink the weight back in the hips, hinging at the hips as you straighten the front leg, toes can be pointed or pulled back. Let your breath carry you back and forth, inhaling rising up halfway with a "flat back", exhaling folding forward. After several rounds, exhale, fold and hold the hamstring stretch. Repeat on the other side.
Cobra Pose: Strengthens the muscles of the upper back, increases flexibility of spine, good for posture, the gentle pressure of the abdomen into the floor massages the intestines and stomach, good for digestion. Backbends are fiery in nature, stimulating the adrenals (located above the kidneys) in a healthy way, and providing us with extra energy. Rest lying face down, with your forehead on the floor. Bring the palms underneath the shoulders, (fingertips may inch forward or back slightly depending on preference) with the elbows close to the body. Inhale and roll the shoulders up, back, and down, keep the integrity of the shoulder at all times. We want to concentrate on that area in between the shoulder blades. Lengthening through the crown of the head, begin to raise the head, neck and chest, with little to no weight in the palms. Keep the lower back relaxed and the buttocks “unclenched”. Continue to lift the hands off the floor using only the strength of the upper back to raise the upper body.
Variation, Keeping the integrity of the shoulders, begin to use the arms this time to help press your self up a bit higher, this one works more with flexibility while the former works to build strength. Both are important.
Forward Fold: Great for digestion when the abdomen is resting against the thighs. Increases flexibility along the entire spine and hamstrings. Great release for the lower back. Forward Folds are introspective, calming and cooling in nature, increasing compassion, awareness and the engagement of the parasympathetic nervous system. This pose is also great for women on their moon cycle. Seated comfortably with the legs outstretched, be sure that you have a natural curve in the lower back, and are sitting on the “sit” bones (two bony knobs underneath the buttocks). Use a folded blanket to prop yourself up if needed, try it to see how it feels. Inhale raise the arms overhead, and exhale fold forward, hinging at the hips, until you feel the lower back begin to round. It feels really nice to relax the back of the neck, tucking the chin into the chest, bringing softness into the shoulders, elbows and arms, you can even bring a pillow or blanket underneath the knees to bring yourself into a more restorative forward fold. Bring your awareness within and focus on the breath.
Restorative Corpse Pose: Stress Relieving, Great for Structural Alignment, Restful and Restorative for the lower back. Set up a blanket roll for the neck, another blanket to pad the back and a bolster or couch cushion/pillow to place underneath the knees (as shown above). Lie down on your back with the arms a comfortable distance away from the body, palms facing up in a gesture of receiving, receiving Peace, receiving Love, feet can be a little wider than hips distance apart and gently roll open, to the sides. Make any physical adjustments so the body can remain completely still. Relax and focus on your breathing, feeling the floor/ground support you completely.
This pose deeply relaxes tension in the lower back, and can be used as a constructive resting pose used in place of a nap at any point in the day.
May you be happy, healthy and full of Peace and Love,
Bryan J. Nupp, RYT 200
How To Start Preparing Now:
1. "Take a Deep Breath! It's All Good." When life throws you a test or a moment of greatness just remind yourself, All is Temporary and All is Well, these outside fluctuations are a way of testing how steady we are. This yoga practice will help.
2. "Ask yourself, 'What is it that I want?'" Yoga is designed to best accommodate and support You on Your personal wellness journey. Setting your intention and checking in with your body is a wonderful practice, just by simply taking a moment to pause and ask the question, the answer becomes available.
3. Start waking up a little earlier if you don't already. As soon as you rise, or before breakfast or your hot morning beverage invite some gentle movement into your body. This can be as simple as "shaking" and "tapping" all the parts of the body. These practices, shaking and tapping, stimulate the various muscles, organs and acupressure centers in the body, encourage healthy circulation and will leave you buzzing with fresh new energy for the morning. It's like your own private dance party, Give it a shot!
4. Yoga is best practiced on an empty stomach, or around two hours after a meal. Following this simple advice greatly increases the benefits of the practice. During sleep you begin detoxing and healing the body, and the brain goes through a deep rinse cycle, following that up with a morning yoga practice will work wonders in your life. If you choose to, or are able to, go without food first thing in the morning the body doesn't need to expend energy on digestion and can further focus on strengthening and healing during the yoga practice. **If you do need to eat something before you practice yoga, start with a hot cup of tea, peppermint, tulsi, or lemon ginger are all very easy on the body and digestive system. If you'd like something else to take the edge off, try a piece of fruit, some yogurt, or a hot cereal like cream of wheat or millet.
5. Always drink water. Staying hydrated will help you always in all ways! You can drink water before, during and after practice.
6. Just Do It! If you're brand new and don't know where to begin, go with the Sun Salutations. You can find a dozen different varieties online, with pictures, videos and an endless supply of information! (Stay posted for a Sun Salutation blog in the future!) This well rounded practice acts as a general tonic for the whole body, it's great for supporting a healthy back, and positively affects the digestive and immune system functions. It can be practiced slowly for a more grounded feeling or quickly for stimulating effects.
Questions? Just Ask!
Blessings of Peace and Love,
OM OM OM
Bryan J. Nupp, RYT 200