Be Quiet

Have you noticed how noisy our world is? And the startling thing is that we seem to add more noise without thinking twice about it – flipping on the TV when we get home from work; amplifying our home movies with subwoofers and surround-sound; beginning our day with an alarming “alarm”; filling the empty spaces of our social connections with small talk and jibber jabber…no wonder we often collapse into bed feeling exhausted!

For many of us (me included), silence is sometimes AWKWARD. It feels like you need to speak or laugh or clear your throat or do something…anything…other than just sit with the silence. Why is it so hard to BE QUIET?

I’ve just returned from a 4-day silent retreat. I knew what I was getting into; in fact, I was welcoming the opportunity to have peace and quiet. Remove speech and the world takes on a whole different perspective. There is no need to make small talk. Communication is through body language, through eye-to-eye contact, through simply sharing space together. Surprisingly for me, it wasn’t awkward at all; in fact, it felt good to just smile at another human being and project warmth. In that projection of warmth, there was a rebound effect that made me feel accepted, respected, and…LOVED.

BUT…take away the distraction of speech and you are left with the noise of your own mind. In silence you have no choice but to hear the sound of your thoughts. You can try to shut it out or run away from it (and yes, I did run at times in order NOT to face what was coming up…). Or you can meet it full on and simply bear witness. This is the supposed simplicity of meditation – just being with what’s going on in your mind. But it’s not easy to sit still when you are feeling pissed off, distracted, scattered, unsure…we want to twitch, fidget, or find something else that will get us out of this place. The sounds of our minds turn out to be our own voices of negative self-talk, judgement, criticism and re-hashing of old wounds. Grudges and memories of things we have not let go of…

Being quiet takes courage and bravery…and the willingness to go to places where we have not let ourselves go out of fear or denial. Being quiet means dealing with your SHIT. If we can do so within the container of self-love, self-compassion, self-acceptance, and self-forgiveness, then we truly can see what is holding us back or what is holding us down. When we SEE what is real, we can then move forward skillfully, making choices that support growth rather than hinder it. In fact, in silence we often find our VOICE so that what emerges is a new-found confidence and expression of our true selves, not our made-up selves.

In my silence I discovered how often I am judgemental. Not only towards others but towards myself. So my practice was to catch myself when I felt that way, to forgive myself for being that way, then to auto-shift out of that state of mind into a more compassionate way of thinking. Maybe the person I was judging was going through something I could not possibly be aware of; maybe the judgement of the situation was from too narrow a perspective based on my own biases; maybe I was being too hard on my own self. Bearing witness to my own thoughts helped me to shift out of the grooves or samskaras of old patterns and habitual ways of thinking into the bigger picture. That bigger picture draws us out of our smallness into our greatness.

So my recommendation is that we ALL be quiet…often…and really LISTEN to what’s going on in our heads. Listen from the perspective of an unbiased observer and hold yourself with compassion. Use discernment to weed out the thoughts that perpetuate our suffering (LET THEM GO…geez!) and to cultivate the thoughts that help us move forward in a positive way. We all want to be happy, joyful…at peace…not only for our own benefit but the benefit of everyone on this planet. So with all due respect, SHUT UP and BE QUIET…at least for a little while…

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Thinking of summer?

It feels like spring only just arrived and now we’re already planning for summer! Lots of yoga classes and specials around the city so no excuse not to get on your mat. In fact, why not embrace the warmth of the sun by practicing in YOUR backyard? Roll out your mat and salute the morning sun on your deck; sit on a patio cushion facing your garden for a meditative exchange with nature; spread out a blanket in the grass and enjoy savasana with the blue sky above you; put on your rubber boots and raincoat and BREATHE as the rain falls around you…

While I will be spending a lot of time doing yoga in my backyard this summer, I will also be teaching morning classes Tuesdays (Hatha) and Thursdays (Yin) as usual at Maitreya (check the website for details: http://www.maitreyayoga.com). And the studio will be offering specialty classes every Monday night at 6:30 pm; catch me on the following dates for Meditation – Jun. 2, Jul. 21, Aug. 25.

I tend to cut back a bit on teaching over the summer in order to explore my own practice in more depth. I’m looking forward to attending some retreats and taking time for professional and personal rejuvenation. As one of my teachers reminds me, this is not just for my own benefit but for the benefit of everyone else in my life. The ripple effect begins in our own backyards, right?

 

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