On Becoming a Mother

 

I’m back on my mat for the first time. As I gaze down my body a momentary lapse of grief for the absence in my womb is followed by the relief of finally knowing who he is.

My hamstrings ask me to go slow so I follow their lead with my heels off the ground. Flowing through each pose, I’m reminded of the miracle of growing a human. I feel the twinge in my hips and forgive them for their weakness. I promise them that we’ll work together to get strong again.

The babe is asleep upstairs and I can’t help but laugh as my milk leaks all over and the dog bites my hair, pulling me forward to play. My neck is stiff and my back is sore but I notice my arms are stronger. This is my new body.

I follow a 30 minute practice with a long savasana and a 10 minute meditation. Just me and my mantra, whom I haven’t spoken of in months. We’re quick to find each other. A sweet reunion.

I hear my little one whimper. Opening my eyes, I feel my body like I never have. I recognize that the practice is the metaphor for the return to routine. And before is a place I’ll never long to return.

Tuning the Student Mind Film Director, Chelsea Richer, on becoming a mother.

 

Community is Shared

 

I am a sociologist by training. I love to think about culture, people, interactions, identity issues and patterns. Emile Durkheim, the famous French father of all things sociological, argued that one must treat ‘social facts as things’. These “facts” become the subject of study for sociologists. Further, Durkheim believed that collective phenomenon is not merely reducible to the individual actor. Society, he believed, is more than the sum of its many parts. It is a system formed by the association of individuals that come together to constitute a reality with its own distinctive characteristics. Let me think of an example: how about language? Language pre-exists our birth and it continues after our death. Perhaps some of us will have the honor of inventing some new recognizable slang (LOL, duh), however, most of us will go to our grave influencing language to a very limiting degree.

One of the many things I love about yoga and meditation is the feeling of community shared by the many practitioners of both. I love knowing that yoga long preceded my birth and will continue long after I am gone. I love knowing that practicing meditation will go on and on far into the future for my children and my children’s children. I love being a part of a community with shared values.

Like most sociologists, I believe that individual happiness depends on people finding a sense of meaning outside of themselves and connected to the larger society. Social integration is necessary for the maintenance of the social order. There is something so special about walking into a yoga studio and knowing that for one hour you will share a space with like minded people. There is something so profound about meditating with a friend and feeling the bliss of the shared experience. As any sociologist will confirm, we know ourselves through the mutually shared values, habits, routines and patterns of our culture. Building community at the yoga studio or meditation center sends a great message to the culture at large. It confirms the value of taking care of yourself and reminds you of the many people who hope to build a more peaceful, loving, health conscious society.

Molly Beauregard

TTSM in “Mantra Yoga + Health” Magazine

Tuning the Student Mind is featured in the February issue of Mantra Yoga + Health magazine!!

Check out the article on their website –
http://mantramag.com/tuning-student-mind-chelsea-richer/

Here is where you can find your copy of Mantra magazine –
http://mantramag.com/find-mantra/

Here is the page spread (oooolala!)

Mantra_KathrynSide54

 

The Middle Gear

As an avid yogi and meditator, I am endlessly reminded- by my practice, my mantra, and my soul- to favor mindfulness. As someone with an unmistakable “A-type” personality, I am persistently intense. And as most of us know, intensity doesn’t always yield good balance.

I have known the power of appropriately balancing “personal” versus “public” energy for quite some time now. Public energy, I am told, is for my day-to-day life: my job, my social calendar, and my relationships. Personal energy is for me.

The difference between personal and public energy was first described to me as a lake. On the surface, the lake looks still. It feels as if it does not move. Yet, at one end, there is a waterfall. The movement of the waterfall requires the stillness of the lake. Without one, you cannot have the other.

What I have recently come to know is the power of “the middle gear.” The middle gear represents an energy level at which one operates at equilibrium. With a middle gear, personal and public energy complement each other rather than compensate for each other. Sounds easy enough, right? Don’t push yourself too hard, but remember to stay away from laziness. Well, to someone like me, explaining the middle gear is one thing; living it is another.

I don’t always realize I’m pushing myself too hard until after I crash. And it isn’t always enough to think about the middle gear because for me, just thinking about balance quickly escalates into strictly mandating, regulating, and even, forcing balance. Sternly and unforgivingly practicing “effort and ease” is not only exhausting but also contradictory. A relaxing yoga class doesn’t really serve an appropriate purpose if all it does is satisfy a self-imposed need to adhere to a strict yoga schedule.

Adding a “middle-gear” to one’s life creates the option to move at 50mph, not just zero or 100. It makes living with effort and ease easier.

Maddy Beauregard | Boston, MA

Spread Your Seeds

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another:
“What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”  ~ C.S. Lewis

When I was a kid, I always wondered if I was the only real human among a sea of robot-aliens. But as I grew older, I began to worry that I was crazy, and everyone else was sane. As my vocabulary grew, the definitions of words became ingrained in my mind – of success, failure, ‘a good life’, and even sanity. Suddenly, there was a list of activities I ‘should’ be doing, majors I ‘should’ be pursuing, careers I ‘should’ have. I quit listening to my DNA and numbed my senses from what actually felt right for me.

While wallowing in this confusion, I slowly realized that others were feeling guilty and lost, perhaps even more than I. One friend, Jordan, grew depressed over the course of eight months during our senior year of college. She wanted to learn how to meditate to quiet the voices in her head constantly nagging her ambitious spirit. We started Spread Your Seeds to raise money for her to learn transcendental meditation.

Tragically, Jordan died before Spread Your Seeds was fully organized, and after, other friends and I began furiously organizing as a coping mechanism. We poured our sadness into it but soon the organization grew heavy. As we were all about to graduate and disperse all over the country and world, Spread Your Seeds was temporarily put to rest.

For a year after Jordan died, I was raw. Raw from heartbreak, from realizing I had to earn independence and from confronting myself for the first time since childhood. I was offered a scholarship to learn the meditation technique Jordan had been interested in. I have since learned how to dive into myself regularly instead of allowing trauma to force deeply rooted feelings out. I believe there are many tools to quiet down and help us listen to ourselves. Yoga and meditation are simply two useful tools for “checking in” in a healthy way.

Upon meeting Molly and Chelsea, and learning more about Tuning the Student Mind, the possibility of a partnership sprung Spread Your Seeds back to life and renewed the mission of providing healthy living resources to students – a group that’s put under the immense stress to figure out their lives while the technocratic world changes more rapidly than ever before.

Our process is simple: we make necklaces filled with seeds. Whenever you feel uprooted, you uncork your necklace, sprinkle seeds out, and instantly remind yourself of how you are in control of rooting yourself back down. The proceeds from the sales of these necklaces go towards providing healthy living resources to students and raising awareness about the ways we can quiet down the noise and listen to our own voices.

It is our hope that Jordan’s spirit lives on in this mission infusing our efforts with meaning, love and commitment. All young people should live in a world where inner peace, happiness and a sense of well being pervades their everyday life experience.

Poonam Dagli | University of Michigan

 

 

Movement

A certain professor once told me that I needed to start finding intellectual pursuits that furthered my growth as a human being and kept my mind off of others. She also said that people were a matter of the heart, and all I needed to worry about was how to love them better. Three months later and I am just now starting to really understand what she meant by that.

This past year has presented some personal life challenges that forced me to look at people in a different light, and it wasn’t positive. I became discouraged and sour, introverted and detached, and very not my usual self. And as a naturally self-aware person, I could only let the charades continue for so long. So, I decided to make some changes.

The coming new year seemed like a perfect time to flip my world upside down and refuse to take any more bullshit from myself. So that’s exactly what I did. I got up, de-cluttered my house, and organized my studio. Oh, and I started practicing yoga. This ladies and gentlemen, is a monumental feat. As I have not only challenged myself to do it every day for 365 days, but I have also began to blog about it.

My intellectual pursuits are now becoming very satisfied, as well as my desire to get into shape and meditate. I’m excited to get back into writing too, another resolution of mine. (The number of birds I’m killing here with this one stone is really starting to add up) As a once anti-blogging, out of practice with journaling, glassblower revs up to write something every day for a year about her experiences with moving meditation.

Whoa, ok. Now that I’ve announced my big challenge, I can move on to the real point of this post. When going to set up my tumblr, I had completely forgotten that two years ago, when I was not so determined, I opened a tumblr account and posted a hidden gem. It was all about moving from the past and coming to terms with my situation. If I’m not mistaken, I was doing a lot of journaling around that time, and also had some family/relationship hardships that I was going through. So it’s very appropriate that I would write something like this.

It’s a very stream of conscious entry, so much so, that I completely forgot and denied that I wrote it for the first ten minutes upon discovering it. But lo and behold, it’s mine (I even goggled it). Oddly enough, it’s still extremely relevant in my life today, just in a completely different way. But this time around it’s so much better, because I’m finally moving and becoming present in my own life.

I hope you can find some meaning or truth in my thoughts. After all they’re not really mine, but more so a collective of thoughts, my words just merely an interpretation.

Oh, and don’t forget to check out my blog @ www.spiritgangster.tumblr.com, and follow it if you’d like.  I’d really appreciate it!

What are we, where are we going, and where are we from? Thy do not tell me in thine stories of fact and foe. For the love of thy soul rests not. I dreamt of a day when the true tale of thus far was no longer real. My days possessed in the soul are those that I cherish deeply and wish to let go, and move on from. They are true inner workings that will always be there. They are the ghosts of my eternal soul. 

I live within, there fore I am. I am within; there fore I am not within. I am, but I am not. Nothing is for certain, and that we can coin with it. We are what we set out to believe and be. What do you want, and how can you get it. Do you know how to get it, and to get it yourself. For you have to be sly and cunning, but not deceiving, honest action and movement. Vivace. Movement. The constant action of the body and mind, which stimulates the senses and keeps the soul sane. 

Different types of work, all creative, all approached from a different angle. What a life. We must strive to be more everyday, every single fucking day. We must strive to be better people, we must adore the earth that we walk on, and we must know what is good for us in our heart. We are the people. We are the life that we want to be. 

I am no more a truer being than what I was yesterday. I am what I am. I am that which lives on and on and on. And I am what will always be in the person next to me. And within me, and around me, and all over me. I am the power. I am the true being. I am the strength. I am. Me. Love me. Love you. Love all.

 

Namaste

Brit Hamlin | Glassblowing major at College for Creative Studies

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Entire Life Meditation

Today, I am graduating from Yoga Teacher Training. The last two months have included well over 200 hours of yoga practice. So instead of giving you a specific project, idea, ritual or practice for living sustainably on this Sunday, I am going to share with you my final paper, which I feel is an approachable anecdote to sustainability through the practice of meditation and yoga.

In Yoga Beyond Belief Ganga White states, “Your entire life is meditation, all other specific forms of meditation are secondary.” In order to lead a fulfilled life, we have ideals for how we must interact with the world. We have life partners, we maintain relationships, we raise children, we work. According to Ganga White, these day-to-day activities are all “entire life” meditations.

What is the difference then, between entire life meditation and specific practice meditation? I have always felt that the benefits of my specific meditation practice come not in the act of sitting, but instead reveal themselves later in ordinary everyday interactions. When I fall out of my specific meditation practice, although I am still “meditating” in everyday life encounters, I am not reaping the benefits from sitting quietly with myself. As White says, “…all other specific forms of meditation are secondary.” However, in my opinion, bringing in a specific meditation practice will transform your entire life.

Because I sometimes choose to fall slightly away from my meditation practice, I am able to more closely examine my body physically, mentally as well as physiologically to process the differences when I am regularly meditating and when I am not.  The most specific example I can give for the benefits of regularly meditating is having a language. When I am practicing twice a day for twenty minutes everyday, I reach access to a library of words I cannot find easily when I am out of practice. I am able to hear words flow out of my mouth without thinking about how I want to say them or what order to say them in. It’s as if I am one step ahead of myself, saying exactly what it is I meant to say, yet being amazed by what comes out.

White says in reference to a seated meditation practice, “How can we escape mental pressure through yet another form of effort and control?” I respectfully disagree. Yes, It does take effort and control to have a regular specific meditation practice. For me, it’s a few half sun salutations before sitting and sometimes fighting the urge to burst up and get on with my day. Effort. Control. As I often say, the hardest part about meditating is actually sitting down to do it. Effort. Control. But my specific meditation practice greatly increases my chance to “escape mental pressure.” My regular practice is actually my tool for escaping mental pressure. It has become an organization mechanism in my mind. Seated Meditation allows me to categorize my actions, thoughts, my reactions and my emotions without thinking about each one of them independently.

Where is that space we are going to? What great plethora of “stuff” am I accessing and bathing in when I dive deep? This “stuff” reveals itself in multiple areas of my life, one example is my yoga practice. I have been practicing yoga for less than half the time I have been meditating. My meditation has deeply informed my yoga practice. Additionally I would say that my yoga practice has deeply informed my “entire life meditation”. It has created a space for desire to live a healthy life. It engages me with my community. It makes me want to live in a more sustainable way so that I may be actively involved in helping reduce the damage we consistently do to mother earth. Combining my meditation practice with my yoga practice allows me to resurface from inside my mind with fresh, creative, healthy ideas. These ideas, present themselves to me as if they are separate from me. Ideas that may resonate with other people. Ideas I’d like to share.

I have always been a teacher. When I was seven, living in Oregon as an only child, I remember educating the neighborhood kids on the different trees and bushes and bugs in my backyard. When I was fourteen I would collect a list of all the animals we would see on the way to the bus stop. I would read encyclopedias with intent to teach my friends about the calls of the species we would hear. I would talk about why they are native to our area, what they eat, when they mate. Similarly, as a twenty five year old, I adhere to the practice of yoga. Attaching myself to a lineage right away, knowing what I need from this experience early in the game. The seven and fourteen year old me emerge in my approach to diving deep into the subject, in order to bring the knowledge to others.

Starting Tuning the Student Mind was my attempt to invoke this spirit in others who are my age. As cliché as it sounds, we ARE the future. It is our duty to lead grounded, healthy, sustainable lifestyles. Because yoga and meditation create the space for desire to do those things, we need to bring yoga and meditation to students. Creating academic classes structured around practices that invoke spiritual awakening is no easier than moving a graveyard down the street. But this organization is one of my “entire life meditations”, an idea sparked by the act of meditating itself. And it has transformed in infinite, undeniable ways through of the act of practicing yoga.

It must be then, that your entire life is yoga. Every other specific yoga practice is secondary. I don’t know if Ganga White would agree but this, to me, is the meaning of bringing yoga off your mat. Be it yoga or meditation, both have been deeply seeded in my being for my entire life. Off my mat, in everyday life, on my mat, seated…all of these reach the “stuff” in some way or another. They just all access it and process it differently.

Our entire lives are one full meditation from start to finish. By practicing seated meditation and living our yoga on and off the mat, we learn about our mind, how it works, what it prefers, what it distastes. By bringing the “stuff” out and into our everyday lives, we learn about our full self, how to interact with others, what they prefer, what they distaste. When we are able to analyze both perspectives of meditation – “entire life” meditation and specific practice meditation – and unite them with one another, we are ready to progress, work together, be compassionate, learn, adjust, center and continuously advance.

Chelsea Richer

 

 

Body and Breath

Yoga is just as much a practice involving breath as it is a practice involving posture. Even if you are lying still on your mat, as long as you are breathing, you are doing yoga. The significance of breath in yoga is heightened when it is consciously linked with posture. In simplistic terms, upward movements are done while inhaling, and downward movements are done while exhaling. Take, for example, triangle pose, which we examined in the last post. When performing this pose, you would exhale while bringing your hand down to your foot and inhale while reaching your opposite hand up to the ceiling. (more…)

Namaste

If you have attended a yoga class, you are probably at least vaguely familiar with the word Namaste. Whether or not you understand the meaning of the word and the gesture that goes along with it, however, is another question.

Nama means bow, as means I, and te means you. Put together, Namaste means “bow me you” or “I bow to you.” When the word Namaste is said, either at the beginning and/or the end of class, yoga teachers and students alike bring the hands together in front of the heart, close the eyes, and bow the head forward. The gesture may also be performed by placing the hands together in front of the third eye, bowing the head, and moving the heads down to the heart. Interestingly, when the gesture is preformed in India, the word is not simultaneously spoken, as it often is in the West. This is because in India, the gesture alone is considered to embody the meaning of the word. (more…)

Utthita Trikonasana

What if I told you that there was a single yoga pose that could promote physical strength and stability as well as balance of body and mind? What if I told you that this same pose, if practiced regularly, could also permanently relieve backache as well as occasional indigestion and even troublesome symptoms of menopause?

This pose is called Triangle pose, or Trikonasana in Sanskirt- tri, meaning three and kona, meaning corner. Whether you are a beginner or have been practicing yoga for many years, Triangle is an excellent back and core strengthener. It stretches the legs, muscles around the knees, ankle joints, groin muscles, hamstrings, abdominals, obliques, back, calves, and the shoulders- just to name a few. But not only does Triangle keep our bodies supple and flexible- helping to prevent the effects of osteoporosis and arthritis, it also aids our bodies in getting rid of toxins through a subtle twisting motion. Triangle is even used therapeutically for anxiety, neck pain, sciatica, and infertility. (more…)

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