Spring Unfolds

As spring unfolds we are reminded of the old adage “in like a lion, out like a lamb.” Though typically associated with the month of March, we’re finding it applicable to a week or even a given day. One can only imagine Mother Nature kicking back with a cup of tea- hot or iced, depending on the time of day- and having a good laugh as we find ourselves overdressed, underdressed, over-prepared or underprepared and our immune systems thoroughly confused by whatever curveballs she throws at us.

In Walden, the classic recounting of the two years and two months “he lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house he had built himself, on the shore of Walden Pond,” Henry David Thoreau shares this sentiment-“Our village life would stagnate if it were not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it. We need the tonic of wildness,-to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground. At the same time that we are earnest to explore all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us. We can never have enough of Nature.”

We may never have waded alongside the bittern and meadow-hen and we’re pretty sure we haven’t heard the booming of a snipe but we can only meet Thoreau’s words with an awe-inspired and adventure seeking WOW! Very often our quest for Satya or Truth is inextricably linked to a quest for control-to control our life and all the variables in it. The more we know, the more we create a sense of order- knowledge truly becomes power – over our circumstances, situations and even those closest to us. The idea that we can not only accept that some stones will remain unturned but actually celebrate it, to savor the mysterious and wild, goes well beyond knowledge-it is true Wisdom.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali presents the yamas and niyamas, the restraints and non-restraints, respectively. One of the niyamas, Ishvara-Pranidhana, is the surrender to something bigger than yourself. Classically considered a supreme being, the divine or God, you may certainly associate the “something bigger” as energy, nature or some other force. In the surrender to something bigger, the acknowledgement of unexplored forests and meadows which surround it we are able to see that the whole is so much more than the sum of its parts- beyond the human we see humanity and beyond the man we see mankind.

Shh, shh, shh. Listen. Do you hear that? Is that Mother Nature laughing?


It looks like we may be turning the corner on winter, Spring is finally springing. And with that, we encourage you to keep your eyes, ears and heart open to the changes all around you- daffodils and crocuses begin to peak out from their underground hideaways, the geese make their way back to Mill Pond and the sun whispers good night later and later. Delight in the sounds, the smells, the scenery, the Spring.

“We can never have enough of Nature.”
– From Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Spring is in the air…In the spirit of birth and renewal, we invite you to bring freshness, a new perspective and a sense of wonder to your practice and for that matter, your life. Imagine seeing through new eyes, walking with new feet, breathing as if it was for the first time. When we can bring a beginner’s mind to our everyday life, the mundane, the things we take for granted, are nothing short of miraculous!

You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
– from the poem “Sweet Darkness” by David Whyte

Spring has returned, filling our days with rebirth, rejuvenation and renewal. A chance to wake up from our long winter’s nap and see the world come alive in front of our eyes. It can have a movie like quality, a cinematic masterpiece, but it’s real and that makes it all the better. In that vein, some of us use this time of year to produce our own movie, New Year’s Resolution II. This new or resurrected batch of resolutions and undertakings can range from a thorough spring cleaning to major life changes and everything in between. To accomplish our task, many of us adopt the mantra “Make it happen!”

To “Make it happen!” we throw ourselves headlong into whatever we are trying to achieve, but much like a supernova, we cannot keep up the intensity. We burn ourselves out over a matter of days or weeks. Projects end half-completed and we find ourselves too discouraged or exhausted to continue on. In our mad rush to “Make it happen!,” we don’t “let it happen.”

“Let it happen” is “Make it happen’s” perfect complement. It gives our actions time to cultivate the desired result. It permits us to do the best we can on a given day, even if it’s “less” than what we were able to do the day before. It’s constant and determined practice balanced by non-attachment to the end result, what Patanjali referred to as abhyasa and vairagya, respectively, in the Yoga Sutras.

The curtain lifts– the sun shines brightly in the spring sky. It penetrates the fertile soil down to the seeds you’ve planted and taken care to water each day. Do your work, then step back.* Watch your garden grow.

*Do your work, then step back” appears in Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao Te Ching.

With one note the nightingale
Indicates the rose.
Again, the season of Spring has come
And a spring-source rises under everything,
A moon sliding from the shadows.
– Rumi

“I don’t get upset over things I can’t control,
because if I can’t control them there’s no use getting upset.
And I don’t get upset over the things I can control,
because if I can control them there’s no use in getting upset.”
– Mickey Rivers, former centerfielder, NY Yankees
Wishing you fullness— of breath and of life…

Pink flower and budding tree images above from Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park,
Long Island’s premier public arboretum and historic site located in Oyster Bay, New York

Celebrating Love

Like love, yoga expands from the inside out, and like yoga, we do the same. We are not here to be small. We exist in an ever expanding universe and are meant to expand with it. We are meant to expand our horizons, our consciousness, our minds, our hearts and in doing so, we reach our fullest potential. Expansion is the act of boldly moving from our comfort zones and what we know to our discomfort zones, the unknown. This type of growth requires openness – to new ideas and experiences, to setbacks and to letting go.

“We are not here to be small.”

This month we celebrate expansion at Yoga Life, we celebrate moving from the inside out, to waking up each day with the mantra “to be better” and to grow – emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, in our capacity to love and to feel. For asana (poses) we celebrate expansion with bridge and wheel. Bridges enable us to safely cross through potential hazards, wheels as perfect circles represent the infinite, the possibilities, they go on and on. Both are backbends and backbends are heart openers–may you grow forward, boldly, with open hearts and open minds!

An Expansion Plan
We’ve always found yoga to be a balance between making things happen and letting them happen. Expansion and growth can be very much the same. Here are some thoughts for starting your journey and walking, jogging, running and skipping along the path, or off of it:

Intention – It all begins with intention. It is the force that binds us to act, a proclamation we make or a specific goal we set. Intention is a conscious statement to get started and to stick with it. And please don’t think this needs to be super profound, in fact, make it tangible and keep it simple – I will be better, I will be present…

Consistency – The Sanskrit word Abhyasa means a constant and determined practice. It’s sticking with something, working through setbacks and more than anything, being consistent. Some things come easy (and some are lost easily) but the things we most cherish often come through hard and consistent work. Whatever or however you’re looking to grow, make sure you show up and do so regularly.

Openness – Growth is an act of openness. Exploring new ideas and experiences, seeing things from another perspective. Expansion really does represent moving from the known to the unknown and if we shut ourselves off to what we don’t know, we limit.

Letting Go – How often do we try, try and try to make something happen – we set our intention, we consistently take action – yet the results just don’t seem to come. We need to let go. Letting go can be done on so many levels:

– Vairagya is a Sanskrit word for letting go of attachment to the end result. Celebrate the process and stay consistent you may already be getting exactly what you need!
– Let go of timelines – there are hard deadlines and there are self-imposed deadlines, often times we make those self-imposed deadlines unrealistic. By all means, set goals and monitor your growth, but don’t throw away all your efforts if you haven’t quite reached them in the timeline you expected.
– Take a step back – sometimes you do need to take a step back, a hiatus. Simple example, how many times have you tried to remember that name or that solution to a problem and you think and you think and you think and it just doesn’t come to you. Then you hop in the shower or go for a walk get your mind off of it and like “poof” like magic it comes to you. Warning: the challenge here is starting up again so be mindful of when stepping back has become stepping away

Fail Gracefully and Spectacularly – With the exception of test results from our doctor, no one likes to hear something came back negative. As we strive to expand, there will be setbacks along the way. At the risk of sounding super cheesy, there is a lesson in every failure, an opportunity to grow. We cannot control our situations, we cannot control how the world responds to us, the one thing we can control is our response to these failures and it starts with how we handle failure itself – be angry, be determined, be crushed but also be graceful, be vigilant, be good enough, get back up, try again.

Dream – Last and most, dream big. With all of our growth and potential, there are limits, for example, limits to what we can do physically or even scholastically, but your imagination is limitless. Give yourself the gift of using your imagination to its fullest – through our imagination we expand our horizons and our perspectives. We open ourselves up for growth and expansion.

May you be filled with loving kindness, May you be well,
May you be open and graceful,
May you expand to your most majestic Self.

Riffing on a Buddhist meditation shared by Jack Kornfield in A Path with Heart. Feel free to meditate on these words, repeating them silently to yourself, substituting in the word “I” for “you”.

Heart image above created by David Patterson from his original pastel paintings