July 15, 2015

Living the Yogi’s Life with Kino: A Week of Self Care.

 Photo: Kerri Varna

Daily assignments for living the yogi’s life with Kino MacGregor.

To check A Week of Self Reflection, click here

To check A Week of Acknowledgements, click here.

To check A Week of Internal Peace, click here.

To check A Week of Contentment, click here.

To check A Week of Healing, click here.

To check A Week of Gentle Action, click here.

1. Samskaras.

Just when you think you’re in the clear of some old stuff from the past it comes at you like an undertow. The more you fight it the worse it gets. All of your habituated responses to fight for or against it will only pull you deeper.

So much of our life is driven by subconscious behavioral patterns that it can feel like you’re tiptoeing through an emotional minefield. The first step along the path of yoga is to identify our samskaras: old impressions that build up to form larger behavioral patterns in our life. Hidden deep down in our bodies, yoga seeks to reveal all of our sleeping samskaras. Think you’re good? Think you’re free? Just wait, there is a pose or life experience that will push you to your edge. And then that is where your yoga actually begins.

Today’s yogi assignment is Samskaras. Take the first step along the inner journey of yoga and see your own samskaras. When you meet them don’t fight against them, just experience them, see them and look with compassion and love. Remain equanimous, observe with an objective mind and an open heart. Let the power of yoga work through grace and surrender into the freedom of finally being free.

2. Justice.

My childhood dream was to one day serve on the Supreme Court. A few days ago, the Supreme Court accepted the historic decision in favor of marriage equality for all that essentializes the struggle for justice that is at the heart of the American Dream. This country was founded on the same universal principles as yoga—it doesn’t matter what size, shape, gender, ethnicity, age or sexual orientation you are, what matters is what’s in your heart, how you show up in the world and on your mat, how hard you’re willing to work, how bravely you’re willing to embrace love.

Today’s yogi assignment is justice. In yoga there are many concepts of justice, ranging from the Nyaya, concept of realized moral and ethical principles in society, to the broader idea of the Santana Dharma, the univedal code of justice, and the Yamas and Niyamas in the Yoga Sutras. Here’s the thing though—justice is a basic feeling, something that you know in your bones. When faced with a decision you know what is already in your heart. The moral conscience of what is right is our ethical compass. Act against this sacred space and you immediately feel out of balance. As yogis, we are not the executors of justice, it is not our place to seek an eye-for-an-eye vengeance in the world. We are upholders of justice, torch bearers along the spiritual path, leading by example, waking bravely with open hearts. Today celebrate justice and let freedom ring.

3. Humor.

Being serious is over rated. The ability to laugh at yourself is way more fun…. And useful. You’ll never be perfect so let yourself off the hook and have fun, laugh at yourself and be free.

Today’ yogi assignment is humor. A valuable tool on the spiritual path, humor comes with humility. Make funny faces, tell stupid jokes, laugh at yourself. The ability to put your flaws and imperfections on the table and risk being the butt of a joke is a statement of true self-confidence.

I never used to be able to laugh at myself and I used to take everything including my practice so seriously. But being serious is just too exhausting to keep up. Laugh and the world laughs with you. Smile and the sun shines on you.

4. Stillness.

Taking time to find stillness within can seem nearly impossible amidst the chaos of life. But it is only through stillness that the eternal wisdom of the true self can speak. It could be said that the deeper purpose of yoga is actually to train the mind to be quiet enough to finally hear this voice that is always speaking, guiding and loving us from within.

Today’s yogi assignment is stillness. The experience of Nirodah is the careful redirection of the mind inward so that the ages of thoughts stop. With the practice of yoga you can access the stillness within yourself wherever you go and keep your peaceful center regardless of the chaos of the external world. Stillness is reflected in the outer world but if it’s not in your heart you can be in the most beautiful, quiet place and find no peace. In fact, it could be said that the only peace you find outside of yourself is the peace that your carry inside of yourself anyway. Let stillness speak through you and to you in every moment of your life.

5. Memory.

Have you ever compared notes on a past experience only to find out that you and your friends remember the event differently? No matter what your life experience actually is, what you take away from the events that you live through is a large factor in determining your personal state of happiness.

I have a tendency to skew towards the negative, to remember the arguments rather than the good times. Through yoga I have learned to train my perception to be more neutral, objective and truthful. Our memory is so fungible and our desire for personal protection so strong that we can actually block out whole experiences from our awareness. How you engage with your memory is how you engage with your mind and body—these two together are the vehicle for the journey of yoga.

Today’s yogi assignment is memory, called Smrtih in Sanskrit, there are three types of memory that play a big part in the spiritual path. First, remember the words of your teacher in moments of distress along the path of yoga. Second, remember the sacred teaching of the primary texts of your spiritual lineage that are your armor amidst difficult situations. Finally, and most importantly, remember your true self. Yoga philosophy says that each carries an eternal self within and that no matter how deeply buried under the mountain of personal doubt there is a memory of that true self. Through our practice, the light of the true self begins to shine through.

For today’s assignment remember a key turning point in your life, whether it was the decision to practice yoga, meeting your life partner, choosing your job or school or some other important event in your life. Be as objective as possible and notice any tendency to skew overly positive or negative.

6. Health.

I never cared about my health before I started practicing yoga. I remember wanting to be pretty or thin and doing things with that as a goal but health has never been a major concern. My parents went through every fad diet while I was growing up from the fat free craze to the Atkins diet to the Jenny Craig diet. None of it was aimed at health. It was just a mad quest to mold the body into some idealized shape that was shown on TV or in magazines.

I grew up feeling like I was the wrong shape. What this left me with was a persistent feeling that my body was wrong, that I was flawed beyond fixing, that I would never be pretty because I would never be tall and long-limbed. I thought my muscular thighs needed to be shaved off before anyone would think I was pretty. I met that same stereotype in the yoga world too and just recently a brand suggested that I was too short to look good in their clothes. But after 15 years of practice I realize that I’m worth it just as I am. And while I love to look in the mirror feel beautiful I’m not interested in sacrificing my health to try to be someone else’s idea of beauty.

Today’s yogi assignment is health. The Sanskrit, the word for health is Svasta, which means “to be established in oneself.” By basing your decisions on your health, you are essentially saying to yourself that you’re worth taking really good care of. Some people will give their children and their pets the best care while neglecting themselves. Other people will sacrifice health for material goals. But it all catches up to you one day and health is the priceless commodity that cannot be begged, borrowed, bought or traded. Your life and health are a statement of your self-worth.

Take a stand for your health and your worthiness today. Drink a green juice, eat whole foods, get rid of bad habits and addictions, get a good night’s sleep, balance work and pleasure. Let your health shine radiantly from your heart, glow with a fierce vibrance that says “I am worth it!”

7. Boudaries.

You cannot be all things to all people all the time. You can only be yourself and trust that it’s enough. I used to say yes to everything, automatically, and then only register much later that I didn’t really mean it. It was like a delayed response. It was like I didn’t have the option to say no and walk away so I just said yes.

Learning how to say no has been a big part of my journey into strength. Pleasing other people and over-extending yourself is a dead end road that leads to a loss of self and resentment towards others. Setting healthy boundaries is an important step along the spiritual path. It’s like saying that you’re worth it to yourself.

Today’s yogi assignment is boundaries. Called Susima in Sanskirt, finding the narrow road of truth between extremes is a delicate balance like walking a tightrope over an abyss. Some people have an automatic “No!” to new situations while others like me have an automatic “Yes!” Neither is authentic. Find your true voice by setting boundaries that are real for you. Take time to tune in, reflect, listen and ask for guidance before taking action. Align yourself with your highest intention and carve out your true yes, your true no, your true self.

Author: Kino MacGregor

Editor: Katarina Tavčar

Photo: Kerri Varna/Instagram

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