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Click on the link below to find a list with the most popular and useful articles on this blog to learn or expand your yoga practice.

Useful articles to learn yoga

 

 

Combining Horizontal and Vertical

 

 

One of the objectives in yoga is to become aware of what we are doing (in posture, movement, feeling, thinking and breathing), to clarify if we are actually doing what we think we are doing and also to notice if what we are doing (in posture, movement, feeling, thinking and breathing) is helpful or not helpful. In the process, we end up learning a lot about ourselves and about our reactions to what we discover. It is likely that we may want to stay in a familiar pattern because it is comfortable and also because it gives us a sense of accomplishment.

However, in order to expand our choices and abilities it is necessary to move beyond the familiar patterns. This can create a bit of discomfort as we try to navigate new territory, and that is where we get a chance to forge new paths, new connections and new insights. This is one of the reasons we want to try to move into learning new patterns in the Dance of Shiva. So, if during our practice we notice that we are thinking about other times and places, we are getting a signal that the horizontal and vertical patterns have become familiar enough and that it will be beneficial to explore new territory. For instance, we can try to combine the two patterns by doing one whole pattern first followed by the other pattern.

Here are two possible options to explore:

  • Horizontal Forward (1-2-3-4) followed by Vertical Backward (4-3-2-1)
  • Vertical Forward (1-2-3-4) followed by Horizontal Backward (4-3-2-1)

Horizontal Forward (1-2-3-4) followed by Vertical Backward (4-3-2-1)

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 1

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 2

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 3

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 4

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 4

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 3

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 2

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 1

Of course, We can also play with a second option:

Vertical Forward (1-2-3-4) followed by Horizontal Backward (4-3-2-1)

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 1

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 2

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 3

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 4

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 4

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 3

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 2

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 1

Options

What happens when we try to move at different speeds?

Video

In this video you can see an example of playing with these two options in the Dance of Shiva

As with other practices, staying with the practice may show us some of the habits we may have developed, like an attitude to be unwilling to try something new, or the reluctance to let go of what we have already achieved, or perhaps impatience that emerges when it takes us time to learn something, or maybe even our unwillingness to accept that we are not perfect. Whatever the case, can we try this exploration with gentle curiosity, without struggle and choosing not to judge ourselves?

If you like this practice, there is a very complete DVD on the Theory and Practice of the Dance of Shiva by Andrey Lappa on Pranamaya.com.

I’ll be glad to know about your experience.

Peace,
rubén

More Dance of Shiva articles:

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

 

5 useful tips for success in meditation

LightInRedWoods

 

 

A simple definition of meditation is: “Meditation is being with what is.” In meditation we take time to do two things:

  • meet ourselves where we are, right here and now
  • meet ourselves just as we are

Obviously, the attitude we have when we approach any activity will influence how we feel and how the activity will unfold. So, if instead of seeing meditation as a chore, we choose to see the practice as establishing an intimate relationship with ourselves, we may be more likely to enjoy it. This is key to establish consistency, because it is easier to practice something that we find enjoyable.

Favoring the following 5 suggestions can be very helpful in creating an effective and enjoyable practice:

  • Find a comfortable position
  • Choose a focal point
  • RELAX
  • Let go off any and all judgement
  • Persist with gentle curiosity

Often when we try to practice meditation we may find it frustrating to notice that the voices in our head cannot seem to stop. Another frequent challenge arises when we notice how often we get distracted. Noticing our internal chatter and that we are getting distracted are already signs that show that we can witness these activities from a different vantage point instead of allowing them to derail us. This is a sign that our meditation is working because we can separate ourselves from the habitual activites of our mind. I would suggest savoring that as we return to our focal point.

I hope you find many opportunities to enjoy connecting to yourself through your meditation practice.

Peace,
rubén

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

 

Dance of Shiva : Linking Horizontal and Vertical Movements

 

 

Expanding Possibilities: Linking Horizontal & Vertical Movements

Remember that you can access more Dance of Shiva articles at:

The Dance of Shiva leads us to keep expanding our skills and mental processing capacity. After learning the basic horizontal and vertical arm patterns, one way of growing our practice is by exploring movements that link each position in the Horizontal pattern to each one of the Vertical positions and vice versa.

Dance of Shiva Horizontal to Vertical Links

Horizontal 1 to Vertical
DoS_L1_H1_Links

Horizontal 2 to Vertical
DoS_L1_H2_Links

Horizontal 3 to Vertical
DoS_L1_H3_Links

Horizontal 4 to Vertical
DoS_L1_H4_Links

Dance of Shiva Vertical to Horizontal Links
Vertical 1 to Horizontal
Dos_L1_V1_Links

Vertical 2 to Horizontal
Dos_L1_V2_Links

Vertical 3 to Horizontal
Dos_L1_V3_Links

Vertical 4 to Horizontal
Dos_L1_V4_Links

This is an excellent way to become familiar with moving between the two sets of positions. This practice can be done starting with from the Horizontal or Vertical position and going to each one of the positions in the other pattern. You may enjoy practicing with a wide stance and flexing your knees as you connect the two positions. It can also be fun to try repeating each movement a few times.
As usual, we practice:

  • Without strain
  • Without struggle
  • Without self-judgement

Notice the effects of this change to your:

  • Attention
  • Concentration
  • Focus
  • Coordination

Video

In this video you can see a demonstration of these movements

If you like this practice, there is a very complete DVD on the Theory and Practice of the Dance of Shiva by Andrey Lappa on Pranamaya.com.

I hope that you enjoy adding this step to your practice.
Peace,

Peace,
rubén

More Dance of Shiva articles:

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

 

Can we regulate our internal climate?

DramaticClouds

 

 

Very often I notice that changing weather patterns are on our minds because some of the variations we are experiencing seem to be difficult to ignore. It makes sense to pay attention to the fluctuations in the weather so that we can plan, even something as simple as taking an umbrella along as we leave our home. For me it is also interesting to observe how the weather outside can help us notice some of our internal filters. For instance, it is not unusual to hear somebody saying something like: “Wow! What a beautiful day today, how can a person not be absolutely happy today?” Most of us would probably agree that when the weather outside agrees with our preferences or plans we may be more likely to feel happy, or at least in a good mood. Of course, it is easier to feel happy when everything is going according to our liking. However, when the weather turns, does that make our mood turn as well? Is the person who finds today’s weather lovely the same person that complains because it is too hot, too humid, too cold, too windy or too rainy?

Something that draws my attention is how a simple weather event like rain can generate two quite distinct reactions in the same person. For example, if I am working in my garden and I just finished putting seeds in the ground, I may be quite happy when it starts raining. On the other hand, if I have plans to meet my friends for a picnic, I may feel frustrated or upset for having to change or cancel my plans when it rains. When I allow the changing weather patterns influence how I feel, am I abdicating my agency? Am I relinquishing my capacity to choose how to respond to what is happening outside? Allowing my mood to be at the mercy of external phenomena, seems like an excellent recipe to be on a constant emotional roller coaster that changes like the wind.

Yoga is a journey of inner exploration of our physical, mental, emotional and respiratory inner landscapes. It can be argued that yoga can enhance our ability to regulate our inner climate. For instance, most yoga sessions are set up in a safe, calm and relaxing environment in order to facilitate an exploration with minimal to no distractions. As a result, we can notice how our movements, our breath and our mind interact and interrelate and even further, we may start noticing how the practice influences our attitude and mood. The skills we cultivate in our practice are transferable, so one of the goals of our consistent practice is to help us act consciously and deliberately during our practice and beyond, in our daily lives. In other words, our yoga practice helps us establish a link between our inner world and the world outside, enabling us to respond rather than react.

How can we get better at regulating our internal states?

The first requirement is to show up as fully as we can to our present moment. Without this we may not notice that some of our reactions might be habitual and/or unconscious.
The second requirement is to be interested in noticing what is happening to better determine if, and how, external phenomena influence the way we feel, think, move and breathe.
Third, as we remain interested in what is happening right where we are, we may notice places where we feel pressure, discomfort or pain arising. It is helpful to keep in mind that these sensations may be happening at the level of breath, body, mind or emotion. A temptation when we notice an obstacle, challenge or distraction, might be to go into self-judgement and to think that we may be doing something wrong. Here is when it is critical to validate our experience, that is, to recognize that it is valid to feel what we are feeling, regardless of liking or disliking what we are feeling. That acknowledgement offers us a pause, an invitation to explore if there may be other options within our control. This aspect of the practice is critical to being able to regulate our inner states because we are cultivating our ability to observe and discern before reacting.
Consequently, we can make a choice and notice its effects.
Of course, like with any other practice, we get better at it when we remain interested and curious enough to persist gently over time.

As we embark on the journey towards being better able to regulate our internal climate, it may be easier to understand why in the Yoga Sutras Patañjali defines yoga as regulating our internal activity [1.2] in order to experience our true nature [1.3] instead of mistakenly identifying ourselves with the transient objects that enter our field of awareness [1.4]. Perhaps, a first level of the ultimate freedom that Patañjali speaks about, is the necessary step of becoming independent from all external manipulation. This is truly empowering. Of course, it is important to note that taking this path requires us to own up to our actions and to stop blaming others for our internal states. A possible corollary, is that being responsible for our internal climate is a way to stop engaging in external and internal drama so that we can focus our energy on our dharma, i.e. our wholehearted and conscious participation in life as it unfolds in front of our eyes.

When we remember that Yoga philosophy is not a mere mental exercise but a call to action, we can choose to put the idea of regulating our internal climate into practice. Here are a few possible approaches, some seemingly more attainable while others may seem quite ambitious:

  • Can I choose to stay calm as I drive?
  • Can I choose to look in the eyes of each person I meet?
  • Can I listen to each person I meet with?
  • Can I keep a soft smile on my face throughout my day?
  • Can I choose not to judge?
  • Can I make a choice not to complain?
  • Can I be an abode of peace and compassion wherever I go?
  • Can I choose to be grateful no matter what happens to me?
  • Can I choose to be happy or kind or loving or compassionate no matter what?

It may be helpful to remember that as we try to bring these intentions into practice, we are likely to start bumping into obstacles that keep us from staying focused. Noticing how we respond is a good way to test our ability to modulate our inner climate. Actually, it is quite illuminating to notice what we do when we bump into obstacles, some of us will choose to blame the obstacles or somebody else, somebody else may grow frustrated or angry. Each obstacle helps us notice the strength of our commitment to our intention. Similarly, each obstacle we face may offer us insight into our values and attitudes.
These fluctuations between staying with our intention and getting distracted is part and parcel of the process. Most of us will probably get distracted and forget our intention for a few minutes, hours, days, week, months or even years. What is truly important is to remember to keep coming back again and again without any strain, struggle or self-judgement. To keep trying is what develops our focus, strength and will; that is the core of all yoga practices (postures, movements, breathing, chanting & meditation).

As we continue trying with gentle persistence we will grow in our self-understanding and insight, and perhaps we will be able to look at ourselves and the world with a little bit more patience and kindness.
May the weather outside not become the master of your internal states.
Peace,
rubén

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

 

Moving Meditation Dance of Shiva with Modified Initial Position

 

 

The Dance of Shiva is one way of playing with very simple elements to help us expand possibilities from the seemingly simple and limited. In other words, the practice is a way to re-train our mind-body connections. Like in much learning, once we know the basics we start making changes to keep expanding the options we have. (You may review the basic positions and movements)

Movement Patterns

Remember that we can create 4 variations in the way we move our arms:

  • Both arms flowing forward (1-2-3-4-1)
  • Both arms flowing backward, (1-4-3-2-1)
  • Alternating arms: one arm flows forward (1-2-3-4-1) while the other arm flows back (1-4-3-2-1)
  • Reversing the previous alternation, so that now the other arm that was moving forward flows back (1-4-3-2-1) while the arm that was flowing back now moves forward (1-2-3-4-1)

We can explore deeper focus by varying the initial position from both arms at position 1 to one arm at position 1 and the other arm at position 2. We can follow the 4 movement patterns outlined above from the following 4 starting positions:

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 1

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 2

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 3

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 4

To ensure balanced expansion we can also include a mirror reflection of the starting position, thus starting from the following 9 combination of positions:

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 1

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 2

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 2 and 1

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 3

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 3 and 1

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 4

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 4 and 1

Since we know both a horizontal pattern and a vertical pattern we can explore all of these variations of the initial position for both the horizontal (as seen above) and the vertical pattern as seen below.

Dance of Shiva Vertical Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 1

Dance of Shiva Vertical Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 2

Dance of Shiva Vertical Pattern Starting Position: 2 and 1

Dance of Shiva Vertical Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 3

Dance of Shiva Vertical Pattern Starting Position: 3 and 1

Dance of Shiva Vertical Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 4

Dance of Shiva Vertical Pattern Starting Position: 4 and 1

Video

In this video you can follow the combination of movements with all of the modified initial positions.

Like any other mindfulness practice, the Dance of Shiva works best when we try to feel clearly what we are doing and when we notice the effects in breath, body and mind. In addition, engage your emotional being by observing the process with little to no self-judgement.

Consider practicing these simple patterns with consistency until they seem quite easy and can be done slow or fast. As usual, trust that taking small manageable steps will provide benefits. When the practice gets easy enough that you can do them at different speeds.

Please remember that there is an excellent instructional DVD created by teacher Andrey Lappa at Pranamaya.com

I hope that you enjoy this exploration.
Peace,
rubén

More Dance of Shiva articles:

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

 

Introduction to Dance of Shiva (Shiva Nata)

 

 

The Dance of Shiva is a form of moving meditation rescued by Ukranian Yoga Teacher Andrey Lappa. The practice starts with two basic patterns, horizontal and vertical. Each pattern consists of 4 simple arm positions. In the Dance of Shiva the practitioner moves the arms between these four basic positions.

This practice is very helpful in cultivating

  • Attention, Concentration & Focus
  • Coordination
  • Expanded mental processing capacity

As usual, as we practice we:

  • Do what we can, not more, not less
  • Let go of all struggle, forcing and strain
  • Favor easeful and fluid movements

Horizontal Pattern

Throughout all the movements the palms of the hands try to remain facing up as if holding tea cups and trying not to spill. Also, each arm-hand avoids crossing the vertical mid-axis of the body.

The four arm positions for the horizontal pattern:

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 1

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 2

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 3

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 4

Arm Movements

We start with the simplest pattern, Forward pattern, moving from 1 to 2 to 3 to 4 and then returning to 1. Notice that this creates a horizontal spiraling motion. Just as in learning anything else, we start really slow to clarify all of the movements. For instance, we can try to ensure that the movements of the arms include harmonious movements of the shoulder blades.

Then we can explore a second pattern, Backward pattern, moving from 1 to 4 to 3 to 2 to 1. Gradually we can expand to a third pattern where one arm moves in the forward pattern (1-2-3-4) while the other arms moves simultaneously in the backward pattern (4-3-2-1). Notice that this pattern can be done alternating the arms, so that the arm that starts with forward pattern then performs the backward pattern.

Vertical Pattern

Throughout all the movements the palms of the hands try to remain facing outward as if pressing against imaginary walls to the sides. Similar to the horizontal pattern, each arm-hand avoids crossing the vertical mid-axis of the body.

The four arm positions for the vertical pattern:

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 1

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 2

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 3

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 4

Arm Movements

Just as we did with the horizontal pattern, we start with the simplest pattern, Forward pattern, moving from 1 to 2 to 3 to 4 and then returning to 1. Notice that this creates a vertical spiraling motion. We start with slow movements to clarify the pattern, and just as we did with the horizontal movements we favor movements of the arms that include harmonious movements of the shoulder blades.

Then we can explore a second pattern, Backward pattern, moving from 1 to 4 to 3 to 2 to 1. Similar to the horizontal pattern, we can expand to a third pattern where one arm moves in the forward pattern (1-2-3-4) while the other arm moves simultaneously in the backward pattern (4-3-2-1). Here as well the arms can alternate patterns.

Video

In this video you can see examples of the horizontal y vertical patterns combined in the Forward, Backward and Alternate patterns. You may also see an example of a leg movement pattern.

As with any other practice, after the practice take a moment to notice its effects. Sense the effects at the physical level through experiencing the sensations in your body. Also, notice the effects at the mental level, for instance, was the series of movements interesting enough to capture your attention so that you were not thinking about anything else? At the emotional level, were you able to practice without having to judge yourself when you got distracted or confused?

Consider practicing these simple patterns with consistency until they seem quite easy and can be done slow or fast. As usual, trust that taking small manageable steps will provide benefits. When the practice gets easy enough that you can do them at different speeds, it may be time to add variations to continue growing. For example, it can be fun to play with combinations of starting points, such as one arm starting at 1 and the other starting at 2 and following the patterns outlined above (both arms forward, backward, alternating).

If you like this practice, there is a very complete DVD on the Theory and Practice of the Dance of Shiva by Andrey Lappa on Pranamaya.com.

I hope you find this practice enjoyable and that you share any questions and discoveries you make along the way.

Peace,
rubén

More Dance of Shiva articles:

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

 

Yoga as Relationship: Going deeper

arch

 

 

In Sanskrit many words have a whole set of meanings. For instance, some of the meanings of the word yoga include: junction, union, putting together, connection and relation.
Even when we think about yoga from the most superficial perspective, just looking at the body, we can see that it makes sense to use the idea of relationship when we think about the physical aspect of yoga because it brings up ideas such as creating a harmonious relationship between:

  • the bones in the body
  • bones, tendons, muscles and tissues
  • nervous system and physical apparatus
  • inhalation and exhalation
  • breath and movement

Even more interesting is to notice that in yoga we are also cultivating efficient interrelationships between:

  • breath, body and mind
  • breath, mind and emotions
  • attitude and action
  • intention, attitude and actions

As we deepen our inquiry we cannot fail to notice that yoga is about the relationship that we have with ourselves because sooner or later the tools of yoga will help us notice:

  • the stories we tell ourselves (that we end up believing)
  • how those stories influence our thinking, actions and emotions
  • how those stories filter our perceptions
  • how our thoughts and stories create assumptions and expectations

Moreover, as we continue exploring in more directions we come to realize that the relationships we have established with ourselves interpenetrate with the relationships that we have cultivated with the people and the environment around us.

So the next time you think that in yoga you are just trying to stretch your muscles, consider inviting yourself to expand your definition so that you can access the full depth of the practice that will enable you to savor the complete experience of developing inner-connectedness and then moving from that inner-connectedness to interconnectedness.

Peace and joy!
rubén

 

 

Simple and Easy Exercises for Healthy Joints

Often people assume that yoga is about cultivating extreme flexibility. This assumption may be related to the media’s tendency to favor images of extremely flexible people in highly dramatic postures. However, it is more accurate, appropriate and useful to understand Yoga as a complete and integrated practice for cultivating balance in body, mind, breathing and emotions.

Since our body is constantly monitoring what we do, it takes note also of what we are not doing. So, if we choose not to move much, our body adapts according to our patterns of movement as well as our lack of movement.

When we consider the health of our joints we can keep in mind that each joint has a specific range of movement that can vary according to how much we use that joint. Here is where yoga as balancing may be useful. There may be some joints that we tend to use a lot, they may stay mobile and, if we overuse them, they may deteriorate a bit faster. Conversely, those joints we do not use much will tend to lose some of their mobility.

This video offers a very easy and simple sequence of movements to help us keep our joints healthy by maintaining the natural range of movement in our joints. You can see this brief, 10 minute sequence as a way to remind our body that we want to keep our normal range of movement. It is important to keep in mind that it is not necessary to make these movements extreme. On the contrary, by enlisting our attention and awareness, we may use this practice as a journey of exploration into healthy movement patterns. Explore these actions with ease and curiosity and please remember to keep your breath steady, smooth and continuous.

As usual, you can interpret any sign of pain as a message from your body indicating that that type of movement may not be appropriate for you at this time. As usual, after you practice it is a good idea to hydrate well and also to pay attention to the effects that you notice in body, mind and attitude.

I hope that you enjoy this practice with a gentle smile.

Namaste,
rubén

 

 

I don’t have time for this…

SandDunes

 

 

One of the many perks of being married to a linguist, is that it is easier to be aware of the importance of the words i use. In addition, as a teacher, i am very interested in using language appropriately and concisely. In addition, an essential part of yoga practice is to study our own mind, its actions and patterns (svadhyaya). So, I really try to pay attention to the words i hear and use. Often i hear expressions like: “i don’t have time for this.” As i pay attention i notice how interesting it is to explore what is meant by such an expression. I don’t have time for this seems to be used when we find an “obstacle” on our way to some destination. We are so motivated to get where we are going that we feel it would be much better, and much more efficient, to not have to deal with some unexpected distractions along the way.

This expression, i don’t have time for this, implies that we have much better things to do with our time. Often, when we use it, we are pointing out that there is something out of our plans, often something we see as negative because we have specific expectations and plans leading us in a different direction.

From the yoga perspective, if we understand that yoga is to be fully present, the practice is to actually give our attention to what is happening right in front of our eyes. Remember that our expectations are seeds for future frustrations and that those expectations will color our experiences as positive or negative. Furthermore, when we recognize that we are always only in one specific time, right here and now, in this moment, today, then it makes sense that it is important to clarify what we have time for.

One suggestion would be to make sure that we have a clear intention that motivates our hearts to move along the path that fulfills our intention. When our intention is very clear, it is much easier to decide what deserves our attention because we know if our actions are aligned to our intention. Along the way, as we recognize that we have very limited (if any) control over the world outside (ishvara pranidhana), we can learn to accept what comes our way. These “distractions” we claim to have no time for, offer us opportunities for clarifying our intention, for cultivating humility and flexibility and, quite often, those same distractions carry the gift of insight into the quality of our participation in this moment.

The next time you hear yourself say: “I don’t have time for this” i may suggest to pause and feel what is happening inside of you. Then take a soft and long breath, and perhaps ask yourself, what is my attitude right now? How does it help me to move towards my intention? What deserve my time and attention?”

I hope these ideas are useful on your path to greater joy, compassion and fulfillment.

Namaste.

rubén

 

 

Learning to Trust (or How to find your inner teacher)

FuchsiaOrchids
 

 

Yoga, when practiced with integrity, guides us on a journey towards increasing clarity and ease. Along the way, as we gradually fine-tune our sensitivity, questions emerge, especially questions such as, how can i know if what i am doing is right or wrong? If we are fortunate, we can seek the assistance and advice of a trustworthy source, somebody with knowledge and first hand experience of this process, our teacher or teachers. In the Yoga tradition, the Guru, or teacher, is that knowledgeable guide assisting the student in moving from a state of darkness, limitation or restriction to greater clarity, freedom and ease.

If we are fortunate enough to have access to a good teacher, we will probably find that the teacher will suggest a technique or practice to help uncover some misconception or limitation. Then, once the restriction is identified, we may gain more clarity towards life affirming choices. We will probably notice that the teacher will not make a decision for us, so we are still in charge of making our own choices.

Can we trust ourselves?

So, how can we know if we can trust ourselves? Very often we hear instructions in yoga classes directing us to listen to the inner teacher, inner wisdom or inner guidance. Yet, as we pay attention to what is happening inside, we often find a never ending monologue with varying opinions on what we are doing as well as on many other unrelated things. Which of the voices/opinions is our inner teacher? Is it the voice that is saying to try harder? Is it the one that is comparing what i am doing with what the person next to me is doing? Or, is it the part that is thinking about my to do list or what i should have for dinner? For most of us, it seems like we are having to make decisions constantly, and the inner chatter is more often an obstacle than a guide.

Our inner compass

My suggestion is that the majority of us, if not all people, are equipped with an internal compass offering us subtle guidance on a regular basis. One of the characteristics of this inner guidance is that it is gentle and not forceful. Consequently, external noise and distractions combined with our internal chatter may distract us, thus, making it less likely for us to notice and even less listen to that inner guidance. To verify that you have access to that inner compass, take a few moments to think about a recent decision you made (it doesn’t have to be a big decision) where, after you decided and acted according to your choice you went: “I knew this was not a good idea” or “I knew I shouldn’t have done that.” That knowing offering a light tap or inner nudge is our inner compass.

A simple suggestion

When you have to make a decision, you may get a gentle nudge, a feeling that prompts you to lean in a certain direction or to take a specific choice. It doesn’t usually come with words, that is why some people call it the silent whisper of the heart. This gentle guidance, just suggests or points without forcing or struggle. It feels like a gentle offer. It is a suggestion and not an order, so we can always make whatever choice we want, even if that means ignoring the whisper of the heart. Frequently, we might notice that if we have an expectation or if we are attached to one of the options we have, the suggestion we receive will probably be met with resistance on our part. In those cases, we will start coming up with arguments, explanations and justifications for taking a different path of action from the one suggested. I often think about a silly example to illustrate how this works: You are having dinner with friends at one of your favorite restaurants and you notice something inside of you indicating that you may have already eaten enough. However, you have not had dessert yet and this place serves one of your all-time favorite desserts. Even though you have noticed the inner signal that you have eaten enough, you may hear yourself coming up with justifications, some like: this week i have really worked very hard and i deserve a reward, or today i walked longer than usual, or i had a very small lunch today. You may even ask your friends for their suggestions or opinion. So, you convince yourself to override the internal advice. You get your dessert and eat it. By the time you get home or the next morning you will probably notice the effects of overeating the night before and you may hear yourself saying: “i knew i shouldn’t have eaten that much”. To clarify, the inner teacher offers an option, we can listen or ignore, and in the end we always have to make a decision. No matter what decision we make, we will have to deal with the consequences of our action.

Can you trust your inner guidance?

You may be asking, so, how do i learn to trust my inner guidance? Think about the many times you have felt that gentle nudge telling you to do something. Now, notice how many times you have chosen to ignore that nudge and you have ended up saying, “I knew this was not such a good idea!”. Probably, every single time. In contrast, think about how many times you have chosen to listen to that internal suggestion and have been glad you did. Most likely, every single time. Moreover, consider if the suggestions you receive ever work against you and the evidence from your own life will show you that the inner guidance you receive always works to your own benefit –even if you do not understand the logic behind it at the time. If your inner guidance offers you options to your own benefit every single time, why not give its suggestions a fair a chance the next time? Most likely you will not regret it.

Try this simple approach

Pause
Next time you need to make a decision, (maybe start with something simple), be willing to pause and listen. Maybe even ask internally, what would be best?
Pay attention
Listen with curiosity. The answer may not come in immediately, it may come in as a few words in something you are reading, or a song that you are listening to, or as part of a conversation you are having or on a billboard on the side of the road. As you notice something that resonates with you, see if it relates to your question, situation or dilemma. Learn to notice the difference in sensation when you are trying to convince yourself and when the message comes from deep inside of you.
Act
Follow the guidance without struggling.
Notice the outcome.
If it works and you end up in a place of a little bit more clarity and ease, consider repeating this procedure over the next couple of weeks. Notice if this helps you feel better and happier more often

I might add, that you can combine the approach suggested in the previous article about not trying to predict the future with trusting inner guidance.They work quite nicely together.

As always, I hope you find this useful.

Namaste.

rubén

Simple guided meditation with Rubén