Moving meditation: Dance of Shiva Arms and Legs

 

 

The Dance of Shiva is a journey of expansion of our coordination, balance and ability to focus. When the patterns of Dance of Shiva become easy enough that we can think about something else while practicing, it is time to change the practice to continue expanding our coordination and processing capacity. We can move at a faster speed, we can change the pattern or we can add another level of complexity. Like in all aspects of yoga, rather than pursuing mastery, we are interested in engaging in mindful self-inquiry. A simple reason for this is to choose not to be stuck in doing things in only one way.

To add more complexity to the practice, the horizontal and vertical arm patterns can be combined with leg movements. Here is one basic pattern of leg movements.

Basic Leg Pattern 1:

Leg Pattern 1 Position 1

Leg Pattern 1 Position 2

Leg Pattern 1 Position 3

Leg Pattern 1 Position 4

Play with this pattern, moving forward from position 1 all the way to position 4 with each leg, then reverse the movements to go from position 1 to 4, then 3, 2 and returning to 1. The simplest approach could be to do the four variations of the arm movements combined with simple leg movements.

Combining Leg Pattern 1 with Horizontal Arm Movements

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Arms 1, Leg 1

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Arms 2, Leg 2

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Arms 3, Leg 3

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Arms 4, Leg 4

Of course, to add more options, the same pattern can be combined with the vertical arm pattern:

Combining Leg Pattern 1 with Vertical Arm Movements

Dance of Shiva Vertical Arms 1, Leg 1

Dance of Shiva Vertical Arms 2, Leg 2

Dance of Shiva Vertical Arms 3, Leg 3

Dance of Shiva Vertical Arms 4, Leg 4

Of course, the variations in arm movements can also be combined with changing legs and leg pattern direction. Since each leg pattern can be done in two directions, forward and back, then there are 2 movements with each leg, for a total of 4 movements. The leg movements then can be combined with the 4 directions in each of the arm patterns, vertical and horizontal. So that forward movement of the arms can be combined with forward leg movement. Then backward movement of the arms can be combined with the same leg moving backward. For the alternating movements, when one arm goes forward and the other arm goes backward, the other leg can go forward. Finally, as the arm movements are reversed the second leg can move forward.

Video

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

There are, obviously, many more ways to explore with these patterns as a way to playfully immerse in this inquiry. As usual, there is never a good reason to strain, struggle or self-judge. Just trying is a good way to quiet down the internal narration and commentary.

I hope that you enjoy these explorations.

Please remember that there is a very complete DVD on the Theory and Practice of the Dance of Shiva by Andrey Lappa on Pranamaya.com.

Peace,
rubén

More Dance of Shiva articles:

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

 

Yoga guiding your life experiment

 

All of us are currently conducting an experiment with our lives. As Samuel Butler said “Life is like playing a violin in public and learning the instrument as one goes on.” As we mentioned before, most of us are not very good at predicting the future, because uncertainty is at the core of life and living. Some people are more or less successful at dealing with the uncertainty of not really knowing how the experiment will turn out, while others become good at pretending that they have it all figured out and yet other people find ways to flow in harmony with the eternal unpredictability of life. Whatever the case, your life is YOUR own experiment, and you get to decide how you want to go about it. Over two decades ago I decided to use yoga as the framework for my life experiment. I am grateful that I found yoga, because yoga has been a helpful system to help me show up to my life every day. I would like to share with you what has been most helpful to me:

  • Yoga is presence. Yoga is being in this moment, trying to pay close attention to what is happening and to what I am doing.
  • As I try to pay attention I notice that I get distracted constantly. With gentle persistence I keep returning to this moment after each distraction. Returning to this moment works best when I return without strain, without struggle, and most importantly, without self-judgment.
  • Smiling softens everything and it reminds me that, like everybody else, I am running my own experiment and that, like nobody else, I have not figured it all out.

Showing up and doing my best, is really what yoga practice (and life) are all about.

You may ask, how do I know if my experiment is working? The yoga experiment is working when there is less physical, mental and emotional pain in your life and when you feel more at ease, more cheerful and enthusiastic to participate in your life.

And you, how is your life experiment going?

Peace,
rubén

Affordable Yoga Retreat Costa Rica

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

 

Chair Yoga

 

 

Chair Yoga is an excellent opportunity to practice yoga using a clear support that makes it easier for us to notice the relationships between different parts of our body as well as the actions of our joints. Chair yoga can also make it easier for us to practice when we have limited mobility

Like in any other physical yoga practice, make sure that there is no strain, no struggle and no self-judgement. Instead, invest your energy on making your breath smooth and continuous and on having a friendly and relaxed attitude.

I hope you enjoy this video:

Peace,
rubén

Affordable Yoga Retreat Costa Rica

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

 

Benefits of Yoga Retreats

 

 

The main reason I go to my yoga mat every morning is because there I find a safe space for exploring the interconnections between my body, my breath, my emotions and my mind. My practice is a process of integrating all these different aspects of myself into the present moment. For me, the practice creates a sense of balance, meaning and purpose. My practice sets up the tone for my day,for my actions and for my interactions with others. In other words, my yoga practice prepares me for participating harmoniously in my life.

Our Yoga practice offers us a refuge where we can center and connect to the best possible version of ourselves. That’s why one of my favorite activities is to go on Yoga Retreat because away from the usual distractions I can create a space to invest time cultivating a more intimate relationship to my own being.

The retreat provides a place where we can:

  • forget about our usual tasks, chores and responsibilities
  • have time to rest and relax
  • reconnect with what is truly important to us
  • verify that we are moving along the best path to contribute our uniqueness to the world with grace, kindness and friendliness

Of course, since we are social beings, our journey is made sweeter by sharing with other people who are also exploring ways to be in greater harmony with themselves and with the world.

I would like to invite you to join me for the Joyful Being retreat in Costa Rica from June 3rd to June 10th, 2017. Everything is ready for you: a beautiful location in the natural environment of the Costa Rican mountains, comfortable accommodations, delicious food and plenty of time to rest, relax and recharge. Join me on this unforgettable journey!
For more information on this wonderful yoga retreat in Costa Rica please visit the website below:
yoga-here-now.com/retreats.html#next

Peace,
rubén

Affordable Yoga Retreat Costa Rica

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

 

11 Simple Steps to Learn Meditation

Bell Reflections

 

 

Meditation is gaining popularity. As a result, there are many options for those who want to try meditation. As suggested previously we are starting by defining meditation as being with what is, which can be understood as meeting yourself where you are and exactly as you are.

In order to make things easier for ourselves, it is a good idea to let go of our expectations about how the practice should unfold as well as about the potential benefits we may receive from our practice. It may be more helpful to recognize that cultivating the skill of being present (meditation) is in itself a way of fulfilling our most important duty, showing up to our lives. In addition, being present also enables us to notice the distractions, limitations and restrictions that may be interfering in our meaningful engagement in our lives.

In other words, meditation, is a way of enriching the quality of our relationship with ourselves, with the people around us and with the world.

The following steps can be valuable in establishing a sustainable meditation practice:

  • Keep it simple
  • Relax
  • Feel
  • Notice
  • Smile
  • Focus
  • Distractions will happen
  • Release self-judgement
  • Persist gently
  • Enjoy the effects
  • Repeat often

 

Keep it Simple

Make it easy to practice. We do not need any special equipment to meditate. Just allocate some space that is ready so that we can take a brief meditation break whenever we get a chance. If we feel pressed for time, we can just start with a 1, 2, 3 or 5 minute practice. Consider if it would help to remember that this moment we are in is new and irreplaceable and that the moment will never come back or be repeated, therefore it makes sense to choose to give this unique moment our undivided attention.

Relax

Release. Let’s give ourselves permission to be here and trust that the world will be able to survive without us. Whatever is not part of this moment can remain outside, if only for the practical reason that we cannot be effective in a place we are not. To relax, we pay attention to the sensations in our body from head to toes or toes to head noticing if there are any areas where we can release holding or tension.

Feel

Feel the sensations, emotions and thoughts. We tend to spend a lot of time in our heads, thinking, remembering, planning, regretting, predicting, etc. Instead of living in the story we have created for ourselves (and others) we can choose to shift into feeling mode, just connecting to whatever sensations are happening right where we are. Be aware of the tendency to put words into the sensations. Rather than describing, liking, disliking or judging what we are feeling, can we just feel what is happening?

Notice

Observe what is happening and notice that whatever we sense is changing constantly. As we pay attention to the ongoing flow of sensations, thoughts, feelings and emotions we may notice that certain ideas, attitudes and memories emerge in our mind. Are we trying to label, describe, judge, like or dislike what we are feeling? Are those sensations keep changing from one moment to the next. As you stay with the ongoing flow of sensations, feelings, emotions and thoughts notice the words that might come up in your mind.

Smile

What is your attitude as you observe yourself in this moment? What happens if you invite a gentle smile? Does the experience change in any way? Is the change helpful and/or welcome? Is it possible to keep a gentle smile on your face?

Focus

When we recognize that this moment is changing contstantly it can be helpful to have an attitude of curiosity, noticing that there are many things happening as we remain still and silent. This curiosity can help us remain focused on being with the experience that is unfoding right where we are.

Distractions will happen

As a normal human being living in the 21st century we are probably well-practiced in keeping track of many ideas, thoughts, events and lists of things to do. We have trained ourselves to keep our attention switching back and forth between different activities and mental processes on a regular basis. So, it may not be surprising that we find it difficult to stay focused on just one thing. Even when we have chosen something interesting to focus on we find that our mind will get distracted sooner or later. In fact, we may get distracted many, many times. From this perspective, meditation is not a contest to see who can last the longest without any distractions. Instead, a very useful skill to develop is our capacity to keep coming back to this moment after every single distraction regardless of the frequency and length of the distractions.

Release self-judgement

As we bring our attention inwardly it may happen that we notice a familiar internal voice constantly offering judgements. For instance, that voice may immediately point out how we get distracted quite easily, maybe even going to the extent of deciding that we are not good at meditation. At those points, it may be helpful to remember that meditation is being with what is, even if what we are experiencing is distraction, boredom, impatience or frustration. Be curious to experience what happens when you give yourself permission to be free from your own judgement.

Persist gently

Just as it has taken a long time for us to develop our postural, mental, emotional and respiratory habits, cultivating the skill of being with what is, like cultivating anything that is valuable, will take time. The best approach is to persist gently, without any strain or struggle, at a pace that we can handle. One of the most valuable aspects of the practice is the capacity to keep coming back to this moment again and again.

Enjoy the effects

No meditation practice is wasted, even if it seems like we were constantly distracted throughout the whole session. Learning to validate our experience can free us to enjoy developing a more intimate and meaningful relationship with ourselves. Our experience is valid because we are having it, even if it doesn’t go according to our expectations. Enjoying the process, and its effects, is a good way to keep generating a positive change towards clarity and inner peace.

Repeat often

Look at any person who is good at something, it is highly unlikely that they developed all their skills overnight. Actually, what we will find is that increased quality results from persisting again and again in a systematic, conscious and deliberate way over a long period of time. So keep trying to dedicate a little bit of time to meditate as often as it is possible and with a gentle and friendly attitude towards ourselves and towards the whole process.

Put it into practice

Below is a 7 minute video that offers you a clear focal point to put these ideas into practice. Be curious to notice what happens if you try this exercise every day for one week or longer. Enjoy!

Peace,
rubén

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

 

Introduction to Meditation in 5 minutes

 

 

When we define meditation as being with what is, what we mean is that we try to cultivate our ability to be present with what is happening. This exercise invites you to focus your attention on the video and to stay with the experience. It is quite possible that some part of you may start narrating what is happening or commenting on what you see. In either case just return to noticing what you are seeing. If your mind starts going into other times and places by remembering or planning, just keep returning to the video without judgement. Notice whatever happens and consider welcoming whatever is unfolding.

Be curious to notice what happens if you try this exercise every day for one week or longer.

I hope you find this exercise useful.

Peace,
rubén

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 
 

 

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