The EVOLVER: Monthly Meditations – February 2016 – Dharma & Resonant Alignment

 

Dharma & Resonant Alignment
-Julee Snyder

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I sit to write today, I find myself drawn to questions of Dharma and ‘resonant alignment.’

What is Dharma? A dear friend and teacher, Patty Townsend, recently wrote on Dharma on her Embodyoga blog and I’ll make several references to it here. Patty defines Universal Dharma as that which gives order to the Universe and underlies the very structure of existence. Individual Dharma is how we act in the world and take personal responsibility for coming into alignment with the Universal.

She goes on to define the world in which we live as a relational field. She writes:

We are in relationship on all levels of our being at all times. There is no end or beginning to the field of relationship. In the microcosm of our bodies we are intricately relating to ourselves at all times: cell to cell, fluids to membranes to fascia, glands and organs, time and space, movement and stillness, and all of the transformation and creativity that is continuously taking place. We are in relationship to the environment outside of our personal skin-membrane. We have our closest people, nature and the world around us. Our individual intelligence is wrapped and permeated with the Universal. Every breath, every thought and every movement is happening within the field of relationship.

This is so beautiful to me and it’s why I practice yoga.

A massage and Pilates client of mine recently asked me what I got out of yoga and I found myself pausing, because how does one speak to the mysteries of the universe without proselytizing. I said, “It’s going to sound a little new-agey, but it connects me first to myself and then to something much larger than myself.” Then I quoted Iyengar when he said that his body was his temple and the practice his prayer. And I went on to tell the story of my first yoga classes. It was 1994, I had just graduated college and was taking dance classes at Meredith College. Lisa Clark, the partner of my favorite dance teacher, was teaching a 3-week yoga intensive where we take yoga class every day. I was curious, so I signed up. To me, from who I was then, there was nothing particularly magical about the classes themselves; yoga struck me as another kind of choreography. BUT there was something interesting happening outside of class. I found that the acts of taking care of myself came more easefully, without forethought and effort. I laughed more spontaneously. I had stronger opinions and more forthrightly shared them. There was something happening in the relational field, both to myself and others, that was shifting and that little piece would stay with me and continue to bring me back to yoga, and to Lisa as my teacher, again and again.

Another important drop in the bucket of the relational field for me was ten years later. I was in Lisa’s Yoga Teacher Training – her first year of offering it – and Patty Townsend was guest teaching. She was speaking about the koshas, the layers of self. We have our physical body, our energy (Prana) body, our emotional body, our mind body, our bliss body, and then the core individual self. As she was speaking about the mind-body and the power of discernment, she gave it a referential context, which was so potent for me. She said we begin to use the mind to discern the choices that bring us closer to love. For the mind was centered in the heart and the goal of yoga was to yoke the individual heart with the universal heart.

Making choices that bring us closer to love was monumental. I was one of those people who could too easily get lost in a nihilistic blur of relative meanings. If anything and everything had meaning, what gave any one thing or person, including myself, more value over anything else? How was one to make decisions? In that realm, one choice is just as valuable as another. They will give you different experiences, different flavors of life, but none was truly any better than another. It left me with a kind of apathetic emptiness as I flailed in a realm insecurity and meaninglessness and struggled to feel connected to anything or anyone — a little like this video of Henri, the existential cat. But by the time I had entered Yoga Teacher Training, I had made good strides in moving out of that existential mind-space to taking responsibility in creating meaning for myself, but this was a helpful bit. Now, as I consider the landscape of choices out there, the question underneath is ‘what brings me closer to love? What has the feeling of resonant alignment?’

There’s something else yoga gives me, as we talk about the relational field. In the beginning, as you practice yoga, your teacher likely tells you where to put your parts. An arm here. A foot there. Do I even have a sitting bone? And the first layer of that process is recognizing that we have a body, that we can feel its parts, and that we can eventually direct the parts as instructed. It’s not unusual for that to be the realm of the first several years of practice. Over time, we begin to internalize a sense of ‘right alignment’ and perhaps this has begun to overflow into other parts of life without knowing or understanding why. Then you might begin to sense that when the alignment is really right for you, it has a kind of resonance. We learn to feel and recognize this resonance through repeated practice. And then we learn to sense that it can be honed, refined, textured, investigated, navigated, and deepened. It isn’t a static place. It changes moment to moment.

It’s when you get to the space of what I will call ‘resonant alignment’ that you enter the realm of the relational field and can begin to navigate your Dharma. It’s why a practice of simple poses can last me a lifetime and it’s on this level where simple poses become advanced asana – resting into the relational field and discerning the path of resonate alignment on every layer of existence. It’s on this level that yoga comes off of the mat, into our homes, into our workplaces, and into the world. It’s where the yamas and niyamas become living, breathing, resonant landscapes — rather than ethical prescriptions.

Patty references a Tantra perspective (and distinguishes it from Patanjali’s) when she says this, “…we value equally the changing and sustaining aspects of creation. We really are not that interested in valuing what is so called “Pure” (un-changing) and better, from what is “impure” (changing) and not quite as good. We are not at all interested in denying or overcoming our human experience. We are interested in experiencing all layers of our selves and our lives, from the most-subtle reality all the way through the most gross and messy aspects of personality. The weave is what interests us.” And I’m right there with her.

Some people know what they are here on this earth to do. And I have rarely had the experience of that kind of clarity, as you can imagine from what I’ve shared about my history. When one looks back at my life, it has been a bit circuitous, but there are a couple of themes. I started college as a flute performance major, played around in the math and business departments – I loved Calculus! – and got a degree in anthropology while beginning to take dance classes and playing in the West African music ensemble. Upon graduation, I worked at Whole Foods and Third Place while taking dance and yoga classes at ArtsTogether and Meredith College. I went to graduate school in dance for a year and then to conservatory in Amsterdam until I got caught up in a relationship drama that brought me home. I did administrative work and bookkeeping in a massage school and several arts non-profits. I waited tables, made copies, schlepped coffee, all while dancing and choreographing in local dance companies, including my own. I went to massage school, yoga school, the school for Body-Mind Centering. I started to specialize in bodywork. I worked at several clinics – chiropractic, osteopathic, acupuncture, medical massage, yoga studios, and Duke Integrative Medicine – before moving into private practice. I went back to school for pre-med, public health, and a year of osteopathic medical school. And after all of that I returned to Raleigh to settle back into a simple life of movement and bodywork — the main theme and what keeps me going, the intimacy of consciousness imbued in structure.

I have recently accepted a new role as Director of Therapeutic Programming at Evolve. And I have to say, in the realm of resonant alignment, it feels right and somehow magically integrates everything that has come before into new and exciting directions. I hope you’ll join me as we continue to navigate what is possible for Evolve with the immense talent we have working under our roof — only if it’s right for you, of course. Namaste.

 

The EVOLVER: Monthly Meditations – January 2016 – A New Year’s Resolution

A New Year’s Resolution

 

The concept has become ubiquitous in our culture — an idea full of hope and confidence that, this year we will successfully make a change that sticks. Maybe it is a resolution to eat healthier, exercise more, learn a new skill or have more patience with those you love. Whatever your particular version is of your best, this seems to be the time of the year to begin the hunt for the recipe and the willpower to make it happen.

But Old Habits Do Die Hard

Just this once, we eat the donut, skip the yoga class or stay up a little later to watch another episode of that awesome series. Just this once morphs into twice and thrice and, slowly but surely, we come to the realization that we are right back where we started.

Truly breaking a habit means changing our brains. This is actually good news! Our brains are highly malleable, and contrary to what was common understanding at the turn of the century, neuroscientists now know that our brains are not finished developing at a particular age; they change as a result of experience and stimuli right up until the moment that we take our last breath. Wittingly or unwittingly we mold our brains by the things we repeatedly do, the stories we tell ourselves and where it is that we direct our attention. We develop the neurological “grooves” that make habits so automatic, so ingrained and so very resistant to change.

Mindfulness can change our brains. The benefits of mindfulness are well-documented and varied — from boosting the immune system to lowering harmful cortisol levels to increasing brain matter and activity in areas of the brain that control memory, empathy and cognitive functioning. Mindfulness practices have been shown to decrease anxiety and depression, increase compassion, attention and memory and to enhance relationships and a sense of wellbeing.

At its most basic definition, mindfulness is about paying attention. This practice of training attention can help us notice when thoughts, emotions, sensations or behaviors arise that can derail our intentions – our resolutions. Mindfulness can provide the necessary pause to purposefully respond to a thought or feeling rather than to automatically react. Mindfulness can create that little bit of space you need to make a conscious choice.

A mindfulness practice can support you in making and keeping an important commitment to yourself. But, mindfulness requires cultivation. Like any skill, mindfulness is developed through quality instruction and regular practice. Here are some recommendations for getting started:

  • Dan Harris’ book 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge and Found Self Help That Actually Worked – A True Story is a great place to start. Harris, an anchor for ABC news, calls himself a “fidgety skeptic,” and his book is entertaining as well as informative. He recently launched a mindfulness instructional app, created in conjunction with Joseph Goldstein, a highly skilled and respected mindfulness meditation teacher.
     
  • Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book Mindfulness for Beginners is a great resource. It comes with a CD of guided meditations to support your daily practice. Check out this lecture by Dr. Kabat-Zinn, delivered at Google’s headquarters: Mindfulness Meditation Presentation
     
  • Learn more about the science, and in particular about the Harvard study referenced above, in this TED talk by Sara Lazar. http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/TEDxCambridge
     
  • Sign up for the next six-week Foundations of Mindfulness series at Evolve Movement. The series begins on Tuesday, January 12th and meets from 7:15 PM – 8:30 PM. Register here.
     
  • Attend a two-hour workshop on Mindfulness: The Art and Science of Habit Change this Saturday, January 9th at Evolve from 3:00 – 5:00 PM. Register here.

Wishing you all the very best for a Happy, Healthy and Mindful 2016!

Mary Lin

For more information about the benefits of mindfulness go to http://www.mindfulresolution.com

 
 

Special Holiday Classes

CELEBRATE WITH MOVEMENT THIS HOLIDAY

 
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Join Nicole and Alicia for an intense, heart-pumping & core shaking CARDIO CORE BLAST Pilates "Pop Up" Class!
The class will be comprised of 30 minutes of jump board on the reformer, 30 minutes of Tower & Mat & 15 minutes for transitions and stretching. All set to a fun, upbeat playlist! Open to Level 2 & 3 pilates students.
Cardio Core Blast is sure to challenge you from head to toe. Grab a friend & sign up soon.
Limited to 12 students

Pilates "Pop-Up" Class: Cardio + Core Blast

with Alicia and Nicole

Sunday, December 18
3-4:15pm $25

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learn More + Register here!

 
 

 
 
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Join Carson, BB and Julee for our annual Winter Solstice practice celebrating the rebirth of the light of the sun! The winter solstice is a time of transition, moving from the longest night to gradually lighter days. As we pause in the fertile darkness of the deep winter, we are drawn to slow down, turn inwards and reflect, while strengthening our inner light.

Inner Light: Winter Solstice Celebration Practice

with BB, Carson and Julee

Wednesday, December 21st

6:30-8pm, $16
Drop-in or use your Class Card

 

 

 

Learn More + Register   here!

 
 

 
 
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The holiday season often brings up stress and requires an energy that leaves us drained. Restore your energy and feel more peace this holiday season with a Christmas Eve morning yoga practice. Sarah Wechsberg will guide students in an asana and pranayama practice that focuses on first feeling peace from within then radiating out light and love. This is an open level class that will interweave alignment based yoga and gentle poses leaving students feeling lighter and relaxed in the body, mind and spirit.

Align + Flow: Christmas Eve Peaceful Practice

with Sarah Wechsberg

Saturday, December 24th
10-11:30am, $16
Drop-in or use your Class Card

 

 

 

 

 

Learn More + Register  here!

 
 

 
 
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Join us New Year's Eve morning to, in the words of George Harrison, "Wring out the old, Ring in the new." George is one of our greatest inspirations as a yogi and musician, and we look forward to sharing his spirit with you in this special Prana Vinyasa + Live Music class. We will "wring out what's false, ring in what's true," through a detoxifying twisting sequence that will help you release 2016 and create space to set intentions for 2017.

Wring Out The Old, Ring In The New: Prana Vinyasa + LIVE Music New Year's Eve Special Practice!

with Carson Efird and Joe Westerlund

Saturday, December 31st
8:30-10am, $16
Drop-in or use your Class Card

 

 

 

 

 

Learn More + Register here!

 
 

 
 

Join me for a special class celebrating the New Year! Together let's consciously, choose Love as our guiding force stepping into 2017! Class will concentrate on grounding + hip opening asana, and end with a deep restorative pose to facilitate beginning the New Year centered and connected to our highest self.

Align + Flow: New Year's Day Special Practice

with Michelle Corey

Sunday, January 1st
10:30am-12pm, $16
Drop-in or use your Class Card

 

 

Learn More + Register here!

 
 

919.828.4525

evolvemovement.com / info@evolvemovement.com 

EVOLVE Movement - Cameron Village - Raleigh

219 Oberlin Rd., Raleigh, NC 27605