Laugh, be kind, elevate.

May we find strength and incite to travel, with a kind eye, to our truth and, little by little, as we arrive, let our feet settle there.


May we find strength to make an honest go at a life that can alternately feel confusing and painful and wonderful and lovely and sad and lonely and dull. Can we walk through it all awake?


May we find strength to be able to see the beauty in people even if we may not particularly understand them. 
May we find the strength to see our journey through the eyes of others - not just our human brothers and sisters but the beautiful animals who inhabit this planet with us and deserve our compassion and love. May we not dominate and destroy just because we can. 


May we find the strength to allow fear to hitch a ride with us and simultaneously embrace courage as it will lead us to our heart.
May we find strength to forgive when needed, to discriminate when needed, to love and be loved, to listen and be listened to, to see and be seen. May we be vulnerable to it all.


May we find the strength to look up and see the infinite even when we are often pulled to look down towards limitation.
May we find the strength to not let others determine our value. 
May we have the strength to surround ourselves with people who see us in our highest radiance and who inspire us to be better. To all others we graciously say ‘excuse me’.
May we find the strength to surrender into spacious joy and softness. To not work so hard all the time and demand so much on our gentle hearts. 
May we find strength in action. May we see that our convictions need to be acted upon, that there are many, so very many, who depend on us to be their voice. 
May we stand up for the truth of others.
May we laugh, be kind, elevate and stay curious. We can do it

A prayer

I wish for you to understand that greatness looks different for us all but that we all possess it. 

I wish for you to be inspired but not necessarily influenced by others.

I wish for you to make this life one of action, of not just understanding and nodding, but of doing what needs to be done in order to participate fully - completely - authentically. 

I wish for you to get high off of thinking, saying, doing what you mean and meaning it all at the same time. 

I wish for you to acknowledge the work it takes to make a go at this crazy life and be overjoyed with your efforts.

I wish for you to feel and practice hugging a person, an animal, a tree each day. It is said our typical hugs last only 3 seconds and after 20 we soften.

I wish for you to yearn for growth and study and abandon and freedom and joy and connection and truth. 

I wish for you to find a tribe that supports you, who you support, and rest there. Never stop searching. There are tribes of 2.

I wish for you to honor your unique gifts by first acknowledging they are there and then share them wildly - whether it’s your smile, your cooking, your attention, your art, your time, your jokes, your work. There is love within it all if shared.

I wish for you to shine brightly, breathe fully, and lovingly start over as many times as you need.

SERVICE AS LIFE: AN INTERVIEW

SERVICE AS LIFE: AN INTERVIEW WITH AMANDA HARDING 

http://www.yokequarterly.com/open-issue-service-as-life/

Words: Amanda Harding and Vanessa Gardner 

WITH THIS ISSUE, WE'RE FOCUSING ON SERVICE, AND HOW TO INCORPORATE THAT INTO ONE'S OWN PRACTICE AND WAY OF LIFE, BECAUSE SOMETIMES, PEOPLE FEEL THAT IT'S ONE OR THE OTHER: HELP OTHERS, OR HELP YOURSELF.

Amanda: Well yeah--for people that devote themselves to caring for other people, they can lose that part of it. In a yoga context, they're so interrelated. I've had friends who are so involved in their own psyches that they can't step out of it, and they've gone through whatever they're going through, and immediately when they take themselves out and seek to help somebody else, it changes everything.

They are interwoven. But it's hard for people to, one, not see service as--I hate to use the word "belittling"--but in the back of their minds, sometimes there's a sense of "well, I'm doing so great, so let me help poor you, who's not." But in terms of yoga philosophy, it's definitely soul versus soul. There's an element of actually bringing people to the same level, which I think is a beautiful thing. 

We've interwoven that with our teacher training [at Prema Yoga Brooklyn], which is great, because when you're in something so deeply and you're dissecting your own personal experiences, you lose sight of those around you. And also, it's important to remember that as a yoga teacher, we're in this place of service at all times, but we can sometimes lose that connection. 

HOW DID IT COME AROUND FOR YOU? 

Amanda: I was raised that way. My mother was an animal welfare advocate, so from the time I was born, we had strays [laughs]. But she actually didn't do it the right way, because she put her whole life into service, to the point where she couldn't see. She got so pulled by the devastation that she saw that there were no boundaries. She would come home and just be a crumbled mess. So, it's that fine line of understanding that you're only doing great work if you've taken care of your own self. 

WHAT WAS YOUR DISCOVERY OF FINDING THAT BALANCE BETWEEN SERVICE AND SELF-CARE?

Amanda: Well, I think having a family, for me, helps. Always having a mirror into my own self--there's always a sense of checking when I've gone too far away from them, when I'm feeling too narcissistic, or when I'm too pulled in the other way. And having a family forces you to have that balance. I can tell if I haven't taken care of myself--it shows in how I interact with my children, how I care for them, certainly with my husband, how I teach. But you won't see it necessarily if you're not doing your own personal practice. 

I have a healthy balance now, but it took a while, took a lot of checks and balances. I also have a great community of people who check me, too. A small group of other teachers, and we're very, very close. You need that, because sometimes you can't see it. You can only be so self-reflective. Looking at yourself in the mirror--it's not actually how you look.

Like anything else, a spiritual practice can tread a very fine line of narcissism, so you've gotta pay attention: why am I doing this? 

AS A BUSINESS OWNER--HOW DO YOU RECONCILE THAT WITH SERVICE? WAS THAT ALWAYS YOUR INTENTION AS A YOGA TEACHER?

Amanda: I think it was very organic. I've always had that in my consciousness, that I probably wouldn't teach forever. I think there's probably a bit of an expiration date for me with following the same model. I knew that having the business, there would have to be other things besides changing the toilet bowl, and all that stuff [laughs]. 

So we're launching something called Voice of the Voiceless, and it will cater to the elderly community, animal welfare, single mothers, and children, and we're setting up all the required documentation for all of it. But it's all within this Brooklyn neighborhood. An example would be people that are elderly and in hospice care, but don't always have someone to visit them--we can set up a schedule of people that can be attached to an elder and can spend time with them. Or single mothers that don't get a chance to practice being able to get a little babysitting so that they can. Just very, very localized, without aspiring for the idea of "let me change the world", because sometimes that can be paralyzing. 

AND YOU'RE STILL CHANGING THE WORLD. IT'S ALL SO CIRCULAR.

Amanda: It is! And for those in the community who volunteer, the benefits are enormous. And we can actually see what's happening, as volunteers, and see how it's affecting the person we're helping, as opposed to just writing a check, which is great, but has its limitations. 

IT'S DEFINITELY DIFFERENT TO HAVE IT ON THE STREETS, IN THE COMMUNITY. 

Amanda: Exactly! And you know, one of my students actually sets up nonprofits, so she actually came to me with an idea to have a town hall. So once we have it all set up, we can have a town hall [at Prema], a meeting, and people can say what they think might be needed, or ideas that people might have, of where we could go and be of service. 

AND IF YOU BUILD IT FROM THE GROUND UP, YOUR VISION ISN'T DILUTED.

Amanda: And this is a built-in community already, so we're one step ahead. Someone can come in and say, 'I actually need this'. We have moms going through divorces, they have kids, may not have resources, financially they don't have security, so you know from your built-in community where there's need. 

WITH YOUR LIFE AS A TEACHER, ARE THERE WAYS YOU HOPE TO INSTILL THIS IDEA OF LIVING A LIFE OF SERVICE WITH OTHERS?

Amanda: I think it's by action. Yoga is so experiential, that you have to experience it to know. So I've set up a lot of things--even just talking in my classes about what it is to serve. Some of it is opening up people's channels and access to their own selves to understand that it's of importance, that service is what you actually do. And some people come to it not being told, but by or through yoga, by opening themselves up, they realize, "this is actually something that feels good, that I want to do, that is part of living my experience." So they come to it naturally a lot of times.

HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE YOUR IDEA OF SERVICE, ITS PERSONAL EXPRESSION FOR YOU?

As my time got more limited, when I couldn't just go "I'm going to volunteer here, on this particular day", I decided that my whole outlook on life has to be of that nature. So, as soon as I walk in this door and see people, the service is there, all day long. Someone has this going on, and someone has that going on, and they're free to tell you about it, and that openness is a kind of service. And when you put yourself out there, you'll have people come to you with their needs. It's little things. Someone might need to visit their child, and they're separated, but they don't have a car, so I lent them my car for the day. It's just there, every day. It will become more formal when [Voice of the Voiceless] is all set up, but service is a part of everything. It's not so concrete, it's not in a little box. There's nothing wrong with that, either--I spent years doing New York Cares, and it was beautiful, but now, I think that I'm doing much more good. In a community, you're tapping into a vein of people who may not necessarily ask for help. It's one person at a time. Who can I help today? It's important to understand that the people you see on a daily basis are going through challenges, or are suffering. 

The thief of joy

Retreat inward. It is hard. We are pulled. Constantly comparing ourselves, everywhere we look someone having, doing, living better lives than we can or ever will.

We tell ourselves that. And by doing that we move further away from the most divine version of ourselves. We disconnect, we condemn, out come the words seemingly innocuous, outwardly judging but inside secretly coveting. We then perhaps get angry, sad, frustrated with ourselves for the narrative. We are exhausted. We are stuck. We can’t breath. Where to now? What might we be missing about our own beautiful uniqueness when we spend time wishing we had what someone else does, typically not even knowing what it is they really have? What could we be doing instead?

Sitting with ourselves, delighting in all the successes our kindred spirits are having, and focusing on realizing, seeing, digging for the great gifts we have been given - big, small and everywhere in between. We could relax into that place with confidence, without struggle and truly understand our only duty is to bring forth what is within us. When our intention becomes focused on that inward connection, we may actually locate what our gifts are, if they have alluded us for so long. There is no expiration date on finding our passions. No matter how insignificant we think they might be.That’s not for us to judge. As the Bhagavad Gita says, we cannot be anyone we want to be. Transformation, freedom, contentment, joy for us happens when we settle into who we actually are. 

So…keep finding ways each day to retreat inward and practice being connected to the source that will deliver us answers by peeling away the complexity. 5 minutes, 15 minutes, give permission to stop and have a look and congratulate ourselves on having a go at this thing called life. Allowing the hard work of gripping to be or do something else settle into the comfiness of being led by our own inner guide. This isn’t passive, it’s highly charged and active in the world and transformative not just for ourselves but for others. Because when we are led, all the moving entities in our lives are touched for the better.

...it just makes them happy

To release my tendency to judge or label things one way based on unconfirmed prejudices

To awaken my natural state of joy and bliss

To know I am more than my thoughts, more than what I think about myself

To lose feelings of self consciousness

To not have to understand everything but to instead connect to the place that feels everything

To see myself as joined to others and to a source unknown but surely greater than myself

to practice bringing true intention to the words I choose to speak

To know there is a place of refuge that can hold all the many parts of me no matter which part shows up

To allow myself to simply show up and receive

To channel the beautiful energy of my children who sing and dance because...it just makes them happy

To love

This is why kirtan is a meditative practice for me

A practice begins.

December 26, 2008, my first daughter was born. Never the one desperate to have a child, I wasn’t a natural at first, by any stretch of the imagination. This is the day my personal practice truly began. A spiritual practice, up to this point, that had been so dear to me.  It had helped me shift some of the debilitating patterns I had been born into. It held me steady as I made my way out of bouts of anxiety and brought me a lifeline as I coped with the devastation over the death of my father.  And it had certainly prepared me for what lay ahead. But before having my 2 daughters, what I thought was a clear steady practice of yoga that I had established both physically and philosophically in my life, had been, for all intents and purposes, solely about me, truly healing but almost entirely narcissistic. Here I was now afraid, responsible, overwhelmed and, from that very first moment, clear. Outside of my husband, there wasn’t any one holding up the mirror, giving instant feedback, letting me know how I was doing - authentically and continuously - day to day, minute by minute. The accountability felt by having one and then 2 little humans to show the way has been my yoga practice and greatest teacher. I wake up every day with the opportunity to follow a course that is true to how I know I want to live and be, mainly to stand in service of others . Many days I fail. I react rather than respond, I ignore rather than engage, I retreat rather than jump in but seeing the instant result of my efforts reflected in the eyes and spirit of these beautiful children encourages me to stay the course, to own my actions, my words, and to be as vulnerable with them as they are with me and to take this outward beyond my insular circle. I have a daily teacher in the accountability of life and love and for that I am truly grateful.

Sacred Space.

 

 

The little room both my babies slept in, long nights feeding and learning and cuddling, a new chapter and now my own sacred space is born filled with memories of indescribable love, many tears, great joy, mourning, bliss and heartache.

Here now I can bless the journey each day. May you all find a space, a corner, a nook you call your own.

A place you can sit quietly and be all your many parts connected fully to the never changing whole. 

 

an updated guide.

May I see the beauty, the humanity, the passion, the wisdom, the love I see in others as vividly when I view myself.

May I nourish my children, my partner, my family, my friends daily with honesty& compassion, arms enveloped & heart exposed.

May I loosen the grip of fear that binds me. May I close my eyes, lift my arms up fully, free my breath and step in.

May I understand that I determine my value.

May I be comforted by my courage to embrace new habits instead of holding on to old ones that slowly extinguish my fire and make me unrecognizable. There is always an updated guide to me.

May I acknowledge the goodness in my life because it is always there.

May I see this goodness in the smallest and greatest of grievances and understand my perspective is my choice.

May I be generous with my words and not hoard gratitude. Speak it, show it, tell people they matter and why. Otherwise, do they?

May I always remember that I feel most expansive and receptive when I give love first rather than standing back, arms closed, waiting to receive it.

May WE all connect daily, eye to eye, heart to heart, palm to palm truly wishing for sweetness for us all.

Again and Again.

May you share with your soul only the things that inspire you to greatness, that deserve the attention of your beautiful heart. From all else turn away. Over and over turn away.

May your journey into stillness evolve from a steady practice of aligning your highest intention with your direct attention - what you speak, what you consume, who you are consumed with and how you spend each sacred moment.

May you search always for your purpose. May you truly believe that there is no path too great or too small. May you bless your personal journey always, no matter when you bloom. Believe you will.


May you listen deeply. When we speak, we reiterate that which we know. When we listen, we have the opportunity to learn. To see beyond what we think.

May you spend idle time each day - take an aimless walk, reread a favorite passage from a beloved book, see your child, notice your sweetness, feel the breath in the air, in your body. Embody space.

May you attempt to honor simplicity, at the center of which there can be great long-lasting contentment.

May your unique one of a kind flame shine bright and, when it dims or flickers, may you notice swiftly. Reignite. Over and over.

Again and again."