Big Mind

“We participate in our natural spaciousness so seldom that we have come to believe we are whatever arises in the mind.” Stephen Levine

You have probably heard your yoga or meditation teacher say it before:


Central to yogic philosophy is the concept that we are not the thoughts and impressions that arise in our minds, but rather witnesses who watch the thoughts come and go. As external seers, we have the ability to transform our reality by remaining unattached to these thoughts, recognizing that they are merely changeable clouds within the limitless sky of our True selves.

Patanjali states in the Yoga Sutras that yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. The true objective of the yoga practice is not a bendy back, long hamstrings, or a solid handstand, but rather to awaken the practitioner to the spaciousness of his/her True self.  This “True” self is a reality only recognized when the mind’s chatter is silenced. As long as we remain preoccupied with wavering thought patterns (“small mind”), there will be little peace, clarity, or ability to grasp our ultimate capacity (our “big mind”).

Analyzing, defining, and judging are acts of our small mind, or ego. When we act from the standpoint of our egos, we remain reactive, habitual, and limited in the scope of our thinking; our awareness is honed in on specific objects or situations.  This mindset can be very useful at times; for example, solving a mathematical equation with a well-defined solution. If, however, the mathematical equation is of a new order and has been heretofore considered unsolvable, then relying on usual patterns of problem-solving would not likely lead to success and a wider viewpoint would need to be employed. Inventors, pioneers, and notable artists necessarily utilize this Big Mind perspective because innovation requires the capacity to think outside the box of small mind.

Unfortunately, I find myself frequently viewing the world from a small mind perspective. Whatever my mind is focused on is experienced as my entire, all-consuming reality.  Sometimes it is pleasant, sometimes it is agonizing. Forgetting that I am more than these fluctuating thoughts, I become a victim of my own mind, at the whim of the next notion that arises and I forget the boundless wisdom that is available to me in every moment.

My goal this month is to be more attentive to tapping into this wisdom, this Big Mind perspective, rather than merely reacting to situations. This simply requires stepping back from my limited vantage point and asking “what should I do now?” It is not so important who or what I believe I am asking for guidance, be it God, my True Self, my intuition. What matters is that I let go of the need to immediately act (or react) and instead take a moment for an extra breath, to become receptive, to allow the mud to settle, and to patiently wait for the answers. The beauty of this practice is that the answers will come; things will get better! Whether it is because the situation itself changes or just because my perspective on it does, things will improve. And in the meantime, I am enjoying life more, appreciating life more, because I am allowing it to unfold without so much struggle.

Playlist:Yoga Flow

 Bija Mantras - Ben Leinbach & Jai Uttal

 Offshore - Chicane

 Vai Vai - Thunderball

 No Saint - Wasis Diop 

 Early Daiquiris - Club des Belugas

 Funky Guru - Prem Joshua

 Troubled Girl - Karen Ramirez

 Solar - Thunderball

 Leo Leo - Indo Animata

 Lying in the Hands of God - Dave Matthews Band

 Gopala Lullaby - Ben Leinbach & Jai Uttal

Just Breathe

The April Inspiration is up late this month as I just arrived home from an extended trip, which included leading True Flow Yoga’s Yoga and Live Music Retreat on the Big Island of Hawaii. The place, the sounds, the people, and the spirit there were all absolutely incredible! Traveling is an opportunity to step outside of one’s usual environment and open oneself to new experiences. Along with all the advantages of travel also comes the upheaval of changing time zones, climates, diet, etc., which can be a bit disconcerting. As I voyaged from one adventure to the next, there were a lot of unknowns and many unpredictable circumstances.

In travel as in life, there is not much that we can count on in any absolute sense. One exception, however, is breath. As long as we are alive, by definition, we can depend on having breath and thus connecting to it in times of uncertainty is like embracing an anchor of stability. Pausing to focus on my breath is akin to standing directly in the eye of the storm: I am still aware of the chaos and the flux around me, but in the calm of my breath, there is stillness. Breath is a constant guide and companion to those who remember to notice it. No matter where we go, no matter what is happening around us, it is always there as a stable harbor. There is no specific technique necessary; just breathe.

What is a trip without bringing back a souvenir?  After teaching one of our afternoon yoga with live music classes on the retreat, the musicians decided to stay and jam for a bit.  The sound was beautiful and having not gotten a chance to practice myself that day, I rolled out my mat.  This video is a one-take, impromptu video shot by one of the retreat attendees. I hope you enjoy it!

PLAYLIST #7 The playlist this month is the DownTemple Dub:Waves album by Desert Dwellers. It is a beautiful collection of music that is wonderful to breathe and flow to.

 Playlist: Desert Dwellers - DownTemple Dub Waves

 Prana Shakti - Desert Dwellers

 Subterranean Sanctuary - Desert Dwellers 

 On Namo Bhagavate - Desert Dwellers 

 Misty Mountain - Desert Dwellers 

 Solar Prayers - Desert Dwellers 

 Bhodi Mandala - Desert Dwellers

Following My Bliss

This past weekend, another group of students graduated from True FLOW Yoga Teacher Training.  This was the tenth 200 hour yoga teacher training that I have independently led. As I look back and reflect on the last few years of my life, it is very surreal.  Five years ago, although I was already teaching yoga classes a few times a week, I was also still pursuing a path towards a “real career,” or what I thought a real career is supposed to be.  Now here I am today, running my own small yoga business and doing what I love most as a career. 

I did not plan this out; I can’t take any credit for that.  Five years ago, I never would have thought that I would be doing what I am doing today.  The path that led up to this point consisted of a lot of random opportunities that seemingly “fell into my lap.”  I used to think that I just got lucky, but the more I pay attention, the more I realize that opportunities are constantly falling into all of our laps assuming our eyes are open and we are willing to rise to the challenge.  The one thing that I have done consistently that I believe has made all the difference is this: I always stay open to new possibilities.  When opportunities arise (often ones that seem really scary!), I am presented with a choice to either step forward into the unknown or to stay where I am.  Each time, I choose to move forward.  I am where I am today because I have allowed myself to take risks, I have allowed myself to fail, and I have learned what it means to get back up and try again. 

As we move into the holiday season, I have so much for which to be grateful.  Not many people have the good fortune of doing what they love as a career, and I am very aware that I could not possibly have gotten to where I am alone.  Every step of the way, it has been the support of my family, my good friends, and my inspiring students who have given me the courage to keep moving forward into the unknown and taking chances.  I am so incredibly thankful especially to my parents for standing behind me and always being my biggest fans.  Without knowing that I had the safety net of them to catch me if things didn’t work out, I might not have had the faith to take the steps I needed to take to get where I am. 

Perhaps most of all, I am grateful to my students for reminding me again and again why I teach.  When I am having a bad day and I have to muster up the strength to show up and lead a class, without fail I end up leaving the class feeling much better than when I came in.  Just the simple fact of feeling the energy and attentiveness of the students in some way heals me.  Students know that the teacher is there to help them, but I often think they don’t realize that it is truly a two-way street: they help me by being there.  We are a community and the relationship only works when we both show up.  There is not a more rewarding job in the world than to facilitate and be present for another person's self-discovery and awakening.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you to all those who have been part of my path and supported me along the way.

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.” ~ Joseph Campbell

Celebrate Life

On March 20, the sun will cross directly over the Earth’s equator, creating a day of equal daylight and darkness on our planet. For the Northern hemisphere, this day is the Vernal Equinox and marks the first day of Spring. The next 6 months are symbolic of the victory of light over darkness, as days will be longer than nights. The lethargy of winter dissolves and the promise of new beginnings manifests as the leaves return to the trees, flowers come into bloom, and fresh green grass returns to the fields. What a beautiful time to celebrate life! 

I would like to share a meditation with you that I practice regularly to remind myself of the simple, yet profound joy of being alive. Either from a comfortable seated or prone position, place your right hand over your navel/belly center and your left hand over your heart/sternum. These locations are home to two powerful energy centers in the body. The masculine navel center houses personal power and sense of self, while the feminine heart center houses love, compassion, and the ability to relate to others. In this calming posture, do not attempt to do anything special. Merely close your eyes and become aware of the experience of being alive. Notice your heart beating, your breath rising and falling. Think of this as time to recharge your human battery. 

In order to keep a healthy perspective on what really matters in life, it is imperative that we take time often to consciously plug in and appreciate our natural, unadulterated existence. Otherwise, we tend to get caught up in day-to-day frustrations and wind up expending a great deal of energy on trivial incidents, while forgetting how fortunate we are to be here at all. Think what a miracle your life is: How many events had to happen in just the right way in order for you to come into being? What a staggering concept! If just one small thing had changed along the way, you may not be here today. So let us rejoice in the serendipity of life and dance through this month with a spirit of celebration.

“The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

 Playlist: 1 hour Reggae Celebration Flow

 Treasures - Thievery Corporation 

 Sun is Shining (Sand in my Shoe remix) - Bob Marley 

 Mantra Mix - Sacred Sound System 

 World a Reggae - Ini Kamoze 

 Beach in Hawaii - Ziggy Marley 

 Concrete Jungle - Bob Marley & the Wailers 

 We're Gonna Make It - Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley 

 Soul Rebel (Bonus Track) - Lee "Scratch" Perry 

 Warrior - Matisyahu 

 There for You - Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley 

 Gold to Me - Ben Harper 

 Somewhere over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World - Israel Kamakawiwo'ole 

 One Road to Freedom - Ben Harper