Congratulations to the folks in Chicago for getting through this incredible winter– evidently, we experienced the “coldest four months ever [in Chicago]“!
Perhaps that’s why I can’t believe how warm it is today. On some level, I thought the cold was here to stay. Not really, but on some level…
Chicago winters are not the favorite amongst many; people move out of this great city often because they want something milder, kinder, and less volatile. On the flip-side, Chicago summers are super fantastic! The slight hint of summer here causes residents to want to celebrate and go carefree; to shed the layers (on many levels) and be outside as much as possible, soak up the sunlight, barbeque outside, run, play tennis, go for walks, have an outdoor party and stay away from the gym unless it’s raining, or unless the heat gets unbearable.
In fact, some of the obstacles that we believed would never disappear back in February seem to vanish just like that. Why?
Because we feel great!
The sunlight (the magnificent light outside of us) has awakened us and given us new energy. A caged & beaten lion free at last! We feel expanded, like we can breathe. We feel healthier maybe because we aren’t shivering, and maybe because we crave things other than food, beer and Netflix.
Life is a celebration. And Chicago summers are definite celebrations!
But instead of expending all of your pent up energy woo-hoo-ing outwards, I challenge you to take some of that fresh energy and newfound strength to get back on your horse named Discipline and build up that reservoir necessary to get through the other months that can feel so isolating and challenging.
With deep reserves, winter can be embraced as a time to go inward and tap into the magnificent light and strength that is within us, to guide us through our day, rather that a time to just somehow make it by the skin of our teeth. It can be a time when the Closing Sun that we sing after every kundalini yoga class works its blessings on a much higher level than they might serve otherwise.
This can be a time to forge lasting relationships with community and with Self, and to strengthen the practice. Celebrate these wonderful months AND nourish yourself to be sustainable and constant. Chicago weather is volatile, yes. But we don’t have to be.
Thank you to all who joined us on Saturday, May 3 for UYC’s Grand Opening Event, and to everyone that had a hand in making the space what it is:
The participation and generosity that came from our community was totally unexpected and touched our hearts beyond words. Urban Yoga Chicago is truly a space built out of community, from the flowers and plants (Nancy Mattei) to the glasses, bowls, dishes, utensils (Denise Babicz) and gorgeous wood cutting boards (Jenilyn Francis), to the text messages of well wishes from those who could not make it (you know who you are), to UYC tees (Reuven Gitter) to the string of lights and the labor of love put into making the upstairs loft space as beautiful as it is (Jeff Stitely) to the incredible paint job on the walls of the Tratakum Cove (Laurel W and Madie D), and to the hands that labeled all the spice jars and folded all of the brochures from 10 pm to midnight of opening day with her 4 month old beside her (Irene Rojas)… thank you!
Amanda Wultz opened with one hour of the Miracle Mantra Meditation. In all the years that I have practiced meditation, this was the fastest, most impactful one-hour meditation I had ever experienced. Was it the new space? Was it Amanda? Was it the company? Was it the Miracle Mantra? Does it matter?
Jodh Kaur then led an 11 minute gong session, going between two gongs (a 24″ and a Neptune gong) that arrived on loan, and with love, by Surinderjeet Kaur.
Laura Briscoe led us in one of our favorite community activities– vegetarian cook together. It included kitcherie by Matt Lavoie and Laura Keil and Solstice Soup by Adam Braun. Sait Kinay made his famous grilled eggplant “salsa”. Mary Waldon brought over a delicious home-made gluten free bread, and Robbie Bogard a divine dish of homemade chocolate pudding (vegan!). Robbie also made a satisfying quinoa salad which I think everyone asked for the recipe. Our talented graphics designer, Jeff Lacdan poured his labor of love into the root vegetable salad, and Jeff Stitely into his delicious citrus salad– that dressing is a keeper (and so is Jeff)!
After a wonderful meal, Jeff Stitely led us in a perfect-for-after-a full-meal-and-to-ease-into-self-expression drum circle. What an experience! We are hoping that Jeff will lead this again and again.
Then I led our 2nd 11-minute gong session with our 34″ Paiste house gong. Good time for it to let us know it needed some strengthening of the screws before our triple gong bath to come…
GuruNischan led the yoga kriya, “Renew Your Nervous System and Build Stamina.” If you aren’t familiar with this one– keep coming to class! It’s bound to come up again. It’s intense pranayam with moving mudras to open you up and expand your capacity, followed by wild dancing to bhangra music.
Good news– we learned we could fit many more people in the upstairs space than we originally thought!
The layout was a 31-minute triple gong bath played by me, Surinderjeet and Jodh Kaur. The feedback was that it felt like one unified gong, out of this world, and “how did we do that”; we must have practiced for hours… we’ll take it!
Then back downstairs for a surprise treat: dark chocolate covered organic strawberries hand-picked and dipped by Irene Rojas! Yes, we had flourless chocolate and chocolate mousse, but they had to bow down to the hand-dipped strawberries, hands down the winner.
Then a light dinner of left-overs and a fresh serving of lentil salad compliments of Arshiya Khan.
What, don’t you have dessert first at your house?
Our spice cabinet:
How cool would it be to have clarity on something, just like that?
Here’s the thing. We actually have access to it.
I am not talking about answers to how to build a rocket ship. There are actually things that require some education. But much of the decisions we make in life doesn’t. What it requires is a little bit of inward attention & trust in ourselves (yeah, that’s a big one).
Wisdom doesn’t take mulling over or sleeping on. Truth doesn’t require listing out the pros and cons. It doesn’t require thinking about what someone else will think. It requires a split second of turning your attention inward and listening to what your body tells you. After that split second, your head jumps in and does its thing. It will give you all the reasons why that guy or gal really is the one, and why you really shouldn’t stick with that program or project, even though you’ve put so much of your resources into it already. Or, it may tell you that you should in fact stick to it because you did put so much into it already.
The question is, did you catch that initial split second moment of truth? Didja?
How does one stretch that split second of access to 10 seconds or even forever? How does one strengthen and amplify the inner voice?
Like working out, that muscle builds with practice. Even if you don’t listen to it, acknowledge it. Say, “I hear you, Self, and I know you are right, but I am going the other way right now.” It doesn’t do as well a job, but it’s something. To get there faster, just listen to it. And depending on your particular mind constitution, focusing on certain limbs of yoga practice (yamas, niyamas, asana, pranayama, etc) will offer a powerful framework to hone your efforts and accelerate the process.
What I love about yoga practice is that – if we let it – we can take the tools we use (and cultivate) on the mat and take it off the mat to make life flow better for us.
For this piece, I will assume that many of you are familiar enough with kundalini yoga to know that each exercise (asana) is timed.
Let me tell you how that timer has become a very good friend to me.
Most of us understand that we can spend from 30 minutes to 3 hours to 3 days (or weeks!) cleaning out our closet. And some of you may also know that one can edit a piece of writing forever. At some point, one has to decide where that point of diminishing return is and stop there. That’s where that timer comes along handy: Set it and go. Stop when it rings.
What’s so great about it?
It allows us to do what you might have heard in class:
set it and forget it.
We set our drishti, mudra and asana where it needs to be, then we forget it and turn our focus to our breath, or mantra, for a given amount of time. During that time, we tune out the monkey mind and tune in to the moment, staying fully present to our inner world- the sensations that come up on all levels. We observe and we push through using the best tool(s) we have: our breath and/ or mantra.
It allows us to stay very present with what we are doing the moment we start our timer. We don’t have to keep looking at the clock to see how much time we (don’t) have and what else needs to be done. We don’t have to multi-task. We simply dedicate that window of time to the task at hand. Just as we would pace our squats differently if we knew we had to do them for 1 minute or for 7, we pace ourselves accordingly based on what we set our timer for.
This allows us to be present, which allows us to be more effective, make less mistakes, enjoy what we are doing, experience the clarity & benefits of a one-track mind, and more likely complete something. It also enables us to pace ourselves, stop, and touch the other things that need our FULL attention.
It is much more nourishing.
And you may see that time becomes more generous.