Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Supporting Right Livelihood with Right Diligence: An Invitation to 40 days of practice

Today we spent our last day focusing on Right Livelihood, noticing how our practice of it and the other steps on the Noble Eightfold Path have contained Right Diligence or Right Effort.  I shared an article I found back in 2008 by Tama J. Kieves on The Yoga of Right Livelihood.  Her words were so inspiring, you can find them by clicking the above link which takes you to her full but brief article on Kripalu's site.  I highly recommend taking the time to read it.  Here's a taste:

"Child’s Pose In yoga, I’ve learned that when I exert myself too much, I can always return to Child’s Pose, a resting posture. For me, it feels like the physical act of surrender, a letting go of trying so hard and a remembering to reclaim my guaranteed invincibility as a child of a loving universe. It is not up to me to make something happen. It’s up to me to be honest, earnest, and daring. Resting is the stance that nurtures my genius. Paradoxically, Child’s Pose helps me to remember that as I relax, I summon more strength, conviction, and inspiration to move forward."

"... I’m still discovering the depths of my own talents and expanding my own dreams. Some days, I’m still nervous about the unknown territory before me. Sometimes, I’m tired and about as passionate as mud. But I’m devoted. I will never abandon my inner voice again. I will honor my creativity and my contribution all the days of my life. I’ll reach the edge of my discomfort, and I’ll back off and comfort myself. But I’ll dare it again the next day and the next. I’ll breathe deep and let go as I push forward into extraordinary new possibilities. I’ll keep practicing right livelihood. I hope you will, too."

Being on the precipice of a new year and the beginning of our new focus, Right Diligence, it seems like the perfect time to practice Right Diligence by embarking on a 40 day practice.  Let's support each other in our commitment to start each day with a practice that could include pranayama, meditation, chanting mantra, or asana.  Even if it is just for 5 minutes.  Let's taste the fruit of Right Diligence in giving this gift to ourselves and to each other.

Here is a sample practice, what we did today in class, that you might like to use as your daily practice if you aren't sure what to do.  However, feel free to create your own practice with whatever components would serve you.  I just invite you to try to settle on a consistent routine that you repeat for 40 days to go deep into the practice and notice the effects of your chosen practice.

First, I set up a playlist of songs so that I can use the songs to tell me when to change from one part of the practice to the next.  Each song is just over 3 minutes long.  The heart of this practice is pranayama that we completed in 3 songs - about 10 minutes.  The links take you to the song that you can then link to iTunes to purchase if you like.  I will include some other song selections from a longer practice playlist at the end of this post.

The Wishing Well, Connie Dover, Celtic Voices: Women of Song
Goodbye Montana - Part 2, George Winston, Summer
Storms in Africa - Part 2, Enya, Watermark

The first song we did a four part breath, pranayama practice.  I find this pranayama helps to deepen my breath and it feels cleansing or detoxing to me.  

1) breath in through nose, 
2) breath out through O shaped mouth (I find this brings a bit of an ujjayi (ocean) sound when I do it), 
3) breath in through O shaped mouth (same ocean sound seems to happen), 
4) breath out through nose. 

Repeat for the entire length of the first song.  End with an exhale through the nose.  Then just take a few breaths before the next pranayama practice.

The second song we did alternate nostril breathing (Nadhi Shodhana).  This breath is balancing to your energy body and helps keep your nostrils clear and breath flowing easily.  Even if one of your nostrils is slightly closed, try to stay with this breath to help open the nostrils more.  

1) Bring your left hand into jnana mudra - thumb and index finger touch - and rest left hand (palm up) on your left knee.  
2) Bring your right hand into vishnu mudra - index and middle finger rest on pad of thumb - and bring hand toward your nose. 
3) Close your right nostril with your thumb and inhale through your left nostril.
4) Close the left nostril with your ring and pinky fingers while opening your right and exhale through your right nostril. 
5) Inhale through the open (right) nostril.  
6) Close and exhale through the other (left) nostril.  
7) Inhale through the open (left) nostril.  
8) Close and exhale through the other (right) nostril.
9)  Repeat steps 5, 6, 7 and 8 until the song ends and finish with an exhale through your left nostril.

The third song we did Kapalabhati breathing by drawing navel in and up to pump the breath out of the nose.  The inhalation is passive. Try to start with a slower pace to feel the control of the belly muscles to invite the pumping of the breath.  As you proceed you may find your pace wants to go a bit quicker.  See if you want to go along with the music.  At the end of the song, exhale the breath completely to empty the body.  Keep the breath out and engage the bandhas.  I find the jalandhara and uddiyana bandha engage once I empty of all breath and then with my mouth closed make the action with my diaphragm and throat of taking an in breath but taking in no breath, the belly and throat draw in like a vacuum.  Then I just invite the same vacuum feeling at the pelvic floor to engage the mula bandha.  Keep the breath out and stay empty for as long as you comfortably can.  When you need to, draw in your breath gently and continue to enjoy your breath for a few rounds, noticing the effects of the pranayama practice.  (You might like to just sit in quiet meditation for another 3 minute song here before moving on to the next part.)

Then we put our hands over our hearts and read the Love Meditation for ourselves.  Feeling it for ourselves.  When finished, absorb that for a few breaths.  Then perhaps recite the love mediation for someone else - either someone you love, or someone you know who is struggling, or someone who is causing you to suffer.  Remember, only hurt people hurt people.  When we are liberated from our suffering, we stop contributing to others suffering.

Love Meditation

May I be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
May I be safe and free from injury.
May I be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.

May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love.
May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.
May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in myself.

May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day.
May I be able to live fresh, solid, and free.
May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.

You might choose to close your practice by chanting a mantra.  In class, we chant Om and then Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu.  You could chant that or any other chant to calls to you.  I am happy to help you find one that may serve you.  Depending on how much time you would like to dedicate to your practice, you could also include some asana such as warming up the 6 directions of the spine or maybe some sun salutations or some supine poses like twists and hip openers.  Feel free to add on to your practice if some days you have more time.  Just be sure to stick to your basic (minimum) practice each day - whatever you determine that to be.

I look forward to hearing how it goes.  Post here in comments or on Facebook or let me know when I see you in class.

Wishing you all the best for the new year!  May we all live our Right View, Right Thinking, Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood supported by our Right Diligence, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.

A deep bow of gratitude for our sangha, for the dharma, and for the many buddhas who inspire.


More songs for practice:

From George Winston's Summer:
Early Morning Range, The Garden, Living Without You.

From Enya's Watermark:
River, Miss Clare Remembers

From Enya's And Winter Came:
And Winter Came... , Stars and Midnight Blue

From Krishna Das' Pilgrim Heart:
Yah Devi

From Ty Burhoe's Chill Invocation:

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