About heart sizes

I consider myself lucky to work with knowledgeable, reflective and inspiring people. I can say that all my colleagues are, each in their own way, a source of inspiration for me. I observe how they work, how they are with each other, and learn. It is very motivating to work with people like them.

Like in any work space, there are some people I work more closely to because of the subjects we teach. During the last five years, I have been working closely with the other language acquisition teacher, and especially during the last year and a half, I have been inspired by the way she approaches challenging and what I see as at times overwhelming tasks. I have never seen her stress or heard her complain or judge others. Instead, she does the best she can do with the circumstances she is in. She doesn’t seem to be interested in playing the super hero, but she always does what I see is the best for her students. She always puts their well-being first. I think she is the perfect example of a yogi even though she doesn’t call herself a yoga practitioner.

To me, it seems like she is always focused on what her intentions are, does her best with the time and resources she has, but is not attached to the result of her actions. She doesn’t seem to be invested in the outcome. Not that she doesn’t care, she does care, a lot, but she seems so centered in her self, that she is not looking for any form for validation in what she does.

The answer according to my understanding of yoga is yes. I believe that when we have a peaceful mind, when we work out of the heart, we are detached from the fruits of our actions, and then work for the benefit of the whole and not just for what we perceive as our individual benefit. Many of us can at times be stuck in the mind which can either lead to acting selfishly to get something in return, like some sort of validation or material benefit, or acting out of fear or judgement.

Unfortunately, this colleague is soon leaving our school as she and her family are moving abroad, and thinking about her and the years we’ve worked together, a phrase came to my mind ‘she has a big heart’. I started playing with the thought. Why do we say that? Are there really people that have bigger hearts than others? Then, I remembered something my yoga teacher often says: do everything from the heart. What does that mean? My colleague is a very responsible, efficient and professional teacher. Are does qualities of the heart?

So, going back to my question, does my colleague has a bigger heart? I don’t think so, what she has is a peaceful mind that allows her to work out of her heart. I believe we all have the same potential as she has. I believe some people wear their heart on the sleeve more easily than others. What can we do then? Continue working on ourselves. For me, the practice of meditation is the way to calm the mind, work on myself and create more clarity in my life. Meditation in the yoga tradition is not ‘only’ to sit down in silence for a certain amount of time every day, it is to strive towards living a conscious life and observe our thinking patterns to then adjust them towards what brings harmony and peace inside and around us. It is to strive towards a living following certain principles, two of the most important being non-attachment and practice. Keep practicing, until it comes naturally.

I strongly believe that if we find the inner source of lasting peace, we can deal with the outer world in a more skilful way that allows us to contribute to the well-being of those around us.

I am thankful for having worked with this colleague for the last few years, I have learned many lessons from her. I will keep her attitude and work in my mind for the rest of my life.

Abhyasa o la práctica

Hoy quiero escribir sobre la práctica. Tanto en los Yoga Sutras de Patanjali como en el Bhagavad Gita se le da gran importancia a la práctica. De hecho, la práctica y el desapego son dos principios esenciales en el yoga.

La práctica es por un lado el sadhana diario. Cada persona tiene su propio sadhana, de preferencia guíado por un maestro, pero también puede ser creado por uno mismo.

El sadhana es importante porque es cuando la mente se va acostumrando a usar herramientas como la respiración y la consentración. También es importante porque creamos un momento del día para estar consigo mismo en silencio y aprender a ser sin necesidad de hacer.

Pero la práctica va más allá del sadhana. La práctica también es aprender a vivir una vida consciente. La práctica requiere auto observación y constante reflexión. Al ir por el día a día observamos nuestro estado mental, nuestras actitudes y nuestro comportamiento y tratamos de alinearlo con lo que sabemos (a través del estudio del yoga) es beneficioso para nuestro desarrollo espiritual y el bien de los demás.

Cambiar hábitos y sobre todo los hábitos de pensamiento, toma mucho tiempo y mucha práctica. Es importante reconocer y aceptar el por qué de nuestros hábitos limitantes. El auto análisis puede empezar por reconocer y aceptar situaciones de nuestra vida que han creado ciertos patrones de pensamiento, pero no es necesario. En la práctica del yoga lo más interesante es encontrar de dónde, al interior de nosotros mismos, viene nuestra manera de pensar, no es necesario apuntar hacia experiencias vividas ya que no podemos cambiarlas.

Normalmente, la raíz de nuestros pensamientos y acciones limitantes es alguna sensación de carencia. Esta carencia se traduce de diferentes maneras y es importante saver verla y aceptarla para así tomar nuestra vida y nuestro bienestar por las riendas. Es importante aprender que las experiencias del mundo material jamás podrán satisfacer esa carencia. Solamente nuestro trabajo interior podrá hacerlo.

Con la práctica tanto del sadhana como la práctica del día a día, al calmar nuestra mente, al aceptar nuestra situación y gradualmente cambiar nuestra mentalidad, nos acercamos poco a poco a la fuente interna de abundancia y nos damos cuenta de que no nos falta nada.

Eso hice este fin de semana al entrar una vez más en uno de esos estados de auto-lástima y ‘soledad’. Logré sacarme de ahí al reconocer que mi estado mental y mi percepción son mi responsabilidad. No más culpar las circunstancias. No más culpar simplemente. Mi mente tiene la tendencia a buscar algo que falta, algo que está mal. Pero poco a poco voy acostumbrándola a ver lo que hay y lo que va bien y cultivarlo.

Longing

For days, weeks, months and even years
You ask yourself
will the longing disappear?
You keep yourself busy
find new ways to fill the void the loss has made more visible
But the longing keeps coming back
Life can be seen as a parade
of constant lack
One longing after the other
Or is it the same?
Have you ever asked yourself
what is beyond the longing?
Have you ever stopped when it invades you?
To embrace the emptiness
Sit with it
Breathe through it
it reaches a peak and then, as it came it will go
in the process you discover
the lack is just a thought

Week 49. Reflections

Last Sunday, I went to Nidaros Cathedral to the service that marks the start of Advent. It is called lysmesse which means Light Service. Although we are not a Christian family, we have been going to this service for some years because of our children who have been in the Scouts, and recently, our youngest has joined one of the choirs connected to the cathedral.

I enjoy this service. The cathedral’s pastor has always a very nice sermon that I feel is addressed even to the youngest. A message of hope and a reminder of what is important to prioritise during this time of the year and otherwise. It feels comforting to be inside such a magnificent building, protected by the cold, surrounded by beauty and light, listening to the beautiful voice of the Girl’s Choir.

This year, because of the pandemic, very few people were able to attend the service. The Cathedral opened up for only fifty people to make sure they could keep the safety guidelines. I was lucky to be asked to come as support for the choir.

During the service, I sat alone, close to the choir. Calmness started to take over the place. Dimmed lights, beautiful stained glass windows, everyone silently listening to the pastor and the choir. I started to think about older generations who lived in a world that looked quite different from ours and to imagine the feeling of coming into such a magnificent building, in the middle of Winter. Maybe times were hard, maybe some of them were also anxious about what the future might bring. So they came to their holly place, to listen to their spiritual leader. To get some comfort, to regain hope.

I grew up in Mexico, where the majority of people are Catholic, but my parents were so disappointed with the Church even since they were kids, that they consciously decided not to raise their children into the Catholic religion. My father had seen the church in his neighbourhood receive money from the poorest who sometimes didn’t have enough to feed their children at the end of the month, while the priest lived in a big house and drove in a luxury car. My mum couldn’t make any sense of the sermon which often seemed more like a reprimand towards the congregation. There was a clear distance between the priest and the congregation. A relationship of power too. It felt like the priest was the intermediate between people and God, and he had the power to decide who is close to God and who is not.

I have studied Art History and I teach History to middle schoolers, so I know of the things humans have done in the name of religion, and I understand why, many people, especially in the West, have decided to distance themselves from it. In addition, especially in the Christian tradition, many of the texts used during the liturgy don’t make any sense if they aren’t explained properly. They seem so detached from people’s reality.

Still, the older I get, the more I study Yoga, the more convinced I am that we do not benefit from living a life without spirituality but spirituality requires individual work. It requires that each individual takes on the work of seeking, exploring, experimenting, questioning, reflecting and internalising. We have been so disappointed and critical of religion because it has been misused for power and oppression, but if we peel off the layers of institutions, rituals and systems, the message at the core of each religion is the same: seek the love inside you and spread it around you. Each spiritual tradition has its core values that we are encouraged to cultivate in order to live a better life and create peace and harmony around us.

I don’t think we need to be part of a religious community in order to be better human beings, but I do think that we need to be conscious of what kind of values we want to live up to, and acknowledge that each and every individual in this world has an important role to play to take care of herself, other people and the environment. There is more meaning to life than running from one thing to another to tick off all the boxes in our to-do list, there is more meaning to life than acquiring more things. We have lessons to learn in order to grow.

I also think that we have the responsibility to seek what makes sense for us, maybe also the responsibility to seek for someone who can guide us in the right direction? Not just follow each other like sheep either towards or away from religious institutions.

Life is unstable, life can bring us down to our knees, and we need to take care of our mind and our heart. In the world we live now, we are made to believe that peace of mind will come from acquiring things, from seeking entertainment and satisfaction in the senses. Why would I choose to watch a soap opera instead of listening to some uplifting words from a spiritual leader? Why would I choose entertainment instead of a walk in the woods? I think many of us have gotten accustomed to hide our fears and worries behind stuff instead of looking into the bigger picture. I think that we would benefit more from feeding our minds with words of hope and meaning than filling them with information we don’t need. At least ask ourselves from time to time, what can I feed my mind with that will bring lasting peace?

I think we are reaching the point where we have been at the two extremes. One being following religion blindly and being lured by the few who got sick with power and delusion, the other being lost in our day to day life forgetting to seek for something bigger than our wants.

In Faith

Every morning, I sit with myself
Breathe in and breathe out
my mind full of thoughts
Long inhale, full exhale
my past
Chant om
my to-do list
Focus on long mmmmm
what will happen today?
Sit still in silence
how will I handle my day?
Tomorrow, in faith, I'll meet myself again
Because I know
Beyond my thoughts
I am peace