Posts by Yogi Colleen Beyler

Give compassion, without expectations.

Posted on: November 28th, 2015 By:
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Well friends, the holidays are officially in full swing, and now that the mashed potatoes and green bean casserole have been devoured, you are probably pondering what to buy all the people closest to you for the gift giving season. I have definitely been scoping out Amazon, and racking my brain for what my thirteen year old niece might like for Christmas. And it’s really easy to get caught up in family and friends this time of year, and forget that they are not the only ones whom we should be caring for. I was thinking about the concept of giving for the holidays when I came across a passage in a book by the Dalai Lama called “Ethics for the New Millenium” (yes, it’s a few years old, but his words remain tirelessly relevent), in which he states “Based on the simple recognition that, just as I do, so do others desire to be happy and not to suffer, it will serve as a constant reminder against selfishness and partiality. It will remind us that if we reserve ethical conduct for those whom we feel close to, the danger is that we will neglect our responsibilities to those outside this circle.”

Seva is the art of compassion, and recognizing the sameness in all beings.  The roots of the word are “Saha” which means “with that” and “Eva” which means “too”. In its entirety, Seva= “Together With”, reminding us that we are in this world surrounded by others who have the same wants and needs as us. This  sparks the flame of compassion. Naturally our compassion spready easier to people who we feel comfortable with, and know what to expect in return. But this passage reminded me that we must care for all those whom we meet, not just the select few who we know well and already have an affinity for. Of course this is much easier said than done. And while I am writing about it during the holidays, which is a time when we naturally feel more called to give gifts, donate money, and volunteer, the Dalai Lama is not suggesting that we show compassion just when we feel like it or it’s convenient, but each and every day, in every encounter we have.

The reason for Seva goes back to the Buddhist idea of Karma, meaning our actions accumulate, and we get back what we give to the world. So if we are constantly giving love and spreading joy to others, we will eventually reap the benefits from this. But a key component to seva is that this work is not for your own gain. You must not give from a place of pride, or hoping for recognition or a reward. It must come from deep in your heart, and from the understanding that you are one with those you are helping, no better or worse.

compassion

This season, and all year long, keep in mind that all those you meet are weaving their way through life searching for the same goal: happiness. If we are able to treat others with a never-ending stream of compassion, we may inspire them to share their own gifts. Whether you volunteer at a soup kitchen, play with dogs at the pound, or simply give a homeless man a granola bar, those actions will accumulate and create a cycle of beautiful thoughts and further action. Start by donating money to a worthy cause if you feel that you don’t have time to give. See how this small gift can inspire you to invest time in the future. As you spread your circle of compassion to those outside of your close network, expect nothing, but trust that your actions are furthering the wellbeing of our web of humans, animals, and the planet. As Nischala Joy Devi says in “The Secret Power of Yoga”, “If we must reap what we sow, let us sow the seeds of tasty fruits.”

Back in the Flow

Posted on: October 29th, 2015 By:
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I don’t know about everyone else, but I have been struggling to keep up my practice recently. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I’ve been going through a big transition (new city and new job), if it’s the seasonal change, or if it’s the fact that my eating habits haven’t been as nutritious as usual, but I have definitely been in a yoga slump.

As a yoga teacher, this is a hard thing to admit, and I think all serious practitioners go through a bit of an identity crisis when they don’t feel called to their mat every day. Personally, this brings about a slew of guilty feelings, comparisons to other yogis who seem to effortlessly commit to this lifestyle, and constant excuses as to why I am slacking. Truthfully, the comparisons and self-berating do absolutely nothing to up my morale, instead inspiring more wallowing and taco eating. But I am starting to notice more and more how I feel lethargic, less confident, and emotionally unstable when I am missing the quiet, spiritual component of my day.

It is difficult to find your own path when there are so many theories as to how to practice yoga, and how to apply the concept of FullSizeRender“balance” to our lives. Is balance practicing yoga for 90 minutes each day? Is balance implementing a regime of yoga 3 days a week, and strength training 3 days a week, allowing the body one day of rest? Can taking a week off from practice when your energy levels are suffering actually help restore balance? I wish this was something I knew the answer to, but I am still discovering what balance means for myself. I do know that yoga always finds it’s way back into my life, even when my life takes me further away from my practice. I also know that often when I start to lose my daily commitment, it gets easier and easier each day to find an excuse not to find my mat. Oh, and I know that I usually keep this information, my lazy spells, to myself, worrying that I will be judged or looked down upon if I admit that, even as a teacher, I sometimes lose my way. But I think the important part is that I am able to acknowledge that life and yoga can be hard, but that looking honestly at my practice is often the way back to balance. So I am speaking with an honest voice when I say that my practice has lacked structure, and that I am committed to getting back on my mat each day. I hope to speak  more openly about the struggles that come with walking a conscious path, and I encourage you to comment if you can relate to the process of picking yourself up and finding that illuminated road each time you wander away from it.

Yoga for navigating the seasons

Posted on: September 30th, 2015 By:
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BuddhaIt may not be completely obvious here in Texas, but the fall season is upon us. The breeze blows more freely during the day, and that reminiscent feeling of the first day of school is still lingering in the air. I love fall and it’s promise for new beginnings, but it also brings a sense of turbulence and uprootedness to our lives. We are entering the ever-mysterious realm of transition. And while it becomes easy to recognize the unfolding of the new season in the natural world, there is also a coinciding shift that takes place inside of us as those burnt orange leaves start to fall. This inner transition is easy to miss when we rush through our days just trying to get to the finish line, as if one exists. So this year I present a challenge to you. Rather than moving through this fall feeling as though your mind is as unkempt as the winds, drink in a few moments of presence and self-inquiry each day  in order to keep your roots intact.

I just moved to Austin from Chicago, so I can commiserate with you if there’s a fresh sense of newness unfolding in your life. Periods of change are exciting and unnerving all at once. In the weeks leading up to my move and the weeks following, my mood saw some crazy ups and downs. One day I felt motivated and buzzed from my new surroundings and sense of independence, and the next I was deflated, anxious, and absolutely fearful of what lies around the corner on my path. We all encounter uncertainty at times, and can often recognize it more potently at this time of the year. Sometimes this makes it harder to show up on the mat, and easier to curl up in a shell of doubt. In these moments I ask myself, how can I create beneficial space and openness in my life, rather than feeding the constrictive quality of fear? When we are suddenly caught in the middle of a storm, it can take us a moment to remember that we came prepared with an umbrella. These moments of change are what the practice has been preparing us for. So how can we use it’s lessons in real time?

I find it fascinating how my yoga practice mirrors my life, constantly evolving to keep up with the feeling-state of the seasons around me and within me. Once we become aware of the natural mirroring that happens between our outer and inner worlds, we are gifted the power to harness our own energy by using our practice to balance out the pull of the season. Many of the suggestions I give here are based on the beautiful art of life, Ayurveda, which invites us to sync the rhythms of our inner world with what is calling to us from the natural world. The rest is personal experience, and what I have noticed through observation of effects of my ever-changing physical and mental practices.

In fall or anytime your life feels hectic or you are having trouble focusing, rituals that invite comfort and stability to breath and body are quite medicinal. For your asana practice, think of poses that counter the high- vata nature of fall, or the predominance of the wind element. Forward folds, Warrior I with a focus on the rooting action underneath the feet, tree pose with hands at heart center, and moon salutations done with slow and focused breath help to call our attention downward to the supportive mother who nourishes our growth. A lower drishti,a or gazing point in asana, has a similar effect, calling us back to the stability of the earth. Lately I have been delving deeper into meditation, and it is making a noticeable difference in my ability to deal with all the chaos being thrown my way. I highly recommend taking a few minutes a day to sit silently with yourself, for will lead to more insightful observations of how fall effects you.  Note that sitting silently is often more challenging when high vata is present, which can be discouraging. If your mind can’t rest (I understand, I struggle a great deal with this!), it just means that there is more of a need for meditation to counter-balance the voice in your head. I suggest trying a guided meditation as an aide if you are new to meditation or just really feeling that vata right now! My personal favorite guide is Tara Brach, and she offers a variety of free meditations of varying lengths at tarabrach.com.

Don’t stress yourself out with lifestyle adjustments. In general, try avoid things will aggravate anxiety at this time of year. Things that you are in control of, at least.Some very simple rituals can really help, I invite you to try just one and note if it feels like a natural seasonal switch. One suggestion is to cut back on coffee, and avoid drinking it after noon. Try switching to warmer, oily, and slightly heavier foods and beverages, and use warming spices like cinnamon and turmeric to comfort you on busy days. A favorite fall ritual of mine is lighting a candle and giving myself a massage with sesame oil, which is warming and embodies the oily quality that soothes vata. Most importantly, take ample quality time with yourself when you can, write down what is working and what isn’t, and listen in for what you really need right now. Appreciate and savor the changing colors both inside and outside as you observe the waltz happening between yourself and nature.