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16.11.09 The Human Spirit
13.11.09 Your complexion and yoga
09.11.09 Is Peace Possible?
04.11.09 In memory of Pattabhi Jois
04.11.09 Just Breathe
23.02.09 Appreciating Responsibilities
11.02.09 The Pursuit of Happiness
03.02.09 OX Yoga
03.02.09 Yoga Here and Now...
22.01.09 Indestructable
14.01.09 Happy New Year
05.01.09 Ahimsa for Earth
22.12.08 Gratitude is key
11.12.08 Yoga & Digestive Disorders
24.11.08 Dress for Success
17.11.08 Interview with Bhagavan Das
06.11.08 Important Fun
09.07.08 The Śiva Samhitā Pt.2
29.06.08 The Śiva Samhitā Pt.1
16.06.08 Pranayama
02.06.08 Bhakti
20.05.08 The Mysore Style Practice
01.04.08 How yoga helps arthritis
06.12.07 Avoiding injury in yoga practice
28.11.07 The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

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Mind Over Mindfulness

I am not the strongest and most resilient yoga teacher on this planet and I get sick from time to time. Most of the time when I catch a flu or a cold, the feeling of ill-being is so strong that I'm unable to enjoy my teaching and my life.

But since last year, I started being more dedicated in the practice of mindfulness - being a neutral observer of the present with total receptivity and openness - and have been benefitting immensely from this practice ever since.

Last week I had a sinus infection that had my head pounding from day till night for almost 4 days. For the first time in my life, though my physical body was not in the best shape (which distracted me from time to time) I was still able to feel tremendous joy and peace. I am thankful for and humble about how powerful the mindfulness practice can be. That's why I would like to share it with all of you.

One of my teachers, Sarah Powers, taught us a phrase to use before starting our practice:

I vow now to practise mindfulness in my body, heart, and mind
For the benefit of myself and others.
I appreciate its immeasurable value,
And I know that it is possible to include any condition and circumstance in my life.

What a powerful phrase. The first sentence already implies that it is not just an attempt to be mindful, but rather a determination. We must be determined to check in with our physical body, our feeling heart, and our thinking mind with a non-judgmental attitude. We must allow the physical sensation of the body, the emotions from the heart, and the thoughts from the mind to be in the background while the neutral observant attitude is in the foreground. In this way, we will be able to gain more clarity about our habit energies and reality.

The second sentence reminds us how everything is inter-connected. We think that whatever happens in our lives only has to do with ourselves, but it actually affects everyone around us. For example, if you see a very calm and peaceful person who gives you a warm smile, you immediately feel better. Then your friend who calls you senses your positive energy over the phone and receives positive influence from you. And so on. The more we can focus on ourselves, the more we are helping others and not merely our immediate self.

The third sentence tells us that the long-term effect of mindfulness is immeasurable. We must be willing to open our minds to the unknown and practise our trust. What we gain from the mindfulness practice is tremendous, and it comes with time. The more positive karma seeds we sow - somehow, somewhere, someday it will all come back to us - the more we benefit not just ourselves but everyone around us.

The last part inspires us to stay strong - even when we are sick or are challenged by life, we still have the capacity to practise mindfulness. Of course, the more we make mindfulness practice a habit, the easier it is to continue being mindful in the face of challenge. One of my meditation teachers, Vagish, told me to begin meditation or mindfulness when we are happy - it is a lot easier. With enough practice, it becomes less difficult in tough times.

All you need is to include 4 simple sentences before starting your yoga practice. I hope you will benefit from this great tool passed on to me from my Zen teachers. And I wish you peace and joy.

Janet Lau

>> Visit Janet's bio

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