??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????“Grounded is clarity and simplicity.” ~ Mia Hamza

Stability is the mother of all movement sensations. Without stability, no other movement is possible. Given the reality of our bodies moving in gravity, we have to stabilize against the earth and against our bones in order to move.

As a teacher and a mover, I know that stability is essential, but I sometimes am at a loss about how to explain it.

Nia describes the sensation of stability as “energy moving out from center in all directions equally.” I love the sensual nature of this description but in some ways it’s counter-intuitive.

Many teachers, including me, describe stability as being “grounded.”

“Ground into the four corners of your feet.”
“Ground the outside edge of your foot into the mat.”
“Ground into your legs.”

In a recent yoga class with Mia Hamza, though, she spoke practically about grounded stability.

“To get grounded,” she said, “get clear and keep it simple.”

I was surprised that she wasn’t talking about planting the edges of my feet or spreading my toes or rooting my energy into the earth. But hey, I’m a mover and a writer so I was happy to play with Mia’s mathematical poetry

Grounded = Clarity + Simplicity

As I practiced, I kept a little mantra going of “clear and simple, clear and simple.” Sure enough, when I’m not sure what to do, if I’m not clear in my movement and alignment choices, my poses take on a confusing, unbalanced feel. If I compare myself to the next door yogi or think about my current writing project, I am as likely as not to tip over.

Grounded = Clarity + Simplicity

When Mia gave an instruction, I paused and asked myself how can I make this clear and simple? My body figured out the physical details if my mind focused on simplicity and clarity. However, an edge crept into my internal dialog. My mind hijacked the whole situation and cracked down with harshness about what I should be doing more clearly, more simply and better (or how I should just be better general, for crying out loud).

So I altered her mathematics to

Grounded = (Clarity + Simplicity) Kindness

Whatever Grounding choices I make in the name of Clarity and Simplicity needs to be multiplied with Kindness.

Since Mia’s class, I notice that Grounded = (Clarity + Simplicity) Kindness is true for more than physical movement.

A grounded conversation is one that doesn’t go too fast or spiral into reactivity. A conversation that is clear, simple and kind stabilizes the connection between people.

Grounded = (Clarity + Simplicity) Kindness

A grounded decision begins with identifying clearly what is most important. I feel stable in decisions that are made with clarity and simplicity and infused with kindness (even if execution of those decisions might be more complicated or unclear or even (gasp!) disappoint someone).

Grounded = (Clarity + Simplicity) Kindness

The most grounded people I know keep things simple, clear, and kind ~ in their words, their actions, their lives. When I’m not grounded, I tend toward cascades of complicated thinking, dominoes of distracted action, laced with assy comments.

Grounded = (Clarity + Simplicity) Kindness

Grounded stability allows for all movement and change in the body … and for any movement and change in our lives. If I want to create stability in any realm, my focus is clearly and simply on being clear, simple and kind.

In February, meditation teacher and author, Sharon Salzberg sponsors a 28-Day Meditation Challenge. Everybody is invited to commit to meditating every day for the month and join the mindfulness community. As part of the challenge, I’ll be blogging throughout the month (along with other meditator/bloggers) about the experience. You can find the posts on Sharon’s site and I’ll share mine on Focus Pocus.

28-Day Meditation Challenge ~ Day 22
Sunday, February 22, 2015

28 Day Challenge aspen leaf with snow pub dom

All week, it has been crazy cold in Charlottesville. We rarely get temperatures in the teens here but for many days last week it was in the single digits. Yesterday, it snowed stunningly and steadily all day long. The predicted few inches stacked up to nearly a foot. As it got dark last night, the thick white blanket was frosted over with a coating of freezing rain and sleet.

This morning I ventured out to see the state of things and to determine whether the noon yoga class was in the realm of possibility. All around me, everything was melting. I could see it dripping off the trees and the eves of the house. I could hear it falling through the magnolia tree and trickling down the driveway. Everywhere, everything was melting.

Melting is the sensation of metta. Lovingkindness meditation melts the frozen places in me that want everyone to think, act, and live like I do. Metta softens the hard, irritated parts of me that push away others’ messy habits and feelings. It melts my tendency to see strangers in two-dimensions and reminds me that everybody – everybody — just wants to be happy and free from suffering. Metta chips away at the crystallized part of me that sees some people as good and others as bad. It thaws the crunchy delusion that we are separate and disconnected from each other.

But most of all, metta softens my own heart toward myself. Metta warms the icy places of harshness and self-criticism. Lovingkindness reminds me of my own humanness and that I, too, am worthy of care and compassion.

Metta melts.

In February, meditation teacher and author, Sharon Salzberg sponsors a 28-Day Meditation Challenge. Everybody is invited to commit to meditating every day for the month and join the mindfulness community. As part of the challenge, I’ll be blogging throughout the month (along with other meditator/bloggers) about the experience. You can find the posts on Sharon’s site and I’ll share mine on Focus Pocus.

28 Day Challenge aspen leaf pub dom

28-Day Meditation Challenge ~ Day 7
Saturday, February 7, 2015

Dear Susan,

Be kinder than necessary.

In all circumstances and all situations, be kinder than you have to be. Stretch your kindness muscles.

Your husband, Frank, is right. No matter if you are cheated, no matter if you look like a fool, no matter if someone else is shrewder, you will never, ever regret being kind.

When in doubt about what the kindest thing to do is, just stop and take a breath. Especially if you feel resistance or feel like someone’s taking advantage, pause and breathe. You probably know what the kindest thing is.

If you’re still not sure, broaden your perspective, think about what really matters, what’s most important, how you’d feel about this choice (even if it’s a tiny one) on your deathbed. From a place of Big Mind, you probably know the kindest thing to do.

If you still don’t know, ask Frank.

Tatoo this on your heart,
Post-it note this to your soul:
In all circumstances and situations, be kinder than necessary. To everybody. Including you.


Both And WebTitleWant to strike fear into my heart? Say, “Can I be completely honest with you?”

Good gravy. I just know whatever you’re about to say is going to hurt like crazy.

And if you’re treating me gently, I just know you’re keeping the truth from me.

Such is my relationship with Honest and Gentle.

I do it in my head and in my practice. Either I get all Dominatrix Discipline with whip harshness, or I go all Gooey Gentle and fall asleep.

Rather than either/or, it’s the space between them, the both/and of Honest and Gentle where awake and alive reside.

MLK do the right thing

I have this idea: rename “Martin Luther King Day” as “Martin-Luther-King-E.D.-Nixon-Ralph-D.-Abernathy-Mahalia-Jackson Day.” Dr. King was great and inspiring. My hero. But I don’t see myself leading a national protest. The suffering in the world overwhelms and paralyzes me.

But smaller things I could do.  I could call a young minister to ask him to join a bus boycott (as E.D. Nixon did). And I could encourage my best friend to do the right thing (as Ralph Abernathy did). And seeing that Dr. King needed a nudge with his speech, I could say, “Tell them about the dream, Martin” (as Mahalia Jackson did).

Every one of us can make a difference with words and acts of kindness, support, encouragement and love. They might seem small, but just imagine if those three people thought there was nothing they could do.


halloween 2013Deepening our attention to our own experience. It seems like it would be selfish and self-absorbed to do that. But instead I find that when I connect to what is actually happening for me, I am reminded of the realness of others. How we all just want to be happy. How we are all struggling with something.

Metta meditation is one I often use when I feel disconnected from myself and others. (Metta roughly translates to lovingkindness or friendliness in Pali.) It’s also a helpful way to open my heart to everybody. Metta begins with simple statements of well-wishing to myself that expand in ever-widening circles to others. Phrases such as:
May I be safe & well.
May I be happy & content.
May I be healthy & strong.
May I be peaceful & at ease.

Can then be extended to teachers, friends, family, neighbors, neutral people, people we are in conflict with, people in our country, those in other countries, (any categories you like, actually) and ultimately to all beings everywhere.

Below is the music from classes this week. Many people asked me about Mary Gauthier’s Mercy Now. It’s a beautiful song that really reminds us that we’re all up to our necks in it and need some kindness and care.

May you be safe and well and happy on this Halloween.
Dance on. Shine on.

sjm halloween 2013

PS Here’s me in my Halloween costume (I think it’s my 7th Annual Word-Play Costume). If you can guess what I am, put it in the comments below.

Monday, October 28, 2013, 1045am – Practice on Your Own Mat…And Practice With Other Mats Around

Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes – 5:48 – Paul Simon
Living In The Moment – 3:55 – Jason Mraz
The Obvious Child – 4:10 – Paul Simon
Drifting Away (Paradiso Mix) – 5:07 – Faithless
I Know What I Know – 3:13 – Paul Simon
Drop – 4:56 – Cornelius
Fill Her Up – 5:39 – Sting
So Beautiful Or So What – 4:09 – Paul Simon
Sorrento Moon (I Remember) – 4:54 – Tina Arena
Sacred Love – 6:03 – Sting
Spirit Voices – 3:56 – Paul Simon
Under African Skies – 3:37 – Paul Simon
Mercy Now – 5:51 – Mary Gauthier

Tuesday, October 29, 2013, 9am – Practice on Your Own Mat…And Practice With Other Mats Around

Aquarius – 4:48 – Hair, the Musical / Renn Woods
What I Got – 3:21 – Gift Of Gab, Michael Franti & Spearhead
Quero Saber (fest. Orieta Pines) – 6:29 – Rodney Hunter
No Quiero Nada Mas – 4:46 – Sancti Spiritus
Qalanderi – 6:55 – Cheb I Sabbah
A Little Bit Of Riddim (Featuring Cherine Anderson) – 4:19 – Michael Franti
Oye Como Va (Latin/Trance Mix) – 4:17 – Celia Cruz
Deeper (Into Places) (Silk Spinner Mix) – 6:23 – Afterlife
Just Say Yes – 4:41 – Snow Patrol
Sacred Love – 6:03 – Sting
Mercy Now – 5:51 – Mary Gauthier
Bruno Groening Track 4 – 2:21 – Bruno Groening & Friends

Wednesday, October 30, 2013, 1055am – Practice on Your Own Mat…And Practice With Other Mats Around

Qurna – 7:09 – Banco de Gaia
Mulatica Mia (Cuba Remix) – 5:32 – The Tao Of Groove
Palais Mascotte – 5:47 – Patrick Duvoisin
No Quiero Nada Mas – 4:46 – Sancti Spiritus
Keep On Searching – 5:08 Kraak & Smaak
Mafich Aravi – 8:03 Banco de Gaia
Ooh La La – 3:24 – Goldfrapp
Cantaloop – 4:38 – US3
Kissing (Instrumental) – 6:14 – Bliss
Lux Aurumque – 4:16 – Eric Whitacre Singers

Thursday, October 31, 2013, 9am – Practice on Your Own Mat…And Practice With Other Mats Around

Spirits In The Material World – 4:09 – Pato Banton Feat. Sting
Witchy Woman – 4:11- Laurie Horn
Superstition – 4:26 – Stevie Wonder
Deja Voodoo – 6:10 – Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Werewolves of London – 3:29 – Warren Zevon
Twilight Zone – 7:52 – Golden Earring
Zombie Jamboree – 3:33 – GrooveBarbers
Diavolo In Me (Devil In Me) – 4:05 – Zucchero & Solomon Burke
Mysterious Ways – 4:04 – U2
Ghosts in My Machine – 3:33 – Annie Lennox
Men In Black – 3:47 – Will Smith
I Put A Spell On You – 3:08 – Queen Latifah
I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance With You – 4:09 – Linda Ronstadt/Nelson Riddle & His Orchestra

practice on your mat stick pose classMost of us are acutely aware of our own struggles and we are preoccupied with our own problems. We sympathize with ourselves because we see our own difficulties so clearly. But Ian MacLaren noted wisely, “Let us be kind to one another, for most of us are fighting a hard battle.” – Chicago Tribune, 1965

Practice on your own mat, my yoga teachers remind me.

Bring my gaze inward, and I deepen my connection with myself. Practicing on my own mat gives me the information to more skillfully make choices based on what is actually happening, rather than what my mind thinks is happening (or thinks should be happening).

It’s true in yoga and it’s true in my life: when I stop distracting myself with shallow stories about those around me, I can actually sense what is true right now for me – the only person I hold any sway over.

The instruction of practicing on your own mat might lead you to practicing alone, just you and your mat. No sweaty, grunting guy behind you, or perfectly bendy girl next to you. And it can be good: solitude and quiet can be meditative and healing. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, taking time alone without distraction is deeply restorative.

We need to practice on our own mats, and maybe alone … but at least sometimes, we need to practice with other mats around.

When my yoga teacher, Sara, instructed me to bring my attention onto my towel, she helped me get out of my head, off of everybody else’s mat, and into my body. What it also did was to remind me of my real connection to other people. Her instruction, counter-intuitively perhaps, helped me see that we are all have suffering and that we support each other by practicing together.

In the midst of a 90-minute yoga class in a 105 degree studio, it’s fairly likely that I’ll be faced with some internal resistance, if not outright struggle, at some point. When I’m caught in some tangle of discomfort, it’s easy to distract myself with stories about how mean the teacher is, or how easy this is for everybody else, or how a cool shower and a cold beer is all I ever really needed to be happy.

It takes real courage to practice on my own mat and show up for whatever may be happening, no matter how stressful. But when I do, when I make that brave choice to show up for my own practice and really notice everything that is happening in my body and mind, something else shifts. I begin to see beyond the superficial in myself … and in everybody around me.

When I quiet the distraction of stories about others and about myself, I can actually feel my direct experience. Instead of “Dang, I’m good. I got my head to my knee!” or “Heavens, that guy sweats himself a lake!” I can focus on what I’m feeling. When I admit that the heat is kicking my ass, that my knees in Fixed Firm are screaming bloody murder, and that I am feeling a little desperate to be finished, I can use it as a reminder that everybody has something that is kicking her ass, screaming bloody murder, and making him desperate. As I deepen my connection to my own experience, it can (perhaps paradoxically) deepen my connection with everybody else.

When I find myself twisted in my own trouble on the yoga mat (or out in traffic), it helps to open my eyes and look around at the other mats (or cars). Instead of fabricating a empty story about them, practicing with other mats around reminds me to cultivate an attitude of compassion, inclusion, and care for all of us.

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