Archive

Peace

Halloween marks the space between the harvest and the darkness. It’s a time when it’s thought that the line between life and death is softer. Much of our time in our culture is spent focused on here and there, now and then, you and me. But what happens if we focus on the space between?

If you’re interested in inbetweens, you might enjoy this post from a couple of years ago…Neck & Waist: The Spaces In Between

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These days, I spend a good deal of time thinking about peace. I’ve thought about how peace is active, something that requires energy and attention. I came up with the phrase, Peace Is Not Passive. I thought I was so clever. But it turns out that Hubert Humphrey already said it.

 

And this quote hangs near our front door. I see it every day and it reminds me that peace is something I *do* not something I wait for.

 

This is the sign that hangs by our front door.

peace-sign-on-wall-122516It says:

Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.

As I walk out into my days, I appreciate the reminder that skillful thought and action does not come from a state of panic. Relaxing my eyes, mind, and heart does not mean acquiescence, surrender or blind obedience, but rather finding the true power of calm and peace.

This week’s post revisits one I wrote on November 1, 2015. In these days of darkness, it’s helpful for me to reconnect with how I’m using my eyes and my vision — both literally and figuratively. As we look toward a new year, I’m practicing staying peaceful even in the face of discomfort, fear, and anger. Since it is only from peace that peace will happen.


It’s my favorite yoga class of the week: Sunday noon, 90 minutes of Power with Kelly. But I walk in all jumbly and rattly. As I pull out a block and unroll my thick blue mat, even as friends walk in, I feel jagged around the edges. I can feel my eyes strain as they dart around the room. Who’s that? Ooh, that’s a cute top. I wonder what the story is behind that tattoo?

eyes panic 102915

Oh girl, I think. If you keep up with the darty eyes, there will be no peace for you today.

I see it in my students sometimes, too. They walk in and look around to figure out if they belong or not. Did I wear the right thing? Am I the right age? Is this a thing for hippies and weirdies?

Oh friend, I think to the nervous newbie, relax your eyes or there will be no peace for you today.

In yoga, it’s called the drishti, the gaze, where we set the eyes and align the head, but more than that, how we direct our energy and attention. Every posture has a particular place to focus the eyes: Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), between the big toes; Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II), front middle finger; Triangle (Utthita Trikonasana), up at the thumb. We practice steadying the drishti on something unmoving. By letting the eyes rest on one spot, the body and mind can focus letting our alarmed busy-ness drop like fall leaves.

Yogis know that when the eyes dart around, so does the mind. By settling the gaze on a steady point, we have a deeper access to our internal experience. When in the midst of an uncomfortable situation, whether it’s a long hold in Side Plank, (Vasisthasana) venturing into a new class, or driving in a downpour, my darting eyes only rattle me, stir up my mind, disperse my attention. Settling and relaxing my eyes invites patience with what’s actually happening instead of the distractions around me and in my own little head.

eyes patience 102915

One of my favorite online yoga teachers, Philip Urso, says that yoga helps us practice “going from panic to patience and from patience to peace.”

We are such visual creatures – from the moment we awaken, we are taking in the visual scene around us. We use our eyes so much that we are rarely even conscious of them (until we get something under our contact or we can’t read the print on the menu). Intentionally using the eyes instantly offers a way to connect the body and mind, and break the pattern of unconscious looking.

A soft eye relaxes both ocular muscles and active brain to allow the literal and figurative peripheral vision to expand. Suddenly, I can see that I’m really okay, that any intensity is temporary, and that I am part of a larger experience. An intentional gaze allows us to be fascinated with what is happening without becoming bewitched.

Like in yoga, in Nia we use the eyes to integrate body and mind as well as to stimulate healthful alignment and safe head movement. Perhaps more essentially, intentional use of the eyes trains us to go beyond superficial looking to seeing deeper, to what is so. Intentionally seeing the space, the other movers, and ourselves in the mirror allows us to shift from the panicky small mind through the patience of presence to the peace that really is available in every moment.

No matter what your practice – whether it is yoga or cycling or gardening or parenting – you can use the physical eyes to relax the brain and shift toward peace. Look with intention, to both relax the physical and mental bodies.

And in a bigger way, when we vision our lives and our world, we can also set our gaze on something unmoving, something steady. By setting our drishti on that which matters to us most, we can find a steadiness that moves from panic to patience, and from patience to peace.

eyes peace 102915

peace is possible 072416

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. ~ Sy Miller & Jill Jackson

One hundred and fifteen yoga mats squeeze into the old school auditorium and on each mat, a person ready to practice. Before the teacher begins, two assistants weave through the maze and leave a small card at the top of each mat. One hundred and fifteen cards each with the name of someone who has died in acts of racial violence and police brutality. Each card is unique. There are plenty of names — far, far more than our numbers here.

I’ve never done anything like this before: a yoga class and peace vigil to bear witness to racial violence in our country to benefit the Black Lives Matter movement.

I’m not a particularly political person. Stories of violence and hatred upset me so I read news sparingly. Even my beloved NPR becomes too much for me. After listening on my way to teach class, I would find myself staggering to the studio feeling buffeted and disoriented by the latest reports of brutality, bloodshed, hatred, and racism, so I often turn it off. But lately, it’s been too much to ignore.

While I am honored to be participating and am grateful for the transcendent leadership of Eboni Bugg, I feel awkward, too. As a white woman, should I be here? Am I offending anyone by tearing up when the card with “Xavier McDonald” is place on my mat? Is it okay for me to lift my fist? To say that this is important to me, too? I honestly don’t know. But I can’t close my eyes to what’s happening. I itch to do something to help.

The yoga vigil was beautiful: the music, movement, guidance, all 115 of us, all with our names. I’m glad I was there, awkwardness and all. And it wasn’t nearly enough. I left wondering what to do next. Organizers promise events in the future, but at the moment, I am at a loss.

I was grateful, then, that a friend shared Patricia Pearce’s article, Three Ways To Be A Peacemaker In A Time of Hatred, as it offers a personal practice of peace-making.

The three ways that the article suggests are:

Stand in Solidarity with Those Under Attack
Love the Person Consumed by Hatred
Heal Your Own Mind

These are practices that I can do anytime. I don’t have to wait for a vigil, a rally or a march. I can be a peacemaker right now, exactly where I am.

It’s impossible to have peace in the larger community unless we have it in our own hearts and minds. So while the Black Lives Matter network addresses the enormous issue of hatred in our country, we can use these peacemaker practices in any situation: in our cities, our communities, our families, and inside ourselves.

As I move through my interactions with others, with the vitriol at National Conventions, with the news on NPR, and the voices in my own head, I can practice being a peacemaker. By supporting those under attack, offering love to the attacker, and caring for my mind, I am making small steps toward the healing I wish for the world.

It’s my favorite yoga class of the week: Sunday noon, 90 minutes of Power with Kelly. But I walk in all jumbly and rattly. As I pull out a block and unroll my thick blue mat, even as friends walk in, I feel jagged around the edges. I can feel my eyes strain as they dart around the room. Who’s that? Ooh, that’s a cute top. I wonder what the story is behind that tattoo?

eyes panic 102915

Oh girl, I think. If you keep up with the darty eyes, there will be no peace for you today.

I see it in my students sometimes, too. They walk in and look around to figure out if they belong or not. Did I wear the right thing? Am I the right age? Is this a thing for hippies and weirdies?

Oh friend, I think to the nervous newbie, relax your eyes or there will be no peace for you today.

In yoga, it’s called the drishti, the gaze, where we set the eyes and align the head, but more than that, how we direct our energy and attention. Every posture has a particular place to focus the eyes: Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), between the big toes; Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II), front middle finger; Triangle (Utthita Trikonasana), up at the thumb. We practice steadying the drishti on something unmoving. By letting the eyes rest on one spot, the body and mind can focus letting our alarmed busy-ness drop like fall leaves.

Yogis know that when the eyes dart around, so does the mind. By settling the gaze on a steady point, we have a deeper access to our internal experience. When in the midst of an uncomfortable situation, whether it’s a long hold in Side Plank, (Vasisthasana) venturing into a new class, or driving in a downpour, my darting eyes only rattle me, stir up my mind, disperse my attention. Settling and relaxing my eyes invites patience with what’s actually happening instead of the distractions around me and in my own little head.

eyes patience 102915

One of my favorite online yoga teachers, Philip Urso, says that yoga helps us practice “going from panic to patience and from patience to peace.”

We are such visual creatures – from the moment we awaken, we are taking in the visual scene around us. We use our eyes so much that we are rarely even conscious of them (until we get something under our contact or we can’t read the print on the menu). Intentionally using the eyes instantly offers a way to connect the body and mind, and break the pattern of unconscious looking.

A soft eye relaxes both ocular muscles and active brain to allow the literal and figurative peripheral vision to expand. Suddenly, I can see that I’m really okay, that any intensity is temporary, and that I am part of a larger experience. An intentional gaze allows us to be fascinated with what is happening without becoming bewitched.

Like in yoga, in Nia we use the eyes to integrate body and mind as well as to stimulate healthful alignment and safe head movement. Perhaps more essentially, intentional use of the eyes trains us to go beyond superficial looking to seeing deeper, to what is so. Intentionally seeing the space, the other movers, and ourselves in the mirror allows us to shift from the panicky small mind through the patience of presence to the peace that really is available in every moment.

No matter what your practice – whether it is yoga or cycling or gardening or parenting – you can use the physical eyes to relax the brain and shift toward peace. Look with intention, to both relax the physical and mental bodies.

And in a bigger way, when we vision our lives and our world, we can also set our gaze on something unmoving, something steady. By setting our drishti on that which matters to us most, we can find a steadiness that moves from panic to patience, and from patience to peace.

eyes peace 102915

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