Yoga with Amy Dara http://www.amydara.com Balancing Effort with Ease as You Breathe Wed, 13 Sep 2017 21:54:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 101091757 ‘Tis the Season for Lovingkindness… ‘Twill Be the Year for It, Too http://www.amydara.com/2016/12/24/tis-the-season-for-lovingkindness-twill-be-the-year-for-it-too/ Sat, 24 Dec 2016 12:21:38 +0000 http://www.amydara.com/?p=1878 Yesterday, I moved from Washington DC to Barcelona. Nearly six months later, I have a TEFL certificate, am one-third of the way through the Masters in Translation Studies program, and plan to continue for a doctorate. I’ve taught the fifth Yoga for Cancer Survivors Teacher Training earlier this month. I went from ensuring my cat was cool and hydrated upon arriving in Barcelona, to both of us huddling under blankets on the sofa while I translate assignments.

Today is Christmas Eve and Erev Hanukkah. This is my first Christmas in Catalonia in many years; last time, my Catalan siblings and I were studying for our first undergraduate degree. Tomorrow, I will bring presents to five nephews, the oldest of whom will be 15 in ten days. Time flies when you’re following your dreams.

This has been quite the year for all of us. Many of you will concur that November has been particularly challenging. Beyond our personal achievements and losses: we experienced a major upheaval on Election Day that can’t possibly highlight enough how important it is to take care ourselves so that we can continue to nurture our world with every form of lovingkindness.

The yoga, or dharma, or if you prefer the word “notion,” of lovingkindness (metta), starts with pratipaksha bhavana, the practice of replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. This doesn’t mean we must go all Pollyanna. Is it really truthful (satya, one of the “ten commandments,” if you will, of yoga) to fake it ‘til you make it? Wouldn’t transforming the negatives – such as the threats to healthcare access, and reminding prejudiced people that inside we’re all the same and in this together – into realistically constructive and productive acts of compassion be more feasible with long lasting results?

Whether bedridden or busy rushing from one commitment to the next appointment, one can practice lovingkindness.

My home practice with my teacher (depicted) continues. And yours?

In addition to adhering to your physical self-care routine, identify every negative thought, and let it go. Replace it with a neutral or encouraging thought. Remember that every person that annoys you may be suffering from a story of which you may not yet know. Compassionate action can manifest in the form of a silent nonresponse to an aggressive remark, eye contact with a smile to someone who needs acknowledgement, paying for the coffee of the person standing on line behind you, or leaving a note on the windshield of a car whose driver you noticed was in dire need of cheer. Share this link to nine free videos of Warrior Women: Yoga for Women During & After Treatment for Cancer, available in English & Spanish, with those who would benefit. As you watch the world around you, ideas for such actions will reveal themselves.

Such generous acts are variations of maitri meditation in action. Kindness to yourself, to your loved ones, to the maternal figures in your life, to the neutral people in the shops and on the street, to your enemies, and to all beings around you, is a form of practicing yoga. Even by holding that person in your thought and silently wishing, “may you be safe, healthy, happy, and at ease,” you are fostering lovingkindness within yourself and for all beings.

I wish you a peaceful holiday season. May all beings be happy and free.

]]>
1878
Yoga Game for Final Debate of Presidential Candidates http://www.amydara.com/2016/10/19/yoga-game-for-final-debate-of-presidential-candidates/ Wed, 19 Oct 2016 11:24:18 +0000 http://www.amydara.com/?p=1841 Here’s a Game for Tonight’s Final Debate of the Presidential Candidates!

Put the beer back in the fridge! Union in Sanskrit is “yoga,” so play this game instead:

Every time someone says _______________, do (yoga pose) for 5 breaths.

  • Economy / Tax / Income / Minimum Wage (this includes tax returns!): navasana (boat pose)
  • Budget / Debt: ardha matsyendrasana (seated half spinal twist)
  • Foreign Policy: virabhadrasana I (Warrior 1)
  • United States of America (or just “United States” or “America”): garudasana (eagle pose)gOP26
  • E-mails: virabhadrasana II (warrior 2)
  • Islam / Muslim: ardha chandrasana (half-moon pose)
  • Israel: trikonasana (triangle pose)
  • War: virabhadrasana III (warrior 3) with uttarabodhi (realization) mudra http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/2668?page=5
  • Immigration / Refugees: salabhasana (locust pose)
  • Criminal justice system / jails / prisons: baddha konasana (*bound* angle pose)
  • Guns: savasana (corpse pose)
  • Abortion / Planned Parenthood: ananda balasana (happy baby pose)
  • Womens’ Rights / Sexual Harassment / Rape Culture / Cheating Husbands: Utkata konasana (goddess pose) 
  • Climate Change: vrksasana (tree pose)
  • Elections / Rigging / Votes: any variation of utthita parsvakonasana (extended side angle pose – decisions, decisions!)

Stay present and listen instead of reacting with judgment and critique! Tomorrow, while your fellow citizens nurse their hangover, you’ll feel calm, limber, with a greater awareness of the latest in U.S. politics!

© 2016 Amy Dara Hochberg. Photographers: Laura K. Dotterer and Shoshana Rosenbaum. All rights reserved.
Creative Commons License
Yoga with Amy Dara by Amy Dara Hochberg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://www.amydara.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available athttp://www.amydara.com/contact.

 

]]>
1841
Make Time for Self-Care http://www.amydara.com/2016/02/07/taking-care-of-yourself-is-part-of-taking-care-of-the-world-around-you/ Mon, 08 Feb 2016 03:08:03 +0000 http://www.amydara.com/?p=1740 Yoga is about taking care. Your practice on the mat is about taking care of yourself. Your practice off the mat is about taking care of both yourself and the world around you.

Put your palms together. Keep your thumbs and pinkies together and separate your middle three fingers to form a cup. You need to sip from this cup to nourish yourself. Then you can share the leftovers with the world around you. If you give the contents of the cup only to the world around you, you will be running on empty. How long can you last without burning out?

Nurture yourself so that you can continue to nurture others.

Nurture yourself so that you can continue to nurture others.

It’s vital to take care of yourself in order to be there for the world around you: your loved ones, your work, and the greater good. Part of our karma yoga practice is self-care. Without self-care, karma yoga would be in short supply. You wear yourself down, get sick, and wind up out of commission for a long while as you administer intensive self-care in order to return to health and service.

A common cause of such extremes is what the Tibetan Buddhist meditation teacher Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche calls “speedy busyness.” This is a plague in our high-tech, fast-paced society in which we have accustomed ourselves to getting what we want immediately. You reply to a few emails, then answer the ringing phone, then wash the dishes, then do this chore and finish that other chore… and before you know it, it’s way past your bedtime and you haven’t practiced your self-care routine, be it yoga or meditation or another healthy endeavor.

Meditate for twenty minutes every day. But if you’re too busy, meditate for an hour. ~ Zen Buddhist proverb

In other words, slow down. Make time for self-care. There is absolutely no excuse. Ask your loved ones to respect this alone time: no interruptions unless there is a fire. You – and they – will be more content and more grateful.

Rest your palms faced up on your thighs. Inhale and close your hands into a gentle fist. Exhale and open your hands. Inhale and you are receiving from the world around you. Exhale and you are giving back to the world around you. Maintain the balance between this give and take: look after yourself on a daily basis, and you will consistently have the energy to care for the world.

 

© 2016 Amy Dara Hochberg. Photographer: Laura K. Dotterer. All rights reserved.
Creative Commons License
Yoga with Amy Dara by Amy Dara Hochberg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://www.amydara.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.amydara.com/contact.

]]>
1740
2016 State of the Union Yoga Game http://www.amydara.com/2016/01/12/2016-state-of-the-union-yoga-game/ Tue, 12 Jan 2016 14:10:48 +0000 http://www.amydara.com/?p=1720 Here’s a Game for Tonight’s State of the Union Address!

Watching the annual State of the Union Address? Put the beer back in the fridge! Union in Sanskrit is “yoga,” so play this game instead:

Every time President Obama says _______________, do (yoga pose) for 5 breaths.

  • Economy / Tax / Income / Minimum Wage: navasana (boat pose)
  • Budget / Debt: ardha matsyendrasana (seated half spinal twist)
  • War: virabhadrasana I (warrior 1)
  • Foreign Policy: baddha virabhadrasana (humble warrior)
  • United States of America (or just “United States” or “America”): garudasana (eagle pose)
  • Executive Action: virabhadrasana II (warrior 2)
  • Islam / Muslim: ardha chandrasana (half-moon pose)
  • Israel: trikonasana (triangle pose)
  • Terrorism: virabhadrasana III (warrior 3) with uttarabodhi (realization) mudra
  • Immigration / Refugees: salabhasana (locust pose)
  • Criminal justice system / jails / prisons: baddha konasana (*bound* angle pose)
  • Guns: savasana (corpse pose)
  • Abortion / Womens’ Rights / Planned Parenthood: ananda balasana (happy baby pose)
  • Climate Change: vrksasana (tree pose)
  • Elections / Primaries: any variation of utthita parsvakonasana (extended side angle pose – decisions, decisions!)
  • Lame duck: do bakasana (crow) or have fun trying!

gOP26Stay present and listen instead of reacting with judgment and critique! Tomorrow, while your fellow citizens nurse their hangover, you’ll feel calm, limber, with a greater awareness of the latest in U.S. politics!

 

 

© 2016 Amy Dara Hochberg. Photographer: Laura K. Dotterer. All rights reserved.
Creative Commons License
Yoga with Amy Dara by Amy Dara Hochberg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://www.amydara.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.amydara.com/contact.

]]>
1720
A New Year Always Brings Hope. http://www.amydara.com/2015/12/26/a-new-year-always-brings-hope/ Sun, 27 Dec 2015 00:03:41 +0000 http://www.amydara.com/?p=1706 So do motivated teacher training students, such as the twelve I worked with in Madrid and Barcelona to teach yoga to cancer survivors in Europe. Hope proved its power as I forged through the second set of four intense 10-hour days while consuming copious amounts of tissue, going through five markers on a whiteboard while contending with laryngitis, and leading yoga practices while coughing nonstop. The empathetic students in Barcelona willingly worked with me through these challenging circumstances.

Yoga for Cancer Survivors Teacher Training - Madrid November 2015

Yoga for Cancer Survivors Teacher Training – Madrid November 2015

One day prior to the start of the Barcelona teacher training, I’d contracted a supercold virus that had been circulating around northeast Spain. It was known to take its course over twice the amount of time as a common cold: two and a half to three weeks. Half of the people I’d interacted with were sick with this same bug, including my host. The doctors at the clinic diagnosed “yet another case” while forbidding me to fly back to Washington DC until earlier this week.

Yoga for Cancer Survivors Teacher Training - Barcelona 2015

Yoga for Cancer Survivors Teacher Training – Barcelona December 2015

No longer contagious and with a residual cough that is gradually subsiding, I’m happy to resume sharing the practice with you all. I have always embraced the hope that pervades the room as the yoga class begins. Hope for inner peace, improved health on all levels, and to crack the heart open a little wider.

Hope, as defined, by Yogi Bhajan, is not a prediction of the future. It is a declaration of what is possible.

May this holiday season find you calm, content, healthy, and filled with love – and yes, hope.

 

© 2015 Amy Dara Hochberg. Photographers: Laura K. Dotterer and Shoshana Rosenbaum. All rights reserved.
Creative Commons License
Yoga with Amy Dara by Amy Dara Hochberg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://www.amydara.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.amydara.com/contact.

]]>
1706
Call to Karma Action http://www.amydara.com/2015/11/14/call-to-karma-action/ Sat, 14 Nov 2015 17:12:59 +0000 http://www.amydara.com/?p=1676 Beirut. Paris. Some say another September 11 has occurred. What we can all agree on is that terrorism has struck again and again. And will likely strike again. Thus continues the human tragedy of samsara, the cycle of cause and effect by which hate begets hate, and violence begets violence.

Fellow yoga teacher Doug Keller writes:

In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna saw clearly. Krishna’s solution — dharma (basic teachings or philosophy) with devotion — while it may apply on the individual level, was no solution in the big picture, especially in a world of devotional and ideological fanaticism. The short term necessities he justified, in the name of dharma, did nothing to make things right. There were no innocents in the war, which is why its inevitability was so tragic. Krishna’s solution to the cycle of samsara was not really a solution, but a justification to continue the suffering.

Breaking the circle demands that it first be recognized, fully and honestly. This is something that we have resolutely refused to do. The tragedy is that, as a result, the solutions we come up with now will only intensify the cycle down the road.

Unless we all think and act differently, starting now.

Herein lies a great opportunity, in many forms, to practice karma yoga: selfless action, in this case in the form of community service. Give blood where it’s needed. Volunteer. Change aspects of your job to ensure that it is serving the greater good. Donate to an organization or get a freelancer hired whose work promotes a peaceful coexistence through teaching, writing, midwifery, photography, and so on. Ask yourself over and over again: how can I help? Your actions have the powerful potential to defeat fear and hatred and ultimately promote union and peace to protect our freedom.

Banksy Paris Peace This mass citizens’ action would enormously contribute to eliminating hatred and fear on everyone’s part, and ultimately reduce the risk of future attacks on our freedom. Not moments of silence, and not demonstrations of solidarity, not social media posts of “thoughts and prayers,” nor the lowering of flags to half-mast. With the intention guided by maitri / metta – loving kindness: may all beings be safe, healthy, happy, and at ease – reaching out to help each other will unite us, foster peace and mutual respect, to fight hatred and fear, and ultimately defend our ongoing hard-earned freedom.

May all beings be happy and free.

 

© 2015 Amy Dara Hochberg. Image attributed to Banksy. All rights reserved.

Yoga with Amy Dara by Amy Dara Hochberg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://www.amydara.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.amydara.com/contact.

 

]]>
1676
The Official Democratic Debate Yoga Game http://www.amydara.com/2015/10/13/the-official-democrat-debate-yoga-game/ Tue, 13 Oct 2015 21:15:47 +0000 http://www.amydara.com/?p=1651 To be honest, the reason that this game is last minute is because I think it’s too soon. The next presidential elections are more than a year away. It’s like decorating for Christmas before Halloween.

However, some of you, for whatever reason that I promise not to judge, will indeed watch the Democratic Debate tonight. The yoga hopefully will neutralize any disagreements. Put the beer back in the fridge! Unroll your mat. Here are the rules:

Every time a candidate says __________________, do (yoga pose) for 5 breaths.

*Benghazi / E-mails – Virabhadrasana II (warrior 2)

*Middle East – Virabhadrasana III (warrior 3)

*Foreign affairs – Navasana (boat pose)

*President Obama – Garudasana (eagle pose)

*Any candidate’s attempt to retract what they said earlier – Ardha chandrasana (half moon pose)

*Republican / GOP / Tea Party – do your current most difficult yoga pose

*Any claim of a positive relationship with a minority, eg, “some of my best friends are…” – Supported bridge pose, using a block or equivalent under the sacrum

*Health care / Obamacare / ACA / doctor – Cobra pose

*Abortion / Planned Parenthood – Happy baby pose

*Socialism / liberals – Upavista konasana (seated wide angle pose)

*Climate change / global warming – Vrksasana (tree pose)

*Energy / Keystone XL – Utkatasana (chair pose)

*Wall Street / corporations / billionaires / the rich / wealth – anantasana (Vishnu’s couch pose) 

*Education / college tuition – either sukhasana (easy cross-legged seat) or padmasana (full-lotus)

*Bipartisanship – Prasarita padottanasana (straddle legged forward fold)

*NRA / guns – Savasana (corpse pose)

*Welfare / food stamps / minimum wage / middle class – Ardha matsyendrasana (seated half spinal twist)

*Economy – Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (revolved side angle pose)

*Donald Trump – Simhasana (lion’s pose)

gOP26Stay present and listen instead of reacting with judgment and critique! Tomorrow, while your fellow citizens nurse their hangover, you’ll feel calm, limber, with a greater awareness of the Democrat candidates!

© 2015 Amy Dara Hochberg. Image: http://www.printfection.com/yogatshirts/US-Patriotic-Yoga-T-shirts-Sweatshirts-Tees/_s_52585, grabbed on January 28, 2014. All rights reserved.

 

 

]]>
1651
The Official GOP Debate Yoga Game http://www.amydara.com/2015/08/06/the-official-gop-debate-yoga-game/ Thu, 06 Aug 2015 18:33:32 +0000 http://www.amydara.com/?p=1611 To be honest, the reason that this game has been posted at the last minute is because I find the current overall GOP scenario so repugnant that the notion of following tonight’s debate would be – to put it kindly – glutton for punishment.

However, some of you, for whatever reason that I promise not to judge, will indeed watch the GOP Debate tonight. The yoga hopefully will mitigate the elevation of your hackles. Put the beer back in the fridge! Unroll your mat. Here are the rules:

Every time a candidate says __________________, do (yoga pose) for 5 breaths.

*Donald Trump’s wealth or “knowledge” – anantasana (Vishnu’s couch pose) 

*Benghazi – Virabhadrasana II (warrior 2)

*Iraq / Iran / Israel – Virabhadrasana III (warrior 3)

*Unions – Utkatasana (chair pose)

*Any reference to Obama – Virabhadrasana I (warrior 1)

*If any candidate whines about not getting called on enough – Balasana (child’s pose)

*Promising to “take America back” – Garudasana (eagle pose)

*If Trump interrupts another candidate – Kapotasana (pigeon pose)

*Any candidate’s attempt to retract what they said earlier – Ardha chandrasana (half moon pose)

*Any mention of the Holocaust (Nazis, ovens, etc.) or the Confederacy – Agnistambhasana (Firelog pose aka ankle-to-knee pose aka “agony-stambhasana”)

*When the audience cheers a racist or bigoted statement by a candidate – Bakasana (crow pose)

*When a candidate mentions his poor / hardscrabble childhood or a hardworking parent – Ananda balasana (happy baby pose)

*”Stopping Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders” – do your current most difficult yoga pose

*Warning that the US is becoming Greece – Navasana (boat pose)

*Any invocation of St. Ronald Reagan – Plank pose

*Any claim of a positive relationship with a minority, eg, “some of my best friends are…” – Supported bridge pose, using a block or equivalent under the sacrum

*Any reference to health care / Obamacare / ACA / doctor – Cobra pose

*Socialism / liberals – Upavista konasana (seated wide angle pose)

*Climate change / global warming – Vrksasana (tree pose)

*NRA / guns – Savasana (corpse pose)

*Ohio – Salabhasana (locust pose)

*Kenya – Baddha konasana (bound angle pose)

*Welfare / food stamps / minimum wage – Ardha matsyendrasana (seated half spinal twist)

… and for Jon Stewart later this evening: Namasté and laughter yoga!

gOP26 Stay present and listen instead of reacting with judgment and critique: practice equanimity. Tomorrow, while your fellow citizens nurse their hangover, you’ll feel calm, limber, with a greater awareness of the GOP candidates.

Hat tip to Rolling Stone for ideas.

© 2015 Amy Dara Hochberg. Image: http://www.printfection.com/yogatshirts/US-Patriotic-Yoga-T-shirts-Sweatshirts-Tees/_s_52585, grabbed on January 28, 2014. All rights reserved.

]]>
1611
On Flying, Love, and Authenticity http://www.amydara.com/2015/04/08/on-flying-love-and-authenticity/ Thu, 09 Apr 2015 01:49:30 +0000 http://www.amydara.com/?p=1536 Published on elephant journal on April 25, 2015.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015 was an awful day because I left my beloved Catalonia. Not only that: it was an early departure, which meant I had to waken my sleep-deprived friend to help bring my luggage down the stairs from his apartment. Not only that: the usually quick queue for the required Guardia Civil stamp on my VAT refund had lengthened to a 45-minute wait. Not only that: upon checking my suitcase, the airline agent informed me that I was among the “randomly selected” to undergo an enhanced security screen, and had to report to the gate by 8:10am. It was 8:05am. She gently suggested I quickly get my coffee and bottled water prior to reporting to the gate. Good thing I heeded her tip, because the Guardia Civil sequestered all of us selected passengers until boarding time, where there was no signal on my phone to send farewell messages to my Catalan cousins and friends. Since my flight was on a US-based airline, there were no free newspapers, and I clearly had no chance to buy a copy of La Vanguardia prior to departure. As soon as the plane doors slammed shut, tears rolled down my face. This always happens when I leave Barcelona. Her sky wept with me.IMG_5993

Through the tears and the raindrops, I gazed out the window as the plane taxied past other planes and turned onto the runway, queuing for takeoff. As the plane turned a sharp right – we were next – I noticed the following plane was an airline I had not previously heard of: Germanwings.

Nine hours later, upon landing at Newark International Airport, I turned on the phone and was surprised at the number of messages. The first one was from my Catalan brother:

A quina hora surts avui? M’acaben de dir que ha caigut als Alps una avió que ha sortit fa una estona des de Barcelona.

Translation: What time do you leave today? They just said that a plane crashed in the Alps that left a while ago from Barcelona.

To allay his concern, I immediately replied in Catalan that my plane had just landed near New York City, and we’d chat once I reach the gate for my connecting flight. I zipped my phone back into my jacket pocket and sighed.

Upon reaching the gate for my connecting flight with a cup of burnt coffee to relieve a caffeine-withdrawal headache, I saw what my Catalan brother alluded to on a big screen TV broadcasting CNN. Reading the captions, I realized the ill-fated plane had been behind mine. Tuesday, March 24, 2015 was truly an awful day.

After reading through the rest of the messages and seeing that my connecting flight would board shortly, I posted a message on my personal Facebook page:

Fa 90 minuts, vaig encendre el meu mòbil quan el vol va arribar a EWR, i he rebut les notícies tristes d’un altre vol que va sortir de BCN que va caure als Alps. Quin recordatori per dir a tota la familia i tots els amics que els estimes cada vegada, perque qui sap si serà la ultima vegada?

Translation: I turned on my phone when the flight landed at EWR 90 minutes ago, and received the sad news about a flight that also departed from BCN that crashed in the Alps. What a reminder to tell your family and friends that you love them every time, because who knows if it will be the last time?

The cab driver and I bemoaned the Germanwings disaster. Upon entering my apartment, I sat on the floor and hugged my cat. Surrounded by unpacked luggage and Simon purring in my lap, exhausted and a splitting headache, I began to meditate. After a few minutes of shamatha, I visualized a heavy bitter darkness and breathed that in. With the exhalation, I imagined vibrant rays of healing and gratitude. Inhale suffering and breathe out love. Tonglen is a difficult meditation practice: we face the deep fear of harm to our heart, and we want to protect it. Yet at times like this, Tonglen can be enormously liberating: facing our fear and letting in pain reveals our capacity for compassion for all beings.

Buddhist nun and meditation teacher Pema Chödrön writes: (Tonglen) practice cuts through culture, economic status, intelligence, race, religion. People everywhere feel pain – jealousy, anger, being left out, feeling lonely. Everyone feels pain in the same way you feel it. The story lines vary, but the underlying feeling is the same for us all. Each person on the ill-fated Germanwings plane had their own story. They had many delightful days prior to this truly awful day. Two opera singers whose performance one of my Catalan friends saw ten days earlier. A group of students with their two teachers participating in an exchange program with a Spanish high school. A contractor who worked for the Pentagon. Three generations of one family from a village near Barcelona.

Chatting about Barcelona with my students two days later, we stood in the cardio room surrounded by televisions outside the gym’s group fitness room waiting for a class to end so we could practice yoga. We watched a CNN breaking news report that the co-pilot deliberately crashed the Germanwings flight into the Alps. That plane was behind mine, I sadly informed my students. A sickening sensation flashed through my body, as it would with all the subsequent news reports of his premeditation and having sped up the plane during descent, of the pilot’s futile struggle to open the cockpit door and the screaming in the final moments.

None of us wants to end our life screaming fearfully. But if you were one of those unfortunate passengers, could you remain calm and thankful for having fulfilled your dreams? What do you want to do before you die? I posed this question during the New Year’s special classes. Are you putting your dreams into action?

Death has limits. Life is limitless. Are we so fearful of death that we are afraid to live and love? Are we so willing to settle for mediocrity in the name of social approval and all kinds of security, or can we heed our heart’s desires to be our authentic selves and follow our dreams without fear of ridicule and rejection?10387228_10152465952821647_5716309552646081962_n

Hearing doubts, jeers, and disappointment hurts. Especially when it comes from well-intentioned loved ones who apparently don’t support your decision because it doesn’t meet their expectations, hopes and dreams for you.

Breathe in the hurt, and breathe out healing. Breathe in suffering, breathe out joy. Breathe in rejection, breathe out unconditional love. Your emotions arising as your story unfolds become everyone’s feelings from diverse stories. Tonglen is a personal and authentic practice that helps us become fearless and connects us with all beings.

May all beings be happy and free. May all beings catch each other when we fall. May all beings fly again and again. May all beings have delightful days.

Remember to tell your folks and friends – including the ones who ridicule your dreams – that you love them.

PS: I will return to Spain later this year to give two Yoga for Cancer Survivors Teacher Trainings. More info here.

© 2015 Amy Dara Hochberg.

Yoga with Amy Dara by Amy Dara Hochberg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://www.amydara.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.amydara.com/contact.

 

]]>
1536
Lovingkindness: Caregiving versus Caretaking http://www.amydara.com/2015/02/22/lovingkindness-caregiving-versus-caretaking/ Sun, 22 Feb 2015 21:34:05 +0000 http://www.amydara.com/?p=1499 People often ask why I’m so interested in teaching yoga to women cancer survivors if I am not one myself. My Yoga for Cancer teacher, Tari Prinster, has asked me time and again to explain to teacher training groups how I tap into my experiences of living with a hearing loss to connect to Women Cancer Survivors. In a word, my answer is empowerment.

A twelfth century Jewish scholar, Moses Maimonides, invented the eight levels of giving. The highest level is achieved by a donor that anonymously gives adequately so that the recipient can help themselves. In other words, the donor empowers the recipient to look after themselves. Caretaking, on the other hand, is an apparent kindness that lends the donor a sense of superiority and the recipient a sense of inferiority. Caretaking is patronizing. Author Melody Beattie writes in the Language of Letting Go that “caretaking doesn’t work.” A caretaker implies to the intended recipient that she is incapable of taking care of herself. Caretaking fosters resentment.

The caretakers’ selfish intention is to feel good about having performed a “noble deed.” Perhaps some of them are so out of touch with their inner core of basic goodness as to be unaware of their own intentions and actions. Some learn from the results of their actions, and the unfortunate repeats their errors. I contend with such caretakers every day. The postal clerk or waiter who responds with American Sign Language after I’d clearly established that it’s fine to speak to me. The family member or friend who repeats what the museum tour guide is saying, distracting me from both the guide and the exhibit. The ex-husband who couldn’t grasp that, instead of acting on assumption, it’s always best to ask first whether I needed any help. To the recipient, acting based on assumption feels condescending. It irritates. While the ex-husband ultimately burned through my patience and wound up with an earful of angry frustration along with the divorce, most people receive a gentle admonishing.

Museums with guided visits only are particularly challenging, leaving me with three futile options: lip read the tour guide the entire time and miss viewing the exhibit, feign listening to the tour guide to view the exhibit and miss out on all the juicy information, or some percentage of the two extremes. When I visited Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Batlló in Barcelona four years ago, I was faced with the audio tour barrier: headsets are at best awkward with a hearing aid, and there are no lips to read, rendering the narrative as gibberish to me. When I showed the employee my hearing aid, she smiled and held up a printed transcript, offering, “català, castellano, o English?” This option delighted me: this is how you empower a deaf or hard-of-hearing person! Between reading and viewing, the tour took me longer than a hearing person. Still, I was thrilled to benefit one hundred percent from the visit.

Self-guided tour through Casa Batlló.

Self-guided tour through Casa Batlló.

Another example of empowering a deaf or hard-of-hearing person: monitors showing the announcements that are blaring through the PA system in public transportation systems, be they on a bus or metro, in the station or at an airport.

Five years ago, my connecting flight in London was among many that were cancelled in the wake of the French flight controllers’ strike. None of British Airways’ monitors showed this information. In the chaotic terminal, I finally found an employee who obtained the update on my flight and guided me through immigration and customs to a single kilometers-long airline customer service queue. Rumors flew about getting booked on flights going through circuitous routes around Europe taking three or more days to arrive at the final destination, from what I gathered via conversations with people in front of and behind me. Three hours later, it was my turn. I calmly explained what had happened. The agent realized this situation had put British Airways in hot water and found a direct flight the very next morning that had one vacant seat left. She filed a complaint on my behalf to call British Airways’ attention to this glaring gap in accommodations for people with disabilities to prevent future mishaps, and went above and beyond her call of duty to meet me on her day off work at the terminal the very next morning to guide me from check-in all the way to the boarding gate lest there be a repeat of the previous day’s fiasco. Hopefully, British Airways at London Heathrow Airport has since improved their monitors to display the announcements as they are spoken via the PA system.

So what do these two stories exemplify? Identify the barrier. If you’re unsure, ask the person to whom you wish to give care. Determine, with that person’s active participation, how you can help. Caregiving empowers the recipient to overcome the barrier. Caregiving fosters compassion and gratitude.

Through teaching Yoga for Women Cancer Survivors, I empower the students through an adapted posture, breathing, and meditation practice in an environment of like-minded people. They can take various aspects of this practice to the oncologist’s waiting room, while in an uncomfortably vulnerable position on the radiation table, or during the hours of chemotherapy infusion. They can practice a restorative supine bound angle pose

Students in restorative supported supine bound angle pose

Students in restorative supported supine bound angle pose

or alternate nostril breathing to alleviate recurrence anxiety while waiting for their annual scan results. Some treatment side effects render them emotional which the yoga practice can evoke; in class, they know they can let it all out in a safe, nurturing place. After class, they often schmooze, comparing notes on traditional and alternative health care providers, nutrition, treatment side effects and how to deal with them.

But there’s more. Their teacher may not be a cancer survivor, but a survivor of hearing loss. A survivor has encountered and coped with difficulties in their life. Such difficulties present various barriers on a daily basis. A survivor understands that the only way is through, and determines how to best overcome. A survivor figures out what kind of assistance is required in order to look after themselves, from the onset of the obstacle, through the dismantling thereof, to a new normal or another obstacle, and so on.

Caregiving is interrelated. Caregiving reminds us that we are not alone in our daily struggle. Caregiving means we’re all in this together, offering each other a hand, wishing to see everyone succeed. Caregiving empowers the recipient.

Often, when it comes to caring for another – a cancer survivor undergoing the worst of the treatments, for instance, it is paramount to keep taking care of yourself. If you overextend yourself and fail to delegate some of the tasks to folks and friends – a neighbor who gives a ride to and from the next chemo infusion, a friend who brings groceries, a cousin who watches over the cancer survivor so you can have some down time – you could wind up failing your cancer survivor loved one by getting sick from exhaustion to continue with the caregiving. Such instances are a good example of the dangerous gray area between caretaking and caregiving.

Look after yourself so you can continue to give care to others. Your body needs your mind and your intuition to make the right decisions for physical, intellectual and emotional health. Give care by sharing your knowledge, experiences, and abilities with others to empower them to look after themselves. Lovingkindness is a balance of being there for yourself and for the world around you, empowering all beings.

© 2015 Amy Dara Hochberg.

Yoga with Amy Dara by Amy Dara Hochberg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://www.amydara.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.amydara.com/contact.

 

]]>
1499