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You Do Not Have To Be Good

You Do Not Have To Be Good

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

 

This poem says that is enough to just be. That we aren’t human doings, but human beings and our value isn’t based on what we do, that we are worthy because we exist. She says beautifully that even grief is part of the human landscape and that no matter your circumstances, you belong to this amazing world which is constantly assuring us that we belong in a spirit of abiding contentment. You don’t have to prove yourself. You already are.

In yoga, we practice being more than doing. The movement and the postures simply arrest our attention and show us the being part of human being.

Find your place in the family of things. Somehow this practice, just like the wild geese, is the journey back home.

 

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in New York City and when he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to trail run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son.




Heart’s Gift

What is your heart’s gift for the world? What is that thing that you are really good at? Your heart’s gift to the world could be that you are a fantastic parent and are consistently bringing light into this world by the efforts you make in that realm. Maybe you are a writer and your gift is to touch people in that way. You could be a really great teacher or maybe you are funny or compassionate. Maybe you are a great listener, or a therapist, or a scientist, who knows? But everybody has something that allows them to contribute to the brightness and beauty of this world in a way that is unique. Your heart’s gift for the world can be developed and can change over time, sure, but knowing what your heart’s gift to the world is can be a gift to yourself.

Knowing your heart’s gift for the world helps you to prioritize and organize your energies and attention in ways that are fulfilling and purposeful and satisfying. Could you imagine if Monet was too busy mowing the lawn to bother with mastering his art? And sure, everybody’s gotta mow the lawn once in a while but once you understand what your gift is you find will ways to make your contribution to the world regular and meaningful, you will sign up for that art class, you will start carrying your camera with you wherever you go, you will finally submit your poetry to that literary magazine.

Maybe you are not sure exactly what your heart’s gift to the world is. Practices like meditation and yoga help bring clarity and insight to our minds and hearts about our gifts. And maybe your work is to discover or refine what that gift is. Once you are aware of your heart’s gift to the world, begin to dedicate yourself to the improvement and expression of it. It’s not just about being good at something, or being paid for it. Your heart’s gift is your purpose for being on earth, and everything you do is either a contribution to or a distraction from that thing.

With practice, we can allow the different energies and excitements of our day to further contribute to that gift and the sharing of that gift. If you’re an artist, you will exit a movie and have 19 new ideas for an art project. If you’re a scientist, you will go on a walk and somehow along the way you will mentally stumble upon the solution to a problem you’ve been having in your science lab. If your hearts gift is to raise a family, you’ll see a beautiful sunset and the ensuing emotions will inspire you to go home and practice being a loving partner or parent.

This week, I invite you to take a few minutes every day to sit, close your eyes, and meditate on the question, what is your heat’s gift to the world? Come to yoga with this intention to cultivate, understand, or discover your heart’s gift to the world. Then in the practice of every-day living, allow the experiences of your life to further inspire you to share that gift.

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in New York City and when he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to trail run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son.




Uniquely Similar

IN A STATION OF THE METRO

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet black bough.

–Ezra Pound

Written in 1913 in a Parisian metro station, for me this poem suggests the transience and beauty of human experience. It is the anonymous crowd but highlights the faces of individuals, key part of a person’s identity. It speaks to that question of uniqueness vs. sameness.

Speaking of uniqueness, I’m just now discovering Nirvana and Pearl Jam and Guns N Roses. When I was in high school and junior high those bands were popular. Really popular. That kind of popular precluded my interest. Cuz my merry band identified with being different. We were unique. Those other bands were the clarion of a different crowd, in my mind musical and cultural lemmings that could all run off a cliff with their Teen Spirit or Appetite for Destruction and what would I care because I enjoyed a smug uniqueness that they wouldn’t appreciate let alone understand. Or at least I thought so. Stupid I know because in my quest to be unique, I missed out on some great music. I mean really, Slash’s solo on Sweet Child O’ Mine has to be one of the greatest guitar solos in Rock history. It’s an institution. Decades later, I rock to those bands like everybody else.

So what is it about the need to be unique? Are we really as individual as we think or hope we are? In this social media age it’s so easy to project the image of how you want to be seen and identified as special and unique. The irony here is that as poet and speaker David Whyte says, to be constantly explaining who you are is a gospel of despair. But to simply BE yourself, that is more like what it is to experience a real existence.

Like the guy who parked next to me at the trailhead the other day. I came off a run and was stretching next to my car and looking at someone’s ride. This thing was a piece of work, like an election billboard but less subtle. It was a hummer with all the super rugged equipment on it: lift, tinted windows, gnarly hitch, exhaust snorkel, front wench, industrial jacks, extra gas tanks on top, mauls, hammers and axes hanging on like he was on a fire squad (maybe was and wanted everybody to know) cuz who knows what kind of trouble you might run into on the way to the super market, you know? This dude was prepared to forge his own trail across Africa.

And by the stickers plastered over his car I could easily read that the driver was a proud whiskey drinkin’, apple computer using, Black Widdow bike shop sportin’, Alta Skiin’, Hummer Drivin’, Back Country shoppin’, outdoor lovin’, Indoor Climbling Gym climbin’, adventure seekin’, Patigonioa wearin’ . . .person. Ego in the most pure way, a misidentification with what we think we are. A real mountaineer just is without needing to broadcast it. Like nature is just nature. A horse doesn’t prance around all day shouting, “I’m a horse, people!” It just does its thing and in so doing shows its regal majesty. And who isn’t like this this Hummer dude in some way? I know I am. We all want to be known and seen, right? We all want to be unique. Does that make us all the same?

When you step back we are like Ezra Pound says in his poem, just “faces in the crowd.” We are all part of the masses trying to make our way home. But when you zoom in and look at the individual, there is something special about each person. I believe that our individuality and therefore identity isn’t based on what we do as much as how we are uniquely paying attention to the world. There was only one person in all of existence who paid attention to the world the way Monet did. Or Dali. Or Miles Davis. Or Mary Oliver. No one else in history will ever see the world the way that YOU do.

So how are you paying attention? What do you see? For me, I notice movement, jazz, kindness in people, the smell of a chocolate shop. Ah, but there I go, just like Hummer Guy, broadcasting my identity. Maybe not. Maybe it’s different because I can like those things regardless if anybody else is watching. Maybe that’s the test.

So if we are all unique by how we are paying attention to the world what is this malarkey we hear in yoga about us all being one? I have tried my whole life (at least through high school) to be singled out from the crowd, to find a unique identity that could be distinguished from the faceless crowd. The truth is that we are both. We are the unique person who likes the music and sees the world just as we do, but we are also all made of the same matter. We are individual members of a larger organism. You are part of a being which has thousands of eyes that is reading this article. We belong to the community. And yes we are all part of that large thing too, made from the same star dust, the same basic elements but we express those elements differently. The hostas and the hibiscus might be in the same garden but they need different things to flourish. And when you step back it is all one garden. So yeah, we’re unique expressions of the same thing. Would you agree?

For me, that’s how we contribute to the larger organism is by watching the world exactly the way we do and sharing those gifts of perception with each other. This way the whole organism grows. If you are happy, healthy, and well, you are contributing to the wellness of the greater being. That’s what’s so wonderful about the many souls in a yoga class, everybody is so different but all part of the same thing.

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in New York City and when he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to trail run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son.




Sacred Space

Sometimes I’ll come home after a long day and close the door behind me and just stand there. In the dark. Enjoying the quiet. I’ll breathe for a few minutes and let my nervous system settle. I’m home. I’ve entered into that safe, welcoming space that reflects myself back to me.

There is my hook where I hang my bag. There is my hat hanging above it. This is my book I’m half way through, resting on the arm of my oversized chair welcoming me to sit and be comfortable. But before I do, before I really even take my bag off my shoulder,  sometimes I’ll just stand there and soak in the silence. I will, however, take off my shoes. After all, I’m standing in a sacred space, my home.

What is sacred space? And how does a space earn the title, “sacred?” There are designated sacred spaces, like temples, churches, holy ground yes, but what makes a space “sacred” for you? Where is your sacred space? Why do we need sacred space?

I feel sacred spaces allows us a chance to remember who we truly are. I think we are born into a perfect natural state of awareness that has no differentiation between world and self. Naturally, we grow, differentiate, and become selfish and awkward in relation to the world. We learn that I’m this and you’re that, forgetting the oneness of everything. Then, somewhere in life we start to remember again. It’s almost like we work all our whole lives to evolve back to the simple understanding of Self and the universe that we enjoyed as infants, only better this time because we will have had a life-time of experience under our belts, making us wise by choice and practice and not merely innocent by nature. This work is all internal and requires a workspace. Establishing sacred space gives us that workspace to forge the path toward self-realization.

We all get to choose our path toward self-realization and we get to choose our sacred workspaces. It’s fun. Here are some ideas about how to create a sacred space. In my sacred spaces often make shrines dedicated to the jazz gods John Coltrane, Theloneus Monk, and Miles Davis. Also, I have an altar space where I have some candles, a special table, some pictures and statues of things and people that evoke for me my own sense of wonder and contemplation and mystery of the Universe. It’s where I choose to mediate or pray. I like to light incense and candles there while I’m there. I keep objects there that have heart-felt or spiritual significance to me and I change those regularly depending on what’s going on in my life. I also like to keep something living on or near my altar. I keep that space clean and free of clutter. And when I come home from a long day, sometimes while standing in the dark, I can often smell the trace of incense as an echo of my meditation I did earlier, reminding me that I’m at home in sacred space.

The tiniest bit o’ space can be designated as sacred. The smallest little shrine or statue, or flower in a vase can fill the entire house with significance. I used to live in a wonderful old apartment, built sometime in the 1930s, which had a little alcove in the hall that once housed a rotary telephone. In this age of micro-technology, for those who don’t know, a rotary telephone was a communication device that attached to the wall by a wire. It probably weighed about 10 pounds and could double as home security device if wielded with a deft hand.

When I lived in that apartment, there was no longer a phone in that alcove but that little space worked perfectly as a little altar. Ganesh, the remover of obstacles, sat there comfortably, reminding me of my ability to navigate through tough spots. It doesn’t have to be a statue of Ganesh. Any object with spiritual or emotional connection placed in a designated space will serve as a subtle reminder of that connection.

I guess the real question is how to transform the rigmarole into the regal, the ordinary into the ordained. Even rolling out your yoga mat in a designated corner of the bedroom is a wonderful way of making sacred space. So much transformation and self-elucidation happens on our mat, in some ways our mats are like prayer rugs. No wonder everybody is so reluctant to recycle those things, even when they are riddled with holes and have acquired so much yoga funk that they could easily constitute a bio-hazard. By designating regular things into sacred objects and places we transform our daily grind into temples: the Temple of Dishes or the Tabernacle of Driving to Work. 

Make whatever your space you have sacred, no matter how humble. Allow it to be the workspace to explore your journey toward understanding Self.

 

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in New York City and when he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to trail run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son.




Witnessing You

Master teacher and author Donna Farhi wrote in her book, Bringing Yoga  to Life: The Everyday Practice of Enlightened Living:

One of the most devastating consequences of skewed perception is the longing that grows in us for someone to see us as we really are. We long to have someone, somewhere, even for a moment, really see us. When someone sees the “us” that is our essence, we say that we feel loved. My teacher taught that the primary thing to learn is how to be this loving, accepting presence. . . . When this longing to be seen by another is great, we become susceptible to chronic manipulation of our image. We may continually rearrange and reinvent ourselves in the hope that this new rendition will please our audience. Instead of being present, we perform. (pp. 179–80)

The poet, author speaker David Whyte says, “To be constantly explaining who you are is a gospel of despair.” He further invites us to simply be ourselves and in so doing give permission to all around us to do likewise. (Clear Mind Wild Heart audio recording)

In yoga, we practice self-witnessing as we breathe, move through poses, and meditate. Without this self-witness you can’t see you. No amount of others seeing or perceiving you will supplement for a lack of knowing yourself. It’s the paradox of rock stars feeling so lonely. Like a friend told me recently, it’s as if in our quest to experience and really discover/remember who we are, we feel like being seen by others is synonymous to being. There must be something there to see, right? But being witnessed isn’t witnessing. Yoga philosophy suggests that who we are fundamentally is the ability to truly witness.

“Thanks, Mr. Oblique Yoga Philosophy Guy. That’s some awesome yoga thought but give me some real-life ways to relate that to getting up in the morning and facing another day of work and family and the every-day.”

Well, the easiest way to apply this is to just pay attention to your life. What does it feel like to sit in a warm shower and let the water flow over your skin? What do the blossoms smell like when you walk down the sidewalk? What does your breakfast taste like? What does it feel like when your boss walks by?

Yoga practice is simply a condensed and refined way of paying close attention. Besides yoga makes us feel great, helps us have a healthy body, calm mind, and open heart. Here’s the deal: once we start practicing this self-witnessing business in yoga, we won’t stop at Namaste. We’ll be feeling our hamstrings in practice one night, and wake up extremely aware of the way the shower feels or maybe start to see the deep feelings in your heart. These are the most real ways of just being. The deeper we pay attention, the more we notice what’s behind the surface, what’s animating the outer form, what’s sensing, what’s seeing.

Eventually, with practice, we become more and more familiar with this Inner Self. What’s amazing is how this knowledge of Inner Self gives us amazing confidence to just be. We stop trying to produce the image of ourselves, and we just be ourselves.

It reminds me of tales of Mark Twain giving lectures back in the day. He would walk out on stage in front of a packed theater and just stand there looking at the audience. The crowd would applause, would eventually quiet down and wait silently for him to talk. Instead of saying anything, he would just stand there and stare back to them, like he was staring down the entire venue.  The tension in the room began to build second by second as he just stood there looking back at them all. One man looking at thousands. He didn’t have to perform.  He didn’t have to say anything. He was Mark-F@$#-ing-Twain! Finally, when the tension became almost unbearable, he could say one word and have the entire audience in his hands because he was completely real.

Writers, poets, yogis all have this one crucial thing in common: they all pay very close attention themselves and the world around them.

Maybe this is what John Lennon meant by “let it be.”

I invite you to practice being and seeing and in so doing start being in the world, not doing.

Yogi Scott Moore, scottmooreyoga.com

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in New York City and when he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to trail run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son.

 




Ayurveda: The Science of Life

Ayurveda is the fascinating and practical science that studies the world and how we can best come into harmony with this world. It is the sister-science of yoga and is a practical observational science that puts you into the driver seat of your own wellness. What I love about Ayurveda is that while it can heal imbalances and malady, it is most often used as a method of maintaining balance and well-being rather than only treating illness. One of my teachers told me that to truly understand yoga, you must also have a working relationship with Ayurveda.

Ayurveda studies three basic qualities called doshas. In their combination these doshas describe everything in the universe. To simplify, these qualities are: vata, wind quality; pitta, fire quality; and kapha, earth quality. Just like everything in the universe, each person has a unique expression of these qualities called a prakruti. Understanding your prakruti empowers you to negotiate the elements in your life in order to guide yourself toward radiant wellness for body, mind, and spirit. The goal of Ayurveda is to discover how you function best and then to strive to stay in balance, understanding that it may be very different than what your neighbor needs to stay in balance.

Have you ever wondered why you don’t feel fantastic even though it seems like you are doing all the right things that should make you healthy and feeling great? Have you ever followed a popular diet or exercise regimen only to feel worse? Sometimes even the kind of yoga we practice makes us leave feeling off. Understanding your prakruti helps you to guide yourself (sometimes with the help of an Ayurvedic practitioner) toward specific types of life-practices that optimize your unique chemistry. Remember, Ayurveda suggests that each person has a unique pathway to optimal wellness.

Excessive amounts of any dosha causes us imbalance. Understanding this and correcting imbalances, often by simple and practical means, puts us back on the path to balance. Ayurveda acknowledges that what may be health promoting for one person may be diminishing for another. Regarding anything that affects our health, be that medicine or food or yoga, Ayurveda always asks, “For whom, how much, when, and why.”

Sometimes it takes an Ayurvedic practitioner, a trained guide, to help you figure out your prakruti and place yourself on a regimen that will guide you toward optimal wellness. With even a little understanding of Ayurveda and your prakruti, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to keep yourself feeling wonderful. With this understanding you will find the best food choices, sleeping, yoga and exercising patterns, and even scheduling, that will keep you feeling amazing.

For fun, take this online dosha quiz and find out which dosha seems to match you.

This week, perhaps you can choose which yoga classes you attend based on what you feel like would give you the greatest balance. Feeling Kapha, (earth): sluggish, slow, or weighed down, or unclear? Get your bones outta bed and try coming to a morning’s 6 am (you heard me!) Rise and Shine class and give yourself a powerful start to your day and your week. Feeling Vata (wind): ungrounded, flighty, agitated, or nervous? Try coming to Restore Yoga and settle your nervous system. Feeling Pitta (fire): overheated by a project or feeling of expectation or perfection? Try channeling some of that energy into a Power Yoga class, just don’t push it too hard. This week, I invite you to use  Auyrveda to direct your choices in order to direct yourself to your own optimal well-being.

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in New York City and when he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to trail run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son.




I Know The Truth

I try to make meaning of the relatively small time I enjoy walking on top of this earth instead of being buried beneath it. The poet Marina Tsvetayeva speaks to this perfectly when she says in her poem, I Know The Truth:

I know the truth – give up all other truths!

No need for people anywhere on earth to struggle.

Look – it is evening, look, it is nearly night:

what do you speak of, poets, lovers, generals?

The wind is level now, the earth is wet with dew,

the storm of stars in the sky will turn to quiet.

And soon all of us will sleep under the earth, we

who never let each other sleep above it.

When I read the first line “I know the truth – give up all other truths!” my mind snaps to attention. What monumental truth has she discovered and needs to tell me? To me, she’s asking the human race to stop struggling and look at the beauty of the world, the night, and of course the oncoming dusk of our own lives.

She says, take a look at the world around us and see how we are all part of the big picture. Written in a time in Soviet history when poets were persecuted and killed, Maria Tsvetayeva includes the generals, the very people who sought to eliminate poets, “what do you speak of, poets, lovers, generals?” and by so doing, speaks to the bigger truth, even beyond the threat of her own death, that we are all human beings, subject to the same fate, “And soon all of us will sleep under the earth . . . .” By pointing to the fact that, “all of us will sleep under the earth, we/ who never let each other sleep above it”, she uses her voice as a poet, an oracle, to illuminate the futility of struggling with each other when we will all eventually experience the same fate.

This is not a message of doom and gloom. It’s a wake-up call to practice being in the here and now and to look beyond dogma and idealism and search for the divine humanity everyone including “lovers, poets, generals.” I’m sure all of us fit into one if not all three of those categories. What does it mean to be human and how do we truly appreciate another day in the sun?

From Sun salutations to corpse pose, in yoga we get to practice being human. We practice the vicissitudes of living, the ups and downs, the tension release, the struggles and joys. Perhaps mostly we practice paying attention before the sun has set and it is too late.

And by practicing, my hope is that we find something within us, something deep down that we can call real, something that we find to be fundamentally beautiful and good. Truly this is what Namaste means, to honor the same goodness within all of us. Finding this goodness within, even to a small degree, may we look around and find the same quality in everything else, particularly those people around us, family, loved ones, strangers.

May we, through practicing yoga and therefore better understanding ourselves, see the beauty, majesty and miracle of everything. Perhaps this is what it means to truly see.

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in New York City and when he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to trail run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son.




Freakout First Aid

How do you respond when you get hit with something really heavy in life, and I’m not talking like a refrigerator or a Plymouth? When life really does a number on you, you get laid off, someone close to you dies or sick, you are breaking up with your greatest love, what do you do?

I usually freak out a little, sometimes a lot. And if we could somehow figure out how to harness all the energy caused by worrying, I’m sure I could power a good part of New York city with my worry alone. “But Scott,” I’ve heard well-meaning students say, “surely as a yoga and mindfulness teacher YOU don’t get stressed or worry. . . . ” To that I say, thank you very much for your confidence but that’s absurd. I can worry the best of them under the table.

And while I don’t have an immunity to worry, I do have a few tools through movement, yoga, and meditation that have really, really helped. Maybe they can help you, too.

  1. Take a deep breath. Before the curse words come (or at least after the first really hearty one) give yourself a big breath. Sounds overly simplistic but it’s not. Yes it’s simple but it’s also very effective. If you can, breathe a few times deeply and if possible, give yourself a couple of sighs out your mouth. This technique will help relieve the surface tension off your cup which is almost ready to overflow into full melt-down mode. It will also help put blood to your brain to help you think clearly.
  2. Talk to someone. I’ve been blessed with some wonderful friends in my life who have earned their calling on high after hours—days—of of listening to my plaintive worries about this and that. Sometimes, if only to hear yourself talk through your own thoughts and process, by talking it through you might come to some greater clarity about your worry. Good friends worth their salt might also remind you of your deeper nature, your capacity to overcome adversity, and give you a clear perspective because they know you. They can also call you on your own bullshit.
  3. Move your bod. Wallace Stevens wrote, “Sometimes the truth depends upon a walk around the lake.” Damn! That’s right on. Sometimes, I gotta just move my body, maybe run or get to a yoga class, breath in and out, stretch out tension from my muscles, put some blood flow into my brain and wow it’s incredible how much clarity I can get. Even if my problems don’t go away after a yoga class, I might be more clear-minded about them afterword. At very least, I don’t compound worry with feeling crappy in my body. Also, movement produces endorphins, the feel good that often will stop a downward spiral of negativity. When you know you’re in a bad space, go and buy the monthly unlimited pass and go every day. I’m serious. It will change your life.
  4. Face the lion square in the face and take a minute to look at your worry objectively. As objectively as possible, and without judgment, notice everything about it, how it feels in your body, what it’s doing to your thoughts, where in your body you feel it. As you meditate regularly, especially when you’re not in the middle of a freak out but that works too, you become familiar with the part of you that doesn’t change when life’s events come and go. You can realize that events will come and go but your True fundamental self, your soul or spirit or consciousness, whatever, doesn’t change even when something crappy happens. Eventually you’ll start to see problems, even big and important ones, as transient against a backdrop of constant equanimity. Don’t get me wrong, this takes practice but it is real and very effective. At very least with a bit of objectivity, you’ll separate yourself from a myopic view of your problems and will hopefully be able to put them in to perspective.
  5. Do something about it now, even if that is only to write down your worries or talk to a friend. Even if there is something small you can do, put something into action to feel empowered.

We all get hit with something in life. Hopefully we cultivate the tools to respond to those heavy parts when they hit. For those interested in meditation, even if your brand new to the idea, check out my online course on Yoga Nidra (like guided meditation). It is the single most powerful resource I know to combat stress.

Here’s a Stress Free learning module complete with breathing exercises and a 30-minute meditation to help you when you’re freaking out, or to help train you so that freakouts won’t come so frequently.

 

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in New York City and when he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to trail run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son.




A Powerful Tool to Manage Stress

Photo by David Newkirk

We all feel stress. It’s normal. Why not have some productive tools to help manage it when it comes and help manage it before our stress gets out of control?

I feel I’m qualified to offer these STRESS FREE tools because I have had serious bouts of stress, even anxiety and panic attacks, and have used techniques like yoga, breathing exercises, and Yoga Nidra to help not only remedy the stress in the moment, but to help me feel less stress generally in my life as well as less intensely when I do feel it. I have also worked closely with health care professionals to develop curriculum designed to help people debilitated by  stress and anxiety to cope and manage their stress using these mindfulness tools.

Mindfulness is a wonderful tool to manage stress. One of the reason it works so well is because it helps to interrupt the downward cycle of stress and panic responses.

Much of our stress is the product of not being present–we project into the future or the past. With mindfulness practices like Yoga Nidra and yoga, we identify with our Observer Self rather than with momentary emotions like stress, even if they don’t feel momentary at the time. With practice, we discover that we are much larger than our stress. With this Awareness, we aren’t rocked so hard when stress does come. We remain present and don’t project into the future or regress to the past causing us to spin into a downward spiral of stress.

What is Yoga Nidra?

Yoga Nidra is like a relaxing guided meditation that helps you discover a keen Awareness. You lie down, close your eyes and listen to my voice lead you into a deeper awareness by becoming aware of sensations, thoughts, emotions, etc.

In fact, Yoga Nidra helps you to experience yourself as Awareness itself and to see the changeable elements like stress in your life as fleeting events that may orbit toward  and away from you. Yoga Nidra allows you the perspective  to see things like stress as simply another way to practice Awareness. Consequently, stress won’t take hold of you the way that it can when you identify with it, whether you do so consciously or unconsciously.

Yoga Nidra is so relaxing that you may fall asleep. If so, that’s ok! The part of you I’m speaking to is a deep part of your consciousness and is still paying attention. It’s sometimes nice to stay awake to remember in waking consciousness the experience of doing the practice, however it’s still effective even if you fall asleep. Besides, if you’re doing this for stress relief, what better way to practice being Stress Free than with a nap!

As my Yoga Nidra teacher, Dr. Richard Miller taught me, you have a 3-part mission while practicing Yoga Nidra and that’s to  welcome, recognize, and witness. That’s all.

Below, I’d there’s a link to a free Yoga Nidra recording designed for 30 minutes of powerful stress reducing mindfulness.

As you lie there and listen to the recording, simply greet everything that comes into your awareness (welcome), give it a name and see it for what it is (recognize), then practice not valuing it or having an opinion about it and simply witness.

Spontaneous things may happen, like you may become aware of the presence of physical sensations, emotions, even feelings of bliss. Your job is always to simply welcome, recognize and witness whatever comes your way. This will help you experience yourself as larger than your emotions, but also as something that is expressed by the changeable things in your life like emotions.

In the Yoga Nidra recording, through a visualization practice, we establish an inner-sanctuary, a place where you feel relaxed, comfortable, and alive. If you experience anything in Yoga Nidra that you don’t want to welcome, recognize, and witness, maybe extreme emotions, as explained in the recording, you may always go back in your mind to your inner sanctuary.

It’s important to remember that Yoga Nidra is an experience and not an intellectual exercise. Understanding what it is and how it works isn’t the experience. Just practice it and see the magic of Yoga Nidra for yourself. The discovery of how it works through this discussion may help you to experience Yoga Nidra but is not the experience.

Relaxation! Neuroscience shows us that you can’t be stressed and relaxed at the same time. That’s one reason why you will become very relaxed as you practice Yoga Nidra.

Included with the Yoga Nidra recordings are some stress-relieving breathing exercises and video of yoga poses. Whenever you feel stressed, do the breathing exercises. If you can, also do the yoga video. Then listen to the Stress Free recording.

Commit to practicing listening to the recordings regularly. You may also choose to listen to and read the discussion to understand a little more about Yoga Nidra and how mindfulness helps with stress.  As you practice these techniques, you’ll begin to feel stress less and less and when you do, it will be less severe. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.

Thank you.

CLICK HERE FOR THE STRESS FREE YOGA NIDRA PRACTICE, BREATHING EXERCISES, AND YOGA VIDEO.

Photo by Seneca Moore

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in New York City and when he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to trail run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son.




3 Tools to Make You a Better Yoga Teacher

Photo by David Newkirk

The world needs good yoga teachers. I’ve been teaching yoga as a career for over 16 years and have logged more than 20,000 teaching hours. I will forever be a student both of yoga and the practice of teaching yoga and I suppose that I’ll always be learning how to be more effective.

Yet, through the trial and error of my own teaching, teaching dozens of teacher training programs, and by mentoring many other yoga teachers, I’ve learned volumes about what makes the difference between a so-so or less effective teacher and what makes a great teacher.

Here are three easy tools that I’ve seen help several teachers raise their effectiveness from so-so, to excellent. Try them on and see if they won’t immediately improve your teaching by helping your students respond to you better.

#1 Be Authentic

Great teachers don’t try to teach like their teachers or yoga idols, they integrate what they’ve learned and then teach from their own hearts. Being authentic in your teaching speaks to the yoga principle of Satya or Truth. If you are truthful in your teaching, your best friends and family will still recognize you while you’re teaching yoga. Know who you are and teach as that person

And for Ganesh’s sake, ditch the overly-calm “Yoga Teacher” persona . . .  (I pause to retch). And if that’s the real way you talk, then you probably have a lucrative career recording the “Thank you for holding” message for banks. But if you’re not being you, your students will see through it before your first OM.

Authenticity wins over experience every time. Try starting class with what’s real for you in the moment. “Ok! I’m kinda new at this so I’m nervous as hell but I’m excited to be here so I’ll try to stay grounded in my body during class as I’m inviting you to do likewise.” Boom! If I were a student in a class and my teacher started out with that kind of honesty, they would instantly have my buy-in, despite their lack of experience.

#2 Look people in the face

Teaching yoga is a special opportunity to connect to people and connect them to themselves. Perhaps the most simple and direct way to connect to people is to look them in the face. As a yoga teacher, think of yourself as a conductor leading an orchestra which is celebrating breath and movement. Imagine an orchestra conductor, trying to unite the 100+ individual members of the orchestra into one collective voice but who couldn’t look the orchestra members in the face, or who swung their baton only toward the floor or the wall, or stood behind the musicians and directed only to people’s back. It just wouldn’t work.

It’s important for the teacher to get off the mat and own the space of the room—it’s part of the complex process of creating and managing the energy of the container. And as you move around the room, your students will both hear and feel your words more powerfully if you speak to their faces, even if they aren’t looking at you. Connection is an important reason for teaching yoga and looking people in the face makes that connection happen instantly.

#3 Speak to What People are Doing Well

Too often, teachers walk around like “Pose Police,” eager to write up asana infractions. Sure, teachers must make suggestions and corrections, but it’s more powerful and easier to connect to your students if you notice what’s happening well. One of your roles as a teacher is to witness. If you’re only witnessing the things that could be improved, it’s like a relationship partner who only mentions the things that bother them. No thanks!

Try using phrases like, “I notice how well everybody is breathing in class, that’s so important.” or “I can tell how present everybody is. Wow!” or “Great job with relaxing your neck in down dog.” For the few people who maybe could use a correction, they will likely take the cue from what you appreciate about the pose rather than only spouting off things to fix. People will leave class feeling like they are making progress in their practice and like you’re a teacher who sees them. You’ll earn their trust and their hearts.

Teaching yoga is a practice just like doing yoga. Try employing these few simple tools and notice how much more engaged you are as a teacher and how much more your students respond to you.

If you’re interested in an in-depth mentor program that gives you several tools and helps leverage your personal gifts into becoming a better teacher and helping you make a living teaching yoga, please check out my Teacher Mentor Program.

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in New York City and when he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to trail run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son. 




The “H” Word

peaceful - high state of emotional beingWe use a word today, a great word, a word that didn’t exist back in the day, especially in the way we use it now. That word? Hater. Yeah, a hater is someone who is often contrary not only to you and what you’re about but more often than not, chronically grumpy about the world. For a hater, there is an unlimited supply of things to complain about, gripe about, or criticize. They see the world through hater-colored glasses. You know anybody like this? Worse, do you ever find yourself resembling a hater? Reminds me of those two dudes in The Muppet Show who sit up in peanut gallery and spit out insults and complaints like it were an art form?

Well, having a hating attitude can be terminal. It can be an insidious habit that will canker your heart.  And if you’re not a hater, than chances are that you know one, right? We all know someone who we like, maybe even love, but who can be so chronically cantankerous that we find ourselves limiting our exposure to them.

The Yoga Sutras talk about haters. Maybe not directly but if you read between the lines you can see it in there. Specifically, the sutras talk about the opposite quality of a hater. The term is Samtosha and refers to the spiritual practice of contentment and seeing the world as abundant and perfect in its imperfections. Samtosha means to decide to be content with what you have and see the world through gratitude-colored glasses, to choose to be cool with what life has thrown you. Sure, we will always hope and strive for a bright future, but along the way we can decide that we are happy with this, now. It’s about presence. Samtosha is a spiritual practice and belongs in yoga philosophy because it will fundamentally change the way you see the world in a way that helps you feel a part of the incredibly beautiful and complex family of all human beings instead of fighting against it.

We can practice Samtosha on the mat. For one, we can practice being content with where we are at in our practice, always riding that comfortably intense edge, rather than pushing beyond our limits. Then, as we honor our bodies, it will be our bodies that invite us to move further in a pose. And secondly, I love the idea that this incredible life journey called yoga can be done on nothing more than a 2’X6’ rubber mat, and that’s all the space we need! Yes, the world is our practice space, but our yoga mat represents all the space we need as we join with like-minded people in a yoga class to apply the condensed practice of learning principles like poses and Samtosha in order to bring those qualities into our practice of daily living.

I’d like to offer two practices that will change your life. I know it sounds like I’m over selling this, but I’m not. Hang with me.

Practice 1.

Before chronically judging people, practice seeing something good about everyone you see. Let it be the first thing you notice. Over the weekend, I was at the mall and did this practice as I watched throngs of people for an amazing result in my own heart. “That guy has a cool hat. That woman looks like she really loves her kids. Blue is a great color for her. That guy drives an energy efficient car—thanks for doing your part to help keep our environment clean,” etc. I felt as a part of an incredible family. You can do this practice at stop lights, while walking down the street, and especially while in a crowd. Practice doing it with your own family members. Watch to see how your entire demeanor changes and also how others change toward you.

Practice 2

I’ve begun using a life-changing mantra: “I don’t need to have an opinion about that.” You can ask my wife, sometimes I’ll start to go off about the smallest things, like the wording on a billboard or the fact that Mini’s aren’t mini anymore, but rather medium-i. I sometimes get negative too. Then, I might stop myself and say, “I don’t need to have an opinion about that. Why can’t there be a Medium-I?” “That billboard can be exactly the way it is (illegible) and I simply just don’t need to have an opinion about it.” I bet my wife enjoys me more when I’m not so opinionated about everything. Heaven forbid that I become that chronically cantankerous person in her life, right? Try out this mantra. Maybe offer it to the grump in your life.

Practice Samtosha this week both on and off the mat. And if you don’t make it to class, “nor your or I need to have an opinion about that.”

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in New York City, and when he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to trail run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son.




Yoga is Art

Sketch by Lindsay Frei

What is the marriage between inner and outer beauty?

Yoga is many things. It’s a science, a philosophy, a mode of spirituality, and a method of therapy to name a few. Sometimes I forget that yoga is also an art. Yoga is beautiful, pure and simple. It’s beautiful to watch and to experience. Yoga, like many other disciplines, explores and celebrates what it means to be human. Through the form of our poses we understand our inner-realm and celebrate being alive. We celebrate being.

It’s true that it’s not what’s on the outside that counts; you don’t win when you’ve accomplished a pose. Yet, there is something sublimely beautiful in the simplest form, the humblest yoga posture. When I teach yoga, I am privileged to witness the beauty of all different body types, ages, and walks of life practice being human. I see lines, curves, and angles come alive and flow. I see the magical bleed between effort and ease dancing before me. I see the embodiment of bliss and understanding as well as struggle and frustration. I can feel what’s happening on the inside of my students because it’s manifesting on the outside right before me like a living poem, like sculpture that moves, like a painting that comes alive, or a boisterous Rock Opera turned up to 11. Sure, it’s not about how the pose looks but rather how it feels that is important. Regardless, your inner beauty manifests outwardly. It is still true that the poses are beautiful.  We are living art.

Sketch by Lindsay Frei

Sketch by Lindsay Frei

And yet this being human, this living art, is like a sand painting that even as we speak is withering to its demise to become part of the elements from whence we came. This notion reminds me that art (human or otherwise) is just as much if not more expressed in its becoming than in its arrival. It shows me that the entire process of our lives is like one long, beautiful play full of tragedies, joys, doldrums, and loves.

Understanding the art of becoming rather than arriving emphasizes presence, the sublime of right now.  And perhaps that is the intersection between inner and outer beauty, the place where inner presence and outer form meet. In this sacred marriage, our form helps us to understand that numinous realm within and our presence helps us to live outwardly with heath, clarity, and yes, beauty.

Lindsay Frei

Sketch by Lindsay Frei

You are an artist whether you think of yourself as an artist or not. An artist, whether dancer, painter, musician, sculptor, or liver of life, must practice presence to honestly and bravely witness this world. The unconscious or the busy mind would pass by such beauty. The artist doesn’t only celebrate sunrises and rainbows. The artist finds beauty also in dark lines and shadow. Landscapes that don’t make sense or that paint a picture that is tragic, disturbing, and poignant, are nonetheless beautifully human. Indeed, that’s why we love tragedies and the dark side because this beautiful tapestry of life isn’t limited by only sunrises and rainbows.  With presence, we can truly see the beauty in all things, especially ourselves.

I invite you to celebrate the full beauty of your life this week through yoga and mindfulness. Celebrate what it means to be human. Come and be beautiful. Be art.

Sketch by Lindsay Frei

Here are some poems that celebrate living your life as art.

Poem of the One World

This morning
the beautiful white heron
was floating along above the water

and then into the sky of this
the one world
we all belong to

where everything
sooner or later
is a part of everything else

which thought made me feel
for a little while
quite, beautiful, myself.

~Mary Oliver

THREE IN TRANSITION

(FOR WCW)

I wish I understood the beauty
in leaves falling. To whom
are we beautiful
as we go?

I lie in the field
still, absorbing the stars
and silently throwing off
their presence. Silently
I breathe and die
by turns.

He was ripe
and fell to the ground
from a bough
out where the wind
is free
of the branches

~David Ignatow

 

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in Salt Lake City, Utah and when he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to trail run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son




Yoga: The Practice of Being at The Crossroads

The CrossroadsThe crossroads is a magical place. It’s the place where the ethereal, spiritual, and philosophical meets the physical, real, and practical. Where these two roads intersect is the holy ground of transformation, it’s the place where we have to drop our one-track thinking and see the many roads. Practicing yoga means to be at the crossroads.

One legend of the Crossroads involves the King of the Blues, Robert Johnson. It is said that one night, deep in the South, the Delta, Robert Johnson left home and as the clock struck midnight, he found himself standing with his axe (blues-speak for guitar) at the intersection between here and there, now and then, this way and that way. There he found the Devil who showed him what was possible with a guitar and told him he would never amount to anything unless he sold his soul in exchange for learning how to play the guitar like nobody’s business.

Robert Johnson weighed his options and cashed in his soul (or maybe found it) by making the deal with the devil. He threw his guitar over his shoulder and walked down the road to there, possibility, and everything, giving up on the roads from there, safe comfortable, and the predictable. As he strutted down the road he said to the Devil, “I am the blues.”

These crossroads don’t only involve the devil and the blues. Crossroads exist all over the place, wherever the other world meets this one, wherever the spirit world meets the physical one. Places like churches, temples, and holy sites. Your yoga mat is a crossroads. It’s like a tabernacle, what ancient people used as a traveling temple. Your yoga mat is the traveling temple where spirit and body meet to show you what’s possible inside of you. And yes, I’ve meet the devil there before. I’ve seen him in sitting on my tight hip in kapatasana, pigeon pose; on my steel hamstrings in hanumanasana, the splits pose; and I’ve seen him doing a victory dance on my quivering raised leg in that damned standing splits pose. I’ve come face to face with my physical limitations, yes, but also with my own neurosis, my deepest fears, self-limiting thoughts, and deep, deep wells of grief. I’ve seen that everything is linked to everything else. I’ve meet the divine on my mat as well.  I see regular joy in handstands, pleasure and peace in savasana, fun in transitions, and possibilities in postures. I get regular hits of insight, of purpose, and a deep sense of belonging. Most importantly, at the crossroads of where physical meets spiritual, I get regular glimpses of the real who and what I am.

Robert Johnson sold his soul, meaning he gave up the simple, naïve way of seeing the world for a richer, more comprehensive and real view of the world. And for us to experience the larger view of ourselves we have to give up something. I believe instead of selling our soul, we sell the armor that protects us from experiencing only the good, the simple, and the happy. I believe that sometimes we must walk down the roads of grief, struggle, and pain to see how immensely beautiful life is.  It’s the larger view. It’s the view of heaven and it will cost you your life. At least, the way you’ve been living it before now. And you can never go back. But in the end after seeing what’s possible, would you want to?

In yoga, the deity dedicated to the Crossroads is Ganesha, the elephant headed god. Part elephant, part human, his parents are Shiva, the personification of consciousness, and Shakti, the personification of embodiment. His stance is half-lotus, with one foot on the ground and his other foot raised to the heavens as a gesture representing the balance of both. Ganesha is the god of auspicious beginnings. With his axe, he clears your path of obstacles, and reminds you of your Dharma, your way. Plus, just like Robert Johnson, he wields his axe down at the Crossroads.

One lesson Ganesha teaches is that whenever you’re deliberating over a decision about where to go next, whether or not to take that job, or if you should stay in your current relationship, go inward first. Connect your body with your heart. Tap into your spiritual being to give insight to your physical being. And vice versa. If you’re looking to improve your spiritual practice or further your awakening path, start by cleansing and strengthening your body. Thus is the magic of the Crossroads.

This week, meet yourself at the crossroads expect to meet your both your demons and your angels, that place where heaven meets earth.

 

 

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in Salt Lake City, Utah and when he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to trail run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son.

 

 




Here’s What to Do When Life Is Troubling You: Change Rooms In Your Mind

Change Rooms in Your Mind for a Day

—Hafiz

When your life takes an unexpected turn, and you don’t know where to go and what to do with whatever is troubling you, try simply changing your environment for a little while. Just go walk outside, connect with nature which is regulated by the principle of harmony. I guess that’s what Wallace Stevens meant when he said, “Sometimes the truth depends upon a walk around the lake.”

Sometimes what we believe is true and what is True with a capital “T” isn’t always the same thing. It’s about perspective. That’s because beliefs are constantly changing.

Yoga philosophy teaches us that our beliefs are a part of us but are changeable and therefore not the best representation of our True Self. Beliefs are just beliefs. Once we place our awareness above our perceived beliefs, and this includes worries, then we raise our consciousness to see something broader. This means taking a moment to simply observe without judgement.

Observing without judgement helps us to escape the trap of black and white thinking. The more we practice, we will see past our own rigid ideology. This observation without judgement raises our awareness to a paradoxical place where both black and white can be right, or to a place that is ultimately more important if either is right, is what harmony really means.

To raise our consciousness like this, to exit old beliefs, the engines that make us worry, means we need to take a vacation from our own mind, from the way we’ve been previously thinking. Not that we have to change very radically. Just see a different something different. Like Hafiz says, we’ve gotta change rooms in our minds for a day.

Start by changing your environment. Get into nature. Jump into a yoga class and get out of those worry landscapes, those fear landscapes, and connect, even in a small way, with that part of you that is Harmony, that is the rue part of yourself.

A German scholar I know loves to quote a particular Prussian general speaking to another general as he looks over a devastated battle field when he said, “The situation is hopeless but not serious.” With practiced awareness we train ourselves to kind of perspective that allows us to see past our small worries.

Here are a few poems I love that I feel relate to this topic

The Peace of Wild Things 

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

All The Hemispheres

Leave the familiar for a while.
Let your senses and bodies stretch out

Like a welcomed season
Onto the meadows and shores and hills.

Open up to the Roof.
Make a new water-mark on your excitement
And love.

Like a blooming night flower,
Bestow your vital fragrance of happiness
And giving
Upon our intimate assembly.

Change rooms in your mind for a day.

All the hemispheres in existence
Lie beside an equator
In your heart.

Greet Yourself
In your thousand other forms
As you mount the hidden tide and travel
Back home.

All the hemispheres in heaven
Are sitting around a fire
Chatting

While stitching themselves together
Into the Great Circle inside of
You.

— Hafiz

 

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in Salt Lake City, Utah and when he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to trail run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son.




5 Things I Learned From a Poetry Loving Spider

Rumi Spider RainforestIn 2009, I attend and co-hosted a yoga retreat in the tropical wonderland of Costa Rica. One of the greatest appeals about the retreat was the fact that we got to live right in the thick of the rainforest. The prospect of living so proximal to nature was certainly alluring; however, I must admit that something I didn’t think through completely was the fact  that moving into the  rain forest meant becoming roommates with those already living there, e.g., alien insects, poisonous frogs and deadly scorpions, leopards, jaguars, pumas, and really, really, really big spiders.

One night, I was turning down the covers (you see where this is going), preparing to hop into bed, when I encountered a rainforest roommate who also happened to be the biggest damn spider in the history of the world. He was big and brown and hairy and by the look of him could easily do push-ups with a Volkswagen on his back.

Crouched on the floor, conspicuously poised right next to the bedpost, the spider made it quite obvious to me that his plan was to wait quietly next to my bed, unnoticed, until I went to sleep, and then stealthily crawl up the bedpost, latch onto my jugular vein, and suck me dry, like the unrequited, wanton yearnings of a pallid male model in the tweener saga “Twilight.”

At first I just stood there, stunned (this is their first attack tactic, you know; they stun you with their mere presence so that you are too afraid to run away, and then they come over and eat you whole.) I knew that I couldn’t kill it; I get the guilts when I kill a mosquito, let alone something big enough to have its own Facebook page. Besides, I think you need a permit to kill an animal that big.

I grabbed a glass jar and went back into the other room, where I crouched and looked at the spider. He was looking back at me.

He didn’t move.

I didn’t move.

I told myself that I was trying to wear him down. After a long time in that position, I performed the most courageous act I’ve ever executed in my life: I sprang forward and with lightning-quick reflexes placed the jar over the spider.

Suddenly, the heretofore static Goliath leapt into a frenzy of motion, slithering and squirming, trying fruitlessly to find purchase for any of his eight legs upon the smooth walls of his new glass prison.

I grabbed a stack of poems I planned to share at the retreat and slid the paper underneath the jar, a new floor for the spider. Now with the spider between jar and paper, I felt confident to lift him up and take him next door to our friend Molly, who was fascinated with all the flora and fauna of the rain forest. I knew she’d love this.

After we all ooed and ahhhed, and had a good communal freakout, we decided to set our captive free. We walked down the path so that the 8-legged monster would be dissuaded to simply crawl back to my room and continue on with his plan to kill me. We lifted the jar off the spider and quickly backed away.

To show us that he wasn’t afraid, the spider just sat there and smugly claimed ownership of the stack of poems he was resting on. “Let’s see how strong you crazy bi-peds are now that I don’t have this glass force field around me,” he said with all 40 billion of his eyes.

So we did the only logical thing: we photographed the beast so we could show our friends the next day just how monstrous this spider was. We planned on posting it on social media and wondered if we could link to the spiders page.

It wasn’t until I looked at the photos the next day that I realized just how perfect the scene was. This spider was stretched, all eight hairy legs of him, upon the poem called the “Guest House” by Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks). In this poem, the 13th century Persian Sufi mystic asserts that life is a guest house and that we must entertain everything that comes to our door. The poem goes something like this: “This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy a depression, a meanness, a 900 lb spider who wants to kill you. . .” My translation might be different than Coleman Barks’s.

Rumi says that we are to entertain everything that comes our way because, who knows, the event that happens to show up on our doorstep, though uninvited, may be the very thing we need, or the very thing to prepare us for something else that comes next; it may teach us something important and valuable.

For me, yoga is such wonderful training to keep me aware and open enough to see these visitors as lessons and teachers, as well as handle them with some poise and grace when they come knockin’.

What I learned from my unexpected visitor:

  • You have to take whatever comes, good or bad. We cannot always control what comes our way, but we can control how we react to it
  • In itself, the difficult act of just staying open to what shows up changes us, heals us, transforms us
  • Some things happen for a reason. Other things just happen
  • Often what scares us most isn’t malicious but just another part of the world following its own script
  • Oh, and make sure that when sleeping in the rainforest you check around your bed before you hop in

The Guesthouse

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in Salt Lake City, Utah and when he’s not teaching or conducting retreats, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to trail run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son.