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Blessed are the Balanced

Affirmation:  I am fully
aware of the importance of maintaining a healthy balance.

Balance is another gift of yoga. 
There are the obvious asanas that offer the yogi the opportunity to
practice balancing: head stand, dancer’s pose, warrior III and the classic tree
pose to name a few but unless one is lying on his or her back or stomach, balance
is always involved in a pose, just like in life.  We then have the opportunity of taking our
balancing practice with us out into our day and into our world.  What does it mean to balance?  Is one ever balanced or is there only the
practice of balancing? 

Recently, I have taken on caring for a loved one.  The care requires much more effort than was
required or desired in the past.  I’ve
spent a great deal of time at the hospital, the rehab and on the phone or the
email connecting with caretakers, family and friends.  I’m happy to do it.  I love her and am pleased to have the
opportunity to do whatever is necessary to be of service but life has been
extremely full.  I now have the
additional activities required for this care-taking and my normal full
life.  When I was guided to do tree pose
in a recent yoga class, I immediately placed all my weight on my right foot,
the soul of my left foot against my inner thigh and chose one spot on which to
focus.  I then put my hands over my head
and became a tree.  I’ve done this
hundreds, maybe thousands of times.  I
was then guided to switch sides.  I
couldn’t do it.  My left leg would not
hold my weight on its own.  I needed
help.  I went to the wall in order to
maintain my balance.  The imbalance of my
life at the present time was reflected in my yoga practice.  I was stunned that the imbalance in my daily
life was so glaringly presented to me in my pose.  I didn’t feel too worried about it because I
recognized that while I was out of balance at the moment, I was now fully aware
of it and I needed to attend to whatever it would take to help me level out.
There are all kinds of balance: work and play, self-care and
community service, calories in versus calories out, time alone and time with
others, spending and saving money, exercise and rest.  The list can go on and on.  I’m sure you can think of a few, perhaps some
on which you’ve been working.  One
challenging part of achieving balance is it’s so personal. What is good for one
person may not be true for another.  Like
any life skill one is trying to improve upon, the very first step is awareness,
actually recognizing when you’re out of sync. 
Another factor is the time frame it’s placed within.  Are we looking to be in balance every moment,
every day, once a week or are we content to look over the whole year and think
something like, “I worked hard for most of the year and now I’m going to
take it easy for the end of the year.”?  
The truth is it’s no different than dieting.  First we need a focus point, perhaps that’s a
specific weight we are trying to maintain. 
Every day we make choices and each choice will lead to a better balanced
life.  When we are watching our calories
you can have a heavier day one day and a lighter one the next day to balance
out your intake or perhaps you are fairly conscientious during the week and
that allows you to eat a little heavier on the weekend.  If we take it one step further, perhaps
you’re fairly restrictive most of the year but let yourself relax while you’re
on vacation or at a celebration.  As long
as you can maintain your healthy weight, it doesn’t matter how you do it but
you’re going to have to balance out those calories or your weight will either
climb up, or get too low.  It’s no
different with anything else to which you want to bring balance. 
Many years ago a very spiritual woman told me a story about her
volunteer work.  She was determined to
become more faithful and with that she decided to spend more time at her church
and then that became even more time. 
Finally, she was at the church all the time and her family and her work
were falling apart.  She couldn’t figure
out what was wrong, if anything, because she was sure she was following the
better path to God.  Before her world
came crashing down upon her, the parish priest counseled her to look at the
imbalance of her life.  She examined her
priorities, made several changes and saved herself. The path to holiness
requires that we attend not to just the spirit but to the mind and to the
body.  That means the path to holiness
requires balance or at least an ongoing attempt at balancing. 
In order to walk the tight rope of life, we must be vigilant and
place one foot gingerly and mindfully in front of the other.  It takes practice.  It takes the lessons from the yoga mat and
from wherever and from whomever we can learn them.  Perhaps with enough practice one will even be
able to stand on one’s head.  If not,
perhaps at least on one foot at a time, or even just both feet without toppling
over.  The following week I took some
extra “me” time and when I returned to class I once again was able to
become a tree, on the right side and, on the left side.

The Bigger Picture

Affirmation:  Because of my relationship with my Lord Jesus Christ, I let go of fear and anxiety and fully trust in His loving care for me

Have you heard the story about the farmer who lived in ancient times?  He had a lovely farm and one son and one horse.  One day they found the gate to the corral open and the horse was missing.  All his friends and neighbors gathered around and said “Oh no, you poor man.  You’ve lost your only horse, how terrible!”  He answered, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”  His son then borrowed a horse and went to look for their missing animal.  In
a while, his father looked up and saw his son coming towards him riding
the missing horse and behind him was a whole heard of horses.  He opened the gate and all the horses ran into the corral.  All his friends and neighbors gathered around and said “Oh, you lucky man.  You’ve not only found your horse. You now have a whole heard of horses, how wonderful!”  He answered, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”  His son began taming the wild horses and one day he fell off and broke his leg.  All his friends and neighbors gathered around and said “Oh no, you poor man.  Your only son has broken his leg and now he cannot help you with all the work on your farm, how terrible!”  He answered, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”  While his son was recuperating, the local war lord and his men showed up.  They were conscripting all the eligible young men to fight in their war.  Of course, they could not take the farmer’s son because of his broken leg.  Once again, all his friends and neighbors gathered around and said “Oh, you lucky man.  Your only son has been saved from fighting for the local war lord, how wonderful!”  I’m not going to tell you his answer.  I think you already know it.  

How
many times have you had something happen to you and you judged the
quality of the experience as good or bad and then, later, sometimes much
later, you saw it in a different light and realized you didn’t have a
clue at the time it occurred about how it was going to affect your life?  It’s so easy to fall into the pit of despair, anxiety and depression.  According to quantum physics negative energy resonates at a lower level than positive energy.  That makes it easier for us to connect with it and more difficult to tap into the positive.  We have to work harder to find the positive.  I’m sure you have many examples of events that created openings into opportunities of which you never dreamed.  In our family alone, we have experienced job loss that led to a new and better opportunity.  We’ve witnessed the sad disillusionment of a marriage that later led to a new, healthier, happier family unit.  We’ve seen so much suffering and struggle that in time brought reward and accomplishment.   Of course, that’s not always true.  But, doesn’t it bring comfort that it can work out for the better?
That’s not to say we shouldn’t allow ourselves our feelings.  Not only should we allow them, we need to experience them.  There is no short cut through grief; there is only the direct path through it.  If you try to skirt around it, it will catch up with you when you least expect it.  And, grief comes from many different types of loses, not just from death.  One
can experience grief over the loss of a dream; perhaps the dream of a
perfect marriage, a perfect job, what one thought a perfect career
should look like.  One can
experience grief over the loss of health, money, youth and even less
recognized events like that of thinning hair or a thickening middle.  It’s all part of our lives.  It’s important to acknowledge how we feel about loss and then move towards recovery.  But, it’s also important to realize nothing is stagnant.  Life
is always changing and whatever is causing you distress will change too
and it might just be the one thing to open a door to something
marvelous.  Why not simply watch and see how it works itself out?
We are only capable of seeing a small part of the picture.  Only God can see the big picture.  The
question is can you trust enough to believe He/She has your best
interest at heart; that that which was meant for your harm, God will use
for your good?   Garth Brooks has a country song entitled “Thank God for Unanswered Prayer.”  In it he tells the story of a man who meets an old flame, the one woman he prayed to God to make his wife.  It didn’t work out and now as he walks away from her, he realizes how lucky he was.  He’s married to the real love of his life and so he remembers to “thank God for unanswered prayer.”  It’s another example of loss and grief and an experience that led to something better.  I’m sure he couldn’t see it when it happened.  He had to wait to recognize the blessing that came from the breakup with his first love. 

For me, this is why I practice my faith.  I don’t want it to be all about life after death.  I
want to live this life with the trust that God really does want only my
best and that if I practice that, if I trust, all will be well.  It may not be the way I expected.  It
may not be anything like what I had asked for but if I believe that
whatever is happening is exactly what should be happening, think of the
peace I experience.  I must confess it’s not an easy process, simple maybe, but not easy.  It takes work.  It takes staying connected to the Divine at every possible moment.  I have a wonderful meditation tape by Belleruth Naparstak.  At
one point in the tape she speaks about all the angels and guides who
are surrounding the listener and then as they begin to fade away they
say, “Remember, we are always with you.  It is you who comes and goes.”  What comfort that brings me.  If I can stay focused, if I choose to stay in the presence of God, God will always be with me.  That’s
my choice; that’s my meditation; to remain in the presence of God and
with all my angels and helpers as often as possible and to trust in
their divine protection.  Then,
when faced with a challenging situation instead of labeling it ‘good or
bad, lucky or unlucky” I can simply watch it and think “maybe yes, maybe
no.”

Praying the Rosary

Affirmation: I am committed to cultivating compassion for
those who most need God’s mercy. 
Many years ago when my husband Sandy and I were in New York City
we went to Ellis Island.  It had recently
opened and I was very anxious to see it. 
I knew that both our ancestors had entered the United States through
that terminal and even if they hadn’t I felt it was an amazing opportunity to
experience at least a trace of the United States’ history in a very real way.  It was late in the day when we headed off for
the tour.  It was a rainy dark day.  We stood on the line to embark on the ship
and finally boarded and headed towards the island.  It was remarkable!  I was stunned by the size of the entry hall
and took time to imagine what it would have been like to come into it, wondering
if I would be allowed to enter the country or if I would be turned away.  I could only imagine the exhaustion and
anxiety that would accompany such an experience.  
We didn’t have as much time as I would have
liked because we’d started out so late but I was pleased that we had made the
effort.  The last ferry was about to leave.  It was still raining and now it was totally
dark.  We again waited on line to board
the ship.  When we finally got aboard,
there weren’t any seats but there was a little shelter towards the bow.  My husband and I were quiet with our
thoughts.  I decided to say the Rosary as
we headed back to port.  When you
disembark the ship at Battery Park there is not a que for the taxis.  One must search for transportation and if
you’re trying to get back uptown it can be a very daunting exercise.  There weren’t any taxis to be found
anywhere.  There were all these people
vying for a ride and it was crazy!  We
decided to head off in the opposite direction of the crowd, to take the
“path less traveled.”  As we
walked along we were quiet and I threw in a few more Hail Mary’s.  Roaming around that area in the dark was not the
best choice, even for two street wise people from NYC.   
We were becoming concerned when we turned a
corner and two people were exiting a taxi. 
We immediately got into it and took a few deep breaths.  I don’t remember the cabbie’s name and why,
you ask, would I?  Well, the first thing
we noticed is that he had on a classic music station; it was playing Pachelbel’s
Cannon. I could feel the tension drain away, not only from me but from my
husband and then we both noticed the Rosary hanging from the cabbie’s rear view
mirror.  I smiled.  I might have even giggled a bit.  My husband turned in the seat and looked
directly at me and said, “You’ve been praying the Rosary, haven’t
you?” 
Now, this was quite a while back. 
I say this because now if you hail a cab in NY, the driver probably
doesn’t speak English and they won’t have music on, they have TV screens with
advertisements that demand your attention but even then, many years ago, most of
the cabbies were from another country. 
The probability of getting an English speaking driver was very low.  The probability of getting an English
speaking, Rosary practicing Catholic cabby was miraculous. 
I have a young friend who is not a Catholic.  She was raised a Christian but her life has
taken her in another direction at this point. 
She recently shared with me that she was reading a book about Mother
Mary, the goddess.  It’s not the first
time someone has told me they thought of the Blessed Mother as a goddess.  I once went for an interview for a graduate
program and when I told the interviewer that I was a Catholic, she exclaimed,
“Oh, that’s so cool!  Your faith has
a goddess, Mother Mary.”  At that
time I was surprised.  So, I wasn’t
surprised this time.  What surprised me
is that my friend shared that she had begun to pray to Mary.  She shared that she’d had an issue with a
loved one who was not well and she didn’t want to add to her relatives’
distress.  Instead she wrote a letter to
Mary, burned it and asked for peace.  She
was sharing with me that peace came, almost immediately and it had remained
with her up to this point. 
Catholics are sometimes criticized for praying to others besides
Christ.  It’s true we do, or I should
say, I do.  It’s not that we’re really
praying to another.  We’re really asking
that spiritual being who we believe is closer to God at that moment than we
are, to intercede for us.  I pray to St.
Anthony, the patron saint of lost things, more and more often. It never
fails!  “Saint Anthony, Saint
Anthony please look around.  I’ve lost my
_______ and it needs to be found.” 
I recite a lot of memorized prayers and several I’ve made up.  I also pray the Rosary.  It was once explained to me that Mother Mary
can intercede for us by asking for what we really need, many times when we
don’t even have a clue about what we really need. 
It is part of the practice to meditate on one of the Mysteries of
the Rosary before beginning the prayers for each of the five decades of ten
beads.  There are four Mysteries each one
assigned to a different day or days of the week.  They take you from the conception of Christ
to the Assumption of Mary.  I’ve been
saying the Rosary since I was a child and love to pray it especially as I walk
around our nearby lake.  I find comfort
in the recitation.  With the reading of
Father Haas’ book, Catching Fire, Becoming Flame, I decided to make an
effort to recite the Rosary daily.  He
calls us to be of service.  He reminds us
that being of service is the purpose of our existence and we are especially
called to be of service to those most in need. 
I believe that to be true and while I am a volunteer in many ministries,
I wanted to do even more for the marginalized of society.  I wanted to find a way to bring comfort and
peace and hope to those most in need.  I
therefore, have committed to saying the Rosary, daily, for those God deems most
in need of help.  I believe in answered
prayer.  I achingly hope that my
thoughts, intentions and the energy I am sending forth into the universe are
tenderly touching the lives of those who are suffering.  I feel it’s a step, perhaps the first step
for me, towards feeling a greater sense of compassion for those who most need
God’s mercy.
If Mother Mary can bring peace to a non-believer and a NY taxi to
a couple of nervous, wet, cold travelers, I am very hopeful about what she can
do for the comfort of those who so desperately are in need of comfort.  Join me. 
Pray your set of prayers for those who are suffering.  Imagine our energy bringing solace, hope,
maybe even joy to those who are suffering more than we can even imagine. Every
thought we think, every word we say, every action we take affects everyone else
in the world. May our thoughts and energy bring peace, salvation and perhaps
even joy to those who suffer more than we can even imagine. 

Setting An Intention

Affirmation: 2014 is
dedicated as “The Year of Divine Connection.”
It’s January 2014, the beginning
of a new year.  I’ve already visited and
examined the past year and now I want to look forward.  Of course, I don’t know what whims of fate
await me but I’ve stocked the tool box with tons of coping skills so I’m not
going to go forward in fear.  I am going
forward in faith and with joyful expectation. 
What would you expect from someone who writes about Positive
Affirmations?  Last year was a good
year.  When I answered the 1st of last
week’s blog questions about the hardest thing I had to do, the answer wasn’t
really all that difficult.  It was a lot
better than some years that’s for sure. 
After I wrote the answer I actually felt myself smiling at how blessed I
am. 
Many years ago I owned a
refrigerator sized calendar that had the entire year on one piece of
paper.  I loved that calendar.  I loved looking at the whole year ahead and
planning our adventures and special occasions. 
I still like to look at the year ahead but now it’s all on my
computer.  Somehow it doesn’t feel as
satisfying but I’m adjusting. 

Taking an intention is a regular
part of a yoga practice.  I’ve expanded
that to my “off the mat” practice. 
I sometimes take an intention for the day. It’s pretty cool when it
appears in my daily journal.  We take an
intention for each of the Pink Ribbon Yoga Retreats.  We’ve just begun the planning for this year’s
retreat.  I’m very excited to see what
will appear.  It usually comes fairly
quickly as the committee discusses on that which they’d like to focus.  Last year was the first time I decided to set
a personal intention for the whole year. 
I declared 2013 “The Year of Love.” 

I have always loved the color
yellow.  I live in a yellow
“submarine.”  It makes me feel
happy and yet I still feel grounded when I’m in a yellow room.  Not all yellows, however, it’s more buttery
than gold.  I’ve usually added other
colors to punch it up, like hot pink or purple. 
For the last few months I’ve had an attraction to the color green.  I mention this because it’s a new phase.  In the past I have avoided green.  There wasn’t any green inside my home or in
my wardrobe.  Now, I’ve painted my office
apple green. I’ve added a Kelly green print to a couch and then I went crazy
and chose green granite for the renovated kitchen.  Nothing I had in the former kitchen went with
the green color but I was irresistibly drawn to it and I just relaxed and let
it happen.  Why I wondered was this shift
taking place?  I was discussing my
intention for 2013 with a wise yogi and mentioned my new bent towards the green
color.  She reminded me about the chakra
colors.  Guess what color the heart
chakra is!  Yup, it’s green. 
I’d like to believe that my
dedication to The Year of Love led to more than just an attraction to green and
a new decorating scheme.  Personal growth
and internal development is a slow process. 
It’s just like most other changes one is attempting.  They take time.  There are subtle differences that may not
even be perceived for a long time.  It’s
like that with our affirmations.  We
choose them carefully, write them, read them, perhaps say them to ourselves and
let them slowly permeate our subconscious and eventually our cellular
structure.  Then one day we respond to a
situation differently than we had in the past, in a way that affirms us, not
diminishes us and we realize our affirmation has manifested. 
As I looked forward to 2014 I had
trouble deciding on what besides love was important enough to focus on for a
whole year.  I thought about choosing
faith as a focus and I considered forgiveness but neither of those felt
right.  I do however; want to keep a
focus on forgiveness.  One of my
affirmations is, I freely forgive myself and others.  And, I do want my faith to grow. I attended a
retreat many years ago with my friend Ann Baucom and her spiritual
director.  I was going over those notes
very recently and there was the spiritual direction for which I was
looking.  It entreated me to let my

faith
grow not because of a sense of obedience or even a sense of belonging but
because it is rooted in experience. 
Faith doesn’t only increase because of our religious experiences
although it is possible but for many, me included, my faith experiences happen
both in and outside of church and that’s exactly what I want.  I want to see the moon and the stars, I want
to feel the sun warm my skin, I want to relish holding someone’s hand, I want
to hear the bird’s song and the ocean’s road and I want in that experience to
feel God’s presence.  I want to feel
connected to the Divine.  I’d like to be
connected at all times but this is a mediation, a practice.  In order for me to achieve this relationship,
this intention, I need to pay close attention and focus on my ultimate desire.  Yes, that is something I would be willing to
spend a year cultivating, even a lifetime. 
I have dedicated 2014 as The Year of Connecting to the Divine. 

What are you willing to dedicate
of year of your life towards?  Perhaps,
it’s not one phrase; perhaps you have a list of intentions.  I have one of them too.  It hasn’t changed from last year. It reminds
me of God’s bounty and of the truth that I cannot fathom the riches that can be
found once we connect to the Divine. My ideal life always includes optimal
health but good health and an ideal life require more than care for the body,
the body will cease to exist one day no matter how well I care for it.  I need to focus on the spirit too.  As in past January months I carefully
considered what my ideal life would include. 
I have carefully crafted ten intentions. 
Pray Unceasingly
Forgive Continually
Accept and Give Love Freely
Hug Whenever Possible
Learn Constantly
Dance
Often
Eat
Mindfully
Recognize the Shadows
Smile Early, Laugh Daily
Be Grateful, Always and for All
Things
Happy New Year!  May your year be filled with abundant
blessings, prosperity and joy.  Take some
time and write down your intentions. 
Won’t it be wonderful when you do your 2014 review, if you find you’ve
manifested your dreams and aspirations?