Forgiveness: Mission Possible

Puja, Hanuman Yoga Festival
Puja, Hanuman Yoga Festival
Cultivating the virtue of magnanimity begins with awareness. Magnanimity is generosity of Spirit and the ability to forgive. It is perhaps the most challenging of Swami Sivananda’s 18 ities because it requires us to be vulnerable: to admit we have been hurt or have hurt others.
Freeing ourselves from the destructive effects of injustices big or small is challenging and takes time. Acknowledging there is anything that needs to be let go of or released is the first step. This awareness however does us no good if we are unable to let go of our position, our need to be righteous.
Forgiveness is not the excusing of harm done, it is not forgetting. It is the acknowledgment that a wrong was committed or experienced. This is uncomfortable and we tend to steer clear of discomfort. Having the courage to move through the discomfort of this stage allows for release and growth. When working toward forgiveness, it is possible to condemn the act, but not the perpetrator.
Viewing any act of harm or violence, as a symptom of perpetrator’s suffering? Challenging though it may be, especially when we are directly harmed, is how we move towards forgiveness. No injustice, big or small, was ever perpetrated out of a deep sense of connection and community. Think about this for a moment. Negative self-talk and gossip are rooted in our own suffering. No news report on school bullies or horrific mass shootings for that matter ever sited the offender’s deep sense of connection and belonging.
Forgiveness is possible when we become aware of suffering, our own and others. Release and growth occurs not when we shut down and build walls of protection, but when we acknowledge our truths, connect to one another and foster community.

Integrating the Body and Mind by Cultivating Integrity!

Integrity is striving to bring together the fractured personality.

When cultivating the virtue of Integrity, think integration!  Examine your own behavior, thoughts, and speech.  Pay particular attention to any inconsistencies between what you say and what you actually do.  Note when your behavior is inconsistent with your beliefs.
 A person of integrity is living from a place of intention.  We often find ourselves reacting to situations out of habit or conditioning.  However, when we take the time to choose our thoughts, words and deeds carefully, we create a union between our bodies and minds.  We become whole.  We are trustworthy and honorable.




How do you want to BE? FIX IT and DON’T forget it!

photo credit: Steph Dull
Fixity is the eighth virtue in The Ity Project.  Fixity encourages us to choose our goals and keep them fixed in our minds, steadily and faithfully moving towards them with sincerity and veracity.  With one-pointed focus and equanimity, we are able to resist distractions and return to our intention.
We cultivate fixity in our asana practice by setting our gaze(drishti) or turning our attention to our breath.  We can deepen our focus in meditation by choosing a particular object to meditate or gaze upon.   A true shift in perspective can occur when we broaden the concept of fixity and focus on our state of being as a whole, rather than accomplishing specific goals.
Rather than focusing on specific goals and achievements in your life, we are going to shoot even higher!  We are going to flip the societal script away from some of the typical questions we ask to set our goals:
  • What do you want to be when you grow up?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  • What will you study?
  • What are your aspirations?
  • How much money do you want to make?
  • Who do you want to marry or when will you have kids?
  • What will you accomplish or accumulate?
Instead today, ask yourself, “HOW do you want to BE?”  How do you want to BE in this world for however long you have?  How do you want to BE as a person, a human?  How do you want to BE as a friend, a partner, a lover, a co-worker, a relative, or perhaps a parent?  How do you want to BE with a stranger or a child?  How do you want to BE in a stressful situation?  How about in a joyful or mundane situation?  When you leave this life, how will one describe the essence that was you?
Set this sense of BE-ing as your sankalpa. Do not forget it.  Avoid fickleness and distractions.  The other goals you choose to set will naturally fall in line with the intention you have created.  Accomplishments will come with greater ease because they will be a reflection of who you are.  Cultivating and working towards this BE-ing will become your greatest achievement in life.

What Is Gonna Happen To Us On Monday? . . . Yoga Lessons Learned From The Breakfast Club!

The Breakfast Club is Property of Universal Pictures.
Forrest Gump tells us that “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are gonna get.” But actually, life is like high school with someone’s finger holding down the repeat button.  That is of course, if you fail to cultivate veracity.
Veracity is the sixth virtue of #TheItyProject.  Veracity has to do with honesty, but not simply telling the truth – living the truth.  Are you true to your word?  Are you credible?  Do you overpromise or under deliver?  Do you say one thing and then do another?  Simply put, do you contradict yourself?
Each week, I work through Sri Swami Sivananda’s Eighteen Ities with my classes and in my own personal life.  In a short period of time, I have seen a difference in myself.  I have made adjustments and changes, but most notably, I feel closer to knowing myself.  My true self, without the BS.
To know thyself is one of the goals of yoga.  When we peel away the layers of ego, expectations, pride, envy, roles, and ambition we feel vulnerable, perhaps even “uncool”.  We are no longer hiding behind the stories that we tell about ourselves.
As I was researching this virtue, this particularly raw and honest scene from The Breakfast Club came to mind.  In this scene, the cast of misfit characters representing the different cliques of the high school come clean about the reality of how they will behave Monday morning despite the connections they have made in detention.
Most of us have manifested this scene in our lives at some point.  We have realized that we often create different realities for different situations.  We have allowed friendships and relationships to suffer at the hands of cliques and ego.  We have left others behind in the name of ambition and pride.  We have played politics, gossiped, and spoken behind people’s backs.
Some of us leave this behavior behind with youth, yet many of us do not.  In fact, we find ourselves sliding in and out of these patterns depending upon the company we keep.  When we cultivate veracity, we begin to take right action as a matter of course.  Rather than playing it small and letting the stories we tell about ourselves and one another dictate our realities, we live with humility and grace.  We live with abiding character.




Sincerely Yours, Ben Franklin!

Image from local street art – Bloomington, IN

Sincerity is the fourth virtue of The Eighteen Ities as laid out by Sri Swami Sivananda.  And as it happens, one of the thirteen virtues in which Benjamin Franklin committed to when he set his sights on becoming a more moral and virtuous man.

Sincerity in thought, word, and deed is the epitome of “walking the walk and talking the talk”.  It is the absence of hypocrisy and deceit in ones actions and words, but also in ones thoughts and intentions.  Our purpose in yoga is to bring our bodies, minds, and spirits into alignment with one another.  When we embrace sincerity as a practice, we embrace our truth.  We are working towards our external lives being a reflection of our internal truths.

Interestingly, the concepts of ahimsa (non-violence) and satya (truth) play a pivotal role in our efforts to live with sincerity.  For example, I cannot be sincere and compassionate with others if I do not cultivate non-violence towards myself.  I cannot hope to reflect my inner world through my actions if my inner world is in chaos.  I cannot begin to tell the truth to others if I myself do not look at my life truthfully.

Gut Check:

  1.  Do you hold a PhD in sarcasm?  You may be hiding behind it because you are not brave enough to say what you truly believe.
  2. Perhaps you have your Masters Degree in passive aggressiveness? See #1.
  3. Do you gossip? To what end?
  4. Can you keep confidences?  Are you trustworthy?
  5. Do you lie? No? But how often do you leave part of the truth out? What purpose does that serve?  Is it self-serving?

When we get caught up in ego and vanity, it can smother our true nature.  We can work towards humility when we run our thoughts, word, and deeds through the filter of sincerity.  Take  a moment to pause and ask yourself:

  1. Is it the truth?
  2. Is this kind?
  3. Is this necessary? (Particularly if the “truth” can cause pain.)
  4. What is my intention?