As I was driving to teach a senior chair yoga class, “Best Day of My Life” by American Authors came on my favorite Sirius station. Since this was a typical day, I immediately stopped myself from identifying with the lyrics as I thought this was simply an average day and certainly not the best day of my life.
Then I listed the best days of my life – my wedding day and the days my sons were born. While contemplating these few short days, I realized there were far, far more minutes to my existence on this planet. Time wise, these days were nothing.
This day, and every day, should be the best day of my life. This moment is the only moment that really counts. As long as I’m conscious and aware of my living, my breathing, my soul, this was the absolute best it was ever going to be.
After a car ran over me earlier this year, I know how absolutely precious every moment is. You hear it all the time. You never know what’s going to happen. You never know how many more days you will have. It’s true.
Now when I hear “Best Day of My Life”, it’s a shout out – a reminder. I am having the best day of my life! I’m going to be content. I’m blessed. I’m living and accepting this day no matter what happens, no matter how much pain arrives.
As for all these “typical” days, when I teach, paint, or volunteer then help my sons with homework, make dinner, and sit down to eat with my family, these are definitely the best days of my life. I’m thankful I still have them.
A few years ago, I wanted to learn how to produce professional videos. You know how you attempt to capture an event on video and the quality’s usually poor? I definitely wanted to do better. At the time, a professional news cameraman recommended the training at Montgomery Community Media (MCM).
This past summer my sons enjoyed their Backpack Journalism camp for teens and the staff encouraged me to try. I did! This video is the result of the Studio Producer training.
Although TV production was a foreign world to me, I learned all the basics of producing a show, writing a script, and designing the lighting in six weeks. Montgomery Community Media (MCM) is a public access organization available to anyone in our community. They accept almost all programming and train volunteers to be producers, directors, and technicians.
My son, Chad Griffiths, is exploring various career options so participating in “Going Green On Wheels” provided a great way to try being a show host and using a teleprompter. Special thanks to Paul Triolo who has been writing about his new Nissan Leaf for Rockville Living and gave us his time as a very informative guest. Lots of details are packed in this 13-minute show! My co-producer was Vic Nardo, a fellow trainee in our class. We both learned a lot!
Here’s Chad’s Backback Journalism video on Boy Led Scouting:
Here’s Calder’s Backback Journalism video on Minecraft:
Yoga has led me down many untrodden paths and today’s visit to Yoga: The Art of Transformation at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution was no exception. Although I’ve lived in the Washington DC area for a quarter of a century, I’ve never visited the Sackler, a small gallery bursting with art from Asia.
Sackler Gallery, Washington DC
While viewing the exhibit, I was grateful to have read The Bhagavad Gita and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika which provided a basic knowledge of the history of yoga. The exhibit brought much of this ancient practice to light.
The earliest pieces in the exhibit include statues of yogis sitting in a meditative position. The Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali mention only one posture, sitting. All the statues are either sitting or standing with arms extended to embody this quest for Samadhi (bliss). The attainment of this highest state is signified by a marking the third eye. Three monumental stone yogini goddesses from a tenth-century Chola temple are reunited for this exhibit and they look blissful although slightly broken. As I took my very first steps into this exhibit, I was pleased to see the inclusion of female master practitioners. With all the talk of men leading yoga in the olden days, seeing these statues and the paintings of female ashrams made quite a positive impression on me.
Magnifying glasses are available in each of the rooms to view the tiny, elaborate details in the artwork. Many of the paintings and carvings show practitioners attempting to leave the physical body behind with sunken faces and shrinking limbs from fasting. The first illustrated compilation of asanas made for a Mughal emperor in 1602 show sitting postures with one daring headstand. Large paintings depict the chakras of the body in colorful symbols which entice even the most unskilled of artists to do the same. Perhaps figurative painting is the only way to express the true meaning of yoga.
As a yoga teacher, I noticed the scenes of students sitting and listening to their gurus and teachers. The aesthetics of these paintings show peaceful landscapes. Yoga was represented as a serene practice dominated by cleanliness in open spaces. One 16th century painting shows a change in style as the Renaissance in Europe became influential.
Some of the illustrations show a different, sometimes darker, side of the yoga culture not known in our modern studios. Yogis would serve as spies because they could travel extensively to every corner of India. Some were known as wizards with one painting showing a woman slashed so the yogi could gain supernatural powers. The battle scenes from The Bhagavad Gita and Krishna’s revelation of his true self depict man’s struggles in this earthly life. These images from yogic history add depth to the exhibit.
Heading over to the modern section of the exhibit comprising the 20th century, you’ll find many staged and artificial photographs. The westerners wanted exotic photos and these were the impressions that were commissioned. Here we also find the beginning of the many hatha poses brought to America in the early 1900’s. Books show how the scientific examination of yoga started at this time to justify yoga’s benefits to the medical world. Many photographs of the first Swamis to visit American provide a glimpse of the earliest faces associated with yoga and you wonder what they were thinking. At the end of the exhibit, black and white videos of some of the oldest masters demonstrate difficult yoga poses requiring extreme flexibility.
My only wish was that the exhibit would be larger with more of a bridge from the ancient to the modern yoga. The perception of yoga to the Western world has always limited. This exhibit shows a small bit of the history of India. Yoga is one fine thread of this country’s rich and robust heritage but what a wonderful thread this exhibit is!
After looking at these changes over the last 2,000 years, one can only wonder where yoga will journey in the future. Will we see even more extreme versions of yoga? Will yoga for specific physical and mental conditions become commonplace? Will it survive another 2,000 years in some new form?
Please let me know your impressions of the exhibit. Photography is prohibited or I would have loved to share my thoughts about specific pieces. You have to see Yoga: The Art of Transformation for yourself here in Washington DC or at its next stop in San Francisco.
Close friends often tell me they don’t like the name of this blog because it gives the wrong impression about me. They don’t think I’m negative as the name implies. Of course, the name could be Trying To Be Positive but that’s not as much fun!
Since becoming a yoga teacher, I’ve been asking myself a few questions, “What does Trying Not to Bneg have to do with yoga? Why am I still using this name? Should I create a separate blog for yoga?”
While studying the Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali* during my 500-hour Teacher training, I found my answer. Trying Not to Bneg is a perfect yoga blog name. Modern interpretations of the Sutras, such as the following from Marshall Govindan in Kriya Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Siddhas have several passages about overcoming negativity.
When bound by negative thoughts, their opposite [i.e. positive] ones should be cultivated. (Chapter 2.33)
Yes siree, that’s yoga for you! Here’s a longer explanation:
When negative thoughts or acts such as violence, etc. are caused to be done or even approved of, whatever incited by greed, anger or infatuation, whether indulged in with mild, moderate or extreme intensity, they are based on ignorance and bring certain pain. [Hence] opposite thoughts should be cultivated. (Chapter 2.34)
The Sutras advise embracing the imbalances in order to find balance. So, we shouldn’t immediately make things positive by shoving the bad feelings down in our minds and bodies. That’s not healthy. Let the negative thoughts go after acknowledging how you feel about them. We need to fully feel the things that are negative and use a positive “seed” to replace the negativity and bring balance.
When I teach, I often mention how important opposites are in our physical asana. During yoga, notice how many poses are designed to bring balance to the body with opposite holds, limbs, and movements. In the same way, meditation and concentration can bring the opposite to the most powerful muscle of all, our brain. Strive for this balance of not being negative.
In the Yoga Sutras of PatanjaliSri Swami Satchidananda explains that the best way to control the mind is to “invite opposite thoughts”. Two ways to control opposite thoughts are to (1.) leave negative environments, and (2.) think of the after-effects of the negative thought.
Along with everything else, Trying Not To Bneg’s definitely a yoga blog.
*Sutras are “threads”, the barest threads of meaning. To these we add our experiences to reach the most advanced stage of Samadhi which is contemplation and bliss.
After describing my knee as a boneless chicken breast beaten with a frying pan, the orthopedic doctor instructed me to exercise in a pool. “That’s the one thing I don’t do”, I blurted out. When I was a kid you couldn’t get me out of our backyard pool, but I never was a true swimmer.
The aqua classes at our city recreation facility were already starting. Most of descriptions were similar so I had no idea which one to pick. The doctor said I needed to build strength, endurance, and flexibility. I chose “Aqua Boot Camp.”
The first person I told said the doctor probably wasn’t suggesting I start with a boot camp. I went anyway because this was straight-up fitness without music and dancing. Aqua Boot Camp was all about core strength and I haven’t been able to practice yoga.
The first week I hobbled to the pool even though I was unable to walk up stairs. The water was amazing. The cool temperature helped the inflammation in my shoulders, elbows, and knees. I could move around in ways I had been unable to attain for more than half a year.
A pool turns out to be perfect for physical therapy:
The water provides resistance for strength training in a gentle way.
Buoyancy buffers and decreases pain.
With the force of gravity lessened, range of motion is increased. When you’re in water up to your waist, the pressure is reduced by 50%. Water up to your neck, reduces the pressure by 80%.
The cooler temperature and hydrostatic pressure of the water reduces swelling. Water is six times more dense than air.
The pressure of the water also increases circulation of the blood to injured areas.
Exercise can be performed in the water when it may be too soon or too difficult to do in the gym.
Staying upright and stable in the water challenges your core and balance.
Being able to work out uplifts the spirit and mental outlook.
Aqua therapy helps with:
• Chronic Pain
• Balance and walking problems
• Injuries to the shoulder, neck, low back, hip, knee, ankle, & foot
After the great results from my first experience, I immediately wanted to teach therapeutic yoga in pools! My boot camp instructor, who also happens to be a yoga teacher, promised to hop in the pool and practice yoga with me if the rest of the class is absent next week.
Whenever I visit an art gallery, I find myself completely refreshed. These brief excursions always feel like a vacation, a welcome break from reality.
Since delving deeply into breathing techniques and meditation, I’ve begun to understand why. As I walk around, each piece of artwork demands my full attention. I pause and notice every line, color, texture, and technique. The work absorbs me into the artist’s creativity. I’m fully alive during these moments because I’ve silenced the nonstop chatter of my brain and focused all my attention on my surroundings.
Practicing yoga also has the same effect. Yoga is creative and meditative action which causes you to focus on the here and now of every breath and movement.
Now imagine the combination of the two – art and yoga! The yoga-art connection offers an even greater opportunity to be truly conscious without your mind wandering. Yoga in art galleries creates a completely different experience. Holding poses with the changing exhibits catches your attention and forces you into the moment. The beautiful setting is always inspiring.
Yoga in art galleries brings art and people together and creates community. So, breathe, move, and find yourself in an art gallery!
I’ve taught yoga at VisArts in Rockville and now at the brand new Capitol Arts Network (12276 Wilkins Avenue, Rockville). Weekly lunchtime and evening classes on Tuesdays. Time: 12 PM- 1 PM and 7:30 – 8:45 PM. Cost: $15 per class. Online registration required. http://www.capitolartsnetwork.com/index.php/classes/
When I first decided to train with Lyu Pollard in 2009, I practiced yoga but had never physically trained for any sport or martial arts. The process was excruciating and foreign. I learned about burn, sweat, pain, and exhaustion. My goal was to meet her demanding standards and finally be in shape (and never throw up like some of the men!).
Being in such excellent physical shape may have saved our lives during the accident. If I hadn’t been so strong, I might not have made it through. It has been slow going. I work hard with physical therapy every day. Luckily I know the pain of working out and training! Lyu will always be the person who inspired me to be so much more.
Being in the best physical shape is so important because you never know what may happen. The doctor in the trauma center explained that we made it through because we were in great shape.
A few people have mentioned that they tell people about us to convince them to work out. Besides the obvious health benefits, you never know when you might need to be in the best shape of your entire life in order to survive an accident!
Miracles do happen but you have to help them along.
Shortly after my husband and I were hit by a car while crossing the street, I was signed up for a Biodynamic Intuitive Healing workshop. I could barely get out of bed. Between the impact from the car and the pavement, every part of my body hurt except for my fingers and toes.
Although it was difficult to move, I couldn’t imagine any activity better than a weekend of hands on healing. All of the soft bolsters and blankets were waiting for me at Thrive Yoga, along with a caring community.
The basic idea of Cranial-sacral Healing is to connect to the earth’s energy and tune into your breath while inviting your heart to open. Once you have the intention of being kind, curious, and aware, you are ready to approach another person. Our goal was to feel each other’s Cranial Rhythm with our hands. Skilled practitioners can sense the fluctuation of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), the motility of the central nervous system, and the mobility of the membrane system. This is our essential life force.
Dana Cohen Valerio led the workshop with her extensive knowledge and experienced touch. Her gentle teaching and exercises left me feeling emotionally better.
On the first day we found partners then relaxed and grounded ourselves. One person would lay down comfortably while the other gently touched their fingers around the crown of the head. We would switch after several minutes then talk about our experiences. The car struck the right side of my body. I experienced strange sensations such as a suction cup pulling on the right side of my head and my right arm turning into a metal claw. This side was obviously blocked.
On the second day, Dana worked on me to demonstrate touch techniques from the sacrum to the skull. Energy moved on my right side. A tingling feeling of warmth filled my body and occasionally I twitched. After my time with her, I felt like I would be able to handle the ongoing pain from my injuries.
Although people might be skeptical about the ability to feel someone’s life force there is absolutely no way anyone should doubt the power of another person’s touch. The loving and caring field of energy from someone who is completely present in the moment will make you feel better. No mind wandering, no other thoughts, just the complete exchange of energy.
This workshop was part of my 500-hour teacher training at Thrive Yoga. With this revamped training curriculum, Susan Bowen had a completely new vision of how we can understand our energy, bodies, and spirit. If I hadn’t been so painfully injured, I might not be able to appreciate the effectiveness of my new knowledge. The decision to dedicate so much of my time to additional yoga teacher training this year turned out to be a life saver for me during a few dark and uncertain days of my life.
The sentiment we all expressed at the end of the weekend was, “Now that we know this, how can we not share it with others?” Dana inspired all of us.
If you need a healing touch, I know how much it can mean in small and big ways.
My husband and I were hit by a car while walking in a crosswalk with the signal on the way home from a meeting at our son’s middle school. We were excited to walk in the cold with the brand new gear we purchased to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in July. Walking together to train had developed into our favorite pursuit.
We don’t remember any of the details of the car hitting us. We had waited for the signal to cross. We even waved cars past when they wanted to let us go. I said, “It’s a $200 fine for jay walking” which is one of my regular comments to pedestrians who break the law. When the cross signal started to blink red, we commented that it wasn’t a very long signal.
Then my husband said something about a car and I looked to the right. That moment is frozen in time. My husband’s right hand was almost touching the hood. I could see the car’s right headlight. Deep down inside me I willed that car not to hit us. I was in denial. I arrogantly refused to let it hurt us. I was not allowing this to happen.
I no longer doubt miracles.
We both woke up face down in the street without our tie-on shoes. I rose out of a black hole void of life or death, pushed up on my arms, saw the stopped car, noticed our shoes, and looked for my husband. He was on the sidewalk after dragging himself out of the street, but he couldn’t get up. His head was bleeding. I used my arms as a pillow in what became the most terrifying moment of my life.
The surge of adrenaline that propelled me to move around and gather our things from the street wore off when the EMTs strapped me into the stretcher under blankets. I looked at the EMT and told her I couldn’t feel my right side. I couldn’t move my right arm.
As the trauma center staff took x-rays and ultrasounds, they kept giving me good news. No broken bones. No internal bleeding. The atmosphere in the ER shifted to one of relief and joking. The doctor stood next to me and explained that I was in good physical shape, then added “your husband is too”. Everyone was searching for an explanation.
In an act of unrequired compassion, a nurse wheeled me into the tiny space next to my husband. I’ll always be grateful. If I stretched my good arm through the bars my fingertips could brush the top of his hand. The connection brought strength and our usual love. I knew he was all right. With neck braces in place, we couldn’t look at each other but we could talk. Eventually the worst trauma scenarios were eliminated. Two friends came to stand by our side, make calls, and take notes.
As emergency personnel came through the trauma center that night, they joked about the hospital cost-cutting because we were in the same space then they realized we were the couple hit by the car. All of them smiled to see us. Usually those calls on the radio ended badly.
We both walked out of the hospital in less than 24 hours.
Perhaps there was no better book I could have finished reading before such a life and death situation than The Divine Matrix: Bridging Time, Space, Miracles, and Belief. Although I don’t accept every premise in Gregg Braden’s books, his idea that you can create your own reality fascinates me.
…all we require is a little shift to see that we’re the architects of our world and our fate, cosmic artists expressing our inner beliefs on the canvas of the universe. If we can remember that we’re the art as well as the artist, then perhaps we can also remember that we’re the seed of the miracle as well as the miracle itself
You must totally and completely believe the reality you desire and accept nothing less. I did in that moment before the car hit.
As this week progressed, the pain completely filled every part of our bodies. New symptoms and injuries continued to become apparent each day. Because of the head and nerve damage we have more specialists to see. Together we work through the post traumatic stress symptoms. Luckily we have the awareness to recognize what’s happening and can talk to someone who completely understands. We sustain each other in all ways including this accident.
One day as we were sitting together my husband told me, “We need to completely believe that we are healed.”
The Divine Matrix agrees:
We must first have the feeling of healing, abundance, peace, and the answers to our prayers of well-being in our hearts as if they’ve already happened before they become the reality of our lives.
I’ve told our story to so many people and everyone agrees it was a miracle. But as Braedon argues, there’s more to us than meets the eye. The single most powerful force in the universe lies within each of us. We have the power to create in the world what we imagine in our beliefs.
“Ask and you shall receive” satiates the Bible but the “Divine Matrix” insists that modern translations should go further:
All things that you ask straightly, directly
From inside my name –
you will be given. So far you haven’t done this.
So ask without hidden motive and
Be surrounded by your answer –
Be enveloped by what you desire, that your gladness be full.
My life with my husband and my sons is the reality I desired. I wasn’t going to let anyone steal it away.
UPDATE: Subsequent x-rays and tests showed fractured bones which were not apparent in the scans at the Trauma Center on the night of the accident.
No matter what method you choose, keeping your diet in check becomes difficult at times. A special occasion or craving can set you back, and often derail you completely. If it was easy to stay at a healthy weight, everyone would do it.
When I graduated from college and looked ahead to life on my own, I wanted to slim down and eat right. I didn’t know how. I’d keep trying to make changes with no results. That’s the first time I went to Weight Watchers. Thirty years ago, the program was different, but I learned to make all the changes, went to a few meetings, and did it on my own without a problem.
The weight stayed off until I had my first son over a decade later. Since I’d had so much success the first time, I decided to go back to Weight Watchers and learn about the new point system. After a few weeks, I stopped going to meetings and did it myself with determination.
After my second son, I tried to count points and didn’t succeed. I lost then gained even more weight. After not being able to zipper my pants on fall evening, I headed back to Weight Watchers, but I wasn’t happy with myself.
I prefer to do things on my own. Having to admit that I couldn’t find the strength and willpower to do this was tough. I needed the support and focus of attending weekly meetings for a few years.
The good news is that I have kept within the proper weight for my height for over eight years. In Weight Watchers we call this lifetime. The daily choices I make about food are second nature. I don’t think about them anymore. I’ve incorporated ideals from the Ayurvedic system and include anti-inflammatory foods each day. Weight Watchers offers the freedom to eat anything in moderation. We cook almost every meal at home and experiment with many grains, vegetables, and recipes, always concocting something new. My guys put up with a lot! Who knows what mom will do?
After a few years of maintaining on my own, I started going back to Weight Watchers with a goal of losing more than that “old” lifetime goal weight. The total is 15.6 pounds. I walked in the doors before the holidays and lost 2 pounds while indulging in every holiday occasion. I don’t believe in deprivation when it comes to once-a-year treats! Now I officially have ten pounds to go.
I take the changes I made in my life for granted. Attending meetings reminds me of how far I’ve come. Meetings also provide the opportunity to help others find the changes they need to make. With the constant barrage of junk and fast food advertising, people need to create space for the opposite message about healthy choices. Seeing and hearing all about success brings success.
The system works because of the support provided when going it alone becomes too difficult.
Along the way I've discovered a love for blogging. First for my local community with Rockville Central and almost immediately with TryingNotToBNeg.com because I needed to express my thoughts beyond Rockville, MD.
I'm a Yoga Teacher and Coach. Here's my website: Yoga Online and In Person as a 200-hour registered yoga teacher (RYT) on my way to being a 500-hour RYT! I love to teach beginners, power sequences, and chair yoga!
Online and In Person works with businesses, organizations and individuals to build community and improve communications.
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