Tag Archives: wellness

My Mom’s Email Sign-Off: Metta

Periodically I will be reposting here, often with a few minor changes (or in this case, several additions), posts that I crafted for my professional yoga site, as some of those posts may have relevance for readers of this blog. This is one of those posts.

All blessings bright and beautiful

That is how my Mom would sign her emails to me, followed by Love.

When I began leading yoga practices my Mom’s sign off became my closing words along with an added sentiment – 

May all blessings bright and beautiful be yours, may you shine them inward to nourish and reflect them outward to share with those you meet.

My additional words change with each practice, as the moment takes hold, but always they reflect inner self-nourishment, and outward kindness and consideration for others.

Over the years the Buddhist tradition of a Metta practice has found its way to my awareness, either from reading books or having my yoga teachers explain and then guide such a practice. A little over a year ago, while reading Frank Ostaseski’s thought provoking “The Five Invitations,” I was struck by his mention of the first Sanskrit chant I ever learned: Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu. (My review of this book is here and my reflection about the book is here.)

In English it translates to “May all beings everywhere be happy and free.” Ostaseski describes Metta as “a practice in which we consciously evoke a boundless warm-hearted feeling” and that by reciting this chant, or similar chants, “we gradually establish benevolence, friendliness, and love in our own hearts, and then we extend the wish for well-being and happiness to all beings in every direction.”

There are two interesting aspects of chanting that resonate with me. The first is that it is much easier to remember something if it is set to a melody, particularly if there is a repeatable rhythm. The second is that chanting can help to clear the mind and prepare it for relaxation or meditation. I wrote a bit about chanting in early 2011, and find it interesting that almost ten years later very few of my yoga teachers incorporate chanting into their classes. After typing that sentence a smile spread across my face with the realization that I, too, do not include chanting in the classes I teach!

EileenAndLaurieMy Mom was practicing Metta long before I ever understood that it was something, a practice, a way of being and thinking. Her closing words always resonated with me as a powerful and beautiful expression of love – love for self and love for others. I wonder if she was consciously practicing Metta or if the words just simply resonated with her, as well. Thanks Mom. 🙂

Smiling Meditation

Awhile ago one of my yoga teachers, Jillian Pransky, shared a meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh. Jillian called it a smiling meditation, and I have since shared it with the yogis with whom I practice. This evening, while thumbing through Thich Nhat Hanh’s book Being Peace, I came upon the poem again. Here is what he has to say.

I would like to offer one short poem you can recite from time to time, while breathing and smiling:

Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment
I know this is a wonderful moment.

“Breathing in, I calm my body.” Reciting this line is like drinking a glass of ice water – you feel the cold, the freshness, permeate your body. When I breath in and recite this line, I actually feel the breathing calming my body, calming my mind.

“Breathing out, I smile.” You know the effect of a smile. A smile can relax hundreds of muscles in your face, and relax your nervous system. A smile makes you master of yourself. That is why Buddhas and bodhisattvas are always smiling. When you smile, you realize the wonder of the smile.

“Dwelling in the present moment.” While I sit here, I don’t think of somewhere else, of the future or the past. I sit here, and I know where I am. This is very important. We tend to be alive in the future, not now. We say, “Wait until I finish school and get my Ph.D. degree, and then I will be really alive. When we have it, and it wasn’t easy to get, we say to ourselves, “I have to wait until I have a job in order to be really alive.” And then after the job, a car. After the car, a house. We are not capable of being alive in the present moment. We tend to postpone being alive to the future, the distant future, we don’t know when. Now is not the moment to be alive. We may never be alive at all in our entire life. Therefore, the technique, if we have to speak of a technique, is to be in the present moment, to be aware that we are here and now, and the only moment to be alive is the present moment.

“I know this is a wonderful moment.” This is the only moment that is real. To be here and now, and enjoy the present moment is our most important task. “Calming, Smiling. Present moment, Wonderful moment.” I hope you will try it.

Book Review – The Breathing Book

From my Goodreads Review:

Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 1.24.11 PMI practice yoga and guide yoga; from both perspectives this book is a must read. Written in 1996, Donna Farhi’s guide is every bit as helpful and relevant now as it was then. I have been reading this book over several weeks (it was due yesterday!) and have taken copious notes on approaches that will surface in my personal practice and the practices I guide.

If this book or the author are interesting to you, you might find her November 2017 talk, Tradition, Innovation & Evolution – What makes yoga…Yoga, an informative and entertaining way to spend 58 minutes.

Book Review – Timeless Healing

From my Goodreads Review:

Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 1.20.26 PMI read this book in conjunction with Benson’s book the Relaxation Response. Taken together, they make a powerful positive case for our innate capacity to self-heal. I wrote a long blog post here about Remembered Wellness, which is the heart of this book.

The relaxation response in concert with remembered wellness combine to form a natural tool for managing stress and assisting with the body’s healing process.

Book Review – The Wellness Book

From my Goodreads Review:

The Wellness Book is filled with practical approaches for forging and maintaining your own health, and all the tools you need to implement these approaches.

Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 1.09.49 PMI have been on a Herbert Benson kick recently, fueled by Dr Benson guiding the Relaxation Response and followed by my reading of two of his books (with two more on reserve at the library.) Benson’s writing, even with co-authors, is every bit as kind and accessible as I find him on the Relaxation Response video.

Benson represents to me the “old fashioned” doctor of my childhood, with a bedside manner that puts the patient first. This particular book has multiple contributors, each with similar bedside manners and each offering chapters in which they share their experience and knowledge to assist the reader in creating and maintaining a wellness plan.

It matters not that the book was published in 1992; the information seems every bit as relevant, and perhaps even more useful now in a politically stressful time. For people who like charts and tables, and find writing things down helpful as a way to build commitment, this book will meet that need and then some!

My interest in Benson’s books is research to increase my knowledge of the Relaxation Response and how to deal with stress. The information fuels my personal approach to managing stress (a process that, like yoga, is an ongoing practice), and will also inform the once-a-week restorative yoga practice I guide.