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Ahimsa: Non-Violence

April 13, 2018

“Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.”

It’s only fitting that after coming off a month of studying and embodying the practice of Brahmacharya (right use of energy), we now look to create more mindfulness around who we are being – with respect to others, ourselves, and the world around us.

Ahimsa, defined as “causing no injury; non-harming”, is the first of the five Yamas along Patanjali’s Eight-Limbed Path, and is essentially the embodiment of non-violence in all aspects of life. Everything we do – from the words we speak, to the thoughts we think, to the actions we take – gives us the power to either cause healing or harm. Ahimsa asks us to conduct ourselves with compassion, generosity, and kindness – always. In it’s purest form, Ahimsa is the highest expression of unconditional love toward every living thing, including ourselves.

Violence isn’t always outright and obvious, as in physical altercations (though this is certainly part of it); Sometimes, violence is subtle and abstract. Self-defeating negative thoughts, holding grudges against those who’ve wronged us, spreading gossip, jealousy, and shame – all have the capacity to cause harm and suffering.

Consider how it feels – physically and emotionally – when you get riled up in the face of confrontation and begin preparing yourself for a fight. Your breathing and heart rate speeds up, your skin feels hot, your jaw tightens and your muscles tense, and your body goes into “fight or flight” mode. And whether or not any fisticuffs were exchanged, you continue feeling the effects of this stress response long after any raised hackles have subsided – sometimes for hours or even days later.

Now consider how whenever you feel jealousy or shame, or when you speak damaging and self-defeating words to yourself or to others, your body enters into the same stress response. Heart racing, hot skin, that sinking feeling in your stomach – all tell-tale signs of fight or flight – even though you aren’t actually in any physical danger. Your body still feels the violence your thoughts and words are inflicting. Over time, the cumulative effects of this stress response wreak havoc on your nervous system, causing damage and harm. Similarly, those on the other end of your damaging thoughts and words often experience the same reaction, and the cycle of violence continues.

Ahimsa gives us the opportunity to stop that cycle in it’s tracks. To choose love, kindness, generosity, and compassion at every turn.

In every moment, we have the power to choose who we are being.

When you’re running late to work, and the person in the next lane wants over in front of you, you have the power to choose whether to practice ahimsa and let them in, or to selfishly cut them off. When your coworker says something that raises your hackles, you have the choice to react by saying something unkind, or to practice ahimsa by pausing, taking a deep breath, and letting it go. Conversely, when you see someone on the train acting violently toward another passenger, you have the choice of sitting by and doing nothing, or to practice ahimsa by standing up to protect the person being victimized. When you default into “I can’t do this” or “I’m not that” thoughts in your head, you have the power to believe the lies of your story, or to practice ahimsa and flip the script into something powerful and positive.

At the end of the day, our choices and our actions do not exist in a bubble; As we engage in the practice of Ahimsa, everything – from our interactions with the people we meet, to the products we choose to purchase, and the companies we choose to support – all comes together to create either a chain reaction of loving kindness, compassion, and generosity, or one of continued pain and suffering.

Many people talk about wanting the world to be a different place, without ever taking any actual action to change it otherwise. The practice of Ahimsa – day in, day out, with each passing moment – empowers us to walk through our lives with an eye toward creating that very world we desire.

Raise your voice. Raise your vibration. Rise up and live from love.

Gandhi said, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. We need not wait to see what others do.”

It starts with us. It starts with YOU.

What becomes possible when you live a life of love? Patanjali (and all of us here at Five Peaks!) invites you to discover it for yourself, by walking – gently and steadily – along the Eight-Limbed Path. And at the very beginning of that road? The very first directive along that path? Ahimsa.

Colure is a mostly-vegan yoga teacher, mom, wife, graphic designer, self-proclaimed nerd, and proud Co-Founder of Five Peaks Power Yoga. When she’s not at the studio teaching or practicing yoga, she can be found relaxing in her favorite local coffee shop, or adventuring around the greater DC region with her family.

Our Five Peaks’ Tribe is kicking off the month of March with a sense of triumph and inspiration as we complete our 40-Days to Personal Revolution Journey. Of course, as many of you have already discovered, this is only the beginning. Whether you participated in the program or have been sowing your own karmic seeds through steady practice and study, you have set major shifts into motion. I’m full of hope and wonder as to how our community will grow from here. 

In this spirit, we step from Tapas (fire and drive) into the practice of the fourth Yama: Brahmacharya, or, right use of energy.

Brene Brown says, “Discovering, developing and sharing our gift is a spiritual practice; its one way for us to grow stronger in our faith.”

 

Many of us are stepping into Spring with a heightened sense of clarity and urgency around our purpose. Brahmacharya, which translates as “behavior which leads to Brahman (the divine),” points to our immense power of choice. Sometimes large (moving to a new city or getting married) and most often small (what we eat and what we say yes/no to), the choices we make each day are what lead us toward or away from our divine path. To practice Brahmacharya is to bring the mindfulness you cultivate in your meditation and asana practice to even the smallest choices in your day.

At Five Peaks, we practice Brahmacharya by measuring every business opportunity that arises against our mission. We are here to build a heart center in Loudoun County; a community of healthy, connected and empowered human beings eager to share their light. Before making any decision, we ask ourselves first, “How will this opportunity strengthen the pulse of our heart center?”, and if the answer is unclear, we set it aside as unneeded distraction, and create space for a better opportunity.

In my personal life, I use my meditation practice and daily planner to keep my Brahmacharya game on point. I begin every day with a meditation to quiet distracting thoughts. In my planner, I write down my intention for the year, and set monthly goals to move me forward. Every day of the week, I organize my tasks each day based on how well they will support me in my intention.

Michael Hyatt says, You lose your way when you lose your why.”

Life is rich with opportunity and obligation. Sometimes it is hard to discern the two! It can be tempting for me to say yes, yes, yes, until I find myself overwhelmed and paralyzed by what I have taken on. There was a time when I closed my eyes and saw my life as this intractably knotted ball of yarn – no give or space available for the experience I wanted to invite. That is not a very skillful way to live or feel! I knew that I wanted to live a life full of connection and meaning – and that yoga was a powerful access point to me for both. I started going to class at 6:00 a.m. three times a week until I was able to sneak into the noon classes on my lunch hour. I kept carving time and carving time until one day my experience of time for self care felt abundant – even in the midst of a full-time job, two babies, and teaching yoga. I continue to be amazed by the ELASTICITY of time when I am engaged in right action. 

 

Anchoring my personal and professional commitments to my intention enables me to prioritize and stress less about the tasks I choose to pass by. I find rest and connection land much higher on my priority list than they might otherwise. In the practice of Brahmacharya, I see clearly how IMPORTANT it is for me to practice what I preach. I know that in order to teach and share stillness in flow, I have to live it. I must make time to be still and to connect to the source that nurtures and sustains me for divine inspiration and direction.

This month, I invite you to be in the practice of Brahmacharya alongside Colure, Megan, Barb and I. We will be theming “Right Action” in our classes and offering opportunities for you to share in and refine your Brahmacharya practice in the coming weeks.

Signing off with my favorite (and apropos!) blessing:

May our efforts today, and every day, be to the benefit of every living thing.

Namaste,

Lauren

Lauren is an avid reader, yoga teacher, mom, wife, entrepreneur and proud Co-Founder of Five Peaks Power Yoga. When she’s not at the studio teaching or practicing yoga, she can be found in the Loudoun County country-side enjoying the vineyards with her family. Sometimes, she even runs marathons.

M.L.K.

January 16, 2018

Today, in honor, celebration, and remembrance of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, we reflect upon all that Dr. King fought for, marched for, and ultimately, died for, during his time as a civil rights activist and leader, over five decades ago. While much of America’s landscape has changed in the time since Dr. King marched on Washington, wrote letters from a Birmingham jail, or stood behind the pulpit in Montgomery, much still remains the same.

As students of yoga, actively engaged in walking Patanjali’s Eight-Limbed Path, it’s impossible to not see a link between the actions and teachings of MLK, and those outlined in the first two limbs of the Eight-fold Path (coming before Asana!): the Yamas and Niyamas.

The Yamas and Niyamas are moral and ethical guidelines that inform and direct yogic action; they serve as a map to chart the course of one’s life, and provide a clear and straightforward framework for how to conduct ourselves off the mat – both in how we treat ourselves, and how we treat others.

It is not coincidental that the very first of these moral directives is Ahimsa, which means to cause no injury, and do no harm. Essentially, Ahimsa is non-violence.

In his 1958 memoir of the Montgomery bus boycott, Stride Toward Freedom, Dr. King outlined six principles of non-violence; basic steps toward non-violent action that he taught and lived until the day he died. Importantly, he made it clear that non-violence is not for the cowardly, weak, passive, or fearful. Non-violence is the way of the strong. Dr. King wrote,

“Nonviolent resistance does resist. It is not a method of stagnant passivity… The method is passive physically, but strongly active spiritually. It is not passive non-resistance to evil; it is active nonviolent resistance to evil.”

In his 1967 book, Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community?, Dr. King wrote,

Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

MLK believed in living his principles through action. At a time in our history that was marked by violence and war, Dr. King refused to give in to his basest instincts; He refused to return violence with violence, or hate with hate. Instead of allowing himself to be swallowed by the darkness, he became the light. He chose a new way. And in so doing, he became the change he sought to create.

The second of the Yamas is Satya, which means truth, or truthfulness.

On the subject of truth, Dr. King was clear: “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

Satya directs us to speak our truth, even when it’s unpopular; even when speaking our truth is inconvenient, or difficult, or dangerous. No one knew this, or lived this, better than Dr. King.

While he is rightly revered and loved by many in today’s modern age, it is important to remember that, in his time, MLK was a highly divisive and radical figure.

The FBI famously wire-tapped him, beginning in 1955 during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, until his assassination on April 4th, 1968. After his controversial anti-Vietnam speech at Riverside Church in 1967, the FBI stepped up their surveillance efforts in an attempt to discredit him, and pundits across both sides of the aisle criticized him for his firm and controversial stand, given at a time when most Americans still supported the war. Even members of his own staff warned him not to give the speech, but Dr. King stuck to his ideals, and refused to back down.

On the Vietnam War, and America’s involvement in it, King stated, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

King believed in speaking your truth, no matter the cost. One month after his speech at Riverside, he spoke at a conference, stating, “The cross may mean the death of your popularity. Even so, take up your cross and just bear it.”

As students walking the yogic path, we can draw inspiration from and hold in our hearts the words of Dr. King. While he wasn’t a “yogi” in the traditional sense, his teachings and actions are a modern example of what it looks like to truly walk the path, and stay on the path.

In alignment with the yogic practices of Ahimsa, and Satya, King lived his truth, and in so doing, inspired countless lives across the world. Both during the time of his life, and perhaps even moreso now, a half century after his passing, King’s influence and impact is undeniable. His words echo into the annals of our collective history, across the vastness of time and space, straight into our ears, eyes, and hearts, and prove just as relevant, important, and necessary now as they ever were.

Be patient, be gentle, be kind. Love with all your might. Speak your truth, and live your truth. You, too, just might change the world.

Colure is a mostly-vegan yoga teacher, mom, wife, graphic designer, self-proclaimed nerd, and proud Co-Founder of Five Peaks Power Yoga. When she’s not at the studio teaching or practicing yoga, she can be found relaxing in her favorite local coffee shop, or adventuring around the greater DC region with her family.

January: Saucha (Purity)

January 8, 2018

Happy 2018, Tribe!

As we embark on a new chapter of our journey together in a brand new year, we focus our attention on January’s theme, “Saucha”.

Saucha, meaning purification (physical and spiritual), is a Niyama (an internal discipline) that guides us as we “clean house”, and prepare the temple of our body and mind for new creation.

Winter is an instinctive time to focus on Saucha. With its barren trees and frozen ground, winter represents the death of the past. It’s a time of rest and incubation to make space for new life and beginnings in Spring. Eating less sugar, decluttering my home, and talking less to listen more, are all forms of Saucha that many revisit year after year.

Whether your intentions rest in purification, or on inviting what you’d like to have MORE of in your life – be it yoga, travel, or spending more time with family and friends – practicing Saucha will help you along your path. Sometimes it’s the words we speak to ourselves about ourselves that must be purged and purified.

This week, as you settle back into your routine, stay mindful. Set your goal or intention, and take the time to look at your daily routine to see if your daily activities reflect the actions necessary to make your intention reality. As you further your intention, day by day, task by task, be mindful of the “tapes” playing in your head. Notice if you second guess yourself and your abilities, the worthiness of your goal, or your commitment to it.

The adage, “Every thought is a prayer, every word is a spell,” is absolutely true. When you catch yourself in doubt, try to immediately replace your doubt with words of support and love (think the kind of support you get from the people in your life who love you most – who BELIEVE in you from their depths), and flip the script.

Stay in the practice – reflect on your priorities, actions, and thoughts, day after day – to ensure they are in alignment and in integrity with the intention you’ve set. The greatest shifts in our lives do not come overnight; they occur when we commit to returning again and again to the path we’ve set. To be brave, correct course when needed – and never give up.

Most importantly, surround yourself with like-minded people who will lift you up. Join your Five Peaks Tribe as we embark on Baron Baptiste’s 40 Days to Personal Revolution Program beginning January 27th. This program is free, and utilizes the tools of asana, meditation, mindful eating, and self-inquiry, to empower you to create real and lasting transformation in your own life – into 2018, and beyond.

Have a beautiful week yogis – see you on the mat!

Colure is a mostly-vegan yoga teacher, mom, wife, graphic designer, self-proclaimed nerd, and proud Co-Founder of Five Peaks Power Yoga. When she’s not at the studio teaching or practicing yoga, she can be found relaxing in her favorite local coffee shop, or adventuring around the greater DC region with her family.

On the 1st Day of Giving, my yoga tribe gave to me… A free gift for expanding our Tribe family!
*Less than 10 spots left for Grand Opening Pricing of Tribe5 memberships; Register now & receive a free gift of your choice (eye pillow, bolster, meditation cushion). This offer is extended to everyone in our Tribe5 membership family!
Heart to heart, hand to hand, we’re held in the holiday spirit here at Five Peaks…
As we step forward into our intention of Seva, we honor the importance of self-care as a primary step along the path toward better serving others.
This week, we begin our countdown of the 12 Days of Giving – with daily offers to help you center, restore, and rejoice. By making time to serve your soul this holiday season, you’ll be better equipped to serve those around you from a place of presence and joy.
Happy Holidays! Take care of yourself, and take care of others. We look forward to seeing you on the mat soon!

Colure is a mostly-vegan yoga teacher, mom, wife, graphic designer, self-proclaimed nerd, and proud Co-Founder of Five Peaks Power Yoga. When she’s not at the studio teaching or practicing yoga, she can be found relaxing in her favorite local coffee shop, or adventuring around the greater DC region with her family.

December: SEVA (Service)

December 13, 2017

Throughout the month of December here at Five Peaks, we are focusing on the theme of SEVA. In Sanskrit, “Seva” means “selfless service”. It is the act of giving; openly, without the need to receive.

But Seva also has two facets – that is, while the primary intention of Seva is to be of service to others, it is important to stay mindful of how we are caring for ourselves as well. Think about it this way – if your tank is empty and you are running on fumes, you won’t have much of anything left to give. When our spiritual tank is empty, we can’t effectively serve others from a present and compassionate space.

This time of year, it’s easy to forget about self-care in the name of serving those we love; And understandably so – this is the season of giving, after all. However, the best way to serve those you love is to take care of yourself first – body, mind, and soul – so that you can more fully give of yourself in every interaction, and flow through this holiday season with presence, clarity, and heart.

As we move through this week, consider how you are prioritizing self-care. How are you nourishing your body, mind, and spirit? By showing up for yourself in a powerful way, you are engaging in the act of “Seva” – for yourself, and by extension, everyone else you’ll meet along the way.

This week, we begin our countdown of the “12 Days of Giving” – with daily offers to help you center, restore, and rejoice. By making time to serve your soul this holiday season, you’ll be better equipped to serve those around you from a place of presence and joy.

Check back here on the blog, or follow along on our social media channels. We look forward to seeing you on the mat soon!

Colure is a mostly-vegan yoga teacher, mom, wife, graphic designer, self-proclaimed nerd, and proud Co-Founder of Five Peaks Power Yoga. When she’s not at the studio teaching or practicing yoga, she can be found relaxing in her favorite local coffee shop, or adventuring around the greater DC region with her family.

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