The season is changing. Warm summer days are coming to an end. Maples are beginning to change to a brilliant red hue. The rain has descended on the landscape, soon enough changing to the dreaded four-letter word, snow. Am I ready for this seasonal adjustment? Do I have a choice? The answer is a resounding ”no” on both accounts, but it matters not. The change is coming.
Seasons of life mirror the seasons of nature. Babies become toddlers, then in a blink of an eye, teens. Am I ready for this season? Do I have a choice? The answer continues to be ”no,” but move forward, I must. Driving and dating are new topics of discussion. Dances and hangouts are the preferred activities of this season. Each day brings fresh decisions on how to move into and through this period of time.
With each exciting engagement pushing me onward, I retreat to the comfort of routine to ground me. Although each day offers an opportunity for growth, it also brings rest and reassurance, with its sameness. At times, I dread both. Other moments, I understand that a balance is necessary. Too much of one leaves me longing for the other. The earth needs rain and sun for survival. We need rest and activity to live a life of peace and fulfillment.
Susan J. McFarland
October 2, 2019
While seated in a room dedicated to the sun, I gaze upon the golden hues gleaming through the barren trees. The sun is on the move, rising steadily about the tree line. For now, only light glimmers beyond the marsh, but soon a brilliant globe of yellow will illuminate this day.
The rain has descended and engulfed upon this landscape for the last few days, so a reprieve of sunlight is a welcomed sight. Who doesn't love sunshine and warmth? It's a magical mood enhancer, readying us for fun, frolic, and marvel.
In my youth, the sun was the backdrop for hot summer days at the lake. Kissing my pale skin, it gifted me with a bronzed coating. Hours were spent under its glow. Extended days gave me time for playing, swimming, riding, and bathing in its warmth. I miss those uninhibited activities the sun allowed us to experience under the safety of its light.
During early adulthood, time was passed under fluorescent lighting. The sun was missed, especially during the long and cold, winter months. Beckoning me south, I found the ever-present sun shining forth on a Florida beach. Engaging in long walks upon its rising and marveling at its beauty upon its descent, appreciation for the sun grew. Memories shared with my parents, especially my Dad, at the water's edge, became more cherished upon his passing. Return trips to worship this star, brought hope for the reality of a never-ending Light.
Experiencing the rising and falling of the sun has become a ritual. After long days or even months with little signs of bright sunlight, it returns giving warmth to newly budded trees and grounded flowers rising above the soil. Sunlight is synonymous with new beginnings and fresh starts, as it begins again each day lighting our pathways. The sun shows us how we too can light the world. Like the sun, even though our light may be dimmed, it is always there.
Susan J. McFarland
May 4, 2019
Yoga, walking in nature, and writing brings me joy. These activities place me in the NOW, allowing my purest form of free expression and expansion to come forward in my life. Each one on its own provides benefits.
Yoga, the practice of uniting the body, mind, and spirit into alignment keeps me grounded, flexible, and balanced through the practice and beyond. With it comes a sense of spiritual community and a place of belonging within myself and my world. In yoga, I am enough. Showing up for a class or a pose in yoga is all that is required. Applying this to life relieves the self-imposed pressure of striving for the end result. It helps me to be present in the process of living. Yoga is a teacher in the art of being human.
Its lesson is joy.
Walking in nature among wildlife and birds, and trees bring me to a state of awe and wonder. Constantly amazed by the profound beauty in nature I gaze upon the seemingly chaotic wilderness and relax. With fresh air and sunlight, I am cleansed of my worries. Moving through this landscape, I am connected to every critter, creature, and plant. Together, we share the benefits of Mother Earth. Its message is joy.
Writing, at times is difficult for me, to find the willingness to sit with it. Yet, it can provide a great sense of accomplishment, more than the other two. It requires extended effort to be in quiet space without the added release of movement that yoga and walking supply. Delving into larger landscapes of untamed thought processes can be frightening. Exploring this unknown or unresolved territory is more challenging than an advanced pose or a rocky path. Writing brings me to the real me. There is no resting in child's pose or hiding behind a shady tree. You are open, exposed, and vulnerable to yourself and your readers. Its reward is joy
What greater joy is there than to know and experience your true self in its authentic form.
Susan J. McFarland
April 24, 2019
April has arrived and I can feel a shift of energy. Patio furniture is placed outside. The yard is cleared of debris from winter storms. Walks in the woods become part of the daily ritual. The process of cottage building begins as my husband heads north with the first load of supplies to be placed in our newly rented storage unit.
School is two months away from being complete for the year. Track meets start this week. Yet, Middle School will soon be a thing of the past. A teenage driver with a job will be the new norm. Yoga Teacher Training is now the focus, as I learn to mother myself.
A feel a sigh of relief as I breath out. Pent up pressure is released as fresh air from open windows filters into our home. This is spring. The start of new beginnings, as crocus’ push their way towards the light.
Just as a flower has waited to bloom when the warmth and light return, so too have I lingered in darkness only to be ready for spring when it so easily and effortlessly arrives.
Susan J. McFarland
April 7, 2019
OM(aah, ooh, hmm)
Shamatha, a Sanskrit term for peaceful abiding reached through meditation on an object, breath, or mind. Begin by sitting in the Seven Points Posture, with a lowered gaze and heart lifted focus, on an object, picture, or drawing. Breathe in. Release. Repeat. Removing the picture, begin to focus on breath. Naturally and with ease, breathe in and out. Notice the gap in between each in and out breath. This space is always there, but rarely noticed. It is expansive and limitless. As thoughts and emotions come, be aware of them, without judgment or reaction. Let them pass through. Release them as a balloon is released in the sky. Let them settle, as sand rests in water once it is calm. Picture a rock tight in your hand and let it fall to the ground. Continue to breathe in and out.
Now, increase the space between the in and out breaths to four counts. Continue this practice until the mind wanders off. As you notice the mind thinking, bring the awareness back to the breath. Follow the breath, in, rest, out. Be aware of the location of your breath. Do you notice it in the nostrils, the throat, or chest. Try to bring it down deep into the belly than slowly let it out. Continue this breathing pattern, bringing awareness to your contact points. Feel the support of the earth below you. Now, take a full breath into your entire body reaching to your toes. Relax your muscles as you release the breath.
Come back to this space and this place. Move your fingers and toes, slowly and gently. Begin to bring movement back to your body. Lift your gaze.
Susan J. McFarland
March 23, 2019
She got quieter as she got older. Listening to the silence, she heard the words in between. They left no room for a response. Fewer words spoken, allowed for more to be absorbed. No need to interrupt with a quick reply she waited, as a long silent pause ebbed out. Enveloping the space, with the wisdom of the years, brought her peace to the present moment. The comfort of quiet brought her to a place of ease. No longer in need of answering questions or arguing concerns, she was free to be. Her own inner understanding was enough without a desire for others to see her the way she saw herself.
The echo breath in yoga, a technique of finding more breath to release after the initial exhale, is a concept to bring forward in life. When I think I have exhausted all possibilities, I find I have a bit left to push out. It signifies that I'm not done. There is more to let go of if I dig deep. A final cleansing can be found if a slight amount of effort is practiced. Thinking of my life and the need for the echo breath, in possessions, partnerships, and parenting, I reflect on what is left to exhale.
Organizing is therapeutic for me. I continuously review what items are in my home. Often, I rearrange them or set them aside for a season. Finding the ”echo breath” in my material goods, I rethink what I really need. Does it serve a purpose? What is its importance? Echoing the desire for minimalism I bring the breath into my buying. Considering an item, I breathe in. On the exhale I release the impetuous desire. Furthering exhaling, I determine whether the need is real or imagined. The breath gives pause to the moment, allowing for space and reason to override impulse. The right decision settles in.
A partnership is with a spouse, friends, or business associates. Limiting relationships, so the focus can be on the quality of it versus the quantity is what matters most to me. We have unlimited opportunities to partner with various people and groups. Time constraints only allow for a certain amount of choices. Choose wisely. Perhaps the echo breath is needed to really determine who and what you want to partner with? Breathing deeply and think about each significant partnership in your life. Does it line up with your current value system? Over the years my priorities have changed drastically. I am very conscious of how I spend my time. Who I am with and what I am doing matters. Make sure your partners align with your wants and needs. Boundaries or total release may be needed if they do not. Use your extra out breath to determine who’s right for you.
Using the echo breath while parenting can be the most difficult. You cannot donate or disregard your children. Boundaries can be set to a point, but if they are in your care, then total release is not possible. Finding the breath situationally could be the answer. Parenting gives us chances to practice breathing in response to escalating encounters. Learning to breathe through the chaos and discomfort provides the needed hesitation before conflict heightens. Adding an expiration at the end brings clarity and calm.
The practice of the echo breath in yoga class and beyond could supply the clearing of toxins that are housed in the physical, mental and spiritual realms. Finding a bit more breath to release can give you much needed space opening your world to new possibilities.
Susan J. McFarland
March 7, 2019
Sitting at a traffic light on a frosty, icy morning, I wait. The yoga studio is less than a mile away, but I must cross over the river. The light turns green, we inch our way up a bit closer than it’s red again. We sit. We wait. I am here, in the midst of freezing rain and snowy roads. Now is not the Now I want to be in. Drifting off into the realms of my imagination I dream of green trees, warm temperatures, and dry roads.
I could sit and bemoan the fact that I will be delayed in arriving to class. Being here, I could fret and fuss about the current driving conditions or curse the driver in front of me for going slow. Instead, I chose to casually drift away to a place of peace. Avoiding the Now is calling me to calm instead of chaos. Breathing in, I relax. Breathing out, I release.
There are moments in our lives where unpleasant activities occur. We must be in places that are physically or mentally uncomfortable. These are opportunities for practice. We practice remaining in a balanced state, while our surroundings are in confusion. Using tools from breathing and meditation, we observe the happenings without engaging in them. No need for reaction, we remain in tranquility. Staying in a state of serenity, the time passes and the light turns green.
Susan J. McFarland
February 28, 2019
A new teacher arrived at my yoga studio. First of all, most of the teachers are female. This teacher is a male. English is his second language, so he can be hard to understand. He is from India. His yoga teachings are authentic. Chanting OM and Hindu prayers, we began class. Feeling unsure, I followed instructions to the best of my ability. The class was challenging. Losing focus at times, I became impatient. The next day I was sore but happy that I was able to experience this form of yoga here in the USA. It was a gift.
Learning that this teacher is starting a yoga teacher training class with the owner of the studio, I was intrigued. Having considered yoga instruction as my next step, I started to inquire about the details. Asking questions of the studio and myself I pondered the idea of receiving authentic knowledge and ancient wisdom from India. Is this the right time and place for me to begin this journey? Am I up for the challenge? It would require a large time commitment. Pushing my body, mind, and spirit to its limit would be the reward.
We can become complacent with our lives. Once certain abilities are mastered, it is easy to remain in the comfort zone. The constant push and pull between ease and challenge, is the “yoga of life.” In poses, there is rest and effort. Some asanas are easy, others require extra endurance. This is the Yin and Yang of yoga called balance. Yoga teaches us to go beyond the confinement of our perceived limitations. A yoga practice is about personal growth and expansion, literally and figuratively. Some days, we exert more effort, while other days we might need to take it slow. Where are you in life? Is it time to challenge yourself? Authentic challenges can bring freshness and vitality to your soul.
Susan J. McFarland
February 21, 2019
As I sit here on Valentine’s Day, home with a sick daughter, I am coming to realize the true meaning of Love. Love is holding space for another when they can’t hold it for themselves. It’s going to the med center at night after a long day or bringing a hot cup of tea to soothe a sore throat. Love is allowing your baby, even if she’s a teen, to rest on your lap, risking illness of your own, just to give her a moment of comfort. Cards, flowers, and chocolates are nice, but they are only mere tokens of the deep and abiding Love of a parent for a child. God’s Love goes beyond this. The Love of the Universe is vast and ever-present. We just need to know where to look?
My older daughter asked if Valentine’s Day is just for romantic couples. No, I replied. It’s about bringing awareness to the Love in your life. It could be the Love of friends, family, pets, or even Nature. Love is all around us, but it’s especially within us. Love of others, nature, and life starts with self-love. Self-love is not something outside of us, but lives inward, near the heart. Search today for Love, find it, not in the external trappings of the world, but in the genuine and internal Heart of the Universe.
Susan J. McFarland
February 14, 2019