Practice dying

IMG_4642When I first started studying Buddhism back in 2003 I learned a powerful meditation technique that made a lasting impression on my mind to this day; it was meditating on your death.  A lot of people have a negative response when I talk about this meditation, saying that it’s depressing and morbid and why would I want to think about that?!  The truth is we are all going to “die” someday and the other truth is that we never really know when.  That is the reality, but it’s a reality that is not usually at the forefront of our mind.  What happens when you do think about it? For me it jolts me back to life in a strange sort of way.  True I do get a little anxiety after I meditate or contemplate my dying, but it always puts everything in perspective for me and gives me a chance to let go and begin again, in a much more heart centered and soul focused way.  I tend to lighten up and stop reacting and getting frustrated over the small stuff.  It brings me back to my truth of what is important for me, which is spending as many moments as I can in love, in peace and in happiness.  Death heightens our appreciation of every moment we are alive and calls out to us: “Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” (Mary Oliver)   “We do not know where death awaits us, so let us wait for it everywhere. To practice death is to practice freedom. A man who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave.” (Michel de Montaigne)   By practicing dying doesn’t mean we walk around being doom and gloom and announcing the death of all living things.  It actually is the opposite. *Practicing dying means living as close to reality as we can in each moment.  It is the ultimate bravery.  It helps you stand undefended before the ultimate truth with an open heart and an objective mind.  “When we practice dying we are learning to identify less with the Ego and more with the Soul.” -Ram Dass
*From Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser

Gifts from my yoga students

photoOne of my yoga classes that I have been teaching for the last 4 years at a corporation has had its last hurrah. Although this was a pretty unconventional yoga class, done in the cafeteria, on a cold, hard, dirty floor with ants and loud warning bells going off in the middle of class, this was one of my favorite classes.  It wasn’t because of the stellar environment but because of the students that came every week. They truly loved and appreciated me and the yoga I was sharing with them. It changed their life.  Although I was bringing to them the gift of yoga and inner peace, week after week they showed me what true caring was.  They knew I had been going through some rough times and they were the ones ironically that were there for me.

As I was going for a run the other day, I was thinking about this particular class and how I was going to miss them.  This then brought me to another thought. I began to reminisce over the last 13 years I have been teaching yoga and how my yoga teacher, Mokshapriya, was right when she said to me when I was going through a really rough time in my life and feeling alone, “You are not alone, you have your yoga students.” At the time I really couldn’t understand that truth. It didn’t sink in, I just kind of blew it off. During my run the other day though, that truth came barreling into my mind, then into my heart and I literally had to stop running I was crying so hard.  I couldn’t believe it. What an epiphany for me. Yes, Mokshapriya, you were right. I get it now.  All these years I thought I was giving so much of myself through my yoga classes and private sessions but in fact it was and is my yoga students that give so much back to me.

I remember so many times I would be crying in my car driving to go teach a class, pull up to the studio, wiping the tears off my face and saying to myself, “Ok this is not about you right now, get it together. You have no idea who’s in that class, what they are going through and how much they might need yoga right now. Put your pain and heartache to the side, smile and show them your love.” Those were some of my most powerful classes.  Most of you don’t know this, but while you we’re in shivasana, I would sit there with you and silently cry. I went through some pretty tough times in the last decade, as many of you know.  Teaching yoga was my saving grace. My students were my saving grace. As I look back on all the emails, notes, talks, hugs, words of encouragement that have been given so freely and abundantly to me over the last 13 years I am overwhelmed with such gratitude and love that I can’t help but shed tears as I write this letter to you.
So I want to say thank you. It seems that these two words are not enough for what you have given to me, but I want you to know that all of these moments and all of your support has helped shape me and has helped me to grow and to heal. You have been an important part of my journey and I am so grateful for your presence in my life. To all of my yoga teacher friends, you too have helped me to heal and grow. Thank you for holding my hand, for holding my heart and for loving me.
I love you,
SoulFire (Stefania)

Robert Moses Beach, my magical sanctuary

When I need peace of mind, a sanctuary and illumination I escape to Robert Moses Beach.  It’s a 20 minute drive but so worth it.  It’s my regular 3 times a week thing. Just driving over those 3 bridges is cathartic.  A few weeks ago I was really struggling with a deep hurt in my heart. As I was driving over the bridges I could actually feel the sadness leaving my heart and felt myself being filled up with this feeling of “okness” then happiness then complete joy. By magical mosesthe time I got over the third bridge I was singing and dancing in my car! It was so amazing that it happened so fast. I have heard that when your sadness or negative emotions leave you and you are filled with peace and joy that means your angels are there with you. As I was thinking those thoughts I looked up with so much love and gratitude in my heart and said “thank you Angels.”  Next thing I know a car drives past me with a license plate that says, “my angel.”  You can’t make this stuff up!  We are always surrounded by love and support, sometimes you just need to let go and tune in.

Believe in angels. Namaste.