Yoga Teacher Training

August 18, 2008

 

“Nature is always orchestrating situations around us to bring about self-realization.” – Deepak Chopra

 

My diary during my Yoga Teacher Training in Aluenda, Spain:

I’m at the moment participating in this intensive yoga teacher training near Madrid. The scenery is beautiful, people are friendly, activities are interesting and the food is good. 

Our Daily Schedule is following:

  • 5.30am Wake-up
  • 6am Satsang (Meditation, chanting, lecture)
  • 8am Asanas, pranayama
  • 10am Brunch
  • 11am Karma yoga
  • 12noon Bhagavad Gita or Chanting class
  • 2pm Main lecture
  • 4pm Asanas, pranayama
  • 6pm Dinner
  • 8pm Satsang (Meditation, chanting, lecture)
More to follow…
***
My tummy failed me yesterday… I had to leave in the middle of morning meditation to vomit… I feel better already and I hope that my stomach is stronger now and I won’t have to puke again… 
Another thing is that I have to wake up at 5 with one other girl when all the others can sleep until 5.30… It’s my karma yoga duty to prepare the altar for the morning meditation… And I actually love it. 🙂 I love to wake up when it’s completely quiet. One important part of the yogic life is positive thinking. Yoga says that we can see something good in even the worst things in the world. More to follow…
***
I feel very tired today. All these short nights are starting to have an effect. But the tiredness doesn’t feel bad and it doesn’t feel destructive at all. What I mean by that is that I don’t have any bad habits/thoughts due to it. I don’t have too strong food cravings even if I did buy myself some cheese and dates yesterday when we had a chance to go to a supermarket. 🙂 I feel serenely tired.
 
Actually today’s meditation was the best so far. My legs didn’t get at all tired, therefore, my attention wasn’t in the pain and I was able to transcend a bit. I started hearing these two mantras in my head: “Om namo narayana” which means asking for peace for everyone in the world, and then “Yo soy dicha, yo soy dicha, dicha absoluta, dicha soy yo” which means that I am bliss/joy, I’m the absolute bliss/joy. 🙂 Then I started to feel my soul turning around like in a carousel inside me. That was cool. 🙂 I have to go now to get ready for my Bhagavad Gita lesson.
More to follow…
***
Really busy and tired, busy and tired, busy and tired…
***
The last week of the training has started. I feel great today because I was able to sleep half an hour longer. 🙂 I feel balanced and joyful. What more can you ask for? 😉 La vida es maravillosa!
***
The course has ended and I’m now officially a yoga teacher – yoga siromani! 🙂 I was able to stretch my limbs and limits much more than I thought I could before the course.
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A Messenger of Peace: St. Catherine of Siena

For my summer holiday I went to Italy for three weeks. It was just as I had remembered. The cultural heritage there is overwhelming. Every landscape in Tuscany is like a beautiful painting, every street corner has a long history, and one can sense the presence of many great minds of the past. One of the beautiful towns in Tuscany is Siena, a medieval town that nowadays is mostly known for its horse race in the town centre – the Palio.

On this visit to Siena, however, my mind and my heart were opened to a special woman in the town’s history: Catherine of Siena. This extraordinary woman has left her mark on Italian and Church history. Therefore, I thought that it might be beneficial to share this story of Catherine with others, especially in this time of renewed insecurity and wars.

 

Catherine’s childhood

Catherine Benincasa was born in 1347 with her twin sister Giovanna. The Benincasa family was unusually large (24 children, of which Giovanna died right after her baptism) and well-known for its Christian faith. When Catherine was a year old, the Black Death was already raging – and eventually eliminated one third of Europe’s population. Among the plague victims were the parents of a ten-year-old boy Tommaso della Fonte who, shortly afterwards, was adopted into the Benincasa family.

Early in Catherine’s life it was evident that she was a very devout little girl. At the age of six, she said she had her first vision of Jesus. Shortly after this her adopted brother Tommaso decided to enter an order of monks, the Dominician friars. Inspired by Tommaso’s example, and by the stories she had heard of the holy martyrs, the virgins, and the fathers of the desert, Catherine decided that she too, wanted to retire into solitude to love and serve God.

 

Conviction

One day, after a day of prayer on the outskirts of Siena, Catherine felt that God wanted her to do just this: leave the world behind, live in solitude, and listen to Him. She realised, then, that everything compared to God was insignificant and utterly empty. Only He could make her truly happy.

Catherine wanted to join a special order (The Third Order of St. Dominic) established for lay people, that is, ordinary churchgoers. Members could contribute to the work of spreading the faith and defending the Church. Catherine’s mother, however, strongly opposed the idea, and because Catherine was still so young, her mother’s approval was needed. Soon Catherine fell sick and told her mother that she could only recover if allowed to join the Mantellate (this is what the Order was known as in Siena, because they all wore a black “mantello” or cape over a simple white tunic). Finally, her mother felt obliged to let her daughter follow her intuition.

 

From contemplation to action

So Catherine entered the order and eventually became the greatest member in the history of the Mantellates. Still, no one could have predicted such an important career for this humble and illiterate girl. For the next three years she lived in retirement and silence, leaving her house only when it was necessary to participate in Mass and to receive spiritual direction from her adopted brother, Tommaso della Fonte, who, by this time, had become her mentor and confessor.

After Catherine’s years of contemplation, it became clear to her that she must go out into the world for active ministry among the people. Indeed, Catherine was very loving toward her to-be vast spiritual family, especially the poor and the sick. The patients she spoke with declared that just seeing and listening to her brought them inner tranquillity.

In addition to the spiritual, Catherine was also active in the political sphere of life. She was an amazing messenger of peace in Italy, skilled in eliminating discord and removing hatred from the human heart. And hatred existed, unfortunately, abundantly in 14th century Tuscany.

 

A spiritual and political activist

Catherine was convinced of the importance of Christendom’s unity. The attack on Rome by French troops, earlier in 1303, had marked the end of collaboration between French kings and Italian popes that had lasted for nearly 200 years. By this time, the papacy had been forced to operate in Avignon for some 70 years. Catherine believed that the main cause of the murderous struggles in Europe and Italy was the prolonged absence of the pope from his natural place of residence, Rome.

In the spring of 1376, the Florentine government sent her to Avignon as an ambassador of Florence. Pope Gregory XI had recently excommunicated the Florentines, and Catherine was sent to meet him in person, for peace talks. She managed to convince Gregory of the importance of returning to Rome, which he then did the very next year (1377). Early in 1378, Catherine was sent on another peace mission, this time to Florence, by Pope Gregory himself. Peace was achieved later that year. This important accomplishment is said to have prevented the religious and political ruin of the country. Again, Catherine’s most reliable weapons were love and forgiveness.

 

Catherine’s death and canonization

Catherine spent her remaining life in Rome, working hard for the reformation of the Church, serving the poor and afflicted, and dictating letters on behalf of the new pope. Catherine was so occupied in protecting the interest of the Church, that she hardly had any time for herself. Her health was rapidly decreasing and, during the last months of her life in 1380, she suffered many pains and hardships. Her last political work, practically accomplished from her deathbed, was the reconciliation of Pope Urban VI with the Roman Republic.

She was only 33 years old when she passed away.

Catherine left behind a great many disciples who remembered her as a woman of extraordinary personal charm, which prevailed through all her life’s hardships. By following her teaching and example, her disciples continued the work she had started.

The official process of Catherine’s canonization began in 1411, but was suspended due to the Great Western Schism. Catherine was finally canonized in 1461 by a Sienese Pope, Pius II. Catherine was then declared a Saint. Other Catholic acknowledgements have followed. In 1866 St. Catherine was declared Co-Patroness of Rome and, in 1939, she became Patroness of whole of Italy. Her final (and the most prestigious) title in the Catholic Church, Doctor of the Church, was given to her just recently, in 1970.

Catherine believed in – and led people to understand – the power of forgiveness. Are we humble enough to learn something from the life of this young woman?

 

                                                                                         Published in the Values magazine

 

Download and read the article with illustrations from here: St. Catherine of Siena.

 

“The meaning of life is the constant expansion of awareness which happens through and for love.” – J.M. Davies
 

I’m happy when my life is in balance. My life is balanced when it answers to all of my needs. My needs according to NVC are:

 

Autonomy:

       to choose my dreams, goals, values

       to choose my plan for fulfilling my dreams, goals, values

 

Celebration:

       to celebrate the creation of life and dreams fulfilled

       to celebrate losses: loved ones, dreams etc. (mourning)

 

Integrity:

       authenticity

       creativity

       meaning

       self-worth

 

Interdependence:

       acceptance

       appreciation

       closeness

       community

       consideration

       contribution to the enrichment of life (to exercise my power by giving that which
         contributes to life)

       emotional safety

       empathy

       honesty (the empowering honesty that enables us to learn from our limitations)

       love

       reassurance

       respect

       support

       trust

       understanding

       warmth

 

Play:

       fun

       laughter

 

Spiritual Communion:

       beauty

       harmony

       inspiration

       order

       peace

 

Physical Nurturance:

       air

       food

       movement, exercise

       protection from life-threatening forms of life: viruses, bacteria, insects, predatory
         animals

       rest

       sexual expression

       shelter

       touch

       water

“Stop searching and worrying, just learn to love”
 

I believe the world would become more beautiful if people wouldn’t try to do so many things but rather refrain from doing things that cause people, animals and the whole planet to suffer. These things are sometimes called sins. I mean lying, killing, lusting, and so forth. Often times people don’t realise that their actions are harmful. Like when lying, someone thinks he or she is actually being loving to the other person by not telling the truth. Or when a man, for example, is lusting after an attractive woman, he might think that he is appreciating beauty. We are all interconnected and all our actions affect all of us in one way or another. Let’s decide to refrain everyday from doing something ugly and therefore make this world a more beautiful place to live in. What I have discovered to be helpful in refraining from harmful actions, is meditation. When you empty your mind, God can fill it again with peace. When your mind is filled with peace you lack nothing and you are able to live your life skillfully.

 

“If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Into his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.”

– Emily Dickinson

Films

August 13, 2008

Going to a movie theatre is very much like going to a church for me – God always talks to me through the movies I see. In Finland there are a lot of cinemas and cold winter nights that entice oneself to watch films. Therefore, I have gone to my “second church” a lot. Here are some of my favourite films:

Groundhog Day, Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets’ Society, Big Fish, Stranger than Fiction, Manhattan, The Notebook, Something’s Gotta Give, Enchanted, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, As Good As It Gets, Bruce Almighty, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Stardust, As It Is In Heaven (Så som i himmelen), The Blood Diamonds, American Beauty, Sex And The City, Nicholas Nickleby, Grease, The Princess Bride, Take the Lead, Pay It Forward, The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption, Freedom Writers, Dogville, Gandhi, American History X, Shine, P.S. I Love You, Bella, The Nun’s Story, Yes Man, Slumdog Millionaire, BLACK…

As you can see, dramas, comedies and documentaries are my favourite genres. My favourite film at the moment is the Wonderful Life.  A beautiful and inspiring classic. More and more I like comedies the best. There’s never too much laughing in this world.

I dream that people would learn to communicate more, and more constructively. Nonviolent Communication (NVC) gives great tools for it, yet it takes a lot of practice to learn to communicate according to its principles. NVC is developed by Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD, whom I heard speaking in Finland about ten years ago. 

NVC language strengthens our ability to inspire compassion from others and respond compassionately to others and ourselves. NVC guides us to reframe how we express ourselves, how we hear others and resolve conflicts by focusing our consciousness on what we are observing, feeling, needing, and requesting.

Read more from the website of The Centre of Nonviolent Communication.

Or start practicing with the help of WikiHow.