Friday, November 2, 2012

November Musing

In September I was quoting one of my favorite piece of wisdom from the Upanishads.

It is still a profoundly true and humbling quote. Focusing on our thoughts is not easy. The pre-requisite to it, to quiet the mind is even a larger challenge. I hope that you all were able to find some time in solitude and quietude. As we are turning into Fall and Winter it is time for some introspection. 

Finding our more peaceful, more content ways of being could never come at a bad time, but with Thanksgiving approaching it is even more relevant. Families and friends come together around a dinner table to share time, laughter and a meal together to remember and be reminded what is truly important. This month, follow a simple gratitude practice. Every nite, before you go to sleep write down three things you are grateful for that day. They can be from big things, such as your family, peace, your general health, to small things such as the lentil soup you got the chance to experience that day... or a smile you received from a stranger. Just notice by the month's end your heart will be filled with so much love and compassion. Sitting at the Thanksgiving table, it will be difficult to select only a few things you are thankful for to share with your loved ones.

And if you feel so inclined share your blessings, thoughts on gratitude with the Quiet Mind Community on our Facebook page or on our Blog. 

This month is a big one in other ways as well. Many people on the East Coast are recovering from the devastation Hurricane Sandy brought upon them. Our hearts go out those greatly affected. I hope all of you are safe and back to mostly normal routines by now. 

It is also the month of the presidential elections. The future of this country and the world depends on all who can practice their democratic right to vote. In the Western world, the USA has the record of one of the lowest voter turn out of all countries. As a citizen of a former Socialist country, where democratic rights were not granted, I encourage you to get out there let your voice heard. And I am not alone. On this day when there is a great divide in this nation, yoga unites. On Election Day, Nov 6th, the Washington DC area yoga community stands for unity by bringing people together in complimentary yoga classes all day, including Quiet Mind. Please come early with a mat to ensure a spot at class. For information on this effort and also on other participating studios, visit  

Finally, this month and the next are filled with many wonderful events at Quiet Mind that can help you find that inner peace, formulate your blessings and just to connect, connect, connect with like minded people. To list all the upcoming events here briefly would be impossible so just scroll down in the Newsletter to our November Events (and beyond) section or go straight to the website. We are always excited to see you at the studio. One of the true blessings that we all feel here. Thank you :)


Rita and the Quiet Mind Tribe

October Musing

Last month I was writing about beginnings and intentions. September being the start of the school year, we associate that month with beginnings and resolutions. I hope you all had some fun beginnings, set some meaningful intentions, and now are ready to settle into October and the rest of the Fall. 

This month, circling back to intentions, I wanted to share one of my favorite quotes I not only use in yoga classes but I try to live by as well:

It is a profoundly true and humbling quote. Our mind is full of unfiltered thoughts every minute of the day as we are surrounded by "noise" in our lives. We worry constantly, as expectations weigh us down. From family, friends, and society. There is an image out there what happy, accomplished, successful is and we thrive to achieve it no matter what. We study, we work hard and once we reach one goal, suddenly there is something else out there that family, friends, and society tell us we need to maintain happiness and satisfaction. And it becomes a vicious circle of "overscheduling", "overworking", "overdoing" and "overworry" unless we are able to pause and quiet the outside world down to check out what truly makes us a success in this life. Then focusing our energy fulfilling those dreams.

"Watch your thoughts; they become words...". But how can we even attempt to watch our thoughts when there is so much noise out there and in our minds?  We need to set aside time to reflect and contemplate, to find mental stillness. We need to cultivate silence. There is too much chatter in our minds so we need to unplug at times from the TV, iPad, smart phones, newspaper, the radio, family, friends and society. We need to learn to be comfortable with silence, which is another way saying to be become more comfortable with ourselves. Yoga and meditation help us with quieting the mind and finding this comfort.

Once we start to deepen our understanding of our true Self, our deeper rooted intentions and desires, the chain of actions described in the Upanishads quote will bring us that happiness and contentment. Just think of a situation from the recent past when you were reacting to something negative, and you reacted too fast... Maybe you thought of anger, you perhaps chose hurtful words and upset someone you love or respect. Then try to imagine how the situation would have been if you were operating from that deeper understanding of your Self, and the sense that everything links together. You probably would not have gotten angry so fast, used different words and the situation could have been resolved in a more satisfying manner. Does it sound familiar?

That is what this quote and yoga teach us. Finding our true intentions within our hearts is not easy. But once you do, your words, actions, habits will reflect it and you will have a bright destiny. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

August Musings

Its Summer. It's hot. It's very hot... This is the best time to enjoy vacations close to or far away from home, it is time to cool off at the ocean or a lake, enjoy some mountain breeze, explore new cities or stay at home on a staycation. It is an Olympic Summer afterall as well... :)

I had a great time this past month enjoying a little bit of staycation with my niece who was visiting from Hungary. Yes, we visited the ocean and NYC as well, but the greatest was to be a tourist again in Washington DC. I knew I love this town with passion... But when you run your day-to-day life, it is sometimes hard to appreciate all that our city can offer. There are the museums, the National Mall, the various neighborhoods, the great restaurants, parks, the shops, and of course the Potomac and the Kennedy Center. And lets not forget about the DC Duck :)

Seeing the city through the eyes of my niece was a wonderful experience. And as I was sitting down to write this August musing, I kept making a comparison of being a tourist in my town, seeing things with fresh eyes to having a beginner's mind on my mat when I practice yoga. For those of us who have been practicing yoga for a long time, we take things for granted at times. My Warrior II is just perfect, I can hold my inversion for minutes, and I can sit in meditation for quiet a while. So what else? But at times it is so wonderful to come to the mat and look at my practice with a beginner's mind. I love taking different level classes, different styles and meet new teachers as I always learn something new. Just like seeing the Capital Building at nite, all angles seem different, I enjoy rediscovering nuances about asanas, sequences or philosophical teachings.

Afterall, our practice is always changing because we change. We are more stressed, less stressed, happy, sad, dealing with an injury, having babies, or simply getting older :)

This August observe and explore something new about yourself and your practice. Keep a beginner's mind when you come to the mat, and even if something is presented to you in a slightly different way than what you are used to, give it a chance to surprise you. Just like seeing our beautiful city from the river from a DC Duck, find lots of twinkles and hidden gems in your Summer practice.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Yoga Into Summer Challenge - Musing #6 - What Makes You Happy

Last week I was "musing" about how memories can bring us happiness, calmness, a quiet mind. How did your memory treasure hunt go? I hope you were able to relive a few memories with all your senses again. Perhaps you found a memento you purchased on a trip, an old recipe that you cooked with your grandma, a letter (ok, maybe more likely an email:)) from a loved one, a photo from a birthday party or something else. Share with us on our Blog if you would like to. It is always nice to learn from each other.

This week let's carry on a step further. If we are able to recall memories that bring us happiness how about starting to pay attention to what makes us happy. I know, I know it is a fairly large topic to grapple with. But again, we learn to be patient and observant in our yoga practices so just give yourself time.

I was in a restorative class a few weeks back when Gracy was reading from a book called The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown . (Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.) A book as its title suggests is a great accumulation of research on a movement of letting go, on becoming more mindful about what is truly important in our lives, what is worth working towards. Sounds familiar? Yes, you probably hear those messages in Quiet Mind yoga classes.

The chapter Gracy was reading to us was about Play and Rest (Chapter 7), letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self worth. Which is hard. In our society, in our city the first question people ask, who do you work for? How many degrees do you have? How many weekends a month do you work? We seem to think that the more overtime hours we put in, the more exhausted we sound, the more important we are. There are times in our lives when overworking is inevitable of course. But when times are calmer Dr. Brown suggests taking a good look at ourselves. Making a list of "joy and meaning" - when things go well in your life, when you feel happy what does it look like? Her and her family's answers included: "sleep, working out, healthy food, cooking, time off, weekends away, going to church, being present with the kids, a sense of control over our money, meaningful work that does not consume us, time to piddle, time with family and close friends and time to just hang out". Comparing this list with their dream list - accomplishments and acquisitions mainly - bigger house, cars, large salary goals - on this list everything required making and spending more money.

They realized that letting go many of the items on the second list, things they wanted to acquire and accomplish they would be living their dream now. Not in the future, but right now. Just as any changes in our habits, our outlook, our routine, this is yet another not so easy process. But can be so rewarding. It does not mean that you will not move into that bigger house, have that car, get the degree you want, it just helps you put it in perspective if you really need it, or you want it because that is what you think you are supposed to do. Allow yourself more time and clarity of what is truly important, what makes you happy NOW.

Hammad and I made our list as well (with our puppy, Chewy in mind of course :)), and there were some surprises there too. Some question marks and some stuff to work through but it was a great exercise. It will take some time to live by it, and I am also aware that the list will change as our life circumstances change. One thing that I came away with is that meaningful work does make me happy. I am so happy everytime I step on the mat, I am happy when I am teaching yoga, I am happy when I am writing. If I can be lucky enough to do those for the rest of my life...

I wish you good soulsearching, finding things that truly make you happy and enjoying them. NOW. Oh and if you have not seen it watch the great documentary Happy. Or look at our Summer schedule coming out next week, and join us for a movie nite watching the film together :) Happy times :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Yoga Into Summer Challenge - Musing #5 - Memory Treasure Hunt

I was reading an article about how pleasant memories have a great effect on our body and mind. A scent, a melody, a flavor, sound, laughter can transport us back to a place of joy and happiness even if for a moment. It can lift up our mood and all of a sudden we can feel the same way as we did when the memory was created. Time stops and our body reacts pleasantly. Some scientific studies show that these memories and positive thoughts free up a hormone called DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) that is responsible for rejuvenation, send more blood to the brain and our heart-beat becomes calmer. We become calmer, come up with better ideas and just feel happier. So in case you feel down, pull up some fun memory and get in a better mood.

Have things around that bring those memories up. Photos, books, small presents, songs, poems, and more. Enjoy them when you are down. The photo above I just found again as I was clearing out my photo libraries. It was taken in Szeged, my home town a few years back in one of the main squares of the city. It was a gorgeous Spring day with warm and soft rain and we were out with my little niece and nephew. We were playing hide and seek, chasing pigeons, had ice cream and just walked and walked. Just looking at the shiny cobble stones, the kids running after the pigeons I am there again. I can even see everyone faces, the clear streets after the rain and dripping ice cream on my nephew's chin. One of the many happy memories from my "h(om)ecomings".

And how does this relate to yoga? Yoga that teaches that we need to be in the present moment? Well, we have to arrive to that present moment from somewhere. We are made up of so many memories, ingrained experiences we carry from our recent and generations-back past (as discussed in the first Blog Entry), our aspirations for the future and certainly we are complex. In my view yoga is here to help us sort through all this mind-stuff. When you teach your body to move with your breath, to breathe with your movement, when you find the clarity of the mind for a (nano-)second in your practice you are making choices on the mat and off the mat as well: what should influence you, what should stay with you and what to let go of. And those experiences (even from your mat) will steer you towards a more peaceful and happy existence. Yes, we know now that this journey is a long one, but hey, more time to make even more lovely and recallable memories. :)

Therefore, if we want pleasant memories, what we do now is vital. In my yoga practice, I try to make each breath and its coordinating movement bring me joy and pleasure. And - even though it is harder - I try to do the same off the mat in my every days as well.

This week dig deep and bring up some fun and happy memories, give yourself a little time to "indulge" in those memories and notice how you feel. Happy memory treasure hunt! And if you would like to share it with us, please do on our Blog. We can always learn something from eachother.


:) Rita

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Yoga Into Summer Challenge - Musings #4 - The Soul Gardener

It is spring time. It is time to plant the seeds and to tend to your gardens. The beautiful gardens outside and our inner garden as well. Just like in the real gardens, the work in our inner garden can be challenging at times. Therefore, today I just wanted to share two little fables I found while reading the Yoga International magazine. They are about accepting what we have, who we are, where we are at any given moment...

"Mulla Nasrudin decided to start a flower garden. He prepared the soil and planted the seeds of many beautiful flowers. But when they came up, his garden was filled not just with his chosen flowers but also overrun with dandelions. He sought out advice from gardeners all over and tried every method known to get rid of them but no avail. Finally he walked all the way to the capital to speak with the royal gardener at the sheik's palace. The wise old man has counseled many gardeners before and suggested a variety of remedies to expel the dandelions but Mulla Nasredin had tried them all. Then they sat together in silence for some time... And finally the royal gardener looked at Nasrudin and said: "Well... then I suggest that you learn to love them."
-- Sufi
From Soul Food to Nourish the Spirit and the Heart - edited by Jack Kornfield and Christina Feldman.

The fable teaches us to love all our little flaws, making peace with possible injuries, health conditions that might seem as an obstacle in letting our deep and true self bloom. They are there for a reason. By accepting them, caring for them we learn. The greatest power we all possess is the ability to make choices about ourselves. How we want to conduct our lives should come from a deeper understanding, a deeper wisdom.

"Nasrudin was an old man looking back on his life. He sat with his friends in the tea shop telling his story.
"When I was young I was fiery-I wanted to awaken everyone. I prayed to God to give me strength to change the world... In mid-life I awoke one day and realized my life was half over and I had changed noone. So I prayed to God to give me the strength to change those close around me who so much needed it... Alas, now I am old and my prayer is even simpler. God, I ask, please give me the strength to at least change myself. "

-- Sufi 
From Soul Food to Nourish the Spirit and the Heart - edited by Jack Kornfield and Christina Feldman.

What are the "dandelions" in your life? Find them, name them, sit with them, and start trying to love them. It is not always easy but what a great and freeing feeling once you do... the choice is only yours. And once you do, you become a great example for many to follow...

Happy "soul gardening"!

Yoga Into Summer Challenge - Musing #3 - Back in the USA

After such a lovely trip I am back in the USA and back at the studio. It is nice to be back. My aunt put it best about my travels between Hungary and the USA: "You are lucky; you leave home to go home, whichever direction you travel". Both places are homes for me, which is indeed a blessing. Of course it also means that I miss the one when I am in the other. For many of us who are from other countries and live here it is something we are used to. And it is sometimes hard. My way of bringing Hungary home with me is in words. I buy mostly books and my favorite magazines whenever I go, making traveling, other shopping and of course packing difficult. Oh how I miss those flying days when we could check in two bags and there was almost no weight limit :)

Now I do need to restrict myself to 4-5 books and equal amount of magazines. But it is so worth to have the written word in my mother tongue. Why go into so much trouble? How about the Internet, you might ask? And yes, that is also wonderful but books are still hard to come by online (Any day now... Amazon/Kindle will sure get into the business of distributing Hungarian books) and I like the old fashioned way of paging through magazines as well. So you can see that I do need them. This way I have a few months of reading material and they usually run out just in time before my next trip. That is a lot of books over the years for sure...

One could either say I am a patriot and an avid reader or that I am a hoarder of books. Borderline of difference. Either way I have been thinking during this trip about ways to maintain my reading habits but without breaking my back and our book cases. And of course Yoga comes to rescue... again...

One of the Yamas, Aparigraha, non-attachment comes up a lot in our teachings. As you can read in our Yoga Challenge Blog from last year, Aparigraha is often associated with not clinging to material possessions, emotions, values, thoughts and characteristics.

There are many interpretations of Aparigraha out there, the most often heard one is abstaining from greed. Is my collection of books in Hungarian too much? Should I not gather any more? To follow Aparigraha one needs to look at their possessions inside and out. If our life revolves only around objects that can be lost or destroyed, we find that we are either upset over the loss of these items or are constantly worried that we may lose these items. Of course we dont want to give up everything we just need to find balance. And whatever we do, we should feel comfortable and content with our choices.

I like this interpretation by Nischala Joy Devi: "Aparigraha gives us the secret to earthly life. Take a moment to feel gratitude for the great blessings that surround you... Even when you acknowledge the bounty, is there still a lingering apprehension that part or all of it may be taken away? That the well might run dry? Just thinking that a resource is limited initiates fear, thereby lessening the joy in the present moment." Well, that is certainly not the case with me and my Hungarian books. I can never run out of them, since I already read them. And I feel good about the books on the shelves but I would be also happy to share them with others as well. (Let me know if you want to borrow some Hungarian literature :))

By the teachings of yoga and the principle of Aparigraha, I know that deep in my heart I have all I need. My books help me to feel connected all the time. Even though the feeling of longing is not an easy one, I am thankful that I can spend the majority of my time in this country. But I am also happy that I come from another culture. Both are important. I have these two sets of experiences, languages, cultures and food of course. And lots of shelf space :)

How about you? When you look around you and deep into your heart, what are the things that truly ground you without weighing you down?
Happy explorations of Aparigraha this week.