Whole Living Daily

You Are Free: Yoga On and Off the Mat

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Your smile proves that you are not a colony, that you have sovereignty over yourself, that you are doing your best… Events carry us away, and we lose ourselves. Walking meditation helps us regain our sovereignty, our liberty as a human being.  We walk with grace and dignity, like an emperor, like a lion.  Each step is life. —Thich Nhat Hanh

Every few days, I share a favorite quote on my Facebook page.  Recently, I posted a quote about the gift of sitting in stillness by Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh.  Soon after, a friend recommended his book The Long Road Turns to Joy. Ironically, this beautiful little book had been sitting on my shelf unread for years.  It resurfaced during my recent move only days before.  While this brilliant work is a guide to walking meditation, much of it’s content can be applied to almost all aspects of life.

I rediscovered this book at a perfect time.  Over the past month, I’ve been moving forward after having to end a long-term relationship that meant very much to me.  Throughout this transition, I’ve been actively contemplating personal sovereignty.

How can I continue to work towards this centered, autonomous state where one is less dependent on external factors for happiness (people/relationships, objects, substances, you name it!)?  How do we maintain this independent place where we become more effective and fulfilled by grasping less and less?   How do we remember our self-worth and infinite source of inner satisfaction?  How do we find the strength to say, “This soon will pass” when things don’t go according to plan?

I know! These are big questions!  What we must remind ourselves of, however, is that great change and growth comes slowly but surely, through working in gradual yet consistent increments.  Here are a few simple techniques that everyone can do to begin to work towards greater personal sovereignty.

Daily seated or walking meditation help us tap into our inner wisdom bit by bit.  All that takes is a few minutes, commitment, and enthusiasm.  A simple gratitude practice each morning can also be transformative.  Give thanks for your breath, body, mind, and social/physical opportunity.  You can even do this as your make your morning cup of joe or tea…

Something else that has been invaluable to me? Smiling… even just a tiny bit, anywhere, at anytime.  To share one more quote of Thich Nhat Hanh’s, “As you make the effort to let go of your worries and anxieties, please smile.  It may be just the beginning of a smile, but keep it there on your lips… The half-smile is the fruit of your awareness that you are here, alive, walking. At the same time, it nurtures more peace and joy within you.”

Remember, there is no overnight metamorphosis.  Likewise, the path towards self-investigation is far from level.  We must embrace the challenges and remember, to the best of our advantage, that clarity and happiness will ensue.

I hope Thich Nhat Hanh’s wise quotes help shape your day!

For more on:

-       Seated Meditation.

-       Walking Meditation

-       Mindful Smiling

Sophie Herbert is an alignment focused yoga teacher (and perpetual student), a singer-songwriter, and a visual artist. She has lived, studied, and volunteered extensively in India; teaches yoga in Brooklyn and Manhattan; and recently released her first full-length album, "Take a Clear Look." Please visit her website at SophieHerbert.com.

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Comments (3)

  • I focused in your comments regarding great change coming slowly, steadily, and incrementally (to paraphrase). When I got out of the military I became an arborist, and worked as an arborist for most of my adult life. I worked during the day and went full time nights to get through college and then through graduate school, etc. There wasn't anyway I could work in an office after all of those years doing what I was doing so I don't know why I even bothered. I think I was trying to be practical, but practicality, unfortunately, is not my strong suits. I know a lot more about trees than the average person, certainly more than I do about yoga. Anyway, the "Mighty" oak is an apt description, and do you know why? It's because of how slowly and steadily they grow. You really needed a magnifying glass to count the yearly growth rings of one that has come down to see how old it was. They are that close together. It's opposite would be a tree of the Poplar family. They are extremely fast growing trees that grow in a mostly vertical direction rather than branching out very much as well. The space between their yearly growth rings are easily perceivable without even having to get very close. There are no
    such monikers as the "Mighty" poplar, or anything even close. They crack and break up readily, and in a violent windstorm when you have seen trees bending to an almost 180 degree angle and coming back you can bet none of them were poplars. They would have snapped in half long before that If not oaks, than some other genus of tree of a slow growing nature for certain. That's another strength that the oak possesses because of it's slow growth, resiliency and the ability to go with those violent storms and bend to the point of being flattened, but not break, and regain its structural integrity when the storm passes. Trees also have an energy which can be felt. I spent many, many years climbing and being around them. When you are way up in an oak tree and it is relatively quiet, sometimes very quiet, before you begin or resume working you can feel its intensity if you take a
    moment. It's not weird, or scary, or threatening. I don't know how else to put it. They are intense. You can feel the trees presence. An oak, or any tree, will always grow towards the (sun)light, without exception, or it will eventually die off without it much sooner than intended.
    One can draw their own human analogies, but they are surely evident.

  • Wonderful and emotional post, Sophie. I love the quote "Each step is life" ... you touch at the core of who we are with those big questions.

  • Wonderful analogy, Daniel.
    Thank you so much.

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