Draw, Write, and Dream Your Way Home to Your Self

    —
December 14, 2017

   “Home is not a place. Home is a state of consciousness..”    

 

“This is how worry becomes wisdom…”

 

“Consider your 33 year old self …”

Looking for more great reads?

 


Excerpted from Practice You by Elena Brower.

Elena Brower has been teaching yoga since 1998. After graduating from Cornell University with a design degree, she was a textile and apparel designer for six years. Having studied with several master yoga teachers for over a decade, Elena offers the practice of yoga globally as a way to approach our world with realistic reverence and gratitude. Her classes are a masterful, candid blend of artful alignment and attention cues for body, mind, and heart.

Elena Brower

Elena Brower is a mama, author, teacher, and artist. Devoted to the healing practices of meditation, yoga, and contemplative writing, her journal Practice You is beloved worldwide. Her first book, Art of Attention, has now been translated into six languages, and her online coursework is highly regarded for bringing analog creativity to virtual spaces. She’s developed two audio programs with Sounds True, The Return Home and Grounded and Free. Listen to her renowned Practice You podcast at practiceyou.com, and experience yoga and meditation with Elena at glo.com.

Listen to Tami Simon's in-depth audio podcast interviews with Elena Brower:
I Lean on the Universe with My Honesty »
Following Your Homing Intuition »

Also By Author

3 Ways to Practice You This Holiday Season

Practicing being true to ourselves is a delicate dance of knowing ourselves, then respecting and serving that truth. This requires cultivation of both internal stability and external ease. How can we do this when we are surrounded by cultural chaos as well as our own family dramas? Here are three ways to Practice You this holiday season.

Write It Down

Set a timer for five to ten minutes; write who you are and where you’re going. Note every label and defining element of who you perceive yourself to be, and then note your vision for yourself next year, in five years and in ten years. Coming to know yourself will help you be steady when confronted, soft when you’d normally get agitated, and more kind at just the right times.

Sit With It

Nothing changes in an instant, and we can continuously and simply ask to be shown what the next step might be. If prayer is when we speak to our idea of a higher power, meditation is a moment to listen for healing, becomes a respite, a break in the day, a time to heal ourselves. Sit with it. Sit with what you learn when you listen a few minutes more.

Move More Slowly

One of the simplest ways I practice being myself is to simply slow down. I’ve learned this from every moment of deep loss, grief, or heartache–if i move more slowly, I won’t break. I can see what’s useful, what’s nourishing, what’s holy about this moment. Slowing down for myself helps me refine what I’m practicing and choosing in my life.

 

Elena Brower is a Mama, author of Practice You, yoga instructor, designer, and artist based in New York City. Devoted to cultivating meditation as our most healing habit, she’s created potent online coursework and produced On Meditation, a film featuring personal portraits of renowned meditators. For more, visit elenabrower.com.

Draw, Write, and Dream Your Way Home to Your Self

   “Home is not a place. Home is a state of consciousness..”    

 

“This is how worry becomes wisdom…”

 

“Consider your 33 year old self …”

Looking for more great reads?

 


Excerpted from Practice You by Elena Brower.

Elena Brower has been teaching yoga since 1998. After graduating from Cornell University with a design degree, she was a textile and apparel designer for six years. Having studied with several master yoga teachers for over a decade, Elena offers the practice of yoga globally as a way to approach our world with realistic reverence and gratitude. Her classes are a masterful, candid blend of artful alignment and attention cues for body, mind, and heart.

Practice You: A Personal Message from Elena Brower

Dear friends,

 

You’ve been practicing you, your entire life. You have always been the author of your own experience. My new book, Practice You, is a journal, filled with over 150 pages to draw, write, and dream. It’s an invitation to become the author of a sacred text of your own design, an opportunity to write a personal field guide to your highest self.

Practice You contains a series of Explorations, one for each of the nine aspects of your being. Each Exploration begins with a meditation, a chance to contemplate from a new vantage point. Today I’ll share the Embody meditation with you, from the “I Am” Exploration that opens the book.

Begin by taking a moment to sit and get grounded. Place your hands on your thighs, palms down, and begin breathing, deeply and slowly. Sense the weight of your seat, and let your spine rise tall. Feel yourself embodied, present, and steady.

  • How do you define yourself?
  • What are the words you’d use to describe your current attitude about your life right now?
  • What’s the most visceral, urgent need you have right now in order to feel alive, happy, and at home in yourself?

With gratitude,

Elena Brower

P.S. Look for me on Sounds True Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter on Tuesday, September 26—we’ll be giving away copies of Practice You & much more!

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Perry Garfinkel: Experimenting with Becoming Gandhi

In a confessional reflection on writing his new book, Becoming Gandhi, acclaimed journalist and bestselling author Perry Garfinkel says, “It was so difficult I almost gave up twice. I thought, ‘I can’t write this book. It’s too big a subject. Who am I to try to become Gandhi?’” Garfinkel persevered, and in this podcast Tami Simon speaks with him about what he discovered along the journey—and how practicing (not perfecting) six universal principles of the Mahatma can transform each one of us. 

Tune in to this highly aspirational yet very down-to-earth conversation on the poignance of the human condition and the elixir of laughter; the Tao of Gandhi; satyagraha, an insistence on and holding firm to the truth; considering “how to Gandhi” a situation you’re faced with; the notion of “good enough”; nonviolence in thought, word, and deed; the connection between words and feelings, and the step-by-step process of personal transformation; simplicity; faith as the driver of our moral compass; celibacy and making love; Gandhi’s life as his message—and making peace with his imperfections; and more.

What does it take to “Be the change you want to see ...

Excerpted from Becoming Gandhi: My Experiment Living the Mahatma’s 6 Moral Truths in Immoral Times by Perry Garfinkel.

Let the Journey Begin

By reading this preface, you have just joined what will hopefully be the experiment of a lifetime that will change both of our lives.

Let me set the ground rules, parameters, frameworks, timelines, caveats, excuses, permissions, and other details that will help you navigate your way—if not to be Gandhi, then to become a person who leads a more ethical, principled, spiritually and morally based, truth-full life.

As you will read in chapter 1, I first thought to undertake this effort more than a decade ago. It took me another twelve years to build up the confidence, belief in my commitment, and, frankly, the funding to actually begin this arduous journey, both inner and outer, including travel to three countries plus my own US. Little did I know how much it would change me, how many miles I would travel, how many inspirational people I would meet, and how many disappointments I would encounter, both in the world and in myself.

I began to take it seriously in the summer of 2019. That was when I started finding and  contacting knowledgeable sources in each country. As a dogged reporter who prides himself in finding the email and phone number for anyone anywhere in the world, that deep dive, which necessarily required a lot of reading and googling, was a relatively easy and very enjoyable and informative exercise. You may also want to research anything additional to what I write here and experiment with your own ways to follow the six principles. I can’t speak for Gandhi, but you have my wholehearted permission and encouragement to think outside the box and off this page.

The Big Goal here was to see if, in the face of a sociocultural climate that appears bereft of moral integrity, one could follow Gandhi’s moral compass, on the one hand, and on the other, to travel to countries where he spent considerable time to see how much had changed in the years since he left them. In other words, did he leave an enduring footprint that others followed or were Gandhi’s tracks swept away and forgotten by time and human nature? In these times of questionable ethical values, of increased violence and rampant lying, I was prepared to admit such evidence might be hard to find. In fact, one too-current example of the failure of the nonviolent movement, which was one of Gandhi’s primary pillars, is occurring as I’m writing this: CNN is reporting that thirty-nine mass shootings have taken place in the United States in the first three weeks of 2023 alone, killing more than sixty people, per the Gun Violence Archives.

I knew the hard part of this goal would be living these principles day in and day out on a personal level. There would be a lot of inner work, mental adjustments, a veritable paradigmatic shift of attitude. I would have to change my mind in the most fundamental ways. Change my habits, modes of thinking, daily actions.

The ground rules were simple: try to rigorously follow the six principles on a daily basis, keeping them in mind through the day, whether hanging out with friends and family, alone in my apartment, or out there in the world. But also to give myself some slack. If I “fell off the wagon,” I would forgive myself quickly and get right back on it. The latter would happen with frequency, as you will read. But I realized very soon that once engaged in this experiment, even when I fell off, there would be no turning back. Once the veil is lifted, it’s hard not to see the world for what it is, and see yourself for who you are, who you are not, and who you aspire to be.

People started wondering how long this experiment would last and asking me when or if I would drop vegetarianism and return to eating meat as soon as it ended. I had planned to dedicate one full year to this project. It expanded to some eighteen months of strict adherence 

to all of the principles, and even some that Gandhi didn’t consider in the course of things. I admit I slacked after that but, as I said, once you know which way the compass is pointing, you can’t completely turn back; you always return to your true north. You find the balance that suits you best, or at least better than before you started.

I frame this journey and this book around the six principles. Some sources list up to eleven Gandhi principles. I chose only six; already you can call me lazy.

Truth. In practice, truth is simply telling the truth, but Gandhi meant it to mean more. He said, “God is Truth,” later changing it to “Truth is God.” He coined the term satyagraha—loosely translated as “insistence on and holding firm to truth”—as a form of nonviolent resistance. I take this on, first focusing on practicing truth in thoughts, words, and actions, with particular attention to lies I tell myself. I look at how society views truth now.

Nonviolence. Although Gandhi was not the originator of nonviolence, he was the first to apply it as a strategy to move the dial in the direction of justice, as a peaceful weapon to protest social wrongdoings. His motto: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Taking it from the political to the personal, I look at how we all act out psychological violence—in passive-aggressive behaviors, in road rage, in clenched jaws, in couched (and not-so-couched) language—that sabotages our best interests. I myself am guilty: I was once a featured guest on The Phil Donahue Show, speaking about my own passive-aggressive behavior in my previous marriage.

Vegetarianism. Vegetarianism is deeply ingrained in Hindu and Jain traditions, the setting in which Gandhi was raised. In his London years as a law student, he embraced it more seriously to not only satisfy the requirements of the body and his religious beliefs but also to save money by not buying expensive meats. His book The Moral Basis of Vegetarianism, along with articles he wrote for the London Vegetarian Society’s publication, became my personal diet book. I was a meat-and-potatoes kind of kid, just like my father. I became a macrobiotic many years ago, had defaulted to meat in recent years, but an Ayurvedic diet I went on last fall convinced me I need to clean up my eating habits. Don’t we all?

Simplicity. Giving up unnecessary spending is the simple maxim Gandhi had in mind, and because this concept flies in the face of conspicuous consumers on spending sprees in shopping malls, it also has ramifications for our gluttonous nature, which thinks that more of anything automatically provides more satisfaction. But Gandhi also had a political motive in his so-called Swadeshi movement: by making their own clothes using a spinning wheel (charkha), Indians would deal an economic blow to the British establishment in India. These days consumers boycott various brands and stores to protest their company policy, a Gandhian spin. The contemporary “voluntary simplicity movement” draws directly from this Gandhian principle. I will closely examine my spending patterns and make budget slashes. Gandhi called it “reducing himself to zero.”

Faith. Gandhi meant belief in a higher power, no matter what religion. He wrote, “Mine is a broad faith which does not oppose Christians . . . not even the most fanatical Mussalman. I refuse to abuse a man for his fanatical deeds, because I try to see them from his point of view.” It’s the ability to see things from the point of view of someone from another faith that tests the faith of mankind. How are we doing with that? Not so good. The majority of wars in the world are religious wars. My challenge will be to find some balance between my practice of Buddhism, the religion of no God, and Judaism, the religion that invented the One God. I will test the boundaries of my acceptance of faiths I don’t believe in.

Celibacy. Called brahmacharya in Hindi, sexual abstinence was a spiritual path to achieving purity, according to Gandhi, who took the vow of chastity at the age of thirty-eight. Some people question whether Gandhi himself actually adhered to this, with stories and allegations he slept next to teenage girls to test his restraint. Celibacy is not for everyone. Is it for me? I will endeavor to find out, keeping copious notes on my fallings in and out. With my luck, the woman of my dreams will walk into my life and fall in love with me. What will I do . . . or, more precisely, not do?

I never intended this book to be categorized in the how-to or self help genre. I think or hope you can help yourself without my telling you how. Nonetheless, as I made my way around the world, around my mind, and finally around this book, I realized it would be helpful to at least sum up each chapter with what I learned, some tips for your (and my own) benefit. I call these end-of-chapter sections “How to Gandhi.”

With these guidelines and to-dos and with no further ado, here we go. Next stop: becoming the change.

Perry Garfinkel is a veteran journalist, editor, frequent speaker, and author of the bestselling Buddha or Bust. He has contributed to many sections of the New York Times since 1986 and has written for National Geographic magazine, AARP The Magazine, the Huffington Post, the LA Times, and others. He has appeared on CNN and CBS This Morning. He is a frequent guest on WCBS-NY radio’s Health & Well-Being Report.

Tsultrim Allione: Turning Towards What’s Difficu...

What if instead of trying to avoid or attack the people or situations in life that we don’t like, we chose to “invite them all to dinner”? In Tibetan Buddhism, this counterintuitive approach is known as “feeding our demons.” In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with Lama Tsultrim Allione about making the choice to turn toward what we usually avoid—and the healing and integration this choice can lead to. 

Give a listen to this inspiring conversation on the need to reclaim the sacred feminine at this time in history; the dakini principle in Tibetan Buddhism; balancing the energies of the masculine and feminine; the courage to stand up to authority; cultivating self-trust; the Great Mother of pure potential; the union of wisdom and skillful means; becoming an emanation of an ever-evolving mind stream; the legendary yogini, Machig Labdrön, and learning to move toward what we usually avoid; the practice of “feeding your demons”; creating wholeness by integrating the shadow; working with grief and loss; and more.

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