To Be Awake

The following excerpts were taken from The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo.  Enjoy!

May 23 Inspiration

There is always purpose in being
but not always being in purpose

How easily we get caught up in defining who we are in relation to those around us. We first find ourselves alone in joy of what we’re doing. But somehow, there are suddenly others along the way, and we lapse into the breathless race of comparison, and then we are hopelessly running to avoid being termed a failure.

From here, we often latch onto the nearest goal as a purpose if we can’t find one nearby, we are thought to be adrift. But our lasting sense of purpose is in our breathing, in our being. As the humanitarian Carol Hegedus reminds us, “Our purpose is that which we most passionately are when we pay attention to our deepest selves.”

So underneath all our worries about careers and jobs and retirements, our purpose really comes down to living fully, to being alight with who we are beneath all the names and titles we are given or aspire to.

Imagine Buddha in his moment of enlightenment, of being lighted from within. I doubt if he knew  he was aglow. In fact, when Buddha rose from under the Bodhi tree, it is said a monk approached him in utter amazement at his luminosity and asked, “O Holy One, what are you? You must be a God.”

Buddha, not thinking of himself as anything but present answered, “No…not a God,” and kept walking.

But the dazzled monk pursued him, “Then you must be a Deva, ” and Buddha stopped and said, “no…not a Deva.” and kept walking.

Still the monk pursued him, “then you must be a Brahma himself?”

At this Buddha simply uttered, “No.”

The monk confused, implored, “then what are you –Tell me, please –what are you?!”

Buddha could not repress his joy and replied, “I am awake.”

Can it be that our purpose, no matter who we run into, no matter what we are told, is simply to be awake?

Sit quietly and meditate on the things that have come to define you

  • Feel what you do with yoru days and say, “I am more than my job.”
  • Feel where you sleep your nights and say, “I am more than where I live.”
  • Feel who you love and say, “I am more than my relationships.”
  • Feel all you have suffered and say, “I am more than my history.”
  • Feel your very name and say, “I am more than my name.”
  • Feel your breath enter and leave your heart and say, without history or name, “I am the flame of life living in this body.”

The Poses

Therapeutic Spinal Strip

Props: 1 rolled up blanket, lengthwise, 1 blanket double-fold, neck pillow
Benefits: reinvigorates the spine bringing fresh blood and oxygen. With deep breath, can give the effect of a massage on the spine.

Roll a single-fold blanket keeping the roll more on the flatter side.  This becomes your spinal strip.  Lay this strip down on the floor and place a double-folded blanket at one end (Letter T).  Sacrum is on the double-folded blanket and carefully lay the spine and head down on rolled up blanket.  Use a neck pillow in cervical curve.  Arms relax by the sides, palms turned up.  A variation is to have knees together, feet wide apart.  Stay for about 5 -8 minutes.  A nice alternative to the Heart Bench. 

Belly Down

Props: 2 or more blankets, neck rolls, bolster for feet
Benefits: soothing to the nervous system, grounding, stimulates the

digestive system, gentle chest opener, lengthens the legs, ankles, releases the pelvis

Place a blanket for the chest to lie on as well as fill in the belly area and one blanket for a pillow. Lie belly down with legs extended, arms bent slightly out to the side. Can hold onto your neck roll to ground through the palms. Turn your head to one side and change direction when you need to.  Additional support at the ankles. Add a blanket over top for comfort and warmth.


Props: 2-3 blankets, pillows or bolster to rest your head on
Benefits: stretches hip, outer ankle, grounding, meditative quality to pose (good an transition to or out of savasana), inner groin stretch

Sit on a blanket with sitz bones at edge. Place soles of the feet together, creating a diamond shape between the legs. Add pillows, bolster or blankets under knees to keep them held up. Place a bolster or pillow ton your lap. Inhale to lengthen the spine, exhale and as you extend slightly forward with lower spine, release head to the support on your lap.

Fish Pose Supported

Props: blankets or bolster, depending upon the amount of opening you desire. Neck roll, eye pillow.

Benefits:stretches the chest wall muscles, releases tightness in the shoulders and low back. Starts to balance nervous system. 

Lay two blankets on top of each other or one bolster, add a blanket for sitting on when using the bolster. With bent legs, begin to lower yourself down on to the props while elongating the spine. Leg position can be bent as seen in photo or straight legs or even bound angle with soles of the feet together. Find a comfortable position for arms either by your side or in Goddess position. Adjust neck roll to blankets to support the cervical space.

Janu Sirasana (Head to Knee) Pose

Props: bolster, blankets, neck roll
Benefits: Stretches hamstring and back of leg, centering and calming to central nervous system, gently stretches back, mild hip opener.

In the variation that we practiced in class, we placed the bolster upright on short end on our thigh and draped the arms over it letting the fingers and hands relax.  Use blanket support under knee and possibly to sit on to take pressure off of the low back.  Add a neck pillow or other cushioning for the head to rest on.  Stay for up to 5 minutes and switch sides mindfully.  We warmed up some with a flowing Head to Knee pose prior.  Try out the Mental Alternate Nostril Breathing.

Legs up the Wall Variation

Props: 1-2 bolsters, blocks, blankets, neck roll

Benefits: drains fluid from the legs, releases pelvic floor, chest and shoulder opener, back of legs get a gentle stretch.

Place one bolster horizontally on mat (for the knees) and one vertically (for the feet, ankes and lower legs). Arrange a triple-folded blanket horizontally (lumbar and thoracic spine area). Recline legs over the bolsters and lower the upper body on the blanket. Adjust so that the tips of the shoulder blades are right above the blanket. Add neck pillow under neck and move arms to Goddess position if comfortable for  your shoulders. Otherwise, they can go by your side or stack hands on top of your belly.  Cover pelvic area with a blanket.