Skillful Means Podcast

Skillful Means Podcast

Spiritual nourishment for yoga practitioners and teachers. Experienced teachers Jennifer O’Sullivan and Sarah Jane Shangraw discuss the ways in which the Buddhadharma, Taoism, and spiritual psychology enrich and expand a yoga practice. Drawing on their own inquiries and inspired by their teachers — including Sarah and Ty Powers, Don and Amba Stapleton, Thich Nhat Hanh, Jack Kornfield, and Tara Brach — Jen and Sarah Jane discuss opportunities for awakening amidst challenging, 21st-century life. Along the way, they model a modern, spiritual friendship.... Show More

Episodes

October 22, 2020 57 min

In this episode, Jen and Sarah Jane finally and excitedly get around to talking about Internal Family Systems. 

IFS is having a moment lately, and is being brought into yoga and Buddhist communities by some prominent teachers, including Sarah Jane and Jen’s primary teacher, Sarah Powers.

Since Jen has completed Level II IFS training, Sarah Jane asks her to describe the core proposition of IFS – that our mind is composed of sub person...

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October 14, 2020 13 min

In this meditation drawn from Taosit practices, Sarah Jane guides you through a breath-based visualization for replenishing and balancing inner energy. 

We are both individually whole and inextricably interconnected with each other and the natural world. We can view everything--even human beings--as composed of elements and infused with energies that, when in balance, create harmony and health. 

By drawing grounding earth chi, or ear...

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October 12, 2020 43 min

In this episode, Jen and Sarah Jane address the human predicament: We are wired to avoid unfamiliarity, uncertainty, and unpredictability in life, even while these very forces are ever-present realities. This simple paradox is the source of much of the stress in our complicated lives.  

Acknowledging the particular challenges of navigating life in the midst of a global pandemic, the US election, and seasonal changes, Jen and Sarah J...

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In this guided Yin Yoga practice, Jennifer guides you through a short series of postures designed to nourish the spleen and stomach.

According to Taoist Energetic Medicine, the spleen and stomach work together to perform the important function of extracting vital life force energy from the food we eat. When the spleen and stomach experience disharmony, it affects our entire organ system.

These organs are also associated with import...

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The landscape of yoga studios is not what it once was. With some studios closed permanently and others open only temporarily or in limbo, practitioners who relied on guided classes may be more motivated than ever to develop a self-led practice.

In order to have a regular self-led yoga asana practice, you need one thing: some form of inquiry practice. Whether it’s a regular mindfulness practice, a journaling practice, or another meth...

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Wrapping up our series on the Four Immeasurables, in this guided practice, Sarah Jane Shangraw unpacks the fourth “sublime state,” upeksa (equanimity). Upeksa is a state of non-preferencing that can arise in meditation when we feel into and accept the uncontrollable flow and tonality of experience, and leave it at that.

Not a cool and distant quality, equanimity combines the wisdom of understanding together with compassionate inclu...

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In this episode, Jen and Sarah Jane take a look through the Buddhist lens at the mind. 

Specifically, they explore using mindfulness, being with discomfort, and taking responsibility as foundations for the necessary and ongoing work of recognizing and undoing our conditioning, including unconscious bias.

Though this conversation is inevitably incomplete, it touches on several concepts that can serve as jumping off points to further o...

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In this episode, Jennifer offers guidance for creating space between a difficult stimulus and the response to it. Whether you are confronted by a challenging event or a triggering conversation, the prompts in this meditation can bring forward a more responsive — rather than reactive — inner attitude.

The setting for this guided practice is sphinx pose, chosen for being a relatively gentle, although not entirely neutral, shape. Postu...

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In this episode, Jen is joined by her friend and colleague Kaya Mindlin to discuss the Bhagavad Gita and how to fully and authentically show up for social justice while staying true to one’s dharma. 

In this sweeping conversation that, at times, adopts the atmosphere of a workshop, Jen and Kaya discuss:

  • how to embrace the discomforts of learning, 
  • the setting and themes of the Bhagavad Gita, 
  • what is yoga, 
  • understanding the mind throug...
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    This guided meditation encourages you to take up residence in your body in order to be present for the life that is inside you right now. With kind attention, we feel into the physical body and citta (the heart-mind), which may need some buoying.

    Then, drawing on our own creative compassion, we resource ourselves internally so that we can meet the call of the wider world in the in this and future moments.

    Finally, we wish safety, h...

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    Today, we pivoted a bit to share resources on the intersection of mindfulness, Buddhism, anti-racism, and collective healing. We focus on the major voices, most of them people of color, shining a light on the social justice issues facing spiritual communities and how to overcome them. 

    Books:
    The Way of Liberation: A Practical Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Adyashanti

    Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin Banaji &...

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    Inspired by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh's Pebble Meditation, Jennifer guides you through the four qualities of freshness, solidity, clarity, and freedom in the container of a calming Yin Yoga practice.

    Each point of the meditation is paired with a Yin Yoga pose that evokes these qualities including sphinx, supported caterpillar, reclining butterfly, and pentacle.

    Originally developed for children, the Pebble Meditation is, never...

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    In Episode 17, Sarah Jane and Jen spoke with their teacher Sarah Powers about the wisdom and opportunity for awakening amidst the suffering of the coronavirus pandemic.

    During the recording of that episode, Sarah generously led an inquiry meditation for holding and healing wounded and distressed parts of ourselves with maitri, loving friendship to ourselves. We decided to release this meditation separately so that you can return to ...

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    Our primary teacher Sarah Powers has spent decades studying, living, and teaching from the Wisdom traditions--Buddhism, Yoga, Taoism, and contemporary western psychology. As the new coronavirus pandemic spread, Sarah joined us via Zoom from London to talk about the wisdom and opportunity for awakening amidst this suffering.

    From how to be sick, to parenting, to lifestyle medicine, in this episode we hear about aspects of the harmon...

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    April 23, 2020 22 min

    Mudita, or sympathetic joy, is the third in the series of the four most highly regarded qualities, or “sublime states,” in Buddhism: metta (loving-kindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy) and upeksa (equanimity). 

    Mudita is a potent practice that helps us experience joy even when life feels difficult and warm feelings are hard to access. 

    In this guided meditation, Sarah Jane helps you bring forth feelings of joy so t...

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    In Chinese Medicine, the immune system is comprised of a protective barrier of energy (Qi), called Wei Qi ( pronounced “way chee”), that circulates through the body while also emanating about an inch around the outside of the body. The Taoists believe that, like a force field, Wei Qi prevents external pathogens, like viruses and bacteria, from making us sick.

    In this guided practice, Jennifer shares a gentle Yin Yoga practice that t...

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    Continuing the conversation on how Yin Yoga affects the physical body, Jen and Sarah Jane talk about the physical benefits of the practice, immediately zeroing in on the elephant in the room: the edge.

    What is it? Why is it important? Is it safe to spend time there? How might we describe it to students so they can safely encounter it, so they can find their sweet spot?

    In the course of this discussion Jen coins a phrase: ujayii bypa...

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    February 27, 2020 18 min

    Karuna, or compassion, is the second in the series of the four most highly regarded qualities, or “sublime states,” in Buddhism: metta (loving-kindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy) and upeksa (equanimity). 

    Compassion arises when loving-kindness meets suffering and stays loving. It's more of a process than a static quality. In practice, we call upon this natural capacity of the heart and purposefully sustain i...

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    In this episode of our continuing series on Yin Yoga, Jen and Sarah Jane talk about the physical benefits of the practice. Many of us practice Yin Yoga, at least in part, to give ourselves the chance to experience “just being,” an antidote to the stresses produced by our busy lives. But even as we enjoy the emotional and mental effects of slowing down in Yin poses, all sorts of wonderful things are happening on the physical level.

    A...

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    Many yoga and mindfulness practices are specifically designed to grow one's capacity to remain present - internally and externally - from moment to moment.

    In this guided practice, Jennifer shares a simple practice for getting to know the current state of your body, heart, and mind so that you have the information you need to take care of yourself in a practice or in daily life. This meditation is particularly beneficial at the...

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