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.

Episodes

April 22, 2021 13 min

In this guided practice, Jen offers a meditation on establishing body awareness as a mindfulness anchor. Because the body is always available, bringing our attention to the posture and sensations of the body helps us to connect to the immediacy of the present moment.

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Skillful Means Podcast offers these guided practices to help you deepen into your yoga and mindfulness journey.

We welcome your comments. Follow us on Facebook and In...

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In this episode, Jen and Sarah Jane talk about the concept of precious impermanence, an organizing principle for many Asian religions and belief systems.

Impermanence dignifies the transient nature of reality. Clinging to things as if they could be permanent is what causes unnecessary suffering in life. 

Through Buddhist, yogic, and Taoist textual references and stories, Sarah Jane and Jen demonstrate the value of seeing the world as...

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March 25, 2021 14 min

In this meditation inspired by popular teacher Jack Kornfield’s tree meditations, Sarah Jane guides you through a visualization that accesses the stabilizing and steadfast qualities of trees. 

Recalling a tree that has been significant in your life is the beginning of a short relational journey that includes rooting downward for nourishment and rising to the challenges of life’s seasons.

Then, breathing like the tree and being like...

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In this inaugural episode of the bi-monthly Dharma Book Club, Sarah Jane and Jen chat about The End of Your World. In this book, based on a series of his talks on the nature of enlightenment, spiritual teacher Adyashanti describes both the initial “glimpses” and the journey to “abiding awakening,” which he also describes as abiding as “Spirit.”

Concerned that folks will assume this book is not for them, Jen and Sarah Jane encourage ...

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In this month’s guided practice, we offer Yoga Nidra, the sleep of the yogis.

The practice of Yoga Nidra dates back thousands of years and was developed to invoke a deep meditative state so that the practitioner may gather soma nectar for rejuvenation and immortality. 

Today, Yoga Nidra has drawn a lot of interest for its ability to relax the body’s stress response. Many people who practice Yoga Nidra regularly experience reduced anx...

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In this episode, recorded nearly a year after the first COVD-19-related lockdowns, Jen and Sarah Jane discuss the benefits and pitfalls of the mad rush to move trainings and retreats online.

From individual teachers, to studios and centers, to decentralized institutes, the pandemic has brought much change in the way teaching –and learning –is done. Impacts include increased access to teachers and programs, relaxed program requireme...

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In this episode, Sarah Jane introduces and leads a mindfulness meditation on the four elements from the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta (Foundations of Mindfulness) as taught by the Venerable Bhikkhu Anālayo, a contemporary Theravada Buddhist monk and scholar.

Contemplating the elements (earth, water, fire, and wind, according to early Buddhist writers), as they are expressed both within the body and outside in the natural world, can lessen harm...

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January 14, 2021 57 min

In this episode, Jen and Sarah Jane return from a winter break. Amidst ever increasing levels of upheaval in the States, they discuss their go-to practices and resources that buoy body, heart, and mind.

In a casual back and forth conversation, they describe the methods and inspirations they rely on, including hara breathing, the idea of expansiveness, contemplating the elements while walking in a cemetery (yup!), weekly planning, a...

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December 31, 2020 18 min

In this Taoist meditation, Jen will help you harness the loving energy of a smile and direct it inward for profound sense of self-compassion, joy, and relaxation.

In Taoism, it's believed that the energy of negative emotions blocks Qi flow, leading to disease Practicing the inner smile meditation will help you clear out blocked negative energy for improved health, well-being, and longevity.

This is an old practice, more recently...

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In this talk and guided practice, Sarah Jane describes the benefit of thinking of Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths as Four Ennobling Tasks. As tasks, the teachings become invitations to action. In the case of the first, the invitation is to comprehend dukkha (suffering). How? We practice. Why? Clear comprehension gives rise to liberating insight.

But more than orienting our minds toward helpful concepts that support practice, this episo...

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Jen wraps up our first virtual retreat with a practice very dear to her heart. 

Loving-kindness, or metta, is at the very heart of spiritual practice. By tuning into our common humanity, we not only touch the essence of our true Self, but we are able to recognize and appreciate the Self of others, even difficult people. Consider this a training in radical acceptance. 

Jen shares her thoughts on retreating and then guides a gentle min...

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Welcome to Sunday, the third day of “Tuning In, Reaching Out.” We are maintaining our commitment to practice in part through the connections we’ve made and the energy we’ve felt from you, and we hope you feel the same. 

Sarah Jane is interested in the active quality of compassion and how it can inform and even compel us to engage in the world. She opens this practice with a short yin yoga sequence (butterfly, sphinx, and banana/cres...

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Welcome to the second and fourth overall practice of “Tuning In, Reaching Out.” We have deeply enjoyed connecting with some of you about intentions, methods, hindrances, and insights. A deep bow to all practitioners.

In this practice, Sarah Jane shares thoughts on the purpose and practice of mindfulness through the Early Buddhist lens and highlights some aspects of the Satipatthana Sutta, an early practice guide in the voice of the ...

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Welcome to the second day of your virtual retreat. This morning, Jen brings you a gentle yang yoga practice in the tradition of her root teachers of Nosara Yoga Institute. This practice is appropriate for all levels including beginners, but you may find it helpful to have some asana experience in order to follow the verbal cues. 

Disclaimer
The information and postures shared in this episode are not a substitute for proper medical ca...

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In this second practice of the Tuning In, Reaching Out Virtual retreat, Jen will guide you through a timeless meditation called Shamatha, or calm abiding.  You'll have an opportunity to practice in a formal way as well as in Yin Yoga postures.

The postures featured in this practice include: butterfly, sphinx, empty coat sleeves, and reclined twist. You might appreciate having a folded blanket or blocks handy for the poses as we...

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We are pleased to kick off our virtual retreat with this Yoga & RAIN Meditation practice with Sarah Jane. 

In this guided practice, Sarah Jane invites you to spend a few moments warming the body and enhancing chi circulation with simple movements undertaken in concert with a slow and steady breath. We then settle in and progress through the steps of RAIN meditation--Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Nurture--with the opportunity to...

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This is just a quick reminder about the upcoming virtual retreat here on the podcast.

Join us on Nov 20-22 for twice daily practices to help you strengthen your connection both to yourself and to those around you. Episodes will appear here in the podcast feed at midnight and noon EST.

You can also join for optional live Zoom calls and receive email tips. Sign up at: http://bit.ly/tiro2020

We hope this offering is off benefit to you ...

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As a companion to episode 29 on Internal Family Systems (IFS therapy), we invite you to enjoy this guided parts meditation.

Jen will help you locate and get to know one or more parts during this experience. IFS is an embodied practice, so the doorway into your inner environment is through body sensations. After a few minutes of guided relaxation, you'll start to track your somatic experience as a way of foregrounding what needs ...

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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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