Happy Weekend!

Maybe Michael Jackson had it right when he sang "I'm starting with the man in the mirror." I've heard it said that you don't attract what you want, you attract what you are. Thus, all things begin internally. Change your internal to change the external. There are too many things we don't have control over, but what we do have control over is changing and improving ourselves. When you change, you see the world differently, everything around you also changes as a result. Be like the flower, blossom and the bee will come. Happy Weekend!

The relationship between effort and surrender

Effort and surrender have an interesting relationship. We can't have true relaxation without true exertion. When I wasn't working I noticed that weekends didn't have as much meaning to me because so much is defined by it's counterpart, by it's opposite. When I'm not exercising, my appetite isn't as great and food isn't as enjoyable. So often when we enjoy something, we want to attach to it, believing more is better when it's really all about balance. We can't truly rest without exertion and thus there's this wonderful balance between the two where each is dependent upon the other. Yoga classes are a perfect example of this concept at play as you tire your body and mind out before taking rest in final savasana. Seek rest, but the right amount. Too much of anything is never good.  At times, when I'm working intensely, or stressed, I remind myself how much sweeter my relaxation will be afterwards because of the intensity by which I've been working. Schedule in time for both exertion and relaxation because each needs the other in order to be effective. Know that your discipline during the week will make your weekends that much sweeter and see if this reminder doesn't make you appreciate work just a little more. 

Mindfulness Minute: Beachcombing

Mindfulness is really about paying attention to the present moment, on purpose and non-judgmentally. We used to be hunter gatherers, intent on whatever it was that we were searching for be it a deer for dinner, or the right plants to cook up. Life before technology, before the industrial revolution lent itself to mindfulness. We were forced to do EVERYTHING ourselves, all day. Most things took time and concentration such as washing and mending your clothing, finding dinner, cooking dinner, tending to your livestock, or garden. Now, we don't have to put much concentration into those daily tasks. We have microwaves to warm our dinners, machines to wash our clothes, farmers to grow our produce or tractors to tend the crops. Getting back to being completely absorbed in something in this day and age, is a mindfulness practice. Beachcombing is one of my favorite ways to practice mindfulness. I love walking the shoreline, truly looking at all the stones and shells, picking them up and feeling the shapes and textures of your treasures in hand. When I become truly absorbed in the process, I often find myself surprised to realize I've come to the end of the beach. If you live near the ocean, you have access to this free mindfulness exercise anytime you'd like. Bonus points if you can throw your treasures back in a practice of non-attachment. Next time you need a break, or to clear your head, try beachcombing. Happy Weekend!

Simple Changes you can make to improve your life

I'm a huge advocate of living an intentional life, of taking the time to reflect on what's not working and what you can do to change it. However, sometimes you just need to feel differently or you just need things to change, but you have no idea how to change them. I believe if you can change the input, you will change the output, so even if you have no idea what needs to change, making positive changes in any part of your life can yield improvement in all areas of your life. Below are a few ideas of positive changes you can make in your life today:

  1. Morning routine: If you have no morning routine, you need one like now. If you already have a morning routine, chances are you can make changes to improve it. For example, add in some activity to get your brain switched into the positive thinking mode such as writing a gratitude list, saying a daily affirmation, or reading something inspirational for 10-15 minutes. How you spend your morning, has an affect on the trajectory of your day so make your morning routine reflect how you want to feel for the rest of the day. Avoid rushing, or stimuli that could set you into a negative headspace.
  2. Nighttime routine: If you're not sleeping well, nothing else can go well either. Sleep is the time when you recharge and refresh on a mental, emotional and cellular level. If you don't have a nighttime routine, you need one. Have a specific bedtime and a routine you do before bed to help your mind and body wind down. It may be a warm shower, some light reading, while you light a scented candle, or burn incense. Do things that represent relaxation to you.
  3. Affirmations: The use of positive words and reassuring statements can be so powerful. Think of some that are relevant to you and your needs. Write them out or say them out loud, and you can even add affirmations into your morning or nighttime routines.
  4. Meditation: Adding in meditation is such a positive change to make. There are so many types of meditations that you're bound to find one method you truly resonate with if you keep searching. Try to do it everyday, even if you can only fit in 3 minutes, because the benefits happen when you meditate consistently everyday.
  5. Moving your body: Daily movement has such a healing effect. Not only does exercise flush stress out of the body, but it also releases positive "feel good" chemicals in the brain. Sometimes the mind can't relax until the body has been worked out. Find some way to move on a daily basis. 
  6. Rearranging your furniture: Sometimes you just need a change, and rearranging the furniture in your house can give you that fresh start feeling. Even if you can't change anything else, you may be able to shift what your living environment feels like just by changing around the configuration of your rooms. 
  7. Taking a new route to work: When I quit my job and began gradschool, I started driving the scenic route, just because I had the time. It was definitely an action that represented a fresh start. Taking a new route to work can help to break up some of your old patterns. When I drive by the ocean on my way to work, I always take a pause to express gratitude for the natural beauty in front of me. Taking a nicer route to work can represent that there's more to life than efficiency. It can also remind us how important it is to enjoy the journey.

So there you have it. These are just a few simple ways you can change your life when larger changes feel daunting. Just begin experimenting. Try something new for 1 week and assess whether it's made a difference. The point is, you always have control over something, so if you're wanting to improve your life, figure out where you can put your energy, what you can change, and change it. 

Metta Meditation and 5 Ways it can improve your life

Metta, translated in the Buddhist tradition as "loving-kindness" can be an amazing tool for improving happiness and reducing stress. The power of loving-kindness has been a major theme in my life for the past week, so I thought I'd share about it here, and how you can use it. There's something lovely and healing about sending loving-kindness to others. It feels good. It gets us out of our own head, out of our own story, out of our little self and connected with our big Self. It gets us connected with the part of us that knows we are not alone. It gets us connected to the part of us that is pure love, and the more we practice, the easier those parts of us are to access in the future. Below are 5 ways practicing Metta can improve your life. 

  1. As a morning meditation practice: Sit down, focus on your breath and get grounded into your body. Next, think of one person you love or the many people you love and send each one loving-kindness. Imagine sending them loving energy. Make wishes for them (e.g. may they be at peace. May they be free from suffering. May they feel loved). You can even picture this energy as a warm light, moving out towards them with every exhale. Allow the loving-kindness energy to start in your body and them move outward. At the end of your meditation I think you'll be surprised how good you feel. 
  2. When you are angry or frustrated with someone: This can help to completely transform your energy. The next time you're frustrated with someone. Stop. Take a pause. Close your eyes, and send them loving-kindness. If someone was nasty to you, chances are they're miserable themselves. Wish for them to be free from suffering, or to find happiness. If this feels to difficult, start with someone you're only mildly frustrated with (see my story below for further details).
  3. When you are criticizing or negatively judging yourself: We, more than anyone, deserve our own loving-kindness. It's difficult to share loving-kindness with others, if we don't first feel it for ourselves. The next time you find yourself feeling like a failure, or feeling like an a-hole. Stop. Take a pause. Close your eyes, maybe place a hand on your heart, and send yourself loving-kindness. Remind yourself that you're doing your best, or endeavoring something difficult. Make some wishes for yourself with every exhale (e.g. May I forgive myself. May I be at peace. May I be free from suffering. May I feel loved.)
  4. During your yoga practice: I see so many frustrated faces in yoga class. Sometimes I'm that frustrated face. When you can't get fully into a posture and you're feeling frustrated with a specific body part. Stop. Take a pause, and send yourself some loving-kindness. Thank yourself for practicing yoga, for doing something good for yourself. If you're frustrated with a body part, instead of sending that body part resentment, send it loving-kindness. Seeing a trend here?
  5. When you are injured: When you're injured, I'll bet 9 times out of 10, your thoughts are that of resentment or self-pity. It's bad enough to be in physical pain or discomfort, let alone the emotional space of self-pity or resentment. Practicing loving-kindness towards the injured part of your body can help to shift your emotional relationship to your injury. 

I've been trying to practice more loving-kindness lately. Yesterday, I was on my way home from work when the stoplight turned green and I was stuck waiting for pedestrians to cross the street before I could make a turn. Almost everyone had crossed except for one woman who was moving very slowly. I caught myself feeling annoyed, thinking to myself "Why can't she just move a little faster? Doesn't she know we're all waiting on her?". I stopped, paused, and instead practiced loving-kindness. I realized she was walking with a slight limp, probably moving as quickly as she could with her aged body. Instead of being annoyed, I wished for her to have some physical relief, for her body to move a bit better in the future, for her to feel peace, and to be free from suffering. The emotional and physical shift I felt in by body was palpable. Suddenly, instead of the negative emotions my original thought had produced, I arrived home feeling happy. I hope you give loving-kindness a try sometime this week, so you can experience how powerful it can be. 

Simple Pleasure of the Week: A quiet afternoon spent reading.

I chose the afternoon because there's something extra relaxing about the afternoon, when you've already gotten all your "to do's" completed and you can truly relax knowing there's nothing else to accomplish. What a wonderful, simple, activity, evidence of a beautiful life. If you get your book from the library like I often do, this is a completely free activity. It requires no money, only time. This activity may be enhanced with a nice cup of tea though, perhaps a fire in the fireplace on cold days, and a scented candle or incense burning. Hope you all have quiet afternoons spent reading from time to time. Happy Weekend!

10 Favorite Yoga Quotes

I love quotes! I also love yoga, so I thought 'why not pick out my favorite quotes about yoga and share them with you?' I hope you find at least 1 quote here that you really resonate with!

10 Favorite Yoga Quotes

  1. "You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state." - Sharon Gannon
  2. "Come to your yoga mat to feel, not to accomplish." - Rachel Brathen
  3. "The hardness of a diamond is part of its usefulness, but its true value is in the light that shines through it." - B.K.S. Iyengar
  4. "Yoga is an internal practice. The rest is just a circus." - Sri Pattabhi Jois
  5. "By our stumbling, the world is perfected." - Yogi Bhajan
  6. "While pain may be the catalyst that brings us to yoga practice, it is joy that renews our commitment." - Donna Farhi
  7. "The success of Yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures, but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and our relationships." - T.K.V. Desikachar
  8. "The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in." - B.K.S. Iyengar
  9. "If I can't wear yoga pants, I'm not going." - Anonymous
  10. "The point of practicing asanas is to become sensitive, attuned, and adaptable. Whether we attain great gymnastic abilities becomes entirely inconsequential in the context of yoga as a life practice. If we become enamored with the performance of advanced postures and fix our identity on these achievements, we have simply replaced one false identity with another." - Donna Farhi

Simple Pleasure of the Week: Exploring

I know this is a picture from our Bali trip but you don't have to take an exotic vacation to enjoy this week's simple pleasure. Explore your own town, take a day trip to a neighboring community, have brunch somewhere new, or discover a new neighborhood. I love taking drives and finding a new road along the ocean, or a house I've never noticed. My favorite way to explore is on foot, or by bicycle so you have the time to notice everything. Happy Weekend!

Making Small Changes to Make Big Changes

How do we begin making the big changes we want to make in life? How do we break old behavior patterns and beliefs that hold us back from our life goals? This is a topic I've been thinking a lot about, and one day recently I realized something. All of our small behaviors, habits, every corner of our lives is connected to the larger part of our lives. We can make small, seemingly achievable changes to make big changes, and the small seemingly insignificant bad habits we carry are often signs of the very barriers that hold us back. If you're feeling powerless or out of control in your life, connect with a regular practice in which you feel a sense of mastery. It could be gardening, or knitting, or sports. If you are trying to be extraordinary in your career, you must adopt extraordinary habits in your daily life. Wake early, be intentional about how you spend your time. Be disciplined, learn about unique subjects, and do things few people are doing. If you want to be a better person, begin by picking up garbage, or smiling at those you pass on the street. Begin with small acts of kindness, until you feel kind, until you are better. If you want to command a company one day, it's going to be hard to feel truly powerful enough to do so if you engage in relationships that leave you feeling disempowered. It's all connected. If you're having trouble achieving something, look to your daily routines, habits, and relationships for clues to your barriers and as the opportunity for making the changes you want to make. 

The first step is taking an honest inventory of how you spend your time, the parts of your life which you feel most proud of, and the parts you feel less proud of. Observe your day-to-day habits for the next week and make a list of areas you could improve. For example, if you stay up late on the weekends drinking or playing video games, and sleep half the morning away, it's unlikely that you will truly be efficient or disciplined in the other areas of your life. Perhaps the drinking or late night video games truly make you happy. In that case, it may be about looking at some other habit that doesn't contribute to your life or serve you seeing what you can change about it. This idea is not about being overly self-critical, it's simply about looking at our habits with objective eyes. Assessing where we can improve, and making the changes necessary.