8 Principles to Live Your Life By

These are simply some of the principles I try to live my life by. I'm by no means perfect, but it is helpful to have some values I can refer back to when trying to make a difficult decision, and these 8 principles have helped me along the way:

  1. Don't Be Afraid of Failure. Fear of failure will prevent you from taking risks. Risks are necessary for doing anything of value really, so embrace failure, learn from failure.
  2. Never Close a Door or Burn a Bridge. My mother always says "Never close a door", and I can't tell you how much this principle has benefitted me. There have been many times when out of anger, I've wanted to close a door but chose not to because of my mother's words in my head. You never know who knows who. Everything connects. Closing one door, may close another door for you down the road. Don't close doors or burn bridges. It's bad juju. Trust me, this principle will serve you. 
  3. You're Only as Good as Your Word. You really are, only as good as your word. If you say you're going to do something, do it. This is especially true in the work place. Don't be flaky. Be incredibly editing with commitments, but once you commit, follow through. Working with children truly cemented this principle for me because sticking to your word is crucial for building trust. 
  4. Make Your Goodbye Positive. I always try to leave on a good note, even if it's a job I can't want to say goodbye to. Expressing gratitude for the positives is a good practice for keeping your doors open, and strengthening your own positive thinking patterns.
  5. The Means Must Meet the End. You can't reach happiness with unhappiness. You can't reach peace with violent means. The means must meet the end you're wanting. If you want to have a life in which you feel gratitude, you must express gratitude for the positive things in your life along the way. Practice kindness and compassion if you want to receive kindness and compassion, practice healthy routines if you want to achieve health. 
  6. People Remember How You Make Them Feel. Always, be conscious of your energy. How do you make others' feel? This is truly important because people will remember how you make them feel more than what you did or what you said. I always want to make people feel heard, seen, and respected. You can choose to spread joy, or sorrow. Choose joy.
  7. Live Sustainably. I always try to live a sustainable lifestyle, meaning that my lifestyle sustains me rather than drains me. Work, diet, exercise, and relationships should sustain you, not slowly drain you. Reflect on whether you are being slowly drained or whether you are being sustained by your lifestyle choices. Adjust accordingly.
  8. Always Be The Bigger Person. I've had many instances where people yelled at me, spoke to me in a disrespectful manner, or pulled a downright dirty move. Always choose the high road. Always be the bigger person. In the long run, I promise it will serve you. You will feel good about yourself, others will respect you, and most often, those who have wronged you will feel extra guilty for it because you didn't give them any ammo to justify their wrong-doings. 

Mindful Minute: Rainy Day Study

The weather here is beautiful, with no rain in sight for the near future, but as I was looking through pictures we'd taken on a rainy day here by the sea, I thought of the Rainy Day Study exercise. On the next rainy day, truly listen to the pitter pattering of rain atop your umbrella, roof of the car, or roof of your home. Close your eyes, notice any patterns of sound, tune into the smell of the rain if you're outside under an umbrella. Notice how the air feels on your skin. Really study the full experience of rain. Take some slow deep breaths through the nose as you do this, and see if you don't feel more grounded, and a bit calmer after that one minute is up. 

20 Ways to Show yourself Love

With it being Valentine's Day week, I thought love to be an appropriate topic. Our relationship with ourselves is the foundation for all other relationships. We can't fully receive love from others if we can't first love ourselves. What better way to celebrate Valentine's Day than with a little self-love? Above are 20 ways to show yourself a little love. Most of them are completely free while a few cost just a small amount of money, proving you don't have to have money to treat yourself! Pick something everyday that represents self-love and do it because love is a verb and you can't get good at something if you don't practice. 

Simple Pleasure of the week: Finding Beauty in the Mundane

There really is beauty everywhere. One of the things I love about Instagram, is the amount of art and beauty that can be found there. Suddenly ice cream cones become beautiful, colorfully tiled floors look like works of art, and plants you would normally walk by everyday without a second glance are seen in a new light. Finding beauty in the mundane is this week's simple pleasure because so much of how we experience the world is simply about perception. This weekend, try to find one piece of beauty in the everyday. It could be the way your shoes look in contrast to the sidewalk, the rows of kale at the farmer's market, or the pattern of fallen leaves. It really doesn't matter what it is, it's just about training the mind to see past our habitual patterns of perception. That's all. Happy Weekend!

Harnessing the energy of our own moon cycle

This is really a post about your, umm... period, menstrual cycle also known as your moon cycle in the yoga world. Sorry boys, insert monkey covering eyes emoji, this post is not really for you, though I think the information is interesting. 

Just like the lunar moon cycle, our own moon cycle waxes and wanes bringing about energetic ebbs and flows. Check out more information on the lunar cycle here. The time of your period is like the full moon, and the time right after your period is like the new moon. Think of a building up of energy, a peak, and then a release. This is what us ladies go through every month with our own moon cycle. There's a natural building up of energy, of emotions, a peak which often shows up as agitation, moodiness, and then a natural release. Due to hormonal changes throughout the month, our energy also waxes and wanes. The week right after menstruation is typically the highest energy time for us. It's a time to start new projects, engage in creative work, to get stuff done. Much like the new moon, it's a time to think about what you want to attract into your life and set the wheels in motion. After that first week, our energy slowly declines, leaving us with the lowest energy the week leading up to menstruation. The few days before and the few days after we start our period should be a time of rest, recharging, self-care, and reflection. Much like the full moon, menstruation enhances and magnifies any imbalances we might have going on making reflection and introspection perfect activities to do during this week. 

Nature constantly goes through cycles just as we do, much like days and nights, winter and spring, there is a natural hibernation and a natural blossoming. Rather than fighting against our body's natural energy cycle, like carrying a river downstream, we can learn to flow with it. Give your body the rest it deserves on your low energy weeks, taking that time to really nurture yourself mind body & soul. Create monthly rituals according to your cycle for high energy weeks and low energy weeks to truly harness the natural ebb and flow of energy associated with your seasons.

For more information check out The Woman Code by Alisa Vitti. This book truly opened my eyes to how our hormones affect our body's functioning. 

The 5 Causes of Suffering

Fresh off of my yoga teacher training (YTT), I've been doing a lot of reflections about yoga philosophy and the yoga lifestyle. I want to start off this post by pointing out that I am in no way shape or form an expert on yoga or yoga philosophy. I'm simply relaying the information and concepts as I understand them. Patanjali's Yoga Sutras (THE book that introduced yoga to the world) outlined a systematic approach to end suffering. Yoga philosophy believes there are 5 kleshas, or causes of suffering. In my work as a psychotherapist, who facilitates group therapy, I can honestly say this is good information. All of the suffering I've seen since learning about yoga philosophy fits into one if not multiple klesha categories.

The 5 causes of suffering according to the yoga sutras are as follows:

  1. Avidya- Ignorance
  2. Asmita- Identifying with the ego
  3. Raga- Attachment to pleasure
  4. Dvesa- Aversion towards pain/suffering
  5. Abhinidvesa- Fear of the unknown

Avidya- Ignorance or not seeing the true nature of things. Every time you think negatively about yourself. Every time you feel alone, or misperceive an interaction, or read too into something. Every time you wish someone would act differently than they are acting, or that the present moment would be different than it is, this is avidya. Some argue that all suffering can fall under this category. When we don't understand that life is always changing, that things we love will be lost at some point, this is avidya. When we fail to realize we are perfect, and that the undercurrent of life is love, this is avidya. The buddha said "when you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky". 

Asmita- Identifying with the ego. Whenever you're in competition, embarrassed, ashamed, worried about your image, worried about how others will think of you, whenever you want to be "right" in an argument, or get revenge, this is ego. Ego does not serve us. When you have an issue with your identity, it's usually ego that's at play. When you lament over how you used to be, or how you should be, this is ego.

Raga- Attachment to pleasure. When we love something we never want to lose it. I've heard it said that everything we love will eventually lead to our suffering. Because everything changes and eventually falls away, the things we love, we will eventually lose, thus causing us suffering. This is raga. We, naturally want to cling to pleasure, attach to what makes us happy. 

Dvesa- Avoidance of suffering. I believe it was the Dalai Lama who said everything that we do is to avoid suffering. I've also heard it said that we will put more energy into avoiding suffering than we will to cling to pleasure. We don't like discomfort. Addictions are often a matter of dvesa, as drugs/alcohol or food are used as a means of numbing out the pain, distracting from the uncomfortable feelings. 

Abhinidvesa- Fear of the unknown. Our human brains HATE the unknown! We want to have things figured out, we want to solve problems. When we are in limbo, when we don't know what to expect, or what's wrong, or where we are going to live, this often causes great anxiety and suffering. Death is the ultimate unknown, and many people are afraid to die. I know I'm afraid to die. So many things are out of our control, in which case they are unknowns. So many things can only be known in the present and this is often a difficult reality to come to terms with. 

So what can you do with this information and how can it help you?

Just begin by taking pause when you feel unhappy, or when you are in a place of emotional suffering and try to identify which of these causes is behind your unhappiness. Name the cause of the suffering to yourself. There's a term in therapy "name it to tame it" meaning that simply by naming a feeling or naming what's going on internally, it tames the feeling, it calms our brains down.  Know you're not alone, and that this is actually something many others suffer from. Plan accordingly. For instance if you realize you're suffering from attachment to pleasure, it may be helpful to identify this is in fact what's going on emotionally, and then remind yourself that everything changes, or you may do some extra self-care to nurse your emotional wound. If you're interested in these concepts, check out more information on yoga philosophy here, and I hope this post helps the next time you're experiencing emotional suffering.  

 

Happy Weekend!

Life is a never ending series of losing balance, finding your way back, only to lose it again. What better reason to lose balance than for love? Is there really a better reason to do anything? In the humble amount of years that I've walked this earth, I have come to know for sure that love is the ultimate truth, the undercurrent of life, our pure essence. If you're going to lose balance, lose it for love. Happy Weekend!

2018 Moon Calendar and how you can harness the moon's power

Humans have always lived their lives according to the moon cycle. Farmers planted and harvested by the moon, buddhists practice extra spiritual reflection on full moon days, ashtanga yogis take rest during full and new moons, and many cultures still practice ceremonies according to the moon cycle to this day. The word "lunatic" came from the belief that the full moon induced mood swings and enhanced emotions. Since our bodies are made up of 70% water, and the moon affects the tides, it's not too far fetched to think the moon cycle may affect us. There are special practices associated with the moon's cycle that may help you harness the its energy. 

NEW MOON: New moons symbolize the beginning of a lunar cycle. Farmers often planted on new moon days. They are a time for new beginnings, for attracting what you want into your life. New moons occur when the sun and moon are aligned with the earth, supposedly providing a burst of energy. New moon days are a perfect time to set goals, begin projects, and meditate on what you want your life to look like in the future. To enhance the power of your intentions, it's helpful to write them down, or vision board them so you can see them for the rest of the month. What you think and feel has extra power on new moon days. Take time to get quiet, light some incense, practice gratitude, and truly think about what you are wanting to bring into fruition.

FULL MOON: Full moons occur when the sun and moon are in opposition with one another, creating tension between opposing forces. Full moons can enhance and illuminate whatever is going on emotionally. It's a time to notice any disharmony in your life. Thus, these days are a time to reflect on goals, and any progress you've made, or barriers you've encountered. They are also a time to reap the benefits of your hard work and end journeys. Farmers often harvested on full moon days and they may be a naturally perfect time to take rest and recharge. Journaling feelings, or progress towards goals may be a valuable practice to do on full moon days. 

Typically, full moons and new moons happen every month thus providing at least 12 opportunities to set goals, and then reflect on them. Creating full moon and new moon rituals might just be the perfect way to set up a system supportive of intentional living. During our last new moon, I practiced an extra long gratitude meditation and it was the best way to start the day. Happy moon practicing you guys.

Mindful Minute: Mindful Music

I love music. There's something special about it. It speaks to our emotions. I lead a group at the hospital about using music as a tool to change or enhance mood because it is so powerful at evoking feeling. For this mindful minute exercise put on a song, close your eyes, possibly laying down or at least sitting somewhere comfortable. Tune into every detail of that song. Tune into the words, every tone you hear. Tune into the pauses between notes, the portions of silence. Focus on how you feel when you listen to this song, the thoughts that arise, the emotions, how your body responds as the beats move through it. So often we listen to music, but rarely do we do so with full awareness of the entirety of the experience. Happy listening : )