Most people just exist. This is true. If you are reading this, most likely you lead a privileged enough life to have internet access, read blogs, and worry about living a fulfilling life. Don't just exist. Live intentionally. Live fully. Live a life where you take risks, love wholly, feel the range of emotions intensely from shame and sorrow to excitement and joy. Allow yourself to fully connect with others and to be known and seen for all that you are from the secrets you feel most shameful about to the parts you take pride in. Seek out experiences that force you to grow and music that makes you feel. Read. Travel. Continue to evolve and learn lessons. Do things with passion, and find outlets for creativity. Don't just exist. This is your life. That is all. Happy weekend.
I sit here, at the tail end of a no good, very bad day. Actually, my day wasn't bad, but for some reason, my mood was extra funky, and not in a good way. I meditated this morning, everything seems to be going well, or at least ok in my life, and I can't think of any resentments or fears that could be contributing to this sense of dis-ease. Some days are like this, as unpleasant as they feel. This is part of being human, of having emotions come and go within, of having a human brain that thinks irrational thoughts on the regular, and a human body with brain chemicals, and hormones. I can't think of any particular reason for this no good feeling, and yet here I sit, feeling this way.
I sat down and started two different blog posts, but just didn't feel inspired, and so now I write about this portion of the human experience. In all transparency, yes, I have bad days too. Social media is typically used to portray only the good times, and while we have chosen to be bloggers that promote wellness, inspiration, and mindful moments, we also have bad days. I have days where I feel anxiety, tightness in my chest and jaw, and I have to remind myself to take deep breaths. I have days in which, at the end, there's nothing left to do but have a long good cry. I have days where I believe I'll never achieve the things I want to, and that I'm royally screwing up everything. This is part of being human, having a human brain that, let's face it, doesn't always work properly. Additionally, a human body with emotions and, if female, hormones that make the whole emotional experience extra fun every month. Some days are blah. Some days just suck. And then, some days are amazing, where I feel this sense of connection to the universe, this belief that all the possibilities of the world are at my fingertips, and have this joy pulsing through my entire body.
Emotions reside within us, but we don't have to reside within our emotions.
I reminded myself to breathe deeply throughout the day, talked about this no good feeling with my husband, and reminded myself this will pass. I almost skipped yoga, but realized if I stayed home I would regret it. Yoga provided an opportunity to change my energy. Sometimes all we can do to change our mood is identify what we have control over. Engage in activities we enjoy, nurture ourselves, talk about our feelings with those we love, and then breathe and let it go. Remember that feelings come and go. Tomorrow is a new day, and this is all part of the human experience.
I think it was the Buddha who said that all of our suffering derives from our attachments (e.g. to things, relationships, past identities, or abilities). How interesting to think that being deeply involved is separate from being attached, and that we can be both deeply involved in connecting with people and places, while remaining unattached. I think Ram Dass is simply referring to mindfulness when he urges us to be less attached, meaning that we should try to accept things as they are rather than fighting them. We often find ourselves in situation which aren't ideal, and our attachments to our expectations, to comfort, to what we wished the situation could be, leads to more suffering than if we could simply accept the things we cannot change. This quote about life is a bit like parents loving their children unconditionally, and allowing them to grow and change according to their truth, without attaching to who they used to be, or the parents' expectation of what they should become. This we can do in life; connecting, reflecting, appreciating, and loving deeply, while working to stay unattached to our own expectations of what life should be, accepting the things we cannot change, and allowing those we love to live freely as well. Happy Weekend : )
An interesting journey for me has been the broadening of my perspective on what is right and what is wrong in life. There really is no right or wrong. Yes, of course we have some basic rules to guide our lives (e.g. do no harm, thou shalt not kill, honesty, integrity, etc.), but hardly anything, if anything, is all right or all wrong. There are pros and cons to everything, and whether something is right or wrong typically depends on how those pros and cons interact with our own personal values. I am always wary when I hear someone claim their way is the "right way" to do something, eat, live life, raise children, etc. Everyone is different and unique, so it seems impossible to find anything that's right for all people under the sun.
In retrospect, the way I grew up contradicted the idea that everything resides in a grey area. I learned there was right behavior and wrong behavior, and wrong behavior equals punishment. In school, I learned there was one right answer on a test, other answers equaled a grade reduction. So, naturally, learning that there are really no rights or wrongs was a revelation for me, and one topic of discussion I always bring up with my clients. I can't tell someone what decision is right for them, or how they should live their life, because what works for me may not work for them. We all carry with us our own history, values, personality, hopes, and dreams. Life choices must take all these aspects of ourselves into account. Hardly are our options ideal, and we are often faced with the burden to choose the better of two imperfect options. Always, our behaviors (even the bad ones) served us in some way, otherwise we would have never begun them. Often, our bad habits have ceased to serve us, and the cons outweigh the pros, we just fail to realize this.
The point is, nothing is all right or all wrong, all pro or all con. There are always pros and cons to everything, every behavior, every relationship, every situation, every choice. Often, when faced with a difficult choice, I make a mental or sometimes physical list of the pros and cons for each choice, and rank pros/cons according to my own values. This reflection allows me to decide if I need to change something, guides me when faced with a tough decision, and allows me to realize when my habits have ceased to serve and begun to hinder me. Black and white thinking has rarely served me in life, and when I take time to reflect on the pros and cons, I am reminded that life resides in the grey, and only I can determine my own path.
This pretty much sums it up. I think it's interesting to place fearless and gentle in the same quote, but how lovely is this idea that we can be both, at the same time? I believe it's also important to note, that having fear and being fearless are not the same thing. One can have fear, and not allow that fear to run their life. By asking the "why" behind every decision, you can ensure that you aren't creating actions driven by fear. Gandhi also believed that the means and the end must be equal. We cannot have peace if our means to achieve peace are not peaceful. We cannot have a fearless life if our actions towards that future are driven by fear. We cannot have an honest life if we aren't truthful along the way. Be truthful, gentle and fearless. Happy weekend : )
This is one of my favorite quotes. It is a great reminder of the choice we have. You don't have to spend your life waiting for the big break or for a change to occur. You have control over the way your life turns out. The older I get the more I realize this. I went through the first 22 years of my life just going with the flow, thinking what's meant to be will be. It's an easy way to live and my life did unfold smoothly. But as I entered adulthood I had choices to make and no one was making them for me. So I took charge and came to find the more big decisions I made the more I wanted to make. It hit me that while it was easier to just go with what was put in front of me, I was happier creating the life I wanted. I'd rather choose what's next for me than let things unfold based on what those around me expected; what society expected. Everyone has a choice.
This theme continues to pop up in my life over and over again. You can’t give 100% for 100% of the time. You need to create space because space is necessary for creativity, spontaneity, connection, and peace. I read the book "Hell Bent" by Benjamin Lorr, a while back which is a memoir of the author’s journey into the Bikram yoga world. It’s an awesome read, and I highly recommend it. In Hell-Bent, Lorr describes a yoga experience he had while taking a teacher training class from Tony Sanchez. Tony asks Lorr to back off of his practice, not to give 100%. He explains that you cannot give 100% all the time; that 100% is an illusion. Tony is quoted explaining “One hundred or even ninety percent is impossible to maintain. You will become exhausted. Mentally if not physically. Terrified of practicing the yoga you love because it is draining you not replenishing you…But even if you could practice at that intensity-even if you were so strong, you would never become exhausted-it would be undesirable. You can’t make adjustments at your edge. You can’t listen to you body. For regular practice, seventy-five percent is fine-you will never tire out and in the long run you will grow much stronger”. Tony tells Ben many people have a beautiful practice in the Bikram world, and then burn out because of this accepted belief that you should give 100% in every class.
This idea is true not only in the yoga studio, but also for life. If you are too busy, if your day is too full, and if you are giving 100% of your energy, there is nothing left for reflection. There is no time to make adjustments, to improve, learn, transform. Yoga is a practice. Life is a practice. Practices are meant to be practiced everyday…..forever. They aren’t destinations that you arrive to. This is true for health as well. Americans look at health as a destination, a place that you get to, and then you get to relax, but health is really a practice that must be done everyday through lifestyle choices.
If Tony Sanchez is right, then slowing down, backing off, giving a little less each time, and creating space will actually make you stronger in the long run. In the yoga studio, it means you have more space to make adjustments, to improve postures, to focus on your breath and your mind. In life, it means you have more space to reflect, to improve, to make changes in your thinking, or behavior patterns, or the way that you relate to others. Or, the way you relate to yourself.
“You can’t make adjustments at your edge. You can’t listen to your body. For regular practice seventy-five percent is fine-you will never tire out and in the long run you will grow much stronger”
I was in final savasana the other day at yoga, laying on the floor, legs and arms resting, palms up to receive, when the teacher discussed setting your goals for class. He explained not everyone will have the same goal, and that our goals can change from class to class. Some people come to yoga to get in shape, some to relax, some to connect their mind and their body, some come to heal physically and/or emotionally. Of course, yoga will give you gifts that you may have never hoped for, but it is always good to have an intention, or a goal, and remember what that goal is so you don’t get discouraged when comparing yourself with others. You may have a different goal than the person next to you.
Matt and I love the show Scandal, for those of you who don’t know this show, it is basically about a group of lawyers, working for the main character (who is also a lawyer) Olivia Pope. They call themselves gladiators in suits, and “fix” problems that need fixing (mainly hired by politicians and other power players that reside in Washington). Olivia always asks her clients what their “end game” is, meaning, what are their goals. What is best-case scenario for the end result of their work together? What Olivia is really doing is setting an intention and a goal to shoot for.
This concept of goal and intention setting is so important for life as well. What is your “end-game” for your day, or your job, or your yoga class, or your conversation with your husband? Setting your intentions can be such a powerful step to take prior to entering into an experience, because it gives you something to aim for. This simple step of setting your intention/goal, can also prevent you from becoming side-tracked, or disappointed with the end results. For example, I recently competed in the Yoga Asana Regional Championship, and my goals while training were focused on my postures. My intention for the competition was to provide a graceful, strong demonstration of the postures that I could perform. It was to perform my postures to the best of my abilities. There was no strategizing to score points, or maximize my overall score. However, when I checked the results of the points, I found myself disappointed with my overall point score, and feeling discouraged as I compared myself to all the other amazing yogis’ points. Timeout. My postures were awesome, and I had left the competition feeling inspired, proud, and as if I had conquered something major. My “end-game”, my intentions and goals revolved around my postures, and I had reached my goal. Reminding myself of my original goal, helped to re-frame the entire experience for me, and reminded me of what a powerful tool intention-setting can be.
Remember this very simple concept before you begin something (even something as simple as a yoga class). Some days, my goal for yoga class is to push myself, to conquer the monkey mind that tells me “I can’t do anymore”. Some days my goal for yoga class is to have compassion for myself because I am prone to believe that I have to do everything perfectly. I often put a lot of pressure on myself in life, a byproduct of which is pain and suffering, so some days, allowing myself to sit down and rest for a posture is my goal. Some days, when my life is crazy or I’ve had a particularly negative thought process for the day, my goal is simply to be in the moment, and to connect my body with my mind. The point is, your goals can change, and taking inventory of your goals through intention-setting clarifies your purpose.
If you are reading this, then you’ve happened upon Love + Yoga by some turn of fate. Before this post lies the remains of Sarah’s personal blog, and this post signifies the new beginning of Love + Yoga. Head over to our about page if you want to learn more about the two of us, how we met, and what this blog is all about. We love yoga, we love health and wellness, living an intentional, mindful life, and wanted an outlet to share our thoughts with you. Both of us had blogs individually but lost steam on them. It is our hope that, together, we will be greater than the sum of our parts. It is our hope that this blog will allow us to create something great, which at the very least is a community of inspiration, thoughts, recipes, and our journey to create a mindful, authentic life in this modern day.
We thought this quote to be appropriate for our first post because creating this blog is taking a risk. Of course with all risks, there is hope that you will “win”, that the risk will pay off and be successful. Whenever risks are involved, there is always fear associated, and this fear reaction is a natural part of being human. All risks are an opportunity for growth, to gain wisdom, to gain perspective, to learn. We hope to learn from this blog, through our journey, and from all of you. We look at this risk as being exciting, exhilarating, and hope that this blog provides opportunity for our creativity. Welcome to Love + Yoga! Let’s be friends and share this journey together. We feel so grateful that you have visited : )