Simple Pleasure of the Week: Dark Chocolate

How have I never posted about dark chocolate before? It’s seriously one of my favorite simple pleasures. Matt and I have dark chocolate almost every night as a little indulgence. I love mine with almonds, and at least 85% cacao. I love the fact that dark chocolate bars are so easy to take places, and so easy to share with others. This is surely a simple pleasure many of you can appreciate. Happy Weekend!

The Collective's Favorite YouTube Yoga Channels

YouTube Yoga has really changed the game. While, I know it’s not the same as practicing in a studio, surrounded by your community, YouTube yoga has truly made yoga accessible to anyone who has access to internet. When Matt and I were transitioning towards building our own yoga practice, we often practiced YouTube yoga classes in our living room. It was there where we learned the basic sun salutations, until we could eventually practice them on our own. I must also mention the amount of priceless knowledge available from big name yoga teachers, I would never be able to access were it not for the internet and the YouTube platform. Below are my favorite yoga channels. True to YouTube, all of the content is free. Hope you find something you love:

  • Alo Yoga - Although this is a brand channel, I really appreciate the focus on free yoga classes and workshops provided with only whispers of brand marketing thrown in. With so many yoga subscription services these days, this channel has managed to provide free content by big name yoga teachers. The quality and aesthetic of the videos is also professional-grade which is always appreciated.

  • Purple Valley Ashtanga Yoga - This is definitely an Ashtanga-based yoga channel and it offers tons of yoga class videos, as well as interview, lectures, and workshops offered by some of the biggest names in the Ashtanga yoga community. I have learned so much from these videos about technique, philosophy, and anatomy, all for free, all from the comfort of my home.

  • Sigismondi Photography - This is the channel I go to when I want to fall in love with yoga again. If you are needing inspiration to begin practicing, check out this channel. The video selection ranges from short yoga classes to artistically shot videos of yogis doing amazing things. All of the videos are beautiful and of the highest artistic quality IMHO. This channel is not to be missed if you love yoga.

  • Yogi Approved - Yogi approved was a yoga blog, which has now been acquired by Wanderlust. However, the channel is still alive, offering free, professional quality yoga class videos, interviews, educational content, and product reviews. If you want a channel that includes the entire yoga lifestyle, this is the channel to reference.

  • Cat Meffan - Cat Meffan is a professional yoga teacher/YouTuber/social media influencer. She provides quality vinyasa yoga class videos, product reviews, and personal videos. From yin classes, to sweaty power yoga to meditation videos, there’s sure to be something on this channel that’s up your alley.

  • FightMaster Yoga - This channel provided the Ashtanga yoga class Matt and I practiced in our living room before discovering our Ashtanga studio. This is a yoga class-based channel, with a nice variety of Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga classes ranging from all different levels and time lengths.

Are there any channels I’ve missed? If you have suggestions let know in the comments below!

The power of Compassion

I’ve talked about the importance of empathy here on the blog, but haven’t spent as much focus on the value of compassion. I, myself am only beginning to truly appreciate compassion and the power it has to completely transform the way we relate to life, to others, and to ourselves. Dare I say it may be as important, if not more important than empathy. Empathy is what you feel AS somebody. Compassion, according to psychology today, is the ability to understand the emotional state of another person or oneself. It’s also the desire to end the suffering of others or of oneself. Compassion often involves love, and kindness, and humility, and forgiveness, and most importantly, understanding, all feelings that only improve our mental and emotional state. Compassion creates unity rather than separateness. Sympathy is what you feel towards somebody, and though it’s meant with good intention, creates separateness, and can make the recipient feel more alone. The key element for compassion is that you don’t get lost in the feelings of the other person, or of yourself! When one is practicing compassion, they are coming from a place of power, because they are separate from the emotion, observing the emotion, or observing the suffering. They might even be observing the irrational thoughts and fears that are creating the suffering, all the while understanding how the person or the self might be feeling without getting lost in the feeling themselves. How cool is that? Compassion is powerful!

I recently heard a wonderful example of compassion on The Lively Show podcast that illustrates the difference of compassion and empathy beautifully. Jess Lively used the example of a child, who’s scared of the monsters in the closet and the mother, who practices compassion towards her child. The mother, if she were feeling empathy, would also be afraid of the monsters in the closet. The mother practicing compassion, understands her child is scared of the monsters in the closet. She knows there’s nothing to be afraid of, she’s not afraid herself, and yet she’s able to comfort and identify with her child, and have understanding of the child’s fears. It’s a nonjudgemental stance, and the child ends up feeling supported by the mother and understood, while the mother doesn’t get lost in the fears of her child. The mother practices love, and the child is able to feel that love, and simply by feeling that love, the child feels a bit better. That’s the power of compassion.

Compassion doesn’t have to equate to a “saving” or to any actual action, really, it’s more about a feeling, a way of relating towards someone or to yourself. Imagine if we practiced compassion towards others when we realize how ridiculous they are being rather than getting frustrated. If we could realize that, for them, they are lost in their feelings, or in their irrational beliefs/thoughts, and with love, without getting caught up in their stuff, could wish for the end of their suffering, or for the end of those thoughts/beliefs. This is a much healthier way of relating, one that fosters positive emotions rather than negative ones. Imagine how this could transform your relationships with yourself. If, every time you felt sad, or mad, or scared, you sent yourself compassion, all the while knowing, in the back of your mind these feelings are real, but they are just like the monsters in the closet, knowing there’s nothing to be afraid of, but understanding that you are simply stuck in that emotional place for now. We are human. It is the nature of the mind to think irrational thoughts, to become upset about things that don’t truly matter, and to go through times of fear, and doubt. We can help ourselves and we can help others simply by practicing compassion during those times.

Compassion, also called Metta in buddhist practices, can be utilized as a meditation, or as a daily practice. When I am feeling a particular amount of resentment towards someone. I try to practice compassion. I send them good wishes in my mind. I wish for the end of their suffering and for that person to be at peace. I also wish for myself to be at peace, because let’s face it, resentment doesn’t feel good. Anger doesn’t feel good. Fear doesn’t feel good. People rarely wrong others when they are happy, content, and at peace. And when we feel sad, or resentful, or angry, we aren’t at peace. Thus, the person who’s wronged, and the person who has been wronged both need peace, both need compassion.

Below is a mantra I use for practicing compassion (Metta):

May I be at peace

May I be happy

May I be free from suffering

May all beings be at peace

May all beings be happy

May all beings be free from suffering

Feel free to substitute the (all beings) for a specific person, if need be.

Want to learn more about Metta Meditation and how to practice it? Check out my old post below:

Metta Meditation and 5 Ways it Can Improve Your Life

Simple Pleasure of the Week: Home-baked goods

I really don’t make baked goods enough! There’s something very hygge about baked goods, about the time it takes to make something, the smell of it in the oven, and then the experience of enjoying your hard work afterwards. Above was a paleo banana bread I surprised Matt with when he returned home from work yesterday. It was so good, and I had fun baking, with him in mind. Baked goods are ultimate cozy comfort and with fall in full swing, there’s no better time to dust off your apron and bake something up! Happy Weekend!

Unblocking obstacles to success

We all unknowingly, and sometimes knowingly, block our own success. Fortunately, there’s power in self-awareness, because once you understand how you’re blocking your own success, you can put protective factors in place to outsmart yourself. Too often, I see people beat themselves up for not being able to do better, use their willpower, or make better choices, and not only does that thinking pattern leave you feeling defeated, but it also isn’t productive. That thinking pattern fails to solve the problem because it only focuses on the negative.

What if, instead of beating yourself up, you put systems in place to outsmart yourself? For example, I used to plan to go to the gym. I would come home from work and inevitably talk myself out of it. For weeks, I went through the same pattern, until I just accepted that I couldn’t go home before the gym. Instead, I brought my exercise clothes to work, and headed straight from work to the gym. Problem solved. My husband is a spacey guy. He’s forgetful, and always leaving his car keys in his jacket and his wallet in my car. For years, he would beat himself up for forgetting something, or leaving things in the wrong place. Now, we have systems in place to prevent him from misplacing his belongings such as never placing his wallet in my car but instead keeping it in his pocket, a dish for keys, and a routine of walking through the door, and placing the keys in the bowl before doing anything else. If you’re someone who knows you need to talk about your feelings, but have a difficult time doing so, you may benefit from setting up some basic topics to discuss with your significant other every night or every week (e.g. how you’re feeling, what the best and worst part of your day or week was). By doing so, talking about your feelings becomes the norm and you don’t have to go through the willpower of initiating the conversation.

Designated post days hold me accountable for being consistent on this blog, a designated bath day for our puppy ensures we’re keeping up with his grooming needs, and a specific morning routine can ensure you’re following through with your self-care or personal development work. I’ve had a consistent yoga schedule before in the past, making a point to practice yoga consecutively for the first two days of each week, and then two additional days after that because starting my week out with a solid yoga practice made it that much easier to reach my goals. If you’re someone who says “yes” to things too easily, you may create a routine where you consistently give yourself a night to think things over before responding, so you can analyze if the project or responsibility is truly something you want to commit to. How to put this practice in place for yourself:

  1. Identify what you’re wanting to change and/or accomplish. Do you want to adopt a better diet, have more consistency with your business, talk about your feelings, practice more self-care, improve your energy.

  2. Identify the barriers to achieving this goal. Next, think about why you have been failing at achieving your goal. Do you have too much junk food in the house? Have you failed to set up a consistent schedule with business responsibilities? Is it hard for you to initiate a conversation with your significant other about issues. Do you end up running out of time at the end of the day, etc.?

  3. Brainstorm how you can outsmart yourself. This is where you take the barrier and figure out what routines, or systems you can put into place to outsmart yourself. You may have to be ruthless in what methods you use. For example, you may have to throw all the junk food out of your home or spend an extra hour at the beginning or end of your day working on business ventures. You might have to pay or sign up for your yoga classes ahead of time to hold yourself accountable.

  4. Set up a system. A system, as defined by the dictionary, is a set of principles or procedures according to which something is done; an organized scheme or method. Systems are the best way to support change over time. For example setting up specific days and specific times to follow through with activities will support you to actually do them. I have a friend who owns a business and 1 day per week is an OTB day (on the business) where she spends a full work day working on the business. This could include accounting, marketing ideas, loading up social media posts for the next 1-2 weeks, organizing events, etc. Set up a schedule or system where the changes you make are scheduled into your life. And again refer back to step 3. You may need to pay for things in advance, utilize the buddy system, or do things first thing in the morning.

There’s no time like the present to break down the barriers to your life goals. Start with something smaller to build up your confidence and then slowly begin to tackle the bigger endeavors.

Small Acts of Peace..

Peace isn’t always about a situation, or circumstances. Peace can be a verb. Things can be done as an act of peace, and these acts can be small and simple. If everyone practiced small acts of peace everyday, the enormity of those small acts combined would make great changes. Similarly, small acts of peace, combined over a lifetime, can mean big changes on an individual level. Practice small acts of peace, because when you are at peace, you radiate peace, and when you radiate peace, you spread peace to others. How lovely is that?

simple Pleasure of the Week: A slow Morning

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I was talking with my coworker the other day about slow mornings. You know, the kind of morning where you have time to intentionally practice the things that ground you and feed your soul. It might be about reading the newspaper with a cup of coffee, or watching the sunrise. It might be about sitting in silence for meditation or spending time cuddling with your pet. Slow mornings, don’t necessarily have to be weekend mornings, they just need to involve a relaxed, intentional start to the day. I try to have slow mornings every morning by waking up early enough to have time to start my day with ease. Happy Weekend!

Treat your mind like a garden

Photo by Gabriel Jimenez on Unsplash

I recently came across a great metaphor for the mind in “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari” by Robin Sharma. Sharma directs the reader to think of your mind like a garden. Negative thoughts are the weeds, positive thoughts are the flowers, and it’s our responsibility to care for our garden. If you want your mind to be efficient, sharp, and happy, you must tend to your mind like you would a beautiful garden, with intention. There’s the care of the soil, the watering, planting of seeds, and pulling of weeds on a regular basis. Too many people do zero maintenance on their minds, and then wonder why they’re so unhappy, why their garden has been overgrown with weeds. Weeds need to be pulled before they spread and overtake your flowers. Developing a consistent response to negative thoughts to prevent them from growing is how you manage the weeds. Developing positive thinking routines or habits is how you plant and tend the flowers. Practicing regular activities which nurture the mind, body and spirit is like watering your flowers. Finally, getting good sleep, keeping your body healthy so the mind can remain healthy is like the fertilizing of the soil. You must continue to tend your garden, to nurture and maintain the flowers, to pull the weeds, and to water and fertilize the soil. You can’t create a beautiful garden, stop pulling the weeds, and then expect the garden to remain beautiful. So too with the mind. Once you’ve found habits and routines that put you into a good emotional space, continue practicing these routines. Do regular maintenance on your mind, clean the stress on a weekly basis and continue to nurture positive thinking. Don’t let the weeds grow. Negative thoughts, much like weeds will grow faster than your flowers if you let them, so don’t.

For the pulling of the weeds:

Try This One Experience to Prevent a Bad Experience From Ruining Your Day

10 Ways to Reset Your Energy

How to Give Thanks When Gratitude is The Last Thing You Feel

For the Planting of the Flowers:

Morning Routine and How it Can Change Your Life

Affirmations for Happiness and Success

For the Watering of the Flowers:

Why Self-Care is Non-Negotiable and How to do it Part I

Self-Care Part II

Self-Care Part III

For the Fertilizing of the Soil:

Daily Rituals for Nurturing Mind Body & Spirit

Live Well: Diet Habits of Those Who Live Past 100

Harnessing the Energy of our Moon Cycle