Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Roots of Gratitude Part I

The ability to draw our attention to that in our lives for which we are grateful is a skill that truly must be sharpened through practice. We must take the time to reflect and bring the energy of gratitude towards the people, places, things, events and achievements in our lives that we appreciate most dearly.  It is possible, with the myriad of daily stresses, logistics, emotions and anxieties in our lives, that we can begin to focus on the negative or feel that we are lacking. But with practice and reminders, our focus on gratitude for what we do have can bring a sense of joy and lightness into our lives. With a heart filled with gratitude, coming face to face with all of life's difficulties can become that much easier.

Often with a Gratitude Practice, we focus outside of ourselves. We may practice being grateful for family, friends, pets, material objects, etc. Or we may be grateful for experiences or major life events. This is a fundamental part of practicing gratitude and an important place to begin. Today, through a simple guided meditation, I challenged my students in yoga class to bring their practice of gratitude towards their own bodies, minds and souls. It can be very easy to neglect ourselves when offering energy of deep appreciation. We must begin to be gentler with, kinder to and more grateful for ourselves so that that way of being can extend out towards those around us.  With practice, being grateful can become our instinct and the foundation from where we function. When I find myself being critical towards my loved ones, it is precisely the same critical voice that plays ten times louder and a hundred times more frequently in my own mind towards my own self.

I offer to you a gentle practice for deepening the energy of gratitude within your own heart.  This was inspired by other sources and teachers that have guided me.

Begin either lying or sitting comfortably in a quiet space. As you breathe in and out, become aware of the breath entering and leaving your nose. Now bring your attention to your heart and imagine that your breath is now entering and leaving through your heart, energizing and opening your heart center.

With each in-breath, first think of one person, then one place, one thing and then one event for which you are grateful.  With each exhalation, say thank you.  Now, with each inhalation, think of one part of your body that you appreciate. On the exhale, say thank you. Repeat 5-10 times with different parts of your body. When you complete your body gratitude, repeat with thinking of aspects of your mind and then your spirit that you appreciate most.

We are perfect as we are and we have the source of greatness within us. Our potential is infinite.

Be Kind. Be Grateful. Be Great. In Gratitude.

The photo in this post is from Free Digital Photos by James Barker.
The meditation in this post was inspired by Amy Ippoliti's video on YogaGlo (you must be a subscriber of this site to see the actual video and it is linked here primarily for credit)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Coming Home

Where is home? What is home? How does it feel? Is there a scent connected with it? What does coming home mean? So much of our time and energy is focused outward on other people, what we "must" do, where we must go. Even if we are sitting in one place, our thoughts are focused out into the future or they can be stuck, dwelling in the past.  We may feel like we don't belong or perhaps we feel lost.

Coming home is a way to ground ourselves and become centered on our bodies, our thought patterns and our processes of life. We can come home by reconnecting to our bodies through our breath, through our mindfulness of movement, through mindful walking, dance, yoga or meditation. Our bodies are our temples, our first physical home for our spirit, the one we chose when we came in to this Earth. 

Our breath is the life force for our bodies, for our energy, for our mind and for our spirit. Our breath can bring us home whenever we feel shaken, pulled or stressed.  Focusing on our breath, we can can feel more connected and grounded.  When our home and foundation is solid and secure, we are rooted deeply within ourselves. When we accept exactly where we are in the here and the now, we relieve ourselves of so much pressure to be or do something different.  We can see clearly when we look deeply at this home. And then, when our roots deepen we are able to grow up and branch out into newness and out of our comfort. We are perfect just as we are now, yet we are also ever changing and growing as part of the movement of energy and life.  We must embrace ourselves and the path we are walking.

Coming home. This time of year, when the holidays near, we may begin to think of coming home. We may actually go to our childhood homes or travel with or go to visit our original nuclear family. Thinking of our childhood and original family can be comforting for some of us but for others, it can create stress and throw us off balance. The dynamics of our relationships can be multifaceted and complex.  We may start to feel out of balance or there may be a strong sense of anxiety or mixed feelings.  This is when we can practice coming home to ourselves as a source of strength and support. By doing so, we can then be present with the people in our lives.  

Be clear. Be gentle. Be calm. Be home.

The image for this post is from Dominic Harness's profile on Free Digital Photos

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Transitions

Transitions for some are scary, overwhelming and hard work. Others seem to float effortlessly from one transition to another, like a crimson leaf floating from its branch.  And then there are those that fall somewhere in between - some transitions are easy, others take a bit more effort.

Regardless of how we handle them, transitions - or change - are inevitable! This time of year, autumn, is perfect for looking within to study our inner workings, the "how" of who we are.  Everything around us is changing.  The glorious colors of the leaves, the animals scurrying around for acorns, kids back in school, holidays of all faiths and temperatures cooling off.  We can look within at our own inner workings not for judgement or making ourselves feel the need to be different, but for understanding. With this kind of deep looking we can gain an insight into how we work, our own process so that when we are confronted with a transition, big or small, we can be prepared for how we might handle it.  And often times, when we look deeply like this, changes within naturally occur. 

When looking inward, we can take note of the following:
  1. Thoughts - what thoughts are present 
  2. Feelings - what are the emotions present
  3. Body sensations - what kind of physical reaction do I get and where in the body
  4. Logic - what does the pragmatic side say
  5. Gut instinct - what is intuition saying
These five aspects are perfect for making decisions but also work wonders just as an exercise in getting to know ourselves, who we are and how we function in the day to day.

As the windy, cool weather comes we may feel pushed to move forward fast and furious with events, kids, friends, family while we may also notice a heavier, slower, snuggle-on-the-couch energy creeping in.  I've written this post about how to keep yourself balanced as this season progresses and now we can take stock of how we are transitioning by looking within. 

Breathe. Smile. Look. Transition.

The photo for this post is from James Barker on Free Digital Photos.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Restore, Renew, Repair and Try again

Ok, y'all know how I am. I disappear for a while and then boom, here I am again!  Looking back, last I wrote I still had babe number 2 on the inside.  My oh my, having two really changes things and puts a completely new meaning to "slowing down" and being "mindful."  I'm still trying to figure out how with these two munchkins who offer me multiple opportunities a day to learn.  I don't think physically slowing down is always an option with little ones running around but  mentally slowing down, being mindful, looking deeply and speaking lovingly are possible. Possible but very challenging to actually do when triggered. And small children sure know how to trigger.

Since little Miss N was born last September, I have made numerous mistakes in my interactions with Miss A, who's now almost 4.  Mistakes that leave me wondering, "Who am I?" "What is going on in me to cause this type of reaction? "How can I repair what I've said/done?"  "What do I need in order to feel taken care of?"

I try to remember how Thich Nhat Hanh puts it, every morning we have twenty-four brand new hours before us.


“Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.”

I can start over again and try to do it differently tomorrow.

Usually when Miss A is acting out, she's either hungry or tired.  Two things that have simple solutions but solutions that are impossible to force on children.  And believe me, the controlling side of me has tried to force, with very little success.   When I have succeeded in forcing her to eat or sleep, I believe that in that moment, I've sent her the wrong message about how to achieve what I want.

In the moments that I find myself feeling intolerant of her normal 3 year old behavior and behave poorly myself, I know that it's time for me to restore and renew.  In doing so, I repair my own suffering/pain and I pick myself up by the boot straps and I just try again.  Sometimes I am met with an angry little girl who wants to give me a taste of my own medicine and other times she so tenderly tells me how she felt in the situation and we hug and kiss.  What an amazing teacher she is and I'm pretty certain her ever smiling little sister has a full lesson plan for me too!

Breathe. Restore. Smile. Renew. Be Kind!


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Slowing Down

Oh Boy! 8 months down and 4 weeks to go, the countdown is ON! And it seems as if time is speeding up, but I am slowing down. Really slowing down. It's hard not to with this big ole belly of mine.  I write a lot about slowing down because it is one of the hardest things for me to do - even though I know how great I feel after I actually do the slowing down.  I just find it very difficult to actually slow and even harder to stop.

Having a now 3 year old and her wonderful high energy all around also makes slowing down a challenge, but even when she's at preschool or with her sitter, I'm still running around, checking off my ever growing to do list when I could be using that time to sit and meditate, write in my journal, read etc.

Being so pregnant has made me physically slow down as I hobble around the house, to the car, out on errands.  I've definitely got the penguin walk going on and all this extra weight is brutal to carry around on these hot summer days; and I've been lucky it hasn't been nearly as hot as last summer!  But even as I am physically forced to slow down, my mind seems to have taken things up a notch or two.  My thoughts are a blur of things to do, food to cook, places to go and people to see all before this baby comes.  Yet I know deep down the best preparation for when this newborn comes is getting more comfortable with stopping everything because that's what I'm going to have to do.

Stephen Levine is the author of the book, "Who Dies: An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying" where he talks about his work with athletes who are injured to the point of not walking or who are debilitated because of an accident or illness and cannot perform as they once did.  He worked with them on accepting where they were and slowing their mind and meditating.  This always comes to my mind when I think about how fast and uncontrollable my mind gets, regardless of my physical state.  It is especially salient right now because I will be in a state of complete slowness postpartum and will have some very intimate time with my mind.  We can all use some mind slowing, the trick is doing it so that when we aren't able to be distracted by our physical running around and "doing" we can touch peace within.

Slow down! Appreciate. Love. Breathe.

The photo for this post is from Free Digital Photos - http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

Thursday, May 17, 2012

When The Clouds Clear

It's been a while... Most of you know that I'm almost 6 months pregnant which initially halted my writing because we weren't telling anyone during the first 12 weeks and that's all I wanted to write about.  So, I silenced myself and then just got plain ole lazy!  It happens and I try not to pressure myself to write or then I make writing a post bigger than it really is.

Well, Anjali was sick all last week and I am just now starting to feel better after catching the nasty little virus she gifted our home with!  And boy did I feel like there were endless clouds hanging over me, the house, my energy and my mood!  And I think what was just as hard as being sick was all the time spent just sitting with myself doing nothing.  Though it was less time than before I had Anjali, because she still need to be fed and watched after, I still had a lot more down time than I normally allow for myself when well.

I was ever so aggravated with the negative thoughts that I became aware of floating in my mind.  Though, in between the aggravated moments, there were a few moments where having the clouds hanging over provided much needed introspection that I otherwise probably wouldn't have had.  I often think that getting sick is more our body telling us to slow down and stop because there is something within us that needs our attention than it is about an actual virus or bacteria (though those are very real too!)

And when the clouds finally start to clear, there is such a deep sense of appreciation for being well.  Thich Nhat Hanh has a great story about how we should appreciate our "non-toothache" when our teeth feel great because once we have a terrible one, we realize how little we appreciated being pain free!

Be Well. Live. Appreciate Wellness. Look Within. Breathe!

The image for this post is from Sura Nualpradid's profile in Free Digital Photos.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Yoga Ni-Yamas: Santosa and Svadhyaya

This week for my yoga training we have been assigned to choose one of the five niyamas in yoga, or internal practices of observation/ethical practices of guidance.

I had a hard time choosing just one, so I've chosen two.  The first is Santosa, contentment.  I think it is often difficult to feel true contentment.  We are often inundated with distractions, pressures, desires, etc that push us to want more things, keep our calendars packed with activities and succumb to instant gratification.  I am definitely guilty!  Santosa reminds us that not only should we be content with the joyous and beautiful parts of our lives but also with the difficulties we face as they are an integral part.  There is constant change in our lives, even if we somehow maintain a facade of keeping everything the same, it's really constantly changing!  And often times these changes can be challenging.  These difficult things that come into our lives are lessons of some sort.  Something that we need to look at and ask, what do I need to learn from this?  It could be a lesson about ourselves, about our relationship, about our job, about our home or any number of things.  In the end, if we are clear of mind we can see from more than one perspective and can learn and evolve from our life events, remaining content. Then we are practicing Santosa.

The second one that I have chosen is Svadhyaya, study of one's self.  I saw this interpreted on a couple of sites as not only study of one's self but study of spiritual texts.  I'd like to focus on the study of one's self.  I think this goes in line with the yama I discussed last time on truth, Satya.  I think in order to be truthful, we must study ourselves or look deeply at ourselves, our thoughts, words, actions and behaviors.  If we can understand ourselves, then we can begin to see the world and reality around us clearly.  I have recently had a difficult time looking at the core of my feelings and understanding where they're coming and why.  Of course, as I have shared before, I feel meditation is as a method for looking at ourselves deeply but I think that we can also do this all day long as we apply mindfulness to our daily lives.  Taking a few seconds to check in with ourselves throughout the day or when eventful things happen and then setting aside a longer time to reflect on things we've thought, felt, done or seen.  And the key when we reflect is to set aside all judgement, it is pure observation.  We can decide that there are some things we'd like to try to understand more deeply that perhaps we would like to change, but the goal isn't change so much as it is understanding ourselves.  I think that if we can see what's going on inside, then we can understand it and through understanding, any change needed should happen freely and easily...

Be content. Be Inquisitive. See Deeply. Love. Breathe!

The photo for this post is from Michelle Meiklejohn's portfolio on Free Digital Photo's.