Back home.

Yesterday I got on my yoga mat for the first time in almost 6 weeks. The past couple of months have been difficult dealing with family health issues, my husband getting into an cycling accident and several other curveballs that have come our way.
My yoga mat has always felt like home. But when things got really hard for me, that was the last place I wanted to be. And I couldn’t understand why. How could I turn my back on something that I love with all my heart.
I couldn’t even bring myself to roll my mat out at home.
I wanted nothing to do with it.
At all.
I questioned it and questioned it and I just couldn’t grasp why.
Getting back on my mat I finally understand. Yoga is the one thing that truly connects me. Mind, body, heart and soul. All of it. And it connects me to everything around me. It’s what makes everything make sense. It makes time seem to not exist. It aligns every part of me and shows me my own truth. It forces me to deal with my issues and to let them go once they have taught me what I’m supposed to learn. It shows me that everything is going to be okay. No matter what.
And I guess I just didn’t want to see those things. Maybe I wasn’t ready to deal with everything yet. Maybe I didn’t want to let go. Im guilty of suppressing things way deep down and not wanting to face them in hopes that they will magically go away. When you’re caught up in your own mental thunderstorms it’s really hard to see past the pain. And to allow yourself to do the things that you know will bring you joy. It’s like we punish ourselves or something. Or maybe I’m the only one who does that.
Regardless, I am grateful for a great friend for guiding me through my practice and for Soul Yoga for always being my home.

Living our practice 

I had a teacher a few years back who changed my practice drastically and completely altered the way I live my life (on and off my mat). She was one of those teachers who always taught exactly what I needed. Like she could read my mind (or my body). Her classes always left me wanting more and it was her who convinced me to take the leap and attend teacher training. One thing she taught us that I will always carry with me is that we must “live the practice”. She inspired us to put skin and bones on the intentions we set for our physical practice and to carry that with us as we roll up our mats and go out into the world as we live our lives. 

This is the hard part.

It’s easy to set an intention for a brief time when we are completely focused on one thing. In a yoga class setting we are taught to be mindful and focused and we are constantly drawn back to the breath and our reason for being on our mats (through the guidance and encouragement of an instructor). But what about when we leave the studio? What happens when we are no longer dressed in our cute little lululemon pants, surrounded by like-minded people moving and breathing together as one collective unit with someone telling us what to do? What happens when we are thick in the shit of living our lives? Where we have to deal with stress, deadlines, media stories that impact us on a deep emotional level, conflict, etc.

This is where 99% of our practice actually occurs. You see, the postures, or asanas, we do in a 60, 75, 90-minute yoga class are just a small fraction of our practice. We do the asanas and meditation practices to quiet and calm the mind in order to operate from a space of consciousness and openness. This expands our ability to respond to situations internally and externally rather than react to them. So that when someone does something that we don’t necessarily agree with or perhaps makes us angry, we can look at them as if we were looking in the mirror at a reflection of ourselves. It helps us to extend love and compassion to those who challenge us, question us and those who really push our buttons.
So what does it mean to “live the practice”? What is the practice of yoga all about?

It’s being intentional and doing things with love, compassion and acceptance.

It’s extending kindness towards others and to ourselves.

To stop for a brief moment to really focus on our breath whether it’s while driving our car or in the middle of a long run.

Waking up each morning and committing to being the best version of ourselves we can possibly be.

Making a conscious decision to live our lives from a place of peace and harmony with ourselves and with others.

To commit to not causing harm. To not steal or take more than our share. To release judgements and comparisons.

To find a mind, body and soul connection so that we can significantly increase our quality of life.

When we commit to the practice on and off our mats, and truly put in the work, we become motivated by our internal awareness rather than our external distractions.

You don’t ever even have to step foot on a mat to have a yoga practice. In fact, you are more than likely already doing yoga now, you just don’t realize it. You can tap into the practice when you are shopping for groceries, sitting at your desk at work or even when you are having a heated conversation with someone and you stop for two seconds and realize that what you thought you were going to say might actually not be the right to say.

To me, doing yoga (on or off the mat) is really just about being a good person. That’s it. It doesn’t have to be super deep and spiritual. It’s just about extending lovingkindness as much as possible. And nobody is perfect. I would be lying if I said I never spoke badly about someone or engaged in gossip. I have my fair share of issues that I have to work on but I know that at the end of the day I am doing the best I can. I am always striving to better myself. And that’s the point. Just working toward living a live where you can look yourself in the mirror and say “I am enough and so is everybody else”. Choosing love rather than fear or hate. And always being a light for someone else.

Love and fear and bears oh my…

This past weekend I celebrated my 33rd birthday and I was lucky enough to do it surrounded by the beauty of the Santa Fe mountains with my beloved. 

The morning of my birthday we decided to hike the Rio en Medio trail just northeast of Santa Fe. Brandon had ridden the trail before and knew there was a pretty amazing waterfall a couple of miles in. We had already done a couple of hikes and I was excited to get back out there one last time before we headed home. 

I happened to get online to do a little research as to what to expect on this particular trail. Brandon had said it was relatively easy but I always have to check for myself. After doing some research I decided this trail looked great and I was onboard. Until I came across a forum about the trail with a post that rocked my world…

“Multiple people have seen a bear in the area.”

To be fair, this post was made a month prior but it was enough to stop me dead in my tracks. Nope. I’m not going. No way. I don’t want to be bear food. I’ll just stay home. 

Brandon was very patient with me and after several attempts was able to convince me to stick to our plan and head to the trail. I was apprehensive. And scared shitless. 

He assured me that there was not a bear on the trail and everything was going to be fine. 

But, my mind did what it always does in situations like this. It took a story and it ran with it. Full speed! In my mind, I had already made up a story of how I was going to be attacked by a bear and how I wasn’t going to make it out alive. That’s exactly how our hike was going to end up. In my death. 

As we were driving to the trail head my heart was racing. I was a nervous wreck. And for those that know me well, know that when I’m nervous, upset, anxious or mad I close up. I get super quiet and don’t say a thing. And that’s exactly how I was that morning. Brandon was commenting on how beautiful the drive was and all I could think about was how bad the bear’s teeth were going to hurt as they dug into my fragile little body. 

Seriously, this is the shit that goes on in my head. 

We arrived at the trailhead and started on our journey. Again, my heart rate was sky high and I was anxiously looking all around. I was making sounds to let the bears know we were there so hopefully they would scatter off and I was on full alert for any sounds nearby. The trail follows a beautiful mountain stream. At one point I had looked up the mountain and saw a bunch of trees and in the distance I was sure I saw a bear. I freaked out and called for Brandon to come back and look at it. “Please tell me that’s not a bear up there.” I cried. “It’s a burnt tree.” He said. Well, hell. Upon further observation, he was right. 

In that moment I had to have a conversation with myself. “Get it together, Melott. What the hell is wrong with you. Seriously.” 

I had allowed something I saw online get in my head and completely spiral into something so much bigger than it should be. The trail was gorgeous. Singletrack that went up into the mountains with various creek crossings. It was mellow enough for the most part that I could actually look around and take in the beauty around me. (Unlike the other trails we had hiked that were very steep going up). But instead, I allowed fear to take over and completely ruin part of my hike. If I never would have seen that post I would have just been ignorant and happy. But, I allowed my mind to make up stories and completely take control of my experience. 

In that moment I made a choice. I was tired of letting fear hold me back. To rob me of my own joy and to stop me from living my life to the fullest. Little things had happened all week that had caused me to face fears but I knew that this was the point where I was ready to fully commit. To take back my life. 

I’ve always preached to choose love over fear and its so easy to just say those things. But truly allowing ourselves to act upon those words is much harder. 

I heard a podcast on our drive home about a chic who road her bike from LA to Glacier and then hiked the Pacific Northwest Trail. She talked about fear and how although she was scared at times, she never let it stop her from accomplishing what she set out to do. She said something that resonated so much with me: “I don’t allow myself to fear something that hasn’t even happened yet.” 

Yes! Yes! Yes! 

Those words spoke right to the depths of my soul. 

Fear is something that we far too often allow to make our decisions for us. 

And there are two types of fear: 

Intuition based fear– fears that are valid. These are based on facts. If I eat spoiled yogurt, I’ll probably get food poisoning. Or, if I jump off a cliff without any safety gear, I’ll prob get seriously injured/die. 

Stories we make up in our mind- these are fears that we feed. We take things we see on the news, Internet, social media, movies, etc and we create stories in our head of what we think could happen. i.e. My bear story. I had seen a newspaper article the day before about a woman who was mauled by a bear while running a marathon in New Mexico just a week prior. That set the stage for my fears to play their game with me on my hike. While it is a possibility that a bear could attack me, the chances of that actually happening are not that likely. 

Fear is not necessarily a bad thing. It can help keep us in check when needed. Without fear, this world could be a much crazier place. But fear doesn’t have to completely control us. I want to feel my fear but not allow it make my decisions for me. I want to open myself up to new ideas and experiences and face my fears head on. I am bigger than my fears. They do not control me, I control them. 

So this year, as I turn 33, I make a commitment to myself to be more vulnerable. To step into the darkness and come out the other side stronger and more courageous. To be brave even when it’s hard as hell. To stop letting the stories in my head be louder than the love in my heart. To experience the beauty of this life without being held back by what ifs and shoulds. To find freedom in the unknown and to be okay with allowing things to unfold without my needing to control the outcome. I’m choosing love. All day. Every day. And it feels damn good. 

The beauty of this waterfall was well worth the hike.

“I have been absolutely terrified every moment of my life- and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” ~ Georgia O’Keefe

Love and devotion 

I received Danielle Laporte’s daily truthbomb this morning in my inbox. It read: “Spiritual practice won’t make you super human. But it will help you fall in love with your humanity.”

That got me to thinking about this whole spiritual practice business. I live in Oklahoma, which if you don’t know, is right smack dab in the middle of the Bible belt. If you speak of anything spiritual, it better be Baptist and have to do with going to church on Sunday mornings. Anything else is hogwash and frowned upon. However, I was not raised in the church and I’ve never read the Bible (I’ve read parts, but definitely not in its entirety).

My spiritual practice didn’t start until I was in my early 20s and I began doing yoga. After falling in love with the physical part of the practice, I wanted to learn everything there was to learn about the spiritual side of yoga. I started reading tons of books, went to lectures, watched documentaries, and completely immersed myself in as much as I possible could.

Ever since I was a young girl I have always prayed to God. However, I was never really sure what that God looked like or the extent of what “God” embodied. I just prayed. Once I started learning more and more about different kinds of Gods and the various religions, I realized that I didn’t really connect with any spiritual box that people try to fit themselves into. I’m not Baptist, Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu, Methodist or any other category. I’m just me. I’m understanding more and more that my spiritual practice doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s idea/expectation. And that’s perfectly okay. It’s so crazy how defensive people get about this whole thing. I mean, wars have been fought on the matter. Seriously people, are we missing the point here or what?

I pray, meditate and I even pull Angel Cards every single morning. That is my ritual. I wake up in the mornings and make a cup of tea, pull my daily angel card, sit and meditate for about 10 minutes and finish up with my prayers. I do this every single morning. From there I pray all throughout the day. My prayers are in the form of exercise (whether I’m on a trail run or sweating it out in a Barre3 class), journaling, practicing yoga, driving down the road, sitting on the couch watching a movie or drinking wine with friends. My prayers come in all shapes and sizes and to me they are a form of self-love.

Spiritual practice doesn’t have to fit any mold or idea because it’s personal to how I connect with God. And some days, God is a She. Some days I feel God and others I don’t. Some days I use the word God and others it’s Spirit, Source or Love. And it’s all good. Its devotion and that is the key. Being committed to the practice and remaining open to what it brings into my life. And I’ll be honest, most days I am just praying for love. Love over fear, greed, judgments, comparisons, negativity, hate, etc. To see love. To feel love. To be love. To give love. Just love. Because in the end, love is the ultimate spiritual practice and we could all use a little more of it in our lives.

Choose love. Be love.



Making Space 

As the leaves begin to change colors, the weather becomes cooler and the days get shorter, we too are changing. Every single day we are changing physically and emotionally and this time of year is the perfect time to begin to reflect on what is and isn’t working for you.

I believe that the changing of the seasons into fall is nature’s friendly reminder to us to also begin to shed our own layers. The leaves falling from the trees is very symbolic in how we should also begin to let go of anything that is no longer serving us and make space for things that we are choosing to manifest in our lives.

The things that we may need to let go of could be physical things (weight, getting rid of clutter in our home), or maybe a false belief that we have convinced ourself of, a conversation we had with someone that is leaving us feeling heavy, an experience we didn’t enjoy or even someone negative in our lives.

Whatever it is, we can make a simple choice to allow a shift to happen within ourselves and make room for our desires to manifest and grow. It’s as easy as making a conscious decision to release the heaviness and invite creativity, inspiration, love, compassion, acceptance, peace, bliss or whatever else it is you crave into your life.

Here is a quick meditation you can do to let go and make space:

Find a comfortable seat or lie down on your back. Close your eyes and focus on whatever it is you are ready to let go of. Bring it into the forefront of your mind. Visualize it and allow yourself to really see it. Slowly begin to take the deepest inhale you can through the nostrils and pause at the top of that breath. Hold the breath for a moment and slowly release the exhale through your mouth. Do this a couple more times until you feel lighter and free.

You might even begin to repeat a mantra:

Inhale: I fill up with what I desire

Exhale: I release what I no longer need

Looking within

One of my all time favorite books is the Untethered Soul by Michael Singer. As luck would have it, the book club that I am in chose this book as October’s selection.

One of the quotes from the book really stood out to me and was actually used as a discussion point:

“This is the essential difference between a spiritual minded person and a worldly person. Worldly means that you think the solution to your inner problem is the world outside. You think that if you change things outside, you’ll be okay. But nobody has ever truly become okay by changing things outside. There’s always the next problem. The only real solution is to take the seat of witness consciousness and completely change your frame of reference within.”

So how does one do that?

How can I change my internal reference of the outside world and myself?

I think we always look to change things on the outside because its safe. Its far easier to walk away from an uncomfortable situation or to blame someone else rather than accepting that the answer to the solution could be as close to my own heart.

There is definitely a time and a place to walk away from an unpleasant situation. If you are dealing with an abusive spouse, a dead end job or a friend that is sucking the life out of you.

But I think when we get in the habit of always walking away, closing ourselves off or changing our external situations, we never allow ourselves to truly look our own ego and fear in the eye.

Its easy to blame others for the way we feel.

We point the finger at others rather than actually taking a moment to look inward and ask ourselves why we feel the way we do. How can we quiet the voices (fear and ego) in our minds and take our focus inward and evaluate what can be changed on the inside in order to view things differently on the inside?

Can we talk about the ego for a second? It acts just like a child. The more attention you give it, the more it wants to come out and play and the harder you try to ignore it, the louder and more annoying it gets. Its a real piece of work.

In order to change our frame of reference within, we must not allow the ego to take control. Ill be the first to say that my ego wants to rear its ugly little head every waking moment of my day. My meditation and yoga practice helps keep it at bay, but its still a constant struggle to completely ignore its incessant chatter.

Although our ego is a normal part of the human condition, we have to be able to live a life that isn’t completely ruled by the actions it demands of us. We have to be able to say “I see you, I hear you, I know what you are trying to do and now its time for you to shut the hell up as I have no use for you.”  Obviously, that is much easier said than done but you get the point. Its a constant battle to fight our ego, but one we must be willing to fight every single day.

When we can shut the ego up, and connect to who we are on the inside, we can find peace within ourselves and we no longer need to change things on the outside. Our perception of the world is influenced by the truth we have found on the inside. We no longer feel the need to blame others or run from situations that are sticky or uncomfortable. We can stand tall in our truth and know that just as the world is not perfect, neither are we. And we can find comfort in knowing that sometimes, its just as easy as quieting our minds for a few moments and connecting to our breaths to find that connection to ourselves.

Connecting to ourselves is pretty powerful stuff. I invite you to spend some time doing whatever it might be that allows you to find this place within. For me, its meditation, yoga, journaling, sweating it out and deep conversations with friends over a bottle of wine. Whatever it is for you, open up space within to grow and expand and the next time a situation arises that leaves you wanting to quickly blame others or run in the other direction, ask yourself “what can I learn about myself from the experience?” Its a game changer, friends. Just try it.

Release the Grip

the other day i was taking a yoga class taught by a dear friend. she had us start in fish pose where you lie down on your back and place a block between your shoulder blades. she invited us to close our eyes, allow our bodies to relax and take a couple of deep breaths. in that moment i realized just how much tension i was carrying in my body. holy moly. i took a deep inhale and the minute i exhaled, everything started to soften and my body completely released its grip that it was holding onto so tight.

i started noticing the same thing in my daily activities. i realized that i am always so wound up and my body carries so much tension. but, the minute that i acknowledge it and allow the breath to completely flow through my body, i can fully allow my muscles to relax.

like most people, I’ve had an extra amount of stress lately. instead of dealing with my stress, i typically allow it to continue to bottle up inside of me to the point where my body starts to revolt against me. this is not good for me and it’s definitely not good for those around me. i can be quite a pill when i am stressed out.

getting clear on why i was stressed out and making the necessary changes to correct that has been huge. i know i need plenty of “me” time to release, recharge and reconnect. this includes: yoga, running, getting a good sweat, reading, journaling, binge watching Netflix, and most importantly, meditation.

finding time for myself is not always easy but i know its critical to my overall well-being. if i am to release the death grip that my body carries, i have to make decompressing time a top priority.

what about you? take a moment to check in with your self. are you carrying around unnecessary tension? is your body begging and pleading to release its grip? if so, what are your stress relievers and how can you make that a top priority today?

Fall vibes

Autumn. Its right around the corner and it is my favorite time of the year. I absolutely love every single thing about it. Scarfs, boots, hoodies, cooler weather and crisp mornings, leaves changing, football games, chili and crock pot soups, whiskey and fire pits. Oh man. I get so excited just thinking about it.

I always find it nice to spend some before a new season to reflect on the past couple of months and look ahead at the intentions/goals that I would like to honor. I recently reevaluated my core desired feelings (CDFs) using the Desire Map process by Danielle Laporte. I discovered that my CDFs were: freedom, bliss, shine, authentic, inspired, and abundant. Its important to me to honor these CDFs and to work towards living a life that puts these feelings at the forefront of everything else. I want to be the best version of myself that I can possibly be. In order to find myself closer to achieving my core desired feelings and being my best self, I have set the following intentions:

Go Outside- I’m not a fan of the heat that summertime brings, which means I usually don’t get outside as much from early June through the middle of September. Here in Oklahoma, not only is it a million degrees outside, but the humidity is normally through the roof. Any kind of physical activity outdoors makes me feel like I am suffocating. The air is thick and you break out into a full blown sweat just walking outside to check the mail. Ugh. I am not a fan. The fall is when I really start to get active again. I ride my bike, run, walk, etc. The cooler weather definitely energizes me and I find that physical movement outdoors is much like a moving meditation for me.  I also plan on spending a lot of time sitting on the amazing deck that my husband built for us a couple of years ago. One of my favorite things to do is crawl up in my swing with a book and a cup of tea and get lost in whatever it is I’m reading or make a cocktail and sit around the chiminea wrapped up in a blanket. Its good stuff. Regardless of what it is I am doing, I intend to spend much more quality time outdoors.

Yin/Yang Balance- I would say my personality definitely teeters more on the yang side of things and that is directly reflected in how I live my life. I am constantly going from one thing to the next without giving myself the opportunity to chill out and reset. My intention is to find more of that yin/yang balance in all aspects of my life. Instead of a vigorous vinyasa practice finding more of a yin/restorative practice to offset my running/cycling. If I have had a busy day working, teaching, etc then perhaps spend the rest of the evening on the couch snuggled up with the pups and my man. Stay up late on Saturdays and sleep in on Sundays. Have a smoothie for breakfast if I had a little too much comfort food the night before (or a glass or two of wine too many). Whatever it is, find more balance. Or at least, work towards creating a life with a little more of equal parts yin and yang.

Permission slips Brene’ Brown talks about these in her latest book “Rising Strong”. I think these are pretty much the greatest thing ever and I’ve been practicing writing myself these daily. My biggest permission slip to myself has been: “I give myself permission to say no.” This one is a biggie for me. I am a yes person. A people pleaser. I will say yes to something and then two seconds later immediately regret it and feel stuck because I don’t want to let people down. So, instead of saying yes to things right away,  I give myself permission to say no. To be noncommittal. To think it over and if it doesn’t feel like its truly going to feed my soul then say no without a single ounce of guilt.

Block out time for self-care– I have been doing this more and more and I can’t recommend it enough. Sometimes our schedules can get a little out of control and we miss out on spending time taking much needed care of ourselves. I have made it a point to block out time in my calendar for yoga classes, runs, time to read, date nights, etc. These are extremely important to me and it must be treated just like all the other priorities in my life. If I don’t put it on my calendar, more than likely it won’t get done and I end up burning the match at both ends. I do this at the beginning of each week so I know that it is taken care of and it gives me something to look forward to. 

Pray, meditate, rinse and repeat- I spend a great deal of my time worrying about the outcome of things that may or may not even occur. I stress myself out trying to control situations rather than trusting that every thing truly will be okay. I’ve been relying more and more on prayer and meditation and it has really helped slow down the chatter of my monkey mind. I intend to continue to practice this as I know it will get easier and easier. My meditation practice has always been something that is important to me but not something I make a priority like I should. My intention is to start each day with a short meditation in hopes that it sets the tone for the rest of my day.

Read- Currently on my list of books to read for the next couple of months are:

  • Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • One Spirit Medicine by Alberto Villoldo
  • The Alchemist (again) by Paulo Coelho
  • The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer
  • Desire Map and Firestarter Sessions by Danielle Laporte (These stay on constant rotation. Ive read them numerous times and still can’t get enough)

What about you? What are your intentions/goals for the next couple of months? Have you taken the time to ask yourself what you want to accomplish or practice?