Journaling

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Every morning I wake up and spend time writing down my thoughts in my journal. Some days I am inspired and the words flood the pages and it almost seems as my hand has a mind of its own. Other days, it’s a struggle just get a few sentences out. One thing that I have learned by doing this, is that I am able to get off my chest anything that is on my mind and I am able to start my fresh and clear headed.

I started journaling about six years ago when I was going through a really tough time. My dad was sick and had quadruple bypass heart surgery. I had so much going on in my head and I wasn’t sure what to do with it all. I started writing it all down and afterwards I was overwhelmed with a sense of relief. I realized that if I write my thoughts down, I can leave them there on the paper and I don’t have to carry them with me anymore. There are times when my thoughts are so heavy they weigh my down and I’m unsure what to do with them. Some days I write in journal more than once. Especially if it’s been a rough day.

I challenge you to give it a try. In the morning before you start your day, find a quiet place and spend 5-10 minutes with a pen and paper allowing yourself complete freedom to write whatever comes to mind. I think you will find it very rewarding.

Disconnect to Reconnect

I recently took a vinyasa class at one of my favorite local studios. I had noticed that one of the students had brought their phone into the studio, and although that’s not something that I would personally do, I didn’t think much about it. As we went through class, I was completely connected to my practice. It was one of those practices where I felt like I was the only person in the room. I was in the moment with full connection to my mind, body and breath. That was until towards the end of class when we were in Ardha Matsyendrasana and we had turned to face the back of the room. Right in front of me was that same student having a full conversation over text while she was in her seated twist. I looked around the room to see if any one else had noticed. There were a few people who had also taken notice of this technology based conversation taking place. I was completely dumbfounded and for the rest of my practice I was distracted by this student and unable to return back to that bliss-filled state of presence on my mat.

Most classes are only 60-75 minutes long. Are we a society that is so reliant on our technology that we cannot be without it for even an hour at a time in order to be able to work on what matters most? Our own mental and physical health are at stake here. The idea of setting my phone next to my yoga mat gives me a tremendous amount of anxiety. I appreciate and look forward to time that I am completely unreachable and disconnected from my phone and endless social media feeds. There is something freeing and liberating about knowing that for the next hour or so nobody is wanting anything from me, I have nowhere to be, no phone calls/texts to answer, nothing. I can completely be present on my mat. When I am practicing yoga and meditation, my practice works better and feels better if I am able to focus on what is happening in my body and mind. Connecting with my breath as I move from posture to posture. My practice is my time.

I am highly against cell phones in class and although I would not ban my students from having them next to their mat, I would strongly encourage them to think about why they feel the need to do so. If they truly have to have it, and I feel that there are certain situations that warrant it (which would include a nurse/doctor being on call, having kids that are at home by themselves so mommy/daddy could get their practice in or various other personal issues) I would ask that the student place their mat in the back row with their phone on vibrate and if they need to answer it to kindly step out and be discreet when doing so. If you feel so connected to your phone that you cannot be without it for an hour, I would venture to say that you probably need yoga more than anyone else in the room.

In this fast paced, technology driven society that we live in, it is so important to shut down, detach, unplug and turn it off for just a short while in order to spend time reconnecting with who we truly are. Although technology makes our lives easier (most of the time), more convenient and something in which we rely heavily on to do our day to day activities, it does not define who we are. One of the eight limbs of yoga is the called the yamas. These are the social restraints that we should adhere to in order to help us get closer to obtaining liberation and finding eternal bliss. There are five yamas: Ahimsa (non-violence), Staya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (moderation) and finally, aparigraha (nonattachment). Nonattachment would include treating your cell phone as a security blanket. Not allowing yourself to go anywhere or do anything without it. If you’re cell phone is next to your mat and you are constantly distracted by texts, phone calls, etc. you are wasting your time and your practice is nothing more than just moving your body around on a mat. There is no presence, no focus, no deeper sense of self. It is all just fluff.

So, next time you consider setting your phone next to your mat, think twice. Know that you deserve your time more than anybody else. You deserve your practice, your connection to your breath, your intention. . Allow yourself to fully take advantage of the short time you have to be able to turn everything off and tune in to your mind and body. YOU deserve it and you will be able to take away so much more from your practice. Guaranteed.

 

Finding and accepting myself

One of the greatest struggles that we as humans face is the ability to embrace who we are. To be authentic. For most of my life I struggled with this greatly. I tried to blend in and not draw attention to myself. I lacked self confidence and was extremely shy. I worried more about friends and family liking and accepting me so I molded myself to fit an image I knew they would accept.

I constantly battled with myself regarding who it was I wanted to be. I couldn’t make decisions because I was more worried about what people would think of me than what the actual outcome of what the decision would be. I couldn’t communicate with others truthfully because of fear they would judge me and no longer like me. I was lost and I was allowing others opinions of me to drive all of my actions.

When I met my husband ten years ago, I started to experience thoughts that I had never had before. He gave me self confidence and I wasn’t sure how to process those emotions. He constantly told me I was beautiful and always made me feel good about myself. I was finishing up my bachelors degree and still struggling with trying to figure out who I was and what it was I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

I came from a pretty humble upbringing. We didn’t have a whole lot growing up and I was the first female in my family to graduate from college. Shortly after I graduated I took a job with a big corporation and as I worked my up in my career, I started to “find myself”. I gained self confidence. I had reached a point in my life where I was successful and I was starting to feel more and more comfortable in my skin.

At this same time I found yoga. Going into my first practice at the Ashtanga studio was pretty intimidating. We were all facing each other in this small room that had floor to ceiling windows so all the passerby’s could see in. I was so worried about people knowing I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and I was so scared they were going to judge me that I almost left before class even started. I was trembling. The class started with a few rounds of ohm and chanting. I looked around the room thinking “what the heck have I gotten myself in to here?” I’m not going to lie, I was scared.

As we moved through our practice I was observing the room and I noticed something that completely shocked me, nobody else was looking around the room. Everyone was doing their own thing and it was obvious that not one person in that room cared what anyone else was doing. This was a game changer for me. I found myself craving not necessarily the practice at first, but the space. It was like my mat was my safe haven. Like I was invisible and since nobody could see, they couldn’t judge me.

My mat became a place where I grew. I learned to find and accept myself. My practice gave me confidence and allowed me to open up in more ways than I could possibly imagine. I broke down the walls that were keeping me from obtaining true friendships. I finally was able to love myself exactly as I was.

I still struggle with self acceptance but not near as much as I used to. I understand and realize that not everyone will like me. Some will judge me and form their opinions of me. I can’t control other peoples feelings towards me, I can only control how I treat others. My hope is that I make others feel welcome and loved when they are in my presence. I now have confidence in who I am and what I want to accomplish. I am honest and true to myself. I am kind and I make decisions based on what my heart tells me to do. I have my faults but those are things that make me who I am. Even with all my little quirks, I am still a really good person. I am me.

Be you

” To be nobody but yourself in a world that is doing its best night and day to make you every body but yourself means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can ever fight- and never stop fighting”|EE Cummings

This is one of my all time favorite quotes. I repeat it to myself almost daily and constantly remind myself that even though staying real and being true it myself is sometimes hard, it’s worth it. People will judge and criticize you for your actions but so many more will love and respect you for who you are. Not who they want you to be.

Stay real. Stay classy. Stay awesome.

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Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so they will be happier. The way it actually works is reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you really need to do, in order to have what you want

Margaret Young
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The body. The storyteller.

The great thing about the human body is that we are all different. Our bodies are all made uniquely defined to who we are and what we do. Some of us sit at a desk all day while others have jobs that require physical labor for 8 hours a day/40 hours+ a week. Some of us are runners, cyclists, or swimmers. We go outside and play sports. Some woman have had their bodies completely changed due to childbirth or other various health related issues. Some people have injuries they are recovering from or are dealing with various aches and pains throughout their practice. We are not the same. My dear friend Betina often says “Our bodies tell the unique story of who we are”. I fully believe that every single body is different and with that, certain modifications must be taken.

I have found through working with a friend who does yoga therapy, that right now in my practice, there are modifications I need to take. I don’t take them all the time. There are days when I get on my mat and feel really good and other days when it’s a struggle to get through one sun salutation because of lower back pain. On those days, I modify. There are days when I want to kick up into a handstand and take arm balances and other days when I can barely make it out of child’s pose.

Yoga is a practice and the goal of that practice is feel better than when you first stepped on your mat. Whether that is mental, physical or emotional is truly dependent on the student and what issues they are needing to work through. The beautiful thing about this practice is how it can be completely tailored to each individual.

There is nobody making the rules of how things have to be on YOUR mat. I believe postures must be adjusted to fit individual body types. The golden rule is to do what feels good. You should always do what feels good. If something hurts, stop doing it! It’s your body. You have to live in it every single second of every single day. So make it feel good. Modify when needed, hang out in child’s pose or down dog or heck, if you’re feeling frisky add on to your postures. Maybe you go for that arm balance or inversion. But don’t feel like you have to do it all. At the end of the day it’s your practice and you will only get out of it what you put into it. Some days that may mean making it restorative and gentle, other days you are more playful and explore more on your mat. This is a practice of allowing ourselves to find that deep connection to our bodies and minds through our breath and movement. Make your practice your own. Find your bliss on your mat. Whatever that make look like to you.

“Our bodies are apt to be our autobiographies”|Frank Gillette Burgess

Be yourself. Be ordinary.

When we are just ourselves, without pretense or artifice, we are at rest in the universe. In this ordinariness there is no higher or lower, nothing to fix, nothing to desire, simply an opening in love and understanding to the joys and sufferings of the world. This ordinary love and understanding brings an ease and peace of heart to every situation. We discover that our salvation lies in the ordinary.

Jack Kornfield, Bringing Home the Dharma

Dust your shoulders off

I admit it. Last week I allowed myself to have a temper tantrum. A mini-meltdown. It’s silly to admit but it was triggered by a letter from the IRS stating that my husband and I owed additional money on our taxes from a couple of years ago. Not only was it money from a couple of years ago but a substantial amount at that. Balderdash, right?!?!? My husband is always so down to earth and chill and was naturally not concerned about this letter. “We just need to send this to our CPA and everything will work out.” I on the other hand did not act as calm and rationally. I completely lost my shit. I got angry and felt like the IRS was picking on us. This was not the first time the IRS has sent us a letter like this. It was the third. So, naturally I felt like they were picking on us. I was leaving to meet my girlfriend for breakfast and the whole way there I cried. I cried and I cried and I cried. I felt defeated and mad at the world. I can’t really say it was all about the letter and I really have no idea why I was crying so hard. Apparently I had some pent up negative energy that needed to be released. Or, we can just blame it on the new moon, which sounds pretty good to me. Yea, let’s go with that. It’s the damn moons fault. (I tend to blame the moon a lot).

The rest of the morning nothing went my way so all I could think of to do was to lace up my running shoes and deal with my issues on the pavement. It was one of the best runs I have had in a very long time. It felt like with every step I was stripping away the anger and releasing the frustrations that I was carrying with me. I felt free and alive. Operation attitude adjustment was a success! I was back in business.

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As humans we will suffer. That’s just a part of it. Sometimes we suffer because of things that we cannot control that just come with being alive. But other times we suffer because of things that we bring upon ourselves which can stem from a plethora of things. Either way, we suffer. And we all deal with our suffering in completely different ways. Most of the time life is pretty dang good, but there are times when it just downright sucks. I honestly feel that when life sucks, we are allowed a short amount of time where we can completely be pissed off. We can throw our tantrums, cry, scream, yell, whatever works. But at some point, we’ve got to stand up, dust the dirt off, put a smile on our face and go back to being our bad ass selves. We can’t dwell on things. Always living in this constant state of negativity, thinking the world is against you and nothing ever goes the way you planned. Guess what? That’s life. Shit happens. At the end of the day what do we really have to complain about? We have clean air and water, access to fresh food, roofs over our head and friends to share it all with. When things get really tough, and there are times I think that there is no way the suffering will end, I tell myself “This too shall pass.” My dad used to always tell me that when I was growing up. I carry it with me always knowing that nothing is permanent and that the suffering will cease eventually. Sure, it may be replaced by another form of suffering but that is the human condition. We laugh, we cry, we suffer and more often than not, we live this short life of ours completely full of bliss. That’s the goal anyways. That is what I am working towards. Always having bliss and being able to see the good in situations and in times of sorrow, anger and saddens being able to see light at the end of the tunnel. Because it’s there. Sometimes we just have to be patient.

“Life is difficult. This is great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once its accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters”~M Scott Peck

The Guest House by Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. 
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, 
who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture.
Still, treat each guest honorably. 
It may be clearing you out for some delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them all the door laughing and invite them in. 
Be grateful for whoever comes, 
because each has been sent as
a guide from beyond.