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

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?

Monkey Mind 

I’ve had this heaviness weighing over me for the past couple of months. If you know me well enough, you know that I spend a lot of time up in my head. A lot of unnecessary, wasted time worrying about things. Things that, as my dad would say, “don’t amount to a hill of beans.”

Translation: Shit that does not matter. At all.

I worry about the past, the present and the future.

I worry about friendships. Especially as more and more of my friends are getting married, having babies, moving, etc and our friendships begin to change shape. 

I worry about my family. 

I worry about my job. My corporate job in Oil and Gas; which if you’ve paid attention to the news lately, you would know that it’s currently in a very volatile environment.

I worry about my ability to be a good wife, daughter, friend, sister, lover, nurturer, yoga instructor, listener, mother, etc etc etc. blah blah freaking blah!!! 

I call this “monkey mind”. I imagine that little annoying monkey holding the cymbals and the more I feed my thoughts, the harder the monkey slams the cymbals together making that god awful noise.

  
Meditation, yoga and exercise all help but I still find myself entertaining my thoughts and continually letting them take control of me. I’ve even had a few sleepless nights because I just couldn’t turn off that little voice in my head. That constant freaking chatter.

Then the other day I came across a quote on instagram. “Most of the things you worry about, are things that won’t even matter a few months from now.”

YATZEE!!! It’s funny how the universe sends us these signs when we need them the most. We just have to be open to receiving them.

I realized all the worrying and stressing I was doing was sending me down this deep, dark rabbit hole. When I came to my senses and got clear on exactly how I wanted to feel, I realized that if all the worrying wasn’t serving me, then it dang sure wasn’t serving anyone around me. It was greatly affecting my ability to be truly present and overwhelmed me with a sense of anxiety and depression. Not to mention, a huge waste of my time. 

So, I gave myself an attitude adjustment (aka I lost my shit). I decided to finally surrender. I prayed to the universe to take it all from me and promised to trust that things do work out for a reason and what is supposed to happen will. I also had a mini meltdown that involved wine and a few (okay, a lot) of tears. I instantly felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders. I began to understand that I don’t have to hold on to these things and everything truly will be alright. I finally realized that I cannot control what happens regarding my job, relationships, marriage, etc.

The only thing that I can control-and this is huge-is how I choose to live my life.

I can choose to spend my days allowing that monkey to run rampant in my head or I can allow myself to let it all go and surrender to what the universe has in store for me. To fully live my life completely present soaking up every single second of it.

Inhale the good shit. Exhale the bull shit. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m human. We can’t completely get rid of our worries. It’s a part of the human condition. But we can make a conscious choice to not allow our worries or fears to take over and negatively affect our quality of life.

It’s up to you. You can choose to let go of the things that weigh you down or you can let the monkey be the ruler of your mind. Trust me, it’s not easy to surrender, but once you do, damn it feels good.

Feeling the love

I was recently listening to a podcast with Brene Brown and she made a comment that stopped me in my tracks. “We cannot give anything to others that we don’t already have.” It literally gave me goosebumps and has been on repeat in my mind since then.

We cannot give anything to others that we don’t already have.

I’m talking love, compassion, acceptance, forgiveness, understanding, and the list goes on and on……

We can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

I’ve been marinating on this and how it applies to my life. Am I giving myself the amount of love that I give to others?

The more I thought about it and when I decided to be completely honest with myself, I realized the answer to that question was no.  I don’t give myself near enough love. I spend so much time up in my head always striving to be my best that I don’t give myself permission to just chill out and be myself. To fully accept myself as I am. I have my good days and its a work in progress but I realized that if I’m not loving myself as much as I am capable, then I must be holding back on the amount of love I give to others.

I have to crack my heart open and be completely willing to put myself first. To be selfish and to shower myself with massive amounts of love. To really feel what that love feels like deep within my soul so that I can give that same amount of love to every single person I meet. Full hearted. Without holding anything back. Because I deserve the same amount of love that I would give someone else.

Be who you want

For what its worth: Its never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit; stop whenever you want. You can change or you can stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.

~F. Scott Fitzgerald

What I’m Digging: July 

It’s the dog days of summer and while the heat is slowly starting to bring me down, I thought it would be a good opportunity to reflect on the things that bring me joy.
These are the things I’m currently digging:

Matcha tea. I picked up some amazingly yummy matcha while in Crested Butte and its rocking my world. I drink it every morning and it starts my day off right. We also have a really great place in OKC, T An Urban Teahouse, and their iced matcha is like hitting the jackpot. It’s like nectar straight from the gods. Oh and don’t even get me started on matcha lattes. It’s goodness like you wouldn’t believe.

My pink moleskine and my Desire Map planner. These are with me at all times. Seriously, I never leave home without them. Every morning as I’m drinking my matcha, I spend some time planning my day and journaling. This helps me to stay focused on things that need to get done while keeping myself inspired and connected to what matters most to me.

Time alone. Since our time in Colorado, when I had hours to myself every single day to do anything and everything I wanted, I have realized how important it is for me to spend time alone. It’s the perfect opportunity for me to find peace and joy while recharging my batteries. The older I get the more sacred I find this time and the more it becomes a priority. I’ve even started blocking out time on my calendar that’s just for me.

Podcasts. Can’t stop. Won’t stop. I listen to podcasts a good chunk of the day. My current favorites are Being Boss, Wellness Wonderland and Over the Moon. These are not only entertaining, but they are inspiring as well. I keep my moleskine nearby and will occasionally take notes, especially when I hear anything from Gabrielle Bernstein or Danielle Laporte. These have been known to get me through some pretty rough days at my full time gig.

You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero. I read this book on my kindle and I loved it so much that I bought a paperback copy so I could read it again and write notes in it. I’m a sucker for a physical book and you better believe I highlight, stick post-its, and scribble notes up and down that thing. This book has lit me on fire. At times I feel like she wrote this book specifically for me. Every word jumps out of the pages directly into the depths of my soul. When I find a book I love that inspires and moves me, it stays on rotation and gets reread at least once a year. This is definitely one of those. In case you were wondering what the others were: The Untethered Soul, Desire Map, A Return to Love, FireStarter Sessions and The Alchemist. I’m a big reader. Books are my jam.

What’s currently bringing you joy?