suffering can be transformed. #MeditationThoughtMondays

suffering can be transformed

Thank goodness nothing lasts forever.  After seven months of intensive chiropractic, yoga therapy, and meditation, my shoulder is no longer suffering.  More importantly– I am no longer suffering.  I took this picture not as a humble brag, but as a reminder that everything is impermanent; that nothing lasts forever.

Last December I spent three days on the couch suffering a horrible cold.  I was miserable. (And also a bit dramatic; I actually tried to ‘cancel Christmas.’  Good thing no one took me seriously.) When I finally got off the couch, I could no longer lift my left arm above shoulder level without experiencing excruciating pain. My shoulder had been bothering me for over a year, but I kept pushing my yoga asana practice to the next level and ignoring the pain in my shoulder, ribs, and back.  It was initially exhilarating to ‘achieve’ my ‘dream poses,’ but then I’d spend the rest of the day recovering in order to teach my yoga classes.

I (eventually) decided that ignoring my injury wasn’t going to heal it. I started an intense treatment of bi-weekly chiropractic adjustments, weekly yoga therapy, daily physical therapy, and meditation.

I would find respite from the pain after a chiropractic adjustment and then over-do it on the mat —so excited that I could backbend again!  My excitement was usually fleeting: the next day I’d be back at square one, moping around my house like a sad puppy. My Ironman (who earned the World’s Greatest Fiancée award for listening to me whine for months) would gently remind me that nothing is forever: everything is impermanent. 

In other words: suffering can be transformed.  I love reading books by Tich Nhat Hanh, the foremost leader in happiness and the art of transforming suffering into joy.  My guiding light through the process of healing over the past year has been his book, No Mud, No Lotus.  In it he writes:

“The art of happiness doesn’t require that we have zero suffering. When we learn to acknowledge, embrace, and understand our suffering, we suffer much less.  Not only that, but we’re also able to go further and transform our suffering into understanding, compassion, and joy for ourselves and for others.  In fact, the art of happiness is also the art of suffering well.”

When I was exhausted and my stores of internal optimism waned, I needed reminders that suffering and happiness are not mutually exclusive.  I needed to embrace my injury with tenderness, not live in futile frustration.  And I really needed reminders that nothing lasts forever: pain does not last forever just as non-pain does not last forever.  As simple as this ‘impermanence- business’ sounds, it’s extremely difficult to embrace in times of suffering.

I definitely haven’t learned my lesson.  My hip is hurting like crazy and I’m being very impatient in the healing process.  There are times when I’m being dramatic: ‘This injury is never going away. I’ll probably never progress in my asana practice. I’m not even 30 years old and I’ve hit my peak.’  And then I have take a big breath.  And remember my shoulder.  And the work I put in to embracing the suffering.  And the patience I cultivated through hours of meditation.  And the suffering that was eventually, slowly, faithfully transformed into something beautiful again.

When have you witnessed your suffering being transformed?  When have you needed reminders that ‘nothing lasts forever’?  When have you learned to embrace happiness as it comes—even when the conditions weren’t perfect?

Tell me your story.

Happy Transformation,

-lisa

 

 

alkaline enhancing Beet Smoothie (new and improved!)

Inspired by an article in my new favorite magazine, Mother Earth Living, I’ve been on a mission to alkalize my diet.  The more I learned about how food plays a key role in balancing the pH level of my body, the more I wanted to make this happen.

Maintaining a balance pH level is, apparently, not easy. The toxins we encounter daily through air borne pollution and the acidic toxins we ingest tip the scale toward acidity.  On the pH scale, 0 is extremely acidic, 7.0 is totally neutral and 14 is totally alkalized.  Our bodies, born with a neutral 7.0 reading, have mechanisms in place to ensure that our blood remains slightly alkaline for optimal health.  However, as we eat acidic foods (unfortunately, these are the delicious ones on the Standard American Diet like sugar, dairy, and processed grains) important nutrients like calcium and magnesium are leached from cells in order to bring balance back to the blood stream.  This can leave us tired and sore.  Think: the ‘lactic acid’ build up you’ve heard about that makes your muscles sore after running.  Or, for you and for myself: sore after yoga.  (No, Thank you!  Read my tips for recovery to reduce soreness here.)

Not to mention, maintaining an acidic state in the blood level kicks in our body’s natural ability to combat this acid by storing sugar in fat cells.  Many health professionals think that maintaining the optimal pH balance is the key to losing weight.  For more information, check out Michelle Schoffro Cook’s book 60 seconds to Slim. 

What’s the easiest way to alkalize your body back into optimal health (and hopefully reduce muscle soreness)?  Green and Yellow: Veggies and Lemons.   

smoothi pic 1

To make it easy on myself and on you, I’ve re-invented my favorite beet smoothie recipe this summer.  I’ve cut out the extra sugars by eliminating apple juice and orange juice.  I’ve added an extra veggie or two.  And most importantly: concentrated on adding alkalizing foods: sour cherries, lemons and limes.  Introducing, Lisa’s totally liver cleansing, red blood cell oxygenating, alkaline enhancing Wonder Beet Smoothie!  (Please note: this is not a juice.  It is full of fiber and will feel like you are eating a delicious salad.)

smoothie finished

Ingredients:

  • 1 green zucchini, cut into pieces
  • 2 small beets, cut into pieces
  • 6 large rainbow chard leaves, stemmed (or 2 Cups other leafy green vegetables)
  • ½ C organic tart cherry juice
  • 1 C cold water
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • Juice from 1 lime

Add ingredients to Blender in this order.  Blend on low for a few minutes, adding more water if needed.  Blend on high for 2-3 minutes.  (Turn the blender down if the smoothie starts to froth.)

Yield: 4 8 oz smoothies.  For best results, enjoy this treat COLD.  I keep mine in the freezer overnight and then let it thaw in the kitchen sink in the morning so it’s ready for lunch.

For more smoothie recipes, check out my article from 2014: summer smoothies galore.

Enjoy! -lisa

 

what you think, you become. #MeditationThoughtMondays

what you think, you become

I’ve had some water in my basement this year.  And by ‘some’ I mean a puddle big enough to go swimming in my basement.  I tried not to complain because the rain also watered my garden and lowered my water bill. Two thumbs up for these unexpected perks… but not fun to be in a musty basement using a broom to sweep water toward the (already full) drain.  And not fun to empty the de-humidifier every twenty minutes.

The other day as I was trudging through my sloppy backyard to get to my basement and empty the dehumidifier, I had this thought: “Man, I’m so efficient!”  My mind did the endless ‘task-ticking’ it does when I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed with my to-do list.  I mentally made a list of all the chores I’d just rushed through that morning to boost my confidence in my ability to maintain a (not flooded) household and work-too-much and, and, and, and.  But really, the mental list making made me feel slightly more anxious and overwhelmed.  I had to stop and think for a minute: What words did I actually want to use to describe myself?

The law of subconscious means that what we think—we will become.

So, if we make a list of all our greatest attributes and constantly describe ourselves as such, we will eventually manifest these attributes in our life. 

what you think, you become

Yes, I’m efficient.  But, when I look back at my life in 87 years (yoga makes you young and Beet Smoothies make you healthy, so I’m planning on living to 116 years old, thank you very much) how do I want to describe myself and my life? 

This is a really important question.  What you think, you become.  Turns out, I don’t think I want to be described as ‘efficient.’  That’s a word used to describe a process– a machine.  My world is highly mechanized, that’s true.  I spend many hours with my fingers on my keyboard and my mind hooked to the internet.  But I wish for a world that is more human and less mechanical.  I wish to cultivate attributes that are more empathetic and relational.  So, I’m going to start thinking about what I wish to become.

I wish to describe myself as:

Flexible and Fun (I think I’m one of these)

Caring and Courageous  (again, I think I’m only one of these)

I’m challenging myself to imagine these attributes in my life and start describing myself with these words.  I’m challenging myself to imagine cultivating flexibility and courage in my own life.

I’m challenging YOU, my dear reader, to answer this question:  “When I look back at my life in 87 years, how do I want to describe myself?”  Write 4 attributes you WANT to be able to use to describe yourself, even if you ‘think’ they don’t apply to you right now.  And then—apply them. 

Dare to think of what you can become.  Use these words in your morning meditation, your morning mantra, or just throughout the day when you are confronted with a stressful situation.  After a month, reflect on how you have changed.  If you think it – then you can become it.

Happy thinking,

-lisa

be captured by silence. #MeditationThoughtMondays

Image

you cannot capture silence

 

When it’s 95 degrees outside and you are a tourist in a country that doesn’t believe in Air Conditioning, the only logical course of action is to spend your Friday night inside an art museum. To protect the artwork on display, the museum keeps constant cool temperature and low light. To protect the beauty of the artwork on display, the visitors keep tones muted and tend toward silence.  Despite brash colors and daring impressionist strokes which scream of emotion and sensation in Van Gough’s masterpieces, the galleries were primarily silent.  It reminded me that it is human nature to approach that which we find beautiful with silence.

Richard Rohr, author of Silent Compassion, points out that, “If something is not surrounded by the vastness of silence and space, it is hard to appreciate it is something singular and beautiful.  If it is all mixed in with everything else, then its singularity, as a unique and beautiful object, does not stand out.”

Silence is elusive.  Right now, even as I write this in the quietude of my backyard sanctuary, the silence of the early morning is vibrant with sound.  Some of these sounds make me smile (remember this post?) and some of these sounds are fairly annoying. (My backyard neighbor is constantly hammering.  After a year of this, I can’t imagine he has a single board left to hammer, and yet, here he is at eight in the morning hammering away…I have a few questions about this.)  But beyond the sounds, silence is a presence.  Silence can be its own being.

Silence can be something to meet and create a relationship with. Even if you don’t have a comfortable relationship with silence, as I naturally do, I think we all do this naturally when we encounter something beautiful. 

Your challenge this week is to bring something beautiful into your meditation space.  I brought a small vase of three Missouri Primrose blossoms to my meditation class yesterday and challenged my students to quiet their minds simply by gazing at the simple beauty of the flowers.  No counting, no repeated mantras, no English, no Sanskrit, no striving—just meeting silence.  In this way, we became captured by silence.  I want you to spend some time thinking about this: how can I become captured by silence?  How can I find something beautiful in silence?

Again from Richard Rohr:

“Silence precedes, undergirds and grounds everything…unless we learn how to live there, go there, abide in this different phenomenon, the rest of things—words, events, relationships, identities—all become superficial.  They lose meaning.” – Richard Rohr

Silence, the primordial beginning and ending, bookends our most meaningful experience: life itself.

This week, let yourself be captured by silence, even if it is just for one minute.

Enjoy the beauty,

-lisa

you cannot capture silence

 

 

 

never give up. #MeditationThoughtMondays

I’m not one for watching online videos.  To be brutally honest, I usually can’t even entertain a 2 minute youtube before I get bored and start multi-tasking.  But this video?  I watched in three times in a row, tears streaming down my face.  This is the most inspiring yoga video I’ve ever watched.

Its message?

Never Give Up.  Believe in yourself, find someone who believes in you, and believe in the power of the breath and the movement of yoga to heal.  This man was severely injured from his days as a paratrooper and was told he would never walk unassisted again.  Now he is a disabled veteran doing headstands and one leg balancing poses! You HAVE to watch this!

never give up

Click here (or click the image above and it should take you to youtube).  Turn up your volume- you’ll want to hear it!

We practice challenging yoga poses on the mat to understand how we approach challenges off the mat.  Do we get frustrated?  Angry?  Overwhelmed?  Are we willing to tough it out or do we give up?  The lessons we learn about our own nature, our own personality, and our own willpower inform our decisions and reactions in all other moments of our day.  

What challenges are you currently facing?  When did you most recently want to give up? How can you remember to believe in yourself?

Let me know how it’s going…

-lisa