thoughts like a calm ocean. #MeditationThoughtMondays

rock with waves pic

 

I’m not a strong swimmer, I’m sea-sick in boats, and I’m creeped out by fish; but I love the ocean.  Hearing the waves crash against the shore and rhythmically recede back into the water makes me sigh with wonder and relief. (What makes you happy every time you heard it?) When the waves are gentle, I imagine myself floating in the center of my experience and am reminded of the magnitude of the ocean.  I’m reminded that nothing is forever (even my suffering) and everything  in nature undergoing continual transfiguration thanks to the waves and rhythms of the water.

When my family and I went to Hawaii in February, I found myself transfixed by the waves.  I didn’t actually spend that much time IN the ocean (I did get to swim with giant sea turtles, though!) but I could sit for hours on the beach, listening to the water rush over sand and wash over the beach.  In a few places, it washed right over a rock, moving it slightly, depositing that same rock only a few inches away. The rock didn’t seem to mind.  It seemed to float in the middle of its experience and remain calm. 

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Through the practice of Meditation, we can do the same.  We can learn to float in the middle of our experience– despite the enormity of what we are feeling– and learn to sit with our experience until we feel a sense of calm.  I’m not saying this is easy.  It is most certainly a challenge for me when I am experiencing fear or anxiety. But I can’t figure out anything else that works better to calm myself down than sitting, focusing on my breathing, and staying in one place until I feel like my thoughts are a calm ocean.

This guided Meditation is adapted from Matthieu Ricard’s book Happiness and is one of my favorites.  You can use its imagery as a way of nurturing an uncomfortable emotion so that you don’t get washed away in the storm of the emotion.  There is no time limit to this meditation.  You’ll want to sit with it until you feel as though you are floating in the center of your experience.

There are three district stages of this Visualization Meditation. If you aren’t a fan of being in the ocean, visualize yourself on the beach near the shore (I’ll be sitting there with you! That water is too cold!) Allow the images to crystallize in your mind’s eye as you visualize yourself floating in the center of your experience.

Ocean Meditation

            1.  Dive in: Watch your thoughts come and go.  Do not control or manipulate.  Do not change or rush.  Notice that the thoughts are like waves.  They arise out of the ocean of consciousness and then dissolve right back to where they came from.  They were never separate.

2.    Get Wet:  If there is one wave that is particularly strong, big, or threatening, do not turn your back on it. Allow the wave to wash over you.  Even if the wave crashes on you, as if the emotion is particularly strong, stay with it.  Do not swim away.  Let the wave crash and the water droplets re-join the ocean.

            3.  Float:  Whenever new thoughts arise, like waves raised by the wind, watch them dissolve back into the ocean.  Allow yourself to float in the center of your experience.  Eventually, your thoughts will be like a calm ocean.

When you feel ready to integrate back into your daily life, do so slowly and mindfully. Take a few minutes to be on vacation from worrying and then float through your day.

Happy Floating.

-lisa

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how to start a home practice.

Berkeley, California

When it’s sunny I recommend taking your home practice outside. :)

 

Nearly every week I get a Facebook message from a friend saying, “Oh, I WISH I could come to your classes, Lisa, but…<enter any number of legitimate or not-so-legitimate reasons> so could you recommend yoga for me to practice at home?

I always try to be helpful, because I understand that attending a yoga class led by a teacher is not always feasible. Babies require babysitters, Kids need rides to gymnastics, co-workers schedule mandatory lunch meetings, work deadlines must be met, happy hour specials should be enjoyed.  Or, it’s snowing.  Or raining.  Or sunny.  Or hot.  Or just too stinking early in the morning to get to a 6:00 am class.

If any of these excuses ring a bell: you need a Home Practice.

Home Yoga Practice has benefits: I engage in home practice at least twice a week because I’m usually teaching my own classes at ‘yoga class times of the day.’  I also use this time as exploration of poses and sequences that I’m going to teach; my classes are always intentional and my lesson plans detailed.

However, I strongly believe you NEED A TEACHER.  The Yoga History is very clear on this subject: yoga was originally taught from teacher to pupil in a 1:1 ratio.  Teachers can offer you the appropriate modifications for injuries and for body type. Teachers can point out to you when a pose needs to be tweaked to avoid injury.  Teachers can offer pointers on breath control, guide you through meditation, and share their own wisdom regarding the philosophy of a yogic lifestyle. They may show you a few poses, but that’s not the important part. Teachers actually, um, teach you.

During your search for your yoga teacher (if you don’t already have one or live too far away from me to attend my classes) here are some tips for “Starting a Home Practice.”

  1. Find a space.

My home yoga space is actually a home office.  (And a ‘bike room’ a perk of living with an IronMan.)  It’s not a state-of-the-art bamboo-floored softly lit yoga haven like you would imagine a yoga teacher would own.  Actually, we don’t even own my office, we live in a 900 square foot rented house.  Read: there are a LOT of distractions in my ‘yoga space’ including my computer, my books, my to-do pile, a closet, a doggie bed, and an area rug always in need of a vacuum.  My point?  No space in your home is ever going to be ‘perfect’ but do not let that be an excuse.  Turn down the lights, clear away a space big enough for your mat (preferably not carpeted) and light some candles.  Commit to your space and invite the Sacred to meet you there.  In my yoga space are pictures of loved ones, landscapes of mountains, reminders of the beach, and a small altar.  Make the space meaningful to you.

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my home yoga space. please note the presence of Russell Clive, who cuddles with me in savasana.

  1. Outfit with Yoga Props.

You’ll need the following: your own yoga mat. Everything else is optional.  Seriously. But if you do want to buy props, here are my recommendations:

  • 2 Yoga Blocks.  I prefer foam blocks which can be purchased at retail outfitters such as Target and Sporting Goods Stores.
  • 1 Yoga Strap.  I prefer an 8 or 10 foot yoga strap with a plastic buckle available from Yoga Direct.
  • 1 Yoga Bolster for Meditation.  I love this “Sukasana Pillow” which helps me sit in ‘easy-pose’ for meditation.      
  • 1 Eye Pillow for Savasana. I love this Hugger Mugger Silk Eye-Bag with flaxseed filling.
  1. Choose a Guide.

Again, there is no substitute for the guidance and expertise of a teacher in the room with you. However, if you are looking for a guided session at home, here are my recommendations from trusted teachers.

Yoga Upload with Maris Aylward.  Maris teaches for me at Westport Yoga and is an excellent guide.  Her YouTube channel is free, but it is quality.  A unique class that caters to beginners is her “Wrist Free” Yoga Class which doesn’t require Downward Facing Dog or Yoga Push-ups. Ideal for strong beginners and anyone who has a wrist or shoulder injury.

YogaGlo is an online forum of yoga classes from some of the most popular and respected yoga teachers in the country.  YogaGlo requires a monthly fee of $18 but the first two-week trial is free. Classes can be sorted by class level (making it easy for beginners to find an appropriate pace) and time frame (for busy-bees!).  You can also add classes to your ‘que’ and for easy referencing. My teacher Tiffany Cruikshank of Yoga Medicine is featured on this website and her classes are super fun!

YogaVibes offers the option to purchase per-online-class.  If you are an Ashtanga Practioner and need to practice at home, you can download a Full Led Primary Series Class with my teacher Wade Mortenson here.

  1. Schedule it in your day.

Write it in your calendar and treat your Home Practice as an appointment that cannot be missed. It’s easy to become distracted during a home practice: you’ll suddenly notice your house needs cleaning or that the laundry isn’t done.  You’ll put it off until after your NetFlix original series ends. You’ll sit down to answer one email and end up on Facebook an hour later.  The key is discipline and commitment.  Set a time for your home practice every week and respect that time.  Make a schedule and stick to it!

No home practice is going to perfect, but then again, no yoga practice is ever perfect. That’s why it is called ‘practice.’  And it’s worth it, because yoga is the good life and can change your life in a million ways (or at least 10).  Remember: when it comes to yoga, there are 2 lessons to learn.

Go. Get learning. Let me know how I can help along the way.

-lisa

you probably won’t win a Grammy.

Me: “How do we record the Grammy’s because I have to teach tomorrow night… I still want to watch them?”

My Iron Man: “They were last night.”

Me: “Fail.”

The only televised award show that I actually watch every year, and I missed it.  I even entered it as an event in my GoogleCal on the wrong day!  For some reason, I my days were completely mixed up. I even started off my Monday night class welcome with an enthusiastic, “Happy Wednesday!” (Maybe I was still on island time after a Hawaiian vacation with my family…)

But the fact remained: I missed the Grammy Awards and would have to scour the internet for clips of my favorite music artists performing live.  (The ‘awards’ part… I could live without that. I just love live music and the fact that the Grammy’s hold a free concert in my living room.)

I started my on-line search and was sucked in to the after-award news. So many artists (I mean, hundreds!) made inspiring, pioneering, fantastic music last year. So many artists were nominated for awards. So many artists weren’t nominated for awards.  So many artists will never be nominated for a Grammy, despite their tireless commitment to the craft of music.

What I love is that these musicians still create.

They dare. They pour their souls into their music and their hearts into their lyrics.  Their albums are either wildly popular or completely ignored. Their songs are either critically acclaimed or mocked on Saturday Night Live.  But, despite the risk, these musicians trust their passion: they create.

Elizabeth Gilbert writes that, “creativity is the hallmark of our species.”   She suggests that every human being is a creative being, simply because we come from a long line of evolved thinkers, tinkerers, storytellers, makers, builders, farmers and problem solvers. The urge to create is primal and innate. The urge to win a Grammy is hollow at best.

Gilbert explains:  “We make things because we like making things.  We pursue the interesting and the novel because we like the interesting and the novel.  If you are alive, you’re a creative person.”

Not a musician? (Me neither, despite my karaoke-in-the-car-skills.)  Create something anyway.  Crochet a baby blanket. Build a bird feeder.  Sketch a picture for your daughter. Make an iTunes playlist. Refurbish an old stool. Write a poem.  Hang a picture.  Paint your mailbox.  Take a walk in the woods and do an impromptu photoshoot (remember my advice for a micro-adventure?).  Bake cupcakes and change two ingredients in the recipe. (Or try my pumpkin bread recipe.) Choreograph your own yoga sequence. It doesn’t matter if your finished product is perfect.  It matters the process of letting your creativity flow naturally and freely transpires.  What materializes is perhaps irrelevant.  You probably won’t win a Grammy for it.  But do it anyway. Create, just for the feeling of creating.

This, Gilbert explains, is what it means to develop fierce trust in creativity.  “You were born to create, regardless of the outcome,” she writes in Big Magic.  “Anyhow, what else are you going to do with your time here on earth—not make things?  Not do interesting stuff? Not follow your love and your curiosity?” That sounds like a really, really, boring life.

Creating sounds so much more fun. Despite the risk of being laughed at, or ridiculed, or ignored, or judged, or failing, I’m still going to create. Even if I never create anything completely novel, or completely perfect, or up to par with Taylor Swift, I’m still going to trust in creativity and keep creating.  I hope you do to.

What will you create today?  What are you curious about?  What is interesting to you?   How will you trust in the creative process and dare to create?

Happy Creating,

-lisa

art, create

 

 

show up for yourself.

show up for yourself, apples

I couldn’t figure out why my scarf smelled so good. It smelled fresh, crisp, and satisfyingly sweet around my face. I had just stuffed myself into an extra pair of fleece-lined pants, adorned myself with my hat and gloves, zipped-up two coats and (Ralphy-style) bent over to grab my purse when I was caught off guard by how heavy it still was. (I only carry a large purse in the winter; it’s storage for my many, many layers and winter-time extras… my hope is that one year I will make it through the winter without losing a glove.)  There I was, a performance-gear snowball, ready to roll down the stairs and out into 18 degree weather, so my purse was empty… and still heavy?

I found three apples rolling around the bottom of my purse. Seriously? Along with two books, a yoga mala, a lint roller, three camping forks, sunglasses (sunglasses!? it hadn’t been sunny in two months!), four pens and a zip-loc full of tea bags. No wallet. But, three apples!  I mean, I could survive on apples and almonds (and successfully have before), but carrying around three apples instead of my wallet in my purse seemed ill-advised.

Apparently, I stowed an apple in my purse each morning that week… and never got around to eating it.  I’m sure I intended to mow down on my favorite snack in between teaching my classes but instead I wound up with an apple-scented scarf.

Intentions are slippery, complex creatures.  So often, I set a remarkable, wise, intention in the morning and it slips away, unnoticed, by the 3 o’clock slump. I’ll set an invigorated, enthusiastic intention at the beginning of the year and it runs away three weeks into February.  Or, sometimes I do remember my intention …I just never get around to doing it.

But here’s the thing: life is too long to live without intention.  I’m not talking about ‘the great and humbling mystery and meaning of life;’ your life is already meaningful simply because you are living it.  What I’m talking about are the aspirations, the wishes, the yearnings, even the feeble wants that we spend so much time thinking about and planning, but never get around to doing.

Do you intend to do something but ‘never get around to it’?  (Remember this post: what you would do if nothing stood in your way?)  Hopefully, this ‘something’ is more important and inspiring than eating an apple that’s been in your purse for three days, but it definitely doesn’t have to be life changing.

Could it be: Call a dear friend?  Mail a card to your grandma? Clean out your closet?  Update your resume?  Invite your mom to a yoga class?  Begin a meditation practice?  Sit and breathe for 5 minutes daily, learning to de-stress?  Engage amicably with a co-worker who you find difficult to appreciate?  Go for a walk over your lunch break and actually take a ‘break’? Cut out sugar from your diet?  Donate your spare change to your favorite animal shelter?

Whatever your intention is: Do it.

Your challenge is this: today, do that SOMETHING that ‘you never get around to doing.’  Actualize your intention.  Make your idea into solid MATTER.  No one else is going to do it.

As modern poet cleo wade says: “Show up for yourself and do not wait a second longer.”

Looking for a good intention for your yoga class?  Check out this article I published a few years ago: intention.  Looking for a Meditation to help you uncover your intention?  Try this one: what is my deep, driving desire?

Happy Doing,

-lisa

show up for yourself, apples