risks cloaked in awesomeness.

I’m looking forward to giant opportunities that are tactfully revealing themselves to be risks cloaked in awesomeness. One opportunity is the role of a Store Ambassador for Lululemon Athletica—it’s an awesome company with a remarkable focus on building leaders in our community. But, Holy Cow, I am opening myself up to all sorts of risk.

A cool thing about being a Lululemon Athletica Store Ambassador? I’m a little bit famous.

A not-cool thing about being a Lululemon Athletica Store Ambassador?  I’m a little bit famous.

One day this summer, I sat down with my friend Kim who works at the Country Club Plaza Lululemon store and looked through an entire gallery of pictures of myself.  My official photo shoot courtesy of epagafoto and Allyson Cheney was really fun—my best friend Russell Clive was with me and we took adorable yoga-dog photos.

But sifting through the proofs was the worst.

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Look how fun this photo is! Russell Clive is adorable! photo cred epagaFoto and Allyson Cheney

So, you know that mental script that plays on repeat when you are confronted with a vulnerable situation? The one that is overly self-critical and automatically searches for reasons to judge and retreat into self-defeat? (Oh, that story?) It definitely played as the soundtrack to a meeting where I critiqued a million digital photos of myself. And chose three. To be ENLARGED. And hung on the walls of a store. On. The. Plaza.

The moment Kim opened her lap top, I heard the opening credits to the most popular story most women write about themselves: ‘Never perfect, but good try.’

I realized quickly that if I was going to make it through this meeting at Kaldi’s without having a minor breakdown, I had to write a new, risky ending to this story where I embraced vulnerability and ventured into confidence. 

It was treacherous territory.  I could start writing this story, but I couldn’t control the ending. I mean, these pictures would adorn the walls of Lululemon CCP for two whole years. How many shoppers will see a ridiculously HUGE picture of me and judge, critique, compare and shame?  How many will people will think: “Who’s that girl?! She doesn’t look like a yoga model, she’s not that special, and those aren’t even impressive yoga poses”?  Probably a few. For sure, more than I care to listen to.

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I had to write a new, risky ending to this story where I embraced vulnerability and ventured into confidence. photo cred epagaFoto and Allyson Cheney

Because guess what? I decided that I’m going to risk it. I’m going to risk being vulnerable, risk being criticized, risk being the trigger for someone else’s insecurities. I’m going to risk being uncomfortable and use all the lessons that yoga has taught me about compassion to bring back into focus what is meaningful.

Do you have any ‘risks cloaked in awesomeness’ that you’ve been avoiding? What are your mental scripts, or habitual samskara’s, that play as a soundtrack to your difficult moments?  How has your practice of discernment and yoga helped you hear these scripts differently?

If you are feeling like you need more courage to Own Your Light and own your vulnerability, one of the best things you can do is meditate on your Light.  Please enjoy my Guided Meditation, “

Practice this meditation every day for a week. It’s a surefire way to gain courage and confidence so you can re-write the endings to the stories you tell yourself.

Happy Re-Writing,

-lisa

Listen to more Guided Meditations here.

 

how I ended up on a picnic table.

I ended up practicing on top of a picnic table.

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Seated series… the only place possible.

I wanted to practice outside in the foothills of the Rockies but instead ended up with a soaked slippery Manduka Mat on a dusty cement pad under the only shelter I could find.

One of the basic tenants of yoga philosophy is that our perceptions create our reality. Our misconceptions about something being likable or unlikable, appealing or unappealing, agreeable or disagreeable are what yoga calls ‘mental attachments.’ 

The rainstorm was the perfect example. I really, really wanted to practice the Ashtanga Primary Series outside that ill-fated day. I’d taken two days off from practicing due to strenuous hiking/camping/driving days. I remember trying to fall asleep the previous night feeling so eager to practice poses that would unwind my stiff body; it felt a little bit like Christmas Eve!

But this rain. Afternoon rains are the norm during July in Colorado, not the exception, so I should have taken the encroaching clouds seriously.  I didn’t.  I laid out my well-worn yoga mat in a patch of grass and set up shop with water, pen, pencil and journal.  When the first few raindrops hit, it felt luxurious. (I hadn’t showered in three days, after all.) But I was worried about my journal getting wet so I moved under a tiny shelter by a trail head. I resumed practicing, not realizing that the wind would blow buckets of rain horizontally, barraging my dry cubby hole until I was completely soaked. I picked up my (now covered in bird poop) Manduka and sprinted back to my Subaru. I waited it out for about 5 minutes and read my Yoga Sutras while I waited. From the Yoga Sutras:

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“Mistaken perceptions are wrong impressions that are mired in false appearances.” I.8

And “the single most important thing: things are empty of being what they are by themselves.” I. 42

Is as if these two little threads of wisdom were magic.

My perception of the rain was my responsibility.  The rain was a welcome respite from the summer heat and a blessing to the vegetation in Lory State Park. But in and of itself, it was just rain. 

Miraculously, I wasn’t frustrated.  I wasn’t disappointed, angry or even irritated (again, a miracle).  I was still stoked to practice and determined to find a place where I could do so.

I elected to see the rain from a place of clear understanding and not emotional output, and I climbed on top of that picnic table to practice.  Occasionally I got a few weird looks from other Park goers, but I didn’t care. It was magical. This ancient wisdom helped me take responsibility for my understanding and appreciate the rain for being rain, not as something causing me frustration. These threads of wisdom from the seminal yoga text are what it’s all about.

Over the course of the next few months on this blog, I will be examining Sanskrit terms which are important concepts from the Yoga Sutras. We won’t be learning them the traditional way of call-and-repeat and questioning discourse, but I hope to bring you some insight into the text that started it all. We’ve already talked about our citta (as our heart-mind-connection) in this post and we’ve already learned about purusha (as our Inner Light) in this post. You’ll want to go back and review these posts if you have a free minute. so we can keep moving deeper into the knowledge of the Yoga Sutras.

If you don’t already have your own copy, I suggest The Essential Yoga Sutra by Geshe Michael Roach.

Feel free to send me questions as we go along! Looking forward to learning with you,

-lisa

a modern day Sabbath: learnings from my Sabbatical.

Who knew I was so attached to my job?  (Well, of course, everyone did. It’s all I talk about: how lucky I am to have a career that gives me meaning and brings light to my life.)

Here’s the thing, even though I adore my career as a yoga teacher, I still find myself complaining: ‘I just need a break. Just a few days off, where I don’t have to teach, or check e-mails, or be a manager, or make lesson plans, or take care of my house, or take care of my dog, or be responsible for anyone in any way.’

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see what I mean?  my jobs is THE BEST and sometimes Russell Clive gets to come along!

So, I planned a big summer break in response to this ridiculous complaining.  I planned a full-on three week sabbatical.  It was meant to be a type of Sabbath.

A Sabbath is a day to break the usual routine and to rest.  A Modern-Day Sabbath might be a screen-free day: no iPad to watch The Office, no iPhone to check Instagram, no laptop to update Google Doc Spreadsheets. It may be a ‘I promise not to work’ day: vowing not to check in with the people you manage, avoiding all work e-mails and truly passing the buck on to a colleague hoping desperately they can handle the responsibility.

A Modern Day Sabbath is AWESOME.  For a few hours. And then, for an over-achiever and recovering perfectionist, a Modern Day Sabbath is excruciating.  Real talk: a three week vacation sounded like a good idea, but actually giving up my routine, my control and my responsibility was a struggle.

During my sabbatical, I desperately missed my routined life. I missed teaching my yoga classes.  I missed checking in on my teachers at Westport Yoga and making sure that things were running smoothly. I missed being a part of the BEST HOUR of the day in the lives of my yoga-loving students. Sure, I was teaching at a church camp for high school kids the first week (see previous blog post) but teaching yoga and meditation a mere two hours a day is far below my normal time commitment.

And in this absence of ‘busyness’ my mind was free to wander into doubt, guilt, and fear.  Doubt that taking a three week break was a ‘good’ idea at all. Guilt for taking time off when I could have (should have/would have) been in service to my yoga students. Fear that my worth was diminishing by the second as I sat around on my butt, not working.

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an example of me sitting around, not working. :)

What I thought was going to be a vacation turned into a challenging life lesson in discovering and embracing self-worth. I realized how deeply my perception of my self-worth was tied to my contribution to my community… when it should be solely based on the fact that I am made of Light and am worthwhile simply because I am alive. This is a simple fact that I forget… a simple fact that the pursuit and practice of yoga brings me back to.

She may not be a yoga teacher, but writer Brene Brown teaches this same lesson about worthiness and its relationship to living wholeheartedly.

In her book Daring Greatly Brown writes:

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness.  It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, ‘No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.’  It’s going to bed at night thinking. ‘Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging’.”  -B. Brown  

This place of wholehearted living is a difficult space to inhabit.  It is a challenge, but it is also a relief. It is a Sabbath from guilt, shame, fear. It is a vacation from all the thoughts in the heart-mind-citta that discourage living a life of worth.  It can be accessed through meditation.

My favorite Meditation for bringing myself back to a place where I can engage with the world from a place of worthiness is called Aham Prema. (And it’s totally the best.)

Aham Prema means ‘I am Divine Love.’

1. Set your meditation timer for 10 minutes.

2.  Start by bringing awareness to your inhale and your exhale.

3.  Notice how wonderful it is to be alive. Notice your aliveness.

4.  Add your mantra: Aham Prema  On the inhale: Aham.  On the exhale: Prema

5. Notice the relief that washes over you as you sit and encourage yourself to end your meditation feeling a sense of self-worth.

How do you struggle with feeling worthy?  How often do you attribute your self worth to your work?  How do you think yoga can bring you back to remembering your true worth? These are some questions I’m working on answering, too.  I’d love to hear from you!

Happy Sabbath,

-lisa

 

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we are so lucky to be ALIVE!

who are you?

The first week of my 2016 sabbatical was spent sharing a room with seven high school ladies and being responsible for the well-being of forty six female campers. The week was challenging: it was raw and real and really, really exhausting.

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teaching yoga to high school kids?  in this beautiful setting?  sign me up!

Every time I volunteer at this Community of Christ High School Camp, I lose my voice, I forgo sleeping for a week (this just in: kids stay up late), I laugh until I pee my pants, I sweat more than should be physically possible, I miss being at home, I miss the routine of my wonderfully full (and air conditioned) life, I am overwhelmed by too many people in one space and too many loud voices, and every year, I come back. 

Because in this week, I am witness to the incredible power of positive community.  I watch young people transform from awkward strangers into best friends, open up to the idea of loving themselves, learn something brand-spanking new, try something they would never before attempt, get bloody noses from getting smacked in the face with a pool noodle, attempt to beat the far-superior staff members in dodge ball tournaments, fall in love, and inch closer to the type of adult they desire to be.

Hands down, the best part of camp for both campers and for staff members is meeting new people.  I asked the question: “What’s your name, again?” about a million times a day.  Knowing someone’s name is intimate.  Isn’t it true that when we ask someone: “What’s your name?” what we are really asking is: “Who are you?” I’m actually really good at remembering names.  I learned 90 camper’s names the first day of camp, but definitely forgot most of them by the time we jumped in the pool that evening.  Name tags off, swimsuits on, hair wet;  I had no idea who these kids were.
“Who are you?” is a difficult question to answer.  For high school kids, that answer is usually a label. Sometimes, it’s even a label they didn’t choose for themselves;, it’s a price tag slapped on their back by their peers. This label: nerd, athlete, outcast, weird, smart, stupid, fat, pretty, popular can only go so far in its ability to describe who they are as changing, growing and maturing people. Adults still have these labels affixed permanently on our exterior, too.
We are still one word to new people we meet: immigrant, businessman, homeless, hipster, athletic, gay, rich. These labels we carry around may or may not be accurate. They may or may not be apparent to everyone we meet. They may or may not be damaging, but they are never the full truth of who we are.  They will never truthfully answer the question: “Who are you?”  (Read my personal take on Deepak Chopra’s “Who am I?’ meditation here.)
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In fact, that’s the whole reason we do yoga! To clear our minds of misconception so that we can re-connect with who we truly are.

In yoga philosophy, this label would be an accumulation of all your experiences and memories stored in your citta or ‘heart-mind field of consciousness.’ The citta consists of four components: outer mind, inner mind, ego and memory. Together, these components determine how we construct our identity and how we interact with the world.
The citta is a filter between our ever-changing external experiences and our inner light of awareness. Overtime, this filter needs to be changed: your citta or heart-mind-consciousness is clouded and dirty. You are no longer swimming in a pristine chlorine-treated swimming pool, you are stuck in the muck of a snapping turtle infested lake. And it’s easy to forget who you are.
Patterns of thought, impressions that are untrue, and experiences that are painful sully the lens of our citta and block our inner light of awareness. We forget who we truly are: we forget that we are made of light and in light. This forgetting is the cause of our frustration, our pain and our habits. However, with self awareness and courage gained through meditation, we can clear up our misconceptions and start to peel away the layers of grime until we feel clear again. The meditation, the asanas, the pranayama, the focus we gain through our yoga practice makes this possible. In fact, that’s the whole reason we do yoga! To clear our minds of misconception so that we can re-connect with who we truly are.

According to scholar Nicolai Bachman, “Purification and clarification of citta is the primary result of yoga practice and leads us to connection with our divine inner light of awareness.” -The Path of the Yoga Sutras

Every single day, we have the opportunity to answer the question: “Who am I?” with more clarity and freedom.
My challenge for you is to look closely at who you are and sit in meditation with yourself. Use this time to clear your heart-mind field of consciousness and move forward into the light.  When you do this, you aren’t changing yourself into someone new, you are changing yourself into who you’ve always been and simply allowing that light to shine.
Happy Shining,
-lisa 
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go sit yourself down and ask: who am I, really?