leaving for my sacred 2017 sabbatical.

Just like last year’s modern day sabbath, I’m heading out for my annual sabbatical. I’m eager for all the fun things I’ve got planned, but dreading 3 weeks without my best friend Russell Clive.

Who could say goodbye to this sweet boy?

What do I have planned?

I’ll see family (SoCal and Mimi, here I come!) and friends (I am beyond thrilled to train again with Yoga Medicine and my teacher Tiffany Cruikshank again) and live in van down by the river.

I’m not joking. Check out this sweet ride.

My Ironman built out a conversion van so we could drive to Canada for this sabbatical. We plan on celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary by hiking and biking and camping and lounging in the epic vastness of Canadian National Parks and generally being in awe of God’s crazy beautiful earth.

And most importantly, I’m taking a sacred Sabbath. In my study of Spaciousness (kha) I examined the sacred spaciousness of time, form and Soul (read previous posts). Sabbath is just that: a period of time devoted to being uncluttered, unplanned, unencumbered by ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts.’

Gerald May reminds us in his book The Awakened Heart that spaciousness has its roots in the Hebrew letters yodh and shin, combined to form the word that denotes freedom and removal of constriction. From these same letters emerges the root word for salvation. It makes sense to me that salvation is associated with spaciousness because it means being free to choose love over fear and choose consciously my thoughts and actions, as opposed to being directed by impulse, reaction. Spaciousness and rest, in time, in form and Soul is true freedom. For me, salvation is embracing moments for self-care of the Soul and consecrating those moments Godward.

And so, in a world that no longer values Sabbath, in a world that consistently tells me that working really hard makes me really worthy and resting makes me irrelevant, I’m taking a Sacred Sabbath Sabbatical to re-discover the freedom of spaciousness.

While I’m away, resting and rejuvenating and practicing self-care of the soul, please:

See you at the end of August, all rested and refreshed.

-lisa

how to be a successful adult.

I’ve been an adult for nearly a decade; which in no way entitles me to any authority on the matter, whatsoever… but actually I think I may have figured out a significant strategy to successful ‘adulting.’ (This, by the way, is its own hashtag…which makes me think my internet community must be overwhelmingly and alarmingly excited about pretending we know what we are doing as pretend adults.)

(so fun to be a real-life adult! photo cred: JanaMarie Photography)

I’ve presented this 3 pronged approach to a few friends lately; its been received reasonably well. I’ve been warned it is, perhaps, missing a few key elements regarding paying bills and car insurance and feeding oneself and her family, but I’m pretty sure I’m on to something.

So, my exhaustive list of 3 key actions: How to be a Successful Adult

1. Move things around. Moving things around makes me look so busy! And creative! And responsible! And people love it when things are in a new place. Trash, dust, towels, pictures, Kleenex boxes, water bottles, Ganesha statues, plants, dirty clothes, clean clothes, whatever! Move that stuff around, continuously and consistently, and you will totally look like you know what you’re doing.

2. Send a lot of e-mails. I have discovered that e-mailing is the most substantial indication of “doing work.” It makes me appear so important and communicative and ‘on it!’ It’s the best! Sometimes I send e-mails just to send e-mails…and then check them off my list.

3. Measure my success by how much fun I’m having and how quickly I can change my mindset from fear to love. Being serious is overrated. I’ve found that success in life, for me, means always choosing joy and learning not to compare myself to others. The more I love others, give to others, and affirm others, the more successful I am at building the life I love. It’s sometimes terrifying owning a business whose bottom line is contingent on students getting off work on time in the evenings, family schedules, personal energy levels and the conscious and sometimes difficult choice of attending a yoga class instead of a Sporting KC game. It’s sometimes terrifying owning a business in what now, for some unknown reason, seems like a ‘fad industry’ and there are yoga studios popping up on every corner. It’s sometimes terrifying when I think: Is this really a real-life job and do I have the energy to keep it going? But then I remember to measure my success by how much fun I’m having and how quickly I can change my mindset from fear to love.

And I choose to love my life. 

How do you measure your success? How can you change your mindset from fear to love? How do you choose to love life?

Happy adulting.

-lisa

a yogi’s guide to hiking a 14er.

My Ironman insists on celebrating his birthday on top of a 14er in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Literally, on the summit. And I always, always, always forget how difficult it actually is to hike one of those things, so I say, “YES! Let’s totally hike that mountain that requires ten straight hours of hiking and a 4 am wake-up call on vacation!” and then I start hiking and remember: Holy freaking cow, this is really, really difficult. 

Worth it? Yes, because the spaciousness of the summit and the silence of the trail are unforgettable. But still difficult. 

So, readers, in the (likely) circumstance that you never marry a former Trail Guide who expertly guides you to the top of a 14er summit (or two) every summer, I humbly present to you my Yogi’s Guide to Hiking a 14er.

  1. Tell yourself it’s easy. Literally, start every sentence with: “It’s easy for me to…” And fill in the blank. In challenging and strenuous situations (for instance, climbing to the top of a pile of rocks 14 thousand feet in the air or getting your work done before deadline or talking to the most annoying co-worker in the history annoying co-workers) your thoughts (in Sanskrit vrtti-s) can spin wildly out-of-control. Hiking to the top of a 14er mirrors life in that it is mind-game. Gaining control over the 70,000 daily thoughts in our mind alters the spinning trajectory of our vrtti-s to be helpful instead of harmful. Our mind LOVES to distract us from achieving goals such as ‘being present’ and ‘being content’ and ‘not dying while walking these last 7 miles’ with negative vrtti-s. Negative or harmful thoughts are usually caused by deep emotional triggers (in Sanskrit: kleshas) and they turn over and over and over again in our subconscious until we believe them. Starting a sentence with, “It’s easy for me to…” re-sets the turning/tumbling/ridiculous cycle of self-judgmental thoughts and helps you focus on what you CAN DO. Like, for instance, take one more step. In fact, “It’s easy for me to hike this whole trail, even though my lungs are exploding.”
  2. Wear gloves. It’s cold. And numb fingers make everyone crabby.
  3. Listen to silence. I believe it’s ultra important to understand that the core of our being is always quiet and still. It is our Inner Light, our Inner Wisdom, which is connected to Spirit. A little bit of the Atman lives in each person’s heart and offers an Infinite wellspring of grace, joy, love and wisdom. The vrtti-s spin like wheels, distracting us with outer definitions of who we think we are and how we aren’t good enough, but the inner light of awareness (purusha), is a hub stillness. Listening to silence means learning to listen to the still small voice of awareness that shines through all the vrtti-s. Sit yourself down on a rock and listen. It’s incredibly quiet on the mountain. It’s intoxicating and beautiful and freeing.
  4. Get an alpine start. If you don’t get it done in the morning, it’s not going to happen. This is true of your yoga practice and your meditation practice. Set your alarm and get up in the dark if you need to. Be diligent in your personal resolve to consecrate your day toward Love and set your intention. Do it first thing in the morning or the day will get away from you. Remember: you have time.
  5. Take frequent rests. I recently learned that resting is a spiritual practice. And that taking naps is an important part of staying healthy and whole. When climbing that GD mountain of day, set aside a specific time of the day for an 8 minute savasana, legs-up-the-wall-pose or guided meditation. Resting is necessary for your body, mind and spirit to re-align. Rest at every mile mark, take a drink, eat a snack and enjoy the view.
  6. Be creative in your route. There is no ‘one right way’ to get to the top. In fact, there may not even be ‘a top’ in life. Everyone measures success differently. Give yourself permission to be bit creative with your route and your end goal. Stay safe, but let your dreams run wild and free. Seriously. Do the things that most inspire you and do them with passion. You may not have a 9-5 job, you may not wear a suit to work, you may not have a giant house or even a giant ego; be creative and courageous find what really makes you come alive. The view from ‘the top’ will be priceless.
  7. It’s about the journey. Sometimes, things are worth doing simply because they are beautiful and interesting. The spiritual journey of yoga is one of those things. The poses themselves are fun, but the inner journey of discipline, strength, flexibility and being willing to travel light is what matters most. Every step forward on the spiritual journey of healing the mind from addictions, cravings, compulsions and falsity is worthwhile. Every step forward into the Light is worth it—difficult and sometimes scary and sometimes hard as heck—but worth it. Keep walking. Try to enjoy the journey, because you’ll really never get this day, this trail, this hike ever again.
  8. Don’t be annoyed when a 3-year-old summits faster than you do. Refer to Number 7.
  9. Pack a chocolate bar. There is nothing sweeter in life than taking a moment to savor your hard work and delight in all your senses. When you achieve even a minor life goal (like putting all the clean dishes away?), enjoy the sweet moment to its FULLEST. Open a Cadbury, snap a few yoga photos from the summit, gobble up that Freaking Fresh mountain air and then start walking back down the trail. It’s waiting for you.

learning to polish the mind.

When I was little I collected every shiny little gemstone I could get my hands on. I LOVED those big bins of polished rocks at old-timey stores; I loved the treasure hunt of sifting through all the precious polished “gems” (probably just rocks put through a tumbler and not that precious at all) and finding the perfect one to add to my collection. I still secretly scavenge a beach pebble or river rock to bring back home with me when I travel.

Our thoughts, our emotions, our vrtti-s are exactly like these polished rocks.

In English, we loosely translate “vrtti-s” as “thoughts”; this is somewhat accurate. A better English translation is “turnings or cyclings.” All our thoughts and all our emotions are little gems of energy cycling through our field of awareness. In Yoga, the aware mind isn’t just the physical brain. Our awareness is both heart and mind—the citta. Everything we see, hear, feel and experience throughout the day is absorbed in our minds and is turned, over and over again, like rocks in a tumbler.

So, when the Yoga Sutra’s define for us in chapter 1 vs. 2 the primary aim of yoga as:

“Yogah citta vrtti nirodhah”

What it means is NOT that we should completely cease, stop and abolish the turnings and thoughts of the mind, but that we should use the techniques of yoga to polish the vrtti-s until they gleam and point us toward the True Light of Inner Awareness.

Vrtti-s aren’t necessarily a bad thing; we need to be thinking and feeling and perceiving to enjoy living this life as a human. But vrtti-s, when left unchecked, can cycle out of control. If the rock tumbler is left on high all night long, it’s going to start smoking and burn an engine belt. If the vrtti-s are left to their own devices, they can easily spin out of control.

I’m sure you can remember a time when your thoughts were spinning pinballs and your emotions were all over the place and smoke was coming out your ears and your mind was completely trapped in a cycle of unhelpful thoughts. I’m usually an incredible sleeper (thanks to a few hours of yoga classes and Russell Clive walking each day) but every once in a while, my brain just WON’T shut off when I lay down at night.

I have so many ideas! And so many worries! And so many things to do! And probably I won’t get them done! And even if I do, they will probably fail! And I’m not really sure I’m qualified to do all these things anyway! And probably I should just give up and instead sit on the couch all day.

It’s at these times when the vrtti-s are less than helpful, when the constant turning of the mind does not enhance my ability to be happy, healthy, and whole.

We use the techniques of yoga—the breath, the concentration, the meditation, the poses—to help us refine and polish our thoughts and emotions (vrtti-s) so that they do not distort our perception of the world, but instead enhance our perception of the world as being a place of unity, trust and abundance.


The techniques teach us to take in all the things that we see, hear, think and feel throughout the day and polish them up so that our mind is not preoccupied with raw, ragged and rough misconceptions about the world, but instead our mind sees what is true: that there is enough, that we ARE enough, that the inner light of awareness inside our heart is connected with that same light in others. That the Universe wants us to be in yoga, in union, with it at all times. That is a pretty little gem of wisdom worth collecting. 

What is your favorite yoga technique for ‘polishing the vrtti-s’? What helps you enhance your perception of the world as a place of unity and abundance?

I’d love to hear from you! (Also don’t forget to check out my page key yoga learnings for a brush up on terms like citta and purusha.)

-lisa