is your cup too big?

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I’ve been listening to a lot of Rachel Hollis lately. She’s a kick-butt entrepreneur and influencer who built a multi-million dollar media company on the platform of motivating women to DREAM REALLY BIG. 

I like what she has to say and how she says it: authentically. (In Yoga Philosophy authenticity and speaking truth is called satya.) And I also think The Dreaming Big Thing can be disorienting and slightly misdirected.

It’s just that I talk to women who are so indelibly overwhelmed with doing things BIGGER: bigger birthday parties, bigger promotions, bigger responsibilities, bigger purses, bigger calendars, bigger minivans, bigger social followings, bigger involvement in all things Kate Spade, that their sense of inner contentment (santosha) shrinks smaller and smaller by the day, until their stress is the biggest thing in their overwhelmed/underwhelmed lives.

The best advice I’ve heard that speaks to this feeling of being unfulfilled within an overfilled schedule is from Becca Stevens in her book Love Heals:

“If you stress because you feel like your glass is half empty most of the time, your cup may be too big.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Big Fan of Dreaming Big. AND I also think that my dreams need to be very, very SMALL and SIMPLE so that I don’t feel continuously half empty.

In 2016 I wrote a blog post called Dream Away where I shared my 3 biggest/ smallest  dreams: to teach, to travel and to love.

These 3 Simple Dreams create a precise foundation for my daily decisions. In order to keep my cup small, I use them as a heuristic: if it doesn’t help me do these 3 things with increasing integrity and excellence, I don’t do it.

These 3 Simple Dreams shrink my cup; they hone my focus and make certain that what I say “yes, please to is exactly in line with my authentic truth and assist in creating a small, happy life.

This week, challenge yourself to spend time in contemplation; what 3 Simple Words can narrowly define your biggest dreams so that your cup feels like its overflowing? How can you shrink your cup so that it stays full?

Happy Shrinking,

-lisa

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Real talk: having a baby makes my life bigger and slightly more hectic; but she fits at least 2 of out of 3 criteria: spreading more love and making me a better teacher. (And she’s just so darn cute. So she’s a big YES, PLEASE!)

the contents of my Soul: santosha

When I picture my Soul, I often picture it as a treasure box. As I move through my life, I collect trinkets to store in this treasure box for safe keeping. I’ve collected experiences of mountain-top serenity, phenomenal sunsets over the ocean, memories of juicy summer-ripe fruit shared with my grandmas, hilariously weird and awkward moments with my girlfriends, minutes of complete and utter bliss in meditation. I’ve also collected outbursts of anger, unjustified frustration directed toward the wrong (mostly innocent) person, days and days and days worth of worrying over future life and career choices.

Yoga philosophy tells me that every word, thought, action or impression I come in contact with is stored in my citta, which is the fancy Sanskrit name for ‘heart-mind-Soul consciousness’. (You can read more about it in this post.) I’m continually accumulating experiences to keep in my Soul treasure box, so what I want to know is: can I find contentment within the contents of my Soul?

Santosha, the personal practice of contentment, has to do with who I am, not what I have. (Remember how I need to stop buying jackets?)

This means I choose what I want the contents of my Soul to be. And you know what?

When I look inside my Soul Treasure Box, I want the contents to be bright and shiny and pure and free and full of love and light. I don’t want to carry around resentment toward the awful landlord who screamed his fool head off at me. Or unresolved grief over the loss of a dear friend. Or self-judgment over a job-half-well-done. These feelings are part of me being me (a human!) but they aren’t what I want to see when I open the contents of my Soul to examine them.

When learning santosha, reflect on these questions:

  • Do I feel contentment with the contents of my Soul?
  • What have I collected in my heart that makes me feel discontented?
  • What can I toss out in order to feel more contentment and fulfillment?

Happy Collecting,

-lisa

not needing more: santosha.

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“Contentment is the fragrance of present moment awareness. Contentment reflects a state of being in which your peace is independent of situations and circumstances happening around you.” – Deepak Chopra


I have 5 rain coats, approximately 63 sweatshirts, 3 puffy vests and a thousand reasons to stop buying more clothes. And still, I open my closet
and think: “I need a new jacket.”

What is it about being a human that makes us think, “I need more”?

Is it that we are truly lacking? Or just that contentment with what we have right in front of us is dulled in comparison to our feverish desire for more?

It’s not easy to feel contentment: it’s easier to believe that happiness will magically descend upon my life when I’m wildly successful/ can do a handstand perfectly/ lose the last five winter pounds/ have a new jacket/ the sun is shining every day/ yoga classes are filled to the brim.

I do it constantly, this ‘wanting more’ business. I want more students, more money, more hobbies, more free time, more Girl Scout Cookies, more puppies, more flowers for my front porch, more friends, more tattoos, more sunny days, more Instagram likes.

And yet, the wisdom of yoga tells me that I will still not feel content even if I have all these things. Ridiculously, I’ll still want more.
The practice and philosophy of Yoga teaches me that true contentment, called santosha, is independent of external factors and must derive its potency from my internal state.  Not what I have, but what I am. 

Contentment is inaccessible if I am living in the future, hoping for life to be perfect one day when I have more of everything I don’t really need.

Santosha requires me to examine all the reasons and all the ways I look for fulfillment, validation, praise and worth outside of myself. And instead, look for contentment in the exact present moment, with exactly what I have and exactly who I am.

One thing that helps me find contentment is to meditate on the gift of the Present Moment with this Guided Meditation:

Present Moment, Wonderful Moment

What does contentment (santosha) mean to you? How do you find it in the present moment? I’m looking forward to your answers,

-lisa

saucha: the one-minute rule of tidiness

I truly cannot work if my bed is not made. It the first thing I do when I come home from teaching and prepare to sit down at my computer. My ‘office’ is in my bedroom, which is great for Russell Clive because he can snuggle on my pillow and watch me type from across the room. But it’s also not great, because if my bed isn’t made, my work space feels messy, untidy and overwhelming.

I recently read Gretchen Rubin’The Happiness Project; I highly recommend it. In her experiment to generate more happiness in her life, Rubin adopted the “one-minute rule.” Which means: if it takes one minute or less to do it– do it now. File the paper, put the plate in the dishwasher, make the bed, wipe up the salt your snow boots tracked in. She found that this “one-minute rule” significantly decreased clutter, increased her sense of ease and helped her focus when it was time to work. I adopted this “one-minute rule” in January and found that it truly helped me appreciate and practice saucha (cleanliness and self-care), which is the first niyama (personal consideration) of the Yoga Philosophy.

I also adopted her “ten-minute tidy rule” (that’s the cutest name for cleaning ever invented). I often experience a moment of anxiety when I come home and my house is cluttered– instead of actually working during the workday, I feel like I’m just walking around my house putting things away. The “ten-minute tidy rule” means I take ten minutes to put the house to bed before I go to bed myself. I’m not up at midnight deep cleaning, I’m just turning off Netflix ten minutes earlier each night to tidy up my living space and practice saucha as a way of caring for myself and my belongings with greater tenderness.

Saucha asks us to look at all our little “one-minute” actions throughout the day and ask: is this an action of self-care? Does it contribute to my health and happiness?

Cleanliness is a perfect entry point to this: do you feel happier and healthier when your home is dirty and cluttered? Or do you feel happier and healthier when your home is tidy, clean and fresh? What contributes to a greater sense of ease?

This month as we study saucha, ask yourself: “How can I make this one-minute action an action of self-care?” And whatever you are doing in that one minute– showering, trimming your fingernails, cleaning the oven, organizing papers, wiping snow and sleet off dogpaws, eating a snack or rolling up your yoga mat– do it with greater tenderness and self-care.

Happy One Minute,

-lisa

“When the body is cleansed, the mind purified and the senses controlled, joyful awareness needed to realize the inner self, also comes.” -Yoga Sutras

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.

you gotta clean your shower.

I’m always surprised that my shower isn’t very clean—it gets ‘washed’ every time I shower, but is somehow still dusty. If I’m not diligent with the shower scrubbing (which I’m not) guess what? It stays dirty and dusty no matter how many times I take a shower.

Studying yoga is similar. It requires attentiveness and daily commitment. The Yoga Sutras say that studying you requires abhyasa, or ‘diligent practice.’ Abhyasa is required because there are a billion gajillion distractions vying for our attention. Identifying our happiness and worth as being inextricably tied to these distractions leads to confusion and frustration. However, as we’ve learned in previous posts, uncovering purusha (our inner Light of awareness) leads to a path of inner contentment and happiness. The knowledge of our inner Self requires turning our attention inward on a regular basis.

Abhyasa (diligent practice) sounds daunting. I mean, I have a lot going on. I’m planning events, preparing workshops, writing my first book, keeping my website up-to-date, managing a yoga studio, teaching upwards of 12 classes a week, learning how to be a wife, keeping Russell Clive healthy, buying potted herbs like they are going out of style and maintaining loving friendships.

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Do I really have time to do my yoga practice every day?  YES. YES. YES. (Remember this post about how to practice daily?) I absolutely have to make time, if I want to be serious about studying yoga.

There’s a story about Mahatma Gandhi that I love (and paraphrase frequently when students try to tell me they don’t have time to come to my yoga classes). The story goes that Gandhi said to his staff one morning, “Today is a very busy day. I won’t have time to meditate for one hour today.” His staff was shocked—apparently this peace-loving-world-changing-guru never missed his hour of morning meditation. Then he said, “Today is so busy, I must meditate for two hours.” He understood the power of diligent, focused practice. 

Abhyasa is the desire to maintain a committed effort to know yourself at your deepest core and to use your yoga knowledge to heal your life, thought by thought, moment by moment. It is the recognition that no one else is going to clean your shower: you are the only person who can turn inward, examine your thoughts, and use discernment to choose which thoughts are helpful in your healing process.  Abhyasa is knowing that it is important to stay on track, even when you experience physical and emotional set-backs and you want to throw in the towel on this whole ‘finding meaning and enlightenment thing’ and just go sit in a hot tub.

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When I think about abhyasa, I remember that consistent, focused practice will deepen the connection to my Divine Inner Self. It may happen slowly, like little drops of water filling up a bucket, but eventually I’ve got enough water collected for a foot soak (yay!). Over time, my body, mind, and heart will be clear and healed. This cleansing process benefits myself and everyone who knows me. This inevitable truth makes it a lot easier to get up at 4:45 am and get myself on my meditation mat every morning.  Abhyasa is worth it.

If you already have a regular practice, make it more regular. If you don’t already have a regular practice, carve out some time in your day.  Even if it is only 5 minutes, that’s a great place to start. During this time, turn inward. Sit quietly. Allow the breath to wash away any residue of fatigue, tension, stress or distraction. Make this cleansing process a priority, I can’t think of anything more important than becoming happier and healthier.

If you need a good place to start, try listening to one of my Guided Meditations, like this one:

Happy Cleaning,

-lisa

universal piggy bank. (karma part 2)

(or: karma can be a friend. Part 2)

Remember Melvin the mouse? The one we forcefully and woefully evicted? (Refresh yourself on what Melvin taught me about karma in the previous blog post published last week.)

Today, as promised, we are going to look at another aspect of karma: the idea of a universal piggy bank.

Melvin’s story was an example of our typical understanding of ‘bad karma.’ But the full understanding of karma in the yoga philosophy is more nuanced than that. According to the Yoga Sutras actions can be good, bad or neutral. Each type of action creates a karmic residue that sticks in your memory and your heart-mind (citta is explained in this post).

Each time you take a karma action that is selfless, compassionate, kind or forgiving the residue of that action stays with you. You create, in effect, a repository of kindness. Yoga scholar Nicolai Bachman calls it a ‘karmic bank account.’  He explains, “Each time you perform a positive action is like depositing money into your karmic bank account.  Each time you do something hurtful or negative, it is like writing a check from that back account.”

And here’s the thing: we all share a bank account. All however-billion-humans are on this little planet share this account.  When I married my Ironman last fall, we talked endlessly about the pros and cons of having a shared bank account. When it comes to karma, I think a shared bank account is absolutely wonderfully amazingly uplifting.  It means that every single time I do something kind, I’m depositing more kindness into the world. And it’s not selfish—I’m not giving you my preferred parking spot at the Plaza Library because I myself want to benefit. I’m actively adding kindness currency into the universal piggy bank and anyone can access it!  It’s like I’m giving you a debit card (not a chip card—those things are more trouble than they’re worth) so that when your funds of compassion are low, you can bank with me.

This is true because like attracts like.  Kindness attracts kindness.

Every time I consciously choose to be generous with a friend, I end up on the receiving end of generosity the next day. Even when I feel like being stingy with my money, I try ardently to avoid the pitfall of ego (and the delusion of scarcity) because I know my generosity will multiply. And it doesn’t have to be money: simply offering five minutes of listening or giving someone a ride home on a snowy day turns out to be a huge deposit in our shared karmic bank account. 

Compassionate actions are said to be motivated by selflessness. Your job as a yogi is to understand how every thought, word, action and deed can positively impact the world around you and hold yourself to the highest standard of ethical and compassionate behavior. Real-talk: even if you are in a terrible mood, don’t take it out on the first person you see. It truly doesn’t matter how much you hate your job or are annoyed by your manager, choosing kindness (no matter what) makes a deposit of kindness into the universal piggy bank. You don’t have to pretend to be happy—pretending doesn’t get you anywhere—but you put a deposit in your karmic piggy bank by choosing kind thoughts, words and actions so that all of us can benefit.

While this requires constant vigilance and mindfulness, it is absolutely worth the effort. Positive attracts positive, clean kitchens stay mouse-free, and communities are uplifted when individuals consciously choose kindness for all other living beings. With this in mind, karma can be a pretty good friend.

Happy Depositing,

-lisa

5 things to try in 2017.

Happy New Year!

Time to make all sorts of New Year’s Resolutions … and work on them for a hot minute before promptly moving on to something else!  Just kidding (hopefully).  I know that “Resolutions” conjures feelings of stealthy anxiety, so I’m not going to suggest you make any brash commitments this year… but I will happily suggest 5 things that make my life happier, healthy, and more whole. Lisa’s tried and true: 5 things to try in 2017.

CalenGoo App

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It’s not free, but the CalenGoo app is worth its weight in gold. This alternative to the ubiquitously incomplete and unhelpful iPhone calendar app is a life saver. It shows you the whole month’s calendar at first glance with a blessed white box for every day filled with your events. You know exactly what’s on your schedule and can toggle between month mode, week mode, day mode, or list mode. My life became infinitely more organized the day I downloaded this app.  Find it on iTunes.

 

Rawxies Smoked Paprika Crunch

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Gluten Free, Soy Free, Dairy Free and full of flavor, these awesome Raw snacks are a must!  Smoked to perfection and spicy enough to satisfy by salsa-cravings, these little babies come in handy when I need something to crunch in the afternoon. They are seed based, so not a low-calorie snack, but pack 7 grams a protein per serving and are actually delicious. Plus, creator Callie Edwards is a KC Girl, so you are supporting local entrepreneurs and our growing health-food scene! Find them at grocery stores in KC like Whole Foods and Hy-Vee.

Guided Meditation with Lisa

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It’s the most productive and refreshing five-minute break you’ll ever take. On days when the clock is travelling at breakneck speed and your brain is complete mush from laboriously checking off your to-do list, pop on your headphones and listen to a guided meditation. It’s easier to stay focused when you have someone else telling you what to think about, how to breathe, and what to imagine. Listening to an audio file is indiscreet: you can do a guided meditation in your car, at your desk or on a walk around the office. Find them on my website: lisaashyoga.com/guided-meditations and on the Free downloadable App ‘Insight Timer.’

Human Planet Documentary Series

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These beautiful documentaries are “Planet Earth meets This American Life.” Each episode features humans living in the harshest environments on earth and their struggle to survive in the unpredictable and often dangerous environments.  You’ll follow a young Brazilian boy learning to kill spiders for snacks in the Amazon Rainforest, an Ethiopian farmer protecting his grains from invading monkeys and Polar Bear Police protecting the residents of a Canadian town in arctic conditions. Don’t be surprised if your daily stresses seem like mere annoyances compared to snake fishers in Indonesia and cow herders in Nigeria. The footage is absolutely spell-binding and you’ll want to watch a few episodes at a time, so grab some snacks and take a night in with your family. Find it on Netflix.

Restorative Yoga

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If you’re “the active Yogi” who considers your yoga class part of your daily Fit Bit movement quota, then I implore you to take a gamble on Restorative Yoga. Restorative Yoga is a gentle, contemplative, relaxing style of yoga that takes all the pressure off you to perform, do, or be the best.  It’s low-to-the-ground and looks a lot like ‘enforced nap-time’ with its myriad of blankets, pillows, straps, and heavy sandbags. You’ll experience more keenly the effects of the breathing techniques in yoga which calm and renew the nervous system.  There is nothing more beneficial for you and your stress level than taking a moment to slow down, enjoy life, and emerge refreshed. Try it at Westport Yoga Wednesdays at 6 pm and Saturdays at noon.

Ok, readers go for it: Happy, Healthy and Wholesome Living for 2017.  Love!