you gotta clean your shower (every day).

ipod old 001 (2)I’m always surprised that my shower isn’t clean—it gets ‘washed’ every time I shower, right?

If I’m not diligent with the shower scrubbing (which I’m not) it stays 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 yoga requires abhyasa, or ‘diligent practice.’ Abhyasa is required because there are a billion gajillion distractions vying for your attention. Identifying your happiness and worth by these distractions leads to confusion and frustration. However, uncovering purusha (your inner Light of awareness) leads to inner contentment. The knowledge of your inner Self requires turning your attention inward on a regular basis.

Abhyasa (diligent practice) sounds daunting. I mean, I have a lot going on. I’m preparing yoga workshops, writing a book, 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.

Do I really have time to do my yoga practice every day?  YES. I absolutely have to make time.


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.

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.  

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.


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

Breathing Meditation:

Be Still and Know:

Happy Cleaning,

-lisa


Guided Meditation Teachings

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quick fix: stress free in 60 seconds.

quick fix: stress free in 60 seconds.

You know those days that Nascar past you and leave you on the side of a dusty track feeling confused, jittery and not altogether sound of mind? The well-intentioned words “Yes, yes, yes, I’ll do that right after _____” are lost in the clamor of the day and ‘present moment’ or ‘mindfulness’ seem like ridiculous concepts that only used to matter to you. I definitely have those days. Usually involving surprises like, oh, a circuit breaker blew and the electricity is out, or oh, your colleague is in the hospital and needs all her classes covered or oh, Armageddon is on its way.

These are the days where finding time to meditate seems absolutely impossible because, well, frankly, you aren’t sure when you’ll find the time to even go to the bathroom.

On these days, I use a powerful ‘quick fix’ meditation technique that re-sets my brain as quickly as fixing a blown fuse. It is based on a Kundalini Yoga technique of combining a mantra (repetition of a word or phrase), a mudra (hand position) and breathing in rhythm.

When I’m caught in the whirlwind of activity on a break-neck speed day, I only need about 60 seconds to feel its benefits.


 

“I am peace and calm” 

How to do it:

Touch the first finger to the thumb: “I”

Touch the second finger to the thumb: “am”

Touch the third finger to the thumb: “peace”

Touch the fourth finger to the thumb: “and calm.”

Close your eyes, repeat rhythmically and breathe deeply for 60 minutes.

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“I am peace and calm.” 

Why to do it:

Physiologically, the fine motor movement is a tactile reminder your brain to re-set its cascade of stress hormones and pay attention to the present moment.

Intellectually, the usage of present tense language of the mantra is a reminder you have the capacity to selectively create your awareness.

Energetically, the connection of the finger tips to the thumb creates a circuit that acts as a conduit for the Spirit to feel connected.


Try it here: “I am Peace and Calm”

You may not have 20 minutes for a full meditation practice, but you probably you have 60 seconds.

Happy Stressing Less,

-lisa


Guided Meditation Teachings

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may the force be with you. #MeditationThoughtMondays

not our thoughts, viveka

I was all snuggled up on the couch, ready to brave the stormy night with Star Wars. The iconic yellow text retreated into the star field and I felt completely safe from Dark Forces; without warning the thunderstorm seethed and the sound of hail bashing our house drowned out the opening refrain.

“Oh DEAR GOD my plants! I’m going to LOSE EVERYTHING! Forget about finding Luke Skywalker and restoring the Balance of the Force. I have to do something!

My garden wasn’t in a galaxy, far, far away, it was just down the road being pummeled with frozen marbles. I temporarily lost my mind; my adrenaline revved up to run to the rescue. I imagined myself darting out to the car, driving four blocks in a flash flood, sprinting to my garden plot… and then… what?

What could I possibly do to protect my baby spinach and my unborn beets?

Nothing, I realized.

No rescue plan would be successful. If the storm was going to flood my seeds and pulverize my kale then it was going to do it whether I was on my couch or whether I was fighting my way through mud, losing my mind trying to stop it. This wasn’t Star Wars and it wasn’t a real disaster. This was just a Midwest thunderstorm.


Sometimes during meditation, the mind does this ‘overreacting’ bit like it’s trying to win an Academy Award. The mind identifies a small problem, turns it into a disaster and then creates an elaborate rescue plan. It’s exhausting. 

The script:

Thought: I’m feeling sad today.

Erroneous catastrophe: If I’m feeling sad right now, then I must be sad ALL the time and I must be depressed. Something is inherently wrong with me.

Rescue Plan: I need to call a doctor immediately, check on my health insurance plan for covering anti-depressants and eat a bag of Ghirardelli chocolate chips while I’m on hold.

Thought: I’m feeling tired right now.

Erroneous catastrophe:  There must be something wrong with my metabolism and I probably have cancer of the thyroid. 

Rescue Plan:  I’ll start planning my own funeral so my cousin won’t feel entitled to play a Prince cover as my eulogy.

Thought: I’m feeling annoyed at this person.

Erroneous catastrophe: This person is the bane of my existence and I’ll never be happy if I have to stay on the same project team as him.

Rescue Plan: I’ll devise a way to get this person fired so I never have to work with him again. Then, I’ll rule the world.


The tool that yoga philosophy and mindfulness meditation gives us is discernment.

This is the ability to realize that we are not our thoughts; we can have a thought without being defined by that thought.

As Sharon Salzberg writes, “Most of the time, we think we are our thoughts. We forget, or have never noticed, that there’s an aspect of our mind that’s watching these thoughts arise and pass away.”

The Sanskrit term for this ‘keen discernment’ is viveka. This is when we hone our ability to consciously discern ourselves from the rescue plan of anxiety and instead exercise clear judgement, which can help us avoid unnecessary suffering. We don’t always have to rush to the scene with a rescue plan. Very often, it is a better choice to watch the movie and story unfold.

One impressively simple and effective way to become the ‘watcher’ and engage in viveka is to use the technique of ‘naming your thoughts.’

When you are meditating, your mind will wander.

Don’t create a rescue plan. Instead, simply notice what you are thinking. Categorize it: plan, worry, remembrance, distraction, anticipation, new idea. Then watch the thought trickle away.


“Naming Your Thoughts: Developing Discernment Viveka”

  1. Find your meditation seat and set your timer for 8 minutes.
  2. Take 3 cleansing inhales and exhales.
  3. Sit with only breath awareness for a few minutes, just notice your breath coming and going without changing it.
  4. Notice what thoughts are present in your awareness.
  5. When a thought arises that is noticeable enough to distract you from your breath, label it ‘thinking.’
  6. If it is more distinct, then you can label it more specifically: ‘planning, worrying, anticipating, remembering, ruminating.’
  7. Return to your easy breath awareness; remind yourself: you do not need a rescue plan.

At the end of the 8 minutes, take a few cleansing breaths and notice how to you feel.


Try it. “Thinking Meditation”

May the Force Be With You,

-lisa


Guided Meditation Teachings

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the multitasking epidemic.

roasted beet and black rice spinach salad

roasted beet and black rice spinach salad

I choked on a piece of spinach, slick with homemade garden-herb dressing. Not the usual choking culprit. I coughed for a good three minutes before slugging back some lemon-water and finding my breath again.

Why did I choke? Multitasking. It’s become an epidemic. I thought I was immune to it, but somehow I caught the multitasking bug. For many years I suffered from multitasking; I deluded myself into thinking that I could, in fact, do four things at once with equal care and attention to each item.  Untrue. As awesome as my brain is, the research still stands that humans are not great at multitasking, even though our deluded grandeur tells us we can master all things.

This particular spinach-choking-day, I was trying to text my Ironman, plug my phone in to charge, talk to my dog, and eat a salad all at the same time. NONE of these things were life-changing, life-threatening, immediate or necessary.  All of them could have happened in a neat, organized, sequential order and I would have lived to tell about it. Instead, I almost didn’t.

Seriously, haven’t I learned that I should do one thing at a time, with full and careful consideration, in order to truly enjoy it? Isn’t this called something like… mindfulness?

I try to practice this during my seated meditation, and during my yoga classes, but mindfulness doesn’t always follow me around like multitasking does. The wise Thich Nhat Hanh even says doing one thing at a time (like eating my delicious breakfast salad) is the secret to my success.

“Sometimes we eat and we are not aware that we’re eating.  Our mind isn’t there. When our mind isn’t present, we look but we don’t see, we listen but we don’t hear, we eat but we don’t know the flavor of the food. This is a state of forgetfulness. To be truly present, we have to stop our thinking. This is the secret to success.” -TNH

Let me repeat: the secret to my success!

So, could the epidemic of multitasking be my downfall? (Ugh, another habit to re-train.) I think it might be. I mean, the other day I was on the phone chatting with a friend, prepping breakfast for the next day, and I started to grind coffee. Not lying: I was so overcome with the need to multitask that I thought grinding coffee would be a good thing to do while I was talking. On. The. Phone. (I can see you shaking your head in disbelief, dear Reader.)

How am I going to cure myself?  I’m not sure, but it may require a change in mindset that approaches all I’m doing as play, instead of work (remember this fun post?). And it may require me to set an intention at the beginning of the day that I am going to practice self-care by giving my brain the opportunity to be present. It may require diligent awareness of how I can heal my fragmented mind-body connection by slowing down, sitting still, and setting this intention:

“Today, I will consciously choose to focus on one thing at a time.”

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“Today, I will consciously choose to focus on one thing at a time.”

And, above all, it will require me to return to Mindfulness as often as I can, calling myself back repeatedly, like the ringing of the Bell calls monks to meditation.

When it starts to work and I feel myself growing more whole, present, and mindful, I will let you know.

When do you find yourself multi-tasking?  What are you missing out on because you aren’t paying attention? How are you going to pay closer attention to all the little things that could bring you joy?

Looking forward to healing with you,

-lisa

 

 

 

 

what are you afraid of? #MeditationThoughtMondays

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uncovering your Inner Light takes a little work, but in the end… you smile more :)

I am afraid of a LOT of things. And here’s the kicker: they may be fairly innocuous things. If I were to make a T-chart (I am an elementary school teacher at heart, after all) the list of items on the “Not Afraid” side would perhaps appear more daring and dangerous than the list of items on the “Terrifying” side. For prosperity sake:

Not afraid of: falling off the side of a mountain (it’s that’s how I go, I’ll be proud of my death-by-adventure), traveling to unsafe exotic locales, having my car stolen, starting a new career, spiders.

Terrified of: going to the Doctor, driving in the fast lane, attending crowded sporting events, having uncomfortable conversations, blood-sucking ticks (I don’t think there exists any other type of tick, but ‘blood-sucking’ reaffirms their awfulness).

That’s just the beginning of the list. (I’m also a little afraid of frostbite, snakes in lake water and having my identity stolen.)

But the thing I’m most afraid of? Never doing ANYTHING fun or daring or epic because I’m afraid. Letting fear ‘win’ over courage and passion and excitement and wonder? Unacceptable. 

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look at all the fun you miss if you are too afraid to adventure!

I had a really tough beginning to spring this year. Illness, exhaustion, emotional distress and insecurity were my companions for a few months. There were days when fear and anxiety were the loudest voices I heard. There were weeks when I stayed in bed with headaches and body aches and I felt ill-equipped to handle even small tasks like eating breakfast or walking Russell Clive, much less repair professional relationships, teach willing Souls, move forward in my career and also plan a wedding. Let me tell you: I was really fun to live with.

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he’s not afraid of lake water, or a crabby mama

For a few weeks, I let fear win. And oh god, did it gloat. Fear infiltrated my meditation time and my (coveted) sleep time and freaking wreaked havoc. I was a hot mess. Actually…I wasn’t hot. At one point, my face was an allergy punching bag and my eyes were swollen shut (thank God for the makers of Benadryl and the good people at CVS) and what business did I have pretending to be a courageous, confident, spontaneously joyful yoga teacher? 

Well, I did have business.  I still do. And it is my business to be courageous, inspiring and real. Because we all encounter fear, we all experience suffering (thank goodness suffering is temporary, remember this post?) and we all feel like life’s punching bag every once in a while. So I made it my business to find a meditation that worked that helped me re-claim my courage, my light, and my confidence.  It’s short, it’s simple, it’s illuminating.  It worked for me, and it will work for you.

This is an abridged version of a guided meditation I found by Heather Waxman on the app Insight Timer.  If you download the app, you can listen to her talk you through this five minute meditation. You can also follow the script below. I sincerely hope that you feel its power in uncovering your Inner Light.

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“Growth demands a temporary surrender of security.” -G.S.

“Own Your Light” Meditation for developing confidence and courage

“Sit in a comfortable position with palms facing upward and establish a steady pace of breath.  Inhale and exhale easily.  Imagine yourself covered by a big shell, like an egg shell.  See is covering you and surrounding you.

As you look at that shell, imagine that it begins to crack.  And as it cracks, rays of sunlight begin to pour through the cracks.  The rays of light extend out from your body and peek through the cracks in the shell.  This is your light.  The shells represent the ways you’ve been blocking it.  The cracks represent your willingness to see things differently.  Your willingness to look at your shadows and your willingness to own your light.

See the shell as it peels away and you are left surrounding in light.  See yourself shining and glowing with courage.  With every inhalation see yourself owning that light that is yours.  On your exhale, give that light to someone who needs it.  As you inhale, receive.  As you exhale, extend it to someone who needs it.

Inhale: “I own my light.”

Exhale: “I share and extend my light with others.”

The dark journey is not the way of the Universe.  Walk in your light and choose light.  The Great Light always surrounds you and extends out from you.  You are created of light and in light.

Finish your visualization with three deep inhales and three deep exhales.”

Happy Uncovering.

-lisa

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Own your light.

 

building a friendship with yourself. #MeditationThoughtMondays

seated

I used to say that I was one of the top five funniest people I know. But then I started devouring books written by my favorite comedians and my name moved down a few notches. But I’m ok with that. I still think that I’m highly entertaining and I would love to be friends with me.

I didn’t always feel this way. Because, well, I’m not perfect. And back when I was a perfectionist, being not-perfect was unacceptable.  (I consider myself a “recovering perfectionist,” because I just don’t have time for that nonsense anymore.)

I’m sure you can relate: when you take honest inventory of the sum of your being, your flaws add up more quickly than your charms. While it’s easy to feel this way, I would suggest that your friends and your loved ones disagree with the outcome of your equation.

Sure, it’s true: no one is perfect. And it’s also true that anger, jealousy, bitterness and insecurity are ubiquitous human emotional responses. In yoga philosophy, we believe we are all working toward equilibrium between the dark and the light sides of our personality (remember this post about those crazy neon shorts?) to embrace our whole and authentic presence.

We can still be friends with ourselves, especially if we are only nearly-perfect.

Building an authentic and accepting friendship means investing time in a relationship.

In his study of the hilarity of modern dating Modern Romance, comedian Aziz Ansari concluded that surface level, three-new-ladies-a-night-found-on-Tindr dates were not as fulfilling as investing time and effort into getting to know one person at a time. Ansari studied how romantic relationships were built in small towns where the pickin’s were slim (surprise, surprise, he chose a town in Kansas) and found that when choices were limited, people found fulfillment in the dating scene by spending quality time with one person and getting to know them well, instead of making a split-second ‘Hot or Not’ decision.

Well, pickin’s are slim: there is only ONE you.

And YOU need to invest in yourself, get to know yourself, and make friends with yourself—the imperfect parts AND the perfect parts—to truly feel whole, authentic, and present.

Chögyam Trungpa calls this: “Making friends with yourself through Meditation and Everyday Awareness.” He writes, “meditation is contacting our actual situation, the raw and the rugged state of our mind and being. No matter what is there, we should look at it with presence. [Meditation is] building a long-term friendship with yourself.” 

In meditation, when you sit down quietly, you will undoubtedly encounter what you deem to be negative aspects about yourself. But, in meditation, you don’t have to hide them; through mindfulness of your presence, you are afforded the opportunity to be real, authentic, and unencumbered by judgment.

When you invest time in yourself  as if you are befriending yourself, your inherent worth becomes obvious, delightful and alluring.  

Here are some meditation techniques to get you started:


“Breathe, Receive Presence” Meditation

Loving-Kindness Meditation


Happy Making Friends,

-lisa


Guided Meditation Teachings

Love these Resources? Consider partnering with Lisa to continue providing valuable teachings that promote hope, health and happiness here:

$4.00

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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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