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,


Guided Meditation Teachings

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what you keep forgetting. #MeditationThoughtMondays

bells of mindfulness

I’m great at forgetting things.  One time I left the mop by the front door to remind myself I needed to clean my entryway and it was still there two weeks later.  (I put the mop away. Without cleaning.)

With forgetting comes the nearly oracle act of remembering the most mundane, ordinary tasks at the most inappropriate times. Like when I’m with a private client talking about their chronic back pain and I suddenly remember I didn’t put the sheets in the dryer. Or when I’m in savasana at the end of yoga class and realize I forgot to pay my rent and return a phone call from last Tuesday. Not game changers, but definitely not ideal to forget.

My mind is such an dexterous venue; I’m grateful that it can multi-task and hold incongruent thoughts simultaneously, but sometimes, man, I wish it could focus on one thing. I’m always looking for more ways to be mindful, to train my mind to be actually present in the moment, as opposed to hurdling wildly from one thought to the next. ‘Mindfulness’ is surprisingly trendy right now…at least that’s what trendy people tell me. The act of being mindful is hard remember, because… I just forget.

Even if I wake up with the intention of being mindful and present all day long (even while driving!), I’ve forgotten by 9:30 am when I sit down at my computer, with my breakfast and my iPhone and start multi-tasking.

One mindfulness training exercise that I’ve used for years and I absolutely love is called ‘Bells of Mindfulness.’  It involves choosing a sound— like a chime on a timer— to bring your attention back into the present moment. 

In his gem of a book, Peace is Every Step, Thich Nhat Hanh tells a story about his ‘Bells of Mindfulness.’  He says that he and his fellow monks living in the monastery at Plum Village always stop what they are doing when they hear the monastery bells ringing. Upon hearing the sound of the bell, he pauses, takes a deep breath and thinks:

‘The sound of the bell brings me back to my true self.’   

this is me, not being mindful, just doing an annoying 'tourist' yoga-gram in front of a church in Europe.

this is me, not being mindful, just doing an annoying ‘tourist yoga-gram’ in front of a church in Europe.

This probably works well if you live in a place like Europe where cathedral bells toll on the hour, but I don’t hear church bells every day. Thich Nhat Hanh suggests choosing a different sound, such as the dinging in your car when you forget to buckle your seat belt, as a ‘bell of mindfulness.’ I suggest using your smart phone or your genius watch or whatever the heck tells you ‘you have too much to do!’ all day long.  Remember how I have my phone remind me to de-stress every few hours?


Here’s a quick, 5- minute mindfulness practice that will help you train your mind.  (You’ll want to download the free app “Insight Timer.”) 

  1. Find a comfortable place to sit.
  2. Set a timer for 5 minutes, with a 1 minute interval chime.  
  3. Breathe naturally, enjoying the natural rhythm of your breath. Focus on the place where the breath enters your body, and just enjoy sitting.
  4. Start your timer.
  5. Every time you hear the interval chime, repeat silently: “The sound of the bell brings me back to my true self.”
  6. After five minutes, notice how calm you feel. Smile, extend gratitude for the time you spent ‘not forgetting’ your true self, and move on with your day.

I suggest practicing this Meditation Moment in the middle of your work day and also before your formal meditation practice in the evening.

Let me know what you forget.


bells of mindfulness

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,


show up for yourself, apples


why you want to be a decade older.

generous oddsThis month, I’m celebrating one more decade of lived experiences.

What am I thinking about as I age into the next decade? How I can use this birthday milestone as inspiration to refine my life. 

On birthdays, it’s helpful to reflect on the most recent year of life.  I have noticed that days, weeks, months and years seemingly speed up the older I get.  Which makes me wonder: “What moments did I allow to escape my notice? Which minutes did I miss?”  After all, as Annie Dillard reminds us, how I spend my moments is how I spend my life.

I also think it’s helpful to set intention for the next year.  My intention for the next decade basically fell into my lap as I was listening to my favorite podcast, On Being with Krista Tippett. In her interview with Adam Grant, professor of psychology and author of Give and Take, Krista hypothesized that generosity may increase with age because we age past the mindset of self-building and age into the mindset of community-building.  Adam Grant corroborated this with data from his research that found, “basically, every decade you age, your odds of being generous go up and up.” 

Basically, just by waking up on November 16, 2015, my odds of being generous increase.

2015-09-26 09.39.11 HDR-1

It’s a factual, data-driven phenomena that I will become more generous every day I live.  It’s completely opposite of the fear-based, media-driven campaign that I will become more prone to life-threatening wrinkles, unwanted aches and pains, and ‘life will never slow down for successful women in their thirties who want a family and a career’ induced anxiety.

Happy Birthday to me!

With that in mind, how will I refine my life over the next decade?  I surely can’t give all of my time, resources, and energy away indiscriminately.  Grant’s research showed that Givers were more successful, happy, and healthy when they exercised clearly defined boundaries about how they gave and when they gave.  So my personal challenge, and my challenge to you, is to focus on what Adam Rifkin termed “The five-minute-favor.”   Adam Rifkin posited that tech start-ups in Silicon Valley function on a favor economy and that a five minute favor can make a huge impact in your personal success.

In Five Minutes, I can:

  • call someone just to listen
  • pick up my neighbor’s recycle bin and take it to her front porch
  • start chopping vegetables for my Ironman’s dinner
  • write a note of encouragement to a colleague
  • share a blog post that will inspire a friend
  • recommend a book that has changed my life
  • allow a driver to go first on a narrow street
  • introduce two people who may have a connection
  • share my empathy with a yoga student who is having a rough day

These five minute favors are actual expressions of generosity that may increase the quality of my day; therefore, increasing the quality of my life.        

I’m challenging you to commit to the “five minute favor” routine until the end of 2015.  Once a week, spend five minutes doing a favor for a co-worker, a family member, a friend or a neighbor.  After you’ve given it a good go, consider setting it as your intention for the next year… or maybe even the next decade.  Remember: every day your age increases, your odds of being generous also increases. 

Happy growing up,


how can I serve? #MeditationThoughtMondays

yours to offer the world

In our previous two Meditation Challenges, we explored two questions which delve into the heart of the human experience.  First, in order to tune in to our own wisdom, we asked the question: “Who am I?”  (Find the “Who am I? Meditation” here.)  Second, we fine-tuned our intuition and our listened to our deep, driving desire by asking, “What do I want?”  This week, we explore the third question from Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga Program.  This question is: “How can I serve?” 

Dr. Chopra writes, “Regularly bringing your current answers [to these questions into] conscious awareness enables you to be alert to the opportunities that resonate with the needs of your soul.”

When we transition from asking “what do I want” to “how can I serve?” we are transitioning from an ego-centric point of view to an expanded point of view where we realize how our action impact our communities.  Even this littlest action: what we eat, where we shop, how we treat the customer service agent at the print shop, how often we wash our own yoga mat, etc. etc. etc.

Yoga asana and meditation practices are often done in a group because the communal setting reminds us that we are intimately connected to each other on the physical level.  When you share breath with other people in the yoga practice room, this connection is obvious.  Practicing as a group reminds us that we are intimately connected to each other on the Soul level.  As your consciousness expands from individual to communal, it becomes apparent how important it is to treat every other person (and animal!) with compassion and ahimsa (non-harming).

The question, “How can I serve?” expands opportunities for fulfillment in life.  It asks us to identify our unique talents and skills to discover how we can be of service.  In yoga, we often call this dharma or ‘life’s way of purpose.’  Just as each cell in the body – blood cell, brain cell, skin cell, stomach lining cell — has a very unique and important function in the body’s health, we each have a unique and important role to play in the overall health of our community.  Asking “How can I serve?” helps match our creative expression of our talents with the community’s needs. 

And, luckily, it doesn’t require saving the whole world.  You don’t need to carry the weight of the world on your chaturanga-strong shoulders.  That mindset is a recipe for catastrophe and lots of chiropractic work.  Instead, you simply need to ask the question: “How can I serve?” and listen as opportunities arise which match your talents and help fulfill your desires.

The opportunities are limitless- I don’t even want to give you a list to start with because I don’t want you to limit your thinking to the usual ‘community-service-volunteer-actions.’ Your true dharma can be expressed through your family, your job, or your hobbies.

The following excerpt from Bill Plotkin’s work Soulcraft was completely transformative in my life.  It reminded me—“Ms. Fixer-Over-Achiever”—that I didn’t have to fix the whole world; instead, my first job was to find and love my true self as an offering to the world.

“The gift you carry for others is not an attempt to save the world, but to fully belong to it.  It’s not possible to save the world by trying to save it.  You need to find what is genuinely yours to offer the world before you can make it a better place.

Discovering your unique gift to bring to your community is a challenge.  Your offering is your TRUE SELF.  It is the most you can do to love and serve the world.  It’s all the world needs.”  

Today, I want to challenge you not to change the world, but to find what is genuinely yours to offer the world. Start with this Meditation Challenge:

“How Can I Serve?” Meditation

  1. Sit in Meditation.  Set a timer for 5 minutes.  (Have a pen and paper handy.)
  2. Take 10 steady inhales and exhales to calm your mind.
  3. Breathe easily and normally.
  4. Silently ask yourself: “How can I serve?”  Ask yourself these questions every 15 seconds.
  5. Notice the answers.
  6. When the 5 minute timer goes off, take 10 steady inhales and exhales.
  7. Open your eyes and write down your answers.
  8. Repeat for 7 days in a row. Notice how your answers change and expand.
  9. Re-visit the list next week to re-orient yourself with your true desires.

Again, please consult The Chopra Center for more details about The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga.  This meditation has been adapted from Chapter 2 of Dr. Chopra’s Book.

In service,


yours to offer the world

who am I? #MeditationThoughtMondays

who we really are

At its core, yoga is the journey to unite with our True Selves.  It is much beyond sweating in spandex.  It is beyond having a perfect Virabradasana stance.  It beyond having a high-tech yoga mat.  It is a process of remembering our True Essence.  Even if only for one hour a day.  It is a big deal. (Remember this “no big deal” post?)

The authoritative text of yoga, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, describes the goal of yoga as nothing short of total freedom from suffering and total uniting with the Divine.  We can’t do this when we are attached to our ego.  We have to move from local (personal consciousness) to nonlocal awareness (community consciousness), which helps us see the bigger picture.  And it’s really, really, hard work.  And it can feel like a really, really, long journey.

I’ve been studying yoga for a decade and teaching it for over seven years.  And I’m nowhere close to being unattached to my ego; I’ve experienced total union with the Divine for an approximate total of 5.8 seconds over the past decade.  I’m still on the really, really, really long journey.

According to Dr. Deepak Chopra, “One way to connect with your soul is by consciously asking yourself questions that go to the heart of the human experience.”

Three key questions that bring you into the heart of your human experience are:

  1. Who am I?
  2. What do I want?
  3. How can I serve?   

These questions are outlined by Dr. Chopra in his book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga, which we are currently studying at Maya Yoga in my 6 am classes and in my Sunday morning Meditation Classes. You’ll want to investigate this summary if you don’t own the book.

The first question, ‘Who Am I?’ is usually answered with our role in relation to other people.  We may answer: daughter, wife, boss, father, etc.  Or we may identify in terms of positions or possessions: home-owner, assistant (to the) regional manager, middle school art teacher, etc.  Or we may identify with our choices: vegetarian, runner, lobbyist, etc.

But can we respond with answers that delve deeper than surface?  Our jobs may change, our families may change, our residence will change, our goals and experiences will certainly change over time.  What remains?  According to Yoga wisdom, It is the Experiencer, or the Inner Witness beyond our ego attachments, which remains.  Can we forget who we think we are… in order to come closer to who we really are?

Dr. Chopra illuminates: “The true purpose of yoga is to discover that aspect of your being that can never be lost.”

When you ask the question: “Who am I?”  Try to imagine who you are in Silence. You may want to start with this Meditation exercise.  Without words.  If you were completely alone: without a job, without a deadline, without a phone, without a hobby, without a family: who would you be?   

Try it.

  1. Sit in Meditation.  Set a timer for 5 minutes.  (Have a pen and paper handy.)
  2. Take 10 steady inhales and exhales to calm your mind.
  3. Breathe without agenda. Silently ask yourself: “who am I?”
  4. Notice the answers. Do not judge. Just notice.
  5. When the timer goes off, take 10 steady inhales and exhales.
  6. Open your eyes and write down your answers.
  7. Repeat for 7 days in a row. Notice how your answers change.

We will work on Question 2 next week…

“We need to forget who we think we are so we can become who we really are.”  -Paulo Coelho

Happy Forgetting,


who we really are

be patient with silence. #MeditationThoughtMondays

so be patient with silence pic

My dog (and best friend) Russell Clive learned to surf this summer.  I mean, not really, but good enough.  He learned to stand on a pool floatie and not freak out.  Which is a big accomplishment for a rescue dog who left claw marks on my shoulders the first time I tried to get him into a swimming pool.

I tried to tell him that if he stopped fighting/thrashing/freaking out in the water, he’d easily float.  If he was patient, he would learn to appreciate surfing. And maybe even enjoy himself.


it takes some patience…

This is exactly like Meditation.  In my Meditation classes this summer, we’ve been working with the concept of ‘creating a relationship with Silence.’ First, we looked at Silence as a way of appreciating beauty (practice it here) and then we discovered Silence as a way of bringing meaning to an object or experience (practice it here)Now, we examine our level of patience with Silence.

Patience is a ridiculous concept.  I have very little of it.  If I want something to happen, I’m pretty great at making it happen immediately… so why should I wait?

I do appreciate, however, that creating a relationship with Silence, just like teaching a dog who is scared of water to enjoy surfing, takes patience.  When I first started Meditating, but mind was a racehorse.  Too many thoughts and emotions racing around in my head; too little time to approach each thought with the attention it demanded.  Developing a patient relationship with inner silence is scary. I have to approach it, as Richard Rohr suggests, a little bit at a time.

“…Be patient with silence. It gives a little, and then it gives a more if you do not abuse the first little.  It’s like floating in water; once you stop fighting it, you float even better.” –Richard Rohr, Silent Compassion

This relationship with Silence has merit– people who meditate report higher levels of personal satisfaction, lower levels of anxiety, improved sleep, and happier moods.  Read more here. Most of all, it just feels good.  It is a relief not to have to resist the moment (i.e. the exact definition of stress) and just observe the moment.

‘Observing the moment’ is another way of developing an ‘inner witness.’  This witness is really good at stepping back, drying off, and saying, ‘Hey, just relax.  Once you stop fighting, you’ll float more easily.’

A more pronounced Inner Witness is one result of Meditation and yoga.  My Inner Witness has a tough job: reminding me that I can have emotions without being overwhelmed by them.  Remember this challenge? That when I’m feeling depressed, it won’t last forever.  And when I’m feeling anxious, it won’t last forever. (This post reminds us: nothing lasts forever.)  And that if I can have a little bit of patience, Silence will comfort me little by little.

This week’s Meditation Challenge:

  1. Find a sticky note. Write ‘Patience’ on it.
  2. Turn off music, find a quiet place to sit, and place the sticky note right in front of you.
  3. Set a timer for 5 minutes.
  4. Leave the Silence Open-Ended. When your inner witness screams at you or your emotions are really loud, gently open your eyes, and read the word “Patience” silently to yourself.  Start again.
  5. Take the sticky note with you when you leave the house. Stick it to your steering wheel.   Stick it on your computer.  Stick it on your phone.  Be patient with yourself and allow silence to give itself to you.

Try this Meditation Challenge for a week and see what changes. Be Patient with it.

Happy surfing,


“So be patient with silence. It gives a little, and then it gives a more if you do not abuse the first little.  It’s like floating in water; once you stop fighting it, you float even better.” –Richard Rohr

add meaning to what is in front of you.


A Cicada Symphony is my favorite summer concert. The cicadas (although not the most beautiful insect ever invented) are companions on my evening walks and their song is the soundtrack to summer. With their chaos in the background, my mind is quiet and free to attend to the embrace of the muggy summer air, the sharpness of the cut grass, and the fading evening light.  The white noise helps me appreciate singular elements of the summer evening that would be otherwise unnoticed.  It helps me appreciate what is already right in front of me.

Silence can do the same thing as the Cicada Symphony: it can attract meaning to the mundane. When you have a comfortable relationship with silence, it becomes a backdrop that allows your mind and spirit to allocate meaning to ‘the little things’ that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. Silence helps you appreciate what is already right in front of you.

In Silent Compassion, Richard Rohr writes, “If something is not surrounded by the vastness of silence, it is hard to appreciate it is something singular and beautiful. If it is all mixed in with everything else, then its singularity, as a unique and beautiful object, does not stand out.”

In this way, silence attracts greater meaning to what is right in front of you.

Try these Guided Meditations to surround the present moment with reverent silence.

I am here, This is Now 

Present Moment, Wonderful Moment

“Silence is a portal to constantly deeper connection with whatever is in front of you. That which is in front of you does not need to be big or important. It can be a stone. It can be a grasshopper. Anything can convert you once you surround it with the reverent silence that gives it significance, identity, singularity, importance or value.”

Richard Rohr

Guided Meditation Teachings

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