suffering can be transformed. #MeditationThoughtMondays

suffering can be transformed

Thank goodness nothing lasts forever.  After seven months of intensive chiropractic, yoga therapy, and meditation, my shoulder is no longer suffering.  More importantly– I am no longer suffering.  I took this picture not as a humble brag, but as a reminder that everything is impermanent; that nothing lasts forever.

Last December I spent three days on the couch suffering a horrible cold.  I was miserable. (And also a bit dramatic; I actually tried to ‘cancel Christmas.’  Good thing no one took me seriously.) When I finally got off the couch, I could no longer lift my left arm above shoulder level without experiencing excruciating pain. My shoulder had been bothering me for over a year, but I kept pushing my yoga asana practice to the next level and ignoring the pain in my shoulder, ribs, and back.  It was initially exhilarating to ‘achieve’ my ‘dream poses,’ but then I’d spend the rest of the day recovering in order to teach my yoga classes.

I (eventually) decided that ignoring my injury wasn’t going to heal it. I started an intense treatment of bi-weekly chiropractic adjustments, weekly yoga therapy, daily physical therapy, and meditation.

I would find respite from the pain after a chiropractic adjustment and then over-do it on the mat —so excited that I could backbend again!  My excitement was usually fleeting: the next day I’d be back at square one, moping around my house like a sad puppy. My Ironman (who earned the World’s Greatest Fiancée award for listening to me whine for months) would gently remind me that nothing is forever: everything is impermanent. 

In other words: suffering can be transformed.  I love reading books by Tich Nhat Hanh, the foremost leader in happiness and the art of transforming suffering into joy.  My guiding light through the process of healing over the past year has been his book, No Mud, No Lotus.  In it he writes:

“The art of happiness doesn’t require that we have zero suffering. When we learn to acknowledge, embrace, and understand our suffering, we suffer much less.  Not only that, but we’re also able to go further and transform our suffering into understanding, compassion, and joy for ourselves and for others.  In fact, the art of happiness is also the art of suffering well.”

When I was exhausted and my stores of internal optimism waned, I needed reminders that suffering and happiness are not mutually exclusive.  I needed to embrace my injury with tenderness, not live in futile frustration.  And I really needed reminders that nothing lasts forever: pain does not last forever just as non-pain does not last forever.  As simple as this ‘impermanence- business’ sounds, it’s extremely difficult to embrace in times of suffering.

I definitely haven’t learned my lesson.  My hip is hurting like crazy and I’m being very impatient in the healing process.  There are times when I’m being dramatic: ‘This injury is never going away. I’ll probably never progress in my asana practice. I’m not even 30 years old and I’ve hit my peak.’  And then I have take a big breath.  And remember my shoulder.  And the work I put in to embracing the suffering.  And the patience I cultivated through hours of meditation.  And the suffering that was eventually, slowly, faithfully transformed into something beautiful again.

When have you witnessed your suffering being transformed?  When have you needed reminders that ‘nothing lasts forever’?  When have you learned to embrace happiness as it comes—even when the conditions weren’t perfect?

Tell me your story.

Happy Transformation,

-lisa

 

 

what you think, you become. #MeditationThoughtMondays

what you think, you become

I’ve had some water in my basement this year.  And by ‘some’ I mean a puddle big enough to go swimming in my basement.  I tried not to complain because the rain also watered my garden and lowered my water bill. Two thumbs up for these unexpected perks… but not fun to be in a musty basement using a broom to sweep water toward the (already full) drain.  And not fun to empty the de-humidifier every twenty minutes.

The other day as I was trudging through my sloppy backyard to get to my basement and empty the dehumidifier, I had this thought: “Man, I’m so efficient!”  My mind did the endless ‘task-ticking’ it does when I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed with my to-do list.  I mentally made a list of all the chores I’d just rushed through that morning to boost my confidence in my ability to maintain a (not flooded) household and work-too-much and, and, and, and.  But really, the mental list making made me feel slightly more anxious and overwhelmed.  I had to stop and think for a minute: What words did I actually want to use to describe myself?

The law of subconscious means that what we think—we will become.

So, if we make a list of all our greatest attributes and constantly describe ourselves as such, we will eventually manifest these attributes in our life. 

what you think, you become

Yes, I’m efficient.  But, when I look back at my life in 87 years (yoga makes you young and Beet Smoothies make you healthy, so I’m planning on living to 116 years old, thank you very much) how do I want to describe myself and my life? 

This is a really important question.  What you think, you become.  Turns out, I don’t think I want to be described as ‘efficient.’  That’s a word used to describe a process– a machine.  My world is highly mechanized, that’s true.  I spend many hours with my fingers on my keyboard and my mind hooked to the internet.  But I wish for a world that is more human and less mechanical.  I wish to cultivate attributes that are more empathetic and relational.  So, I’m going to start thinking about what I wish to become.

I wish to describe myself as:

Flexible and Fun (I think I’m one of these)

Caring and Courageous  (again, I think I’m only one of these)

I’m challenging myself to imagine these attributes in my life and start describing myself with these words.  I’m challenging myself to imagine cultivating flexibility and courage in my own life.

I’m challenging YOU, my dear reader, to answer this question:  “When I look back at my life in 87 years, how do I want to describe myself?”  Write 4 attributes you WANT to be able to use to describe yourself, even if you ‘think’ they don’t apply to you right now.  And then—apply them. 

Dare to think of what you can become.  Use these words in your morning meditation, your morning mantra, or just throughout the day when you are confronted with a stressful situation.  After a month, reflect on how you have changed.  If you think it – then you can become it.

Happy thinking,

-lisa

be captured by silence. #MeditationThoughtMondays

Image

you cannot capture silence

 

When it’s 95 degrees outside and you are a tourist in a country that doesn’t believe in Air Conditioning, the only logical course of action is to spend your Friday night inside an art museum. To protect the artwork on display, the museum keeps constant cool temperature and low light. To protect the beauty of the artwork on display, the visitors keep tones muted and tend toward silence.  Despite brash colors and daring impressionist strokes which scream of emotion and sensation in Van Gough’s masterpieces, the galleries were primarily silent.  It reminded me that it is human nature to approach that which we find beautiful with silence.

Richard Rohr, author of Silent Compassion, points out that, “If something is not surrounded by the vastness of silence and space, 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.”

Silence is elusive.  Right now, even as I write this in the quietude of my backyard sanctuary, the silence of the early morning is vibrant with sound.  Some of these sounds make me smile (remember this post?) and some of these sounds are fairly annoying. (My backyard neighbor is constantly hammering.  After a year of this, I can’t imagine he has a single board left to hammer, and yet, here he is at eight in the morning hammering away…I have a few questions about this.)  But beyond the sounds, silence is a presence.  Silence can be its own being.

Silence can be something to meet and create a relationship with. Even if you don’t have a comfortable relationship with silence, as I naturally do, I think we all do this naturally when we encounter something beautiful. 

Your challenge this week is to bring something beautiful into your meditation space.  I brought a small vase of three Missouri Primrose blossoms to my meditation class yesterday and challenged my students to quiet their minds simply by gazing at the simple beauty of the flowers.  No counting, no repeated mantras, no English, no Sanskrit, no striving—just meeting silence.  In this way, we became captured by silence.  I want you to spend some time thinking about this: how can I become captured by silence?  How can I find something beautiful in silence?

Again from Richard Rohr:

“Silence precedes, undergirds and grounds everything…unless we learn how to live there, go there, abide in this different phenomenon, the rest of things—words, events, relationships, identities—all become superficial.  They lose meaning.” – Richard Rohr

Silence, the primordial beginning and ending, bookends our most meaningful experience: life itself.

This week, let yourself be captured by silence, even if it is just for one minute.

Enjoy the beauty,

-lisa

you cannot capture silence

 

 

 

never give up. #MeditationThoughtMondays

I’m not one for watching online videos.  To be brutally honest, I usually can’t even entertain a 2 minute youtube before I get bored and start multi-tasking.  But this video?  I watched in three times in a row, tears streaming down my face.  This is the most inspiring yoga video I’ve ever watched.

Its message?

Never Give Up.  Believe in yourself, find someone who believes in you, and believe in the power of the breath and the movement of yoga to heal.  This man was severely injured from his days as a paratrooper and was told he would never walk unassisted again.  Now he is a disabled veteran doing headstands and one leg balancing poses! You HAVE to watch this!

never give up

Click here (or click the image above and it should take you to youtube).  Turn up your volume- you’ll want to hear it!

We practice challenging yoga poses on the mat to understand how we approach challenges off the mat.  Do we get frustrated?  Angry?  Overwhelmed?  Are we willing to tough it out or do we give up?  The lessons we learn about our own nature, our own personality, and our own willpower inform our decisions and reactions in all other moments of our day.  

What challenges are you currently facing?  When did you most recently want to give up? How can you remember to believe in yourself?

Let me know how it’s going…

-lisa

 

fill your heart with what’s important and lets be done with the rest. #MeditationThoughtMondays

fill your heart with whats important

Here are some things I think are important.

  1. Love
  2. Kindness
  3. Truth
  4. Integrity
  5. Dedication

Here are some things I think are not that important:

  1. Most everything else

Today, I want to challenge you to fill your heart with what’s important and ‘be done’ with everything else.  Meditate on the questions: “What’s most important to me?  How can I fill my heart with these things and let go of the rest?”  

For inspiration, I implore you to read this article, which features one of my favorite soon-to-be-fifth graders, Brayden Ingram.  I’m proud to call Brayden my cousin (he just graduated from being ‘my baby cousin’ this summer when I realized he’s only 2 inches shorter than I am!) because he chooses compassion and generosity with his peers.  This story is a perfect example of what it looks like when you fill your heart with what’s truly important and forget the rest. (You can read more inspiring stories here: Beyond the Spotlight.)

Jennifer Bradley, author of Beyond the Spotlight blog, writes:

“Missouri 4th grader Brayden Ingram is a “good kid.” In fact, he’s so “good” in school, that this year, he racked up piles of ‘good behavior tickets’ in the classroom. These tickets are the keys to unlocking all sorts classroom fun.

Brayden can use his good behavior tickets for special meals, fun events, and small prizes in the classroom. But it didn’t take long for Brayden to realize that the system that he benefits from is not entirely fair to other students. “I feel like the behavior tickets constantly leave someone out feeling hurt. I get sad when I see someone that didn’t get a prize. I get really sad when I see tickets being deducted from peers,” Brayden confided.

So this fourth grader decided to put his own spin on the system. He began to save his tickets so that he could share them with students who struggle more with classroom expectations and behaviors. “I got the idea when one of the boys at school used his tickets to buy me lunch in the classroom with him. Afterwards, I started saving up 110 tickets so I could buy lunch in the classroom for the whole class.” It took a month of saving up, but Brayden felt it was worth it to see the smiles on everyone’s faces.

But his generosity didn’t stop there. The fourth grade classes also held an end of the school year movie and party. Students were allowed to choose between 4 classrooms with 4 different movies, but there was a catch. They had to pay for admission and snacks, and admission cost 10 ‘good behavior’ tickets. Students who did not have enough tickets were to be sent to a separate room to read. Brayden thought that felt sad. He realized that some of his classmates did not have enough tickets for a movie, so he went around sharing his tickets with five of his classmates in the hopes that no one would be left out. He admits to feeling a bit nervous when he noticed so many of his tickets were being used, but he decided that if he was the one who needed to go read, he would be happy to do it for the good of the group. In the end, Brayden had enough tickets left over for his own movie and snacks. From buying lunch to his move at the movies, Brayden is a firm believer in paying it forward. “I did what I did to give other kids the opportunity to experience the fun events and to help them see kindness in the world and hopefully help them pass it on.”

And Brayden didn’t have to wait long for his kindness to spread.  His Auntie Jen teaches 3rd grade at his school.  Inspired by Brayden’s campaign, Jen decided to pay the library fines of 13 students so they could participate in the end of the year field day celebration activities. This story is so inspiring because Brayden not only practices caring and kindness in the classroom, but because at age 9, he was able to see how harmful seemingly “positive” reward systems can be for students who struggle with classroom behaviors.”

fill your heart with whats importantI know that Brayden and my cousin Jen (who has always been my ‘big cousin and someone I want to be when I grow up’) both spend time thinking about how to make the world a better place.  Brayden’s example of generosity, kindness, and dedication should inspire all of us to ‘pay it forward’ every chance we get.  One small act of kindness means one small decision for happiness.  Many decisions for happiness means we can pursue a small happy life, and fill our hearts with what’s important.

How are you going to ‘pay it forward today?’  How can you fill your heart with what is important and ‘be done’ with the rest?

-lisa

overcoming obstacles of daily practice #MeditationThoughtMondays

obstacles

My friend Sara sent me a text begging for help. Her work schedule varies weekly, her wedding is approaching, and she has no time!  She’s missed all of my yoga classes for the past two weeks and could I help her develop a ‘yoga schedule’ to keep her accountable?  Which classes are best for her?  What does she do when she misses her favorite Tuesday night class?  How can she find time?

She’s not alone: we are quick to identify the obstacles preventing a daily yoga practice. The biggest one?  Time.

Every week requires a balancing act of life, work, family, and ‘fun-time’ activities.  And it also requires us to carve out hours for the not-so-fun-time-activities: cleaning the house, doing the laundry, getting the oil changed, heading to doctor appointments, etc.  etc.  etc.  The list goes on and on.  My advice is this: structure your day around your yoga practice.

Many people find time in the day to sit for hours and watch TV.  (No judgement here: I adore Office episode lunch breaks.)  However, many people do not find time in the day to sit for one minute and breathe with meaning.

The benefits of Yoga are multifaceted and abundant: strength, balance, agility, coordination, flexibility, peace of mind, lower blood pressure, healthier heart.  But most of all: life just gets better.  Life just feels better when we just spend one hour moving and breathing to connect with God.  But finding that one hour can be difficult. Over the years, I’ve helped students organize ‘training plans’ for their yoga practice.   Here are my tips:

  1. Plan on practicing early in the morning. Waiting until the evening = procrastination.  You will probably find a ‘reason’ to skip yoga class.  (Also known as an excuse.)  Although there are no scientific findings that suggest ‘working out’ at a certain time of the day increases the health benefits or calorie burning of your routine, research does suggest that a morning routine is more effective when it comes to developing a consistent habit.  Read more here.
  2. Pack your yoga bag every evening. If you oversleep and accidentally miss my 6 am classes, your yoga bag is already packed for the day. Your yoga clothes, yoga mat, and towel are ready to go. This means you can sneak away from work at lunch and catch a noon class or leave work on time and enjoy an evening class before heading home.  No excuses.  (Just make sure you clean your yoga mat in between sessions if you are going to leave it in the car this summer! How to deep-clean your yoga mat.)
  3. Prepare a schedule. At the beginning of every month, print a Month Calendar and write your yoga schedule on it.  If you set a goal of practicing 5 times a week, then you need to see how your yoga classes will schedule around other events.  For example, if you have a wedding shower to attend on Saturday morning during your usual yoga class, you need to schedule a practice on Friday instead.  It’s not rocket science, but the week tends to fly by if you aren’t paying attention.  Schedule your yoga classes to your Google Cal (like an appointment that you will NOT miss) and you are SET!
  4. Partner Up. Find a friend and plan yoga-dates.  Numerous studies show that having a ‘work-out partner’ increases accountability in keeping healthy habits. This article even suggests the type of person you choose as your partner is important. Yoga studios are a great way to meet people.  Some of my closest friends are ladies who walked into my class first as students.  Now, we text each other weekly to coordinate our yoga schedules and look forward to seeing each other every class.  Being accountable to a friend or a teacher makes a difference.  (If you would like me to text you at 5:15 am to remind you to get up and come to my Sunrise Yoga classes, I’ll do it!)
  5. Perfect your one breath.  If all you have time to do is stand on your yoga mat for ONE big breath, do it.  The more time you spend breathing deeply, mindfully, and meaningfully, the more you realize the value of ONE breath.  Set your Intention for the day, and perfect your one breath.  Your practice will be a success.  You may find out that, “many of the obstacles you thought were there do not even exist.”

Tell me how you schedule your day and your yoga practice.  What helpful habits have you formed?  I’d love to hear from you.  Happy Practicing!

-lisa

obstacles

pursue a small, happy life #MeditationThoughtMondays

small happy life

Lately, I’ve been giving much thought to the question: What makes life purposeful? As a yoga teacher, I don’t spend my days with co-workers– I’m usually the only yoga teacher in the studio.  This means that I interact with students who have diverse professions, callings, and passions which bring meaning to their life. I’m in awe of students who work in hospitals (I won’t even set foot in one!) healing and caring for others.  I also love talking to students who are passionate entrepreneurs in the start-up world (Westport Yoga just started a partnership with the Kansas City Start Up Village… check them out here!)

I also hear from students who are unfulfilled in their careers and are looking for something to add meaning and purpose to their lives.  They generally feel ‘stuck’ and are hoping that a big move or career change will be the key, but are afraid of making a big decision. (If this is you, you will definitely want to read my New Year’s Resolution article “lean forward, get upside down, set a resolution“.)

I think there’s a compromise that needs to be seriously considered: a purposeful life is an accumulation of the ‘small decisions’ AND the ‘big decisions’ made daily which lead you toward or away from contentment.  Living a purposeful life doesn’t necessarily mean your profession is your passion and it doesn’t mean you are enacting change on a global level. Sometimes it can mean that you have diligently pursued small decisions that lead to happiness. 

This article written by David Brooks of the New York Times distilled a similar theme from hundreds of essays submitted answering the question: ‘What gives you purpose in life?’  The theme was this:  Pursuing a small, happy life brought more meaning and purpose to individuals than grandiose ‘globe changing’ campaigns.  Across the board, making daily decisions to increase contentment, encourage peace within households and value family brought purpose and meaning to lives.   

What small, happy decisions can you pursue today?  I’d love to hear your answers!  I hope the list is long (and that it includes a minute of yoga!)

Happy living,

-lisa

you have time. #MeditationThoughtMondays

you have time

Here are three things you NEED to do today:

1.  eat

2.  sleep

3.  smile

Anything else you accomplish today is just icing on the cake (or icing on the vegan pumpkin bar… like this recipe).

You have time.  Seriously.  Use it wisely.

I recently had a conversation with a friend who feels very overwhelmed and anxious– she always feels like she has to be doing, doing, doing, and she can still never “do” enough.  I feel that way too– working from home (expect when I am teaching classes) means that my down time is easily confused with work time.  My work hours begin at 5:30 am and end at 9:00 pm during the week AND I work every weekend. In addition, my profession is my passion.  How do I keep my sanity?  How do I keep myself from working ALL the time? This has been my biggest struggle the past year.  Out of necessity, I’ve spent much time and energy bringing balance back into my life, which was previously overwhelmed with obligations/ e-mails/ work/ exhaustion/ anxiety.

Here’s what works for me:

Firstly: I schedule daily Meditation Breaks.  (If you are new to meditating, check out this article.)  I meditate, or sit quietly, for five minutes before every yoga class I teach.  Most people aren’t afforded the luxury of being in a yoga studio three times a day, so my suggestion is that you schedule (literally: put it on your outlook calender) your daily 5 minutes of sitting still and breathing.  When five mindful minutes is a non-negotiable part of your schedule, you are more likely to stick to your routine.

Secondly: I use my iPhone as tool for mindfulness.  

Reminders

Every day, my phone reminds me to take a big breath.  It reminds me that my self-worth is not contingent on how much I work. And it reminds me to take note of the many blessings in my own life. (Find out why you should  write down your blessings.)  I schedule into my day short reminders that I am blessed to be alive.  I got the idea from Max Strom’s book There is No App for Happiness.  He writes:

“Many people schedule every part of their day–except its most important parts– time to cultivate their deepest beliefs and convictions.  Schedule time that inspires you to do more with your lifespan.”  -m. strom

I also organize my apps so that I’m not unconsciously wasting time.

time wastersMy Ironman laughs when he sees this heading for my app collection of Time Wasters, but I’m totally serious about it.  If you are going to spend idle time on social media, be conscious that you are doing it.  Don’t be that person who checks her Facebook 53 times a day and then complains that she doesn’t have time to take a walk and smell the roses.  Increase the quality of your time and your time increases.  Be conscious about how you spend your time.

Thirdly: I’m diligent about Airplane Mode.  Since I realized my morning alarm would still sound even if my phone is on Airplane Mode (yea… I’m not the most ‘tech saavy’ person you know…) my phone goes on Airplane mode the moment I walk in my front door after my evening yoga classes.  Why is this important?  I shouldn’t be checking my work e-mail at 9:00 pm!  My time is my time.  Blue light from electronics disrupts sleeping habits, so e-mails and texts can wait until the next morning.  Airplane mode.  It’s a seriously great habit.

you have timeI’m still negotiating an appropriate balance between ‘work time’ and ‘life time.’  But these three practices have been instrumental in alleviating my anxiety over ‘not doing enough’ or ‘not having enough time.’  They’ve also been instrumental in cultivating quality time with the people I love.  These people deserve my time and attention.  I still have many things to do.  I still work two jobs and teach 17 classes a week.  But, when my to-do list gets overwhelming, I take a short walk outside and find something beautiful to marvel. And I remind myself that there are really only three things I need to do today: eat, sleep, and smile.  When it’s put that simply, it’s easy to believe:  you have time.  

How do you find balance in your life?  What practices happen in your home that help your family find more time to be together? I’d love to hear from you.

Happy Time-Saving.

-lisa