extra grateful: a new 1:5 gratitude challenge.

Here’s a new Gratitude Challenge for you: 1:5. In the traditional 30 days of gratitude approach, our list often becomes stagnant, rote and trivial by the end of the month. We start listing things that are fun, fast and easy, instead of listing things that truly bring us back to our Highest Self and the practice of Gratitude.

So, a shift on an old theme: 1:5. Name ONE thing you are EXTRA grateful for and 5 people who make it possible. As we know, writing an acknowledgements page is good for the soul: in the end, we cannot take ANY of this stuff with us, but our relationships and the people we love leave an impression on our Soul.

For example:

This year I’m extra grateful to be the Owner and Curriculum Director of Westport Yoga KC. It’s not an easy job, but it’s worth it because I get to share generously the teachings of yoga and meditation with willing and beautiful Souls every day. I have 5 incredible teachers who teach at Westport Yoga KC and make my dream possible: Thank you Maris, Amie, Sedona, Jesse and Kelly. (Of course, it’s really my STUDENTS who make it possible… but I’m sticking with the above Fantastic 5.)

This year I’m extra grateful that I am HEALTHY! Severe allergies, sinus issues, skin rashes and energy imbalances seemed to be the norm for most of my life and this year I am HEALTHY! It’s feels like a miracle; a big shout out goes to my ‘health squad’: my nutritionist, my acupuncturist, my Yoga Medicine teacher and my best friend Russell Clive who gets me out on walks daily. (And also my Ironman who buys a vanload of vegetables every Monday at Costco so our crock-pot is continuously full of soup. See, limiting it to 5 people is difficult…)

What are you extra grateful for in 2017? Which 5 people are connected to that practice of gratitude?

Name 5 specific things you are EXTRA grateful for and the 5 people who make it possible. Take a minute to Thank some of these people who make your life happier, healthier and more whole.

The practice of Gratitude is just that: it is something we practice. Gratitude is the key to living a wholehearted life; it is the key to living in the Present Moment and learning to see the Divine in all the little moments we tend to overlook. A Guided Meditation during which we consciously name, reflect on and appreciate specific blessings in our life reminds us that the only reasonable response to being alive is that of Gratitude. As always, I’ll be teaching a Full Guided Gratitude Meditation at Westport Yoga KC this month.

Donation Yoga Classes supporting Rose Brooks Center, which helps women and children in Kansas City re-build sustainable lives after leaving violent households:

Sundays November 12 and 19, Hatha Yoga @ 4:30 pm

Wednesday November 22, Candlelight Vinyasa Flow @ 7:30 pm

Sunday November 26, Vinyasa Yoga @ 10:30 am

I’d be extra grateful if you were there…

are you sometimes stressed? (me. to.)

Ok, so I understand that stress can make us stronger (hello Stress Wood and Biosphere 2) but I don’t actually know anyone who wakes up and says: “Bring on the stress! I want to endure and persevere today!” with a great big smile on their face.

I sure don’t. I sometimes feel overwhelmed and stressed just by the IDEA of being overwhelmed and stressed. The best way I have found to acknowledge, transmute and transform stress is meditation. Meditation has about a million psychological and physiological benefits: enhanced immune system, increased brain nueroplasticity and decreased sense of alienation and anxiety to name a few.

But my absolute favorite benefit is how it decreases our stress response. Something we all need. And it’s something we can all learn.

I love introducing Meditation as a technique to lower stress and increase hope, health and happiness. I shared a technique I call “60 second quick-fix” for stress on my blog last spring and have an extensive offering of free Guided Meditations here.

But my absolute favorite way is by teaching my 3 Week Course: Introduction to Meditation for Stress Relief. I teach it twice a year and it always sells out. This updated curriculum includes new research based on the MBSR technique, clinical trials and every day application of mindfulness. Please join me:

Introduction to Meditation for Stress Relief

Sundays December 3, 10 and 17, 2017  2 pm-4 pm

Investment:

This 3-part series is a perfect introduction to Meditation. We will explore the modern-day benefits of meditation and how you can integrate the practice into your life to relieve stress.

In each session, I’ll teach Breathing Techniques, Concentration Techniques and Meditation Techniques which cultivate attention, deepen focus and embrace stillness. You’ll have the opportunity to practice meditation in an encouraging group setting and engage in conversation with classmates. You will also learn ‘quick-fixes’ to trigger the relaxation response in your brain and body. The course includes a take-home manual for future reference and suggestions on how to successfully plan your at-home meditation practice.

(Limit 18 students; please note: there are no partial or full refunds for this event.)

 

satya: self-care and self-talk.

When it comes to self-care, chugging organic juices and getting tons of physical activity is the easy part for me. What’s most challenging (and perhaps more important) is listening skillfully and responding honestly to my self-talk. More important than massages, pedicures and all the other self-care rituals I absolutely adore is the practice of satya: truthfulness, integrity and sincerity in my own internal narrative. 

(We started talking about satya, the second yama of the yoga philosophy, in the previous two posts: satya: say no to junk e-mail and so you don’t eat meat?)

Practicing satya means that I listen to my self-talk with honesty and a healthy does of skepticism. For example:

I can’t EVER seem to make it anywhere on time, it just takes me FOREVER to get out of the house and I ALWAYS feel so unorganized.” Um, False. What’s true is this: some mornings, I’m really distracted and I spend time putting away dishes instead of getting organized to leave the house.

or

“I’m ALWAYS SO TIRED and NEVER have enough energy to be a good dog mom or good boss or good wife.” Again, False. What’s true is this: some evenings I’m really tired because I’m lucky enough to have a job that is physically active and I already walked Russell Clive three miles that day.

or

I’m ALWAYS missing important texts and e-mails; the teachers who work for me probably all think I’m a slacker.”  Double False. What’s true is this: it’s good for me to have a “no-phone day” where I’m focused on being with my family and actually, no one hates working at Westport Yoga because our community is so welcoming and our yoga classes are amazing!

or

“I CAN’T afford that. There’s just no way. And I’m NEVER going to be able to.” Possibly true, but mostly false. Some things (i.e. a new Subaru Crosstrek and daily acupuncture sessions) are just way out of my budget. But purchases are always a choice; choosing how to spend resources can be empowering. Saying “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t” only plants seeds of frustration in my mind (and wallet).

or the last one, which is the kicker. And something I hear ALL. THE. TIME. (Not exaggerating.)

“I am SO BUSY, so overwhelmed, and I’m ALWAYS working… I just don’t have the time to do yoga or meditate.” False. Here’s what’s true: time is something I choose how to spend. And if I want to opt out of an activity because I don’t think it’s the best use of my time, then that is honest and a practice of satya. Opting out of an activity is different than lying to myself with, “I’m so busy; I can’t,” The true story is that I have the same minutes as everyone else in the day and I get to choose how to spend those minutes.

The practice of satya requires that I practice sincerity and honesty in how I talk to myself as a way of caring for myself mentally and emotionally. It asks me to listen to my self-talk with understanding and then respond with compassion as a way of self-care (remember the first yama: ahimsa.) It’s really important!

How do you practice satya in your self-talk? What limiting self-beliefs are you listening to that just aren’t true? How can you practice a self-care by listening with both understanding and skepticism?

“so, you don’t eat meat?”: satya and speaking truth.

I used to be shy about eating vegetarian when someone questioned me about it; I was so worried about making the other person feel ‘ok’ and ‘not-judged’ with my answer that I’d shrug it off and mumble something about “I just don’t eat meat. I never really liked it, even as a kid. Except, you know, my grandma’s fried chicken.” (Looking back, let’s be honest, I didn’t actually like the chicken, I just liked the fried and the mashed potatoes that came with it.)

But lately, I’ve discovered that curiosity, discussion, disagreement and dissent play vital roles in authentic living. So I’m more willing to speak truthfully and actually share my opinion and my reasoning for eating vegetarian.

Satya is the second of the ethical considerations (yamas) of Yoga Philosophy. (We talked about it last week, too. Read it here.) Practicing satya is standing in our own truth and aligning what we say, think and do. 

Eating vegetarian is one way that I embrace satya and practice ahimsa (non-harming and compassion to all living beings) which is the basis of my ethical and spiritual life. I’m actually totally and completely passionate about animal rights; and totally and completely obsessed with creating peace on Earth. And yet, when someone asked the question, “Oh, how come you don’t eat meat?” I felt scared to share my True Self and talk about what matters to me. But here’s the thing: NOT sharing actually made me feel disconnected and a little bit lonely, it made me feel insincere.

My favorite author and spiritual soul-sister Brene Brown writes about Satya and Integrity in the form of True Belonging in her newest book Braving the Wilderness.

She writes, “when we don’t risk standing on our own and speaking out… we perpetuate our own disconnection and loneliness. [However] when we are willing to risk venturing into the wilderness, and even become our own wilderness, we feel the deepest connection to our true self and to what matters the most.”

Satya, truthfulness and integrity, holds a newly appointed and important position in my life as I try to be authentic to myself and also to connect with people on a meaningful level. Satya now means holding honest conversations about things that matter to me and that reflect my deepest values, as opposed to glossing over these tough conversations.

How can Satya motivate you to live more authentically? Where in your life do your actions not align with your words and thoughts? How can you connect more deeply to your true self?

I’d love to hear your conversations…

-lisa

yes, we are kissing!

integrity and satya: so no to junk e-mail.

I get about 50 gazillon junk e-mails, promo mailings and annoying calls a week now that I own a small business, all of them trying to tell me how much I NEED to advertise with them or offer their product or sell their junk. The impetus to sell more and use CAPS! And promote THIS! And ADVERTISE with US! (for free, after I invest $172) is insatiable and it is WAY out of line with my integrity.

This icky, growly, stay-away-from-me-response bubbles up when I start listening to voices that promote scarcity and sagely explain why my worthiness depends on Facebook Ads and staying relevant on omniscient Instagram. No experience has led me more to refining my integrity and drawing boundaries to stay within my integrity than registering an LLC.

Satya is the second of the ethical considerations of the yoga philosophy. There are five ethical considerations given in the Yoga Sutras which guide our social and communal actions. These are called yamas and we examined the cornerstone, ahimsa (non-harming and compassion) in previous posts.

Satya is defined as Truthfulness and Integrity. It is the impetus for aligning our thoughts, words and actions so that we are effective and living with sincerity. It’s the opposite of living a false or shallow life where we say one thing… and then do another. I love what writer and researcher Brené Brown says about satya because she takes it one step further from just ‘telling the truth’ to ‘living our truth.’ She says that truth telling is integral to upholding integrity and that it also takes courage. She writes,

“Integrity is choosing courage over comfort, choosing what is right over what is fun, fast or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.”   

One of my values is living a life of simplicity and generosity. So when I am bombarded with messages telling me to DO MORE and BE MORE to BE MORE WORTHY, the pit of my stomach fills with molten hot revulsion. It’s difficult not to give in to messages and ideas that seem culturally customary; my boundaries are often affronted and I find myself fearful, but then I get on my yoga mat and meditate and my courage is bolstered.

I remember that choosing courage over comfort is part of living satya and that whenever I am in line with my highest Good, which is always Light and Love, then I’m living a meaningful life. And I just say “No, thanks” to every bogus e-mail that comes my way.

When are you living in integrity with your highest good? When do you find your words saying one thing and your actions saying the opposite? In contrast, when do you feel most aligned, truthful and sincere?

“By abiding in truthfulness, one’s words and actions are subservient to truth and thus whatever is said or done bears the fruit of sincerity.”

–Yoga Sutras II 36 (translation M. Stiles)

 

don’t feed the marmots: ahimsa

You’ve seen marmots, right? I mean, besides holding the title of cutest rodent name, they truly are the cutest. Their little noses never stop sniffing, they bounce down trails like plink-o balls and they steal smelly hiking shoes for snacks. Adorable, svelt, glamorously silver and long legged. I want to share snacks and stories and sunbathe with marmots.

But omygosh did you know you can kill a little furry creature by sharing trail snacks? Consuming human snacks (on purpose or inadvertently) disturbs the natural cycle of sustenance and wild ecology so deeply that one cheeze-it can kill a marmot.

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I was recently reminded of the power of ahimsa (non-harming) during my two week camping trip in the Canadian National Parks. These landscapes are breathtakingly momentous and magnificent. They are pristine; hundreds of miles of wild forests and mountains and waterways are preserved perfectly.

And because Parks Canada treasures their wildlife so deeply, campers are continuously reminded how damaging it is to feed furry critters. I’m an animal lover. My first instinct is to call and cajole and cuddle them… even the ones with sharp little teeth. So I had to pay careful attention to all my actions: I couldn’t and shouldn’t just do whatever I wanted, which mostly consisted of having high tea with marmots and sharing chocolate with bears. I needed to appraise my actions from the viewpoint of ahmisa first.

Ahimsa, which means compassion and non-harming, is the first of the yamas (ethical considerations of yoga, discussed in previous post) and is the cornerstone by which we build and measure all of our actions. Our marmots, our snacks and our yoga practice are all connected.

We learn ahimsa on our yoga mat when we pay attention to the intimate connection of our breath and our emotions and practice in a way that is laced with gentleness and compassion. The more we practice yoga, the more obvious it becomes: we are SO connected with other living beings. And our actions are extremely important because we are a microcosm of the macrocosm.

Deepak Chopra says it so perfectly:

“If you recognize your individuality is intimately woven into the fabric of life—that you are a strand in the web of life—you lose the ability to act in ways that are harmful to others.  Acting from this level of your soul, you are incapable of being violent because your whole being is established in peace.”

And that is how yoga changes the world. We LOSE the ability to act in harmful ways. We are INCAPABLE of violence because we are established in peace in our hearts and truly, honestly, want to choose compassion in each and every way.  Take your next breath and notice: you are sharing this breath with millons and gazillions of other sentient beings and you are one amazingly awesome strand in the web.

Go establish peace amongst yourselves and your marmot friends.

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scrunchies are back in?!?

The thing about yoga is that is 100% meant to be learned on the yoga mat and then 110% meant to be practiced off the yoga mat. I mean, it’s not really something that I “do.” It’s something I practice. Because practice means: ‘to do that which is not yet fully accomplished.’

Yoga is something that, like being kind and courageous, I get to practice every single day of my life. I can get better at it, but I probably won’t accomplish it fully 100% of each minute, each day.

The practicing of yoga-ing, is the practice of yoke-ing. It’s the act of binding my Spirit with the Divine Light that precedes all creation and to the principles of compassion and ethical living. In the Christian tradition, Jesus of Nazareth used that same word: yoke. He was talking about how ‘his yoke was easy’; meaning that deciding to live out his teachings grounded in compassion was something that any body and every body could get on board with. Any body and every body is and was invited to take time to go inward, in prayer, in meditation, in mindfulness with humility and a yearning to yoke to the Divine.

“To yoga with the Divine” sounds slightly bizarre, but ‘yoga’ in Sanskrit actually means ‘yoke’ or ‘to find union with.’ So, yeah, you can yoga with goats or yoga with Pearl Jam or yoga with Sangria or yoga with whatever is the new-bizarre-yoga-class-combo popular right now (real talk: don’t ask me what is popular… I just found out that scrunchies are back in and Justin Bieber is out. For the record, I don’t like scrunchies. And I LOVE Justin Bieber.) but if it doesn’t change your heart to be more:

  1. Kind and compassionate
  2. Truthful
  3. Generous
  4. Humble and Courageous
  5. Trustworthy and Trusting

then WHAT IS THE POINT in doing yoga??

The ethical principles of yoga are called ‘yamas.’ There are 5 of them and they are the primary foundation of yoga practice and yoga living. The eight important pieces of the yoking-to-Spirit-to-discover-ease-in-mind-and-enlightenment-puzzle-called-life are often called the Eight Limbs (Limbs as in, like, limbs on a tree. Not as in, you grow extra appendages.)

For thousands of years, humans have individually and collectively asked the questions: Who am I at my deepest level of Being? How do I live my truth in this community with other flawed-but-awesome humans?

These are the questions, we, as yogis and seekers of wisdom, ask in our Yoga Practice. These are the questions that the Yoga Tradition wants us to look for on the yoga mat; and then practice our answers off the yoga mat.

Over the next few months, I’ll be leading you through the five yamas and discussing how they can positively affect your life on and off the yoga mat. We’ll discover what these ethical principles mean and how they inform our vision of self-care, of care for our families and care for our communities. Together we will learn how to yoke ourselves in mind, body and Spirit to a way of living that affirms the world is abundant, gracious, loving and sustaining.

Send me your questions about the yamas and I will do my very best to point you in the right direction.

Also, don’t forget to do your own investigating; I suggest The Path of the Yoga Sutras by Nicolai Bachman and The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga by Deepak Chopra.

Happy Yoking,

-lisa

waiting for something miraculous to happen.

I’m one of those people who experiences anxiety over events on my calendar which are scheduled months in the future. I say things like, “Well, after that workshop, things will slow down and I can really enjoy life again. I’ll have time to cook and take naps have coffee with friends and enjoy leisurely walks after that big event.” What a profound realization when one day I realized: why am I waiting for life to slow down in the future? Why don’t I just slow down life right now? Why don’t I just enjoy the little leisurely times in my day today, instead of waiting for them to show up in my calendar in the future?

And thus begin an intense commitment to spend 1 hour every afternoon in silence. Not in ‘anticipatory waiting tense’ silence. But in leisurely ‘I’m going to enjoy every single little gift of this moment’ silence. Because waiting for fulfillment or waiting for the clock to slow down or waiting for this big event to take place before I enjoy life again gets tiresome. And frankly, it feels silly. This is actually a very intense spiritual practice in discipline; because TV is so much more fun! Because it’s sometimes difficult to not pick up my phone and tune in to frenetic internet activity. Because being silent feels a lot like just waiting for something to happen. But it’s not. It’s witnessing that something.

I believe that the biggest and best miracle of each day is the miracle that we get to be alive this day. I believe that I was meant to live every moment fully awake, fully alive in grace, fully in love with this gift of being alive today. I’m not rushing into the next thing. I’m not rushing to get something done. I’m not rushing through my day. I’m witnessing the biggest and the best miracle unfold right in front of my eyes.

One of my favorite, miraculous techniques of tuning into this silence is called “Follow Your Bloodstream.” It is the ultimate practice in pratyahara a yogic practice in turning senses inward. Here’s my guided meditation, adapted from Martha Beck.

Also, you can find more Guided Meditations here.

How can you take a few extra minutes of silence today? How can you tune in to the miracle of being alive? How do those minutes change your perspective?

Happy Silence

-lisa

(please note: an edited version of this article also appears in Community of Christ Daily Bread.)