full gratitude meditation: For this moment and for so many more, I give thanks, with a grateful heart.

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gratitude balasana

gratitude meditation.

Practice this Gratitude Meditation to uncover a deeper present moment awareness. Why?  Because the only reasonable response to being alive is Gratitude.

Read each sentence aloud, mindfully.  Take a deep breath after you read it.  Pause. Re-define your Gratitude.  Your whole life will change, I promise.

gratitude meditation.

“I live in gratitude.

Every day that I awaken and breathe, I am grateful.

Every day that I think a thought and feel my heart stirring, I am grateful.

Every day that I am upright and whole, I am grateful.

Every day that a creative idea becomes solid reality, I am grateful.

Every day that I face a fear, I am grateful.

Every day that I discover awareness of the smallest of beauties, I am grateful.

Every day that I am enlightened, given insight, have an epiphany, I am grateful.

Every day that I exercise compassion, understanding and patience, I am grateful.

Every day that I encounter another living creature and engage, I am grateful.

Every day that I am hugged, kissed, and loved, I am grateful.

Every day that I laugh, I am grateful.

Every day that my family is healthy and happy, I am grateful.

Every day that my friends do well in the world, I am grateful.

Every day that love is evident in my life, I am grateful.

Every day that I act out of anger, or from a place of frustration, I am grateful because each encounter offers me an opportunity to learn about myself.

Every day that brings me a challenge and tests my spirit, I am grateful.

Every day that I am humbled by a mistake, I am grateful.

Every day that I am faced with seemingly unbearable odds, I am grateful for the lessons I have learned and my spirit that is strengthened by these things.

Every day that I try, I am grateful.

Every day that I try AGAIN, I am grateful.

Every day that I have some time to myself for quiet and reflection, I am grateful.

For every day that is NEW, I am grateful.

For every blessing, surprise, breath, song, word, hope, reason, and heart, I am grateful.

For this moment and for so many more, I give thanks, with a grateful heart.”

 

Which sentence rings most true to you?  Today, where will you focus your gratitude?  Tell me about your Gratitude Challenge this month.  I can’t wait to hear about it!

Happy Gratitude,

-lisa

2 lessons yoga has taught me.

2 lessons yoga has taught me.

A few months ago, my dear friend and yoga student Stina Hergott blasted a post on her Pink Moon KC Blog called “10 lessons My Bike Has Taught Me.”  It got me thinking.  And thinking.  And thinking: could I narrow my list of ‘lessons that yoga has taught me’ to a list of 10?

Well. As it turns out, I can synthesize my list to two.

  1. There is only today.
  2. There is always tomorrow.
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photo cred Saunders Fine Arts

 

1. There is only today.  Yoga is not a hobby or an activity.  Yoga is a practice.  Which means every time I practice yoga, it’s a practice of learning to be actively engaged in the present moment.  The present moment may be super enjoyable.  It may be slightly uncomfortable.  It is the only moment I have.

Yoga is a meditation on the Spirit that is found within the breath.  I can’t breathe into the future and I can’t breathe in the past.  Which means I shouldn’t let my mind live in the future and I shouldn’t let my mind live in the past.  Which means: there is now.  And there is today.  And if I desire patience, I practice that today.  And if I desire compassion, I practice that today.  And if I desire to be filled with God-light, to spread forgiveness, to find moments of hidden healing joy everywhere I look, I practice today.  When my shoulder was injured last fall, my daily Ashtanga practice was often excruciating.  (As was opening my car door, taking my Russell for a walk, and holding my coffee mug…ugh, much better now, thank you.)  So I challenged myself to ask this question when I was practicing:  “What if this were my last opportunity to take Downward Facing Dog Pose?  If that were the case, how would I want it to feel?  How would I want to enjoy it?”  Turns out: I would want to SAVOR it.  Yoga taught me that there is only today.  And today is to be savored. 

2. There is always tomorrow.  I like to accomplish things.  (Some might call me an over-achiever, yes, you, Mimi.)  Yoga taught me that it’s ok not to be perfect today.  I can attempt a pose (such as Royal Pigeon, which was my New Year’s Resolution in 2008 and I still can’t do!) and not freak out that I can’t do it.  I can’t take the full expression of this pose, YET.  Yet being the key word here, because there is always tomorrow.  I can get back on my mat tomorrow, even if I am sore, or tired, or cranky and: I can try again.  My all-time favorite Yoga Inspiration comes from Rolf Gates’ book Meditations from the Mat and it says this:

“We show up, we live passionately, we burn brightly in the moment, and when the moment is over, when our work is done, we step back and let go.”

Yoga taught me that life doesn’t require perfection, it simply requires me to savor the present moment and do my personal best… then let go of the results.  This lesson, more than anything else I’ve learned from practicing and teaching yoga, has had the greatest impact on my experience with the world and my often-anxious mind.  It has offered me peace of mind, it has calmed my anxiety, and it has truly healed my body and my heart. 

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photo cred Saunders Fine Arts

 

 

There is only today.  There is always tomorrow. 

What lessons has your yoga practice taught you? Please, share with me.  I would love to hear your answer.

-lisa

what does it mean to ‘travel lightly’?

What does it mean to travel lightly? 

One backpack.  One.  One backpack for 2+ weeks in Peru, where I will be on the sun-scorched beach and in the snow-covered peaks of the Andes, sprawling in the humid rainforest in an open air cabin, huddling in tents and sleeping in un-air-conditioned hostels…. an one is all I get.  How do I pack for that?!  It doesn’t make sense to pack a bikini and my winter gloves, but somehow I need to be prepared for both extremes.  What do I pack?  What do I leave behind?  What will I take with me, only to realize after 36+ hours of cars, planes and buses, that I can’t carry the weight of it?

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one bag. are you kidding me?

I just read the novel Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, about her trek up the Pacific Coast Trail from the Mojave Desert to the Bridge of the Gods in Washington State.  She named her hiking backpack Monster.  She quickly realized she could not walk 19 miles a day in the mountains under its weight, and spent the first few weeks of her journey ditching items that weren’t 100% necessary for survival.  Near the end of her journey, Cheryl realized what else she carried with her – unresolved grief over the passing of her mother – doubled the weight she carried with every step.  When she let that go, her traveling became lighter.

I found this picture featuring a quote from Yogi Bajan a few months ago, and it has consumed my thoughts since then.  It says: “Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light.”  (Yes, English Grammar Nerds will notice that it should say: ‘travel lightly’ and ‘live lightly’ but I actually really like the play-on-words that results from mis-using the word ‘light’ as an adverb.  ‘Live Light’ and ‘Live Lightly…’ they are both excellent pieces of advice.)

June 27

Anyway, back to packing my bag for the trip of a lifetime:  it’s excruciating.  I want to be prepared for EVERYTHING.  I keep asking questions like: but what if I NEED a cute top and skinny jeans because we stumble across a nice restaurant?  But what if I NEED my hair straightener and blow dryer (never mind that we don’t have electricity in the Amazon rainforest) and what if I NEED extra supplies in my first aid kit, 6 pairs of gloves, 4 novels, 2 extra towels and 1 yoga mat?  I mean, I need to be prepared for anything, right?  Otherwise, won’t I feel anxious?  Unprepared?  Stupid for not packing the ‘right’ gear for this epic adventure in Peru?  I DON’T KNOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN!!  How do I prepare for THAT??  Reality Check: We NEVER know exactly what will happen in our future.  That’s the thing about life and creation—it is constantly in motion, and it is constantly changing.  We get one day…. We may get one million days. 

Then I see this again:

June 27

Hmm…my job is not to be consumed with collecting all the items that will protect me from uncertainty.  This only adds to my anxiety.  My job is EVERY DAY, to “Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light.”

Boy, that sure takes the pressure off.  I don’t have to be prepared for everything, I just have to be prepared to Live Light.  And travel lightly on this Earth, leaving only soft imprints (which means, I guess… not carrying around a 40lb backpack, complaining with every step.  But yes, I will be packing my first aid kit.)

Stay tuned for Peru updates and pictures; my Ironman and I are super excited for our adventure-vacation.  (For those of you who are concerned, Russell Clive will be staying with his grandparents.)

-lisa

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p.s. it totally fit. i’m a pro at packing this bag!

 

god is the breath.

god is the breath.

 

God says…“Are you looking for me? I am in the next seat.  My shoulder is against yours.  You will not find me in the stupas, not in the Indian shrine rooms, nor in synagogues, not in cathedrals: not in masses, nor kirtans, not in legs winding around your own neck, nor in eating nothing but vegetables.  When you really look for me, you will see me instantly—you will find me in the tiniest house of time. … Tell me, what is God?  He is the breath inside the breath.” – Kabir

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photo cred EMA

learn to meditate. your way.

learn to meditate, your way.

Meditation is a life-changing practice.  When we sit in stillness, we learn to trust our own wisdom and insight.  This inner wisdom supersedes the demands of anxiety and fear, which allows us to act with greater care for ourselves and for others.  This is what yogis call “mindful living.”

Most often, beginners to meditation are told to “Still the Mind.”  When I first learned to meditate, my mind could only stay still for 0.3 seconds.  I’m a list maker, a future-organizer, a ruminator, a worrier, and a dreamer.  Even if my butt was still, my mind was anything but still.

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photo cred SFA

I first approached the art of meditation with the dual intent of calming my anxiety and healing a hurting heart.  I found that the use of a mantra, or repetition of a phrase, worked well for me.  The constant, gentle, repetitive reminder gave my mind something to focus on.  My mind wasn’t ‘still’ per se —because I was busy repeating the words: “In… out… calm… ease” – but my thoughts were still-er.  (Which was an improvement).

 

In my experience, thoughts won’t ever completely cease, they will just slow down.  My mind whirls at breakneck speed.  It always has, and it probably always will.  Nerd Alert: I like to picture my neurons as cars speeding across interstate overpasses alarmingly fast… and then slowing down, together, consciously choosing a safer, more sustainable, less hurried pace.  They are still going somewhere.  But they are going slower, taking time to enjoy the scenery.  (By the way, if I were queen of the world, I would decree that every driver must follow the speed limit.  Slow down, you fools, I’m maneuvering my refrigerator-box-on-wheels-vehicle just as fast as I dare to, and that happens to be the posted speed limit. Back to meditation…)

Meditating is an integral part of your yoga practice: the asanas (postures) are performed in order prepare the body for seated meditation.  Coincidentally, the word asana translates to the word ‘seat’.   But here’s thing: you don’t JUST SIT THERE… seated meditation is an active process of learning to become attuned to your emotions, your breath, your own inner divinity.

Yoga and meditation go hand in hand.  Leading yoga teacher Eric Schiffman writes, “Yoga is a way of learning to be in meditation all day long. In other words, listening inwardly with a quiet mind as many moments of the day as you can for the guidance and wisdom of Infinite Mind, God.”  You can access his entire article here.

Even if you aren’t in a yoga class, you can and should, still meditate on your own. Learning to meditate doesn’t have to be daunting.

I suggest starting here:

  1. Focus on the Breath.  All beginning meditators need to begin here; learning to listen to your breath teaches you the miracle of the present moment.  I like to remind my students: “You can’t breathe in the future, you can’t breathe in the past.  You can only take this breath, right here, right now.”   Here is my favorite breath mantra: (adapted from Tich Naht Hanh’s meditations for peace.)

“In.”  <Inhale>

“Out.” <Exhale>

“Calm.”  <Inhale>

“Ease.”  <Exhale>

Repeat.  Repeat. Repeat.  Don’t worry about how your breath sounds or how long it is.  Just sit and savor the feeling of ease in your body.

  1. Try Guided Meditations:  Mindfulness teacher Sharon Salzberg shares 6 different meditation techniques on her website.  The techniques draw from varied philosophical backgrounds. You can access these meditations here.  My favorite can also be found in her book Real Happiness.  It’s called Metta or Loving Kindness Meditation.  It’s super easy to wish metta for yourself (May I be safe, May I be Happy, May I be Healthy, etc.) and (slightly?) more difficult to wish metta for other people in your life (especially the difficult ones… like that guy who honked at me for stopping at a stop sign the other night.  Sir, it’s a STOP sign. I’d like to amend my Queen of the World ruling to decree that all drivers must obey all traffic laws, speed limit notwithstanding.)  Salzberg’s site is a great place to start because it will teach you different meditation disciplines and guide you through each one.

3.  Make your Meditation Portable: Download the ‘Stop Breathe & Think App’ (it’s free) on your phone and carry your meditation with you everywhere.  The App explains how to practice mindfulness and helps you track your progress in learning to meditate.  Some of it is a little cheesy (you earn stickers every time you complete a guided meditation, for example) but the App is straightforward and helpful.  The meditations are short— some even less than five minutes long.  I listen to these meditations in my kitchen as I’m chopping vegetables.  (I’ll never be a Buddhist Monk who accesses liberation while chopping onions… I’ll just start by being more mindful to not chop my finger off while I’m making soup.)  You can listen to a meditation or use the App to ‘check in’ with your emotional state while waiting in line at Target.  It might remind you to extend compassion to your check out-person, because kindness is contagious.  (Don’t pretend you don’t check your phone the instant you have to stand in a line.  You do.)  Search for the ‘Stop Breathe & Think App’ on iTunes or visit the SBT full site here.

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photo cred EMA

  1. Just Sit.  Don’t worry about doing it correctly or incorrectly.  Start by sitting still for 60 seconds.  Slow your breath for one minute.  Appreciate the joy of simply being alive.  I learned to meditate by using the timer on my phone.  That way, I wasn’t tempted to check the clock and see how long I’d been sitting. If you use a timer, you won’t cut your session short thinking you’re running out of time and frantically jump up to straighten your hair before someone else is in the bathroom so you won’t be late to work, etc. etc. etc. (See how fast those anxious thoughts sneak up on you?)  My go-to is an App called Insight Timer (free on iTunes).  I even use it when I teach because it indicates the end of meditation time with a lovely, resounding Tibetan Gong (relaxing), instead of my daily wake-up alarm (not relaxing).  Start with one minute a day.  And work your way up to four minutes.  And then ten minutes.  (Ten minutes?  For total freedom, bliss, spiritual wellness and emotional health?  Yes, Please.)

Remember that Meditation is YOUR practice.  You will find a way to meditate that works well for you, and you will find a way that doesn’t work well for you.  If you are learning to sit in stillness, you are learning to trust your own wisdom. Listen to your own insight, and commit to a daily stillness practice.  It will change your life.

Still need more convincing? This article describes the scientifically substantiated benefits of meditation. And there are more out there!

I’d love to hear your stories; how do you like to meditate? What do you find helpful?

-lisa

 

Earth Day meditation.

Sharing this meditation from my friend and spiritual guide, Katie Harmon-McLaughlin.

Happy Earth Day (which should be EVERY day).

“Meeting God is not a momentary ‘spiritual’ affair; rather, God is the ether, the reality, the body, the garden in which we live. God is never absent; God is reality (being). Everything that has being derives it from God (we are born and reborn by God). The entire cosmos is born of God, as is each and every creature. We depend on this source of life and its renewal absolutely. We could not live a moment without the gifts of God’s body- air, food, water, and other creatures. This realization is an overwhelming experience of God’s transcendence; it calls forth awe and immense gratitude. Yet, at the same time, as Augustine puts it, God is closer to us than we are to ourselves. Where can we go where God is not, since God fills heaven and earth?” -Sallie McFague, A New Climate for Theology

 

Take a few moments to breathe deeply and know that with each breath you are inhaling and exhaling divine love; the unifying, life-giving spirit in all of creation.

Consider how this matters for you now.

Consider your connectedness with all other life.

Consider all that you have done so far today; all that you have eaten, all that you have touched. Pay attention to the fabric of the clothing you wear and think about where it came from. Pay attention to the place where you sit and the materials that surround you. All of these came from the earth.

The gifts of God’s body, the earth, are sustaining your daily existence. Pause in gratitude. 

Some of the things you touch and wear and use today have caused earth destruction. Pray for forgiveness for the ways we sometimes live unaware as though we are disconnected. Pray for greater awareness and compassion in the days ahead.

Become aware of the surrounding air that embraces every part of you, touching your fingertips, resting on your shoulders and head. Know that embracing-stillness as God, holding you in each moment. Know that there is not a place you can go in this world where you will not be in this loving embrace.

There is no distance between you and God.
There is no distance between you and love.
There is no distance between you and the rest of creation because you are part of sacred creation and are daily sustained by this planet.

How will you live this holy connection today?

for more from Katie, visit the Community of Christ Spiritual Formation Center Facebook page.

photo cred HM