risks cloaked in awesomeness.

I’m looking forward to giant opportunities that are tactfully revealing themselves to be risks cloaked in awesomeness. One opportunity is the role of a Store Ambassador for Lululemon Athletica—it’s an awesome company with a remarkable focus on building leaders in our community. But, Holy Cow, I am opening myself up to all sorts of risk.

A cool thing about being a Lululemon Athletica Store Ambassador? I’m a little bit famous.

A not-cool thing about being a Lululemon Athletica Store Ambassador?  I’m a little bit famous.

My official photo shoot courtesy of epagafoto and Allyson Cheney was really fun—my best friend Russell Clive was with me and we took adorable yoga-dog photos.

But sifting through the proofs was the worst.

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Look how fun this photo is! Russell Clive is adorable! photo cred epagaFoto and Allyson Cheney

So, you know that mental script that plays on repeat when you are confronted with a vulnerable situation? The one that is overly self-critical and automatically searches for reasons to judge and retreat into self-defeat? (Oh, that story?) It definitely played as the soundtrack to a meeting where I critiqued a million digital photos of myself. And chose three. To be ENLARGED. And hung on the walls of a store. On. The. Plaza.

The moment Kim opened her lap top, I heard the opening credits to the most popular story most women write about themselves: ‘Never perfect, but good try.’

I realized quickly that if I was going to make it through this meeting at Kaldi’s without having a minor breakdown, I had to write a new, risky ending to this story where I embraced vulnerability and ventured into confidence. 

It was treacherous territory.  I could start writing this story, but I couldn’t control the ending. I mean, these pictures would adorn the walls of Lululemon CCP for two whole years. How many shoppers will see a ridiculously HUGE picture of me and judge, critique, compare and shame?  How many will people will think: “Who’s that girl?! She doesn’t look like a yoga model, she’s not that special, and those aren’t even impressive yoga poses”?  Probably a few. For sure, more than I care to listen to.

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I had to write a new, risky ending to this story where I embraced vulnerability and ventured into confidence. photo cred epagaFoto and Allyson Cheney

Because guess what? I decided that I’m going to risk it. I’m going to risk being vulnerable, risk being criticized, risk being the trigger for someone else’s insecurities. I’m going to risk being uncomfortable and use all the lessons that yoga has taught me about compassion to bring back into focus what is meaningful.

Do you have any ‘risks cloaked in awesomeness’ that you’ve been avoiding? What are your mental scripts, or habitual samskara’s, that play as a soundtrack to your difficult moments?  How has your practice of discernment and yoga helped you hear these scripts differently?

If you are feeling like you need more courage to Own Your Light and own your vulnerability, one of the best things you can do is meditate on your Light.  Please enjoy this Guided Meditation, “Own Your Light”

Practice this meditation every day for a week. It’s a surefire way to gain courage and confidence so you can re-write the endings to the stories you tell yourself.

Happy Re-Writing,

-lisa


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what are you afraid of? #MeditationThoughtMondays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Own Your Light” Meditation for developing confidence and courage

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

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

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

Inhale: “I own my light.”

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

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

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

Happy Uncovering.

-lisa

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Own your light.

 

every day that I face that thing of which I am most afraid, I am grateful.

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gratitude challenge day five: November 11.

“Every day that I face that thing

of which I am most afraid,

I am grateful.” 

Steps to completing the gratitude meditation challenge:

Read.  Breathe.  Smile.  Sit in stillness.  Read again.  Express your gratitude for this moment and for all of the many blessings which bring you joy in this life.

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Why gratitude?  Because it’s the only reasonable response to being alive.  Read more here.      

With gratitude,

-lisa

behind your heart there is courage

This article was originally published on lisaashyoga.worpress.com “articles and insights page” October 2013.

“Behind your heart there is courage and behind your heart there is fear. 

You choose.”

Last week, seven teenage girls in state-issued baggy sweatpants unrolled borrowed mats haphazardly in a conference room-turned-yoga-studio and flopped themselves down on the floor, looking at me with skeptical anticipation.  Their looks said to me: “I might do what you tell me to, but I’m probably not going to enjoy it.”  One girl groaned dramatically at the effort it took to sit down on her mat, the whole room laughed nervously; that was my cue to begin.

We chatted for a few minutes about the history of yoga.  I expected questions about the physical benefits, the psychological gains, or the philosophical underpinnings of this great tradition.  They asked me: “You got any kids?” and “How old are you?”  I could tell I was really getting through to them.

 Tadasana.  Mountain Pose.  I asked them to stand tall on two feet, close down their eyes, and bring their hands down by their sides.  I explained that the stillness within the asana practice is often the most difficult part of the practice: being still takes courage.  Being still takes trust.  When I peeked up, one of my ‘students’ was standing in front of me, arms crossed, hip cocked to the side, lips pursed and eyes challenging my every statement. Her guarded heart told me she felt too vulnerable to close her eyes.  Being still takes trust.

These girls, aged thirteen to sixteen, are residents in a rehabilitation program for youth exiting the juvenile criminal justice system.  Sometimes a dozen girls live here, hoping to re-enter the public education system and rejoin their families when their probation period ends.  While these ladies are criminals in the eyes of the law, they are not deviant; they are young souls trapped in fear and surrounded by unhealthy influences in their home communities.  Many of the girls were arrested while following their boyfriend’s prerogative.

I led the girls through beginner level asanas, trying desperately to convince them with every breath to take this practice seriously.  They weren’t convinced.  In utkatasana (chair pose), I reminded them that sometimes life gets difficult: we practice difficult, strenuous asanas on the mat so that when life gets challenging off the mat, we react with courage and strength, not fear and desperation.  One girl nodded, clenched her teeth and bent her knees a little deeper.  One girl gave up and rolled her eyes.  Another girl sighed loudly in relief when we stood tall out of the pose; her reward was a courtesy laugh from the others.

I then led the class through a Warrior Series, digging deeply into their foundation of strength.  I asked them to practice being present on their mat, even if they’d rather be somewhere else.  All of them would rather have been somewhere else.  And I realized: these girls don’t have a choice.  In this program, they are told when sleep, what to eat, where to go, and how to dress.  At home, they are told they aren’t good enough, that they will never be anything better than their crime, that they won’t ‘make it’ in life, and that they will never be a member of a healthy community which sees them as an individual of worth.  Where can they base their foundation of strength?

So we sat down.

And I introduced Durga.  Immediately, all eyes were glued to the illustration of this untamed goddess riding a lion, fierce hair blowing wildly, wielding a weapon in each of her eight hands.  Durga is the Warrior Goddess of Protection and Inner Strength.  She is the contemporary icon of liberation and power; she is what these girls need.

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I told the myth of Durga and her epic entrance into the cosmic battle between two armies of men who wanted to control the heavens and the earth.  The armies were led by two demon brothers who had (stealthily) struck a deal with Brahman earning themselves invincibility.  The deal was that no man or god could defeat them in battle.  These demon brothers took over.  Everything.  The ‘good guys’ (called devas in this mythological system) didn’t have a chance for several thousand years.  Until a wise yogi visited the court of the devas and pointed out a loophole in the demons’ deal: no one said anything about a woman.

Enter: Durga.

Sally Kempton writes that Durga is, “Not just a battle goddess…She is also the power behind spiritual awakening, the inner force that unleashes spiritual power within.”  Durga is the accumulation of all that is admirable in the feminine force: strength, empowerment, compassion, capacity for caretaking, and unwarranted wisdom.  She kicks butts and takes names.

She challenges the demon brothers and their armies in battle and crushes their egotistic perceptions about goddesses.  She wins.

She wins because she recognizes that she has a duty to always stand up for what is right, not just what is easy.  She wins because she is a strong woman with strong convictions.  She wins because she chooses courage over fear.  Durga is exactly what these girls need.

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I challenged the girls to stand back up, but this time, to stand in power.  To stand tall with courage.  To stand up for what is right.  To stand up like they are worth something.

We took the Warrior Series on the second side, and this time, the girls were transformed.  Instead of sullen, self-conscious teenagers, I saw women cultivating the strength to choose between fear and courage.  We practiced Vrksasana (tree pose) and I reminded them that life is not about giving up, it’s about giving in to the force of God that loves and sustains us, even when everyone else leaves us out to dry.  Every girl fell out of her balance pose.  Every girl got back in. This practice was a success.  

I left the ladies with this thought:

“Behind your heart there is courage and behind your heart there is fear.  You choose.”

I leave you with this thought, and encourage you always to choose wisely.

Sally Kempton.  Awakening Shakti: The transformative power of the goddesses of yoga. Boulder, CO: Sounds True Publishing, 2013.