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

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

stress less. #MeditationThoughtMondays

stress less

That’s great advice… but, um, how can you possibly “stress less” when life is hectic? My meditation students never fail to ask, “When am I supposed to give time to sitting around and meditating during the day?”

You might not have twenty extra minutes in a day to experience the stress relieving benefits of meditation.  But, when time is precious, do you have extra minutes in a day to GIVE To Stress? Stress steals moments.  Stress steals your ability to be effective, efficient, and compassionate.  Because your body is most concerned with survival, it doesn’t have time to be concerned with anything else, even staying healthy.  You can read more about stress and your immune response here.

Stress is a normal physiological response to, well, just about everything in your current environment.  Your body does not discriminate between physical stress and emotional stress: it reacts to both by releasing the same hormones and vamping up your sympathetic nervous system to all stimuli– real, imagined, positive, or negative.

During April, National Stress Awareness Month (yes, one more thing for you to stress over forgetting!), my Introduction to Meditation Workshops at Westport Yoga have been packed.  The best part?  In between our afternoon Sunday sessions my students have shared with me inspiring stories about how a one-minute morning meditation has reduced their daily stress levels.  Kara told me how she didn’t even get upset when her car was rear ended at a red stop light because she was practicing Mindful Breathing.  (I assigned the homework called “Red Light Breathing” to encourage students to stay mindful even during a stressful commute!) That’s extreme; I’d still get upset if my unsuspecting Subaru was hit by some knucklehead who was driving too fast.  But Kara’s Red Light Breathing must be super powerful.

Even one minute of mindful breathing can reduce stress and create relaxation in the body.   Whether you have one minute, or sixteen years, here are 9 tips you can utilize to reduce your stress level and lead a happier life.  (Number 9 is my favorite!)

The following was featured in Outside Magazine’s October 2014 Issue.  You can read the full article here.  It was written by Eric Beresini

clock

 

If you have: “10 Seconds: Laugh

Even just anticipating a chuckle is enough to relieve stress and elevate hormones that combat depression and boost immunity.

If you have: 5 Minutes: 
Chew Gum

Chewing two sticks a day for two weeks can fight off anxiety and fatigue and improve mood.

If you have: 15 Minutes: 
Meditate

Research has shown that a quarter of an hour of guided meditation performed in the office can kick psychological and physiological markers of stress. You don’t need someone in the flesh to help lead your thoughts; UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center offers free weekly meditation podcasts to download or stream.

If you have: 30 Minutes: 
Go for a Run

Five days a week at a moderate pace of around ten minutes per mile can boost your mood, concentration, and sleep quality—not to mention your cardiovascular health and muscle tone.

If you have: 45 Minutes: 
Take a Nap

A 45-to-60-minute daytime snooze boosts your cardiovascular system, bringing spiked blood pressure back down to normal.

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yoga and movement help reduce stress.  check out Lisa’s yoga teaching schedule here.

 

If you have: 90 Minutes: Stretch It Out

Studies have shown that yoga relieves tension in everyone from medical students to flood survivors. Ninety minutes twice a week erases anxiety and replaces it with calm, though sessions half that long can also work. (Check out Lisa’s full yoga teaching schedule here.)

If you have: 1 Day: Walk in the Woods

Shinrin-yoku is a Japanese term meaning “walking or staying in forests to promote health.” Just a day in the wild, researchers have found, is enough to reduce stress, even in chronic sufferers.

 If you have: 1 Year: Move to Switzerland

The country topped the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Better Life Index for life satisfaction. A strong sense of community, high life expectancy, and low unemployment make the Swiss life sweet. That and your in-laws probably don’t live there.

If you have:16 Years: 
Get a Dog

A pup will lower your blood pressure and generally improve your psychological well-being. And bringing it to the office can increase job satisfaction.”  – Eric Beresini  You can read the full article here

Russell Ash being coy

Every time you come home, your dog will welcome you with open arms, no matter how stressed you are.  You should get one.  

Which of these tips can you utilize tomorrow?  Which one is your favorite?

(I’m sure you have time to stress less.  I can’t imagine you have time to stress more.)

Happy Living,

-lisa

stress less

live with intention. #MeditationThoughtMondays

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View More: http://janamariephotos.pass.us/lisa-ash-yogaLast year, I proposed this question: “What would you do if nothing stood in your way?”

I got great responses from friends and students: “Travel the world… spend more time loving my family…worry less about what other people thought of me… learn to cook… take better care of my health… quit my job and move to California… run a marathon… set aside more time for myself…start a new hobby and stick with it… practice yoga every day”

But the question still remains: are you living with intention?  Intention is powerful. (read my suggested intention at the beginning of yoga class).  Thoughts are powerful.  Your thoughts are powerful.

Sometimes bedtime arrives and I can’t remember how I spent my day.  Or I arrive at work and can’t remember driving there.  The ‘monkey mind’ is always wandering. That’s it’s job: to think ahead.  To plan and problem solve and be in constant motion.  But it can be exhausting.  When our thoughts distracted, our bodies feel fragmented, anxious, and bored.  We may walk through our entire day thoughtlessly.  But: What if everything you do today had a specific intention?  I call these: ‘micro-intentions.’  For example:

“I intend to eat this breakfast and savor each bite.”

“I intend to start my car and drive to work safely.”

“I intend to be productive, efficient, and compassionate during this meeting.”

“I intend to rest soundly and sleep deeply for eight hours.”

I believe that with these micro-intentions, life runs more smoothly.  And my day takes on more meaning.  And I have more energy to devote to moving forward to achieve my goals, as if nothing stood in my way.

Here’s your challenge for the day and your first #MeditationThoughtMonday

live with intention.

View More: http://janamariephotos.pass.us/lisa-ash-yoga

I dare you.

-Happy Meditating,

-lisa

(Have you heard about #MeditationThoughtMondays?  Check out ‘How to rid yourself of the ‘Case of the Mondays’)

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

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gratitude challenge day nine: November 15.

“Every day that I encounter another living creature and engage,

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.

day nine

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

With gratitude,

-lisa

yoga habit to yoga blessing.

 habit to blessing.

Yoga is so much more than our Tuesday night 90 minute stretching at our yoga studio.  It has the possibility to be the most important habit that you will ever undertake.  Here’s why:

“Yoga becomes a habit when we realize our body simply feels better after we practice.

It becomes a habit when we return day after day to our mat, yearning for courage and strength in our lives.

It becomes a habit when we yearn for the moment of ease and serenity that we experience after our yoga practice and wish to carry it with us when we leave this place.

It becomes a habit when we yearn for this feeling of all-encompassing grace and delight in the healing it brings to our Spirit.

It becomes a blessing when we yearn for others to experience the same things.”

-lisa

At the beginning of class a few months ago, I challenged you to spend time thinking of all the ways your practice has been a blessing in your life.  I asked you to write these down on a piece of paper and bring it to class the following week.  A few of you smiled, nodded, and then promptly forgot your homework (or ignored my directions? I’m not sure which…).  So, now, here’s your chance.

You know that your yoga practice IS a blessing in your life.  You’ve told me that it  weaned you off your daily Tylenol for back pain. You’ve told me that it reduced insomnia and you can now sleep for six hours a night. You’ve told me that you caught yourself before falling on the icy sidewalk because your balance has improved so dramatically.  You’ve told me that your 10K split time was faster because your open hip flexors allowed a longer stride out.  You’ve told me that you were better able to handle the grief of losing your father to cancer because of your mindful meditation practice.  I want to hear more.

How has your yoga practice been a blessing to you?  Don’t just think about it.  Write it down.  Share it.  Leave a comment, email me, facebook me, text me.  It can be just one word.  It can be an essay.  Stretching our bodies is a good habit.  Appreciating the blessings in our life is an even better habit.

**Giveaway!  Responding in the comment section of this page enters your name into a drawing for a Free Giveaway:  A small book entitled 1,001 Ways to Live in 10001 waysthe Moment  by Barbara Ann Kipfer.

 

I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.

-lisa

3 lessons to learn: how to become ‘less-stressed.’

My best friend ate an acorn yesterday.  He snapped up, chomped up, and swallowed that acorn whole before I even knew that he’d sniffed out something to eat.  Immediately, I freaked out:  I’m fairly sure that dogs are allergic to acorns.  (I didn’t freak out as much as I did when Russell ate an entire piece of pizza on the sidewalk outside The Bronx last fall… but, still, I was not happy about the acorn.)

Russell SmallAll day long, I waited for him to get sick, washcloth on hand to prevent any doggie-puke from drying on my bed.  And you know what?  He was fine.  He is fine.  He’s a tough cookie.

My dog-mom anxiety was unwarranted and (probably?) unhelpful.  Last night before drifting off to sleep, I remembered an article written by my dear friend Carrie Wood, called “The Acorn Lesson in Healing.”  Carrie is a Spiritual Counselor based in Ontario, Canada, and was one of my first spiritual mentors.  In this article, she remembers a similar, slightly traumatic experience from her childhood involving an acorn and gives us Three Lessons to become “less-stressed.”

She writes:

“I barreled out of the house barefoot to run and get my father, and ended up jamming an acorn between my big toe and toe nail.  I’m sure I cried bloody murder, and in my young eyes, there was enough blood to prove it.  Dad swept me off my feet and rushed me to the bathroom, resting my bloodied legs in the bathtub.  He was calm and collected. . . I on the other hand was freaking out.   My heart was racing, I went into a full blown sweat, and my breathing was shallow and frantic.

Dad was searching through the medicine cabinet and then came towards me with what appeared to be tape of some kind, bandages, and a bottle of what I thought to be rubbing alcohol.  “Don’t put that on me, it’ll sting!” I cried.  Without hesitation, he told me to close my eyes, and just keep taking really deep breaths. 

Before I could finish my first “deep breath” that acorn was yanked out from under my toe-nail, and something poured over my foot, I looked down at what appeared to be a tub filled with blood, and in my panic, he said,  “It’s Iodine.  It’s red, see!“ and poured more out to prove my blood loss would not be fatal.   I believed him.   Up to that moment, I feared a trip to the hospital; poking, prodding, and even surgery!  (I know, what a drama queen, eh?)  Per request, I resumed my deep breaths while he dressed my wound.

Lesson #1: 

Thoughts drive our emotions!

My heightened panic was a direct result of worrying about what my future might be like.  I suspect the pain I was experiencing was also rooted more in my worries than the actual experience of the moment.

Lesson #2:

Where my attention goes, energy flows! 

Focusing on my breath and more specifically, taking deep breaths taught me how to redirect my thoughts.  As long as I was focused on my fearful outcomes, my body was in agreement . . . my heart rate increased, my breath was quick and shallow and my anxiety increased.  When my attention shifted to breathing with intention, I increased the amount of oxygen to my lungs, slowed my heart rate, and broke my “stress cycle”.

Lesson #3:

Help from another person opens our situation to resources beyond our awareness.

I learned that day, that my father had served as a medic in the military and  previously worked caring for burn victims in a hospital ward.  Even without his background if he was unable to manage the situation, he would have called on someone who could.  The small scar on my right big toe was proof of my traumatic experience and retold “swapping horror stories” throughout my childhood.  No matter what emergency my parents responded to, my brother’s many broken bones, my sister’s cracked head, the tick burrowed into my head. . . their response was basically the same.  I am aware that there are far more horrific injuries many of us have encountered in our lives.  My story is not meant to trivialize more harmful situations, or belittle very real problems.  It is simply a story to illustrate how to begin to heal what is broken, one step at a time.

Don’t worry, everything will be fine.

Take deep breaths and calm down.

We’ll get you taken care of…”

My Russell was fine.  Carrie was fine.  We will ALL be fine… but we must learn to consciously control our breath, our thoughts, and our constant emotional reactions to stressful situations.  That’s were yoga comes in.  Trust me, it takes practice.   I hope these lessons are helpful to you in your search for a life of happiness, health, and wholeness.

-lisa

Carrie’s article can be found here on her blog, To Make Whole. She would love to hear from you.

letting go for Lent.

“The spiritual journey is never about holding on.  It is always about letting go.” – Rev. Jesse Jackson.

photo cred EMA

photo cred EMA

Traditionally, the Lenten season in the Christian liturgical calender is a perceived as a time of sacrifice.  I remember a friend telling me that he slightly resented “having to give something up” for Lent.  “I think I’ll give up… smoking.”  He wasn’t a smoker.  Jokingly, he chose to “fast” a bad habit that he didn’t even have, just so he could feel good about his Lenten sacrifice.  Here’s the thing though:

Most of us have bad habits.  Which we should give up.  

Maybe it is a novel thought: sacrificing something that doesn’t serve us; giving up something that we should give up.

Participating in the Lenten tradition doesn’t have to be a burden.  Instead, it can relieve a burden.  One year, I chose to ‘give up’ my negative body image.  (It lasted about two days, until I put on my skinny jeans, and thought: “Really!? My hips look giant. No, thanks.”)  Another year, I tried to give up walking too quickly, because I didn’t want to rush through my days anymore.  (Again, this lasted about two days because I double booked myself for two appointments and had to rush to the second one. #fail.)  This year, I’m giving up being annoyed.  I can’t tell you how many times a day something trivial upsets me and I forgo anger, opting for annoyance instead.  But is that any better?  Isn’t being annoyed still super annoying? I may not succeed, but I can at least try ‘sacrificing’ the (burdening) habit of annoyance.  Your challenge is to do the same.  Give up a habit that is a burden.

Finish this sentence:  This Lenten season, I’m giving up ______________.

anger? resentment? holding grudges? negative self-talk? gossiping? complaining?

Don’t choose something like ‘doing the dishes.’ That’s funny for about 2 seconds (and never funny for the other person in your household).  Choose to give up something that is standing in your way, keeping you from becoming happy, healthy, and whole.

Remember:  “The spiritual journey is never about holding on. It is always about letting go.” – Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Tell me about your choice.  I’d love to hear about your Lenten experiment.  It starts today.

-lisa