add meaning to what is in front of you.

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A Cicada Symphony is my favorite summer concert. The cicadas (although not the most beautiful insect ever invented) are companions on my evening walks and their song is the soundtrack to summer. With their chaos in the background, my mind is quiet and free to attend to the embrace of the muggy summer air, the sharpness of the cut grass, and the fading evening light.  The white noise helps me appreciate singular elements of the summer evening that would be otherwise unnoticed.  It helps me appreciate what is already right in front of me.

Silence can do the same thing as the Cicada Symphony: it can attract meaning to the mundane. When you have a comfortable relationship with silence, it becomes a backdrop that allows your mind and spirit to allocate meaning to ‘the little things’ that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. Silence helps you appreciate what is already right in front of you.

In Silent Compassion, Richard Rohr writes, “If something is not surrounded by the vastness of silence, 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.”

In this way, silence attracts greater meaning to what is right in front of you.

Try these Guided Meditations to surround the present moment with reverent silence.


I am here, This is Now 

Present Moment, Wonderful Moment


“Silence is a portal to constantly deeper connection with whatever is in front of you. That which is in front of you does not need to be big or important. It can be a stone. It can be a grasshopper. Anything can convert you once you surround it with the reverent silence that gives it significance, identity, singularity, importance or value.”

Richard Rohr


Guided Meditation Teachings

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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

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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

 

 

 

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

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

say thanks. #MeditationThoughtMondays

Every afternoon I look forward to checking my tiny blue mailbox for post.   I’m excited every time its hiding a card addressed to me (not a bill or a coupon encouraging me to buy more things I don’t need) and am even more excited when it is a note of gratitude.  Here are some of Thank You cards I’ve received this spring. Each one has brightened my day beyond belief.  Each card has been a surprise, each card has been purposeful, and each card has caused me to pause and contemplate by own gratitude.

Today, Say Thanks. When said with sincerity and integrity, a small expression of gratitude can change the world.  Or at least it can change the moment.Thanks

As I was healing my left shoulder/ rib / back the past few months, my yoga practice routine has been forced to change drastically. I could no longer maintain my Second Series Ashtanga Routine and then still teach all my classes because the fatigue was too great.  I could no longer go straight from practicing to teaching because I had to go home and ice my shoulder in between every class.  I could no longer rely on my two hour moving meditation every morning to ‘shake all the thoughts out of my head.’  I discovered the challenge of long, deep stretches and a personal restorative yoga practice. I discovered a new love for the anatomy of the shoulder girdle and rotator cuff as I delved into possibilities for yoga as shoulder physical therapy.  I discovered that I could still love myself even with an injured shoulder.  It was a long process full of tears, fears, and self-questioning.  And of course, it included letting go of my idea of ‘the perfect pose.’

Even in my times of greatest pain and frustration, I tried to remember that I could be grateful for the things my body COULD do, instead of focusing solely on the things that it COULDN’T do.  (Most people don’t do six hours of yoga a day… it turns out… so there was no use in comparing myself to anyone else.  But I still tried!)   I tried to be grateful that I even had a body.  

I started using the mantra “healing and gratitude” during my personal meditation sessions.  I tried to smile toward my shoulder, not scowl at its slow progress. I even went so far as to write my body a Thank You card.  The card was realistic: it recognized that my body could not perform backbends, chaturangas, twists, or any of the poses that I wrote on my 2015 “Resolve Board” at the moment, but it said “Thank You” for being a body that could breathe, walk, hug, and teach.  It was cheesy.  And really, really, wonderful.

Are you grateful for your body?  Have you told it so lately?  How can you say “Thank You” to yourself?  (Hint… a yin yoga class at Westport Yoga KC and a luxurious bath?  a healthy green smoothie?  a moment of sitting still? )  

Say Thanks today.  There’s someone in your life who deserves a little gratitude and it might be you.  Happy Healing,

-lisa

say thanks.  #MeditationThoughtMondays

vacate. daily. #MeditationThoughtMondays

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vacate daily

 

Try this: Every day you wake up, consider it a vacation.

A colleague gave me this idea a few weeks ago and I’ve been trying it since.  On a vacation, I wake up feeling cozy in bed full of lush pillows and I think: “Today is going to be a perfect day.”

On a vacation, I consider my list of ‘activities that constitute a perfect day’ and choose a few of those activities.  I wake up with a smile and cuddle up on the couch with a good cup of coffee; I read a good book that challenges my mind; I take a leisurely walk and find something beautiful to appreciate; I savor the act of preparing a delicious, healthy meal; I spend moments laughing with someone I love.

Fall 2010 024

i truly love my lake house getaways

Generally, when I think about my ‘perfect vacation day’ I’m at Ha Ha Tonka State Park in Southern Missouri with my girlfriends.  Free from tv, internet and phone distractions, I love to get up early and practice yoga on the dock as the sun rises and then spend the day laughing with my best friends.

I hike, I enjoy nature, I eat chips and salsa, I read a novel, I sit around in my pajamas, I laugh; in short: I feel nourished.  It’s the perfect day.

So, what if I thought of EVERY DAY as a vacation?  Instead of getting all worked up and thinking: “I have SO MUCH to get done today!”  and thus inciting anxiety over the ample workload and not-so-ample time to complete it… I could think “I’m going to get my work finished in a timely manner and find a moment or two to vacate.”

I haven’t perfected this technique yet, but it’s working a little bit.  I’ve noticed that when I think of every day as a vacation, I’m actually more productive.  And I still take a few moments to ‘vacate’ daily. Currently, those moments of vacation are the 4 minutes it takes me to water my herb garden. I do it with care, thinking of this time not as a chore, but as a celebration of nature.  Those moments of vacation are the times I stop on my walk with my RussellClive and enjoy my neighbor’s daffodils.  The daily walk could be considered a chore, but instead it’s a vacation.  I haven’t figured out how to incorporate washing to dishes into this ‘perfect vacation day’ but maybe one day that won’t feel like a chore either.

One of my favorite poems suggests that every day can be a perfect vacation.

“On a day when the wind is perfect, the sail just needs to open and the world is full of beauty.  Today is such a day.”

I challenge you to consider what makes YOUR perfect ‘vacation day?”  

1.  Make a List of all things you like to do on vacation.

2.  Tomorrow, choose to do one of those things.

3.  Tomorrow, ‘vacate’ the stress of your every day routine for 1 minute.    Wake up and think: “Today is like a vacation!  I’ll still do all my work, but it’s going to be perfect!”

If you don’t know where to start, at least start by sitting still for one minute and draw more light into your life.

How was your vacation?  I’d love to hear about it.

Happy vacating,

-lisa