the uphill part is really, really hard. and also worth it.

I’m not the biggest fan uphill. Even if it’s in a spectacularly gorgeous place, like Sequoia National Park, (which, thanks to my recent back country trip is my new favorite U.S. National Park) the “uphill” part of hiking isn’t my favorite.

Sequoia National Park was everything I wanted it to be: bursting to the brim with gargantuan trees and switchback hiking trails and boulder-strewn valleys and jagged horizons. I reflected on my Instagram feed about how quiet it was, noting: “There’s just something about being on trails where the only sounds are bird calls and insect conversations and rushing mountain streams. hiking boots crunch shale and the occasional breeze whistles through, but otherwise it’s just us and the trees standing proud, reverential and silent, surveying our descent into the valley below.”

And, let me tell you, the descent was steep. I know this, because I struggled with the weight of my backpack and a healthy dose of altitude sickness on the uphill part. )Of which, as previously mentioned, I’m not the biggest fan.) Mostly because of the short-of-breath-ness, and the fact that it usually looks impossible to walk to the top of the mountain pass from my vantage point, and also, it’s just plain hard work.

But, it is worth it. Because the views are insane. And there’s a power in rising to the challenge. And there’s a power in moving just one step beyond my perceived limitations. And there’s usually chocolate at the top.

One Mindfulness trick I use when I’m struggling to keep moving forward on a big uphill climb is the Counting Backwards method, courtesy of yoga teacher Erich Schiffman.

It works on a simple premise: When I’m in a place of mental discomfort, it’s nearly impossible to draw my attention inward and stay in the present moment. So my mental limitations and “freak-out thoughts” just get louder and louder and louder (and a little outlandish) and I experience a moment of anxiety. (You’ve probably experienced this sensation when you were stressed and couldn’t fall asleep at night. Ammiright?)

However, focusing on Counting Backwards anchors me in the present moment and allows me to practice pratyahara, the temporary withdrawing of the senses in Yoga Philosophy. In addition, letting the breath flow freely without the need to control it or change it helps me maintain mindful awareness. It’s a way of moving into the mindset of the “Observer” and regaining, well, a moment of perspective and sanity.

To practice Counting Backwards Meditation:

  1. Start by taking 3 Cleansing Inhales and 3 Cleansing Exhales, as big as possible.
  2. Remember that you are not going to change or control your breath, you are simply going to count it as it moves in and out of your body.
  3. Starting at 50, count backwards with each inhale and exhale until reaching the count of 1.
  4. The inhale is 50, the exhale is 49. The inhale is 48, the exhale is 47 and so on and so forth. If you lose count or become distracted, just start over at 50.
  5. When you reach 1, pause for a few moments and notice any positive changes and shifts in your body, mind and Spirit.

I use this technique often: to slow down the turning vrttis of my mind, to get me up a steep hiking trail, to help me fall asleep and to drop me into meditation mode.

Try my Free Audio Guided Meditation “Counting Backwards” 

Let me know when you use it and how it helps you. Happy Counting,

-lisa

p.s. please for the love, promote our National Parks System! Protect some of the most stunning places on Earth.

why writing is better than talking. (don’t miss this new 6 week class!)

Nothing has helped me achieve greater clarity and healing than daily Writing Meditation.

Chatting with my friends and my Life Coach Julie Edge is great, of course, and definitely better than talking to myself all the time. (Perspective, right?) But daily Writing Meditation is 10 times better; because when my thoughts crystallize into written words, patterns that I couldn’t see in the swirling of my internal monologue become clear.

The first few minutes of pen-to-paper writing is really the surface excavation: I’m dumping and scooping and sweeping dirt aside to get down to the next level. The “next level” is when I get courageous enough to write down the thoughts that I would never say aloud to anyone.

Because, they are totally and completely ridiculously untrue — but they are unconscious assumptions and are actually holding me back. Research shows that the practice of journaling and writing meditation reduces stress, help us process grief and promotes healthy expression of emotion.

When it comes to writing meditation, I’ve found that the more I do it, the easier it gets.

Writing meditation helps me identify the the mental habits and limiting beliefs that are swirling around in my mind, making it all muddy and gunky. And then it helps me clear it all off, clean up my mind and take a deep breath.

Eventually, I’ll write something down— often hidden in between sentences of confusion or worry or scheming or totally random thoughts— that just makes everything clear. I’ll read it and think: “Oh now, THAT’S valuable insight. That is a gem.”

Join me for this 6 week course: Writing to Wholeness, to learn how daily writing meditation can unleash you from long-held mental habits and beliefs that are gunking up your life.

with Julie Edge and Lisa Ash Drackert

Sundays September 23, October 7, October 21, 2018

4:00- 5:30 pm @ Westport Yoga KC

Learn how to build and sustain a daily writing meditation practice in this exclusive 6-week course.

The Writing-to-Wholeness Workshop includes:

  • 6 weeks of daily writing prompts delivered via text
  • 3 in-person class sessions held at Westport Yoga KC
  • a custom tailored journal
  • weekly e-mails with writing tips and encouragement to support your practice
  • continuous online support from facilitators Julie Edge and Lisa Ash Drackert
  • complimentary tea and water during in-person meeting sessions
  • complimentary attendance of the Yin Yoga class immediately following in-person gatherings
  • 10% off all retail purchases at Westport Yoga KC during the duration of your course

Writing meditation is a daily practice blending the art of writing with spiritual development. Similar to journaling, writing meditation practice provides a safe place for emotional release and of ‘letting go’ of thoughts. However, different than journaling, writing meditation is not meant to capture the day’s activities or to solve a specific problem. It’s a free writing method that offers a way to observe thoughts and emotion in a judgement-free zone. This class will be led by Julie Edge of Inside Edge Coaching and Lisa Ash Drackert of Westport Yoga KC.

Learn more here: www.insideedgecoach.com/writing-workshop

Investment: $95  Registration Opens July 18

e-mail me to get on the Wait List– I have one 15% off discount code for the first person on the Wait List!

the multitasking epidemic.

roasted beet and black rice spinach salad

roasted beet and black rice spinach salad

I choked on a piece of spinach, slick with homemade garden-herb dressing. Not the usual choking culprit. I coughed for a good three minutes before slugging back some lemon-water and finding my breath again.

Why did I choke? Multitasking. It’s become an epidemic. I thought I was immune to it, but somehow I caught the multitasking bug. For many years I suffered from multitasking; I deluded myself into thinking that I could, in fact, do four things at once with equal care and attention to each item.  Untrue. As awesome as my brain is, the research still stands that humans are not great at multitasking, even though our deluded grandeur tells us we can master all things.

This particular spinach-choking-day, I was trying to text my Ironman, plug my phone in to charge, talk to my dog, and eat a salad all at the same time. NONE of these things were life-changing, life-threatening, immediate or necessary.  All of them could have happened in a neat, organized, sequential order and I would have lived to tell about it. Instead, I almost didn’t.

Seriously, haven’t I learned that I should do one thing at a time, with full and careful consideration, in order to truly enjoy it? Isn’t this called something like… mindfulness?

I try to practice this during my seated meditation, and during my yoga classes, but mindfulness doesn’t always follow me around like multitasking does. The wise Thich Nhat Hanh even says doing one thing at a time (like eating my delicious breakfast salad) is the secret to my success.

“Sometimes we eat and we are not aware that we’re eating.  Our mind isn’t there. When our mind isn’t present, we look but we don’t see, we listen but we don’t hear, we eat but we don’t know the flavor of the food. This is a state of forgetfulness. To be truly present, we have to stop our thinking. This is the secret to success.” -TNH

Let me repeat: the secret to my success!

So, could the epidemic of multitasking be my downfall? (Ugh, another habit to re-train.) I think it might be. I mean, the other day I was on the phone chatting with a friend, prepping breakfast for the next day, and I started to grind coffee. Not lying: I was so overcome with the need to multitask that I thought grinding coffee would be a good thing to do while I was talking. On. The. Phone. (I can see you shaking your head in disbelief, dear Reader.)

How am I going to cure myself?  I’m not sure, but it may require a change in mindset that approaches all I’m doing as play, instead of work (remember this fun post?). And it may require me to set an intention at the beginning of the day that I am going to practice self-care by giving my brain the opportunity to be present. It may require diligent awareness of how I can heal my fragmented mind-body connection by slowing down, sitting still, and setting this intention:

“Today, I will consciously choose to focus on one thing at a time.”

IMG_4329

“Today, I will consciously choose to focus on one thing at a time.”

And, above all, it will require me to return to Mindfulness as often as I can, calling myself back repeatedly, like the ringing of the Bell calls monks to meditation.

When it starts to work and I feel myself growing more whole, present, and mindful, I will let you know.

When do you find yourself multi-tasking?  What are you missing out on because you aren’t paying attention? How are you going to pay closer attention to all the little things that could bring you joy?

Looking forward to healing with you,

-lisa

 

 

 

 

what you keep forgetting. #MeditationThoughtMondays

bells of mindfulness

I’m great at forgetting things.  One time I left the mop by the front door to remind myself I needed to clean my entryway and it was still there two weeks later.  (I put the mop away. Without cleaning.)

With forgetting comes the nearly oracle act of remembering the most mundane, ordinary tasks at the most inappropriate times. Like when I’m with a private client talking about their chronic back pain and I suddenly remember I didn’t put the sheets in the dryer. Or when I’m in savasana at the end of yoga class and realize I forgot to pay my rent and return a phone call from last Tuesday. Not game changers, but definitely not ideal to forget.

My mind is such an dexterous venue; I’m grateful that it can multi-task and hold incongruent thoughts simultaneously, but sometimes, man, I wish it could focus on one thing. I’m always looking for more ways to be mindful, to train my mind to be actually present in the moment, as opposed to hurdling wildly from one thought to the next. ‘Mindfulness’ is surprisingly trendy right now…at least that’s what trendy people tell me. The act of being mindful is hard remember, because… I just forget.

Even if I wake up with the intention of being mindful and present all day long (even while driving!), I’ve forgotten by 9:30 am when I sit down at my computer, with my breakfast and my iPhone and start multi-tasking.

One mindfulness training exercise that I’ve used for years and I absolutely love is called ‘Bells of Mindfulness.’  It involves choosing a sound— like a chime on a timer— to bring your attention back into the present moment. 

In his gem of a book, Peace is Every Step, Thich Nhat Hanh tells a story about his ‘Bells of Mindfulness.’  He says that he and his fellow monks living in the monastery at Plum Village always stop what they are doing when they hear the monastery bells ringing. Upon hearing the sound of the bell, he pauses, takes a deep breath and thinks:

‘The sound of the bell brings me back to my true self.’   

this is me, not being mindful, just doing an annoying 'tourist' yoga-gram in front of a church in Europe.

this is me, not being mindful, just doing an annoying ‘tourist yoga-gram’ in front of a church in Europe.

This probably works well if you live in a place like Europe where cathedral bells toll on the hour, but I don’t hear church bells every day. Thich Nhat Hanh suggests choosing a different sound, such as the dinging in your car when you forget to buckle your seat belt, as a ‘bell of mindfulness.’ I suggest using your smart phone or your genius watch or whatever the heck tells you ‘you have too much to do!’ all day long.  Remember how I have my phone remind me to de-stress every few hours?

 

Here’s a quick, 5- minute mindfulness practice that will help you train your mind.  (You’ll want to download the free app “Insight Timer.”) 

  1. Find a comfortable place to sit.
  2. Set a timer for 5 minutes, with a 1 minute interval chime.  
  3. Breathe naturally, enjoying the natural rhythm of your breath. Focus on the place where the breath enters your body, and just enjoy sitting.
  4. Start your timer.
  5. Every time you hear the interval chime, repeat silently: “The sound of the bell brings me back to my true self.”
  6. After five minutes, notice how calm you feel. Smile, extend gratitude for the time you spent ‘not forgetting’ your true self, and move on with your day.

I suggest practicing this Meditation Moment in the middle of your work day and also before your formal meditation practice in the evening.

Let me know what you forget.

-lisa

bells of mindfulness

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

Image

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.  Mean it.  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 matter, I am grateful.

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

Every day that I am given 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 I change someone’s life….. or that someone changes mine, 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 or a broken heart, I am grateful because each affliction offers an opportunity to learn about myself and my fellow man.

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 can 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 Living,

-lisa