saucha: the one-minute rule of tidiness

I truly cannot work if my bed is not made. It the first thing I do when I come home from teaching and prepare to sit down at my computer. My ‘office’ is in my bedroom, which is great for Russell Clive because he can snuggle on my pillow and watch me type from across the room. But it’s also not great, because if my bed isn’t made, my work space feels messy, untidy and overwhelming.

I recently read Gretchen Rubin’The Happiness Project; I highly recommend it. In her experiment to generate more happiness in her life, Rubin adopted the “one-minute rule.” Which means: if it takes one minute or less to do it– do it now. File the paper, put the plate in the dishwasher, make the bed, wipe up the salt your snow boots tracked in. She found that this “one-minute rule” significantly decreased clutter, increased her sense of ease and helped her focus when it was time to work. I adopted this “one-minute rule” in January and found that it truly helped me appreciate and practice saucha (cleanliness and self-care), which is the first niyama (personal consideration) of the Yoga Philosophy.

I also adopted her “ten-minute tidy rule” (that’s the cutest name for cleaning ever invented). I often experience a moment of anxiety when I come home and my house is cluttered– instead of actually working during the workday, I feel like I’m just walking around my house putting things away. The “ten-minute tidy rule” means I take ten minutes to put the house to bed before I go to bed myself. I’m not up at midnight deep cleaning, I’m just turning off Netflix ten minutes earlier each night to tidy up my living space and practice saucha as a way of caring for myself and my belongings with greater tenderness.

Saucha asks us to look at all our little “one-minute” actions throughout the day and ask: is this an action of self-care? Does it contribute to my health and happiness?

Cleanliness is a perfect entry point to this: do you feel happier and healthier when your home is dirty and cluttered? Or do you feel happier and healthier when your home is tidy, clean and fresh? What contributes to a greater sense of ease?

This month as we study saucha, ask yourself: “How can I make this one-minute action an action of self-care?” And whatever you are doing in that one minute– showering, trimming your fingernails, cleaning the oven, organizing papers, wiping snow and sleet off dogpaws, eating a snack or rolling up your yoga mat– do it with greater tenderness and self-care.

Happy One Minute,

-lisa

“When the body is cleansed, the mind purified and the senses controlled, joyful awareness needed to realize the inner self, also comes.” -Yoga Sutras

90 seconds.

Did you know it takes 90 seconds for you to process the emotional onslaught of a strong emotion? Strong emotions are, well, really overwhelming, and probably unavoidable. These are the emotions that hit you like a giant tsunami and leave wreckage in their wake.

These uncomfortable emotions manifest from a surge of hormones let loose by the limbic system that turn the sympathetic nervous system on high. This ancient part of our brain is responsible for emotions, making memories and reacting to instinct.  img_4437

Particularly strong emotions feel like they will last FOREVER– anger, fear, anxiety, frustration– they don’t just feel like a passing storm, they feel like they may drown you.

But guess what? Your body deals with the physical hormonal imbalance of the strong emotion, washing it away into residual memory in 90 seconds.  

90 seconds.

This gives a whole new power to the act of sitting, breathing through our emotions.

If I can manage to stay with my breath for 90 seconds, then the emotion will subside. Sure, just like a stormy sea, another wave may roll up on me in a few minutes. But that wave will resolve itself too, in a mere 90 seconds.

Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön, author of When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice For Difficult writes this:

“The problem is that we have so little tolerance for uncomfortable feelings. You try everything to escape them, but if, somehow, you could stay present and touch the rawness of the experience, then you can learn something. Connect with the physical sensation in your body. It always feels really bad; it’s usually a tightening in the throat or the heart or the solar plexus. Stay with that and say to yourself, ‘Millions of people all over the world have this kind of discomfort, fear – you don’t even have to call it anything – this feeling of not wanting things to be this way. This is my link with humanity.’ Just connect with the idea that this moment is a shared experience all over the world.”

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“Just connect with the idea that this moment is a shared experience all over the world.” -P.C.

I published my Ocean Breathing for Strong Emotions in spring 2016, and received amazing feedback. Please read it here: “thoughts like a calm ocean.”

This time around I’ve got something special for you: your very own Guided Meditation Audio Track. Anytime you experience a particularly strong and uncomfortable emotion (I definitely had a few of these times while I was planning for my wedding this year!) remember: you only have to manage to swim for 90 seconds. Sit, breathe, imagine yourself floating in the center of the calm ocean. You can swim your way out.

Ocean Meditation

            1.  Dive in: Watch your thoughts come and go.  Do not control or manipulate.  Do not change or rush.  Notice that the thoughts are like waves.  They arise out of the ocean of consciousness and then dissolve right back to where they came from.  They were never separate.

2.    Get Wet:  If there is one wave that is particularly strong, big, or threatening, do not turn your back on it. Allow the wave to wash over you.  Even if the wave crashes on you, as if the emotion is particularly strong, stay with it.  Do not swim away.  Let the wave crash and the water droplets re-join the ocean.

            3.  Float:  Whenever new thoughts arise, like waves raised by the wind, watch them dissolve back into the ocean.  Allow yourself to float in the center of your experience.  Eventually, your thoughts will be like a calm ocean.

When you feel ready to integrate back into your daily life, do so slowly and mindfully. Take a few minutes to vacation from worrying and then float through your day.

Happy Floating,

Much love-

lisa

gratitude 2016.

gratitude balasana

I originally published this Full Gratitude meditation on my site three years ago. Since then, dozens of you have written me to tell me its profound impact on your daily life, on your family life, and on your ability to share in gratitude during the holiday season. To say it boldly, it may be the most profound article I have ever shared.

Recently I was completing an application to attend a leadership conference and this question was asked:

“Where can you bring more gratitude into your life?”

My first thought: everywhere.

But that’s a cop-out answer on any application, so I had to think of something specific. I’m always grateful for my job: bringing light and yoga into this world.  I’m always thankful for my students: they continue to receive my teaching with open hearts.  I’m always thankful for Russell Clive: my very best friend. And this year, I’m especially grateful for my family.  I’m grateful for my parents and sisters who helped me marry the love of my life and I’m grateful to my husband’s family for bringing me into theirs. I’m so grateful to be alive in a time when peace is possible, when reconciliation is more important than ever before, and when communities are banding together to support Love and equality.  In fact, I might say  that only reasonable response to being alive is Gratitude.

*  *  * 

I’d like you to practice this Gratitude Meditation to uncover a deeper present moment awareness.

Read each sentence aloud, mindfully.  Take a deep breath after you read it.  Pause. Feel it.

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.”

 

in gratitude,

-lisa

lisa14

everything is always changing.

I love my new house. It’s super cute, it’s the perfect size, and it’s on the same street as Westport Yoga so I can often walk to work. I love the craftsman style woodwork, the lofted home office and the spacious kitchen (WITH a dishwasher!).  It’s seriously the best little rental for my little family. However, it was quite a different story five months ago. I didn’t want to move. At all. My Ironman expected to drag me out of our old house kicking and screaming. I wasn’t ready for change.

You know that saying: “The only thing constant in life is change”?

It’s probably true, but I still don’t like it.

new house

Last year, I thought I had the perfect set up: I had hand-tailored my yoga teaching schedule, I had refined my weekly walking routes with Russell Clive, I had regular coffee dates with a Mentor… life was good.  I remember saying, “Everything is perfect; I don’t want anything to change next year.”

 ‘Well, guess what, honey,’ the Universe said, ‘That’s impossible. So get ready.’

The worldview in yoga includes the belief that all of creation is in a constant state of flux. This means that what we see may not actually be permanent reality. The two Sanskrit terms used interchangeably in the Yoga Sutras to describe this are Drsya and Prakriti.

Prakriti is the opposite side of the coin to Purusha, the term for the Light of awareness inside each of us that is immutable and non-transitory (read about Purusha here.)  Prakriti describes ‘what is seeable’ and what we observe through our senses, which is then filtered through our citta (heart-mind field of consciousness.)

Grant Tetons National Park

The worldview in yoga includes the belief that all of creation is in a constant state of flux. Which is good, otherwise we wouldn’t have mountains and streams!

Why is this important?  Because most of us experience anxiety and distress when things change. Some changes may actually be positive (i.e. my new house has TWO bathrooms AND a dishwasher!) but we cling to old attachments and try to stop the natural progression of life; then we get frustrated when our efforts are in vain.

As scholar Nicolai Bachman writes, “Understanding the transitory nature of all things is prerequisite to letting go of expectations and attachments.”

This is really hard to do if you don’t like change. (Join the club.) In fact, understanding the transitory nature of all things and being ok with it is probably my principle challenge right now. I understand that I am the ‘seer’ and all that I ‘see’ is being filtered through my emotional (and very busy) citta, and I understand that everything I perceive and feel is according to my perspective. What I think of as a heartbreaking change (like moving out of a house I loved) someone else may think of as an exciting and fulfilling new adventure.  It’s all in perspective, just like the time I had to practice on top of a picnic table.

But how the heck do I not get upset when things are changing and I liked them just the way they were?

What the Yoga Sutras tell us is that we can alleviate some of our suffering by distinguishing between what changes and what never changes.

Basically, if it changes, grows, shrinks, ages, dissipates, erupts or ultimately goes away, it’s probably in the Prakriti category, and it won’t help us move toward clarity and enlightenment if we hold on to it for dear life. Even extremely distressing emotional states such as grief, depression, and anxiety will evolve, change and dissolve over time. Just like Thich Naht Hanh told us in this post, suffering can be transformed, and it won’t last forever. However, if what you are experiencing is part of the conscious, permanent inner light of awareness that pervades our impermanent reality, then it belongs in the Purusha camp. That, we can rely on.

I am NOT AT ALL the Master of this concept, but I’m trying to get it. I’m trying to view material things as manifestations of an ever changing world, and think: “That’s just life, moving right along, and I am a small part of it!”

And maybe next time I move to a new house, I’ll look forward to the change.

What changes are happening in your life right now? Are you able to welcome these changes or are you resisting them? Are you able to separate what is part of the ‘seeable world’ (drysa or prakriti) and what is made of pure conscious awareness (purusha)? How can these two concepts change your world view?

Happy Changing,

-lisa

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.”

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“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

 

 

 

 

how to practice daily.

standasana modified

It’s time to make your own tradition. Something that YOU, here and now, can establish to bring you closer to enlightenment. Or at least make your day a little easier.

Sometimes, I feel like ‘doing yoga’ (aka, practicing weird and challenging asana poses that an Indian guy conjured up a few hundred years ago or that a random yoga teacher put on YouTube yesterday) is like eating caramel ribbon brownies and homemade ice cream every day.  It sounds like a good idea, until you do it every day.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love moving my body with my breath and finding a moment of complete flow with life, but sometimes I just want to sit down do nothing but watch robins hop around in my backyard. (Or more accurately, I want to sit with Russell Clive on the couch and watch The Office on Netflix.)

A few students reached out to me recently and asked for help structuring their yoga classes into their week and figuring out an attendance routine that works for them. (You can read my post here about how to stay accountable and make time for yoga.)  Unfortunately, their requests started off with apologetic/delirious guilt-talk:  They were feeling guilty and not like a ‘real yogi’ because they couldn’t practice the Ashtanga Primary Series every day because they had kids’ karate lessons to attend, low backs that felt pain after three consecutive days of practicing, animal shelter benefits to run, ailing parents to take care of, or generally had any semblance of a life outside of a yoga studio. (I think this life exists… I’m not sure, though. Actually, I was just at the airport and I noticed everyone wearing yoga pants except for the TSA agents. So maybe everyone does spend their entire day running between yoga classes. All signs point to yes.)

And then they had other questions about how to schedule their yoga practice: What if they just wanted to do something different???  What about a hard-core sweaty Vinyasa class?  What about a deep stretch yin yoga class?  What about a relaxing restorative yoga class?  What about a yoga sleeping-laughing-toad catching- metal forging-class set to a Pearl Jam soundtrack? Choices: endless.

So my advice?  Find something to do every single day that makes you HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY! (That’s three times, so you know it’s important.)

Tradition are great; they are evidence that some person, somewhere, at some time, made up a routine of doing something and found enlightenment. Or at least found their day to be easier.

Traditionally, yes, maybe the original Ashtanga Yogi’s practiced the Primary Series at 4:30 am 6 days a week and then took Saturdays off.  Traditionally, the original Ashtangi’s didn’t have 3 kids in elementary school, two fluffy dogs that never stopped shedding, an SUV that needed maintenance, Facebook accounts to keep updated, and a fulfilling career.  Traditionally, the original Ashtangi’s didn’t fly to work Monday through Thursday in Toledo and then jet back to KCMO for Friday Night Buck Night at the Royal’s with their grandkids.  So maybe their tradition isn’t very useful to you, to your low back, or to your happiness quotient.

It’s time to make your own tradition. Something that YOU, here and now, can establish to bring you closer to enlightenment. Or at least make your day a little easier.

Remember, yoga isn’t exercise.  Yoga is a study and a science of calming the mind waves in order to achieve freedom from our habits, our un-checked assumptions, and our fears.  It’s a calculated system of ethical living, breathing, attention, concentration, moving and meditation that just  makes your life happier. (There are a bajillion physical healing benefits to the poses as well: lowering blood pressure, healing nerve issues, strengthening bones and alleviating pain of all types, but that’s a different topic for a different day.)  So, whatever yoga you choose: Practice in a way that you can practice tomorrow and the next day and the next day.

wider for bc

So, whatever yoga you choose: Practice in a way that you can practice tomorrow and the next day and the next day.

Practice asana gently to avoid intentional suffering  and do something that makes you feel happy.  Yesterday, my yoga was an hour spent weeding my neighborhood organic garden plot.  (Happy and dirty!)  Today, it was one hour of Ashtanga Second Series with fifteen minutes of pranayama followed by a walk with my Russell Clive through the Kansas City Rose Garden. (Happy and sunkissed!) Tomorrow, it may be two hours of sweaty asana practice at Maya Yoga followed by mindfully cleaning my kitchen. (Happy and clean!)  The next day it may be ten minutes of breath meditation before I teach followed by a road-trip to St. Louis during which I say hello to every cow we drive past and delight in the robust green of Midwest Spring.  Maybe I’ll get out of the car and ‘yoga-stretch’ at Quick Trip, but whatever, the point is: Your Yoga can be ANYTHING.  On the mat, off the mat, in the morning, in the evening, in your body or in your head.  Anything that brings you into mindful, present-moment, wonderful awareness and draws you to a place of stillness where you practice compassion and self-care is YOGA.

So, please do this every day.  You will feel happy, happy, happy!

(And, please, come to my classes. That too. You should definitely come to my classes.  As often as you can. You’ll be happy, trust me.)

Happy Practicing,

-lisa

dream away.

ipod old 001 (13)It’s still the beginning of the New Year, so I’m still asking students, friends, and you, dear reader, to DREAM BIG.  Defining your dreams, writing them down, making concrete your innermost thoughts and desires builds a scaffolding for your life. The life-changing decisions (where should I live? what should my next career be? etc.) can then fit into this foundation.

I think this quote says it best:

 

“You’ve got to think about ‘big things’ while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.”  – alvin toffler

I have three real dreams in my life: to teach, to travel and to love.  

These are pretty BIG DREAMS.

So, I’m setting this foundation and filling it in, decision by decision, to build my dream life.  Here are some of my 2016 dream blue prints:

  1. To expand my Workshop and Special Events offerings.
  2. To Camp in the Cascades and Yoga in Yellowstone (family reunion 2016 here I come!)
  3. To actively nurture my friendships with “The Girls from Lamoni” and make new friendships along the way.
  4. To lay the foundation for a healthy and happy marriage (less than 8 months till the Big Day!)

This is just an overview.  My blueprints are actually much more detailed. The daily decisions that remind me to keep my dreams in sight?  Call one friend every week, just to chat. Schedule 3 workshops in 2016. Spend quality time with my Best Friend RussellClive and my Iron Man, while being mindful of what really matters and letting go of stress.

How are you dreaming big?  What Small Things can make your Big Things come true?

Happy Building the Life You Love,

-lisa

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