write yourself a Positive Review.

write yourself a Positive Review.

Being an avid book reader, I’m constantly scanning book reviews for new reads. (See my list of best yoga books for 2018 here.) If the reviewer spends her entire paragraph criticizing the characters and plot, then offers a backhanded comment on how it’s a pretty good book and worth the read, I’m not into it. If the reviewer praises the book overall and offers poignant suggestions for improvement to the author, however, I’m on my way to the library. I’m all about the Positive Review.

The great thing is, in my life, I’m the Reviewer. And every single day I can write a Positive Review about my life. Sure, I could spend hours reviewing all the things that aren’t going well and are stressing me out (the vrittis of the mind will spiral continuously if we let them) or I could treat myself compassionately and practice non-harming by writing a Positive Review.

Ahimsa, which means non-harming and compassion, is the first Yama and most important tenant of Yoga Philosophy. (Remember this post about the marmots?) We practice ahimsa every day (and especially during every yoga practice) by choosing self-talk that is compassionate and non-judgmental. Since our confidence is intimately connected to the quality of our self-talk, I think it’s really really important to spend time cultivating compassionate and positive comments and reviews.

Sure, we can always pinpoint areas of our lives to improve and ways to grow; but today, practice a little more self-love than usual and write yourself a Positive Review.

You deserve it.

Happy Writing,

-lisa

every day a gift: santosha

My natural inclination is to hit the ground running the moment my alarm goes off. And sometimes, I have to– teaching 6 am yoga classes means arriving at Westport Yoga KC at an indecent hour. 

But what I really crave is A Slow Morning. A morning that I can unwrap slowly, deliberately, with care and attention.

Years ago I was inspired by this quote from Thich Nhat Hanh and have held it close to my heart since. He says,

Every twenty-four hours is a tremendous gift to us. So we should all learn to live in a way that makes joy possible.”  

I’ve found that if I unwrap my morning slowly, like a precious gift, the possibility for joy, fulfillment and contentment increases exponentially. If I cherish my first stretch, spend an extra moment cuddling with Russell Clive, meditate first thing and drink my coffee slowly (from a real mug, not a travel mug), I start my day feeling tremendous contentment. I am ready to receive whatever the day has to offer.

It doesn’t mean that I’ll be HAPPY! every single moment of the rest of the day. Santosha, or contentment, is a difficult attitude to maintain. Because, let’s face it: happiness doesn’t always present itself tied up with a pretty ribbon every day. Some days go terribly wrong (hello, influenza B) and I’m frustrated, stressed and suffering.

Santosha is a possibility when I relinquish my expectations and choose instead to be grateful that I even get to open the gift of the day, regardless of what’s under the wrapping.

One way I increase my possibility for santosha is starting every morning in meditation– setting my intention that I’ll be open to receive. Whatever the day brings, I strive to stay open, grateful and aware of the preciousness of this day.

I hope this audio guided meditation helps you open to the possibilities of joy and santosha today.

“Open to Receive”

Happy Opening,

-lisa

Every twenty-four hours is a tremendous gift to us. So we should all learn to live in a way that makes joy possible.”  -TNH

(i almost stole a dog): asteya.

Have you ever had one of those mornings where you wake up and your first thought is: ‘I didn’t get enough sleep‘? And this snowballs into, ‘And I don’t have enough time today and I don’t have enough energy today and there’s SURE not enough sunshine today.’

When I have these days (usually it’s actually freezing and cloudy and the only things that can cheer me up are dance videos and Vitamin D) my ‘enough-ness’ is already deteriorating before I even take off my pajamas. In Yoga Philosophy, we recognize these automatic and unfiltered thoughts as mind-patterns which steal our energy. Coincidentally, one of the tenants of Yoga Philosophy is “asteya.It literally means: non-stealing. 

The foundation of practicing asteya is much more nuanced than, say… not stealing things. (Although, to be honest, I did try to steal a “stray” Ozark dog over New Year’s Eve… I guess I’m still working on the basic concept of asteya, after all. He really looked like he needed a home. And he was sweet and had a scruffy beard. I didn’t trust him to stay safe and warm running around the Ozark bluffs like a fool… but he didn’t trust my leash or the promise of a nice West Plaza home.) The foundation of asteya is TRUST. Trusting that we are enough and that the Universe is always working in our highest favor.

TRUST is the opposite of the scarcity-mindset that often dominates our mental landscape. In my experience, the two best ways to combat a scarcity-mindset of “not enough” are:

  1. Affirming that there is a greater power than me.
  2. Actively practicing a sentence of gratitude.

ONE: Affirming that there is a greater power than me. The healthiest people I know practice their spirituality every single day through moments of mindfulness. For example: when I am caught up in a snowstorm of not-enough-ness, I repeat this affirmation from Gabrielle Bernstein.

“There is a power greater than me, working on my behalf. I close my eyes, take a breath and tune into this energy.” 

This instantly changes my day; it invites me to get quiet and listen to: what actually matters. 

TWO: Actively practicing a sentence of gratitude. Can’t claim this one: positive psychology researchers, vulnerability expert Brene Brown and the great Oprah Winfrey all back this up. We are grateful FIRST, then we become more present and joyful. I stop whirly-twirly-anxiety-blizzard thoughts by saying out loud:

“I don’t want to steal from this moment or from my potential for joy. Right now, I am very grateful for ________________.” 

Use these two practices throughout your day. What do you notice about your ability to GIVE to the moment, instead of STEAL from it?  What can you learn about asteya from this practice?

when no one wants to hang out with me.

My Ironman AND my parents were out of town, my private client cancelled last minute and my dinner plans with girlfriends fell through. I had zero plans after 12:15 pm. On a Saturday.

Immediately, my brain started its persistent forecasting, planning and scheduling: I should call Katie and see if she wants to hang out, and if that doesn’t work I’ll invite her to brunch tomorrow, and if that doesn’t work I’ll just show up at her work and beg to take her to coffee… and if that doesn’t work I’ll put an ad on Craig’s List for someone to PLEASE hang out with me and distract me from all that is going on in my life/brain/heart these days. And also..I have a HUGE e-mail list and housework list and gardening list that I should tackle.

Instead, I sat on my back porch, ate hummus and listened to squirrel chatter. I did nothing.

It was glorious. For about 8.3 minutes; then I was ambushed by an undeniable-pee-your-pants-urge to do something and be ultra-productive.

The idea of Spaciousness (‘kha’ in Sanskrit) is a valuable idea in Yoga Philosophy. As we’ve learned in the recent two posts, ‘kha’ denotes the spaciousness and the quality of the heart/mind (citta) and determines how we interact with experiences in our daily lives. When we feel like our minds are spacious, we feel free. When we feel like our minds/agendas/brains are crowded with ‘too-much’ and ‘you-need-to’ we feel confined, trapped, overwhelmed.

I like the idea that Spaciousness can be appreciated in three ways: Time, Form and Soul.

Space in Time is a gap between activities, agendas and to-do-list items. It’s a vacation from the incessant need to be efficient and put-together and follow-all-the-rules. Time Space is priceless because it doesn’t happen all that often in my life, during which I yearn for space to rest but instead fill up my hours with appointments and classes and clients and laundry and e-mails. Time Space for me is permission to sit still and withdraw from my addiction to efficiency.

Space in Form is that unbelievable feeling of sprinting into a spacious field, flinging my arms wide open like a nut-case and breathing BIG into the uncluttered world that holds me. It’s why I YEARN to be in the mountains every summer and why I will endure 10 hours of hiking to get to the top of a 14er in Colorado. It’s why I MUST, for my own sanity, get out of Westport and into trees and on the trails weekly. Space in Form is necessary for my survival, I think.

Space in Soul is, literally, my mental salvation. It is freedom FROM. It’s learning to listen to my Inner Voice that says: Um, maybe don’t be so stressed about this, Lis, it’s probably not a big deal. At all. (It is, usually, never a big deal.) Soul Space for me is freedom from having to re-act with defensiveness or insecurity when someone criticizes me or what I choose to share on the omniscient inter-web. Soul Space for me is freedom from judging and disapproval when I look in the (fun-house) mirrors at Westport Yoga and instead just being glad that I even remembered to take a shower and put on my shirt right-side-out. Soul Space for me is learning to celebrate other yoga teachers and yoga studios instead of feeling jealous or inadequate. Basically, it’s freedom from having to react from fear because that’s what I’ve been conditioned to do and instead being free to respond from a place of worthiness and love. Oh, that is a sweet, sweet space.

I’d like you to take 5 minutes of quiet time and think about appreciating space in 3 different ways:

Time, Form and Soul. How do these qualities of space (kha) show up in your life? How can you make more spaciousness, more sweet space (sukha) in your day today?

I’d love to hear your answer–

-lisa

p.s. here are three possible answers:

  1. take a yoga class.
  2. listen to a guided meditation.
  3. tell everyone in your house how much you love them.

i appreciate you scooting over.

I haven’t been able to write much lately, not because I haven’t made time, but because I haven’t made space.

Like the genius warrior/writer Glennon Doyle Melton, reading is my inhale and writing is my exhale. I’ve been inhaling everything I can get my hands on for the past two months: self-help books, leadership books, spirituality books, yoga books, chick-lit-Savannah-wedding books, don’t-send-your-business- down-the-drain books. I’ve been inhaling so long and so deeply, I haven’t taken one exhale in months. Do you know how awesome it feels to be so full of breath that your eyes are popping out of your head and your lungs are Blimping it to anywhere but here? There is no space. There is absolutely no grace or conscious awareness or invitation for emotional healing when I hold my breath for two months straight. And definitely no space for writing about it.

In Sanskrit, the idea of space is defined by one little syllable: “kha.”

In the Yoga Sutras, we learn early on that the whole idea of yoga is to teach humans to mindfully breathe their way from duhkha, suffering, (literally: Bad Space) toward sukhaSafe Space.

In yoga practice, we discover sukha almost immediately. We learn that we find sukha through releasing physical pain, tension and fatigue with yoga poses that stretch and open our bodies. We learn that we feel a sense of sweet serenity when we finally trust our yoga mat enough to hold us safely in final relaxation pose, savasana.

And we also learn about Bad Space, suffering (duhkha), very early on in our yoga practice. We learn that pushing ourselves into a pose is a very, very bad idea because we wind up so sore we can only waddle the next day. We learn that holding the breath beyond the natural inhale and the natural exhale brings us face to face with our aversions, our desires, our addictions, our cravings. We learn that the mind will trick us into duhkha with its infinite configurations of distractions and illusions and lies, yelling things like: ‘You have no business being here! Get out now while you still can—before all the perfectly-clothed-bendy-peppy people in this room figure out you’re a big giant faker!

Being in a Safe Space versus a Bad Space is a big deal. It feels like the difference between being a weirdo robot about go berserk and being a real-life functioning person. It feels like the difference between crouching in a dank dark hole and cart-wheeling through a brilliantly sun-drenched glade. It feels like the difference between filling myself with more and more and more and more, still unable fill the void of yearning in my heart, no matter how much I fill it with, and being a person who can sit with herself in silence and actually enjoy it. It feels like the difference between living through the days and actually LIVING LIFE.

And here’s the thing: practicing yoga doesn’t prevent suffering in life—it doesn’t, actually, (even though I really want it to) prevent really crappy things from happening. Practicing yoga doesn’t earn me a free pass from turmoil; it just teaches me how to lead my thoughts away from a continuous loop of turmoil and get my head into a Safe Space where I can find sukha, relief, sweetness.

Over the next few posts I want to explore the concept of kha; what it looks like and feels like to find spaciousness in our lives.

I’m finally ready to explore exactly what kind of kha I’ve been hiding in the past few months as I’ve transitioned from yoga teacher to business owner, left my Ashtanga Yoga home and shepherded a community of grieving students through the loss of our former owner and the change in leadership at Westport Yoga.

I’m finally ready to exhale my way into the spaciousness of sweet, forgiving, Soulful living… and since writing is my exhale, I suppose I’m inviting you along for the ride. I appreciate you scooting over and making space for my Blimp-sized emotional exhale.

-lisa

 

you gotta clean your shower.

I’m always surprised that my shower isn’t very clean—it gets ‘washed’ every time I shower, but is somehow still dusty. If I’m not diligent with the shower scrubbing (which I’m not) guess what? It stays dirty and dusty no matter how many times I take a shower.

Studying yoga is similar. It requires attentiveness and daily commitment. The Yoga Sutras say that studying you requires abhyasa, or ‘diligent practice.’ Abhyasa is required because there are a billion gajillion distractions vying for our attention. Identifying our happiness and worth as being inextricably tied to these distractions leads to confusion and frustration. However, as we’ve learned in previous posts, uncovering purusha (our inner Light of awareness) leads to a path of inner contentment and happiness. The knowledge of our inner Self requires turning our attention inward on a regular basis.

Abhyasa (diligent practice) sounds daunting. I mean, I have a lot going on. I’m planning events, preparing workshops, writing my first book, keeping my website up-to-date, managing a yoga studio, teaching upwards of 12 classes a week, learning how to be a wife, keeping Russell Clive healthy, buying potted herbs like they are going out of style and maintaining loving friendships.

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Do I really have time to do my yoga practice every day?  YES. YES. YES. (Remember this post about how to practice daily?) I absolutely have to make time, if I want to be serious about studying yoga.

There’s a story about Mahatma Gandhi that I love (and paraphrase frequently when students try to tell me they don’t have time to come to my yoga classes). The story goes that Gandhi said to his staff one morning, “Today is a very busy day. I won’t have time to meditate for one hour today.” His staff was shocked—apparently this peace-loving-world-changing-guru never missed his hour of morning meditation. Then he said, “Today is so busy, I must meditate for two hours.” He understood the power of diligent, focused practice. 

Abhyasa is the desire to maintain a committed effort to know yourself at your deepest core and to use your yoga knowledge to heal your life, thought by thought, moment by moment. It is the recognition that no one else is going to clean your shower: you are the only person who can turn inward, examine your thoughts, and use discernment to choose which thoughts are helpful in your healing process.  Abhyasa is knowing that it is important to stay on track, even when you experience physical and emotional set-backs and you want to throw in the towel on this whole ‘finding meaning and enlightenment thing’ and just go sit in a hot tub.

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When I think about abhyasa, I remember that consistent, focused practice will deepen the connection to my Divine Inner Self. It may happen slowly, like little drops of water filling up a bucket, but eventually I’ve got enough water collected for a foot soak (yay!). Over time, my body, mind, and heart will be clear and healed. This cleansing process benefits myself and everyone who knows me. This inevitable truth makes it a lot easier to get up at 4:45 am and get myself on my meditation mat every morning.  Abhyasa is worth it.

If you already have a regular practice, make it more regular. If you don’t already have a regular practice, carve out some time in your day.  Even if it is only 5 minutes, that’s a great place to start. During this time, turn inward. Sit quietly. Allow the breath to wash away any residue of fatigue, tension, stress or distraction. Make this cleansing process a priority, I can’t think of anything more important than becoming happier and healthier.

If you need a good place to start, try listening to one of my Guided Meditations, like this one:

Happy Cleaning,

-lisa