collect a reservoir of compassion.

“Practicing self-love means learning how to trust ourselves, to treat ourselves with respect and to be kind and affectionate with ourselves.” – Brene Brown

It’s surprising how quickly coin jars fill up. My Ironman and I occasionally drop spare change in a glass jar, which we joke is my tattoo fund, but we really end up emptying it for car washing and street parking the Adventure Van. Miraculously, it’s almost always full even though it collects coins one by one; it’s like drops of water filling a reservoir.

Compassion, too, is something we can collect and store up in our hearts little by little. It starts by learning to befriend ourselves, speak kindly to ourselves, forgive ourselves and eventually love ourselves. Every time we treat ourselves with loving-kindness, we create a well-spring of compassion from which we can draw from and extend to others.

Compassion is conscious awareness of suffering and a desire to relieve the suffering through an energetic response.

And anyone will tell you: it’s super hard to be compassionate towards other humans when you are tired, burnt-out, stressed-out and overall feeling gutted and empty.

So start with a few moments of self-love every day. Start by resting, breathing, eating well. Start collecting compassion one precious coin at a time. Begin filling a reservoir by choosing self-care (remember this post about the elements of self-care?) so that you can better love yourself and others.

Collect 6 minutes of compassion today by trying a Guided Meditation. Go buy a healthy snack. Take a walk in the sunshine. Write yourself a Positive Review. However you practice self-care, do it today.

Happy Collecting,

-lisa

the contents of my Soul: santosha

When I picture my Soul, I often picture it as a treasure box. As I move through my life, I collect trinkets to store in this treasure box for safe keeping. I’ve collected experiences of mountain-top serenity, phenomenal sunsets over the ocean, memories of juicy summer-ripe fruit shared with my grandmas, hilariously weird and awkward moments with my girlfriends, minutes of complete and utter bliss in meditation. I’ve also collected outbursts of anger, unjustified frustration directed toward the wrong (mostly innocent) person, days and days and days worth of worrying over future life and career choices.

Yoga philosophy tells me that every word, thought, action or impression I come in contact with is stored in my citta, which is the fancy Sanskrit name for ‘heart-mind-Soul consciousness’. (You can read more about it in this post.) I’m continually accumulating experiences to keep in my Soul treasure box, so what I want to know is: can I find contentment within the contents of my Soul?

Santosha, the personal practice of contentment, has to do with who I am, not what I have. (Remember how I need to stop buying jackets?)

This means I choose what I want the contents of my Soul to be. And you know what?

When I look inside my Soul Treasure Box, I want the contents to be bright and shiny and pure and free and full of love and light. I don’t want to carry around resentment toward the awful landlord who screamed his fool head off at me. Or unresolved grief over the loss of a dear friend. Or self-judgment over a job-half-well-done. These feelings are part of me being me (a human!) but they aren’t what I want to see when I open the contents of my Soul to examine them.

When learning santosha, reflect on these questions:

  • Do I feel contentment with the contents of my Soul?
  • What have I collected in my heart that makes me feel discontented?
  • What can I toss out in order to feel more contentment and fulfillment?

Happy Collecting,

-lisa

not needing more: santosha.

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“Contentment is the fragrance of present moment awareness. Contentment reflects a state of being in which your peace is independent of situations and circumstances happening around you.” – Deepak Chopra


I have 5 rain coats, approximately 63 sweatshirts, 3 puffy vests and a thousand reasons to stop buying more clothes. And still, I open my closet
and think: “I need a new jacket.”

What is it about being a human that makes us think, “I need more”?

Is it that we are truly lacking? Or just that contentment with what we have right in front of us is dulled in comparison to our feverish desire for more?

It’s not easy to feel contentment: it’s easier to believe that happiness will magically descend upon my life when I’m wildly successful/ can do a handstand perfectly/ lose the last five winter pounds/ have a new jacket/ the sun is shining every day/ yoga classes are filled to the brim.

I do it constantly, this ‘wanting more’ business. I want more students, more money, more hobbies, more free time, more Girl Scout Cookies, more puppies, more flowers for my front porch, more friends, more tattoos, more sunny days, more Instagram likes.

And yet, the wisdom of yoga tells me that I will still not feel content even if I have all these things. Ridiculously, I’ll still want more.
The practice and philosophy of Yoga teaches me that true contentment, called santosha, is independent of external factors and must derive its potency from my internal state.  Not what I have, but what I am. 

Contentment is inaccessible if I am living in the future, hoping for life to be perfect one day when I have more of everything I don’t really need.

Santosha requires me to examine all the reasons and all the ways I look for fulfillment, validation, praise and worth outside of myself. And instead, look for contentment in the exact present moment, with exactly what I have and exactly who I am.

One thing that helps me find contentment is to meditate on the gift of the Present Moment with this Guided Meditation:

Present Moment, Wonderful Moment

What does contentment (santosha) mean to you? How do you find it in the present moment? I’m looking forward to your answers,

-lisa

don’t feed the marmots: ahimsa

You’ve seen marmots, right? I mean, besides holding the title of cutest rodent name, they truly are the cutest. Their little noses never stop sniffing, they bounce down trails like plink-o balls and they steal smelly hiking shoes for snacks. Adorable, svelt, glamorously silver and long legged. I want to share snacks and stories and sunbathe with marmots.

But omygosh did you know you can kill a little furry creature by sharing trail snacks? Consuming human snacks (on purpose or inadvertently) disturbs the natural cycle of sustenance and wild ecology so deeply that one cheeze-it can kill a marmot.

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I was recently reminded of the power of ahimsa (non-harming) during my two week camping trip in the Canadian National Parks. These landscapes are breathtakingly momentous and magnificent. They are pristine; hundreds of miles of wild forests and mountains and waterways are preserved perfectly.

And because Parks Canada treasures their wildlife so deeply, campers are continuously reminded how damaging it is to feed furry critters. I’m an animal lover. My first instinct is to call and cajole and cuddle them… even the ones with sharp little teeth. So I had to pay careful attention to all my actions: I couldn’t and shouldn’t just do whatever I wanted, which mostly consisted of having high tea with marmots and sharing chocolate with bears. I needed to appraise my actions from the viewpoint of ahmisa first.

Ahimsa, which means compassion and non-harming, is the first of the yamas (ethical considerations of yoga, discussed in previous post) and is the cornerstone by which we build and measure all of our actions. Our marmots, our snacks and our yoga practice are all connected.

We learn ahimsa on our yoga mat when we pay attention to the intimate connection of our breath and our emotions and practice in a way that is laced with gentleness and compassion. The more we practice yoga, the more obvious it becomes: we are SO connected with other living beings. And our actions are extremely important because we are a microcosm of the macrocosm.

Deepak Chopra says it so perfectly:

“If you recognize your individuality is intimately woven into the fabric of life—that you are a strand in the web of life—you lose the ability to act in ways that are harmful to others.  Acting from this level of your soul, you are incapable of being violent because your whole being is established in peace.”

And that is how yoga changes the world. We LOSE the ability to act in harmful ways. We are INCAPABLE of violence because we are established in peace in our hearts and truly, honestly, want to choose compassion in each and every way.  Take your next breath and notice: you are sharing this breath with millons and gazillions of other sentient beings and you are one amazingly awesome strand in the web.

Go establish peace amongst yourselves and your marmot friends.

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quick fix: stress free in 60 seconds.

quick fix: stress free in 60 seconds.

You know those days that Nascar past you and leave you on the side of a dusty track feeling confused, jittery and not altogether sound of mind? The well-intentioned words “Yes, yes, yes, I’ll do that right after _____” are lost in the clamor of the day and ‘present moment’ or ‘mindfulness’ seem like ridiculous concepts that only used to matter to you. I definitely have those days. Usually involving surprises like, oh, a circuit breaker blew and the electricity is out, or oh, your colleague is in the hospital and needs all her classes covered or oh, Armageddon is on its way.

These are the days where finding time to meditate seems absolutely impossible because, well, frankly, you aren’t sure when you’ll find the time to even go to the bathroom.

On these days, I use a powerful ‘quick fix’ meditation technique that re-sets the brain as quickly as filling a blown fuse. It is based on a Kundalini yoga technique of combining a mantra (repetition of a word or phrase), a mudra (hand position) and specific breathing.

When I’m caught in the whirlwind of activity on a break-neck speed day, I use it as often as I can. I only need about 60 seconds to feel its benefits and ward off anxiety.

The words are: “I am peace and calm.” 

This simple mantra (repetition of a phrase) also has specific hand movements.

How to do it:

Touch the first finger to the thumb: “I”

Touch the second finger to the thumb: “am”

Touch the third finger to the thumb: “peace”

Touch the fourth finger to the thumb: “and calm.”

Repeat the mantra and do the hand motions, breathing deeply and evenly on the inhale and the exhale for 60 minutes.

File_003 “I am peace and calm.” 

Why to do it:

Physiologically, the fine motor movements of the fingers is a tactile reminder for the brain to re-set its cascade of stress hormones and stay in the moment.

Intellectually, the usage of present tense language of the mantra is a reminder for the mind to create its reality.

Energetically, the connection of the finger tips to the thumb creates a circuit of energy that acts as a conduit for the Spirit to be at ease.

You may not have 20 minutes for a full meditation practice, but you probably you have 60 seconds. Try this quick-fix and be stress free in 60 seconds.

Happy Stressing Less,

-lisa

who am I? #MeditationThoughtMondays

who we really are

At its core, yoga is the journey to unite with our True Selves.  It is much beyond sweating in spandex.  It is beyond having a perfect Virabradasana stance.  It beyond having a high-tech yoga mat.  It is a process of remembering our True Essence.  Even if only for one hour a day.  It is a big deal. (Remember this “no big deal” post?)

The authoritative text of yoga, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, describes the goal of yoga as nothing short of total freedom from suffering and total uniting with the Divine.  We can’t do this when we are attached to our ego.  We have to move from local (personal consciousness) to nonlocal awareness (community consciousness), which helps us see the bigger picture.  And it’s really, really, hard work.  And it can feel like a really, really, long journey.

I’ve been studying yoga for a decade and teaching it for over seven years.  And I’m nowhere close to being unattached to my ego; I’ve experienced total union with the Divine for an approximate total of 5.8 seconds over the past decade.  I’m still on the really, really, really long journey.

According to Dr. Deepak Chopra, “One way to connect with your soul is by consciously asking yourself questions that go to the heart of the human experience.”

Three key questions that bring you into the heart of your human experience are:

  1. Who am I?
  2. What do I want?
  3. How can I serve?   

These questions are outlined by Dr. Chopra in his book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga, which we are currently studying at Maya Yoga in my 6 am classes and in my Sunday morning Meditation Classes. You’ll want to investigate this summary if you don’t own the book.

The first question, ‘Who Am I?’ is usually answered with our role in relation to other people.  We may answer: daughter, wife, boss, father, etc.  Or we may identify in terms of positions or possessions: home-owner, assistant (to the) regional manager, middle school art teacher, etc.  Or we may identify with our choices: vegetarian, runner, lobbyist, etc.

But can we respond with answers that delve deeper than surface?  Our jobs may change, our families may change, our residence will change, our goals and experiences will certainly change over time.  What remains?  According to Yoga wisdom, It is the Experiencer, or the Inner Witness beyond our ego attachments, which remains.  Can we forget who we think we are… in order to come closer to who we really are?

Dr. Chopra illuminates: “The true purpose of yoga is to discover that aspect of your being that can never be lost.”

When you ask the question: “Who am I?”  Try to imagine who you are in Silence. You may want to start with this Meditation exercise.  Without words.  If you were completely alone: without a job, without a deadline, without a phone, without a hobby, without a family: who would you be?   

Try it.

  1. Sit in Meditation.  Set a timer for 5 minutes.  (Have a pen and paper handy.)
  2. Take 10 steady inhales and exhales to calm your mind.
  3. Breathe without agenda. Silently ask yourself: “who am I?”
  4. Notice the answers. Do not judge. Just notice.
  5. When the timer goes off, take 10 steady inhales and exhales.
  6. Open your eyes and write down your answers.
  7. Repeat for 7 days in a row. Notice how your answers change.

We will work on Question 2 next week…

“We need to forget who we think we are so we can become who we really are.”  -Paulo Coelho

Happy Forgetting,

-lisa

who we really are