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

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

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

cancel your cable TV.

TV Commercials are my downfall. Advertising firms should be proud– every time a commercial comes on, I am immediately sucked in: slack-jawed, eyes glued, ears tuned in to the Very Exciting! Limited Time! Opportunity to spend money!

Canceling cable TV was a game changer. A conscious choice to reduce my mental clutter by limiting TV and its addicting commercials (and wearying newscasts) helped me commit to saucha.

Saucha, as introduced in the previous two posts, means clarity and self-care. It is not a directive to condemn anything as ‘dirty’ or ‘impure.’ It is simply the practice of reducing mental and physical clutter so that your mind is clear and focused.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with TV, but omygosh who can focus after watching  neon flashing signs and political rivalry and New Cars! and all the incredible cleaning product demos that are like MAGIC?

Cancelling cable TV was one extremely effective way to reduce mental clutter and practice saucha. And, four years later, I’m happier for it.

What is yours?

Culling your Facebook feed? Turning down the radio? Deleting your Twitter app? Limiting social media to once a day? Taking a walk? Practicing yoga outside?

This article series examined 3 aspects of saucha: keeping the house tidy, making loving food choices, and reducing mental turbulence. I’d like to hear your stories: what actions are you taking to promote clarity, self-care and self-love?

What small “one-minute action” will you take to reduce mental turbulence and increase health and happiness?

Happy Cancelling,

-lisa

saucha: is eating this cinnamon roll an action of self-care?

I absolutely love cinnamon rolls. My mom’s are the best because they are covered in homemade caramel sauce and walnuts. McLain’s Bakery wins a close second and third place goes to Happy Valley Retreat Center in Santa Cruz, California. (Where I have the privilege to teach at the Awakened Heart Spiritual Development Retreat this weekend!  And I will undoubtedly eat WAY too many cinnamon rolls.)

As I introduced in my previous post, the study of the niyama saucha, invites us to continually ask the question: “Is this an action of self-care?”  

Traditionally, saucha translates as ‘cleanliness or purity.’ That may sound restrictive at first, but I believe saucha is actually about indulging in quality self-care. Saucha is meant to help us cultivate self-care by examining what we are actually putting in and on our bodies to then make conscious, loving decisions.

For example: a huge cinnamon roll slathered in decadent, tantalizing icing? Um, probably not the cleanest lunch choice. I probably won’t feel super energized and self-loving after scarfing it down. But an herbal-cinnamon hot tea and a nooner yoga class? Yes, thank you very much, I would feel very well cared-for after indulging in that choice.

I practice saucha not as a list of things I shouldn’t do (that sounds like a morality issue and makes my inner rebel want to rebel) but as a list of things I CAN DO to show my body, mind and Spirit greater tenderness and self-care. I CAN decide to avoid dairy to keep my skin glowing and my allergies under control. I CAN decide to use only paraben-free and fragrance-free products to keep my hormones balanced. I CAN decide to eat a kale salad to keep my energy up. I CAN decide to keep my office, my yoga studio and my yoga mat clean to keep me feeling healthy, energized and focused.

Again, I choose these actions not because they are inherently ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ or ‘shoulds’ or ‘shouldn’ts,’ but because they invite me into greater self-care and tenderness.

As you move throughout your day, challenge yourself to pause, take a breath and ask: “Is this an action of self-care?” then proceed with tenderness.

Happy Self-Care Day,

-lisa

are you sometimes stressed? (me. to.)

Ok, so I understand that stress can make us stronger (hello Stress Wood and Biosphere 2) but I don’t actually know anyone who wakes up and says: “Bring on the stress! I want to endure and persevere today!” with a great big smile on their face.

I sure don’t. I sometimes feel overwhelmed and stressed just by the IDEA of being overwhelmed and stressed. The best way I have found to acknowledge, transmute and transform stress is meditation. Meditation has about a million psychological and physiological benefits: enhanced immune system, increased brain nueroplasticity and decreased sense of alienation and anxiety to name a few.

But my absolute favorite benefit is how it decreases our stress response. Something we all need. And it’s something we can all learn.

I love introducing Meditation as a technique to lower stress and increase hope, health and happiness. I shared a technique I call “60 second quick-fix” for stress on my blog last spring and have an extensive offering of free Guided Meditations here.

But my absolute favorite way is by teaching my 3 Week Course: Introduction to Meditation for Stress Relief. I teach it twice a year and it always sells out. This updated curriculum includes new research based on the MBSR technique, clinical trials and every day application of mindfulness. Please join me:

Introduction to Meditation for Stress Relief

Sundays December 3, 10 and 17, 2017  2 pm-4 pm

Investment:

This 3-part series is a perfect introduction to Meditation. We will explore the modern-day benefits of meditation and how you can integrate the practice into your life to relieve stress.

In each session, I’ll teach Breathing Techniques, Concentration Techniques and Meditation Techniques which cultivate attention, deepen focus and embrace stillness. You’ll have the opportunity to practice meditation in an encouraging group setting and engage in conversation with classmates. You will also learn ‘quick-fixes’ to trigger the relaxation response in your brain and body. The course includes a take-home manual for future reference and suggestions on how to successfully plan your at-home meditation practice.

(Limit 18 students; please note: there are no partial or full refunds for this event.)

 

scrunchies are back in?!?

The thing about yoga is that is 100% meant to be learned on the yoga mat and then 110% meant to be practiced off the yoga mat. I mean, it’s not really something that I “do.” It’s something I practice. Because practice means: ‘to do that which is not yet fully accomplished.’

Yoga is something that, like being kind and courageous, I get to practice every single day of my life. I can get better at it, but I probably won’t accomplish it fully 100% of each minute, each day.

The practicing of yoga-ing, is the practice of yoke-ing. It’s the act of binding my Spirit with the Divine Light that precedes all creation and to the principles of compassion and ethical living. In the Christian tradition, Jesus of Nazareth used that same word: yoke. He was talking about how ‘his yoke was easy’; meaning that deciding to live out his teachings grounded in compassion was something that any body and every body could get on board with. Any body and every body is and was invited to take time to go inward, in prayer, in meditation, in mindfulness with humility and a yearning to yoke to the Divine.

“To yoga with the Divine” sounds slightly bizarre, but ‘yoga’ in Sanskrit actually means ‘yoke’ or ‘to find union with.’ So, yeah, you can yoga with goats or yoga with Pearl Jam or yoga with Sangria or yoga with whatever is the new-bizarre-yoga-class-combo popular right now (real talk: don’t ask me what is popular… I just found out that scrunchies are back in and Justin Bieber is out. For the record, I don’t like scrunchies. And I LOVE Justin Bieber.) but if it doesn’t change your heart to be more:

  1. Kind and compassionate
  2. Truthful
  3. Generous
  4. Humble and Courageous
  5. Trustworthy and Trusting

then WHAT IS THE POINT in doing yoga??

The ethical principles of yoga are called ‘yamas.’ There are 5 of them and they are the primary foundation of yoga practice and yoga living. The eight important pieces of the yoking-to-Spirit-to-discover-ease-in-mind-and-enlightenment-puzzle-called-life are often called the Eight Limbs (Limbs as in, like, limbs on a tree. Not as in, you grow extra appendages.)

For thousands of years, humans have individually and collectively asked the questions: Who am I at my deepest level of Being? How do I live my truth in this community with other flawed-but-awesome humans?

These are the questions, we, as yogis and seekers of wisdom, ask in our Yoga Practice. These are the questions that the Yoga Tradition wants us to look for on the yoga mat; and then practice our answers off the yoga mat.

Over the next few months, I’ll be leading you through the five yamas and discussing how they can positively affect your life on and off the yoga mat. We’ll discover what these ethical principles mean and how they inform our vision of self-care, of care for our families and care for our communities. Together we will learn how to yoke ourselves in mind, body and Spirit to a way of living that affirms the world is abundant, gracious, loving and sustaining.

Send me your questions about the yamas and I will do my very best to point you in the right direction.

Also, don’t forget to do your own investigating; I suggest The Path of the Yoga Sutras by Nicolai Bachman and The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga by Deepak Chopra.

Happy Yoking,

-lisa

learning to polish the mind.

When I was little I collected every shiny little gemstone I could get my hands on. I LOVED those big bins of polished rocks at old-timey stores; I loved the treasure hunt of sifting through all the precious polished “gems” (probably just rocks put through a tumbler and not that precious at all) and finding the perfect one to add to my collection. I still secretly scavenge a beach pebble or river rock to bring back home with me when I travel.

Our thoughts, our emotions, our vrtti-s are exactly like these polished rocks.

In English, we loosely translate “vrtti-s” as “thoughts”; this is somewhat accurate. A better English translation is “turnings or cyclings.” All our thoughts and all our emotions are little gems of energy cycling through our field of awareness. In Yoga, the aware mind isn’t just the physical brain. Our awareness is both heart and mind—the citta. Everything we see, hear, feel and experience throughout the day is absorbed in our minds and is turned, over and over again, like rocks in a tumbler.

So, when the Yoga Sutra’s define for us in chapter 1 vs. 2 the primary aim of yoga as:

“Yogah citta vrtti nirodhah”

What it means is NOT that we should completely cease, stop and abolish the turnings and thoughts of the mind, but that we should use the techniques of yoga to polish the vrtti-s until they gleam and point us toward the True Light of Inner Awareness.

Vrtti-s aren’t necessarily a bad thing; we need to be thinking and feeling and perceiving to enjoy living this life as a human. But vrtti-s, when left unchecked, can cycle out of control. If the rock tumbler is left on high all night long, it’s going to start smoking and burn an engine belt. If the vrtti-s are left to their own devices, they can easily spin out of control.

I’m sure you can remember a time when your thoughts were spinning pinballs and your emotions were all over the place and smoke was coming out your ears and your mind was completely trapped in a cycle of unhelpful thoughts. I’m usually an incredible sleeper (thanks to a few hours of yoga classes and Russell Clive walking each day) but every once in a while, my brain just WON’T shut off when I lay down at night.

I have so many ideas! And so many worries! And so many things to do! And probably I won’t get them done! And even if I do, they will probably fail! And I’m not really sure I’m qualified to do all these things anyway! And probably I should just give up and instead sit on the couch all day.

It’s at these times when the vrtti-s are less than helpful, when the constant turning of the mind does not enhance my ability to be happy, healthy, and whole.

We use the techniques of yoga—the breath, the concentration, the meditation, the poses—to help us refine and polish our thoughts and emotions (vrtti-s) so that they do not distort our perception of the world, but instead enhance our perception of the world as being a place of unity, trust and abundance.


The techniques teach us to take in all the things that we see, hear, think and feel throughout the day and polish them up so that our mind is not preoccupied with raw, ragged and rough misconceptions about the world, but instead our mind sees what is true: that there is enough, that we ARE enough, that the inner light of awareness inside our heart is connected with that same light in others. That the Universe wants us to be in yoga, in union, with it at all times. That is a pretty little gem of wisdom worth collecting. 

What is your favorite yoga technique for ‘polishing the vrtti-s’? What helps you enhance your perception of the world as a place of unity and abundance?

I’d love to hear from you! (Also don’t forget to check out my page key yoga learnings for a brush up on terms like citta and purusha.)

-lisa