Finding peace within yourself

how to find peace

Many people tell me that they think they should meditate because they want to be more calm…to become more peaceful.

I think peacefulness is a great thing to aspire to…it really is! I believe that world peace begins with the individual…it starts with you + me.

But that STRIVING tho….

What kind of toll does it take on yourself to be constantly striving to be something else? The constant WANTING for things to be different than they are? I think it can take quite a toll. You aren’t broken. This stress, and lack of inner peace that you might be experiencing is simply something to be noticed.

So, how to become more peaceful…

Start with mindful meditation, of course.

While meditating, try bringing awareness to your body. Sometimes stress or anxiety can manifest as different bodily sensations…tight shoulders, tightness in the chest or abdomen. By paying attention to the different sensations, you can observe how they can change over time. it’s possible to become intimately aware of the way body sensations can fluctuate. Bring a kind, non-judgmental awareness to whatever is present for you during your meditation, and pay attention to what happens.

By observing your body as it is in the present moment, you aren’t “inhaling the good shit and exhaling the bullshit”…you are sitting with the bullshit for a little while…just watching it do it’s thing…without judging it, or wanting it to change…but watching how it impacts your body.

This, I believe is the beginning to becoming more peaceful. Being ok with what is there in your body/mind can bring a sense of peace without even trying.

What does peace mean to you?

Caretake this moment

caretake this moment, by Epictetus 50 -135 CE

Caretake This Moment 

Caretake this moment.
Immerse yourself in its particulars.
Respond to this person, this challenge, this deed.

Quit the evasions.
Stop giving yourself needless trouble.
It is time to really live; to fully inhabit the situation you happen to be in now.
You are not some disinterested bystander.
Exert yourself.

When your doors are shut and your room is dark you are not alone.
The will of nature is within you as your natural genius is within.
Listen to its importunings.
Follow its directives.

As concerns the art of living, the material is your own life.
No great thing is created suddenly.
There must be time.

Give your best and always be kind.

by Epictetus  50 -135 CE

birdwings

rumi birdwings

Your grief for what you’ve lost lifts a mirror
up to where you are bravely working.

Expecting the worst, you look, and instead,
here’s the joyful face you’ve been wanting to see.

Your hand opens and closes, and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralyzed.

Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated 
as birdwings.

– Rumi

Creating the most perfect outdoor meditation space

Just LOOK at these gorgeous photos of outdoor meditation/yoga spaces, would you?! I WANT something like this for our house!!

You too can create the most incredible, Instagram-worthy backyard space to meditate in.

Meditation has now become a billion dollar industry. That’s billion with a B.

Many of us think that we must have all of the THINGS that go along with a new meditation practice…or new yoga practice. The new outfit, or incense, or macrame wall hanging…or outdoor meditation space.

While all of those things are really nice, and would certainly make for a comfortable place to meditate, it misses the whole point of meditation: paying attention to now, open-heartedly.

We can pay attention to the WANTING…the striving for bigger, better, more. Noting any feelings of desire (or lack of desire) that arise when you see the “perfect” THING. It’s not wrong to want these things, and it is not a bad thing to build something like this for your own house. Instead of focusing on the thing, take a look at the wanting instead. How does that feel for you.

The truth is, you don’t need anything fancy. In fact THIS is probably the most helpful thing for your outdoor space:

folding_chair.jpg

I mean…you get one of these bad-boys, and you can take it outside for a little meditation sesh! haha!

Do you ever meditate outside? What do you use for a place to sit? A chair, the grass, the ground? a mat?

The world offers itself to your imagination

mary oliver wild geese

If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m a HUGE Mary Oliver fan. Here is her beautiful poem, Wild Geese, and below…Mary Oliver reading it.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

How to be honest with yourself.

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It’s National Honesty Day. I love how the month of April starts out with FOOLS, and ends with getting real!!

So, how do you become more honest with YOURSELF?!

With mindfulness. And meditation.

Of course I’d say that, right?!

But HOW does this work?!

When you sit in mindfulness mediation, you are paying attention to the present moment, non-judgmentally. You are simply noticing what is going on right NOW….with a willingness to be with what is.

Here’s the thing: Sitting with a willingness to be with what is, isn’t always rainbows and unicorns. Sometimes you have to sit right down in the muddy water of life and feel it…just BE with it for a while…watching how it unfolds. And, that’s ok! Mindfulness meditation practice gives us the chance to do this.

With a seated meditation practice, you might sit with some unpleasant feelings or thoughts. You have the opportunity to notice how those feelings & thoughts come and go. Gradually, you can learn to become more accepting of things as they are (remember that non-judgmental thing that I mentioned earlier?!).

The stories we tell ourselves: Very often, we have habitual ways of thinking of things…we have stories that we tell ourselves. These stories aren’t necessarily based on truth. Especially the negative self-talk or reasons why things are a certain way. With a regular mindfulness meditation practice, it’s easier to see these stories as they are happening. You can pay attention to whatever happens to arise in each particular moment.

Having a sense of humor helps sometimes too…believe me.

Seeing your TRUE self is possible when the stories are seen as just that: stories. We can be in the present moment with what ACTUALLY is…and have the opportunity to see things as they are when we practice mindfulness meditation.

So, happy honesty day, everyone! Have a little sit, and let’s get real.

Meditation with crazy dogs

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Here’s what my meditation practice often looks like with my 2 crazy dogs:

  1. I sit on my meditation mat, on the floor.

  2. Dogs realize that I’m sitting on their level, which, to them means playtime. WOOHOO!

  3. Dogs run over to me to play as I close my eyes, and attempt to settle in.

  4. I fold my hands, and place them in my lap.

  5. Weenie , my dachshund, nudges my hand for me to pet him. (yes, that’s a link to HIS Instagram…you should follow him…he’s adorable!)

  6. I keep my hands still.

  7. Weenie nudges me again….and again…and again…

  8. Frustrated, Weenie goes to find a toy in his toy box which is near my seat.

  9. Weenie shakes his toy violently…not across the room, but RIGHT next to me.

  10. Weenie removes stuffing from toy.

  11. Weenie gets tired, and when he gets tired, he licks his paw.

  12. Weenie continues to lick his paw for at least 20 minutes.

  13. Meanwhile, Lilly, my terrier, tries to curl up in my lap.

  14. Lilly makes circles in my lap, in attempt to get comfy.

  15. Lilly decides to lie next to me quietly…

  16. Something happens outside that only the dogs can hear.

  17. Both dogs try to alert me to the outside noises by barking…

  18. and barking and barking and barking…

In spite of all this craziness, It’s totally possible to practice mindful meditation with crazy dogs!

Mindfulness is paying attention in the present moment, without judgement….So, as I sit on my mat, I acknowledge what is going on as it’s happening.

Sometimes…there’s a LOT happening!

Finding an absolutely silent place to meditate isn’t always possible, or necessary. I change my focus from my breath, to sounds and sensations. I listen to the different sounds my dogs are making…and the body sensations of them in my lap, licking my leg, nudging my hand (or whatever their attempt to get attention du jour is).

I also pay attention to emotions as they come up…sometimes frustrations (why can’t they just lie quietly…UGH!)…sometimes joy (the nudging of my hands warms my heart)…sometimes anger (the BARKING!!). I can sense what it feels like in my body when these emotions come up.

Every day is different meditating with dogs in the house. Every moment is different. Sometimes there is silence and calm, sometimes they want more attention, some days, less. It’s a beautiful flow of life!

Do you have massive distractions when you attempt to meditate? How is that for you?

The Summer Day

Mary Oliver Summer Day poem

The Summer Day

Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear? Who made the grasshopper? This grasshopper, I mean-- the one who has flung herself out of the grass, the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-- who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face. Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away. I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? Mary Oliver, The House of Light, Beacon Press, Boston, 1990.

Two kinds of Intelligence

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Two Kinds of Intelligence

There are two kinds of intelligence: One acquired,

as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts

from books and from what the teacher says,

collecting information from the traditional sciences

as well as from the new sciences.

With such intelligence you rise in the world.

You get ranked ahead or behind others

in regard to your competence in retaining

information. You stroll with this intelligence

in and out of fields of knowledge, getting always more

marks on your preserving tablets.

There is another kind of tablet, one

already completed and preserved inside you.

A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness

in the center of the chest. This other intelligence

does not turn yellow or stagnate. It’s fluid,

and it doesn’t move from outside to inside

through the conduits of plumbing-learning.

This second knowing is a fountainhead

from within you, moving out.

The Essesential Rumi, Translation by Coleman Barks with John Moyne, Harper,

San Francisco, 1995.



Walk slowly...

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Walk Slowly by Danna Faulds

It only takes a reminder to breathe,
a moment to be still, and just like that,
something in me settles, softens, makes
space for imperfection. The harsh voice
of judgment drops to a whisper and I
remember again that life isn't a relay
race; that we will all cross the finish
line; that waking up to life is what we
were born for. As many times as I
forget, catch myself charging forward
without even knowing where I'm going,
that many times I can make the choice
to stop, to breathe, and be, and walk
slowly into the mystery.

Mindful yoga for trauma survivors

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness month. Yoga and meditation can be really helpful for survivors of trauma. It has helped me immensely. Here are a couple of practices that I have found very grounding.

A few things first, though…

First, yoga and meditation are not a panacea for survivors. Finding a great therapist, AND finding a yoga teacher that has trauma-sensitivity training can both both be important for your healing journey.

Secondly, what helps me, might be different from what helps you. Sometimes an active yoga practice is called for, sometimes, being still is the best.

Thirdly. I love this book by Kristin Neff, Ph.D called Self-Compassion, The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself. I think it should be required reading.

Breath awareness:

yogic breath awareness for trauma

Finding a comfortable space where you can take some time to pay attention to your breath can be healing. I use a breath awareness practice daily to help me connect with my body.

Here’s how:

If you can prop yourself up on an angle, (like the student in this photo) with a bolster or pillow, and some yoga blocks or books…or even the arm of your couch if that feels ok for you. Or, find a comfortable seated position…on the floor, on a chair.

The key here, is doing what feels ok for you.

Keeping your eyes open is ok. Closing your eyes is ok.

Place your hands on your heart and belly, or wherever is comfortable for you.

Begin by paying attention to how your breath feels in your body. Really pay attention. What is it like? Noticing the quality of your breath. Maybe feeling your ribs expanding and contracting. Maybe feeling your belly inflating and deflating.

It’s really normal for thoughts to distract you from your breath. Be kind to yourself, and bring your awareness back to your breath.

If you begin to feel panic, or feel uncomfortable, that’s totally ok. You can stop any time.

Keep paying attention to your breath for as long as you feel comfortable.

Legs Up the Wall Pose (viparita karani)

viparita karani for trauma

Very often, trauma survivors spend lots of time in the flight-fight-or freeze state. It’s a heightened state for our central nervous systems, and can wreak havoc on our bodies and minds.

This pose is known to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (the opposite of the flight/fight/freeze). It’s one of my personal favorites.

How to:

It’s a little awkward for many to get into this pose, but I recommend first, grabbing a pillow or yoga bolster (or even a folded towel) to have close by.

Sit with your hips near the wall, and swing your legs around and up. Sometimes you need to scooch (technical term..haha) your hips closer to the wall using your arms. I did say it could be awkward, right?!

Be mindful of tight hamstrings. If straightening your legs feels bad, then you can move your hips away from the wall until it is comfortable. Bending the knees is fine, too.

Eyes open or closed. Your choice.

Once your legs are up, you can place a bolster under the hips (like in the photo)….or not. Whatever feels right for you.

I like to take a deep deep breath in, and let out a big sigh when I am in this pose. I sometimes do that a few times, and try to soften any tense muscles that I feel.

Stay in this pose as long as you wish. To get out of the pose, bend the knees, and roll to one side. Get up slowly.

Here is a link to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

You must ask for what you really want

You must ask for what you really want

Live in this moment…right now you have the opportunity to be awake. Each morning we can wake up to new ways of doing things…of letting go of our usual habitual responses to things. I think that’s what Rumi means in his poem:

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.

Don’t go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.

Don’t go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the door sill

Where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.

Don’t go back to sleep.

Rumi

Laughter Yoga is a thing!

Happy April Fools Day everyone!

In keeping with the lighthearted nature of the day, I thought I’d introduce you to laughter yoga.

Now, I realize that it may sound absolutely crazy to you, but, I’m here to tell you that it is SO much fun! Here’s a video that explains what it is all about, and I highly recommend that you find a group in your part of the world, and give it a try!

I know, I know…it looks SO weird…BELIEVE me…it’s amazing!

Here is a link to Laughter Yoga International.

Have you tried it? What did you think? Leave a comment below!

How to let go of control, and be cool with life when it sucks.

how to let go of control, and be cool with life when it sucks.

So, apparently, Saturday is National In Control Day. Who knew that was a thing?!!

Truly…I think it should be National Letting Go of Control Day.

Here’s what I know:

  1. We can’t control all aspects of our lives…especially the outcomes.

  2. Having expectations about the way our lives will turn out can lead to disappointment when it doesn’t go as we had planned.

  3. We like to avoid that disappointment (and hurt and anger and upset and confusion and depression) as much as we can.

  4. Trying to control our lives even more doesn’t lead to less disappointment (or hurt or anger or upset or confusion or depression).

  5. We like being happy (and joyful, and contented, and peaceful), and want to hold on to that feeling as much as possible.

  6. We like to keep feelings of happiness (or joyfulness, or elation, or peacefulness) as much as we can.

  7. Trying to control our lives even more doesn’t lead to more happiness (or joyfulness or contentedness, or peacefulness).

  8. We control aspects of our lives often when we are fearful that they won’t work out. Because we want to avoid negative emotions…being happy feels great, being sad does not.

  9. This is totally normal. You are human.

Paying attention to what is happening in the present moment (this is called mindfulness!) can help ease the desire for controlling our lives. If we pay attention to what is happening right now, in THIS moment, it allows us a little space to open up to life as it presents itself. ALL of life…the happy the sad, the in-between. Because when it comes right down to it, now is all you have.

Sometimes, when we pay attention to NOW, we have to feel that pain or that upset or that sucky moment. Becoming aware of what you are feeling, what you are sensing, what you are thinking, how you are breathing in a particular moment in time can help you be cool when life seems to suck…especially because you can learn to watch things continually change. They can shift from one feeling to another while you are paying attention.

I suggest starting with a short meditation session…and make it a daily habit. Pay attention to your breathing, and learn to embrace this life and all it has to offer.


*When you CAN’T seem to shake the upset, and it doesn’t move on, and you feel stuck. PLEASE ask for help. This too, is normal. It doesn’t mean you are crazy. It means you are human, and sometimes we humans need help.

Here are a couple of websites and numbers to help if you feel like you can’t go it alone:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

You can find a therapist at this website: Psychology Today


Let it go...

let it go

LET IT GO

Let go of the ways you thought life would unfold:

the holding of plans or dreams or expectations – Let it all go.

Save your strength to swim with the tide.

The choice to fight what is here before you now will

only result in struggle, fear, and desperate attempts

to flee from the very energy you long for. Let go.

Let it all go and flow with the grace that washes

through your days whether you received it gently

or with all your quills raised to defend against invaders.

Take this on faith; the mind may never find the

explanations that it seeks, but you will move forward

nonetheless. Let go, and the wave’s crest will carry

you to unknown shores, beyond your wildest dreams

or destinations. Let it all go and find the place of

rest and peace, and certain transformation.

Danna Faulds

Published in her book Go In and In: Poems from the Heart of Yoga

DIY Lemon Ginger Salt Scrub

Our home has become like a bed and breakfast since we moved to Tampa almost 4 years ago! It’s been so great having so many family & friends visit!! I make batches of this lemon ginger scrub to give to our guests to use when they are here. It has a wonderful scent, gets rave reviews…and couldn’t be simpler to make!!

Lemon Ginger Salt Scrub

3 cups of sea salt (I use THIS brand)
1 1/2 cups jojoba oil (Stillpoint Aromatics is my favorite…but Amazon has some HERE)
30 drops Ginger essential oil  (Zingiber officinale) (I love Pompeii Organics or buy on Amazon)
20 drops Lemon essential oil (Citrus limon) (at Stillpoint Aromatics or Amazon)

Combine the sea salt and oil in a small bowl….stir it really well! Then, drop in your oils, and stir it up again. Make sure to stir for a while to get the oils distributed evenly!

Scoop the scrub into sterilized jars….put on a cap and add a label if you’d like.

I love to use this in the shower as a scrub, or in the kitchen after chopping onions!

Some caution:

  • If you are using glass jars, they can get REALLY slippery in the shower…so use caution…OR use plastic jars like THESE.

  • Also, make sure you don’t let water get into your scrub, or it can get harmful bacteria in it. I buy little spoons (I buy THESE).

  • Be CAREFUL when buying oils on Amazon. There are only a couple of brands that I would recommend: Eden’s Garden and Plant Therapy are two trusted brands. There are tons of scammers out there who sell synthetic or altered oils….not great.

*the links to products on Amazon are affiliate links, and I get a little money for the referral.

Why I practice

private yoga instructor in Tampa

I have been practicing yoga for 18 years, and meditating for 8 years…I’ve gone in waves of being super diligent in my practice…to completely blowing it off. And, I can ABSOLUTELY tell when I’ve been blowing it off. It’s when I’m NOT practicing that I REALLY understand the reasons why I practice…because the benefits are present when I am being present, and practicing daily.

Here are 3 BIG reasons why I practice:

  1. Less anxiety. This is my absolute #1 reason for both meditation and yoga practice….but ESPECIALLY meditation. I suffered with anxiety for YEARS without even knowing it…until I started meditating. I realized that with a daily meditation practice, the anxiety that has been a constant in my life isn’t there in the way that it used to be. The constant buzz of nerves I felt in my belly (for YEARS without realizing it) goes away when I practice. I now can actually FEEL the anxiety coming on, and have the opportunity to respond to it in a different way…which has absolutely changed my life (I know, I KNOW…this sounds pretty dramatic, but it has been truly life altering!!)

  2. Greater strength. Another biggie. The physical strength that comes from my yoga practice isn’t even as important as the INNER STRENGTH that comes from both yoga and meditation. My practice leaves me feeling empowered.

  3. More self-compassion. So, with yoga I’ve learned over the years to be ok with falling out of tree pose, or my tumultuous relationship with shoulderstand. Truly, I’m ok with it…some days I nail the poses, and some days I don’t. With meditation, I’m ok with the monkey mind…and I can see when my super-judgmental thoughts creep in about it. The biggest benefits come from paying attention without judgement. I think this is why, when I’m not on the mat, or meditation bench, that I’ve gotten so much better with self-compassion.

Does any of this ring true for you? Why do you practice? I’d love to know! Leave your comments below!

Love after love

Derek Walcott poem

Love yourself…it’s going to be ok.

I adore everything about this poem by Derek Walcott:

Love After Love

The time will come

when, with elation,

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror,

and each will smile at the other's welcome

and say, sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you have ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.

- Derek Walcott, Collected Poems 1948-1984, New York, Farrar Straus Giroux, 1986.

finding balance.

balance, equinox, partner yoga

The spring equinox is Wednesday, March 20th….let me tell you…my hippy-people LOVE this stuff! If you go to a yoga class this week, chances are, you’ll hear something about the moon or the equinox.

So, what does this REALLY mean? Well, the equinox is a time when we have almost equal amounts of day and night, right?! Whether or not you believe in the energetic qualities of the different moon phases or seasons, I think it’s a GREAT time to reflect on balance.

You COULD consider grabbing a partner and doing some snazzy yoga-balance poses (like the pic above)…

I’d like to ask you: HOW are you finding balance in your life?…and ARE you finding balance in your life? I’m talking about the balance between DOING and BEING.

We can get so caught up in constantly DOING…that we miss out on the BEING part. I get it! We get super busy! How can you find balance, then? Here are some ideas:

  1. Self care. Take time to take care of YOU. In whatever way that may be.

  2. Get out in nature. If you think my people like moon phases…don’t get us started about EARTHING! Take your shoes off, and walk through the grass, or sand, or anywhere for that matter! Or go for a hike!

  3. Turn off your phone. Pay attention to what is going on around you. Truly be there for each experience you are having.

  4. Meditate. Even if for a few minutes. Take some time to pay attention to your breath.

What do you do to find some balance in your busy life? I’d love to hear them!!