Unfolding on the Mat
Expanded Content and Thoughtful Guidance
I am so glad to be in Thanksgiving week. I am holding strong here with my fall decor--no red or green in sight, no twinkle lights trying to shine. Thanksgiving is my FAVORITE. So naturally I have a lot to say on the subject of GRATITUDE :)
Before we get to that, though, I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to YOU. You, who read this blog and reflect on your life. You, who listen to my podcast and keep it going. You, who show up in class so I can teach. You, who cheered me on this year when things got tough. You, who bring friends to class, forward my blog, and share my posts, THANK YOU. Without you, I would be a crazy lady teaching to an empty room, writing to no one, and talking to thin air. The energy you send me fuels my desire to continue to grow, learn, and build a community that we all benefit from. You have my heart...
In this week's podcast Episode 69: The "Thank You" Breath, I talk about 3 benefits of gratitude, and I want to offer them to you here this week:
First, take a moment.
Inhale: "Thank....." Exhale: "You...".
The "Thank You" Breath is three things for us:
One of the best ways to get the hang of this powerful work is a Gratitude/Acknowledgement Journal, so here's your homework:
Every day this week (or longer!), write three acknowledgements and three gratitudes.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS are what you are thankful for that were because of something YOU did.
GRATITUDES are what you are thankful for that were entirely out of your control.
See what happens when you start paying attention to Life, seeking out the good stuff so you can write it down :)
May you always count your blessings, and live with a thankful heart.
I have to admit, I don't love it when my alarm goes off. I don't spring out of bed ready to start the day!! I use the snooze several times, then I read the daily missive by Richard Rohr, and contemplate sleeping ten more minutes. And when it's cold outside I REALLY want to stay snuggled in under the warm blankets and do the "yoga of more sleep."
But that's not how my best self shows up for the day. My best self shows up when I hit snooze, read, then get out of bed and start my morning routine that leads to my mat with my personal practice. THE WHOLE DAY is better!
And this is the time of year that I have to DOUBLE DOWN.
Every year I hear from sad students who say things were going so well until the holidays, then everything got out of whack. "Oh well, I'll start again in January," they say--on November 29!
This is because change in schedule and routine can take us out of balance. We easily lose our center when our to-do list expands to include lots of shopping, preparing, planning, and visiting.
I do not say this to shame anyone. I say this to offer an alternative to the holiday gluttony-guilt-repent-detox cycle.
It's called the recenter-recenter-recenter-recenter cycle.
I recently met Thea Wood of Backstage Chats Foundation at a meetup sponsored by Austin Podcasters and Austin Lady Pods. We were each talking about our podcasts, and after I told the name of mine (Ready, Get Centered, Go!), she asked a great question:
"What is the difference between centering and meditation?"
I believe the main difference is intention--both the intention of the practice, and that centering, in my opinion, is about intention-setting for your day, week, year, whatever. Meditation calms the mind and teaches focus; it creates change by actively linking to an image; and it can teach you that you are not your thoughts.
Centering with an intention infuses your mind and body with a positive desired experience or state that you can return to again and again and again.
Every podcast (or class opening chat) is intention-setting. We get centered around a theme or idea that we know will improve our lives and lead us towards a happier existence. So my intention right now is borrowed from Nike:
Just Do It.
Just get up. Just go to the mat. Just sit for ten minutes and get your head on straight. Just go to class. I have to leave myself no option! The goblins of "there isn't time," or "but I really need to..." or "maybe tomorrow" are loud, but unsuccessful when I remember to keep my intention.
To make it more than a thought, to breathe life into it as an intention, to start the recenter cycle, here are the three steps:
1) STOP what you are doing.
2) BREATHE deeper.
3) FEEL your intention fill your body as you think it on the breath.
This week's podcast is seasonally appropriate, as the intention is THANK YOU. Once again, I suggest you stop to do this one. Breathe with the instructions, and get recentered as you feel gratitude fill your body. You might just avoid the "holiday cycle" this year.
May you take the time to stop and recenter on what's important, again and again and again.
As many of you know, I am currently launching a beta version of my digital course, "Embodiment." It is the first in a suite of classes I am creating under the umbrella, "Chakra Savvy." Embodiment is Chakra One.
This is a year-long dream finally becoming a reality, and I LOVE it. And this process has been CHALLENGING to say the least. It started in January when I enrolled in Digital Course Academy with online marketing and digital course genius, Amy Porterfield, and has culminated in a three-week course I designed, created, promoted, published. And it involves LOTS of tech. And lots of tech experience I do not have....well, maybe more now :)
From the beginning, I have had to hold loosely to what I thought it should be. I started creating a seven month course, one for each chakra (energy center). Then I realized that was too much.
Then I developed a three-week course on the first three chakras. But that's not enough time.
Then I thought I should do this in person because online is too hard.
You get the idea.
It was so hard to not think of all those wrong turns as a waste of time. It was so easy to slip into letting go of the whole darn thing because who am I to try this in the first place?
"Stick with what you know, Jess!"
From the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Sutra 1.1: "Now, the teachings of yoga." Or, as my first teacher would say it,
"Now, yoga begins."
Every do-over, every restart, every set it up AGAIN, every crash and burn...Now, yoga begins. And a breath.
And now it's almost done. I have one more week of material to create and publish, and it will be complete. Without the breath, the resets, the letting go and picking up, I'd be stuck where I was. Which was fine, but I knew it could be better. I could do something new and different.
We get to reset everywhere we want. Friendships, career paths, attitudes, wellness goals, breaking habits, testing new waters...
Now (inhale), yoga begins (exhale).
This week's podcast episode 66 sets the intention of RESET on the mind and the breath. (And there's some happy baby pose thrown in, so if you can, find some floor space and join in!)
May you remember that every moment is a chance to reset, whatever it is that needs it.
have to tell you about this amazing experience I had last week. I went out to Firm Foundations Equine Services in Wimberly, Texas. Lindsey, the therapist there, had reached out to me to see if a collaboration might be something worth exploring. (Hint--yes it is!) My event curator, Angela, and I went out there to see and experience what they do.
We played a little game called "horse handshake." After a brief but informative explanation from Lindsey's partner, Elisa, of how horses communicate, we went and stood in the corral with the horse, Charlie, and attempted to get a "handshake." (We extend our hand in a fist, and if he sniffs our hand and accepts our communication, it's considered a handshake.)
Just standing in the corral trying to get a horse to engage with me took my mind into many creepy crevices of discomfort and uncertainty. I COULD NOT MAKE HIM do anything he didn't want to do. I could not rush him. I couldn't speak his language, I couldn't ask, force, or plead with him to play with me. I stayed--but everything in me wanted to pick up my toys and leave in a huff.
See, I LIKE to be where I understand the game, where I know the rules, and where I can easily foster communication and reach an intended goal.
This was NOT that.
It felt like chaos in my mind. I had no experience to stand on. All I could do was breathe and stare at him while my mind spun a web of uncertainty all around me. "Why can't I make this work??"
So I just kept breathing. And staring... And it got better.
I loosened up my expectations of achieving the goal and just sat with what was. It was a chilly, windy, sunny day and I was staring at a horse eating hay. That's it. The rest was in my mind.
In this week's podcast, I read again from Pema Chodron's book,
Comfortable with Uncertainty. The first line of of the fourth teaching is,
"The central question of a warrior's training is not how we avoid uncertainty and fear, but how we relate to discomfort."
Well I found out I want to RUN AWAY! I want to seek security and a place where I know the rules and can play the game! Like most normal humans, I want to get away from doubt and fear.
Now, I could leave the corral anytime. But that's not always the case. Sometimes there's nowhere to run, no matter how hard we try. The only thing to do is stay and breathe and have compassion and patience. As Pema puts it,
"We can bring ourselves back to the spiritual path countless times every day simply by exercising our willingness to rest in the uncertainty of the present moment--over and over again."
May you learn to "relax in the midst of chaos," and "be cool when the ground beneath you suddenly disappears."
This week I'm continuing with Pema Chodron's book, Comfortable with Uncertainty. This practice, or mindset, of being ok when you don't know how things will end up, continues to strengthen me. I am getting better at seeing fear arise in my mind and simply labeling it, "fear." That way, it's not that I'M AFRAID (identifying with the fear), but rather, "I have fear." (I am separate FROM the fear so I can look at it.) Or, I have fear, just like I have joy, and support, and love, and sadness, and anger, and faith. It's part of my full spectrum of experience...cuz I'm human. The fear does not define me--there's a lot more going on here than just that!
In the reading I do in this week's podcast, we come across Pema's words and use of the cocoon metaphor in a way I have never encountered. She describes the cocoon as the life we create around ourselves that is safe, predictable, convenient, and trustworthy.
I believe that practicing ways that expand our adaptability makes life more memorable and our compassion run deeper.
When you FEEL your environment, you are likely more present. If you don't like it, don't run. Be in it. Watch yourself automatically try to adjust towards comfort and stop yourself. Name it. Then with compassion think of those whose environment cannot be changed, whose discomfort cannot be soothed. Send them love. Be with them in your own little way--your life then expands across the globe.
When you listen to dissenting views, rather than typecasting and dismissing the speaker, consider broadening your range of understanding where people are coming from. You don't have to agree--you don't even have to particularly like them--but do watch how your mind responds and give yourself a good ego check. There is way more to you and to them than social, religious, or political affiliation!
You get the idea.
This week, I'm challenging us all to watch for our discomforts, and make a practice of sitting in them with curiosity. We can breathe deeply while we let our mind have a battle, then plunge into the vastness of our unbreakable hearts. We can wiggle our toes, get back in our bodies, and remember we feel these things because we are ALIVE!
May you bust out of that cocoon and fly, butterfly!
Do you often wish you had a crystal ball? Do you want to know how things will end up? Are you sometimes impatient with times of transition, putting off being happy until some situation is resolved?
True confession: when I read murder mystery books I read the last page first. I want to know who's still there in the end!
Let's just call it what it is, shall we? It's a desire for CONTROL. Not having control over parts of our lives is SCARY!! We might want to hide until the hard stuff passes. We might avoid uncomfortable situations and conversations because we don't know how they will turn out.
This last year in my life has been full of uncertainty, tons of change, lots of sitting through uncomfortable waiting. I've come up against being out of control time and time again. Which is why I decided to read Pema Chodron's book, Comfortable with Uncertainty.
In it she begins to train us to be warriors--"not warriors who kill, but warriors of non-aggression who hear the cries of the world." Warriors who don't run away. Warriors who are brave enough to stay and be with what is.
The world needs us to stay the course with loving kindness.
We must remove our armor of defensiveness and engage with life wholeheartedly.
She challenges us to ask ourselves, "Do I prefer to grow up and relate to life directly, or do I choose to live and die in fear?"
What does Yoga say?
The three steps of Yoga in Action:
1) Study the situation and yourself to determine what is the best response. (Give yourself TIME to do this.) Figure out what you know, what you don't know, what the scriptures say about it, and what your past experience has taught you in similar situations.
2) Do the action that seems best, honest, simple, and clear. Remember--not taking action is still an action, and sometimes it's the best choice. You can decide to remain uncertain. That's still action, but it's not running away or avoiding--it's just staying and breathing.
3) Surrender the results of the action. Give it up to God. Let the Universe handle the rest. Release attachment and gripping to a certain outcome. Exhale.
I'm going to add a fourth step: Phone a friend. Talk about your uncertainty. Let them stand with you in the gap. I guarantee your friend has been uncertain and out of control at some point. These stories we share are how we bring our suffering to the world, and in doing so they lessen.
You'll know you have learned to be a warrior when you can sit with someone who is crying, and not try to fix it or fix them. You just listen.
You'll know you are a warrior when you learn to sit with the sick and dying.
You'll know you are a warrior when you engage with loving presence with the person experiencing homelessness.
You'll know you are a warrior when you see and hear the cries of the world, inhale their suffering, and exhale compassion for all. Then do the same for your neighbor.
May you realize you are a warrior, just by showing up with your whole self.
Ready for some more happiness advice? On this week's podcast, I'm drawing again on one of the gems I found in this issue of TIME Magazine.
One of the articles, titled Nine Ways to Feel More Joy (by Kate Lowenstein), encourages us to do something that honestly hadn't occurred to me as a way to feel happy:
"Forget self-improvement and "[bask] in what's already great about yourself."
Well, la-ti-da! Take a little break from thinking about thinking? Pause the analyzing mind and be happy with what IS?
You mean act like my dog?
She's told all the time she's "such a good girl," and "so sweet," and "what a smart doggy." I'm convinced she agrees and has no shame about it! And believe me, she IS HAPPY! She sure isn't spending much time worrying about being good enough in any of the categories we like to create: looks, smarts, worthiness, loveability, capability, income, status, athleticism, etc. She just likes herself and loves her humans. See? She IS a smart doggy :)
The article continues on to talk about how to "identify your strong suits" with the free Values in Action Survey of Character Strengths. It's like a fun scavenger hunt to find the words that describe your awesomeness. They divide the words out into six broad virtue categories:
From there, they describe the words in those categories, so you can get a working definition of each strength. There's even a quiz to take to help you narrow it down!
Let's do a little practice to what you already know about yourself:
May you recognize all the ways you are already wonderful, and may you let the world see them as well.
Ready for some happiness advice? For my next two podcasts, I'm drawing on some of the gems I found in this issue of TIME Magazine.
One of the articles, titled 14 Ways to be a Happier Person, gives some great thoughts on how to infuse your day with more fun and joy.
My favorite part is that it mentions something like what I have recommended to my clients: A Happiness Journal. Making daily entries into a book that records the moments you stopped to notice, savor, and enjoy something creates a total mind-shift towards the positive. This gets your happy juices flowing, which can push back at the blues and give you a genuine sense of more life satisfaction and joy.
Remember--your brain is like Teflon to the positive and Velcro with the negative. It's just the way we're made! We have to stop and savor for a full 15 seconds to give our brains a chance to remember a sweet encounter.
So grab an empty notebook and title it "Moments to Savor." Get your entries started today! You will live a longer, healthier, and happier life.
May your life be full of moments to savor, and may you take the time to do so each day.
I am so excited to report that the Making S P A C E workshop went beautifully! We had 40 people spend the day with us, giving themselves space to consider their relationship to their stuff, their time, to others, and the things that keep them stuck. My favorite thing was the amount of JOURNALING that was going on. Lots of reflections, aha moments, and solid ideas in new was of thinking were written down and made into intentions.
Letting go of old ways and opening to new ways is so prevalent in the Yamas.
Asteya is usually translated as non-stealing. But I know that most of you aren't shoplifters or bank robbers, so we have to look deeper ;)
What if that book you keep on your shelf but will never read again steals the opportunity for someone else to read it? Isn't accepting accolades or credit for something you didn't do the same as stealing? When greed seeps in and makes us want more for ourselves than we need, there is poverty of spirit and stealing of resources.
The thing about going to get more than is yours, or taking someone else's, is that it prevents your true wealth from flowing into you.
How can a river of abundance flow into a closed-off, dammed up, full-to-the-brim pool? It would have to flow around it, skipping the pool completely. Also, vegetation on the other side of the pool would certainly miss out on water and nutrients that are being held back in the pool. It upsets the balance of nature's abundance.
Open the pool, and let the resources flow through you, in you, and around you.
Greed also prevents you from recognizing what you already have.
Once you realize your bounty, you will realize you are wealthy enough to share, to give, and to donate to your heart's content!
You can even know contentment.
There is a way to enjoy the things and opportunities that come your way without guilt or worry; without clinging or stealing. In material world, it looks like this:
In this week's podcast, I talk more about Asteya, and I guide us into a breath to support the endeavor:
The best part of my week is hearing back from you about how these teachings affect you in your life. Don't be shy!
May you accept your abundance with reverence, and give from your abundance with generosity.
These days when I'm walking or driving and noticing the deciduous trees, I am struck by how they are really in their fullness right now. They are full and green. This is their big "ta-da!," before they reach the fall equinox, signaling time to release and rest.
I can't help but wonder: Are they scared? Do they cling to their leaves, worried they won't have enough to make it through the winter?
Maybe. But probably not.
If they do, I would be inclined to say to them, "Don't worry. I've seen you do this many times before. You must let go in order to grow. You must release your leaves--you will get new ones, more of them than now, when Spring returns."
As humans, myself included, we often have a harder time with this. We can slip into a scarcity mentality that says, "I don't have enough, there isn't enough, and I better hold on to what I have. Better yet, I need to go get some more."
But this is not what the Sutras teach us.
Aparigraha reminds us of the ABUNDANCE of life.
It is the clinging that shows we forgot.
As Nischala Joy Devi puts it in The Secret Power of Yoga, "Life's ebb and flow brings things into our life and then out again. Even the slightest hesitation of holding impedes the flow...If you believe that material and spiritual blessings are infinite, a cornucopia awaits you."
In this week's podcast, I talk more about Aparigraha, and we practice breathing into a sense that there is enough. We couple this with gratitude, which is the antidote to scarcity.
Sunday, September 8, is a wonderful opportunity to bring a fresh practice of Aparigraha to your body/mind, releasing tension, toxicity, and thought patterns that no longer serve you. You will learn about the amazing KonMari Method™ of de-cluttering your home in a way that is lasting and sparks joy at the Making S P A C E workshop!
If you have a scarcity mindset around time, I encourage you to push back against it. Give yourself the gift of TIME outside regular life, outside of routine. The trees lose their leaves and know it's time to rest. I plan to lose myself in the restful, slow pace of beach life in Aruba, and I want you to join me on my 2020 retreat with Laura F. Those who register before October 1 save $150! (Talk about abundance!)
May you open your palms to release your grip, allowing life's abundance to flow through your life with steadiness and ease.