Unfolding on the Mat
Expanded Content and Thoughtful Guidance
How much do you love waiting? I don’t mean the fun, anticipatory waiting like for the start of a movie--I mean the finger-drumming, “when’s it going to be time??” waiting. I’ll admit, I’m not a fan. But I’m getting better at it.
In this week’s podcast, I tell a funny story about waiting as a fruit of maturity, and I offer calming breath instruction and mantra help you release your agenda and be open to the timing of the Universe.
We do get better with waiting as we age, but maybe that’s just because we don’t really have to wait much--especially not these days (thank you, Amazon :). Most of us have been around long enough to know that with enough time and right effort, “good things come to those who wait.”
But how about some of that deeper stuff? How do you do with waiting for
These are tougher. This is where we have to exercise that patience muscle.
Or do we? What if instead of requiring fierce determination and great effort, patience was easy and beautiful? What if it were there all along? What if patience were a natural outcome of your yoga practice?
This is how I prefer to think of it.
One of the things I love from my Judeo-Christian background is the Biblical teachings of the Fruits of the Spirit. These fruits are defined as Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Goodness, Kindness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control (Anyone keeping score? That’s nine...and yes, I can rattle them off like the alphabet, I love them so much.)
This means they are what naturally happens when you are connected to Spirit more often than not. In the yoga context, when you do your yoga practice (which is not just asana but also meditation, pranayama, and ethical disciplines) consistently, over a long period of time, without interruption, you will become more patient. The idea of waiting for your body to heal will become as natural as breathing. You will have the freedom between stimulus and response to wait for clarity and wisdom. You will identify with the hope within you more than the suffering of waiting.
A dear friend of mine gave me The Book of Qualities, by J. Ruth Gendler. With her words, she paints a picture of different human experiences and gives them a character you can see. Here’s how she describes Patience:
“Patience wears my grandmother’s filigree earrings. She bakes marvelous dark bread. She has beautiful hands. She carries great sacks of peace and purses filled with small treasures. You don’t notice Patience right away in a crowd, but suddenly you see her all at once, and then she is so beautiful you wonder why you never saw her before.”
Awww, she is warm and beautiful and she was there the whole time. We just have to recognize her in the crowd of our experience.
May your daily practice of yoga reveal the beautiful, bread-baking, peaceful fruit of Patience.
Today I’m asking how well you operate in chaos. Even when you read the word ‘chaos,’ how does your body respond? Does it sound like a thrill ride or horror movie? Or, are you more like me, and think, “well, it depends.”
In my experience, short bouts of chaos, disorder, or confusion can be fun and even hilarious. (Ever been to a tee-ball game? How about middle school play rehearsal?)
But there are bigger, more long-lasting life-disruptors that feel like chaos and can really take a whack at your well-being, such as
Things are changing fast, there’s no playbook, and there’s no end in sight. It’s chaos. You just want things to settle back to “normal.”
What if I told you chaos has a place in our lives? Straight out of the Big Bang Theory (the theory, not the TV show), we learn that just after the Bang there was a brief time of chaos, (Science Daily) then the universe started to find order. (And aren’t we glad!?)
Our bodies are the same! It turns out, underneath the brilliant organization of cells, tissues, organs, and organ systems that make up our body, there is a little protein named NF-kB who loves chaos. According to a 2019 Science Daily article, “chaotic swings in the concentration of the protein...can increase the activation of a number of genes that are otherwise not activated. In other words, when in a chaotic state, the NF-kB protein is most effective at activating genes and optimally "tuning" the immune system.”
So this underlying chaos is tuning our immune system?
Taken on a larger scheme, perhaps the chaotic times in our lives tune our resilience, or mental/emotional immune system.
The practice is to maintain Yoga, or remain yoked to what is eternal, so we don’t get jerked around by the temporal chaos that life can sometimes be or feel like. The messes of life don’t go away, but they have less of an effect on us when we keep proper perspective and give the chaos a container. We keep our surroundings tidy, we keep our body toned, stretched, watered, fed, and slept. The chaos will be there, but it won’t be such a disrupting force in our day. Chaos isn't going anywhere, so we best learn how to deal with it!
In this week’s podcast, I talk about the effects of chaos and how it can be hard to focus and to be in your body. I also take you through some directed attention and breath, considering what is your current mental state. The intention is inner peace.
May you accept chaos as an underlying part of life, and always practice yoga to remain yoked to inner peace.
This quote from the 1995 Sabrina movie comes to my mind quite frequently, like those times when I think about adding more activities to my schedule, or taking one more thing at the buffet.
"More isn't always better--sometimes it's just more."
In this week's podcast Episode 77: "Do Less," I talk about how LESS can be more. Less intake, less output, less effort, or less distraction might actually create space for MORE of what is life-giving and nourishing, body, mind, and spirit.
It got me thinking--where does this need for MORE come from? (Don't get me wrong--there are TONS of times when MORE is necessary. But through the practice of discernment you might come to find there are equally as many times that LESS is more, it's just not often celebrated in our go-get 'em society.)
Perhaps our need for MORE comes from
So what comes from applying LESS to these situations?
Doesn't that list make you smile? Can't you feel yourself relax when you read those words? See! Less CAN be more :)
The first three feelings are directly related to a healthy and balanced Chakra One. Knowing that you have enough, trusting that your needs will be met, and an overall sense of grounded calmness come from being rooted in the present moment and out of the fearful illusions of the mind. From that foundation you build upward to Third Chakra's strong self-esteem and Fourth Chakra's full-on joy!
CHAKRA Savvy: Embodiment is my Chakra One three-week online course where you learn to calm the anxiety and worries of the mind so you can stop doing MORE than is right for a balanced life. You will learn practices of abundance and ground out your fears around scarcity.
Here's what Lorenna, who participated in the Embodiment trial run said,
"I was surprised by the shift in energy. I felt so much more focused, and connected with the abundance in my life; more in tune with the wisdom of my body, and deeply connected to the earth."
I so wholeheartedly believe that once you experience feeling balanced in Chakra One, you will want to experience balance in the rest of your system. Therefore, I am offering all students of this Embodiment launch
10% off all future CHAKRA Savvy courses!
From Embodiment in Chakra One, to Release in Chakra Two, and Confidence in Chakra Three, all the way to Clarity and Wisdom at the top. The journey starts now! Getting in at the ground level means 10% off all the other courses. **Registration ends February 9, so enroll today! Scroll down for more info and frequently asked questions.**
Here's a few ways to find out if you need to apply LESS in your life right away:
Let me know how it goes! I love hearing about how your life is improved by yoga.
May you realize this week that "more isn't always better...sometimes it's just more."
A funny thing happened today that got me thinking.
Every Monday morning I show up at the Circle C Community Center here in Austin to teach my donation-based therapeutic yoga class. In order to get into the building, I have a fob. It's this plastic gray disc on my key chain that magically grants me access to the space.
But the first time I used it, nothing happened.
No beep. No click. No buzz or fanfare. NOTHING.
Students started arriving and I couldn't get into the building! We looked for alternate entrances. I called the manager (no answer). I yanked and pulled on every other door. I started to consider some outdoor yoga. I thought about cancelling class. But before we gave up, I tried the magical fob one more time.
No click. But I pulled the handle anyway. It opened.
Seriously!! I could have just waved my fob and pulled the door from the beginning and gotten in as easily as opening the front door to my own house. SO embarrassing. SO ridiculous!
So I got used to waving my magic fob and going right in.
But today, there was a beep! A nice, loud, satisfying beep to say, "You may come in! You have done the right things to grant you access to the magical world of Teaching Yoga!"
I love the beep! It's so satisfying. It reminded me of that first day, and it got me thinking...
You see, there is so much going on just beneath the surface. If you are practicing yoga, so many locks are unlocking without any fanfare. So much transformation is taking place in the quiet stillness that doesn't show up as a big announcement.
And then one day you notice life is easier. You feel more patient, less flustered, less angry. You're sleeping better, and making better food choices. Your relationships are improving, but you didn't "DO" anything.
When it comes to yoga, all you have to show up, breathe, and move. The rest will come easily over time.
In Patanjali's Yoga Sutras we are told to practice yoga, "...for a long time, without break, and in all earnestness." (1.14) That's how you get that magical, quiet, inner transformation that leads to a happier life.
This is SO HARD in today's world. There is so much to do in a day! There are so many distractions and other temptations calling us away from our mat.
I GET IT!!!
I have struggled with this as well, and in today's podcast episode 76, I talk about finally having a daily practice. It has come in slowly over time, but I am definitely reaping the rewards now. For me, I had to have the mindset shift that doing my practice was not saying "no" to all the other things I could be doing. It was saying "yes" to something I very much wanted in my life. Again and again and again.
My goal as a teacher is to make daily yoga easy. I aim to provide a framework for you to experience this deep, daily, quiet transformation. Whether we work together one-on-one in yoga therapy for your custom practice, or you go to my public classes as well as other teachers, or you tune in to Facebook live and use that practice all week, you are building a better life for yourself. I am cheering you on!!!
My greatest initiative in providing this framework is available right now through February 9, 2020, when the cart closes.
Chakra Savvy: Embodiment is your opportunity for daily yoga practice that fits with your time and place. It's a deep dive into the experience of Chakra One, which is grounding, stable, self-loving, and deeply connected.
Here's how it all lays out:
When you purchase Chakra Savvy, you will get
All of this guided by an Experienced Yoga Teacher and Yoga Therapist (that's me ;) who has carefully crafted a system of embodiment that has already worked wonders for a thousand students over the last 15 years.
Or, as my friend and student Samara said this morning, "it's 3 weeks with Jess!" Haha!
And I would be THRILLED to get three weeks with YOU!
If you have any questions about this exciting new adventure, check out the home page for Frequently Asked Questions.
When you're ready to say "YES!!" go to www.chakrasavvy.com and register. Don't delay--doors close February 9!
May you experience the deep, quiet transformation that comes from daily yoga practice.
P.S. See you LIVE on Fridays, 7:30am! xo
P.P.S. There is ONE SPACE available in ARUBA! You can experience daily yoga in Paradise! This can be your reset button to the yoga-infused life you're craving. I'll teach you how. We can talk about it, plan, and strategize your continual yoga path for once you're back on the mainland. It's a great investment in YOUR LIFE!
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.