Live and Love Like a Dog

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Live and Love Like a Dog

Live and Love Like A Dog
Guest post by J.P. Rippetoe

Even, and perhaps most importantly, when you act in ways that are out of alignment or cause yourself pain, show unconditional love.

There are two movies that are quoted on a regular basis in our house. The first is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. “The blessing” makes a regular appearance at family dinners and whenever I finish a project around the house, I proudly announce that I “fixed the newel post.” The other movie that we quote often is Steele Magnolias. This is partly due to my having worked on a production of the play years back and six months of rehearsals has embedded the lines firmly into my long-term memory. Recently the quotes from Steele Magnolias that have been coming forward most are from the funeral monologue. Our house is grieving the loss of one of our dearest friends, fellow healer and our soul sister, and, like M’Lynn, I wanted to know why. I feel blessed that as I meditate, I can often get answers, and in this case I did. The Universe let me know she had learned the lessons that she needed to learn in this life and that the lessons that she had for we who remain would best be learned through her crossing the Rainbow Bridge. One of the lessons for me is to learn to live and love like a dog, which seems apropos considering she was a veterinarian.

Be Fiercely Loyal to Your Pack

Your pack is going to be defined by you. For some, it will include a large number of family and friends, for others it will be a small clan. Regardless, loyalty is key. When a member of your pack is hurt, you circle around them and do all you can to help them to heal and protect them. This loyalty goes beyond protecting them from external forces. We all know that there have been times when we have said and done things that have been hurtful to others or ourselves. In those times, our pack needs to remain fiercely loyal to us and help us to not only see the truth of our actions but also (and maybe more importantly) see the value in who we are. It also may be the case that a member of the pack may need to have time away from the pack. This should only be done when there is discord being created and I would suggest working to resolve the issue in other ways prior.

Love Unconditionally

There is no greater example on this planet of unconditional love than a dog. I don’t think it is at all a coincidence that dog and God use the same letters. I have seen first hand this love from my own dogs. When things were the darkest in my life, my dogs loved me when it seemed that others (including myself) could not. Even in those rare times when I have been less than the ideal doggy daddy, I have been quickly forgiven and loved. Take this example and start to apply it to your pack and the world in general. When your relational partner snaps at you for doing or not doing what was expected, show unconditional love. When someone cuts you off in traffic, show unconditional love. Even when you act in ways that are out of alignment or cause yourself pain, show unconditional love.

Shake It Off

With this lesson, I am not referring to the annoyingly catchy Taylor Swift song that is most likely stuck in your head right now. I have watched my dogs when they clash with the cat or each other over something. In the moment, there is a lot of growling, barking and showing of teeth. Once it is all over, they walk away, shake their body and move on. Some level of conflict is inevitable, but how long you carry that conflict is a choice. When it shows up in your life, be able to share your point of view, try to understand the opposing perspective and, when it’s all done, shake it off.

Take Long Walks in Nature With Your Pack

We live in a digital age. As I write this, I have two laptops, an iPhone, iWatch and two headsets within easy reach. Despite all the technology, we are losing our connection with each other. The time to put the tech down and move into nature is at hand. I find that when I walk in nature with my pack, magic happens. Conversations start and flow in directions that it would never go in other circumstances. I am not sure if it’s the closeness to the plants, the abundance of fresh air or the exercise, but our hearts open in nature. Use this to your advantage, get out on a regular basis and connect with our planet and each other.

Never Miss a Chance to Wag Your Tail

Celebrate. Do it often and for as many things as you can. This is showing the Universe gratitude for the gifts it brings to you, so be grateful for everything! If your friend calls and offers to take you out for lunch – celebrate. When you find money, be it $20 or a penny – celebrate. When you are playing volleyball and the other team wins – celebrate with them. Never miss a chance to celebrate for at the end of our lives we will not be remembered for how much stuff we have, but for the memories we have created with our pack. A surefire way to create those memories is to celebrate – wag your tail.

As I move forward in my life and heal the hole in my heart left by the loss of my friend, I know that I will do so as a better man for having known her and for having learned her lessons. I appreciate my pack more now than ever before. I am sure to let them know how much I love them. I hope that you can incorporate these lessons as well. Above all else, be kind, to those in your life and to yourself.

J. P. Rippetoe, the Alchemist Life Coach, is a blogger, writer, public speaker and the owner/co-founder of NRG Concepts (www.NRGConcepts-4u.com). Through his company, he takes a holistic approach to providing solutions for his clients, bringing balance and bliss into their personal experience. This is done through programs that include intuitive one-on-one coaching, creating community through small group life classes and assisting clients with the energy of their space through interior decor consultation, energy clearing and clutter cleansing. J. P. lives in Pittsburgh, PA with his co-creator, Gregory, their two cats, Mischa and Sasha, and two dogs, Botti and Nicky.

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Busyness

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Busyness

“A cluttered existence may keep us busy, but busyness doesn’t mean that we are fully engaged in what we’re doing. Usually, just the opposite, we feel busy because we are neurotically active at things that don’t matter much in the long run.”   ---- Thomas Moore, Original Self

Friends my age are beginning to think about retirement.

It’s sad to hear many of them remark that they don’t know what they’ll do with themselves without the busyness of corporate life, or that they’ll not retire because they don’t want to have too much time on their hands, or because they don’t want to experience the diminished income (i.e. they want to continue accumulating stuff). Also distressing is hearing from those who have retired from traditional work situations that they are bored. Some are filled with anxiety because of a ‘void’.

Similar feelings might be experienced when life is simplified.

But let me clarify: it’s not a void. It’s discomfort with a stranger. The stranger is you. And this is where you have the choice to become intimately acquainted or you can ignore him/her and just get busy again. I do hope that you'll choose the former and not the latter. I promise you won't be disappointed. The better you get to know that stranger, the more simple your life can become. The simpler your life becomes, the more opportunity to intimately know this stranger. This simplicity and willingness is fertile ground for a lush and deep-rooted spiritual life. It opens the opportunity for realization of how complex, how interesting, how creative you actually (we all) are.

Oh, what a journey! What an adventure! Without leaving your home you will begin to see new vistas, and in familiar friends you'll meet new people.

Don't be afraid of time, space, inactivity.

Creating stillness in the interior and physical space makes possible the visitation of inspiration. It makes possible the emergence of something new, but also allows forgotten passions and desires to surface. Simplifying your life allows the complex individual that you are to surface. You are a vibrant tapestry full of excitement and tranquility, desire and contentment. How many times have you found yourself reminded of something you love but hadn’t thought about or engaged in for some time; a place that you like to go, an activity that you enjoy? Have you ever remarked, “I loved doing that as a boy” or “I haven’t thought about that in years” or "Gee, I miss doing that"?

Most of us have had the experience of the busyness of life crowding out things that we take great pleasure in. We allow those things to fall away giving greater priority to (so-called) responsibility and achievement. When in most cases it’s just busyness that has taken the foreground. Engagement, unlike busyness, occupies your entire being; the physical, the emotional, the mental. It's making love all the time, but in different ways. I prefer living a love-filled life to a busy life, don't you?

So how do we engage with intent and stop the busyness?

If your busyness is primarily at work, take a look at how you can impact the flow. Can you better manage your time? Can you suggest a change of process (that may benefit others as well)? Are you taking on responsibilities that need not be yours? Can you prepare better for repetitive tasks that save you time and keep you better organized? Is your workspace organized in a way that helps rather than hinders you? If not, get rid of what you don't need and create a place for what you do need - and keep those things in their place. This applies to virtual files as well as to physical tools. Is your busyness related to achievement? That is, are you constantly taking on more and more in order to climb the company ladder? Is it possible to get recognition by doing something, maybe even one thing, extremely well rather than trying to do many things (and burning out)? And of course this takes us full circle to the root of wanting to achieve or earn more to get the attention and/or more stuff. This endless cycle is worth thinking deeply about.

If your busyness is at home: Are chores shared? Is the family calendar too packed with planned activities? Are you signed up for too many social obligations? Why? Maybe you don't have to be in on everything. Give one of the picnics or movies a miss. Are you too burdened with responsibilities to others (extended family)? If so adjust the frequency and/or ask for help. Is your home arranged in a manner that is conducive to play and relaxation? Do you know where the things you need are? Do you have too much stuff? If you're in the cluttered and over-stuffed category, try this exercise: For 1 month, keep track of how many times and how long it takes to locate things (like keys, backpacks, the checkbook, dog leashes, etc.) for everyone in the family. You'll be amazed how many hours your family might rack up just trying to find things among the glut.

Busyness puts us out of touch, out of alignment.

We're out of touch with our own real wants and needs. We're out of alignment with our real selves. Speaking from a spiritual perspective, if we're in alignment with what we really are - which is an extension and expression of all that there is or ever will be - what could we possibly need? Very little on this physical plane, I should think. It's said that highly enlightened masters hardly needed even food. Most of us will not reach, nor desire to reach, that state of alignment. And that's okay.

We're all here to experience and express something unique. We're more likely to discover that uniqueness and achieve that expression when the distraction of busyness is removed. Busyness is a barrier to discovery. Remove it. Simplify your daily life and discovery how truly gifted and fascinating you are. Be pleasantly surprised by how often inspiration visits now that you can hear that voice. Our inspiration and creativity  and joy is right here, all the time. We just have been busily buzzing past it and shouting over it. Slow down, let some things go. The world will continue to turn. Engage by choice. Enjoy.

Copyright 2016 Dawn Murphy

Dawn Murphy is the author of "Physical Stuff & Mental Junk: A Minimalist Path to True Abundance." Her work has been been endorsed by Dr. Will Tuttle, author of "The World Peace Diet,"  Phil Borges, Ph.D of Bridges to Understanding, and Dr. Howard Zinn. She’s currently working on her fourth book, "So Vegan Easy" available in 2017. Visit her Blog/Website:veganminimalist.com 

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If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It

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If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It

I recently went through the process of creating a dream board. If you have never done this, I highly recommend it. Here is the short version of the process:

  1. Go through all of your magazines. Clip pictures, phrases, and words that strike a chord with you. Don't glue anything. Just make a big ol' pile of images and words that strike your fancy.

  2. On a large canvas or poster board. Start laying out the clippings. You might find that you want to lay them out in themes. Maybe you want one corner to be health and another corner to be career. It might be that the images want to flow all over the board. You might feel the need to fold the board and turn the board into a book. Start getting rid of the clippings that no longer feel right. Be creative and let the process move you.

  3. Glue the images into their places. You can write on the board or paint on it too. This is your dream board. Be as creative and free with it s you want.

  4. Leave space in the center of the board for a picture of yourself looking happy or radiant or for a quote/mantra that moves and motivates your spirit.

  5. Hang your dream board in a place where you will see it often.

This process is such a cool experience. You will literally feel the positivity flowing through you, and you will learn through much through the process.

Here's what I learned through the creation of my dream/vision board:

I am good at being creative.

I am good at making connections to people and building relationships.

I am hugely grateful for . . .
* Family ~ They love me unconditionally.
* Children ~ They let me be the nurturer that I was born to be.
* Friends ~ They hold me up and support me.
* Life ~ I learn something amazing every day.
* Health ~ I can fight more than I ever thought possible.

Three words that describe me . . .

Optimistic Smile Positive

I am proud of raising my kids on my own and buying my very own house!

I want to write!

I love drawing, painting, creating, writing.

I love hiking.

I love doing learning activities with my grandson.

I love going to concerts.

I love getting dressed up and being girly.

The thing I want most in life is PEACE.

This is my peace . . .

- ALL my kids around the house.
- Friends spending time together.
- My home with a beautiful yard and a comfortable interior.
- Feeling secure at work.
- Loving myself and who I am.
- Being creative.
- Spending time in nature.
- Being in the moment.

After all that profound thought, I was pretty worn out, but I kept going. I thought about who I really am and what I a capable of. Life lessons: I'm not me . . . I'm whoever I want to be at this moment. You're not tired . . . there's always a little bit more energy for play. Never give in to the exhaustion. Laughter really is the best medicine, and my spirit was filled again today with happiness.

I love my life!

See? Cancer isn't the end of the world. Whatever struggle you are going through at this moment is not the end of the world. The Earth keeps spinning on its axis. We keep moving forward and breathing. We keep living and laughing. And every day is a new opportunity to do it better.

Marla Ernest
New Leaf Meditation Project Guest Blogger
NewLeafMeditation.org


Marla Ernest is a breast cancer survivor, mother, grandmother, and educator.  When she isn't writing for her blog whoneedsboobsanyway.weebly.com, she is making art and jewelry specializing in healing stones. Marla is an English as a Second Language learning facilitator and holds a Masters degree in Education with an emphasis on curriculum and instruction.  Her goal is to help others heal their physical, emotional, and spiritual bodies through humor, honesty, and the gifts of our earth.

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Why Do I Meditate?

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Why Do I Meditate?

Why Do I Meditate?     By Tracy Martorana

I think about this often…why do I meditate?   I have a graphic I use to show people the benefits of meditation and how meditation supports Holistic Wellness (balancing Body, Mind, Heart and Soul).

But do I meditate to lower my blood pressure?  No.  It’s the more esoteric benefits that I gravitate to…mindfulness, awareness, peace & serenity…but to what end?  What do these even mean and why do I care?

I have realized that sitting in meditation, being mindful of the present moment and letting go of judgment, slowly trains your brain to let go.  It’s not so much that I stop caring, but I have begun to realize that my thoughts and opinions are not reality and that in clinging to them and in trying to push them on others, I am causing much of my own stress and suffering. 

In the introduction of The Issue at Hand by Gil Fronsdal, he explains this phenomenon pretty simply:

 “Mindfulness entails knowing what is happening in the present moment while it is happening.  It is a training in how not to be lost in thoughts, opinions, and reactivity.  It is also a training in how to see things as they really are, as opposed to seeing them through the often distorted lens of preconceived ideas and interpretations.” (p. ix)

Learning to meditate is simple, but it is far from easy.  Meditation is about so much more than sitting in silence for 20 minutes.  That is the simple part!  The more difficult part, but also the most valuable, is learning how to take what you learn about yourself in meditation and let it change the way you interact with the world. 

As I have learned to pay attention to my thoughts, as I have noticed the lies I tell myself and the stories I make up in my mind to support what I want to believe, when I notice the patterns in behavior or the reactions to certain people or emotions; as I learn about me, I learn to laugh at my thoughts and just let them go. I have learned to cling less to my judgments and accept that the opposite is also true.  These are gifts I gained in meditation, but it wasn’t until I took what I learned off the mat, that the benefits really started to emerge.

I continue to learn about me and the way tiny little inconsequential things in my past have colored my views on all kinds of things, big and small.  The more I sit in meditation, the more I learn about me and the more I can let go.  The more I can let go, the more I enjoy mindfulness, awareness and peace & serenity. 

This is why I meditate.

Tracy Martorana
Guest Blogger
New Leaf Meditation Project
NewLeafMeditation.org

Tracy Martorana is the owner of Holistic Wellness with Tracy and Tracy’s Teas,in LeRoy NY.  She is a Nutrition & Wellness / Lifestyle Coach, an Herbalist and a Meditation instructor.  Her mission is to teach people how to make healthy choices easy and enjoyable. You can learn more about Tracy, her blog, her teas and her book (90 Days to Holistic Wellness – balancing your Body, Mind, Heart and Soul) at her website: www.holisticwellnesswithtracy.com.

 

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Momentary Peace:  Breathing Through Pain

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Momentary Peace: Breathing Through Pain

Momentary Peace:  Breathing Through Pain
By Kary Schumpert

I am grieving the loss of my dad.

This grief is a bit of a surprise. I didn’t know that I would feel like a I hit a brick wall, over and over again. In the last three months since his death, I haven’t slept. I haven’t been able to read a book, and I usually read one or two in a week. I have had faulty judgement. I have made some bad decisions. I have been walking in a fuzzy, cloudy, fog, which is a bit ironic, since I live in sunny, bright Albuquerque.

They say grief can be unexpected and surprising. Yes, I concur. There is pain and I can see how people can get lost in it. How can we honor our grief and our pain, but not get lost? How can we face our feelings, and yet not wallow? A moment of clarity struck the other day, while I was running.

I love running and recently joined a running group, because I thought I could use some companionship in an activity that I usually do solo. While my mind spins, I need exercise to feel right again. Right now, casual companionship feels wonderful, because I feel most alone.

Monday night, we met at the track and divided up into smaller groups, based upon our goals for the evening. Some were running/walking. Some were walking. I placed myself in the running group. That night’s run was three miles. I started out by myself in the middle of the group, but running solo. The group coach and another woman were slightly ahead of me. They slowed down to my pace and we all ran together. Their conversation resumed and then I joined in. In running, a good way to measure your pace and ease is to see if you can talk while running. I was a bit winded, so we slowed down a bit more and I took a breath.

It was in that moment, the gap in conversation that I realized all I need to do is breathe. Sometimes, it’s harder, while running uphill or running at a faster pace. Sometimes, in the middle of a busy day at work, it can be tricky, but taking a moment to breathe deeply can bring peace.

Why is it that it took a routine run to remind me of something so basic? Lately, it has been all about breathing. I am a newbie to yoga and as I move my way through the poses in a class, I breathe and move into the next pose. On a day when I feel cloudy and confounded by grief, I take a breath and count to 10. In a moment in the car, on the drive home, when a lane is closed and a car rushes in front of me, I am surprised by my anger. Usually, things like that don’t bother me. Then I take a deep breath and make room for that car, plus one more.

One day at the gym, while swimming laps, I felt the effort seemed much more difficult. I then realized my timing and breath were off. If I open my mouth and breathe out in a spurt of bubbles, I don’t take such big gasps when I turn my head up out of the pool.

Breathing helps me in my stumbling meditation practice. When I feel blocked and upset and don’t know which way to move, I realize all I can do is breathe. I will move and breathe myself through this. I will take moment by moment:  up the hills, through the shadows of grief, until I find my way back. I fill the void with a breath, sometimes a gasp.

I will breathe until I sleep, until I read again, until I find myself again. I will breathe. Eventually, I will let go of the pain. For now, though, it reminds me to breathe.

Kary Schumpert
Guest Blogger
New Leaf Meditation Project
NewLeafMeditation.org

Kary Schumpert is an environmental educator and writer living in New Mexico. She loves running, hiking, camping, reading, teaching, writing, and exploring spirituality. Her writing has been published in Elephant Journal, Green Teacher, and Community Works Journal. She keeps a blog at runningintolife.wordpress.com

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The Personal Story Behind Our New Group Name

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The Personal Story Behind Our New Group Name

I have always wanted to be famous. 

As a kid I sang, danced and acted. As an adult, I snatched up every opportunity to present at conferences or speak publicly as part of my professional work. If there was a spotlight or an open mic, I gravitated to it. 

As the Zen Happiness Project’s growth exploded over the last 2.5 years, I’ve become aware of my ego in a new context. Thousands of people read these emails. Hundreds of thousands see my posts on social media. 

Things I never would have imagined started happening: Attractive women sent me provocative messages. Businesses offered me money to advertise or endorse their products. Folks would ask me how I planned on monetizing our success. Would I write a book? Would I charge for membership? 

I started daydreaming about appearing on Oprah, offering lectures to sold out crowds and enjoying the fruits of being a “spiritual celebrity.” 

As my meditation practice has deepened over the years, I’ve started to recognize this desire to be center stage as the yearning of an insecure and self-destructive ego. Ego leads me around by the nose, it can’t ever be satiated and prevents me from being truly at peace. 

Fortunately, through my meditation practice, I have found great personal, emotional and spiritual growth by recognizing manifestations of my ego, then slowly chipping away at it. 

When I realized my ego could actually derail our community’s shared Mission, I started taking some deliberate actions to undercut it, freeing our community to evolve unbounded. 

  • First, I recruited volunteers to come together for self-lead study groups focused on training to become meditation instructors. 
  • Second, I placed an open call to our community inviting more voices to participate in our blog, sharing experiences and offering fresh perspectives. 
  • Third, I asked 12 members of our community to serve as a Board of Advisors to decentralize the decision-making that will steer the direction of our group.   

We’re turning a new leaf and with that we’ve decided we need a new name. 

Moving forward, we’ll be known as the New Leaf Meditation Project.  

As a community, we’re so much stronger than as individuals. Pursuing our goal to teach a million people to meditate will create real and lasting good in the world. Let’s help more people benefit from the practice that has so positively changed our lives. 

I’ll be working on chipping away at my ego for the rest of my life. Including more instructors, bloggers and leaders is helping me grow in humility. I am also confident these actions ensure this is a community of peers united and empowered to achieve a noble goal. 

Anthony A. Cernera, M.Ed. 
Founder & Meditation Instructor
NewLeafMeditation.org

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Healing in Orlando

In the numbness that follows a tragedy we are often heard to repeat cliches that help us wrap our heads around the inconceivable. Whether it’s the misfortune or loss of a loved one, or something on a grander and uglier scale, we will be heard to say “everything happens for a reason” clutching to the belief that an invisible future explanation will present itself and ease the current pain.

I never subscribed to that Pollyanna-ish interpretation. Long before I read the Hermetica, Gnostic texts, Rudolph Steiner, or Neville, I felt instinctively, even though I didn’t like the feeling, that something was backward. It’s not some future revelation that we must look to. It’s the past and the present that hold the answer; the reason.

And the reason is us.

None of us want to hear it or look at it. But that doesn’t change the fact that each of us, however remotely, is fractionally culpable. Let me explain: If one human can become so completely out of alignment with the human family, then it can happen to any one of us. We are all equally capable, if not all likely, to become a beast or a saint. Until we recognize this, we’re not spiritually or emotionally mature. We have to ask, daily, “What’s going on inside of me? What’s happening on an energetic level? Where and how am I contributing to love or hate?” For however small or insignificant we think our intention, it contributes none the less. And one contribution (of energy) builds upon another, and so on. Looking at this squarely is how we heal.

The world’s spiritual leaders & guides have all known this. They’ve all faced conditions of adversity,  or of doubt, sometimes even atrocity. They overcame not just with the tools of prayer and meditation, but through Practice. They were able to carry on because they constantly and consistently put into action what they realized through meditation and contemplation. This is Practice. We overcome, heal, and change through Practice.

Meditation is not for escape or just to feel better at the end of your day. Of what use is contemplation and meditation if the result is only Nihilism or narcissism? The value is not in retreat, disengagement, or disconnection. The value is that it gives us the strength to engage fully, humanly, and spiritually while keeping centered, keeping ‘in love’ by remaining in the field of true knowing and compassion with detachment. That is the Practice. In this way we can say “yes, I will participate in the debate, but I do so from love, from recognition of myself in the other.”

We have to come from a place of oneness – even, and perhaps most critically, when in pain, in opposition, and when engaging in activism. If we’re not coming from a grounded centered place, we’re only contributing to the problem even with the best of (mental) intention. But it’s the intention and purity of our hearts, not our minds, that the Universe hears. The intention of our heart has to come from recognizing the shadow, from identifying with the beast in each of us and embracing it, understanding it, no matter how repulsive. Only then can we intend, not just what we want, but what is truly for the highest good, trusting that the intelligence that surrounds us will work in concert with that intention. For it will. Whether it’s noble or base, the Universe will only say ‘yes’ to our pure intention.

In the wake of tragedy, when we are in pain, this can be a very daunting task. But it is precisely at this time that we should turn not to magical thinking, but to practical tools (the difference between New Age and New Thought). Tools that we may not completely understand (like electricity or gravity) but that we know from experience will sustain us. What use is being able to still our minds for 10 breaths unless it teaches us how to be love in the world? Can you argue for your point of view impersonally and without anger? Can you argue from your heart center without hating the person opposing you? Can we forgive the most heinous of acts?

That is the Practice. The practice of meditation or other contemplative exercise is to prepare us to go into the world as lovers and fighters; as those who realize our connection with all that is. We can go into the world and fight from the heart center for what we believe is the highest good without hating the person who is opposing our view when we Practice. To remain connected to one another in the most trying, the most frightening of times is our test. And times will continue to be trying for as long as we provide a reason, for as long as we indulge in thoughts unguarded.

So in my own small part – which turns out is not small at all – I will strive to be ever so diligent in my every thought and deed. I will strive to keep my intentions kind. I will not add the energy of hate or separation in any degree to the world. Not in reaction to daily trivial upsets or to the most grandly horrific of events. I will not always succeed. In fact, I flub it several times a day. But I do, and will continue to, constantly practice. This is my response to this tragedy. This is my commitment to my human family.

Dawn Murphy is the author of "Physical Stuff & Mental Junk: A Minimalist Path to True Abundance." Her work has been been endorsed by Dr. Will Tuttle, author of "The World Peace Diet,"  Phil Borges, Ph.D of Bridges to Understanding, and Dr. Howard Zinn. She’s currently working on her fourth book, "So Vegan Easy" available in 2017. Visit her Blog/Website: veganminimalist.com 

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How to Flow Through the Everyday Stress of Being A Parent

I am going to share an experience that happened to me recently, and gave me a lot of insight into how I am currently dealing with stress. I am pretty excited because I saw a lot of progress in the right direction here, so instead of you only learning from my mistakes (which happens a lot), I actually get to share something I did right. Whoo hoo!

My kids were home from school on vacation, doing exactly what most kids do on lazy mornings free from their routine. They were watching T.V…. no real surprise there!

This happened to be a morning that I had a brand new coaching client coming for her first session. I typically schedule all my clients when my kids are in school, but on days off they are used to getting cozy on my bed, either reading for a few minutes like I suggest before they put the TV on, or bypassing my instructions and simply putting the TV on from the get go. Either way, they are super good sports and I am not complaining. Sometimes a working mom’s gotta do what she’s gotta do.

We often have a weird issue with our T.V. remote control that is beyond annoying and no amount of tech guys coming to troubleshoot can fix. So five minutes before my brand new client is scheduled to walk through my door, the television won’t turn off. And for some reason it was on much louder than normal. Blaring is the best adjective I can think of. Why of all days?

In one single moment I felt my body tense and my breath shorten, and I immediately thought, “Nope! Not this time.”

I had learned a cool concept in my business Mastermind recently that taught about three ways people live, and it popped into my head in this moment.

It originally comes from a Bruce Lee movie, so I am not totally sure how it began circulating in the spiritual business circles that I hang out in, but I am lucky it did.

The 3 Ways to Live

You can live in rocks. When you live in rocks everything feels hard and you are totally inflexible.

You can live in taffy. When you live in taffy it is like a giant contest of push and pull filled with tension.

You can live in water. When you live in water you flow. You are able to go around things that stand in your way.

So when faced with the blaring T.V. and a new client on her way, I decided I was going to flow like water. After all, this woman was a fellow mom, and she had toddlers to boot, so I knew it probably wasn’t the first time she would take part in an improvised plan.

My new plan was to have our session outside in my backyard. It was a beautiful day, and I have a pretty nice back yard, so I felt great about my plan B. My body was relaxed, my breath was normal and I was really proud that I didn’t freak out. I really liked this water thing!

Just in that moment, when I was in the flow and stress-free, my kids tried the remote one more time, and it worked. I am convinced that it only worked because I figured out a way not to stress! I wrote something one time that fits perfectly with this story,

“Some days are a total sh*t show, just so you can see how far you have come.”

This morning had all the makings of a sh*t show, but I was able to breathe, stay calm, and flow like water around the stress of it.

Next time life throws you a curveball, decide if you are in rocks, taffy, or water. You have a choice, and I bet you are pretty good at building a boat when you really need one.

Ali Katz is a meditation teacher, self-care and mindful parenting coach, and author of the best selling book "Hot Mess to Mindful Mom: 40 Ways to Find Balance, Joy and Happiness in Your Every Day." You can learn more about Ali at hotmesstomindfulmom.com.

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What to Expect at Your First Yoga Class

Yoga is everywhere these days. It's prevalent on social media, it's all over the television, and there's a yoga studio on every corner. It seems like everyone is practicing yoga. Why is everyone practicing yoga?  

I think the world is catching on to the fact that we all need some TLC. Yoga is love. It takes courage to walk into that first yoga class, but I promise you, it's worth it. If you are feeling a bit nervous about that first class, you aren't alone. We've all had to walk into that first class.  

Here are some tips to ease your mind and help you get started.

1.  Do your research.

Look online for a space that suits you. If you are already established with a fitness center, start there.  Read the information about the different classes they offer. You don't want to jump into an advanced class your first time.  Find a class that is suitable for beginners.  If you don't see that information, call the studio and speak to someone.  Tell them you are a beginner and let them direct you to the right class for you.

2.  Arrive Early

Expect to have to fill out a liability waiver.  This is standard procedure and does not mean the class is going to hurt you. You'll want to get that done and get set up in your space.  Many locations offer mat rental or have free mats for your use if you don't have your own.   Most studios will have cubbies for you to store your belongings while you practice.  In almost all studios you will be asked to remove your shoes before you enter the space where you will practice.

3.  Expect to feel uncomfortable

As the class begins to fill up it may seem like everyone knows one another and have been best friends their entire lives.  They haven't.  It's perfectly ok to sit in stillness on your mat as you wait for the class to begin.  Once the class starts, it may feel like you are the only person who is unfamiliar with the movements.  Remember, every person in class with you was a complete beginner at one point. 

4.  Confusion

Many classes begin and end with either a chant of OM or a longer chant in Sanskrit.  It's ok if you don't know what is being said.  You can choose to participate or not. You may find that you enjoy the joined vibration of a group chant.  Many teachers teach the poses in Sanskrit.  Nobody is a Sanskrit scholar.  You will not be expected to know what these words mean and there will not be a test. Most teachers will use a combination of Sanskrit and English while teaching the poses.  A good teacher will verbally guide you in and out of the postures.  You will most likely hear terms like "root down through the feet" or "send the breath into the hamstring."  This is yoga teacher speak for allowing the feet to really press down into the mat and using concentration as well as your own breathing to allow your hamstrings to release. Expect to hear a few of these unfamiliar terms in your hour long class. 

5.  Being touched

Many yoga teachers offer physical assists.  You will usually be asked by the teacher if it is ok for them to touch you.  It is perfectly acceptable to say no.  If you agree to the assists, you will receive the benefits of proper alignment.  The teacher won't "correct" you as much as help you gently stretch, fold or twist a little deeper into a pose so you can receive the maximum benefit. A good teacher will not single any one person out, but will walk around the room assisting everyone equally.

6.  Emotions

Yoga forces us to be completely present in our bodies.  We are stretching and opening everything.  This can cause unexpected emotions to come up for us.   Emotions are a part of the process and it means whatever we are experiencing needs to be felt.  Be with it.  Explore it. Whatever "it" is.  Maybe you will understand where it's coming from.  Maybe you won't.  Just allow it to be there.  It's perfectly normal to cry during a yoga practice or after the practice is over.  Yoga is a safe space for this. It's a release and it is beautiful.  Don't hold back if this happens to you.  Let it go. 

7.  Ego

Leave it behind.  Yoga is not a competition.  Everyone has their own personal practice.  There are no comparisons.  No one is better than or worse than you.  When you feel the urge to compare yourself, gently bring your attention back to your own mat, your own body, your own breath and your own practice.  Let everything else fall away.

8.  Savasana

The most important pose in the yoga practice.  Also known as Corpse Pose.  At the end of class, the teacher will instruct everyone to lay flat on their backs arms and legs down on the mat.  Like a corpse.  Savasana allows our bodies time to rest after our practice.  It allows our bodies to fully absorb all the benefits of our practice.  Many people have the hardest time with this pose.  The mind starts to wander and we have a tendency to want to get up and DO something.  Don't.  Just be still.  When the mind wanders, gently redirect it back to your breath.  Be still and allow this time for yourself. 

9.  Fun

Don't forget to have fun.  Yoga can seem so serious, but don't forget that "It's just yoga."  You are allowed to smile and you are allowed to laugh at yourself if you fall out of a balance pose. You are allowed to laugh anytime you like.  It's your practice.  Enjoy it. 

Shannon Dievendorf is a RYT, registered with Yoga Alliance. She teaches mixed level Hatha and truly believes that yoga is for every body. 

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A Short Introduction to Meditation

It is important to remember there are a lot of forms of meditation out there. We teach a simple, stripped down version of meditation that can be done in just 3 minutes a day. 

Before we start: Meditation is not an escape but rather away of authentically living in the present moment. Our mind won't stop thinking during our practice. There is no doing it wrong, there is only practicing in a way that benefits your life. 

The instructions are threefold and deal with our body, breath and mind.
 
Body:
 
First, we sit as still as possible during our meditation. Body and mind are one. A still mind can only develop with a still and relaxed body. Once you start your period of sitting make an agreement with yourself that you will not move. Don’t scratch an itch, adjust your seat or let your posture slouch. Use a timer to create a defined period of practice. 

To be able to sit still, we focus on having good posture. Flexible people can sit in full or half lotus on the floor with a cushion. Others kneel with a seiza bench. Many sit in a chair. The most important thing is that we attend to our posture: straight spine, shoulders back, chin tucked in, mouth softly closed and hands resting palm in palm or on our thighs. 
  
Breath:
 
If we are in an upright-seated position with good posture our breathing should be easy and unencumbered. It is helpful to wear loose fitting clothes, especially something without a tight waistband. Natural breathing feels like it reaches down into our lungs and through our belly. Like a newborn baby whose tummy billows with every breath, a calm body with natural deep breathing should expand down into our belly.
 
We don’t force the breath during our practice. This isn’t a deep breathing exercise. We simply let breathing happen naturally. After sitting for a little while we will notice our breathing slows down and the rhythm of our chest has a soothing quality.
 
Mind:
 
With good posture and easy breathing we turn to the mind. How do we practice? We focus on developing the ability to concentrate and quiet our mind with a simple practice of counting our breath. (Note I said simple, not easy.)

The instructions are basic. Place the focus of your mind deep into your belly. The bottom third of your belly where we can feel the farthest reach of our breath.  Breathe in count one, breathe out count two, in three, out four. When we get to ten we go back to one and start over again.
 
Almost immediately we will encounter our mind’s tendency to run away from being present to the current moment. Each morning when I first start meditating I find it difficult to get to the count of three before distracting thoughts arise. Our practice is to notice that we are thinking, let that thought go in the middle of it and return our focus back to counting our breath.
 
Thoughts don’t stop. Minds think the way ears hear and eyes see. It is in a brain's nature to think. Don’t be critical with yourself. This practice is one of noticing our thinking, letting it go and returning to the experience of breath.
 
With time an ability to place our concentration where we choose develops and from this comes great ease. For some this happens quickly. For others, like me, it is a process that comes after many years of practice. Both are okay. The moment when I first let go of a thought and I am unencumbered, completely present in the moment, I am truly free.
 
May your practice go well!

Warmly,
Anthony 

Anthony A. Cernera, M.Ed. founded the New Leaf Meditation Project in 2014. Anthony started meditating in 2007 and took formal vows as a student of a Zen Buddhist order in 2009. When he isn't meditating, skydiving or playing with his cameras, Anthony is a non-profit fundraiser. He received a Master's in Education in 2014 and continues his research as doctoral student focusing on habit formation and motivation for new meditators.  You can find his writing right here at www.newleafmeditation.org

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