This is my first post since we were hit with COVID-19 and Stay-at-Home Orders. I haven’t been clear on what I wanted to write about. I could give Ayurveda Tips for Armageddon (I still might!). I could talk about the effect this is having on our collective psyche (I’m not a mental health expert, but that hasn’t stopped anyone else!) I could rant about government and politics (But, I prefer not to have my entire list unsubscribe!)
The question I kept asking myself was, what can I write that will be useful for others during this time? How can I be of service to my community?
And then it came to me. Like many of you, I have a lot of time for contemplation these days.
My yoga practice has become more contemplative over the past few years. I’ve had some injuries. And while I’ve healed from some of them and am working on poses I haven’t been able to do in a while, I’ve also realized that there are some poses I will never do again, like headstand. My neck is just too jacked to risk it. And I’m ok with that. There are other poses I can do, when I want to be upside down. I also have to accept the fact that I am not as young as I once was. And as we get older, our practice is supposed to become more contemplative. We become wiser and more thoughtful.
I have been deepening my meditation practice over the past five years. Like so many, I got into yoga through the physical practice, asana, which is the third of the eight limbs of yoga. Dyhana, or meditation, is the seventh. Since each limb builds upon the next, we can assume that the seventh limb is extremely important. The only limb to come after it, is Samadhi, or Enlightenment.
I was recently initiated into the school of Neelakantha
meditation, an ancient mantra practice, based on the Shiva Sutras, that has been passed down from teacher to student for thousands of years. This practice has catapulted my meditation into much deeper states. As my wonderful teacher, Jeanie Manchester
says, I get to bathe in the bubblebath of the vibratory field twice a day. And it’s powerful.
So, I’ve decided that the way I can give back during this world-wide crisis, is to share meditation with my community.
Starting next Sunday, May 17, at 10:30 am CDT, I’ll be hosting a weekly, free, online Community Gathering and Meditation. We’ll start with a teaching/discussion/conversation and then go into a short meditation. You can join via Facebook Live in my group, Life On & Off the Mat.
As I do want this to be a community gathering, I’m inviting yoga teachers, studios, meditation and spiritual teachers of any and all spiritual traditions to partner with me as a “sponsor,” and/or a guest host. I’ve put quotes around “sponsor,” because this is not a financial sponsorship, it is an energetic one. I will be happy to share your COVID online offerings with my community, and just ask that you do the same in return. I’ve got a couple yoga studios and teachers on board already!
I’m sure that many of you have heard how the power of prayer and meditation really do make a difference in the world. If we can get as many people as possible together, for just a few minutes, once a week, we can make a difference! In ourselves and the world. It’s called Subtle Activism. Whether you look at it as a simple stress-reduction for yourself during a very challenging time, or a way to deepen your personal spiritual practice, or as a method for planetary healing, I hope you will join us.
We’re in a time of unprecedented uncertainty. I’ll be writing more about that, and how we can keep ourselves grounded through it all, in future posts.
It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted. I needed the break and I’m thrilled to be back to my writing practice. I hope you’ll continue to read my posts about yoga, Ayurveda, parenting, politics, activism, food, social justice, health and more.
I’ve recently made a few big changes in my life and am excited and ready to begin my next phase. I left my full-time job because it was no longer serving me. There was nothing terrible about the job. It wasn’t a toxic work environment, it wasn’t stressful (at all), and the people I worked with were nice. And the benefits were decent.
So, why did I leave?
Because the job was slowly killing me. Maybe that’s an exaggeration. But, it was sucking out my life force energy. It wasn’t the fault of the job. It is a necessary job, just not the right job for me. It was a sedentary job that didn’t challenge me mentally or physically. As a pitta-kapha
body type, I need at least one, ideally both of those stimuli.
Nevertheless, some people were shocked that I was leaving. “What will you do?” they asked. “Do you have another job lined up?” “What about insurance?” They were equally shocked at my answer. I don’t have a specific plan. I have a couple of online clients, for whom I am an enrollment coach for their courses. I’m going to bartend. Work at the barn. And focus on yoga – both my own practice and my teaching. I’m going to write. I’m starting a business with a friend. I’m going to volunteer for the presidential election. I will purchase health insurance.
My plan is to live a fulfilling life.
Freedom is one of the core values of my life. Purpose and Joy are two others. And my life cannot be separated from work. If I don’t have freedom, purpose and joy in my work, I don’t have it in my life. I think this is probably the case for most people. So, why then, do so many people stay in unfulfilling jobs or bad relationships?
Fear. Fear of change, fear of loss of security, fear of failure, fear of success. It all comes down to fear. After I had given my notice, one coworker confided to me that she was envious of what I was doing. I asked her why she didn’t do the same then. She had a few reasons, all legitimate. But, it made me sad that she felt envious and like she couldn’t leave. She, like so many others, stays in an unfulfilling job, year after year, for the security of it.
I want to make one thing clear. I didn’t quit my job on a whim. This is where the discipline part comes in. I’ve got some money in the bank. I have a plan to make money. As an entrepreneur, I will have to have more discipline to get the work done and make the money, than I would have to have at an hourly job, where the only discipline I need is to show up. I’m not telling you to quit your job today if you don’t love it. What I am telling you though, is to begin a plan to live the life you want. When I work with my coaching clients, I have them take the time to figure out what they really want out of life, and to start working towards it. Most people don’t have the time or energy to even ponder what their dream life would be. The 40-hour work-week exhausts us and keeps us slaves to the system.
I also want to be clear that I am addressing, first-world, upper-middle class, relatively privileged people. There are too many people who are oppressed, abused, sick and living in poverty. There are people who’s dream is to eat tomorrow or to have someone be kind to them. I will write more in future posts about how we, the privileged, can and should work to eradicate this dichotomy.
A yogic paradox is Discipline equals Freedom. I would tweak that slightly and say that discipline creates freedom. When we have the discipline to focus on what is important to us, we gain the freedom to live the life we want.
I’ll end with an exercise you can do, if you feel like your life could be more fulfilling. Take some time working through these questions. Write your answers in longhand.
Ask yourself what your life would be like, if it could be anything you wanted.
Write a list of small things you can do to work towards that.
Spend 5 minutes a day getting through that list and working towards your dream.
You might be thinking that 5 minutes a day won’t make much difference. Just imagine doing this for a year. At the end of the year, you will have put more than 30 hours into your dream life. Ok, 30 hours isn’t a ton, but it’s a hell of a lot more than zero. You gotta start somewhere. Good luck!
I was introduced to Ayurveda when I took my first yoga teacher training in 2007. Though it was the most basic and cursory introduction, I felt an immediate connection to it. I felt drawn to it enough to know that I wanted to know more, that I needed to know more. I took some online dosha (body/mind type) quizzes and bought a few Ayurveda cookbooks and thought that I knew a lot.
Then I bought Dr. Vasant Lad’s Textbook of Ayurveda. I knew that Dr. Lad was credited with bringing Ayurveda to the west. The book blew my mind. But, not in the way you think. I read it cover to cover. I learned nothing. It was so over my head. I put it in my bookcase and bought a few more books. I could relate to these books on varying levels; most were either written by Indians, who grew up with Ayurveda and then spent years studying it at universities, or by Westerners who had gone to India to study it. Their knowledge was vast, but I still couldn’t figure out how to put Ayurveda into my own life. I needed something practical and applicable.
In 2010, I found what I was looking for – an online Ayurveda course for yogi householders, taught by a western woman who was also a mom with a small kid. I signed up and dove into a deep study of the everyday, practical ways I could use Ayurveda to create a healthier and happier life for myself and my family. I loved it. I loved my teacher. I stayed with this teacher for years and learned so much. While I will always be grateful for the teachings I received, there came a point when I began to see a lack of ethics and personal integrity in this teacher. The unfortunate consequence of that was that it pushed me away from Ayurveda for some time. I wasn’t able to separate the teaching from the teacher, so I pulled away from Ayurveda.
It took me a couple of years to feel the pull back to the study and lifestyle of this beautiful science. I began to follow other Ayurveda teachers and read different books and had to remind myself over and over that Ayurveda was not my teacher. Ayurveda was a thousands year old practice, a beautiful system and practice for living. It is not, cannot be personified by an American woman born in the 1970s. It cannot be personified by any one person. I’ll be writing a lot more about Ayurveda, as I prepare my Ayurveda for Modern Yogis online course, which will begin in mid-November.
So, for those of you who know little or nothing about it, here is a short list of ways that a knowledge and practice of Ayurveda can make lives better:
- Ayurveda gives us an understanding of our personal mind/body constitutions, so we can eat, exercise, sleep and work in the best way possible
- Ayurveda connects us to the natural world, and helps us to eat and live in accordance with the seasons
- Ayurveda teaches us to deeply know our bodies and those of our loved ones, helping us to recognize early signs of sickness and dis-ease and often prevent them from manifesting (this is HUGE for parents!)
- Ayurveda has been teaching the benefits of daily habits for centuries before Charles Duhigg and James Clear made them buzz-words for the super-successful
- Though Ayurveda is an ancient practice, it is non-dogmatic and was designed to grow and evolve change as humanity does
- A knowledge of Ayurveda can help to heal digestive and other chronic health issues
- Contrary to popular belief, Ayurveda does not ask you to adhere to a strict or specific diet; it is very flexible and forgiving
Because I know that many of my readers are yogis, I want to emphasize this point – Ayurveda is not a separate thing from yoga. Ayurveda is yoga. Ayurveda is the diet and lifestyle practices of yoga. It is yoga off the yoga mat.
Why does Ayurveda recommend seasonal detoxing?
Because we are part of nature, when nature goes through a seasonal transition, we do as well. After summer, we all have accumulated heat in our bodies, as do animals and plants. Heat accumulates and rises. We see this in the trees, as heat rises to their leaves, the leaves then turn colors, dry and fall off. That is how trees detox and rid themselves of summer heat.
After the harvest, when there are no more fruits or berries for the wild animals to eat, they naturally detox, just due to lack of available food. That is how they dissipate heat and prepare for winter.
What happens to us if we do not cleanse the heat from our bodies? The heat rises and dries out our sinuses, making them less able to protect us from pollen and other airborne irritants. This causes the sinuses to produce excess mucus. All this equals lots of fall allergies and predisposes us to colds and other winter sicknesses.
A gentle fall cleanse helps remove the excess heat and sets us up for a healthier fall and winter.
I’ll be leading an online fall detox, starting October 13. It’s suitable for both the new and experienced detoxer. It can be gentle or deep. And it’s probably the most affordable online detox you’ll find. You’ll get a lot for your investment.
Learn more here.
What can you do now?
As we transition from summer to fall, continue to eat the fruits and vegetables of the season. Apples are particularly good at removing heat from the body. Melons, green juices and salads are still good. Though it’s tempting to dive into heavier warming foods as the temperatures begin to drop, it’s not quite time. Opt for a lighter soup and some root vegetables when you’re yearning for cold-weather food. It’s transition time, but it needs to be taken slowly. If it’s at the farmers market, it’s a go. Eat what’s in season and you can’t go too far wrong.
I hope you’ve found my intro to Ayurveda and cleansing interesting. More to come.
Hard to believe Labor Day weekend is upon us once again!
I hope you’ve had a great summer doing all the fun things you like to do in summer and maybe trying some new things as well.
For me, this has been my first really fun summer since moving to Wisconsin. The first couple summers were mostly settling in, selling my house in Colorado, changing jobs etc.
But this summer, I got to sit back and enjoy! As you may have noticed, I took the summer off from blogging, but I’ve actually been writing quite a bit. I’ve got several blog posts that just need some polishing, and I’ve been working on both of my books, my novel and my memoir and that’s been rewarding. And I tried some new, fun things.
Did you try anything new this summer? I think there is so much value in trying new activities. We all get into our routines of doing the same thing over and over. Whether its the meals we eat, the people we hang out with, or the activities we enjoy. We tend to keep coming back to the same thing. Which is absolutely fine, as long as we enjoy those things.
And, it is also great to try new things.
Being a newcomer to my home, I kind of had no choice but to get out and try some new things, meet some new people, make some new friends. It’s been fun and rewarding.
As I mentioned in a prior blog
, I got back into horses. That’s been the most profound experience.
I also started stand-up paddle boarding. I go out on the lake most mornings before work. It’s so peaceful and beautiful and fun. A good workout too. I also took up golf. I figured, since I moved from a ski resort to a gold and tennis resort, I better learn to play golf and tennis! I got inspired to start running again, and am training for a triathlon. I’ve also gotten more involved with Rotary and am in awe of this enormous group of people who are so dedicated to giving back. It’s humbling.
There’s so much value in trying something new. Here are a few reasons that you should give it a try:
Make new friends
Learn something about yourself
Discover new ways to feel joy
Stimulate your creativity
Break out of a rut
Yes, summer is winding down, but you don’t have to wait until summer to try something new. Here are a few ideas for new things you can try anytime:
Try a new sport
Take a class ( a new language, art, creative writing, cooking; the possibilities are endless)
Start writing or drawing (don’t worry if you think you’re good!)
Learn to cook something you’ve never cooked before
Take up a musical instrument
Do something alone (travel, go to a concert etc)
Join a group or club that interests you
When we try something new, we are stepping out of our comfort zone, which is how we grow and evolve.
Did you try anything new this summer? Do you have plans to try anything new in the near future? I’d love to hear what you’ve got going on. Post in the comments below, or in the Facebook group
and share your experiences.
Are you only practicing one-eighth of yoga?
I’ve been wanting to do a series of posts on the Eight Limbs of Yoga, specifically, the first two limbs, the Yamas & Niyamas.
If you aren’t familiar with the eight limbs of yoga, that’s not surprising. In the modern, western world, yoga is focused almost entirely on the third limb, asana. That’s right, when you show up on your mat every day or every week, you are practicing one-eighth of what yoga is about. This is not to lessen the importance of the physical practice of yoga, but to introduce and explain the importance of the other seven limbs.
For those of you who have a familiarity and a practice of the eight limbs, I hope you’ll find my perspectives interesting and worth reading. For those of you unfamiliar, I hope you’ll be inspired to investigate and find a deeper understanding of the many facets of living yogic life.
This series is not going to be in any particular order, nor is it going to be a specified number of weeks in a row. It’ll simply show up, based on what I am experiencing, reading and contemplating in my life at the time. I hope to begin to answer the questions of where do we pick up after we pick up our yoga mats? How can we cultivate the feeling that yoga brings us, in our everyday lives? How can practicing yoga both on and off our mats bring us greater contentment, peace and joy in our own lives? How can it help us to help others and become better stewards of the planet?
Deep questions, I know. I am not attempting to answer these questions for you, but to introduce you to a pathway to begin answering them for yourself.
The Eight Limbs of Yoga
- Yama ~ restraints
- Niyama ~ observances
- Asana ~ physical practice
- Pranayama ~ breath practices
- Pratyahara ~ turning inward
- Dharana ~ concentration
- Dhyana ~ meditation
- Samadhi ~ enlightenment
The Yama & Niyamas – The First Two Limbs of Yoga
Put simply, the yamas and niyamas can be thought of as ethical guidelines for living. They are the foundation of yogic thought. The yamas are defined, variously, as restraints, moral qualities, self-regulating behaviors or attitudes towards life. They are about how we treat other beings and the world around us. The niyamas are described as observances, personal practices and an evolution towards harmony within ourselves. Put very simply, the yamas are about how we relate to the world and others; the niyamas are how we relate to and evolve ourselves.
If you’re wondering where these guidelines came from and who the heck put them together, they were compiled by the sage Patanjali, approximately 2,500 years ago, into the spiritual text known as The Yoga Sutras. Patanjali is not the author, but the editor or compiler of the sutras. Prior to Patanjali, they had been taught and passed down orally, from teacher to student for millennia. There are many different translations and interpretations of the Yoga Sutras. The closest comparison of a text that I can think of is the Bible. The sutras are a series of short threads or verses that explain how to live a yogic life. Like the Bible, they are sometimes difficult to grasp and have been interpreted many different ways. Unlike the Bible, the sutras were meant to evolve and change with the times and circumstances. While they were originally meant for saints and ascetics, they can and should be adapted for the 21st Century householder (us). Also, unlike the Bible, they are not dogmatic and not meant to be taken literally. Interpretation is allowed and encouraged.
There are five yamas and five niyamas. We are instructed to practice them in thought, word and deed.
- Ahimsa ~ non-harming
- Satya ~ truthfulness
- Astheya ~ non-stealing
- Brahmacharya ~ non-excess
- Aparigraha ~ greedlessness
- Saucha ~ purity
- Santosha ~ contentment
- Tapas ~ self-discipline
- Svadhyaya ~ self-study
- Ishvara Pranidana ~ Surrender
Even as I write, I want to say so much more. These one or two word definitions just barely scratch the surface of what the first two limbs of yoga are all about. But, I don’t want to overwhelm. I know that many yoga students and teacher trainees get overwhelmed when starting to study yoga’s deeper texts and philosophy. I certainly did. It took me years to “get” what the yamas and niyamas were really about, and still, I am no expert. But, I do feel that I have a pretty good working understanding; at least enough to share in a (hopefully) helpful way.
As I continue this series, I’ll delve deeper into the individual yamas and niyamas and share how I’ve incorporated them into my life. I’ll give suggestions for you to do the same.
If this subject lights you up and you can’t wait for more, there are some resources below. If you want to dive deeper, you’re probably a good fit for my yogi-mentoring and yoga teacher mentoring. I love helping yogis fit these ancient teachings into their modern lives and seeing how their light begins to shine brighter and brighter. I’m offering all of my readers a free, 30 minute yogi-coaching session, to chat about mentoring and see if I can help you find what you are looking for in your yoga practice ~ on & off the mat.
Here is a list of a few of my favorite, user-friendly books on the subject:
The Yamas & Niyamas by Deborah Adele
True Yoga by Jennie Lee
The Secret Power of Yoga by Nischala Joy Devi
Do Your Om Thing by Rebecca Pacheco
The Tree of Yoga by BKS Iyengar (slightly more advanced, or old-school, depending on how you look at it).
Well, there’s a little yoga philosophy for you to nibble on. I’ll go deeper into one or two of the yamas next time. PS – I don’t know how many times I have to type yamas, before my auto-correct stops changing it to yams! So, if it says yamsanywhere in this post, I apologize!
My last couple of posts have had pretty heavy subjects. And though I’ve gotten some wonderful feedback on them, I want to shift gears and give you something lighter this week.
I think we all want to feel and experience joy. But, as adults, we often don’t. Why is that? I’m talking about real, true, unadulterated joy. Notice the word adult in unadulterated? We may be generally happy or content in our lives or we may be frustrated and restless. Joy, in my mind, isn’t a long-term state. It’s not the same as internal happiness and contentment. We’re taught in yoga and we read in self-help books, that happiness must come from within, that we can’t get happiness from external things. That is true. And, there are plenty of experiences, people, animals, places and memories that can bring us that sense of joy.
When was the last time you experienced pure joy? The kind that made you want to jump up and down and made you smile so much your face hurt? If it’s been a while, I’ve got a suggestion for you.
Look to your childhood. Of course I realize that not everyone had a great childhood. But the thing about children is, they are much more open to joy. They feel it much more easily than we jaded adults do.
I remember once being in a seminar for entrepreneurs. They were trying to get us to figure out how we could make our business bring us joy (my words, not theirs). They instructed us to think about what we wanted to do when we grew up, when we were young. The exercise was to try to find out what we really wanted to do, based on what we loved when we were kids. While I think that exercise missed its mark a bit – not too many middle aged small business owners were going to throw it all in to become astronauts or Broadway stars, I do think there was some relevance in the exercise.
If you met me in the last 30 years, unless you know me really well, chances are, you don’t know that as a kid, my entire existence revolved around horses. I would go to the stable every day after school, until dinnertime and would spend all day Saturday and Sunday there. I worked at the stable, to support my equine habit. I cleaned stalls, groomed, cleaned tack, guided trail rides. I took care of horses who’s owners showed up a couple times a year to ride. My summers were filled with horse shows and 4H.
In the back of my mind, I’ve always said, “Someday I’ll get back to horses.” But it never happened. Until now.
This summer, my daughter and I started volunteering for a local organization that uses equine therapy to help special needs kids. I was psyched to do something involving horses and she needs volunteer hours to graduate from high school. While I expected to enjoy it, I had no idea how profoundly it would affect me. From the moment I stepped into the barn and smelled the smells and touched the horses, I felt like I was home. It was like no time had passed. I felt as comfortable with the horses as I did 35 years ago. I remembered how to talk to a horse, how to tighten a girth, how to sit on a horse in two-point position. The smells, the sounds, everything. It all came back instantly. And filled me with Joy. Huge, big, happy joy. That feeling of I can’t stop smiling and thinking about it and talking about it.
My daughter recognized this in me immediately. Horses are not her thing. But, she has never once complained, whined, made excuses or any of those other teenagery things. When I thanked her for that, she said, “I see how happy the horses make you, Mom, and I want you to be happy.” (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I pulled the lucky card when it came to parenting!)
My point is that, while deciding to become an astronaut at 50 may not be in the cards, we can look to our childhood to understand what can bring us joy today. Did you love baseball? Join a local softball team. Did you love writing? Download and app and get on it! Maybe it was fishing, camping, singing, acting, baking, dancing. It could be any number of things, and they are all things you can do again. A good friend of mine practiced ballet as a child, and took it up again in her 30s. Another had rabbits as a child and is now breeding bunnies as a happy hobby. Maybe you loved sewing or playing the piano. It doesn’t matter what it was. If you want a little extra joy in your life, turn back time to when joy came much more easily. Before the weight of adulthood began to land on your shoulders. And try it again. It might be a little scary at first. The thought of falling on the ice is a lot more daunting to a middle-aged person, than to a young figure-skater or hockey player. But, take it from me, if you loved it then, you’ll love it now.
What brought you joy when you were a child? How can you make your way back to it? I would love to hear.