Preparing for the New Year

As another year comes to a close, we  begin to prepare for the New Year.  Many people will make New Year’s Resolutions, only to break them by the end of January.  Here I offer you an alternative way to begin 2013.  A more mindful, purpose-filled new tradition that will have long lasting effects.

On New Year’s Day, my children, my husband, and I practice a burning bowl ceremony and then we set our intentions for the new year.  We begin with our burning bowl ceremony.   First, we each write down thoughts or actions that did not serve us the previous year on mini pieces of paper.  Last year, on my paper, I wrote “Good- bye fear.  Good-bye thoughts of lack and limitation.”  My youngest said good bye to getting angry so quickly.  Then after sharing them aloud, we burn the papers and watch our negative thoughts and behaviors go up in smoke.  The burning bowl ceremony can be very freeing, especially for children, as they experience what it means to say good-bye to thoughts and behaviors that do not serve them.

After this ceremony, we set our intentions for the New Year. We each write down what we’d like to have happen in our lives during the next year.  This time we place our intentions in our New Year’s treasure box to keep until next New Year’s.  We decorated our New Year’s treasure box many years ago as a family. We enjoy emptying the box the following year and reading the intentions that we set the previous year.  This has become a beautiful tradition and one that we all look forward to each year.

A new addition to our tradition that I am implementing this year is to create Intention Cards for us to keep visible (on a bedroom mirror or refrigerator) or to carry with us in our wallets.  This will allow us to revisit our intentions throughout the year and to be more mindful of the changes we wish to make.  I have some blank business cards that we will decorate and write our new intentions for 2013.  I’ll let you  now next year how this addition to our tradition worked!

Wishing you all a peaceful, prosperous, healthy 2013!

Namaste,

Lisa

Out of the Darkness and Into the Light

The world did not end today, so now what?

Much has been written about the end of the Mayan calendar, much of it misunderstanding and rumor and even some humorous!  What many can agree on, however,  is that we are on the cusp of a a huge shift in energy and consciousness. Today is the Winter Solstice which energetically brings us forth from the darkness of our past into the beautiful light of our future.  This  Solstice season, coupled with the end of the Piscean Age, is doubly powerful.

Symbolically this is important for me.  I have spent the past several years trying to dig myself back from a darkness.  Personally,  I have struggled with being able to pull myself forward out of the dark.

As a family, we experienced heart-wrenching devastation at the height of the financial and housing crash.  And although we made it through, the scars have not totally healed.  Going through something personally is tough, going through it with children to care for and protect is crushing. (At the time,  my kids were 5, 7, and 10. )   Through it all, my children saw me smile as I kept up as normal of a life as I could.  I would wait to break down and cry at night when they were asleep.    I didn’t want to them to be affected by what was happening to us.   I was honest with them, though, and they were aware of our circumstances.  But I never allowed them to feel the magnitude of my fear and devastation.

A few years have passed since then,  and we are putting our financial lives back together.  The biggest challenge is forgiving the past and moving forward.  We’ve all heard the saying that you can’t move forward with a foot stuck in the past.  Easy to say, but when the scars are deep, it takes time and some personal work to heal.

I am at a point now where I can feel gratitude for our struggles because they made me who I am today.  I believe I am a more compassionate and empathetic yoga teacher and life-coach because of what I’ve gone through.  It’s hard to help others through struggles if you yourself have not struggled.

Which brings me back to the Solstice.  So, what does Winter Solstice have to do with my story and yours?

The Winter Solstice is a time of rebirth.  It carries an energy of forgiving the past and moving forward and starting anew with renewed commitment.  This is an amazing gift.

This is a great time to start a meditation, yoga, or gratitude practice.  These practices will help guide you out of the darkness and into the light.

May we all be wrapped in the loving light of the season.  Peace and blessings to us all as we expand forward on this journey.

Namaste,

Lisa

Having an Attitude of Gratitude

I had the honor of being a guest on my husband’s local radio show this week.  The topic on the heels of Thanksgiving week was gratitude.  Firstly, I was so honored that my husband looks to me as his go to expert on the subject of gratitude.  Secondly, I was scared out of my mind.  To say that I don’t like public speaking is a huge understatement!  But, Eleanor Roosevelt said to do one thing everyday that scares you, so I went for it!

The timing of the radio show was no accident.  We decided that the week after Thanksgiving was a perfect time to discuss the benefits of continuing a daily gratitude practice.

My daily gratitude practice has been transformational for me.  It’s been a beautiful addition to my yoga and meditation practice.  Each day I challenge myself to journal ten things I am grateful for each day and WHY I am grateful for each item on my list.  Journaling is important because it holds you accountable to keeping consciously aware of reasons to be grateful.  The number “ten” is important because it can be a real challenge to come up with ten different things each day that you are grateful. And listing a “why” is important because the “why” forces you to go even deeper into your gratitude.  This is what one of my entries looked like recently:

1. Today I am grateful for going for a walk with my husband because spending these precious times alone strengthens our relationship and makes our marriage stronger.

2.  I am grateful for painting nails with my girls because spending quality time with my children is what recharges me and keeps me aware of their precious childhood.

3.  I am grateful for taking David to get his braces off because he is so excited to get them off and I want to be there to see his first brace-less smile.

4.  I am grateful for my upcoming yoga/meditation workshop with my brother because it allows us to share these gifts with others.

5.  I am grateful for the beautiful views outside my windows because the trees and dunes are calming and grounding.

6.  I am grateful for my teaching job because it provides us the extra income for fun family experiences and home projects as well as great health insurance.

7.  I am grateful for going to Starbuck’s today because it is such a treat!

8.  I am grateful for my Christmas decorations because I love seeing the pretty things and they all hold precious memories for me.

9.  I am grateful to be creating a yoga/meditation home study program with my brother because it will help so many people to live a more peaceful life.

10.  I am grateful for my writing because it is a wonderful creative outlet that feeds my soul.

The cool thing with living in a place of gratitude is that gratitude and negative self talk cannot hold the same space in your mind.  Writing in my gratitude journal is a sure fire way to get out of a funk.

I encourage you to either start a gratitude practice or continue your practice if you currently have one.  I am excited to hear about changes you may experience as your gratitude practice develops and grows!

Peace, Love, and Gratitude,

 Lisa

“The Yogini Next Door”

Help! I’m in a funk and I can’t get out!

Perhaps it was the strong energy from the New Moon yesterday (July 18th) or because my hormones are a bit unbalanced at the moment, but whatever the cause I began to feel the dark cloud of funk-dom close in on me yesterday.  It began as  feeling kinda out of sync, nothing specific, just not my usual happy self.  The feeling has only intensified today.  Now if you’ve never found yourself falling head first into the abyss of funk-dom, then you may stop reading now.  For those of you who have experienced the insidious, very stubborn dark cloud descend upon you without so much as a warning, then this is for you!

The great thing about living a yogic lifestyle is that I don’t stay in that funky place for too long anymore.  I used to.  I have a tendency toward depression.  I’ve battled with bouts of depression all of my life, including a debilitating case of postpartum depression after the birth of our 3rd child.  It was this severe case of depression that led me to discover the trans formative powers of yoga. (I blogged about Postpartum Depression earlier this year)  Since my first yoga class ten years ago, I have devoted much of my life to deepening my personal practice which has given me the tools to help others.

Here’s my go to list to help me remove the dark cloud of funk-dom when it creeps in:

1.  I get on my yoga mat.  For some reason, when our negative thoughts begin to take over, the last thing we want to do is what we need to do to escape that thinking.  We may convince ourselves that we are too busy to practice.  But it just simply is not true. We make time every day for things far less important than our mental and spiritual health.  When I first started practicing, I thought that if I didn’t have an hour to devote to my practice, I shouldn’t even bother.  What I’ve come to learn, though, is that after years of consistent practice, my body automatically goes into a relaxed state when my butt first touches the mat.  After years of practice, I can get my body to switch over from that fight or flight state of stress over to a more peaceful, stress-less place just by sitting on my mat.  It truly doesn’t matter if you  have 10 minutes or an hour, just get out your mat and practice.  Your body, mind, and spirit will thank you!

2.  I focus on my breath.  Even if you don’t have your yoga mat with you,  you always have your breath.  Sometimes,  just bringing your attention to your breath will help to bring you down a couple of notches.  I’ve blogged about alternate nostril breathing and extendend exhale breathing in past blogs.  Both are easily accessible and are great ways to reduce stressful thinking.

3.  I get out my gratitude journal.  This seemingly easy activity is so powerful.  Try this:  the next time you are in a funk, list 10 things you are truly grateful for at that moment and WHY.  For example, today while in the throes of my self created pity party, I looked over at the preciously wrapped gifts my children had bought a week ahead of time for my birthday next week.  In my journal, I wrote: “Today I am grateful for my thoughtful, generous, self-less, caring children because they fill my life with unspeakable joy and love.”   This is has been one of my favorite daily routines. The challenge is coming up with 10 truly unique things to be grateful each day! It’s fun to look back over past entries at the multitude of blessings you have in your life.

4.  Phone a friend.  Talking to a trusted, caring friend can help get you out of your head.  We all have friends that can “talk us off the ledge” at the times when we need it or friends that will  just quietly listen and support us when we need that.  I had the blessing to have coffee with a dear friend this morning.  Just being with someone who shares your similar views on life can be the boost you need to move you out of your funk.

5.  If all else fails, get outta Dodge!  Sometimes, just a change in scenery can help lift our spirits. Whether it is going for a drive,  going for a walk, or getting an ice cream cone, just getting away for awhile can help change your mood.  At around 4:30 this afternoon, I announced to the kids that we were going for ice cream before dinner!  An unexpected little treat can be so good for the soul!

I hope that the next time you are in a funk, these strategies will help you get out!

Namaste,

Lisa

“The Yogini Next Door”

And then the walls came crashing down…

My last post was at the height of my euphoria following a most powerful healing retreat.  Well, as they say, what goes up, must come down. Alright, maybe not always, but in this case I crashed back down hard.   Holy shit, did I crash.

I came back from the retreat fired up ready to move forward toward my goal of reaching more people through my yoga teaching and coaching.  I spent the week reading, writing, planning, meditating, and training.  I’ve been dreaming of quitting my job and committing myself fully to my life’s passion of yoga for awhile now.  But this time felt different.  I felt so certain that I was going to make a living teaching this yogic lifestyle to others through workshops, writing, speaking, and coaching that I could literally feel it in my soul;  I could see myself living the life I’ve always wanted to live.

I guess things got a little too real for my ego.  ‘Cuz she said,  “Oh, no ya don’t sister!”  in a big way!  Stinkin’ thinkin’ started to creep in Saturday.  My ego was saying, “Are you kidding!  Who are you to think you can coach others on how to live more peaceful, purpose-filled lives!?” and “Oh, and don’t forget you only have 2 people signed up for your next yoga workshop!” and my personal fave “You aren’t even that good of a yoga teacher!”.

In response, I answered as compassionately as I possibly could, “Not now, ego, I have work to do!”  I got out my gratitude journal, wrote down 10 things I was grateful for in my life and I went to bed for the night.

Egos are insidious, powerful parts of us, though.  I woke up Sunday morning sicker than I have been in years with a kick your ass to the curb kind of migraine.  Well played ego,well played!

Thankfully, I have a wonderful acupuncture healer friend who I have on speed dial.  The next day, I had an acupuncture treatment to relieve the pain.  However, as I was laying there with my needles in, I spoke directly to my ego to assure her that I would take better care of her throughout this journey.  I realized that instead of allowing and trusting in the process, I began to force the change.  I promised myself to take a much more gentle, loving approach to the journey.

Gay Hendrick’s referred to this experience in his book, The Big Leap, as an “upper limit problem”.

The gorgeous and brilliant Marie Forleo, life coach extraordinaire, elaborated on the upper limit theory. Here’s the basic idea: “Each of has an internal thermometer for how much success, wealth, happiness, love and intimacy we’ll let ourselves experience. That’s our upper limit setting. Kind of like our success comfort zone.

When we exceed our internal thermostat setting, and life gets super duper OMG good (we have an influx of money, get healthy, find a great relationship) — we unconsciously do things to sabotage ourselves, so we can drop back to the old, familiar place where we feel in control.

Upper limit problems can manifest like this: You’ve just had a huge win, and then you get in an accident, break a limb, fry your computer, over-drink, over-eat, over-spend, start a fight with your significant other, get really sick, etc. You know, fun self-sabotaging stuff like that.”

So why am I telling you all of this and why should you care?

Because if you are ready to make huge changes in your life, you will come up against your upper limits.  And when you do, you may want to back away from the pain and retreat back to your comfort zone, and ditch your dreams. Don’t!  Feel the discomfort, feel the pain.  Acknowledge the discomfort and pain, be gentle with yourself, and move through it.  Find a trusted healer, coach, or holistic practitioner to help you through it if necessary.

Just remember, the world needs us to dream big and stop playing small.  As Susan Jeffers tells us, “Feel the fear and do it anyway!”

With gratitude,

Namaste,

Lisa

Getting Out of Our Own Way

I attended a Tibetan Buddhist Healing Retreat over the weekend. I left blissfully empty of all the junk that I’d been carrying around with me.  But almost paradoxically filled with so much love I could have burst.

I spent two days basking in the afterglow of the healing.  Then, as Jack Kornfield’s aptly titled book says, “After the Ecstasy, The Laundry”.  Simply put, life happened and my glow started to fade…

I know in my brain that this is how life works.  You know, the whole Yin/Yang thing of life.  But I still get that pang of “Oh,no! I”m not ready for it to end yet!”

Flash forward to this morning when my mom (whom I attended the retreat with) and I were texting back and forth bemoaning that we’d lost the bliss.  I actually began typing the words, “Trying desperately to hold onto it….”  I looked down briefly at the words I’d just typed and literally laughed out loud at my momentary ignorance in thinking I could ‘hold onto’  or grasp or force this blissful state.

This evening while I lay in Savasana after a lovely asana practice and listening to Krishna Das chant, I was taken back to those words that I’d typed earlier in the day about holding onto our bliss.  This time, I saw those words from a different angle or rather they were revealed to me from a different place.

We can’t ‘hold onto’ or grasp after our bliss because it doesn’t ever go away!  That moment of bliss, that feeling of emptiness while at the same time holding the whole world in your heart, is who we all truly are when everything else is stripped away.  Our challenge then is not to hold on, but to get of our own way.

With a Heart Full of Gratitude and Love for YOU!

Namaste,

Lisa

Gratitude Part Two

I recently wrote about how living a life of gratitude has changed my life.    Practicing gratitude on a daily basis and in every aspect of your life is truly a trans-formative practice.

Having a heart filled with gratitude is more than being thankful. I had always thought of myself as a grateful person, but when I really dug deep down, I saw that I had taken a lot for granted, experienced a lot of “it’s not enough” situations, and lived for years trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Just a few short years ago, my husband and I were making more money than we  had ever dreamed possible;  we had a large home, took family vacations, bought what we wanted, when we wanted.  But I wasn’t happy.  In retrospect, I spent those years of seeming abundance in fear of losing it all and looking at what we didn’t have instead of being on my knees thanking God for all that He had given us….for our health, for the ability to make so much money, for the time we spent together as a family, for every little thing that we experienced day in and day out.  I say, “in retrospect” because at the time, I really wasn’t consciously aware that I wasn’t living a life of gratitude.  It was only years later, through some heart wrenching soul searching that I became aware of my lack of gratitude.

Traveling back even further, I recognized that I had not practiced gratitude growing up with my parents .  My parents sacrificed so much to provide a comfortable, happy life for my brother and myself.  They went without so that my brother and I had the clothes we needed, equipment to play the sports we wanted, cars to drive, and still generously worked hard to put us both through college.

Now instead of  wallowing  in a self depreciating pity party(which I would have done in the past!)  for not having the awareness at the time to express my gratitude,  I chose to “reframe” those past memories of ungratefulness by going back to each memory, living it out again in my mind, but this time ending it by saying thank you, thank you, thank you to God, to my parents, to whoever it was that was responsible for that experience.  With a heart full of gratitude, I moved through each of these past memories and expressed my gratefulness for each opportunity.   This is a powerful NLP practice that can help release you from your past so that you can move forward to live the life you were meant to live.

It is my wish that my story helps you in some small way.  I am so grateful that you took time out of your day to read my post.

Namaste,

Lisa