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

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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”

Parenting in the Moment

I love the poem which starts out , “The days go slow.  The years go fast.”  I love it, but it also makes me kinda sad.  My children are now 15, 12, and 10.  I remember the carefree days of toddler hood like they were yesterday.  Those days seemed to pass painfully slowly at times.  I was a stay at home mom with not a whole lot of money to spend, so we spent a lot of time going for walks, playing at the park, and visiting friends and family.  These were precious times, but there were days that the monotony got to all of us.  However, looking back now, the years seem to have been on fast forward.  Kids are a great reminder of life’s impermanence.  No matter how much we don’t want them grow up, they go and do it anyway!

I have really tried to parent with the mantra of having no regrets, trying to be mindful of this impermanence of life, knowing that the phrase, “This too shall pass.”  really is true.    This has really helped to shape the kind of parent I am.  It’s been helpful when weighing decisions on  a daily basis over the past 15 years.  It’s really why I don’t sweat the small stuff.  But it is also why I am firm on some things, like respect, grades, honesty.  Because I don’t ever want my kids to regret their own decisions.  So while I may not think my son having spiked hair is a big deal, his working to the best of his ability is a big deal.  My daughter having her pacey until she was 5 did not phase me a bit, but once she made a commitment to play an instrument, she needed to follow through with it.  And when my kids were small and they needed me by their sides to fall asleep, I cherished it because I knew that soon enough there would be many nights they stayed up later than me and I wouldn’t even get the chance to tuck them into bed.

I bought the  children’s book, Let Me Hold You Longer, by Karen Kingsbury years ago.  It’s a tough one to get through dry eyed.  The premise is that the parent wishes she would have known when her child’s lasts were.  It certainly makes you wonder…if the behaviors we find monotonous, annoying, or exhausting were to disappear tomorrow, would we still find them annoying, or would we actually find appreciation in them or even somehow feel a mourning at their passing.

Practicing mindful parenting and “presentness” (yes, I made up that word) is not easy and it can be especially difficult to sustain on a daily basis. However, being able to parent “in the moment” as often as we possibly can is fulfilling for ourselves as parents as well as for our children. Whenever possible, try to take a step back, find your breath, and appreciate your children for who they are right now knowing that this too shall pass (whether you want it to or not!)

Peace to all,

Lisa

“The Yogini Next Door”

Defying Gravity

On the way home from taking my girls into Chicago to stay with their grandparents for a few days, I took advantage of being in control of what I listened to all the way home.  (Those of you with children know that from toddler-hood through teen-hood, a mother’s car stereo is not her own.)  I had prepared for my journey home by excitedly packing my Wicked CD for the drive back.

It had been awhile since I’d listened to Wicked from beginning to end uninterrupted.  I sang along loudly and unabashedly.  What kind of surprised me was that as I sang along to Defying Gravity, I started to cry.  As a side note, I am deeply affected by music, feeling it on a very personal level.  I can be uplifted and changed through music.  As I sang the words to Defying Gravity, the words expressed  perfectly how I want to live my life.  I felt this longing for more, knowing that I am here for a much deeper purpose.

Elphaba sings, “Something has changed within me.  Something is not the same.  I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game.  Too late for second guessing. Too late to go back to sleep.  It’s time to trust my instincts, close my eyes and leap. It’s time to try defying gravity! ……As someone told me lately, everyone deserves a chance to fly!”

The journey that I began 10 years ago when I started practicing yoga opened my eyes to different way of living. Over the years, my awareness has grown and continues to grow every day.  Something truly changed within me and I am not the same.   I used to live for others, worried about what other people thought of me, not really even knowing who I was as a separate individual.  It is not a fulfilling way to live. Through quiet introspection I have discovered who I am as an individual and what my purpose is while I am inhabiting this planet.  My purpose is to help everyday women live more peaceful, more purpose-filled lives through the practice of yoga, meditation, and mindful living.

I know I am here for more.  We are all here for so much more. The trick is to drop our egos at the door, see one another as God sees us, and feel free to be who we were meant to be.

We all deserve our chance to fly!

Namaste,

Lisa

“The Yogini Next Door”

5 Steps to Mindful Parenting

As the parent of three (if I do say so myself) fabulous children ages 15, 12, and 10, I sometimes stand back in wonderment at how these individuals came to be such well adjusted, happy people.

I think the feeling of  gratitude especially hits me when I hear of the tragic lives other children live.  In my other life, I’m a special education teacher. I witness how precious young lives are changed forever by unconscious parenting.  I also hear the tragic stories of young people at my son’s high school who turn to drugs and alcohol to fill the holes they feel.

When I think of how my husband and I have chosen to raise our children, the best way to describe our style is mindful parenting.  Even before our children were born we’d spend hours discussing our views on parenting and raising children.  It was always our desire to help guide them, but never to mold them into our vision of the perfect child.  It’s always been important for us to help them uncover their inner genius or their own life’s purpose.  We’ve allowed them to explore interests and if something doesn’t resonate with them we’ve allowed them to move on.

What is mindful parenting?  Jon Kabat-Zinn, co-author of  Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting suggests:

“Parenting through mindfulness has the potential to penetrate past surface appearances and behaviors and allow us to see our children as they truly are, so we can act with some degree of wisdom and compassion. The more we are able to keep in mind the intrinsic wholeness and beauty of our children – especially when it’s difficult to see – the more our ability to be mindful deepens.

So,  here are my 5 steps to Mindful Parenting:

1.  Listen.  No, I mean really listen to them.  As I say to my class  at school, “Give me five!”  Five meaning:  listen with your eyes, your ears, your heart, with your hands free, and mouth closed.  This is so hard in a busy mom’s (and dad’s)  life!  Make it a point to really give your kids “five” everyday.  We all  just want to feel heard.  When we feel that we are heard, we feel validated and worthy as  human beings.  What message are we sending our children if we are so busy on facebook or our iphones that we nod politely and say a lot of “uh-huh, that’s nice sweetie” while they are telling us about their day?  What chance do we have that they will really listen to us when we have something important to say?

2.  Observe.  Mindful parenting requires us to be present enough on a day to day basis to notice small changes in behavior in our children.  When my oldest gets short fused and smart-mouthed, I know something is going on in his life.  If I were not present and mindful, I might just punish him for being disrespectful or belligerent. But that doesn’t get to the root of the problem.  When I observe this behavior shift from his usual happy self to a place of anger, I approach him instead with love and concern, then give him some space to let what I’ve said settle in.  Each and every time, within a short amount of time, he comes to me, apologizes for his behavior and tells me what is going on.  We then have a dialogue about what he may be dealing with at the time as I help him come to his own resolution with the issue.

3.  Be Firm with your Expectations.  Mindful parenting does not mean anything goes.  I am not suggesting that you don’t have rules.  On the contrary, I think it is important to have boundaries and rules within a family.  It is very confusing for young people to not have boundaries and rules.  I think that is why some of my students love school and hate when summer vacation comes; they desperately and innately need boundaries.   This provides a safe environment to grow and learn.  It is also important that family rules and subsequent consequences are clear and spelled out.  Nothing confuses a child more than inconsistency or surprises.

4.  It’s okay to express emotions.  Years ago I attended a Kirtan led by Krishna Das.  He told a story of his “adopted” family in India that he came to think of as his own.  He said one of the most  startling, but beautiful things he witnessed early on in this family was how they’d yell like crazy, vent at one another, and have truly knock down drag out arguments.  The beauty came after the conflict when they’d come back together, hug one another, discuss it, then move forward. No one was chastised for losing his or her cool, or for crying, or for feeling any of their feelings.   That story has always stuck with me.  How many times have we heard a parent (you may have even caught yourself)  say, “Stop crying!”  “You are too old to cry.” “Don’t raise your voice.” or “Don’t act like such a baby!”  etc….?  The harm in all of these messages is that we are in essence saying to our children, “The way you are expressing your emotions is WRONG”  or worse yet they hear us say “The feeling that you are feeling  itself is WRONG!”  So what do they learn to do?  Stuff their feelings so deep down, it can take years as adults to uncover them.  My children have witnessed me yell, cry, and totally lose it.  And I’ve seen them do the same.  We accept that these are just feelings and feelings pass.

5. Love your children as individuals.  As a parent of a soccer player, I have witnessed many a parent living via their children.  If their child makes a mistake, they take it personally.  If their child is a superstar, they take it even more personally!  So many children play a sport, play an instrument, or get straight A’s only because they don’t want to disappoint their parents.  The longer a child lives to please a  parent, the harder it will be to discover their own life’s passion as they grow and mature. I’m not saying that all children excelling at sports or music or academics are only doing so to please a parent!  There are many children who are intrinsically motivated to do well and excel at what they love.  I believe it is our role as parents to help them find out what it is that they love.  It is important to provide an environment of love, support, and compassion so that children will feel safe to venture out and try new things knowing that if they fall flat on their face, they’ll have the safety of home to come back to.

Mindfulness takes practice.  If you are new to the practice of mindfulness, be patient with yourself.  Start with baby steps.  Set an intention at the beginning of each day to practice being truly present for small, do-able increments throughout the day.  Keep a journal to document your progress.  Most importantly, don’t take it too seriously!  Have fun with it and include your children in on your new habits!

Namaste,

Lisa