Mindfulness

Good morning Sunrise

Practicing yoga outside can be delightful, especially when this sun is rising and the weather is agreeable! Waking up early to breath deeply and move slowly admits friends, morning dew and birds chirping just adds to the delight. Thank you to all of the morning yogi’s!

A beautiful morning poem to start your day:

Why I Wake Early
by Mary Oliver

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety–

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

Paying Attention

I discovered this poem while in Charleston, SC. I was in a yoga class at Mission Yoga with Elli Boland when she read from the poetry book by  Tara Sophia MohrYour Other Names. I was in Charleston to be with my Dad who sadly passed away a few days after I heard this poem. While I am still on the tip of the impact of such a huge loss, what I do know for sure is how important it is to Pay Attention. In the moment. That is really all we have.

This Poem…..It is like a prayer to me. Maybe a Mantra. I particularly love the the last line!

Thank you Elli for introducing me to this

by Tara Sophia Mohr

In the end
you won’t be known
for the things you did,
or what you built,
or what you said.

You won’t even be known
for the love given
or the hearts saved,

because in the end you won’t be known.

You won’t be asked, by a vast creator full of light:
What did you do to be known?

You will be asked: Did you know it,
this place, this journey?

What there is to know can’t be written.
Something between the crispness of air
and the glint in her eye
and the texture of the orange peel.

What you’ll want a thousand years from now is this:
a memory that beats like a heart–
a travel memory, of what it was to walk here,
alive and warm and textured within.

Sweet brightness, aliveness, take-me-now-ness that is life.

You are here to pay attention. That is enough.

Stargazing

One of the Yoga Deck at Jakes Hotel

One of the Yoga Deck at Jakes Hotel

Last week I was on the beautiful Caribbean Island of Jamaica. I don’t know if I have ever seen a star filled sky like I saw last week.  As I attempted to capture the Caribbean night sky with my phone, my friend Margot said to me, “A camera can’t capture God.” So I put down my camera and looked up. The longer I looked, the more I saw. The deeper the stars went and the brighter they became. It was magically and miraculously endless.  In a way, that night of stargazing was a perfect metaphor for my experience at Jakes Hotel.

I was on a yoga retreat with Verge at Jakes Hotel in the delightfully un-touristy Treasure Beach, Jamaica. I was there to teach yoga and meditation. My intention going into the week was simple:

Allow

Be of Service

Love

To some extent I have always known that what you put out, you get back. Call it Karma, Divinity or The Universal Law of How Things Just Are (I just made that one up). You see, I know this, but this week I REALLY learned it and felt it and now “know” it in a whole different capacity than before. It’s like knowing something intellectually or knowing it in your heart with your whole being. The latter being a deeper and more stable place to inhabit.

In setting my intention to just allow (and repeating this intention), I was able to be more open, less controlling and way more in the flow. It is so simple, really (I say this as a reminder to myself now that I am back in the fullness of my life). It just takes some letting go and allowing for whatever is to be exactly as it is.  Being in the flow is a cool place to be. It is where I wish to reside!

In setting my intention to Be Of Service, what actually happened was that I got to hear, see and be witness to so much wisdom from all of those around me. This was especially poignant when I visited a local Jamaican Elementary School.  The wisdom, love and joy that I felt from these children is still resonating with me now. Surely they served me more than I could ever imagine serving them.

In setting my intention to Love I was able to follow through with the other two intentions. And in return, I was the one that felt so much love. Isn’t that just so awesome how it all works? You get exactly what you put out and it all counts; each breath, each thought and each precious moment!

This week reminded me that intentions really do count, that what we put out into the world we get back. It also reminded me to slow down and look around. There is so much to see out there and within ourselves if we are willing to put down our phones and look.

Sunset from our front porch at Jakes Hotel

Sunset from our front porch at Jakes Hotel

The Yin and Yang of Life…..

Tomorrow morning I will wake up with a heart full and empty all at once; a pulling here and there. Tomorrow morning I take off for Jakes Hotel in the dreamiest of places; Treasure Beach, Jamaica. I will be  “getting out of Dodge.” This has been a long hard winter (saying this makes me feel like Laura Ingles from Little House on the Prairie). This winter has been cold and snowy, there have been health dramas and a dozen snow days, plus all of that other stuff that happens in life regardless of weather patterns. To be honest, at times I have felt totally overwhelmed. But it has also been a great winter with many unexpected and heartwarming gifts. For starters, I loosened the house rules and my three boys are now expert indoor rip-stickers. Have you ever tried rip-sticking? It is NOT easy. Another gift: My middle son taught his younger (and much louder)  brother how to play chess. I also watched my one son fall in love with our dog. He has always “loved” him, but not like he does now- all in with his whole heart kind of love. I got to have more snuggly sofa time and more family games. The family games were not all “fun and games”. I learned that my kids are ruthless when it comes to monopoly. They cheat, steal and have no qualms about going after each other physically. We now have a non-negotiable rule that monopoly MAY not be played without an adult present.  So while this cold and snowy winter has lasted longer than I would have liked, and has caused some snafu’s, it has mostly been pretty great.

“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do” –Rumi

Loving what you do can cause a tug at your heart. I have come to learn that this is just how it is. So, rather than push it away and squash it, I will feel the love of what I do along with the missing in my heart. Tomorrow I leave for a warmer and more bohemian place than I normally inhabit. I will be teaching yoga and meditation, I will be visiting a school to teach adorable children yoga, I might even zip line through the tree tops at YS Falls. This is a dream come true. My heart is filled with gratitude for this opportunity to go deep into a place of stillness and strength with yoga and meditation practice, along with lots of wonderful people in a beautiful setting. When I was at Jakes last year I was so moved by the people of Jamaica. Their tender soft hearts and mindful way of moving through life touched me deeply. So while I am going to miss my family a LOT, with my whole-being kind of missing, I am also filled with gratitude. I guess this is life……the yin and yang of existence.

Namaste. Xo

Silence is my Secret

Tomorrow morning I will get in my car and drive to Massachusetts to spend a weekend in silence at Insight Meditation Society. It will be my second trip to IMS.  You can read about my experience last year in an article published in MindBodyGreen.  Last year I drove up and roomed with a friend. We maintained our silence the entire time and didn’t talk until we were on our way home to Philadelphia (65 hours later!) This year I am on my own. In Silence. With no one I know anywhere nearby. Just me, the trees, the vegetarian gluten free-food and over 100 other people. Yes, there are other people who choose to do this!

I am a little anxious about going, but mostly I am looking forward to this time to go deep into silence. As Roland Becker said, “Our Lives manifest in motion, but the power of our lives resides in stillness.” As I emerge from the busy-ness of November and December I find myself craving more time and space to do less, but to feel more. Bussy-ness and schedules can act as cloaks and cover up so much. While I have a daily practice of yoga and meditation, the quality of stillness and deep knowing that occurs over several days in silence is profound. It can be compared to skiing one day, or skiing for several consecutive days. The impact of the consecutive days allows you to become better at skiing; more in the “flow”. The impact of several days in silence allows me to be more in the flow of life. It allows me to tune into the frequency of my heart where all of my wisdom emerges. It allows my busy mind to take a much-needed rest and see with more clarity how I habitually meet life. And, most importantly, it allows me to show up more fully in my life and the life of my loved ones.

As Jon Kabat-Zinn has said,

 “You can’t stop the waves but you can learn how to surf.” I am thinking of this as my annual surf camp.

Gratitude

I recently had the amazing opportunity to spend almost 9 days in Baja Mexico right at the edge of the Sea of Cortez. The magical place where Whales go to give birth!  I flew across the country with my family and found myself transported both physically and spiritually by the journey. It was my first time in that part of the world. I had no idea what to expect, mostly because I was in a state of hustle and bustle with my teaching schedule, my kids schedules and all of that other stuff that seems to fill my days. So, I didn’t spend any time researching anything. In fact, as I was filling out the immigration forms I leaned over to my husband and said, where are we staying again?

When we finally arrived at our destination I was travel-worn but feeling light-hearted. I had NO SCHEDULE (yay!). NO PLACE TO BE (yippee!).  As we were checking in I was drawn to the loud cacophony of thundering water below.  We were high above the Sea of Cortez; about 5 or 6 flights of beautiful Mexican tiled stairs carried us down to our room with a beautiful view of the Water. But, before I saw the Sea of Cortez, I heard it. And before I heard it, I felt it in my chest and throughout my body. It felt something like being at a football game and feeling the beating vibration of the drums in your chest. It was powerful! The kind of powerful that shakes you AWAKE!

This feeling and state of being awake is something that I literally think about constantly. I practice yoga and meditation to touch into this feeling of freedom. I teach people how to breathe and be in the moment in their bodies. I guide people through meditations to feel what it is to be fully alive and in the moment. Sometimes I think of myself as a space maker of sorts, starting primarily with myself. Through the breath in our bodies we find space, first physical, then mentally, then eventually we find it in our hearts. Space for more love, joy, peace and freedom. We also find more space for presence and love through the shaky times. Being in the moment is key and I was feeling very in the moment. 

I thought of the quote by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

“My soul is full of longing
for the secret of the sea,
and the heart of the great ocean
sends a thrilling pulse through me.”

Any body of water, especially a powerful Sea that attracts Whales to birth their babies, can be a powerful metaphor for life. There is so much energy and vibration, yet still and peaceful. Looking at the Sea of Cortez and the flow of the waves is like seeing your entire life within one wave; it is all contained right there: peace, love, misery, angst, freedom. Every emotion and experience contained right there in both one wave and the entire magical Sea all at once.

It can be really nice to “get out of Dodge” and slow down a bit. Plus being in another part of the world offers another perspective. This trip gave me a chance to slow down and take in all of the love, joy, peace and freedom that exists in my life.  As I head into this last month of this incredible year, I am grateful for the reservoir of space and love that exists within me and all of us. I am grateful for the time in Mexico to slow down and notice all of the blessings that have touched me this year. Several of these blessings showed up in my life as “problems” and turned out, as they always do, to be amazing gifts. I am grateful to have touched my toes (I never went deeper!) into the most powerful body of water I have ever felt. I am grateful to feel awake and alive!

Rumi said:

“Let the beauty you love be what you do. There are thousands of ways to kneel and kiss the ground”

Being in this magical and powerful place, so far from my regular life, gave me a chance to reflect and feel deep gratitude for this life.

Adios Mexico. Te Amo!

Radical lessons from my Dog


We can learn so much from dogs. They are natural Yogi’s. They don’t have to try to be mindful, they just are. They don’t have to practice “letting go”, they just do! They love without ANY conditions. They show up in the moment with whatever it brings. Including the chaos and (sometimes) drama that ensues when three kids need to leave the house at the same time. They instinctually know that nothing else needs to happen or change, they don’t need to be anywhere else but exactly where they are. They show up fully in this perfect moment in time, this perfect breath, right here, right now contains all that they need.

From the Taoist Lao Tzu:

“Always we hope someone else has the answer, some other place will be better,  some other time it will all turn out”

Dogs know, and somewhere in ourselves we do too, that we have the answers, there is no other place and it has already turned out. How radical is that! Imagine being in a place that requires no fixing. Sometimes in my yoga practice I can touch into this, but it takes practice. My intention today is to be more like my dog, minus some of the stuff he does outside.
Namaste!

For the love of trees (and yoga)

Have you looked outside lately? I mean really looked at the trees and the sky? I was reading something recently about all of the benefits of yoga. I have to say it all sounded great and most of it rings true. But, really the biggest benefit of my yoga practice is that I notice things, like the trees and the grass and the way my kids spirits are shining brightly (or not).  Most days, after I practice yoga I notice the grass is greener, the sky brighter and my spirit is lighter. My yoga practice has eased my body into become more healthy, it has helped me approach life more open heartedly, it has settled my busy mind, it has helped me to forgive, to love and to see more clearly. This “seeing more clearly” thing is so cool, especially this time of year!  In honor of Fall and the beautiful changing colors of the leaves on the trees, here is a poem by Joyce Kilmer:

Trees

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

(drum roll, please)…..It’s November 1st!

Yesterday I woke up in a funk. Truth be told, I really do not like Halloween. My youngest son woke up with more energy than I have ever had in my life. He is just the opposite of me…he LOVES Halloween. He loves decorating, dressing up, admiring himself in the mirror, buying candy, eating candy, the parties, the festivities, ALL OF IT!

As we were eating breakfast, he said, “What’s wrong, Mom”. In an effort not to crush his amazing spirit, I said I was just a little tired. With great clarity, he said, “I know…I woke up a little tired too, but then I thought about Halloween and it all went away and I feel GREAT!” He insisted I close my eyes and try it. I did. But instead of thinking of all of the reasons I dislike Halloween, I thought about all of the blessings I have in life. And guess what?? It worked!

This morning I woke up thrilled that it is November 1st! But, as the day progressed I bumped into a few obstacles. Instead of lamenting and worrying and all of that other habitual junk that happens when things don’t go exactly as we want them to go, I remembered my breakfast session with my (halloween) guru. I closed my eyes and thought happy thoughts. And guess what? It worked again!

Balance

Balance can be tricky on and off our yoga mats. It requires presence, a solid base, an open heart, a willingness to be strong but flexible and the courage to fall. The things that help me balance on my yoga mat are the same things that helps me balance in life. Sometimes I am strong and light and can balance like a flamingo. Other times I am clumsy, heavy and can barely stand on two feet. This practice is exactly the same on or off my yoga mat. The key element that connects the two is the willingness to be present for all of it.

As I glide through the sweet spot of summer. That in-between time where there is no unpacking the book bags or preparing for a new school year, where the days are hot, the nights are long and there is a lot of  together-ness, I am keenly aware that time is precious and each moment matters.  While I may falter in my balance many (millions) of times throughout the day, what yoga has taught me is the ability to remain present through it all.

What You Are Looking For, You Already Have

I first heard this ancient fable from Tara Brach . Perhaps you have heard some version of it before? Here it is….

There was this gifted thief who like to hang around the Diamond District. One day he saw a man purchase the most beautiful, clear, luminous diamond in all of the district. Naturally, he followed this man as he got onto the train. As they traveled along, the gifted thief used all of his skills to rob this man of his diamond. Nothing worked. As the mans stop approached, the thief couldn’t take it anymore, so he stopped the man and introduced himself. He said, “excuse me sir, you may not know this but I am the most gifted thief in all of the land. I know you purchased the most beautiful, clear, wonderful diamond today and I have been trying to rob you of it to no avail. This has never happened to me! I am always successful! Please tell me where you hid it.”  The man said, "I know exactly who you are and I saw you following me, so I hid the diamond where I knew you would never look.”  The thief said, “please tell me and I will leave you alone.”  The man said, “I put it in your pocket.”

What we are looking for we already have. It’s a lot closer than we think, and, it costs nothing! I have found the way to connect with this is to get really comfortable with being quiet and still for a short period of time each day. From this place of quiet, stillness, prayer, divine oneness, open consciousness, heaven, connection with God, love- whatever you want to call it- we can align to what it is we were put here on earth to do. We are all divine beings placed here to fulfill our potential. This potential can be scary if we let it, or we can just surrender to love and trust that all is well.

Letting go of figuring things out

Have you ever gone through a rough patch? Ever feel like your having a “bad” day. Maybe you feel under the weather physically, mentally or emotionally. Perhaps a life crisis has hit or is brewing. Maybe things just aren’t going your way. Or, more accurately, the way you think they “should” be going. We get into a habit of trying to figure things out, control the situation, the outcome, our thoughts and feelings. What if we simply let go? What if we began to cultivate the habit of ease?

Here is some wisdom from Liz Gilbert:

“Don’t fall apart, it becomes a habit. Stay calm and know you are where you are right now for a very important reason. Life will never give you something you can’t handle. It will all make sense in a little while, but for now go back to basics. Drink water, breathe deeply, eat foods that heal, surround yourself with loving people. Read books that resonate with you soul. Go for a walk in the woods, on the beach, in the park, in your back yard. Anywhere you can breathe fresh air and see the sky above. Close your eyes, connect, remind yourself of the things you have to be grateful for, and let the words THANK YOU become your most important mantra. You can handle this, you are strong, you are whole and you are not alone.”

I happened upon this quote as I was trying to “figure out” how to handle a rascally hip flexor issue I have encountered while training (overtraining, perhaps?) for the TRIATHLON (I just said that in an Oprah voice). I am going to allow myself to let go and not figure anything out. I am going to rest and let it be and know there is a plan far greater than anything I can figure out. And, in all of that, I am going to cultivate the habit of ease.

New blog post at MindBodyGreen

Have you ever seen the website MindbodyGreen? It is one of my favorites, and not only because they publish my stuff! Check out my new blog post on their site or below!


6 Ways To Cultivate Wisdom And Presence

Sometimes we are not able to "touch" deeper levels of wisdom and presence until we're ready. The spiritual path has no finish line or destination; it's a singular journey onto ourselves. Mostly we need to get out of our own way and simply ALLOW. 

I have found that allowing requires practice, just like coming onto our yoga mats and practicing breathing and foot placement, or going to soccer practice and doing the touches over and over again. It's through this precise practice that we're able to set the stage and allow ourselves to "touch-in" to a deeper knowing and to show up in each moment with presence.

I have found several ways to practice this throughout a typical day:

1. Practice gratitude. 

Every morning, really every new moment, is a chance to count our blessings. Gratitude practice makes exactly what you have in this moment enough.

2. Practice kindness. 

In this culture of busy-ness where we all do so much and move at such a fast pace, sometimes kindness can get lost. Rushing around is a kindness killer. If we can just stop, breath and offer a kind smile to ourselves, or someone else, we begin to stop the cycle of frenetic behavior that dehumanizes all of us.

3. Practice patience. 

Patience is like the twin to kindness. When we practice patience we are able to be more kind. Usually it only takes a breath and a moment to remember that we all deserve patience. The key to patience is that it begins with yourself, exactly where you are.

4. Practice love. 

"All we need is Love...." The Beatles go it right. Just like patience, love must begin with ourselves. This is not an ego filled, stand in front of the mirror admire ourselves type of love fest. This requires you to shift your awareness to your heart and give your self the love that you would give an adorable dog, cat, kid, etc. When we cultivate Loving-kindness within ourselves, we are able to spread that love more freely.

5. Remember to breathe. 

Just breathe, it really is that simple. Breath is the gift of life. As children we breathe deep into our belly’s and generally live more freely. As we get older, our breath moves up to our chests and shoulders. We begin to lose the connection to our breath and bodies and live in a state of constant fight or flight. When we reconnect with our breath, we can begin to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and cultivate a state of rest and digest. This is no small thing and takes lots of practice!

6. Allow stillness. 

It is in the stillness that all of this integrates. When we allow ourselves time to be still and quiet, we begin to draw a road map of sorts. This road map is like a road map to sanity. We begin to let-go more and touch into that deeper place where all of our wisdom lies. From this place we can be fully present.