Shine on!

New Year’s Eve always fills me with mixed emotions.  Actually, it fills me with the should’ves and could’ves.  Over time and with lots of practice, it’s better.  Those voices are not nearly as loud as they were when I started this journey.  This year, they seem to have piped up a bit, though.  It’s been a while since I’ve sent out a newsletter or properly tended my website.  2015 brought with it an unexpected surgery that took me totally out of the game for almost 2 months.  That seemed to be the kickoff for a chain of events that, while I couldn’t control any of them, certainly challenged me and my yoga practice every day.  I’ve said often that my yoga practice happens off the mat way more than on, and this year was no exception.

As I have for the last several years, I’m skipping the resolutions. I am setting intentions deliberately and with great care. And I’m getting ahead with one of mine, because I set an intention to shine.  The definition of shine is glow, sparkle, glitter, beam, radiate; to be a source of light.  The opposite of shine is dullness and darkness.  I chose shine because I feel like I’ve come out of a dark space, and am grateful to have relocated my shine.  It’s an intention I hope you will set for yourself as well, because we all have that light to shine.

Think about it.  How often do we hear about shining?  “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”  “Do not hide your light under a basket, but set it on a lampstand.”  What about Maya Angelou’s wise words: “Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.” I could go on, but you get it.  How bright could this world be if we all chose to shine?

I’m writing this evening to tell you thank you for being part of my journey.  I’m writing to tell you that 2016 is going to be full of creativity and color.  I’m writing to invite you to join me in 2016 for some adventures that will be announced shortly.

But more than anything, I am writing to tell you how valuable you are and how much I want to see your shine in 2016.

Wishing you a 2016 filled with love, wonder, and shine!

Shine on!

There’s Always Something: Practice Gratitude

Some of us are celebrating today.  Some of us are mourning.  Some of us are working.  Some of us are resting.  No matter your day, there’s always something to be thankful for.  That may sound trite, but I really do believe there is always a reason to be grateful.

It doesn’t matter the circumstance, do you have the ability to really look to find it?  We live in a society of instant gratification, Prime 2-day delivery, get-it-overnight so that the speed of life is ridiculous most of the time.  Can you stop yourself long enough to see the moments that are opportunities for gratitude?  Do you recognize the smile from a stranger as a gift?  Did you take a moment to look at the sunrise or sunset?  Did your cat curl up next to you again while you have on your black pants?  These are all easy to figure out.

What if you’re at work today?  What if you spend part of your day at the hospital? What if you lost a loved one today?  Even in these times, there are reasons to be grateful.  There’s always something.

Take a moment today.  Take several.  Think of all the reasons in your life that you can be grateful.  If you made a list, you’d run out of paper before you ran out of reasons.

It may be Thanksgiving, but we should take these moments more than just one day a year to dig deep into gratitude.  We can choose to practice gratitude every day to connect ourselves to the present moment.  We can live in a way that inspires others to join us in our efforts.  We can set in motion a wave of gratitude that can change our world.

Blessings.  Peace.  Love.

Big Magic, Indeed

Every so often, something comes along and challenges you.  Challenges how you do things, how you plot your day, how you speak and move and see.  This happened to me a couple of weeks ago, and it’s take a little while for me to bring it here.

I’ve been a list maker for a long time.  They make me happy, especially the crossing off of a task well done, or really, …sometimes just done.  I put events on the calendar, no matter how small .  Everything is an appointment.

But wait…something was missing.  A couple of weeks ago, I started looking around my calendar.  I looked at the google calendar first…not there.  I moved on to the paper planner…not there either.  It was no where.  I went back weeks, then months.

Finally, back in July, I found what I was looking for:  ART.  ART was written in turquoise ink on July 2 at 1pm.  I had scheduled ART.  I stopped looking then, realizing that I was wasting precious time.  I learned what I came for.

What happened was Big Magic. Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a fabulous book about creative living, and I read it cover to cover on a plane to Las Vegas. And the effect was immediate.  I thought as I read how awesome it was that I scheduled my time so well; I already had ART on my list.  But 1 day in the last few months doesn’t cut it.

Gilbert posits that we not only have to say we’re open, we have to do the work so the ideas come.  It’s up to us to find the way, the time to foster those creative sparks we all have.  (WE ALL HAVE THEM.) Read it.  Just do yourself the favor and read it.

After Big Magic got me all fired up, I revisited Gretchen Rubin‘s book Better than Before.  It’s about habit, and she covers how difficult they are to create or change. This is another one for you to read; I won’t get into it, except to say that I had to come here first to get clear on how to rebuild my habit of creativity.Rubin has some solid ideas about how we form and resist habits, and I was definitely resisting.

Now, you might be thinking habit and creativity…hmmmm.  “But I want to be wildly creative and just be and make art, and commune with my crayons, clay, camera, etc.”  Let me ask you this: when is the last time you were wildly creative?  When was the last time you communed  with your art project of choice?

Exactly…was it on your list? Did it have a place among the other daily tasks you check off?  Mine didn’t either. My head exploded a little when I figured out how much I had put off being creative.  I identify as a creative person.  I’ll tell you straight up that I am creative, but I wasn’t giving my Creativity a permanent home in my day.  I was treating it like dessert, you know, something you get to have occasionally when you’re good or you’re celebrating. It showed.

Once this realization hit me like a truck delivering craft supplies, I made a change.  I added ART back to my daily calendar.  It’s there first thing.  I write, I color, I make something with my hands.  I invite it in and let it have a home with me.  I’ve already noticed a change.  Not only are my days brighter, but my ideas pop.  I have them more frequently, and with greater clarity on how to bring them forward and share.  And I am a happier human.  Score all around.  (And thanks to Gilbert and Rubin for their assistance!)

So,I have to wrap this up because the next thing I get to do is color.   It’s on my calendar.  And it’s first, because it’s vital to my well being, as much, if not more, than any gym time.

Got your crayons handy? Paint? Put it on the calendar…see what happens!

 

Easy? What if it really were easy?

easyI was in the company of some pretty awesome women Friday afternoon.  We gather every month, and when I am with them I feel surrounded by members of my tribe.  I feel at home.  We were having a discussion about how we were influenced by our parents, about expectations, and about how we choose to live now.  One thing that came up, that I’ve been thinking about for a while now, but that cemented for me over the last little while is the concept of easy.

Here’s the definition of easy from Google:

eas·y
ˈēzē/
adjective
  1. 1.
    achieved without great effort; presenting few difficulties.
    “an easy way of retrieving information”
    synonyms uncomplicated, undemanding, unchallenging,effortless, painless, trouble-free, facile, simple,straightforward, elementary;

    When did I decide that it couldn’t be easy? At what point was it decided that life would be hard, and that’s all there was to it?

    I remember clearly being told that things are not easy.  “Nothing easy is worth having.” That was a favorite.  “Life is just hard.” Another favorite.  When you hear things over and over, you eventually believe them…right?

    But, should you? What if, instead, I had believed it WOULD be easy?  That life was amazing. That I could achieve great things without great effort.  What would that be like?

    Don’t get me wrong…I’m not saying that we shouldn’t work.  Work is fine.  I love my work…it’s what I do every day and I’m blessed to do it.  But what if I had made the shift years ago to decide that it was easy?

    I learned a few years ago that I could decide what kind of day I was going to have. I could get up and decide to have a good day.  I learned to practice mindfulness, to be present for each moment.  And I believe that’s when I started to learn that it could be EASY.

    I’m not saying without effort.  I’m definitely not saying without challenge.  But I am saying that we can meet these endeavors, all our endeavors, with an attitude of ease.  We can decide that we will be light, and reframe how we approach our lives.  We can connect to each moment, we can live an inspired life.  We can move with grace and fluidity instead of tension and resistance.

    Give it a try this week…set an intention to move through your day with ease.  Just give it a shot.  And see what happens…you might be surprised!

    Peace, love and ease, y’all.  Peace, love and ease.

7 Limbs

I have an opportunity.  I have no choice but to see it this way, so I am.  You see, I can’t teach yoga for the next several weeks.  I have to limit my activity and my practice.

I had a little surgery that keeps me grounded for a bit.  No driving for a couple of weeks.  No lifting.  No vigorous activities.

Notice I didn’t include yoga in the list of no-no’s.  That’s because it isn’t there.  (But wait, you ask, you just said you can’t teach or practice…so it must be on the list!)

Yoga is an 8-limbed path, many times depicted like a tree.  So, you see, I have 7 other limbs to practice.  Asana, postures and poses used in classes or home practice, are but one.  The other 7, not as popular in the mainstream as asana, but equally valuable are: Yama, Niyama, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.

I’m going to use this time to dig a little deeper, seek out the dark corners and shine the light.  And you’re welcome to join me.  I hope you will.  What questions do you have?  If the yoga experience seems appealing, but the asana practice doesn’t, what would you like to know about deepening your own practice?

The beauty of yoga is that there are no rights or wrongs.  It is a practice as individual as each of us.

Love and light.

  
 

 

TAKE IT OUTSIDE

When we were kids, occasionally we rode home from school with some family friends. My brother and I always felt like this would be a great adventure because there were 5 siblings in this clan, and they had two huge dogs and a rambling house. Inevitably, we’d start to get rowdy. All this swirl of activity would lead their mom to tell us to take it outside. Usually, she hollered more than told. But we got the picture, and out we went.

 

We took to the yard and the trees. We could hear the birds, feel the dirt and grass under our feet, breathe in the fresh air. And when Mom finally arrived, we were smiling, dirty, and relaxed. Think about how you feel after you spend a day working in the yard. Or consider how many of us leave town for vacation and walk to see the sights. What happens when you get out on the beach, or camp by the river? Does the word happy come to mind?

 

If you Google “health benefits of being outdoors,” you get millions of results. Since that seemed a bit ambiguous, I also changed it to “scientific studies of health benefits of being outdoors.” Still a ridiculous number, which means that I’m sure some of it is hogwash. But still, it’s been studied. Even Harvard has weighed in.

 

The Nature Principle, by Richard Louv, is a brilliant book that explores just what nature holds for us and how we should find our way back there in order to thrive as a society. I’ll spare you a long essay, but tell you that Louv posits “the future will belong to the nature-smart…those who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real.”   Balance…hmmmmmm. Or maybe I should say ommmmmm.

 

There’s no reason your yoga practice can’t go with you into the great outdoors. You don’t even have to have a mat. You can step right into the grass, feeling the blades tickle your feet. Let the sun warm you. (Wear your sunscreen, of course.) Let the breeze caress you. Let the Earth hold you. Re-establishing that balance that Louv talks about, that we all seek. It can be elusive with these over-scheduled, highly-prioritized lives we lead. But it is necessary.

 

Do yourself a favor. Go outside. Put your feet on the Earth. Raise your face to the sun. Wear your sunscreen. And honor yourself and the world around you by getting out in it! 

 

Repeat after me: NO

One little word. You’d think by now we’d all know how to use it. But we don’t, do we? By now, in my 40’s, I should be able to say “no” and not feel any repercussions. I should be able to stand up tall, look you in the eye, and say no and mean it. And most days I can. But what happens on the days I don’t?

Those days are the ones that come back to haunt me: Yes, I’ll sub that class. Join you for a late dinner. Go to that movie. Take on that client. Overbook my schedule. And yes, while I’m at it, I’ll resent the hell out of every one of those things I did when I said yes instead of saying no. Because sometimes, saying yes to someone else means you’ve said no to yourself. And so it begins. This is how imbalance starts.

I’m not sure when no became a four letter word. I was raised to say yes ma’am, but I don’t think my Momma meant for me to agree with everything or take on the whole world, so why did I? The people-pleaser in me can answer that. I just wanted to please everyone. The introvert in me can also weigh in. It’s easier than potential conflict or explaining why. But here’s what happened: I wasn’t included in the pleased crowd, and it was harder on me to do what I said I would because I knew when I agreed that I didn’t want to. So what else happens? The scale tips to resentment, fatigue, bitterness, downright anger. We spew it out like venom and we turn it on ourselves. There’s no good side to this.

The problem starts early (I’m not even sure when) and snowballs. You see, yes becomes a habit. Like going to the gym or practicing yoga. Actually, more like smoking. Going to the gym and practicing yoga are good things; smoking-not so much. And unlike going to the gym, smoking is something you should quit. So is saying yes.

I can say this because I have done it: quitting smoking is difficult on the best days. Quitting “Yes-sing” makes quitting smoking look like a cake-walk. When I quit saying yes, it was like learning a new language. No. Nonononono. NO NO NO NO NO. OMG, what was this unfamiliar sound coming from my mouth? As it turns out, it was the sound of balance coming back into my life.

When you’ve said yes forever, people who’ve known this (you’ve trained them-sometimes over years- to expect a yes) have no idea what to do when you start to say no. They’ll ask you what’s wrong, are you alright, and whatever other questions they can come up with to see exactly what brought this on. They will look at you the first time you say no like you’ve sprouted a horn from your third eye space. “Bless her heart, something must be wrong. She said NO. I hope this passes.”  Keep going. That unfamiliar feeling…it’s fabulous. Get used to it. It’s balance. Maybe it’s been a while since you felt it, so it’s totally foreign. That’s ok. You’re on the right path.

What I’ve learned through this process is the fine art of listening to myself, my body, my gut. I can feel the physiological changes happening when a false yes comes out of my mouth. Let’s face it: it’s a big fat LIE. I’m not a liar, so I have given myself permission to just tell the truth. (It’s not ugly; it just is.) I have learned to say no.

I still waffle on occasion, but I have become a reformed Yes-woman. The road wasn’t easy. I still back pedal and fall into old behavior sometimes. But I have learned this, and it is the most important lesson: if it’s not a hell yes, it has to be a hell no. Hell no keeps me sane, keeps me rested, keeps me in a space of kindness instead of resentment. When I say no to you, I’m really saying YES to me. And at the end of the day, that is the yes that matters most.

 

 

 

Starting with Intention

It’s that time of year again: that time when we start to evaluate. One year is ending, another beginning. We dig out the list from last year…you know the one. It says things like “learn a new language, lose 10 pounds, read more books, drink less soda.” That list. It’s exhaustive. Once I re-read it, I usually wish I’d never found it. Actually, I wish I’d never written it.

But last year, I made a change. I kept my silly list of resolutions..the one with the boxes I could check off as I completed the tasks. Admittedly, it got very little attention. I also had another list. I sat down in earnest as 2014 arrived, and set forth my intentions for new year. Believe me when I say that this is the only list I’ll ever make at the New Year from now on. Intentions are life changers.

First, what is intention? You can consult Merriam-Webster, but I choose to understand intention as an aim or plan of action. AIM…as in direction.   When I set an intention, I choose my direction. Let that sink in for a minute. If I set my intention as joy, then I CHOOSE joy.

The hard part starts when we encounter something or someone that attempts to steal that intention, and we have to choose that intention over and over again.   We have to get out of our own way on this one. It’s so easy to choose: simplicity, happiness, gratitude, etc. But it’s definitely not easy to stay there.

Let me walk you through it. I’ll use simplicity as an example; it was an intention of mine for 2014, and may be again. Last year, when I went through my year-end review, as I’ve done for decades, I made some decisions. I wanted to do more. I wanted to have a shift in my life and my practices, personally and professionally. I knew changes were coming. It was time to honor them and learn what I could. As I winnowed down what needed to shift and how I wanted to feel, simplicity was the one word that worked to describe what I sought.

That intention of simplicity led me down several paths. Environmental simplicity was the most obvious. I’ve cleaned out closets, recycled, given away, sold. I actually let go of some books. I’ve reconsidered purchases. Do I need another book? Do I need more shoes? Another t-shirt? Could someone else be better served by this ___________ (fill in the blank with random household items that are not serving me any longer)? These are just the tip of the iceberg.

Here’s where the real work starts: how can I bring simplicity to my day-to-day existence on this planet? Am I clear about what I want? Is there simplicity in my living? I can’t be everything to everyone, nor should I try. So simplicity in my day-to-day existence means coming back to my authentic self. Choosing me. Choosing what makes my heart sing. For me, that meant saying no and setting boundaries. (Remember, I told you this was the hard part.) It meant saying no to work that doesn’t fulfill me, even when the price tag made me think twice. It meant choosing who gets my time. It meant choosing to practice yoga and meditate more consistently at home, to read and study, to write, to color, to knit, to rest. And it still means all of these things. That’s the beauty, to me. Once the intention is set, even when you’ve achieved what you desire, you’re still living that intention. It’s a spiral that, when you honor yourself, lifts you up higher and higher.

As the days get shorter and the year draws to a close, take a few moments here and there. Start to write. Write for you. Write what’s on your heart, not what you think someone else wants/expects/needs. As you find the words for your intention, breathe them in. Gather them. Fill yourself with them. Soon, you’ll find there’s no room for anything but your highest good.

(If you want to learn more about setting intentions, join me at Mountain Yoga January 10, 2015, or  Serenity Now January 11, 2015 for a Mini-Retreat to explore Starting with Intention.  January is also the start of Living with Intention, a monthly group that will meet at Shakti in the Mountains to celebrate, encourage and explore an entire year of intentional living.)

From the Mouths of Babes…

I cannot believe it is the middle of September.  We are back into another school year, which I love.  I don’t have children, but it seems that everything runs on a little better schedule during the school year.  I don’t know if it is because spare time is at a premium or what, but I truly don’t care.  I’m just grateful. 

As those thoughts pour from my mind to this “page,” I can’t help but snicker a little bit.  I do love how things seem to flow better on a schedule.  So what has become of mine lately?  It’s as if I threw my calendar out altogether.  Every activity, writing date, yoga class, happy hour that I so enjoy and truly live for has been a scattered mess of feeling obligated and shackled.  I’ve been wandering through my days willy-nilly just getting by. 

So I decided a few days ago before I came back here, that I’d examine what I’ve been doing.   And for whom…  I simply discovered that I said yes to everyone.  Everyone but ME.  (This is an old behavior pattern-one I haven’t seen in a long time.  If anything, I had said no to so many things to avoid feeling this way that I’m lucky I still get invitations.) And in leaving myself out of the equation, I lost my focus, my joy, my peace.  I can have every minute planned and be perfectly happy.  I just put myself at the back of the line. 

So I have spent the last couple of days reorienting myself to the front. It’s all good.  Lesson learned (again).  In yoga, we strive to quiet the ego, to turn inward and examine.  By handling my life over to everyone on the outside, I let my ego take over.  The old YES woman that I was for so many years stepped right back up.  YES YES YES she said, until the new woman who went to such great ends to rid herself of that particular struggle collapsed a little bit under the weight. 

I started teaching yoga at the local university this semester.  And I always love to teach, but I have found a new lens to view the classes I am teaching there.  There are several young men who are coming to class.  A couple are there to check out the scenery.  At that age, it’s probably a good strategy.  A couple were told by coaches that it would help their performance in other athletic endeavors.  I’m really just glad they’re all there.  But one young man who’d been in class a few times stopped me after class last week and thanked me.  When I thanked him for coming to class and told him I thought that was pretty cool, he kind of grinned and said that he didn’t think he’d like it so he came back a second time to see.  And then he came back because he decided that even though it was hard, he really liked it.  I asked him what was hard, and this 19-year-old summed up perfectly my last couple of weeks:  “It’s hard for me to get here, and it’s hard for me to be still, but I know I have to do this.  I’m better when I do.”  And so from this college student came exactly the words I needed to hear to remind myself that I am in charge.  I can make the right choices or not, but ultimately it is up to me. 

What choices are you making?  Are they serving you?  Are they serving anyone when they’re made in that default, people-pleasing space?  No judgment here…

May we all take the right steps for our highest gain…Namaste.