* Inspiration – Life, Nature and Spirituality

spirituality

“What if our religion was each other

If our practice was our life

If prayer, our words.

What if the temple was the  Earth

If forests were our church

If holy water, the rivers lakes and ocean.

What if meditation was our relationships

If the teacher was life

If wisdom was self-knowledge

If love was the center of our being”

Ganga White

 

Mindful being

No dogma required

Spiritual connectivity

Freedom

Found in the place I call our Middle Ground

Namaste

* Inspiration – Teaching Ourselves

lotus bud

Teach Yourself

“No one is ever really taught by another

each of us has to teach himself.

The external teacher offers only the suggestion,

which arouses the internal teacher,

who helps us to understand things.”

                            Swami Vivekananda

From “Yoga Gems” edited by Georg Feuerstein

How will you access your inner wisdom today?

What will you learn from your internal teacher?

Be curious and have fun!

Namaste

 

* Life is Like … Yoga

Val at Awaken YogaIn my years of practicing and teaching yoga I have found it to be a wonderful metaphor for life. Some of you may be saying “What took you so long to write about it!?” I admit I’m surprised too… :)

When practicing yoga I have learned so much about myself,  life and living fully. My practice takes me to my Middle Ground. It centers me, rejuvenates, nourishes and makes me feel alive and connected to my Self.

  • Like life, in yoga we tune in to our mind, body and soul connection
  • Like life, in yoga we learn to find the balance between holding tight and letting go
  • Like life, in yoga we learn to accept ourselves just the way we are
  • Like life, in yoga we  understand the difference between strength and courage
  • Like life, in yoga we learn to face our challenges in the present moment
  • Like life, in yoga we learn to soften into resistance and be more flexible
  • Like life, in yoga we learn to breathe deeply to release tension and to feel fully alive
  • Like life, in yoga we realize that bending over backwards doesn’t always serve us! …
  • And yes, like life, yoga doesn’t have to be taken so seriously!

Namaste

* Listen to Your Body – its Listening to You

The words we choose in our thinking, our speech and our writing, have an impact on how we feel and our ability to heal.

words

Have you ever noticed how a word can bring up a certain feeling inside of you? A sensation, a thought or an emotion?

Choosing a word that connects with your heart and soul can be not only uplifting, but also brings physical well being.

If you have a few moments, let’s explore.

Take your time as you connect to each of the words below. Go slowly. You can say them out loud:

Love
Tender
Soothing
Joy
Cuddle
Grateful
Smile
Gentle
Pause here and close your eyes. What is alive in you in this moment? Is there a warmth, softening, a feeling of tenderness or love perhaps? How is your breathing? Are you smiling? (me too!) Notice how these words manifest themselves in your mind body and spirit.

pauseNow take a deep breath and take the same time connecting to each of these words:
Irritated
Ugly
Mean
Wrong
Frustrated
Cruel
Unfair
Bad
Pause here and close your eyes. What is alive in you in this moment? Is there tension or constriction or heaviness perhaps? How is your breathing? Notice how these words manifest themselves in your mind body and spirit.

pauseIn general when it is a word associate with lack, dis-ease, suffering or violence, our body responds by becoming tense, our breath shallows and there is resistance. In western medicine when there is resistance in our body it leads to inflammation, and increases our level of stress. These are both proven factors for disease.

I believe in western medicine, but I also believe that when there is constriction and tension our life energy contracts as well and a part of inner state becomes blocked. This impacts our emotional and physical wellness.

In yoga, when the life energy (prana) is blocked it can be released with postures, breathing exercises (pranayama) and meditation. In Chinese medicine these blockages in Chi can be released through acupuncture.

pause and listen to your body

No matter what we believe in our minds, our body has its own kind of intelligence.

Listen to your body’s wisdom.

Be mindful of your thoughts and your words. Your body is always listening!

* The Secret of Eternal Youth

“Youth is not a time of life, it is a state of mind.

It is not a matter of ripe cheeks, red lips and supple knees.

It is a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions.

It is freshness of the deep springs of life.

Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years.

People grow old only by deserting their ideals.

Years wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.”

                                                   ~ Swami Bua

This is one of my favorite quotes found in “Yoga Gems” by Georg Feuerstein.

Kitty Cohen throws first pitch

Kitty Cohen, age 101 throws the first pitch at the Blue Jays game

Kitty Cohen is a great example of this isn’t she? …  When I saw her on the t.v. she was having so much fun and milking every moment of being in the spotlight. What a fan! What enthusiasm for life! :)

* Being out of Integrity

I used to think that when I was out of integrity I was not walking my own talk and my thoughts were not in alignment with my beliefs and values.
That when my thinking and actions weren’t aligned, I was letting myself down in some away, and not honoring my best self.

And then I woke up recently and experienced it differently… light bulb moment

The signs of being out of integrity were the same. For me, its an icky uncomfortable feeling in my gut. I’ve come to recognize this as my unconscious letting me know that something isn’t right. There is something to discover within.

When this feeling happens I ask myself two questions and then tune in for an answer.

1. Am I feeling fearful? ….I didn’t defect any fear. There were no anxious thoughts or worries.

2. Am I out of integrity?…. and I couldn’t see anything “wrong”. I wasn’t letting myself down by being out of alignment with my thoughts and actions. Usually there’s something that comes up –  like avoiding exercise, over eating, trying to get out of a commitment I regretted having made, or feeling bad because I was snippy with someone when I was focused elsewhere. This time it made no sense whatsoever. But there was no “bad” deed or self denial to be dug up and exposed.

So what was going on?

I decided to set aside time to be with myself for mindful yoga and meditation. I moved gently and then simply sat. Being fully present and open to see what would show up.

meditation

As I did, I felt a gentle wave of warm loving energy and a softening around my heart. A small voice without words seemed to say “Ah here you are. I’ve missed you.”

The well intentioned judge left the building and was replaced by pure loving kindness. I gave it space to be and to grow. It moved through my very being. Enfolding me and nurturing my spirit.

Then I saw that this is what had been missing. I had been sick with vertigo and not practicing yoga or meditation.

I had spent my time sleeping and healing. But I had not come home to myself in this way…. finding my Middle Ground.

My realization is this:

Before I would judge myself as in some way as being “wrong”, and then I would make it “right” by changing how I was behaving or thinking. My judge is well intentioned, but sees things as right or wrong and can be very critical.

When we let go of the judge, a loving connection with ourselves can seed itself and grow. Harmony is found again and everything is aligned once more with life and the world.

Now I know that when I am out of integrity then I am not being kind to myself.

It’s not about changing my thinking and actions, its about opening my heart and connecting to my Self.

Aaaahhh …  now this feels awesome :)

Namaste

* A Different Kind of Kite

I love this metaphor for seeing our breath as the string of our kite.

girl flying kite

“The mind is like a kite, flying here and there,

and the breath is like the string of the kite, generally bringing the mind back into the present moment.

The breath brings the mind, which is all over the place, back to its source, a natural state of peacefulness and joy.”

Ravi Shankar

* My Yoga Story

People come to yoga for many reasons. In my experience, some people are wanting to be more flexible and strong in their bodies, yoga treewhile others are looking to calm their minds and  find an inner connection with themselves.  Yoga practice brings together mind body and spirit … and allows each individual to grow, heal and strengthen in their own way.

My story about how I came to yoga is a bit different, and I wanted to share it with you…

When I began my training to become a coach in 2002, we did a lot of self exploration about our strengths, values and needs, and what makes each of us unique.  I also had a mentor coach to support me in my skill building and growth. Its a time for getting real and personal transformation!

One day we did a class on Integrity. We looked at what it meant to us and how we could bring that to our coaching….. As I sat back in the chair with my headphones on, I reached for a cigarette and lit up.

quit smokingI felt such a wave of guilt and disappointment in myself for being a smoker.

How could I coach others to be their best while I was feeling so uncomfortable about being a smoker. I realized I was out of integrity.

And I was also scared about giving up my habit. Cigarettes had been a friend and a support for me for so many years. Could I really go it alone? What if I failed miserably (again) and couldn’t give them up? Wasn’t it better to be healthy in other parts of my life to balance out the toxicity of smoking? I was trying to do a deal with myself and it wasn’t working…. That icky feeling in my gut was still there.

I was out of integrity and I had to do something if I wanted to face myself and my potential clients. So I told my mentor coach and set a date – March 27th 2002. We put together a coaching plan with the steps that I would take. Each step was something that I felt I could do. … and I did :)

Part of my smoke free plan was to start doing yoga. My mentor  said it would calm my mind so that I didn’t get as agitated during the change of habit and the physical withdrawal. I hadn’t ever considered yoga ….but  I went along to a yoga studio near me……. and I found that it wasn’t as weird or woo woo as I had anticipated. The people were very friendly and made me feel welcome.

I discovered two things that day that would change my life … and my life span!

The first thing I discovered was that my body enjoyed being stretched. The poses felt a bit awkward, but there was a definite opening and flexing that felt good.Yoga Val on beach

The second thing I discovered was how I loved to breathe! Smoking cigarettes had been a way, not only to get a nicotine fix, but also to let me breath fully. Smoking relaxed me. Each big inhale and exhale released the tension. I felt immediately calm as I took a big draw in and then exhaled out.

It was pretty amazing to me that in yoga I could feel the same calming effects without poisoning myself!!

Yoga became a part of my life and cigarettes became a part of my past.

Now I teach yoga to people at all stages of life and share my love of breathing, stretching, focusing, accepting and letting go….

There is no judgment in yoga, just acceptance of where you are and being your best to live life fully…. and breathe fully.

If you have experienced something other than this, then please look for an other teacher!

Namaste

 

 

* Happiness is Like …

In Sri Swami Satchidananda’s translation and interpretation of the Yoga Sutras, he says that we attach ourselves to pleasure because we expect happiness from it, forgetting that happiness is already in us as the true Self.

Musk deerHe continues: “Happiness seems to be the basic need of everything in this world, yet rarely does anyone find it. Why?
Because happiness is like the musk deer.

The ancient scriptures have a fable about this animal, which has a scented spot above its forehead that gives off a musk fragrance. This deer runs here and there in search of the scent, not knowing the scent comes from its own forehead.
Just like that, happiness is already in us.

Wherever we go we reflect our happiness onto people and things.
Close-up of young daughter looking into dad's eyes.
When we see a smiling face and feel happy, it is because the smiling face reflects our happiness.
Just as a pure clean mirror reflects our face beautifully, certain our clean faces reflect our happiness. Then we say ‘She gives me happiness’.

In other faces , our happiness reflect a distorted way and we say ‘I don’t like this person.’
Its absolute nonsense. No one can give us happiness or unhappiness, but can only reflect or distort our own inner happiness.”

Yoga teaches us to come into the present moment and connect with our inner happiness and true Self.

Namaste

* Difficulty and Softness

Stones surrounded by rushing water

Whether you come across a difficult situation or encounter a difficult person, or find yourself in a difficult yoga pose …..

Take a moment to pause and come inside.

Notice if there is any hardness and tension that arises in your body and mind.

Take a breath and allow the exhale to bring softness.

Become like the water that flows around the steady foundation of your being.

Namaste

* Yoga Inspiration for Today – Tree of Life

meditation tree

“You must be firmly rooted.

Such is the first law.

Then grow and assert yourself.

At this moment open yourself,

stretch out your arms to feel the radiation around you,

and then bring the universe back to you with your head held high,

for it touches the sun.

Be deep, wide, tall, truly a Tree of Life.”

 Lizelle Reymond

tree pose in yoga

…. and breathe fully knowing that this is who you truly are.

Namaste.

* Thoughts and Tips on Incessant Thinking!

In the highs and lows of life do you find yourself stuck in over analyzing and incessant thinking? Here are some insights and tips that work for me.

“It is when we are trapped in incessant streams of compulsive thinking that the universe really disintegrates for us, and we lose the ability to sense the interconnectedness of all that exists.” Eckhart Tolle

I believe our brains are build for analysis, but when we keep analyzing something that doesn’t have a clear and logical answer, then we end up with “incessant streams of compulsive thinking”. spock and data

Imagine Spock or Data  from Star Trek trying to work out if we will find our soul mate, or if our children will be happy at one college or an other, or whether we should have married Chris from Middle School instead, or what a co-worker really thinks about us, or whether the stock market will bounce back next week ……

Whenever there are factors that are out of control and we are emotionally attached to the situation, we are likely to get stuck in incessant circular thinking.

When we allow our brain to go into overdrive trying to solve insolvable problems, we not only lose our ability to feel connected, we become self absorbed and withdrawn. Our “problem” takes on a life of its own and we lose our sense of balance and place in the world.

I hope you can relate to this, and it isn’t just me who lies awake at night trying to solve problems that don’t have the answers yet ……

What can we do about it?

1. The first step is to recognize when it is happening. Over analyzing  can become so common that we think it is normal and there is no alternative. Not true. Research is showing that being mindful of the present moment is the antidote to incessant streams of compulsive thinking.

2. Get out of your head and let go of what is not solvable right now.

I like to think of it like cooking a meal. Put some things on the back burner to simmer and let them do their thing.

Let your unconscious and inner intuition work on this in the background. Stop stirring for now. Yes – STOP stirring it!stirring the pot

Your mind wants to keep stirring because that’s what it wants to do …. but you have a choice.

3. Let it be and come to your senses. Here are some suggestions to find balance once more from an earlier post.

Coming to your breathe and moving your body are essential elements here. In my own experience, yoga and meditation can make a huge difference. You may want to explore different avenues for yourself. One client of mine knows taking a shower will help them. Not so easy at work, but helpful at home!

Its often surprising when the answer shows up for you. In my experience, its usually when I wake up in the morning or when I am in the shower, of after Savasana in a yoga class.

Let your mind have a different focus and then rest it so you can access your own inner wisdom. Your mind may tell you its a waste of time, because it wants to keep stirring…. Let your inner wisdom guide you instead.

p.s. the photo is of porridge being stirred by a traditional spurtle. The spurtle is made for stirring , and like our mind with practice, we can stop it when we want to!

* Unconditional Love – A Poem by Joy Bush

I am so grateful to have been partnered with some amazing women at Kripalu as part of my 500 hours Yoga Teacher Training. We were asked to support each other in teaching what we had learned during the week. This is a poem written by Joy Bush to inspire us for our last yoga practice. It touched my heart… and I hope yours too. Thank you Joy for sharing your loving unique voice.

heart in eye

UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

I feel my own heart beating
Regardless of if I have been good or bad
Whether I am happy or sad.

She keeps a steady rhythm moving the fluid of life
Even when I ignore her in sleep
and don’t listen to her by day.

She doesn’t turn her back on me when I get angry.
That soft presence shames me into forgiveness
time and time again.

My heart beats as a witness to my sloppy mistakes
as well as my glowing successes
without judging one better than the other.

She is always happy to see me
when I return home to my body
from one of my epic mental journeys.

She is loyal and faithful.
She has never strayed
to beat for someone else.

I search everywhere for the comfort of this unconditional love
Too immature in my humanness to remember
She has been here for me this whole time.

p.s. Joy is leading a yoga inspired retreat to Machu Picchu, Peru this summer with Global Yoga Journeys. WOW – Check it out!

machu picchu

* Meditation and Pranayama Class at Awaken on Sat Feb 1st at 10.30am

Thank you for asking! We’ve re-scheduled the Meditation and Yogic Breathing class at Awaken Massage and Yoga in Media. Please join me as I share my recent Kripalu experience and knowledge about bringing Pranayama and Meditation into your yoga practice. A regular balanced pranayama and meditation practice increases the flow of energy in the body, is a great way to get centered, and will make you feel more alive and well!

meditation

In this focused and calming class you will:

  • Learn yogic breathing techniques to calm the mind and energize the body.
  • Develop awareness of the subtle energy system of the body through mindful breathing.
  • Use the breath to prepare for your meditation practice.
  • Gain understanding of the different kinds of meditation – and what might work best for you.

This class is suitable for everyone, unless you have a heavy cold!

Please sign up on the Awaken Website or contact Val directly. Thank you!