Sunday, December 30, 2012

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, December 7, 2012

Our Whole Life Could Be a Ritual

"We could learn to stop when the sun goes down and when the sun comes up. We could learn to listen to the wind; we could learn to notice that it’s raining or snowing or hailing or calm. We could reconnect with the weather that is ourselves, and we could realize that it’s sad. The sadder it is, and the vaster it is, the more our heart opens. We can stop thinking that good practice is when it’s smooth and calm, and bad practice is when it’s rough and dark. If we can hold it all in our hearts, then we can make a proper cup of tea."
(Wisdom of No Escape)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Decrease Your Anxiety from Psychology Today

The Six Best Ways to Decrease Your Anxiety

Use research-based coping strategies to overcome your fears

brain at peace
Calming the mind
We all know the uncomfortable feeling of anxiety. Our hearts race, our fingers sweat, and our breathing gets shallow and labored. We experience racing thoughts about a perceived threat that we think is too much to handle. That's because our "fight or flight" response has kicked in, resulting in sympathetic arousal and a narrowing of attention and focus on avoiding the threat. We seem to be locked in that state, unable to focus on our daily chores or longer-term goals. As a Cognitive-Behavior Therapist with more than 15 years of experience, I have found a variety of techniques that I can teach my patients with anxiety disorders such as phobias, panic attacks, or chronic worry. Some are based on changing thoughts, others on changing behavior, and still others involve physiological responses. The more aspects of anxiety I can decrease, the lower the chance of relapse post-therapy. Below are six strategies that you can use to help your anxiety.:

(1) Reevaluating the probability of the threatening event actually happening
Anxiety makes us feel threat is imminent yet most of the time what we worry about never happens. By recording our worries and how many came true, we can notice how much we overestimate the prospect of negative events.

(2) Decatastrophizing
Even if a bad event happened, we may still be able to handle it by using our coping skills and problem-solving abilities or by enlisting others to help. Although not pleasant, we could still survive encountering a spider, having a panic attack, or losing money. It's important to realize that very few things are the end of the world.

(3) Using deep breathing and relaxation to calm down
By deliberately relaxing our muscles we begin to calm down so we can think clearly. If you practice this without a threat present at first, it can start to become automic and will be easier to use in the moment when you face a threat. Deep breathing engages the parasympathetic nervous system to put the brakes on sympathetic arousal.

(4) Becoming mindful of our own physical and mental reactions
The skill of mindfulness involves calmly observing our own reactions, including fear, without panic or feeling compelled to act. It is something that can be taught in therapy and improves with practice.

(5) Accepting the Fear and Committing to Living a Life Based on Core Values
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an approach that encourages people to accept the inevitability of negative thoughts and feelings and not try to repress or control them. By directing attention away from the fear and back onto life tasks and valued goals, we can live a full life despite the fear.

healing anxiety
Soothing & healing strategies for your mind
(6) Exposure
Exposure is the most powerful technique for anxiety and it involves facing what we fear and staying in the situation long enough for the fear to habituate or go down, as it naturally does. Fear makes us avoid or run away, so our minds and bodies never learn that much of what we fear is not truly dangerous.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Growing Up Unworthy by Tara Brach

When talking about the trance of unworthiness, I sometimes share this story:
A family went out to a restaurant for dinner. When the waitress arrived, the parents each gave their orders. Immediately, their 5-year-old daughter piped up with her own: "I'll have a hot dog, French fries and a Coke." "Oh no you won't," interjected the dad, and turning to the waitress, he said, "She'll have meatloaf, mashed potatoes, milk." Looking at the child with a smile, the waitress said, "So, hon, what do you want on that hot dog?" When she left, the family sat stunned and silent. A few moments later the little girl, eyes shining, said, "She thinks I'm real."
Most of the clients that come to see me are very aware of the qualities of an ideal parent. They know that when parents are genuinely present and loving, they offer their child a mirror for his or her goodness. Through this clear mirroring, a child develops a sense of security and trust early in life, as well as the capacity for spontaneity and intimacy with others.
When my clients examine their wounds, they recognize how, as children, they did not receive the love and understanding they yearned for. Furthermore, they are able to see in their relationships with their own children the ways they too fall short of the ideal -- how they can be inattentive, judgmental, angry and self-centered.
Our imperfect parents had imperfect parents of their own. Fears, insecurities and desires get passed along for generations. Parents want to see their offspring make it in ways that are important to them. Or they want their children to be special, which in our competitive culture means more intelligent, accomplished and attractive than other people. They see their children through filters of fear (they might not get into a good college and be successful) and filters of desire (will they reflect well on us?).
As messengers of our culture, parents usually convey to their children that anger and fear are bad, that their natural ways of expressing their wants and frustrations are unacceptable. In abusive situations, the message is, "You are bad, you are in the way, you are worthless." But even in less extreme situations, most of us learn that our desires, fears and views don't carry much weight, and that we need to be different and better if we are to belong.
The Buddha, who had his own imperfect, flawed parents, looked deeply into his own suffering more than 2,500 years ago, and his amazing insight was that all suffering or dissatisfaction arises from a mistaken understanding that we are a separate and distinct self. This perception of "selfness" imprisons us in endless rounds of craving and aversion. When our sense of being is confined in this way, we have forgotten the loving awareness that is our essence and that connects us with all of life.
What we experience as the "self" is actually an aggregate of familiar thoughts, emotions and patterns of behavior. The mind binds these together, creating a story about a personal, individual entity that has continuity through time. Everything we experience is subsumed into this story of self and becomes my experience. "I am afraid," "This is my desire."
The Thai meditation master and writer Ajahn Buddhadasa refers to this habit of attaching a sense of self to our experience as "I-ing" and "my-ing." We interpret everything we think and feel, and everything that happens to us, as in some way belonging to or caused by a self.
Our most habitual and compelling feelings and thoughts define the core of who we think we are. If we are caught in the trance of unworthiness, we experience that core as flawed. When we take life personally by "I-ing" and "my-ing," the universal sense that "something is wrong" easily solidifies into "something is wrong with me."
It's sometimes helpful to remember that wanting and fearing are actually natural energies, part of evolution's design to protect us and help us to thrive. But what happens when our caretakers and larger society react to these emotions and fail to mirror our essential goodness? What if others fail to see we are real? In these life circumstances, our wants and fears become the core of our identity, and we lose sight of the fullness of our being. We become identified with, at best, only a sliver of our natural being -- a sliver that perceives itself as incomplete, at risk and separate from the rest of the world.
If our sense of who we are is defined by feelings of neediness and insecurity, we forget that we are also curious, humorous and caring. We forget about the breath that is nourishing us, the love that unites us, the enormous beauty and fragility that is our shared experience in being alive. Most basically, we forget the pure awareness, the radiant wakefulness that is our Buddha nature.
Here is a short talk on the topic titled: "Behind the Mask."
Adapted from Radical Acceptance (2003).

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

From Rodale

To Soothe Chronic Pain, Meditation Proves Better Than Pills

Could honing your meditation technique cure chronic pain? It's worth contemplating.

Mind power: Mediation's effects on your brain could ease your pain.
Mind power: Mediation's effects on your brain could ease your pain.
RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Chronic pain is estimated to affect over 76 million people, more than diabetes and heart disease combined, and back pain is our country's leading cause of disability for people under 45. And though the pharmaceutical industry seems very adept at introducing one new painkiller after another, the pills don't always help. A new study in the Journal of Neuroscience, however, suggests something else might: meditation. It seems that improving yourmeditation technique could very well be more effective than painkillers at cutting down on pain, and that could save you hundreds in prescription drug costs.
THE DETAILS: This was a small study that looked at just 15 adults who sat through four 20-minute training sessions on mindfulness meditation. However, before and after the training, the participants' brains were scanned using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and during each scan, the researchers put a heating device that induced pain for a five-minute period on each of the meditators' right leg at varying intervals. The brain scans revealed that before meditation, the section of the brain that processes pain was very active, while after meditation training, activity levels were virtually undetectable. Furthermore, after the meditation training, the study participants reported an average 40 percent reduction in pain intensity and an average 57 percent reduction in pain unpleasantness. The study authors noted that morphine and other pain-relieving drugs usually reduce pain perception and unpleasantness by just 25 percent.
WHAT IT MEANS: It's no surprise that mindfulness meditation techniques can help us cope with difficult situations, and this mind-body connection has been so extensively studied by researchers that doctors already know that meditation canlower blood pressure, depression, anger, and anxiety. Some evidence suggests it can boost your immune system and prevent the flu, among other illnesses. However, this is the first study to show that it can lower actual physical pain. "This study shows that meditation produces real effects in the brain and can provide an effective way for people to substantially reduce their pain without medications," the authors write.
If you find yourself suffering from some form of chronic pain, try mindfulness meditation. Fortunately, it's easy to learn, and as this study shows, you only need a few minutes a day to reap the benefits.
Get the basics down. Here are some basic instructions for starting out with mindfulness meditation from advisor Jeffrey Rossman, PhD, director of life management at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, MA, and author of the Mind-Body Mood Solution (Rodale, 2010).
1. Sit up comfortably, eyes closed, making sure your head and neck are held upright.
2. Focus attention on your breathing, following the inward breath and the outward breath. This is not so much about thinking about breathing as much as experiencing the sensation of breathing.
3. Notice when your attention is drawn to a thought, sound, or sensation, and bring your attention back to the breath.
4. If you find yourself judging any aspect of what you are experiencing—for instance, if you find yourself lost in thought and judge that doing so is "wrong" or "bad"—just notice the judgment as "thought," and bring attention back to your breathing.
5. Just stay present. If what you are experiencing is pleasant and you notice any tendency to want to hold on to that experience, just let it go by retuning to the breath. If what you are experiencing is unpleasant and you notice any tendency to push it away, just notice what you are experiencing and return to the breath.
6. Remember, we are not trying to get anywhere when we meditate. We are practicing the art of being here.
Focus on your breath. The hardest part about mindfulness meditation is keeping your mind from wandering. An easy meditation tip for beginners is to focus on your breath whenever you find yourself worrying about a problem at work or focusing on whatever physical pain you're trying to deal with. Think about where your breath is coming from (your belly or chest), where you feel it (in your nose, on your upper lip), how deeply you're breathing, and so forth.
Practice daily. Begin with 10 minutes a day of mindfulness meditation, Rossman suggests, and try to work your way up to 20 or 30 minutes. You can meditate pretty much anywhere that's comfortable—on the floor, in bed, in a straight-back chair, even. Wherever you choose, try to do it in the same place every day in order to maintain consistency, and do it at a time when you aren't sleepy.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Zen Parenting

When you're a parent, it's not easy to keep things Zen in your life. Work, school and the many different personalities living under the same roof are sure to make even the happiest household have its "moments."
With the school year beginning, things will be getting even more hectic very soon (if they haven't already). It's important to prepare yourself as a parent for a new set of juggling acts that will be presenting themselves in the coming months. Between coordinating your children's after-school schedules and the day-to-day grind, you can't forget about your own goals. Remember, they will ultimately help your children in the long run. So how do you balance it all? With balance, of course!
As a nanny for over three decades, I have seen first-hand that chaotic households are more common than not. I often say that the most important thing to do first is "fix the parents, not the kids." What is the best way to keep mom and dad more at ease? I believe that it's to take moments for yourself to get re-centered daily. Below are six ways to bring more Zen into your life. By making sure that you are focused and in a calm state, everyday struggles and stressful moments will be much easier to handle.
Mediation Is a Must: This is essential for new parents or veteran ones. By mediating once for twenty minutes a day, you will be taking a vital time-out for your body, mind and soul. It will help you to put things back into balance.
The Write Stuff: By writing down your most important thoughts every day, you will keep them in your day-to-day awareness. We are all more at ease when we are focusing on our personal endeavors, even if it's just for fifteen minutes a day.
Every Day Is a New Day: Each day comes as a new gift to you, so treat it as such. View each day as a brand new promise to a beautiful life. It will become easier to live in the moment and not be flustered about past woes. This will help you design your days as they arrive with grace and gratitude.
Ask for Help: A quality way of being and maintaining the person you are as a parent is also by learning to not carry the load alone. Ask the people around you to pitch in and they should be willing to carry their load, too. Keeping family peace requires a team effort. Remember, the family that takes care of each other can live, love and laugh together.
Take the Bad Days in Stride: Sometimes the responsibilities on any given day can be overwhelmingly harsh -- car broke down, the dog is sick, there is a flood in the laundry room and so on. Your other half might even be working late. Take a few deep breaths and carry on with your day by simply knowing that this is part of what it means to experience a bad day. Don't harp on it, as they are all little speed bumps that we hit along the way in life.
Here Lives the Love: At the end of your week, you will surely be tired from the bustle and hustle. The weekend is a chance to recharge in a Zen-like way that involves your family. On the weekends, sit down as a family to meals that you all prepared together. Let everyone know how much you cherish them and that you will never trade your life for anything else. This is the life and family you've always wanted and are truly grateful for.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Harvard, Brigham Study: Yoga Eases Veterans PTSD Symptoms

The words “Department of Defense” and “yoga” aren’t often uttered in the same breath, let alone in a long, conscious, exhale.

But preliminary results from a small study funded by the U.S. Defense Department, and led by a Harvard Medical School assistant professor, found that veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder showed improvement in their symptoms after ten weeks of yoga classes, including meditation and breathing, done twice a week, and fifteen minutes of daily practice at home.
William Haviland never considered himself a yoga kind of guy. He served in Vietnam in 1968 during the TET offensive. Ask him about his combat experience and out comes a torrent of trauma: “I remember the things that happened, I’ve seen people killed right before my eyes,” he says. Among his vivid recollections, more than 40 years after the fact: a sergeant lured into a booby-trapped village, then castrated by shrapnel; the screams of a woman being raped and tortured all night. “I have a stream of memories,” he says, many which come out during sleep. Haviland, 63, says he frequently attacked his wife in the middle of the night, after nightmares that he was being chased by a fast-approaching enemy. Yoga, he says “took me out of myself” and had a more profound calming effect than drugs or drinking.

“PTSD is a disorder involving dysregulation of the stress response system, and one of the most powerful effects of yoga is to work on cognitive and physiological stress,” says Sat Bir S. Khalsa, Ph.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and the principal investigator of the yoga study. “What we believe is happening, is that through the control of attention on a target — the breath, the postures, the body — that kind of awareness generates changes in the brain, in the limbic system, and these changes in thinking focus more in the moment, less in the past, and it quiets down the anxiety-provoking chatter going on in the head. People become less reactive and the hormone-related stress cycle starts to calm down.”
One common symptom of PTSD is the dissociation of mind and body, feeling disconnected from oneself and one’s surroundings, as well as an experience of time displacement. The brain portrays the traumatic event as though it is live and active in the present even though it may have happened decades ago. The practice of yoga combines physical exercises, postures and breath regulation together with meditation and awareness in the present moment and Khalsa says this integrative characteristic of yoga is likely important in resolving this dissociative aspect of PTSD.
Joseph Muxie served in the military from 1977-1984. While stationed in England, he said, he experienced an unbearable assault that is at the core of his PTSD. After years of alcoholism and a stint in rehab, he saw an ad about the Brigham yoga study and decided to try it. “I think what the yoga has really allowed me to do is give me the ability to ground myself,” said Muxie, 51. “As a result, I’m more peaceful with myself in whatever moment I happen to be in.”

According to the VA, as many as 20% of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have PTSD; 10% of Gulf War vets and 30% of Vietnam vets are diagnosed with the disorder. In addition, approximately 23% of women reported they were sexually assaulted in the military and 55% of women and 38% of men experienced sexual harassment while serving. Military Sexual Assault (MSA) is a known factor in PTSD.
Because the incidence of trauma is so high, Khalsa says, the DOD’s, Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center, which paid a total of $600,000 for this study, is exploring new approaches to treatment.

In the Brigham study, which has so far evaluated only the first 9 subjects to complete the protocol, each veteran’s PTSD severity was assessed using a tool called CAPS, the clinician-administered PTSD scale. The patient is scored by a trained psychologist using the CAPS scale both before and after the yoga intervention to determine any change in the scope and intensity of symptoms, which can include flashbacks, nightmares and a pervasive hyper-vigilance. According to Khalsa, the average baseline CAPS score before yoga in the subjects was 73.0, and the average score post-intervention was 43.6. (The average reduction in CAPS score pre-to-post was 29.4.) Here are the subject’s individual scores, before and after yoga:
– 113; 81
– 81; 40
– 111; 21
– 37;33
– 62;36
– 53;15
– 84;78
– 66;72
– 50;16

So, for 6 subjects, their scores improved quite a lot with yoga; for 3, there was little change. Khalsa said that typically even well-known, highly effective treatments don’t work for every patient and he is still evaluating other measures to determine if the yoga had any other non-CAPS benefits. “These subjects may possibly have benefited in things like depression or anxiety, even though their overall PTSD CAPS score did not change much (as was observed in a preliminary yoga-PTSD study in Australia)… Human subject research is pretty messy.”
Ultimately, he said he hopes to evaluate a total of 60 subjects, including a control group, but so far, recruitment has been slow, due to yoga’s “new age” reputation and its association with women. “There’s some sense that sissies do yoga,” he said.
Jennifer Johnston, a yoga teacher, licensed mental health counselor and the project leader, said that beyond recruitment, yoga’s “hot” reputation has in some sense eclipsed its greatest assets. “Because yoga is so sexy now, certain aspects get forgotten,” she said. “Yoga is a path to reconnect all of the parts of yourself. It’s a self-care strategy. The poses are important, but the philosophy is how we do our lives. The magic is in the meditation, integrating it and taking the yoga off the mat and into your life.”

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Is Happiness Internal or External

“In our ordinary life, even thought we work very hard to find happiness it remains elusive for us, while sufferings and problems seem to come naturally, without any effort. Why is this? It is because the cause of happiness within our mind-inner peace-is very weak and can give rise to its effect only if we apply great effort, while the internal causes of suffering and problems-delusions-are very strong and can give rise to their effects with no effort on our part. This is the real reason why problems come naturally while happiness is so difficult to find.
From this we can see that the principal causes of both happiness and problems are in the mind, not in the external world. If we were able to maintain a calm and peaceful mind all day long we would never experience any problems or mental suffering. For example, if our mind remains peaceful all the time, then even if we are insulted, criticized, or blamed, or if we lose our job or our friends, we will not become unhappy. No matter how difficult our external circumstances may become, as long as we maintain a calm and peaceful mind they will not be a problem for us. Therefore, if we wish to be free from problems there is only one thing to do-learn to maintain a peaceful state of mind by following the spiritual path.
The essential point of understanding the mind is that liberation from suffering cannot be found outside the mind. Permanent liberation can be found only by purifying the mind. Therefore, if we want to become free from problems and attain lasting peace and happiness we need to increase our knowledge and understanding of the mind.”
Taken from Transform Your Life by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Yoga Fixes From Head to Toes: Poses for 8 Common Conditions

From the Huffington Post:

Scientific research into what medical conditions yoga can heal and how it does its work is blossoming. Last year the National Institutes of Health funded 30 clinical trials covering everything from yoga for back pain to cognitive function, blood pressure, irritable bowel, and cardiovascular disease risk. Others in my community are also conducting or designing clinical trials like those I'm doing for scoliosis, bunion and osteoporosis.

Many patients come to see me with more than one complaint in more than one body part, and it's not difficult to find a way to use yoga to help almost everything. As a legitimate, mainstream modality for healing, yoga is a no-brainer. It's natural and nearly harmless. It has been proven to improve flexibility, balance, strength, coordination and mood. Expensive medications and surgeries -- even those I need to prescribe on occasion -- may sometimes have dreaded effects.

Yoga can be done at home, for free, with few if any negative side effects.

While there has been a lot of useful discussion about the possibility of hurting oneself while doing yoga, and shoulder stand and plow can be quite dangerous if done incorrectly, my own research has shown the greatest risk arises from trying too hard or being overly enthusiastic. I believe careful, conservative practice is quite safe, and I've been doing it myself every day for many years.
Obviously everyone is an individual with unique problems, but some common maladies hit us all from time to time. Here are eight for which yoga has been studied in clinical trials, or that I'm currently in the process of researching myself. Yoga from head to toes, starting at the top and working down:
Migraine: It's estimated that 28 million Americans suffer from migraine every year and yoga seems to be helpful. When a patient is willing to try yoga for migraine, I suggest forward bends or inverted poses such as headstand. (You don't have to stand on your head; the modified pose with your legs on a chair is fine.)
Neck Pain: A pain in the neck most commonly arises from stress, from poor posture or from arthritis. Almost miraculously one yoga pose -- The Rainbow (Urdhva Dhanurasana) -- is effective treatment for all three of these problems.
Shoulder Pain: A yoga-based maneuver has erased pain and disability for more than 800 of my patients who have rotator cuff difficulties, saving them from expensive, painful surgery and at least three months of physical therapy for recovery. The Triangular Forearm Support (TFS) is based on the headstand but you don't have to stand on your head to do it. It activates a muscle that takes over the function of the one that has been injured. Activating the muscle for a minute and then enthusiastically, fearlessing raising the arm on the bad side trains the subscapularis muscle to take over for the injured superspinadis. The injured muscle never has to work again. I have followed patients who have been cured by this maneuver -- painless full range of motion for 10 years.
Back Pain: A lot of work has already been done showing the efficacy of yoga.
Of course, different poses are healing for different causes of back pain. For spasm, one of the most common symptoms, I suggest forward bends.
Piriformis Syndrome: "Pain in the butt" accounts for as much or more pain than herniated disk. If you have it, relieve the pressure on your sciatic nerve by stretching the piriformis muscle with poses such as a modified Pigeon, (Kapetasana) or Twisted Triangle (Parvrtta Trikonasana).
Knee Osteoarthritis: As long ago as 2005 a pilot study suggested that yoga done in the BKS Iyengar style could help those who had osteoarthritis of the knee and who had never done any kind of yoga before, people who were obese or older than 50. My favorite poses for this widespread condition are Warrior I and II.
Plantar Fasciitis: A pad of fat in your heal covers the plantar fascia, a band of tissue that starts at your heel and goes along the bottom of your foot. Damage to the plantar fascia can be a cause of chronic, hard-to-cure heel pain. Stretching the calves, surprisingly, can add space that takes pressure off the tender heel. I recommend a forward bend, Janushirshasana -- Head to Knee pose.
Bunion: Surgery is the treatment of choice for the big, painful, deformed big toe joint, but surgery isn't always easy or successful. I have been working on my own right foot for a couple of years now, trying to prevent a bunion from forming, and although some believe bunions are genetically determined or develop through faulty walking patterns, I think there is some control. For a bunion trying to form I use yoga-based exercises to strengthen the abductor halluris, a foot muscle, and find that the growth of the bunion os sometimes reversed, usually stopped and almost always slowed.
For more by Loren Fishman, M.D., click here.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Power of Self-Reflection

We bring such a society into being by strengthening our conviction in humanity's goodness.  We do this by taking a few moments and feeling what's beneath all our daily concerns.  This trains us to become familiar with the simplicity of now, the only place and time that we can touch this deep inner reality, which brings a feeling of worthiness.  Even though we may not trust it or believe it, just allowing for that possibility has an impact on what we say and do.  In that moment, we are determining the outcome of the universe.

Sakyong Mipham

Friday, July 27, 2012

“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you 
don't blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not 
doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or 
less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have 
problems with our friends or family, we blame the other 
person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will 
grow well, like the lettuce"
Thich Nhat Hanh

Monday, July 9, 2012


What's the best time to meditate? From Sally Kempton:

The yogic texts on meditation tell us that the best times to meditate are during the so-called turning points in the day. Known as the sandya-s in Sanskrit, these are the periods when night turns to day, when morning turns to afternoon, and when afternoon turns to evening. There is a palpable, natural pause in the whole atmosphere during these points that is mirrored in your body-mind.

That said, you can meditate at any time; just keep in mind these practice tips:

Do it at the same time each day. Once your body gets used to meditating at a particular time, it will adjust itself to going inward at that time.

Meditate before or between meals so that you don't feel sluggish because your energy is going toward digestion.

Meditating can unleash energy, so you may not want to do it right before bedtime.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Monday, June 18, 2012

Yoga Mat

A few weeks ago I lost my yoga mat.  I had loaned it to someone to try out to see if they liked a Manduka mat.  When I came in to take class it was not in my cubby.  At first I just said to myself - don't be attached to this.  If it isn't there for whatever reason, it is just a mat you can get another one.

But then I started thinking about what my mat has meant to me.  My mat, Baron Baptiste, and my husband have been the constants in my life since 2004.  This mat was a gift from the people who worked for me before I began my first teacher training.  This mat has been to the Catskills, a couple of times to Park City, Utah, Miami, Austin, Tx, Montana, Charlotte.  Sweat, tears, and yes, blood have been on this mat.  Blood when I fell in half moon into a speaker system and cut my leg in Austin, Tx.  Christy was next to me and laughed the whole time because I did the whole falling thing slow motion.  But there was blood which I was sort of proud of.  Zack from Seattle, his sweat has been on my mat and probably many other people have left their sweat droplets on my mat.  Memories, aha moments, and tears.  Lots of dog hair on my mat.  With 6 dogs it is inevitable.   Over the last few years the track marks of either jumping/ forward and back are starting to show.  My practice changing and growing on this mat as well as my life.

I think this was truly the first time that I had this panicked moment of what if my mat is gone.   My mat is part of my support system.  My closest friends, my family, my husband, and my mat.  My mat has always been there when I needed to sort through something, let go of something, and even invite something into my life.  I don't use my mat at all when I teach except for an intro class when I may have to demo.  So my mat truly represents my practice to me. My practice.  My time.  My refuge.  My home.   I did find my mat a few days later.  I had started using another mat and I still felt just at home on it.   It was nice to look back at all the memories of my practice.   And also look forward to what is yet to come. 


Thursday, June 14, 2012


There is a secret place.  A radiant sanctuary.  As real as your own kitchen.  More real than that.  Constructed of the purest elements.  Overflowing with the ten thousand beautiful things.  Worlds within worlds.  Forests, rivers.  Velvet coverlets thrown over featherbeds, fountains, bubbling beneath a canopy of stars.  Bountiful forests, universal libraries.  A wine cellar offering an intoxication so sweet you will never be sober again.  A clarity so complete you will never again forget.

This magnificent refuge is inside you.  Enter.  Shatter the darkness that shrouds the doorway.  Step around the poisonous vipers that slither at your feet, attempting to throw you off your course.  Be bold.  Be humble.  Put away the incense and forget the incantations they taught you.  Ask no permission form the authorities.  Slip away.  Close your eyes and follow your breath to the still place that leads to the invisible path that leads you home.

~ Mirabai Starr
from the Introduction to
The Interior Castle
by St. Teresa of Avila

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mother Teresa’s “Do it anyway”

The story of Agnes Bojaxhiu, the Albanian Roman Catholic nun who became, rather more famously, Mother Teresa, is a testament to selflessness and devotion. When we think to complain about the difficulties of our lives, our struggles, our doubts, and our feelings of insecurity and uncertainty, we can look to the supernal example of a woman who left her family, her home, her country, and every comfort to care for “the poorest of the poor” in Calcutta. That she became an unstoppable force of one, untiring and unceasing in her efforts, is more than an inspiration: it is proof that the world can be changed for the better. This poem - “Do it anyway” - was discovered, so the story goes, written on a scrap of paper tacked to the wall of her room.

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centred;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies;
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere, people may cheat you;
Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years building, someone may destroy overnight;
Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today will often be forgotten;
Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

The original poem was written in 1968 (by a Dr. Kent Keith), and Mother Teresa made some amendments, the most notable of which may well be in the last line. “It was never between you and them anyway.” 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012



It's a common thing to hear in kitchens now, or anywhere where household discussions are going on, "Breathe. Wait a minute, Just breathe." 

We all know that things get better when we pay attention to the breath. We're more in the moment, more present, more true. 

There are things to do. Enlightenment unfolds as it will, but there are ways to become more accessible to it. Practices. Meditation. Vigils. Fasting. Walks. Whatever you give time and attention to. Rumi says it's important to relish these doings. As work becomes play, breath easier, the weaving becomes elegant. 

In the rhythm of a practice, life begins to fit together at the water table level. You feel the artistry moving through a web of conduits. 

Conventionally, we think of repetition as deadening, but in a spiritual practice, repetition, done with delight, renews the freshness, the originality, the brightness of spontaneity. 

Doing some awareness work regularly sharpens the point, makes inner life more beautiful, and that beauty revives. 

Coleman Barks, The Illuminated Rumi

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


I am taking today off after practicing for 6 days straight.  There is a little part of me that is still saying 7 days because I practiced twice on Saturday.  For Lent, I gave up candy.  So that I would not feel like it was just about  giving something up I decided to add practicing once a day.  Increasing practice days has led me to make smarter decisions about the classes I am taking.  For example, following an hour and a half level 2 class with an hour yin class the next day.  I have not had to ice anything even though I pulled my left calf muscle while running about a month ago.  That injury has been very interesting for me because of all the balance poses we do at FSYC.  As I have come to know my body better over time my left side is actually stronger than my right.  When we add 3-4 balance poses together however, my calf muscle just isn't happy and I have to take a break.

Taking a break and resting is what I offer out to my students all the time when I teach.  While the voice in my head may be shying away from taking the break my body is shutting down and I simply cannot hold the pose anymore so I have no choice otherwise I might fall to my knees.   I simply place both of my hands on the floor and steady myself and my breath and I simply wait for the next transition.  It reminds me of when I lived in Pennsylvania and I would take the train to work.  I always had to change trains in Bryn Mawr.  Just standing and waiting.  No texting, no cell phone, no reading, just waiting.  Noticing everything around me and taking it all in.  Same thing when I wait for the next pose.  I get to hear my breath, the sound of the person breathing next to me, and I just soften into the moment.  Not wanting to go anywhere, not feeling like I have to leave where I am.

Just being very patient as I wait for the next pose, the next stoplight, the next train, the next moment.


Monday, February 27, 2012

From Yoga teacher Mark Whitwell

Krishnamacharya’s scholarly description of the Teacher’s role, identity and function would make it impossible for teachers to become focused on their celebrity or their own power. The teacher according to our teacher Krishnamacharya has only one interest, to empower his or her student. When I say “our,” I mean all who are interested in modern day styles of Yoga in the West because he is the teacher of all our teachers. He said, it is the students power the teacher interested in, not his own. So this whole identity and structure of the powerful teacher cannot arise, or therefore fall, as we see in the Anusara example. Krishnamacharya’s own words, “one who calls himself a Guru is not a Guru. One who calls himself a Yogi is not a Yogi” makes this pretty clear. This system of idealizing a teacher or a linear system of some future attainment in body performance, meditation, spiritual or philosophical perfection simply does not work. And is the problem itself, which denies each person’s inherent perfection as Life. Yoga is each person’s direct participation in the extreme intelligence of Life already given. It is the teacher’s role to see that each student can actually do that. The precise way that Krishnamacharya taught asana as union of opposites, of inhalation and exhalation in the natural polarity of strength that is receiving must be given now. As well as to the students of celebrity systems, brands and styles, so that the public can go beyond the na├»ve yoga experiments in the West. As William Broad stated in his book The Science of Yoga, Yoga can stay in its infancy in the West or grow up. It is my earnest request that Yoga Journal and other influential people who speak for Yoga take up at this formal position. That the principles of the teacher Krishnamacharya, the source of modern day Yoga can now be given and placed into the systems of asana that have been popularized. This makes each person’s Yoga entirely their own, efficient, powerful and safe. 

It is very easy to do this and it is a curious question as to why it has not happened before now. Iyengar Yoga and all that derivatives of his work, such as Anusara all arose from Krishnamacharya’s life and teaching, so it must be easy now to include the full spectrum of Yoga practice into them. Also into Pathabi Jois’s work and derivatives of. After William Broad’s book and the downfall of Anusara as a celebrity belief system, of teacher and technic, the broad public is legitimately questioning even the validity of yoga. We are undergoing a major review both within the Yoga community and beyond. It is not good enough to defend the partial systems that have been branded and merchandized, but to see the bigger picture, honor the early experiments, but now be open and “grown up” to modify these systems. 
The principles of the modification are these: 1. Make the breath the central feature and purpose of the asana. 2. Sequence the asana to individual needs where the breath is the gage and action of the movement. 3. Let the breath initiate and end the movement. 4. Allow the strength of the asana to receive the inhalation. 4. In stationary asana allow the breath to remain the central focus. 5. Allow the asana to create bandha in the four part breathing cycle (the intelligent cooperation of muscle groups in the polarity of strength receiving). 6. Each day, asana allows for pranayama and pranayama allows for meditation as a seamless process. Meditation arises as siddhi or natural result of asana pranayama and cannot be willfully practiced.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

“You are the embodiment of the information you choose to accept and act upon. To change your circumstances you need to change your thinking and subsequent actions.” ~ Adlin Sinclair

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” ~ Mother Teresa

Casting kindness, presence, attentive listening, acceptance, thoughtful words....

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it's bottomless, that it doesn't have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space. Pema Chodron

Thursday, February 9, 2012

There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way -Thich Nhat Hanh

Friday, January 27, 2012

Two men are cutting stone. A stranger walks by. 'What are you doing?' he asks the first man. The man replies 'Squaring the stone.' He walks over to the second man. 'What are you doing?' The second man replies 'Building a cathedral.' You always have the choice to a part of the bigger dream. You are either a small, sad, powerless being suffering daily the onerous burden of samsara or you are a precious, holy, powerful being experiencing itself on a sacred journey. 
via Kelly Morris

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Life is a verb. Life is not a noun, it is really 'living' not 'life.' It is not love, it is loving. It is 

not relationship, it is relating. It is not a song, it is singing. It is not a dance, it is dancing. 

See the difference, savor the difference." - Osho ~

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

“When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.” - 

Buddha ~ ♥ ~

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Brand New Day

Each day is brand new with incredible new opportunities. Make the most of each one. Dive in with fresh eyes and a beginner’s mind. Your life is uncharted territory. Explore it one moment at a time. As you settle into each moment, take the opportunities that feel right with both hands. (From soulseeds)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

People's Pharmacy Willpower Science

Guest: Kelly McGonigal, PhD, is an award-winning psychology instructor at Stanford University and a health educator for the School of Medicine's Health Improvement Program. Her psychology courses for professionals and the public (including The Science of Willpower and Living Well with Stress) are among the most popular in the history of Stanford's Continuing Studies program. She is the author of Psychology Today's "Science of Willpower" blog. Dr. McGonigal's latest book is The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It.

She is also an awesome yoga teacher.