clarity

Mindful Monday: You Don’t Have a Soul

Good morning, mindful ones!

You don’t have a soul!

I’m not saying that you’re soulless, lol!

I’m saying that you ARE a soul. And you HAVE a human body.

And … Here is a perfect specimen of a human body.

The body is just a temporary house where your soul currently resides.

You have your physical body comprised of bones, skin, muscles and human “filth.”

And then there’s the energetic body, where prana or literally life animates the physical body. This is your circulatory, cardiovascular, digestive and lymphatic systems.

Then we have the mind. This is where most of our troubles and suffering begins. Here we create thoughts that are manifested as emotions and thus drive our actions. The mind is very limited. It’s compiled mainly of opinions about life experiences.

Fortunately we have the intellect, which has the power of discernment and logical thought. But we don’t dwell here consistently.

The final journey is within: our blissful body. In this state of being there is no thinking or suffering just vast and endless bliss. Unfortunately we spend very little time here.

The goal of our practice is to continue to connect to our blissful state and lengthen the time that is spent there.

Everything that we do affects our state of being.

The human body is literally the food that we consume. What you ingest creates the new cells of your body. Foods have different energy vibrations which affects our bodies down to the cellular level.

Our mind is shaped by how we react to life events. Do we resist? Do we think life is unfair? Do we compare ourselves to others? Who do we associate ourselves with?

The intellect is formed by how we nourish our mind. Do you spend endless hours trolling social media? Do you read books that uplift your soul and spirit? Do you watch violence and reality TV?

Meditation and yoga are two very direct paths toward a blissful state of existing. Someone can give you a direct map to get there, and many of our spiritual leaders and religious leaders have done exactly that; but you alone must walk the path. Nobody can do that for you.

Remember that your body is just a shell. Enjoy all the experiences of being human and honor the full range of those experiences. But also honor you are so much more than that.

You are light. You are love. You are kindness and compassion and patience and tolerance.

Be kind to yourself but remember your soul.

Have a great week, yogis!

Namaste

Mindful Monday: Holiday Stress

Good morning, mindful ones! We are in the home stretch for this holiday season and for this year!

When things are at their most frenetic pace and we find ourselves running around to holiday gatherings and for last minute gifts; it’s more important than ever to pause, breathe and reflect.

We live in the most technologically advanced time in human history. Anything we could possibly need is a phone call or even a click away and can be delivered right to the doorstep. Food is abundant (overly abundant!) We have instant heaters, electric blankets, reliable electricity. We have an endless supply of clean water that can also be warmed to any temperature for a hot cup of cocoa or a warm bubble bath.

There has never been a better time to be a human being. And we live in one of the best countries in the world in terms of economic opportunity, political stability, public safety and quality of life.

Pause. Wow we’re so lucky!!! Gratitude is truly the highest vibration. And it’s pretty darn easy to find a zillion things to be grateful for in this nation, even more so in our communities!

That being said, depression, stress and anxiety are at all time levels in our country! And they are predicted to continue to rise.

Well, that’s pretty puzzling, wouldn’t you say?

Actually, it’s really not … Because stress is an internal condition, not an external one!

Sure there’s tons of things happening right now: overstimulation of all the senses if you step foot in the mall (which I have pretty much successfully avoided this holiday season) or basically even out of your house.

But it’s our reaction that causes the stress! It’s how we process all the external stimuli that bombards us that can potentially create an internal state of stress.

Listen, it’s the holidays. Even the most well-adjusted, “normal”, traditional families will face some type of family drama.

And for the rest of us, it can get much more complicated. Single parents, people who have lost loved ones, those with social anxiety and even people with no family or friends to celebrate with.

“The most wonderful time of year” may be even more challenging for those struggling, because there’s the added expectation that everyone is in a carefree, celebratory state.

So with all of this emotional turmoil many people are facing, it’s really no surprise when people overreact to every day situations like waiting in line or driving in traffic.

People may snap more or react rudely. Let’s be honest, we see this behavior very often, unfortunately. When people are stressed, their fight or flight mode kicks in which can often lead to aggressive and anti-social behavior.

So let’s not pretend to be surprised when we witness this behavior, and be so gentle with yourself if you find yourself getting a little snappish or prickly.

And it always comes back to breathwork.

The reason you sweat it out for endless hours on your yoga mat is training for these very moments in life.

If you find yourself in a situation where you’re about to lose your marbles, take a moment to breathe slowly and mindfully and then breathe out. Allow yourself a few moments to pause to give yourself the opportunity to react in a way that you will be proud of and won’t create more anxiety and stress when you think back to that moment.

Reacting to someone else’s stress is your choice. Choosing to take a few breaths and remain stable and grounded is the best thing for your personal health and wellness. And your grounded energy might be just the anchor someone is searching for who may be tail spinning out of control.

In these critical moments in life, there is tremendous opportunity for our personal evolution. And trust me these opportunities are abundant year round! Can we cultivate compassion for ourselves and for one another during this holiday season?

It can make all the difference in someone’s life. We never know the burden they’re carrying.

Remember, kindness and compassion will revolutionize the world.

We got this, you guys!!

Mindful Monday: Snow Day

Good morning and Happy Monday, dearest ones!

It’s a snow day today! What a bonus on the Monday after a long, holiday weekend! Kids all over Chicagoland are rejoicing at their good fortune.

The picture above was taken on a snow day three years ago when I took the day off and took my son and two of his friends sledding.

Snow days are so magical at that age! The awe and wonder at all of the beautiful, pristine snow just waiting to be hurtled into and shaped into snowmen and snow balls.

At some point, we tend to lose that wide eyed appreciation and become more jaded. We complain about having to shovel this beautiful substance off of our driveways. We worry about traffic conditions and find fault in all the other drivers on the road. We are inconvenienced by this majestic winter event; and hell hath no fury like a slightly inconvenienced American. 🤣

As we move about knowing things will be a little slower, let’s think of today as Mother Nature’s way of giving us an extra day to the long weekend. A magical bonus day to stay home and cuddle with loved ones.

Back when I was the spokesperson for the city of Naperville, we would strongly encourage residents to stay home and stay off the streets if possible for their own safety. If you’re not able to take the day off, this is a great opportunity to practice patience, tolerance and moving more slowly and deliberately.

Any opportunity to slow down and cultivate gratitude and appreciation is a productive day!

If you want to really amp it up, get out there and do some snowga or snow salutations!

Count your blessings not your troubles! You are rich beyond measure. Have a great day, beautiful snow yogis!

Mindful Monday: Center and Focus

Good morning and happy Monday, friends!

Well we’re quickly sliding into the holiday season and wrapping up the end of 2018.

This week, carve out some contemplative time to ask yourself the questions listed below.

Find a quiet, comfortable space where you will have no interruptions. Your favorite meditation spot or even all cozy in your bed are both excellent places. Just somewhere that has great energy and brings you peace.

Have your journal or a notebook nearby to jot down any thoughts and ideas that surface.

It will serve you to jot the questions down ahead of time, so that you can leave your phone in another room to really be distraction-free.

Before you begin, close your eyes and take several long, deep inhales and exhales to calm your mind and help you focus.

Let’s begin:

1. So far, what kind of year has 2018 been for me? Why?

2. What are some of my accomplishments and successes this year? In my work/career? Personal growth? Relationships? Any other areas?

3. Where have I learned some major lessons? Keep in mind, the biggest lessons are learned through perceived “failures” or “setbacks.”

4. With a full two months still ahead, how will I take advantage of this gift of time to complete any projects or goals that I set for myself this year?

5. Looking forward a bit to 2019, what are some seeds I want to plant now to see grow to fruition next year?

With this information, create some clear affirmations for yourself to stay focused and aligned with what’s important to you.

Also, create a plan to take just five minutes each morning and evening to quietly meditate on your affirmations.

Make sure you schedule your yoga practices with yourself for the remainder of the year and plan to stick as closely as possible to your much needed self-tending time. When things start to amp up, you’ll certainly feel much more grounded and stable!

Remember, you can handle anything that comes your way with grace and composure when you tend to yourself first and foremost! With that being said, also be flexible so that you don’t miss out on all of life’s fun surprises and tiny moments.

Make it a great week, friends!

Be happy!

Mindful Monday: Tending to Yourself

Good morning, dearest mindful ones!

It’s so easy to get caught up in a swirl of non-stop activities, isn’t it? In fact, you may even take pride in your perpetual state of busyness and being able to handle so many things at once. But eventually, there’s a tipping point: where stress builds up and burnout creeps in. That’s why tending to yourself is so vital to a true state of wellness and contentment.

What does your Mind conjure up when you think of tending to yourself?

I think of paying attention to myself. Taking time to turn inward and see what’s really going on physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.

Noticing what’s really happening and caring for and nourishing myself. Cultivating an overall sense of well-being and contentment.

Today, begin your week by deciding to give yourself some well-deserved attention. When you care deeply for yourself, you become the shiniest, best and brightest version of you that you are truly meant to be!

It starts on the physical level. Close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Your daily mindful practice … of course, take a yoga class at YBD!, but on those days that you just can’t seem to fit one in, still carve out some space to just sit and meditate and tend to yourself.

As the physical body is soothed and loved through proper rest, sleep, nutrition and movement, more awareness of what is happening mentally and emotionally naturally evolves. Notice thoughts and emotions as they arise, and make space for them to move through you. Rather than getting hooked and bogged down and making them mean something, give them so much space to move without attaching or identifying with them.

Take a few moments today to take some deep breaths and just pause. Make this as habitual as brushing your teeth and making your bed!

Take time today to tend to your soul.

Namaste, dearest ones!

Mindful Monday: Smile

Good morning! Happy Monday, mindful ones.

There are millions of reasons to smile each day! Even in the midst of tragedy and loss, there’s always space for a smile.

One of my very favorite emotions is laughter shining through in the midst of tears.

But it doesn’t have to be so dramatic!

As we focus so consciously on breath work in our yoga and meditation practices, a very simple addition is to layer in a smile.

Inhale

Exhale

Smile

It’s the first time I do each morning.

Wake up

Stretch

Smile

Smiling can become a habit, much like all of our other conditioned and learned responses.

Start practicing on the easy stuff.

Today it’s pretty easy to smile at the sun and mild, springlike weather!

Smile at your barista.

Smile at your coworkers – especially the crabby ones! It annoys them and makes you smile even harder.

Smile when your friend texts you.

Smile at a funny meme.

Smile for no reason at all.

Then start practicing smiling at the harder stuff.

Just smile when your son spills his milk.

Smile when the person in the car in front of you is going under the speed limit.

Smile when the person next to you beeps their horn.

Smile when you really don’t feel like it.

When things are really rough, start digging deeply for one measly reason to smile.

Smile.

Smile.

Smile.

Choose happiness. Choose gratitude.

Smile.

Mindful Monday: Fly Into Fall

Good morning, mindful ones! It’s the first day of October, and it definitely feels like fall.

After the autumnal equinox, our days get shorter and shorter and the nights become darker and longer.

This is the time for dramatic and drastic transitions evidenced by how quickly Starbucks started peddling their pumpkin spice lattes (end of August!) to all of the Christmas decorations retailers are already selling!!!! Can we please at least get through Halloween?!

Personally, I prefer to take my cues from Mother Earth. The lush greenery surrounding us turns to vibrant hues of orange, red and gold; a biting Vata wind flows through; trees slowly demonstrate the process of non-attachment, one by one eventually letting go of each and every one of their leaves.

Right now, as we transition into fall, we can capitalize on the light, clear, and moving Vata energies in our practice! Join me for an arm balance and inversion workshop this Friday in Elmhurst!

We will begin with a stabilizing and grounding warm-up, and we will spend the majority of the practice actually practicing poses like crow, one-legged crow, side crow, headstand, forearm stand and handstand!

You can sign up at any location or even online! Let’s fly!

Have a great week, yogis! Namaste 🙏🏾and aloha 🤙🏽

Mindful Monday: Zanshin

Aloha and good morning, my yogi friends! I’m writing this blog from our 50th state, Hawaii, and I’m overflowing with gratitude for simply being alive in this moment. And while it’s still pretty early morning here, I should really be wishing you a good afternoon! Here is my early morning view as I write this blog.

We are on the fourth week of a series about four Zen states of mind. It’s important to note that there are many other Zen mind training techniques and mental states than the four I’ve focused on these past weeks. I’ve chosen to highlight these particular states, because we can begin to apply them to our yoga practice and daily lives. This is in no way an exhaustive list!

Read more about the first three Zen states here:

Shoshin

Fudoshin

Mushin

Now, let’s move to our final state of mind called Zanshin.

Zanshin literally translates to “remaining mind” or the “mind with no remainder.”

Zanshin is a general and constant state of relaxed awareness or perceptiveness. This state means that although you’re not actively watching out for things, you are constantly aware of your surroundings and situation. Think of a public safety officer or a first responder: they are always sizing up situations even when off duty. Constant situational awareness.

The concept of Zanshin is that one should be fully present in whatever action is at hand. When eating, eat. The mind is fully engaged in the action of eating. When practicing yoga, practice yoga. When standing, stand. When writing, write. It is being in the here and now, totally immersed in the task at hand, and there is no “remaining mind” to think.

And to take it one step further, every action and every thought in the here and now must be right and harmonious. Every routine, mundane action is important and should be done with Zanshin.

A beautiful example of Zanshin:

Roy Suenaka, the author of Complete Aikido, tells a story about aikido’s founder that is the epitome of this concept. They were seated on the floor face to face having tea and talking when Morihei Ueshiba, without turning his head, casually reached behind himself and then held something out for Suenaka to see. “Ah, a young cockroach,” he said, before gently putting it to the side. Only later did the significance hit Suenaka. How was Ueshiba so aware that even when focused on their conversation could he not only sense the presence of something so small but be able to know exactly were it was so that he was able to pick it up without looking?

There is a samurai saying that roughly translates to: “When the battle is won, tighten your chinstrap.” This means that zanshin should always be practiced, even after a big success or goal has been met. Never rest on your laurels. Be prepared at any moment for another attack (if you’re a samurai). But also that the battle is never over until you stop striving.

If you’ve been working for years on a particular yoga pose, you don’t stop practicing once you achieve it! If you reach your PR in weight lifting or any other competitive sport or arena, it’s not the time to relax and start slacking.

There is a second component to zanshin that can be summarized with this beautiful thought: Everything is aiming.

There is a story of a master archer who consistently hits bullseye after bullseye, even splitting his own arrows in the middle of the bullseye, blindfolded and in complete darkness.

This is attributed to the process being of utmost importance, not the goal! Each and every small detail is preparation for the ultimate goal. But the paradox is that the ultimate goal is not the focus; each and every boring, mundane, repetitive task that is performed thousands of times is where focus lies. Once one has performed every minute detail ad nauseam, the goal is inevitable and can be reached without the luxury of seeing the target.

Have a great week, yogis! As always I love to hear your comments and feedback. And of course if there any topics you’d like covered in our weekly blog please let us know!

Mindful Monday: Mushin

Good morning, mindful ones!!!

We’re on week 3 of the Four Zen States of Mind! Week 1 was Shoshin and week 2 was Fudoshin.

Today let’s explore the concept of Mushin, which means “Without Mind.” It is very similar in practice to the Chinese Taoist principle of Wu-wei.

Mushin or Wu-wei refers to a state of total ease, in which you become completely lost in what you’re doing, feel no sense of exerting effort, and yet everything works out perfectly. You’ve probably experienced this feeling at some point on your yoga mat!

In this state of mind, you move with ease and maximum effectiveness and emerge from your experience feeling relaxed and satisfied. Sound familiar, yogi?

One of my very favorite Bruce Lee quotes epitomizes this lovely concept of Mushin or Wu-wei.

Basically, when we practice the Zen concept of mushin, we are cultivating an awareness that nothing has value until we place value upon it.

The Zen master who cultivates mushin will have a mind that is open to all possibility – not a mind that is stuck on objects and situations as they have previously experienced them, thereby limiting their real-time experience. A mind that is not fixed on specific thought patterns or emotions is more in touch with the “emptiness” from which all arises.

The “empty mind” isn’t one of an idiot. It is the mind of a master. It is unbiased, free, and completely adaptable. Like water.

Like the moon’s reflection in a perfectly still lake, we perceive reality as if it is “real,” but that moon, as realistic as it looks, it only a reflection. It is easily distorted by a small pebble being thrown into the lake, or a slight breeze rippling its surface.

When you practice mushin, you are practicing mind without mind – you are the clear surface. There are fewer distortions. When you eliminate mental chatter, worries, anxieties, and concerns about the future, the lake’s surface becomes smooth like ice. You can see everything around you more clearly.

The practice of mushin allows you to observe the world from a less distorted perspective.

How do you cultivate it? By getting still, and constantly reminding yourself that all that arises is phenomena reflecting like a pebble on the surface of a lake.

Have a great week, yogis!

Mindful Monday: Fudoshin

Good morning and happy Monday!

Last week, we covered the first state of mind in Zen Buddhism known as Sho Shin or Beginner’s Mind. You can read more here.

Today, we move on to the second state of mind in Zen Buddhism, Fudoshin which means “Immovable Mind.

Fudoshin represents a peaceful state of total determination and unshakable will. It is the state of a spirit that is determined to win, and that is filled with courage, endurance and determination to surmount every obstacle that comes in its way. Fudoshin is associated with a feeling of invincibility, of a mind that cannot be disturbed by confusion, hesitation, doubt, or fear.

It is when your mind is in a total state of equanimity, characterized by mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.

Fudoshin is most commonly associated with martial arts, particularly the samurai warriors in feudal Japan. These warriors displayed a steadfast determination and absolute control over themselves. It should be noted that this doesn’t mean one in a state of fudoshin is being stubborn or angry. Rather a person in fudoshin is calmly resolute and cannot be swayed, tempted or concerned.

We channel fudoshin when we are holding our more challenging yoga poses. Visualize your strength, balance, determination and focus when you’re holding a Warrior III pose or an inversion! Total concentration, muscular engagement and a calm and peaceful countenance. No thoughts, just your breath and bodily sensations evoking a powerful sense of peace and stability within yourself.

In modern Zen practice, Fudoshin is the protection against the “Shikai” or four sicknesses of the mind: anger, doubt, fear and surprise. Through the disciplined practice of meditation, we learn implicitly to center ourselves and clear our minds, thus developing a Fudoshin mind.

There are so many opportunities each day to implement Fudoshin in our lives! Hopefully you won’t be facing a life or death situation, but one can never know what life is sending our way!

In this era of random acts of violence, road rage, bad behavior and other losses of self-control, development of fudoshin can contribute to a peaceful, more compassionate world.

Fudoshin means “unmoving mind/heart”or “immovable mind,” and connotes the imperturbability as well as courage of the truly mastered self. It is the mind/heart from which have been purged all impurities and weaknesses in the resolute process of forging artistic and self-mastery.

Have a great week, friends! Remember that fudoshin is just a few, slow deep breaths away.