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Mindful Monday: Just Breathe

Good morning, friends!

Just a friendly reminder for you to

Just Breathe ……..

……. If you are running a tad bit late

……. If summer construction traffic has you down to one lane of traffic

……. If the car next to you won’t let you merge

……. If your co-worker is telling you that same story again

……. If your teenager is giving you attitude

……. If the people at the table next to you are super loud

……. If you receive some bad news today

……. If you have a few moments to stand barefoot in the grass

…….. If you are enjoying the sunshine outdoors

……. If you are laying out at the pool

……. If you are sitting through an endless meeting

Just. Breathe.

Inhale

Exhale

Inhale

Exhale

Inhale

Exhale

……. And smile to yourself that you are ALIVE in this moment.

Make it a fantastic week, my lovelies! Enjoy our fleeting summer!

Mindful Monday: Saluting the Sun

Good morning and Happy Monday, mindful ones!

Have you ever really stopped to contemplate Surya Namaskar? It’s such a common part of our practice, that it’s easy to be on autopilot as you flow through.

No worries! I have found myself doing this at times as well.

Yes, sun salutes are the perfect “warm-up” for the physical body. We lengthen and engage all major muscle groups and joints; cardiovascular system increases; lungs, blood circulation and digestive system all benefit. In fact if you don’t have time for a full hour of practice, do 10 to 12 sun salutes for a perfect physical workout!

But we know that Yoga transcends so much more than just the physical.

In our sun salutations, we are yoking mind and body together, creating a pathway to dhyana or meditation, a state of deep contemplation and reception.

In our fast-paced world, we are often ahead of the current moment. The mind has been trained to fast forward in anticipation. Our sun salutes offer the opportunity to pause, return to our center, rekindling our relationship to breath and pure awareness. With this new awareness of breath and movement, we connect to our deeper rhythm and experience a moving meditation. It’s not in fact the physical poses but the deeper awareness of our inner energetic flow that awakens the state of yoga.

The Sun is central to this devotion, as it is the giver of all life on this planet. Without the sun, life on earth would dwindle and slowly die. The Sun warms our seas, stirs our atmosphere, generates our weather patterns, and gives energy to the growing green plants that provide the food and oxygen for life on Earth.

Miraculously, we are the perfect distance from the sun. Any closer, and we would be scorched. Any further away, and we would be in the Ice Ages.

The next time you flow through Surya Namaskar, focus on the miracle of your existence! Use your awareness to honor and notice where your body happens to be at this moment. Take each breath with gratitude.

Namaste, dearest mindful ones!

Mindful Monday: Comparison is the Thief of Joy

Good morning and happy Monday! Hope you had a fantastic weekend!

I had an incredible weekend celebrating my brilliant son’s high school graduation surrounded by his family and friends.

I had such a great time, I barely took any pictures!

And I cannot tell you how liberating that was. To just be present. Connecting with family and friends and making sure he had a great time and that he greeted and thanked all of his guests.

We live in a world now where social media can take over our daily lives, if we allow it. We spend so much time trying to create the “perfect” image to post on social media. And we measure our own value based on the number of “likes” or “❤️s” we get.

And it’s exhausting! This constant comparison to others.

It’s nothing new. Human nature hasn’t changed much; it’s just technology that has.

Long before social media, we were compared to other babies and toddlers in terms of percentile of height and weight.

In school, we are compared to all of the other kids and measured by GPAs and medals and ribbons in sports.

We start working and have families, and there’s still that constant feeling of “keeping up” with our peers.

This carries on into the next generation, when we compare our children to their peers!

Comparison is generally a fast track to unhappiness. It’s a sure path to misery. All it does is keeps you focusing on what you don’t like about yourself and your life. And throw in to that recipe a big dose of FOMO, and oh boy, serious self-esteem issues can arise that can be directly attributed to any forms of criticism imprinted from our childhoods.

Of course, the goal is for all of us to celebrate our own unique individuality and be genuinely happy for others’ successes without feeling less than.

If you are caught in that vicious cycle, as I was for many decades, read on for some tips to find a bit more balance.

1. Take a social media detox. I know, I know! There was a time in my life that a suggestion like that would cause me to panic! You would not have been able tto wrestle my smart phone out of my gripping, clinging hands!

Going on a 10 day silent meditation retreat where they took my phone and car keys and we didn’t speak, write or listen to any music for 10 days seemed like an impossibility! But the practice of withdrawing from all of the external stimulation, distractions and noise was the most incredible experience.

Oh of course you don’t have to do anything that extreme! But there are plenty of apps out there that help you understand how much time and energy you squander on various social media platforms.

There’s no substitute for a real, live human connection.

2. Use comparison in a healthy way! Use it to be inspired by others’ successes. And remember that one teeny little square image is a frozen fragment in time; there is probably an incredible backstory filled with challenges, heartbreak and struggles that culminate in a single triumphant moment.

What inspires you?

3. Use comparison as a modality to self-healing! What, exactly, about that image or real-life scenario sparks jealousy and feelings of unworthiness? We start to see that when resentment or envy bubbles up, it’s not in fact because of another’s success. It’s because we see someone else living authentically and to their potential, and perhaps we know there are areas in our own lives that could use more attention and development.

4. Take a yoga class! Meditate! Talk a walk! Go for a run. Or a swim. Or a bike ride. Play some music. Dance! Or just take a yoga class! Lol. Moving your body gets you out of that gorgeous head of yours (where all of our misery originates) and releases the feel good natural drug: endorphins!

5. And finally, my universal panacea: practice gratitude! Fill your mind with all of the things you are grateful for in your life! One of my private students began a gratitude practice with me and was astounded at how all of the abundance that began rapidly pouring into her life!

And of course, if nobody else tells you today, remember that you are amazing! You are exactly where you are meant to be along this journey!

Anicca! Anicca! Anicca! Be happy! Be happy! Be happy!

Mindful Monday: Little moments are the building blocks

Good morning, mindful ones! I’m beginning to feel like we live in Seattle, not the Chicago suburbs!

But I’m not complaining! I love the rain. But it does become a bit of a hindrance during graduation party season!

As you may already know, my son graduated from high school in May and we are well into graduation party season.

As we celebrate this next chapter in our kids’ lives, it’s such a reminder that we’re actually celebrating all of the little, every day mundane moments that brought us to this big one.

Every Saturday morning spent on the (insert sport here) field;

every Cub Scout meeting;

every sleepover;

every pizza party;

every piano recital and martial arts belt test;

every brown bag lunch packed;

every random Wednesday morning;

every spring break and summer vacay;

every Christmas and Easter;

every birthday;

every driving lesson and late-night studying sessions;

Every ACT and SAT prep sessions;

Every single college application and endless essays;

Every college visit;

And every single day since they started kindergarten.

Such a reminder to cherish every moment of each day that we have been gifted.

Life is all of the boring, routine moments that lead us to the big life moments. It’s the daily grind.

It’s remembering that each breath offers an opportunity to grow closer to God or push further away.

So when you wake up on a Monday morning in June and it’s raining, remember that today is still a gift. And it’s up to you to receive it with a full and open heart or bitch and moan about the absence of sunshine.

It’s entirely up to you! But today is a very important day on your journey. One day you will look back with fondness and perhaps a little longing for the good old days. And I don’t want you to have any regrets.

I hope you embrace it all! The rain. The traffic. The slow poke in front of you. The losses. The transitions. The farewells and good byes. The leaky diapers. The late nights with a sick kid. The overbearing room mom.

It’s all so very precious when you look back.

I hope you fill this rainy Monday with memories!

Have a great week, lovelies!

Mindful Monday: From the Mouths of Babes

Good morning and happy Monday, beautiful mindful ones!

Yesterday we celebrated fathers everywhere! They are the strength and providers (traditionally) of our families. Kudos to all of the loving, active, supportive dads everywhere with their corny dad jokes and all of their hard work.

My dad is currently in Barcelona, so I was grateful to speak with him on the phone and wish him a happy Father’s Day!

I spent the day with my mom, brother, son and nephew. What an epic day!

After a delicious meal together, we tossed the Big Kahuna frisbee around. It’s all fun and games until someone gets beaned by that hard plastic flying disc!

Which was me. Right in the shin! I’ll happily show you the bruise if I see you at the studio this week!

I took a bit of a break to nurse my wound while the boys kept playing. After some time, my seven year old nephew told me to get back in the game. Lol.

Which I did. But I was very timid at this point. He had tons and tons of advice for me: “Auntie Nadja, You have to run faster. You have to jump! You have to run towards the frisbee! Don’t look away. Keep your eyes on the frisbee. You closed your hands too soon.” It was a steady steam.

And it was all great advice! When I told him that I was afraid of the frisbee, he told me: “It’s ok Auntie Nadja. Just don’t focus on the pain. Focus on the frisbee.”

And that little nugget of advice struck me as so deeply profound.

Don’t focus on the pain. Focus on the frisbee.

Boom.

How often do we get stuck focusing on the pain in a situation? Immersing ourselves in it. Sure, we need to pause and evaluate the situation. But then it’s time to move on! Get back in the game and move forward!

Countless situations in life are painful. Divorce. Death. Kids leaving for college. Betrayals from so-called friends or loved ones. We need time to heal and reassess our life perspective.

But rather than focusing on the pain, we can focus on the lesson. How is this pain an opportunity to grow and strengthen. Or to grow and soften. Let the pain be what wakes you up and gets your attention, but not the focal point.

Brilliance. From a seven year old!

Unbeknownst to me, as I was tending to my poor shin, my son got hit in the face with the frisbee and had a busted lip. This kid is an athlete. He has been since he was four. Which is probably why he didn’t even mention his busted lip for a solid hour to me! He continued playing without a peep.

He had clearly gotten that don’t focus on the pain memo! Lol

Life sometimes hurts us, dear souls. Let’s not focus on the pain. Let’s learn and grow from it. Let’s let the pain transform us and elevate us! (Insert gratuitous image of the Rock. You’re welcome!)

Have a great week, my dearest ones!

Mindful Monday: Be Happy

Good morning, dearest mindful ones!

And just like that …

It’s June!

My son has graduated from high school!

I have moved and purged 85% of my worldly possessions!

Life continues to move forward. And it’s entirely up to us how we choose to flow with life as it unfolds or dig in our heels and resist reality.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my nearly five decades on this planet, it is that I have created my own suffering and resistance all of these years. I have made my life exponentially more difficult than it ever needed to be!

I have finally discovered the secret to happiness! And it’s so super duper simple.

And today’s your lucky day because I’m going to share this timeless wisdom with you right here!

Embracing happiness requires only two things. And you, my friend, have both of them in abundance!

The first is the simple mental decision to choose to be happy. Now when I say simple I certainly don’t pretend that it’s easy! But simply make the decision that you truly choose happiness … No. Matter. What.

So choose happiness. Boom! Mic drop and walk away.

But what if …

There are no “what ifs” or “buts”.

It’s a choice to be made in every circumstance and in every single situation. It’s easy to choose happiness when everything is smoothly going your way. Duh! Where is the challenge in that?

Your real test is in choosing happiness even when (fill in the blank here). And don’t get it twisted, there will always be roadblocks. Expect them and count on them. And still choose happiness as you navigate up, over and around.

The greatest tool you have to support this decision is your gratitude practice. There are several studies, articles and publications touting the neuroscientific benefits of gratitude. Blah. Blah. Blah. Thank you medical and scientific community for validating a 5000 year old practice!

We don’t need all of those studies, because we live and feel the benefits and results through our practice.

So decide to be happy. And be grateful for everything.

Each time “cats in the cradle” plays in my head, I direct my energy towards gratitude for every single moment I’ve experienced with my son.

When I start feeling regret for all of the beautiful possessions I’ve sold and given away, I feel grateful that my load is so much lighter now.

When someone cuts me off in traffic or is tailgating me, I feel grateful that I have a beautiful car to drive and that I am safe.

So choose happiness in every situation

Be grateful for everything; especially the opportunities that are disguised as challenges and setbacks

Choose to let go and lighten your load. Always.

Happiest of Mondays, mindful ones!

Mindful Monday: Meditate and Feel Great!

Hey, Mindful Ones!

I’m so happy that more and more people are practicing meditation as they continue to reap the benefits of this life-changing practice.

Meditation is a habitual process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts.

You can use it to increase awareness of yourself and your surroundings. Many people think of it as a way to reduce stress and develop concentration.

People also use the practice to develop other beneficial habits and feelings, such as a positive mood and outlook, self-discipline, healthy sleep patterns and even increased pain tolerance.

Other benefits include:

*Reduction in stress, anxiety and tension

* Increases immunity

*Lowers blood pressure

*Contributes to an overall sense of well-being

So what are you waiting for? Set your timer for just five minutes today and watch your thoughts as you feel tension and stress melt away.

Let’s make it a great week, friends!

Mindful Monday: May 2019 Pose of the Month Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana or Compass Pose

Hi, friends! Happy May!

Our pose for May 2019 is Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana or Compass pose. It’s also called Sundial pose.

It is a deep and twisty shoulder, hip and hamstring-opening seated pose that requires a great warm up and a good sense of humor!

After a thorough warm up of hips, hamstrings, shoulders and spine, here’s how:

  • From a seated position extend your left leg long in front of you, round your spine a bit, and take your right knee into right elbow and right foot into left hand. If there is more space, wrap arms around shin and slowly, as it feels good, bring spine upright. Breathe for 5 deep breaths. (If you want to rock shin left to right like rocking a baby, that is also great to loosen up the hip joint.)
  • From shin cradle, take right hand to right ankle, and take left hand over your head and to the outer edge of your right foot. You can use your strap here! Round your spine and shinny your right shoulder underneath your right knee. Start to lengthen spine as it feels good, and breath for five deep breaths.
  • From here, release your right hand to the ground, fingertips facing away from you, soften right elbow as much as you want, and start to poke your head under your left shoulder.
  • Start to lengthen right leg to any degrees that feels good, and breathe there for five deep breaths.
  • Now repeat on the left.

Mindful Monday: Lifelong Growth

Happy Monday, dear ones!

I’m writing from Baltimore, Maryland where I’m with my son on his last college visit before he makes his final decision.

I’ve learned the most about how to be a better human being from my son. When he was younger, I learned the true meaning of unconditional love. I learned patience, compassion and how to slow down. (I am still working on all of these things!) I’ve also learned about soccer, Pokémon and Super Smash Bros.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve had some crash courses on respect and boundaries. On fading into the background and how to not breathe in any way that could possibly embarrass a teenager.

And now I’m learning from my son the importance of taking your time when making a big decision. I tend to make snap decisions based on my instincts and gut feeling. My son is methodical, logical, deliberate and so unhurried!

May 1 is the deadline to declare which college you have selected, and well, it’s April 22, and he is as calm as the Dalai Lama while meditating.

The lesson here is that we are all constantly learning and growing. And our roles as student and teacher are interchangeable in all of our roles and relationships.

Our biggest learning moments are disguised as challenges, threats to our egos and in our failures.

Each moment we are moving closer or further away from growth. Stagnancy is the opposite of growth. We see this in our practice, as well. We become stagnant when we lose our beginners mind and we think we have all the answers. We forget that we can learn something from everyone we meet!

What will you learn today? Who will appear in your life to teach you something?

Keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth closed! <<< another one I learned courtesy of my son!

Have a great, learning Monday, friends!

Mindful Monday: Checkpoint

Good morning, mindful ones!

Have you ever heard the saying, “How you do anything is how you do everything”?

Let’s look into that one as it applies to the weather.

How did you react to the big snow we had yesterday? In the middle of April?

Did you immediately act shocked and dismayed?

Did you start to complain and say how unfair it was?

Did you feel victimized and that you couldn’t take it anymore?

Did you wake up pleasantly surprised?

Did you think to yourself: Snow in the middle of April? Yes! Absolutely! It happened last year around this time, too!

Did you acknowledge the sublime power of Mother Nature and admire her work?

Whatever your thoughts were, they created an emotional reaction. They then became your words. You expressed those words to your friends, family and social media platforms.

How we react to random weather events can give us great insight into how we react to all of life’s experiences.

When something happens unexpectedly or in a way that you hadn’t anticipated, you will once again react in a very similar way to how you reacted to the weather.

So you may be thinking: yeah, so what? Which is another habitual pattern of thinking.

Well, it matters. It all matters.

Your conditioned patterns of thinking and reacting create your attitudes, emotions and behavior patterns. Your behavior patterns create your habits and lifestyle. Your habits and lifestyle attract people in your life vibrating at that same energy level. Literally your thoughts, words and actions in each small, trivial moment in life is how you live your life.

And how you reacted to yesterday’s weather, if you look honestly at your patterns, is how you react if someone cuts you off in traffic or doesn’t respond to an email or text as quickly as you’d like.

Are you a victim? Is it easy for others to steal your joy and peace of mind? Do you thoughtlessly give away your personal power every time there’s a little hiccup in your day?

Do you consciously cultivate positive thoughts and energy? Do you practice gratitude? Do you commit to your inner peace and equanimity regardless of what’s happening externally?

The truth is, any moment of any day is the perfect checkpoint of awareness of how we are doing anything in life.

Take moments to pause during your day and check in with yourself: are my thoughts and actions in this moment drawing me closer to my goals or pulling me away? There are only two directions we are moving with each thought and action.

We can’t affect shifts in our lives without awareness of our current vibrational levels. With that awareness, we have all the information that we need to decide whether we are ready to vibe up or if we’re content with our current circumstances.

Have a beautiful, mindful Monday, friends!