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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: Reality

Good morning, mindful friends!! Let’s get REAL this morning!

Reality.

Reality AS IT IS, not how you think it could or should be.

Not your opinions of it.

Not your preferences and projections.

Not your thoughts about it.

Reality. As. It. Is.

The truth is that the universe is always conspiring to keep you alive. To make you happy. On so many levels.

Think about all that must take place for you to survive this entire day! Think about it … your body alone must perform tiny miracles each moment: providing enough proteins and lipids to fuel your body, your mental faculties alerting you to dangers, your spleen regulating immune system. And that’s just on the micro level!

At the macro level, you need fresh, clean water; the Sun continues to shine and provide energy and life to everything on the this earth. You maintain a roof over your head and have plenty to eat.

I invite you to meditate on just how interconnected you are to the Earth’s ecosystem and to realize how important you are on this planet.

When we see just how miraculous and amazing each moment actually is, why do we spend so much time being paranoid. Anxious. Annoyed. Upset. Envious. Disdainful. Sad. Lonely. Depressed. Dissatisfied. Bored. Down on ourselves and those around us? Living in the past …

The universe has and always will provide you with exactly what you need in each moment. You are enough. You are sufficient.

The next time you start to feel anything but grounded in the present, in your body, in reality, take three deep, deep breaths and ask yourself ….

What in this moment is lacking?

Right here, right now, what is lacking in this moment?

As you close your eyes and deepen your breath, you come to the realization that there’s nothing lacking right now. You have and always will receive exactly what you need to get through each moment of your life.

Now that doesn’t mean you’ll always get what you want, but you will always get what you need.

And the more we understand that all of life is this moment and each moment, the less we have the need to project and judge life. As we relax into each moment, we accept life as it unfolds with so much gratitude.

Expectations begin to fall away, thus freeing us from heartache and disappointment.

We truly have the opportunity to embrace life and all its lessons.

Your life is right now. Reality is your next breath.

October 2018 Pose of the Month: Paschimottanasana

Happy October! In this time of transition from summer to fall, it’s so important to work on grounding and stabilizing.

October pose of the month is Paschimottanasana or intense west stretch.

Pashchima = the West, or the back of the body.

Uttana = intense stretch.

This pose honors the inner wisdom and voice of your spirit; calms the nervous system, and allows you to literally turn in toward yourself. It is one of our most grounding poses!

• Extend your legs in front of you and ground down through both sitting bones. If your low back is particularly tight, consider sitting up on a folded blanket so your pelvis can tip forward.

• As you bow over your legs, aim to initiate the fold from the pelvis/hips, as opposed to the mid back.

• Keep the lumbar spine long, and then round over with the thoracic and cervical spine.

• Take slow and deep breaths as you surrender to the stretch and connect to the inner quietude.

Simple and yummy!!!

Enjoy!

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: Labor Day 2018

Good morning, friends! Happy Labor Day!

For most of us, we get an extra day tagged on to this weekend!

As we enjoy this last day of “summer” – don’t worry, we still have time until the official end on the fall equinox – let’s pause to honor the spirit of this day.

Today we celebrate all of the industrious, dedicated workers that literally built this country. And let’s remember that there are still many of those people who are actually working today!

Most of the professions have the luxury of not working today; but so many in the service industry still get up and get ready and go to work. Retail and restaurant workers, and of course, law enforcement, medical and emergency management folks are still on the job today. Aaaaaaaand of course many yoga teachers and other fitness professionals will still be punching in!

Where ever this beautiful Labor Day takes you today, take a moment to pause, breathe deeply and let gratitude for this gorgeous day and for our still great nation and all of its people course throughout your entire body. We are so darn lucky to live in a land of so much opportunity.

A huge shoutout to all of you working today! What a great opportunity to show our appreciation with just some extra kind words for those laboring today! I always overtip for services on days like this.

Happy Monday, y’all. And hellllooooooo pumpkin EVERYTHING this season.

Next week, we’ll talk about Mushin – The third Zen state of mind. If you’ve missed the past couple of weeks, you can read about the first Zen state of mind here and the second Zen state of mind here.

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.

Mindful Monday: Sho Shin

Happy Monday, mindful ones!

Sho Shin is a concept in Zen Buddhism that means ‘a beginner’s mind.’ There are four states of mind in Zen Buddhism. This week, we’ll discuss the first state.

Sho Shin is characterized by an attitude of openness, eagerness, and a complete lack of preconceptions when studying a subject or beginning an endeavor.

Think about when you took your first yoga class. Or first 100 for that matter! You were excited and so eager to learn everything about this ancient practice! Your mind was like a sponge, simply and enthusiastically absorbing every thing you could about yoga.

When you are in a state of shoshin you are feeling enthusiastic, creative and above all optimistic.

It’s easy to be fired up about new, exciting endeavors. The practice is to remain open-minded and optimistic when you’ve practiced for many, many years and are considered an ‘expert.’

One of the key aspects of shoshin is an absence of preconceptions and a general sense of optimism. When you are in a state of shoshin you shouldn’t be thinking too much about what you think is going to happen, you should just be eager to accept whatever comes and assured it will all be for the best.

This release of preconceptions and attitude of viewing everything with fresh eyes is one of shoshin’s most valuable qualities. You can work on placing yourself in a state of shoshin even when doing something you’ve done before to keep each experience fresh and to ensure that you aren’t making poor decisions based on preconceived biases. It also helps train you to keep a positive and eager outlook about everything that might come your way.

For this reason, I always try to keep my teaching as well as my personal practice fresh with new and different sequencing and transitions. In order to do this, I MUST continue to practice with new and different teachers. I must continue to expand my knowledge base and work tirelessly to cultivate a state of shoshin. I often see experienced students turn on auto-pilot in class and assume they know where we are going next.

The danger of an ‘expert’s mind’ is that few possibilities exist in this mind. Less aspects of a situation are questioned and more are assumed. This often results in a narrowed perception and performing tasks on autopilot without room for a fresh, new perspective. Things are always done a certain way with no opportunities for improvement.

So how do we cultivate shoshin in our everyday lives and on our mats?

Just like all programs of thoughts in our minds, new thought patterns can be cultivated. Meditating and practicing gratitude are scientifically measurable ways to literally create new gray matter. Cultivating a beginner’s mind is exactly the same.

  • Try to approach situations without assumptions or expectations.
  • Don’t judge as good or bad. Be open to any outcome.
  • Be curious! Question with interest and wonder!
  • Switch things up. Drive a different route. Practice at a different time. Move your mat to a different place in the room.
  • Empty your mind!
  • Have a great week, friends!
  • Mindful Monday: Back to School – Another Lesson in Letting Go

    Happy Monday, friends!

    I’m incredulous that the 2018/2019 school year starts this Wednesday! I mean it’s not even the middle of August yet!

    Such is the nature of life! In constant flux and movement. Which is why it’s so important to practice being present for each and every moment of life. The days can seem so long, but the years fly by on wings. I so clearly remember my son’s first day of pre-school. This week, he begins his senior year!

    Change is inevitable. We can’t control it. We can’t fast forward or rewind. Our only sane, viable option is to embrace every single precious second as it unfolds, exactly as it is. As it is. Not how it should be. Or could be. But as it is.

    Therein lies our greatest challenge and truest pathway to happiness.

    To embrace life in all of its glory and misery, pleasure and pain, love and fear, belief and doubt, failure and success. All of it!

    Sure, I could play the game of beating myself up for every mistake I made in raising my son. Or fast forward and suffer in anticipation of next year when he leaves for college. I’m really, really good at both!

    But I see that these patterns of thinking create suffering for myself. And I remember that I really have no reason to suffer. And I definitely don’t enjoy it anymore.

    And I remind myself that I’ve been in training for the past 17 years in the beautiful and brutal art of letting go. From the day he was born, I had to let go of having him all to myself within my body.

    When I stopped breast feeding, I had to let go of being his main source of nourishment.

    When I went back to work.

    When he moved from his crib to his big boy toddler bed then later his loft/bunk bed.

    Watching that tiny little boy walk into first grade all on his own, getting swallowed up into the crowd of much bigger kids.

    His first sleepover at a friend’s house.

    First time he closed off from me and didn’t need me to fix it.

    Graduating from elementary school and starting middle school.

    First day of high school.

    First time he drove my car (I’m still traumatized by that one).

    And now … senior year begins.

    And I remind myself, this is all part of the training. And how it’s helped me so much in life.

    It’s strengthened and conditioned me. Learning to release and let go of so many things. Learning to let go even when I’m not ready, because it’s time.

    So I have one more year to train for the inevitable. And I remind myself that if I’ve done my job well as a parent, he will fly away with confidence and have all the tools he needs for success.

    Sigh. Good luck to all of you parents out there! We got this!