Good Grief

Grief…is good?  The phrase “good grief” is something we all have heard.  This phrase was made popular in America through the Charlie Brown cartoon and is one of those things we say in exclamation.  It might be an “old timey” saying for millennials, but as I am struck with immense grief after the recent loss of my grandfather, this saying keeps playing in my head.  

Grief does not feel “good”.  Sure, maybe it is cathartic and better than bottling it up or suppressing your emotions, but saying “good grief” is an oxymoron.  

I have all of the tools to properly grieve and to go through this mourning process, but I decided to fully allow myself be sad last week.  I didn’t write a blog, I did the bare minimum to get by with work, and allowed myself to go numb in front of the TV with intermittent crying.  This week, I’m emerging back to reality; I finally returned to my yoga mat and was reminded that death is an illusion.  While the physical body is gone, the spirit lives on and as I settle into the quiet of meditation, I can feel my grandfather’s energy within my heart.  I see him through nature, like every time I see a squirrel, I think of him yelling for them to get out of his yard, or, him threatening to get his BB gun.  I can reminisce endlessly.

Through my studies and own personal introspection, I have come to believe that there is only a thin veil separating us from the non-ordinary reality, or spiritual realm.  What we see on the physical plane is only one version of “reality”.  This may sound woo-woo, but it’s my own personal belief.  The fact we face when a loved one passes is that they are gone from our physical world; what we believe happens after death is entirely personal.  Through my dreams, signs in nature, or even the occasional voice in my head, I can sense the presence of spirits, angels, or guides all around me - and others.

We all have an intuitive ability, it’s really just a matter of honing the skill or tuning your instrument to perceive these messages.

Basic Steps to “Tune” Your Intuition:

  1. Meditate and start to familiarize yourself with what occurs physically, emotionally, and mentally when you are presented with silence.

  2. Spend time in nature, again in silence, and begin to notice what’s around you.  Notice plants, animals, critters, sunlight, the breeze, sounds, or the feeling of the ground beneath you, and remain open.

  3. Before going to sleep, ask for a dream.  You can ask to meet your spirit guides, to receive a message from angels, a message from God, or a dream about a loved one that may have passed.  Sometimes asking for a sign is all you need to do.

Important notes: 

  • Sometimes we don’t get answers, signs, or direction because we are not supposed to.  For instance, we can obsess over seeing a sign as to whether or not we are supposed to take a certain job, or be with a certain person, but sometimes our guides/spirit team/angels/God/inner counsel keeps us in the dark, for a reason.  This does not mean you are lost or abandoned, it simply means it is not information you are meant to know right now.  Either you are not ready, it’s not necessary, or there is still more you need to assimilate/understand about your current circumstance before receiving additional guidance.  
  • Attempting to communicate with those that crossed over is not what I am recommending and your intuition is simply a tool that can help you feel more connected.  My Shamanism mentor told me that about 3 months after someone’s passing, it could actually be harmful to their crossing over process to try to receive messages from them.  Further, I have seen this become an obsession for some, where people pay mediums lots of money to try to get a message.  And as Dr. Norm Shealy once told me regarding mediums or intuitive readers: “Some are flakier than cornflakes!”

Simply listen to your heart and See what you feel. 

Less "Woo-Woo" Steps for Grieving:

  1. Give yourself permission to be sad.  Allow the emotions to surface.  Lean on your support system and express what you are feeling, or write about it in a notebook.  Ignoring it, brushing it under the rug, or burying it within you does not serve you.  Try not to stay in a place of being numb. 
  2. Spend time with loved ones and cherish the present moment.  It is nice to reminisce, but we don't want to get stuck in the past.  Sometimes the best way to stay present-aware is to give to others, like helping a friend with a project. 
  3. Celebrate the life of the one you lost.  Enjoy old photos, home-videos, and allow yourself to create a mini-celebration for their life - remaining grateful that you got to know them at all.  
  4. Take a deep inhale through the nose and on your exhale let out the "Ssssss" sound.  This is an Energy Medicine technique for releasing grief.  You can do this as many times as you'd like as a way to calm your system.  

Beyond the veil, I believe we will be reunited with all who have passed; animal friends included!  Love is the most powerful form of medicine, so through this process, self-love and spending quality time with those you love is paramount.  Stay in gratitude for what you shared with the one you lost and carry that energy within your heart.  And then, through you, they will always live on.  

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Two Great Lessons

1.  Helpful vs. Harmful

2.  Responsive vs. Reactive

To determine whether your actions are helpful versus harmful is one of the cornerstones of human interactions I learned while teaching preschool, and it can be applied to situations, no matter one's age.  The second lesson to be responsive versus reactive to events came to me from my mentor, Lauren Walker; the creator of Energy Medicine Yoga, which as you all may know, has changed my life. 

When you put these two lessons together, you have a game changer for how to manage stress in life. 

When conflicts arise either personally, professionally, or just through your existence in the world - what is the initial thought that pops into your head?  For me, I have been faced with more conflicts working in the yoga community than ever before in my professional career.  It surprised me at first, because I thought it would be sunshine and roses.  However, the yoga community/industry/business, whatever you want to name it, functions exactly like any other community/industry/business.  However, I persevere because for me to help other people feel renewed, in touch with their highest self, and supported on their healing journey is the absolute best way I can spend my time and give back to the world.  And, like any other job, it has its ups and downs. 

To guide me through life's trials and tribulations, I constantly check my actions and ask: "Is this helpful or harmful?" and, am I being "responsive or reactive?"  Both of these pausing questions go hand-in-hand while dealing with any conflict, interaction, or general communication with another person.  We cannot always control the circumstances we are presented with, but we can certainly attempt to control our emotions.  If we become hurt by someone's actions, that's a choice (whether you are conscious of it or not), and how we respond is critical to diffusing or managing situations.  Let me provide a hypothetical situation:  Someone posts something on social media that you don't like.  It may bring up feelings of anger because you believe this person is wrong.  Do you ignore this?  Do you lash out?  Do you leave a nasty comment, or message them privately?  How can you respond, versus react?  To be reactionary, would be to lash out and leave a nasty comment.  Being responsive in this situation could mean messaging them privately to express your feelings, or simply choosing to unfollow their posts.  It should be clear which of these choices is helpful, versus harmful.  Perhaps the person posting does not realize that their post may be hurtful to others, or maybe they don't care.  Regardless of how they choose to respond or react to you, it is necessary to self-reflect and check our own actions.  Remember, Svadhaya - your study of self.  

I truthfully feel silly using social media as an example, but I witness (and have experienced) versions of Facebook bullying, so it's an easy example to dissect.  Social media has made it so easy for people to express their opinions without looking anyone in the eye or recognizing the human heart behind the screen.  Even after my own experience with a FB bully, I do not use their name here or use specifics of our interaction because I do not want to hurt or shame this person.  We must learn to keep our emotions in check and when we are faced with adversity - pause, take a deep breath, and then respond.  These two great lessons can be applied to literally every aspect of our lives and help us to transform how we handle stress.  Choosing to respond with grace, while actively reflecting on being helpful towards others, with kindness, will help to make the world (virtual and real) a much better place.  

Finding Health

Health is a very personal concept that will mean different things to each individual.  It also may change as we reach certain phases of our life.  Health is a moving target, something we need to consciously strive to maintain, and we often don’t notice the state of our health until an illness strikes or we simply feel off.  Finding health does not mean finding perfection, healing, or immortality.  Healing is a life’s journey and perfection does not exist - if it does, perhaps that is what we will find in an afterlife.

Ayurveda is a subject I was first exposed to in my yoga teacher training and I received a very baseline understanding of the discipline.  Ayurveda is an ancient science and the medical limb of Yoga translating to the “knowledge of life”.  For me, this changed the way I looked at food.  For instance, Ayurveda gives you basic parameters for your diet: eating what’s in season, saving your raw/cold food for the summer months, and your warm/cooked foods for the winter.  Another basic rule of thumb in Ayurveda is to have 3 meals a day, with NO snacking.  By practicing these simple guidelines, I lost around 10 pounds within months of finishing my yoga teacher training (I was adding in more yoga of course, which helped!)  However, Ayurveda is not simply a diet, but for me, following Ayurvedic principles in how I ate and what I ate, transformed my relationship with food.  It broke old patterns of turning to food for comfort, out of boredom, or the oh-so-famous emotional eating habit!  

This past weekend in school we had a highly trained Ayurvedic Practitioner and Western Naturopathic Doctor teach Ayurveda.  I feel that the more I learn, the less I know.  In Ayurveda there are different constitutions or primary elements that dictate your body type, and how you function physically, mentally, and emotionally.  For instance, if you are primarily fire (pitta) you will most likely love spicy foods and hot weather, but if you're imbalanced, these things will aggravate you.  So, I found out that my constitution, which is called a "dosha", which I determined through a basic “what’s my dosha” quiz, was incorrect.  Taking such an intricate discipline and trying to boil it down to a few short questions in a quiz isn't always the most effective.  This practitioner took one look at me and noticed how I talk, walk, and present myself and instantly knew my dosha.  You want to take a quiz now, don’t you?  There’s no shame in it!  My caution is, if you are really interested in learning more, seek out a practitioner.  I’ve been living for the past 2 years thinking I was something different, avoiding certain foods, when really, it probably threw me more out of balance.  John Douillard has a wonderful newsletter with tons of free resources, and trusted products, I highly recommend you check out his site: https://lifespa.com/ayurvedic-health-quizzes/body-type-quiz/  

I left this weekend feeling awakened to a new version of myself and slightly frustrated I had identified with an incorrect diet/guideline for my body type.  There has been no harm done, but my entire cohort left the weekend learning we all are in need of some major detoxing.  How can a group of Integrative Health students be loaded with toxins!?  That’s when it occurred to me, we need to of course use discretion and notice how we feel.  Eating the "wrong" foods for my dosha didn't totally derail my health.  Health is personal and entirely dependent on one's tolerance of pain, discomfort, and awareness of their body.  For some, fitting into the same pair of jeans is a sign of health, for others it is running a marathon, but most importantly - for us all, health should mean we feel alive - with a beating heart, fresh oxygen coming into our lungs, and gratitude for the beauty of life.  

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The Forecast

Like a meteorologist attempting to predict the weather, we can create our own forecast for our life.  And like the weather, even with all of the best intentions, forecasts could be wrong.

The weather forecast this past week for another Nor’Easter was very wrong, we barely got an inch of snow.  However, the standard anticipation, excitement, and perhaps anxiety that comes with a snowstorm ensued.  Grocery stores were busy, schools closed early, and even in my own work-from-home life, I prepared to bunker down.  Then reflection came - what else do we try to forecast in our lives?

We plan out our meals, outfits, workouts, parties, appointments, volunteering, sleep-schedule, and even dates.  In a society that constantly plans, we try to create a forecast for our life or a manageable plan about how things should go.  People make 5-year plans, 10-year plans, vacation plans, baby plans, marriage plans, retirement plans, and even after-life arrangements.  With the planning comes budgeting, time-blocking, scheduling, vision-boarding, and a lot of thinking and praying.  This isn’t a bad thing.  I believe that with the over stimulation of information and technology, we feel both a necessity and an innate desire to map out our lives to make sure we don’t miss out on anything.  Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a very real thing.

Forecasting can be viewed as an attempt to predict/plan the future, based off of logical reasons, statistics, and sometimes simple intuition to give us a certain feeling of control or structure.  You plan out the perfect outfit for a big meeting, then spill coffee on your shirt when you're ready to walk out the door.  You planned to be married by now with kids, but for some reason you're not and you're actually okay with that.  You planned to be retired by now, but you're 65 and you still enjoy your job.  How we react or respond when things don't go as planned speaks to our resiliency and state of mind. 

We can always choose to put out our best effort, with pure intentions, and perhaps even plan the pathways of our life, but we can never predict the course we will need to take to achieve a dream, or even have certainty of our future.  The only thing we can ascertain is the present-moment.  Sometimes forecasting, planning, or mapping out everything is really just a guise for control.  A way to soothe anxiety and while it can certainly help us feel like we are on the “right” track, we need to be present-moment aware.  We need to tap into how we feel and be aware of our current situation, so we can navigate through life with flexibility instead of being on autopilot. 

For instance, I used to pray for a tiny piece of paper to drop down from heaven with the name of the man I was supposed to marry, just so I could know who to look for.  That never happened, but practicing stillness and going inward through meditation allowed me to become clear about the type of partner I would want, and in a way became my tiny piece of paper, guiding me through my relationships.  It's sometimes hard to accept that we can’t predict the future; sometimes meal-preps fail, sometimes people get divorced, sometimes snowstorms don’t come, and sometimes all of the planning in the world cannot prepare you for what life throws at you, but it's still okay.  We are always exactly where we need to be and with agility of both mind and spirit, we can navigate while still letting go to the forces of the world, because the only thing we can attempt to control is our breath.  

 *photocred - Pinterest

*photocred - Pinterest

Dreamer vs. Doer

Dreams are an amazing thing.  They ignite a certain level of passion within us, get our radiant circuits sparking about - just like falling in love for the first time.  We all have dreams and some of us like to talk about them more than others.  One of the best things I recently learned from Deepak Chopra’s The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success is that when you have a true desire, or intention, it’s often best to not share this with anyone.  Every time we take our dreams or desires and hang them out like the laundry, other people’s energy, opinions, or reactions to our dreams can hinder or alter our energy behind that desire.  This can impact the results, the path, or even whether or not we pursue the dream at all.  There is always that one loved one that you can share/confide in and perhaps you dream together, envisioning your most ideal life or circumstance.  

Hopefully, where you are right now, is what you may have dreamt about or longed for some time ago.  Even if you’re thinking to yourself, well my job is definitely not my dream: once upon a time, you were full of desires, intention, and were seeking a career to maybe just simply pay the bills, or use the degree you paid so much for, and well -- here you have it.  Or, perhaps you dreamt of finding your soulmate and building a life together, and now that’s where you are.  You dreamt of buying a house, writing a book, building a business, having children, traveling the world, etc. Do you have all of the things you thought you once wanted?  A version of what you dreamt of once upon a time? I believe that unless there was a traumatic event or change within someone’s life, most likely where you are sitting right now and the circumstances you find yourself in are the manifestation of your desires - consciously, or unconsciously.  We are the creators of our reality, right?

When dissatisfaction comes knocking at the door and you think, I need a new job, I need a new house, I need a new spouse, or I need to be a poet and I didn’t even know it…become curious of the stimulus to change.  It could come from a lack, a wandering eye, a sense of what is here is not good enough, or even from living in the future and missing what is in front of us.

You are the creator of your reality.

If you walk into your house and think it is the best place to be, exactly where you want to live, and it is your dream come true - it will be.  If you look at your partner and list all of the reasons you love them and focus on their positive traits - or show up to your job and think it’s your dream career - it should be that way.  However, we cannot be asleep at the wheel of life.  We can absolutely keep positive thinking at the forefront, which then will make us have more positive feelings about our life, but we must still dream.  Then, we must do.  Subconsciously our desires, intentions, and thoughts are all being sent out around us and like a magnet, are pulling in the people, circumstances, opportunities, and events of our life.  Sometimes there are karmic events, unexplained or unjustified traumas that may occur, which becomes the workings of the universe in our life; most likely to teach us something so we can evolve.

Through reflection, writing, meditation, or simple walks outdoors we can ask ourselves:

  • What is my dream? (what ignites my passion, joy, or is my unique gift or talent I can share with the world?)
  • What do I do? (how am I spending my days, what thoughts, feelings, or beliefs are at the forefront of my brain and how does this impact my circumstance?)

Dreams allow us to ponder our current condition and is one of the many gifts of the human consciousness.  We can be creative, critical thinkers, and discover our soul’s purpose and greatest desire.  We can live our dream, not just do a job and try to put our dreams aside or in a box to be opened on the weekends.  Yes, responsibilities, obligations, etc are a means of pressuring us to conform to what we think is required, or what society needs.  But, wouldn’t the world benefit from more consciously aware habitants?  From individuals with better work/life balance?  I think we all can say yes.  So now, let’s ask ourselves how we can turn our dreaming into doing.

 

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Shedding a Skin

Something rather startling occurred after I emerged from savasana the other day.  After savasana, which is a deep level of relaxation at the end of a yoga practice, I tend to have certain revelations.  It is like waking up for the first time or like the feeling of rebirth after a hot shower or bath. This week, I have been practicing a Metal Energy Medicine Yoga practice, which in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the Metal element is associated with the lungs, as well as grief and letting go. The entire 5 Element wheel in TCM is a subject for another blog, but if you’re interested in learning more, here is a simple quiz/resource to check-out by Donna Eden’s daughter, Dondi: http://learnthefiveelements.com/5-elements-quiz/

I am primarily Fire, but Metal is my secondary element - meaning I tend to get caught up here in my cycles of life.  I can be so quick to “let it go” that I skip the necessary grieving process, which can harbor pain within my energy system.  Well, like every good yoga class or energy healing session, you gotta bring that s*%$ up!

The process of letting go is tough for a lot of us, but in everyday life, I have often been told by people, “I need to let my hair down.”  This sentiment from others was always slightly disheartening to me because in my head I would always respond: “Um, my hair IS down.”  Even if people meant this in a nice way, I felt self-conscious and attacked when I was told to loosen up.  This inner dialogue with myself or outward fear of others’ view of me is ego-centered thinking.  And as a very wise friend once told me, “Your ego is NOT your amigo.”  The ego pulls us out of a spiritual alignment and concerns itself with mental or emotional constructs and perceptions of our reality.  For instance, when someone told me to let me hair down, it was my ego that took this personally.  As I grow in this work and continue on my own energy healing journey, I am learning to shed my ego - like shedding a skin.

So, here's the bones of this story: When I emerged out of savasana the other day, I rolled onto my right side, eyes closed, and instantly saw a decaying shell of myself in front of me, like a mirror.  I jumped, opened my eyes, and quickly sat up.  I returned to a meditative state to end my practice, began to ground myself, and realized:

We need not fear the layers we shed.  Like the cycles of life, the resurgence of energy will continue to flow through us as we are aligned to the unified field of the world.  Surrendering to Spirit and shedding my ego is a way to better unify me to the world.  Fear is obsolete as we let go of limiting beliefs, judgments, negativity, etc.  We need to instead be courageous to face the layers of us that need to be shed so we can evolve.  Like looking in a mirror at ourselves, we may not always “like what we see” but this is only our ego -- what we perceive are simple constructs of the mind and are false.  We are all perfectly imperfect just as we are in this exact moment.  When I was presented with a decaying shell of myself, as startling as it was, it was not to harm or scare me, simply to show -- wow, it IS possible to let go.  Letting go of the shell of myself that was self-conscious, wrapped up in my ego and fearful of how the world perceived or accepted me; this will never serve me, or humanity.  How can we go out into the world and shine if we are dimmed by the shade of our ego-mind?

Just like the skin which sheds dead cells everyday and constantly regenerates, we are able to do the same.  We can examine ourselves at the level of the soul and uncover what needs to be shed to align with our highest self.  We may even have visions or dreams to support this process, angels or guides to convey messages, signs in nature or from God, and it is not something to fear.  Just like the shadows of our being, it is for us to enlighten to interpret the larger meaning.  Fear would not have propelled my journey or personal revelation of what the decaying reflection of myself meant.  If I were to say “No way, this is scary, Yoga is evil” I would not only throw myself out of alignment with the world, I would have missed the opportunity to learn.  Akin to the subject from last week, this vision took a moment for me to decipher, process, and discern what spirit was conveying.  It was not malicious or harmful, only my perception or ego-mind would interpret it this way.  And now I am able to share this lesson, work to keep my ego in check, and let it go!

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Knowledge Carries No Weight

I am not sure where I first heard "knowledge carries no weight" - and even Google cannot provide me with the answer. Perhaps it came to me in a dream or from a passerby with a long beard, but regardless, the statement is profound. 

This past month, I have been reading like I'm actually in grad school, which I am. As my graduation date approaches, I have committed to my coursework with tenacity. It is proof that time-blocking and goal setting really work; here are the fruits of my labor from this past month: 

  1. Chemistry of Calm by Henry Emmons (a textbook guide on how to combat anxiety; tons of references to supplements, herbs, clinical treatments, diet, exercise, and meditation)
  2. The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon (such an easy light-hearted read, my key take-away: E + P = O - Emotions + Perceptions = Outcomes; feed the positive dog within you!)
  3. Energy Medicine by Donna Eden (This is THE Energy Medicine textbook and self-healing bible in my opinion, by far one of the most impactful and brilliant books I’ve ever read. I cried reading the epilogue because it is just so powerful)
  4. Jung and Christianity (still working through this one…the gist? It gets my brain swirling and I need plenty of breaks to fully grasp the concepts)
  5. The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra (just read chapter 1 this week, which inspired this blog post)

So, I only read 3 books in their entirety (roll yours eyes if you want), but these books were heavy! Even though knowledge carries no weight, I am feeling very full of new ideas, fired up, and eager to share what I’ve learned.

In Deepak Chopra’s book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, the first law is “The Law of Pure Potentiality”, which essentially means we are pure consciousness and this provides us with a limitless state of possibilities and creativity. We are not separate from one another, but rather unified in this collective consciousness A.K.A. Namaste: the divine light in me shines and bows to the divine light in you. The more we focus on objects or the material world, the more separate we become or disconnected from the universal love in the world. One way to access the field of pure potentiality is through the practice of non-judgment. Chopra states, “Judgment is the constant evaluation of things as right or wrong, good or bad. When you are constantly evaluating, classifying, labeling, analyzing, you create a lot of turbulence in your internal dialogue. This turbulence constricts the flow of energy between you and the field of pure potentiality.” (pg. 17)

Without quoting the entire first chapter of his work, I want to focus on judgment in the realm of spirituality. To me, this definition of judgment is another manifestation of anxiety and creates overwhelming thoughts. The internal dialogue or turbulence of one's judgment creates a busy mind, bogged down with quite simply - criticism. When we constantly evaluate others, we create separation. When we practice non-judgment, in turn, we are able to be more compassionate, understanding, and kind.

I must admit, non-judgment is an evolutionary process for me. My effort to adhere to this practice has made me very accepting and loving of others, whereas in the past, I would allow my evaluation of someone to dictate how I treated them, or how I acted. I would never be intentionally rude, but by having my own analysis or critique of the person, I would be cold, standoffish, and not as open. This changed my relationships or the potential relationships I could have had with others. As I evolve into a non-judgmental place, there is a parallel concept that is very powerful to foster: discernment. In juxtaposition, naivety is not only one of my favorite words to say (just sounds cool to me), it is a trait of mine I constantly work to overcome. As the chorus of “Naive” by The Kooks plays through my head, I reminisce on my struggle to know when to trust someone, how to not be foolishly superfluous in relationships, and how I often lacked an awareness of the energy around me to discern how to proceed. This is different than judgment. This is safety! I often placed myself in harmful situations or relationships, without any caution of the danger. I clearly have a guardian angel to thank because I am so fortunate that I didn't get fully swept away by my naive choices. I am still learning the distinction between judgment and discernment, and that they are not one in the same. Discernment to me is a way to use caution, grounded in love, to perceive situations/people and utilize intuition to guide my actions. 

Yes, it is 100% judgmental to not like someone based on their religion, their sexual orientation, their race, or even simply their clothes. This creates separation and is harmful to the interconnected compassion and love that can exist between each of us. Discernment, is a different skill. To practice discernment is to make careful distinctions about what we think is true and to have a perception free of judgment to find spiritual direction and understanding. Therefore, if a judgment is made without a pause, without a consideration as to whether or not it is being made from a place of love, or divine guidance, it is only creating turbulence in your mind. This changes how you treat others, and creates separation between you and the infinite possibility of bliss and goodness that can exist in the world. We can be loving, accepting, kind, and compassionate towards all living things and utilize discernment to know what people, places, or things are safe, or for the greatest and highest good. The knowledge and mindful awareness of how we feel, sense, or perceive different energies in the world can be a gift of discernment to help guide us through life's decisions, not create barriers. 

So, what books are you currently reading? I won’t judge you, I promise!

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A Dog's Life

On an unseasonably warm and humid February morning, a frizzy haired girl and a frizzy furred dog head out on a hike. Oliver, the dog, hops up onto the front seat of my car with a wagging tail and complete trust. As I begin to drive, I wonder what he’s thinking - does he get nervous in the car, does he gaze at me lovingly because he’s excited, or does he feel carsick? We crash over one of the many potholes in my area and Ollie’s ears quickly perch as his head snaps to look at me -- “It’s okay” I reassure.

The simple words: “it’s okay” are said in that special tone you save for your favorite animal friend -- that sing-songy calming voice allows him to feel that we are indeed okay, and safe. Animals are sensitive beings and pick up on energy, so I am always fascinated about how his actions and behaviors correlate to mine. I have been dog-sitting Ollie for the past few days, so as Auntie, I am a hyper-vigilant sitter that provides him with plenty of treats and mindless chatter. As he lays in his dog bed and lets out an ujjaii* breath, I’m reminded of just how sattvic* a dog's life is and how animals teach us so many lessons. Here’s the lesson from today: It’s okay, really.

We arrive at our destination, a hiking path called Boneyard, and are ready to get moving. The path is slightly steeper than I remember and with the melted snow, it’s muddy and slippery. This of course is not a barrier for Ollie, and when we are hiking just the two of us, it is always nice to see how he knows to wait for me, looking back occasionally to check-in, versus chasing after our companion ahead of us. He doesn’t need much encouragement and as we get up the steepest climb his tail is wagging, tongue flapping, and we both are happy to be outside!

Then, the gun shots begin. One after another, a complete firing brigade breaks out. Ollie’s tail turns down to the ground, he crouches slightly, and looks at me -- frozen. I again, offer the only consolation I can: “It’s okay.” He stays relatively calm, most likely because I’m not alarmed. We are hiking along a path behind the police academy and shooting practice just happens to be when we are there. I reassure him until it’s over, explain to him what’s happening, and after the banging stops, we carry on our merry way. The second time the shooting begins, he looks a little more curious; he still looks at me for safety, but then he climbs a little faster to see if he can see where it’s coming from. By the third round, we have reached the apex and both watch the line of cops' target practice down below.

When you truly love an animal, I think it’s nearly impossible to not narrate their thoughts or to talk to them like they can understand our words. They definitely understand tone, energy, and expression. If I were to scream and start running as the gunshots began, Ollie would have responded very differently. To me, I see this all as an analogy of how God looks after us. We may not always, or perhaps ever, hear the words “it’s okay” from the divine spirit or God, but we can certainly feel that things are okay. We may see a sign through nature, numbers or words on license plates, songs on the radio, or even that little voice from within that provides us that calm, soothing almost sing-songy tone to know everything is okay.

As Ollie, and all animals, have (or should always have) complete trust, loyalty, and 100% confidence in their human companion, we must have that same trust, loyalty, and confidence in God, in the universe, in spirit, or whatever else you want to name the all that is. The reassuring voice that lets us know everything really is OK comes from within, and when fear strikes, we can freeze, just like Ollie, and wait to hear, listen, and sense that all is truly well.

*Notes:

Ujjaii is a breathing technique that is often explained as a Darth Vader breath. As you inhale and exhale you slightly contract the back of your throat, which results in a soft, baby snore. This breath helps to lower blood pressure and gain focus. 

Sattvic is a state of mind or attitude that is balanced, harmonious, and serene. 

  It's no coincidence to me that the word dog is - God - backwards!

It's no coincidence to me that the word dog is - God - backwards!

An Ode to Anahata

On this Valentine’s Day as I sip on purple beet juice, douse myself in ylang ylang, and string rose quartz around my neck - I feel like the quintessential yogi with a full and happy heart.

I get it, holidays are commercialized and designed by Hallmark for us to spend more money blah blah blah, but regardless, this holiday serves as a nice reminder to soak in some extra love and to share it with others. My Valentine’s Day so far hasn’t cost me a thing, and just like last year, we will cook dinner together at home, and my heart shaped vegan brownie is already prepped and ready to bake!

Here is why what may seem like an odd combination of beet juice, ylang ylang, and rose quartz all fill up my heart with joy:

Beet juice: Before you say “yeck!” - hear me out. All roots vegetables are grounding, so, it makes me feel connected, whole, and stable to fill myself with love on this beautiful day. Beet juice purifies the blood (so my heart really does love it!), it provides a ton of Vitamin C, and reduces inflammation. From my very brief research, I also found that eating beets produces nitric oxide in the body which increases blood flow; aka it can boost your libido. Oh, and the color is simply lovely, especially if blended up in a smoothie with a little ginger and apple for sweetness. Valentine’s Day love in a cup!

Ylang Ylang: This is by far my favorite essential oil! I have found that applying it topically will sometimes cause redness, so I like to put a few drops on my fingertips and run it through my hair. All day long I feel showered in this beautiful scent. It smells like blossoming flowers in the jungle after a summer rain. I have always been drawn to this oil and medicinally it is used as an antidepressant, antiseptic, and OH what do you know, an aphrodisiac.

Rose Quartz: The crystal of unconditional love. It is believed to restore harmony in relationships and purifies the heart to open you up to self-love, deep inner healing, friendship, and overall peace.

So, did I select these things intentionally? Honestly, no. I knew that I wanted to write about Anahata, which we will get to, but it wasn’t until I sat down that I realized I organically was drawn to all of these lovely things today. Perhaps that’s simply how intuition or synchronicity work, when you’re aligned with the energy around you, things harmoniously fall into place. For an example, when my heart finally decided to let go of the “search” for the “one”, I met my current valentine. As if the universe and I finally decided I was ready for something stable, secure, and real (and I wouldn’t need to exhaust myself trying to find it!) - bam, while walking down a random street in Hartford, there he was. And as they say, the rest is history.

My heart chakra and I have a history of being way too open, vulnerable, and overly sensitive. I am still dialed up on the sensitivity notch, but a little more discernment and self-love has developed with practice. The heart chakra, or energy center over your heart and lungs houses our joy and sorrow. In sanskrit, this chakra is called Anahata, which means “unhurt, infinite, and boundless”. This energy center is responsible for how we give and receive love and is ultimately the lens in which we seek connection with others and the world. The heart chakra is where we “feel” our way through decisions, it is where unconditional love, joy, compassion, kindness, connection, forgiveness, and acceptance is created. There is much that can be learned from the heart chakra, and I refer to the work of Donna Eden or Anodea Judith for techniques to work with this energy center. One of the easiest ways to connect with your heart chakra is to: 

  1. Take your right hand and place it over your heart and begin to circle your hand over your chest in a clockwise direction, breathing deeply.
  2. Closing your eyes, imagine the purest form of love - it can be God, a significant other, a place in nature, a favorite animal friend, or even a memory of when you felt showered with love -
  3. Allow the images and scenes of love to organically flow through your mind, your heart, and your spirit...see if a natural smile or sense of calm appears
  4. You can also, as you circle around your heart chakra (this is also known as a thymus rub), recite an affirmation like: "I unconditionally love and accept myself."
  5. Continue this brief heart chakra meditation for as long as you like; even 5 minutes will fill you up with love! 

Sending love to each of you! On my Valentine's Day, I was inspired to give some love back to my overflowing Anahata with an ode:

Anahata ~ the center of my being

radiate, shine, and stay expansive for all to see.

Worthy of love and joy, I’ll ache and hurt if you’re misaligned.

Caught between intuition and the mind, you always know the way to guide me

from my loneliness,

out of despair,

letting go of resentment

replacing it with careful discernment -

Compassion, and full

of divine love for what’s within and around.

Without conditions or regulations, your reach knows no bounds.

Anahata, my heart, you’re my child’s first laugh

The first sight of spring,

a blossoming rose,

my gravitational pull to my soul’s greatest mate -

Beauty of the world

Infinitely.

Heart-Chakra-Anahata-Chakra.jpg

The Practice of Life

Yoga instructors will often say something like: “what we do on our mat and how we hold this posture and breathe into it, or how we react when we fall out of a pose, are all indicative of how we respond to events in our life.” I’ve said something along these lines in a class simply to bring awareness to what the mind is doing, saying, or critiquing when you come to stillness. That’s the ultimate goal of yoga - to tire the physical body, so you can bring your awareness to a meditative state. Turning down the noise in the mind is tough work! That’s why we call it a yoga practice, it truly takes dedication and commitment to reach samadhi, which means a blissful and concentrated state of meditation. If this yoga analogy doesn’t resonate with you, let me get to the heart of the matter:

Life takes practice, especially living a healthy one. 

Healthy is a word that can mean a multitude of things to different people, but the framework I have cultivated examines health from four different categories; when observed as a whole, provides a sense of one’s overall health. *These are MY definitions and ultimately my opinion. Use this space to contemplate what being healthy means for YOU.*

Physical Health: eat a balanced diet of whole foods, with everything in moderation. Engage in some sort of physical activity regularly and treat your body as a temple, A.K.A. keep it as clean as possible!

Mental Health: take time each day to sit in meditation, even if only for 5 minutes. Eyes closed, noise off, and bring awareness to your breath. Observe your body like it’s your personal laboratory-- no judgment, critique, or analysis.

Emotional Health: have a clear processing system for daily events and take time for reflection. Perhaps this is through journaling, drawing, dancing, singing, or any form of expression that allows you to reflect on what emotions are present for you and how we share these with others.

Spiritual Health: feeling a meaningful connection in life. Praying, mantra, and other rituals are tools to achieve a connection with something higher. Simply noticing the signs around you can awaken a relationship with something bigger than yourself, or within yourself.

Health has become a loaded term, and one with a lot of conflict and opinions. Again, what I’ve outlined above is very simplistic, with full intention of being inclusive to people of all beliefs and cultures. This is a holistic view that encourages one to look at every facet of what it means to be healthy, feel your best, and specifically for you - personally - as the unique and magnificent person that you are. If we omit mental health, for me, it feels like waking up and only putting in one contact lens, things look crazy! If we were to omit physical health, it’d be like driving a car without ever getting an oil change, eventually it breaks down completely. I can think of plenty of analogies, but the practice of living healthy must encompass an authentic awareness of one’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health - even if your definitions differ from what I’ve shared above.

The heart of the matter in the practice of life is that nothing is guaranteed and we do not have any power or control over life's events. Sure we can make healthy choices, control our thoughts to the best of our ability, which will impact our perception of circumstances. However, in the present moment, the only thing we can attempt to fully control is our breath. So how we treat ourselves and others is truly something we need to practice on a daily basis. You don’t simply become enlightened, saved, attuned, or reborn as a perfect specimen by choosing a specific path. It takes practice and sometimes what might feel like tough work, to be a conscious and loving being.

In yoga, when you fall out of a balancing pose, or fall on your face in an inversion - pay attention to how you react. For me, I tend to get scared, especially when I fall on my head. But for some, they feel embarrassed, defeated, weak, annoyed, frustrated, angry, and the list continues! Most likely, how we respond in something as simple as a yoga pose absolutely translates to how we respond to everyday occurrences, or even monumental life events. I tend towards fear as an emotional response when I find myself in a stressful situation, but with practice on the mat and off, this can change. Even if you don’t practice yoga, stand up right now, and try to balance on one foot. You might last for a few moments, or fall right back to land on two feet. Ask yourself, how did that make me feel? What was my emotional reaction or response as I lost my balance? Ultimately, we always will end up on two feet, standing, or in what may feel like a static (yet safe) position. Life may not always be a one-handed handstand that’s exhilarating and empowering. Sometimes, life may feel like it's crumbling down, like a struggle to hold strong, and moments of falling on your face. How you react is what matters. This is our practice of life.