spirit, mind, matter

"It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end." – Ursula K. Le Guin


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Steadfastness

I subscribe to Heart Advice: Weekly Quotes from Pema Chödrön. You can subscribe by clicking here

The quote from this week:

August 27, 2014
STEADFASTNESS
We’re encouraged to meditate every day, even for a short time, in order to cultivate steadfastness with ourselves. We sit under all kinds of circumstances—whether we are feeling healthy or sick, whether we’re in a good mood or depressed, whether we feel our meditation is going well or is completely falling apart. As we continue to sit we see that meditation isn’t about getting it right or attaining some ideal state. It’s about being able to stay present with ourselves. It becomes increasingly clear that we won’t be free of self-destructive patterns unless we develop a compassionate understanding of what they are.

 

Pema Chödrön in A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation: Practical Advice and Inspiration from Contemporary Buddhist Teachers, page 161

 

This teaching came at the perfect time. I have been mentally wavering in my practice. I still practice yoga and meditation daily however, getting started has been the hard part. I will dilly-dally around, play on the internet, do chores, or do any other stalling technique before surrendering. A minute or two in, I’m always so happy I did it, but something about getting started has been difficult lately. 

This is why this quote resonates with me. I know that sitting and practicing under this current weather system of the mind that I’m experiencing, will continue to teach me how to be compassionate with myself under all circumstances. It also keeps me honest in my practice of both yoga and meditation. 

So today, remain steadfast in your practice and continue to cultivate compassion. 

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Mindfulness in the News: How Negative Thoughts Are Ruining Your Life

I read an amazing article on Psychology Today that I wanted to share with everyone. 

How Negative Thoughts Are Ruining Your Life

This article gives wonderful practical advice for dealing with the idea of an inner critic. You know, that voice that tells you everything bad about yourself. Please take a couple of short minutes to read the article! 

Although the article is not written through the lens of mindfulness, it is certainly present in the strategies given to overcome the inner critic.  Like most mindfulness practices, the article teaches us to start with noticing. We must become the observer who can watch our thoughts, feelings, and emotions and then become aware of how we react to them. 

After we can recognize what we’re doing, we can then step aside and chose not to react, but rather respond with a useful pattern, thought, feeling, or idea. 

Since it’s a given that we all have some sort of inner critic, let’s agree to be aware of the voice of our own critic and cultivate compassion for ourselves and for others. 

Namaste


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Insight from Ashtanga

Although I have been practicing yoga since my teenage years and I am a certified and practicing  Hatha yoga teacher, I have recently started practicing Ashtanga yoga. I have found it to be a wonderful addition to my practice. I was talking to my teacher about any good books or resources she had on the topic and she suggested, Ashtanga Yoga Practice and Philosophy, by Gregor Maehle.

I came across a paragraph from the introduction (page 3), that I’d like to share with you. I found it to be very helpful in terms of mindfulness practice.

Yoga is the middle path between two extremes. On the one hand, we can go to the extreme of practicing fanatically and striving for an ideal while denying the reality of this present moment.  The problem with this is that we are only ever relating to ourselves as what we want to become in the future and not as what we are right now.  The other extreme is advocated by some schools of psychotherapy that focus on highlighting past traumas. If we do this, these traumas can increase their grip on us, and we relate to ourselves as we have in the past, defining ourselves by the “stuff that’s coming up” and the “process that we are going through” “Asana is an invitation to say goodbye to these extremes and arrive at the truth of the present moment. (Ashtanga Yoga Practice and Philosophy, page 3).

I see this in yoga, and in meditation. In meditation, we can get hooked on the practice. We may start to notice ourselves striving to be good at meditation and we also may start to feel discouraged at the perceived “lack of progress” we feel when we are having a particularly busy-mind sort of day.  It’s important in both yoga and meditation to approach them with a sense of ease, flexibility, and kindness. A, “let’s see what happens today” attitude can be quite helpful.

Just the other day I thought I was going to have a “bad” yoga day (meaning, I went to MySore practice sore, tired, and feeling low energy).  I knew that carrying that mindset in to the practice wouldn’t be helpful so I said to myself, “well, let’s just see what happens!” Turns out, I was more open than I thought and was able to do a bind that hasn’t been available to me before.  I’m not saying that the minute we let go that all of the sudden things will be available to us- because then that turns into yet another area of striving, but rather, it’s the “watch and see” attitude. That’s where the magic is. Observing the present moment as it is is where the power lies. We can’t live in the past “my mind is always so busy, I can’t ever stop thinking” or “I will never be able to do this posture.”  We can’t live in the future of striving, “I’m going to do this asana if it kills me” mentality.

Life is about finding the balance between the extremes. Life is about walking that razor’s edge. Yoga and meditation teach us how to find the path, allow us to practice the path, help us observe when we stray from the path, and allow us to return to the path.

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Namaste! ❤ 🙂

 

 

 


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Bending with Difficulties and Contradictions

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Yoga and meditation teach us flexibility of the mind. We learn that we don’t have to react to every whim, thought, feeling, or impulse.  We learn, through these practices, how to become an observer of these things and then to ask, “Is this true for me, now?” I have found, throughout my journey, that there are ideas and beliefs that I have become attached to. Meditation and yoga have taught me to notice them, and then step away and look at the bigger picture. There have been some things that I have learned to looks at differently, now.

With flexibility of the mind, we are able to tap into more creative problem solving strategies when we encounter difficulties. We are better able to see things objectively and have an open mind and loving heart. Today, and throughout the week, I challenge us all to see where we can become more flexible with difficulties to see if it creates more ease and happiness in our lives.

 


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Helping Those Who “Make Us” Suffer

I know we all have people in our lives that are difficult to be around. We can usually be found saying things like they make us sad, crazy, angry, or whatever feeling you want to throw out there.  Yet, we all know that only we are responsible for our own feelings. We can’t allow every whim of another persons thoughts, actions, or feelings to dictate how we feel or act.  We seem to exist between these two ideas. Those of us on the path know about what Thich Nhat Hanh is saying in the following quote.

We understand that those who cause suffering are suffering. We can usually arrive to a place of compassion pretty quickly if we take a few moments to see where this person is coming from.  This doesn’t mean allowing the person who has suffering spilling over free reign to do, act, or say whatever they please. We can deal with the thoughts, feelings, and actions and set appropriate boundaries.

First, we must start with ourselves. We need to look at the suffering we are feeling. When we feel as though someone is making us suffer, we can first identify what feelings we are feeling. What is there, at the core. I’m not talking about what “they” did, but rather, what do “we” feel? Take “them” our of the equation and focus on what “we” feel.  After we come home to what we are feeling, we can offer those hurt feelings compassion. We must not forget to do this. We cannot be compassionate to the world without first being compassionate towards ourselves.  A time will come whenwe then can feel comfortable with digging a little deeper and questioning our feelings. We can ask ourselves if these feelings are true, where are they coming from, what would we say to a friend who was experiencing this? All of these questions can bring us to the hurt place in us, the place that needs attention. Once we have investigated our own feelings, thoughts, and actions. We can move towards helping the other.

When we encounter that other person and we recognize what’s happening in us as they spill their suffering, the first thing we can do is to stop, breathe, and offer compassion to the hurting place inside of them. It can stop there. Sometimes, it has to. If someone close to us says something hurtful or acts out their suffering, sometimes all we can do is to offer them some compassion with our hearts, and then walk away or change the subject. However, if there is some space, sometimes we can help them by asking questions about where they are coming from, or gently sharing the messages that they are sending us with their actions. I believe that in the quiet moments of pausing and listening, we can hear God, and when we are aligned with the Spirit inside of us, we can speak truth (or silence) that serves best. Let us all trust that the right words will come that can create a space for healing. Like Jesus says in Matthew 10: 19-20:

19) When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; 20) for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Dealing with suffering is part of life. We all suffer. We call create suffering. Our path is to show love. In times of suffering I like to quote something I heard on a Tara Brach podcast, “May this suffering serve enlightenment.”

Namaste ❤


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Needing Closure

I know I have at least one reader (ahem, Kacey), who remembers that episode of Friends…the one with the closure.  Ever since that episode aired, I remember my friends and I always talking about closure. It morphed from talking about ending relationships into talking about anything. It started being a term that my generation used for ending jobs, moving through different life stages, relationships, and pretty much anything ended up needing some sort of closure.

All of the sudden, it became clear to me that we all tend to keep looking for resolutions and closure to everything. When we live in that belief that we need specific markers to be an “end” to something, we get very attached to goals and the way things should be.  If we don’t get closure or a resolution, we feel uncomfortable!  We have learned that ambiguity is bad and wrong.

Yesterday, I got a quote of the day sent to me from my girl Pema Chodron.  You can click here to learn how to subscribe to her emails.

In her Book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön, page 54, she writes:

WE DON’T DESERVE RESOLUTION

As human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution. However, not only do we not deserve resolution, we suffer from resolution. We don’t deserve resolution; we deserve something better than that. We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity. To the degree that we’ve been avoiding uncertainty, we’re naturally going to have withdrawal symptoms—withdrawal from always thinking that there’s a problem and that someone, somewhere, needs to fix it.

 

Did you catch that?  We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity.

Did she just suggest RELAXING with paradox and ambiguity?  I’m certain that my conditioning has been to do everything BUT relax with those feelings but if it’s good enough for Pema, it’s good enough for me!  I will try.

Today’s Opportunity for Mindfulness:  Let’s examine our thoughts, beliefs, and feelings to see where we are missing the open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity.

Namaste

 

 


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Great Article: Meditation Tips: 6 Meditation Problems That Aren’t Really Problems…

I’d like to share this wonderful article about 6 common meditation problems and how to deal with them.  The things mentioned in this article are all thoughts and experiences I have encountered in meditation that sometimes make it difficult to continue.

It’s a short read and well worth your time!

Meditation Tips: 6 Meditation Problems That Aren’t Really Problems… But Here’s How To Deal With Them Anyway!

 

When it comes to #meditation, it's not about admitting you have a problem. It's realizing there's no problem at all.

 

Namaste!

 

 


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The Best Advice I Ever Received

My husband and I have started training for another half marathon.  I’ve lost count of how many we’ve already run in the past 5 years, but it’s somewhere in the 20’s.  I’ve also run 2 full marathons.  However, last year was a light year as far as races go, so I’m a little out of practice when it comes to runs longer than 4 miles.  Yesterday, we had our first 5 miler.  Running here is in Germany is very different than running in South Florida (where we lived for the past 8 years).  There are hills! We were doing a new run yesterday and it was quite hilly. My mind was spinning and spinning. All that I kept thinking about was how much farther we had to run up this hill, how hot it was, how tired I was, how long the stupid hill was (it was a 2.5 mile out and back and the way back was almost all uphill). I just couldn’t get out of my head.

Then, I paused. I remembered.

Well, I didn’t stop, but I remembered the best advice I ever received: You don’t have to believe your thoughts.

Taking a lesson learned from meditation and yoga, I stepped out of my head and into my body. I could hear the chatter still going on in my mind, but I chose to not believe it, and instead listened to what my body was telling me.  My body told me that my legs were fine, in fact, they felt strong. I checked my breathing, and  it was smooth and even. I checked in with my arms and shoulders, they were relaxed. I checked in with my heart, and it was beating at my normal long run rate.

I realized then that I was fine! I wasn’t tired and my body felt strong and relaxed. I could make it. All body signs pointed to yes, keep going. You’re feeling great!” It was only my head that was in the way.  Oh, the DRAMA in my head.  I laughed at myself and  I finished the run nice and strong.

Silkscreened Print via Etsy.

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How many times do our minds and thoughts go against what we truly feel?

Today’s Opportunity for Mindfulness: When the mind starts to spin in stories and thoughts, take a moment to check in with the body and see if what the mind is thinking is actually true, or if it’s just the drama of thoughts.

 


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There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk

“I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes me a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in. It’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault. I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.”

― Portia Nelson, There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery