Adversity or Opportunity…You Decide.

I have started a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course this week and it has been life-changing.  The idea of mindfulness is to pay attention in a particular way.  MBSR was created by Jon Kabat-Zinn out of the University of Massachusetts to help medical patients deal with chronic pain, illness, depression and anxiety.  Our homework this week was to meditate for 45 minutes a day.  I have had consistent mediation practices in the past but none that recently.  When I did meditate, it was usually for 10-15 minutes at the most.  45 minutes is a long time.  What happens in that 45 minutes can be quite crazy. This week (Week 1) our meditation is the Body Scan.  As you go through body awareness meditations, your mind wanders off to all sorts of places.  In the past when I have meditated, the minute I realized I was thinking I made myself go back to the breath.  (The breath can be an anchor in meditations.)  It was almost in a punishing, fix-it kind of way.  This mindfulness practice was different.  Every time you notice that you are not paying attention to the point of focus and your mind has wandered, it is seen as an opportunity to practice mindfulness.  So instead of seeing myself as a bad meditator, now when I am thinking, I realize how this is an awesome opportunity to practice mindfulness.

What has been really cool is that it has already had an immediate impact my life.  I have been dealing with a great deal of anxiety this week.  Due to my mindfulness practices, I have been able to notice my body sensations and also see them as opportunities to practice mindfulness.  Instead of giving meaning and interpretations to the feelings, I pay attention to them.  I have had a few challenging situations come up this week and one was with my husband.  Instead of emotionally reacting or getting into a story, I was able to observe my body sensations, thoughts, and feelings without giving them any meaning.  What seemed like adversity was an opportunity for growth.  Instead of reacting, I choose to be mindful and from that there has been amazing opportunity for growth and connection.

Week One of MBSR has shown me that what may appear as an adversity is actually another opportunity to practice mindfulness.  It is amazing when you approach life this way.  Although I am fully aware of my feelings and thoughts, I am able to witness them and allow them to be just as they are.  #witnesseverything #nostruggle

Laughter is the Best Medicine

I just returned from a Karma Yoga Service Trip to Nicaragua.  My friend, Elizabeth, and I led a group of 10 people through 6 days of community service, yoga, connection, and relationship building in a small Nicaraguan town called Jiquilillo.  It was incredible on so many levels.  What was amazing to me was all the connection that occurred over the 6 days.

On the day we were traveling to the airport, I came down with a “bug.”  It was a pretty severe stomach virus which caused me to have to use the bathroom about every ten minutes.  We had a 4 hour drive to the airport some of it on a bumpy dirt road.  My stomach was reeking havoc the whole time.  What was amazing to me was the way the group was able to “take care” of me.  We joked, we talked about the funniest movies we ever saw, etc… Every time I was focused on the group and laughing, I didn’t experience distress even though I was sick.  Once it got quiet, I started to notice the nausea and stomach cramping.  Now I know those feeling were there the whole time I just wasn’t focusing on it when I was engaged in the group.

This is what it is like in a yoga class for me.  Even if a pose is difficult or causing me some physical distress, I look to the group, listen to my neighbor breath, and the distress disappears.  This is also how I saw a lot of our time in Nicaragua.  At one point during the trip, we went to cook and serve lunch at a garbage dump where thousands of people live. While the food was cooking, many of us played with the local children.  We were blowing bubbles, playing soccer, and face painting.  The kids were over joyed because the focus was on having fun and not on what they did not have.

We had a lot of jokes and laughs on the Karma Yoga Service Trip to Nicaragua.  A big take away is what we focus on, we give energy to and that laughter is one of the best medicines for really anything!

Live Your Life

As far back as I can remember, I have always been waiting for something.  Waiting to graduate college.  Waiting to get into graduate school.  Waiting to graduate from grad school.  Waiting to be done with teacher training.  Waiting to start teaching at a yoga studio.  Waiting to open a yoga studio. You get the point.  There is always some goal I am trying to attain and then life will be settled.  Right?

It hit me this weekend that I am never settled.  I always have a goal I am working towards. Now there is nothing inherently wrong with working towards a goal.  The problem arises when we lose sight of right now because we are so overly focused with the future.  This weekend I caught myself a few times thinking about how life will be settled once we have a few more teachers at the studio and we can take a vacation.  Then I thought “No it won’t.” Life will never be settled when I am in the midst of waiting for something to happen.  Life is happening right now.  It doesn’t stop until we reach a particular goal.  I have said it countless times, “it’s not about arriving at the destination, it’s about enjoying the journey.”

Life is the journey. We are all on a journey towards some desired goal, be it a better job, marriage, divorce, or even retirement.  The idea is to not get caught up on how life will be when we finally arrive at our destination.  Life is happening right now.  What are you going to do in this very moment?  Are you enjoying the journey?

The message was loud and clear to me and I want to share it with you.  Stop waiting for what you want your life to be and start living the life you have right now.  Nothing is guaranteed- not accomplishing your goals, not even waking up tomorrow morning.  So start living the life you want Right Now because that is all that exists anyway ;)

Surrender to the Wave

Okay so I have been living in Florida for almost 3 years now.  My husband and I live pretty close to the ocean so we get to go to the beach a lot.  This past weekend, when we were at the beach, the ocean was pretty turbulent.  There were a lot of warnings about riptides due to the high winds.  I usually don’t like to go into the ocean when it is so turbulent.  But my husband said he would hold my hand and I was hot so I ventured into the water.  I was only thigh deep and the waves were crashing into me.  I stood sideways towards the wave and grounded my feet deep into the ocean floor so I could withstand the wave.  When my husband saw what I was doing, he asked why was I hunkering down?  He told me to soften my body and surrender to the wave.  Surrender to the wave?  This seemed crazy but I tried it. The next wave hit my body and I immediately softened the muscles in my body; low and behold, my body just floated and moved with the wave.  It was ease instead of force.

As I walked back to the beach, I was shocked at how this lesson of surrender really landed in my body.  It also made me think about driving in the snow.  If you have ever driven in snow, you learn very quickly that when your car starts to skid on ice and snow, you go with it.  You do not try to resist or turn the car in the opposite direction as that only makes the situation worse.   How many times when faced with challenging and difficult situations, do we hunker down and resist what is happening?  We may create a wall so that we can block ourselves from everything.

The lesson this past weekend was of surrender.  When we just let go and surrender to what is, we will be carried by the winds of Grace.  So next time you find yourself resisting what is happening, try to soften your body, relax and surrender.  Something magical may unfold.

(I learned this lesson “Let Go, Let God” very well this past October.  If you want to read more about that, go to A Glimpse of Truth-October 2013.)

 

Focus on Your Zone

In the Big Leap by Gay Hendricks, he talks about your Zone of Genius.  This is basically your dharma; what you were meant to be doing here on Earth to elevate the world.  You know you have found your Zone when you could do it for hours on end, it never gets old, and it lights you up and gives you energy.  It is also something that makes you somewhat uncomfortable.  The discomfort is from playing big and not staying in your comfort zone.

Ever since I learned about this concept, I have been exploring what my Zone is.  As most of you know, I am a clinical psychologist who closed her psychotherapy practice down to open a yoga studio.  Since closing my practice, I have dipped my toes in many waters to see if this or that was the right path for me.  The other day I realized that I have been in a transition for the past 3 years.  However, the other evening, after completing a yoga counseling session with a client, I got very clear.  I am meant to bring mental health and yoga together.  That is my Zone.  I have known this for a long time and I know it in my heart.  When I say it out loud, it gives me goosebumps and I tear up.  This is my passion.

I have stated this before even on this blog site.  So what is keeping me from living it?  I have not been focused on my Zone.  I have been focused on everything else, the studio, how to make a living owning a studio, even starting another business.  It is funny how that happens.  What we focus on, we give energy to.  I have not been focused on my Zone so thus, I have not moved forward in this area.  I think it has to do with resistance.  My Zone is so uncomfortable to me that I find other things to focus on.  However, when I get clear, I know that I want to be up to Great things and elevate the world and inspire Greatness in others.  That means getting comfortable being uncomfortable.

Where are you hiding and what are you resisting?  Are you living in your Zone everyday?  If not, why?

Today I commit to setting the intention to live in my Zone and do something every day to get closer and closer to my dharma.  Set the intention Right Now about what it is you want to create for the world, say it out loud, and then go and do it!

You Are Already More Than Enough

You are already more than enough.  You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone or even to yourself. Just your being is enough.

Do you believe these statements?  I think the majority of us feel as though we are not good enough and we need to do something amazing to prove to the world and to ourselves that we are okay.

I see this all the time in the yoga studio.  Students won’t take the modification of a pose or rest in child’s pose because they are trying to prove something to themselves or to those around them.  Where does workaholism come from?  From the ego that’s where.  From a place of not good enough.  If I work hard enough, then I will be okay.  If I rest, I am a lazy bum.

On some level I think that the feeling of not being enough is pretty universal.  I definitely experience this.  This is part of the reason I love telling people that I have a doctorate and I ran a marathon.  Both of those things only 1% of the general population are able to do.  If I can do what only 1% of the population can do, then I must be pretty special.  I came to this realization this week that this feeling of not being enough still has an impact on me even though I have been aware of it for awhile.  It seems that once you become aware of your ego (feelings of not good enough) they usually take on another form until we wake up to what is happening.  For example, my not good enough has often manifested as me trying to be better than other people.  However, the more aware I have become to this pattern, the less it impacts me.  But this week I realized that my ego is currently manifesting itself in this need to heal the world.  Yup…I feel like I am responsible for people’s personal transformation.  It is basically my ego’s way of saying I am not okay if I am not helping you.

Once we awaken to our ego and become more aware, those patterns will have less of an impact on us.  However, the ego does not die.  It often chooses a different form.  People pleasing is one of the ego’s favorite forms.  Once you start to become aware, you have just embarked on a journey of self-discovery that has no end point and no destination.  Once you think you have a handle of your ego, it will transform into something else.  Keep waking up to your ego and you will see that the truth is you are already more than enough.

You Gotta Suck Before You Can Shine

There is a saying in our yoga world, “You gotta suck before you can shine.”  It basically gives you permission to makes mistakes and be messy when you are first learning something.  Isn’t it ridiculous that we expect to be perfect when we do something for the first time?  I don’t know about you but I want to do it right and do it good from the very beginning.  When did that happen?  I remember being a kid and not worrying how I did things…I just did them.  I did not evaluate how well I did them either.  At some point in our lives, we learn that making mistakes and being messy is a bad thing and something we should try to avoid.  Isn’t making mistakes part of the learning process?  How would we learn if we never did anything wrong?

I will give you an example from yoga.  When you first learn to jump back from crow pose, people often belly flop.  It is just part of the learning process.  You belly flop so that you can learn how to better access your core in order to jump your legs back.  If you think about it…it isn’t even a mistake to belly flop.  It’s just part of the learning process.  Ah, so maybe we have just been calling it a mistake or messy when it is really just learning.  How many times do you have to fall down when you are learning to walk or to ride a bike?  Several times because all of it is part of the learning process.  By falling we learn what muscles we need to engage more so we can walk and bike ride without falling.

In yoga teacher trainings, this shows up a lot.  New teachers want to be flawless and teach like their mentors do.  However, teaching yoga is a process just like learning to walk, riding a bike and jumping back from crow.  We want to arrive at the destination without ever taking the journey.  The journey is where the beauty lies.   So I often say you have to suck before you will shine.  Embrace the messiness, the mistakes, the learning process because all of that is what allows us to shine so brightly.

 

Greatest Lesson from My Teachers

Why is it that we have expectations of our teachers and mentors?  It seems that sometimes we put them on a pedestal and expect them to be more than human.  Perhaps it is because we see them as better than us and when they falter, we are shocked that they are actually just like us.  I have experienced this a few times in the yoga world.  There have only been a couple of teachers that I would call my mentors over the last ten years of practicing and last five years of teaching yoga.  I called them my teachers because I felt blessed to have been taught and led by them.  They have all inspired me to be great.

It is odd because I have never been the type of person who sought out a mentor.  But for some reason on this yogic path I have sought out mentors.  Perhaps because I have learned more from these teachers than any book has ever been able to teach me.  Additionally, yoga is all about union.  By actually connecting with my teachers, sharing who I am, my fears, stories, greatness and everything in between with them, has allowed for deep connections.  It is interesting because I have found that over the years I have sought out their approval and validation of me as a fellow teacher.  I sought their approval because I saw them as better than me.  If they thought I was good enough, then I must be.  Don’t we all do that?  It starts with our parents, our first real teachers, and it continues on through our schooling and perhaps in mentoring relationships.  Again, it goes back to the ego and the universal story of not being good enough.  If we felt fine just as we were, we would not seek out this validation.

My recent awakening was that our teachers are human beings just like us.  They falter and judge just like the rest of us and that is okay because they are us (no better, no worse).  It is easy to fall into “Oh I thought they were different or special.”  Why?  They are just like us.  I think we have to have expectations so that when they don’t live up to our expectations, it is a learning opportunity for us.  It is an opportunity to see that we are all the same, no one greater than the next, no one more special than the next.  It also teaches us that we don’t need validation or approval from anyone because we are all on the same level.

I never thought I would say this but…I want to thank all my teachers who have not lived up to my expectations because you have taught me the greatest lesson of all…we are all spiritual beings on a human journey with many flaws.  I am sure that as a teacher to many I will also have the opportunity of teaching this lesson to some of my fellow students.  But hopefully not too many ;)

Shedding their Skins

Yesterday was the completion of my yoga studio’s second 200-hour Teacher Training Program.  These programs are amazing and I am inspired every time I lead one of them. Yoga, in part, is about becoming more authentic, more connected to our Higher Beings, the divine part of ourselves.  It is a transformative journey that leads us closer and closer to God, other people, and ourselves.  You often hear a common quote in the yoga world, “Transformation In Progress.”  Yoga peels away the layers that keep you from being your most authentic self and this is an ongoing process.  Teacher Training allows us to go deeper into this journey of self-discovery and transformation.

The teacher training process always reminds me of a snake shedding its skin.  In the Native American culture, the snake is a symbol of transformation and healing.  The shedding of the skin is seen as a death and rebirth.  It sheds its skin as it outgrows the old.  It is also said that, as the skin begins to shed, the snake’s eyes begin to clear as if they will see the world anew.  This is my experience with teacher training.  When students start the process of teacher training, they come in with their life’s perspective based on their upbringing and past experiences.  They have deep-seeded beliefs about who they are and what they are and are not capable of.  Teacher training allows them to stop and look at their belief systems and evaluate how they serve or do not serve them.  It gives them the opportunity to step out of their comfort zones by dropping what they know and completely emptying out.  This is where transformation begins, with self-inquiry.  People start to question their thoughts, feelings and beliefs instead of believing that it is all the Truth.  As they start of outgrow their old way of being, they start to see the world in a different way.

When a snake sheds its skin, the animal is vulnerable for a period of time.  Vulnerability is inevitable in transformation.  In teacher training, students start to get real with themselves and others and that can be incredibly vulnerable.  Through vulnerability we can experience true connection.  As the teacher trainees start to shift their perspective of themselves, others and the world and become more open and vulnerable, they start to shed their old way of being and start living from a place of authenticity and possibility.  Old scripts, like “I am not good enough” and “I am alone,” are no longer automatic beliefs.  They shed the self-doubts and live from their Higher Being.  Teacher training is the beginning of an incredible journey of self-discovery and a lifetime of shedding the skins that no longer serve.

I am blessed to be on this amazing journey.  Every time I witness someone shed their skin, it inspires me to keep shedding what no longer serves me.

 

Intentions for 2014

With it being January 1, 2014, I, like everybody else, is filled with hope for new possibilities. In yoga we are taught to set intentions for what it is we want.  So of course, I began to think about what intentions I wanted to set for the new year and decided to share them with you.

In 2014, I choose to step into my Power and Greatness.  I truly want to do this so that I can inspire others to do the same.  This year has been a huge test of faith for me and I am grateful for each and every experience that occurred.  After the accident at the studio happened in October, I have become more aware of how I am (like everyone of you are) here on this Earth for a reason and my work is not yet complete.  I always thought I was meant to be a guide of some sort that is why I became a psychologist.  I wanted to help people transform and create their lives.  After finding that yoga was the vehicle I was meant to do this from, I created my life so that I could begin doing that.  Since opening the studio, it has become more clear to me that my “Zone of Genius” (Gay Hendricks, The Big Leap) is writing, coaching and leading teacher training programs.  I think I needed to move away from psychotherapy completely and immerse myself in yoga for a while.  Now I believe that I am ready to bring the two together to create something Big.  That was the original concept of the Yoga Shrink- adjunct mental health treatment using the 8 limbs of yoga.

So in 2014, I plan to bring the Yoga Shrink out in a big way to the world.  I plan to teach, lecture, and publish as much information about Yoga for Optimal Mental Health.  In terms of my work in coaching and teacher training programs, I am committed to helping people see what is getting in the way of their Greatness.  I set the intention to live Big so that everyone around me can live Big.  All of this I do in the name of Service- Service to Others.

What is your intention for 2014?  Write, Say It, Let It Be Known and then Do It!