Sure, practicing yoga makes our body strong and flexible, but it also sharpens our mind. Practicing yoga helps us bring our awareness into the present moment. It teaches us to concentrate on the more subtle aspects of our body and breath. Through yoga we start to cultivate a sense of mindfulness that helps us feel more grounded and centered. But this process isn’t confined to your yoga mat. Try this one small shift to bring more mindfulness into the rest of your day.
In honor of National Yoga Month a few thoughts on what it really means to practice yoga based on what I learned living and studying in India. I address one of the biggest (and most harmful) misconceptions I see perpetuated on a daily basis.
Stop living from a viewpoint of scarcity. You already have everything you need. And everything you’ve ever wanted is available to you. The amount of love, success, fulfillment, etc., in the world is unlimited. But only if you recognize that.
So often we get caught up in jealously and competition when we see others being happy and successful. We think that resources are scarce or that someone else’s ability to succeed somehow hinders our own. That’s simply not true. And the sooner we realize this fundamental falsehood, the happier we become.
We attract more of whatever we focus on. If we focus on perceived shortcomings we’ll always be lacking. But if we focus on the abundant nature of the universe then we’ll always live abundantly. Like Rumi said, “What you seek is seeing you.”
Whatever it is you most desire is available in abundance as long as you’re willing to see it that way. Always remember, there’s enough for you, too.
Expectations are tough. So often they lead to hurt and disappointment when they’re not met. Yet we keep setting them.
We can decide to set expectations for ourself. I’d argue that’s not a bad thing. But we can’t set expectations for others. It’s not others’ job to please us. It’s also not their job to live up to the expectations we set for them.
Your job is to decide what you’re willing to put up with and then walk away if you feel someone else’s behavior isn’t acceptable. It isn’t your place to try to change them. That won’t work anyway.
Here are a few reminders as we work towards easing our expectations and allowing people to be who they really are – whether or not it’s what you had in mind.
- Practice compassion. Cultivating compassion for yourself and others will help you manage your expectations. It will also help to ease disappointment and hurt feelings when we give ourselves and others a break. No one’s perfect – ourself included.
- Think of expectations as fluid guidelines instead of concrete. Give a little wiggle room. Remember the part about compassion? But don’t let anyone walk all over you.
- You can set expectations for yourself, but not for others. It’s great to have goals. It’s not so great to set goals for other people. Especially goals we haven’t even expressed to them.
Expectations and judgement go hand in hand. Together these lead to a self-centered point of view that directly goes against accepting life as it is. The inability to accept people and situations as they are is a major source of unhappiness. Practicing mindfulness and meditation helps us get closer to that place where we can just be in the present moment without judgement, expectation or disappointment. Good luck! Namaste.
Only 3 spots left in my Rocky Mountain Retreat Sept. 17-20 near Boulder, Colo. Join us for a long weekend of yoga, meditation and relaxation in our luxurious log cabin on 4.5 acres of private land. Did I mention we have a hot tub? All levels welcome. Check out the details and contact me to reserve one of the last spots today. Hope to see you on the mountain yogis!
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” -Melody Beattie
Practicing gratitude instantly makes our lives better without changing a single circumstance. So often we focus on what we don’t have. What we’re working towards. But we forget to appreciate ourselves and the process along the way. We don’t feel like we’ve reached our final goal, so we don’t see anything to celebrate.
Taking the time to appreciate how far we’ve come makes the path to reaching our goals feel that much more fulfilling. Appreciating our current surroundings, circumstances, belongings, relationships, etc., helps us to recognize the abundance in our lives right this minute. It brings us into the present moment instead of fantasizing about “some day.” It also allows us to be happy right now instead of having to wait for some desired outcome that we may or may not achieve in the future.
A gratitude journal can be a useful tool. First thing in the morning and again before you go to bed, list a couple of things you’re grateful for. Make it a daily practice. Refer to your gratitude journal or mentally make a list when you’re feeling down or when you notice yourself dwelling on things you don’t have. This small shift of focusing on what you do have instead of what you don’t have is one the greatest changes you can make to increase happiness and fulfillment in your life.
In this meditation exercise you’ll use your imagination to feel energized by the rays of the sun.
Start in a comfortable seated position or by laying down on your back with palms facing up, feet a little wider than hip distance and toes falling away from the body. Feel free to use blankets, pillows or bolsters to support yourself.
Close your eyes and take 3 deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth. Feel any tension in the body leave with the exhale. Feel relaxed and heavy.
Begin to imagine the sun shining bright overhead. Feel the warmth and light moving over the top of your head and face. Feel it moving through your forehead, eyebrows and eyelids. Feel it moving through your nose, cheeks and jaw. Feel the light moving through your chin and down your neck. Moving through your shoulders and upper back. Feel the light moving through your left arm, hand and fingers. Your right arm, hand and fingers. Feel the light moving through your chest, stomach and lower back. Filling the hips and moving through your left thigh, calf, ankle, foot and toes. Moving through your right thigh, calf, ankle, foot and toes.
Take a deep breath exhaling through the mouth and feel any remaining tension leave the body through the tips of the fingers and toes. Bask in the warmth and glow Feel the light spreading into the area around your body, filling the room. Allow yourself to feel energized and creative.
As you feel ready, take another deep breath and slowly come back to the present moment, opening your eyes.
In June we’re focused on cultivating the practice of mindfulness. Awareness is another way to think about mindfulness. We practice awareness by observing. Many meditation techniques basically come down to observation. In Anapana meditation we observe the breath as a tool to help keep our awareness in the present moment. This simple meditation technique is great for beginners.
Anapana Meditation Directions
- Find a comfortable seated position on the floor or in a chair.
- Close your eyes and take several slow, deep breaths in and out of the nose.
- Start to observe your inhale and exhale. Let go of any judgements or expectations and just notice the breath.
- When you find yourself distracted gently guide your awareness back to your breath.
- Try to keep your awareness with the breath for one complete inhale and exhale.
- Notice any sensations. Maybe the touch of the air on your nostrils. Your chest rising and falling.
- Try to maintain a still, seated position with eyes closed and keep concentrating on your breath.
- Set a timer for at least 5 minutes.
Know that this is called a practice for a reason. It gets easier with time. The key is to stick with it. Happy meditating!
“Resentment is like drinking the poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
So true. When we hold grudges, we’re the one who ends up getting hurt the most. We force ourselves to relive the negative emotions over and over again. We spend our precious time and energy thinking about something we can’t change – the past. I know firsthand. Forgiveness is something I’ve always struggled with. Meditation has been a huge help, but it’s still something I’m working on.
This forgiveness ritual was inspired by an upcoming post I wrote for COOP online lifestyle magazine.
- Let it out. Write a letter to the person you’re upset with. You won’t give them the letter – feel free to say what you need to say. This is the last time you get to brood over the situation, so take your time to get it all out.
- Let it go. Now that you’ve had the chance to get everything off your chest, destroy the letter. You could rip it up and throw it away or burn it outside. Close your eyes, take a few slow, deep breaths and imagine that you’re inhaling a bright white light and exhaling a dark cloud. Say “I forgive you.”
- Remember your intention. Come up with a mantra you can use if you find yourself thinking about the grudge again. It could be any word or phrase that reminds you of your forgiving intention. Maybe something like “I forgive you”, “Sending love and light”, “I choose to live in the present”…anything that resonates with you. Repeat the mantra while taking slow, deep breaths to help divert your attention away from negative thoughts.
- Meditate. Practicing meditation has been proven to increase compassion. Loving Kindness Meditation is a technique that’s meant to do just that. Check out the link for full instructions.
Practice some or all of the steps as often as you need to. Know that with time and intent eventually it gets easier. And remember, in the end you’re doing this for your own benefit.
In this week’s Midweek Mindfulness we explore the relationship between food and mindfulness + introduce 3 questions to ask yourself before you take your next bite.