Keep mindfully floating, no matter what

The journey of this little boat is such an inspiring metaphor for remaining unattached to what happens to us in life — good or bad.  Life IS change. Observe, experience, and keep going. Enjoy watching the story of this mindful little boat.

“Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.”  ― James Baldwin

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

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Why I didn’t take pictures at Christmas

Throeau quote

I love to take pictures and write, especially in nature.  As I writer, I try to capture thoughts or feelings that strike me as powerful. As a photographer, I want to get the shot that no one else can get or zoom in and snap a photo of a bird that would otherwise be too far away. But, I’ve recently decided to change my focus (literally), and try to take life in through all five senses, mindfully.

Every year, for the past 4 years or so, I have taken my niece to Build-a-Bear workshop for Christmas.  This year was no different, it’s our thing. We either get breakfast or dinner and then head to the place where dreams come true for many an un-stuffed animal. She’s allowed to pick whatever animal she wants and dress it however she likes (fashion tastes aside).

Until this year, I spent each visit diligently recording my niece picking out her new friend, selecting a sound for it, stuffing it, putting in a heart, and ‘bathing’ it so it’s ready to go home.  The pictures are still great to go back and look at when I miss her.  I’ve realized, though, when looking at them, that I wasn’t truly present for the experience — not as much as I could have been.

I spent more time concerned with how I’d capture the moment for posterity and memory than I did on witnessing it in the moment. So, this year, we did our thing but rather than watch the event through an iPhone screen, I was as in the moment as I could be.  We had a great time, and whether or not she was able to pick up on the nuance of my presence, I did. Pictures can get lost or destroyed (unfortunately), but moments can’t truly be recaptured, they have to be lived when they are happening.

Changing my focus at Christmas and beyond has been extremely rewarding.  There are many more flavors in each bite of food and something as simple as seeing a beam of sunlight on the bark of a tree is more pleasurable than you’d think.

How are you living more mindfully?

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

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How to experience peace in one step

Practice letting go of your suffering everyday.

Easier said than done right? Maybe. Maybe not. In Buddhism, one of the Four Noble Truths is to acknowledge that we suffer. And the path to enlightenment is to find the source of that suffering, acknowledge it and let it go.

Let go or be dragged

I recently did a ‘Neti Neti’ meditation with David Wagner. Neti Neti in sanskrit means ‘not this, not this.’ The focus of the meditation was on all of the things we aren’t. We are not our stuff, our thoughts, even our bodies. We are the ones who dwell within.

In thinking about how to separate my ‘Self’ from my stuff (material & otherwise), I always come back to rediscovering myself as the watcher.

It’s easy to get caught up in mind activity, especially when it’s turbulent. But, I’m truly in touch with myself, when I’m the one watching the turbulence. That is to say that rather than trying to stop the chaotic thoughts, take a back seat and watch.

When you notice that you’re anxious or your shoulder hurts, for example, YOU or your ‘SELF’ is the one who sees it. You are NOT the hurt shoulder, you are the one who notices.

Seems a little too obscure? Try this beautiful practice from Thich Nhat Hanh in ‘The Heart of Buddha’s Teaching.” When you’re feeling pain such as fear or anger, imagine it as a baby. You are the holder of the suffering. You can give it the presence it requires by acknowledging it, not shoving it away. And then you can put it down – sated.

If you’re meditating and your mind wanders, observe (without judgement) that you are meditating and your mind is wandering.  YOU are the one observing.

And here’s the tricky part, acknowledge that everything is temporary – pain,  happiness, hunger, satiety – all of it is transient.  So, you don’t have to cling to any of it.  And letting go of that clinging is another way of stopping the cycle of your own suffering.

Ready to stop suffering?  The path to peace IS the peace.

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What is mindfulness meditation?

mindful of mind full

“Mindfulness practice is simple and completely feasible. Just by sitting and doing nothing, we are doing a tremendous amount.”

In Buddhism, practicing mindfulness enables us to live peacefully within our own minds.  We know our minds run amok like spoiled children without discipline, but it’s never too late to reign it in.

I used to think that I wasn’t meditating unless my mind was completely free of any activity, but that’s not quite right.  Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche from the Shambala Sun makes a wonderful point that may help many of us put the concept of what it means to meditate into perspective,  “An important point is that when we are in a mindful state, there is still intelligence. It’s not as if we blank out.”

So what exactly is mindfulness meditation?

Mindfulness

For a nicely detailed, yet digestible article on mindful meditation, visit The Shambala Sun.
Live deliberately, mindfully, honestly.
Namaste,
– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Unitarian Universalist Church of Fargo)

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‘No’ is a complete sentence

No

If you’re like me, you’re a people-pleaser.  You’d rather avoid disappointing someone, so you say yes to more than you should.  You’re afraid someone might think you’re not a good friend, employee, sister, aunt, yoga teacher, etc. if you say no.  The reality is, you can’t be everything to everyone.  And if you think you can. you’re probably not truly ‘being there’ for anyone, especially yourself.

A while ago, I had a conversation with a friend about a situation in which I felt guilty for saying no.  I decided to put myself first for once, and said no to substituting a yoga class. The person who asked gave me some “not-so-subtle” non-verbal cues to let me know of their disappointment.   I found myself trying to justify my decision, when in reality it was the other person’s issue, not mine.  They were upset that they’d be inconvenienced, and yet I somehow took on the responsibility and the guilt (my issue).  WRONG.

What my friend said to me when I told her the story was, “No, is a complete sentence.”  It was so simple, and it made me start to think about how many times I’ve felt incredibly guilty for saying no or putting myself first. How many times did I rehearse a conversation in my head or replay one to see how I could say no with the least amount of hurt feelings? There were a lot.

So, how do we walk the line of being charitable and giving of ourselves without depleting our energy? What I’ve found out is that the people in your life who really care about you, don’t love you because what you can do for them.  They just love you.  The art of saying no will also reveal who really is in it just for them.  Saying no recently led me to lose someone as a friend which tells me they weren’t really much of a friend at all.

In yoga, bramacharya is often — mistakenly — thought of as ‘chastity’ or a preservation of one’s sexual energy.  But it’s really about moderating all of our energetic resources; allocating them consciously.

Many of us need to learn to conserve our personal energy as much as we try to conserve the electricity in hour homes. When we do, our personal energetic battery has a chance to recharge.  Then we truly CAN be there for others in a deliberate, complete, loving way.  When you are at your most joyous and fulfilled, you will bring that light to everyone you meet.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

Photo: Ecosalon

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Does meditation have a dark side?

light in dark meditation

I love this conversation between Michael Stone (yoga teacher, Buddhist teacher, psychotherapist) and  neuroscientist Willoughby Britton about the other side of meditation.

We often (myself included) extol the benefits of meditation, but sometimes meditation can be challenging and bring up feelings like anxiety, guilt and judgement.

I know that there have been times when a specific type of meditation (the one I was taught, actually) seems to exacerbate my racing thoughts, so those days I switch to a guided meditation or walking meditation.  In other words, for me, one size doesn’t fit all.

Enjoy the conversation

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Robert Nash)

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Are we afraid to just be happy?

relaxed frog

There are so many ‘happiness solutions’ out there today – from books to seminars to pills – promising that joy is just a spend away. We all want happiness as if it’s something that we have to save up to buy or earn.

In fact, I had a conversation with a mentor recently about finding peace through sacrifice. She looked at me as if I’d lost my mind, “What?”

“I mean, there are so many people that need so much and I can help. I feel selfish if I’ve got some downtime and I’m not using it to help someone in need or contribute in some way,” I said, “I mean if I want to be a truly spiritual person, shouldn’t I always be looking at how I can be of service? Look at Buddha, Jesus, the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, and everyone else who sacrifices themselves for others.”

She looked at me, and said, “We can’t all be Jesus.  And, I think that you doing things that bring you joy (whatever that is) brings joy to everyone around you.  And that joy ripples through everything you’re connected to.”

And there it was in my face. I realized that I was afraid to just do things that made me happy for fear that I was being less of a spiritual being.

We work so hard to achieve happiness, and yet, it’s always with us. Peace isn’t something that we have to earn by suffering, it’s there in spite of suffering.  We’re living longer and yet, don’t live much at all.

To quote George Carlin, “We’ve added years to life not life to years.”

Do you have to stop ‘giving back’? No.  But you can be of service in so many ways without sacrificing your own health and happiness.

No matter how someone approaches me or what they ask, I try to think to myself, “How can I be helpful?”

Sometimes that means I stop what I’m doing, and help carry something heavy for my neighbor, help a friend, or donate money or time.

And sometimes being helpful to others starts with being helpful to yourself first.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Wikimusiquita)

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Go ahead and ‘What if?’

What i

Most of us spend the majority of our time living in either the past or the future.  Neither of these states actually exist, nor can we control them.  This lack of control of something we CAN’T leads to a cycle of suffering marked by anxiety, guilt, fear, or self-judgement.

Phrases like ‘I should have’ or ‘I shouldn’t have’ indicate we’re reliving something that has passed and yet, we can’t let go. If you let the mind keep up this pace, you’ll end up shoulding all over yourself.

And, the ‘What ifs?’ can quite literally paralyze us from moving forward in life for fear that something bad will happen.

So, what happens when we answer ourselves with the opposite or confirm that the decision we have made is already done?  We find a little peace.

The next time you find yourself feeling guilty about something, find the ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ statement at the heart of the suffering, and simply answer ‘Oh well, I didn’t’ or ‘Oh well, I did,’ and sit with it.  No need for self-flagellation, just acknowledgement and taking responsibility.  Then let it go.

If you find yourself feeling worry or fear, find the ‘what if’ and throw in the opposite just for kicks.  ‘What if I ask her and she rejects me?’

‘What if she doesn’t?’

‘What if I fail?’

‘What if you succeed?’

‘What if I die alone?’

‘What if you don’t?’

I’m not suggesting that you get caught up in another future state wormhole in which you pontificate scenarios that don’t yet exist, but rather, offer up your ego both sides of the argument it’s making when it tries to take you down.

Living in the present takes effort and discipline.  Don’t let your mind run over you like a spoiled child.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: MrWallpaper)

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