Stop crashing and change your mental diet

If you’ve ever gone on a ‘diet’ you know that it’s typically about removing something. Something a doctor or society has deemed ‘bad.’  And those diets inevitably fail because they aren’t sustainable. But, when you decide to make a lifestyle change that involves replacing or ‘adding’ good foods instead of just removing the bad ones, you shift your perspective about food and it becomes a gradual path to success. It’s the same thing when it comes to our thinking.

When you start to notice your thought patterns and what drives your suffering i.e. fear, guilt, worry, shame; you can then begin to find ways to replace those patterns.

In the past three days, I’ve read several passages, social media posts, and had conversations about this very topic. So, it seemed like something I should write about.

I can say from personal experience that when I decided I wanted to find peace and freedom from fear, I tried my hardest to ‘let it go’.  But, that didn’t seem to be enough, and I found myself somehow lacking.  It’s because I’d lived with the fear for so long, just like someone struggling to give up sugar lives with donuts as part of their diet.

Then I read a passage from a teacher about shifting perception by replacing unhealthy or unhelpful thoughts with their opposites.  For example, if you’re feeling angry at someone, try to find something positive about them to be grateful for.  If you’re worried about something, replace that thought with something that you trust or are certain about. Like when I’m nervous about going to a doctor’s appointment, I try to replace that worry with trust. Trust that the doctor has my health in mind.  And acceptance that my body is going to do what it is going to do. Replace that self-judgement by celebrating you.

When I feel lost in a thicket of thoughts, I try to step out of the trees and see the whole forest. For me, the serenity prayer often helps, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

The process is slow, just like a successful dietary change.  So, I try to celebrate and acknowledge even the smallest progress.  Crash diets never work.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Pinterest/Merchant Mechanics)

Related post: Have yourself a thought-b-cue

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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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Refilling your patience carafe

wine carafe

At some point, we all struggle with patience. It’s definitely not one of my strong suits. In fact, I was recently joking to a friend about those days when it feels as if you have a finite amount of patience, and when it’s gone it’s gone — like a carafe of wine. This, of course, let to a hilarious philosophical discussion about how our carafe’s depth varies from day to day and that we have a seemingly infinite supply of patience in our carafes when it comes to animals, children, and students.

Some days, the carafe is overflowing and all seems right with the world, while others it seems to have a crack and a slow leak. Some days, my carafe is quite plentiful in the morning, but by evening rush hour, it’s dry as a bone, and I watch the last drop dry up from the seat of my inner witness. Sometimes, merely bringing attention to the fact that our patience is challenged, releases the ego’s grasp on our need ‘rightness’ or vindication.

So, how do we keep ourselves from draining our carafe of patience Bordeaux dry? By doing things that replenish your spirit. Taking some time for yourself — even five minutes — to do what brings you peace and rejuvenation can keep you from feeling depleted and drained of loving energy. For some people, it’s a bubble bath alone with a book, and for others it’s prayer.

For me, it’s writing, meditation, spending time with my dogs, and of course, yoga.  I need the time on the mat to ground and center myself, and reconnect with my true nature so that my thoughts, words, and actions come from a place of compassion.

Take time each day to practice the same loving kindness towards yourself that you want to extend outward. Refill your carafe everyday, so it’s available when you need to pour a big glass of patience to someone else. And practice non-judgement and non-violence toward yourself during those times when you can’t seem to harness the patience you think you should have.

What refills your carafe of patience?

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Design Rulz)

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Rethink your limits

limitless

If you haven’t seen this TED video talk by Amy Purdy who lost her legs and went on to become a professional snowboarder, grab some tissues and get ready to rethink the limits you tell yourself you have.

Without limits.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Pinterest)

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Gain perspective, sell your goat

two goats

A villager lived in a tiny house with his wife, 6 children, mother-in-law, a cow, and some chickens. It was making him crazy. So he went to the village rabbi and asked for help. The rabbi said he could solve the problem: he told the man to buy a goat. Thrilled, the man immediately went out and bought a goat. Now he had a wife, 6 children, a mother-in-law, a cow, some chickens, and a goat. The house was even more chaotic than before. The villager went back to the rabbi and told of the even crazier chaos. Again, the rabbi said he could solve the problem. “Sell the goat.” The man went immediately and sold the goat. Suddenly, all he had was a wife, 6 children, a mother-in-law, a cow, and some chickens. Things were much more peaceful without that goat…

(Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life by Judith Lasater, pg.37/ Photo: Mad Ox Designs)

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

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Walk the plank of life with acceptance

walking the plank

It’s funny how life has a way of smacking you upside the head with messages if you’re awake to them.  I shared a quote on Google+ that I saw recently, “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.” ~Thomas Jefferson. But then someone responded to my post with this and I loved it even more, “When you reach the end of your rope, Let Go.” ~Buddhism.

Acceptance can be tricky.  Easy to say, often hard to do. The catch-22 is that the one thing that is hardest for us to accept, will set us free when we do. Some people struggle with accepting divorce, others with loss, and others have a hard time accepting that their life just didn’t turn out like they thought it would, and it’s the struggle itself that causes much our suffering. For me, it’s managing a chronic illness. Continue reading

Don’t look for thoughts where there are none

let it go balloon

Have you ever been merrily going about your business, perhaps living purely in the moment, when your unconsciousness interjects with some type of made up problem? Perhaps you thought you’d moved on from an earlier problem, only for your mind to bring it back up to the surface, like a jealous childhood friend who gets jealous over your contentedness, and looks for ways to hijack your happiness. Sometimes it’s hard for us to ‘just be.’  I mean to say, that we spend so much time focusing on what’s wrong and how to fix it, we don’t know what to do when our mind takes a break. And, we even go looking for problems sometimes.

If you don’t know what I mean, maybe you’ve observed this in a co-worker, family member or friend who only seems to be happy when there’s something to be unhappy about. Once upon a time, I worked with a few of these people. It’s as if they truly don’t know how to enjoy the peace of stillness. Like their brain is telling them, “Wait there’s nothing wrong right now, what’s wrong?  There must be something I’m supposed to be upset about right now.  No? Well, let’s find something.” This isn’t a judgement of their character, but of our upbringing in general. Let’s face it, we’re a society of scab-pickers who can’t leave well enough alone.

For the over-analytical population (myself included) we have a tendency to exhaust ourselves looking for the thoughts that feed our emotions, when truly we are neither thought or emotion.  And, by simply bringing awareness to an emotion or a feeling that arises enables us to come into the present. Being with the feelings IS presence, aversion is not.

This happened to me the other morning, I was getting ready for work after my morning practice, and noticed that I was feeling anxious. So rather than going on a thought-spelunking mission which would inevitably take me out of the moment and likely cause more pain, I decided just to sit with the feeling for what it was.  Eventually, it went away.  As I became the watcher of all that’s happening with this body and mind, I’m able to witness be-ing. This doesn’t mean that we’ll never feel pain, rather with observance and the practice of letting go of attachment AND aversion, we become the self beyond thought. And that is bliss.

“All problems are illusions of the mind.” ― Eckhart Tolle

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

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(Photo: Pinterest)

Be a tree-climbing fish

zen pencils einstein quote

There have been many things throughout life that people have told me I couldn’t do, and every time it made me want to achieve that thing and prove them wrong.

Only you know what you can be, and the deeper you look inside, the more you’ll realize you’re truly capable of anything.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Zen Pencils)

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Love the weeds in your life


eyore ahimsa

In yoga, ahimsa or non-judgement, refers to the state of living in loving kindness toward all beings including ourselves.   And yet, sometimes it’s the hardest thing to do.  Let’s face it extending compassion in every situation — particularly conflict — can be hard. Why dispense love to the guy who cut you off in line when you don’t owe him anything?  Because you owe it to yourself to find the love and beauty everywhere.

As A.A. Milne — Winnie the Pooh author — once said, weeds are flowers too once you get to know them. You never know who’s going to come into your life and present you the opportunity to find love.  In fact, sometimes the universe sends us challenging people and situations for just that reason.

The next time someone really gets under your skin, rather than building up toxic emotion asking “why me”, ask yourself, “How can I extend compassion here? What am I supposed to offer? What am I supposed to learn?”

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Pinterest)

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Wander around yourself like a Hobbit

JRR Tolkien Quote

One of the things I love most about J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit series is the message under the message. Aside from the movie being visually stunning (I’m currently in the market for an earth shelter home in Scotland, if you know a good real estate agent), the poignant simplicity of Tolkien’s messages are beautiful reminders of what we already know to be true.

My favorite Tolkien quote is, “All who wander are not lost.”  I love this sort of “get out of jail free” card that emphasizes the value of soul-searching while comforting those who may feel they’ve never been able to fit in.

A lot of us feel we have our shit together by a certain point in our lives, and if we don’t fit a certain social norm by an invisible time-clock, we’re somehow lacking and not valuable.   And even if we DO fit the mold — Married, two+ kids, house, car and dog — we still beat ourselves up if we don’t have our personal shit together all of the time.

I don’t think we have to cast our worldly stuff aside and all become Sherpas or whirling dervishes, but why not wander around yourself for a while?  Take a look at the patterns and habits in your life that confine you.  Is there a place you’re terrified to visit?  Do you prefer the comfort of a sheltered life or perhaps you thrive in chaos?  Dive into your patterns and see what evolution may happen when you face your nooks and crannies head on.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

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(Photo: Pinterest)