You Have To Want It, More Than You Are Afraid Of It

The Better Man Project ™

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You have to want it more than you are afraid of it not happening. In 2013, I learned a great deal about myself. But most importantly, I learned what I really do want from this life. And as I sit here tapping away at the keys at 3 am, I realize that 2014 needs to be dedicated to something besides “just doing” what I have learned in the past year. It needs to be devoted to being the most extraordinary version of myself I can possibly be.

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Every day, we have opportunities to grow, change, and rise to the occasion. What may just seem like another day is actually an opportunity to do something fantastic. True, most of the days we have may start off as normal, but our plans that we have for ourselves, if implemented, can truly turn something mediocre into something, well, extraordinary. It takes effort. Lots…

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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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Supporting a Loved One Through PTSD or Panic Attacks

sometimesmagical

This cartoon (from Robot Hugs), in my opinion, illustrates the perfect way to handle every PTSD or anxiety episode. If I could actually live inside a blanket fort forever, I would.

Unfortunately, flashbacks, panic attacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, memories, triggers, and all those other lovely things that survivors have to live with don’t have the courtesy to always wait for blanket forts to be available.

It’s scary for the person experiencing the attack, but it’s also scary for any loved ones who are trying to comfort and support someone through an attack.

This post is for the supporters.

Often in the midst of the episode, the distressed person doesn’t necessarily have their full vocabulary and can’t articulate exactly what they need in that moment. Afterwards, they may avoid talking about it out of embarrassment, fear, or a desire to preserve the peacefulness of the present.

So how do you…

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5 ways singing is good for your health

Singing is good for your health - singing squirrels

I’ve always been a fantastic singer…in the shower or car.  In the privacy of my own home or vehicle, I happily sing at the top of my lungs. When I need an energy boost or catch myself getting into a mental loop of some sort, I’ll throw on some of my favorite tunes to switch my thinking and mood. Singing helps me pass the time during a potentially stressful commute, and helps me to regulate my breathing when I’m stressed or anxious.

As it turns out, there is some actual science to how singing can improve our body and mind.

There are hundreds of research studies on how singing and music therapy can help treat everything from chronic pain to attention deficit disorder. Singing creates vibrational frequencies that have been found to have a direct effect upon physiological systems.  All you have to do is Google it.  When is Google going to be able to understand when I sing my questions into search anyway?

Here are 5 ways singing is good for your health:

1. Singing is good for your heart. According to a study in the Journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, music structure determines heart rate variability of singers.  In fact, singing demands a slower than normal respiration, which may affect heart activity and be beneficial for cardiovascular function. According to researchers, the controlled breathing used in both activities may have positive long-term effects on heart health and blood pressure.

2. Singing improves your mood & helps you cope with stress. A study out of the U.K. on choral singing and psychological well being found the benefits of singing include: experienced focused attention; deep breathing; social support; cognitive stimulation; and regular commitment.

 3. Choir singing creates social bonds. A project called, “The Sound of Well-Being” in Norway showed how shows how cultural activities like choir singing positively impacts work environment and improves the psychosocial health of employees who participate.

4. Singing improves pulmonary function. According to a study from Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent and the International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, singing may ease symptoms of COPD, improve lung function and quality of life in people with chronic respiratory illness.

5. Singing can help you cope with pain. According to a report published in the Journal of Music Therapy in 2004, help patients cope with chronic pain. A joint study by Harvard and Yale Universities in 2008 went one step further, claiming that choral singing in a Connecticut town had increased residents’ life expectancy.

So take a cue from Buddy the Elf…

Stop clinging and let things be

Zen Flash

Once you stop clinging and let things be,
you’ll be free, even of birth and death.
You’ll transform everything.
And you’ll be at peace wherever you are.

~ Bodhidharma ~

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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

Fertility yoga: Asana and beyond [free online videos]

fertility yoga

One of my readers recently sent me a message asking about yoga for fertility. Admittedly, I’m not certified in pre-natal yoga, but I do know a few amazing teachers who are.  Jill Petigara, literally wrote the book on yoga and fertility.  Her book, Yoga and Fertility: A Journey to Health and Healing, delves into the role yoga can play in helping women conceive.

The book can be a great guide for soon-to-be-moms, and it includes exercises they can do at home. However, if you ARE trying to get pregnant, I highly recommend you find a yoga instructor or workshop that specializes in yoga and fertility.  A certified pre-natal instructor, particularly someone who specializes in fertility yoga can help guide you though an optimal practice for you. Of course, check with your doctor before starting any kind of exercise program.

If you can’t find a class specific to fertility, a restorative yoga class is a great place to start.  Many of the same poses are integrated, and the class is a gentle, nurturing, ‘restorative’ environment.  That said, there are some things in addition to the physical poses in yoga to help with fertility.

Trying to get pregnant can be stressful and emotionally trying, so it’s a perfect time to begin a meditation practice. A daily meditation practice, even for five minutes can help reduce stress and balance emotions and hormones. Keeping a journal to unburden yourself of intrusive thoughts also helps. You also may want to try acupuncture and massage.

Fertility Yoga & Meditation Videos

To help you along with your home practice, here are a couple of videos as you journey toward pregnancy and motherhood.

Yoga poses that aid fertility


Fertility Meditation through the Chakras

The most important thing to remember during this time is to let go of all self-judgement. Be kind to yourself, nurture yourself, and allow any emotions that arise to be.  Accept them. Breathe.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

Photo: Joyful Birth Babies

Related content:

What is mindfulness meditation?

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“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

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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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Yoga is about the mind, and my mind is full of ticks.

Amanda Green YOGA

After practicing yoga, the feelings and memories that bubble up can be so vivid.  Even though we can spend a lot of time talking about the body in a yoga class, yoga is primarily about the mind. When a yoga practice is designed with the intention of bringing attention and focus to our complex and very distractable mind, and it works, it’s so cool to get a glimpse of what is in there.

This happened on Tuesday.  Each Tuesday I participate in Jenn Wooten’s vinyasa class and it’s great.  She’s great.  She guides a class that helps me to go in—deep inside my body and organs and breath, and the focus that is required and that comes as a result of this practice helps me to feel things that I just might not feel otherwise.  She does such a good job of holding space so that I can be…

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