One breath at a time

The first month of 2016 has been jam packed.  I have been a busy little bee these days.  Work has been in full swing as the first quarter of the year is off to a bustling start.  Between that, prepping food to eat healthier, keeping up with daily errands and squeezing in time for exercise and self care, this bee has been feeling overwhelmed.  We live in a world where multi-tasking has become so normal that when you see someone doing only  one thing, with their full attention, it’s almost offensive.

I find myself getting so caught up in the “go, go, go” that when it’s time to just sit down and chill, I tend to jump into the next thing.  I see this as an imbalance in myself.  Dr. Wayne Dyer has a quote that reads “I am a human being, not a human doing. Don’t equate your self-worth with how well you do things in life. You aren’t what you do. If you are what you do, then when you don’t…you aren’t.”  Read that a couple of times just let that sink in.  We tend to tie our self worth into how much we do and how well we do it.  Most people I know consider productivity to be a positive quality.  Obviously there is merit in completing things and doing them well.  Accomplishment is a great feeling.  But the drawback is that you can train yourself to forget how to relax, how to be still, how to be quiet.  Even when I’m “relaxing”, I catch myself checking emails, doing research on the internet or planning what I’m doing the next day.  So, even when I’m unwinding, I’m still doing a lot.  No wonder I feel overwhelmed!

I’ve had a pretty consistent meditation practice for a few years now.  I laugh every time I hear someone say they “can’t” meditate.  Mostly because they would usually benefit from it so much.  The people who think they “can’t” are typically the one’s who need it the most.  They think they can’t sit still and be quite for any length of time- even 5 minutes.  5 minutes is not a lot of time.  It might feel like a long time, but think about how fast 5 minutes goes by when you’re browsing the internet, shopping, or commuting somewhere.

What is meditation anyway?  Well in my book, mediation is simply training your mind to concentrate.  There are so many different techniques and the common denominator is focus.  Bringing your focus back to this moment,  your breath, a mantra, an affirmation, a flame, a scent, or holding something and focusing on that.  At any given time, your body is having a sensory experience.  For the most part, the only time you are aware of that experience is when you want to change, or do, something.  My body feels cold and what do I need to do to change that.  I smell a pleasant fragrance and I want to find out what the source is.  I smell something bad and I want to get away from it.  My co-worker’s music is bothering me or I really like it.. you get the idea.  This is all happening lightning fast.  Mediation is about stepping back and not reacting to it.  Watching the mind.  Observing these thoughts and reactions.  Observing the desire to move or do something and coming back to stillness again and again.  In this way, you train your mind to learn to be less reactive, less impulsive, and more focused.  This is a tool to re-learn how to really, deeply relax, restore, and replenish.

When I find myself feeling that overwhelm I mentioned earlier, I know I need to slow down and come back to my meditation practice.  Often times, I get so busy I start sacrificing that time for myself so I can take care of something else.  In essence, I ditch my self care time to DO something that I perceive as needing my attention more.  And then I end up here.  Feeling drained.  It’s ok.  It’s good.  For me, mediation is coming back, over and over again. So even this cycle is a sort of mediation too.  I am aware that I have been distracted and now I am coming back to my practice. The final point I want to make here is that whatever comes up for you during your mediation: calm, peacefulness, restlessness, anxiousness, boredom, or any judgement, it’s all good.  There is no right way or wrong way to feel.  Just observe it and let it go.

The Dare: This mediation exercise is called the 5’s.  A teacher of mine gave me this handy tool years ago and I still use it to this day.  This meditation is breath-focused and I love it because you can do it anywhere at any time.

Gently inhale for a count of 5, hold the breath for a count of 5*, and gently exhale for a 5. Repeat for 5 minutes.

*If holding the breath brings up any anxiety or discomfort, just skip that part and inhale/exhale for 5.

Ideally you want to do this with the eyes closed but for beginners or anyone who thinks they don’t have time, you can do this anywhere with the eyes open.  I’ve done it while driving, waiting for an appointment, at work, in a meeting, at dinner, in bed.  The possibilities are endless.  Something is better than nothing. Give it a shot! Physiologically, this exercise is proven to lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and promote an overall state of calm and well-being.


Cleaning House

Looking back over the last few years, I’ve noticed my efforts at fitness have been pretty half-assed.  Perhaps that’s why I’ve never gotten to where I wanted to go.  So often, my physical effort to melt fat and burn calories were thwarted by what I was feeding my body.  I would CRUSH a workout HARD and then eat all kinds of crap.  I’ve even met up with friends right after class, still rocking my yoga pants (cause that’s not gross at all), for a few beers. What was I thinking?  The desire to exercise and lose weight was a part time endeavor.  My desire to eat whatever I wanted and throw back some drinks with my friends on a Tuesday night was still there.  It was like vigorously treading water.  I was working hard but not going anywhere.

Part of me wanted to move forward toward my weight loss goals and another part wanted to eat whatever I was craving and do whatever I wanted.   The thing about craving is that the feeling of satisfaction you get from fulfilling it rarely lasts long.  My food cravings become more and more demanding.  My crap foods of choice are mainly processed carbs and I would crave bread, pasta, crackers, chips, pretzels, pizza, and cheesy goodness all the time.  But something happened as my urge to eat half a box of pasta in one sitting became more frequent.  I realized I was a slave to my stomach.  Even worse, I was a slave to my mind.  There was always this loud voice in my head nudging me to eat whatever popped into my mind, drink whenever I wanted, and more often than not, skip the exercise entirely.  Like a crazy 8 year old with license to do whatever they want, I had no control, no discipline and no way of getting what I really wanted.  I was fighting myself.

This is a pretty great revelation.  When we talk about getting out of our own way, this is the kind of information you look for.  How am I resisting what I want?  By clinging to my habits like eating a bunch of pasta for dinner and washing it down with wine, I was literally blocking my progress.

As I dust off the Fitbit I got a year ago for Christmas, the one that has literally been dead in a drawer for the past few months, recharge it and recommit to eating clean, I ask myself what needs to change in order for me to achieve success this year.  I think we all see change as this wonderful thing, and it is! But we often over look the idea that you need to let go of something old to bring something new into your life.  If you don’t, the new stuff doesn’t have a chance.  There’s this brand new infant intention in your head saying “Hey! let’s exercise tonight after work” and the old habit, that’s bigger, louder, and has been there for a looong time, goes “Um yeah that’s cute but we want to go relax and have a few drinks with our friends because it’s fun and that’s what we do and you should just stop talking.” And guess which voice steers the ship?  The old habit. So, what do you want to bring in (dream big), AND what can you let go of (roll up your sleeves and clean house).

The dare: Focus on one goal you have set for yourself and make a list of the top 3 changes or intentions you want to invite into your life.  Then, make a list of 3 habits or patterns you can release to make room for all this wonderful newness to grow.  Don’t get all judgy harsh on yourself just observe.  The observations are enough.  Be gentle.  Have fun.



Hello 2016! We have arrived.

Happy New Year!  Creating a blog has been a dream of mine for a long time. Well my friends, the day has finally arrived!  Here we are. It’s the first day of 2016 and I’m already knocking stuff off my list of goals for the new year.

Speaking of lists.  We all tend to make lists of what we want to bring into our lives.  I know there are a lot of things I want to welcome into my life this year.  Weight loss, a better financial standing, and more yoga practice to name a few.  All of those things have something in common; Awareness.

We can’t change something if we aren’t aware of it.  And we can’t welcome awareness if we’re not paying attention. In an effort to look at the new year from a different perspective, I offer up a challenge.  Ask yourself the question “What can I let go of or release so that I can have what I want?”

For me, alcohol, while enjoyable, is getting in the way of all three things I want to achieve.  Sabotaging weight loss, generally expensive, and debilitating the day after all the fun, my yoga mat has been very neglected this past year.  So, for the month of January, I am laying off the sauce. No drinking.  And maybe it’s something else entirely for you.  What is getting in your way?  How are you resisting the very thing you desire most?  The answers will come from within. The awareness is there, you just have to pay attention.