Monday, May 26, 2014

Mind Over Matter

You know that saying "my mind is a dangerous neighborhood and I should not go there alone"?  Lately, my mind has been in over drive. Based on what I hear from those closest to me,  I know that I am not alone. Thinking has become an epidemic and information is the drug of choice. Just yesterday, I read that we have an average of 70,000 thoughts per day. Many of them about the same topic or issue. Each time we think and follow that thought, the groove in that pathway of the brain deepens a little more. Habitual thinking gets me deeper into my own small world. I, in turn, believe what I think. My actions follow suit, and before you know it, I have created my reality.

What other solutions may come if I redirect my thinking? Discipline of the mind is an idea that is easier said than done. Many times in a day, I wake up from the trance of my own "monkey mind". Once again, I have lost consciousness and allowed the usual same three thoughts to run the show, deepening the pathways of my brain that are already entirely too strong. Awareness becomes the key. Can I at least become an observer? Am I able to wake up and notice that I am in habitual thinking? Once I am aware, am I able to observe the thought without identifying with it? I may even be able to watch the thinking part of me. and begin to see and feel that I am not the thinking mind alone.

This calls for a deep breath. Regain and retrain the mind. As I exhale, I draw my mind into my body. This very simple action may even allow me to send my awareness down into my heart. When I inhale I place my attention upon the center of my heart, as I exhale I am able to sense this place physically. In Buddhism, they say that the second mind is in the heart. In this way, our sense of knowing is placed in our center of compassion."Follow your heart", suddenly makes sense. The heart is a very good placement of my own awareness. Trusting the knowing of the heart is a much more reliable source.

your brain on yoga and meditation
Perhaps nothing on the outside really changes when we shift our mind out of habitual thinking. It may give us more freedom of choice and at least a marginal ability to direct our decisions from the wisdom of the heart. That is good enough for me. At the very least: "If I don't mind, it doesn't matter."

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Grounding the Mind into the Body

Try holding each of these postures for 10 deep breaths. When you get to standing splits on side one, step back and repeat warrior 2 through standing splits on side two. When done with side two, forward bend and continue. Do Pigeon on both sides as well.
This past week blew the winds of change ( literally) into my home. The wild Santa Ana winds, followed by a heat wave in Los Angeles, left me with little sleep and an erratic mind. As above, so below applies to me more often than not and I come to understand this even more with such extreme conditions and their effects upon me. When the winds are blowing, my mind turns on. The best way for me to recalibrate is to return to physical activity and ground my mental energy into my body by breathing and moving in tandem. This grounding routine (pictured above) should be done slowly and deeply. Do not race through the postures, but focus on the breath. Our breath becomes the bridge from the mind to the body, and brings us back into the present moment. With presence comes power. There is a natural power deep within you. Spend some time cultivating that power today.

  • CHAIR POSE: sink your hips back, as you extend your arm up. Imagine you are a lightning bolt.
  • TREE POSE:   balance on one leg, as you firm it, draw the sole of the opposite foot to the inner thigh. 
  • TEMPLE POSE: Widen your stance, and sink hips down to knee level. Press knees open. Straight spine
  • WARRIOR 2: Turn one foot out, the other in slightly. Front heel to back arch alignment. Bend front knee at 90 degree angle. Straight back leg. Arms extended equally. Sternum lifts
  • TRIANGLE:   Walk back foot in slightly. Bring bottom hand to shin. Elongate side body. Top arm extends up to the sky.
  • HALF MOON: Bend front knee, place bottom finger tips, slightly to side of pinky toe. Launch off and balance on straight front leg.
  • STANDING SPLITS: Drop top arm down as you raise extended leg to standing splits. 


  • STANDING FORWARD BEND: Separate feet hip width and allow the knees to bend slightly as you fold forward. Allowing the crown of the head to aim to the floor.
  • SQUAT: Lower your hips down. Palms in prayer, pressing knees open. Toes turned out slightly.
  • COBBLER'S POSE: Sit on the floor. Allow your knees to fan out as you bring the soles of feet together. Fold forward.
  • PIGEON: Lean to the left and swing your right leg back. Keep left knee bent to side, under shoulder, left heel comes towards right shoulder. Square the hips and fold forward. Do side two. 
  • SEATED FORWARD BEND: Swing both legs forward. Move the fleshy part of the butt to the side. Fold down. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

First Things First

The saying: "First Things First" really gets me back to the basics. What is my next designated action and what is the most primary and important next step? When building a house, the priority is a nice, strong foundation. In yoga, the foundation of all poses is Mountain Pose. (Tadasana.) This reminds me that in order to create and meet my goals, I must make sure that I am taking care of myself by standing still and finding solid ground.
I received a phone call from a client recently who was completely exhausted and feeling low, after a lot if work and effort. The act of stillness can bring much to the surface. One thing that I know about myself is that if I am over extended , over worked or ill, I can feel deeply sad. Each time this happens I am convinced that the despair is real and possibly permanent. In the past I pushed past the boundaries of my physical body. As an adult, I have learned (the hard way, folks) to slow down and consider  the acronym: HALT.

  2. ANGRY
  4. TIRED

When I am irritable, have I taken the time to sit for a meal?
When I want to take immediate action to resolve a problem I pause to see if I am angry.
When I experience obsession, I may call a friend and have a date, I may be lonely.
When I am weepy I ask "have I exhausted myself?"

 In this world of to-do lists and overstimulation, it seems there is always another task to fulfill. The internet and out smart phones allow us to make purchases throughout the day and night. Our culture, at large, is not taking a "time out". I remind myself that nobody "out there" is going to remind me to replenish myself with a nap. No mommy to prepare my meals and feed me properly. Nobody else reminding me how much I love to soak in the bath or take a drive by the ocean. Throughout the day, I must check in on my own needs. Is there something I am not allowing myself to feel? In which case, I allow myself to do so. Taking a 5 minute sitting break, where I connect with my breathing is simple and allowing. In fact, it is always a good moment to do a check in like this. One of the best ways for me to get out of my head and into my body is to notice the sensations in my body, and to simply look around and sense what is happening in the moment.

This brings me back to the now. This brings me back to first things first.
No matter what goals and accomplishments I am aiming towards, it goes something like: inhale, exhale, continue....
Today is a good day to be present. Simply take care of what is most important in the moment.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Slowing Down

This weekend was a lazy one for me. Although I was enjoying the pleasures of a mid day nap and eating beautiful organic foods, I felt like I was falling behind on work. It is clear to me that this is a habit of my mind.
I’m perpetually “future tripping”, or feeling the need to "do”, in order to have the stability I crave. I believe that I must "produce" in order to feel valuable or worthy. However if I can't take a nap on the weekend, then when is it okay to slow down?
Work or play? Filming by the ocean. 
What comes to mind is the saying: "Meditate for 30 minutes a day. If you are very busy, then meditate for an hour." The busier I get, the more I have the need to replenish and ground. This is new for me; I am a list maker, and I love to cross everything off of the list and feel accomplished. I completely miss the point – I find myself thinking about where I will have dinner, when I am sitting down to lunch. I’m making future plans with my significant other, rather than enjoying him and our time together in the moment.
This calls for a slow down - a moment to take gratitude for what I have in the now.
The ways that I reset, and remind myself to slow down are:
Taking 10 deep breaths.
Setting a timer for 10 minutes to ground into silence and being.
Walking to do my errands instead of driving.
Giving thanks before I consume my meals.
Writing down 10 things I am grateful for.
Gazing at the ocean.
And of course – Yoga.

Whatever is to be done will get done, but what have I experienced along the way? Did I notice the silhouette of a small dog’s head in the front seat of the car up ahead of me? Did I smell the coffee grounds in the coffee house where I type? How does my body feel right now? Am I sitting comfortably with my spine straight, or am I contorting myself for no reason?

Become present right now. Slow down. Everything that you are planning, working on, thinking about...Will get done.
Most of my accomplishments happened and occurred as an unfoldment, one moment rolling into the next. As a girl, I checked out and missed a lot of moments. Today, as a woman, I take my time to notice. I take my time and notice that even still, there is a rush. Pressure.

Then I remember: Breathe.

Take some time to slow down today and know that you have already arrived.

Slowing down even during work is a good thing.