More Than This

Like most people in my area, I was raised Christian, Methodist to be more specific. My family was never super religious or anything, but we did go to church every Sunday when I was little. As soon as I was old enough to question things, I did. When I found that none of the important questions I raised could be answered, I decided to cast aside these religious teachings and become an atheist.

Without really realizing it, I harbored a lot of pain and resentment toward religion after that. I spent a lot of time feeling superior to people that were still religious. I thought they were idiots, brainwashed, or at the very least painfully ignorant. Slowly I began to give up that anger though. While there are plenty of things I disagree with about a lot of religious teachings and organized religions, I don’t feel the need to fight against them or throw them out entirely anymore. I’m content to let others find comfort and meaning in life in whatever way they see fit.

My yoga journey has reawakened my interest in spirituality and the things we still don’t understand about this existence. Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts addressing these fascinating subjects. I’ve always had a thirst for knowledge and there is simply nothing better than learning something new that completely changes your perspective. I’ve been lucky enough to learn a lot of those kinds of things in the last few days and I’d love to share a few of them with you.

I’ve been thinking a lot about exactly what we are. For most of my life, it seemed obvious. We are these physical bodies. We are matter moving through the world and when we die we’re dead. Our consciousness disappears. These bodies turn back to dust. A few things I’ve heard have led me to challenge that belief though. Did you know that what we consider to be our body is actually made up more of the empty space between/within atoms than the actual atoms? Not only that, when you only consider the cells our bodies are composed of, we are made up practically equally of germ/bacterial cells as we are human cells. How can that be?! It completely changes my conception of what it means to be me.

With those two things in mind, it seems like we should identify more with our consciousness and the energy inside of us than our physical bodies. But what exactly is that energy and where does it come from? I don’t pretend to know. But I have learned that our thoughts, feelings, words, and emotions are not as immaterial as I once thought. I may not have all the answers that I would like to have, and I may not ever have them, but I believe there is much more to existence than can currently be understood or explained by science. I no longer have the arrogance I once did. There is so much I don’t know. There is so much for me to learn and discover. And that’s okay. I am so excited to keep searching.

Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com

Feeling Emotions In Your Body

As I was growing up, I remember crying quite a lot. I guess it’s normal for kids to cry often, especially little girls. Even as a teenager I have many memories of crying myself to sleep at night. It seems sad, but I actually miss those days. Now I go literally years without a single teardrop. That’s a good thing, right? Well, not exactly. Not crying doesn’t necessarily mean you’re happier than if you cry every day. Crying is a release. It’s a release I’ve actually been longing for and unable to find for a long time now.

Until recently I didn’t think too much about it. I figured if I wasn’t crying, I must just not be sad enough. As an adult, I’ve always thought of myself as not a very emotional person. However, as human beings we are all emotional creatures. Unfortunately some of us have just cut ourselves off from those emotions. I don’t necessarily know if it’s a natural defense mechanism in my case, or if it’s because of the SSRI that I’ve been taking for around 6 years now. Perhaps neither, or a combination of both. I suppose the reason doesn’t matter.

It’s only come to my attention lately because I have been working with a few kundalini meditations. For some reason, each time I do one of these practices, I feel this deep pit of emotion open up inside of me afterward. I’ll randomly feel the urge to cry throughout the rest of the day. It feels like there is so much feeling welling up, but still I am unable to fully release that energy. Although I’m sure I need that release, it’s not a pleasant experience. So, true to form, I’ve been shying away from kundalini, despite my interest in it.

With emotion front and center in my mind, I happened to stumble upon a podcast that was talking about just that. The woman being interviewed even described exactly how I’ve been feeling, but haven’t been able to put into words. She said that she never really understood it when people talked about feeling their emotions in their bodies. For her, emotion was always a mental state, not something you necessarily felt physically. She even talked about the way she likes to visualize walking down a staircase from her head into her body in order to find that deeper, primal connection with herself.

After hearing that, it dawned on me that I haven’t been feeling into my body at all for a long time now. I guess part of me even felt powerful and strong for never crying. But courage is sitting with those emotions, not blocking them out. I want to make an effort to really rediscover what it feels like to experience life from my whole being, not simply living in my head all the time. I feel like I’ve been taking this body for granted, not fully embracing it as a part of myself. I’ve somewhat disassociated from my body as I’ve grown older. I’ve lived the last decade or so of my life as if I’m just this floating head, completely disconnected from the physical world.

Even though it feels scary, I’ve been trying to come back to my bodily sensations when I notice myself getting too caught up in my thinking mind. It seems like the only two emotions I feel anymore are anxiety (if that can even be considered an emotion) and anger. So I’m going to start there. I’ve already noticed that allowing yourself to be open to the experience of whatever it is you’re feeling let’s you have the space to really be present with it. It feels much better than trying to avoid or control it.

The next time you feel yourself starting to get overwhelmed, take a few breaths and tap back into your body. Let go of any thoughts you might be having and simply ask yourself, how do I feel right now? What is going on in my body? Maybe your chest feels tight. Maybe your clenching different muscles. There’s no need to try to change what you notice. Just noticing it is enough. Give yourself permission to feel whatever it is. Forgive yourself for the way you feel. Offer yourself compassion. Emotions, even painful ones, are just another part of the human experience. They teach us about ourselves. They connect us to others. They are energy moving through us. Trying to avoid these feelings just causes them to become trapped within us rather than flowing in and out of us like the breeze. Let’s relearn how to let go. Become the curious observer of your own human experience.

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

My New July Routines

MY Daily Self-Care Routine | Life Is Now In Session

Happy July everyone! It’s a brand new month full of possibilities and promise. I always love the firsts. First day of the year, first day of the month, first day of the week even. It always feels like a fresh start, a clean slate. July is probably one of my favorite months of the year too, which makes today extra special for me. In just a few more days it’ll be my favorite holiday, Independence Day. There couldn’t possibly be a better time or headspace for me to start cultivating some new self-love routines. Today I wanted to share these new routines with you. Feel free to incorporate them into your day and/or tweak them to better suit your needs.

Morning Goals/Intention Setting:

The first new habit I’ve decided to add into my day starts first thing in the morning. Usually it’s really hard for me to wake up, but this morning I was actually so excited to start my new daily ritual that I woke up feeling great and ready to start a the day. After feeding my fur children, starting a pot of coffee, and brushing my teeth, I went out on my back porch in the warm, morning air. I sat down and listened to the sound of light rain surrounding me. I placed one hand on my heart, one hand on my belly and took five deep, mindful breaths. I wanted to take a moment to check in with my physical body and ground myself, as well as send myself some loving, gentle energy. Then I asked myself these three questions:

  • What do I want to focus on today?
  • What do I want to accomplish today?
  • How can I show myself love today?

I can’t even remember a morning where I took a moment to offer myself this sort of kindness. It took less than five minutes, and it was an absolutely wonderful way to begin the day.

Healthy, Mindful Eating:

Somehow during the pandemic, I acquired some pretty unhealthy eating habits. The main one I’ve still been unable to shake is not eating all day, then eating a day’s worth of food right before I go to bed. Obviously not ideal. Starting today, I am going back to eating regular meals throughout the day. I’ve read a lot of great things about mindful eating so I wanted to sprinkle that into my new eating routine as well. Just like with my new morning ritual, I am going to begin each meal by taking five deep, mindful breaths and really checking in with my body. How am I feeling? What does it feel like to be hungry, for my stomach to be empty? Then unlike what I’ve done practically my entire life, I am not going to watch anything or do anything else at all while I eat. I do put some lofi hip hop on, just to calm my nerves a bit. Then I have my meal while really focusing on the food as I eat it, chewing it slowly and intentionally. Finally, I finish my meals with a cup of my favorite tea (dandelion root). After my tea, once again I close my eyes and take five more mindful breaths.

Even though my lunch ended up getting pushed back quite a bit due to a very hectic and busy workday, I still managed to maintain my new routine. After a full day of eating this way, I already feel a huge difference. It was much easier than I expected to simply focus on my meal and be present instead of zoning out by watching some TV show. It definitely helped me stay connected to my body and feel more satisfied by my food.

Bedtime Routine:

Not only am I going to start my day with mindfulness and intention, but I want to make sure that after a day full of activity, I make time to wind down before bed. This routine will start at 9PM ideally (I usually go to bed by 10) and will consist of:

  • Brushing/flossing my teeth (I have yummy watermelon flavored kids toothpaste for my nighttime brushing.)
  • Washing my face and putting on a moisturizing night cream
  • More tea
  • Gentle self-massage (checking in with body to decide where it’s most needed of course)
  • Evening check-in

Tonight I added some gentle yoga in bed as well since I didn’t have time for my practice earlier in the day. It was such a wonderful end to a peaceful, nearly stress-free day.

Evening Check-In:

I plan to end my bedtime routine and my day with something similar to the way I started it. I want to start and end my days with intentional self love. Lately it’s felt like I’m just this floating mind, full of stress and nervous energy. It’s important to me to make an effort to reconnect with my physical body and make sure I am taking care of myself properly. Just as my morning ritual does, my evening check-in will also begin by taking five deep breaths. Then I’ll ask myself a few more questions:

  • How was your day?
  • What was the overall impression/vibe?
  • What went well?
  • What is something I am proud of/grateful for?
  • How might I use what I learned today to build myself a better day tomorrow?

It was really delightful to sit with myself regularly throughout the day at mealtimes and to start and end my day mindfully. Often times even though I begin a new routine filled with excitement and high hopes, I’ll eventually feel overwhelmed by it. That’s why my goal for these new routines is to treat it more like a little self-experiment. Can I do this for 30 days? How will I feel at the end of the month? How might I be different? What can I learn through this experience? I am so excited to keep the momentum going as long as I can and discover new things about myself along the way. Let me know if you decide to try any of these routines for yourself and what you thought of them.

Writing: A Brief History of Our Love Affair | by Gabrielle Finnen | Ascent  Publication

Vegans & Parties

This weekend I went to two different summer parties with the people I work with. One was with my coworkers from the Child Advocacy Center and one was with my yoga studio friends. It used to be a bigger deal to go out to restaurants and parties and other social events when I was first finding me vegan footing. Now I don’t really give it a second thought. I’m used to either ordering a garden salad or bringing my own party favors when I go out. What I did find interesting was the distinctly different experiences I had at these two parties this weekend.

Since I began working at my new job, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how accepting and considerate of my veganism my coworkers have been. Despite the popular trope that vegans “love to tell you they’re vegan” I actually usually keep it hidden from new people I meet for as long as I can. It’s not that I’m ashamed of it or anything. Talking about it just usually ends up turning into an invitation for all the age old vegan questions. “Where do you get your protein? What do you eat? Can you eat eggs? Do you eat fish?” Etc. etc. It’s quite exhausting. I quickly got tired of dispelling common myths and teaching everyone I met about my diet. But when my friends at work found out, they didn’t seem shocked and horrified like most people. They were great. They were respectful and a lot of them even told me how great it was that I was vegan.

At my work party, I came with a bag of food to eat and share, assuming I wouldn’t have much available there. It was a fondue party after all. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived. There were two giants vegan dishes (pasta salad & a quinoa dish) as well as hummus. All were labeled very clearly too! It honestly nearly brought tears to my eyes. I had never felt so respected and well taken care of at a party before. (Plus I made chocolate chip cookies that everyone ate up immediately, not even noticing they were vegan.)

Now I must have gotten a little cocky after that party on Saturday. I didn’t really expect my veganism to even come up at the annual studio picnic I went to yesterday. I’ve known these people for years now and I thought we’d gotten past the question and answer stage. Unfortunately it was immediately brought up when I offered tabouli to everyone. To be fair I guess that’s not an ideal dish to offer since not many people even know what it is. I only know because I’m Greek and my grandmother used to make it, not because I’m vegan. Anyway, I digress, it seemed like quite a bit of my time there was just spend explaining veganism and nutrition to everyone. I got all the classics. “Where do you get your protein?” That one always kills me. I also had people acting upset that the impossible burger wasn’t “healthy.” Well yea, neither is a regular burger. It’s a junk food replacement, not a health food. Someone even told me, “It’s great being vegan works for your body. I don’t think it would work for my body.” What the hell does that even mean? Haven’t heard that excuse before.

I was so disappointed that my fellow yogis were the ones that made me spend my time at this party lecturing and justifying my lifestyle. They all seemed to be much more defensive than my work friends. It’s interesting to observe the way different people react to my veganism. It says a lot about a person. What I’ve seemed to notice is that the more in line with vegan principles someone already is, the more threatened they seem to be by me. Not always, but a lot. Ahimsa or non-harming is one of the main principles of a yogic lifestyle. Of course that can be interpreted different ways by different people, but obviously veganism is the way I interpret it. I think veganism is quite threatening to some people. They hear you saying you’re better than them even when you’re not. They feel attacked and become hostile towards you. It’s a visceral reaction brought on by the cognitive dissonance within their own minds. They see the value in veganism and know that it aligns with their beliefs, yet they aren’t ready to give up their current habits. The discomfort that creates is then a problem that the vegan catalyst is blamed for subconsciously.

Whatever you opinions of veganism are, I just want to point out that it’s not polite to put a vegan on the spot with endless questions, especially at a party. I went there to have fun, not to answer questions that are quite frankly boring and irritating to me at this point. I used to think that it was a great opportunity to educate people and even though I didn’t really enjoy doing so, I tried my best to answer everything adequately. After being vegan for nearly a decade now and hearing the same questions from the same people again and again, I see it a bit differently. I don’t think most people really care what your answers are. They are just asking questions to make conversation. If they truly had any interest in the answers to those questions, they could have just googled it and gotten a much more comprehensive and helpful explanation.

One of the questions I always get is: “what do you miss most?” They are expecting it to be a “food.” But honestly I miss fitting in better, being able to blend into the crowd. The social ostracizing it the hardest part. It’s practically the only difficulty that still has stayed with me after all these years as a vegan.

24 garden party ideas to transform your backyard for celebrations | Real  Homes

Self Care Summer

The other day, my best friend told me that she has declared summer 2021 as self care summer. This really made me happy to hear and inspired me to make my own summer about taking better care of myself too. After finally reaching the tentative ending of an extremely tough year fraught with isolation, neuroticism, sickness, and stress in 2020, I think we are all feeling a bit frazzled and out of touch with our higher selves. In order to balance that out, it will be nice to spend this year, especially the summer months, coming back home to ourselves.

It felt like the first half of 2016 was the last time I really had my shit together. I was really getting deeper into my yoga practice. I was eating super healthy plant based meals. I had my own apartment for the first time and was working my first full-time job. I started doing HIIT workouts. I was hanging out with my friends regularly. For the first time in my life I was really feeling good about myself. Then my ex came back into my life briefly and blew that all to hell in a matter of months. Since then I’ve been struggling just to get myself grounded again.

2020 was probably one of the worse years of my life. As I’m sure it was for a lot of people. I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a more unhealthy place mentally. I still haven’t fully recovered from all the bad habits I cultivated during that year. My new relationship has really lit a fire inside me for self improvement though. Yet it’s somewhat different than the self improvement I’ve been passionate about in the past. I guess I shouldn’t really even call it self “improvement.” It’s more like self love and self acceptance.

In the past, my goals were always focused around improving myself so I would be more desirable to others. I wanted to live a healthy balanced life, not for myself, but so that I could attain some ideal, unrealistic body and self image. I still have a lot of the same goals all these years later, but this time there are different intentions behind them. This time around I want to focus on how my body feels rather than how it looks. I’m ready to start doing the work to get myself back to a better place mentally.

I’ve set up so many artificial barriers for myself. When I’m allowed to eat, what I have to do every day, and in what order. I’ve created a prison within my own mind. It sounds silly to say, but when I remember that I can actually do whatever I want it feels so liberating. I’d almost forgotten that my life doesn’t have to be this way. I’m working on keeping that truth close to my heart. I want to reconnect with this beautiful body of mine and treat it with compassion and respect. I don’t need to have each and every moment of my day planned out. Sometimes it’s okay to just sit in stillness and enjoy being alive.

I want to work on being more present in my day to day life and actually get excited about being alive again. There was a time when I thought the things I’m doing now would make me happy, and maybe they did for awhile. But nothing in life remains the same for long. These habits are no longer serving me, and even though I don’t know what will happen if I let them go, I know I can handle it. And so can you. So here is your official invitation to a summer of self care. Let’s raise our frequencies together.

Photo by Edwin jose on Pexels.com

Mental Energy & Exhaustion

Even though I sleep A LOT, I am always extremely tired. When I wake up in the morning, I don’t feel rested. It’s a strange feeling to live with. It’s not that I feel physically tired. I mean, it takes a lot of energy to do the insane workouts that I do every day. Now that I think about it, my body very rarely feels fatigued. The tiredness I’m experiencing is mental, not physical. It feels almost as though my body has two completely separate storehouses of energy, and my mental storehouse has been empty for a long time now.

From the moment I wake up in the morning, a battle begins inside of my head. I start listing off all of the different things I’ve got to do before I leave for work, throughout the day, etc. I am critiquing and criticizing myself almost immediately after opening my eyes. I’m experiencing a mental beatdown every minute of the day. It’s no wonder that meditating and doing yoga is such a peaceful time for me. My practice is the one time a day when my mind actually gets to rest and just be.

I am always telling myself that I need to make time to rest. I never seem to be able to keep myself from cramming in tons of tasks every day though. Working full-time, teaching yoga, and taking care of a house all by myself doesn’t leave me much wiggle room for relaxation. But today I realized that at the very least I can try to afford myself some mental rest. There is absolutely no need for me to constantly be consumed by racing thoughts and self assessments. I don’t know how much control over it I really have, given that it is part of my anxiety disorder. However, I’ve also never taken the initiative to try before.

Today my intention is to rest, to surrender to the moment, to just soak in my surroundings, to just be. I’m always too afraid to even try to let go of my constant planning and self-talk. I’m afraid of losing track of all the things I have to do. I’m afraid of forgetting something important. I know that even purposefully putting everything on hold for one day won’t be the end of the world though. Today the only thing that matters is being kind to myself. Today is my day for rest, recovery, and self-love. What could be more important than that?

7 ways to practice self-care during the COVID-19 outbreak | Cincinnati &  Hamilton County Public Library

Acupressure & Yoga

I’ve been reading a book recently called Acu-Yoga: The Acupressure Stress Management Book. In the past I didn’t really think much about acupressure/acupuncture. I didn’t know very much about it, so I never really had an opinion of it. I had believed it was somewhat controversial regarding whether or not it was considered “real” medicine or pseudoscience. However, never having tried it or read anything about it myself, I withheld judgement. Only recently did I become interested in the subject. I stumbled upon the topic in a very unusual way, but have practically become obsessed with learning more since then.

I had been watching a YouTube documentary about the history of drugs in the black community. (Unfortunately I am unable to find it now to provide the link.) To my surprise, through this documentary, I learned that acupressure and acupuncture were actually originally brought to the US by the Black Panther Party. In their effort to dismantle institutionalized racism in this country, the Black Panthers utilized these forms of Chinese medicine to help members of the black community detox from drugs like crack and heroin. The most surprising thing of all is that it actually worked.

Given my psychology background, I learned a lot about drugs and withdrawal. So I know how serious detoxing off of hard drugs can be. It’s one of the reasons that make it so hard for people to stop using. The idea that something as simple and holistic as acupressure could get people through their detox absolutely astounds and fascinates me. That was all I needed to hear to believe that there must really be something to this acupressure stuff. Since then I have been researching the practice and reading everything I can find on the subject.

Coincidentally around the same time, my yoga studio got a new book, the one I mentioned earlier. I was so excited to borrow it and learn how to incorporate acupressure into my yoga practice. I have come to find out that acupressure and yoga go hand in hand. They compliment one another. There are many acupressure points I have been hitting without realizing it, simply by doing different yoga poses. However, the second half of the book really goes into more detail about how you can target specific conditions or address certain physical/mental/emotional needs by including acupressure more intentionally into your daily practice.

After a week or so of practicing what I’ve learned, I finally decided to share it with my yoga students in class today. Only one person showed up this morning, sadly, but she did seem to really enjoy the flow I planned. I had to stifle my laughter as she got pretty vocal towards the end. Moaning and sighing from sheer bliss. Hearing these types of sounds from students is probably the best compliment you can receive as a yoga teacher. I was honored to pass on my newly acquired knowledge.

I had never really connected the dots until now, but I have actually been a lot less anxious since adding this new aspect into my practice. It could be a coincidence, but acupressure is supposed to be extremely helpful for anxiety. One of the best things about it is that you can use it anywhere. Even though it’s possible to do yoga anywhere, like in your car or at your desk during work, it can be somewhat distracting or embarrassing if you know other people can see you. A lot of acupressure points can be pressed without drawing any attention at all. For example, one of the points that is good for anxiety is the fleshy space between your thumb and pointer finger. Pinching this area with the opposite hand is something that you can do without anyone else even noticing.

Whatever your opinion of acupressure, I would highly recommend giving it a try for yourself, even if it’s only pressing a few hand points as you wait in line at the grocery store. It has definitely been a valuable addition to my daily yoga practice and to my life in general. If any of you have any experience with acupressure or acupuncture, I would love to hear from you! How long have you been using it? Has it helped you? How so? Where did you first learn about it? I’m eager to learn all I can so that I may pass it on to others.

Photo by Ryutaro Tsukata on Pexels.com

Breathe Into It

One of the first things you tend to learn when getting into yoga philosophy is that resistance to unpleasant feelings, situations, or emotions only leads to more intense, prolonged suffering. In fact, it could be said that all of the suffering we experience stems from our aversion to certain things. Life is about perspective primarily. So if we can teach ourselves to see everything through the eyes of loving kindness, there is no where for suffering to take root.

This principle of non-resistance can be seen in the mind, but also in the physical body. I have always been someone who detests the cold and avoids it at all costs. Unfortunately for me, I also happen to live in the northern part of the country where winters can be pretty intense. I read the other day that when you brace yourself against the cold and try to resist it, you are actually only making yourself feel colder! When we tense up our bodies, our blood vessels are constricted. Therefore less blood is able to flow to our extremities, making us colder. If we can breathe deeply and relax our bodies, we won’t be as uncomfortable with low temperatures.

This also works with other types of pain or discomfort. The breath is such a powerful thing, if we can only learn to utilize it. I often notice when I am in some type of physical pain whether it be a stomach ache, a sore throat, or just muscle cramps, I desperately try to avoid and disassociate from that area of my body. Sometimes as a kid I would even visualize boxing that body part off from the rest of me. Needless to say that type of response has never worked for me. Despite my best efforts I am unable to ignore my body’s painful cries.

The other night as I was struggling to fall asleep due to such a pain, I decided to try embracing that pain instead of attempting to push it away. I turned to focusing on my breath. I imagined sending the swirling, healing oxygen to that painful part of my body with every inhale. As I exhaled, I relaxed and accepted the unpleasant sensations. This didn’t make the pain go away, but after a few moments I felt much better. Today I am struggling with a very upset stomach from overeating yesterday. Stomach pain has always been one of the hardest problems for me to deal with ever since I was little. I’ve felt tense and uncomfortable all morning. Nothing I’ve tried seems to have helped. However, as I sit here writing this, I’ve been trying to also take slow, deep breaths down into my belly. I can definitely still feel some discomfort, but it’s much less pronounced than earlier.

Just like with most meditative practices, the hardest part is staying focused. Even after years of practicing yoga and meditation it can be hard for me to take deep breaths as I move through a normal day. In fact, a lot of the time I find that my breath is exceptionally shallow or that I’m holding it! It can definitely be frustrating when it feels like despite your best efforts you aren’t making much progress. The good thing is each breath is another opportunity to practice. Breathwork is something we are able to work on anywhere no matter who we’re with or what we’re doing. Not to mention it’s free! It can even be quite fun once you start to notice the connection your breath has on your body and mind.

I find it really helps me to attach an image or an emotion to my breath to help me concentrate. Recently I’ve started to imagine each sip of air as a delicious food, drink, or even a drug that I get to consume. I look forward to every inhale and exhale. I savor the way it feels as it moves through my body. Sometimes I’ll also picture all of the wonderful things my body will be able to do with so much fresh oxygen. I imagine it providing me with energy and happy feelings. I imagine my body using it to perform all of it’s vital functions: building new cells, cleansing toxins, healing me, etc. Just thinking about it makes me so grateful for this body I have been blessed with. It inspires me to breathe deeply as a gift to this body. Inhale – I love you, body. Exhale – thank you, body.

The next time you are feeling upset or you’re in pain, whatever it may be that you find yourself resisting, try to honor that feeling rather than running from it. Perhaps it will even turn out to be a gift. It is easy to go through life without growing or changing when things are going well. However, pain and discomfort are necessary signals that we can learn so much from. For instance, my stomach hurting this morning is a reminder to take better care of my body. It is my body asking me for love, kindness, and respect. Instead of being frustrated and upset with my body for not behaving the way I want it to, I am going to listen to it’s urgent request. I am going to use this unpleasant morning to push me to do better for myself today and from now on. It all begins with the breath.

So just breathe

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I Am Going to Have a Good Day Today

Each morning when I sit down at my desk, laptop in front on me, WordPress open and waiting, I struggle to think of something to write about. I have a list I keep of a few ideas I could expound upon, but a lot of them seem too depressing to dwell on first thing in the morning. I keep losing sight of the reason I started writing again everyday in the first place. This is for me, this is to amp myself up, to get excited, to have fun. I don’t have to find a new fascinating topic to delve into every day. It really doesn’t matter what I write at all. Rather it’s the simple act of creation, of pouring myself into words on a page, with no other goal than to enjoy doing so.

I mentioned before how visualization before bed has helped me to wake up feeling better, more animated in the morning. Today I wanted to try that same visualization but in order to prepare me for the rest of my day. I have taken the next few days off from work because I had some PTO hours I needed to use up before July. Even though I am always excited for a day off, I never seem to let myself enjoy it. I get all in my head about every little moment, feeding my anxiety all throughout the day. I’m hoping that by sitting down, taking some mindful time first thing in the morning to mentally walk through my day, I’ll be able to feel more present and happy as I move through it.

Today is going to be a great day! I got to sleep in so I am feeling nice and rested. What a beautiful gift to be able to dream all through the night and wake up gently of my own volition. It’s a rather chilly day outside so I am going to spend my time warm and cozy indoors. I am going to have a very productive day. It will be a delight to clean up my house and organize things later. It will be an act of self-love. Tending to my nest so that I can feel more at home, more at peace. It will also be a great joy to show off all my hard work to my vegan boy tomorrow when he comes over again. Once my work is all done and the day is winding down, I’ll reward myself with a relaxing evening playing my new favorite video game.

Before I start my cleaning for the day, I have a lot of wonderful self-care to complete. I do most of these things every single day, yet the intention behind them has faded over time. Theses small acts aren’t supposed to be more chores for me to begrudgingly trudge through. These are small gifts to myself, chances to be present, chances to appreciate myself, my life. Today I am going to be mindful of this sweet, loving intention as I move through my to-do list.

I’ve noticed that a lot of the time while I am going about my business, I’m holding my breath! Or I’m breathing very shallow and quick. Today I am going to keep coming back to my breath. How might it feel to breathe mindfully, lovingly for an entire day? Won’t it be fun to try it out and see? Yes, fun. Above all I want to have fun today. I’m going to keep a light heart, a soft eye, a kind energy. I’m going to be curious and playful, grateful for this new day to spend with myself. My yoga practice today is going to be a celebration of this life I’ve been given, a beautiful flowing dance in tribute to my lovely body, my mother Earth. My meditation will be a much deserved rest, a surrender to that sweet mother. As I kindle that inner fire, that prana, with my workout today I will rejoice at all my body is capable of doing for me. The theme for today is passion, fire, playfulness, admiration, devotion. Each a simple word, yet able to bring such powerful emotions bubbling up to the surface.

One last intention to set before I finish up and move into the rest of my day. Today is just one day. I will focus on the time I have, not the foggy future to come. Perhaps I will have time for everything I’ve got swirling around in my busy mind eventually. Perhaps not. Either way, all I am able to do is focus on the day in front of me. There is not enough time for me to do everything. Instead I will concentrate on doing what I can. Doing it well, with deep breaths, and with many sips from the well of my own self-love.

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Moderation

When I first learned about yoga philosophy, I became convinced that by following the Yamas and the Niyamas, it would be possible to truly find peace and happiness in this life. The only trouble is, these principles, while simple and straightforward, are very difficult for me to adhere to. The Yamas and Niyamas are similar to the ten commandments, the eightfold path, or other religious guidelines. Like most others, they include principles like not stealing, not lying, not killing, etc. Every now and then I’ll be reminded how important it is for me to practice these ways of living.

One of the Yamas I always consider my favorite is ahimsa, which means “non-harming.” In the beginning I liked to imagine that I had been living in this way for years given that I am a vegan and don’t cause any harm or suffering in order to feed myself like most humans do. However, this was foolish of me. Instead of casting judgment on others, I should have been looking more deeply at my own life. While I may not contribute to the unimaginable suffering of farming and eating animals, I still cause plenty of harm to myself and those around me in other ways. In the end ahimsa could cover all of the other Yamas. After all why avoid lying and stealing? Well partially because they cause harm to others or even yourself.

For a few months I tried to practice Satya, non-lying. It really opened my eyes to how often I lie. I didn’t really think I lied very much at all before trying this. After all, I’m not one to make up tall tails or be untruthful about important issues. However, what I came to realize is that I lie almost without thinking every day in very small, seemingly insignificant ways. Maybe I’ll make up an excuse for why I was ten minutes late for work. Or tell a friend I’m busy rather than being honest about why I’d rather not hangout that evening. Just little “white lies” that I’m sure all of us tell from time to time, more out of convenience than malice.

Despite the importance of these two Yamas I won’t be focusing on them today or the other two I’ve yet to mention (asteya – non stealing & aparigraha – non attachment.) Today I wanted to focus on the fourth Yama, brahmacharya. A lot of people throughout history have interpreted this Yama to mean sexual abstinence. However, now it is often translated more broadly as moderation. The purpose of this Yama is to remind us that more isn’t always better.

I’ve been confronted with that simple truth a lot recently. I love coffee, yet when I get carried away and drink too much it makes me incredibly anxious rather than energized. I also love exercise. It it a wonderful stress reliever for me. However, I tend to overdo that as well which ends up causing stress instead of eliminating it. I’ve even begun to get carried away with how much kratom I use, adding more and more powder to every glass when it actually works just as well or even better when I use less.

Moderation has always been a very difficult concept for me. It always seems to be all or nothing, never a healthy balance. Perhaps I am just too careless to be bothered to pay attention to my body and listen for it’s cues telling me when enough is enough. My tendency to be rigid in my routines doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for the natural fluctuations within me to be honored and addressed. That is one of the most difficult parts of this Yama for me. There is no one else that can tell me what moderation means to me. I have to discover the right balance for my own life. And in order to do that, I have to be open, curious, willing to experiment, and practice listening to my intuition. Brahmacharya requires looking inward. It requires me to be honest with myself, to trust myself, to respect my own needs and limits. Sometimes I’d even prefer to interpret it as abstinence. Not having sex is much more straight-forward and easy for me. (I’ve been doing it for years without trying!)

Moderation becomes a more and more complex concept the longer I think about it. I’ve spent so much of my life living in excess that I don’t even know where to start. I want to start regardless though. Someday I hope to be able to live my life in accordance with all of the Yamas and Niyamas. I have been blessed with this wisdom from ancient yogis passed down to me through countless generations. I am so grateful for their guidance. But now it’s up to me to apply this sacred knowledge to my own life in order to finally live in a way I can be proud of.

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