Letting Go: A New Year’s Resolution

This month’s blog is dedicated to Colleen Collins, a former student who recently passed. Her passing was sudden and without much ado. Colleen was not the easiest personality to get along with, honestly, which personality is? We all struggle with our own idiosyncrasies.

Colleen inspired me. She wanted her journey to be sacred, and was aware of her shortcomings, reminding me that even when we are aware, it is nevertheless hard to manage and navigate. Frankly, it’s a daily struggle.

She didn’t give up, but she was learning to let go.  Letting go is the hardest part of the journey. I am going to use her inspiration to practice letting go this year. I am letting go of things, thoughts and habits that no longer serve my life’s  goal:  to be my best self (notice I didn’t say ‘perfect self’).  This year, I want to let go, embrace my humanity, and grow spiritually. In order to give the world the best of ourselves, we must first learn to let go.

Back in 2013, Colleen gave me this poem (below) She Let Go. It is no coincidence I saved it in my journal, to share with you today. Thank you Colleen for your inspiration. May the sun and the moon shine with you, forevermore.

She Let Go

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go. She let go of the fear. She let go of the judgments. Let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head. She let go of the committee of indecision within her. She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.

Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go. She didn’t ask anyone for advice. She didn’t read a book on it. She didn’t search the scriptures. She just let go. She let go of all the memories that held her back. She let go of all the anxiety that kept her from moving forward. She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

She didn’t promise to let go. She didn’t journal about it. She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer. She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper. She didn’t check the weather report or read the daily horoscope.

She didn’t analyze whether she should let go. She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter. She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment. She didn’t call the prayer line. She didn’t utter a word. She just let go.

No one was around when it happened. There was no applause or congratulations. No one thanked her or praised her. No one noticed a thing. There was no effort. There was no struggle. It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad. It was what it was and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be. A small smile came over her face. A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.

The Essence of Giving

The Essence of Giving

Giving is not an unusual topic this time of year. Every single advertisement is about giving, as we all work on our gift lists, scurrying around to find the right gifts. However, the real  giving has little to do with buying  gifts.  As I delve deeper into the spiritual aspect of my life, I realize that giving is a profound state of being.

We are in a constant state of giving. We give to our family, our friends, our work, our neighbors, our community and our country. The most important thing we give comes from our Self.  We give our love, our attention, our compassion, our kindness, our time, our listening, our understanding, our help, our commitment and our labor. We give without being asked or feeling obliged. There is no special holiday that deserves these gifts, there is no hubbub or big celebrations.   

It’s the time you took to create the meal for your family,  the time you took to listen to someone who was needed to be heard. It is the time you pitched in to help clean up the local pond or work at the food pantry. It is the time you drove your friend to her doctor’s appointment or the time you gave someone a big hug. It is the time you called your friend just to see how they were doing, and the time you cared for your sick spouse. This is the essence of giving.

Giving are all of those actions that comes from your heart, even the seemingly insignificant ones. The main principle in true giving is that you expect nothing in return. NOTHING.  It is not “well I did this for her so…..” or “I let him use my stuff so…” or “how can she after I did…”  True giving expects nothing in return…ever.  It is not a tit for tat, there is no running tab or score keeping.  True giving is altruistic. True giving is selfless, whether you get credit or you are thanked, or get anything in return. True giving is a spiritual path. It is the path of knowing you are serving a greater purpose.  You are serving life itself.     

This holiday season give from the heart, put love into all of the things you do, without expectations.  Do it because it helps preserve the sanctity of life. It helps make the world a better place and it costs nothing. 

Namaste, <3 Grace*  

My Yoga Journey

Next weekend I will begin the next step in my yoga journey. For several years I have thought about getting my 500-hour teacher training certification. The programs I considered were either too expensive, required lengthy stays or were not well-developed. I had let it go and decided to just take workshops with different instructors that appealed to me. However, my visit to Dragonfly Yoga Barn in NH last May changed that. They were offering a well-developed program, in an intimate setting designed for growing and learning. In addition, the program is created by owner Katie O’ Connell, someone who loves every aspect of her work and lives a yogic lifestyle. I was so inspired, and with the support of my family, I enrolled.
The program is a 300-hour advanced yoga teacher training approved by the National Yoga Alliance. For the next nine month I will be going to NH for a four or three-day weekend which will focus on specific modules, taught by instructors who specialize in those areas. They will also be traveling from far and near to share their knowledge and wisdom. I am beyond excited for this incredible opportunity!
The areas we will be focusing on and studying are Yin Yoga, Restorative Yoga, Yogic Philosophy & Lifestyle, Heart Based Meditation with Paul Dugliss, Thai Massage, and Therapeutic Yoga and Anatomy to name a few.  Naturally, my concern is balancing my currently busy schedule and home life with this new endeavor. Fortunately, my family is supportive, however I’ve had to cut back a few classes from my regular schedule.  It’s for a worthwhile cause.
My passion for yoga is both professional and personal. Personally, yoga has changed my life for the better, therefore it deserves my curiosity and dedication. I have been on a spiritual journey for many years and yoga offers an opportunity to explore its spirituality.  I know this training will move me outside of my comfort zone, and change my inner self in ways I cannot image right now. Professionally my students and private clients will benefit, for they are on this journey with me. I am sure, as I evolve, I will lose students and gain new ones. It is the law of attraction.
I am allowing myself to “trust in the process of life”, and go with the flow. My desire is to learn, practice and grow. Hopefully, to share my wisdom along the way, in order to help others along their journey. I will be blogging and sharing my experience at Dragonfly Barn, so stay tuned in! Namaste <3

Wellness Versus Fitness

I think of fitness as the physical aspects of keeping one’s body strong and healthy through active exercise, and good nutrition. Wellness, on the other hand, covers the essential areas of our life, which effects our overall health, because it includes the mind, the body and the spirit.
I have been in this business for almost ten years,  I have seen fit  people, crippled by personal trauma and mental health issues like anxiety and depression. People who suffer from low self-esteem, no matter how great their bodies look, they are not satisfied. I’ve meet people who lack spirituality, therefore making them feel isolated and alone. In one of my workshop,  the speaker asked everyone to anonymously write a question for him, someone wrote how do I like myself?
Being fit is a great endeavor. It’s the goal to take care of your body. It helps optimize your physical health, allowing you to enjoy life. It is essential to overall wellness. However, the same attention we give our bodies, we also need to give our mental and spiritual well-being, because they are integrally connected. A healthy part is necessary to create a healthy whole.
It is work most people don’t like to do. It’s hard to develop clarity, perspective, and dedication to the “whole” self. It takes commitment to make real changes in your thinking and lifestyle, in order to keep the triangle balanced. Nevertheless, it is important work!
Take time to evaluate these  areas of your life and develop a plan. It can be  as simple as outlining three goals in each area.  List three things that would help you feel better. You will create a map. You’d be surprised, even unconsciously, how you will start working in that direction.
Think of your health, your wellness, in broader terms. Connect mind, body and spirit. You will feel more alive, when all of the parts work together to support the whole.

I Can’t Focus.

Recently I was talking with a friend of mine about yoga and how it helped one of my students with her lower back issues. It’s an incredible story and I know she suffers with back pain. I was hoping to inspire her. Half way through our conversation she said, “I can’t focus!…that’s the problem”.

It’s a common problem, especially in this day and age, where we are connected 24-7. It’s no surprise there’s practically a whole generation, with ADD or ADHD. It’s crazy. There are seemingly hundreds of things vying for our attention on a daily basis. One Mindfulness expert said our biggest commodity, in this age, is our attention. I agree.

Just like a yoga practice, focus is something that needs to be practiced. In order to do that, you need to be aware when it’s happening, and then be able to implement techniques that help redirect your mind to the present moment. This is the corner stone of the practice of Mindfulness.

In my yoga classes, I always tell my students “if your mind starts to wonder, redirect your attention back to your breath”.  This is one technique that helps bring your attention back to the present moment. Not only does it redirect your mind, it also brings in large amounts of oxygen into your body, which helps calm your nervous system. It’s a win-win technique and one that is easy to use no matter where you are or what you are doing.

So next time your mind starts to wondering, first, take a moment to notice it’s happening, then take 5 to 10 deep breath focusing on pulling the breath into the lungs, filling the lungs up like a balloon in your chest cavity. Then feel the lungs deflate until there isn’t another breath left, like a deflate balloon. Stay with the breath, no matter how silly you think the exercise is at first.  After a while, with practice, you will start to feel calmer and more centered, which means your focus is strengthening.

There are no quick fixes for anything that truly matters in life, however if you make the decision that you matter, then it’s worth the effort!  Take time to practice focus, it will change your life…for the better.