The Power of Gratitude

No practice has made a deeper impact in my life than the practice of gratitude. I have always said thank you here and there when things worked out right, however real gratitude is more than that.  My practice really started about ten years ago when I had three young kids, a rambunctious seven-year-old and twin girls who were four. Everyday was difficult for me. I had transitioned from working full-time to suddenly being a full-time mother.

A lot of the qualities that were esteemed in my profession were insignificant while doing laundry, picking up toys, cooking etc. There weren’t any timelines or a sense of completing anything successfully. The more laundry you did the more there was to do. There were always dishes to wash and no matter how many times I organized you’d have to start over the next day.  As much as I loved my family most days I was overwhelmed.

One day I came across a small magnet that was hand illustrated, it said, “start your day seeing what’s right instead of what’s wrong.” It was simply enough. Each day I started making an effort to notice what was right in my life at that moment. Every time I saw the den looking like a hurricane had blown throw it, I thought “I am grateful to have a house” most are not lucky enough to own their own home. Every time the laundry was piled high, I thought “I am grateful for all of our nice clothes”  many people can’t afford to buy new clothes. When I was washing those big stacks of dishes I thought “I am so grateful for running water” there are places in the world with no running water. When my kids were running around like crazy little people I thought “I am so grateful for healthy children”, there are many kids with serious diseases.

Each day I found more and more things to be grateful for. They say, “the more you practice gratitude the more you will have to be grateful.” It is so true. Now, not a day goes by where I am not grateful for many things. I don’t even think about it anymore, its just a constant part my thoughts and my being.

Gratitude has helped me live a life in abundance, not just material things, it has also helped deepen relationships. When people feel appreciated their whole attitude changes.   This simple practice has helped transform my life. It shifts your perception from thinking you lack anything because your busy being grateful for everything. Even if I lose (loss is an inevitable part of life), I am so grateful to have had the experience whatever it was. Gratitude is a game changer.

One of my goals is to inspire the practice of gratitude. For years now, I end all my classes by asking everyone to reflect on three thing they are grateful for. I can’t end it any other way because I am so grateful for being there. I am grateful for all the people who joined me. I’m grateful for my/our healthy bodies that allows us to enjoy yoga, and I am grateful for the beautiful studios I worked at. There’s so much to be grateful for.

Take this month of Thanksgiving and start a gratitude practice that lasts year-round. As I constantly remind my students, “no matter what’s s going on in our life there is always something to be grateful for.”

Go With The Flow

Years ago, I remember watching the movie Forrest Gump. It started with a white feather free flowing in the breeze. It was a visual metaphor for Forrest’s life journey. His life was about someone following the flow without attachment to the results. There weren’t any “what ifs”, there was no second guessing and there was no anxiety. He dealt with what life brought him at the present moment and made the best of it. He was not intellectually gifted but had many great accomplishments. There was no ego, only life and going with the flow. It was brilliant. The movie ended with the feather continuing to blow in the breeze. Of course, because going with the flow never ends.

For years I experienced life as a struggle. I felt like I was always going against the current. As people around me struggled, I thought that’s how life was supposed to be until I learned how to go with the flow. What does that mean anyway? And how does one learn to go with the flow? Ah…life is truly about the questions.

To go with the flow means to be in the experience without judging it, without wanting to change it or control it. Accepting things exactly as they are. Easier said than done! I wish I could say I’ve mastered it and that I am beyond those learned impulses but I am not. Going with the flow is a work in progress. One thing is certain, the more ease that comes into living my life, the more ease I want.

In order to go with the flow we have to trust in the process of life. It’s an affirmation from Louise Hayes I use often especially when I’m anxious and unsure. It works! If you want to see a great examples of going with the flow watch nature shows. You will see that everything has its time. Recently I watched Connected on Netflix, in the episode called Digits they describe Benford’s Law. It shows us how there is a natural order to everything. It’s hard to consider with all of the craziness that goes on.

To go with the flow, we have to believe we are exactly where we need to be, having the experiences we need to have, in order to help us grow. Sometimes the experiences are positive other times not so much. Surrendering to all of it is hard. I’m not gonna lie. Most of us go through life wanting what we want, when we want it and how we want it. It creates a never ending cycle of never really being happy. It’s not so fun!

Going with the flow requires us to let go and let be, like the serenity prayer “…give me the courage to accept the things I cannot change”. It requires us to be present instead of reactive. In one of my favorite poems by Brenda McMorrow she says “…and may I be in allowance of others having their own experience.” Wow…how many times do we try to control the outcome? Ugh… We struggle against our own patterns of behavior. Patterns we’ve been practicing for years consciously or not, like deep grooves in the sand that keep us stuck.

Finally, we have to be able to release our attachment to the end result. This is probably the hardest. Accepting that the outcome is exactly what it needs to be. What?!? Most of us want what we want, when we want it and how we want it. However it may not be for our higher good. What seems like a big disappointment or a failure may simply be because it is not the right opportunity for us. It was not serving our higher good.

I remember when I first started teaching Zumba. I went on an audition and the owner was in the process of  building this beautiful new studio with a stage etc., and I wanted to be part of her crew. I didn’t get the job. I was so disappointed I cried. Then I met people who worked for her. They didn’t have nice things to say.  Her personal life was a wreck and the studio closed after only three years. Meanwhile the studio I was working at renovated their fitness room, made it bigger, more beautiful and added a stage! I’m still there today almost ten years later. Looking back I was happy I didn’t get that job.

It’s worth the effort to learn how to go with the flow. After a while life begins to feel effortless, exactly as it’s intended to feel, like a feather blowing in the wind, unfettered.  I am grateful for yoga, both the physical and spiritual practice. It has been essential in teaching me how to go with the flow. It’s helped me be aware of my attachments to superficial aspirations. If my desires are not aligned with my higher good, I can feel myself struggle against the current. I am learning to fine tune my internal go with the flow barometer, because my intention is to live life serendipitously.  At least now I know it’s possible.

3 Things To Help Stay Positive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t know about you, but for me, staying positive in these challenging times is difficult. It is the combination of political unrest, violence, hatred, deadly virus, masks, a new school schedule.  And we could add a few more things to that list as it pertains to our personnel life. Ugh! Take a deep breath. So, what are you doing to keep a healthy frame of mind midst the chaos?

Here are a few things that help me:

  1. Practice Thought Awareness: I try to be mindful of the thoughts that are running through my head, which are a lot all the time. I’m sure you can relate. For the most part if you can be aware of what you’re thinking, you’ll know when you in the negative zone. The important part is to release judgement. Allow yourself to think whatever you need to, note it, then let it go, just like that. I know it sounds simplistic and not in a good way. However, know that each thought releases a chemical composition. If you’re holding on to negative thoughts that negativity is building up in your body, affecting your overall health and wellbeing. Ask yourself, is it worth it? When your in the negative zone nothing is right. so be mindful or your thoughts.
  2. Pamper yourself:  Make time to give your body love and attention. What thing does not thrive with a little love and attention? Plants, pets, a house, a child, etc. Our bodies are no different. I love to give myself a mani/pedi. I take time in the shower to soften my feet with a pumice rock. Then afterwards I turn on a fun romantic comedy as I finish working on my toes and fingers. I follow the with a nice foot massage using Burt Bee’s hand salve. The next day I feel like a million bucks. There is something to sending time giving your body love and attention that soothes the soul, perhaps it’s because your body is the scared temple for your soul? Connecting with yourself through grooming will always brighten my mood.
  3. Get Rest: We’ve all had those days. You’ve had enough and it’s only seven o’clock. You’re mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted and life looks bleak. When we’re exhausted its difficult to see any good in anything. Trust me I’ve been there. When you’re feeling like this, it is not the time to ponder the future or make major decisions, its time to go to bed! People underestimate the negative impact of not getting proper rest. It taints everything you do, think and say and not in a positive way. Next time you have one of those days, do what I do. I make the decision that I am done for the day. First thing I do is turn off my phone I am officially offline, and I leave it in downstairs to charge. I disconnect from electronical devices. I get myself ready for bed. A hot shower is always a good way to calm the nervous system and soothe the spirit. I get into bed and read something inspirational and uplifting. I always have uplifting material on my nightstand that I can easily get to. Reading inspiring text, even if it’s a book of quotes, infuses the spirit with hope.

One of my favorite quotes, because its true is “Self-care is our divine responsibility”. If you’re having a day when everything and everyone is pissing you off, then maybe it’s time to turn inward and take care of yourself. We cannot control what happens to us, however we can control how we respond.

I wish I could tell you that once you do self-care things once or twice, it lasts forever but it doesn’t. Self-care is a vigilant constant. A practice everyday even when you don’t  feel like it. There are days I am better at it than others. One thing I know for sure, on those days I make a conscious effort to take care of my self, I am more even keeled, happier and my outlook on life is more positive.

 

3 Life Lessons From Your Mat

I always tell my students that all our life lessons can be found on our mat. I’ve been practicing yoga for over twenty years and I know this to be true. It sounds very simplistic; however, truth is not complicated.

Lessons #1: Be Present

When you come to your mat, that rectangle (or circle) is your space. It is an area where you can focus on your Self. As a teacher I help bring your attention to your breath, your body, your energy and your Being. When you become aware and connected to different aspects of your Self, you are present. One of the most important cues I give is to notice without judgement. In order to be present, you must release your attachment to judging thoughts. You must learn to simple notice.

Daily Life:  Next time you are in a crowded place or an overwhelming situation, practice being present. Use your awareness to simple notice without judgement. You may discover that the situation is not worth your energy. It adds up to having more energy to give to positive situations in your life.

Lesson #2: Just Breathe

Exhale, Inhale is the phrase I use most. I start all my classes with breathing. I have a few breathing techniques I like to work with throughout the class.  Breathing helps to focus the mind, calm the nervous system and brings large amounts of oxygen into our body.

Daily Life: Next time you are stress out, exhale, inhale!  Take five to ten deep breathes, using your favorite technique. It will calm you down. It’s one of reasons people are instructed to breathe into a bag during a panic attack.  If you feeling overwhelmed, breathing will help you focus on the task at hand. Lastly bringing in lots of oxygen will help you with endurance, especially if you must work those extra couple of hours to get the job done! Just breathe!

Lesson #3: Let Go

This is perhaps the hardest part of the practice for many. Letting go of ego, letting go of tension, letting go of limiting thoughts. I like to give people permission to listen to their body and work at their level. I remind them it is not a competition, not even with your Self.  We let go of limiting thoughts like should or could and replace them with kindness and gratitude. Savasana is a great time to let go, however for many it is difficult to relax and rest. Sometime it is associate with lack of productivity and self-worth. Our mat helps us understand the we must recharge our bodies in order to be productive.

Daily life: Let go of the competition with others and with your Self. Give yourself permission to listen to your body and your state of being. Treat your body with loving kindness and become aware of limiting thoughts that start with should of, could of. Replace them with positive thoughts of gratitude. Even the hardest trials are opportunities for personal growth and wisdom.  Letting go creates space for more worthwhile endeavors. Remember, we are worthy simply because we exist.

Embracing Wellness!

When I look back at all the professions I have been in, there is one common thread: helping people feel good about themselves.

It started with my cosmetology license, continued with a degree in fashion design and then fitness and yoga. It started with the exterior (appearance) and gradually made its way inward (spiritual). I realize it reflects most people’s journey of discovery.

My journey has spanned thirty-five years, and as its unfolded, one thing is clear: mind, body and spirit are integrally connected. You can be fit as a pro, dressed in the lasts garb, and coiffed to the nines, if your inner state is not well…you are not well.

Thich Nhat Hanh tells this parable: “…a man sees a man on a horse rushing by, riding hurriedly. He asks where are you going? The man answers, I don’t know ask the horse!” I’ve spent the better part of my life on that horse and I am not alone.  Many of us hurry through life mindlessly, not exactly sure why or where we are going or what our purpose is.

The mind-body-spirit triangle creates a guide we can use for overall health and well-being. Well-being is defined as the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy. It’s simple and yet there are many areas that are essential in creating this balanced wholeness, as illustrated in the seven dimensions of wellness wheel.

Soon our name company name will change from Be Inspired Fitness and Yoga to Be Inspired Wellness and Yoga. After completing my advanced training program, having an integrated approach our my classes, workshops, retreats, and personal sessions is important.  It is the only approach that will create whole-person wellness and personal balance.

Suddenly helping people feel good about themselves takes on a whole new meaning!