Meditation for Changing Your Thought Patterns

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Our minds are constantly going — the chatting never seems to take a breath. Often, this continuous garble will say things to ourselves that we aren’t even consciously recognizing. A thought comes in, it gets stored, and we never have time to consider if that was something we truly meant or wanted to be thinking. This pattern of the subconscious mind leaves us high and dry in a moment of crisis because now our unwarranted thoughts have free range to say things like: “You’re not good enough.”, “You are not worthy.”, “You deserve what is happening to you.”, and so on. We all have this pattern due to a lack of mental hygiene. So for today, I offer you a way to sift through your mind and give it a little pre-spring cleaning.

If you’re anything like me, you may find when you come to sit in meditation, your mind immediately wants to speak louder. This is why many yogis practice asana first — to tire out the mind. So this meditation can be approach in a variety of ways: 1) perform an asana practice, the physical meditation I am about to describe, and then sit quietly for silent meditation, 2) skip the asana, dive straight into the physical meditation, and then go into quiet mediation, 3) dive right into quiet mediation, mentally going through the physical mediation.

PHYSICAL MEDITATION 

What you need:

  • A piece of paper
  • Colored pens or pencils (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Lighter

Begin by taking your piece of paper and writing down the negative thoughts you find yourself thinking when you come to sit an meditate or feel in your day to day life. Begin to cut them into long strips. Take a moment to sit with what you have written. Perhaps examine how truly and deeply you feel that way about yourself and a moment that made you feel that way.

Now, take those same strips and on the other end of the paper, write the inverse of your statement. An example would be that if you wrote, I am not good enough, change it to I am good enough. Beautiful. Take a moment for that to sink in. Ponder the possibly that this is very true and what is on the other side of the paper is false. Take a moment to think of times where you felt this way. Notice the shift in your brain and body. How do you feel?

The purpose of this meditation is to consciously sift through your thoughts. Now, look at these pieces of paper and actively choose which ones you want to be thinking, what you want to take as true. Cut the paper in half, dividing the two thoughts. Take the thoughts you choose to discard and place them in a container or outside where it is safe to burn. Symbolically, you are consciously making a choice of what you wish to think and what you choose to let go. LET GO. Take those negative thoughts and release them, with love and kindness, for they are teachers, too.

With the remaining strips, the ones you are CHOOSING to think, sit with them in a comfortable, cross-legged position. Close your eyes and hold these affirmations as truth. Begin to place these truths in your heart. Sit here for at least 5-10 minutes. And just feel what it is like to know you are these things, you are worth these things, and the only one who can choose to make you feel this way is you.

❤ Namaste

Please feel free to leave a comment bellow, leave feedback, and tell me what you think!

Happy Valentine’s Day

A Change In Perspective

  

“Yoga is the uniting of consciousness in the heart. 

The lotus flower has long been a symbol for the unfolding of spirituality. It is one of the most elegant illustrations of the meshing of our human and Divine natures.  

The lotus seed is planted and grows in muddy waters, below the surface of the lake, far from the light. Though the light is murky and clear, the flower blossoms by drawing energy from within. As the bud passes through the muddy waters, it lifts its face to the sunlight and finally emerges. Miraculously, not a trace of soil remains on the flower. It lives in the mud yet it is not affected by it….

Yogah Citta Vritti Nirodahah. Yoga is the uniting of consciousness in the heart” (Devi 16).

I am happy to report a change in my life. For the past two months or so, everyday has seemed to bring new horror and drudgery, leading me into the shadow-self. It didn’t take much, just a few changes and suddenly I was able to see the beauty around me and the amount of abundance I have to be grateful for.

There were so many people I encountered in the last two months that were so blissful and grateful for the life they had. I saw them and thought to myself, I want that kind of bliss and contentment. It’s hard to feel happy all the time or even grateful for one thing in your life. Yogis are often painted as figures who see the world in technicolor all of the time because they are supposed to have some mystical secret told to them by the yoga gods, but that’s not true. Yogis are human, just like everyone else. We each have the opportunity, like the lotus flower, to be affected by our circumstance, to blame what has come before. However, we can also choose to see each day anew and gather strength from within. Instead of looking at all of the mud we are surrounded by, we can take our gaze to the sun; to the infinite.

So today I shed gratitude for all of the circumstances of my life, they bring to to new depths and new challenges, but they also bring me to new heights and new joys.

“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

-John Lennon

My Philosophy

We live in a world today where our relationship to food is largely augmented and unhealthy. Now, I live in a tiny town in Colorado where mostly everyone is fit, healthy, the ratio of yoga instructors to non is practically 3:1 and we have three health food stores with a plethora of local, organic, farm-distributed options. But I know that is not the reality for most people.

There something in particular that strikes me to be odd about our culture of eating. This is that many people eat for taste and not nutritive properties. When most people don’t realize that you can be eating a nutritious, healthy, well balanced diet, AND it can be tasty too. It does not have to come down to an either or. One of my missions on this blog is to raise awareness of our eating habits and how they affect more than just our taste buds.

It’s voting season, and I have to heard a lot of people say things like “There’s no point in voting.”, “None of these politicians are going to change anything.”, or “My vote doesn’t matter.” However, that is not true. You have a  have a vote and you get to make it three times a day, every day for the rest of your life. What you buy and what you spend your money on, ends up influencing industrial companies, farmers, livestock, and the environment. What you eat is more than just a friendly encounter you have at the cash register, it impacts your entire global community.

With this in mind, I want to advocate for responsible, sustainable, organic eating that comes from small, non-industrialized farms. I recently read an article about the Orangutans in the rain forest right now. Apparently, the span of 300 soccer fields in the rain forest are destroyed per hour. And, depending on location, 3-14 Orangutans are killed each day. orangutan_with_babyWhich puts them in a disposition where they are likely to be extinct for the year 2023. The reason that so much of this deforestation is occurring is because big companies are looking for ways to harvest palm oil. Palm oil is found in a large variety of products from nut butters to Pringles to marshmallow bunnies. However it can be sustainably cultivated and should be if the price of nonsustainable harvestation is the result of killing one of the largest biospheres in the world and some of the most beautiful, intelligent and miraculous creatures to ever walk this planet.

You know the phrase that says you are what you eat? I’m sure you do. Well many of us also know we shouldn’t be eating sweets, we know they shouldn’t be eating processed foods, or things that are placed in the colorful packets and advertised on TV. But what some people don’t know is that when you are what you eat, what you’re eating could mean that you’re a killer. It could mean that you support the death of innocent animal, or the loss of trees, or the loss of beauty with out even knowing it. And that is what is so truly sad: You have a vote and choice, but you may not even be awe are of the ballot your submitting. I do not mean to place blame in this post, sureley for every finger I point, three point back at me. I’ve never been 100% perfect in my diet, nor will I probably ever be. But there is good food for thought in this message to consider what you’re eating and how it impacts others. Think about the farmers. Think about the animals. Think about the rain forest. Your dollar can support every tree chopped down and every life taken away. But I can also support every farmer, sustainably cultivated product, and it can support the preservation of life rather than the obliteration of it.

Want to do something about it? Stop buying unsustainably cultivated palm oil from these companies: http://www.ucsusa.org/global-warming/stop-deforestation/palm-oil-scorecard-2015#fast

And vote here: http://www.saynotopalmoil.com/What_can_i_do.php
orangutans

Sources:

“Palm Oil and How It Threatens Orangutans.” The Orangutan Project. Just One Planet, n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.

Mayell, Hillary. “Wild Orangutans: Extinct by 2023?” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 9 Mar. 2004. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.

Let Food Be Your Medicine: Candida Cures

Candida Cures

During the Fall and Winter I tend to eat lots of sweets, basically from Halloween through New Years. And I think so do a lot of other people…. Unfortunately, in addition to exciting your taste buds, these seasonal eating habits add unwanted weight to the body and unwanted bacteria to the gut which can lead to imbalances in the body, namely Candida. So many people experience symptoms and side effects of Candida but they don’t even realize they have it. Common symptoms include: depression, anxiety, crying spells, low libido, poor memory, nausea, indigestion, stomach aches, athlete’s foot, hives, persistent cough, mucus in throught, sore throat, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, PMS and menstrual irregularities, yeast infections, and much much more1

The harsh reality is that everyone has Candida and most people experience one or more of these symptoms. In my unprofessional opinion I recommend doing the diet for one week to one month this holiday season will dramatically improve your health, your gut flora/bacteria, and your overall happiness in your body.

I, myself, recently found that I was experiencing a variety of Candida symptoms and am going on the diet for the next month. It’s a bit challenging as a vegetarian, and I will admit some rules will be broken for the sake of improving my health. But if you’re a strict vegetarian who may be experiencing these symptoms, don’t be scared away! You can still do the diet and be a vegetarian.

I’ve noticed that there is a huge emotional battle that happens when you try to rid the body of Candida, so just be aware of that. It’s like have the devil sit on your shoulder and tell you that not eating sugar is wrong. My guess is that this happens because your body is going through sugar withdrawals and sugar is 8x more addictive that cocaine.

Up above I took a picture of my groceries for Candida Care:

(From the left) Celery, Broccoli, Vaginal Yeast Suppositories, Salmon, Artichoke Heart, Olives, Sesame Seeds, Almond butter, Kyolic Garlic Supplement, Free range eggs, Plain Kefir, Zucchini, Zucchini squash, Lemon, Spinach, Candida Care, Licorice & Peppermint tea, Miso Soup, Quinoa, and Plant Based Abult Probiotic.

Being on the Candida Diet means not only avoiding sugar, but anything that can turn into sugar including: Rice, Sweet Potatoes, Honey, Wine, Alcohol, Bread, Oats, Pasta, Fruit, Carrots, all cured meat products, and so on. If nothing else, getting on a good probiotic will help a ton, but unfortunately not as much as giving your body a break from the sugar overload.

The only two things that are not food are the vaginal yeast suppositories and the Candida Care Tincture. The suppositories are for women, they are made up of boric acid and tea tree in gelatin capsules. They are inserted vaginally as needed. As a women, let me tell you, in my experience, they are the fastest relief to any irritation downstairs. The Candida Care Tincture promotes healthy intestines, heals the body of Candida albicans overgrowth, and supports the immune system and contains, Desert Willow, Usnea, Echinacea, Milk Thistle and Chaparro Amargosa. The tincture is taken orally and is a great addition to the other supplements useful on this diet/cleanse.

Yeast Suppositories:http://dancingwillowherbs.com/vaginal-yeast-suppositories.html

Candida Care: http://dancingwillowherbs.com/candida-care.html

To get recipes, Do’s & Don’ts, and more information about Candida follow the link bellow:

http://www.thecandidadiet.com

Sources:

  1. “The Candida Diet.” The Candida Diet. Perfect Health, n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.

Please note that any and all posts on this blog do not substitute for professional medical help, diagnosis or treatment.I am not a health care provider my any means. The content provided on this site is designed to be used for informational purposes only. The content is based on personal experience and outside research. 

Pose of the Week: Downward Facing Dog

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Downward Facing Dog

ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA

Ego says,’ Once everything falls into place, I’ll feel peace.’ Spirit says, ‘Once I feel peace, everything will fall into place.'” ~Marianne Williamson 

Benefits of the pose:

  • Decreases Stress & Mild Depression
  • Wakes up the body
  • Stretches shoulders, hands, spine, & calves
  • Strengthens hands, arms & legs
  • Relieves insomnia, headaches, and back pain
  • Helps with digestion

Asana Breakdown:

I want to take you a little farther down this path than maybe you have gone before. Practically everyone has done Down Dog at least once in their life, but I’ve found a lot of people, myself included, don’t really know how to do it. I had been practicing it for about 7 years before someone showed me how to properly do it. Here’s what I mean: Begin in table pose, flat back, hips stacked above knees, shoulders stacked above ankles. Curl onto your toes and lift up your legs. And allow your hips to move both upwards and backwards. This is about as far as people usually go, but wait, there’s more! From here, Root down through the first three knuckles of your palm so that they touch the mat. Allow for an external rotation through the shoulders. By this I mean that your collarbones should move away from one another, and that your shoulders should physically turn outward. Usually, this compromises the tailbone and causes the chest to beam forward. Correct this by energetically wrapping your ribs into your sternum and tucking the tummy inward. Check to make sure you haven’t compromised your hips, continue to move them upwards and backwards. Now, for the final element of the posture: feel an energetic pull between both of your forearms as if they were moving closer together. Put all of this together and you, my friend, have yourself a downward facing dog!

For a visual break down check out my youtube video: https://youtu.be/Zn3-XJlBltU

As always, leave any questions or comments bellow! If you have a request for the next pose of the week let me know! ❤

Sources:

“Downward-Facing Dog – Adho Mukha Svanasana – Yoga Pose.” Yoga Journal. Cruz Bay Publishing, 28 Aug. 2007. Web. 16 Oct. 2015.

Gratitude: An Infectious Way of Thinking

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When I was younger, I used to suffer from severe depression. I expressed my sadness to my father one day and said, “I feel so depressed all the time and I don’t know why or how to stop it.” With loving eyes he handed me the sandalwood Mala you see in the corner of my yoga mat. He said,”take this and every time you feel sad, hold a bead and think of one thing you are grateful for. Keep moving through the beads and your saddness will go away.” And he was right. So now every time I practice I keep my Mala in the corner of my yoga mat to remind me that happiness is a choice and gratitude is the key component in making it a part of our everyday life. I’ll admit, I still struggle with depression. It haunts me all the time. When I drop into that place it’s nearly impossible to be grateful or find anything to have gratitude for. But, for me, it’s just another part of the practice. Being a yogi doesn’t mean happy all the time. Being a yogi means making a continue choice and using continual effort to express truth and find divinity within the aspects we find to be most human and banal.

How to Move Forward: An Open Letter to Finding Comfort in Discomfort

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They say that the two of the most stressful things a person can endure are moving and the loss of someone close to you. On September 7th of this year my grandmother, a women whom I loved dearly and will miss eternally passed away. The grief still unfolds new for me everyday, unveiling a new layer of knowing the absence of her presence. Each day it becomes more clear that I can’t pick up the phone to call her, that I will never hear her Brooklyn accent, eat her roast beef, ride with her in the back of her cherry red car, or share my life with her. She was the most amazing listener and the dearest of grandmothers. When she passed, our cousin who lived near her said, “I want you to know that even though you live so far away, she breathed you everyday.” I remember hearing that and thinking to myself, “Wow. What a sacred thing to breathe someone.” To breathe someone, to know that no matter the distance, no matter the situation you are loved by one another. You are held by one another in a way that is as permanent and as impermanent as the breath.

In the coming weeks, I signed a lease with my boyfriend, Josh. We ended up in a beautiful little apartment right off Main St. I knew that it was because of her that we got the place. I just had a feeling: The odds of a college student with no credit and a mother as a second reference with a post-grad swamped with debt made us unlikely candidates. Yet here we are.

The idea of moving in together was not a new one, nor did it come into play silently without any debate. Very early in our relationship I decided moving in with Josh was something I wanted. For eight months I continued to nudge and ask for this move. Finally, Josh said yes. He saw part of him wanted to pursue our relationship in this way and that he needed to get away from his current living situation.

I have never lived with a partner before. Needless to say, everything feels entirely new and not entirely how I thought it would be. Everyday since we’ve moved in I have felt heavy in my heart, feeling as if I broke something that didn’t need to be fixed. I have yearned and yearned for my old room, my old house, and my old roommates, simply for the fact that they were familiar. Last night, my partner looked at me and said, “When are you going to arrive? I feel like I have been living here a week and my roommate hasn’t showed up.”

Crushed by my self guilt and the notion that I am letting him down, I recalled a conversation I had with my mentor earlier that evening. With loving eyes and little detail of my situation she said, “Expectations take you out of the present. You cannot find happiness where expectations lie. Furthermore, you’ve signed a year-long commitment with this person so you need to give it your 100%. By the time your lease is up you will know what you need to do.”

All of this leads up to writing this post this morning. I flashed back to the moment another yoga mentor of mine told me in the most arduous of poses, “This is life, right? It’s so painful and uncomfortable, but it’s all about how you approach it.”

So yes, happenings like death and moving may be some of the most stressful things one can endure, amongst many others. However it is not our circumstances that define our quality of life, but the way we choose to navigate them that counts. I noticed, the most painful things require a great deal of adaptability, for it is great change, I believe, that haunts us most in this life. Still, each day is a choice to stay in Duhka (suffering) or find Dharana (contentment). Finding contentment is a continual practice, one that takes conscious and undivided effort. It begins with showing up in the midst of discomfort and knowing that is shall pass. Knowing that change will change again and it’s all about how you approach it, so you may as well enjoy the ride.

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Dedicated to Shirley Klein Harwood

Light on Life

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Yoga is the practice of tolerating the consequences of being yourself.   ~Bhagavad Gita

The last year of my life has been a mixture of both great pain and great wonder. I started the year off in Nosara, Costa Rica where I was certified by Marianne Wells in Hatha yoga. When I came back home from this delightful experience, I was fully immersed in my practice. Every day, with great enthusiasm and devotion, I took to the mat. Intermingled with knowledge of Ayurveda, holy texts, meditation and chanting, I had a daily routine which would last up to two glorious hours. I was in love. Yoga consumed every part of my life with welcome arms and moments of ecstatic and spontaneous elation. 

As the summer blossomed I was working a series of three jobs, an internship, and I volunteered as yoga instructor. My practice was evident in my life, in my manner and in my speech, but my actual time on the mat began to diminish. It was not until the fall, once school had begun, that I lost touch with my practice. Papers began to take president over breath work and sitting in lecture halls replaced my practice of asana. As you can imagine my elated nature began to deflate and my energy began to dwindle. Five months passed like this until my well was dry and I was feeding off of what felt like my own soul. My absence of practice had left a void in my life that lead me into the depth of the shadow self. My kind and patient nature became one of depression, confusion, and unruly ego-feeding. Thus creating a life of discomfort.

The following summer began to bear the fruit of my shadow self: every aspect of my life could no longer be served by my absent practice and demanded modification. My life at work, my choice of career and how to pursue it, my relationships, and my living situation were all up for grabs by the hands of change. It seemed pain was within every encumbered decision and clarity was no where to be found. In Iyengar’s book Light on Life he writes a passage which explains the intricacies of suffering titled Pain: Finding Comfort Even in Discomfort. He begins this section saying, “Pain is there as a teacher, because life is filled with pain. In the struggle alone, there is knowledge. Only when there is pain do you see the light. Pain is your guru. As we experience pleasures happily we must also learn not to lose our happiness when pain comes” (Iyengar 47). It was with this knowledge that my perspective began to adjust. I remember one of the first ways this knowledge was re-introduced to me. I was invited to an Ashtanga yoga class that was taught by my soon-to-be mentor. I didn’t know it at the time, but this class was one of the first dominos to fall in the series of events that would lead me back to my spiritual practice. During this class, the instructor lead us into what seemed to be a version of Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Legged Forward Fold), only in this variation we were instructed to heal-toe our feet as far away from one another as bearable and lower our forearms to the floor. The pain was real and mind consuming; the kind that stops your breath from flowing with ease and causes your body to shake. I look up to hear my teacher say, “This pose is just like life, right? It’s so painful and uncomfortable, but it’s all about how you approach it.”

In Light on Life and on the mat a new concept had been introduced to me: the idea that intense, heat building yoga was not solely meant to tone the abs or strengthen the legs, but also to create an uncomfortable sensation that teaches us to go beyond the visceral pain of they body and enter into the meditative mind. As yogis, we do this because “practice is not just about the pleasurable sensations. It is about awareness, and awareness leads us to understand both the pleasure and the pain” (Iyengar 48). Recently, I have been able to gain elements of this lucidity. I have begun a mental practice which reminds myself when I reflect on a trying moment that it has passed: it is no longer something the mind has to endure. Thus, I am able to take the role of the observer and can allow the rumination to dissipate and, consequentially, ease the tortured nature of the mind. Iyengar and the reintroduction of my practice has reminded me that “If you can adapt to and balance in a world that is always moving and unstable, you learn how to become tolerant to the permanence of change and difference” (Iyengar 48). Including those pieces of change that carry elements of hardship and mental or emotional suffering.

When I first came back to my practice, I would go to classes where the teacher would by chance say something to the effect of giving gratitude for your life or this breath and it would cause me to cry, for I knew I had spent the last several months forsaking my life. My mind was so wrapped in the webs my ego had spun, I could not even see past the illusion long enough to be grateful for one breath. Surely, it is no coincidence these experiences happened on the mat. Yoga seems to have a way of putting a bright mirror in front of ourselves, which can unveil shocking and painfully disagreeable qualities. However, “It is not just that yoga is causing all of this pain; pain is already there. It is hidden” (Iyengar 49). Even so, the presence of pain can be a welcome visitor. Iyengar moves to speak in this passage about the difference between good and bad pain. He describes good pain as something that is arduous and leads you towards greater growth, compassion and understanding, whereas bad pain can be misdirected, disheartening, and selfish (Iyengar 50-51). As Iyengar expands on his ideology of pain, I am reminded of my favorite poem by Rumi titled The Guest House. In one of his verses he muses: “Be grateful for whatever comes [A joy, a depressions, a meanness,/ some momentary awareness comes/ as an unexpected visitor]/ because each has been sent/ as a guide from the beyond.” It is for this reason these experiences of pain have become my most cherished moments of my life. I have begun to see new love for the parts of me that harbor pain and darkness because they are the reason I no longer have to be afraid of it. Iyengar says “There are only two ways to confront pain: to live with the pain forever or to work with the pain and see if you can eradicate it” (Iyengar 49). These bouts of circumstance that have elicited pain in my life have caused me to see that there is no way out, but through. Like the variation of Prasarita Padottanasana, the things that can elicit some of the greatest pains are not only temporary, but can also lead to the greatest of joy. And again I am reminded why I practice yoga, “not just for the enjoyment…[but] for ultimate emancipation” (Iyengar 52).

Citation:

Iyengar, B.K.S. “Light on Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom Paperback – September 19, 2006.