Letting go of shame: Observational Meditation


Shame: it’s ugly head pops up and creeps in, most awkwardly and uncomfortably. With new experiences, relationships, and the deepening of such, I see anew where shame still lives. Seemingly never fully out of its grasp (we are always a work in progress), I use awareness and meditation to face it and then let it go without fanfare (because it doesn’t need or deserve much of my energy or focus). 

The best tool I have found to let go of shame, and any other unwanted emotion or feeling, is through the practice of Observational Meditation. Here’s how I do it:

1. I find a comfortable position, lying down or seated, somewhere quiet and where I won’t be bothered. I decide on a time: 2 minutes, 10 minutes, or longer as desired, and I set my meditation timer. (I use the free app I-Qi timer.)

2. I begin to still myself. Breathe. I settle down and settle in. Taking my time, I begin to label thoughts as they arise. (This helps us become less invested in them and breaks the chains of identity to them. Labeling also separates beliefs from reality.) Taking time to label these thoughts, perhaps even a few times, I get to their root feeling, emotion, belief, or other such deep connection. I often exhale when I get to the core thought, then I know I’ve got it. (If you have a hard time deciding which is the core thought, that’s fine, just pick a label and go with it. The body/mind/spirit will speak to you again. Remember, it’s all just practice.)

3. After labeling the thoughts, I become aware of where I feel this thought in the body. This may come easily, or sometimes I have to sit with the thought/label for some time before I’m able to identify where it lives in my body. I stay with the thought long enough to actually feel it, remembering that the goal isn’t to change or get rid of anything but to observe and experience whatever arises. Sometimes this actually works the other way around: I feel and become very aware of a feeling/area within my body, and then I label it. 

4. That’s it! I just sit with the feeling/labeled thought for as long as I need for it to dissipate and lose its hold on me. Usually this is a matter of seconds before a new thought arises and I move on, but sometimes it’s a minute or so. This is such a simple practice, but one that is super powerful and one that does take effort. 

The fun news is that since practicing this technique in comfort and quiet, I can now do this anywhere and at any time, and really, this is the point: to embody this tool and use it when feelings of shame or anything else that no longer serves, arises. 

The harder we resist, the stronger unwanted feelings become. It’s the Self’s way to get our attention to make a change. Think of this practice like a dog that needs to go to the bathroom. He will continue to bark or whine or pester you until you let him out. Our body, mind, and spirit are the same: communicating to us through thoughts and feelings to get our attention to act. 

Shame sucks. Here’s to letting to go and moving on!

Let me know how it works for you. 

xoxo

Meditations & Dreams

Last night I dreamt that I boldly asked a random, middle-aged, guy at an event, with all my friends and family around, to take a few hits off his cigar. It was wonderful: to so confidently and assuredly ask this stranger if I could share his cigar and smoke it. He had already put it out and I had to relight it, furthering my assertiveness and elongating him and others observing my behavior. Although he was slightly surprised by my asking, he had an air of awe at my boldness and I knew he was happy to oblige my courage. The cigar was wonderful and although I will share a cigar every now-and-then with friends, in real life, I woke today knowing that the cigar had a deeper meaning, and so, as the aware dream interpreter that I am, I Googled it: “To see or dream that you are smoking a cigar represents a relaxed state of mind. You are in control of your own emotions and passions.” (dreammoods.com) This. This couldn’t be a more encouraging or affirming symbol for all the hard work I’ve done, breakthrough I’ve gained, and path I still have to walk. And so, it became my mantra for my meditation this morning: “I am in control of my emotions and passions.”

There’s so much more to say about this point in my life, but I think I’ll end with this: we have dreams and emotions and passions and hurts and joys and each other (friends and family) and they are all good and true and worthwhile, but none of these things define us, we are not any of these things or experiences, we simply are.

I am.

Namaste my friends. ❤️

The journey: yoga retreating

Life: so much easier when we figure out that it doesn’t have to all be be figured out and we embrace the journey as the destination. This past weekend was this practice for me, in depth.

My meditation this Monday morning was on the truth: “I can stand on my own two feet.” This weekend, I attended a yoga retreat and it was challenging. Challenging for me in many ways, none of which was (really) tied to the yoga asana. A friend and I were going to go together, but she had to cancel at the last minute because her boyfriend’s mom died, which is horrible and yucky anyway, but this also left me driving the 5.5 hours to Yosemite National Park alone, to a retreat with complete strangers. Usually, this is fine, I do things by myself all the time, but it hit me this weekend, and it hit me hard. Given the circumstances, I felt sad, upset, and irritated. Then my left leg, which has been hurting pretty substantially off and on for the past 3 years, gave me excruciating pain and limited my movement to a slow crawl, unless I took pain meds. The pain was so severe, I was physically exhausted and had to skip most of the yoga classes because I was in tears, drained to the point of unable to speak coherently, even with the pain medicine. 

My personal meditation today is a continuation of the truth’s I learned at this weekend’s yoga retreat and shows me again that we may think we have xyz skill or quality or belief all figured out, but that’s a lie. We are always on a journey of growth, healing, and enlightenment. If we don’t believe we are, we are severely deceived and self righteous. 
More often than not, it’s only when we get into uncomfortable (slightly or severely) positions, that we grow. Otherwise, we humans are smart, and there’s no reason to change!

Have you been on a yoga retreat? I’ll be going on another April 29 – May 1, 2016, but this time, I’m leading it. It’s a Hot Springs, Yin/Yang Yoga Retreat in Cedarville, CA

Just imagine: relaxing, recharging, and doing yoga at a luxurious resort, surrounded by high mountains, breathing in the crisp, fresh air, and soaking in your own private hot springs hot tub. 

Registration and full details are under the Special Events tab.

Growth is sometimes hard, but really, it’s not about me, anyway. My pain, is your gain, and this is true for all of us. The more that we grow and get outside our familiar surroundings, the more that we will change not only our own internal environment, but we will change the environment around us, and in this world.

Growth happens when we step outside the familiar and plus, it’s a whole lot of fun to getaway and meet new and like-minded people. I’d love to see you at the Hot Springs Yin/Yang Yoga Retreat in April. Let me know if you have any questions and namaste my friend, I bow to you. We are all in this together.

P.S. my leg doesn’t hurt much at all today. #worthit

xoxo

How to change the world


For as long as I can remember, my goal in life has been to make the world a better place: to change the world, and for the 39 years of my life, I have been seeking to pursue this goal. Through friendships, family, intimate relationships, work, schooling, yoga, cancer, meditation, God, the church, food, artistry, photography, writing, etc. I have found the same theme: I cannot change the external, the only constant in it all, is me. This is who and what needs to change.

What’s been incredible is that through each of my ventures, they have all schooled me in how to do this. From the boyfriend who told me “just go with the flow Audrey!”, to the yoga training that taught me that we are all individual water drops in the ocean (of life: we are one), to my days as an EMT and ski patroller that emphasized we cannot help someone else until we ourselves are safe, to my need for my parents to love me but in their imperfect humanness being unable to show it as I needed; all this pointed to the same variable: me, and my opportunity to grow.

All these experiences showed me that it was my own, internal beliefs that were limiting me and holding me back from accomplishing my goal, and from Goodness itself. I cannot change anyone else but I can change me.

Sometime ago I intrinsically learned this and my life has been about working to accomplish a place of stability in this: to reach an internal place where I feel safe most of the time. To reach a place where I feel loved, regardless of who loves me or is nice to me or believes what I am doing is right. To reach a place of internal joy so solid I truly feel happy most of the day, regardless of what happens or doesn’t. I’m closer to these eternal riches today more than ever before, and I like it. This is how I change the world: I change me.

The specifics of how we each impact and change the world vary, but the underlying theme is the same. What and who we are, what we believe, what we carry in our heart’s, is all felt, seen, heard, and experienced through each conversation, in our actions, our purchases, our decisions, and our reactions, and this is the work we are to do. This is how we change the world: we change ourselves.

The good news is: you are changing the world, with each moment you breathe. What you do, say, believe, and even think, is changing the world. How you change the world is your choice. I, personally, choose Goodness.

Meditation: faith, breath, and trust

Meditation focused on the breath used to bring me a lot of anxiety, agitation, frustration, fear, and a feeling of being uncomfortable in my own skin. There was an underlying feeling of control and lack-there-of, with this style of meditation, so I usually avoided it. Instead I would meditate on a word, a verse, being in nature, or I used actions like washing dishes, singing, and yoga to bring me into the present moment, these were things I could control. Just recently, however, I came across some info that explained that breath-focused-meditation literally demonstrates that we are not in control: the breath is something that changes and morphs with each moment in quality, depth, sound, sensation, inside of us/from us/through us, so using breath-focused-meditation is a technique to build trust and let go. Breath-focused-meditation therefore builds faith: we face fears head-on, we surrender to the Divine, we work through struggles, and with regularity, the breath shows us that moments and life change but we will be ok, transformation happens and we can move with this flow of breath and life, if we so choose. This simple explanation has changed everything for me and now I’m longing to use breath as my meditative focal point.

For so long I’ve been trying to control my thoughts in breath-focused-meditation, violently pushing thoughts away and forcing myself to “come back to the breath,” pushing thoughts away and chastising myself to “stay present.” This was my way of control, or should I say, lack of trust, and thus I built anxiety, frustration, and discomfort. It’s no wonder I didn’t like this style of meditation! Now that I realize breath is the physical representation of faith, of the Divine, I’m experiencing a subtle shift and I’m letting go, trusting. In my meditation practice when I notice the feeling of anxiety I pause, and take a step back, and gently and easily turn my attention back to the breath; when I notice feelings of frustration, I pause and acknowledge these feelings, I take a step back and gently turn my attention back to the breath; when I notice thoughts racing through my mind, I pause, I take a step back, and easily turn my attention back to the breath and I become present. Instead of forcefully pushing thoughts away and chastising myself, I acknowledge these thoughts and feelings: I call them out and literally label them “thinking,” “feelings,” or “judgement,” and maybe most significantly, I step back and observe. As I separate myself from the thoughts, I then gently come back to the breath and the flow of it, and I build faith, I build a deeper connection with the Lord. With this subtle practice, I come back to the moment, this one right now, and I center myself with grace and ease on this flow. This stepping back and separating my identity from thought, this stepping back and separating myself from feelings, this stepping back and trusting in the breath and flow of life has made all the difference and my practice builds peace. This watching, observing, and acknowledgment of thinking and feeling loosens the hold my mind tries to have on my spirit and soul. This stepping back and witnessing breath is building a harmony in my triune being and I am loving the effects.

Continue reading

Yin Yoga: rehabilitation

Yin Yoga: dragonfly on the wall pose

What is Yin Yoga?

Suitable for nearly all levels of students Yin Yoga directs the asana practice into the connective tissues, ligaments, and joints which are not exercised very much in an active (or yang) asana practice/workout. Yin Yoga can seem boring, passive, or easy but it can be quite challenging due to the long holding of poses (2-20 minutes) and the quiet depth we explore inside the body and mind. Joints and tissues become strengthened and rehabilitated. This style isn’t about changing and pushing ourselves like a yang class or regular exercise, instead, the yin style allows for a gentle and quiet power to arise facilitating a deep release of healing.

In our busy and modern lives we appreciate strength and the yang attitude of “go for it” but this often leaves no end to our desires and exhausts us. Yin Yoga brings both a physical cultivation of strong flexible joints and connective tissue, and a peaceful, thankful, and inward contentment through the longer holding of gentler poses. Joints and connective tissues are different from muscles and need to be exercised differently: they respond best to a slow, steady load. Yin Yoga will sometimes include some yang postures to counteract the aging process of upper-body muscle loss and lower-body immobility, so the challenge is both physical and mental in this anti-aging yoga class that allows for a gentle stretch and rehabilitation of body and mind.

If you’d like personal instruction, come join me for my group Yin Yoga class weekly at Balance Yoga Center.

Namaste beautiful one.

xoxo

Who, what, when, why, where: Yoga, me, Bali

I recently was asked by one of the gyms where I teach to put into words my Bali yoga training experience: why I went, who I studied under, styles I received training in, and info about those styles. I just sent this off in an email and thought it would be something great to put on here as well. Enjoy and let me know if you have any questions!

Why I went:

I recently spent 3 and ½ weeks on the island of Bali where I received 200 hours of yoga teacher training from the Awakened Life School of Yoga based out of New York City. My goal was to deepen my understanding of yoga, the practice, the history, to refine my own personal practice, and to strengthen my ability as a teacher improving my skills, technique, cuing, sequencing, and adjusting. I have been teaching for Shasta Athletic Club since April of 2011 and have sought training from various instructors since to improve my teaching but felt the time had come to offer my students more.

Who I studied under:

The Awakened Life School of Yoga was founded by Liz Carey and Chris Sabido both yoga instructors themselves with successful careers as corporate coaches, mentors, and business owners who have studied meditation, counseling, and spiritual enrichment. They brought in 3 other experienced yoga instructors: Basil Jones, Gabrielle White-Wolf, and Joe Miller. These 3 regularly teach in NYC, own studios, advise and teach celebrities, appear on national television programs, write for print and online yoga and health publications, and travel the world teaching yoga and yoga teachers. The training and influences of these instructors includes a master’s degree in anatomy at Columbia University, a PhD in biomedical science, membership with the International Association of Yoga Therapists, yoga teacher training at the Om Center in NYC, certification in Feldenkrais and Sanskrit, with extensive practice under Leslie Kaminoff, Amy Matthews, Tom Myers, Gil Hedley, Sean Corn, Sharon Gannon, David Life, David Swenson, Dena Kingsberg, Edward Clark, Alanna Kaivalya, Emil Endel, and Daniel Aaron.

Yoga styles I was trained in:

The bulk of my training was with Active Vinyasa Flow which has its roots in Hatha yoga. We also practiced and studied Slow Flow (a slowed version of Active Vinyasa), Restorative Yoga, breathing techniques (pranayama), and various meditation styles.

Info about styles:

Hatha is a Sanskrit word that means willful or forceful. Literally, “ha” means sun and “tha” means moon; symbolizing the balance that is inherent to the practice of Hatha yoga. This is a path towards creating balance and uniting opposites. Using our physical bodies we develop strength and flexibility while we learn to balance our effort with surrender in each pose. Hatha yoga refers to a set of physical exercises (known as asanas, poses, or postures), with the sequences of asanas designed to align your skin, muscles, and bones.

Vinyasa yoga uses the poses of Ashtanga yoga but links them to breath in a flowing, varying sequence. (Ashtanga yoga is a set series of postures that you adhere to each time you practice.) Active Vinyasa is a strong and fun class typically with upbeat music that begins with sun salutation poses, then moves to standing postures, balancing, seated and reclining postures, backbends, and core isolation and strengthening. Special emphasis is always placed on moving safely and correctly into proper alignment, using breath to move, and practicing quieting the mind to find and leave the class with more peace and calm.

Restorative yoga is a gentle healing form of Hatha yoga that is practiced with props to provide support for complete relaxation. Only 5-6 poses are practiced in an entire Restorative yoga class. These gentle poses create physiological responses that are beneficial to your health and can reduce the effects of stress and stress related illness. This is a slow class that is deeply nurturing and suitable for all ages. Breathing and meditation techniques are applied during the gentle, restorative poses that use bolsters, blankets, belts, blocks, and other props. A deep relaxation is gained helping bring the body into even more balance.

Image

Bali Yoga Video: Day 22: graduation

It’s been an emotional day! Amazingly good, difficult, hard work, fun, celebratory, inspirational, and encouraging are all words I would use to describe today. This yoga teacher training is like a boot camp for the soul and the body!

Today we had our morning meditation and it was revelatory for me. I read an email before meditation from a customer of my online store (www.LaSaludOrganics.com) asking about the whereabouts of her order. To make a long story short, I couldn’t be of much help to her because of the time difference and I couldn’t find out anything for her until Monday. I did what I could, emailed her back, but was still stressed about it and felt a burden to do something else. I came to meditation really needing to chill out. This was the perfect way for me to see the value and power of it! One of our instructors here said that we should not be slaves to our minds but we should instead be in control of thoughts and actions and know that we have power and choice. This morning’s email was a perfect opportunity to put this into practice and what a difference I saw and felt after 20 minutes of meditation! I’m thinking I will be continuing some form of meditation once I leave, tomorrow! Ahhh! Which leads me to this video: me graduating!

I am now an official Yoga Alliance 200 Hour Yoga Teacher! Along with graduation, to wrap up the training, our facilitators had us write words to describe what was the biggest thing we learned (I wrote that I am perfect, regardless of what “changes” need to still yet be made. I am God’s wonderful, beautiful, magnificent creation just. Like. I. Am.), we shared as a group what we would want everyone to know as parting last words, so-to-speak, we had a 2 hour “tell the person what you love about them” party, and then we ended the day with an incredible dinner out with dancing, a live band, then DJ, and Christmas trees! It’s the first big Christmas tree I’ve seen this year!

Overall this has been an incredible day: one of many tears, lots of encouragement, positivity, and hope. I am happy to say that not only am I stronger in my yoga asana practice, but I am also stronger in my spirit and mind as well. I’m looking forward to some assimilation over the next few days before I fly back to the U.S.

Until next time, Namaste! Xoxo

Bali Yoga Teacher Training: Day 21: laundry dreaming

Meditation by the sea, Vinyasa flow class with a handstand workshop, breakfast, teaching yoga to special groups workshop, lunch, washing my clothes in the bathtub, hanging out with friends by the pool and the snack bar, catching up on some emails, watching the National Geographic video “Inside the Living Body,” getting a massage, connecting with the roommates, taking a shower, and now listening to the rain as I write this blog: that about sums up my day today. Tomorrow is graduation! I will have my 200 hour RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher) certificate tomorrow! It’s been 3 amazing, hard, challenging, fun, painful, delightful, stretching, growing, hilarious, restful, engaging, weeks. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Am I going to celebrate tomorrow night? For sure. Is there still more to look forward to and work on. Definitely. When is there not?

Peace and joy to your journey. Namaste!

Bali Yoga training: Day 17: peak

This is the final week of my yoga teacher training! I can hardly believe it, yet it does feel like it’s been a long time. I’m very, very happy to be here, in hot, humid, sweltering Bali while there is SNOW in Redding! God is so perfect. I am not opposed to snow, at all, but it does present a challenge to leading/teaching a stand up paddleboard yoga class with On Water Yoga when the lake is frozen. I actually hope that it begins to warm up for when I return! I would love to be able to take my new skills to the water, but one step at a time, which leads me to this video.

I am scheduled to teach an active Vinyasa Yoga class this Thursday morning with my group of 7 (8 total including me). We will be the last group to teach and so far we’ve seen 2 groups go already. It’s been really nice to slowly take our time, practicing, gaining insight via what other groups have done, continue to learn adjusting techniques, sequencing, alignment, etc. I am really happy with my group, our choice of poses, intention, meditation and opening, and the peak pose I picked and am leading. Each of in the group teaches 15 minutes of the 2 hour class.

A Vinyasa Yoga class is designed around a “peak” pose so that the warm up and middle of the class is designed to prepare one’s body to be ready for the most difficult, or the peak pose. I picked one we haven’t done yet here in Bali and one I have introduced to my land yoga classes in Redding, but would like more guidance and skill at teaching, particularly the modifications. When I asked my yoga instructor Gabrielle about the pose and it’s name she said, “Wow, you’re not messing around! Going straight into it!” Well, yes! Yes I am! It’s been a good challenge for me and the group to think how to structure for something we haven’t done in class and which no one in my group has ever done before, yet, it’s been easy at the same time. I am really happy with the way my group is working together, being supportive, open, and up for the challenge. There was really no questions asked, just an ok, let’s do it attitude!

There has been an overall sense of things starting to wind down and come to an end, along side the energy around us teaching classes. Today Chris, one of the co-founders of the Awakened Life School of Yoga, talked about meditation after our training is over and suggestions for how to integrate it in to our everyday lives. I have to admit that when we first started I wasn’t that interested in the meditation component as was presented in our pre-work assignments, but I can really see and feel how meditation can be used to tame the wildness of the mind and let our spirit be our guides. Before this yoga training, I had only done contemplative prayer meditation (choosing a verse, some words, or other such inspirational teaching and turning the mind repeatedly back towards it for a set amount of time) but now I’ve done several different types of meditation here, maybe 5 or 6 different ones. I’ll probably write more about this in another entry. It’s late now and I’m starting to fade, but to touch on it briefly, I am beginning to think about how I can incorporate more meditation into my life back in Redding.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for supporting me. Thanks for praying for me! I pray that you are encouraged, enlightened, and that you experience more freedom and happiness in your life from reading this.

Until next time, namaste!