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Ma~Maste

/ MAH – məs – tay /

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New Years Intentions

“A day without intention is a day wasted.” ~Richard Branson

 

Well, it’s that time of year again.  You know what I’m talking about…resolution time (cue the horror movie music here).  It’s the time when we all vow to do better and be better.  Whether that means working out more, eating a healthier diet, saving money, etc…we’ve all set resolutions when the new year rolls around.  Of course, the problem with this is that most of us don’t stick with them.  And for this reason, I propose setting intentions instead.  Let me explain.

resolution:  ‘a firm decision to do or not to do something’

                                  intention:  ‘a thing intended; an aim, or plan’

You see, while we mean well with our resolutions, they often leave us feeling like failures when we don’t see them through.  Resolutions offer a “my way or the highway” approach to success.  If we fail, it’s all over.  We may as well just give up and wait for next year to roll around so we can try again.  (No pressure or anything!)  Generally, we apply negative connotations to resolutions because we don’t actually want to do them.  And we are so focused on the outcome that we forget about the beautiful journey of getting there.  And that is where we miss out on life.

Intentions, on the other hand, give us a guide by which to meet our goals.  They focus more on the progress, not the outcome.  If you know me, you know that one of my favorite sayings is “progress, not perfection.”  This is for a reason!  We are human, people.  Nobody is perfect.  But we can do the best we can.  And we can live our lives in a way that perfectly honors our own bodies, minds, and souls.  Intentions allow us to embrace the process and to experience life in the way it was meant to be experienced.

That said, I encourage you to set some intentions.  And when you do so, think of them in a ‘forever’ sense, not just for 2017.  Why would we want to limit all the goodness to just one year?!  Start by meditating on areas of your life that you would like to improve and then jot down steps to get yourself closer to your objective.  Make them fun, small, practical, and attainable.  Place sticky notes around the house to remind you of these steps.  Create a vision board if that would be helpful to you.  Be sure to reward yourself with each step closer.  And above all, enjoy the ride.

The Mindful Child

Put simply, mindfulness is an awareness of the present.  It is a focus on what is happening around us and within us at this very moment, in short because this moment is all we have.  Not surprisingly, living a more mindful lifestyle comes with benefits galore-physical, mental, emotional, social.  And it just so happens to be an amazing practice to teach our children.  By doing so we can help them learn to become more self-aware, recognizing and understanding their thoughts and feelings and identifying how their emotions are reflected in their behavior.  Impulse control, reduced stress and anxiety, and an enhanced ability to focus and pay attention are just some of the additional positive changes that this practice can bring.

Unfortunately, mindfulness education is not the norm in the U.S., nor does it necessarily come easy to every parent.  I’m certainly still learning myself how I can be more mindful, in addition to teaching my kids this important life skill.  Because I think it is so important, however, I’ve come up with a  few ideas to share with you on how to effectively communicate to your children this idea of mindfulness.

  • First and foremost, establish and embrace your own mindfulness practice and be the example you want your kids to emulate. Meditation is an excellent way to get started.  If you are new to meditation, there is a plethora of information on the Internet that can point you in the right direction.  In addition, there are guided meditation apps available, one of my favorites being Headspace.  But even simpler, another way to instill mindfulness in your own life is to turn everyday tasks into opportunities to practice living in the moment.   Whether you are working behind a desk, running on the treadmill, cooking dinner, washing the dishes, driving the kids to school….make these moments matter. Be present and feel all the sensations that go along with performing these tasks.  Accept and embrace your current situation for what it is, good or bad, and chuck the personal judgments at the door.  Learn to control your reactions to certain circumstances, making a point to act with intention and compassion in everything you do.  Simpler yet, be fully present for your kids.  Put down your phone and give them the attention they crave and deserve. (I know, easier said than done!)
  • Teach your children to BREATHE.  Give them this tool to aid in shifting negative energy into positive energy.  A couple nights ago, my 4 year old daughter was fighting bedtime with a vengeance.  And trust me when I say, the girl knows how to throw a tantrum.  After a while of leaving her alone with her behavior, I heard her call down the stairs to me, amidst dramatic cries…”Mommy, come breathe with me, come breathe with me.”  I went upstairs and sat with her, and we took deep breaths together until she was calm.  We began teaching our kids this concept about a year ago, and this was a very magical moment for me.  🙂
  • Go on nature walks, encouraging your children to engage their 5 senses along the way.  Help them recognize the sights, sounds, feels, smells, and tastes of the experience.  Allow a couple minutes to just sit quietly and observe.  It’s amazing how much information they will perceive.
  • Give thanks.  Making gratitude a daily priority is an amazing way to help your children grow more mindful.  For my family, this usually happens at bedtime.  Each night before our prayers, we take the time to identify what we are thankful for, and then we thank God for these blessings.
  • Provide opportunities for creativity.  Children love to get artsy and crafty.  Allow them ample time to create through drawing, coloring, painting, writing, cooking, singing, playing instruments, etc.   This will teach your children to use their minds in ways they otherwise wouldn’t and to become more in touch with their own unique personalities.

I was recently watching an episode of Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday (my FAV!), during which mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn  said, “We are not being educated on how to be, only how to accomplish.” So true this is, and I’m all about shifting that mentality.  Let’s teach our children that while accomplishments and success and hard work matter (of course they matter!), they are not the be-all, end-all.  Let’s teach our children to be present in each moment and to fully embrace this thing called life before life passes them by.

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Body Language

You’ve heard it said before…”Listen to your body.”  But have you ever stopped to think about what this actually means?  Our bodies are master communicators.  Unfortunately, we are not always the best listeners.

We are constantly receiving signals from our bodies.  They tell us when we are hungry, thirsty, tired, sick, in pain, in need of movement or rest or play.  Some of these messages feel comfortable…some don’t…neither of which makes the message any less important.

In addition to these physical signals, our bodies are constantly sending messages based on “hunches” or “gut feelings.”  We often process these messages with no regard for reason or evidence.  This is referred to as intuition. When we are closely connected with our intuition, we learn to recognize it immediately and position our reactions accordingly.  Although everyone has this ability, some don’t tap into it as naturally as others and must work to develop this skill.  So how do we do this?

  1. Slow down.  First and foremost.  We cannot adequately listen to our bodies unless we allow ourselves to slow down, breathe and open our hearts.
  2. Check in with your body.  What is your body physically telling you?  When you think of accepting that higher-pay but higher-stress job, do you tense up or do you smile?  When you push yourself a little harder during exercise, do your muscles enjoy it or do they cry out in resistance?  Check in with these physical reactions regularly.
  3. Meditate.  Focus on calming the monkey mind, the mental jibber-jabber.  Create space.  Take some of the power from your thoughts and give it back to your body.
  4. Move.  Your body was made to move.  Indulge it.  Get out and exercise.  Do some yoga.  Enjoy some fresh air.  Your body will thank you.
  5. Go where the wind blows.  Do what feels natural.  Don’t force yourself to do things you know won’t serve you.  Don’t overthink and don’t second guess.  Just do YOU.

Your body is wise beyond its years, the epitome of wisdom, in fact.  It wants to be your #1 ally and nothing less.  Learn to  understand it.  Trust it.  Love it.  Listen to its quiet whispers now, and avoid the screams later.  The language of our bodies is one of the greatest gifts we have been given.  We must not let it go to waste.

Why Yoga?

To be honest with you, I don’t really know how it started.  I had dabbled in classes here and there in the past, but it had never stuck, even though I loved the times I did practice.  Then one day last year I woke up with an urge to get back on my mat.  A craving almost.  I went from doing no yoga to doing an hour a day, at least, usually more.  I couldn’t get enough.  I think it was a divergence of where I was in my life personally, the desire for quiet and stillness, the hope of reconnecting with my authentic self, and straight up divine intervention after praying for some sort of direction in my life.  Whatever the reason, I fell in love, and I fell hard.

When people ask me about my practice, I find myself repeating the following truths regarding why I value it so deeply.  First, I love the stillness…the meditation aspect.  In those few moments that I am on my mat, I am able to focus on nothing but my breath, my movement, my body and how all of this truly feels.  The rest of the world slips away, and I am left with ME…and it’s actually not as scary as it sounds!  Second, I love the breathing aspect.  When else do I get to just breathe?!  Deep breathing is so beneficial to overall health, and yoga gives me the opportunity to not only fill my body with the oxygen it needs and deserves, but also to breathe in life and love and happiness and to breathe out everything that does not serve me.  Third, I love the fact that yoga is about “progress, not perfection,” which happens to be a fantastic analogy for life.  You do you, and you don’t worry about what others around you are doing or thinking about what you’re doing.  And finally, it just feels so dang good.  I’ve always had back issues, much of which are kept in check by an amazing chiropractor. However, yoga certainly helps with this, along with developing full-body strength, flexibility and balance.

Most importantly, I’ve realized the incredible power in being true to myself and not being afraid to share my truth with the world.  I’ve received so many words of encouragement from friends and strangers alike.  I’ve been able to inspire others, and I’ve learned that there is so much more to this practice than what happens on the mat.  The asanas are important, but it doesn’t end there.  It’s about the connections, the community, the fact that I’m able to reach out and help someone else find their path, whatever that might be.  It’s about what happens OFF the mat.

There is so much more to say, and I will say it as this little blog project progresses, but I’m so thankful you are following my journey.  I can’t wait to see what the future holds, but for now I am living for the moment.  And my prayer is that you are too.  Namaste.

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