First of all, Happy Winter Solstice, everyone! I used to dread the winter season, as I hated the cold air, and the dry skin it gave me, and all the snow I was going to have to drive through (I used to live in Connecticut and Massachusetts, so bad weather was definitely a big concern for me up there). But now, I actually look forward to this time of year…with the shorter and colder days, it’s the perfect time to look within and become more introspective. It gives me a chance to get to know myself better, so I relish it now.

I’ve been following a blog called “Starr Struck” this past year, and it’s become one of my favorite blogs. It’s written by Mary Catherine Starr, a fellow yoga teacher, which is why I began following it. She writes several times a week, but by far, my favorite thing she does is something called “Simple Joys of the Week” (SJOTW). Each week, she lists her favorite things as they relate to the five senses: Hear, See, Taste, Smell and Touch. I like these posts because I think they’ve helped me find joy in ways I may not have traditionally thought of, just by becoming more aware of what my senses have to offer.

In her latest post, she did something pretty cool, which is to list out the sensory experiences that made the biggest impact on her from the whole entire year. It got me to thinking about what made the biggest impact on ME during 2014, so I decided to follow in her footsteps and list out the simple joys in life that have made the biggest impact on my life. I’m not trying to be a copy cat or anything, but I love this concept, and I think we could ALL do with a little bit more joy in our lives. So if putting together my own list helps inspire YOU to find joy in some new and unexpected ways in the coming year, then I’ve achieved my purpose.

Ready? Here we go!

HEAR: Spotify
I’ve been using Spotify for a couple of years now, but my use of it really exploded in 2014 once I decided to subscribe as a Premium member. For a music addict like myself, Spotify is DA BOMB! For those of you who come to my yoga classes, you know how much I love to weave in remakes of popular songs and make you guess who the original artist was (and you know that many times, a prize goes to the person who guesses correctly). Using Spotify has made my ability to find these crazy remakes super easy, and it allows me to organize things into folders and all kinds of other neat features, which means I don’t have to spend nearly as much time as I used to putting my playlists together. One of my favorite features is that I can create a radio station based on a particular song, and then all the songs it plays are “like” the song I created it from. I know other programs have this radio feature, but with Spotify, whenever I come across a song I think I’ll use in a class, I can actually add it straight to a playlist while it’s playing…LOVE! I know the free version of Spotify has an awful lot as well, so check it out!

SEE: My Daughters Reaching Milestones
Holy wow on this one! Both of my daughters achieved major milestones in their lives during 2014. My youngest daughter completed elementary school and began middle school this fall, which was a huge thing for our family…she is quite literally a pre-teen now, going to the middle school dances each month at the YMCA in town and hanging out with her friends ad nauseum.

 017(This is Casey a couple of months ago, enjoying a cupcake from CupCrazed Cakery)

But perhaps the biggest thing of all for our family is that my oldest daughter graduated from high school and just completed her first semester of college! It’s so hard to believe she is officially an adult now, as I still see her as my little baby girl every time I look at her. It took me awhile to get used to her not being around every day, but I am so proud of the woman she has become…I have no worries that she will do great things with her life…she makes me so proud!

001(This is Morgan at college, holding her dorm’s mascot, who is named Strawberry Shortcake…cute, isn’t it?)

TASTE: Gluten-free Cupcakes from CupCrazed Cakery in Fort Mill, SC
I’ve been gluten free for almost three years now, and let me tell you…it is TOUGH to find a tasty dessert that is gluten-free. One that doesn’t taste dry or rubbery, or make me feel like I’m missing out on all the fun. And if you know me at all, you know that I absolutely LOVE my desserts! Well, the CupCrazed Cakery in Fort Mill has got my back! First of all, they are located about 5 minutes from my house, which can be very dangerous when I am needing my sweet fix. But twice a week (and sometimes more), they offer gluten-free cupcakes. And I’m not talking your boring old yellow or chocolate cupcakes with white or chocolate frosting. No…this place switches up their flavors constantly and I’ve never tried one that is bad. My favorite so far was a gluten-free salted caramel cupcake…YUM! They post their menu daily, so you always know what kind of interesting flavors you can expect. Oh, and if you’ve ever heard of that lil’ TV show called “Cupcake Wars”, well, this place was featured on it…and they WON! Sweet (pun COMPLETELY intended)!

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SMELL: Lavendar and Frankincense essential oils.
During 2014, I decided to be a dōTERRA representative, as using essential oils has done wonders with helping me with everything from stress to inflammation to keeping me from catching the latest virus going around. Two of my favorites are lavender and frankincense, especially mixed together in a hot bath with Epsom salts or in a diffuser. The frankincense helps pull out all the inflammation and boosts my immune system, and the lavender calms me down and helps me sleep. Can you say, “Heaven”? My favorite thing is that dōTERRA essential oils can be ingested (most of them, anyway), so you can add them to recipes or use them for a variety of medicinal purposes. Check out my dōTERRA site to learn more about these wonderful oils!  

TOUCH: This one is easy…my dogs! Nothing makes me happier than cuddling on the couch or in my bed with my dogs. I love the way their fur feels to me (especially Lexie…her fur feels like velvet to me!), I love the warmth they give off as they lean in against me (whenever one of them leans into my stomach, it totally takes my stomach aches away!), and I love the way their kisses feel! Loving on my dogs always makes me feel better. I know my husband agrees with this, because he and I constantly argue over who gets to have a “doggy nap” on the weekends. :)

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Other MAJOR simple joys from 2014/this past year of life? There have been so many great things that have happened in this past year, it’s hard to list them all. But here are some of the top ones that come to mind:

  • My 30 Days of Happiness challenge. Each day, for 30 days in a row, I listed 3 things I was happy for on Facebook. It started off as only a 7-day challenge, but I decided to keep going at the urging of followers who wanted more. This made me the HAPPIEST of all! To know that others wanted more HAPPY stuff…well, that’s what I was shooting for, and before I knew it, others followed suit. It’s like we started a Happiness Revolution!
  • My full-time job in the Healthcare IT arena has been amazing this past year. I really feel like I blossomed in many ways and finally feel like I have a good handle on my purpose here.
  • I made great strides in moving through my Lyme Disease treatment. I have had my bad days, sure…but I have many more good days now, and seeing progress. I’m starting to feel more like ME again…that is something I wasn’t sure I’d ever see again!

There are a few other great things in the works, but they are not far enough along yet for me to mention them. More to come on these things in the New Year.

What are your year-end simple joys? Take some time to reflect on them over the next week or so, if you can! And if you wouldn’t mind, share them here by commenting on this post…I’d love to know what made you happy this past year!

Namaste,

Melanie

In November, I joined my company’s Toastmasters club. It’s something I’d been thinking about joining for a long time, and my recent promotion at work was sort of the kick in the pants I needed to finally get me off my keister and sign up. Today, I gave my first speech in the program, which was an icebreaker speech. The whole purpose of this speech was to “introduce myself” to the group in such a way that afterwards, they would have a much better idea about who I am and what I stand for. I decided to do this by talking about my purpose in life. Here is the speech in written form, complete with the pictures I projected onscreen. Note that I didn’t give the speech word for word as you see below…I love to adlib, as I definitely feed off the energy of the people in the room. But here is what I said, more or less…enjoy!

“Have a Sparking Day!” This has been my signature phrase for the past 23 years, since I was 19 years old. If you’ve ever called me and gotten my voice mail, you know that I always end my recorded greeting with “Thank you for calling and Have a Sparkling Day!” People often tell me they pray I won’t answer when they call because they love getting my voice mail, just so they can hear me say that.

For a long time, I wondered why that phrase has stuck with me for as long as it has. You know where I first heard it? I was dating a guy in college who still lived with his dad, and I called one night and got their answering machine. It was his dad’s voice, saying the standard, “Sorry we’re not here right now” message. But right at the end, he said, “Thank you for calling and Have a Sparking Day!” I don’t know why, but hearing those words made me break out in a HUGE smile and made me feel so good! So I adopted them as my own that very day, and I’ve been saying them ever since. When people hear those words from me, I want them to feel just as good as I did when I first heard them.

You might say I’ve been working at trying to make people feel good my whole life. My mom loves to tell the story about when I got my first immunizations as an infant. She took me to the doctor, they gave me the shots, and I screamed and cried at the top of my lungs! But as soon as the doctor turned my face to his, I stopped crying instantly and gave him the hugest smile!

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(OK, so I wasn’t a newborn here…but I’m pretty sure this was what my smile looked like to that doctor!)

He got all flustered, saying that I “couldn’t possibly be smiling, as newborns don’t smile…it must be gas!” But he had a big smile on HIS face, and my mom says she knew in her heart right then that I was meant for good things.

As a child, I would always do whatever it took to make people laugh or smile. Putting on impromptu plays, making up silly songs, or wearing ridiculously loud outfits!

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(My dad affectionately referred to this as my Clem Kadiddlehopper outfit…he still talks about how LOUD the outfit was!)

When I saw the sparkle in their eyes, I was happy.

As a teenager, I got involved in community service activities. I participated in a teen theatre group in which we wrote our own skits about the problems teenagers face. We performed those skits at local middle schools and high schools, and it was amazing to me how many teens would come up to speak with us after each performance with smiles on their faces. It was cool to see that they finally realized they weren’t alone in the struggles they were going through, and to see that sparkle return just a bit.

Through my church in high school, I got involved with the Appalachian Service Project. For three summers, I went with a big group of teens and adults all the way from CT to locations deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains for a week at a time. While there, we’d fix the houses of local families who desperately needed the help. Not only did I learn some great handyman skills, but I got a chance to get to know these families. It was awesome to see these families show up each day throughout the week with bigger and bigger smiles on their faces. And it wasn’t just because we were working to make their homes safe and livable, but because we took the time to get to know them. Again, I had the chance to see some sparkle returning into their lives.

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Once I became an adult, I didn’t have as much time to devote to these kinds of things and I definitely felt like something was missing.

But in 2002, something amazing happened. I’d been practicing yoga for a couple of years by that point. One day after class, my teacher suggested I sign up for a teacher training she was running. My first thought was, “What? Me? I’m the least flexible person in the world! I couldn’t possibly teach yoga!”

But I thought about it long and hard. When I began practicing yoga, I was going through a divorce, working to support myself and my daughter, all while trying to finish my Bachelor’s Degree. Yoga didn’t just improve my strength and flexibily and help me work through some injuries I had. It also showed me how to look within, focus on the important things, and let go of the things that don’t matter. Yoga brought the sparkle back into MY life and enabled me to find happiness. How could I not share that with others? So I decided to register for that training and haven’t looked back!

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(See how happy I am when I am practicing yoga!)

Yoga helped me figure out my purpose in life, which I believe is to help others find ways to bring a little bit more “Sparkle” back into their lives, each and every day. I’ve dubbed myself as the “Happiness Advocate”, and this role has permeated all aspects of my life: as a yoga teacher; as a wife, mother and friend; and even in my career here at Premier.

When I’m able to help someone work through an issue in any of these roles, no matter how big or small, I am fulfilled. I know I’m making a difference in someone’s life every day that I put myself out there, and that makes it very easy to get up in the morning. I feel like I’m putting the “Sparkle” back into the world, one person at a time.

I’d like to close by challenging each of you to take a look at how you can put a little more “Sparkle” into your own lives each day. Be your own “Happiness Advocate”. And who knows? Maybe, just maybe, it might spill over and do something wonderful for the others you come into contact with on your journey.

Thank you for listening, and “Have a Sparkling Day!”

“There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.” ~~ Zig Ziglar

Ever since I was a kid, people told me over and over again to be patient. My mom, my grandparents, my teachers, my friends, my husband. Over and over again, throughout my life, these people have said things like:

“Slow and steady wins the race.”

“Good things come to those who wait.”

“Patience is a virtue.”

“Just wait…don’t be so impatient.”

We’ve ALL heard these phrases (or similar ones) to illustrate the concept that we must be patient for the things that matter, right?

Well, I don’t know about YOU, but being patient and waiting for things is NOT in my nature. I am a redhead, after all! I typically get very antsy when I don’t get an expected result almost immediately. Then I get SUPER stressed from waiting…and waiting…and waiting some more. Which makes me miserable! Am I the only one this happens to?

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(This is how many of us look when we’re frustrated and impatient, wouldn’t you say?)

If you’ve been reading my blog, it’s clear that I’ve been moving towards more of the lifestyle and spiritual practices of yoga for quite some time. It’s been amazing, because as I grow my personal practice, the effects have been spilling over into every part of my life.

It hasn’t been instantaneous. As a matter of fact, it literally wasn’t until this past weekend that I really had my “A-HA!” moment. You see, this past month has been AMAZING for me, in so many different areas of my life.

In last month’s post, I talked about several things going on with me that were challenging, and I was working on just being OK with what IS. Focusing on the present moment and letting everything else go. This required an incredible amount of patience on my part, as a few of these things had been moving at what felt like a snail’s pace for many months (or years, in some cases). Within a few days of writing that post, however, things changed. Here’s a re-cap:

  • My new role at my full-time job is going very well. So far, it hasn’t been more stressful, and I’ve really been enjoying it. We had our Values conference right after I wrote my last post, and at this conference, teams and individuals are nominated by their peers and are recognized for going above and beyond. A couple of people I work very closely with had been nominated, so I was excited to see if they were chosen as winners. They were! And then all of a sudden, I heard MY name being called! I was in complete and utter shock! ME? I didn’t feel like I deserved this honor AT ALL! But you know, once I really stopped and thought about it, I realized I’d been able to focus on only one main project over this past year…TRULY focus! I truly feel that because of this, I was finally able to show what I can really do. In years past, I was focusing on multiple projects at a time…I remember one year, I had 5 different projects I was accountable for…all at the same time!!! And I remember during that time thinking, “Good Lord! With all that I do around here, and all that I am expected to keep track of, I should win an award or something!” So isn’t it amazing that, by having LESS on my plate, I end up winning that coveted award? I think I initially felt I didn’t deserve the award because I am not all frazzled and stressed anymore. Weird! Funny how life works sometimes.
  • My dog, Beta, is still with us. We switched her medications around, and it seems to be helping a little. She’s no longer hiding under the guest room bed ALL the time…she has actually come downstairs for some cuddles a little bit every day…God, I love it when she comes down and leans in to me as I am petting her! So it looks like maybe we’ve got a little more time with her than I was thinking, and I couldn’t be happier! I’m not expecting miracles…she IS almost 15 years old, after all…but I’ll take what I can get. We’re just taking it one day at a time, being patient with whatever we get on any given day.
  • My Lyme Disease treatment is really starting to kick in. When I first started this journey in December 2011 to figure out what was wrong with me, I was constantly frustrated because no one knew WHY I was sick and nothing was helping me to feel better. I was looking for that “magic pill” that would cure me instantly. Once I finally got diagnosed, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. There are a variety of ways to treat this, and the first few things I tried didn’t work. Choosing the holistic route that I am now doing meant trying a few things at a time and waiting to see the effect. Deep down, I knew it was what I needed to do. But I had to be patient. And finally, after all this time, I am seeing a difference, and in a very good way!

Incorporating yoga and meditation into my life more and more has been key in all of the above. Trying different styles of yoga over the past couple of years helped me to see that for ME, one size does not fit all. I need a variety. I used to only practice the styles of yoga that “gave me a good workout”, because that’s how I thought it was best to tackle stress. What that actually ended up doing was causing me more stress, because I was pushing my body to an edge it just couldn’t handle. Eventually my body quite literally said, “ENOUGH!!! I can’t DO this anymore!”

Meditation, which is something I only got truly serious about since last February, has done wonders for my outlook on LIFE. My ability to do my full-time job has improved due to this, as I find I am not stressing over every little thing. And apparently, others have noticed, as evidenced by the promotion and the award I received. Lately, I have also noticed the difference it’s made in terms of my relationships with my family. My husband and I communicate much more effectively now, and I think it’s because I am actually LISTENING to him. Same with my kids…I’m not talking AT them like I used to, and am instead LISTENING and talking TO and WITH them.

027(Me and my dog, Ripley…can you see in my eyes that I am happy? I can.)

Though it seems like this great stuff happened to me all at once, it hasn’t. It’s taken time for me to get to this point. Many failed attempts at various things that I learned and grew from. I’ve never thought of myself as patient before, but as I look back at what I’ve endured to get to the point where I am right now, I know that I am indeed a patient person. That doesn’t mean I won’t complain now and again about how things may not be happening as quickly as I like…I am human, after all.

Try, if you can, to take your practice off the mat a little more this coming month. Notice how yoga is always with you. All you have to do is stop and take a deep breath…and you’ll see how it permeates your entire being if you let it.

Maybe you’re not ready to take it off the mat yet. That’s OK. You can practice patience on your mat as well. In fact, that’s how many of us begin. Usually, it involves working towards a particular pose. It may take you weeks or even months to get there, depending on where you’re starting from. Start from wherever you are, noticing how when you put a laser-like focus on one pose, you really start to see the progress happening. Even if it takes some time to get there, you’ll be able to see it if you’re focused.

On this day, which happens to be Thanksgiving Day, I am grateful for everything in my life, as these are the things and people who have shaped who I am. I’ve still got work to do on myself. I always will, and that’s excites me…I never want to stop growing! But hopefully, when I get hit with something that frustrates me in the future, I’ll stop and remember that things happen when they are ready, in their own time. I know what my goals are now, and I am happy to see how things unfold in my life as I steadily make my way towards my goals, getting to know myself along the way and becoming who I am meant to be. I hope that as you move through your own journey, you’ll be able to do the same…slow and steady…one step at a time.

Namaste,

Melanie

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to let you all know about something I am super excited about! I am starting a book club at Synergy Yoga & Wellness, which is one of the studios I teach at. We’ll be meeting on the first Friday of every month, from 7:15 – 8:30 p.m. Our first book club meeting will be on Friday, 12/5/2014, This will be at Synergy’s Rock Hill location at 111 Caldwell Street.

The first book we’ll be discussing is “The Gift of Cancer: Turn Your Tragedy into a Treasure…A Treasure Map to Happiness!” by Wendy Treynor, PH.D. This book is for anyone who wants to lead a happier life…come join us! If you’re not local, you can still participate…I’ve created a Facebook group for easier updates, so if you’ve got Facebook, go to the following link and join the group:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/SynergyYogaBookClub/

I hope to see you on the mat soon!

Namaste,

Melanie

“Quiet the mind, and the soul will speak.” ~~ Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati

Let me just start this post by saying that this past month has been amazing, stressful, sad, crazy…and a whole bunch more. All I can say to it all is, “Wow!” In last month’s post, I talked about how Autumn is a time of transition, a time of change that can seem chaotic if you’re not careful. In that post, I mentioned the things I was going to incorporate into my life in order to help the transition go a little more smoothly. I am so glad I did, as I was not quite prepared for all the things that hit me during the month. Some were amazing, some have been not so amazing, but that’s life, right? Like Forrest Gump said, “Life is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re going to get.”

At one of the studios I teach at, the focus for October has been on pratyahara. Pratyahara usually happens during meditation, asana or breathwork, when you become so immersed in the present moment that you become unaware of outside situations. Your awareness and focus goes inward and you are unaffected by anything happening externally. Pratyahara teaches us to  be able to stay still and calm, despite everything that is happening in the external world around us. And it helps us to make conscious choices, rather than being too attached to the world around us.

Putting my focus so strongly this month on staying grounded and balanced really helped me with developing pratyahara. Here’s where I’ve noticed pratyahara in my life this month:

  • In my full-time job, I was approached about applying for a new position that is considered to be a promotion. It is an opportunity for me to take my career there to the next level, but I was apprehensive. After all, it is moving towards a role that is more of a management position, and that usually means more stress. But I prayed about it and meditated on it, and I really felt like it was the right move. So I applied, was offered the job, and accepted. I am very excited for this opportunity, but I am CHOOSING not to focus on the stress that others in this role tell me about. Rather, I am focusing on how I can use this role to make more of an impact in the world of healthcare that I work in. I am CHOOSING to let go of the negatives and instead, I am focusing on all the positives I know there will be.
  • My Lyme Disease treatment knocked me for a few loops this month. Side effects from treatment included severe vertigo, headaches, horrible brain fog and stomach issues. I had to take a couple of days off work, and two weeks off from teaching yoga. I was THAT out of sorts. I was depressed and feeling all sorry for myself. And because of the brain fog, I was scared about accepting the new job at work. I mean, how could I be in a higher level position if I can barely remember my own name??? But I accepted it for what it was. The side effects are what is called a Herxheimer Reaction, and that is a GOOD thing. It means the treatment is working. And then I noticed all the other symptoms that had improved, like my joint and muscle pain, and the extreme fatigue. So I let go of worrying about it, and focused on the positives. My doctor switched a couple of my meds, and gave me something to address the brain inflammation, and I noticed a HUGE improvement. My vertigo is much more manageable now, and I can think clearly again a lot more.
  • I asked to be taken off weekend rotations for teaching yoga. My doctor emphasized that I really need to take 1-2 days off per week so that I can focus on resting and getting better. Well, I work full-time Monday through Friday, and I can’t give that job up. I’ve got a daughter in college, and another to put through college, so we kind of need that salary for a bit longer, you know? That meant really looking within and making the tough decision to let go of my weekend teaching. I am already committed through November, but after that, I am done. I am sad, and have cried about it, but it’s what I’ve got to do. After all, what good am I to anyone if I’m not willing to do everything needed to be my absolute best?
  • I completed a 6-week elimination diet that my doctor put me on, and I also participated in a 10-day Yoga Autumn Ayurvedic Cleanse. After completing these, I eagerly added tortilla chips back into my diet to see what kind of effect it would have. Those of you know me…well, you know that if I were to be committed to rehab for an addiction, it would be for addiction to tortilla chips. Sadly, I experienced very unpleasant stomach issues after reintroducing them (NOOOOO….say it ain’t so!!!) So I had to let them go. No longer will they be a regular snack in my life. As I came to this realization, I kept finding myself singing “Let it Go” from Frozen over and over…I may just have to do that song next time I go to karaoke….I will be able to sing with a lot of passion as I think fondly of my beloved tortilla chips and what we once shared. :)
  • Finally — and this is the toughest one of all — I am coming to terms with the fact that my precious Beta (my hound mix who is almost 15 years old) may not have much longer with us. This breaks my heart. My husband, Travis, and I got Beta from the shelter a week before we moved into our first house together. She’s the original Deal Dog! She has the most expressive face, she talks to us ALL the time, and when we walk her, she puts the leash in her mouth for the first few minutes, just to let us know she is in charge. But these past few months, she has been going downhill fast. She rarely ever comes out from under the guest room bed, her legs are weak and shaking, her whole body trembles so bad that her teeth chatter, she’s pooping under the bed almost every night, and she isn’t eating a lot. We’ve been giving her pain meds and anxiety meds, but it’s not really helping much anymore. She can’t even make it down the stairs now without a lot of effort. My heart is breaking, because I don’t know what to do. My husband thinks it’s time to let her go, because she is obviously in a lot of pain.

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(This is me and my daughter, Casey, with Beta just last week)

So during these past few weeks, I’ve really been trying hard to work on letting go of my attachments. My attachments to fear (of not being able to do the new job I’ve been hired to do). My attachments to my students, so that I can focus on getting better. My attachment to salty, crunchy tortilla chips. Most of all, my attachment to Beta…I can’t continue to let her be in pain just because I can’t bear to have a day without her in it. I’m still working on this last one. I’m not quite there yet, and I am desperately praying for the strength to know what the right decision is, but I am just not quite there. I pray for the strength to know, to not be selfish, and to do what is best for Beta.

In my yoga practice, one way I will be working on continuing to turn inward and stay grounded during these changes I am going through is to incorporate more forward folds, particularly Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold). This pose is known for its ability to calm the mind and improve concentration, as well as being very grounding. Perfect for helping one to look within!

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(Photo Courtesy of Advaita Yoga Ashrama)

As we move through November, I am looking forward to continuing my journey of looking within. No more avoiding the tough things…they are part of life, and I need to be OK with the bad things that life sometimes tosses at me. It’s all good, as long as we can learn from it and apply it in a way that makes us better and able to move on to the next phase life has to offer.

Namaste,

Melanie

“The wind of change
Blows straight into the face of time
Like a stormwind that will ring the freedom bell
For peace of mind.”
~~ The Scorpions

Autumn is considered to be a transitional time of year, helping us move from the fiery aspects of the summer season to the cold and damp season of winter. I don’t know about you readers out there, but I have a really hard time sitting still during this time of year! It always feels like I have SO much to do, and so I start trying to do ALL of it…at the SAME TIME! And then I get distracted by every little thing because I’m trying to take on too much. Sound familiar?

Well, there’s a reason for it all. Autumn is the season of vata, according to ayurveda. Ayurveda is the science of life, and is considered to be the sister science of yoga (you can learn more about ayurveda here). Vata is associated with the elements of air and space (ether), and autumn is when these elements elevate in our external environment (i.e., wind, crackling leaves, dryness). As a result, we may feel these same elements elevate in our minds and our bodies as well.

Ayurveda’s mantra is: ‘Like increases like,’ while ‘opposites balance each other out.’ So with vata being in abundance in the climate, we are reflecting it as well by feeling an excess of air and ether in our bodies…and if your ayurvedic constitution is more vata, then you’ve really got a lot of this going on. My ayurvedic constitution happens to be predominantly vata; hence, why I typically feel so chaotic during this time of the year, and why winter hits me like a sledgehammer because of it.

autumn-winds
(I found this picture on The Literary Yard, and I thought it was an awesome representation of how, if we don’t watch it, this season can make us feel like we’re “all over the place”, not knowing whether we’re coming or going.)

However, autumn happens to be my FAVORITE season of the year. I love the cooler temperatures and the wind in the air (the windier, the better!). I love the smells that come along with this time of year, like bonfires and hot apple cider. I love the crispness in the air, as it invigorates me after the hot and humid air of summer (I  live in South Carolina, and it is CRAZY hot and humid here in the summer!).

As I’ve been working on incorporating more ayurvedic principles into my life over these past several months, I’ve learned that there are simple things I can do to make this season of transition feel a little less “scattered” and a little more balanced. Here are some things I’ll be doing, particularly during the month of October, to help with enjoying this season to the fullest and enter winter with a little more gusto:

  1. Maintain a routine and a schedule. Erratic schedules further aggravate vata in the body, so it’s important to try and get a solid schedule and routine in place for yourself. For example, I’ve got a nice exercise routine in place which incorporates yoga, strength training and walking. Having this schedule keeps me on track, and I don’t have to think about it…I know what I need to do and when, so this helps keep me focused. I also have a meditation routine, which is critical for helping me manage my stress….I actually REALLY notice when I miss my planned meditation…you probably don’t want to be around me on those days. :)
  2. Massage the body daily with oil, as it helps to combat the dryness associated with autumn. Organic sesame oil works really well for calming vata. But you can also get oils specially formulated for vata…Banyan Botanicals is my go-to site for ayurvedic products.
  3. Move in the right way. Vata is pacified by heat, so it’s important to move and exercise in ways that create some internal heat. Since “like increases like”, you’ll want to avoid movement that is jumpy, for example. Instead, incorporate more grounding and fluid movements to your exercise. Basically, if what you’re doing doesn’t make you feel more grounded, don’t do it!  In yoga, you might want to avoid the jumps in your vinyasas, as well as tricky poses that tend to aggravate you (i.e., handstand). Instead, move your body more fluidly (for those of you who come to my class, think about the joint movements we’ve been doing in our warm-ups…these are great at helping those crackly joints loosen up) and hold poses longer to create that internal heat.
  4. Eat in a peaceful environment. This is a hard one for me. When I am at work, I always eat lunch at my desk, working while I eat. When I am at home, I’m dealing with crazy dogs running around, all while trying to persuade my daughter that what she’s got on her plate is actually tasty and healthy…my husband, bless his heart, tries to help keep things calm, but we just never seem to be able to do so. Therefore, my goal for October is to eat lunch away from desk at work. We have a nice common area where there are tables and chairs, and lots of natural light, so I plan on making use of that. Or better yet, I’d like to eat outside whenever I can. We’ve got several spots around our building where there are tables, and I think being outside would be very centering for me.
  5. Eat seasonal foods. Since our bodies can tend to dry out and become too cold during this season, it’s important to eat foods that are warming and moist (like cooked fruits, roasted root vegetables, and savory soups). I’m on a limited diet right now, due to health issues I am working on, so there are several recommended ayurvedic foods that I won’t be able to include. However, I will be able to make sure I incorporate lots of healthy fats (like ghee, coconut oil, olive oil and avocado), which are great at helping with my crackly joints. Warm beverages throughout the day (like herbal teas, water with lemon & fresh ginger) help with digestion and they improve hydration.
  6. Incorporate warming colors. Colors can be wonderful in helping to balance the body. Warmer, richer colors (like yellows, oranges and reds) are great at helping to balance the coolness in the air. Try wearing these colors, or putting pictures on your walls with these colors in them. I know people who change out their bedding, swap out their couch pillows, and change out their knick knacks with every season…now I know why!
  7. Incorporate more down time. OK. This is, by far, going to be the hardest one for me. However, I know I need to do it. I’ve got too much going on right now, and I feel spacey, scattered and unstable…which is promoting more anxiety within. I have slowly been letting go of things over the past few months. It was easy to get rid of things I don’t love. Yet I know I still have too much on my plate, so now comes the hard task of figuring out which of the remaining things…things that I LOVE…to let go of. I really need to focus on getting better, and more down time is what I need to do in order to get there.

In speaking with many of you, it seems like #7 is going to be the toughest one for more than just me. It seems like we all have too much going on in our lives. So for October, use this season of transition to calm the winds swirling around you. Do what you need to do in order to bring balance and focus to your life. If you’re able to make it to one of my classes, we’ll be incorporating things into each class that should help with tampering down those winds and bringing more stability into your life. If you can’t join me, I’d love to hear from you as to how you transition into fall.

Namaste,

Melanie

Hi everyone,

As I delve deeper into learning everything I possibly can about Ayurveda, I get more and more excited to share what I am learning with all of you. In Ayurveda, it is believed that you should go through a cleanse/detox twice a year…in the Spring and in the Fall. Typically, this is done in April and October. Cleanses can vary in terms of length of time.

Last April, I participated in my first Ayurvedic cleanse. It was a 10-day cleanse, and I really enjoyed it. The food was delicious, and I absolutely loved the lifestyle aspects that I’ve now made a part of my normal, everyday life.

I’m about to embark on my second Ayurvedic cleanse. This time, it’s a 21-day cleanse run by Cate Stillman at http://www.yogahealer.com. I kow many people who have done Cate’s cleanses and they have said they feel amazing during and after.

I hate doing things by myself, as many of you know if you know me personally. :) So, I would love for you to join me if you are up for the challenge. Check out the link below, which has a video and some other information to explain what it’s all about. Sign up with me and learn new things not just for yourself, but for your whole family as well. Let’s do this together!

https://qq114.infusionsoft.com/go/newnormal/a557

Namaste,

Melanie

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In my last post, I mentioned I am switching up the way I do things and will now focus on a monthly yoga theme, rather than a weekly theme. As I’ve learned myself the past couple of months, it takes time to incorporate certain things as permanent parts of our lives, and I feel that many of the topics we’ve been exploring lately deserve more than a week from each of us in order to ingrain them into our entire being.

For those of you who come to my yoga classes, you know that I always incorporate whatever the theme is into class, but that doesn’t mean we will be doing the exact same thing in each class throughout the month. There is always more than one way to “skin the cat”, so to speak, so my hope is to give you a different practice each time that helps set the theme into your heart and into your life more permanently.

All that being said, I felt like for the month of September, our focus should be on SLOWING DOWN. After all, many of us have been overly busy this summer, wouldn’t you say? Many of you might say, “Well, I took a vacation this summer!” But think about it carefully…did you really take a VACATION, or did you spend that time traveling all over the place, rushing from one tourist spot to the next? In my mind, unless you actually get the downtime your body and mind so desperately need periodically, then it doesn’t REALLY count.

Also, school is now back in session for the kiddos (or maybe even for ourselves, for that matter), so many of us are super busy trying to get kids acclimated to new teachers, shuttling them between one activity and the next, and trying to adapt to whatever new schedule changes all this means in our lives. It can be CRAZY!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, summer is the season where the fire element dominates. And as we are now nearing the end of summer (Can you BELIEVE that?? Fall officially begins on September 22nd!), you may really be noticing the effects of all that fire if you haven’t been able to truly relax and let go a little bit throughout the summer. As I mentioned in that post, I said I needed to get back to regular meditation, and I have been very diligent about it. This is also a topic many of you have said you want to know more about, and you’ve also told me that it’s very difficult for you to establish a meditation practice because it’s SO HARD to sit still and focus. Meditation is a wonderful tool to use if you want to get better at slowing down because it helps you get better at focusing on what is important and ignoring all the “noise”.

As I’ve been making my way through the 21-Day Meditation Challenge being offered by the Chopra Meditation Center, I’ve really seen my meditation practice evolve and grow in such an amazing way! It incorporates guided meditation, mantras and journaling…and I must say, I love this format! It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for, and I love going back and looking at my journal entries to see what my thoughts were on the day I did the meditation. And the mantras…I can’t say enough about how I love the way saying them out loud and repeating them makes me feel! Even just simply humming (think about trying to make yourself sound like a bee buzzing around) is amazingly therapeutic. The vibrations from the sounds of the Sanskrit mantras I’ve been using are so healing for our bodies and our minds! Even just repeating them silently in my head does wonders for calming my “monkey mind”, which I usually have such a hard time controlling.

Throughout the month of September, try incorporating a little bit of mantra meditation into your day. You could simply choose a short phrase that is meaningful to you and repeat it aloud if you want to experience the effect of their vibrations, or you can repeat it silently to yourself to see if helps you stay focused…or do both! That’s what I have been doing and I love it!

Not sure where to start? You can always Google for a mantra that resonates with you, and you certainly don’t have to choose a Sanskrit one. I love the Sanskrit mantras, because the way they are strung together was done on purpose…the vibration and frequency of each mantra is meant to help your mind and body achieve a particular purpose (i.e., happiness, relaxation, motivation, etc.). If you’re not sure how to pronounce the words, you can find many of them on YouTube…I like using this as a resource, because many times, I find versions that make them sound more like songs, and I love music! Here are some of the Sanskrit mantras I’ve been using…I have been focusing on improving my level of happiness, so I chose mantras geared around that theme:

  1. OM. Now this is one you probably all know, as it’s chanted at the beginning or end of many yoga classes. It’s usually the first Sanskrit word we learn, and it’s the easiest one to incorporate. OM is the sound of the universe. It’s said to be the first, original vibration, representing the birth, death and re-birth process. It’s awesome for helping you to chill out and relax!
  2. LOKAH SAMASTAH SUKHINO BHAVANTU. The translation of this mantra is, “May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.” This mantra is thought to encourage cooperation, compassion and living in harmony with everything around us. I learned this particular mantra when I was doing my Level 4 YogaFit Teacher Training, and the tune that we chanted it to in that training is the one I still use today, all these years later. I’ve heard so many “tunes” for this chant…some of them I love and some I don’t. Maybe because of the original tune I learned, I am a bit partial to versions that sound like that.
  3. LILA HUM. The translation of this is, “I am filled with the playfulness of life at the basis of all creation.” This mantra helps to remind us that life springs from play, light, freedom and joy…to relax a bit on the rules and responsibility and enjoy life!
  4. SHREE RAM. I am not sure of the exact translation of this one to be honest. It’s one of the ones from the 21-Day Meditation Challenge, and it combines the energy of Shree, which is divine joy, auspiciousness and abundance, with the energy of Ram, a mantra which strongly draws those divine qualities directly into the physical body and into the emotions. It has the effect of creating a surge of bliss. Traditionally, it is also considered a powerful healing mantra for a variety of physical conditions.

Do any of you already incorporate mantras into your lives regularly? If so, I’d love to get your feedback on the following:

  1. How often do you incorporate mantras? Daily, weekly, etc.?
  2. Do you chant them aloud, or silently, or both?
  3. How does using mantras make you feel? In other words, can you feel a difference at all by using them?
  4. What are some of your favorite mantras?

Take this month to try and quell the fire that may have built within you over the summer by SLOWING DOWN. Incorporating mantras may be just the thing you need to help you do that successfully. But if mantra practice doesn’t resonate with you, find any form of meditation that WILL help you slow down and enjoy life a little. Find your happiness!

Namaste,

Melanie

On August 20th, I completed my self-imposed “30 Days of Positivity” challenge, where I committed to listing three positives each day for a total of 30 days. It’s funny…I was initially challenged to doing this for only 7 days, but I ended up feeling like I needed to commit to doing this for a full 30 days. After all, I am a worrier by nature and have issues with anxiety, so I could really use some help with being positive more often. I knew that if I could focus on more of the positives around me, I would be more likely to get better at keeping my stress levels down, as well as to make some progress in figuring out my next step for my yoga/wellness career.

I’m happy to report that doing this challenge faithfully for 30 days really has made a difference! As I sat back last night and thought about everything that had happened during, and following, this challenge, I have to be honest…I am getting SO EXCITED about things to come! Here’s a little rundown some of the improvements I’ve seen for myself over the past 30 days:

  • I am pursuing how to become a Yoga Health Coach, so that I can merge my yoga training with Ayurveda to help others implement healthier and natural lifestyle changes.
  • I signed up for a 21-Day Meditation Challenge (I am currently on Day 15), which is focusing on how to be happier.
  • I got my daughter off to college without completely breaking down, and I am genuinely happy and excited for all that she will accomplish, rather than dwelling on the fact that I don’t have her at home anymore.
  • I have purged quite a few things from my house that I no longer need. My goal is to get rid of the things that don’t serve me…I noticed that getting rid of things I don’t need makes me less stressed. So now I am on a mission to de-clutter as much as I possibly can!
  • I’ve connected with more friends. By making my physical, emotional and mental health top priority, I’ve been spending more time with my friends and family, and that has done wonders for my happiness level.
  • I’m now deeply committed to making sure I take one day off a week. One day where I don’t work, teach, or do anything that isn’t absolutely necessary. That may take a little time to get this to happen each and every week, but the couple of times I’ve been able to do it so far, I’ve noticed HUGE differences in my ability to stay relaxed and it’s helped me to sleep better. So that’s my incentive to make it happen as often as I can. Plus, my new doctor said I need to do this, so I consider it my “prescription” for better health.

Though I am done with the 30 Days, I’m not really done. I’m just not publishing every little positive thing on Facebook anymore. I feel like committing to the 30 day time period really helped me to establish this practice as a new habit. I’ve noticed that I now wake up each morning looking for all the good stuff around me. In light of this, I’ve decided to change the structure of how I post my blogs.

I’ve been focusing my posts over the past few months on more of the spiritual and philosophical aspects of yoga, rather than on specific body parts or poses…after all, your feedback indicated you wanted more of this type of content. These aspects are just as important as the physical poses we practice, but incorporating the spiritual and philosophical practices are sometimes more challenging because many times, it involves changing a mindset completely. And for many of us, that’s not always easy to do. At least, not unless we practice, and practice…and practice some more!

So, rather than posting weekly like I have been, I will now be posting monthly instead. This means we’ll be focusing on a particular topic for the entire month, which I feel will give us plenty of time to work through what we need to in order to make it a permanent and lasting part of our lives. My hope is that we’ll use the comments section of each blog post to communicate with each other about challenges we come across, as well as successes. I think it’s important to share what works and what doesn’t with each other.

So what do you think? Are you with me? Are you ready to dig in to your yoga practice with me in a different way? Please say YES! Pretty please…I am so excited about this opportunity for all of us!

I’ll be posting the focus for each month during the last week of the preceding month…so September’s focus will be posted sometime this week, prior to 9/1/2014.

I know some of you don’t follow me on Facebook, so I thought you might want to see how my 30 Days of Positivity progressed throughout my journey. Here it is below, all together in one spot!

Day 1 Positives:

  1. I’m alive and functioning…that’s a big positive, in my book!
  2. My family is awesome…they are always there for me, no matter what.
  3. I’ve got a job that provides me and my family with decent health insurance…this is not a luxury that many people I know have, so I appreciate this!

Day 2 Positives:

  1. I get to exercise with my buddy,Patty Benjamin tonight!
  2. I slept good last night…feeling refreshed today because of it.
  3. I got to spend time with my youngest last night, which let us connect and catch up…LOVE!

Day 3 Positives:

  1. My husband got up to do yoga with me at 5:15 a.m….the dogs joined in as well. We may not have accomplished masterful poses, but we had fun getting kisses every time we got down on the ground.
  2. Several of my acquaintances are now becoming true friends to They may not realize how much they’ve helped or inspired me these past couple of weeks, but I am truly thankful for them, and they are a very positive influence in my life right now.
  3. My legs and feet are hurting less today than they have been the past few weeks. Woot woot! I’ll take it!

Day 4 Positives:

  1. My oldest daughter and I got to attend a Hot Yoga class together last night. It was just what I needed, and I enjoyed having time with her before she heads off to college next month.
  2. The tomatoes in our garden are rockin!
  3. I was a little sad yesterday, and my dogs could tell…they snuggled extra with me when I went to bed last night…they always make me feel more positive.

Day 5 Positives:

  1. The creek in my backyard is making the most awesome, relaxing sounds, thanks to all the rain we’ve had.
  2. The Deep Stretch class I taught last night was full of the most wonderful students I could ask for. I loved the questions they were asking, because it showed me that they are really invested in making the most appropriate changes for bettering themselves.
  3. I came home from said Deep Stretch class to a wonderful dinner cooked byMorgan Leigh Deal…she even made separate things for me, due to my food restrictions…what a thoughtful girl!

Day 6 Positives:

  1. The sun is shining!
  2. I got great feedback from the little “after party” we had after the Chillax Yoga class last Friday…people enjoyed not just the wine and snacks, but getting to know each other, which was what I truly hoped for…Yay!
  3. My cousin’sson spent the night with us last night. This is the first time I’ve ever had him for this long (he’s 16 years old), and I must say….I am very proud of the man he is becoming. My cousin, were he still here, would be so very proud!

Day 7 Positives:

  1. After 7 days of doing this, it’s getting easier and easier to find positive things around me. I feel like this is something I will continue to do, though maybe not on Facebook.
  2. We dropped Casey off at camp today, where she will be for a whole week with no way to contact us. She was so excited, and she is looking forward to making new friends…I am so glad she isn’t afraid to try new things!
  3. Thanks toGayle Boissonnault Stefanelli, I am committing, starting now, to giving up ANY food or drink that has been artificially sweetened. I am so thankful to people who pass amazing info my way, as these things are all helpful in more ways than you know.

Day #8 Positives:

  1. My co-worker,Timina Wilkerson Stengel, wrote an article about me and yoga for our division’s monthly newsletter and submitted it to the head of Corporate Communications for review. He sent me a personal e-mail this morning saying that the article struck him so much so, he wanted to know if I was OK with it being published in the weekly newsletter that goes out to the whole company! Wow! I feel so honored! And thank you, Timina, for writing such a wonderful piece!
  2. All my strength training must be paying off. A few days ago, someone told me my legs were “rock hard”. And last night, my hubby told me my arms were looking really strong.
  3. It is a gorgeous day outside…I am loving the cooler temps and the bright sun. Namaste!

Day 9 Positives:

  1. God
  2. Yoga
  3. Meditation

And yes, these three things go together beautifully!

Day 10 Positives:

  1. My new doctor…I met him yesterday and spent 2.5 hours with him…one of the things he “prescribed” for me is daily yoga. How cool is that?
  2. My love of research. My new doc gave me lots of homework to do between now and when I go in again…good thing I love researching and learning all about health and wellness!
  3. My yoga practice this morning…it was just what I needed.

Day 11 Positives:

  1. It’s Friday, which means I get to teach my FAVORITE class of the whole week!
  2. The yoga article about me was published to my division today, and I’ve already had 3 people at work ask me about how they can get started! I can’t wait to see if more people respond once it goes to the whole company next week. BOOM!
  3. My new chakra bracelets, made by my friend, the lovelyPatty Benjamin. Aren’t they gorgeous? I need to buy the last 3, but these first 4 are where I need the most work right now.

Day 12 Positives:

  1. Casey comes home from summer camp today! I haven’t seen or talked to her since we dropped her off last Sunday, so I can’t wait to see her beautiful face and to hear all about the things she did at camp.
  2. I have now been free of all artificial sweeteners for 7 days. And I never had one craving for it at all during the 7 days…AND, my legs aren’t hurting today. Wonder if there is a connection to this, after all?
  3. I am here for another glorious day…I am planning on making the most of it!

Day 13 Positives:

  1. Today I begin purging. My plan today is to get through all of my books and get rid of the ones I don’t need to keep around.
  2. Casey had a blast at camp, and said she can’t wait to go back again and again. I am so happy she met some new friends and tried some new things.
  3. I get to attendJennifer Hunt’s amazing Restore & Renew class at Synergy Yoga’s Rock Hill location tonight. She is an amazing teacher! If you want 90 minutes of total Restorative Yoga, come on down and join us. Class starts at 5:45 p.m.!

Day 14 Positives:

  1. I am an intelligent person.
  2. I love learning new things.
  3. I am strong and independent.

Day 15 Positives:

  1. My early morning walk withPam Johnson Juliano this morning. It was great to finally get to catch up, AND get some exercise in at the same time!
  2. Seeing Casey get so excited about books. She used to HATE reading, but now she loves it. I bought her a new book last night, as it’s the final book in a trilogy she’s been reading, and you would’ve thought I gave her diamonds…she was so excited…LOVE!
  3. I am choosing to take the necessary steps to make my dreams come true.

Day 16 Positives:

  1. Being sick doesn’t scare me anymore. I look at it as an opportunity to dig deep and find my strength to fight it.
  2. Trying new things, if they will help me become happier or better in some way, is wonderful! I’m constantly looking for new things that fit this, and I never regret it, even when it doesn’t work out. It’s how I will fugue out my true purpose.
  3. I tried a regular Coke yesterday because my throat was sore and HATED IT! I ended up throwing it away after only a few sips. I think I’ve finally and totally kicked my love of soda!

Day 17. OK…I have to admit it was hard to find 3 positives today, since I am still dealing with a fever and major body aches. But…I dug really deep and came up with the following:

  1. My mom. She is awesome! She always makes me feel better. Especially yesterday.
  2. My dad. He is also awesome, and never lets me forget how much he loves me, no matter what. It meant a lot that he took the time to let me vent yesterday.
  3. My walk this morning. Yes, even with a fever and aches, I made myself get up and meet my friend for a walk. It did me good because it made me focus on something other than feeling like poop.

Day 18 Positives:

  1. My fever seems to have broken, and my body aches are definitely not as bad today. Yay!
  2. Casey impresses me more and more each day. She has really taken the initiative with starting a pet sitting business…she came up with the name, designed business cards, and then put them in all the mailboxes in our neighborhood. She’s got 3 “clients” now, and Iam super impressed with how diligent she is. She truly loves taking care of people’s pets…dogs, cats, hermit crabs…you name it! She is really making me proud!
  3. My yoga students, each and every one of them is a positive in my life. Cool story…last night after the Deep Stretch class I taught, one of my students came up to me and said, “You know, Melanie, I’ve been practicing yoga for 36 years. And I have to say, you are the best teacher I have ever had.” Man! What a compliment! I was speechless and humbled and brought to tears. This is why I do what I do…wow!

Day 19 Positives:

  1. I get alone time with each of my girls today. That is a very rare thing as they get older, it seems, so I’ll take it!
  2. The rain. I love heavy rain in the summer.
  3. Kundalini Yoga. I tried this type of practice today…it’s been a LONG time since I’ve done Kundalini yoga, and it made my shoulders and hips feel so much looser. Just what I needed.

Day 20 Positives:

  1. Diligent banks. Wells Fargo called me yesterday to ask me about some suspicious transactions from Arkansas and Paris. Obviously, I didn’t make those purchases, so we closed my account and I’ll be getting a new card. I am so thankful they caught it before whoever stole my identity wiped out my checking account!
  2. Travis and I make a great team. We got a lot accomplished in our basement yesterday…we should have it ready to be our “entertainment room” in no time.
  3. No plans. I don’t have anything today that is demanding my time, so I get to do whatever I want…which is to continue working on the basement. Never thought I’d hear myself say THAT!

Day 21 Positives:

  1. My friends. Some have been sending me some GREAT music links, some have been letting me vent, and some have been helping me in other ways. Thank you!
  2. Having a plan. I am really working hard to get my life as stress-free as I can. I am finally feeling like I have a solid plan to get there, which I hope will help me in many ways.
  3. I’ve got faith that everything will work out in the best way and according to God’s plan for me.

Day 22 Positives:

  1. I matter. As Charles Dickens said, “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” And I believe I lighten the burden of my friends and family to the degree that I can.
  2. The unknown is teaching me what I’m made of. It’s scary to venture into new territory, but I know I’ll never move forward if I remain stagnant. So I look at it as an opportunity to grow and learn.
  3. I am getting better at making decisions. I definitely feel like I am able to make a decision and feel good about it more frequently now.

Day 23 Positives:

  1. I can laugh at myself, and I do…a LOT!
  2. The little things. Someone took the time out of their busy day today to check in on me, as they know I’ve had a rough week. That meant so much, and lifted me up.
  3. Letting go. I’m learning day by day to let go of things that don’t serve me.

Day 24 Positives:

  1. River kayaking. Got to do that today on the flat water, and it was very relaxing and beautiful.
  2. Spending time with Travis and the girls. It’s rare that all four of us get time together. I enjoy every minute I can get.
  3. Epsom salts baths. Man, do they make me feel and sleep better!

Day 25 Positives:

  1. Sleeping in. I rarely ever get to sleep in, and my body (and mind) definitely needed it. I am glad I got to today, as I feel so refreshed!
  2. I got the opportunity to devote an entire 40 minutes to meditating yesterday, and 20 minutes today. Lately, I haven’t had that much time to devote, and I could feel the difference…so glad I am finding more time for something so important.
  3. Random acts of kindness. There have been two occasions this week alone where a stranger has taken time out of their own day to do or say something nice to me. It totally makes me happy and puts a smile on my face when these kinds of things happen, and it inspires me to continue doing the same for those I come into contact with.

Day 26 Positives:

  1. I only cried a little moving Morgan in to her dorm. Ok, maybe a little more than a little, but definitely not as much as I thought I would, and THAT is a positive in my book!
  2. Time with a family friend last night. One of our oldest friends from VA is moving to SC, and I got to spend time with her last night. I am so happy she will be closer!
  3. Caramel Frapuccinos. On a hit day like today, they taste like a piece of heaven…yummy!

Day 27 Positives:

  1. Morgan had a good first night at USC. She seems to get along with her roommates, and she connected with a high school buddy today.
  2. Casey is all set to begin middle school tomorrow. Her backpack is ready to go, and she’s already got her outfit laid out.
  3. I was very productive today and feel relaxed because of it.

Day 28 Positives:

  1. Casey had a great first day of 6th Grade…Phew!
  2. I had a great workout atPushpointe ..I love, love, LOVE the Hange10 class! I don’t know if I’ll be able to drive to work tomorrow, but I’ll do my best!
  3. I am loving the book my new doctor is making me read, called “Why Isn’t My Brain Working?”, by Datis Kharrazian. It’s helping me understand the neurological issues I have been experiencing and offering amazing suggestions as to how to improve them. I can’t wait for my next appointment with my doc in September, so we can put a plan in place to get me all better!

Day 29 Positives:

  1. The rain. I know we’ve had a lot of rain this summer, but I still say that nothing beats a summer thunder storm. I love the way it smells outside afterwards…that’s one of the best smells to me!
  2. Less uncomfortableness. Last week, I had to prepare for a food sensitivity test by eating all the foods I’ve been avoiding these past two years, so that we can see if my body builds antibodies to any of these foods over the next few weeks. I thought I’d love eating all those foods again and not having to worry about looking at every single ingredient with scrutiny, but I was MISERABLE…puffy, itchy and lots of joint and muscle pain. I finally went back to my restrictive regimen on Sunday, and today, I feel a LOT better.
  3. Feeling more complete. As I really dig in and start to work on making things happen, I am feeling less stressed and more complete. I finally see progress!

Day 30 Positives:

  1. I successfully made it through 30 days of being able to find 3 positives each day. Many days, I found more than 3 but only posted the 3. It’s nice to look at things from a positive perspective more and more often! It really lifts one up!
  2. I had two productive meetings at work, where we had consensus on all fronts! That rarely ever happens, but when it does, it makes me SO HAPPY!
  3. Love from my old hound dog, Beta. She’s 14.5 years old and hides under the bed most days now. But last night, she hung out in the living room with us and just gave us some love. I love when she’s got the energy to hang with us!

Namaste,

Melanie

PeaceQuote

Lately, I’ve been noticing that I haven’t been as good about practicing my daily meditation. As in, once I stopped to think about it, I realized I’d missed MANY days. Last week, I talked about how I was going to get better at meditating daily…and then, as if the Universe was reading my blog, I saw a post on my friend’s Facebook page about a 21-Day Meditation Challenge being offered by the Chopra Center…this is a FREE program offered online, and I wanted to know more. I’ve done other meditation challenges before, and they were fine, but THIS one really resonated with me. It’s all about meditations that help you find and expand your happiness, and it includes an online journal feature, which I haven’t seen in other challenges I’ve done. I knew this was the one for me, so I signed up (see https://chopracentermeditation.com for more info). It kicked off on Monday (8/11), and it’s not too late to join in, as each meditation is available for 5 days after it posts. If you can’t commit now, you can purchase the whole program for $39.99.

I’ll tell you, this program is amazing so far! I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately where the focus has been on improving happiness, and I’ve also seen many articles in my magazines focusing on the same topic. It seems like everyone is trying to improve their happiness, and I couldn’t be more excited about that. After all, if we’re happy, we’re less likely to experience physical or emotional illness.

Today’s meditation really hit home with me. It’s all about peace, and the mantra for today is Shanti Hum (I am peace). Hmm…I am peace…I never would have classified myself in that way. I feel like most of the time, I am a big ball of stress, no matter how hard I try not to be. After I finished the meditation, I went to the journal to record my thoughts.

The journal asked us to think of a peaceful experience we’d had during a challenging situation, and to imagine that feeling of calm becoming deeper and stronger within your soul to the point where nothing happening in the environment could shake it. It asked us to describe what that kind of peace would feel like physically, mentally and emotionally. And then, “How could this type of peace change your life?”

Oh my gosh, if I could feel that kind of peace all the time, I think I would be a whole new person. So many of my physical health symptoms are made worse by stress, so I know that if I could find my peace and make it last, I would feel so much better. And I think my emotional health would be greatly improved, because maybe I wouldn’t worry so much about EVERYTHING. And mentally, I think I’d be able to focus on the things that will bring me to the next level in my life, which could totally CHANGE my life by allowing me to focus on the things where I feel I could truly make a difference in the world.

What about you? Can you think of a peaceful experience you recently had where you felt totally calm, inside and out? How long did that feeling last? What could you do to bring that feeling back if it’s no longer with you?

It’s important to do things in your life that make you happy. When you’re happy, it’s much easier to be at peace, even when life throws a curve ball your way. And when you find that peace, it radiates through every cell of your body, and others can’t help but be affected in a positive way.

So find your peace. If you can, join in this 21-day Meditation Challenge. Each meditation is only around 20 minutes. Can you take 20 minutes to invest in your happiness? I hope you can and will join me on this challenge. If nothing else, write your own journal entry for the above,and see if you can learn something about yourself from it. 

If you do decide to join the challenge, let me know…we can keep each other motivated and support each other. Let’s get happy!

Namaste,

Melanie

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