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“With integrity, you have nothing to fear, since you have nothing to hide. With integrity, you will do the right thing, so you will have no guilt.” ~~ Zig Ziglar

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(Photo courtesy of Huffington Post)

Let me begin this post with the acknowledgement that I did not post anything during the month of June. Some of you who have followed me for some time know that I am pretty regular, and it is unlike me to go this long without something to say.

Believe me, I tried. Every time I thought about what I wanted to post for June, I came up blank. I had nothing. I was totally and utterly devoid of anything meaningful to say. And so…I decided to take some time off. It was desperately needed, and this post will explain what’s been going on with me. Get ready, because this one might get a bit deep, but my heart is telling me it’s important to share this. So here goes.

For years now, I’ve been moving up the ladder in the world of Healthcare IT. I began as a programmer, moved into being a Systems/Business Analyst, then into my current role of Technical Product Manager. And on the side, I have been teaching yoga and indoor cycling classes, which you all know how much I love. Being in the IT industry is what enables me to pay the bills and help support my family. Being on the Healthcare side of IT is a super bonus, because healthcare is so much a part of my life. Between my illness, illness with family members, and embracing alternative healthcare to achieve overall wellness, I want to do my part to make everything a little bit better for people out there whose health is suffering in any way. What I do in my full-time job is helping to improve the lives of patients. What I do on the side helps prevent people from BECOMING patients. This means I should be happy and fulfilled, right?

I didn’t realize it, but for over two years now, I’ve been on a downward spiral. I was going through the motions, getting through the day, convincing myself everything was perfectly fine. During this time, I’ve gotten sick quite a bit, and have had several spans of times where my Lyme symptoms have flared back up. I’ve had to call in sick more than I ever have before. I chalked it up to the nature of this chronic illness because…well…I am chronically ill, after all!

Then, on May 11th, it happened. I was at work and by mid-morning, I was NOT feeling well. I had some pain on the left side of my chest, and my left arm was kind of tingly. Then I started to feel really dizzy, so I called my husband and told him that once the dizziness passed, I was going to leave and head over to Urgent Care. On my way to Urgent Care, the dizziness returned. While waiting at a stop light, in the rush hour traffic, all of a sudden I felt like I was passing out. I couldn’t catch my breath, I broke out in a sweat, my fingers went completely numb. I thought, “Oh my God! I am having a heart attack!” But I couldn’t get my fingers to dial 911. So I got out of the car and knocked on the window of the car in front of me, and the driver was an angel from above…she called 911 for me, and she sat with me and held my hand until the ambulance came, and she didn’t leave me until she felt like I was in good hands.

So what happened? Long story short…I had suffered a massive panic attack. And I have been suffering from them most every single day since then, up until about 8 days ago.

They’ve been debilitating, as they always happened in my car, any time my car stopped moving. My doctor talked with me at length about this, and she pointed out that though I have some great tools available that help control stress and anxiety (i.e., yoga, meditation), I was not using those tools. Teaching isn’t the same as doing, after all, is it? She stressed to me that if I didn’t get this under control, then I probably WOULD end up having a heart attack at some point. Hearing her say that so bluntly definitely got my attention.

I said to myself, “So now what?” Well, I relented to doing two things I didn’t think I would do:

  1. I started seeing a professional who specializes in panic and anxiety
  2. I agreed that, at least for now, taking a prescription to manage these attacks was necessary

At first, I felt like the most complete and utter failure, because I thought doing these two things meant that I was a fraud. I mean, I help other people manage their stress and anxiety as a yoga teacher and a wellness coach. If I am having to get help from someone and take prescription meds, then I must be a fraud, right? Wrong!

During this time, I have learned that it’s ok to ask for help. I’ve rediscovered my meditation practice, and have FINALLY pared back on anything non-essential so that I can focus on ME. It hasn’t been easy, as I’ve given up teaching any regular classes. I am strictly subbing or offering special classes as I feel up to it. It’s been hard, because…well, it’s hard giving up something you enjoy. But it was necessary…I can see that now.

The help I’ve received during this time has allowed me to dig in to what was truly causing all this stress for me. Which brings me back to how I started this post.

This time of reflection helped me to realize that the role I’ve been in for the past two years (at two separate companies) was simply not the right role for me. The main responsibilities of my role don’t jive with my innate personality. I can DO the job, sure…but it caused me stress because it just wasn’t who I am. When I really thought about it, I realized that I missed being a business analyst, and an opportunity came my way shortly after that.

Pursuing this role caused a whole new slew of emotions. It is a pretty significant pay cut from where I’m at now, and it’s a “step down” in terms of the career ladder. Does this make me a failure?

My husband and I talked at length…would we be OK with me making so much less money? Would I be considered “less than” because I couldn’t hack it in my current role? My husband told me, “Mel, don’t worry about the money. Is this what you enjoy doing?” I told him, “Yes…I love helping customers solve their problems and then working with a team to make it happen.” And he said, “Then you should go for it. Who cares what anyone else thinks? If it makes you happy, then you probably won’t be sick as much.”

My husband’s a pretty smart guy, and having his support gave me the courage to go for it.

As I was preparing to turn in my resignation at my current job, I was initially scared. I’ve enjoyed working there, and I especially have loved working with my boss. She has taught me SO much, and I also love what this company does for the world of healthcare. More than anything, I didn’t want to seem like a quitter, or come across as a failure.

Integrity is defined as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” I decided in the end that no matter what, I was going to be honest about my reasons for leaving. And I felt at peace with it as soon as I decided that. I wouldn’t feel right if I gave a reason that was a lie.

When we talked, I simply told her what was in my heart. That I appreciated the opportunity to have been here, but that the role just wasn’t the right fit for me. Every word I said was completely and 100% honest. And you know what? She totally understood and wished me well.

You see, I approached the situation with integrity. First, with myself…I got really honest with myself about what was making me unhappy and causing me stress to the point where I started having debilitating anxiety/panic attacks. Once I did, an opportunity came my way…an opportunity I think is a true blessing for a variety of reasons. Finally, I resigned from my current job with integrity…this is a company I do truly believe in, but the role I was in simply wasn’t my calling. And that’s OK. There is no guilt that I feel, because I followed my heart and spoke my truth.

Friends, I know many of you struggle with something. Don’t ignore it like I did for so long. Sit with it for a bit. It may be uncomfortable at first, but I promise you…if you meditate on it and really dig in to WHY whatever it is bothers you so much, then you will find the answer. And once you understand what you’re meant to do, go for it and don’t look back! Embrace it, and watch the blessings pour in!

Namaste,

Melanie

“When cleanliness is developed, it reveals what needs to be constantly maintained, and what is eternally clean. What decays is the external. What does not is deep within us.” 
~~ Yoga Sutra II.40 ; Translation by T.K.V. Desikachar

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(Folly Beach at dusk, one of my favorite times of day to experience the ocean)

Saucha is one of the five niyamas, or observances, from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Literally translated as “cleanliness” or “purity”, saucha goes much deeper than its literal translation. Saucha is also about cleanliness and purity of thought and mind, in addition to the body. It has the greater yogic goal of mental and physical freedom and bliss. Sounds pretty great to me! Who doesn’t want freedom and bliss?

Each day, we can practice saucha in practical ways:

  • Showering (especially in these sticky summer months) not only cleans our bodies of dirt, but it energetically uplifts and refreshes you.
  • Choosing foods that are clean and easy to digest is not only healthy for your body, but these kinds of foods also help keep the mind clear. I know that for me, personally, when I eat processed foods, I feel sluggish and experience brain fog. And usually, my stomach doesn’t like me very much. But when I choose fresh, whole foods (like good quality lean meats and vegetables), I feel energized and ready to tackle most anything.
  • Setting aside time to focus on our bodies and our breath provides a sense of purity. You can do this in a yoga class, meditating, or any other type of activity where your sole focus is on paying attention to what your body and breath are doing.
  • Creating a clean, de-cluttered environment. For me this means a clean desk at work, a clean house (particularly my bathroom, bedroom and kitchen) and a clean car (I spend a lot of time in my car). This one has been very challenging for me lately, as I have been super busy with so many things. And believe me, I’ve noticed the increase in stress levels due to the clutter I’ve got going on. Bottom line, be mindful of your environment and how it affects your ability to cultivate saucha.

These are just a few things you can do. When I don’t do the things I mention above, I feel like I’m filling my body and mind with dirt…it’s like I’m saying to the Universe, “Gimme the dirt…bring it on!” But every moment can be lived with greater purity and energetic alignment as we become more aware of ourselves and our habits.  Taking a few deep cleansing breaths in the morning before we get out of bed, periodically throughout our day, or right before going to bed each night, can help in becoming more attuned to and protective of our energies.

Choosing to spend time with people whose presence makes us feel re-charged rather than drained is another. I had the good fortune to spend a week with my husband, children, and my husband’s family this past week at the beach. I must admit I was worried about spending an entire week with so many people in one house. But it ended up being just what I needed. The house was gorgeous, everyone had plenty of space to find time to themselves when needed, the weather was great, and everyone did their part to help out with daily chores. And because we had a whole house, we cooked the majority of our meals there, and they were pretty darn healthy! The smell of the ocean and the sound of the waves was very cleansing for me, so I definitely came home feeling clean, inside and out.

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(Folly Beach family beach shot) 

As we move through this very challenging season of summer (here in the southeastern United States, it is HOT!), sometimes tempers rise along with the temperatures and humidity. Make sure you take a few moments each day to  consciously create some clean and clear space for yourself…clear away all that “dirt”…your body, and your mind, will thank you for it!

Namaste,

Melanie

It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not. ~~ Attributed to Hanoch McCarty

Several posts ago, I wrote about how I’ve dubbed myself the Happiness Advocate. I truly feel it’s my mission to help everyone, including myself, find happiness. We all deserve happiness, in my opinion. It’s our God-given right. He didn’t create us in His image with the intention for us to be miserable all the time, after all.

In my last post, I admitted I’ve been struggling with my own journey. I’ve gotten a lot better when I do the mirror exercise, though, and I am finding it easier not to pick myself apart in terms of what I see from a physical aspect.

But there is another area in my life where the struggle is worse than it’s been in a LONG time…my insecurity with being “good enough” in the things I do. Constantly feeling like I’m “less than” everyone else and feeling like I don’t measure up. I don’t think I’m the only one who struggles with this…am I?

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(My daughter, Morgan, graciously helping me out for this post)

Being noticed for what we do or make is something we all crave. It helps us feel affirmed, to know that we are of value and that we are significant. It’s not wrong to want this, but it can certainly make us feel very vulnerable at times…sometimes to the point of detriment. When we aren’t noticed, then sometimes we resort to comparing ourselves to others.

It’s not uncommon to compare ourselves to others…this is also part of human nature. The unhealthy part about it is when we start to talk ourselves into the notion that the people we are comparing ourselves to are better than us.

    She’s beautiful.
    He’s so amazing with calculations.
    She has a successful career.
    She’s a kick-ass yoga instructor.
    They have more money.
    She gets to stay at home with her kids.
Her house is so pristine…it’s like a museum!

If you’ve been following me for a bit, you know that low self-esteem is something I struggle with, and I thought I’d been very diligent as of late to address it in order to find my happiness. So why has the past month been so hard for me in this area? I seem to constantly be comparing myself to everyone around me, and I come away most of the time feeling like I am just not good enough at the things I do.

Last week, I really started to get frustrated with myself for doing this. I wondered, “WHY? Why have I been beating myself up these past few weeks? Why do I feel “less than” in every aspect of my life…as a professional, as a yoga teacher, as a wife, as a mother, and as a friend? WHY?”

So I took a self-imposed time out and meditated on it a bit. It didn’t take long for me to figure out the source of the problem.

I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t done the things I need to do for myself. When I get super busy, I tend to just PUSH PUSH PUSH, like a well-oiled machine, focusing on the task at hand until it’s done. I’m such a perfectionist that I can’t stop comparing myself to how others are doing “it” better than I am, so then I get paranoid and start over, trying to be better than before. I drive myself crazy when I do this, but this is how I roll, apparently.

When I get this way, I forget to stop and take some “me” time. As I thought about it, I realized I didn’t remember the last time I’d meditated. And that I’d been very sporadic with my exercise habits. I’d been missing more yoga sessions than I cared to admit. No WONDER I’d been such a wreck and was acting really horrible to myself…again!

During my “time out”, I came to realize two things:

  1. I create these comparisons to others all by myself. No one told me I needed to be better at anything…I did that to myself. It’s ME who subscribes to the “he/she is better than me” mindset.
  2. I have the power to do something about it. It is MY reaction, MY brain…which means I control how I react.

As I meditated some more on it, I knew that I needed to get better at changing my thought patterns and habits. It’s not an overnight change, though. It takes a lot of hard work and practice, and self-forgiveness, to teach yourself to realize how awesome you truly are. So here’s how I plan to tackle this and get my life to a point where I can be happy with exactly who I am, and be comfortable that I am exactly who God intended me to be:

  1. Try new things. A change in routine can be a great way to give yourself a boost. For me, I decided to take golf lessons. My husband found me a nice set of used clubs for a great deal, and then I saw a Groupon ad for lessons at a good deal, so I figured this was a sign from above. I’ve had two lessons now, and I am really loving it. By no means am I the female version of Tiger Woods, but I am loving the way the club feels when it makes contact with the ball and goes (generally) in the direction I want it to. I love the way it feels to be outside on the green, soaking up the sun and feeling the nice breeze. And I like my teacher. He is kind and patient, and he tells me stories that make me laugh when he sees me getting frustrated…when I start laughing, he says, “Now that you’re loosened up from all the stress, try hitting the ball again…Even Tiger doesn’t hit a good shot every time.” And I usually find that I do much better once I let go of having to be perfect and just have fun with it.
  2. Take care of yourself. This means, for me, making sure I exercise regularly, meditate, get enough sleep and eat right. I’ve been doing really well lately with eating the right things and not letting my cravings win. I’ve also recently gotten back into my strength training…I’d forgotten how good it makes me feel to lift heavy things! And I have also picked back up with my yoga practice, as I had let my busy schedule get in the way too many times to count. Now I need to get dialed back in to my meditation practice and getting my sleep back on track. Baby steps and patience will get me there. I deserve to give myself the gift of health.
  3. Be honest. Know your triggers so that you can be aware. When they hit, you’ll be better able to figure out how to take yourself out of the situation before it becomes a problem. Be open with others and tell them how you feel…it’s so therapeutic to share with others. If you keep everything to yourself, it’ll eventually drive you mad. Many times, when you share your feelings with others, you find they totally get it…most of the time, people tell me, “OMG! I feel the same way sometimes! I am glad I’m not alone!” That makes me feel better instantly…to know I’m not all by myself when the poop hits the fan.
  4. Know your strengths. We all have them. Every. Single. One of us. For example, I have a good sense of humor and love making people laugh, and I also love to build people up. I also have a knack for making up silly lyrics to the tune of popular songs, which always makes my older daughter cringe a bit in embarrassment (tee hee hee)! When you can recognize your strengths — and embrace them and be proud of them — you’re less likely to pick yourself apart.
  5. Practice, practice, practice! Life happens and things won’t always be sunshine and roses, so don’t be so hard on yourself when you slip now and then. Practice not criticizing yourself at every opportunity by taking a deep breath and taking a moment to reflect before beating yourself up. Remind yourself of your strengths, that you are loved, that you are beautiful, there is no one else like you, and that you deserve happiness. The more you practice, the more you will be able to resist the urge to compare yourself to others.

At the end of the day, we need to remember that we are all different and we are all beautiful. I need to remember this and believe it for myself. I’ve got my work cut out for me, but I know I can do it. Another strength of mine just so happens to be that I am stubborn! And right now, that is a very good thing!

Namaste,

Melanie

Last week, I took a quick quiz to determine what my mantra for 2015 should be. I took it for fun, just to see what it would say…I do these kinds of quizzes all the time. You know the ones I’m talking about:

  • What’s your personality type?
  • Which 80s movie defines you?
  • What job is best for you?
  • Which U.S. state should you be living in?

I see these quizzes on Facebook ad nauseum, as many of my friends take them and share the results. Sometimes I end up taking the quizzes myself, I’ll admit. It’s fun to see what they’ll tell me, you know? I usually get a good chuckle out of them. I don’t usually share the results for everyone to see, but sometimes I do. Guilty!

Last year, I signed up for a subscription to My Yoga Online, who recently merged with Gaiam TV. I joined because I love their stuff. Since they merged with Gaiam TV, they have a plethora of articles and videos about not just yoga, but also Tai Chi, Qi Gong, meditation and many others. They constantly have themes and challenges that I join in order to encourage my personal growth. I love it, as I don’t always have time to get to a class in a live studio.

Anyway, last week, I got an e-mail from them with this quiz to find out what my mantra should be for 2015. I had nothing else to do so I thought, “Why not? Let’s see what it says for me.” I’ve been trying to incorporate mantras into my meditation more, as it really helps me to focus my thoughts. So I thought maybe, if I could find one that REALLY resonates with me, it might make my meditations even more effective.

I went through the questions, and liked them right away. Just answering the questions themselves got me thinking and excited, for some reason. Questions like, “When you daydream, what do you find yourself thinking about most often?” I never thought about that before, but your daydreams are what often reveal your true passions and purpose to you, don’t you agree?

At the end of the quiz, it revealed my 2015 mantra to me. Ready? It was:

Iamhere

“I am here.” Hmmm…interesting.

At first, I was not quite sure about this one. But then, as I am sure the creators intended, I started to mull over it and really think about it. And then it started to sink in and I thought, “How totally PERFECT! This IS the mantra for me!”

“I am here.” All by itself, it’s profound. But then I started adding things to the end of it, and it became even more so.

  • I am here…NOW, in THIS moment.
  • I am here…for one more day.
  • I am here…for you.
  • I am here…to serve others.
  • I am here…to love unconditionally.
  • I am here…to spread happiness.
  • I am here…as God’s child.
  • I am here…to help where I am needed.

These are just things I came up with in a few minutes. Imagine how many more I will be able to add to the list as I think on it more.

I’m not even going to wait for the official first day of 2015. This one resonated with me to the point where I am going to start bringing it into my day, each and every day, starting now. I will wake up, breathing in the words “I am” and breathing out the word “here”.

What’s your mantra? What words could you incorporate into your daily life that would boost you to the next level? Take the quiz that I took, and see what you think. I’d love to know what comes back for you, so feel free to comment and share here.

Namaste,

Melanie

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

“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

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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

“Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.”
~~ 
Helen Keller

Young man meditating on rock by sea

(Photo courtesy of The Ayurvedic Path)

In last week’s post, I asked if there were specific yoga topics you wanted to know more about. Several of you mentioned wanting to know more about meditation, and I think now is a good time to focus on that very topic, as I am not teaching one single yoga class this week or next week.

You’re probably wondering why this is the perfect time to focus on meditation if I am not even going to be teaching it to you in a class. But that’s the beauty of meditation…you can do it anywhere, and for as long as you have the time to do it!  So if you’re as busy as I am going to be these next couple of weeks, there couldn’t be a more perfect time for you to begin a meditation practice if you don’t already have one.

Meditation is something I feel everyone should be doing on a daily basis. Benefits of meditation include, but are not limited to:

  • Stress reduction
  • Better physical and mental health
  • Improved focus and memory
  • Reduction in anxiety

I know that for me, when I meditate, I sleep better and I just feel better overall. Sometimes I have only a few minutes to devote to it, but I really love when I can find the time to get in 15-30 minutes.

How to begin? Well, the answer is, “It depends.” Not everyone can meditate in the same way, so you really need to find what resonates with YOU. There are SO many ways to meditate. But here are some tips that may help get you started:

  • Start off small. If you’re brand new to meditating, commit to 5 minutes. As you get comfortable with that, add on if you feel like you can. But even if you only have time for 5 minutes, you get all the benefits I mentioned above.
  • Begin by taking 3 mindful breaths. Most of us don’t take time to do this nearly enough. When we’re stressed, we tend to breathe very shallowly and unevenly. Breathing in that way all the time wreaks all sorts of havoc in our bodies. So start off by focusing on taking 3 good, deep breaths. Close your eyes and really focus on breathing in to your entire torso, letting it completely expand. As you exhale, let everything deflate. I recommend exhaling through the mouth, as a big, heavy, audible sigh…it really does wonders in helping you to let go of tension.
  • Make sure your environment feels relaxing and comfortable. For myself, it’s hard to find a good place to meditate, as I’ve got a husband, 2 daughters and 3 dogs to contend with. That doesn’t leave me with many quiet spaces where I can truly let go and relax. So for me, I’ve recently started taking a nice bath in the evenings, after the sun has set. I light several candles, turn off the lights, add in my favorite essential oils (usually I use lavendar and grapefruit essential oils, as they are very relaxing scents for  me), and I also add about a cup of epsom salts. Epsom salts contain a lot of magnesium and sulfate, both of which are known to induce relaxation. Epsom salts also help reduce inflammation and aid in detox…bonus! Sometimes I read while I’m in the bath, and sometimes I just lay there with my eyes closed and practice deep breathing. Either way, I always feel amazing after!
  • Find relaxing music. Not everyone likes to meditate with music, but if you’re having trouble getting your mind to focus on the present moment, if all you can think about is all the stuff you have to DO, then music could be very helpful. Pick music that relaxes you and makes you feel happy.
  • Pick a mantra. Again, some people have trouble turning their minds “off”, so sometimes it helps to have a short phrase handy that you can repeat over and over while you’re meditating. It could be a favorite quote from a book or song, or just a simple affirmation that means something to you. Whatever it is, pick something that inspires you, something that makes you feel good about yourself. My go to mantra? “It’s all good…”
  • Try a walking meditation. I just started doing this only a few days ago, and I love it! Find a natural setting…maybe a trail, the woods, a creek…and walk for as long as you have the time for. Take the time to notice the noises around you and see the beauty that surrounds you. Notice the smells, the breeze, the temperature…whatever you see and hear, notice it and reflect on it. Don’t play any music. Let the sounds of nature be all that you need.

Hopefully these tips help get you started. Or if you’ve already been meditating for some time, maybe some of these tips will inspire you to try something new. I’d love to hear about your experiences!

There will be no post next week, as I will be traveling and most likely will not have the time to write anything worthy. So I will look forward to hearing from those of you who are willing to share your meditation experiences with me. Look for a new post in two weeks!

Namaste,

Melanie

“Regard the fleeting world like this: like stars fading and vanishing at dawn, like bubbles on a fast-moving stream, like morning dewdrops evaporating on blades of glass, like a candle flickering in a strong wind.” ~~ The Buddha

DSC_0478
(Travis took this during sunset in Key West…isn’t it beautiful?)

First of all, apologies for not posting a blog last week. But for the first time ever, my husband and I took our girls on vacation for Spring Break for the WHOLE WEEK! Yep, you heard that right. We’ve never done that before…maybe a long weekend here and there, but never a whole week. We have family who lives in the Florida Keys and she graciously offered to let us stay with her and her husband so that we wouldn’t have to pay the exorbitant hotel prices, so how could we refuse? So we rented a very nice mini-van, equipped with a DVD player, satellite radio and leather seats, and we drove on down.

You know, they say when you’re in the Keys, you’re on 3/4 time. Everything just moves at a slower pace there, and everyone is so laid back. So I vowed to be like that while I was there…to relax and enjoy things, not worry so much about everything. That is asking a lot of myself, as many of you who know me can probably guess. I mean, I am always worrying about SOMETHING, even when it’s something silly and stupid.

But I did it. I totally and utterly enjoyed myself while we were there. I slept in, I didn’t plan out every last detail and instead just waited until I woke up to see what everyone felt like doing and that’s what we did. Since I couldn’t find a yoga studio that I could get to, the islands were my yoga mat. I meditated on the edge of the water at the house we stayed at, and while watching the sunset each night. I stretched my body while overlooking the island waters. I practiced my breathing while smelling the wonderful salt air and feeling the island breezes wash over me.

It was amazing. I feel like I left the islands a little more “present”. A little more aware of all the beauty around me wherever I go and whatever I do. Watching how the locals in the Keys live, how they appreciate their lives and everything around them, has seeped into me a little. My goal now, as I settle back into my “real life”, is to see if I can maintain this happiness I am feeling. Life is too short, and the quote above by the Buddha says it wonderfully…this world is fleeting, so we better regard it as such, appreciating all that it has to offer NOW…not LATER.

Namaste,

Melanie

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