Metta Meditation and Finding Joy in the Happiness of Others

Metta Meditation and Finding Joy in the Happiness of Others

Have you ever felt a powerful sense of loving kindness for someone you’ve never met before? Just from observing this person, you felt an overwhelming sense of compassion and pure love towards them as they went about their business, completely unaware you were watching them with this sense of love vibing from your heart?

Before I even knew what “Metta meditation,” or “loving kindness” was, I can remember a particular instance of it happening to me. Before I begin my story, let me explain what Metta meditation is. It is cultivating compassion towards yourself and others, wishing all beings to be happy and free from suffering, and in that wish, feeling pure joy in imagining all beings being happy. In a sense, your happiness arises as a result of knowing others are happy. Metta meditation as a practice involves thinking about beings you care about (people, animals, etc.), as well as people you don’t know or care about, and visualizing and sending positive thoughts towards yourself and them. But sometimes this practice can happen more “organically”.

My experience with Metta meditation happened during a trip abroad. I was coming home late on a bus from a day full of Christmas shopping in Edinburgh. I was exhausted, yet feeling hopeful that my unique finds from another part of the world would bring pleasure to my family back in the US as they unwrapped the gifts I had purposely picked out for each of them. As I sat and imagined my family’s smiles spread across their faces, I looked over to see an elderly gentleman wearing a tattered wool suit jacket, a plaid wool paperboy hat, and very worn boots. As I looked a little closer, I noticed he had a hole in one of his boots, and I could see his very wet black sock through the hole. He was also wearing earmuffs and gloves with the fingertips cut off. Despite his tattered clothes, he still looked very distinguished, as if he used to live a wealthy life, hosting lots of parties that included intelligent conversations around chimney fires and glasses of scotch.

The elderly gentleman held a Menzies bag in his hand. Menzies is a store with a bit of everything in it. I would compare it to Target or Walmart, only smaller. He kept looking at the bag and a smile drew upon his face. It was as if he was trying to fight the urge to open it up. Finally, he couldn’t wait any longer and opened the bag and pulled out what appeared to be a small plastic box. The gentleman opened the box and pulled out small plastic chess pieces. I soon realized he had a travel-sized plastic chess board. He pulled out each individual chess piece with a curious smile and held it high into the air so that he could steal a glimpse of it when the bus passed by a streetlight. When the streetlight finally shed some light on the chess piece, his smile grew even bigger. I watched as he kept pulling out each piece and counting them as he put them back in the case.

I wondered who he had bought this small plastic chess game for. Was it for his grandchild? His own son or daughter? Or was it a gift for himself?

Though he looked like he had played many chess games in his life, I made the conclusion that the chess game was a gift for a grandchild, and he wanted to pass on his love for chess to his grandson or granddaughter.

I suddenly realized that we were both having the same feelings and imagining how our gifts would bring happiness to our loved ones. I felt an instant connection with this man and hoped that the recipient of his gift would not disappoint this man’s excitement, as I watched him anticipate the joy his gift would bring. Though this plastic chess game may have cost no more than ten pounds, I hoped the memories it brought would be worth so much more. I hoped the recipient would understand how much giving this gift meant to this man.

Though we parted ways without saying a word on that day twenty years ago, the image of this elderly man has stayed with me all these years. I now understand how someone can wish happiness on someone they have never really met and how his happiness made me happy.

As I unloaded my many purchases from all the touristy places onto my bed, I counted out the precious cargo and realized I was just as hopeful as the gentleman on the bus. Picturing my family’s faces as they unwrapped my gifts, I realized it wasn’t so much about the gifts as it was about wishing my family could be in Scotland and get to experience what I was experiencing. I wanted my joy to be my family’s joy.

With the memories of my encounter on the bus fresh in my head,  I decided to wish happiness upon myself and to truly enjoy each remaining day abroad in order to make the most of it for myself and my family. And I looked forward to the moment I could share my gifts with my family so that I could experience the joy of their happiness.

Yoga Bio

Yoga Bio

I completed my Yoga Alliance 200-hour yoga teacher training program at Yoga Lounge and Barre in Hudson, Ohio, on May 16, 2020. I currently teach Power Vinyasa Flow and Gentle Flow.

I started practicing yoga several years ago at various local gyms and with home videos. However, I began to take my practice seriously when I discovered Yoga Lounge and Barre a few years ago. That’s when I felt the mind-body connection and ultimately, when I fell in love with the practice. Before practicing at a yoga studio, I just thought yoga was something to do to help stretch out my sore muscles after running, power lifting, or taking a high-energy cardio class. I always felt like I needed to develop more strength physically, but never gave much thought to my mental state until I practiced at Yoga Lounge and Barre. Not only do I feel empowered, stronger, and calmer during yoga, but I feel blissful and completely happy and relaxed afterward. I hope my students can feel the same after taking my online yoga classes. I want my students to walk away knowing that “the power lies within.”

As a person who suffers from Scoliosis, I am particularly interested in studying more about how yoga benefits people who suffer from various back problems and improving spine alignment.

I have a day job working at Crate & Barrel in Customer Service and as a Furniture Design and Sales Consultant. In my free time, I like to write. (I have a blog called Coffee with Julz.) I also enjoy biking with my husband, Chris, through the Metroparks system in Northeast Ohio; reading (usually with a glass of wine); traveling; and hanging out with family, friends, and our two cats, Izzy and Belle.

For further information about the yoga classes that I offer or for private lessons, please visit my Facebook page, “Awake Yoga.” You can also message me through Facebook or Twitter.

Do You Avoid Triggers or Tackle Them Head On?

Do You Avoid Triggers or Tackle Them Head On?

Recently, I needed to remind myself of the quote by Vienna Pharaon, “Avoiding your triggers isn’t healing. Healing happens when you’re triggered and you’re able to move through the pain, the pattern, and the story and walk your way to a different ending.”

This quote about mindfulness can probably be applied to almost any situation, but it seems most relatable during this unsettling moment in our history. We are fortunate to live in a time where mental healing is emphasized just as much as physical health. However, mindfulness can still be difficult to find—without getting a little help from a glass of wine or pint of ice cream, that is.

Kidding aside, I do find it hard to sit with the triggers and move through the pain, because I try to avoid triggers so that I can remain calm and present for others. There is a constant inner struggle between keeping the mind calm and moving through the pain.

When I’m on the mat and I’m in a difficult bind trying to breathe through the pain, all I can think about is my next breath. In yoga, we purposely put ourselves in a bind or a very strenuous situation so that we can practice getting out of it. Over time, we build enough strength so that we are able to come out of our binds with ease.

A few months ago, I accomplished a half moon pose without the assistance of a block to keep me balanced for the very first time! I have always needed a block prior to that instance. But over time, I learned to face my trigger head on and kept trying to move through the pain to get stronger each time until I was able to accomplish a difficult pose without any assistance.

The point is, I always thought I needed someone or something to keep me balanced and calm when working through my triggers. But I’ve realized that the power lies within and that I’m strong enough to pull myself out of these difficult situations or triggers. By doing so, I can walk my way to a different ending, because I’ve built up enough strength over time to prepare myself for this difficult time in history.

And yes, wine and a pint of ice cream help me along the way. After all, I’m only human.

Can Habits Make You Happy?

Can Habits Make You Happy?

Today, I sat down to meditate by listening to my favorite podcast, “Meditative Story”. This episode was titled, “There’s No One Way,” by Gretchen Rubin. She discusses how habits create happiness. Of course, it depends on what kind of habits I create, but the bottom line is, if something works for me, it does not always mean that it will work for everyone else. There is no one right way to become happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative. We each have to know ourselves. I can relate to a lot of what Gretchen is saying, when she says, “outer order contributes to inner calm.” For example, I always become instantly happier when I tidy up my house. My favorite thing to do is purge clutter! (Yes, my husband is very annoyed by this habit.)

But why is there still a lot of inner clutter despite the outer order in my house?

It’s obvious to me that habits help make life happier–not perfect, but happier. When I’m busy, I don’t have to think about how our world is suddenly turned upside down. Perhaps that’s why I am constantly sticking to my habits and constantly running around the house to keep it neat and tidy. My husband is the complete opposite. My constant picking up of stuff around the house annoys him, yet seeing a clean house makes me happy.

I can identify with how Gretchen points out that one way we express love to others is by trying to tightly control everything around and inside us. Thus, I try to control my surroundings. I have recently realized that is why accepting what is happening, instead of controlling it, is so hard for me.

Gretchen points out, “A central tension in a happy life is that we want both to accept ourselves and expect more from ourselves. Only we can decide what we can accept from ourselves and what we can expect more of from ourselves. And what that means–no one can decide that for you.”

So how do I calm my monkey mind during these crazy times? How do I relax my struggle, my burnout and find some sort of way to be present? How do I decide what I can accept from myself and what I can expect more of from myself?

Meditation allows my mind to roam free and let it all go. By creating a daily habit to meditate each day, I can invite my body, heart, and mind to relax and be free. I can watch, instead of trying to obtain the impossible goal of controlling what is happening all around us. Noticing why and how my mind is not free will help me to get better at letting go and deciding what I am willing to accept and what I can expect more of from myself.

Can I still improve by letting go, even though I meditate daily? Of course I can!

I will continue the daily habits that help me feel in control, like cleaning up around the house, working out, cooking, and taking care of my plants, while also keeping up with new habits that help me relax and let go, such as my daily meditation, yoga, getting outside more, reading, and maybe a glass of wine or two at night for good measure! We are all in this together, and finding new ways to adapt and survive is vital!

Please share how you are adapting and if you have found any habits that have helped you to be happy during the Coronavirus!

If you would like to listen to Meditative Story, There’s No One Way, by Gretchen Rubin, you can click on the link below:

https://meditativestory.com /gretchen-rubin/

My Heart is Breaking

My Heart is Breaking

I see the world through the lenses of someone who has experienced a lot of setbacks. Recently, the world has not shown its brightest colors. Hate, racism, and political banter have disrupted our society, and the economy has left thousands without jobs. 


This is all weighing on me. I’m left with a mix of wonder and confusion about what is bull shit versus fact. I don’t have time for this. I don’t have time for this crazy, mixed-up world we live in, where everyone thinks they have all the answers, but no one really does. My head is spinning just trying to stay grounded long enough to breathe and stay sane.

Then why should I still have hope? Because I need to stay strong and rise above it if I want to help others do the same. I can’t expect everyone I love to be able to stay strong, but I can expect myself to be there for those who can’t. Is this too much to ask of myself? No. Is this too much pressure on me? No. Why? Because I can’t let that happen. This is not the time to become another victim in this crazy world. I won’t let it take me down. I need to stay positive and remember that I am right where I’m supposed to be.  

Staying strong is not easy, and it takes a lot of practice. I am definitely not the authority on it, but I know that by taking small steps each day, I will come to understand how to be more patient and see the God in all of us. Trying to bear the words and actions of others and not take them personally can help me stay grounded. And by using my gifts, I can make a difference in other people’s lives. Through daily practice both on and off the yoga mat, I can slowly evolve into a better wife, sister, daughter, friend, fur mom, and yoga instructor.

 I understand the value and weight of an inspiring yoga instructor. People are drawn to yoga, especially during this highly stressful pandemic. They’re looking for something to cheer them up—something that will help them escape and feel better and stronger about themselves. People are in desperate need of some kind of encouragement just to get through to the next day. In order to be a beacon of strength for others, I have to take care of myself, dig out all of the emotional shit, and find self-healing of my own. I have to move beyond the heartbreak.

Sometimes when I watch the rain pour down, I wish it would wash away all the bad. A fresh start, a new beginning, like the beautiful, vibrant hibiscus flowers on my deck. They always look hopeful after a long drink of rainwater—blooming with delight, and not afraid to stretch their pretty petals and drink up the sun after the rain. For even my flowers know there is always sunshine after the rain.  

Finding our True Selves

Finding our True Selves

To say that we are to know our true selves is an understatement. It is imperative to find our true selves and to live authentically. Can you honestly say you know who you are? Can you honestly say you are living your most authentic life?

There is a disconnect between what we believe to be “authentic” or “honest”. Sometimes we can argue that we speak honestly and tell the truth to anyone even if it is hurtful. But, hey! At least we are living our truth, right?! There is a fine line between being honest with others and being honest with ourselves. We can let our egos tell us that we are living honestly by going around and blurting out anything that comes to mind as “honest”, but if we were to pause and reflect, is that really how we feel or is that our ego trying to pull us in a direction towards an unbalanced behavior pattern that hurts others for the sake of making ourselves or our ego feel better about who we are? Ego often masks itself in different threads. We try to justify our behavior because we can’t face our true selves anymore. We look in the mirror and don’t recognize who we are.

Living an authentic life is being honest with how we feel, how we connect with others, how we can be better humans and most of all how we can be better to ourselves. If we don’t take time to reflect or calm the mind or listen to our heart, how can we be calm and live our best truest version of ourselves? It’s a constant struggle and I for one, am not always living my authentic self, but I am trying. Studying ourselves is not linear. It’s circular and ongoing. This journey is never ending. We are all at different levels living our truths on this journey, but remember we are all in this journey together.

Leading with our heart is a good way to start. After all, God is love. Therefore, God lives in all of us if we allow it. If we open our hearts and open our minds, we can explore and identify what it means to try to live our truths. If we live our truth, then we become God ourselves. That is not to be confused with ego. Remember, love is God. God can mean anything to anyone. God can mean the sunrise or sunset. God can mean pure bliss. God can mean forgiveness or strength. God can mean being honest with yourself, because you love yourself enough to take time to reflect and calm your mind. I observe others and if I don’t quite understand where they are coming from or why they choose to cause harm to others, I have to remind myself that they are on a different level of finding their truth. There is love somewhere deep inside of everyone. We just have to look harder for it in some more than others. After all, we are all trying to live our best lives. Sometimes our ego just speaks louder than our hearts.

Feeling the Magic!

I think we can all agree that these are crazy times! Being stuck in our homes trying to make the best of this quarantine and stress from the Coronavirus as we watch our loved ones die around us, seeing how our frontline workers are suffering as they work tirelessly to help care for the sick and dying, scared to go out into the world as we are still learning how this virus spreads. I wonder how are we going to get through this? Then I witness magic! Magic happening everywhere and all around me! Beautiful, talented humans coming together to reach out to everyone who will listen to help us get through these tough times by performing various live free music concerts on television! Artists performing their comedy acts on stage and bringing it to the screen so we can all share some laughs for a small fee that goes towards funding PPE equipment for our frontline workers! Art museums around the world, opening up their displays to the public for free! Various everyday beautiful humans are reaching out to their Facebook community by reading poetry to anyone who wants to listen, orchestra conductors sharing their music performances, people sharing their videos of them dancing to make us laugh, people reading excerpts from their favorite books all to inspire us and to let us know this is but temporary. Life and love and laughter live on and reaching out to others, by being part of a community however large or small it is, we can create and share moments that make us forget about the virus and this is what creates magic. We are only human, but we are capable of creating something bigger than ourselves. Magic is all around us and it is because beautiful humans are there to create it and share it. I feel the love and I feel the magic in the air!

How Emotional Connection Between Pets and Humans Help Us Cope

Sharing an emotional connection with all living animals is something I am reflecting on this morning as I listened to yet another Meditate Story podcast, this one entitled, #32. Loving Our Living World, by Carl Safina. With my little Belle by my side as I start to meditate, she brushes her soft kitty whiskers on my hand and licks it to remind me that she’s here for me. She proceeds to rub her forehead into the palm of my hand. A big full body stretch and yawn is followed by tucking in her tiny white chin, her plump fluffy belly, her shiny black tail and her tiny little paws in order to get comfortable, preparing for her daily cat nap. This predictable ritual makes me laugh out loud! As I laugh, she looks up at me and then falls back down into a deep slumber. Eventually I see what appears to be a smile on her face as she starts to purr softly, cuddling close by my side. Usually, Belle’s sister, Izzy, is the one who cuddles with me during meditation, but today, Belle wanted to see what this was all about. I think it’s more like sibling rivalry, but I’ll take what I can get.

As we both get settled in, I suddenly stop and think about studies continuing to develop on the human to cat transmission of this virus and then some slight panic starts to set in. What does this mean for our beloved pets? Why are other mammals not effected by the virus? A few tigers and lions were recently diagnosed with the Coronavirus from a Bronx zoo, but why are humans so easily infected and mammals not so much? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I would be a total wreck if Izzy or Belle were infected! Of course, being an animal lover, I would be devastated if millions of other mammals were infected! But the one thing that helps keep me calm during this pandemic, is being able to curl up on the couch and feel my kitties’ “pure love”. I try not to think about it and continue to listen. “Stay focused, Julie!” I tell myself. Carl continues on to tell a story of how animals show us as what he refers to is “pure love”. He describes this love from an animal that doesn’t want anything from you in return except wanting to show you affection by being close to you. Showing their human companions that they truly love us unconditionally by sprawling out on our laps, our arms, our necks and even our faces to try to get as close to us as possible as they trustingly sleep turning their guard completely off, knowing we are there for them if they need us.

This “pure love” reminds me that we all need to love and be loved-humans and animals alike. No one wants to feel alone, especially during isolation as we quarantine ourselves from each other.

Do you see “pure love” displayed by your pets? How so? If so, please share a story or photo of how your pets help you cope through this stupid pandemic. I’m sure all of us could use a heart-warming pet story to cheer us up!

If you are interested in listening to Meditative Story Podcast#32 Loving Our Living World, by Carl Safina, go to:

http://podcast.meditativestory.com/p/2

Adapting to a world of unpredictability

“Through failure, we become more successful when we learn how to become more adaptable to the challenge before us”, says Forrest Galante.

He continues on….

“With each and every phase of our lives, we cultivate a unique skill set for being adaptable and being communicative and slowing down and being respectful and taking a breath. That allows us to see everything from a bigger picture and navigate what ever comes our way. This is how we are meant to evolve as humans. This is how we adapt.”

Now I know I’m not a professional wildlife biologist and adventurist with my own show on Animal Planet like Forrest Galante, but I can’t help but ask when I’m outside, surrounded in nature, “What is here to be known and enjoyed”? I am always noticing new plants, new habitats that animals have created, new foliage and sometimes new damage such as a whole or pipe or some kind of foreign object put there by us humans that disrupted a part of nature. But as I look closer, nature continues to adapt by growing lush new greenery surrounding the whole or the pipe or what ever damage there once was. After all, birds build nests on man made objects such as utility poles and basketball hoops. Who is to say we are not as adaptable as well as the nature that surrounds us?

This motivates me to get outside when I feel down or defeated by this depressing virus and just looking around, observing how nature adapts and works around its surroundings to keep on moving, is very inspiring to me.

How are you adapting? What inspires you to adapt through this unexpected life changing virus that effects all of us? If you are not finding ways to adapt, I challenge you to find one specific thing that motivates you to adapt to this change this week. What was the result? If you would like to share your ideas, please do so. I would love to hear about them and hopefully, we can all help others around us get through adapting to a world of unpredictability.

Photo by luizclas on Pexels.com

Finding Flexibility In A Time of Crisis(yes, it is possible!)

As I’m fighting anxiety and fear from this pandemic known as COVID-19 or Coronavirus through eating, drinking and baking(not successfully). I realize just how close our mind and body are connected. The more I fear, the more my body tenses up. The more anxious I feel, the more aches and pains I feel. The more I watch the news and get upset about all the politics behind it, the more nervous I get and can’t seem to sit down. If I’m feeling this way, I have to think there are others out there with the same thoughts and actions as myself, right?! At least I have to think that, otherwise, I’m just going crazy, which my husband reminds me is very possible.

So, here is my first attempt at doing my very small part in helping others to get through this together. Despite our differences and where we see ourselves on the other side of this pandemic, I hope we can all agree that we are all one in the universe. I listened to a podcast today that helped put these thoughts into context. I listened to Meditative Story, the one titled, “Our tiny meaningful lives in the vast universe”(March 21, 2020) with astronomer Michelle Thaller. She reminded us how vast the universe is and how tiny we are. The universe doesn’t care about our trivial worries or fears. It just moves on and continues to evolve through the death and rebirth of the stars. And this death and rebirth creates Earth and everything around us, including us as humans. It made me realize how I need to be flexible and move with the universe in good and bad times. To create a sense of awareness, but yet still trust in the universe to show it’s goodness. I know this is very difficult to do, but Michelle Thaller reminds us to give ourselves permission to be human. After all, we beat ourselves up, thinking we can control everything sometimes, but this episode in Meditative Story grounded me even if it’s only for a few minutes today. I hope you can find some grounding yourself and the flexibility to remove yourself from worry and fear, to realize we are not in control and to give into the universe. Otherwise, you might be baking up a storm, trying to fix your anxiety ridden sugar cravings like I did the other day, only to realize your chocolate chip cookies are adding to the frustrating weight gain and extra emotional baggage this virus is leaving us all with!

May you be happy

May you be well

May you be healthy

May you be free from suffering

May you stay away from the cookie jar!

If you are interested in listening to the podcast Meditative Story-Our tiny meaningful lives in the vast universe”(March 21, 2020) with astronomer Michelle Thaller, here is the link below:

https://player.fm/series/meditative-story-2527252/our-tiny-meaningful-lives-in-the-vast-universe