This time of year is when I start watching scary movies and TV shows and reading murder mysteries. I can’t watch anything else until the end of October! Halloween allows me to imagine and be a kid again, with a darker, more medieval sense of wonder. But I often ask myself, why do I obsess over scaring myself for the next two months?
I have recently realized why! We depend more on our mental abilities to understand our world and less on our sensations and intuition. Because we exercise too little, but talk and think too much, our imagination is not used and is waiting to be released.
Halloween and creepy stories of ghosts, goblins, vampires, werewolves, demons, or even urban legends about Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster offer us many opportunities to establish balance in our physical world. It allows us to open up and see our space from a different perspective. What if we were abducted by aliens? Would we keep our priorities the same or reprioritize everything when we got back to Earth? Would we get rid of the clutter that keeps holding us back from enjoying what’s really important in life?
But the deeper effect is letting go of the fixed mind to see the world from a different perspective–of calmly abiding in a topsy-turvy, upside down world. That may just be the most profound benefit of imagination and of letting thought and reason go.
During COVID-19, I have taken time to try to declutter my thoughts and bad feelings and to minimize stress as much as possible with meditation and self-healing. I’ve been focusing on positive thoughts and making room for creativity. However, being stuck in the middle of a pandemic can bring on lots of fear and worry about our future.
Now take this situation and put it in the middle of an election year, and the stress intensifies. I find myself constantly trying to cope with discussions about politics and getting swept into conversations because I’m passionate about the subject. But I also dwell on the consequences of not getting my facts straight and voting for the wrong person. The wrong person in office not only will affect me and my personal decisions but will also affect every single American and what the future holds for us during and after COVID. It’s a tough burden to bear for everyone.
This situation reminds me how deeply rooted politics is in our brain, especially during an election year. How am I supposed to stay positive and away from negative thoughts and still take a political stand when I need to? Where is the line drawn, and how do I stay above it without getting sucked into the controversy? I won’t bury my head in the sand, but I don’t want to draw up any drama that may cause a fight or negative energy. If I am trying to dismantle bad habits and baggage from my upbringing, while at the same time stay away from the drama that politics causes (as my parents and I don’t see eye to eye on the political spectrum), then how do I embrace my parents for who they are and yet still be true to myself?
This is a tough one. I have friends that feel the opposite from me when it comes to politics, but they aren’t nearly as evasive and determined to change my mind as are my parents. With these friends, I can remain calm and positive and not feel defensive. But when I’m around my parents, I always have my guard up as they try to impose on my beliefs and values.
I’m reminded of Deepak Chopra’s Abundance Meditation when he suggests that, “In every situation, we have new opportunities to find creative ways to solve our problems, redefine our priorities and explore other options. We begin to view challenges more positively, when we realize that we possess the power to focus our attention on new opportunities and possibilities for abundance are endless. There are no limits to what we can have. Take the time to look at each situation that challenges you and find those seeds of success that will attract greater abundance into your life.”
So how do I keep my mind decluttered from all the negative spins and attacks on who I want as the next President of the United States while still focusing on the positive and keeping my sanity? I can choose to look at each situation that challenges me, find a way to lighten my load, and remember that I cannot change people’s minds. Instead, I can walk away from the discussions and focus my attention back onto my creativity instead.
My time is precious and my focus is on the creative use of energy. The only way to stay creative is to declutter my mind from anything that isn’t serving me. I will be doing a lot more writing over the next few months and most likely sharing my thoughts without trying to sway political opinion.
I am a truth seeker, and as such, I do realize that not everything I hear on television or everything I read is true. I take it for what it is and sort it out by actions and what my eyes see. As Chopra suggests, I will use challenges as an opportunity for creative growth. My mental health with thank me.
Have you noticed how people are reaching out to others more? Have you noticed how people are sharing their vulnerabilities and how others respond to those who are struggling? Have you noticed how people are checking in daily to see how their loved ones are doing?
Yes, there are always going to be assholes out there twisting and destroying humankind, but for the most part, I see and hear more people than ever asking how I’m doing, and total strangers are offering to help if I ever need it.
Is it that obvious that I need help? I mean, I have gained an extra 20 pounds. Maybe it’s because I celebrate National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day with a cookie in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. Or perhaps it’s just me being overly sensitive to my vulnerabilities, and people just care and truly want to know how I’m doing.
I see humankind evolving despite how unsure we are of the future. We are evolving into more caring individuals. We are showing more vulnerability, and people are learning to step up to ask for help as they never have before. How can we see our lives as so narrow and dark if others are reaching out all the time? It’s very hard when people are looking out for you and rooting you on.
As I begin to study Abundance Meditation, I’ve started to take inventory of all that I have and practice being satisfied with what I have. This is not an easy thing to do, and it takes time to practice, but I will give you an example of all that I am grateful for today:
My and my family’s health
My cuddly kitties always cheering me up with their cuteness
The smell of summer rain
Time and space to practice outdoor yoga
A roof over our head
Healthy food on our table
Good friends I can confide in
The flexibility to work from home
Planning my husband’s birthday celebration Covid-style
National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day!
I don’t have to look very far to find abundance in my life. I just have to be able to open my eyes and choose to find the silver lining. With the help of my family and friends, I can do this, and so can you. After all, I am in the middle of evolving along with the rest of the world.
We can evolve, or find the abundance, the silver lining, or whatever you want to call it, because we are all in this together and no one will let you drink alone.
If you are looking for a good meditation app/podcast, I suggest the following:
Meditative Story Podcast
21 Days of Abundance Meditation with Deepak Chopra
I am inspired every morning to get up out of bed when I hear the birds singing outside of my bedroom window as they replace all doubt with love songs. Even the birds know that each day is a new beginning.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.