The Middle Way is the Better Way

Let’s face it. We live in a dualistic, polarized society. Living in this type of environment can result in what I like to call “or-based” thinking. This OR that. Black OR white. Good OR bad. All OR nothing.

Take our relationship with food for a moment. In my work as a facilitator and coach with the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating program, I have seen these extremes magnified. One day we decide we don’t like the way we look or feel in our own skin and we decide to do something about it. So, we diet and/or exercise to lose weight to achieve some artificial goal (weight, size, appearance, etc.) When we have achieved our goal, we go back to eating normally and all the weight comes back on…and then some. Or, maybe we never reach our goal and we just give up and throw the towel in and go back to overeating. On the diet OR off the diet. In control OR out of control. Being “good” OR being “bad”. And, so it goes…

As a Yoga Therapist, teacher and trainer, I don’t just see this in terms of people’s relationship with food. I see it manifest in nearly every area of their lives. Because, as Suzanne Evans said in her book by the same title, The Way You Do Anything is the Way You Do Everything.

I’m sure you get the idea, and no doubt, this type of thinking has impacted you in some way. It may even leave you feeling a little confused or conflicted sometimes. It can also result in our doing life in extremes. The problem is that extremes don’t work. They cause imbalance. They cause conflict, division, and separation. They are not maintainable.

Think of a pendulum for a moment. A pendulum can swing from side to side, to the extremes. But, it can’t stay there without a great deal of effort to keep it there. In fact, when we are way out at the extremes, and we let go of the pendulum, it violently swings to the other extreme!

What if there is another way? What if instead of “or-based” thinking, we could find something in-between. What if we started to think in terms of a “middle way”.

Interestingly, these concepts show up in lots of ancient philosophies. In Chinese philosophy, there are the concepts of yin(dark/feminine/soft) and yang (light/masculine/strong) in which two seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world. In Buddhism, the “middle path” or the “middle way” is part of is the term that Buddha used to describe the character of the Noble Eightfold Path that leads to liberation. In Taoism, the middle way (called “the way”) is the tao. It is the place of harmony and one-ness.

In yoga theory, the terms raga (attachment/clinging) and dvesha (aversion/repulsion) illustrate this as well. These dual forms of attachment lead to pain and suffering. Think of our relationship with food again. Let’s say we LOVE chocolate (or whatever it is for you) and we find ourselves eating too much of it (raga). We decide chocolate is “bad”, so we decide we must stop eating it altogether (dvesha). That type of extremes thinking causes us to fixate on that which we told ourselves we cannot have and leads to feeling deprived (attachment). This deprivation actually causes us to crave it more. So, when we finally can’t stand it anymore (holding the pendulum at the extreme), we eventually eat it and most likely we overeat it (the pendulum violently swings to the other side).

There are also two other yoga terms called sthira (effort/steadiness) and sukha (comfort/ease) that illustrate this idea. Applied to eating, you can think if it in terms of dieting (extreme effort) and overeating (extreme ease). But the yoga sutra that addresses these concepts (Y.S. 2.46) says that our posture (asana) should be BOTH steady (sthira) AND comfortable (sukha). As one of my teachers says, “the joining of opposites heals all opposites.” Interestingly, this sutra is also translated as “resolutely residing in a good space”. From this good space of harmony and balance, we practice surrender (ishvarapranadhana) in order to achieve peaceful bliss (samadhi).

Ahhh…the Middle Way leads to healing, residing in a good space, and peaceful bliss!

I came across an article recently in DailyOM entitled “Balancing Your Warrior Spirit” that addressed this concept too. Madisyn Taylor wrote “balance is the key that unlocks the door of peaceable coexistence where opposing characteristics of the self are concerned.”

There it is again…BALANCE! The Middle Way!

The fact of the matter is that rarely does anything naturally exist entirely in “OR”. Instead, consider using the word “AND”. We are strong AND tender. We have feminine AND masculine traits. We can feel pain AND joy at the same time. Rather than black OR white, “AND” exists in shades of grey (not like the book series, just sayin…). We can in fact find a balance between this AND that.

Now return to the image of the pendulum. No matter which “extreme” you may trying to hold onto, when you release the pendulum and let it go, it will naturally come to rest somewhere in the center.

This is how we work too!

Our body and brain are always trying to find balance, harmony, and equanimity. Our systems are always trying to recalibrate to achieve homeostasis. When we stop thinking in terms of “or-based” thinking, and stop trying to live life out there in the extremes, we too can find the Middle Way.

It’s Time to De-Clutter

Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal. It is a time when animals come out of hibernation, and life is evident all around us. Trees and flowers are in full bloom. Bees and butterflies dance on flowers and blossoms. Babies of all different species of animals and birds are born. It is a lovely reminder of how beautiful life and growth can be.

Spring is also a time of pruning and de-cluttering. It is a time when we can let go of what no longer serves us in order to make space for something new. Like pruning a rose bush, by getting rid of old stuff, we can make way for new growth to occur.

Here are a few tips for de-cluttering:

  • De-clutter your space. Get rid of possessions that you don’t use or that don’t bring you joy. Organize your home and office. Take a deep breath and enjoy the space that you created. Be very selective about what you allow back into the space, or just let the space be.
  • De-clutter your mind. Take note of thoughts and/or beliefs that are present in your mind. Release any old thoughts that are not serving you. Embrace new thoughts, scripture, or mantras that support your healing and growth. Give meditation at try to help keep the mind focused and clear.
  • De-clutter your heart. Check in with your emotions. Let go of any fear, guilt, or shame that resides in your heart. Practice self-acceptance, and be kind and compassionate to yourself. Embrace forgiveness of yourself and others. Allow unconditional love to flow in and out freely.
  • De-clutter your body. Our spine and joints can get very compressed and our soft tissues can get very tight from the force of gravity and stress on the body. Create space in the body by practicing pranayama (controlled breathing) and through stretching or yoga. This will help you to breathe and move more easily, and has countless other health benefits as well.

When we de-clutter and clear out old stuff – whether it be in our home, mind, heart, or body – it is amazing what can and will flow into the space that is created! This also helps to facilitate healing and growth, and enables us to be the best version of ourselves possible.

Lessons from St. Patrick

I’ve always been inspired and humbled by the story of St. Patrick, not the myths that have perpetuated over time, but the REAL story of St. Patrick as shared by the letters he wrote over 1500 years ago.

The man who we know as St. Patrick wasn’t Irish. He was a rebellious atheist Roman teenager who was living a life of luxury in fifth-century Britain when he was kidnapped and sold into slavery. He was taken to Ireland where he lived as a slave in horrible conditions for six years. One day, he heard the voice of God which compelled him to plan his escape. After walking hundreds of miles with no preparations, he managed to convince a ship of pirates to give him passage back to Britain. But here’s the twist…instead of returning to his life of luxury, he returned to Ireland to minister to those who had enslaved him and eventually became a bishop. His life was full of opposition, struggle, abuse, persecution, and threats of murder. Despite all of his hardship, he continued to overcome adversity and remained unwaveringly committed to the calling that had been placed on his life.

You don’t need to be Irish or Christian to find the story of St. Patrick is inspiring and compelling. Rather than a “rags to riches” story, it is quite the opposite. It is the story of a once wealthy man who chose to become a poor simple man in order to pursue his calling. It is the story of a teenager who overcame hardship and adversity only to return to a life of poverty and struggle to minister to those who enslaved and abused him. It is the story of a man who remained committed to his calling, despite all of the opposition and persecution. It is also a story of love, forgiveness, and grace.

And for those of us who need hope, it is a story of how we too can overcome any challenge through the strength and power of the Almighty.

The following is known as the Prayer of St. Patrick, or St. Patrick’s breastplate. Formerly attributed to St. Patrick, it is now believed that it was written by an unknown author. Regardless of who penned this beautiful prayer, I hope it inspires you with courage, strength, and perseverance to overcome whatever you may face.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s hosts to save me
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a mulitude.

Christ shield me today
Against wounding
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation.

~St. Patrick’s Breastplate

A Self Love Story

On Valentines Day exactly one year ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Not exactly what ANYONE wants for a Valentines gift, but as it turns out, it was a gift after all. One year later, I am beyond grateful to share that I am cancer free. But that was not the gift that came from my journey.

The gift I received was love.

I had a formidable tribe that surrounded me with unconditional sacrificial love that came in the form of cards, texts, calls, emails, gifts, meals, visits, outstanding medical care, and more. To me, it was God’s love in tangible form. It gave me hope. It helped me heal. It is with me always.

Love also showed up in some of the most unlikely of places. I remember teaching a class one day after I was diagnosed, at a time I was feeling at war with my cancer and my body. A dear friend (who I hadn’t shared this with) got a vision and told me to “love my cancer”. What the WHAT?! Love the CANCER?! In that moment I knew I must do the thing that was hardest. Love my cancer. Because my body couldn’t heal in a war zone, or in the struggle. It needed love. And, because love heals.

Then came the day when another friend reminded me to look up the “energetics” of breast cancer. You see, in some schools of thought within yoga and the areas of energetic healing, it is believed that breast cancer is connected to imbalances in the heart Chakra, and also to over-nurturing without adequate self care. I didn’t want to see the connection. I wasn’t ready. Both of my grandmas had had breast cancer as well as several second cousins, so I attributed it to a genetic link. Only to find out later that I tested negative for the gene!!

This required me to look closer at something I didn’t want to face. I looked harshly, and critically. Did I cause this? Did I provide fertile soil for this disease to manifest? I was angry. And, in that moment, I was back to being at war with myself.

I processed this with another trusted friend and mentor who reminded me that IF this were true (and we will never know for sure) that my love of others and putting others before myself isn’t a bad thing. It’s beautiful and only shows that I am a compassionate and loving person who cares deeply for others. I just needed to find more balance and do a better job of loving MYSELF.

In that moment, it was as if my inner self said to me, “Can you love me exactly as I am? Can you love me as much and as well as you love others? I’ve been trying to tell you for some time, but you haven’t heard me. So, I got louder. I don’t want to lose you. I just want you to love me. Can you at least try, because I think I’m worth it.”

So THAT my friends has been my journey. A journey of learning how to love myself more, and better. And if I’m honest, this has been a life-long lesson for me, and one that I clearly still have more to learn. But, I’ve realized that it’s a lesson worth learning.

Self-love doesn’t have to involve huge, monumental decisions. It can be as simple as getting a cup of tea on your way home from the office, or asking for help from family or friends during a hectic or difficult time. Taking a hot shower or a soak (with Epsom salt and lavender, please!) in a tub after a busy day. Sitting on a secluded beach, all by yourself and pondering the wonders of creation. Or, taking the time to get your toes done and realizing that you are taking care of yourself in the process, which is what I’m doing right now…

Self-love is recognizing that we matter and that we deserve love and affection. It is a beautiful paradox because in receiving it, we are better able to give it. And, it’s good for our health and well-being! I believe that is why the “Golden Role” and the Greatest Commandment of all time says, “Love your neighbor AS yourself.”

Mani-pedi, anyone?!

New Year New You

“And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.” ~ Meister Eckhart

The new year provides a wonderful opportunity to start something new, and make changes that will take us in the direction we would like to go.

The problem is that the vast majority of new year’s resolutions don’t make it through the first year. In fact, according to U.S. News & World Report, approximately 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February. This is largely due to the fact that we often create unrealistic goals, and we try to do too much too fast.

So what can we do instead?

Here are some simple pointers that will help you create lasting change:

WHAT: Find one area of your life that you feel especially passionate about changing. Make sure it’s something you care about – not because you have have to, but because you want to. Narrow it down to one small, simple thing you can change in this area.

WHY: Identify why you want to make this change. This will help you stay motivated when things get challenging. Keep returning to your why.

HOW: Set a realistic goal that will help you get where you want to go. Write it down somewhere you will see often. Phrase it in a positive way in the present tense. For extra credit, add “I commit to” before your goal.

WHEN: Start right away and commit to doing it every day for 66 days in a row. That’s right, a 2009 study showed it takes 66 days to form a new habit, not 21 or 28 like we previously thought. We have to commit, and recommit, and recommit…

REFINE: If you get tripped up, use it as a learning opportunity instead of beating yourself up or giving up completely. What went wrong? What can you do differently? Then, start again with the new knowledge you acquired. Keep refining as needed.

CELEBRATE: Studies show that positive reinforcement is one of the most effective tools in creating lasting change. Celebrate your successes, large or small. This could be treating yourself to a new outfit, a massage, a home spa day, or whatever your little heart desires!

KEEP GOING because change begets change. Soon you will find that it wasn’t so bad, and you can start to tackle other “projects” you’d like to explore.

Before you know it, you will be a whole NEW YOU with new, healthier habits and a new outlook on life.

Remember, you can do it, and you are so WORTH IT!

Inspiritus Yoga Gives The Gift of Joy

The Gift of Joy

“We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try.” ~ Roger Ebert

One of my favorite scenes from any Christmas movie was the scene where Linus tells Charlie Brown the real meaning of Christmas. It goes like this…

Charlie Brown: “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”

Linus Van Pelt: “Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about. [Linus moves toward the center of the stage.] Lights, please. [A spotlight shines on Linus.] And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were so afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: [Linus drops his security blanket on purpose.] for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’ [Linus picks up his blanket and walks back towards Charlie Brown.] That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

Like Charlie Brown, we can easily lose sight of the real meaning of Christmas. We can get caught up in the trappings of the season, and forget the story behind all of the decorations, gifts, and gatherings. This can leave us feeling melancholy, stressed, unfulfilled, and unhappy, like Charlie Brown. But, like Linus said to Charlie Brown, we have to remember the what Christmas is all about…

A baby. Wrapped in swaddling clothes. Laying in a manger. Tidings of great joy to all people. On earth, peace and good will to all.

So, what about joy? Is it really for all people?

I’ve often said, “Happiness is happenstance, but the joy of Jesus transcends circumstance.” The fact of the matter is that happiness is elusive and fickle. It is dependent on circumstances and as a result, it is fleeting. Charlie Brown experienced this. So do we sometimes.

But the joy that Jesus represents is something all together different. This joy is a spirit-filled, everlasting joy that knows no bounds. It is a joy that transcends circumstances and has the power to change us and the World around us. And it is meant for everyone. It is why we sing “Joy to the World, the Lord has come!”

Roger Ebert said, “We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems. Our health, our circumstances. We must try.”

It is our responsibility and our calling to share joy with the world. And in so doing, we are elevated in joy ourselves! It helps us to rise above our problems, our health, and our circumstances. And it helps others to do the same.

This year, can we unwrap the real gift of Christmas – the gift of joy? A gift that isn’t under the tree but exists within our hearts. Then, can we share this most precious gift with those around us, and in so doing, share joy to the World?

We must try.

May you abound in joy this holiday season and in the New Year!

Inspiritus Yoga Gives Thanks

Happy Thanks-giving!

“Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.” ~ W.J. Cameron

The word Thanksgiving (thanks-giving), is about GIVING Thanks.

Did you know that Thanks-giving is good for you? Studies show that those who focus on gratitude are happier, view things in a more positive manner, and are healthier overall. It’s true! Gratitude has a profound and positive effect on our health, mood, and the survival of our relationships.

That’s right…our RELATIONSHIPS!

John Gottman, a marriage and relationship researcher, found that the “magic formula” for a healthy successful relationship is 5 appreciations (expressions of thanks) for every 1 criticism. A follow up study done by Zenger & Folleman concluded it’s more like 5.6 to 1. This applies not only to our relationships with others. It also applies to the most important relationship of all – our relationship with ourselves!

Gratitude isn’t just a feeling, it’s an attitude and an ACTION. It’s not enough to FEEL thankful, we need to express our gratitude. For what (and whom) are you thankful? Can you now direct it toward yourself as well? The breath in your lungs? Your amazing body and all it can do? Your gifts and talents? Your character? Your growth? The way you love and care for others?

Practicing gratitude helps us shift from lack to abundance. The more we practice it, the more opportunities we will see to be thankful! So, put on your “gratitude goggles” and get busy giving thanks.

This year, I am more thankful (thank-full) than ever – for this beautiful life I have been given, the restoration and healing of my body, the love of my family and friends, the gift of being able to do what I love every day, and so much more. I’m also thankful for you!

Happy Thanksgiving! May you abound in the abundance that gratitude creates!

Pink Phoenix Rising

On February 14 (Valentine’s Day), I was diagnosed with DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) breast cancer after going for my routine mammogram. To say that I was in shock was an understatement. My brain went down the “what if” rabbit hole in every direction, but I was resolved to “deal with it” even if that meant a bilateral mastectomy, radiation, chemo, or whatever. Both of my grandmothers overcame breast cancer and lived to be 99 and 101 years old, so I decided that my story would be no different. To further motivate me, my husband had lost his first wife to ovarian cancer back in 2013, leaving him and their two daughters behind. That gave me even more reason to have a victory story, and a story of overcoming, like my grandmothers before me.

Because of the size and the dispersement pattern of the DCIS, the doctor told me he was going to be unable to spare my left breast and it was likely that he would not be able to spare my left nipple either. I opted to do a bilateral mastectomy (with reconstruction) to rule out the possibility of ever having to deal with breast cancer (or mammograms) again. I felt convicted about my decision and started looking for breast tattoos to cover my former nipple area and my left breast (more on that later).

My surgery was on March 15, just two days before St. Patty’s day (which also happens to be the anniversary of our first date). Right before surgery, my doctor told me he thought he would be able to spare my left nipple. I was so relieved, as you can imagine! The surgery was supposed to take about 3 1/2 hours but only took 2 1/2 due to the skill and precision of my amazing surgeons. My nipple was spared and everything went off without a hitch. Victory #1.

After my pathology came back, I had a follow up appointment with my doctor. He shared with me that the cancer was not HER-2 positive, it was not invasive, and it had not spread to my lymph nodes. Because of that, I would not need radiation or chemo therapy. Victories #2, 3, 4, and 5. But, there was something else my doctor told me. He said, “you’re very lucky to have opted to do a bilateral mastectomy, young lady.” As it turned out, my pathology on the right breast indicated that I had an ADH (atypical ductal hyperplasia) a precancerous situation which had a high likelihood of becoming cancer later. As he put it, “we would have been dealing with cancer on the right in a matter of time.”

To say that I KNEW I was supposed to have the right breast removed was an understatement. Every fiber of my being felt resolved, and to find out that I had a pre-cancerous condition on the right only affirmed that. Victory #6. I went and saw the oncologist upon the request of the doctor to confirm what he suspected and she agreed that no radiation or chemo would be needed. They got it early and they got it all. I would just need to go for ultrasounds and blood testing every 6 months. Victory #7. A few weeks later, my genetic testing came back negative, which meant I wouldn’t need to worry about the possibility of developing other female cancers. Victory #8. A few weeks ago, I went for my 6 month follow up ultrasound and blood testing. I was told that I am CANCER FREE and that we will just keep monitoring things from this point forward! Victory #9.

The story I shared so far is clearly a victory story. A story of overcoming breast cancer. But the REAL victory is not revealed in those details. Of all of the victories I had throughout my journey with breast cancer, the greatest was the victory I had in my SOUL. At first, I wanted to run away and hide. I battled with fear. I held it in, determined not to let anyone see it. Then, I went to war with my own flesh, and decided I was going to “kick cancer’s ass.” I vacillated in these two realms – kicking ass, and running and hiding. Fight or flight. As a yoga instructor and yoga therapist, I KNEW that my body could not heal in a state of fight or flight. I also knew that “whatever we resist persists” – that resistance creates more resistance. And, I knew that whatever we focus on expands, and that by focusing on my cancer, I was only giving it more power. But, I didn’t know how to end the struggle.

One day, after one of my yoga classes, a dear friend and one of my first yoga students (who is a three-time cancer survivor) said to me, “Love your cancer, Dawn.” It was like the heavens opened up to deliver me a message and it changed EVERYTHING. Because love changes everything. I had an ah-ha moment that changed me from the inside-out and changed the way I felt about my cancer. I started looking for opportunities to be grateful, and let me tell you, there were more than I could recount here! I started asking the cancer what it had to teach me, knowing that pain can be one of our greatest teachers if we allow it to be. I decided to love my cancer and love myself through it.

I starting looking for a tattoo that would help me seal this experience in my flesh. (Don’t judge!) I Googled “pink” and “Phoenix Rising” and found this on Pinterest.

Credit to: Dogwood Pink Phoenix Rising Arte Original

The Phoenix Rising has always been a “spirit animal” of mine because of what it represents. Refiner’s fire. Beauty from ashes. Overcoming and victory over fear and death. Rising above. Rebirth and regeneration. Transformation. My faith in Jesus. The color pink represents my journey with cancer and honors my grandmothers who were also victorious. I want to have something like this over my heart (where my breast cancer was found) as a permanent reminder of my journey and who I want to be when I face future trials, pain, loss, or anything that feels like “fire”.  I want it as a reminder to thank God for all that all that I am, all of my blessings, and all of the “second chances” I have been given. It is a symbol of this new life I have been given. And that, my friends, is the biggest victory of them all.

The fact of the matter is that each of us will go through various forms of “fire” during our lifetimes. We can choose whether we are going to be victims and go up in flames, or to persevere and come out the other side as a stronger, wiser, more beautiful version of ourselves. We can in fact embrace the death of the “old self” and resurrect as a new creation.

We can all choose to be the Phoenix Rising. No matter what our circumstances, we can choose to be victorious. We can allow the fire to transform us, and reveal our inner essence, strength, and beauty. We can look for the beauty amidst the ash – hidden blessings, opportunities to be grateful, the small and large victories. We can love our “cancers” and in loving them, we can heal. And, we can begin again.

The choice is ours to make. And, that choice changes EVERYTHING.

Back Off Busy-Shamers

I recently had an experience that left me feeling shamed and bullied. I wasn’t bullied in the way that we frequently hear about on social media. I was shamed because I’m “too busy” and I was made to feel like I have a problem.

In the past, as a recovering people pleaser, I would have succumbed to the guilt and shame, and bent over backwards to “fix” the situation. But, this time was different. I felt bullied and manipulated. And, it wasn’t okay.

What is busy shaming? Basically, it’s when a person lays guilt or shame on another person because of their “busy” schedule. I believe that it crosses over into bullying when it’s done to hurt someone or to manipulate them to get more of their time.

It’s not the first time this has happened to me, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I can recall a time many years ago when a well-meaning Christian mentor told me I was “too B.U.S.Y.” and that it stood for “Bound Under Satan’s Yoke”. It left me questioning my spirituality, and wondering if my being busy truly was evil? I now know better. When we throw religiosity into the mix, we have now entered the realm of spiritual abuse. Being busy isn’t inherently bad or evil. And, it is not okay for others to make assumptions, shame us, manipulate us, or bully us about it.

We all go through busy seasons in our life where there are a lot of demands on our time, or when life events throw us curve-balls and we aren’t as available as we would like to be.

I would admit that my life is fuller than most. I have a husband, a blended family consisting of four children at various stages of life, a grandbaby, a business, and I am blessed with many friends. I enjoy being involved in groups and organizations that I find fulfilling. I try to maintain a regular practice of self-care. And beyond that, “life happens” as it does to all of us.

The truth of the matter is I like my life. In fact, I love it. I feel that I am living a life of purpose and passion and I will not apologize or be shamed for it. Nor should you. We should never have to apologize for who we are or the lives we have chosen. Nor should we apologize for the way we choose to spend our time.

That said, there definitely are times when busyness becomes a challenge. When we are busy for the sake of being busy and/or our schedule becomes so imbalanced that it doesn’t allow for rest, self-care, relaxation, then we need to re-evaluate. We certainly don’t want to become hamsters on a wheel and fall victim to the effects of chronic stress on our bodies. I believe this is one of the reasons why being busy has gotten a bad rap. Most of the articles you read about being busy address the issue of being busy from this standpoint. (But, I also think that we are getting mixed and conflicting messages all of the time from society and the media on this and many other topics. That will be the subject of an upcoming blog.) I wholeheartedly agree that we need to examine this possibility in our lives and strive for balance when we see that things have gotten out of whack. We also need to intentionally build some margin or breathing room in our schedules to allow for “life” to happen and prevent potential burn-out. But, our busyness is our business. Only we know when that’s happening, and only we know how to remedy it.

We must be mindful of what we say and how we say it. When we busy shame somebody, there is nowhere to go. It can be hurtful, polarizing, manipulative, and result in degradation of the relationship. Busy shaming is counterproductive. It shuts people down and closes doors. It is a form of bullying and we need to be aware of the times that we do it. There is no grace, there is no compassion, there is no understanding. And, that’s simply not how healthy relationships work.

There are people in my life who just “get it”. They too have full lives, and we have a mutual understanding. We make time when we can, but when schedules get crazy, we don’t take it personally. We hold space and know that when things clear, we will reconnect. And when we do, we share all of the wonderful (and not so wonderful) things we have been up to. It is welcomed and refreshing. And, it is so appreciated.

Grace, compassion, kindness always go along way. And, certainly the golden rule applies in every circumstance we find ourselves in.

Rather than shaming and shutting people down, what if we understood? What if we held space? If we are worried about them being out of balance, what if we asked questions and even offered help from a space of love and concern? What if we didn’t give up on friendships because people have full lives or are dealing with circumstances that make them unavailable for stretches of time? What if we extended some grace and applied the golden rule?

So “busy shamers”, I invite you to choose a different way…or back off.

Yoga Sutra 2.46: sthira sukham asanam

Yoga, especially in the West, has evolved into a largely physical practice. We see photos of people in acrobatic and pretzel-like shapes on the cover of Yoga Journal and all over the Interwebs. And we think to ourselves, “There’s no way I can do THAT!”

Needless to say, this has caused confusion about what yoga is and why we would want to practice it. It also has caused people to avoid yoga classes because they don’t think they are “bendy” or strong enough.

It’s time for a little Yoga 101…

The word yoga originates from the root word yuj, which means union. As such, it is a wholistic practice that joins together the body, mind, heart, and spirit.

The practice of yoga has been around for more than 4,000. It was practiced before long before written history and organized religion existed.

A sage named Patanjali delineated and systematized yoga into a 8-limbed path to yoga over 2,000 years ago that consisted of the following:

  1. Yama: Self-restraint, self-control or self discipline. The yamas
    represent a series of ethical rules for “right living”.
  2. Niyama: Observance or rule. The niymas represent additional
    ethical rules or personal disciplines for “right living” that compliment the yamas.
  3. Asana: The physical postures practiced in yoga. The word breaks down as = to be/breathe, san = to join with, and na = the eternal vibration.
  4. Pranayama: The practice of breath awareness and breath control Prana means breath, life, energy, spirit or soul. Ayama means to extend or draw out, so praynayamaliterally means “extension of the breath” or more accurately, “extension of the life”.
  5. Pratyahara: Withdrawal of the senses from external objects and transcendence beyond the physical body and its senses.
  6. Dharana: The practice of concentration and comes from the word dhri=attention. It is steady focus of the mind.
  7. Dhyana: The practice of focused attention through steadfast meditation or contemplation. It involves complete stillness of the mind where the mind is acutely aware without any particular focus.
  8. Samadhi: Complete oneness with the object of meditation, and results in the arrival at a state of bliss where the one meditating is completely absorbed into God or the divine.

It is interesting to note that the word asana (which relates to the physical postures practiced in yoga) is only mentioned ONE time in Patantali’s Yoga Sutras in Yoga Sutra 2.46 above ” sthira sukham asanam”, which means that our posture must be steady and comfortable. It also means that we must resolutely (steady) reside in a good (comfortable) space.

Yoga is NOT about the fancy poses. It is a practice of discovering what it means to resolutely reside in a good space. All of the other components – the physical postures, breathing, and meditation are vehicles to help you arrive in a space of bliss that goes far beyond anything we can experience by standing on our head. It is available to anyone and everyone, even if you’re not “bendy” and you can’t contort your body.

Come join us and see for yourself!