Sunday, August 30, 2015

.......allowing life

‘Thank you September’ begins Tuesday!  Still time to sign up!  If you are on the fence…..take a chance and jump on over.

Yogis,
The other night in class everyone was dropped into resting half pigeon.  A pose of letting go, but one that can be quite uncomfortable for many.  The set up can be challenging for those with tight knees or hips, but the key to then being “in the pose” is to spend the next two minutes, just you and your breath,  allowing the body to sink down.

“Allow everything to be as it is”….. I said.  As the words came out of my mouth I heard them differently than I had ever heard them before.  Time stood still for just a second.

“Allow everything to be just as it is”   AAHHHHHH!!!!   But that is soooooo darn hard!!
The practice of yoga is merely a practice for life.  What we do on the mat is only as good as our ability to do it out in the world.  We focus on our breath in half pigeon and let that left outer hip talk loudly to us while we continue to focus on watching the discomfort without reacting.  Being with things as they are.

But out in the world!  Now that is another whole story.  How can I possibly be with everything exactly as it is???  I am not sure I can do that for even the two minutes we are in a pose, much less for a full day, week or month. 

Stop for a moment and say to yourself  - I am letting everything be EXACTLY as it is – look around and see what that feels like.  Everything.  My kids, my dog, my body, my job.   I notice my shoulders drop six inches as if a heavy weight suddenly rolled off.  An exhale escapes.

I had a song in my playlist last week called  ‘I will fix you’ and every time it played I was reminded how I catch myself trying to ‘fix’ others.  You know what I mean?  If only my son understood that……..  If only my husband would eat more ………  If she just realized what meditation could do for her.  If my friend would focus more.  Exercise more.   Once I teach them ……..  Basically – if everyone could be a little more like me J

We try to fix others, the house, the world, the way things work.  Do we ever stop for a moment and allows things to be exactly as they are?  Accept others as they are.  Allow mistakes.  Smile at frustration.  Gaze at our naked body in the mirror without one judgment.  Be ok with the hum of the Universe. 

I not suggesting that we don’t want change.  That is human nature and we are infinite creators. Change is dynamic and unending.  But what my lesson from the Universe was this week is that first we must “Allow everything to be as it is”.  When we can do that, even for moments at a time, our lens clears.  We see everything as it is – warts and all – not how we want it to be.  We befriend it.   And from that clarity we move forward.  Maybe, just maybe, not needing to ‘fix’ quite so much.

Allowing life,
SARAH

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

INVITATION - Thank You September!

Yogis,
September is right around the corner and you can already feel her presence……cooler nights, yellowing plants, scurrying squirrels, acorns underfoot and buds on the goldenrod.   A time of transition.  A time of harvest.  A time of reflection.  A time for thanks!!

Join me in a month of meditation and gratitude!
…..did you know that cultivating gratitude can increase happiness and improve health?

Jump on board for our third annual September month of meditation.
When:      September 1 (Tuesday!) – September 30
What:       Daily emails with guidance on how to meditate and practices for awakening gratitude
Where:    The comfort of your own home
Cost:        $20 ($25 for two in the same family) – check or Paypal
How:        Simple!  Just send the email you would like me to use to sarah@serenitycircleyoga.com            
What is asked of you:
Reading the email you receive each morning and 10 minutes of meditation daily!  Choosing to do the activities is optional but lovingly suggested to feel the greatest benefits J

Did you know that practicing gratitude can lower cholesterol, help you with sleep and improve your relationships?

Take the step as we together grow our “gratitude muscle” and have fun doing it…..all while making meditation a habit. 

Let me know if you want to participate!    All I need is an email and you will be put on my ‘Thank You September’ email DL with a lot more info to follow!  And please invite any family or friends who you think may enjoy this, or may benefit.  I would just need their emails!

Any questions?  Please ask!

Thankful for the incredible moon I just saw on my walk,
SARAH

Sunday, August 23, 2015

......let's all take a pause

Yogis,
This week I offer more of an exercise than a writing.  It once again has to do with the pause.  So slow down…….

Become still.
Let’s all take a pause right now.  Visualize that we are all doing this together…..because we are.  As I write this I can feel all of you coming toward this pause.  And now you are in it with me.  Hi there!

Notice first how your body is feeling.  Any aches or pains?  Any holding in the shoulders?  What about that jaw or your fingers?  Any fidgeting?  Ask your body to relax and watch as a wave of relaxation slowly flows down from the head all the way to the toes.  Feel the temperature of the air on your skin.  Your feet where they touch the ground.

Slowing down.

See the room you are in.  The colors and textures.  The way you have placed things around you.

Open to hear what sounds are around you.  Listen.  First the ones that are close, and then reach for those further away. 

Arriving here.  In this moment.  Noticing now.
Observe your breath.  The rising of the inhales and the fall of each exhale.  The breath.  An ever present, patient and free, teacher that draws you inward.  You.  Here.  Now. 

Right now it doesn’t matter what your job is.  It isn’t important what kind of car you drive or where you live.  How much money you make or whether you have a twitter account is of little interest. The project due next Wednesday and the presidential debate are irrelevant .  Right now it doesn’t matter who you had an argument with this week or that you don’t like your new haircut.  To do list, parties, school supplies and the score of the game.

All of that is on the outside.  All swirling about and impermanent. Maya……illusion.  It isn’t you.
 Pause. 

Drop back in.  Watch the breath as it traces your center.  Only here can you touch what is true and unchanging.  It is asking you to slow down and take a pause.  Arriving here.  Now.

You……. still.  The haze of daily life circling around you.  Here.  Now.  All ok.

Notice.

Closing my eyes to immerse myself into the richness of now,
SARAH

Sunday, August 16, 2015

....inserting the pause

Yogis,
The dreaded message on my pc two weeks ago.  Your password has expired……. 

Every six months it appears.  The requirement to create a new sign on password.  And of course – due to security – it can’t resemble anything having to do with you, must have letters, numbers and symbols and can’t be one you used in the last 10 years.   Not sure why it is more secure to have us all writing down, or putting  into our phone, all of these passwords because they certainly can’t be remembered, but who am I to say. 

So I dutifully created the new password.  Ten days later……and still every single time I haven’t touched my computer in 10 minutes and the log in screen appears, I hit ctl/alt/del and then instinctively type in my old password.  All in about one and a half seconds.  No thinking involved.  My fingers just know the way.  A deeply embedded habit. 

‘The password you entered is incorrect.’ – it tells me   I KNOW!!!!!  But I can’t help myself. 
Old habits die hard.

How do we change a habit?  These last couple of days I have observed.  Some of my findings:
  • First you have to notice that it is a habit.  Most are unconscious.   For this one my computer did that work for me.
  • Then you have to be present enough to at least see when you are doing it.  Observing oneself.  I began to sense that I was typing the wrong password even though my fingers kept moving.  But at least then the error message was no longer a surprise. 
  • By observing the pattern over and over you discover where a pause must be inserted.  The log in screen became a trigger to my awareness and as my fingers flew across the keyboard I would stop midstream.  Backspace, backspace, backspace and begin again.
  • Finally I inched the pause back over time to right before typing began.  I finally was becoming mindful.
  • Noticing that I still occasionally slip backward but each time it teaches me to be more fervent in my resolve to change the habit. To be more present.

This was an easy one without much impact to my life, but I believe the pattern holds true for all habits.  They all require the ability to observe.  To insert the pause.  Changing how we eat -I have been noticing how when I eat certain foods they trigger a craving for specific other foods.  Choosing to lower stress – feeling in the body which sensations signal that anxiety is beginning its ascent.  Sticking to a new exercise program– watching which tricks the mind uses to talk you out of it today. Deciding you no longer want every conversation with a particular family member to end in an argument – watching how you allow their energy to change yours as you have your next conversation. 

They all require us to first become consciously incompetent so we can begin to insert the pause….otherwise they remain an unconscious habit and we begin to believe ‘ that is just the way I am’.   That pause is mindfulness.  The pause is the only time we can choose different.  And how do we learn to insert it? 

For me the answer has been my meditation practice.  Learning to observe myself on a daily basis in stillness, allows me to be able to do the same in the continual motion of daily life.   My meditation has taught me that I am not my thoughts or my habits and that therefore I can choose to change them. 

And speaking of meditation………September is only 2 weeks away!  And you know what that means?  A month of meditation!

This year I will be leading  ‘Thank you September!’  A month of daily emails where as a community we will meditate, practice mindfulness and dive deep into the gift of gratitude.  The cost will be $20.  Stay tuned for the invite and more details!

Mindfully yours,
SARAH

Sunday, August 9, 2015

.....a bumpy road

Yogis,
I became a grandmother this week! 

Wow!  A grandmother.  A freshly erected signpost that speaks to where I am in my life.  A new generation below me.  A beautiful baby boy (who all of the other grandmothers have told me I should feel no shame in spoiling.)

I had a vision of what this would look like.  What it would feel like.  Me….arriving at the hospital just after the text saying the baby had arrived.  Going in and holding him/her.  Hugs all around.  Pictures taken.  That instant falling in love that so many had told me about.  I could see it.  I could feel it.  The text arrives.  Baby delivered!

But life has bumps in the road……..  My vision had to be altered.

7lb 7 ozs and 21 inches….just like his dad.   An immediate rush to the ICU….just like his dad.  Memories flooding back as I slept with the phone under my pillow waiting for hourly updates.  Clear visions of myself at 22 years old,  3:30am after a 26 hours labor being told that my son wasn’t breathing right.  The lights.  The noise.  Not holding him to my body for 3 long days.  Not the vision I had then either.

Life does have bumps in the road. 

But here we are now on day 7 celebrating my grandson’s release to go home.  Healthy.  Hearty. Happy.  And so unbelievably sweet…..just like his dad.
Life has bumps in the road……

We hold our vision, but sometimes there are unplanned turns in the path.  This was certainly one of them.  But in most challenges, if we can pause, breathe and look deeply, there is  a hidden joy and learning.  Here are some of my learnings from this emotional roller coaster of a week.

·         Because we live closer to the hospital, my son and daughter in law slept here.  They did 12 hour shifts at the hospital and then came home for a late dinner and sleep.  Having them here under my roof gave me the chance to envelop them in love and protection.  Like a mother bird, I slept better knowing they were beneath me.
·         I was reminded of the fierceness of a mother’s love as I watched my amazing daughter in law navigate this new terrain with purpose, emotion and determination…… all tempered each night by  the raw sorrow of having to leave a newborn behind. 
·         Sitting beside my son in the hospital, holding the baby and seeing him for the first time in his new role of father.  And recognizing what an incredible one he has already become.  A man I am proud to know. 
·         And me on day 3 finally sobbing my way through my yoga practice.  Remembering why I come to the mat each day.  The flood of emotion.  Tears of both sorrow and joy salty in my mouth.  Clearing me out so I can stand up and move forward. 

This week was not what I envisioned.  But life has its bumps.  However as all 3 of them head home to settle into their routine as a newly formed family, the path appears much smoother.   They are bursting with love.   And my love is boundless……..

And I am crying – yet again.

I am a grandmother,

SARAH

Sunday, August 2, 2015

...pulling the weeds

Yogis,
I don’t know about where you live, but the summer here in DC has been exceptionally  damp.  For weeks on end we had at least some rain every day.  My garden hasn’t needed a solid visit from the hose since June. 

And with rain inevitably comes a rapid growth of plants…..but also of weeds!  It’s like we live in a rain forest.  Weeds that within days begin to look like small trees.  Grasses along the side of the road taller than me and in full bloom.  The cracks in my walkway sprouting so thick that it is hard to see the flagstone!

Having been away for two weekends, this weekend was left free for me to try to wrestle the property back into some semblance of control.  But on Friday evening as I stood out on the deck and looked out it was overwhelming.  The project appeared to loom so large that I had no idea where to start.  Saturday morning I found myself delaying the inevitable……..doing a little reading, having another cup of tea and checking email one more time. 
Finally I got the nerve to walk outside to survey.   I immediately noticed my small path next to the Vinca was overgrown so I leaned over and pulled out the spreading Shiso plants.  Which led me to the raspberry bush which had sent its sprawling vine like branches across my Comfrey plant.  As I cut them back I could see that the Comfrey had some dead growth in its center which I cleared out………….and on it went.  Little by little.  From one spot to the next.

Just like life.

Often we have a vision of something we want – to move, a different job, learning a new skill, going back to school – only to become paralyzed by what appears when looking at it “from the deck” as a massive undertaking.  Too many steps.  We get wrapped up in the “hows” of getting from here to there.

This weekend reminded me to just do SOMETHING.  Anything.  Drop the plan. Take just that very first baby step, keeping that end vision in your mind’s eye, but letting the Universe guide you from the path, to the bush, to the plant.  No need to know what is next.  That is the Universe’s job.  Just do SOMETHING……and the rest will follow along. 

What keeps stirring within you, but hasn’t moved forward?  What have you always wanted to do but feel too overwhelmed to make it happen?  You know it is in there.  Tomorrow – do SOMETHING!

I now can walk through my garden paths unobstructed.  I can actually see all of my beautiful flowers in bloom and I found 5 new cucumbers growing on the vine. 

I kind of like not knowing what comes next,

SARAH

Sunday, July 26, 2015

....a ritual

Yogis,

A ritual is “a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place, and performed according to set sequence.”  I just returned from one.
This was my 27th summer of heading south to the Outer Banks with 7 other families for a week.  When you throw in the kids……..it becomes quite a gang. 
 
Mind you, we stay in four separate houses, but the ritual includes us all.  And we each have a role. 

The trip always begins by meeting the family with whom we share our house at a fruit stand four hours into the drive, where at 10:30 in the morning we celebrate by cracking open a beer out of the back of the cars in the parking lot.  We only see each other once or twice a year but the bond grows stronger with age.

We all know what to do.  There is no need for words.  Men get the keys, while the women lotion the boys. Men claim space on the beach early each day, setting out several umbrellas and chairs spread wide enough to accommodate all 35 of us, while the women do the lunches.  Boys, now all young men, do the heavy lifting – meaning they carry all of the beer to the beach.  And no one wants to miss the infamous dance party, where a partner is definitely not required.

Beach bocce, which is not allowed to be played without beer in hand, reading, swimming, napping, fishing, catching each other up on our year and a great deal of laughing fill each day.  As the sun begins to set lower in the sky, beach chairs evolve into a large circle formation, the music is turned on and we pass around whatever snacks remain from the day.   We all know what to do.

When this began, most of these kids were merely a thought.  My boys have now spent a week with this group every year of their lives, not seeing them again until the following July.  But when we all crest the dune and see the group, it is as if not a moment has passed.  And this year, two of the “kids” were there with their new 3 week old baby.   She joined right in.  The ritual goes on.

I gravitate toward ritual.  My everyday life contains many……early morning run, followed by a walk through the garden and meditation.  Each night without fail I perform a self Reiki treatment as I drift off to  sleep.  Friday evenings for 7 years now have included yoga, dinner, dance and bath….always in that order.  This very writing has become its own ritual. 

Some would say life filled with ritual is too rigid or boring.  I find it provides the container in which I can just be.  Knowing what to do, without the need for words.  Letting life fill its form while also providing for the form of the rituals to shape shift as needed. 

As the beach day would wind down, my friend Donna and I would always head back to shower and get dinner started while the guys cleared the beach.  But a few years ago we added a new improved step to the sequence.  We now slip away and head back to the hot tub.  Upper deck under the sky, music playing and the switch is made to “real beer” as we call it (you may have noticed that beer, not wine, is one of the sacred objects).  Two nights we could still be found there at 8:30 pm.  Somehow dinner still made it to the table.

Each year  we all hug each other hello and then goodbye, knowing that in what will seem like a blink of an eye, we will once again be cresting that dune. Not missing a beat. And we all agree – young and old - that this ritual is sacred and we are blessed to be held in its grace. 

Om to that,
SARAH