As the yoga class begins, I hit play on the Native American flute music and it wraps around my soul like a healing balm. I literally shiver and feel myself becoming more still. More “clicked” in to this present moment. I breathe deeply and scan the energies. What do we need today?
There are so many threads to smooth down at the beginning of a yoga class. So we always begin with a centering exercise that calms the panic and soothes the soul. But what if you have never meditated a day in your life? What if the thought of being still, quiet and centered just seems out of reach?
The truth is, misconceptions to meditation lead to you not wanting to try it. Most people envision a monk in robes at the top of a mountain sitting in stillness for days. In reality, we can calm ourselves and really click in to our bodies in as little as 5 minutes.
You do not have to sit on the floor, but you do need to straighten your spine, relax your shoulders. Put your feet flat on the floor if you are in a chair and sit up nice and tall. The eyes drift closed and focus on the point between your eyebrows.
Start by taking 3 deep cleansing breaths. You can even repeat this mantra: I am breathing in (inhale). I am breathing out (exhale).
As you breathe, focus on how your body feels. Lift your toes and place them flat on the floor. Put your hand on your belly and feel it expand like a balloon. Just breathe. If thoughts come into your mind, use my leaf imagery. Place these unwanted thoughts on the leaf and watch it float away from you. Peacefully down the stream.
Allow your body to sit like this until you feel the tension release and a natural rhythm starts to take over.
If thoughts have come in that you feel are really disturbing your peace, jot them down on a piece of paper after, and if you would like, you can use toilet paper to literally “flush” them away from you. Ahh. Release the you-know-what.
This practice can be done at any time, any place. If you are having a particularly stressful time right now, use the shower meditation as well. Each time you get in the shower, imagine the water washing off all thoughts of pain, anger, anxiety and only positive thoughts filling you up. Continue to filter any and all thoughts that do serve you including panic, worry, thoughts of the past or thoughts of the future. Keep focusing on the word contentment as you wash away worries.
Affirmations to use:
All I need to do right now is breathe.
I am safe and protected.
A warm peaceful energy surrounds me and those I love.
All is well.
With every breath, I become more peaceful.
Interested in a meditative type of journaling practice to increase abundance and gratitude? Feel free to check out my e-book here. <<< There are over 30 focused prompts to lead your mind to a better focus as well as exercises for the mind, and additional affirmations to use daily.
Increasing gratitude doesn’t seem like such a hard task, does it? Well for many people who live in pain daily, it is. But what if, just for the next 4 weeks, you focused on other tasks instead of your pain. Maybe you thought about ways to increase your fitness for a week, or to eat beautiful and nutritious food the next week, or ways to help create balance in your life and help deal with your stress, and lastly you increased your self-care. These are actually the steps I started taking when I took back my life from pain.
I began looking deeply inside my soul for true and honest answers to questions that needed to be asked. I developed a series of workbooks on these tasks and questions to help others, but you can read more about that under my Head|Heart|Health tab. I am here to offer you some free resources on ways you can increase gratitude in your life right now, no matter what is going on. Remember who you are talking to here?? trust me when I say I really and truly understand that the first step is often the hardest one to take.
Let’s deconstruct this for a moment. Gratitude is feeling thankful and appreciative for people, things, and sometimes everything in between. That warm feeling you get when you drive up to the coffee window and someone has just paid for yours, or the random man in the grocery store, for whatever reason, hands your family a $50 bill, and says it’s on him. <<< this happened. So if other people are creating experiences for other people like this, no matter what is going on in the NEWS my friends, let’s not promote what we hate. Let’s work to increase feelings of gratitude in ourselves and therefore in others we encounter through our positive actions.
5 Ways to Increase Gratitude:
Say thank you as your feet hit the floor. Are you in pain? No offense, I totally feel you, but for just a second, shift your thoughts right now as you get out of bed. Whatever your dominant foot is, as you swing it over the bed, the second it touches the floor, say thank you. Say thank you all the way to the bathroom, because that’s where you probably go first. Focus inward as you really let the words thank you settle into your entire being. This gets you ready for the next tip.
Using a dry-erase marker, write your positive affirmations on the mirra, that’s southern for mirror, and immediately look at them as you are waking up. I don’t know what others need to hear, but coming from 3 years of re-setting my mind to focus on others things instead of pain, I can tell you what I used. I am healthy (I wasn’t), I am whole, (I didn’t think so), and I am healing (I was, but couldn’t see it yet). So I would think to myself I am healthy and envision a healthy me for just a moment and be grateful for that health. I would picture myself whole, which to me at the time was without pain, anger, and depression. Lastly, I would see myself as healed. Someone my girls could look up to again. Not the pajama-clad fibromyalgia, Hashimoto’s, well you get the picture, mom I had become. Again, it was all about changing my perspective.
Journal it down. My writings at first were not really full of gratitude. They actually seemed full of other feelings that I was trying to get away from. So instead of that, I cut myself loose from anyone and anything that created the opposite of what I was really and truly trying to create for myself in my life. I started un-becoming everything I was not. I created a pattern of healing for myself by first going to the worst parts. I deconstructed my fear. Then I didn’t look back. I wrote what I was happy about each day until gradually, I didn’t think about what went wrong as much.
Yoga or meditation. Yes, eventually, after all the pain, I became a yoga teacher. But I started out slowly. We all have to start somewhere, remember? Here is a post about what I did to start my journey, so you can read a bit more on restorative yoga. This allowed me to still the patterns of my mind and practice an age-old flowing meditation. Please don’t mistake yoga for something it is not. It is not a religion. It is quite simply a method for dealing with the suffering of life. As I started meditation, one yogi told me it can be your time to get closer to God or whatever you believe by listening to your inner wisdom that actually can be God trying to talk to you. It is simply a way to practice mindfulness and inner stillness in this very face paced world.
Practice pausing in your day. This one is very important because so often, we react first. What if what the other person said to you actually wasn’t about you at all? Yes, it feels that way all the time. I am a Scorpio who is quick to anger…need I say more? What if, for just a moment, the hurtful feelings we got from the e-mail, message or phone call, was paused. Like on TV. Okay, now we have a moment to look at it. You know what, Bob looked stressed out today didn’t he? I wonder if he has too much on his plate and someone already chewed him out, so when he sent this, he in turn, did the same to me because that was the energy he was feeling? I don’t have to continue the pattern. This isn’t even about me at all. Maybe I will go around the corner and say hey, Bob, what can I do to help you? Bob will certainly be surprised. He may even start to feel grateful, as well as sorry, but that’s his stuff, so I am going to promote what I love instead of bashing him right back.
Research has shown through decades of studies, that practicing gratitude can, in fact, have powerful and lasting effects on physical well-being, social relationships, and most importantly self-worth. So often we get caught in a cycle that needs to be broken, and guess what happens when we take back control? Research again reports that we develop stronger immune systems, better sleep, and less pain and aches. Well I’ll be…an example of this. From not moving to yoga teacher…I hope you start some of these practices today! Need even more help? Try this E-book here.
Yesterday my friend from Inner Sanctuary: BE Inspired and I led the most amazing workshop called New Year|New Moon Let Go and Look Forward. I planned the yoga session on releasing and unwinding while Lindsey planned the most amazing meditation and journaling session. With just a few short phrases designed to make us think about what our worst moment of last year was and why we felt that way, I was able to see what I feared most about the situation. I don’t mind telling you that the worst moment was actually learning that a friend’s cancer came back. She asked us to think about the feelings surrounding that and write down a few words to describe it. Previous to this, Lindsey asked us to write down our best moment and words to describe it. My best moment was completing yoga teacher training.
So Lindsey asked us if we saw parallels…were the words on the opposite end of each other? I immediately saw the connection for me. As most of you know, I have battled invisible disease for a long time. I know what it feels like to get bad news from a doctor and to think that there is no hope, even if it’s just that split second where they tell you the news. So for that split second when D told me her news, I felt what she felt. Okay, maybe longer than that because that is what I do…but after that, I was like no. The opposite feeling is my best moment. I felt strong and healthy. I knew that was what I wanted for my friend and I knew that the feelings surrounding that were what my group of friends worked so hard on trying to create for D.
It was very powerful for me to see what exactly I want to create for my circle of friends as well as myself. It was powerful for me to see why I had to let go of friendships that didn’t want the same for me last year as well as why I had to let go of any residual feelings surrounding feeling weak or hopeless. I was now in the zone to create the opposite. The circle of women yesterday were trying so hard to get past whatever was blocking them that I knew that’s why I had to let go of the past. Whatever is meant to be in your life will find a way. I believe that.
3 Tips on Learning to Release What Weighs You Down:
Envision the BEST version of you and what that looks like and feels like. Lindsey had us look into a mirror and see the worst version of ourselves and the best. We forgave that worst version of ourselves and thanked her for getting us to the point where we are today. It was empowering to forgive her. We then embraced the best version possible of ourselves. We allowed her to step fully into the light and move forward with us.
Explore the feelings behind what is weighing you down. Not the actual thing, but what is it about those feelings that is holding you back? Why are you holding onto those things? Do you think you can imagine a better outcome? It is too late for that now, so release the feelings, but instead work towards the opposite of how that made you feel. If you need to, thank that situation for whatever good it taught you and use it to move forward from that place of pain or unwanted emotion.
Make a new plan for the best version of you. This is the part where you really have to be diligent in what you allow into your space. This is YOUR space and sometimes things are easier said than done. I know this. You might not be able to control the outside situation, but you can control your thoughts and how you react to things. If you are about to react in a way that would not propel you forward, as I have said in the past, try hard to make a different plan. An example would be one I use for my yoga students…come to the mat and the rest will take care of itself. Don’t worry about what you CAN’T do. Instead focus on what you CAN do!
I received a wonderful compliment yesterday after my yoga flow. I wasn’t sure what the new student was going to say, but she said is that how you always teach yoga? Me: Yes? She then proceeded to tell me she loved how I integrated the entire mind/body connection into the class. I truly believe that yoga is a very powerful healing tool and it teaches us to move in a flowing meditation right on our mats. We learn NOT to be concerned about what the person is doing right near us. Not to be concerned about body image, or our abilities. I fully believe in focusing on what you can do and to take that knowledge and move forward into the best version of you for this coming year. I know that you can do this!
For more on the mind/body connection, read about my 4 Weeks to Wellness course here. NEW! See the Head|Heart|Health tab for more help.
We need to reverse the formula for happiness and success. Do you follow the formula of if I work harder, I will be more successful and then I will be happier? Watch this and see what you think. The Happiness Advantage: Linking Positive Brains to Performance. Your brain at positive is 31% more productive that at negative, neutral or stressed levels. Hmm.
Did you realize that being happy has a direct correlation with your performance? Finding a way to be positive in the present moment is imperative to you performing better. But…how can we do that when we are under stressed out conditions? Guess what. I have some ideas.
Dopamine makes you happier and turns on all the learning centers in your brain. What are you doing when you are not happy I wonder? Are you making important decisions in an angry state?
I’m going to be honest. I used lots of research to come up with my programs that I just launched here under the work with me tab…but I want to be able to give you some ideas that you can begin to use now.
Creating Lasting Positive Change:
I referenced Shawn’s video, so watch it!
3 Gratitudes, new things you are grateful for each day! (remember my previous blog post?? I had not even found his research yet, but look at how forward thinking we are. It goes together!)
Journaling (WAIT! I didn’t even go to Harvard and I have been writing about this, and counseling my clients for a while. Research skills work!)
Exercise, which yes, includes me continuing to bug you about my yoga research:) Namaste happy.
Meditation…heyyyy. Here is where I told you about my collaboration with a friend who does guided mediation. Or you can sign up for free ones online…like Deepak speaking into your ear.
Last, but not least, what I wrote about last week. Random Acts of Kindness. My friend Shelli did some shout-outs on Facebook one day and let me tell you, it was nice. It can be that small to you, but to the person you are praising it means you are thinking about them and that kind of recognition whether public or private is a happiness booster for both of you!
The interesting thing about all of this, is that if you use the search feature, you can see some of the things I have written about the above ways to create your lasting positive change. I have also come up with workbooks and other things to help my clients over the years, but the bottom line is, if you do the work on the inside, you will start to see results on the outside. ~Aimee
Brain based research has been around a very long time. I remember the first time it came around when I was teaching…how can I use this information to better my teaching? To engage students more? I used techniques that were thought to be ahead of the times…each and everyday in my class. I never thought that as I got older I would be applying that same idea to my research in depression and what causes us to become depressed. I found so many links to neurotransmitters in the gut I was astonished. I was finally getting somewhere and like each and every time I have found something important, I get this tingle. I knew that I was on the right path to helping others like me. Here are a few things I learned to boost my head:
The dreaded word exercise. You know the whole a body in motion tends to stay in motion theory? Same for a body at rest. “A 2010 study on primates published in Neurosciencei also revealed that regular exercise not only improved blood flow to the brain, but also helped the monkeys learn new tasks twice as quickly as non-exercising monkeys, a benefit the researchers believe would hold true for people as well.” I just wanted to throw that in because sometimes I read scientific research for fun. But let’s suppose you have brain fog like I do…it comes from things like fibromyalgia as well as my hemochromatosis. Sometimes, I can’t remember things, so on days that I do yoga, I feel amazing and notice I have less brain fog. I know this is the day I can read up on new things and process better. So if you have a hard time learning new things, exercise before.
The good fat…coconut oil. Sooooo. My family has a track record of some pretty ermmm crappy genes. I have inherited a few, but the thing I am concerned about it that at such a young age, I started showing signs of the above brain fog I mentioned. The brain needs glucose and it actually manufactures it’s own insulin to convert glucose in your bloodstream into it’s food…if it is starving, think Alzheimer’s patients. What I would like to know, is where was this research about 17 years ago that I am about to share? Maybe it was known…maybe not. BUT, I wish I could have slipped my grandpa some bulletproof coffee. What am I talking about? This! “According to research by Dr. Mary Newport, just over two tablespoons of coconut oil (about 35 ml or 7 level teaspoons) would supply you with the equivalent of 20 grams of MCT, which is indicated as either a preventative measure against degenerative neurological diseases, or as a treatment for an already established case.” P.S. That link is to one neat coffee recipe I found.
Fix your gut…but seriously. I will never forget the day I started my second brain research. It was amazing to me what my doctors had missed when they had put me on proton pump inhibitors, and I started telling everyone who would listen to get off them. For those wondering, that’s acid blockers like omeprazole. Anyway, my gut was a mess, my acid reflux was a mess, but the pills actually were making everything worse. I got off them, and learned what gut health meant. It could actually be it’s own post…and oh, it was. Up there I linked it. But seriously…your gut bacteria is actually closely linked to food. That is why I counsel all my clients, ALL my clients, to tell me how they are eating. We really get into it and I start to get them to see a pattern. Because let’s face it, when you tell people your food is actually making you crazy, they get a little mad at you. Even if they know they need to eat better and get off processed foods, and white sugar. Probiotics are your friend.
Vitamin D. This one is quite easy, but often overlooked. I went for years before anyone even thought to check my levels..and here I am not supposed to go out of the house without SPF 50. But let’s not check her levels. Hmmm. Moving on. IF appropriate sun exposure is not an option, cough porphyria, not an option, then get on readily available vitamin d. Basically it’s liquid form. Just get checked. Don’t skip this.
Meditate. You knew it was coming probably. Since I completed my 200 hours of Vinyasa yoga teacher study…I know that I need quiet time. Okay, well, I kind of have a problem with noise now that I didn’t have before fibromyalgia anyway, but seriously, meditation is superb. After only 20 minutes, we start to show a decrease in beta waves, which is basically like we are learning how to halt the processing part. I know that I have probably put this in here at some point, but one such interesting brain researcher who I love is Jill Bolte Taylor. Her understanding of the brain after her stroke is outstanding and I cry every single I watch it. I can’t explain why…it’s just wonderful. Okay, maybe I can explain a little. I think about the part where she talks about not having to process and how she can just float…and everything seems to be a beautiful experience and that my friends, that is what meditation at the highest form would be like for me. If I was there. Which is why I keep practicing. Because sadly, I have a hard time. Imagine that. This point is technical, but it’s really interesting. The more we meditate, the less anxiety we have, and it turns out this is because we’re actually loosening the connections of particular neural pathways. This sounds bad, but apparently it’s not.
I need to clear up some common misconceptions. Yoga is a practice. Not a religion. Just like how Buddhism is a way of life…a practice or philosophy. If you come from another religion or way of life can you take these philosophies with you back to your religion or way of life? Yes. But people fear what they do not know or understand. So they are afraid to go deeper into the world of “stillness”. Therein lies the problem. At the beginning of my yoga practice yesterday, the teacher said “Be still, and know that I am God.” When we are practicing our stillness…or just being, we are closer to who we are really meant to be.
This is where Deepak Chopra’s The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success come into my practice. One of the absolute hardest steps for me to apply to my life is to take time each day just being silent. Some people who know me are laughing…my parents I’m sure. But what this really means is that I have to work at just being. That seems like such a small thing…to just be. To sit alone in silent meditation actually means that you clear your mind. As thoughts come and go you focus on the moments between the thoughts. Not the thought itself. Pretty soon you are focusing on those in between moments for even longer and one day, you will come to realize that your thoughts have finally stilled.
And therein lies my problem. One thought produces one more like it, then it spirals, and so on and so forth. So I am working on this ability to carry stillness with me. Chopra writes “Through silence, through meditation, and through non-judgement, you will access the first law, the Law of Pure Potentiality.” Many times people say “Oh I’m not judging…but blah, blah, blah.” If you have to say you are not judging, here’s a hint, you might be. But that’s okay for now. Work on letting that thought go and focusing on something positive you learned from that situation. If your mind is constantly on re-wind and you are judge, jury and executioner of your thoughts and you can’t let the negative go from a situation, you need meditation in your life. You know it costs less than therapy…it does.