Call for Submissions!!

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I have been planning this incredible Yoga and Meditation July challenge for several months now and then, with all the disruption going on in my life at the moment, almost decided to put it on hold. Almost, but didn’t because I realized something awesome: I’ve been doing yoga every day since this whole craziness started. Did you read that? Every.damn.day. 

It doesn’t matter if I’ve had a day of tears, a day of anger, or a day of happiness, I end my day (and sometimes start my day) with yoga and everything is still.

So the challenge is ON!  I’ll have more details on it next week but, for now, wanted to extend two calls to my readers/fellow bloggers.

First, if you’re a reader and want to subscribe to receive the emails for the Yoga and Meditation Challenge, you can do that here.

Second, if you’re a blogger or small business owner and want to participate in the challenge, you can fill this out for more information!

How can you participate? You can:

- Provide a guest post

- Participate in a group giveaway

- Provide items for a giveaway

- Promote! Promote! Promote!

- Review products or yoga courses/videos you have tried

- Tell us why you really love (or really hate!) yoga and/or meditation!

- Let me interview you!

I have a great deal of the month covered already, but I wanted to extend this to all of my networks because I love bringing bloggers from different communities together via something we have in common – so sign up today!

Hope you’re having a wonderful week, and I’ll be back tomorrow for Little Letters!!

<3,

Shai

 

 

Going back to the Body

Happy Friday, Vagabond readers! If you’ve been around for awhile, you’ve probably seen this photo two or three times. I’m using it to day because, well, I’m hoping as I write this on Wednesday night that I will be sitting in that spot with that exact brush when you read this on Friday. I have loads to do this weekend while in Savannah, but I have special time cut out just to sit under the Spanish moss and paint. Why? Because painting is one of my forms of meditation – and that’s what this post is about! Please welcome my friend Kiki, with her beautiful views on compassion and returning to the body.

Painting, Forsyth Park

Reading about reasons to meditate, I came upon the information that calming the mind helps us because it counteracts the brain’s natural negativity bias, a protective mechanism we inherited from our ancestors, who had to spend far more time than we do anticipating and mentally rehearsing responses to predators and numerous other dangers. It behooved them to pay attention, careful attention, to details in their surroundings and to evaluate, evaluate, vigilantly.

Well, I thought, nice to know where that comes from…been trying to ignore that venal, internal critic my entire life. Who knew my mind was simply prone to judging every single thing in its immediate environment to assess its potential to harm? And all for such a compelling reason! Survival!

When I am not meditating, what am I supposed to do with this insistent creature inside my head? I cannot completely rid my life of it; it has important things to convey, such as, When are you going to learn that the less said, the better, at times? Do you have to be right, make your point, get it all in? You don’t have to externalize every thought, it reminds me. It has taken me more than a few decades to regulate my mouth. Now I am working on my brain.

A trusted counselor helps me with this and he tells me: It takes compassion. We talk a lot about how Buddhist and Taoist practices can inform our relationships, about becoming aware, accepting ourselves as we are. One of the phrases we use is: no second arrow. This has become my cue to practice compassion with my Self.

My mate and I solicited this help to improve our communication skills. So if I find myself apologizing for yet again getting all up in my husband’s stuff about not cleaning or I let my phobias run away with my tongue or my hot buttons got pushed or my abandonment stuff got activated—geez there’s a lot of mines to step on in this here field—if I find myself apologizing, with no “buts”, mind you, none of the, “I’m sorry…but you do it, too”—no. Just apologize. Sincerely. I’m to cowgirl up and take responsibility for my part without accusing my husband of anything. And in so doing, to not entertain sticking another arrow into my own heart—not say, either internally or externally, I effin did it again, I always do that, why can’t I quit sabotaging my own dang self? None of that. That’s second arrow. The first arrow being that yes, I effin did it again.

Reader, have a bit of compassion for yourself. When we think of compassion, we ordinarily place ourselves in relation to another, having compassion for someone else. Seeing that we have these negativity biases embedded in our bodies, it’s very wonderful when we can find some kindness in our hearts to pass along to another soul in need. I contend that, like other wells of emotional depth, we need to replenish our cisterns of compassion, and we need to do that by being kind to ourselves. Being gentle with our flaws, our unregulated mischievous humanity, places us in a different internal mindset. Our energetic imprint, if you will, gets elevated—think of how it feels when you do something extra nice, go out of your way to help or extend a hand, listen to a pal who’s hurting, give deeply of your time, energy, or whatever you have that’s needed. Now think of how it would feel within your body to forgive yourself and accept that you went against your own best efforts and messed up again. What kind of energy is generated by that simple act of self-care?

If meditating soothes the mind’s negativity bias, compassion directed at one’s self goes one small but conscious step further: It raises positive internal energy. Most of us are run by our heads (and, of course, egos); our minds gather protective information and funnel it down to the heart and body. The sensate mind takes note of voice inflections, gestures, postures, facial expressions, then interprets and translates it into feelings and responses. Practicing compassion towards the self reverses this process, as it redirects conscious attention to the heart. The heart,
then, holds the reins and passes information to the brain for a response. A very different sort of energy is created and released.

Saying someone pushed your hot buttons is a fairly accurate way to describe the head-to-heart process. We feel someone attacked or reject us, disregarded our needs and our ego formulates a rather automatic response, often a counterattack. Becoming aware, i.e., noticing the ego’s methodologies, gives us the moment we need to step back. Administering a little compassion in that interval allows us to make a different, conscious choice about how to respond. That is more of a heart-to-head process.

I have described the physical process in detail because one of the other Buddhist practices I am learning is to go back to the body, either to the breath or to internal sensations experienced, so as to ground myself in the present moment. For example, you feel angry; fear is usually not far behind anger, and you find where in your body you actually feel the emotion. In the noticing, you can talk to it (“hello, fear, I see you’re here…what’s this really about?”). This is an act of compassion towards the self. You pause long enough to understand there is no current harm confronting you, no reason to counterattack. You can see your part in whatever drama is occurring, take responsibility and move on. Without reinjuring yourself with blame and judgment, you now have the energy to grant another person warm respite or understanding. The potential for a moment of recognition occurs—you come to know within your bodily experience that the internal evaluator can be effectively quieted with no harmful results. You come to know because you can literally feel it, that kindness to yourself is more compelling to your heart than perpetuating the ego’s agenda, because it contains the key to enlightened self-acceptance and greater
internal peace.

Simply put, when we practice compassion towards ourselves, the ability to pass it along increases. It reminds us that we all want the same things: to love and be loved, to belong, to connect authentically and feel safe in our choices to do so.

Kiki is a writer living and bettering her communication skills in SoCal with her husband and two cats. 

Daily Yoga: Promise to Myself

My Yoga Online Videos

Several weeks ago, I joined this awesome online program called ‘My Yoga Online‘. With this program, I did yoga once a day…for about a week. Then, life happened. I would think ‘I need to do yoga today’, and then close out my evening on Facebook or doing something around the house, instead. The result? I feel off. I just feel so much more grounded, and comfortable in my own skin when I do yoga regularly. So I’m making a promise to myself: I will try my best to do yoga every.single.day. I know, I know….Yoda says ‘there is no try’, but I also say that strict promises are a bad idea. For example, I have something coming up next week that I’m pretty sure will interfere with my yoga schedule. I will give it an honest-to-goodness effort, though, as it improves my life. I have zero excuses – this program has an endless stream of videos and articles, programs you can join for specific yoga goals, yoga journals, and so much more to offer. I have the membership, and I am going to use it to the max, because it is an absolute worthy investment of both time and money.

So first, I quit drinking Mountain Dew. As of today, I have been Dew-Free for five weeks. Honestly, I don’t even miss it. It wasn’t hard, at all. Then, I gave myself a strict ‘No meat!’ rule. I was already about 95% vegetarian, but laying down this rule and making it official has given me an unexpected surprise: I now crave meat. I want a burger from Five Guys or a steak from O’Charley’s so much I almost can’t stand it. But, my body doesn’t handle meat well in the first place, so this is a good move for me. I’m also enjoying learning how to cook new foods! Now, I’m adding in yoga.

If you had told me even just two years ago that I would be on this path, I might have laughed in your face. I could never have imagined that I would give up meat, or do yoga. Yoga?! I much preferred high-impact, high-energy things like kickboxing. I loved kickboxing. I love yoga for completely different reasons. Kickboxing burned calories and built muscles. Yoga is fine-tuning me.

So, I am going to update here about once a week on my journey-through-yoga. If enough folks are interested, I would love to make it a once-a-week link-up! What do you think?

Sidenote: If you’re interested in joining My Yoga Online, they have a two-week trial period. That’s exactly what I started with, and I fell in love with the program! Just as a disclaimer: I am now an affiliate. So, if you click on that linky and sign-up or purchase a membership, you’ll also help me achieve my goals at the same time, as I’m using affiliate funds towards my peace leadership training! <3