Life as Meditation – Yoga+Meditation Challenge

Meditation

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As a spiritual woman, I am drawn to meditation.  I believe it is important to slow down, release the never-ending stream of thoughts running through my mind, and reconnect with inner peace and a presence greater than myself.  I know from experience that meditation offers many benefits, including stress-relief, clarity, a renewal of energy, and a more positive mindset.

And yet, as a busy mother of three young children, I rarely make time to meditate.  It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s that I’m often lucky to escape to the bathroom for two minutes before chaos erupts, and so finding peace and quiet to meditate seems nearly impossible.

When I do find that magical time, I’ll admit that my minds fights stillness.  Rather than finding peace and clarity, my mind anxiously sorts through my “to do” list and begins to map out what I need to do next.  I often end up feeling anxious and frustrated, as though I’ve just wasted time that I “should” have been using for something else.

So while my heart might long for a regular meditation practice, my mind has pretty much decided that just isn’t a realistic goal for this period of my life.  But then, I happened to watch an episode of Super Soul Sunday where Oprah interviewed Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh.

In their conversation, Hanh said that he meditates in every moment.  He further explained that this simply means he chooses to be awake, to be aware of and engaged in the present moment.  Rather than allowing his mind to wander into the past or the future, he chooses to be fully alive in each moment.

Although Hanh also devotes a great amount of time to more traditional meditation, I was drawn to this idea of a living meditation.  I began to play around a bit, exploring how I might be able to make more of my daily moments a form of living meditation.  Here are a few of my discoveries thus far:

  • When I feel frustrated or overwhelmed, I can choose to breathe.  Rather than getting caught up in my emotions, I can pause for a moment and focus on my breath.  Slowly inhaling, slowly exhaling for a few breaths.  I can tune into how I am feeling and what might be triggering my feelings, and then I can choose a new direction.  I can create a mantra for the moment such as, “I am love” or “I choose kindness” and silently repeat this phrase as I move forward, allowing the feeling of this statement to fill me up and flow out into my interactions with others.  I am learning to be aware of how I am feeling and to take responsibility for my feelings and how I choose to interact with others.

  • When I am folding clothes (or completing any other household chore), I can choose to count our blessings.  Rather than complaining about all the things I “have to” do, I can choose to think about each member of our family and what I love most about him or her.  I can think about all of the gifts we enjoy on a daily basis and give thanks for our beautiful life.  I am learning to discover wonder amidst seemingly ordinary routines.

  • When I am driving, I can choose to look for beauty.  Rather than rushing, I can slow down and enjoy the journey.  Wonder is all around us, from a brilliant blue sky, to beautiful wildflowers growing along the road, to golden sunshine glittering through the trees.  I am learning to notice and appreciate where I am in each moment.

  • When I read bedtime stories to my children, I can choose to pay attention to their giggles and enjoy their many questions.  Rather than focusing my thoughts and how tired I am and how much I still want to do after they go to sleep, I can do my best to sink into their hugs, to fully experience and enjoy the feelings of their hands, hugs, and kisses, and of being snuggled up together as we share this treasured time.  I am learning to slow down and to be thankful for these simple moments.

It is a practice, a moment by moment, choice by choice journey.  If you’ve been exploring meditation and the traditional practice just doesn’t seem to fit your life or your needs right now, I’d like to invite you to play around weaving meditation into your daily moments.  Simply choose an everyday activity and then choose to be fully present and engaged.  If you notice your mind beginning to wander, simply let go of that thought and return to the present moment.  Be gentle with yourself and remember that this is a journey, a moment by moment, choice by choice, adventure in becoming fully alive.

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Becky Lyter McCleery is an inspired mama, writer, and teacher.  She is the founder of Raising Loveliness, a gathering place for moms to come together to “bring out the best in ourselves, our children, and one another.”  She invites you to join her in her mission to cultivate a more compassionate world.

Website:  http://www.raisingloveliness.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RaisingLoveliness

 Twitter: https://twitter.com/BeckyMcCleery

 Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/rebeccamccleery/

 

 

The Art of Self-Care as a Mother – YMChallenge Day 3!

new mother, infant

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I just realized the post for today didn’t post this morning, so here it is a little late! Today, we have a guest post from Lisa and Kaya of Riding the Turbulent River.

The Art of Self-Care as a Mother

For most mothers, the act of becoming a mother is the catalyst for a whole shift in the way they approach their self-care.

For many mothers there is an abandonment of self-care as they try to find their feet as a mother and as they shift to meet the demands of a baby. Then, as time passes, often years, they struggle to find their way back to meeting their own self care needs.

 

Before children we are trained to separate out work/uni/school and rest (or self care). We work for certain hours and then we stop and take a break. As mothers we have to suddenly abandon that model, we do not clock off easily or regularly! If we wait and try to hold on for those rare times that we take a break or clock off for a bit then all too often we feel burnt out and exhausted with our self care seriously lacking. As new mothers, its rare that we even take time off!

 

And yet for any mother who has a priority around conscious, compassionate, peaceful parenting self-care really needs to be addressed as it is common for them to give and give at the expense of their own self care. It is virtually impossible to meet your values and priorities as a mother when you are out of energy, out of enthusiasm, out of patience and quick to lose your cool.

Self care doesn’t need to come at the cost of your motherhood priorities or the commitments you have to your children, and it shouldn’t, but when you find that right balance of self-care that is woven within the family rhythm then your parenting becomes so much more grounded, balanced, conscious and just plain easier.

 

You do need to create a new model; a new way of approaching self care as a mother. There is a need for flexibility, a constant juggle for balance, a willingness to try new approaches and ideas and ultimately a revised personal self care model that works for mother and her family. It often looks nothing like a single person’s self care rhythm… but thats a good thing :)

 

You are not the same person now, you are in a constant state of growth, right along side your children. Embrace this and actively seek out your new rhythm, the rhythm that works for you right now.

Ultimately for us, we have found that the more we can move into a synchronous rhythm with our children the easier it is for there to be time for everyone to fit. For us it works best when we ride that family current and work with it, read it, anticipate it, flow with it and sometimes steer or mould it.

 

Sometimes mothers go through a phase of thinking you can get away with out self care – without any self care! You convince yourself that you don’t need it. You might be able to go on with that for a quite a while (maybe even a couple of years), but that is the path to depletion. You really do need to care for yourself.

 

As a mother you are constantly giving out a lot of energy and it has to be coming in to move through you and be given out. It must be coming in so that you have what you need to then put out the energy you want towards your children. You do need to find the balance.

 

You can always tell when your self-care is off balance. Your energy will feel flatter and often heavier, you’ll have way less patience, you’ll feel edgier and you’ll find yourself more easily triggered, and quicker to anger. Often this can even signal a downwards spiral in the harmony in the home as children often take on a mother’s energy.You know those days where it’s just a running slide and it takes a massive effort to turn things around? When your kids join you in impatience, edginess, and irritation and you feed off each other?

If the self-care imbalance continues then you often feel drained, very tired and lacking in vibrancy, enthusiasm and energy – which you  kinda need as a mother! You also lack presence in life and with your children like you could just go through the motions without any meaningful connections if you don’t regularly check back in with how connected you are with them and what you really need to do to reconnect.

 

When we work with mothers in helping them re-ignite their acts of self-care we share two main spheres to address and create their own personal rituals in. These are In-the-Moment Self Care and Sacred Recharge Time. The yoga and meditation challenge can be incorporated into both these spheres of self-care. It is really up to you, your preferences and your current family rhythm.

 

In-the-Moment Self Care is a critical component to finding real, sustainable and joyful energy in motherhood, and it is often the one that is most forgotten. In-the-Moment Self Care is about the intention you have in each moment, it is the ways you nourish and love yourself in amongst the day. It is about stopping and checking in with yourself and finding out how are you feeling in this very moment, and tuning into what you truly want right now. It is asking within how you can bring the essence of what you most want into the moment or the day, what next tiny step you can take to honour what you most want.

 

It can be as simple as walking across the grass in the backyard with your focus in your body and the way it feels. It might be making a favorite drink in the middle of the day or putting on music while you make dinner and dance. It is about bringing your self care into the day instead of putting it on hold until you get “a break”.

 

You will find your Sacred Recharge Time much more fulfilling and enjoyable if you aren’t holding on to it so tightly and preciously as the only form of self care you have. Holding on by your fingernails till your one hour next Tuesday that is totally yours is not the the most sustainable or joyful path to motherhood.

Sacred Recharge is the time you need with yourself, this varies for every woman depending on how much of an introvert you are among other things. It depends on what you want to get out of the act of self-care, your intention for taking the time,and what you plan to do with it. Even though the need varies, pretty much every mother needs at least some of this.

 

How do you create this time in your full life as a mother?

It’s often a struggle for any mother, especially those with young children. It does however seem harder than it really is if you are set on having it be exactly the way it was pre-children or the way it was suggested in a book. It is far easier and less stressful to observe and map your family rhythm and look at the patterns in the day. Humans nearly always create patterns in their lives and groups of humans do too. Look for a space of time (no matter how small at first) where you could fit something in – 10 mins of yoga or meditation is infinitely better than none at all so start there. It may be once the children go to sleep, before they get up, when a young child goes down for a nap, when the children are settled into a game or just after lunch – just look for the space.

 

A yoga teacher once told me (Lisa) that one pose was better than none at all, when I was bemoaning that I got one pose in and then became a human jungle gym. And she was right.

 

You might choose three different poses and find three 1min blocks across the day to do these. This would be a great example of In-the-Moment Self Care.

 

You might map out the rhythms in the day and look for a time when you could fit a 20-30min block in after a young child went down for a nap, that would be more an example of a Sacred Recharge. Whatever your self care looks like this month it may well not look like that next month! Next month you may do two 10min blocks and do one favorite pose before bed.

Ultimately be willing to be flexible and be willing for it to look different at different times but take the time for self care! Remember that the more you care for yourself and stay topped up the more you can care for your children and be the mother you want to be.

What ways do you fit your yoga and meditation practices into In-the-Moment Self Care time and Sacred Recharge time throughout your colourful days with your children?

 

Lisa, Kaya, Riding, Turbulent River

Lisa and Kaya are the creators of Riding the Turbulent River, a body of work for mothers to bring more consciousness, self awareness and embodiment of the feminine energy into their experience of motherhood.

They are currently offering a Free 12 day Shift Experience for Mothers to support you in communicating more consciously, being more self aware,creating more joy and connection in your life and family and to be more of the mother you most want to be. You can register for this free course at http://www.ridingtheturbulentriver.com/shift

 

Why Do Yoga, Anyway? – YMChallenge Day 2!

MyYogapose1

The Yoga + Meditation Challenge now has a Facebook Group! Come join us!

First, I would like to point out this beautiful, flexible woman in the image above (courtesy of My Yoga Online). See that? I can’t do that. Not even close, actually. I could even touch the ‘sit and reach’ box during the Presidential Fitness test as a child. My lack of flexibility coupled with my elephant-like grace and clown-car coordination, I avoided yoga like the plague. Kickboxing was my ‘go-to’ frustration release for many, many years. It took discovering the benefits of yoga to convince me to even try it, after which I found myself falling madly in love with it.

 

So what are those benefits?

1. Less pain! – regular yoga practice strengthens your back muscles and helps your posture, which relieves some of the most common reasons for back pain. It does the same for your other joints and muscles as well.

2. Increased Flexibility- You don’t have to be flexible to do yoga but, after you’ve practiced yoga for awhile, you will find yourself moving deeper and deeper into positions you never thought you could do previously. Even after just a week or so, I felt my muscles and joints loosen, in a very comfortable way

3. Increased coordination – I won’t lie – some of the yoga poses (asanas) involve balance. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen over in warrior pose, but each time I do it I get a little bit better. And, this is saying a lot, for me.

4. You Carry Around Less ‘Crud’ – Yoga stimulates the lymphatic system which, in returns, clears your body of toxins and waste.

5. Better Sleep! – Yoga before bed helps you relax, fall asleep more quickly, and rest more deeply. Even if you do yoga during the day, you will sleep better at night. But, for insomniacs like me, yoga before bed really helps turn that 3am bedtime into something a little more feasible for properly re-energizing.

6. Yoga Tones the Body – Enough said. Who doesn’t want to be more toned?

7. Better Sex – True story. While I can’t guarantee anything, yoga does increase speed and delivery of hormones, which increases libido. Add that to all of the above, plus the few I’m about to mention, and it really is a recipe for a revved up sex life.

8. Less Stress – Yoga focuses on breathing. The deep breaths of yoga, as corny as it may sound to some, helps bring the positive energy in and the negative energy out. If you want to think of it in a more scientific way, concentrating on something a simple and peaceful as breathing lowers anxiety and stress. This alone is what encourages me to do yoga.

Here’s an article I love, from Web M.D., which discusses both the benefits as well as the ‘Before you try yoga’ disclaimer. Please read this! I am not a doctor, in any way, shape, or form – please discuss with your doctor whether or not yoga is for you before jumping into a new routine. I am here to show you the benefits of a regular yoga +meditation routine and how to integrate them into your life, over the next 30 days, whether or not you do so is for you and your doctor to decide!

Now, what about meditation?

Meditation is brand spankin’ new to me – I am learning as you are learning, which is why I pulled in some experience guest writers on the subject. BUT, this much I do know:

1. Meditation helps you relax and, in the process, reduces blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety while increasing your energy and immune system.

2. Meditation increases your serotonin level. You know what that means? You’ll be in a better mood! Having a bad day? Meditate for a few, and feel better.

3. Meditation can increase your reaction time and improve your memory. This one is huge for me, as I had a stroke when I was 21 and suffer from short-term memory loss.

4. Meditation helps develop your sense of ‘Oneness’ – a little hokey for some of my readers, but others will find that this resonates greatly with them. For me, this is the epicenter of my meditation practice.

5. Meditation increases your feelings of inner peace and outward compassion – and, you know, both of those are essential to peace, in general, so this gives me enough reason to encourage everyone to meditate!

For more reasons (100 total!), you can check out this awesome list: 100 Benefits of Meditation

Now, for the good part!!

 

Yoga + Meditation Challenge Day 2

Yoga: Stick to your goals! Today, I will be practicing yoga for 4o minutes just before bedtime, as this is the routine I hope to establish

Meditation: Spend 10 minutes simply focusing on your breath. When you find yourself thinking, just realize that you are distracted, let it go, and refocus.

How is everyone doing on their goals?!

 

 

 

Yoga + Meditation Challenge Kickoff!!

Welcome to the Yoga + Meditation Challenge!

Yoga

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Now, before we even get started, I’m going to say a few things about the next thirty-one days of awesomeness I have planned here on The Vagabond Studio.

1. I am not an advanced yogi. Not even close. This challenge is for everyone – beginners and well-practiced yogis! – and will have guest posts from practitioners of varying levels of skill and expertise.

2. This challenge is not a challenge to become an advanced yogi.

So what are we doing, then?

We’re learning, together. We’re setting individual goals, and working this month to achieve them together. So whether you want to master the contortionist move you’ve been working on and want to meditate for an entire day, want to simply integrate more yoga into your schedule and get the hang of the idea of meditation, or fall somewhere in between, this is for you!

The amazing sponsors (and giveaways!) for this event include :

My Yoga Online

Wild Sister Magazine/The Wild Sisterhood

Amazing Thai Store

A Balanced Life

Lotus Coaching

Going Green with the Grizls

Freedom Yoga Studio

Riding the Turbulent River

These amazing businesses and organizations will be gracing the posts of The Studio with giveaways and guest posts – WooHoo!

Now, lets get down to it!!!

1) Over the next 31 days, we are going to be learning more about yoga and meditation, how to integrate it into our crazy busy lives, and why we would benefit from doing so. Right now, I want you to set a goal as to what you want to accomplish throughout this challenge and why – leave it as a comment so we can cheer each other on!
(My goals are relatively easy – I want to integrate yoga into my everyday life, without excuses! I have a really bad habit of skipping days. And, I want to learn more about meditation and give it a real try rather than just think about it.)

2) If you haven’t already, head on over to MyYogaOnline and sign up for the free trial membership – or, you know, just go ahead and purchase the membership, because it’s absolutely worth it! I am an affiliate for MyYogaOnline, just to throw that disclaimer out there, but I have tried at least six different yoga programs and this one is my favorite as well as the only one I have used for almost seven months now.

3) Sign up for the newsletter! You don’t want to miss out on the posts, but of course I don’t expect you to remember to come back and check – we’re busy people!

 


 

The Challenge

 

Today, I just want you to set/post your goals, sign up for the linky and, of course, do some yoga!

Let us know in the comments what your goals are, and how you did today!



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.