My alma mater invites me to tune in each year to what they refer to as “Lessons & Carols” which is a lovely service with the college choir singing beautiful Christmas carols, filling the chapel with song. This week in my classes we did our own little riff on lessons & carols, and rather than focus on carols, we spent time contemplating the year that was 2019, searching for lessons.
As we meander through our year, time can seem like a runaway train. Life happens so fast and we are hurtled through time and space, often without time to absorb what is happening. Sitting with the year to reflect on the many moments we’ve experienced, some seismic, others ordinary, to glean lessons is a great practice. Yes, lessons, because everything and everyone ultimately is a teacher. Many of these lessons you probably didn’t sign up for and might rather not reflect upon, but there are valuable take-aways from even the stuff that was rugged during the year.
Sit with your year and the gifts and lessons you’ve taken from it. And then hold gratitude for those priceless lessons. It is a beautiful way to wrap up the year and prepare for the transition to the next one.
Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season filled with your own unique version of lessons and carols.
Last weekend we took a drive to Vermont and the foliage was amazing. As New Englanders we are surrounded by the changing seasons and nothing really compares to vibrancy of colors–it’s really breathtaking. So we are conditioned to be used to the changes of seasons. But we experience so much change internally as well. Some are seismic changes, others subtle, but the adjusting to these changes can be hard. We like to hold onto each “new normal” that we arrive in, clinging on to the constancy and comfort it brings. A Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, said “The only constant is change.” But when something takes us out of our comfort zone we fight it. Pema Chodrun so beautifully offers, “Impermance is a principle of harmony. When we don’t struggle against it, we are in harmony with reality.” It’s important look inward to see where we hold on and where we might go with the flow a bit more; to soften and let go of how we think things should be, and just let them be. And it isn’t easy to do, it is a practice. As Pema also wonderfully sums it up, “We can make ourselves miserable or we can make ourselves strong. The amount of effort is the same.” Wishing you a beautiful fall, and a powerful reminder to witness both the external and the internal changes this season, with an extra big dose of acceptance for what you find.
I have found myself countless times this summer switching my phone to “low battery mode.” It is often the state that we are in, with lives that are “crazy busy,” often times with crushing responsibilities. But it is summer! And I hope that your summer has given you the opportunity to slow down a bit, breathe a little more slowly, and rejuvenate a bit…get out of your “red zone.”
At the moment I find myself alongside a lake. EB White (as in author Charlotte’s Web and more…), used to vacation here years ago. He referred to this lake, with its tall pines hugging the coast, as a “cathedral.” It feels so apropos; it is a sacred place, at least for me. Perhaps you know the feeling of a place that, without fail, you find yourself resetting on every level–mind, body, spirit. Perhaps at a beach, a mountain, a lake or simply gazing at a sunrise or sunset somewhere can bring you that much-needed sense of calm. Even just thinking about it, imagining your “happy place,” can have an effect. Our everyday experiences can distance us from peace, so resetting and recharging is vital. Nature does this best, activating our root chakra–it offers reassurance that everything will be alright–and so we can unravel the tension a bit better.
I am gearing up for another “school year” of yoga classes, workshops, and the like. I’d love to hear from you if you have any specific interests as I sit here, lakeside, planning. Something about having a big wide open expanse of a lake, no walls or ceiling to confine me, offers great possibility!
Enjoy your August and I hope to have the honor of teaching you this fall.
It is the last week of my regular classes and it feels rather weird, as I am wrapping things up a little earlier than in years past. Naturally I want to wish people a “happy summer.” But what does that really mean?
Last week we explored what a meaningful season ahead looked like, honoring the natural pause that is offered soon by the summer solstice. Taking advantage of the inward reflection to applaud our achievements, redress our imbalances, and look forward to supporting those in our circles of friends and family.
This weekend I was really struck by the definition of happiness offered by psychologist Shawn Achor on an older podcast of “10 Percent Happier.” He suggested that the definition of happiness was the joy you feel as you are moving toward your potential. The positive psychology research, he said, points to the need to have what he called “happiness hygiene habits” to help us retrain our ancient brain that is always scanning the inner and outer landscapes for disasters or the negative, toward the positive in order to achieve long-term happiness. That way we can move more fluidly toward our potential.
So much is dependent upon a regular gratitude practice, which creates something akin to an app running in the background of your brain always scanning for the positive. The key to holding gratitude isn’t just naming the “what” it is also the “why,” providing meaning. The three happiness hygiene practices mentioned are meditation, gratitude, and social connection (the greatest predictor for long-term happiness)
So as we part for the summer, I wish everyone the time to slow down, reflect & meditate, and to fill the summer with meaning and with those you love. “Happy” Summer.
Last week we travelled to California for parents weekend where our son is in college. It was wonderful to see him and experience a slice of his life there. We walked for miles, caught up, grabbed a few dining hall lunches, and dinners out, and enjoyed the programming for the parents. The school put on classes for us old folks and we were able to sit in and think about some really interesting topics. One of the classes we attended was called “Flourishing: The Art & Science of Creating a Life Well Lived.”
The focus was on our fast-paced digital culture. The professor called our phones and tablets “weapons of mass distraction.” He said what we need is more social integration; to experience deep meaning and purpose by plugging into JOY & AWE in our lives; having a tribe of like-minded friends–like a “microcommunity;” physical well-being; and very important was MEDITATION. Meditation can counter the effects and retrain the brain structures that are affected by the inundation of fast-moving information.
As a society we need to shift out of “fight or flight” mode. Our Stone Age brain cannot decipher the difference in threat from a lion versus a “ping” from a text. We desperately need to change that and meditation can do the job, thanks to the neuroplasticity of the brain. With practice a regular meditation practice–gets you into that STATE and eventually you can turn it into a TRAIT. The brain can be retrained in this way. Powerful, right?
The class reminded me how important it is to live more intentionally, more proactively, and more mindfully. To refuel with star gazing, sunsets, friends, and laughter. To stay mindful as much as possible throughout the day–to break free of the reactive and habitual and live with greater intention. THAT is flourishing.
And isn’t that what your yoga practice can do? It creates the groundwork for greater mindfulness. By focusing on breath and movement, turning down the chatter from the brain, the practice is a meditation in motion, bringing you closer and closer to flourishing.
I like to teach with a nod to current events and happenings. Last week we lost a poet named Mary Oliver. And while I do not confess to knowing the breadth and depth of her work, the few poems of hers that I have read are so beautiful, comforting. Like being read to by a dear friend, but one who really asks you the hard questions and reminds you what living is truly supposed to be like. One of her poems in particular, though, is a bit of a wake up call, called The Summer Day. It draws you in with the scene of a grasshopper in a field, and then startles you with this question at the end, “Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one, wild and precious life?” And then, just like that, the world stops, sort of in the way when you experience a loss or a tragedy. Suddenly there is time for introspection and reflection. Am I living my life in alignment with my passions? And if not, what can I do to correct course? Thank you, Mary Oliver, for giving us the gift of your prose and for holding the mirror up to our lives, to allow us to see them more clearly and to dive inward to reflect.
It is January. You did it. You got through December and the holidays with their endless demands and now it is time to focus on yourself. You may have started the year with bold resolutions or meekly tip-toed into the new year without wanting to commit to anything dramatic. No matter the way you welcomed 2019, it is important to approach this new year filled with self compassion so that you can support yourself as you would a friend. Allowing yourself to shine, grow, evolve and perhaps even transform. The question is, can you offer the compassion that you so freely offer outwardly, inwards? Can you push aside the internal critic, laugh and embrace your imperfections, and create some ease within? Like yoga, this is a practice. Like rolling out your mat to dive deeper into body, mind, spirit, can you incorporate self compassion this year?
Life is funny. We get mired in the details of things. We get swept into drama. We have to work hard to keep things in perspective at times. And then there are other times when you are forced into perspective–a little variation of Clarence showing you what a wonderful life you really do have. So whatever it is that you might be experiencing, I hope you’ll take a little time to step back and appreciate the blessings, the abundance, the goodness that exists right now. I had the dramatic variation of this yesterday, when a loved one had a successful surgery that we’d been dreading for months. And when I arrived at the hospital room, don’t you know the room number was my birthday. What a gift, indeed. I hope you’ll look for the gifts the universe is serving you up this season (and I truly hope they won’t be hospital rooms!). With a lot of recovery time ahead in this house, we just might have to snuggle up to the classic movie with Jimmy Stewart and wait for that line…..”you see, George, you really DO have a wonderful life.”
Many happy blessings to you this holiday season.
Maybe it’s why I like high tide so much. Walking through Boston or any other harbor, seeing the water level super high just makes me smile. It’s a fullness close to bursting, there is no room for any more–the abundance of it never ceases to astound me. If only we could feel that high tide on the inside. Often we feel the opposite, like something is missing, not quite right, that we are lacking, or not enough. With Thanksgiving just a stone’s throw away, it’s certainly time to give thanks. And incorporating a gratitude practice in your life on a regular basis can have profound effects on your outlook & mood; coming into that mental position of “I am enough, I have enough” can float you up like a good high tide, creating a sense that there is nothing missing. This week in my classes we focused on holding gratitude, not only because it is a mental game changer, but also because it feels right to acknowledge the abundance, that high tide, in our lives. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
It started with some crazy ideas and one flip. And mercury being in retrograde was also in play (still is!).
We invited some folks to stay with us for the summer. Yep, the whole summer, and the family felt the squeeze. Suddenly finding ourselves together and alone in the house was a luxury, and we started to cherish the surprise family time like we had found a hidden jewel.
In July another reminder of how precious our family unit was came when a flip off a dock nearly ended in a variety of nasty ways, but magically somehow didn’t. It was Christmas in July. And again, we found ourselves holding onto what was most dear.
With so much in the air (flips, and mercury, remember?) I also flipped–my business that is–into a new space, just a mile down the road to a fantastic studio. It is a beautiful, airy place and I know it is going to be an exciting new chapter.
Change is really the only thing we can truly count on.