Friday’s Focus—Just…

Breathe. You took a breath just reading the word “breathe”, didn’t you? Good.

Now do it again, but sit up a little straighter.

That’s right, lower your shoulders from your ears and let your shoulder blades come together slightly as you lift your chin.

On your next inhale, pay attention to the sound the air makes coming in through your nose. Notice the coolness of the air and observe where that air goes. Does it stop at the top of your lungs? At the middle? Bottom? Does it make your belly rise and your chest expand up and out?

Keep inhaling deep until you think you can’t take in anymore.

Then take in one more.
Yes, you can.

And now, part your lips slightly and purse them as if you were ready to whistle or blow out a candle
and exhale

S

L

O

W

L

Y.

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Blogging From A to Z: Meditation

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I sit in the dark listening to the lonely hooting of the owl as it stands sentry to the stars that fade into the coming day. Hoo… Hoo… It calls. This becomes my mantra of Who … am I? Who…. am I?

I ground myself in Sukhasana; Easy Pose and let my Shadow self find her way. I slow my breath and let it breathe my body instead of my body controlling my breath.

Thoughts enter from all directions. They bump against each other, creating smaller, but louder thoughts that explode with attached emotions in my mind’s eye.

I sigh an internal “sssshhhhhhh” at the carnival and finally the thoughts begin to look like shooting stars. Brilliant in their flash, but with less and less emotion attached to them, they quickly die out. Another one comes to take its place. Then another. Then another. Finally, there are no more. Just my breath and the gentle rocking of my body as it is carried on the inhale and exhale. An oceanic rhythm in solid form.

The shooting stars are gone and in their place is a light brighter than a thousand suns. Even with my eyes closed, I am blinded by the searing white purity of All that Is.

Without conscious thought, my spine lengthens, my shoulders roll back, and and my heart reaches forward to receive the Cosmic kiss of the light. My heart fills with love and my soul aches in the beauty of it. I revel in the remembrance of Who I am, consciously willing to hold it all in for my return journey into this moment, this breathe, this body. Now.

Taking it deeper….

 

Blogging From A to Z: Laughter

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Laughter—Who knew there were so many different kinds? There are chortles and chuckles, giggles and titters, even guffaws and snorts. Then there is the silent laugh, the belly laugh, the drink coming through your nose laugh, or in my opinion, the most infectious kind of laugh of all—the carefree, full-on laugh of a child.

I remember when I was little; I would sometimes get into a fit of giggles over absolutely nothing. Oh how fun that was! Nothing that I can recall started me off. I was just happy, I guess, and started to giggle, which then made my parents laugh along. First, they laughed at me laughing, which quickly turned into laughing with me. When they asked me what was so funny I honestly couldn’t tell them. I didn’t know and didn’t care as a new fit of giggles overtook me. It just felt so good to laugh! In no time at all, the three of us would be there looking at each other and laughing over pretty much nothing but having the best time of our lives. Little did we know back then that laughing did a heck of a lot more than just feel good!

Laughing has physical and emotional benefits that include aiding in digestion, releasing stress, regulating breathing, reducing fear and anxiety, and most interestingly has been discovered to be a wonderful cardio workout. Studies have shown a link between laughter and increased vascular health so cardiologists are now recommending their patients watch funny movies or read amusing stories to encourage laughter and help stimulate better and faster healing rates for their cardiovascular health.

These benefits have already been known in India and the Yogic community and are being taught as a type of yoga—Laughing Yoga to be exact and it is a actual Yoga practice. There are several retreats that practice it and schools and teacher trainings available, but since I don’t have the resources to travel to these, I like to watch Mahaguru Ramesh Pandey, a Himalayan Yoga Master, on YouTube, extolling the virtues of Laughing Yoga: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXgdSOxaCGI

No matter what kind of day I have, I only need to watch this once to let go of whatever was getting me down or angry and before I know it, I start to smile, which quickly grows into full-fledged mirth. See for yourself! There are several other Laughing Yoga videos available on YouTube so check them all out and laugh yourself happy and healthy!

Taking Laughter and Yoga a little bit deeper!

Blogging From A to Z: Insatiable

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Trying to find something to watch on television the other night and looking for the next thing to graze on as we channel surfed, I wondered why I was looking for more—more entertainment, more food. Why was I feeling so insatiable and not just about TV and food? I knew I wasn’t alone in feeling this way.

On the whole, we have become insatiable in our food, entertainment, and possessions and have become a group of voyeuristic zombies constantly seeking to become fulfilled with the latest he said she said he wore she’s dating gossip. Why do we care? I know I really don’t but I keep going back. I keep going back to my email, feeling insatiable that I may have missed something someone said. I keep finding ways of making and saving money because I feel insatiable in my fear that there is never enough.

We have become insatiable in almost every corner of our lives from feeling that there is never enough of well, everything from food (just look at the increase in portion sizes) to activities (how much after school activities can we cram in for our kids or for that matter, after work and weekends for us adults?). Some would call it greed, but I think it’s more than that. I think we are searching to fulfill a need.

When did we start chasing our own tails looking to fulfill that need and, what exactly is that need? I got tired of always looking for the next whatever and so I started asking myself, why. Why do I feel insatiable with food today? Ah, I’m really bored or I’m feeling fidgety. Why do I feel insatiable about not having enough downtime? Ah, I stayed up late watching that movie on Netflicks last night, and well the night before was a new episode of NCIS, and I agreed to write another article for that magazine.

I realized that on a deep level I was using all these thing to try to fill areas in my life that I was unhappy with. I clearly saw that I was causing my own distractions and insatiable feelings, which were being driven by a need for simplicity and a craving for life choices that were more aligned with my soul and not my ego. In order for me to take this deeper, I had to drill down with bare bones honesty toward myself about myself in my head and my heart to get to this point of recognition and it wasn’t always pretty but the results and realizations are now at least true.

What are we trying to fulfill? What is insatiable for you and why? Taking it deeper one breath at a time.

 

Blogging From A to Z: Grace

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I wanted to use the word grace for this post but it is a hard for me to talk about it, to really be able to convey what it is and means to me.  Maybe it’s just because I like the way it sounds and I like the way I feel when I say it or think about it.

The classic Webster’s definition of grace is quite clear and easy to understand:  divine assistance, or virtue, from God; behavioral skills used in polite society; an attractive trait. To me, though, the word itself has always seemed Big and Sacred. Words just don’t seem to do it justice in defining it and it’s so much more then Webster’s effort.

There are some words in our English language that evoke feelings or emotions regardless of their definitions. For example, think of the words giggle, sunshine, peace, enchant, lullaby, sigh, and then you have the other end of the spectrum with snarky, pus, or shrill. Didn’t you feel a twinge with each word? To me, there is something soothing with the word grace. I can almost hear my soul sigh even as I write about it here. Words have the power to evoke an emotional response, and grace is one such word for me.

Grace is innate goodness. It is silk against my soul. It is a smile radiating love. It is pure acceptance with arms outstretched to hold me. It is an opalescent cloud that wraps itself around me. It is Divine and Divinity. I can just weep at its power and emotion. What words give you a hug from the inside and hold your breath even for a moment? I’d love to know what words make you take it a little bit deeper!

 

Blogging From A to Z: Elderly

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The other day while I was waiting for my husband at the hospital to finish his tests, I realized that the entire waiting room was filled with elderly people. One by one or two by two they came through the doors as though a bus had just dropped them off. Their spouses accompanied some while others were alone. A couple appearing to be in their late 80s with matching walkers particularly fascinated me. He even had a mini-Velcroed cooler attached under the handle grips of his! Their pristine white sneakers shuffled along in unison as they searched for companion seats. I tried to picture what they were like when they were younger. My imagination ran wild with stories of what they must have seen and heard and experienced in their lifetime. These people lived through some of the most significant historical events in the twentieth century this world has ever seen. To me, they were living history right here waiting to be called in for their endoscopies and colonoscopies.

The elderly are our living ancestors. It seems we stopped paying real attention to and honoring our elders once businesses realized they could make more money by focusing on the new generation then on the old. The elderly have become something we tolerate and have to take care of, rather than endeared and welcomed into the family fold. They may have ceased to be productive members of our working society but they have not ceased to still be members of our society. Their worth should not be determined by how much they contribute but instead, be regarded with respect and how much they have already contributed.

These are the people that helped shape our nation into what it is. They weren’t always 70, 80, 90 years old. Once they were like you and me—they were actively employed, bought first-homes, raised families, fought for our nation, and had weekend summer barbecues. They were us and one day we will be them.

The baby-boomer generation has approached the Medicare age with a better understanding of how we grow older and the need to keep our bodies and minds more active, giving the stigma surrounding aging a much needed identity crisis and revamping. The changes are coming but not for the elders we have right now sitting with their son/daughter in the doctor’s office, caught in between business meetings, answering texts and emails from their Blackberry. They are still the lost ones in our society at the mercy of the “sandwich generation”, who splits their attention and focus conferring with caregivers in between office meetings and a quick drop off of the kids at soccer practice.

Blogging from A to Z: Breath

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Breath

Breath—the whisper of the beginning, the sigh of the end. Everything in between, every thought, every feeling, every passion, and every sorrow is accompanied by the breath. It is not just the backbone of our life but the backbone of our sanity and our even our mental health. Breath sustains our life force. It helps us focus from the mental chatter and can calm us when we’re upset (How often have you heard or said, “Take a deep breath and calm down”?), it does all this without us giving it a second thought. But what if we did? What if, even for just a few minutes, you stopped and noticed how you feel, how your body and emotions change by changing your breath? A deep breath versus a shallow breath. A belly breath versus a lung breath. A fast breath versus a long, slow, inhalation and exhalation.

I tend to be a shallow breather so when I consciously breathe into my diaphragm I become aware of new physical sensations and even a change in my thoughts. Sometimes, all you need to do is to take that one big, deep, bellyful, blissful breath for a change in your mental and emotioal direction. Why don’t you try it now? Sit back, close your eyes, and breathe……..Let’s take it deeper.

 

 

The Art of Being Human

You don’t need to know a name, date of birth, or occupation and it doesn’t take a big commitment. It can be a gesture as small and simple as a smile, holding the door open, or allowing that car into your lane of traffic. It’s about looking into the cashier’s eyes when they hand you back your change in the supermarket line. It’s about saying Good Morning every day to the security guard at work who never looks up but then one day, returns with his own, Good Morning.

It’s about helping someone who is lost find their way back to familiar surroundings by letting them follow you in their car. It’s about remembering that there are actual people behind the phone calls and tweets and screen names on Facebook. It’s about calling customer service and instead of giving a complaint, complement the service you just received. It’s about sharing an article or a photo with someone because it reminded you of them.

It’s about not always waiting to be asked. It’s about paying it forward, paying it backward and whatever falls in between. It should not be something we need to remember to do, it should be simply the way we are. It’s something that should not wait for a holiday to show people how we feel.

We are spiritual beings learning to be human. We are human beings learning to be spiritual. We never know what each day will bring or even every hour. My mother-in-law used to say, “It’s nice to be nice.” It doesn’t mean we can’t get angry, but recognizing that the anger should be about the right things—for wrongdoings and injustices, and not to be angry just because something didn’t go our way. Anger is a natural emotion and can be all powerful and used the right way, can move mountains, but so can empathy, love, and joy. It’s about the art of being human.

It’s a balance of recognizing each other’s soul and existence and stepping up and out without having a reason for doing so other than opportunity. It’s about not hiding behind our anonymity of technology or the false strength in our insecurities. It’s also about nonexpectations and about trust. We have no way of knowing where our one act of kindness, our one act of humanness can lead, but just trust that it does.

Let me

Let me make you think.
Let me make you squirm.
Let me make you uncomfortable.
Not to be a mean girl but to be an inspiration;
not to make you feel lonely but to show you that you are not alone.

Let me take you by the hand and we’ll peel back the layers together.
Let me show you that your underbelly is not a weakness or something to hide. It is a soft place where dreams are born and die and are born again but with bigger wings.

Don’t hate me for making you question your own limitations.
Don’t put me down because you’re too scared to look in the mirror with the light on and you’re too afraid to be alone with it in the dark.
Don’t tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about when you haven’t even tried to step in my shoes, let alone really walk in your own.

Don’t tell me you don’t have anything to say because by your shear existence, your breath is your pen.
Don’t tell me that no one can love you, because I do.
Don’t tell me that no one believes in you, because I do.
Don’t tell me that you can’t go on…move up…let go, because I believe you can.
Don’t tell me that you aren’t worthy, because you are.