Keep mindfully floating, no matter what

The journey of this little boat is such an inspiring metaphor for remaining unattached to what happens to us in life — good or bad.  Life IS change. Observe, experience, and keep going. Enjoy watching the story of this mindful little boat.

“Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.”  ― James Baldwin


– Your Charmed Yogi

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Why I didn’t take pictures at Christmas

Throeau quote

I love to take pictures and write, especially in nature.  As I writer, I try to capture thoughts or feelings that strike me as powerful. As a photographer, I want to get the shot that no one else can get or zoom in and snap a photo of a bird that would otherwise be too far away. But, I’ve recently decided to change my focus (literally), and try to take life in through all five senses, mindfully.

Every year, for the past 4 years or so, I have taken my niece to Build-a-Bear workshop for Christmas.  This year was no different, it’s our thing. We either get breakfast or dinner and then head to the place where dreams come true for many an un-stuffed animal. She’s allowed to pick whatever animal she wants and dress it however she likes (fashion tastes aside).

Until this year, I spent each visit diligently recording my niece picking out her new friend, selecting a sound for it, stuffing it, putting in a heart, and ‘bathing’ it so it’s ready to go home.  The pictures are still great to go back and look at when I miss her.  I’ve realized, though, when looking at them, that I wasn’t truly present for the experience — not as much as I could have been.

I spent more time concerned with how I’d capture the moment for posterity and memory than I did on witnessing it in the moment. So, this year, we did our thing but rather than watch the event through an iPhone screen, I was as in the moment as I could be.  We had a great time, and whether or not she was able to pick up on the nuance of my presence, I did. Pictures can get lost or destroyed (unfortunately), but moments can’t truly be recaptured, they have to be lived when they are happening.

Changing my focus at Christmas and beyond has been extremely rewarding.  There are many more flavors in each bite of food and something as simple as seeing a beam of sunlight on the bark of a tree is more pleasurable than you’d think.

How are you living more mindfully?


– Your Charmed Yogi

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How to experience peace in one step

Practice letting go of your suffering everyday.

Easier said than done right? Maybe. Maybe not. In Buddhism, one of the Four Noble Truths is to acknowledge that we suffer. And the path to enlightenment is to find the source of that suffering, acknowledge it and let it go.

Let go or be dragged

I recently did a ‘Neti Neti’ meditation with David Wagner. Neti Neti in sanskrit means ‘not this, not this.’ The focus of the meditation was on all of the things we aren’t. We are not our stuff, our thoughts, even our bodies. We are the ones who dwell within.

In thinking about how to separate my ‘Self’ from my stuff (material & otherwise), I always come back to rediscovering myself as the watcher.

It’s easy to get caught up in mind activity, especially when it’s turbulent. But, I’m truly in touch with myself, when I’m the one watching the turbulence. That is to say that rather than trying to stop the chaotic thoughts, take a back seat and watch.

When you notice that you’re anxious or your shoulder hurts, for example, YOU or your ‘SELF’ is the one who sees it. You are NOT the hurt shoulder, you are the one who notices.

Seems a little too obscure? Try this beautiful practice from Thich Nhat Hanh in ‘The Heart of Buddha’s Teaching.” When you’re feeling pain such as fear or anger, imagine it as a baby. You are the holder of the suffering. You can give it the presence it requires by acknowledging it, not shoving it away. And then you can put it down – sated.

If you’re meditating and your mind wanders, observe (without judgement) that you are meditating and your mind is wandering.  YOU are the one observing.

And here’s the tricky part, acknowledge that everything is temporary – pain,  happiness, hunger, satiety – all of it is transient.  So, you don’t have to cling to any of it.  And letting go of that clinging is another way of stopping the cycle of your own suffering.

Ready to stop suffering?  The path to peace IS the peace.

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Go ahead and ‘What if?’

What i

Most of us spend the majority of our time living in either the past or the future.  Neither of these states actually exist, nor can we control them.  This lack of control of something we CAN’T leads to a cycle of suffering marked by anxiety, guilt, fear, or self-judgement.

Phrases like ‘I should have’ or ‘I shouldn’t have’ indicate we’re reliving something that has passed and yet, we can’t let go. If you let the mind keep up this pace, you’ll end up shoulding all over yourself.

And, the ‘What ifs?’ can quite literally paralyze us from moving forward in life for fear that something bad will happen.

So, what happens when we answer ourselves with the opposite or confirm that the decision we have made is already done?  We find a little peace.

The next time you find yourself feeling guilty about something, find the ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ statement at the heart of the suffering, and simply answer ‘Oh well, I didn’t’ or ‘Oh well, I did,’ and sit with it.  No need for self-flagellation, just acknowledgement and taking responsibility.  Then let it go.

If you find yourself feeling worry or fear, find the ‘what if’ and throw in the opposite just for kicks.  ‘What if I ask her and she rejects me?’

‘What if she doesn’t?’

‘What if I fail?’

‘What if you succeed?’

‘What if I die alone?’

‘What if you don’t?’

I’m not suggesting that you get caught up in another future state wormhole in which you pontificate scenarios that don’t yet exist, but rather, offer up your ego both sides of the argument it’s making when it tries to take you down.

Living in the present takes effort and discipline.  Don’t let your mind run over you like a spoiled child.


– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: MrWallpaper)

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Let’s pretend life is a cassette tape

mixed tape

If you’re over the age of 25, you probably remember listening to music on cassette tapes and the awesomeness and tribulations that went with it.

Skipping forward wasn’t as easy as pressing an arrow, there was skill involved.  Go too far, and you missed the awesome intro of Danger Zone.  Stop short, and you’re playing a game of trying to find the exact end of the song.

The beauty was that we didn’t realize how life was pacing us vs. today, when we try to out-pace life.  You appreciated the next song and the anticipation WAS the journey.

So, just for today, see if you can bring awareness to the times you’re trying to ‘skip to the next song’ and allow yourself to wait it out.  I promise, the next moment is there – live in this one.


– Your Totally Awesome Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Mark Wisz)

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Take your mind off the gas pedal

namaste license plate

As is often the case, today’s blog post was inspired by a conversation with a friend.  Ironically, we were discussing the topic of yesterday’s post, Refilling your patience carafe.’  We were talking about keeping our cool when despite our best efforts to maintain a peaceful attitude, life still comes at you.

He told me about a recent incident he had when he was in the car with his kids, and found himself to be the object of someone’s road rage.  At first he was able to rise above, but the other driver had long gone ’round the bend’ (pun intended), and soon he found himself feeling taken over by the same frustration. He was able to stay out of the chaos, because he was concerned most with his children’s safety, but was still seething long after he’d gotten of the road.

How often do we relinquish control of our happiness or unhappiness to someone else?  When we allow someone else to control us, we’re really just giving ourselves over to ego, to the monkey mind.  “How dare he do that to me?”  “Who does she think she is?”  “I’m never going to pass that test.” “Where am I going to find the money for that?”

When we replay conversations or situations that didn’t sit right with us over and over, it’s like we’re stepping on a thought accelerator.  And once you find yourself in this obsessive ’round about’ it’s hard to see the exit. How often are we really just mind racing ourselves?

I found myself in a sort of ‘thought loop’ the other day, and decided to take an online class with Marc Holzman targeted at grounding yourself after a hectic day.

The poses were delicious, of course, but it was a quote he kept repeating that really helped me to let go.  The saying had been passed to his teacher from the Maharashi, and then passed down to him

“Oh my mind, be kind to me.”

Sometimes something as simple as an inspiring quote can unlock a new door.  I love this quote, and will definitely incorporate it often into my practice and my teaching.

How else can we find our way out of the roundabout?  Be aware of your physical and emotional reaction without trying to change it.  Awareness is distance from attachment. And give your mind something to do like focus on your breath.

The breath tells us a lot about the mind.  If your breath is wobbly, labored or short, so goes your mental state. You can begin to let your mind off of the gas pedal and cruise by witnessing your own breath.

May your mind be kind to you, and your breath help you shift into neutral.


– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Recycledartco / Etsy)

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Refilling your patience carafe

wine carafe

At some point, we all struggle with patience. It’s definitely not one of my strong suits. In fact, I was recently joking to a friend about those days when it feels as if you have a finite amount of patience, and when it’s gone it’s gone — like a carafe of wine. This, of course, let to a hilarious philosophical discussion about how our carafe’s depth varies from day to day and that we have a seemingly infinite supply of patience in our carafes when it comes to animals, children, and students.

Some days, the carafe is overflowing and all seems right with the world, while others it seems to have a crack and a slow leak. Some days, my carafe is quite plentiful in the morning, but by evening rush hour, it’s dry as a bone, and I watch the last drop dry up from the seat of my inner witness. Sometimes, merely bringing attention to the fact that our patience is challenged, releases the ego’s grasp on our need ‘rightness’ or vindication.

So, how do we keep ourselves from draining our carafe of patience Bordeaux dry? By doing things that replenish your spirit. Taking some time for yourself — even five minutes — to do what brings you peace and rejuvenation can keep you from feeling depleted and drained of loving energy. For some people, it’s a bubble bath alone with a book, and for others it’s prayer.

For me, it’s writing, meditation, spending time with my dogs, and of course, yoga.  I need the time on the mat to ground and center myself, and reconnect with my true nature so that my thoughts, words, and actions come from a place of compassion.

Take time each day to practice the same loving kindness towards yourself that you want to extend outward. Refill your carafe everyday, so it’s available when you need to pour a big glass of patience to someone else. And practice non-judgement and non-violence toward yourself during those times when you can’t seem to harness the patience you think you should have.

What refills your carafe of patience?


– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Design Rulz)

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Don’t get a grip, lose it

loosen your grip, let go

Buddhists believe that life means suffering, a suffering of our own doing as human beings. They also believe that attachment or desire is the source of our suffering, and we can put an end to it. In yoga, non-attachment is one of the Yoga Sutras on the path to Samadhi or pure consciousness. In Christianity it’s called faith.  Trust in God and you can let go.  And we know this.  Innately, we all know this, but it’s hard to let go isn’t it?

Attachment is desire, desire is expectation, expectation is non-presence, and living in non-presence creates suffering. Attachment doesn’t just mean physical holding, but the expectation of anything, which inevitably leads to either disappointment (suffering) or transient happiness (not joy).

The next time you find yourself anxious, angry or even amorous, see if you can find the attachment. Where is the ego driving the bus?  Can you   allow yourself to let go, just a little?  Make space for the next time you need to let go.

“Loosen your grasp a little, and remember: whatever you hold onto is already dead, because it is past. Die to every moment and you will discover the gate to unending life.” ~Deepak Chopra

Holding onto what ISN’T is like trying to bottle lightning. Lose your death grip on the reality your mind has created, and fall into the abliss.


– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Shiny  Starlight)

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Don’t look for thoughts where there are none

let it go balloon

Have you ever been merrily going about your business, perhaps living purely in the moment, when your unconsciousness interjects with some type of made up problem? Perhaps you thought you’d moved on from an earlier problem, only for your mind to bring it back up to the surface, like a jealous childhood friend who gets jealous over your contentedness, and looks for ways to hijack your happiness. Sometimes it’s hard for us to ‘just be.’  I mean to say, that we spend so much time focusing on what’s wrong and how to fix it, we don’t know what to do when our mind takes a break. And, we even go looking for problems sometimes.

If you don’t know what I mean, maybe you’ve observed this in a co-worker, family member or friend who only seems to be happy when there’s something to be unhappy about. Once upon a time, I worked with a few of these people. It’s as if they truly don’t know how to enjoy the peace of stillness. Like their brain is telling them, “Wait there’s nothing wrong right now, what’s wrong?  There must be something I’m supposed to be upset about right now.  No? Well, let’s find something.” This isn’t a judgement of their character, but of our upbringing in general. Let’s face it, we’re a society of scab-pickers who can’t leave well enough alone.

For the over-analytical population (myself included) we have a tendency to exhaust ourselves looking for the thoughts that feed our emotions, when truly we are neither thought or emotion.  And, by simply bringing awareness to an emotion or a feeling that arises enables us to come into the present. Being with the feelings IS presence, aversion is not.

This happened to me the other morning, I was getting ready for work after my morning practice, and noticed that I was feeling anxious. So rather than going on a thought-spelunking mission which would inevitably take me out of the moment and likely cause more pain, I decided just to sit with the feeling for what it was.  Eventually, it went away.  As I became the watcher of all that’s happening with this body and mind, I’m able to witness be-ing. This doesn’t mean that we’ll never feel pain, rather with observance and the practice of letting go of attachment AND aversion, we become the self beyond thought. And that is bliss.

“All problems are illusions of the mind.” ― Eckhart Tolle


– Your Charmed Yogi

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(Photo: Pinterest)

You are where your attention goes

dog from up

I absolutely love the movie Up. The story and animation are beautifully done, and I cry every time I watch.  But my favorite part of the movie – and one I find poignant as a yoga teacher – is the scene when Carl and Russell meet Dug the dog and his talking collar.  The irony was not lost on me when I began a search for an image of the “up dog”.    The scene hilariously captures the dog’s short attention span when he’s distracted by a squirrel.It always gets me thinking about our own distracted minds, and how we spend so much of our time ‘outside of ourselves.’

Have you ever found yourself so wrapped up in a movie that you feel as if you’re actually a character in it?  Or maybe you tend to get caught up in a project at work for hours only to find that you haven’t stopped to look around, breathe, or even get up and move. We have an amazing ability to send our energy wherever we want.  When we pray or send thoughts of love and healing to someone in need, we’re sending that intentional energy out into the universe.  It is truly remarkable.  However, so much of the time, we’re unconsciously leaching energy in unproductive or even destructive ways.

Here’s a personal example. One day, I was gardening in my backyard truly enjoying the moment.  The sun was shining, the dirt smelled wonderful, and I was focused on nothing but the task at hand without wandering thoughts and distractions. Then I got a phone call about a problem with a medical bill and something the insurance company wouldn’t pay.  I was instantly projected into a place of anxiety and worry.  There was no teleportation device, and yet I was no longer in the space that surrounded me.  I no longer felt the pleasing warmth of the sun, and I allowed a single phone call to yank me out of the present and into my head.

Over the years, with much help from yoga and meditation, I’ve learned to spot those times when I allow my thoughts to beam me up into my noggin’.  At first, I used a common psychotherapy technique to bring my awareness back to the present.  I’d stop and deliberately look around at items in the room (or wherever I was), to bring my attention back to the space.   Now, I’ve become more perceptive about when I’ve allowed my attention and thus myself to wander, and I bring awareness to the wandering itself.  I become the watcher; watching the thinker.

Sometimes we try to escape the present moment on purpose because it’s too uncomfortable, but sitting with the emotion and the experience is transformative, and will allow you to move beyond it more quickly.

Whatever your habit for distraction, try to start becoming aware of when you’re NOT in the moment. That in and of itself, is presence.


– Your Charmed Yogi

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