Sometimes, you just have a crap week

woman with an umbrellaOn a scale of one to un-fun, this week has been less than bright and sunny.   Between the ebb and flow of stress at work and dear friends experiencing loss and disappointment, this has not been the kind of week you celebrate.  Or, is it?

I’ve talked before about gratitude, and the stark reminders the universe often sends our way to be grateful for what we have.   This week was one of those reminders.   Several friends experienced the loss of loved ones unexpectedly, and another saw a dream slip away.  It made the horrible situation that I was dealing with at work seem quite trivial in comparison.  Yet, for all of us, the emotional pain was quite real.

How we cope with disappointment, loss and unexpected stress is a good indicator of whether or not we understand what it means to experience joy — even when current circumstances are extremely unpleasant.    Many people want to run away from pain, because, well, it’s pain.  It’s not fun or enjoyable.   I used to run away from pain with a glass of wine, or a daily dose of whatever the anti-depressant was for the moment, but the pain was still there.    I just chose to ignore it, not face it.   That shifted when I dedicated myself to finding joy.  My path happened to be through yoga.  Even so, everyone still has moments when we want to bury our head in the sand and pretend the day or week never happened.

This week, I’ve witnessed true beauty in seeing friends face their pain head on, sit with it, acknowledge it, and move through it.   And, in an attempt to continue to live the path I’ve chosen, and out of deference to my friends who are facing their loss with grace, I too resisted the temptation to succumb to the darkness of apathy and resistance.    Despite all the good in their lives, there are people everyday who are suffering.   And, yet, as trite and Pollyanna as it may seem, there is something good that can come of the suffering if you’re willing to open your eyes.

Sometimes in life, the greatest joy is only accessible after experiencing the deepest grief.   Today, April 21st, 2012.  There are two funerals, two heartaches and much loss.  And, there is also new life.   There are three babies turning one today.   There’s a baby on her way here in two weeks, and new love is finding it’s way.  Even less romantically poetic, we are here.  We are breathing, living, reading, blogging, loving, grieving, supporting, thriving, being.

Today is also a new moon.  A time for rebirth, renewal and starting over.  Set an intention today to be grateful that you are here, that you are loved, and remember why you get up every day and who is important to you.  Appreciate little things like no bills in the mailbox, a smile from a stranger or the sun peeking out of the clouds.    It WILL illuminate the darkness.

This post is for my beautiful friends Pam, Katie, Rob, Antonio, Nancy and Collette and everyone else who had just a crap week.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude

There’s nothing like a good fright or a “near death” experience to remind you to be grateful for all that you have.   One day recently, I forgot to blow out a candle after my morning yoga candle in a windowroutine.  I meditated, finished getting ready, had some breakfast and was out the door to work for 12+ hours.    When I arrived home that evening, I noticed a glow coming from the front bedroom.   I hurried upstairs to find a pool of melted wax, and a delicate flame still burning.  I blew out the candle, and extinguished my absentmindedness with it.  My heart was pounding at thought of what I could have come home to.

I began to feel extremely grateful for the lesson, and became acutely aware of the gratitude I was feeling for all that I have — my home, my dogs, my family, my friends, my life.

While yoga asana (poses) and meditation have become part of my ritual everyday, I’d forgotten about a previous ritual I used to do.  Right before bed, I would journal about what I was grateful for that day, and I’d let that crucial exercise lapse.

Be appreciative every single day, even of the rough situations as there may be something to be learned.   A few months ago, I had to spend $1200 on house repairs in a very short time.  A friend commented, “man, that sucks.  aren’t you frustrated?”  I can honestly say that the first feeling I had was thankfulness.  I am thankful that I have a home that I can repair.  I am thankful for the job that affords me that home and those repairs.

If you’re constantly focusing on everything you don’t have, didn’t accomplish or “can’t” do, you’re perpetuating that state of negativity and stagnation.  On the other hand, if you regularly spotlight your own abundance, prosperity is naturally drawn to you and you feel better.  There have actually been studies, including one out of Kent State that concluded subjects’ levels of happiness and life satisfaction improved after regular practices of gratitude . In addition, depressive symptoms decreased over time with the letter writing.

Try this Gratitude Exercise:  Light a candle, and sit quietly for a few minutes at the end of your day.   Connect with your breath, and begin to think about what went well, what you enjoyed about your day.  Write down all that you are grateful for at that moment, then stop and send that gratitude into the universe or direct it to the people you’re grateful for.  Now,  And, think about something that could have gone differently, and maybe even what you might have done to change the outcome for the positive.  Write it down, and send that intention out into the world.    Finally, breathe in all of the gratitude that your friends, loved ones, teachers and even people you may not know are undoubtedly sending you.  Then, breathe out and release any negativity or resentment you’re clinging to from the day, and extinguish the candle as you let it all go.

In yoga, we teach about about acceptance and appreciation of exactly where you are at this moment in time with regards to your practice.   So, cut yourself a break in your next class and be appreciative of how far you’ve come.  When you’re in final resting pose, or in your final seated position with your hands in Namaste, send out gratitude to your teacher and to your fellow students.  And, receive the same gratitude for yourself.

I regularly think about the candle in the window that I came home to, lighting my path back to a spirit of conscious grace.  And, I am thankful for that reminder, for all that I am and the abundance in my life.

What are you grateful for today?

Namaste.

-Your Charmed Yogi

Be Your Valentine: 10 Ways to Show Yourself the Love

With Valentine’s Day just two days away, most of us are thinking about how we can show the people most important to us how much we love them.   Expressions of love range from subtle to commercial; kisses to chocolates and everything in between, but have you thought about yourself?  Before we can effectively give to others, we have to start by loving ourselves.

Inevitably when I ask the question, “what does love mean to you”, I hear answers like, “unconditional acceptance,” “patience,” “trust,” “affection.”   But, when I ask, “what does it mean to love yourself,”  those same answers may not reappear.   There are 1001 ways to say, “I love you” to others.  If putting yourself before others seems like a foreign concept, here are 10 Ways to Show Yourself the Love:

  1. Chill Out – Sleep in, play hooky from work or school, take a nap, read a book — just be.  Give yourself a time out, and leave the guilt by the curb.
  2. Love Your Reflection – Seriously, look yourself in the eye in the mirror and repeat, “You are an amazing, beautiful person,” because it’s true.  If this is too difficult, paste a picture of yourself as a child on the mirror and tell that little you how wonderful they are.  P.S.  You are one and the same.
  3. Be Fond of Yourself – Be kind to yourself, truly kind.  If you make a mistake, cut yourself some slack.  If you’ve achieved a goal you set, praise yourself loudly and proudly!
  4. Sing it Out –  You know that love song that brings a tear to your eye, or a smile to your face?  Sing it with yourself in mind.  If you don’t have one, you can use mine, “Love Me Do,” by the Beatles.
  5. Have an Attitude of Gratitude – Grab a journal, your favorite pen, and jot down 3 things you’re grateful for about yourself. Do this everyday.
  6. Eliminate the Negative – Self-critique can be an addictive, self-propagating cycle.  Stop it now.  If you catch yourself saying something degrading, if even in jest, cut it off.  Replace it with something positive.
  7. Trust You – Trust that all of the information and ability you need to be in the world, is already within you.  You may just need to remove the obstacles that keep them from shining.  Try something that scares you. Trust yourself and let go.
  8. Nurture Your Own Truth –  Honesty is a critical part of any relationship, especially the one you have with yourself.  Be honest with yourself about your needs and feelings, and nurture them like a new seedling.
  9. Jump on the Bed – Whether literally or figuratively, we all need to take some time out to have fun and be silly.  If it’s been a while since you’ve been on roller skates, pull them out and give it a try or rent a bike and go for a ride with no goal.  If you’re a yogi, try a couple of lion poses in the mirror…and laugh.
  10. Embrace Your Inner Yogi – If you practice yoga regularly, try a nice long heart opening sequence with plenty of backbends, child’s pose (balasana), and my favorite, fish pose (matsyasana).  If you’ve never done yoga, give yourself an hour of your time, and try a class.  You might be surprised at how much you enjoy surrender.

Even if you are able to work all of these exercises into your life daily, you may still struggle with putting yourself first.  But know this, until we make time for and truly fall in love with ourselves, what we put out isn’t nearly what it could be.

Repeat everyday, “I love, and I am loved.” And, while you’re out choosing a greeting card, picking out the perfect box of chocolates or just spending a quite night at home, remember to be your valentine.

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

 ― Rumi
 Have a Happy Valentine’s Day!
 
 Namaste.
 
 -Your Charmed Yogi