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As I sit to write this blog, after months of total writer’s block, I can’t help at laugh at the irony of my topic.  I have struggled lately to focus my attention long enough to write anything of merit, so ironically today I choose to write about the power of attention.  Recently I became aware of a disheartening statistic: the average American only has an average 20 second attention span. That means that at this point in my blog, the majority of people reading will already be off doing or searching something else.  Quite disheartening to this former journalism and communications major.

But since I tend to be someone who challenges norms and attempts to change people’s common habits and perspectives, hang with me a little longer.  Let’s dive deeper into this sorry state of Attention Deficit Disorder, a somewhat new (in the past 20 years) diagnosable disorder that has continued to see an upward spike in cases.  As society moves to a faster and more immediate need for gratification, we should step back and explore the immense power of the mind.

photo-9Our mind is created, according to Ayurveda, of three main energetic qualities; sattva, rajas, and tamas.  Sattva, the purest form of creation brings us the qualities of stability, harmony, and virtue of being.  Sattva gives us the experience of being content, and is the underlying principle behind our intelligence. Rajas, the second guna of the mind, gives us the quality of distraction, turbulence and activity.  It it the energy behind our self-motivation and is the principle of energy.  It can create pain and suffering when overly stimulated.  Tamas, the third guna, gives the quality of dullness, darkness and inertia.  This is the heavy and obstructing energy that contributes to decay and death.  Tamas causes illusion and is the principle of materiality. By learning to observe the subtle nuances of our mind, we can then begin to shift from living a life of illusion to one of pure potentiality.  We begin to notice how our thoughts take us through an emotional roller-coaster. However, by practicing the art of mind-control and manipulation, we can create the qualities of self-contentment.

Our mind imitates its environment.  As people become more accustomed to the speed and frequency of life through technology and instant communication, the mind struggles to keep up with this need for speed.  Our mind needs space – visual, inner and cultivated – to give the Self the sense of true freedom.  What is true freedom?  It is experiencing life as the master of your own power of attention.  If you don’t claim your own power, someone else will for you.  We experience this daily with our media.  They decide what is important (well, corporate interests decide, pundits repeat, people listen, and judgement is made.  But that is a rant for a different day.), and our mind clings to those opinions and ideas.  The instant reporting of “world” events almost never have anything truly relevant to our current life situation, yet they have an incredible power to create a deep sense of fear.  Suddenly we find ourself living a rushed life, competing with time, making decisions based on fear, and forgetting how to live peacefully.

So how do we cultivate a steady peace of mind?  First and foremost, by connecting back with nature.  Go outside.  Take a walk without your phone.  Disconnect for one hour a day, or better yet, one day a week.  Choose your friends wisely, and only surround yourself with people of pure heart and intention, whenever possible.  If someone exudes negativity in your life, or literally sucks the energy out of you, quietly send positive energy back to them and walk away.  Turn off the TV.  Don’t engage in negative and visceral gossip or “news”.  Choose your words carefully, and listen more.  Most importantly, never give up your independence of judgement.  Cultivate your own inner voice and as my esteemed teacher, David Frawley says, “never let someone else’s thoughts, judgements or perception into your ind who you wouldn’t let into your home.”

As we teach ourselves, and most importantly our children, how to slow down and cultivate kindness, we may find that our self-fulfilling prophecy of attention deficit disorder is created by our lifestyle, not our genetics.  If we slow down, find gratitude in everything, and give our mind the space it needs to just be, without creating a story with our thoughts, we may find our mind to be like a peaceful and placid lake, where even the largest rock thrown only creates a temporary ripple.  And then maybe, just maybe, we might read to the end of the story!

 Peace and Namaste… ps….looking for a peaceful all-levels yoga, ayurveda, live music beach retreat?  Join me Feb. 27 -March 5 at Maya Tulum Spa and Resort in the beautiful Yucatan Peninsula.  Easy flights to Cancun with a shuttle 90 minutes south to Mayan Paradise.  Check out my events page on my website or email more for more info.  I have a few cabanas still available!!!  Photo below is from a local artist from Tulum….

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I’ll be honest – I don’t really think anyone wants to read yet another article about New Year’s Resolutions.  But I feel I have an obligation to share with you what I learned years ago that has proven time and again to truly work.

Many of us experience plenty of stressful emotions during the holidays for myriad of reasons.  We may feel overwhelmed and stressed from travel, company, or excessive shopping; we are nostalgic or depressed IMG_1461for those we may have lost or miss; we feel exhausted and guilty from excessive imbibing and/or the breaking of our routines.  Therefore, the chance to redeem ourselves as we turn the calendar to another year gives us hope, and stamina, for a healthier and happier future.

But how many past “resolutions” do you remember making?  How many of them did you actually fulfill?  The one resolution in my past that I actually remember, and that I have followed through with to this day, was in 1992 when I resolved to quit drinking soda.  I was never a huge soda drinker, but living in Atlanta, home to Coca Cola, with an abundance of those adorable little chilled glass bottles in the fridge, I am sure I drank my fare share.  I remember my reason for giving up soda was stated something like, “drink more water to improve my health”.  My then-recent diagnoses of Crohn’s disease the previous year had already seriously taken its toll on my health and I was open to whatever I could do to have the upper-hand in my well-being.  I believe the success of that resolution came in the way I thought about it and spoke of it – in both the positive and in the present tense.  Instead of saying, “I am going to quit soda”, I instead stated that “I drink only what nourishes my body and keeps me healthy.”  Does this mean I never fell off the wagon?  Nope.  But it did slowly sink in to my sub-conscious, and in a short time, and to this day, I stopped liking the taste of soda.

Positive intentions create a positive reality.  A summary of Lao Tzu’s teachings stated that “our thoughts become our words; our words become our actions; our actions become our habits; our habits become our character; and our character leads to our destiny.”  Let that sink in for a moment.

So how do we create true positive intentions that ultimately create our destiny?  We use words that are positive, present-tensed, and personal.  Instead of pushing our desires into the future, state them as if they are happening now, even if it sounds silly.  Do so with a positive spin vs negative.  For example, instead of saying “I’m going to stop eating junk food and lose 15 pounds”; rephrase this to say “I will maintain an optimum weight for me by eating only healthy and nourishing foods.” See the difference?   Keep it personal by stating, for example, “I live in peace by surrounding myself with positive and peaceful people within my environment”.  This replaces a vague wish for world peace, or a desire to stop being negative all the time.  These semantical differences have a large impact on our psyche, which eventually sinks deep into our conscious and creates real change.

Over the years I have practiced and lived by these principles.  My life has not unfolded simply or easily, but the dreams and aspirations that I have held close to my heart have come to fruition in more beautiful ways than I could have ever planned or dreamed.  I believe we can all use more personal, positive and present-minded thoughts and intentions in our lives.  You can’t change the past, but you can change the direction of your future.  Why not start creating the life you truly want to live now?

Namaste….

ps…If you would like to create a positive vibe through the use of a beautiful universal mantra for peace, join us for Shanti 108.  This is a community event practiced in the sanctuary of your own space.  A 108 day practice for peace realization. 10 minutes each day consisting of chanting the Om Asatoma Shanti Mantra 8 times and then 8 minutes of stillness as you receive and give the powerful vibratory affect of this mantra in silence.

Click here to hear it chanted by  Deva Premal and Miten:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lh5XjWHJivk)

Om Asatoma Sadgamaya – In realization of our infinite peace and connection, I am led from the unreal to the real.
Tamasoma Jyotirgamaya – From the darkness to the light.
Mrutyoma Amritamgamaya – From the poisoin to the nectar.
Om Shanti Shanti Shantihi – Om Peace Peace Peace

The last line repeats the word peace three times to deepen and expand our experience of peace from heart to heaven and everything in between. Peace in your heart, peace in your relationships and community and realization of the universal peace that never ends.

This is a beautiful experience of present, positive and personal intentions for peace.  Thanks to Stephanie Adams of Flow Yoga, our community in the Gorge and throughout the world is beginning this today, 1/8/15.   You can start anytime!

_MG_3241 I love yoga.  I love to practice yoga, I really love to teach yoga, and I love how yoga has changed my life.  There is no shortage of articles written all over the internet singing the praises of yoga, or, as I lately read in the online publication Elephant Journal, dissing yoga.  The most recent controversial article that I read was titled something like “Why I Left Yoga”, and it was written by a native of India living in the US.  In this dismissive essay the writer takes issue with the Americanization of the ancient practices of Yoga.  She makes some valid points (the $100 LuLu Lemon yoga pants…which I have honestly never worn or owned),  but most of her reasons focused on what she refers to as the trend of white upper-middle-class women practicing yoga as a trendy entitlement rather than a true holistically beneficial practice.   I immediately questioned this classification – what is wrong with people of financial means to feel a deep connection to the ancient and time-tested truths of yoga?  Who really cares if a person is so moved by their practice or experience that they choose to have a sanskrit tattoo imprinted on parts of their body?  It’s not my thing, but I hardly feel the need to judge others’ choices.  What difference does it make if someone has felt such a resonating truth from the lessons of self-realization that they choose to spend their money on a trip to an ashram in India?  We live in a free country, thankfully, and it is one’s own prerogative how they choose to live, believe or spend their money.

I do think that yoga in America can feel hip or trendy, and that many studios have become “a scene” like a new club in Brooklyn might be “a scene”.  But that is what makes America so diverse and interesting.  Just as the sub-continent of India is home to an incredible variety of beliefs, religions, and languages, so too is this country.  Just because people with financial means are flocking to their local studio, or planning their next vacation to a yoga retreat, doesn’t mean that their practice, or their journey, is any less meaningful or justified as the single mom on a limited income wage.  In actuality, many communities have studios, gyms, churches and outreach programs that offer yoga for free, or for donation, to those who want to learn the art of stress-relief and mind-mastery through the practice of yoga.  Do all studios follow the principle of seva, or service?  Of course not.  This isn’t a perfect world and not everyone is in the business for altruistic purposes.  However, from my experience, most yoga instructors (myself included) teach because they want to help people find a better way to manage their stress, improve their health and live their lives more fully.  I don’t know many teachers who teach yoga only for financial gain.

So why do I love yoga?  I love yoga because it is a practice that anybody can experience anywhere.  There are no necessary tools or equipment (a mat and loose fitting clothes are helpful).  You only need your intention and your will-power to enter the world of yoga.  Of course, there is a learning curve that starts with letting go of a piece of your ego so that you can walk into that first class. Wearing designer clothes, having an understanding of Sanskrit, or bowing down to the archetypes of Krishna, Shiva or the energy of Kundalini are absolutely not required.  You just need an open mind, a willing body (ok, maybe only partially willing), and a beginner’s attitude.  Although I have been practicing for over 16 years and teaching for eight, it still require a willingness, desire, and discipline to stay with it.  That doesn’t mean that every single day I practice for hours – I don’t.  It doesn’t mean that I expect others to practice specific dietary restrictions or suddenly take a vow of austerity.  I don’t.  I love yoga because ultimately YOU are your best teacher.  Only YOU have your life experiences that formed your psyche and your body.  Only YOU truly decide what you need and want out of this life.

Practicing yoga requires a letting go of pre-conceived ideas about what poses should look like and how they should feel.  It changes day to day, and even from pose to pose, within one session.  It’s tuning into your inner knowing, that felt-sense of how your body and mind, and most interestingly your breath, responds to challenges.  Do you become restrictive and inflexible when things are difficult or out of reach?  Or can you allow the tightness, the discomfort, or the heaviness to move through you without clinging to reaction and discomfort?  Yoga teaches us to pay attention and to be the witness to how we respond in all situations of life.  It is the ultimate metaphor of learning how to navigate life with grace and ease.

Ayurveda, Yoga, Healing, Nutrition, Columbia Gorge, Health, Crohn’s Disease, Food,

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