It has been four months since the new year and since many of us made the usual new year's resolution. I think my resolution was to dust more? I am not sure if I can quantify the success of that one though because I have yet to live in one place long enough for dust to actually accumulate. So, we can call it a win-win for now:) But how many times have we made resolutions or promises to ourselves that we break sooner or later. Gym memberships spike in January, everyone goes on a health kick, or gives up a bad habit only to soon forgot all about the resolution and fall back into old ways. So, why do we even make these seemingly empty promises? We believe that once we stop smoking, lose ten pounds, get six-pack abs then we will be happy. These resolutions indicate that we are not whole, perfect beings just as we are.
The yogis believe that we already are complete beings and we need to connect mind, body, and spirit in order to fulfill our life's goals and find happiness. That is where a sankalpa can help. A sankalpa is a resolution of sorts but comes from deep within as a way of connecting us to our true self and calling (or dharma). We already have the necessary ingredients to make our sankalpa into reality - it is not ego driven but rather connects us to our deeper purpose. A sankalpa can be something to achieve today or a long-term life goal. For example, I help my partner with the laundry is direct, clear, and can be done today. I am present and full of peace is a sankalpa that can be applied over a lifetime and in many different situations. A sankalpa should be a positive statement that is in the present-tense, as if you are already acting out on that goal.
Repeating a daily and a long-term sankalpa during meditation and throughout the day can help us stay focused on how we want to live our life and its true purpose. Without having the ego involved, the sankalpa is driven with compassion and self-love.
In a piece found on themeditationcenter.org, Swami Veda Bharati is quoted from his article "Mind, Economics and Anxieties" in Life Positive Magazine. In the article, Swami Veda gives seven steps to creating and activating a sankalpa:
1) Count your breaths for a few minutes (there is an art to it that you need to learn);
2) Let the mind thereby become totally calm, soothed, wrinkle-free, a chamber of silence and stillness;
3) Then send a quiet, yes, very quiet, message to the forces of the subtle world;
4) Having done so, leave it there, surrender it to the forces, to the divine will, and do not struggle.
5) You may repeat this process daily.
6) You will begin to sense what your course of action should be. You will find yourself taking that course of action. The ‘forces’ will send you unexpected helpers and help from unknown sources.
7) Stay calm all the way through: an observer, not a doer.
Next time you find yourself in a meditation, create your own daily or long-term sankalpa and mentally repeat it to yourself three times. As Swami Veda Bharati says, this process can be repeated daily!
Happy meditating, yogis!
Stockholm is gearing up for the long Easter weekend (many offices and businesses closed at noon today and do not open again until Tuesday!) and welcoming Spring with open arms. I have been thinking about new beginnings, detoxing, and Spring-cleaning all week and I feel that Mother Nature is on my wavelength as well. It snowed last night, covering the ground outside of our window in a soft haze of white that melted away with the warm, bright sun by the afternoon. Out with the old and in with the new!
Each morning we wake up to a new day, a new opportunity to live the life we want. Mornings can be a peaceful, energizing, and harmonious time or it can be stressful, rushed, and frenzied. We set the tone for our day from the moment we wake up and it is important to have a vibrant routine to get you out of the door smiling. Today´s Mindful Thursday series is all about the incredibly important morning routine and some tips on how we can start our days off feeling present, happy, and healthy.
First, wake up a little earlier. Just an extra 15-20 minutes can help get your day started right. To add to that time, prepare for your morning the night before. I like to drink warm ginger tea with lemon, turmeric, and a few drops of organic honey. So, the night before I make sure that my electric water boiler is full and I have fresh lemons and ginger cut and ready to go (no need to wield a knife before coffee). When I was in the corporate world and had a client meeting the next day, I would lay out my outfit the night before so that I wouldn’t have that crazed feeling of trying to find something to wear in the morning. Little things lead to bigger things that make all the difference!
Okay, so what is the first thing that so many of us do the second we open our eyes? Grab our phones and start scrolling through emails, texts, and social media. For most of us, our alarms are on our phones so we can seamlessly turn the alarm off and then flick over to Facebook. We must stop doing this. It is an ongoing struggle for me to not look through my phone first thing in the morning but that is not how I really want to start my day. Just as I am waking up, does my brain need to be absorbed in what my friend from camp 15 years ago did last night? No – it does not. If I do have the luxury of staying in bed for a few minutes after my alarm goes off, I try to reach for an inspirational book instead. Keep something to read on your nightstand that is accessible in the morning – make it easy on yourself to make that decision.
Next, meditate as soon as you get out of bed. I get onto my meditation pillow even before the ginger tea. As I said before, sit for just five minutes if that is all the time you can afford in the morning (five minutes is better than zero!). After meditation, visualize yourself successfully completing your daily goals. Big presentation? Create a vivid mental image of you knocking their socks off with your public speaking skills. Going for a run? Visualize yourself strong and powerful, effortlessly moving through space.
After meditation, I have my ginger tea and a healthy breakfast. Lately, I have loved overnight oats and chia seed pudding with yummy toppings. Avoid anything too heavy, fried or fatty. If time permits, I then get on my yoga mat. A few Sun Salutations, maybe some Yin, or I practice inversions. If I have more time, I will stay on the mat and move however feels right in my body.
Healthy and mindful routines and rituals are so important because once we build them up; we miss them if they are gone. If I don’t have time to get on my yoga mat or eat a healthy breakfast than something feels a little off the rest of the day.
So in short - prepare yourself for the morning the evening before, wake up a bit earlier, meditate, put healthy things into your body, and move! If we are able to incorporate these healthy habits into our daily lives it will benefit our happiness and our mindfulness all day long.
Happy Easter, yogi bunnies!
Who is feeling mindful today? Some days are better than others, right? Occasionally, I get wrapped up in an emotion or a situation and even though I know I am not being mindful in that moment, it is so difficult to snap myself out of it.
Just such an occasion that happened yesterday comes to mind. We are dog sitting the rest of this week for an adorable pup named Tessa (I am loving every minute in doggie heaven!). Preparing for our arrival yesterday, I packed up a bag of our essentials and schlepped it about 45 minutes across Stockholm to take a yoga class in Ostermalm before walking over to the apartment where we are staying. I settled in, took Tessa out for a walk, and went to get my iPad out of my bag so that I could work on my playlist for my yoga class, and write a blog post. My iPad was essential to these activities and it was not in my bag. I remembered that I took it out at the last minute to type up an email and left it sitting on the kitchen table - all the way in Farsta Strand. If this was a mindfulness test, I failed. I was upset at myself that I had been so lost in my own head when leaving Farsta that I forgot to repack my iPad and then just could not get over how annoyed I was by the fact that my afternoon wasn't going as seamlessly as I had hoped. I got carried away in my emotions and the scenario put me in a bad mood the whole 90 minute trip out to Farsta and back again. I knew that I needed to let it go and that I should separate my feelings of annoyance and upset from myself but I just couldn't do it. Finally, after returning and playing with Tessa for a little I was okay and back in a positive mindset. That small incident though just got me all tangled up!
So, my point in telling this story is that this meditation and mindfulness business is not a 'one and done' type of thing. It is a constant, daily, steady practice to which we must stay dedicated. A core principal in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras speaks about Abhyasa and continuos practice:
Abhyasa means having an attitude of persistent effort to attain and maintain a state of stable tranquility (1.13). To become well established, this needs to be done for a long time, without a break (1.14). From this stance the deeper practice continues to unfold, going ever deeper towards the direct experience of the eternal core of our being.
There are no quick fixes, cure-alls, or short-cuts in the pursuit of mental tranquility. To look at this through another lens, think about how hard we work when we go to the gym everyday to lose fat and build up muscle. Even if we attain our physical goals, it is so difficult to maintain them. A few weeks off, a vacation where we drink and eat whatever we want, and we almost have to start all over again the next time we step on the treadmill. In order for us to continue on our spiritual journey we must make time for it every single day. Just 10 minutes a day, everyday, is far better than one hour one time a week. Over time, we will begin to see the positive changes in our mental states, our relationships and in the world around us. Don't give up! And remember that small victories lead to big victories.
So, for this week maintain the seated meditation practice and being mindful of your thoughts and actions throughout the day. If we slip up, it is okay as long as we have that constant, steady, practice to return back to day after day.
I hope everyone is having a mindful week and enjoying being present in every day activities! This week, I want to share an excerpt I read the other day in Robin Sharma´s The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. It has actually come up in conversation multiple times over the past few days and I keep thinking about it (which is pretty funny after you know what the quote is). In the book one of the characters, Julian, refers to a lesson that he learned when spending time with wise Sage´s in the Himalayas:
On an average day the average person runs about sixty thousand thoughts through his mind. What really amazed me, though, was that ninety-five percent of those thoughts were the same as the ones you thought the day before!
So, this really amazed me as well. The thoughts that come through our minds shape our perception which in turn shapes how we view and interact with the world around us. I can think of a few not-so-nice thought patterns that come into my head about 95% of the time. Negative thoughts and worries can swirl around about my personal finances, if I will be a successful yoga teacher, if I am a good enough friend, daughter, sister, or girlfriend, if I have gained weight, if my arms look fat, when I will have time to do my taxes, it goes on and on. Right? Well, it doesn't have to. Thinking thoughts can be as tangible as walking, for example, and we can decide which thoughts we allow to enter the mind and which we do not. The mind is like any other muscle in the body and must be exercised and strengthened. Just as we must have strong legs in order to walk, we must also have strong minds in order to control the stream of thoughts coming in and out each day. In order to strengthen the mind, we must build a daily meditation practice and develop the habit of being mindful.
The mind is an excellent servant but a terrible master. If trained and used well, the mind can propel us into the lives that we want to live. If we let the mind run rampant with negative thoughts than it controls us in a way that turns our view of the world into something less than pleasant. Meditation trains us to be the guard of our own thoughts - permitting only the positive ones to enter the mind.
In addition to the daily meditation that we are all sticking to every morning, this week let´s add one more layer of mindfulness that we can use through out the day. In order to change these negative thought patterns we first must be aware of them! So, in the next 7 days do just that. Be aware. When that anxiety about tomorrow´s presentation at work starts to sprout in the mind take a step back to acknowledge the thought. No need to berate ourselves for thinking a certain thought or build onto that anxiety by worrying about your negative thought - just acknowledge it and move on.
If you are interesting in reading more, you can find Robin Sharma´s book here.
I would also recommend listening to Gretchen Rubin´s podcasts and reading her book The Happiness Project (though I don´t directly quote from it in this post, I have found it to be an interesting and helpful read) You can find her book here.
Happy meditating my friends!!
Thinking such positive thoughts about the beautiful weather we are enjoying in Stockholm today:)
How did it go for my fellow meditators this past week? Even if you only got in one session – kudos to you!! When trying something new (that is quite possibly far out of your comfort zone) usually the first step is the hardest so congrats on taking the leap!
The longer I build a daily meditation practice into my life, the more I am able to observe the benefits of the practice in my day-to-day life off of the mat. The more mindful I become during my daily activities, the easier it is to sit in a formal meditation practice as well. It is a positive mental carousel to jump on to!
Now the next question is how to actually be mindful in day-to-day life. I recently posted on my Instagram account an exercise to consciously think about each time you go from sitting to standing and standing to sitting. This exercise was difficult! I would usually catch myself a few moments after I sat/stood and be a little irked that I had forgotten. When I was present during the sit/stand transition, it bordered on an out-of-body experience. Our minds are so accustomed to thinking about something other than what are bodies or even are brains are actually supposed to be doing. In our culture, we are constantly being told to multi-task. Any good office worker can multi-task, any good parent or teacher can as well. But wait – can we really??
In fact, our minds are only able to think about one thing at a time. Sure, we have become so familiar with driving the same route to work every day that we are able to have a phone conversation at the same time. That driving route has become so automatic that we are not actually thinking about it. Try that same route though when it is sleeting outside or if there is an unsafe driver near you on the road – we hang up the phone because we need to think about what we are doing. Society tells us that in order to be productive we must do a million things at once but in reality, our minds are simply not programmed that way. If you still aren´t buying it, here is an interesting article from Forbes to check out.
Our goal for this week:
At least 3 times per day be present in whatever task you are doing. If you are writing an email, for example, think about how your body feels sitting in the chair, the feeling of your fingers on the keyboard and the words as they are coming into your mind and onto the screen. At first, it is a trippy experience because we are not used to actually being present in our own daily lives. Just for 30 seconds at a time, 3 times a day, let´s commit to being present in our own activities.
Good luck and I cannot wait to hear about your experiences! Again, if you have any questions or want to discuss your personal practice feel free to leave a comment below or email me at KellyLawson86@gmail.com
Welcome to Mindful Thursday! I know, I know, Mindful Monday would sound much better but bare with me because I have a point to Thursday, I promise. Towards the end of the week, most of our energy levels are pretty scorched. On top of that, by Thursday our minds are swirling with plans for the upcoming weekend – making dinner reservations, coordinating with friends, buying movie tickets, and so on. In short, Thursday is probably one of those days that you just want to get through to end the week and get the weekend started. I hear you! So, I am dedicating this and all future Thursdays to being a bit more mindful. I will be providing tips and strategies each week to help us along the road of our mindfulness journey.
First, what is mindfulness? What does being mindful even mean? Live in the now, be present, and don't become too attached to your own thoughts and emotions. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali (an ancient sage and yogi whom I referred to in yesterday’s post) describes five categories of vrttis, or mental modifications, of the mind. The vrttis consist of correct knowledge, incorrect knowledge, imagination or fantasy, sleep, and memory. For now, let's leave it at just knowing and understanding that these vrttis exist in the mind. Developing a daily meditation practice restrains these vrttis and can help calm the waves that they cause in the mind. One is able to train the mind to detach from these mental modifications to find a sense of peace and calm despite racing thoughts or emotions.
Sounds pretty great, right? Let's talk about the basics: find a comfortable seat on the floor, your yoga mat, some pillows, or a chair – keep a straight and erect spine and don't lie down because you may fall asleep. Then, just clear your mind…okay, so this is usually where meditation loses people. It is almost impossible to just sit with no thoughts at all for any period of time. Usually, I start to think about how I am meditating and then, well, I am not meditating anymore! If you are not thinking about nothing then you need to think about something, right? I focus on my breath - I count up to 10 (inhale 1, exhale 1; inhale 2; exhale 2, etc.) or I count the length of my breaths (inhale 1, 2, 3, 4, 5; exhale 1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
I would also suggest trying the Headspace app and/or the Peace Alarm Clock app. If you prefer a guided meditation then Headspace is probably for you. If you would rather enjoy silence or natural sounds then check out the Peace Alarm Clock. Either way, just start with 5 minutes. Even if you never sit for longer than 5 minutes a day, it is better than not meditating at all.
While sitting in a formal meditation practice each day is wonderful - don't forget to take that sense of mindfulness with you throughout the day. So many times we do our meditation, read a book about mindfulness, or go to a yoga class, and the second we roll up our mat, everything we just did gets rolled up in it as well. We need to take it off the mat! That is where we can really find all of the benefits of this practice – anyone can have a peaceful mind sitting in a comfortable place and focusing on his or her breath for a few minutes. But the point is to be able to take what we learn during that time and apply it to our lives, every day, every hour, every minute.
So, start with just 5 minutes (I tend to prefer to meditate right after waking up in the morning) every day this week. I would love to hear about everyone’s experience meditating as well so please share your stories either in the comments below or shoot me an email at KellyLawson86@gmail.com!
To end with today, here is a great quote from the Headspace app:
Meditation means letting go of our baggage, letting go of all the pre-rehearsed stories and inner-dialogue that we've become so attached to.
Next week, come back for more tips and information!