Off Your Mat

Bringing yoga off your mat into your life, one pose at a time.


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The Uncopyright Pose: The Practice of Sharing Wisdom

I wish I could take credit for what is written below, but I can’t.

What I can do is share a valuable list that I find myself revisiting over and over. It comes from Zen Habits written by Leo Babauta.

Today I found myself reading through his list of 12 Indespensable Mindful Living Tools again.  I decided I would reach out to him and request permission to share it on my blog. Searching through his site for contact information, I came across a tab that read: uncopyright. I discovered he has released his copyright and put his work on the site into public domain.

Amazing. Refreshing. Delightful.

Thank you, Mr. Babauta, for making it so easy to share your wisdom.buddah

Leo Babauta’s 12 Indepensable Mindful Living Tools

1. Meditation. Meditation is where mindful living starts. And it’s not complicated: you can sit still for even just 1 minute a day to start with (work up to 3-5 minutes after a week), and turn your attention to your body and then your breath. Notice when your thoughts wander from your breath, and gently return to the breath. Repeat until the minute is up.

2. Be Awake. Meditation is practice for being awake, which is not being in the dream state (mind wandering into a train of thought, getting lost in the online world, thinking about past offenses, stressing about the future, etc.) but being awake to the present, to what is. Being awake is something you can do throughout the day, all the time, if you remember. Remembering is the trick.

3. Watch Urges. When I quit smoking in 2005, the most useful tool I learned was watching my urges to smoke. I would sit there and watch the urge rise and fall, until it was gone, without acting on it. It taught me that I am not my urges, that I don’t have to act on my urges, and this helped me change all my other habits. Watch your urge to check email or social media, to eat something sweet or fried, to drink alcohol, to watch TV, to be distracted, to procrastinate. These urges will come and go, and you don’t have to act on them.

4. Watch Ideals. We all have ideals, all the time. We have an ideal that our day will go perfectly, that people will be kind and respectful to us, that we will be perfect, that we’ll ace an exam or important meeting, that we’ll never fail. Of course, we know from experience that those ideals are not real, that they don’t come true, that they aren’t realistic. But we still have them, and they cause our stress and fears and grief over something/someone we’ve lost. By letting go of ideals, we can let go of our suffering.

5. Accept People & Life As They Are. When I stopped trying to change a loved one, and accepted him for who he was, I was able to just be with him and enjoy my time with him. This acceptance has the same effect for anything you do — accept a co-worker, a child, a spouse, but also accept a “bad” situation, an unpleasant feeling, an annoying sound. When we stop trying to fight the way things are, when we accept what is, we are much more at peace.

6. Let Go of Expectations. This is really the same thing as the previous two items, but I’ve found it useful nonetheless. It’s useful to watch your expectations with an upcoming situation, with a new project or business, and see that it’s not real and that it’s causing you stress and disappointment. We cause our own pain, and we can relieve it by letting go of the expectations that are causing it. Toss your expectations into the ocean.

7. Become OK with Discomfort. The fear of discomfort is huge — it causes people to be stuck in their old bad habits, to not start the business they want to start, to be stuck in a job they don’t really like, because we tend to stick to the known and comfortable rather than try something unknown and uncomfortable. It’s why many people don’t eat vegetables or exercise, why they eat junk, why they don’t start something new. But we can be OK with discomfort, with practice. Start with things that are a little uncomfortable, and keep expanding your comfort zone.

8. Watch Your Resistance. When you try to do something uncomfortable, or try to give up something you like or are used to, you’ll find resistance. But you can just watch the resistance, and be curious about it. Watch your resistance to things that annoy you — a loud sound that interrupts your concentration, for example. It’s not the sound that’s the problem, it’s your resistance to the sound. The same is true of resistance to food we don’t like, to being too cold or hot, to being hungry. The problem isn’t the sensation of the food, cold, heat or hunger — it’s our resistance to them. Watch the resistance, and feel it melt. This resistance, by the way, is why I’m doing my Year of Living Without.

9. Be Curious. Too often we are stuck in our ways, and think we know how things should be, how people are. Instead, be curious. Find out. Experiment. Let go of what you think you know. When you start a new project or venture, if you feel the fear of failure, instead of thinking, “Oh no, I’m going to fail” or “Oh no, I don’t know how this will turn out”, try thinking, “Let’s see. Let’s find out.” And then there isn’t the fear of failure, but the joy of being curious and finding out. Learn to be OK with not knowing.

10. Be Grateful. We complain about everything. But life is a miracle. Find something to be grateful about in everything you do. Be grateful when you’re doing a new habit, and you’ll stick to it longer. Be grateful when you’re with someone, and you’ll be happier with them. Life is amazing, if you learn to appreciate it.

11. Let Go of Control. We often think we control things, but that’s only an illusion. Our obsession with organization and goals and productivity, for example, are rooted in the illusion that we can control life. But life is uncontrollable, and just when we think we have things under control, something unexpected comes up to disrupt everything. And then we’re frustrated because things didn’t go the way we wanted. Instead, practice letting go of control, and learn to flow.

12. Be Compassionate. This sounds trite, but compassion for others can change the way you feel about the world, on a day-to-day basis. And compassion for yourself is life-changing. These two things need remembering, though, so mindful living is about remembering to be compassionate after you forget.


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The Opportunity Pose: A Less Stressed Holiday Season

Sometimes an opportunity is obvious, sometimes it can be cloaked by perception. Often opportunities can pass right by because they look like a problem. When fear comes into the picture it seems opportunities dry up all together.opportunity1

During my first few attempts at yoga I was afraid of looking foolish. The fear I harbored inhibited my confidence. I was thinking about all the things I hadn’t learned to do yet. I was looking at it backwards. I considered my newbie status to be a detriment, when I should have focused on the limitless opportunity of learning that stretched out before me.87577938

Luckily, I loosened up and figured it out. I relaxed into a practice were I can be realistic about my abilities, push my boundaries, try new things and understand that mistakes are not failures. As always, this lesson in my yoga practice allowed me to reflect on how I approach similar circumstances in everyday life.

I think the approaching holiday season is a great opportunity to take this yoga lesson out into the world.

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There is a lot of anxiety that accompanies the approach of the holidays. People become stressed on so many levels. There are the logistics of gathering with family and friends, the extra expenses that come with gifts and travel, the extra responsibilities of cooking and entertaining and the less talked about family tensions that often come to a head at this time of year. It can be challenging.

But isn’t every challenge an opportunity?

Here are 6 practical tips to using yoga philosophies to create a less stressed holiday season.*

1. Acknowledge how you are feeling. The holiday season is built up to be an extra happy and festive time. For many people it is and that is terrific. However, if you find yourself feeling blue or down you should not force yourself to be happy just because it is the holidays. Do not bottle it up. Being human, it is normal to have a whole range of emotions. It is not normal to suppress emotions and pretend to be cheerful when you are not. Do not judge yourself and find a safe place to express yourself.

2. Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones.

3. Practice acceptance. Work to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress, too.

4. Take a breather. Find some time for yourself, even if it is just 15 minutes. A little bit of time alone can recharge you enough to take on the next “to do list.” Here are some relaxing activities you can do on your own:

Take a seated position. Ideally, your knees should be slightly lower than your hips and your eyes should be closed. Sit up straight and inhale for a count of eight. Pause when your lungs are full and then exhale for a count of eight, emptying your lungs completely. Repeat at least 3 times.

  • Take a walk
  • Listen to soothing music
  • Read
  • Nap

5. Practice gratitude. Yes, this time of year brings added stress but it is also a time to count our blessings. Often our stress is created by expectations we hold that are not necessarily based in reality. Let go of that stuff, enjoy the people you want to enjoy, take in the beauty of the season and let it all unfold.

6. Give back. This time of year is the perfect opportunity to practice altruism. That doesn’t necessarily mean writing a check. This is an opportunity to start a family tradition of donating time around the holidays.

I hope you love your holiday season. But if you don’t, I hope you take the opportunity to make changes so that you can create something that you do love.

 

*For a more in-depth list visit The Mayo Clinic.


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Apple Pie Pose: The Practice of Feeding Your Soul

Sometimes the best way to feed your soul is to eat.

I have a recipe for an apple pie that makes me happy. I have gone through periods of time when I have made this pie once a week. If I were to describe it with words alone, I would call it a rustic apple tart.

Apple pie

Yum!

The pie is so full of healthful goodness, that when I have it in the house, I eat it for breakfast.

This particular recipe is inspired by the Sourcream Apple Pie with Oatmeal Cookie Crust in Mollie Katzen‘s The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. Over the years, I have made some changes to the recipe creating what I think might be the perfect dish.

The ingredient that sets it apart is the lemon. The unpeeled apple slices are dowsed in the juice and rind of one lemon, making each bite snappy with flavor.

Sara’s Breakfast Apple Pie

Crust:

1 1/2 cups raw rolled oats

1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/s tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 cup chopped pecans

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Melted together: 1/2 cup unsalted butter & 3 Tbs. honey

Combine all ingredients. Press evenly into a 9 or 10 inch pie pan.

Filling:

5 sliced cooking apples

Juice & rind of 1 lemon

1/3 cup of honey

2 Tbs. whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg

2 large eggs

1 cup unsweetened whole milk plain yogurt

1)  Combine apples with lemon juice and rind. Add honey and toss gently until coated.

2) Combine flour & spices. Add to the apples and toss to coat. Place neatly into unbaked pie shell. At the bottom of your apple bowl you will find excess lemon juice & spices. Pour it over the apples in the crust.

3) Beat together eggs and yogurt. Pour evenly over apples.

4) Bake 40-45 minutes at 375 degrees. Serve hot or cold.

For another recipe, check out my Clay Pot Chicken Recipe


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The 5 Minute Pose: A Promise Kept

I have 5 minutes before I need to log off of this computer and get myself to the airport.

What can I write in 5 minutes? I can explain to you, my consistent readers, that I made a promise to myself to write every Sunday. No matter what. So here is my what: I’m not at home and my typical writing rituals have been interrupted.

Luckily, I’m in a beautiful place.

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I choose in these 5 minutes to keep my promise to myself. My post might not be perfect or polished or as tidy as I would prefer. But for me there is a larger picture at stake and I can forgo perfection for a promise kept.

It might not be perfect, but it is going to get done. This approach helps me complete plenty of goals. If I expect perfection from the jump I might never, open my computer, walk into the gym, take that class…the list goes on.

When I let go of expectations and allow the experience, I skip procrastination and get right to the task.

So that’s where I am. In a beautiful place and keeping a promise.