At the end of the day (or maybe every minute of the day), we have two choices.
The first: close your heart to meaningful connections and fear anything that comes close.
The second: open your heart up so fully that whatever fear that may have existed in that spot gets overwhelmed by an abundance of freely flowing love.
I’m here to tell you that the second option should really be the only option because there is no other way to live. There is no holding back when tomorrow comes every day, anyway. Fears will surface in each situation, your body will feel pain no matter what, but with an open heart, your whole being will recover incredibly quickly and flourish in what is anew.
What are some tips to lead from our hearts?
A great place to start is to step into every situation with a consciousness for compassion. Hold that hug with compassion. Hum your early morning tune with vigor. Walk down the street like you’re performing a ballet. Brush your teeth with such detail that their existence depends on it! Thrive wildly and beautifully! That is compassion for you and what you choose to do.
Another way to bring more openness into the world is to acknowledge it’s existence. This means when you notice yourself slowly glossing over, losing all interest, acknowledge it to yourself and to your situation. Just the act of acknowledging it is a great step towards thinking about what you can do to ensure that heart valve stays open and full. But it doesn’t stop at your actions, when you see somebody else opening up their heart valve so fully, jump in and say ‘you’ve won!’ Positive reinforcement at its finest.
What better way to grow that awareness of heart then through meditation! Reflect on one or two situations during your day and recognize at what capacity you were there with your heart. Perhaps you may also stratagize in this space how you can open your heart to its full capacity.
A great way to jumpstart your heart’s vibrancy is to join me at one of my Breath of Bliss workshops. I specifically design these to kickstart your heart into its fullness, its strength, and to help you test the waters in a safe spot to living fully from your heart.
At the end of the day (or maybe every minute of the day), we have two choices.
Yoga is emotional. We are starved human beings searching everywhere for a connection with our online worlds and consumption tendencies, yet everywhere we look, we are blocked.
Take a moment to think about the last time you gave somebody a hug. I’m sure that every one of you holds your hugs with compassion and sincerity, but did you feel the same returned from the person you hugged? How many hugs have I had that last a split second! Such a waste of such a valuable opportunity to share that connection with your friends!
Without this touch, we get moody. The less whole-hearted love we receive and have the opportunity to share, the more we fall into auto-pilot and lose purpose. It’s true! Touch releases serotonin and dopamine in your brain, a chemical your body naturally makes for peace and happiness.
When you’re practicing Yoga, you are bringing your subtle mind into awareness. This, in conjunction with a physical practice of Yoga, the asanas, has a multiplicity effect on triggering a full awareness of your life, which rapidly increases the release of emotions into your Yoga.
The silence allows you to process events from the past, however subtle that processing may be, the emotions are often not so subtle.
On top of all of this, our bodies remember and store everything that has happened to us in our lives, from trauma to intense joy. When we physically reinvigorate the parts of the body that hold these emotions, as can happen during yoga, we also release those feelings.
I invite you to do your Yoga today
Sometimes I get questions from students about the difference between real listening and indulgence in a yoga practice, and how to tell the difference between the two. Sometimes we are suspicious of our body giving us the message to ‘back off’ – and our reaction can be that we are simply being lazy, unmotivated and self-indulgent. If we don’t push ourselves a little bit, do we get complacent and never more forward into our true potential? How can I distinguish between exploring an edge and gentleness when needed?
Our bodies love and crave movement. But often our thoughts get in the way. When we resist moving, it is usually because of some sort of inner criticism. Listening to that inner critic rarely, if ever, helps us overcome resistance. Real listening, that would be rooted in compassion and kindness helps us honour what our bodies need in the moment.
Let me explain further. If the messages in your head tell you to ‘back off’ because you will never be good enough anyway, then listening would be self-indulgent and not in your best interests. Instead, if the thoughts to ease out of what you are doing are rooted in compassion and you know deep within that you are absolutely ok just as you are, then kindness wins and you give your body exactly what it needs.
Many of us are much too sedentary – and choosing to get up and move is almost always what our bodies need. Sometimes the kindest thing to do is not skip a practice, but to find the mat, move slowly and create a judgement free space for your body to explore. And of course, the more practice you do, the better able you will be to tune in and hear the truth within.
All of us have a deep desire to be connected – to our friends, family, community. As humans, we have a biological need for connection that is crucial to not only our survival but also to our mental well being and happiness.
Recently I have been exploring the four main keys of connection in my practice and teaching: Closeness, Vulnerability, Depth and Presence.
In this blog posting, I’d like to share some thoughts on the 1st Key – closeness. Closeness is the ability to feel near and dear to others and as importantly, to ourselves. Closeness affirms our worth and sense of inner value. When we are able to feel close to others we feel supported, we feel that we are part of our tribe and that we fit in. This allows us to feel safe to be authentic and without the need to change in any way. When we feel understood, welcomed and recognized, our bodies release Oxytocin (the love hormone) which is deeply, deeply soothing to our nervous system.
Many of us crave more closeness in our lives. Here are a few suggestions on how to open yourself into a greater sense of closeness:
- Touch. As humans we need and crave touch and it is essential to our wellbeing. You can start with some simple self massage, touching the body tenderly and lovingly in appreciation of all that it does for you. Touching others is also very healing – hugs are wonderful! “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” ~ Virginia Satir
- Listen. Holding space through attentive listening can be a very healing tool that fosters intimacy and closeness. Everyone wants to be truly heard. Many times people simply need to vent or express themselves without receiving feedback. Listening wholeheartedly while simply being caring and empathetic can be a powerful way let someone know they are recognized.
- Compassion. You might have heard of something called the inner critic – this is the part of ourselves that doubts, creates fear and often tell us what we ‘should’ do. Instead of feeling closeness within ourselves, we can start to feel constricted and disconnected. When you become aware of your inner critical voice, instead of buying into whatever it is saying, pause and take a breath. Know that you can train yourself to listen more to your inner compassion voice more than to your inner critic.
There are many other ways to explore the quality of closeness. If you feel like you would like more closeness in your life, identify some of your closeness needs and then commit to exploring how you can make more presence for this very important practice. Remember, small steps lead to big changes!
Immediately after returning home from our 3+ month trip to Mexico my body started to fall apart. I caught a terrible cold, the worst I have had in years. I broke out in eczema on my face. The skin on my body started to crack and shrivel up. And the tension in my neck and shoulders was off the charts. Adding to all that was this feeling that I needed to catch up from being away and address the endless work and life lists that were waiting for me.
One night a friend called and asked me how I was doing. I told her that my body was struggling and I was going through a rough patch. She said that maybe my body was trying to get me to slow down and take the re-entry more gradually. My quick response was that my body needed to get with the program and smarten up! She replied that maybe I needed to take a gentler approach. And in that moment I realized what I was doing. I was deliberately avoiding mindfulness judging myself pretty harshly. The very teachings that I share with my students over and over – about listening through compassionate observation, had completely eluded me. It was a profoundly humbling moment.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we not afford ourselves the same compassion and care that we would so easily extend to another? How can we change this behaviour? Here are 5 tips I am trying to work with that might help you:
- Be aware. The first step to changing is to be aware it is happening. Catch yourself when you you engage in self criticism and being hard on yourself. And then take a moment to change the script and say something nice, even loving! Make a commitment to only talk to yourself as you would to a friend.
- Create a mantra. The ancients developed mantras (a word or sound repeated to help aid in meditation) because they work! I like to think of a mantra like a seed for activating an intention. When we nurture our mantras, they begin to grow and flourish – helping to manifest our desires. The mantra I am currently using (inspired by the wonderful Erich Schiffmann) is Relax. Breathe. Love. Trust. Repeat your mantra whenever you notice your mind heading towards the negative.
- Accept what you cannot change. I know we like to think we can control everything, but we can’t. Accepting I was sick and needed to slow down suddenly made everything easier.
- Celebrate being human. Being human means we experience it all – the good, the bad and the ugly. Celebrate all of it. Although we may wish for unicorns and rainbows every day, we would be depriving ourselves of the opportunity to grow, learn and flourish. Rejoice that you have been given the gift of this lifetime and make the most of it each and every day.