Finding Inspiration in Ancient Texts

It’s been a while, and I’m sorry. Sometimes inspiration hits and its wonderful, sometimes it is more “forced.” Lately, for me, the inspiration to write has been fleeting at best. Although it’s been a relatively mild winter here in Southern New England, it’s been a grey one. Not very good for your psyche or inspiration. I have, however, been back to the books – both reading and writing them.

Many of you know that I have been taking a deep dive into Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras: first exploring the Yamas & Niyamas, and now looking at the expansiveness of the Sutras as a whole. I am discovering that it is a fantastic roadmap for living life, a spiritual life specifically, and awakening to our highest potential.

I feel that our collective society is seeking more meaning from their lives right now. In these post-COVID times (though honestly, we really aren’t done with COVID), I find many have this sense of “what now?” People have become disenchanted with their lives: work, school, society, relationships. It reminds me of a mid-life crisis, except people at every age are feeling some of it.

It is times like these that many turn to their spiritual practices to refocus and reset. Many, however, have turned away from their religious teachings as they no longer find a connection with them. Whether its the position of their religious affiliation on social matters, that the texts seem outdated or unapplicable to their lives, or whatever; people have turned away from the guidance of their religion, and as a consequence don’t know where to go for guidance. They have lost connection with the spiritual roots of their religion.

All religions point back to the same universal truths. They just use stories that are relevant to their audience to portray those truths. Whether it’s the Bible, Quaran, Bhagavad Gita or what have you; they each use the stories of their cultural history to pass down spiritual knowledge. As one of my teachers said, religion is the wrapping paper, the truth revealed by each is the gift. Let’s say I give you a gift wrapped in fine silk; you would expect it to be a fine gift indeed. But what if I wrapped that same gift in yesterday’s newspaper, would that gift be any less valuable? Religion is the wrapping paper: Catholicism, Hinduism, Muslim, Jainism, Buddhism, Episcopal, Baptist, Wiccan, etc. The truth that each of them point to is the gift.

I think what I like about the Yoga Sutras is that, even though they hail from the land of Hinduism, the teaching isn’t blatantly Hindu. I am finding that when studied with an open and curious mind, the Yoga Sutras can be used to help point out truth in any spiritual or religious tradition. As I continue my personal study of these texts, I find it brings me a bit of peace and understanding in these post-COVID, gloomy-warm, can’t-wait-for-sunshine days.

So, if you are struggling to make sense of life and your purpose right now, know that you are not alone. Perhaps revisiting a text (whether religious teachings, or a fictional story that once inspired you) may help? Read it with new eyes, with a deep curiosity for the underlying (maybe not immediately clear) meanings. And allow it to inspire you anew. With much love, Namaste.

Giving Thanks

It’s been a while since I’ve written a newsletter. I don’t have exciting news to share or special events planned. With Thanksgiving tomorrow, I am thinking about all the things I feel grateful for. On that list are many of the obvious things: my health, my family and friends, a roof over my head. I am also grateful for all of you. Whether you are my friend, my yoga student, or a client, I am grateful for your role in my life and work. Thank you. And even if we have never met but you frequent my site for inspiring information, I thank you too.

Thank you all for allowing me to share my knowledge and my passion with you!

What are YOU grateful for this season? Please share.

Stillness as We Sway in the Breeze

Autumn and Spring are probably my two favorite seasons. I love summer days on the water or at the beach, and nothing beats sipping a hot mug of homemade chai as you watch snowflakes fall. But there is something special about these two seasons. The weather is much milder than their preceding season; spring brings the promise of warmth, fall a cooling reprise from summer’s heat.

Autumn (as well as spring) is a time of change and transition. Children head back to school, workers return to more regular work hours (no more vacations and taking long weekends). The air becomes cool and crisp, the evening light isn’t quite as bright. Leaves change from green, to orange and red, to brown. Nature is going through its preparations for winter, when everything becomes still and dormant as it integrates, grows, and awaits spring.

It’s not too different for us humans. Whether we recognize it or not, we are an integrated part of the natural world around us. Even though life seems chaotic as we return to school and work – and it is – perhaps life is setting us up for success through this season of change and transition? Finding routine helps us to balance work, school and other commitments. This helps us to slow down as we transition from the go-go-go of summer to the quieter pace of winter. We change from shorts and t-shirts to long pants, sweaters and all things cozy just as wild animals prepare their dens with food and warm materials.

We can take a cue from nature to assist in our transition through autumn. Autumn is a Vata season and all about change and movement. Anything that brings consistency, stability, gentle warmth can help to balance vata – both in nature and in ourselves. Returning to a consistent schedule helps to balance change and transitions. Designate time for work, family and friends, and yourself. Gentle, but warming, movement keeps the body agile. A walk, a gentle yoga flow, or an easy bike ride all warm the body without becoming an intense workout. Consuming warmer foods such as soups, stews and casseroles. Taking time to bring quiet and stillness to the mind with meditation or concentration. Just as a gentle breeze can bring a sense of physical stillness even as the trees move in the breeze, so can meditation still the mind – it helps us to find that stillness even as our thoughts sway in the breeze.

Heaviness & Breath

It’s been a while since I last posted, almost two months to be exact. There’s a heaviness in the atmosphere right now. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. We, collectively, are exhausted from pandemic living. We have been bombarded by news of war, the economy, and the very recent repeal of Roe v Wade. Sprinkled in are birthdays, weddings, gatherings and celebrations, as well as personal losses. With all the good and bad, we are tired.

It is in these times of heaviness that we often begin to question the morality of the world and our place within it. We begin to question our life’s path and what we want our future to look like. There may even be a sense of loss of inspiration. It is in these moments that many seek guidance. This may be from a mentor, a trusted elder, or a leader from your spiritual faith.

Over the years my students have come to me for advice and guidance as their teacher, sometimes as a spiritual mentor. I use my training and refer to the philosophic teachings of yoga, as well as the knowledge I have gained from my personal practices, to guide my students in making fully informed choices about their situations. There is so much knowledge stored in our bodies, we just need to learn how to listen for it.

When I feel deep heaviness, such as now, I try to seek stillness. The answers locked within our body can only be accessed when we are still. This is difficult for many because our minds want to stay active and busy. Our busy mind thinks it is protecting us from harmful information; it stays active so we don’t notice. Stillness is not only becoming physically still, but also about quieting the mind. How do we find stillness? We must practice. The tools to find stillness are found in your yoga practice and in your meditation practices. The more we turn to these practices, the greater our skill at finding stillness becomes.

One practice that I recommend, and turn to personally, is breath. Breath is a subtle but powerful element, without which our existence would cease. What follows below is a simple breathing exercise that anyone can do:

  1. Find a comfortable position. This could be seated or laying down.
  2. Close the eyes.
  3. Turn all of your attention to your natural breath, taking a moment to simply observe your breathing.
  4. Deepen the breath. As you inhale feel the belly expand, then the lower ribs expand, sternum rise. As you exhale feel the sternum, lower ribs, and abdomen collapse. Continue for several rounds.
  5. If the mind wanders and you notice your attention on thoughts, simply return attention to the breath. This is natural, and it will happen.
  6. After a few minutes release the deep breathing, allowing breath to flow naturally. Notice the body feels a bit more relaxed. Notice that the mind isn’t quite as chatty.
  7. Repeat this exercise once a day, or whenever you feel the need to slow down.

Sometimes It’s Okay to Not Be OK.

As I sat to write this newsletter, I found myself looking at the title and thinking “yeah ok, right.” I know I’m not alone in that thought. We, collectively speaking, have been taught that society expects us to have our shit together at all times, to never show our vulnerabilities, to never share that we don’t feel okay. This could be anything from our mental health, financial health, relationship health, our physical state – anything that we can have a sense of being “okay” or “not okay” over. The more that we hide our “not okay” parts the larger they become, making them more difficult to hide.

But what if we could just be honest – with ourselves first – and say “I’m not okay in this moment. And I’m okay with that.” Think about the power that being completely present to our being has. Being content even amid the internal chaos.

It showed up for me in trying to write this newsletter. As a spiritual and wellness advisor to many, I feel it is part of my service – my duty – to share wise and inspiring words. And I had none. There were no wise words, no moments of clarity to share, no mind-blowing interpretation of ancient teachings. I had nothing to share. I had nothing to share and I was NOT okay with that.

If you know me well, you’re probably reading this and thinking how that reaction is totally me (and you would be correct). And I realize that this is an over-simplified example, and probably not a super important life issue. And as silly as this may seem to some, I was struggling with not being able to share something with all of you. It wasn’t until I allowed myself – actually gave myself permission – to not be inspired, to not know what to share that this newsletter came to be. In other words, once I gave up my need and expectation, inspiration flowed out of it.

So how can my simple writing struggle help you? Are you feeling tired, emotionally worn out, drained, or just “not right?” Give yourself permission to feel it, stop hiding it. Give yourself permission to not be okay in that moment. Ask you body what it needs (literally ask if you have to) – and then give your body what it needs. Tired and need a nap? Curl up with a pillow and blanket. Need alone time? Find a quiet space away from others. Physically tired and need to move? Go for a walk or do some gentle stretching. Does your body need more support? Perhaps seeking out a therapist or speaking with your doctor is in order.

These last few years have been difficult for many of us. The past few months have been difficult as we continue to transition back to “normal” life. Remember it’s okay that there are moments of mental struggles and foggy thoughts. Just don’t stay there. Let them have their moment, let them teach you their lesson and let them move on; seek help if they overextend their stay. Know that there is nothing wrong with seeking out a professional who can help; in fact, I see it is a sign of strength to seek help.

I’m okay with not having all the answers all the time. Well, at this moment I am. And I am okay if that changes. And I will be okay even if I’m not okay with that.

Namaste & Blessings!

BE-ing in a Season of Change

As I write this, it has been a couple hours that I have been staring at a blank blog page hoping – perhaps more accurately, wishing – for inspiration. I’ve been sitting in the sun streaming through my office window and tending to plants; nothing. Looking at the snow-covered ground from yesterday’s storm thinking how crazy the weather is; it was 60 degrees just two days ago. I want to do something creative, but I also want to curl up in a blanket fort for the next month and hibernate. And that’s where inspiration (finally) hit…

As I look to the natural world around me, I am reminded that we are in the transition period between early winter (vata season) and late winter/spring (kapha season). Vata brings changes, transitions, creativity and movement. Kapha is slowing down, growth, being cozy and relaxed. As I look outside, this weekend was exactly that: a warm “beach” day followed by 24 hours of snow and below 20 degree temperatures – talk about crazy changes and transitions!

These shifts are evident in my body/mind as well. I feel drawn to moving more (walks, yoga, etc), but then feel the urge to curl up in a blanket with a mug of hot tea. I feel creative, then want to take a nap. I feel the need to DO, then I feel drawn to simply BE.

It is through our yoga practices that we learn this art of BE-ing. Ayurveda supports our bodies and minds in that process. Being aware of what’s happening around me helps me to see what’s happening within me – as without, so within. Many of us, myself included, get caught up in all the doing that we forget how to simply BE. Yoga not only teaches us how to BE, it shows us how to BE even as we are DO-ing.

So as I move through this seasonal transition, I am deciding to be gentle with myself. I will make, do, create when that needs to happen; I will rest, restore, and reset when that needs to happen. And through it all I will remind myself to simply BE: BE present, BE aware.

Gifts from 2021 & The New Year

The time between Christmas and New Years is an interesting time. It’s a period where many of us start thinking about resolutions for the new year, about new goals, and the such. For me, I find myself naturally drawn more inward, reflecting. Reflecting on my past year, on my journey, on what might be coming next.

The last two years have been very interesting for me, and I know it has for many of you. 2020 brought us fear of the unknown, emergency regulations, and isolations. 2021 was, perhaps, even stranger as we collectively attempted to navigate the waters of vaccines, masks, opening economies, lessening then tightening mandates, and attempting to find “normal” again. Our favorite businesses closed, opened, closed again, partially opened, mostly fully opened, then opened with restrictions – then repeat. The studios I work with are no exception; even the classes I have taught independently have been affected.

One thing 2021 gifted me with is seeing the dark components of my being openly in loving light. What does this mean? It means I have been able to see some of the hidden places in my heart, my body, and my mind that hold traumas and false narratives of who I am. These are areas that are still in need of acknowledgment and healing. I have been able to see some of these “dark” spaces and greet them, almost like welcoming them as a guest into my home. I have also seen that there are many more areas that need this acknowledgment and healing, but they aren’t quite ready to come out and be seen just yet. And that’s okay. I know that when these “dark” places are brought to light, acknowledged and healed it makes me more whole, more unified, perhaps more complete.

This process of self-exploration and self-healing has also allowed me to be more open to ideas and opportunities that I would have, in the not-so-distant past, been resistant to. And I am excited to say that 2022 will be bringing all sorts of new, fun things. I am looking forward to presenting workshops, holding new classes, January Meditation Challenge, and so much more! I have had more clarity around some of my writing, and I’m ready to get back to creating my second book. Be sure to explore my website and follow Facebook and Instagram to stay up-to-date.

So what has 2021 gifted YOU? How has the good and seemingly “bad” things allowed you to open, learn, and grow? What are you ready to receive in 2022 because of that gift? As you prepare your intentions and resolutions for 2022, I wish you peace, joy, contentment, and personal growth.

Solstice Greetings & Meditation Challenge

Happy Solstice! Today marks the shortest day (less sunlight) of the year, and the beginning of more light ahead. I have always loved this time of year; and I’m not sure if I understood why when I was younger. The lights, the music, the merriment. I have come to realize that the many celebrations that occur over the month or so have “light” as a centerpiece. Each celebration focuses on something different, but the theme of “Light” carries through them.

For me, the celebrations of light indicate that no matter how dark the night is, you can always find a light. The darkness may be the physical darkness of the evening, or it may be an emotional darkness that we are experiencing. The light may be the morning dawn, a candle in a window, a streetlight. It may even be the light of love in one’s heart. That may be the dimmest flicker, but even that faltering flame can light another. This is how the light – read love – grows: we share it with others. May your solstice be full of love and light.

MEDITATION CHALLENGE: It is in sharing my light that I wish to invite you to my personal meditation challenge in January 2022. My intention is to be deliberate and more consistent in my meditation practice and have challenged myself to meditate at least 10 minutes every day in January. If you would like to join me, send me an email. Let me know any questions you have. I will provide you with a tracker and options to offer support. Cheers to a peaceful and calm 2022!

Autumn, Vata Energy, & Change

Autumn in Southern New England is pretty nice. Temperature gets cool, but there are still warm breezes. The trees put on a show of bright oranges, reds and yellows and the leaves turn, and eventually fall. It’s the season of apple picking and pumpkin spice everything. And we are in full swing.

Autumn is a season of change. Temperatures begin to drop, winds pick up. It’s cool and dry. It’s Vata season, controlled by the elements of ether and air. It is light, dry, and full of movement. We can see this as we observe nature. And it occurs within us as well. We trade in our shorts and tees for jeans and sweaters to stay warm. We eat less salads and cool foods and begin making soups, stews, and other warm, comforting foods. We trade iced tea for warm teas.

Autumn can be a time of change and creativity. Nature shows us that we can let go of what we don’t need to make room for what’s to come. Each year as the trees become dormant they shed their leaves. The trees “sleep” all winter and re-emerge in the spring with vibrant green leaves, blooming flowers, and eventually delicious fruits. We can tap into that energy by taking the time to clear our spaces – work or home. throwing away anything that may be broken, donating the items that we no longer use. And welcoming the creative energy that might be present. Perhaps in the form of cooking, baking, painting, writing, or planning your spring gardens.

The trees even show that letting go can be a beautiful process as well. Often when we are going through a period of difficulty or transition, we look at how “bad” the situation is. We forget that there are blessings hiding in these transitions. But the trees remind us every year that transition and change can be beautiful. Every year they drop their leaves, hide away for the winter, and wake up more beautiful each spring. And when those leaves drop, they take on the most amazing colors. We never see the beauty in our own transitions until they are complete. I wonder if the trees know how beautiful and inspiring their change is?

Simple Turmeric Teas

Turmeric is a really awesome spice. It is often used as a coloring agent in cooking curries and many other dishes. It can even be used as a natural dye, with a red-orange hue. It has an earthy taste and aroma, and a little goes a long way. It has also become popular in recent years due to evidence that curcumin, a nutrient in turmeric, has been found beneficial in reducing inflammation. Turmeric, as a whole ingredient, is in fact anti-inflammatory and also anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and it can help to boost your immune system. I sneak it into many dinners so my family can reap the benefits of this spice.

Aside from curries, one of my favorite ways to consume this wonderful spice is in a simple tea, as a replacement for my morning hot water and lemon. Simply place a pinch of powdered turmeric, a pinch of powdered ginger, a pinch of black pepper, and a squeeze of lemon into a mug. Fill the mug with hot water, stir, and enjoy! You can adjust the lemon and ginger to taste. The black pepper is a must as it helps our bodies assimilate the turmeric.

Another popular turmeric beverage is Golden Milk. Because warm milk can help promote a restful sleep, I recommend this as an evening beverage before bed. here are many variations to this creamy beverage, but the base is simple: milk, turmeric, black pepper. Many recipes call for coconut milk, but you can substitute your favorite non-dairy milk. You can also use cow’s milk, and I recommend whole for the nutrient benefits. Add a tablespoon of coconut oil (helps the body absorb the turmeric, but you can exclude if using whole milk if you’d like). Add additional spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamom to your liking. You can also add a natural sweetener (if using honey, wait to add until your beverage has cooled to just warmer than body temperature. Ayurveda does not encourage cooking/boiling honey). Simply place the milk and spices in a saucepan, whisk well as you bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, then serve.

Both these beverages are delicious, health-promoting, comforting, and warm – perfect as we head into cooler months. I hope they become a pleasant addition to your routine. Here’s to your health: Cheers!