reminiscing. missing.

I missed my grandfather today. I wished he could've been here in Barcelona with me. To show me the places he knew. That were his.


I've always felt that Barcelona was mine. Not mine in a possessive sense. In the way that a certain style is yours, or a habit. Barcelona was mine.


But today I had that sense that he was missing. This city where he had grown up. Where he had lived. That was his. Here I was just reminiscing about every day I'd spent here, without him.  Without him as a guide or a mentor. And now he was missing.

La Rambla de Catalunya, Barcelona  

La Rambla de Catalunya, Barcelona  

inspiration.

Sometimes it's good to remember that inspiration comes with preparation. When I have no inspiration, if I push myself to at least set up my space- whether that means setting up my easel and putting everything into place and mixing paint, or making tea and getting a notebook and my laptop ready for writing - the simple act of setting up my space creates the right mood for inspiration to come join me where I am.

Sometimes you just have to start. Light a candle. Make it special. Dress a certain way to prepare yourself for it. Put on music that inspires you. 

When I was younger, if I so much as painted  my nails I would get struck with ideas for a new painting. If I tried to do homework, simply holding a pen or pencil made me want to sketch. But I think as we get older and we get more responsibilities, we become less inspired because it feels like there isn't enough time for creativity. Of course that's not true. Creativity fuels you. Creating can give you energy to do everything else you do with just a  little bit more joy. 

Let inspiration hit you. And if it doesn't, seek it out. Create space for it. Tell the universe " I'm ready". And let inspiration meet you where you are  

 

how to let go: say goodbye to stress in seven days.

More and more people every day are experiencing stress. In fact I am constantly seeing articles online about the rise of stress related illness, and about the number of people who report feeling stressed at work or overwhelmed.

So what's causing this trend? And how do we start to reverse it? 

The top three common sources of stress are money, work, and family responsibilities in that order. These are all real things that we have to deal with to be a functioning part of this world. Neither money nor work can actually be avoided, and I'd be willing to bet the same people who say that their family responsibilities are a source of stress still love their families and wouldn't want to avoid them.

So if we can't avoid stress, what's the solution?

This is not the part where I prescribe a cure all or say some magic words and render you stress-free. Sorry.

This is the part where I offer you a solution that works - but it takes a little effort on your part. Consider this a seven day stress relieving challenge. 

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Day One: Where is your time going?

Do some soul searching. When was the last time that you felt truly free? It probably wasn't the other day when you got stuck in your Facebook news feed for 25 minutes when you meant to just go in and send one message. 

Maybe that was me. Oops. But maybe you've done the exact same thing. Or maybe you've spent six hours of your day binge watching Netflix. Recognize where your time is going. Ten minutes here and there, or a few hours a day may not seem like a lot right now but trust me the time adds up. This time is basically stolen from you.

Most people also don't feel particularly fulfilled after scrolling for half an hour or watching an entire season of something in a week. Usually once you finish that season, it's just like, what's next? 

Do you know what two things rarely seem to go together? Stress and fulfillment. More on that later.

For day one, your task is to recognize where your time is going. Be radically honest with yourself. Take notes all day. Write down every time you open social media and how long you spend on it. Write down what shows you watched and how long you sat in front of a screen - this gets fun when you time how long each commercial is and find out how much time you're being fed advertisements. 

Ideally you'll keep this time diary for the entire seven days. But getting one full day in will at least give you an idea of where your time goes. 

Day Two: What can you let go of?

Now that you have an idea of what is sucking up your time, it's time to make some decisions.

If you realize that over the course of one day, you spent an accumulated two hours of your time on the Facebook app, it may be time to delete the app. I'm not saying delete your account, just make it less easily accessible. Instead, give yourself 25 minutes at the end of the day to go through your news feed on your laptop or computer. Set a timer & stick to it. 

Let go of the things that steal your moments. 

The moments that make up your day are the moments that make up your life. Do you want to spend it scrolling? 

Release the things that aren't bringing you bliss to create space for happiness to grow. 

Day Three: What are you grateful for?

Create a gratitude practice. 

One really simple way to do this is to keep a gratitude journal by your bed and write in it morning and night. In the morning, write down three things that you feel grateful for. And at night, write down three things that you are grateful for that happened that day. 

Now I've already suggested that you keep a time diary for the week so if you're like, dude, I hate writing why are you making me write every day? Then another sweet way to practice gratitude is to do a daily gratitude meditation. 

You can totally find guided gratitude meditations on the Mindbliss app, or on YouTube, or any site that has meditation videos. One of my favourite gratitude meditations actually comes from the Tim Ferriss podcast. This meditation with Tony Robbins is super short, 11 minutes total. It's an excerpt from their full podcast. The full episode is amazing if you're into listening to podcasts, but if not just do the short meditation piece.

Eventually gratitude becomes a habit. It is literally a muscle that you build up. Once that muscle is strong, you'll begin to feel gratitude spontaneously throughout the day. Maybe you'll feel grateful every time you feel the warm sun on your skin, or every time you see a flower. These are moments of beauty. Look at you, getting those moments back!

Day Four: What jewels are you hiding?

This is where we get into fulfillment. Each and every one of us has something that lights our soul up. I love this quote from Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, "The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them." 

Today you're going on a treasure hunt.

Think back to the last time that you felt truly, blissfully, free. Maybe it was last month, maybe it was in childhood. We are all creative creatures. What was it that as a child you loved to do? Maybe you danced, or played sports, or ice skated, or made crafty things. Maybe you loved to tell elaborate stories, or sing, or color.

I was in love with art. I loved to sew Barbie clothes and draw and write poems. Now I know that as an adult I need to write and paint and make things to fulfill my inner creator. This is a non-negotiable. And when I neglect these needs, my inner creator turns into one of those hangry beasts from the Snickers commercials. Not cute.

Do you know what happens when you don't eat for a long time? At first there are regular signs of hunger like the stomach growling. But after some time those signs subside. It becomes a dull ache. Something that you learn to live with, to cope with. It becomes background noise. (Until eventually it becomes literally all you can think about)

Your jewels, your talents, your creative needs have always been there. But because the body doesn't physically need for you to create to survive, those needs become background noise. A dull ache, a feeling of emptiness. Something missing. 

Stress & fulfillment cannot co-exist. 

Find out what it is that would fulfill you. Maybe your jewel is listening to people. Beautiful, go volunteer at an elderly home and listen to the stories of their youth. Maybe your jewel is dancing. Beautiful, take a dance class once a week or make it a habit to go dancing once a week. Maybe your jewel is yoga. Beautiful, do it #everydamnday.

Make these things a priority. 

Day Five: What moves you?

What literally moves you? Movement is medicine. I've said it a thousand times and I'll say it another million. Movement is medicine

Your body is built to move. It is not built for this world that we've created. It is built to climb, to run, to crawl, to dance. Your body should move in every way, every day.

But not everyone has time for that. So make it a point to move in some way every day. And make it a point to change the way that you move as often as you can. 

Exercise releases endorphins. Simple. It relieves stress. But when we're stressed we don't think that we have time to exercise. When in reality, it would ease our suffering. 

Often the thing that you resist is the thing that you need most. 

If you are already a regular yoga practitioner, then change up your routine. If you're a dedicated Barkan method practitioner, then switch to a Budokon class instead. Just try something different - even Pilates or a bootcamp class. Nothing good grows from stagnation.

Overall, the most important thing here is to move. 

Day Six: Where is your mind?

Come back to the moment. 

When you're stressed, your mind is not here. Your mind is probably trying to juggle all of the things on your plate and spinning in a vortex of repeating negative thoughts and worries.

So come back. 

When you are at home or at work there is nothing stressful actually happening. You won't be eaten by a dinosaur. You won't be chased by a bear. It's all good. The problem is that it doesn't feel good in the mind. And your entire experience happens within the mind.

Try sitting or lying down and taking a slow scan of your body. Notice exactly how your body feels in this moment, starting from the bottoms of the feet and moving your way up to the scalp. Notice each and every muscle, every joint, notice the sensation of clothing on your skin, notice the surface that you're sitting or lying down on, notice the sensation of hunger or fullness in the belly. Get completely plugged in to your body. 

And breathe.

Bring your awareness to your breath. Breathe deeply. Even if it's only for five minutes. Coming back to the moment will significantly reduce, if not eradicate your stress. 

Do this every time you feel stressed. Every day if you have to. Until it becomes a reflex. 

Do not let stress steal your moments. Live in the here & now.

Day Seven: Who's in charge?

Who's in charge? You? Or your thoughts? How do you take back control?

Medicate. 

Just kidding. Meditate. 

Become the observer.  

Meditation helps you to train your brain to observe your thoughts, rather than attach to them.  So when your head starts spinning with stressful thoughts, instead of getting caught up in them you observe them and let them pass. 

Start a meditation practice. Start small, just five minutes a day. After five days, move up to six. And then add another minute every day until you make your way up to whatever amount of time you can set aside. Maybe that's 20 minutes once a day, or maybe that's an hour in the morning and an hour before bed.  

I use the Mindbliss app for guided meditation, but you can meditate on your breath as well. They have meditation journeys that you can do which usually start as shorter amounts of time and gradually add a little time. Find one for stress relief! 

Ananda Yoga Shala - where we'll be practicing on my  Greece retreat!

Ananda Yoga Shala - where we'll be practicing on my Greece retreat!

It's time to break free from stress. Say goodbye!

I hope these stress relief lifestyle changes work for you! We will be going into all of these and more on my yoga retreat Awakening in Amorgos this August 19-26th! Pay your deposit by May 15th to save $200 off! Come ready to find true transformation and learn habits that you can take with you back home to lead a healthier, happier, stress-free life! I hope to see you on the island!

how yoga teacher training changed my life.

One summer I started a journey that would change my life completely. I was 24, freshly divorced, and I had no clue what I was doing. I planned to go away for three months. I grossly over packed.

This was my first solo trip overseas. In fact it was my first solo trip anywhere. I wouldn't be alone the entire trip though, my sister was meeting me halfway through the trip in London.

La Rambla, Barcelona 2014

La Rambla, Barcelona 2014

The first three days I spent wandering Barcelona in search of my soul. Enjoying this new freedom I'd never felt before. I walked the familiar streets I'd visited before, and some new streets I'd missed in previous trips. Streets where my grandfather grew up, where my mother spent so much of her youth, where I would put my pieces back together and learn to feel whole in solitude. And just as I had started to get my bearings and feel at home again in Barcelona, I flew off to Sevilla.

It was very hot waiting outside at the airport in Sevilla. The heat was dry, just like my home in the desert. I was sitting on a bench waiting to be picked up, listening to pieces of conversations in Spanish. I saw a girl in yoga pants, with a yoga mat. She looked like a hippie and was clearly doing the training with me. We started talking and became fast friends. We'd later discover we were roommates and our nickname throughout training would become "the twins".

Kayaking in Tajo del Aguila  

Kayaking in Tajo del Aguila  

Each morning was spent in silence. We were up before the sun and silently we would make our way to the yoga shala for morning meditation. Meditation was difficult for me. I hadn't yet developed a sitting practice. I learned to listen. I would listen to the animals outside, the chickens, the cats, the dogs, the peacocks, the horses. I heard them all. I could hear sounds in the kitchen and the occasional buzzing of bees. The silence was never truly silent.  After meditation we would take a short break  and then come back to the room for an energizing yoga practice. Sometimes practice was an hour and a half, sometimes longer. Each day I grew stronger. Each day I learned a new pose I had never before attempted. Each day I was surprised.

Suryalila Retreat Centre, Villamartin, Spain  

Suryalila Retreat Centre, Villamartin, Spain  

Finally we broke the silence in our breakfast groups. At first these groups felt like just a fun way to get to know people. But as training went on I understood that truly these groups were a form of therapy. Within a week I was sharing pieces of my soul with complete strangers over tea each morning. It was with this group of new friends that repressed memories from my youth came back to me. I pieced together a part of my story that I didn't understand with people who I had only just met. I know it sounds cheesy, but I found myself again. It was such a relief to finally understand why I had so much pain in my heart, why I had acted out and rebelled so much as a teenager. It all made sense. I gained a renewed sense of purpose and I finally began my healing journey. A journey that I am still on.

Ruins near Suryalila  

Ruins near Suryalila  

I remember walking through the hills, hiking to the tallest peaks, climbing through untouched ruins overgrown with tall grass and wildflowers without ever knowing what used to stand there. I remember roaming through endless fields of sunflowers, exploring the countryside, and making connections that I still hold close in my heart. I remember cool mornings walking barefoot across the property in the dark. I remember the sweat that dripped onto my mat, and the feeling of tears streaming up my face into my hair in wheel pose.

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This training didn't just teach me the names of poses in Sanskrit, or the history of yoga, or anatomy, or how to meditate. I learned the truth of who I am. Parts of myself that had been hidden finally came to the surface. I discovered my own path. I began a healing process that I didn't quite know I needed. This was my beginning. This was my rebirth.

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just a thought.

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Thought:

On the news I heard a woman say that holiday spending was forecasted to go up this year to an average of over $600 per person. She talked about it as if this is a good thing. A sign of the economy's health.

All I heard was hearts crying out for love, and hands reaching for plastic.

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attention, here & now.

The more a man knows about himself in relation to every kind of experience, the greater his chance of suddenly, one fine morning, realizing who in fact he is...
— Aldous Huxley, Island

No need for drama or stress. Get real with yourself the next time you're feeling angry or anxious. Where does it come from? Is it helpful? Can you find a better way to deal? I know when I have too much energy I need power yoga, and if I don't get that energy out it makes me all kinds of irritable. I know if my diet is subpar, I won't have enough energy - and then I need yin yoga and green juice. Get to know your body. What works for me may not work for you. What you read in one study about health will completely contradict another study. Get curious about what fuels you, what makes you feel good. And what doesn't. Your body is probably easier to understand than you think - as long as you're fully present and aware of the subtle cues your body gives you. 

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If you've never read Alduos Huxley's  Island, I suggest reading it. And if you haven't read Brave New World, read that one first. Island is his response to Brave New World, decades after writing it. In Island, Huxley creates a utopian society that exists on an island where mynah birds fly about calling "Attention!" and "Here and Now!" to remind the island dwellers to stay present. Meanwhile, the rest of the world lives as we do, money driven and confused. The things this utopian society does can be incorporated into our lives to create a healthier, more sustainable way of life. In fact, this was the last novel Huxley wrote and it almost feels as though he wrote this last book as a blueprint for how he felt society could best flourish. You don't have to agree with everything in the book to realize that he had a lot of things right. 

I encountered this book when I first started exploring my spirituality. I was raised Catholic, turned atheist/agnostic, and was just beginning to re-entertain the possibility of something greater than myself.  This came in the form of Buddhism, Hinduism, Christian Mysticism, you name it. Wherever you happen to be on your path, you'll get something of value out of this book. But I happen to believe that you can get something of value out of every moment, every conversation, every piece of music. If you're open to it.