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  

 

sacral chakra & creativity

I've been wanting to write a blog about each of the chakras for a long time now, but not anything formal or even informative.  I just wanted to write the first thing that comes to mind about each. What I've written below actually wrote itself yesterday. It's about creativity. Which is exactly what I think about when I think about the second chakra. 

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But first, a little about the second chakra.

The second chakra is the sacral chakra, or svadisthana. The element of the sacral chakra is water.

Flow. Movement. Emotion.

Amorgos Island, Greece  

Amorgos Island, Greece  

Imbalances here can show up as bottling emotions, or being overly emotional, intimacy issues, repressed sexuality, or issues with addiction. It can also show up as writer's block, loss of creativity, or a loss of authenticity

My svadisthana mantra is "Creativity flows through me like water." And some days it's, "I feel, I'm in touch with my emotions, I'm in touch with my sensuality."

So below is what I wrote yesterday about living a creative life. I felt like it was appropriate to share along with this. Hope you dig. :)

Writing can me to tears.

Reading about writers writing gives me butterflies. It's something that I know is mine. I can feel it in my blood. It rushes through my veins like words rush onto a page. 

I feel this way about teaching yoga. Sometimes I feel this way about painting too. 

You don't have to stick to one calling. You can have all the callings you care to. I nourish my inner creator every time I step on a yoga mat, every time I pick up a paint brush, every time I write.

Sometimes I feel like I don't do it enough but the truth is, I just do it when I feel inspired. And sometimes that's five times in one day and other times it's five times in one year. 

The reason I'm writing this is because it asked to be written. But also because I want you to know that you have permission to create whatever your heart desires. 

You have permission to become anyone or anything that you choose. You do not have to stick to the path you're on.  As human beings we are truly blessed with the ability to create. And we do it every day. We create style when we get dressed. We create culinary art when we cook. We create so much more than we give ourselves credit for.

 And that inner artist in you is begging to be recognized. Just to be acknowledged. Then maybe inspiration will flow to you too. And if it doesn't, just play. There is nothing wrong with making art that isn't "good", whatever that means. It's the process that counts, the journey if you will. The act of making the thing, not the thing itself that is important. 

This is our gift. 

To create. To be inspired. To play. To connect with our divine. Our inner creator. 

This is the magic that exists within each and every one of us. 

Whether you choose to accept the gift, or not is your choice.

This is a public promise to myself that I will write when I feel inspired. That I will paint when I need colour. I will move when my body asks me to move. I will live creatively, because it's the only way I can. This is my soul pledge. 

This is a formal invitation to join the movement. There is enough room for all of us. There is enough inspiration to go around for everyone. Will you come create with us? 

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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!

7 day meditation challenge.

So today is day two of my 7 day meditation challenge with myself! I have not been a good meditator in the past but I have always wanted to start a practice. Like anything, I am starting small. I just got the Mindbliss meditation app and my goal is to meditate twice a day. I am only halfway through day two so things are going well. I've been doing a chanting meditation in the morning or early afternoon, and a calming meditation before bed. These are short meditations, 20 minutes or less.

I am posting this to keep myself accountable. The Mindbliss app has meditation journeys, which are several meditation sessions that go together. I chose a 7 day journey, and I'm hoping that after the 7 days I will find another good journey to keep me meditating regularly. I tend to be constantly moving, striving, and doing. The only stillness I am really comfortable in is savasana and I honestly think that is because I worked for it in my practice. So my intention is to find comfort in stillness, and to learn acceptance. 

Today I woke up late so I didn't meditate first thing in the morning, I waited until I got home from teaching my first class. I am also experimenting with intermittent fasting (which I will post about once I've been doing it for a bit longer) so when I got home I was pretty ravenous and normally would have just eaten everything in the house. But instead I meditated. During my meditation I felt aware of the sensation of hunger but somehow detached from it. I was able to meditate with a clear, open mind. And then when I was finished I took my time preparing a meal rather than just devouring whatever was quickest. I'm not saying two whole days of meditation made that difference, but maybe it helped me to change my mindset. I'm definitely interested in seeing where the next seven days will take me. 

If you have a meditation practice or are interested in starting one tell me about it in the comments below! 

Namaste <3

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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play. every damn day.

Seven Magic Mountains

Seven Magic Mountains

Do whatever it is that you are meant to do here. If you're a mover, move. If you're a shaker, shake. Whether you create masterpieces out of clay, paint, food, photos, words, or fabric - create. Wherever your path leads you, go there with all of your heart. If you're a builder, build something that you can be proud of. If you're a chef, cook something that you wish you could share with the entire world. If you're a dancer, move people with your movement. And if you don't know what your path is yet, think back to when you were young. What did you love to do for play? When is the last time you did that? When is the last time you built a sandcastle or made a snow angel? Or finger painted? And why not? Your path may have nothing to do with building snow men, but I'd be willing to bet if you let yourself get lost in play, you'd find yourself, find your path, and find your purpose.

Most animals in the wild have been observed playing. If you have an animal, you know they love to play. They've actually done studies on baby rats to study the affects of play deprivation, versus normal play on the brain and the results are pretty incredible. There have been a few different studies done. To sum it up, rats who experienced play deprivation did not possess the social skills necessary to be a functional adult rat, they were unable to differentiate appropriate from inappropriate aggression (appropriate as in normal rough and tumble play), and in another study they found that the play deprived rats had a more immature pattern of neuronal connections in the medial prefrontal cortex - which would basically mean that they would have had trouble socializing and integrating. Of course, we're not rats and our brains may not respond the exact same way, but there's definitely a correlation between play and overall mental health. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. 

From my own experience, I've also found that if I am at work trying to force a good idea or if I've been sitting and trying really hard to write for too long, nothing comes. I solve problems better, write better, and think more clearly when my mind is relaxed. Luckily for me, in my current job I go back and forth between teaching classes and doing actual "work" (teaching is my job, but it doesn't feel like it - it feels like play!), I get to go "play" for an hour and then sit back down and work on my projects. After I've "played", I'm more relaxed, which also equates to more focus. Play is inspiring. So when I sit back down to work, my mind isn't jumping all over the place. I nail down one thing at a time. There are of course days when I go in to work specifically to work on things I haven't had time for, and those days I am usually not teaching a class. I can honestly say that it takes me longer, I tend to jump from one project to the next without getting much done, and my mind feels like a bull stuck in a room with brick walls just ramming into one wall, backing up and ramming into another wall without making a dent in any of them. Once I notice that, it's time to get up and move. Take some deep breaths, take a little walk, stretch, do something. When I come back, I am almost always more focused and ready to get things done. 

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There is a really great book out there by Brigid Schulte called Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love & Play When No One Has the Time. And if you want to learn more about the importance of play and of balance I highly recommend reading it. It has totally changed my idea of how work should be done and I love it. I plan on rereading it if I ever start to feel overwhelmed again. Which, let's be honest, I probably will. I have almost always worked multiple jobs, and I definitely used to be a workaholic. Just working multiple jobs that were not satisfying or rewarding in any way. Things that I didn't really like but I was good at. I would put in long hours, I would always offer to stay late. I have worked 23 hours straight, slept 3 hours, and went back to work for another 16. Even now, I find myself wanting to say yes to every work opportunity that comes up and agreeing to take on more projects than I can logistically complete given the amount of hours I want to put in. So this is kind of a constant battle for me. Now it's almost harder because I love most of my jobs. I love being there and it's rewarding - but I find I have less time for my practice, less time to write, and less time to play. And at the end of a week, that's draining. 

Lose yourself in play for the sake of play. And if you're not sure where to start, take a painting class, go to an acro yoga class, or go for a hike. We all need a little play. And with busy work schedules, house work, and endless errands, we need it even more. Make the time, Schedule it. Consider it necessary for your own health and well-being. Because it is. And when you're feeling overwhelmed with the to do list,  don't ram your head into a wall - go play! The list can wait.