Tag Archives: relaxation

A healing state of mind

photo (1)

Bliss can be anywhere. I found it on the bus.

I have a hard time doing nothing. Just in the time it took to type that sentence, my body created (and killed) millions of cells, and that’s only a fraction of the action occurring inside me all the time. No wonder I struggle to sit still.

But stillness is what I need, and since I’m committed to self-care, stillness is what I strive for.

A moment at a time is fine—a breath will always be enough—but as I experiment with daily meditation, I find that minutes are magic.

I’m currently practicing a three-pronged approach: fifteen minutes when I wake, seven minutes before I sleep, and whatever time I uncover in between.

The fifteen minutes is guided by Deepak Chopra—my friend told me about his latest 21-day meditation challenge and I decided to join her for it. I usually find it extra tough to sit still in the morning, since I like to snooze as long as possible and consequently don’t have a lot of wiggle room before work. But knowing thousands of others are hearing the same words and taking the same pause motivates me to sit, and Deepak’s soothing narration provides a structure to the silence that allows me to effectively focus. I’m only a few days in, but I’m enjoying the experience—even if I forget it by the time I get to the office.

The seven minutes is because of a book called The Promise. The author, Mark Whitwell, quite convincingly advocates for seven daily minutes of mindful movement led by the breath. So each night I stand up for seven minutes, lifting my arms with my inhales and letting my exhales float them down. Sometimes it’s the last thing I want to do, but it’s still the last thing I do. Because once I actually start—reasoning that it’s only seven minutes, and practically like sleeping anyway—I end up appreciating the nuances of my proprioception and the serenity of gentle, repetitive movement. And when the chime on my meditation app tells me it’s time for bed, I have no trouble drifting off.

Then there’s the minutes in between. I’ve been addressing my chronic eczema with varied approaches, and I’m especially intrigued by what Dr. Ted Grossbart calls a “healing state,” which is basically a state of deep relaxation that allows for therapeutic visualization. To reach a healing state, you can meditate or use self-hypnosis, but you can also run, or knit, or do anything else that helps you unplug and reflect. The more frequently you enter a healing state, the less stressed you—and your body—will be.

I found my way into a healing state today as I listened to the new Civil Wars album while riding the bus for eighty blocks. I was tired but content, and the sky was a drizzly gray, and I played “Dust to Dust” on repeat, basking in its dreamy melancholy and gauzy comfort. I gazed out the window, peacefully pensive, and before I knew it, I was home.

Today is special. Will you feel it?

sextile portal 7.29.13

Every day is special, of course, but today in particular, because the planets are lined up in a very rare and powerful formation that, in turn, gives us a rare and powerful opportunity to set intentions and manifest peace.

You don’t have to buy into the astrological implications of this phenomena in order to take advantage of it. All you need is relaxed awareness.

Personally, I don’t know much about astrology. I identify with my sun sign, and when I have a crush on someone I like to match up our zodiac compatibility, but I don’t take any of it too seriously. I’m just beginning to learn about sacred geometry, and while the idea of an energetic portal is appealing, when I hear the term “stargate,” I think of a 90’s sci-fi movie I never watched.

However, I’m passionate about self-care and growth and inner peace (which inevitably leads to outer peace), and I’ll pursue any pathway that moves me forward. Especially if it’s endorsed by people I trust and respect, as is the case with today’s occurrence.

Right this moment (if you’re reading before 4 p.m. EST on 7/29/13), two overlapping planetary triads are forming a six-pointed star, or sextile. According to astrologer Amy Bird, “sextiles are like open doors or gateways, showing us what opportunities lie beyond and what skills are available to us if we are to step through them.”

If you’re curious to learn more about which planets are aligned and what the significance of the open portal is, I encourage you to pop over to this post, which was compiled by someone who knows way more about these topics than I do.

But mostly I encourage you to take a moment—right now, if you can—to pause. Breathe slowly until you catch a glimmer of inner quiet. In that space, consider what your heart wants for yourself and for the world. And know that you have the power to create it.


Br(e)aking back to basics


This is what July (and beyond) looks like for me.

I told myself I would take off the month of July. Ever since January I’ve been goinggoinggoing, and I am ready to be still. Or, if not actually ready, at least aware that it’s time.

In the last five months I’ve taken an 8-week grammar course, a 6-week yoga course, a 10-week writing course, 5 weeks of guitar lessons, and 4 weeks of Wholly Shift, all of which required additional time commitments outside of class. I’ve also traveled to Chicago, the Catskills (twice), Texas, Los Angeles, and Massachusetts. All along I’ve maintained friendships, somewhere in there I turned 30, and every now and then I’ve tried to date. I’ve also worked a full-time job.

I’ve also gotten tired.

All of the learning and traveling has been totally by choice, and all of it worthwhile and mostly enjoyable. But as summer set in, a line from Dirty Dancing started to echo in my head: “She needs a break.”

And now it’s July, and I’m trying to rest. I celebrated the 4th and the long weekend that followed on a retreat with my writing group, which was certainly restful, aside from the part where I spent many hours typing thousands of words and battling the discomfort that accompanied them.

(I know, I know. My job is to show up at the page and produce, not to judge the process or the output. It’s hard for me.)

So, a week into July, I’ve still been seeking stillness. Lucky for me, a new chapter of Wholly Shift started yesterday, and last night’s session was rocket fuel for my rejuvenation.

With the guidance of universal intelligence (via Laura Hames Franklin), I released worry and doubt and gave myself permission to see things I’ve never seen before. Then in a state of meditation I summoned a vision for my future. Then I put it on paper.

What showed up were open hands, clear of eczema (a lifelong struggle that has recently resurfaced), holding infinite wealth and radiance. What came to me were words: my palms are pure and powerful. Self-acceptance. No judgement. Trusting abundance.

Receiving innate wisdom is rewarding in itself, but my delight elevated when Laura asked a super practical question. What are three tangible things I can do every day to get closer to my vision?

I wasn’t sure what might directly bring about infinite wealth and radiance, but I had a few ideas about releasing chronic inflammation, doubt, and judgment. And boy, were they basic.

Today I am avoiding refined sugar, dairy, and gluten. I will meditate for nine minutes, and I will drink three big bottles of water.

Simple, simple, simple, if not always easy. All three actions are doable, nourishing, and satisfying. Exactly what I need to help me slow down, to take a break, to breathe deeply. To rest.

water bottle

My water bottle is my new BFF. Bottoms up!


Enough IS enough

kitchen flowers

These flowers in my kitchen are definitely enough.

I don’t know why I feel so compelled to publish a blog post; there is no reason that I have to. None. Nor is there any pressure. Not externally, at least.

Internally, I admit, there is a voice warning me how easy it is to do nothing with my blog–just look at my track record in 2012. That voice would feel better if I posted twice a month, at least.

Twice a month would be plenty, I think. In 2011 I went for a minimum of weekly and while it worked out pretty well, near the end it began feeling like a chore and that was not okay. When it comes to creating in general, yes, the discipline is important. I show up at the page every morning no matter what, a tangible commitment to self-care. But this blog is meant to be a bonus, content I share because I’m compelled to, not because I’m obliged.

And it seems I just answered my own non-question: I feel compelled to publish a blog post because I feel compelled to! In fact, I’ve felt compelled six times since my last post–hence the six drafts I started and haven’t finished. Some of them I’d still like to complete.

The thing is, it usually takes at least an hour or two for me to write and polish a post for publication. And all month long I haven’t had that kind of me time.

Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans, yeah, but it’s also what happens when you make plans and show up for them. And lately I’ve had lots of plans. Kind of like an anti-hibernation, I guess, since it’s begun to feel like winter will be over by the time I catch my breath.

But tonight I caught my breath. My scheduled activity fell through, and I came home to an empty apartment, and I chose to breathe. Unaccustomed to solitude and free time, at first I wasn’t sure what to do. Then my tense shoulders told me, so I rolled out my yoga mat and started moving.

I didn’t worry about a sequence. I didn’t bother playing music. I just dove into downward dog until I was ready for something different. Because I do attend a class regularly, a familiar structure presented itself, and I followed it loosely, breathing into each pose for as long as I wanted (and then a breath more, for growth).

And for those calm and steady minutes, where my muscles and lungs were making friends and my mind was on the sidelines, I felt no judgment, no doubt, no anxiety or fear. I was just enough.

Kind of how this blog post is enough. I haven’t said any of the stuff I intended for drafts one through six, but these words are honest anyway, and it feels good to type. To claim some cyberspace and assert my online existence.

And though my perfectionism might prefer me not to impromptu publish,  I’m going to persevere. Because this is enough for now, it really truly is, and I’m grateful to feel sufficient.

Solstice savasana

For years now I’ve enjoyed doing yoga in Times Square on the night of the summer solstice. It’s become a deeply personal ritual, performed in a very public place.

Bright lights, big ads, chain stores…What could be more relaxing?
(This is near the end; I’m sitting up and stretching.)

This year the solstice was on Wednesday, June 20. I pre-registered for class back in April and the date took top priority; I shuffled several events in my schedule to accommodate it. And then, along came Wednesday, June 20, and I did not feel like doing yoga.

Or more accurately, I did not want to practice asana, and especially not in vigorous vinyasa style. I hadn’t gotten much sleep on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday nights, and I was leaving town on Thursday, and so on Wednesday I really just wanted to rest.

And that’s exactly what I did. I arrived an hour early, because I expected a crowd and wanted to be sure and secure a mat and a space. Rather than push my way toward the central staging area around 45th Street, where I’ve participated in the past, I took the path of least resistance and situated myself near the check-in station at 43rd Street and Broadway, far from the heart of the action.

As soon as my mat was down I settled into a welcome savasana and faded in and out of consciousness until the crackle of speakers brought me back to my surroundings. After a couple of introductory announcements, it was time for class.

The instructor was energetic, the crowd was enthusiastic, and I was still in savasana. Audibly psyched to be coaching thousands of yogis in Times Square (NEW YORK CITY!), the teacher implored us to share her joy, to find meaning for ourselves in what she was offering.

And suddenly I realized that for me, what would be meaningful would be to honor my truth: I absolutely did not want to move. I wasn’t feeling the instructor’s energy, but I didn’t have to make a big deal out of it. I could listen to her words, respectfully appreciate them, and meditate in stillness instead of in motion.

I’ve sometimes wondered what it would be like to stay in savasana for an entire class. It’s one of those things you can technically do anytime, but I’ve never seen it happen. Personally, if I’ve paid for a yoga class, I feel like I’m missing out if I’m not moving. And while I’ve gotten good about taking child’s pose when I need it, there’s something about lying down for a straight hour that just seems lazy or disrespectful. (Not that I’m judging!)

But, all judgment aside, I committed to staying still last Wednesday. It was more challenging than I expected, especially at first. I felt both guilty and rebellious, and had to close my eyes in order to become comfortable. But before long I was content, listening closely and holding the poses in my imagination.

The more I concentrated, the more it felt like I was actively engaging–except my breath was steadier than it would have been had I tried to match the instructor’s rapid pace, and I wasn’t perturbed or confused when the speakers went out for a while. The sudden silence was welcome, and I knew exactly where my body was meant to be.

At one point a spotter (yoga teachers volunteered as assistants for the event) tapped me on the shoulder to make sure I was okay. “I’m good. I’m just chilling,” I told her with a smile, and gratefully sank back into my reverie. Another time a different spotter approached and asked if she could give me an adjustment. I felt like the luckiest yogi in Times Square as she pressed down on my shoulders, then below my collarbone, and then at my temples. “Man,” I thought as she gently touched my third eye, prompting a trippy visual sensation, “I’m getting rewarded for relaxing.”

Meanwhile, hundreds of people around me had been standing and lunging and balancing and flowing, and moments after my masseuse left me melted into the cement, the crowd was told to hop on one foot and shout “I’m free!” That was when the guy next to me jumped with full force onto my fingers.

But even the sudden shock of excruciating pain didn’t bother me too much. It was a bold reminder that despite my capacity for joy, I am never immune to suffering. Yet distress doesn’t stay when I am willing let it go. So I breathed soothing exhales toward my fingertips, and class went on.

Nearly two hours later, I stood up. By that point I was restless; the longest I’d ever stayed in savasana before last Wednesday was for a sixty-minute yoga nidra meditation I do sometimes at home, and that’s usually on my bed and not concrete. So somewhere around ninety minutes I’d had to sit up and start stretching. But I stayed seated until the final om, and when it was over, I felt well and truly restored.

Resting in unrest

Image courtesy of “Annie” Nancy JonesFrancis (annieo76) via Flickr Creative Commons

I don’t always get what I want, but I always, always get what I need.

The first time I heard the Rolling Stones sing something similar, I instantly related, though it’s taken me years to realize I can try more than sometimes, and there is no “just might” about it:

I get what I need.

(And so do you, particularly if you’re reading this, since to do so you’ve got to be breathing.)

For the past few days my yoga has been slippery. I’ve been grasping for peace and it’s been shimmering just beyond reach. I’ve gotten caught up with wanting, nearly forgotten that I am not in need.

When I think I need something I get anxious, and when I am anxious I am uneasy. Usually I’m making things harder than they have to be. The solution is simple, but I don’t always see it.

When I upset the balance of my existence–when I attempt to control my life more than accept it–anxiety shows up and I am in unrest. The trick is, the only way out of unrest is to rest in it. If I stay still with the situation, if I gently steer my thought-tangled mind toward silence for even a minute, I start to see what I was missing before.

Nothing. Nothing is missing, nothing is needed. And if I allow myself to accept that reality–a truth I perceive with my own senses–anxiety has nowhere to nestle.