Yamas and Niyamas- Personal Practice Journal

The first time that I started to work with the Yamas and Niyamas, I worked on one each for a month; then I realized that I needed a longer period to work on each.  Now I pick one per year to work with. This year I chose Aparigraha (non-possessiveness). I am having trouble letting go of relationships (loved ones). I am a Leo, and everything I have ever let go of has claw marks on it. Right now, I am heartbroken and not ready to see loved ones leave my life. Deborah Adele tells a story about Aparigraha where a person watches birds land on a perch.  They stay awhile and then they fly away, but you do not see them flying with their perches. Can I stop hanging onto my perch so that I can fly?

 Last year I worked on balancing my third chakra, and I am happy to say my intentions realized. The impending loss of loved ones shocked me in my capital center, right to the very core. I started asking questions like how long a relationship should last, looking at time itself, wondering about our departures, what it must feel like to face death and separation head on. I am not sure that I have come to any final conclusions on these complex subjects, but I did find a way to regain my psycho-emotional body through journaling, art journaling, meditation, tapping, heal codes, and talk therapy. This year I enter the year finding that my first and fourth chakras are struggling. I did not realize how much grief and heartbreak I was carrying until I became sick with pneumonia. I never get ill, and almost twelve weeks later, I am still struggling to find my immune system and cardiovascular system healthy and back to normal. I have been working on this diligently for weeks now to self-nurture and support these systems back to health. My ego is hurt to be struggling in my fourth chakra as this is where I am usually my strongest and now I am about to learn how to grow here as well this year.

In starting my journey in aparigraha, I was able to observe this at the Manomayakosha level (habitual patterns of thought and emotions) by noticing how shame feels in my body, this prickly sensation in my skin and this feeling of being in a tunnel as my heart sinks back.  My energy seems first to speed up and then fall back, so I go first to rajas and then to tamas. My mind starts to look for ways to blame, and the itty-bitty-shitty committee (self-doubt, scarcity, and shame) becomes louder in my head. I have been working on shame now for four years, and I am starting to build resilience to it where I can catch it more at the moment and label it, as “this is a shame scenario” and decide whether I want it to trigger me. The parenting style of shame, blame and guilt was strong in my household and growing up in a family that attended church; this style is present there too. There have been many years of “shame conditioning” and I use this as a reminder to give myself grace as I learn a new healthy pattern that will serve me better. I am starting to create some awareness that this is separate than purusa / atman (seer/ individual consciousness) as I can observe my patterns.

                The Anamayakosha (systems of the physical body in relationship to the rhythms of nature) relates to the first chakra, earth, and tamas. I am facing the fear of loss and being alone as well as learning about my right to be here and the value that I bring to this universe as my individual self. So far, as I practice Aparigraha, my physical awareness is to give myself permission to lean into fears, so when I feel my body tightening, I know my nervous system is being over-stimulated and that I am not handling an emotion well. I then prioritize journaling and my restorative yoga practice to reflect on what message my mind and body are sending me. Personal practice gives me access to my wisdom center where I can go to a sacred place within to see what story I am making up and if it fits with my real self. When I lean into my fears, I find peace.

                The Pranamayakosha (the energetic dimensions of our being) relates to the second chakra and water. I know from experience my heart will heal and that I will grow and thrive. Why am I attached? Trusting the Journey – this seems to be at the center for me right now. At times, I do not even believe my breath. When I give myself permission to trust it I find the present moment of in/ out and that the blessings I have outweighed the turmoil. Water calms me and brings me to sattva; it also helps me determine the mood of the day. Water is an excellent teacher and mirror for me. I learned that living by water and making time to sit in its presence brings me balance. I find fresh water bodies better as the ocean gets to be overwhelming to me at times.

Vijnanamayakosha is the witness faculty that allows for transformation.  This kosha relates to the fourth chakra and air. I am facing sorrow and the right to love and be loved. I started a three day fast, and I am always amazed every year how attached I get to the food. During meal times, I am reflecting on how much emotional baggage I carry in my mind – I work… I grow… am I making headway? I am grateful for the reminder that I can find what “enough” is again about fueling my body. My expectations and “need to fix” keep me captivated, frustrated and attached. Why do I not follow my gut and let go? Why must I control? I have worked on the physical clutter in my life. I have come a long way, still have a way to go but the emotional clutter has been slower to come, and a year ago, I started working harder on it. Every time I find myself loaded down with physical bags I ask myself “What emotional baggage is this representing? Can I give myself permission to let go of something and lighten my load?”

Anadamayakosha relates to inner joy, which is our true nature, more fundamental than personality.  This kosha refers to the fifth, sixth and seventh chakra, and space. I have started praying and reflecting morning and night. I have always meditated mid-day but felt a process to start and end my day was needed.  My mind is focusing in a more nurturing way that serves my greater good. I participate in seva because it keeps me grounded and grateful. I focus my seva around homelessness and fighting human trafficking. I love what I do for work.  It brings me joy.  The high of hearing all the success stories from my clients is like no other. If I cannot let go of how it is, will I find my next level that I need to grow?  I am grateful every week.  My blessings are endless. What weight on my shoulders do I need to let go? How much suffering do I want to endure?

Aparigraha has influenced my relationship with “self” and “awareness of self” so far by leaving me with this question “When nothing works, what will I do?” My faith was shaken, I meditate daily, I do my best, I am kind and compassionate to others, I eat healthy food, I read books, for the most part, I live a responsible, normal life with integrity.  So why am I facing upwards of ten losses in my life right now?  What will I do? While I was traveling in Nicaragua this summer, I learned about koan and paradoxical anecdote or riddle used to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and to provoke enlightenment. Everything is subject to change, and nothing has any “autonomous essence” as my mentor Beth Shaw would say, “You never see change and comfort in the same sentence.” It appears as though the surer I am of my path, the harder my identity falls apart when hit with a storm. Again, Beth’s words hit me, for years now she always says to me every time we speak “There are always many options.” Being an adult at times sucks! The ugly truth of the fact that “We are drying up, we will die, we will lose our loved ones, we are entitled to nothing and there are no guarantees.” makes me angry. I have a tendency to go from one extreme to the other, controlling to passiveness….where is the balance? I know that when I stop controlling and wishing for the things the way I want them to be and I stop expecting things to work out perfectly the way I want them too I have no choice but to let go! This time, where you are, you have stopped hanging onto the edge of the old cliff; you are in midair… vulnerable, scared and trusting that the other new foundation on which to land is coming soon, and it is approaching with a (mostly) smooth landing. When I lean into this without judgment, I am suddenly free, free in the self-knowledge that everything is, I am right where I need to be to grow and that I have no control over anything. All I need to do is breath in/ out.

Aparigraha has influenced my relationship with others by acting as a mirror for growth. It allows me to have a dialogue with myself to determine what stories I am telling myself. Are they factual stories or made up stories. Is this my stuff triggered or is it the other person’s stuff and I are happy to take on their emotional clutter with my emotional clutter (as if my own is not enough already)? Am I trying too hard to make this relationship work and I need to detach and stop grasping and clinging? I am in the fight of rajas, or I am in the freeze of tamas because I do not want loved ones to change and leave me. Currently, I am stuck in this limbo/ this rumble of my story. I have set an intention though to trust the journey, to be grateful for the present moment, and to remind myself that I am enough and that I do enough.

The year of aparigraha growth continues as I improve and strengthen my “letting go” muscle.

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Yogic Principles in Action

In this blog you will learn the Yamas and Niyamas in Sanskrit and English. How each of these principles is applicable in daily life? What role Yamas and Niyamas play in the Scope of Practice and Code of Ethics for professional Yoga therapists? How will the Yamas and Niyamas influence my personal approach to practicing yoga therapy?

The Yamas and Niyamas are foundational to all yogic thought. They are guidelines, ethical disciplines or pieces of wisdom that you can think of as the yoga commandments. This set of guidelines helps us recognize moments of self-deception such as observing what sort of communication style we are using with others. It teaches us tools in which to distinguish between cause and effect or Karma.  Yamas are restraints, disciplines, attitudes and behaviors (like our attitude we have toward things and people “outside us”- our external world). Niyamas are our inner observances and how we relate to ourselves – our self-care.

According to Doug Keller in The Heart of the Yogi there were traditionally ten each of  the Yamas and Niyamas, however for our discussion today we will focus on the main five in each category of the Yamas and Niyamas that are widely used today. The Yamas are the guidelines to help us interact with our external world, our social environments, our relationships and our code of ethics. The Yamas are Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (non-excess) and Aparigraha (non-possessiveness). The Niyamas are our code of personal conduct; it is about self-regulation and maintaining a positive environment in which to grow. The Niyamas are Saucha (purity), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (self-discipline), Svadhyaya (self-study) and Ishvara Pranidhana (surrender).

Ahimsa (Sutra 2:35) at its root means finding the courage to maintain compassion towards yourself and others in all situations. When we don’t meet our body “where it is” on the mat that day we are being violent toward our body.  we are no longer listening to the messages that it is trying to send us. Our body speaks our mind; violence and awareness do not coexist. How we treat ourselves is how we treat those around us.  if we are being a task master and critical with ourselves and then feel as though we are being light hearted and forgiving with others we are fooling ourselves. We can’t be critical of ourselves and forgiving with others. If we can’t be emotionally safe and loving with ourselves then others can never feel safe around us. The pop-culture allegory would be like Pigpen in the Peanuts cartoon.  There is always a “cloud of dust” around him.  People can sense this cloud of harm in actions or thoughts. You can’t expect to purchase orange paint at the store and expect it will be yellow at home when you put it on the walls. I believe Ahimsa helps us build bridges with people by being compassionate, loving and patient.  It nourishes our students.  However, this doesn’t mean we should be a door mat. The most compassionate people have boundaries for themselves. Gandhi is just one teacher whose whole life was based on this one principle.

Satya (Sutra 2:36) Patanjali describes it as truthfulness (being honest with ourselves and others). In our practice when we buy a pose by selling Ahimsa and Satya it is too expensive. We do not need to be cafeteria practioners taking only what we are good at and leaving the rest behind or compromising our truth. Our body is ever changing.  We should love it and be honest about where it is that day without apology or excuses about parts of the body that are healing or unflattering. By letting go of our competition with ourselves and others you can let go of your masks by being authentically you (bold, brave, courageous, loving, honest and compassionate). When we are vulnerable it is a language that connects all of us and allows us to be empathic. We can’t just organize our stuff in a closet and close the door forgetting about it because at some point the door bursts out. We are imperfect beings.  Be careful to not confuse truth with ‘brutal honesty’ or compassion with ‘being right’. Love is a higher vibration than truth and should be your guide in directing you on how to use your truth. By not letting the ego get in the way of the heart we can recognize when we are in need of being right rather than the more important issue of the feeling of others. Sharing our knowledge with love, compassion and authenticity feels better than causing harm to others making them feel wrong or “less than.”

Asteya (Sutra 2:37) while it consists of “non-stealing” it is really rooting out the subconscious beliefs of  “lack” and “scarcity” that cause greed and hoarding in various forms.  When we approach our practice from scarcity and hold back thinking that we won’t have enough energy to do the entire practice we are not operating at our full capacity and trusting that we have the required energy to do our practice. If you attain what you want through honest means you will have no fear. Taking time to use objects in the right way, managing our time properly and cultivating a sense of completeness are ways that we can practice Asteya. How often do you steal from yourself? We steal our time of rest and reflection because we see it as a status symbol or self-worth validation. As we allow demands of others and their perceptions to mold our images it steals our own uniqueness. When was the last time you were on an electronic device instead of being present with the person in front of you?

Brahmacharya (Sutra 2:38) is the moderation of sensual pleasures (mental, vocal or physical). What is the perfect limit for us and why do we move into excess? Learning to tame the mind to distinguish the difference between what the body needs to fulfill our health or dharma and what the mind is making up that we need. We are complex beings and many times we fulfill the surface level needs rather than pausing and taking a moment to view what our soul needs for holistic approach to fulfillment. It is neither obsessing nor repressing that satisfies our desires.

Aprigraha (Sutra 2:39) is non-clinging or simplicity. When we take away our stuff (our possessions) and we face ourselves it isn’t always comfortable, but it is a place of inspiration that makes room for growth to come.  When students look at someone else in class and want to be them and they judge their life against their peer, it is creating comparison and jealousy. Rather than the student looking inward and working on their own body in their own capacity, loving and accepting where they are in that movement everyone has a starting point in which they leave denial and start to grow awareness and understanding.  It is okay to have possessions in life as long as we stay connected to our internal self (our soul).  It is when we use the possessions to feed a spiritual starvation that we get off of our path… remaining connected to our inner desire or our soul’s dharma code and allowing life to flow and trust our journey, determining what is enough for us in all dharma roles that we play (such as child, sibling, partner, teammate at work, parent etc. Remember to check in to see how many rocks we are carrying around with us and learning to let go to detach and respect the circle of life.

Shaucha (Sutra 2:40-41) is purity and at the root concerned with keeping different energies distinct and keeping the sanctity of the energy around us. The sage Manu says “Water purifies the body; truthfulness the mind; true knowledge the intellect and the soul is purified by knowledge and austerity.” By keeping an orderly environment, ensuring that our body is cleaned and free of strong body odors… by coming into our practice and lining up with our peers rather than scattered about the room… this allows our energy to flow and keeps the room clean.

Santosha (Sutra 2:42) being content with what we have already attained and wanting what you already have, accepting what is and making the best out of everything. We may not be ready yet for what we are attempting to do and that doesn’t mean we are bad or “less than,” instead accepting we did our best and tomorrow we will show up and do the same. Approach each asana with an effort of ease. This is a practice of gratitude and grace by approaching each obstacle with love over fear. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of the adage “accept that which we cannot change, change what we can and have the wisdom to know the differences.” Every day I ask for the wisdom to know which question to ask, the ability to be quiet enough to hear the answer, the courage to accept the answer and the boldness to take action without fear.

                        Tapas (Sutra 2:43) is the wiliness to do what is necessary to reach a goal with discipline. I think of this in a personal practice where wise effort can be discerned as the difference between someone who simply fantasizes and someone who is on a path toward their dreams. It takes effort for anything to bear fruit in our physical world yet we need to balance Tapas with Santosha (effort with contentment) If we try to force things we end up doing harm. If we are forcing an asana we are creating gripping muscles and joints versus meeting our body where we need it to be with effort and ease and allowing circulation and health to thrive. Sometimes we have to underwhelm ourselves so that we will build more desire to reach our goal. I am reminded of the story of the Phoenix… of burning off some layers and emerging as something new so that we can fully live our soul’s dharma… our life’s mission.

            Svadhyaya (Sutra 2:44) is the study of one’s self through careful observation. Taking pause during our over stimulated life and finding our breath, relaxing, and feeling, watching and allowing ourselves to just “be.” At these times we can journal and meditate and almost in an organic manner we can start to see our inner wisdom source guide us to our truth. Being aware of our spirit of exploration within and acknowledging the scared power it holds.

Ishvara-Pranidhana (Sutra 2:45) is something bigger than ourselves. It is about showing up in our life, doing our best and leaving the rest up to the higher power that we believe in and allowing our life to create a legacy that is for a higher purpose than ourselves.  Always asking which option will help the most people keeping self-actualizing as the goal in life and adjusting all of our actions to serve this goal in some way. When we allow growth to happen it brings awareness to our being which can then fully express our authenticity of “self” and celebrate this energy.

References

Adele, D. (2009). The Yamas & Niyamas Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice (pp. 21-175). Duluth, Minnesota: On-Word Bound Books LLC.

 

Keller, D. (2004). The Yama and Niyamas. In The Heart of the Yogi: The Philosophical World of Hatha Yoga (pp. 141-146). South Riding, Virginia: Do Yoga Productions.

 

Satachidananda, S. (2005). Sadhana Pada Portion on Practice. In The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (11th ed., pp. 131-151). Buckingham, Virginia: Integral Yoga Publications.

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Transform and Upgrade Your Life Part 3:

Last year at the Global Leadership Conference Bill Hybels introduced me the concept of “seasons” in our life in his latest book Simplified. I have to say I was really relieved to hear that “seasons” come and go. My 40’s have been a difficult season thus far. I’ve been doing a lot of closet cleaning and developing inner-self. I’ve been working on embracing my “whole-imperfect-self” and allowing myself to be vulnerable. I’ve been learning to accept support from others and to truly embrace my life’s purpose; exhausting work, really. It’s scary-as-shit and rewarding all the same. This month I bring you an opportunity to look at your relationships with others and yourself.

With four close family members ill, I’ve been dealing with a lot of my own fears about life. The circle of my life is half over and I find myself asking “Am I living life that fulfills my dreams? Is my day filled full of ingredients that bring me joy and meaning to fulfill those dreams? Or am I living a life based on someone else’s ideas of how I should perform, perfect and please?” I’m scared. Can I stand on my own two feet without my parents? I feel abandoned just thinking about it. I knew that they wouldn’t be in my life forever and that I’ve had them in my life longer than most already, however I still really appreciate them in my life and look to them for support in trying times. Have I made peace with my parents over past hurts, do they know how much I love and appreciate the life that they sacrificed to give me? My kindred spirit of my sibling… how he gets me without even saying anything. Even though I’m the oldest and there is 6.5 years between us we have this deep connection. When I’m in my full-on shame sequence (mean and nasty rather than feeling hurt, acknowledging I’m hurt and choosing to not hurt back) he lets me know that I don’t have to be the perfect, older, uptight sister. I can be the imperfect me. He reminds me that I have “worth” even with my imperfections (which he happily reminds me of my weirdness). He always ends the conversation no matter how heated it gets with “I love you. PMA (positive mental attitude) kid”. What will I do without this support in my life? During this time I’m asking myself how I balance being a business owner, mentor, wife, daughter, care giver, friend, sister, aunt, daughter in-law, granddaughter, etc.
This entire circle of life stuff makes me want to hold onto my husband more, to cherish the times we have together and to live our life now. He has been working out of town more than ever during the last four years and all I long for is to go back to the life that we had when we lived together every day. When I think of how things were when they were going really well… it had all the ingredients: sleeping next to each other, working out together, family walks, healthy food, cooking together, time off together, weekends away, going to church together, being present with each other, a sense of control over our money, supporting our family together, working but working at a pace that didn’t consume us, time to putter, time for entertaining friends, time to hang out reading and chatting with each other, daily hugs, intimacy, working on home improvement projects together, dreaming, being there for each other, etc. To me, this is joy! Somehow, there became an accomplishment list that had nothing to do with making our life fuller. We get along better when we spend more time together. We both have a tendency to go into “protections” of over-busying ourselves, going silent and building up walls when we are apart. When we are together we talk a lot, we love a lot, and we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, which creates more connection between the two of us. Every day I have a practice of gratitude to remind myself of three things that I’m grateful for. Brene Brown has opened me up to an idea to take this further. She calls it the T.G.I.F.

• Something I’m trusting in-“T,”
• What I’m grateful for -“G,”
• What inspires me -“I” and
• How am I practicing my Faith -“F.”
I think I’d add an “H” to this. What did I do for my health today?-“H.”
TGIF+H

After 18 wonderful years of connection and togetherness my husband very coldly, in an unkind and non-healing way told me on January 27, 2015 that he wanted a divorce. That he felt after working away for these past few years that he felt disconnected from me, animosity toward me, pushed out and undervalued. He so coldly said “I’m Done! I have a couple of things to take care of here in MI and see to completion. Once these things are done, I’m out.” In doing this, it gives him back his sense of control. He realizes this is a selfish decision and that leaving allows him to not try his hardest. Even though we talked on the phone three times a day, spent weekends together etc. it still wasn’t “doing life” together. I couldn’t see what he was struggling with. That he was trapped in his head in this dark, cold place… not letting the light shine in. Brene Brown “the dark does not destroy the light; it define it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.” He hadn’t recovered from losing his business, the loss of our home, the loss of the life that we had dreamt of and created. We had worked hard together to build a life. One with a six-month emergency fund, complete insurance coverage, 2.5 cars, the big house with a 2 car garage, a rental property, savings… you know, all those things that your parents dream of for you. Now, for the first time, we were living paycheck to paycheck, worried about what was coming next. He seems stuck there.

I am devastated by this declaration that he has made. I literally went into physical shock that lasted days. I cried. I felt lost, shocked and scared. I didn’t see this coming; neither did our friends and family. His decision affects not only my life but those of our families too. After 18 years we are part of each other’s families’ fabric; maybe even more-so because Nick and I have always prioritized each other’s families’ right from the start. Family, Us, Faith and then everything else came after that.

With the work that I do I thought, “Wow. Kim, how did you mess this up? How did you not see this coming? How did you not recognize that his procrastination is his itty-bitty-shitty-committee of “I am unworthy?” Procrastination is one way to keep us from getting where we say we want to go. He has been away berating himself, making himself out to be a bad person. He was surprised that I wasn’t happy about his request for divorce. That instead, I was devastated. He thought I would actually thank him. I had moved past this traumatic storm in our life but he had not. I thought we had grown stronger and moved on together but he was still stuck right there as if the day had just happened. Happiness is tied to circumstance and joyfulness is tied to spirit and gratitude. Joy and happiness come and go in our life. It isn’t a constant. In other words, no one ever feels joy and happiness all of the time. To me marriage is two imperfect people that never give up on each other. To me our marriage is a joyful marriage; one filled full of moments gracefully strung together by moments that we created… moments of trust, moments of gratitude, moments of inspiration, moments of faith, moments of ordinary life and moments of darkness. But with the other’s support we allowed light to bring joy again. Yes, sometimes we missed opportunities of joy because we were too busy chasing an extraordinary moment but it is in the simple moments that I find our love.

So, by now you’re thinking, “Wow. This is a bit heavy (and a bit of a vent session) because I don’t see how it affects my health and movement practice.” Well, I believe that courage has a ripple effect. That when we are vulnerable and choose courage it is a language that others can understand, it makes the world a little braver and kinder. How would you describe your relationships with yourself, your loved ones or the friendships in your life? Take a moment and describe the people you are closest with and don’t use the default: “Things are great!”
We have all experienced seasons in our life where we feel alone or separated from others. A quick search on Facebook or YouTube and all you see are everyone’s highlight reel and not the muck that they walked through to get that highlight reel. It sets us up for expectations that aren’t reality. If we aren’t careful, our subtle beliefs overtime will allow us to drift away from the people that matter most to us. This same subtle belief system happens with our health too. You don’t enter into relationships with others with a plan to hurt them. Your parents didn’t raise you with a plan that you would require talk-therapy for the rest of your life to overcome your childhood traumas. You didn’t become an adult and think “I’m going to start treating my body poorly so that I will live an unhealthy life later.” but we do, don’t we?

Relational pain doesn’t come from our enemies, it comes from those that we are closest to, including ourselves. So I started asking myself this question. “How does a love that starts so good between Nick and I end so distant and far away?” How does our love for our body start out so full of life and end so detached and ungrateful for its wonders?

I love Brene Brown (I also met her at the Global Leadership Summit when she spoke on her book Dare Greatly – great book you should read it. Mine is dog eared with wine stains on it. lol). She states that “we are hardwired biologically, cognitively, physically and spiritually to love, to be loved and to belong.” We have a deep sense to belong to and be loved and without it we are a mess. To take this one step further through self-acceptance… the heart of compassion is acceptance. Hopefully I’m not alone here when I say it is easier for me to accept and forgive others than it is for me to accept and forgive myself. Several years back in my yoga journey it was required reading for me to study Deb Adele’s book Yama and Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practices. I carried this book around in my handbag for over a year. It was eye opening. I wasn’t as loving, compassionate, forgiving and kind as I thought I was because I can only give to others what I first can give to myself. Darn! I had more work to do than I thought I did. As uncomfortable as it is to work on myself because of the sense of vulnerability that it brings; to me it is worth the journey because when I lean into my fear and relax into my fear, I come out lighter and free!

One of the lessons that I’ve learned in being a business owner is that I had to set up boundaries around my personal practice time. For example, my evening shift of clients know that the door may be locked when they arrive because I’m doing my meditation and that if they quietly wait in the hallway I will greet them five minutes before their scheduled time. My morning shift of clients know that they may hear voices in the studio but the door will be locked because I’m taking a skype lesson from my mentor or it could be quiet while I give myself a lesson. I had to teach those around me that I needed my movement practice to be respected as much as theirs. I had boundaries in my relationships prior to the relationship that I had with my husband and I even had boundaries for my husband when we were dating but somewhere after we got married I let those boundaries go. Without boundaries for others and holding those around us accountable for their behavior we can’t be compassionate. Instead we fall into blame and anger. For me at least, I think the reason I don’t set boundaries and accountability standards in my marriage and in my family is that I’m lazy, I’m tired, I’m busy, I don’t want to have to follow through because it seems like one more task in my over-scheduled life. Now, I’m thinking it would have been easier to set boundaries and accountability because it would have been more compassionate and respectful. This is one of my imperfections that I’ve learned to honor in my delay. I have a delay in learning things, in seeing the “Ah-Ha” most of the time because I want to see what I want to see. When I fail to set boundaries and hold those around me accountable I feel used and mistreated. If I’m really living a mindful life that encompasses being accepting and compassionate then I need to set boundaries and accountability standards in all areas of my life.

Another book that was required reading in my yoga journey was by Daniel Goleman Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships he talks about how we are hardwired for connection and that our relationships shape our biology as well as our experiences. My husband and I are natural introverts and learned extroverts. We have default settings to want to do things alone. When we do things together we laugh, we have more joy in life and we feel connection, belonging and love. Brene Brown’s research indicates that we need to let go of the myth of self-sufficiency because it is the greatest barrier to connection. As a society we almost boast about not needing anyone’s help, going it alone is more success, we are reluctant to reach out and accept a helping hand and we are scared to offer a helping hand to others. I like this quote from Brene Brown in her book The Gifts of Imperfections: “Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help.” We need to make conscious choices on how we do life, how we practice courage, compassion and connection because it is affecting our health, our cells, and our body does speak our mind. We cannot experience the fullness of life in isolation from others or our higher power. Don’t wait to be the “perfect you” before you start to work on your health. It is okay to ask for a helping hand from an integrative fitness professional.

You don’t have to be perfect. It is okay to say, “This isn’t a strong area of my life. Can you help me?” Here are some of my favorite MBB secrets…
• We work with the “de-conditioned” primarily. We work side by side with them to encourage them to “conditioned” in a way that suits their personality and pace with a few gentle nudges and maybe one or two introspective questions to help them find their way.
• We see fewer “conditioned” people than you’d expect looking for more accountability and direction in their personal workout. MBB loves being challenged by this type of athlete hoping to find the “next level” through mind, body, and inner spiritual training.
• Being “thin” does not make you “conditioned;” it makes you thin. Many (most?) thin people have limited strength and need exercise to build the necessary muscle to move their tiny frames around and hold their bones correctly in place. Bones are held in place by muscle. The entire torso is held in place by the body’s core. The spinal column is mainly just bony protection for the spinal cord; it’s muscles that keep your back “in.”
• Having an elevated BMI does not necessarily mean you’re “deconditioned,” it means you have an elevated BMI.

Many people of larger mass have great strength and general physical health but need exercise to maintain their level of fitness or increase their level of flexibility. Healthy and generally fit people also use MBB for our other services such as “Intuitive Eating” or “You Can Fix You” personal energy/ lifestyle modification.
Love (whether you feel this or not) is a direct link to your belief in your worthiness of you. When my husband said he was not worthy of my love my heart sank and a deep sadness went through my entire being. When I hear clients say that they are not worthy of self-nurturing through sustainable movement practices I feel deep empathy. I like the definitions for love and belonging that Brene Brown has developed so I will share them here now:

Love: We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection. Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, and connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them—we can only love others as much as we love ourselves. Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and repaired.

Belonging: Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

Loving and accepting others for their imperfections is much easier on us than turning the light of loving-kindness on ourselves. I believe love is a choice. It takes work and it is a choice that we make for ourselves. The phrase “Falling in Love” seems superficial to me. It is a choice for me to love all of me… my authentic, imperfect self. It is a choice for me to love others. When our self-talk doesn’t honor us it takes a toll on our self-love on our self-compassion, it shows up in our relationships with others, and it shows up in our health. Our body shows us what is happening in our emotional body. To feel shame is human, it is a painful feeling and it says that we are flawed and unworthy of love and belonging. We need to start getting to the root causes of unworthiness, shame, blame and our fears because they aren’t serving our best self. I feel that if we have the courage to be vulnerable, to slow down, to be able to sit in the “uncomfortable of ourselves” and to bravely reach out to others with a helping hand our world will become a world of love and peace rather than a world of hate and anger. We need to stop pretending that everything is okay and that we need to change to be accepted. We need to love ourselves as we are so that others can love us. We are a society living on scarcity, hungry for joy and starving from a lack of gratitude. We need to decide what is enough for us; choose gratitude and sufficiency.

My husband asked me to read his Chakras and he is blocked in his 2nd, 3rd and 5th chakra’s with is 4th out of shape. Basically, the reading was saying that he is living in shame, guilt, believing and telling lies. His 2nd chakra is lacking perspective and closed to the bigger picture of divine. His 3rd chakra is attempting to create health or balance by processing or clearing negative energy. His 4th chakra is oriented toward unconscious programming, emotions and right brain creativity but lacking action and follow-through. His 5th chakra is damaged from previous overuse, exhaustion, fatigue, blocks, strongholds unhealthy attachments between beliefs and feelings and probably repressed memories or feelings. The rest of his chakras are healthy and balanced.

Faith is a mystery, were we find courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty. My chakras are struggling in 3rd and 6th with my 2nd being mis-shaped. I struggle with shame and intuition/ illusions. My 2nd chakra is attempting to create health or balance by processing/ clearing negative energy. My 3rd chakra is closed. Function is shut down and I am working on looking for a block that is causing the present issue. My 6th chakra is under-functioning and must be cleared and open. The rest of my chakras are healthy and balanced. I have to learn to say “I’m feeling vulnerable right now. I’m scared, hurt and that’s okay. I’m grateful for this opportunity to …..” Intuition is not a way of knowing it’s our ability to hold space for uncertainty and our willingness to trust the many ways we’ve developed knowledge, insight, instinct, experience, faith and reason.

Shame is “I am bad.” Guilt is “I did something bad.” Shame is about who we are. Guilt is about our behaviors. Guilt is just as powerful as shame but guilt usually has positive effects while shame is destructive. Shame corrodes our belief system that we can change and do better. When we are full of shame (or the fear of shame) we are more likely to engage in disruptive behaviors and to attack or shame others. When we parent by shaming children we teach children that they are inherently unworthy of love. Fear plays a powerful role in our lives and underlines every relational conflict we have. Fear is our undercurrent that drives our Cortisol levels up. It pre-loads our body with adrenaline and sends us into flight/flight mode. Cortisol levels that are unbalanced lead to weight gain, fatigue, sex drive is down; crave unhealthy foods, hard time sleeping, etc. Cortisol also shuts down a hormone called oxytocin which is known as our bonding chemical or relational hormone or the cuddle hormone. When fear is present in our life and cortisol is in charge because we are over stressed we lose our ability to connect with others because oxytocin isn’t being made. If we aren’t connecting with others we aren’t feeling a sense of belonging and love and so our life goes into the crapper because our needs aren’t being met. We break, we fall apart, we numb, we hurt others, we get sick, we overeat, etc.

According to Rick Warren fear causes three things to happen:

1. Distance! When fear is present in our life it causes us to create distance. We distance ourselves from people because we are afraid of being vulnerable so we keep everybody away. We hold those that love us at arm’s length. It is hard for you to belong or get involved because you feel shame and unworthiness should others realize your life isn’t perfect. Where perfectionism exists shame is always lurking. Perfectionism is not self-improvement so a belief system of “I am what I accomplish and how I accomplish it.” is dangerous. A healthy system is “How I can improve?”

2. Defensive! Fear of failure or people disapproving of who we are sets us into a defensive mode. “What will others think?” So we start pointing at everyone else’s problems and faults in some twisted way to validate our own life. We fall into judgment, blame and shaming which creates more distance and not the connection that we are craving. Perfectionism is an unattainable goal and is a self-destructive and addictive believe system.

3. Demanding! We get demanding when we are afraid. Our shoulders come up, our heart sinks back because we are trying to gain control. When we are demanding we lose control and don’t get what we want. We place demands, controls and expectations on the people around us in an effort to feel in control. Perfectionism hampers success.

When we get Distant, Defensive and Demanding we ruin our relationships. The paradox of fear is that we are afraid of something but we can’t let go of our fear because we are convinced that if we do we are going to lose something that is valuable to us. The reality is fear will destroy our relationships. Nick admits that he is making his decision for divorce based on fear, afraid and unworthiness. I admit that I’m addicted to him, to us and that I need to work on shame myself. We base our lack of choosing health and self-care on those same things fear, shame, blame and unworthiness. The only fear we are born with is the fear of falling. Fear will destroy our relationships with others and ourselves. Fear under the surface has destroyed relationships with the people closest to you. I’ve recently discovered Dr. Kristin Neff research on self-compassion she says that self-compassion has three elements self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness. She even has a quiz you can take to see how your are doing with self-compassion on her website www.self-compassion.org
Ben Snyder says love is a choice:

• L = Leaning into the relationship, initiate and engage. DO NOT DISTANCE – REAL LOVE LEANS IN! Lean into your support of loved ones. Do not run away. Don’t let time, work, busy, internet, take you away – Let’s connect – Let’s lean in! When we serve/ volunteer we organically get to connect with others. When we lean in we transform our relationships and we are given an opportunity to create new friendships and self-compassion.

• O = Offer to help. Meet a real need for someone today. Give of yourself to help someone else without anything in return. Offer Deep Value by living a life filled full of love. Be uncomfortable with sacrifice to help others. Give others your undivided attention, listen, be truthful, joyful, offer financial support if you can. Give first and offer a helping hand to transform your relationships. Remember you must be able to receive in order to give.

• V= Value! YOU ARE WORTHY! YOU ARE LOVEABLE! YOU ARE VALUABLE! Demonstrate with words, deeds and actions. When was the last time you told the people in your life how valuable they are to you? Busted! Busy? Assumed? I can tell you this: I knew that I took my wonderful life and relationship with my husband for granted I assumed it would always be there and that he knew how I felt. I was working on a book titled “What I love About You Is” when he made his announcement of wanting a divorce. I plan to finish it and still gift it to him. The hardest part of finishing this book is that there is so much to say. Find something specific to say in how they have impacted your life. There are no excuses because in this digital age you have a lot of options to make this happen: facebook, texting, twitter, email, letters, drive, skype so many options. Lean in and value your relationships!

• E= Endure! Mistakes are made. We are imperfect. Forgive, stay connected, be patient. We all sin, we can be rebellious, apathetic, we make foolish choices, we push people away when we really want them to hug us. Continue to endure. LOVE WINS! YOU ARE ENOUGH! Love never gives up, love never loses faith and it is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance. We don’t fall in love, we choose love! Do you choose to love yourself? Do you choose to love your body? Do you choose to love those closest to you? When things get hard people quit because they don’t love themselves anymore… because it doesn’t feel the same in their relationships. Sometimes we need a breakdown to have a huge breakthrough and on the other side is a deeper level of relationship. Some of you are thinking of giving up, distancing yourself again. Please hear the message in this blog. It is okay to endure. Have the courage to be brave, to be vulnerable and to accept a helping hand. Get clear, lean in and create something deeper in your relationship with others and yourself.

It is scary but lean in. See what the response is. Lean in. Have the courage to lean in – in the back of your mind behind the silent walls and distance – reconnecting is what we are looking for – family – even if at the time it isn’t the choice that has been made – make a choice to try something different so you feel something different – choose to go, to listen, no expectations, participate in counseling, in a support group. Choose to Lean in, Engage, Date again. Your out can be your opportunity to re-engage, reform your marriage, your life, your spirituality, your health. Fill in the broken pieces. Allow this breakdown to be a foundation to rebuild stronger. You will be grateful for it. We only live once. Lean in, Offer Value, Endure the season! Don’t let the moment pass – Stay Connected.

When we have spirituality, we have connection when we lack spirituality the entire “how to’s” and best laid plans won’t fulfill us. Spirituality is listening to the quietest voice within us. Brene Brown defines spirituality as “recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning and purpose to our lives.” Love when we are connected with ourselves and our higher power/ spirituality we stop laying the expectations of our life and our relationships on others because our heart has satisfaction and love from something greater than ourselves. When we are disconnected here with our spirituality we set everybody up in our life to fail us – because we can’t receive the love we need.

The reason you have a hard time in relationships is because:
• You have forgotten that you are worthy
• You are having a hard time believing
• You’ve distanced yourself

It is time to expel fear, to connect, to feel your value. Lean in and receive! If you are done living by yourself, if you’ve been alone for far too long, if you want love in your life then ask for courage to lean in, extended a helping hand so that you may receive a helping hand, find strength in courage, connection and compassion.
Hope is not an emotion, it is a way of thinking. Hope is a thought process. Hope happens in our life when we set realistic obtainable goals, we figure out how to achieve those goals, are flexible in developing alternative routes when needed and we believe in ourselves. Martin Luther King Jr. gives a good definition of power “Power is the ability to effect change.” Being hopeful is tough, “This is uncomfortable but I can do it if I have hope and that means setting goals, having the tenacity and perseverance to pursue them and believing in my abilities.” Hope is learned. Love is a choice. Health is a choice.

You have a choice to be healthy in body, mind and spirit. Mind Body Balance is an emotionally and physically safe place to explore living mindfully. Stop and check in with yourself right now. What are you thinking? Is it true? If it is a thought of unworthiness, anger, hurt or fear how do you think it will come back to you? I believe love heals all hurts! I hope for you, my husband and myself that we can recognize our patterns, our default messages, to change our attitudes toward the past, to stop punishing ourselves and others with our words, deeds and actions, to forgive others for not being the way we wanted them to be because forgiveness sets us free. Be brave enough to tell those that you love and care about around you that you are going to work on the health of your mind, body and spirit, that you will do your work of improving your self-acceptance and self-compassion and invite them to theirs so that your relationships will transform because in upgrading you… it ripples out to those you love and beyond. Love Wins!

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