3 Meditations for Beginners

Yoga Philosophy

Meditation is a quiet focused moment of the mind. It is taking the time to observe the thoughts whirling around in your head. A simple, honest acknowledgement of all our stuff; the good, the bad and the ugly.

It is not about emptying your mind or stilling the waters of consciousness. We experience super busy lives, how can we empty our minds? But we can focus on one thing for five minutes and we can concentrate a bit more on the positive parts of our day.

Meditation is the natural, easy and unbroken flow of attention toward one chosen object. For example, concentrating on a mantra, or our breath, may be going for a walk, or gardening, even washing dishes, yoga practice and even doing math homework.


” Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away or become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already.” 
~~ Pema Chodron

Befriending who we are may not be who or what you wish to observe. The only way to improve upon ourselves and our relationships is to give it a try. 

Meditations for Beginners

  1. Sit in your favorite place. Close your eyes, then inhale and exhale through your nose. Take your time and slow down your breath. Try it 10 times.
  2. Add a count to your breath. Inhale 1-2-3-4, then exhale 1-2-3-4-5-6. Repeat. Always try to make the exhale a little longer, that is how all the toxic stuff is released from our bodies and minds.
  3. If you cannot sit still, add movement to this meditation. Try to go out in nature for a walk, vacuum, stroll in a garden, wash your car, eat your favorite healthy meal or fold clothes. Something easy, comfortable and accessible to help relax that busy mind-stuff.

If you are new to meditation remember it is a practice of focused concentration. Like math, cooking or learning a new language, the more you practice the more the benefits will come to you.

Namaste.

Book Review: Yoga 365-Daily Wisdom for Life, On and Off The Mat

 

As soon as this sweet, petite book arrived at my home I flipped through several pages and tossed it in my bag with a smile. Immediately, Yoga 365 – Daily Wisdom for Life, On And Off The Mat became a tool for my practice, as a student and as a yoga teacher both on & off the mat.

With an entry for each day of the year, this structure of inspiration reminded me of Judith Hanson Lasaster’s A Year of Living Your Yoga. A mainstay on many yogi bookshelves.

In Yoga 365, Susanna Harwood Rubin shares
a yogic rhythm of daily practice.

With inspirational bits & pieces that include asana, myths, mantras, mudras, meditation, breath work and philosophy, this book is an essential tool for everyone’s practice.

Ms. Harwood Rubin is a fixture of the New York City yoga community. First arriving in the 1990’s as an artist studying for her masters and showing her artwork in the downtown galleries.

While working at the Museum of Modern Art giving lectures on art history, she found herself in a yoga class seeking to manage her stress from the competitive art world.

These classes introduced Ms. Harwood Rubin to some of Anusara’s (this Hatha yoga style founded by John Friend) most popular yoga teachers. Continuing her interest and education of yoga, she slowly began to blend her love of art history with her newly found passion for yoga philosophy and Hindu deities.

Ms. Harwood Rubin began to write about
these passions on popular yoga blogs.

In a recent J. Brown Yoga podcast, Ms. Harwood Rubin talks about how Hindu deities are a “collection of metaphors” within ourselves to call to the surface during our yoga and chanting practices.

Yoga 365 – Daily Wisdom for Life, On And Off The Mat feels like a collection of Ms. Harwood Rubin’s passions entwined with threads of love, travel, art, philosophy and yoga practice personally designed for the reader.

These daily offerings provide a glimpse into Ms. Harwood Rubin’s well-traveled path like the many stamps in her passport. A blending of cultures woven together to support any yogi’s practice on and off the mat.

This writer and yoga teacher loves the right-at-your-fingertips ease of wisdom this book offers. I can reach into my yoga bag for a bit of mindful insight. I follow along daily to observe these teachings for my personal practice. Also, I randomly open the book to any page to share inspiration with students.

There are many gems in Yoga 365 – Daily Wisdom for Life, On And Off The Mat. Here is a glimpse of daily offerings.

“Our Breath is our Conversation with the World”
“Mala Meditation”
“Your Environment Tells a Story About Who Your Are”
“Each Yoga Pose Invites Your to Experience Yourself”
“Find the Humor in Life”
“Meditate On The Sounds Around You”
“Twist Gently to Create Powerful Change”
“Give Thanks When You Eat”
“Breath Into Your Bones”
“Generate Kindness”
“End Your Day With Gratitude”

Yoga 365 – Daily Wisdom for Life, On And Off The Mat will become an essential prop for practice many days after the initial year. I must have for all yogi’s book shelf.

What books are on your yogi book shelf?  Share with us in the comments.

Namaste.

This book review previous appeared in .

Savory Lentils

 

 

These Savory Lentils will soothe your soul on a chilly day. This recipe is packed with fresh veggies, protein, crunchy pecans and a yummy spice mixture.  You can serve it warm or cold, and travels well. Enjoy.

 

 

 

Salad Ingredients

  • 1 1b dry green lentils, cooked as directed
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onions
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice or cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup of chopped pecans
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup of favorite green veggie (peas, cut string beans, spinach, or edamame)

Dressing

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 TBS red wine vinegar
  • 2 TBS water
  • 1 TBS dijon mustard

Spices

  • 3-4 TBS sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk all dressing ingredients & spices in a small bowl. Combine with salad ingredients. Serve warm or cold.

Namaste.

 

Meet the Niyamas

In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, we are given the 8 Limbs of Yoga as a guide and a philosophy to our yoga practice.

The second limb is called the Niyamas or personal observances, rules or laws. The Niyamas take us into a deeper level of exploration of ourselves. Let’s take a closer look.

  1. Saucha – Purity, Cleanliness
  2. Santosa – Contentment
  3. Tapas – Discipline
  4. Svadhyaya – Self-Study
  5. Ishvara Pranidhana — Surrender

1. Niyama – Saucha – Purity

Saucha is the practice of purity and cleanliness. When our thoughts and mind are clean, we have clarity and less clutter in our world.

Start with simple daily actions: clean yourself, eat nutritionally rich foods, clean your house, use kind words, do not swear, do not multi-task, keep order to your world inside and out.

Live in a non-toxic environment; completely digest mental toxins like unresolved anger, misperceptions, selfish attachments or vices.

As we practice Saucha, especially of the physical body, we see there is always a bit of dirt and uncleanliness. This allows us to take our focus off our physical body and to enrich our subtle body with spiritual studies and practices.

2. Niyama – Santosa – Contentment

Santosa is experiencing the joy of contentment. It is accepting everything in your life exactly as it is, in this moment. When we master the art of feeling at ease and at peace with yourself, just as we are without going to the outside.

Contentment means neither to like nor dislike.

Santosa is not an accident or a blessing that is arbitrarily bestowed by a capricious Deity, God or Goddess. It is the outcome of cultivating and manifesting a vision of life filled with unity.

By embracing the space that we are in, we are content.

3. Niyama – Tapas – Discipline

Tapas is the commitment in making conscious choices towards your truest Self in thoughts, words and actions.

The removal of impurities allows the body to function more efficiently. Whether our practice is on or off the yoga mat, we must utilize our core passions and self-discipline to resist any negative habits or influences that do not serve us.

As we dig deep into our inner fire to burn away impurities, we practice discipline, focus, clarity, balance and relaxation. This is Tapas.

4. Niyama – Svadhyaya – Self Study

Svadhyaya is reflection, inquiry, study of scriptures, philosophy, deities, Gods & Goddesses bringing study back to Self. Observing thy Self is taking a look in the mirror to acknowledge what you See.

The scriptures are filled with inspiring mentors who show you how to be a better You.

Some of these mentors can be Buddha, Hindu gods and goddesses like Shiva, Ganesh, Lakshmi, Kali, Durga or Jesus. They can be public figures of our time like Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa or Gandhi. Also, artists, poets, musicians, writers and dancers.

Intentional self-awareness includes accepting limitations and flaws.

Svadhyaya teaches us to be centered and non-reactive to dualities and to mindfully burn out unwanted and self-destructive tendencies, while simultaneously celebrating our gracious spirits. Celebrate and be You.

5. Niyama – Ishvara Pranidhana – Surrender

The Sanskrit word Ishvara translates to Supreme Being, God, Brahman or True Self. The Sanskrit word Pranidhana translates to fixed, dedicated or devoted. Ishvara Pranidhana is to devote or surrender to a higher power of our choice.

Is it religion? I do not think it is. I feel this Sutra and all of yoga is a practice based in love, self-care, service, releasing and unfolding all for the greater good. I feel we must take care of our containers, bodies and minds, to allow for our spirit to be filled with love to share our gifts and abundance with others.

Ishvara Pranidhana guides us from discomfort to comfort as we surrender to what we believe in, the source that serves each of us personally. With faith, trust and devotion we follow our paths.

Namaste.

Do you practice the Yamas? How can you apply the Yamas moving forward?

Tell us in the comments.

Meet the Yamas

In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, we are given the 8 Limbs of Yoga as a guide and a philosophy to our yoga practice.

The first limb is called the Yamas or restraints, universal morality or the 5 wise characteristics. Let’s take a closer look.

  1. Ahimsa – Non-Violence, Peace, Love, Compassion
  2. Satya – Truth
  3. Asteya – Non-Stealing
  4. Aparigraha – Non-Hoarding
  5. Brahmacharya – Moderation, containing your energy

1. Yama – Ahimsa – Non-Violence

Ahimsa or non-violence, implies not causing pain or not causing harm to any living creature, either by thought, word, or action.

Ahimsa is not only negative it can also be positive as in cosmic love. It is the development of a mental attitude in which hatred is replaced by love, forgiveness, compassion and kindness. When a person is practicing Ahimsa they emit harmonious vibrations. This is the peace, love and good vibe Yama.

2. Yama – Satya – Truth

Satya is to live in established truth and honesty. When we establish this honest state, the fruits of our work will come to us. We will not need to run after things, things will run after us. To live in complete and clean truth is the ultimate in manifesting our authentic life.

The more honest we are, the more honesty wants to be in our life. As we lead a more open life, we become fearless and live our dreams.

We must remember that Ahimsa and Satya work together. To share a truth that will pain another, is harmful. To share a truth that is positive, is love.

3. Yama – Asteya – Non-Stealing

Asteya is a balance of taking and then giving, often in service to others. We must receive nature’s air as we breathe with reverence as we serve others, is non-stealing.

We all unknowingly steal a little bit here and there: take up too much of someone’s time, arrive late chronically, take long showers, cheat on our taxes, eat in gluttonous excess and more. We must share our abundance with those around us.

Being content with what we have and not seek to acquire more money, land, possessions and people. It is important to allow things to come and go.

Asteya calls for a focus on how and what you consume, energetically and karmically. We create a major imbalance if we take and don’t pay back.

4. Yama – Aparigraha – Non-Hoarding

Aparigraha is non-hoarding or not receiving gifts. Often we receive gifts with the understanding of a future obligation. Aparigraha is the non-attachment or freedom from that obligation and then to receive with gratitude. We can also clean out closets or social media friend lists. We can release biting clichés spoken and our grasp on possessions that weigh you down. Let it go!

It is the removing of fear, hate, guilt, disappointment, attachment, anxiety, pain, judgement, approval, blame, comparing, regret, worrying, competing and anger.

Aparigraha is freedom from desire and craving from the outside for satisfaction on the inside. It suggests to be content with what we have, right now. It is the attitude with gratitude.

5. Yama – Brahmacharya – Moderation

Brahmacharya is often synonymous with celibacy but that is not moderation. If we contain the energy for sex, or work, or substances or junk food then we become less scattered and intentional in our use of our energy.

It is easy in today’s lifestyle to burnout, we must maintain our vitality through the art of self-restraint with Brahmacharya. As we dedicate our resources to our goals, we ensure success. By avoiding non-produce energy devouring sources, we become wise investors in ourselves.

Namaste.

Do you practice the Yamas? How can you apply the Yamas moving forward?

Tell us in the comments.

Meditation: Techniques and Alternative Practices

We live in an overscheduled, extra busy, stressed out world. Everyone wants and needs to relax, calm down and find some peace. For

Everyone wants and needs to relax, calm down and find some peace. For some it is a life-style choice and for others it is a health issue.

Meditation can be a beneficial tool for this societal woe. We sit, we close our eyes and wait. We wait in hope that something magical will happen. For many, this cushion sitting technique for meditation is successful.

For others, it does the opposite of relaxation. It makes some people fidgety, anxious and more stressful.

Are you looking for some non-cushion seating meditation practices?

Here are three (3) Alternative Meditation Practices:

Walk and Move:

With purpose and intend, go for a walk. Take a moment to notice each step, notice what you see and notice the outside elements. Is it hot & steamy? Are the leaves beautiful, brilliant colors? Is it silent and snowing? Are there birds singing as trees bloom?

Keep moving, swing your arms, go up a hill and then go down a hill and feel your body active as your mind rests.

If you are a runner, please run. If you love to go to the gym, get there today. If you love to unrolled your yoga mat and explore your practice, practice on. Pick the movement that feels right for you, that is easy and available. Let your physical body release your busy mind through action.

“The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.”

~Thích Nhất Hạnh

Gardening:

This is all about getting out of the house and connecting to nature. It is an active focus that helps to organize and settle the mind.

My favorites are raking leaves in the fall or shoveling snow in the winter. I practice these two forms of gardening the old fashion way: with a rake or a shovel. No blowers for me. Get out there, add a layer of clothes if need be, move around and enjoy your outdoor space.

You do not need 2-3 hours of heavy clean up time. Try it for 30 minutes or even 15 minutes at a time. I always feel accomplished and refreshed when I am done. Then, I go inside and relax with some yummy soup or a hot tea.

In the warmer weather seasons, maybe you are preparing flower beds or planting seedlings. It could be 15 minutes of weeding in a small section of your garden or planting herbs in pots on your deck or balcony.

Let nature soothe your fluctuating mind and soul.

Mantras or Affirmations

Did you love that scene in the movie, The Help, when the little girl repeated:

I am Kind,

I am Smart and

I am Important.

Delicious, powerful, beautiful moment, right? Yes! This is a perfect example of mantra or affirmation. Repeating or saying simple words to inspire you and help you calm your mind. In yoga, sometimes we call this chanting.

My favorites are the short ones, like:

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti {translates to: Peace, Peace, Glorious Peace}

Or mix it up with the breath:

Inhale – say Love

Exhale – say Peace

Inhale – say Peace

Exhale – say Gratitude

Pick your favorite song lyric, book quote or famous line from famous speech:

Imagine, all the people. {John Lennon}

You are your best thing. {Beloved, by Toni Morrison}

I have a dream. {Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.}

Words can bring comfort, ease and peace to any meditation practice.

Stand up, get off the cushion and try an alternative and action meditation practice. Remember, meditation is a practice of focused concentration to release and quite the mind as you enjoy life’s peaceful moments.

Namaste.