Posted in Inspiration

Reporting from the Void

As I write this at 7:45 am central time on Thursday, April 9th, I am somewhere around 3 weeks into a self-appointed VOID practice.  But who really knows how long for when residing in the VOID we kind of lose all sense of timing.  What day is it?  How long has this Covid-19 thing been happening?  When did I commit myself to a VOID practice?

My VOID practice looks like this…same as it ever was….same as it ever was….only more of what I’ve been doing for the last several years as I was laid off from my side-gig due to the Covid-19 shutdown requirements.  There will likely not be a side-gig for me to return to after all is said and done, as I suspect my TRUE GIFTS will be in high demand once we emerge from our collective cocoons.

For the past 3ish weeks, I have spent my days in meditation, prayer, journaling, yoga, enjoying nature (when the weather cooperates – I DO live in Wisconsin!), reading for education, reading for enjoyment, enjoying the simple pleasures of being home – housework, laundry, groceries, preparing meals, etc., sleeping more, watching a few amazing shows on Netflix and Prime and checking in with family and friends as to how they are doing under house arrest.  I seem to be having one meltdown a week.  Other than that, this VOID time has been pure, unadulterated bliss.  My SOUL was made for this my Spirit loves this.

What has made this VOID practice even sweeter has been to UNPLUG from social media.  Other than the necessary business-related posts, I’ve really tried to stay out of the fray.  I check in from time to time only to be reminded of why I decided to abstain from Facebook (especially) during my commitment to the VOID.  Too much misinformation, too much fear, too many conspiracy theories, and not enough reason or discernment.

As the world is losing its shit, I’m sitting at home enjoying the peace and quiet and wondering what our world will look like on the other side of this.  More specifically, I am excited about what MY world will look like as people begin to awaken out of the collective sleep that got us here in the first place.  But that’s forward thinking and there is no room for that in the VOID.

Instead, all I can do is decide what MY WORLD looks like NOW.  So far, I am really loving it. And I CHOSE THIS.  Instead of indulging in fear, I am choosing peace.  When the meltdowns surface (my reactions to the world’s fearful reactions and the pain many are experiencing during this time), I go even deeper within to transform the cause of the meltdown.  I am choosing SIMPLE.  My life was already pretty simple, but I’m embracing an even deeper level of simplicity.  There are no bestsellers I need to pen while resting in the VOID, neither is the world ready for any new online classes I might dream up at this time.  No.  NOW is a time to simply be with what is and STAY THERE.

And here is the most amazing thing (something a colleague has promised me for years is the natural consequence of DOING only what our SOUL needs and wants)…..I’m technically not working at all other than facilitating the FREE meditations I’m sharing on FB Live and the weekly service that is available to members of Authentic Freedom, many of whom don’t pay a dime for these services because they have completed one or several of my training programs.  (Please check out my FREE meditations and weekly services on YouTube) And yet, the support for me to live and share my gifts is magically coming in.  From unexpected and grateful places, the support keeps rolling in.  Perhaps this is the fruits of 26 years of hard work, or (more likely) the magnetic response to the energy I am creating by simply being and working in the VOID.  (BEING in the VOID doesn’t mean that nothing is being done.  It simply means that what is being done is deep, subtle and mostly invisible).

Thank you to those who have shown up as support during this VOID time – financially, emotionally and spiritually.  And thank you especially to my “Doomsday Team” (you know who you are) for being there when I hit the wall and for allowing me to be there for you when you are doing the same.  We are in this together!

Big LOVE to all of you who are finding your way through your own version of VOID time.  Wouldn’t it be marvelous if after the social distancing requirements are lifted we all decided to carve out more time in our lives to SIMPLY BE!?

 

Love,

Lauri Ann Lumby, self-actualization, finding ourselves, finding meaning, finding purpose, personal mission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lauri

 

Posted in Authentic Freedom Academy, church

A Home for the Spiritually Homeless

This coming Sunday, August 16, 2015, Authentic Freedom Academy is launching its Sunday Service (8:00 – 8:45 am at Inner Sun Yoga Studio in Oshkosh). People have been asking me what to expect from the Sunday Service, what it is about and what it might look and feel like. To be completely honest, I’m not really sure. What I believe will happen is that the Sunday Service will create itself based on the needs of those in attendance and that over time, it will find rhythm and form. Until then, all I can do is show up with the intention of the Sunday Service which is to:

Provide a home for those who might otherwise feel spiritually homeless:

  • Those who might identify themselves as “spiritual but not religious.”
  • Those who have become disenfranchised or disillusioned by traditional experiences of “church.”
  • Those who have searched for a spiritual home but who are yet to find something that fits.
  • Those who long for spiritual companionship and community that is welcoming and accepting.
  • Those who long for spiritual community that is more about bringing people and beliefs together than building separation.
  • Those who long for a spiritual community that welcomes diversity of all kinds, including beliefs.
  • Those who yearn for spiritual community that encourages questioning as a critical component in authentic psycho-spiritual development.
  • Those who want to be engaged and empowered not merely talked at or left to feel powerless.
  • Those who want to be treated with honor and respect for the intelligent adults they are.
  • Those who long to make the world a better place, and who believe their spiritual development to be an integral component in fulfilling this desire.

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If you want to know more about the nuts and bolts of what Sunday might look like, here is what I know so far:

  • Bring the kids! All ages are welcome and I hope to provide opportunities for children to move and feel engaged!
  • There will be coffee and hot water for tea which you are welcome to bring into the service!
  • There will be nametags and a sign-up sheet so you can receive information on future programs, services, offerings, etc.
  • The yoga studio has plenty of pillows and blankets for floor sitting. (If the floor isn’t comfortable for you the studio has a few chairs or feel free to bring your own.)
  • There will be a free will donation basket.  Thank you in advance for your generous support.
  • We will start promptly at 8 and open with some sort of prayer of welcome, preparation and setting of our intention.
  • I will play a song to set the tone for the day’s theme.
  • I will share a reading from sacred wisdom literature (most commonly scripture from the Judeo-Christian tradition as this is my background, and I will include readings from other traditions when inspired to do so.)
  • A short lesson on applying the reading to our own lives, especially from the perspective of unity consciousness (Oneness).
  • We will share in a period of contemplative meditation drawing from Hebrew, Christian, Yogic, Buddhist and Indigenous traditions.
  • We will take time to share our prayer intentions and close with either a song or silence as we hold our intentions in prayer and prepare to go back out into the world.

If any or all of this calls to you, please join us this Sunday at 8 am (prompt). Doors will open at 7:40. Dress is casual (I will be in my yoga clothes, hair up and probably no makeup!). And if you feel so called, stay for 9:00 yoga with Priscilla (this class has become my church!). Inner Sun Yoga studio is on the corner of 8th Ave. and Oregon, across from Kossels. Parking and entrance are behind the building.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Healing

Healing with Ayurveda – Book Review

One of the greatest blessings in my life has been connecting with an Ayurvedic Medicine practitioner and learning how best to eat for my specific body type.  Learning that my dosha (body temperament) is Vata/Pitta and how to manage the typical imbalances of this combination has helped me to alleviate all kinds of unpleasant physical as well as emotional symptoms.  Ayurvedic Medicine has been a goddess-send for me!  I was therefore thrilled to discover the book, The Wheel of Healing with Ayurveda by Michelle S. Fondin.  Here she describes in very simple terms the theory and practice of Ayurveda and provides guidance for you to begin your own journey with Ayurveda.  I highly recommend this book for beginners and experts alike. Here is an excerpt from her book:

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Food as Medicine
An Excerpt from The Wheel of Healing with Ayurveda

The adage “You are what you eat” is more than a cliché. More than ever, in today’s world, it’s a reality. And what we have available to eat is increasingly artificial, genetically modified, chemical laden, and simply unhealthy. Even though the choices may seem varied, in actuality they’re limited to a few ingredients, which show up in different products. So what should you eat to maintain optimal health?

First, I’d like you to consider a few facts and natural inclinations we have. This will put you in touch with your intuitive nature. Fact no. 1: We need to eat in order to stay alive. Fact no. 2: Our ancestors, who lived before the Industrial Revolution, had to rely on hunting, gathering, growing, and storing food to survive. Fact no. 3: Because the human body has been hardwired over time for survival, eating large amounts of food or yo-yo dieting will lead to weight gain.

In the postindustrial era, processed or chemically produced food has become the norm. Owing to shrewd and manipulative advertising, most people don’t even know the difference between something healthy and something processed. If one cereal carries the claim that it will lower cholesterol and is endorsed by the American Heart Association, why shouldn’t we believe it? If a yogurt company makes the claim that their yogurt has five grams of fiber, and your doctor says you must get more fiber, why not buy that yogurt? One thing we need to realize is that advertisers tell partial truths. Food manufacturers and distributors are multibillion-dollar corporations. If you don’t believe their claims, their advertising teams are doing a poor job. In 2010, Kraft Food’s net revenue was $49.2 billion.
In comparison, smaller, organic food companies, such as Horizon Organic Dairy, bring in around $50 to $100 million in net revenue. It’s not surprising that we believe the large food companies’ claims, given how loud and how present they are in our daily lives.

For millions of years, humans have eaten what was available from the earth; and for the past one hundred years or so, they’ve eaten what’s available. Do you understand the difference in that statement? In order to obtain optimal health, we need to go back to eating what’s available from the earth, because that is what we’re hardwired to process. Biological evolution takes a great number of generations, not one or two generations. By pouring chemically produced food and drink into our bodies, we are attempting to force biological evolution over the period of one lifetime. And our bodies are protesting. According to the World Health Organization, world cancer rates could increase by 50 percent, to 15 million new cases by 2020. And according to the Centers for Disease Control, obesity is the number two preventable cause of death in the United States.\

Poor diet costs us not only our lives but our resources as well. Type 2 diabetes, a completely preventable form of diabetes, drains $63.14 billion from our health care system yearly, and that figure doesn’t take into account the cost of lost days of work, physician office visits, and the detriment to families. Close runners-up in preventable disease are hypertension and heart disease, followed by osteoarthritis and gallbladder disease.

The good news is that you can do something about all this. With a shift in awareness and a change in habits, you get to take control of your health and life. Most people only dabble in a healthy lifestyle and then brace themselves for a cancer diagnosis or for some other disease that may creep up. But most diseases don’t “come out of nowhere.” Disease is developed over years and sometimes decades. According to Ayurvedic medicine, 95 percent of diseases are completely preventable with a consistent, proper lifestyle, one that includes a good diet, meditation, and an exercise regime. This is good news because you are in control. Being in control means you take responsibility for your own health. Leaving your health to doctors, medicines, other health care practitioners, or fate means leaving the door wide open to greater health problems in the future. When it comes to health, there is a place for allopathic medicine, herbal medicine, and, yes, prayer, but those are certainly not ways to prevent ill health. They are simply bandages applied to what’s already broken.

What I’m emphasizing here is taking real responsibility on a daily basis, starting now, today. There’s a reason why you picked up this book, and this is it. By taking responsibility, you cannot blame anyone or anything for your sickness or disease.

# # #

Michelle FondinMichelle S. Fondin is the author of The Wheel of Healing with Ayurveda. She holds a Vedic Master Certificate from the Chopra Center and is a member of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association and Yoga Alliance. She treats clients at her Ayurvedic Path center, speaks and offers workshops, and lives in Herndon, Virginia. Visit her online at http://michellefondin.com.
Excerpted from the book The Wheel of Healing with Ayruveda ©2015 by Michelle S. Fondin. Printed with permission of New World Library. www.newworldlibrary.com

Posted in God, Oneness with God, Spiritual Practices

Yoga and Faith – Sophia Rising Book Review

I just finished reading Sophia Rising – awakening your sacred wisdom through yoga by Monette Chilson and I have to say that taking in her words has been nothing short of receiving a Divine Embrace.  Monette skillfully describes the potential depth that can be achieved through diligent yoga practice drawing us deeply into unity with the Divine of our understanding –  thereby finding oneness within ourselves.  Regardless of your religious beliefs, you will love this book.  For those coming from a Christian tradition specifically, Monette artfully presents the way in which yoga complements and even deepens Christian belief and practice and how in truth, the practice of yoga transcends the perceived separation of religiosity.  I love this book and highly recommend it to anyone practicing or contemplating the practice of yoga. 

How can yoga become a practical application of your faith?

Author and yogini MONETTE CHILSON uses yoga to attune herself to her inner wisdom—referred to by the Greek name Sophia—and through that iconic face of the feminine divine she has bridged the gaps in her faith that religion could not.  Chilson invites readers to listen to that inner voice and meld their own spiritual beliefs with a yoga practice that can enrich their lives both on and off the mat.

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BUY IT HERE!

SOPHIA RISING: AWAKENING YOUR SACRED WISDOM THROUGH YOGA

(Bright Sky Press Spring 2013) examines yoga’s philosophical underpinnings and reveals how yoga practitioners from any faith can use their yoga practice to create a sacred space inside themselves.  Sophia Rising awakens within us that voice of transformation that can meld with our faith, rather than exclude it.  It allows us to access the feminine divine within, the aspect of God that represents wisdom and can speak to us in the moments of calm that come through practicing yoga.  Chilson empowers her readers to deepen their connection with their faith, strips away the mysticism that the word yoga conjures, and offers historical context for the idea that the contemplative nature of yoga shares roots with many faith practices.  Through the voice of Sophia, yoga becomes a non-dualistic experience where the practitioner reaps the benefits of the physical, mental, and spiritual.

 

About the Author

Monette0149_pp (2)Monette Chilson has practiced yoga for almost two decades and is dedicated to making the spiritual benefits of yoga accessible to people of all faiths. She is a feature writer for the Texas Yoga Association and her writing has appeared in Yoga Journal, Om Times, and Christian Yoga Magazine; Chilson also speaks at yoga conferences and women’s events. Though yoga is her way of life, she is also passionate about writing and photography. A graduate of the University of Houston, with a Master’s in Communications, she lives in Houston with her husband and two children. Learn more about Monette through her website.

 

Posted in Agape Project, Authentic Freedom, Being Human, Body/Mind/Spirit connection, Spiritual Practices, Virtual Church

Spiritual Beings in Human Form – Virtual Church Meditation Supplement

Please find below, the Agape’ meditation supplement for the Authentic Freedom Virtual Church for this coming Sunday, July 6, 2014.  The theme this week is FLESH – we are spiritual beings here to have a human experience.  How are we making the connection between our spiritual and our human self?  How can we more fully honor the human experience while allowing our spiritual natures to more fully inform and guide us?

 

 

Scripture Reading:

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives lifebecause of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because ofhis Spirit who lives in you.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

Romans 8: 9 -13

 

Additional Readings:

 

Zec 9: 9-10

Ps 145: 1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13-14

MT 11: 25-30

 

Having a Human Experience

This week’s reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans reminds me of a popular saying:

We are spiritual beings having a human experience.

Paul’s words are kind of a twist on this saying. In saying that we are not “in the realm of flesh,” Paul is acknowledging that when we allow the Spirit to be the center of and guide our lives, we are able to remember our true nature and transcend the perceived separation of the human condition. We no longer live in the fear that is the opposite of our true nature which is love.

What Paul does not say, but is implied by this reading (and informed by many of his other writings), is that the flesh, in and of itself, is not evil. In fact, God made us to be human so that we could have a human experience. As such, the human experience and the flesh suits we are wearing are not to be rejected, but instead, are to be infused and informed by our life in the Spirit – which is love. When we do this, we understand the words of the Psalmist, “Darkness and Light are but one.”

How are you tempted to reject the human experience?

 

How are you invited to remember your original nature as the Spirit of Love and how does this inform your human experience?

 

Spiritual Practices – Feed My Sheep

For this exercise, you will need two sheets of paper and a box of crayons.

1)      Slowly and meditatively read the scripture above.

2)      Draw two outlines of the human form.

3)      On the first one, draw human features – hair, eyes, nose, skin, clothes, etc. While completing the drawing, reflect on the human experience. What do you appreciate about it? What challenges you? What are you tempted to reject. Then reflect on yourself as an individual human. What do you appreciate about yourself? What are you tempted to reject?

4)      On the second outline, draw your spiritual self. What does your Divine Spiritual Nature look like? What and who are you REALLY? Remember that your original nature is love, light, peace, joy, fulfillment, contentment, harmony, wholeness, health and wellbeing. Draw that.

5)      Look at the two pictures side by side and reflect on what you are seeing.

6)      Write your thoughts and reflections in a journal or notebook.

 

Authentic Freedom

In Authentic Freedom, become aware of the intimate connection between our physical form and our Divine Spiritual Nature. It is often through our physical form and experiences that our true nature tries to communicate to us. The chakras, which come to us from yoga and ayurvedic medicine provide the map that helps us to draw the connection between our physical symptoms and our deeper emotional and spiritual terrain. Following is a chart which shows the chakras and their corresponding connections.

EnergyAnatomy

 

Posted in church, Jesus

So Over the Church Thing!

How do we as Church minister to those for whom Church has become irrelevant, to those who are seeking after and calling for a change in the way we do Church?  Can we be content as Pope Benedict XVI once suggested in an audience who is small yet obedient?  As one who has had the pulse of those who are seeking after change (innovators) and those who have already left (recoverings), I propose that we MUST minister to the needs of this audience because as much as the Institutional Church might be tempted to judge and condemn, it is the innovators and recoverings who hold the keys to the future of Church. 

So Over the Church Thing!

Seeking after, listening to and tending to the needs of the innovators and recoverings is a challenging thing because in truth, most of them are SO OVER the whole Church thing.  To them, the Church has become irrelevant because in their eyes, the Church assumed that salvation was the number one priority of all believers. For innovators and recoverings, salvation is the last thing on their minds. Concerns about a heavenly reward take a back seat when earth itself feels like hell!  When one cries out with their simple need to be loved, or asks for help in finding peace, or seeks assistance in discerning the direction of their lives and are met with silence, sooner or later they stop asking and find other ways to get their needs met.

Heavenly Reward or Heaven on Earth?

The old ways of being Church, with its emphasis on salvation and building the kingdom of God simply doesn’t work for innovators and recoverings. Instead, the Church needs to meet them where they are at – seeking after the fulfillment of some basic human needs:

  • The need to be loved
  • The need to find inner peace
  • The need to find meaning, purpose, connection and fulfillment

In tending to the basic needs of innovators and recoverings, it is helpful to understand where they are currently seeking after the fulfillment of these needs.  The needs that they were not getting fulfilled in Church are now being met in the secular world – in Mindfulness and Zen meditation groups, at the yoga studio or local gym, local coffee shop or music festival, in the voracious reading of spiritual, personal development and self-help books,  and in volunteering their time to the needs of the greater community.  Here they are finding tools for personal development, cultivating inner peace, finding community and serving others. This is what they are looking for and as Church, this is what we are called to offer to them – but again, in a way that differs dramatically from the way in which we have formerly been Church.

When Church is No Longer Relevant

In ministering to the needs of those for whom Church is no longer relevant, first we have to understand that they have been hurt – they left because they did not feel loved and accepted, and because their needs were not being heard, let alone met.  As such, doctrine and prostheletizing need to be set aside.    Then, we meet them where they are at – LITERALLY!  We show up to the yoga studio, hang out at satsangs and new age bookstores, schedule “office hours” at the local coffee shop, occasionally throw back a beer at the local music festival and give our time to Habitat for Humanity, Rotary and The Red Cross. And when we meet them where they are at, we approach them with one thing, and one thing only – unconditional love.  Meeting innovators and recoverings with unconditional love implies the following:

  • Treating them with unconditional positive regard
  • Listening intently to what they have to say (even if it challenges our closely held beliefs or ruffles our feathers)
  • Hold space for any grief that they may need to process from feeling hurt, disillusioned or betrayed by Church
  • Be open to understanding what their real needs might be so that we may tend to their needs
  • Be a vehicle of support through which they can find ways to get these needs met

When we meet innovators and recoverings in this way, we are doing exactly what Jesus asked us to do and while it looks nothing like how we have known Church to be, we are being Church in perhaps the most authentic way.  In fact, I seem to remember a certain carpenter from Nazareth who ministered in exactly the same way.

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Posted in Spiritual Practices

Sacred Sound – a book review

Twenty-some years ago, I embraced a daily spiritual practice.  Having an active and creative brain, I often found sitting in silence to be difficult, as such, I found myself gravitating toward practices, from the Christian tradition in which I was raised, which first engaged my mind while leading me to peace.  Lectio-Divina and Imagination/contemplation became the foundations of my daily meditation.  That was until I discovered Kirtan.  Kirtan is a chanting practice that comes out of the Bhakti branch of yoga.  Bhakti is also known as the yoga of devotion.  In the practice of Kirtan, one uses mantra and chant to facilitate inner peace and relaxation.  While I have retained the sacred reading of scripture as part of my daily practice, I have found nothing more effective than chant to bring me into the place where I am remembering my Oneness with God and experiencing the depths of Divine love.

sacredsound

In Sacred Sound – discovering the myth and meaning of mantra and kirtan, by Alanna Kaivalya, I have found a fabulous supplement to my kirtan practice.  In this book, Alanna fleshes out the transliterations, translations and spiritual meanings of many of the most honored sacred mantras.  Alanna then provides the Hindu and Buddhist myths that provide the sacred stories out of which the power of these mantras first emerged.  If you have found yourself drawn to chant or have already incorporated mantra into your daily spiritual practice, you will find Sacred Sound to be a great supplement to your practice and a fantastic resource for your spiritual library.

Buy it HERE.

Posted in Body/Mind/Spirit connection, Spiritual Practices

Book Review – Pick Your Yoga Practice

PickYourYoga_cvr.inddAs a yoga practitioner, I can attest to the challenge of finding a yoga practice that is the right fit.  With so many philosophies of yoga and forms of practice, the search can feel daunting and overwhelming.  Often one is left to haphazardly step into a yoga studio, only to find that the style of yoga taught there is “not for me” and without additional information, one might be tempted to believe that “if yoga isn’t for me at this school, I won’t like it anywhere else.”  I can personally attest that this is not at all the case.  There is a wide variety of philosophies and forms of yoga, and there is one to fit every person’s need. he challenge is sorting through all the forms of yoga and their often foreign vocabularies to discover which one is right.

Meagan McCrary, with her book, Pick Your Yoga Practice, takes the guesswork out of this search and assures the reader that if they haven’t yet found a yoga studio or practice that resonates with them, to keep searching; eventually they will find the practice that resonates with their personal philosophies as well as their physical needs and abilities. Meagan begins this process by describing what yoga is and by providing an overview of yoga’s nearly 5000 year old history.  She then goes on to explain the expansion of yoga from India to the West and the wide variety of yogic philosophies and practices that developed in the West, including Ashtanga-Vinyasa, Forrest, Integral, Iyengar and Kundalini (among others). McCrary provides detailed descriptions of each of these unique yogic disciplines as a way to assist the reader in understanding the variety of yogas available to them, and as a way to help them choose the practice that might be right for them.  In addition, throughout the text, she provides helpful definitions, insights and explanations of yogic thought and practices, easing the reader into a more knowledgable experience of yoga.

I loved this book and would recommend it for a wide audience – those merely curious about yoga, those new to their mat, seasoned practitioners and even trained yoga instructors.  This book is packed with helpful information and insights which will assist readers in developing and deepening an enduring and fruitful yoga practice.

webMeaganheadshotMeagan McCrary is a Los Angeles based yoga teacher and the author of Pick Your Yoga Practice. She teaches for Equinox Sports Clubs, works one-on-one with some of the entertainment industries leading professionals, and holds workshops and retreats nationally and internationally.  Visit her online at http://www.meaganmccrary.com.

 

Posted in Body/Mind/Spirit connection, Lessons, Spiritual Practices

Guest Blogger – Author, Meagan McCrary

Today’s guest blogger is certified yoga instructor, journalist and author, Meagan McCrary.  Meagan’s most recent release, Pick Your Yoga Practice, provides an introduction into the history of yoga and an overview of the variety of yoga disciplines which have evolved in the last century, primarily in the West.  (Watch a future blog for my review of Meagan’s book.)  Today’s blog is an excerpt from her book.

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YOGA ON AND OFF THE MAT

An Excerpt from Pick Your Yoga Practice by Meagan McCrary

Very few students begin practicing yoga with overt spiritual ambitions. They simply want to feel and move better in their body. However, it doesn’t matter whether or not your initial intentions are purely physical. What’s important is that you’re in your body, consciously moving and breathing, establishing a stronger mind-body connection, and cultivating a little self-awareness. Intentionally or not, you begin a process of personal growth and transformation just by practicing yoga. You might even say that yoga is for the people who are open to change, and the ones who want to stay exactly the same don’t stay with yoga for very long. Your yoga practice will shift you in some way on some level, if not on all levels. In addition to helping the body gain strength and flexibility, a steady practice helps build concentration, create emotional balance, and cultivate positive qualities, such as compassion, patience, joy, and confidence.

During class you will experience profound moments of stillness, even if only for a few seconds at a time. The full yogic breathing helps quiet the analytical mind, which never seems to stop weighing options and considering consequences, finally allowing the intuitive mind to have a voice. The internal awareness and mental clarity cultivated in yoga help you realize certain things about yourself and your life. Over time you become skilled at recognizing that which no longer serves you — the relationships, default tendencies, reactions and other thought patterns, and roles that don’t contribute to your overall happiness.

In fact, your yoga practice will typically have an interesting way of creeping into your life off the mat as you become more aware of how you feel and increasingly conscious of the choices you make. Yoga doesn’t require you to change your lifestyle overnight or conform to any outside standards, but you naturally begin to gravitate toward feeling better, making better decisions and choices in your eating and lifestyle habits (and no, that doesn’t mean you have to become a vegetarian to practice yoga).

You may also notice that your yoga practice is a microcosm for your life. The way you are on your mat — how you respond to challenges, handle disappointment, and relate to yourself, how present you are, how willing you are to try new things — is the way you’ll be off your mat as well. In yoga, you get to “practice” being the way you want to be in a safe, contained environment. (After all, yoga practice is just that, practice.)

Therefore, when you are practicing, attitude is everything, as it is in life in general. To begin with, your overriding intention for practicing must be rooted in something more meaningful than external appearances or physical achievements, or your asana practice runs the risk of becoming just another outlet for ego gratification, and you’ve missed the bigger, overriding message of yoga. That means your intention for practicing doesn’t necessarily have to be god-consciousness or Self-realization (although that’s a good intention) but rather can and perhaps should be something personal, whether that is to feel better overall, learn more about yourself or foster self-acceptance, become a better mother or spouse, be more present or experience more joy, cultivate more peace, clarity, or ease in your life, whatever — something more meaningful than having a tight bum or being able to do the splits. Wanting to achieve an advanced posture isn’t wrong; in fact, the desire can increase your dedication and drive. However, it shouldn’t be your only reason for practicing. What if you never nail the pose? Then what? Without a higher intention, it’s easy to become defeated.

Yoga is in the business of self-acceptance and exploration, which by definition can have no expectations. Sometimes you’ll step onto the mat only to discover your body isn’t on board to practice at the level you were hoping it was. And that’s okay. In fact it’s better than okay; you get to practice listening to your body and doing what’s best for you in the moment. Yoga gives you permission to give yourself a break.

Of course, in a class setting it’s easy to become caught up in comparing (joy’s most brutal thief). As easy as it is to compare yourself to others and feel less than, it’s just as easy to compare yourself and feel more than, or somehow superior, when you can “outperform” the other students in class. As you advance in your asana practice, it’s crucial to remain humble with an open attitude and a beginner’s mind. With a beginner’s mind, you enter each yoga posture with the excitement and eagerness of a first-time practitioner, gently exploring new ways of aligning or moving your body in and out of the postures.

webMeaganheadshotMeagan McCrary is a Los Angeles based yoga teacher and the author of Pick Your Yoga Practice. She teaches for Equinox Sports Clubs, works one-on-one with some of the entertainment industries leading professionals, and holds workshops and retreats nationally and internationally.  Visit her online at http://www.meaganmccrary.com.   

Excerpted from the book Pick Your Yoga Practice © 2013 by Meagan McCrary. Printed with permission of New World Library www.newworldlibrary.com

Posted in Midlife Journey, Uncategorized

Midlife and Menopause – Befriending our Bodies

The purpose of a midlife crisis, perimenopause and menopause (from a spiritual perspective) is to move us beyond childbearing to birthing ourselves…and this is as true for men as it is for women.  During midlife and menopause, we are invited to leave behind the life we have known to make room for the new life that is trying to be born through us.  In birthing our new selves, we are birthing our Soul – the unique way we are creatively gifted to find meaning, purpose, connection and fulfillment in our lives and the way in which we find fulfillment by contributing to the betterment of our worldToday we explore the most obvious symptom of midlife – the physical changes which mark this stage of development and transition.

Midlife-Menopause-Befriending our Bodies
Midlife-Menopause-Befriending our Bodies

Midlife and Menopause – Hot Flashes and Erectile Dysfunction Anyone?

While the spiritual, mental and emotional challenges of midlife may be subtle and easily ignored by some….the physical changes are pretty dang obvious and for some, at least at the onset, disturbing.  Age is the great equalizer and that in the end, gravity wins – literally!  No matter how hard we work against them, some of the physical changes of midlife are inevitable and unavoidable.  Weight gain.  Moving body parts (mostly in a descending sort of fashion).  Hair loss.  New (and unwanted) hair growth.  Hot Flashes.  Fatigue.  Night Sweats.  The appearance of wrinkles, age spots, etc.  Greying hair.  Muscle loss.  Bone loss.  Erectile dysfunction.  Loss of libido.  Loss of lubrication.   The list goes on.   While there are measures we can take to delay or lessen their impact, many of the physical changes of midlife are inevitable and will win out in the end.  The key to surviving the physical changes in midlife, especially in our appearance-driven culture, is to learn to make peace with the changes in our bodies.

Midlife and Menopause – Self Love

Making peace with the changes in our bodies begins by treating ourselves to a healthy dose of SELF LOVE. There are things we can do to lessen the impact of the physical changes of midlife by taking care of ourselves – making healthy food choices, exercising in a way that feels good for us, having orgasms on a regular basis (YES…orgasms help produce the positive feeling emotions that counteract the negative-emotion producing hormones and inherent stress of the midlife change), taking good quality vitamin and herbal supplements, etc.  The other healthy choices we can make for ourselves during the midlife transition are to be diligent about managing and reducing stress (embrace a yoga or mindfulness practice), setting healthy boundaries around our needs and desires and cultivating healthy intimate friendships.  The more we care for and about ourselves, the less bothered we will be by the natural physical changes of midlife.  Sure…if you want to pluck those chin whiskers or take Viagra to enhance your sex life,…go for it.  But ultimately, the goal in the midlife transition is to make peace with our changing bodies and love it exactly as it is…..cellulite and all!

Midlife and Menopause – Humility

This brings me to the topic of humility.  If midlife is ultimately about moving from childbearing to birthing ourselves, and allowing the Soul (our uniquely creative gift to the world which gives up meaning, purpose and fulfillment) to be born, then the purpose of the physical changes of midlife is to conquer our arrogance, pride and self-condemnation and to cultivate humility.  There is nothing that the Soul hates more than pride….and if we are prideful about our appearance, or shameful about the changes that are taking place in our bodies, then the Soul has nowhere to go.  How can we generously and compassionately serve others if we are worried about those extra 10 pounds, greying hairs or sagging skin?  Our Soul is made out of love and love shines forth through our eyes and beyond the physical shell that holds it.  Ultimately, I believe that the physical changes of midlife are there to help us let go of our pride and/or self-condemnation and embrace humility and unconditional love for the person God made us to be so that we can offer unconditional love towards others.

How are you being invited to embrace your changing body?