“Help! I think I’m too ADD to meditate.”

Have you ever watched an old silent film? Maybe some film-buff friend recommend one of the classics to you. So you sit down, turn it on, and even though you know this thing passed for entertainment back in the day, and is the pinnacle of the art form… Good Lord!! Sooo hard to get into. You’re suffering through it, totally bored.

Sometimes, that’s what it feels like when you try to meditate—you’re doing your best to quiet your mind, but, wow, is it hard. Feels more like siting down and thinking than sitting down and meditating. Where’s the peace, the bliss? You worry that your brain is just not made for meditation…

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Meditation is a general term, like “sports.” All it means is “one pointed focus.” There are literally thousands of types meditations out there (i.e. thousands of things that your mind can practice focusing on). Not all meditation is “be still, be thoughtless, & focus on your breath.” That’s high level, silent film connoisseur-type meditation.

Lots meditations have Mantra (sound or chanting), or Mudra (body position or movement), or both in combination as their focus. When you meditate with mudra and mantra it’s like taking a black and white silent film and exchanging it for a movie with dialog, color and music. All of a sudden, all of your senses are engaged and it’s way easier to pay attention. You may even be having fun.

You can set yourself up for success

If you’ve had trouble meditating, be easy on yourself. Really anyone can meditate, but that misconception that meditation is all bliss and thoughtlessness is pretty darn inaccurate—especially for beginners. If a beginning meditator comes to me for help, my first strategy is teaching them a meditation with some moving parts, like mudra or mantra, just so they have more to focus ON. Remember, learning to focus is your first goal as a beginner.

If you’re already meditating with mudra and mantra and still feel stymied, there are a few more tricks of the trade to help you focus.

Try just one of these and see if it helps:

1. Practice as part of a group.

Just being around the calm energy of other people meditating will help you focus.

2. Do yoga first.

This is what yoga is for, preparing the body and mind for meditation. It’s totally wacky that this got lost when yoga was translated into our culture. But here’s the secret: yoga was designed by the ancients to release tension from the body, heal it, and get you relaxed and energized so you can meditate deeply.

3. Cover your head.

It is easier to focus on meditation (or prayer for that matter) when your head is covered. It is not a coincidence that many religions recommend covering the head during spiritual practice.

4. Meditate before dawn.

The hours before dawn are know as the Amrit Vela, or ambrosial hours. It is easier to meditate during this time because you mind is more quiet, and the hussle-bussle of the day hasn’t yet started. So, if you are an early riser, Score! Do you mediation practice when you first wake.
If not… Well, it is something to shoot for. Even though I personally have trouble getting up pre-dawn, I still find that mediation first thing in the morning is the best way.

If you want to learn to meditate, don’t let a wondering mind dissuade you. Random thoughts in meditation are like rain the Amazon. 100% normal and expected. But you can learn to focus more deeply and relax if you meditate with mudra or mantra, practice as part of a group, cover your head, wake up early, or do a little yoga beforehand.

Do you want support learning to Meditate?

August is the next time I will open my Small Group Yoga and Meditation Classes to new students. This class provides all the help and individual instruction you’ll need to really learn. Plus, the small group format offers a supportive community of fellow students. More information is here.
Take care,
Swaran/Sara

The Opposite of Insecurity & How to Get More of It   

       Psst… Here’s a spiritual secret: Infinity is the opposite of Insecurity.

What do I mean by that? Simply that, by elevating yourself, being of service, and focusing on the big picture you can go a long way toward diffusing your insecurity.

Insecurity is Normal.

Hey, you’re just a human. You’ll make mistakes, especially when trying something new. It is true failure happens sometimes, as does embarrassment and shame. So you’re not crazy for feeling insecure, and a certain amount of it is normal. But…

Insecurity is also a Tragedy. And a Selfish One That.

Have you ever met someone who was really smart, talented, with a great sense of humor and so much to give, but they were their own worst enemy? All dreams and no action, totally stuck?

This unfortunate and perfectly nice person was probably held prisoner by their own thoughts. Thoughts like: “What will they think of me?” “What if I screw this up?” “I’m sure someone else can do it better than me…”  “I bet I’ll make someone mad & they’ll say something mean about me.” “I’m not good enough.”

Oh Lordy… Look at all those “me”s and “I”s! The cruelest part of insecurity is that a lot of people who really want to make the world a better place & express their gifts and creativity DON’T because of this misplaced focus on themselves. If you are a do-gooder type let this be the final motivation to vanquish your insecurity. Don’t let your insecurity selfishly keep you from sharing your gifts!

We’re at an all-hands-on-deck moment of time right now. There are crises at every level from school board to planet. There is so much work to be done.

You were born for a reason, and there are gifts only YOU can give: your unique combination of talents, personality, experience and context. The Universe is begging, just begging for you to give your gifts. And trust me, giving them will make you happier too.

(BTW, this connection to infinity is what yoga is all about. Yoga means “yoke,” as in, you’re trying to connect, or yoke, your finite self to your infinite self. The result is less personal suffering and the opportunity to live a life of Divine service and happiness.)

Don’t worry if it sounds impossible, it is actually pretty easy.

The Insecurity Crisis Kit

The next time your insecurity is getting in the way of something you really know you should do, try this:

1. Take a few breaths and be with the insecurity. Feel the truth of what these thoughts say. Remember these thoughts wouldn’t be so compelling if there wasn’t some truth to them (buried under the fear and catastrophizing)!
Use these truths to inspire you to be humble, but remember Right Action isn’t about you personally, so don’t let personal fears derail it.

2. From this feeling of humility connect to something bigger than yourself.  If you’re religious you can connect to God, if you’re spiritual to the flow and mystery of the Universe, if you’re neither to the awe-inspiring vastness of the universe and science and time.

3. From this elevated space turn your attention back to the situation. Bow in service to the situation. You’re wanting to do this thing that scares you for a reason. What is that reason? Who are you helping and what is the highest outcome of the situation? Focus on that. Make a prayer or intention that this highest outcome will come to past and then ACT.

The yogic test for Right Action is this: Are you uplifting yourself? Are you uplifting others? If you can answer “yes” to both you won’t go too far off the rails. 

Remember, Wether it “works,” & how people react: not your problem. You’re human, you’re small, and the big picture is the Divine’s responsibility.  Don’t even TRY to control outcome. Just show up and do your best.

I can personally say this works. It brings an almost instant feeling of inner relief.  If I ever have to speak in public, I do this first so I can make it through with only minor heart palpitations.

I’ll give you another example from my own journey. 

I’m an introvert, and when I started my practice I was literally AFRAID of new clients. I would think things like: “Will they be nice to me?” “What if they don’t like me or what I do?” Etc.

Trust me, this is a horrible train of thought when you’re trying to motivate yourself to market your business!

What really helped me turn this nervousness around was to consciously replace these me-oriented thoughts with something focused on my potential new clients and **how I could help them.**

I’d mentally say something like, “God, please help me find the clients who can really benefit from what I offer”, or if I was nervous right before a massage, I’d take a few deep breaths and think, “Please let this massage be exactly what this person needs today.”**

When you’re Humble and in Service, you can be incredibly powerful.

In yoga we say, “you have to bow to command.” When your ego bows to your Soul, Divine power flows through you. At it’s highest, this is a merger of your finite self with Infinite direction. It’s something we see in great saints and healers throughout time. Hearts are changed, mountains moved.

But you don’t have to be a saint, you can use this technique on a mini level to add more sacredness, healing, and happiness to your life.

I hope you do.

Take care,
Sara

**I have to give credit to Heart of Business and Mark Silver. They taught me this technique as part of their heart centered business coaching program. I’m incredibly grateful. And the fact that it fit so well with yogic teachings, how cool!

So you want to Meditate every day?

Tips for starting and maintaining a Daily Practice

      There are a few tricks of the trade to make it easier to actually make the shift to daily meditation. A primary one in the Kundalini Yoga tradition is to pick a single meditation to do everyday for 40 days. Here are four steps to becoming a every day meditator:

      1. Actually make the commitment. 
      Pause for a moment and take a little inventory of your mind. Are your thoughts like “Wow, a 40 day meditation, that’s a new adventure! I’ll make space for it by doing X, Y, Z….” Or more like “hmm… 40 day meditation. We’ll see how that goes… I’m not good at commitments like this. Plus I’m really busy, gonna be traveling, etc.” 
       Do you feel the difference in energy? In the first the decision is made, “I’m doing this every day for 40 days.” In the second the decision is still kind of open: “Will I ACTUALLY do this every day for 40 days??” 
       The second kind of thinking is very dangerous to commitments! It means you’re gonna have an inner debate every day on if you’ll do your meditation or not, instead of just getting up and doing or it finding a way to fit it in. 
        I promise you, you have time to meditate for 15 minutes every day.  If you have to run out to the car or shut the office door on your lunch break that’s fine. If you do it in the meditation/chapel room of an airport, that’s fine. If your spouse or kids overhear you chanting early in the morning or late at night, that’s fine. In fact they’ll benefit from the sacred sound current of the mantra too, though they may not realize it!

      2. 40 days is important.
      40 days is what the yogis say is the minimum time needed to change a habit. By committing to do a 40 day meditation you’re laying the groundwork for creating the habit of daily meditation. 
       In the next 40 days you get ONE mulligan or oopsie: a day your forget to do your practice. If you skip more than one you have to start over, counting from day #1 again!
       So stick with it. Train yourself to have the discipline to do a 40 day meditation. 

    3. Create a habit forming structure

You’re trying to form a routine here. Think: same time, same place.  If you can meditate right after you wake up or right before bed or piggy back it onto some other daily routine, that helps. Having your own special meditation zone helps too, even if it is just a little corner in your bedroom with a blanket and a cushion. There are a few more practical tips in the blog post: “Help I’m to ADD to meditate.” Tips related to time of day, head covering, etc.

    4. Make it Meaningful: Use external and internal motivations.
 
     There’s a benefit to having a meditation assigned to you as part of class because it adds external motivators (a. and b.), and you can always add option c. on your own. Meditation is easier to sick with if:
             a. the meditation was assigned to you by a teacher
             b. you’re doing this as part of a group
             c. you have the support of a partner
             I highly recommend finding a meditation partner as further motivation. There are several ways it can work. You can meet in person to meditate as many days a week as you can manage. You can text each other each day to check in & say “I’ve already meditated this AM,” or “I’m meditation after work at X time.” 
             Basically you’re trying to out smart yourself by forcing yourself to plan ahead to accommodate your practice AND creating additional accountability by speaking your plan to another person.

       Internal Motivation

       In my experience REALLY wanting what the meditation is supposed to help you with is a big motivator. My first 40 day meditation was around my career (I hated my job at the time) and the second about finding a partner (I felt like I’d been single for-ev-er…). So, I was pretty darn motivated!

        I invite you to bring a more personal meaning to your practice of by connecting to what the meditation you’re doing is FOR and making a direct link to some healing or guidance you need in you life. 

I want to do yoga and meditation, but…

I’m too: stiff, heavy, uncoordinated, self conscious, etc., etc., etc.

You’d be surprised how often I hear something like that. It breaks my heart. I blame pictures like this:

What a beautiful image! Oh wait… I forgot this is actually a Yoga Deterrent Device.

Pictures like this have driven many an averagely shaped–and averagely flexible–beginner away from yoga. And they are EVERYWHERE. Let me show you what it actually looks like when people do yoga and meditate:

Wait while I look.

Looking.

Still looking…

Ok, this is the best I came up with and it’s not ideal (it doesn’t show the rest of her body: she’s probably siting on a cushion to make sitting crosslegged on the floor more comfortable):

Yup, here we have an average person, doing something a that’s little weird but not superhuman. That’s yoga class in a nutshell.

Yoga is for Everyone

If you want to do yoga, there is a way to make it work for your body and your mind. Despite that first picture I shared, yoga is a VERY big tent with room for all sorts of ages, bodies, and attention spans.

Still Not Sure if you can physically do Kundalini Yoga?

OK, you got me… I don’t teach restorative yoga or yoga therapy, so there is a baseline physical ability needed for my classes. However, it will comfort you to know that some of my happiest and most enthusiastic students are 60+, and some of them can’t sit cross legged on the floor!

Here’s some basic guidelines: if you can go up and down stairs, get in and out of a car, and get down onto the floor and up again by yourself (even if you feel TOTALLY ungraceful while doing this or need steady yourself with the wall), you can do Kundalini yoga.

I have to tell you that Kundalini Yoga is designed to physically challenge EVERYONE, but it is also weirdly forgiving. I promise that you don’t have to be pretzel-bendy or have the balance of a ninja to get a LOT of benefit.

I’ve noticed that the hard Kundalini Yoga exercises tend to ask you to do something pretty simple: like lift your arm up to 60 degrees or lift your leg 6 inches off the floor, but then asks you to keep doing this for 2 or 3 minutes. Wow! Now something really simple becomes really challenging!

So, what happens if you can’t keep your arm or leg up for that long? You put it down. No wrathful bolt of lightning strikes you. You just rest for a few seconds and get back at it if you can. As long as you’re authentically engaged in doing the posture the best you can, you will get the benefit and build your body up from wherever you are.

What if I can’t sit still, or I’ve been too ADD to meditate successfully before?

I’ve found the pace of Kundalini yoga to be well suited to folks who are a little restless, and have had many ADD students say it helps them to focus. If you’ve had trouble meditating, know there are TONS of different kinds of meditations, and that Kundalini Yoga meditations tend to be easier to stay focused on. I go into a lot more depth about that in the blog: “Help! I’m too ADD to meditate!”

This sounds great, but I’m STILL not sure I can do this…

Some people are really nervous to try yoga for the first time (or again after a negative experience). I understand. If you need a little more support, I’d like to suggest taking a few 1 hour individual yoga lessons with me. Individual lessons are $60. You’ll get to learn without feeling self conscious about having other people there, and I can give you individually tailored modifications to all the basic Kundalini yoga exercises so you can step into group classes with confidence.

Individual lessons might also be a better idea if you have some health issues that get in the way of your committing to a group class right now but you want experience the benefits of regular yoga and meditation.

But sometimes it’s more fun with a friend.

I also offer private lessons for two! Both you and your friend pay $40 a lesson. A little more economical and a lot more fun. Plus you get a built in yoga buddy.

So if you want to go from a beginner to a confident yogi with all the tools she needs to have a daily practice of yoga and meditation, check out The Fall Yoga JourneyIt’s designed just for you.

Take Care,
Swaran (Sara)

So stressed you can’t think straight? Doing nothing may actually be the key to getting clear.

Times are tough. You might be dealing with a health event or a family crisis. Or maybe a bunch of smaller challenges are all hitting at the same time. In any case, you’re exhausted, overwhelmed and oh-my-GOD stressed.

The worst part is that you’re having trouble thinking of ways to improve your current situation. You know you probably should make some tough choices and be strategic, but your head is spinning and you’re SOOO tired.

Ugh, been there. The irony is when you are stressed and exhausted, it’s really easy to make decisions out of fear, or based on what other people tell you you should do. Decisions made like this just make life harder and heavier. So what’s the way out of this catch-22?

To move forward, first you have to get off the ride.

Have you ever been on one of those “Tea Cups” rides at a carnival? You know, you step into a tea cup-shaped car, then car starts spinning, next all the tea cups around you spin too… Then the whole thing starts circling round, until, wait what? The tea cups are switching places now too?!! Add to this all the flashing lights and noise of a carnival.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, Check out This:

Whoa Nellie! Welcome to life on the tea cups ride—confusing, overwhelming, maybe even bad enough to make your stomach turn and your head pound. If you want to plan your route to the next attraction, you’re not going to do it sitting on the tea cups ride. No, on the ride you’re holding on for dear life and doing your best to enjoy yourself.

Once your feet are firmly back on solid ground, that’s the time to look around, see where you want to go, and take your first step toward it. Frantically running from task-to-task, working and worrying yourself into exhaustion, that is life on the tea cup ride. When you slow down, take a little time for yourself and relax, you’re planting your feet back on solid ground so you can see what’s what and step forward.

No Crystal Ball Necessary.

Now, a few hours of relaxation wont make you See All and Know All, but I do think each of us has an inner gut feeling about what’s right for us. A little peace and quiet is an incredible tool for accessing inner guidance so you can make decisions that move you into greater healing and happiness.

Here’s Why:

1. True wisdom is a quiet voice. You need to turn down the noise in order to hear it.

The voice of your inner wisdom usually speaks quietly, and it’s easily drowned out by fear, ego and other people’s suggestions. No matter how challenging your situation, part of you already knows the best and most healing path forward. If a solution comes to you when you’re quiet and relaxed, pay attention to it.

Example: After a few much deserved hours relaxing at the beach (how long had it been …months?), it occurs to you that maybe you should bow out of one of the many responsibilities you’ve taken on. Immediately you resist that idea: “But I made a commitment, and parts of it I really like a lot!” Take a moment to sit with the idea anyway. What feelings do you notice coming up? Relief, fear, excitement, shame, or something else?

Now take a moment to imagine what would it look like if you dropped that commitment, or lightened it significantly. What would you make room for? Perhaps that extra space in your schedule would really nourish you and your family. Think of the consequences of your choice. Your contribution may not be as crucial as you though, maybe it’s really nice thing, but secondary. Are there others who could take your place? Perhaps there’s someone who would be happy to help if they knew how much you were struggling right now.

2. You only need to discern the next step, not plan the whole route.

OK, this is a big one. I spent much of my early twenties full of anxiety and indecision (What the HECK am I going to do with my life!?!), until I realized the vast majority of decisions in aren’t irreversible and decided with one earth-shattering moment of clarity.

Your inner wisdom may be quiet, but it is persistent. Thank goodness it is. If you ignore or misinterpret the sincere yearning and wisdom of your heart, an undercurrent of uneasiness or wrongness will keep surfacing in your mind. You will have plenty of opportunities to “course correct.”

Example: When it first occurred to me that I could become a massage therapist, at first I just sat with the idea. “Will this idea just go away on its own?,” I wondered. Then I started talking to friends about it. I was curious to see if I was comfortable owning the idea out loud, and how would I deal with people’s reactions, both positive and negative. Finally, I started researching schools and tested the waters with a mini three-session massage class.

I was waiting for a feeling of “wrongness” to surface, and it didn’t. Sure, there were plenty of worries and anxieties, but no deep sense this was the wrong move.

Most paths move forward step. by. tiny. step. No choir of angels announces your destiny, no yellow brick road stretches out to the horizon. Expecting your future path to roll out in front of you like a road map is WAY too much pressure. When looking for inner guidance, the expectations are: a. general direction, b. immediate next step. Whew… that feels better right? Much more attainable.

3. Since the steps are small, you have to keep repeating the process to stay on track.

Life has a way of shoving you back onto that teacups ride. And you find yourself confused, exhausted and at the end of your rope… again. When you notice yourself confronting this feeling of overwhelm, dig out your calendar. Where can you take 10 minutes today to relax and have some time to yourself? And where in the next week can you take and hour to two to do something that nourishes you?

Ok, pencil them in. Now, summon some lion-like courage to defend these two little gifts to yourself from encroachment by other responsibilities. If someone asks if you’re free one of these times DO NOT say you are. This can be really hard if you have a natural urge to be accommodating. But I promise you in most situations, you can find another time that works.

If there really is a direct conflict with something else you really want or need to do, you can certainly reschedule. Just make sure these little times for yourself don’t get dropped entirely (or pushed off into the ever-receding future).

Remember, little times to relax and check into your own inner wisdom are necessary parts of a good life. They keep you sane now and more present to spontaneous moments of peace and joy that naturally arise in life. They also help you create the life you want in the future by helping you pare away what’s no longer working and refocus your energy on what makes you vibrant, happy and full of heart.

If you’re looking for a consistent way to relax and check into your own inner knowing, my Four Month Yoga Journey class may be a good fit for you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me to talk about yoga and meditation and see if it might be a good fit for you.

Take care,

Sara/Swaran

The Healing Power of Heat

I’m addicted to heat packs, they’re a very economical way to take care of yourself and lessen pain. I’ve started selling Grandpa’s Garden brand heat packs. They are Maine made and very well constructed.

Why might you use a heat pack?
Muscle Soothing
– Heat helps muscles relax and lessens pain
– The soothing effect can be magnified by applying a salve or essential oil for sore muscles to the effected area before applying the heat pack.
– As you know, I have physical work. I use my Body Shawl at least three or four times a week to make sure I’m taking good care of my muscles. I find it really helps.
Fascial Health
– Fascia is the tissue that wraps around your muscles and joints. Sometimes it can loose mobility and contribute to tight muscles and stiff joints.
– Fascia needs three things to be healthy and pliable: hydration (drink your water!), movement (exercise and massage my friends!), and HEAT (voila heat pack!).
Menstrual Cramping
– Menstrual cramping is often relieved by heat and rest.
– The Body Shawl offers full coverage of the lower abdominal area. A Body Shawl, a cup of soothing tea, and a little time to relax often does the trick for me.
Bed Warming
– Let’s face it a cold bed is one of cringe benefits of winter in Maine.
– If you don’t want to use an electric blanket or mattress pad for safety or other reasons, the Perfect Wrap is a good option for you. It will take the edge off and gradually lose heat as you fall asleep.
Sensory Integration
– These wraps weigh about 5-6 pounds and offer comfort for those with sensory issues.
– Draping the wrap over the torso may help sooth and calm affected individuals.
Safe Warmth for Children and Elders
– Since the heat packs are microwaved and then gradually lose heat they are safe to leave with children or elders as nap or sleep.
– HOWEVER, if you are using the packs with this population, or any individual who may have trouble either sensing the pack is too hot or moving away from it, please use less time in the microwave and test it on yourself to make sure the bag is just warm and comforting and not therapeutically hot.
Icing Pain Away
– Both the Body Shawl and the Perfect Wrap can also be used to apply cold to an injured area.
– Place the wrap in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer for about an hour.