2019 is on the Horizon – Can you SEE it?

As each year closes, we face the urge to toss out undesired habits, start fresh and to move in new directions.  Maybe you look forward to this “turning point” or maybe you are a bit hesitant after many years of  watching January’s enthusiasm fizzle out as you fall back into the trenches of old habits by February.  In fact, research has shown that about fifty percent of us make resolutions, however fewer than 10% of these keep them for more a few months.   Whether you call it “resolution”, a  “goal” or the more yogic term of “intention”, the process of follow-through and sustained change is very difficult for all.  Scientific research suggests that one tool, Visualization, may provide the key to success.

Psychological research teaches us that in order for a resolution to be successful, it must be specific, measureable and attainable.  Add the elements of relevance and time and you have created a SMART goal.  But, as you may have experienced, even these well-crafted goals fail.  One of the reasons for this is that our goals are often related to changes in lifestyle and personality which are entrenched in what yoga calls “samskaras“.  In Indian and Yogic philosophy,  “samskaras are the mental impressions left by all thoughts, actions and intents that an individual has ever experienced”(yogapedia).   Do you ever have circular thoughts or an old story that is preventing you from realizing your dream?  This is samskara in action.  Meditation and other yogic tools work because they seek to dip beneath the conscious mind and get us in touch with our hidden expectations and unconscious ideas.

Meditation, especially practices such as Yoga Nidra, rely on the individuals ability to focus on and cultivate body sensations rather than thoughts.  One is asked to focus on how the body feels when our goals, or sankalpa, are fully manifested.   These techniques seek to convert the brain waves into a more relaxed and suggestible state similar to that of hypnosis.  Visualization techniques go a few steps further.  Several studies have shown that the brain does not differentiate between a real and an visualized memory.  We can, therefore, lesson the anxiety of a new challenge by creating a memory of that experience through visualization.  In addition, research  shows that visualizing a physical activity stimulates the brain in much the same way as actually performing the activity.  This may be especially true if the activity is an unfamiliar or if fear and anxiety are associated with it.

Proponents of Visualization put much faith in the concept of the philosophical Law of Attraction.  Many have questioned this principle which states that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts, people can bring positive or negative experiences into their life (wikipedia).  However, knowledge of how the brain processes visual information may provide some scientific evidence to support how visualization helps one to attract what they want into their life.  Our brain relies on a network of neurons called the reticular activating system (RAS) to filter out what IS, and IS NOT important visually.  Since 90% of the information processed by the brain is visual, the RAS is critical.  Without it, we could  become desensitized and confused by the vast amount of information we receive every day.  Visualization techniques help “program” the RAS much the way Facebook feeds us information based on our search history and demonstrated interests.  Visualization is the lens through which we begin to see and describe our world.

With 2019 on the horizon, can you really SEE yourself acting in a way which cultivates the changes you wish to manifest in your life?  Close your eyes, relax and try to see and imagine how it looks and feels for you to live the life that you long for.  The more often you repeat this process, the stronger the path you are forging.  Good luck and I hope to see you on the mat in the coming year!

Need a little guidance?  Join us January 13th 2-5 for Creating a Vision for 2019:  Vision Board and Yoga Workshop with Melissa & Jules from Julesguide.

 

Moving Your Mind in 2017

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If we can make just 1% of the population meditative, the world will be a different place” ~Sadhguru

If you listed among your New Year’s resolutions the desire to learn how to meditate or to meditate more often, then you are certainly not alone.  With an ever-growing amount research and evidence stating that meditation is good for anything and everything from a healthy heart, to work productivity, to a better sex life, it is a wonder we don’t schedule the time to sit and breathe as readily as we plan to sit down to dinner.   Continue reading Moving Your Mind in 2017

VATA- Grounding Ourselves for the Winds of Change

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When the winds of change blow, some people build walls, others build windmills”       ~Chinese Proverb

As my students entered the house today, each shivered a little and made a comment about the weather – the wind is gusting and there is a brisk coolness to the air.  Fall has arrived and with it a bluster of action readying ourselves for the close of the year – holiday festivities, school exams, vacations, and family visits.   It can all seem a bit dizzying sometimes.

In the ancient science of Ayurveda, Fall is the VATA time of the year.  VATA represents the elements of Air and Ether.  The wind is strong, the air is cool and dry and life is sooo… busy.  Are you the person who walls themselves in and waits until the winds have passed or do you ride the force of the winds for all they are worth? This depends on who you are and who you were born to be.  Those whose bodies, minds, and emotions are like the wind – flexible, quick,  open to change, always looking for options and on the move, may see this time of year as just another challenge to take head-on.  If this describes you, be mindful of the symptoms of VATA overload:  lack of focus, constipation or gas, numbness / tingling, sharp and inconsistent pain (especially in the lower back), difficulty falling asleep.

The good news is, according to Ayurveda, you can help you find your balance by simply adding in activities and foods which ground you so that you can harness the energy of the winds without getting blown away.  Stay warm and establish routines and rituals.  Do not overexert or overstimulate yourself.  Favor foods and smells that are sweet, heavy and warm.  Avoid raw or cold foods / beverages, erratic habits of eating and exercises, going to bed too late, watching TV or viewing a computer screen late into the evening.

Today we began working on balance and moving within your base of support rather than stiffening and holding on.  When we bring our awareness to what our reactions are to the things in life which throw us off balance a little, we come from a grounded and safe place.  Much like a young, healthy tree, we may sway, but we will not fall over or break.

If you would like to learn more about VATA and Ayurveda, check out this website or many others which are easily found online and consider scheduling a Ayurvedic Counseling Session here at the studio to determine what your dosha-type is, signs and symptoms of imbalance, and recommendations for a personalized, balanced lifestyle.

A Full Moon Ritual: Making Room for the Freedom to Choose Something Different

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This Saturday a full moon will rise in a (very likely) clear North Carolina sky.  Lately, I have been working with how to “let go” of habits which no longer serve me and working with the intention “In this moment, I choose health”.  I have learned a lot about my so-called “triggers” and I can spot the moment of choice almost without fail.  Unfortunately, I have not yet found my way to consistently choosing something different.  Honestly, I usually choose the bad habit time and time again (In fact, as I write this blog I am finishing my glass of wine).  Many people believe that the arrival of the full moon brings a power and an opportunity to “let go” of anything which does not serve your intention.  So, I am choosing to invoke that power to explore and share with you what I have learned.

We can recognize a habit as bad and even forecast a situation that will almost always lead to exhibiting an unwanted behavior but still not feel free to choose something different.  This is what it means to be “hooked” and it happens to the best of us.  This week I learned that much of the problem lies in the dialogue we have with ourselves after the trigger.  You know the one – “I know….but, in this case…” or, “if it weren’t for this person (or this situation) I could definitely have made the right choice” or, worse yet, “I cannot believe I am going to do this again – what kind of awful person must I be…when will I ever learn?”  This dialogue, whether it is with yourself or with others, is the fuel for the fire of habit.  What would happen if we just decided to let go of the “I know but” and the self-loathing, to just stop and feel the desire creep up and accept that it is uncomfortable and difficult.  We could just quietly listen to the other person slander us or something we care about and not react but, instead, feel the tension build, notice the physical location and the intensity of this stress and then recognize that it is all temporary and irrelevant.  Pema Chodron says that when we do this we open ourselves to a “positive groundlessness” – a state of uncomfortable and ungrounded freedom where we can then make a different choice.  As we repeat this process day after day, we create new, positive, intentional habits.  This appears to me to be the missing link in all the self-help lessons I have learned and practiced before.  If this is true,  recognizing what habits are not serving you is not nearly enough. Nor is it much more productive to focus on your intended, or more positive choices and habits. We need to “let go” of the need to justify, to blame, to rationalize, to equalize, to control or, engage with even the thought of the behavior and, then experience what that detachment feels like.  Too often we feel the need to take a firm hold in something we believe in thinking that this will provide the footing we need to take the leap into what we truly want to happen.  Chodron’s theory is quite different.  I believe she is saying that if we grasp too strongly to any belief (positive or negative), we may be a little too comfortable there to make a solid leap for change.  But if we allow ourselves to just experience what it feels like to be a “hooked” human being with an overactive brain and conflicting desires we will be free to move, change and evolve without constraint and without the holds that bring us back time and time again.

So, as you look up into the sky, and see the full moon rising this weekend, acknowledge what no longer serves you and, then, label all the reasons you feel it it isn’t right for you and all the reasons it is still comfortable for you and all the barriers you have to changing your behavior.  Finally, choose to let go of all of these thoughts and prepare yourself to be drawn in by the moon’s gradual waning into a positive state of groundlessness and, subsequently, a gradual return to the power of fullness.