I Am Peace

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MONDAY MANTRA: I am peace.

December is, for many of us, the busiest time of year. Ironically, though, it is also the time of year that we talk most about peace on earth and goodwill to men. So, how do we reconcile the demands and extremes of the holidays, with our fundamental hope for peace?

By recognizing that peace is not something to wish for in the future. It is not some elusive ideal that we can only hope to achieve. Peace is a state of mind, a choice we make to practice ahimsa (non-violence) in every moment of every day.

Ahimsa is one of the highest values in the yogic practice. It is much further-reaching than physical non-violence. Ahimsa teaches us to refrain from negativity in all aspects of our life, including our actions, speech, and thoughts, about ourselves and others.

Every single one of us can be peace, by reminding ourselves that peace is a state of being. Any time it feels out of reach, use the mantra “I am peace” to remind yourself that peace is a who you are at your core. No matter how circumstances in life may change, peace is something that is always waiting within, ready to be revealed and shared with others.

We Can’t Get Happy, We Can Only Be Happy

MONDAY MANTRA: We can’t get happy, we can only be happy.

What’s the one thing everyone wants in life?

We all want to be happy. We chase happiness, as if it is a material possession that we can claim as our own. We think if I only had this or that, I would be happy. If only I was richer, thinner, or smarter, I would be happy. The longer we wait to “get happy”, the further out of reach it seems.

The truth about happiness, though, is that it is not as elusive as we think.  It is not a thing to be chased, but a state of being that we choose. We are, at our core, already happy. Our bliss might be hiding behind our attachments to the past, or our fears about the future, but happiness is always within, waiting to be revealed.

All we have to do to connect with our inner joy is learn to quiet the chatter of the mind. Be the witness to our thoughts, and practice non-attachment to outcome. In so doing, we realize that our thoughts are the only thing standing between us and happiness.

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Change The Story

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MONDAY MANTRA: Change the story.

In yoga, one of the highest values is satya (truthfulness). The concept of satya is far-reaching; it teaches us to honest with ourselves, as much as we are honest with others. It also encourages us to seek the truth in every situation, and recognize that sometimes the things that feel like a burden, are actually our greatest opportunities for happiness. What we want most is often waiting for us on the other side of the work we avoid.

Try practicing satya the next time you find yourself resisting the thing you know you need the most. Whether it is your yoga practice, work that is cumbersome, or a relationship that is difficult. Ask yourself if it is truly negative, or could there be a beautiful opportunity for growth in the very thing you are trying to avoid? Surrender to the truth, and make the choice that best supports your long-term happiness.

What Can I Learn From This?

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MONDAY MANTRA: What can I learn from this?

Everybody struggles. It’s a simple fact of life. Our circumstances are constantly changing–sometimes for better, and sometimes for worse. The one thing that never changes, though, is who we are, We are the same person at age 5, age 25, and age 75. The more we connect with that essential sense of self through our yoga practice, the more we can control how we respond to the struggles in our lives. Instead of asking “Why do bad things happen?”, we practicing asking, “What can I learn from this?”. When we recognize that our struggles are our teachers, the easier it becomes to make peace with things outside our control.

It Is What It Is

MONDAY MANTRA: It is what it is, but it will be what you make it.

Our minds are constantly labeling our experiences as good or bad–this is human nature. But what would happen if we simply accepted experiences as they are, instead of judging them? This is the true purpose of yoga. Learning to still the mind so that we can find freedom in how we feel, how we think, and how we move. When we let go of judgement, and embrace what is, we realize that we already have everything we need to be happy.

What Would You Do, If You Were Not Afraid?

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Two years ago, my friend Jennifer asked me to teach a lunchtime yoga class at her small business, Eclipse Post, Inc. It’s a small video post-production house, that does work for many of the major national networks.

Jennifer originally told everyone that lunchtime yoga was a perk for her clients, but now tells me that she secretly wanted it for herself as well. As a wife, mother of two, and small business owner, she was finding it hard to get to yoga classes after work…even though she knew she really needed it!

I jumped at the opportunity, and have been teaching at Eclipse Post, Inc. ever since. I seriously love these yogis–practicing with them is a gift for all of us! They are an inspiring group of people, always willing to try new things. I tell them every week that they are capable of more than they know, and that the secret to happiness is learning to let go of our plans, so we can have the life that is waiting for us.

Sometimes, though, I wonder if they actually believe me. Do they see themselves, the way I see them? Do they know that everything they hope for is possible, when they trust the struggle?

I got a message on Wednesday night that provided a resounding YES! They get it. Without any formal training, one of my Eclipse Post students, Nicole, made herself into a teacher. When her plans to be a student fell through, Nicole trusted herself to lead a yoga class, in the middle of Central Park at Atlantic Station, in front of a bunch of strangers.

She believed she could, and so she did! I know it was not easy–teaching yoga for the first time is terrifying for everyone–but they tell me she owned it, and empowered a lot of other people in the process.

This is what this crazy healthy life is all about! Leaning into our fears, claiming our roles as leaders, trusting our struggles, and believing that everything is possible.

So the question is, what would you do, if you weren’t afraid? Check out Nicole’s story, and let it inspire you to overcome your fears, so you might claim the bigger, brighter life that is waiting for you!

Namaste~

Amber

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Seek The Truth Relentlessly

Happy Friday! Your mission this weekend, should you choose to accept it, is to practice satya.

The word satya means truthfulness, but it’s meaning is further reaching than it seems. Truthfulness in word, thought, and deed requires resiliency and faith. By practicing satya, we learn to surrender our plans, so that we may have what we really want the most.

Make satya your mantra this weekend. When you feel frustrated, overwhelmed, or sad, ask yourself what is really going on. Is the reaction founded in truth?

We all have stories about who we are, and what we can or can’t do. We cling to them, because we believe they keep us afloat. More often than not, however, they drag us down.

Don’t let the story stand between you and what you might become. Seek the truth relentlessly, and do what must be done. You can do really hard things! Allow yourself to be vulnerable, and know that what you want most is waiting for you, on the other side of satya. ॐImage

photo: suepatterson.wordpresss.com

Time Matters

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Did y’all hear that a little snow brought our city to a standstill last month? I was one of the thousands of people that were stuck on the road for most of the day. It took me 7 hours to travel 13 miles. Lucky for me, the gas tank was full, and I had snacks on hand, so it was not as much of an ordeal as it could have been.

Even so, it was pretty stressful to be stuck in the car for hours on end.

My journey began at 1 PM, just after the snow started. By 7 PM, I was still 3 miles from home, and really thirsty, so I stopped to buy water at Walgreens.

The store was empty, but for 3 or 4 people and a single clerk. Shoppers were quick to pick out their items, and hop in the check out line–everybody wanted to get home as soon as possible. As I paid for my water, the man waiting behind me placed a 6 pack of Milwaukee’s Best, and two bottles of red wine on the counter. Another man walked up after him, and they struck up a conversation.

“You’ve got the right idea, buddy! Stocking up for a long day tomorrow.”

It struck me as so funny, because I had been thinking along very different lines. Sitting in the car for hours on end had stiffened up all of my muscles, and my joints ached where I had broken bones many years ago. I was not thinking about getting my drink on at all…instead, I was giddy at the prospect of having an entire day at home to stretch, flow, practice arm balances, and cook healing foods.

As they say, to each his own…

But I wonder what would have happened if I had encouraged my fellow shoppers to think differently about how they spent their snow day. This crazy healthy life has taught me that time is our most valuable asset, and we must spend it wisely. Every day is an opportunity to do better, and to be better. It’s all cumulative.

So, with this in mind, I thought I’d share what we are looking forward to doing, while we are trapped in the house:

1) Learning how to cook healthy foods. The girls are learning to roast veggies, make green juices, sauté fruit, and make spiced nuts. This means our kitchen will be a big fat mess for the next few days, but it’s a price I am willing to pay. Let the dishes pile up…we’ll all be better off for it in the end!

2) Memorizing Sun Saluation B. They girls have been practicing yoga with me for a while, but our practices are more whimsical and silly, than organized. Helping them learn Sun Salutation B will teach them how to wrap structure around their personal practice. And maybe, just maybe, they will even teach their friends! We play dance music to make the experience fun, and crack lots of jokes, so it feels more like a game than a chore.

3) Talking about how yoga philosophy complements our Christian faith. I have been reading snippets of Patnajali’s Yoga Sutras to the girls for the past few weeks, and it’s started some really important conversations about their friendships, their goals, and their personal habits. Concepts like ahimsa (non-harming) help them understand to choose their words and behavior carefully, santosha (contentment) teaches them to be grateful for their blessings, and bramacharya (non-excess) teaches them the importance of everything in moderation.

These are just a few of the crazy, but healthy ways we will spend our icy days at home. I think it’s some of the best things we can do for our kids right now, because, as Andy Stanley recently said, “In the areas that matter most, you can’t make up misspent time.”

Truthfully, part of me wants to park the kids in front of the TV, and curl up in bed with a good book. Mama could use a day off, now and then, too. But I won’t. Because time matters, and those of us in the Deep South have been given the gift of a whole lotta extra time to kill this week…and my crazy healthy family is going to make the best of it.

 

Merry Christmas, Y’all


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Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you are enjoying the wonders of the season. Over here at My Crazy Healthy Life, we have been busy preparing for Jesus’s birthday party and Santa’s arrival. It’s a season that challenges my commitment to keeping life in balance, so I am using my normal blogging time to be still and reflect on what it all means.

I am not blogging right now, but I am chatting on the Facebook page for My Crazy Healthy Life. Check in with us there, and join the crazy healthy discussion. We’re talking about strategies that help us stay healthy during the holidays, healthy gifts ideas, quick and easy food ideas, and short yoga sequences (“power poses”) that can keep us on track as we wrap up 2013.

I’ll be back here writing soon, with some big plans for 2014. Until then, please know that I sincerely appreciate your interest in my blog, and I wish you and yours a very merry and healthy Christmas!

Namaste~

Amber

The 7th Discipline of Yoga: Just Be

When I was in yoga teacher training, one of my classsmates, Charlie, became the Yoda to my Luke Skywalker.

At the time, he had been practicing yoga and veganism for 25 years, and I was still relatively new to yoga. We ate lunch together at Whole Foods, every other Saturday for five months. He saw potential in me, and I enjoyed his company.

We talked about his wife, my husband, our new dog, yoga, meditation, and food. Charlie was mild-mannered, and easy to tallk to. Most of the time. Every now and then, Charlie would ask a question that totally rocked my world. Forever.

Like the time he casually looked up from his salad, and asked me, “What is your life?”

My mind fumbled for an answer. I told him that my life was working at my marketing job, spending time with my husband, walking the dog, and practicing yoga.

Without flinching, Charlie said, “That’s your history. What is is your life?”

I could feel my face getting warmer, as I squirmed in my seat. I considered the question again, and finally told him that my life was about helping people heal, and becoming the best person I can be.

He looked at me through his soft gaze, and said, “No, Amber. Your life is not what you did yesterday, or what you hope to do tomorrow. Your life is what is happening now. Right here, at this table. Eating this food, talking to me, this is your life. You can’t change what happened yesterday, and you can’t control what will happen tomorrow. But you can command how you live in each moment. This is you living, right here, right now.”

It took me a couple of days to process what that meant, but once I did, it changed everything I believed about who I was. I realized that I had been clinging to the traumas of my past, and letting them define me.

Charlie’s question taught me that we are not really living, if we are preoccupied with what was, and what might be. It helped me cultivate awareness, and inspired me to seek that feeling of just being in my yoga practice. And the more I learned how to just be on my mat, the sweeter life became off my mat.

This is what the seventh limb of yoga, dhyana, is all about. Practicing the art of living in the moment. It is what happens in meditation, when we are no longer forcing our attention to a single point, and we are being without doing. Our minds are aware of what is happening, but we are not reacting to any of it. We are living in the now, and there is room for God to fill our mind, body and spirit.

The discipline of dhyana helps us live a more full life. It teaches us awareness, and cultivates gratitude. We learn to value stillness. It’s finally ok to just be. And we notice things we have not noticed in the past. The sky is bluer, the flowers smell sweeter, and we feel grateful for the day we have been given.

It is the most peaceful feeling we can experience, to be in the moment, but not of the moment. Thankfully, it doesn’t just have to happen on our yoga mat. We can practice dhyana all day long, by paying attention, and not reacting, to the world around us.

I’ll never forget Charlie’s face, and what a relief it was to realize that I had the power to change my story. By practicing dhayana on my mat, I learned what it means to really live.

What’s your story? Could dhyana make it different?

Namaste,

Amber

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photo: peacefulpose.com

The 6th Discipline of Yoga: Where Meditation Begins


Believe it or not, I was in a sorority when I was in college. I proudly wore the wine and silver blue, and chanted the Pi Beta Phi creed, every monday night at Chapter Dinner:

“Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things.”

I didn’t go to church when while I was away at school, so chanting these words from Philippians was the closest I got to scripture during four of the most transformative years of my life. I’d like to say that this weekly reminder to think virtuous thoughts kept me honest, but like most people, I had more than a few ungodly moments in my college days.

Now that I know what I know about dharana, the sixth limb of yoga, I wish had taken these words to heart during those years, and actually spent time contemplating what was virtuous, and what was worthy of praise, and less time losing my soul at mixers and keg parties.

The word dharana means concentration. It is the act of focusing our mind on a word, or a set of words, that we would like to absorb into our soul, in preparation for connecting with God. We practice it in savasana or seated meditation, and it really is as simple as it sounds. We tune out the world around us, and focus our minds on the mantra we have chosen to meditate upon.

Dharana is where meditation begins, and where a lot of confusion arises about whether Christians should practice yoga at all. Yoga arose from Hindu and Buddhist traditions, so it is true that dharana was originally practiced by chanting verses from eastern scriptures. But that was then, and this is now, and other religions have explored yoga as a practice that deepens relationships with God. Personally, I don’t see any reason why dharana cannot be a Christian practice.

Words are just words, and they don’t actually mean anything until we associate a meaning with them. God knows our hearts, and by focusing our mind on His words, such as peace, love, forgiveness, and salvation, we draw closer to Him.

Perhaps more importantly, I believe, with all my heart, that God wants us to practice dharana. He gave us beautiful psalms, and insightful parables, and timeless wisdom. Why wouldn’t He be thrilled if we chose to dedicate time each day to think on these things? They are powerful, and we honor Him by purposefully focusing on His guidance through the fifth limb of yoga, dhrarana.

Namaste,

Amber

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Photo: jimmiescollage.com

God’s Hour

This is not a blog about religion. At least I never intended it to be.

But the more I have written, the more I have realized that it is impossible to separate my faith from what I know to be true about this crazy healthy life.

When I began my quest to get healthy, I was mostly focused on external appearances. I wanted to lose weight and look great in a bathing suit. It was a self-centered approach to fitness that ebbed and flowed–a constant struggle that left me feeling like I could never quite measure up. No matter how hard I tried, I could not sustain pursuits that were all about me.

After I had kids, however, I found new reasons to get healthy, that were more focused on serving God’s purposes for my life. My focus shifted from pursuing my needs, to the meeting the needs of my children. I wanted to be able to pick them up and carry them, when they grew tired of walking to the zoo. I wanted to have enough energy to play games with them after school. I hoped to be someone they admired. And I especially wanted to live long enough to meet their children.

Ten years later, I still feel all of these things, and I am keenly aware of the tremendous responsibility that has been entrusted to me. I want to be a great Mom to them, so I have to put the oxygen mask on myself first. In order to do this, I have to get right with God spiritually, as well as physically and emotionally.

To do that, I spend at least 60 minutes each day investing in the body that He created for me. It doesn’t have to happen all at once–it can be broken into smaller time commitments–but an hour each day is what He needs from me, to help me fulfill my purpose in life.

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Here are the daily disciplines that have helped me sustain a healthy lifestyle, while juggling family and a career:

1. Exercise (30 minutes)

Corinthians reminds us that we are not our own, and we are to “Glorify God in your body.” Our bodies are gifts from God, and should be treated as such. Just as diamonds are created through heat and pressure, we must also use resistance to become the treasure that God wants us to be. Thirty minutes of vigorous, resistance-based exercise each day is necessary, for us to be our best for God. For me, this means yoga, but it might mean something different for you. I don’t think it matters what we call it, as long as we intentionally connect with our physical body, for the purpose of building strength and overcoming resistance, every single day.

2. Nourish (20 minutes)

God gave us everything we need to fuel our bodies when He created the earth, yet we eat more packaged foods, than the kinds that come straight from the farm to the table. The foods God created are rich in phytonutrients, amino acids, and minerals that our bodies need to remain in good health, and should be the foundation of our diet. These foods also take more time to prepare, but this is the sacrifice we must make, to be in good health. Taking time to prepare and enjoy food from the earth glorifies God.

3. Meditate (5 minutes)

Psalm 46 tells us “Be still and know that I am God.” It is essential to put ourselves in “time out” once a day, so that we can reconcile with who God is, what He has done, and what He is capable of. Meditation is the act of surrendering our mind, body and spirit, so He can fill us up with His purposes. This can be as simple as closing our eyes, and quieting our mind, or we can meditate on specific concepts from scripture (heaven, love, or peace, for example). This practice is best done sitting on the floor, but can also be practiced laying on the ground, with our arms at our sides, and palms facing up (as long as you don’t let it turn into a Scooby Nap).

4. Pray (5 minutes)

Pray throughout the day, with the intention of seeking His guidance. Get in the habit of praying upon waking, before meals, and at bedtime, as well as any other times that you want to connect with Him. Simple prayers work just as well as complex prayers…God knows our hearts, and does not need fancy words or explanations. This practice is supported in Romans: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” We renew our minds by considering what God needs from us, asking Him for support, and practicing gratitude, in the form of prayer, throughout the day.

5. Practice discernment (takes no time at all)

Erma Bombeck once said, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I have not a single bit of talent left, and I could say, I used everything You gave me.”  We must ask ourselves every day, “What is happening around me, and what does God want me to do with it?” When we practice awareness, we create more opportunities to use our talents for God’s purposes, and draw closer to Him in the process.

What do you think? We can talk about it, if you’d like. Leave your thoughts in the comments below, or send me a private message through the Facebook page for My Crazy Healthy Life.

Namaste,

Amber

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