Tag: breath

Our “Strandemic” in Bali

Our virtual Stay OM Yoga classes kept us sane and connected during the most challenging times of lockdown

 

In late March of 2020, I am sure you remember the week when Covid shifted from a “Chinese problem” to a global pandemic. Our news feeds on our phones became flooded with rising death tolls from around the world and images of dead bodies being escorted from hospitals in Hazmat suits were burned into our consciousness.

My family and I found ourselves in Bali, Indonesia having just finished running one of our EcoKarma retreats.  We had a flight back to Canada a few days after the retreat ended in mid-March.

On the day before we to leave Bali on March 18, we got a text message from the airlines saying our flights were cancelled.  We were a little surprised and slightly annoyed, but we didn’t panic. We simply bought new tickets for the next week at a fairly reasonable price.

Day by day, the news headlines increasingly filled our heads with fearful thoughts of an evil virus.  We loved being in warm Bali, but we longed for the safety of our new home we had just bought in Canada.

Every day, my wife was in touch with the Canadian Embassy to let them know that we were safe and shared our location. Every few hours, we received status updates on What’s App from the Canadian Government saying something like, “Get out of Indonesia now. Rates are spiking in Jakarta and Indonesia is set to become the next hotspot for Coronavirus.”

Watching workers pick up trash with no masks and gloves in a time when the rest of the world was bleaching their door handles was unsettling, to say the least

I did my best to stay calm and take it one step at a time, but I remember a jolt of fear in my heart when I would watch groups of six or seven workers picking up trash cans and emptying them into garbage trucks.  In a time where hand sanitizer sales were going through the roof handling truckloads of unsanitary debris.  None of the men were wearing gloves or masks.

It sent shudders of panic down my spine. My phone was giving me new updates by the hour about how the virus is transmitted through different materials. Coronavirus (the media hadn’t started calling it Covid-19 yet) lasts 3-7 days on plastic, up to 4 days on paper, 24 hours on carboard and 4 hours on glass.

While the rest of the world was bleaching their countertops and wearing rubber gloves to touch doorknobs, these men were standing up to their knees in trash without concern.

“Oh, man,” I thought to myself, “If this country doesn’t take better precautions, we are going to be the next Italy.”

I slept in fits and starts.  I feared for my family’s health and I wasn’t sure if seeing body bags being hauled down streets of the village where we were staying was soon going to be a common site.

As if this wasn’t enough, I was living with massive economic uncertainty.  My demographic was directly hit by the restrictions Covid brought to the world.  I make my living by gathering large groups of 40-80 people together to run yoga and wellness programs.  I had to cancel two really big trainings. My income went immediately to zero overnight.  I was in disbelief.

I explained to my young son that we might lose our new house to the bank, but don’t worry, we have each other so we will be ok.  We will be back home soon.

 

Another Cancelled Flight

 

It was on March 24 that things really shifted.  We had a ticket from Denpasar, Bali to Taipei for a short 3-hour layover and then on to Vancouver. We had our bags packed, our N-95 masks ready and a taxi driver arranged.  Finally, we were homeward bound.

It was about one hour before we were to leave for the Bali airport that our friend Kat texted us saying, “Hey, did you see the Taipei airport just closed for international transit?”

“No, this can’t be.” I texted back in full confidence.  “We’ve already checked in for our flights and EVA airlines hasn’t sent us any messages saying our flight was cancelled.”

Panic set in when I did google the status of the international airport in Taiwan.

Kat was right. It has closed at 12AM that day. A mere twelve hours before our flight home.  A call to EVA air confirmed it.  We were not leaving Bali that day.

 

Sleepless Nights 

 

The normally bustling streets of Bali were empty by the end of March.

I lay awake at night trying to sort things out. I played out different scenarios in my head. “With no tourists in Bali, the locals could turn to crime,” I thought to myself.

We have next to no security either.  Bali villas are famous for their indoor/ outdoor living.  We had just a small, seven foot wall around our compound that I easily climbed over it in about 15 seconds on the occasions that we forget my keys inside.

I tossed and turned. It occurred to me that I didn’t even know how to call the police in this country or speak the language even if I did.

“Does 9-11 even work over here?” I asked myself at 3:30 AM.  I was clueless.

This fear was exacerbated as we watched videos of Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau saying, “All Canadians must return home now.”

Our friend Daphne in Texas was kind enough to help us. She was our friend who had become an angel travel agent. Out of the goodness of her heart, she volunteered hour on the phone to help us find flights.  She scoured kayak.com for any tickets while I searched google flights and my wife checked Expedia.

She was telling us on our call that we have to get out of Bali. She had been talking to her friends in Jakarta. There are no respirators at the hospitals in Bali. If we got really sick, we would no access to the services we needed.  On top of this, I only had 2 more weeks left on my travel medical insurance.

I will never forget her words.  “The situation in Jakarta is already not good and if things get bad in Bali, the only thing they have to turn to is prayer… And they are sure going to need that.”

As we looked for tickets, the harshness of human nature became clear. At a time when you would think that kindness would prevail and airlines would help travelers get home, they were jacking their prices up by the second.

It was like a mad bidding war.  One minute you would find flights with three seats available for a whopping $4000 per ticket.  By the time you could press “book now,” the prices had risen again to $5000 per ticket. Then the next minute, they would be sold out altogether.

“This is insane,” I thought. I was trying to maintain my calm as I swallowed down a harsh emotional cocktail of part anger, part worry and part tears of sadness.  I pushed them back and reminded myself to stay strong and calm.

By the end of our FaceTime call, we had bought three tickets for about $12,000 for my whole family to fly back home on a wild route through 4 different airports. This was the opposite of a dream flight.  The total flying time was around 50 long hours.  We would have to sleep on the floor of the Jakarta airport for 12 hours waiting for transfers while wearing N-95 masks.  It sounded like hell.

The psychological signature of these early stages of the pandemic for most people on the planet was two bitter pills of terror.  One pill was the fear for our own health and the ones we love.  The second pill was all about economic fear for how we were going to keep the lights on.

Now, it seemed like I had been issued and an extra-large dosage. Here we were stranded in a foreign country; we had no more income and I just put $12,000 on my credit card to fly home at a time when the news headlines were filled with news about how Coronavirus is actually transmitted through the recirculated air in airplanes.

“Is it more of a risk to fly out of here than to stay?” I asked myself incessantly.

 

Just When we Thought It Couldn’t get Worse…

 

Lion had a slight fever and didn’t want to swim or eat croissants. 2 signs that something was really wrong.

Just as I thought that my daily hits of adrenaline and panic couldn’t get any worse, it did.  Our nine-year old son Lion who was normally filled with an abundance of playful boy-energy began to feel weak.

“Dad, I just feel so tired,” he would say as he slumped over the front of our rented scooter as we drove home.  If there are two things that he loves it’s swimming in the ocean and croissants from the local French Bakery, Monsieur Spoon.  He wasn’t interested in either and, in fact, he barely ate and instead of swimming at the beach, he would sit silently in a lump.

Over and over, my mantra of, “don’t panic” and “one step at a time,” filled my headspace.  It worked to some degree, but still fear lived inside my wife and I.  We only felt reassured by the fact that, besides feeling tired, it was his belly that he complained about.  Thank God it wasn’t the tell-tale Covid symptoms of cough and fever.  He was weak and didn’t eat for a few days.

Then, just two days before we were due to depart, Lion felt warm to us.  We took his temperature and to our slight horror, he had a small fever.  It was only 99.1 Fahrenheit, which is relatively mild, but still nothing we wanted to be faced with.

This was the hand we were dealt.  There was no option to tell the universe, “Um, excuse me, this is not my order, can you please send it back to the chef.”

We took him to the doctor and he said that it could be dengue, a mosquito born virus common in the tropics.

To this point in time, we still don’t know exactly what affected him, but we do know that the next day, his energy was slowly returning.

The day we cancelled our tickets home

The day we were due to depart, it weighed heavily on my mind.  I still wasn’t entirely sure if our son was infectious even if he was feeling better.  The doctors suspected dengue, but we still don’t know for sure.  There were no rapid tests for Covid available back then.

All my philosophy studies in university didn’t prepare me for this internal debate.  The only symptom of Covid was tiredness and a small fever than came and went in one day.  Was it ethical to put him on a plane and possibly infect others in the unlikely event it was Covid?

This worry combined with the fact that I couldn’t stomach the $12,000 in credit card debt that I was going to assume at a time when I didn’t know where my next dime was coming from helped us make a decision.  It seemed at this point, even if Lion had previously had dengue and not Coronavirus, our chances of getting sick were higher on the long flights back home than if we stayed put.

We had a family meeting.  “Let’s ride this out in Bali,” I suggested.  “For almost the same price as the tickets home, we can rent a villa in Bali for 9 months.  We will have clean, tropical air and good food.”

We made a collective decision about 2 hours before the flight was supposed to leave to cancel our flights and, in so doing, we sealed the deal.

We were staying.  I swallowed hard as I pressed “cancel ticket” button on Expedia’s site

 

Our fate was sealed

 

In one sense, there was so much relief in my mind because there is no greater prison cell than a human mind full of indecision.  We had been going back and forth for weeks now.  Should we just stay? Every 10 minutes we changed our minds.  It was so crazy making that I would almost prefer the torture of being crushed by elephants that to live inside a mind that careens back and forth indecisively between two different options.

Now there was no way out. No more torture of indecision.  Our fate lay in the island of Bali. The international airport closed in April and it remains closed to this day.

With Lion feeling better, we ordered food delivery from local farmers, we promised we would live into the hashtag “#StayHome.”

I sat at the breakfast table and explained to our son that we will be fine, but we have to cut off all contact with the outside world.  I drew cartoon diagrams of the spikey coronavirus outside the castle of our home and explained how viruses are transmitted.

“Think of our home as “Fort Finn.” Nobody comes in or out.  If we do this, nothing can happen.”

“This was going to work out,” I assured them.

Another Unexpected Curve Ball

 

Insiya feeling unwell. Not what we ordered

“When life looks like Easy Street, there is Danger at Your Door,” The Grateful Dead

We felt healthy and hopeful. At least for a few days, then slowly, my wife Insiya started sniffling.

“She’s prone to colds,” I reminded myself, “so don’t panic.”

Then the next day, it happened.  A fever hit.  She looked grey and not herself.  This didn’t seem like just a cold.

She lay on our couch and I truly felt fear.  More than anything, I feared for the health of the person I love most dearly on the planet.  I feared for my son, as well.  Was this Coronavirus? My plan was backfiring.  We were supposed to keep all viruses out of Fort Finn, not bring them in like a Trojan Horse.  She has a fever. Again, like Lion’s it wasn’t very high but it’s still worrisome.

Not knowing what was coming next and thinking chances were high that I may be infected, I sat my Lion down and explained the plan if both his parents got sick.  He would have to make eggs for himself for breakfast and quarantine in his bedroom. I explained how to have groceries delivered using an app.

After one rough and very sleepless night, the next evening Insiya’s fever is gone but she is still sniffly and weak.  We’ve made it through another day.

 

Enter the Daily Blissology Commitments:

 

How could I find peace in this situation?  I remember how I had worked myself into such a frenzy with constant attention to the newsfeed alerts on my phone. After watching what was happening in Italy, I wasn’t even entirely sure if I would be alive in 2 weeks.

We needed something to lean into. The universe had truly knocked us to our knees.

Nature Appreciation in the normally bustling beaches of Canggu

We turned extra hard at this point to the five Daily Blissology Commitments of Yoga, Meditation, Nature Appreciation, Food Awareness and Gratitude.

The most healing thing at this point was nature.  Intuitively, our family silently walked towards the beach to see the sunset to end each day.  Almost all the tourists have left Bali for the safety of their own countries. It’s a surreal site to see the emptiness.  The phrase “Quiet Bali” normally seems like an oxymoron but this is our reality.

The beaches in Canggu where we stay in Bali are normally filled with hundreds of tourists. They are surfing, playing volleyball, laying back on beanbag chairs with a coconut or a Bintang beer while loud music pumps out of the local food stands called warungs.  People in bikinis can be seen everywhere showing off their tanned butts or pouty lips for their instagram feeds in front of bright orange sunsets while dogs and children are playing in the background.

However now, in the presence of the massive, billowing cumulonimbus Bali clouds, the vast horizon and the blue churning ocean, we seem so small.  The splendor of nature is so big.  It’s like bathing in beauty.

Our worries seem far away.  We’ve developed what I call, “Stress Amnesia.  What I’ve learned about Nature Appreciation is that when we sit in the confines of our homes, sometimes those walls start closing in on you.  Your problems keep you trapped.  They become all you can see.

All problems seem bigger within the confines of four walls and smaller relative to vastness of Nature.

2020 was a year characterized by restricted breath.  From George Floyd to Coronavirus and it’s politically charged signature, the mask, so many people on this planet have learned not to take breath for granted.

Connecting to the ocean + staying relaxed became part of the Homeschool Curriculum

This couldn’t be truer for our family now under this big sky.  Fear has been constricting us so hard. We have been enveloped in worry. Insiya has been sick.  The term for a flu in French is “la grippe.” It grips you like a hand that squeezes.  In 2020, we have all been gripped by a huge cosmic hand that won’t let our lungs fully expand when we inhale.

Our bodies are tense.  To breathe deeply, we need our intercostal, side rib muscles to activate so they can expand the lungs and increase their volume.  If these muscles remain in the grip of our minds, they will not move, and breath will remain shallow.

Likewise, we have to let go of the knots in our belly.  It is key to soften the abdominal muscles a little so that the belly button can move enough to make space for the diaphragm to descend into the organs of our viscera.  When we hold our bodies tight, it’s like driving a car with the emergency brake on.

The interesting thing about stress and worry is that it feels like something is happening out there to you and there is nothing you can do about it.  But we are the one creating these gripping sensations.

Stress happens between our ears.  Our mental reaction to a stimulus controls how the nervous system sends signals to muscles. These signals tell the muscles to contract so that they are primed for action in the” fight, flight or freeze” response.  With prolonged stress, where we live with chronic tightness, our minds become our own worst enemy.  Our minds become like the desert wind that shape the sand dunes in our body.*

Most of us don’t realize that we are living with this high degree of this tension until it is gone.  It is a subconscious app that stays running in the background of the operating system of our minds and body.

Our family has been squeezed tight.  But that night on the beach, it all shifts.

Nature Appreciation: Slowing down and reseting back to calm. A simple nightly ritual that made all the difference!

By tuning into the beauty of nature that firmly gripping hand in our bellies and our hearts loosens.   We can finally exhale fully as we stand silently under that huge sky.  We aren’t just breathing in air; we are breathing in waves of gratitude.  We are no longer ghosts in this world.  It is like our souls are returning to our bodies again. There is hope.

We sit and watch as the sky turns bright orange, purple and pink.  The wind blows warmly on our faces and we breathe calmy.  Memorized by the spell of the beautiful, we whisper under our breath what almost everyone does when they slow down and observe the magnificent displays of nature, “Oh my God.” The word God is extra breathy, like “Gahhhhhhd.”

That prolonged exhalation is an unconscious sigh to release our worries and bring us into the present.  We breathe more easily.  The lesson is clear: Sometimes we need to go to the places that take our breath away in order to get it back. 

We are practicing “Nature Appreciation” at this point. No conversations, just silently observing and receiving the “transmission of the beautiful.

Over the coming weeks, we seek more and more Nature Appreciation moments.  It’s the antidote to the news headlines and the worries that fill our heads so easily.  Silently basking in beauty becomes a tether back to sanity in an insane world.

We commit to eating the best food we can.  We get produce from the local farmers delivered and every night, the ritual of family dinner becomes a joy.  It seems strange, but we love the slowness that the world has provided for us.  We share our stories and what we learned that day by candlelight.  It’s all so simple now.

Food Awareness: Supporting local, organic farmers on Bali and nourishing our microbiome in the process

We cut out all food that does not make us feel good.  Fresh and local is the only way. Our microbiome is now linked to the land that has become our home.  I used to travel all over the world to teach but I’m noticing the local produce is making me feel extra alive.  The microbes of this land become part of me.  As Hippocratis says, “all health starts in the gut.”  Our immune systems grow stronger as our minds become cleared.  Food is not just our medicine; it is our joy.

We practice Yoga daily.  It’s the ultimate quarantine activity.  You don’t need to go out to a gym, a studio or any public place. Yoga is so portable.  Simply unroll your mat, and you will have created a sacred shrine to increase your health and shed layers of worry.  We feel loose, yet strong and full of vitality.

We commit to Meditation every day.  I wake up before dawn and walk to the beach under the bright Bali stars.   Under those stars I get clearer and cleared daily.  I feel like peace and sanity are restored.  I am not sure how people stay sane if they don’t make the time to feel this peace.

Lastly, every day we practice our fifth daily commitment of Gratitude.  Usually at dinner or before bed, we share three “gratefuls.” Not only does this make us feel better as individuals, knowing the things that light us up become powerful conversation starters.  Sharing gratitude isn’t just good for you, it is our social glue.

It is through these five daily commitments that life in lockdown became joyous, healthy and peaceful again.

It occurs to us that destiny has been guiding us the whole time.  An invisible hand has been pushing us towards something with cancelled flights.  In 2008 we came here to Bali to film videos for the Blissology Project.  The DVDs came out in 2011 when our son Lion was born.

The world is still living with a high degree of fear and worry.  Nobody can say that they have and easy ride.  The message from the universe is clear: It’s time to share our medicine.  It’s time to bring back this version of the Blissology Project on it’s 10th Anniversary. Welcome to it! This is our story and we are so thrilled to launch the new version of 7 Yoga and 7 Meditation videos to help us all create an Upward Spiral in challenging times.

Thanks for reading.  I hope it helps you through your challenges and joys.

Good luck, everyone. Share you light even more during this pandemic. The world needs it! 

 

 

 

The Skill of Chill: Is your mind pulling you by the leash?

Dog and Boy walking - meditation analogy
Dog and Boy walking - meditation analogy

This is Cloud when Lion was walking him

Last winter our son, Lion took a friend’s dog 🐶 for a walk in Seattle.

The dog, named Cloud, outweighed Lion by about 40 pounds.

Lion loved walking the dog when a squirrel came running by, Cloud chased it. He soon discovered what it’s like to be WALKED BY A DOG rather than the other way around.

When I saw this, it hit me that this is what our emotions do to us. They are big dogs that we should be walking, but instead they are pulling us as they chase squirrels.

Our normal strategy for these out-of-control emotions is denial, ignoring, “stuffing down” or drowning them with distraction many times in the form of red wine.

What we call Chill is usually about unplugging. The yogis call this Tamas.

Most times we don’t realize it, but what we are actually unplugging from is a connection to our Inner Light.

Yoga teaches us that there is a different type of relaxation that is still connected to Light. It’s called Sattva.

It is a calm and peaceful state. It opens the door to the deepest essence of our being.

But finding Sattva in a busy, frenetic world is not easy. Culturally, we are focused on external circumstances like accumulating material things or winning over the approval of others. This makes Sattvic inner peace harder to find and we become like a dog walker getting pulled by the dog. Our minds are pulling us, and it feels like we have no control.

What I’ve learned is that there is a Skill to Chill.

This is what our Commit to Bliss course is all about Nov 14. By strengthening our tools of yoga, meditation, philosophy (perspective,) and embodied physiology, we can step outside of the prison of the mind. We can relax into our greatness.

In case you can’t do the course, my top tip for the SKILL OF CHILL is to focus on the FULLNESS of breath.

Breathing is easy but BREATHING FULLY IS A SKILL. To feel our ribs moving so we can breathe into our potential means that we need to find what is restricting the movement of our breathing muscles.

We breathe fully, we will make peace with thought loops that manifest as holding patterns in our bodies.

Luckily, when we can unblock these places, the breath becomes more enjoyable and we tame the squirrel-chasing dog of our minds.

You’ve got the leash, so guide your mind. 🐕

Breathe out your tightness, breathe into your lightness.

Chill is a Skill.

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7 Ways Mindful Breathing can Wonderfully Change our Life

“Breath is the way in.” This mantra from Eoin Finn, founder of Blissology and one of my yoga teachers, sums up a practice that’s transformed my life, and very well could yours too: mindful breathing. Regularly pausing to breathe with intention is a gateway to all sorts of juicy awesomeness, infusing our minds with peace and hearts with joy.

One of the main ways I discern when something is important in my life and/or a life truth is when I get the same message from multiple sources. Years ago another yoga teacher of mine, Meghan Currie, said: “Breath is boss.”  Reflecting on this, I think it’d be fair to say Meghan first opened my eyes to see the gift of mindful breathing, while Eoin and Blissology’s teachings opened my hands to better feel and receive the gift at a deeper level.

I think the Truth Meghan opened me up to and Eoin helped me receive at a cellular level is that there’s something mystical and magical about breath, and I’m not alone. In quite a few languages, especially ancient ones, there is one word for “breath,” “Spirit,” and “spirit/soul.” It seems that from early on humans realized there’s something enlivening, spiritual, connective, and even Divine about the breath. Regarding the creation of humanity, traditions commonly speak of our Creator breathing life into the first humans. Breath is a wonderful way in, to connection with self, others, and Something/Someone bigger than and beyond ourselves (who I name “God,” but you might have a different word/name).

I’ve taken to calling our breath a super power each and every one of us has. I say that because when we’re faced with stress, when our body-minds begin to go into fight or flight mode, we can reset our “status” to calm by purposefully slowing down and deepening our breath, which takes us into our parasympathetic nervous system (or “rest and digest system”).

A quick search on Google reveals studies show we have 10-60,000 thoughts a day, nearly all of which are the same dang thing over and over again. Even worse, the vast majority of our thoughts are negative. Sad as this is, I think it makes sense as the fabric our capitalistic culture is built upon is formed with threads of fear, lack, scarcity, and competition, wherein only a select “few” can win at life. The news, advertisements, papers, and son on bombard us with negativity, so we naturally think accordingly.

This is where the power of breath comes in.

Each of us has an authentic and true self, an identity minus our achievements, possessions, money, accolades, and such. This beautiful center of us knows we are worthy, belong, and are loved just as we are, no doing required. Last time I saw Meghan, at a workshop she was guiding, she asked the group of us: “Can you think and breathe intentionally at the same time?” We looked at each other, cocked our heads in thought, and threw out some speculations before she said, “I don’t know, but let’s try it out!”

I bring this up because there’s something about purposeful breathing that quiets our minds, lessens our negative and obsessive thinking, and puts us in tune with our peaceful and joyful true self.

Eoin, who I’m also working on my 500-hour Yoga Teacher Training with at Blissology, talks of being a “conduit of Love.” I wholeheartedly agree and find mindful breathing tunes and opens us up to more fully and freely give and receive Love. With that said, here are 7 mindful breathing practices that transform me on a daily basis in the most amazing ways that I’m stoked to share with you and hope you find helpful:

1. Breathing your daily intention

About three years ago I began starting my day by breathing an intention or affirmation. Before I even get out of bed, I take a few minutes to build the day on a positive foundation by taking sweet, deep breathes in tandem with a way of being to center my day on. While the sky is the limit here, I’ll share a few things I’ve used to help get you started.

In the beginning, I was still recovering from the trauma of divorce, so I reminded myself “you are” (on the inhale), “loved” (on the exhale). When the time was right, this shifted to “be” or “give” (on the inhale), “love” (on the exhale). Around New Years, as I reflected on my journey of growth, development and love, the following came to me: inhale “kindness” and exhale “care”. It’s crazy good how well this simple practice prepares you for the day and sets you up to do what you intend. Note, while I’m a creature of habit and don’t change this very often, it could easily be different everyday.

2. Meditative/Mantra breathing

Have you ever felt overwhelmed? Do you have those days where minutes (or seconds) after waking up, your mind is flooded by cares, worries, and to-dos? Me too! Recognizing this mental storm, whenever it comes, and breathing into it with intention has an incredible stilling affect. Pick a mantra that meets you, your situation, and/or your need and breathe it. Swamped by the things you have to do? You could breathe in “I am,” and breathe out “enough.” A general one I’ve found really calming is inhaling “Yah” and exhaling “Weh” (pronounced way). The Hebrew tradition says when Moses met God at/in a burning bush, he asked the Creator for a name. The sacred name God gave Moses is Yahweh. Rabbis say part of the beauty of this revelation is we say God’s name with every breath of our lives, because inhales naturally make the “Yah” sound, while exhales give the “Weh.”

3. Noises to clear tension/stress

Whenever our dog, Biscuits, gets stressed she barks and/or shakes her body. She is so wise! When you encounter physical, emotional, and/or mental stress, set some of it free with a sigh, lip flutter, soft scream, growl, or anything else that feels good in your body (side note: do not growl immediately after your spouse does something stressful, it doesn’t end well … not that I’d know this from personal experience). I teach my yoga students this all the time, and it really is quite magical. Humor and smiling pretty much makes everything better and easier, and a fun way to clear tension is to take a Lion’s Breath (or ten), by opening your mouth as wide as you can and sticking your tongue out as far as you can with a “haaaa” sound.

4. Breathing life into tight/stuck parts

Not only does the breath help clear worries and stress, it can help transform it too. While mindful exhales can release tension, purposeful inhales can infuse physical, emotional, and/or mental tightness with greater lightness and more love. Does a place in your body feel tight? Try spending a minute or more breathing deeply into it. Is there a thought in your brain or feeling in your heart that’s stuck? Take some time to breathe light, love, peace, and/or joy into whatever it is. I should note here that nothing I’m presenting here is an “instant” cure or a magical love potion type of deal. Instead, they are practices that help shift our bodies and minds and often take time, yet, I can’t help but add that sometimes small shifts make big differences.

5. Breath prayers

Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes it’s helpful to remember we’re all connected. Linking a short prayer with deep breaths can have a calming and transformative effect. What help do you need? What aid do friends/family desire? What good could the world use more of? Take three deep breaths while mentally speaking greater thriving and flourishing into the life/lives of whoever is on your mind. You could try doing this whenever it comes to mind, or you could set a silent alarm on your phone for once, twice, three times, or whatever a day and pause for 15-ish seconds to do this. A favorite practice of mine has been to stop around 9 a.m., 12 p.m., and 3 p.m. to inhale deeply “Lord Jesus Christ,” exhale deeply “have mercy”, while holding in my mind anyone on my heart.

6. Deep breaths into back, belly and hips

The vast majority of our breath is both unconscious and shallow. I note this because slow, deep breathing calms our body and mind, while quick, shallow breathing speeds things up, sending our minds and body into a fight/flight type state. My point here is I think the rapid and thin quality of many of our natural breathing patterns literally shifts us toward being more worried, anxious, stressed, and fearful than we need to be. Still, whether my theory is right or wrong, taking slow deep breaths into your low back, belly, and hips will both feel really good and calm your body and mind, which will make you more focused and effective across the board.

7. “Mm mm mmm” sounds

I was first introduced to this at my first yoga teacher training, and while at first I was skeptical, now I love it so hard and teach it in yoga classes so frequently it’s ridiculous. You know the noise we make when food tastes delicious? The “mm mm mmm” noise? Try making it to celebrate other delicious things in life, like a hug, a pleasant thought, something/someone you’re grateful for, seeing something beautiful, a yoga practice, a good conversation, a great blog—the possibilities are endless. Try making a lengthy “mm mm mmm mmm mmm” now. Notice how it feels in the body. Witness the effects on your mind.

Bonus: Seeing, feeling and receiving each breath as a gift

This mentality and way of seeing life, the universe, and everything has rocked my world: Life is an amazing gift.Above I mentioned the ancient Hebrews, Greeks, and many others used the same word for breath, spirit, and Spirit, and part of this wisdom is we need each breath to continue living; this breath is a gift, as is the next. The gift of each breath is a reflection and reminder of a greater reality: Life is a precious, amazing, and beautiful gift from a good and loving Source.

The more I trust this, live with a gift-centered awareness, and practice the seven things above, the more peace and joy abound. I pray they aid you on your journey and we’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences!

By Lang Charters Blissology 200-hr YTT 2017
He’s here to awaken, open to, and be love together!
Check out Lang’s teacher profile to learn more.  

Presence, Meditation + Love: Three Rivers, One Ocean

I always teach why we need to be in the present before explaining how. I feel this is something that is elusive to people. Simply put, presence opens the door to more intimate engagement in life; life has more meaning and joy in the present.

A simple example is food.

When we are present to the food we eat, we eat slowly, we savor each bite. The conversation in our head is about how the food tastes, we experience slowly the sensations of each morsel in our palette. It is not about what we are going to do next week or typing a message on social media. We taste what is in front of us with intimate engagement. The flavors speak to us and we listen with our body and mind.

Photo: Made Sintya

 

By contrast, when we are not present to our food, we tend to just shovel it in as we watch our television or walk down the street. We are still living in our heads and our food is entering our body without any real awareness. There is no intimacy and no connection to who made our food, where it came from, how it tastes or what it is doing to our body.

The first step is to slow down and hit pause; to shift from doing to feeling. We want to open the door to more reverence to all life.

There is a sense of peace in the body that we seek in yoga + meditation. The lower back is relaxed, the breath is full and deep, the shoulders are relaxed. We need to use this as a barometer for when we are present or not. Often, when we are not present our bodies are tense and our breath is not very deep and only in the upper front chest.

The key to me is to see Presence more as a state of body, than a state of mind.  When our bodies are light, but grounded and relaxed, the door to presence opens easily.

Especially the week of Valentine’s when Love becomes something we focus on more, let’s commit to slowing down and truly being present for the ones who mean something to us. Let’s feel the miracle of each person and the honor to be in this time and this space with another.

Let’s make time for Kindness. Let’s make more time for Love After all, as we say in Blissology: “Love is the Ultimate Renewable Resource.”