Doing Nothing

Doing nothing is often viewed as uselessness, laziness, or lacking in direction. Indeed, consistent lethargy, procrastination, or inaction can lead people to embody these characteristics. The duality in our society of constant action or inaction has created a stigma around what it means to do nothing.  Either we are slacking off when we take a moment to breathe after a busy day, or we are sinking deeper into the lazy lake of ineptitude.

Doing nothing, however, can have deeply meaningful and beneficial consequences that can serve us for a lifetime. The practice of mindful meditation is one practice of doing nothing. Mindfulness calls for being aware of the moment you are in - not thinking of the future or the past - by simply sitting in quiet observation of the present. Once we become aware of our present state, the future and past seem much clearer and easier to navigate.

When faced with a difficult decision, indecision - or doing nothing - can be the right answer until a better one comes along.  How often do we make a decision simply for the decision's sake?  How often do we say we wished we could have done things differently? Resisting the urge to decide on something is a decision to be more mindful about our direction.  As no wise man in particular once said that it is always better "to sleep on it."

Taking a moment out of life to reevaluate our goals and intentions is another way to make "doing nothing" a significant moment in life.  So many of us constantly run the race of making money and chasing the next big opportunity.  Sometimes, we forget our true purpose.  When we choose pause and reflection over money and authority we many find that what seemed important to us most in one instance, many not matter so much anymore.  The gift of clarity of purpose is one that will pay dividends in the many undulations of life, not just in our bank accounts and on our business cards.

Redefining Perfection

I was recently reminded of an important concept that we all too often block out in favor of surfacing and projecting the positive experiences in life. The concept - explored by the Tantrics thousands of years ago during their own yogic journey - is that without negative experiences, we would have no non-negative, or "positive" experiences. We may never find love because we wouldn't know what it meant to have our hearts broken. We may never experience pleasure because we wouldn't know the sorrow of pain. And, we may never feel the joy of laughter without knowing the sadness of despair.

In order to find the "non-negatives," we recognize the negatives for what they are, honor them for their existence and meaning in our world, then - with loving acceptance and forgiveness for the experience - let them go. If we stuff the negatives away into a place where they can never again be found, our "positive" emotions - or outward display of perfection - become almost forced.  Our friends no longer recognize us for who we are, but rather the story we tell the world. Our "happy place" becomes a farce.

In yoga, we spend a lot of time searching for our "happy place," be it in a posture, the breath, or the mind. When you notice the breath and the mind start to wander even during the easiest of poses, it is not that you are suddenly imperfect. Rather, you have found your own perfection just by noticing the distraction, acknowledging it, then welcoming the breath and the mind back to the present moment. It does not matter if you have to do this 10 times or 100 times - your redirection is your own perfection. 

Off the mat, when we claim that there is no such thing as perfection, we are casting off the negative in favor of the non-negative in order to disassociate from the judgment and standards of what perfection means. Yet, perfection exists. We are always seeking it out: the perfect job, the perfect house, the perfect mate. What we lose in this definition of perfection is the concept that it is not defined by that which surrounds us but rather by that which is in us.  Finding your own true definition of perfection - your perfect job, your perfect house, your perfect mate - free from outside influences that tell you what it should be, is no different from definining your purpose and path in life.

The next time you hear someone say "there is no such thing as perfection," allow it to be what it is: a declaration about their view on the world and a choice to deflect the "negative." Then, stay open to what perfection means to you. If you have found your own stride at home, at work, or maybe in your yoga practice - welcome that in as your own perfection and rejoice!  You need not broadcast it to the world, lest you begin to shape someone else's definition of perfection.  Revel in the experience of achieving your goals, understand that there may come a time when you might wish to redefine your perfection - know that it is okay - and welcome your new "non-negative perfection" in.

 

 

 

Turning Inward

The art of self-awareness can be explored in a number of ways. When we choose to take a deeper look at ourselves we are actively engaging in a thoughtful process aimed at uncovering our true intent and impact on the world. This process can be incredibly powerful, especially if we approach it with openness and gratitude for our own internal feedback.

One should find their own path to uncovering mindfulness as not everybody will draw inspiration from the same energy sources. In yoga, we can explore our mindfulness and true intent by turning inward before and during our practice. Sometimes, the process of mindfulness simply requires a moment of silence, accompanied by deep, methodical breaths and an internal examination of our state of being. We can use the breath to turn inward by observing the flow of air in through the nose, down the throat, filling the lungs, and filling the belly, then back out again. This wave-like movement of the breath, and gentle observation of the Prana (energy) entering our bodies allows us to calm the mind, turn inward, and focus on the present moment. 

Once we have found this quiet, almost meditative state, we can begin our yoga practice and observe ourselves from the inside out. As we flow through our movements, we watch the body glide into asanas, adjust its alignment, find its comfortable place, and settle into the pose as the breath and Prana allow us to just be. We can become our own best observers in this state, gaining a deep understanding of our own bodies and minds.

This observance does not come easy. It can be difficult to remain focused while our bodies search for their comfort zones. We can become distracted by those around us or our own thoughts. It's okay to let the mind wander so long as once we realize the drift, we bring our focus back to the breath, to the internal examination. Eventually, we realize we are no longer observing our yoga practice, but rather we are uncovering a deep internal examination of our true being. 

As we discover this next step, we begin to realize that internal feedback is extremely difficult, especially if we seek out the most negative aspects of our personalities or abilities then quickly spiral into telling ourselves we are not good enough. Remember, the simple act of even just starting to look inward suggests we are incredible, essential, emotional, and exceptional human beings. We will give ourselves gratitude simply for engaging in the process, then - from a place of strength and forgiveness for even our strongest flaws - we begin the process of acceptance and change. If we examine ourselves from this state, we can release self doubt and regret and empower ourselves to learn from our mistakes and evoke positive motions in their stead.

Quieting the mind, examining, and feeling the moment we are in from the inside out raises our awareness of who we are, our true intent, and our most important relationship: the one with ourself.

Going Beyond Our Comfort Zone

For many, one of our primary goals in life is to find stability and to settle down with the ones we love. In doing so, we establish a firm foundation from which we create our routines, build tradition, and determine our comfort zone. These foundations are important to help us remember who we are, our values, and to gain an overall sense of belonging.

Once we establish this important foundation, it can become easy to create a routine that begins to feel limited and constraining. Our loved ones expect us home at a certain time, or we are expected to provide certain comforts with regularity - cooking dinner, grocery shopping, cleaning bathrooms. While all of these tasks are important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and supporting our firm foundations, we may begin to crave flexibility around these tasks to find time for ourselves.

We have all been there: a friend asks us to dinner or to join a yoga class on a Tuesday evening and our minds immediately begin to process the list of tasks we are accustomed to fulfilling on a week night. We start to make excuses to stay within our comfort zones, to keep the routine, to meet our expectations. But, what if these are only perceived constraints? What if we could free ourselves for just one night during the week to join a friend for a relaxing dinner or a meditative yoga class? What new experiences might we gain that could help us think more creatively about our own lives?

Spending time and talking with a friend can help create space for new ideas, support, and connections. Ordering a new dish at a restaurant can help us think about new recipes to nurture our family. Trying a new yoga pose can help us discover new physical and mental capabilities - flexibility, strength, focus - which can translate into more mindfulness about our and our family's wellness. Quickly, we will start to feel the benefits of going beyond our comfort zone and may inspire those around us to explore their own.

This does not require a grand gesture or commitment. We need not bungee jump off a bridge or hang-glide off a cliff. We need not abandon our firm foundations for another world with which we are not familiar. We can simply embrace new opportunities as they present themselves, or we can seek out these opportunities in our community: a new restaurant opening, a farmer's market, a weekly yoga class.

As we start to explore these new horizons, testing our comfort zones, we also learn new things about ourselves and our capabilities. Our inner creativity, which may not always have an opportunity to present itself in our daily lives, begins to grow - maybe into something more important than we ever realized. Maybe we uncover the hidden awesomeness of our true selves and, in doing so, serve those around us by creating space for everyone to live, laugh, and love in ways we never thought of before.

Balancing Energy

One of our hardest and most important tasks everyday is to find balance - in our activities, our relationships, our diet, etc. One approach to finding balance is to evaluate our actions throughout the day. For example, before we eat lunch, we may want to evaluate what we had for breakfast. Did we consume more carbohydrates, more protein, or more fiber? If we ate mostly carbohydrates, perhaps we should focus on a protein and fiber-based lunch. If we did not exercise yesterday, maybe we should do so today. If we spent most of our time during the day with our work colleagues, perhaps we should devote more time to family and friends in the evening.

Most importantly, if we haven't made time for ourselves, maybe we should dedicate ten minutes to finding a quiet place to reflect. During this time, maybe we try a different approach to balancing our energy.

Closing the eyes, we center our focus for a moment on our third eye and set an intent. Perhaps our intent is simply to focus, or to be grateful for this personal time. Perhaps our intent is to use the breath and energy centers in the body to help bring more balance into our lives:

Taking a deep breath, bring the hands to heart's center. Keeping the eyes closed, start to focus on the steady flow of energy from the pelvic floor, through the navel, along the inner-most part of our ribs, around the heart's center, passing through the throat, to the third-eye, and finally the crown of the head (these are the areas of the seven chakras, or energy centers, in our bodies). Imagine this energy flowing softly, smoothly - like a wave.

Next, observe the energy flow as it begins to slow down at heart's center. Focusing and opening the mind, imagine this energy center gathering between the hands in front of the body. Using the hands, hold that energy center in front as if it were the lightest basketball in the world. On an inhale, slowly begin to open the hands, allowing the heart, chest, and energy center to expand. On the exhale, slowly bring the energy center back to the heart. Inhale - expand; exhale - draw the energy center back to the heart. 

Take several repetitions, observing the movement of energy from it's stable core at heart's center to its flexible expansion across the body. After ten or more repetitions, slowly bring the energy center back to the heart, inviting it back into the body to create an internal sensation of stability and flexibility - your new balance. Perhaps, our balance begins to feel more natural, less deliberate, more innate. 

Remember to strive for balance during daily self-evaluation. While we will not always meet our goals, we can relax and find acceptance in knowing our positive intent was present. Tomorrow is another day and everyday is an opportunity for positive change.

Growing Gratitude

As we enter a new year, it's important to take stock of the things we feel gratitude for, as well as those areas in which we want to extend more compassion or a more positive intent. Setting a New Year's resolution to change something usually stems from negative energy that we've been feeding on for some time. An alternative way to approach the changes we seek in the new year is to commit to positivity and gratitude for our many gifts in life. By shifting our focus away from the negative force that we're wishing away to the positive qualities we already posses, we have already begun to implement the change we seek.

Take at least 10 minutes to focus on the positive non-tangibles in your life. These might include healthy relationships, inner strength, personal talents, or wellness commitments. Invite your mind to prioritize and extend gratitude to these areas. For example, "I am thankful for a loving spouse," "I am thankful for supportive friends," "I am thankful for a compassionate relationship with a difficult family member," "I am thankful my commitment to a healthful diet gives me more energy," "I am thankful my body is strong enough to run or walk a 5/10/15/30K," "I am thankful for my personal commitment to yoga." As you can see, our possibilities for gratitude are endless...

Every morning, upon rising, revisit these and new areas of gratitude in your life. Then, set a natural, positive intention for your day. Perhaps you will try to approach every situation with more compassion or understanding for your interlocutor(s). Or, you will try to make better food choices to fuel your body with what it needs, not just what it craves. Maybe you will try to forgive someone who causes you pain, while loving yourself enough to accept and let go of that which you cannot change by inviting positive, healthy energy into your life.

By unearthing this positivity we can eliminate the preeminent negative energy from our lives, and the change we seek will happen naturally. This may not happen overnight, but is within all of our power to do. We control our minds, not the other way around.

Namaste and Happy New Year!

Welcome to The Runner's OM!

Welcome to The Runner's OM!  I want to thank those of you who have already chosen to Find Your OM for your courage and strength. You have a choice. We all have choices we can make everyday to live life to the fullest and be positively present in the world that surrounds us. 

I decided to help people Find their OM after many years of running around, often lost in a cloud of negativity and misdirection, until I discovered mine. Today, teaching and practicing yoga and sharing wellness tips, while creating space for family and loved ones, completely fulfills me - it is my success. Everyday, I wake up to the mindfulness of my actions and set an intention for my day. I strive for balance in everything I do but I know I am not perfect, and I don't want to be.

We can all Find our OM, be it in business, school, health, love, family, or community. It starts with simple changes to our everyday lives. A short yoga practice or meditation can help reset your day. A dedicated yoga and meditation practice can change your life. Finding mindfulness and living your active lifestyle, while making wise food choices to fuel your body with what it needs (not just what it craves), can help set you on a more holistic path.

Your success can be many things, but only you can define it. One of my goals is to help you learn the self-acceptance and self-awareness to love your strengths and know your flaws, recognizing each when they surface and finding the knowledge and acceptance to move forward in a positive way.

You don't have to give up your job, your friends, or your family to do this. You just have to look deeper. You are a strong, capable human being. The world deserves all of your positive qualities and you deserve to live a happy, healthy life. The ability to make these changes rests only with you. I cannot wait for you to join me on this journey.