I am so thrilled about the health movement that is erupting in our Western society. Within the past couple years, terms like meditation, yoga, organic living, positive vibrations and the law of attraction have become commonplace. I am so inspired by this development and urge you to continue doing and learning about whatever you’re into!
My intention today is to reach out to EVERYONE—those of you who are just getting into the health groove AND all of you seasoned-veterans, to share with you the #1 step, the Head Honcho, the Grand Poobah if you will, of living a happier and healthier life:
Let compassion be the majority.
When we love, we raise our personal energy vibration above a level of personal integrity. As the calibration of our personal energy rises, we experience life from a much more blissful and less threatening platform. When I say love, I am not necessarily talking about physical love or love between partners; I am talking about choosing compassion over condemnation and applying love to everything you say and do.
One of my FAV bloggers, or as he dubs himself, “new generation firestarters,” Kute Blackson, was a speaker at last year’s Tadasana Festival in Santa Monica where he posed two questions to his audience:
“Are you loving or are you not? And if you’re not, why not?”
This is such a fundamental question on the path to wholeness because sharing compassion is the foundation as well as the catalyst to achieving a happier, healthier lifestyle.
The most basic way to incorporate compassion into your daily wellness practice is through random, or not-so-random, acts of kindness. Assist, inspire and appreciate the people around you! Choose supportive actions rather than superior ones! Lend a hand rather than turning a cheek; and, speak in kindness and gratefulness rather than in judgment!
The moment we shift from condemnation to compassion is the moment we begin to experience life in a COMPLETELY different way. Compassion creates a scientifically calibrated difference in our personal state. Things like yoga, meditation, psychotherapy and naturopathy are all incredible resources that also raise our personal energy vortex. While we can implement these practices into our lives as booster shots for our spiritual journey, COMPASSION is something that we can all do RIGHT NOW to improve who we are and how we feel in the PRESENT MOMENT.
As you allow love to be your guiding force you will begin to feel a shift in your way of being. It’s like the quote, “the day I broke-up with normal was the first day of my magical life.” The day we take a step back, practice thoughtfulness and awareness of our actions and choose to create fulfillment and wisdom through loving actions, we raise our vibrations and walk away from the part of ourselves that is comfortable in negativity.
For some, it may feel like an identity crisis; and, as the people around us continue to remain “happy” or unaware in their misery, drama and negativity, it may cause us to feel disconnected or out of touch with the status quo. Yet, although our egos may try to pull us back into the comfort zone of condemnation, I urge you to think of the hypothetical individual who recently quit smoking. The "non-smoker" is used to taking lunch breaks with their smoking-friends but now that they quit that nasty habit they choose to find other people to surround themselves with that don’t trigger that kind of negativity.
So, take EACH STEP with the intention to LOVE and BE LOVED! In the wise words of one of my fav yogs instructors, Justin Haley, “Let presence reign!!” Be in this moment and create your own happy and healthy life by allowing compassion to be the majority.
Love & Light,
Good afternoon serotonin seekers!! Every time I write on this blog I feel so alive; I am so grateful to have this space to be creative and connect with you!
Today is my birthday! I wanted to blog today because I am consciously dedicating my energy for the next 24 hours to things that make me happy; and, writing and sharing with all of you lifts me to the high heavens!
On this special day I want to talk about AUTHENTICITY! Because, as Eckhart Tolle says it best, “Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free.” I believe that it is SO important to celebrate who we are and to be grateful for what we have in this life--this means accepting both our light and our dark sides!
Authenticity is a huge subject that I am diligently researching and trying to incorporate into my life every day. As humans we are so prone to comparing ourselves to others, judging what we have and what we don’t have and taking inventory of what we are and what we aren’t. I find this fascinating because we are ALL exactly who we are for a reason—a REALLY BIG reason! We each have a purpose and a reason why our soul pulls us in certain directions; we have personal destinies and goals that our souls have set out for us! So, honoring our truths and is the most loving and livening thing we can do!
Modern science with the initiative of Dr. David R Hawkins, has revealed the incredible ability to measure energy calibrations. The molecules that make up our bodies have a vibrational charge that matches our state of consciousness. My spiritual teacher, Randy Zonnis, has helped me to understand how powerful our state of consciousness is and that the lowest state of consciousness is shame while the highest is enlightenment. I have learned that our personal vibrational state oscillates throughout each day depending on various triggers, situations and circumstances, our strength of emotional expression and our coping mechanisms.
When we feel emotions such as anger, desire, lust, fear, shame and apathy our personal vibrational state is much lower than when we feel courage, gratitude, love and acceptance. The power of positive thinking and positive emotions has suddenly become scientific! As we feel better in our bodies, experience more love and celebrate our lives authentically, our energy frequencies rise and we are able to offer the world so much more AMAZINGNESS!
When it comes to being authentic, lies, denial and dishonesty are all LOW vibrational states that are based on the LOWEST frequency: shame. Shame is the belief that we are inherently bad, not good enough or flawed--it’s so devastating that we can feel this way about ourselves!! The lies we tell help us cope (in an extremely unhealthy way) with feelings of low self esteem. Arrogance, judgements and other unhealthy behaviours manifest to protect the wounded part of ourselves from actually feeling these painful emotions; thus, we are not granting ourselves permission to be free to feel in authenticity.
Acceptance of ourselves and setting our intention to evolve and become more healthy facilitates a journey to wellness, of which being authentic is a key requirement! Positive and negative emotions ought to be equally experienced and accepted as expressions of who we are. Seeing each sensation as a blessing that shows us how we are meant to grow as spiritual beings and reach our “soul’s goal” is a beautiful gift that we can give ourselves.
We also need to thoroughly feel everything that is painful and everything that is beautiful in order to foster a flow of emotions through our bodies to avoid creating emotional blockages or habits of repression. In all honesty, I feel that it doesn’t matter what you believe in or what you don’t believe in, every single thing in this world comes back to deeply loving and accepting who YOU are and what your heart and soul are constantly encouraging you to do.
Being authentic to your true self isn’t easy to do! I treat it like my yoga practice, loving and accepting myself is a DAILY practice! Please, in honor of my favourite day of the year (because I get to CELEBRATE ME!) consciously make an effort today to share your truth. Maybe you have really dark secrets that when shared will allow others to connect so beautifully to your humanness. Or maybe you’re so full of love and joy on the inside that when you walk into a room and share that with others it will create a catalyst of positive vibrations!
I want to leave you with the second half of one of my FAVOURITE Marianne Williamson quotes, join me in incorporating this mantra into your day today!
“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others!”
I AM SO GRATEFUL FOR ALL OF YOU!
Love & Light,
Just now I did an incredible thing. I accomplished the biggest and most important goal I have ever set out for myself. I finished writing my first book. I am so happy to share this with you.
I knew in grade 10 that my life purpose was to be a writer. At the time I was pursuing my soccer career, but I knew, sitting in English class, that this Shakespeare guy I was learning about and I had something in common. I have written songs and poems and screenplays over the years. I've written speeches and applications, essays galore and my own assignments as well as a lot of other people’s assingments ;). But today, I did the one thing that I really, really wanted to do in my life. I feel liberated.
In my post today I want to talk about how powerful it is when you grant yourself permission to do the things that you LOVE to do. If anything, I want you all to feel connected to the gratefulness and success I feel tonight because WE ARE ALL ONE in the greater scheme of things.
My dad recently went on a trip that has taken him half way around the world. He is my best friend and the most important guy in my life. I was at a loss as to what I was going to do for a month without being able to contact my dad all the time, so I asked him to send me an e-mail that I could read when I needed to. The one thing in that e-mail that really stuck out for me was one quote. He said, "If you knew that you could NEVER fail, what is the ONE THING you would try to do?"
Isn't that an incredible quote? Existential as it is, I think it is really profound. It touches on themes of "live like you were dying" and "carpe-diem" or "seize the day," but I think it also means so much more than that.
In our daily lives, we do what we do in order to survive. We need to pay rent, we need to buy food, and we need clean water and clothes to wear. We need to work so many hours to earn so much money to support our lifestyles. Unfortunately, the amount of time that it takes to sustain our wellbeing, takes a lot of time away from doing the things that we love. But, such is life.
I understand that not every person can just drop what they are doing and "do that one thing they would do if they knew they wouldn't fail," but let me just share with you why it is so important to schedule a little bit of time to do just that—because that is where the orgasm of daily life is.
In my last post I talked about distractions. I talked about how so often we are suppressing our emotions and making ourselves feel better with things like sex, drugs and rock and roll...literally. I want to elaborate on that. In Dr. David R. Hawkin's book, which I consider to be my bible, Healing& Recovery, Hawkins says that the feelings we suppress, that are so unbearable at times that we turn to things that harm us even more, are really messages from our higher selves. The discomfort, dis-ease, and pain he says, "means, 'Please look at me; something is out. Something is wrong with my mind, within my consciousness and within my spiritual position."
Hawkins shows us that depression and anxiety are actually messages from the part of ourselves that know what is best for us; and, that part of us is saying, "HEY YOU! WAKE UP!"
So, as per usual, now it's my time to be real with you. I have been working as a waitress in downtown Toronto for the last two months and I really don't like it. Don't get me wrong, people in Toronto tip like saints and my workplaces have been awesome, but I would get home from work and be so full of pain, anger and discomfort that I just wanted to party. I was constantly contacting all my friends, "Let's grab a drink friends," I would say and more often than not that's exactly what I did.
When I read the quote that my dad sent me in his e-mail, I thought to myself, that one thing that I want more than anything, that I MUST do before I die, is get my book finished. I've been working on this adorable book for over a year now but just haven’t take the time to really type it up and edit it. So, because I wasn't feeling very fulfilled or happy at all as of late, I decided I would mind his wisdom and maybe type up some chapters.
Within one day, an incredible shift happened. It was like my heart opened up and angels flew in. I am pretty sure my friends have all been busy and unable to party for the last couple weeks because I am meant to be sitting in my room writing, but regardless of that fact, people have occasionally been contacting me and I have actually been saying, "No sorry guys, I can't go out tonight." I know right?!?!? But I have never felt SO ALIVE. I LOVE WRITING. It is so fulfilling. Every time I get a chapter done I feel like I am doing what I am SUPPOSED to be doing; as if there is a higher order for me and part of that is me being a successful writer.
Previously I admitted that my drug of choice is sugar. I love me some ice cream and candy. When I was working as a waitress, I would come home and frequent the convenience store. I needed a sugar high because my life was not satisfying me at all. I would always feel guilty, as you do, after subjecting my body to such $*#% nutrition, but I would do the same thing the next day because that momentary high was one of the best parts of my day.
Then, I started writing my novel. And I would finish one chapter and think to myself, wow I feel incredible and I was so fulfilled for the rest of the day I didn’t even think about sugar! The next day I did TWO CHAPTERS and on one day I reached true bliss and wrote FIVE IN ONE SITTING. I now understand how musicians and athletes can spend days in garages working on songs, or days at the gym just to see monetary results on the court/field/pitch. Because when you are doing what you LOVE TO DO... it... feels... sexy.
It has only been a couple weeks and my book is done. D-O-N-E. This was my lifetime goal. Something I thought that one day I might achieve. That day was today, LIKE HALF AN HOUR AGO, HOLY ***********!!!!!
If you have that one thing that you love doing SO MUCH, visualize it right now. Visualize how incredible it feels to do what you love and love what you do. Feels good right? I love to write, my sister loves to paint, my mom loves to sew, my dad loves to make other people laugh. I have friends who love to be a really good friend; I have other friends who find their true bliss being a really good mom or wife. You can love sports, music, studying, cooking, fashion and SO MUCH MORE! The world is abundantly full of things that you can fall in love with in beautiful ways.
If you already know that one thing you love to do, like I do right now, consider
yourself blessed. Those of you who aren't sure, say a prayer, ask your higher-self to help you discover what you love, give it time and you will be rewarded. But what do I really want you to do? Get up RIGHT NOW and go do what you love and love what you do :)
Love & Light,
So, you’re stressed out all day. Something is bothering you. Something is on your mind and you want to lay it down but it keeps coming up. Something needs attention and you don’t want to face it. This is where anxiety comes from. Anxiety turns into chronic stress and chronic stress is where the majority of the pandemic diseases in our society originate from.
My challenge for you in this moment is that I want you to sit with yourself and feel whatever sensation it is that is coming up for you. “Feel the fear and do it anyway” is a tried and true mantra in the 12-Step community. What this phrase means is that if there is discomfort, disharmony or dis-ease within your day, there is a really good chance that it is important and in order for you to relinquish your stress and anxiety, you’re going to have to go there. You’re going to have to be still, acknowledge the distress and look in the eye whatever is at the root of your anxiety.
Imagine yourself in the middle of a busy city. Take Toronto for example. You’ve had a really busy day and a lot of events have happened to you in a short amount of time. You’re anxious and you want to go home. You want to have a drink. You want to watch television, listen to your ipod or go on the internet. You want to have sex. You want sugar, caffeine and cigarettes. You want drugs whether they be over-the-counter, prescription or illicit. You want out of your body and you want to let go. I am not saying you want all of these things, but the likelihood that you want one or a combination of a few at times is probably high.
All of these “wants” are distractions. When you see someone smoking on the side of the road, chances are something just came up for them that they really don’t want to deal with. If they have been smoking for years, there is a really good chance that it is the same thing, the same anxiety, the same stress and the same root cause that they are turning away from because they are afraid. Smoking is numbing and that is what a smoker in this situation wants, an escape from having to feel whatever it is that they are afraid of.
Many distractions turn into addictions that can be really very obvious. It is fairly easy to recognize a drug-addict or an alcoholic after spending enough time in someone’s presence. However, there are a ton of things that we turn to instead of looking inside ourselves that you may not perceive as an escape at all. There are myriads of behaviors and coping mechanisms that are difficult to recognize. Some people are codependent and rely on relationships and love to numb their pain. Other people are workaholics, shopaholics, control oriented or anger-driven.
My number one escape is sugar. The second I begin to crave ice cream, candy or chocolate, I know that there is something festering in my heart or in my body that I am ignoring. I am nowhere near perfect and lots of times I give into my cravings and would rather have a quick sugar rush to make me feel “better” than really feel my own pain. Where “feel the fear and do it anyway” comes in to play is that the reality is, if you take a leap of faith and you choose to look your fear right in the eye, it usually isn’t as scary as you have made it out to be. The more we choose to ignore the signs our bodies are giving us, the more harm we do to ourselves by being unloving and subjecting our bodies to toxins, uppers, downers, unhealthy relationships and mind-numbing programs.
I’m not saying that at the end of a long hard day when you just want a drink to unwind that you don’t deserve it. But, I do urge you to take a moment the next time you are uncomfortable, when you would rather escape from your feelings via one of the various aforementioned “distractions,” and maybe instead you can do yourself a favor and cultivate self-love. Maybe instead of turning on the TV you can sit in stillness, bring attention to the heat that is sitting in your stomach, your chest or your head and give yourself permission to feel the fear and do it anyway. If you can’t figure out what the exact emotion is, at least create a loving environment for yourself where you can FEEL every sensation and let it go.
It ain’t easy, but love is always worth it and self-love is the mother of all actions.
LOVE & LIGHT,
The “ego” is a concept within the spiritual realm that is easy to understand but relatively difficult to transcend. Our ego is our “mind-made self”; it identifies us by our titles, material possessions, accomplishments and appearance. Our ego is responsible for moments when we are unaware and unconscious of our true nature as spiritual entities. Several texts have been written on transcending the hyper-active and self-centered ego, my two personal favourites are A New Earth
by Eckhart Tolle and Your Sacred Self
by Wayne Dyer. Today I want to talk about how our ego can threaten our opportunities for new beginnings.
When I was in Australia in 2011, I was immersed in the language of love and spirituality for three months. In a short period of time, my spiritual consciousness was raised dramatically. While my spiritual centre healed and evolved, my ego suffered
and kept losing power. As I learned to let go of my obsession with the past and the future and embrace the present moment, my ego fought to keep me projecting my energy elsewhere. As I learned to replace thoughts and emotions of anger, hatred and disharmony with love, my ego fought to keep my negative energies alive. The ego is the counter force to higher vibrations of love; as we evolve in the love realm, our ego gets scared and fights to survive.
After two months at Gwinganna’s health and wellness retreat and two weeks in Yoga Teacher’s Training, one would think that I would have been floating at a vibration of enlightenment and that I would be ready to conquer the universe from every angle. However, the truth is that I spent my last week in Australia bed-ridden with what felt like serious depression. It was an anticlimactic way to spend the last days of my holiday—trust me when I say I was a little bit more than disappointed. Thankfully, one quick call from my #1 spiritual guru, Randy Zonnis in Metchosin, British Columbia, and I understood just what was going on in my body and mind: my ego was FREAKING out.
I was about to return to Canada glowing internally and externally. I had accomplished so many of my personal goals! I had cleansed my body, earned my yoga teacher’s certificate, let go of a lot of pain and fear that I was holding onto from my past and had also made SO MANY incredible friendships with amazing Australians! Randy explained to me that I was coming into my true power—I was becoming the spirit that my inner-self had wanted me to embody for quite some time. I was face to face with a new beginning
but my ego was not going to give up without a fight.
I spent my last week in Australia house-sitting for family friends and I was over-joyed to implement my new spiritual routine. I planned to do yoga, qi gong, hike and run as well as meditate, chant and practice my ability to remain in silence for long periods of time. Unfortunately, I adhered to very little of my plan. I was mentally and emotionally exhausted from yoga teacher’s training, and my ego took it as a perfect opportunity to stick a knife in my spiritual back.
I began to doubt myself and my commitment to my practice.“You weren’t really willing to go through with this spiritual stuff
,” my ego repeated to me as each day progressed and I continued to fall short of my short-term goals. You see, our ego is well entrained in its pattern—it is not willing to give up its power or role easily. When I gave my “mind-made self” the opportunity to question my dedication to my spiritual practice, it was there with a reminder saying, “See you really didn’t forget me! Chanting is for weirdoes
, exercise ain’t
As soon as I recognized that this wasn’t really depression that I was experiencing, rather it was a last ditch effort by my ego, I was able to sit with the feelings of fear, forgive myself for not being perfect, send myself compassion and transcend the problem. This past week I have found it very difficult to stick with my yoga routine, to complete my daily blogs and to regularly practice my breathing and meditation exercises. Well guess what folks, I am in another momentous period of transition where a new beginning is certainly on the horizon! If any of you are in the same position, say it with me, "I'm taking my power back, EGO!"
I gave Randy a call this morning and he shed more beautiful perspective onto my spiritual journey. “It’s not a one-time event!” he said. “The path to enlightenment isn’t like going to the doctor, getting a prescription and watching the symptoms go away! It’s a practice and a lifestyle, NOT an event.” This concept is what I want you to take away from my blog today. It takes a lot of courage, dedication and willingness to adhere to a spiritual practice; and, in the moments when we are so close to turning over a new leaf our ego will fight the hardest to stop us from moving forward. Whether you figure it out the first time or fail several times, we are all practicing and will do so so long as we recognize progression. Randy says to me, "Are you healthier than you were a year ago?" If the answer is yes, your practice whether big or small, is worth it!
You will see beautiful and amazing transformations in your life as long as you are willing to listen and learn from all the spiritual energies around you. You may get distracted, you won’t be perfect and sometimes you will have to jump back on the wagon tomorrow instead of today. If you are experiencing a stagnant period, it is in this moment where I want you to choose to leap towards the new beginning, continue to take power away from your ego and place that power into the arms of love.
In Dr. David R. Hawkins’ book Power vs. Force
, based on his work in non-linear physics, applied kinesiology and the quantum world at the time, Hawkins asserted that there were only 11 or 12 people on the planet that were vibrating all the time at the level ofenlightenment. So, there is a 12 out of 7 billion chance that any of us will come from the vibration of love and unconditional love all the time
. Hey, it could be you, but if not, be gentle on yourself and continue practicing!
Are there moments when you are discouraged because you are unable to maintain perfection? Can you choose to forgive yourself and send yourself love and healing rather than judgement? Are you ready to turn over a new leaf and recognize that it is okay if your ego is afraid for you to moving forward? Will you choose to view the spiritual path as a practice rather than an event? Enjoy your week, practice forgiveness and compassion towards yourself and check out a small bio on my #1 mentor Randy! http://www.redgatehealingstudio.com/#!randy-zonnis
LOVE & LIGHT,
Good afternoon serotonin seekers!!! I hope you all had a wonderful hump day and are excited for the weekend to begin! As I sit here this morning I am overwhelmed with gratefulness that I put my dream of writing a compassion blog into action. It has been two full weeks of blogging as often as I can and I LOVE IT. Thank you for sharing this passion with me!
Now, it’s time for me to be real with you. I have been a social ANIMAL ever since I got back to Canada from Australia. This past weekend I made a serious effort to detox and to spend a huge chunk of time just taking care of Sarah. I have found it really easy for the past couple months to make excuses about why I didn’t need to have “me” time. I would say, “My friends are in town—I MUST PARTY!” Or, “It's a holiday! Time to eat treats!!” Unfortunately, the three months that I spent nurturing and listening to my body and soul in Australia hasn’t carried over as well as one might have hoped.
BUT, I spent all week by myself just doing things I needed to do for me and I feel awesome! For me, nurturing time involves a lot of cleaning and pampering, lots of physical exercise and a whole ton of meditation. Everyone is different, what you do in your “me” time is likely way different than mine. What I want to stress though is that it is SO IMPORTANT to take that time.
When I am vibrating at high frequencies, I practice yoga every day and I always consider it “me” time. There are SO many benefits for your body and mind in practicing yoga; there is way more to it than simply burning calories, breaking a sweat or getting a work out in. Go to a class today! If you are nervous about class environments, you can pick up pretty great yoga dvds at Chapters and there are also lots of free yoga podcasts online!
The third limb of Ashtanga Yoga is Asana, which is the part of yoga that the majority of the western world recognizes as the entirety of the activity. The asanas are the postures and the physical act of doing yoga. This is the part of yoga in the west that turns most skeptics into believers because we can view it as a sport or a necessary physical activity. However, in traditional yoga, the asanas were only ever accompaniments to the spiritual practice.
One of my spiritual mentors, Stephan Khalert who also goes by Swami Pujan, shared a story with me and my fellow yoga teacher trainees in Byron Bay about how when yoga originated there were only a couple poses. To the best of my memory, the story he told was that a yoga guru was sitting on the beach in lotus position (simple legs crossed seated position) and meditating. One of his protégés approached him and requested some of his time. The protégé asked the guru which poses were the most enlightening and what poses the guru did on a regular basis. Expecting to hear handstands and other intricate balancing poses as the answer, the protégé was taken aback to hear the guru say, “I do lotus pose, and sometimes I do the coconut tree.”
The guru understood that yoga is about the 4th limb, Pranayama, which is the control of one’s breath, and the 5thlimb, Pratyahara, which is the withdrawal from one’s senses. The asanas, he knew, were simply used to aid in controlling the limbs and nervous system, but his practice was primarily about quieting the mind and connecting to the divine. The coconut tree is a pose that involves standing in tadasana, or mountain pose, with your hands straight in the air above your head and your palms touching. In coconut tree pose you simply reach to the sky while maintaining optimal posture. You can stay in this position or advance it by doing slight side or back bends. As you can see, this is not the intense asana the protégé was anticipating.
Where “me” time comes into play is that while doing yoga, what we are really intended to do is connect to the divine within ourselves.
While meditating hundreds of things can come up at any given time. By being aware of our thought patterns and taking note of the thoughts that continually occur we can gain greater insight into what we need to do for ourselves or what we need to deal with. Yoga is a form of moving meditation,
we withdraw our senses, focus on our breath and attempt to quiet our minds while focusing on the disciplines of each posture. While doing yoga this weekend I realized a whole bundle of things that I was ignoring and I am grateful that I didn’t let any more time carry out without creating space for myself to meet my needs.
Please take some time for yourself today! Even if you can only afford 5 minutes of stillness, I promise you that your mind, body and soul will be better for it! Visit Swami Pujan's website: http://www.yogabeyondthemat.org/ybtm_pujan.html
He is the kindest man and he is eager to share his wisdom and love with the world, that includes YOU! Remember, love is all that matters and sharing love is bliss!
LOVE & LIGHT,
As promised, today we are going to look at the second limb of the 8 limbs of Ashtanga Yoga! Yesterday we talked about the first limb which includes the 5 Yamas. Today we are going to look at the 5 Nyamas of the second limb. I want to reinstate that the most important thing for you to do after reading this blog is to take note of whatever resonates with you. My objective is to share with you what I study so that as a collective we can rise from mediocrity to greatness. Give yourself permission to have an open heart and mind, take what you like and leave the rest.
Where the Yamas in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are the ethical and moral observations of the yogic tradition, the Nyamas represent the restraints that we practice to create inner integrity. In India, the Nyamas are viewed as obligations or requirements that must be adhered to in order to fully immerse oneself in a yogic lifestyle. For me, the Nyamas are standards and reminders that urge us to take personal inventory of our moral conduct.
The first of the 5 Nyamas is “Saucha” and in one word, it means “purity.” In the western world many of us struggle with this Nyama because of the prevalence of harmful toxins in the air, in our food and in our thinking. In the yogic tradition, Saucha refers to cleanliness in everything from the mind, body and heart to the environment. Saucha goes hand in hand with Ahimsa, the “non-violence” Yama we learned yesterday. A facet of Ahimsa is non-violence towards the self where we must treat the body like a temple; Saucha follows suit because it says we must keep ourselves and our environment clean from toxins to the best of our ability. Examples of Saucha-living are eating organically, driving hybrid vehicles, monitoring our carbon footprint and keeping a clean living space. Meditation to foster mental purity is also an aspect of Saucha.
We previously looked at the second Nyama, Santosha, in my blog post several days ago. To refresh your memory, Santosha means contentment. Santosha includes taking responsibility for your own happiness by choosing to be grateful for what you have in the present moment. In practicing Santosha we must respond rather than react to stimuli and recognize that we have the power to see things positively or negatively. We must always live in the moment, and, when we project the past into the future we must take responsibility for the problems we bring on to ourselves. Essentially, the Nyama Santosha serves to remind us that our quickest route to higher ground is through the cultivation of self-love and gratefulness in every NOW moment.
The third Nyama, Tapas, is the most accessible representation of the cultivation of inner strength. Tapas stands for the ability we have to honor our individual purpose in life. In working with our Tapas, we discover the energy that brings us to creativity, we recognize how passionate we are about our inner aims, directions and intentions for life and we stop at nothing to achieve what we want. Tapas also involves the performance of austerities; we must be rigid in our daily routines in order to reach our goals in a timely manner.
Svahyaya, the fourth Nyama, is all about studying. We are instructed to study our spiritual texts, study the wisdom of our world and most importantly, study our inner-selves. We are encouraged to live authentically and honor our personal wants, needs and desires while also having knowledge of human nature and an understanding of human variance. Svahyaya is my personal favourite teaching in the Yoga Sutras at the present time. I find it incredibly challenging to allow myself to always remain in alignment with my true self rather than being swayed by popular opinion. If there is one Nyama I suggest you take into your day right NOW, it is Svahyaya. It is vital that you never cease to learn about yourself and that you always grant yourself permission to BE YOU!
The last of the 5 Nyamas is Isvara Pranidhana, “surrender to the divine.” When we study the Yamas and Nyamas we can easily remove several of the lessons from their spiritual text and apply them to a non-spiritual way of living. Non-violence, honesty, purity and personal contentment are universal terms that do not necessarily have to involve “God”, a “higher power” or one’s “higher-self.” When adhering to Isvara Pranidhana, however, we are asked to step out of ourselves and put our faith and trust into the divine. This is a fundamental aspect of living a yogic lifestyle. We are never alone, we are part of a universal energy that wants the best for us and supports us in all that we do. Realization, devotion, dedication and surrender to the presence within all life will bring us closer to our innate "beingness". Failure to access Isvara Pranidhana makes it difficult for individuals to carry on in further spiritual teachings; although, it is not uncommon to find difficulty in carrying out this Nyama.
With that, I conclude my second knowledge-sharing session of the principles of Ashtanga Yoga! Please take note of what serves you and join me tomorrow for further introduction to the 8 limbs of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras! My aim is that by sharing this knowledge with you, we will be on the same page when I refer to these principles in future blog posts!
LOVE & LIGHT,
Good morning! This week I want to spend each day paying particular attention to a text I so often refer to, Pantajali’s Yoga Sutras. Yoga is a spiritual path with ethics and morals. The foundation of a yogic path is built on guidance and indication and the quickest and easiest way to understand this way of living is through Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga. Whether or not you practice the Asanas or poses of yoga, learning the theoretical and philosophical basis of the discipline is extremely rewarding. I encourage you to take part this week in my short knowledge-sharing sessions and when the opportunity presents itself, I want you to apply these concepts into your own lives.
Scholars of comparative religion have placed the composition of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras somewhere between 100 BCE and 500 CE. The Sutras form the basis of classical yoga and are considered to be the most organized and complete definition of the discipline. Although Patanjali was certainly not the first to ever practice or teach yoga, he is commemorated as the prime gatherer and expounder of fragments and traditions of texts that stem from the second or third century. Patanjali’s finished work, the Yoga Sutras, is the most studied and deified text in the yogic culture.
Forgive me for the brief history lesson, today we are going to focus on the first limb called the “Yamas”. There are five Yamas and they are considered external aids to yoga that form moral imperatives, commandments, rules or goals. The first
Yama is “Ahimsa” which, plainly stated, is “non-violence.” Individuals who live their life according to the yogic path do not associate themselves with anything that causes another living being harm—this is the foundation of a spiritual life. We do not eat, wear or use animal products and we do not engage in physical acts of discipline or violence against living things. The most important aspect of Ahimsa, however, is that we make a vow to abstain from violence towards the self. This means that our inner dialogue be loving and positive to the best of our ability, that we treat our bodies as temples subjecting them only to loving and nurturing stimuli and we put our own needs first before anyone else’s to signify the value we place on our wellbeing.
The second of the Yamas, is “Satya” which means "truthfulness". Before speaking and acting, individuals who study the Yoga Sutras are encouraged to ask themselves, “Is it true?” “Is it necessary?” and, “Is it kind?” You can bring across the truth positively with intention and you can choose to embody truthfulness about yourself by walking your talk.
Asteya, or "non-stealing", is the third Yama. Abstinence from stealing is more complex that one may initially assume. Sure, we choose not to steal objects from others, but we also show respect towards other people’s time, space and boundaries. Practicing Asteya goes so far as to curb all feelings or sensations of greed; rather, we find contentment in what we possess in our hearts and minds. “The meek shall inherit the world,” is a quote that I love which captures the essence of Asteya.
Bramacharya is the fourth of the five Yamas and it originally stood for "celibacy". In ancient yogic tradition, yoga was only meant for men and these men removed themselves socially as well as sexually from society. Today, we see Brahmacharya as monitoring and being aware of one’s sexual energy. It suggests that we form relationships that support our understanding of the highest truths and the yogic lifestyle. It also suggests that we practice moderation in the way we exhibit our sexual energy through our appearance as well as through our actions. The element of moderation in Bramacharya transitions us easefully to the last of the Yamas, “Aparigraha”which means “no greed.”
One of my favourite quotes that I have previously shared with you, “live simply so that others can simply live,” embodies the fifth Yama, Aparigraha. This suggests that we are meant to be aware of where our belongings come from and to be conscious of recycling items. 88% of the new clothes that are manufactured will not be bought; rather, they will go straight to landfills. This Yama teaches us that our greed, in turn, takes away from others who are trying to “simply live.” I am not going to attempt to give you a lecture here on overseas labour markets in the manufacturing industry. I will, however, encourage you to come to the realization that what we have is already enough and in aquiring more we are likely taking away from others. Another aspect to Aparigraha is the concept of giving and taking. In India, yogis don’t accept or expect presents and they never charge for their teachings. There is a mutual understanding of giving and taking where giving is the actual gift.
These first 5 teachings of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are, in my opinion, the basis of living a spiritual life but also a naturally fulfilling life. In taking part in the Yamas you are not required to live your life as a yogi, give away all your things, remove yourself socially and become celibate for the rest of your life. My intention here is to educate you about a way of living and understanding your purpose on earth in a more spiritual way. For those of you who find the term spirituality daunting, consider the Yamas as a helpful touchstone promoting a more courageous, honest, and simple life.
When the opportunity arises, will you be ready to abstain from violence? Will you grant yourself permission to tell the truth? Will you respect the time and space of others and find contentment in what you already possess? Will you monitor your sexual energy out of respect for yourself and those around you? And, will you choose to live simply, so that others can simply live? Come back tomorrow to learn about the 5 Nyamas, or observances, of the Yoga Sutras!
LOVE & LIGHT,
I have a guilty secret to share with all of you. I am addicted to the television show Glee. I can not get enough of Rachel Berry and Finn Hudson. I have a huge girl crush on Santana and I listen to her singing Fleetwood Mac's Songbird a couple times every day. I think I love Glee because of its themes of camaraderie and love (obviously). I also thoroughly enjoy supporting the underdog and that is what the narrative of Glee encapsulates. If you haven’t seen an episode, I highly recommend you take a peek at last week’s Whitney Houston tribute episode “Dance with Somebody"—it is seriously heartwarming.
In this episode of Glee, the characters make several references to different Whitney Houston moments in history such as her performance of “One Moment in Time” at the ’89 Grammy’s or her version of “Star Spangled Banner” at the 1991 Super Bowl. As I watched the episode for the third time online this afternoon, each time they mentioned a noteworthy Whitney moment I paused the show and “YouTube-ed” each one.
The diva in me was at first awestruck by Whitney’s beauty, especially at the ’89 Grammy’s. That woman has the nicest skin in the history of the universe. Her composure and talent is spectacular and BOY can she look a camera in the eye! On my spiritual path, however, watching Whitney in several of her moments of glory helped me understand a quote my dear friend Trev has been trying to teach me for months now. Trev’s quote is, “There is no score,” and thanks to Glee and Whitney, this phrase I have heard several times is finally resonating for me at a deeper level.
What Trev means is that when our lives are over and we see the light, there is no one standing at the gates of heaven holding up a score card that determines how well you did in your life. Whether you are Whitney Houston and have touched the hearts of millions with a song, or Canada’s recently deceased sports journalist Randy Starkman who kept our nation up-to-date with stories on Olympians such as Ben Johnson, Eric Lindros and Clara Hughes, your life and your accomplishments are your own and no one else will ever determine how well you have done.
Two Sanskrit terms come to mind for me here, the first is “Tapas” and the second is “Svahyaya”. In the teachings of Yoga, the concept of realizing that no one else is critiquing the quality of your life is evident in almost every one of Patanjali’s 8 limbs (the 8 spiritual teachings of the Ashthanga Yoga Sutras, that is). We are spiritual beings who were created to love and to serve each other, but ultimately, we are designed to fulfill our own life's purpose. Yes, Whitney’s purpose was to serve the rest of us through song, and Starkman did it just as well through his writing, but neither of these success stories are the yard stick by which you ought to measure the quality of your own life.
The Sanskrit term “Tapas” refers to the recognition and cultivation of your own inner aim, direction and intention for life. In an image, tapas is often illustrated as flames to represent the burning energy within us all that fosters our creativity and our desire to accomplish the things we are passionate about. “Svahyaya” means the study of one’s intellect and inner-self. In svahyaya, we are taught to resist crystallizing our personalities because being anyone but yourself is the most personal sin you can commit. Instead, Svahyaya supports authenticity and the persistance required to listen to ourselves and learn as much as we can about our own wants, needs and desires.
In the early years of my life, my one desire and passion was to be an influential soccer player like Mia Hamm or David Beckham. Over time, by cultivating Svahyaya and listening to the inner murmurs of my soul, I began to recognize that my honest desire and purpose in life was more aligned with writing, spiritual teaching and songwriting. Your Tapas can change, your needs, wants and desires may shift and the purpose of your life may not always be clear; but, the key to living your most fulfilling life is to honor whatever your heart is telling you is the most important thing RIGHT NOW to YOU.
Are you giving yourself permission to chase your one true dream? Are you allowing your authentic nature to express itself? Are you granting yourself the incredible opportunity to take care of your body and soul the way it wants to be taken care of? Remember, no one else is taking inventory of your life, THERE IS NO SCORE!
LOVE & LIGHT,
Hello my serotonin seekers. It is a BEAUTIFUL day today in Toronto but I have to admit it is one of those days where I am learning to accept myself for ALL that I am—including my darkness. My morning started with a jolt and so far my day has been filled with an uncomfortable amount of anxiety. “I am only human,” is what I keep saying to myself in attempts to calm down.
I have studied several texts on personal wellbeing, I have spent months in Australia learning about health and humanity and I study the teachings of Patanjali and the Yoga Sutras on a regular basis. I teach the relaxation and meditative philosophies of yoga as part of my occupation and I know a handful of coping mechanisms that aid individuals in transcending anxiety. Yet, I have bad days too. I am in a funk right now that may not improve for some time longer.
None of us are perfect. No one can sustain a positive and loving view or energy at all times. We are human. Recently in Mastin Kipp’s compassion blog The Daily Love, Mastin made the assertion that in becoming spiritual beings we must always be aware of what it means to human. We are on this earth in human form for a reason—so that we can experience love and service in physical form and evolve through our actions. In order to evolve as individuals, we must learn from our experiences; some of our greatest opportunities to love and evolve are by recognizing our mistakes and moments of darkness.
Rather than approaching my mood today as something negative, I am trying to tell myself that there is an opportunity for spiritual growth attached to it. It may be true that the lowness I am feeling right now is necessary so that I can share my experience, faith and love with all of you in order to foster a deeper connection with the Universal One. It may be that I need to feel this discomfort in order to appreciate my days of abundance and happiness. Whatever it means, my goal for today is to accept that because I am human, I will have moments of lightness and moments of darkness—and that is okay.
An exercise that I have been doing lately from a collection of Toni Carmine Solerno’s guidance cards has been shifting my perception about what is positive and negative. In his book of guidance and affirmations, Solerno tersely states, “Nothing about you is bad". He asserts that each trait or quality we possess serves a worthwhile purpose. "Moreover," Solerno says, "any trait or quality that you think you lack, you actually have.”
This is a very powerful concept and it took me several days and multiple attempts at his suggested exercise to understand just what he meant. When Toni says that nothing about us is bad, he is simultaneously stating that nothing about us is absolutely good. Rather, we must own, accept and love what we are, without wanting to change a single thing, because in doing so we will experience happier, healthier and more harmonious lives.
As I sit here and am tough on myself for not being able to project the calm and cheery persona that comes naturally when I am in a state of peace, these guidance cards remind me that there is goodness in my foul mood and there can also be perceived negativity in my good moods. If you are ready to discover personal insight into your own qualities, traits and humanity, join me in carrying out Toni's suggested spiritual exercise.
First, we must make two lists: one that outlines everything we don't like about ourselves and one that states everything we do like. Next, we must think about how each of these qualities serves us and others in some way. Toni says, "It is natural to believe that your positive qualities undoubtedly serve both you and others, however for every perceived positive there is also a negative." He instructs us here to engage in the difficult task of unraveling the negative aspects of our perceived positives. "This process takes a bit of time and requires an open heart and mind," says Solerno.
For me, I would write down that I like my athleticism, but I would admit that I don't like how flighty and absent minded I can be. I would then say that athleticism in positive because it will help me to live an active and healthy lifestyle; but, it could potentially be negative because not everyone enjoys physical activity and perhaps my desire to play sports will prevent me from connecting with individuals who do not enjoy exercise. On the flip side, even though I get frustrated when I realize I have left the present moment and have entered my own personal "la-la land" of daydreams, I can also see that this might be positive because it helps me to take life less seriously and may influence those around me to do the same.
The outcome of this exercise is that hopefully you will come to realize that nothing is actually good or bad. Depending on your mood or you life’s journey, what was good last week could be bad today. Good and bad have no permanency as they are totally subjective. There is only love and love is permanent.
Are you ready to love and accept all that you are? Can you think of a quality about yourself that you don't like which serves others more than you previously realized? Is there a trait about yourself that you do like that could potentially be perceived as negative? Remember, all you accept and love turns into even greater love! Thank you for being part of my day, I hope you get as much out of this blog as I do!
LOVE & LIGHT,