March 2018 ~ Mindful March

Photo by Alex Gorham on Unsplash
Ten times a day something happens to me like this - some strengthening throb of amazement - some good sweet empathic ping and swell. This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.
— Mary Oliver

Mindfulness - you hear this word everywhere these days, but what does it mean exactly and how can we use mindfulness to improve our lives? Mindfulness is essentially about where and how we place our attention.  We can experience mindfulness spontaneously, in moments of great pleasure or great pain and anguish. Think about the pleasure of taking that first bite of your favorite food or of watching an amazing sunset, or maybe watching your child take their first steps. Think about moments where you have felt the pain and grief of losing a loved one, or of experiencing the physical pain of an injury or illness. What all of these experiences have in common is that they bring your attention to the present moment - you are deeply aware of what's happening in those moments. You're not thinking about that project at work or that comment that so-and-so made on your Facebook post yesterday. You are actually experiencing your life - the pleasure and the pain of it. The present moment - right here, right now is the only place that life happens. It’s everything.
The truth is that your average adult spends very little time actually inhabiting the present moment. We are most often living out of habit - planning or worrying about the future, ruminating on the past or escaping the discomfort or boredom of the present moment with distractions like shopping, television or social media where we might end up curating our life instead of living it.

So how do we use mindfulness to help us live our life? The poet Mary Oliver offers this advice -

“Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”

We can practice mindfulness in two waysFirst in formal meditation practice where we sit in stillness and use a number of different techniques topractice paying deep attention to whatever is happening in each moment - our breath, sensations in our body or our thoughts. Meditation is like practice for life. Just as a musician or athlete will spend hours practicing their art or sport we spend time practicing present moment awareness. In this way we train our minds and develop new habits of staying with the present moment. The more we train the better we become at life.
We can also practice a moment to moment everyday mindfulness where we bring the art of paying attention into the ordinary, seemingly mundane moments of our lives. Through this practice we come to learn that when we are living mindfully there are no ordinary or mundane moments. Through mindfulness any moment can become a revelation, a blessing, an astonishment.

PRACTICE

Everyday Mindfulness

“Sometimes I need
only to stand
wherever I am
to be blessed.”
~Mary Oliver

Try this everyday mindfulness practices for the next week or two.

 20-Second Miindfulness Break - Choose a reminder for yourself. Something on your hand or wrist is best - a ring, bracelet or maybe a tattoo, anything that you see often during the day. If you don’t have anything maybe tie a bright piece of string around your wrist or … maybe get that tattoo you’ve been thinking about. Every time you see your reminder take a 20-second (or longer) mindfulness break. You can try this this right now, wherever you are reading this, and see how it feels. Bring your attention to your breath, maybe take a few deep breaths exhaling through your mouth with a sigh. With each exhale let your shoulders drop and relax, relax your jaw and your tongue, soften your belly and let your pelvis sink into the surface that you are sitting on. Now tune into your five senses. Begin to look around you and notice whatever you see. Notice color, texture, shape, movement and especially notice the quality of the light. If there are people around you really look at them, (not creepily if they are strangers. ) Really see them especially if they are family members or co-workers that you see everyday and maybe take for granted. Notice all the sounds around you - those off in the distance and those close in. If someone is speaking really listen to what they are saying. Now notice your sense of smell and taste, notice the temperature of the air or your clothing on your skin. Notice and pay attention with a sense of openness, non-judgement and gratitude. You can do this anywhere anytime.

give your soul the gift of attentiveness....

Yoga NIdra : Rest into Bliss

October 21, 2018
at Westford Pilates & Yoga
288 Littleton Rd #16
Westford MA
5:00 6-:15 PM
Yoga Nidra means yogic sleep. This deeply restful and restorative practice has ancient roots in the Yoga Tradition and yet is perfect for helping us to unplug from the distraction, busyness and stress of living in our modern world. We'll use mindfulness of breath & body to help you untangle the knots of physical, mental and emotional tensions so that you can rest into your natural state of relaxed and joyful present moment awareness. Learn More...

Introduction to Meditation

Begins Sept. 12, 2018
at Chelmsford Community Ed. Center
170 Dalton Rd.
Chelmsford MA
6:15 PM
This introductory class is great way to learn about meditation and maybe start your own daily meditation practice. We’ll work with teachings from the Yoga and Buddhist traditions and simple practices including mindfulness. Learn More...

RESOURCES

* As you may have noticed the poet Mary Oliver's poems are filled with examples of the sacred ordinary and the art of paying attention.  Really any of her books would be a wonderful inspiration.

* The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle is a helpful guide in bringing the power of the mindfulness into your life.

Hope to see you on the mat soon.

Wishing you many mindful moments & a life well lived,
Marie

February 2018 - Valentines Day & The Power of Love

Photo by davide ragusa on Unsplash

February! It's a month to celebrate love in all it's forms

It's easy to think of Valentines Day as a celebration of romantic love, but really, if you look past all the greeting card, jewelry and candy advertising, how lovely and powerful to have a holiday to celebrate love- not just romantic love, but love in all it's forms - self-love, compassion for all beings, unconditional love, universal love, love as a force or an energy that we can tap into and share, love of community like Martin Luther King Jr's Beloved Community.

I invite you this month to look beyond the superficial aspects of this holiday, to spend some time exploring the deeper aspects, possibilities and power of love to change and enrich your life, the lives of family and friends and your community. It all begins with you. The world needs your love!

Here are few jumping off points:

INSPIRATION

Love after Love

The time will come

when, with elation

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror

and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott

All love and compassion begins with self-love and self-compassion and this poem is a great inspiration. Take some time this Valentines Day to honor and deepen your own relationship with yourself. Practicing yoga & meditation is really just a process of befriending yourself. You can use yoga & meditation practice as an inquiry into Self-Compassion and Non-Judgement, maybe paying attention to your internal dialogue and making an effort to drop the judgement and be more compassionate and friendly with yourself. While self-love is something we can practice and cultivate in our lives, Yoga teaches us that Love is also our true nature and birth-right.

PRACTICE

Guided Metta (Lovingkindness) Meditation - This guided meditation is just 20 minutes and it is designed to cultivate first self-compassion and then allowing that circle of compassion to expand out, eventually to all beings everywhere.
 

give yourself the gift of self-care....

Join me for:

Yoga Nidra for Self-Care & Compassion

Sunday, Oct. 21

at Westford Pilates
288 Littleton Rd #16
Westford MA

5:00 6-:15 PM
Yoga Nidra means yogic sleep. This deeply restful and restorative practice has ancient roots in the Yoga Tradition and yet is perfect for helping us to unplug from the distraction, busyness and stress of living in our modern world. As you untangle the knots of physical, mental and emotional tensions your natural state of love and peace rises up the your state of deep presence. Learn More...

RESOURCES

*Sharon Salzberg's new book Real Love : The Art of Mindful Connection shows us how to redfine our limited definition of love and offers numerous mindfulness experiences and meditations.

Real Love : The Art of Mindful Connection By Sharon Salzberg

*Brene Brown's Book The Gifts of Imperfection: Letting Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embracing Who You Are offers guideposts for living wholeheartedly with a sense of worthiness.

The Gifts of Imperfection

*Inspired by the life of Mahatma Gandhi, the essence of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s life and work was LOVE and nowhere is it more obvious than in his teaching on the beloved community. Enjoy this On Being Podcast with John Lewis......

https://onbeing.org/blog/we-are-the-beloved-community-john-lewis/

Hope to see you on the mat soon.

Much love,

Marie

 

You Belong

 belonging is who you are......

belonging is who you are......

Wildflowers

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
Sail away, kill off the hours
You belong somewhere you feel free

Run away, find you a lover
Go away somewhere all bright and new
I have seen no other
Who compares with you

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
You belong with your love on your arm
You belong somewhere you feel free

Run away, go find a lover
Run away, let your heart be your guide
You deserve the deepest of cover
You belong in that home by and by

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong somewhere close to me
Far away from your trouble and worries
You belong somewhere you feel free
You belong somewhere you feel free
                                     ~Tom Petty

 

In honor of Tom Petty I thought I'd share the lyrics to one of my all-time favorite songs. You may have heard this in class before, it's on couple of my playlists. When I was going through one the lowest points in my life I would sing this song to myself. It was part metta(lovingkindness) meditation, part prayer and part pep talk. And just like a metta meditation, a prayer and a pep talk it help me to settle my mind, to open my heart and to carry on. So, a deep bow and many thanks to Tom Petty.
I didn't realize until many years later that the most powerful words in this song are 'You Belong.' Is there anything more painful or heartbreaking than feeling like we don't belong? One of the greatest gifts of a yoga and meditation practice is the dawning of the recognition that we belong, period. It's a crazy paradox that we can spend so much time and energy trying to fit in, trying to please people, striving for acceptance, approval & belonging, when the only way to true belonging is let go of all that striving. The truth is that belonging is not something that is bestowed upon us from the outside or something we need to earn or achieve. It is a realization that comes from within, from self-inquiry, self-acceptance and self-love. Belonging is who we are. It is a deep knowing that we are not separate and alone. We are connected to all that is.  Through the practices and teachings of yoga & meditation we learn to let go of all that striving for belonging in the outer world, which is the only way to learn to rest into our natural state that is always belonging, period.
Take a moment to listen to Wildflowers and feel free to sing along and make it a meditation, a prayer, a pep-talk or a matra ~ You belong!