Review of ‘Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi’

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 “Oskar’s yoga class touched the right chord and made my soul sing.”

At the beginning of his book, that was how Brian Leaf described the first yoga class he took while in college at Georgetown. Many of us who practice yoga know exactly what Brian is describing.  It feels like ‘coming home’.

Throughout his book Brian writes brilliantly as he brings us along for the ride exploring different aspects of yoga, traveling the country, and returning back home again. His sense of humor and honesty contribute to a great read about someone exploring life and yoga (which to me are really one-in-the-same!).

You do not have to be a yoga student to read this book – it’s really about living life, exploring what contributes to personal growth, and what can bring us to our own state of happiness.

The book holds many wonderful stories from his ‘misadventures’ and also includes Brian’s Eight Keys to Happiness.  As a yoga teacher, yoga teacher trainer, life/health coach, someone who leads e-courses about Living Life and Making Choices, and someone who is constantly exploring what feeds our soul, I could really relate to Brian’s Eight Keys, which are:

  • Do Yoga.  And if you already do yoga, do more yoga. 
    Thank you for the reminder, Brian, at our yoga community in Concord, New Hampshire, we say – More Yoga GOOD!
  • Follow Your Heart
    Once we start to practice yoga, if we are not following our heart, we will be out of sync with our true nature and as that is revealed, we discover we can no longer do that which does not feed our soul.
  • Cultivate and follow your intuition
    We all have the capacity to do this well. Brian’s chapter ‘White Sands’ ends with suggestions about how to tap into your intuition.  One sentence sums it up: Feel for a sense of ‘rightness’.
  • Apply at least three pieces of Ayurvedic wisdom to your daily schedule.
    A great reminder for me to make an appointment with my friend, Nicole, an Ayurveda practitioner.
  • Meditate.
    Every.single.spiritual.teacher.will.tell.you.this! So, what are you waiting for?  Perhaps you’ll join me, my friend, Cary, and others for Deepak Chopra’s new 21-day Meditation Challenge: Creating Abundance.
  • Connect with your heart and interact with others from that place.
    This requires an awareness of the ego, detaching from outcomes, letting go, and being present.  The words may seem simple, but to do this well – and consistently – it takes practice.  This is yoga – off the mat.
  • Speak and act from your true self.
    Through the practice of yoga and self-awareness, we learn so much about ourselves and why we act and react the way we do.  When we explore our values, how we want to be with others, and what we bring to the world, we are being authentic.
  • Become most real.
    Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi is about Brian’s journey of discovering how to ‘become most real’.  If you follow the other seven keys to happiness, this final ‘key’ will fall into place since you cannot ‘be most real’ without following your heart, cultivating your intuition, connecting with others, and speaking and acting with integrity. Yoga (including Meditation, Pranayama/Breath and other techniques), and its sister science, Ayurveda, are tools to help us discover our true self and create the possibility to understand what makes us happy.

For more information, visit Brian’s website.  You can read Brian’s bio or the first 15 pages of the book, you can learn about Brian’s  video contest, with the theme “Insightful Yoga Comedy”, you can read other reviews, and you can order the book.

The purpose of life…. via Meditation.


In my personal quest for understanding the purpose of life, I have done significant formal and informal study of yoga, coaching, reiki, shamanism and many more holistic modalities. In each of the modalities, the teacher will often express the importance of a daily meditation practice.

Today is the first day of a 21-day Meditation Challenge with Deepak Chopra and The Chopra Center.  If you are interested in joining me, and learning more about your life’s purpose via understanding yourself through meditation, click on this link.

Make an amazing day!
(I often end my emails and posts with this and need to give credit to a woman who signed me up for my first event with Deepak Chopra, Journey to Healing.  She ended the phone conversation with ‘make an amazing day’ and it resonated with me because it speaks to our ability to create an amazing experience/day based on the choices we make.)

Peace,
~Maureen

TIMBo Training and Wholehearted Living.

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photo: Tracy Rodriguez Photography

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.” Brené Brown – The Gifts of Imperfection

We all have a natural tendency to focus on the story. The story of why we are sad, depressed, angry, lonely, bored (insert other emotions here) and the feelings that result from them: guilt, fear, shame, resentment. The TIMBo (Trauma Informed Mind Body) Program is designed to more strategically address the effect that stress and trauma have on the body and the mind.

It’s okay to share and process our stories and equally important to recognize when we get caught up in the drama of the story rather than doing what we can to work toward healing the hurt associated with our emotions and feelings.

I’ve attended many workshops and trainings in my years of preparing to be a yoga teacher trainer and health/life coach as well as for my own personal development. The TIMBo Training has reinforced much of what I have learned in the past decade including:

> The Saber Tooth Tiger Syndrome (or as I affectionately refer to it: STTS) – a real or perceived threat to survival (when we have the urge to ‘fight or flight’) is the root of many of our reactions to people and situations. In the caveman (I prefer ‘cavepeople’) days, if you were dismissed by the clan, they would throw you out of the cave and guess who was waiting for you? Yup – the Saber Tooth Tiger – and it would be likely there would not be an option to fight and you’d be running for your life.

Watch this YouTube video about the affect of stress on our body.

> From the Buddha’s Brain book – the Path of Awakening
Being with what arises (mindfulness), working with tendencies of the mind to transform (virtue), and taking refuge in the ground of being (wisdom)

> There is nothing to fix! This is one of the first things Sue Jones (facilitator and creator of the TIMBo program – and also an EJ writer) said to the group. Five seemingly simple words. Sit for a moment and think about that. How often do we act and react from a place of trying to fix something or someone (including ourselves)?

> FEAR – False Evidence Appearing Real
Lao Tzu wrote:
If you are depressed, you are living in the past,
If you are anxious, you are living in the future,
If you are at peace, you are living in the present.

When we live in the present moment, we are aware of how we are ‘being’ and decrease our likelihood of being depressed or anxious – which is excellent since both those feelings can lead to feeling fearful and being stuck in sensations that don’t serve us. When we are living in the present moment, we can be present with something we need to process without being stuck in the past or the future.

Sue also reminded us that regardless of the trigger, fear is the same. We feel it in our body and it invokes a physiological response – which can be addressed via verbally processing the emotion/feeling, intentional breathing, yoga, and meditation. Sue reminds us that it’s a process – it is about learning to be okay where we are at and moving toward happiness. Not labeling an emotion as negative, being with it as it is.

ImageThe TIMBo Program is great for self-development as well as learning to facilitate groups and yoga classes for women who want to live more authentically and let go of emotions that no longer serve us/them. In this 4-day training you will meet women who will be your friends for life. The day after the training Sue wrote on her Facebook page: “Laugh with me and we connect for a day. Cry with me and we connect for a lifetime ♥.” This pretty much sums up how powerful the training was and how deeply connected I feel to the women who were at this training.       
photo: Tracy Rodriguez Photography

Post-TIMBO days/weeks also remind me of the post-Reiki training days – it’s emotional (in an awesome, powerful way), you feel fully present in your life, and you are really clear on what is leading you toward your life’s purpose and what is not. This training will change your perception and will provide you with the strength to move toward that which energetically and intuitively feels right for your life and will help you release from that which does not resonate.

ImageYou will need to be prepared to get in touch with how emotions are stored in your body – which is why it quickly becomes clear why Marika walked into the training room with multiple boxes of tissues. It’s quite cleansing and healing as we realize that life is not always about being happy and that we cannot truly know happiness without being familiar with sadness.

And we understand that we can experience confidence by recognizing our shame and we can move toward the light by having knowledge of the darkness. We need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable – which according to Brené Brown is an accurate measurement of courage. When we live truthfully, with courage, we are living authentically. (Two links below to Brené’s powerful TED videos):

TED talk: Vulnerability
TED talk: Listening to Shame

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What can we all do to live more wholeheartedly?

Consider one or more of the following to begin to build our toolbox:

> Shift judgment of reaction to the stories/feelings with Mindfulness Practices: Practice Pranayama, Yoga, Meditation

> Breathing off the mat – pay attention and lengthen our breath to change the physiology of your body

> Read, Learn and Be Inspired – here are some of my favorites: Brene Brown: The Gifts of Imperfection; Buddha’s Brain: Richard Hanson; Life Lessons – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross & David Kessler; Anatomy of the Spirit – Caroline Myss; The Power of Intention – Wayne Dyer; Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life – Wayne Dyer; Seven Spiritual Laws of Success – Deepak Chopra; A New Earth – Eckhart Tolle; Mudras – Yoga in Your Hands – Gertrude Hirschi; Creative Visualization – Shakti Gawain

> Life/Health Coaching

To process the stories of our lives so we can release the emotions that we attached to the story, when we are no longer attached to them in a way that is creating harm to our body, we begin the healing process and to understand yourself, learn about how your values and beliefs contribute to your actions and reactions.

> Attend a TIMBo session and learn to ‘put space between what you FEEL and what you choose to DO’.

> Recognize, and take time, to do what grounds you – nature, reading, yoga, spending time with friends & family, etc.

> Believe that you have the resources within to accomplish anything you want in life.

> Understand the concept of choice – Living Life, Making Choices

Every day we make choices.
We choose one thought over another,
we choose one behavior over another,
we choose to take one path over another.

When we investigate our lives,
existing with awareness
and taking responsibility for our choices,
we are choosing to live an authentic life.

For more info on Sue Jones:
www.yogahope.org
www.suejonesyoga.com

Be Who You Are!

Dr. Seuss said, “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

I’ve written about authenticity before and the topic came up again a couple of weeks ago during week one of the most recent Yoga & Wellness session that I am facilitating.  The word/concept inevitably comes up when we are talking about core values, beliefs and living yoga on and off the mat.

So, that led to my posting the Dr. Seuss quote yesterday morning on my Living Life, Making Choices Facebook page (if you haven’t ‘liked’ it yet – click on the link to the left) and then the topic of ‘keeping it real’ arose again when I spent time with a good friend yesterday.  Where is this leading me, you might ask?  I’m not sure – I don’t really have a detailed, thoughtful post here, but feel that it’s important to trust my instincts that someone needs this message today.

So, I’ll keep going with the flow…. I’ve been thinking about how even when authenticity is one of our core values – it can be challenging to be real all the time. I pride myself upon being authentic and truthful.  I do, however, find myself thinking carefully about how I word things when I am delivering a message that I think might disappoint someone.  My friend reminded me of the importance of Dr. Seuss’ words…. if someone ‘minds’ my truth – and/or I find it difficult to deliver that truth, then I should ask myself how much it matters since I am not responding authentically.

This is not new information to me – I know this – I practice this in my life pretty regularly, so what does it mean when I find myself spending too much time thinking about how to word something …. nothing, really – just a gentle reminder.  No judgment of self, no harsh words for others… just a gentle reminder.  Those who matter – they really won’t mind.  So say what you want to say.

Then I think – well this might not be realistic for us to do with everyone in our lives 24/7.  So if we think about times when there is someone who we can’t say ‘it’ to, we can consider if anything needs to be said at all because most times – it doesn’t.  Pay attention and you’ll be surprised how many times you feel like you REALLY need to say something and when you think about it, you really don’t.

Thanks to my friend, Tee – for her wise words and to my friend, Linda for the beautiful photo in this post – from the North Country of New Hampshire!  And thank you, readers, for accepting this post as is…. usually I take more time and edit, edit away, but this one – I want it to be as it is.  Thanks for not minding!

My top three considerations when practicing yoga on & off the mat.

1)      The Breath

On the mat:
Once we get the concept that yoga postures will be easier when we breathe smoothly – then we begin to find the meditative quality of the practice. This takes our practice to a level beyond the physical.

Off the mat: If your breath is erratic pay attention, consider why it is that way, and intentionally slow it down. If it’s too shallow bring your awareness to the breath and purposefully increase the quality. A steady breath = a steady mind. A steady mind = peacefulness.

2)      Gratitude

On the mat:
Be grateful that we can move our body – that we have the capacity to get ourselves on the mat and in the moments when a posture is challenging, be in the moment, be with the posture – ask yourself – what is this here to teach me?

Off the mat:
The passage of time – when things are going well, time seems to go by swiftly and when life is presenting us with challenges, time seems to go by painfully slow. Either way – we must remember – the event and emotions are impermanent…. it will change…. which is why it is important to embrace the present moment. Whether it is enjoyable or difficult is not really the point – the point is – the experience is presented to teach us something and within the lesson, there is always an opportunity to be grateful.

 

3)      Intention

On the mat:
There really is not any reason to spend our time (or money if we are going to a studio/class) practicing yoga without an intention. Everyone’s intention, on each day, will be different. When we step on our mat, we have the opportunity to ask ourselves – what is my intention for the next 60 minutes?

Off the mat:
Living with intention requires dedication to awareness. Paying attention to our choices, our actions, and how we react to others. Every day we make choices.  We choose one thought over another, we choose one behavior over another, and we choose to take one path over another.  When we investigate our lives, existing with awareness, and taking responsibility for our choices, we are choosing to live an authentic life.

Make an amazing day!
Namaste,

~Maureen

HalfMoon Pond photo by my good friend, Melanie Dostie.

Yogis acting… well…. non-yogic.

It happens all the time – know why?  We are spiritual beings living a human existence, that’s why.

I know of yoga teachers who have had affairs with students.
I know yoga teachers who are self-centered.
I know yoga teachers who gossip.
I know yoga teachers who have envious tendencies.
I know yoga teachers who are not easy to forgive others.

I do my best to not judge any of that (though I must admit I am still challenged with not judging affairs since I have strong opinions about what it takes for a person to cheat on a spouse/partner) and live my life, making the best choices for where I am at – today.  It is my belief that everyone is doing the best they can, at any point in their life, given their current circumstances.  So, let’s take a real life example – if I reach out to someone and ask to have a conversation about something that I think did not go well in our relationship and the other person makes the choice to not respond, I need to let go.  It can be challenging especially when we want to mend fences and instead we are left creating stories about the situation, but in the end, we can only take responsibility for our own actions and reactions and make the choice to move on.  That is yoga!

Yoga doesn’t ask us to believe, it asks us to practice, examining our experience until we can witness the truth in the book of our own heart. ~ Dave Stringer

What do we all have in common – yoga practitioners and those who do not step on the mat?  We make choices, we make mistakes …. and if we are open to receive them, we learn valuable life lessons.

This is what I know for sure:

Every day we make choices.

We choose one thought over another,
we choose one behavior over another,
we choose to take one path over another.

When we investigate our lives,
existing with awareness
and taking responsibility for our choices,

we are choosing to live an authentic life.

Numbers do not define us


#1 – Age:

I turned 51 the other day – I don’t feel 51 – wait a minute – I’ve never been 51 so I don’t know what the heck that is that suppose to feel like!  I recall as a teenager when someone was forty or fifty, they seemed really old.  Ha, ha…. perspective!  Here’s what I do know today – living life provides us with experiences and the opportunity to learn lessons and gain wisdom.  This feels very good at 51.

“As you grow in wisdom, you’ll learn to embrace and love others for who they are, looking for benefits they offer you knowing that they represent parts of you’ve buried or disowned.  Wisdom means thanking others for bringing to your awareness those areas, and for being grateful that they’ve given you this opportunity to love.”  Dr. John Demartini

# 2- Weight:

In 2007 I weighed 113 pounds.  I am 5’5” tall, so I have no business being 113 pounds. (I should be more like 128-135 – the range where I am currently).  One day, when I was way too thin, a student came into the yoga studio and said “I have not seen you for so long, you are so thin, you look great!”  The next day I was in Vermont visiting my friend, Kathy, who said “You look thin.  How do you feel?”  Perspective, eh?  One person – likely fixated on thin as a good thing and another person truly seeing her friend and expressing concern.


#3 – How much money we earn/have:

I know wealthy people who are not happy and I know people who have little money and live abundantly in many ways.

Whether rich or poor, people make choices about how they spend money, and those choices can boost happiness or undermine happiness. It’s a mistake to assume that money will affect everyone the same way.  ~ Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project

#4- Facebook:

Today I viewed my FB page (Living Life, Making Choices) and noticed I had over 700 ‘likes’.  I was very surprised because I recently recall having less than 400.  When I noticed the significant increase, thanks to Simple Steps, Real Change, I was surprised and pleased.  Then as I was thinking about this post I wondered –  why am I happy about that?  Is it because you like me, you really like me (think Sally Fields)?  When we are living our life, making choices that resonate for us – we should not focus on how many people ‘like’ us.  It’s not to say I do not appreciate every single person who ‘likes’ my page, I do.  I am so grateful to have the opportunity to reach people with  quotes and meaningful links that move me in the hopes it might also touch a chord in others, however, it is more important for me to stay grounded, be authentic and not get caught up in the ego.

See the link between your thinking and your emotions.  Rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them.  ~Eckhart Tolle

Please let me know what you think and perhaps provide examples of other numbers that you think should not define us!  I appreciate your taking the time to read my blog and hope you ‘like’ it!