Tag Archives: Meditation

Sunday Meditation for Peace and Loving Kindness

“Choosing to cultivate love rather than anger just might be what it takes to save the planet from extinction.” – Pema Chödrön

Today I want to share a meditation for peace from the Places that Scare YouOf course, Chödrön does a much more eloquent job of describing the steps, but I loved the idea. Make sure to sit quietly for a few minutes before you begin. As you move through the phases, pay attention to whether the ease of expressing love changes for each group:

1. Start by concentrating on happiness for yourself, “May I enjoy happiness and the root of happiness.”

2. Move on to people and/or animals in your life who you already feel tenderness toward, “May ____ enjoy happiness and the root of happiness.”

3. Next, think of a friend you care about but have more complicated feelings toward, “May ____ enjoy happiness and the root of happiness.”

4. Then, imagine people you feel neutral about or perhaps do not know well, such as a neighbor or a person you have seen on the street, “May ____ enjoy happiness and the root of happiness.”

5. Move on to someone who you dislike or find irritating, “May ____ enjoy happiness and the root of happiness.”

6. Next, envision all of the people above standing in front of you and focus on feelings of loving kindness for each of them.

7. Last, harness a feeling of loving kindness for all beings. Focus first on those close to you, in your neighborhood or city, and then let the feeling expand outward into the greater universe.

***

The power of this meditation exists in pushing our boundaries in how we see people in the world around us. I already do a form of this meditation in my classroom. When I feel upset with a student, I concentrate on how much I love him or her, which in turn allows me to detach from my less kind emotions and focus on the best course of action.

While it is not always easy to tap into this love, it is transformational. It is so tempting to judge and disconnect from others who are different or activate our emotional triggers. However, it is when we open ourselves up to loving kindness for all people that the world starts to change.

If this meditation resonated, I highly recommend Chödrön’s book.

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Cultivating Mindfulness in How we React to Others

This afternoon I attended the most beautiful class on mindfulness in dealing with children. The main focus was remembering to take a moment (or two or three…) to breathe and disconnect from our own emotional triggers before responding to challenging situations. The key words there are react and respond. When we respond, we no longer let the situation control us. I definitely needed a refresher on this lesson.

Sometimes when I feel students are not listening to me, I become frustrated, angry even. I tense up and regain control through dominance instead of quiet patience. As I reflected on why I become so upset, I realized I react based on my own hunger for respect. Growing up as a small, quiet girl, people constantly underestimated me, a reality that carried over to the beginning of my teaching career as feedback often included my quiet nature.

By taking a moment to breathe and be mindful of my reaction/response, I give myself the chance to determine the best course of action for my students, instead of the emotionally obvious one. I have grown in my ability to respond with calm resolve over the past year, but those stressful moments are still there, lurking at the end of a long day. As I prepare to return to the classroom, I am mindful of how I will stop, breathe, and disconnect from emotional triggers before I respond.

I don’t expect you to answer, because these are personal questions, but maybe you could benefit from similar reflection: When do you react with emotion instead of responding in the best interest of both yourself and others? Why do these moments draw such a reaction out of you?

Just ordered this book recommended during class today-- anyone want to join me for an August book club reading?

Just ordered this book recommended during class today– anyone want to join me for an August reading?

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A Good Day for Yoga

Not sure if it has made national news, but if you live in California you’ve likely heard on the radio that yoga was ruled as a form of exercise, not religion in Southern California schools. This is exciting news for me as I figure out how to integrate yoga into my classroom. I still plan to call it something else, but at least there is some backing for the idea that it can be taught in a secular fashion.

And, in less-exciting-to-you yoga news, my husband gave me a new yoga book today and promised he would start participating in home yoga with me. I’m thrilled! If you’re new to my blog thanks to Kozo’s kind repost, welcome. I’m a little obsessed with yoga and what it can do for peace, both mental and physical.

Very excited for my new book and expanding awareness of yoga.

Very excited for my new book and the potential to use more yoga in my classroom.

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VLOG Follow-up to Yoga in the Classroom

Last week I expressed my surprise to find opposition to teaching yoga to children. Many of you offered helpful insight, both in comments and privately. The more I let my feelings settle, the more I realized it wasn’t such a big deal to just rename yoga in my classroom. My decision?

Yoga will be called “Be Ready to Learn,” or possibly BRL for short.

I know it probably sounds like a mouthful, but that’s because it’s meant to be a chant that gains speed and volume as we go:

Be. (Make the letter B with hands)

Ready. (Thumbs up)

To Learn. (Make an open book with hands)

This will be accompanied by a poster that gives the steps to be ready to learn:

1. Breathe: Count breaths to quiet outside thoughts.

2. Stretch: Get blood flowing to your brain.

3. Focus: Sit-up straight, show STAR, ask questions.

I’m excited to develop an actual thought-out plan to help student Be Ready to Learn through movement and breathing exercises this year.

And, last but not least, my VLOG. I had to fight the temptation to put on make-up and film another take (or delete altogether). Instead, spontaneous and natural, just as I would like my kids to be. It’s funny how sometimes it really is hard to practice what you preach…

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Yoga & Christianity: An Unexpected Controversy

This week I was startled by the revelation that some people feel yoga challenges Christianity. As someone who has taken classes in all kinds of studios, this thought had never occurred to me. Even with Yoga’s Buddhist and Hindu roots, I have never once heard talk of God in a yoga class.

Instead, I have found deep spaces of quiet to reflect on who I am and connect with myself, both mentally and physically. While yoga is becoming more and more a part of who I am, its influence is through quieting the mind into a space of mindfulness, not through guiding me to surrender any of my core beliefs.

So why does it matter to me that some Christians are bothered by yoga?

The answer is simple. I want to teach yoga in my classroom, but I teach some deeply religious children with families sensitive to anything that might challenge their beliefs. It has already been suggested that I keep the word yoga out of what we’re doing. To me, it’s more important that I give my students a physical outlet for their stress than any sort of label. Still, I cannot help but feel bothered that this is the case. Yoga is powerful and I want to share it with my students in a way that helps to dispel misconceptions.

The little yoga that we’ve done this year has calmed them. Our contests of who can hold tree the longest provide quiet moments of concentration that connect my students with both their minds and bodies. Our breathing and visualization exercises have given them the strength to overcome anxiety in both social and academic situations. Multiple times in the past couple years, I have caught my students using our brain break techniques on their own to relax their minds. Jesus or Buddha has had nothing to do with it.

A friend came and talked to me after school today. She is deeply religious and I knew she would be able to help me understand. I told her how I wanted to do more yoga with the kids but was just beginning to understand what I was up against. She admitted she once felt the same way but then attended a yoga retreat with a minister friend and realized it was a way to connect with herself and her beliefs, not a call for change. Another childhood friend teaches “holy yoga” for free at her church. Clearly both can exist together, but people who do not know are still afraid.

Sometimes I go to a church downtown that honors all faiths. It does not ask you to leave your beliefs at the door, but rather invites Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Buddhists to see how their faiths intertwine and share so many common ideas. This concept puzzles some of my devoutly Christian friends. They cannot understand how Christians can acknowledge multiple paths to God, but the world is full of different faiths. That’s not going to change. We might as well try to understand our differences and find some common ground.

But here’s the real irony, all this religious strife aside, teaching yoga has nothing to do with religion for me. It’s simply the act of connecting body and mind to create a healthier self. The kids respond well to it. Never have I once tried to influence their beliefs. I don’t want to change them, I just want to give them a way to manage the stress in their lives and improve their physical fitness.

For the time being, I plan to continue my endeavor under a different name, but I want to reach the point where yoga mats are welcome in my room. Public schools in many parts of the country have already embraced yoga for kids. I want the same for my students. I leave you with two incredible clips that show how yoga is changing lives for at-risk youth around the country. While the second clip is low quality, looking into the eyes of homeless young people and hearing them talk about how yoga gives them the heat to survive the cold is life changing.

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Bohemian Abundance & Peace at Home

We each have a formula of things that bring us happiness. For me, it is purpose in my work, expressing myself through writing, yoga, my dogs, travel, and most importantly, the people I love. This month has been a lesson in the reality that more money is not on that list. I can have all those things without ever being materially rich. Abundance exists in how we live, not what we have.

Sometimes the answers are so simple.

Sometimes the answers are so simple.

Everyone knows people who choose to live minimally but have incredibly rich life experiences. The vagabond, the bohemian yogi, the teacher who lives on little during the year to spend his summer backpacking. For most of us reading this blog, our dreams are achievable within the means of what we already have. I’m not saying poverty is not real, but rather our dreams are closer than we think.

Rick Steves says it well. He argues that driving an older car, living in a more modest home, eating out a bit less during the year can open up a world of travel we never thought possible. I have read incredible stories of people who live in tiny studios and then put their stuff in storage to allow themselves the freedom to travel. It all comes down to priorities. Maybe travel isn’t your thing, but something is, and whatever that thing may be, you have to find a way to give it space in your life, even if this means rearranging your priorities.

Likewise, we must give space to the people in our lives to do the same thing– our partners must create their own list of happiness ingredients and we must work together to honor how our priorities can coexist within the same home. After all, peace at home is not just about ourselves. It is a give and take, an acceptance of others for their true nature, not our selfishly-imposed vision of how the other should be.

Happiness is complicated. We expect this space of bliss to exist where all the hard parts melt away. This recent article on Offbeat Families says it well:

New love is beautiful, but it isn’t the point of life. Honoring it and allowing it to be, to flare and flourish and light up the sky and then to fade in its own time, like everything does… and staying with it, consuming it, taking it into ourselves, letting it become us, to become as vital to us as our lungs and heart and tongue, might be the point of life. Finding the deeper meaning and beauty beyond the flashier, temporary kind that comes with newness, might be the point.

-Amanda King

I am coming to realize that happiness is layered in challenge and perseverance. It is not easy and it is not constant, but when you are living a life aligned with that list of ingredients that rings true for you, it is there, just beneath the surface, helping you find peace in the chaos, giving your life meaning beyond any sort of obsession with needing more. We are already whole, we just need to figure out what this means and how to honor it.

Peace, too, is a state of mind. Some people are able to find peace in chaos, while others create chaos in peace. I am working to be the person who finds peace without hiding from the world or avoiding conflict. My work as a teacher helps me practice this every day, but it is still work and I am still learning.

It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed.

-Abigail Adams

As I sat over a greasy spoon breakfast of eggs and country potatoes with my dad early yesterday morning, I was reminded that we do not face this journey alone. We are part of a network of people who can hold us up closer to our dreams, if only we figure out what they are and let go of our stubborn desire to do everything on our own. We are more powerful together, both at home with our partners and in our larger communities of families, friends, and neighbors. A bohemian sort of abundance already surrounds us, we just have to figure out how to embrace it.

Join me in the Bloggers for Peace June challenge, what brings you peace at home and in your relationships? 

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What I learned on the 26th day of my yoga challenge…

I set out this month eager to become the most physically active I have ever been in my life. While I have gone through stints of running a few times a week or doing yoga daily for a couple weeks straight, I have never been someone who exercises every day. Then, my work started this challenge where we had to log our exercise for 2013 and I found myself exercising almost daily, including the two mile walk we take with our dogs.

Suddenly, I felt ready to tackle daily exercise and yoga seemed like the best option. I imagined myself ready to embrace summer vacation with an exercise routine in the books, no longer waiting for summer to get fit but already fit when summer started. Not only that, but I imagined the relaxing high of post-yoga meditation bliss as the trials of teaching faded from my brain each evening. While these expectations were definitely met, I also discovered something I never expected.

Daily yoga is too much for me, even when I listen to my body with seemingly gentle days of slow movement and meditation mixed in. By days 24 and 25, my body had gradually become a mess. I had a low-level migraine, my neck ached, the top of my right thigh muscle felt like it was going to abandon me. Disappointed, I shared the wall I hit with an instructor whose class I love and her advice helped to shift my perspective. She reminded me that yoga is not a competition or about ego. It’s alright to listen to your body instead of listening to your goals. She also made me realize that sometimes even meditation is an exertion of energy that may be too much.

So, last night, I took the night off. Unlike the Friday before where I shunned social interaction to practice yoga and keep with my routine, I came home, did nothing, then went to dinner with friends. Oh. How. Glorious. Today I woke up ready to go to one of my favorite yin classes. My body no longer feels like it’s falling apart. I’m excited to practice again. The 26th day of yoga taught me that yoga isn’t about every day, it’s about listening to your body and accepting the days where practice means doing something else.

I'm grateful for the reminder that the purpose of life is to live, not to keep up with our arbitrary must-do list in our brain. Everyday Guru put the same idea nicely in his post today too.

I’m grateful for the reminder that the purpose of life is to live, not to keep up with our arbitrary must-do lists. Everyday Gurus put the same idea nicely in his post today too.

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Peace Through Art

The May Blogger’s for Peace challenge is to post some form of art and connect it to how it creates peace in your life. For some reason, I really dragged my feet on this one. I’m a very in my head kind of person. Peace for me is usually not a highly visual experience, which is why when I typed peace into Pinterest, I was so excited to see this:

Inner peace.

Inner peace.

It reminded me of how in moments of chaos I retreat to peaceful places in my mind– the thought of Hawaiian beaches over summer break has calmed me for two years in a row during teaching’s most frustrating moments. Crashing waves, my wedding day, the warm sun, are all experiences I conjure in my mind when I need peace.

Where do you go? Do you visit with eyes open or eyes closed?

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Thankfulness Thursday: Yoga & Healing

Life is choices. This week I chose yoga and reading over writing.

I finally ordered Anatomy of the Spirit and devoured as much as I could after work. I highly recommend this book. For years I have heard people talk about not wanting to give their energy to this or that… I finally get it. We can learn to control the flow of energy in and out of our bodies. Our health depends on it. This book is a blessing.

So much good stuff in life, so few hours in the day...

So much good stuff in life, so few hours in the day…

I also am grateful for yoga and dusk walks with my husband and dogs. My focus on healing is monopolizing my evenings, but there is a peace and calm that comes with this. I want to write more, but I need balance. Just thirty minutes on the computer a day is liberating. Summer will come soon enough.

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May Challenge: Yoga Every Day.

Some Saturdays I go to a magic yoga class. It is yin yoga in a warm room. The first time I went was right after the national tragedy in December. The instructor had us sit in a circle and concentrate on the flame of a candle. By the ending Savasana, I felt like I was floating through the universe, connected to all the bright stars in a sea of darkness.

If you have never experienced anything like this, I know it probably sounds out there. However, over the course of the last year, I have had a lot of out-there experiences. I now believe in the power of our bodies and minds. My visits to an incredible woman who does body work have cemented this belief. Magic is real, or if nothing else, we are powerful beyond comprehension.

Today as I lay in the dark, warm room, I was overwhelmed by gratitude for the woman who teaches the class. Each time I attend, she offers a little piece of herself, words of wisdom set to music I love. Half her playlist is on my computer. I don’t know her and she knows even less of me, but her words always seem to fit whatever my week has brought me.

This week, she talked about the healing power of yoga and how a regular practice makes this power available to us when we really need it. She talked about her own journey with MS and how yoga has been there for her– she is young and my heart goes out to her. A wonderful woman I used to work with, who also faithfully reads my blog, has battled MS for years. It is some serious stuff, but so is yoga.

As I held poses this afternoon, I let her words sink in. Lately, I have done yoga only once a week. I am good at doing yoga regularly when I have breaks from school, but I lose my momentum when life gets stressful, which is exactly when I need it most. Today my body felt weak as I moved through the poses. I hate feeling weak.

The resounding message that kept moving through my thoughts– I need to do yoga every day.

So, for the month of May, I have a goal. At least 30 minutes of yoga daily. I will go to studios, practice at home, stream classes, use books, practice in silence and with music. I will mix it up and be consistent because I realize I have no choice. I want to feel strong and healthy. Yoga is my secret. Will you join me?

If you do yoga, I really encourage you to try a daily practice with me in May. I did not think it would make a huge difference until I actually made it a whole month in December.

We may not have the beach behind us, but at least a bit of team encouragement might help!

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I want to scream & shout & let it all out…

Okay, so you know how I was loving my job last weekend?

Today, I’m exhausted. I feel like this week aged me an extra five years. The kids are antsy. Some are downright angry. A few have been rolling on the floor. STAR testing is next week. The hype is too much. Monday I am planning a day of relaxation. No test prep, just normal review/lessons with some mindfulness exercises thrown into the mix. I think if we play jeopardy or math baseball one more time they might revolt. Today they nearly did.

We performed a teacher cheer at our pep rally set to “Scream & Shout” this afternoon. Don’t worry, we took the profanity out and added in fun stuff about college. However, the real chorus will be stuck in my head all weekend.

I want to scream and shout and let it all out…

Fitting, really. I’m going to take some deep breaths and relax now. TGIF.

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When it’s hard, try harder.

When it's hard, try harder.

“This is too hard.” Those words make me cringe. I hear them daily. They might be the most common words in my professional life. I tried to ban them. It didn’t work. They still sneak their way into lessons, tests, discussions.

“When it’s hard, try harder.”

That’s my newest response. I wrote those words on the board today, before we took our reading benchmark. I also tried something else. The school psychologist slipped a book into my box, Teaching Meditation to Children. We closed our eyes and imagined ourselves on a beautiful spring day confronted with an enormous wall. Instead of turning around, we figured out a way over, through, under… We didn’t give up.

The irony does not go unnoticed. I teach kids to do their best, to not get discouraged by their mistakes or failures. Yet, sometimes in my personal life I want to give up. Lately writing has felt this way. At first I was unfazed by the rejection letters from my queries, but more than forty later, they are beginning to feel heavier as they pile up. The worst are those from agents who asked to see more but then weren’t interested. The others feel less real, less personal. They didn’t take the time to look.

I’m not sure what’s next. More querying, rewriting, beta readers, self-publishing, a different project, or some combination of it all. Today I realized the important part is that there is something next, that I follow my own words to try harder when it’s hard. After all, what good is a leader who does not believe her own words. Maybe a little meditation would not hurt either.

"Children experience feelings such as love, joy, fear, disappointment and anger with intensity they may never match in adult life." So true. I remember that intensity. I also remember the teachers who asked us to close our eyes and imagine.

“Children experience feelings such as love, joy, fear, disappointment and anger with intensity they may never match in adult life.” I remember that intensity. I also remember the teachers who asked us to close our eyes and imagine.

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