We humans are social creatures. Our nervous systems are actually designed to pick up on and imitate the emotions of others. We actually leak emotions to one another! In times like this one as we (all of us, around the world) navigate this pandemic, we are feeling the impact of this “emotional leaking” more than ever. Each of can practice being mindful of the emotions we share as we engage with the world around us by making sure the things we say are True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary and Kind. This level of awareness will help each of us to stay in the moment, which is the only place we can find some peace and calm. More importantly, when we’re feeling calm (or at least calmer), we will “leak” a little of that sense of calm to the world around us.
If you struggle with small choices such as “Do I want a salad or a sandwich for lunch?”, it is likely that you struggle even more with life's big decisions. Religious and spiritual disciplines teach that connecting with the desires of our hearts is key to understanding our “call” or “purpose in life” or even what makes us special and unique. Learning to tune into what we really want rather than what we think we should want helps us, in the end, to make the best choice of all - to be happy.
If you ever think you can’t make a difference in this messy, grumpy, sometimes mean world, think again. Take it from me, on even the worst of days, your choice to connect in kindness and concern for someone else will create ripples of goodness that will touch people you haven’t even met – perhaps even hundreds of miles away. All you have to do in most situations is ask, "How can I help you?"
Do you feel hurried all the time? Do you sprint through your days? I used to be a fast person (a fast walker, fast talker, fast eater, fast worker ...). Yoga has changed me. I'm now a little slower because I've learned how to immerse myself into my experiences each step along the way. It turns out that slower is a very nice way to be.
Is it possible to eagerly anticipate an event and still stay present to the moments of your life? It absolutely is. In fact, anticipation has been shown to increase happiness levels for up to 8 weeks before an event, which means you're better able to enjoy every single moment in those two months!
UCLA just received a $20 million grant to open its Kindness Institute. The Institute is designed to study the effects of kindness across many disciplines. Daniel Fessler, the director of the new Institute, says that “science shows practicing kindness and compassion has direct emotional, psychological and medical effects.” A yoga mat is a great place to begin or to deepen a practice of kindness that is as good for you as it is for the world around you.
Yoga gives us the space to act like better people. We feel better in our bodies, so we’re pleasanter. We have the space (physically and mentally) to take a deep breath, so we’re calmer and more even-keeled. We’re less distracted so we’re able to be fully engaged and compassionate with whoever is right in front of us. We have some space from our feelings, so we’re less likely to react and more likely to respond mindfully. All in all, yoga helps act like the people we want to be.
Acceptance is a big part of living your yoga. It can be tough to pull off during challenging times because it is easily misunderstood. Acceptance is not quitting. Acceptance is not saying, “I’m doomed.” Acceptance does not make a tough moment “forever” any more than the most wonderful moments of your life have lasted forever. Acceptance is simply the willingness to work with what you’ve got. To take the next step – and then the next and the next and the next. Acceptance is choosing to roll with whatever life has brought your way with creativity and grace and the faith that life holds many more twists and turns in store for you.
One day, sitting in my driveway while the kids played with sidewalk chalk (which was infuriating because two of them were throwing it over the fence rather than drawing with it), I had an epiphany. I was being called to live my yoga right here, right now. This crazy, messy life was my metaphorical mat. My real-life challenging postures were these lovely little people who were simultaneously driving me batty and overwhelming me with love. Because of my practice with yoga philosophy, I understood that this life (my life!) is a gift. In that instant, something inside of me softened and shifted. I stopped fighting. I stopped looking for an exit. I opened myself fully to my life and received it as the gift it is.