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.
One of the most powerful lessons I have gained from raising three children to young adulthood is that they each need to be loved in a different way. It might surprise you that the same is true for the way we love ourselves - it needs to vary! Our work (and it’s profoundly rewarding work) is to discover as many of these different ways to love as possible. Because when we love someone (especially ourselves) the way they need to be loved, not only do we help them stretch toward their potential, but we also stretch a little closer to our own potential.
Go ahead. Let yourself “feel all the feels.” And don't be worried if you don’t actually know specifically how or what you're feeling. Knowing you are a mess and need to do something to sort yourself out is enough. A good trick is to unroll your mat. There’s no better place than there to figure out that it’s just life that you’re feeling.
Being yourself is hard. It is easy to get mixed up by the advice and pressures from the world around you. Mindfulness practices such as yoga, meditation and journaling can help you hear more clearly and walk more surely to the beat of your own drum.
If a coming change has you an emotional wreck like my looming empty nest has me, it's OK. Every change and shift in life is an opportunity to practice letting go. It is by letting go that we stay open to change. It is by being open to change that we allow ourselves to change. The opposite is also true. When we resist or fight change, we eliminate the possibility for our own growth. So join me in opening your arms wide to let go and embrace all that life is bringing your way!