Friday, August 28, 2015

What does it mean to love yourself?

I have been on a quest for four years. Here is what has helped me.

How to love yourself.

1. Pay for therapy first and then get a coach if you want as well, you are worth it. You can find a way. Quit making excuses. There are free and low cost clinics everywhere. Do the research, you are worth it. Yes it will be hard, healing is hard.
2. Pay for experiences and quit spending money on stuff. Go to yoga class, find a donation class if you don't have much money. Do fun stuff now and again. Say yes to healthy adventure.
3. Once in a while really order what you want at the restaurant.  I don't always do this but the other day I wanted crab legs, I had the money so I got them. I used to feel like that was to overindulgent and it embarrassed me to get them, as if I was arrogant (how silly).
4. Don't overindulge to excess. Drink a glass of wine, not the bottle. If you eat crab legs every night you may go broke but once in a while- heck yeah!
5. Next time you have a problem before you call all your friends ask yourself what you think the answer is. Write about it. Journal about. Pray about. Sleep on it. Then call your (sane and logical) friends if you like. I bet you knew all along what to do. In the end ask your heart and your head what they think and find the middle ground.
6. Feed yourself good food. Don't tell me you don't have the money. I know all about it. There are so many healthy foods you can eat that are cheaper than fast food. Oatmeal, bananas, apples, peanut butter, beans, carrots, onions, potatoes, and on and on. Learn to cook some staples and eat those healthy leftovers because it nourishes your body and soul.
7. Get out in nature often. 
8. Meditate
9. When someone says something negative about you or to you ask yourself if it's true. If there is an element of truth in it then ask yourself what you need to do to evolve and acknowledge it and make a plan. If you objectively look at yourself and you don't feel that it's true, move past it. They are probably jealous or only trying to put you down to make themselves look better. 
10. Work on appreciation. Start taking note of what you are grateful for every day. Be in the moment when you do this and savor that feeling. If you are sitting with your dog and you are thinking "I love this dog" then do that, don't be thinking about the bills, conciously change your thought patterns when they arise.
11. Make a list of things you like to do and do them. 
12. Set your timer and do what needs to be done and then give yourself some "me" time when the buzzer goes off. 
13. Exercise. I hate hardcore exercise. I love to walk and do yoga, so that's what I do. If I don't have a lot of time I do 10 minutes of walking and 15 minutes of yoga. I double that on days I do have time. Do it because it makes you healthy, if you look better that's a added benefit.
14. Find someone or some group you relate to and see them at least once a week. Church, book club, yoga class, knitting group. People who have a community live longer and happier lives, it's scientifically proven. I have a Monday night yoga class I attend and teach sometimes, I dare not miss it, it it my life line.
15. Drink water, it makes you feel better, hydrates your skin and internal organs and flushes toxins.
16. Say affirmations in the positive present tense. "I am smart, I am honest, I am financially secure, I am happy, I am beautiful, I am a healthy weight, I am debt free." Okay so they may not be true "right now" but that's not the point. Your start to believe they are true and your body and mind start to do the things that make them happen. Trust me, this works miracles!
17. Do visualization. Visualize the things you want and need in your life. I don't mean to be materialistic but lets say you want to be debt free. Visualize the steps it takes to get there and the final result. See yourself taking actions in your life to do these things, and think about how it feels. 
18. Become a problem solver. What are the obstacles in your life? What do you need to do to overcome them? Who and what are your resources? Identify and then do it! Overcome those darn obstacles, call on those friends. Spend that tax return on some counseling!
19. Write down all your good qualities and read them out loud. 
20. If you have a problem seek help. Ask for help until someone guides you. In the end you have to do the work and YOU ARE WORTH IT! 

My love to you,

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Principals of  a Healthy Life 

Nature VS Nurture

In college I wrote a research paper on this subject for a class on special needs children. In my heart I always wanted to believe that nurture could trump nature. Then I turned forty. Around my fortieth birthday I was working for the countries largest non profit doing community work like bringing farmers markets and nutrition counseling to a diverse group of people. I was fortunate enough to be able to receive some amazing training in the social aspects of choices. This was one of my first wake up calls to how nurture or environment can impact our health. The lack of choices and opportunities we have greatly impact our ability to care for ourselves. If we can't get out and safely walk or have no access to workout facilities then it's hard to exercise. If there are no stores near us besides dollar stores and convenience stores then it's hard to get fresh fruits and veggies. If you worked all day for $50 and you come home and your kid want's a Happy Meal for $4 you are more likely to give in because you are exhausted and you want to see your child happy and it something you "can" do. People are much more likely to be obese when they live in poverty due to these factors, yet our society berates them.
About a year ago my fiance who is a world class athlete and has been an athlete for forty three years was having chest pains. He went to the doctor and found out he needed bypass surgery. His arteries were 80 to 90 percent clogged. Had he waited six months he would have been dead. In 43 years he probably hasn't missed a week of exercise. His diet has mostly been made up of Southern cooking for the 57 years he has been on earth. The past eight years he has been eating very healthy. At the end of the day it was determined that his blockages were mostly related to his family genes.
As I write this one of my dearest friends is in the hospital after aortic valve replacement surgery. She is forty five. She and I own a health and fitness business together, we are both very active. She is vegan, a yoga teacher, by all accounts lives an incredibly healthy life. A few months back she started to clear her throat, she was very tired all the time and feeling weak. One day while in a parking lot a man backed into her car hard enough to hurt her back. She went to the doctor only to discover the heart murmur she had was much worse and actually she needed major surgery to save her life. Again this was something that runs in her family, her mother and her cousin both have the same condition.
 Then there is my own history with Poly-cystic  Ovarian Syndrome which is an endocrine disorder that affects your entire endocrine system. In fact I also have thyroid disease and blood sugar issues. My grandmother, aunt, and cousin all have the same exact issues.
So this may sound all doom and gloom as if there is nothing you can do about it, your fate is in your genes and your destiny. Well there is hope. It is my belief that because I have taken such good care of myself I have staved off diabetes, excessive weight gain and a whole host of issues that come along with my diagnosis. My friends and fiance and I often remark that given our genes we can't imagine where we would be if we hadn't lived such healthy lives. In fact my fiance and dear friend may be dead already. I could likely be suffering much worse from the whole host of issues that come with P.C.O.S. and thyroid disease.
It can be frustrating to know that you eat healthy, workout, take vitamins and go to the doctor and still develop an illness or chronic disease. It can be a struggle to not have access to the things that contribute to a healthier lifestyle. Many years ago I suffered with a horrible eating disorder, bulimia and anorexia from the age of twelve to eighteen. I'm convinced that a host of my stomach troubles have been attributed to the laxative abuse, purging, and binge starve cycle I put my body through during those years I was developing. If I could say anything to men and women out there today is to not sacrifice your long term health for short term gain. It is a huge weight on me to know that I did some of this to myself.
On a positive note, during that time I started to learn about eating healthy and exercise. I've exercised since I was young taking dance, ballet, and eventually was doing aerobics and weight lifting. In my late teens I discovered yoga which led to a dramatic change in my life style. Since I was eighteen years old I have walked, done yoga and eaten a very healthy diet. I've been poor at times and had to do with what I had. I am so grateful that for the past twenty seven years I've cared for my body. My skin looks much younger than it is at 44, I'm a healthy weight, overall I have aged really well, plus once you start living healthy you feel so good and when you eat bad you recognize what poison it is to your body.. Sickness is rare for me. Now as I go into have my ovaries and scar tissue removed next month I feel assured that there is a good chance I will recover much quicker because of my healthy history and lifestyle. Food and exercise are powerful medicines to the body.
To sum it up caring for yourself will lead to aging better, feeling better, and recovering quicker. My fiance is competing in a World Competition in Tae Kwon Do next week in Italy against hundreds of other black belts over 45. He had quintuple bypass ten months ago. Had it not been for his good overall health going into surgery I have no doubt any of this would have been possible.
It is never to late to start caring for yourself. If you are young don't wait you are setting yourself up now for your future, studies show heart disease actually starts in your childhood!
Here are some tips I've learned over my years of living a healthy life and empowering others to live a healthy life.

1. If you live in a food desert (without much access to healthy foods) there are still foods you can eat healthy. Foods you can find at a dollar store: Tortillas, beans (dried and canned), salsa, occasionally frozen veggies in some stores, frozen chicken breast in some stores, whole grain bread, cereal, oatmeal, nuts, honey, peanut butter, canned fruit it it's own juice *usually pineapple, low fat milk and cheese. Some ideas would be to make a pot of dried beans flavored with spices or broth and a pan of cornbread, breakfast could be oatmeal with pineapple and walnuts, another meal could be burritos with black beans, shredded cheese and salsa. Baked or sauteed chicken with veggies and milk to drink.
2. If you eat a lot of fast food. Some people eat a lot of fast food, two or three times a day. If you do this try things like Bean Burritos with Pico, Chicken Tacos, Grilled Chicken with veggies, water instead of soda, chicken wraps. If you still want the burger and fries try taking it slow and getting only the burger or only the fries, or try replacing one meal a day with a healthier version. Also eating one or two meals at home or packing your lunch.  My teens make me crazy with fast food. When they are broke I encourage taking meals to work instead of giving them money. My daughter just packed a bowl of whole grain cereal and low fat milk to take to work. The other day my son took a banana, a granola bar, a peanut butter and honey sandwich on whole grain bread and a bottle of water.
3. If you eat out a lot. There are so many hidden fats and calories in food that is prepared in a restaurant. I eat out about five times a week. Choose lower carb options like grilled meats or baked meats (fish, chicken, shrimp and an occasional steak), veggies with out all the topping or minimize those toppings, avoid the bread basket (tell them not to bring it), drink water with lemon. At Mexican restaurants only allow yourself a limited amount of chips and choose salsa or guacamole over cheese dip. Veggie based dishes like spinach quesadillas or enchiladas will help you get your veggies. I eat a Mexican dish of shrimp sauteed with pico and eat beans without rice. If you go to an Italian restaurant choose a dish that is based with fish or chicken. I don't recommend eating white pasta or bread. Fill up on salad or broth based soups. Then if you must have pasta choose a whole grain or gluten free pasta and put half in a to go container.
4. At home: Make smoothies with greens like spinach and don't use to much juice, it adds calories ans sugar. Dr. Oz's magazine has so many easy and healthy ideas. Pick them up at the Dollar stores or Walmart. Add fruit and nuts to your oatmeal, cereal or yogurt. To make a good salad add a variety of veggies and use a base of spinach or spring greens. Iceberg is only good for wedge salads. Keep veggie based soups. Learn to make a soup base it's easy. Saute chopped celery, onions, and carrots in a small amount of butter or olive oil, add broth and veggies, then add cooked meat. Use beef broth with beef, chicken with chicken broth etc.... This is an easy way to get veggies and so good.
Learn the basics of cooking. Start eating whole foods, you don't need a lot of recipes.  A healthy diet should consist of whole foods like veggies, fruits, lean proteins and whole grains. Minimize dairy, processed foods, and sugar based foods and watch the bread, pasta and rice. On grains you want to eat brown rice, quinoa, and things like oats. Americans eat entirely to many grains, they are high in carbs and the body turns them into sugar when we consume to much. Grains need to be eaten with protein to slow down the body turning them into sugar.
5. Exercise: Find something you like. I go through bought of lifting weights and other strength training but that is not what I like. I like to do yoga, walk and dance. I've been consistently walking and doing yoga for over 27 years. It makes me happy. Find what makes you happy and keep it up. When your body doesn't get exercise it deteriorates. You lose muscle mass and collagen. Exercise regulates your circulatory system, stimulates your immune system, exercises your repository system, regulates hormones and so much more. Even when you don't feel good a little bit of exercise can make a difference. For me exercise is like taking an ibuprofen but instead of taking medicine I exercise or eat right. Headaches, back pain, tummy issues can all be helped by proper diet and exercise. Keep it up for life and you will experience less illness and chronic pain. You will also recover better when you are ill. If you are chronically ill then start slow and do a short 10 minute walk or a 5 or 10 minute yoga video. A little bit is better than nothing. Celebrate your accomplishments.
6. Positive Thinking and Meditation- I include this because I believe that how we think is what we become. Find the positive in your life, make plans, have a spiritual practice, read positive material, listen to positive music, seek out positive mentors. It's important to have a community of positive people in your life. Who you hang around is who you will become. Negativity breeds negativity, seek out positive people. Don't let yourself be exposed to much negative media.
 7. Sleep- The importance of sleep on our bodies cannot be over stated. Sleep regulates our hormones, fights infection and keeps us in a state of balance. A regular sleep pattern will keep you healthy and happy. Go to bed and get up at roughly the same time. If you have irregular sleep patterns then set a time that you will go to bed and get up. Avoid caffeine at least six to eight hours before you will go to bed, turn off blue lights (computers, phones, games and t.v.) at least an hour before bed. Use yellow colored night lights in your house to promote an increase in melatonin in your brain. Turn the overhead lights out and lamps on in the evening. Workout earlier in the day or evening, to close to bedtime can stimulate you to much. Drink herbal teas like chamomile or Valerian to stimulate natural sleep.
8. Proper Breathing - Learn some type of breathing exercises. Proper oxygen intake and learning to expel carbon dioxide efficiently is essential to muscle and organ health. Our bodies need oxygen to survive and we expel carbon dioxide as our bodies pull waste material out through respiration. A simple one is diaphragmatic breathing. This type of breathing can increase your lung capacity, decrease the symptoms of asthma and other lung conditions, increase energy and regulate your nervous system.
Diaphragmatic breathing technique or Durga Breath : Breathe in (Inhale) until you cannot take in anymore oxygen, then hold your breathe with your lungs full for a moment or as long as you are comfortable to expand your lungs a bit more, then exhale completely blowing the air out until you feel you cannot exhale anymore, make sure you pull the diaphragm in and up by pulling your naval back towards your spine. Repeat. If you get dizzy stop.

These principals are not uncommon. In Sivananda yoga these are actually referred to as the five principals of yoga : Proper Exercise, Sleep, Nutrition, Positive Thinking, and proper Breathing.
Though these principals were codified by Swami Sivananda they are basic principals we know from Eastern and Western Medicine help us to leave a balanced and healthy life.

In Love and Light,
Courtney Butler

 (c) 2015 All rights reserved Courtney Butler and Balance Yoga and Wellness

Sivanada Institute,
Phd. in Parenting Blog for graphic

Friday, April 10, 2015

Being Human
My thoughts on Radical Compassion - Accepting Your Humanness

You are in charge-The only healer in the world is found inside of you. Call it God, your Higher Power, The Universe, Inner Wisdom, I don't care but I know for nearly forty five years I have been on a quest for growth. The journey to grow, heal, and love is something that we will be on till the day we cross over. From my experience this is what I feel fairly confident in saying:

1.You are on a journey called life and in every positive and negative situation you encounter there is a lesson that can help you grow. If you choose to see the lesson you will find a gift in even the worst circumstances, it may not be instant however upon inspection you will find something positive if you choose to. For instance lets take the unimaginable - Every day someone dies, you lose your beloved or even your child. The gift is the time you had with that person, the relationships you now take the time to cherish with those still present in your life physically that you may have taken for granted. Letting go and surrendering to the present moment of goodness with loved ones because you know all to well that it will not last forever.Sure the pain is horrible, nearly imaginable but even in the midst of our greatest pain there is something good that can come out of it.

2. There is no Big Break or One person who can change you. In my profession as a yoga teacher, school instructor people often have some pretty lofty ideas about the public persona they see. I've had a few people say things to me such as "You have all this knowledge and I expected to learn more from you." Well here's the deal, I am human. I've spent 30 years literally on this journey out of my 44 years on earth. I've studied and meditated and taught for thousands of hours. I and no one else can impart those years on you if you are not willing to go through them yourself.  I cannot do that for you and neither can anyone else. You may gain a nugget from me but your change comes from within.

3. Life is simply a series of moments put together so let go of expecting every day to be dessert.
Most days life is meat, potato's and broccoli. Dessert comes once in a while with something like the birth of a baby, a wedding, a birthday, or falling in love but most days are fairly normal meat and potato days. If you choose to stop and enjoy each day and live in the present moment you can find meaning and satisfaction in each day. We would be very obese if life were like dessert every day, we would be out of balance. Accepting this will help you appreciate each day for what it is. The gift of quietly having coffee in the morning, of taking your kids to school, kissing your loved one, of owning a home or whatever you have. Also, understand that you have a natural rhythm, times when you are tired, worn out, and not at your best. Understanding yourself and being aware of when you are at your best will help you be more productive and more forgiving of yourself. Your best will change from day to day. If your sick your best will be different from when you feel well and energetic.
Gratitude for the daily nuts and bolts will radically change you.

4. Self Esteem comes with Radical Self Compassion- I have taught thousands of people. I've led many yoga classes, trained many teachers, taught private clients, facilitated meditations and yoga therapy. I have come to believe that low self esteem is directly related to unrealistic expectations people place on themselves and others. Have you seen the quote that says "If you think it's easy to change someone else think of how hard it is to change yourself". Once we let go of controlling others our world opens up. The only thing we can control is ourselves. If you can take someones awful behavior and think "Why is this person doing this?", chances are your will notice it's probably fear. Most people behave out of simple act of trying to avoid pain. This will help you be more compassionate. When you look at yourself and ask "What am I getting out of this thing I do that is either positive or negative?", then you will start to see that we get a payoff from everything we do. For instance I was in a negative abusive relationship for over twenty years. The payoff was that I didn't have to change, I didn't have to live alone, I had financial security. That was huge. I was so scared of change that I struggled for twenty years to make it work. I can choose to see those twenty years as a waste or as part of my path and my lesson and recognize that there were some positive times and and things that came from them. When we recongnize  another person is in pain and acting out of fear we can forgive. I let go of that relationship because I finally accepted that I could only change myself and my reactions, what I was doing wasn't working. I was trying to control the other person through my expectations. They weren't changing and so I was miserable because I kept expecting things to change. Then I realized the only way to make change is to change my situation. I had to have a lot of compassion for myself and accepted that I was human and fallible. Everyone is human, fallible, makes mistake and is on a journey.

5. It's okay to show your warts.When I was younger I loved going to my friends grandparents. They lived in a virtual shack. It was tidy but small and broken down. They had a garden and plants everywhere. They always had something on the stove and always had us sit at the little two person table and would feed us something from their garden. They always turned off the t.v. when we came in and visited with us. They smiled and they hugged us and they ask questions about us. I didn't care that the house was old, that they were old, or that they didn't have money. That's not why I was there. Quit worrying about possessions and what you have being good enough. It's better to be loving and care about other people. It's how you make people feel that matters. Be curious, ask people "How are you?" and then shut your mouth and listen. Be willing to be imperfect and be willing to admit your trying to figure this life out also. And remember to give hugs, smile, and share your gifts because you will feel so good and so will the other person.

6. You will fall over and over again, but eventually you will walk. All things are hard before they are easy. I get a little crazy over this one. This world of social media has turned a whole generation of people into thinking things should be easy and automatic. Life is work, it's hard. You have to put in the effort to get the results. I can't make you an awesome yoga teacher in 9 months, I can impart the wisdom I have been handed down and the theory but until you get out there and work you will be like a new foal learning to walk. This is a metaphor for life. Everything you start new you will stumble, you will make mistakes but eventually you will improve. This goes for not just work but setting boundaries, practicing self love, and all new behaviors in life. Be kind to yourself, laugh at yourself in a good way, be willing to stumble or else you will never walk. If you expect to walk right away and you just give up the first time you stumble, you will be crawling on your knees for a long time, and quite frankly that hurts.

7. Big Changes come through small actions: Simple improvements in your life can change your whole life for the better. Here is one example from my own past, the young mother is me.  A young mother feels she needs to keep a clean house and have her kids in many activities (which she can't really afford) in order to be a good mother. She is so ragged she snaps at her kids and her husband because she is worn out and broke. One day she picks up a parenting magazine and reads an article that says "Set a timer for 10 minutes and have everyone clean for 10 minutes and then spend some time with you kids." She goes on to put this into practice in everything in her life. Many years later said mom is doing this with everything, she sets a timer to write, workout, clean house, and more. She accepts that there is a "good enough". She tells her kids they can do one thing each year but they must complete it. She quits running herself ragged thus she is more positive and less crazy feeling. She accepts that her kids activities don't have to fit into a box of what society says is successful. Kids playing on the playground and going to the park and library is just as beneficial as being in basketball, track, chess club, and so on. She recognizes that an hour spent pushing her kid on the swing and sharing an ice cream will build her kid up and build good memories for about $2.50.

8. Be willing to make mistakes, get messy, and have a great attitude - Your life will change.
I was born with an innate gift, God put in me this seed called "What's the worst thing that can happen?". Since I was little I've been willing to risk being a fool. Basketball circa 1985 I ran the wrong way in 7th grade and make a basket for the other team. That would be only one of the many times I've risked looking foolish. I've learned to laugh at myself. I was so klutzy growing up that everyone blamed everything on me: If my friend broke something valuable she would tell her parents it was me because they would understand "Oh that Courtney, bless her heart, she can't help it". On the other hand I was also the first one to run to someones aide that needed help. I developed a reputation for caring for everyone, the outcast, the popular girls, I did not have a compass in me that pointed to only one type of person to befriend. Once at the county fair a man in a wheelchair fell out of his wheelchair on the floor, the people around him parted like the Red Sea. I was 14 and about 100 lbs. I ran over and put him back in the chair, never once thought about it. My friend said "Do you realize you were the only one who went to help him?" That was the day I realized I had the gift of compassion. It opened up my world. I felt good about myself and I knew I was a good person. It would take years to develop my self esteem and I am still working on it 30 years later but one thing I know is it is worth it to risk looking foolish, to help someone and to laugh at yourself. Not taking life to seriously sure makes it more bearable.

With Love and Light,

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Depression, Anxiety, Yoga and the Kindness of Others

Recently I felt as if I were in a black hole. I'll admit it, me the yoga instructor to the instructors. Try as I might I can't please everyone and I really don't like it. Being a single mom of four kids ages 17 to 21 I am brought to my knees often and completely aware as hard as I try I am not perfect, I know it and those young faces know it. I am a pleaser and when people don't like me or expect me to be something I am not I feel sad for disappointing them. Often because I am in the public eye and on "center stage" I believe people expect me to sit in lotus position and emit great knowledge from sages of the past. When the truth is after almost three decades of yoga practice what I know is I don't know jack!
Compared to the wisdom that is out there: if there is an ocean, and that ocean is yoga and a yoga practitioner who has practiced one year has a drop, I have a bucket. I can't give someone a bucket in a year but I can love them, I can guide them and I can add a few more drops, but the majority of  the drop collecting will be up to them. And you know what?  I "Want" to give them the drops, but they are only gathered by the work that goes into collecting them. So I am left feeling kinda rung out at times. And sometimes I focus on what I am not able to do.

So back to the depression and guilt as a result of me taking everything personal and not feeling that I can give enough. The gift to me is I know that I can only allow myself to go there for a little bit at a time, pull back the curtain and peek, then hurry and grab the tool box and get to work. It's a gift  to have these tools at my disposal, gifts like breath work, yoga postures, meditation, positive thinking and many, many books on meditation. I've got all of Oprah's inspirational shows recorded if none of those things do the trick.
So lately I have been doing all of those things and well it's like the black turned to gray but there was no sunshine. Now given we have had one day of sunshine in about six months (okay it's been three weeks but it feels like six months) so maybe it is S.A.D. (Seasonal Effective Disorder). So I was frustrated, logically I know I am a good person and I am good at what I do, that I am a good mother and it's normal for kids to wear you down and run over you when you are exhausted.
So all the self talk, The Four Agreements, telling my loved ones "dang I am depressed"...NADA, zilch, nothing was working.

Then suddenly over the past few days a few people out of the blue said some really nice things to me like "You are a great teacher" and someone (a former female student) I haven't seen in years emailed me and said "I love you and I miss you". Sunshine appeared. You know the whole point of this was that the kindness of someone taking a few seconds to type or say something kind to me really helped me, it reminded me that I do good things, and others do see it and though we shouldn't seek outside of ourselves to much for approval sometimes you can't underestimate the power of a kind word. So I went to my phone and texted a friend and I said " I was thinking of you and I wanted you to know I am glad we are friends."

So my call to you is that if you think of someone fondly take the time to text, email, call or tell them what they mean to you. It could turn gray sky blue.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

"All You Need is Love" 

Integral Yoga
Living Yoga - The Life and Teachings of Swami Satchidananda

The summer of 2004 I was able to visit the Integral Yoga Studio in New York City. It was a lovely class, with chanting, several Shavasanas, pranayama, and of course asana. I knew it would be an experience I would always be grateful for. Now upon watching the movie "Living Yoga - The Life and Teachings of Swami Satchidananda" I am truly grateful to have had this life experience  and hope to include more learning from one of his many centers. 

The past few days I had been praying about something heavy on my heart and was inspired to share this after much prayer, meditation, and watching the life of this great Swami.

This week I had been struggling with a challenge. I knew it was an opportunity to examine myself, my reactions, my behavior in light of everything. The situation had hurt very badly, it was something I did not understand. I knew I could deflect the anger on to the other person or own the lesson. So I am choosing to own the lesson. There have been so many lessons of late. There are times I wish growth didn't come with struggle but it does.When you begin to grow and change people you have had in your life or have attracted don't often know how to take you. When you have lessons to learn you are given opportunity upon opportunity to practice. 

The past twenty nine years of my life I have been practicing meditation, for the past twenty six I have practiced yoga. At this point, at forty four, I often feel I know less than I did at fifteen. I'm so overwhelmed by all I have learned and all I have to learn sometimes I literally feel as if my tongue is tied. Many years ago, in my mid twenties I started practicing with Erich Shiffman, a great and wise yoga teacher. I had his VHS tape and his book "Moving Into Stillness". He would often say "When you let go of everything else the only thing left is LOVE". There was a part of me that was like "yeah right, okay dokey then, love, love is the answer, sure thing", then imagine a bit of eye rolling on my part.
Now as I have practiced with many masterful teachers, studied many great text, practiced yoga, and lived a yogic lifestyle I had come to understand what Erich meant. The answer is always to be love. 
Now we need justice in the world, we need law and order, we must stand up for what is right but we must do that in love. All the history, philosophy and teachings of yoga come down to that simple philosophy - love. Find peace, be peace, be loving. You can understand and try to understand all the history books and all the asanas but if you don't have love you don't really know yoga.

The best answer I can give to my students today based on my own experiences is to slow down -  the journey is the destination, today you can find peace and happiness - right now. Practice, practice, practice,  not only your asanas but all eight limbs of yoga. If you don't have the Yama's and Niyama's in your heart you are not a true yoga practitioner. If you do not try to cultivate a heart for all eight limbs then you will be out of balance. And in the end know that in you, and in every human being there is someone who needs love and all of our actions in this world are based on needing that love, the lack of it, the fear of not having it, or the desire to share it and give it away freely. We are all flawed, we will all make mistakes and do things out of fear but if we know how to come back, to come back to love, our lives will be more harmonious and balanced.

This cannot be imparted to you by only listening to a teacher, it must be practiced to "get" it. You must do the work, no teacher can do it for you, they can guide you, but "you" and only "you" can do the work. You must show up and practice, practice all eight limbs, whatever it is that brings you to that place do that. It may not look like asana, it may look like cooking for someone you care about. It may look like being a loving parent, it's all yoga, it is all union. It's all about the intent in which we show up and practice, practice being more loving, loving ourselves and others.

Shanti, Shanti, Shanti, Namaste.