Sankalpas
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When I reflect on welcoming a new year, two words and one fond memory invariably come to mind.

The first, of course, is Sankalpa. What are my heartfelt intentions for this year?

Sankalpa (Sanskrit: संकल्प) means an intention formed by the heart and mind -- a solemn vow, determination, or will.[1]  A sankalpa is a tool meant to harness the will, and to focus and harmonize mind and body.

This word captures our age-old practice of setting resolutions and making our life or our self a better, more improved version in the New Year.

It doesn’t take much research to know that most resolutions, or Sankalpas, fall flat on their face. We start out all gung-ho to accomplish these things that may or may not be feasible, but over time, we loose our enthusiasm and fall right back into our usual ways and habits. I believe we don’t often manifest our sankalpas because of the habits that contradict our intended goals. This leads us to the second word that comes to mind: Samskara.

Samskaras (Sanskrit: संस्कार) manifest as tendency, karmic impulse, subliminal impression, habitual potency or innate dispositions.[2][3]

So much of life is done on autopilot; this is natural as it’s the brain’s way of being efficient with the multitude of stimuli we’re faced with day in and day out. But without our realizing it, our autopilot can either support or hinder us. It’s looking at our autopilot setting that’s important, to realize if our habits are in alignment with where we intend to grow.

A simple example is the resolution for weight loss. If your habit is munching on Doritos (or the like) in front of the tv for hours every night, then you will likely find it challenging to make new habits out of exercise and a healthy diet. The challenge lies in the contradiction between our habits; the contrast in our samskaras. So, how do we reprogram our autopilot or replace these samskaras that don’t serve us?

We’ve probably all heard that you can create a new habit (ideally a ‘good’ one) by practicing it everyday for a month. I think this is one way of doing it and absolutely can work for people! However, almost 15 years ago I took a different route to reprogram my autopilot. With an almost lion heart ferocity I set a sankalpa that shattered my shitty samskaras and redirected my entire life as a whole. This leads me to the fond memory I always recall at the start of each year…

I believe it was New Year’s 2003, I was 21 years old and deeply dissatisfied with my stake in life. Only a year or so before I dropped out of college and took a full time job doing something that I didn’t enjoy (though I’m grateful I had that job now!!). My dating life was dismal and I have a clear recollection of my step-dad guessing my weight at the dinner table as a way to call me out on my weight gain and reason for misery. I was hunkering down on bags upon bags of candy, I was lazy, I was overweight, alone and overall felt like my life was shit. I decided 2003 would be the year I changed that!

Just before the 2003 New Year, I had started back up at college and had lucked out with a recent job change that I thought was a dream come true (I had become an event planner!) So, feeling somewhat emboldened with my renewed collegiate enrollment and newfound job that I couldn’t possibly love more, I did some self reflecting to figure out what was holding me back and what was propelling me forward. Having been introduced to yoga a few years before and having had tremendous guidance in meditation through my childhood, it was somewhat easy to be honest with myself in these reflections and see what the problem really was. The problem was clear and yet extraordinarily simple: I was extremely fearful. Fear is an ugly emotion (though vital when it comes to the case of survival) that we often assign to things that have nothing to do with survival; like fear of rejection leading us to avoid approaching a romantic intrigue or apply for the job we really want. So, my sankalpa that fateful year became: I will say yes to anything that scares me.

Believe it or not, this is a true story! And many years before the movie Yes Man had come out. I simply came up with this idea and made a very strong, clear, rooted-in-the-heart sankalpa that I would just close my eyes and bear whatever I was afraid of by just saying yes and walking right into it. Of course, my story didn’t have the foibles that Yes Man portrays; instead it only resulted in gift, after gift after unimaginable gift.

So, where do I begin? Nearly 15 years ago it’s hard to recall all of it in chronological order, but 2003 ended with…a 4.0 GPA while keeping that full-time job that I loved so much. That 4.0 grade of saying yes to every professor and going above and beyond any of their expectations led to a professor requesting that I edit her textbook. That teacher was so grateful, she managed to put this English Major in an International Business program in Germany. That was the first time I ever took an international flight and it would only be the beginning of endless international adventures. I finally approached the heartthrob I’d always seen studying in the library and by the international summer program we were dating and already in a serious relationship. I changed my diet, I stopped eating pounds of cinnamon bears and fell back in love with GOOD, healthy food. I even changed my major because I noticed that every part of me was saying yes more eagerly to my Human Comm classes than my English Lit classes; a choice that still blesses me to this day.

Needless to say, it was a busy year, but the girl who walked into 2003 walked into 2004 as an entirely different woman who would continue on to lead a much more ambitious and courageous life. Looking back now, I realize I could have only set that sankalpa by having already had a good relationship with myself; an honest one that wasn’t too afraid to see who I really was. I wholeheartedly believe that we must first know and embrace where we are before we intend to grow up and out into greater things. At 21 I knew I was afraid and, instead of hiding or avoiding it, I embraced the fear; I let my fearful self exist and allowed the fear to guide me into when to say yes to life. And as we know from the 30-day program, if you do something over and over again and a new samskara is born.

There are always doors opening around us, so many that we never even notice when we’re stuck in autopilot. Those doors open and close based on our ability to see them. If in our yearly resolutions we only focus on the prize, whatever it may be, and don’t place honest reflection instead on what’s keeping us stuck, I think we’ll continue to statistically fail and give up on our goals. Ultimately, the habits you keep create the life you experience. So, what are your habits? If you know what the prize or goal is, what are the HABITS that are keeping you from it? Start there and the rest should fall into place.

With the start of 2018, I’m still doing my self-reflecting to set a clear sankalpa for the year ahead. It’s an exciting intention I’m forming because in ways it’s reminiscent of 2003. Unlike 2003, I walk into 2018 loving my life and myself more than I have in any previous year. However, my work with fear is not over. In 2003 fear was out for me and my intention was to manage my response to it. Nearly 15 years later, the tables have turned and I’m setting my sights on fear; I’m going after fear and my sankalpa will be centered on risk and how to get uncomfortable in order to blossom into life unknown. I’m sure when things get real tough I’ll take a cue from 2003 by just closing my eyes and walking right through whatever it is that frightens me!

WellnessKiara McBain
Why Ujjayi?

Why Ujjayi?

I remember the first REAL breath I took in a yoga class. I was in my militant phase of practicing yoga every day, if not twice a day. I was about 25 years old and desperately battling what I was told at the time was Bipolar Disorder. Yoga had become my way of managing my emotions. That’s sort of a misnomer, though, because yoga wasn’t managing my emotions at all. Yoga was the 90 minutes each day when I felt totally removed from my emotions. When you’re consumed by your emotions day in and day out and you’re taking piles of pills every morning and night, the best thing possible is to feel removed from your emotions…even if only momentarily.

At the end of this particular class, my teacher, Lori, whom I had been practicing religiously with for about a year, came over to me in savasana and placed the joined tips of her fingers at my solar plexus and whispered “BREATHE” into my ear. My instincts knew she meant to breathe into her fingers; to fill the space she was indicating. It took me a few attempts, but I eventually did breathe into her fingers. The inhale was ragged as I desperately tried to pull the oxygen into my locked diaphragm. The immensity of that single breath was so much bigger than any other breath I felt I had taken in my life. I couldn’t hold the breath in for long; as I exhaled out, an overwhelming wave of emotion passed through me and years of pain seemed to wash through me with that breath.

I spent the rest of that savasana crying uncontrollably. At the end of class, people began to pick up their mats and leave, but I couldn’t move, I could only cry. Something so tremendous was losing its hold on me from the inside out and all I could do was let it happen. I spent another 30 minutes crying on my mat until a sense of lightness washed over me that left me feeling damn near weightless. I couldn’t cry anymore at that point, whatever it was that came over me was done. And I felt nothing short of transformed by it.

When I left the room, I found Lori waiting for me at the front desk. She gave me water, rubbed my arm consolingly and proceeded to have a conversation with me about the importance of breath in our practice. From that day on and for the last 10 years, I have never practiced without my breath. Nor was that the last time breathing dislodged something that was no longer serving me. I have cried innumerable times in my yoga practice and I know first hand it wasn’t from the asanas, the letting go I have experienced over the years has always come from consciously breathing.

So, that’s why I breathe…but why might breathing and learning ujjayi pranayam be important for you? I’d like to offer my own opinion and a little bit of science to answer that question to hopefully persuade you to place a bit more importance on your breath in yoga.

Mindfulness. One of the most important benefits of our yoga practice is that it teaches us mindfulness. When we practice yoga we become more acutely aware of the complexity of the current moment; we tune into everything the mind/body is experiencing from our immediate surroundings…stepping out of the distractions of the mind and fully into the real moment we’re living.

Our practice helps us to listen, rather than always think and do.

More importantly, when we use the breath to set the tempo and rhythm for our practice, it is only then that yoga turns into a moving meditation. You can find meditation promoted by doctors, world-renowned CEO’s, self-help books, etc as the number one way to focus and quiet the mind. Meditation is known to bring people greater peace and clarity of self. When we cease to pair the ujjayi practice with our movements, we cease to practice moving meditation. Only by pairing the breath with the movements does yoga become a moving meditation.

For stress reduction. So, ujjayi is a form of pranayama (breath control) that requires contracting the glottis at the back of the throat so the air “brushes” across the trachea (windpipe) as we breathe. It’s this “brushing” of the air across the back of the throat that also causes stimulation of the larynx and pharynx, two parts of the throat that are innervated (nerve endings brought to) by the Vagus Nerve. Now what do we know about this nerve? One of its number one jobs is to induce relaxation! It is built to counterbalance the stress response we feel in our bodies. When we stimulate the parts of the body that this nerve innervates we are directly stimulating the Vagus Nerve and inducing the relaxation response. What this means is that when we can manually “turn on” relaxation by stimulating the Vagus Nerve through ujjayi breathing! Throw in some long exhales, which further inhibit the stress response, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for pure relaxation!

Weight loss.Did you know that more than 80% of fat leaves the body through our exhales? It’s true! Exercise is particularly good for you because it increases your respiration, but exercises that emphasize breathing are EVEN BETTER!

So, at the end of the day, ujjayi is the proverbial stone you can throw to knock three apples from the tree. With ujjayi added into your yoga asana practice, you are adding meditation into your life, reducing the stress response in the body by promoting relaxation AND losing weight while you do it! If those aren’t reason enough, then I don’t know what is! And, maybe, just maybe, some of you will even experience an emotional release from your ujjayi efforts too…leaving you feeling lighter for letting go of the internal baggage that’s no longer serving you.

You'll find ujjayi at the heart of every Ki Yoga class. Whether we're focusing on Functional Anatomy in the Ki Yoga: Strengthening class or the Subtle Energy Body in the Ki Yoga: Energy Boost class, ujjayi impacts both. When we use ujjayi we simultaneously neurohack our anatomy and align our subtle energy.

Gratitude Increases Ki
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 One of the strongest Ki boosting practices we can do is feel and express gratitude. Here’s a little exercise so you can get what I mean: connect the tip of your index and thumb fingers of both hands and connect the fingers together. Your hands would look like two interlinking circles. Now close your eyes and spend a couple moments thinking about who and what you’re grateful. Wait until you feel the sense of gratitude rise up within you, then try pulling your fingers apart. You’re trying to keep the index and thumb linked on both hands as you try to pull them apart. Did the fingers stay linked? Probably so. You may have even noticed how rock solid they felt too, like “there ain’t no way these fingers are comin’ apart!”

Ok, let’s try the opposite sensation of gratitude; think of the last time you were deceived, betrayed, ripped off, taken advantage of or someone you just plane don’t like. The point is to bring to mind things that upset and make you feel you’re far from grateful. Once you feel far from grateful try pulling the fingers apart. Did they unlink? For most of us they did, for the strong-fingered type determine not to let the hands come apart, you may have noticed how much harder you had to try this time around. Or that the fingers slid apart a little., actually unlinking.

The body becoming strong is an example of harmonious Ki. The body weakening is obviously a demonstration of the opposite, of diminished Ki. The point of this exercise is to demonstrate how gratitude affects your Ki. It bolsters it, makes it stronger, more vibrant. When you feel grateful for something, don’t you feel a warm feeling wash over you that feels so calm and comforting? So, why aren’t we offering more gratitude to the world? To the people whom we’re grateful for?

I’ll give you my answer to that question. Often times I don’t express gratitude because it makes me feel vulnerable. Feeling vulnerable makes me feel insecure, which also makes me afraid. As backwards as it may seem to be afraid to tell someone how much they mean to me or how thankful I am for things they’ve done, it’s true. Not to mention, when I do feel grateful for someone, truly grateful, it’s a big feeling. Sometimes when I try to convey in words how that big feeling feels, the force of it being expressed just makes me breakdown and cry. When that happens, I go from feeling vulnerable and afraid to also feeling stupid. Those are all reasons to avoid expressing gratitude, right?

Now, if you’ve read some of my earlier blogs, you know that my personal mantra is “fuck it, do it anyway.” As unyogic as it may seem to you or as offensive as those words may be to your sensibilities, it’s the God’s honest truth, as some would say. Those five words govern my life. Why? Because life is full of fear and whenever I feel too afraid to do something, I recite this mantra, bolstering my Ki and my resiliency, and I go ahead and do it anyway. On more than one occasion, I’ve turned this mantra on my fear of expressing gratitude, of seeming silly for appreciating someone or something so much. The result? I told them how grateful I was anyway. Sometimes after doing so, I still feel a little stupid, but it’s events like Las Vegas and the like that remind me that it’s a measly fear worth facing should I never get the opportunity to tell someone again.

It’s a pretty simple equation Gratitude + Someone = Vulnerability, but when you divide Vulnerability by Gratitude it equals changing Someone’s life...if only in a small way. Furthermore, this isn’t an entirely altruistic act! Because when we share gratitude it boosts our own Ki. It makes us stronger energetically, braver mentally and happier emotionally.

It has been a longtime goal to express gratitude to everyone as soon as I feel it for him or her; whether that is in the form of words in the moment or expressed later in an email or card. This is harder than it seems! Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the momentum of life or even the drama of it. For this reason, I’ve made it my goal in October to express gratitude to everyone that deserves to hear it. I wonder if you’ll join me in this practice? I can promise you two things if you do: you’ll change at least one person’s life and you’ll feel all the benefits of strongly boosting your Ki.

WellnessKiara McBainKi
What Is Ki Yoga?

What is Ki Yoga?

I can’t ignore what brought me to teaching yoga: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I also can’t ignore how I became well enough to teach to others: my own yoga practice and the use of subtle energy tools.

My therapist at the time was a big proponent of yoga. She felt that if anything brought me that much peace, I should be doing it as often as I can. However, there were times off the mat when I couldn’t manage my emotions. There were instances behind the steering wheel, in crowded public places, at work or alone at home when my triggers would sabotage the peace I was trying to maintain through my daily yoga practice. It was for those times off the mat that my therapist taught me subtle energy tools to circumvent the triggers and bring me back to homeostasis.

A little background on PTSD and why I think it applies to everyone…PTSD is the result of our mind and body not being able to ‘metabolize’ a particularly stressful experience. Without a way to process what one has been through, that stressor lodges itself in the mind/body and manifests over and over and over again in the form of triggers. For someone with true PTSD, these triggers can be loud sounds, crowded rooms, being alone, too much stress; it really just depends on the person.

Now, for the common person who doesn’t suffer from PTSD per se: think of the last time you had a particularly stressful day and how you responded to the world around you. Did you happen to get triggered in some way? How was your commute? How did you respond to your loved ones when you got home? My bet is you did get triggered. Even if you didn’t take it out on others, simply feeling irritated by insignificant things is a triggered response.

Whether you downplay or overemphasize your reactions, when you feel too much stress, you get triggered! And the truth is, stress manifests itself the same way in all of us, some of us just feel those effects more acutely and over a longer period of time. This is why I believe we are all on a stress spectrum. The overstressed businessperson and worked-to-the-bone stay-at-home mom are on the same spectrum as the person suffering from PTSD, only each feels their stress at a different level of severity.

“Disease is seen as arising from stress that causes a general reduction in life energy and specific energy imbalances through the body” –John Diamond, MD

So, many of us on that stress spectrum go to yoga to alleviate our stress…and let’s admit it, for a good workout too! But, how often have you arrived on your mat and your mind JUST WON’T STOP and the practice seems to do nothing to change it. Or as soon as you pick up your phone after class you arrive right back where you started in the middle of a proverbial ‘shit storm’ you still have no patience for. Sometimes the simple practice of yoga asana (the physical practice) just isn’t enough to truly alleviate, not just pause, the stress we’re experiencing in our lives.

Enter Ki Yoga.

Let’s first understand what Ki is. It’s an ancient concept that many civilizations over lifetimes have found to exist. My favorite definition is by William Lee Rand of www.reiki.org:

“Ki is the non-physical energy that animates all living things. Ki is flowing in everything that is alive including plants, animals and humans. When a person's Ki is high, they will feel strong, confident, and ready to enjoy life and take on its challenges. When it is low, they will feel weak and are more likely to get sick. We receive Ki from the air we breathe, from food, sunshine, and from sleep. It is also possible to increase our Ki by using breathing exercises and meditation…Ki is also the Chi of China, the prana of India, the Ti or Ki of the Hawaiians, and has also been called odic force, orgone, bioplasma and life force."

It was this energy that my therapist led me to learn more about and to eventually learn how to work with. Working with Ki energy, in those times my triggers sabotaged my peace, I became capable of managing my stress no matter the situation. It was the combination of the subtle energy tools off the mat with my yoga practice on the mat that brought me long-term wellbeing. And now, these two practices are no longer separate! I have added the subtle energy tools that work with Ki to the asana practice creating what I call Ki Yoga.

So, what is Ki Yoga?

One of the most significant ways to work with Ki, or the subtle body, is through Acupressure points, the Chinese Meridians and Applied Kinesiology practices. There are magical spots, if you will, on our body that act like release valves for stress and erratic energy. There are also movements, as well as points, that boost energy and/or stabilize us after a particularly stressful day of meetings and emails or babies crying. We supercharge our yoga practice by using these points and movements while in the yoga postures we know and love.

We can also increase our Ki through breathwork, touch, sounds and smells: by being wholly present through all our senses we bridge the mind/body gap that stress creates. This is why Ki Yoga includes diverse breath practices, offers hands-on adjustments, incorporates playlists built to harmonize with the energy of the given practice and aromatherapy applied in the savasana meditation.

Ki Yoga is the combining of two methods that powerfully heal the mind/body. I created this new form of yoga to empower others with tools and practices that not only heal, but stabilize and harmonize the mind/body on a day-to-day basis. You will not only feel the effects on the mat, but you’ll begin to build an arsenal of healthy tools you can use in those moments off the mat when stress sabotages your peace.

I share with you Ki Yoga: functional anatomy and alignment combined with subtle energy techniques to holistically harmonize mind/body.

Travel More & HAVE LESS
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Over the many years that I've been studying and practicing yoga, I've come to hold one tenet of Tantra Yoga very dear to my heart: live the present moment fully, with all the sensuous awareness you have. As you may or may not imagine, this is actually a very difficult task! First and foremost to reduce the distractions that keep you from paying attention to THIS moment but, secondly, being able to attune your senses so you CAN experience THIS moment on a visceral level. For years I have been diligently working, both on and off the mat, to reduce distractions and hone my senses...sometimes to the extent that I wonder if in this Tantric pursuit I've become a hedonist! (not such a bad thing in my book, but I digress...)

A few years back, when I transitioned into becoming a full-time yoga teacher, and making much less money as a result, two things became very clear to me: 1) I couldn't buy many frivolous things anymore and 2) When I had more money, I was buying lots of frivolous things! So much so, that four years and many rounds of reducing later, I'm only now getting rid of the last of it. It was this final letting go that inspired a tremendous amount of reflection, reevaluation, newfound-purpose and, ultimately, this blog post.

I've spent the last week donating, selling, recycling and generally getting rid of STUFF. I decided to get rid of this stuff because I have come to learn what a DISTRACTION our STUFF can be. When you have stuff, you worry about it: you worry about keeping it clean and in good condition, you worry that it might get stolen or worry it could get damaged, you worry about a place to put it and keeping it safe...and so on. Without even noticing, our stuff consumes us with distraction. And the more stuff we amass, stuff we really don't need, the more needless distraction we create for ourselves.

To my surprise, as I was letting go of this STUFF, stuff that I've had in my home for many years and have without my knowing become very attached to, anxiety and fear started to riddle my insides and even interrupt my sleep! I had underestimated the strength of attachment! As I was confronted by these emotions, I was reminded of what Pema Chodron has said, that "fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth." As I let go of my stuff, I learned that my attachment to these things were (very illogically) linked to my sense of survival. And though my mind couldn't make sense of a dining table being related to shelter and survival, my visceral self felt otherwise.

So, this sometimes hedonist grasped the lesson before her: to live by the Tantric tenet I've been working to uphold, not just in sunny weather, with great wine or beautiful conversation, but in the scary times too. I dove right into my fear, looked at the stuff I was really afraid to get rid of, gave THAT stuff away in all its painful glory and then chose to dive in EVEN DEEPER by giving away more! (whether this offends you or not, truth be told, the mantra I live by is "f#ck it, do it anyways!" so I did.) Oh how liberating it is to live fully and sensuously in ALL moments!! The fear and pain have, as a result, subsided and I'm on the other side feeling less distracted, more liberated and wiser about myself from having experienced FULLY my fears and attachments as I worked through them.

The 5 weeks I spent in Oaxaca over summer led me to this place of finally being able to let go of my STUFF. To me, travel is far from a frivolous expenditure. I leave the states and travel abroad because traveling is transformative to me. With the STUFF I've let go of, there were few to no memories that went with those items, but the places I go and visit create more memories than you could fill a house with. As I look ahead to 3 weeks in New Zealand this Fall and 5 weeks in India this Winter, I look forward to the meaningful experiences I'll have. And I know there will be greater meaning in what I experience because of the fewer distractions I'll be taking with me! Essentially, allowing me to better live the present moment more fully, with all the sensuous awareness I have.

Enjoy this video. I share it as it is in alignment with my true self and contributes to the lessons I learned above.

--Kiara McBain

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlCqyZEXM1I[/embed]

Inspiration, WellnessKiara McBain
Finding Gratitude

Finding Gratitude “If you want to find happiness, find gratitude” –Steve Maraboli

Not too long ago, I had a very special day begin to disastrously (or so it felt) deviate from my perfect plans. If you know me, I’m a planner. After 12 years of corporate planning and from stories my mom has told me from my youth, it’s something that can’t be learned out of me. As this perfect day, my birthday, began to perfectly fall apart at the seams, I called one of my best friends for help.

I called Heather because, in truth, I wanted her to save me from myself. I was fraught with disappointment even though I knew I had no control over what was upsetting me. Ever have those moments? Your rational mind totally understands the situation, but your little self is throwing a tantrum anyway? That was me.

As a good friend, she listened, extended her compassion and then gave me an assignment. She said, “After our call I want you to sit down and write three things that you’re grateful for.” Of course, I didn’t feel grateful for anything in that moment and she reminded me, “You have a ton to be grateful for, sit down, write it out and really define how grateful you are for these things.”

So, I did. Little did I know with that mini-assignment that she would do exactly as I hoped: save me from myself. As I wrote my list I cried ferociously. Not tears of sadness or frustration, but tears of gratitude. Tears that reminded me how absolutely f#cking grateful I am for this extraordinary life I’ve built in all of it’s unplanned imperfection. In a matter of moments, that short list not only alleviated my frustration, but also left me feeling happier than before the upset.

I leave this here with you today as a tool. Passing on my wise friend’s advice, when life hits you with the unpleasantly unexpected, sit down, write three things you’re grateful for and choose to move out of the shitty state of mind you’ve found yourself in. Because in truth, you always have a choice about your inner state and if you want to find happiness, you’ve got to find gratitude.

 

Samskaras: Living Unconsciously
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  "You are the sky...everything else...it's just the weather."

Lately, it has felt as though the Universe has been conspiring to see what it will take for me to break.

I’ve been hit left and right— From body ailments, and pocketbook pains, to precious time lost, personal injury and vital things broken— From all sides, the Universe has taken blows on me like a pelting hailstorm.

With every transgression, I have felt the habit of emotional reaction. In yoga, they call habitual reactions samskaras… Metaphorically speaking, you can imagine your mind as fresh earth. Our thoughts tread on the mind like a truck traversing across that fresh soil, leaving tracks or neural pathways. Habits act on the mind like a truck getting stuck in the mud, spinning its wheels over and over again, getting nowhere, but laying tracks deeper and deeper into the bedrock of our mind; creating stronger and stronger neural pathways.

A reaction, without conscious thought, is a samskara. When we are not mindful of the present moment, we default to allowing samskaras to determine life for us— samskaras are quick choices, time saving solutions and require no thought at all to employ them. In an effort to go through life a little more effortlessly, we allow these habitual reactions to make many decisions for us. But in so doing, our life evolves unconsciously.

If you’ve ever been stuck in the mud, you know it’s an unhappy process— you keep pressing the gas pedal forward, but never seem to get anywhere but stuck. That has been me, stuck in the mud of my habitual emotional reactions.

So, how do we get out of the mud? How do we change the samskaras that don’t serve us? (Because, yes, there are some that do!)

The answer is simple: by pausing. Take your foot off the pedal of reaction, look out beyond the rut you keep spinning your wheels in, and see if there is any other choice or track on the horizon you’d rather take.

When I finally pulled my foot from the pedal and created that moment of pause, I was able to ask myself this question: “do you want to feel this way?” The answer was no, and with that, I created for myself the choice to respond differently and take a different track, strengthening a new neural pathway and means to respond.

It’s the passing storms in life that find us spinning our wheels in the mud. When we pause for just a moment, pulling the pedal from the metal, we create an opportunity to see our many choices. We then see that whether it be rain, snow or hailstorm, it’s all just passing like the weather. And by creating that moment to offer ourselves a choice, we understand we are bigger than anything that happens to us, we are more than the transient weather and the storms that pass within it, we are the sky itself.

“You are the sky. Everything else— it’s just the weather.” Pema Chodron

 

Equal Part Of The Whole
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Equal Parts of the Whole As of late, gender has been a central topic. More specifically, women: their rights, reproductive health & worth. All have come to the forefront. 

As a woman, it's hard not to internalize or personalize the worth our society places on my gender through the laws and political acts currently taking place in the United States.

I share this image to remind not only myself, but anyone that may pass this page, that men and women have differing but equal worth. This world is equal parts male and female throughout all species. We are integral to each other. We must value one another. But, furthermore, what we deem to socially represent man or woman inherently lives within each of us and does not belong to a singular sex.

Honor the light and the dark on this Autumn Equinox... cherish the masculine and feminine, honor the differences between the sexes, and feel complete knowing that we all play an equal part of the whole.

“I believe a strong woman may be stronger than a man, particularly if she happens to have love in her heart. I guess a loving woman is indestructible.” John Steinbeck, Author

WellnessKiara McBain
Life Is A Miracle
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Life Is A Miracle I woke this morning to tragedy... young life lost and a future generation devastated.

Death, especially young death,  demands that you take stock of life... How you are living... Why you are living... Is this even living?

Those reflections led me to ask how I would live if I could know when my last day will be. The answer came to me instantly: I wouldn't give a damn about money. I'd love people madly and fully and not waste a moment of my attention on those I don't.

That's less than altruistic, isn't it? But how much of your life have you wasted coddling injuries that someone left with you? How many days has unhappiness ruined as a result of someone else? And why do we care to let them do this?

I think when we fail to learn forgiveness, punishment is the only solution. When we aren't taught how to let go, retribution is the only road. And when we cease to understand that we are unconditionally loveable, but not all people will love us, our fragile egos place our worth solely on those that don't.

...how much of life is missed when we fail to learn and let go...

Yet, what of those people we love and whom love us? Are you loving them completely? Or is there a divide of hesitation that limits your expression, thus limiting the depths to which you experience your love with them?

When you love wholly, there are no hesitations. When you love without fear, there is no divide that can run between you. When you love madly, entire depths are reached in the experience of loving.

...now that, to me, is living...

And yet how in the reflections of life, does money become the first thought? As an American, I believe it’s all our first thought. Our happiness is based on it and, unfortunately, so is our self worth. In our consumerist society, can there ever be enough?

I’m left thinking about a quote I saw yesterday… ‘if you want to change the quality of your mind, start dwelling on what's good in your life.’ Your mind is your life. Your mind is your lens of the world and you experience the world through it. So, wouldn’t changing that lens also change your life? What kind of impact would it have to take stock of what’s good and savor it with gratitude?

If tragedy can serve but one purpose, it is to reevaluate life… …can you learn and let go? …can you love madly? …appreciate what is? …and cease to be disillusioned by things that actually don’t matter?

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Albert Einstein

WellnessKiara McBain
Love & Sadness
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The Secret of Joy Last night I mused on what lessons I would wish to teach a child yet grown. What could I teach her that would help her stay whole as she faced the troubles of the world?

Sadness. I would wish to teach her about sadness.

Teach her, so she understands its incessant inevitability in life. That sadness serves a purpose; it can be a friend that teaches us to better love and how to grow. But, that we should never let it stay too long. And how to see when it has stayed too long in others.

I would tell her the story of two friends, Love and Sadness. Love was the sun... big, bright and warm. Love could shine its light on anything in the world. Yet, whenever Love shined its light on something, a shadow would appear. That shadow, I would explain, is Sadness... almost hidden, dark and cold. You cannot have one without the other. Wherever you shine love, you will always find sadness.

But remember, Love and Sadness are friends... Genuine love will never TRY to make you feel sad. Yet, when you genuinely love, you will hurt when they hurt, you will ache for their safety, and ache when they are gone, you will share their pain and struggles and long for their best. When you love, there will always be some sadness.

Love and sadness teach us: compassion, humility, empathy, gratitude. And this is what makes Love and Sadness our friends too.

Sometimes a shadow can get so big that you can get lost in it for a little while. That's ok. Take your time. But, forever keep looking for the light of love to pull you out from it.

You will meet people who have decided to live in their shadow. When they've lived a long time in a shadow, they forget how to shine their light. They'll want to make you feel sad like they do. Recognize who these people are by the way they make you feel. And instead of living in the shadow with them, shine your light reminding them how warm love feels. If they still choose the shadow, which many of them will, at least for a moment they saw your light.

So, love big and love fully... shine your light all over the world. But, always know the shadow's there. And when you catch a glimpse of it, take its lessons, then let it go. Never choose to live in the shadow.

"The secret of joy is the mastery of pain." -Anais Nin

Photo Credit Michelle Magdalena

 

Imperfection Is Beauty
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imperfection is beauty  

There are so many people seeking perfection by trying to be a copy of someone else...

Media bombards us with images everyday telling us what perfect is and what we aren't. Media tells us what we should be, rather than to appreciate ourselves as we are.

So, we begin to copy others... from magazine models and celebrities to individuals in our community that we deem 'better'. However, we only begin to replicate others due to a lack of self-worth and ultimately the lack of acceptance for who we TRULY are.

By looking outside of ourselves for an acceptable variation of self, we never grow to value what is uniquely and beautifully us. So, we struggle to be less of who we are and more of someone else.

Copies may feel safer imitating others they deem perfect or more acceptable, but something will never feel at home within them... Because they're constantly having to be SOMEONE ELSE. For those that are brave enough to be an imperfect original, they will always feel a sense of home inside of themselves.

There is no trying,only being.

Dare to be ridiculously original, rather than a boring imitation.

"Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring." Marilyn Monroe

Photo Credit: Michelle Magdalena

 

Courage Is Not The Absence Of Fear
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Courage Is Not The Absence Of Fear Ambrose Redmoon Recently, it seems I've had a lot of athletes or friends contrast their experience and mine with our differing levels of confidence.

With introspection, I started to realize confidence has nothing to do with achievement. Confidence is only an outward guise. ANYONE in pursuit of their dreams, hopes, wishes, ideals ALL experience doubt. There is no one in my meeting that will not tell you of the fear they felt and had to overcome to arrive at their goal.

So, the fear is there! The confident and self assured are perpetually scared. It's that we get comfortable with fear... and we're even willing to live with it ALL THE TIME.

Fear is both the essential factor to success and failure. Those that set their mind to be in it... to tolerate its intensity, to face their mind's response to its presence, ALL gain something every time they choose to go head to head with fear.

And those that cower, which we all have at one point or another in our lives, never see the dreamed outcome.

While fear teaches one group that they are unstoppable; to those that never commit to facing fear, learn the opposite: that life stops you. That life is limited.

Maybe confidence is that willingness to face the fear we feel inside. But, I don't think it is. I think confidence is irrelevant. Our desire is important. If you decide something is more important than the fear you feel in getting there, AND YOU GET THERE, desire did that. Desire has the power to concur anything in your path.

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than the fear." Ambrose Redmoon

Photo Credit: Michelle Magdalena Photography

 

Can't Give Me Anything I Can't Handle
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god trust me so much There have been too many times and too many Fridays that I feel beaten and bruised by the world. Statistically, more alcohol is consumed on Fridays than any other day of the week in America. There's a direct correlation between stress and consumption.

That has been me too...pop a cork and assuage the stressors of life. But, that's never truly handling it and it isn't a lasting remedy for stress.

The next time you feel this way, do yoga, CrossFit, go for a walk on the beach or trail...anything at all that gets you out of your head and into your #body. Then, observe if there are any stressors left to assuage.

 

Cause Your Angels To Sing
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Angels To Sing Inner anguish exists when we do not forgive ourselves. Time turns these wounds into demons and eventually these demons come to own us. But, this is only possible when you feel it's impossible to forgive yourself.

Forgiveness isn't about condoning seemingly unforgivable acts. Forgiveness is a personal experience intended to teach us how to face fear. By forgiving, we learn to accept that we do not control all of the experiences in our lives. Forgiveness empowers us to make the decision that no experience has to be a setback. Every experience we encounter extends an opportunity to make us better people.

Bring light to your dark places.

Forgive yourself.

 

Suffering Is Optional
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suffering is optional Suffering is nothing more than a frame of mind. It's foundation lies in resistance. Whatever is imposed on us that we resist, we suffer through. Whether it's in the box, on the mat, in the office or in a relationship, as soon as we resist through the doing, we suffer.

Test this. The next time you feel suffering, begin to explore what it is in the experience you are resisting. If you can recognize what you're pushing up against, reframe your mind and consciously accept that very thing. IMMEDIATELY suffering disappears...because pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. YOU create YOUR reality, make it a good one.

 

Routine Is Lethal
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routine is lethal Routine is just another way we try to exert control over our lives.

The need for control almost always stems from fear...fear of the unknown and unpredictable. But, has routine ever evolved you? Has it ever taught you something new? More importantly, has routine ever made you feel good to be alive?

There is no thrill in routine because it's predictable. We don't evolve from routine because it's redundant. Pull yourself out of the rut by daring to let go of the false idea that you have complete control over your life. Dare to experience adventure. Dare to live!

 

Silence The Mind
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Silence The Mind Marianne Williamson The first practice in meditation is to learn to distance yourself from the mind; learn to observe your thinking rather than be consumed by it.

When you learn to witness the mind, it becomes apparent how much of it isn't yours. With the years, we collect voices. Those of our parents, strict authoritative figures from our youth, or even that of a consoling elderly figure. We adopted them to help us learn as we grew up, but then we never learned to let them go so we could start to hear our own inner voice.

When we step back from the mind, this collection of other voices, we begin to tap into our own individual wisdom. At the very core of who you are, you know what is best for you, you know what you want and need from life and, just as importantly, what you need to heal and grow.

This practice really isn't difficult. Start to tune in and watch. Listen to its judgements and commentary on life and others. Start to pay attention to the comments made about yourself. The practice isn't to change the mind, the practice is simply to witness so that you begin to see that YOU are in fact separate from the mind.

 

Fear Prevents Life
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fear prevent life When you're able to look fear in the face, you're able to see that fear is a choice.

Fear isn't even an emotion that occurs naturally for the body; it is purely a construct of the mind. Fear has nothing to do with protecting you from danger. If it did, you could immediately drop it after such 'dangerous' events. Instead, fear is carried around day in and day out as emotional baggage...eventually becoming the navigation system for your life.

When fear becomes the deciding force, life becomes more and more limited. Fear breeds fear. When you cease to face your fears, you just end up collecting more.

Facing fear does require a tremendous amount of bravery. Oh, but imagine what life would look like navigated by bravery! It begins with a choice, not with knowing how...see the fear and choose to face it...the rest comes naturally. You were made to live life, not prevent it.

 

Achieving Your Goals
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become when you achieve goals We become so focused on arriving AT the goal, that we aren't extending awareness towards what we gain in our efforts towards the goal.

This saying stands for a reason: it's about the journey, not the destination.

A goal isn't realized until you become the person to materialize it. Take a closer look when a dream or goal does materialize...move your awareness away from the external expression of what you've achieved and turn the focus back on yourself. You, quite literally, had to become that which is able to manifest the goal: YOU are the summation of the physical manifestation of your life.

Arriving is splendid, but who you become in getting there is extraordinary.

 

Accept Yourself
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accept yourself Thich Nhat Hanh The greatest misery one can bear is living without self acceptance. Beauty comes when you accept yourself because happiness is beautiful. When you quietly disapprove of yourself, the unhappiness it breeds speaks loudly to the world.

If you don't accept it, change it. If you can't change it, love that this makes you uniquely you.

Acceptance is love and self love is powerfully beautiful.