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Say Goodbye to All Your Labels With These Two Words

So-Hum-Yoga-Inspired-Jewelry

It’s been a rough week. Everyone was sick. And in the middle of all the snot and phlegm and co-pays and Tylenol I was busy getting ready to open up my online Yoga Inspired Jewelry shop. It was crazy and hectic and extra hard, but now it’s done. The shop is open! There are malas sitting there right now. For sale.

I also have a few shop opening specials going on:

  1. The first 3 people to make a purchase will save 15% off one item (excludes custom malas) with coupon code FIRST3.
  2. All custom malas are 20% off until the end of May 2017.
  3. You can save an additional 10% off by subscribing to the blog. 

Or if you’d rather donate your savings to a good cause I am helping a friend fundraise for the Denver Strides for Epilepsy. Just enter the coupon code FORMAILI and I’ll set aside 30% for her fundraising.

If you’re sort of interested in malas but you’re not quite sure what you’re supposed to do with one, start by watching the video in this post. Or observe my own mental chatter as I meditate with the mantra So Hum.

So Hum.

I am still sick.
I am sick of everyone else being sick.
I am tired. Physically.
I am tired of everything feeling so hard.
I am not sure why I didn’t just delay opening the shop.
I am also kind of wildly impressed that I somehow got it all done.
I am not surprised though, because I know myself.
I am determined.
I am, or at least can be, a perfectionist.
I am… a little intense.
I am passionate.
I am a lover. Of many things.
I am a writer.
I am a musician.
I am an artist.
I am a runner.
I am a yogi.
I am a math geek.
I am analytical and discerning, yet open minded.
I am a high maintenance, yet understanding and accepting wife.
I am, despite being a perfectionist, an imperfect mother.
I am a loyal and supportive friend.
I am an obnoxious, yet unconditionally devoted daughter.
I am a woman.
I am only human.
I am a thread in the fabric of all existence.
I am part of the connection. Through words, through relationships, through being.
I am the miracle of life.
I am all of these things, and I am none of them.
I am that.

So Hum.

So Hum is a beautifully simple mantra meditation that you can practice with or without a mala. It’s a reflection on our connection to all existence. I like to sing this mantra out loud. But it’s also a lovely mantra to repeat silently in your head. Listen to the sound, “So,” with each inhale and the sound, “Hum,” with each exhale. With each repetition practice letting go of all the labels you’ve assigned to yourself.

I am an anxious person.
I am afraid of failure.
I am desperate for validation.
I am too easily angered.
I am not agreeable enough.
I am not pretty enough.

So Hum.

I am smart.
I am brave.
I am perceptive.
I am empathetic.
I am creative.
I am beautiful.

So Hum.

I am all of these things, and I am none of them.
I am a thread in the fabric of all existence.
I am that.

So Hum.

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The Yoga in Running

Red-Maple-Tree

Sometimes I think there’s more yoga in running than in actual yoga.

I have a little bone to pick with yoga.

But before I go there I need to pre-apologize. I love yoga. I really do. It’s healing and transformational and life changing and about so much more than the physical postures. Yeah, yeah, yeah. All those things.

But it’s also a little judgey.

I know what you’re thinking. “No way! You don’t understand yoga at all, Laura! If that’s what you think than you don’t understand yoga at all!”

Because that’s what we talk about in the yoga world. How yoga is misunderstood. How Western culture has turned yoga into a fitness program, a perky butt in a pair of $100 spandex pants. We talk about how so many people practice yoga without realizing that it’s also about how we live our lives off the mat. It’s about the connection between the mind, body and spirit. About our connection to whatever we believe in that sort of feels like what you might call God.

And it’s true. A lot of people really only see yoga as exercise. That’s how they approach their practice. As exercise. But that’s not the only way to do it.

It’s all in the approach really.

*     *     *

Last Thursday night I couldn’t sleep. For no real conscious reason. As I lay in bed I thought about our house back in California. I thought about the Japanese maple tree in our backyard. I remembered standing in our kitchen just after we moved in. Looking out at it through the tall glass panes of our french doors. How remarkably beautiful its bright red leaves looked against the morning fog. I remembered the first spring I noticed a single red rose peeking over our fence from the kitchen window.

Red-Rose-Fence

I laid awake and remembered these things and wondered why I couldn’t sleep.

*     *     *

Saturday morning I went for an 8 mile run, a distance I consider long at this point in my life. It hasn’t always been and it won’t always be. But right now it’s long. So I took it easy. After a couple miles I had settled into a comfortable rhythm, my breath easy, steady. I don’t wear a heart rate monitor or a GPS watch these days, but I’m sure my pace and effort level were consistent.

I don’t remember what I was thinking about. Not much I suspect. When I turned a corner and felt a rush of emotion. I thought of the early morning runs with my running buddy back in California. Chatting about work and husbands and children, all the celebrations and uncertainties of life. I remembered running alongside her in the Benicia Run for Education in April 2014. I was working through a flare-up of an old injury and she was feeling tired so we walked a lot of the race that day.

She was diagnosed with terminal cancer just a few months later and passed away a few months before we moved to Colorado. You could call it her spirit, if you believe in that sort of thing, riding the wind, checking in on her loved ones. Or blame it on the memory, my brain, the right hormonal cocktail. But for a moment I felt like she was running beside me.

Tears came to my eyes and I let them flow as we ran together. I told her about how I missed my tree and that rose bush, her companionship and my old life. Even though I really love my new life. I really do.

She told me there’s been a lot of change. Good or bad. Change is hard. Go easy on yourself.

Then she was gone, as suddenly as she appeared. And I kept running. One foot in front of the other, same as before.

*     *     *

Later that day we learned about the Prana Vayu in Yoga Teacher Training. Different words to describe a concept we’ve already gone over. The idea that the breath is the connection between the body and the mind, the path to meditation and enlightenment.

I can appreciate this lesson because I’ve experienced it. Through running of course. Yoga is giving me language to describe what my running body already knows.

You see, it’s nearly impossible to run without breath awareness. And once a certain level of base fitness is established the breath flows easily, synchronized with the rhythm of the legs. Running at an easy, consistent pace is by definition a moving mantra. A meditationRunning at an easy, consistent pace is by definition a moving mantra. A meditation. Click To Tweet

That’s when we get to all the juicy stuff. The wisdom to understand our emotions. The ability to process and clear them from our body. A feeling of connection to something outside of ourselves.

So why is it then? Why do I feel like yoga judges running so harshly?

I suppose it’s all just a misunderstanding. Our culture has turned running into a fitness program. We beat our bodies and joints into the ground in order to get thinner, faster, better. But that’s not the only way to do it.

It’s all in the approach really.

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Death and Meditation

Death-Meditation-Trail

I am recommitting to a regular meditation practice while we all process death.

I parked my car in the strip mall lot facing the home brew shop. It was an accident. I was going to yoga. I took a few deep breaths and willed the tears still in their ducts.

“Please don’t cry during yoga,” I pleaded with myself. It had been a rough day, week, month with Big Girl. Everything we read online said kids her age don’t understand the permanence of death. They think the deceased is alive and doing all the regular things somewhere else. Maybe they’ll even come back.

This was not the case with Big Girl. She got it. We didn’t even have to really explain it. When we told her Papa died she cried and said, “I”ll never get to see him again.” Every once in awhile she’ll stop me and say, “I’m so so sorry your Dad died.”

People tell me she’s so smart and often I politely disagree. She’s still learning to recognize all her letters and numbers. I’m not worried she’s behind but, at least academically, she seems pretty average. But then she goes and processes death like an adult.

Her Daddy travelled a lot for work last month, right after her Papa died, and now she’s having a lot of separation anxiety anytime he leaves. She wakes early in the morning panicked that her Daddy forgot to kiss her goodbye. I wonder if she’s afraid her Daddy won’t come back. That her Daddy will leave her like mine did.

My poor baby Big Girl. It’s like her little body can’t contain all these big, grown up emotions. She’s like a bright and brilliant star collapsing, under the pressure of gravity, into its core before exploding into a supernova. Except for she does this every day. Multiple times in a day. And it’s really hard. For her of course. And for me. Of course.

It was at the end of one of these days that I drove myself to a restorative yoga class, my thoughts consumed with Big Girl. I only noticed the home brew shop after bringing my awareness back into the present moment. Park the car. Turn the key. Pull it out. Notice the shop.

We all went there just a couple month ago. My husband, my Dad, the girls and I. My Dad started his career working for large breweries like Stroh and Coors before opening his own micro-breweries. For the last decade or so he worked as a consultant for micro-brewery startups. One of his last projects was teaching my husband to home brew. They were supposed to brew the weekend after he passed away. When I went through his email I saw the formulation my husband sent him for review 1 hour before he was rushed to the emergency room. Unread.

I went to yoga to get a break from Big Girl. I didn’t realize my Dad would be waiting there for me. So I took my breaths, tried to reign in the tears and walked into the studio. I managed to keep from crying for about 5 minutes, all the way up until the teacher asked how I was doing.

We chatted after class and she asked if I meditate.

“Sort of yes and sort of no,” I said. “I do, but not consistently.”

I’ve found it really helps during emotional times,” she said. Or something to that effect. My immediate, involuntary reaction was defensive.

“Meditation is not going to make it go away. You have no idea how big the emotional times are in my life. You have no idea what will help.” I thought these things not as words coming together into sentences, not as a voice in my head. But as a feeling filling up my physical body.

It wasn’t until reading the response to last week’s post that I fully processed her advice. She was trying to help, to share her experiences and the lessons she’s learned just as I am. The same lessons as it turns out.

Of course meditation isn’t going to make this go away. She knows that. The death of my father cannot be undone. My Mom will die too. My Big Girl is hard. And I will continue to feel all of it. Meditation creates space for these feelings. The feelings come up and we give them permission to exist, to flow freely through and out of our physical body. And somehow it really does help. I know this because I’ve been doing it for a long time.

So I plan to follow her good advice. I am recommitting to a regular meditation practice. It’s just going to look a little different than hers. Mine starts in a pair of running shoes.

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Finding Time for Self-Care in the Middle of Real Life

Time-Self-Care-Real-Life

You won’t find any earth shattering tips on how to find time for self-care in this post. In real life we just do what we can.

I’m tired. I’ve started this post a half dozen times already. I don’t have the energy to do this thing I love. My husband is attempting to put Baby Girl to bed and she’s crying that she wants a boobie. That doesn’t help. Just another reminder that there’s never enough time for self-care.

I’ve been fantasizing A LOT lately about a retreat. Nothing organized. Just a trip with myself or a few close friends. A time for sleeping in, practicing yoga, meditating, running, writing and plenty of time to cook good food. During this time nobody would yell at me or suck on my nipples. Actually, nobody would touch me at all, unless they were a paid professional. (I’m talking about massage!) I would have a bed to myself and the floor would would be clear of used tissues and stale cheerios.

Instead, my husband will be out of town for 3 weeks in February. I need to finish planning Big Girl’s birthday party (the part that comes after the Race My Toddler Virtual 2K) and schedule dentist appointments, register her for summer camps and maybe, potentially, clean the toilets (probably not).

It’s hard to find the time for self-care, the energy for the things we know nourish us, in the middle of real life. In yoga we’re taught to breathe deeply in order to create space. Inhale, lengthen the spine. If only the breath created space outside our physical body, in our lives. Maybe it does… How about that for a deep thought? What does that even mean? It's hard to find the time for the things we know nourish us in the middle of real life. Click To Tweet

For now I’ll rely on YMCA Child Watch and the babysitting swap I have worked out with my neighbor to get my workouts in. I’ll continue to meditate while I nurse Baby Girl to sleep and write during the nap times that actually happen. My time for self-care comes together like a quilt made of stray minutes I find laying around the things I choose not to do.

I won’t cook good food. I’ll carpet by bedroom floor in clean laundry that never gets folded and step on leftover cheerios that I probably won’t vacuum up. I won’t bother with showering too much.

Big Girl told me the other day that the brain and the heart are our two most important body parts. “Without our brain we wouldn’t be able to think about birthday parties.” Right. I need to do that. “And without our heart we wouldn’t be able to move our muscles.”

What a wise 4-soon-to-be-5 year old. With just a few simple words she reminds me of my heart and my priorities. Moving my muscles and loving my messy life.

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You Could Win a Mala, Not a Boobie

Mala-Prize

A frank conversation between myself and I. Plus, a video about what a mala is.

I think we all know the kind of difference a boss can make in terms of job satisfaction and I have a great one. She gives me tons of creative freedom, pushes me to do super scary things (like post a video about the mala I’m giving away as a prize for the Race My Toddler Virtual 2K) and then reassures me that it’s going to be okay.

Like last week, for example. All I could think about and, therefore, all I really wanted to write about was my Mom. But I was worried that it wouldn’t work on a “fitness” website. So I discussed it with my boss and she was all, “Include the part about mindfulness. That fits with meditation and yoga… and we have that whole well-being category too. We can throw anything in there.”

I reminded her that you’re supposed to pick a niche when you start blogging. “But if we’re not focused enough that could hurt our search engine performance. Or we could lose readers. I keep saying I’m going to offer tips about running and stuff and I keep not doing that.”

And then she reminded me, “We did pick a niche. It all fits. Besides, people need to know that sometimes you go to a yoga class and all you do is go through the motions. It isn’t always peace and zen. People need to hear that it’s normal and actually okay to lack motivation for exercise. People need permission to feel proud of themselves when they DO get out there. These things are more important than choosing the right pair of running shoes.”

Right. I felt a lot better after that conversation.

But then I started worrying about the Race My Toddler Virtual 2K coming up on 2/18/17 and I told my boss as much. “I was really hoping this race would help us branch out beyond my personal network, and it’s just not working out that way.”

“That’s okay. It’ll still be fun.”

“But we have to expand our reach if this business is going to be viable.”

“And we will.”

“97%! 97% of my fans are friends! I can’t just try to sell stuff to my friends. People don’t like that, you know.”

“Laura. We’ve been open for 2 months. This is going to take time. You need to chill out.” I had to admit she had a point. “Maybe this business really takes off and we can work at it for years. There’s still a lot to try. Or maybe it doesn’t. That will be okay too. Just trust that if you listen to your gut and follow your heart, whatever takes shape will be right. Didn’t your Mom ask you to meditate on trust for her? Now would be a good time for that. Oh, and while you have your mala out, tell everyone what it’s about.”

“You mean write about it.”

“Why don’t you make a video?”

“AAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!! That’s way too scary!!!!!” I said this in my head.

Actually this whole conversation was in my head so I guess I just ignored myself and went on, “Make sure it doesn’t look like you tried too hard. You know, do it with your phone in poor lighting and switch around the picture orientation.”

“Okay… but just so you know, this makes me feel really uncomfortable. I’m pretty new to this whole mantra, mala, meditation thing. I don’t know if I’m qualified to explain this stuff. It’s also been awhile since I took a shower.”

“Include the kids. You’re an expert compared to Big Girl. And they’re cute. That can’t hurt.”

“Okay. But fair warning. I’m going to forget to mention that you don’t even have to use the mala for meditation. You can always just wear it as a necklace or bracelet.”

“Laura. Stop talking to yourself and post the video.”

Sanskrit mantras for your reference:

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The 12 Days of Christmas Meditation

IMG_4162

This is kind of a difficult time of year, isn’t it? I mean, it’s the most wonderful. But it’s also kind of difficult, isn’t it?

I keep hearing about the tough times my friends and family and their loved ones are having. The hard workers overwhelmed by all the things that just absolutely have to get done by the end of the year. The friend who was just in a car accident. The mother who doesn’t know how she can afford Christmas for her kids. The high school student who just lost her dad.

And I’ve been feeling really stressed and conflicted over whether or not to send out Christmas cards this year. Okay, maybe that doesn’t feel like a big deal anymore.

The point is we could all use a little less and little more right now. Less to-dos, fewer expectations, more love and ease. Maybe that’s why my husband is watching Chill with Bob Ross right now. How curious that the stroke of a brush, the blending of red and white to creamy pink actually feels good.

It’s the simplicity of it I think.

I had an idea tonight while I was putting my Baby Girl to bed. While I was stroking her hair and breathing deep breaths, her back pressed up against my stomach. For the next 12 days before Christmas I’d like to dedicate my meditation practice to someone else. Twelve someones actually. One for each day.

Do you or someone you know need a little less or a little more? Let me know. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing publicly, feel free to tell me privately and I’ll keep it to myself. Or maybe you’d like to join me in celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas Meditation. Wouldn’t that be lovely?