Letter to 40 Day-ers

November 14th, 2011

Hi all you shiny, flexible, strong people!

Many of you found me at our “Triumph” party to express your gratitude.  I’m writing in a “look-what-they-did,” very public manner, to thank each of you right back in a big, heartfelt, expansive, smiling, joyful way. Thank-you — with all of those qualities infused!

It’s been about week since you completed “40 days to Personal Revolution” and from what I’ve witnessed, you’re quaking with new found insights, connections, and deep truths.

I  have a hunch, too, (gleaned from the number of sparkling-sheeny eyes), that you’ve kneaded your hearts — through consistent daily practice — into ever softer, wiser, more receptive ones.

Epiphany-rejoicing of the best kind!

Your softness and sparkliness have inspired me to spend more time in stillness – on the yoga mat, sitting in meditation, reading good-heart-expanding-stuff, writing, and opening up to the present. I am equally roused to love more fully, hence my gratitude letter to you.

I’ve heard the third time is a charm, yet this was the second time  I co-guided this program with Scott, and it was revelatory!

Let me explain.

During my maiden voyage co-steering 40-days, I had this crazy confused idea that it was, at least, in part up to me, to ask a life-altering question, or say something, one thing, that would be, you know, the epic thing, to send you sailing toward your right life. (No pressure or anything.)

So, before each meeting, I dutifully scribbled sage teachings and brilliant guidance into the margins of my class outline, just in case the opportunity arose to blow open a soul or two, catalyzing a transformation toward a deeply fulfilling life.

Ok, everyone together now: Big guffaw! Still guffawing? Yeah, I am too.

Looking back, I can see that this came from a place of fear, rather than a place of faith. My attempt to over-control was a kind of forgetting. I had forgotten to trust the process, and have confidence in the practices.

This time around, I let go. I trusted the practices to do their thing.

My revelation: Have faith in the methods!

Over the past few years, a deep sense of confidence has arisen in me, from the recognition that if we slow down, look within, become more familiar with our minds, and care lovingly for our bodies, we are more able to face all of what life delivers with an inner well of strength and freedom. It can be a freaking crazy-storm of crappy circumstances in our outer life, yet with a healthy interior state, we always have a reservoir of peace.

Now, I am certain, as in no doubt about it, that no matter what might be swirling around in our outer life, there is always, at our core, a potential for flourishing.

I know, too, as in no doubt about it, that we’ll never find a fast-food outlet dishing up inner freedom. We have to practice our way toward a life full of meaning.

And oh, how all of you dedicated 40 day-ers practiced!

  • You chose to arrive on your yoga mats, six days out of seven, inhabiting your bodies, attending to your breath, and tuning inward.

On the mat, in flow, you were invited to be still in motion. And yoga did its thing, as it tends to do: sensations rise and dissolve, emotions rise and dissolve, and thoughts are dropped, as the postures and the breath call for your focus. Again and again, you are invited to unhook from rambling thoughts, and allow and make space for visiting sensations and emotions.

  • You chose to sit in meditation — twice a day for 40 days. This is a commitment in the world we live in, twittering with easy distractions and ways to escape.

I could write a Whitman-esque “Song of Meditation,” but you know the song already, because you practiced. You nod knowingly when reading the research about how meditating 20 minutes a day for 6 – 8 weeks strengthens the power of attention, reduces anxiety, and increases one’s general state of well-being. If you’ve meditated longer, perhaps you’ve found you can get disentangled from the mental static that perpetuates suffering, and find clarity and peace. This makes you happy and you can share that lovey-happy-goodness with others.

  • You chose to give up food insta-stimulants and food insta-chill-axers, plus every possible food attachment you might have had!

Breaking your food routines helped you establish more mindfulness around eating. You were invited to notice areas in your diet where the force of habit had become strong. And you practiced eating and living in ways that were conscious and creative rather than habitual.

  • You chose to engage in weekly meetings, at the end of a work-day, and brought your authenticity to your fellow 40 day-ers.

In showing up fully each week, you created a community where there is kindheartedness, support, openness, creativity, vulnerability (and shelter), play, strength, levity, and love.

I am tremendously grateful to all of you for reminding me to continue cultivating a way of being that is not so subject to patterns of habitual thinking. A way of being that is about growing in love, inner freedom and lightheartedness.

I appreciate you, and I celebrate you, your dedication to practice, and your personal revolution!

xoxoxoxo Love, Lauren

Soul Scrub Anyone?

March 25th, 2010

Lately, I’ve been taking time to get more conscious about time.

I’m thinking not only about what I long to spend time doing, but how I want to be in that time.

By being in time, I mean what qualities I want to bring to what I do, when I’m doing it.  I’m wanting qualities like presence, receptivity, love, acceptance, clarity, openness.

Amidst contemplating what helps me cultivate those inner states, a memory surged up from when I was nine years old. (*Which I know, has to be relevant or it wouldn’t have popped up so randomly and insistently.)

Must-be-related memory: It was the first day of sailing lessons, and my friends and I are clamoring into the sailing-room, waiting to find out which of the yacht club’s Blue Jays we would get to sail.

I am excited, anxious and really, really hoping they are going to tell us what we’re supposed to do if we capsize. Because I want to know what to do. And the instructors are smiling suspiciously, an inside joke written all over their faces. I feel hurt. I want to know what they are smiling about.

And then, surprise! From behind the instructor’s back comes a sponge, and a bottle of Soft Scrub.

Ohhhh, I get it…Instead of finding out which Blue Jay we were going to sail, we were waiting to find out which Blue Jay we would get to clean.

“Here you go,” grinned my instructor, “Now make it sea-worthy.”

Yes, relevance! Those sailing instructors were on to something!

Because for me, a colossal cleaning effort is like a massive soul scrub. Get the sailboat ship-shape, and you get the sailor ready for voyage.

When I clean out clutter, and open up space, my lungs seem to fill with more air, my mind has more openness and ease, and my heart is shinier.

House and garden-work, when I perform it in a big and intentional way, clears out inner gunk and cobwebs, moves stagnant energy, and helps me let go of no-longer-necessary-stuff.

After a good inner rinse, I seem to have more time. I can bring more clarity and meaning to the time I am in. (Note: This does NOT work when I approach housework begrudgingly, detachedly, or act all holier than it.)

Thank-you, memory! You made my mission clear.

It was time for a massive and mindful soul scrub, starting with my favorite de-cluttering tool-of-all-time, the Felco #7 garden pruner.

Two weeks later, my garden is ship-shape (pruned, weeded and poised to pop with spring growth), my closet is full of air and ease, and drawer by drawer, I’m properly stowing what’s left.

I’ve delivered 4 hefty bags to Good Will, recycled about 6 shopping bags worth of old papers, and…I sang sea-shanties all the while. (Nope, not kidding. ) And I’m not done yet. Note to self: Learn more sea shanties.

Inside, I am feeling readier and steadier for voyage. I am feeling more open, clear, and grounded.  (Like my plants! Pruned, weeded and poised to pop with spring growth.)

I’d really like to maintain this refreshing glowy-glow. So, inspired by Kelly, I made a list.

Here are some other things that give my soul a good scrub and open up time:

  • Taking an intense yoga class with backbends, inversions and lots of core work (mmmm)
  • Running in warm rain
  • Cuddling my sons
  • Sharpening an odd number of pencils with my electric pencil sharpener and arranging them just so in my pretty pencil cup
  • Reading just about any poem by Mary Oliver
  • Making a teary-happy connection with another human being
  • Singing glam rock songs in my car

I’d bet you have your own list of soul-scrubbing, time-opening, invite-in-some-ease kinds of things.

I’m curious, what’s on your list? And is it time to get a sponge, a sloshy bucket, and give yourself a good inner rinse? (Singing sea shanties while scrub-a-dubbing highly recommended.)

Ricochet Rabbit Learns to Flow Like Water

February 2nd, 2010

I know, curious title.

Let me explain…

Along with 11 other unshrinking souls, I’ve committed to practice 40 days of vinyasa yoga, meditation, and conscious eating.

Today is day 15. And I’m entering new territory.

The steady practice part is not an unknown. I’ve practiced 3 days a week, for years. And I have experience with meditation. And I’m also mindful, most of the time, of what and how I eat.

What’s new then?

It’s this hard-to-explain surrendering to, and accessing of a deeper energy. I mean, way-down-in-the-energy-well-deep.

I have oodles upon oodles of surface energy. Energy, that without some kind of outlet, starts looking (and feeling) high-strung, jumpy, and v-e-r-y restless.

Lack of movement transforms me into a less cute version of Sheriff “Bing-bing-bing!” Richochet rabbit. Bouncing off walls. (But without the redeeming heroics.)

And so, I find ways to move.

Typically, I arrive on my yoga mat brimming with copious, swirly-whirling, spiraling energy. And then, bounded by the borders of my mat, and open to the spaciousness in the studio, I flow, and ground, and surf my physical edge, long enough for the whirls to both dissipate and settle.

…that is until the swhirlies build up again.

I run on most days I don’t practice yoga. But still, the energy persistently rises, and spirals and hums.

I know I’m not alone here. And I’m positively certain there are lots of people who are born with a wired, restless energy that far, far exceeds mine. I imagine they are the human-mountain-goats who climb Mt. Everest, the ultra-marathoners who really can’t stop running, the explorers who are endlessly roaming and expanding their reach, the Olympians.

Maybe they are the dedicated meditators too.

Anyway, the point. Or the place this is going.

The part where the rabbit learns how to chill.

The type of yoga I do is very physically demanding. Like, #*&-kickingly so. And although I’ve practiced heavily during weekend retreats, I’ve never practiced days upon days in a row.

Every part of me is sore. Achingly, ow-ingly, sore. And my energy is settling. Or more like, past-tense, settled. And it’s staying that way between classes.

So, instead of arriving on my mat with superabundant surface energy to burn, my body feels quieter, steadier.

Every single pose feels foreign in some way or another.

I’ve figured out that resistance makes the edge of the poses harder. So I practice relaxing, and breathing, and finding space.

Every now and then, the instinct to struggle pops up and hijacks my attention, and again, I breathe through the opposition. I soften and lengthen, and then here’s the surprise, the “wall” gives. It moves and shifts.

I think what I’m doing (or not doing) is a kind of surrendering, a yielding. It’s most definitely not a crumpling or caving. Because a different energy is there — floating upward from a deeper source. Buoying me. Helping me stay.

And so I trust, and the “edge” of the pose moves, just like that. Gently, ease-ily, like water.

*Internal note to self: No bing-y bounding necessary to make stuff move.

And this has got me thinking…how many times do we come up against obstacles off of our mats, in our real-world lives and fight, freeze or flee?

Maybe we force and flail our way through a challenge, flinging ourselves into our future. Or we resist, holding on for dear-life, clinging to our past. Or maybe some us just run for the hills.

(Me? Flailer and flinger, more than I’d like to admit.)

Or, how many times do we just assume the situation will be the same as it was the day before? Our commute will suck, our kids won’t cooperate, the  tasks ahead of us will be insurmountable, and that person at work will be the same old grump. So, we enter the situations in the same way as before. We don’t allow the space around our hearts for things to be different.

What would it be like to drop the way we always do things? To flow with what is happening now. To be like water, and press on with ease and grace — over, around, above, and through. I think they call it the path of least resistance. Or flowing downstream.

And I wonder, how can this experience be translated into life off-the-mat?

It would mean less internal freaking out when challenged. Not worrying so much about what’s next. Trusting that I’ve got what it takes. Less force, more grace. Dropping predictions and overly thought-out schemes. Allowing for fluidity and surprise.

And for all that to be possible, I’ll need to trust in that deep, buoying, fluent energy.

I’m not sure how this is going to go yet. Especially the allowing for fluidity and surprise part. That involves a whole lot of letting go. But I think this is the whole point of the 40 day challenge — to open us up to new ways of doing (or undoing) and being.

I’m curious — what is your experience with letting go of struggle? With graceful persistence? With dropping your certainty to make room for surprise?

Are you able as Rumi exhorts, to “feel the motions of tenderness around you, the buoyancy” ?

Tell me! I’d love to know!