Achievement or Experience: What's Going to Make You Happier?

I want to be happy. Don't you?

I'm going to take a leap here and suggest we'd all appreciate being happy and content, yet we pretty consistently get in our own way. I can give you at least 17 examples every day of things I do to get in my own way.

Can you relate?

In yoga, we practice the state of being present and non-attachment. Lovely, yet lofty goals these are. It's too easy, even in the midst of our practice, to get bogged down by anxieties and the pressure of feeling we aren't doing enough. We're not enough. We haven't achieved or experienced enough. And I believe it boils down to priorities. That and how we define achievements and experiences in their relationship to happiness.

Are you game for a short questionnaire?

Answer the questions below to determine if achievement or experiences are more important to you currently. 

*Side note: we change our minds. Sometimes it's achievement, sometimes it's experience. But knowing where you are right this moment and connecting it to your overall sense of well-being might help enlighten you to some shifts that may be beneficial. And also, sometimes it's both. We really can have it all, but often we don't need both. We just need the one. Let's explore this further.

  • Are you currently doing some type of project? This can be completing a degree or remodeling your bathroom. If so, are you enjoying the experience or mostly focused on the end result?
  • Are you traveling soon? Is it for work or pleasure? What are the goals for this trip?
  • Name the last thing you did just for the experience of it and describe how it made you feel. Did it have a positive or negative impact on your happiness? Or was the impact either neutral or minimal?
  • List the last thing you did that gave you a sense of achievement? Write down every adjective about how it caused you to feel. Was it worth all the effort required to meet your goal? Are you happy with the level of achievement you reached?

Experiences have the deep potential to completely alter our lives. It just depends on how often we seek them out and how big or small we play it. Have you ever been on the fence about going to a dinner party or event and ultimately decided to go and met someone who straight up changed your life? Conversely, have you ever opted no for something and always wondered what if? And on those occasions, we've opted for the experience of being along, reading, walking in the woods, meditation, yoga practice, or anything else we enjoy and that enriches us. There is no such thing as missing out. If we do thing A, we can't do B or C. It's the equation that drives us and choosing wisely is how we increase our happiness.

Achievements also vary widely in degree and impact. If I've achieved not eating any dairy for a week, do I notice the results? Do I feel any different? Am I proud of myself for doing something a little challenging in the same way I felt challenged training for and completing a marathon? I was happy about both, but one took a hell of a lot more effort than the other.

The key is always balance. Small yet meaningful achievements and experiences daily feed us and propel us forward. Big goals met and deep, meaningful events can have long-lasting effects and even change the course of our lives. So can achievements. Let's celebrate them all and keep bringing them on.

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Why You Really Do Need to Go Hug All of The Trees

I knew the second I spotted her that she was the one

There she was, just as majestic and impossibly beautiful as a living creature has the capacity to be. She beckoned without paying me any attention at all. With zero chill, I raced in her direction and hurled my body fully against her's. We became one, me and that Quaking Aspen, and the feeling of our full embrace will never quite leave me. Or leaf me. And speaking of leaves, I took one from the ground as a memento of our brief but impactful time together.

There's quite a lot of evidence that tree hugging has many benefits

Not only are you fully aware that you feel better after getting in that snuggle, but you may not notice some of the more subtle yet highly impactful benefits tree hugging has to offer.

In his spellbinding book, Blinded by ScienceMatt Silverstone explores the health benefits of hugging trees and the vibrational healing powers that this simple act has to offer. Trees offer specific vibrations that trigger positive responses in our biological behaviors when we commune with them and tap into their restorative powers.

If all it takes is just one tree hug per day to make us healthier and happier, um, why wouldn't we make this a priority?

Aletheia Luna details how the freshest air we can breath is right underneath a tree. Some of the more important health benefits include:

  • lower blood pressure
  • enhanced digestion
  • happier mood
  • more developed breath patterns
  • balance in our nervous systems

Do you really need more reasons to go find a gorgeous ever-inviting tree to hug?

Incorporating tree hugging into travel is a remarkable way to build in memories about your experiences with the great outdoors and the variety of landscapes, foliage, and unique properties the staggering number of tree variations can offer. Turning tree hugging into an integral component of the way we travel will make us more susceptible and receptive to the cultural attributes and needs that exist all over the globe.

Each tree has it's own interesting stories, experiences, and wisdom to offer. Set up your practice in front of the most enticing tree you can find. Offer homage to the tree by thanking it for providing inspiration, shelter, nourishment, and serving as a gigantic reminder of how crucial it is to ground and set roots even if you're traveling. We root by being fully present and grateful for our unique surroundings.

There is a long history of peacefully advocating for trees by hugging them in protest of tearing them from the ground. That advocacy goes both ways and the trees will continue to serve and teach us no matter where we go, what we do, or who we continue to evolve into being.

Tree hugging separates us from those who offer love and support from those who take without thought of consequences. I want to be in the former category and I want it to be a hallmark of my character.

Start in your own backyard. If you don't have a tree right there, go find the closest one to where you dwell. Pay respect on the daily and take that sense of acknowledging nature and all of its glorious offerings with you no matter where you are. It will feed your soul, improve your health, and most importantly, the trees deserve it.


Satiating Wanderlust on a Serious Budget

I feel it too. The itch to go. A longing to be somewhere odd, foreign, really anywhere that's not where you live.

Wanderlust is a constant theme in the yoga community. Every other conversation I have is about where someone just traveled or an impending trip. And I never tire of discussing it and hearing other's stories of other lands, foods, languages, and landscapes. The physical effects of wanderlust are apparent immediately. It's like eating something spicy, knowing from the first bit that you're going to be on a ride for a little while. And there's only one cure. You have to go. Heed the call. Get your fix.
Most of us take a trip or two a year if we're lucky. And too many of us get caught up in work, obligation, who's going to watch the dog, and we can't afford it. Yeah. It's easy to find excuses and reasons to skip travel and do the easier thing. The boring thing. But it's not going to ignite your imagination or stir your soul now, is it?

I regard traveling at the bottom of the list of the hierarchy of needs. Food, shelter, clothing, water, travel

And what if you make five figures and there never seems to be much left over to book that flight or afford the hotel?
And that's where inventive souls who also regard travel as a need versus an indulgence have stepped up. They've created situations where one can travel, work, and love every second of it.
Need some ideas about how to satiate your wanderlust? Oh super, cause we've got some!

Wanderlust Festival

 
You saw that coming, right? Wanderlust takes place all over the United States and Canada, and the volunteer opportunities abound. If you've ever wanted to attend the festival but decided it wasn't in the budge, volunteering with a few of your yoga and travel-loving comrades could be the perfect way to have it all. Always wanted to go to Tahoe? Cool, Wanderlust sets up there once a year. Volunteering gets you a free pass to yoga, music, speakers, and really all the festival has to offer. Renting a small house with several friends really takes the sting out of accommodation fees. And everything is more fun with people you love. Make it happen. Reach out to Wanderlust today to submit your application.

Yoga Trade

This brainchild is the result of a yoga and surf-loving couple and their creative, travel-loving friend - all wanting to not just create opportunities for themselves but for others who share their passion for yoga, travel, and community building. These folks are truly living their dharma and they want to help you do that too.

For a paltry $36 bones a year ($48.00 for two years), you can get access to tons of work trade, volunteering, and continuing education opportunities. You just have to get yourself there. Wanna teach yoga in a tree house? You can! Interested in spending a month in Sri Lanka at a yoga retreat living, practicing, and taking photographs? That experience is just lying in wait for you. Sign up with Yoga Trade for free to peruse their offerings. They want yoga teachers, photographers, and chefs who cook health food with love to join their team. Locations range from Costa Rica to Portugal to Columbus, Ohio. Their emails only wet your thirst and prod you to dream and dream big. Check out Yoga Trade for opportunities that will make your heart burst and get you going on your next travel adventure.

If flights and rooming feel a little out of reach at the moment, short road trips that involve your dog, camping, and hiking are always available cheap and easy excursions to satisfy your soul's yearning. Beauty is everywhere. We must continue to make the effort so our experiences can feed us. We never have to go hungry. And luckily our mats love travel as much as we do.


Morning Practices to Turn Mindfulness Into Second Nature

Practicing mindfulness is kind of like being your own therapist

You bear witness to your choices, thought processes, reactions, and decisions. And from there, you have the opportunity to assess if you like how you feel as a result. If you don't, you understand different thoughts and actions must be taken. Sounds easy, right? But we all know it's not. It's a practice that requires constant attentiveness and that can feel overwhelming.
Mindfulness is a vigilant practice that requires us knowing the various versions of our past selves and shining a spotlight on who we are right now in this moment. We keep adding to our experiences and draw on our past choices with the retrospective eyes of someone who knows better and differently. Employing wisdom is one of the key elements to mindful living and thinking. Doing our very best based on what we understand is an essential element for living our greatest life.

Mindfulness and self-awareness are basically synonymous

It's easy to get caught up in our habits, routines, and the stories we create in our heads.  Developing daily practices the help us strengthen the muscle of awareness is the springboard to turning mindfulness into how we go about every moment of the day. When it becomes second nature, it no longer requires so much of our emotional and mental energy.
By incorporating mindfulness into our daily rituals and applying it to the actions we take daily, it becomes less of a practice and more of who we are as human beings. Mindfulness requires we examine our motives, feelings, beliefs, and how all of that translates into action. It's reading others and seeing our truth reflected in their reactions.
So how do we do this? How do we practice meaningful mindfulness as we move through our day? Let's begin at the beginning.

What happens the moment after we wake up?

  • What's the very first thought you think? Waking up with a grateful thought, even something as simple as a general 'thank you' will promise an approach to the day that continues in the vain of gratitude. If there is something specific you are feeling extra loving about, then take a moment the second your eyes open to spend a few moments choosing loving grateful thinking.
  • What's the next action you take? Do you hug your partner? Do you sit quietly with a cup of tea or coffee and take some dedicated breaths? Do you practice a few yoga postures? Whatever you do, do it with thoughtfulness and observance as to how it makes you feel.

Practicing purification with mindfulness

 
  • What are your body cleansing rituals? Do you dry brush then shower? Do you use the bathtub and soak with a cup of tea and an inspiring book? The physical act of cleaning ourselves has a myriad of mindfulness opportunities. Everything from the soap we choose (is it ethically made? Handmade? Does it have a scent that calms and soothes us?) to how slowly or swiftly we wash ourselves has an impact on our nervous system, mood, and a general feeling of washing away negativity. Taking our time as we move through the purification process leaves us with a sense of accomplishment and thoughtfulness. Everything from using a fresh towel and making sure our tub is clean impacts us.

Breakfast

 
  • What we eat and how we eat sets the tone for our day. Do you eat whatever is easiest and incorporate eating into getting dressed? Choosing to take the time to select something nourishing and healthy as well as eating slowly and delighting in every delicious bite automatically changes the course of our day. If we begin hurried and not even tasting our food it's harder to savor the moments ahead of us. Slow, thoughtful eating encourages those same ideas to flourish in our work, conversations, travel methods, and various other decisions we have to make every single day. Try sitting without stimulation and choose to notice the flavors, textures, and pace with which you eat. Once you've finished, take a moment to observe how satisfied you feel and carry that with you to encourage a sense of contentment throughout the day.

Speaking

 
  • What's the first thing you say out loud each morning? If you live with someone, choosing both words and tone that are full of kindness and positivity will help you choose those intentions as you move through your day. "Good morning, I love you. How did you sleep?" If you live alone, perhaps calling someone you love each morning to wish them a lovely day and inquire how they are would be a perfect way to practice mindful speech. Our words, volume, tone, and intention when we talk affect others more than we know. We've all be the recipient of a gruff hello or complaint first thing in the morning. And it never feels good. Even if you wake up feeling less than excited for the day, seize that moment to decide you're going to turn that initial feeling into something good.
Before we even leave our home, mindfulness can permeate our every thought and choice. Setting the tone for our day at the very beginning will lead to our new normal. Negative thoughts will encounter the barriers that mindful living kindly creates with loving boundaries. Go have an incredible day!

alternate meditation practices|yogi surprise

Meditations for People Who Think They Can't Mediate

I feel you.

Meditation can be exceedingly challenging for some of us. It's incredibly hard to direct our thoughts in a way that helps us clear out minds. Being still is the opposite of calming. I know it comes naturally for some, but that ain't me, and if you're reading this, it's probably not you.

So let's redefine meditation. Let's make it something we look forward to and really find value in

Traditionally, meditation is done in a quiet room. The practitioner takes a comfortable seat, closes their eyes, and clears their mind. Mantras and chants can and often are a part of the equation. Dim lighting, no distractions, and comfortable clothing are paramount. Sometimes, it's a guided meditation taking us on an internal journey.
You've tried all of it. And you've tried again. It's not clicking and you wonder if you simply can't meditate. You peek at others in the room seemingly enjoying their own experience and appearing to not struggle in the least. You feel like a failure and trend towards thinking meditation just isn't for you. It's so easy to buy into these thoughts, but they're simply untrue.

Let's throw out tradition and get to the heart of what meditation offers us:

  • peaceful feelings
  • clarity
  • mindfulness
  • self-awareness
  • compassion
  • the ability to be present
  • appreciation
  • simplification
  • kindness
  • stress reduction
  • relaxation
  • calm
  • groundedness
  • gratitude
For those of us whom more traditional meditation practices don't quite land, let's think way outside the box about what a meditative practice can be. What alternate types of meditation practices besides sitting in silence can offer all of these benefits?

1. Try a walking meditation

Take a walk. It can be in the woods, on the beach, or even just around your neighborhood. Focus on your breath and surroundings. Make a conscious effort to notice everything around you. The wind, cracks in the road, leaves on the trees, the song of the birds overhead. Drink it in and let yourself absorb your surroundings. Count your steps. Focus your drishti. Choose positive thoughts. Take deep, aware breaths.

2. Meditate in a crowded space

It could be a coffee shop, library, train station, or even your workplace. Find the least conducive to meditation environment you can. If you can find a calming energy and peaceful feeling even with eight-seven distracting things happening all around you, then you're really onto something. The meditation here is all about blocking out the noise and finding focus amidst chaos. Even if you can find it for a moment, that's really something. Use the tools at your disposal. Breath, Making the choice to not look up or all around everytime a new noise arrives at the scene. When you learn to block the noise, a truly incredible thing happens. You stop hearing it. It ceases having power over you. You can feel serenity anywhere.

3. Practice meditation via conversation

Have you ever noticed your listening abilities evaporating when you're talking with someone and there's a feeling of disconnect? You can change that by applying meditative properties to every conversation. Whether you're talking with someone you really vibe with or someone you have trouble connecting to, the same meditation principles align. Practice self-study, svadhyaya, as a means of witnessing not just the other person with whom you are participating in dialogue, but yourself being present, open, compassionate, and more aware than you were moments before.

4. Create a daily mantra

This one is SO much fun! If you like to write, then write it down. If that's not your jam, mentally create one and come back to it over and over throughout the day, revisiting your chosen meditation. Use a bracelet or crystal to help you remember to come back to it throughout the day. Today, I'm working with, "Cultivate listening by utilizing economy of words." I talk a lot, so today, I choose to listen more, therefore talking less and fostering this as my meditation. Tomorrow I'll choose something different to focus on, but this meditation will stay with me.
Once we broaden the scope of how we view meditation, everything starts to show up as a meditation opportunity. This in no way negates the incredible value of more traditional meditation practices. But if your resistance to that is strong, begin here and stay here as long as the value continues to surface for you. It might decrease your feelings of opposition, and if it doesn't, that's really okay. As long as we each find ways to cultivate awareness and a reduction in our stress levels, our meditation practice only needs to speak to us.

singing bowl healing|yogi surprise

5 Ways a Singing Bowl Can Benefit Your Home Practice

I remember the first time I heard a singing bowl

I was still fairly new to yoga, and still getting used to the entire vibe and all of the accouterments that were commonplace in the yoga world realm.  The instructor, Christina, had an ethereal energy and I was enthralled with her. We were in a silent savasana, and I was dwelling somewhere in between the plains of awake and asleep. And then I heard it. One clear, bright, soul-stirring sound. One note. It not only brought me back to awareness of my surroundings. It touched on something deep. Something I didn't know I could feel.

As I found my way back to a seat and listened to her words of wisdom and encouragement, I could still feel that singular note resonating within. Everyone around me began rolling up their mats and putting props back in their proper place. But I didn't want to move. I wanted to be with this new, exciting feeling.

Eventually, I packed up too. But before I left the space, I asked Christina about the sound and how she created it. She smiled and signaled for me to follow her to the front of the studio. She handed me the bowl and mallet, encouraging me to try it out. My first attempt did not produce anything other than a clunking noise. She laughed and showed me how to hold it delicately in the palm of my hand. She encouraged a confident yet gentle touch. I tried again. This time, I received a song. But it didn't sound the same as what she produced.

She explained the singing bowl is capable of many notes depending on where exactly contact is made and how it's made and by whom. She equated it to playing any instrument. She compared it to a guitar and how depending on who's playing, it can sound incredibly different and evoke totally unique emotions.

I was blown away by this, and officially hooked.

5 Ways to Include a Singing Bowl in Your Practice

If you already have a home practice, then you're likely always looking for new ways to give it more meaning. Singing Bowls offer a myriad of benefits.

  • mental clarity
  • calming the central nervous system
  • improving concentration
  • inspiring internal vibrations and a deeper connection to your chakra system

Once you begin to incorporate them on a regular basis, you'll likely find the benefits increase.

Try any of these 5 ways to incorporate a singing bowl into your yoga practice

  1. Use it at the very beginning of your practice so your brain and internal system respond with readiness. It's a learned indication it's now time to practice.
  2. Use it at the end of practice in the same way. It offers a conclusion that resonates even after you've stepped away from your mat. Try choosing a number of times you'll ring the bowl. Once may be enough, but if your lucky number is 3, go with that.
  3. Use your singing bowl in harmony with other singing bowls. Collect a variety of sizes and bowls made with different materials to evoke a symphony that you create.
  4.  If you're practicing slower yin or hatha-style, you could ring the singing bowl between each pose or mini-sequence to reset and refresh your attention.
  5. Use a singing bowl before attempting postures that are difficult or not yet obtainable. Ring the bowl to indicate to yourself that you can embrace any challenge that comes your way.

If you've never tried it, I'm already so excited for you. Who knows what kind of reactions and emotions lay in wait that you've yet to feel.

 


How to Get the Men In Your Life Interested in Yoga

You love yoga and you want your man to love yoga too

I'm one of the lucky (very) few who has a male partner who loves yoga. LOVES.

This really doesn't happen all that often. As in pretty much never. And yes, my partner loved yoga way before he ever loved me.
If you're now thinking, "Well whoopty f*cking doo for you. My boyfriend won't even sit on a yoga mat let alone come to a class with me." I feel you. Previous partners weren't game. And I've seen many women drag their husbands, boyfriends, roommates, brothers, and even their dads to class, believing so deeply that if they just try it, they'll surely fall head over heels for yoga and probably sign up for teacher training on the spot. Only to look over at them wide-eyed and hopeful the second class ends to receive a shrug of a shoulder or roll of the eyes.
Now, just what are you suppose to do? You know it would benefit him in a myriad of ways and if he just gave it a chance, he'd really fall in love with it. He'd get what you get. It would become his way of life.
Approach and strategy are incredibly important. And that tricky thing we quickly forget when we are aiming to nurture positive feelings:
 
What need will it meet for him? 
How does he work? If he's analytical and driven to understand things, that may be the only motivation he requires. Think back to the beginning of your yoga exploration. Remember those moments when something clicked, and you finally understood? I tell the story often of the first time I saw Crow Pose instructed in a class. I thought the teacher had to be joking. I was pissed he even offered such a ludicrous posture. And then I looked around, and everyone in the class was able to pull it off except for me.
 
Yoga meets our need to figure things out. 
 
Crow pose was a puzzle I had to solve. I practiced it every day for months before something finally made sense. I wasn't working hard enough. I had to work really hard to get into the pose and keep working just as hard once I was there. That wasn't obvious at first, nor did I know exactly where to apply all of my efforts.
Yoga is not competitive, but we are. 
 
I know y'all, I know. It goes against every single solitary molecule of yoga philosophy and it is not at all welcome in the yoga room. But we are humans and we often feel competitive anyway, even if just with ourselves. If you want to get a man you love to embrace yoga, teach him a pose he will find success in. Teach him a pose you can't actually do yourself but you think he could. When we believe we won't be any 'good' at something, evidence to suggest otherwise if quite helpful in motivating us to find the patience for what doesn't come easily and enjoy what does.
Introduce him to your yoga friends, but don't talk about yoga. 
 
That sounds insane. But it works. The whole yoga world can feel intimidating and exclusive to someone on the outside looking in. Have a party, invite your friends, and let him see how down to earth they are. Yoga people tend to like all kinds of things such as rock climbing, travel, reading, art, great food, and dirty jokes. Dismantle the stereotype, and he might feel much more on board.
Commit to your home practice. 
 
If he sees you rolling out your mat and getting ready to practice, he might feel much more inclined to join you, especially if you tell him you're going to do a quick 15-minute practice. That seems much more palatable than a 60-90 minute class where the room might be damn hot and he's worried about looking silly. Show him that the benefits can be felt in a very brief period of practice, but that frequency and dedication are the keys.
It's so lovely to share your practice with everyone you love. But sharing it with the man in your life holds many precious moments, gifts, and a new foundation for understanding and relating to each other. Don't give up, just go about it a little bit differently. And be patient with him. Not saying a word but rolling out your mat daily or splitting to take your favorite class a few times a week may be the only impetus he needs to spend more time with you and connect more meaningfully.