Lessons from my dogs

I’ve often said that my dog Lucie, who was one of those truly special dogs, was one of my greatest spiritual teachers. She was pure love. Below is my favorite photo of me with her.

We always told her she was the world’s best dog.

Lucie and Miele (the Italian word for honey, pronounced Mee – el – a) crossed the country with us when we moved to Vashon Island, and unfortunately, Lucie died suddenly just before our house and studio were ready. Miele, now probably about 12, developed arthritis in the past few months and it’s been a lesson in aging gracefully to watch how she’s dealt with this new way of living. We are fortunate to have a wonderful school of animal massage on the island, and today Miele had her first session as a demonstration dog for the massage students. True to form, she was a big hit and hopefully will be able to go back often.

Miele giving a massage student a big wet kiss.

Our pets are with us for far too short a time, but in that time they teach us two of life’s most important lessons: Live in the moment, and always love. The simplest lessons are always the best.

Recommended links:

Northwest School of Animal Massage

Animal stories like these always make me cry

Fabulous dog photos guaranteed to make you smile

Connection: why is it so hard?

For the past few years, I’ve used Danielle LaPorte’s Core Desired Feelings planner/calendar and one of my CDFs is ‘connection.’ I shared some thoughts in a previous post about the importance of community, and I’ve read that research shows that having meaningful connections with others is actually more important to our health than whether or not we’re a smoker.

But given the especially horrific events of recent days and all the talk about how divided we are, both in the U.S. and worldwide, it seems that connecting with others, especially if they look different and/or come from a different background, is pretty challenging for most people. And while it’s true that technology keeps us less connected and in the moment face-to-face, there is clearly a lot more to this issue than just distraction and lack of awareness.

A big part is played by fear and judgement: fear that others won’t like us if we reveal who we truly are; judgement that we think we are superior in some way to others. Below are my favorite resources this week that I hope will inspire discussion for you that creates more connection in your life. The flip side of fear is love. And truly, as trite as it may sound, what the world needs now is love.

Recommended links:

Living with Less Judgement

Honoring and Remembering Toni Morrison

Why You Should Put Down Your Phone and Say Hello to a Stranger

Simplify, simplify…

Most of us have heard the quote from Henry David Thoreau, “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.” This has always resonated with me, and my motto, if I have one, is “As soon as things get too complicated, all your problems begin.” The thing is, as we all know all too well, contemporary life is complicated by nature. But I do think there is a lot we can do to simplify, and it all comes down to awareness and intention.

There are millions of distractions and shiny objects out there. It’s so easy to go down a rabbit hole of something that doesn’t even matter to you. This is why it’s so crucial to stay as present as possible, so that you can recognize when this is happening and, with compassion, bring your focus back to what truly matters to you.

As Oprah would say, “what I know for sure” is that I feel so much better when I keep things simple. Whether it’s planning a yoga class, cooking a meal, writing a blog post – or whatever – tuning in to how something makes me feel and only doing what feels in alignment is the best way to keep things simple. In fact, my word for 2019 is ‘aligned.’ (2017 word was ‘home’; 2018, ‘experiment.’)

It’s a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon, so what feels aligned and simple right now is to go outside and read the Sunday New York Times. What helps you to feel aligned and to simplify your life?

Recommended links:

The Absolute Necessity of Doing Nothing

Be More with Less

Slow Your Home

Why resting matters

Now that I’ve had a week to reflect on my experience at the Relax and Renew ® Level 1 teacher training course that I took in San Francisco, I realize more than ever how important it is that we allow ourselves time to rest. As I learned from my teacher, Judith Hanson Laster, who has been teaching yoga for 48 years, rest and sleep are different, and we need both. As Judith explained, relaxation and sleep are distinct physiological states. The importance of good sleep has been on most people’s radar for the past few years, but most people still don’t give themselves time to rest. I couldn’t agree more with Judith that if everyone gave themselves 20 minutes every day in a restorative yoga pose, such as savasana (corpse pose), the world would truly be a different place. Yes – 20 minutes. It takes that long for people to truly relax and rest. And it’s worth it – in fact, I believe it’s essential.

From my Restorative yoga teacher training last week in San Francisco: one of the many variations of Savasana.

Try it for a week and see how you feel! It’s like magic in down-regulating the sympathetic nervous system and helping you ‘come home to yourself.’ Yoga is about remembering that, not creating it.

More to come on this. For now, have a restful week.

Recommended links:

Savasana Intensive online course

Why not to skip savasana in your yoga practice

Why you should spend time doing nothing

Creating community

I completed a five-day Restorative yoga teacher training in San Francisco on Friday (more about that next time, when I will have access to photos to share). It was a wonderful experience, and, being on my own all week, away from my husband and dogs, it got me thinking about the importance of community.

For the week, my yoga group was my community, and it was really fun and rewarding to meet so many wonderful new, like-minded people. I like the way Thich Nhat Hanh defines the Sanskrit word sangha here. I also thought about how fortunate I am to live in my own community on Vashon Island, where I’ve lived for the past five years and where I’ve always felt welcomed.

This weekend marked this largest festival of the year on the island, The Vashon Strawberry Festival, and this year’s was the 110th annual. Vashon is home to many creative people, and festival showcases musicians, artists, food makers of all kinds – and much more. It’s a wonderful representation of what this community is all about. I’ve participated in the Grand Parade several times, and this year my husband and I had a great time volunteering with Backbone Campaign to bring greater awareness to the importance of preserving the environment. I was one of the butterflies! We also had a giant inflatable Orca, salmon and Earth.

Marching with Wynne from Backbone Campaign in the Vashon Strawberry Festival Parade.

Creating community can happen anywhere, with anyone. It starts with connecting with others and kindness. The next time you’re buying coffee or groceries, or any number of interactions where these days we’re so quick to scroll through our phones, try looking the person in front of you in the eyes and asking them how their day is going. That’s a level of community right there. Notice how you feel when you do, and let’s all do more of that. It’s a starting point to a complex topic.

Recommended links:

The only metric of success that really matters is the one we ignore

Episode 54 of Support + Strategy for Yoga Teachers podcast with Francesca Cervero

A quirky little story about my island community

Movement vs. Exercise

I’m a big podcast fan; there are a bunch that I listen to every week, some every day. I really love the concept of lifelong learning, and I learn nuggets every week from podcasts (for free) that truly make a difference in my life.

This week, I really liked something I heard on Deepak Chopra’s new podcast, The Daily Breath. He was talking about the importance of various building blocks in maintaining health, such as sleep and proper nutrition. In this episode, he mentioned that he likes to think of ‘movement’ rather than ‘exercise.’ For me, this kind of simple reframing can make a tremendous shift in my outlook. I’ve never enjoyed going to gyms, and let’s be honest, if we don’t enjoy/like something, A) what’s the likelihood that we’ll make if a consistent part of our life? and B) isn’t enjoying life the whole point?

So, moving our bodies every day as much as we can is crucial for our health. I stand all day at my laptop while working at my day job – rather than sitting – because it’s healthier and it allows me to move around more, even if it’s something as simple as doing a few backbends, lunges or quad stretches a few times an hour. As Deepak mentioned, he likes to take stairs instead of elevators/escalators, and get off the subway a few stops early so he can walk more. These kinds of small, daily changes make a huge difference over time. It’s why I also make sure I get in 10 15 minutes of yoga at least 5 days a week. What’s your favorite form of movement?

I’m so excited to be heading to San Francisco tomorrow to attend a Restorative Yoga Teacher Training with Judith Hanson Lasater! Looking forward to sharing more on that experience next week. This week, I started a 40-day practice with Sianna Sherman on Yoga International, as well as a 30-day course with David Gandelman on Insight Timer (see below for links.)

Recommended links:

Deepak Chopra’s The Daily Breath podcast

Sianna Sherman on Yoga International: 15 Minutes to Clear the Way

David Gandelman on Insight Timer: The Energetics of Success & Manifestation

Everything we need to know is in a few Beatles song titles

I started this blog to share positive thoughts and resources that may be helpful to others. It’s a way for me to share what’s on my mind and do my part to add some positivity to the world!

Each time I post, it’s my intention to include links to a few riches I’ve found that relate to the topic. And in the interest of simplicity, one of my main values, these posts will, for the most part, be brief.

So, here goes the first post. Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is that everything we need to know is contained in a few Beatles song titles. It reminds me of the book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum, and here’s a quote from that book: “I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.” 
― Robert Fulghum

Back to those song titles:

~ All You Need is Love

~ Let it Be

~ We Can Work it Out

~ Come Together

Maybe it’s too simplistic to say, but when you think about it, there isn’t much more that we truly need than the concepts contained in those song titles. They’ve been around for a long time, but these lessons are not easily learned. Why do you think that is?

Recommended links:

Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations: Sister Joan Chittister The Time is Now

Matthew Jaidev Duplessie on Insight Timer mediation app

The Abundance of Less: Rainbow Weldon

That’s it for this time. Let me know your thoughts, if there is a topic you’d like me to address here, or if you’d like to guest-post.

Thanks for your time!