The fall season begins tonight in my corner of the world. I’m learning to welcome the shorter days, the cooler weather, the return of the rain. In the past I’ve resisted the half of the year from late September – late March as ‘not my favorite time of year,’ but in the past few years I’ve begun to embrace the opportunity to go within more, to rest more and to ‘hunker down.’
When my son was small I used to tell him often, ‘what you resist persists.’ a phrase we’ve all heard but may not have taken to heart. My encouragement to you is to try being curious about accepting what is without trying to change or control it. Be open to the possibility that the rhythms of the seasons, one of many rhythms in nature, are a natural unfolding – after all, resistance does not stop the seasons from changing. We all have our personal preferences, but even if long, warm days are your favorite, there is deep significance in more time spent in quiet, reflective pursuits and more rest.
I wrote last time about the importance of my (mostly) daily savasana ritual and that has continued to be very healing and restorative. I’m excited to begin 4-week Restorative yoga sessions at my studio in the woods next month, and to sharing the magical benefits of incorporating Restorative yoga into daily life as a way to ease and flow with transitions, including the changing of the seasons.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about how important it is to take 20 minutes a day to do a restorative yoga pose. Time for a true confession: at the time, I wasn’t yet ‘practicing what I preached.’ I wasn’t making sure I found a way to do that myself every day. I fell prey to that all-too-easy excuse ‘there’s no time in the day.’
In the past week, I was determined to change that, and made it a priority to ‘bookend’ my morning mediation and yoga practice that I have been doing without fail for about two years now with a 20-minute savasana, between my afternoon walk with my dogs and making dinner. What an amazing difference this makes in your day! The tensions of the day melt away as you transition from day to evening. You can feel your nervous system down-regulating. And, as you can see from this photo, you don’t necessarily need tons of props, or even to be in yoga clothes. If you don’t have an eye bag a scarf or sweater draped across your eyes for darkness will do.
So don’t let yourself fall for the excuses. This really matters and makes a huge difference in how you feel. Even after practicing this daily for only a week, I can feel a noticeably greater sense of calm. 20 minutes a day of ‘doing nothing’ is the opposite of a waste of time.
Recommended links: My favorite restful Instagrammers:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.