Spiritual Surrender

I was listening to a podcast the other day (yes, I have an addiction to Super Soul Sunday Oprah podcast) with Gabby Bernstein.


The topic was spiritual surrender.


As you know, I love this topic. Well...maybe not love, but I certainly am constantly practicing it. I am programmed to try and control and manipulate my external world to MAKE MY DESIRES HAPPEN.


We all are. And this control and manipulation is resistance to what is. In my experience, it slows down or downright prevents our desires from coming to life. So much of my spiritual work is unraveling that pattern and allowing life to unfold.


In this talk, Gabby offers 5 Steps to Spiritual Surrender.  I liked them so much that I feel they are useful to share with you all.


Step 1:


Take your hands off the wheel through prayer. Forget what you think you need/want and pray for the highest good of all.

Step 2:

Focus on what is thriving. Stop focusing on the absence of something. Focus on what is going well.

Step 3:

Obstacles are detours in the right direction. Rumi said “the wound is the place where the light enters you.” Don’t fight it when things don’t flow. There are likely opportunities arriving. Pause and pay attention and wait.

Step 4:

Ask for a sign. Ask and listen. Signs are everywhere. We are often too busy controlling and manipulating to see them.

Step 5:

When you think you’ve surrendered, surrender more.

When I heard her share these steps, I realized that this is often what I do. Not in such a linear format, but in general, I do these things. Or I try.

In her talk, Gabby talks about the concept of invisible doors. These are opportunities that can come our way that we could not even conceive of before. When we truly let go of the wheel and stop directing our lives, opportunities truly arrive that lead us in the direction of our heart’s desire.

I can say I’ve experienced this so many times, but I want to share a recent (and lovely experience):

This winter I really wanted to shift my exercise routine (ie, get more of it). I’m needing different things from my yoga practice as I get older; cardio and strength building are not on that list.

I love that high intensity, shock it to you rock it, cardio, weights, lunges, burpies, squats type of work out.  I looked at Studio in the Heights group classes (because Lisa and Priest are amazing and so is their business!) but they didn’t jive with my particular scheduling needs. I also didn’t have the budget for 3x a week; group classes OR private classes.

My desire to do this type of work was strong. I felt obstacles around the options of the experience I wanted to have (private training). I kept thinking about it, but really didn’t do anything.

Then one day, a lovely local woman named Patricia Bogan, who owns a company called Jai Wellness reached out to me. She was following me on Instagram (hey, how about you follow me too? I’m @alyssasnowyogi) and was called to connect with me over coffee.  I agreed.

When we were talking over coffee, we realized we could offer each other what we were each desiring. She could offer me private personal training (that worked with my mama of 3 schedule) and I could offer her deeply cleansing and spiritually connecting Kundalini Yoga Medicine as well as some spiritual business coaching.


And so we barter with each other. And it’s AMAZING.


My work with her, and hers with me, were invisible doors. I waited for the right opportunity and she followed her intuitive voice and a perfect match was made.


It is the waiting that often trips me up. I’m so conditioned to DO SOMETHING. Spiritual surrender isn’t about doing nothing though. It’s about our actions coming from a place of inspiration and intuition (not fear) and at the right time; which is rarely our timing.

Our timing and Divine timing are often not naturally in sync.

If it were, we wouldn’t have to learn patience and surrender would we?

The Never-Ending Teaching of Patience

Everything in this dimension of existence unfurls/unravels/blossoms in it’s own time.


Because all of life is co-creating together, the blossoming of experiences happens for many, not just the one solitary singular consciousness.

In other words, its not just about us.


You may have a vision of a certain experience that you would like to have, but doesn’t that experience also involve others?


Divine timing is when blossoming occurs at the right moment for all involved.


Let go of your own timing and desire to control “when”.


The experience of seeking control over the timing of experiences will result in a rich experience of spiritual lessons that come in the form of suffering.


You can circumvent this experience of suffering by surrendering your will to the wisdom of Divine will.


Notice when your thinking mind is holding tight to dissatisfaction of what IS.  Notice when your thinking tells you that an “other” experience is better, and to do things to bring it about.


Become aware of this tendency for it is a form of resistance and control. The opposite of patience.


Let go of the steering wheel of your life. Simply release the grip. Remember you are nature and nature does not control. It participates.


A bird does not ask if its flying correctly.


A rose does not plan when it will bloom.


Grass does not decide to be green.


In our human experience, surrendering does not mean doing nothing. Surrendering is not passive.


Thanks to our powerful minds, the practice of surrender takes effort and practice.


DOING something is conditional and automatic. We are taught to make our lives happen in a certain way. Taught to work hard to make our dreams come true.


What if all this controlling of our experiences and the outcome of these experiences actually disrupts the blossoming of the best possible outcome for us?


Patience is the softening of your tight grip on life.


Surrendering is completely letting go.


It is a practice.




Inner Change Becomes Outer Change.

While it feels like thinking happens in between our ears, thinking is actually not localized like that.

We can’t see thinking yet its impact on us is powerful. It is energy.

The quality of our thinking (both our conscious thoughts and our unconscious ones) have a particular vibration.

Joy would have a high vibration. Anger a lower vibration. You get picture there.

If we can’t see thinking, yet we know it is very real - what else can’t we see that has an impact?

All around us is a field of energy. I think of it as a matrix of pure consciousness, pure knowledge.

All life shares this field of energy. We exist within it and it exists within us. We are one with it and through it, we are one with each other.

So your thinking and your corresponding vibration effects the field and therefore those around you.

Have you ever entered a room and it felt off?  We use slang type terms like - “weird energy or weird vibe” - but I think we all know how that feels. When we enter a space and it feels off.

Or what about public transport or a crowded place?  Has it ever happened to you (it has happened to me so many times!) that you are all happy go lucky, good mood and then you sit down in the train and all of sudden you are feeling cranky pants?

Your internal dialog gets more negative or more paranoid or more...something. Something other than what you were before you entered that physical space.

Or conversely - you enter a space that feels great. The atmosphere feels light and airy. Your shoulders soften and you feel more like smiling. Your mind clears a bit and you feel more relaxed.

This is our direct experience of the field of energy that we all coexist within.

When we are immersed in thinking; we are projecting whatever frequency those thoughts are into the field.

Perhaps it’s a benign thought like - what do I have for lunch?

Perhaps it’s a toxic thought like “I’m worthless and no one wants to hire me so I’ll always be poor”.

Or maybe it’s judgmental. Judging (negatively) people and situations that you encounter throughout your day.

It’s probably a mix of all sorts of thought vibrations but if we are immersed in thinking; it is unconscious.

Meditation brings us into the present moment. Meditation is the experience of consciousness. It is the experience of being fully awake.

And how does this feel?

When I really ground myself in the NOW, I am lighter and more spacious in my mind. My thinking is less but it is also is more aligned with states of mind such as gratitude, appreciation, compassion.

In the silent space in between my thoughts I FEEL the truth of who I am.

I am Light.

I am Space.

I am Peace.

I am Everything.


And because we are energy fields within THE energy field; this is what i’m putting into the field around me.

This is why they say, when we change ourselves, we can change the world.

This has become my greatest motivator for my personal practice. It makes me feel better, yes, but I also notice the effect is has on my family and in particular my children.

When I flood calmness and peacefulness into the space that is my home; that is the experience we have as a family.

So.

All that said, we can have dozens of really powerful and meaningful reasons to meditate and still not do it.

The thinking mind can be quite convincing - even from that passenger seat.

It can convince you that you don’t have time. That doing this or that RIGHT NOW is more important. Your thinking mind will try to lead you away from your practice.

It just will.

This is why the first few months of beginning something is so hard. Discipline takes effort and commitment. And it is not something that anyone can teach you.

In order for you and everyone around you to experience the full benefit of your meditation practice; you have to do it.

I’m excited to help you begin. Moving Toward Meditation is a program that is designed to help you establish a practice and stick with it.

t begins June 3rd with sign up closing June 2nd. Join me!


Breath is Life.

Seems like such a woo-woo, hippy dippy statement, doesn’t it?

But it is true.

Our bodies can survive weeks without food and days without water.

It cannot go for longer than a six minutes without breath.

From a physiological perspective, the western model of thinking says this is because the brain cannot survive without oxygen. And of course this is true.

What what creates LIFE?

We can use machines to breath for people and infuse their brains with oxygen but that does not always enliven them.  

Yogis believe that carried on our breath is Prana. Which is life force. It permeates all life and has an intelligence of its own.

The very cool thing about the world now is that western-model scientists and researchers are also yogis and meditators. And they are researching why pranayama (breath control or life force control) has such a powerful effect on our health.

Research is showing that controlling our breath in certain ways regulates our heart rate variability (HRV).  HRV has a direct relationship with our autonomic nervous system which controls our flight or fight response. You’ve likely learned this in yoga class.  When our nervous system is in a state of fear (sympathetic response) - we are prone to inflammation and chronic pain as well as anxiety and depression.

Our breath and the WAY we consciously breath it, affects what is referred to as “automatic” in our bodies. Breath control can control our pulse, our body temperature, our digestion, our circulation, our metabolism, etc.

This is what science is saying right now.

From my personal perspective, gleaned over the last 10 years of personally studying different breath techniques is that the breath can repattern (for optimum health)  not only our nervous systems but also our minds. Our conscious and subconscious minds.

Working with my breath has changed my consciousness. It has brought patterns to the surface that don’t serve me so I can let them go. It has made me aware of the way my life circumstances have left an imprint on my psyche; and how to change that imprint. In fact, the magnificent thing about working with the breath is that you don’t have to actively do anything to change these imprints, we just have to keep consciously breathing.

There are so many techniques. So many lineages. Breath is medicine and there are so many different medicines.

Begin with breathing consciously and evenly. Begin by being AWARE of your breath. All the time.

Experience the extraordinary healing in the simplicity of that.


Conscious Creation

I’ve often been told that I am a “manifester”.

But what does that mean?  

For me, I always thought that it meant that I had a vision for something I wanted to create in my life and then it was created. Poof.

(please envision me with a magic wand)

Except that’s not AT ALL how it went.

The space between my vision in my mind or heart and my vision in 3D takes years and often, a lot of hard work and follow through.

From the outside it looked magical and inspiring (i’m told). On the inside, challenging and often confusing.

Why do I share this today?  

I’ve gained a bit of wisdom about the art of manifesting.

Our visions, our thoughts, our beliefs and our overall vibration literally create our life experiences. If we hold on tight to a vision for ourselves and we BELIEVE (this is key) it to be true (in every cell of our being), eventually, in its own time, it will come true.

It’s that “eventually, in its own time” part that always trips me up.

I have my own timeline you see and that timeline is very often (now(ish).  I’m working on this.

Working on living that beautifully magical (yes, magical) line of manifesting and surrendering.

You may have heard me say this before (teacher training students certainly have): Nature knows what to do. Trees don’t have to think or plan or ponder when to shed their leaves and blossom new ones. The flowers aren’t planning the best astrological days for blooming. The birds don’t check their calendars before flying south for winter.

We are nature. Our bodies know how to breath, digest, and circulate blood without us having to tell it to.  

We were gifted with these minds. These powerful, creative minds. But they take over the situation, ya’ll.  The desire and intention forms and we can’t just give it to nature and wait for its creation...we have to MAKE IT HAPPEN.

And yes, we can do it that way. We can push, pull, take, knock down doors and generally work our tushies off to bring our visions to form.

I call that manifesting in molasses.

Or we can not do that. We can from our vision in our hearts and then allow it to come into form. In its own time. In its own way.

Only then do we truly experience when manifesting is truly magical.

Because our minds are so powerful and pushy, they need to be tamed to be able to calm the “make it happen” urge.  

Or maybe “make it happen” isn’t your urge...but your thinking and believing mind responds how to your intentions.

How does it respond?

We have to know this to calm it. Whether your mind responds with “get it done” or “you can’t do this”, getting a handle on those thoughts is the first step.

Step 1.

Meditation ya’ll.

Step 2.

Conscious creation. Understanding the relationship between manifesting and surrendering. To create your life with ease. With ease. It doesn’t always have to be so hard.

This means, putting your intention out there. Form your vision and then wait. Wait for the opportunity to act. You’ll know.

Step 3.

Trust.


There Can Be Peace in the Chaos

I’m not sure about you, but April was a whammy for me.

Maybe it was:

My never-ending to do list…

Life and business cash flow shortages..

A crazy amount of appointments for the children...

A week off from school...

All of the above.

You guys, April kicked my tushy.

I’ve had months like that before. I know you have too. We all have.

Upon reflection though, one thing stands out.

My inner experience to all this external chaos was pretty relaxed. I was tired, oh so tired so I slept deeply and as often as I could. I was emotional and I cried because tears release tension.

But I was not anxious. I was not depressed. I was not negative.

Why? Why was I able to handle a shitty month without feeling shitty?

You think i’m going to say yoga don’t you?

I’m not. It was my meditation practice.

Meditation is my medicine for chaotic times. It helps me feel grounded in the midst of a very fast life. It helps me not just intellectually know, but spiritually know, that everything is going to be OK.

It calms my mind’s conditioned habit to worry and plan.

I’ve been cultivating a meditation practice for over 20 years. I’ve fallen off the wagon and got back on more times than I can count. The auspicious thing about meditation is that it is cumulative. The more you do it, the more it changes your inner experience. Over time you realize that you feel more grounded, more peaceful, more connected and less reactive to things when those things go wrong.

Cause things go wrong. All the time.

How do we respond?

Our response can add to the chaos or add to the peace.  

Change starts with us.

When I talk to people about meditation - those who don’t say things like “I can’t sit still.”, “I struggle to find the time.”, “I don’t know how.” We offer one meditation class on Wednesday evenings but that is not enough.

I have been wondering how to serve you in this capacity. I love teaching and guiding meditation. I love supporting and nourishing a developing practice. But with family - I can’t be here early mornings or weekends or evenings. So when can i help you with this?

This has been a tension for me. When?  How?

When I stopped pushing the when and how questions the answer landed in my heart (I mean that literally - it landed, fully formed, in a knowing right in my heart).

I am creating a virtual meditation tribe. All digital but completely led and supported by me. I want to help you create peace in the chaos. Because you can.

We begin with a three month program - Moving Towards Meditation.

Because if I can find time to meditate. Ya’ll, anyone can.

Flow and Control

Have you ever wanted something SO BADLY it occupied most of your thoughts? 

when we want something so much that our hearts ache - be that a particular job, a partner to share life with, or children - our mindset may shift to a place of fear. Fear we won’t get what we really want. Fear that affects our perspective on everything.

Someone close to me just finished her masters degree and is substitute teaching in a really great school district on Long Island. She's a really great teacher, and I'm not just saying that because she's my sister. The other teachers have begun to specifically request her when they need help, making her a sought-after sub.

Recently, a permanent position opened up and she was invited to interview. The stakes were really high: she needed a steady salary, health insurance, and stability for her two young children. Unfortunately, need can create such fear. We’ve all been there. She’s convinced she bombed the interview because she was so nervous and didn’t answer questions clearly and thoughtfully.  She is utterly convinced she will not be offered a job.

I shared with her some wisdom I've earned which she said was helpful. Perhaps it will be helpful for you too.

When I interviewed with Arthur Andersen all those years ago, one of the interviewers was a partner. I was so nervous. I am pretty sure that I made no sense. I  babbled on and on about basketball and I recall going blank in mid sentence and having to say, “Sorry, I just went blank.”

I got that job, which taught me that how people perceive me was different than how I perceived myself.

Fast forward 6 years.  I'm interviewing at Baseline Securities after 7 months of unemployment. I WANTED that job. I nailed EVERY interview, aced some intelligence exam (so said the headhunter), but I didn't get the job. I was told the partner didn't think I was a good fit. I cried for WEEKS.

Two months after I didn't get that job, a plane flew into the 93-99th floors of the South Tower. They were on floor 77. If I had gotten that job, my trajectory would have been dramatically changed on every level. I probably wouldn’t be writing to you today.

Desire is a seed that helps us to create our reality. Desire is not a bad thing. Wanting is not a bad thing. But when desiring crosses the line to pining or longing then we are not accepting our reality. We are in fear.

The spiritual practice is to trust that what is meant to be will be. We never know what will happen tomorrow or what opportunities lay right around the corner. We never really know what is good or what is bad until life unfolds for us.

There’s a sweet parable that illustrates this that I've shared with you before. It’s worth sharing again.

A farmer gets a horse, which soon runs away. A neighbor says, "That's bad news." The farmer replies, "Good news, bad news, who can say?"

The horse comes back and brings another horse with him. A neighbor says, "That's good news!" The farmer replies, "Good news, bad news, who can say?"

The farmer gives the second horse to his son, who rides it, then is thrown and badly breaks his leg.

"So sorry for your bad news," says the concerned neighbor. "Good news, bad news, who can say?" the farmer replies.

In a week or so, the emperor's men come and take every able-bodied young man to fight in a war.

The farmer's son is spared.


This the art of relinquishing control and entering into the flow state of our lives. I’m looking forward to sharing more insights on this topic as well as some sweet yoga and meditation and community this Saturday evening for the next Exploration of Self class.  It is by donation - all are welcome. I hope you can come!

Love,
Alyssa

Karma Yoga: Foster Parenting

Karma yoga is the yoga of selfless service. This is one of the most profound yoga practices that happen off our yoga mat. And while I love my asana practice and my meditation practice, it is my practice of karma yoga that brings me the deepest sense of peace and purpose.

We live in a world where there are so many causes or people in need.  It gets overwhelming sometimes. When our hearts are open, we want to give to everyone. But we can’t. We can only do what we can do with the resources we have in that moment.


One resource I have in ample supply is love. I mean that seriously, not in a trite or a fluffy way.  And because I believe that love = action, I’ve been a foster mom for the last 6 years. This is my karma yoga. I have four children and two of them are currently in foster care.


There are over 17,000 children in foster care. These are children who, through no fault of their own, cannot live with their biological families. There are all sorts of reasons why a child is removed from their home, none of them happy.


We could focus on the sad stories and the trauma they experience, but my family doesn’t. While we acknowledge it and certainly aim to heal it, we choose to focus on stability and love. We have learned that children THRIVE when given love, affection, and predictable, stable lives.  


There was a child we fostered from birth to four months. We thought we might adopt her but then they transferred her to another home. Yes, we cried. Yes, that was sad. But when I think about her now, I know we gave her the BEST beginning possible. That makes me happy because I did my job.


I have a child that I will adopt. It’s been a long windy road for her but it is now clear that we are her forever family.


I have a child that I’m not sure what the outcome will be or how long we will have her with us.  I know that my job is to love her, educate her, and get her the services she needs to heal from her life experiences thus far.


Is it easy? Hell no.  Four kids is NOT easy. I cry a lot. I yell sometimes. I hide in the bathroom. But all moms do that. But, I’ll tell you the truth - if I had another bedroom, I’d take another child.


Because there is a huge need for loving foster families in NYC. For all kids, of all ages.


Not everyone is called for this. In fact, most people aren’t. But if you have thought about this, considered it, wondered about it - I invite you to dig deeper into your heart to see if you might want to learn more.


And if you do, please reach out to me.  Literally, just respond to this email. My foster agency is looking for foster parents and I’m game to host an info session for anyone who is so called.


Ask your heart: is this me? If not, no worries. If so, join me.


I’ll end with a message I recently received from a panhandler on the subway:

"Keep your heart soft and find a cause you believe in."

- ALYSSA

PS: Because parenthood is difficult no matter HOW your children arrived to you, we have to find ways to lighten it up. A dear friend, also with four kids, shared THIS with me this morning. I laughed so hard that I cried.

The Power of Compassion

Everything changes yet some things stay the same.


Do you have a habit you just can’t break or a behavior that manifests in such a way that you feel powerless over it?

We all do.

How do we even know if a habit serves us or doesn’t serve us?  How can we know it is a problem? Then what do we do to break habits and behaviors that don’t serve us?

We can ask these questions:

- Is it harmful? Is this habit or behavior harming your body? Is it harming anyone around you?

- Is it numbing you? Is this habit or behavior covering up emotions or sensations that are unpleasant?

- Does this habit or behavior make you feel ashamed? Does the idea of someone knowing about you actions scare you? Does it make you want to hide?

-  Do you want to change? The golden question. The question that trumps all others. Do you want to change?

In order to begin this process of changing habits and behaviors, the answer must be YES.


Where thought goes, energy flows. Our desires and intentions steer our actions. We must want to act differently. Our desire is the fire that fuels our transformation.

When we desire both change (for the habit to change) and to stay the same (to keep the comfort and familiar experience around) - this is when we feel stuck.

This “stuck” phase can last a really long time. So, how do we unstick ourselves?

Some basic neurology can be helpful here.

Imagine your brain with all sorts of grooves and pathways in it. These pathways are the roads that our neurons travel. Neurons are the cells in your brain that carry information. Neurons fire and travel along these pathways communicating every thought, emotion and experience we have.


Repetitive thoughts and actions form deep pathways in our brain. Think of a train on its track - a single thought can activate that train to run autopilot down that track.

Because our brains, with its neurons and pathways, are literally supporting set habits and behaviors, changing our habits means changing our brains. We have to create a new track, new neural pathways that quite literally lead us down a different road.

So how do we do that?

You might have noticed, if you’ve tried to change a long term habit, that just stopping is almost impossible. We need to replace it with something. In order to create that new neural pathway, we need to have different experiences because is our combined mental, emotional, and physical experiences that create these pathways to begin with.

Because these pathways took years to form and solidify, creating new ones will take attention and effort, and most importantly self compassion. To change our neural pathways, we must practice loving-kindness and genuine patience with ourselves.

Cultivating loving-kindness is the first action to take in creating a new track that becomes the pathway for healthier habits and behaviors.

One of the most sacred meditations is called the loving-kindness meditation.

Everybody, everywhere will benefit from this meditation. I’ve created a guided version of it for you to experience. You can get it HERE.

When we actively cultivate this quality and recite these words “May I be happy. May I be well. May I be free from suffering” - we begin to see things differently. More softly. We begin to make different choices for ourselves.

Perhaps we meditate more.

Perhaps we practice yoga or exercise more.

Perhaps we alter our food choices and eat healthier for our bodies.

Perhaps we are kinder to ourselves in our minds.

By practicing loving-kindness towards ourselves, we begin to make more choices and create new habits that are beneficial to us and make us feel good.

When we create a new track, however, the old one doesn't just go away. It’s still there. And, perhaps, our old habits and behaviors are still there too. So, for a while, it may feel as if you have two concurrent tracks happening - because you do.

Here is when the fire of our desire plays a key role.

We now have a choice. With two concurrent tracks of potential experiences, there is a choice point. We are AWARE of the alternative path and how it goes for us.

Before, a single thought initiated the automatic train ride of your behavior or habit.

Now you are aware of that thought.

Now you can think another thought.

New you can initiate a completely new train on a newly forming track.

You can choose differently, little by little, more and more, over time. Choosing differently and having different experiences solidifies that new track.

And then, one day, you'll look at yourself and you see how you’ve changed.

And you'll feel good.



The Power in Slowing Down

Slowing down is not something New Yorkers do well. The energy here is kinetic and because we are immersed in it, we can feel this constant urge to DO SOMETHING all of the time.

I spent many years not realizing this. I was perfectly happy immersed in this energy. I am a doer, you see. And doers are always doing something. Maybe this is why I love this city so much - I greet it like a person whenever I come back from traveling.

And while my love and affection for my home (our home) has never faltered, what has is my identity (or mask) of doer.

The mask of “doer” is one that I struggle to put down.


Not because I don’t want to, but because the habit is so ingrained in my personality and not doing takes effort.

Ah, the paradox of an expanding awareness.

And the story of my life stream is that I’m a working mom. Working moms ALWAYS have things to do. For realz.

But my spiritual practice asks me to cultivate BEING. And what is that again?  When I use the terms cultivating “being” or “presence” I mean to be completely present in the here and now. To respond to what comes and trust in the natural flow of life.

A very real tension presents itself. How do I cultivate a sense of being where there is always so much to do?

My Spiritual Teacher said to “thread being into the fabric of my day” which is a beautiful intention but one I struggled to grasp.

And then Eckhart Tolle (author of “Power of Now”) and Oprah (she needs no last name) came around with these awesome podcasts and answered a question that I didn’t know I had.

“How do I cultivate presence and also be ambitious and inspired to create and grow?”


!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Eckhart Tolle’s answer was brilliant.  I’ll paraphrase…

There is a time for planning - when you are planning, give it your full attention.

There is a time for creating - when you are creating, give it your full attention.

Oprah and I had an Aha! moment together. Okay, she likely had it first.

So, moral of the story: there are times for doing and when you are doing, give that doing your full attention. All other times, be present in the here and now.

Feel your body, watch your breath, and look around you. For goodness sake, look up from your phone and see the world around you.

When we can do that, something interesting happens. This busy feeling - for me, a sense of urgency - starts to go away. Slowing down starts to happen naturally. Most of the time, there is no urgency to answer emails or texts RIGHT NOW. I realize it’s just my thinking mind that tells me it’s urgent.

But that’s not real. That’s just my thinking.

And you can’t always believe what you think.


Off the Mat: Your Presence is Your Power

Well, we all have a face
That we hide away forever
And we take them out
And show ourselves when everyone has gone
Some are satin, some are steel
Some are silk and some are leather
They're the faces of a stranger
But we'd love to try them on.

-Billy Joel

I love this song and its imagery. Here he speaks about trying on different faces when we are alone. But don’t we all try on different faces over the course of a day?

We can call these faces our personas or our roles in life. We have one face who is "mother," another who is "wife," and even more who are "teacher," “business owner," "friend," "daughter," "sister." Even “girl” and “boy” become masks.

I wore masks for a good portion of my adulthood. I didn’t know they were masks. At least, I didn’t think about it like that. On a subconscious level, I put forth a persona of what I thought was appropriate for a particular situation.

When I did that in my professional life, my jobs always felt a wrong fit for me and so they were not satisfying.

When I did that in my romantic life, my relationships lacked the authenticity needed to cultivate true intimacy.

When I did that with my friendships, I ended up feeling lonely.

Putting forth a “persona” is part of our cultural conditioning. A good part of waking up is shaking off our conditioning and seeing what is underneath.

Who are we when we put down the faces and masks that we project out into the world?

Sometimes we don’t know and that not knowing is scary.

Sometimes we don’t like what we see under our masks (which is why we have the masks in the first place). Coming face to face with what we dislike about ourselves is uncomfortable work.

Can we be the same no matter what face we are projecting? Can we remove the masks and be our authentic, vulnerable selves ALL THE TIME?

This uncomfortable work involves the peeling away of mask after mask after mask to get to our Essence: the lightness of being underneath all the layers of conditioning,

What happens to us then?

When we get over the discomfort of being so exposed we discover what it feels like to become truly present and powerful in our lives.

This process of laying down our masks is slow. But there are times where the cosmos supports this effort. Now is one of those times.

This February Supermoon exposed the masks that are ready to go. The waning of this moon is a phenomenal time to begin the process of letting them go.

Consider joining me this Saturday evening as we bring awareness to masks that no longer serve us, begin the process of discarding them and therefore experience true Presence and Power.

What is the song in your head?

What is the song in your head?

I was reading a book called “The Soul of Money”. In it, the author describes a state of sufficiency as an ideal state of relating to money and material possessions. Sufficiency is when we have what we need, no more and no less.

She was/is in fundraising for a world hunger non-profit. So she spent time in the poorest communities of the world..and also the wealthiest.

What she learned is that people with too much money (and we’re talking huge excess here) were often unhappy. Especially if they were all about working and accumulating more.

People with less often delighted in things that we take for granted. Like clean water and food on the table.

Those that lived a life of sufficiency, always having what they needed, not more and not less, were happier.

She goes much deeper than this, obviously and I truly do recommend the book for everyone because, ya know, we ALL use money.

While reading her book, I had a pretty big A HA moment when it came to my own experience of “not enoughism” and how that translated into my daily experiences.

From the perspective of the studio, I have a business degree. Specifically, an accounting degree. As I was growing up in corporate world, the ideal for small businesses was to have a month of operating expenses in the bank at any particular time.

This “guideline” haunted me for so many years. As many small business owners, I often struggled to pay myself a living wage. But to accumulate? Holy shit. That felt like the holy grail.

And because of my patterns and conditioning, my lack of ability to achieve an accumulation of cash in that quantity activated my internal “not enoughism”.

My internal dialog about money used phrases like “it’s not enough”, “you are a failure”, “this is embarrassing”.

I was not talking to myself like my best friend; the voice was more like an abusive basketball coach.

So what experience did that perpetual negative self dialog specifically regarding money give to me?

Never feeling like I have enough. Which was a miserable feeling.

I can pinpoint the time in my life this dialog was active. And probably, so can quite a few other people.

It is truly painful to feel “not enough”. Whether that relates to your bank account or your self worth.

The actual phrase that woke me up was “why is this so hard”. It was my contra mantra, echoing in my mind like a song I heard on the radio that morning.

My constant internal question “why is this so hard” created a life experience that felt hard.

My subconscious belief and dialog on not having enough resulted in the feeling of not having enough - even though I had everything I had ever wanted. Literally. I was wanting for nothing.

Waking up to the fact that these thoughts were simply programmed, neurological impulses didn’t make them go away. But it did take away all their power.

How did this programming happen?
As a teenager I did have an abusive basketball coach who was impossible to please.
“You can do better, Alyssa” was something I was told as a child by my father (who i’m sure heard it from his).

When we can wake up to the fact that our thoughts are just energetic impulses programmed from our experiences in life (good and bad) - our experience in life can begin to change.

So we begin to become aware of these thoughts and as we become aware of the thoughts, we become more aware of the space in between the thoughts.

This creates a space in the mind for gratitude to begin to shine it’s light.

The knowing that everything is as it should be right her and right now begins to take root.

And that is EVERYTHING.

GO OFF THE MAT WITH ALYSSA

Off the Mat: Are You Your Own Best Friend?

Self care has become a bit of a buzz phrase.

I used to think of it as an event in my day devoted to me. My yoga practice, a massage, lunch with a friend. It was a slow block of time placed in the middle of an otherwise fast-paced day. And that worked for a while...until it didn’t.

In the same way that I was meditating until the end of a full day of "doing," I was not threading self-care into the fabric of my day. It was not integrating in a way that was necessary for me.

So, I’ve shifted from the idea of "self care" to the practice of self awareness by asking: How do I feel?

How do I feel when I schedule myself with back to back appointments on any particular day? Extra tired.

How do I feel picking my girls up from after-school at 5:30 when everyone (including me) is tired, hungry and cranky? Guilty.

How do I feel the next day if I eat too much sugar? Bloated and yucky. 

How do I feel?
What does my body need right now?
What does my soul desire?

Asking these questions as frequently as possible = Self Care = Self Awareness

We get good practice at this on our mat or cushion. With awareness of the sensations in and of our bodies and the thoughts of the mind, we are training our minds to go inward and observe HOW WE ARE right now.

We benefit greatly from extending this awareness throughout our day. Once awareness sets in, and we realize that certain choices lead to unpleasant or painful feelings and experiences; it becomes easier to make different choices.

This is the first step of changing habits that prevent sincere and lasting peace in our minds and in our bodies.

Right behind the difficulty of making different choices for ourselves is the expectations that others have about us.

Perhaps it is the nature of your job to be jam packed with appointments all day.

Perhaps there does not feel like a choice whether or not to put your children in after school.

Perhaps you tear your rotator cuff and you can’t practice yoga in the way you like to.

Perhaps you are a people pleaser and don’t like saying “no” to people.

Perhaps you are so consumed with other people’s expectations of you that you’ve lost sight of what you need for yourself.

This my friends, is where Grace comes in.

Give yourself some Grace.

Find a moment, steal a moment alone. (TMI - I hide in the bathroom)

Tell yourself: I am doing my best right now in this moment.

Comfort and console yourself like you would your best friend.

Breath. Feel your body. Connect with your heartbeat. Connect with NOW.

Life changes constantly. We never know what tomorrow may bring.

The more Grace we can give ourselves; the more Grace we can give others.

And then somewhere in that experience of consistent Grace, we begin to drop, naturally and slowly over time, what which does not serve our highest self.

Giving yourself Grace is, in part, being your own best friend.

So make friends with yourself. Internally and externally.

This is taking self-care to the highest level possible.


Off the Mat: The Art of a Full Life

One breath at at time. One task at a time. Multitasking is the opposite of presence. It is the realm of the ego. The ego wants to get it all done in as short a time as possible. So then it can get more done.

The ego is always seeing what it has to get done. That’s handy - but just not in every moment. Just in the dedicated moments of planning and organizing.

In any particular moment, become aware of the action being taken.

Is it eating lunch? Then eat lunch. Don’t eat lunch and answer emails.

Is it working on the computer? Can you work on one thing at a time? Can you work with only one window open at a time?

How many windows we have up in our browser is a metaphor for how many things we are trying to do simultaneously.

Keeping that many windows open makes your computer sluggish. It also makes you sluggish, drained and tired.

Make your list. Plan your plans. But do one thing at a time.

This will create space in the mind.

So much more is possible when we release effort and allow each moment to unfold. This does not mean we don’t participate. It is co-creation.

We attempt to control our experiences and our outcomes based on what we think we want to expeience and achieve. This paradoxically leads to less control, more constrictions and less flow.

With our control, we end up subverting the very result we were looking for.

Have a desire. Have a vision. And then give it to God. Let God nudge you - through intuition and inspiration - when to act. Let the actions themselves be inspired and focused and complete.

Inspired actions, actions that are supported by flow and not control, are effortless.

They are fun.

They bring you out of space and time because your Presence when acting is profound.

One window at a time widens the windows view exponentially.

We attempt, with our multi-tasking to see and do more. To accomplish as much as possible in the shortest amount of time. Yet it dilutes our effectiveness as it is diluting our attention.

When our attention is diluted, so is our power.

This is the beginning of understanding Power and Presence.

To Learn more about Alyssa’s Off the Mat programming, click here.

New Beginnings: Announcing Roots & Wings

Today I’m announcing a new program that I’m extremely excited about. In partnership with Dr. Melissa Vivino, we will be offering Roots and Wings: A Program for Mind Body and Soul Healing.

This program aligns powerfully with my intention to be more than a yoga studio, which is why we are also renaming the studio “MindBodySoul Yoga + Wellness.” Now more than ever, our studio will be a Home for Healing. In this space, I believe that powerful healing and transformation can occur through deep interpersonal work and a safe atmosphere held by experienced healers.

This is the path we are on as a community and as a business.

I’d like to share how this came about. It is a story of allowing life itself to unfold (without a plan) and paying attention to opportunities that arise to create the best possible outcome for all.

Almost two years ago, a person came into the studio that changed my trajectory as a teacher and healer. They were suffering from severe complex trauma, had found relief in yoga, and wanted to work with me personally.

In working together, we found power in combining all the tools I had in my toolbox from my personal and professional practice: hatha yoga, coaching, spiritual teaching, kundalini yoga and shamanic energy medicine. I worked with them using whatever tools were useful on any particular day. We were and still are each other’s teachers.

And then more people with varying trauma started showing up and my sessions began to crystalize into an actual system or modality. Actually a few:  Kundalini Shamanic Medicine, Kundalini Medicine, and Spiritual Mentorship.

With new students seeking deep healing, I ran into my limitations as a teacher and healer. I am not a clinical therapist and this work was beginning to get psychological in nature. I felt a deep need to talk to my client’s therapists about what was coming up. Unfortunately, those collaborations are outside the paradigm of how many therapists work.

I considered going back to school, but quickly remembered I have 4 kids (another foster daughter recently joined our family!) and a business. I realized that now is not my timing for that, or, as my husband said teasingly, the flow wasn’t flowing on that one.

So I literally asked in my prayers “Ok, you are sending me people to serve, so please send help to do this.”

In walks clinical psychologist Melissa Vivino, a student at MBSY who was having the same calling as me, just on the other side of the story.

She was sending her clients to acupuncturists, massage therapists, and yoga teachers because she felt that if she was able to communicate with those healers on her client’s behalf, healing could be expedited

For the last five months we have been meeting and talking and planning. In our hearts we envisioned a program where someone has a team of healers working on their behalf.  A mind, body and soul approach wherein we utilize clinical therapy for the mind, yoga and therapeutic body work for the body, and spiritual mentorship and kundalini medicine shamanic practices for the soul.

Though this feels like a new beginning for myself and the studio, it is most importantly a refinement of my original intention to create a space for healing and awakening through the heart of yoga and community.

Thank you, beautiful community, for being the very heart of the work we do here.

May you be blessed, may you be well, and may you have peace in your hearts.

WORDS FROM LIZ: Plant Yourself Into a Practice

Back home, my backyard is full of plants — falling ferns, cunning cacti, heavenly hydrangeas.  You name it, it is probably there. Growing up, these flowers were the marker of sunshine, swimsuits, and, soon enough, a break from school. My mom, whose thumb is greener than most, preaches that the number one rule of gardening is to wait until May before planting. However, she and her garden are in warm-wintered Texas, so she is often the first to break her own rule, too excited by the promise of the new season and its flora to wait any longer. Sometimes it pays off, other times the frost comes and she has to mourn the loss of some sweet flower friends. 

I’ve always been inspired by my mom’s plants and the patience she takes in tending them. She once counted and there were over 60 pots between our back and front yards. I’m telling y’all, she doesn’t mess around. This spring, I’ve decided to join her gardening games! However, I don’t have an actual garden in my New York City apartment, so I’ll be planting a symbolic garden, yoga-style.  

The first plant I’ll pot is the Geranium of Gratitude. Winter can be difficult – our bodies follow the natural call to rest, to go inward. However, society still tells us to produce, produce, produce. If you’re anything like me, this opposition between instinct and expectation is taxing. Counting my blessings, especially my health, relationships, and the promise of sunshine, helps to shift my mindframe from the stillness of winter towards the abundance of the spring. 

The second plant I’ll pot is the Chanting Chrysanthemum. I recently taught a workshop here at MindBodySoul Yoga wherein we learned and chanted the Gayatri Mantra together. For me, chanting is incredibly healing and is a great practice to implement as the seasons shift – the throat chakra, related to creativity, is stimulated by chanting. What is spring all about if not the blossoming of creation? 

The third plant I’ll pot is the Sunflower Sangha. When feeling stuck in our purpose, the only question we need to ask ourselves is “What does the world need and how can I give it?” For me, at this moment, this process looks like: The world needs healing? Teach more yoga! The world needs to laugh? Say yes to playing in that Shakespeare comedy! So simple, but so powerful. By connecting to our sangha, or community, and using our skills to add to its wellbeing, we are able to answer our personal needs, as well as a need in the world. 

What pots will you be planting? Whatever they may be, on or off the mat, I hope they flourish. 

With love, 
Liz

PS: Click here to hear the Gayatri Mantra.

WORDS FROM STACEY: That's the Practice

Oftentimes students ask me how can they tell when their yoga practice gets better.  We are so wired for the need to constantly improve that we naturally seek it in all aspects of our lives, including yoga.  But here's a little secret: your practice gets better every time you do it.  The beauty of yoga (okay, one of the many beauties of yoga) is that there's a reason it's called a practice.  Because yoga is never perfect.  Because WE are never perfect.  

Does getting “better” at yoga mean that you can stand on your head or hang out for an additional breath in Chaturanga?  Not necessarily.

Does getting “better” at yoga mean that you can sit at the beginning of class and focus on your body and breath, even if it's for 15 seconds?  You're getting closer.

Does getting “better” at yoga mean that you finish your practice and feel open and lighter and present?  Yes, I think so.

I started practicing over 20 years ago.  I fell in love with yoga quickly, and within a short period of time was taking class two to three times a week. My Warriors were deep, my Chaturangas were low, and my shoulders could do things that I can only dream about now.  I would leave class stretched out and calm.  I felt great, but I also don't remember feeling much beyond that.   

Now when I take class or practice at home, I am much more aware of my body and breath.  I can feel the weight on my feet in Warrior 1, if my shoulders are aligned correctly in Chaturanga, and whether or not I'm breathing only in my rib cage.  I realize that some of this awareness comes from being a teacher; I tend to analyze my practice and how it changes day-to-day.  But I also think it comes from being more present in my body and breath.  I have 20+ years of yoga practice behind me, and that is probably the most significant improvement I have made during all that time.

Maybe my hand doesn't reach the floor in Triangle anymore, or I hang out in Down Dog when a teacher gives the option of moving through a vinyasa.  But I end my practice feeling strong and open and present.  And I'm not quite sure the me of 20 years ago could say that.  Yoga doesn't have to be perfect.  If that were the point, many of us would be frustrated after our first few classes.  It can't be, so we shouldn't expect that of it...or of ourselves.  So enjoy your practice wherever it is today.  Practice doesn't make perfect; it makes yoga.

WORDS FROM STACEY: Back to the Breath

“Take a deep breath in.  Hold.  Exhale it out.”  I heard those words a lot growing up as an extremely asthmatic child.  If I had a dollar for every time a doctor held a stethoscope to my back or chest and said those words, you would probably pass my pony tied up outside the studio every time you came to class.  Anyway, suffice it to say that breathing wasn't always easy for me as a kid.  I had an inhaler, multiple medications in case I wheezed (which was often), and in the autumn just as the leaves were starting to fall, you could pretty much guarantee that I would be rushed to the pediatrician with an asthma attack.  My mother even enrolled me in a class for asthmatic kids.  We practiced breath control, worked on strengthening our core, and learned how to direct our breathing to different parts of the body.  Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

I was fortunate enough to outgrow the asthma by the time I was 13.  And even though I didn't start practicing yoga until over a decade after that, I did not outgrow the breathwork.  I kept practicing pranayama, even though I had no idea what it was.  All I knew was that deep breaths in and out felt good.  Doing that helped when I was stressed about school, friends, and life in general.  When I would lie in bed at night, place my hands on my ribs and breathe into them, it was a lot easier to fall asleep.  

When I did eventually make my way to yoga class, I remember setting up at the end of class and having the teacher lead us through three-part dirga breath.  My first thought was, “Did her mother drag her to asthma class, too?”  It was almost exactly like the breathing I had done two decades earlier.  It was familiar and comforting, and it was very easy to drift off to that Savasana happy place.

Does bringing attention to the breath always lead you to that happy place?  Not at all, but sometimes it's worth a try.  When you control or direct your breath, you might just be able to control how your body – or even your minds – reacts to certain situations.  I'll give you a completely un-yogic example: two weekends ago, my son was wrestling in a big tournament.  His last match had three overtimes.  He was exhausted, my heart was racing, and all I wanted to do was yell, “Get your hands off my baby!” to the other kid and call it a day.  But I couldn't.  Nor could I control what was happening on the mat.  So I crossed my fingers, took deep breaths, and my pulse slowed down just a little bit.  Not enough to make me less nervous, but enough to help me to realize that even if he lost the match, he would be okay.  He did lose, and he was okay.  (Defeat tastes a lot better after three pieces of pizza and some fried dough.)

You probably aren't watching a wrestling match anytime soon.  But I encourage you to see what attention to the breath can do for you, whether you're in a stressful situation or not.  It's amazing how a full breath in and a complete breath out can make you feel.  

Take a deep breath in.  Hold.  Exhale it out.

WORDS FROM LIZ: EMBRACE THE PROCESS

We live in a society obsessed with the final product. Heck, you could probably set your phone or computer down right now, walk to the nearest market, and purchase a prepared meal within the next ten minutes; or, better yet, just have it delivered! While this convenience is often a lifeline to sanity for busy New Yorkers, it also separates us from the process. 

There is a process to everything, from creating a piece of art to the series of expansions and contractions that make up a single breath. In yoga, we are asked to notice the process and release expectations of the product. That sounds beautiful in theory, I know, but how can we actually practice non-attachment when there is obviously a set physical structure to each pose?

Well, here’s my take:

I once had a Russian movement instructor, Vlad, who ended every class by challenging us to become “pelmeni.” In Russian, this means “dumpling.” In yoga, we recognize this asana as Yoganidrasana, or Yogic Sleep Pose.

Vlad would walk around the room belly-laughing at us as he yelled, “MORE! MORE! MORE!” It was not pleasant, but I knew that there was a lesson to be learned. My ego decided this lesson was to teach Vlad a lesson - I’d be a Pelmeni by the end of the first week if it was the last thing I did. 

Needless to say, that did not happen. 

Once my ego was sufficiently busted, I decided to get curious about the process. It went something like this: deep hip openers every single day, several weeks of practice, and having the courage to laugh with Vlad as he laughed atus. 

Guess what? I became a Pelmeni and I didn’t even care

Those several weeks of practice didn’t teach me that I could become a dumpling. Rather, they taught me that there is a process to everything. This meant that not only can I train my body to fit into a certain position, but I could also learn how to navigate the metro in a foreign country, cook a five-course meal, and even become a certified yoga instructor. I can do whatever I want as long as I embrace the process! 

You can, too. Humans are cool like that. 

So, while you may dream of a perfectly parallel Warrior III or hope that your heels touch the mat in Downward Facing Dog, I encourage you to insteadfocus on the joy of the process. That feeling of the future calling as new air enters your lungs, the release of the past with every exhalation. Allow your practice to be an asylum from the onslaught of societal expectations. Just…breathe. You may become a dumpling one day, but you’ll be so in love with the process that you’ll barely notice. And that’s why we keep coming back to the mat. 

See you there!
Liz

WORDS FROM COLLEEN: Mind Your Meditation

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Meditation seems to be on the fast track of becoming the “next wave” of fitness. What’s a finely tuned and toned body actually worth without an equally-tuned mind behind it to run the show? It seems we are finally starting to appraise and appreciate the entire package. Countless articles, testimonials, and clinical research all extoll the benefits of a regular meditation practice. But what’s that supposed to look and feel like? One of the most important messages starting off is simply this: let go of any pre-ordained ideas of having some type of “experience.“  That frees you from any self-imposed restraints and allows your meditation time to feel more natural and alive with curiosity, even if you label it as unsuccessful.  Don’t beat yourself up.  The work is in the consistency more than the result.  Slow and steady shifts.

 

The Buddha taught that real wisdom is recognizing and accepting that every experience is ultimately impermanent. Nothing lasts. What you see and monitor closely through a neutral filter cannot trip you up. You are going to know what’s coming and head it off at the pass...well, sometimes.  You would still be improving.  The following is an excerpt that I wrote a while back that offers a slightly humorous perspective on this subject:

 

“Sri Dharma Mittra, in his typical trademark self-effacing humor and good natured scolding, points out that we have been, since the moment of birth, gradually surrendering ourselves towards demise (disease, old age) and ultimately death.  Now in his seventh decade, Dharma has some helpful perspective and advice to offer on this point.  Without a trace of vanity, he cheerfully uses himself as an example - grabbing fistfuls of gray hair and beard to great effect and then rakes his fingers down his face to exaggerate the sagging folds of his jowls.  The room erupts in fits of giggles at his antics, but the message is loud and clear.  That message being: this body is a vulnerable and transient vehicle, and in order to unlock the joy and freedom from deep within, we first need to recognize and eventually get past the superficial. While I agree that a lot of what he says is not exactly comforting in our youth-obsessed culture, it is a valuable and honest assessment offered with whole hearted sincerity.”    

 

Meditation and mindfulness won’t make us into a perfect human.  What we may find, however, is that we can, most of the time, find the calm composure necessary to pause, distinguish, assess and respond with more wisdom instead of blindly reacting to situations and triggers of our day-to-day.  There can be a conscious choice to override those “auto-pilot” settings of entrenched behavior.  That’s the magic right there - it’s in that one moment that invites you to simply wake up and steer an alternate course, change up your game, rotate your perspective.  Because trust me, if you can manage this once, you can do it again and again...