Posts tagged ‘Happiness’

Choose Your Own Adventure

When I was a little girl, I would ride my bicycle to the library. I used to love the silence, the solitude, and being surrounded by books and endless possibility.

I gravitated toward the Choose Your Own Adventure books. I remember they were in one section of the library, and I would read them one by one.

But I wouldn’t just read them one time through. I had to explore every possible scenario in each book. I liked to witness how the choices I made at the bottom of the page affected the storyline.

It’s about the Journey, not the Destination

For as long as I can remember, I have used Choose Your Own Adventure books as my analogy to life.

We are born with a certain set of circumstances. From there, we choose what to do, where to go, who to be, how to feel. Then with each new choice we make, we are given a different set of circumstances and decisions to make.

That is the great adventure to life, this journey that we co-create right along with the circumstances we are given.

Becoming the Author

Part of practicing yoga is to become awake to being the reader of the story, the story of our individual lives. We stand back from living the drama, and instead witness how our actions affect our outcomes.

With this greater perspective, we can then become the author of our destiny. We can begin to make choices that lead us more toward happiness and less toward sadness, more toward living the life we truly love, and less toward attracting the things we do not wish to experience.

So that begs the question, “If I am unhappy, what actions can I take to change it?”

Progress Requires Action

Part of being a yogi is moving more toward becoming radically alive, about living each day as if it is your best day. It is not the path for everyone, but it is a path that leads to happiness.

One way yoga leads to happiness is by helping us realize that all we really have in life is the present moment. This present moment was created by our past decisions, by the choices that we made at the end of the page.

Our future, therefore, is determined by the choices we make right here, right now, by the fresh ink still wet on the paper of our current adventure.

So we can co-create our futures now by making decisions that will benefit our greater good tomorrow.

I will be working on answering the above question myself over the next several months, “What can I do to be happier?”. I invite you to join me. I invite you to Choose Your Own Adventure.

Namaste,

~Amber

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Choose Your Own Adventure books

Fear Not the End

I have joined a Philosophy Group that meets once a week or so to discuss certain topics such as right versus wrong, and the definition of the “Self”. Being a student of yoga, which is a philosophical system, this group is socially and intellectually gratifying.

Our most recent topic was whether marriage was necessary.

“How does marriage pertain to a blog on yoga?”, you might ask. Well, one of the topics discussed was that the end of marriage can often be so bitter that the institution did not seem like a good idea anymore.

What Comes In Must Go Out

Swami Satchidananda, the swami who opened up Woodstock, was famous for saying, and I paraphrase, “what comes in must go out”. What he meant is that if something begins, then by natural design it has to end.

Marriage is the same way. If it begins, then it is certainly going to end. Perhaps not in divorce, but unquestionably in death.

So the question is, should we not do something for fear of it ending?

In yoga, the answer is a resounding “No”.

The Practice of Non-attachment

A yogi is a witness to life. We watch the ebbs and flows of life without too much attachment to the outcome. That is what meditation teaches us, and even asana, the physical practice of yoga.

When we practice yoga poses, some days we are good at them, and some days we suck. Our bodies, our thoughts, our focus are all different every day, so of course our physical yoga practice would vary from day-to-day as well.

In The Bhagavad Gita, yoga’s greatest parable, it states “As for you, do the work that comes to you–but don’t look for the results. Don’t be motivated by the fruits of your actions, nor become attached to inaction.” (2:47)

The Gita continues by defining yoga. “Equanimity of the mind is yoga…Renouncing all attachments, you’ll enjoy an undisturbed mind in success or failure.” (2:48)

The next verse: “Work done for the sake of some results is much lower than that done in mental equilibrium…”. (2:49)

Essentially, the Gita instructs us that peace comes by giving for the sake of giving, and by living for the sake of living. Being unattached to the results of your actions is peaceful.

Accept. Adapt. Move Forward.

So what happens when things end?

Let’s be clear, everything ends. Life is change. When we accept that, we can adapt to the change so that we can move forward in life.

The Gita explained that to us approximately 5,000 years ago. When we live our lives performing the actions required of us without attachments to the results, we can be nothing except happy.

Happiness is our true nature; attachment and expectation get in the way.

We cannot predict the future. All we can control is how we live in the present moment. The future unfolds moment to moment, so expectation is really useless energy when you think about it. Moreover, it is useless energy that can lead to negative emotions such as resentment, fear, and anger.

Another way of looking at it: Expectation is an obstacle to happiness.

“Practice and all is coming”

Sri Pattabhi Jois was famous for saying “Practice and all is coming.” I find those words comforting.

Just do your best. Everything else will work itself out. If you do your best at something in each and every moment, be it your yoga practice or marriage, you can never fail.

How could you fail if you are trying your best with no expectation? This is especially true if you are able to accept, adapt, and move forward to every circumstance that comes your way.

Buddha said “There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.”

Focus on doing your best and being your best right here, right now. Everything else will work itself out. That is the path of the yogi.

Namaste,

~Amber

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Namaste

Have you ever wondered what the word “namaste” means? Yoga teachers use it all the time, but not everyone knows its meaning.

Namaste is a traditional greeting used in India. It is often accompanied by a bow with the hands at the heart in Anjali mudra (prayer position). Anjali mudra is a sign of respect across Asia.

In India, it is not necessary to say “namaste”, as the bow with the hands at the heart means the same thing.

Namaste is a Sanskrit word that literally translates to “I bow to you”. To bow is to acknowledge respect to the person in front of you.

But namaste means more than that to yoga practitioners.

What’s love got to do with it?

That the hands are placed at the heart chakra gives a deeper meaning to the phrase namaste. The heart chakra is where the ancient yogis believed love flowed.

Have you ever felt warmth in your chest after hugging someone? Yogis would say that is love flowing in your heart chakra.

Namaste can also be translated to something along the lines of “the divine spirit in me honors the divine spirit within you”.

In yoga, and in many of the world’s greatest philosophies–or all for that matter–love is a state of being. Love and happiness are our natural state, and everything else is an obstacle to that natural state of being.

By saying namaste to someone, we are also honoring that natural, divine state. When we honor that divine state, we honor the similarities we have as humans.

The below image explains it very well: “Namaste – I honor the place in you in which the entire universe dwells. I honor the place in you which is of love, of truth, of light and of peace. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are one.”

What can namaste do for you?

Understanding the deeper meaning behind the custom is a start to realizing that yoga is not just about the postures. There is a rich philosophy behind yoga.

As a yoga teacher, I wish for everyone to find that true state of love and happiness if that is their desire. That is why I teach, that is why I blog, and that is why I post positive affirmations on Facebook and Twitter.

With that in mind, I say to you, “Namaste”.

“There is no way to happiness – happiness is the way.”  ~Thich Nhat Hanh

With love,

~Amber

 

Better Than Coffee

When I am tired and I need a boost of energy, I practice pranayama, or the breathwork of yoga. Pranayama is also beneficial if you are stressed out, as it will help calm you down.

The study of yoga teaches us that by controlling the breath, we control the mind. The mind becomes calm and clear, and we can better focus our energy to complete tasks.

Kapalabhati Breath

Once such practice of pranayama that I will discuss today is called kapalabhati breathing, or fire-breathing. Kapalabhati is also called the skull-shining breath, because it is known to bring a sense of brightness to the brain. It is also good for the digestive system, so it is cleansing and detoxifying breath.

Kapalabhati focuses on a very forceful exhale. The inhale happens automatically. It can be practiced with the mouth open, it can be practiced with the mouth closed (have a tissue handy if you have mild stuffiness).

To practice Kapalabhati, follow these steps:

  1. Sit in a comfortable upright position. You may use a chair.
  2. Take a few long, slow calming breaths.
  3. Inhale normally, then either with an open mouth or a closed mouth, exhale forcefully 10-30 times in a row, noticing that the inhale happens automatically. If you become too light-headed, stop and return to normal breathing for a moment. Resume kapalabhati when you are no longer light-headed.
  4. On your last exhale, breathe normally for a minute or two, and then practice another round.
  5. Repeat kapalabhati breath at least 3 rounds.

Tips to Kapalabhati:

  1. Practice on an empty stomach, or at least two hours after a meal.
  2. Do not practice if you think you might be pregnant, or if you are pregnant, if you are severely sick, if you have cardiac problems, or if you have a hernia. If you have unmedicated high blood pressure, avoid practice as well.

Benefits to Kapalabhati:

  1. Provides abdominal exercise to strengthen the core, and a cardiac exercise to strengthen the heart.
  2. Helps clear the lungs.
  3. Improves your mood.
  4. Moves metabolic waste out of the cells through the lungs.
  5. Increases peristalsis, or the contractions of the digestive track to improve elimination.

Happiness is a Consequence of Personal Effort

Pranayama is an excellent way to improve your state of mind whenever you need it. I encourage you to tap into your breath if you are tired, upset, stressed out or angry.

Remember that yoga is about the expansion of conscious awareness of ourselves. One way to tune the attention inward is to focus on your breathing, which will allow you to reflect on your mood. From controlling the breath, you can then improve your mood.

Happiness is a choice, and one trick that will help you is pranayama. It does not hurt to try.

Best,

~Amber

Pictures Speak 1,000 Words

Pictures Speak 1,000 Words

Worry does nothing good for you. It does not solve your problems. It does not make you feel better. All it does is cause anxiety and possibly depression.

The worse thing that worry does for you is to occupy your time and your thoughts, taking your attention away from being able to solve your problem.

Think about it: if you are worrying about your problem, how can your attention be fixed on resolving the situation?

So how do you solve a problem in your life?

Well I recommend looking at the situation as objectively as you possibly can. Think about your problem as if it is a friend’s problem. If the problem was not your own, what advice would you give someone to fix their situation?

Make a list of the ways you can better your situation, and try acting on them. Even just making a list of the ways you can solve your problem will make you feel better. You will feel more in control of your life.

From a place of feeling empowered, anything can be accomplished.

That is how all great accomplishments are completed. Steve Jobs was empowered; Thomas Edison was empowered; The Wright Brothers were empowered.

As long as you believe in yourself, and your abilities, the seemingly impossible can become a reality.

Worry is a waste of time. A better use of your time is to act proactively to better your life.

Don’t worry. Be happy.

With love,

~Amber

One Step At A Time

All seemingly insurmountable tasks are accomplished the same way: one foot in front of the other, one step at a time.

A lot of people ask me how I get through my incredibly long days. Most days I start at 4:45 am, and do not get home until after 8:30 pm, sometimes after 9 pm.

I get through my very long days one step at a time.

Focus On The Moment

I used to suffer from anxiety. I would constantly worry about all the tasks that I had to complete and I would let that worry overwhelm me and make me feel like I was drowning.

I am here to tell you that letting worry overwhelm you is not an effective strategy to accomplish your goals.

Yoga taught me to breathe deeply and to focus on the moment.

I often tell myself: “the future will unfold itself, and I will deal with the future when it happens. Right now, I need to focus on the task right here in front of me.”

By focusing only on what is happening before my very eyes, yoga cured me of anxiety.

And Enjoy The Moment

Moreover, I am much happier when I live in the moment. My very long days also could not be done if I did not enjoy what I was doing.

A very effective motivational tool for me is to make what I am doing enjoyable, because I cannot complete anything unless I am having fun.

If the task you need to complete is not enjoyable, try making a game out of it. Reward yourself after you get so much work done, or time yourself in intervals to see if you can keep beating your time.

Because Life Happens In The Now

Your life happens in the present moment. The past has already occurred, and the future has not happened yet.

Be alive and aware of what is happening around you in the present moment. Focus on one task at a time, one moment at a time, one breath at a time.

I guarantee by doing so, your mind will be calm and you will feel much better about your ability to accomplish a difficult goal.

Love,

~Amber

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