The #100DaysOfYoga Challenge!

100DaysOfYogaChallenge

I’m starting a #100DaysOfYoga challenge starting this morning!

What is it?

100 Straight Days of Practicing Yoga.
It will include 30 minutes of Yoga a day followed by a picture and a reflection.
All of these photos will be kept in a single album on Facebook (and Google+).

Why?

A WDS friend of mine, Rita Chand, inspired me immensely with her #100Days challenge of working out every day. Here is her post last week after making it to Day 100:
RitaChand

An incredible feat, and quite a commitment to a practice for over 3 straight months.

Yoga has been a big part of my life since the Fall of 2011.

I wrote a post on November, 11, 2011 entitled, “Home is where the heart is”. In this post, I mentioned, “I returned home to KC under difficult circumstances where I re-connected to my roots, made critical business partnerships, and found focus and clarity through Yoga (I’ll be writing more in-depth about this in future posts).”

I’m so sad I didn’t more closely document my experiences during these months because they held some of the most expansive self-growth I’ve ever had in my life. I grew more as a person in the year-after that post than I had in almost a decade before.

Only a couple times I posted...

Only a couple times I posted…

Only a couple times I posted...

Only a couple times I posted…

At the time, I meant to discuss things I had discovered and what Yoga meant to me, but I just couldn’t find my voice.

Sometimes, you lose your voice when you feel most in flow.

That’s what happened to me. I became so drawn to the practice, the philosophy, the culture, the science, the energy, and the world-wide community I met through Yoga that it changed my perspective. I ended up feeling incredibly connected to everything around me. As if I was engineering serendipity. I was so caught up in the flow, I lost the ability to connect with my voice about it.

I want that to change. I want to return to my inner voice which allowed me to connect easier with everyone around me. The voice that made it easy to write and blog about these experiences as they were happening.

For example:
I ended up at a cafe in Paris shortly after making that post; sitting quietly on a couch by the windows looking over the Rhine river. A man sitting next to me sparked a conversation that would end in us talking for hours that night. I remember feeling down, and being able to talk to this man about the successes of my business and lifestyle path was incredible. I could see a fire in his eyes; a passion and a yearning for something greater in life. He happened to be reading a book that I was very fond of in college and we reminisced on this intellectual wavelength throughout the night. We saw the greatness in each-other which allowed us to be grateful for ourselves. I never anticipated making a connection like this on a random night in Paris, but when you live intentionally with your heart out, the universe has a way of attracting people in your life at the right moment at the right time.

I would end up traveling through 8 regions of India shortly after…

Finding a spiritual center in Auroville, near Pondicherry.

Finding a spiritual center in Auroville, near Pondicherry. I would be drawn back to this magnificent place again and again shortly after this trip.

howYogaWorks
I still remember reading “How Yoga Works” while the plane was landing in Bangalore and feeling incredibly connected to the Moon, the Sun, and the Earth. It’s almost crazy and unexplainable… but I felt as if I embodied all that was around me, and all that was around me filled me up. As if there was a universe within mirroring the universe outside and I could feel that inner universe so purely. And no, I was not on any drugs.

Later in the Summer something incredibly would happen. I just had the most inspirational time of my life attending the WDS conference in Portland.

Photos by Armosa Studios. https://flic.kr/p/csPRB1

Photos by Armosa Studios. https://flic.kr/p/csPRB1

Morning Meditations led by Nathan Agin

Morning Meditations led by Nathan Agin

On my flight out, I was sitting next to a lady who was flying to San Francisco. She was flying to say her graces to someone who was passing away. She had been taking Yoga classes and was fascinated by the effects it had on the energy centers of the body. After I talked for almost an hour about my experiences throughout the year, she opened up to me and told me something that to this day still leaves me in Awe. She said she experienced this moment (while being a nurse and in the care of this elderly patient), where she saw the oneness in the universe. She was stitching a patient and rolling a white cloth over their arm, when all of a sudden, circles upon circles entered her field of vision until it engulfed her, but not in a confusing, scary, or mind-spinning way. She felt like she was in a womb — safe and protected. She felt the reactions her energy had on everything around her, including inanimate objects like tables, chairs, and the bed of her patient. She said she had been struggling with faith and dedicating her life to something noble in order to help people which led her to nursing. She was sad because she felt no matter how much she would care for patients, many of them (especially elderly patients), would simply pass away shortly after her care. Life was and is impermanent. As much as we like to control the outcomes of our lives and day to day experiences, life unravels sometimes in ways we can never even imagine.

She would later tell me that her son lived a few years in India, in the holy city of Varanasi. I had never heard of this city, but I happened to be on my way to India again, and it soon became part of many things that would line up in my life path.

This was only the beginning of an incredible year in 2012 which included diving deeper into my Yoga practice, collaborating on a Virtual Yoga Studio called Joyful Breath Yoga which is currently the largest Online Yoga Studio in the midwest, and finding love through incredible synchronicities.

2013 was a turbulent year. Despite this, I still helped organize a Yoga Retreat to India. The first Journey of Joy for Joyful Breath Yoga. Everyone that participated made this an incredible success. I was so humbled to even be a part of it:

YogaInIndia2

yogaInIndia1

This year has been all about restoring that peace and security of self I felt back in 2012.

I’m feeling incredible in these days leading up to Summer. I’m reminded of all the beautiful memories, the people I encountered, and the wonderful connections I made. Words have been pouring through my soul and I’ve been writing feverishly to keep these experiences close.

I want to publish these past experiences along with new insights I gain through a regular and dynamic Yoga practice. I don’t plan on just getting more physically fit, but also growing a deeper calmness in the mind and stronger spiritual connection.

Doing this in 100 Days will not only be a challenge to myself, but it will be an incredible journey in and of itself! In these next 100 Days, I already have plans on being in at least 5-7 different cities in at least 3 different countries!

First up will be Detroit this weekend for a visit with cousins, followed my Minneapolis with more cousins, and then Fargo, ND for the annual Misfit Conference.

After this, Jacki and I will be heading to Brazil for the World Cup and taking buses along the countryside as we venture onwards to Chile!

During this challenge, I will practice at least 30 minutes of Yoga every day, take a picture, write something meaningful that came to me from the practice, and post it in the same Photo Album on Facebook and Google+. At the end of 100 Days, there will be 100 Photos in that album.

Some days I may simply reflect on the experiences of the last couple of years which has shaped my life in ways I could never have imagined. Other days I will write what feels like is coming straight through me.

I’m so excited for this journey! If you have any interest in the deeper philosophies of Yoga or how they intertwine with the realities of our life, stay tuned (or make your own #100DaysChallenge)!
:)



Start your Day with a Positive Intention :)

Positive Intention

Your Intention can be your most powerful Tool.

When you use it to set positivity. To set a Positive Intention. To be with that Intention. To actually believe in it. You create positivity within yourself. You may not know exactly how things will manifest, but if you can truly believe in that Intention: You should make it. You should set it. You should believe it.

So start every morning off with a Positive Intention.

I got this from my great friend Akshay. I thought it was a brilliant way to integrate this into your life practically.

It starts with something so simple. Park your car in reverse in your garage. Back in instead of pulling in. Now when you drive out in the morning. When you start your day. When you go to work. When you go to wherever it is you’re going today. You start off going forward. You start off going into that Intention. You don’t go backward. You don’t look at the past. The past is just but a memory. When we are sitting there in our cars, and going forth in our day. It will begin with that Positive Intention that we set. We will see the garage door open up in front of us. The light slowly peer in. In some ways our own personal Sunrise.

We wake up sometimes and we don’t even get a chance to see it. Maybe it’s been too late, maybe it’s been too early. But if the Sun is there, we can allow it to be ours.

photo (93)

 

As that garage door pulls open over your car, you see the open space out in front of you. That free space is for your Intention to fill as you move forward out into the world. That’s how you’ve decided to start this day. Forward. With your Positive Intention.

Don’t forget to Smile :)



Don’t Set 2012 New Year Resolutions — BE Them.

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We ring in a new year, full of energy, full of life, full of strong new intentions. We water the seeds of our desires for the new year, bringing life to our most dormant dreams. A magnificent dawn of possibilities and opportunities.

I will lose weight this year.
I will be more kind this year.
I will take up Yoga and/or a mind/body healing practice this year.
I will give more than I receive this year.
I will see life through a glass half full and not half empty.
I will learn from others as much as I teach.

Life doesn’t come to us as we sit here waiting for it and planning. Life comes OUT OF US.

From our hearts out into this world, then back inside to live the experience. Like the endless cycle of blood circulating our veins or the breath filling oxygen in our lungs.

This year, 2013, BE your intention. Replace “I will” with “I am” and keep moving towards it.

I am healthy.
I am happy with my weight.
I am a kind and loving mother/father.
I am an early bird who gets up to the sunrise and keeps a natural balance with my circadian rhythm.
I am grateful for all I have in this life.
I am complete in every way.
I am capable of achieving my dreams.

Make this a year to not just plan and do, but to transform. Like a caterpillar going through a metamorphosis, open your wings and FLY like a butterfly. You already ARE that butterfly; capable of taking flight when you are ready.

Happy and Peaceful New Years to everyone!



Everyone, Including You, is Struggling with Something

Have you ever wanted to hold the vastness of the Sun in the palm of your hands? Feel the infiniteness of it’s glow?

 

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: you’re struggling.

Are you not? Liar! You’re either not from this planet or you’ve transcended being human. But seriously, whether it is big or small, everyone is struggling with something deep within themselves no matter how covered up it may be; no matter how superficial the facades are that we place on ourselves to get through our daily routines. Sometimes it never comes out until the end of our life, but it will always be there, waiting like a scar on our heart. Some people even call this the challenge of life itself.

After all, there is no light without darkness right?

***

It was a comforting thought I had when I was in college and had a lot of social anxiety. I felt all this tension to talk to others because I felt their lives were somehow more meaningful than mine. Then I started to observe real closely how everyone else handled the moments between moments. Those moments in-between their highest points — the joy of a fun college party or the excitement of winning an intramural game. They could experience these highs, yet most of the time I would see them bored sitting in front of a the TV in the evening, slogging through the day of classes, counting the minutes till the next “fun” event which will simply justify their “low points” throughout the day. Maybe I wasn’t so different. Maybe I simply didn’t include enough fun things to counter-balance the low points like everyone else was doing.

 

 

I’ll be honest, I played a lot of video games in college. I was probably that nerdy kid looking at the ground while you walked by and didn’t notice on the sidewalk. There was a time in 2007 when I had a routine of: sleep, wake up, go to class, study/homework, eat, play games, sleep (No joke, I even recorded a stupid video of myself in the Spring of 2007 that shows this: My Day – April 9th, 2007 . Seriously, don’t watch it though, it’s stupid). I envied everyone and felt like I simply couldn’t be as ‘fun’ as them. I resigned to vicariously living through other their stories, imagining myself in their role, thinking that maybe in another life I could have fun like the rest of them. Video games filled a void inside of me through active feedback, a sense of purpose, and accomplishments that seemed far greater than myself. I could be a hero saving my town from destruction instead of a nerdy student at college studying Computer Science. Before you simply think this was video game addiction, I challenge you to think about the underlining reasons that any human may turn to video games and find them as an escape. Are you different? Have you ever been sucked into a game of Angry Birds or Words with Friends? Maybe you’ve gotten lost in the playful nature of a board game during a reunion of friends or family? The truth is that the act of ‘playing’ is wired within us as an evolutionarily benefit so we can easily experience joyful moments in our lives. We are wired to be playful and have fun even if only with our imagination. Just look at any kid!

There was a great book by a game designer named Jane McGonigal who came to the conclusion that designing game worlds was akin to designing perfect experiences for human beings. It was as if you were a planner of Joy and you laid a path for players to follow and experience real feelings of accomplishment, success, and pride within themselves as they completed it. Over the years, many game designers became great in this role after seeing what people were responding to and newer games such as World of Warcraft began to seem like  real alternate realities with millions of hours being spent in them by people all over the world.

If you’re too lazy to read her book Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, at least give her 10 minute TED talk a listen: Jane McGonigal – Gaming Can Make a Better World.

Just a few quotes from her: “My goal for the next decade is to try to make it as easy to save the world in real life as it is to save the world in online games.”

“When we play a game, we tackle tough challenges with more creativity, more determination, more optimism, and we’re more likely to reach out to others for help.”

“If you can manage to experience three positive emotions for every one negative emotion … you dramatically improve your health and your ability to successfully tackle any problem you’re facing.”

“Avatars are a way to express our true selves, our most heroic, idealized version of who we might become.”

This may sound lofty, but Jane McGonigal has touched on something so profound that it may take many years to fully realize the implications — games can teach us how to activate that ever elusive state of Flow more often in our daily lives so that we can feel more connected to each other and the world around us.

Flow is that effortless state of energy you can have where it feels great to be doing whatever it is you are doing. You are totally in the moment and understand exactly what to do; even if it is just focusing on a volleyball coming over the net or feeling ‘in the zone’ during a basketball game. It can happen spontaneously or when you’re deeply inspired by something so profound that you are compelled to take action. Musicians, designers, writers, and creatives describe it as an intuitive state where your body feels as though it has become a receiver of divine or cosmic gifts and the art flows naturally through you. There’s a whole book written about the science behind it: Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. 

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The question really is: Are we willing to wake up to the reality of our own lives? Are we ready to face the true Self inside this physical body we have covered with our identities? We are not all different from one another. We pretend to be disconnected from the lives of each other even though we live in the same city, the same country, the same planet. The truth is we are all interconnected in a web of cause and effect. You step on someone’s shoe and you create a figurative hole in your own. You extend a hand in service and you receive gratitude.

As humans we link experiences to all our senses to create the most detailed memory possible. We go on roller coasters that take us hundreds of feet in the air so we can experience the intense thrill of falling. By knowing we’re safe, the temporary moment of exhilaration is available for us to experience over and over again. The thrill of that moment as our stomachs give out and the coaster falls to the earth, we become free from our physical bodies and challenge the space around us. We experience being fully present because there is no other way to be; even while closing your eyes in fear as you second guess going on the coaster in the first place. It’s like that feeling of bliss or catharsis when watching a film, but you can’t sustain it. We want to sustain it. You are one with that moment — in a state of Flow.

How do we continue to return to this?

By becoming vulnerable and opening ourselves up, we allow our hearts to free us from the struggles we all face together.

A notecard I received from Mondo Beyondo founder Andrea Scher during her workshop at WDS 2012 in Portland.

 

 



The Power of Appreciation

What are you appreciative of? When you think about the new day, the new work ahead, the places you’re visiting, the people you see, what do you find appreciation in?

I’ve been fascinated by the power of Gratitude this year. Cultivating Gratitude has the ability to truly make life more enjoyable no matter what is happening. I’ve had moments where I’ve been challenged and had to put these ideas into practice. For instance this year I almost wrecked my car by running into the person in front of me who abruptly stopped, having to slightly swerve, and whereas previously I may have held on to the emotion of anger or resentment at this person who I’ll never speak to, I came back to Gratitude within seconds. Just reminding myself of the present: Sure, I did almost have a terrible accident, but I didn’t and I’m grateful for being healthy in this moment and perfectly okay and so there’s no reason to over think the situation and dwell in it. Within seconds I took 5 deep breaths and I felt not only calm and relaxed, but full of life that I couldn’t help but at first smile, and then let out a laugh at how silly it seemed and yet so simple. It’s actually a fun state of mind to reflect back at what had just happened and learn from it. I should have not been rushing for instance, I would never had been as close as I was, so the car in front wouldn’t have seemed to abruptly stop then. When you can reflect back from this place of mindfulness, it seems so clear and you’re less controlled by those impulse emotions. You can guide yourself by your more rationale and true self. The self you have after you get angry, give it some time, have had the opportunity to naturally breath more and bring your blood pressure down, and then think clearly again. We all know of this, and we all experience it, but few of us see value in returning to that place quicker for the sake of our own health. Some of us don’t realize it, but when we dwell in that anger for minutes, sometimes even hours, we’re needlessly hurting our bodies with higher blood pressure and negative emotions. That person may not have even realized he caused this either, and wouldn’t even be giving it a thought, so the only person we’re affecting would be ourselves by dwelling.

I’ve found the idea of Appreciation recently to be very interesting because it ties into Gratitude. It’s easy for us to criticize or find faults in things, events or people we interact with throughout the day, but we rarely see the beauty and are appreciative of it. Some people call this ‘looking at the glass half full as opposed to half empty’, but it goes farther than that. It’s seeing the glass half full, but noticing the glass is neatly designed, just the right size for that moment, and chilled to just the right temperature. These all provide to the experience but we are quick to criticize the amount of liquid first than to be appreciate of everything else that’s already present.

This is a most useful practice when done with people you interact with and your own friends and family. Be more appreciative of the little things; the time and energy someone may have put into an email, that warm sentiment from receiving a handwritten note in a postcard, a greeting at the beginning of the day.

We have this similar idea behind the reasons we give gifts to each other–we want the receiver to feel appreciated. But the gifts can be non material as well. We can simply tell people what we’re inspired by or what we feel is a strength in the person we’re interacting with and this feedback can create positive energy in those we touch.

I met a Frenchman, Philippe, in Leh a couple weeks ago. He was near a monastery we had just visited and on our way back to the city and he ran up asking if he could have a ride. We had an extra spot, so we obliged and heard some interesting stories of his travels throughout India over the past few years with his 5 weeks of vacation he gets from his job in Paris. He loved India and had visited most regions and highlighted tourist areas. He had a very warm personality and he shared with us his favorite places he had seen over the past few weeks in the Ladakh region.

After we arrived in Leh, one thing I was so appreciative of and I wanted to make sure Philippe knew was his warm, bright, and inviting smile. It was wide and open and you just felt happier around him and I made sure to capture this:

It’s what you’re appreciative of that you will continue to remember– I’ll remember Philippe more for his smile and his presence he created with it than how he got in our taxi, the ride to Leh or his adventurous travel stories. That’s because we remember what we’re appreciative of more than certain events, moments, actions or plans.

By sharing what inspires us, it helps others find what inspires them. Be more appreciative of the little things and notice the changes inside yourself.