It Can’t Be Summer All Year-Long (A Season for Everything)

I take a picture of Laguna Beach from this angle every time I visit!

I love the summers in Southern California.  Even though I love Texas and have been a Texan for over 11 years combined (2005-2015, and 2010-present), I will always choose summers in California.  There’s something magical about driving along Pacific Coast Highway, passing a beautiful beach after another beautiful beach… My favorite beach by far is Laguna Beach.  Whenever I’m there, I stare out into the ocean wishing that the moment, the day and the summer would last forever… 

BUT IT ALWAYS COME TO AN END.

In Ecclesiastes 3, the author (most commonly believed to be King Solomon) states that there’s a season for everything under the sun:

“For everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”


Now getting into my personal life… 

In 2016, God put on my heart to write a book and to start a podcast to encourage and inspire Christians in an “outside-the-box” type of way.  After doubting myself — so ultimately, doubting God — for three years, I finally obeyed his command to write a book on Biblical Meditation.  I rode the high of being a published author by doing a book tour from October 2019 to March of last year… until COVID-19 shut everything down.  Since then, I’ve been trying to write a new book, but God kept on telling me that my next “thing” was to be a podcast.  I told God that I didn’t think I was the one to do that.  The thought of launching a podcast terrified me; but because it terrified me, I knew I needed to do it for God’s glory.  So I started getting really excited about taking that leap of faith and entering the world of podcasting.  I got myself on a schedule and a plan to launch on March 2 of this year… AND THEN EVERYTHING CAME TO A SCREECHING HALT.

Let’s rewind a bit:  I have homeschooled my daughter since she was in 2nd grade (she’s now a high school junior), and this year, we joined a homeschool co-op where one of the parents from each homeschool family is required to either teach, assist, set up or clean up.  This semester, I’m teaching a Print Journalism class to 7th-12th graders, and I’m creating the weekly homeschool newsletter.  Last week was our first week back from break, and it was one of the busiest weeks I’ve had in a while!  To make the long story short, I realized that until this semester of homeschool co-op is over, my life is going to be mostly about homeschooling and a little bit about teaching my virtual classes… which means NO PODCAST LAUNCH ON MARCH 2.  Initially, I fought the inevitable.  I tried to re-evaluated my schedule to see what I can move around to make room for the podcast prep work.  I looked everywhere to see if God snuck in a couple of extra hours (in addition to the 24 hours that He’s given me), but I couldn’t find the 25th and 26th hours. 😭  So after many failed attempts at resistance and trying to make it happen, I surrendered to God’s new podcast launch date for me: May 4th.  Once I “let go and let God,” I felt a sense of peace come over me, and I was able to enjoy the rest of the week without feeling overwhelmed.

The season I’m currently in is a homeschool educator who teaches virtual classes.  And just like any season, it won’t last forever… so I better enjoy the beauty of this season, and then I will enjoy the beauty of the next season in my life.

 

With Gratitude,
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Lessons Learned from First Week of 2021

Alright folks, we’re now in Week Two of 2021.  How are you doing?  Some of you may have crushed the first week of sticking with your resolutions, but there may be some others that have already “fallen off the wagon” with some of their goals.

For me, I had a decent week.  As you may remember from my blog last week, I set physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and professional goals for the new year.  I bought foods that are recommended for my metabolic and blood type, and I’ve taken on the challenge of creating meals only using the foods on my list. (I pretend that I’m a contestant in an episode of Chopped, except I don’t give myself a time limit.  That would stress me out too much!)  After just one week of eating according to my metabolic and blood type, I feel less bloated and never hungry!  In regards to emotional goal of being more vulnerable, I spent time with a friend — in her backyard, 6 ft. apart and with masks on — and we shared our hearts and lives with each other.  There were some tears shed on both sides, and I felt so much closer to her as I left her house.  I feel blessed that God gave us that time to bond as sisters in Christ and as bestfriends in the making.  Now for the areas I didn’t do too well… 

I sort of slacked off on my reading of all THREE BOOKS!  I knew as I committed to reading these books that I needed to really stay on top of my reading; however, I did get behind… but only by a few pages in each book.  I’ve decided to reset my mental goal by holding off on finishing “Individualist (60 Day Enneagram Devotional): Growing As An Enneagram 4” until I’m done reading one of the two other books that I’m reading.

THE BEAUTY OF SETTING GOALS IS THAT YOU CAN ALWAYS STOP, REASSESS, AND RESET.

I didn’t do so well in my professional goal either.  I allowed my daily tasks and getting ready for second semester of homeschooling to distract me from working on the next steps to launching my podcast.  I justified it by telling myself that I was actually 10 days ahead of my scheduled tasks… but you know where that type of thinking got the rabbit in the story, The Tortoise and The Hare.  No bueno. I’m still technically a couple of days ahead, so I need to make sure I stay on task from here on out.

Spiritually though, I feel that I’ve been working on “getting over myself” daily.  I’ve started a 15-minute Yoga Flow series where I’m recording myself teaching a short yoga flow everyday and posting it for my paying clients to access daily.  Before the pandemic, I refused to create yoga videos because I hated the way I looked in videos.  But since I’ve been teaching virtually for over 10 months, I’m having to get over myself being insecure, body-conscious, and just overall appearance-conscious.  I’m enjoying creating these daily videos for people because this isn’t about me; this is about helping people take small (15-minute) steps toward moving more, increasing range of motion/movement, and introducing Yoga to those who may be new to it.

I feel pretty good about how I spent the first week of 2021.  There’s room for improvement, but I’m glad I don’t have to be guilt-ridden for not doing everything perfectly.  I’m only human, and I can be grateful for this fact.  I want to encourage you with this:

1.  WE’RE NOT BOUND BY DEATH TO ANY OF OUR PERSONAL RESOLUTIONS!
2.  LIFE SHOULD BE LIVED WITH SOME FLEXIBILITY.
3.  IF YOU HAD A NOT-SO-GREAT FIRST WEEK OF THE YEAR, IT’S OKAY; YOU GET TO START OVER EVERY MORNING.

 

I hope you have a wonderful week, filled with victories and flexibility!

With Gratitude,
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Hello 2021!

Happy New Year!  More than other New Year’s Day, 2021 seems to have brought more emphasis and excitement to many people.  Although no one is blind to the fact that COVID-19 remains to be the culprit of this global pandemic that we’re still in, it seems that most people are hopeful and optimistic about what this year will bring.  With this renewed hope, setting New Year’s Resolutions seems appropriate.  Through the years, my resolutions always included physical, emotional, mental, professional and spiritual goals… and this year is no different.


PHYSICAL GOAL:  TO GET TO MY OPTIMAL WEIGHT AND SIZE!

On January 1, I reached out to a health & wellness coach (and a very good friend of mine) named Vickie Griffith.  she is the creator of The Vickie G Method which is a individualized customized program of eating, exercising and wellness plan according to one’s metabolic type.  I have seen the results of her program in her clients for many years, so my husband and I signed up for her program.  My husband has the challenge of high metabolism (he has to work out to not lose weight) and I have the opposite challenge (especially since hitting my 40’s).  I will be writing about my journey in my future blogs, so stay tuned!  If you’re interested in finding out more about her program, you can contact her through her website (click here).  Tell her I sent you!  😉


EMOTIONAL GOAL:  TO BE MORE VULNERABLE!

Urrgh.  Sometimes I feel like I don’t know how to be vulnerable.  I’m really great at being open with what I’m thinking and feeling, but when it comes to that, “Here’s my heart; would you like to hold it?” kind of vulnerability, there’s a part of me that wants to reach for my place of stoicism.  When I was in my 30’s, I went to a therapist after my dad died of cancer.  During one of the sessions, I was telling her about a painful childhood memory.  After I finished talking, she asked me why I was smiling while I was telling her something that was so painful to me.  She said my words did not match my emotional expression.  So for the next two months, we talked a lot about my emotional disconnect.  The things we go through shape us, but they do not have to define us.  Since that time, I’ve been working on being more emotionally connected to my memories and expressing more empathy toward others.  It’s something I have to force myself to do.  In fact, it was beyond scary for me to write with such vulnerability in my book, “BE STILL: The Power of Biblical Meditation.”  This area of my life is a work in progress, so this continues to be one of my New Year’s Resolutions every year.


MENTAL GOAL:  READ ONE BOOK EVERY MONTH!

I have always loved reading.  I learned how to read at age 4, and the first novel I read was Gulliver’s Travels in Korean at age 6.  After I moved to the U.S. when I was 9, I learned English words by reading the dictionary and proper grammar through 80’s love songs (that’s when song lyrics were grammatically correct😄); but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed a tendency to reach for magazines or articles online due to time constraints.  Once podcasts became popular, I found myself listening to podcasts more and reading books much less.  My goal this year is to read one book each month.  I have two bookshelves in my home studio filled with books: Books on Bible devotionals, Christian living, health, nutrition, wellness, neuroscience, Yoga, meditation, etc.  I’ve only read about half of my collection, so I have more than plenty to read this year.  Currently, I’m reading “The Circle Maker” by Mark Batterson with a friend, “God’s Perfect Plan for Imperfect People” by Tom Jones with the DFW Church, and “Individualist (60 Day Enneagram Devotional): Growing As An Enneagram 4” by myself.  After I finish these books, I am planning on reading just one book per month.


PROFESSIONAL AND SPIRITUAL GOAL:  GET OVER MYSELF!

I’m a dreamer.  I like to dream big… but those big dreams also terrify me!  Before I wrote my book, I second-guessed myself and really struggled to get started.  It took me a couple of years after God put on my heart to write my book, to actually write it.  Well, this next dream is no different:  God put it on my heart to start a podcast about living in step with the Spirit around the same time He told me to write a book.  But because of my insecurities (same insecurities I mention in my book), I kept finding reasons why I shouldn’t start a podcast.  But God made it very clear to me late last year that I needed to GET OVER MYSELF because this isn’t about me, it’s about inspiring other Christians to move past spiritual stuckness and funk that we all go through from time to time… and glorify God in the process.  So I’m doing it!  I’ll be launching my podcast on March 2, 2021!  I’m nervous and excited, so please pray for me!  I’m sure I will be dedicating more than a few blogs to my journey in launching a podcast… so stay tuned!


“Pray as if it depends on God, and work as if it depends on you.”
Mark Batterson, “The Circle Maker”

 

With Gratitude,
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Goodbye 2020!

We did it!  We made it through this very interesting year of social distancing, sanitizing and face-mask wearing!  We started out the year “sort of” hearing about COVID-19 being an issue in other countries, but then by March, it was declared a global pandemic.  The last class that I taught in studio was on my birthday, March 18th.  When I got home after teaching that evening, I was notified by all the studios that I taught at that all fitness and yoga studios (and other “non-essential businesses”) will be shut down until further notice.  Just like it was for you, the rest of March and April were surreal.  We were no longer able to worship as a congregation inside the church building, everybody and their mothers created a Zoom account, everything went virtual.  Our lives, it seemed, were turned upside down.  I think a lot of us were waiting and hoping that things would “go back to normal” within a few months, but when that didn’t happen, we either went into panic-mode, got depressed or just accepted it for what it was and tried to make the best of it.

We all have now been living with this pandemic for 10 months.  I’ve seen many social media posts about how 2020 was horrible and that they’re eagerly waiting for 2021, but I think it’s important for us to check our hearts to make sure we don’t dismiss this year as a terrible year.  Personally, this year has been filled with many blessings and accomplishments even in the midst of hardships.

March – April:  I lost about 90% of my income (cancelled classes, workshops and book tour events)… but I started teaching classes virtually within days after the shut-down.  This is something I dreaded doing for a very long time (even though there have been requests for it by my students for several years) because I don’t like to see myself in videos.  It turns out that I’m pretty good at teaching virtually.  😃  Also, our dream of moving back to Texas happened sooner than expected because my husband received a job offer which allowed him to be based out of Texas OR North Carolina, and our house in Charlotte sold within days of putting it on the market!

May:  Moving halfway across the United States (again) was no easy task.  In an effort to live simpler, I said good-bye to many of my possessions… but we were able to buy a house in a great neighborhood right away!

June – August:  I was missing my best friends in Charlotte, and the pandemic didn’t make it easy for me to meet my neighbors  or make new friends… but I was able to reconnect with my besties here in Texas, and I was able to use my newly open schedule to enroll AND virtually complete a 300-hour Yoga Teacher Training which upgraded my title to a 500-Hour Registered Yoga Teacher with Yoga Alliance!  I also started teaching virtual classes through the studio that I used to teach at in North Carolina as well as the one I used to teach at in Texas years ago!

September – December:  My daughter didn’t get to have that big Sweet Sixteen party that she had been wanting for YEARS… but we got to go on an amazingly memorable family trip while still observing social distancing guidelines.  (According to her, this was her most favorite family trip!)

A handful of our friends got COVID this year, but thankfully, every single one of them made full recoveries!  I’ve heard of several friends’ family members that are still struggling with the virus or have sadly passed away.  This has put a sense of urgency in our hearts to hug our loved ones a little tighter, to speak kindly to strangers, and give everyone the benefit of the doubt because we don’t know what they might be going through.

“My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
    but God remains the strength of my heart;
    he is mine forever.”
Psalm 73:26

That brings me to today.  We now have just a few days left in this year.  As we reflect on God’s blessings in the midst of this pandemic, I pray that you’re able to say good-bye to 2020 with a sense of peace and surrender as we get ready to say hello to 2021!

“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long.
Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!
So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now;
rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.
For the things we see now will soon be gone,
but the things we cannot see will last forever.”
2 Corinthians 4:17-18

 

With Gratitude,
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‘Tis the Season (For All the Feels)

“Tis the season to be jolly, fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la…”

The Christmas Season invokes many emotions in people.  Depending on your past experiences during this time of the year, it can invoke a feelings of excitement and happiness, or feelings completely opposite such as sadness and loneliness.  I’ve always had a hard time getting into the commercialized aspect of Christmas.

I remember as a teenager (before on-line shopping existed), my friends and I would drive around the mall parking lots for 15-30 minutes before we were able to find one open spot.  It was a time of retail madness; I did not enjoy long lines and aggressive shoppers, and I definitely did not enjoy trying to come up with the money to buy Christmas presents for my friends and family.  What I did enjoy, however, were all the holiday parties that I would get invited to.  December was such an emotionally draining month: I remember feeling excited, happy, annoyed, stressed, lonely, and a myriad of emotions during the holidays every year.

Once I became a Christian in college, Christmas took on a deeper meaning: Celebrating the Birth of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.  I still go through “all the feels” during this time of the year, but I now have God’s Word to encourage me through discouragement, comfort me through grief for loss of loved ones, bring me peace through stressful moments, and increase my joy by opening my eyes to all the blessings.  So here are some of the “Feels” that you may be feeling this season along with what God wants you to know:

Excitement:
Luke 2:13 (“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.“)

Anxiousness:
1 Peter 5:7 (“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”)

Sadness:
Psalm 34:18 (“The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”)

Stressed:
2 Thessalonians 3:16 (“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way.  The Lord be with all of you.”)

Loneliness:
Isaiah 41:10 (“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will  strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”)

Frustration:
Psalm 55:22 (“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”)

Laziness:
Colossians 3:23-24 (Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”)

Disappointment:
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (“Therefore we do not lose heart.… So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”)

Discouragement:
Jeremiah 29:11-13 (For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.)

There are so many other emotions that you may be feeling and going through.  Here’s a great resource of “Bible Verses on God’s Promises” that I found online (Click here).
Disclaimer:  This is a free resource, and I am not being compensated by Bible Study Tools in any way.

I pray that you have a wonderful Christmas, filled with faith, hope and love from God!

With Gratitude,
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Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Yoga Philosophy: Samadhi

Today marks the final blog on “Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Yoga Philosophy: Eight Limbs of Yoga.”  Since August, I have written about all the limbs of Yoga according to Yoga Sutras of Patanjali:

  1. Yama – “Moral Code/Guidelines” toward external environment
    • Ahimsa – Non-violence
    • Satya – Truthfulness
    • Asteya – Non-stealing
    • Brahmacharya – Non-excess/Moderation
    • Aparigraha – Non-Possessiveness
  2. Niyama – “Personal Code/Guidelines” toward oneself
    • Saucha – Purity
    • Santosha – Contentment
    • Tapas – Self-Discipline
    • Svadhyaya – Self-Study/Introspection
    • Ishvara Pradnihana – Surrender to God
  3. Asana – Physical postures
  4. Pranayama – Breath Control
  5. Pratyahara – Sense Withdrawal
  6. Dharana – Concentration
  7. Dhyana – Meditation

The eighth limb of Yoga is Samadhi, which means union with God or complete integration.  Samadhi is also interpreted as spiritual absorption.  As a Christian, experiencing samadhi is becoming one with God; Not that I am God, but samadhi allows me to be completely unified with God and experience being completely in sync and being on the same page with God and His will for me.  One of my most favorite scriptures has been Psalm 37:4 which reads, Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.  When I was a young Christian, I thought this meant if I have my quiet times, share my faith with people, and help others become disciples of Christ, then He will give me what my heart desires.  After about 15 years in the faith, I started to have a different understanding of this scripture:  If I delight in the Lord, my desires will transform into the desires He has for me.  Now almost 27 years of walking with God, I believe that if I delight in the Lord (being completely consumed by Him and His love), He will give me the authentic desires of my heart.

Let me explain: I grew up as a performer.  I performed in musical theatres, choir concerts, plays and dance concerts since I was a kid.  I even performed in a community theatre production of GREASE as Frenchy in my 30’s.  As much as I loved singing, dancing and acting, the feeling that came with being recognized as a talented performer was — if I’m being honest — the true driving force behind it.  So my desire and passion may have seemed like it was performing; but I believe that my true, authentic desire was TO BE SEEN.

According to my Enneagram Type (I’m Type 4), my basic fear is that I have no identity or personal significance, and my greatest desire is to find my significance and identity.  As a Christian, my deepest desire to be seen and to matter were filled by God.  Knowing and fully experiencing that I am SEEN by God, the omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent Creator of all things, I can breathe a sigh of relief and peace as I surrender completely in His love, His power, His protection, His grace, His mercy… His goodness.  And all of this — samadhi — can be experienced while sitting still, practicing pratyahara, dharana and dhyana.

May you delight in the Lord and receive the authentic desires of your heart.

 

With Gratitude,
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Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Yoga Philosophy: Dhyana

In last week’s blog, I talked about Dharana, the practice of concentration which precedes the practice of meditation which is what today’s blog is about.  To enter the practice of meditation, the two previous stages (sense withdrawal and a single-pointed concentration) must be practiced.  The stage of meditation, called Dhyana, is simply being part of the experience that comes after concentration.  One of my teachers once said, “While you’re in dhyana, you become aware of the fact that you’re meditating, then you have come out of the meditation.”  The experience of dhyana is not a constant state; you come in and out of this stage during your practice of meditation.  Just like asanas (or anything else in life), constant practice improves one’s ability to stay in dhyana for longer periods of time. So as a Christian, how can dhyana be practiced; and is there even a difference between biblical meditation and an non-biblical meditation?  Here’s an excerpt from my book, “BE STILL: The Power of Biblical Meditation”:

My book can be purchase on: https://www.lulu.com/en/us/shop/jheni-solis/be-still-the-power-of-biblical-meditation/paperback/product-1dgmrmzm.html

“Shortly after moving to Charlotte, NC in 2015, I invited a college-aged girl to church as I was leaving Panera Bread. She said she was a student at a Bible College and was very involved in the church that was affiliated with the school, and after a brief but pleasant chat about God and the Bible, I gave her my business card to keep in touch.
Later that evening, I received a message from her where she was expressing her deep concern for my salvation because she read on my website that I’m a meditation coach. She advised me to pray to God and not engage in meditation that she believed was not righteous. She referred to a scripture about how you can invite evil spirits to enter you (Matthew 12:44-45). She told me that I was on dangerous ground and that I needed to repent.
I must admit, my initial reaction was to get prideful and defensive (which is really the same thing). Instead, I took a step back and thanked God for her in prayer for her heart of boldness to stand for what she believed was for God’s glory. I replied to her with a humbler heart than I otherwise would have before praying, and I thanked her for her concern. I also explained to her that meditation is absolutely biblical and that not all meditation is a “paganistic practice.”
Just like anything in life, we can take something God created and make it not of God (i.e. – corruption in politics, religious organizations, corporations, etc.). The meditation she was referring to was not the meditation that I practice. The biblical meditation that I practice is to practice stillness in heart, mind, soul and strength as stated in Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1-2; Psalm 104:34.”

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”
Joshua 1:8
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night.”
Psalm 1:1-2
“May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord.”
Psalm 104:34

As a Christian, my intention for meditation should be to keep His Words close to my heart, for it to always be on my lips, and to rejoice in the Him so that I can please the Lord, the God of the Universe.  To set myself up for success, I read a scripture and pray.  I pray for God to allow the Spirit to intercede and make our time together glorifying to Him.  I then move on to pranayama, followed by pratyahara, and then dharanaWhile I’m experiencing dhyana (going into and coming out of dhyana throughout the practice), God reveals many things to me.  Experiencing this intimate communion with God is not an unattainable practice; it simply requires us to take the first step so that He can carry us through the remainder of the way.

If you would like to purchase and/or read about my book, “BE STILL: The Power of Biblical Meditation,” click here.

 

With Gratitude,
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Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Yoga Philosophy: Dharana

Meditation.  I can’t recall the first time I heard this word, but nowadays, a day doesn’t go by when I don’t think or mention this word at least once.  According to CDC, the use of Yoga and Meditation tripled from 2014 to 2017.  With Yoga gaining popularity each year, it is common to find articles online and in magazines that instructs the reader on how to meditate.  I’m all for more people meditating, but the word meditation is actually misused more often than not.  Most people — when talking about meditation — are actually talking about concentration, which is called Dharana in Sanskrit.

Dharana is a single-pointed concentration on an object, place or a thought.  This is the precursory step before meditation (Dhyana) which will be next week’s blog.  Solomon is the son of King David who became king at age 12.  He was known for his wisdom (and wealth), and this is what he said in Proverbs:

“My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings.
Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart.
For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.
Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.”
Proverbs 4:20-27 (ESV)

In verse 25 (bolded and underlined above), King Solomon gives the advice to look directly forward, gazing straight ahead.  To carry out this instruction requires dharana.  Dharana weeds out the distractions that take us away from whatever we’re trying to accomplish.

This is one of my besties, Lisa Washington. She is a chef, yoga teacher, life coach, an entrepreneur. Check her out on https://setthetablewithlove.com/

When I was learning about meditation while going through my 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training, I would often go into my walk-in closet and practice meditation behind closed doors.  I was serious about my meditation practice:  I would close the master bedroom door, walk into the bathroom and close the bathroom door, walk into my closet and close the closet door, and then I would put earplugs in so that I wouldn’t be disrupted, disturbed or distracted.  I sat still and started practicing pranayama for about 10 minutes; during this time, I also practiced pratyahara (sense withdrawal) and dharana by counting my breaths (“Breathe in 54, breathe out 54.  Breathe in 53, breathe out 53…” all the way down to zero) which allowed me to experience true meditation.  Meditation is one of those things where the moment you’re aware that you’re meditating, you are now out of meditation.  During this time of COVID-19 quarantining and social distancing, it is so helpful to the mind, body and spirit to practice dharana.  Here’s a dharana practice you can try at home:

  1. Place a lit candle in front of you, ideally at eye level.
  2. Sit in a comfortable position.  If sitting/kneeling on the floor isn’t comfortable, feel free to sit on a chair with your feet flat on the ground without your back touching the back of the chair.
  3. As you softly gaze at the candle light, allow your breaths to become even (inhales are the same length as the exhales)
  4. Continue this practice as you allow your gaze to go through the candle light, passively looking through the candlelight.
  5. Increase the length of the practice by 30 seconds or a minute each time you practice.

By practicing dharana regularly, you will be well on your way to experiencing meditation!

 

With Gratitude,
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Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Yoga Philosophy: Pratyahara

Pratyahara is the fifth stage in Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga.  This word is a combination of two sanskrit words: Prati means “against” or “withdrawal,” and Ahara means “food” or any external thing that we allow into ourselves.  So Pratyahara is withdrawing of anything that we take in; in short, it is known as withdrawal of the senses.  This stage is where practicing Yoga starts to become a real challenge.  The four other limbs that precede Pratyahara are generally “easier” because they’re things that we can take action on.  Living in a world where we have so many things at our disposal, practicing pratyahara is a lot tougher but absolutely necessary.

The first thing I tend to do when I wake up in the morning is to check the time on my Fitbit or on my phone. (I usually wake up before my alarm goes off, so I like to check the time to see how long I have left before I need to get out of bed.)  Once I’m up, I get ready for the day and then go downstairs into the kitchen to make myself some tea.  While I’m drinking my tea, I read my Bible and pray.  Depending on whether or not I’m teaching that morning, I will either make breakfast or go into my home yoga studio and set up my equipment to teach virtually on Zoom.  From early afternoon until early evening, I either work on business-related tasks, exercise, run errands, or work on homeschool-related things.  In the early evenings, I have dinner with my family, teach evening classes, virtually meet with private clients, attend virtual midweek church services, or watch Netflix with my family.  By the end of the week, it’s easy to feel drained because of all the different things that were demanding attention of my senses: Sense of taste, smell, sight, touch, and hearing.  I feel that we need to take time to practice Pratyahara more than ever before.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
Mark 1:35
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-27

I’m grateful for our senses.  I’m grateful that I can wake up every morning hearing the birds chirping in my yard, taste the warm cup of tea, smell the aroma of my scented candles, see the beautiful roses outside my window and feel the loving hugs from my family.  I’m also grateful for technology; if it weren’t for WiFi and my laptop, publishing my weekly blogs wouldn’t take place.  I’m grateful that I can keep in touch with my family and childhood friends through social media.  But it is so easy to become so attached to these things that we don’t stop to completely withdraw from all the physical, mental and emotional noises.  When I meditate, I use earplugs to block out all the noise and go into one of our walk-in closets and turn the light off.  I start with a pranayama practice and then sit still to just “Be.”

“Be still and know that I am God.”
Psalm 46:10

It’s amazing how deeply you can connect with God when you stop all the inner chatter and outer distractions.  This practice of Pratyahara isn’t something you will “master” right away.  In fact, I don’t know if there is such a thing as mastering complete sense withdrawal while you’re still alive because being physically alive requires us to engage in our senses; However, it is so essential for our well-being to routinely unplug and decompress so that we can be filled up with the goodness of God.  I encourage you to start with just 5 minutes of sitting still, create evenness in the breath (inhaling for the same length of time as exhaling), and just observe.  Be fully present in each moment, and see what God reveals to you.

 

With Gratitude,
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Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Yoga Philosophy: Pranayama

“Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”
Genesis 2:7

From the moment you woke up to the seconds before you started reading the scripture above, how many breaths have you taken?  If your answer is, “I don’t know,” then you and I are on the same boat!  In fact, we take take  on average approximately 20,000 breaths per day, so it makes sense that we’re not aware of every breath we take and the number of breaths we have taken since our eyes opened this morning.  God has breathed the breath of life in our nostrils the moment we took our very first breath at birth, and we have been continuing the tradition of breathing everyday for the most part (with the exception of traumatic events that you may have experienced that temporarily paused the breath of life — which in that case, I celebrate that you were able to resume breathing again).  God made breathing an essential part of sustaining life in our earthly bodies.  We experience various types of breathing in life: Deep breaths, shallow breaths, slow breaths, short breaths, erratic breaths (thanks to hiccups, sneezes, coughs, etc.), held breaths, and forced breaths.  The fourth limb in Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga, Pranayama is sanskrit for controlling the breath/regulating the life force.

The state of the body changes depending on the way we breathe. Just with breath alone, we can induce and reduce anxiety, stress, aggression, and any other unfavorable emotion.  Believe it or not, you can actually increase and decrease your blood pressure by changing the way you breathe.  During one of my annual check-ups, my blood pressure was 130/80 which was higher than my normal.  Granted, I had just come from taking a cycling class 10 minutes ago, it was really hot outside, and I speed-walked across the parking lot because I thought I was going to be late for my appointment.  I asked her if she could take my blood pressure again at the end of my appointment “just for the fun of it.”  She looked puzzled but agreed to do so.  At the end of my check-up, I began taking deep, diaphragmatic breaths while I took longer exhales than I did inhales.  My blood pressure changed to 120/73 (which was still higher than my usual 115/68).  She was surprised at my new blood pressure reading until I told her I simply activated my parasympathetic nervous system through deep, slow breathing.

Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) is our nervous system that is responsible for the body’s “rest and digest” response to homeostasis.  Unfortunately, most of us live with our Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) — our “fight or flight” response to health — active.  When our SNS is active, our muscles and organs tighten up, stress hormones are released, and our digestion & elimination slows down.  This is a needed response if we’re in danger and need to get out of harm quickly, but if we live with an overabundance of SNS active, our bodies will not be able to relax, balance and heal.  One of the greatest ways we can balance and heal our bodies is through controlled breathing, aka Pranayama.

God has created our bodies to heal itself.  One of the ways our bodies heal itself is through the breath.  When the breath is balanced, the body, mind and soul become balanced.  Here is a pranayama called Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing) that I like to practice to create balance between my masculine and feminine qualities (we all have both), moving and stillness, self-control and surrender… faith and deeds:

  • Close your eyes and begin breathing in and out through your nose, moving toward matching the length of your inhales with your exhales (i.e. – if you’re inhaling for 4 counts, the exhale for 4 counts).
  • Bring your right hand up to your face and fold your index and middle fingers down.
  • Plug your right nostril with your thumb and inhale through the left nostril; hold your breath as you plug your left nostril with your right ring finger (simultaneously, unplug the right nostril).  Continue, imagining that each breath you’re taking in is coming from the breath of the Almighty (Job 33:4):

The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
Job 33:4
“This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.”
Ezekiel 37:5

With Gratitude,
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