Drowning Out Distractions

I’ve traveled a lot this year. Since January, I’ve been to over 30 cities in six states (not including the stopover/layover cities), covering approximately 15,000 travel miles totaling 82 days.  Next year, I imagine I’ll be traveling just as much if not more. I love road trips with my family, flying across the country to visit family and friends, and I even love traveling for work.  Granted, I schedule my own out of town/state work trips which is such a blessing.  I also take work-related vacations in the form of sabbaticals.  This summer, I spent a week at an AirBnB in Denton, TX.  Other than my husband, no one else knew where I was because I wanted to take that time to rest and focus on my writing my book.  I needed to get away from my day-to-day living (aka distractions) in order to accomplish my goals.

Distractions are inevitable.

For a couple of months during the fall, a gardener would come by with his leaf blower to clear out all the leaves… right in front of the glass windows of the studio that I teach yoga classes at.  It never failed that he would come while we were in the middle of a class.  At first, I thought to myself, “Why can’t he come by AFTER my class ends?  Why does he always have to cause so much ruckus when we’re trying to practice yoga?”  And then I stopped and laughed at the irony of my thoughts.  Being that one of my goals as a Yoga Teacher is to help my students take the lessons they learn on the mat (in my classes), off the mat (into their lives), I told my students, “Do you see that man with the leaf blower?  Do you notice the distraction?  I invite you to acknowledge that this is happening at this present moment… and now, let it go.  Let go of the distractions and become present.”

It’s amazing how the brain is able to drown out distractions that we choose not to pay attention to.  Both my husband and daughter have the ability to study and work in the middle of a busy Starbucks and other places where there’s lots of noise.  I, on the other hand, prefer silence (or at least my earplugs) in order to focus; but there have been many occasions where I’ve engaged in deep conversations in the middle of a public space with many potential distractions.

According to an article in the Journal of Neuroscience (cited in Scientific American), the brain will intentionally weaken its response to things that seem less important so that it can become more sensitive in reaction to what you choose as the focus.  This is great news!  Since we now know this fact, all we have to prioritize and figure out what is truly important to us.  Once we establish our priorities and make conscious efforts to make those things important, the brain will do what the brain does by drowning out the distractions.

Just as I do in my yoga classes, I invite you to take a moment to drown out the distractions by sitting still, focus on your breaths by becoming aware of the rise and fall of your belly as you inhale and exhale.  Continue to observe the breath as you close your eyes for several breaths.  Once you open your eyes, continue to sit still and make note of how you feel.  Notice the beauty of living in this moment.

Namaste.

 

With Gratitude,
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Lessons From a Lemon Tree

 

About three years ago, my husband and I spent the day in Balboa Island in Newport Beach, CA.  A lot of the homes there have big windows facing the walking path and the harbor, so it’s fun to just take a stroll and glance into people’s homes.  I know it sounds creepy, but it’s almost impossible to walk around there without looking into people’s homes.  In fact, I’ve had some homeowners wave to me from their house if we happen to make eye contact! 😂

One of the things that I noticed in their patios was potted lemon trees.  I thought to myself, “That would be so cool to be able to grow my own potted lemon tree!”  But being that I don’t have a green thumb (I once killed a bonsai tree), I was hesitant in starting one; but I did it anyway!  I took seeds from a lemon that I bought at the local grocery store and planted three of them in one pot with some soil for citrus trees.  I faithfully watered it according to instructions that I found online.

I was so excited when it started sprouting up and growing slowly but surely.  I didn’t expect any fruit for at least a year or two (especially because I was growing them indoors with constant exposure to sunlight during the day), but I didn’t care. I was just so happy that I could actually grow something that started as seeds from a fruit that I bought at the store.  I didn’t take pictures of the growth, but it looked something like this:

I had big dreams for these lemon trees.  I got excited thinking about how I was going to have freshly picked lemons for my water and tea every morning.  I pictured myself making lemon pancakes, lemon pepper fish, lemonade… I was mentally collecting recipes.  As they grew bigger, I separated them into their own pots (so three trees!).  I was so proud of my lemon trees; I’m surprised that I didn’t assign names for them!  They were thriving and growing beautiful, big leaves that smelled like lemons… until they all started to get sick.

When I first noticed that the leaves were turning yellow, then brown and falling off, I went online and did everything that I found to do in order to revive my sickly trees; but in the end, they met their destiny:

They’ve been dead for a month now, and I finally decided to accept defeat.  I planted all three of them together after they died so that they could all be together.  It’s kind of comical and tragic at the same time in my opinion.  And while I’ve been looking at this dead pot of lemon trees, I’ve been reminded of three life lessons.

Lesson #1:  Find joy in the simple things.
When the seeds started sprouting up, I couldn’t believe how happy I was!  I looked forward to seeing their growth every morning.  Even when there was a million things going on, watching my little lemon trees-in-the-making made me stop and marvel at this miracle of growth.  When I stop to look at a rainbow, listen to the birds chirping in the morning, feeling the warmth of the sun or watching old couples holding hands, it brings me back to the present moment which allows my heart to smile and appreciate the simpler things in life.

Lesson #2:  Be consistent in watering and pruning.
I did my research to water only as often as I needed (not every day).  When there were diseased branches, I pruned them to make sure they were not going to make the rest of the plants sick.  I need to make sure I’m getting “watered” by constantly learning and developing my strengths as well as getting “pruned” by cutting out bad habits, thoughts and actions that do not serve me for my highest good.

Lesson #3:  Check the soil!
I think my plants died because I did a poor job checking the ph of the soil.  There are soil testing kits out there, but I decided that the only thing my plants would need are plant foods.  In life, I must assess my soil to make sure I have what I need in order to thrive.  I’m not talking about selfish ambition; what I mean is that I need to make sure that I surround myself with people who I feel safe with and cared for.  Community is so important because we are all connected.  If my “soil” is not the right ph for me to thrive, the negative impact will ultimately spread throughout the entire universe.

In 2020, I will be planting seeds for new lemon trees.  Maybe this time around, I will actually be able to make those lemon pancakes!

 

With Gratitude,
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10 Year Challenge

I’ve been seeing a lot of these “10 Year Challenge” posts on social media lately.  I’m sure you also have seen your fair share of photo posts of your friends (and maybe strangers) of what they looked like in 2009 and what they look like now.  Here’s mine:

Other than gaining about a dozen gray hairs, a few wrinkles and having less elasticity in my skin, I don’t feel like I look too different in these photos; but the person that I was in 2009 is definitely not the person that I am today.

In 2009, I was working full-time as an Analyst for a Fortune 500 Company, songwriting and recording at night, singing in a Christian band… and exhausted, insecure, and unhappy with a lot of things in my life.  I was dealing with feelings of inadequacy in all aspects of my life (feeling like I wasn’t good enough of an analyst, a musician, a wife, a mother, a friend… the list went on and on).  I had gone down from a size 12 to size 2, but I still felt like I was too big. I was obsessed with working out, losing weight, putting strict restrictions on food, etc.  Needless to say, 2009 was a very trying year for me.

2010 was a year of rebuilding myself.  With the support of my husband, I left my comfortable, well-paid job to focus on spending more time with my family.  I decided to do contract work so that I can take summers off to spend with my daughter instead of sending her to summer camps.  I made sure I only worked when her school was in session.  I also started taking Mixed Martial Arts class to work on my inner strength (the outer strength came with it naturally).  I also returned to practicing yoga more regularly.

2011-2012 were spent soul-searching.  I tried my hand at being a consultant for an MLM company (which I realized that I was pretty good at but was not passionate about).  I tried starting a resume-writing business and an event planning business.  I just couldn’t figure out what I wanted to put my energy into professionally.  I experienced a lot of highs and lows those two years, but by the end of 2013, I had successfully gotten back into the fitness industry as a Zumba Instructor and Dance Fitness Instructor.  I also decided that I was going to become a Yoga Teacher.

In 2013, I completed my 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training.  This changed everything for me.  I experienced a transformation from within that shaped the way I began to view life.  I became more calm and grounded.  Life stopped being about DOING but rather BEING.  My relationship with God began to become deeper and more intimate.  I heard God’s voice through His Word (The Bible) so much clearer.  I became more in tune with the Holy Spirit.  I felt more connected to Jesus.

2014 was a year of experiences.  I completed an aerial yoga instructor certification and opened Dallas’ first Aerial Yoga Studio with two business partners.  I learned how to run a studio, train the staff, do payroll… all the while homeschooling my daughter and spending time with my family.  I had to kiss my social life goodbye, but that year was a pivotal time for what was to come.

In 2015, I experienced transitions of many kinds.  The lease was up on our aerial yoga studio, and we had to relocate due to a change in landlord who wanted to use our space for his business.  We tried so hard to find a new location to reopen; but after looking and negotiating with various building owners/management for months, we decided to close our studio.  Around the same time, my husband was offered an opportunity to transfer to their Charlotte office.  After many prayers and a visit to North Carolina, we made the move to North Charlotte in October.

I started to become known as the “Aerial Yoga Master Trainer” (training future instructors) as I began to certify instructors in North Carolina (as well as Texas) in 2016.  By this time, I had “perfected” my aerial yoga teacher training manual as well as my teacher-training skills.  This was the first time since leaving the corporate world that I started to make a decent amount of money.  I loved traveling to Texas to certify instructors while making a lot of money in the process.  I realized that year that I had a knack for training instructors; so I started to pray for greater things for the upcoming year.

I launched my own 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training in the beginning of 2017.  It was challenging to write the manual, teach while learning and researching, but I was eager to meet that challenge.  I learned a lot about myself and others while I ran my 200-Hr YTT and 30-Hr Aerial YTT in 2017 and 2018.  I felt that I found my calling professionally, and I was convinced that teaching, training and certifying future yoga/aerial yoga teachers was what I will be doing until it was time for me to retire (although I don’t think I would ever completely retire).

2019 became the year of accomplishments.  God had placed a desire in my heart to write a book about biblical meditation in 2017, but I pushed that desire aside for two years because I didn’t think I knew enough to actually write a book about it.  But after wrestling with whether or not I should author a book for a couple of months, I started writing it in the beginning of March which the publication goal date of October 1.  I actually ended up publishing my book in September all the while completing a certification training to become an IMX Pilates Instructor!

From 2009 to 2019, I was able to experience many challenges that sometimes tested my character deeply which helped me to mature and become stronger.  I also experienced some amazing things such as going on a 17-day roadtrip with my family (which was the beginning of many long vacations we have been blessed to take), choreographing and leading flashmob dances for high profile events, moving to a new state, gaining wonderful friends, mentoring teenagers, taking a short sabbatical, writing and publishing my first book, teaching yoga and meditation at retreats in beautiful places…  This decade has been awesome!

I may wake up with more aches and pains than I used to; but this has been the most favorite decade of my life because I was able to trade in some of my youth for invaluable experiences, much growth, wonderful memories, and a zeal for life that I have never felt before!  I am in a place in my life where I can decide to be still, listen to God, make some tea, and enjoy everything life has to offer!

As you reflect on your “10 Year Challenge,” I hope you’re able to recognize all the blessings that have come out of this decade.

 

With Gratitude,
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Little Reminders of WHY

As a yoga/meditation teacher, author, writer, homeschool educator, teen ministry leader, business owner and — more importantly — wife and mother, it’s easy to lose focus and forget the reason why I do what I do.  I start each day by thanking God for giving me another day here on earth, and I ask Him to help me to live each moment for Him and to remind me of why I do what I do.  I had one of those great reminders through one of my clients last week.

I showed up to teach a private yoga session that morning with a yoga practice that I had planned for her.  I customize each practice for my private clients according to what their needs are so I always come knowing what I’m going to be teaching; however, I felt led to do something different with her that morning.  When I asked her how she was feeling, she said that she was having some low back pain and that she would prefer to do something more relaxing that day.  I sensed that there was something deeper, so I agreed that she does need something more restorative.

One of the methods that I teach is a myofascial-release technique, so I incorporated using a foam roller into her yoga practice.  We worked on releasing tension in the upper body first which she absolutely loved.  But then the minute we started working on the hips, she took a quick, guarded inhale and proceeded to hold it.  I asked her to slowly allow herself to exhale.  As she released her breath, tears started to well up in her eyes and an apprehensive sigh came out.  I explained to her that when we hold on to unresolved emotions that do not serve us, they get trapped in the hips (which I learned during my yoga teacher training).  I told her that it is completely normal and okay for her to cry, that she was in a safe place to let her guard down.  I felt honored that she trusted me and allowed herself to release what she had been holding on to for years as she allowed her tears to flow.  At the end of our session, she gave me a big, unguarded hug that reminded me of why I became a yoga teacher.

It’s easy to forget why we do what we do day in and day out.  In the middle of running errands, responding to e-mails and text messages, checking our social media, going to work, meeting up with friends for coffee, driving kids to and from school/friend’s houses/activities, etc. etc. etc., we miss so many opportunities to see the blessings in all these things.  We miss opportunities to experience moments that remind us why we do what we do and the reason for our calling.  We get so busy planning for the next thing on our schedules that we miss the quick smiles of thanks and the moments that make us laugh, proud, grateful, and at peace.  I believe that anytime something touches our hearts, we need to pause and allow ourselves to experience that moment so that we can plant it deep into our souls.  When these seeds of reminders are planted, they will be embedded so deep that when distractions and discouragements come (as they always do), you will quickly be reminded to persevere… because your authentic self is counting on you to hear the WHY to what you do.

I’m grateful for moments when God uses the universe and the people in it to remind me of why I do what I do.  That one morning last week, God used my client to help remind me of my authenticity as a yoga teacher.  There are reminders everywhere; you just have to silence your mind and be still in your spirit to notice them.

 

With Gratitude,
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Dream Killers (And How to Overcome Them)

There are many things that fuel a person’s dreams and passions, and most of us start out strong in running after those dreams and passions. We make plans and goals, and we dream big and envision what the end goal will look like. If you’re anything like me, the excitement and motivation doesn’t last too long.

I have dreams and goals that never came to fruition because I would get discouraged, distracted, or disillusioned:

  1. Discouraged
    I would allow those negative self-talk to stop me from continuing the tasks required in order for me to get one step closer to achieving my goals. I would tell myself, “It didn’t work before,” “You don’t have the discipline to stick with it,” or “You’re not talented/smart enough.”
  2. Distracted
    I would lose sight of my dreams by focusing on tasks that wouldn’t bring me closer to achieving the goal. For example, when I was writing my first book, I would often get tempted to blow off my writing times that I had already scheduled into my day so that I can meet up with friends for lunch or go bargain-hunting at different stores (I usually ended up not getting anything anyway).
  3. Disillusioned
    I found that novelty wears off on everything. Once we see past the “glamour” of a dream, what we’re often left with is all the behind-the-scenes things that aren’t enjoyable. When I co-owned an aerial yoga studio in Dallas about 5 years ago, I was in charge of the operations, training/staffing and payroll. There’s a lot more to owning a brick and mortar business than just showing up to work everyday.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

As I mentioned in my last week’s blog, it’s important to know WHY we do what we do. Without having a concrete reason why we want to achieve that dream, it is highly unlikely that we will succeed. But even with knowing our WHY to our WHAT, we must come up with a plan that will help achieve our dreams and goals. Through experiences, trial and error (and through my former training as a project manager), I’ve learned to always do the following five things to set myself up for success:

  1. Write it down
    Dreams and goals must be written down on paper to make it official and real.
  2. Set a completion date
    Without a completion date set, you won’t be able to manage the next two steps (#3 & #4).
  3. Set milestones within the time frame
    These are small accomplishments within the goal. For example, when I was going through the planning phase of writing my first book, I knew I was going to start writing my book in March and have it published by the beginning of October. So my milestones were to finish writing the book by August 1st, finish editing by September 1st, finish creating the book cover by September 15th, and have it published by October 1st. After meeting each milestone, I celebrated by taking my family out to dinner.
  4. Set tasks within each milestone
    From March to July, I blocked out two hours of writing time twice a week  and even took a week-long sabbatical so that I can focus on getting as much writing as I can. I also scheduled all the interviews as well as the photo shoot for my book (the photo shoot took place in Atlanta, GA and at my home in Charlotte, NC) during that time frame. I dedicated the entire month of August to editing my book over a dozen times (In hindsight, I would never recommend editing your own book even if you’re an editor like me. I will cover this topic in next week’s blog). I finished creating the book cover in one week (I’m good at graphic design, but it still was not an easy task).
  5. Identify the required resources for each task
    As you write down the tasks required within each milestone, it’s important to figure out what you will need to complete the tasks. For example, I knew I needed to be away from my house whenever I would write because there were too many distractions at home (comfy couch, cute dog, my awesome family, Netflix, etc.); so I became a regular at the local library and Panera Bread twice a week. To prepare for my writing times, I would make sure I took my ear plugs so that I wouldn’t get distracted from conversations going on around me. I always took a jacket or a big scarf in case it got cold inside. So my resources during my writing times were my laptop, ear plugs and jacket/big scarf.
“Four steps to achievement: Plan purposefully. Prepare prayerfully. Proceed positively. Pursue persistently.”
William A. Ward

Dream big and plan accordingly!

 

With Gratitude,
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What is your “Why?”

“I believe it’s very important to remember your WHY because it fuels your WHAT.”
Keegan Leiba, Actor/Model/Talent Coach

Two weeks ago, I had my official book launch party. For several hours leading up to the event, I had one text message after another from people letting me know that they couldn’t make it anymore.  I must admit, I struggled with discouragement for a few minutes before I reminded myself that the book launch party was not the end goal. The end goal was to obey God by finishing my book which was already accomplished; so anything else related to the book (book promotions, book events) were all just icing on the cake. Once I changed my perspective, I felt at peace about my event.

How often do we allow challenging situations to discourage us or get us off-focused from our dreams and goals? I don’t know a single person who hasn’t struggled with wanting to give up or to second guess their decision to pursue their dreams. Sometimes we can even become paralyzed with fear of failure which prevents us from persevering through the tough times.

“The best view comes after the hardest climb.”
– Author Unknown

When we’re climbing the steepest mountains in life, we do not see the view which awaits us. This is when we want to quit climbing and just descend down back to the ground. It is at this very point that we must remember the “WHY” in what we do. When we fix our eyes on our end goal and the reasons behind it, all the steps leading up to that “best view” will become more bearable… and we will have grown in our character along the way which will allow us to have the gratitude and the ability to appreciate that view.

Oh and by the way, my book launch event was amazing!  

 

I would love to hear about your “why” to your dreams and goals!

 

With Gratitude,
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Be. Here. Now.

My last week’s blog post was about how life seems to move at the speed of light. As promised, this blog post is an elaboration of my statement, “When we get in the mode of constantly DOING, we forget to live our lives in the present moment.”

Why is it so hard for us to live in the present? Why do we have such a difficult time just BEING instead of DOING? I believe part of the reason is due to our desire for control.

“There are only two days in a year that nothing can be done.
One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow,
so today is the right day to love, believe, do and mostly live.”
Dalai Lama

Even for those “two days” that we can not control, we spend so much time trying to fix things that have already happened (yesterday) and control the future outcome (tomorrow). This creates a sense of constant movement both physically and mentally.

“Even if we are able to physically stop moving, our minds are
constantly thinking, problem-solving, organizing, worrying,
rationalizing, irrationalizing, regretting and dwelling.”

Excerpt from my book, Be Still: The Power of Biblical Meditation

Each week, I teach several styles of yoga classes (group and private classes), ranging from physically challenging to restorative and passive, longer-holds. Can you guess which one has a bigger attendance? (If you guessed the more physically challenging yoga class, you are correct!) As human beings, we’re drawn to things that create more imbalance within ourselves. The more driven you are, the more you will be drawn to activities that keep you in constant motion. When was the last time you stopped and experienced the present? When was the last time you consciously stopped your mind from regretting the past or worrying about the future?

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”
Luke 12:25

According to Luke 12:25, we can not add more hours to our lives by worrying. In fact, worrying is robbing us of our time, energy, joy, and even our health. So if worrying robs our lives (potentially shortening it), then perhaps the opposite is true: Not worrying (and BEING present) could extend our lives!

As a Yoga and Meditation Teacher, I have been trained to teach others how to be present. One of the most rewarding moments for me is when a student of mine experiences a self-transformation through becoming still. One of the practices that I teach my students is counting their breaths. It may sound funny, but I invite you to give it a shot with the following recorded practice (this one is pretty short) which is one of many techniques I have recorded for my book:


Next time you find your mind regretting or worrying, make a conscious decision to stop and experience the present.

Be. Here. Now.
With Gratitude,

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