How to Plan a Simple Retreat

Last Thursday, my best friend Melina and I went to Fort Worth for an overnight retreat. We had tons of things planned for the 24 hours that we were going to be gone (The Stockyards, Fort Worth Botanic Garden, Sundance Square, and a long walk by the river), but our plans changed because IT WAS RAINING THE ENTIRE TIME! 😭 At first, we were a bit disappointed, but we quickly accepted it and decided to make the best of it… and we both realized that God was giving us exactly what we needed: A retreat to decompress, relax, and spend some quality time with God. It was such a simple trip, but it was a wonderful experience, so I wanted to share it with you.


Here are the steps to planning a simple retreat:

1. Invite at least one friend to join you.

Doing solo trips are okay, but when you plan a trip with others, it helps you to make this an actual event and not just “a thing you did” at one point in your life. I generally like to keep the number of people in even numbers so that no one feels like the third wheel. You can hand-pick the friends you would like to invite, and you can keep the invitation as casual as sending them a text message or if you have an artistic flair, you can create an invitation to give them. A great pandemic-friendly way to send out the invitation is through evite.
Melina and I made plans while we were having lunch, so the invitation was kept very casual for us.


2. Everyone should book their own rooms in the same hotel.

The simplest way to handle lodging for everyone is to have them book their own rooms. Most hotels offer group room block at a discounted rate, and this would be one of the very few coordinating tasks you would have to complete. Having everyone booking their own rooms also keeps it easier for everyone to practice social distance.
Initially, Melina and I were going to stay in the same room, but we decided that in order to stick to the point of our retreat, it would be best for us to stay in separate rooms (more on this in #3 below).


3. Everyone should decide what they’re going to do during their alone time.

This is so important. Let me say that again. THIS IS SO IMPORTANT. Because you and your friends may have different goals for this retreat, it is important to plan what you will do during this time. You can plan to read that book you’ve been trying to finish (which was my case), schedule a massage (most hotels will have recommendations if they don’t have an on-site spa service), sleep, exercise, go for a walk outside… the possibilities are endless!
For me, my plan was to unplug from social media, finish reading a book, exercise, and watch a short movie. If Melina and I shared a room, we would not have gotten anything done other than chatting the entire time. (which we both knew since that’s why we couldn’t study together in college!)


4. Eat all your meals together.

Since most people generally eat three meals a day, this will give you and your friends time to socialize for at least 3 hours each day. I recommend you block out 1-2 hours for each meal so that you can enjoy the times of bonding over delicious foods without feeling rushed. You can set an alarm on your phone or watch to go off 10-15 minutes before the planned time is over so that everyone could wrap up and get back to their personal retreats.
Melina and I had dinner at HG Sply Co. in Fort Worth (check out their menu here), breakfast at the hotel (take advantage of hotels with complimentary breakfast; since I have food restrictions, I brought my own dairy-free yogurt and almond milk to make sure I would have something to eat something for breakfast.), lunch at Jason’s Deli (I had the salad bar as usual), and we stopped to get some boba as dessert after lunch.


5. Plan one group event in the beginning or the end of the trip.

Doing a short group event before or after will allow the flow listed above in steps 1-4 above to not be disrupted. Additionally, if any of your friends can’t arrive on time or have to leave early, they will be able to still enjoy their alone time and the meal times with the rest of the group. To keep it pandemic-friendly, you can always plan an outdoor outing such as an arboretum, a farmer’s market, or even an outdoor yoga or workout session at a park. Since we couldn’t enjoy any of the outdoor activities, we stopped at a bookstore on our way back home. I know that doesn’t sound too exciting, but I can spend a whole day at a bookstore and be happy! 🤓


Lastly, be flexible! If things don’t go as planned (in our case, scattered thunderstorms), don’t stress over the changes and just go with the flow, reminding yourself that it’s going to be an opportunity to make great memories with your friends! 💖


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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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 Niyamas, Pt. 2: Santosha

Phrases such as “The grass is greener on the other side” and “FOMO” is a common phrase and acronym used often to describe the desire of being somewhere else other than the place we are currently at.  The sanskrit word, Santosha, means contentment.  Santosha is the second Niyama which is one of Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga

Many people mistake happiness to be synonymous to contentment.  Paul states in Philippians 4:12, I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  Paul learned the secret of being content in every situation that he was faced with: He was a Pharisee who had a significant conversion to Christian discipleship, experienced the highs and the lows of being a missionary, and he was imprisoned twice, with the latter one resulting in eventual execution.  I’m sure there were moments that Paul did not feel happy, but he somehow remained content.

After much contemplation of scriptures and prayers throughout the years, here’s my conclusion:


CONTENTMENT IS A COMPLETE SURRENDER AND UNCONDITIONAL TRUST IN GOD

One of the things I love doing is taking long road trips with my family.  Throughout the years, we have driven to many states spanning from California all the way to Massachusetts as well as many of the states along the way and then some).  My husband prefers to do the driving through the busy cities while I prefer to take over the driving through long stretch of (what seems to be) nothingness.  Whether my husband or I are doing the driving, my daughter sits in the back and reads, plays games, naps, sings and chats with us without worrying about anything.  Even when we had to drive through a massive summer rainstorm in Alabama or in dense fog in the nighttime through the mountains in Utah, she was content.  This contentment came from knowing that even though the last leg of the trips feel like they last forever, she fully trusted that mom and dad are responsible drivers and that as long as it is up to us, we will protect her and have her best interest in mind.  This is a great lesson that I try to remember when I’m not feeling content.


HAPPINESS IS A TEMPORARY FEELING BASED ON TEMPORARY THINGS

Growing up in the United States has great benefits such as freedom of choice, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, opportunities for wealth, many colleges/universities as well as numerous restaurants, shopping centers, recreational facilities and events such as sports and performing arts (although they are currently limited due to the pandemic).  It’s an entertainment paradise.  But in the midst of all the opportunities that we have access to, it’s quite easy to become unsatisfied with what we have.  When we get what we want, we feel happy; but then six months down the line, we see that there’s an upgraded version of what we have… so we become unhappy with what we bought.  Happiness generally seems to be tied to something temporary.  Don’t get me wrong, I believe one can be both content and happy.  I think happiness can be a byproduct of contentment, but it’s the state of contentment that will last even long after the feeling the happiness is gone.

I can honestly say that I’ve been both happy and content.  I can also truthfully admit that I’ve been sad but content… but because of my commitment to striving for contentment, the sadness doesn’t last for too long.  When I feel (emotional) pain, I make every effort to not push it away but rather allow myself to feel it and find contentment in the middle of that pain.


For me, my contentment comes from knowing that God knows exactly what He’s doing with me and that I just need to sit back and enjoy the ride with complete trust that God’s got my back.

 

With Gratitude,
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Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Yama Pt. 5: Aparigraha

As we finish up the last of the 5 Yamas in Patanjali’s “Eight Limbs of Yoga,” let’s do this quick breathing exercise together:

Keep your shoulders relaxed, sitting with spine in neutral.
Take a deep breath in.
Let the breath out.

Now, breathe in again; but this time,
notice how the breath feels as you fill up your lungs with air.
Then breathe out, letting that breath go.


How did that feel?  Pretty good, I’m sure.  🙂

Aparigraha is sanskrit for Non-Possessiveness.  This covers everything from materialism, hoarding, unhealthy habits… basically, anything that causes attachments outside of God.  Why is practicing Aparigraha so important?  I will break my response into two parts: During and After.

 

During the Practice of Aparigraha

One of the greatest challenges of practicing non-possessiveness during this COVID-19 Pandemic is all the online shopping that is practically being shoved in front of our faces. When I checked my e-mail yesterday afternoon, I had 73 Unread messages, and almost all of them were e-mails from retailers notifying me of a sale, a coupon code, or a new promotional item.  I think I’ve only shopped from maybe 7-8 of those retailers, and I generally delete those e-mails; but once in a while, an e-mail subject line will catch my eye if it mentions a 50%-75% off sale.  I will click on the e-mail and start browsing on their online store, feeling the temptation to buy the leggings or the eyeshadow palette just because they’re on sale.  I may even add them to my cart, but in the end, I delete them out of the cart because I know that I don’t really need another pair of leggings or another palette of eyeshadow.  Part of what helps me is going back to what the logic part of my brain — the frontal lobe — is telling me.

When we’re practicing non-possessiveness, we allow ourselves to receive the enjoyment and the nourishment of the object/people/situations but we don’t become attached and/or addicted to it.  We begin to understand that we can not look at tangible things the same way that we look at non-tangible things.  Tangible things are temporary, whereas non-tangible things are eternal.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,
since what is seen is temporary,
but what is unseen is eternal.”
2 Corinthian 4:18

After the Practice of Aparigraha

Another thing I’ve been seeing a lot online is ads for weight-loss and fitness programs.  Most of these ads show the “Before” and “After” photos of people that have successfully lost weight or gained muscle-definition using their program.  Just like how the “After” photos show the benefits of the program, you see the benefits of practicing non-possessiveness after you actually practice it.  By not buying things that you don’t really need, you will have money in your bank account, you won’t have a credit card bill at the end of the month (which would included a monthly interest rate that you will have to pay), you will actually enjoy the things that you already have, and you won’t have to worry about somehow making more room in your home for the things you just bought.  You may even notice that you feel happier from not being ruled by a life of excess.  You’re able to make space in your heart and your soul for more experiences, more freedom, and more joy.  This brings about a sense of empowerment to move forward without dragging a big, heavy load of things that will only slow you down from your ultimate, divine purpose in your life.

In the beginning this blog, I invited you to do a breathing exercise.  The air that you breathed in nourished your body and kept you alive; but what would’ve happened if you held on to that breath and not let it out?   That very breath which was meant to nourish you would have become toxic to your body.  Just like the breath, the tangible things in this world are not necessarily bad; but if we don’t learn to enjoy them and then let them go, they will end up become toxic to our spiritual growths.

Each of the five Yamas that I have spoken in these past five weeks — Ahimsa (Non-Violence), Satya (Truthfulness), Asteya (Non-Stealing), Brahmachaya (Non-Excess), and Aparigraha (Non-Possessiveness) — make up the restraints and moral codes that build on the previous Yama.  Next week, I will begin the topic of the second limb of Yoga which is Niyamas.

With Gratitude,
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CHRISTIAN YOGI’S PERSPECTIVE ON YAMA PT. 4: BRAHMACHARYA

Brahmacharya — loosely translated to non-excess or moderation — is made up of two words, brahman which means “the divine” or “ultimate” and charya which means “the path”.  So put together, brahmacharya means the path of the divine.  When one is on the path of the divine, they live and make choices avoiding selfish motives.  To be on the path of the divine requires us to let go of idolatry in order to continue the journey to the Self, the one that God has created us to be. 

To claim that we all struggle with idolatry may sound harsh, but it does not make it any less true.  The dictionary defines idolatry as, “extreme admiration, love, or reverence for something or someone.”  The Bible defines idolatry as anything that one puts before God. 

“Do not worship any other gods besides me.” Do not make idols of any kind, whether in the shape of birds or animals or fish. You must never worship or bow down to them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not share your affection with any other god.”
Exodus 20:3-5

(On a side note, when God said that He’s a jealous God, it doesn’t mean a resentful jealousy; He’s referring to a protective, zealous, loving claim on His children.)

As a Christian living in the United States, I’m bombarded with struggles toward materialism, addiction to social media, and over-indulgence of the senses whether it be delicious foods, staying up late, binge-watching Netflix, etc.  Late last year, I started thinking about living a simpler life with less things.  Being that my family and I made a move from North Carolina to Texas in the middle of the pandemic (you can read all about it here), we had the opportunity to get rid of a lot of stuff (you don’t realize how much you’ve accumulated until you start packing for a move).  Getting rid of things was a lot harder than I had expected.  It felt like as we sold and gave away furniture, kitchen items, clothes, electronics, etc., we were letting go of the memories that were attached to them.  We live in such a sentimental world with heightened emotions where the media tells us to “listen to your heart” and “YOLO.”  But the problem of living an emotion-based life is that it causes you to put your utmost importance on pleasures of the flesh.  Not that we shouldn’t enjoy a refreshing watermelon or even a delicious piece of chocolate cake, but if our attention is more on these things than on God, they become idols in our lives. 

In the beginning of 2019, I had the privilege of taking a weekend certification workshop from the famous yoga teacher Nikki Myers, who said that co-dependency is also an addiction where “the belief that something outside of ourselves – people, places, things, behaviors or experiences – will bring fulfillment and joy.”  I think this can be said of almost everyone.  One could argue and say that if this is the case, we must get fulfillment and joy from within ourselves (and not from God).  But have you ever tried to make yourself experience fulfillment and joy without anything or anyone?  In my opinion, I don’t think it’s possible to not be co-dependent.  You can either be co-dependent on God, or your can be co-dependent on people, places, things, behaviors or experiences for that fulfillment and joy.  I believe that the latter way of living creates idolatry.  As a Chrisitian who uses yoga philosophy as a tool to enhance her faith and relationship with God, I practice brahmacharya — the way of the divine (aka the way of Jesus Christ) — by choosing to find moderation while living in this world so that I can ensure I don’t become self-indulgent on the pleasures of this world.

“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.”
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

With Gratitude,
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Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Yama Pt. 1: Ahimsa

Ahimsa is Sanskrit which translates to Non-Violence.  This is the first of five Yamas, which is one of the eight limbs of Yoga found in Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.  You may be thinking, “Wait, I thought you’re a Christian.  Isn’t that book (and other ancient yogic texts) part of the Hindu religion?”  In the famous words of one of my great teachers Nikki Myers, “It depends.”  As I’ve explained in my previous blogs, Yoga itself is not a religion; it’s a tool to help you get closer to meeting your Self, which is the core of your authenticity by God’s design.  If you’re a Hindu and use the Yoga and its texts as part of your belief, then yes, it is a part of the Hindu religion.  But that could be said of any religious beliefs and faiths.  If you’re Buddhist and use the same practices and texts to enhance your Buddhist faith, then it is absolutely a part of the Buddhist religion.  You see where I’m going with this, right?  When I use Yoga and its philosophies as a tool in my walk with God, it becomes a Christian practice because I’m a Christian who is practicing Yoga.  Now that we got that out of the way, let’s get back to the subject for today’s blog.  😉

Ahimsa, aka Non-Violence, refers to actions, thoughts, words, feelings… basically, everything.  Romans 12:17 reads,  “Do not repay evil for evil.  Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”  Ahimsa towards those who you feel like don’t deserve kindness, grace and mercy.  Ahimsa towards that person who cut you off and then flipped you off.  Ahimsa towards that person that backstabbed you or spread rumors about you.  Yoga Philosophy advises the Yogi to practice Ahimsa; The Bible shows you how.

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Proverbs 15:1

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Luke 6:31

Another aspect of Ahimsa is Non-Violence toward yourself.  This goes beyond physical self-harm.  When was the last time you said something negative about yourself out loud or in your mind?  Comments such as, “Ugh, I’m so fat,” “I wish I was as pretty as her,” “I’m so stupid,” create negativity in our hearts and minds… and ultimately, it effects our spirit.  1 Corinthians 6:19-20 reads, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.”  We are spiritual beings that have been gifted this human body to reside in while we’re here on earth.  Our bodies are a gift from God, so when we speak negatively about His gift, it breaks His heart.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
Psalm 139:13-14
“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
Psalm 139:16

A Japanese Scientist named Masaru Emoto conducted a research on how the human consciousness and intentions can effect the molecular structure of water.  He did several experiments observing the physical effect of words, prayers, music and environment on the structure of water. He hired photographers to take pictures of water after  exposing them the various words and phrases (some positive like “Thank you” and some negative like, “You make me sick”) and froze them until they formed crystalline structures.  The photos that were taken showed that the water that was exposed to positive words and phrases formed beautiful, symmetrical crystals; however, the water that was exposed to negative words and phrases formed jagged, disturbing, asymmetrical crystals.  An adult human body is made of approximately 60% water; and the heart and the brain is composed of approximately 73% water.  So if Dr. Emoto’s theories are true (which I personally believe they are), the words we speak to ourselves and others have the potential to change the way a person thinks, feels and acts.

I pray that through positive words and displaying unconditional kindness to ourselves and others, we will live out Ahimsa throughout our lives.  Stay tuned for my blog next week on the second Yama, Satya (truthfulness).

 

With Gratitude,
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My Personality Type

Do you ever feel like you were going full speed ahead toward the light at the end of the tunnel for a while; and then when you get to that light, you come out of the tunnel, not knowing what to do next?  Well, this is how I felt last week.  This entire summer, I had been turning down pool time with friends and other weekday activities so that I can focus on completing my 300-hour Advanced Yoga Teacher Training (AYTT).  Last week, I found myself trying to fill my schedule with back to back things because that’s what I had gotten used to doing prior to graduating from the AYTT program.  I took on two more weekly vitual classes, and I got busy with researching for and booking our upcoming family vacation in December.  I also started catching up on some FaceTime chats with friends, took time to read a book, take a walk around the neighborhood, and taught a couple of virtual meditation classes for a healthcare company in North Carolina.  By the end of the week, I felt exhausted!

It is in my nature to just go, go, go.  It is also in my nature to be extremely lazy.  I tend to be an extremist, so balance is something I’m constantly working on.  So to create more self-awareness and balance in my life, I do what I always do:  I spent more time in meditation, prayer, and looking over at my bookshelves.  On my left bookshelf, I have my Christian Faith books as well as books on natural health, nutrition and fitness; on my right bookshelf, I have my yoga-related books which includes books on asanas (physical postures), meditation, and yoga philosophy as well as books on neuroscience and energy science.  Whenever I start to feel an imbalance coming on, I usually pick up one (or more) of these books and read either the entire book or use it as a reference to help inspire or ignite something in me that helps me feel refreshed.  Anyway, I had been glancing at my book on Enneagrams for several days, so I finally went online and took a quiz.  I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but my Enneagram Type is Four, “The Individualist.”  It was really interesting how accurate it was, but the struggles of a Type Four were humbling.  According to Enneagram Institute, Type Fours feel different from everyone (that’s me), and they struggle with the fear of having no identity or personal significance (also me).  There are many other accurate things on that list, but I am grateful that through my faith and my purpose in life (which I discovered during my journey in Yoga and Meditation), I don’t struggle as much with other things on the list such as low self-esteem and negative self-image.  Don’t get me wrong, I still struggle from time to time with my physical appearance just like anyone, but I have — for the most part — learned to accept and love the way that God has created me.

It is so important to take time out for self-assessment.  More than ever, it is so important that we stay connected with how we feel, what we think, and who we truly are.

What’s your Enneagram Type?  I’d love to hear from you!

 

With Gratitude,
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