The Newness of Things

Photo by Ardi Evans on Unsplash

Hello, dear reader!

It has been several weeks since my last post.

And good ole time, in all its gloriously elasticity, is playing one of its tricks on me again!

Somehow those several weeks feel more like months; like I inadvertently slipped into an entirely different calendar year without even noticing it.

But perhaps that is because in many ways it actually is an entirely different year from what it was last month!

Sure, it may still be 2021, but even just over the past fortnight, so much newness has occurred. 

My own family happens to be Greek Orthodox, and September 1st marks the Ecclesiastical New Year in the Greek church.

The Jewish new year, Rosh Hashana, happened right after that at the beginning of this week.

And just yesterday morning, the academic new year began for both my daughters, who are entering 3rd and 6th grades.

I am also resuming my in-person group classes next week after breaking for summer, so in short, lots of stuff is starting up again.

Newness abounds!

And I have to admit: I am really ready for some newness.

Who in the world knows what it will bring, but it feels exciting and full of potential, at least in my world.

The fact of the matter of course is that newness (or at least the possibility of it) is always present, always available. Sometimes we just feel it more acutely for whatever reasons. 

Those reasons might come from an externally prescribed calendar date, seasonal or lunar cycles, or simply a phone call sharing some unexpected news.

Sometimes new beginnings are slow and deliberate, and sometimes they catch us completely off guard. 

Sometimes they are sparked by events happening in our external surroundings, and sometimes they come from within.

But whenever and however they happen, new beginnings are one of life’s most beautiful mysteries, at least in my book. Scary, yes. But beautiful.

At its best, yoga constantly offers up opportunities for new beginnings.

With its focused attention on the breath, it can allow you to experience each inhale as an opportunity to show up, be present, and embrace that singular moment that has never happened before since the beginning of time.

And each exhale lets you sink into that present moment, to fill it up and really live there even if just for a second.

Yoga can also give you the space to come to terms with whatever past events have brought you to the present moment, so that you can move forward into the future with greater clarity and awareness, releasing the weight of baggage you no longer need.

At its best, yoga itself is an opportunity.

The very first of the yoga sutras (the primary tenets of yoga recorded by the sage Patanjali in the 2nd century BC), “Atha yoga-anushasanam” says simply, “Now begins the study of yoga.”

And that isn’t just Patanjali trying to be a smartass by stating the completely obvious.

His most important emphasis is on the word NOW.

Right NOW is new.

Right NOW is an opportunity.

Right NOW is a chance for a new beginning even if it may not feel that way.

It doesn’t have to be New Year’s to be a new year.

We are gifted that opportunity every single day of our lives.

But it is up to each one of us to rise to the occasion.

To show up.

To begin.

Over and over and over again.

It is never too early or too late.

And thank God for that.



Want to practice yoga with me from anywhere in the world?

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Sign up for the 21-Day Calm Your Mind Challenge! Get a short basic yoga sequence emailed to your inbox daily with links to video instruction with yours truly. It is guaranteed to help you feel calmer in mind and body. And if it does not, I will happily offer a full refund, no questions asked. Sign up here.

Hear what one recent student of the challenge had to say:

“What I discovered was a really comprehensive plan, chock full of tools to help get there. There was a daily yoga sequence that was so gentle anyone could do it, which I truly learned to appreciate. As a teacher, Lauren’s cues throughout were on point for me. She has an overarching peacefulness about her that just feels very honest and genuine. The program is aptly called a “challenge” because there is (at least for me) a real challenge in showing up for yourself consistently for 21 days, even for 20 minutes a day. Today I’m not only calmer, but also feeling stronger and more in-tune with myself. Great experience, totally worth it.”–Phuong S.

Questions about the Challenge?

Shoot me an email at: Lauren@21DayCalmYourMindChallenge.com

Hope Is A Discipline

The Ashokan Reservoir
photo credit:  Livin’ Life With Lori 

Earlier in the week, my family and I took an impromptu day trip to the Catskill Mountains about an hour and a half north of where we live.

It was one of those beautiful end-of-summer days where it was still warm and sunny, but a hint of fall was most definitely in the air.

It was less humid than it had been in weeks, and there was just the faintest whisper of coolness beneath the warmth.

We took a walk by the Ashokan reservoir which supplies almost half of New York City’s drinking water, followed by an outdoor lunch in the sleepy Catskill town of Phoenicia.

All of it was lovely.

On our drive home, we took a winding, scenic route before getting on the New York Throughway. We passed houses of all sorts tucked in the hills, many of which bore various signs sprinkled throughout their yards.

Most of them had political messages with leanings in all directions: conservative, progressive, Democrat, Republican. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Truthfully, all of that has become white noise for me at this point.

But one sign in particular made me stop and catch my breath.

It was homemade, simply painted, no frills. All it read was:

Hope is a discipline.

I have thought about it over and over this past week, especially because of the constant barrage of world events that feel so…well…hopeless.

I guess I have always thought of hope as something that just happens. 

Sometimes you feel it, and sometimes you don’t. 

In this sense, experiencing hope is a pretty passive act.

It feels great when it’s around. But when it’s not? There really isn’t much you can do about it.

But what if feeling hope was in fact not passive?

What if we considered hope as something very active, a “discipline” as the sign suggests?

What if hope was something that we actually practiced instead of just passively waiting for it to either descend or not?

In yoga, the word “tapas” comes up a lot.

No, it does not refer to those delicious Spanish appetizers (although often I wish that it did).

In Sanskrit, the word “tapas” literally means “fire.” And in yoga, that fire is generally thought of as discipline. It is that burning inner conviction that motivates you to hit the mat and do your thing. Day after day after day.

I’ll be honest: I have a very short supply of tapas.

I lack discipline, especially when it comes to my own personal practice.

Too often I wait for the moment to descend where I really want to do my yoga before I actually get to it.

I am too passive about it, and therefore I miss out on many of its full benefits.

The same goes for hope as well.

Too often, I don’t actively practice hope. 

I wait for it to come to me rather than the other way around.

But what if I shifted my mindset to what the sign suggests? What if I practiced hope as a daily discipline? What if we all did?

What if we thought of hope not as some sort of naive, passive, childlike fantasy, but as a strong, fiery, empowering reality?

Something tells me we would be a lot better off, both individually and collectively.

So here is what I am going to do. 

I am going to actively practice hope throughout my day.

I’m not sure exactly what that will look like, but certainly bringing it into my yoga practice is a good place to start.

Hope means showing up.

Hope means not running away.

Hope means being dedicated to the present moment.

And without question, all of that is yoga.

Thank you to the person who put that sign in their yard.

I really needed to read it.

You are totally right.

Hope is a discipline.




Want to practice yoga with me from anywhere in the world?

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Sign up for the 21-Day Calm Your Mind Challenge! Get a short basic yoga sequence emailed to your inbox daily with links to video instruction with yours truly. It is guaranteed to help you feel calmer in mind and body. And if it does not, I will happily offer a full refund, no questions asked. Sign up here.

Hear what one recent student of the challenge had to say:

“What I discovered was a really comprehensive plan, chock full of tools to help get there. There was a daily yoga sequence that was so gentle anyone could do it, which I truly learned to appreciate. As a teacher, Lauren’s cues throughout were on point for me. She has an overarching peacefulness about her that just feels very honest and genuine. The program is aptly called a “challenge” because there is (at least for me) a real challenge in showing up for yourself consistently for 21 days, even for 20 minutes a day. Today I’m not only calmer, but also feeling stronger and more in-tune with myself. Great experience, totally worth it.”–Phuong S.

Questions about the Challenge?

Shoot me an email at: Lauren@21DayCalmYourMindChallenge.com

Union

This weekend I did something wonderful; I attended the wedding of a longtime friend.

It was the first wedding I had been to in a decade.

Weddings, like so many other things in life, seem to happen in seasons.

In my twenties and early thirties, I was at weddings all the time.

But then that stopped, and baptisms and baby showers were more the thing. 

Lately, none of that has been happening, and I almost forgot how wonderful and how important the ritual celebrations surrounding these life events can be.

Watching my friend and her beautiful bride publicly commit not only to their love but to their union this weekend brought me to tears, as it did practically everyone in attendance.

Some of you may already know that the word “yoga” literally means “union.”

And it comes from the same root as the word “yoke,” as in to bind together as one.

Yoga is a bringing together of all the different parts of ourselves: our minds, our bodies, our spirits, our hearts.

And just like any strong marriage, it makes room for all parts of ourselves, even the ones we may not care for too much.

These parts will change and grow and evolve over time. And just like with marriage or any other relationship, they will have their ups and downs.

But the great news is, there is room for all of it.

Every single bit.

This weekend reminded me that we always have the opportunity to commit to ourselves.

And yoga is just one of the many containers through which we can do this.

We can commit to loving ourselves unconditionally; to remaining steadfast with ourselves in both sickness and health and everything in between.

We can commit to laughing and crying, dancing and celebrating.

We can commit to bearing witness to life’s huge events, as well as the small ones that happen every day.

Most of all, we can commit to love in all its forms. And the union that love brings not just into our own lives, but to the lives of everyone around us.

Thank you for reminding me of this, Aimee and Emma.

Thank you for letting me dance and cry and celebrate and bear witness.

Here’s to your union, now and always.



Want to practice yoga with me from anywhere in the world?

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Sign up for the 21-Day Calm Your Mind Challenge! Get a short basic yoga sequence emailed to your inbox daily with links to video instruction with yours truly. It is guaranteed to help you feel calmer in mind and body. And if it does not, I will happily offer a full refund, no questions asked. Sign up here.

Hear what one recent student of the challenge had to say:

“What I discovered was a really comprehensive plan, chock full of tools to help get there. There was a daily yoga sequence that was so gentle anyone could do it, which I truly learned to appreciate. As a teacher, Lauren’s cues throughout were on point for me. She has an overarching peacefulness about her that just feels very honest and genuine. The program is aptly called a “challenge” because there is (at least for me) a real challenge in showing up for yourself consistently for 21 days, even for 20 minutes a day. Today I’m not only calmer, but also feeling stronger and more in-tune with myself. Great experience, totally worth it.”–Phuong S.

Questions about the Challenge?

Shoot me an email at: Lauren@21DayCalmYourMindChallenge.com

Being Born

This past Monday was June 21st. That day happens to be the summer solstice (aka the longest day of the year), and my youngest daughter’s birthday.

Eight years ago in 2013, she came into the world unexpectedly early and with a certain degree of complications.

Thankfully she is completely fine and got that way relatively quickly after her birth.

But this time of year certainly puts me in a state of mind that is hard to describe when I reflect on what all went down eight years ago.

It is a state where seemingly incompatible feelings bump shoulders and co-mingle: fear, joy, relief, uncertainty, desperation, and determination.

I find it a beautiful coincidence that her birthday fell on the longest day of the year, the day with the most amount of light. And in 2013, it also coincided with a supermoon, when the full moon was so close to earth that it looked impossibly huge.

June 21 marks the halfway point of the year in terms of light. After that, the earth slowly contracts towards a shorter day until December 21, when the cycle starts all over again.

I sometimes think of this yearly cycle in terms of the breath (you know, since I’m a yoga teacher and all…we think of EVERYTHING in terms of breath! Could I be more predictable?) 

It’s like from December 21-June 21st the world is taking a deep inhale, filling up with more and more light each day. Then on June 21st it peaks, like that moment of pause at the top of an inhale. From there it starts that passive contraction of the breath out until it empties completely and pauses at the bottom of the exhale on December 21st.

And of course that pause begets another inhale, and on and on we cycle through the end of time.

Since everything we do in yoga is so connected to the breath, yoga offers a great opportunity to align ourselves with the natural and inevitable flow of time.

And really, you don’t need to be doing yoga to align yourself with this. It’s just that yoga harps on the breath so much that it makes it easier to remember to do it!

On the breath in, we too are expanding, filling up, and letting in. And on the breath out, we too are contracting, emptying, letting go.

And when you boil things down to their most essential, this pretty much sums up everything we do (and will do) for our entire lives.

If you buy into this breath/year metaphor, then right now (June 26th as of this writing), we are somewhere near the pause between inhale and exhale. 

And so much can happen during moments of pause.

We can see things a little more clearly.

We can be a little less reactive.

We can be still.

I am going to do my best to really experience this pause. To let myself dwell in it and explore. 

And I heartily encourage you to do the same.

Who knows? 

We might even experience a miracle there.

Like giving birth.

Like being born.


Want to practice yoga with me from anywhere in the world?

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Sign up for the 21-Day Calm Your Mind Challenge! Get a short basic yoga sequence emailed to your inbox daily with links to video instruction with yours truly. It is guaranteed to help you feel calmer in mind and body. And if it does not, I will happily offer a full refund, no questions asked. Sign up here.

Hear what one recent student of the challenge had to say:

“What I discovered was a really comprehensive plan, chock full of tools to help get there. There was a daily yoga sequence that was so gentle anyone could do it, which I truly learned to appreciate. As a teacher, Lauren’s cues throughout were on point for me. She has an overarching peacefulness about her that just feels very honest and genuine. The program is aptly called a “challenge” because there is (at least for me) a real challenge in showing up for yourself consistently for 21 days, even for 20 minutes a day. Today I’m not only calmer, but also feeling stronger and more in-tune with myself. Great experience, totally worth it.”–Phuong S.



Azaleas

Flame Azaleas in my front yard

When is the last time that you changed your mind about something?

I don’t mean something trivial like changing your order at a restaurant or changing an outfit to better reflect your mood.

I mean changing your mind about something you believe to be true, something that goes deeper than the surface.

For me, my most recent change of mind had to do with azaleas. I realize that may sound weird or insignificant, but hear me out.

For as long as I can remember, I have never liked azaleas. As a child growing up in Tennessee, we had a few azalea bushes outside my home. They were the standard pink variety you see all over the place, and for some reason I disliked them intensely. 

Even when healthy and watered, the azaleas always looked dry and thirsty to me. And they seemed to be perpetually faded, even in full bloom. 

What made it worse was that those azaleas seemed to me like they had the capacity to be beautiful, but they always fell short. They just could never seem to meet their full flower potential. It would not be an exaggeration to say those azaleas made me sad, and at times even angry.

So I developed a personal “truth” that I held onto deeply: I hate azaleas.

Now if I was going to psychoanalyze why a flower elicited such strong feelings in me as a kid, I might venture to say that I saw myself in these azaleas. Never quite hitting the mark, quenching my thirst, or achieving a bright enough bloom.

But maybe that isn’t the case at all. Maybe I just really did not like them.

Recently, however, I completely changed my mind about azaleas.

When my family and I left New York City two years ago, we moved into a home previously owned by an avid gardener who had planted a large azalea bush right in the middle of the front yard.

When we moved into our new home, it was winter, and nothing was in bloom. I couldn’t even tell that the bush was an azalea until months later into spring.

As it slowly started to bud, I noticed that it seemed different from the azaleas of my youth. It was robust in a way that the ones I grew up with were not.

And when it blossomed? I was completely and utterly blown away by its beauty.

It blossomed with the brightest orange flowers I have ever seen. Before that, I didn’t even know that azaleas came in orange. That bush was the opposite of anything I had ever perceived as “azalea.”

I now know that it is a variety called a “flame azalea,” which is the perfect description. It is like fire hovering over a bed of bright green.

But why does any of this matter? It’s just a plant after all. And people’s tastes always change over time.

But this was different. 

Something I had always thought of as ugly was suddenly beautiful.

Something I had grown up despising was now something that I loved.

I had changed my mind about azaleas.

Changing your mind about long held beliefs is never an easy task nor is it a quick one.

I would venture a guess that many of us live out our entire adult lives without actually changing our minds about anything substantial. 

Many of us live in a fixed state of mind in terms of our strongly held beliefs. And sometimes that’s not entirely a bad thing. It can keep us from being pulled off-center or losing our integrity. It gives us something concrete to hold onto. 

But if it is not kept in check, it also holds us back from our own growth and self-development. Changing your mind about significant things feels too scary, like becoming untethered to something that was always there before. Like being wrong or admitting defeat. Like leaving the safety of the old for the precariousness of something new.

Of course we need to be strong in our beliefs, but we also need to be flexible.

Having the courage to change your mind about something is a skill that requires both these qualities: strength and flexibility.

In yoga, we are perpetually trying to balance strength and flexibility. In each pose, we try to stay both strong and soft simultaneously. We ground down into the floor as much as we reach for the sky. We try to keep a strong and focused mind as well as a soft and open one. We try to balance making the practice happen with letting it happen. 

And the more we practice doing this, it seeps into our daily lives. We can see what is around us with eyes that are present, not just stuck in mental patterns we developed in our past.

We can see beauty where we always thought it was lacking. 

We can be open to new ideas that propel us into becoming more and more ourselves each day.

Perhaps most importantly, we can allow ourselves the capacity to change, unafraid of losing ourselves along the way.

Changing your mind is powerful, and it is humbling.

It definitely is not an easy thing to do.

But it might lead you to incredible things.

You just might discovera type of beauty that you had no inkling of before.

You might even find that something you once hated, you now fiercely love.

What could possibly be better than that?

Second Snow

These days the only in-person group yoga classes I am teaching happen outside.

And I absolutely love it.

One of the things I love is how it has made me so much more aware of seasonal changes, weather shifts, and how each day truly is unique from any other.

Generally, when we think about the year, we do so in terms of 4 seasons: winter, spring, summer, and fall. But something I am keenly aware of right now is the huge number of little micro-seasons between all of them.

I love thinking of things in terms of micro-seasons because somehow it seems truer, less reductive, and more dynamic than fitting all those shifts into four neat time frames. So much happens in the transitions between seasons, and if we don’t pay attention, we miss them all together.

Often, even within a single hour-long class, there are starkly obvious micro-shifts between how brightly the sun is shining, how cool or warm it is, and how breezy or still the air may be. Sometimes those shifts are not so obvious, but we can still feel them if we pay close enough attention.

One of my personal favorite micro-seasons happens in my backyard every year about halfway through spring. I like to call it “second snow”

Second snow is when the cherry blossoms have peaked and slowly start to wilt and eventually fall from the trees all together. The wind generally speeds this up, and when the blossoms start to swirl and fall in earnest, it is like soft pink snow flurries falling from the sky.

It is absolutely beautiful.

For a brief period, the petals cover the ground so that you can’t even see the grass below. They are soft underfoot, and it feels like you are walking on rose petals.

But it is such a fleeting, transitional period that you can miss it entirely if you don’t pay attention. 

And paying attention does not always happen easily.

One of the things I love most about yoga is that it asks you to pay attention to all of it. It asks you to look at your practice (and your life) not just in terms of discrete parts, but how all those parts relate, shift, and change over time. 

In physical terms, this means that a yoga sequence is not just about the poses themselves but about the transitions between them (which themselves are made up of even smaller micro-transitions).

And the point is to experience all of it; to see the big picture as well as the details.

Stated differently, yoga asks us to hone our vision at the same time it asks us to widen it, which is something we need to do in practically every area of our lives. Yoga just gives us a nice little container in which to practice building that skill.

So the next time you practice yoga, I challenge you to pay attention to all the in-between parts, the micro-shifts, the parts we often skip over or barely see at all.

Because all of it is important. All of it is you. All of it is yoga.


Click here to connect with me and join an amazing community in my free Facebook group, Calm Your Mind; Love Your Life!

http://www.facebook.com/groups/calmyourmindloveyourlife/

Want to practice yoga with me from anywhere in the world?

Sign up for the 21-Day Calm Your Mind Challenge! Get a short basic yoga sequence emailed to your inbox daily with links to video instruction with yours truly. It is guaranteed to help you feel calmer in mind and body. And if it does not, I will happily offer a full refund, no questions asked. Sign up here.

Hear what one recent student of the challenge had to say:

“What I discovered was a really comprehensive plan, chock full of tools to help get there. There was a daily yoga sequence that was so gentle anyone could do it, which I truly learned to appreciate. As a teacher, Lauren’s cues throughout were on point for me. She has an overarching peacefulness about her that just feels very honest and genuine. The program is aptly called a “challenge” because there is (at least for me) a real challenge in showing up for yourself consistently for 21 days, even for 20 minutes a day. Today I’m not only calmer, but also feeling stronger and more in-tune with myself. Great experience, totally worth it.”–Phuong S.

Change

8 day old quail starting to feather out

I have a really hard time with change.

And I’m not talking about the kind that jingles in your pocket. I’m talking about the real deal, life-can-change-on-a-dime type of change.

Some days, it feels like that is all this last year has been. One constant adjustment after another in a seemingly endless stream of “new normals.” Some days, it feels impossible to hang on to anything.

When I’m feeling this way, I often look to my animals for some reprieve. Lately, it has been the quail we hatched in our incubator that are now all of ten days old.

Not only are they unbelievably cute, they change practically right before your eyes. The picture at the beginning of this post was taken when they were only 8 days old, and already you can see that they are losing their baby chick fuzz and are starting to feather out into the mature birds they will become. It’s like they have hit some funny version of quail puberty. It’s awkward and adorable.

We have already had to change their brooder (their little indoor home before they are old enough to live in a coop outside) because they started jumping high enough to jump completely out.

Did you know that quail jump? I didn’t. Apparently, they have a very sensitive startle reflex, and whenever they are surprised (which is often), they shoot straight up into the air. It provides great comic relief when things get too heavy around here.

But the thing I am focused on now is how quickly they change and how utterly ok with it they are.

Change is their nature. And they don’t waste one ounce of energy trying to resist it. Change is their evolutionary instinct, and it is really beautiful to behold.

It reminds me that change is really the nature of everything, including ourselves. Resisting change as it unfolds is as futile as trying to house-train a quail to be so calm that it won’t ever jump out of its brooder. You just can’t do it no matter how hard you try.

One of the things I’m trying to do in my yoga right now is to let myself soften into change. And I mean that in a very literal sense. I literally try to soften and relax my body into my yoga sequence as it changes from pose to pose. I try to soften my jaw and my face as my breath changes from inhale to exhale. I try to soften into the ground beneath me, even when it feels like the ground is falling out from under me. And then in the final resting pose of savasana, I try to imagine softening and dropping down so completely that I become totally non-resistant.

That’s not to say that it always works. But at least I’m trying. And it does help. Just like watching my quail feather out and outgrow their cozy home.

I hope that you are weathering the change of the past year in a way that works for you.

I hope that you are able to soften wherever you can, and most especially, I hope you are able stay soft towards yourself. The world needs that right now. And each on of us deserves that softness.


Want to practice with me? Sign up for the 21-Day Calm Your Mind Challenge! Get a short basic yoga sequence emailed to your inbox daily with links to video instruction with yours truly. It is guaranteed to help you feel calmer in mind and body. And if it does not, I will happily offer a full refund, no questions asked. Sign up here.

“What I discovered was a really comprehensive plan, chock full of tools to help get there. There was a daily yoga sequence that was so gentle anyone could do it, which I truly learned to appreciate. As a teacher, Lauren’s cues throughout were on point for me. She has an overarching peacefulness about her that just feels very honest and genuine. The program is aptly called a “challenge” because there is (at least for me) a real challenge in showing up for yourself consistently for 21 days, even for 20 minutes a day. Today I’m not only calmer, but also feeling stronger and more in-tune with myself. Great experience, totally worth it.”–Phuong S.

Hatching

the eggs after the quail had hatched

Happy spring, dear reader!

My last post showed tiny quail eggs (held in the hands of my youngest daughter) that my family was in the process of incubating in our living room.

And guess what? 9 of the eggs actually hatched!

Out of those impossibly tiny speckled eggs, the absolute cutest creatures cracked through and burst into life full force like horses out of a chute.

And they knew exactly what to do.

Almost immediately, they began running around, eating, drinking, napping. They instinctively knew how to grow, thrive, and become fully themselves.

Honestly, witnessing this was one of the most hopeful, reassuring things in the world.

Watching these quail hatch reminded me that things always continue. They move on. New life is always on the horizon.

It also reminded me that all of us hatch and grow and develop in our own unique ways. But we don’t do it nearly as effortlessly as quail do.

Personally, sometimes growth scares the crap out of me. Even when it is positive growth, it is still scary because it is different, new, and unfamiliar.

As I move forward into this new spring I am excited. But I will admit that I am also a little bit scared.

Things are so different now than they were a year ago. Last year at this time, everything was in lockdown. Going anywhere felt like a risk, and the most innocuous things suddenly felt threatening.

So much has changed in a year. There has been so much loss, so much heartache.

And here we are at the start of a new spring when we are (hopefully) emerging into a something better. To me, it really does feel like a sort of new beginning.

And that is so fantastically awesome. But also quite scary. We are moving into new terrain. And I personally am finding that I am very cautious about my footing. It’s like I don’t quite fully trust the ground beneath me. Truthfully, this is a feeling I have grappled with for much of my life, but right now it feels heightened.

But yoga helps.

One of the great things that yoga teaches is how to always connect with the ground underneath you. It reminds you to consciously feel the floor and to let your body soften into all of the things that are already there supporting you whether you recognize them or not.

Perhaps the greatest support that yoga elucidates (at least for me) is the power of a simple inhale and a simple exhale. These are especially vital for me during periods of change, even when the change is for the better.

When I feel my mind racing ahead to all the What if? scenarios that my imagination can conjure, I can consciously ask my mind to come back, and to follow the sound of my breath in, and the sound of my breath out. To feel the depth of expansion of my inhale, and the full complete release of an exhale. The breath gives my mind an anchor to return to. And I can challenge myself to do this over and over and over again whenever I need it.

Doing this helps me stay present. And I need all the help I can get with that. I have a mind that likes to run away, that lurches, and searches frantically for things to worry about.

But if I recognize when I am falling into my very own traps, I can ask myself to pause, turn back to my breath, and remind myself that I am right here, right now, one single breath at a time.

And if I can be present, beautiful things can emerge. Change can happen exactly as it needs to.

And even though it isn’t instinctive for me like it is for the tiny quail, I can consciously give myself whatever I need in order to grow, thrive, and become fully myself.

And I must do that the only way that anyone ever can: one single breath at a time.

one of the quail

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Candling

Photo of a developing quail egg. Note the veins and the dark mass.
Both photos by Zoe Biniaris
Photo of a non-developing quail egg.
Note the light shining all the way through. No veins or mass.

There are currently 17 quail eggs in an incubator in my living room. They are more than halfway through their incubation period and are due to hatch in about a week.

I have to admit, I’m a little nervous about it. 

What if they don’t make it? What if I do something wrong and a little quail chick dies? 

What if the eggs aren’t fertile?

There is actually a method of checking up on the fertility and development of chicks even while they are still nestled in the eggs. It is called candling.

Basically, it involves shining a bright light on one end of the egg while holding the light flush up against the eggshell.

For a fertilized egg that is growing correctly, first you see veins. It almost looks like a microscopic placenta.

As the egg develops you start to see growth, and sometimes movement.

And it is just astoundingly wonderful to witness.

But then in some other eggs you shine the bright light on it and see nothing. No veins, no dark mass, no movement. For whatever reason, one egg can grow nothing while the egg beside it thrives.

And there is no real accounting for the difference. Presumably they were both handled in the same way. They arrived via the same padded box in the mail. They were placed lovingly into the same cozy environment. And yet one developed while another did not.

I don’t know exactly how to make sense of this, but maybe that is the point. 

Life is mysterious. 

When given the same exact variables, two things can turn out completely differently or not turn out at all.

Watching these eggs incubate, waiting for them to hatch or not to hatch, has been eye-opening for me. I get to witness firsthand the miracle of development or the lack thereof. 

And really, both of those things are miracles. We shine the very same light on them and see completely different things. Sometimes there is mass and substance. And sometimes there is only light.

And really I can’t do very much to determine their outcomes at this point. 

All I can do is bear witness to the mystery, the ability to do which is a mystery in and of itself.

Something I love about yoga is that it is not easily defined. It, too, is mysterious in that sense.

And it is a little like an incubator. It provides a safe and cozy space to lean into the mystery that is you.

It shines a light on the mystery that is your mind, your breath, and your body.

And we honor that mystery the only way that we can: by leaning into it, by bearing witness, by continuing to show up and bring light. 

Want to practice yoga with me? Sign up for the 21-Day Calm Your Mind Challenge!

Cowgirl Yoga

Photo of my Frye boots and me taken by Zoe Biniaris

This morning I did my daily yoga wearing a pair of cowboy boots.

This is not typical yoga behavior nor is it advised to march into your local yoga studio sporting your Frye boots and not leaving them by the door as is customary.

But I wasn’t in a yoga studio.

I was in my own home, and when I’m here, I get to make the rules.

I hadn’t planned on practicing in my boots. But the morning got busy with getting everyone ready for church and out the door. I normally do my yoga in the morning, but I figured today, it would just have to wait. I would get to it later.

But even as I made that decision in my head, I could hear myself whispering, “You know you’re not going to do this later. The day will slip by, and your yoga will fall to the wayside.”

Once I was dressed, I realized (unsurprisingly) that my daughters were nowhere near being ready. They needed more time, and now I had to wait on them.

With this small new pocket of time at my disposal I thought, “Well, might as well get some yoga in.”

One thing that I know about myself is that when I do my simple, short, daily yoga routine, I am MUCH better equipped at dealing with whatever the day throws my way. And whenever I do it, I am also more patient.

Since I was already annoyed at how slowly my kids were moving, I thought it best to try and get my yoga in to deter an anger spiral which I could feel was a distinct possibility.

But I was already fully dressed and ready to walk out the door. And because I am lazy and also didn’t know how much more time the kids would take, I didn’t even take off my boots when I began.

And you know what? It was fine.

It was better than fine in fact because it did give me more patience, and I didn’t get caught in an anger spiral.

It also reminded me that it is fine to do things differently, to shake it up, and to seize whatever moment you can steal to take care of yourself a little. Because who knows when the next opportunity will arise?

The point of this post is not to suggest that you practice yoga in cowboy boots. In fact, it’s a pretty silly thing to do.

You can’t feel the floor. Your toes are scrunched. Since boots have a small heel, you can’t possibility have the correct foot alignment which sets up literally all of the alignment in the rest of your body.

But luckily I am not a purist. And if given the choice between the boot yoga and no yoga at all? I’ll take the boot yoga.

We have to work with what we’ve got. If we wait for some ideal moment to do the things that keep us well, happy, sane, and healthy, we will most likely never get around to it.

I love my yoga. And I also love my Frye boots. Before today, I have never thought of them in the same sentence.

But life has a funny way of forcing us to deal with lots of incongruous parts in whatever way we can.

And that requires creativity.

It also requires us to be imperfect, and to let go of our own rigid perceptions about how we think things ought to be done.

I encourage you to be creative about how you meet your own needs and give yourself love and care. There is no single “right” way to do that. You get to make your own rules. It’s your party. And you can wear whatever kind of shoes you want.

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If you are interested in learning my daily yoga routine so you can incorporate it into your own life, consider signing up for my newly launched 21-Day Calm Your Mind Challenge!

The three week course includes a basic daily yoga yoga sequence that I guide you through on a new video link each day. It also includes breathing techniques, meditations, and guided self-reflections. The whole thing takes about twenty minutes a day and is delivered directly to your email so there are no new logins or passwords to remember.

The purpose of the challenge is to give participants concrete tools for increasing calm, reducing anxiety, and being able to live their lives more fully and with greater joy.

By the end of the challenge, you will feel noticeably calmer than you did on day 1.

The challenge costs less than $5 a day for the whole three weeks, and afterwards you have lifetime access to all course materials.

You don’t need to have done any yoga or meditation before. It is user-friendly, very down-to-earth, and great for all bodies, ages, and abilities. I am confident you will love it, but if you don’t for any reason, I will offer a full refund no questions asked.

Sign up at www.21DayCalmYourMindChallenge.com

A new challenge begins each Monday, and there is still time to sign up for the one that starts tomorrow!

I promise you will love it.

And you can also feel free to email me with any questions at lauren@calmyourmindchallenge.com