Oprah/Chopra and A Friend

I just love the Oprah/Chopra rhyme! I believe it’s more than coincidence that their names sound so similar. Maybe God/the Universe/Higher Being thought we needed both the male and female version at the same time on earth to make a bigger impact than either of them could have singularly.

Anyway, as you know, I am a big fan of their 3 week meditation challenges because it’s an easy way to get the family involved. They have another one beginning on August 11th and the theme this time is Expanding Your Happiness.

If you’ve done any of their previous meditations, you know that they always begin with a mantra which is simply a word, phrase, or sound repeated to help you get past your thoughts and deeper into your spiritual awareness. What I didn’t know, is that while there are many universal mantras, each of us also has our own personal mantra that is determined by the time, place, and date of our birth.

My dear friend, Armenia, has just completed the second in a three part teaching program from the Chopra Center and is teaching meditation and Ayurveda both locally in South Carolina and virtually over Skype. I did a meditation class with her which was great and it entitled me to my own special mantra. Since I have a pretty strong meditation practice that does not involve mantras, I was surprised by how much affinity I had for the one she gave me. It immediately became a part of my daily experience.

Since my kids were familiar with mantras in general from the Oprah/Chopra meditations, I gifted them each their own personal mantra through Armenia for their summer birthdays. They probably would have preferred an actual birthday party at this age, but I’m hoping over the course of their lifetime, they will forgive me my lack of entertaining capability and appreciate this gesture more. Armenia did an absolutely brilliant job relating meditation to their level, teaching them how to use their mantra, and keeping the kids engaged–no easy task for most subjects let alone, something as vague as meditation. If you’d like your own personal mantra, or to learn more about mediation or the Ayurveda lifestyle, check out Armenia’s website and her blog .

Remember to sign up for the Oprah/Chopra mediation series next month and see if you can get your family involved, too:)! It would also be great if you sign up for Deepak’s special worldwide meditation on August 8th. He is going for the Guinness world record and the intention is for peace. Here is the link to sign up for that one time event http://globalmeditation.chopra.com. Finally, here is a good article with a video clip of Oprah interviewing Deepak as they prepared for their first 21 day challenge.  I think both the article and clip will get you inspired for these upcoming events.

Let me know how it goes for you:). In the meantime, so hum!

Books, Books, and More Books

I just finished reading, Year of No Sugar: A Memoir, by Eve Schaub which was recommended to me by a loyal blog reader based on this post. This was an easy, fast, and light read, but inspiring nonetheless. I learned a lot. For example, I had a bias against processed food and especially high fructose corn syrup (duh, that’s a no brainer, right!?), but did not acknowledging the same biological effects on the body from what I deemed “good” or at the very least, “better”, sources of sugar such as my beloved maple syrup and molasses. I highly recommend this book for anyone trying to swim upstream against the tide of sugar pushed on us from all directions. Schaub talks a lot about another book, Sweet Poison, by David Gillespie which I hope to get on the docket soon. There are also a bunch of youtube videos about this topic from Dr. Lustig who does a great job of translating the science terminology into plain English.  Anyway, this is a subject near and dear to my heart so definitely wanted to pass along! Thanks for the recommendation, Emma!

On to more spiritual material, I just finished Spirit Junkie, by Gabrielle Bernstein. It’s also a light read as it’s mainly her personal story, but that can be inspiring, especially to younger folks. I especially liked her stories of synchrodestiny and her encounter with John of God. I didn’t love this book, but the one thing I took away from it was her breathing exercise. You start with 5 seconds — breath in for 5, hold for 5, out for 5, hold for 5.  At one point, I’d worked my way up to 10, but now I’m back down to 6. I wouldn’t do this while driving, but it’s a quick way to get present and in the center of your head. Funny how not having oxygen is a way to get your priorities straight instantly.

I have no idea how I got through, The Case for God, by Karen Armstrong as it’s a 400+ page history of beliefs since the cave men. It was probably only due to the fact that I was listening to rather than reading it. While I found it interesting in parts, I’d only recommend it if you’re a history buff, anthropologist, or just plain highly academic. My motivation to continue was that I kept thinking I’d get to some important spiritual wisdom, but it was more just laying out the history of humans evolution on faith. I’m glad I read it, but wouldn’t feel comfortable actually giving it a recommendation.

After that academic exercise, I was in need of light read so I picked up May Cause Miracles, again by Gabrielle Bernstein. I listened to this one as well, but this book lends itself to the written format so you can flip through the different exercises. I think this book would appeal to a younger person just starting to explore their spirituality. Having said that, it could be fun to have it on your nightstand and just open it up and try whatever exercise comes up.

I read a couple of books by Mark Nepo recently, The Book of Awakening and Seven Thousand Ways to Listen. I’m not sure if it was the format or the actual books themselves, but I listened to the first one and enjoyed it, but had a physical book for the second one and just couldn’t get into it.  Nepo is a poet so his writing isn’t that linear or easy to follow, for me at least, but his voice is beautiful so I enjoyed listening to his narrative. I can’t say exactly what I learned, but I truly did enjoy The Book of Awakening. Wow, how is that for inarticulate?!?! Oh well, hopefully you get my point:)…

Finally, I picked up The Seeker’s Guide, by Elizabeth Lesser. The print was really small on my version or probably more truthful is that my eyesight isn’t what it used to be, but either way, this was a tough book for me to get into. So tough in fact, I didn’t finish it even though I have a feeling it was worthy. There was one chapter, however, I really enjoyed on dying and helping people who are in the process of dying. If you find yourself in that situation, I think it was chapter three. My apologies, I get these books from the library and often have to turn them in before I get the chance to write about them.

I have a few more to review, but I’ll save them for next time… In the meantime, would love to hear what your reading and loving and learning!

Mindset and Fail Fast, Fail Often

As you may recall from my last book recommendation post, I was going to ask my husband to read, Mindset, for my Mother’s Day gift. I’m happy to report he did just that and since he liked it, I asked both him and my 13 year old son to read my new fave, Fail Fast, Fail Often, by Ryan Babineaux. I event sent it to my niece for her 8th grade graduation.

Fail Fast, Fail Often is a quick and easy read, and super motivating! I hadn’t thought of myself as a fearful person, but wow, as I read through the book and became more conscious of how, as just one example, I research things to death (Consumer Reports anyone?), I started breaking through layers of inertia, fear, etc. and just started doing/trying more things more often.

For example, a couple of weekends ago, a friend of ours told us about a fun one-mile race he and his family were doing in our town. It sounded fun, but this was less than two days before the event. Prior to reading this book, I would have just thought, “gosh, that sounds fun.” Maybe I would have put it on the calendar to try to schedule for next year.

But down deep, I really wanted to run the race with the kids…this year. Inspired by my new mantra, “fail fast, fail often,” I looked up the race website and found out it was possible to still register the day of the event, however, there were no details on where or how that could be done. Luckily, my husband was supportive and we both agreed that we’d just give it a shot knowing that the whole thing might be a “total fail” as my tweens like to say. We got up early and headed to the event not knowing how or if any of the logistics would work.

We scrambled a bit initially, but it did indeed work. We had a fantastic time, and the kids and I were bonded for the week afterward as as we limped around with our sore leg muscles.

My son tearing it up with my five fingers.

My son tearing it up with my five fingers.

My daughter screeching by me...

My daughter screeching by me…

A few days later, my husband told me about a monthly community bike ride that was scheduled for the next day at 7:30pm and that he thought it sounded fun. Anyone who knows me, knows that this suggestion would normally have been met with a big fat, No Way, Nada, Zilch, NOT Happening, especially on a school/work night. I am fanatical about sleep, not only mine, the kids as well. But, I threw caution to the wind and repeated my now beloved mantra, fail fast, fail often, and agreed to go.

The next night rolled around and  while every ounce of my being wanted to have some hot chocolate and crawl into bed with a good book, I helped rally the kids who were understandably perplexed since we didn’t normally do this sort of thing so late. Nevertheless, off we rode, even with one kid in tears. When we arrived, we realized it was not a family friendly event in that most of the 20 something crowd were drinking and smoking — not just cigarrets. “Mom, they’re sharing smokes,” one of the kids observed with bewilderment. “Haven’t these people heard about germs?!?” the other questioned. We waited for awhile, but ended up leaving before the ride started because it was getting dark and cold. This outing indeed, seemed like a “total fail”, but even that was kind of exhilarating that we were actually living by the book’s mandate, fail!

Then, as we were riding home, and it was really dark and cold by now,  fail fast, fail often whispered to me and we decided to surprise the kids and stop for ice cream. This was even more out of the norm for us so the kids were elated. We celebrated our unusual outing and that we’d all pushed ourselves out of our comfort zones.

In hindsight and going back to synchronicity for a minute, I think one of the best parts (dare I say higher purpose?) of this bike ride, was that  some friends of ours who “happened” to see us on our way to the starting spot, stopped their car to say hello and ask if we were going to their party on Saturday night. I’d been having issues with my email and hadn’t received the invitation. We ended up going to the event and having an incredible time! Had we not ventured out and “happened” upon them, we would have missed this magical evening.

I love what this book has done for me! It’s made trying and possibly failing quite fun! If you’ve ever heard me talk about “perfect pictures” in one of our readings, then this is the book for you! If I start cooking and/or, egads, actually entertaining, then we know it’s a miracle maker. You never know, stranger things have happened:)!

Book Recommendations

I’ve had the good fortune of reading some excellent books recently and wanted to share them with you.

Mindsetby Carol Dweck, was recommended by my son’s 4th grade teacher. It describes the difference between a fixed and growth mindset. It’s chock full of fascinating examples of sports figures, business leaders, etc. I was so inspired to learn how to foster a growth mindset within myself and then extend that to our family, that I’m going to ask my husband to read this book as my Mother’s Day gift!  That’s an easy win for him!

by Michael Thompson. I’m still in the middle of this one, but Thompson gives fascinating insights into the minds of tweens and teens. I feel like I’m playing catch up trying to figure out my own three kids in this age group. I probably should have been reading these types of books a couple of years ago to prepare myself, but better late than never.

All Joy, No Funby Jennifer Senior. This is a brand new book released just this year. When I first started it, I thought it should be mandatory reading for every couple contemplating having children since it talks about the effects children have on any parent, whether they are straight, gay, married, single, a grandparent, etc. For anyone who is in or has gone through the baby stage, it’s pretty obvious how you’ve been affected. Luckily, I continued to read on despite having passed the baby stage long ago. The author goes on to describe the various ways older children, and in particular the teenage years, impacts parents. It’s worth getting to the last chapter which describes the difference between happiness and joy and how that relates to parenthood.

Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living, by Pema Chodron. I haven’t abandoned my love of spiritual literature despite the immersion program I’ve plunged myself into as I wade through the new waters of parenting tweens/teens. Chodron has a number of books out and I’ve listened to several. I particularly like the ones she reads herself, like this one, as her voice is soft and soothing. A lot of what she teaches is new to me and it feels like learning a foreign language. I have to listen and learn and forget over and over again. Hopefully at some point, I’ll learn the terms and better yet, be able to practice them in the moment. In the meantime, I’m happy to recommend both this book and it’s author if you haven’t already discovered her for yourself.

What have you been reading and/or listening to that you’d like to share?

Planet Earth, Our Larger Body

As you know, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE working with, reading about, and discussing all things related to energy and spirituality. I thought I also had a good connection with my body since I eat well, exercise regularly, and prioritize sleep much to the dismay of anyone trying to reach me after 8pm.

That was before…before, I don’t even know what to call it…before I signed up for a seemingly innocuous Women’s Renewal Retreat.

Let me back up. I started this body/nature journey, ironically enough, during an energetic reading I received last fall. I asked why it was so difficult for me to go away on a girl’s weekend–it had been years since I’d gone away on my own. We did some energy work around this issue and that was that. I kept trying to “think” of something to do to force myself to get away, but nothing attracted me until one day in late December. I received an email about a Women’s Renewal Weekend in January promising some rituals around letting go of the past and consciously creating the new.  Bingo! This trip was meant for me.

Little did I know, literally until I arrived onsite, that the weekend involved an overnight aloneout in the wilderness, with just a sleeping bag–no tent, no fire, nada. Had I known this, I probably wouldn’t have signed on, so maybe the universe closed my eyes to that part of the description. While I was definitely not looking for a spa pampering or Vegas party weekend, I hadn’t counted on roughing it so much that we had to dig holes for our human scat and spend the night in complete isolation. Before we each left the group to find our own sleeping spot out on the land, we were given a brief lecture on the different defense techniques for various wild animals such as mountain lions, bears and bobcats. Oh My!

The weekend focused primarily on tuning into our mother earth which is our larger body. That is why we secure our energetic grounding from our body to the center of the earth. It’s one thing to look at a beautiful sunset or enjoy a glass of wine in your back yard, but it’s a whole different experience to walk barefoot in a wide open meadow and then to sleep there under the stars all alone with only the sounds of wildlife around. I had vivid dreams during the short periods I slept. It was physically uncomfortable and emotionally challenging, but when the sun rose and I could just lay there watching it, I felt incredibly peaceful and supported by our incredible mother earth. I know it sounds cliche and hokey, but it was powerful.

In addition to our solo overnight, we did a number of rituals as a group including sage cleanses, tribal councils, journaling, building fires, sharing meals, and singing. I returned Sunday evening paradoxically both exhausted and refreshed. A true Renewal.

I’ve done two more days and another weekend, each getting progressively more challenging which I’ll post about soon. I just wanted to start here because I’ve experienced some tangible shifts in how I relate, not only to nature, but to my own body as well, not to mention it’s Earth Day week:). I thought by sharing this first experience, it might provide some inspiration to get outside, be in nature, go barefoot in the grass, listen to the birds–anything to get in touch with your larger body, Mother Earth.

Feel free to share what you do to physically connect to our Earth…

Did You Notice…??

If you are doing the Oprah/Chopra (just love the rhyme of that:)) 21 day Meditation Experience this time around, did you notice the Message of the Day tab to the right of the play button?

I hadn’t until yesterday so thought I’d point it out in case you’d missed it, too. I don’t know if it has been there all along and we’ve missed all of that wisdom from their past meditation challenges or if it is new to this series and we’ve missed just 7 days. In either case, I wanted to mention it because the “messages” are succinct, powerful, and I’ve found a great way to get the kids settled down and focused before the meditation actually starts.

There is also a Journal tab to the right of the Message of the Day tab if you’d like to keep an online journal about your experiences.

If you haven’t started it yet, there’s still time to sign up. They only allow you to have access to each day for 5 days so you’ll just have missed the first few days if you sign up today. Here’s the link… https://chopracentermeditation.com/

If you are doing the series, I hope you’re enjoying it as much as we are:)!

 

Not So Sweet Stuff

Sugar! One of my kids craves sugar like crazy. Admittedly, I have sweet tooth myself so I can sympathize, but at least I’m enough of a health nut to attempt to satisfy it with dark chocolate or a fresh cookie or pastry (my treat of choice) as opposed to downing an entire bag of candy (his treat of choice).

How does he get said candy, you might be asking? Well, he’s a worker. He’ll set up a lemonade stand or dog sit for a neighbor or ask to do money chores around the house. I hem and haw and whine and complain about him buying candy. I educate the whole family about health and nutrition. I try incentives like offering a 10% bonus for every dollar put in the bank. We try and try, but this kid’s greatest thrill is walking down to the gas station to buy a bag of crack candy. And then, he’s such a generous one, that he buys for any other kid around, too, which is really sweet, pardon the pun.

The conundrum is that part of growing up is learning about money. Spending it on candy and then not having it available for something else desired is a great life lesson and one you want your kids to learn earlier in life than later when the stakes are higher. But then, there’s that blasted sugar problem because it’s addicting, some studies proving even more addictive than cocaine. I struggle balancing the fine line between allowing the joys of childhood and enabling the addiction.

If you’re interested in the subject, check out this 60 Minutes report on sugar and/or this short article from Oprah’s website, both of which might inspire you to have more awareness of the effects of sugar on our lives. A friend of mine recently told me she’s taken sugar out of her diet and has loved the results–lost weight, less cravings, etc. Any ideas on doing a sugar detox for kids? Bring ’em on in the comments section below. Please! Thanks, as always, for sharing!

Synchrodestiny with the Man Himself

March 11th was the date I posted about the Deepak Chopra books I’d recently read which included a couple on synchrodestiny– the beauty and significance of coincidences. Well, if this isn’t synchrodestiny, I don’t know what is, but about 10 days later, I received free tickets to see Deepak himself, live, here in Santa Barbara! Not only that, but, thanks to my proactive and thoughtful husband, I was able to attend a small (50 person) dinner with Mr. Chopra the night before his headliner. In my wildest dreams I would not have considered that a possibility and then, within the blink of an eye, it all happened effortlessly.

Deepak

 Thank you, Vivienne, for taking this picture for me!

The synchrodestiny of these incredible opportunities gives me chills and thrills. I was also fascinated to discover what an incredibly intelligent and active person Deepak is. Although his energy would make one think so, he is not just sitting and meditating all day. Besides being a prolific author with 75 titles to his credit, he’s actively engaged in all sorts of organizations and foundations. He teaches a business class at Columbia, mentors young entrepreneurs, teaches a wide variety of courses at his center in San Diego, etc.

His talk at the dinner focused on everything from Stephen Hawking level discussions on the cosmos, all the way down to my level of understanding–meditation. The lecture on Friday had almost no overlap and covered topics ranging from changing the consciousness of business, especially Wall Street, to his latest discoveries on health and consciousness, and of course…meditation.

He also spoke about creating peace and happiness universally through each of our own individual commitments to these states of being. One comment that stood out for me was this equation for happiness:  H=S+C+V

Happiness=Set Point in the Brain+Conditions of the Brain+Voluntary Actions This link is to a video of him describing the different components of the formula, but the main part I remember is that the way to raise your basic happiness level set point in the brain is through meditation. So for all of us who are longing for some tangible benefits to meditation, there’s a huge bonus!

Thank you, Universe, for arranging those spectacular coincidences!

Eating Meditation

I had long grown tired of our family’s rapid-fire “prayer” before meals — Bless us o Lord, for these thy givvs ich eee mumble, mumble, mumble…Amen! dig in!

Doubtfully, those rashly recited words without any feeling or thought behind them constituted an actual “blessing,” especially when it was commenced with fast eating, little to no discussion, or worse, bickering.

I was thrilled, then, when I recently found the following Eating Meditation from the Deer Park Monastery website. You can read the whole meditation from the link, but here are the five contemplations we now say before meals:

This food is a gift of the earth, the sky, numerous living beings and much hard work.
May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude so as to be worthy to receive it.
May we recognize and transform our unwholesome mental formations, especially our greed, and learn to eat with moderation.
May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way that we reduce the suffering of living beings, preserve our planet and reverse the process of global warming.
We accept this food so that we may nurture our brotherhood and sisterhood, strengthen our sangha and nourish our ideal of serving all beings.

Sangha means community so I just substitute “family” to keep it simple. I love this prayer/blessing/meditation, whatever you want to call it, and I do believe it has helped us be more contemplative. Now, if I can just learn to love preparing those meals!