Life Lessons

Kripalu life coaches share their experiences and pearls of wisdom.

Posted on October 29th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Life Lessons, Meditation

Meditation in Action

How meditation can help you be a better friend.

Meditation has long been celebrated for all it can do for us, among the benefits: lower blood pressure, reduce stress, help us sleep, and even possibly help us lose weight. But a recent study also found that meditation might help us be better friends and partners. Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta found that many participants who had practiced eight weeks of meditation showed significant improvement in their ability to identify the emotions of people in photos based on their expressions. That is, they were more in tune with the feelings of others.

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Permission to Practice

Let me simply say that I didn’t just fall off the mat. Recently, confronted with life on life’s terms, I plummeted, plunged, and wildly tumbled, losing all foothold to the practices that give me perspective and trust. There is good news in this tale though I found my way back relatively quickly. But, in this breach, I endured much self-inflicted struggle and pain.

This story is canine-related. My dogs, Lucy Kay Doodle and Zac Joey Doodle, are gifts of love and growth for me. In their fuzzy, larger-than-life Muppet-ness, they bring me such lessons.They are shiny mirrors into which I see my behavior, recognize my strengths and growth, and see beyond my old patterns of limited thinking. Simply put, my dogs are my teachers. They help me grow.

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Posted on October 20th, 2012 by in Life Lessons, Yoga

Rituals of Transition: A Shamanic Approach to Moving Beyond Fear and Anxiety

Bo Forbes, guest blogger

According to clinical psychologist and yoga therapist Bo Forbes, the best tactic for overcoming fear and anxiety is to run toward them rather than away. What do we do once we catch up with our fears? As Bo explains in this month’s feature article, the wisdom of tribal societies can offer a context and container for moving forward.

Have you ever attempted to fight off your fear but, no matter how hard you try, it still defeats you? Have you tried to outrun your fear and thought you’d left it in the dust, only to have it overtake you just as you’re starting a new creative project? Or have you felt so paralyzed by fear that you can’t make the smallest move forward, even toward self-care? If so, you’re not alone.

Fear is a universal human experience. Everyone has it, from the guy next door to your yoga teacher to the Dalai Lama, who wrestled with a fear of flying. We can’t expect to get rid of it; nor would we want to, because fear houses the seeds of our potential. Yet fear causes us great physical, emotional, and spiritual distress. So what’s the alternative to fighting it, fleeing from it, or letting it freeze us in place? How do we uncover its seeds and nourish them?

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Posted on October 18th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Life Lessons

The Quest for Authenticity Starts Early

Chip Conley, guest blogger

An excerpt from Emotional Equations: Simple Truths for Creating Happiness and Success

With a successful career in the hospitality industry behind him, Chip Conley says he’s moved from Chief Executive Officer to Chief Emotions Officer. In his new book, Emotional Equations, Chip explores the idea of using math as a way to better understand and manage our emotions. Two of the biggest factors in Chip’s emotional equations are self-awareness and courage, as this excerpt explains.

Infants begin to gain self-awareness between eighteen and twenty-four months of age, when they start becoming conscious of their own thoughts, feelings, and sensations and how they are separate from other people and objects. From that time on, we struggle to fulfill Oscar Wilde’s famous advice “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

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Posted on October 15th, 2012 by in Life Lessons, Meditation, Yoga

Cultivating Inner Strength

Do you suffer from anxiety, poor digestion, or lack of focus? When life’s demands overwhelm us, Angela Wilson, Manager of Evidence-Based Yoga Curriculum for Kripalu’s Institute for Extraordinary Living, explains in her R&R retreat lecture Cultivating Inner Strength, our nervous system gets out of balance. Through the practices of yoga meditation, and mindfulness, however, we can build resilience in order to be fully aware of all our experiences.

As Angela explains, there are two main branches of the nervous system. There’s the sympathetic nervous system, which activates the fight-or-flight response in reaction to stressful situations. It’s a hot, reactive state, which increases heart rate and primes the body for action. The other branch is the parasympathetic nervous system, which is activated when the body is relaxed. The parasympathetic supports a cooling, restful and state. It soothes the system, aids in digestion, and can be fostered through yoga practice.

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Posted on October 13th, 2012 by in Life Lessons, Yoga

Training the Judgy Brain

That girl isn’t pretty enough to be that annoying.

WHAT? WHAT did you just think? Who ARE you?

Oh, right. I’m me. Hi. My name is Valerie and I have a judgmental brain feed that reads like a cross between Mean Girls,The Hangover, and Heathers. It’s stunning to me. But there it is. Judge, judge, judge, all the livelong day.

Swami Kripalu once said, “Every time you judge yourself you break your own heart.” I’m pretty sure that judging others also breaks our heart. That’s partly because we bear the brunt of the poison that burbles up to form a negative judgment, and partly because we’re all energetically connected. I’m convinced that, on some level,we feel each other’s psychic barbs, especially if we intentionally throw them. They’re also the seeds of violence and war.

Harsh, constant judging creates barriers—which at times can actually be helpful. When judgments protect us from maniacs who cause harm, that’s good (yep, I’m judging!). But we also use judgments to protect our hearts from other scary things, like, you know, love. If I’m judging you, then I don’t have to take you in. I don’t have to need you. I don’t have to be vulnerable to you. I’m tough—I’ve got my barbed wire thoughts and they’re protecting me! (Or not.)

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Posted on October 2nd, 2012 by in Life Lessons

A Map of the World

Chris McCann, guest blogger

The Wheel

Through winter-time we call on spring,
And through the spring on summer call,
And when abounding hedges ring
Declare that winter’s best of all;
And after that there s nothing good
Because the spring-time has not come -
Nor know that what disturbs our blood
Is but its longing for the tomb.

This poem by William Butler Yeats has haunted me since I first read it at 15 years old. I moved around a lot as a kid—Boston, New Hampshire, Georgia, New Jersey—and always felt most at home when I was in one place thinking about another. These eight lines by Yeats knocked me over, and made me wonder whether my desire for wandering was simply a self-deluding race toward the grave.

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Posted on September 25th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Life Lessons

The Gift of Abundance

Do you find yourself focusing on what isn’t happening in your life? Perhaps you find yourself stressed out about something that hasn’t even taken place yet, imagining and envisioning its worst-case scenario. As you indulge in these negative thoughts, notice how everything tightens up, both inside and around you. By not living in the moment, scarcity—that feeling of constriction and lack—pulls at us.

By being present in the moment and relaxing into what is happening, doors open wide for us. Abundance is available here, in this very moment, through mindful breath, relaxation, and gratitude.

Consider abundance, not in its usual connotation of wealth and plenty, but in its more energetic experience, as the fullness of spirit, an overflowing of presence that brings us deep connection to the moment.

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Posted on September 12th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Life Lessons

Moving Forward After Cancer

A cancer survivor explores bold new directions

When I plopped into the Radiance program’s opening night welcome circle, I was exhausted. That morning, I had attended the memorial service for my dear friend, Dara, who had passed a week before. A couple hundred people gathered to share stories, laughter, tears, and outrage that this beautiful, lively, loving soul had left at age 40, from cancer.

And now, a train ride and time warp later, here I was in the branch-filled Berkshires, sitting in a back jack, meeting eight cancer survivors and our co-leader Maria Sirois. In that moment, “life after cancer” looked to me like throwing a rose on my friend’s coffin and hearing it thud. It looked like crying myself to sleep every night for the last two weeks.

But as I settled in and heard tales of diagnosis and survival, I remembered: Oh. We’re all still here. In my fellow workshoppers—eight people from their 30s through 50s—I saw stress and fear and bravery and resilience and resistance. I saw myself. Diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma seven years ago at age 31, I had almost been forgetting that I was a survivor, too.

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Posted on September 4th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Life Lessons

Writing Home: Finding Myself Through Journaling

Lisa Pletzer, guest blogger

It was the first day of my junior year of high school, and my English teacher had just handed each of us a blank notebook.

“You’re all going to keep journals this year,” she said. “I’ll periodically collect them to count pages—not to read—so I want you to feel like you can be totally open and honest.” She told us that our final exam would be writing a paper about our observations of how we’d grown through our journal writings from the entire school year.

I’d always loved to write and had kept a diary in the past. But after a bad experience a couple of years before involving my mother reading my diary (“I thought you were writing a book!”) and discovering my growing interest in having sex with my boyfriend, I’d basically sworn off putting anything in writing. But this, I thought, might be different. It was a school notebook, after all. No reason for anyone to go snooping there!

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