New Research on Mindfulness and Forgiveness

Letting go of hard feelings toward another person is one of the most important skills we can learn if we want to sustain healthy relationships throughout our lifetimes. But, in order to forgive someone, we need to pause and see the situation from the other person’s point of view. This can be extremely difficult to do, especially if we feel slighted in some way. New research suggests mindfulness may help.

What the Research Says About Mindfulness and Forgiveness

Scientists at Radboud University in the Netherlands conducted several studies to see if mindfulness, or paying attention on purpose with an open and accepting attitude, is related to our ability to forgive.

In the first study, 160 men and women, 72 of whom reported having a regular meditation practice, completed an online survey about their meditation practice, mindfulness, and their tendency to forgive. Some of the participants were new to mindfulness (36.1% of respondents had 1 to 5 years of meditation experience), while others had been practicing for years (12.5% had between 6 and 10 years of practice, and the other 18.1% had been meditating for over 10 years).

As anticipated, people who meditated reported being more mindful, but meditators (no longer how long they had been practicing) were not necessarily more forgiving than non-meditators. It was a person’s “mindful disposition,” or tendency to be inherently mindful, that was most strongly linked to a forgiving attitude.

To understand these results, the same researchers dug deeper into the links between meditation, mindfulness, and forgiveness. They asked a different group of 87 college-aged students to answer questions about perspective taking and rumination in addition to those about mindfulness and forgiveness.

Students with higher mindfulness scores were more willing to take another person’s perspective, which was associated with a greater likelihood to forgive

Here they found that students with higher mindfulness scores were more willing to take another person’s perspective, which was associated with a greater likelihood to forgive. Rumination did not play a factor.

Would these results hold in a real-life experience? To answer this question  a new group of 124 university students were asked to recall a time when they’d been offended and write down their experience. They then rated how close they were to the person who harmed them, and how hurt they felt, and filled out questionnaires about perspective taking, rumination and mindfulness.

Similar to the first 2 studies, mindfulness was linked to forgiveness, this time of an actual past offense. Much of this effect could be explained by the respondent’s ability to take another’s perspective, and rumination didn’t play a role. What’s more, this tendency to forgive was stronger with closer others, but less likely if the harm was felt to be severe.

Can You Learn to Forgive?

Although these studies looked at correlations between mindfulness and forgiveness at one point in time, they couldn’t tell whether mindfulness caused a person to forgive. To figure that out, researchers explored whether brief mindfulness training might increase a person’s willingness to forgive.

They asked 98 adults, mostly college students, to recall a past event where they’d been slighted, then assigned each to either a mindful attention group or a control condition. Both groups received roughly 7 minutes of audio instruction.

Those in the mindful attention group were told that thoughts and emotions are temporary, and asked to picture their mind as a blank movie screen. A description of their past harmful event was then displayed in front of them. They were asked to imagine the situation in detail, observe their thoughts and emotions, and allow their feelings to appear and disappear on and off their “mental” screen.

In the control condition people were asked to recall their hurtful situation in detail, then focus on their thoughts of the event. Both groups then completed questionnaires about their level of forgiveness, mindfulness and negative emotions. About 2 weeks later they were sent an email asking them to recall they event they’d written down, and fill out another questionnaire.

The result – those who were asked to mindfully attend to their thoughts and feelings when thinking about a past hurtful event reported less negative emotion and a greater tendency to forgive immediately after mindfulness instruction, but only if they were dispositionally mindful. In other words, being prompted to respond mindfully did not have an effect on forgiveness if a person was not inherently mindful to being with. Mindful individuals also reported less negativity and a greater likelihood to forgive 2 weeks later.

Forgiveness demands presence, reminding us that we are not the same as the feelings we possess in a given situation, nor is the person who we’ve harmed or who has harmed us.

These studies consistently point to a mindful disposition as being strongly related to a forgiving nature regardless of whether or not someone meditates. What we don’t know is whether practices that foster compassion and loving-kindness might enhance the ability to forgive.

Like mindfulness, forgiveness is an evolving process that can be similar to loving-kindness says renowned meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg. “Forgiveness demands presence, reminding us that we are not the same as the feelings we possess in a given situation, nor is the person who we’ve harmed or who has harmed us.”

Whether forgiveness is part of your nature, or something that requires considerable time and effort, letting go of grudges and bitterness are inevitably good for your health, and your relationships.

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What’s a Twin Flame All About? Ana Forrest and Jose Calarco Explain

Ana Forrest and Jose Calarco are teaching at Wanderlust Squaw this summer! For tickets and more info about Squaw, click here. Ana and Jose are also offering a foundational teacher training in Calgary this May. For more information on the training, click here


Ana Forrest stood in an elevator with two other women. It was her first visit to Australia, and she was headed to the Body Life Mind’s Au Yoga Center to do a reading from her book Fierce Medicine, Breakthrough Practices to Heal the Body and Ignite the Spirit. That’s when Jose Calarco first saw her.

“Are you Ana Forrest?” Jose singled her out.

“Sometimes,” she answered. “Why, who are you?”

“You will find out!”

The studio’s manager had arranged for Jose and three other members of the Descendance Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Dance Theatre to do a ceremony for Ana’s reading. It wasn’t long before they charged into the studio in ceremonial ochre paint, doing a Good Spirit dance first and performing a Heart Healing Ceremony over Ana. Jose and Nicole Willis, Song Woman, sang, and he had his hand on Ana’s back while one of the warriors before her played the didgeridoo, an Indigenous Australian wind instrument.

Five years after that first meeting, Ana and Jose sat next to each other in Vancouver, laughing at the memory.

That experience was the start of many answered prayers, Ana said. Before her journey, she’d prayed for three things: a connection to the Aboriginal people of Au, a visit to Uluru (also called Ayers Rock), and for a Beloved One.

“All of my prayers had just walked into that room,” she said.

Within days, she and Jose were inseparable, collaborating on music and entwining their lives in ways that don’t just bring happiness to themselves, but for humanity.

yoga teachers on stage teaching with triangle altar behind them

Ana and Jose teaching together at Wanderlust O’ahu, 2019. Photo by Melissa Gayle.

This is the meaning of Twin Flames—partners whose souls mirror each other’s. The concept is deeply meaningful to Ana and Jose; it inspired their song Twin Flame, as well as the name of the tour they’re now traveling with around the world. Twin Flames are more likely to meet under unusual circumstances than in, say, a bar setting.

“The Twin Flame is like the Big Kahuna, the Mecca, the Taj Mahal of all relationships, your complementary half of all relationships,” Jose said. “Not half plus half is one, but one plus one makes two.”

Identifying and Defining a Twin Flame

The term “Twin Flame” is often abused, Jose said. It’s not meant to justify glutinous, manipulative impulses and desires. And claiming a new attraction is a twin flame is not a “get out of jail free” card for bad behavior—that’s just old-fashioned selfishness. Ana agreed.

“It’s a statement of truth,” she said. “There’s a big responsibility to step into this and be your greatest self.”

The two describe the love between Twin Flames as a microcosm to the macrocosm of universal love. The ramifications—both of mistakes, and of getting things right—are much greater with a Twin Flame. That can be frightening. Finding each other doesn’t mean it’s all wine and roses for Twin Flames, the pair cautioned. The relationship will become good, Jose said, but not until the emotional baggage has been unpacked and dealt with.

“The childish stuff has all got to go,” he said. “We will sort that out, and then we will get on with it, to return to the source of love that we came from. You’ve got to passionately want to move forward. The future is made of the same stuff as the past, until you’ve had enough.”

“We brought our shadows from the past,” Ana said. “It had to be massaged out. Now we are working together on behalf of the world.”

“It’s very difficult to give up your addictions and your illusions,” Jose said. “Coming into a Twin Flame relationship is a bit like going to rehab.”

Ana and Jose’s Shared Message

Ana and Jose are using their unique connection to change the world. Each was successful before they met—Ana as an author and instructor known for practicing yoga to achieve emotional healing; Jose for music and dance in Australia and beyond. Together, they’ve taken their blend of music and yoga on the road around the world. Meeting their Twin Flame has prompted each to be better—to be more, and to share that with the world.

The message behind their tour? Save the planet. Commune with Nature. Honor indigenous people’s teachings. Support ethical businesses that don’t pillage the earth. Do Forrest Yoga. Stop poisoning yourself.

“We have to stop poisoning ourselves before we can stop poisoning our world,” Ana said. “Eat food that builds our luminosity.”

“Go vegan,” Jose said. “Everyone will thank you. Begin a program of insight—dancing, music, writing. These are all places of spiritual nourishment. The soul drive of the twin flame is evolution, not just for ourselves, but for our brothers and sisters as well.”

“There’s always a way to up-level,” said Ana. “We need to reset, so we can move through these moments and these difficulties in a more harmonious way.” It’s not easy, but there are many places to start. Walking to feel the earth underfoot, building self-respect, even breathing more deeply can be a step in the right direction. Saving the Earth can feel overwhelming, Ana said, but it’s not overwhelming to take a deep breath.

For more information about Ana and Jose, join them on their Twin Flames tour or attend a teacher training, offered in Hong Kong, Calgary, and Bali, or learn from them at Wanderlust Squaw Valley this summer. Sometimes, students misjudge whether they are ‘good enough’ to take a training, but Ana takes that opportunity to turn that type of belittling self-judgement around: students can choose to trust Ana and Jose’s skills to work with each student and their individual challenges.

“We have this to teach—it doesn’t matter what you know and what you don’t know, just come,” Ana said. “We are so proud of our work. It just delights us. We are really reaching to speak to people’s hearts—that’s our intent. If you are living in a body, you can come and learn this work, and trust our skills as teachers.”

It’ll be an experience unlike any other.

“There’s no one like us in the yoga business,” Jose said, “because we’re two individuals, and we’re one twin flame.”

Mari Krueger is a freelance writer and photographer based in Kailua, HI. The perfect day includes family, stand up paddle boarding, and being outside at sunset. She loves hopping on a plane to meet her favorite sailor in port. Follow her at Mari’s Passport Diaries and Instagram. 

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10 Signs You’re Being True to Yourself

“The most confused we ever get is when we try to convince our heads of something that we know in our hearts is a lie.” ~Karen Moning

It’s painful and stressful to feel like you’re living a lie. Like you’re hiding how you really feel, saying what you think other people want to hear, and doing things you don’t actually want to do—just because you think you’re supposed to.

But sometimes we don’t recognize we’re doing this. We just know we feel off, or something feels wrong, and we’re not sure how to change it.

It makes sense that a lot of us struggle with being true to ourselves.

From a young age, we’re taught to be good, fall in line, and avoid making any waves—to lower our voices, do as we’re told, and quit our crying (or they’ll give us something to cry about).

And most of us don’t get the opportunity to foster or follow our curiosity. Instead, we learn all the same things as our peers, at the exact same time; and we live a life consumed by the mastery of these things, our bodies restless from long hours of seated study and our minds overwhelmed with memorized facts that leave very little room for free thinking.

To make things even worse, we learn to compare our accomplishments and progress—often, at things we don’t even really care about—to those of everyone around us. So we learn it’s more important to appear successful in relation to others than to feel excited or fulfilled within ourselves.

This was my experience both growing up and in my twenties. A people-pleaser who was always looking to prove that I mattered, I was like a chameleon, and I constantly felt paralyzed about which choices to make because all I knew was that they needed to be impressive.

I never knew what I really thought or felt because I was too busy suffocating my mind with fears and numbing my emotions to develop even a modicum of self-awareness.

This meant I had no idea what I needed. I only knew I didn’t feel seen or heard. I felt like no one really knew me. But how could they when I didn’t even know myself?

I know I’ve made a lot of progress with this over the years, and I have a mile-long list of unconventional choices to back that up, as well as a number of authentic, fulfilling relationships. But I’ve recently recognized some areas where I’ve shape-shifted in an attempt to please others, and in some cases, without even realizing it.

I don’t want to be the kind of person who panders to popular opinion or lets other people dictate my choices. I don’t want to waste even one minute trying to be good enough for others instead of doing what feels good to me.

I want to make my own rules, live on my own terms, and be bold, wild, and free.

This means peeling away the layers of fear and conditioning and being true to what I believe is right. But it’s hard to do this, because sometimes those layers are pretty heavy, or so transparent we don’t even realize they’re there.

With this in mind, I decided to create this reminder of what it looks and feels like to be true to myself so I can refer back to it if ever I think I’ve lost my way.

If you also value authenticity and freedom over conformity and approval, perhaps this will be useful to you too.

You know you’re being true to yourself if….

1. You’re honest with yourself about what you think, feel, want, and need.

You understand that you have to be honest with yourself before you can be honest with anyone else. This means you make space in your life to connect with yourself, perhaps through meditation, journaling, or time in nature.

This also means you face the harsh realities you may be tempted to avoid. You’re self-aware when faced with hard choices—like whether or not to leave a relationship that doesn’t feel right—so you can get to the root of your fear.

You might not always do this right away, or easily, but you’re willing to ask yourself the tough questions most of us spend our lives avoiding: Why am I doing this? What am I getting from this? And what would serve me better?

2. You freely share your thoughts and feelings.

Even if you’re afraid of judgment or tempted to lie just to keep the peace, you push yourself to speak up when you have something that needs to be said.

And you refuse to stuff your feelings down just to make other people feel comfortable. You’re willing to risk feeling vulnerable and embarrassed because you know that your feelings are valid, and that sharing them is the key to healing what’s hurting or fixing what isn’t working.

3. You honor your needs and say no to requests that conflict with them.

You know what you need to feel physically, mentally, and emotionally balanced, and you prioritize those things, even if this means saying no to other people.

Sure, you might sometimes make sacrifices, but you understand it’s not selfish to honor your needs and make them a priority.

You also know your needs don’t have to look like anyone else’s. It’s irrelevant to you if someone else can function on four hours of sleep, work around the clock, or pack their schedule with social engagements. You do what’s right for you and take care good care of yourself because you recognize you’re the only one who can.

4. Some people like you, some people don’t, and you’re okay with that.

Though you may wish, at times, you could please everyone—because it feels a lot safer to receive validation than disapproval—you understand that being disliked by some is a natural byproduct of being genuine.

This doesn’t mean you justify being rude and disrespectful because hey, you’re just being yourself! It just means you know you’re not for everyone; you’d rather be disliked for who you are than liked for who you’re not; and you understand the only way to find “your tribe” is to weed out the ones who belong in someone else’s.

5. You surround yourself with people who respect and support you just as you are.

You understand that the people around you affect you, so you surround yourself with people who respect and support you, which motivates you to continue being true to yourself.

You may have people in your life who don’t do these things, but if you do, you understand their issues with you are just that—their issues. And you set boundaries with them so that they don’t get in your head and convince you there’s something wrong with you or your choices.

6. You focus more on your own values than what society deems acceptable.

You’ve read the script for a socially acceptable life—climb the corporate ladder, have a lavish wedding, buy a house, and make some babies—but you’ve seriously questioned whether this is right for you. Maybe it is, but if you go this route, it’s because this plan aligns with your own values, not because it’s what you’re supposed to do.

You know your values are your compass in life, and that they change over time. So you check in with yourself regularly to be sure you’re living a life that doesn’t just look good on paper but also feels good in your heart.

7. You listen to your intuition and trust that you know what’s best for yourself.

You not only hear the voice inside that says, “Nope, not right for you,” you trust it. Because you’ve spent a lot of time learning to distinguish between the voice of truth and fear, you recognize the difference between holding yourself back and waiting for what feels right.

You might not always make this distinction immediately, and you might sometimes be swayed by well-meaning people who want to protect you from the risks of thinking outside the box. But eventually, you tune out the noise and hone in on the only voice that truly knows what’s best for you.

8. You do what feels right for you, even if that means risking approval from the people around you.

Not only do you trust that you know what’s best for you, you do it. Even if it’s not a popular choice. Even if people question your judgment, vision, or sanity. You recognize that no one else is living your life, and no one else has to live with the consequences of your choices, so you make them for you and let the chips fall where they may when it comes to public perception.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you have everything you want in life. It just means you hear the beat of your own drum, even if it’s silent like a dog whistle to everyone else, and you march to it—maybe slowly or awkwardly, but with your freak flag raised high.

9. You allow yourself to change your mind if you recognize you made a choice that wasn’t right for you.

You may feel embarrassed to admit you’re changing directions, but you do it anyway because you’d rather risk being judged than accept a reality that just plain feels wrong for you.

Whether it’s a move that you realize you made for the wrong reasons, a job that isn’t what you expected, or a commitment you know you can’t honor in good conscience, you find the courage to say, “This isn’t right, so I’m going to make another change.”

10. You allow yourself to evolve and let go of what you’ve outgrown.

This is probably the hardest one of all because it’s not just about being true to yourself; it’s also about letting go. It’s about recognizing when something has run its course and being brave enough to end the chapter, even if you don’t know yet what’s coming next. Even if the void feels dark and scary.

But you, you recognize that the void can also feel light and thrilling. That empty space isn’t always a bad thing because it’s the breeding ground for new possibilities—for fulfillment, excitement, passion, and joy. And you’re more interested in seeing who else you can be and what else you can do than languishing forever in a comfortable life that now feels like someone else’s.

As with all things in life, we each exist on a spectrum. Every last one of us lives in the grey area, so odds are you do some of these things, some of the time, and probably never perfectly. And you may go through periods when you do few or none of these things, without even realizing you’ve slipped.

That’s how it’s been for me. I’ve gone through phases when I’ve felt completely in alignment and other times when I’ve gotten lost. I’ve had times when I’ve felt so overwhelmed by conflicting wants, needs, and beliefs—my own and other people’s—that I’ve shut down and lost touch with myself.

It happens to all of us. And that’s okay. The important thing is that we keep coming home to ourselves and we eventually ask ourselves the hard questions that decide the kind of lives we lead: What am I hiding? What am I lying about? And what truth would set me free?

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

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5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Trying to Lose Weight

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” ~Buddha

I struggled to maintain a healthy weight for a large part of my life.

Had I known these five things before my weight-loss journey, I would have had a much easier time shedding the pounds and would have realized that weight loss isn’t a magic fix-all solution to my issues.

If you’re trying to lose weight, perhaps some of my lessons will be helpful to you.

Here we go…

1. This has to be for you, not someone else.

Growing up as a closeted gay child, I was taught that homosexuality is a sin and anyone who likes members of the same sex is unworthy of love and affection.

This caused me to develop an internalized belief that I was not good enough, which led me to seek external validation from others as the source my self-esteem.

Being gay was a very heavy secret I carried, and as a result I became very heavy myself.

Afraid to be seen, I used weight gain to hide myself from the rest of the world.

After coming out, I thought if I had the hottest boyfriend then I would finally feel good about myself.

I lost thirty pounds, transformed my body, and achieved my goal of dating a hot guy. My self-esteem was through the roof… until he broke up with me and I never saw him again (whomp, whomp). I had failed to achieve my goal, and I felt terrible about myself.

Now I see the issue started when I attached my fitness goal and my self-esteem to something outside myself that I could not control—a guy wanting to date me.

The reality is, a new body or a new boyfriend was never going to solve my problems. I had to ‘work out’ my inner self before I could feel good about my outer self.

It’s like having an old, scratched-up cell phone that is super slow, so you put a brand new case on it and suddenly it’s nice and shiny again! However, the original issues are still there, and the phone is still damaged below the surface.

Like the phone with the new case, I was still that same little boy inside desperately seeking validation from others.

What I needed was to accept myself and to stop looking to others to validate my self-worth.

Through meditation and coaching I’ve come to see that feelings of worthiness come from within. I choose to lead a healthy lifestyle for the sake of my own health and well-being, and I recognize that I have inherent value on my own, regardless of my appearance or what other people think.

Nowadays I set goals that are within the realm of my own power and are not dependant on validation from others like: “I want to lose weight to be healthy and live a long life” instead of “I want to lose weight to have a guy ask me out.”

Remember: You’re a whole, complete, capable person regardless of how you look. Just because you want to improve for tomorrow doesn’t mean you can’t feel good about yourself today.

No one has the ability to make you feel a certain way about yourself; only you have that power! When you set goals within the limits of your own power, you will be unstoppable.

2. You may lose friends, and that’s awesome!

Let me explain: When I first set out to transform my body, most of my friends were very supportive… until they weren’t.

A lot of my friends weren’t into health and fitness. As I got closer to my goals, they would say things like, “Who do you think you are? Acting all better than us with your salad and healthy lifestyle!”

Sometimes it’s the people who know you best who hold you back from changing the most. They met you when you were a certain way, and they want you to stay that way.

If you surround yourself with people who aren’t used to success, they may become fearful and threatened because you are reflecting back to them something that intimidates them. Not everyone is going to be happy for you.

In letting go, you create space for other likeminded people who can support you on your path. Having help from people who have been in my shoes helps keep me motivated and allows me to learn from the experience of others. This saves a lot of time and effort and makes the journey more enjoyable.

You can find supportive people by making friends with people at the gym, joining a running group from meetup.com, or joining a meditation studio. You can even consider working with a trainer or coach if you need a little extra help.

3. Our self-talk can make or break our progress.

I used to look in the mirror and focus all of my energy on my flaws. I would tell myself, “I want to lose weight so I’m not gross and disgusting.”

Every time I thought about my goal I reinforced the identity of someone who is “gross and disgusting.” This negative self-talk was not helpful for my self-confidence, and it often led to binge eating. Not something you want to do when trying to lose weight!

In order to create lasting change, I had to cut out the negative self-talk by connecting with a positive intention for my goal. So I shifted my intention toward living a healthy life and aging gracefully.

I stopped putting my attention on the things I disliked about myself, which depressed me, and instead focused on the positive goals I was working toward, which energized me.

After I changed my view of myself I was finally able to lose the weight—and enjoy the process.

4. Patience is everything.

Patience is more than just waiting, it’s the ability to put in the work required to achieve your goals and keep a positive attitude throughout the process.

After I set out to lose weight, for the first three weeks I felt like nothing was happening and I was wasting my time. The funny thing is, this is when all the work started to pay off. By week four, I could finally see noticeable changes on the scale and I was moving in the right direction.

It’s the small, seemingly insignificant choices we make every day that add up to something extraordinary. If you don’t have the patience to wait for these things to happen, you won’t make progress on your goals.

Remember, a journey of a thousand miles is nothing but a series of single steps. Take things one step at a time, and you’ll go far!

5. To reach any goal, you need to define success, create an action plan, and fall in love with the process.

I’ve often felt overwhelmed by all the conflicting health and fitness information available. I didn’t know which plan was right for me, so I would try a new one every week and never see any changes.

The truth is, the best plan for me is the one I stick to and have fun with.

It’s important to fall in love with the process. Fitness is a lifelong journey, and if you don’t enjoy the process you’ll give up.

If you’re feeling confused about which plan is best for you, try picking one that sounds fun and stick with it for eight weeks. If you haven’t seen any progress, try something new.

Also, be sure to define what success looks like for you—whether that means hitting a certain number on the scale or being able to hike a specific number of miles—so you have a clear direction of where you are headed.

When I set out to lose thirty pounds I had a defined goal in mind. This allowed me to focus my energy and weed out distractions. It also gave me motivation, purpose, and a clear vision for my future.

Lastly, track your progress as you go, since this will keep you focused and motivated. I resisted doing this for a long time, but it’s made a world of difference. It’s like using a road map. When you see how far you’ve come, it’s a lot easier to stay committed to reaching your destination. Apps like MyFitness pal are great for tracking fitness goals.

Ultimately, every fitness journey is about more than losing weight and changing your physical appearance. The most successful transformations are those that begin with self-love and require ‘working out’ your inner being as well as your physical being.

Losing weight was merely a side effect of my bigger goal to lead a healthy lifestyle, and my fitness goals have grown to focus more on the health of my mind, body, and spirit, rather than solely my physical appearance.

Because I find it hard to prioritize my own needs, I created a daily self-care routine and I devote a minimum of one hour every morning to my health and well-being. Self-care is the secret to my weight loss success because weight naturally falls off when you make healthy lifestyle choices and take care of your body.

And finally, remember the power of intention! It’s not what you do but why you do it that will enable you to succeed.

I wish you the best of luck on your journey, and am sending you all my love!

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

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Deepen Your Practice with the Yamas and Niyamas

These five Niyamas are clinics to be cultivated and nurtured. They will remain with us taking us deeper into the realms of the being, moving us closer to the stillness inside. Who we are beyond the body in asana, and past the brain in meditation is the way the Niyamas softly guide us. Without them, samadhi would be an impossible dream.

Ahimsa: Nonviolence
Satya: Truthfulness

In ancient India, it is said that the amazing yogis would just teach asana, pranayama, and the steps to meditation if students had mastered the first two limbs of their eight-limbed path of yoga–that the Yamas and Niyamas.

HelenaveryHSHelen Avery is a journalist, writer, yoga teacher, and full-time puppy walker of Millie. 
“Ironically, both the Yamas and Niyamas might not be possible if our essence proved not like to uphold, if love were not our aim and our dwelling. ”
Brahmacharya: Non-excess

Though the Yamas and Niyamas invite us to bear in mind that yoga can be a method of life–not only 90 minutes three times a week–they are integral to our sadhana. They are the basis of an open heart upon which we could construct, and a peaceful spirit, and the rest of the eight limbs turn into technique. How do we concentrate the brain, when it’s full of cravings and aversions? If we don’t have self-discipline, can we maintain a position? How can we appreciate the fruits of savasana if we are unprepared to surrender?

Observances or the 10 guidelines , both the Yamas and Niyamas, are usually overlooked in our hurry to get on the mat, get going, and get results. In our world of instant gratification it might seem desired achieve and to understand crane pose than to practice sincerity in every minute. Our egos could tell us that a headstand is likely to be more fulfilling than only taking what we want from the planet’s resources. It can seem much more easy to meditate for 20 minutes per day than to practice kindness.

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Ishvara Pranidhara: Surrender
Imply “restraints” are. They are:

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Svadhyaya: Self-study
By observing the Yamas we can make space in our lives and eliminate the blocks that help keep our hearts out of reaching out. Permit us to have a breath knowing we are currently behaving in accordance with our authentic nature and thereby they inquire to become our best individual. It’s the liberty that frees us with all the Yamas that permits us to move into the second stage of our route –the Niyamas. They are:
At Meditations on the Mat, Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison describe beautifully the travel into oneness produced by the observances:”The Yamas and Niyamas wouldn’t be needed if we–that the entire human race–did not have the propensity to offend them. The Yamas and Niyamas would be impossible whether our nature proved not love to uphold, if love were not our dwelling and our goal. To control them we must discover the maturity to tolerate the duality of the character, while allowing the prospect of victory. Love is not a notion, but it is an activity. And each loving action we choose infuses us energy for enjoying activity in the future.” Each time we really exercise think about–that the Yamas and Niyamas, this is what we re doing: Putting love into activity.

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How To Be Smarter Than Your Smartphone

envelopes flying out of head

Most of us experience an influx of never-ending digital contact each day. We’ve become accustomed to a barrage of work and/or personal emails, texts, and notifications from our social media channel(s) of choice. To keep up with the steady stream and for FOMO (fear of missing out), our minds multitask to process it all, which ultimately makes us a lot more stressed and a lot less productive. I’m going to share a simple, yet very effective, approach to messaging that can change the course of your day.

During work, are you responding to email throughout the day? Maybe you’re on the go when you hear the notification on your smartphone and you fire off a response. Or maybe you’re busy working on a project, the notification beeps and you quickly change gears to answer. You may set aside time to answer a number of emails, but find yourself distracted by phone notifications or people intruding on that time. This way of relating to on-going interruptions taxes our brain and fragments our attention.

The following simple tips from my book, The Now Effect, will help you to sharpen your focus, be more effective, and feel less stressed.

Enjoy an E-mail Meditation

Set aside a specific window of time to address e-mails. Recognize that it’s natural for your mind to wander off and when it does, practicing seeing where your mind goes, spend a moment there, and then gently bring yourself back to the task at hand. This is called “See, Touch, Go.”

Be Present

When you’re not working on email, be present with the other important aspects of your work or personal life. If you’re working on a presentation, focus solely on creating that presentation. If thoughts come to your mind about other tasks, note them down quickly in your planner or task list. Try to batch process similar tasks so your attention is focused on related tasks in a sequential manner.

If you’re taking a break and talking to a friend at the proverbial water cooler, pay attention to that conversation. Don’t allow yourself to be enslaved by thoughts of what you need to work on next – enjoy the break away from your desk, then return to it refreshed and ready to refocus.

In your personal life, when you’re with your friends and family, put the phone on silent, and be with your friends and family. Don’t spend more time looking at your screen than your kids. Kids can be stressful, and it’s easy to default to a screen that seems less stressful and provides entertainment. But resist the temptation, and focus on what really matters in your life.

Reclaiming control over digital messaging is a direct path to feeling empowered and more free in your life.

Give these simple practices a try. Experiment for a week and see what you notice.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

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How 5 Simple Habits Made Me Love My Life More

“Good habits are worth being fanatical about.” ~John Irving

Your habits are directly related to the quality of your life. Good habits lead to joy and fulfillment in your life, while not-so-good habits leave you yearning for your life to be different.

I think I always knew that, I just wished I took it to heart sooner. Better late than never, right?

Gretchen Rubin, author of Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits, says that “Habits are the invisible architecture of our daily life. We repeat about 40 percent of our behavior almost daily, so our habits shape our existence, and our future. If we change our habits, we change our lives.”

I’ve spent far too much time in my life languishing in worries and regrets, wondering why life had to be so hard. I looked for outside sources to come in and save me. No rescuer ever came, at least not one that made a permanent difference.

I’d always wind up on the same boat: wondering why others seemed so content with the lives they were leading while I continued to have a burning desire for something different—something I really couldn’t even name, though I tried in vain to do so.

I set big goals and made big plans that I was certain would make all the difference for me. Usually, my big goals and big plans wouldn’t live beyond the next new moon. Even when they did, though, the things that I thought would make me happy didn’t. The things that I thought would bring me peace only annoyed me for their utter lack of peace-creating properties.

By profession, I’m a strategist. I look at all the many things that contribute to situations being a certain way and explore ways to move the situation toward where I want it to be. Turns out, sometimes you don’t have to overhaul anything; sometimes, small, simple tweaks can make a big difference.

As the saying goes, it takes large sails to move a large ship, but the captain need only make a small adjustment to the rudder to change the direction. The other part of the saying is there’s no point in adjusting the rudder if the ship is not moving; you won’t go anywhere.

Your daily habits are the small rudders hat can help you move your life in the direction you wish. Choosing good habits day after day is the movement required to experience the positive life changes you’re seeking.

I like to think of myself as an intelligent person, but what I neglected to see in my own life is that the smallest tweaks done day in and day out have the power to move the mountains I want moved. When my eyes opened to the power of small changes practiced daily, miracles began to unfold in my life.

Below are some of the simple daily habits I’ve worked to incorporate into my life that are making such a huge difference for me.

1. Meditation

Yeah, yeah, I know. Everyone says meditate, but did you ever consider that maybe all those meditation-lovers are offering an you an insider’s tip (pun intended) that in fact is actually priceless?

I have an overactive mind, as many people do. It loves to tell me about all its worries and warn me of threats that in reality aren’t all that threatening—nothing more than a mouse posing as a monster most of the time.

My mind loves to relive situations and conversations over and over and over; it’s so tiring! I’ve found that the antidote to my endless chattering mind is daily meditation.

I don’t do anything complicated. I just sit in a relaxing position, tune into serene instrumental music on Spotify, and focus on my breath. Anytime I notice that my mind is wandering (as it always does), I return my focus to my breath. In times of silence answers seem to arrive to incredibly insightful questions I didn’t even know I should ask.

2. Kind, loving self-talk

In the past, my inner dialogue wasn’t all that friendly. In fact, I was my own worst enemy, a relentless bully whose malicious words would leave me disheartened and unable to face the world with any sense of self-worth or confidence.

I didn’t come by this demeaning self-talk accidentally. Its roots go back to my childhood.

I grew up in a Roman Catholic home with seven children (another sibling died before I was born) and two overworked, exhausted parents who were flat broke all the time.

My father struggled with alcohol addiction and mental illness. This, along with my mother’s enabling patterns plus her own low self-esteem and depression issues, defined how the house was run.

The focus of the entire household was on managing life around dad’s issues.

Growing up, it seemed to me that nothing I ever did was good enough for my dad, though I tried so very hard to please him. I craved his love and positive attention. He either ignored me or criticized me, and when he criticized me he often did so in the most brutal tone.

I took to adopting that brutal tone in my inner dialogue and kept up the cruel inner monologues for years and years. I rationalized that I was just keeping my standards high, because who wouldn’t want to have high standards, right? A father would only criticize his daughter to help her improve, right?

So I kept criticizing myself; it never occurred to me that dad lashed out at me because his whole life seemed like a mess, so by God, the one thing he would have control over was his children.

There I was as an adult, using unrelenting, vicious self-criticism as a way to be perfect so I could get the love and attention I sorely wanted from the people in my life. It was a strategy that was never going to work; it had to go.

After examining my bitter, demeaning inner voice, I realized that I would never treat another human being this way, so why was I permitting this type of untenable talk go on inside me? I deserve better—we all do!

Now when those critical thoughts come up I’m patient with myself without buying into the scolding voice that’s offering up the hypercritical self-assessments.

I look at the scared girl behind those ugly comments and extend my deepest love to her. You see, while I refuse to allow my inner critic to talk to me in vile ways anymore, I also recognize the only reason I ever talked to myself that way was out of a deep need for belonging and protection. There was a call for love behind those ugly words, and now I simply acknowledge that deep desire for self-love without chastising the hurting girl who was trying to get my attention in the only way she knew how.

3. Follow the five-second rule

I love Mel Robbins, and the day I learned about her five-second rule was a very important day in my life. (And I’m not talking whether it’s still safe to eat food that’s only had five seconds of contact on the floor—that’s a whole different discussion!)

In a nutshell, here is Mel Robbins’ five-second rule, in Mel’s words: The moment you have an instinct to act on a goal you must count five-four-three-two-one and physically move or your brain will stop you.”

So, you’re not a “morning person” but you have a goal of getting up earlier in the morning? Then the moment your alarm clock goes off, count five-four-three-two-one and jump out of bed. No more hitting the snooze alarm.

Yes, in the moment of those early morning hours, of course you’d rather stay in that warm comfy bed—who wouldn’t? But staying in bed doesn’t align with your bigger goals, and getting up does. If you move within five seconds, you’ll move toward your bigger goals. If you don’t move and allow your clever mind to talk you into staying in bed for “just a bit more,” you’re sunk.

If you want to change your life by getting up earlier so you can write that blog you want to write (a-hem, what I’m doing now) or do that exercise you know your body needs, then make those goals your priority over an extra thirty minutes of sleep and use the five-second rule to help you get your body out of bed.

Adopting the five-second rule is one of the best habits I’ve ever taken up. For the sake of full transparency, I admit I’m not always successful at sticking to the rule, but the more I try, the more I succeed.

“If your habits don’t line up with your dream, then you need to either change your habits or change your dream.” ~John Maxwell

4. Feed my mind

I’ve always considered myself to be a learner, though in actuality I get lazy about learning. It’s hard to improve your life if you’re never giving your brain any new information. Feeding my mind on a regular basis has become a top priority for me.

My “feeding my mind” goal looks something like this: one retreat a year, one book a month (that I can either read or listen via audio), one podcast a week, and one smart article on something I want to learn about each and every day. I’ve found that starting the process builds momentum; I often crush my minimum goals!

Feeding my mind in healthy ways also means giving up some unhealthy habits. I’m extremely careful about how much news I watch nowadays. While I don’t want to keep my head in the sand, I find it’s important to limit the number of negative messages I allow into my mind, and news channels are notorious for going over the same disturbing stories again and again. I make time in my days for my extra reading and personal growth activities by getting up earlier and limiting my Netflix and HBO time.

I’ve also modified my budget so I can afford the audiobooks and retreats I want to buy. My clothing and dining out budget is about half of what it used to be, and it’s a trade-off I’m happy to make.

The habit of feeding my mind is opening up whole new worlds for me. I can’t tell you how often I’ve read about something and the perfect opportunity comes up for using what I’ve learned in both my professional and personal life. Louis Pasteur said, “Fortune favors the prepared mind,” and I couldn’t agree more!

5. Do something outside my comfort zone at least once a week

If I were a more ambitious soul, I might put a “once a day” rule on this habit, but for now once a week works nicely for me. The habit of doing the same things the same way every day is life draining, while the habit of stretching outside your comfort zone regularly is life expanding. I’d rather see my life expand rather than to contract and shrivel, thank you very much.

Today, I regularly practice being brave—allowing myself to be seen, allowing myself to be vulnerable and unskilled at new things. I don’t tiptoe outside my comfort zone anymore; I’m even willing to take huge leaps.

I quit a job that I’d been in for twenty-two years without having the next job lined up. I moved 2000 miles from family and friends to live in a beautiful part of the world where I’ve always dreamed of living.

I now work in freelance, consulting, and coaching roles, which means my income fluctuates a lot. I’m not always certain how much money I’ll earn each month; I could have never tolerated that degree of uncertainty before.

It’s surprising how much your life can transform in miraculous ways once you’re willing to not be perfect in your own little world but instead actively choose to be imperfect in a world that might judge you. When you take risks that might leave you flat on your back, they also might enable you to soar.

I’ve found that bravery is rewarded, maybe not always in the moment, but always in time. I encourage you to be brave; it’ll change your life!

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

The post How 5 Simple Habits Made Me Love My Life More appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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Wellness has a Dieting Problem. Let’s Do Something About It

By the time I was 37 years old, I woke up in pain and I went to bed in pain every day. At that time I was very heavy (I weighed about 360 lbs), but I don’t just mean physical pain. On the inside, emotionally, I was miserable. I hadn’t developed a health-full relationship with myself—body or mind—and the days passed in a blur of hurt. In fact, I’d be hard-pressed to admit which was more painful: My lower back and my knees; or the slow-dripping feeling that I might be watching my life pass before my eyes in the fast lane.

Most of us have, at some point, taken an inventory of life and wondered, “Is this all there is for me?” We contemplate our physical limitations or the dull reality that there are things we haven’t experienced; we ruminate over boxes we haven’t checked off. Fear like this doesn’t come pre-packaged in a dress size: It can hit us at any time, any age, and at any weight.

And yet, if you would have asked a random person off the street what was “wrong” with me then, they would probably have remarked that I was fat and needed to go on a diet. In fact, that tends to be the first thing people say to ANY person who appears to be heavier than “normal” that expresses unhappiness. Go on a diet. Lose weight. It will make everything better… Right? Wrong.

The Truth About Diets

Over 90 percent of American women have been on a diet before. I have been one of them—many times. But each endeavor left me with one glaring truth: My diet didn’t “fix” anything. It was never a magical wand that made my problems disappear. We also know that diets fail because such a large portion of people who engage in traditional diet (including myself) gain weight back.

Somewhere along the line I realized it wasn’t about losing weight. It wasn’t about dieting. It was about addressing the fact that both my body and my emotional wellbeing were starting to crumble. It wasn’t the “counting macros” that helped me create real change in my life, but instead, for me, it took seeing how deeply entangled emotional trauma was in the daily dysfunction of my life. The act of removing dating apps from my phone and not engaging in reactive casual sex was the first step toward making the positive shift in my life.

Somewhere along the line, “diet culture” and the “wellness industry” became synonymous. But they’re two totally different things.

That’s to say: Addressing (and closing off) the self-initiated vacuum of relationship nothingness is what led me to realize just how heavily I relied on coping mechanisms like sex and shopping and, oh yes, food, to anesthetize the pain of living with years and years of repressed anger. It wasn’t counting calories. It hasn’t been the use of My Fitness Pal (which I happen to love) that has kept me returning to the long-term commitment to serving my body inside and out, even after life’s normal (but sometimes painful) twists and turns.

The realization of my coping mechanism, nurtured by intense spiritual growth and proactive emotional work, has allowed me to get to grow to where I am today. This is a whole lot deeper than anything a “diet” could unearth. Diets don’t teach people how to feel whole. They teach people how to (usually temporarily) lower numbers on a scale. But the wholeness part? That’s where Wellness should come in.

Should being the operative word.

women hugging looking at camera laughing

Photo of Sarah’s Body Love Workshop. Photo by Nichole Alex

What Wellness Is (and What It Isn’t)

Wellness should be a place where people come to heal and learn how to live a greater life, however that looks for them. It should be about offering people tools to cultivate wholeness in all the different pillars of life—emotionally, physically, spiritually, sexually, financially, occupationally, and more.

It’s taken a long time, but the medical community has finally started to explore the reasons why diets don’t traditionally work. Additionally, we finally have some people in the general public starting to speak about but the general public starting to speak out about the toxicity of “diet culture” and its inability to facilitate the healing that real-life transformation from the inside-out requires.

Sadly, it is the wellness community that appears to be the most tone deaf. The very people who purport to encourage holistic health are some of the biggest perpetrators of disordered living. I’m looking at you, Wellness Brand / Influencer / Festival. I’m talking to you Cleanse Tea and Yoga Brand That Only Makes Pants Up To A Size 10. I’m talking to you Wellness-Related Studio That Doesn’t Have a Single Class for Marginalized Bodies.

The (not-so) secret elephant in the wellness community is that the culture places more value and emphasis on things that many of us refer to as “diet culture” and less on offering people holistic tools to heal and create change from the inside out. I challenge you to read a wellness magazine, go to an event or class, or follow a “wellness influencer” on social media and NOT come into contact with the following words, phrases, or ideas:

  • Detoxes and cleanses
  • Summer/winter body
  • The idea of “clean” and “unclean” eating
  • “Bad” food
  • Weight loss competitions and diet-bets
  • Eating plans that restrict foods
  • Exercising to “earn” your food
  • “Junk” food

It’s nearly impossible. All these ideas rooted in diet culture, and more, have become part of our wellness lexicon; tools in the pursuit of achieving the perfected, personified idea of what health is supposed to be.Somewhere along the line, “diet culture” and the “wellness industry” became synonymous. But they’re two totally different things, and until we acknowledge this, we’re never going to be able to make the real changes in our communities, or ourselves.

Before you put the brakes on, let’s find a common ground—intentional weight loss is not the enemy. But most people having a conversation about weight loss aren’t actually having a discussion about weight loss—they are talking about the ideas and practices that are associated with diet culture. And when diet culture (and its multi-billion dollar industry) trumps the journey to actual well-being and amalgamates itself with the wellness industry (another multi-billion dollar industry) we’ve got some thinking to do.

Sarah’s Easy Guide to Diet Culture vs Wellness

Diet Culture     

  • Your “diet” has a start, middle, and an end.
  • “Before you started your diet, you were broken. Now, you are awesome. Yeah!”
  • Values “thinness” and worships this as the desired “end goal.”
  • Equates “thinness” to “health success.”
  • Promotes weight loss as a status symbol and demonizes those who do not value weight loss.
  • Uses words that attach value to food. ie: Good, bad, clean, dirty.
  • Perpetuates “food shame” if you don’t “eat correctly” or “cheat.”
  • Phrases you’ll commonly hear: “I feel fat.” // “I’m having a cheat day.”
  • Oppress those who are unable to (or don’t wish to) obtain) or display, an idealized version of “health” which can be harmful to transgender persons, persons of size, people of color, persons with disabilities, persons of limited economic means, persons living with chronic diseases, and more.

Holistic Wellness

  • Views growth as a long-term process with ebbs and flows. There is no “end” in the journey, only transitions between chapters.
  • Accepts that none of us are ever a “finished” product. Also establishes that body size or weight does not equate to worth or human value.
  • Understands that all bodies are designed differently and that to pursue wellness means we must take account multiple pillars of wholeness—mental, physical, emotional, spiritual etc.
  • Understands that “thinness” at the cost of mental health is not truly being healthful.
  • Understands that “health” is relative for all people; Instead, all persons can aim to find a state of wholeness as applies to them.
  • If you want to lose weight, do it. If you don’t, do that too. Weight loss can play a role in holistic wellness when pursued alongside mental health.
  • Uses neutral words to describe food, ie: Processed, non-processed, nutrition-dense, and organic.
  • Food is food. It all gets pooped out in the end. Some is healthier; some is less so. If you eat less healthy stuff, you’re still a good person. The end.

Ready to begin your body love journey? Join Sarah for LIFELOVE, the greatest self-love party ever created! Over the course of a weekend, you’ll connect to self, find community with others, and learn tools to create change all within a supportive and loving environment surrounded by body-inclusive attendees who, just like you, are ready to experience MORE in life. This is not some stuffy workshop. It’s a hands-on, inclusive, and interactive experience designed to help you look your fear in the eye and unleash self-love. You’ll feel accepted and safe. And if you’re a fan of random dance breaks and group karaoke? Even better. LIFELOVE includes Kundalini yoga, meditation, inspirational speakers and small group discussions; it’s the one place that bodies of EVERY size can come together and rise up to create change in life. For tickets and more, click here

Sarah Sapora loves meditation and cowboy boots, and lives guided by the idea that every day we wake up (at any age or weight) is a chance to transform our life from a place of self-love. She’s a Kundalini yoga teacher who believes that strength training and deep soul-work are equally important in creating a happier and healthier life from the inside out. Sarah’s biggest passion is making holistic wellness accessible to bodies of size. She is a speaker, writer, social influencer, creator of the Body + Love Workshop, a totally size-inclusive personal growth event, and of LifeLove, an app launching in 2019. Sarah uses her voice to cultivate a community of self-love and self-improvement free of diet culture. You can find Sarah online on Instagram or on her website, www.sarahsapora.com.

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The post Wellness has a Dieting Problem. Let’s Do Something About It appeared first on Wanderlust.

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