Yoga Book Giveaway

Photo via Pinterest.
Do you like to read? Calling all bookworm yogis! :)

Today I’m featuring a giveaway of my favorite yoga book of 2014, Going Om: Real Life Yoga Stories on and Off the Yoga Mat. The book is a collection of beautifully-written, poignant accounts of the way yoga impacts us, whether we’re on the mat practicing asana, or navigating the surprises life throws our way.


The writing in these essays is effortless – sometimes witty and clever, sometimes heartbreaking. What I love about the book is the raw honesty that comes through, and the way that the book is as much about what it means to be human as it is about what it means to do yoga. I’d highly recommend it, whether you’re a seasoned yogi or someone who wants to learn more about yoga.

Photo via Pinterest.

To be entered in the giveaway, please leave a comment below about why you’d love to check out the book. A winner will be chosen next week.

And if you missed it, there’s another giveaway for a 3-month subscription to Yoga Download going on as well!

Black Friday Week Giveaways! (Yoga Download Subscription)

Photo via Pinterest.

This week, in anticipation of my 2014 yogi holiday gift guide post, I am hosting some awesome giveaways!

First up, I’m featuring Yoga Download, a great online resource for classes, meditation and music.



If you’d like to win a 3-month premier subscription, please visit Yoga Download and then leave a comment below with which class you’d be interested in taking.



Photo via Pinterest.

Yoga Download offers a huge variety of classes featuring incredible teachers. You can download or stream the videos directly to your mobile phone, iPod, mp3 player or laptop. There are over 500 classes to choose from, with lengths ranging from 10 minutes up to 2 hours, depending on what fits your schedule.

One lucky reader will win a 3-month subscription to Yoga Download – I’ll choose next week, so be sure to enter your comment below!

Photo via Pinterest. 

Namaste, yogis.

PS Stay tuned tomorrow for a giveaway copy of one of my favorite yoga books from this year, Going Om!

Smile through the Holidays (Inspiration from Yogi Surprise)

  
This month’s Yogi Surprise box is themed GRATITUDE. A perfect theme for this time of year!


As the holidays approach (Thanksgiving is next week – um, what?!), now is a great time to remind yourself to be grateful for the abundance in life, and to take gentle care of yourself.

Photo via Yogi Surprise.

I know in past years I've fallen into the whirlwind of the holidays, which can lead to thinking I should do as much as possible, spend more money, eat comfort food, and even sacrifice the practices that keep me grounded, like getting to my mat, and spending quiet time alone.

I’m grateful that the November Yogi Surprise box arrived just in time, full of all sorts of goodies to remind me to put my health and sanity first! And when things feel like they are spinning out of control, it always helps me to take a few moments and make a list of things I’m grateful for.

My two absolute favorite products from the box are these:

 
Hurraw lip balm in vata… it smells like cardamom and rose! And has the most luscious texture. Mmmm. I’m totally going to be buying more of these, maybe for stocking stuffers this year! What's awesome is that the brand carries other flavors for the other Ayurvedic doshas, too, in case you're pitta or kapha.

 
Coconut lavender flavored almonds. Genius flavor combo, and so delicious!

Of course, I was also ecstatic about the other products in the box, including a citrus-scented body mist (great for lifting your mood!), green tea mints, refreshing facial towlettes, chakra oil, natural deodorant (cedarwood and juniper is my new favorite underarm scent!), a cacao-flavored granola bar, and sea salts for the bath. I honestly felt like I was treating myself to a spa retreat day just opening the box!

Thank you, Yogi Surprise, for the wonderful brands you share… I can’t wait to pamper myself all month with this one!
 PS In case you missed it, here’s my review of the October Yogi Surprise box.

Align Yourself with Your Greatest Passions


I am lucky, to say the least.

With fall in full swing, and its cooler temperatures and shorter days, I've been enjoying any chance to be cozycurling up with a good book, sitting by a fireplace, rolling out my yoga mat for a hot vinyasa class, and of course, spending time writing.

Align yourself with your greatest passions, is what my inner wisdom has been telling me lately.

What would your life look like if you did that? If you made time for the things you absolutely love, without exception?


Of course, we all have responsibilities. We have unexpected suffering that shows up in our path. We get tired and frustrated and lazy.

I think it's worth the reminder, though, to say to myself: I deserve happiness. And I'm capable of living a happy and fulfilled life doing what I love, making time for me. I'm starting right now.

If you're wallowing in negativity, or feeling frustrated (like I was earlier this week), try stepping back for a moment. Before you act, ask yourself, Will this serve my highest joy?

A shift is possible. But this means you have to shed the excuses. Sometimes, you will have to say no. You have to make time for the things you really care about.

Tote bag by Redbubble.

If you're feeling stuck, try creating something new. Go make art. Give yourself the freedom to do something you don't normally do.

In my case, I'll pack up my laptop in this lovely bag that was gifted to me by Redbubble. (I love that the artistic design reminds me that expressing myself brings me peace.) I'll drive to my favorite local coffee shop and type for a few hours, or sometimes just doodle in my notebook, or people watch.

I'll say hello to people, and listen when they have a story to share.

Through my blogging, I'll often connect with yogis around the world: teachers, business owners, book writers, new students, people who are curious, creative, and inventive.

I'm lucky, to say the least, because these connections matter so much to me. I'm lucky to be a blogger who enjoys the expressive part of writing as much as the part where I am building community and support, and encouraging kindness in others.


I was reading the Red Bubble blog today and stumbled upon this Seth Godin quote. It speaks to the way that art really is a human endeavor: 

“You may know how to use fancy online graphic design tools, you may know how to play at a totally different level than people do online, but if there isn't that leap that leads to connection, it doesn't matter if you’re a car mechanic or a graphic designer, you’re not making art.

My invitation to you today is this: consider what's holding you back from living a life you truly love. Consider the fears that are keeping you from creating your art. You have something to contribute that the world really needs... and you're capable, strong, and creative.

You're lucky, too.

PS If you're a fan of supporting independent artists, I encourage you to check out Redbubble. They have created a beautiful online community of unique and edgy artwork that you can use to create gifts like t-shirts, iPhone cases, tote bags, posters, postcards, or stickers. Pretty awesome, and especially great for holiday gifts!

PPS A great article from Zen Habits if you need help learning how to say no.

Badass Yoga Gear from YMX

Photos by T. Libertiny.

Hi yogis :) Have you heard of YMX? It's one of my new favorite yoga and fitness apparel brands.

YMX makes high-performance workout gear that’s great for yoga, biking, running, and even skiing and snowboarding. I love that their style pairs perfectly with mine – functional, comfortable, sexy and a little badass!

I’m really stoked, too, that in being a part of their community, I’ll get to connect with other yogis who are passionate about being healthy and happy. Win-win!

During my trip to Park City last weekend, I was able to do some yoga and get a few photos while wearing my awesome YMX tank top. I love that the design reminds me of a lot of floral tattoos I’ve been seeing lately.

Do you usually like to wear yoga gear that’s bold and colorful like this?

Please stay tuned for more YMX updates and awesome chances to try their gear. Namaste!


PS You can connect with YMX on their website, Facebook, and Twitter.

An Interview with Leo Babauta of Zen Habits

Photo via Zen Habits.

As many of you know, Zen Habits is one of my favorite blogs.

I love hearing Leo's insights on life... he has amazing perspective on how to simplify, de-stress, change habits, and life a happy, fulfilling life.


As he says here, "Focus on one tiny change, and take one step." It's amazing how doing just that can change your life!


Recently, I had the pleasure of connecting with Leo about his upcoming book, Mastering the Art of Change. I'm so excited to share this interview with him, and can't wait to read the book!

Photo by Karen Walrond.

What are you most excited about with the release of Mastering the Art of Change?

Leo: I didn't invent the ideas in this book, but they've changed my life completely. Not only have I changed a couple dozen habits, but I've learned to simplify, find mindfulness, be more content and at peace. I’m most excited about sharing these ideas with people, because I really think they’ll change other people’s lives as well. That’s an amazing opportunity for me.

How has mindfulness inspired your life?


Leo: I started Zen Habits as a way to explore the intersection of mindfulness and change, and it’s really revolutionized everything about me. I wouldn't have been able to make all of the changes I've made without mindfulness. And it’s caused me to be less goal-oriented, and more process-oriented, more focused on the present moment, more content with where I am. I’m no longer striving as much as I used to, and that’s allowed me to slow down and enjoy life a lot more.



Who should read this book?

Leo: Anyone looking to make changes, or who wants help dealing with life changes. Anyone who struggles with frustration, fears, anger, relationship problems, money problems. Anyone willing to do a little work, one small step at a time, to make gradual but lasting and meaningful changes to their lives. So everyone, really, except the most enlightened Buddhists, perhaps!

What’s your advice for someone who is new to mindfulness, or overwhelmed by the things he or she would like to change?


Leo: I was there once too, and the problem is that the feeling of being overwhelmed can stop you from even starting. What worked for me was just taking one step, and seeing how that worked out. Then another. Then another. Each step was ultimately doable, not difficult or scary. And the gradual change that came from one step at a time, focusing on one little change at a time, has been powerful. Focus on one tiny change, and take one step.

Any other thoughts you’d like to share?


Leo: For anyone who feels stuck, or hopeless, or full of doubt, know that you’re not alone. We all feel that way. We’re all struggling in our own way. In that way, we’re all united, linked in the commonality of trying to find our way in the world.

Don’t give up. Find someone else, like me, who is going through what you’re going through, and share your struggles. Help each other. Get outside your head and focus on someone else’s problems. Learn to mindfully appreciate each moment, each step, and see that there are miracles all around you. Smile, and breathe, and take one step.


For more info about Leo and his book and blog, check out these links:


Leo’s bio and pics: http://leobabauta.com/bio
Book website: http://zenhabitsbook.com/

Support the book on Kickstarter here: http://zenhabits.net/zenhabits-book/
Book title: Zen Habits: Mastering the Art of Change
Zen Habits: http://zenhabits.net/

Writing Retreat

Photos via Pinterest. 

This weekend I’m going on a writing retreat in Park City, Utah. I’m so excited!

It will be wonderful to catch up with my co-author and dive into working on our second novel.

I’m also just looking forward to detaching from my phone, sitting by the fire, and enjoying good conversation. I may try to find a yoga class at a local studio, too :)


What are you up to this weekend?


XO

The Art of Conversation: Detaching from Our Smartphones

All photos by Babycakes Romero for his Death of a Conversation project, found via Mashable.

How often do we truly connect with each other?

I'll be the first to admit it: I'm attached to my smartphone. I check it often, constantly swiping the screen to see what messages have arrived and what notifications have been updated. Constantly engaging in a variety of conversations and little moments of connection.

All digital interactions: texts, emails, Facebook posts, Instagram photos.

And all distractions from what I'm doing in the present moment.



Granted, digital technology does allow me some authentic connection. I have friends who live far away who I talk to throughout the day, and without my phone, these conversations wouldn't be possible. 

I use social media to promote my blog, to advertise for my yoga studio, and to invite friends and friends of friends to come to my classes. I contribute positive encouragement to others using my phone. But a lot of the time, what's viewable online isn't really the whole picture of how I'm doing, or what's really going on.

And on days when I spend a lot of time glued to the screen, I find myself feeling frazzled, distracted, and pulled in a million directions. Often I feel really disconnected, both from myself and others.


Recently I read Hamlet's Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age, which challenges the idea that the more we connect through technology, the better. 

He talks about how when you're using your phone, it can feel like standing in a crowded room full of people. Every time a message comes through, or there's a ping from an app, it's like someone is tapping you on the shoulder.

Tap. Tap. Tap, tap.

All these little taps... eventually, you can be left feeling pretty depleted.


He also asks a really powerful question: Where's the rest of my life?

Meaning, when you take away the screens, what's left?

It's heartbreaking in a way. Especially when you really stop and look around at other people who, instead of connecting with each other, are staring into a phone or computer, even when they're right next to each other! (These photos are a powerful look at that, don't you think? Plus it's just amazing how bad our posture becomes when we're slumped forward, staring at a phone!)


I do believe there is a happy middle ground, though, and that with balance we can enjoy technology and still have rich, meaningful relationships. The two are connected, but making an effort to separate them makes a huge difference -- to say, I'm going to sit with this real person and put my phone away. I'm going to show up.

My goal right now is to invite more awareness around my phone usage, and to cut back incrementally.

This week I moved two of my most-used apps off of the home screen... so now, instead of only needing one click to open Facebook or Instagram, I have to swipe over a few screens to a desktop that only has those two on it. 

It at least makes the action one that's more conscious rather than automatic, and now there is a moment where I can ask myself, "Why am I checking this right now? What am I really looking to find?"

And also, "Is there a better way I could be spending my time right now?"


I'm also building times into my week when I'll step away from my phone altogether.

For a while now, Saturday afternoons have been phone free for me. I love that when I'm teaching yoga or taking class, my phone is on silent and I'm not checking it.

No distractions. Full awareness of the moment. Full awareness of my breath.

I'm encouraging my students, too. At the end of class, I'll say, "I invite you to take a break from your phone for the rest of your day, or at least for a few hours this evening. Let your practice really sink in, fully."


What about you? What do you think of our modern dilemma with the attachment to smartphones? 

What steps do you take to disconnect from your screen, and reconnect with your Self?

I'd love to hear!

PS More on detaching from smartphones...

A hilarious quiz for determining how addicted to your phone you really are.

An article about the artist behind these fascinating photos of people glued to their phones.

An 'intervention' app that temporarily turns your smart phone into a 'dumb' phone :) Genius!

An honest reflection from a woman who says her obsession with her phone is threatening her relationships.

What Does It Mean to Be a Yogi?


There are two steps on the spiritual path:

1. Begin.

2. Continue.

This rings true... the more I surrender to the practice, and the more I stick with it, the more yoga changes me for the better.

Recently a lovely friend of mine said, after taking my class, "You're not just a person who practices yoga. You're a yogi. You're actually living yoga in your life."

It meant a lot to me, especially since I often reflect on what this practice really means, and I keep coming back to the moments when I'm able to be more patient and kind with myself and others -- not really the yoga postures.

Yoga reminds me of how powerful it is to give: to offer help to those in need, to say thank you to those who support me, to treat myself and others with kindness and respect.


Yogi Bhajan says it this way: You are here to serve, here to lift, here to grace, here to give hope and action, to give the very deep love of your soul to all those who are in need.

Sometimes we get caught up in doing yoga 'perfectly' or having our poses look good... we forget that what we're really after is love. Love for ourselves. Love for others. Love for the moment, exactly as it is.

Next time you're on your mat, pause for a moment. Put your hand over your heart and notice everything that's happening, right now. Go within, and see what's really fueling your practice.

Both of the shirts in this post were given to me by the generous team at Yoga Outlet. I love that the seva shirt reminds me to give, and that the gold Ganesh shirt reminds me that the obstacles have been cleared out of my way, and that I am walking the path of my dharma. Both are comfortable and fit well, and when I wear them, I invite ease. Thank you, Yoga Outlet team, for helping me dress the part of a true yogi!

Yoga in Autumn

Fall is here!

I’m in love with this time of year.

‘Tis the season… for wearing cozy sweaters

…holding the mug in my palms for a minute before I sip my coffee, so I can feel the warmth…


…wearing boots and scarves…

…reading with the window open on rainy days so I can hear the sound of it…

 


…enjoying fires in the fire pit…

…and of course, turning up the heat a little bit in my yoga practice.


How are you liking fall so far?

PS If you’re looking for lovely, comfy fall styles, try Cozy Orange. The teal pullover sweater and the rad patterned blue and black leggings I’m wearing here are from their shop. Bonus: their clothing is eco-friendly, and the company is taking steps to help end world poverty. Amazing!

Yoga Books: Going Om (Real Life Stories On and Off the Yoga Mat)


I just finished reading GoingOm: Real Life Stories On and Off the Yoga Mat, edited by Melissa Carroll. This is my favorite yoga book of 2014!

It’s such a beautiful collection of personal narratives from talented authors. Each story is a glimpse into what it really means to be a yogi, how the experience spills over into real life. The way asana illuminates the truths of life. The laughable moments of what sometimes goes on in a yoga class… and the deeper reflections that show us how they lead to healing.
Photo via Pinterest.
The writing in these essays is effortless – sometimes witty and clever, sometimes heartbreaking. What I love about the book is the raw honesty that comes through, and the way that the book is as much about what it means to be human as it is about what it means to do yoga. I’d highly recommend it, whether you’re a seasoned yogi or someone who wants to learn more about yoga.

Here are a few excerpts I really loved. The first is about how yoga helps us see our bodies with compassion, instead of criticism; the second is a beautiful description of how yoga can be captured using photography—and how the real yoga is in the shedding of the ego. Enjoy!
Photo via Pinterest.
from Being Seen by Emily Rapp

Yoga changed the relationship I have with my body by forcing me to understand that it was not a fixed entity to control but an embodied presence to be enjoyed.

I found that some days I could balance, some days I could not.  I found that I had more upper-body strength than I had counted on. I found that I stopped worrying about the way I looked doing a pose, and just found a way to do it. I stopped trying to be good.
Photo via Pinterest.
One day, in the middle of practice, on a day when I was finding the poses particularly difficult, the teacher approached me and said, "You have a beautiful practice." I had always wanted to hear that I had a beautiful body, althought I knew part of me would always resist that that could possibly be true. I felt, in that moment of acknowledgement, seen. Not for looking a particular way or for conforming to some norm, but for simply being present in that room, in the moment...

True yoga isn't about being technically skilled, and it's never about being good, as hard as it is to believe these statements. It's about being prsent, being alive, and for me, being truly seen. Now, instead of thinking, I will never be good at yoga, I think, I love to do yoga. A subtle change, but a transformative one.
Photo via Pinterest.
from Broga by Alan Shaw

One picture slayed me. Dru is in a south Tampa yoga studio, a few years younger than she is now, her hair noticeably shorter. The picture shows her hovering over the floor. Wearing a red top and pink yoga pants, she's inclined forward in Eight-Angle Pose. She holds her upper body in a lowered push-up position, and her legs bent around to her right. One leg is fed under her arm and the other over, and she's twisted them at the ankle.

I've seen her in this pose in three other photos from the album, and each one just knocks me out. The casual strength it must have taken, the years of focusing on her core, her form. She's exhibiting in the photos the strength I chase each time I practice yoga. The power in her body I see each time I look at this photo kills me and reminds me of why I fell for her. 

It's in her eyes. She's looking at the camera, face placid as a still lake at dawn. No sweat on her brow, or grimace marring her mouth, no red flushing across her cheeks.

She's at peace.

And there's no pride in her expression.
Photo via Pinterest.

Many thanks to the team at Cleis Press for sharing the book. Namaste.

Hip Openers

Photo by Justin Kral of Kral Studios.

Last night I worked on hip openers: frog, pigeon, low lunge, Hanumanasana.

I hold so much tension in my hips. A lot of the time I avoid going to these places of tension… it’s been so long, I think. It’s going to hurt.

Photo by Cait Loper of Cait Loper Photography.

Instead, I turn toward what’s comfortable, what’s easy. Sometimes it is easier to grip than to release—to draw the muscle toward the bone in Crescent Warrior, rather than place a block under the hip and settle in for Half Pigeon.

But when I go the easy route, there is some part lingering beneath the surface that says, You’re cheating yourself.

Photo by Cait Loper of Cait Loper Photography.

 Beneath the fear and hesitation and uncertainty lies your inner knowing.

I was proud of myself for being willing to move toward sensation in the poses last night.

A big part of yoga is allowing—allowing what is. Letting whatever comes up to come up. Not running from it.

Photo by Justin Kral of Kral Studios. 

Be willing to go there.

Effortless

Photo via Pinterest.

Perfect stillness, where the inhale gently becomes the exhale.

The relaxing of the palm in Triangle pose.

Photo via Pinterest.

Softness in the forehead, the jaw, the back of the neck.

Engaging mula bandha without strain, simply as an act of inviting prana to stay.

Witnessing as the body lights up, a graceful dance of breath swirling inside.

Photo via Pinterest. 
Photo by Michael Chichi.

Yoga does not require struggle. 

Yoga is an invitation to remember our natural state, one of effortlessness.

Have a Peaceful Weekend

Photos by Rebecca Hawkes.

Happy Friday, my loves! What are you up to this weekend?

Some lovely links for you...

Give yourself a slow, luxurious, romantic morning.


Rewilding the yoga body... is about much more than donning leather underwear and doing acrobatic poses in the great outdoors -because our bodies are more than’ images’, they are the source of our deepest nature.”

Mischievous night gardening sounds like fun.

If you are feeling discouraged: try, try again. It's not too late to change bad habits.

Vegetarian three bean chili, a perfect recipe for the start to fall.

The English nerd in me loves this post on words people often misuse.

Stylish yoga wear. I love that a lot of these pieces can be used for outfits off the mat, too.

Dreamy yoga mats.

Adorably awkward greeting cards.

Musings from a lovely yogini hooper: Trust what you came here to do.


Finding Joy...Everywhere


Find joy in the everyday moments.

Because, well, that's where we spend a lot of our time.

:)



This is my friend Jamie. She teaches at the same yoga studio where I do, and lately we've been trading classes. Recently she's been sharing photos of her practice in the everyday moments ... no mat required :)

I feel really grateful for that reminder -- that yoga is sacred all the time, whether we're at a fancy, quiet studio or in the middle of the grocery store.

We always have the opportunity to be present. There is no fancy training required.


I think often in our yoga communities we get caught up in the rituals, and our need to control everything and have it be perfect all the time.

I need to set up my mat in the same corner of the room whenever I take class, because that's where I'm most comfortable... I don't like when the yogis next to me are breathing heavily or struggling; they're stealing away my precious 'me' time... 

I hope that the teacher will cue the poses I've 'mastered,' so I can show them off... maybe if I had some cute yoga pants like those, I'd have the confidence to do better in class...

The beauty of it is that this is the yoga. When we are face-to-face with struggle, or lack of control, and we sit back and say, I surrender! I let it go. And we allow ourselves to be with whatever IS, in that moment.

Not engaging the Monkey Mind chatter-- instead, witnessing it, and letting it pass like an ocean wave being called back out to sea.

We don't get attached, and we ask to be humbled.

That's when we are really practicing yoga.


Jamie is a wonderful, vibrant example of this practice. Of the power in simply being present.

She shows up authentically, no matter what she is doing... whether she's teaching, practicing on her own mat, singing Bob Marley songs at the end of class... hanging out with her kiddos, getting tattooed, laughing with friends...

I'm grateful that she is willing to be silly, and non-traditional, and that she challenges her students to go to a place they didn't think was possible. (I'm one of her students, and I've definitely experienced that in her classes!)

It's through this kind of surrendering -- of letting go of all the ego-based ways we come to yoga -- that really allows us to engage with the divine.

And what's most beautiful is that these opportunities are around us all the time... every day. Whether we're in line at the grocery store or sitting on the couch at home, or standing on our mat at the studio. It's all yoga. It's just a matter of tuning in.

Meditation (A Guest Post)

 Photos via Pinterest.

Today I’m honored to share a guest post by Marcia Keilen about the powerful practice of meditation. I first read Marcia’s work on Elephant Journal, and I loved her words about how yoga extends beyond asana. As she said, she loved yoga most for the way the time spent on the mat alone gave her access to her inner wisdom.

Marcia explores that even further in this reflection on how meditation has allowed her to wake up to her life in ways she never imagined were possible.

Meditation: My Personal Journey
By Marcia Keilen
This is my personal story about the transformational power of meditation.

My experience meditating started out many years ago, sometime during the 1990s. I had been attending some yoga classes on and off when I first became interested in the subject of meditation. Since I lived in a small, rural community, my best resources were books. I read books on mindfulness meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn and Sharon Salzberg. I practiced the suggested meditations and did this for a while, but was not consistent with my practice. This was a pattern that would continue on and off for a number of years as I just didn’t know how to fit a meditation practice into my life.

In 2004, I went through a 200 hour teacher training program and started my journey as a yoga teacher which continued with me finishing up the 500 hour yoga teacher training in 2007. It was during the advanced part of my teacher training that I was introduced to some more meditation techniques. I then met a Buddhist minister who taught me some guided meditations. This seemed to keep my interest a bit longer than my previous experience but still my meditation practice was rather erratic.



Then in the year 2009 I found myself at a crossroads in my life. I was really struggling and my life continued to spiral downwards. Actually, this was a continuation of a pattern that started years before, only I was not aware of just how confused and lost I had become.

The following quote pretty much sums it all up:

“In the middle of the journey of our life
I found myself within a dark woods
Where the straight way was lost.”
~ Dante Alighieri


I then began searching for some type of retreat I could go to that would not only detox me on a physical level but on an emotional level, as well. Also, something that would reconnect me with my spiritual roots and help me rediscover my authentic self. I took to the Internet and did several searches. The one place that caught my eye was the Chopra Center for Well Being in Carlsbad, CA. They had a program called Perfect Health and there was an option of doing a 10 day program. I thought, “Why not?”

I signed up for the program that started end of August and ran into September. Little did I know at the time how transformational this part of my journey would be. 



I arrived at the Chopra Center for Well Being and the very first part of the program was learning a meditation technique called Primordial Sound Meditation. My teacher was a man by the name of Davidji and everything he said about his own exploration of different types of meditation immediately resonated with me. I thought finally, a meditation technique that I can stick with and apply in my daily life. He took all the mystery and myths out of what a meditation practice is. That 10 day program released so many toxins out of me physically and emotionally. I really struggled on an emotional level, something that took me by complete surprise. The Perfect Health program is an Ayurvedic program called Panchakarma. The following information is taken from the Chopra Center for Well Being website describing this program:

“Several times each year, we offer a 10-day Perfect Health program that includes panchakarma, an elegant Ayurvedic cleansing process that releases accumulated toxins and stress from the mind-body system. You will receive daily panchakarma therapies and massage treatments tailored to your unique mind-body constitution. Your healing arts master will select specific essential oils and natural herbs to purify and nurture you at the deepest cellular level.”



I spent a lot of my time crying and releasing deep emotional wounds, essentially I was a basket case all 10 days. I am so grateful for Dr. Valencia Porter who took time to talk to me one on one as I struggled with so many overwhelming emotions. The Ayurvedic treatments were very nurturing and I felt I was in a safe space to just allow the whole process to unfold in the most advantageous way. There was a small group of us going through this program who really bonded during this time and I will be forever grateful for their support. But essentially it was up to me to do all the necessary inner work.

What really struck me was how much the meditation became the biggest gift I took away with me from this program. I immediately signed up for Seduction of Spirit, the signature meditation program of the Chopra Center. This was going to be held in August of 2010 in Sedona, AZ. In the meantime, I continued practicing my meditation on a regular basis.

Since some of the benefits that we take out of meditation include reduced stress, making more conscious choices, being less reactive, more compassionate, less judgmental, to name a few, I was hopeful that my life would now turn around. Well, it did, just not in a way I had expected.
Looking back it seems that my pattern was to prove to everyone that I was unlovable, not good enough, didn’t deserve people in my life who treated me well, and the list goes on, but this is essentially how I felt. So, I hit rock bottom in 2010 and found myself in the underworld trying to find my way back into the light. Also, during this time I had a serious lower back injury that laid me up for about eight weeks which I felt was a culmination of my feelings of inadequacy and lack of self love. At the time it was hard for me to understand how this could happen after integrating a regular meditation practice into my life. But now I see that my meditation practice actually allowed me to be aware of what I was doing, something that had not happened before. In the midst of the chaos a light bulb went off and I finally gained insights that my behavior was completely out of sync and counter to my authentic self. This was a time of self-discovery and the life long pattern was finally broken. 


I then continued going to several more Chopra events and finally went through the Primordial Sound Meditation teacher training which makes me a certified meditation teacher. My regular meditation practice has brought many gifts into my life. Not that I am perfect now by any means but I am living a life of integrity and being true to my values. I credit my meditation practice for helping me choose the healers that have been exactly what I needed at each critical point in my life. 

As I continue on my meditation journey, I have discovered more and more synchronicities in my life and I am learning to be more self loving and self forgiving. As I heal and become more loving and compassionate towards myself, I am then able to spread more love and compassion out into the world. The healing of our world really does start with our own inner healing and connection to our authentic self.

My meditation practice also has helped me to develop a sense of gratitude and inner peace. I am truly grateful for all the many teachers who have come into my life, the ones who had my best interest at heart and even those who didn’t. In fact the latter were probably my best teachers and taught me the life lessons that I needed the most in order to become who I am today. My meditation practice is an ongoing journey and every day I approach it with no particular expectations, just allowing it to unfold and trusting the process. This is also what I take out of my practice into my everyday life.

My practice is what keeps me grounded and allows be to connect to the highest aspect of myself. In the moments of stillness between thoughts is where I find my deepest insights, my authentic self, inner wisdom and inner peace. I am forever grateful.



Marcia Keilen is a yoga teacher, meditation teacher, but mostly, she is a student of life and all the lessons that it has taught her and continues to teach her. She is finding that nothing heals more than love, that in the final analysis, all that matters is love. You can reach her at azkeilen@yahoo.com.

Thanks again, Marcia, for the inspiration to make time to sit in meditation! Wishing you much peace and happiness.