Take a moment and remember an experience where you or someone you know were completely filled with joy and happiness. Recall what it felt like to be there, the smells that may have been present, the people and whatever else comes to mind. Immerse your self in that memory for as long as you can before continuing reading.
There are few things that are more important than establishing self love as a regular place of existing. Depending on your upbringing, the concept may even sound like a bad idea. I like to think of being in a place of self love as the foundation for any spiritual or emotional journey. Without it your vision/perception will be distorted, and you most likely will misinterpret teachings and information.
It’s easy to get lost in the hustle of daily life and even easier to look outside of your self for relief and fulfillment. It may even seem like it’s the norm to exist in a place where there’s no connection to relief and fulfillment and “that’s just how it is”. That’s why it’s essential to practice existing in a place of fulfillment and full self acceptance… We need to counter all the time we spend telling ourselves the opposite.
It’s important to acknowledge that our modern culture doesn’t make it easy for us to exist in that place and that we need to actively work to counter that. There are many facets in our day to day life that would keep us looking outside of ourselves and to products, places or emotional experiences. Even though the internet has connected us to more people and perspectives, it also makes it easier to disconnect from our own experience of reality.
Noting that, the choice is ours. We have the ability in any moment to connect with ourselves and break the cycle. Even when you’re not consciously choosing to, you’re still making a choice. This is why it’s so important to reflect on yourself and existence in a way that helps bring the unconscious into our conscious awareness.
Meditation, yoga, dance, breathing are all great exercises to get into the present moment and shed light on the things we hide from our awareness. Anything that gets you into your body and out of your head will help ground you. Nature is one of the most powerful tools to find some respite from the insanity of the day to day grind. Even if you’re in an urban environment, tapping into little pieces of nature you can find around you will help you immensely.
Carl Jung said “consciousness is a ship on the sea of the unconscious”. That speaks to the vastness of the power the things we cannot see in ourselves. When we practice self reflection, we become aware of some of the details of that vastness. Even after a lifetime of that practice though, there will still be aspects that will remain unconscious.
Luckily, we are not out to conquer the unconscious and eliminate it. We are looking to find harmony and a healthy relationship with it. Part of finding that harmony is through training it. One of the most effective ways to train the unconscious is through repetition. Marketers have known this for years. This is why you get junk mail from the same people over and over. It’s known that most people won’t take action until they see something at least 8-10 times.
It’s important to understand the difference that lies between consciousness/intellect and our unconscious. When we learn of a new idea or thought, our intellect can grasp and assimilate those things very quickly. I’m sure you’ve experienced that when it comes to any New Years resolutions you’ve had. There are things to change that you think will benefit your life and then make a list of the ones you want to bring into your life. If there was no unconscious, this would be all it takes. Fortunately, it’s not all it takes. It takes interfacing with the unconscious.
On a simple level, you could take all of this information and say that all that’s necessary is to just stick with it and have more willpower. That misses a big component of what I’m getting at. Many times the things we choose to practice or change about our lives are not serving us. We may think if I just have more money, if I looked different, if if if. You may be able to find the discipline and willpower to make these things a reality. The question would be then, “Am I fulfilled, am I content, is this true satisfaction and happiness”? Or does it lead to more “ifs”?
I find there’s a common misconception that happiness/fulfillment is a place you get to sometime down the road. It’s actually a choice, a conscious decision to find the joy and contentment in the moment. That’s not to say that every moment will be joyful and exactly the way you want it, but it speaks to the ability to shift your own life versus looking outside of yourself to find it.
Let’s just take a moment and do a brief practice that is helpful to cultivate fulfillment.
First, find a place that’s as free from distractions as possible and get comfortable. You can be seated or lying down and you can use pillows, cushions or blankets to support yourself so that you can relax your body.
Now, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths; breathing in through the nose, and out through the mouth. With each exhale, relax deeply. After a few breaths, change the breathing so you’re breathing in and out through the nose. If that’s not accessible, part the lips slightly to let a little air in through the mouth.
Allow the belly to rise and fall easily and gently. Let your body and mind get as still as possible. Spend at least 10 breaths like this allowing the breath to flow easily and smoothly through your body.
Continue breathing in this way and staying relaxed. As thoughts and feelings come into your awareness greet them with a loving response. If the thoughts are about you personally or other people or events around you, greet them in the same way, with love and compassion.
Notice your reaction to this practice. Many times, there will be a reaction to the thought of greeting everything in this way. Be loving to the reaction as well. The thoughts are just that, thoughts. They ebb and flow just like the ocean and tides. Your reaction to them is the practice, and choosing love and compassion as a reaction is fully within your ability. With that said, it is a practice and it may not come easily at first so be patient and kind with yourself.
Stay here for at least 5 minutes or longer. Before opening your eyes, notice how you feel physically, emotionally and mentally. If you feel compelled to make notes of your experience, take time to write them down.
Don’t look for a specific outcome in this practice. This is a practice of shifting your perspective and beginning to training the unconscious to operate differently, and practicing takes time and repetition. Try this practice for at least 10 times as often as possible and see what changes for you.
Feel free to comment below and share your thoughts or questions.
I’ve been thinking a lot about fulfillment and satisfaction recently. I started to question the little things I was choosing to do everyday and if they brought satisfaction or not. Then it grew to beyond the smaller things and started encompassing all aspects of my life.
This may not be a new thing for you, for me it’s revolutionary. I’ve started to realize that I didn’t think it was possible to do or have things that fulfill me in life. I had made it up in my head that doing things I love was a fantasy and that even people who claimed to have that were not wise enough to realize that they were just fooling themselves.
How naive I am and have been, how surprising it is to see that I was missing out so much. Now that I understand this better, I realize that I’ve held myself back from coming to this understanding sooner as it comes with a lot of grief and feelings of loss.
I am understanding now that it’s easy to find satisfaction when I start to choose it for myself, even if it’s just in the small things I do throughout the day. It also amazes me that I have the ability to radically make changes in this moment to support my satisfaction rather than continuing to build and live off of an old idea/paradigm that is outdated.
As I sit with this, the inevitable question of “what to do” comes up. That has been an enormous block for me. In my past reality, I have had to figure out what to do before I do anything. I have many ideas but which one is “the one” that will be the magic life path? I’ve let that query keep me in a relative holding pattern of procrastination and stagnation.
What I’m now realizing, after many years of indecision and waiting, is that I don’t need to worry about the what. Even if I just choose small and simple things that feel satisfying and easeful, things flow and fall into place without having a clue how it will happen. Even more than what events or things happen in my life, I find that I feel at ease and inline with my joy and that brings new opportunities and insights into future choices.
Housesits & Yoga
To all of you who have had me housesit over the past 2 years, thank you! Since I have been back from my trip to Bali last year, I’ve traveled through 7 different countries and house/pet sat over 40 different places… It has been, and continues to be an adventure! I am honored to share in the lives of all the people and animals that I’ve met.
My girlfriend and I have still have some availability in Santa Barbara during the first half of December and again in January so please reach out or feel free to pass this email on to others that would be interested. Many times, there is no charge for my services and I can accommodate a wide variety of responsibilities.
On a separate note, I have been contemplating starting up a weekly public yoga class again in Santa Barbara. I would love to hear your feedback on what you would like to see in a yoga class and where you would like it to be.
For those of you that prefer private sessions or that have needs that exceed the realm of a public class, I am available for both in-home and at a studio sessions. I offer a sliding scale rate and have experience working with and healing a wide variety of physical and emotional challenges.
For all of you directly affected by the recent events in Paris, I send my love, sympathy and support… It is a tragic and painful reality that has touched all of us in one way or another and I wish you the best in the time ahead.
After much soul-searching and uncertainty, I’ve turned the page to a new chapter. This website is the metaphorical title and this post is to share with you what studio luminous is.
My journey in life has taken me along many paths, from building speakers and washing cars to owning a electrical contracting business and teaching yoga. Much of what I have been searching for along this way is how to find contentment through my work and in life in general. The way I understood how to do that was to be as selfless as possible and then somehow, through that, I would find a way to be happy myself… After experiencing the peril of that mentality more times that I would like to admit, I moved to Santa Barbara and I decided to look more closely at my life.
During my ownership of a 10 employee construction business in Minnesota during the great recession, I poured every bit of myself into trying to keep my business alive. It took me working 100 hour weeks for well over a year to realize that wasn’t possible… It also showed me the limits of hard work and determination.
Nearly destroyed by that experience, I knew I needed some time to reflect and recover. When I moved to Santa Barbara I created that time. I also began a regular yoga practice. Yoga felt amazing! It gave me relief, self-reflection and a discipline to heal physically and emotionally. As time passed though, I started to apply that same ideal of ‘selflessness’ and self-starvation to yoga. Rather than an internal anguish this time, I created the dysfunction in a physical form. The beauty of what yoga and giving was for me transformed into something that injured me intensely and felt very much like everything else prior to that in life. In addition, yoga seemed to enable/promote my willingness to give everything to others and leave nothing for myself.
Again, I felt destroyed. Not only did I feel that what I was doing wasn’t right for me, but I felt that I wasn’t able to find anything in life that didn’t hurt. Through this process, as well as the work with a dear friend of mine, Voge Smith, I began to remember events that had happened to me when I was a child that I had blocked from my memory. This ripped apart the foundation of what I had thought my past was and I started to seriously question everything. I saw that what I needed to destroy was my confusion rather than myself. In order to do this, I needed the freedom and space to abandon my belief system as well as the means to give to myself in the ways that I had felt unable to in the past; I sold everything that had tied me down, quit my work and committed myself to following my heart and unlearning my broken beliefs.
Over the last 6 years, I’ve been able to see things in a new way and find some clarity. I’ve realized that I need to give to myself in the way I had thought I needed to give to others. This site is a space for me to do that as well as house the things in life that I find beautiful and inspiring while following my creative process whole-heartedly. I’ve purposefully left the concept of the site open-ended enough to give space to all my skill sets and whims. It’s also a public setting to embody a model of self-love and compassion that isn’t widely supported or even understood. It is my belief that as I do this, the contentment and love that I’ve created will ripple out to the people in my sphere.
I have been doing some remodeling on a clients home in Palm Springs and much of the labor I am doing personally. I will travel down on a Wednesday, stay with my mom nearby and then work from sunrise to sunset until Sunday. I have just recovered from a work week that completely exhausted me and now that Sunday is near I can say that I am finally beginning to feel normal.
The trip before last, I logged over 60 hours in 3.5 days and it’s fair to say I was still feeling the effects of that trip when I went down again 2 weeks later. I thought I would pace myself after coming out of that trip… Take it easy. I was closer to 40 hours in the same amount of time and on the drive home I did feel much better. To my credit, if I would have left it at just that things might have been better, but I had committed to helping some friends light a new studio when I returned and it pushed me over the edge.
After all the yoga and teaching right effort I still have a lot to learn about the balance of what my mind wants and what my body/being wants. How do we know when is enough and when is too much. If yoga was the solution to everything, one might say start in your body and get familiar with the right amount of effort there and that will inform the rest of your life. In my opinion, yoga isn’t the only solution and it proves difficult to always apply metaphors into all aspects of your life.
For example: There is a deadline, you have a set amount of work that needs to be done by the deadline and it’s up to you to do it. Well, the mind says you can have it all done a day early and you might even have time to relax for a swim or two. As the hours go by you begin to have a sneaking suspicion that it may only be one swim or you might even need to stay later the last day to get the job done. Most likely you won’t think of Warrior I in that moment and say “Oh yeah, that’s what I need to do!”
I assume you have experienced a situation like this… I have repeated it over and over. When I had my electrical business I had roughly 600 jobs a year that me and my employees churned through. As the free market dictates a fair price and consistent expectation, a business owner must find a balance in all of that or perish. Well… I perished. A few big jobs that I didn’t get paid for and it all crumbled. That, took 4 years to recover from.
I am nowhere near the 100 hours a week I worked then but I still have the idea in my head that if I think it I can do it. I don’t think this thought process is unique to me and from much of the rhetoric of the yoga/new age community it seems to reinforce that to some extent. Just believe and it will be. Your thoughts create things. The problem, I believe, begins with why we want what we want and where are we placing our expectations.
What is the real goal? Who and what created the deadline? What, if anything, happens really when that deadline or expectation doesn’t get met? How do I know when I need to stop and when that is just laziness? Why are we so scared of laziness?
My guide in finding the answers as of late is listen to yourself. Listen to the part of you that says it’s enough. Try not only going in the direction of bigger, better more. Try pulling back and observing. Whether it’s your yoga practice or your workplace, observe and listen to the little intuitive hits that come up.
If you are consistent and persistent, your level of effort doesn’t need to be 110% all the time. If everyday you wake up and spend 5 minutes meditating and being still, that’s more effective than sitting down for 60 minutes once a week. If we don’t enjoy our experience as we are moving through life then what are we doing? Why are we doing? What is it satisfying?
This is not to discount dedication and diving in deep to our interests; often going beyond what is comfortable is necessary to gain a new perspective. My main point is to look at the prime mover or the purpose of the action. If it stems from inspiration and love for what you’re doing then this article might seem irrelevant. If it stems from a sense of obligation or responsibility I think it may speak more to the point.
Most of us have responsibilities that are not inspiring and parts of our lives that feel like they take rather than give to us. It is my hope that by practicing observing and then acting on our inner wisdom we can be guided to find a more enjoyable experience. Thank you for reading ~
Pain ~ Fear
As a child I loved to fall…I would purposefully fall down stairs and have my friends roll me end-over-end in a rabbit cage my parents had empty in the back yard. Even in gymnastics I remember a specific event that happened when I was competing on the floor and did a back handspring which ended on my head. With all of my life experience there are few things that I am more thankful for than that of not being afraid of falling.
That fearlessness of falling or in some cases ‘failing’ has transferred to areas in my life beyond my physical body. I’ve been relatively fearless in my entrepreneurial & romantic endeavors, not all ending well but still able to pick myself up and continue on. This leads up to the more current day and how I came to yoga.
I moved to Santa Barbara in 2009 and had no real experience in yoga other than 2-3 Bikram classes and a Rodney Yee DVD a girlfriend had invited me to practice with her once. I noticed, more from the DVD than the Bikram classes, is that I felt more peaceful afterwards. That spark grew into a flame after I arrived to SB. I had driven for 31 hours in 2.5 days, found my new place and promptly went to sleep in my empty apartment on my air mattress.
I awoke the next day and I decided to look online for yoga classes that had more depth and that would hopefully give me more insight into the peace that I felt from practicing. I found Steve and Michele’s Ashtanga program. The next day at 5:30am I walked into studio 2 at the Santa Barbara Yoga Center and began. I had no idea what Ashtanga but I came equipped with my fearless will to dive in.
I had just ended a 10 year career as an electrical contractor that consisted of managing 10 employees and over 500 jobs a year. When I moved to Santa Barbara I made a commitment to myself to take time off until I felt clearer about what I wanted to do for my next step. For the next year of my life my days consisted of yoga 6 days a week, with the exception of the sweet weeks that had a moon day which didn’t fall on a Saturday, daily beach walks and meditation.
After that year I felt a huge emotional relief. It wasn’t as if my life was perfect but I felt like I was emerging from a storm, catching glimpses of sunlight. Around this same time I was running into some severe pain in my body. The more I practiced yoga, the worse the pain was…the thing that had helped heal me was now seemingly hurting me. I asked every teacher I could find, “what should I do?”, and they all gave me very well thought out and relevant help, but from which I found no noticeable improvement.
Around this time I took over the management position at SBYC and started in their teacher training program. I continued to practice yoga regularly and ask even more teachers and well known trainers what to do. The advice informed me much about my body but I didn’t find any relief from it. The pain reached its apex when I tried to go from bridge to child’s pose and it took me 25 minutes as I dealt with excruciating pain. Finally I gave up looking and decided to ask myself, my body, what’s going on?
What transpired between that time and now is the reason for me being compelled to write this.
The two years after the events I’ve mentioned was when I was able to find out what was going on in my body, and most importantly in my mind. I used the physical practice of yoga along with my intuition to experiment with the pain. “What happens if I push through it, what happens when I don’t do anything?” Each day I thought I understood and that I had found my solution and I would wake up the next day barely able to get out of bed or even put my socks on. For me, someone who has always had a body that works the way I want it to, I grew impatient at times and at other times simply depressed.
Little by little though I found things that I could do to help, sometimes it was physical, sometimes it was just breaking the habits of how I bent down to pick something up. The key, beyond any of the physical findings, was that I continued to come back, to begin again and again and again, to practice….
I began to find a little relief, then more and so on. Some days were better, some days were worse. The more would come up to the precipice of pain consciously, the more I began to learn about what was really happening and what was causing the pain. Eventually I found that the pain wasn’t there to trigger my fear reflex but to inform me. The feelings I assumed were pain began to morph and change into other feelings and sensations. I began to realize that I didn’t need to try so hard to overcome anything or find some solution, the answers were already evident…I just needed to listen.
As my awareness grew I began to also understand my reaction to the pain and fear of it was causing the perpetuation of it. “As we act in one situation, often we react similarly in others.” I began to see that as I approached unknown areas in life and relationship I would react in the same way.
Paul Werhman, another yoga teacher in the SB area, told me a story he heard about an experiment to people did as they dissected a cadaver. One person held the base of the cadaver’s spine with both hands, the other took both hands and grabbed the back of the illiac crest, or the ridge at the top of the back of the pelvis; they then proceded to pull in opposing directions to see if they could recreate the ‘slippery disc’ or move the spine in any dramatic way. Before any movement could happen in the spine, the top of the pelvis broke off and the experiment was finished.
As I’ve worked more and more with people I’ve found that the pain, many times, is a mislabeled sensation that has more emotional than structural significance. In addition to that the idea that a disc can be slippery or move around a lot is a misconception. The amount of movement that can or is actually happening is typically on a microscopic level. Our perception of what is happening and the reality is often counter to one another. Even people who have had diagnosed conditions of degenerative discs, misaligned vertebrae and other minor disc issues have found ways to regenerate and realign their spines through a myriad of techniques.
I have studied in many different styles of yoga, from Ashtanga and Iyernga yoga as well as newer methods such as Yin and Therapeutic Yoga. I’ve spent many hours working with The Gyrotonic Method and have gone back to my roots in gymnastics and the more recent blending of it with yoga, AcroYoga. All of them have given me little gems of knowledge but it has always come from the outside in. What I’ve learned is that every body is different and there isn’t one way to treat everything.
As I ramble I do want to reign it in to get back to the essence of what brought me to write this so here it is. The more we look outside of ourselves for solutions the more we will miss out on what is actually happening now and continue to feel lost and at the whims of life. I am not discounting legitimate help from others, including myself, or diving into the mysteries of life around us, but we don’t need to always look to other people, methods or practices to fix us. In that searching we are missing the nectar and essence of life, the true empowerment that comes from self knowledge and self awareness. From the confidence that tells us that we have a choice and a clear deep understanding of what’s best for our body and our soul. When we can let go of what we think and stop telling ourselves ‘that’s just the way it is’ we can begin to relax into the beauty that is always surrounding us.
I chose the Urdhva Dhanurasana pictures to illustrate the physical transformation I have been through. The posture represents many of my fears and has offered me a way to find a way through them.