Mindful Mondays

Mindful Mondays are brought to you by Joie Schmitz and the Joie of Yoga, LLC. These quick one minute exercises are sure to help you start your week off on a positive note!

Check back here each week for a new Monday message!

When life becomes routine and we go about our days in accordance with expectations rather than pursuing explorations, we aren’t being mindful.  Mindfulness is the opposite of auto-pilot.  In auto-pilot, our days blend together, food tastes bland, our bodies and minds feel numb, and the world lacks color and dimension.  Living mindfully, we see, feel, taste, think, speak and act with more definition, clarity and depth.
Today, practice approaching everything you do with a beginner’s mind — as though this was the first time you’ve ever done something.  When you wash your face, imagine that you are feeling water for the first time. If you send an email, craft it with the attention to detail that you would if you were just learning the process. When you step outside into nature, let the environment wrap around you.  What do you notice when you turn off auto-pilot and explore your own life with more curiosity and wonder?
 

“When life is not coming up roses
Look to the weeds
and find the beauty hidden within them.” 
― L.F.Young

Take a seat of meditation: tall spine, lifted chest, soft shoulders.  Take three calming breaths in and out through your nose.
Bring to mind one thing that’s troubling you this week.  Anything that’s bringing you down or stealing your energy.  Think of this thing as a weed in the garden of your heart.  Visualize this thing - pale and brown and drooping - planted right in the middle of your patch of colorful and vibrant flowers.  Contrast the beauty of the abundant, lush garden with the dreariness of the lonely weed.
Keep picturing this scene in your heart and start to move out of your head.  Let go of contemplation and rest your mind.  Don’t try to pull the weed.  
Softly focus on that garden in your heart, with awareness of the weed, but loving attention on the flowers.  Watch the weed ever-so-slowly turn from brown to green.  See the stalk grow plump and sprout new leaves.  Notice as buds begin to pop out between the leaves.  And, slowly, petal-by-petal, observe as flowers bloom.  
Enjoy three more full, rich breaths while imagining yourself sitting among all of the blooming flowers of your garden.  

 

This restorative yoga posture gently massages the belly, refreshes the mind and establishes feelings of ease and contentment through out the body.  Try it out if your belly’s in knots or tension has taken over your day.  You’ll need a pillow or blanket.

Sitting in a chair, bring your feet directly underneath your knees.  Place your pillow or rolled-up blanket on the tops of your thighs.  Press your hands into the seat of the chair on either side of your hips, so that you can lengthen your torso upward.

Leading with your chest and supporting yourself by pressing into your arms, fold over your legs, until your belly and chest rest on the pillow or blanket.
If you are comfortable here, release your arms to hang down on the outsides of the legs.  Let your head hang down between your legs.  
Breathe deeply into your belly, so that you can feel it press into the pillow or blanket with each inhalation.  The belly can soften with each exhalation.  Stay here for a full minute.  The bigger the breaths, the better the belly rub.

When you are ready to come out of the pose, press your hands to the tops of your thighs again and keep your spine long (not rounded) as you slowly sit up.  

 

“Any man’s life will be filled with constant and unexpected encouragement if he makes up his mind to do his level best each day.” - Booker T. Washington

Allow your efforts today to clear the path for something unexpected.  Rather than staying fixed on one specific goal or accomplishment, broaden your scope and set the intention to do your level best at everything you take on today.  No matter what is on your agenda, do it with thoughtful attention and enthusiasm.  (Give extra effort for tasks at work.  Deepen your conversations with friends.  Make encounters with strangers meaningful.  Make the most of the time you spend with your kids.  Dedicate some attention to self-care.)  
If you keep putting your best out into the universe, the universe continually becomes a better place for you and for others.
 

When the weather outside is chilly, we seek the warmth of the indoors, cozy blankets, comfort food, or a hot bath.  There are lots of ways to melt the cold and feel contentment in the winter months, and it’s important to balance the blustery season with some soothing self-care.  Here’s a one-minute warmer that you can do anywhere, anytime this winter:

Take a comfortable seat and close your eyes.  Start with a few calm and deep breaths.  Then, rub the palms of your hands together vigorously for 15-20 seconds.  Notice the heat that you create in your own hands!  Transfer your palms to your face and cup your eyes.  Once you feel the warmth on your face, start to massage around your eye sockets with your palms.  For about 30 seconds, make little circles across your brow line and out to your temples, then down across your cheek bones to the bridge of your nose.  (Take care not to press on the eyes themselves.)  Following this massage, cover your eyes with your hands again, gently.  Softly blink your eyes a few times, behind your cupped palms.  Then, with eyes open, very slowly start to draw your hands away from your face, until your hands come into focus with your vision.  Turn your palms in, so they press together, and pull them up to your heart.  

 

Did you know that when we crossed the winter solstice on December 21st, we started our transition back to longer days and more daylight?  The shift is almost imperceptible, unless you focus your awareness on the sun.  This week’s exercise allows us to do just that…
On a day when some sun shines through the clouds, make a date to step outside just before the sun sets.  If you have one minute, simply stand facing the sun’s glow.  If you have more time, take a walk under the halo of light that encircles the sky at dusk.  Notice the colors in the sky, the way the light falls on everything around you, and how just a drop of added daylight before darkness makes you feel at that moment.  
By honoring the light in this way, you’re offering-up an invitation to the sun, to infuse all of us with its power and brilliance!

 

In the practice of yoga, self-discipline is highly revered, because with self-discipline comes a deep and honest understanding of your Self.  “Tapas,” or “purification through discipline,” is a way to burn through thoughts or habits that are preventing you from living from your heart, in a truly joyful way.  
Step into the fire with today’s exercise and see what you can burn off!  
Plank Hold: Plant the palms of your hands on the floor and extend your legs back.  Tuck your toes under, so that you can push the balls of your feet into the floor and feel your legs get strong to support you in this plank pose.  Make sure your shoulders are directly over your wrists, and that there’s a straight line from your heels, to your hips, to your shoulders.  (Note: to modify the pose, drop your knees to the floor, and try to make a straight line through the body from your knees, to your hips, to your shoulders.)  Imagine a line down the center of your body and hug everything in to that line to make your whole body stronger.  Be still in plank.  Keep the breath flowing as the heat builds within you.  If fiery and negative thoughts come up while you are holding this pose, throw those thoughts into the heat that’s rising up in your body, so that you can burn through them.  Continue to fan the flame that you are feeling with your breath.  Hold for 1 minute, or longer.  The purification happens in the process of disciplining yourself to hold the pose.

 

This time of year, one can easily be swept-up in the whirlwind of gift giving and receiving.  So, the key to staying on the mindful path might just be to let gratitude instead of greed guide us.  
Take a moment today and think of all of the gifts you’ve asked for or have been quietly eyeing this season.  For each item that comes to mind, think of one thing you currently own and have deep gratitude for.  
Giving and receiving gifts are beautiful ways to celebrate this season, as long as we stay grounded in gratitude and not lured off the path by greed.
—Brought to you by Joie Schmitz & The Joie of Yoga, LLC.
 

Truth and honesty are widely-accepted morals.  Most of us agree that lying, or presenting false information, or leaving out bits of important information is bad. But, thinking, speaking and acting truthfully can get complicated, for many reasons.  Still, we must always seek to live in truth to find peace.  Today’s mental exercise helps us tap into truth, while maintaining integrity, compassion and harmony with the world around us.
Make a list of your truths: a few beliefs you hold to be real and absolute.  Next to each of those, leave space to consider the following three scenarios:

What I hold true and what I believe in might not align with what you hold true and believe in.  How should we go about maintaining our individual beliefs, respecting one another’s differing opinion and living in harmony?
Do you believe in somethings whole-heartedly, but have a hard time acting in accordance with those thoughts?  Are there gaps in your truths and how can you better align your truths, so that the way you think, speak and act all support your truth?
The world is constantly changing and so are we, as individuals, therefore what is true for us one day might not be true for us the next day.  Are you still holding on to beliefs that aren’t in accordance with your life as it stands today?  How can you “renovate” those outdated truths into ones that make you stronger now?

Being “true to you” is complex, but you know when you are there, because it feels really right.  
—Brought to you by Joie Schmitz & The Joie of Yoga, LLC.

At Thanksgiving, our attention naturally turns toward gratitude.  The holiday lends itself to the practice of acknowledging what we are most grateful for in our lives.  
Feeling and expressing gratitude is something that can be done year-round to inspire a richer, more meaningful life.  When you giving thanks this Thanksgiving, let it be the start of a daily gratitude practice.  Each morning going forward, before you get out of bed, say thanks for anything that comes to mind.  Start each day with the joy and contentment that flows from a grateful heart.