Mindful Mondays

Mindful Mondays are brought to you by Joie Schmitz of YOGA\VIVRE. 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!

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Western culture tends to value people who take action, operate self-sufficiently, and produce results.  But, there are times when we all need help to complete a task or overcome an obstacle.  Sometimes, asking for the help that we need can leave us feeling weak or inadequate.  But, really, it requires courage and confidence to acknowledge what we are lacking and allow others to help us fill in the holes.  
If you have a presentation at work that would benefit from the expertise of your peers, ask them for help!
If you’re a stay-at-home parent whose free time is always filled with chores, ask your family for help!
If you need some motivation to jump-start that project you’ve been thinking about for a while now, ask a mentor for help!
Your turn: If _________ would be better with some support, I can ask ________ for help.
The end result of whatever you are working toward will look and feel fuller, richer and more complete if you combine your courage and confidence with the strength and support of others.  Just ask!

Technology has changed the way we live, learn, work, socialize, organize, see the world and connect with others.  It has, in some ways, brought people closer together.
Today, try using technology to reach out to someone you haven’t seen or spoken to in a while.  Send a simple text, email, or message to bridge the distance (of space or time) between the two of you.  Pairing technology with mindfulness can change your day in a meaningful way!

In honor of Independence Day, this week’s exercise is an open meditation on FREEDOM.  
Take a comfortable seat, or lay flat on your back.  Relax.  Breathe slowly and deeply as you bring your mind’s attention to the freedoms you enjoy in your own life.  There are not right or wrong thoughts - let them flow!  Just try not to attach labels to them or create storylines around them.  Keep it simple and streamlined.  For example: 

“I experience freedom when I look up at the sky.”
“I feel freedom when I walk outside.”
“I express freedom when I choose how I want to spend my free time.”
“I embody freedom when I open my heart up to a friend.”  

Where does freedom show up in your life?

Lay on your back.  Close your eyes.  Breathe fully and smoothly.
Silently, mentally repeat to yourself:

I am relaxing my toes, I am relaxing my toes, I am relaxing my toes.
I am relaxing my feet, I am relaxing my feet, I am relaxing my feet.
I am relaxing my shins, I am relaxing my shins, I am relaxing my shins.
I am relaxing my knees…

Continue all the way up the body, mentally repeating and mentally relaxing every body part along the way.  There’s no need to move, simply allow your mind to encourage your body to soften.  It’s subtle… be still and feel.
Mentally relax your internal organs as well:

I am relaxing my stomach, spleen, intestines, liver, pancreas.
I am relaxing my lungs.
I am relaxing my heart.
I am relaxing my brain…

Include any other organs or internal systems of the body that come to mind.
Finally, relax your metaphysical self by mentally reciting:

I am relaxing my breath.
I am relaxing my mind.
I am completely relaxed, I am completely relaxed, I am completely relaxed.

The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.  
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes,  
because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
-Jellaludin Rumi

Enjoy this poem, then take a moment to sit quietly and reflect on the message.  Then, as you navigate this week, meet each twist, turn and bump in the road as a chance to tap into your strength, sense of humor and gratitude.  


This little movement can make crazy, chaotic days more calm.  It can give you a sense of support.  And, it can help you access deeper breaths, which are associated with reduced stress and anxiety. — It is essentially a back massage!
Lay on the floor and hug your knees into your chest.  Wrap you arms around your legs, so that you curl into a tight ball.  Take a few breaths here and notice how you can feel your breath in your belly and in your back.  Keep breathing deeply as you start to gently roll side to side a few times: right side of your back to left side of your back.  Then rock front to back several times: up to your seat and back down to your shoulder blades.  Even try combining the side-to-side motion with the front-to back-motion and create a circular roll with your back supported by the floor.  Make sure to draw your circle the other direction as well.  Take note of any sore or tight spots and softly rock back-and-forth over them, to soothe them away.
After a minute, sit up tall and breathe into your back body.  Feel the freedom you’ve created with a little good old fashioned rock & roll.

This exercise, which comes from Ayurveda (“life-knowledge”), may seem very strange or silly, if you’ve never tried it.  So, before the HOW-TO, here’s the all-important (and maybe surprising reasons) WHY you should make this a daily practice:

It removes build-up on the tongue that can harbor bacteria and cause bad breath
It improves your taste perception, so food becomes more flavorful
It indicates excess in your diet and lifestyle (undigested food and emotions):

Brown/Grey color: Sign of dehydration, or too many raw vegetables and salads
Yellow color: Too much acidic or spicy food
White color: Too much heavy, sweet, thick food, like dairy or meat

It helps you to self-diagnose imbalances in your own body and gives you the guidelines for recalibrating your daily routine or food choices to prevent illness
It can even tell you where, in your body, there is blockage or dis-ease, depending on where the tongue has the most film, or Ama

Knowing all of this helps us understand that tongue scraping is really a mindfulness practice: a way to become more in-tune with your own body and lifestyle.  It provides important information to help you live with more balance.  Why not give it a try?  
(Note that this is a daily practice, because the food we eat, the seasons, our emotions, the environment around us all change constantly.  Watch with wonder at how your tongue scraping can differ on different days!)

No need for fancy equipment - use a spoon!  Grab one and head to your bathroom sink.
Splash cold water on your tongue.
Holding the spoon upside down, slide the edge of the spoon down the surface of your tongue from the back to the front.
Take a look at what collected on the underside of the spoon and compare it to the color chart above.
Repeat this 7-14 times.  Rinse the spoon if there is a lot of build-up between scrapings.
If you feel any discomfort, go easy!  No pain or gagging.
Think about what might be leading to the excesses represented in your tongue scraping, and if you so choose, adjust your diet and lifestyle accordingly.
Repeat every morning when you wake up!

This week’s mindfulness exercise comes from Yoga Journal.  
Our culture, our jobs and our lifestyles demand that we be efficient, multi-tasking, schedule-savvy superheroes.  This is the exact opposite of what we are trying to accomplish with a mindfulness practice!  Mindfulness means slowing down, noticing and savoring the beauty and abundance of each moment, focusing intently on one thing at a time, and acting out of knowledge and understanding.
How can we keep pace with society and live with mindfulness?  It is possible!
Yoga Journal suggests: Ask yourself: Am I rushing because I'm under stress or am I under stress because I'm rushing? Is it always necessary to hurry so much? Would you be able to run your life just as effectively at a slower pace?
Often, I find that when I slow down, I am more focused and better able to manage my schedule, tasks and even the unexpected twists that each day inevitably brings!

I am just returning from a trip to Greece and Italy with my family. It was amazing, and I am endlessly grateful for this and every opportunity I have had to see the world. Traveling makes me feel more connected to other people, to history, to LIFE. Traveling makes me more mindful.

On this, most recent, trip, we were with a tour guide who set the itinerary. Not a minute was spared in the schedule. (The same day that we landed in Athens, we visited the Panathenaic Olympic Stadium, The Parthenon, Zeus’ Temple, Hadrian’s Arch, saw the Changing of the Guard at the Parliament building, and roamed the streets and squares in modern parts of the city…. Before we ever checked into our hotel.) Even our transit time between landmarks was filled with ancient history and Greek language lessons. We truly made the most of each day, immersing ourselves in every opportunity to seek out beauty, explore something new, understand a culture built on long, complex storylines.

It was easy to “carpe diem” when there was so much to discover. We were motivated to keep moving and exploring by the idea that this was something really special, something we couldn’t do just every day.

In reality, it is the other way around! Even on the most ordinary of days, if we get up and get going with a “seize the day” mindset, we create the world’s beauty, we write cultural stories, we build history.

We all have abundance in some form.  Some area of our lives is rich and full and shining with splendor.
On the other hand, we all have spaces in our lives where we feel something is lacking.  We wish for more and believe that if we have more, we will be happy.
Often, we focus more on what we feel we lack than what we know we have.  We spend time and energy trying to compensate for what’s missing so we can fill a void.  Mentally, we can get stuck in this void and lose sight of the bounty in our lives – the things that support and sustain us.
Today, shift your mental energy out of a space of insufficiency and into a flourishing garden of abundance.  Focus on the strongest attributes of your Self, the richness of your relationships, the things that light you up on the inside.  Amplify the world around you by seeing everything through a lens of abundance.