The Giving Tree: 20 Days of Giving

It’s a funny thing about giving. Even though my life is about being of service, even though everything I do to create a living and a life I love stems from helping other people do the same…I still (STILL!) get all caught up in focusing on getting what I want. To name a few: I want to change the world, reach the world, be free and in love with the world and help others do the same. How does this all play out? I want to continue to build up my coaching practice and my yoga teaching—and can you already feel yourself getting a little more tense as you read that? Me too.

Self-Realization

Focusing on what we want doesn’t do us any good. This is NOT to say that we don’t dream or create or manifest. We just approach it in a different way. WIFT. That stands for ‘What’s in it for them?’ In all honesty this concept was a radical introduction in my life—totally new to me and foreign and hard to understand. I’d spent nearly all my late teens to early adult-hood focusing on what I wanted, on my dreams, on setting goals for myself and racing towards them, slicing through anything that got in the way. I was determined, dammit, and nothin’ was gonna stop me.

That worked for small goals: things like getting my first ‘real’ job, ascending up the job-ladder, and bringing major projects to completion. But bigger goals—things like, oh, wanting to help people transform the world, be free, be strong, be healthy and happy and LIBERATED? Not so much.

Yoga = liberty

It means freedom from the constraints of thought- and small self-induced guilt, anxiety, stress, worry, and separation from ultimate peace and joy. And living yoga means living from that place of unity. So ‘What’s in it for me?’ gets transformed into ‘What’s in it for us?’ And I noticed I was starting to sink into more emphasis on ‘What’s in it for me?’ right about the same time a friend of mine talked about spending the evening of the full moon getting all intentional about what she’d do as it started to wane. And then, totally unconscious of the poetry of it all, a gift floated into my head: 20 Days of Giving.

20 Days of Giving

Inspired by Shel Silverstein’s book, The Giving Tree. I’m going to give something every day. Something tangible: like clothing, or food, or money. Something less tangible: a hug, a smile, a seat on the bus, or my spot in the grocery store line.

December 5 to 25. One thing a day.

Want to join me?

It’s no big thing. Just something small.
It’s a huge thing. It could change your/the world.
If you dig this, will you help spread the word?

Facebook post: I’m joining the #20daysofgiving Challenge. Wanna join me? http://libreliving.com/coaching/20-days-of-giving/
Twitter: I’m joining the #20daysofgiving Challenge. Wanna join me? http://libreliving.com/coaching/20-days-of-giving/

Much love,
L

—————

This is a guest post by Lindsey Lewis, yoga teacher, life coach and founder of www.libreliving.com.

Kindfully + Mindfully

Wherever there is a human being there is an opportunity for kindness. ~Seneca

There’s something so powerfully simple, profoundly beautiful, about the Dalai Lama’s quote: “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”

If you were to adopt one central tenet for your life, a single word to live by, you might do no better than to live a life of “kindness.”  Kindness is certainly a philosophy worth exploring.

Kindness can guide every interaction you have with others, can guide your life’s work, and give meaning to your life.

All else will melt away, if you let go of it, and leave only kindness.

Doing to others IS doing to yourself

The Golden Rule goes something along the lines of, “Treat others as you’d want to be treated (in their place).”  But in another conception, how you treat others is how you treat yourself.

Consider: when you react to others with anger or meanness, you are putting yourself in an angry mindset, a bad mood. You’ll likely feel pretty crappy for at least an hour, if not all day, for something so silly as getting bumped by a cart in the grocery store.

When you are uncaring or indifferent to others, you also create an empty, blank feeling in yourself, a void that cannot be filled with gadgets, social networking, shopping, food, or possessions.

But instead, if you choose kindness, you build a good feeling within yourself, you make yourself happy. In effect, you are being kind to yourself.

Other outward-facing actions have a similar inward effect: if you want to learn, teach. If you need inspiration, inspire others. If you need a smile on your face, cheer someone up.

mindfulness + kindfulness

It is near impossible, in my experience, to transition towards kindness without being mindful. Thoughtlessness leads to unkindnesses.

You must be mindful of every interaction with another human being. Approach each person mindfully, with your full attention, smiling, seeking to understand them, trying to interact with gentleness, warmth, compassion.

When someone comes to talk to you, when your kid tugs on your pant leg for attention, when your spouse or best friend starts speaking, turn to them without distraction, putting everything else away, and give your full attention. Listen.  This is not a simple thing to do with nine tenths of your mind scattered.  Be mindful.

Here’s something beautiful: by treating others with kindness, you will create a happy feeling within yourself, effectively creating a positive feedback loop for your mindfulness. This will encourage you to be more mindful throughout your day, which will help you to treat others with yet more kindness, and so on.

Mindfulness and kindfulness feed on each other in a wonderful cycle.

Practicing the religion of kindness

This all, of course, takes careful practice, and the more you practice, the better you’ll get at it.  Practicing “random” acts of kindness is merely the starting line.

There’s an evolution in kindness, a process in which kindness slowly infuses your life and transforms everything you do, becoming so much more than just a random action.

Relationships: Your interactions and eventually your relationships with others, including friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, will slowly grow more positive, stronger.

Parenting: If you are a disciplinarian parent, learning to make every interaction with your child one centered on kindness will create a new type of relationship, and will teach your child how to be kind to others, by your example. Your actions are a much better teacher than your words.

Work: It might seem unrealistic, but it is possible to center your work around kindness. Gradually and purposefully make your work a living expression of your kindness, your love, in your interaction with your customers, co-workers, colleagues, the world … in what you produce and put out there.

Eating: A vegan diet is perhaps the kindest diet, all things being equal. This is from the belief that animals suffer when we put them in miserable living conditions, maim and shock them, kill them, for our pleasure. I’m not saying this to be self-righteous, or to make anyone feel guilty, but only for your kind consideration — to consider the animals as you eat. Consider also, as you are contemplating kindness, your eating’s effects on farmers and workers, on your health and the health of your family, and on the environment.

Conclusions

It isn’t easy to be kind in every possible human transaction, in every interaction we have throughout the day. It’s far easier to be thoughtless and react in the lowest common denominator. It can feel better to get back at someone when they are unkind to you (at least, it feels better at first). It takes less effort to not care.

But when we touch another person’s life, our lives are being touched as well. Our effort to be more mindful and more kindful can shape not only our own lives, but the lives of friends, neighbors, and strangers.

[Editor’s Note: This article borrows liberally from a post by Leo Babauta on Zen Habits.  Leo kindly “uncopyrights” all of his Zen Habits material so it can be shared far and wide on the Internet.]

Yoga…in a perfect world

Found these insightful ruminations on Tumblr about one yogini’s (julia lee yoga) realization about the essence of a yoga practice:

In a perfect world (or in a world where money grows from trees), yoga would be freely accessible to all. There would be no such thing as $100 spandex pants or exorbitant yearly pass prices. Unfortunately, the world is not a perfect place – nor does money grow from trees.

Let’s face it – I’m far from rich. In fact, I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum. I’m a student. In other words, I survive off student loans and the clearance rack at the grocery store, which offers brown bananas and bread that expires that day. Living on a student budget and immersing myself in yoga has been challenging, to say the least. There have been times when I have neglected my practice completely for weeks due to financial or time constraints. At these moments, I feel guilty; guilty for putting yoga on the back burner and not making my practice a priority in my life.

Lately, I’ve been hit hard by a wave of yogic desire, and I’m itching to start a regular practice again. I spend most of my free time researching yoga studios, festivals and workshops, and then staring sadly at my empty bank account. I’m a bad yogini, I tell myself. Real yogis and yoginis travel to Yoga Journal conferences and study with master teachers. Real yogis and yoginis do asana practice at real studios with real teachers.

Then, suddenly, I came to a realization. I realized that my definition of yoga had been tainted and warped by the influence of the modern world. Yoga isn’t only about sporting the top-of-the-line clothing and accessories, and studying with “yoga celebrities”. That’s probably the worst interpretation of yoga there is. Yoga is a lifestyle, a conscious decision to make the world around you a better place. Just because I practice to online videos on a mat in my room doesn’t make it any less worthwhile. I am living my yoga when I do kind things, when I act with mindfulness and intention. Each day I embrace the true principles of the yamas and niyamas, I am engaging myself in the practice of yoga. So what did I learn today? I learned yoga doesn’t equate to dollar signs, and that I can be a true yogini after all.

Fall in love with less for stress-free living

Stop buying unnecessary things.
Toss half your stuff, learn contentedness.
Reduce half again.

List 4 essential things in your life,
stop doing non-essential things.
Do these essentials first each day, clear distractions
focus on each moment.

Let go of attachment to doing, having more.
Fall in love with less.

“Be Content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” ~ Lao Tzu

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” – Albert Einstein

“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say let your affairs be as one, two, three and to a hundred or a thousand. We are happy in proportion to the things we can do without.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” – William Morris

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.” – Will Rogers

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” – Hans Hofmann




Time to Simplify and De-Junkify!

Yoga for Dummies, p. 277

Yoga encourages you to cultivate the virtue of greedlessness in all matters.  The Sanskrit word for this is aparigraha, whcih means literally “not grasping all round.”  The yoga practitioner who is well-trained in the art of greedlessness is said to understand the deeper reason for his or her life.  Behind this traditional wisdom lies a profound experience:  As you loosen your grip on material possessions, you also let go of the ego, which is doing the gripping or grasping.  As the ego-contraction relaxes, you increasingly become in touch with the abiding happiness of your true self.  Then you realize that you need nothing at all to be happy.  You are unconcerned about the future and live fully in the present.  You are not afraid to give freely to others and also share with them your inner abundance.

Lately I’ve felt a strong desire to simplify and reduce the number of needless possessions I’ve accumulated over years of mindless consumption.  It’s shocking to step back and take a no-holds-barred inventory of all the junk filling up space in every corner of my house.  Over the Christmas holiday I got the organizing bug and decided it was time to purge the bookcases in my home office, which I had jokingly nicknamed the “Harry Potter room” because there was no telling which piece of paper stuffed into the shelves was magically holding everything together.  Unfortunately, even after buying three new bookcases, the purging turned out to be more of a paper shuffle, and now a month later I’m still feeling a bit overwhelmed by crap on the shelves. That’s just one room in the house. Obviously, more bookshelves wasn’t the correct answer.

I now realize I didn’t need to be better organized (although organizing the stuff you truly need isn’t a bad thing), I needed to get rid of stuff and stop buying things I don’t need.  Of course, deep down I think I knew that answer all along, but that’s a tough pill to swallow.  It’s hard to explain the mind-shift that I’m having right now about consumerism, but it’s almost as if  someone grabbed me about the shoulders and shook me back to reality.  It’s about time to start living more simply.

Of course, renouncing all possessions simply does not present a realistic approach to minimalism and simplicity.  Most of us have families, jobs, lives, and unless we’re willing to give up those lives, our approach won’t be so drastic.

What we need is a realistic approach to change.  Slow change is best for most people.

Here are 10 steps to minimalism as adapted from one of my favorite blogs, mnmlist, that I intend to implement over the next month:

1. Stop buying unnecessary things.  Only buy the necessities, and always ask yourself: is this truly necessary?

2. Get rid of the obvious things. Stuff that’s getting in your way, that you rarely ever use. You can often fill up a few boxes immediately, put them in your car, and donate them to a thrift shop or to friends and family the next day.

3. Get rid of more obvious things. Now that you’ve cleared up some of the clutter, you can take a look around and start seeing other things you rarely use. Box these up as well.

4. Clear the clutter on your floors. If your floors are barely visible because you have clothes and boxes and different items all over the place, start clearing your floors.

5. Clear other flat surfaces. Shelves, table tops, counter tops. They don’t have to be completely clear, but should only have a few essential objects.

6. Start going into closets and drawers. One place at a time, start clearing out clutter.

7. Cut back another third. At this point, you should have simplified drastically, but you can revisit what you still own and see things you don’t really use that often.

8. Start letting go, emotionally. For emotional reasons, there will be things that you “just can’t part” with — clothes or shoes or books or mementoes or gifts, childhood items. This is difficult, but given time, you’ll learn that such attachments aren’t necessary.

9. Get rid of another third. At this point, you’re pretty minimalist, but you can cut back more.

10. Et cetera. The process will never end, until you actually give up everything.

Have you been bit by the de-junkification bug too? I’d love to hear  any experiences or insights you might have on the process of creating a more simple, minimalist life.

43 Creative Ways to Reuse or Recycle Your Old Yoga Mat

Let’s face it, even if your favorite yoga mat is bulletproof and will never ever wear out, there’s still a decent chance that you have a collection of yoga mats laying around the house, most likely never to be used for their intended purpose ever again.  Eventually, one day you may decide to tidy up the place and gaze in astonishment at all your mats. First, you’ll wonder where the heck they all came from.  And second, you’ll wonder what the heck to do with them since you really don’t need old, worn-out mats filling up the corners of every room in your house, do you?

Well, it certainly looks yogic to have a mat in every corner, but then you think to yourself there must be something practical I could do with all these extra pieces of large, spongy, colorful, plastic rectangles.   The simple answer:

REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE

After a little personal introspection and Internet research, I compiled this list of 43 creative ways to reuse, recycle, and extend your old yoga mats’ non-yoga related usefulness.  Sound fun?  Get your scissors ready.  Off you go:

My Personal Top 10 Reuse/Recycle Options:

  1. Turn your mat into a bleacher cushion.  Great for those hard bleachers when watching sporting events.  Here’s how:  Step 1) Cut the mat into equal pieces to make one top and bottom (the size of a newspaper laid flat); Step 2) Punch holes about every 2 inches with a paper hole punch all the way around (both top and bottom); Step 3) Take a couple of days worth of newspapers and lay them between the top and bottom (or if you have another old mat to sacrifice, chop it up and use it as the cushioning); Step 4) Use yarn, ribbon, rawhide, etc. to lace the holes and tie off.  Oh yeah, pretty sweet, huh?  To re-stuff, untie and add new newspaper.  Easy to store, lightweight, washable, reusable, and comfortable
  2. Leave the beach towel home and bring your old yoga mat to the beach instead (caution! may induce spontaneous yoga poses on the beach :)
  3. Save your floors and roll out the old mats for the kids to do messy craft projects on
  4. Along the same lines as number 1, fold mat in four, place in a pillow cover, and you have a cheap and comfy meditation cushion
  5. Donate your old mat to a mat recycling program such as Recycle Your Mat, an eco-conscious organization whose goal is to re-purpose or recycle the world’s unwanted yoga mats.  Apparently Manduka offers 20% discount on your next mat purchase if you go this route!  Jade Yoga also offers a 3R Program where yoga students can drop off their used up and unwanted mats to participating studios who, with Jade’s help will find local resources to reuse or donate the mats.  I’m sure there’s more recycling programs like these, so feel free to comment if you know of other programs that deserve a mention
  6. Enjoy yoga in the wild! Use old mats as a “Guerrilla Yoga” mat alternative (okay, I just mean plain old outside yoga, but Guerrilla Yoga sounds so much more primitive).  Most, if not all, “eco” mats are susceptible to damage by the elements and using them for outside practice is not the best idea.   Now you don’t have to jack up your good mat doing it
  7. How could the computer geek inside me resist a nice, thick, cushiony yoga mouse pad for surfing the Internet
  8. I really hate rattling stereo speakers.  Place cut out yoga mat squares under those noisy stereo speakers to reduce vibration rattle
  9. Do you absolutely love the feel of yoga mat on your feet?  Why not cut out yoga mat insoles for all your shoes.  Now you’re a true yogi!  Oh, wait, no your not unless you’ve tried number 10…
  10. True yogis don’t wear shoes, right?  Why not make a pair of flip-flops out of your yoga mat?!?  Click the link and/or watch the video below for everything you need to know.  You’re going to need these for going to the beach (see #2 above)

Click through the jump to see the rest of the list… [Read more…]