How to Stop the War on Yourself & Be Empowered by Non-violence 

11219120_10208130040558591_2277323543183753638_nWe all desire peace in the world, but then why do we wage war on ourselves? We all aspire to be non-violent, but then harm ourselves in subtle ways all the time.

Gandhi said, “non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind.” Last week as we explored how to actively practice non-violence in my yoga lifestyle programs, I was remind how truly powerful this principle is.

Ahimsa, non-violence, and the first principle of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, means so much more than just abstaining from violent acts, but means cultivating an attitude of kindness, caring and compassion toward all things. That’s right, ALL things! And this my friend includes the neighbour you detest, your cranky boss but most importantly YOURSELF!

Most of us think, “sure I’m non-violent, I don’t carry weapons or beat people up.” But those are obvious forms of violence that, while horrible, may have less impact than the insidious forms of violence we all tend to act out each day.

As promoters of peace in the world we must first remember that peace begin with ourselves. 

I know when I’m being highly self critical I tend to judge others more harshly. When I’m overly tired and not taking care of myself I don’t have energy to give to, care for and be as kind to others. When I’m battling with my body I rarely treat it well or feel my best in the world.

On the other hand, when I’m well rested, nourished and self loving I naturally act this way to the people around me. I have more energy for others and for my dreams. I’m more productive and creative and my positive impact on the world increases.

The opposite of self violence is self care and self love. 

When we are not caring for and loving ourselves we are actually performing acts of violence —small, subtle acts of violence that accumulatively have a massive impact on our health and the world.

The World Health Organisation now names lifestyle diseases like cancers, heart disease and diabetes as the number one killers in the world. It’s not war waged with guns and tanks, but a subtle war we all wage on ourselves when we choose lifestyles that harm us.

We see this subtle war on ourselves through poor nutrition, drug and alcohol abuse; through depriving ourselves of sleep in order to chase achievement and “success”; perfectionism and seriously damaging self criticism, eating disorders and body dismorphia; through pushing our bodies too hard or not listening to them.

Basically, through wearing ourselves out and not honouring and appreciating this body that carries us through life. This is the opposite of Ahimsa, non-violence, and it disempowers us as individuals and as a society.

The more we practice non-violence by taking care of ourselves the better we impact the world. 

The bazaar thing is that we often feel guilty about taking care of ourselves, like it’s a luxury. But if you really think about the cost of self neglect on your health, productivity, relationships, creativity and greater cost to society, you’ll realise this is no luxury — it’s a responsibility!

Start practicing non-violence and taking better care of yourself right now! Here’s how: 

  1. Identify one subtle act or habit of self violence that you’d like to change this week. This could be anything like putting yourself down, drinking that extra glass of wine that makes you feel drained, going to bed too late or over eating junk food.
  1. Think about what you get out of this self violent habit. We only do anything because we get something out of it, even if it’s bad for us. When we want to break a bad habit we have to replace it with something that gives us a similar benefit but doesn’t cause us harm. So get clear on what benefit you get from this habit. It could be comfort, stimulation, distraction, motivation.
  1. Pick a replacement that has a similar benefit but doesn’t harm you. For example, if I over eat to the extreme every night when I’m alone to feel comforted, I could choose to do a self loving and comforting practice like oil massage or reading inspiring quotes, or calling a friend before I eat dinner at night. That way I feel comforted by something other than food.
  1. Make a personal dedication to non-violence with yourself. For example, my dedications is: I am dedicated to believing in myself, loving myself and knowing that I am worthy of love no matter what my imperfections are.

Enjoy (and trust me you will, practicing this makes everyone feel so much happier)!!

Please share with us your personal dedication to non-violence with yourself! 

I’ve Neglected My Kitchen Lately, and Myself 

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I opened a cupboard recently and out toppled a box of tea and a jar of spices. I started to hastily shove them back into the cluttered mess and rummage around to find what I needed, but then I stopped, looked at the state of those shelves and thought, “Wow, I have seriously neglected my kitchen lately, this has got to change!”

Now the truth is, it took me a couple of days before I set aside the time to dive into the mess and reorganise. But once I did start ripping everything out of the cupboards, throwing old junk away, making the shelves sparkle and stacking those pots, pans, jars and even all the annoying mismatched tupperware ever so neatly, I wondered why I’d waited so long.

Clearing my kitchen felt like clearing mind, emotions, and priorities and, I had great insights into how the way I treated my kitchen reflected how I treated myself.  

Before I dove into the chaos I remembered a free talk my Ayurvedic teacher Cate Stillman gave called the Simple Kitchen. I found it saved in my files and listened to it again as I sat on the kitchen floor surrounded by the explosion of all it’s contents.

The Kitchen is the hub of consciousness 

Cate reminded us that the kitchen is the hub or centre of the family, the household, and our  consciousness. The energy of the kitchen takes hold of and influences the consciousness of everyone it’s feeding.

Even if you’re single like I am and it mostly feeds just you, the way we treat our kitchen reflects how we’re relating to our daily act of nourishment.

I must say, to begin with I felt a bit embarrassed and down trodden sitting amongst the mess and listening to Cate asked probing questions like, “What has the energy in your kitchen been lately? How does that relate to your eating patterns? What would you like the energy of the kitchen to be like?”

I realised that lately my kitchen was not nearly as intentional as I’d like it to be (and nor were my eating habits), and this being the hub of my consciousness I could also see how that was influencing my sense of clarity, self love and health.

The Kitchen holds the fire of transformation

Well this insight lit the fire under my procrastinating bum and I got organising. The kitchen is after all about fire, agni, the heat of transformation or as Cate put it alchemy.

Even if we’re not actually cooking with a flame, every time we step into the kitchen we’re engaging the process of transforming substances into the fuel and make up of our body. I could feel that heat of transformation working it’s magic on me just by organising tea boxes, bags of grains and jars of herbs.

Cate lectured about this space being like a laboratory where we use our food as medicine, where we experiment and discover ourselves, our needs and our inner nature.

Our engagement with the kitchen is a yoga practice.

Yoga is not about doing everything perfectly, it’s about exploring who we are, and discovering what we need to find balance and harmony and connect to our most sacred self.

Cate dug deeper and asked questions like: What is your attitude when you walk into the kitchen? What attitude do you want to have in the kitchen? How can your kitchen be your yoga practice?

She also gave great tips on getting organised to support weekly kitchen sadhana. Sadhana refers to a practice that invokes spirit or calls to the highest.

Our food prep can be a sadhana of self care, a practice that connects us to our spirit and our intention for the whole week, for our health and deeper purpose. By simply picking on day to do extra prep we’re set up to nourish ourselves deeply for the week and feel more supported for our work in the world.

Honouring the Kitchen, honouring ourselves

The probing continued: Do you honour the kitchen as the hub/centre of the family organism, of consciousness? How do you want to honour the kitchen as the centre? How do you want to refine the kitchen so that it becomes an even more intentional hub or creation centre?

Cate recommend placing something in your kitchen to remind you of your deeper intentions and the power of the kitchen as the hub of consciousness. I placed two little Balinese statues in prayer above my cupboards to remind me, and recipe booklet I got from my meditation teacher called “The Yoga of the Kitchen.”

Just before sitting down to write this I made lunch, looked at those two things and felt a sense of calm and ease come over me. It changed my whole attitude from “hurry up and make lunch so you can do your other things” to “This is sacred, this is self love and self care and meant to be enjoyed.”

The kitchen is a place of joy and connection

There is a reason everyone crams themselves into the kitchen at parties, and yes part of it is because we all love the food. But I think the bigger reason is that it feels like an intimate space that is also familiar and safe where we can be real and enjoy each other’s company.

We need to be nourished by connection and joy, community and intimacy as much if not more than by any kind of food. It’s no wonder that sharing food throughout all cultures has been the meeting ground for family and community.

As my meditation teacher Tim Mitchell, who is also an Ayurvedic chef once told me, “the most important ingredient for any recipe is love.”

Spring is the best time to clean, so get going and clear the energy of your kitchen and your consciousness!

Tell us, what do you do to make your kitchen more sacred?

The Mysteries of Second Winds and Sluggish Mornings

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Ever wonder why you get a second wind late at night? Why you can wake up early but then feel heavy the rest of the morning? Or why you just can’t seem to stay focused in the afternoon? 

Amazingly, the traditional medicine system of India, Ayurveda, has an explanation for all of this and it’s been the topic of the free talks I’ve given over the last few months.

As mentioned in previous posts the Ayurvedic system understands that EVERYTHING is composed of the five elements — ether, air, fire, water and earth — and paying attention to the elements that dominant in and around you is a crucial part of living a healthy life.

Why? Because health is synonymous to balance and when we have an imbalance of elements in our life we have health problems.

The beauty of this system is that once we get our head around the qualities of the elements and how they show up in our food, body, personality, environment, and all things, we can easily design a life of balance and health.

It’s really simple. Just remember that like increases like and opposites balance. 

If there is too much of one element in your life, just bring in the opposite to find balance.

Ask yourself right now, what is out of balance in my life? Intuitively you might have a sense that this imbalance relates to an element — for example, too much movement (air), or stimulation (fire), a sense of emptiness (ether), lack of structure (water) or stagnation (earth).

The next step is to simply ask: What is the opposite element or quality and how can I bring that into my life to find balance?

Life is no more than an accumulation of days and moments. As such, to change our lives we’ve got to change our day to day patterns. 

One of the most practical and powerful lessons of Ayurveda is understanding how the elements show up throughout the day and then creating daily routines based on this understanding that bring balance into your life.

It’s called Dinacharya in Sanskrit, and means daily rhythms or routines.

When our daily routines align to the daily rhythms of nature we thrive — in mind, body and spirit. When we’re out of synch with these rhythms health issues start to manifest.

Sadly, our modern culture is very out of synch with the natural daily rhythm, and as a result we have an epidemic of lifestyle diseases and issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, insomnia, irritable bowl syndrome, cancers, depression, anxiety and many many more.

So what are Nature’s daily rhythms and how do we align to them? 

The day is broken down into three periods each with dominant elements (see clock graphic). This cycle happens twice in a day and is influence by sunrise, sunset and when the sun is highest in the sky or other side of the earth. Worry less about exact times and feel more into the influence of the sun on the planet.

When we know what elements dominate in each time of the day, we can be wise about how we choose to spend that time, always remembering that like increases like and opposites balance.

Element and energy dominance at each time of day:

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2:00 – 6:00 – air & ether (Vata dosha) — the subtle wind energy

Before the sun rises, air and ether dominates, meaning there is a lot of lightness, movement, and connection to spirit and subtle energy. This is a perfect time to meditate, and also why some people wake up in the early hours of the morning full of thoughts.

In the afternoon these elements cycle around again creating lightness. This can sometimes cause scattered thinking in the afternoon, but if you ground yourself (opposite quality to air is earth), then it can be a fantastic time for creative thinking and projects.

6:00 – 10:00 – water and earth (Kapha dosha) — the nourishing water energy

Once the sun rises, the heavier, denser elements of water and earth dominate. This is why dew forms on the grass and why we can start to feel sluggish again even if we woke up with energy before the sun came up. This is the best time to do physical activity, bring movement (air/lightness) in for balance, and use your dense physical body. Careful not to eat too heavy of a breakfast our you’ll just bring more of that earth and water into you and get out of balance.

In the evenings water and earth elements make their appearance again, our body physiologically reacts to the darkening of the sky and we start to feel heaviness and density. Go with it, we want this in the evening so that we can wind down and get a good night sleep. Again, careful not to eat a heavy dinner or you’ll exacerbate these qualities.

10:00 – 2:00 – fire and water (Pitta dosha) — the transforming fire energy

When the sun is highest in the sky we feel the transformative heat and movement of fire and water in our bodies.  We feel stimulated mentally and physically. All primates, not just humans, produce the most bile (digestive fire) in the middle of the day. To capitalise on this fire we want to eat our biggest meal at lunch, and also be mindful not to overheat ourselves with too much sun or stimulating food and drink.

The infamous second wind kicks in usually around 10pm when the fire element makes it’s second appearance in the day. Ideally, we want to be in bed at this time so that rather than stimulating our mind this fire quality can go to stimulating tissue reparation and digestion of the day’s experiences and substances while we sleep. If we skip this and stay up too late our body really starts to suffer.

Want to start living in alignment? 

It’s well and good to think about these concepts, but making them part of your day to day life is when the real magic starts. From this blog you can already start to apply this information by paying attention to how you work with the energy of the day or exacerbate it.

If you really want to dive into this juicy material and start to see it transform your life into greater health and vitality I’ve created a 30 Day Yoga Evolution program that guides you through designing ideal daily rhythms.

This program also uses the latest habit science research to help you create new habits that you’ll actually stick to and a healthy life style that is sustainable.

The next 30 Day’s starts this Sunday, September 28th at Qi Yoga in Freshwater and part of the program includes a one month unlimited class pass. I’ve also created an online version of the program for people who can’t make it to the Sunday sessions, find out more here.

Tell us, what’s your favourite time of the day and why?

Lifestyles to Die For

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I was recently telling someone about my background getting a degree in Environmental Science and they commented, “Wow, now you’re doing something completely different.” But, I don’t see it that way. The deeper I go down my path as a wellness provider through yoga, bodywork and lifestyle coaching the more I relate to my environmentalist background; rather than working to clean up external ecosystems I’m working to clean up internal ecosystems. And it’s just as socially, culturally and globally revolutionary as other environmentalist work.

According to a landmark global study by The Lancet Group, lifestyle diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer are now the leading cause of death and disability globally. The study shows that since the 1970’s men and women worldwide are living longer but they also spend more years living with injury and illness caused by bad lifestyle choices like drinking, smoking, poor nutrition and too much stress.

In both Australia and America lifestyle disease is the leading cause of death – with heart disease begin the most prevalent, followed by cancer.

So why are we choosing lifestyles that kill us?!? And what motivates us to choose a lifestyle of heath?

I don’t have the answer but I’m on a mission to try and find it. So far on this mission I’m realizing that everything starts from within and from our deepest beliefs about ourselves and the world. My meditation teacher gave a great analogy about the process of calming the mind: you can train a dog to sit next to you, but it will still be full of energy wanting to run around, or you can give the dog a bone and it will happily sit next to you and chew the bone.

Forced external rules on how to live tend to make us feel like a dog trapped on a leash, and while we might be abstaining from unhealthy habits, there’s always a part of us that wants to break the leash and run after those things we’re abstaining from. I don’t consider this healthy, and I’ll go as far as saying it can even create stress…which is one of the leading causes of heart disease and other physical and psychological diseases.

So what’s the bone we can give ourselves to keep us sitting happily next to health? 

I think the bone of satisfaction and motivation is a strong positive self identity. In yoga we do this with the practice of Sankalpas. Yoga teaches us to recognize that we already have and are everything we could need or want, we must simple clear what’s covering up that light within.

A Sankalpa is a positive affirmation like, “I am healthy.” The practice is to repeat this daily. The more you chew on this identity, the more you not only believe it, but also act based on it. You start to live up to that identity effortlessly simply because it feel right.

According to habit change research people stick to identity-based goals far more than to performance-based goals. Habit change expert James Clear says, “The key to building lasting habits is focusing on creating a new identity first. Your current behaviors are simply a reflection of your current identity. What you do now is a mirror image of the type of person you believe that you are (either consciously or subconsciously).”

This Sunday I’ll be leading a 5 week journey with a group of people ready to uncover the light within, reinforce and deeply ingrain a positive self identity of healthy living. I can’t wait! There are still a few spots left so if you’re craving lasting transformation join the yoga r-evolution. Check out the 30 Day Yoga Evolution program at Qi Health and Yoga.

What is your positive self identity statement, your sankalpa?