This category contains the intention-setting ideas from the monthly newsletter.

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Support Our Sense of Smell

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”― William Shakespeare


I found myself noticing the scent of the orange blossoms in the air this week.  It is one of my most favorite scents and I make sure to stop and smell the small, delicate white flowers on my neighbors’ trees as often as I can.  It is a reminder of why our county was named “Orange” and how grateful I am to be living in Southern California.

However, as we march (pun intended) in the direction of Spring, many of us still remember the direct experience of coming down with the flu or that nasty head cold or at least, being around someone that was sick and doing what we could to stay healthy.  Then, with Spring, comes the experience of seasonal allergies, when many of us are challenged to take in full, deep breaths without sneezing and are unable to enjoy the Neroli oil in the air.  It is not a pleasant time when our nose is inflammed and we are cut off from our natural breath, restricting our connection to our life force energy, and from experiencing all of the wonderful aromas that are blossoming at this time of year.

The connection between our nose as our scent sense organ and the brain is different than our other sense organs.  Our senses of sight, hearing, touch, and taste all pass information through the thalmus to the cerebral cortex, allowing thoughts to be a part of our response to the external stimuli.  On the other hand, scent data is sent to the olfactory bulbs in our brain, which then relays information to the limbic system, including the amygdala, which is our emotional memory center.  And, as we age, our sense of smell, along with our sense of taste, begins to fade as does our memories.  And when our sense of smell fades, like when we experience a head cold, life is not as pleasant.

In fact, studies have shown that losing your sense of smell can actually be dangerous, such as when you are unable to detect a gas leak or lose interest in eating.  Therefore, below I offer some intention-setting ideas to help maintain the healthy function of your nose and support a full five-sense experience of life:

  1. Eat more nuts, seeds and dark chocolate!.  What do these three food items have in common you might ask – ZINC!  If you diet does not include enough daily zinc, it will impact your sense of smell.  With meat being a big source of zinc, many of us who are vegetarians or vegans just might be experiencing a zinc deficiency and not know it.  Consider adding flax and/or sesame seeds to your morning cereal or shake, eating a handful of dark chocolate covered peanuts and cashews as a mid-day snack and adding pumpkins seeds as a bed time snack (they help you to sleep better at night!) to make sure you are getting enough zinc in your diet.
  2. Eat only when you’re hungry!  Our sense of smell and taste are heightened when we are hungry.  Research has shown that olfactory function improved when fasting and demonstrated reduced activity during satiation.  All of our body systems are impacted by the nutritional balance and chemical state of the body, including our olfactory system.  It serves as an internal sensor, so when we are hungry, our ability to perceive odors is enhanced.
  3. Invest in an essential oil diffuser or humidifier.  Science has begun to focus on experiences that up to this point where mostly anecdotal, like how our sense of smell seems to be sharper when it rains in the spring.  Well, the research is now able to confirm that humidity acts as a transporter of smells in the air, bringing the odor molecules to our nose.  So the higher the humidity, the more odor molecules in the air, the more intense the scent perceivable to our noses.
  4. Try using a Neti pot for a week.  In Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, this daily nasal cleansing practice is encouraged, similar to and along with teeth brushing and tongue scraping.  The warm, saline water washes away any irritants (think air born environmental allergens), reducing inflammation, and moisturizing the sinus passages, once again improving the sensitivity of the olfactory nerves.  I recommend this practice if you tend to suffer from allergies or are prone to sinus infections as well.
  5. Stop and smell the roses.  Don’t take your sense of smell for granted.  It is a major source of information and pleasure.  Since our sense of smell is tied so closely to our emotional experiences, when we lose our sense of smell we may begin to experience more sadness, increasing the risk of depression.  Give your sense of smell as much attention as you would your senses of sight and hearing.  And, if you are experiencing a decline in your sense of smell, possibly consider exploring more structured retraining of this sense by working with the four scent groupings:  flowery (i.e., rose), fruity (i.e., lemon), spicy (i.e., clove), and resinous (i.e., eucalyptus).

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Make Yoga a Daily Home Practice

“Tension is who you think you should be.  Relaxation is who you are.”― Ancient Chinese Proverb

As Chinese Astrology follows the lunar calendar, we recently celebrated the Chinese New Year and entered into the year of the Yang (Brown) Earth Dog at the time of the second new moon of the calendar year.  As an expression of unconditional love with an innate sense of intuition and resiliency, a dog’s energy is a reflection of the best parts of ourselves.  The element of earth reminds us that we must remain connected to the earth through our roots as it is the earth that provides the nutrients for our growth.  The masculine yang – or doing – energy of the year will support us in laying our new foundations to elevate our sense of security and balance this year and into the future.

So as you explore reconnecting with the unconditional love and acceptance that resides in your own heart on your journey this year of building a new, more secure foundation for the future, I thought you might need a little assistance in maintaining the balance between “doing” and “being” that will be required to sustain your forward moving energy this year.  Therefore, below I have offered some intention-setting ideas to consider to support a daily yoga practice no matter where you are in the moment:

  1. Breathe.  As we create space for ourselves on our mat for our yoga asana practice, what many of us quickly realize is that our breath contains the power – both the strength and flexibility we desire.  The connection to the power of our breath is often the first practice we take off of our mat and out into the world.  Our breath becomes our best internal guide on how to move in the external experience with the most ease and grace.  So when you begin to sense an experience of overwhelm from all of “the doing”, let it be a reminder to you to simply invite your breath into the moment, breathing deeply, expansively, and with great attention for several minutes, to bring back perspective and balance.  You can do this anywhere – even in traffic!
  2. Mudra.  Many of us might have been “doing” yoga for many years on our mat and still not have learned about mudras.  Mudras are yoga poses, often practiced with a focus on the hands and fingers, with the intention of supporting your body’s energy flow.  The Sanskrit word mudra is translated as “seal” or “gesture” and they are powerful tools to facilitate the flow of energy in our subtle bodies.  One I would recommend to practice when feeling ungrounded, scattered, and/or overwhelmed from “the doing” and to reconnect us to the earth, is Adhi mudra.  Simply curl your thumbs into your palms, wrap you fingers around your thumbs, turn your knuckles down towards the earth and rest your hands on your lap.  Again, you can do this practically anywhere, anytime – but maybe not in traffic!
  3. Mantra.  Mantra is the practice of repeating a sacred sound, word or phrase, often in Sanskrit, in order to support an increase in our ability to focus or concentrate or create a shift in consciousness.  Research has shown that chanting the Sanskrit sound “OM” (pronounced AUM) can change the structure of the human brain.  A more modern understanding of mantra has been offered through the use of affirmations.  Although different in the origin and purpose, identifying an affirmation that resonates with you and repeating it several times in a row, several times a day for several weeks might create the desired shift in perspective!
  4. Meditate.  An often heard response to this idea is “I don’t have any time”, which is the truest indicator that such a practice might have the greatest impact.  When starting a meditation practice, it does not require you to find a quiet place to sit with your legs crossed in silence for 20 minutes trying to stop your thoughts.  Today there are many free applications that you can access on your mobile device and follow along with the guidance provided.  Some of these meditation practices are for as little as one minute.  Can you set aside just one minute each day for yourself?  What you might discover over time is that you experience the world differently – with more joy or ease – after meditating, so you tend to practice longer, maybe for 20 or 30 minutes a day!
  5. Practice present-moment awareness.  I have found that the ultimate body-mind-spirit balancing practice is the experience of presence.  When we are fully present in our interactions – when we are “doing” – you can experience a resounding sense of peace and clarity.  To begin to sharpen this tool of presence, stop everything you are doing for just a minute.  Focus on your immediate environment, taking mental notes of the objects around you, including the colors, shapes, smells, movement, and sounds that the mind becomes aware of, possibly even engaging the sense of touch by running your fingers or hand across one of the objects.  Pretend you are taking a mini video with your mind, capturing as many details as possible with the intention of describing what you see, hear, smell, and feel to someone else who missed the opportunity to experience what you are experiencing.  At the end of the day, allow yourself to close your eyes for another minute to reflect on this experience to see how many details you can remember and, more importantly, sense what it feels like in the body-mind connection to have been so present in that moment.  The more you keep this tool sharp, the stronger your presence grows along with a sense of connection to all!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Increase Your Sense of Lightness of Being

“Our sorrows and wounds are healed only when we touch them with compassion. – Buddha

Last week, on a day when southern California experienced a rare, heavy winter rainfall, a dear friend and colleague and I were scheduled to gather to collaborate on our co-creations for the new year when she came across a beautiful butterfly in her path that was unable to fly due to wet wings.  She stopped to help it relocate somewhere dry and it welcomed her support.  It stayed with her, almost not wanting to leave the warm jacket upon which it found itself and I was able to capture the image – see below!

I think we both immediately knew it was a blessing being delivered to us in support of our efforts to help empower, elevate, and enlighten others in light of the fact that these butterflies typically don’t fly on cloudy days, none-the-less on rainy days!

Butterflies symbolize the soul in many world cultures.  This animal totem is most often associated with transformation and rebirth, while other associations include endurance, hope, renewal, life, and lightness of being.  It is this last association that shifted something for me in that moment and encouraged me to share the following intention-setting ideas to help you shake free from whatever it is that might be weighing your wings down, keeping you from taking flight and sensing into your lightness of being:

  1. Ask for Help.  When we begin to sense a heaviness in our energy, it is a signal that we might be carrying too big of a load for just one person.  This signal suggests that it is time to consider asking for some assistance, whether to delegate some of the tasks on our “to do” lists or to simply reaffirm that we are not alone and we have people around us that are ready, willing and able to help and support us.  Remembering how it feels when we help others can be just the motivation to allow others to help us – why would we ever want to rob others of feeling that joy of connection!
  2. Share your Stories.  We cannot experience the lightness of being when our minds are full of thoughts that make us doubt ourselves.  Finding someone you can trust to simply listen as we put words to the stories in our heads helps to put own experiences into context and perspective, without which invites separation and loneliness.  When our stories only live in our heads, they get distorted, blown out of proportion, and become ripe for self-judgment and criticism.  When we share them with just one other person, it creates a space for a new outlook and opens a door wide for a sense of connection to our authentic being to enter.
  3. Act of Kindness.  Which brings me to . . . performing an act of kindness towards yourself.  Society promotes and supports doing for others, which does feed our souls.  However, it is mission critical to our well-being to offer that same empathy towards ourselves if we want to find lasting ease in our bodies and peace in our minds and hearts.  Might I offer the first act of kindness to consider:  challenging your inner critic that is the voice of judgment that says you need to do more to be worthy.
  4. Write down your Mantra.  Which leads me to . . . documenting a mantra that challenges your inner critic’s judgment.  Maybe it’s “I am enough” or “I am perfect just the way I am” or “I am worth it” – take the time to find one that makes your heart sing, write it down using a writing tool with a color that appeals to your eyes, and place it somewhere where you will see it at least once a day, if not more.  The act of committing something to paper creates energy around it and reflecting on it each day, even if only for a few moments, begins to align the energy between our minds and hearts, rewiring our neural pathways for health.
  5. Shine a Light on Shame.  Shame lives in the darkness.  When we invite it into the light, getting curious about it and challenging it, it cannot survive.  Shame silences us or worse, cuts us off from experiencing connection, isolating us from the world around us.  Shame is the intensely painful belief that we are flawed and, therefore, unworthy of love and belonging.  We are all human beings, which implies we all experience limitations of one kind or another, making each one of us uniquely and perfectly imperfect.  So we need to stand up to the belief that our imperfection is something to be ashamed of or that if we speak up for ourselves, no one will listen because we are not worthy of care and concern.  There is a flame that burns within each one of us that others might have tried to snuff out in the past through the weapon of shame.  Our inner flame might have gone dim in the darkness of shame, but as long as we breathe, it has not gone out.  To truly experience lightness of being, we need to do whatever we have to in order to cast out shame from our minds and bodies.  The first step in doing so just might be to invite it out of the darkness and into the light for a long overdue conversation!

5 Intention-setting Ideas for finding Comfort and Peace during the Holiday Season

“Grief never ends . . . but it changes.  It’s a passage, not a place to stay.  Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith . . .It is the price of love.” – Elizabeth I

With the holiday season upon us, many of us might not be feeling the joy of the season.  The holidays tend to bring visions of gatherings of friends and family, with the intention of spending time with loved ones and creating heart-warming memories to carry with us throughout the year.  However, this time of year may also bring back painful memories of the loved ones we may have lost this year or around this time of year in the past.

I recently lost both of my beloved furbabies, Eclipse and Mocha, who brought me so much comfort, love and light over the past thirteen years.  I miss their tangible presence in my life.  I know they are forever with me in my heart memories and yet visiting those memories brings both joy and sadness.  Grief is a tricky emotion, as Elizabeth I so eloquently describes in the quote above.  It is the price we humans pay for experiencing love and I believe that the experience of love, no matter the source, is priceless!

Therefore, remembering that as long as we are alive, we will experience loss, so create space for yourself to experience the grief knowing you have been blessed by the presence of love that came before it.  Below are some intention-setting ideas to bring you some comfort and peace as you may find yourself traveling through the passage of grief:

  1. Create a ritual.  When we find ourselves in the throes of grief, we may feel vulnerable, uncertain and even anxious.  Research has shown that engaging in a ritual can reduce those feelings.  Consider setting aside a day and time to maybe write about the love that you felt or to look at photos that reflect the joy you felt.  You might light a candle and listen to your (or their) favorite music.  Give yourself permission to allow all emotions to be expressed.
  2. Watch your favorite movie.  If you are concerned that once you open the flood gates the tears won’t stop, plan to have your favorite movie cued up and set a timer.  When the timer goes off and you have to get up to shut it off, take that moment to begin to watch your favorite movie.  Movies, no matter what genre, have a way of helping us to transcend time and space, soothing our minds and hearts in the moment, even if only for a short time.  Experiencing only a moment of transcendence reminds us that our emotions, like life, flow and change constantly.
  3. Go to bed early.  At this time of year, when the sun sets so early in the day, we may find ourselves thinking about heading home from work and climbing in bed, while thinking that there is something wrong with us for having such a thought.  We might even try pushing past what our bodies are asking for, finding ourselves making plans that prevent us from going right home after work.  If we stop for a moment and observe nature at this time of year, the cycles of life reflect how much goes dormant or hibernates.  My beloved furbabies were a constant reminder that when it got dark, it was time to go to bed, no matter what the clock said!  So, if the comfort of your bed calls, heed the call!
  4. Take a walk.  Go to your most favorite local outdoor place, whether it’s a mall, park, beach or garden store.  Plan to walk around for a half hour, maybe setting an intention to notice something new that you hadn’t noticed before that makes you smile.  Watch what happens when you surround yourself with the comfort of the familiar while opening yourself up to something new that might bring you joy in the moment!
  5. Reach out.  Undoubtedly, we will all need time to ourselves to navigate through the passage.  And, just as undoubtedly, we will all need the comfort of others to stay on course through the passage.  Therefore, identify one person that you have felt comforted by in the past, that you trust will understand, and pencil it in your calendar to reach out to that person to share with them what you are experiencing.  Let them also know what you might need, from them or others, such as just someone to listen (and not fix), a hug, or a visit to your favorite coffee and tea shop.

5 Intention-setting Ideas for Supporting the Immune System Through this Holiday Season and Beyond!

“Compassion, bringing inner strength, is good for our health.” – The Dalai Lama

While we may do our best to eat well, get enough sleep, and continue our exercise routine through the holidays, sometimes that is just not enough to avoid catching a cold or flu, especially because we find ourselves spending more time with others at this time of year.  And there is no worse time to find these germs breaking through our defenses then over the next 6 weeks!

So, as we make plans to gather with friends and family around the dining room table this holiday season, it is my hope that you might relax a little more knowing that there are some tried-and-true ways to bring more comfort to the body, support the immune system and shorten the length of time that the body needs to suffer from the symptoms of the common cold.  Below are several intention-setting ideas to consider should you find yourself “under the weather” this holiday season:

  1. ZINC!  Research has shown that taking zinc gluconate during a head cold shortens the duration of the symptoms.  Over-the-counter products, such as Cold-EEZE or Zicam, contain zinc gluconate and the research suggests that the zinc ions block the cold virus from replicating.  What this means is that we may not be able to stop the germs from breaking through our natural defenses, but we can stop them from replicating any more once inside of our bodies, thus giving our immune system a better opportunity to win the war faster.  Therefore, as soon as you feel that scratchy throat or heaviness in your head, start taking zinc and don’t stop until your nose can smell the cookies in the oven and visions of sugar plums dance in your head once again.
  2. Essential Oils.  Look for an essential oil blend that contains oils such as cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, rosemary, and wild orange which have been shown to have immune-boosting properties.  Simply add a few drops to some coconut oil or almond oil and rub it into your skin around the throat, chest and even the soles of your feet.  Adding these essential oils to a room diffuser can work to kill any germs that might be lingering in your home.
  3. Warm Up.  Research is finding that when our body temperature is warmer, viruses replicate slower and die off quicker.  Therefore, when you start to feel the first signs of a cold, create environments for yourself to raise your body heat, such as taking a hot bath or shower or sitting in a hot tub or steam room.  You can add the above mentioned essential oils to your bath or sprinkle a few drops on the floor of your shower.  Or wrap yourself up in your favorite comforter and snuggle up by your fireplace (or space heater) with a good book or movie!
  4. Indulge Your Sweet Tooth with Honey.  Raw organic honey contains enzymes and antimicrobials that not only fight germs, but soothe scratchy throats and coughs.  Studies have even demonstrated an improvement in sleep quality in children who took honey with upper respiratory tract infections, so try eating a teaspoon or two of honey before bed.  Throughout the day, you can simply boil some water, add honey and maybe some freshly grated ginger root to sip on to comfort body, mind and spirit.
  5. Stimulate blood and lymph circulation.  Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, offers a practice that can be done on a daily basis to stimulate circulation and cleanse the lymph system – dry brush lymph massage.  The lymph system helps rid the body of toxins, waste, and other unwanted materials by transporting lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells throughout the body.   Doing this practice when a virus has invaded our body is important to promote detoxification, supporting the elimination of the toxins as quickly as possible.  Try a natural-bristle brush that you might use to wash your back in the shower and start at the feet.  Using short, brisk strokes work up the body towards the heart, focusing on areas where lymph nodes are most concentrated, such as inner thighs/groin area and arm pits.

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Support the Development of Santosha

“Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want, but the realization of how much you already have.”― Anonymous

With the holidays fast approaching, it is likely that our minds are kicking into high gear, with thoughts beginning to focus on what needs to get done before they arrive!  These types of thoughts tend to encourage us to reach for our “To Do” lists, possibly adding a boat load of tasks, lighting the fire under our expectations around what this time of year is supposed to bring.  And when expectations enter into the picture, we set ourselves up for suffering at the hands of disappointment.

I attended a workshop many years ago about letting go of my expectations as a way to reduce the stress of the holiday season.  I remember thinking “Why would I ever want to lower my expectations?”  It sounded like I was being asked to let go of my goals, which ran counterintuitive to my (at the time) Type A personality, but I was willing to try anything to avoid the inevitable pain that I came to experience when it came to this time of year.  When I tried it out that year, the result was one of the best gifts I ever gave myself!

Now, fast forward to my present day experience, where I have loosened my grip on my attachment to my Type A personality traits, I set intentions instead of having expectations, and I trust that the Universe will co-create something even better than I every could imagine by myself.  How did I get from point A to point B?  Well, it hasn’t always been a straight line, yet one particular practice has proven invaluable, especially at this time of year.  The practice is the development of Santosha, which is Sanskrit for contentment.  And even though the human mind’s default position is to worry or focus on the negative because it is what keeps us safe when danger approaches, it doesn’t mean that we can’t flip the switch by seeking the beauty, harmony and peace in every experience.Now, I’m not going to tell you it is easy.  It takes practice, just like any new sport or hobby you might want to take up.  So, if the idea of expanding the sense of inner peace sounds appealing to you, below are some ideas to support the practice of Santosha and I recommend trying them out now BEFORE the holiday season is upon us!

  1. Let go of what you can’t control.  When we really think about what is truly under our control, we quickly realize not too many things come to mind.  To support the expansion of our awareness of this adage – or something similar like “letting go instead of holding on” – you might want to write it down and put near your tooth brush so you can remind yourself on a daily basis, even several times a day.  As you allow this awareness to become more evident in your mind, also tune into the felt experience in the body too.  When you feel the pain of disappointment or loss, the body is informing you that you were probably trying to control something out of your control and had attached expectations to the outcome.  So try letting go of the need to control and the associated outcome expectations.  Not only will you reduce the pain that naturally accompanies loss but you will reduce the experiences of disappointment altogether!
  2. Stop comparing yourself to others.  When we spend our energy focusing on others, what they have that we want, we discount our own unique gifts and zap ourselves of the potential we have to live our dharma.  Instead, shift your energy to focus on discovering, cultivating, and growing your own gifts and notice how much more vitality and peace you experience.
  3. Look for the silver lining.  When we find ourselves stuck in a unhealthy or painful situation, it can be very difficult to tap into our reservoir of inner peace and contentment.  In those moments, I suggest sitting for a moment and ask yourself “How might this situation be serving me?”  Everything serves although it might take us a little while to figure it out.  Sometimes we find ourselves in situations in order to learn what we don’t like or want in our lives, especially when it doesn’t bring us comfort.  Use this information as a guide for moving forward in a different, more authentic direction for yourself.
  4. Develop discernment, don’t judge.  Judgment can sometimes be a mask for expectations.  We expect people to behave a certain way or to say certain things and when they don’t, we judge them.  Judgment is very contagious and when we catch ourselves judging another, we start to realize how much judgment has seeped into our experience, where are thoughts are now judgments of ourselves!  Instead, allow others to express themselves, however differently than you might express yourself, and consciously distinguish what is appropriate or inappropriate for you.  When we bring consciousness to our thoughts, we open up to discernment and, with discernment we make healthy choices for ourselves and uplift the collective consciousness at the same time.
  5. Practice gratitude.  Our social culture motivates us to spend a great deal of time, energy, and resources to create and generate, from simple ideas to literally concrete structures.  However, our culture does not encourage us to spend an equal amount of time, energy, and resources in appreciating what we have achieved.  This culture creates an imbalance and this imbalance disturbs our Santosha.  Think about how much effort it requires to cook a meal for our families and how little time it takes to eat it so we can run to our next expectation or commitment.  However, research has shown that if we took more time cultivating appreciation for what we already have, including the food we eat, we begin to expand our sense of contentment, bringing more inner peace into our minds and bodies and to the world.

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Support Our Connection to Nature

“The trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let the dead things go.” — Anonymous

My sense is that Mother Earth is trying to get our attention.  With the floods in South Asia, earthquake in Mexico, and Hurricane Harvey and Irma, she is shouting at the top of her lungs! And I, for one, am listening.

With the fall equinox upon us this week, it is a great time to contemplate our connection to nature and in our own small ways, begin to set intentions to strengthen that interdependent bond.  Both equinoxes, spring and fall, are times when there is a balance between light and dark.  Between the fall equinox on Friday, September 22nd and the winter solstice, on Thursday, December 21st, days in the Northern Hemisphere will give way to longer nights.  Mother Earth begins her journey into the quiet darkness of night where nature moves into a stage of inner preparation.  Animals prepare for hibernation.  These outward signs offered by nature can guide us on our continued journey of transformation.  And if we each do our own inner preparation, embracing the quiet darkness within, we’ll discover new ways of being that may be more in harmony with the cycles of nature and supportive of the larger web of life.

Below are some intentions to contemplate at this time of year to demonstrate to Mother Earth that we are listening and are open to honoring our connection to her:

  1. Balance.  The word “Yoga” means union, or to yoke or join, and suggests that in uniting or joining opposites, such as light and dark, we bring balance, wholeness, and peace to our bodies, minds, and consciousness. When we reject the darkness, we are rejecting parts of ourselves that are simply mirrors for us to use in reflection.  Plan to spend some time in reflection, looking deeply into the mirror, seeking the light in the darkness and the darkness in the light.  Ask yourself if there are parts of yourself that scare you, invite them to sit with you awhile and get curious about why you might be rejecting them.  If we reject a part of ourselves, such as our angry part, this part provides just as much fuel to what moves us as the parts we accept in ourselves.  In fact, our rejected parts tend to pop up as uninvited guests sometimes at the most inopportune moments because we have not integrated them into our view of self as a whole and balanced being having a human experience.
  2. Cleanse.  As the trees begin to drop their leaves, let it inspire you to turn up the heat under your practice of Satya, which is the active pursuit of truth. Satya is one of the Yamas of yoga, which guide us in how to interact with others, which is a reflection of how we treat ourselves.  This practice requires us to loosen our grip on what we think is truth, because it most likely is simply our – or someone else’s – opinion.  So, one idea is to listen for any judgments that come up at this time, especially when it is towards another and watch how that judgment guides your behavior.  Again, get curious about the judgment, asking yourself where did it come from and do I really believe it, and if you discern that it didn’t come from you (instead it came from someone else or it is a societal message) and you don’t really buy into it, visualize it being washed away.  Then you might ask yourself how might you respond differently in that situation moving forward now that you have gained some clarity around what you believe is true.
  3. Let go.  Create space for yourself by planning to take a Restorative Yoga class this month.  This yoga practice focuses on our parasympathetic nervous system, the “relaxation and digestion” response in the body.  Poses are supported with props, such as blankets and bolsters, and are held for a minimum of 10 minutes, to provide enough time for the body’s activation system to turn off.  The signal to the muscles is “let go” and soften to bring balance to all of “the doing” found on our schedules.  When this practice is integrated into our schedule on a regular basis, it begins to show up off of our mats when we find ourselves letting go of thoughts and deeds that no longer serve us, others, and the world!
  4. Honor the Void.  To support your practice of Satya, consider starting a meditation practice to help quiet the mind and create space between your thoughts.  Most of us try to distract ourselves from our thoughts as they are often critical and judgmental of ourselves.  When we meditate, we don’t try to stop our thoughts so much as we create space around them, to allow us to drop beneath them and not be under their control, as they tug at us to engage in the conversations of the mind.  In the space between our thoughts, we are able to connect to our inner light that is intimately and eternally connected to source, reminding us that we are divine, perfect beings living in a imperfect world.  Meditation does not need to be hard – simply start out by taking 1 minute a day for a week to stop, bring the awareness of the mind to your breath, and actively lengthen both your inhales and your exhales. Then maybe explore the many free meditation apps available and find one that you like.  As you continue your practice, the space created in the mind invites in more peace, enabling you to share that peace with others, including Mother Earth, more readily.
  5. Practice Pranayama.  Pranayama is Sanskrit for the practice of controlling or channeling your essential life force energy in your body.  Prana, or life force energy, floats on the wave of your breath, so simply sitting for a moment to watch your breath, sensing where you feel your breath in your body, and working to expand and lengthen the inhales and/or exhales  has you on your way to awakening the energy and tuning into your own cycles of life. With each breath that you experience with awareness and control, the mind is drawn back into alignment with the heart in the body, supporting mind, body, and spirit health.  The basic yogic – and human – breath pattern is described as a 3-part breath, with the inhale expanding the belly, then the ribs, and then the collarbones and the exhale releasing from the collarbones first, then the ribs, and then the belly.  If your mind would prefer, you can simply silently count to yourself, maybe starting with a count of 4 for both the inhale and the exhale, and then working slowly towards a longer count, maybe a count of 6 or 8.  This pattern of controlled breathing actually helps the body and mind to reconnect to the natural rhythm of breath that our babies experience, before life weighs down on us, causing us to hold or shorten our breath cycle.  The longer our breath cycle, the longer our cycle of life!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Tap Into the Energy of the Total Solar Eclipse

“All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow.” ― Leo Tolstoy

Total solar eclipses are not as rare as we might think, happening somewhere in the world every 18 months or so. However, the next one to cross the United States from coast to coast, like the one that will occur this Monday, 8/21 won’t occur again until August 12, 2045!  And the last one was almost 100 years ago!  So, even if you are not able to watch the current incredible visual spectacle, you can still take advantage of the heightened level of energy that can be felt two or three days both before and after such a huge astrological event.

The heightened energy impacts both the external environment and our internal environment.  Solar eclipses occur at the new moon and new moons are a time to reflect on our goals and plant the seeds of our intentions, just like the Farmer’s Almanac recommends planting seeds in our gardens at the new moon to give them the best chance to grow. With the elevated level of energy from the total solar eclipse, our seeds will receive an extra boost from nature.  So let this not-to-be-missed visual reminder help you gain clarity around what you want to manifest at this time.

Below are some ideas to consider to support the change this total solar eclipse can bring into your life:
  1. See the Total Picture.  Take inspiration from this total solar eclipse to embrace both the light and the dark in our lives and our world.  We often struggle with things that we can’t see, don’t understand, or are different than our values.  However, if we open ourselves up to seeing another perspective, to seeking to understand before seeking to be understood, and to honoring our differences, we are expanding the light and shining it into the darkness.
  2. Live in the Moment.  Our lives are so busy, with our culture pushing us to constantly multi-task to the point of exhaustion.  Allow this total solar eclipse to create an opportunity to just stop for a moment, look up and notice the color of the sky while taking 3 long, deep breaths.  It doesn’t have to wait until Monday – start today!
  3. Celebrate Nature’s Cycles.  And although total solar eclipses are not an every day event, they do occur in a pattern.  So let this one be a reminder to celebrate the cycles of nature and life.  Maybe plan to light a candle at the time of the total solar eclipse and use the two to three minutes of darkness as a time to just BE, reflecting how interconnected life is.
  4. Don’t be afraid of the Dark.  Many of us deny our shadow side due to fear. However, we all have a shadow side and we need to learn to lean into it, instead of trying to run from it. It is what makes us HUMAN!  Maybe set an intention at the time of this total solar eclipse to find the courage to explore and embrace your shadow side. What you just might discover is the inner peace you have been searching for!
  5. Lighten Up!  With the light of the world shining into the dark corners, now is the time to make sure no one or nothing tries to put your inner light out – it is needed more than ever!  Let the total solar eclipse motivate you to plan to do something that fans the flame of your inner light and let it shine out like it has never done before!

5 Intention-setting Ideas for Raising Happy and Healthy Kids

“It takes a village to raise a child.” ― African Proverb

Many of us may not have children or our children may already be grown, yet it doesn’t mean that we can forget about our parenting skills, because we never know when our “parent part” may be called upon to assist in raising happy and healthy kids.  And, if you are a furbaby parent, as I am, the following intention-setting ideas are appropriate for our four-legged kids too.

So, in honor of Purposeful Parenting Month, I thought it was critical in order to raise the vibration for all children – the “little one” inside all of us, the ones we may have the honor of raising directly now or in the future, and the ones that we may find ourselves interacting with in a less direct relationship – that we reflect on some ways that we can foster the development of trusting, loving, and healthy kids.  Below are some ideas for consideration:

  1. Set Boundaries.  It’s important to set rules and boundaries for our kids, whether two-legged or four-legged.  We all need to know how to behave in a respectful manner when interacting with others and it is up to us, the responsible adults, to model and teach our children what that means.  It is also important to be consistent once a boundary is set, otherwise, we will create confusion.  Children look to adults for protection and direction and setting healthy boundaries goes a long way toward making them feel safe and calm.
  2. Make Time for Play.  Play is a basic human need – no matter how old our bodies get!  Embracing this need allows us to prioritize fun in our lives and include our children.  Research has also shown that it is important to play with your animals if you want to improve their behavior.  Playing with children is not only good for them, but good for you as it allows you to stay connected with your own “inner child”, that part of you that wants to express its sense of creativity, stay true to your authentic self, and pursue goals with passion.
  3. Catch Them Doing Something You Like.  Positive reinforcement has been shown to be the most powerful motivator as it makes us feel good about ourselves and more connected with others.  Expressing appreciation and gratitude towards your children when you observe them doing something that brings you joy, especially when it is not expected or tied to achievement, can be especially powerful.  For example, simply thanking your child for sharing with or showing kindness to another person can plant a seed for similar behaviors in the future.  When it comes to our four-legged kids, a simple pat on the head when they sit down next you quietly or come to you when you call them, will create the connection that invites them to repeat such responses.
  4. Love Equally and Uniquely.  It is important to not show favoritism, even if you feel it at times.  So, recognizing that our children have different personalities and other qualities that will draw us towards and away from them at different times, find a unique way to express your love to each of your children that fits with them.  Then, set the intention to use those unique expressions of love at least once a day with each child.  This guidance can also be applied to our furbabies.  Maybe one four-legged is a “morning” or “sunshine” baby while the other is a “nighttime” or “moonshine” baby, so you can plan to spend time with them when they most need it.
  5. Make Eye Contact.  Providing  our little ones – both human and furry – with a loving gaze produces a biochemical response that strengthens the connection, or bond between you and them. The level of the hormone oxytocin has been shown to increase in both humans and dogs after spending time looking into each other’s eyes.  Oxytocin is also known as the bonding or cuddling hormone and is sometimes referred to as the love drug. It is associated with trust and that warm, fuzzy feeling when you are close to another.  So, if you want to give yourself a boost of love or a sense of connection, slow down and LOOK to make eye contact with your children!

5 Intention-setting Ideas for Supporting the Parasympathetic Nervous System

“PTSD isn’t about what’s wrong with you, it’s about what happened to you.” ― Author Unknown

Much of our time is spent crossing items off of our “To Do” lists and attempting to juggle multiple demands and commitments.  This fast paced lifestyle over time can wreck havoc on our nervous systems, literally leading the body toward a nervous breakdown.  With summertime upon us and the heat encouraging the body to slow down, it might just be the right time to consider integrating a practice that nurtures our body, mind, and soul!

The human body’s Autonomic Nervous System has two branches:  the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) which are designed to compliment each other.  Our SNS is the part of our nervous system that gets activated in times of stress, whether that stress is considered positive or negative.  When the SNS is activated, our heart rate and respiration increase and our blood pressure goes up.  Our PNS is the part of the nervous system that gets activated in times of rest and relaxation, typically after the cause of the stress is removed from our awareness.  When the PNS is activated, our heart rate and respiration decrease and our blood pressure drops.

During stressful times, if we want more peace in our life, it is important to consciously activate our PNS to support the balance between “doing” and “being” and prevent our nervous system from breaking down.  Therefore, below I have provided 5 simple ideas to try to invite the rest and relaxation response in the body to become more present throughout all of the seasons of our lives:
  1. Mindfulness.  This intention might simply start with acknowledging that the human mind, just like a computer, is not designed to multi-task.  Embracing this natural state, we can then begin to invite opportunities to focus on just one thing at a time.  Starting with simple one-minute meditations, sprinkled throughout our day, can create just enough space for a deeper connection with our authentic self as reflected through our experience of gratitude, compassion, peace, and love   Some short meditation ideas include stopping what you are doing and trying one of the following:  taking a few drops of your favorite essential oil (lavender and orange are two that have been shown to support our PNS) in your palm, rub your hands together, hold your hands up near your nose and take 10 long deep breaths; redirect your attention to your body, starting with your feet and moving up to your face, tightening one muscle group at a time (e.g., feet, lower legs, thighs, etc.), taking one full, deep breath for each muscle group before releasing and relaxing; and.or close your eyes and allow you other senses to sharpen, first by identifying all of the sounds the ears might notice, then describing the sensations the skin might be experiencing, and then deepening your breath to notice the scents that might be in the air in that moment.
  2. Breathe Less.  No, I don’t mean hold your breath!  Instead, taking more conscious, extended diaphragmatic breaths, where you lengthen both the inhale and exhale, but allow your exhale to be longer than the inhale, means you may end up only taking 4 breaths per minutes instead of the normal 12 to 20 breaths per minute.  To practice lengthening your exhale, grab a straw and release your exhale through the straw and see if you can get your exhale to maybe be 30 seconds long!  Your inhales support your SNS, while your exhales support your PNS, so encouraging your exhales to be longer than your inhales allows the PNS to express itself.
  3. Stop and smell the roses.  Being out in nature has also been shown to trigger the PNS. Therefore, consider becoming a silent “tree hugger”!  You don’t have to tell anyone and you can do it when no one is looking.  Maybe try it for 40 days and see what happens.  Another option might be the next time you see white clouds in the sky, find a patch of grass to lie down on, look up and begin to identify shapes that the clouds are taking. Maybe you will see a dolphin, unicorn, or heart!
  4. Restorative Yoga.  Some may suggest that all yoga is restorative and I certainly wouldn’t argue with them.  Yet, a pure restorative yoga practice includes poses that are supported with props, such as blankets, pillows, and bolsters, and held for 10 to 20 minutes to allow the muscles to release built up tension.  So consider seeking out a restorative yoga class in your neck of the woods and pencil it in your calendar.  If you would prefer to try it right now, find yourself near a wall (or the back of a closed door), lie down on your right side and scoot your hips close to (but NOT touching) the wall, and then slowly roll onto your back and you lift your legs to the sky and rest the heels on the wall.  For even more comfort and support of your PNS, place a pillow or folded blanket under your hips/sacrum. Hold this pose as long as you feel able, then slowly roll to your side again, and wait at least 3 breaths before pushing yourself back up to a seated pose.  Check in with yourself before standing up and returning to the next item on your “To Do” list.
  5. Yoga Nidra.  This practice is also known as “yogic sleep”.  It is a guided meditation that encourages the mind to drop into deeper states of consciousness.  There are 5 levels of brain waves in the human mind. Gamma waves reflect active thought, Beta waves are present much of our waking time, when we are alert and working, Alpha waves reflect a more relaxed and reflective experience, Theta waves are experienced as a state of drowsiness and meditation, while Delta waves occur while we are sleeping and dreaming. Yoga Nidra creates a space for the mind to experience a more steady Theta wave experience, even floating between Theta and Delta wave states, supporting the activation of the PNS.  It has been said that 1 hour of Yoga Nidra is equal to 4 hours of sleep.  You can find free Yoga Nidra meditations on-line, so find your pillow and blanket and check one out soon!