My body tenses each time I consider all that I am responsible for: 4 children (and all their responsibilities), husband, house, fast-paced job with patients who often need more help than I am able or allowed to give, there's the bills, my in-laws and mother are aging and need more help than they are willing to ask for,  I'm still running YOGATHEA®, and then there's taking care of myself. The anxiety thinking about managing my life is actually worse than finally sitting down with my calendar and phone to plan. I need a clear mind, I have to let go of a few things weighing down my thoughts.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—God's good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

God's will is to see us thrive to fulfill a divine plan for our life but it is up to us to test and approve that plan. My body tensing is God's way of saying, "TARA, LET GO!". Now obviously I'm not going to let go of my children, or husband, or house or any of these blessing I have, but I will let go of the worry and pressure to keep a tight grip on what I cannot control. I cannot control my mom's health, what homework my kids decide to turn in (or not turn in), or if the garage door is going to stay on track. I can control my diet, exercise, amount of sleep and meditation I participate in. By taking care of myself, I'm stronger and more flexible to manage my blessings. The pain, the anxiety, the fatigue the tension are all messages that something needs to change, there is something I need to let go of. I have energy and balance in my life when I take time to let go. 

Learning to listen to my body through YOGATHEA® has given me the extrasensory ears to hear God speak into my life. This summer YOGATHEA® is creating a time a place for us women to listen to our bodies, "LETTING GO" of the worry that weighs us down. We will release the grip of our false sense of control, release the tension, release the grievance, release the fear to nurture each other as only women can do. Please join me this year at Pokagon Indiana State Park for a life changing weekend of "LETTING GO".

Use Code: RETREAT10 for 10% off through July 20, 2017.

 lettting go

 

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The Bible records a discussion Jesus has with a young lawyer about two great commandments, the second being to love your neighbor as yourself (see Mark 12:31). Jesus goes on to teach that these commands are the most important and sum up all of the law!

With the political season among us, I felt it appropriate to guide us to look within ourselves to find the love of others. Especially of those who disagree with our opinions or act so ugly when expressing theirs. 

A friend of mine posted this prayer on her Facebook Page, I'm uncertain if she wrote it or was sharing it but it's plee is ideal to help us find the love we are called to share with our neighbor:

Dear God, 
Please grant me the gift of understanding. 
Help me to understand the feelings of others, 
the desires of others, the goals of others. 
At the same time, help me to understand myself in my actions and reactions. 

Widen my vision beyond my own small world 
to embrace with knowledge and love the lives of others. 
Help me, God, to always see you at work in my own life and in the lives of others. Bless me with insight, acceptance and love that is tempered by you who are all things to all people. Help me to understand, God. 
Amen.

FORGIVING GOD

This past week my community was hit by a very damaging tornado. This is second tornado that has ravished through my neighborhood in 3 years. The winds did spare my home as did they my family though many of my neighbors lost their homes. Life sometimes leaves us with more questions than answers. After the shock wore off I was dumbfounded and a little perturbed, perturbed with God. Yes I was spared, yes my family was safe, yes I can live a few days without electricity in August, yes God could have spared some of the exact same houses from getting hit from a tornado twice in 3 years. Saying I somehow have God's favor because my home was spared would be saying God had a curse for my neighbor...I just can't believe that.

Seeing my neighborhood destroyed by a tornado again has felt like a curse and has brought me to tears several times. Less than 36 hours after the tornado hit, God sends rain. It rained into the houses with open roofs and soiled what was left in the houses. I walked out into my driveway, looked up at the raining sky and asked "why?"

I didn't get an answer.

My perturbed swelled into resentment.

I don't believe I will get an answer to that "why?"

What I do believe is that God forgave me, so I can forgive God. And, so I did. Forgive as Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32). We all experience uncontrollable circumstances, illnesses, deaths, betrayal. Sometimes we will never understand the why. When we take time to reflect and are honest with ourselves, we can find peace with God through forgiveness. 

It's easy to allow petty frustration to steal joy. Someone cuts you off in traffic, you struggle to create enough quality time with family, your workload is increasing, the children aren't behaving, the clerk at the drive through messed up your order, perhaps you're frustrated with yourself because you are unable to stick with that workout plan. Frustrations mount up and steal joy. 

The Bible has the perfect defense for this, gratitude.

I Thessalonians 5:18, "Give thanks in every situation because this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

in everything give thanks 1 thes 5 18

Remember in you mind what you are grateful for. Now, begin to say thank you out loud. Don't worry about disturbing your neighbor because they are speaking too! Continue to repeat thank you. Speaking more specifically, you may speak exactly what you are greatful for..

"My children, thank you."

"My job, thank you."

"My health, thank you."

"My home, thank you."

Taking time for thank you out loud will help you find your joy amongst the petty frustrations of life.

"My YOGATHEAs, thank you!

Life is a journey of roller coasters, road trips, wave surfin' and sunset sailing. Okay, so I didn't mention mountain climbing, hamster wheels and well, the list is infinite. Fake it till you make it?  Naively march onward? Paralized with fear? Not sure of the "right" response? Me either. Despite the endless confusion of whirlwinds and indescribable emotional responses, I have found peace resting with this mantra:

"Thy will be done"

It works for EVERY life situation.


Dog die? "Thy will be done"


Dad unexpectedly died? "Thy will be done"


Receive a promotion? "Thy will be done"


Your boss received a promotion on Your work? "Thy will be done"


Fired? "Thy will be done"


Computer isn't working? "Thy will be done"


Kids acting up? "Thy will be done"


Unethical practices in church? "Thy will be done"

Brutality of women, children and families in the Congo? "Thy will be done"

Wait a minute, how can kidnapping, rape and murder be God's will? This is going too far... 

So the question we all face: How can God be good allowing or ordaining such awful things to happen? Is this God's will? Do I really want to support or endorse God's will? Yes, we are suppose to deny ourselves and trust God but let's be real here for a moment. If God is so powerful and loving, why is the world such a mess?


The words of Jesus in his Parable of the Weeds and Wheat Mathew 13 have been helpful to me when I find myself in this divide (which I often do)

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them.30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”.


Jesus later gives the following explanation:

1. Sower = Jesus

2. Field = World

3. Good Seed = God's Children (people doing good works?)

4. Weeds = Children of Evil (people doing evil?)

5. Enemy = Satan

6. Harvest = End of World

7. Reapers = Angels

The bad seeds or weeds of evil are an intrusion, to God's children. Removing these weeds from the field would remove good so we are called to live with evil and wait for the harvest to be siphoned. "Thy will be done" or more fittingly ""Thy will be done on earth and heaven."


Whether in the next 30 seconds or 30 years, your life is destined to hit a bump, tidal wave, train wreck, or dark spot. The possibilities are endless. Rest in the most basic Christian Mantra for ALL of Life's Happenings: "Thy will be done."


Hultgren, A.J. (2000). The Parables of Jesus: A Commentary. Wm. B. Eardmans Publishing Co. Cambridge, U.K. Pages 392-303.

My kids have Colby Caillet's "Christmas In the Sand" memorized from start to finish. The adult innuendos are above their head--"you look naughty but I'm sure you're nice..." Okay, I can sing this little Millennial Christmas Classic too; it's a catchy tune and who doesn't want to spend Christmas in the sand?

Growing up I remember wondering if I would receive coal in my stocking, fortunately I never did. I suppose my levels of naughtiness varied from year to year (especially between the 14-23 years). Once age 24 I realized my parents actually knew what they were talking about. Despite my grandiose perspective, they blessed me at Christmas. My dad always saved up for a trip and mom had the gifts perfectly wrapped. My four children all have their levels of naughtiness and  too have never found coal on Christmas morning (though one is getting the brown play-Dough Poo-Poo mold kit--this is considered encouraging for a near 7 year old boy.)

As we grow into adulthood, we experience guilt in a deeper more profound way and try to bury it with our vices--booze, shopping, religious practices, work...you name it. These behaviors exacerbate at the holidays. My December retail budget triples and I know it's not all gifts. I have several friends in in a self inflicted social isolation, sorting out the personal baggage of a failed relationship or job situation. Our country is experiencing the salting of old racism wounds this Christmas, the rage and guilt of our ancestors seems to have an inherent quality. Despite our tragedies and warranted or unwarranted guilt, God rises the sun for us all, sending rain and doesn't discriminate in love. Naughty or nice, God loves you and loves all. This Christmas, and everyday, let's choose to be like God and love the undeserving. We might just make the world a little less naughty and a lot more nice! Merry Christmas!

This holiday season is bittersweet for me. Learning of my sister's breast cancer has slowed down my yuletide hustle bustle. Thank God for internet shopping right? Despite the parties, concerts and sweet Baby Jesus story, I'm sad. Yesterday as I was grading papers in my basement office, a nervous anxiety was making me sick to my stomach. I walked upstairs to send her a text asking about an upcoming doctor appointment (cellular service doesn't work in the basement...I'm adjunct faculty). She immediately shot back that she was waiting in the doctors office right now as we speak (or text), hoping to get results from the tissue sample! Sibling psychosomatics. In my years of healthcare, helping rehab the breast cancer patients was always hard for me. It's such an embarrassing and humbling experience for a young chemo patient in need of occupational therapy. My sister may very well go through that, or she may respond keeping her strength to muddle through the chemo and radiation treatments with the help of her husband. 

This experience has reminded me of the power in meditation. Years ago I found relief in a painful time through a combination of yoga, meditation and my faith. Somehow the world was okay after I participated in the time of stillness in yoga class. Being part of a group or class in the meditation really brought a great energy. I sensed I was being healed. Completing class this morning brought me to a similar place. I can't say that I was holly jolly afterwards, though I was ready and at peace to face the world, despite my sister's dark situation hovering over my heart. 

Sometimes the fear of the unknown is worse than the actual circumstance. Before my sister's diagnosis, my family had arranged to spend part of Christmas vacation together with her in a mountain cabin. This little getaway has become much more poignant. Chemo doesn't start until after Christmas, so we will certainly enjoy our time without excess fatigue. Knowing what and with whom we will be able to spend next Christmas remains unknown. There will certainly be many hours of stillness and breathing in yoga and meditation for me as I accept this unknown. I hope you will join me as you accept your unknown too...

Last year a tornado ravished through our neighborhood, flipping roofs off houses and uprooting trees within minutes. It felt like a train was driving through the neighborhood causing stuff to fly everywhere. Being uprooting from our home and returning for Thanksgiving I wrote the posts Where Do I Find Calm In the Storm? and A Salty Thanksgiving Back Bend. Last week I noticed twisted metal clanging from a naked tree as I enjoyed an evening walk. I found myself grateful to be strolling through a neighborhood with scars. I quite don't remember how I felt during my walks before the storm, however, I know now I have more gratitude for my home and my neighbors' home post tornado. Hardships will create gratitude, though, you don't have to wait for a storm to realize your life wasn't that bad after all.

Here are 3 simple strategies to create gratitude...everyday!

 

1. Appreciate the Ordinary--There is so much good in our days and lives. The good is so overabundant it appears ordinary...until the storm comes through. It's amazing what we take for granted. I'm completely guilty of rushing through the after school taxi-mom service and forgetting to notice how awesome each one of my kids are. Yes, it's the ordinary after school chaos of somehow managing 4 children to simultaneously arrive at 3 different places. Yes, they're still awesome and evolving...everyday!

 

2. Give a Compliment--Yesterday a Senior Lecturer took time to warmly share with me that she has heard some great things about me and the University was fortunate to have me as faculty. This took me by surprise as I said thank you. She of course didn't have to say this, however, I suspect as a teacher of many decades, she is always looking to compliment and empower her students and junior faculty. It feels good to be appreciated. Taking time to compliment...everyday!

 

3. Fill Your Prayers With Thanks--It's been said that "Thank You" is the best prayer anyone can say. Truth. Of course we all have a need for divine intervention to change a circumstance, however, when we stack the list of needs next to the stack of blessings, we find the lists are more about our attitudes towards life. We had a friend over for dinner recently and as I was sharing a story and trying to describe my elated heart response, he genuinely interjected, "Praise God!". Those were the words I was looking for! So Praise God...everyday!

 

Yoga and meditation has certainly helped me cultivate the mental organization to cultivate habits of gratitude. I definitely want to grow in gratitude because I know it will continue to multiply the joy and abundance in my life. As you sit down for Thanksgiving Dinner this year, I hope your list of blessings is longer than your list of needs and that you feel joy in gratitude. Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I went to the post office around 2 pm to find a long line of old ladies mailing large packages. These grandmas were getting their Christmas gifts out in the mail early to avoid the holiday crowd and potential inclement weather. Next week is Thanksgiving and our Indiana weather was 16 degrees with snow--yes it was colder than Siberia, Russia today, yes those old ladies were probably smart to get the packages out early. I drove past the mall around 2:20 and the lot was full. It's that time of year where the decorations are up and the yuletide insanity begins.

Keeping sane during the holidays is a challenge so here are 3 simple strategies to keep you sane this season:

 

1. Give to Yourself--The holidays are largely about giving, however we forget to give to ourselves. As our lives are full, the shiny packages under the tree don't mean as much as the intimate time with ourselves. Give yourself some time, whether it be 10 extra minutes in the morning with your cup of coffee or an afternoon walk in the brisk fresh air. Taking time in your holiday schedule to give to yourself will enrich your giving to others in the deepest of ways.

 

2. Remember--My holidays have been bittersweet seeing excited children as I hold on to the grief of losing my father. Each year it seems to get easier though never goes away. What has helped me is to remember the fun memories we had at Christmas. Dad LOVED Christmas and spoiled us all exclaiming, "this is why he came to America". The memories do bring tears but also bring peace as they settle my soul to be in the moment.

 

3. YOGATHEA®--The grocery store crowds, social gatherings, school programs, incompetent drivers and annoying music brings out the inner...well refer to the picture above. Get to your Yogathea class so you may

"Breathe the Peace Which Transcends All Understanding ~ Mind + Body + Spirit". If you don't have a class near you, I'll be glad to sell you a Christian Yoga Video  (yes this is shameless plug). If you already have one, don't forget about your friends (okay, another shameless plug. I'm done now.)

 

If you do become seized with the yuletide insanity, remember these simple strategies and I will see you in class or sitting on your back porch soon!

Need GREAT faith in your life? Jesus tells us in Mathew 17:10, "if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you".

I remember a few years back when my baby was ill and his army of doctors were unable to keep him healthy. Thousands of dollars in testing and long lonely nights haunted me as the medical experts tried to figure out the cause of illness. I needed a mountain to move and it did...with 3 steps.

 

1. Envision the Outcome--The truth is that everyone has faith. Unfortunately, we often have faith in the worst possible scenario or negative outcome. During my son's time of illness, I had faith and believed he would be ill, because that is what I saw and nobody was giving me answers that were helping him. As long as I believed he would be ill, he remained ill. Finally it occurred to me that he could be well, despite the circumstances, I was able to believe he had the possibility of becoming a healthy, happy child that would play like a normal kid with the rest of the kids (he was significantly delayed in development too). Though Jesus was not around to heal my son (I would have traveled on foot many miles with a sick kid for this miracle), I remembered that Jesus left us the church with elders who anoint the sick with oil (James 5:14). We drove to Chicago to meet with the elders (the Bible said elders so I requested at least 2). Soon there after we met with a doctor who had a reasonable theory and immediately prescribed an easy but rare treatment. Within days my toddler son became healthy by taking an over-the-counter body building supplement 3 times a day. Who would have known his body does not produce enough of a specific amino acid essential for muscle development? I believe faith opened the door to find the answer.

 

2. Follow Through--Actions reveal our faith and desires. Wanting and finally believing my son could be better wasn't enough, I had to follow through on giving him his medication. Because of the illnesses, he did have other medications at the time. Being in the emotional state I was and having to take care of 3 other children as well as myself, house, husband and more, it was difficult for me to be compliant with the new medical routine. As a healthcare worker experienced in teaching people methods of compliance for a medical routine, this was embarrassing to me. I humbled out and got a home health nurse. She helped me develop a routine to dispense the meds ahead of time with a chart for the family. Yes I knew how to do all of this, yes I was too paralyzed to do it, yes I got help and yes it was worth it! Whatever your desired outcome, align your actions accordingly and this sometime takes sacrifice and a bit of humility.


3. Give Thanks--Most of the time results don't occur in a moment. Though my son's response to his new treatment was immediate with better health, it has taken several years to see him develop into a normal child. He is now 6 and runs around the playground, makes jokes and pulls pranks like any other boy. It's always a miracle to see him thrive and I give thanks! He still takes his medicine 3 times daily, fatigues quicker and requires a lot speech therapy to be understood. His doctor count has reduced from 5 to 3. He's still developing and the mountain is still moving in his life and mine. Giving thanks through the process allows me to enjoy the journey.

In fitness I frequently deal with people who want to change their health bodies. Often this task appears to be an unmovable mountain. The mountain can of course move but will not move overnight. Having the maturity and patience to envision a desired outcome, follow through, and give thanks through the process, will creat faith and move a mountain.

I remember looking out the backseat glass of my mom's moving station wagon, watching cornfields move by. Sometimes the cornfields would turn into soybean fields and then back to cornfields again. The perfect alignment of their rows created alignment in my thoughts. The rows looked different when planted on a hillside, this required different thinking.

Periods in the car are great opportunities to sit in stillness. Sitting in stillness brings wisdom. With hotspot wifi, xm radio, built in DVD players and more in our cars, it's easy to continue the cycle of business and stimulate ourselves with gadgets. Without the radio, we can usually resist the urge to sing and participate in quiet observation. Our family observes a quiet time on our way to church each Sunday. I'm not sure what my kids are thinking between the "Are we almost there?", "Stop hitting me!" and "________took their shoes off" interruptions. I know their lives are lived in a constant state of distraction and I want them to see the cornfields as I once did as a child. 

In rare moments I have the opportunity to sit in silence in my moving van, on a road trip without children. At these time, I once again, I feel like myself, my true inner child self with thoughts aligning and wisdom budding. I've even written a few songs on my road trips! (see post "What Gives Me Faith"). As the landscape changes out the window, I discover my inner-landscape. If you are searching, I encourage you to get in the car alone and drive without radio or cell phone. The quiet observation out the front pane will bring you wisdom. You might find God brings a song to your heart too!

If you've lived life for any length, you are aware that obstacles come, often taking us by surprise and typically resulting in some sort of conflict. What we are offended by and how we respond in conflict reveals volumes about us. Practicing yoga and meditation has certainly influenced my response to being offended...I've become more flexible..

 So here are 3 mindful tips to help you deal with conflict and hopefully become more graceful:

 

1. Why Am I Offended?

A simple answer to a simple question: EGO! Perhaps rightfully so, we typically feel disrespected somehow. Our image may have been threatened or our imperfection revealed, often our status was not recognized or our world order was disrupted (this happens when my kids make a mess of the house!). Intrinsically we want authority over our dominion and don't particularly like to share. We expect others to conform to our ideals or expectations. The unconscious self-talk says, "I'm right and they are wrong" or "THIS IS WRONG". Yes we can be big toddlers. There is certainly times and places to be offended, however, often the best way to deal with conflict is not to be offended in the first place!

 

2. Discovering the Emotional Lesson

I am a believer that there is an emotional lesson behind conflict. Family is the best teacher for this. Growing up in a family with frequent conflict and now raising a family of my own (fortunately with much less conflict), I have learned many emotional lessons such as:

When my child is struggling to learn a lesson, I need to be more patient.

When my mom barks orders forgetting I'm an adult, I need to practice child-like submission.

When my husband is distant, I need to allow him space.

Understanding that I choose to be hurt by these instances, or choose to grow from these instances has been liberating to me. A side benefit is that I experience less conflict.


3. Assume the Best

Perception becomes reality. We certainly want others to assume our best intentions, especially when we blew it. My husband has often reminded me of this, which has been some of the best advice I have ever received. Assuming the best in others will bring out the best in you, them and the entire situation. This is different than denial or being a door mat; this is sprinkling grace onto the world by giving the benefit of doubt.


Using these mindful strategies has helped me grow in gracefulness with others. Conflict is a matter of our judgement, we have the opportunity to look at the world and see the the "wrong" of others or decide to look within and determine what emotional lesson God has in store for me. Jesus reminds us on judging, Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." The conflict in your life, is truly a reflection of you.

Unfortunately at various times in life I have had friends that I discovered were  subtly toxic. These "friends" can come in the roles of coworker, church relationship, family member, client, or others.

These relationships don't directly or immediately appear toxic, but their disease creeps in to find access to your psyche or the psyche of others. If you have not encountered these types of "friends" at some place or another, you likely will. In order to preserve peace and well, have fewer issues in my life, I have found the following detoxifying methods for these 5 Subtly Toxic Friends:

1. Vampire--This friend sucks on your positive energy. They are usually very if not overly friendly on appearance and within groups they are often popular. As you interact with the vampire, you leave and are uncertain exactly what happened because you are exhausted and drained. Because the vampire is popular, they may have a social minion or two they are sucking from, though the vampire has no real close friends and her inner circle mostly consists of colleagues--people who are forced to interact with them. You may find the vampire working with another vampire sucking out of each other as they work together to suck it out of you!

The Detox: The best way to purify your life of the vampire is to give your best self to your best friends only, the vampire won't be interested in sucking the matter-of-fact out of you.

2. Gossip--The gossip has many forms, see my post on The 3 Gossip Games in Church and How To Sit Out.  Nobody wants a gossip as a friend and the subtly toxic gossip can be worse because they are not necessarily consistent or predictable. This gossip usually strikes when she has an agenda such as establishing rapport with a boss or social leader, or fixing a problem (you). This agenda typically justifies their gossiping, at least in their mind (remember they're only trying to "help" you). The subtle gossip may likely have access to your most personal information which can be especially toxic.


The Detox: If you have been struck by a subtle toxic gossip, I seriously recommend not sharing vulnerabilities or personal information with her unless you're willing to put it out on the internet. Consider yourself warned!

3. Control Freak--Nurse Ratchet and Church Lady are the blatant Control Freaks. The subtle control freak usually, like the subtle gossip, has an agenda to control her particular dominion. This person becomes toxic as she typically forces solutions on problems which ironically create new problems. You can identify a Control Freak by a long history of fractured relationships (which are of course the other person's fault for not meeting their standards of control).

The Detox: Purifying your life of the subtle control freak requires deciding exactly where and how flexible you will be to meet her standards. Once you are absolutely sure, be firm with your boundaries and do NOT explain yourself even though you may be added to her list of fractured relationships...

4. Complainer--The subtle complainer is typically a great critical thinker and often sarcastic. You won't get a soliloquy or complain-a-thon from this friend, however their negative perspective over time is truly toxic if they are in regular contact.The subtle complainer doesn't look down to appreciate the grass under their feet and instead is looking for or at the greener grass. At the root of the complainer is an entitlement that they should have better.

The Detox: Keep the subtle complainer out of your inner circle of friends and interact with this person in larger groups only. Remember, when you are finding your glass half empty, the empty glass is full of air.

5. Midas--Midas is interested in gaining social or financial status. A subtle Midas may cause you to overspend as you are coerced to eat at restaurants out of your budget or feel impelled to "keep up with the Jones's". The subtle Midas can lead you to feel you do not have enough or even into jealously.

The Detox:  Decide upon your allowance and read Proverbs 23:1-3. If your friend can't adjust to accommodate your budget, you may want to find a new dinner buddy.

The friend you want is one who you can be natural and unguarded with. To avoid becoming a subtly toxic friend, remember it's necessary to allow others to be their true and authentic selves, especially when their views differ from your own. Often we are unable to hand a "friend" a pink slip due to the complexity of the relationship, however firm and appropriate boundaries can do the detox you need.

My dad was an Egyptian immigrant.  Unfortunately most of the Arabic I learned was cussing. As a child, I knew I was in deep trouble when dad's lecture turned Arabic. I never did hear him cuss in English, or at least until I was an adult.  After becoming a Christian, I made the conscious decision to quit cussing, at least out loud.  It took a few years for those serviceable four-letter words to quit running through my mind. They still come and go. Now-a-days I tell my prepubescent children that cussing is for people who aren't creative, calm, and clever enough to find something worthy of saying. I hope their pride will be stronger than their tongue!

Let's face it, cussing is negative and does damage.  As a rehabilitated former cusser, I would like to share some strategies that helped me quit cussing.

 

1.  Creative Words

Finding descriptive, creative words to use not only exercises the brain, but makes for more interesting conversation. Take for example you hit your finger with the hammer, which response is more others focused ?

  1. *&^#$, 
  2. Ouch, or
  3. Son, this is why you should learn to concentrate in school! (face very bright red with grunting undertones)

2.  Stay Calm

Easier said than done. A practical solution here is to take a breath before cussing, see if it stops the cussing reflex.  I'll see you in yoga and meditation here soon?  

3.  Earshot

What helped me immensely was staying out of earshot of cussing.  This is extremely difficult when all of your friends and itunes library cusses.  The songs are definitely easier to clean up than friends.  If you can't dump your cussing friends--unless their involved in illegal activity, I suggest you keep them around--I suggest mentally blotting out their cuss words.  For example, if they use the f-bomb, you mentally say to yourself "flower" (or other f-word) as you repeat the phrase to your self, mentally rewinding and rewiring your brain for a cuss-free zone.  

4.  Visual Assassination

This off-beat suggestion seems a little crazy but worked for me.  Whenever I would slip up to say or think a cuss word, I would mentally assassinate it with a knife.  Yes, I killed the cuss words visually

5.  Think Positively

Cussing is negative.  The more positive of an outlook you have, the less urge you will feel to cuss.  Did I invite you to my YOGATHEA® class already?  Okay, good...see you then!

Life is full of circumstances and events that often paralyze us. The repercussions of untimely deaths, abuse, injustice and more continue to resonate in our lives as if they are happening now. We believe the message our past reminds us on how powerlessness and insignificant we can be. The more I navigate life, I realize a growing need to accept Christ's forgiveness and grace; though, somehow it's hard to let go and let the past be the past.

Letting go of the past and knowing Christ's grace frees us to embrace the future, no matter our age or circumstance. This is an ongoing process as we are people with memories and baggage and some memories and baggage weigh heavy in our subconscious.  I personally am still letting go of who I was and embracing what I am and who God has called me to be--my voicemail is getting full, can I say delete?  From this process I share with you 3 tips of what has helped me let go of my past:

 

1.  Meditate

It's hard to know what you really think if you aren't taking the time to listen to yourself.  Meditation can be very scary for people for just this reason, we think some scary things sometimes.  Sitting still and breathing as we listen to our irrational and condemning selves gives us courage and teaches us to have grace upon ourselves.  Through meditation I have learned not to spend $500 dollars on a $5 problem from the past (even when it was a $50,000 problem at the time!)

 

2.  Gratitude

I often tell my son, "When you think of good things, you will have a good life; when you think of bad things, you will have a bad life."  The apple doesn't fall far from the tree and sometime the advice we give our kids is just the advice we need for ourselves!  Taking time daily to give thanks for the smallest of things builds the foundation to outweigh and push out negative things that ensnare our spirits.  Jesus gave thanks before each miracle which tells me miracles aren't going to happen without an element of gratitude.

 

3.  Vision

Whether you want better relationships, a new career or added blessings, it takes a lot of courage to believe the best is coming because that involves change and trying new things that we will likely not be successful in, at least at first. Creating a vision for what you want, even if cloudy and distorted, allows you to bring that to God and manifest in your life. When starting my business, I had to take the time to envision what I wanted to accomplish with my business and how this would fit into my life. My life was already full so it required letting go of some of my present, and well, dropping the weight of my past. Making decisions and working towards your vision is your responsibility in faith. 

 

Letting go of the past is certainly easier to discuss than do, it takes an incredible amount of emotional energy though allows you to find God's grace. Daily practice of these three tips will send your past to voicemail, filling it up--delete!

After a decade plus of wiping little bottoms and noses, I am returning to the workforce, or at least to the workforce that doesn't wear spandex...sort of.  I am completely ecstatic, humbled and nervous to begin my journey as a member of the Indiana University Kokomo adjunct faculty.  Amazingly, the classes I am teaching, Introduction to Health and Fitness and Heath Physical Education Related Yoga, are in my element and pertinent to my life's work and business; this is a gift from God.  Okay, so I will still be wearing spandex to work, though I am excited to have someplace besides church to wear a dress. As the School of Business Department Head was congratulating me on my new position after our yoga session, it hit me that I am not embracing this change with joy.  Time for an intervention:  The 3 essentials to embrace change with joy.

Essential 1.  Celebrate. 

Immediately after accepting the position, I started planning my courses, reading the assigned text book etc.  I forgot to celebrate.  There is a reason we formally celebrate birthdays and other rites of passage.  I often reflect upon how God commanded the Israelites to celebrate with various festivals and time off work.  Seems like dinner reservations are in order here!

 

Essential 2.  Envision. 

Often, envisioning how our new life situation will be lessens the anxiety of the change.  The unknown can be scary, even if it is a positive change.  Creating an image of what the change will look and feel like through meditation will bring about peace and confidence. 

 

Essential 3.  Go With the Flow.  

Life is always changing.  Jesus says in John 3:8, "The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit".  This sounds a little chaotic to me, though much more exciting than staying idle.  Winds of change do come, often with force, though if your goals and priorities are in line, you won't get blown away and depending on the circumstance, you might even find joy!

Earlier this week my mom was admitted to the hospital for unstable blood pressure.  Scary.  She did everything correct, took the aspirin, went to the ER.  Still scary.  As a healthcare professional, I have been taught to systematically think through medical situations and therefore could advise mom matter-of-factly on what to do when she was not feeling well.  Unfortunately my clinical reasoning didn't prepare me for how I would feel knowing she was critically at risk for a heart attack or stroke or worse.  I didn't sleep well Sunday night...

It's been my practice for years to try and wind down and prepare for sleep.  I love to don my favorite PJs and cuddle with a book.  Absolutely no television for at least an hour before bed.  Monday and Thursday evenings are best because I teach yoga and know my slumber will be especially peaceful after class--my body fatigued and mind clear.  I'm the happiest when my sleep is deep and plentiful!  Sleep has been shown to have many benefits, yet remains a scientific mystery.  According to Psalm 4:8, sleep is an act of trust in God, an expression of our faith:  "In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe".

It's really hard to feel safe when there is a serious threat to the health and well-being of your mother or anyone else you hold dear.  Many life changing events and traumas have left me sleepless as I was unable to lie down in peace:

The night before traveling across the world to Hawaii, knowing I would be far away from my kids for an entire week.  (I did find God in the Pacific tropics on Maui and slept very well there).

The week of restless nights after the tornado hit our home. 

Preparing for that first employee termination meeting as a manager. 

My first night away from home as a college freshman.

After losing my dad, I spent at least a month with insomnia and it became evident to me how we put our faith in our parents.  Dad died and I felt lost because an organic object of my faith had disappeared.  No wonder I couldn't sleep.  Transferring this faith to God was no easy task, but did eventually prove beneficial to help me lie down and sleep in peace again.

As mom is now stable and I have slept much better, I'm well aware that another anxiety provoking event will try to possess my repose.  I'm also more aware that there will be a day that I will have to practice faith without my mom.   For now, I'm grateful to have her as an object of faith and for the faith to be still enough to catch some zzzzz's in peace.

Good Night.

The birth of Jesus is a worldwide historical phenomenon representing peace that has inspired songs such as "Silent Night". Being a four time veteran of the delivery room, I never did have a silent night bringing forth my children into the world.  In fact, each night (and they all decided to be born at night during normal sleeping hours) was quite noisy and I wasn't feeling the heavenly peace.  I'm pretty sure by the intermittent cries of the women throughout the labor and delivery rooms, that calm and bright are not appropriate adjectives either.   Now mind you, I'm not Mary and I cringe thinking about her riding a donkey for miles and miles at 9 months pregnant.  I suppose people cringed at me leading yoga classes 9 months pregnant.  At least Joseph and Mary had shelter in a barn for the big event, right?  We don't know when Mary's labor began or how long it was, I'm guessing Joseph found a midwife because most first time fathers intuitively don't want to add extra anxiety to the situation and know their wife needs somebody because she is moaning, sweating, and laboring.  Moreover, the universal rule of childbirth says:  Everything a husband says or does while wife is in labor, can  be held against you for eternity.  Childbirth is just flat messy.  I wonder what they did with all of the emerging body excretions in the manger?  Oh wait, they must have used the straw to cover it along with the other animal excretions.

So after a baby is born, the silent night, holy, and heavenly peace become more of a reality.  I was moved to the postpartum unit where all IS really calm and bright and sweet with nurses to wait on you.  Not for Mary, her postpartum unit was a barn, perhaps a few feet away from the big event.   I grew up in a rural area and have played in many a barns and I can attest to you that the ones with animals are stinky and you better watch where you step.  Then comes the visits  by excited relatives who may or may not care to give you a moment to clean up and recover.  For Mary, these were crazy teenagers that have been out watching sheep for who knows how long.   After I delivered babies, I honestly wanted to sleep and snuggle my baby, not visit with strangers who have heard voices.  Poor Mary, away in a manger, no crib for a bed, no proper lodging or other necessities for her first babe, body wounded from childbirth (which is always scariest the first time) and receiving strange visitors ...how silent is that?

This Christmas Eve, as you meditate upon the birth of Jesus,  thank God for your silent night remembering every silent night has a bit of noise.

There is a fine line between a hobby and mental illness.  A hobby will either drive us into obsession or save us from going insane.  I'm finding as we age, hobbies take on a sacredness and only if we experience a "quiet time" in our activity will we be spared the curse of insanity.  

 I've trained in gyms for 20+ years and I can affirm that a weight lifter's quiet time does involve heavy metal.  The weight room is holy ground making that big lift. Many people do not understand the world of weight lifting and are quick to dismiss it's value.  On the other hand, "roid rage" didn't get it's name for nothing.

Quiet time for the yogi is actually finding quiet for meditation.  My entire business is centered around this concept with a Christian theme!  There are plenty of crazy yogis with "out there" philosophies or who refrain from eating, drinking or other daily hygiene practices in order to meditate.  In their defense, Jesus did spend 40 days in the desert.  (For the record, at no time in the near or planned future am I planning an extended fasting and meditation time nearing the point of starvation.) 

We've all heard the preacher tell us to read our Bible every day and hopefully I don't have to explain the sacredness with this quiet time.  I try to read mine every day.  As with other activities, I do know Christians with a religion addiction who bring out their 2 axes and .38 caliber to demolish the non-Christian with Acts 2:38...in the name of "love" of course, but unfortunately not too quiet.  In their defense, Jesus was pretty direct at time as well.

Here in Indiana, it is not uncommon to see a high tech deer stand with electrical hook up and wifi in someone's backyard. The first day of hunting season is like a national holiday.   Moms love to scrapbook and will flock together to commemorate special family moments using their creativity.  Painters, musicians, gamers (yes, even the gamers) will attest the sacredness of their hobby, or at least you will see the "real" person shine through or become alive in their hobby.  Some are so fortunate to have their hobby as a profession, however, this opens another door of obsession and even fear. 

I would LOVE to convert all of you to yogis in order to feel what I feel in Christian Yoga and Meditation.  The truth is, not all of you are likely Christians; and for many of you, yoga may not be your thing and you have "your thing" that makes you feel alive.  Your quiet time might just be working in the garden instead of sitting and breathing!  In John 10:10, Jesus said, "..I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."  Not all of us are smart enough to be a Bible scholar (that doesn't excuse you from reading your Bible every day), and not all of us are going to be professional yogis (that doesn't excuse you from regularly participating in exercise as a part of your life), not all of  us are going to play an instrument in a band or perform onstage or be the best at our hobby (that doesn't excuse you from not carving out time to develop your hobby).   Romans 12:6 states, "We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us." and Colossians 3:23 states, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters" (aka your boss, whoever that is).   If you do actively participate in a hobby, I encourage you to make sure you experience that sacred quiet time with your practice: Time to reflect, time to feel alive.   If you have set your hobby aside because you are "too busy",  for your own sanity, pick it back up again!  We all need leisure and we all need that sacred quiet time that is aligned with our God given gifts.  Whatever you do, make sure to engage in "your thing" regularly and "work at it with all your heart" so you may experience "life to the full"!!

Being uprooted from my home for a few days and living in the aftermath of a violent tornado that literally destroyed my neighborhood, has required a new degree of flexibility for myself and my family.  Lets face it, nobody likes change.  Now back at  home, my neighborhood is a square mile traffic jam of bulldozers, front loaders, dump trucks, and other  machines that I will likely never drive in my lifetime.  I'm not real concerned about the piles of rubble lining the streets or that the school bus isn't servicing the area for my children.  The United Way volunteer team cleaned up the mess of shingles, fence and who knows what from my yard;  our family and church friends decided to give back and clean the neighbor's yard.  My friend lost her house and scavenged her personal belongings along the roadside for all to see...how humbling.   When bringing her family a meal at their new rental home, the children had an especially flexible view on the situation:

Kid:  "Hi Mrs. Galles (hug) our house blew away so we get to live here now."

If it were only this easy, but maybe it is this easy?  According to his mom, immediately after emerging from their basement closet bunker to find their house destroyed, this child was overwhelmed about not having Thanksgiving, and is now VERY excited to be in a new home to celebrate Thanksgiving in tomorrow.

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?   

It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. 

Luke 14:34-35.  

This scripture has always intrigued me because Jesus is literally saying that losing saltiness is like being a rejected piece of crap that is not useful to be included with the pile of bull crap that is at least useful for something!  The Bible translators didn't make it so crude (and in my opinion lost the saltiness) for our tender over righteous politically correct ears...shoot!   I'm glad to have a home this Thanksgiving.  I'm grateful my family is safe and all of my community miraculously survived this storm.  My schedule is careening all over the place and I'm bending over backwards to keep normalcy.  Good thing I practice back bends in yoga!  I'm keenly aware of the pity party I've had in previous Thanksgivings during this "difficult time of year".  Another friend of mine just lost her young niece to a car accident and was lamenting how it always takes a tragedy for her to realize how grateful she needs to be in life.   Seasoning our gratitude with saltiness requires pain, or at least a bit of inconvenience and flexibility.  As you sit down to feast on Thanksgiving tomorrow, bend over backwards to season your gratitude with some salt.  Salt on a wound never feels good, though does sterilize, which is better than being a lonely piece of poo-poo!