The Four Agreements

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom: A Toltec Wisdom Book, was written by don Miguel Ruiz and published by Amber-Allen Publishing in 1997 (138 pages). As don Miguel explains, the Toltec were known thousands of years ago throughout southern Mexico as “women and men of knowledge.” They were scientists and artists not practicing a religion, but instead forming a society exploring and conserving spiritual knowledge and ancient practices, which they then passed on to subsequent generations. These teachings informed don Miguel,and he passes that knowledge on in this and other books he has authored.

The book addresses a few different topics, including the domestication of our societies and planet, explaining the need for such domestication but the drawbacks as well. Using the language of domestication helps us communicate with others by having a common language; however, we also use that language to communicate certain ideas to ourselves that limit our personal power.

The highlight of the book, of course, is the in-depth analysis of the Four Agreements. If we are able to live our lives guided by the Four Agreements, we create personal power which we can then use for the greater good. The Agreements are:

  • Be Impeccable with Your Word – words have an amazing amount of power, so choose them carefully, thinking not only of what you want to communicate, but how the other person will hear your words. And carefully consider the types of words you select internally when addressing yourself.
  • Don’t Take Anything Personally – what someone may say really is never about you; it’s about their situation and interpreted through the personal”filter” they have created over a lifetime.
  • Don’t Make Assumptions – this eliminates so much controversy and misunderstanding; if something isn’t clear, just ask!
  • Always Do Your Best – our level of “best” differs when we are, for example, sick or tired, but we should always do our best wherever we are at the time.

Applying this analysis to my life and actions has made a huge difference for me. It has eliminated miscommunications with others and has allowed me to be more gentle and forgiving of my harshest critic – myself.

If you are looking for a straightforward set of principles to utilize to start exploring the quality of your life and personal interactions, I highly recommend The Four Agreements.

Happy reading. Stay safe and namaste.

Recommitment

My friend and mentor davidji once pointed out to me that I needed to keep up with my blog!! Obviously, I have not taken that advice yet. No excuses whatsoever. I had to shutter my yoga and meditation studio for the past couple of months due to the New York Pause related to the COVID-19 pandemic, so with all this time, I should have been posting much more.

Time to recommit to this effort!!

I am currently enrolled in davidji’s advanced teacher training program entitled Deeper Still. This program will provide me with 300 additional hours of study of the ancient texts on which various meditation techniques are founded. During this period of study, I am reading some amazing books which I want to share with you.

Starting next week, during the first week of each month, I’ll share with you some of the materials I am reading. All of them are fascinating, and it’s amazing how many different cultures have the same threads of theology running through them.

So check back the first of each month for the next review of the texts. They are amazing, and I’m looking forward to sharing them all with you.

Namaste.

Actions to Deal with Holiday Stress

My good friend Dr. Tonya Featherston recently wrote a wonderful article about positive steps to take to have a more enjoyable holiday season. I’m sharing it here with the reminder that it doesn’t need to be the holidays implement the steps Dr. Featherston suggests!! AND you don’t have to be a teacher – these suggestions apply to everyone. Read on for some great information, and be sure to check out her website when you have a moment:

Recently at a stress management workshop, I asked the participants who were a group of teachers if they got a sense of rejuvenation during the two week winter holiday break. One of the teachers was excited to share her answer, and she shouted no! I usually need a vacation after my holiday break she said! I inquired as to why she felt she needed another vacation after the break and she told me because she tries to do all of the tasks that she couldn’t take off work to do from August through December. She mentioned scheduling doctor’s appointments, dentist’s appointments, house cleaning, holiday shopping and a myriad of other tasks on her to do list.

This conversation made me think about how as teachers we are shamed into not taking time off from work because the children need us and rely on us to be present for them on a daily basis. We easily buy into this mindset and neglect ourselves for months at a time. So naturally, when we get a break, we try to maximize the time by creating a to do list that’s a mile long. Do you find yourself running from one place to another checking things off your list during the break?

Teachers are often hanging on by a thread waiting for the holiday break and in desperate need of rest and rejuvenation. If during the holiday you spend most of your time on household tasks, it leaves very little time for the restoration that your mind and body needs. This holiday season, I encourage you to spend more time on yourself and less time on the to do list or fulfilling the needs of others. Here are 3 ways that I rejuvenate myself during the holiday breaks:

1. Put yourself at the top of the list — let your feelings be your guide and only do things that make you feel good. If it doesn’t make you smile and feel giddy inside, then it’s not happening. You should be your number one priority during this holiday break. Find at least one thing a day to do that’s just for you, something that fills you up and rejuvenates your spirit.

2. Leave the work at work — dump the to do list, and don’t spend your holiday break catching up on lesson planning, grading papers or writing reports. Declare this holiday a “duty-free” holiday. You don’t have to do anything but rest, relax and restore.

3. Take time to go within– be intentional and make a commitment to spend time just being. We often say that we don’t have time to meditate or find a still and quiet moment, but our rejuvenation lies within. The holiday break is the best time to start the practice of refueling yourself by connecting to the inner you. You are making your own schedule, so you can decide to spend time daily tapping into the stillness and quietness within.

Join thousands of teachers who are making their wellness a priority and living a happy, healthy teacher life. You can get more strategies and info on the Teacher Wellness Movement at www.myteacherwellness.com.

Have a wonderful and safe holiday season. Namaste.

Self care during the holidays

Hard to believe it’s that time of year again – shopping for the perfect gifts, decorating, cooking and baking, time with loved ones, possibly traveling. And each of these joyous activities gets placed on top of the daily responsibilities of jobs, children, relationships, home maintenance, etc. No pressure there, right? I mean, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

As I’ve grown older, the meaning of the year end holidays has changed. There is more pressure now that I’m an adult, because when I was a kid, things just “happened” – cookies appeared, gifts were magically wrapped, etc. But now we are adults, and it falls to us to make those things just “happen”, and to try to make them seem effortless. It’s a lot of stress. So we need to make sure, especially during this time of year, that we take time for self care.

Self care can look like many things – it can be as simple as taking five minutes every morning and evening to meditate; it can be scheduling that massage you’ve been putting off; it can be starting a gratitude journal, writing something you are grateful for each day and then keeping it for times when you need a little reminder of how rich and grand life really is.

Whatever type of self care resonates with you, be sure to do it!! This is a time when everything and everyone else seems to come first. Put yourself first in some way each day, and you’ll see the holidays as something to be celebrated and cherished instead of something to be endured.

Namaste, and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Ever expanding knowledge

As part of my continuing education to support helping individuals maintain a good quality of life for as long as possible, I am proud to say I am certified by davidji as a Master of Wisdom and Certified Meditation Teacher. This certification came after 16 weeks of meetings with study groups, one-on-one conversations with davidji, intensive reading and research, writing a term paper, and a one week immersion in California where we dove deep into the teachings we had studied and internalized. What an amazing experience. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

While taking this course and pursuing this certification was an amazing undertaking, it’s understandable that not everyone can make that commitment. So I would HIGHLY recommend going to http://www.davidji.com and taking his course “40 Days of Transformation”. That was the first step in our training and was so very powerful. He references many sources in the various meditations, which are so worth diving into in connection with the course. While teaching and discussing ancient theories, he has an amazingly practical and relatable approach to meditation that can be applied in the “real world”, presenting some pretty complicated concepts in understandable and applicable terms.

Anyone wanting to have a discussion about the benefits of a regular meditation practice, please contact me through my Contact page.

Be well. Namaste.

Meditation readings

As part of my Meditation Teacher Training with davidji, I have been turned on to many amazing books on the topic. As I read through these materials, I’d like to share some things with you.

For someone who is just starting to meditate, or wondering what this whole meditation “thing” is about, a Must Read book is Secrets of Meditation by davidji. With information grouped into three Parts, this book is an amazing guide to all things Meditation. It dispels many myths about what meditation “should be”, and explains many different types of meditation practices so that the reader is sure to find one that resonated with him/her. It also brings to light the many physiological and psychological benefits that meditation can bring.

A consistent meditation practice is essential in today’s crazy busy world. We have 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts PER DAY. Who doesn’t need a break from that constant bombardment? This unending thought process is incredibly stressful, and your body (whether you realize it or not) is programmed to respond to that sense of stress as if you are actually in danger of being physically attacked. Beyond your control, your body speeds up your breathing, pumps up your blood pressure and increases your heart rate so that you are as alert as possible. There are many other programmed physiological responses, but the most amazing to me is this – your blood platelets actually “plump up”, so that if you get hurt in a physical attack, your blood will clot more efficiently. You are actually clotting even if you don’t sustain a physical injury. And remember your body is reacting to the perceived “stress” – it doesn’t differentiate between mental/emotional stress and a physical attack.

Now think about that – if you are in a high stress job (and whose job ISN’T high stress in some respect), your blood is thick and unconsciously clotting in preparation for an “attack” all the time! Is it any wonder people in high stress situations have heart issues, heart attacks?

That’s just what happens physically due to continued experience of high levels of stress. With a consistent meditation practice, you can take a break from those thousands of thoughts; find a sense of peace between them. You’ll then be able to prioritize better; make better decisions; respond instead of react.

These are just samples of what you will learn. I highly encourage you to read Secrets of Meditation by davidji, and/or checkout his website at www.davidji.com.

And of course feel free to contact me through my contact page with any questions you may have.

Be well. Namaste.

Continual growth

It’s been a while since I posted anything, and a lot has happened. I have some new clients with new challenges that I’m helping with, and the American Cancer Society Relay for Life went very well.

The biggest area of growth for me right now is meditation. Through the 300 hour yoga teacher training, I was introduced to davidji during a weekend immersion. Wow! It’s amazing what meditation can do. It has been scientifically proven that if you meditate daily, even for just a few minutes, the actual gray matter of your brain increases by 5 percent in the area governing cognitive activities. And the actual gray matter will decrease by 5 percent in the area of the brain that controls fear responses.

Given this information and the actual experience of meditation with davidji, I realized how helpful this practice can be to the individuals I work with. So I’m taking a Meditation Training course with davidji which will last 16 week culminating in a week long immersion in California in October. I’m looking forward to learning how to transmit this knowledge effectively to others.

My takeaway from these experiences I’m having through my yoga and meditation teacher trainings is to keep your ears, eyes and heart open. There is so much in the world to experience, one experience being joy. Joy is always available when you look with an open heart, and meditation can help you achieve this. Be awake to new opportunities to grow and thrive.

If you have any questions or would like any references regarding meditation, please contact me through my contact page on this website.

Namaste.

Further community outreach

As I mentioned previously, as part of my 300 hour teacher training, we are working through a book called The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte. While working through, I identified what are called my “core desires” and then evaluated what I wanted/needed to do to fulfill those desires. One of my words was “engaged.” I want to be more engaged with other people. It’s so easy to get into your usual routine and not interact with new individuals; step outside your comfort zone.

In order to pursue this core desire, I decided to reach out to the American Cancer Society (ACS) here in Rochester (one of the recipient of the Lotus Blossom year-end giving). As a result of that conversation, Lotus Blossom Yoga is now a Presenting Sponsor at the ACS Relay For Life event this summer, as well as a Gold Sponsor for their dinner gala this fall. Additionally, and best of all, I’m going to be teaching yoga to caregivers at Hope Lodge here in Rochester (a free place to stay for individuals and their caregivers when coming to Rochester for cancer treatment). Often, the cancer patient is in treatment or resting during visits, leaving the caregiver many times sitting and watching and worrying. I have been in those shoes, and it is a very helpless feeling. I’m hoping that a short yoga program will help them take a breath and recharge while their loved ones fight this terrible disease. Caregivers must always take time to care for themselves so that they may care for others (which is an affirmation I say at the end of each of my yoga lessons).

Again, I probably wouldn’t have done this had it not been for my teacher training and The Desire Map. As Baron Baptiste says, “If not now, when? And, if you can, you must.” It’s really that simple if you think about it.

I’m so thankful my journey has brought me here today. I encourage you all to continue to follow your respective paths. There are hidden delights along the way that make the difficult passages worth the fight.

Pursue your desires

An update on my educational endeavors! I have finished my studies for the yoga therapy training and am applying what I have learned when designing personalized yoga practices for individuals. I’ve also received my certification to help individuals who suffer from Parkinson’s Disease. These two programs were SO very helpful in my development as a yoga teacher and therapist.

I am now in 300 hour teacher training to learn even more techniques, including helping individuals involved in 10-step programs as well as trauma victims. It’s amazing how much the information from the other programs is dovetailing into this training, painting a more complete picture to work with when designing practices. It’s really true that you can’t have too much information.

As part of this training, we were given the book The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte to work through. I highly recommend this book to everyone. You answer questions about how you want to feel and then develop your goals around those internal desires. This makes the process of achieving your goals so much more fulfilling, and it’s much more likely you will complete the steps necessary to achieve those goals since they are rooted in your core desires.

Bottom line – always keep pursuing your desires, and never shy away from looking at things from a different perspective. You might be surprised at what you see.

Holiday giving

As you may know, at the end of each year, I give one-half of my total gross income from my yoga studio to charity.  This year, I have been working on a yoga therapy certification, as well as a certification to teach individuals with Parkinson’s Disease.  I’ve learned so much about PD that I am adding the Parkinson’s Foundation to my year-end giving list.  So, thanks to all of my students and friends who have believed in my mission to bring healing to others through yoga techniques, I am donating $1,500 EACH to the  American Cancer Society, the Alzheimer’s Association, and the Parkinson’s Foundation of Greater Rochester.  With my new certifications, I hope to expand my practice and studio in order to be able to contribute more to these organizations next year.

Love and light to all during this holiday season.  May you all find your life path and reach out to others to support you in your journey.

Namaste.