These are the times to hold onto…

savor the momentI’m amazed that summer is flying by and the calendar is already approaching September. I posted a picture on Instagram this morning and captioned it, “These are the times to hold onto,” and have been increasingly aware of enjoying the moment, and that time is so fleeting. I was discussing parenthood with a student in my yoga class the other day, and he said, “yes, the days are long but the years are short.” How true.

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So, increasingly I am trying to savor the moments. We’ve spent a lot of time at our lake house this summer and I feel incredibly grateful for the serenity that I have here, the time for quiet reflection and the pure enjoyment that it brings us. We bought it when I was pregnant with Aria, and being pregnant here again is a blessing– and big relief from the city heat and our walk up apartment stairs! Aria is increasingly excited about her baby brother coming, showering my stomach (and him) with love, sweet words and adoration. Life is sometimes so sweet.

kids swim lessons learningShe’s also spent plenty of time splashing around, just recently beginning to swim on her own. I wrote about swimming lessons of past– which ended up being very short lived as she wanted no part of being told when she had to get in the water (my little stubborn girl). However, her determination is also are what got her swimming all on her own. All she needed was a little time, and the ability to do it on her own terms. That’s my girl.

So, today may we all be a little more mindful to not let the sweet moments just pass us by. To be grateful and focus on all the good that we do have in our lives, and hold onto to it tightly.

3 Simple Steps To Finding Your Flow (on and off the mat)

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Spring is in full bloom and everything is flourishing around us. I sit at our lake house staring out at what are now full canopies of green leaves, when just weeks ago there were just little buds springing out on bare branches.  Nature is an amazing and beautiful thing, constantly renewing itself and allowing the seasons to take their course.

I taught this past weekend at Mayfest (see post below) on Finding Our Flow (both on and off the mat.) So, how do we do that? It’s an ever-progressing task and, even though teaching on the subject, I must admit, often I am not in flow. It’s always a work in progress, and indeed I believe we all come in and out of flow. But, when we are in that space, doesn’t it feel so good? When all seems aligned and we are in the place of effortlessness and fluidity. When we feel like all within and around us is just moving in the right direction, or we are just “in the zone” and operating at our best.

I did a bit of reading on the subject of how creatives “get in the flow,” and much of the research comes back to a Professor of Psychology, Dr. Csikszentmihalyi, who asks the question “What makes a life worth living?” He concludes that pleasure and satisfaction in lasting activities that bring about “flow” (versus the material or superficial) are the only answer. From yogis to composers to star athletes, we all seem to want to be in that flow space. Even just as human beings– as moms and dads, entrepreneurs or just regular ol’ folk making our way– we all desire to be in a state of ease, having the feeling that we are at our peak, effortlessly creating and exactly where we are meant to be.

So, how do we get into flow? Easier said than done, right? When is the last time you felt content or, moreover, in flow?

3 Steps To Get Into the Flow

Do the Work: Well, as mentioned, Flow is a work in progress– the key word being work. We have to make efforts to get to that space, no matter what we are doing. And, as Dr. Csikszentmihalyi points out, we have just the right balance of challenge (in activity) and skill to take on that challenge. So, we need to find our achievable challenge, and work at it.

On the mat that translates to knowing our asana (poses and alignments), and being able to execute them without letting anything else, especially our minds, get in our way. If we’re too busy thinking about our foot placement, or where our hands are supposed to go, or what the pose looks like, we cant get into flow. We need to know the poses and alignments, so that we can stop thinking about them, and just do them. Proper alignment also (literally) opens us up, allowing energy to flow easily (along our meridians) within.

Off the mat we also have to do the work that’s required to get to our desired place. Life is full of challenge, but when we can align ourselves and our lives with our ultimate goals we can move toward happiness and flow. But first we have to figure out where we want to go. What are our passions? What brings us happiness? We need to know this before we can move in that direction. Then we also need to do the work. How do we make the changes in our life that are necessary to get to that place? What do we need to eliminate? What do we need to work harder at to bring change? We often get comfortable or lazy in life, not wanting to reach toward the ultimate, and instead settling for a life the is “good enough.” Good enough doesn’t bring flow, or the ultimate bliss that comes along with it.

Be Present: Csikszentmihalyi’s work has identified that one of the factors of flow is “intense and focused concentration” on the present moment. Makes sense, since we can’t be fully in something if our mind, intention or body is not fully involved.

On the mat this is often challenging, no matter what our experience level. As new yogis, we often get uncomfortable in the poses, feeling awkward and challenged, often yearning to get out. Even experienced yogis battle with fully being in each pose, perhaps jumping ahead of whatever the pose by predicting the sequence, or simply getting uncomfortable and looking forward to next movement. No matter what our level, often all the chatter in our mind and our “inner critic” further prevents us from being fully present. We are instead thinking about how we didn’t do that last movement right, or how we don’t look as good as the person on the mat next to us. But all of this only hinders us, and our flow. We need to just BE where WE are, not worrying about anyone else, or even about what we did up until that point, silencing our inner critic and just being present. Be in the pose of the moment. Breathe in it, and be there.

Off the mat it’s also often a challenge to stay present. We often get caught up thinking about what has already happened, or what’s to come in our lives. We repeat the past in our mind, letting it literally hold us back, instead of just letting it go. Or we are constantly thinking about (or worrying about) the future– what we still need, or all the things we don’t yet have. These are extremely limiting, and will block flow completely. When we are IN the moment, completely immersed in the present, we can’t be longing for anything of past or future. If we can just be where we are, trusting it’s exactly where we need to be, then are we able to experience the fullness of it, and move with ease through it.

Just Breathe : Here comes the yoga teacher in me, bringing it all back to breath. I believe that both on and off the mat, a simple way to move toward flow begins with breathing. Focusing on the easy, steady, rhythmic, balance of breath can allow us to move toward a state of calm, ease and flow. Our inhales open us up, literally letting gravity (or the universe) fill us, and create more space within us. Our exhales allow us to release and let go, only to be filled again. It’s this steady, even cycle that allows us to tune in, and be in tune. Just  like the trees and so much of nature, we can effortlessly move through different seasons.

When we set our intentions, do the work/meet the challenges and remain present, we move toward flow. I believe the real yoga happens when we can drop out of our heads and into our hearts. When we can can operate from this space, letting our hearts lead, we can navigate with a little more ease– both on and off the mat. So, perhaps today we all breathe a little deeper, open up a little more and move with a little more steadiness and grace. Ultimately, we can find our flow.

Lessons From The Mat: Being Expansive

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 12.47.08 PMOver the last few weeks, I’ve been chatting about the idea of renewal and expansion with my yoga classes. How we can expand in our practice– maybe breathe a little deeper, reach a little higher, give a little more– and also (as always with yoga) how we can take that off the mat and put it into practice in our lives.

Sometimes we get narrow– especially when we get uncomfortable or face something difficult. We get anxious, and our mind seems to only focus in on the problem in front of us. Whether that’s in life, or while encountering discomfort in a particular pose, we let that situation overtake us, and can’t seem to see anything beyond that. But what if we could expand beyond the discomfort in these moments? What if we could see whatever that encounter is as trivial or temporary, and look past it, not letting it take us over?

Perspective is such a huge part of being happy. Think about it. What are you focusing on today? Believe me, there are plenty of days I have to remind myself to not get caught up in the negative. Inevitably the “what ifs” and “should have beens” creep into my own mind as well,  and I have to (as Taylor Swift so aptly sings) shake em off. Just last night I lay in bed thinking about what could be different, how I might be happier, and about the things my life is missing. Sometimes we just can’t help but go there, but how detrimental this is!! Thank God it’s a conscious choice to let it go, and go beyond this type of thinking. This morning, I looked around me and was reminded of how incredibly blessed I am am. How full and abundant my life is, regardless of it’s imperfection, and how much I have to be thankful for.

No, life is not perfect. It never will be. And we can always find things to want, things that are missing or things could simply be better. But focusing on all that we do have can flip a switch in us– literally turn darkness into light. Seeing (and focusing on) the abundance that IS there, will only bring happiness and, in turn, more abundance.

A common psychology tool for those who are depressed, is to have them to look up, above the buildings or trees, and into the sky and above the horizon– to see beyond what’s right in front of their feet, or in they’re immediate line of vision. Sometimes when life is hard, we need to remember this. Even when it’s not, how much sweeter is life when we look upward and realize how much possibility exists beyond what we can see?

So today, I hope we can all be more expansive. Reach a little higher, breathe a little deeper and turn our faces to the sky and feel the warmth of the sun. Today, look above the building tops or out into the horizon, and realize how much goodness and possibility exists, and how many more good things are to come.

We are so lucky…

A particularly grateful moment! We are SO lucky to have family in Florida!

A particularly grateful moment! We are SO lucky to have family in Florida!

So, gratitude is a big thing that I try to instill in Aria. And myself. “We are so lucky”, seems to be my catch phrase these days. So much so that just the other day, Aria called me on it and said, “Mom, you say that ALL the time!” And indeed I do.

But realizing how lucky we are is something that I want her to know. I want her to look for all the good in every situation, and always focus on the positive that life hands her. To know that she is fortunate and blessed and to hold on to that.  To not be spoiled or complacent,  but really appreciate every good thing that our life holds.

Quite often she and I will run through all the good people we have in our life– those who love her so much, as well as all the good things we have. Or we recap our day and talk about how lucky we are to spend so much time together doing fun things.

I don’t think we could ever wear out the phrase “we are so lucky.” My hope is that she will always feel gratitude and realize the good and wonderful things life holds for her. After all, we are so lucky.

Imperfection is the new perfect.

So, as we start off a new year, amongst other things, I look forward to being more diligent with updating this blog. I got on here today thinking about reposting holiday memories and pictures or posts I intended to do weeks ago– like our fun trip to Botanical Gardens Train Show and thoughts on how the magical wonder of the holidays comes back when you have little ones– but, alas, it is 2015 and it feels like nobody has the need or desire to revisit the holiday season or the year past.

So, instead I sit and think about why it is that I so often have good intentions of writing but then don’t. Sure, time is one factor, and the very un-endearing quality of procrastination that I possess another, but bigger yet is my perfectionism. As great as it is to expect top quality from myself, it’s also my biggest barrier. How many posts have gone unwritten, videos unedited,  projects ended before they began, and great ideas never taken off the ground because they were not “good enough” or “thought out enough”(when indeed they were likely over thought), and, ultimately, how many opportunities have I missed because I never put out there what was imperfect (or at least imperfect in my eyes)?

So in 2015, I say imperfection is the new perfect. Over thinking and perfecting is so 2014. Instead, I look forward to many more posts (grammatical mistakes may be included), and following up in action where my many ideas take me… imperfect and all.

 

New York Snow Over Florida Sunshine: My toddler made me do it.

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This morning we were supposed to head out on a flight to Florida. Ah, yes, the warm Florida Keys where 80 degree temps and flip flop wearing days await. Instead, I sit at our lake house, watching snowflakes swirl — grateful for warm socks and good decision making.  You see, back in the day (pre-Aria) a little snow (or talk of it) wouldn’t have had me rescheduling flights. I would have grabbed my carry-on and headed to the airport, trusting that our early flight out would beat the first flakes in. However, with a little one in tow, everything changes. All the time.

I have to laugh at how the carefree traveler in me has been totally replaced by Miss. Play-it-Safe. For there is no easy delay with a toddler in tow. And hopping in a cab home (if said delay turns into cancellation) is not easy breezy with a two year old, car seat, stroller, suitcase, etc. etc. (and forget getting them all back up our 6 floor walk up in the city). Gone are the days of chancing it to make sure I get in as much sun as possible. These days I choose to watch the snow fall with a little one toddler napping in her crib, knowing that Florida isn’t going anywhere (and neither is my sanity).

Preschool In the City : The Parent Visit

So, I just got out of our first preschool visit. That’s part one of two in the interview process for my 2 year old (for next year). Yes, if you’re not from NYC you probably don’t realize how big of a production this whole preschool thing is. It’s almost as bad as my college application process, and the price tag of some are almost just as much (no, I’m not even kidding).

To be honest, I am the slacker mom who has only (as of yet) applied to one school despite all the preschool chatter on the playground and the fact that Aria’s dad brought me home a book of NYC preschools to research (hint hint). I’ve used the excuse that we may not even be here next year (we discuss moving to the “country” house full time (no, no), and I’ve had a bit of a hard stance against the ridiculous process and price tag (my own silent revolt by not applying).

However, after this parent visit today, my resistance started to give way. My harshness about it all softened just a bit. The school was lovely. A place I would love Aria to be. One filled with creativity and experiential learning, one that is nurturing and loving while still fostering structure and independence. I was truly impressed.

barrow st preschool

I won’t tell you the name (right now), but it’s of the most coveted in the West Village, and now I can see why. It’s a great space with warm teachers, a philosophy in line with mine, and a beautiful space complete with a rooftop garden/playground and indoor tri-cycle track. Sigh.

It’s a hard thing now that I’ve gotten hooked in. It’s made me have to consider the fact that sometimes processes and price tags (no matter if insane) may have (some) merit.  We’ll see. For now, I guess I should be applying to others whose deadlines I haven’t already missed. After all, don’t we all want to give our kids the best things in life? The best start?

We have a second interview with Aria for this school in January, and while I know they will fall in love with her and her incredible brightness (and of course accept her on the spot :), I am going to start to check out what else is out there. Being open minded goes far– even when it  comes to preschool mania.