What Made My Heart Explode

There are moments  when the universe blows us away. Something clicks and boundless gifts, joy, and hope flow into our lives.

Sometimes blessings come after an accomplishment like:
-winning a race
-hitting our goal weight
– or finishing a long journey

Sometimes they arrive out of the blue like:
-receiving a thoughtful gift
-having a moment of clarity
– or meeting a new friend

No matter what the source, these moments are rich opportunities to practice gratitude. When we take our joy and give it back, it multiplies exponentially.

Young woman enjoying winter

I Believe in Yesterday
Yesterday was a day of joy for me. I had a guest post on TinyBuddha.com, and the number of subscribers I had more than doubled.

I am humbled and honored that so many people are interested in what I have to offer. In this moment, my heart is bursting with gratitude and joy.

I realized that this joy had not come only from my own efforts. I had to share this amazing feeling with those who have supported me. So I set out to do just that and this is what I came up with:

The 5 Steps of Gratitude
Step 1 – Thank Your Mind and Heart
We rely on our hearts and minds to do so much hard work. Yet, these parts rarely receive direct gratitude from us.

The first thing I did was close my eyes and offer gratitude to that which is within me.
As my mind and heart received this thanks I felt them relax in appreciation.

Step 2 – Thank Your Parents
The Buddha said, even if you were to carry you parents around, on your shoulders, for a hundred years plus, you could never repay them for their deep kindness.

So, I sent an e-mail to my folks. I shared my excitement and thanked them for their support. If your relationship with you parents is rocky, you can thank them silently or in a less direct way. The important thing is to acknowledge the energy that brought you into this world.

Step 3 – Thank Your Teachers
Whether it’s a college professor, spiritual guide, or friend who gives you great advice, it’s important to thank your teachers. Great teachers affect us in obvious and subtle ways. They guide us, inspire us, and bless us with wisdom.

I owe so much to my teachers Sensei Hogen Bays and Jan Chozen Bays Roshi. Studying with them opened my eyes to the possibilities of the world and to my own potential. Everything we learn was passed down to us. It’s important to acknowledge the shoulders we stood on to get here.

Step 4 – Thank Your Partner and Friends
No successful person can succeed alone. It takes so much support from others to do anything.

The first phone call I made was to my partner Jane Endacott. She has supported me in so many ways. She reads my blog, edits my posts, and tells me she is proud of me. In addition, she does all sorts of little things to support me.

My friends offer me guidance, hold me accountable, and show me I’m loved and accepted. This week I’m going to make sure to connect and thank each of them.

It doesn’t matter if you’re single or coupled; whether you have one or a hundred friends; it’s important to let them know how much they mean to you.

Step 5 – Thank Your Community
Your community might be a spiritual group, business colleagues, your family, or any other group that supports you.Communities support us by giving us a space to explore ourselves.

I sent out an email of thanks and celebration to Zen Community of Oregon as well as my yoga schoolmates at the Bhaktishop. Without the support of practice and the shared wisdom of these groups, I would be lost.

Bonus Step – Thank Anyone Else
As you start to think about who and what you are grateful for many people may come to mind. Take this chance when your heart is full to say thank you to whomever it is that makes your life possible. 

MindFitMove Practice
Think of a blessing you have received recently, big or small it doesn’t matter.
Make a short list of people, groups, or energies that helped make this blessing possible.
Make a vow to express gratitude to everyone or everything on your list.

What are you thankful for?


What is Mindfulness? – Mindful Eating 101

Mindful eating is one of the best ways to bring more joy into your relationship with food. Notice I didn’t say it’s the best way to lose weight. Mindful eating can help you lose weight, but that’s not the main goal.

Often in the halls of fitness, food is made into an enemy. Food becomes an object of obsession. We must study, prod, and portion everything. We count calories, eat paleo, go vegan. Then we fall back into our old habits.

Why Diets Work Sort-of
Any part of life gets better, if you start paying attention. If you keep a budget you spend your money better. If you decide to only eat foods that begin with the letter b and c, you will eat less.

You may not eat a balanced diet, but you will eat less. You eat less because you are paying attention. This is great, but it has its limits.

What do all diets have in common? They give us lots of rules to follow. The problem is rules exist in the world of the mind. But we don’t eat with our minds.

The mind isn’t hungry for food. It’s hungry for more data about food. The mind doesn’t love a succulent juicy orange, or a crisp salty potato chip. It loves, rules, calories, facts, and studies.

I Have the Hunger
So what’s hungry for food? The mouth wants taste. The stomach wants substance. The heart wants comfort that good food gives.

Most diet plans only give us information to satisfy our minds. They do little to help the mouth, stomach, or heart. Very often diets tell us to ignore our instincts. They tell us to achieve our goals; we must subvert our desires.

This is almost always a path to failure. The drive to eat is primal. Filling our head with facts isn’t the same as filling our bellies with food.

Some people can subvert desires and instincts for a little while. But these drives need to be honored. Most dietary plans just aren’t up to this task.

This is where mindful eating is different than diets. You don’t push down your desires. You get to know them. You learn to enjoy food more. Often if you enjoy it more, you’re satisfied with less.

Don’t Eat With Your Mind Full
We often zone out while we are eating. When we zone out, we eat more food. When we practice mindful eating we zone into the food. When we zone it we savor it and often find we are satisfied with less.

Diets increase our anxiety around food. We feel like we have to be hyper-aware or it all falls apart. Diets make paying attention and enjoying food opposite things.

Mindful eating brings paying attention and enjoying food together. When we pay attention we get all the texture, flavors, and tastes of our food. Best of all learning to enjoy food, helps us have a healthy relationship with it.

Practice, Practice, Practice
The best part about mindful eating is that there are lots of chances to practice. We all have to eat on a regular basis and there are some very simple practices you can try out that will help you enjoy food even more.

MindFitMove Practice
The first and simplest practice to start eating mindfully today is to stop Eating+.

Eating+ means:
Eating+ checking email
Eating+ watching TV
Eating+ talking on the phone
Eating+ reading a book, magazine, or newspaper
Eating+ worrying about our day
Eating+ talking non-stop

When we Eat+ we subtract taste, flavor, and awareness of hunger. But Eating+ is what most of us do. It seems like people have forgotten how to just eat in our society.

Try these 3 things to stop Eating+:

  1. Turn it off – Turn off as much as you can. This means radio, TV, computer, and especially your phone. At my house growing up we never answered the phone during dinner. This is a great practice to start, especially when eating with your loved ones.
  2. 5 mins of silence – If you are alone try not to think too much about your day, what you have to do after you eat, or really anything other than the food. Try to focus on the food completely.

If you are eating with someone else, you’ll have to ask for silence.

You might try saying, ”Hey, this is one of my favorite dishes. Do you mind if we just eat in silence just for the first 5 minutes? I really want to savor this.”

Another way is, “Hey, I’m trying out this new mindful eating thing. I thought we could try it out together. Do you mind if we just eat in silence just for the first 5 minutes?”

3. 3 Mindful Bites– Speed is often the antithesis of awareness. So when you eat mindfully it helps to slow down.

    Take a bite. Hold it in your mouth for a second. Chew slowly. Imagine you are eating the most delicious meal of your life. Notice flavor, scent, texture, and consistency.

    You don’t have to do it the whole meal, but try starting off that way. If you eat your first 3 bites mindfully, you are much more likely to be aware for the whole meal.

    Mindful eating doesn’t have to be a daily habit. You can start with just one or two meals a week. Remember the goal is to learn to appreciate food and find satisfaction. You will be surprised by how little it takes to satisfy you when you’re paying attention.

    Have you ever tried mindful eating? What has worked for your practice?


    Gregorian Calendars Are Stupid

    Gregorian Calendars Are Stupid

    You see sister, we made it all up!
    Most resolutions don’t last more than a couple of months. A good rule for life is to stop making rules, especially ones that don’t work. Here are 5 reasons your resolutions won’t work and 5 practices that actually might.
    1. I Resolve to Be Miserable. 
    If your resolution is to stop eating sugar or watching TV you’ll probably have a hard time. You’re basically resolving to not do things you enjoy. You can’t get anywhere by rejecting who you are. Instead you need to learn to honor and then co-opt these parts of yourself.
    MindFitMove Practice: Instead of asking yourself to reject parts of yourself find a way to embrace other parts of yourself. Try to do more of what you love, especially if it’s something that leads to more balance.
    If you love cycling, then try to cycle once a week for a month. If you love making fresh kale, then make a new kale dish every week for a month. Seeking misery leads to misery. Instead, seek the joys that lead to a mindful and balanced life.
    2. It’s A Can’t Do Attitude
    In the world of non-violent communication requests should be clear, doable, and on a reasonable time scale. If you couldn’t ask your partner or friend to promise it, then don’t resolve it.
    “Sweetie would you be willing to stop eating sugary snacks?” This is not a doable request. It’s unclear what a sugary snack might be and how long the promise is being made for.
    Try this instead, “Sweetie, for the next month, would you be willing to have a piece of fruit instead of ice cream after dinner?” In the second example the request is clear, doable, and on a reasonable timetable.
    MindFitMove Practice: Take one ‘resolution’ and turn it into a doable request with a reasonable time scale. Remember that a reasonable time scale is different for everyone. If you are quitting smoking it may be one day, if it’s taking a new class it may be one month. Experiment and find what works for you.
    3.  Getting To No!
    Adults rely too heavily on NO! It’s the first word many children learn, because it’s the word they hear most often. When I was a preschool teacher I learned that saying NO! to kids doesn’t work very well. Instead we always tried to find something we could say YES! to.
    MindFitMove Practice: Instead of setting a strict rule that says NO! NO! NO! find one that says YES! Instead of saying no to snacking, say yes to snacking on more veggies and fruit. If you eat a piece of fruit half way between each meal, you will likely eat less sugary snacks and fruit has quite a bit of healthy sugar in it.
    4. No Reflection? Maybe You’re A Vampire
    Many people make resolutions without asking 2 important questions:
    1. What will I get/be if I maintain this practice?
    2. What will I have to give up to make this practice work?
    Making changes is hard, but often resolutions are made in the spur of the moment or without much planning. People don’t take the time to consider what it takes to transform their life. Instead of making short hand resolutions, make plans for life long transformation.
    MindFitMove Practice: Instead of making a resolutions, set aside some time to write down 3 things you’d like to do this year. Agree to sit down and write down these goals and answer the 2 questions above. Then decide if the answer to the first question is worth the answer to the second. If it is, remind yourself of this often. If it isn’t, pick some new goals you are prepared to do.
    5. The Transformation Will Not Be Scheduled 
    Like the title of this post indicates, the schedule for your transformation is not Gregorian. Your transformation happens on your own schedule and pace. A better time to start might be February, June, Or September. The best time is the time when you do start with full awareness.
    This isn’t an excuse to encourage you to procrastinate, but if this is a bad time or if you are already transforming then maybe something new won’t help.
    Try and be honest with yourself. Maybe you feel more motivated to exercise when it’s warmer so start your workout program on the first day of spring. Maybe you are exhausted from visiting family; give yourself a few weeks to rest before you take on a new challenge. 
    MindFitMove Practice: Cycles are important to reflect on your progress, but they aren’t always your best guides. The key to life long transformation is mindfulness and awareness. Use these tools to asses what is a reasonable and doable for you. No matter what you decide, focus on being mindful. If you decide not to change your eating habits, notice what that’s like. If you decide to change the way you eat, notice what that’s like.
    What’s Next?
    My goal is to support people walking the path of transformation. These 5 practices will help you get started, but transformation takes time and practice.
    If you are ready to take the next step, there are 2 easy ones to take
    You get a FREE eBook A Zen Buddhist Guide to Fitness just for signing up and at least 3 times a week you will get mindfulness practices, advice, and encouragement to support your path of transformation.
    As a member of the team you will get:
    1.     Free – A Zen Buddhist Guide to Fitness – upon Signing Up
    2.     Free – Awareness eBook– on the 15th of January
    3.     Discounts – on a new eBook every month on the 15th
    4.     Answers to questions about your Mindful Fitness practice via email or Skype.