easing the transition to fall

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Ricardo Almeida ©

As the rain aggressively fell outside my second story window, I was reminded of the small joys inspired by the season of fall in the Pacific Northwest. The crisp air in the early morning, the colorful change on the trees, and the pumpkin spice aroma wafting about brings with it a delightful memory of the warm fall season.

With school back in session and summer vacations long past, fall brings about a whole new routine. Shorter days gently shift our focus, increasing the importance to refocus to make the best of our waking hours.

Take these four practices with you into your fall to help refocus your mind, body, and soul thus ensuring a smooth transition into this new season.

 

Journal on your favorite activities of the summer.

Allow for a summer wrap up to take place to tie up the loose ends and prepare for the fall months ahead. Take time to reminisce and remember the joys of your summer. What specifically happened that was really great? Do you have pictures from the experience that you would like to frame? Is there an opportunity to make it a tradition next year?

Find a new routine.

As the daylight hours shorten and the weather changes, our routines will shift as well. Find a balance between activity and rest that feels right to you. Specifically, what shifts in your routine do you need to make? What’s a good time for you to wake up, get exercise, go to sleep? What other activities do you need to integrate into your daily/weekly schedule?

Create a meal plan.

Fall months call for warmer, heartier meals. Find a few meals you enjoy for the week and write out the list of ingredients needed before you go grocery shopping. Don’t have time to cook during the week? Add a new routine of prepping your meals on Sundays or sign up for a meal delivery service in your area that will bring the food to you (prepared or raw)!

Practice gratitude and appreciation for all you have.

It can be all too easy to focus on what’s lacking and what you desire, especially as we move into the holiday months ahead. This practice leaves a feeling of emptiness inside. Instead, start early with a regular gratitude practice to get in an appreciation routine. Nothing is too small to be thankful for. Start a daily gratitude journal. Write down what you are thankful for each day. Share with others and spread the joy of gratitude!

 

Refocus this fall season by taking the time to wrap up your summer. Be mindful of the habits and routines you wish to take into the fall and practice gratitude to set yourself up for the holiday season. Share with us tips in your routine that work for you during the fall months and enjoy these last few days of summer!

 

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Megan Kountz

Yoga Teacher & Life Coaching

pause

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Holiday.jpgStop. Are you currently multi tasking? Reading this as you walk to your car? During your commute? In between tasks?

It’s okay if you are. Just take note if this is you.

Then, consider how often you actually stop to notice what’s going on in these transitional moments of your life. Chances are you use this time to catch up on emails, check social media, or text/call people back. Again, that’s okay. It’s normal. Our society runs on over stimulation. But too much stimulation leads to burn out while encouraging us to live in an alternate world.

This holiday season, I invite us all to be mindfully aware of the present moment and how we fill our spaces in between our tasks. How often do we slow down to look up? Take a deep breath? And just be?

Can you find more mindfulness in the present moment? Breath in the spaces in between, look up and look around to see what’s in front of you, the people you pass, and offer them a smile? Listen to the barista? Maybe say hello to the parking attendant and ask them how their day is going?

While we may define our lives by the moments of achievement or arrival at our destinations, we have many more moments when we are in transition from one place to the next. Learning to slow down in these moments and appreciate the transitional periods will create more fullness in the moments when we do arrive at our holiday party, dinner or a day off.

Linda Ellis poem, The Dash, describes these moments perfectly.

Happy Holiday’s my friends! Live in the moment. This moment is your life! ❤ 

The Dash
by Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on the tombstone
from the beginning…to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth
and spoke the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
that they spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved them
know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own,
the cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.

know yourself – love yourself. BE YOU

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Of course. The only day I don’t leave the house at 5:30am with a raincoat…it down pours. As the rain beats down against my purple flannel, soaking up every last drop, I raced into the nearest coffee shop, in true Seattlite fashion, seeking warmth.

Sipping my espresso, I turned to look out the window and ponder the last 24 hours of my life. Something I do quite often, reflect, think- just be. It helps me process my experiences and understand what I enjoy/don’t like so I can do more of what I like. Mindfully.

As I starred at the big oak tree on the corner, I kept coming back to my experience in class  the night before. The teacher offered an intention to recognize and appreciate the cycles of life- from birth to death. So relevant for me right now. As the northern hemisphere transitions towards winter many experience, or are drawn towards stillness and warmth, like an animal might through hibernate. But at the same time, she offered a second opinion that really resonated with me. She said, this is for me- I don’t know how it is for you. It could be different. And she gave me the opportunity to explore- hey maybe I am different.

We don’t all fit into typical boxes. And we limit ourselves by seeing the edges of each particular box. But when we open up to the possibility that things can be different- that we are different- we expand our world to the infinite. Considering the fact that someone else might view this situation, each scenario, in a completely different light offers perspective.

You see for me, I am a person of summer. Being a leo, pitta (dosha), born in August, teaching hot yoga, loving burning hot showers, I embody heat. So when the weather turns to align with me in the warmth of summer it actually becomes too heavy. I’m on overdrive and just want to do nothing. Work less, chill more, enjoy the sunshine. Good vibes only. 🙂 So when fall comes around it’s almost like this re-awakening happens. It’s a time to put my head down and get back to business. And while some people see the rain as a time to hibernate I see it more as a time to get business done.

Understanding who you are and what you need during different cycles is incredibly empowering. We are all such different beings- thriving in different lights. And so taking the time to ask yourself how do you move with the planet, what time is your time to go, and how can you move in alignment with what you feel instead of resistance to it?

Don’t assume you fit in a traditional box either. Maybe you jump around. But dare to be different as you move. Ask yourself- who you truly are. Know you are full of infinite possibility. Free yourself from the confines and live your best life ever.

And as my teacher always said, know yourself, love yourself, be yourself. 

 

a letter to those who have left us

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a-letter

As I laid there in class this morning, I felt a sweet surrender. As if I was looking down on myself, I watched as a smile crept across my face. Yoga has a way of doing that, of making me smile, laugh, cry, reflect, question, and know all at the same time. But this smile was different. This smile held something within it that I had needed for 4 weeks now. It held a compassionate hug wrapped in forgiveness.

We’ve all been hurt before. Every now and then we take mental, physical, and or emotional beatings from the lessons and tragedies of life. And they say tragedy becomes comedy with time. And time heals all wounds.

But this wound felt too deep to heal from.

To painful to address.

To rigid to look directly at.

My first time to the mat after that fateful Friday when I heard the news that my high school sweetheart had taken his life, I crumbled in tears as I left the room. Dedicating my practice, my offering, to him I had unconsciously taught the entire sequence facing the back wall because I quite literally couldn’t face myself.

I trusted that everything happens for a reason but that day reason was nowhere to be found. So I did the only thing I knew how to do, I held myself. With one hand on my heart- one hand on my belly (an ancient tool for healing), I allowed myself to feel the pain- because we need to feel to heal.

It was through this process that I uncovered new understandings of myself, of my past, and of the future that lay ahead of me. And with time I can now see the gift I have been given. A gift holding an appreciation for life and a deeper sense of contemplation of what is.

In my experience with loss- both physically and emotionally- I have found that in the process of grieving I search for answers. And through the questioning, I find some answers that soothe my heart but at the same time I also uncover a deeper sense of “unknowing”. And that’s just it.

Life is complex.

Sometimes we will never truly know the why.

And from this place, with the strength of time, I moved closer towards acceptance. Trusting in the unknown.

4 weeks out, I have arrived at a new place. I now accept the unknown and find comfort in it. And while I continue the questioning in other areas of my life, I know I now have an angel. Looking for meaning, symbolism, signs, and messages in places I would have never looked before, I smile with the strength of my guides. Those who have left us behind offer their spirit to guide us through the confusion and solace during the difficult times. And for that I am grateful. Grateful for the years, for the tears, for the knowing they provide as I move forward. Feeling to heal. 

rise & shine

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rise-and-shineJust as the sun peaks over the horizon, a lotus flower emerges from the murky morning waters. And at first glance, it may appear to be just a magical gift from mother nature. But if you look deeper there is a mystical essense that rises with the blossoming of this flower.

Considering the meaning behind this flowering I asked myself: Would the lotus emerge with such grace and magnificence if the water was crystal clear? 

No. I responded. 

Because darkness makes light-LIGHT.

As a part of life, we experience dark times. This is inevitable. How we handle these times determines how we emerge or blossom. Time and time again we are tested, pushed back into the murky water by situations often times beyond our control. And in that journey down, we must treat ourselves with compassion. To then soften the experience under water and support us in this space providing the opportunity to turn within and experience the darkness. Because without the darkness there would be no light.

Even the darkest of nights end and the light is born. And similar to the lotus, we- as humans- must turn within to grow and shine.

Whether you currently sit in murky waters or shining bright may you embrace the place you lay. Enjoying experience in the moment for what it offers you. Knowing nothing is permanent. Everything is temporary. And this too shall pass.

May the lotus flower be a reminder to us of this journey and the opportunity to turn within to experience our dark moments to then RISE & SHINE.

 

habits & the inevitable ruts we dig

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habitsAs I sat down on the porch this morning to read, I stumbled upon the quote by Miguel De Unamuno, “To fall into a habit is to begin to cease to be.”

I wrestled with this statement for the next hour.

Sure, some habits are great. But more often than not, when asked about our “habits” what pops into our minds are the ones we dislike, not the ones we enjoy. From an early age, we form habits like unhealthy eating, sleeping in until the last minute, biting our fingernails, or avoiding the gym…the list goes on.

And as the list continues, the years begin to pass and our dissatisfaction with life deepens. The truth is, while some people may feel sick of their habits, dead in their job, tired of the place they sit, they feel safe and comfortable living in the security of the known conditions. There is little risk in staying the same. Within the “same” habit style living we almost give ourselves the shovel to dig ourselves into deep- life long- ruts.

When our body stops growing, it starts to wither. When our relationships stop growing, they begin to stagnate and die. The same is true for our careers and everything else that needs the life force to sustain homeostasis, vibrancy, and health. – From The Art of Uncertainty, Dennis Merritt Jones 

The good news is, each day we awake to opportunity, to the possibility of making fresh choices. And with a shift in mindset, we can build the mud stairs to get out of our hole. We have the power to connect mindfully with our choices and align ourselves with what we want in our lives.In order to do so, we must get over our fear of change and instead embrace the power in change!

The moment we step out of bed we have the choice to empower ourselves to make the decisions- to change the habits that are no longer serving us- to align ourselves with our best self. Amazing things await you on the path just beyond the next door. Choose to make decisions that encourage habits of growth.

Pushed by pain or pulled by possibilities, eventually, you will be compelled to pass through the door marked “unknown” moving you out of your bad habits and into something new, fresh, alive, and beautiful.

Behind the Darkness

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fear.jpeg

As I hopped into my car Friday afternoon to drive out of the city, I couldn’t help but feel a wave of nervousness wash over me. We were gearing up for a camping weekend- my younger sister and I- and I had not yet really settled into the fact that we would be alone in the dark. This would not be a problem for many, or even something they would consider, but I did- because I am afraid of the dark.

Being the older sister, I felt like I had to sort of “hide” my fear. I wanted to make my sister feel comfortable and safe. I am the older sister after all, although sometimes she makes me question that.

Looking at myself in the rearview mirror, I gave myself one of those pep talks.

Alright, you got this. Camping. People do it every weekend. There is nothing to be afraid of.

About 5 minutes into my, “Tony Robbins” pump you up motivational headwork, I had an ‘aha’ moment. The dark was not what I was truly afraid of. In fact, what scared me was that I didn’t know what lay behind the darkness. I was afraid of the unknown, of circumstances that might be. I was fearful of uncertainty.

But that is life. Everything is uncertain. In fact, the only thing that is certain is that NOTHING IS CERTAIN.

And so I switched my “self-talk” to embracing the unknown, to trusting that the universe will keep us safe, and to listening to my instinct if anything odd did arise. And from there a wave of calmness settled over me.

You see fear is like the little dark room where negatives (from a photo) are developed. And as we drag our fears out from the darkness of our mind and into the light of day through courageous self-inquiry, logical and grounded thinking, the fear begins to dissipate.

So ask yourself, what am I truly afraid of? And why? And is it reasonable? Or is it something I can’t control? Because if it is out of your control, then there is no sense in worrying about it.

And then it becomes you who get to decide.

How much your fear affects you?

Or is it time to move through it?

Is it time to expose your fear to the light of day and work in the process of growth?

To see yourself- your fears- for what they are and continue forward on your journey of growth and self-discovery in life.

life: your movie reel

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ghandiYour mind creates the world you live in. Quiet literally, you are the director, star actor, supporting roles and extras for you own personal movie. And you get to choose:

What reality do you wish to create?

What perspective will you take?

Sometimes it is hard to see the silver lining. Life catches us in negativity, sadness, confusion, or worry. And that’s okay. Acknowledge yourself in that space and mentally prepare to shift back into the movie you want to see.

 

Below are some of my favorite quotes that pull me back into my best movie reel yet:

“Instead of obsessing over the things you can’t change, focus on what you can. Your attitude, mindset, and energy.” ~Mary Hale

“The cause of bondage and liberation is our own minds. If we think we are bound, we are bound. If we think we are free, we are free. It is only when we transcend the mind that we are free from all troubles.” ~The Yoga Sutra’s

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right.” ~Henry Ford

“The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it. As long as you believe it 100%.” ~Arnold Schwarzenegger

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” ~Wayne Dyer

“The mind is everything, what you think you become.” Buddha

“If my mind can concieve it, and my heart can believe it, then I know I can achieve it.” ~Jesse Jacoson 

“There is always a reason to not be upset, and if you give that reason more importance you will live life with a carefree mindset.” ~Ramandeep Singh

“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” ~Walt Disney 

 

#liveyourbestlifeever

 

 

 

the continued journey to living in the present​

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presentAs I sat outside Sip & Ship, a wonderful locally owned coffee/shipping store, I sipped my hemp milk latte. Drake’s beats played in my earbuds as I pulled out my notebook to write- about what I felt was prudent for me & my community on this day- living in the present moment.

As I put pen to paper, I giggled to myself. Becuase I wasn’t even present in the moment I intended to write about being present.

So I pulled my headphones out, slide them back into my bag, sat back in the chair to look up at the sunshine beating down on my face.

And then, as if it was written in a movie script, I took a deep breath in through the nose- slightly opening my mouth to exhale.

This is presence.

It’s not necessarily focusing on one thing- although I have found presence in that. Presence is so many things. Because in each moment, there is a special abundance. Of peace. Of happiness. Of gratitude. Of love. A sense of real fullness. If you can just arrive.

Try taking space in between the texts, calls, emails, conversations, tasks, activities, hobbies…to look around. To look up and see the beauty of the world that surrounds you.

I invite you to practice presence in your life today. To see the beauty and fullness that’s alive and exists in this moment. Right here. Right now.

Here are some of my favorite techniques to arrive: 

  • Stomp your feet (yes- connect with the floor under you)
  • Look at things as if it’s your first time seeing them
  • Pay attention to the details
  • Set an alarm every hour to look around and take in your surroundings. To make space in the places in between.
  • Single task
  • Breath. Long, deep, full inhales and exhales. Both are important

Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift- that’s why they call it the present. 

i don’t know

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4bZZKXHQTseRktZuFYsi_OnTheDockThinking back on my middle school years still, makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. It is such a time of change and transformation. (Why don’t they have a movie that explained you’re supposed to be awkward then, that plays in health class?) As my peers and I geared up, from leaving the “elementary nest” to transition into our high school years, we began to see, think, and understand the world in a whole new way.

I remember sitting in the second row in Mr. Cote’s advanced math class. I looked around at the room. It was made up of upperclassman, specifically, boys who made me feel different than they did before, math posters, and a licorice, which was given to us upon answering a question correctly. Glancing back towards the chalkboard, I caught Mr. Cote’s eyes knowing I would be the victim of his next question. I can’t remember what it was he asked but in the next 5 seconds afterwards I will always remember my response. All of the sudden my body was warm, my palms sweaty, I don’t know I thought! Ask someone else? Why me? As I sunk into my chair I spouted off an answer I knew very well wasn’t correct encouraging him to move on to his next target. Phew, that was over, I thought. And returned my gaze to the page where it sat for the rest of class.

I can’t remember what it was he asked but the next 5 seconds after the question I will always remember. All of the sudden my body was warm, my palms sweaty, my heart rate increased, as my eyes raced around the room making contact with my peers.

I don’t know I thought! Ask someone else? Why me?

As I sunk into my chair I spouted off an answer I knew very well wasn’t correct encouraging him to move on to his next target. Phew, that was over, I thought. And returned my gaze to the page where it sat for the rest of class.

Why couldn’t I just say: I don’t know?

These three words are more difficult to say than we think. But why? We will surely all be asked a question we don’t know the answer to.

Fast forward 10 years to my first year working in finance, where I had a mentor address the issue. She -one of the most successful individuals at the firm- said at a seminar one day:

“Each of us will be surprised with questions we don’t know the answer to. And that’s okay. The response is, however, very important. Be confident and simply tell them, hey- that is a great question- I don’t know but I will do my best to research it and find the answer for you. What would be the best way to get that to you after I have discovered the answer?”

With such grace, she admitted to not knowing it all. And rather than shrinking in the moment, embracing it. Because a curious question will keep the mind exploring new and creative topics, in turn, keeping us healthy as we formulate new neural pathways.

Okay, so we don’t know.

Let the mystery transform into curiosity. Be willing and able to explore new information! All while admitting, hey I still don’t know. Because it seems as adults the more we know the more we realize we don’t know.

Be confident and embrace the “unknown”. After all, this world is unknown. What will happen next, tomorrow, next year is really a mystery. As much as we plan for, schedule out, things happen. And rather than being afraid of the unknown, or slouching at the response- “I don’t know”, can we embrace it and live in the excitement of the mystery.

Forever curious. Forever learning. Forever growing.