August Theme: Slow

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Okay, New Yorkers, admit it: yogi or not, we’ve all had evil thoughts about that unwitting tourist we end up walking behind down the subway stairs. Even if you’re not running to get somewhere on time, New York trains you to have a certain gait that outpaces most all other people on the planet. Yeah, we live in that city.  What’s cool about it is we get more done in a minute than many do in an hour, but that speed catches up with you when you get to the end of your day and you can’t slow down or shut down. So we come to yoga and meditation to balance it all out.

A few weeks ago, an old knee injury started acting up again. I was in a great deal of pain. The only thing that would work to not aggravate it was to not go anywhere (not an option), or walk really really slowly. Slower than even the most relaxed person living in the deep south on the hottest day of the year. Yeah, that slow.

You can imagine what an odd thing it was to slow down that much. As a New Yorker, I was careful to move out of the way as the typical Ferrari-paced person needed to pass. But almost right away, I started to really enjoy myself. As I walked down a street in Brooklyn, I looked up at the sky, took in the breeze, and noticed the colors on the buildings.  Then something else started to happen. My brain waves became smooth. Not slow, or spacey, actually smooth and clear. All of the stuff on my mind stopped rattling around in a disorderly jumble and started to organize itself like rambunctious kids who finally found their place on stage in the school play.  Something else happened. I heard my breath. I was actually breathing all the way down into my lungs the way I do and teach every day in yoga.

Thich Naht Hahn, a world renowned spiritual leader, guides a beautiful meditation called the “Walking Meditation.” I’ve shared it to many students when we go to the ashram and are walking through the fresh green forest. But I’ve never done it in the city. I could feel my pulse slow, I could feel my cortisol (stress hormone) levels dropping, and my eyes began to see the world through a shine as when I’m in yoga class, or out in nature.

For all the philosophical perspectives I’ve learned and taught to buffer our sensitive systems from metropolitan madness, this very odd, accidental practice had more real physical and mental affect than any of them. Once again, I’m shown that our injuries can be wonderful teachers.

Studies show that slowing down, for even just a small period of time, has been correlated with better decision making, higher levels of creativity, and increased problem solving skills. Taking it slow can also increase our attunement to each other, causing a positive effect on our relationships. In their book “How Words Change your Brain” authors Andrew Newberg and  Mark Robert introduce the practice of Slow Speech. In my yoga class this week I had students take a few minutes to tell a partner about a current challenge in their life speaking one word at a time, at a pace of about half as fast as we usually speak. Students reported feeling a sense of ease surrounding a problem that had been causing them stress, and also a greater appreciation and connection to the person they were listening to.

That day on the sidewalk, my friend who was meeting me for dinner had seen me coming from the restaurant window. When I got there she laughed and said she’d knew better than to wonder if I’d taken drugs, but that’s still what it looked like. I laughed too. “No, no drugs," I told, her, "just trying out a little bit of “slow.”


-Ella Luckett





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May Theme: Dvesa



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Dvesa is an obstacle (klesha) in the way of freedom. It is our avoidance of pain. I noticed during the spring month of April that I had a  lot of internal rules that helped steer me clear of things which even remotely reminded me of past pain or echoed possibility of pain. I'm, at times, too good at learning. Having built up a stockade of "don'ts" I realized this month it was time to tear them down and let myself walk into fires that once burned me. Testing my new layers of unshakable peace and love. You know what? I have learned how much I've grown, how much courage has built up under my scabs, and now I no longer need those thick shells to feel protected. Life is richer, more open, and I am grateful for every new experience, welcoming it in whether it carries potential for pain or not. 

--Ella Luckett


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April Theme: Thrive!



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Thrive by Ella Luckett


I was sitting near my friend on her wedding day as she was getting her hair done. I looked over at her face and I could see that her body was in the room, but her mind was in a million other places. Behind her eyes was a map of thoughts: did all the relatives get in okay, is the catering going to work out? on and on and on… The details of life, especially surrounding the big things, are endless. I could tell my friend was about to miss her wedding day. Her body was there, but her experience was split in a million directions.

I asked her if she wanted to join me in a five minute meditation after her hair was done. She said yes, absolutely.  We sat in two chairs, chaos all around, and breathed for five little minutes.

In that five minutes she became present to the beauty of the day. Her mind settled and released the unnecessary thoughts that were blocking her experience, and when she opened her eyes, there she was. She was back in her body, suddenly full of life and joy.

To this day, she thanks me for that moment.

The difference between surviving and thriving is almost always in the perspective. It’s in what type of breath you are taking in. Are you gasping in short shallow breaths to serve only the purpose of the moment? Or, can you breathe in big, and ride the moments like a wave – whether tumbling inside it, gliding on it’s crest - always with a laugh  just because you are in the ocean at all!?  

That is what our yoga practice is, friends. We take that daily moment to get inside our experience, instead of hovering all around it.  Sometimes there’s resistance, because most days are not our wedding day. Most days are pulling through the grind to realize the bigger picture. But our practice gives us the touch of that big picture now, in the present moment. Usually it takes a moment to get past the stuff that doesn’t feel so good. We travel deeper inside our body and mind and find that, at our core, we are peaceful. Just below the surface of stress, there’s a well of abundance that encompasses all the good and bad and gives us the gift of presence. So we don’t wait to look back at the end of a particular journey and appreciate it. We get to feel life's sweetness and saltiness more potently in every moment.  

This month notice the times when you are only half there. Gripping on for survival, racing through just to get done, or just dull and bored with the moment. Take a deep breath and loosen the grip, slow the gait, or shine your eyes. This life is made up of unmarked moments that you can either survive through -- or drink in, and thrive on!

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March Theme of the Month: Expectation, Inspiration, Communication

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Expectation, Inspiration and Communication by Ella Luckett


Expectation can get in the way of receiving. When we expect we are bound to be let down. But when we receive, everything is a gift.

I recently had an experience where my own expectations blinded me to the value of someone in my life. My own unmet expectations made me angry and uncommunicative. I realize in retrospect they were my expectations making me angry, not the person. My own frustration made me unsuccessful at communicating any desires from the relationship as something positive, or inspiring. Instead, mired in anger and frustration, I simply shut down and became distant… And then I lost them because of this distance. The loss is a great one. It took losing them to realize that I had been a victim only to my own expectations, and not one to that person’s lack of having the ability to be or give me what I wanted.

While I was dwelling in the story of what "should" have been, I became blind to the beauty of what was actually there. Something different then what I expected. Something I didn’t dream up myself, but that was being presented as a gift. Something that did actually make me happy, but in a different way then I had been attached to it looking.

We all have expectations from life. We dream things, are conditioned to want things, and also work hard toward achieving the things we want. But “expectation” is just a little far over the edge. Expectation is like the over ripe tomato. It has lost it’s inspiration to potentiality be something delicious by stewing it it’s own sense of itself.

When we were young and every experience was new, there was so much magic. It was so easy to get us to smile just by an adult presenting a simple thing in an inspired way. It could do us all some good to conjure back up that kind of open vision of what this life is to provide us.


So we want to keep, inspiration, momentum, communication, desire, achievement, and play, but experiment with high, but “OPEN” expectations of the result of all of those efforts. If you widen the scope if what comes your way perhaps it will contain just a little bit of something special that you hadn’t planned, for, but is in itself unique and amazing. How boring would life be if it was just a lever that we pull, and out comes exactly what we wanted.  

People are amazing creatures who each have their own gifts, and our expectations of them can block the colorful rays they are trying to bestow on us. 

So, this month, enjoy noticing your own expectations, and ask yourself if they are serving you or bringing you down. Transform them into inspiration and communication and see what you get!

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Living Loving Kindness by Erin Brownell

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About a week ago, I was having a rough morning. Just one of those mornings where everything is going wrong: the weather was terrible, my dog ran through mud and was a mess, I was running late, and then I JUST missed the subway. As the doors shut in my face, part of me wanted to scream. In my head, I was blaming the train conductor for not waiting two more seconds, cursing the guy who was taking forever to swipe his metro card...slipping farther and farther into a bad mood. Pretty much the opposite of loving kindness.

I stepped on the next train, took a deep breath and tried to get it together.
I looked down and seated in front of me was an older woman, who was staring at me. She smiled and motioned me close to her to tell me something. Confused, I looked down to see if I was standing on her bag or something? She then simply said, 'My dear, you have the most beautiful eyes.' I was speechless for a good thirty seconds, so taken by surprise. I thanked her and we talked for a few minutes before I got off. She had changed my entire day, my entire mood, with her kind words. I'm used to the L train being a bit hostile, but this lovely woman was in her own world, one where you see other people. I went on with my day, and tried to take her kindness and carry it with me, passing it on to others. Lately when I feel myself start to get back into that negative place for whatever reason, I think of her. It's amazing what a simple act can do, and how easy it can be if you are mindful of it.

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How to be a Better Conversationalist by Sarah Lowndes

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I read somewhere once that one way to be a better conversationalist is to tell yourself when you're in the middle of a conversation, that "the next conversation can be about you." Once you tell yourself this, you can get out of your own head and be more present to what the other person is saying. What's usually happening in a conversation is you're waiting to say something, thinking of your own response, thinking about your own situation--your ego is getting in the way. Your ego is trying to assert itself. Your ego is putting up a wall between the other person and you. And so, it's not only remembering this ("the next conversation can be about you") in conversation with someone else, but also when trying to listen to yourself. Your true self is in there, giving you advice, insight and love, but your ego gets in the way. "No, this temporary thing I'm feeling right now is more important!" But it's never true. "The next conversation can be about you, ego." Give yourself space to listen.

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"Listen"

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(Jan Theme 2016: Listen)

There’s a lot of background noise. From the city streets to the mumble of thoughts and worries in your head. Trucks belt out their gas guzzling roar, clashing music wars, arguments and conversations, thousands of people in short radius, talking, thinking, sending out frequencies to interrupt your clear personal connection to your inner peace.
In addition to the external sounds, there’s the clamor of your own internal dialogue. Have you ever slowed down enough to actually witness the many layers of thoughts in your head? The mind wants to dissect, assign value, meaning, judgment, to both yourself and others. It does that to protect you, to help you grow and learn, and progress. It’s an ever running engine. Until you slow down enough, to hear it, you may not even notice it’s been left churning, nor how much of your energy it’s draining to keep itself on.
The process of finding our deepest inner wisdom involves a journey through all this noise, to hear the truth beneath it all. The truth lies in the silence. Beyond the ramblings of the mental mind, the mind of higher intelligence has amazing things to say. But we have to listen.
That place is called the anahat nadam. It’s the nectar of your deepest truth and highest potential. A well spring of unwavering energy, and happiness. It’s always there waiting. If you can slowly start to move in, identifying each distracting sound as a never ending sea of “neti neti” “not this, not this” Eventually the soundless sound prevails, and you are swimming in wisdom and peace.
This month we’ll practice:
Listening to yourself: Meander through the noisy jungle until it gets quiet and there you will emerge.
Listen to others: Listen for their gift to you, for each encounter carries it. Wisdom, love, a lesson, or even just an opportunity to grow as you learn how to best relate to them. Each person has something to say, and appreciates greatly someone who will truly listen to them.
When you become an avid listener your ears become tuned like the top level sound engineer who can hear every detail separate from each other.  Where most people get lost in the noise,  the well versed listener can wade through the bramble of influences that don’t serve the highest in all, and land on truth.  The practice of listening, will help you have compassion and connection with others, and help you feel empowered in your own self. Knowing who you are is the most precious gift that takes a lifetime to discover, and it can only be done when we tune in and listen.


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Namaste