Living in the illusion

Note:  I allowed the following to flow through me this morning.  I use to write this stuff on paper and in my journals in the past.   They are buried away in boxes (so is the life of a military spouse).  Today it came out on computer.  It is incredibly scary and vulnerable to share what comes through me at times like this.  This is a cathartic blog.   Having caught up on my morning World news, I  was balling.  From violent shootings in the US, villages being raped and torn to pieces in the name of dogma, starvation and lack of fresh water in the Middle East, and millions of people being displaced around the globe due to catastrophic weather patterns…it felt, and feels, too much.  It makes me so angry, so sad and then when I just let it out, cry until I can barely breathe, I begin to hear a calming voice that keeps me focused on something higher than myself.  Honestly, to me it feels like my version of “God” trying to talk me off the roof, bring more love into my life, and to make sense of all the suffering.  

To share the following is terrifying.  However, in the last year something shifted in me.   I use to be more reserved and afraid of what others thought of me.  Now, if something terrifies me, I say “fuck this shit” (meaning the fear) and I do it.  This FTS attitude, has been incredibly healing for me and for many others who have written to me encouraging me to keep up the online presence, or writing, or authentic shares.  So yes, I’m sharing the following below, unedited.  I’m not even sure if it makes sense. Maybe there will be something in it.  Maybe not.  But at least I feel better now that it’s out than keeping it in stuffed in some corner of my crying heart.  

I use to tell my mom as a child, “If I can positively impact the life of one person before I die, then I will have lived a fulfilled life.”  She reminds me that I have already done this.  I now realize I’m upping my own game.  From here on out it is my heart’s and life’s mission to positively impact the life (i.e. reduce suffering) of as many people on this planet as possible, including myself. My own experiences and past will not control me.  I will use them as tools for my own growth so I may shower as many people on this planet with love and aloha as possible. 

With this said, I’m giving you a huge hug right now. No, even bigger than you imagined.  I love you!
H.

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There is a saying in Chinese medicine, “When treating a person, above all you must treat the Spirit first.”  It sounds woo-woo, sounds out there but it is Truth.

The biggest cause of fear in our World is our disconnection being talked about as our “differences.”  The biggest cause of illness and dis-ease is STRESS from this disconnection.  No, that is not empirically researched, that is straight up living, learning, and dedicated observation in trying to understand life.  This country, our world, our communities and our families are divided not by a real division but an ILLUSION of a division that stems from a lack of connection with their True Nature, their Spirit, and a belief that different means bad or wrong..  The only Truth’s I know are: everything is always changing, death will happen, and we are already whole.  However, most people choose to live out and live in their illusion of their lack of wholeness.

The Founders of the US Constitution, pure geniuses imo, were correct when they said, “we were all created equal.”  Truth.  However, the interpretation that we all have equality from that moment forward is an interpretation.  It is false and another illusion to believe that each person born into this world is equal.  The only equality that exists is the unity of a whole being that is uniquely different from all the other 7 billion other people on this planet.  What is true is that each person on this planet is uniquely there own and whole just as they are.  Nothing else is equal.  Rather than push a false narrative that we are created, born, and live equally is just false.  What makes this human existence truly our own, divine, and unique is that from the point forward after creation (when the sperm meets the egg) a whole host of factors beyond our control and within our control begin acting on us and it is how we respond consciously, physically, and unconsciously that make each of us uniquely our own person.   Created equal and get to live equal are NOT and will never be the same human experience.   We are different and we need our differences in order to be uniquely our own self.  But there exists an illusion that differences equal bad and since we do not want to support the “bad” we disconnect.  The illusion exists that because you are different, we cannot connect, or share similar experiences, bond, or have discussions regarding our differences.  The illusion is just that, a false veil.  Differences are good.  Differences are what makes sushi, sushi and lasagne, lasagne.  What gets us in trouble, what divides us, what makes us want to be right over the idea of being free is when we begin to live disconnected or separate ourselves from things that are different than us or our beliefs. Difference’s exist.  Disconnection exist.  But differences does not have to mean disconnection.  Disconnection will always lead to suffering…as every traditional healing method that has survived the test of time all say…disconnection from our Spirit brings about death.

What I see, what I feel, what I witness, what I have learned every time I fear and work with people in a studio or clinic setting is that people are living in their illusion of separateness and disconnection rather than allowing themselves to live in connection with self, others, nature, and hence the world around them.  And I don’t care how religious you are, how many times you pray or meditate or do a sun salutation, religion is not a deep connection with your higher self and your version of God, Universe, Love, Oneness..  It might mean a connection but if it is, than you’re not offended by the above statement because you know you’re connection is Divine and doesn’t need labels.  Connection is about something deeper than a weekend pot-luck and group or affiliation or how far back you can bend.  Connection takes you deeper to a place that is about walking your talk and living your message.

Perhaps if we all asked ourselves these questions everyday we would know if we were living connected or in the illusion that disconnection.

Do you care about how you treat yourself, and what you say to yourself in the silence moments when the lights are out and you’re about to go to bed, when someone is attacking you physically, emotionally, or mentally?

Do you care about how you treat others when they are right in front of you but more importantly when they are not in front of you?

Do you care about how you treat Nature, the very Earth that gives you all your sustenance (food, water, sources for shelter, cars, and technology).

Are you walking your talk?

Do you care more about being right or free?

Have you sat with your own fears and really analyzed them?  Have you sat with your past? Your trauma? Your experiences?  Those skeletons in your closet and really allowed yourself to heal and get help?  Or did you disconnect with that part of yourself and push it aside.  Whether you were raped or are the rapist, the child being hit or the one hitting both are whole people just responding and protecting their illusion to fit what they thought was their reality, what was real, what right, what was needed to stay “safe” or in “control.”  But surprise, you are whole (always have an always will be) and it, all that stuff, your past, your experiences, are still with you, just stuffed away in some corner of your consciousness, heart, and tissues persistently trying to have a life of its own until one day you have a break down and it can finally release itself.  It doesn’t mean you’re broken.   It doesn’t mean you’re bad.  We are just Spirits having a human experience and the rules are not so black and white.

We are trained from a very young age to protect ourselves, and figure out what is “right” and what is “wrong.”  As we get older though, we have the ability to think for ourselves and to wake up to the illusion.  Wake up to the fact that you’re living in an illusion that you choose to live in or live out.  If you’re living to be “right” than you are not free and you’ve pushed your Soul aside in favor of your mind’s ego, little brain, cultural norms, or safety, literally the caveman/cavewoman aspect of yourself.  And that’s fine if you want to live that way.  Honestly, the majority of our planet has to live that way because of safety and needs based living (think Maslow’s hierarchy here).  But if you’re reading this, if you are part of the population that gets to live life outside of your minimum and basic needs of food, shelter, water, and physical/mental safety then it’s time to wake up.  You ask yourself why the World looks the way it does?  It’s because the people who have the ability to wake up AREN’T.  They are choosing to be RIGHT over FREE.  They are choosing to hold on to an illusion that our differences are somehow bad, wrong, ugly, or unsafe and disconnection is the solution.   It’s time to DISCONNECT with the illusion and CONNECT with your Spirit, your true nature under all the veils you, your family, your culture has placed on you.  It’s time to wake up.  Enough is enough.  Wake up.  Wake up.  Take responsibility for YOUR life, for your choices, for your words, your actions, your thoughts and reconnect with what matters most…your connection to your Spirit, that silent voice within that is trying to be FREE. Stop stuffing that voice away and needing to be RIGHT.

When was the last time you really looked into someone’s eyes?  Not an IG feed eyes or a FB feed eyes but the eyes of your neighbor?  The stranger walking past you?  The person making you your favorite $5 coffee drink?  And people get all up in arms about people who cover their hair, or wear veils, or wear booty shorts but does anyone look in the eyes anymore?  This is what I’m talking about.  I’m guilty of it too but when I catch these things in myself I really want to make a difference and take the steps to make a change within myself.  This doesn’t make me better or worst, maybe a little self-centered, but I’ll take it.  My form of self-centered allows me to feel good about who I am and give my love openly despite your color, race, cultural background, or disease.

Reconnect to your Spirit and you will find at first that it feels like your life is falling apart.  It is, because if you want to live connected with Spirit with your True Self than you can’t continue to live the same way you have been in fear, illusion, and disconnection.  But not all things that fall apart are broken.  Things falling apart is the illusion of your separateness and disconnection breaking apart allowing your life to reflect something more connected. Will it feel like you’ve lost control? YES, 100% but that’s the point.  When you try and control your life, that being “right” is better than being free, you have to build up a lot, A LOT, A LOT of barriers and walls to maintain that disconnect and way of life.  However, the more you continue to allow yourself to be connected with your Spirit you will begin to see your life take shape in ways that feel easier and more alive, and things you once would have dismissed as weird or from the twilight zone are now signs and serendipitous messages.   The differences won’t seem so scary anymore and the fear based living will slowly subside.

So yes, treat the Spirit first, not last.  Treating the Spirit is treating the body and the mind.  It’s all connected.  Disconnect with the illusion that different is bad or wrong.  Reconnect with your breath.  Reconnect. with Nature.  Nature has always healed, always will heal, and will always continue to heal for those who want to reduce suffering.  So go outside.  Take a breath of fresh air.  Put your feet in the dirt.  Get dirty. Worry less and embrace all of it as if it were your own child.

 

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Toddlers are a yoga practice

If you didn’t know, yoga is a BIG part of my life.  What began as a simple idea of, “I should try every exercise class on this schedule,” at the Walla Walla YMCA turned into an obsession and eventually a way of life.  I didn’t know it then but I do now, yoga gave me a framework to relate to the world, a paradigm that I finally felt connected to with all my heart and soul.  I’m not sure if I found yoga or if it found me but either way, it saved me (physically, mentally, spiritually) and has continued to be the biggest teacher in my life.  Until I had kids.

Trace is now 3.  Izzy is 2.  [eyes bulging out of my head]  No, we did not “plan” on having two toddlers but clearly I needed this in my life for some reason.  Izzy, right on queue, began having tantrums (the reeeeeal ones) two days before her second birthday.  For a moment, I had forgotten about tantrums because Trace is now old enough and smart enough to just get angry and scream bloody murder rather than be two-year-old-irrational-crazy.  I hate tantrums (said every parent ever).  In my mind it is an ice pick cracking my soul in half, my brain in two, and every foul word out of my mouth before I can catch it.  No, I don’t swear at my children (not yet) but the things that come to my mind are not pretty.  I hate tantrums.  They suck my soul right out of me and leave a skeleton of hate cooking a meal (because for some reason tantrums happen when I’m trying to prepare a meal…or maybe I’m just in the kitchen a lot. So cliche.  I know.  But true.)

do not use or copy this photo without mother's permission

Being 2 is hard.

Since my yoga practice has been more focused on the meditation practices rather than the asana (postures) recently, I decided to “meditate” through some of Izzy’s tantrums over the past few days.  I didn’t sit in lotus pose, close my eyes, and “oooommmmm” it away, I simply took a few deep breaths when they began and really listened to what she was saying, how she was saying it, and how I was responding.  In doing this, I realized my response to her tantrums (typically irreverent, eye rolling, patience that quickly turns to yelling, or laughing) is just as much a “tantrum” as hers.  #TruthHurts

I knew I needed to flip a switch before I flipped-out-of-my-mind. Yoga reminds us to look within ourselves when external things are triggering, upsetting, emotional, reoccurring, hurtful, etc. One of these self-inquiry practices is to ask, “How is this [in this case Izzy’s tantrums] a reflection of my own life?”  While sitting with this question over the past 24 hours, as I watch and listen to Izzy maneuver through her world with mommia’s and daddia’s rules and expectations, I have begun to think that my toddlers (including their tantrums) are meant to be a direct reflection of the relationship I have with Universe and God—deeply loving, comforting, give me-give me-give me, no No NO, lots of unnecessary crying, and yet utterly devotional.

Before I go on you have to know that I am not a Bible-type and I am also not a religious person.  I didn’t grow up in a “church” and in fact, probably have entered a church more times for weddings than for a sermon—but I am deeply spiritual and have a very deep connection with God…thanks to Yoga.  This is probably worth a whole blog on to itself.  What I’m getting at is this: I know the word “God” can be off-putting to some. I was that person once.  I invite you to replace the G word with something like “Love” and see if that resonates with your own life.  Back to my point about toddlers, tantrums, and God…

What really gets my blood boiling is when Izzy asks for help and then when I help she SCREAMS at me for helping her, “I do it!!!  I do it!!! I do it!!!!”  It makes me want to throw her out a window.  Of course I won’t but her vacillating is the hardest on a daily basis.  When I stop to reflect I realize this is how I use to feel when adults would ask for help and guidance and then when I offered a solution or course of treatment they would tell me, “no thank youbut continue to complain about said challenge in their life. Either take the steps to fix it or shut-up would be my internal monologue. It used to drive me craaaaaazy. I eventually grew to understand that sometimes asking for guidance or help is part of the journey.  The actual work, treatments, or solutions are just another level of response, self responsibility, and commitment that is difficult in our bandaid-make-it-go-away-now culture.

The other big trigger is when Izzy asks for something and then when she gets it flails into a storm of irrational hatred and disappointment, a.k.a a tantrum. So with my new attempt at looking at tantrums as a reflection of my own life, I pondered…do I ask for help (ehem, pray for things) and then when I am offered help, guidance, signs, direct outcomes do I pout about it? Scream about it?  Push it away?  Yikes, [swallow of truth] I think I do.  Maybe I don’t scream bloody murder and yell, “I’ll do it!!!” or throw it on the ground and stomp all over it but in more subtle adult ways I talk myself out of the signs, or tell others who are offering their support or advice “thank you, no thank you,” or even feel down in the dumps that my life isn’t the way I planned, or the way I asked God to make it look like.  Again, [sigh] humbling.

I actually wrote out this conversation I had with Izzy the other day as part of this process. It was EYE OPENING to say the least.

Mommia: What would you like Izzy?
Izzy: I want a cookie.
Mommia: No cookie right now. [Izzy starts crying the second I say this.] Maybe later. What about a banana? Would you like a banana?
Izzy: [trying to stop crying] Yes, ba-ba-banana.
Mommia: Here you go. Would you like your water too?
Izzy: [Begins crying and screaming] I don’t want a banana. No banana. [Throws it on the ground.]
Mommia: {note, internal monologue is screaming ‘wtf do you want then?’} OK, no banana then. [I pick up the banana and put it on the counter, potentially for later]
Izzy: I want the baaaa-naaa-naaa! [crying and screaming] I want the baaaa-naaa-naaa!
Mommia: Izzy, when you stop crying and use your big girl words and tone of voice you can ask for your banana.
Izzy: [begins to stop crying] ooooh—oooooh kay. Baa-banana please.
Mommia: Here you go. [Eyes rolling behind a loooong blink] Thank you Izzy for using your big girl words and tone of voice. —-End Scene—–

I then decided to flip-the-script with my new insights. Mommia is now “Universe” or “God” and Izzy is now me, Haunani. [Note: in no way am I insinuating that I am equal to Universe or God, it is merely an exercise of reflection. Keep reading.] Cookie and banana are now name your desire: a car, husband, soul mate, new career, patience, health, freedom, abundance, etc. For the sake of this script, I’m going to use car for cookie and lasting relationship for banana.

Universe: What would you like Haunani?
Haunani: I want a ­car.
Universe: No car right now. [Haunani starts crying the minute Universe says this.] Maybe later. What about a lasting relationship? Would you like a lasting relationship?
Haunani: [trying to stop crying] Yes, lasting reeee-reeeelationshiiiii-shiiiip.
Universe: Here you go. Would you like Love in that relationship too?
Haunani: [Begins crying and screaming] I don’t want a lasting relationship. No lasting relationship. [Throws it on the ground.]
Universe: {note, internal monologue is screaming ‘wtf do you want then?’} OK, no lasting relationship then. [Universe picks up the lasting relationship and puts it on the counter, potentially for later]
Haunani: I want the laaaaa-laaasting re-re-relationship! [crying and screaming] I want the relationship!
Universe: Haunani, when you stop crying and use your big girl words and tone of voice you can ask for your lasting relationship.
Haunani: [begins to stop crying] ooooh—oooooh kay. La-lasting relationship please.
Universe: Here you go. [Eyes rolling] Thank you Haunani for using your big girl words and tone of voice. ——-End Scene——

This exercise rocked my Mommia world. I was immediately humbled. It’s become so obvious to me that my kids are reflecting my true expectations and relationship with Universe and God that I began to change how I relate to the laws of karma, God, and Universe overnight.

Not that I respond to life all the time like the above scenario, but neither does Izzy. She’s just being a two year old with no books, no guidance, figuring out a new language, figuring out everything—being a two year old is hard. What’s my excuse? OK, so I don’t have a book on being a mom but at least I know my language, know how to listen, understand responsibility, have some emotional awareness, know and use logic, etc. I have no excuse. Being so humbled by this newfound awareness, I then made a list of the other things Izzy does that make me “lose it” rather quickly.

  • Only use the word “please” if reminded to.
  • Only use the word “thank you” if reminded to.
  • Quickly scream and writhe when realizing you’re not going to get what you wanted.
  • Quickly scream and writhe when realizing you ARE getting what you asked for.
  • Purposefully do things after being told not to.
  • Purposefully doing the same thing after falling, getting hurt, or watching others (her brother) get hurt or in trouble.

Now I feel like a do a little better on some of these than Izzy and other adults I’ve encountered but woah, apparently my expectations of God and life are a little unfair, imbalanced, and greedy.  And now having this realization, I now see I react to Izzy’s two-year-old nature because I feel she is being unfair, imbalanced, and greedy.  Clearly my expectations are too high.  How is she suppose to know?  [My heart softens and I take a long slow sigh]. I’m not proud of this realization but acknowledgement and acceptance is the first step in choosing to make a change or not.

It’s hard being a two year old.  It’s also hard being the mom of a two year old. Many days I wish I worked full-time just to escape the irrational tendencies. I didn’t like it with Trace and I definitely do not like it with Izzy.  And here in lies the teachings.  Izzy is my major teacher right now. Like all good teachers I’ve discovered she’s shining right back at me like a pure reflection.   I am humbled, embarrassed, and at the same time completely motivated to make a shift TODAY both in how I respond to Izzy and my relationship with life, the world around me, and God.

Note to reader:  Overall, Izzy is an incredible child and I know this.  I am not complaining in this blog but merely attempting to share my process of coming to terms with tantrums through a mindful and humbling approach.

Metta “Loving Kindness” Meditation

This week on my YouTube channel Yoga with Haunani I shared the Metta Meditation, also known as the Loving Kindness Meditation.  While I do not know the whole history of this meditation, I do know it works.  I can’t even remember who I learned it from or where I was when this meditation practice was taught to me.  All I know is that it stuck with me and I have been using it for several years.  This was my go-to meditation practice when I taught yoga to Marines and Sailors at the Naval Hospital.  One of my favorite memories of sharing this meditation is having a very young Marine who was clearly upset before class, finish this meditation, open his eyes and say out loud as he was gently nodding his head, “damn, that really worked.”

In many ways this meditation practice is really a blessing.  You bless yourself, another, your community or family, and then all beings everywhere.  It’s a simple practice, easy to follow, and effective. I’m writing the words out in this blog so you can follow along or print it out as needed until you have it memorized.

When repeating the phrases you can say it out loud, whisper, or repeat them silently to yourself.  A longer version of this meditation is to say the four lines out loud, then repeat at a whisper, and then silently to yourself.  Each time you say a line, take a moment to breathe in the statement and just witness what arises.

Prepping for the meditation:

  • Print a copy of the Metta Meditation.
  • Find a comfortable place to sit for this meditation
  • Remove yourself from distractions (i.e. phones, computers, electronics)
  • Connect with your breath
  • Give yourself permission to let go of your day, or your plans, to just focus on the practice

The first round of the meditation is directed at yourself.  This comes back to the idea that you must take care of yourself before you can truly care for another.  Or, you must love yourself before you can truly love another.  The first round is for you to reconnect with your heart.

MAY I BE HAPPY.
MAY I BE WELL.
MAY I BE SAFE.
MAY I BE PEACEFUL AND AT EASE.

The second round is dedicated to another.  At first, I recommend you choose someone who you are grateful for, who cares for you, is a mentor, or is an inspiration in your life. With them in mind and in your heart, repeat:

MAY YOU BE HAPPY.
MAY YOU BE WELL.
MAY YOU BE SAFE.
MAY YOU BE PEACEFUL AND AT EASE.

Remember to give yourself time to breathe in each statement.

The third round is dedicated to your family (blood or soul), your community, or a group of people you entrust.  Keeping them in mind, repeat:

MAY WE ALL BE HAPPY.
MAY WE ALL BE WELL.
MAY WE ALL BE SAFE.
MAY WE ALL BE PEACEFUL AND AT EASE.

The final round is dedicated to all beings everywhere.  You might imagine the World, a sea of people, or a symbol or concept that weaves us all together.  Keeping this in mind, repeat:

MAY ALL BEINGS BE HAPPY.
MAY ALL BEINGS BE WELL.
MAY ALL BEINGS BE SAFE.
MAY ALL BEINGS BE PEACEFUL AND AT EASE.

Take time at the end of the practice to sit and be mindful.  Notice how you feel at the end of the practice compared to at the beginning.

When you become familiar with this practice you can also use it as a powerful healing tool.  In the second and third rounds, you can bring to mind someone or group of people who has hurt you, made you angry, frustrated, or upset.  By keeping that person or group in mind, you can rebuild a sense of oneness or connection between the frayed or fraying relationship.  Using the Metta meditation in this way may help to soften the hard edges of emotions and feelings you once had toward that person or group of people.

As in all meditation practices, allow yourself to be present and witness what arises. Try to avoid judging your thoughts or having expectations of how you’re suppose to feel or be during and after this practice. The Metta Meditation is powerful in that it allows the heart’s true nature to arise and release what it has been harboring at the conscious and unconscious levels.

Be kind to yourself and just allow this words to help you reconnect with yourself, someone you love, your community, and the World.

My wish for the World

Many of you know I meditate, practice yoga, and think about the World and situations slightly different than the average gal.  Right when we moved to Bahrain, in fact the same week we moved here, there was a slew of suicide bombings and mass shootings.  Reading the news was depressing, sad, frustrating, and for me, motivating.  Motivating because it made me really sit and meditate more, dig deep into my own fears, pray, send out more love, contemplate life, and question why we are all here together at this time.

Eventually, the big move, suicide bombings, missing my family, friends, and dogs, and trying to find a new home got to me and I lost it.  I just downright lost it.  Balling.  Crying.  And so sad for the World we live in.  Why?  How?  WTF? Can’t we all just get along?  I know it sounds so cliche but I know I was sobbing those words out loud.  Through years of a committed yoga sadhana practice, I now know when I start to feel like the external (environment, situation, reactions) is affecting my internal peace, it’s time for a little reflection exercise*.  With puffy eyes and little sob to my breath, I got paper and pen and wrote at the top “What I wish for the World.”  Then, I wrote.

I want people to wake up. To take responsibility for their life and footprint on this planet in this infinitesimal amount of time we are here. To realize they do make a difference and every action, word, though creates a ripple. To take responsibility for their physical health. Mental health. Emotional health. Spiritual health. To not fear but live. To stand tall in their physical body and be able to say in the mirror, “I love you.” To not get attached to the thoughts and monkey mind. To see others and other situations as a reflection of themselves. To not be beat down by challenge but to rise up and see it as an opportunity to learn, grow, and become wiser. To be okay with not knowing. To be okay with stillness. To love more than hate. To be aware. To stand up for your beliefs while being flexible enough to learn new things and change your beliefs. To create more smiles than frowns. To leave a place in a better mood than when you arrived. To not take anything for granted. To thank God for everything in your life. To let go of what people told you to think and believe and to think and believe for yourself. To share your passions with the World. To apologize when needed but to not give up your personal power. That’s it. My wish for the World.

I was so mad and angry when I first started writing but by the end I felt like I had gotten something out.  My breath had calmed down and I felt more at peace.

Recently, while I was unpacking and settling into our new villa, I found this piece of paper.  I read it again.  I was both embarrassed and totally inspired.  Embarrassed because it reads as if I have this all figured out myself, which I don’t.  Inspired because it sounds like a calling from within, a call to action to step up my own game as a member of this human tribe and to really live this way too.  By theory, I totally 100% believe in everything I wrote.  In action, life is not always 100% of what I believe.  So, when I read this, I feel inspired to make my actions align with my beliefs.

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So why share this?  Because if you look at the external–the news, world politics, race relations–it’s easy to point the finger, to get upset, and feel helpless.  But remember, when you point the finger, there are three fingers pointing back at you.  It’s also the 15th anniversary memorial of 9/11.  For many people, this day represents a turning point in perspective.  The ripple affects of September 11, 2001 are still felt worldwide.  Indeed, it’s a day of reflection.   There are many ways to reflect.  I’m not biased to one way or another.  I do believe it’s beneficial for people to do self-reflection often though.  So if you’ve never done this type of self-reflection exercise, I encourage you to do it.  It is powerful.  Get a piece of paper, write “What I wish for the World” and just start writing without judgement or holding back.  Put it aside for a few hours or weeks.  Then read it and see how what you wrote reflects your own current life.  Are the theories and daily actions aligned?  In this reflection, hopefully you will glean insight into how your external environment and internal beliefs are aligned or not.  Some of you may even be inspired to be your own change you wish to see in the World.

Life is messy and confusing sometimes.  It can seem like life can be happening to us and we have no control.  However, it’s an even playing field when it comes to how we respond to life.  We all have the same chance to live in accordance with how and what you truly believe.  What’s your wish for the World?

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Quote by Courtney A. Walsh

*In yoga, the personal practices toward uncovering one’s true nature, self inquiry (svadhyaya) is a very powerful tool for releasing anything that disturbs the mind, especially feelings of fear, frustration, worry, jealousy, hate, and attachment to name a few.  The practice of self inquiry and self reflection have been very powerful tools in my own life and have played a major role in my own physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual healing.

Fear. Oh how I’ve come to conquer thee.

July 17, 2017:  I jumped on WordPress just now (it’s nap time for the kids) to write a blog and voila I discovered a blog that never went public written one year ago.  Crazy!  So, I guess this is my post.  A little dated but still a good one.  And as always, it’s perfect timing and a perfect reminder.  Now on with the blog from July 17, 2016…

On June 30th our family (my husband, 2.5 yo, 15 month old, and myself) landed in the Kingdom of Bahrain to live here for a few years. We never know exactly how long, it’s a military thing. So you’d think there would have been many times in the months prior to this move where fear would have risen. From the time we got the news to actually moving fear was never one of the emotions I felt or experienced. Yes, a litany of other emotions I experienced but fear was not one of them.

However, when we started looking for a house I noticed with every single hour that passed that I wasn’t being shown the “perfect place” by our real estate agent my liver was getting more and more bound up…Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) term for frustrated or angry. I would find myself going through the mental pep-talks, “Breathe Haunani. Let it go. It’s going to be alright.” But was it?! Would it?!

Luckily my yoga practice has continued to be relatively strong since arriving and when I sat to meditate on these feelings I realized the underlying emotion I was experiencing was not anger or frustration but fear. In my experience, most non-loving feelings boil down to fear. Try it, take a look at your emotions; easier said than done, but it becomes easier with guidance and lots and lots of practice…i.e. yoga.  When I sat with my fear, I realized what I was afraid of was not being able to live near the beautiful seas of Bahrain.  It wasn’t death I was afraid of or being attacked, it was afraid of my own desires not being fulfilled. How silly and selfish is that?  Haha.  I can see how ridiculous this is now, but at the time I was losing my appetite over it and becoming Mrs. Bitch Queen to my kids. Not fair to them…or anyone.

I try not to compare my emotions and suffering. I try to just see them as they are. Judgement arises, of course, but a healthy form that allows me to see the big picture laugh at myself and then find it easier to let go. So that’s what I did.   My kids were napping when I got to sit in this self-reflection and they were still napping so I decided to dig a little deeper.  What, really, is fear? I’ve asked myself this question for years. It’s a goodie. Something I enjoy contemplating.

As I sat there contemplating ‘what is fear?’, I really felt in the core of my being that fear is not trusting God, the Universe, or whatever you call your higher source.  In Pantanjali’s yoga Sutra, the eight path/branches of yoga is a guide toward living liberated from the illusions of the mind, discovering one’s true nature, and ultimately being liberated from our own suffering.  One of the eight branches is called Yama, or personal observances.  Within the Yamas, Ishvara pranidhana or devotion to Ishvara (God), is one of these self practices and observances.  When I was sitting and contemplating ‘what is fear?’ it became clear that one act of devotion is to trust.  To trust myself in acting with discernment and decision making with my husband.  To trust that our decision would not be the “wrong” one.  To trust that our decision would be the “best one given the information we were given.”  I do believe that we are all connected to all things, we are a part of nature, we are divine creatures that walk and talk with will and consciousness, then not trusting God, or the creator, is very scary. Simply not trusting God would mean not trusting all of my being. THAT is scary.

Good thing is, it’s been easier to manage this whole house hunting process in Bahrain now that I have that revealed. God’s got my back. I’m doing my due diligence, acting and choosing with discernment. If it’s meant to be then great but most likely where we end up will be better than anything I could have imagined or dreamed up for my family. This I have experienced time and time again. I limit my reality with my own desires or expectations. If I can trust God, the life I will get to live and experience will be brighter and more amazing than my little brain can hope to control.

So while I may not have totally conquered fear in all its forms, like my title would suggest, it does feel good to know that Bahrain is already turning into another great teacher.  I am not surprised.  I look forward to keeping my fears in check and coming back to “trust God” or “trust the process” as our time in Bahrain unfolds.

 

Asian Medicine Wisdom for Late Summer

Even if you don’t fully experience the dramatic environmental changes of the Seasons, everyone knows them: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. Did you know in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there is a celebrated fifth season?! Well, it’s not celebrated in the sense of holidays, Hallmark cards or other hooplah, but it is acknowledged as its own distinct time of the year and has dramatic impacts on our health if we are not mindful or aware of how it may affect our overall health.

“Late Summer” is known for the final days of summer when the temperatures are typically very hot, humidity increases but there may be a day or two of surprising cooler temperatures, as Autumn approaches. This time of the year is all about building reserves, like our ancestors who were preparing for long cold autumns and winters. Late Summer is ruled by the Chinese Medicine element of Earth. The Earth element symbolizes, and is closely related to the organs of digestion, particularly the Spleen (a not-so-talked-about organ in Western medicine unless you need it removed) and Stomach. Because Earth likes to be warm and dry, the excess heat, or surprising cold, along with humidity (a quality of wetness) has the tendency to challenge our digestion system in Late Summer, especially if your digestion system is already prone to being out of balance, are overweight, or have congestion in the body. Since the tendency int he Summer is to party, be more laid back and enjoy we tend to eat more foods that can challenge our digestion system: frozen drinks, frozen blended drinks and smoothies, overly cheesy or oily dips, more processed and sugary food to accommodate the long road trips, travels, or BBQ’s like chips, hot dogs, soda, ice cream and cakes. If we don’t take time in the Late Summer to get-back-on-track, it is common to see the following ailments, or signs of being imbalanced during Late Summer appear:

weight gain
lethargy
chronic fatigue
cloudiness of the mind
lack of motivation
feeling “burned out”
muscle weakness
flare-ups of chronic pain or injuries
exasperated fibromyalgia
digestion troubles even with no desire to eat or drink
feeling “ungrounded”

There is a famous, and misleading, saying, “You are what you eat.” After years of clinic practice and learning more about the digestive system than most (due to my own challenges with digestion growing up), I truly believe and teach my patients about the importance of “YOU ARE WHAT YOU DIGEST” (not what you eat). This concept was taught to me by the renowned International Ayurveda Physician, Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar, who has just released a new book The Hot Belly Diet. The difference is, you can eat as “perfectly” as possible but without the digestive fire and balance, your body is not necessarily benefitting from the organic, free range, non-gmo, etc. food. If your body is not properly digesting the foods and drinks you consume, your body is not sorting, absorbing and processing what your body really needs. Remember, every-body is unique with individualized needs.  And if the body is not digesting properly, or is out of balance, the mind is not properly digesting experiences and chronic mental and/or emotional stress build as well. Overtime if your digestive system is chronically imbalanced, other organs, tissues, bodily systems and the mind begin to suffer. Our Diegstion System is considered to be the utmost importance when it comes to building immunity, improving overall health, maintaining weight, feeling vital and motivated and having clarity of the mind.

Late Summer is associated with building nourishment at the body, mind and spirit level.  If we enter Autumn with healthy, balanced digestion, strong immune system and clarity of mind, we have the reserves and stores to last through the drying, cold and harsh months (can be harsh mentally and emotionally–think SAD, Seasonal Affect Disorder).  Furthermore, when we are full, we have enough to share with others and won’t be as drained or get as sick, especially in preparation for the busy holiday season.

Preventative medicine begins NOW in Late Summer to build the digestive fire and immunity.  If you enter the Autumn and Winter with low reserves of physical, mental and emotional energy, you are much more likely to experience the reoccurring cold, flu, respiratory conditions and bodily pains of the winter.

Tips for Late Summer:

  • Begin to create your daily routine you’ll carry over into the Autumn with exercise, meditation, yoga, sleep, food, rest.
  • Visit your acupuncturist to get a digestion tune-up.
  • Movement: Take a walk after every meal.  Minimum 1000 steps. Ideally, until you build a light sweat.
  • Exercise: sweat at least 4-5 days/week, if not every day. If you feel more exhausted or lethargic after you exercise, you’re sweating too much, in Chinese Medicine lingo, loosing too much essential qi. Ideally, you want to feel energetic and vital after you exercise.
  • If you practice yoga asana, focus on the Prana Vayu of Samana, twists and wide legged forward folding poses.
  • Meditation: Samana meditation, color yellow, themes: grounding, nourishing, filling the vessel/body, releasing the emotion of “worry,” feeling whole from the inside out.
  • Food:  Eat more warm, cooked, foods and beverages. Add ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin and cardamom to your meals and beverages (even your smoothies!). Avoid icy foods and beverages, cold foods, overly fried foods, high sugar foods and overly processed foods. Overtime, these will quell the digestive fire and throw your digestion out of imbalance.
  • Recommended food choices: soups, stews, casseroles, baked or roasted food.
  • Beverage: Twig Tea, Barley Tea, Oolong Tea, Chai, sip on warm lemon water throughout the day.

Spring Wisdom: Spring into Action

Aloha!

It’s been a long time since I last blogged but for good reason.  I am now a mother!  I have never felt so blessed, more humbled and more inspired in my life.  My intention is to share this joy and inspiration with you via more blogs and exciting offerings in 2014 and beyond.  Stay tuned (hint, hint, sign up for my blogs via email).

With that said, let’s get down to Spring business.

spring quote

Spring is the time for renewing your commitment to yourself, your health and wellness goals, your relationships and cleansing, a.k.a. Spring Cleaning. Why wait? Let the natural flow of the Spring season assist you in this internal process.

Spring is here (at least in Southern California it is) and you can sure tell by the awakening of all the senses when you walk outside.  The sun is up longer.  The baby birds have hatched and are chirping away…at 4am.  The smell of citrus blossoms and other spring annuals fill the air.  The mornings are cool and crisp rejuvenating the whole body with a deep breath.  The afternoon sun kisses the skin in the most sensual way that makes the whole body glisten with new life.  There’s also a lot more eye candy at the farmer’s market.  Noooo, not that type of eye candy (well ok, that too), but more vegetables and fruits to tease the eyes and pocket book.

Even if you’re not in Southern California, or your Spring has not yet arrived, continue reading this blog so you can begin to prepare your body for the most healthful Spring yet.

Cherry BlossomsSpring is the season of renewal and rejuvenation.  After a long winter “hibernation” (check out my blog: Winter Wisdom) or slowing down of the internal and external world, spring is when the seeds of life, love and all relationships begin anew.  Like the new sprouts poking their heads up from the dark earth into the shining bright light, our bodies and minds are in harmony with the same natural process.  Remember, YOU ARE ONE WITH NATURE.  This is the time to allow the inner and outer self to start new, clean out the old winter funk and prepare the body and mind for a fun filled summer.

As a clinician, this is the time when I begin to see more upper respiratory conditions (colds, flus and allergies), chronic congestion, irregular digestion, pain conditions, unexplained weight gain, and other conditions caused by in-activity of body or mind (overweight, depression, lethargy).  These conditions can be understood from from an Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine perspective.

In Ayurveda, Spring is dominated by the qualities of Kapha.  Kapha begins in late winter and continues into Spring bringing with it to the body and mind: dark, heavy, inert, cold, oily, static, soft and cloudy qualities.  This is why I don’t, do not, recommend starting “New Year Resolutions” in January.  There is not natural energy in your environment or internally to keep you inspired and motivated.  January is a time for rest, staying inward and being contemplative.  However, Spring is the perfect time to begin that “New Year” resolution.  If anyone asks, say you’re following the Lunar New Year calendar.

From a Chinese Medicine perspective, spring is dominated by the qualities of Wood, governed by the organs of the Liver and Gallbladder.   The qualities of Wood are to grow, be active, reach out, distribute and move. Subsequently, the Liver and Gallbladder have similar qualities of movement, cleansing, decisiveness and regulation of physical, emotional and mental energy, referred to as “qi”.

We can integrate this Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine wisdom to give us a full perspective of how to stay healthy in Spring.  The natural tendency of the body and mind are to be Kapha in the Spring: slow, heavy and clouded.  Chinese Medicine wisdom tells us how we can balance these Kapha forces by choosing actions and foods that are more Wood in quality: moving, cleansing and rejuvenating.  Since the liver is responsible for governing healthy emotional balance, this is also the perfect time to release any stuffed emotions, resentment, anger or frustration making room for more sunlight (literally and figuratively) to fill in that space.  Kapha likes to settle in the chest, so it’s also very important to exercise the lungs either with more physical exercise, breathing exercises and chest opening stretches.

Morning Heart Opener

The main overall theme of renewal and rejuvenation of spring can be summed up into the common phrase “Spring Cleaning.”  Below is a guideline of ways you can implement Spring Cleaning in your life, inside and out.  Don’t worry about doing all of these.  Choose one or two and start there.  Typically starting with something external to the body (the last bullet) feels so good, you will begin to naturally feel inspired to make more changes more internally.

Ways to Spring Clean:

  • Increase your physical activity or change up your exercise routine to be a bit more challenging (length, duration or activity).  An invigorating walk or mindful movement practice (yoga, tai chi or qi gong) first thing in the morning will break-up the physical and mental kapha tendencies.
  • This is a great time to begin yoga since yoga focuses on strengthening the ligaments and tendons which are governed by the Wood and Liver energies.
  • Meditate daily: focus on releasing stuffed emotions, trauma, resentment, anger, or frustration.  To assist in this process, I recommend visualizing a green or emerald color light to wash through the body or fill any areas of the body that feel stuck.
  • Acupuncture:  Your favorite acupuncturist can help to move and smooth imbalanced Liver qi, helping you feel more balanced and inspired to live the life you know you deserve.
  • Breathe more!  This goes hand-in-hand with increasing your physical activity.  If you increase your exercise routine, or start a new one, you will naturally breathe deeper and for longer.  First thing in the morning, step outside and take 10-20 deep, long, full breaths.  For those of you who practice yoga regularly, practice more invigorating pranayama like kpala bhati, brahma breathing, or fire breath.
  • Sweat.  Try to sweat at least 5-7 days a week.  Even if you can’t sweat through physical exercise or yoga (best recommendations), take a hot bath, visit a sauna or steam room.  You should feel invigorated after a sweat.  If you feel tired or lazy, you’ve sweat too much.  Take a day or two to build up your energy before you do anything strenuous.
  • Drink 1 cup of warm lemon water first thing in the morning.  Warm up 1 cup water and squeeze 1/2 a lemon into the water.  Chug.  Yes, chug.  If there is one internal Spring Cleaning guideline to start with, start here!  Sip on warm lemon water throughout the day for additional cleansing.
  • Eat in Season!  Eat GREEN!  Eat Bitter!  Other tastes to focus on: pungent/spicy (in moderation), astringent like grapefruits and lemons, and pickled items.  If you don’t know what’s in season, go to your local farmer’s market, or just read this blog.  Leafy greens, sprouts, and green veggies (artichokes, asparagus) are abundant right now.  For good reason.  The bitter taste in these foods cuts through damp, phlegm and thick mucus (all forms of kapha build up in the body).  Bitter also helps to cleanse the liver, the blood and digestive tract, allowing the body to feel more energized.
  • Recommended teas and drinks for Spring: Dandelion root tea, burdock root tea, milk thistle, peppermint, gao ju lang/Immortal Tea, Ginger tea, Kombucha.
  • Clean out your environment: closets, computer files, office space, book shelves, collections and storage spaces.  If you’re having a hard time implementing one of the above suggestions for yourself, start with your external environment.  This will usually inspire you to feel better internally as well.

Spring can be a scary time for some people, because spring is yet another time (like Autumn) for change and transformation.  Spring is the gateway to Summer.  Autumn is the gateway to Winter.  Especially after a cozy winter routine of eating hardier foods, enjoying the warmth of staying inside longer and sleeping longer (hopefully), Spring can be a love-hate relationship.  However, as Alan Cohen, states so beautifully, “It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new.  But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful.  There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.”  So I invite you to be courageous, clean inside and out, physically and mentally and allow yourself to be inspired by the renewal of life this spring. In short, be an example for others this Spring. Move your body and mind in the direction you want, not what others want for you.  Release anger, frustration or stored emotions in healthy ways like exercise, mindful movement, meditation and yoga.

Note: Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine are constantly guiding us to find our balance in physical, emotional and mental health.  Balance is an individualized feeling and point of awareness that only you can truly know.  Each season allows us the opportunity to dive into different areas of our life to create a whole complete circle, or flow, of health and wellness.  By following the seasonal patterns of Nature, you can learn infinite wisdom of how to stay in your own flow and balance.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This is a reference work.  It is not meant for diagnosis or treatment and it is not substitute for consultation with a licensed health care professional.  Please visit your primary health care provider before starting new exercise or diet routines.  

Healthy Travel Tips

Traveling, whether for work or play, can be fun aaaaand incredibly taxing on the body and mind.  The key for maintaining optimal health, vibrant energy and regular digestion is to prepare the body for travel before your actual flight or driving day.  I begin eating a Vata balancing diet the week before I travel.  See the attached sheet for food recommendations.  For many, the stress begins before you even have to deal with crowds at the airport or traffic on the highway.  By the time your trip is over your body has tried to keep up with the stressful demands of travel and then it takes another week once you’ve returned to feel like you’re back in your “normal” home routine.  No wander so many people love the idea of travel but find it incredibly taxing on their body and mind.  Follow these few simple tricks to make your your travels less stressful and more fulfilling for body, mind and spirit.

PREPARATION – the more you prepare, the less stress you have the day of travel.

  • Begin eating a Vata balancing diet the week before you travel.
  • Reduce pre-travel stress by planning ahead.  Make a list of all the things you think you need 5 days before your departure date. Go shopping if you need anything. 2-3 days before, lie everything out.  Cut back on the amount of clothes or add where you forgot something (i.e. comfortable clothes for the hotel room or work out clothes).  See Haunani’s healthy travel essentials packing list below.
  • Print the Vata balancing diet and put it with your carry-on bag.
  • Try to get regular exercise, at least 30 min/day prior to leaving.
  • Prepare your techy gadgets for travel: Download any software, movies, books you will want for your trip.
  • If you love practicing yoga, do a google search of yoga studios in your destination.  Print their schedule or save on your desktop/favorites.

THE DAY BEFORE YOU LEAVE – again, it’s about planning and preparing.

  • Pack your bags and/or suitcase (including carry-ons) the day/night before you leave.
  • Double-check your check list as you pack.
  • Your carry-on should include: all the chargers your need, essential oils, chia seeds, book/reader, laptop/paper & pen, healthy quick snack(s) for the travel, scarf.
  • Print 2 copies of your itinerary and your boarding passes.  Place one itinerary in your carry-on, the other in your luggage.
  • Empty out your purse or wallet and only take the ID and Credit cards you’ll use. Nothing like losing your wallet while you’re traveling and coming home to replace ALL the cards, saving cards, ID’s, etc that you didn’t even need while you were traveling.
  • Get Cash (just in case someone doesn’t take a card).  Better safe than sorry.
  • Make yourself a healthy snack to take with you to the airport or car ride including your favorite calming tea, like chamomile, mint, Tazo “Passion,” or Yogi “relax”, or “Smooth move” if you get constipated.
  • Examples:  mixed nuts.  1 apple.  1 orange.  protein powder in a shaker (do not fill with liquid).  slices of swiss cheese and rice crackers.

DURING YOUR TRAVELS (planes, trains and automobiles) – It’s go with the flow time!

Meditating at the airport doesn't have to look like this.  Just sit in a chair, or floor, with the eyes closed hands resting on your lap and begin to watch your breath.

Meditating at the airport doesn’t have to look like this. Just sit in a chair, or floor, with your eyes closed, hands resting on your lap and begin to watch your breath.

  • Go with the flow.  Now you’re in the flow and most of the travel details are out of your control.  Avoid getting overly stressed, emotional or angry.  Perfect time to practice “letting go” and “gratitude.”  Check out my blog Breathe. Connect. Be titled “Gratitude as an Act of Devotion”  to hear how my mom turned her seemingly horrible flight experience into a wonderful trip with free upgrades.
  • Drink WARM or HOT liquids as much as possible.  Drink warm water and tea every so often.
  • Stay warm.  Ever get chilled on the plane?  This coupled with the stress of travel = a cold waiting to happen at your destination sight.  Always travel in layers.
  • If you tend to get constipated when you travel, drink more warm water and tea and AVOID alcohol, caffeine and ice drinks/foods.
  • Take all the seated time to meditate, practice breathing exercises/pranayama and even maybe get some gentle yoga stretches in at the terminal.
  • Take the stairs!  Avoid elevators and escalators if you can.
  • During the flight or long car ride, take about 5-10 minutes, for every 2 hours of sitting to flex and relax different muscles of the body, especially the legs, hips, glutes and abdominals.  Again, another great time to meditate at 35,000 feet…talk about levitating!

AT YOUR DESTINATION – Time to enjoy!

  • Continue eating a Vata Balancing diet as much as possible while you’re traveling.
  • Go with the Flow.  Refer to “During your travels”
  • Exercise 20-30 minutes every day.  A brisk walk around the hotel parking lot will make a huge difference regardless how silly you look.  Better yet, do yoga or a quick calisthenics routine in your room. Use the hotel stairs/emergency stairs to get a quick cardio workout.
  • Wake up 20-30 minutes earlier to get a light stretch and meditation to start your day.
  • Reduce stress by waking up earlier or going to bed so you can wake up early.
  • Attitude of gratitude.  Today, we take traveling, work and family for granted (most of the time).  Recognize how lucky you are to be seeing a new part of the world, meeting new people (even if you don’t get along) and cherish the experience of discovering more about the world you live in.
  • Again, dress in layers and keep your temperature comfortable.  Especially if you’ll be sharing conference rooms with others, the temperature will always fluctuate to meet the needs of a variety of people.  Be prepared to stay warm or remove layers.

So there you have it, my travel tips on how to stay healthy and happy while you travel.  Life is full of unexpected turbulence (yes, pun intended), especially when we travel.  Travel is the best time to practice patience, going with the flow and gratitude.  May your next trip be filled with more smiles than grimaces and healthy digestion!

What’s in Haunani’s bag every trip? 

Haunani’s Healthy Travel Essentials

  • Herbal tea (box or a few teabags in a plastic baggie)
    • Here are some I recommend
      • Any tea box that says “Relax,” “Calm”, “Meditate.”
      • Tazo “Passion”
      • Yogi “Smooth move” if you get constipated
      • Chamomile
  • Calming essential oil.  I typically only travel with one.  I choose the one that smells the best to me at the time: lavendar, “clarity,” “calming,” bergamot, rose, gardenia, sandalwood.
  • Chia seeds – a must have for keeping your digestion regular.  I add 1 Tablespoon of chia seeds to hot water during the flight and I’ll do the same that same night before I go to bed.
  • Scarf/wrap or beanie/ski cap to stay warm on the plane
  • Journal/Paper & Pen or laptop.  At 35,000 feet, I typically get incredibly creative.  Rather than try to keep things in my head for later, I write them down immediately.  I’ve written entire business plans on trips and have come up with many inventions.  Now if I could only find someone to fund those ideas.
  • A good book or reader with books you’ve been wanting to read but didn’t have the time for.  Now you do.

Optional de-stress items:

  • incense (1-2 sticks) – careful if you get a non-smoking room
  • 1 candle – careful if you’re traveling to hot weather, you don’t want your candle to melt on your stuff.
  • yoga mat – there are several travel yoga mats on the market or even yogi toes.  I no longer travel with a mat and choose to just use a hotel towel or find a grassy space where I can find one.  In the end, mat or no mat, I don’t let it stop me from practicing.