Top 5 Tips for Meditation

MEDITATION1Meditating is hard. It can seem like a daunting task and after repeated failure it is easy to just give up. But there is a reason they call it a practice! Just like a yoga practice, every single day is unique and you never know what will surface when you take the time to practice.

The most important things are actually the simplest.

  1. Create a set time in your schedule. At first it is best to do it first thing in the morning when you wake up. You may want to splash some water on your face and brush your teeth to make sure you don’t fall back to sleep!
  2. Designate a set duration. When beginning a practice it can be hard to set aside part of your day to sit still. You may want to start with three minutes on the first day and set an alarm. See how that feels and try adding an additional minute every other day so by the end of the week you are sitting for six minutes.
  3. Find a special space in your home. Make a space that is quiet and clean. No clutter or visual distractions. You can create an altar of things that are special or have significant meaning to you. Make sure you have the proper seating arrangement that you can be comfortable sitting upright.
  4. Designate a focal point. You may want to keep your eyes open and stare at a candle flame. Other people choose to close their eyes and focus on the third eye if they are intellectual or the heart center if they are emotional. Try different methods to see what feels best.
  5. Focus on your breathing. Slowly begin to inhale through the nose taking slow deep breaths in and out. At first you can count your breaths in an effort to keep the mind from wandering.

This is a starting point. What you do with it from here is up to you. There are many benefits to meditation as simple as starting your day by taking a few minutes for yourself to preventing heart disease. If you have time for facebook you have time to meditate! Stop making excuses and start your practice today.

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Ready or not…time flies

18ffe6fb523c860b448b1e7dbcd7ea67One month of 2016 is completely gone, did you make it count?

What have you accomplished?
What changed for you?
Did you establish any new habits?
Did you take steps towards any goals?

Time flies and without assessing things it is much more challenging to make progress. I generally try to use Sunday evenings as a time for reflection on the past week and what I want to accomplish in the upcoming week. I also think it is helpful to assess at the beginning of each month. It can bring a sense of gratitude for what you have accomplished and help you see where you need to improve or take action. After reflecting on the above questions for January, think about these questions for February.

What would you like to accomplish in February?
What positive or healthy habits would you like to establish?
What goals are you working towards?
What do you want to accomplish each week in February to help you realize your goals?

The Morning Ritual

I truly believe that the secret to success lies in the daily routine. Creating a perfect morning routine will start you off on the right foot each day, properly fuel you, and make you feel accomplished for taking the positive steps and healthy habits you committed to. So, how do you create the perfect morning routine? Since I don’t know you personally or your goals I can’t give you a cookie cutter answer but I can give you a few different options and you can create your own.

Initial Wake Up
Unless it is to turn off your alarm, DO NOT touch your phone. You managed to disconnect from email and social media the entire time you were sleeping so an extra thirty minutes without it is okay too! Take a few slow deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Think about two to three things you feel extremely grateful for, think about a goal you are striving towards, think about someone who inspires you – fill your mind and heart with goodness before you even get out of bed.

Hydration
I highly recommend starting your day with a glass of water before anything else. Depending what is going on in your body, you may want to pick a couple of these additions to your routine.
ADD ONS
Warm water with lemon – This is a great way to wake up your digestive system, neutralize the harmful acid in your body that can cause disease, it helps with weight loss, and can also soothe an upset tummy. If you have a hard time eating in the morning this may stimulate your appetite. You could also boost this with some ginger and/or honey for even more benefits.
Apple Cider Vinegar Shot -A shot of this will act as an antibacterial, it lowers blood sugar and blood pressure, and helps with weight loss and skin issues just to name a few benefits.
Apple Ginger Shot – I make this in my juicer with half of an apple and an inch of ginger. An apple a day keeps the doctor away! The ginger acts as an instant anti-inflammatory, pain reliever and helps to boost your immune system. Most diseases are inflammatory related so this can be a very helpful component of the daily routine.
Coffee with Coconut Oil – Also known as bulletproof coffee! This combination boosts your energy, aids in fat loss, and keeps you satiated if you are trying to do intermittent fasting or eat less calories.
Green Tea – This tea has such an immense amount of benefits that even if you don’t start your day with it, you should try to fit it somewhere into your daily routine. It increases fat burning, improves physical performance, lowers your risk of several different cancers, is antibacterial making it great for dental health, and improves your brain function and overall health.

Hygiene
You know what you need to do better than I do! I do recommend taking a shower in the mornings to wash off that lazy energy and start the day refreshed but if you do your workouts in the morning you may want to wait until after.  In that case just wash your face, brush and floss your teeth, and put on some deodorant if you need it.
ADD ONS
Oil Pulling – Take a tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth and swish it around for 15-20 minutes. This is a hard one to do in the morning because it is time consuming and best done on an empty stomach but you can multi-task and do it while you are checking emails, making breakfast, and packing your bag. The benefits vary from whiter teeth and better breath to cavity and gingivitis prevention. It helps with TMJ, sleep problems, sinus issues and skin issues (reports have shown improvement in acne, psoriasis and eczema). It has also been a hangover cure for many people!
Tongue Scraping – This is a must for me! And preferably anyone I am going to kiss! After you brush your teeth a lot of the saliva with all the toxins you just brushed off your teeth linger on your tongue when you are spitting the tooth paste out. Even if you brush your tongue it is still there. A tongue scraper will clean the tongue off and can also tell you ahead of time if you are starting to come down with a cold as there will be a change in mucus on the tongue. It is super simple and takes about five to ten seconds. I highly recommend it. There is a nice article on MindBodyGreen if you would like more details and research.
Dry Brushing – Before you hop in the shower you can use a soft bristled brush, exfoliating gloves or loofah to “brush the skin”. You want all of the strokes to be towards your heart. Your skin is your largest organ and this will help detoxify your body, improve circulation, soften your skin and decrease cellulite. Click here for more information and step-by-step instructions.

Exercise
I understand that some people have a difficult time getting out of bed any sooner than they absolutely have to but a round of tabata training only takes four minutes and is enough to get results. If you could find just one four minute song that really drives you then it will help you squeeze in at least a small workout each day and get those endorphins pumping to wake you up and make you feel great! If you have time for more or go take a morning class then go for it. I love to do my workouts first thing in the morning because life just can’t get in the way and I feel more motivated the rest of the day.  If you aren’t into a high intensity workout like tabata training than do three rounds of sun salutations on each side to get a nice full body stretch. You could also combine the two – a round of tabata training followed by sun salutations would be a perfect start to the day.

Nutrition
The perfect breakfast is as unique as you! Just make sure it is super healthy. The food you put into your body is your fuel for the day and you get to choose whether it is unleaded or premium. I always like making what I call “a bowl of goodness”. I have three different versions of this depending on the season and what I am in the mood for but it always includes fruit, nuts, and super foods like bee pollen, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and flax seed powder. The ways I change it up is by either just leaving it a giant bowl of fruit, adding yogurt to it (I use a vegan coconut milk version), or adding oatmeal with cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, and pouring hot water over the top. Other days I may just make a green juice or a smoothie but my day always begins with fruits and vegetables that my body can quickly digest and get all the nutrients it needs to feel satisfied and happy.

Think about the lovely morning rituals you would like to have and write them down. Make a detailed schedule of what time you would need to wake up and what it entails. Try it out and see what works and what doesn’t. Keep trying different approaches until you find what truly resonates and works for you! Please feel free to share any secrets to your morning routine in the comments.

 

Top 10 Questions to Ask Yourself As We Enter 2016

10492516_514757035322169_813478732558877688_nI am often deep in thought but there is nothing like a new year to really take time to reflect. I think when it comes to resolutions most people don’t reflect enough on the past and are only thinking about the future. Here are the questions I like to ponder and reflect on as the new year begins.

1. What was your happiest moment/event/occasion in 2015? This can be an eye opening question because you have to scroll through the whole year in search of your happiest memory and the answer may surprise you.

2. How can I fill 2016 with more memories like that one? What, when, where, why and who were you with during this happy time? What would your life be like if instead of having one moment like this in a year, your whole year was filled with these happiest memories? How can you replicate that feeling?

3. What challenged you in 2015 and what did you learn from it? I like to think of the hardest, difficult, and most stressful events of the year – well maybe I don’t really like to but it is a necessary evil to see how far you have come.

4. If 2015 was the title of a book or movie what would it be? Summing up your year in just a few words can say a lot! Now what do you want the title of 2016 to be? This will help set your intention for the new year

5. What did I scratch off my bucket list in 2015? Cherish those special memories and things you accomplished. When did you step out of your comfort zone and what was the result? What do you want to scratch off your list in 2016? If you don’t have a list, make one! Just start with 5 things you want to do before you die – you can let it grow from there…

6. If I died today, what would my legacy be? How would I be remembered? Are you living a purposeful life or are you stuck in the daily grind? What changes does this inspire you to make?

7. What are three things you need to do daily to improve your life? The secret to change lies in the daily routine. What are three small changes you could make that would create a significant difference if you did them every day?

8. What do you need to let go of in 2016? Whether it is a habit you want to get rid of or a person you need to forgive (even yourself), think about what you don’t want to bring into 2016 and what steps you need to take to truly let go.

9. How do you want to change your story? History is all about how you spin it. We tell ourselves these little stories about our past that don’t necessarily help us. It’s time to look at your past and ask yourself if that is the history you want to remember or if there is a different way to look at it. A different way to tell the story so that instead of a hurt that has broken you it becomes a strength that helped you grow. Instead of a heart break that makes you guarded it becomes the beautiful memories of what you experienced and open to the possibilities of having that with someone new.

10. What resolutions did you make for 2015 or any year in the past? What happened? Did you achieve them? Be proud and grateful for what you achieved! Look for the ones you didn’t achieve and reflect on what happened. What is your weakness? If you have specific goals you want to achieve in 2015 write your list down, for each item create a timeline, steps you need to take to achieve them, how your life will be different when you achieve them, and what it will be like if you don’t.

Some of these questions take more thought than others but it can really open your eyes and help you take a different look at life. This is the first week of a beautiful new year, make it a memorable one!

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

grateful
I have been suffering from a bit of jet lag so I created a nice little bedtime practice to get me relaxed and focus my mind on the important things.

Inhale, I calm my body.
Exhale, I smile because I am grateful for….

Each exhale you have to create gratitude for something different until you fall asleep. Pretty simple practice but I thought I would share. You could also set your alarm 5 minutes early and start your day this way too.

My Time At The Ashram

I had two purposes for spending the last two months at a yoga ashram. One was to do karma yoga (selfless service) and the second was to use my free time to focus on my business planning, blogs, social media, and all those lovely things. I definitely achieved my number one purpose and helped in the kitchen every day from 4:30am-11:45am. I really enjoyed helping out and the people I got to meet and work with along the way. I enjoyed the friends I was making so much that my free time was spent going to the gym, doing yoga, and hanging out with them on the beach or going on an adventure. No work was done, absolutely zero. So I started the Spiritual GPS blog before I got there thinking that I would be on top of it the whole time I was there with even more spiritual insight and instead lost it completely. I had a hint of guilt but at the same time knew I was doing what was in my best interest and following my own spiritual gps. Now I am at my new contract in Morocco and ready to get back in touch with the online world! I guess my only message here is make sure you listen to your own GPS and forget the “to-do” list. What do you need to feel good about yourself before your head hits the pillow tonight?

No Limits

As I was walking down the beach yesterday I realized that I have found the secret to a happy life. Are you ready?! Just decide what you want and achieve it. Wow! Earth shattering news! Haha.

I have designed my life in such a way that I am happy so often that I can’t remember the last time I had a bad day. The only key I have figured out is that I decided what I want in life and I made it happen, there was no luck or secret formula or special circumstance – it was all purely making a decision. So tonight I was studying “The Sivananda Companion to Yoga” by Swami Vishnu Devananda and came across this verse:

“If you can bring your mind and thoughts under control, there is literally no limit to what you can do – since it is only our own illusions and preconceptions that hold us back and prevent us from fulfilling ourselves.”

He stated my “secret” in a much more profound way! It was just one of those serendipitous moments where life synced up and what I was just thinking a day before appeared in the book I was reading today. This brings us back to a common theme on The Spiritual GPS – what are your limiting beliefs? What are your illusions and preconceptions that are holding you back from the life of your dreams?

The Five Points

I am living at a yoga ashram for the next seven weeks and have found myself less disciplined than ever when it comes to online work that I need to do in the social media world. I have become immersed in my own self development and doing whatever makes me happy instead of focusing on responsibilities. I suppose that is what coming to an ashram is supposed to make you do! Whenever I come here it always makes me feel selfish that I am not giving back to the world. Coming here recharges my battery though, it makes it so I can better serve my clients and students. I think that is because there is an emphasis on living a yogic lifestyle that brings your body back into balance and gets rid of a lot of unnecessary distractions.

In the Sivananda lineage of yoga they teach that there are five points of yoga. Proper breathing, proper nutrition, proper exercise, proper relaxation, positive thinking and meditation are the five components you need to function at your prime.

If you had to create a pie chart with these five elements, what would your chart look like? How do you balance your five points? What do you need to focus on more? Is there anything you should focus on less?

Try it out by drawing a circle and thinking about your lifestyle and the amount of energy/time you spend on each of the five points. If everything was in balance it should take up twenty percent of the pie chart and you can take it from there. If your nutrition is completely balanced then it should take up 20%. If you don’t pay attention to it at all then it would be missing from the chart. Watching TV or listening to music generally doesn’t count as relaxing because your mind is still active. How often do you completely relax without any distraction at all? Even if you don’t make a chart just reflect on how to incorporate these five components into your lifestyle and how it would improve your life.

The Four Paths

69fed90efd832c072bf1cf935dae5105There are four different paths of yoga. Karma yoga, jnana yoga, raja yoga, and bhakti yoga are all different spiritual paths to help attain enlightenment. When the four paths are combined they call it “the yoga of synthesis”. While living at the ashram we do the yoga of synthesis but the main focus for most people is karma yoga.

Karma yoga is great for an active temperament and is purely translated to selfless service. Most people are here as volunteers looking to focus on their spiritual path and become more disciplined. The routine here is scheduled from 6am-10pm every day so it is wonderful for people that are not used to discipline. Having the ashram schedule ensures that you will go to at least one 2-hour yoga class a day with pranayama, asana, and guided relaxation, you will meditate and chant twice a day, attend at least two lectures, and volunteer. I am a true believer that there is magic in your daily routine and this ashram has it perfected in their own way.

Take a look at your daily schedule for the week. How can you integrate a set discipline that will help you accomplish more and get you closer to your own personal goals whether spiritual or otherwise? Schedule in your non-variables first. The time you have to go to work, meetings, and set obligations. Then see how you can schedule your more flexible items like meditating, working out, yoga, reading, etc. Try to find a set routine that helps you find the balance in life. Keep trying new methods until you find what works.