Presence Practice by Stephanie
In times we feel emotionally unbalanced, stressed, lacking focus, energy etc.....having a presence practice helps return us to balance.
As I talk about in Chapter Two of my book Reclaiming JOY, the emotional roller coaster is not sustainable and keeps us stuck. We react and often cause more turmoil.
This simple presence practice, called BRFWA, (we love and use often at the Sanctuary) brings us back to a relaxed state where our emotions are in balance.
From this place of emotional balance or equanimity, we are able to ride the emotional wave without drowning in it / losing ourselves for too long. In equanimity we find our way back to peace and clarity and perhaps even a chuckle. Once clear, we are able to take clear, focused action that keeps us on the path of peace as we move toward our goals. Let's go!
BRFWA Explained (Give yourself at least 5 minutes to experience this).
Breathe: As a wave of emotion comes over you, slow down your breath.
Allow your breath to flow freely in and out.
Relax: As you slow down your breath, your mind and body will begin to relax.
Soften your muscles, let go of mental and physical tension.
Feel: As you relax, you are able to soften into what you are feeling.
Stay open to the sensations and emotions moving through you in this moment.
Watch: While feeling, you watch your experience closely, neither grasping what is pleasant nor pushing away what is painful.
Allow: As you watch, you allow the process to unfold.
You accept yourself and your experience exactly as it is, dropping the need to change it in any way.
BRWFA is the practice of being present.
Being present is what we learn during meditation.
Summer Self Care by Stephanie
“What you do for yourself-any gesture of kindness, any gesture of gentleness, any gesture of honesty and clear seeing toward yourself-will affect how you experience your world.” -Pema Chodron
Nourish Body, Mind & Spirit
Summer is the perfect time to slow down and notice where you need to be "fed", aka, practice self care. Nobody can do this for us. And if we don't do this for ourselves, we risk becoming resentful, contracted, and unhappy! We must feed ourselves in order to feed others.
As I spoke about last week, we are in charge of our own happiness and this includes on going self care. Give yourself permission to do what makes you feel good. You're worth it.
Top 5 Picks to Nourish Body, Mind & Spirit:
Massage - From therapeutic and deep tissue massage to relaxing massage, it's one of the oldest healing modalities. Massage can relax muscles, soothe aches and pains, release energy blockages, rejuvenate body, mind and spirit.
Yoga - Yoga promotes inner and outer health & well-being. In addition to improving physical health: flexibility, strength, balance, pain management, yoga is a powerful tool in personal transformation. Yoga has been shown to decrease stress, helping with anxiety and PTSD, while improving our mood and outlook on life.
Meditation- We get 2 choices: medicate or meditate. From managing stress, anxiety, and PTSD to cultivating a deeper sense of inner peace and well-being, meditation can help.
Energy Healing - Chakra Balancing is an energetic healing technique that works holistically on the body, mind and spirit from the inside out. Major systems of the body are restored with life-force energy to promote body's natural ability to heal. Chakras will be cleared and re-balanced so you feel lighter and empowered.
Reading List - Self-enrichment is one of the keys to growth.
Our top 5:
-Untethered Soul by Michael Singer -- We are all trying to be okay. Guess what? You already are!
-Reclaiming Joy by Stephanie Filardi -- 4 Steps, when applied, to live happy, healthy, free.
-A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle -- Awakening to your life's purpose and then some!
-A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson -- Love is a potent force and the key to peace...in relationships, work, life...
-Women, Food & God by Geneen Roth -- How we eat teaches us volumes about our life. Time to stop the battle with food and deeply listen.
Your Happiness by Stephanie
"The greatest adventure you can have is to live the life of your dreams." - Oprah
Who's in charge of your happiness? You are!
Why do I say this?
Some of you know over the last 6 months I've been part of Eckhart Tolle's School of Awakening with my intention to intensify presence and live my highest purpose. Learning myself in order to teach others.
So, why am I writing about happiness? Well, one of the greatest lessons I've learned over the past 6 months is that life isn't here to make us happy. It's here to make us awaken.
What does that mean?
If happiness is our goal, we will often find ourselves unhappy. As we know, life gives us challenges. One minute all is well...the next minute not so much. And our emotional state takes the hit each time.
When things are going well, we attach. When things aren't going so well, we detach. Hence the practices of non-attachment we speak of in yoga, shamanism, meditation and other spiritual paths to help us stay in balance.
What I have learned, continue to practice, and want to share is that when our focus is on "awakening", meaning-- waking up to who we are, what we want, and why we are here...a funny thing happens.
We actually end up experiencing more more happiness!!!
Why? Because we learn how to live a meaningful life, a life that is aligned with what matters most to us, not someone else or some ideal.
Quite simply, we start to do (meaning we take action!) on the things that make us "happy" on the inside..things that bring us joy, peace, love.
How each of us defines a "meaningful" life varies across time, space, personality, etc. As an example, have you ever known a person who is living their life to the fullest by doing only the things that bring them joy? Maybe these people irritate you? It seems so selfish of them!!! Ahhh... or not. Maybe taking care of our own needs is the greatest act of self love we can experience. Because when we love ourselves, we are able to love others.
So, while we may have moments of happy/unhappy in our life as challenges arise, when we fully commit to awakening, we are clear on our purpose even when the path is uncertain. We gain tools to weather the storms. In the end, we realize it's our choice to be happy and live the life of our dreams...or not.
I support you!
"The stream of thinking has enormous momentum that can easily drag you along with it. Every thought pretends that it matters so much. It wants to draw your attention completely." -Eckhart Tolle
Last week I spoke about how often we get caught in the false belief that shift happens outside of us.
What you are noticing?
This week my writing is intended to help you navigate the shift by practicing presence.
What is presence and why is it important?
Presence is simply being here now. Presence is giving your attention to whatever task you are engaged in at the moment. Meaning, if you are in conversation, you are focusing your attention on that. You are not talking and simultaneously thinking about past/future/your response.
Presence is important because it keeps our energy unified and opens the doorway to inner stillness and ultimately empowered action. Think about it. Aren't you better able to respond when you are paying attention? If someone is speaking to you and your mind is wandering, will you give your best answer? Probably not.
How do you practice presence?
Like anything else you want to improve on, you must practice :)
Anything that helps you be here now, with your attention focused on what you are "doing" is a practice.
Meditation is one of my favorites because it teaches how to discipline the mind. When you are able to discipline your mind, you can shift your attention away from constant thought, especially those that cause more suffering. In meditation you bring awareness back to your breath or another "mantra". Over time, you experience gap between thoughts or periods of no thinking. In this space, you access stillness/hear your inner voice.
Insights and choices arise that were once blocked when caught in endless thought.
So, practice being quiet, being still, and allow more space to emerge in your life.
Meditate, walk in the woods in silence, sit and listen to the birds, give yourself time in between tasks on your to-do list and if your to-do list is never ending, reduce it.
Disconnect from the phone/TV while you eat. Taste your food. Allow space to emerge.
You don't have to go on a silent retreat for 10 days to learn how to be present. You can do it in your daily life with anything your are doing. In fact, it's quite fun being around people and practicing staying present instead of getting lost in thought/emotion of situation. See if you can simply be the witness...
In this video, Stephanie explains metta meditation.
Today, set aside at least 15 minutes to practice metta, or loving-kindness, meditation.
Metta meditation is a practice that combines the serenity of meditation with the good feeling you get from giving. The practice of metta meditation starts with taking some deep breaths to get calm and centered.
Then turn your attention inward while repeating the following mantras: May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease. Now think of someone in your life who you want to send some good intentions to and repeat these mantras: May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease.
Connect to the feelings of goodwill that arise and use them to focus your mantras and meditation.
Mini Meditation Video with Stephanie
Take 5–10 minutes out of your day to practice some deep breathing.
You don’t have to choose any particular meditation practice. You can go for a short uninterrupted walk, sit in a quiet place, or simply focus on a candle flame.
The point of this exercise is to still your mind, release the tension from the day, and focus on the present moment.
This practice, done even for just a few minutes a day, can help slow down your mind, allowing you to better manage your thoughts and decisions.
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Why So Much Fear by Stephanie
I've always been fascinated with fear. Curious about why we have so much fear, seemingly everywhere. Rather than focus on why so much fear, I rather focus on what to do about it. For many of us fear keeps us stuck in a life pattern that makes us unhappy, stressed, confused, tired, etc.
What I have come to understand is that for many of us, fear is the default when we lack clarity about our life. Meaning, when we lack clarify about who we are, what we want, what matters to us, etc, we will often to stay stuck...in fear.
Why even discuss this?
A few reasons.
Like many of you, fear has impacted all areas of my life at one time for another and to differing degrees.
Owning a business whose mission is to provide sanctuary for body, mind and spirit is no small task in a world that consumes fear in all its forms and then projects it onto everyone and everything. What I have learned in our business is that when we are able to provide sanctuary for people...something radically starts to shift.
We begin to see people (ourselves too) awaken to who they really are, which is love, unconditional. It's beautiful. And excruciatingly painful too. Childbirth? Running an ultra marathon? When love is felt fears are faced. Paradox. Yes.
Dealing with fear causes us to experience a whole range of emotions. That's healthy. However, when intense emotions arise, many of us lose our way. We lose our way because we aren't clear on who we are, which is love and why we are here, which is to love.
Fear is at the root of all emotion that isn't love...jealousy, attachment, judgment. When we live in fear, we will suffer.
So, we need to deal with fear, in all its forms, if we wish to raise our children in a loving world.
In my experience, when you get right down to it, we are either operating from fear or from love.
And in order for the Sanctuary to "run" from love, instead of fear it's important, we are clear on our "offerings".
As in business, as in life.
Our personal mission guides our choices, our life. When we lack clarity about anything, the usual default is fear.
Fear of what? You name it. Fear of loss, rejection, the unknown, being who we are, missing out...the list is endless.
Fear as default applies to any area of life (relationship, career, money, spiritual practice, healthy, etc)
What to do?
Below are a few questions that help anchor me in the present so I continue to make choices that align with who I am, which is love.
1. Do I wish to experience inner peace or conflict?
Inner peace, of course!
Note: Some of us still like being in conflict...it provides a distraction of sorts and gives us an excuse not to take responsibility for our life. Ouch, yes. I get it. Some of us are in conflict and don't even know it. All have been true for me. It's part of the human condition at times. It's up to us to be aware and then make the choice again and again as life carries on...
2. What must I be willing to do in order to experience inner peace?
Be open to trying things that support this way of living. There are many things/ tools we can do/ use: books, meditation, a mentor, energy work, prayer, workshops, podcasts... I do all of this and then some :) The point is, I am willing to do what it takes to live a peaceful life. Over time, we may need more or less of these things/ tools based on what we are facing in life. More stressful times = more support. Make sense?
3. Who must I become to experience inner peace?
Become a student of inner peace. Know thyself. Use the tools above.
Today, right now, begin to practice: acceptance, non-judgment, non-attachment, presence, compassion... and the big one - forgiveness. These are only a few and often the ones that are most profound.
Many words, many suggestions. It's really quite simple.
If you focus on choosing inner peace and practicing forgiveness, the rest will follow in time.
True inner peace is unconditional love, joy...presence. When we experience true inner peace, we have clarity to make choices that align with who we are...meaning we make loving choices cause we remember we are love!
Practicing forgiveness frees us from the past (hurts) and future (worry). Forgiveness roots us in the present. Life only happens in the present. You are life. You are love!
The last point I want to share really makes the above "stick" for me by getting me into action, everyday, in small and when needed, larger ways:
"My desire for success in any area of life, must be greater than my fear."
Meaning, my desire to live from love in all areas of my life (this is how I define success) gives me the courage to face the fear and do what is required to continue.
"Transformation is through the body, not away from it. This is why no true master has ever advocating fighting or leaving the body, although their mind-based followers often have." -Eckhart Tolle
Last week I wrote about the difference between knowledge and knowing. I shared my experience with Eckhart Tolle and how the only true way to "know" something, is to experience it.
What are you noticing...knowing?
This week I encourage you to become curious about what and how your physical body is trying to communicate with you.
I often say our physical body is a portal to what is really happening deep within. By deep within I mean beyond the mind and it's thoughts/story/narrative.
For example, ever notice how physical pain causes us to "do" something when it no longer becomes tolerable?
It's the moment when we feel "we have had enough of feeling tired/achy/lonely" (i.e.: suffering) and decide it's time to make a change. Time for transformation!!!
Perhaps we decide to become conscious of our food habits and choose to eat better.
Or, maybe it's time to lace up those sneakers and exercise.
And for some it's time to ease up on the physical body and get a massage or finally try yoga, etc.
And still for others perhaps there's a sense of the inner body that feels "off". Anxious, afraid, alone...endless cycle of emotional up and down.
Why does connecting with the body matter?
From a practical sense, we need it in order to live so why not take care of it the best we can?
On a deeper level, the physical body is a powerful doorway for us to access wisdom and therefore transformation. Can't change what you don't know/want to know :)
And while some wisdom traditions may teach denying the body and/or ignoring the body, in my experience, it is the exact opposite. We must pay attention and learn. Then apply those lessons in the form of action.
How do we access the physical body, in a deeper sense?
Yet one thread runs through all of it and that is the practice of presence...awareness. A.K.A - paying attention.
Some of us pay attention quite naturally and either choose to take action or not. Doing nothing is also a choice :)
Others of us engage in movement practices - yoga/running/walking outside/dance... to help us get in touch/feel the inner body.
And still others rely on meditation, massage, or other forms of energy healing to assist in bring us into deeper awareness.
There's no right or wrong way.
And the "way" may change over time as you change. Nothing is permanent in this world of form. Ha!
As I say during our weekly meditation classes, the only "wrong" way to meditate is simply to not do it all.
And so it is with life and dealing with change. We will either consciously choose to listen to our body or not. Regardless, life / transformation happens anyway. We can embrace it (peaceful path) or fight it (suffering path).
I don't know about you. I rather the peaceful path.
Knowledge and Knowing by Stephanie
The difference between mental concepts/thoughts (knowledge) and experience (knowing)...
Earlier this month I had the incredible experience of embarking on a 6 month advanced training with Eckhart Tolle in California. Eckhart is author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Power of Now (translated into 33 languages) and the highly acclaimed follow-up A New Earth, which are widely regarded as two of the most influential spiritual books of our time.
While I have devoured many of his books and teachings over the years...filling my mind with mental concepts / thoughts to understand what is required to live a life of presence and purpose... this was the first time I was in his physical presence. WOW.
Words are not sufficient to describe the experience.
Life changing. Special. Humbling. Vast. Joyful. Peaceful. To name a few.
Yes, Eckhart re-iterated mental concepts and I gained "knowledge"
We experienced lovely meditation, discussion, reflection, and group work.
However, what impacted me the most, was the experience of simply being in his presence. No amount of knowledge, information, or mental concepts would come close to being in the experience.
In essence, what I experienced with Eckhart and my classmates was a "knowing". I actually felt his teachings, came to "know" them in my being, rather than in my head. The concepts/knowledge morphed into experience/knowing.
This leads me to what I want to share as it relates to you and those of you who are interested in our weekly meditation classes or any other endeavor that helps you awaken to life.
Over the years while teaching meditation there's tendency for people to want to have lots of knowledge and information about what meditation is, how we do it, are we doing it right, etc, etc. Lots of thoughts!
Our brain thirsts for endless knowledge and information in order to commit/believe. Our conditioned mind is so trapped in the doing of life, unless we know meditation is "doing something", we don't even give it a chance. We quit before we even show up for class.
The paradox is-- in meditation, we aren't "doing" anything. To take it a step further, we are actually un-learning and emptying the mind of information and knowledge. And so....
Similar to my experience with Eckhart, I can explain to someone conceptually (i.e. imparting knowledge) what meditation is, the benefits, etc. Basically giving enough information to help the conceptual mind "understand" and perhaps be convinced that it's worthwhile...because the mind values "information" and knowledge over "experience" or knowing. And this is what we must unlearn if we are to awaken.
However, anything I tell you conceptually is very surface level, appealing to the surface "I".
So while knowledge is valuable-- because yes-- the mind wants it and won't quiet down until it gets it...
The only true way to "know" something, is to experience it.
When we know something, we connect with the deeper "I" and have a connection beyond concepts.
Words become insufficient. Are you following me?
If you are thinking about trying something, stop. The mind is addicted to thoughts. Instead, try something. Feel it. Experience it. Get to know it.
Unless you experience meditation, it will be a concept. Unless you taste honey, it will be a concept. Unless you walk the beach in CA, it will be a concept. As in meditation, as in life.
We must unlearn that knowledge is more valuable than knowing.
When we are cut off from knowing, we are cut off from ourselves...and life itself.
Friends, this is what we must unlearn if we are to awaken and feel peace and joy in life.