On Monday I hit DAY 50 of consecutive meditation. 50 days is a lot. My previous longest streak of consecutive days meditating was around 50 days, hit in October 2015 (Insight Timer shows milestones) and it says that my “best” consecutive days – my personal best – is the current 52. I'm quite pleased with this. When I hit 60 it will be 2 months. When I hit 90 it will be three. These are milestones I'm looking forward to.
My new current favourite guided meditation in the Insight Timer app is called, Awaken Your Inner Light and Wisdom, by Melody Litton. It clocks in at just 17:35 but it's powerful. I left the following review after the first time I did it:
A new favorite. This will go in my regular rotation. I feel lighter, taller, more creative, more optimistic, and inspired. Thank you. ❤
My previous new favourites, and still in rotation, are three Kabbalistic meditations by an LA-based teacher. I wrote about the Good Morning Soul meditations in a previous post, and then added Awaken Heart opening Meditation to the rotation. The way I choose a meditation is to ask myself what I need that day and then I go to my go-tos, I search for what I want (e.g. by style and/or time), or I search a list. Before Insight Timer I did this with YouTube but Insight Timer has nearly 4,000 guided meditation. Not all of them are in English – at least 4 other languages are represented, but most are.
The guided meditations that I've been drawn to use intuition and souls. That might not be for you, but one of the cool things about meditation – regardless of whether you're guided or not – is that there's something for everyone, whether you prefer religious or secular, science-based, psychology-based, mindfulness, focusing on breath, or spirits, angels and souls.
If you're looking for good meditation tools, I recommend Insight Timer (free), or the 5-week Master Your Mind program, or the Calm app for mobile or desktop (I sometimes use the desktop interface during the day).
(Clicking won't take you there. This is a screen shot.)
My yoga practice has been consistent too. One month ago yesterday I committed to daily yoga practice. Except for missing one day near the start, I've done every single day. My practice lasts from 10-25 minutes, although now that I'm consistent with it and my body is adjusting, I feel more comfortable starting 40-60 minute videos, which is closer to the amount of time that studio classes last (90 minutes is usual but in the past, 75 minutes was my limit). When I say that my body is “adjusting”, I just mean that I'm used to the consistency and the movement, though it's still challenging. My body is constantly sore, in a good way. Five days ago, I made the following comment on the YouTube page of Brett'sYoga for Core Strength & Flexibility | Abs & Core Workout for Women:
I did this one this morning. It made me angry because my body was having a tough time with it and my wrists were hurting, but my anger isn't necessarily a bad thing. On another day I will love it. Sometimes the workouts that make me angry are my favorite ones because I like the challenge (if I'm complaining it's hard, I'm often loving it simultaneously). Today, I sat out in child's pose a few times, just as I would in a yoga studio. Not being in a studio, I was free to whine and swear out loud. 🙂
It was hard. And the next few were hard. This core strength session reminded me of the gym classes that I used to take that were lead by a former gymnast who had long blonde hair and perky everything, who kind of looked like a Barbie doll, but healthy and in proportion. She instructed like a drill sergeant, which is a style that I respond well to, though I acknowledge that this style is not everyone's preference. She had perfect form – I remember her perfect plank – and her classes were so hard that I'd grunt and complain and she liked when I did. Even when I hated it I liked it. My continued simultaneous love and hate for a challenging workout remind me of those great workouts. My muscles are constantly sore now and I feel grateful for that because it's a sign that I'm working hard for it and getting stronger. I'm grateful for my sore muscles and to myself for working them, and for the person who instructs via YouTube – and all those who help her do it.
I realized something on the weekend: The habits and routines that I've cultivated since the beginning of the year are essential for my self care and several of them are non-negotiable. They're helpful for a variety of reasons, including…
Overall health & wellness, prevention & treatment
Many of these activities are beneficial to physical and mental health.
Many of my habits/routines/activities keep me mentally healthy. Making the bed and reading a hardcover book are at the bottom of that list, but above it is flossing and at the top are meditation and yoga. They're among the tools that keep me from losing my shit, from lying on the floor sobbing. I've got a post about my mental health issues rolling around in my head. In the meantime, I threw together this quick infographic:
Related to mental health, they give me a sense of control. I'm not a control freak, but there's only so much one CAN control. I can't control a lot of what's not working in my life, but I can take 10-20 minutes to do yoga – even if it's in bed – and I can stop and breathe and have a 10 minute meditation. I can take 5 minutes to make the bed. I can take a few minutes to floss my teeth every night when I'm way overdue for a cleaning. I can read a few pages of a book. I can (mostly) control my time.
I have 2 major priorities in my life right now. Self-care is one of them. The two depend on each other.
I also like that I'm achieving these goals and that makes me achieve other goals. It's putting life into sync. It's helping me fulfill my 2017 theme, “Perseverance”. I am persevering. I'm doing it.
I'll put together a post about mental health. I've been thinking about it since a national mental health awareness day on which mental health stories were shared, for one day. I decided that in order to keep the conversation going, wouldn't have one day of discussion because mental health shouldn't come out of the closet for one day only. It should be be taboo for 364 days of the year. It should always be okay to talk about. Right?
I wanted to update you on my meditation journey and also provide you with more tools for your practice.
Insight Timer's 365 Challenge is going great! In an audio recording that Insight's leader posted to the app on Friday, he said that the app was about to hit 1.5 meditators and gave these numbers abut the collective experience:
3 million minutes of meditation in 24 hours, which is
just under 50,00 hours of meditation, which is the equivalent to
5 1/2-6 years of meditation.
Collectively. In one day. Those are great numbers to take to potential Insight Timer app investors. I can envision them in a spreadsheet on a PowerPoint or Prezzi presentation.
My meditation practice
I meditate at least once a day, often twice. It's the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I do before I sleep. At the start of the month I downloaded a habit tracker called Fabulous and this one has actually stuck. Now, my mornings look like this:
Open my eyes
Say a couple of short Hebrew prayers if I remember to (yes, this bacon-eating Jew has restarted this practice – I like the ritual)
Go to the living room and lie or sit down on the couch and meditate for 10-20 minutes.
Drink a glass of water
Walk the dog
Do 20-40 minutes of yoga
Make a cup tea, take my supplements.
Make and eat some breakfast.
I've meditated for 37 consecutive days since December 19.
About my practice & inspiration for yours
-My current favourite guided meditation is called A Kabbalistic “Good Morning Soul” Meditation, lead by Alison Serour, a teacher at the Kabbalah Centre in LA. I'd never done a kabbalistic meditation before, but had participated in some kabbalistic prayers during synagogue-ish services. I wasn't/am not particularly connected to Kabbalah (do you – personally – pronounce it so that the “a”s sound like “up” or like “ka-bawl-uh”? I use the former.).
Insight Timer has two versions of Good Morning Soul: The short one that's nearly 8 minutes, and the long one that's 21 minutes. I like them both. They speak to me. They feel good. Sometimes they inspire me. They make me ask questions of myself and so facilitate some self-learning and personal growth. The longer one includes a prayer in Hebrew, which might or might not work for you. That said, there are meditations for everyone. If you are 100% atheist and don't believe in anything you can't see and anything that science hasn't proven, do breathing meditations. Science has proven those work. Do what works for you. Forge your own path. (That's this website's tagline.)
New meditations daily for 365 Days
-With the 365 challenge, new meditations are being added daily to a specified playlist that participants can use if they choose. I didn't do the first set of guided meditations because it was a series that started at 1 minute and built to 20. Great for some people, but not I. This week I've been following along more, but also doing some other ones too. It really depends on what I need. The mediation added to the playlist today was Alison's “A Kabbalistic Awaken Heart Opening Meditation”, created based on a Hebrew prayer called “Patach Eliyahu“, Prophet Elijah's prayer-meditation from the Zohar. It was nice. A large section of it resonated with me and made me feel empowered. It reminded me of the saying that things happen for you, not to you.
If you want to join the 365 Day Meditation Challenge, download the Insight Timer app from your device's app store and do it.
Meditation for beginners
In another post I'll discuss styles of meditation because there are so many. Some focus on the breath. Others take you on journeys through your imagination. Some have you craft your ideal day or life. Others take you to past lives. Some use mantras. Even if you don't believe in some of those things (past lives, for example), I think they're worth experiencing. There is so much that we as humans don't know and understand and we tend to disbelieve what seems impossible.
No time? No problem
Don't have the patience to meditate? No problem. Meditation increases your ability to keep focused in spite of distractions but you only need to start for a few seconds at a time. You can start with 5 minutes a day. If you add just 1 minute per week, you'll be up to an hour in a year (if you want to be). Just sit down and start. Don't overthink it. Read the following, and follow the instructions:
Stop reading right now. Close your eyes. Breath in for 4 counts, out for 8. Open your eyes.
There, you've meditated.
Tips for beginners
Some people find it challenging to build a daily habit. Maybe it's lack of time, discipline, motivation, etc. Here are some tips to create a strong meditation practice:
Start small. It's better to start really small, so there is absolutely no excuse for you to skip your practice. Again, starting with just 5 minutes a day can hep.
Recommit. At the end of every session, commit to show up for your practice the following day.
Never zero. This means that every day you will practice, even if only 5 minutes. Make it a non-negotiable part of your life. This is how I treat my yoga practice and why I've been able to practice daily.
No expectations. Nothing kills motivation quicker than unmet expectations. Most of the benefits from meditation come only after months or years of daily practice. So letting go of expectations sounds like a smart strategy to me. Go easy on yourself! There's no “failing” in meditation. It's not a test or a competition. “No expectations” also means that you don't need to meditate on a cushion on the floor. In my recent post that announced the 365 Day Challenge I gave the Dr. Seuss version of examples of where you can meditate.
Be prepared. Sometimes you will feel tired, busy, or “not in the mood”. Be mentally prepared to meet those challenges with the “never zero” idea, and do the practice no matter what.
Joyful attitude. Meditation is not a task, but a precious moment to go deep inside yourself. Enjoy the practice, and it will be easy to keep it up.
Master Your Mind
If you're a beginner, I recommend a meditation course called Master Your Mind. It's a 5 week program with lessons and guided meditations that helps build the habit. You're provided with 35 short daily lessons, organized by week – each with its own unique themes, goals and insights. The program is self-paced, and the techniques are presented in a way that both secular and spiritually minded people can connect to. No particular belief or worldview is required for following the lessons.
Full disclosure: I signed up as an affiliate, after I'd read the associated website, Live and Dare and tried some of the lessons. This is NOT why I chose to post today, it simply integrates well.
Develop the habit of meditating daily. You will start with sessions as short as 2 minutes, and increase gradually, up to 15-20 minutes. It's built in a way you cannot fail.
Find the ideal technique for you. Each week you'll be introduced to a new practice, such as mantra meditation, breathing awareness, chakra meditation, etc. By the end of the course you will be well equipped to choose the technique that best suits your needs.
Have an optimal attitude towards meditation, so that you can enjoy the process as well as the result, and keep meditation as a lifetime habit.
Deepen your meditation and enhance your mind.
Integrate mindfulness into your daily life, through reminders, exercises, and daily challenges.
Here's how the course goes:
When you sign up you get lifetime access with 5 weeks of daily lessons (audio and PDF), mediation cheat cheat, private forum, 60 days of email support, and free updates for life. There's a one time fee. It's not a membership site.
Snippets of testimonials:
“The course was easy to follow, and every day I had a small taste of success, step after step. The entire approach matched my understanding of best practices for establishing a habit.”
“…it helped me learn to forgive myself and accept my limitations. I also learned to have some compassion for myself and others.”
“…gave me skills to deal with negative emotions.”
“I found a calmness within me that I didn’t know existed. There is a sense of peace seems to follow me through the day. My anxiety also calmed down. Now I can’t imagine not doing it every morning.”
“With your course I could successfully build the habit, one small step at a time. You were asking “less” from me which made it non-negotiable and doable, while others always asked “more” from me which left me feeling inadequate in my practices.”
In 17 days I've missed just one day of yoga. Sometimes I run out of time but before bed I take 10 minutes to do some stretching and breathing. It counts. It's the “never zero” rule above. I also created a video today to append to last week's post about yoga so watch for that. I didn't end it with “namaste” because I thought that was too cliche, but sometimes I end my own yoga or meditation practices with a silent, “Namaste, motherf****r!”, 'cause I'm quirky like that and sometimes I'm moved to.
Be well and feel free to comment if you've got something to share.
First off, I've gone and done something out of character for me:
I've created… wait for it… a blog content calendar. It's true. After blogging for about 20 years, since before blogging was called that, I've finally done it. I'd been hearing about content calendars for years and even had a related WordPress plugin for awhile that I didn't use. After reading a couple of articles on Problogger, I decided to give it a try. It's a work in progress spreadsheet. Every day has a theme and I might or might not blog daily Monday to Friday.
Yesterday I gave you Promotion Monday, what's coming up in summits, webinars and other events. Today I give you Spirit Tuesday – posts related to yoga and meditation.
On to today's share….
My yoga journey
I'm no beginner to yoga.
I've been practicing yoga on and off for a long time. On and off.
In 2010 on my old blog I had a blog series about the 40 day yoga challenge I was doing at a local hot yoga studio (and other studios). The way I remember it, I'd get up before dawn, wait for a streetcar and go to a 6:30 a.m. class before work. Coincidentally, 6 years ago today I was on day 3, as I discovered when I jumped over to my old blog while writing this post. Before that I regularly attended classes at another hot yoga studio near where lived.
I attend The Toronto Yoga Conference & Show almost every year. I own multiple yoga mats (one specifically for hot yoga), a yoga block, a yoga towel for my hot yoga mat, and a yoga bag.
I haven't had a consistent yoga practice in a few years, though.
Recently, with my commitment to meditate every day for a year, I decided to throw yoga into it. Classes at a local studio (and there are many local studios) aren't in my budget right now so I turned to home practice. Home practice also has the benefit of being time efficient. I do yoga right before or right after I meditate, or I meditate, walk dog, yoga, and I meditate twice a day. In the last 10 days I've only missed one day of yoga.
At first I was doing my own routine, going with the flow, so to speak. Doing what moved me (pun unintended there, too), letting memory and intuition guide me. Then I got curious and went down the rabbit hole of Google, which took me to the website Greatist, where I found Brett Larkin and then went down the rabbit hole of her YouTube channel. I've watched a fraction of her videos. There are so many. (More on that below.)
I was familiar with other prolific yoga teachers – the yoga celebrities – and had some of their DVDs back when I used to use DVD, but Brett is new to me and I think I get what she's doing overall as a yoga business, because I've been watching the online business world for years. I've been on the periphery of it with blogging, content marketing, social media, working with startups and staying connected to the tech world.
Into yoga? Want to start a home practice?…
Why you should check out Brett
There's a lot I like about her. For example:
Yoga in bed.
Yes, she has videos in which she does yoga in bed. Morning yoga, bedtime yoga. In bed.
Yoga for everyone, all levels
I appreciate that a lot of her videos are suited to all levels because I might be a “level 1” in some poses but more advanced in others. I'm familiar with the poses, but my body is pretty tight and inflexible so I need modifications. Some days I feel like the tin man. I've almost been tight and inflexible so I can't blame age, but generally after doing yoga for awhile I see improvement.
She has videos specifically for beginners, that are accessible and welcoming.
Over 30 playlists on YouTube. 22 videos under the “Morning Yoga Classes ” alone. 50 videos under the playlist “15 Minutes or Less (Yoga for Busy People)”. 9 videos under the playlist “Free 20 Minute Yoga Classes”, including a video called, “Yoga for Constipation Relief, Cramps and Fatigue”. Playlist “Yoga for Beginners” includes a video “How to Modify Common Yoga Poses (Yoga Modifications)”. There's a video called How to Do Yoga in the Car, which is great for road trips. In other words, it appears that she has a yoga routine for every conceivable situation.
Ones I've done include yoga/meditation combinations that last under 20 minutes. That's efficient.
18 of 32 playlists
Brett Larkin's Facebook group seems fairly engaged. I've posted/commented a few times already today and the community was helpful.
In September and October she had the Chakra Challenge. Currently she's doing Yoga Sculpt. Her challenges include emails with yoga classes, meditations and podcasts.
I've done about 5 of Brett's videos and enjoy her instruction a lot. I feel challenged when I want to be and I feel safe because the instruction is thorough. She takes time without feeling slow. Her cues make a lot of sense. Her metaphors have metaphors and alternative metaphors. Sometimes instructor metaphors can be a turn off, like the instructor who once told the class, in a breathy voice, to make the pose feel “delicious”, causing me to consider my exit strategy from the small room.
She's got the knowledge, like and trust value. She creates high quality, valuable content. Her knowledge seems to extend beyond yoga into the areas related to yoga.
It's not just yoga instruction either. She answers fundamental questions such as, what to wear under your yoga pants.
A true online entrepreneur, she also has a monthly membership, which is really smart, and the price is low, which is also smart.
At $12.95 paid monthly, or $129 for the year (save 15% and get 2 months free), It's WAY cheaper than visiting a yoga studio and more convenient. You can't even attend a single class at a studio for $13. At least, not in my city.
I'm considering joining despite my moratorium on spending money on American products because of the exchange rate. (Sorry, Americans, but this Canadian is on a budget.)
Monthly membership includes
Member-Only Training Guides & Challenges
Early Access to Content
VIP Discounts on her specialty courses and more.
I've learned a lot about online marketing in the last few years and I can imagine what technology she uses for each part of her business. Her landing pages (Lead Pages), her sales funnels (ConvertKit?) her shopping cart (WooCommerce), etc. She's an amazing content marketer – or has an amazing team that does it.
Another reason she's a great content marketer: I feel that she gives so much away for free that you have to give her money for stuff out of the goodness of your heart. The exchange and knowing how much goes into each video. That's an excellent example of content marketing.
There's a distinct evolution of quality in her videos, from an empty studio with minimal equipment to professionally-looking shoots in her home. I like that. This is how it's done, people. And, being the content marketing nerd I am, I find myself wondering if she batched all her videos – recorded them in a short amount of time – or did it over a longer period.
The other thing that makes it convenient isn't really related to Brett: It's our home theatre set up with the Roku. The living room is my yoga/meditation space in the mornings and his man cave/entertainment room in the evenings. In the recent old days, I'd put a YouTube video on my laptop. When I started this current yoga practice I was watching YouTube videos on my phone in the living room – until this morning when I remembered that Roku has YouTube and now I can watch the YouTube videos on our big-ass projection screen.
My day-after-posting attempt to get a better photo than the one originally posted, possibly to be replaced tomorrow (again).
I'll report back when I've done more.
P.S. This was my breakfast after, because I was craving a green (pink) smoothie with frozen greens and frozen berries and Genuine Health Fermented Greek Yogurt Proteins+.
*To be clear, I am not affiliated with Brett and I'm not being compensated in any way. I found her videos on my own and am telling you about them because one of my missions is to connect people with quality stuff.
Update: I create a YouTube video to go with this post: