Brain Dumping: the what, why, & how

Back again to talk about brain dumping. I mentioned this concept last week in my Stuff I Do Now post and there’s a lot more to read about it on the internet but I’ll tell you what it is to me, why I do it, and how I do it.

What?

Brain dumping is getting things that you’re thinking about out of your brain and somewhere else. It’s that simple. Literally anything you’re thinking about – release it somewhere else. It may be jotting something down on a sticky note when you think of it, an hour long journal session where you really clear your head, or anything in between. Maybe you’re physically writing, maybe you’re typing on your phone or computer. Maybe it’s right when you wake up, right before you go to bed, maybe you do it 5 times per day. I find brain dumping most helpful when I’m about to settle in on one task for a while. I have a specific notebook just for brain dumping. Sometimes my thoughts are organized lists of things I need to remember to bring somewhere, sometimes diagrams , sometimes stick figures, just whatever’s there.

Why?

I brain dump so that I can focus on what’s in front of me without being distracted with other thoughts. Are you one to have a thought then agonize until you can do something about it? I am. Writing them down makes me feel like I’m not ignoring or putting things off without consideration. These days, many of us are constantly being pulled in so many directions. We have way too many things to do and think about. Often when I’m working on one thing (or just trying to relax), I feel like I’m being irresponsible by not working on some other thing. Or I’ll feel like I’m going to forget this thing I just remembered! Brain dumping relieves me of this since I know I have that written down and I’ll get to it later.

How?

I usually brain dump at least once a day, sometimes more. When I’m really relaxed, I don’t feel the need to. Here’s what a typical brain dumping session looks like for me: I wake up, I’m a busy human so I cannot help but think of all of the things I have to do that day, stuff I don’t want to forget to bring to wherever I’m going that day, etc. I want to sit in the moment, tune into myself, plug in and reconnect with all that’s around me. I can’t do that if I’m stressed about forgetting all my clear thoughts I woke up with. So I grab a notebook right next to my bed and write everything down. I don’t try to pull new information, I just semi-mindlessly write what’s already there at the front of my brain. It’s an important distinction as thinking too hard about what to write down causes more distracting thoughts to come up, the opposite of the point here. Usually it’s a mini to-do list or just things I don’t want to forget to bring to campus (computer charger, work shirt, snack, etc). Now I’m able to feel clear-minded and fresh for my meditation. When I’m done, I have all of those thoughts down and can handle them when I want to.

Here’s my brain dump from this morning…

Screenshot (6)

Part to-do list, part me reminding myself where all of my clothes are, part me looking for a cold pack, part yoga class planning – just whatever was sitting on the top of my mind!

 

I highly recommend brain dumping to feel relaxed but not lazy!

Stuff I Do Now (& I’m happier)

Hi friends. In this post, I’m sharing habits I have adopted in recent months/years-ish. Life has changed a lot and wow it’s better. I guess I’m growing  up or something.

I spend a lot of time alone.

I used to hate being alone. I would get so bored. If I spent a day without spending time with someone, I would consider that a wasted day.  Now, I appreciate my own company. I do what I want, when I want, where I want, etc.

I wake up early.

I’ve never been one to sleep in late but now I make it a point to be up early. I talked about this in my morning routine post, but I like to be up before I have to be. I like to be able to take my time waking up and enjoying the sweet earliest hours of the day.

I go to bed early.

I go to bed when I am tired. And going to bed isn’t a chore anymore. I used to only go to bed so I wouldn’t be tired the next day. This makes sense – but it’s not enjoyable and it’s taking the time for sleep for granted. Now, going to bed is a wonderful ritual of settling in and resting.

I sleep a lot.

I used to stay up late and get up early, trying to use all of the day that I could. I’d feel lame if I went to bed at 9 and I’d feel guilty if I wasn’t in the gym by 6. Now, I sleep. And damn, I sleep so well. I listen to my body to decide when to go to bed and when to wake up. If I need to sleep in, I do. This might seem obvious to you but it was a radical (& amazing) change for me.

I reflect.

I spend more time reflecting on myself and how I feel. I feel so much more knowledgeable about myself, my needs, my reactions, and my feelings. Goes without saying but that’s SO helpful in life and relationships with others.

I brain dump.

I’m planning to do a whole post on brain dumping but it is essentially writing down all of the things weighing on my brain before I begin meditation/a task/the day/whatever. Then I can go back to those things later and they won’t take away from the now.

I eat more plants and less processed foods.

It’s that simple. There was a time when I loved buying crazy health foods: protein bars, superfood supplements, protein icecream, and other commercialized bullsh** over-processed by automated machines and then wrapped in plastic that will sit in a landfill for as long as I’ll live. I’m over that. I eat more plants in their original form, carefully crafted for me by Mother Earth herself. This has led to me feeling light, energetic, and so delightfully dependent on the earth.

I cook my own food.

Cooking my own food has been a game changer. Not only do I save money, eat healthier, and get to control what I put into my body, I feel more connected to my food. I have so much more gratitude for food and the time I have to prepare it. Cooking my own food is one of the ways I affirm my self worth. I am worth these high quality ingredients. I am worth this time and effort. I am worth this delicious meal, made with love and gratitude especially for me.

I’m less strict.

Just in general. I go with the flow more. I don’t hold myself to tight schedules or rules. Some days I go to the gym at 6. Other days I go to the gym at 10. And some days I don’t go at all. Sometimes I go to the bar, order water, and leave at 10. Other times I go to the bar and get drunk. Some mornings I drink my lemon water, meditate, do my sun salutations and feel great. Other mornings I lay in bed til noon, watch a movie and feel great. I don’t feel bad or guilty when I don’t get everything done. In fact, I don’t even think of it that way anymore – done or not done. I am grateful for the time that I have to do whatever it is I enjoy in that moment.

I spend money on stuff I actually want.

Less leggings, more yoga. Less bikinis, more trips to the Caribbean. Less $8 smoothies, more food. You see my point? Besides spending money differently, I just spend less. I go to less stores, less often & I buy less things. I don’t go out to eat. I buy bags of coffee instead of cups. I don’t buy shoes just because they’re cute or clothes just because they look nice on me. I don’t get my hair highlighted or my nails done. Spending less on stuff that doesn’t matter (to me) makes things that do matter more attainable and that much more special. Like high quality food, memorable experiences, and flights to places worth going.

I don’t throw myself pity parties.

I used to go through the same cycle: making a mistake/something bad happening, being upset with the outcome, feeling sorry for myself, then making it nearly impossible to lift myself out of my bad mood. Now, I don’t see the point of feeling sorry for myself. And I take responsibility for myself. Everyone on this planet has the same choice to make: take what you’re given and make it work or be mad about what you’re given and still have to live with it, just a lower quality of life. I am sad when stuff doesn’t work out the way I want it to. Then I remember my choices and have gratitude instead. Understand what I can and cannot control, take steps as appropriate, then settle in and let the universe keep doing its thing.

I don’t judge and I pay less attention to gossip.

I have found that if I don’t listen and don’t participate, it doesn’t make me feel icky. Who knew it was that easy? Really, I pay less attention to what others do in general. If they’re happy, I’m happy for them. If they’re not, I’m sad for them. I try to mind my own business and not judge what others are doing. And bonus, I’m not as worried about what people think of me. When I gossip less and expose myself to less gossip, I’m more confident and I don’t walk around feeling like a jerk.

I have less opinions in general.

One of the best changes I’ve made in recent years is softening. Softening my hard edges and crazy intense opinions. Obviously, I have them. And I don’t try too hard to hide the opinions I have. But I used to feel like I have to have an opinion on everything, even the stuff that has nothing to do with me or the stuff I know basically nothing about. I was always eager to share my opinion and I was very loud and there was no changing my mind. But after all of the stuff that’s gone down in the last couple years…I realized that if everyone just had less opinions, we could all get along much better. Just let both and all sides be OK.

What’s in my Yoga/Gym Bag

Hello yogis! I’m back after a little blog break of vacationing and starting school. I’m sharing what’s in my yoga/gym bag that I bring with me to teach, to attend a class myself, or to work out at the gym.

  • Yoga Mat. Obviously! I love my Jade mat, it’s crazy durable & the perfect amount of stick. It takes a little time to break in but so worth it!
  • Eye pillow. I use my eye pillow for savasana or a restorative practice. Be on the lookout for a DIY eye pillow tutorial coming soon!
  • Strap. I often carry my yoga strap with me. For info on how I use it, read my post all about yoga props!
  • Resistance Bands. I love these for workouts or stretching.
  • Bluetooth earbuds. Love these for the gym – Bluetooth earbuds will change your life! Highly recommend if you can’t seem to stay in one place at the gym like me.
  • Phone charger. I keep a spare phone charger in my bag so I know my phone is charged for playing music during my yoga class or listening during my workout!
  • Notebook. My notebook contains plans for yoga classes I teach as well as thoughts I want to share with my class. I recommend carrying a notebook to yoga class in case you hear a cue, quote, or thought you’ll want to remember. Plus, you never know when you’ll have an amazing, life-changing savasana epiphany you’ll need to write down!
  • Book(s). I’ll sometimes carry a book or two to find inspiration for yoga classes or sharing a reading with my students. I especially love readings from Dana Faulds and Thich Nacht Hanh.
  • Essential Oils. I take these along with me for aromatherapy in my yoga classes or just for a pick me up! Currently, I teach yoga after a full day at work so some peppermint oil is the perfect re-energizer!
  • Hand-sanitizer. I offer hands on assists & adjustments during my yoga classes so hand-sanitizer is a must to keep everyone healthy! I like the spray hand-sanitizers from Mrs. Meyers (especially the lavender one) because they don’t dry out my skin or leave that awful alcohol smell – so not relaxing.

What’s in your bag?? 🙂

REAL Self Care: because a bubble bath doesn’t cut it

True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from. – Brianna Wiest

Self Care vs. Treat ‘yo Self

Self care is a hot topic these days. Probably because we’re all realizing how sad, sick and tired we are. But we sometimes confuse self care with the concept of “treat yo self”, both important, but one is more valuable and a lot more necessary in my opinion. Self care is about building a life (body, mind, spirit, relationships, careers, etc) that makes you feel happy and fulfilled. Treat yo self is about indulging. Self care is being honest with yourself. Treat yo self is delaying the consequences of your actions. Self care is taking on the responsibility of yourself. Treat yo self is pushing that responsibility away.

This is another area that commercialism may take a hold, convincing us to buy stuff we don’t need in order to take care of ourselves. Face masks, bath bombs, boxes of chocolate, bottles of wine, the list goes on. I’m not saying these things aren’t great, because they definitely are, but at the end of the day, these are not things I need to be happy and fulfilled. These things don’t push me to be a better person. They don’t lead me to feel more connected to myself or my surroundings. They aren’t what I need. And let’s just say, sometimes what I need wouldn’t sell well.

So what does self care actually look like?

First things first, to take care of yourself, you have to be honest with yourself. Take time to reflect on yourself – take inventory, what you have, what you need, what you don’t need, what you want. Truly believe that life can be what you want. Raise self-awareness, recognize when your life is not what you want it to be, and make a change. As you can guess, this is not a glamorous task and it can be painful. It may be tough love, but sometimes this is the most important love we can receive, and we have to give it to ourselves. This might mean a tough conversation with yourself. Maybe changing your diet, being honest with someone else, quitting your job, ending toxic relationships, getting rid of something you have, telling someone how you feel, etc.

There is a balance that must be struck, however. Too much self-tough-love can lead to guilt. Or pushing yourself too hard. It’s not self-care if it’s self-deprecating. This tough love is meant to lift you up, not tear you down. So in order to take care of yourself, you have to be honest as well as compassionate. This is a struggle I’ve experienced. I was always pushing myself to be “better” but I never appreciated how I was in that moment. I didn’t love myself for what I was and I expected myself to be “perfect” all the time. I was missing something huge: the journey! Give yourself time and space to grow – don’t expect your needs to be met overnight.

Self Care Ideas

– Abhyanga (self massage)
– Tell someone you love how you feel about them
– Spend time in nature
– Clean your space
– Detach from technology
– Create new and stimulating relationships
– Start a savings account
– Exercise
– Sleep
– Meditate
– Take a day off
– Soak in epsom salt
– Cook yourself a nourishing meal
– Find a mentor
– Perform a random act of kindness
– Read about a topic new to you
– Pick up a new hobby
– Reconnect with someone you’ve lost touch with
– Make plans that excite you

DIY Weekend Yoga Retreat at Home

Really want to get away from the world and have a spiritual experience? Need a retreat but don’t have the time off or the cash to spare? I feel you. While a trip to the Caribbean eating fresh fruits and doing tons of yoga would be idyllic, you can escape the world and sink into a spiritual place from anywhere! Here are some tips and even a sample schedule for your weekend stay-cation!

  1. Reflect & set intentions before & after. Consider why you’re called to do this retreat. Reflect on what you are looking for and set intentions for yourself before you begin, maybe before you even plan your weekend. Then, after the weekend is through, use a possible newfound sense of clarity to set intentions and reflect on the last few days. Also, before the weekend begins, try your best to let go of expectations of the weekend and prepare to accept any way it unfolds.
  2. Maybe theme your weekend. It may be fun to theme the weekend – based on your intentions. This could be something you feel you need or a topic you want to learn about. Detox, Chakra Healing, Ayurveda, Kundalini, etc. Base your activites, readings, yoga classes, meditations, and meals around this theme and fully immerse yourself.
  3. Clean. Clean the space you’ll be spending time in if it needs it. De-clutter the area. Make sure you have plenty of clean, comfy clothes and fresh sheets – make it a vacation, we want everything fresh & clean!
  4. Go shopping. Make sure you have all that you need in your house/apartment before the weekend begins. It might be a good idea to create a meal plan and menu for yourself. A couple days before, get all the ingredients you need to prepare yourself healthy meals.
  5. Cook your own food. Give yourself scheduled time to thoughtfully prepare each meal you eat on your retreat. There is a special connection that comes with cooking yourself healthy & nourishing meals. Use this weekend retreat to feel a true sense of gratitude for yourself and your preparations.
  6. Find classes & guided meditations in advance. If you’re planning on using guided yoga classes or meditations throughout the weekend, find them in advance so you’re not browsing YouTube or your meditation app throughout your weekend. If you prefer to move intuitively, still make small & vague class plans for yourself in case a lack of inspiration exists at the time.
  7. Disconnect. Do what you can to disconnect – this might mean turning off your phone and unplugging the TV but be careful not to set strict rules for yourself. Just let it feel like a vacation – treat yourself to what you enjoy but look for a small disconnect from your day-to-day life.
  8. Make plans if you want them. Your weekend doesn’t have to be closed off from your social life – if having dinner with a dear friend will add to the experience, do that!! Just have the plans in advance so you’re not trying to make it up as you go and things possibly not working out, etc.
  9. Make a schedule. Organized yoga retreats have a schedule so that the day is broken up and there is no time of the day when you wonder what to do with yourself. It is also helpful when planning activities. Overestimate timing so you can move slowly and thoughtfully through your day. Make a schedule for yourself but don’t hold it as law – move slowly.
  10. Do what you love. Like I said above, there are no rules or restrictions, whatever will add to your experience is what you should do! Bring movies, blare the music and dance, invite loved ones, or make it a silent retreat of introspection, whatever makes you feel at home in yourself.
  11. Embrace doing nothing. Leave yourself some empty time or time gaps to just be. Take things slow and do nothing without feeling shamefully unproductive. See the below schedule, I’ve allotted half an hour to a cup of tea. Nothing else. Just the tea.

Sample Schedule:

cropped_sampleschedule

August Resolutions? Why Wait? + a Meditation for Change

Welcome to August!

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about resolutions. One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to New Years is the fact that everyone decides to make these awesome resolutions to improve their life (which is amazing!) but they think they have to wait for the new year! Don’t wait. When you see a change that you want to make, just make it. It can be that easy for you – see the change, make it.

Also, ever notice that your resolutions are the same…? Mine usually are. This used to stir negative thoughts in my mind, leading me to believe I was failing at my resolutions if I wasn’t getting them “done” in that year. Now, I don’t think of this as not completing that resolution or as a failure – rather a success of knowing exactly what I want to be and taking my time getting there. Change takes time – and sometimes, I live a resolution fully but still want to live it the next year! I’m always striving to grow closer to the person I feel is truly me.

I’m sharing some resolutions I’ve made since the new year and ones I’m making today! Every day, every moment is a great opportunity for a change – don’t wait for the right date or even hour.

– Raise awareness through all senses
– Be present in thoughts, words, & actions
– Listen more & talk less
– Let go of expectations & embrace uncertainty
– Become more comfortable in silence
– Get more fresh air
– Do more to show gratitude to loved ones
– Perform more selfless acts
– Make decisions based on love
– Do more to express: journaling & sharing
– Do something fun every day just because – no purpose

A Meditation for Self-Reflection & Change

I am sharing a kriya meant to prompt self-reflection and hopefully in turn, create space & inspiration for change.

  1. Sit with an upright spine.
  2. Make fists with the hands (excluding the thumb) and bring the two thumbs together to touch at hearts center, palms facing down. Keep the elbows wide.
  3. Close your eyes and bring attention to your breath. Focus on the breath and energy passing through the thumbs.
  4. If you want to include a mantra, try Om Namah Shivaya, this chant helps to expand the innate wisdom we all carry within us. Repeat this mantra 3-5 times before beginning and between each rest period.
  5. Continue for 3 minutes. Rest. Then proceed for 11 minutes. Rest. Then proceed for 22 minutes.
  6. Sit & notice the shift.

What changes do you want to make today??

7 Tips to Make Meditation a Regular Practice

Meditation is something that has shed true light on my life and yoga practice. I am not being dramatic when I say it has completely changed the way I sit, sleep, drink, eat, read, speak, listen, move, breathe, teach, and live. I now view meditation as an essential part of any meaningful yoga practice. But I won’t lie, it can be a pretty hard practice to break in to. There are still times it feels impossible to me, but hey, that’s the practice!

I’m going to share a few beginner meditation tips that helped me kick start my practice, which now feels completely natural (like 85% of the time 😉 ).

  1. Work your way up. Meditation is the 7th limb on the 8 limb path of yoga and while the limbs don’t have to be practiced in order, it took me years of work on the others before I found meditation. Especially helpful in my case were Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses) and Dharana (concentration). A common practice to find a meditative state is the candle meditation or candle gazing. Light a candle, stare into the flame, engage fully on just the flame, eventually the flame becomes all you see and feels a part of you and you a part of it. This will help with concentration as well as sense withdrawal as concentrating on just one thing blurs out the rest.
  2. Sit in a way that WORKS. We all know the beautiful pictures of awesome, strong yogis sitting in meditation with upright spines, perfect lotus legs, usually shiny heads and light colored robes. Oh to be them. But we’re not. Be realistic with your seat. What is actually functional, comfortable, and maintainable? Seats look different in different bodies but the actual seat hardly matters compared to the spine. Shoulders over the hips, shoulders melting away from the ears, ribs lifted, tailbone rooting down, crown of head rising up. The upright spine is a must – so if sitting criss-cross-applesauce on the ground makes it extremely difficult to keep your spine upright, you need a new seat. Try elevating the hips on a bolster, blanket, or cushion. You can even sit in a chair or support your spine with the wall. You can strengthen the spine and work up to the unsupported meditation but start with your tall and beautiful spine, pulling in opposing directions. Don’t let discomfort be your distraction.
  3. Guide yourself away from the guided stuff….touchy topic alert. Guided meditations are great and very popular these days. Which is great. But for myself, I found that after a while, the guided meditations hurt my meditation practice. I was uncomfortable sitting in silence and missed the leader. When I started to shy away from the guided meditations, got comfortable with the quiet and trusted myself, I found things the guided meditation couldn’t show me. Just a thought. I still treat myself to guided meditations – especially at night
  4. Try Mantra & Mala. When I began walking away from guided meditation, I still felt a little lost when thinking about just sitting in silence. I used mantra and a Mala to meditate, a really special practice! A mantra is a word or phrase – it can be anything you want, traditional or completely your own! A good practice that incorporates breath is using inhales and exhales to repeat your mantra. Example for the mantra So Hum (loosely translates to I am): As you inhale, think/say So. As you exhale, think/say Hum. You can also use a Mala with your mantra. A Mala is a necklace with 108 beads. You work your way around the Mala, breathing or repeating the mantra to yourself or out loud. Here’s a link to read more and see how to use your Mala.
  5. Take your time increasing the time. So you read somewhere you’re supposed to meditate 20 minutes…you try…you fail…you decide you cannot meditate. It’s ok! Yes, longer meditations are nice and they feel more beneficial to me. That’s just something to look forward to. But on my journey, it took a lot of time to extend my meditative state. I began with 5 minute increments. In my experience it started to get easier slowly. 5 minutes here, 7 minutes here, 15 minutes here, back down to 10 minutes here, and so on. Don’t let time be a major constraint or goal in your practice but do increase the time as you go. If you use a timer, set it one or two minutes longer than you have in the past and see what happens.
  6. Let go of guilt. If you are like me, you can be a little hard on yourself sometimes. I am very self-disciplined…which is me romanticizing my perfectionist habits. When I first decided I wanted to meditate every day, I would be devastated if I missed a day. Big mistake. Do not be hard on yourself if the time gets away from you or if the situation changed. Meditation is not a chore. You’re not ‘cheating’ yourself or anyone else by missing a session. It’s about being in the moment – not worrying! Be adaptable and let the time come and go. Otherwise, you might miss the whole point!
  7. Make it your own. No description needed for this one – meditation looks different for every human being. Do what feels right and leave the rest.

Enjoy your meditation journey – take it one step at a time! Namaste!