Sunday, October 4, 2020

Walking Meditation


Stacy Mizrahi

Walking meditations seem all the rage these days, but I sometimes wonder how many people who claim to do the meditation part are REALLY surrendering to the walk. By surrender, I mean embracing the mindfulness of that one should be focusing on. Walking is easy, keeping your mind to the experience can be a challenge for many. I'm a seasoned hiker and even I find myself slipping into the world of internal monologue and  "holodeck" illusions where my mind is not in the moment. 

I think the trick to walking meditations is to eliminate monotony by constantly checking in with the senses. What am I  seeing? What am I feeling?   Did my dog just eat a frog?  No!? Lets take a deep breath. Mindful movement is not much different than than what one experiences in Yoga or traditional meditation. You can't get "lazy", meaning you can't let the exercise become separate from the workings of the mind. Both work in unison, and it requires effort on the part of the meditator to keep the focus on the present.  All to often we use that walk as a way to get away from ourselves. But the walking meditation is a walk TO our present, to the only time and place where we ever really are. We must use the experience of walking as the focus. By paying close attention to our movements and  inner state, along with all the sounds and sensations of the environment, we become “in the moment.”

Saturday, August 29, 2020

A Summer of Solitude was Anything But!

 This COVID 19 world was suppose to be a great many things. One would expect that a global pandemic would have me locked down in quiet solitude, adopting a bunker mentality while I await the "all clear" from medical professionals. And certainly there were a few aspects of my lifestyle that had damaged my socialization, such as my mediation group,  therapy and congregation to ZOOM.  

But in other areas we've been using social distancing practices to stay in communication with support group members and friends.  One of my groups has been meeting at a local lakefront, which I found to be a great socialization outlet. There is only so much you can do on a ZOOM session, and I think the benefits of having human interaction are immediately evident to all who congregate (in a socially responsible way). We immediately can see body language, observe feelings and provide encouragement - which are areas that get inhibited on ZOOM sessions. 

Thanks in part to my daughters instance on getting a dog, I've been walking it ever day( despite my battle with plantars facscitis). Unlike leisure  walking, I've discovered that dog walking actually invites conversation with neighbors who would have otherwise just allowed me to continue walking. 

The family has also been taking advantage of the summer sun and getting more beach time in at my brother-in-laws place. It's been great for my daughter, who - other than her summer camps, has been relatively hunkered down all summer. It's not an ideal socialization strategy but sometimes you have to take the lemons and make lemonade. 


Monday, March 23, 2020

Corona is a Great Time to Find Some Peace!

Stacy Mizrahi
Yeah, I'm still telling you anyway!
I had a great yoga session this morning - from the comfort of my living room watching a YouTube yogi and shared the experience with my wife and 10 year old daughter.  It was a quick 20 minute session that we all got through. In the time after the session, I reflected on the fact that, in this time of social distancing, that I felt "in-tune", realizing that there are others out there that can tap into an endless supply of endorphins through this simple practice. I may not be able to talk to them, but I can understand that, at some level, those who practice yoga and be a part of this spiritual network.

I remember reading a book by Mark Epstein where he discusses going on isolation meditation retreats where no talking is allowed. Through social  deprivation, the mind opens up to listening - as if the ego gets to go on vacation and the senses fill the void. We may not be going to such extremes, but I feel as if this mass pandemic might be a way of getting comfortable with that unpleasant house guest: our own minds. Rather than running to the distractions to kill the uncomfortable silence, perhaps simply embracing isolation might be the healthiest thing we can all do. For when we close our eyes and listen, we might find that there is something much larger there than the void that our brains keep telling us.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Where Does Your Energy Go?

Stacy Mizrahi
I heard a great line from my yoga instructor and I wanted to pass it along.
What you focus on is where your energy goes. 
 It's so simplistic and yet perhaps the best cognitive tool ever spoken.  In the practice of yoga, we have to be mindful of where we are putting all of our focus. Focus on the wrong thing, and you'll either miss a useful detail about the practice or fall flat on your face. But that lesson isn't just about yoga. It is really about everything we do.  I can't tell you how many times I've felt exhausted coming home from work, not having really exerted myself physically. The exhaustion was all from my mental gymnastics. Having moved my focus intently around a various projects, I felt deflated and tired. The brain can drive the body into exhaustion without lifting a finger!

So at any given moment, check in and see where your thoughts are at. Do your thoughts belong there? Is this focus a good use of your mind? It's this exercise of  mindfulness  that can help right the course. In that split second, the the goal driven executive functions are checking to make sure the monkey brain isn't driving the car into a ditch. Reflect on where your focus is, on where you are exerting your energy. If it isn't in the right  area, it's time to correct the course!

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Get 2020 Going Right with Free Yoga!

Stacy Mizrahi Yoga
I am cheap. While I do frequently pay for many services, getting things for free is always preferred. And given this digital age of abundance, it's worth noting that many quality things can be had for free. I the area of anxiety and stress, a person can simply just jump put to YouTube and get some great Yoga instruction.  So what are you waiting for? Add Yoga to your 2020 resolutions and check out these channels!

Yoga With Adrienne 

Adrienne has been on YouTube for quite some time now, and her content is stellar. If you are a noob, her channel is the best starting point. She doesn't do aggressive postures and spends a lot of time stressing mindfulness during her flow.   Adrienne does frequent 30 day challenges that can ease you into a practice and help build a good foundation.

Sarah Beth Show

Sarah's channel is great in that she really spends time talking about mechanics on many of her flows.  She does voice overs on her videos, which allows her to craft some quality instruction and overlay it on top of movements. Sarah also has recorded some pretty challenging sessions but she also offers alternatives for those needing a lighter approach.

Yoga With Tim

Tim has really kicked my ass on a few of his videos. While he does do some lighter flows, his vids will likely get you sweating. He tends to move at a quicker pace than the aforementioned channels, so I would recommend "graduating" to him after you've gotten your feet wet.

Brett Larkin Yoga

You can tell Brett is a committed teacher because her videos are heavily focused on instruction.  I like this channel for getting my head around the terminology and technique. Great channel for those wanting to take their yoga to a higher level.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Giving Thanks Should Happen Every Day

Stacy Mizrahi  with Family

It's weird to think that one day a year, everyone in the United States gets together with family and "Gives Thanks" for everything they have. I guess the rest of the rest of the 364 days we are just selfish automatons living some hedonistic,forsaken lifestyle.

A while back, someone had coached me to start my morning with a journal entry to think of something I am grateful for.  I would wake up, grad my journal and just think for a moment. I was never at a loss for gratitude, and if I worked too hard at it I would be overwhelmed with the great things in my life. I have great health, family, well-being, the list goes on. The exercise of gratitude is in contrast to the more common pessimism that inhabits our daily lives. The is always something missing, something not good enough, something not up to par or something wrong. I believe a lot of this thought comes from our ever-present marketing culture. The very nature of the sales pitch is to fill a need, and that need has to be established by getting you to admit something is lacking. It's no wonder that every advertisement is trying to make you fit, brighten your yellow teeth, fix your medical problems, get you a new widget to replace your run down widget.  And so we go about our day, thinking about our shortcomings and thinking about a way to fix things.

Gratitude is the ultimate surrender to want. If desire is the path to suffering, what better way to avoid needless self destruction than to simply be grateful when ever possible.
”A person of integrity is grateful & thankful. This gratitude, this thankfulness, is advocated by civil people. It is entirely on the level of people of integrity."- Buddha
And indeed there is much to be grateful for. Simply uttering one thing out loud can change your mood entirely. If you doubt me, stop reading right now and try it. Surely you can think of one thing. Perhaps you can look out your window and see a blue sky, and this natural wonder brings you joy. Or maybe it's your happy dog wagging is tail. Or your child who hugs you when you come home. Say what you are grateful for out loud, and the pleasure of this thought takes hold of you and brings joy and happiness. All the want in your life gives way to the abundance of the now. The mental concoctions of need and want are reduced to  abstract fantasies . This, in short, is mindfulness in action. You choose to forego suffering for the the current, for the rewards sitting in your lap.

Enjoy your Turkey Day, but understand that you don't need to pass the cranberry sauce to find the joy of Thanksgiving - it can be a blessing for you any day if you are willing to practice it! 

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Webs We Weave

Stacy Mizrahi
I bumped into someone the other day whom I hadn't seen in over a year. He came from a pretty troubled past, yet here he was working at his job and had his life together.  This guy knew struggles, much of his life had been a series of struggles that would crush most people. Yet, I stood before him and took in his smile.  I think there is no better gift in human existence, the warmth of an authentic smile that comes from hard life experience. That guy earned his expression, and I doubt few could understand it. When you scratch you way out of true despair, every day onward is a good day.

In this day of digital networks, I often advocate digital minimalism to anyone who will listen. Cast away the social networks and texting (best visualized  chanting  a monk robe). By raising your level of personal interaction with people, you are rewarded in ways that extend beyond notions of friendship of acquaintance. I can't express how important community is in living a healthy life.  Having a support network helps a person grow. But it also makes a person within the network be both a student and a teacher. Helping others exercises our altruistic and keeps our egos in check. We learn from both ourselves and from others.