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.

Sunday, September 15, 2019


Stacy Mizrahi
Live with Intentions. Did I intend to be in the middle of this river? (Yes!) 

In my writings, I tend to stress many organizational related subjects, such as goal setting, mindfulness and planning. There is a common umbrella topic that all these things have: Intentonality.  I think intentional behavior is perhaps the one thing you should reflect on the most if  your struggling with difficult feelings This has its roots in the nature of habit forming. Habit forming develops in a separate area of the brain than our other cognitive functions, so when I’m sure my autonomous behaviors are driving me to feeling like Nietzschian trope, I immediately reflect on my current state and unpack my mindfulness.

Everything that makes up your ability think and act, the so called “executive thinking” , sits at the front of your skull while the habit forming behaviors behaviors are stored in your so-called lizard brain(its actually the Stratium which sits above it). These brain functions work hand-in-hand, meaning that your executive reasoning takes into account your primal thoughts (pain, pleasure, habits and routines) before making decisions. If you don't exercise critical thought, you might be prone to being in auto pilot. Ever drive out of your house to all of the sudden arrive at your destination without any memory of the trip there? Routines are like that. The reason routines are so pragmatic in sports is because it stops that few milliseconds of executive functioning that might slow down performance. That so called muscle memory is really your lizard brain taking the wheel.

So we can acknowledge that this autonomous behavior can have good and bad outcomes. It's great if you are an athlete training for an event. It's bad if you are trying to break a harmful habit or negative emotions. I've found the best tactic to be that of intentionality. With intentionality, you wrestle your brain's executive control back into the drivers seat. You can't allow habit and cravings to steer the ship. Intentionality has to happen the second you wake up.

When your eyes blink open from the pillow, you should start with something intentional. I start with a positive affirmation that has nothing to do with the addiction.

"I'm going to paint the house and it's gonna rock"

or if you have something going on at work

"I'm going to finish the project this week"

The affirmation is the start of the intentional thinking. It doesn't end at the beginning.

For me, my morning starts with coffee, talking to my daughter before she goes to school, and then planning my day. I sit with two day planners, one day planner has a to-do list where I brainstorm all the things that need to get done. Yoga, meditation, 10-12 work items, paying bills and so on. With the second day planner, I write down the times I will accomplish these tasks.

It seems pretty straight forward, right? I’m always monitoring my actions. I'm not allowing idle time. I'm not allowing the lizard brain to take the wheel. I set boundaries on myself and won’t put triggers in my path to be tripped. This isn’t avoidance, rather it’s making sure my goals are in line with the actions I’m performing. If my goal is getting the grocery shopping done, I shouldn’t be watching Hell’s Kitchen on the living room couch.

If I don't have a good reason for doing something, I won’t do it. And I always vet my reasoning before taking action. Sometimes my habits can sucker me in to poor decision making, especially with all the marketing tossed into our lives. . My advice is to start your days with intentionlality and find ways of keeping intentional behaviors throughout our day. Mantras are a good start, and task management and boundary setting are also good intentional behaviors to help stay on track.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Ego Death and the Hill We Die On.

Stacy Mizrahi Meditation

I was attending a meditation the the other day and heard a great quote from  Eckhart Tolle:

Fear seems to have many causes. Fear of loss, fear of failure, fear of being hurt, and so on, but ultimately all fear is the ego's fear of death, of annihilation. To the ego, death is always just around the corner. In this mind-identified state, fear of death affects every aspect of your life.

 That one hit me pretty hard. I can't tell you how many times I've died on some hill defending some abstract idea that, in retrospect, I wasn't really attached to. Sometimes I do feel passionate about defending ideas, which is something I should be even more introspective about. There is this fear of being wrong, I've being proven wrong. That is my ego screaming for it's self worth to be acknowledged. I've had some time now to work on myself, to watch my mind as it stakes out hills to die on. I've gotten much better at doing the "ego check", to make sure my thoughts aren't really racing to fight because I've conditioned my ego to be am unyielding rock for ships to crash on. That power of habit has been cranking for decades, making sure I assert myself  or risk being irrelevant.

The treatment for such a sickness is evident. I slow down. I shut up. I listen.  I let other people talk. I stop inserting myself into the middle. I let Ego death occur.  I take off the hat of "rebel" and be at peace.

Unfortunately, there is this lingering side effect. I now see ego of others screaming back. I'm aware of their fears pouring from their mouths. It's as if I walked into a funhouse to admire the hideousness of my ego's reflection in different  a thousand warped varieties. Perhaps it isn't so bad, maybe this new found perspective is to serve a reminder of the self I could not see. If I am forced to reflect on the screaming egos around me, perhaps it keeps me ever vigilant to monitor my fears.   In ego death, there is no finality, only transcendence.