Meditation Challenge


This month, I’m participating in Sharon Salzberg’s Real Happiness Meditation Challenge with a commitment to sit in meditation every day in February.  Last year over 23,000 joined following the program outlined in Real Happiness.  Each week, different meditation practices will be offered.  The commitment is small.  Each day takes less than ten minutes of time.  The first week will focus on a concentration practice.

I’m looking forward to the next few weeks and sharing my experiences. If you’ll be doing this challenge, let me know!

Registration is still open if you want to join us.  Have you ever done a meditation challenge before? If you have, I’d love to hear about it!  If you join,  I’d love to hear about that too!

Here is the link    Commit to Sit 




Sankalpa, Setting intentions & New Year’s Resolutions



This is a good time of year to reflect on the past while making plans for the future.  Many of us are making our New Year’s resolutions.

I recently read an article in the New York Times describing how Deepak Chopra spends his Sundays.  Doing what Deepak does sounds like the basis of a good resolution for the New Year to me.  What does Deepak do?  “There is yoga, there is walking, there is meditation. There is mindfulness, there is reflection, there is detachment – and there is also coffee, lots of coffee.”

Making a resolution is one thing but how do you keep it?  Is there a way to have a better chance on keeping our resolutions?

 Sankalpa is a Sanskrit word for setting intention or direction.  Sankalpa is informed by both the heart and the mind and to me seems much deeper than our traditional use of the word “resolution”.  Using Sankalpa – putting both our heart and mind into our resolution will give us a better chance of keeping it.

   Making resolutions are all about change – changing things in our lives that no longer serve us.  We sense that there is something needing to be changed, and make a resolution to change it.  It may be to lose weight, to exercise more, do more mediation or yoga – really anything.   Sankalpa is the informed way of choosing what you will do or change in your resolutions by making sure you really are committed to the change.


Sometimes we just know that change is needed in our lives.  We know if we make the change we will live better and be happier.  We know deep down that we must change but never seem to start on that path.  So if you are making your resolutions to change in 2019, intend to keep them.  Use your heart and mind to set your intentions.

Sometimes we really need to change something.  If we do not, someone or something may cause us to take notice – perhaps not the best way to cause change for ourselves.

A little bit of Zen wisdom:

If we need to change and we do not do it in our own, oftentimes the world steps in and does whatever it must to make the change happen. One way invites grace, the other does not.  Choose the way of graceful change.  Do what needs to be done. (Zen Live by Daniel Levin)

On the other hand, you may be having trouble coming up with a resolution or finding your sankalpa.  If you are struggling and want to make a resolution take again this wisdom from Zen:

It sounds so easy, and maybe it is:  Stop doing the things that bring pain.  Start doing the things that bring happiness.  – Good advice from the ages for our time here.  

Wishing you peace and happiness in the New Year.





Pencil Post 2: Sharpening

Sharpening the Pencil

Now and then, we have to stop writing and use a sharpener. Sharpening makes the pencil suffer a little, but afterwards, it’s much sharper and better for writing. 



Over time, tools become dull.   Honing or sharpening is used to restore tools to their proper working condition.   Honing creates a more suitable edge needed for proper use.  Sharpening brings a point to the pencil allowing us to more clearly express our thoughts.


The same goes for our practice.  A little suffering – those little pains or sensations that come from holding a pose perhaps a bit longer than normal and noticing our muscles complaining, helps us become sharper, and refocuses our practice.  A tough yoga practice brings up sensations.  Those sensations help us go past the limits that our mind sets for us.


Honing or sharpening improves the tool making it much easier to work with.  A sharpened pencil enhances the writing experience.  A little challenge in your yoga practice makes you an improved yogi. Use your practice to hone yourself to a sharper version of yourself!


Doing something else. Finding your true goal

el capitan



Our final in our removing obstacles series!


Let’s face it, sometimes obstacles are just not meant to be conquered.  There are many underlying causes, from physical, to mental, or even emotional reasons.  In rock climbing, I may never be able to climb the 3000 feet of granite rock called El Capitan.  It is beyond my climbing abilities, and, I have to admit, probably always will be in this lifetime.  Does this mean I should give up climbing?  Of course not!  I can climb other rocks and boulders more accessible to me.  I can get just as much enjoyment doing something smaller, less challenging and within my physical limits.  This will be much more satisfying than tempting life and limb on doing something that will most likely cause injury or even death.  After all, it really isn’t about getting to the top; it’s the journey along the way.




Deliberately choosing another goal

In our yoga practice, there may be some poses that will always be beyond us.  Some poses may just be out of reach for our physical bodies to perform.  Physical ailments, conditions, accidents, or even our anatomy can limit what is possible to do.   As a simple example, take hip openers.  These are generally easier for women to do than for men to.  Why? The bone structure in the hips in women allows for a deeper expression and opening.  This is biological.  If you are a man, there are no mental preparations or stretches that will change the fundamental structure of your bones.  There is simply nothing you can do about it.  Does this mean that men cannot do hip openers?  Of course not!  We may however choose to concentrate on different poses – taking a different path in our yoga and expressing  hip openers a little bit differently.


There are also different types of yoga that attract different people in different stages of their lives.  Ashtanga yoga, or hot yoga, is great for some people.  Yin is better for others.  Chair yoga is accessible to yet other folks.  Choosing a different type of yoga practice can make all the difference.  Similarly, going on a month long meditation retreat is good for some, but others can get a great benefit by just doing meditation for a short period of time at home.  There is an immense field of yoga and meditation knowledge and practices out there – well more than any one person can discover and explore in a lifetime.  The secret is finding for yourself the one that works best for you.


Overcoming obstacles in your life sometimes means dropping them completely – having the willingness to  take on a different challenge.  Do not be afraid to try something different.  Change if you find the path you are on is not for you. Choose mindfully.  I can assure you there will be challenging obstacles to overcome on whichever path you take.  Overcoming these new found obstacles on your new journey will yield just as much satisfaction and, looking back, bring you feelings of fulfillment and contentment.


So in this series we looked at different ways of overcoming obstacles —from using our Ganesh-like qualities and pushing on through, to using patience, to finding another way, and in this blog, choosing another direction entirely  and avoiding the obstacle completely.


Are there other  ways?  I’m sure there are.   Let me know.  Send in your comments, and we all will learn together.


Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha

Perceptions: Looking for another way

speak friend


Sometimes, the answer is staring right at us but we just don’t see it. In the Lord of the Rings, Gandalf the wizard is trying to open a gate where the words “Speak, Friend, and Enter” are inscribed above.   He tries many incantations but for all his wizardry powers he just cannot open the gate.   One of his company asks him to explain what the inscription means.  He starts to, and while explaining, he comes across the answer to the puzzle.  It was there in the inscription all along.  The password to opening the gate was the word “friend”.  All he had to do was speak the word “friend” to open the gate.




In my continuing rock climbing example, there also may be another path to reach the top besides just trying to climb straight up.  Perhaps going a little bit to the left or right will help me make progress towards the top.  Perhaps by taking a different tact I can, in time, eventually reach my goal.  Then, being flexible, and going right or left, again and again, I continue to make progress overcoming any obstacles before me.


In your yoga class, try building up from the foundations of the pose, taking in the directions a little at a time, and allowing your body to take the shape of the pose gently. Remember, you don’t have to have perfect form. You may just find you are more fully expressing the pose if you are willing to let your body open in it’s own time.  For example, in forward folding, don’t push your body by forcing your knees straight and fighting to get your hands to the ground.  Try keeping your knees bent a little, perhaps using blocks under your hands, and letting the rest of your body relax into the pose.  Approach your pose a little at a time, allowing the body to adjust and grow into your own expression.

For building your mediation practice, try a little bit of meditation at a time.  Don’t attach to a long sitting practice or start thinking that there is only one way to meditate and you have to break on through or else.  By trying to approach your goals a little at a time, allowing for detours along the way, and slowly building up to your final goal, you can work wonders, and, over time, reach your desires.