The Importance of Intention

"What you think, you become.
What you feel, you attract.
What you imagine, you create."
 
Buddha

"You're going on vacation? That's great!" 

"Yeah, I need a break."

This past summer has held quite a bit of emotional events for me, and I decided that the way to reset myself would be a journey to the Oregon coast. Every time I mentioned it, though, I phrased it: "I need a break."

What I meant was: "I would like a reprieve from ongoing emotional trauma, and to take some time to reset myself in a positive manner that allows me to explore the world and myself."

However, I kept repeating:

"I need a break."

"I need a break."

"I need a break."

So about halfway through my 12 hour drive from Montana to the coast, what happened?

My car broke down.

It was as if the universe was listening to my inadvertent mantra and decided to be literal: "Alright, girl, I hear you already! Here's the dang break you asked for! You meant your wheel bearing, right?"

As I sat in the Motel 6 waiting for the Subaru dealership down the street to open the following morning, I faced the reality of what happens when you put intention out in the world. Without direction and positive intention, how can I expect the universe to send what I desire my way?

Motel yoga.... Mo-ga?

Although I thought the scenery of my "reset" would be when I was facing the ocean, I found it unexpectedly beginning in a tiny motel room in The Dalles, Oregon. After a hot shower, great conversation with some beautiful souls down in the lobby, a full nights sleep cuddling with the hound, a little yoga, and dropping off my car at the dealership, I began to rephrase my intent and redirect my outlook.

"I am ready for a joyous adventure."

"I am ready for a positive change in my life."

As soon as my attitude shifted, so did my situation. The car parts that were missing for the repair suddenly appeared. The man working on my car offered a discount on the repair. The car was ready at the exact time I checked out from the motel. Before I knew it, the dog and I were loaded up and heading westward once again. The following day was spent exploring with the hound on an almost private beach, with the waves lapping against my bare feet as we roamed for miles.

As I strolled along the shore, I was reminded of an important mantra that we all should repeat in times of confusion, upheaval, or stress:

"Most benevolent outcome."

This sends out the message that whatever the possibilities are, the one that will do the highest good will manifest.

After a day of hiking, exploring caves, drawing mandalas in the sand, collecting sand-dollars, and a long yoga practice in a secluded cove, we went back to camp for a good night's sleep (as we had to return to Bozeman the next day).

Although it did not end up being my initial expectation of my trip, embarking on this journey still allowed me to reset and remind myself the power of intent.

... and in case I forget, the bill from Subaru serves as a good reminder as well. Sheesh.

5 Essential Meditation Tips for Beginners


“The whole of meditation practice can be essentialized into these 3 crucial points: Bring your mind home. Release. And relax!”  
Sogyal Rinpoche

When my brain starts getting a little frazzled, I can usually trace it back to not meditating enough (aka I've been a lazy bum that day and pressed snooze instead). Therefore, whenever my friends and loved ones are stressed, my suggestions usually involve a little meditation to recenter themselves.

However, sometimes they express a little hesitation at the idea for a variety of reasons, like they are intimidated, unsure how, or believe that it is solely religious based. To which I say: Don't be silly! Meditation is for everyone, regardless of experience or religion. Studies have shown the positive effect meditation can have on your life, so there is no time like the present to begin!

If you don't know where to start, take a peek at these suggestions:

1 - Carve out a little time. Set aside a specific time everyday to sit and meditate. Whether it is 5 minutes in the morning before work, or 20 minutes after dinner every night, honor it as a time for meditation and nothing else.

2 - Establish a ritual. Light a candle. Create a meditation corner that you can retreat to. Acknowledge the positive change you are bringing to your life, and make it a special moment.

3 - Start out easy. In the same way that you wouldn't run a marathon without any training, you shouldn't begin meditating and sit for two hours. Meditation is mental training, and nobody gets monk-like meditation power overnight. Start off with 5 minutes (or even lower if needed) and work your way up over time.

4 - Focus on your breath. Allow it to come naturally and feel your body relax further with each inhale and exhale.

5 - Experiment. There is no wrong way to meditate, and what works for one person might not for another. There are numerous techniques you can try. Adopt a mantra and use a mala to keep track. (Learn how to use a mala here.) Use an app to take you through a guided meditation (I like Headspace). Go into nature and find a quiet place to listen to the calm rustle of the trees and the hum of the life around you. Listen to a singing bowl CD. Attend a local meditation group. Anything works!

Do you have any meditation techniques or routines that you follow?

Create Your Own Mala


Lately, I have felt a pull towards meditating with a mala. As discussed in my previous post, it can really help you stay focused and keep track of mantra repetition. After looking at a few to purchase, I realized the one I desired didn't exist yet, and it was up to me to create it!

Creating this mala was a great project (and not terribly difficult), so I thought it would be fun to share with you how to make your own!

During its creation, keep a general thought of well-being or your personal mantra in mind. It can help to set your intent while creating your mala, and can become a meditation in and of itself!

What you will need: wood/seed beads and/or gemstone beads, a larger "guru" bead, a strong nylon string, and embroidery floss. If mixing types of beads, try to keep them a similar size as to keep meditation as seamless as possible. In addition, I found a beading needle to be extremely helpful with threading (which can be found at your local craft store).

Begin by counting out 108 beads (not including your guru bead). For my personal mala, I chose to have 94 wooden beads, and 7 rose quartz beads on each side. I incorporated rose quartz into my mala since my mantra focuses opening up my heart chakra, and rose quartz has a soft, compassionate energy that encourages unconditional love, dissolves emotional wounds, and offers inner peace.
 


Now comes the time consuming, yet oddly satisfying, part. Leaving at least 6 inches of extra thread on the end, create a knot so your beads will not slide off. Since I wanted to have mirroring rose quartz on either side of the guru bead, I started with my first 7 rose quartz beads, then went on to add the 94 wooden beads, then the remaining rose quartz beads. If you have the time (and the patience), place a knot after each bead to create a small space between them (which not only helps in meditation, but also keeps beads from going everywhere in case it breaks).


Time to make the tassel! Take your embroidery floss (I used a single packet that had transitioning colors) and separate at least 8 inches from the main group, but do not cut it off (just place it out of the way to the side). Then, tie your extra nylon string coming from the bottom of the guru bead around the floss and knot on the bottom of the bundle to attach it to your mala. Fold over the embroidery floss to hide your knot, and wrap the 'set aside' floss around the top multiple times. Once satisfied, loop your remaining thread through the tassel to create a knot. Cut the end of the tassel to eliminate loops or uneven edges, and you're done!



 Congratulations! You are now the proud owner and creator of a beautiful mala!

Malas: Focus Better During Meditation

My wood and rose quartz mala.

First off, what is a mala?

A mala is a necklace created to aid in meditation. They are typically made from wood, seeds, or gemstones. The number of beads on a mala can vary, but commonly mala necklaces have 108 beads and bracelets contain 27 (which can be used during mediation 4 times to achieve 108). In addition to the main beads, most malas contain a larger "guru" bead and sometimes smaller divider beads (to help you keep track).

When meditating with a mantra, it is important to keep focus. Malas are used as tools to keep count of how many times you have recited your manta, along with serving as a tangible and interactive object to help restless minds and bodies remain fully present during meditation practice.

Mantras are very personal matters, determined on where you are in life, what you need to reaffirm, and/or what you need to learn. Some are popular and freely shared (such as "Om"). Some you can only learn from a teacher or spiritual guide, and should be kept private and use as per instruction (with the accompanying lessons and empowerment). Some may simply flow freely and intuitively to you, and that is the one you should use (until it has served it's purpose). They can take the form of Sanskrit ("Om Tara" speaks to the goddess Tara which encourages compassion, healing, and strength), or English ("I am love").

Regardless of source, all mantras should possess a compassionate message towards yourself and/or others. For example, say you have a strained relationship with one of your coworkers. Although a part of you may wish you did not have to interact with them on such a frequent basis, your mantra cannot be "My coworker will quit.", as tempting as it may seem some times! Taking a compassionate stance on the issue, look within. Maybe it is from a place of jealousy that you butt heads with your coworker. A reaffirming mantra such as "I am enough" can help encourage you to realize your own personal value, and break the cycle of comparing yourself with your coworker.

Once you have discovered your mantra, it is time to settle down and meditate.

Ideally, find a quiet space where you can meditate without being disturbed.  Clear your mind of stray thoughts, and breathe deeply. Feel the grounding pull of the earth, and center yourself. Once you feel connected and grounded, begin your practice. Hold the mala gently and respectively in your left hand, with the beads between your index finger and thumb. Beginning with the first bead after the guru bead, count a bead for each completed recitation of your mantra. When you finish your journey around the whole mala, do not count the guru bead. If you wish to continue, flip the mala around (with as much grace as you can manage) and begin again the other direction.

In future posts, we'll explore potential mantras, other meditation techniques, and even a tutorial on how to construct your own mala!

What are your meditation habits? Do you have a mala to assist in meditation?

Chakra Series: Root

Muladhara (the root chakra) is commonly represented as a red flower with four petals.

Let's kick off this chakra series at the 'root' of it all:  Muladhara, the root chakra.

Firstly, what are the main elements associated with this chakra?

The root chakra is connected to the phrase "I am!" Located at the base of the spine, this chakra is associated with grounding and allows us to connect to the earth's energies. The physical influences of the root chakra include the spine, legs, feet, bones, immune systems, adrenal glands, colon, kidneys, and the coccyx. Emotionally, it is about intuition, confidence, and survival. It is commonly associated with the color red, which offers a healing vibration for emaciation, depression, or lethargy.

So how do you know if your root chakra is unbalanced? Physically, you may experience symptoms such as lower back pain, constipation, fatigue, immune disorders, or foot/leg injuries. Emotionally, you may feel fearful, violent, angry, insecure, disconnected, or unstable.

If you believe your root chakra is unbalanced or blocked, there are a variety of things you can do to help. 

Carrying, wearing, and meditating with crystals such as hematite, red jasper, black onyx, and smokey quartz, can help as they carry positive grounding energy. I have quite a few friends who have found it extremely helpful during stressful times to wear hematite bracelets or rings.

A chakra directly influenced by physical activity, exercise (such as a brisk walk or yoga) can help open up your root chakra. In particular, focus on yoga poses that help to ground, stabilize and connect, such as standing forward bend, mountain pose, or squatting. Throughout your yoga practice, visualize roots growing from the base of your spine, down your legs, and through your feet to the floor, imbedding in the nurturing soil beneath the earth's surface.

You can listen to Tibetan or crystal singing bowls, specifically the note "C", which is known for its grounding qualities. Check to see if someone in your area does singing bowl therapy, or track down a CD and listen with headphones in to get the full effect.

Additionally, warming essential oils, such as nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, myrrh, and patchouli can be helpful used as aromatherapy.

And finally, find a grounding mantra to repeat to yourself during times of stress, meditation, or savasana. If possible, find time to mediate outside and/or in the morning. Try using the mantra "LAM" (a cleansing, clearing mantra to open the root chakra), or find another suitable mantra for yourself such as "I am grounded. I am balanced. I am safe. I am calm. I am strong. I am centered. I am worthy of all things beautiful."

Up next on the chakra series is the sacral chakra, so stay tuned!