Category Archives: Yoga

Balance Point

by Tricia Hurley, M. Ed., Co-Founder and Reiki Master Teacher at Cup of Life Healing Center

No matter who you are or where you are in life, everyone experiences a natural cycle of ups and downs. We have found that having a set of “go-to” tools helps us navigate day-to-day life and makes an incredible difference in helping us maintain or return to a place of homeostasis, a place of centered balance. Regular acupuncture and/or Reiki are certainly effective tools in supporting this balance, as well as overall health and well-being. Outside of these treatments, there is much each one of us can do on a daily basis to promote and support a greater sense of balance in our daily lives.

One of our most relied upon tools in our personal practice is to work with the breath. Many people think of the breath as an “involuntary by-product” of being alive; you don’t really think about breathing, it just sort of happens. However, one incredibly powerful way to invite a sense of balance into your life is to consciously work with the breath, as there is an innate body, mind, spirit connection, especially when we practice conscious breathing.

Have you ever noticed a tendency to hold your breath during times of worry or stress? When you finally let go of something that is difficult, do you find you can “breathe easier”? Consider these parallels between breath and thoughts:

  • We cannot see either, but we know them by their effect on our feelings of well-being.
  • Rapid, uncontrolled breathing and thoughts both usually reflect physical or mental stress.
  • Slow, deliberate breathing reflects a state of calm, concentration, or steady thought.

Yogis have known this connection for thousands of years and we can use this ancient wisdom to help us navigate our modern world. One of the most well-known yogic breaths is the Ujjayi breath (pronounced oo-jai) and is commonly translated as “victorious breath.” The ujjayi breath is both calming and energizing and can bring a profound sense of peace. Its practice invites a full awareness and control of the breath.

To practice the ujjayi breath, a light constriction is made at the back of the throat, which controls and slows inhalation and exhalation. This creates an “ocean-like” quality to the sound of the breath that is soothing, peaceful and rhythmic. Ujjayi breath is most commonly practiced with equal length inhalations and exhalations.

Try this:

  1. Once an hour, pause what you are doing.
  2. Set a timer for 1 minute.
  3. Close your eyes and practice the ujjayi breath.
  4. Breath in peace; Breath out worries, tensions, etc.
  5. When the timer beeps, gently open your eyes and return to your day.

The beauty of this practice: You’ll still have the other 59 minutes in your hour to get the other so called “important” things in life done. Perhaps, with addition of this practice you’ll accomplish them with a just a little more ease and grace throughout the day!

Being Present, Find Your Joy and Your Own “Avery Time”

It is so very easy to get caught up in our day to day lives, to become focused on the dramas and on what’s not working or on what you want to be but it isn’t here yet or perhaps obsessing over what’s not right about current circumstances and wanting things fixed before the lessons have had time to present themselves and run their course

In my own personal impatience, I am clearly reminded to go back to my spiritual and yogic roots, back to the foundations of yoga philosophy, to go back to the 5000 year old wisdom that guided me to make incredible transformations in my life.  By simply studying and doing our best to apply the teachings of these ancient philosophies to current day situations can make all the difference in our daily lives!  We all have the innate ability to transform our lives, we just have to make a conscious choice to show up differently than yesterday.

Today, as I move through impatience and fear, I am reminded of one of my favorite niyamas (yogic ways of living) from the Yoga Sutras, santosha.  Santosha, simply put, is to have contentment and to find equanimity in all things.

What takes us out of contentment is our own fears, our worries and projections on the past and on the future. Anything that takes us out of the present moment and identifies us with the daily dramas and issues of our lives takes us out of the state of our Divine being and we lose contact with the “I AM”, the Divine presence within each one of us.

Santosha reminds us to be patient and to TRUST.  It reminds me of a quote from Wayne Dyer. “The right circumstances and the right people are already here and will show up on time.”  That’s right, santosha asks us to TRUST that all is well and that we are exactly where we need to be at any given moment in time.

As I look at my own life I draw inspiration to live this not only from the teachings for the great Yogic texts and spiritual masters, but I also look right in my own household, to my beautiful 7-year old daughter, Avery.  She arrived on this earth in large part to wake me up to the spiritual path and she teaches us every single day.

One of her “gifts” that she brings is what we have coined in our house as “Avery Time”.  This involves Avery taking her own sweet time in completing just about everything – yes, it really can take 2 hours to get dressed or complete a simple page of math problems!  Perhaps in those moments a fabulous book or the tea party she’s having with her American Girl dolls has much greater priority to her than our own agenda of getting out of the house on time so we adults can hurry up and get our day started.  Sometimes it’s so easy to get frustrated with this, especially when I have “somewhere important” to be soon.

But what we lose when forget to give ourselves our own “Avery Time” is the simple the joy of the present moment, being fully engaged in whatever you are doing without a care in the world for anyone else’s agenda or schedules being imposed on the joy of the NOW.

Santosha, contentment asks us to be in JOY, NOW.  While easier said than done, why not make it a daily practice to slow down and be in gratitude for whatever IS?

So, slowdown, trust… everything is gonna be all right. That’s it, just trust that all is in Divine order! Simple and easy, right? Maybe not but a great reminder for us all to let go and offer everything up for the highest and greatest good.

Authentic Empowerment

I often find myself sharing in yoga class a theme or deeper understanding of the energy body. In the past week few weeks, we explored the both the Throat and Brow chakras. The throat chakra represents truth as well clear, authentic communication within and without. The brow chakra is also known as the 3rd eye center, the point between the eyebrows where we are often instructed to gaze in meditation. This energy center is the one that brings forward wisdom, discernment and intuitive insight.

Inevitably, each time I prepare for sharing, something directly related appears in my life to deepen my understanding in a way that can only happen when one has applied a concept to practical experience.

In recent weeks I was faced with a personal challenge – I had been biting my tongue for quite some time with a friend. I needed to speak up about something that was bothering me and had been for a long time. Yet, I kept avoiding speaking up because I was afraid either they wouldn’t understand or, even worse, they may not fully hear me or, perhaps, they may even try to turn it around to somehow “make it my fault”.

As with any event in our lives, I am reminded again and again, there is always a deeper meaning, a deeper truth to what is happening. What shows is self on the surface is a reflection of healing that must come from within.

So, the question becomes for each of us as we face daily challenges: “How do I handle this challenge, this experience, consciously?”

One of my favorite authors, Caroline Myss, says in her book, Anatomy of the Spirit: “The goal of becoming a conscious person is not to outwit death, nor even to become immune to disease. The goal is to be able to handle any and all changes in our lives – and in our bodies- without fear, looking only to absorb the message of truth contained in the change.”

She also suggests: “Learn to recognize when you are being influenced by a fear pattern. Immediately detach from that fear by observing its influence on your mind and emotions; then make choices that weaken the influence of those fears.”

As I found within myself the courage to make my voice heard, I allowed it to come from a place of love and compassion, yet, at the same time, not holding back out of “fear of hurting the other person’s feelings.” There is a difference between finding a way to be in your truth in kindness and simply saying nothing at all out of concern or protection of the other(s) involved.

Ultimately we each must find a way to be kind and true and also realize that is also not our responsibility (nor are we truly capable of) to ensure that the other part perceives the information in a way that they will choose to change or correct the problem.

The truth is, we are not responsible for how we “make” others feel. We are the only ones who can assign meaning to our interactions with others. We always have a choice in how we perceive and react to life’s situations.

That does not mean being intentionally mean, but it does mean not holding back in ways that our own needs or feelings are ignored or pushed down or unacknowledged for the sole sake of protecting the other person or out of fear for what reaction speaking the truth might bring forth.

When we hold our voice, we also give away our power. When we shy away from situations or avoid confrontation out of fear, we give away our power. The way to reclaim it is not simply by turning the tables and overpowering them right back.

Instead, the empowerment comes from a place within, a place that lets go of all the times in the past that similar, yet, different scenario has played out in our lives and embracing the lesson that is being presented in the very moment. Empowerment comes from allowing your authentic self to shine through, without fear and without attachment to the outcome of the issue at hand.

The healing comes when we begin to realize the deeper meaning, and deeper lesson for whatever circumstances are in front of us. This empowerment begins with a noticing, a noticing of what patterns are present in our choices and a discernment of whether or not we are acting out of fear or out of trust in a higher source. The healing comes when, little by little, we catch ourselves in our negative patterns and habits, pause and begin to make a different choice.

Ultimately as we step forward into our own empowerment, facing whatever may be in front of us, we are called to do so from a place of trusting our intuition and acting upon it. Also, as we move into that place of empowerment, we must detach from what our idea of what the outcome should be and begin to trust, fully and completely that if we are acting from a motivation of the highest and greatest good, that the outcome will present itself in its own timing.

Spring Cleaning – A Spiritual Lesson

Spring is nearly upon us, new life, new growth, budding trees and plants, everything fresh and new!  Spring for many also may herald a time of spring cleaning, cleaning out of closets, attics and garages.  Doing seemly simple household tasks such as preparing for a garage sale or giving away items to charity can give us interesting spiritual insight into our own willingness to let go, to stop holding on to things that are no longer needed or no longer serve us.

The first lines of the Reiki Ideals ask us to let go of anger and worries and to count our many blessings.  In parallel, the yogic concept of Aparigraha (non-hoarding) beckons us to let go as well, to not grasp or hold onto things so tightly and to trust in the abundance of the Universe.  At least for me, there’s nothing like spring cleaning that makes me realize how much I still have to learn in applying these concepts.

Our family recently had a garage sale and, boy oh boy did we have lots of stuff to sell!  In the preparation and even in the selling process, I began to realize how emotionally attached I was feeling to things that we no longer needed or used.

Much of what we sold was outgrown child’s items and toys that have accumulated as our daughter has grown.  Really, my 7 year-old will never again wear 6-9 month clothing or newborn booties!  Yet somehow, releasing even the obvious at first pulled heavily on my heart.

Ultimately, I was able to pause and see the beautiful opportunity to once again apply spiritual practice to a common everyday situation, to even send love and Reiki blessings with each item we sold, but at first, the answer was not so obvious.

And how does a simple exercise like giving away our physical stuff translate to personal and spiritual growth?  Well what about our willingness to release our emotional “stuff”, our habits, patterns and tendencies that no longer serve us, the ones that keep us from seeing our beauty, our inner light, our Divine self?  Are you willing to let those go?  Or in some way how much are you still clinging to the obvious?  Can you find your own mental pause button?  Can you catch yourself in your own pattern and turn it around by applying these principles?  What will you let go of today?

Getting to the Root Cause, Finding Inner Truth

Some days are wonderful.  In those days, life is good and we don’t have a care in the world.  We never really wonder when those days are going to end.  We just enjoy them in the moment.

Some days are quite the opposite.  Some days it feels like everything is going wrong or circumstances arise that trigger our “less pleasant” emotions such as worry, fear, anxiety, depression and so on.  It is often in these times we not only wonder when the intense emotions will end, but in those moments, it also can feel as if it’s “always going to be this way.”

I recently had series of those “darker days.”  And even though my mind had all the logical answers and even though I knew what I “ought to do”, it seemed every attempt that I made to force these uncomfortable feelings away had no effect.

I ought to:

  • Turn this around to what gifts and lessons this situation brings
  • Just stop worrying and be happy
  • Trust in the Divine order of things and know these situations have a greater purpose, a lesson
  • Take these circumstances as a clear message from God as to the direction I need to be taking (sometimes closed doors point the way to the right path)
  • Just think positive thoughts and continuously repeat them to myself
  • Pray and ask for help
  • Meditate
  • Do something outside to get my mind off things

I analyzed to death the patterns I was finding myself in.  I had pinpointed every little piece of the patterns I was falling into where I may have learned them along the way in my life. Yet even this awareness did not make a shift.  I meditated, I prayed, I asked God and Guru to help me to apply all the things I knew I ought to do to alleviate these feelings.  NOTHING.   And then it came, as a “last resort” I picked up a pen and my journal and just began to complain.  Complain about everything that was wrong, complain that I knew what I should do but just couldn’t seem to get it, complain that “nothing was working”  I asked for help dissolving worry, fear, anxiety and depression yet none my “pleas to God” seemed to be answered.

And then, out of the middle of seemingly nowhere, the answer came:

“All of these things you are asking for, I cannot take them away without them easily returning as you are asking me to simply alleviate your symptoms.  No matter how many times the symptoms subside, they will always come back if you do not address the root cause.”

Right then and there,  I asked, I prayed – “Please help me heal the root cause of all of these ‘issues’.”  In that moment, a wave of peace washed over me.  My “symptoms” almost instantly vanished and I knew I had tapped into something extremely  important.

You see there was and is nothing wrong with the circumstances that had presented themselves (the so called cause of my worries).  There was nothing wrong with the reaction I was having.  What the ultimate “solution” pointed me to was this deeper understanding of how we resist life’s lessons and how easily we can get caught up in our own pain.

Yet the root cause of all of it seems to be something bigger than “my mom did/didn’t do ‘X’”;  “I had a difficult life”; Name any thing that you think is the source of your misery and I guarantee that it is not even close to the root cause.  In my experience, once I get past identification with the so called difficult circumstances of the past (things outside of myself) I realize that the root cause is this notion that we are somehow separate from Source that something “out there” is doing these things to us.

Perhaps in truth, it doesn’t even matter what the root cause is.  Following this, we begin to realize that it is definitely not any of the symptoms that we experience on a day to day basis.  Whether you know the root cause or not, addressing healing, addressing issues at their source, alleviating the strain where the it starts is a sure way to help the symptoms subside as well.

It is like the story of the woman whose “check engine” light kept turning on in her car.  She had been to the mechanic multiple times for this very same issue.  Each time it would appear they had found the issue, her car would be returned and a few weeks later, the light would come on again.  Getting quite tired of the woman’s complaints and quite tired of working on this car, on her last an final visit to the shop,  the mechanic simply took the light bulb to the check engine light out and returned the car to this woman.  She was happy – the light no longer came on, but was the problem really fixed?

Time and time again, we do this in our lives – solely relying on cessation of the symptoms, treating of the symptoms as starting points and the focus of our healing, missing completely the underlying disconnection with Source with our Divine perfected Self, with our true nature.

This new found awareness, of asking for healing at the root of the issue, has brought incredible amounts of peace and equanimity into my days.  It is from this mindset that I now give and receive Reiki healing sessions. It is from this mindset that I approach all so called challenges throughout my day.  It is from this perspective that I offer all of myself to the highest and greatest good each and every day.  It is from this space that I approach my meditation practice each morning – knowing and trusting that my practice is bringing me closer and closer to my true roots – my divine Self, one who is in yoga, union, yoked with the Christ consciousness within – something that is accessible to all of us if we choose it.

Reiki Supporting Life Transformations and Sponsoring Susan G. Komen for the Cure Walker

Today has been one of those stand-out fantastic days.  Morning meditation, followed by teaching yoga to some of the sweetest souls I have ever met, chaperoning a field trip to the fire department with my daughter’s school and last, but far from least, sharing Reiki in a fundraiser event to support a truly amazing woman and breast cancer survivor Diane Richmond as she prepares to walk the Susan G. Komen for the Cure 3-day walk.

This sweet, sweet soul embodies the essence of yoga and Reiki.  It was her own inner knowing, her own inner wisdom that alerted her to the cancer’s existence in the first place.  She went through the Chemo, she went through the radiation and now she walks for others.  The highlight for me of her story – the deeply yogic act she took when she found out the cancer was gone – an act of wisdom, an act of courage.  She took her family, her loved ones to the beach – the each collected rocks on their journey on this amazing day and gave them names – the rocks names were things like fear, anger, disease, cancer… And what did Diane and her love ones do with them? They tossed them into the ocean; they asked the waters of this earth to wash these things away.

What came back – love, peace, inner wisdom, trust, health, harmony!  My sweetest new found friend found the gift, the blessing the strength through her trials, through her hardest times she found the silver lining and lives to hold that strength and journey of discovery for all of us to take a moment to pause in our own times of challenge.  She did the most yogic and healing thing I can think of – she paused and allowed herself to discover amidst a most difficult lesson, her gifts, her love, her life.

As I Iooked around the room this evening, at the close of a 2-hour restorative class, infused with Reiki and healing, I saw a room filled with friends, family and even mere strangers who all came together finding healing for themselves, finding and supporting healing of others, perhaps finding a fresh perspective on their own story, a beginning on finding their own inner strengths.

Our innate ability to heal ourselves, to change our perspective is the embodiment of what yoga and Reiki practices are all about.  There is nothing outside of ourselves, nothing “out there” that will make us whole again.  It is all within us, waiting patiently to be reawakened.

We read story after story about personal triumph from cancer survivors , to those like the now famous Bethany Hamilton who survived and thrived after a shark bit off her arm, to those like you and like me who have seen the light in our own journeys.  Every story I have ever heard of personal triumph over “against all odds” circumstances points to this innate ability within each and every one of usthe courage to persevere and the courage to let go all at the same time.

The gift that Reiki brings is that it helps to shed away the “overcoats”, the layers of self-doubt and discouragement that cloud our vision of the amazing and wonderful beings that we all are!  This energy comes from the highest of energies, from the highest of heavens and it is here for each one of us, waiting to be awakened, awaiting to facilitate life transformations, if we choose it.  The beauty – Reiki can be learned by anyone, it can be learned quickly. And, if you incorporate it into your daily life, it can make a HUGE difference in our response to the little and big things – transmuting, transforming fear into trust, worry into courage, anxiety into hope and joy.  All things are possible if we just simple change our perspective.

Today’s fresh perspective has inspired my practice.  Now and throughout November, for each person that  mentions Susan G. Komen for the Cure when they book a private healing session, I’ll be donating 20% of the session fee to sponsor the lovely Diane in her 3-day walk.   It’s just one small way I choose to give back to the highest and greatest good of all beings!  Namaste!

Pregnancy, Yoga and Reiki Changed My Life

My first introduction to yoga came in early 2005, toward the end of my pregnancy with my daughter. A few of the women in my neighborhood suggested it would be helpful to reduce stress and it was wonderful in preparing for child birth. The truth is, the first class I ever took, I didn’t really get it. The moves were awkward for me, I had no idea where to put my hands and feet and it all seemed a bit foreign to me. Yet somehow, when I was done I felt more relaxed.

Quite some time after my daughter was born, I happened upon an extremely gentle yoga class. I would say, “This yoga stuff, it really seems to help me relax.” Next thing I knew, Saturday morning gentle flow was my weekly haven to relax, de-stress and let go of the work week. Amidst a most challenging time in my life – attempting to juggle a full-time corporate career, marriage and motherhood – it was one of the few things in my week that was truly making a difference in the quality of my life.

In 2008, I chose to leave the corporate world, to focus on my health and my family. At the time I remember saying – “I don’t know what these changes will bring. I just know I want to do yoga and meditate a lot.” I had no idea these words and choices would RADICALLY change my life forever, for the better!

My introduction to Reiki came also during my pregnancy with my daughter – through a wonderful massage therapist who happened to also be attuned to the Reiki energy. All I knew at the time is that no massage I had ever received felt the same as when this sweet, sweet woman would work on me. I used to say she had “magic hands”. It was only after I received my 1st Reiki attunements in 2008 that I began to realize it was the transformative energy of Reiki (and the sweet spirit of this now dear friend) that made all the difference.

2008 truly marks the year my conscious transformation of my life began. Looking back on it now, it all seems obvious that these life changes needed to occur. But at the time, this fact seemed to feel like the furthest thing from the truth. Doing yoga and meditating a lot lead to a series of multiple yoga trainings. It lead me to my first Reiki teachers. It lead me to daily practices of yoga, meditation, Reiki, that helped me understand and live life more fully than I ever had. I learned that life is about being in the moment, enjoying, Being. Now, anything outside of that seems like I’m just missing the point.

Yoga calls for equanimity, santosha (contentment in all things), detachment. Reiki says to try it, just for today. I say try it, just for this moment, and if it works, try it for the next moment too. Life transformations don’t happen overnight, but when you take them by simply putting one foot in front of the other – the next thing you know, you’ve walked a mile!