Thursday, August 25, 2011


“It is not the end of the physical body that should worry us. Rather, our concern must be to live while we're alive - to release our inner selves from the spiritual death that comes with living behind a facade designed to conform to external definitions of who and what we are.” 
-Elisabeth Kubler-Ross 

Tuesday the earth shook... literally. I was sitting on the couch, taking a moment to close my eyes, rest and meditate when suddenly I felt the couch shaking.  Thinking that our big ol' tabby cat Cornelius was perched on top of the sofa scratching his chin, I cracked my eyes open only to discover that he was nowhere to be seen.  I closed my eyes again but the shaking continued.  "Must be Fort Jackson", I thought (there are always mysterious earth rattling things going on over there) and then I went back to my silent reverie.  It wasn't until later that I discovered that an earthquake had occurred in Virginia.  I was in awe that something happening hundreds of miles away could be felt so clearly right here, on my couch in SC!  Joseph Martin, a geotechnical engineering professor at Drexel University explained that Tuesday's quake was the result of an ancient fault line along the Piedmont from millions of years ago that basically "shrugged" and let loose some energy.  

What does all of this have to do with yoga? I think that one of the many reasons people gravitate to yoga and then stick with it is because they've experienced - on a very deep level - the shifts that take place when we consciously stretch and breathe energy into the deeper layers of the body, mind and spirit.  This shifting and releasing of tension, energy and emotions can sometimes feel as epic as an earthquake or as quiet as a gentle breeze. In yoga, we quite literally release blocked energy and create new patterns for that energy to flow more freely. We often experience this as a feeling of sweet relief after a yummy practice, or perhaps an eruption of long trapped tears that takes us by surprise as we sink into savasana, or even a feeling of released anger or joy that bubbles up to the surface as we drive home after our practice. There's no doubt that the practice of shifting energy transforms us, not into something better or worse, but just different and more spacious.

Our work as practitioners is to allow these shifts and releases of physical, emotional and spiritual energy, to redirect us towards new patterns of growth and freedom. The held back tears that find their way to the surface, a shift in ideas or limiting attitudes that may lead to a new opportunity, or maybe the release of an old hurt or pain that leads to more love and compassion.  Every release and shift we experience brings us closer to who and what we really are: kind, compassionate and whole. What will shake you today?  What big or small releases await you?  In what ways can you crack the facade and allow your true self to shine through? 

Until next time...

"Go further than your mind can reach, further than your words can speak.  Go further than you know, outside of your control.  Break your conditioning by letting go and letting go and letting go.  Like a twig plucked from a tree, carried a great distance, and woven into a crow's nest, you have no idea of your own destiny.

Keep going until there is nothing left, and you are empty and bereft.  Hold that open space.  Inhabit the place of not knowing until grace tugs on your awareness and says "follow me into the center of chaos and serenity.  Follow me to what you've always been and always will be.

The truth of you is far beyond what you imagine, simultaneously deathless and hear to be lived, then surrendered back into the infinite." -Danna Faulds

Monday, August 22, 2011


"Courage doesn't always roar.  Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow." 
-Mary Anne Radmacher

I had the honor of teaching restorative yoga to a lovely group of cancer survivors on Sunday afternoon.  First, let me say that I am always amazed at the positive energy these women possess.  They are genuine souls, exude pure kindness, and one gets the sense that there is a deep, abiding understanding that they've reached with life. They "get it" on a profound level.  They've had unmistakable proof that life is unpredictable and precious and they don't take it for granted. These ladies inspire me beyond words and have been amazing examples and teachers of courage for me on this path.

Just before class started, a young woman tentatively entered the studio and signed up for her first Cancer Survivors class.  As we showed her to her mat and got her set up in the first restorative posture, she shyly reclined back, folded her arms across her chest, and tensed her shoulders up around her ears.  She was clearly unsure of what to expect from the experience, but I was so proud of her for having had the courage to show up and give it a try. As we moved through class, I witnessed her slowly softening, surrendering, and allowing herself to "be". To be held in the positive energy of the group, to be supported by the props, to be empowered by her courage to do something that so directly contributed to her health and physical/emotional well-being.

When class ended I asked her if she felt more at ease.  She related her story to me and her courage overwhelmed me.  Here is a young woman who has been dealt a pretty challenging hand in life. Life presented her with a choice: find courage in the face of your trials or give up.  She chooses daily to go with courage, to fight her cancer, to show up for a new and vulnerable experience like a yoga class or a cancer treatment. She humbly surrenders to something greater than herself every day, and she has the courage to trust and believe. 

As we all know by now, it takes great courage to walk this earth as living beings.  We begin to understand this with great clarity, the moment we devote ourselves to a life on the spiritual path. We step on to this path searching for peace, not realizing at first that peace is found bit-by-bit, breath-by-breath, moment-by-moment in the fire of transformation.  Each time we roll out our yoga mat or commit to sitting in meditation we are essentially agreeing to hold a mirror up to ourselves and engage in the act of really seeing what's there, and to know that it isn't always pretty.  In fact it takes great courage to look at the source of our words, actions, motivations, faults and foibles.  It often hurts.... it HAS to hurt in order to wake us up and to help us grow. The key word here is grow.   It's not enough to just look in the mirror. The greater courage is to take what we see and use it to awaken and encourage transformation.  The greater courage is to be able to see our part in our own suffering and the suffering we cause others. The beautiful ladies of the Cancer Survivors class know this. Their bravery and courage to transform in the face of such fear and uncertainty is an inspiration. Their true grit is constant encouragement.

The very heart of practice (yoga or meditation) is to reveal our true nature: Peace, compassion, kindness and love.  But in order to uncover the pureness of our being, we have to be disciplined, willing, and brave enough to wade through the often dark and murky layers that caused us to hide our radiant self in the first place.

When you step on your mat or sit on your cushion, practice facing yourself in a courageous way.  Ask yourself: "Where am I being fearful and what is the reason for my fear?", "How can I see myself more clearly and honestly?", "What's really true in this moment...not what I want to be true, but really true?", and then be brave enough to see and feel the answers.

So to repeat the quote at the top of the post..."Courage doesn't always roar.  Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow." -Mary Anne Radmacher

Until next time...

"When you are in doubt,
be still and wait,
When doubt no longer exists for you,
Then go forward with courage.
So long as mists envelop you,
be still;
be still until the sunlight
pours through and dispels the mists--as it surely will.
Then act with courage.
-Ponca Chief White Eagle

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”- Theodore Roosevelt 

Sunday, August 21, 2011


untangle |ˌənˈta ng gəl|verb [ trans. ]free from a tangled or twisted state fishermen untangle their nets.• make (something complicated or confusing) easier to understand or deal with.

Have you ever felt a "knot" in your belly when something was upsetting or just not quite right?  Or maybe a "lump" in your throat when a challenging truth caused the words to get stuck in the back of your mouth? Ever felt like your heart was tangled with emotions or the tension in your neck feels as if a mass of steel cords were being strummed? 

Well, the wise yogis of old observed that there are places in our spiritual neurology that get "knotted" up and can hinder us on our path towards peace and enlightenment.  They theorized that as spiritual beings, we all have three places in our energy body that can become knotted or tangled up called "granthis". Granthi means "knot," and it is a good word to describe the energy blockages we have all experienced in our nervous system at one time or other (the knot in the belly, the lump in the throat, the tension in the head).

The three are:
Brahma Granthi – in the pelvic region (first and second chakras)
Vishnu Granthi – in the center region, extending from navel to heart and throat (including the third and fourth chakras).
Siva Granthi – in the head, including the throat, third eye and crown (5th, 6th and 7th chakras).

A granthi can block energy from flowing freely through our spiritual body, kind of like a kink in a garden hose.  When the hose is kinked, the flow of water slows down or stops altogether, creating tension and preventing the water from nourishing your garden.  Granthis prevent our spiritual garden from growing (yikes!).

And so as yogis and people on the path to peace, we practice using our bodies, breath and awareness to purify and open the body, mind and spirit in order to untie these knots, so to speak.  Yogi Matthew Sweeney says that the postures that we practice begin to purify the lower granthi (body), and that ujjayi breathing begins to purify the middle granthi (nervous system or emotion) and we use the dristi (or inner and outer gaze) to purify the upper granthi (mind).  His take on it is that the inhalation brings life to the hidden areas of the body, blind spots and tensions stemming from the granthi, and the exhalation releases tension, calming the mind. Our drishti (inner/outer gaze) keeps us anchored in the moment. The idea is that as the postures provide a healthy vehicle for the spirit to reside in, the breath purifies, and the drishti anchors us.  When this happens, tensions release, the mind calms and the granthi begins to dissolve. Untangling slowly but surely.

But Matthews says that this is not enough: "We may speak of 'purifying the body/nervous system', or 'untying knots'. Such a way of speaking implies that certain things (purification of the mind/body, untying of knots) happen as a direct result of our efforts. But this is not true. The practice, strictly speaking, doesn't do anything... it just puts us in a place where we can see ourselves for what we truly are. When we see ourselves for what we truly are, the knots will untie themselves, and true lasting change becomes possible.

When was the last time you felt that knot in your belly?  What caused it?  Think of a time when you had unsaid words stuck in your throat. What did it feel like?  A tightness? A sorrow?  When was last time that your intuition felt clouded or your heart closed off?

Some believe that we come into this world with knots - small or large - as a result of our past lives.  Some believe that we create these blockages with our continued attachment and aversion.  Whatever their origin, we have the ability to practice untying them bit by bit, thread by thread with our continued practice and awareness. As Matthew Sweeney says: "True change is made possible when you are in contact with what is, when you realise what you are. It does not occur when you try to become something you are not. No amount of asana or pranayama or meditation practice will make you a better person or hasten your development. Nothing will. For there is nothing better than being what you are, right now. This is the only way the knots come undone...the practice can only bring you into yourself if it is done with awareness. Awareness is the only key ingredient, all other processes are secondary...the practice helps to maintain this contact with reality. It is important not to slide into the path of least resistance or to avoid what is difficult...."

So, you heard it here... don't be shy!  Un-tie those knots, unkink the hose by taking the time to roll out your yoga mat, move your body, breath and focus.  Your spirit will thank you :)

Until next time... 

Friday, August 19, 2011


"Mountain pose teaches us, literally, how to stand on our own two feet.... teaching us to root ourselves into the earth.... Our bodies become a connection between heaven and earth."  ~Carol Krucoff
There was a deep, soaking rain storm last Monday night, the kind where it seems like you're standing beneath a great rushing waterfall.  Once you've lived through a hot, South Carolina summer, you grow to appreciate any amount of rain that comes in August-  the hottest and often driest month of all.
I awoke the next morning to sunshine and cooler temperatures and upon opening the windows, got a whiff of damp earth, sodden pine straw, and fresh, clean air.  I was instantly transported to the mountains of my heart, Asheville, NC, and the mountains of my soul, The Rockies in Colorado... earthy goodness and a feeling of steady, solid peace.
Mountains as symbols have a lot to teach us about life.  They are often seen as rock solid, stable, standing tall and immovable.  They have an abiding presence and stillness - all qualities that we humans seek.
In our asana practice, one of the first postures we are asked to master on a deep level is Tadasana or "mountain" pose. In our quest for more "advanced" postures, we often look upon Tadasana as too "basic" and consider it to be unimportant. However, the reality is that it forms the base of all standing postures, which makes it kind of a big deal (Iyengar is roughly quoted as saying "how can you learn to stand on your head if you can't even stand on your feet?").  Tadasana teaches us how and where to plug in to the earth.  It shows us how to find the balance between effort and ease and allows us to be firmly rooted in our physical form which we need to stand firmly, walk surefooted, and be stable in our movements.  Being grounded physically also brings a sense of metal mooring to keep us grounded when life is joyful, abundant and happy and also deeply rooted when the strong storms of life descend upon us.

Today, practice paying close attention to how you walk through the world. Are you connected, steady and have an abiding presence, or do you often feel "airy" and untethered?  How do you stand while on line at the grocery store?  Do you walk through the world looking down at your feet or do you trust your roots and walk tall?  
"The body extends upwards, with the base as firm as a rock; the mind is steady and attentive. Tadasana teaches balance, centering and evenness and direction of extensions. These principles apply to all the postures." -BKS Iyengar

In your minds eye, envision your perfect mountain, maybe one with gently sloping sides, or one with lofty, snow capped peaks. Maybe it has one peak or perhaps many. As you move through the day, try to embody the qualities of this mountain.  Endeavor to embody its deep abiding presence and solidity no matter what comes your way.

Until next time...
Settling into the posture brings repose. It follows precise placement of the limbs, correct extension and balance. There is peace and unity within. The mind fills every particle of the body, bringing harmony. This is Yoga.
B.K.S Iyengar

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Nama What?

"Yoga, an ancient but perfect science, deals with the evolution of humanity.  This evolution includes all aspects of one's being, from bodily health to self-realization.  Yoga means union - the union of body with consciousness and consciousness with the soul.  Yoga cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day-to-day life and endows skill in the performance of one's actions."  ~B.K.S. Iyengar

When I first started practicing yoga in group classes, I was puzzled by the way classes ended with palms together, bowing the head and saying the word "namaste".   I mean, I understood the head to the heart part but, huh?  Nama-what?  At first, I wasn't sure what was going on, so I kept my head bowed but stayed silent, nervously glancing from under my bangs to see what else may be happening that I wasn't aware of. After attending classes for a while, I decided that nothing mysterious was going on, but I still didn't really know what this "namaste" business was about so I would half-heartedly repeat it after the teacher at the close of the practice.  
Curiously, in class, no one ever seemed to address the meaning of this peculiar expression, so one afternoon following a particularly transformative practice I drove home and took matters in my own hands... I Googled it! What I found was a variety of definitions, most of which seemed to say; "I bow to you", "reverence to you" or "the light in me honors the light in you".  It was all starting to make sense.
Once I had become aware of what Namaste signified, the gesture began to be less mysterious and much more meaningful and beautiful to me.  
In the years since my first exposure to "namaste", I have learned that the significance of this gesture extends far beyond even the simplest definition of "I bow to you".  Namaste is a humbling gesture. It has a deep spiritual significance that seeks to reduce our own ego in the presence of another person.  I've learned that one of the most beautiful ways we can honor someone is to look them in the eye and really see them. Not the clothes they wear or the labels they cling to. Not their profession or status. Not the car they drive or the house they live in, but to really see their essence and to know that their essence is the same as mine.  There is no separation.
The gesture of placing our palms together in front of the heart is called “anjali mudra” which means to honor or celebrate. A mudra is an energetic "seal" or circuit that guides the flow of energy and reflexes to the brain. Anjali mudra helps us to listen and to focus inwardly - both physically and mentally.  It connects us with our higher self and when we practice it, we practice honoring and celebrating not only our higher self, but the higher self that resides within all living beings (the light in me honors the light in you).  
Anjali mudra also signifies the opposition in all things which actually shows us how to find balance, like a child's swing that moves up and down but eventually comes to rest in the center. Yoga has taught me that for a yogi, the center is the heart. As we move through an asana practice, we are moving and breathing which helps our energy to become balanced.  Stretching our muscles creates the space for this to occur, as does deep, steady breathing.  We remind ourselves of this search for balance by bringing our hands together in front of our heart, and when we do this periodically throughout our practice, it becomes a reminder to remember why we have come to our mat and what yoga means to us.  
Namaste represents yoga... two seemingly opposing forces (masculine/feminine, inner/outer, light/dark, me/you) being joined together.  The word yoga means to “yolk” (to join).  It ultimately seeks to unite all opposites and dissolve any illusion of separateness that may exist.  Anytime we weave inhale into exhale, or experience the turning of night into day with no definitive break in between, we are experiencing the presence of yoga.  
The work we do on our yoga mat is merely a preparation for the real practice of yoga, which takes place the moment we roll up our mat and walk out into the world. We practice yoga each time we look into the eyes of another and see them, if only for a split second, and acknowledge on a deep level that we are the same.
Practice looking people in the eye when you encounter them or speak with them: the cashier at the grocery store, your neighbor, a co-worker.  This helps to soften the barriers we often place between us and serves as a reminder to honor and celebrate not only your higher self, but also the higher self that resides within all living beings.
Until next time... namaste!

Saturday, August 13, 2011


“We have more possibilities available in each moment than we realize.” 
-Thich Nhat Hahn

A hint of autumn is in the air!  Can you feel it?

John and I just finished sending out the yoga studio's August newsletter where I talked about how this particular month is a transitional month for many of us.  It's a month where we start to make the change from a more laid back summer schedule to one that is focused on back-to-school or regular work routines.  It often marks the end of our vacation time and the beginning of our "buckle down" and get back to work frame of mind.  August also signifies a shift from the hot and sticky dog days of summer, towards the golden beginnings of autumn - still hot but with a tinge of coolness creeping in around the edges.

Transitions are often overlooked as unimportant, but as our practice teaches us time and time again, transitions are often places where the most transformation occurs. In the slow pause between two things (postures, breath, activities, etc.), we are given an opportunity to observe changes in the body, mind, and spirit.  With every transition we have the opportunity to grow. They give us the time to pay attention and find clarity.

How we approach transitions on our yoga mat is a strong indicator of how we deal with the shifts that occur in our daily lives.  For instance, where does your mind go when you release a posture? Are you still connected to your breath or are you already thinking of what's coming next?  Do you get on your mat and sort of shuffle into a pose, not really paying attention to the pose until you're in it?  Do you heavily thump your foot to the floor when coming out of Warrior III (Virabhadrasana C) or do you set it down gracefully and with control? Do you roll impatiently out of Halasana (Plough Pose), landing with a crash on your back? Or do you stay connected to your core and roll down slowly? In terms of asana practice - and life in general - smooth transitions require mindfulness, strength and a sense of ease and grace. Today as you practice, embrace the transitions from pose to pose as postures in and of themselves. Let's call them "Transition-asanas"! Welcome what each shift has to offer you!

Until next time...please take a moment to watch this short video by Thich Nhat Hahn.  Thich Nhat Hahn is a Zen monk and has been such an inspiration to me and my practice.

“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis
on which the world earth revolves - slowly, evenly, withoutrushing toward the future. Live the actual moment.Only this moment is life.” -Thich Nhat Hahn

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Be Like A Tree

Over the past few days I've witnessed a friend dealing with some pretty tough life lessons.  When we see our friends or loved ones struggle, it often feels like words aren't enough. Sometimes just being a silent, rooted presence is the best support we can give and a reminder that they too can find the strength and steadiness to rest like a tree in the midst of their troubles.

As I was preparing for Monday morning's class, I came across the following quote along with some words of wisdom from Mark Nepo: 

"Praise and blame, gain and loss, pleasure and sorrow come and go like the wind. To be happy, rest like a great tree in the midst of them all." 

"It helps to remember this.  Of course, it's hard to remember this when feeling blame, loss, or sorrow.  But that's when we need this wisdom the most.
Like everyone, I'd rather not experience the undercurrents of life, but the challenge is not to shun them, but to accept that over a lifetime we will have our share of them.
Avoiding the difficult aspects if living only stunts our fullness.  When we do this, we are like a tree that never fully opens to the sky.  And dwelling on our difficulties only prevents them from going on their way.  When we do this, we are like a great tree that nets the storm in its leaves.
The storm by its nature wants to move on, and the tree's grace is that it has no hands.  Our blessing and curse is to learn and relearn when to reach and hold, and when to put our hands in our pockets."

When we practice asana, pranayama or meditation, we are teaching ourselves how to evoke the qualities of a tree: strength, rootedness, flexibility, grace and stillness in the face of challenge. 

Whether we're helping a friend who is weathering a storm or experiencing the fluctuations of our own lives and challenges, our practice is to rest like a tree in the midst of them all.  It's a beautiful practice and reminder that it is in our power to either hold on or let go.

Until next time...

Monday's practice:






Advice from a Tree
By Ilan Shamir

Dear Friend,
Stand Tall and Proud
Sink your roots deeply into the Earth
Reflect the light of a greater source
Think long term
Go out on a limb
Remember your place among all living beings
Embrace with joy the changing seasons
For each yields its own abundance
The Energy and Birth of Spring
The Growth and Contentment of Summer
The Wisdom to let go of leaves in the Fall
The Rest and Quiet Renewal of Winter
Feel the wind and the sun
And delight in their presence
Look up at the moon that shines down upon you
And the mystery of the stars at night.
Seek nourishment from the good things in life
Simple pleasures
Earth, fresh air, light
Be content with your natural beauty
Drink plenty of water
Let your limbs sway and dance in the breezes
Be flexible
Remember your roots
Enjoy the view!

Tree Of Life
 by Danna Faulds

I am the immovable root
of a tree I can't see, whose
trunk and branches extend
up and out to an infinity of 
being, whose leaves catch
light and transform it into
energy.  I feel the taproot
running deep, sustaining me.

Without it, I couldn't
bend in the wind or stand
through raging tempests.
It extends down and in,
anchor and liberator,
reaching back to the
primordial sea of love,
connecting me with the
unseen in all directions.

My fruit falls far beyond
my reach, and the seeds
are scattered far and wide.
A few are planted by wise
hands in fertile soil, and
grow-even though
I don't know where.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Go With The Flow

"Don't push the river, it flows by itself."

I have some news for you!  Are you sitting down?   Ok, good.  This isn't necessarily bad news, it just is. Are you ready?  Here it goes: You are not in control.

Are you freaking out?  Don't.  The thought of not being in control may be a scary thought... or not.  It just depends on the way you look at it.

We can try to be in charge, to control everyone and everything in our lives and get upset, anxious or angry when things don't go exactly the way we planned. Or, we can recognize that the world spins through space without our help, that people do what they do, and that our lives will flow where they will despite our trying to make things otherwise.  

Now, recognizing that you don't have any control doesn't mean that you should give up, stop planning, or stop caring.  No matter how organized we are or how much structure we create in our lives, there will always be things beyond our control. Our work is simply to try our best, to go ahead and plan, organize, structure our lives, but be prepared to roll with the changes as they come (and believe me, they will!).

So, repeat after me: "I am not in control."   Feels kind of liberating doesn't it?  The more we try to control or create structure, the more these things can be a big source of anger, frustration and stress.  When we let go of the idea of control we are more able to go with the flow.

What is going with the flow? It’s rolling with the punches. It’s accepting change without getting angry or frustrated. It’s taking what life gives you, rather than trying to mold life to be exactly as you want it to be.  It's practicing, as you encounter sticky situations, to emulate the positive qualities of water, such as its readiness to yield to greater force and flow around obstacles rather than be stopped by them. It's being able to adapt to any situation life presents us with.

Today on your mat or off, practice allowing yourself to enter the flow of the present moment.  Make your plans, create structure but be open to shifting with life as it happens. As Greek philosopher Epictetus is known to have said: "Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens."
Until next time...

"Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” - Lao-Tzu

Some ways to practice going with the flow:
by  Leo Babauta

  1. Realize that you can’t control everything. I think we all know this at some level, but the way we think and act and feel many times contradicts this basic truth. We don’t control the universe, and yet we seem to wish we could. All the wishful thinking won’t make it so. You can’t even control everything within your own little sphere of influence — you can influence things, but many things are simply out of your control. In the example above, you can control your morning routine, but there will be things that happen from time to time (someone’s sick, accident happens, phone call comes at 5 a.m. that disrupts things, etc.) that will make you break your routine. First step is realizing that these things will happen. Not might happen, but will. There are things that we cannot control that will affect every aspect of our lives, and we must must must accept that, or we will constantly be frustrated. Meditate on this for awhile.
  2. Become aware. I’ve mentioned this step in previous articles on other topics, but that’s because it’s extremely important. You can’t change things in your head if you’re not aware of them. You have to become an observer of your thoughts, a self-examiner. Be aware that you’re becoming upset, so that you can do something about it. It helps to keep tally marks in a little notebook for a week — every time you get upset, put a little tally. That’s all — just keep tally. And soon, because of that little act, you will become more aware of your anger and frustration.
  3. Breathe. When you feel yourself getting angry or frustrated, take a deep breath. Take a few. This is an important step that allows you to calm down and do the rest of the things on this list. Practice this by itself and you’ll have come a long way already.
  4. Get perspective. This always helps me. I get angry over something happening — my car breaks down, my kids ruin my microwave — and then I take a deep breath, and take a step back. You know how you’re watching a movie and the camera zooms away and you can see much more of the world on the screen than you could before? How it goes from closeup to a larger, panoramic view of things? That’s what happens in my mind’s eye. I start to zoom away, until I’m pretty far away from things. Then whatever happened doesn’t seem so important. A week from now, a year from now, this little incident won’t matter a single whit. No one will care, not even you. So why get upset about it? Just let it go, and soon it won’t be a big deal.
  5. Practice. It’s important to realize that, just like when you learn any skill, you probably won’t be good at this at first. Who is good when they are first learning to write, or read, or drive? No one I know. Skills come with practice. So when you first learn to go with the flow, you will mess up. You will stumble and fall. That’s OK — it’s part of the process. Just keep practicing, and you’ll get the hang of it. Someday, you may even become a Zen Master and write a guest post on what you’ve learned for Zen Habits. :)
  6. Baby steps. Along the same lines, take things in small steps. Don’t try to become that Zen Master mentioned above overnight. Don’t try to bite off huge chunks — just bite off something small at first. So make your first attempts to go with the flow small ones: focus on the tally marks (mentioned above) first. Then focus on breathing. Then try to get perspective after you breathe. And you might try the easier situations first — if your work problems are easier to accept than your frustrations with your kids, for example, start with work.
  7. Laugh. It helps me to see things as funny, rather than frustrating. Car broke down in the middle of traffic and I have no cell phone or spare tire? Laugh at my own incompetence. Laugh at the absurdity of the situation. That requires a certain amount of detachment — you can laugh at the situation if you’re above it, but not within it. And that detachment is a good thing. If you can learn to laugh at things, you’ve come a long way. Try laughing even if you don’t think it’s funny — it will most likely become funny.
  8. Keep a journal. This is one of the best uses of a journal actually. Once a day, try to recall what all your tally marks were for — and then write about those situations. Why did you get upset? What did you try to do? Did it work, and if not, why not? What can you do next time? This kind of recollection and examination, after the fact, will help you learn from the process.
  9. Meditate. If you aren’t good at keeping a journal, at least do a daily review in your head. Do some meditation, or have a bath, or a cup of hot tea, and as you’re de-stressing, go over your day and examine it. Don’t get frustrated — you’re learning. Do some deep breathing, and then go over each situation, trying to see it as a detached observer. This kind of review will help you improve in the learning process.
  10. Realize that you can’t control others. Ah, one of the biggest challenges. We get frustrated with other people, because they don’t act the way we want them to act. Maybe it’s our kids, maybe it’s our spouse or significant other, maybe it’s our coworker or boss, maybe it’s our mom or best friend. But we have to realize that they are acting according to their personality, according to what they feel is right, and they are not going to do what we want all of the time. And we have to accept that. Accept that we can’t control them, accept them for who they are, accept the things they do. It’s not easy, but again, it takes practice.
  11. Accept change and imperfection. When we get things the way we like them, we usually don’t want them to change. But they will change. It’s a fact of life. We cannot keep things the way we want them to be … instead, it’s better to learn to accept things as they are. Accept that the world is constantly changing, and we are a part of that change. Also, instead of wanting things to be “perfect” (and what is perfect anyway?), we should accept that they will never be perfect, and we must accept good instead.
  12. Enjoy life as a flow of change, chaos and beauty. Remember when I asked what “perfect” is, in the paragraph above? It’s actually a very interesting question. Does perfect mean the ideal life and world that we have in our heads? Do we have an ideal that we try to make the world conform to? Because that will likely never happen. Instead, try seeing the world as perfect the way it is. It’s messy, chaotic, painful, sad, dirty … and completely perfect. The world is beautiful, just as it is. Life is not something static, but a flow of change, never staying the same, always getting messier and more chaotic, always beautiful. There is beauty in everything around us, if we look at it as perfect.