How to handle any difficult situation with ease and grace

yoga and meditation-breathe-ease

When I first started doing yoga, I noticed I slowly became less reactive.

If something happened that would usually make me sad, angry or frustrated, instead of blowing up at the situation, I was able to find an inner calmness to process my emotions.

One of the most valuable tools for me has been Tonglen meditation.  I learned Tonglen from one of my mentors, Kimber Simpkins in a yoga training.  It is a Buddhist practice to lessen our reactivity and hold a space of compassion for ourselves, and all beings.

It goes like this:

Breathing in, I allow myself to feel exactly what I'm feeling. 

Breathing out, spaciousness and compassion for myself. 

Breathing in, I know I am not alone.  I remember so many other beings have experienced and have felt what I am experiencing and feeling right now. 

Breathing out, spaciousness and compassion for all those other beings.  

This meditation helps me realize I am not alone in my reactions and emotions.  It reminds me that actually so many other people have experienced this before, and instead of being caught up in my emotions, I can hold a space of compassion, knowing I am now experiencing something so many other beings have experienced before.

I created this guided meditation video for you to follow along and embody the practice. Click below to watch:

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And the next time you feel you're about to blow up in a difficult situation, try it.  Let me know how it goes for you in the comments below.

Love, Meredith

PS. You can also view my other yoga and meditation videos here. 


5 yoga poses to cure a headache (plus my first yoga video!)

yoga and meditation-compassion-pema chodron

Have you ever noticed that you can go into a yoga class with some kind of tension, ache or pain, and come out an hour later and the pain is gone?

In the last couple years, yoga and meditation has been an essential tool for me to relieve stress and chronic pain in my body, particularly with headaches.

Somewhere deep in my subconscious, I developed a pattern of tightening my jaw and grinding my teeth during my sleep.  When I clench my teeth at night, I will wake up with a tension headache the next morning.  I have actively sought out solutions to these headaches, and the root cause of the tension, and along the way have acquired a whole list of tools to find relief.  So I made a video of 5 simple yoga poses to share with you...

But first, here are some of my favorite tips to relieve a headache in addition to yoga:

Be with the sensation

I've been working with an idea from Pema Chodron:  if you are willing to be with an unpleasant sensation for more than 90 seconds without judging it, it will go away.  Instead of pushing away the sensation I now give the sensations my attention and allow myself to feel the pain or discomfort fully. 

When I am there for myself for even just a few minutes without judgment, the uncomfortable sensations begin to dissolve with the breath.

From Pema:  Acknowledge the feeling, give it your full, compassionate, even welcoming attention, and even if it's only for a few seconds, drop the story line about the feeling.  This allows you to have a direct experience of it, free of interpretation.  Don't fuel it with concepts or opinions about whether it's good or bad.  Just be present with the sensation.  Where is it located in your body?  Does it remain the same for very long?  Does it shift and change?

Drink more water

So many Americans are chronically dehydrated.  If you drink caffeine or alcohol regularly, your body needs even more water....  So start the day with a 16 oz glass of water before anything else.  Carry a water bottle with you throughout the day and make sure you stay hydrated.

Try this recipe (for migraines)

Migraines occur when we put stress on the liver.  The liver is connected to the health of our eyes - so that's why we may see spots or have poor vision during a migraine.  Luckily I've discovered this recipe as a natural cure when you feel a migraine come on:

- Squeeze 1/2 an organic lemon into a glass then simmer the peel for 10 minutes in 2 cups of pure water.  - Let the boiled lemon peel water cool then add it to the juice and drink.

Ease off caffeine

A caffeine headache arises when you regularly drink caffeine and then stop.  The cure for this kind of headache is to gradually drink a smaller amount of caffeine at the same time each day.

Find support

When something in our life isn't working, we need to remind ourselves it is okay to get support.  I've found so much relief from consistent body work in addition to therapeutic yoga with Mark Lundbeck and most recently have tried hypnotherapy with Karen Prosen in Santa Rosa.  Having someone else on my side has brought profound knowledge into my life and has helped me prevent the pain from arising in the first place.

Here are 5 Simple Yoga Poses for headaches.  Follow along with the video for demos and descriptions!:

Backbend over a blanket roll

Supported Low Bridge (Setu Bandhasana)

Thigh and Shoulder Stretch (Bhekasana)

Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana)

Legs Up at the Wall (Viparita Karani)

So the next time you have a headache, before you rush for the Ibuprofen, try one of these tips and follow along with my yoga video.  If you're looking for more personalized support you can learn more about my one-on-one private therapeutic yoga here.

With love, Meredith

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Remain A Witness: Vipassana meditation

yoga and meditation-breathe-vipassana

This week I have been revisiting the valuable tools I learned through Vipassana Meditation.  Vipassana is  considered the form of meditation Buddha used to attain enlightenment.  It is a simple, but profound practice of focusing on the breath and sensations of the body.

The practice was lost for hundreds of years, eventually reintroduced on a global scale by a man from Burma, Goenka.  He began 10-day Vipassana meditation courses for sentient beings to learn the practice.  The amazing thing is: it is all run by donation.

When you arrive, you are treated exactly the same way as every other person there.  You are given a simple bed and 3 meals a day.  Without the thought, "I paid for this, therefore everything should be a certain way," we dampen the ego and use the time on retreat as if we were a monk - with all our food and lodging provided.

I sat my Vipassana course in Dharamkot, India, a village just north of the Dalai Lama's temple 2 years ago.  The first few days of the retreat solely focused on the breath.

The breath is considered the vehicle to better understand the voluntary and involuntary functions of the body.  By tuning into the breath we come in closer connection to all the functions of the involuntary body (our heartbeat and other organs that continue to work without our mind consciously telling them to).

After focusing the mind through the breath to a single pointed focus, awareness is then brought to sensations.  The idea is, as humans, we experience craving to pleasurable sensations and aversion to painful sensations.  However, there is no way around experiencing both.  Our job through the practice is to become a witness to both of them, and simply watch.

Whether a painful or pleasurable sensation arises, we learn through the body, it eventually passes away.  By having a direct experience of this impermanence on a physical and cellular level, we can have a greater understanding of the nature of life.

Everything is impermanent, especially the body.  The body is continually dying and renewing itself on a cellular level.  When we understand impermanence within ourselves, we let go of our strong attachments to the things and people around us and eventually to the strongest attachment of all: life itself.