The Art of Listening

“Just listen,” is not as easy of a task as most make it out to be. Listening is an art, a skill that can be mastered.

How does one listen? I have always found it interesting that from a very young age, we have constantly been told to “listen” and to “pay attention” without ever being taught how to. Even as adults, we so often neglect the importance of what it truly means to listen.

Listening is an art, and trust me, it takes a lot of practice. There are a lot of aspects that come into play when listening to another speak.

Investing All of One’s Attention Into Listening

I would consider this to be the aspect of most importance when it comes to listening to another. Directing one’s attention towards one thing at a time requires intense focus, practice, and self-discipline (especially within the fast-paced society we’ve constructed for ourselves).

When listening to another, it is of utmost importance to give them all of your attention within that moment. If one is simultaneously attempting to complete a separate task, or if their mind is wandering the entire time, then their attention is not being fully invested in what the other has to say, and they are therefore not listening.

Being Present

Being present goes hand in hand with investing one’s attention into what the other has to say. If one is not fully present for the other, whether it be focusing on what is to come, or focusing on what has already passed, then they will not be able to comprehend the message that the other is trying to convey within that moment.

To be present with someone is to be grounded within the moment, to connect on a deeper level; A level deeper than the identities and mental-constructs of what we expect others to be. It is important to do this so one can accurately become conscious of what the other is actually trying to communicate, instead of formulating one’s own misinterpretation of what the other was originally intending to express. 

Maintaining an Open Mindset

If we hold onto the assumption that we already know what the other has to say, then we are also implying that whatever the other has to say is not important, or does not matter.

I always remind myself that regardless of what the other is trying to communicate, their feelings are valid, and they deserve to be heard. This does not mean that I have to agree with or believe everything that they have to say, but by no means does it suggest that I have to disregard their thoughts and feelings.

One cannot truly listen to what another is trying to communicate if they have already established a presumption in their mind of what they are going to say. If one listens with an open mind, letting go of all preconceived notions and expectations, then they will be able to effectively hear the message that the other is attempting to convey to them.

Acknowledging the Beingness in Another

Lastly, acknowledgement is so powerful. It is important to acknowledge the beingness and conscious aspect of the other as you are listening and present for them. The other is not simply an object existing only to serve, the other is a living, breathing, human being with thoughts, feelings, and perception just like you and me.

Once one practices becoming aware of the fact that how we treat others is equally as important to the way in which we treat ourselves, and that what others choose to express to us is equally as important to what we have to say,  we then are able to communicate from a place of compassion and higher awareness rather than placing the importance only on the points that matter to us and our own objectives.

Is Composting All That Simple?

With enough proper maintenance and basic knowledge on the subject, composting is indeed a very simple and low cost D.I.Y. project that anyone can do.

As I began to spend more time weeding and clearing out my yard in order to start up a garden, I contemplated ways in which I could enrich the soil so that it would benefit anything I decided to grow there (and so I could simply nurture the soil in general).

One of the simplest and most efficient (as well as cost efficient) ways in which I found to do this was by composting.

What is composting?

Composting is the process of recycling organic matter/material in order for it to decompose and produce a nutrient rich fertilizer to add to soil. 

What I have come to learn is that there are a variety of techniques when it comes to starting a compost. Although there are many different machines available to support this process, such as tumblers, tray units, and compost kits, I can say that from my own experience and research thus far, none of these products are even necessary to start your own compost project.

How to start a compost?

The two simplest ways that I have found to start a compost are:

  • Creating a designated pile in your yard
  • Using a plastic storage bin to store the material

I will add details below on how to regulate the process, but these are the basic methods.

Creating a Pile in Your Yard

This is a very simple method.

All you have to do is designate a spot in your yard that is easily accessible, yet still out of the way since these piles do tend to smell after a while.

Once you have chosen a designated area to start it, lay some twigs or grass clippings down on the earth and simply begin by adding material. You will want to occasionally turn and mix the pile as it starts to accumulate material, you can do this with tools such as a pitchfork, rake, or shovel

If you want to keep the pile a little more tidy, you can expand the project even further by constructing an encasement around the pile itself out of wood, specifically hard wood pallets (side note: wood pallets are also very good for making pallet gardens). To add your own touch to it, you can also get creative and paint the pallets before you construct the encasement.

Using a Plastic Storage Bin (This is the method I am currently using.)

This method is also very simple to start, and it avoids a lot of mess and is good to keep in easily accessible spaces.

For this, all you need is:

  • A Plastic Storage Container (preferably with a lid)
  • A Drill (or anything that can poke holes through the lid of the container)

To get this project going, all you need to do is find an easily accessible place to store the container, drill/create holes in the lid at least 1-2 inches apart for air circulation, and simply add material to start the compost.

How to regulate/maintain your compost?

Although composting is a simple process, maintenance is still required.

To maintain a compost, all you have to do is:

  • Once material starts to accumulate, remember to turn the pile occasionally (I do this once a day).
    • For the storage container: You can do this with a small shovel, or simply by picking up the tub and shaking it till it is thoroughly mixed.
    • For the pile: As I wrote above, you can mix the pile with a tool such as a shovel, rake, or pitchfork.
  • Make sure there is an even balance between moist and dry materials.
    • This is important, you don’t want your compost to be too wet or too dry. Make sure to keep an eye on this and to add more moist or dry materials accordingly.

The compost should be ready to use when all the contents have fully (or at least mostly) decomposed. It should have a dark and rich appearance, giving off an earthy scent. Once it has reached this state, it will then be ready to incorporate into your soil.

What materials to add to a compost?

Dry materials that you can add:

  • Dry Grass Cuttings
  • Fallen Leaves
  • Egg Shells
  • Cut Up Egg Cartons
  • Shredded/Teared Up Paper/Newspaper
  • Straw/Hay
  • Wood Ash/Chips
  • Small Pieces of Cardboard

Moist materials that you can add:

  • Teabags
  • Vegetable Peelings
  • Fruit Waste
  • Fresh Grass Cuttings
  • Worms
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Water

What to AVOID adding:

  • Meat
  • Dairy Products
  • Dog or Cat Poop
  • Baby Diapers
  • Weeds
  • Plastic, Glass, and Metals

 

All my love best wishes, you got this.

The Power of Gratitude

To live in a constant state of gratitude is to be content with all-that-is.

Only when we make peace with all-that-is are we able to rise above, or overcome all that we consider to be negative in our lives. The situations within our own personal lives that we consider to be negative are only negative because we choose to perceive our circumstances through that lens. When we create a shift and recognize the reasons to be grateful for all that we have, we then begin to realize that where we are is actually pretty good!

Give to receive. That is law.

Whatever we give is what we shall receive. Whether it be love, judgement, fear, or gratitude; Whatever goes around comes around.

The power of living in a state of gratitude typically tends to be pretty underestimated. I’ve found this aspect of my life to be so important now that the last thing I say before I go to sleep and the first thing I say as soon as I wake up in the morning is “Thank you.

When we teach ourselves how to be thankful for all that we have, we also open ourselves up to allowing and receiving that same type of positive energy. If we only focus on the things that are “wrong” in our lives, then that focus will allow those types of experiences to continue. 

I know how easy it is to slip into the ego’s tendencies of complaining about all the things we claim to dislike in our lives. I know how easy it is to slip into thinking about how good our lives would be “If we just had…“, and I know how easy it is to slip into negative ways of thinking when things don’t go our way; But it is still our choice whether we want to focus on the positive or the negative.

It is, and always is, that simple of a decision.

Some ways that one can practice living in a constant state of gratitude are:

Starting a Gratitude Journal

This can vary from writing a list of at least 5 things you are grateful for every day, to keeping a journal dedicated to gratitude.

Saying “Thank You

This can be saying “Thank you,” right before you go to sleep and as soon as you wake up in the morning, to simply becoming aware of saying “Thank you,” to people in general.

For Every Complaint, Find Gratitude

Every time you catch yourself focusing on complaints, become aware of at least one thing that you are thankful for. Make the shift.

 

These are just a few examples that work for me, but like always, the list can go on forever and it is important to follow whatever path works for you personally. All my love and best wishes, thank you.

 

The Art of Being

There is no trying, only doing.

The moment one “tries” to be a certain way is the moment they get lost in the process. 

The beauty of simply being is that one doesn’t have to try or do anything. This is what some would call, “going with the flow”. It is the art of intentionally transitioning into a state of allowing and acceptance.

When we try to act, or even think a certain way, we are also unconsciously establishing the implication that we have to do in order to be. But we are already complete as we are.

Although it is important to recognize that through this natural process, awareness is powerful. Being is not simply giving up and falling into a state of unconsciousness, in fact, when we are in a state of being we are becoming more aligned with our higher consciousness. When we allow things to flow naturally, it is important to do so with the presence of awareness so we also become conscious of the things that were once running behind the scenes as unconscious patterns.

So being is not simply a doing in order to gain a temporary sense of relief from our lives, it is a way of livingOnce we begin to live life in this constant state of flow, it creates the shift into becoming our natural state. There is no more trying, there is no more “If I could just achieve this, I will finally be complete,” there just is, and that is a beautiful thing.

Breaking the Cycle of Procrastination

Our egos love to convince ourselves that it is easier to remain stagnant than to initiate growth and rise above limitations; But staying stagnant is suffering, and the limitations do not exist. 

If one feels as though they are lost and don’t know where to go next, the best thing to do is something.

Whenever I felt as if I was stuck in one place, not knowing which direction to go in next, I would realize that it was time for something to change.

Instead of waiting for some magical solution to come into my life, I always found it easier to take control and make something happen.

 

Some of the things that helped me to take action within my own life, that are easy for anyone to take control and do if they are feeling stuck, are:

Clean and Reorganize Your Bedroom

This is a great way to initiate a shift within one’s life. One can get rid of things that no longer grow them, serve them, or make them happy within their own personal space.

It feels good to let go of things that you feel as if you’ve grown out of, as well as getting rid of things that may carry an energy that holds you back mentally. Although more than anything, it feels good to create a space where you feel at peace.

Start a Garden

This doesn’t have to be an all or nothing project. One can take the initiative from going out and weeding, to starting a compost bin, to potting a flower and nurturing it every day. Don’t be afraid to get creative and involved with it, do whatever calls to you personally. Enjoy and be present during the process, as this is also a way to connect with nature.

Start a New Diet/Detox

It helps to start out small, like eliminating certain things from one’s diet (which is what I did in order to nurture my body). Some of the things I took the initiative of eliminating from my diet were:

  • Sugar
  • Bread
  • Dairy
  • Meat

It is important to do whatever works for you personally, and not to forget to love yourself through the process!

Create a Daily Exercise/Yoga Routine

This can be finding an exercise or yoga video that you like and practicing it every night before you go to sleep, or even something as simple as taking a walk once a day. As I wrote above, anything is better than nothing, as long as one is taking the initiative with the intention of doing things differently. 

Read a Book or Learn Something New

One doesn’t have to pay for a class or wait for knowledge to come to them in order to learn something new, there are many resources and ways to educate ourselves right here within our own homes. It is up to us though to initiate this process and become open to learning new things.

 

The list can go on forever… But at the end of the day, initiating some kind of change feels much better than staying stuck.

Becoming Non-Reactive Towards Thoughts

To observe thoughts without judgement or criticism, only with the presence of love and compassion, is to become aware of the truth that thoughts have no power over the way we feel, unless we allow them to have that power through reaction and ego-identification.

Of course no one would consciously want to give their thoughts the power to cause them suffering, that is why it is unconscious behavior. When one brings their awareness to the fact that thoughts do not have the power to cause them suffering unless they react to them, they then become conscious of it, and it is then no longer an unconscious pattern.

Some get as far as becoming aware of the thoughts that arise, but then lose this awareness by falling into unconscious reactivity; such as convincing themselves of “I should not be thinking this, I am wrong for thinking this” or truly believing that the thought has something to do with who they are (ego-identification), thus inducing emotions such as sadness, anger, regret, or fear.

The thoughts that we tend to react to the most are usually linked to a negative false belief system that we have recurrently convinced ourselves to be true (even if it is far from what is true), which then becomes ingrained within our mental structure. This false belief then influences unconscious cyclical patterns of thinking that we assume we have no control over, but we do.

When we begin to sit with these thoughts and look into why they arise, instead of fighting against, resisting, and trying to avoid them, we can then bring our awareness to the root cause of why these thoughts make us feel the way they do, and make the shift from unconsciousness to consciousness.

Using Your Body as an Anchor for Presence

Your body is an anchor for presence.

Presence not only has to do with becoming aware of perception and the activity of the mind, but becoming aware of the energy within the physical body as well. Although our essence is the formless aspect of our being, we are also connected to and inhabit our temporary physical forms that exists here within this collective reality.

To learn more about this connection between the form and the formless, one can look into concepts such as ChakrasKundalini, and Tantra. (These are just a few examples that have helped me, but there are many more). 

It is important to treat our bodies as our temples, and remember to not neglect this aspect of ourselves.

Practicing Unconditional Self-Love

When one begins to practice unconditionally loving them self, they are also nurturing a positive relationship between their mind, their body, and their being.

Unconditional love is not something that can be obtained, or a goal that is to be reached. Unconditional love is something that we as human-beings are constantly learning how to practice and cultivate within our own lives. 

So many of us often create limitations for ourselves by reinforcing self-constructed negative belief-systems, like patterns of self-doubt and self-judgement. In my personal experience, it feels much better to work towards letting go of such a mentality, and to give yourself a break.

One thing I have learned is the importance of making myself aware of the fact that it is okay to make mistakes, as long as I am able to perceive these mistakes as a lesson to learn from instead of a grievance with the power to hold me back from growing.

Instead of holding such high exceptions for ourselves, as if we’re not human-beings with imperfections, we should work towards being more compassionate and understanding towards ourselves, as we can then more genuinely express compassion and understanding towards others.

It is not selfish to prioritize yourself; if anything, once one practices loving them self unconditionally, they can then radiate that love to others,  and share it with whomever they decide to share it with.

You are already complete as you are, you don’t need any external validation to determine your self-worth, and that is truth. ♥

Patience, forgiveness, nourishment, making peace with being alone, a nice warm bath; self-love takes many forms, but at the end of the day, it simply comes down to what works best for one personally, based on their own personal life-experiences.

Trust in whatever feels right for you, and everything else will begin to fall into place.

Supported Headstand (Salamba Sirsasana)

IN THIS POSE: Gravity is working to increase blood flow throughout the body as well as draining the lymphatic system. This pose also helps to strengthen the core and triceps.

Parts of the body to focus on as you practice this pose: 

  • NeckWhile doing this pose you want to make sure to not apply pressure to your neck, you should not be feeling any pain or tension. This is where the support from the hands and arms comes in; cup your hands around the back of your head for support, keeping your forearms resting firmly on the ground. Your weight should mainly be resting on your arms; at no point should the weight of your body be resting on your neck or spine, as this can result in pain or injury.
  • Triceps – In this pose, the triceps are mainly used to stabilize oneself, and as a means of control as you transition from the ground into the air. Along with the core, the triceps are also used to maintain balance and prevent oneself from falling backwards.
  • Core – The core is very much at work in this pose, the stronger your core is the easier it will be to stay balanced while in the air.
  • Spine – The spine is what controls the alignment in this pose. When the spine is kept vertically aligned, it will prevent one from falling while in the air.
  • Hamstrings and Glutes – The hamstrings and glutes are also at work when one is transitioning from the ground into the air. They are also at work when one is adjusting their legs in order to become in alignment with the spine as a means of balance.

The goal is to eventually be able to lift yourself up into this pose without jumping, by walking your legs up towards your torso and extending them up slowly.

If you are just starting out, it would be helpful to place a pillow or something soft on the ground behind you as you lift yourself up into this pose as a precaution in case you fall backwards.

It would also help to have someone else present to assist in lifting you up, and to be there to hold your legs in the air in case you lose your balance.

It is okay to jump off of the ground in order to extend your legs into the air, but it would be beneficial to work towards walking your legs up towards your torso and slowly lifting them up into a bent position before extension, as well as bringing them down slowly when coming out of the pose instead of allowing them to drop down abruptly.

Don’t forget to breathe and release tension through each step.

It is important though to not push oneself too far, as this can result in an injury such as compression. Only ever go as far as is comfortable for you, you should not feel any pain when doing these poses.  

And as always, try not to make perfection the enemy of progress.

Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

During these chaotic and unpredictable times occurring in our world right now, it would be beneficial for anyone to have some kind of practice or routine to ground oneself, instead of allowing oneself to gravitate towards and feed into fear and negativity.

Every individual has the power to make a difference in this world simply by living from a state of higher consciousness, and being a conduit for peace, love, and positivity for all of humanity. We all have the choice of whether we want to bring healing or suffering into this world, but in order to radiate positive, loving, and healing energy towards others, we must first love and heal ourselves.

Yoga is a simple and efficient grounding technique that has been around for ages.

I do a series of simple stretches every night before I go to sleep to ground and align myself, and because it helps me to release any tension being held in my physical body.  One of my favorite poses that I do every night is Standing Forward Bend, as well as West Stretch Pose (or what some would call Seated Forward Bend) which has made doing a full Standing Forward Bend much easier for me.

STRETCHES: Hamstrings, Spine, Calves, and Glutes

WEST STRETCH POSE (Paschimottanasana): West Stretch Pose is basically the same pose as Standing Forward Bend, except one is sitting down, so gravity is not the main focus as it is in Standing Forward Bend. Practicing this pose every night will help to stretch out one’s hamstrings and glutes, which can often be a tight area for most people. Stretching these areas will also help to make it easier and work towards doing a full Standing Forward Bend.

STANDING FORWARD BEND: Like most poses, Standing Forward Bend has variations so anyone can practice this pose and receive the benefits. With daily practice, one can eventually master doing a full Standing Forward Bend, which is not always an easy pose to do for people who are just starting out.

But mastering a pose is not the goal here, the goal is to feel good and take care of one’s body. Mastering of poses is just something that you obtain through the process.

In Standing Forward Bend, gravity is doing most of the work; lengthening and releasing tension in one’s neck and spine while simultaneously stretching the glutes, calves, and hamstrings. Although you probably most often see people in this pose with their hands on the ground or pressed against the calves with their legs straightened, there are also variations where the legs are bent, or where one just allows their head, torso, and arms to hang down while  extending their spine and keeping their legs straight.

Continue reading Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)