Becoming a Master of Moments

Life is assembled by a series of moments. We can’t buy up a collection of perfect moments and use them over and over again because by nature, they are meant to be unpredictable, spontaneous and fleeting. They can be painful or bliss and the beauty is that no two are identical. As they come to us in the present, they are charged with energy and filled with potential. Our experience of life is determined by how we receive and act on each of these opportunities, presented in disguise. As they approach, do we expand in love or contract in fear? We can spend our moments waiting on a phone call, waiting to find out how someone else is spending their moments, fearing that we’re not a part of their intentions, or we can focus on our own opportunities for growth and expansion. Will you spend yours on hold or living? Waiting or growing?

Coast WaveTo achieve our highest potential, we must constantly pay attention to the opportunities coming our way. Think of them like waves in the ocean. Waves just keep coming; another wave always comes. The waves that come are a perfect metaphor for opportunity because there is always another opportunity to succeed just like there is always another wave to take you to shore. They will continue to come and we should take advantage of the ones we can play on and enjoy. And if the wave of opportunity fizzles out before it reaches the shore, we just wait for the next one. There is no failure; there is no setback, just perseverance, patience and trust.

Every moment brings with it the potential to carry us forward. We can use up all the juice in each one to propel us into the next one and the next one until those individual moments have rolled us into such a strong momentum that we become unstoppable. Then, we have become the master of moments. We can wield our moments and use them to shape a new and better existence for ourselves. People will wonder our trick and not understand how everything we touch turns to gold…but the secret is, we are mastering moments. We are capitalizing on the opportunities the universe gifts us with each tick of the clock and with each step forward as time propels us into the future, one present moment at a time.

The best and most inspiring part for me about learning to master my moments, is knowing that everyone else in the world is out there living in their own moments with unique perspectives and different potential. The combination of energy as people bounce off of one another is limitless. Every time you meet someone new or bump into someone you already know, remember that you’re each living different experiences and doing completely different things with that moment of interaction. If both of you are maximizing your moments, the possibilities are boundless.

Mastering moments is about making creative decisions. By creative decisions, I mean, taking everyday risks like going out for a walk when you might have stayed in. Acting on the question, “who or what might I encounter out there in the world that could maximize the power of this very moment?” Picking a book off the shelf I didn’t know I had, downloading a new song that may inspire me to write my own, calling a friend I haven’t spoken to and learn in talking that I had ideas or advice I didn’t know I had. The best thing about making moves, any moves, is that there are infinite possibilities with each one. It all begins by capitalizing on every single moment. Pick the harder choice, the one that forces you to move and act and hope and believe.

Pay attention to the way one moment flows into the next and the next and the next. Witness the way opportunities abound when you pay attention and move with the flow of the universe.

Things can change overnight; with one phone call or one email or one boss having a thought that leads to one creative decision. There is infinite potential in every single moment for excellence, abundance and success.

As originally published in Soulwoman eMagazine.

Bali, Indonesia: 8 Can’t Miss Experiences for the Traveling Yogi

bali

As originally published on YogaTravelTree.com.

People from all over the world flock to Bali for its lush landscape, crystal blue waters and to connect with its long history as a healing and spiritual center. It is a soft, safe place to land for the spiritual seeker and offers many opportunities for the international yogi and yogini.

Find Your Center in Ubud

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Rich in art and culture with a long history as a hub for natural medicine and healing, Ubud is the spiritual center of Bali. It is the perfect place to restore from long hours of travel, begin your journey, find your footing and ground back into your uprooted center of self. Gamelan music performances, cultural dances and leisurely strolls along the avenues watching the grinning Balinese working on their art and crafts are perfect ways to get into the spirit of the island and begin to understand its rich culture. With the excitement and energy you bring to the beginning of a trip, you’ll enjoy wandering through Monkey Forest, hiking around the area and visiting local artists in working studios. Make sure to spend some time sipping coffee or a smoothie at one of the many cafés backing up to the lush and peaceful rice paddies. There are also a wide variety of yoga classes available in Ubud and Yoga Barn is a notorious stop for yoga inspired travelers.

Get quiet and go Within at Balian Beach

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This rich, black sand beach is off the beaten path and offers its low key travelers majestic waves, long beaches, sacred waters, lush tropical forests and a peace perfect for meditation and self reflection. There is a drastic separation here from the commercialism and tourists you’ll find in other parts of the island. Come here when you’re ready to go deep within and have some peaceful alone time. Yoga classes, healthful meals and retreats are close by at Shankari’s Bali Retreat.

Take in a Spiritual Sunset at Tanah Lot Temple

One of seven sea temples around the island of Bali and one of the most important temples for the Balinese, Tanah Lot brings in a large number of tourists in the high season. As one of the most recommended places to go, you’ll want to make sure to bring a little cash and a lot of patience for the local vendors and their wares. There are many opportunities from the surrounding areas to go for a day trip and take in a stunning sunset. Wear your water shoes, you’ll have to get your feet wet to get to the little rock/island temple, but the excursion is well worth it.

Let Your Spirit Soar Atop Mount Agung

When you’re ready to take your spirit to the next level, book a guide and hike up this ancient but active volcano. It is the highest mountain on the island and the place with the most spiritual significance for the Balinese. The Besakih temple on Mount Agung miraculously survived the devastating eruption in 1963 reinforcing its spiritual substance for the island population. Begin your climb in the lush forest at the base and make your way up through the barren volcanic rock at the top giving way to spectacular views. There are three intermediate to advanced climbing routes, guides should be organized in advance.

Choose Your Own Adventure in Padangbai

This port town is the perfect point to intersect with other travelers on their way out to the exterior islands. This small backpackers spot is a high energy and transient place to go when you’re ready to get moving and need direction; come to Padangbai and let it launch you into your next adventure. Spend the day at Blue Lagoon Beach then charter a small boat out to the Gili Islands or Nusa Lembongan. Make sure to negotiate a snorkel as part of the ride.

Return to Civilization by way of Kuta & Seminyak

Kuta is a bustling city with the best nightlife in Bali. When you’ve been secluded on a quiet island for weeks, it’s just the ticket to get you back into the swing of civilization and get socialized and ready to re-integrate into the world. There are many interesting spots where you can spend your remaining rupiah on a hot shower, some fresh seafood and a live show during dinner on Jimbaran Beach.

Spend a Day at the Beach in Sanur

When you’re ready for a break from adventuring, this upscale resort town offers one of the biggest and best beaches in Bali. You can sit in a lounge chair on the beach or swing in a hammock, frozen cocktail in hand. There is a long stretch of oceanfront boardwalk, ideal for gift shopping or a romantic stroll. The sand in Sanur is white and soft, not rocky underfoot like most other beaches on the island. There are lots of places in town for healthy eats and a beautiful spot for yoga on the beachfront at Power of Now Oasis.

Get Back to Basics on the Island of Nusa Lembongan

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Escape the main island and ferry or charter a boat out to Nusa Lembongan to experience the simplicity of island life on this speck of map. You’ll spend easy days napping, diving, doing yoga, sipping smoothies and watching beautiful sunsets. Rent a bicycle and cruise through the mangroves to the Beach Club at Sandy Bay for lunch, a cocktail and a swim overlooking a stunning ocean view. On Lembongan you’ll witness the simple life of locals who work as seaweed farmers in this small working town. If you’re a diver, spoil yourself in the crystal waters with instructors and masters at Big Fish Diving and get to a yoga class with Yoga Travel Tree writer Caroline Layzell at Yoga Shack.

When traveling in Bali, it’s important to take advantage of the balanced experience the island allows for. Spend some quiet, healing moments in reflection, meditation and yoga and then explore her many opportunities for adventure, diving, climbing, snorkeling and surfing. Bali is a special place. Enjoy your exploration of her countless treasures.

Off the Beaten Path: A Bali Yoga Retreat

bali retreatAs originally published on YogaTravelTree.com

315704_10150425029770086_1095314045_nI left the bustling art town of Ubud and rode for 2 exhausting hours in a non-airconditioned van in sticky hot temperatures. I was on my way to Shankari’s Bali Retreat in Suraberata, a place so off the beaten track, not even my local driver knew quite where we were headed. Exhausted as I was, I arrived at the retreat and felt immediately at peace. The sprawling compound sat in the middle of a tropical jungle, a short walk to a rushing river that opens into the sea over a wide black sand beach. This place held a sort of spiritual magic and presence; it felt sacred and I was anxious to get settled and regroup after my travel across the island.

The Balinese are always smiling and a helpful staff member with a familiar broad grin showed me to my Ganesha Yin Yang bungalow. The room was decadent compared to the backpacker accommodations in Ubud and still affordable on my budget, although only for a couple of nights at the $30 off-season special rate.

My bed was draped in white mosquito netting and I had a private patio overlooking the jungle below. I unloaded my heavy pack onto the wood floor and went to sit out there, letting the ringing in my head soften with the jungle’s heavy sense of peace and quiet stillness. It was the first peace I’d had since my journey began.

Balian Beach

I headed down to the beach and held up my loose pant-legs as the water rushed across my shins and my heels sunk into the heavy black sand. An ancient part of me wondered at the audacity of wearing white pants to a black sand beach on a rainy day, but the new part, the free part, laughed and her heart pounded with happiness and liberation. I’d never seen the river meet the sea before, though I’ve seen it many times since. It felt so indicative of my life at the time, like a metaphor. It felt as if the current were trying to take me to a bigger and broader set of experience and I was in awe that I’d never seen the expanse of opportunity laid out before me this way.

Here in this quiet retreat, off the beaten tourist path, Bali was beginning to heal me. It was working to shape this new version of myself and I was letting the rapid current soften the hard stones around my soul and erode the walls built up to protect my heart. I felt the place working on me like a masseuse and I knew, standing there in the river, looking out at the Balian Sea, that I would never be the same and that was exactly why I came; to be changed.

Vrksasana: Balancing Life On and Off the Mat

On a blustery day there is movement in everything the wind touches. Even the river seems to be carried faster by the rushing air. Nothing in nature is still except the trunks of the strong trees; they are solid, constructed by God and the universe to withstand the torments of nature. We are built this way too. Through experience, the roots of who we are become deeper and stronger making us more resilient to the major blows as we age and grow. These roots hold us steady when the winds of change and challenge arise. Our roots, an ever expanding system of support, allow us to stand alone and stand strong in the face of judgment and adversity. Our roots keep us balanced and provide the spiritual sustenance we need to learn and grow and experience the world using our full span of branches, blooming above ground.

Photo Credit: SAMsāra Yogā.

Photo Credit: SAMsāra Yogā

In yoga, the slow and concentrated movement into Vrksasana simulates the growth of a tree. If the foundation and roots are solid, the tree will stand healthy and strong. This is the same way we feel in Vrksasana (tree pose) on the days when we are mentally and physically balanced. Achieving this state is hard though, whether you’re balancing on one leg or juggling kids, job, spouse and a social life. As in yoga, balance is about practice and using your tools of focus, concentration and determination which are key in achieving results on or off the mat. When the mind is single-pointed on a purpose, all the distractions fall away and your full energy lies with your intention. One success leads to another and another and next thing you know, you’re standing on one leg, one arm, your head or you’re done with work by 5:00 with kids in bed by 8:00 so you can snuggle with the hubby or get a glass of wine with the girls. The first step is seeking balance in whatever area of your life feels like a runaway train.

You don’t need experience in yoga to practice Vrksasana. The biggest challenge of this pose, is being nice to yourself by not getting frustrated when you fall out of balance…and you will fall out of balance. We fall out of balance in more ways than one every day. Your efforts with Tree Pose will help curb this sense of frustration on a mental and physical level so you can fall back into step, keep moving, keep trying, and keep growing. Remember that as you experiment with Vrksasana.

As with all postures, be mindful of the limitations of your body. Be careful if you have weak ankles and stand next to or against a wall if you are prone to dizziness, have vertigo or if you feel unsteady for any reason. Choose a space that has firm flooring and that is unobstructed by furniture or other objects. Read the instruction completely before moving into the posture.

Begin growing into Vrksasana by standing with both feet together, visualizing them rooting through the floor into the earth, the four corners of each foot evenly holding the weight of your body. Lift your toes and feel the firm pressure in the balls and heels of your feet. Replace your toes on the ground and lift your kneecaps. Feel the strength growing upward as your quadriceps are engaged. Visualize that strength moving up through the roots you planted with your feet. Tuck your tailbone under and engage your core, feeling yourself rise and grow taller. Roll your shoulders down your back, elongating your neck. Your chin is level with the earth and your face is relaxed. Your arms are relaxed at your sides and your hands dangle at the ends like the leaves on a branch.

Feel the way you are planted and balanced, yet flexible as a tree which might sway with the wind. Close your eyes and spend some time here tuning into your body. Trees need oxygen, so remember to take in deep breaths, expanding your belly like a balloon and sending the air up through the ribcage of the thoracic region and into the chest. When your body is full of oxygen, compress the air out from the chest down through the ribcage and use the abdominal muscles to press it out.

Once you feel firmly rooted, bring your hands to your hips. Reach for your right ankle with your right hand and place the sole of your right foot on your inner left thigh, as close to your perineum as possible with the right knee pointed out to the side. If this is too difficult, you can bring the sole of your foot to your calf, but never against the inside of your knee. For an easier modification, flex your toes against the floor and place your right heel against your left ankle like a kickstand.

Wherever you begin, as your foot rises up your leg, visualize yourself energetically growing, as a tree, from your roots firmly planted on the earth. Imagine the steadiness being initiated from under the ground and up through your planted foot and standing leg. When you are balanced, bring the hands to prayer, palms pressed together, at heart center. Remember to keep breathing and not to hold your breath. When you are steady here, slowly begin to grow your arms overhead, keeping the palms pressed together and straightening your arms next to your ears. As with all things in our lives, it helps to have a point of focus. As my yoga teacher said during my training in India, “Find your coconut.” Find something in front of you to concentrate your gaze and focus your energy toward. As you stand with strength and purpose, maybe on your first try, maybe on your 50th, imagine yourself as a tree standing strong against the rain, wind and snow, transforming with the challenges of every season; standing strong, alone and powerful against them.

To come out, inhale deeply. As you exhale, slowly begin to lower the raised arms back to heart center. As you release your arms to your sides, slowly let your right foot slide back down to the floor in a controlled manner. Take a few deep breaths, shake your legs out and attempt the other side.

A tree represents steadiness. It’s hard to imagine a tree being unbalanced or having a scattered mind. When you’re feeling at your most restless, unsure, worried or out of control, envision yourself as a tree. Regular practice of Vrksasana helps us develop poise, concentration and single-pointed focus. You can practice this same concentration while sitting at your desk by closing your eyes and turning your awareness to your breath. When you concentrate on that one thing, your breath, your mind begins to become still. In quiet and stillness the mind is reset and the answers to life’s problems become clear as you become mentally and spiritually balanced.

Thanks to Kru Sam and SAMsāra Yogā in Bankok for the beautiful image in this post. Visit www.facebook.com/samsarayogashala for more information and photos.

This article was originally published in Soulwoman eMagazine. Visit the Soulwoman Sanctuary online to find the current issue at www.soulwomansanctuary.com.

A Time for Reflection and Growth

I came across this post on my other blog while preparing for a workshop I’m hosting at my yoga studio on Reflection and Resolutions. I thought it a fitting time, days away from the new year and my birthday, to see exactly what difference a year makes. I did lots of hard work and some serious manifesting in 2013! Here is the post as originally published on the Kristin Daemon journal blog.

Today is my birthday.  I feel fortunate that my birthday comes along with the fresh start of every New Year.  As an adult, I have come to appreciate this and take advantage of that opportunity to check in with myself and look at how far I’ve come, not only in the scope of a new year, but also in the greater scope of my life.  

Our lives stack up so quickly and so densely that it’s necessary for us to look back at intervals after time has made sense of our experiences and removed us from the emotion and fog of it all.  Every year we take on new responsibility and obligations.  We meet new people and have new relationships; we also mourn the loss of people and relationships, and alternately welcome and resist change.  As beings in constant motion, experiencing things on both physical and emotional levels, it’s rare that we take time to sit still and reflect and recognize our process and acknowledge our progress.  When we do take time to do this at the beginning of each year, it’s important to look at these experiences objectively and not to judge anything we did as a mistake or a misstep.  Everything positive and negative we go through leads to a bigger bank of knowledge about ourselves and the world and helps us evolve and make better and better choices moving forward. 

It helps to consider that we often don’t notice the little changes a thing takes to grow, be it a child, a pet or a plant.  But to an outsider looking in who only sees that progress intermittently, the small changes along the way contribute to a great body of change over a period of months or years.  Our lives and our personal progress work like that too.  When I think about all the little changes I made over the course of this year that stacked up to put me here in this time and place under an entirely different set of circumstances than the year before, the progress I made, though it didn’t feel like it along the way, was quite significant. 

Like most people, I think, I tend to get wrapped up in the discomfort of a moment or a series of moments and it’s hard to see the big picture and see that the moments of discomfort I’m feeling during this period of great change are actually baby steps in the right direction; a direction that will take me to my end goal, a life where I get to live my dreams and my passions.  So instead of looking at the discomfort in these moments as obstacles or challenges and dwelling on the sense of unease they create, I need to start looking at them as growing pains.  Instead of feeling down or sad or impatient that I’m not exactly where I want to be right now, I need to appreciate that these moments are exactly what I need to be going through in order to experience expansion.

So now, I set my intentions for a year full of surprises and gifts, challenges and knowledge.  I will leave behind my fear, anxiety, stress and worry over the unknown and choose to embrace it instead.  I will leave behind my unhealthy attachments and create a life of freedom, choices and adventure. 

Happy New Year!

Cultivating Peace

It’s late and I’m sitting in a cozy spot by the fire. The tree is lit by a strand of little red lights that sparkle as they reflect off keepsake ornaments. I’m sipping tea that smells of fresh peppermint and sweet chamomile. The tea and soft blanket around my shoulders warm my body and mind and I look at the gifts, prettily wrapped with heart-felt intentions, under the tree. I remember that the holidays are about love and a special kind of light that glows soft and steady.

I withdraw to the peace of this moment when I need a break from the hustle of the holiday Cultivating Peaceseason. I visit this peace every day by closing my eyes and breathing into the gaps between the chaos. I escape to that peace by the fire before getting out of my car to go into the next store. I can rest in it before opening my laptop to shop online or email the family about holiday plans. It’s so important during this special time of year, to create pockets of time to remember what the holidays are about. There will be chaos, there will be obligations, we will encounter the greed, guilt and consumerism that come with the holiday season. But we can withdraw from all of that. We can look within and return to that cozy place by the fire. We can breathe into silence and keep the stillness with us throughout these crazy days.

Once you create a place for peace within and learn to return to it, create your scene for others. Sit close by the fire and let the silence comfort you and your loved ones. Share a cup of peppermint tea and a blanket. Enjoy a soft, heart-felt conversation. This is the warm holiday spirit we’re all trying so hard to create and provide for our families and friends as we move frantically about the season. Remember that spirit resides in peace; peace within, peace with the members of our families, peace with the universe, peace in silence and stillness. Cultivate holiday spirit and peace this season and bask in the warm, soft glow of love and light.

As published in the December 2013 issue of Curious the Tourist Guide

Invoking Lakshmi

Lakshmi is the goddess of abundance and good fortune.  She is the embodiment of balance, beauty, grace and wealth. We call to Lakshmi with gratitude when we get a raise at work, discover our purpose or witness a spectacular sunset. We must not forget to ask her blessing when we pray for financial freedom or creative inspiration. Lakshmi’s presence and energy in our lives, whether we are aware of them or not, bring us to appreciate the beauty of our relationships, our surroundings and our experiences. She eases us out of one beautiful moment and leaves us with an innate knowing that another moment will come to capture beauty in a different way, so that we are ever in love with and inspired by life.

Lakshmi is feminine, powerful and the essence of all things that are beautiful. When we consciously invoke her, she is the means to all things we crave in life.  She is the polar opposite of filth, lack and fear. She is a radiant beam of light, love and fulfillment.

What can we do in our everyday lives to embody that radiant energy of the goddess? We can start by making our homes clean, clutter-free environments where we cook healthful meals that nurture our bodies and those of our families.  We can take responsibility for our finances by paying our bills on time. We can stop spending money and energy on material things that will do nothing to improve our quality of life in the long run. Sit and listen to beautiful music that warms the soul instead of zoning out in front of the television, think fondly and without bitterness of past loves. Send light and love to them and to friends and family you miss or who may be ill or depressed. The universe responds to these gestures. When you pay attention and begin to shift your perspective from negative habits and reactions toward positive ones, your soul and spirit will feel light and pure and your body energized, healthy and strong.

Let the goddess into your life and embody her brilliance and beauty. Make your life a place she wants to visit, stay and live. Bring in fresh flowers, light candles, burn incense. Build her a beautiful shrine and pay homage to her presence in every aspect of your life. Have gratitude for the blessings she bestows on you, whether her gift is the money you use to buy groceries, the sweet smell of a garden, or a view of sunlight glimmering on the ocean. And remember that, if you surround yourself with vulgarity, Lakshmi will not stay. She wants to live where there is warmth, respect and appreciation, just like the rest of us.

LakshmiSoften your angry, worried face. Put away doubt and insecurity. Take a deep breath and feel into the beautiful softness of your heart. You have a choice in everything you do; in every action you take. You make a choice to insult or inspire. You choose to compliment or condescend. You can choose to clean your dish or let it sit dirty in the sink. You decide whether to have a cigarette or take a deep breath. The decisions we make slowly become habit. These habits turn into negative or positive cycles and the momentum builds so the pattern, no matter how healthy or unhealthy, becomes a lifestyle. It is harder to change an entire lifestyle than it is to make consistent, positive choices and to have gratitude for the results in each moment.

Whether you’re witnessing beauty in another person, in an experience or in your surroundings, know that true beauty has the potential to wake up the heart and is strong enough to feel like an emotion.  When we express gratitude for these moments, Lakshmi and the universe conspire to send us more.

As published in the October 2013 issue of Soulwoman eMagazine. Visit the website and find my contribution to this month’s issue, Traveling a Path Paved by Purpose on page 53!