- Promotes the savoring of positive life experiences. Relishing and taking pleasure in the gifts in your life raises your awareness and experience of satisfaction and enjoyment in your current circumstances.
- Boosts self-worth and self-esteem. Realizing how much others do for you and how much you have accomplished helps you feel more confident.
- Helps in coping with stress and trauma. Gratitude helps to positively reinterpret stressful or negative experiences.
- Encourages moral behavior. Grateful people are more likely to help others and show compassion.
- Builds social bonds. Cultivating gratitude helps in experiencing a sense of connectedness.
- Inhibits invidious comparisons with others. If you’re genuinely thankful and appreciative for what you have, you’re less likely to envy others.
- Deters or diminishes feelings of anger, bitterness, and greed. Gratitude is incompatible with negative emotions.
- Prevents the tendency to take things for granted. Cultivating gratitude thwarts the hedonic adaptation that often happens over time after something exciting and new enters our lives.
Source: The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want by Sonja Lyubomirsky
Gayaatri by Ravi Shankar and George Harrison
I’m Getting Ready by Michael Kiwanuka
Chillum by Mike ‘Slo-Mo’ Brenner
Thank U by Alanis Morissette
Alone by Ansar (featuring Aisha and the Dum Dum Project)
Tripti by Mike ‘Slo-Mo’ Brenner (featuring Debashish Bhattacharya)
Violin by Amos Lee
Just Breathe by Pearl Jam
Long Time Sun by Snatam Kaur
Closing by Wah!
Safe Passage (Tamuke) by Riley Lee
Soothing Cricket Song (From “Native American Flute”) by Sleep Tribe
The internet was abuzz earlier this week about the death of Zach Sobiech. Diagnosed with cancer four years ago at the age of 14, Zach amazed his family and friends with the way he lived his life and his unwavering positive outlook. Last year when he learned the cancer had spread, Zach poured his energy into making the most of his last days. He wrote a farewell song called “Clouds” and the music video on YouTube went viral. (Watch Zach’s story below.)
After learning about Zach I thought of Pema Chodron’s tale of a woman being chased by tigers. Finding a cliff she climbs down a vine but sees there are tigers below. Looking back up she sees a mouse is chewing through the vine. Tigers above, tigers below and a pesky rodent destroying the thing to which she clings. The woman looks around and sees luscious strawberries growing on the side of the cliff. She chooses to pluck the berries, place them in her mouth, and savor them much the way Zach did with the good things in his life. Pema Chodron reminds us that we are all somewhere between birth and death. At every moment we have a choice: Worry about the tigers or delight in the strawberries.
For those who focus on the tigers and miss the strawberries altogether, Zach’s story shows us there is another way, even in the most dire situations. Want to choose the strawberries in the future? Then build the habit of doing so. Like a muscle that can be trained and strengthened, the more times you practice choosing joy over fear and living in the present over worrying about the future, the more easily making the choice becomes.
When we view the asana practice as a microcosm of life, we can see how being on our yoga mat provides opportunities to prepare for making choices in the face of obstacles. When a pose challenges the muscles to the point of shaking, see if the mind can find the ease. Should the internal temperature rise and the pulse quicken, try to smooth the breath and experience the moment. When you begin to think you couldn’t possibly spend one more second in your most difficult posture, focus on letting go of the discomfort and expectations for the future and simply…be. Each and every time you are in yoga class, seek to look beyond the tigers and find the strawberries. In time you may find you’re doing so off the mat as well.
Mangalam by Deva Premal
Breathe by Bliss Featuring Sophie Barker
Clouds by Zach Sobiech
Cloudy This Morning by George Winston
Hari Om by Ben Leinbach featuring Prajna Vieira
Chai Blues by Mike ‘Slo-Mo’ Brenner
Breathe Me by Sia
One Moment More by Mindy Smith
Breathe by Alexi Murdoch
Breathing Out by Shaman’s Dream
I had a panic this morning while teaching a yoga class. When I clicked ‘play’ on my iPod I noticed the songs in the playlist were in a different order from how I had painstakingly placed them!
My mind seized on all that could go wrong and I was certain that the song I planned for savasana would play right when I wanted the quick tempo drum music and vice versa. Dreadful thoughts flooded my mind. Would my class be ruined by the music? Can I fix it? Should I change to a different playlist? Should I forego the music?
But then I realized that something worse than having a screwed up playlist was occurring - I was abandoning my students. Sure, physically I was there in the room, but my attention wasn’t. I was getting caught up in my disappointment that things were not going as I hoped. If I chose to fret over what music was going to play when, then I couldn’t be fully present. At that moment I had to let go of my vision of the “perfect class.”
In her book, Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up, Patricia Ryan Madson draws on her experiences as a drama teacher and founder of the Stanford Improvisors to share some of the best ideas and tips I’ve read for living life to the fullest by focusing on the present. I relied on the wisdom of what she calls the “13 Maxims of Improv” to get back to where I needed to be; such as:
- Say Yes (#1) – “Say yes to everything. Go along with the plan.” It might not have been music the way I planned it but it was the program now in front of me. I chose to go with it.
- Just Show Up (#3) – Giving students my undivided attention was the most important thing I needed to do at that moment. Any time spent worrying and wondering served nothing except to keep me from being altogether there for them.
- Be Average (#5) – I needed to stop focusing on perfection. My new personal mantra comes from Madson’s tale of the owner of the construction company whose motto”Perfect is close enough” changed during a time he faced challenges in building his own property. The new motto is “Close enough is perfect.”
Madson’s book is a little 160-page gem filled with great advice. “Instead of preparing an outcome, ready yourself for whatever may come,” she writes. “Open your eyes, breathe fully and attend to just this moment. Focusing attention on the present puts you in touch with a kind of natural wisdom. When you enter the moment with heightened awareness, what you need to do becomes obvious. You discover that you already have the answers.”
So I eased up on my plans for the class and while the music played in its newly found order, I refocused on what mattered most: teaching my students about yoga and leading them in the practice. As a result, maybe they too are now better prepared to improvise when needed.