Why Meditation is as important as keeping your house clean

Do you clean your house daily?   Have you meditated before? Do you do it as often as you clean your home? What is meditation exactly? I want to share how you can incorporate simple meditation into your daily life and show you why it’s as important as keeping your house clean.   What is it like to live in a cluttered Home? You can’t find what you’re looking for, you can possibly injure yourself by falling over debris strewn across the floor, and there is mental stress from all of the unending to-do lists to clean the kitchen and organize the closets. But what about a cluttered mind? Your memory is bad and you can’t remember what you were thinking of because you have so many different tracks going on at the same time. There is no system in place to clean out the stress and experiences of the day, and we end up distracting ourselves with more stimulation in the form of sugar, alcohol and television. All of this excess stimulation and stress can eventually lead to long term diseases like Heart disease, which is the number one cause of death in the United States. It’s overwhelming but it’s not too late, even if you have the double duty of cleaning out both your mind and your home.   Physical activity like biking, running, and Yoga can help to relieve some of the stress and mess in the mind, but it can be superficial. It’s like we are wiping off the counters of the kitchen, when our garage is filled with old baggage that we no longer need. When we go from the more gross physical exercises, to the more subtle exercise of meditation, we are moving into cleaning out the garages and closets of the mind. We are unearthing deep set beliefs and patterns that keep us from living that life of abundance, health and peace of mind. Many people feel uncomfortable when they start meditating in silence because there is nothing to distract them from their unwanted feelings and thoughts. It’s like when you pick through that old baggage and find something that reminds you of a lost relative or a bad incident in your past. It’s so much easier to just let that stuff rot in the back of our minds than to face our inner demons.   What is meditation anyways? There are many different techniques but we will focus on the simple technique of bringing our attention to the abdomen and feeling the natural breath expand and contract. Whenever the mind wanders to thinking about other things just return to the feeling of expansion and contraction of the breath. Sometimes I may get lost in a thought chain that goes on for minutes but once I rediscover that my intention is to follow the breath I return, and try not to be hard on myself for being easily distracted. It’s like when we are cleaning our house and all of a sudden we get a phone call and a friend is asking us about an event we have planned so we go to the computer and look up our calendar and tell them the date, then we find we have 7 new emails to read, and all of a sudden an hour goes by and were watching YouTube videos of monkeys juggling coconuts and remember that originally we had the intention of cleaning our house. Hopefully if we have time we will return to cleaning the house or following the breath.   So how will meditation help us?  It allows us to live healthier lives. Numerous studies have shown that stress exacerbates up to 90% of all diseases. With meditation we are teaching our mind to effectively deal with unwanted stress. We learn let go of things we can’t control, and let go of other people’s bad emotions that they try to push onto us.    It allows us to be more present to our everyday life experiences. Have you found that days can go by as you are busy with work, answering the phone and the rush of all of the external stimulation, and then you take a moment and truly look out the window to the mountains. Everything else fades away and all of the sudden you are truly present to the beauty and awe of nature. This presence can be true with all aspects of your life.   It allows us to be more productive. When our mind is clear it is easier to remember things, to focus our mind on projects, and communicate clearly with others. We prevent stress and emotional reactions from draining us, which leaves us with more energy available to work on what we are passionate about.   Why YOU can meditate even if you think you can’t. Concentration – I used to think that meditation was difficult. In our western culture we want to “do things right” and when we’re given the task of meditation, where we are supposed to sit in silence and peace of mind, we feel that we have failed when our mind is flooded with thoughts. It’s called a “Practice” of meditation not a “perfection”. It doesn’t matter if your mind is racing the entire time you are meditating. What matters it that you have the intention of observing your breath and put in the time to practice. As you continue your daily practice your mind will begin to slow down. Just like the seemingly endless piles of boxes in the garage begin to disappear as you work on clearing out the clutter. Time – You don’t need an hour a day to practice meditation. One or two minutes a day is fine. As you continue your daily practice you may find that you want to meditate both in the morning and the evening. Allow that desire for more meditation to come up naturally instead of forcing it with self-discipline. Location – You don’t need a temple or special mediation room in your house. For your daily practice you could just sit in your car for 2 minutes before driving somewhere.

Now you have a better understanding of how simple meditation can be, and yet how necessary it is for our everyday life. Just like you don’t want to live in a cluttered space, you don’t want to live with a cluttered mind. We are healthier, more present, and more productive when we take the time out to meditate, even if at first it is only a couple minutes a day in your car with your mind racing in every direction. Over time your mind will begin to slow down, you’ll clear through the mental clutter of the mind, and you live with peace and joy. 


Three simple Qi Gong exercises you can do anywhere

This post is inspired by my latest trip to New York City. Many people say they don’t have time to do meditation, or Qi Gong, or Yoga. That they have too much to do during the day to spend time at home before they jet off into the world. This post is to share with those people to explain how you can take those small free moments to listen to your body. Waiting at the street light, standing on the subway, or in line at the bank or grocery check out are perfect opportunities to check in with our body and bring greater awareness and healing. Here are the three exercises. You can download these exercises to your computer below. Joint rotation Moving the joints while keeping our awareness there is lubricating the joint, increasing the range of motion and decreasing pain. An easy example is the hand and wrist. You can start by slowly rotating the wrists in a circle. Then changing directions, moving slowly and feeling areas of tension or blockage. Then spreading the fingers and pulling them in towards the palm. Opening and closing from fist to open palm. This simple exercise helps to bring circulation and energy to the hands and wrists. Breathing into areas of tension Any area of pain you can bring your awareness, and your breath into. For example, if you have lower back pain you can breath into the area, breathing in a healing light. Exhale visualizing any tension or pain going down the back of the legs and into the earth. Weight shift Many times we carry our weight more on one foot or the other. This can lead to all kinds of imbalances going up through the hips and shoulders and neck. With this exercise, you shift your weight from right to left, and forward and back. Bending the knees just slightly. Noticing how you hold yourself in gravity. Is it easier to lean forward or backwards? Are you more comfortable on your left or right foot? Then you can bring your weight into center, feeling all of the corners of the foot connecting with the ground. Bringing this awareness to the feet can make huge changes throughout your whole posture. If you listen to an iPod or mp3 player you can follow these exercises on mp3 by downloading them below. Right Click and “Save Link as…” to download to your computer. Intro Joint Rotation Breathe away Tension Weight Shft Otherwise the transcript of the audio is available below, and you are welcome to record your own version. Transcript of Audio: Wrist rotation – spread the fingers of both hands, squeeze them into a fist repeating two more times, inhale as you expand the palm, exhale as you bring your fingers into a fist. Next rotate both wrists in towards your body. Lubricating the joint with the movement. Rotate the opposite direction. Shake the hands out and feel how your hands and wrist feels after the exercise. Breathing into areas of tension – In this audio we will focus on breathing relaxation into the neck and shoulders. On your own time feel free to use this exercise on any part of the body that has tension. If you can, placing your hands on your shoulders can help us to direct the healing energy. Crossing the arms over the chest and holding onto opposite shoulders can be a good way to do this. Take a nice relaxed breath in. Allowing the shoulders to rise up into the hands slightly, and then exhale, allowing the shoulders to fall away from the ears, into gravity. Continue the breath in this way, breathing in your intention to relax the shoulders, and exhaling any unnecessary tension or stress. Exhale out of the nose if you feel tired and want to conserve energy, or exhale out of the mouth if you feel anxious and want to purge excess energy. Continue this exercise for as long as you want, returning the arms down to the sides when you’ve finished. Weight Shift – While standing, bring attention to the point of contact from the bottom of your feet to the shoes, and ground beneath you. Without changing anything just notice how the weight is distributed on the feet. Is there more weight on the left foot or the right? Do you lean towards the front ball of the foot, or the back heel? Now start to adjust the weight in your feet so that you feel more balanced. Finding your fulcrum point where you are balanced forward and back, and left and right. Even amount of weight on all four corners of the foot. Feel free to continue this exercise as long as you can, and when you’ve finished, start walking again with presence of your connection with the ground beneath you. Grounded.

5 Steps to Deep and Connecting Conversations.

What does small talk feel like, where you discuss the weather, food, or television shows. What about in comparison to conversations where you get to know what the other person truly desires, and what their deepest fears are. What about talking about your goals and visions, and sharing by empathizing and encouraging others to do their best. These are the kinds of experiences that leave you feeling inspired and ready to face the world again. These refreshing conversations could potentially be had with anyone, but depth is lacking in most conversations that people have. Talking to the checkout clerk while thinking about the other things on our to-do list, with coworkers about gossip and trivial matters, and going home to watch television with your family. Having such shallow conversations and connections will result in a shallow and meaningless life. What can we do to incorporate some more depth and meaning into our relationships and conversations?

1. Spend time with journaling and introspection, to create visions for your life, to ponder what you truly desire, and to search for deeper meaning within yourself.

This is the most important step. If you don’t connect deeply with yourself, learning what your passions in life are, how can you develop deeper connections with others? Ask yourself how do you want to spend your days? What do you want to accomplish? What is most important to you, and what’s the next book you should read, or the next step you can take on that project. Once you understand what you truly desire, you’ll be ready to talk with people who have similar interests, and will be more interesting to those people, because you will speak with passion and enthusiasm.

2. Reduce time spent with people who drain you, and increase time with people who excite and invigorate you.

People who complain, are pessimistic, and fill their days with meaningless activities aren’t worth being around. They will influence you to give up on your goals, and to join their pity parties, where they complain and feel sorry for themselves. These people will tell you why you can’t do something, and why you won’t succeed. It is much better for you, and everyone involved in your life to disconnect from these friends/coworkers as much as possible, and to find people who are passionate, and a positive influence on your life. People who give you resources about subjects that you’ve been talking to them about, who are successful with discovering peace, gratitude and joy in their lives, and who will bring you to a higher level of consciousness.

3. Talk to strangers and find their deepest fears and passions in life.

Talk to the checkout lady, ask her what her greatest passion is and be present to truly listen to her answer. This will catch her by surprise, and will enlighten her day as you are asking her to share something more personal than the normal work routine she goes through everyday. Some strangers will find your reaching out to connect a breach of their personal space, and will answer with one word answers. These people have some type of fear around talking to strangers, and it’s best to leave them alone if they don’t want to be bothered. I’ve been practicing talking to strangers this last year, and more people than I thought are open to talking to me, and expressing themselves. You realize that all the people that you pass by at the airport, or the store, or on the street have a life and different perspective that you can learn from.

4. Do engaging activities with your loved ones, significant other, and/or family.

Instead of watching television, or doing separate activities, see what you can enjoy together. Try starting a weekly family meeting where you gather at the table, and discuss family and individual matters. You could each share about an experience that you are grateful for this week, or an area of your life you’ve had difficulty with, or talk about family trips that you are excited to take. Instead of allowing your child to play video games, or watch TV, work with him/her on a project to plan the next family vacation. Showing him/her how to book plane tickets, vacation home rentals, and activities that the whole family could enjoy together. I enjoy taking my parents for hikes, cooking a meal and sharing it with them, and teaching them Yoga and Qi Gong exercises.

5. Find ways to make your career about connecting with people.

With many jobs you can be disconnected from the people you are helping. Whether that is filing paperwork, creating invoices, or other office work. I am very lucky with a career in massage, because most of my work is connecting one on one with a client, feeling for tension in their body, and working with them directly to release that physical, mental, and emotional tension that is held in the body. See if you can find a way to create connections with your clients/customers. If you are a bartender, or coffee barista, truly listen to your customers, and learn more about repeat customers, so that you can ask follow up questions about their latest vacation, or dog that they adopted, or something else that shows that you care. If you can’t connect directly with who you are helping in your work, it may be time to find a new career. Unless of course you enjoy the work so much that the human connection doesn’t matter as much. In that case, try and learn more about the customer/clients desires, and what you can do in your job to provide more value for them.

With these five steps, you will be able to increase the amount of connection, enthusiasm and passion that you have in all areas of your life.

Looking within to discover what you truly desire Discovering the type of friends you want to keep, and which ones you need to pay less attention to Talking to strangers, and deepening connections quickly Engaging in activities with loved ones that leave you feeling closer and more understanding of each other Finding ways to connect with people in your career

Rediscovering the world around you

See the world from new eyes. All of our life we are developing our unique, individual perspective on the world. From our experiences and everything about our life we get a skewed view of “reality”. This perspective stays somewhat constant, until we have those experiences and situations where we experience a “moment of clarity” or a sudden shift in how we see the world. We can become stuck in old habits. Talking to the same people, discussing the same things, having the same thoughts, and just repeating these circular patterns. It can seem as if we are repeating the same stuff, different day. To renew a sense of discovery, passion and determination, we have to get out of our comfort range, trying to instill new habits, talking to strangers, traveling outside of our country/state, and developing presence in our lives. A great exercise to help facilitate more of these “moments of clarity” is to put yourself in new situations by traveling somewhere where the culture is different, and/or talking to people who you wouldn’t normally talk to (of a different religion, race, profession, age, ect.). From talking to these people you are able to see the differences, as well of the similarities of how they see the world. Listen to the person as if you have no opinion over what they are saying. Listen with all of your senses, look at them, hear them, sympathize and try and see the situation from their perspective. Another exercise to find a new perspective is have a friend visit you who has never been to the state/country that you live in. Give them a tour of your town, the hiking trails, and anything that is unique and special about where you live. With this exercise you will think of all the great things about where you live, and express them to other people. You are able to see where you live with new eyes, with a renewed sense of gratitude. If you don’t have access to travel far, or have a friend visit you, you can try throughout the day to recognize things where you would have otherwise ignored or passed by. On your regular commute, notice with wonder the types of buildings/businesses or mountains/wildlife that surround the road. Be like a child, wide eyed and present to every experience throughout the day. You can do this from the moment you get out of bed until that night. Look at your furniture and decorations in your home with new eyes. Noticing new patterns in the wood on the walls. Taste orange juice for the first time, the different textures, tastes, and feelings that come up. Don’t pay as much attention to reminiscing or remembering a similar situation, just stay present and aware. Ponder how your life can look different from other perspectives. From a surgeon, a marketing agent, a homeless man, a millionaire, someone who lives in Hawaii, or Guatemala, or China, or France. From all of these perspectives comes a lesson, an opinion, and a lifestyle that can challenge the way you live. Rediscovering the world around you can increase your overall awareness, give you more options if you feel stuck, and allow you to be more grateful for your present life.

10 lessons learned from my Yoga Practice

Always do your best Do your best to stay present and aware of your breath. Do your best to be compassionate to yourself, and to acknowledge your limitations. Know that your best is always changing, especially when you are physically sick, mentally distracted, or in emotional turmoil. When you do your best, you get the most of your practice, and will continue to grow and change for the better.   Rest if you need to Listen to your body before listening to the teacher. If your body gives you pain when you do a certain posture, go back to child’s pose and rest until the class comes to a sequence that you’re more comfortable with. Just like doing your best, the amount you will need to rest is constantly changing.   Talk to the teacher before/during/after class For your first class with a new instructor, come at least 15 minutes early to class to talk to him or her. Tell them your experience with yoga, injuries or surgeries you’ve had, and how you are feeling in your body. The teacher will then have an idea of alternative postures that s/he may want to show you, and what to expect from the class in general. During the class ask questions if you are unsure of the alignment of a pose, or if you feel pain or discomfort in one of the poses. After the class give feedback to the teacher, telling them what you enjoyed, and which parts you may have found confusing or difficult to follow.   Bring awareness of your posture into your everyday life Modern culture is very sedentary, and working sitting at a desk and computer can cause our posture to protract, or learn forward. Yoga is a great way to balance our posture, and leave us with a healthy, natural and flexible spine. In order to have more long term benefits we have to learn to bring the alignment and posture from yoga into our daily lives. Remembering to bring our shoulders up, back and down to open our heart, to sit straight with a slight curve in our lower back, and to bring our ears back over the shoulders to keep the natural curve of the neck. Throughout your day keep these principals in mind when you’re watching television, driving, or on your computer.   Use awareness of the breath to quiet the mind Yes yoga is stretching, but ultimately it is a way to quiet the mind, and create a union between your body, mind, and spirit. Focusing the mind on breathing allows the mind to be quiet, while becoming in touch with our body. When the mind is quiet, we are more open to our true nature, which is where true healing occurs. You can use this awareness of the breath within and outside of your yoga practice. Try bringing some of your awareness to your breath while you’re cooking, driving, going to sleep, or reading.   Do deep breathing exercises daily A full yogic breath starts by filling the abdomen, rising to expand the ribs, and going up past the chest to fill the lungs with oxygen and prana. Then you let the breath fall back down, contracting your abdomen to release as much stale air as you can. Repeat this process and you’ll gain all the benefits of deep breathing, including relaxation, peace of mind, balancing of physiological systems in the body, and an enlightened heart center. Another simple breathing exercise is alternate nostril breathing, where you close your left nostril and inhale a deep yogic breath through the right, close the right nostril and exhale out the left nostril, and inhale through the left, close the left and breath out the right nostril. You repeat the process until you feel relaxed and Balanced on both sides of your brain.   Loss of flexibility quickly follows after stopping your practice Before I started a more consistent practice of yoga, I remember going to yoga every day for a couple weeks, and then taking a couple weeks off. On the weeks where I did yoga it would take me a few days to get back into the groove. Then a few days after I stopped I would return to lower back tension, tighter hamstrings, and the sense of relaxation and peace was replaced with stress and tightness in my body. A consistent practice is essential for maintaining peace of mind, health and vitality.   Your personal practice is as important as your group practice With a personal practice you are able to hold postures longer, feel into your body, and develop more of a connection with yourself. You are able to practice the lessons you’ve learned from your group yoga classes, and it makes it much easier to apply them into your every day life. Another benefit of a personal practice is that you can pay less by taking one or two group classes a week, and yet feel as if you’re taking classes every day.   Learn the philosophy behind the practice From Pantajali’s Yoga Sutras there are eight limbs to yoga, and the physical asana practice is only one of them. I interpret them as moral practices(yamas), self-care habits(Niyama), the physical practice(Asana), Breathing exercises(Pranayama), Non-attachment to external circumstances(Pratyahara), Concentrated focus(Dharana), Contemplation of universal spirit(Dhyana), and connection of the self to the universal consciousness (Samadhi). There is so much to learn from each aspect of the yoga philosophy, and most of it is practical to your every day life. For more information on the philosophy of yoga, this website has a brief overview of the 8 limbs of yoga. Check in with your heart center throughout your day Especially when you make a decision. Look into your heart rather than your mind to see which decision feels right. When deciding how to spend your day look within and visualize which options feel the best. With everyone you meet in your day give them the gift of love, and do something heartfelt for them.   These are some of the lessons I’ve learned from yoga. What have you learned from your yoga practice? Travis is a massage therapist, you can find more information about his services at Massage.TravisDharma.com.

Yin Yang Balance in Everyday Life

Passive, introspective silent, dark, cool still, earth, water, grouding, are all yin aspects. Active, loud, extroversion, expansive, light, warm, space/universe are all yang aspects. We come across both aspects throughout our day. In the United States we have a strong influence of yang energy on our lives. Whether that is through working long hard hours, exercising at the gym, driving in heavy traffic, watching television with loud noises, or drinking coffee and energy drinks. Some yin aspects of everyday life would include taking a bath, receiving a massage, introspection and writing, a gentle walk in nature, seated meditation and deep, restful sleep. The act of balancing the two is important for health, vitality, and peace of mind. Whether a deficiency in Yin or Yang energy, we will have low energy, difficulty sleeping, and high levels of stress. We need a good foundation of earth/yin energy to keep our yang energy grounded. Without that foundation, the active stress of everyday life will have us confused, with an easily distracted mind and an over exhausted body. Some symptoms of deficient yang(and too much yin) energy include laziness, excessive sleep, spending too much time alone, depression, cold hands/feet, and overeating/lack of appetite(unhealthy eating habits). The act of balancing is what is important. You don’t have to achieve perfect balance, you only need to be aware when one area is becoming overpowering, and when to either become more active, or take time to slow down and look within. A common problem for people in modern times is to have too much yang in their mind, and too much yin in their body. The excessive yin body is from sitting at work, sitting watching television, sitting while driving, and then trying to lay down and go to sleep. Yet while the body is being passive, the mind is very active, watching fast paced television commercials, reading and responding to emails, Facebook updates, text messages, and trying to multitask to be more efficient. A great way to balance this out more, is to take 5 or 10 minutes to go on a quiet walk after work in the afternoon/evening. You can focus your mind on your breathing, be aware of every step you take, and allow your mind to quiet down, while your body gets some movement and exercise. Receiving a massage is also a great way to quiet the mind, while healing the body, reducing soreness and pain and allowing you to be more active. Here are some examples of how I’ve been using this yin/yang philosophy for balancing my own life. I recognize when I should be taking a yin/restorative yoga class versus a more strenuous Vinyasa class. When I need to do more movement exercises or when I need to practice a seated stillness meditation. Listening to my body, understanding when I need to rest to heal my body, and when I need to be more active to circulate and become more energized. Routine and habits are more yin, while spontaneity is yang. I observe when I’m becoming limited by my habits, and when I need to incorporate something new to get my creative juices flowing. I can feel when I need to eat more, less, or eat more cooling(yin) or heating(yang) foods. I notice when I need to consume reading material, or write from my own creativity. When I need to ruminate and brainstorm, or refine and publish my material. When I need to sleep in, or wake up earlier. When I need to travel and discover or stay and home and look within. Learning to balance, and not take judgment on myself when I get off center has helped to create peace of mind and increased creativity in my life. Here are two practices that you can use to combine yin and yang energy for health and vitality. One is a guided meditation(yin), and the other is a video of Qi Gong movements(yang) to combine and circulate heaven(yang) and earth(yin) energy. This combination creates a healing elixir of life, allowing a natural state of peace and well being. They both act to balance the energy within yourself, and will help you act on your decisions to be more active, and/or to take more time to look within and relax.

My Career Transition to Massage — Toastmasters

My second speech for Toastmasters.

My Career Transition to Massage Therapy from Travis Usinger on Vimeo.

I describe my story of moving from a career in film to massage therapy, and incorporate tips to help you to discover and transition to a career you’re passionate about. The points are: 1. brainstorm all options and see which path feels right 2. Research the training needed  3. Immersion in a training program 4. Find a mentor to learn from and 5. Give your services to the community Last year I was in college for film in a city that I didn’t connect with, working lighting, sound and projection for local events. I was unsure of my purpose, and as I looked forward to working as an editor for production films, I knew I would have to move to Los Angeles, and that I would be working on projects that I wasn’t passionate about. This was frustrating and disappointing to say the least, I hated living in a city, and didn’t want to move to a bigger one. While I was finishing college, I decided to work on time management, and in my free time I would journal about discovering and following a new career path. If you’re interested in making a career change, my story may help you to incorporate the shift in perspective necessary to transition to a new career. The method that I followed in finding a new career was to brainstorm all my options, see which path felt right, research the training needed, immerse myself in a training program, find a mentor to learn from, and give my services to the community. To discover your options I would write about any career paths that you think you could be passionate about. I wrote about everything from creating documentaries or facilitating and creating visual aids for speakers, to completely different careers like organic farming, massage and teaching yoga. After I’ve created this mix of different careers, I would read each one, look within to my heart, and notice how I feel being identified with that career. In order to figure out which career path feels right, I recommend choosing 3 or 4 options, writing a couple hundred words on each one, and envisioning it as already completed. I wrote this one year ago: “I am a role model for physical health. I do yoga daily, eat a healthy vegan diet and receive massage at least once a week. My clients are interested in being healthier and living with more inner peace and fulfillment. I show them yoga streches and give massage. I also hold a donation based yoga and meditation class for friends and clients. I have a blog where I share my goals and experiences in discovering my purpose and improving myself. I join a support group of massage therapists. We discuss how to create a welcoming atmosphere at your studio, how to build a good website, and other topics. I have plenty of time to myself for journaling, meditation, reading, and relaxation.” After reading this I felt joyous, enthusiastic and ready to start my journey. Now what I needed to do in the process was to learn more about the career through research and “testing the waters” to see if I’m truly passionate. I looked online for possible massage schools and training, I read blogs from successful massage therapists and bought books and DVDs so I could learn basic massage techniques. I interviewed successful massage therapists and learned more about their lifestyles and the strengths and hardships of being a massage therapist. I attended a weekend massage course at the Esalen institute in Big Sur a couple months later to discover if this was my true passion. I touched a dozen different bodies and souls and found the meditative style of Esalen massage to complement my introspective nature, and I loved it. The next step was to immerse myself in a complete training program with peer interaction and insightful teachers. That Summer I enrolled in a massage program in Santa Cruz that would allow me to be a licensed massage practitioner in California. I became very close to my classmates in massage school, receiving and giving massage three to five times a week and evaluating each other’s technique. The teachers were very helpful, answering any questions we had, and providing a demo massage session at the beginning of every class. It’s also very important to learn from someone more experienced, who has been successful in your career choice. The massage therapist that first inspired me to massage became my mentor, and I would trade massage with him once a week, showing him what I learned, receiving feedback, and learning new techniques from him. I saw my skills and expertise grow, and I was excited to have return clients and to continue to trade massage and learn more. After the two month training program, having become competent in giving massage, the next step was to give my services to the community to raise awareness of my new found career. I gave my services to seniors at a community center, at pool parties, Aids bike rides, and to friends and family. I shared a massage studio with a friend, and was building a client base while I continued my education in the fall, learning deep tissue and Thai massage techniques. Now this Winter I’m at the point where it’s time to re-evaluate, and discover where my career path will take me next. I will complete the 550 hour massage program in Santa Cruz, and will be nationally certified by next summer. I am starting this career path method over again, feeling inspired to become a yoga teacher. I have brainstormed, and feel the path of a yoga teacher is my next step. I’m now researching what it means to be a yoga teacher by going to yoga classes daily at the studio in Breckenridge, interviewing yoga teachers, and discovering the differences in how they teach. I am open to opportunity, and looking for a yoga teacher training program to immerse myself in for the Fall. After the program I will find an inspiring mentor, and give donation based yoga classes to the community. Maybe you’re in a similar situation whether it’s time to expand your current career options, or maybe you need to change directions completely like I did this last year. Where is your career path taking you? Is it time to re-evaluate and envision a new future?

Mind mapping and Brainstorms

I’ve been creating Mind maps to let all of my thoughts on a subject out of my head. I’ve used it for my speech I gave for Toastmasters, for blog ideas, for ideas on redesigning my website, and other projects that I’m working on. For me a mind map looks like a spider web brainstorm on a topic. You put the main topic in the middle (like “Vacation to Hawaii”) and then draw lines going to different ideas on the subject (Places to stay, beaches to visit, hikes, ect) and then from those ideas you write more detailed about those subjects (Places to stay → Friends house in Waipio Valley, Brothers farm, Vacation home in Puna). I’ve enjoyed the freedom that it gives me to write non-linear. I can start a random tangent by drawing another line from the circle, or I can go back and elaborate on something I wrote on earlier. I can let my critical mind take the back seat as I flow and write whatever comes to mind. Associations come up, random thoughts come up, and by the end of writing I have much more information and content than if I had tried to write in a linear (A, B, C, D) kind of way. One limitation that I’ve experienced with this way of brainstorming is how it can be difficult to find enough space to write what you want. Once I’ve finished a mind map the page will be crowded and littered. I have to review it within a couple days so that I’ll be able to remember what I was writing. Organizing all of the information is difficult as well, because I don’t want to lose information that might be useful later. I’ve learned to pick and choose what is relevant, and file the rest into a reference folder or throw it away. Here is an example of how I do my mind maps. Each bubble off of the center is an idea for articles to write, and ways to create content for my blog. I’ll spend between 15-30 minutes on one mind map. After I’ve completed it I can see what areas have the most content and ideas. For these ideas where the words keep on flowing I will change gears after my brainstorm(within a few days), and start typing up ideas from the mind map on that one topic. I will write as much as I can about the topic, staying in the free associating right brain. After I have some content I bring in my critical mind, and observe what is truly useful. I edit, cut, replace, rewrite, and rethink my writing until I have a final product. This last section can take between 30 minutes to 3 hours or more depending on the length and depth of the content involved. Other than brainstorming blog ideas, what other ways can mind mapping be useful? It can be great for thinking of how you want to redesign your bathroom, the activities on your next vacation, writing down habits you would like to adopt, planning your week, and any situation where you have many ideas you would like to express on paper. I also believe brainstorming can be a great way to get clutter out of your mind. Sometimes I’ll find myself thinking about a certain topic and repeating myself throughout the day. Once I let myself write about it, and get all of my thoughts out there, I will have a quieter mind. If you have good techniques on brainstorming, found good mind mapping software, or have any thoughts on this article, feel free to leave a comment.

“My Lesson to the World” IceBreaker Speech for Toastmasters

My Lesson to the World Speech [display_podcast] I gave my first Toastmasters speech today. After weeks of brainstorming, outlining, and half a dozen times recording myself practicing my speech, I’ve given my final presentation. There were about twice as many people as the first time I visited the group, and I was the first to give my speech. Overall I felt it was a great experience, much different than being a guest. I felt the community aspect and had great comments and feedback on my speaking abilities. The other speeches given were very inspiring, and I signed up to give another speech in two weeks. The Transcript I wrote for my speech is below: Everyone has a lesson to teach. This is your life’s purpose, why you are here, and what you will show others. A combination of genetics, family upbringing, life experiences, and the way you identify yourself creates this unique perspective from which you can teach from. Every speech that is given is a lesson, even humorous or entertaining speeches teach us to laugh more, and can have deeper meanings behind them. We’re all learning from each other, and teaching each other at every toastmasters meeting we attend. Today I will discuss what I believe my lesson to teach the world is, and what I hope to learn from Toastmasters and all of you. I have lived most of my life in nature, being surrounded by the tropical jungles of Hawaii while a child, the towering redwoods of the Santa Cruz mountains as a teenager, and now in the majestic mountains of Summit county. I believe these settings help me see the beauty and peace in nature that can seem to be void in urban cities and lifestyles. The presence of nature helps me to see how small our everyday problems are in comparison. This has helped me to pay less attention the trivial, stress inducing patterns that are so common in modern day society. This last year I’ve been training in massage, yoga, and Qi Gong, and have found these to be great ways to connect with your body, become more present, and enjoy the peace of nature. Through massage I’m able to connect with someone, bring them into a meditative state, and help them release unnecessary tension and holding in their body. All of these exercises are great for releasing stress, and allowing your body and mind to come back to a natural state of peace. I’ve always been a very introspective person. For example I’ve attended a 10 day silent meditation retreat, spent months practicing lucid dreaming techniques, and hours writing and journaling on visions of my future. I believe that everyone could benefit from looking within more. A lot of people skip this step and do whatever other people think they “should” be doing, whether that is going to college, getting a job they dislike, or living in a city they don’t enjoy. I want to teach people how to find the passion within themselves, to discover their individual meaning of life, and to fulfill their deepest desires. How will Toastmasters help me to teach these lessons? I want to learn how to connect with people within minutes, talking with passion, freedom, and inspiring others to act. I want to be able to share my personality fully on my blog, expressing myself through video, audio, and writing. I want to teach people Yoga postures, Qi Gong exercises, and self-massage techniques through how-to videos. Overall I want to believe in myself and learn how to proudly and truthfully express myself to the world. Now… Take a Breath. Look within yourself. Ask: What do I have to teach the world – and how does Toastmasters help?

Plane Delayed – What a great opportunity to connect!

People are sitting, waiting to board the plane, the captain comes over the intercom:
“Sorry but the fire warning light is on, we’ll have to have a mechanic come and check it out. I’m not sure how long it will take”
Groans and sighs emerge from the crowd, thumbs are busily dialing cell phones, they’re complaining to one another about how inconvenient this is, and how they had to wake up too early. I put my book away, stand up and start doing Yoga and Qi Gong exercises. The flight was early and I had skipped my usual morning exercise routine, so I decided to make up for it with the extra time I was given by the flight being delayed. You can tell from my last airplane post how much I see traveling as a great transition time to evaluate where you are and to do some great introspection and writing. I understand why people are initially upset by the plane being delayed. Their expectations were different than their reality ended up putting out. After doing all the actions possible; calling a friend who was going to pick you up, asking the steward about alternate flights, and of course updating your Facebook status, there is no reason to worry about it anymore. Many people kept on complaining, sitting and arguing with the steward. It looked as if steam was going to come out of their ears as they tapped their food on the ground and twiddled their fingers on their phone. In such a time of limbo, you should be thankful that you get the time to be with yourself. I find stretching and Qi Gong to be beneficial, because sitting for such long periods of time is a major cause of back pain and bad posture. After practicing for about 15 minutes, someone asked me if I was doing yoga, and started talking to me about her favorite postures. Another woman heard us talking, and recognized me from a yoga class we had together earlier that week. We started doing sun salutations together and talking about our favorite teachers. I’ve learned a new lesson: Airports can also be a great time to connect with people. On a typical day at the airport, crowds of people hardly even recognize the existence of one another. People push past to be first onto the escalator, in TSA screening people stand in line for up to an hour and never learn the name of the person in front of or behind them, on the plane itself people sit for hours and the only contact with their neighbor is to ask if they can get out to use the restroom. On your next flight, talk to the person in front of you in the TSA line. See if the person seated next to you is going home or on an adventure somewhere new. Try doing yoga before boarding time, and see if others will join you. Put yourself out there, and reach out to someone new.

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