WHAT I LEARNED IN INDIA
How would I describe my adventure in India?
A few things come to mind: Landslides. Stomach bugs. Stinging nettle. Nausea. Bone-chilling cold. Sunburn. Third-world toilets (and lack thereof). Power outages. Loneliness. Steep rocky inclines. Miscommunication. Fear. Constant leaps into the unknown. Dirt...so much dirt. Missing wallet, missing passport, missing home.
And at the same time... not in spite of all that, but at the same time:
Love. Exhilaration. Instant friendships. Sunrise. River baths. Countless blessings. Palm trees. Knowledge. Open hearts. Generosity. Bliss. Clean mountain air. Soul-warming chai. Fireflies. Expansion. The Milky Way on display. Tears of joy. Delicious sunshine. And the absolute vastness of it all.
So, how was I able to experience both the challenges and the beauty? By SURRENDERING completely. My days in India were packed with activity, but surrender was the thread running through it all.
What does it mean to surrender? It means to let go. When we surrender, we consciously let go of what we want (or what we think we want). We let go of needing to know what will happen. We let go of needing things to be a certain way. And when we let go, life unfolds far more elegantly than we could ever have planned.
If I didn't surrender in India, I would have missed so much. I wouldn't have enjoyed my tea at the police station, lovingly served by the officer who filed my report. I wouldn't have shared snacks with a sweet Iraqi refugee or swapped stories with a homesick teenager while waiting for a new passport. I would have been too stuck in my desire to change the situation, to escape the problem, to be somewhere else. So I chose surrender over suffering, and it made all the difference.
Here's the best part: you don't have to trek into the Himalayas to surrender. There's an opportunity to let go in each moment, particularly the challenging ones.
Of course, some situations call for taking control. But there are so many times and seasons of life in which surrender is the answer. Although surrender requires practice, it's a muscle that absolutely anyone can strengthen. Our world needs more gentle strength, and change begins with you.
If you want to get better at letting go and you haven't yet learned to meditate, the practice of Vedic Meditation is the easiest, most enjoyable way I've found to surrender on a daily basis.
Here's to letting go,
FIXING WHAT'S BROKEN
I was recently inspired by an anecdote in Geneen Roth's book Women Food and God, which is about so much more than those three things.
Geneen describes her workshop participants, who are suffering in their relationship with food and body image:
"They can't find any place in them that is whole or intact. And so when they hear me say, "Relax," when they hear me say, "Trust yourself," they feel as if I am asking them to throw themselves to the wolves. The possibility that there is a place in them, in everyone, that is unbroken, that has never been wounded, seems like a myth. But then I ask them about babies. I ask them to remember their own children and how they come into the world already gorgeous and utterly deserving of love. They nod their heads. They realize that brokenness is learned, not innate, and that their work is to find their way back to what is already whole."
Let this remind you that your best self already exists. There's no need to design or create a new, improved version of yourself. Instead, it's about uncovering what's already there - of removing the darkness so your light can shine.
Without a doubt, meditation has given me access to the best version of myself (so far). The journey isn't over, of course, and life just keeps getting better. If you can think, you can meditate - which means this trajectory is possible for absolutely anyone who's open to it.
SELF-CARE - AND WHAT IT REALLY MEANS
To hear our conversation, hit play below. Click here to read our Q&A, where I share a simple recipe and some of my favorite self-care practices.
Enjoy and be well!
IS EFFORT OVERRATED?
For our whole lives, we've been told that effort is the key to success.
In order to achieve, we must try our hardest and push ourselves. This concept has even become cool in recent years; there are dozens of Urban dictionary entries regarding "the hustle."
Don't get me wrong - perseverance is important, and I'm not saying we should all be couch potatoes. There's a definite correlation between working hard and being rewarded, whatever that means to you - and now more than ever, there are plenty of reasons to work for the causes we believe in.
However, it's problematic to associate success with struggle. Society tells us that in order to "make it," we should expect to suffer on our way to the top. This may work for some, but I believe there's another way. Suffering and struggle are not key ingredients in the recipe for success.
So what's my method? Less effort and more ease.
It may sound like a mere slogan (keep calm and carry on much? ), but it's a real way to experience life. It's simply a matter of shifting our approach.
Once we accept that working harder isn't the only option, we can stop thinking and start being. When we pause our incessant activity, we gain clarity. We begin to hear the intuition, not just the "monkey mind." We begin to filter out the chatter and tune in to what's relevant. And most importantly, we begin to suffer less.
If this sounds difficult, know that meditation makes it easier.
The mind can't quiet down by way of force or will. It's literally impossible to make the mind stop thinking. So what makes the mind settle down? Effortlessness. Ease. A willingness to surrender and take it as it comes. When you've been trained to work hard and push yourself, the idea of letting go feels strange - difficult, even. But ease can be taught, and letting go can be learned. The brain can be re-wired to favor flow over rigidity.
If this sounds like something you want, it's yours. You just need to be willing to let go and see what happens. And if you're not sure how, meditation is a great place to start.
WHAT IS TRUE HAPPINESS?
You'd think humans would have happiness all figured out.
It's human nature to be happy - isn’t it?
But at the same time, happiness can feel so fleeting - and millions of people have bought books about how to attain it.
If happiness is our nature, then why isn’t it simpler? Why do we find ourselves in pursuit of it?
Here's why: there are actually two different types of happiness, and most people only know one of them.
Most of us experience what's called object-referral happiness, and it has two key qualities...
1. It comes and goes.
2. It’s dependent on something outside of you - a person, place, or thing.
- I’m happy because I’m on a beautiful beach.
- I'm happy because this cheesecake is delicious.
- I’m happy because my job is rewarding.
- My friends and family make me happy.
Object-referral happiness feels great, and there’s nothing wrong with it. However, it’s inherently fleeting because it comes from something external, and the external world is constantly changing. Anything external that makes you happy is unsustainable. This is fine if you can live in the moment and enjoy things as they come. But if you’re interested in true happiness, you’ll want to expand your horizons - and self-referral happiness is where it’s at.
Self-referral happiness comes from within, and it’s sustained.
It isn’t swayed by the world around you or your ever-shifting circumstances. Self-referral happiness is not dependent on anything outside of you because it’s already within you - it’s just as matter of accessing it.
Happiness is what we are at the most essential level. As we continue to accumulate stress (via experiences that overload the nervous system), we get further and further away from it. Think about little kids who haven’t accumulated much stress yet - they may be thrilled by toys and saddened by scraped knees, but they’re also happy to just exist. And when kids get upset, it doesn’t last long - the feeling washes over them like a wave on the shore, and they quickly return to their baseline state of self-referral happiness (aka being happy for no reason).
So how can we access self-referral happiness as adults? We settle down to our least excited state in meditation. When the body and mind are awake, yet settled, we enjoy very deep rest. We let go of stress, fatigue, and tension that accumulate in the nervous system and obstruct our natural state of inner contentedness. We also release “bliss chemicals” like dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin when we meditate, which allows us to feel happy without the aid of anything external.
Inner peace has become a cliché, but it’s really a synonym for self-referral happiness - and it’s an absolutely attainable state. All we need is a seat and a simple technique.
"Life finds its purpose and fulfillment in the expansion of happiness." ~ Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
FEELING ANXIOUS LATELY?
You're not alone - it blows my mind how pervasive anxiety has become in Western society. Every other person I talk to seems to deal with anxiety on a regular basis, and I used to be one of them.
Theres no denying that anxiety is increasingly common. Awareness and de-stigmatization are important, but that doesn't mean anxiety is normal or that you have to live with it. There are powerful solutions out there - real ones, not just bandaids.
I've personally tried therapy and all kinds of yoga to ease my anxiety, and nothing has come close to Vedic Meditation in making a lasting difference.
Why? There are three reasons why Vedic Meditation is an effective anxiety-busting tool.
1. The only rule in Vedic Meditation is "take it as it comes."
We're not attached to outcomes, and we learn how to stay effortless in the process no matter what we're experiencing. When we practice this effortless approach to meditation each day, it begins to influence our approach to life. We find ourselves going with the flow and taking things as they come outside of meditation as well, without even trying - it's a natural side effect of the practice.
2. Vedic Meditation dissolves stress - for good.
In other words, it's a systematic technique that doesn't just provide temporary relief, it also removes stress that has been building up in the body over time. When we meditate with this technique, the body rests more deeply than it does during sleep, which allows it to unwind and dissolve accumulated stress. We all know that stress and anxiety go hand in hand; dissolving stress in meditation directly affects the level of anxiety we experience outside of meditation.
3. Vedic Meditation is easy and enjoyable to practice - really!
Because we don't focus or concentrate with this technique, it doesn't feel rigid or difficult to practice. When we use the technique as instructed, the body and mind settle down quickly into a blissful state of rest. Because this is something we look forward to, it's an easy habit to maintain over time, and staying consistent yields the best results - with healing anxiety and otherwise.
Now, back to my story...
Over the past three years, Vedic Meditation has had an immediate and lasting impact on my anxiety. Not only does meditation feel amazing while I'm doing it, it has actually made me stop feeling anxious altogether. Do I still worry sometimes? Sure, but I get over it in about five minutes and shift easily back to the now, which is the best place to be.
My days of anxious thought patterns and behaviors are behind me, and I credit Vedic Meditation with such conviction that I decided to become a teacher and share it with others. I know from personal experience and thousands of hours of study that Vedic Meditation can provide profound relief from anxiety and related disorders.
If this resonates with you, know that you have the right to a more blissful experience - and I'm always reachable if you're ready to dive in.
there is nothing wrong with you.
When you're stressed, everything feels hard.
But no matter how hard your life may feel, there is never anything wrong with YOU. It's easy to blame yourself and wonder, "Why can't I handle this? Beyoncé has the same number of hours in the day as I do, and look at everything she accomplishes! I'm just not as strong as she is... right?"
WRONG. First of all, Beyoncé has a team handle a large portion of her demands, and she's smart enough to stay off social media for the most part.
When it comes to stress, how you handle it, and what that says about you, here's the deal: you've been accumulating stress in your body for decades. If you don't have tools to dissolve accumulated stress and prevent more from building up each day, it’s debilitating. This is not your fault.
Here's how it works:
Each time you lose your temper, pull an all-nighter, argue, etc., stress builds up in the body. By the time you're an adult, there's a massive load of stress, fatigue, and tension built up in your nervous system. When the body and mind are burdened with accumulated stress, there's very little computing power left for navigating life's demands in a clear-headed way. This is why we throw shoes across the room; this is why we yell. This is why we get sweaty and lose our cool when we're running late and the stakes are high, only to beat ourselves up for not being able to keep it together.
Due to the human body's design, being stressed is like dumping acid in your system, and this is very taxing on you. When you go into fight-or-flight mode (ie. panicking, shouting, freaking out, etc.), the body launches into a series of chemical reactions. These include blood coagulation, cortisol and adrenaline levels spiking, immune system shut-down, and more.
Fight-or-flight mode drains your body's energy, computing power, and overall capacity to function at the top of your game. So if you feel like a failure because you're always stressed, there is nothing wrong with you. The human body is designed to get stressed in an acute, life-threatening situation, but it isn’t designed to STAY stressed.
Herein lies the problem: Our modern bodies are misusing a prehistoric mechanism.
When you get stressed, your body naturally and spontaneously does exactly what it's been conditioned to do since ancient times. This helps us leap into action and survive the perceived threat. The problem is, we’re only meant to launch into fight-or-flight occasionally, in life-threatening situations. These days, it's not uncommon to become a sweaty, heart-pounding mess when your iPhone falls in the toilet or you’re late for a meeting (hint: not life-threatening). You've evolved to react this way, and that's not your fault.
No matter how hard you try, you can't disable the body's fight-or-flight response (and you wouldn't want to, because it can save your life in the face of an oncoming car). But you CAN re-program your tendency to launch into fight-or-flight every time something unexpected happens. If you find yourself overreacting to non-deadly demands, it's because accumulated stress in the body leaves you with very little adaptation energy, aka the ability to calmly face whatever comes your way.
So what can you do to clear out stress and stop the cycle of buildup in the body? Meditate. When you meditate, the mind and body settle down, the nervous system de-excites, and you enjoy rest that is five times deeper than sleep. Stress dissolves easily in this state of rest. Each time you meditate, you let go of more accumulated stress. With continued regular practice, the nervous system stays clear and stress stops building up entirely.
What does this mean? No more stress in the body = no more freaking out. Your body is designed to get stressed, but only when it actually makes sense. Once meditation dissolves accumulated stress in your body, your brain stops getting confused about which demands are life-threatening. Your body thanks you by no longer getting stressed when it isn't helpful, and you have more space to enjoy life, demands and all.
MEDITATION IS A POWER TOOL.
Tools are designed to help us accomplish things.
When we make soup, for instance, a long wooden spoon is an essential tool. If we stir the pot with silverware, our hands get messy and possibly burned. And this doesn't just apply to soup - in virtually any endeavor, having the right tools is key to our success.
Sometimes life even calls for heavy-duty tools, like hammers and drills. These tools are powerful, which is why we use them to get important things done.
But when we mishandle power tools, they aren't helpful. Remember not being allowed to use a hammer until an adult showed you how? Remember the learning process, which involved a lot of missing the nail entirely and banging your thumb?
Just like a hammer or drill, meditation is a power tool. To get good results, we need to know how to use it - and this is where most people meet a roadblock.
Now that meditation is everywhere, it's easy to think we're supposed to simply do it, in the same way we're supposed to exercise and eat healthy foods. But meditation is very different. With exercise, we all know how to take a walk and move our bodies. With food, we all know how to find a Whole Foods and buy something nutritious. Meditation, on the other hand, isn't something we innately know how to do (like exercise) or that we simply acquire and consume (like food). To get the benefits of meditation, we need to learn a specific technique and fully understand how to use it.
So if you've ever "tried" to meditate and felt like a failure, you're not. If you've ever wanted to meditate but felt it was daunting or even impossible, it's not. And if you've dabbled with apps or other one-time experiences and concluded that meditation is just "meh," it's not. It's a power tool, and it can be transformative if you learn how to use it from a qualified teacher. And unlike hammers, drills, and wooden spoons, meditation is a tool that makes EVERYTHING in your life easier to accomplish.
Vedic Meditation is taught in person over four days, which means you receive detailed, tailored instruction. You gain a full understanding of how to use the technique and exactly what it will do for you.
When you know how to use a drill and understand what it does, it's a very effective tool. Meditation is no different - and when we commit to learning how to use this amazing power tool, it’s always well worth it.