By Jennifer Carter Avgerinos
Currently, there are some places in my life that feel like they exist purely as tests of will and mental endurance and other places that feel like huge gaping voids that I can’t seem to fill. I won’t elaborate on what those places are because when you’re manifesting, you aren’t supposed to talk about it. I also know people that are dealing with much larger challenges than mine and it’s always good to keep things in perspective. A good friend of mine is reeling from the implosion of her marriage, I have friends looking for work, and I have friends that struggle with depression and loneliness and chronic pain. Staying positive can be a challenge sometimes.
I bought this t-shirt that says TAKE ME TO PARIS and my husband jokes that it should say TAKE ME TO INDIA instead. We have been talking more and more about going there sometime in the near future. I occasionally fantasize about quitting my day job Jerry McGuire style and going there for a couple of months, to see Amma, the Hugging Saint and leaving all my worries behind. It’s good to have a dream, but we all know that sometimes the only way forward is by practicing acceptance of what is and finding some way through it.
I received an attitude adjustment when I learned about a defiant statement of faith that was scrawled on a cellar wall in Cologne, Germany by a Jew hiding from the Nazi Gestapo during WWII. American soldiers discovered it below the Star of David when searching the bombed house. This poem is now a haunting anthem by Mark Miller. Here’s the poem:
“I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining.
I believe in love, even when I do not feel it.
I believe in God, even when God is silent.”
How this person could be so hopeful in the face of destruction is amazing to me. It puts everything into perspective very quickly doesn’t it? Suddenly, even our non-insignificant problems seem insignificant in comparison. I am a continual work in progress and life is like all things truly worthwhile, an art. So, I’m keeping my day dreams of India and I take it all one day at a time, valuing all things with such an openness as to provide not only the proper balance, but to allow for proper action when needed. What helps you get by when life gets rugged?
By Jennifer Carter Avgerinos
When I first came to yoga, it was as a means of escape. Escape from the pressures of my life, escape from my mental chatter, and escape from sitting at a computer or in meetings all day. It wasn’t a means of spiritual practice at the time; it just helped me balance out my life in the corporate world. The classes that I encountered or perhaps were drawn to early on were more ambient and womb-like. I wanted to zone out for an hour while listening to the latest Buddha Bar soundtrack in a candle-lit room. I was drawn to the classes that were for the otherwise unathletic.
Later, as I gained flexibility and strength, I became more adventurous. I wanted to learn more about the history and philosophy of yoga. I just knew that what I was experiencing in a one hour class once or twice a week was just the tip of the ice berg and I wanted to be in on the rest of the secret. At the time, I actually had no inclination to ever teach, but I went on to get my 200 hour training and have taken several other trainings since then. These experiences have been some of the best in my life so far.
As time has passed, I have noticed that the class offerings have become more ridiculous – hot yoga, horseback yoga, paddle board yoga, naked yoga. I’m not judging, I’m just saying.. I strive to ride the waves of external circumstance instead of fighting them. I dropped into a class once while visiting my family out of state and was told by the instructor that my palms should always be touching in hands to sky pose or it wasn’t being done correctly. Really, who says? Isn’t the point of all this just to find a little mental peace and perhaps a little personal freedom? When someone says such a way of yoga is the right way, or (even worse) the only way, that’s a big giant red flag that you should not be practicing with that teacher. Your yoga should be—must be—the yoga that’s right for you, and sometimes, the best way to find out what that is is to just try out everything.
Brace yourself for the real shocker: the teachers teaching your classes are quirky, deeply flawed, and maybe even a little crazy. That’s why so many of us got into yoga in the first place – because life seemed impossible without it. I popped into a yoga class at my gym just last week and the teacher set up her mat at the side of the room instead of the front of the room and proceeded to spray water on a yoga mat sized towel covering her yoga mat. I’m not quite sure what that was all about, and for some reason she chooses not to play music in her classes but the experience was delightful despite the lack of ambiance.
My personal path has been, and continues to be, organic, messy, uncertain… and outstanding. One of the biggest factors was listening to my heart, even when that voice was small. There’s such an inner knowing that we all have, even when we can’t quite articulate the idea, we can feel it. My advice is something called kaizen – a Japanese word that has come to represent the process of making continuous, tiny changes to move forward. This philosophy has benefited me greatly both in the corporate world and in my yoga practice.
By Jennifer Carter Avgerinos
Color can be a powerful thing for invoking memory or changing mood. Think about all of the vivid colors around us in nature this summer – the vibrant reds of roses or the brilliant green of freshly cut grass. Color can soothe the senses and have a healing effect on the body. Color therapy, also known as Chromotherapy, is the principle that certain colors are infused with healing powers. The seven colors of the rainbow improve balance and healing in the mind and body. This form of therapy also works in conjunction with Hydrotherapy (water) and Aromatherapy (scent) to enhance the healing effect. Color plays a significant role in how people respond to time spent in a particular space. For example, the coloring of walls and fabrics for a space affect a person’s response to that room. Often, this response to color directly correlates with a person’s comfort and well-being.
In the limited research available, Chromotherapy studies have shown that color can actually help heal the body. In a 2011 article published in Discover Magazine, it looks like color therapy might be useful in the fight against diabetes for example. According to a study out of Zurich, Switzerland, burst of blue light may be helpful to trigger a genetic response to make more insulin.
The Code of Color
Red raises blood temperature and stimulates circulation. Red is used to care for people with anemia, fatigue, paralysis and exhaustion.
Blue is soothing. It is used for cases of inflammatory conditions, burns, and bruises. It also helps with eczema, psoriasis, rashes and sores. In addition, blue helps alleviate tension, stress and problems with the immune system. It is believed to relieve insomnia, anxiety, high blood pressure, migraines and skin irritation.
Yellow is used to aid in digestion and liver function. Yellow is thought to have decongestant and antibacterial properties that act as a cleanser for the body. It has been known to help relieve rheumatism and arthritis.
Green creates balance and harmony within the body. It is especially good for heart and blood problems. It is known to influence the human cell structure and muscles.
Orange gives vitality to the body and is associated with the kidneys, urinary tract, and reproductive organs.
Purple is associated with the eyes, ears, nose and mouth. It helps with head congestion and sinuses and is known to calm the nervous system.
At times color therapy has been known to generate an overwhelming emotional response in individuals. It is important to refrain from overdoing spaces with too much color. Whether color is used to encourage healing or to enhance use of a space, color therapy can be exceptionally powerful.
by: Jennifer Carter Avgerinos
It can be very difficult to cultivate inner peace if our surroundings are chaotic or cluttered.
Cleaning is an everyday task that few of us can avoid, and it provides the perfect opportunity to become one with everything you focus your awareness on (yes, even the toilet). This can be done by giving your cleaning tasks your full attention and staying present in the moment.
You can even turn your cleaning session into a form of bhakti yoga by chanting a mantra, repeating an affirmation, sending love and light to someone in particular or the world in general all while you are performing routine cleaning tasks.
There is a clear connection between cleaning and well-being. Among other things, studies have shown that a neat and clean home can actually lower Cortisol levels. It is possible to learn to care for your body as you care for your home, and care for your home as we care for your body. We need to create a sanctuary in our lives and—and that starts at home. Follow these six steps to help you cultivate sacred space in your home.
Creating an altar is a great way to intentionally create sacred space in your home. Altars are intended to act as a catalyst for shifting thoughts and energy from a lower vibration reality to the higher vibrations of the spiritual realm. There is no specific blueprint for constructing an altar. I have several altars in my home and one on my desk at work to help balance out unseen electromagnetic energy created by computers, cell phones and wireless frequencies that can affect your physiology.
The image of the altar above resides in my bedroom, right next to my bed. I sit up in bed and meditate every morning and the items that I have selected for my altar space help me feel more present to all that is divine. The scarf is a souvenir from a spiritual sabbatical and it reminds me of a special time in my life. The statue of the Hindu Goddess Lakshmi reminds me to be abundant and prosperous in all that I do as her name literally means “goal”. Her lotus seat reminds me that I should enjoy living in this world but not become obsessed with it. Her four hands represent the four ends of human life: dharma (righteousness), karma (genuine desires), artha (wealth), and moksha (emotional freedom). She also reminds me to be beautiful, generous and graceful in thought, word and deed.
You can create your own special altar in your home by following these steps:
1. Select a place for your altar. Select a space that you will see regularly to remind you of all the things that you love and honor.
2. Select items to place on you altar. Select items from nature, sacred images, books, statues, candles, bells, pictures of love ones or anything that resonates with you. Change it up when you feel that you have achieved a goal or when inspiration sparks.
3. Dedicate your altar to a goal or intention and meditate or pray near it whenever you can. This will elevate the energy of items that you have assembled and the entire space in general.
It has been said that when we create an altar we recollect the scattered pieces of ourselves. No matter what you choose to place on your altar, make it your own.
For me, the Easter season usually involves a lot of time contemplating and meditating (literally) on forgiveness. Even though I am a yoga practitioner having grown up Christian, I also attend church on a regular basis. Although I have a developed spiritual practice, I still have to work on forgiveness. Forgiveness can be a complicated thing. Not only do we need to work on forgiving ourselves and others, I think this is true for forgiving even God, too.
I attended an energy healing session recently and the practitioner told me that I needed to work on forgiveness. Really, I thought. Who doesn’t? On a superficial level, I feel pretty resolved with everything, but deep down, below the surface, I know that it’s true. I have been there and done that. I know suffering and loss but it’s all good. I’m still standing. I know on some level that the things that I have been through have made me stronger, more mature, more compassionate but every once in a while, the anger, resentment and frustration creeps up to the surface and once again I need to practice the f-word. Acknowledging these emotions is important but releasing them is critical. I have developed some strategies and I will share them with you here.
Step number one is to forgive others. Relinquish resistance and grievances because holding on to them is just pointless and will only make you sick and weak over time. Resistance will not serve you even if it feels good in the moment. Besides, whether or not you believe it, most people are doing the best that they can from their current level of consciousness so try not to take anything too personally. Visualize the person that you need to forgive and say to them in your mind, “I forgive you.” Say it three times (silently or aloud) followed by the words, “so be it.” Mean it when you say it and then let it go.
Step number two is to ask for forgiveness for yourself. Chances are that you had some role in the grievance that you are carrying even if you don’t want to admit it. Everything that we experience in our environment , we had some hand in creating. Acknowledging this is powerful and gives us the opportunity to be conscious about what we are creating and then create something different. Ask for forgiveness for yourself from whatever higher power you call on.
Step number three is to actually forgive yourself. Forgiving yourself can be much harder than forgiving someone else. This is a way of relinquishing the past and moving forward. It also protects your health and general well-being. Journaling often helps me process thoughts and emotions and release them. Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for at least ten minutes. Sit quietly with your eyes closed. Think about all of the good things in your life and experience a sense of gratitude. Visualize a warm, pink light surrounding you, protecting, you and loving you. Forgive yourself. Say it three times (silently or aloud) followed by the words, “so be it.” Feel it when you say it and then let it go.
I was headed home one night last week. It was cold, it was dark - it is February in New England after all. I had to stop at CVS to pick up some band-aids. I won't go into why I needed the band-aids because that's another story. I had thought about stopping at lunch but something told me to go after work instead. The temperatures were headed towards freezing that night.
There was an older woman standing in front of the store asking people going in if they had any food or money. She was clearly homeless. She was clearly hungry and a little desperate. The local shelter was full she said and I believed her. We were exactly the same height. We looked deeply into each others eyes. I did not feel uncomfortable, I didn't judge her. I only felt compassion. I knew I was meant to be there. Meant to help her. I knew something that the others who had passed her by had forgotten - that we are the same being in different disguises, with different experiences but all of one consciousness. Perhaps this exchange was the repayment of some long forgotten karmic debt from some previous incarnation. Who knows. It doesn't really matter. Someone needed help, so I helped.
I told her that I didn't have any food or cash but that I would be happy to buy her some food inside the store. She followed me in and picked out two cans of sardines, a coke and a bag or Oreos. I grabbed my band-aids and we headed to the cashier in silence. She told me again that the shelter was full and that she needed to get to another shelter but that she needed to take the bus and then a train. She needed seven dollars. I said, "o.k." and took out ten dollars in cash to give her. I believed her and I knew that it was going to get cold that night and she needed to find someplace warm. It wasn't much really, but I felt good about helping someone in need and about living my yoga on and off the mat. I did my best. I did what I could.
The next morning I noticed that one of my friends had posted something on Facebook about random acts of kindness and that the first ten people who replied would be on a list to receive some undetermined and unexpected goodness at some point this year. She was doing it "just because." I love that. I signed up immediately of course.
So, perhaps we can all earn some extra karma this year by practicing giving and receiving, by living with an open heart and by displaying random acts of kindness whenever possible. I didn't know this that night at the CVS and I don't know if my Facebook friend knew this, but February 10-16 is Random Acts of Kindness week. So, take a chance, pay it forward, make someone's day.
12/30/2013 0 Comments
BY Jen Carter Avgerinos
Everyone always talks about New Year’s resolutions at this time of year. I hate that word “resolution.” It’s just too much pressure. I like to say “what I’m working on” instead. We’re all working on something right? Some of us want to work on getting in better shape, some of us want to better manage our finances and some of us just want to work on getting to bed before midnight every night so that we can stop hitting the snooze alarm every single morning…
Among other things, I am working of cultivating my inner Martha Stewart (minus the staff of course). A major life change this year is driving my motivation to nest. I got married in September and moved into my husband’s home of almost twenty years. This was no small undertaking for the independent and in control Gemini in me.
Where to begin? Well, for starters, combining my stuff with his stuff required a little creativity, a lot of flexibility and a good clutter clearing session. Two trips to the Good Will later, we had emptied unused bedrooms and closets of unwanted stuff and even found a few treasures that we didn’t even remember we owned. Jackpot!
Once decluttered and somewhat organized, it then came down to cleaning. It always comes down to cleaning. We each had our own ideas about this. To hand wash dishes or not? To use harsh chemicals or not? Microfiber or cotton? My vacuum cleaner or yours? Believe it or not, these are the types of conversations that took place in my life as we tried to settle into a routine and find common ground. It has been an adventure of the domestic kind.
The following is my New Year’s housekeeping “what I’m working on list” for 2014, based on my learning in the last year on my journey towards domestic bliss.
1. I will commit to clean on a regular basis by decluttering as I go. If I haven’t used it or gone looking for it in two years, chances are I probably don’t need it. I want to keep the energy flowing in my life and the best way to do that is to clear clutter.
2. I will detox my cleaning routine. My eyes and lungs don’t need to burn in order to get the house clean. I don’t want to eat foods containing crazy sounding harsh chemicals, so why would I clean with them? I will keep my space sacred when I clean naturally.
3. I will clean in brief bursts every day or whenever possible. No matter what changes in my life, the need to clean is consistent and that is somehow reassuring. Setting aside a major chunk of time for housekeeping each week however is unrealistic. I can set aside 10-15 minutes a day to tackle a room, zone or area of my home. I will make the most of my potential when I zone clean.
If you've ever had a really great foot massage, or any foot massage for that matter you know just how healing it can be. Kids can also benefit from the healing touch of foot massage.
When the feet are massaged, anxiety is eliminated and this brings about a deep state of relaxation. One important point that is situated on both feet is the solar plexus reflex. The solar plexus is sort of a little warehouse where all your stress is stored. When the solar plexus point is pressed on, stress is released and the body is renewed.
Foot massage is restorative in that it gives the receiver energy. When the foot is rubbed and palpated, all the elements of a foot massage come together to bring energy to the body. According to theories of reflexology, foot massage releases any blockages that can hold back energy that should be flowing through the body freely.
I like to incorporate a short foot massage at the end of every kids yoga class. In last night's class, three year old Emmy couldn't get enough foot massaging.. After her turn was complete, she followed me around the circle sticking her tiny little feet up at me asking for me to keep rubbing. He parents were laughing as they looked on..
Some of the benefits are:
1. Understand that 5 minutes of daily massage is a long time for most
2. Establish massage as part of the bedtime routine to help your child
3. Always ask your child if he or she wants a massage, demonstrating
your respect for your child's right to say "no" to touch.
Tips & Warnings:
If you continue to make massage a part of a child's routine, he or she may return the favor one day and massage your weary parental shoulders. Not a bad family routine!
“Housekeeping ain't no joke.”
~ Louisa May Alcott
A clean house is more than just preferable- it’s a necessity for good mental and physical health. Experts agree that maintaining a regular cleaning schedule is just as important as eating organic food, doing yoga, and taking vitamins.
According to Wikipedia, cleanliness is both the abstract state of being clean and free from dirt, and the process of achieving and maintaining that state. Cleanliness may be endowed with a moral quality, as indicated by the aphorism "cleanliness is next to godliness."
Our homes are a reflection of our well-being. The way we use, care for and create space activates energy and helps us establish a nourishing environment for healthy, harmonious lives. We need to feel safe at home. A clean, appealing home, no matter how small, can become a special space for you to recharge your batteries, connect with your loved ones, or create something magical like a garden or a lovely meal. Think of your clearing, cleaning, and purifying as part of the sacred act of living.
Cleaning is Not for Whips
Not to freak you out or anything, but there are roughly more than 500,000 bacteria living in your kitchen. Countertops, sinks, drains, sponges, and floors are home to thousands of germs and bacteria. There are more bacteria living in your shower than the garbage can. The good news is that the germs and viruses come off our body when we bathe. The bad news is that they stay in the shower until it’s disinfected because moisture goes with germs like peanut butter and jelly. If that’s not enough to convince you, the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health administration reports that dust buildup can cause poor indoor air quality, which has been tied to causing headaches, difficulty with concentration, and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. Cleaning the house is serious business, and needs to be done on a regular basis to keep germs at bay and health in check.
Cleaning Can Provide a Sense of Well-being
Health factors aside, there are other reasons why cleaning is so vital. One reason is a sense of satisfaction with a job well done. The joy of cleaning comes with a tangible result. The house is clean, uncluttered, germ-free and smelling good. This small achievement can spill over into other areas of our lives, giving us the confidence that we can tackle a project and succeed. You may not be able to control the economy, your boss’s mood, or the stock market, but you do have control over having a clean sink.
Cleaning can also be calming to the mind. Cleaning up our external environment can make us feel like we’re cleaning up our psyche. It feels good to clean the past week of old energy and debris so that we can start the week ahead fresh and new. And who would not benefit from a little meditation in the form of a mindless task to reduce the stress of living a busy life in a fast-paced world? I actually find cleaning to be a relaxing activity- whether I listen to an audio book, music, repeat a mantra, recapitulate the events of the past week, or just shut off my mind completely. No matter how much change occurs in my life, the need to clean is consistent and that is somehow reassuring.
Cleaning is a Mood-Boosting Workout
Not only does cleaning burn calories (roughly 170 calories for a moderate effort and 200 for a vigorous effort per hour) research shows that it also can increase endorphins (feel good hormones in the body). A 2008 study conducted by the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that just 20 minutes of sustained exercise a week- such as cleaning - can improve your mood and lift depression. The more strenuous and frequent the activity, the greater the effect.
How To Get Motivated to Clean:
Most of us really do enjoy having clean homes, but sometimes we just need a little motivation. Here are some suggestions:
Do you see cleaning as part of your well-being? Let us know.