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How Do You Walk Through Difficult Times?

You know how when things seem like they’re calming down, when life seems like it’s got some smooth water all around and there are no waves coming? You know that feeling? And THEN, WHAM a speedboat goes by and you’re tossed and flipped out of your inner tube? You know that feeling?

We’ve had that moment this summer. We’ve a summer of plans for fun and birthday celebrations and peace and calm.

Then two weeks ago, my sweet fiancé, Steve, had a mini-stroke. It turns out that he’ll be absolutely fine. That first night in the hospital we heard a code blue in the burn unit. Coming from a medical family, I knew exactly what it meant. My heart went out to the family and I said a silent thanks. While we were inconvenienced and scared for a moment, Steve wasn’t in pain and in a fairly short amount of time we knew he was going to be fine.

It turns out the family that I was saying a prayer for was Steve’s. His nephew coded and died that evening a few floors above our room.

A few days later, Steve was released and has returned to normal activity. A few days after that we spent most of the day with family, saying goodbye to his nephew and then the rest of the day at his grandson’s 7th birthday party.

Needless to say, it’s been A LOT.

So, I’ve been thinking about walking through tough times a lot lately. I’ve been thinking about how anxiety and depression can keep us from showing up in the way that we’d like.

How do we walk through those things that seem impossible? What gives us the strength and the perseverance to get to the other side?

At our house, we’ve been sinking into gratitude. We’re thankful for the obvious; that Steve is alive and well and functioning just like before. We’re grateful that we’re home and not still in the hospital. There’s gratitude for the return to normal life, instead of going to physical and occupational therapy and living at the hospital.

We’re lucky and for that we’re grateful.

While this kind of gratitude is helpful during a crisis and to help process after a crisis.

However, to have a get all the great benefits of gratitude, a sense of well-being, better sleep, stronger immune system, feeling more kind and compassionate, it’s important to have a regular practice.

There are simple things you can do. Google gratitude and you find a multitude of ideas. The two that I find most helpful is keeping a journal where I occasionally write gratitude reflections. I may go through a period where I write 3-5 things that I’m grateful for on a daily basis. It helps keep me grounded in what’s true.

The other thing that we do in our household consistently is say thank you to each other on a daily basis. When I wake up in the morning, I give my love a kiss, say good morning and tell him how happy I am to wake up next to him and say thank you for this beautiful life we have together.

At night when we’re going to bed, we usually take a few moments to talk as we’re drifting off. We say thank you for the day, for whatever was especially pleasant about the day-a good meal, time with family, laughing really hard and then always, that we’re so lucky to have this life together.

Gratitude keeps me grounded. When the anxiety starts to get bigger, gratitude keeps it right-sized.

What are gratitude practices that you like the most? if it’s been awhile, today is always the perfect day for gratitude.

Would you like to practice gratitude with A Yogi Kitchen? Want to better manage your mental health using tools like gratitude and self-care? Join me at the end of the summer for BreatheOnline. It’s an online course The end of the summer, getting ready for back-to-school, is big and exciting this year. All the workshops are in Lawrence, right outside of Kansas City.

Registration for BreatheOnline opens July 25. We’re having a bit of a problem with the website. The BreatheOnline description page will go up that day too! Join us!

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It’s My Birthday Season!

I’m here again. Another journey around the sun. It’s my birthday month!

I’m not quite there yet. I have 20 days until June 23rd. I’m so thrilled and excited that I’m working hard to take deep breaths and do the pre-celebration work.

This is the time of year for more reflection, more meditation, more intention, more stillness. I have three weeks of 49 left and it feels like the new school year!

I am not one of those people who dislikes my birthday. In fact, the exact opposite. I love, love, love my birthday. I love the feeling of starting a new year. I love looking back on the lessons from the last year. I love, love, love the celebration, the feeling of new beginnings.

I also love growing old. I know you’re saying to yourself, she doesn’t really mean that. No, I don’t like the arthritis in my back, but I’m working on that. I don’t like that I gain weight by just looking at carbs, I’m working a little on that.

I do, however, love the confidence of having mastered another year. The s last one was especially difficult. Last year, when I turned 49, my dad had just died and I was deep in the middle of grief and pain. Not only am I happy to be on the other side of that, but I’m happy to have learned the lessons and have been on the journey.

I love the wisdom of being a minute shy of fifty. I love knowing that I got this. Whatever life has in store for me, I am on top of it and if I falter, I will find my step and it will all be okay. Cause it always is. I’ve been on this planet long enough to know this.

This birthday is a huge gift, also, because it’s a new decade for me. New decades are terribly exciting. I

A few weekends ago, I ran into a friend that I’ve known for about 20 years. She’s ten years younger than me. So, as I’m turning fifty, she’s turning forty. They are great, important milestones. When she asked me about my birthday, she smiled and said, “Isn’t getting older awesome? People listen to me.”

While there’s a little bit about our state of the world and how women are treated that makes me sad about her statement, I vigorously nodded my head. It’s so true. People think I know things now.

I may have had the exact amount of wisdom about certain things ten years ago, but now people believe I really know stuff. Twenty years ago, or even ten years ago, people treated me very differently. Before, it seemed that every sentence had to be proven, cited, defended. Today, people take me at face value and don’t question so much. They believe that these years, these tiny grey hairs at my temple, the lines on my face, deem me an expert. It’s refreshing, invigorating, exciting. I would have taken it twenty years ago, but I’ll take what I can get now.

I won’t go into how I believe men get this same reverence and acknowledgment at a much younger age. Not today.

I am in my happy place. The beginning of June is always about new beginnings, like new backpacks and freshly sharpened pencils in September.

Normally, my birthday celebration is at least a month long, but I think the beginning of a new decade on the planet deserves more. This year I’ll be celebrating my birthday all summer long.

My clients and students will get specials and deals, giveaways and extra special treats this summer. My friends and I will life many glasses of bubbly Prosecco and Cava. After a few weeks of reflection, we will begin the celebration!

If you are in Lawrence, KS or Chicago, Il please join me to celebrate. Most of my summer will be in these two places and I feel so damn lucky to travel back and forth, to be part of more than one tribe, to be both urban and college=-town dweller.

There is much, much more to come, so stay tuned!

If you want to be a part of community and get connected, please join us at Might Netoworks. You can also check out what we’re doing over Instagram and Facebook. Just search A Yogi Kitchen!

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Why A Little Bit Often Is Good For Mental Health

I’ve written about this before. Today was the perfect example of a little bit often and how I had to set my ego aside to be more effective.

My lawn needs some help. I’m in Kansas and like much of the country we’ve had a lot of rain. A lot. Especially for us. So, while I was in Chicago the grass grew and I swear, small children could have hidden and been lost in my front yard.  So, I had a lot of work to do.

My ex loaned me his mower and I mowed it, but with more rain I knew it was going to grow again pretty fast. Now, I know I’m not the only one with this pain. Half the town is complaining about how fast the grass, and even more distressing, the weeds have been growing.

My ex was no exception. He was supposed to mow his lawn, but got busy and I got the mower for another few days. Did I take advantage? No. So, when he told me he was going to swing by the next morning and get the mower I was in a bit of panic mode. I had a bunch of work to do fast.

On top of all this, the rain continued so I had to find the perfect time to mow. Cutting wet grass is possible, but makes it a little harder. Luckily, it got sunny and dried out a bit before I finally started up the mower.

Now, the other problem. My anxiety brian gets overwhelmed easily. Even simple jobs can feel big sometimes. I, like so many of us, am a weird mix. I’m super productive at times and then I just can’t get my brain to get on board sometimes. So what do I do?

I do a little bit often.

I teach this concept during Yoga for Anxiety and Depression Workshop and BreatheOnline, the global version of the workshop. It’s s simple concept that I learned from my teacher.

Think about it. Most of us don’t walk into our first yoga class being able to do the splits or a headstand. We prep. We work on it little by little. We build strength and stamina. We wrap our heads around being upside down or deep in a seemingly impossible opening or stretch.

In my experience, most of us who fall in love with yoga and stay tend to be fairly flexible people to begin with, so many of the poses feel comfortable and appealing. It’s not always the best thing to be super flexible in yoga. It means our work is strengthening and stabilizing.

We super flexible yogis have to learn stability and integrity in poses, which can be much harder to do than learn to stretch and open muscles. Mostly, it’s because we’re in our egos. We’re so happy and proud that we can slip into poses that require.

For some of us, that lesson takes a while to get. We learn it little by little, or a little bit often.

So how did I do that lawn? Yep, you got it.  A little bit often. I mowed. I took a break. I moved, I did some dishes (another job that got bigger than it should have) and I went back until it was done.

Little to do a little bit often has been a game changer for me. It doesn’t come without another, perhaps bigger lesson, though. To do a little bit often, you have to learn to put your ego aside.

In my head, I could hear my neighbors snickering that I was so lazy/fat/ridiculous that I needed to do the lawn in installments. I didn’t let it stop me. Cause, the reality is, that’s not about my neighbors, that’s my ego whispering in my ear. That’s the part of me that doesn’t believe I’m ever enough.

My anxiety likes to run free, skip on the beach and have fun. Telling me I’m never enough is my anxiety’s way of having a good time. Saturday night on the dance floor.

Learning to do a little bit often can be a game-changer for you too. The pothole is that I have to come back. So do you. I can’t leave a job half done. I have to go back over and over again until the job is done. That’s why sitting with something until I’m completely ready is also important. When I get really honest and clear with my heart, there’s an alignment that happens, It’s a good mix of what needs to be done and what I want to accomplish.

This week, if there’s something that needs to be done and you have a feeling of overwhelm around it, try a little bit often. See how it goes for you. Nothing is golden the first time. If something resonates with you, try it again and again util you get the hang of it.

This is an example of the kind of work we do in BreatheOnline, the online version of Yoga for Anxiety and Depression. It’s eight weeks of education, exercises, guidance and support to mindfully manage your mental health. We all do good things for our physical health-workout, eat right, hydrate. Do something good starting June 1st for your mental health! 

The website is under construction, so we’re going old school. If you’d like to join us for BreatheOnline, you can text or call me at 785-760-5412 or email mel@ayogikitchen.com.  It’s a great price at $200 for eight weeks and you get community, connection, six education units, exercises and one-on-one time with me to create a personal management plan for your mental health. Just like going to the gym with a personal trainer!

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The Best Thing I Do For Connection

Today, i read a Facebook post from an old friend, from my real life, The post was about how they used to connect with lots of people, but everyone seems so busy these days and connecting with people that we’ve known for years seems impossible now.

As we can expect on Facebook there was a lot of negative response. People complained about society as a whole, about the internet, about how rude people can be, how we can be so distracted because of the internet. A lot of whining.

Then I posted that I was guilty of disappearing from this particular friend. We used to chat online all the time and then my schedule changed and my kid hit puberty and then I moved to the East coast and they live on the West coast and the time difference was bigger, and…and….and….

There are a million reasons we lose connection with people. In these days of social media, it may feel like we’re connected and while I don’t want to discount online friends, it just not the same. There is a lot to be said for shared experiences in real life.

Here’s what I did.

I told them how a mutual friend and I schedule phone dates. We each open a bottle of wine in our respective states. Sometimes they’re making dinner and we chat till dinner is made or a kid needs something or whatever. Usually we get at least an hour in.

It’s the best thing I do for connection. It’s the thing that I do that’s deliberate and intentional., when I don’t feel like doing some of the other good things that I know to do. Most importantly, though, it’s fun. I feel so good after that some weeks, I do several phone dates in a row.

Right now, as I write this I’m sitting in my favorite Lawrence, KS restaurant, drinking a glass of Cava and waiting for a friend. And this, is actually, the best kind of connection. But this kind of connection feels natural to me, an extrovert. This is something that happens without effort in my life. Phone dates is planned and deliberate.

This is that friend who I call and say, My kids are driving me crazy and I’m headed downtown, want a Cava? Or they may be running errands and suddenly realize they need lunch. We’re also the kind of friends who can schedule things and hang out in a foursome with our partners.

It holds a super important, but different place in my life than phone dates. Phone dates are a seriously smart thing that I do. Hanging out with friends may be simply that I like Cava and I’m a social butterfly. Phone dates ensure that when I may be prone to isolate, I won’t. They ensure that I stay in touch with those friends that maybe I haven’t seen in decades.

When that desire to isolate pops up I have to remember that a phone date is not the only connection that I need, but that it may make meeting a friend face-to-face a bit easier. Seeing a friend or family members face and being able to smell them, hear them, touch them is great for our brain chemistry. Then the phone calls is the next helpful for brain chemistry and then finally connecting through emails or chats online.

As we move through May, which is Mental Health Awareness Month, I’m starting to work with more people who want to better manage their mental health. Over and over I hear people admit they don’t get much connection outside of family and work. I even have a few single people who only have work connections.

Overwhelmingly, they insist they have connection in their lives by just having to be at work 8-10 hours a day. While that is technically connection, it’s not the kind of connection that takes us from getting by to thriving.

If you’re an introvert or a misanthrope you may feel that showing up to work most of the week is all the interaction you can take. I hear that a fair amount. I get it.

I tell clients this. You don’t have to go out to a huge party or have dinner with the after-work crowd. A meal with a close friend or working-out during lunch with a co-worker is great. But when it’s time for the phone date, choose someone you really feel close to. Choose someone you can vent to and for whom you can be there with they need to vent.

This week, text that friend that you rarely get to see and miss. Suggest a phone date. Schedule a time when you both know you can be uninterrupted, even if it means staying up later or getting up earlier.

Notice how it makes your week feel? Be present with the anticipation and with the feeling of gratitude and peace after. Think about doin git again next week. Then we can talk about ace-toface meetings!

If you like these simple easy ways to manage your mental health better, join me for FREE starting May 18th for BreatheEcourse. It’s seven days of tips and tools, support and guidance to bring a little mental ease into your life.

BreatheOnline, the six unit, eight week group course starts June 1st. Prices and sign-up available now!

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Is It True? Mid-Week Check-in.

Happy Wednesday! 

We’re mid-week and it’s time to check-in with how things are going so far. How’s your week been? Wednesday is a great day to think back to how you envisioned this week and take note of whether you’re feeling on track or whether things feel like they’ve gone haywire. 

I purposely said feel like they’ve gone haywire. This is the perfect day to check-in and see how your feelings are matching up with the reality. Sometimes in the middle of my week, I’ll say Crap! I really wanted to have a productive, fun week (or whatever my intention was) and it’s only Wednesday and I feel overwhelmed and I haven’t gotten anything done.

THEN I stop and ask myself if that’s true. Is this true? That’s when I’m likely to grab my journal or just a piece of paper and write down what’s true. Likely I’ve done 15 things that were big on my to-do list, had lunch with a friend, went on a hike with the dog and my man and had drinks with another friend. 

That’s pretty good for a Wednesday! Usually the way I feel and the what’s true are in different columns completely. Sometimes they match up, but I still need to check-in with myself and ask myself Is It True?

BreatheOnline is a six unit course that I teach over eight weeks and every single week we check-in throughout the week. On Sunday we set intention for our week. How do we want to feel through the week, and perhaps more importantly, at the end of the week? It’s not a a to-do list, it’s about how we want to walk through the week. With joy? With love? Being productive? With ease?

On Wednesday we check-in and ask how’s it going mid-course. Do we need to stop and start over. Do we need to redirect or adjust the course?

On Friday we share our wins. They can be big or small, but we share the things we’re happy about from the week, the things we’re proud of and the little things that made the week better.

Throughout the week and throughout the course, I encourage the group to ask themselves, Is It True? It’s easy to get stuck in our heads and our brains like to play tricks on us. My brain, for example likes to tell me I’m in danger, when I’m not. So when my breathing gets labored and I start to sweat and my heart is racing, I ask Is It True? Am I in danger? Do I have a reason to fear fro my safety? The answer is no. For me, it’s always no.

During BreatheOnline every unit the questions around checking-in are a little different, but we always ask Is It True? The check-ins are based on what we’re working on. So, for nutrition week I might ask how students want to feel about food in their life and what’s their intention around food and nutrition for the week. While on the week we work on dialectical behavior skills, I might ask them how they’re managing times of high emotion and how they want to feel that week about high emotion. That they’re learning a new skill, and need to be kind and gentle with themselves? That they’re implementing new skills and need to be present and aware so they can assess which skill is best? On Friday we celebrate the wins. Any wins. Some wins around the intention we set on Sunday, but also the good things that happened to us. Hearing from an old friend, making it to yoga class or finishing that sweater they’ve been knitting.

This is a great practice to do on your own. Check-in with yourself each week, throughout the week and ask yourself Is It True? You can use the check-in with an accountability partner or a friend. You can also join me for FREE May 18th for a week of support, guidance and education around mindfully managing your mental health. You’ll learn this check-in technique, implement it and also learn yoga poses, dbt skills, nutrition tips and getting quiet and aware of what’s true skills. It’s a great week of dipping your toe in and getting to know our community a little better. Then you’re armed with information to help you decide if you’d like to do more work with me, engage in the community and/or sign up for an online course.

Then June 1st we’re starting the six unit, 8 week BreatheOnline. Full of videos, a community to connect with (we’ll talk about how important connection is for our mental health) and support.

I’ll be honest. I’m a little behind of getting everything together this Spring. My mental health needed some extra attention. Spring is hard for those of us with anxiety,, depression or other mental health issues. SO, I haven’t put up sign up buttons for BreatheEcourse or BreatheOnline. If you’re interested in either, you can check out the website for more information. You can also email me, mel@ayogikitchen.com, and we can figure out if either are a good choice for you.

Oh! And I do the same work with you one on-one. The course is customized for your schedule, lifestyle, comfort level. It’s anything that you need. That information is also on the website.

SO! It’s Wednesday. Happy Wednesday! How do you want to feel this week and what do you need to do at this mid-point to accomplish that? You get to choose, 100%!

Spring Self-Care

It’s Spring, my favorite time of the year. The warmer, longer days are exciting, inspiring, motivating. The tiny buds coming up, make me feel joy.

I was out running errands yesterday and the stores have seeds and starter plants out. That makes me so happy. My creative juices are getting fired up! What about you? Is this how you connect to the earth?

One of my favorite yoga practices is getting ready for Spring. How exactly do we gear the body up for these warmer months?

At Pop-Up Yoga we’re practicing twists. Twists are some of my favorite poses. They get the digestive system ready for the fresh, raw foods of Spring that we eat straight out of the garden. In Winter, we tend to eat heavier, filling foods that have been cooked a bit. Think stews and roasted foods. Digestion in Winter is fairly easy, cause the cooking process has done a lot of the work for us, but in Spring, we’re doing all the work on our own.

The good news is that these fresh raw foods give us so much more energy than the heavy stewed and roasted foods of Winter. We are ready for big things in the Spring. We are ready to birth in Spring.

Spring is all about renewal and rejuvenation. From Bible stories to just looking out windows, the renewal of Spring is all around.

I know we all think that the first of the year is super important in terms of setting goals and having intention for the year, but January first is in the middle of Winter. We’re in the middle of hibernating, the middle of slowing down and being quiet. Setting intention and goals seems weird for the quiet time. It feels like Spring, the time of renewal, is the time to really put energy into our goal setting.

What can you do for yourself this season to take extra good care of yourself? I feel like good, intentional self-care in Spring makes a difference in the whole year.

When we talk about chakras, we talk about the forehead chakra as being the place where we dream big and generate ideas. However, it’s the sacral chakra, the seat of creative energy, that helps us birth our ideas or see them to fruition.

So it only makes sense that igniting the fire in our belly is the key to feeling energized and motivated during this time of creativity and renewal.

This is a great day to get on the mat and twist. After, grab your journal and jot down steps to complete your goals and intentions. With a great Spring practice, you’re allo set to birth those great ideas,

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Getting Quiet

Winter is when we turn in. It’s when we get quiet, hibernate and work on ourselves. It’s when we dream and plan.

I’ve been doing that. If you listen to the podcast, you know that I haven’t been posting. I’m just back to blogging and posting in the community, because I’ve been getting quiet.

We’re finally having tiny breaks in the cold.

Today, I’m in Lawrence, KS and we’re getting into the high 40s. Kansas is weird, in that we get these short bursts of unseasonably warm weather in the middle of winter. When we first moved here, my daughter was a toddler and every January for three years, we got a week of 80 degree weather. My daughter learned to ride her tricycle, barefoot in January.

Last year, as I traveled, every where I went would get little burst of warm weather. Not 80 degrees, but Chicago, New York and Lawrence would all get days that were at least 50 degrees. Sometimes warmer and sometimes for a few days. I’d miss it every single time. I’d land and the weather would be harsh and my friends would say, “Oh, you should have been here last week, it was beautiful.” I, on the other hand, had a very long, very hard winter. Remember, last year was the year that we got snow in April over much of the country.

So, this year, I’m enjoying my little breaks from winter. When the polar vortex hit Chicago, we high-tailed it for the warmer weather in Lawrence. It got to 60 degrees that week. Recently we got to enjoy some 50 degree weather in Chicago.

Even though it’s been warmer, it’s still the quiet months of winter. The days are still shorter. We’re still bundling up and watching too much Netflix, but it’s also been a great time to get quiet and enjoy the gifts of the dark season.

The gifts have been many. This slowing down period has allowed me time, space and energy to dream and to just be. There is a peace and a stillness to just learning to be.

I’m used to just sitting on the mat. My meditation time has often been mindful movement, long walks with the dog, or on the beach. I like to mindfully wash dishes and vacuum, but there have been days when I don’t know what to do with myself. I read. I’m just quiet. And it’s a joy.

What would your life look like if you just had time to be? What if you could carve out time for yourself not to run errands, or catch up on Netflix shows, but quiet to just relax, breathe and sit? What would that look like?

One of the things that this last few months has given me is space to understand, really get it in my bones, that my worth is not tied into my productivity. It’s given me time to ask myself what is my worth tied into? Am I worthy of love and belonging if I’m just me, sitting in a chair by the window?

We all crave love and belonging. We all crave worthiness, but who decides that for you? Does you boss? Your partner? Your kids? Is it tied to your bank account, stuff or volunteer hours?

Can you be worthy of love and belonging if you sit on the subway train all day and sleep at Grand Central Station? Is that any less deserving of love and belonging than raising children and running errands all day? Does getting stuff done make you worthy?

The slow answers are obvious for me. My worthiness is not tied into any of that. It’s not tied into my pant size, how many people I teach, how many animals I rescue or what I cook for my family.

Now, I can’t decide this for you. No one can. Only you can decide where your worth lies. For me, my worthiness is tied to being a human, a beautifully flawed human who lives and breaths on this planet.

Period.

We are all, each and every one of us, deserving of love and belonging Every single one of us.

The sweet lesson in this quiet time of little activity is that when I sit with that, when I breathe into that, there is freedom and joy. Freedom means possibilities to me. It means choice. It means picking the life I really want. And it also means knowing what that means. Getting quiet allows me to know what that means.

Do you know what the life that you really want means? Do you know how to figure that out?

I invite you to take some time for yourself to just sit and be quiet while we’re still in winter for a little longer. Soon, we’ll want to be out more, want to be more active, be eager to plant and grow and try new recipes. Soon, the weather will inspire us into creative activity.

Until the, I invite you to just take a bit of time each day to just sit quietly by the window. What will your gifts be?