by Laura Martin, MSW
Our relationship to money can be difficult
We inherit our relationship to money from our family, culture, and our experiences. Our thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors about money might be a mishmash of contradiction: “A penny saved is a penny earned” vs “You get what you pay for” vs “You only live once!” We might be making financial decisions based on our unconscious adherence to slogans like these, and finding that there’s no way to make a decision without violating some seemingly ironclad rule about money that your grandmother often repeated.
Our relationship to money + our partner’s relationship
It can be complicated enough to deal with our own money issues, but when we are in relationships, the complexity can be doubled. Multiply all the cultural and family influences, the unique experiences and meanings, and it can be hard to know what is going on. We may not have a shared comfort level with money, or a shared vocabulary to talk about it. Sometimes just finding time to have a calm discussion about money can be difficult.
What can the Buddha tell you about your money?
The historical Siddhartha Gotama, who became known as the Buddha, lived his early years in both excessive luxury and ascetic poverty. He realized that there had to be a Middle Way; not too much, not too little. While he and his monks followed their own special rules (basically not touching money), he also taught “householders” — people with jobs and relationships and families and belongings — how best to navigate the world of money and the Middle Way. These teachings extend into an array of mindfulness practices that can help when things feel panicky or hopeless.
Want to learn more, and apply some of these ideas in a supportive, non-judgemental environment, so that you can make some substantive changes in your relationship to money? Check out Laura's upcoming series Mindfulness and Money , which starts April 25. Two for one special OR discount for singles!
I’ve been in Portland for almost a week now, and am enjoying being at unfold frequently. The work of keeping unfold moving involves a lot in the background, and I am happy to contribute to that from my island. And, the opportunity to be here for 10 days has allowed me to savor the community of unfold in a way that I can’t from far away.
For the past several weeks I have been playing with the idea of balance and the play of opposites, spending time on my beach walks exploring the play of sky and cloud, water and rock, the abundant flora and fauna and how they are uniquely separate and part of the whole. This ability to accept and hold these pairs of opposites is another place where I find I can deeply relax and drop tension.
The same happens with sound. The sounds of the crystal bowls sometimes blend in beautiful harmony, other times in dissonance. One is not better than the other, and neither lasts for very long. The overtones from each bowl works with and morphs into a single, unifying sound over time. And we can follow that sound into a silence that is beyond beautiful in the space that it is holding for the next sound.
Bathe deeply in that ocean of sound
Vibrating within you now, as always.
Permeating the space of the heart.
~ Radiance Sutra 15, as rendered by Lorin Roche
If you would like to join me and Ashley Dahl in a deeply relaxing sound bath and meditation, you can register here. To find out more about the type of bowls I use, check out this link.
by Leigh Drake
With all of the press and word of mouth about the many benefits of meditation, it was definitely something that I wanted to do. So I took the trainings and set aside time, and would be successful for awhile . . . and then life seemed to get in the way of my practice of meditation. Some time later I picked it back up again - back and forth, in and out of regular practice. Not a unique story!
What I discovered through this journey of trial-and-error was that, for me, a practice that allowed me to deeply relax was not only the most sustainable, but also the most beneficial. And I know I am not alone in this; science backs my experience up. When we are deeply relaxed we move out of the sympathetic nervous system (Flight, Fright, Freeze) and into the parasympathetic nervous system (Rest & Digest). It is in the Rest & Digest state that I have the ability to soften my body and my mind, and have access to that part of me that cares deeply for myself and the world. To me this is a state of equanimity.
One of these deeply relaxing practices has been with the sound and vibration of crystal bowls.
If you are curious about the relationship between deep relaxation and meditation, if the possibility of using crystal bowls and sound as a meditation is intriguing to you, or if you have experienced a crystal bath before and are ready to treat yourself again, then click here to read about the Crystal Bowl Sound Bath Meditation event at unfold with me and Ashley Dahl on Sunday, April 15.
by Ashley Dahl, MSW
You’ll enjoy things more.
Mindfulness involves being present, moment-to-moment. Studies show that even being present with tedious tasks is more enjoyable than being checked out doing something pleasurable.
You’ll stress less.
Most of us over-activate our sympathetic nervous system, the system that triggers fight, flight and freeze states. As a result, we frequently feel stressed out. Mindfulness helps us to bring greater discernment to our nervous system. We learn how to interrupt stress cycles and engage our parasympathetic nervous system (natural caregiving system). In turn, we feel increased levels of calm and steadiness.
You’ll spend more time responding rather than reacting.
Reducing fight, flight and freeze states supports blood flow throughout our entire body, including our brain. Why is this important? When our brain is well-nourished it’s considerably easier to be thoughtful, patient and compassionate.
You’ll learn you’re not alone in your humanness.
We have an epidemic of harsh inner critics in our country. These are the judging voices in our heads that chime in when we feel out of control, hurt or afraid. They tell us that, for whatever reason, it’s essentially not okay to be human. Mindfulness offers an alternative voice. It helps us gently, yet unequivocally, understand being human means sometimes getting things wrong and not knowing what to do. Mindfulness allows us to appreciate how difficult experiences naturally can give rise to difficult feelings. Rather than viewing ourselves as flawed, we begin to trust in our innate goodness. More than that, we’re able to attune to sense of shared humanity knowing that every other being on this planet is just as perfectly imperfect as well.
You’ll be kinder to yourself, and others.
In learning to pair awareness with perspective and compassion, our inner dialogues become kinder. We feel safer in our own skin, more of the time. This, in turn, strengthens our capacity and motivation to meet others with presence and understanding. Research backs this up – studies demonstrate higher quality of relationships among mindfulness practitioners.
Want to learn more? Join Ashley at her upcoming Beginning Mindfulness Meditation Series. Begins 4/10. (or try a free class on Tuesday, March 27, 6.45pm, sign-up here!)
She’s also teaching a workshop later this month, Spring Cleaning for Your Mind, integrating mindfulness mediation with the restorative practice of yoga nidra.
For her full teaching schedule head here.
By Ashley Dahl, MSW
People cite all sorts of reasons for why they practice Yoga Nidra. The bottom line for many of these reasons: It feels good.
Unlike some physical and health practices, Yoga Nidra actually tends to feel good while practicing. If you’re unfamiliar with this style of yoga you can read more about what it is here. Essentially though, Yoga Nidra is a state of consciousness wherein our brain waves slow down. That is, we become very relaxed. The most common way to practice is through guided meditation while in a highly supported supine (lying down) position. The experience makes me think of a young child, who is expertly tucked-in with the help of blankets and pillows and cushions, and is listening to a calming voice while they drift into an exquisite lull - barely awake, their body, mind and imagination filled with gentle, encompassing contentment.
Needless to say, people tend to feel great just after practicing Yoga Nidra. Studies show that residing in the state of Yoga Nidra for an hour is the equivalent of getting four hours of sleep. People emerge feeling rested, refreshed, restored, replenished…the list goes on. Coming out of Yoga Nidra can also feel like one has pushed a reset button with their emotions. Deep relaxation often inspires fresh perspective on those daily life shenanigans that can derail us. Deep diving into ease tends to illicit a sense of spaciousness. This, in turn, allows us to introduce more calm and compassion into our responses.
So yes, it’s no wonder people enjoy practicing Yoga Nidra. And it’s easy to see how our bodies and mind-states benefit. There’s more though. Yoga Nidra is more than something that feels good and is good for us – it’s actually really good for many of us. At a time when chronic autoimmune diseases appear to be on the rise and countless folks struggle with things like anxiety and depression, there are more reasons to practice. Bottom line - Yoga Nidra helps with these deeper layers of health as well.
Research is beginning to pile up showing that maintaining a regular Yoga Nidra practice is tremendously healing. Yoga Nidra has been found to lower stress, depression, anxiety and symptoms of PMS. It also benefits many chronic autoimmune diseases including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and Lyme’s disease. It’s also shown to support post-heart attack care. In a nutshell, Yoga Nidra helps our bodies’ innate healing capacities do their job.
Whether you’re looking to feel more rested and relaxed after a tough week or you’re navigating a chronic health challenge, you might want to give Yoga Nidra a try. Plus, just the practicing really does feel good.
Click here to find more info re: Ashley's Yoga Nidra series, which start September 19 and November 7.
consciously turn towards for inspiration, while unconsciously categorizing as other-worldly. As yoga and meditation practitioners we may be willing to plant our feet on a path towards enlightenment. However, many of us do so convinced we don’t stand a chance of achieving this state of being ourselves.
The stickiness with enlightenment is that implication of landing somewhere - a fixed (albeit perhaps wonderful) place where one could arrive and then seemingly expect to reside. This indeed makes me step back. Who knows anyone who’s been able to, or even seems able to, pull off that feat? To reside in a state of perpetual wisdom and compassion? Strikes me as being like working at a library and expecting that if one can just shelve all those books on the cart during a work shift, all books will forever remain shelved. Life happens. We’re human. That math does not add up.
So what would it be like if we stopped viewing the path of enlightenment as a journey towards a fixed destination and took it to mean the journey itself? I remember the first time one of my meditation teachers described enlightenment as an on-going practice of waking up. Framed as a process that supports having insights as one moves through life, the invitation was to consider that with every insight (every time we “wake up”), we experience enlightenment.
For me this was a big wake up call in and of itself. This I can do. I can cultivate conditions for insights to arise. I can nurture qualities like kindness in my attention. I can practice strengthening my awareness muscles to be more present, more of the time. I can not be perfect from a certain point forward but instead be willing to start over again, as many times as I need. (Just as those librarians do each day when they discover more books to be re-shelved.) Us regular people do stand a shot at this thing called enlightenment.
What practices help you show up with wisdom and insight? To demonstrate kindness, inside and out? To be present, even if just for a moment? I invite you to tune-in to how you might keep waking up your innate capacity for enlightenment.
Join Ashley at her Waking Up morning meditation series August 14 - 17.
Ashley is also teaching Relax & Renew with Yoga Nidra August 14th and
Meditation 101 on August 22nd.
AD: That it’s not so different from a yoga asana (pose) practice. Asana isn’t simply about moving our bodies. Through movement we can train ourselves to inhabit our bodies with awareness and compassion. In practicing Yoga Nidra we invite that quality of awareness to the active experience of deep relaxation. This isn’t always easy to do, many of us will auto-pilot into sleep (which is okay, too!) But we can learn to enter a state consciousness that maintains awareness in the midst of deep relaxation. From there, we’re able to intentionally release accumulated layers of physical, emotional and spiritual tension.
EB: I know you teach a lot of mindfulness. How has mindfulness specifically been helpful in your own life?
AD: What I didn’t see coming, when I hopped on the mindfulness path, was how it would inspire a radically kinder relationship with myself, and in turn with others. I came to appreciate that I was like a lot of folks - I lived with a harsh inner critic. I found that a primal part of me was bent on self-protection in ways that could be awfully bruising at times. I got a taste though of how much more powerful an approach like compassion can be in helping me live my values and connect more deeply with others.
EB: Who most benefits most from your approach to mindfulness practice?
AD: People interested in exploring how to respond to life with wisdom and care. There’s a certain level of simplicity to mindfulness but that doesn’t mean it’s easy, nor always comfortable. I bring a bit of levity, a dose of gentleness, and a sense of shared humanity to my classes to help foster exploring this path with compassion and curiosity.
Ashley Dahl, MSW, is a visiting teacher at unfold. She is a champion of compassionate self-awareness, and she possesses a keen ability to infuse mindfulness into daily life and relationships. She brings humor and a presence of calm thoughtfulness as she blends the teachings of wisdom traditions and science with modern culture. Ashley is trained in mindfulness meditation through the Mindfulness Training Institute, studying under Mark Coleman and Martin Aylward.
You can attend any of these great programs she's offering this summer:
Relax & Restore with Yoga Nidra: Summer Edition
or Waking-Up: Mini Mindfulness Intensives
When I think about Mothers Day it is always with a mixture of emotions. The mother/child relationship is complicated at best! No matter how supportive your mother was, there are challenges, both real and imagined, between a mother (or mother figure) and the child-that-was.
And if you are in the role of mother / nurturer, you know first hand how difficult the dance is between supporting the needs of your family with the needs of your soul.
Without necessarily knowing, agreeing with, or understanding the exact challenges of the supportive women in my life, one thing I do know is that they all persisted.
This phrase came into focus earlier this year after the Senate voted to silence Elizabeth Warren during the confirmation hearings for Jeff Sessions as US Attorney General. And then came a variety of merchandise, including tee shirts with the iconic image from World War II with Rosie The Riveter, a powerful image for me.
It made me think about how hard my mother and grandmothers, aunts and other women who came before me all worked; both in building this country and in sustaining their families and communities. And it deepened my respect and my resolve to do the same.
This month we celebrate the spirit of the mother / nurturer at unfold. Whether you are the mother, the child, or both, consider spending some valuable refresh time in one of our classes, workshops, or series. Our Mothers Day schedule remains the same as it is every Sunday, so you can enjoy a lovely flow class with Tony at 9am, a gentle class appropriate to all body types with Karen at 10:30, or a relaxing and rejuvenating yin class with me at 5:30 to wrap up the weekend and support you meeting the new week from a less-stressed state.
Other opportunities for deep nurturing this month are Restorative Yoga & Sound Healing with Carol Grimes on Saturday 5/27. And there are a few drop in slots available for deeply relaxing Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep) class on Monday nights 5/15 & 5/22. You can find all of these on our website.
You know that moment just before falling asleep? That feeling of deep relaxation with a slight trace of awareness? That’s what I’m reminded of when I practice Yoga Nidra. Nidra is a Sanskrit term for sleep. Yoga Nidra, or yogic sleep, refers to a restorative state of consciousness residing between wakefulness and sleep.
While there are different ways to access yogic sleep, the most common is through guided relaxation. Imagine a yoga class that heads directly to final rest. And then lingers there. Practice involves lying on the floor, supported by plenty of props (cushy mat, something soft for the head, bolster perhaps tucked beneath knees, blanket for added coziness…), and listening to a guided meditation.
The meditation focuses on gently releasing accumulated layers of physical, mental and emotional tension. This calms the nervous system and facilitates the body’s natural healing capabilities.
I practice Yoga Nidra because of how it makes me feel – more ease in my body, less stress in my mind. I also love that it’s safe and accessible for all ages and mobility levels – I can practice for life. My favorite thing about practicing Yoga Nidra though? The guaranteed benefits – worst-case scenario I get a restful nap.
Join Ashley at her upcoming Relax and Restore with Yoga Nidra mini-series beginning May 8th. For more details and to register click here.
It’s funny to notice the reluctance I have around this topic, and it makes me wonder how many others do too – tithing or charitable giving. I generally don’t consider myself in the category of people who have so much expendable income that they give some away at the end of each year. However, I’ve been doing some work with a coach around bringing my spiritual life and my money life together.
This coach suggests that by giving away some portion of your income each month, that we can practice believing that we are in a situation of abundance. So often, we feel like we don’t have enough – that there’s not enough time, enough clients, enough love, enough money. But if we give some away, we are making a statement to ourselves (and maybe to the universe), “I DO have enough.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’ve never made charitable contributions before – I have. But it’s usually been when I’ve been asked – it has been a reaction to being asked for a donation. And it certainly hasn’t been a part of an active spiritual practice.
I think that there is potential with the idea of proactively giving on a monthly basis, rather than (or in addition to) when asked. It doesn’t have to be the same organization nor the same amount. One idea my coach suggested, was to give a percentage of income – start with the idea of 1%. What would that look like? What would that feel like – giving 1% of what you earned this month? Even if you have a very low income – what would 1% feel like? Can you imagine giving to an organization that has benefited you, or someone you care about? Does that seem too small to be meaningful? Raise it by 1% until it feels just right.
My purpose in writing this, is not to cause feelings of obligation, but rather to invite you to take a look at your own relationship with ideas of abundance, money and spirituality. I just was lying in bed last night, thinking about Living Yoga and the good people there, doing such great work to change the world through spreading yoga teachings among those in correctional facilities and drug/alcohol rehab. And then I remembered – I haven’t given yet. It doesn’t matter how much – what matters is that I do give, and that I keep giving - whether it be money, time, love or whatever feels scarce – to give it away and to remember that practicing abundance is the only way to create more abundance for myself, my family and the world.
If you do consider giving to a non-profit – give to something that you connect with deeply. If yoga and awareness practices are important to you, consider these fine non-profits. We support them with our time and money, and they also support unfold studios:
Living Yoga, in this year's Willamette Week’s Give Guide.
The Samarya Center
One House of Peace
Written by teachers at unfold studios and guest authors.