I love listening to podcasts, and surprisingly, it’s just as fun to make them!*
I was inspired to start podcasting so that I could share my story about how and why I became a yoga teacher – and this made me want to reach out to those who inspired me on my journey.
The lovely Sandy Thorpe, pictured above, welcomed me into her lovely Santa Cruz home to share her story, and then we went for a deservedly renowned Pleasure Point Market burrito. I highly recommend them both.
You can hear it for yourself by clicking here. Enjoy!
So one of the most persistent questions that people ask on my favorite podcast 10% happier (please check it out if you haven’t… it is superb!) is “Do I need a teacher?” Today’s podcast featuring the amazing Helen Tworkov had her recounting this question as she was beginning her journey.
So, full disclosure, I don’t yet have one but have some ideas on getting some. (More on that in the conclusion.) But I have friends who encouraged me to start meditating, and I think each of their guru’s are worthy of a shoutout – and may be instructive for those who are medi-curious.
The Joy of Living’s Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche.
I begin with him because he is the teacher of my dear friend Laura, co-founder of MobileOm, who got me on my journey to meditation with a simple gift. In addition to his existing, must-read books called the Joy of Living series, Mingyur has just released a new book In Love with the World (which is co-authored by Helen T mentioned above, and gave me the impetus to pen this post!) Here is his Amazon Bio “an eminent meditation master among the new generation of Tibetan Buddhist teachers trained outside of Tibet. Mingyur Rinpoche teaches throughout the world, with centers on five continents.”
As this gent is world famous, Laura’s training with him came locally via video. Our beloved local yoga studio Breathe Together Yoga holds a class there where they use his format as provided here. (Note: I will also be using this format as we kick off the CEC – Cambrian Edition.) He is inspiring but funny and very approachable as he shares very openly about his challenges.
I cannot wait to read his new book, and will certainly be writing a review for this blog.
The Marvellous Ms. Fletcher
In the “right place, right time” vein, shortly after finishing the Just Sit book, I happened to have coffee with a friend who I knew to be a meditator. I mentioned to Melissa that I needed a teacher and she heartily recommended Emily Fletcher’s Ziva Meditation. You can read my earlier review here, but to sum up / use the metadescription from her website “Emily Fletcher is the founder of Ziva, the creator of The Ziva Technique and regarded as the leading expert in meditation for high performance.” Or put differently, a very engaging meditation teacher who has taken the teachings of Karma Nidra Yoga, and made them accessible to people schooled in today’s fast pace of life.
I took her online class and found the 14-day session very useful to establish my meditation habit, but she also has a recently published book Stress Less: Accomplish More which sums up her approach and is very readable.
Amma, The Hugging Saint
My favorite manager from my corporate days, the amazing Alison, is also a meditator. So when she heard I was beginning to pursue my path, she connected me to her guru, who has a remarkable story and following. Oprah’s team writes about her in this way ” Amma’s Mission to Transform Humanity Through the Power of a Hug – A cheerful, tireless Indian guru named Amma is on a mission to comfort all of humanity.”
Alison has been taking classes from her team at a bay area ashram and has also taken her child with her as Amma travels America to share her gift. I have also gone to take an initial teacher training at the ashram and find it wonderful; will be taking more trainings this summer and will certainly share what I learn.
But who will be my teacher?
I have learned so very much from my friends’ teachers. But as Dan Harris (in sense my teacher via his wonderful 10% happier podcast/app) has mentioned, there can be great value in studying with someone IRL. He was able to meet many great teachers in person and currently calls the venerable Joseph Goldstein his teacher. And I think for me, I do need someone that I can connect with in person.
So, I’m exploring those options and will report back. And I believe in the veracity of the old saying “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
You can learn all about Jeff at his website, but for the sake of this post, I wanted to announce that we will be using his guide to start our own CEC (Consciousness Explorers Club). This guide is called an “activation kit” and it walks you through how to start your own club.
Why? Two reasons.
First, in the 6 months, I’ve been meditating (thank you again, Laura, Alison, and Melissa… and of course Dan!) I feel like myself again. So, in order to keep my practice going, and deepening, I have decided that MobileOm should start a club.
Secondly, community is the key to the good life. (Any parents out there remember that key phrase from the end of that classic movie “Over the Hedge”?) Or, if you’re a 10% Happier fan like me, you’ll know this fact is well described in this amazing podcast “Fighting Depression with Social Connection, from social scientist and author Johann Hari”.
To help ourselves and our community to use meditation as a bridge to this good life, we shall begin this club. Details can be found here. Join us if you can. (Note: If you’re not in our neighborhood, you can join our Whats App group where we will encourage and support each other. Indicate this in your RSVP and we’ll invite you to join.)
There is a bit of a scandal going on in the press over Core Power Yoga – “The Starbucks of Yoga” which has over 200 studios; but who it has been revealed, expects its teachers to do unpaid labor (inc being the janitorial staff) and to aggressively recruit their students into the training program.
The other two, the RobCast and the 10% Happier Podcast feature terrifically interesting hosts (Rob Bell and Dan Harris) who use the podcast as a vehicle to continue their learning journey by inviting really inspirational people to come to have a deep conversation.
What’s not to like about that? So listen to me if you like and stay tuned for upcoming guests like my friend Sandy Thorpe – Corporate Yoga goddess and Laura Maita, who held my hand as I began my journey… and many more fun, wonderful folk!
The view from my window is Silicon Valley – and the job market is hot. If you’ve been working for companies like Google, Facebook, Intel or Intuit, you have recruiters pinging you on the daily. And while the jobs at these tech household names are usually pretty well paid, they tend towards the stressful. So… to answer the question above, while there is altruism around having a healthy workplace, let’s be frank and say that anything that adds to employee retention makes good sense.
Since I’ve been fortunate to work inside the above-mentioned tech household name as a yoga teacher this last decade, let me share my observations on what they do well.
Google’s Workplace Wellness Program
Full caveat – I am but a humble 1099 part of the Google wellness program, but in addition to the published benefits, I can comment on the things that are effective and inspiring parts at the ground eye level.
Yes, the food.
The free food, and the dangers of the “Google 15” are appreciated by W2 and 1099 alike. Its really great to have fresh, creative and inspiring options. The urge to binge does fade, but the spirit is lifted and comradery does bring people away from their desks for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Each month the wellness and benefits staff confer around a single mission to care for the workforce. Sometimes it’s seasonal (beginning the new year with health-oriented initiatives, the month of daylight savings change focusing on sleep sufficiency); and other times its around life events (tax season, summer vacation months.) Getting the caretakers of the company aligned looks very effective and feels very effective.
In addition to bringing in certified experts in wellness (like me) there is a program that encourages Googlers to build teams among themselves – leading to people challenging themselves (I’ve talked several of my yoga students into getting their certifications) and to try out leadership roles outside the normal swim lanes. (ex; leading the bike teams to train for group events.)
Who has the best wellness program in Silicon Valley?
Would it surprise you to learn I’ve decided to profile the ones that I’ve experienced (as an employee who sits at a desk and in freezing conference rooms.) Stay tuned for more, and please leave a comment below if you have questions or comments to share!
I first became a yoga teacher 12 years ago – and when I got my credentials, I also got the invitation to join Fitness Pro Travel – a marvelous group that contracts with resorts to staff their yoga needs.
I feel a bit embarrassed I waited this long to take advantage of it – but after having spent my birthday week as a teacher in Club Med Ixtapa, I’m now hooked. Some might balk at the idea of a “working vacation” but given that teaching yoga is my calling – it made the week even more special. (If you’d like my full week Trip Advisor review where I name names — all good — click here.)
What was especially sweet was the mix of students. Club Med is famous for its array of events — there were water sports, beach sports and land sports – so not everyone will take yoga. And in your classes, you will have some people with regular practices (they’re fairly obvious) but you are blessed with many folks just giving yoga a try. To see these fit and fun people discovering the joy of yoga is magic in and of itself.
I have become Facebook friends with many of them (and many of the wonderful young GO employees at the resort) and plan to do this at least annually. Join me?
I have loved road bike riding ever since my handsome husband Rob took me out on a ride in the mid-90s. Similarly, I have loved yoga since he took me to a class during that same time period.
I can’t imagine my life without either of those things. Then… I had to. I had a pulmonary embolism in July of this year, and between the infarction that destroyed one of my lungs, and the blood thinners I had to take; I was down and out. No biking, no yoga (at first.)
Luckily – a dear friend Laura (and yes, my co-founder here at MobileOm) brought by the book “Just Sit.” Its subtitle is “A Meditation Guidebook for People Who Know they should but Don’t.” Yeah, me. I mean, I teach yoga, I know all the science on how meditation makes you healthier and more effective. But other than at the end of a yoga practice – those magic moments, I didn’t make time for it.
Well, I had time now! Reading the book was the first step, and it was surprisingly easy. The authors, Sukey and Elizabeth Novogratz have a tone that is helpful, playful, but insistent. They lay out the book in small, highly effective sections that get inside your mind, and help you make the decision that this is something you want to, and can do.
Getting into the book.
The preface is very thought provoking. They tell the story of a gentleman in the 1960s – one of the author’s father – who went out for a run. He was stopped by the police, as it turns out that someone going out for a run in that time frame was not really something people did. The policeman thought it very odd. But today – no big deal, right? On any given pleasant evening, what neighborhood doesn’t have its share of health enthusiasts out running, and there are even treadmills busily enabling those without outdoor access to the benefits of running.
They posit that we are at a similar place for meditation. What was once an exotic habit will be, in the next generation, something that is acknowledged to be almost universally accepted as a healthy, mainstream way to heal and safeguard good health.
They lead into the introduction, giving their own journey’s to the mat, and then follow with a timeline of meditation; starting from the days of 400 BC writing of the Yoga Sutra’s in India, through yoga and meditations journey to the US (yes, including the Beatles.) with meditation ending up on the cover of Time Magazine.
The heart of the book.
What I enjoyed so much about the book is they acknowledge that meditating is both incredibly simple and incredibly hard to do (at least at first.)
They get right to demystifying the how to do it. Its right on page 4 where they break down how to “just sit” telling you both where to put your body, and where to put your attention.
You might think ok… is this a 4 page book? Nope.
The rest of the book deals with why meditation is hard to do; and why people like me who know they should but still don’t.
Meet The Trickster; they introduce a concept of the part of the mind that wants to stay incognito. Other schools of yoga might call this the Ego, but they’ve given it a little character (note: the illustrations in this book are quite adorable and engaging) The trickster is the one feeding unhelpful thoughts into your daily monologue. For people who don’t meditate, this trickster is the source of a lot of pain and stress.
In addition to the tricks the trickster plays to keep us squirrely, they also give very thoughtful answers to many of the conscious objections people may have to meditation. (Is it against my religion / do I have to be religious to do it? How do I pick the right kind of meditation? How will I know if I’m getting any benefit.)
Finally, they end this “objection” section by giving us new friends. Just as they personified the ego as the trickster, they give us allies; such as “the brain trainer” “The DNA Repairman” “The Anxiety Killer” – letting you pick from the native internal cheerleaders you may have waiting to step in and help you.
The rest of the book goes deeply but charmingly into the health benefits of the practice, and many practical tips about how to make it a habit. They have an 8 week guided tour of many different kinds of mediation that will let you figure out what will work for you; suffice it to say Week 1 – follow the breath gets you started down the right path, and each week adds additional grace and flavor. I especially like the “spark” section where they list common things you already do (walk the dog/take a shower) that can be the starting point for your daily meditation.
So I Sit.
The book was a gift from a friend, but my daily sitting is a gift I’m finally able to give myself. Do I feel the difference in the 3 months I’ve been doing it (on top of the wonderful yoga and cycling with are now back in my life?) Yep – I do.
Whateever I was doing in those 20 minutes, I don’t recall and do not miss. It’s nice to be able to something that I knew I should do and now I want to.
As our focus gets drawn to all things Urgent – it’s easy to lose connection with the things that are Important. As important and the regular practice is for yoga and meditation, for those that provide those services, regular training is also very important.
When I was drawn to teach yoga – I went to my favorite teacher and asked about her path, which is how I selected the body that I have my RYT (registered yoga teacher) certification from. This group – YogaFit had a philosophy that appeals to me (anyone can do yoga – but do it safely and mindfully) and I’ve greatly enjoyed my training with them over the last decade.
Mysore Ashtanga at BreatheTogether Studio.
As we came up with the idea to launch MobileOm, I felt called to train some more. My local, wonderful studio was offering an immersion in the style of Mysore Ashtanga. I’ve long been intimidated by this style, as I thought you needed to be somewhat superhuman to do many of the poses. However – the timing was right – the teacher seemed lovely – and I trusted that BreatheTogether would keep me safe.
I’m so very glad I did it, as I’ve learned the philosophy behind it, gained confidence that I can offer up the poses safely (if not teach the full series… some poses are crazy challenging) and have learned that I can still push past barriers that I had thought were permanent.
ZivaMeditation and Amma
Similarly, I spoke to two friends who have shared with me the benefits of their meditation practice. Both share a similar background as I do, and were able to talk about the challenges and rewards of their paths. With that in mind, I signed up to learn the Ziva method.
I’m still finishing the training program but can already feel the differences in my mind and spirit. Like TM, this is a mantra based style of meditation. What I like is how the founder, Emily Fletcher, has laid out 3 different parts of the process – Mindfullness, Meditation and Manifestation – and shares the part of the brain where these different activities conduct their activities.
Mindfulness helps deal with stress in the present moment. In it, you are directing your focus which lights up a small part of the brain (the Prefrontal cortex.) Over time this can improve your clarity and focus. Meditation gives the body deep, healing rest to get rid of stress from the past. The technique is one of surrender which lights up the whole brain, but not as brightly as mindfulness. Over time, meditation strengthens the corpus callosum. Manifesting helps you create your goals for the future. This practice helps you clarify your goals and activates the creative center of the brain, also known as the right brain.
I also was recommended to explore the meditation practices taught by Amma, aka the hugging saint. My friend has gone to many of her retreats, and in fact traveled with her this summer in her bus, visiting many cities, hugging multitudes and mediating in large groups. I will be going to learn the IAM techniques when next they are offered in this area.
Looking forward to sharing these wonderful fun new things with you dear reader – let us know if we can come by your workplace or organization for Yoga, Meditation or Wellness Coaching (blog post on that training to come!)
It’s no secret to anyone that taking a little time to wind down from the chaos of our daily lives is good for you. Meditation and mindfulness training is a perfect way to take a quick break from the hustle bustle. There’s a wealth of research promoting the positive benefits to our overall health both physically and mentally from a regular meditation practice.
“Mindfulness is a form of meditation or mental training that helps us to live in a state of awareness of our life experiences without judgment. The practice of mindfulness has a diverse set of benefits such as stress reduction, improved memory, heightened concentration and even improved physical health.” -MalaForest, Jul, 2016
But how do I get started? Do I need special equipment, clothing, etc.? Will I be chanting while attempting to bind my legs into an impossible pretzel formation? In a word, no. The good news is you can meditate anywhere, anytime. But it does require some practice and dedication.
Meditation apps are a great way to get started with a daily meditation practice. They are generally easy to use, fun and many are free. Some have music, nature sounds along with silent guided and unguided meditation. I would suggest downloading a at least 3. You may need to before you find one that feels right and doesn’t give up if you don’t enjoy the first one you try. There are many different options and I guarantee you will find one that works for you.
Here are a few of our favorites.
1. Meditation Studio
This app is one of the best for beginners. The navigation is very clean and simple. Expert teachers start you out with short, guided sessions using your breathe. The menu gives you a wide selection of choices depending on your mood or what area you would like to focus on. For example, stress, sleep, anxiety and pain management. But they also offer meditation exercises for work, relationships and even Back to School!
I love the daily quotes I receive from Oak. You can set notifications for any time of day. The sessions are divided into 3 categories: meditate, breathe, sleep. What I love about this app is each session has a very brief explanation of what you will be doing. That way I get some insight into what I’m diving into and if that fits my needs. They also have a log to track your progress and prompt you when you need it.
Probably one of the most well known meditation apps and for good reason. As soon as you open the app, it prompts you to take a breathe. Right at the start, your feeling relaxed. You can choose your favorite sounds, pics and length of meditation. The pis are gorgeous and the sounds are so relaxing. I use this app quite often for bedtime relaxation.
And then there’s Headspace. Founder Andy Puddicombe, is an honest to god Buddhist monk with 10 years of Tibetan monastic training across Asia and a soothing Bristol accent. He connected with 27-year-old Londoner Richard Pierson – a brilliant marketer (think Axe deodorant) who felt so much anxiety he struggled to go out in public. The duo’s creation has become a huge hit, bringing in millions of subscribers and highlighting the meditating journey in a very easy to follow way.
All of these apps are perfect for beginners as well as seasoned meditators. Start your meditation practice today, right now! Download your meditation apps and don’t forget to take your earphones with you to take advantage of your new apps anytime of day. A moment of peace and relaxation is just a click away.
If you and your best four-legged friend are looking for something fun to do October 13, look no further… the Tales and Ales festival in Palo Alto has it all. And while you’re there, join us for some Doga! No experience (or mat) needed, just come on out and join us at Mitchell Park. (Pawed participants will be on leashes at all time – nonretractable preferred.)
If you’ve not heard of Doga before, here is a very sweet video with an explanation from a teacher who popularized the term at her studio. And our friends at Leash Your Fitness working with the San Diego Humane Society recently set the world record for the worlds largest Doga class. (265 – read more about it here.)
The thirty-minute class will start with standing stretches, some lunges, some twists and some balance poses. Then we’ll sit down and deepen our breath, take some leg stretches and do a little bit of core work. We’ll do a bit of arm work, then lie on our back for some twisting and relaxing. Finally, we finish the class with some dog massage. Both you and your pet will feel energized and relaxed.
Now, while this event will be undoubtedly very canine-centric, let us know if you’re considering Pig Yoga, Cat Yoga, goat yoga (see my friend below) – we’d love to hear about it.