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Today I had a wonderful meditation practice. I came to my cushion with a light heart and a desire to be still. I wasn’t thinking of it as if it were an item on a “to do” list, or as something I felt obligated to do. It simply was what I wanted to do and so I did it.

In my meditation today, I realized that everything I need to know, I already have within me. Whatever issue that I’m struggling with, whatever concept is difficult to grasp, whatever problem that seems on the surface to be inextricable or insurmountable — I have the solution inside of me. I’ve said it to myself before… and I’ve really worked hard to grasp that concept, but now there is a shift going on inside of me where this realization is becoming more of a part of me. I am only wasting my energy when I struggle or fight with my problems. That gets me nowhere. I don’t need to read a billion books before finding my path or consult a thousand people before making a decision. Obstacles will always come up. Problems will always be there. Difficult decisions will always present themselves to us. But perhaps these obstacles, problems, or decisions exist in our lives in order to prompt us to go to that place of stillness — to go within and discover our truest and best path.

I have recently let go of my attachment to the yoga studio that I love so much, which I believe could be a big part of this realization becoming so real to me. That’s not to say that I’ve given up going there to practice. I do continue to go there, but perhaps a bit less frequently. I also still dearly love all of the people who have touched my life — they truly are wonderful people who have given me encouragement and immeasurable inspiration. The light that they shine was one that I found; and I am so grateful that it has forever changed my life. But I discovered recently that I had become attached and dependent upon them for my growth. When things changed and I felt let down, it was so painful to me… partially because I had been so attached. I continued on in my journey, worked through my hurt, found peace, and suddenly began to find my own way. I’ve given myself time to be quiet. I’ve slowly given myself freedom from so many obligations, chores, attachments, and endless stimulations from activity and have just let myself find stillness. It is the sweetest, most precious medicine to be still, especially in our hectic world. In doing so, I’ve discovered answers to questions that have always been there.

If I spend all of my time only listening to the voices of other people, I will never give myself a chance to hear my own inner voice!

More and more I am beginning to trust myself and the universe that everything is already there, and then allow myself the space (and time) for it to be revealed to me. I’ve made a New Year’s Resolution to meditate every day. Since then, life has become a lot less of a struggle. It’s become lighter and easier. The problems and obstacles, puzzles and questions are still there — and they always will be there. But if you let it, your inner voice will come up to help you find your way.


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Teaching yoga is a gift to me as much as it is a gift to others. I have transformed so much in this process. There’s no way I could have started teaching yoga without my own transformation. And because I’ve felt it, lived it, worked on it, sweat through it, fought with it, loved it, and released it… now I can support others as they go through their own process of transformation and healing. It is so unbelievably amazing to see others transforming on their paths and finding joy. To me, teaching yoga is a service to the folks on the mat as well as all of the lives and things that they touch when they are off of the mat. It truly goes beyond the classroom – teaching yoga is a service to the world!

I heard Sid say recently that teaching yoga is God’s work. What a powerful statement! And yet it is a statement that has really stuck with me and dug its way into my heart. It has not only impacted my teaching, but also my entire perspective on life. During yoga teacher training I didn’t quite know or understand what God was. It was a faraway and confusing concept that, whenever I tried to imagine it, just seemed to be a separate thing from me that I couldn’t quite grasp. I am now beginning to realize that God is consciousness, the spark of life, the vibration of love. Whenever I am conscious enough to see it, I am filled with an overwhelming sense of love that causes everything else to dim in comparison. The physical things and accomplishments that I’ve always viewed as “mine” become less important to me as I grow my understanding of how I fit into this new picture. It helps me to see that these things in life really aren’t about me … it’s no longer my yoga class, my house, my stuff, my achievements, or even my life. It is about being an instrument for the vibration of love to sing through. This is a place of freedom! I don’t look at yoga as a religious type of thing, but I do see it as a practice of growing love.  My teaching is simply a tool for showing people the way to discover that inside of themselves. Through this perspective, my ego backs way off. Whether  1 person or 100 people show up to my class becomes irrelevant. If I am an instrument for the vibration of love to sing through, then whoever wants to hear it will come.

I’ve grown a lot since teaching my first yoga class:

  • Creating a connected and safe environment is an important aspect of my teaching. Doing this gives others – wherever they are in their practice – the space and freedom to grow. I am especially growing my practice of speaking to everything in the room without hesitation.
  • Being present is, to me, the MOST important aspect of teaching yoga. I’ve seen and felt how a lack of presence resonates in a class. Everyone feels it. I have begun a ritual of setting my intentions and doing a short breathing exercise and meditation before class in order to align myself with the present moment. I speak to being present and dropping expectations of “what’s next” in all of my classes.
  • I teach what I know, not only in regard to the yoga practice itself, but also in the concepts and personal experiences that I share with the class. If something resonates with me and it is the right time to talk about it in class, I will share that. I enjoy sharing my own walk with others . I believe that the class appreciates it too.
  • I am growing myself as a teacher that fills the space with my presence. Being present is the first step. Getting out of the way so that the vibration of love shines through every word takes it to a new level. I’m also learning how to use more of my lower and middle lung to push my voice to fill the room. I’ve had to clear my throat a lot after class, which tells me that I’ve been using my throat for the most part.
  • The smiles that I see after class show me that I’ve left people to their own greatness and that each person has grown from his/her practice. I practice, what I call “Namaste” in each of my classes – remembering that the light inside of me honors the light inside of you.
  • I’ve come a long way with listening to how my words land with everyone. When I first began, I was nervous. Whenever I’m nervous, I tend to talk a lot. I had so much to say in my classes that I didn’t pause long enough to let what was said sink in with everyone. Now I feel much more comfortable in my teaching. I am conscious of how my words land in the bodies and hearts of the class. I pause, take a breath, and observe before speaking. No more diarrhea of the mouth!
  • I feel that my classes maintain an encouraging and empowering energy about them. Growing is a process of creating what you want, not beating yourself up over what you think you need to change. I speak to this in my classes and I feel that it resonates with those who listen.
  •  I am learning how to speak to what is missing without fearing that I’m being judgmental. I am beginning to see how necessary this is. I also see this as a way to get connected to each person in the class by showing them that you are paying attention. Most of the time (if not all of the time) people really appreciate that.
  • I am inspired by yoga and the transformations I’ve made in my life. Being the example and relating my own experiences has been my favorite practice as a yoga teacher. I feel that my teaching is inspirational to others – they want to take my class because I am practicing and learning exactly what is being taught in the class. I’m authentic in my actions and relatable in my words. When I first began this journey, I said that connecting and relating to others was a huge challenge for me. I gasp when I think of how far I’ve come since the day I said that!

Being the voice that supports others in finding their own paths to peace is no small task. Even so, I don’t feel like it is a burden. I have discovered a lightness to it that I didn’t have when I first began 200-hour teacher training. It feels good to be teaching yoga. It feels right. This is exactly where I need to be! I’m just so grateful that I found it. It has been a lot of work to get here, but it has been so worth it. I’m encouraged to see where the path will take me next. Many thanks to Sid and Lindsay from Sid Yoga Center for helping me find this wonderful gift. Thanks to my husband, Jeremy, for supporting me every single step of the way. I’ve been blessed by your voices, your work, and your kindness.


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First off, I have to say that I love assisting! I was unsure at first if I would get to this point since I was really nervous about doing it when I first began, however now I can see that my assists are really working for the people in my classes. I’ve received feedback that my assists bring the yoga practice to a “different level” by challenging each student to turn off their thoughts, and discover their inner strength to go beyond where they thought they could go. It is so satisfying to see the shifts taking place in their bodies! I feel a connection with them when that happens… almost as if the same shifts are taking place inside of me.

I feel that safety is the most important thing, so I go there first – speaking to the alignment from the ground up, and then applying physical assists (also from the ground up) to the students who may not in their optimal alignment. Just as important to this is my ability to be conscious of what is going on in my class. I find that it is a little more difficult to do this in a larger class, as it may be easy to miss something that someone is doing across the room. However, I have begun the practice of connecting in with each student as they come into the class – I ask where they are in their practice, if they’ve ever done yoga, how they’re feeling, etc. I’ve found this has helped me to bring my attention where it may be needed the most.

I am a very active assistor when I teach or assist in other people’s classes. I generally like being active anyway, rather than just standing around, and I also like to find ways to connect in with others in their practice. I use assisting to do just that. The most powerful feedback on my assists that I’ve received so far has been from Lindsay – she once told me to “do everything with purpose”. Now that I have been teaching and assisting, I can say that my assists have a purpose about them. I no longer feel like I’m experimenting anymore with what I’m doing… I don’t feel the hesitation of thought or questioning as I may have felt when I first began. Now I observe what needs to be done and then just DO it. And I do it with purpose.

How I assist others is a reflection of what is going on inside of me. I think that being grounded is probably the most important attribute to have before going into an assist. It goes back to safety. If I’m off-balance, I’m going to transfer that energy to those I’m assisting and he/she will fall out of the posture. Feeling grounded is sometimes a challenge for me. I work through it by setting my intentions, and doing meditation and breath work prior to class. I have also recently begun an ayurvedic practice in order to balance out my Pitta with a little (or a lot!) more Kapha. It has been a slow process; however I believe that it has been working out great so far!

This brings me to, what is for me, the most challenging assists: balancing posture assists. I truly believe that this is a reflection of me – perhaps I have some imbalances in my own life from which I am in the process of growing. I know that I tend to take on a lot of stuff – and I get very busy in the process. Finding ways to balance my own life — and all of the responsibilities that goes along with it – is a point of focus in my life right now. Before I go into my class, I drop all of that. I get present, and I practice feeling my feet planted on the ground, squeezing my toes into the mat and then releasing. I feel the rebound of the earth respond to my stance from the bottoms of my feet to the top of my head. Only then, when I get to the point where I feel connected with and grounded into the earth, I am able to assist others …especially the balancing postures.

This process of assisting yoga classes has been, and still is, a process of discovery. Assisting others is as much a journey of connecting in with others as it is an inner journey of self-discovery. I feel that I’m on a great path by continuing to assist yoga students the best way I know how! And I can tell that they are landing with them – I not only see it and feel it when I assist them, but I hear about it too. I can’t remember a class in recent months where I haven’t gotten positive feedback on my assists. I think that this is a good thing. I am happy to continue using the assists that I learned in the 200-hour teacher training to support others in their practice! Thanks go out to Sid and Lindsay from Sid Yoga Center for teaching me this wonderful and powerful gift!

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To see things as they are is to know yourself. Knowing yourself is more than looking into a mirror and seeing your reflection. It is more than simply identifying characteristics or traits that are linked to your daily routine or habits. Those things may be part of who you are, but they are not all of who and what you are.

To know yourself means that you know, and understand, the nature of yourself and the things around you. Only one who knows herself can truly, genuinely be herself.

To know yourself means that you understand your nature and its relationship with all that is around you. When you meditate, you begin to see that you are not quite as separate from the things that surround you as you might think. You realize that you are very much a part of your surroundings – as much as you realize that your surroundings are very much a part of you.

It is not always easy to be yourself. It requires taking a moment to breathe in, and breathe out; to take in your surroundings; and to feel your skin and the beating of your heart. You recognize that all of these things are with you, part of you, just as they always have been. It is easy to lose sight of this awareness — to get lost in perceptions that are not in keeping with the true nature of things. I have often struggled with my perception of my relationship with those around me. I have felt anxiety and a pressure within me to entertain others and hold their attention in some unique way. I believe that this anxiety and pressure stems from a feeling or perception that people are separate from me. They are unique individuals, that is true, but they are also a part of me and I am a part of them. We are all a part of everything!

Our ego causes us to see things differently than they really are. Ego causes us to see ourselves as separate from our surroundings. We may feel that we are better than others in some way. We may snub them or ignore them and act as though the world revolves around us. Or we may feel that others are better than us, causing us to be racked with anxiety at the thought of disappointing them or embarrassing ourselves. Both perceptions are misconceptions that stem from our ego of being separate, or the only one in the universe. Both perceptions cause us to be separated, in our minds, from others. As a result, we also lose sight of ourselves.

Looking only at ego, rather than our true nature, we miss out on the true experience of life. It is as though we are ignoring reality and, instead, opting to decipher it by looking at it through a rusty, warped carnival mirror. We see what we think is reality, but it is only a misshapen representation of the real thing. The result of our attention to ego is that we get further and further away from ourselves… until we might even get to the point where we completely lose sight of who we truly are. Our true self is lost in the din of the ego — unable to find its expression in our hearts, minds, words, and actions.

These misconceptions melt away when we come back to ourselves. When we step back, take in the air, and sit quietly in meditation, listening to the hum of the universe in and around us, we come back to ourselves. We open the door to the true expression of ourselves, giving it room to surface again. We clear away the clutter of our thoughts and perceptions and find peace in the miracle that is life. People around us are no longer separate. They are no longer beneath us, nor are they intimidatingly larger than life.

There is no need to be nervous or anxious about who and what you are. Seeing things as they are, you see the nature of all things. You are free, at last, to be yourself — genuinely and joyfully. It is through meditation (sitting, walking, standing, singing, reading, skipping, working, exercising, eating… however you may mindfully go about your life) that you will be able to discover who you are. When you know who you are, only then can you truly be yourself.

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I’m reading a wonderful and insightful book right now called the “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” by John Maxwell. For anyone who might be interested in learning how to become a better leader, or even how to increase your understanding of the leaders in your life, I highly recommend this book! In my case, I have been interested for a long time on finding ways to hone in my leadership skills, figure out how to improve my weaknesses in leadership (I do have many!), and awaken or discover my own leadership potential. I’ve been drawn to learn more about this because I would like to increase my effectiveness and impact on the things around me. I would like to see my visions and ideas implemented in effective ways. I truly want to influence and help those around me in whichever way that I can.

I have to admit, though, that I’m finding out that there is much more to being an effective leader than I had previously understood! Leadership is an act of service that requires a great deal of dedication, patience, confidence, teamwork, and insight. I’ve discovered that I have a lot to learn.

Looking back on some of my past projects, I noticed that one of the greatest challenges on my path to leadership has been my lack of commitment to seeing through my endeavors to the bitter end.  As much as I hate to say it, I can recount numerous instances where I gave up on a project when the going got rough. Sure, I would tough it out for a while — perhaps even a few months —  but eventually I would rationalize that it was taking too much out of me and that I was better off dumping the project. It seemed that the more often I did that, the more that type of reaction would perpetuate itself in future projects.

The fact was that this had become a pattern in my life which caused me to lose confidence in my ability to lead and even lose some faith in my character. I had always thought that I had it in me to persevere, never give up, exhibit tenacity, and commit to something through the good and the bad — so why was I failing miserably every time I set out to do something? Gallant defeat, or “going out in a blaze of glory” was getting me nowhere… at least not where I wanted to go.

Well, I think (or at least I hope) the main reason I kept giving up on my projects was because I had been pursuing projects that had visions and goals that were not in line with what I truly wanted to accomplish. So yesterday I sat down, reflected for a while, considered what I thought my life vision was, and put it to paper. I had never tried to articulate my vision before – to be honest, I was a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to put it into words! After some deliberation, I finally got something down.

What I ended up with actually surprised me! The vision statement that I wrote down ended up being the very same thoughts and ideals that guide me in my daily life. It reflects the perspective that I have of the world around me — it is a natural extension of myself. The first half of my vision are thoughts of which I have taken full ownership. The last half of my vision are concepts which I believe in concept to be true, however I am currently working to make them my own.

That being the case, if my vision truly reflects who I am today and the things that I strive to do,  how could I possibly fall away from my commitment to it?

With all of that said, I’d like to share with you the vision that I wrote down — the impetus behind my why I want to be a better leader, the reason why I’ve started this blog, the purpose behind my actions every day. As always, any thoughts or ideas are welcome!

My goal is to do what I can to help others enjoy life and appreciate the moments that they have on this earth. I want to encourage people to celebrate and accept diversity — to look deeply into the lives of others in order to increase their understanding and wisdom. I want to see people finding their inner calm and happiness, based on reflection and self-awareness. I want see motivated, and confident people who recognize their own worth and the inherent worth of others, regardless of their diversity. I truly want to see more people living lives of joy — willing to allow others to live joyous lives without being envious of their fortune or judgmental of their situation. I envision deeper connections, intimacy, awareness, and understanding between people and the creatures of the earth. I want see a world where the eyes of its inhabitants are wide-open.

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My name is Olivia. I have been practicing Zen Buddhism for about 6 years. I don’t claim to be specially “trained” in Zen, nor am I formally educated in topics such as spirituality or philosophy. I’m basically a regular person who has found profound peace and joy through Zen practice. In fact, it saved my life 6 years ago. Perhaps I’ll expound on that in a later post.

Following is a little history about me and why I have decided to create this blog:
I grew up as a devout Southern Baptist in a small town. I was a youth leader for my church and I also led a traveling youth mission team for my local college. I have many fond memories of those days… most of which involved deeply and spiritually connecting with other people who truly wanted to do good things in this world. It was exhilarating to be able to be so open and vulnerable with other people — to learn from them, help them, and experience the joys and sadness that life brings. They were like a family to me. It didn’t matter what you looked like, what clothes you wore, or how rich or poor you were — they accepted you as you were. Well… as long as you believed exactly as they did.

That’s actually where we had issues. I had friends outside of my church who were Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Church of God, Atheist and Agnostic. I hadn’t met anyone who was Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, or any other religions outside of those at the time; however I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t have treated them any differently. The truth is, I was always interested in their beliefs and, subsequently, I was turned off by the fact that my own church rejected everything that didn’t fit into their idea of the true way to worship God. For my young, 19-year-old mind, it was just too close-minded for me to bear, particularly since I felt that there were far more important things to spend your days thinking about. I eventually walked away from my religion altogether and began searching for a different path. Walking away from the church was actually like losing a family. Even now, as I have found peace in my Buddhist teaching, I miss that very much.

10 years later I discovered Zen Buddhism, which, as I said previously, saved my life and helped me to bring a fresh and healthy perspective on life. The teachings I read from my books helped me to be a kinder, wiser, more compassionate person. My meditations helped me to be more focused, happy, patient, and accepting. As a new practitioner of Zen, I immediately began searching for a Zen community and a spiritual teacher or guide.

For about a year or so, I frequently visited my local Zendo for group meditation practice. A group of about 5 or 6 of us would burn incense, ring a brass bell, chant, and perform sitting and walking meditation for about 2 hours. Practicing in this way was certainly a test of discipline, especially when your feet tingle and go to sleep, you have to cough, you’re tired, or even if your nose starts whistling! I’m a fairly disciplined person, but I have to admit that I found it to be difficult at times. I was dismayed that the Zendo did not actively perform community service. It was as though we were sitting in a room, dreaming of peace and happiness to reach the corners of the earth without actually doing anything about it. I had a difficult time accepting that, so I stopped going.

Actually, there was an additional reason why I stopped going to the Zendo — I never felt like I had a guide or a real teacher. We performed meditation, chanting, and ringing of bells, but I always had unanswered questions. My mind was hungry to get at the essence of Zen, but I had nobody to help show me the way. I was reading “Zen Mind, Beginners Mind” by Suzuki Roshi. In fact, I’ve probably read the book no less than 15 times. It is quite esoteric and filled with unique analogies that are sometimes difficult understand, particularly for Westerners. However it is truly a wonderful book. There are instructions on how, physically and mentally, to meditate. But even the book says that the student of Zen needs a teacher.

I tend to agree.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find anyone in my Maryland suburban community who is a Zen teacher. That is why I have created this blog. There is a Chinese proverb that says, San ren tong xing, bi you wo shi. Translated, it means, Three people walking together have more knowledge among them than any one master. My hope is that by sharing among us our thoughts and experiences, we can be as teachers to each other. Perhaps we can even start a community.

I don’t know all of the answers of life, nor do I wish to know them. But I do believe that the act of searching for them is what makes life interesting and wonderful. I ask you to take this journey of exploration by freely reading the posts and sharing your thoughts. Any and all comments are welcome on this blog. I wish you peace and joyous life.


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