Guided Yoga Nidra Meditation With Momma G

garden gnome meditating

Angie Giallourakis (aka Momma G) will be leading four guided yoga nidra meditation classes! Each class will start at 6:30pm Eastern Time Zone every other Sunday starting on November 8th. If you’d like to just join one class or join all four the choice is yours!

This is a collaboration with our friends at Elephants and Tea!

Sign up here to join Momma G! We look forward to seeing you! You will receive a confirmation email upon registering.

Session One: The Compassionate Heart and Your Thirty Trillion Cells – November 8th

Session Two: The Waterfall – November 22nd

Session Three: Visualize Your Inner Strength – December 6th

Session Four: Love Yourself – December 20th

Note: Each session will be approximately one hour.

Yoga For Deep Rest

sleeping dog

We’ve posted about this before and decided it was time to share it again!

I think about my life right now – the pace of “should’s” and “could’s” and “to-do’s” filling up all the nooks and crannies in my schedule.  I use my calendar to give each of my to-do’s time in the day to make sure I do them and to make sure there is time.  And when there isn’t, I end up with a pile of calendar items all to do at the same time – what a mess of indecision and disappointment!  In the midst of this busy stream of my human life, my puppy sits there sleeping with his head under a bed or couch.  He reminds me of the need for naps and rest in between intense times of play or work.  How have we as humans lost the ability to pause and be still?  To listen when our bodies and minds need rest?  How do we even begin to regain that balance in our daily “grind”?

I’ve been studying yoga and contemplative practices with a group at the San Marcos School of Yoga.  At the end of each day we experience some sort of restorative practice or pose.  A few minutes in some of these poses or experiences can feel like hours of rest – and help you sleep better when you get to bed!  What a great tool for healing the mind and emotions.  What a deep need for caregivers and supporters.  And for this one, you don’t even need to have any knowledge of yoga!

I had heard of Yoga Nidra before, but had never done it.  In fact I didn’t know – is it something you “do” or “practice” or “see”?  I learned that Yoga Nidra is a yogic sleep – and you begin almost like you are in Savasana (resting pose) but with extra blankets and padding underneath you.  Once settled comfortably, someone leads you through a visualization in your body and spirit to guide you to deep, deep rest.  I practiced this and felt so calm and self-aware afterwards.  I have cravings for it now.  Better than a bedtime story, this will surely give your whole self a recharge in less than 15 minutes.

Since I can’t come read to you, you can download audio files to listen for your Nidra experience

Looking for more?  Check out some of the other restorative poses on Lacuna Loft.  Viparita Karani is a great choice if you have a wall and 10 minutes for quiet!

What do you do to recharge your batteries?  Making space to rest during cancer is so important.  How do you create this space?

Go here for a sample script!

Great Books To Read This Fall

great books to read this fall

While our book club was going strong over the summer, I found myself enjoying several other titles as well.  What about you?  Are you reading more than one book right now?  Are you settling into fall with some good reads?  Reading is a HUGE piece of my self care and I’ve been finding powerful books to read as of late.

Here are a few of my favorites of the last things I’ve read:

[list type=”like”]
[list_item]Eleanor & Park[/list_item]
[list_item]I’ll Give You the Sun***this has been my favorite this year[/list_item]
[list_item]The Serpent King[/list_item]
[list_item]Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe[/list_item]
[list_item]We Were Liars[/list_item]
[list_item]Ready Player One ***a very very close 2nd fav[/list_item]

What have you been reading?

image via goodreads

A First Timer’s Go At Meditation

guided meditation

I’ve been told again and again that meditation is great.  I’ve attended a talk by the wonderfully gifted founder of True North Treks where he explained exactly how accessible meditation is and how awesome its health benefits are.  I even downloaded this app a few months ago.  Then I moved to a new place where I knew almost no one and tried my best to help my family adjust to a new part of the country and a new way of life.  Carving out a few minutes of each day to be mindful and meditate seemed easy enough but I never actually acted on it.

I finally decided that I needed to make a new and positive change.  I realized that I was almost always tense in this new place.  I stayed at home more often than not because staying there with my two pups felt most familiar.  Even at my new home, I felt anxious, distracted, and searching for even more distraction.  So far, I hadn’t been able to just sit and feel calm and relaxed in my new environment.  Something needed to shift.  Small hiccups in my day would produce tears.  One small unwanted change in the flow of my day and my entire sense of personal stability would be derailed.

Enter Headspace.  Thanks to their Get Some / Give Some program, Lacuna Loft has been given free subscriptions to their guided meditations that we’re giving to young adult cancer survivors or caregivers that you can access from your computer or smart phone.  (If you want one and you’re a young adult cancer survivor or caregiver, go here!)

My first 10 days of meditating were life changing…  10 minutes of calm and focus and breathing makes a world of difference in my day.  Then I moved onto the next 10, and the next.

Simple enough right!  Start with 10 minutes, for 10 days.  Then you can use your free subscription to move onto the other great, guided meditation sessions Headspace provides.

Let us know how meditating works for you!

Free Headspace Guided Meditation For An Entire Year!

free guided meditation

We are all out of subscriptions!  Thank you to everyone who signed up!

Are you a young adult cancer survivor or caregiver?  Interested in meditation but having trouble sticking to it?  Interested in meditation and not sure where to start?  Loving guided meditation and looking for more?

If any of these describe you, we can help!

Lacuna Loft has partnered with Headspace through their Get Some/ Give Some program! As a program participant of Lacuna Loft, we are happy to offer you a free, year long subscription to their guided mindful meditation from your computer or smartphone!

How do you get your free subscription?   Fill out the form below and within a few days we’ll email you the code to get started!  This code is exclusively for Lacuna Loft.  I don’t know about you all, but I am eager to get started!

We are all out of subscriptions!  Thank you to everyone who signed up!

Are you a young adult cancer survivor or caregiver?  Interested in meditation but having trouble sticking to it?  Interested in meditation and not sure where to start?  Loving guided meditation and looking for more?

More info on the wonderfulness that is Headspace…

Headspace provides a course of guided mindful meditation via your smartphone or computer, starting with bite-sized 10 minutes sessions. A new study published by The Journal of Medical Internet Research ranked Headspace as the top mindfulness app. Just 10 day’s practice has been shown to have wide-ranging benefits, from improving sleep and relationships to reducing anxiety and stress. See ‘How it Works’ animation for a little intro, our online Science ebook for a summary of the potential benefits, and Andy Puddicombe’s Ted Talk.

We have 3.5 million users now and subscriptions cost $155/year. To help fulfill our mission of improving the health and happiness of the world, our Get Some / Give Some program donates free subscriptions to nonprofit partners for use by their staff, volunteers, and people they support.

Enjoy!  Let us know how you like your free guided meditation from Headspace!

Release to Replant, Mindful Living

mindful living

My husband and I are preparing for a(nother) move.  We are moving across a few states and downsizing from a house in a suburban area to a two bedroom apartment in an urban environment.  Over the years we have collected a lot of extra stuff.  From old clothes to extra couches and a second set of plates, there is so much we have stockpiled and stored that we don’t need, can’t fit in our new home, and really, that others could use much better than we.  So, we are beginning to let go of these items – going through the drawers, boxes, shelves, and closets to release the extra that we’ve accumulated.  These clothes might remind us of life in another climate, the couches of a friend who gave them to us, but in reality the extra stuff is just weighing us down.

(And, a few years ago we both led a trip of students to New Orleans to help clean out a home of three elderly family members who had collected, hoarded, to what felt like an unlivable standard.  So we both have distinct images of where we do NOT want to go!)

Last week we started with going through our clothes – trying things on, telling stories about this or that t-shirt we acquired… and putting things in a pile to donate.  We are clearing the way.  Because there just isn’t room for anything new when we are completely full.  The physical mirrors the spiritual in our lives.  When my closet is full of things I use to create my image, maybe I don’t have room to create something new, to be something new.  And I even find that I have a harder time deciding what to wear!!!  When my pantry is full of old food and all these sauces that are just SITTING there, maybe I have less energy to try a new cuisine or make a fresh meal or start a new way of eating (because no one likes to waste food… but how can I stop collecting too much?).  When my schedule is full of activities, hobbies, chores, work, plans… I don’t have time to rest and restore my soul.  And I certainly don’t have the space in my day or my heart to be ready to be surprised by things that may come up to bring me joy.  No time for that!

And moving, for me, always resonates with the image of replanting.  I have a lot of houseplants and they mostly have names and stories of their origins.  I have some aloe that I potted at a friend’s house when she rescued a bunch of little ones from a gnarly overgrown garden.  I have a tall palm-like guy that we inherited at our first home (he had been left behind) and we named him Marshall after the street we lived on.  I have a little ferny friend that reminds me of friends from Michigan where I split him up and shared pieces of him with them.  I am connected to my plants in my home and I have had them long enough to need to repot them.  When I pull my plant from its tiny old home, her roots are usually wrapped around the whole shape of the soil, overgrown and searching for more space.  I gently loosen them, preparing them for the space that is coming.  The new “home” is prepared with extra soil and I cozy the new roots into the pot.  After setting the plant in securely, I add a lot of water to invite the roots to spread out and make themselves at home.  For a little while, the plant doesn’t look as perky.  She feels a little uncertain without her old way of being.  With a little time though, and some growing, she begins to expand beyond what she was.  She can create new stems, leaves, and roots because she has the new space.

This image reminds me of the need to release my grip on my current way of being – it could be my roots of my friends and routines in my current home, my extra stuff, my plans, etc.  And when I make space for something new, even if the process feels uncertain, if my leaves aren’t quite as perky in the process (do I really have to give away that Avril Lavigne concert shirt!? ha!), I can trust that the space I create physically allows my soul and life to take on some new growing.  A new direction maybe, or a new capacity… who knows!  I will never find out if I’m not willing to do the work of cleaning things out and trusting in the less-than-perky process of expansion.


Ideas for Living This

  • What do you want to clear out to make room for the new?  Your schedule?  Your closet?  Your pantry?  Write it down or tell someone.  Use a journal to chart what you do and what happens with the extra space in your world.  Then, share it with us!
  • Get your hands dirty!  Find a plant that needs a new home (or a bulb/seeds that you want to put in the ground, etc.).  As you are planting or replanting it, meditate on the process of making space (digging in the dirt or loosening the roots), adjusting in the new home (watering, the days of getting settled again, or the winter of waiting for the bulb!), and the process of new growth that will arrive in its own time.  Afterwards, as you wash your hands, trust that there isn’t anything left for you to DO in the process.  Your role is to watch and learn, wait and experience.

How do you make space for replanting and mindful living as a young adult cancer or long term illness patient, survivor, or caregiver?

The Fork In The Fight: Introduction to Ayurveda

Andrea and G have a lovely history together.  Go here to learn more about them, and to read the first three posts in their first segment of The Fork In The Fight series.

The Fork in the Fight: recipes for restoring our souls and thriving in the face of cancer

Part 3: Introduction to Ayurveda

This is the third post in the second segment of the Fork In The Fight series.  In this three-part segment, we will be sharing a recipe for the soul in finding retreat in creativity, a recipe for the body with a delicious navy bean stew, and a recipe for the mind as Andrea introduces the world of Ayurveda. Stay tuned!  Check out Part 1: Recipes For Calm And Creativity and Part 2: Navy Bean Root Vegetable Stew.

Introduction to Ayurveda

Ayurveda means “Life Knowledge” and is traditional Indian Medicine.

The beauty of Ayurveda is in the shlokas, or chanted phrases, through which the knowledge has been preserved for over 5,000 years. Ayurveda teaches us to how know and love ourselves, to care for ourselves in the way that is unique to each of us.

Based on the five elemental system of ether (space), air, fire, water, and earth, Ayurveda describes three doshas, or biological humors: Vata (ether + air), Pitta (fire + water), and Kapha (water + earth). Each of us is made up of all five elements, and therefore, all three doshas; however, most of us have one or two dominant doshas that characterize our physical and psychological make up. This personal combination of Vata, Pitta and Kapha is known as our prakruti or constitution.

A few highlights of Ayurveda’s unique approach to wellness are it’s complete definition of health, use of spices to promote and sustain good digestion, and it’s acknowledgement of our individuality.

Svastha, the definition of health, according to Suśruta Samhita, Father of Surgery, literally translates as: “to be situated in oneself.” The power in this message to me is that my healthy is not your healthy, and it is certainly not everyone’s healthy. We are all situated differently. That said, the full description of Svastha includes not only our present state, but our constitution (that perfectly complete way in which we were created, and ideally, entered the world). Many Ayurvedic Dosha (personalized constitution) surveys invite looking back on our childhood to answer questions about ourself to determine our prakriti. For most of us, our true self has been tossed and turned through our journey of life. For instance, we may recall joyfully playing with our siblings in the yard, and now struggle to maintain contact, let alone connect playfully. We may recall great comfort from a parent’s treasured home-cooking, and now have little connection to what we eat.

Svastha encourages understanding what YOUR “healthy” means.

Svastha in full is: One who is established in Self, who has balanced doshas (primary life force), balanced agni (digestive fire), properly formed dhātus (bodily tissues), proper elimination of malas (waste products), well-functioning bodily processes, and whose mind, soul and senses are full of bliss is called a healthy person. In Sanskrit:

Samadosha samāgni ca sama dhātu malakriyaha/
Prasanna ātma indriya manaha svastha iti abhidhīyate //
– Suśruta Sū 15/38

This complete picture of health can and must be approached from all aspects of life. We could have the best diet (not meaning restrictions here, rather consistent practice for food intake) for us, but without a calm, content, and easeful mind while we eat, not be able to process certain foods. We could have perfectly functioning bodily systems, but prevent ourselves from sneezing or using the bathroom when we need to, and end up with UTIs and sinus infections. We could be the picture of health, as some would say, with strong bones and muscles, but without finding ways to rest, joyfully and completely, be putting our future selves at risk for injury.

A few of my favorite recommendations that work for most people will appear in the next five posts of The Fork in the Fight. Please note that the number one recommendation is to meet with an Ayurvedic Health Counselor, Practitioner or Doctor before implementing a new regimen:

Recommendation 1

Food: Make lunch your largest meal, and enjoy it mindfully! Take your time, step away from the screens, and if you are going to have dessert, this is the best time of the day as your digestive fire is the strongest! I like to prepare my food to appeal to all the senses: using my hands to feel the vegetables as I chop and the spices before and after grinding, listening for the soft sounds of beans bubbling on the stove, displaying my dish in bowl or on plate in a way that satisfies the eyes so much, there is no text message or TV show that would better suit, and finally closing my eyes to inhale the healing aroma and allow the taste to permeate tongue and heart. I often sigh deeply after the first few bites of good food when I am paying attention. 😉

A healthy diet is good for your body and your creativity. Have fun with this Ayurvedic recommendation!

With love and gratitude,

Andrea and G

Put A Fork In It! Send us your comments, suggestions and food-fighting ways to support a healing life.

The Fork In The Fight: Recipes For Calm And Creativity

Andrea and G have a lovely history together.  Go here to learn more about them, and to read the first three posts in their first segment of The Fork In The Fight series.  Look forward to reading Part 2: Navy Bean Root Vegetable Stew and Part 3: Introduction to Ayurveda later this week!

The Fork in the Fight: recipes for restoring our souls and thriving in the face of cancer

Part 1: Recipes for Calm & Creativity

This is the first post in the second segment of the Fork In The Fight series.  In this three-part segment, we will be sharing a recipe for the soul in finding retreat in creativity, a recipe for the body with a delicious navy bean stew, and a recipe for the mind as Andrea introduces the world of Ayurveda. Stay tuned!

Andrea’s California retreat.

Solitude & Retreating – Andrea

Over the past month, emerging from the wilderness of ocean waves in Big Sur for a retreat with Scott Blossom, and hours in front of books, family or movie classics, I’ve found that turning inward, away from the social engagements beginning to brew, has been a very sound choice. Even with my partner and husband away for one month on his own sabbatical of sorts, with solitude and quiet setting in around the clock, longing for even more has not been uncommon for me. I have canceled a few appointments, and gotten to bed early. A few nights I have also stayed up late watching a new favorite television indulgence, sipping wine and writing. These, too, have been a practice of healing. There are many ways to wander inward. Cooking, Meditation, like the practice we shared in Breathing Into Self-Awareness And Ease, Yoga, and writing are my top four. What are yours? Not sure, but want to try something creative and different? We encourage you this month to fight for some YOU time. Take a stab at something creative. Find stillness in the gentle movements of your hand while painting, drawing, or writing.

Stillness & Creativity – G

Boy, do we all know that life can be messy and unexpected, and sometimes just completely overwhelming! There can be moments when it all seems too much or we lose sight of reality. It has taken mistakes (loads) and time (a lot) to teach myself to breathe, to be gentle, to seek happiness in all moments, and most importantly, to act positively and decisively when I feel stress creeping in. I learned much of this along my cancer journey, but I continue to turn to use these newfound superpowers everyday and you can easily master them, too. The most helpful of them all has been meditation (followed closely by x-ray vision).

I am a creative person and a voracious reader. During treatment I didn’t always have the energy to think creatively or concentrate on reading but I still yearned for those outlets. This is how I stumbled upon “doodle meditation.”

After finding an interesting audiobook or podcast, I’d grab a pen and paper. As I sat listening to these stories, I would begin to doodle. I never had anything in particular planned, but I always started with a single point and drew outwards from it, balancing a squiggle here, with a squiggle there. I made a point not to concentrate on my drawing, but rather to let my hand and mind doodle freely as I listened. I would feel more relaxed after even a few minutes of this, and my buzzing and whirring anxieties would be calmed.

Whenever I find myself stressed or too caught in a moment, I start up doodle meditation. It’s the easiest thing in the world and absolutely everyone can do it.

How to Doodle-tate:

  1. Find a great audiobook, podcast, or music. If you are looking for a book that can’t help but make you excited to be alive, try “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall.
  2. Next, take out a piece of paper and pen. I like to use felt tip pens but any pen and paper will do.
  3. Starting with a single point, draw a shape in the middle. Any shape!
  4. From there, draw what comes naturally. An arrow pointing left or a small spiral twisting right? Or three polka dots under a zigzag?
  5. Perhaps most important to this whole process, don’t stop to think about what your doodle looks like or what should come next. Practice freeing up your mind and just letting the pen move.
  6. Keep doodling for as long as you like!

Doodle meditations are a simple and fun way to take a break and I hope that you find joy in them! If it seems too unstructured to start with, I recently came across Zentangle and would absolutely recommend them. While my doodles weave randomly, Zentangles are “artistic meditation” that use patterning beautifully. On LacunaLoft, Mallory recently posted about coloring for stress and shared a gorgeous free coloring and creativity guide, too!

Andrea tried the doodle-tate exercise and loved it. Isn’t her drawing whimsical?

We would LOVE to see what you create so if you try doodle meditation and want to share your creations, please comment and we will reach out to you. We may even feature your doodles in our next series!

With love and gratitude,

Andrea and G

Put A Fork In It! Send us your comments, suggestions and food-fighting ways to support a healing life.

Let Your Breath Be Your Guide (Self-Care Check-In)

self care

When I watch kids, I see that they are completely at one with themselves.  They are learning to move in their bodies and are playfully aware of all their shapes.  They are full of questions and actively learning.  They can share their anger, frustration, tears, laughter, joy… all in a matter of minutes.  They are profound in surprising ways, not afraid to share of their deepest selves to others.

We all start that way.  And yet through life, I have learned to cover up, protect, hide, and clean up all these areas to be “enough” or “presentable”.  And in the process, I’ve forgotten how to listen to my body, my mind, my emotions, and my spiritual self/soul.  So I’m beginning the work of listening, of checking-in with each part.  To hear its soft whisper deep within me.  To learn this internal, intuitive wisdom and allow it to guide my choices.  To check in with myself and my self care.

Here is a short exercise from my yoga training that I use to practice checking in with myself:

Find a comfortable seat – on the floor, in a chair, or on a couch/bed.  Close your eyes and feel your breath as it moves in and out through your nose.  Feel the slight movements in your nostrils because of the flow.  Feel the temperature change as your breath moves against your skin.  Become completely absorbed in your breath.

Then, feel your breath across the length of your body – from your tailbone to the top of your head.  As you inhale, grow taller.  As you exhale, hold your height and relax.  Continue this for a few breaths.

Next, feel your breath across your width.  With each inhale, expand through your sides and feel your ribs grow wider.  With you exhale, hold on to as much of this width as you can and soften.  Enjoy a few rounds of breath here.

Finally, feel your breath move into your depth.  Your deepest self, your core of values and passions and purposes for your life.  Allow your inhales to breathe life and strength to your depth.  With each exhale, contemplate how deep you truly are.

After breathing into your fullest sense of yourself, we’ll ask two questions to each layer of ourselves.

Physical self:  What do you need from me?  Do you have a message for me?

(Pause.  Wait.  Listen.)

Mental/intellectual self:  What do you need from me?  Do you have a message for me?

(Pause.  Wait.  Listen.)

Emotional self:  What do you need from me?  Do you have a message for me?

(Pause.  Wait.  Listen.)

Spiritual self:  What do you need from me?  Do you have a message for me?

(Pause.  Wait.  Listen.)

Allow enough breath and space to listen for an answer.  I don’t always find answers to all of these each time.  It requires practice and patiences for my layers of self to know that I’m listening and that I am going to respond with care.

What does your breath lead you to discover in your body?  What areas are easiest to hear from?  hardest?   Why might that be?  How can these answers influence your self care practices?