Disconnect from the Ego by Doing Nothing

Learn to be at peace in the moment and the ego-mind will quiet

To the ego, stillness is death. The ego is constantly doing. It has to be doing, getting, thinking, consuming. It’s what Ego does. Ego needs a reason to pursue, to conquer, to continually prove its worth through action. Ego wants you to believe that you are nothing without the things that surround you. 

We’ve all experienced some sort of loss. When we do we question who we are without this thing, this job, this person that you have entangled your life’s identity around. There is a tendency here for the ego to start creating stories about the loss. The ego needs the story so it can play the victim and not take the responsibility of dealing with the pain associated with loss. 

The ego-mind has to be right all the time. Ego pushes you into a corner of being who Ego says you must be. 

The egos of those around you keep you in check by reminding you of what you did or said to validate your story to them and yourself. 

Stillness, nothingness, and emptiness are uncomfortable for us because we’ve been living in an ego-dominated world. One that has us believing that these feelings and emotions are bad. We have bought into this lie so much so that most of us can’t stand to be uncomfortable for more than a couple of seconds. A three-degree change in temperature has us running to the thermostat for an adjustment. 

We have become so disconnected from our bodies and our minds that we freak out whenever anything remotely uncomfortable springs up. 

I come from a family where every moment of my day was planned out ahead of time. I knew on each day what I would be doing from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed. This was such a huge part of my life that I assumed this is how everyone functioned. 

Consumed with Doing

I clearly remember in college going to hang out with a friend and he just wanted to listen to music. 

That’s it! 

He wanted to hang around his apartment and listen to music. 

I froze! I suggested things to do while we listened to music, like play a board game, or make cookies. I could see he was visibly annoyed with my suggestions. I remember he asked if I had ever laid with an album and just took in the feel of it? I hadn’t done this, nor would something like this ever cross my mind. It was ludicrous!

So he guided me. Handing me a pair of headphones he smiled and told me to enjoy the next hour. He hit play and the latest William Orbit CD began to fill my head. 

I knew who William Orbit was from MaDonna’s Ray of Light album, and looking back, the music was stellar! But at the time it was a long painful hour. I couldn’t get comfortable as I moved from space to space. I kept trying to make eye contact with my friend who seemed peacefully engaged in the music. I got frustrated thinking about all the things I could be doing instead of wasting my afternoon doing nothing. I was a wreck!

I was so consumed with doing at this point in my life that instead of allowing myself to be present for that hour and enjoy the creative mind of William Orbit, I sat stir crazy in my own private hell waiting for it to end. 

Luckily, since this first listening, I’ve been able to let go of the need to control every moment. I have learned to enjoy the moment I’m in. 

Sitting in Discomfort

Yin yoga was a huge part of this journey for me. Breath, meditation, and long deep holds gave me a focus while I turn and twist my body. Sinking heavy into the ever-present now and living one breath at a time.

The ego will always have us living in the past or in the future. Constantly we are thinking about what happened or where we’re going. But none of that is real. The past and the present are only alive in your head. But the here and now is the only place to change and grow and develop into the person you will become. Yet it is the hardest place to be. The ego doesn’t like hard and uncomfortable. 

Yin teaches us to be comfortable in the uncomfortable. Helping us to breathe our way through the tight and the sticky parts.

Each hold in a yin class ranges from 3-5 minutes. These noninvasive postures allow you to sink heavy into your body. As time passes stillness becomes more noticeable and your mind begins to wander. These simple stretches begin to scream loudly through your body and mind! This discomfort paired with our deep desire to move starts shouting at us in the form of small twinges and thoughts brought to you by your ego. The ego will shout that injury from 8 years ago is the reason this is challenging. All kinds of things pop up in an effort to take you out of stillness and into movement. Thoughts that drive you out of your body and into the ego-mind.

Practice and the Ego

This afternoon I had a young man run into class at the last minute. He announced as he signed in that he was excited to try every class our studio offered. He was committed to coming every day for a month. I thought this was super cool. I told him to grab a bolster on his way in as we use them for support in yin. He informed me that he didn’t need support, and clearly thought it beneath him. 

Class began with some box breathing and meditation. 10 minutes in I was guiding them into the first pose, a forward fold, caterpillar. As the class began to set themselves up from my cues I started walking a bolster over to this young man. He allowed me to help guide him into a more productive fold using the bolster. Turning toward the class I said that we would be settling in here for the next 4 minutes.  I saw him lift his head, apologizing under his breath, and pack up his things and go. 

The story his ego was telling him was that this was too passive and easy. That he didn’t come to yoga for this! He wanted a workout. 

I would argue that this was the workout he needed.  But instead, I recalled my younger self feeling the same way as William Orbit swam through my headphones and understood why he left.

We are all at a different place in our journey, and Ego will take advantage of you at any and all opportunities. Ego will work you too hard and take you out of stillness. Your job as a growing, caring individual on your own path towards enlightenment is to recognize when the ego is flaring up. Then guide it back down with stillness and inner reflection. 

What that looks like for you might be different than the journey is for me, and that’s a good thing. This blog isn’t about getting you to believe and do as I do. It’s about sharing my journey so that you can be more attuned to your own inner wisdom. 

Please drop a comment and let me know how you bring your mind to stillness and let the ego-mind take a break.

Continuing to Breathe through this ongoing pandemic

A year and a half in and still we struggle to breathe

How are you handling all your big pandemic feelings? Are you still using caution? Or do you find the summer sun and great outdoors has you hiding less and less behind a mask? New variants are using the summer travel season to make their way around our great nation and it appears no one is showing up to help you breathe through this pulmonary attack!

Frustration continues to rise all around. Everyone has a strong opinion about EVERYTHING!

  • To get vaccinated or not 
  • To wear masks or not 
  • To Travel or not 
  • To live with caution or throw it to the wind
  • To trust or not trust our medical system
  • To believe science or not 

No matter where you stand on these issues, the only truth I see is that they are all here to stay. At least for the unforeseen future. 

Truthfully I’m nervous about this fall. I see spikes starting to happen all around me. As someone who helps people to breathe, I find the attack on our lungs to be a huge problem. 

The Nose is for Breathing, The Mouth is for Eating

Your nose is the amazing filter built right into your body. When you breathe through your nose you are filtering out harmful toxins in the environment. Your nasal cavity also produces nitric oxide (NO). NO increases blood flow through your lungs and boosts oxygen levels in the blood. When you breathe through your nose NO goes directly into your lungs. Breathing through the nose produces higher oxygen into your bloodstream and helps you feel healthier and have more endurance and the ability to fight off more disease. 

We are terrible about breathing through our noses. Many are breathing through their mouths and taking in toxins that should be filtered out. Our mouths are made to take in and absorb, so this creates a real problem. 

The role of nitric oxide in the body

NO is a natural gas produced by almost every cell in your body and has three principal actions.

  1. Dilates the pulmonary arteries and increases blood flow through the lungs
  2. Dilates the airways and increases oxygen delivered to the lungs and blood
  3. Inhibits the growth and spread of disease in the lungs. 

There is a belief that NO has a direct antiviral effect. You can read more about that here.

View your nose as your first line of defense against any toxins floating through your environment. Your nasal cavity is filtering them out. When you breathe through your mouth you are inviting everything in your environment in.

The best thing you can do to help you stay as healthy and safe as possible during this pandemic is to practice breathing through your nose. It truly is a powerful way to fight off a viral infection.

Breathing in a Mask

Masks are making our breathing worse! More and more people are training themselves to breathe through their mouths once the mask goes on. They have a false belief that the mask is preventing them from breathing. This might only have some truth if the mask you are wearing is cotton. But surgical masks are 100% breathable. 

I know a lot of people who hate wearing anything that fits closely around their necks. They feel as though the turtleneck or choker necklace is physically restricting their breath. This isn’t true, but it’s a common feeling. The same goes for wearing a mask. We see it as restrictive because it is (hopefully) covering both our natural breathing devices. 

The truth is most of us have a CO2 (carbon dioxide) deficiency issue. The air isn’t being limited to you with a mask on, but you might tend to not breathe as deeply or you might start to panic decrease the amount of gas in your blood (CO2), causing you to feel lightheaded and short of breath. Your brain starts to think “I can’t breathe!” But you can, you just need to take a nice deep inhale through your nose and calm your nervous system down.

Try and see your mask as a training device. Every time you put in on you can work on consciously breathing. Inhaling in the nose and exhaling out the mouth. 

You can adjust to breathing in a mask by playing a game

One trick I like to do when I realize I’m mouth breathing in my mask is to close my mouth and do this trick. Inhaling through the nose and exhaling out the mouth. I feel like I can breathe more naturally this way. 

You can also play a game with yourself in lines. I consciously breathe in and out through the nose while in line at the grocery store. I like to guess how many rounds of breath it will take before I get to the cashier. You can also add a count in and out as you go. Inhaling for a 5 count, exhaling for a 5 count.

Home Alone

When you are in your home and safe from all the toxins of the outside world, work on consciously breathing in and out through the nose. Get in the habit of strengthening this filter so you can better protect yourself against disease while out and about in the world. 

Your nose is designed to help ward off disease, so help your system along and practice breathing in and out through your nose.

The deeper you breathe the more oxygen and blood flow to all your cells. This helps to aid in keeping you healthy and fit. 5 minutes of conscious breathing a day can make a huge impact on how you survive this pandemic. 

When Life Moves You Out of Alignment, Take a Step Back & Breathe

The Benefits of Breathing into Alignment

In order to live an authentic life, we must be in alignment. Meaning our outward actions must be in agreement with our inward intentions. Conscious breathing is a great way to line up the inner and the outer world. 

We spend so much of our existence seeking answers and things outside of us. This throws our system out of alignment. It starts subtly and ends up reflecting back to us images and lifestyles that we don’t even relate to. Following your breath is a significant way to guide yourself back into alignment. 

Breathwork offers effective techniques so you can…

  • Manage intense emotions 
  • Show up authentically in your life
  • Make inspired decisions
  • Feel calm
  • Improve your sleep quality
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Increase mental and emotional resilience
  • Balance energy levels

We all go through times in our life when things aren’t going well. Where every move we make seems off. You are probably aware that your alignment is off, but can’t quite figure out how to nudge it back to the right place. Simple and effective breathing is a great tool to use anytime you’re feeling off. 

Balancing the nervous system is one of the many benefits of breathwork. Helping you to identify the areas in your life that are out of alignment in your evolutionary experience. 

Below are 3 breathing exercises to help you breathe your way back into alignment. 

Balanced Breathing

Balanced Breathing is performed by breathing in and out in equal parts. 

  1. Begin by sitting in a comfortable cross-legged position on the floor. Or, if you prefer, lying down. Be sure legs are not crossed, but you may like them elevated. 
  2. Close your eyes and bring your attention to the tip of your nose. Notice the natural rhythm of your breath.
  3. After a few rounds of natural breathing, begin to slowly count to 4 or 5 as you inhale.
  4. Take a moment at the top of the inhale before slowly counting out to 4 or 5 as you exhale.
  5. Take a moment at the bottom of the exhale before returning to the inhale
  6. Continue in this pattern, breathing in and out slowly to the same count with a pause at both the top and bottom of each breath.

By breathing in and out in equal time you are balancing out the nervous system. This helps bring you up if you’re feeling low and helps guide you down if you are too anxious. 

Balance is the key to many breathing practices. 

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Another great example of equal part breathing that helps nudge us back into alignment is Alternate Nostril Breathing. In this pattern, you will breathe in and out through alternating nostrils.

Before getting into the technique, let’s chat about hand placement. 

  • Look at your right hand and fold the first two fingers (the pointer and middle) into the palm.
  • Use your pinky to help guide the ring figure up to your best degree.
  • Your hand will look similar to the hang loose hand gesture. 
  • Keeping your hand in this mudra you will perform the technique.

This is best done sitting in a comfortable seated position. Either on the floor or in a chair with your feet firmly placed on the floor and your back free from support.

  1. Place your left hand on your left knee.
  2. Exhale completely and bring your right hand up to your nose, closing the right nostril with your thumb.
  3. Inhale through your left nostril and pinch both nostrils closed at the top of the inhale.
  4. Open your right nostril by removing your thumb and exhale out the right nostril only.
  5. Stay here and inhale in the right nostril while your ring and pinky finger press closed the left.
  6. Pinch both nostrils at the top of the inhale.
  7. Release your ring and pinky finger and exhale out the left. 
  8. That is one round. 
  9. Continue in this cycle for 10 rounds or 5 minutes. Always ending the practice by exhaling out the left nostril.

Focus on keeping your breath slow, smooth, and continuous; nothing labored.

Abdominal Hollowing

Abdominal hollowing is the more active of the three described here. I recommend doing this one laying down so you don’t overwork your back muscles while actively pushing out the breath.

  1. Lie on your back with the souls of your feet planted about hip-width distance apart.
  2. Begin breathing in a slow and controlled manner.
  3. After a few rounds, activate the breath by deeply breathing in for a five-count.
  4. Exhale all the air out of your lungs as you push your belly button all the way back towards your spine. There is no count on the exhale, but it should be at least 2 to 3 counts longer than the inhale.
  5. With your abdominal area completely hollowed out, hold empty for 5 counts.
  6. Repeat this cycle of a triangle (breathing, inhale, exhale, hold) for 10 rounds or roughly 3 minutes.
  7. After the last active round, go back to your natural breathing pattern before moving on.

Abdominal hollowing works into your underworked deep abdominal muscles. Making it beneficial for those suffering from lower back pain. As an option, you can drape something over your belly to add extra pressure to the exhale. This is helpful because it assists in flushing out all the stagnant air trapped at the bottom of your lungs. A pillow, yoga block, or light sandbag all work great. 

Taking the time to breathe consciously as a daily practice has the power to move your life from a place of chaos to one aligned to your inner calling. 

We All Face Challenges

Working with all kinds of people in helping them reconnect to their breath, I have come to understand that these simple breathing patterns can have a profound impact on one’s life. Like meditation, it gives you an opportunity to let go of the mind-chatter and reflect within. 

I cannot tell you the number of times students come up to me and thank me for helping them to sleep better or breathe through a difficult emotion. Although it is a true honor to share these practices, I did nothing to help them that they couldn’t do on their own. 

Sometimes getting in alignment means having someone like me to guide you through the work. Giving you an opportunity to sink deep into a practice while a guide does all the counting, observing, and keeps you on track. This is part of re-connecting to your alignment. 

If you are interested in going deeper with your breath practice I am here to assist. Contact me at mary@heart-lightstudios.com to find out more. 

Ring True with the Nature Inside Yourself and Say Goodbye to Mental Instability

Your Mental Health is Counting on You to Seek Within

Gun violence continues to rise and our ability to handle uncertainty is getting shorter by the day. In 2020 there were over 43,000 gun-related deaths in the US according to Gun Violence Archive. Halfway through 2021 and we have already passed the 24,000 marks for gun fatalities. Gun violence hasn’t been this high in over two decades. 

It’s easy to look around and see why this is happening. We are living our lives in a pressure cooker and the heat keeps going up. It’s impossible to turn around without hearing the latest in world drama. 

  • Our oceans are on fire
  • Our forests are on fire
  • Our communities are on fire

And this has just become a normal summer happening for those of us living on the West Coast. Fossil fuels are being sucked out of the earth and are building up greenhouse gases that are changing our climate. Mother Earth is dying and this is just one of the underlying layers that many don’t have time to even consider thinking about. 

Too many are wrapped up in their own life drama, unaware of the pressure building from Earth herself. Thinking their problems are separate and more important than the whole. 

As a collective, we are watching the entire world climate change, and that goes far beyond the physical. 

Mentally we are Waking Up

We are tired of hearing about “The American Dream” and wish to wake up to a world where it was possible. Instead, we live in a world where 75% of adults are on some kind of altering substance at any given moment. A world where most feel it is necessary to numb out just to make it through the day. 

  • Every day we have a new “2 minutes of hate”. 
  • Every day a new enemy to point our rage at. 
  • Every day a reminder of how “they” are holding us down. 

We wake up thinking about our worries. We all spend our days worried about our job security, our mortgage/rent, our bills, our relationships, what the president did, and what our racist uncle might have said online. It’s a lot. Too much. It leaves us broken with no time to think about our health or our mental wellness. 

You might even think “how dare I take time to do such things when the world is falling apart!” To many, mental health feels like a luxury that their life wasn’t designed for. 

We are so used to self-sacrifice that taking 15 minutes a day to breathe seems like a waste of precious time. We have been programmed to be busy all the time and never look within for the answers. 

We have come to a standstill in our culture. We have been divided, yet we are programmed for belonging. Humans are meant to connect, care, support, and interact. 

The more medication we take and the more screen-driven we become, the more separate we too become from each other and ourselves. On some level, we all feel this. Why else are we continuing to shoot each other and ourselves at such a high rate? 

It’s time to speak up about our needs and find that we are not alone but connect through the burdens of life we all collectively carry. When one has the courage to speak up, others will follow. 

The Power of the Vulnerable

Our hearts have become so guarded that we are beginning to crack as a nation under the silence of mental instabilities. To the highly intuitive there is an unspoken nature of things gone terribly wrong. The vulnerability you feel is your power, yet we treat it as a weakness. This is keeping us in silos with nowhere to turn. 

The time has come to override these standards and uncover our power. Get creative and help yourself and others to breathe deep. 

  • Dance like you don’t care how you look
  • Sing/ chant / hum until you find your voice
  • Swim in the open sea
  • Help your neighbor /stranger / friend
  • Cry in front of someone you trust.
  • Write your local politicians / newspapers / or radio stations
  • Walk amongst the trees

No one can express the need inside your heart. Be confidently vulnerable and share your spirit. Shout it from the rooftops and let the haters hate. Those who connect to your spirit will glide through the cracks and find you. And isn’t that what we all want? To be seen by those who love and care for us? Even if it’s just you at the party, go for it.

Your mental health is too important. Your heart’s too big to keep chained up in armor. Give yourself permission to shine. You may be the light that heals another. 

We are all looking for something to connect us. We all want something bigger than ourselves to help ease our worried souls. Everyone is searching, everyone. 

It’s Time to Get Honest with Ourselves

It’s time to get honest with yourself. It’s time to follow your inner calling. It’s time to share your fears, your dreams, your doubts, your love. Ring true with the nature inside yourself and say goodbye to mental instability. You say goodbye to uncertainty when you are in tune with your inner truth. 

No more looking on the outside. Your mental health is counting on you to seek within. Let this be your sign to do that. 

By healing yourself you set out waves of healing to all those you come in contact with. When you breathe out hope and inner connection, others breathe that in. We can uplift as a world by taking time to reach within. Fill your cup so it might flow out unto others.