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The Biggest Lesson the Pandemic Has Taught Me

Best-Selling Author David Richards shares how his mindset has changed in the last year.

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I was asked to speak on mindfulness recently by a company I work with.  For context, I’ve been meditating since my teens.  I was introduced to eastern philosophy in Japan, where I lived from 1979-1982.  My father was in the Marines; we went as a family to live in the Far East when he got orders to be stationed on the island of Okinawa.  It’s funny, but looking at it now, that’s where I learned that every day starts in Asia.  I remember how weird it was to me as a ten-year-old kid…when it was eight in the morning Monday on Okinawa, it was eight Sunday night along the eastern seaboard of the U.S.  As a child living abroad, I had the sense that America was in the past, by a full twelve hours.

As a teenager, I didn’t have a formal meditation practice where I sat down every day and meditated; it was more of how I related to my thoughts.  Sometimes I would sit in what was a purposeful attempt at meditating.  On other occasions, I would drift off into a meditative state before falling asleep.  I had read a book when I was twelve or thirteen on Shambala.  If you are unfamiliar with it, Shambala is a mythical Buddhist kingdom that exists between the Himalayas and the Gobi Desert.  The book simply said, empty your mind of all thoughts…after some time, “pop” a thought appears!  It’s been almost forty years since I read that book, but that is literally how simple they made it sound.

Silencing my mind was hard!  It felt like I was always thinking something.  At some point, there would be a few seconds where there was nothing rattling through my mind and then, just like the book said, a thought would pop into it.  I didn’t really understand the practice at the time.  The neat thing (neat to me anyway) was that all the citizens of Shambala were said to have achieved enlightenment, which is the embodiment of Tibetan Buddhist perfection.

I became a yoga instructor in 2007, after getting out of the Marines the year prior.  Mindfulness has played a big part in my life since leaving the military; besides yoga, my first two books are focused on understanding mindfulness and how to master it.  I’ve spoken on it quite a bit recently. During the brief video interview, the interviewer asked me, “What’s a good way for someone to practice mindfulness if they’re new to the idea?”

I replied, if someone is new to mindfulness, they should create a new habit of something they find themselves doing every day.  Interrupt a pattern.  As an example, I suggested turning the a/c off every time you leave your car.  My mom does it because she’s worried about draining the battery (it’s cute!) and anytime I need to use her car, I’m always mildly amused by the fact that I turn the car on, then the radio, and then the air conditioning or heater.  Normally those things were always on in my car, until I decided I wanted to make a habit of switching off the a/c.  This little moment is a step into the world of mindfulness.

I mentioned to the interviewer that we are with our minds twenty-four hours a day; it makes sense to “be present” as much as possible.  One of the principle philosophies of yoga is the idea of being present.  We strive to be present in a moment.  If you’re new to the concept, what does it mean?  It means that your attention, your awareness…your entire presence is absorbed by what you are doing in one particular fluid moment.  When you’re present, you’re acting in the moment as opposed to reacting to the moment.  The more present we are, the more life slows down.

When I look back on all that’s happened over the last year since the pandemic started, I realize how much time I spent living my life looking ahead.  Early last January, I sat down with a group of friends and plotted all the Spartan obstacle course races we were going to run in 2020.  It sounded fun.  Some of us were going to tackle more than twenty races over the course of the year, culminating in three races over three days in Sparta, Greece in early November.  Additionally, I was already promoting my second book, The Lighthouse Keeper, which was to be released at the end of March.  I had a vision board with goals I wanted to accomplish, values and beliefs I was going to uphold; I was going places.  Upon reflection, I realize I wasn’t being present.

When the pandemic really started to impact things and the world began to shut down, it activated something in me I hadn’t felt in a while; it activated my sense of being in combat.  There is a strange allure for people who have been in combat; they want the feeling of being in it again.  It isn’t that those people are bloodthirsty warmongers; it’s that they like being present.  Where else is the immediacy of life felt so poignantly than when your life is on the line?  In combat, you aren’t thinking about people back home.  You aren’t wondering how many likes your last post on social media received; you are focused on the moment in which you are in.  When I think back to my experiences growing up in Japan, I am reminded of bushido, the code of the Samurai.  Mindfulness is what made the Samurai such formidable and honorable warriors.  The U.S. military doesn’t spend a lot of time on mindfulness or, at least they didn’t when I was in the Marines.

That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned from the pandemic so far ~ whatever my dreams are, whatever plans I have for my future, the future happens one day at a time.  I no longer live my life looking forward to a better tomorrow at the expense of today; I live to make today the best day it can possibly be.  Tomorrow, I know, will take care of itself.  That’s been hard to do, especially when we are so accustomed to planning our lives out weeks and even months in advance.

Ask yourself, how much of my awareness is focused on the right now?  Are you foregoing all the joy and happiness you can be experiencing today because you’re hoping tomorrow is going to be better, or that we’ll be one step closer to things being “back to normal”?  Today is normal.  Today asks for all your attention, all your awareness.  Wouldn’t it be nice to be truly present every day?  Maybe it’s time to turn the a/c off every time you turn off your car.

Expansion

I Am Letting That Sh*t Go with Nina Purewal

Co-Author of “Let That Sh*t Go” Nina Purewal shares how we can be present and powerful.

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I AM Series is an Instagram Live series that highlights wisdom and insight for your now moments.


Co-Author of the international best selling book “Let That Sh*t Go” @nina.pure.minds shares how we can begin to quiet the mind, find more presence, and step into your most authentic self.

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I'm Awake! Now What?

Tai Chi, Meditation, and Finding Bliss with Graeme Waterfield

Graeme Waterfield on Tai Chi, Meditation and finding Bliss.

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Graeme Waterfield is a jovial Tai Chi and Meditation instructor. His smile and his peaceful energy are infectious and inspiring. He is a living breathing artifact of what “doing the work” does to someone when they show up for their practice, committed to aligning themselves so they can greet the world from a place of calm, loving presence. He is also very human, before you imagine him floating in the air…full of bliss. As he reminds the audience during our podcast interview, even he gets stuck scrolling through the vast Netflix media library with nothing to watch.

A brief overview of Tai Chi, Loretta Wollering of International Gardens:

“Tai chi is a deep, meditative, internal Chinese practice. At its original core, it is a martial art, but is nowadays commonly practiced and taught in a manner that strengthens and promotes the mind/body health of dedicated practitioners. Though a myriad of people – several millions – practice it daily around the globe, most don’t even know what the term “tai chi chuan” means. And those that believe they know the translation will offer up the popular canned response, “Grand Ultimate Fist.” Ask those same folks what that exactly means and you’ll probably be met with a blank stare and a stammered explanation.

Let’s first consider what the “tai chi” part of “tai chi chuan” means. To understand that, you first have to understand that “tai chi” is a term from Taoist philosophy. Taoism is the ancient spiritual, nature-based philosophy native to China. The Taoists sought to understand reality and how we are a part of it and exist under its natural laws. The Taoists explained that before the universe came into existence, everything (nothing?) was in a state of “wu chi.” Once you understand the concept of “wu chi” you will instantly have a deeper understanding of what “tai chi” means. “Wu chi” means “no polarity.” In essence, it is the nameless, incomprehensible state of void or nothingness. If there is nothing, then no differentiation can exist. It’s somewhat the non-existence of nothingness… space… void… When there was a “change” in the state of wu chi, then there was a differentiation – the original wu chi part, and, the changing part. That state of differentiation is a phase called “tai chi.” It literally means “great polarity.” The opposite poles on of this polarity are referred to as yin and yang. Just like plus and minus, each opposite exists because of the existence of the other. The Taoists say that the yin and yang (born from the state of tai chi) give rise to all things and processes in the universe.” (www.internalgardens.com)

Graeme explains “Tai Chi represents the fusion of yin and yang, meaning fullness and emptiness.” Graeme’s approach to Tai Chi is anchored in Zen related to the classical expression of the Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu. He goes onto to say. “which becomes a moving meditation and you start with no answers at all and you are steeped in the mystery of the practice. Over a period of time, your practice deepens and you begin to understand what it is, not from a intellectual standpoint but from a lived experience.”

I asked Graeme specifically, “What has this exploration into this modality meant for your life and how has it changed you as a person?”

Graeme responds with “It is the slow disintegration of illusion, the slow falling away of who I believe that I am, what I believe of the world, people, the universe to be…it’s a simply falling away. And what has come from that is an incredible sense of joy and simplicity. A kind of growing sense of desirelessness, flow–in which I am enjoying being carried by life as opposed to trying to direct it and demand it go this way and that way. Off that back that, is a constant companion of ease and happiness.”

In the case of Graeme, it’s not what he picked up in his practice and education of Tai Chi–it’s what he lost and let go of.

Letting go becomes a vital practice inside of our spirituality. Our spiritual practices allow us the luxury of letting go, peeling off what no longer belongs to us, and releasing any delusions we have long held onto. Our spiritual practices are an alchemic refinement and uncovering of who we truly are as human beings. We find our clear reflection in our practices and the clarity to see the world as it is.

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Awakening

A New Powerful Heart-Opening Breathwork Visualization for Deep Healing

Leena Lemos shares a uniquely channeled breathwork pattern to open and heal your heart.

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Cultures all around the world agree that the key to unlocking the divine within yourself is in the breath. For something that our bodies automatically do every second of every day, finding awareness and intention in my breath has been one of the biggest hurdles on my spiritual path.

When I began cultivating my channeling abilities at the beginning of last year, I quickly realized how important the breath was to drop into a space where I felt fully connected and ready to receive but I also felt disconnected from the typical and more intensive breathwork techniques that I found on YouTube (anyone else with a deviated septum have this issue?).

Now cue the most recent chapter of my spiritual path when I started visiting the Sacred Garden. And by visit, I mean I was astrally thrown there by my guides and basically when to school as they showed me everything I was meant to teach the human collective. The first thing on the list? This breathwork pattern to help others instantly drop into their heart space to open the portal for deep healing and higher consciousness.

Throughout my spiritual path, I’ve come to realize that it’s the heart that truly allows us to heal and awakens our spiritual gifts. This breathwork pattern allows you to open up the garden within your heart chakra so you can tend to what needs weeding, planting, as well as celebrate what is currently blooming.

For those of you who learn more visually, here is a graphic that you can print out or save to your device as you begin to practice this breathwork visualization, but I also suggest watching the video so you can understand how to use your breath to surround yourself in loving white light.

There is so much from the Garden that I am so excited to continuously share with you. If you are interested in going deeper into the Garden and traveling there yourself, try out this guided meditation where I use this breathwork pattern to bring you there so you can meet your highest self.

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