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Welcoming in the New Beginnings

Welcoming in the New Beginnings

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Ritual is such a huge part of our center’s daily practice. For me, it’s my daily walking up the many flights of stairs, opening the door, turning on the light, watering the fountain and the plants, answering the messages, sweeping up the floor, and sitting down on my mat.

I enter into the sacred space of our yoga room and say, "Thank you.”  Gratitude fills my heart for all of you many wonderful souls that have made the effort to “show up” and commit to the integrity of revealing your true deeper selves. You arrive and go inward with the only intention of falling in love and letting go—letting go of the outer need to get everything that our world today sells with such gusto.  

Yoga is not something one strives to “get”, but instead it is a practice that is constantly being explored through the actual ritual of making time and space and by allowing and creating an opportunity for witnessing something greater.  

Ritual offers a new beginning everyday to say "yes" to the moment, the day. Saying “yes” is surrendering into love and experiencing the pure joy of feeling. This joy of feeling might bring up emotions that the ego finds uncomfortable or awkward. It’s not familiar with experiencing our anxieties (or tensions) by being asked to just breathe into the body. We should try to look at this as a gift. The gift is to be able to release the patterns that hold us prisoner to our moods. Now the joy takes us by surprise as we start to feel and experience the presence of our awakening.

This is the ritual called life. It might present itself through release with laughter or tears, but it’s so sweet to feel one’s pure aliveness. In a world, where we have bullied ourselves with self loathing, cut off our deeper emotions, and told to “buck up”, we fall into the ritual of numbing and distraction. It takes a desire for self love to move into new directions inspiring true kindness and compassion. Being taught that the job, the relationship, the material world would offer happiness only created a vacuum for the soul to feel enough.

Living is full of challenges and frustrations. This year was filled with sadness, heartbreak, and deep grief for many of our students. To be human today will always rub against our fragile behaviors and deeper wounds.

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In living fully, we cannot escape grief. But I can make the effort of my daily ritual to observe the thought as pure habit —and not identify that I am the fear, or the worry, or the pain of sadness. In my practice, I can witness that fear is being revealed, doubt is being observed, or sadness is being exposed. But while staying present to the quality of my breath, I choose to feel the actual sensations that are arising from those learned thoughts as they move through. I then choose to grasp on to something stable (or solid) as a foundation to a new awareness. My breathing is deeper, my exhales become longer, and my tensions in and around my body are relaxing. I choose to focus on the pulsations in my physical body, moving with breath, and note something in my nervous system has shifted. My overall mood starts to shift, and the effect is clearly calming. I am able to step out of the spiral of negative thought. I am willing to let the feelings arise in me without judgement, and experience the effect on the physical, emotional and mental layers of my being. My chest is not as tight, my jaw is no longer clenched, and my pulse has slowed down. I am feeling a sweet release in my stomach, and I am aware of a lightness in my heart. The word that now arises into my consciousness is ease. Life is ease.

To choose a better thought is the greatest sense of freedom—by actually choosing the quality of thought. I can choose life to be sweeter and lighter. The ritual is to feel those qualities, not to just think them. My intellect will never get yoga, so to even read this blog post may confuse the little mind. I want to feel these words as sensation in the presence of my ritual practice. I must feel my “yes” as a pure quality of knowing my heart is directing my actions of service.  

My new beginning is my ritual as an everyday practice. To me, it’s the beginning of my new day, my new year! Happy New Year! Let go of thinking the outcome of a goal will offer you happiness. Either getting it or not only feeds the little mind of need. Instead, just set your intention and create your daily “yes” around the desire to shine! You are already enough and MAGNIFICENT. Now choose to experience the yes of life. Embrace the joy of living. Blessings for another beautiful and adventurous year of growing brighter.

Many blessings,

Laura Jane

Embracing the Season of the Silent Night

Embracing the Season of the Silent Night

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The season of the silent night is here as I watch the winter snow fall so softly. A white blanket of profound beauty greeted me in the early morning hour. It’s a divine opportunity to be quiet, cancel my active day and be still.

Ahh..the best of being is in a safe warm home. However, my empathic heart is holding space for those less fortunate, whether they be stranded at a crowded airport or left homeless with the whimsy of mother nature’s wrath.

The extremes of climate change are present in everyday living and once again, I am reminded how fragile the ego is to the power of nature. Humble to the forces that are so out of my control. Giving myself permission this morning to gather space for deeper self reflection and push pause on the “to do list” that occupies my chattering mind. I enter a place of sweet reminders that life is precious and rushing is so abusive to the soul. I long for more days like this that have offered a permission to “not do”.   

This past year was filled with many blessings; and yet, I am so aware of the loss and grief that come with so many people’s hearts breaking. It was a year with many souls struggling to make peace with letting go and the uncertainty of solid ground.

The gift that I can give is to offer my profound enthusiasm for living life regardless of what chaos surrounds us in the moment. I greet each day with possibility for adventure and wonder. I make a true effort to see past my judgments or bias memory to view each soul as intrinsically kind.

I feel in our world today there is a sales pitch for Pollyanna naivety and that we market the idea of “happiness” as a product of manipulation. I am fully aware of all the horrors of human behavior acting from its bias fear. I just have chosen to stay in the witness of holding the opposites and choosing to see the world with possibility for higher good. It doesn’t mean that I don’t suffer at times with the confusion of doubt that will arise when I am tired, too distracted or confused. I too am very human and need to practice what I so love to teach—the tools of yoga. I am no guru or saint; yet I love to hug, greet and listen to another human being going through the pain of living.

Life will not give us only one flavor, and it is never a straight line. The many spirals will continue to break our hearts open. Our obstacles and challenges must be acknowledged. I refuse to offer a quick fix of distracting the mind with all the various ways we find to avoid the experience of feeling. Sadness of tears brought me to my knees in deep grief and pain is as much my life story as my joys of laughter and moments of pure ethereal bliss.

I refuse to rescue someone from their own sense of empowerment. I want to inspire each person to commit to their deepest desire in an effort to grow. To move forward as the soul propels itself deeper into an awaken state of self actualization. It takes patience, acceptance, and forgiveness. Not in the capacity of the intellect to go there but into the free fall of being held by the profound and mystical presence of a fully conscious soul. The path is to alleviate the suffering of the mind, not to harm it with anesthesia.

I have now realized that teaching yoga is not just to "feel good" but an opportunity to dig deep into the dark places of unconscious behavior. To change behavior can be just another form of abuse without first becoming aware of the hidden thought behind the action.

To make conscious one’s thoughts is the practice of listening that arises when opportunity for stillness is honored. Intention to be still, quiet and focus the roaming mind away from its daily identity of doing. Just as today offers opportunity as a “snow day” for me to share my heart. Permission to unplug and share my inner landscape.

I spent years resisting teaching any teacher training courses. I have always considered myself a practitioner of healing and never wanted to offer just an outer persona as teacher. But I realized that the course is an opportunity for students to learn the history, the philosophy, the function of the poses, and the many ways the mind needs to be refined. Teaching the course, gives students a way to help heal their own story and move into the joy of being enough.

I hope that I inspired a renewed commitment this season to embrace the quiet and the beauty of a silent night. Extending a heartfelt blessing to everyone in our community and beyond that may we will willing to embrace the fullness of life with passion, joy, and a renewed sense of wellbeing.

YAF in the News: The tools of Yoga Being Used to Help with Anxiety this Election Cycle

YAF in the News: The tools of Yoga Being Used to Help with Anxiety this Election Cycle

Check out this article in Chicago Tribune by Kate Thayer on a way to know the tools of yoga are being used to ease our troubled thoughts and moods during this cycle of politics and elections. Laura Jane Mellencamp and Ann Walther contributed.

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With political angst running high as midterms approach, voters on both sides worry: What if things don't go my way?

People on both sides of the political spectrum describe feelings of angst as the midterm elections approach. While Democrats are still reeling from Trump’s victory, those who are more conservative say they still recall a long eight years of feeling unrepresented under President Barack Obama.

Laura Jane Mellencamp said she often hears from her students about their reaction to the political divisiveness of the country. The political climate has people riled up, she said, and looking to her to help calm their nerves. Attendance is up at Mellencamp’s studio, Yoga Among Friends, in Downers Grove.

“They are coming in with great sadness or anxiety … to the point where I see people having more migraines or stomach disorders,” she said. “It’s definitely affecting people’s well-being.”

Read the full article>>