Soul-Full Sundays: Paula Stephens

Soul-Full Sundays: Paula Stephens

I am beyond honored to introduce you to Paula. Paula’s interview is raw, authentic, honest and beautiful in her ability to stay present to all that’s come up in the last 5 years since losing her oldest son. Her grace, wisdom and compassion brought me to tears. What an amazing soul!

How are you following your life path (dharma)?
By living out one of my favorite Rumi quotes – “The wound is where the lights enters” I am following my dharma. My life path was illuminated through a deep, gashing wound that tore away everything I believed to be true about the order of the universe. The unexpected death of my oldest son began by feeling like the deepest, most primal wound a woman could endure – that of losing a child.

Read more…    

Svadhisthana Chakra (Sacral Chakra)

Svadhisthana Chakra (Sacral Chakra)

Svadhistana Chakra (Sacral Chakra)

sacral chakraMeaning: Sweetness
Location: Lower abdomen to navel area
Anatomy: Reproductive organs and glands; lymphatic system; deep muscles in pelvis; iliopsoas; piriformis; gluteal muscles
Element: Water
Association: Emotions, sexuality
Color: Orange
Sense: Taste
Energy connection to the physical body: Sexual organs, large intestine, lower vertebrae, pelvis, hip area, appendix and bladder
Energy connection to the emotional/mental body: Resonates our need for relationships with other people and our need to control to some extend the dynamics of our physical environment
Symbolic/perceptual connection: The energy in this chakra enables us to generate a sense of personal identity and protective psychological boundaries
Primary fears: Fears of loss of control, or being controlled by another
Primary strengths: The ability and stamina to survive financially and physically on one’s own and to defend and protect oneself; the fight or flight instinct; the ability to take risks; the resilience to recover from loss
Imagery: Moon/lunar energy; ocean; flow of water
Affirmations: I surrender and flow with ease in my  life; It is safe to express my creativity and passion; I am worthy of receiving abundance & prosperity; I trust in the process of life
Bija: VAM (upper teeth on lower lip, pulling back closing lips for MMM vibration)


  • Place your left hand underneath your right
  • Touch the tips of your thumbs
  • Concentrate on the sacral chakra at the sacral bone (lower back)
  • Chant Vam

Yoga Poses: Hip Openers like Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle) & Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Pigeon); Sun Salutations as they create a fluid moving practice

It is in the second chakra that we begin to explore our emotions, sexuality, pleasure, and abundance. The second chakra provides the fertile ground for us to seed our deepest desires, get in touch with our passions, and express our creativity. The first chakra provides the stability and security we need to explore our emotions. With our fundamental needs being met in the first chakra (ideally:), we can now turn towards pleasure and our well-being in the second. . According to Ambika Wauters, “how much pleasure we allow ourselves is an indication of how we value ourselves and how connected we are to our core… When we allow pleasure into our lives it helps us feel good about ourselves.” Symbolically we move from the dense thick earth towards the more fluid movement of water and encounter the concept of change.

The greatest challenges in working with the second chakra include an inability to process emotions and a fear of change. These could be brought with us from our childhood. If we were taught to “suck it up” or not to express emotions or if change is overwhelming to us, we need to visit the second chakra. Learning how to let go and flow is an essential component to the second chakra. Being able to set healthy boundaries and express our needs is a positive way to get in touch with our emotions.

Some questions you can begin to ask yourself: What is my work to play ratio? What kinds of things do I like to do for pleasure? How often do I do them? Do I believe I am a creative person? Why or why not? Do I take care of myself on a regular basis (eating good foods, exercise, getting enough rest, etc.)?

Incorporating the Sacral Chakra into Our Daily Life

  • Learn to work through your emotions (I believe everyone should have the name of a good therapist!)
  • Spend one hour per week doing something creative (Make prayer flags, a vision book/board, paint, sign up for a pottery class)
  • Create healthy boundaries
  • Do one thing per week just for you, just for pleasures sake (Take a bubble bath, purchase that gorgeous scarf you’ve wanted but feel it’s too indulgent, take yourself to the movies or a play)
  • Tap into your sexuality (Find a local store that sells chocolate sauces, games, toys and give yourself permission to play)
  • Buy something orange (An article of clothing, a home accent, a garden gnome)
  • Start a bucket list and pick one big thing to do each year

What are some other ways that you incorporate the sacral chakra into your daily life?



The Yoga Lifestyle Series: Niyamas~ Ishvara Pranidhana

The Yoga Lifestyle Series: Niyamas~ Ishvara Pranidhana

Ishvara Pranidhana (Surrender to God)

By total surrender to God, samadhi is attained. Sutra II:45

youaresacredThe fifth niyama is Ishvara Pranidhana, surrender to God. In the west, there is a tendency to struggle against letting go of control and with the concept of God itself. In relation to Ishvara Pranidhana, God is any avenue that brings us closer to our True Nature. This could be God, Source, Great Spirit, the outdoors, your dog. Through Ishvara Pranidhana, we begin to surrender our limited and narrow egoistic sense of “I” and connect to something larger than ourselves. We realize that in stepping outside of ourselves, we are able to witness and connect to our shared humanity.

On the outer most tangible level, Ishvara Pranidhana means that we surrender the fruits of our actions. “Thy will be done, not mine but Thine.” This means we let go of trying to control the desired outcome. Practicing Ishvara Pranidhana at this level reminds us that we are not always able to see the big picture. We are not always privy to the soul lesson at hand. When we are able to surrender the fruits of our actions, we tap into the possibilities for growth and freedom. Through Ishvara Pranidhana, we release the need to grasp and/or cling to how we think things should unfold. We cultivate an unshakeable inner peace as we begin to trust in something larger than ourselves. We no longer operate from victim mode as if things are being done to us. Instead, we are empowered to stretch and grow as we begin to ask ourselves what can I learn, where I am still grasping, how am I engaging ego, what do I need to do in order to surrender?

On a more subtle level, by practicing Ishvara Pranidhana we engage in one of the most beautiful opportunities for communion by making everything we do an offering to the divine. From the way we speak to the clerk at the grocery store to the way we put our dishes away, every action, word, and thought becomes a direct pathway to the Beloved.

Every life experience offers the seeds of awakening to our highest truth.

Our trip to the grocery store offers unending opportunities to practice compassion as we learn not to judge the person who blocks the aisle with his/her cart or the person who shows up with 18 items in the under 15 item express lane. We practice tolerance at our child’s soccer game as other parents scream from the sidelines. Wait, wasn’t this the non-competitive league? Let go… We hold in gratitude all those that helped bring food to our table, from the farmer to the truck drivers to our local market by sharing a blessing before we put food to lips. As we continue to witness the extraordinary in the ordinary, we tap into the grace that exists within and around us.

In my own experience, when I sit down to write, create a course, or share a training, I say a prayer….

Make me an instrument of Thy will; not mine but Thine be done. Free me from anger, jealously, and fear. Fill my  heart with joy and compassion. Lokah Somastah Sukino Bhavantu~ May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life today contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

This helps me keep my ego in check. When I operate from my ego, I am attached to the amount of website hits, comments, and retweets. I tend to write from the perspective of shoulds- I should sound intelligent, successful bloggers tell you to be an expert in your niche; I should write the epic post, successful bloggers know that you need to convert readers into purchasers; I should over deliver, because who I am is not enough, people won’t want to come back for more. When I sink into Ishvara Pranidhana, and remember who I am at my core, I ask for help in writing what needs to be heard, I ask that I get out of my own way, I ask that what I write makes the difference in the life of another.

Ishvara Pranidhana brings the divine to the forefront of our lives. It reminds us that we are spiritual beings having human experiences not human beings having spiritual experiences. Ishvara Pranidhana invites us to dance with the sacred and see the Beloved within our fellow humanity. We are invited to let go of the need to cling to certain outcomes and instead see the gift of self-discovery and Self-realization present within each experience.



Other articles in this series: Introduction, (Yamas: Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya, Aparigraha, Niyamas: Saucha, Santosha ,Tapas, Svadhyaya)

He Is Not Coming, Find Your Own Damn Horse

He Is Not Coming, Find Your Own Damn Horse

“This is a big lesson: No one is going to do it for you, you are  in control of how you live everyday.”

CCHensleyLast night, I attended a workshop by a well-known yogi. The first words that spilled out of his mouth were, “do as you are told.” He was addressing the owner of the studio. The comment was made when she wouldn’t respond to his request. However, it was understandable that she hadn’t acknowledged him as he had called her by the wrong name. He then launched into an all out assault on the industrialization of yoga but let us know that he had a downloadable app for his latest program. “There are many styles of yoga, one for each of us”, he shared. He then let us know that the way of Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois were incorrect. His yoga was the only way. It was at this point that I quietly exited. I have traveled down this path many times before.

I have listened. I have believed. I have trusted. You will rescue me.

I have been the one with the spiral bound notebook, fervently writing down every juicy morsel, hanging on every word as the gospel’s truth. I have been the one who signed up for the marketing e-course that guaranteed deliverance of my tribe… but only if I responded by midnight… when the $7000 discount ended. I have been the one who changed my whole website design based on one conversation with a coach who told me how to reach six figures because it was working for her. I have been the one who felt completely less than, inadequate, and lost because I believed everybody else got “it” but me. Truth be told, sometimes I still do, when I forget that I hold the answers within.

This past fall, through the wisdom of my incredibly talented friend, Nicole, I was able to piece together one of my core archetypes: the Damsel in Distress. I was less than pleased with this discovery. This was like swallowing the nasty cherry cough medicine before they invented flavors like bubble gum. This was like being told you were not accepted into the college of your choice. This was like finding out the apocalypse had transpired and you were the sole survivor. This was like learning that you had to have a root canal but they ran out of anesthesia.

There are five kinds of mental modifications which are either painful or painless. Sutra I:5 They are right knowledge, misconception, verbal delusion, sleep and memory. Sutra I:6 The sources of right knowledge are direct perception, inference and scriptural testimony Sutra I:7

I consider myself a strong independent woman. I consider myself intelligent and courageous. I like to challenge myself with new adventures. I like to take risks to learn and grow. And yet… As I traced the roots of this archetype back through my life, I recognized her well. She was there with me in kindergarten, standing in front of the small wooden stove with big red handles and plastic red faucet. As we played with the matching wooden eggs over easy, she learned that by taking care of her husband she would be saved financially. She was there with me in high school searching for prince charming. As we sat through endless perms, electric blue eyeliner, and pink shimmery lipstick, she learned that someone would come along and love her so she wouldn’t have to learn to love herself. She was there with me when I met my husband (the black & white photo of us is circa 1993), the leather vest toting  motorcycle riding bad-ass. As we got to know him, she was convinced that he could save her from herself, that place of unworthiness, and make her whole.

What is it that we are so desperately trying to be rescued from? What is so unsettling that we compromise our own integrity, beliefs, and values? What is so broken within that we continue to give our power away? What conditioning is so deeply entrenched into the fabric of our being that we continue to seek out the next Kumare and the next? As I sat with these questions, I began to trace their path and the many times they came to visit. Shame, guilt, heartache, pain were usually lurking nearby. Avoidance, fear, and doubt seemed to be following in the rear. So often, I wanted to be rescued from my own feelings of inadequacy. I wanted to be saved from the pain and shame of not feeling worthy. I wanted to be safeguarded from the heartache of failure. I wanted you to come along and fix me so that if it didn’t work out, it was your fault. If my life was a mess, you didn’t do your job.

What happens when we stop waiting to be saved and instead, save ourselves?

Self-esteem builds from being able to do things for ourselves, by learning to stand on our own two feet. Giving voice to the shame, guilt, heartache and pain minimizes their power over us. Journeying into the heart of emotions, fear and doubt, teaches us that we can fall down and pick ourselves back up. Allowing sacred space for the feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness helps to dissipate their sting. Giving myself permission to have messiness enter my life helps me understand that all life experiences are necessary for growth. In saving ourselves, we ultimately come home to ourselves. We begin to step onto the path of authenticity, connection, and grace. We hold ourselves and others with compassion, friendliness, and tenderness.  When we meet someone who has saved themselves, it is a beautiful thing.

When you look into their eyes, they meet you at the door of your soul

May we all meet each other at the doors of our souls. May we all remember to come home, turn inward, and connect to that place of truth within. May we all feel the place of worth that is inherent to our very being. May we all hold each other when we forget and fall down. May we all mirror the strength and courage it takes to choose ourselves. May we all remember that we are in control of how we live daily.



Do You Suffer From Shiny Object Syndrome?

Do You Suffer From Shiny Object Syndrome?

032ae15 Do you start things without finishing them? Do you get sucked into the latest television series or exercise fad? Do you find yourself constantly signing up for the latest ecourse? Do you surf Facebook or Twitter once a day, twice a day, ten times a day, ten times a minute? Do you allow for moments of stillness or is your schedule consistently filled? Do you read the next best selling self-help book and then the next and the next?

There is nothing inherently wrong with enjoying the latest television series, surfing Facebook, or reading self-help books. The challenge occurs when we consistently search outside ourselves for peace, happiness, and “the” answers.

We perpetuate the cycle of suffering when we think someone or something else has the answer, that somehow we are lacking.

Many of us have been conditioned to think that anything less than perfection is unacceptable. We focus on what is missing or wrong. Over time, we forget that we can do anything beautiful or right. It becomes a vicious cycle that we perpetuate. This cycle undermines the trust we have in ourselves. This cycle encourages us to to seek help outside ourselves. This cycle makes us afraid to try for fear of failing. We believe the failure would validate our imperfection, our worth-less-ness.

Yoga teaches us a method for overcoming shiny object syndrome. The fifth limb in Pantanjali’s Eight Fold Path is Pratyahara, withdrawal of our senses. We gather information about the world around us through our senses. Often, they carry us from the next best thing to the next best thing, keeping us distracted. We remain entrenched in the dance of seeking outward for peace and happiness.

By tuning our senses inward, we begin to catch a glimpse of that place of stillness, of purity within.

Withdrawing the senses, mind, and consciousness form contact with external objects, and then drawing them inwards towards the seer, is pratyahara. ~The Yoga Sutras II:54; Pratyahara results in the absolute control of the sense organs. ~The Yoga Sutras II:55

Pratyahara sets the foundation for turning our awareness inward. By withdrawing from the external environment we begin to open the door to our internal wisdom. When we learn to cut off from our impulses and need for instant gratification, we witness that place of authenticity, beauty, and sacredness within.

Three tools to exercise your pratyahara muscles:

24 waiting period
Whenever I am going to make a larger purchase, I make myself wait 24 hours. This gives me time to explore my thoughts, to ask myself: Do I really need this purchase? What is my intention with this purchase? What do I think I will gain with this purchase that I don’t already have now, in this moment? Sometimes it is a legitimate purchase. Often times, however, I have gotten sucked into the latest e-course promising me eternal happiness and money flow but I have to act now or I am going to lose out… I have saved hundreds of dollars by waiting and pulling back, listening to my intuition instead of my impulses.

30 minutes of daily quiet time
I have just offended a few of you because I don’t know how busy you are. You don’t have 30 minutes in your day to do “nothing.” We have to shift our perspective. It isn’t doing “nothing.” It is learning how to unplug. It is learning how to quiet the fluctuations of the mind. It is learning how to return to that place within each of us that is perfect, whole,  and complete. It is learning how to access the wisdom that each of us carries in our heart. Start out with 5 minutes if that is all you have. Slowly, over time, make your way to 10 minutes…

Sama Vritti w/Kumbhaka (Breath Retention) Pranayama
Bringing our awareness to a single point of concentration helps to withdraw our senses. In this technique, we learn to quiet the mind by focusing on the breath.

  • Come to a comfortable seated position
  • Begin to lengthen your breath, three times the length of a normal breath. Explore 5 breaths
  • Hold your breath for a count of 2-5 after inhalation only, none after exhalation. If it feels comfortable, over the next few breaths, increase  the duration of retention after inhalation; Three parts of the breath become equal ~inhalation, retention and exhalation
  • Begin to introduce retention after exhalation. Hold your breath for a count of 2-5 after exhalation and inhalation. If it feels comfortable, over the next few breaths, increase the duration of retention after exhalation; Four parts of the breath become equal~ inhalation, retention, exhalation and retention
  • You can increase breath ratio up to 10 per part
  • Return to breath, three times the length of a normal breath for 5 breaths
  • Return to natural breathing

Did you find one of these techniques particularly helpful in overcoming shiny object syndrome? Do you have a different technique that you use to stay focused and on track in your daily life?