The Urban Yogi

The Empty Basket

by Barry Raccio

"You can't give from an empty basket." Someone shared that insight with me recently and I thought it would be a good jumping off point for this post.

Depending on where you are in the world as you read this, many of us are in the middle of the Winter season. We're settling in to shorter days and long nights. We're making plans to travel for the holidays or are busily preparing home and hearth for the arrival of friends and family.

It's natural to feel stressed at the thought that there aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done we feel we need to do. In this time of abundance, our plates are literally and metaphorically, full. With so much going on, we often neglect the one thing we need most to help us manage the momentum of our lives: Self-care.

Like the Ghost of Christmas Past, I'm here to remind you why this is so important.

Most of us wouldn't hesitate to go the extra mile for someone in need, even when it feels like our own lives are at the bursting point. We feel we just can't turn down that party invitation or the promise of overtime (and a little extra in our paychecks). There's always another task, another meeting, something more we feel we need to do ... and therein lies the problem. We think we can't slow down, but that simply isn't true. Not only can we, its vital to our physical, mental, psychological and spiritual health that we do, and do it regularly. Sadly, we recharge our phones more often than we stop to recharge ourselves.

Self-care isn't selfish. You aren't letting anyone down if you take a few minutes out of your day to recharge. I mean that sincerely. People who love you not only want you to do this but they'll actively encourage it. (Those who don't are probably feeling as worn-out as you are; hopefully, they'll learn from your example.) It seems difficult at first, but self-care habits can be developed over time. Simple things like a regular yoga practice, meditation, walking in nature or sound healing. Just a few minutes each day, but the benefits are long-lasting.

So here's what I'd like you to do. Turn off your phone (yes, really), your monitor or whatever other electronic device that might be a distraction. Don't worry! Whatever it is will wait. Next, close your eyes and take a few long, slow, deep breaths. Imagine you are bringing renewed energy to your body and strengthening your spirit. Make each breath one of gratitude for your body, your mind, and your life. Remind yourself that you are a divine being; that grace is your natural state; and anything worrisome is a creation of your mind.

Do this for a few minutes every day, and remember two things.
     1. There's no "right" way to meditate. Make space for peace in whatever way you wish.
     2. If you ever begin to feel anxious about taking time out of your day to recharge, just remind yourself: "I'm filling my basket."

Love it? Share it!

Out with the old. In with RENEW.

by Barry Raccio

This year, the Winter Solstice (Dec 21) falls on the same day as the Full Moon. A solstial Full Moon is a rare occurrence -- happening about every 19 years! It is both the shortest day and the longest night of the year and radiates the potent energies of regeneration and renewal. That energy will merge with the vibrancy of the Full Moon, offering us incredible opportunities for healing and transformation.

When we think of holiday traditions, we don't often associate them with the concept of energy. Even in places like my home town of Palm Springs, Ca -- where it rarely snows, except high in the mountains -- there's a change in the air as Winter approaches. Our energy begins to soften. We feel the need to gather with friends and those we love. There's a nudge to turn inward, to seek comfort and focus on what we want and need.

It's easy to believe our traditions are the reason we act this way but it is the synergistic pull of the season -- something humans have experienced for centuries -- that created and informed many of the traditions we celebrate.

On Dec 21 you can invite the transformative energy of the Winter Solstice into your life at any time during the day or night. Spend an hour alone, just for yourself. Turn off any electronic device that regularly draws your attention. Sit quietly and take few slow breaths. In the stillness of your mind, think deeply about yourself: Who you are; who you want to be; and what you want your life to look like. Push away negative thoughts about things you perceive to be faults or mistakes you think you've made. This time should not be about regret. It's about freeing yourself from past hurts, old patterns and false beliefs.

Let the combined energies of the Winter Solstice and the Full Moon help you clear your path of the things that are stopping you from being who you are truly meant to be!

Love it? Share it!

I bought a zoo. Kidding. I bought a GONG.

by Barry Raccio

"Sound is the force of creation, the true whole. Music then, becomes the voice of the great cosmic oneness and therefore the optimal way to reach this final state of healing. " -- Hazrat Inayat Khan
The idea of healing with sound isn't new; like many ancient practices it's taken we modern humans a bit of time to catch on to its benefits. Geneticists have decoded the musical expression of our DNA; NASA meanwhile, recorded the sounds of planets and even a "singing" comet (European Space Agency Rosetta Probe, 2014). Little surprise that our bodies produce a positive response to therapeutic sound.
Science defines Theta waves as those that fall between 4-7Hz and occur during (REM) sleep and also in deep meditation. The sound(s) produced by a gong most often elicits Theta waves in the brain. This brings you to a state of consciousness that is almost dreamlike as the sound waves in both hemispheres of your brain sync together (called brain-wave entrainment) -- leading to improved focus, elevated endorphin levels, greater immune and glandular function and less stress.
The more I studied and experienced the power of this unique healing modality, the more I realized I wanted to incorporate sound healing into both my personal practice and in guided meditations with my students. The energy of our planet is in flux as we transition from the old to the new and these energetic shifts impact us daily. Sound healing is another powerful method available to us to bring us back to our divine center.
Love it? Share it!

Three Mantras You Should Never Say

by Barry Raccio

"I don't know. I'm not ready. I can't do that.

I came across this quote the other day, and even though I've read it many times the meaning still resonates. Every thought, every word is a message to your higher self. One of the gifts of Kundalini yoga -- and there are many! -- is that it teaches you to communicate with your creator-self. This creation is a powerful partnership -- and like any good partner, your higher self only wants to help you create and live your best life.
Take a moment to think about this. What would your "best life" look like? Think about it and see it clearly in your mind. Don't worry if it's not a fully-formed picture, just a basic idea will do for now. Now consider what you *think* might be stopping you from experiencing this life. While each person will have different reasons and circumstances, there are three primary things that impact our ability to attain the life of our dreams: "I don't know." "I'm not ready." "I can't do that.".
It's important to understand how each of these messages is received and translated by your higher self. Remember, your higher self wants to help you create a life of purpose, passion and joy. Even if you don't see the full picture right now you probably have a good idea of what that life is. How do you know? Your higher self gives you clues all the time! When you experience something that fully engages you, that gets your heart racing and fills you with excitement; something that gives you all the feels and you literally can't stop talking about or thinking about -- that's the direction you want to go in. Maybe it's "only a dream" -- the craziest, nuttiest dream anyone has ever had. So what's stopping you? The same thing that stops many of us.
I don't know how I will ever... I'm not ready to ... I can't do that because ...
These are more than words, they are messages. It's important to understand this. Your higher self stands ready to open the doors of abundance. When you recite one or all of these "mantras", you're actively telling your higher self, "No, I don't really want to live a magnificent life. I'll just keep doing this thing I'm doing now while dreaming of something different."
The technology of Kundalini yoga is designed to help you release self doubt ("I don't know"), hesitation borne of fear ("I'm not ready"), and the biggest stop sign of all, "I can't!". It's time to flip the script: "I do know (what you want); I am ready (to live a life of purpose and passion); and "I can (do whatever you dream)!
Love it? Share it!