Urban Monk Wellness

Massage . Yoga . Meditation . Creative Expression

108 I Love Yous

The Malas are a prayer and meditation tool, used by yogis to help with mindfulness, that look similar to a Catholic Rosary. These strands of beads generally consist of 108 beads. As best I can tell, the number 108 has profound significance, and is meant to remind the practitioner of her true nature as the God self. The 1 is for the oneness of life. The 0 represents nothingness, and the 8 is for infinity. The Malas help us find our way to God.

11261309_538687806285965_2058851657_nThere are many ways to pray/meditate the malas, but most often the use of a mantra is utilized. A mantra is a repetition of a prayer or phrase. Often one hears the term Japas Malas. Japas means the name of God (whatever that name is for you). So to pray japas malas is to repeat the name(s) of God over and over again with the “goal” being to remember and praise God, but also to remember that you, the practitioner, are God.

My new favorite mantra to use while meditating on my malas is, “I love you.” For each of the 108 beads, I say, “I love you” to something, someone, a color, a place, a memory, a future hope; I say I love you to everything and nothing and everything in between. First I start with myself, and I remind myself that I love the me who is strong. I love the me who works hard. I love the me who laughs freely and 11093051_865404870191484_1552980859_noften. I love the me who sometimes gets sad for no reason. I love the me that brushes his teeth, and I love the me that drinks too much coffee. After I acknowledge the different ways I love myself, I go on to my family and friends, and then I just love everything that comes into my mind. I usually even remember to tell the color blue how much I love it. For each bead I take a long breath, breathing into my belly and chest and back out again, I say I love you _______, and I try to feel the love too.

The whole exercise takes about 20 minutes, but it has been a great way to remind myself of how wonderful my life is. It’s a way to pause, reflect on, and pay homage to the things that really make life important. This has also been a wonderful way to practice gratitude and alleviate anxiety. Even if doing 108 I love yous is too much, take time today to do ten or twenty. You will be amazed at how wonderful it makes you feel, and you will remember how much light is in your life.

I love you.


Home has been something I’ve been considering a lot recently, and it has been the focus of our meditations in class this week. It occurred to me that my actual home, the place that I truly live while on earth is not a building or a “house”. My home is my body. This was a powerful and profound realization, and it has very strong implications. What occurred to me is that if I find home within my body, than I am always home no matter where I go.

From the time we are born till the time we die, people, society, jobs, expectations, responsibilities, etc. are all barking in our ears telling us to ignore our bodies for the schedule. When to eat, when to sleep, when to use the bathroom… and while these are all things that might be necessary to participate in a modern society (particularly to keep a job in a modern society), they train us to stop listening to our bodies.

While we are being trained to follow the schedule, we are also constantly bombarded with images of rewards we can have for following the schedule. Some of these “rewards” are necessary like food, water, and shelter. Relatively speaking, without them we would die. Ironically enough, these are the rewards we often ignore and take most for granted.
11355917_487586878065838_1624874972_nProbably because they shouldn’t be rewards, they should be rights. On the other hand, some of these rewards are shiny and have brand names and expensive price tags. These rewards are generally very extrinsic and hold little value outside of what we place on them because of supply and demand. Compare an expensive designer item to a week-long vacation/adventure. The item is simply a status symbol; its value is in the desire for it. The vacation holds memories, stories, shared experiences, and it enriches life. Some rewards have more meaning than others.

All of this training to stop listening to our bodies and to seek external rewards with little intrinsic value leaves many of us feeling empty inside. We are on this constant search to fill this feeling of emptiness, when what we really want and need is to feel like we are home. This is where my yoga practice and my many massages have helped me. Both yoga and massage taught me how to listen to my body again. It isn’t that I don’t still have to get up for work or sometimes hold it till a suitable bathroom time, but I know what my body needs and wants. It tells me when it needs better food or more water. My body indicates when I feel stressed, and I know where my body keeps all that stuff now. Through meditation and learning to feel my body, I have come home to it.

This has been a long journey, and I did not even know that this is how it would become. I began my practice, eating healthy, getting massages, and focusing on my health to try and help combat an anxiety issue I was having. To be honest, I sometimes still feel very anxious, and I don’t feel like I’m home with myself always. I am home more than I have ever been though. Even on those bad days where I doubt myself and10576229_164063270621939_1370561275_n.jpg the world, where I feel depressed and terrified, even on those days I feel less connected, I’m still more home than I ever was before. On these days, it’s like weathering a very bad storm; it can be frightening and require some preparation, but this home is strong. It will still stand. Yoga continues to grow and evolve with me along my life’s journey, and through its practice I keep building my home stronger. Now, most everywhere I go, I am home in myself. I have learned to look within for home and it has opened my life up to depths of meaning and joyfulness that weren’t experienced before.

My hope is that yoga can help others find home in themselves as well. This is why I teach. When a person is home in himself, he finds a general sense of peace with the world. Even when the storms outside are raging, she who is home with herself is unaffected, like a flame that cannot be extinguished. The practice is not a magic cure all, but it will help you find home.

Adding to the Light

Today felt like one of those days where I was filled with storm clouds and doubt. For most of the day I was plagued with questions like,12237585_1495180880782905_54624655_n“what is the point; why should I care; what does my life ultimately matter in the grand scheme of things.” One might call it depression; I prefer to think of it as existential dread. Regardless of the semantics, I spent most of the day feeling doubtful, sad, and afraid. You might think these would be feelings spared a yoga teacher. HA! These are things that lead to a yoga practice.

The nature of my job requires that I am the most happy person in the room; at the very least, I am supposed to appear that way so others can sort of catch the happiness bug. I do not mind this, and usually I don’t feel like I am faking it. That being said, if there is one thing my years of practice have taught me, yoga will not make life perfect. Sometimes, yoga might even make life harder because you become really close with yourself and aware. It’s hard to bullshit yourself when you are paying attention. Yoga will help you be with the imperfections though.

Anyway, all I wanted to do today was call off from work and hide under the covers. I do not have a lot of these days; maybe ten days out of the year I feel this kind of mood. Somehow though, these sad ten days can overwhelm all the good days and make me forget how great life is. Even though I wanted to, I didn’t call out today. I taught my classes, and I pretended to be that happiest man in the room. The power in this is that not long after I started, I got to quit pretending, and I started to feel better. Granted, I’m an extremely lucky man in that I get to do for a living what I love; I mean I truly love what I do, but still, in the act of being in life and smiling, I started to feel better.

When I got home and started to meditate upon my day, I came to the realization that my thoughts I was having earlier, the ones that were filled with doubt and fear, weren’t wrong. They happened and will sometimes happen again. There is no amount of yoga that will ever fix that, but I was better able to watch those thoughts and feelings and be with them. That is what the practice can do, or at least it has done for me.

If I may be so bold, the other answers that I came up with, might just apply to all of us. Life is really hard sometimes, and it is complicated. The more you pay attention, the more this becomes readily apparent. Like Star Wars, life is this constant battle between the forces of light and dark, good and evil. Much of life is gray, and we can easily get lost in the gray parts. The gray is mundane and simple. Chop wood, carry water (thanks Kim). Despite its simplicity, it is in the gray that we define ourselves and our world. LoveSimple acts of goodness, living a life that truly considers others as if they were your own, and trying not to be too harsh in judgement, these are ways our lives matter. Today I guess I realized that no matter how I feel, whether it be elated or depressed, my life’s purpose is to add to the light side of the force and seek my happiness without hurting others’ chances for happiness. This is how we fix our world.
I’m writing this to remind myself that the next time I feel like I did today, I need remember that it will pass. I need to remember that life is meant to be lived, nothing more, nothing less. To be kind to myself and to others as if they were myself while living; this is the best thing I can be, and it’s really what the world needs. I just have to keep adding to the light even if it’s only a little bit at a time. It all adds up.


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