Oprah & Deepak Manifesting Grace Through Gratitude 21-Day Meditation Experience (2019)

INTRODUCTION

https://chopracentermeditation.com/

https://chopracentermeditation.com/

Several years ago Oprah Winfrey & Deepak Chopra teamed up to begin sharing their love of meditation with the world through 21-Day meditation experiences. The first one I participated in was “Perfect Health,” and although I enjoyed it enough of purchase the mantras and music, as a relatively healthy twenty-something, it didn’t speak to my soul’s needs at the time. Since then, however, I’ve found every experience to be precisely what I have needed at the precise moment each has came into my life. Manifesting Grace through Gratitude epitomized this serendipitous - if not providential - sensation for me. During the course of the challenge when it debuted in the summer of 2015, my life radically changed. I decided to lean into my academic questions and seek re-entry into Brown University to complete my Ph.D. in Theater Arts & Performance Studies and chose to leave Mexico City where I had lived and worked for seven years. Most importantly, though, this experience taught me that when gratitude becomes the lens through which we view the world, endless grace awaits. 


May it be so - again and again. 

Namaste. 

Ashé.

Day 1: The Path to Grace Begins Today

FORMAL SITTING: March 25th, 2019

Centering Thought: When I am grateful, I find my grace.

Sanskrit Mantra:  Dhanya Vad (“I feel gratitude.”)

Message of the daY:

“let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.”

-Maya Angelou

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Day 1’s session was filled with the poetic wisdom that I have come to love and expect from the 21-Day meditation experiences that i affectionately refer to as “ChOprah Challenges”. For this first sitting, Oprah and Deepak explored definitions of grace, and explained that over the course of the next twenty-one days we will learn how to “...turn grace from a noun into a verb.” Through dharma chats and her tenth text, Sharon Salzberg has offered a similar call to action surrounding the practice of love. Gary Zukav, whose Seat of the Soul is among Oprah’s oft quoted tomes, suggests that each of our actions comes from a place either of love or of fear, and that we should move with grace. As I sat for today’s practice I considered how I can not only move from a place of grace, distinct from and in addition to how a dancer might move with grace, but how I can actively do/create/imbue grace as an action itself.

This morning I opted to sit on the balcony of the AirBnB where my beloved and I are staying, and as I watched my breath, so, too, did I note the sounds of our temporary neighborhood in Florence. I recalled how I’d denied my beloved a late night stroll the night before, and regret temporarily overshadowed the gratitude that filled my cup. I attempted to come back to the breath, and silently recited the mantra:

Dhanya Vad.”

Next, hope and excitement were added to my cup as I realized how long the period between my travel seasons will be this spring, and I envisioned the classes and workshops I hope to lead while home in New York. Before anxiety about bookings took root, however, I came back to the mantra: 

Dhanya Vad.”

I brought my attention to the shifting Tuscan sun, whose morning light was moving across my eyelids, forehead, and cheeks. My face became a sundial, and remembered to recite: 

Dhanya Vad.”

And my thoughts drifted away again. 

When Deepak’s chime and gentle words announced the invitation to release the mantra, I realized I had finally forgotten it. By no means has forgetting been a goal of mine, mind you, but between rounds of active thoughts, I typically forget the mantra early in each of my ChOprah Challenge sessions. Today I smiled as I considered the possibility that perhaps it is only my conscious mind that forgets the mantra, and that it’s message is instead absorbed into my Being. 


And so I end today with a prayer:

May I be filled with gratitude. 

May I move with grace.

May grace become my way of Being.

May it be so.

Namaste.

Ashé.

Day 2: Gratitude is Within You

FORMAL SITTING: MARCH 26th, 2019

CENTERING THOUGHT: All good things bring gratitude.

Sanskrit Mantra:  Kripya Hum. (“I am divine grace.”)

Message of the Day:

“Gratitude is the experience of our true self.”

-Gina Lakes

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When you’re present in that feeling of gratitude you feel more open, more generous, more connected, more awake, and alive.
— Oprah Winfrey

I know it sounds hokey, but Oprah’s words made me feel understood.

In the moments when I allow myself to experience the world through the lens of gratitude, I feel more joyful, more peaceful, and much more patient with those around me. Oprah also made me feel completely seen when she spoke of gratitude for her connection to that which is higher than herself. So many times in the last few years I have felt overcome with gratitude by the knowledge that I am Divinely accompanied, Divinely supported, and Divinely led. Oprah also asserted that when we allow ourselves to be changed by this experience of gratitude, we experience and become grace personified.

This morning my beloved and I shared my AirPods and took comfortable seats across from each other, filling our temporary bedroom with warmth and the goodwill (perhaps grace) that is born of grateful contemplation. My heart expanded as we continued to listen as Deepak spoke of grace as a feedback loop. He described the process as a Divine conversation in which the act of giving thanks and devotion for the good things in our lives is met by continued blessings of more good things for which we can be grateful. 

As we stepped into the rest our day, the last full day of the Italian leg of our “Baecation”, side-by-side and hand-in-hand, I couldn’t help but to wonder if beginning our day in the shared space of meditation on the bounty in our lives had not set the tone for what felt like one of our most joyful days together yet. When I asked my beloved if she noticed our day felt different, she smiled and playfully pointed out that it was also the coldest day of our trip, that each of the gardens we visited was closed, that we were physically sore from last night’s sunset yoga session overlooking the Tuscan town, and we were unsuccessful in each of the day’s attempts to find a spot for my spring photoshoot - and that it was also an immensely delightful day. She was uncharacteristically less idealistic about the source of our joy than was I, though, and did not hesitate to insist that our strengthed connection was most likely the result of a profoundly important heart-to-heart conversation we had last night. While she’s certainly spot on, it’s also true that the conversation was had on Day 1 of this powerful meditation experience, giving us both much fodder for Day 2’s gratitude list and reflection.

After pausing to acknowledge the beauty of the day while sipping cups of peppermint tea, bellies full of fresh Napolitano-style pizza, we headed back to our AirBnB and made a shared vision board using the magazines I’d brought from home, while listening to the Hamilton soundtrack (her fave, my first listen). Rounding out a day of looking back, breathing into the present, and laying the groundwork for our future, today’s prayer comes easily:

May the feedback loop

of gratitude and abundance

continue to nourish us

in mind,

body,

and soul,

as individuals,

as partners,

and as manifestations of the Divine.

May it be so.

Ashé.

Day 3: Awaken the Energy of Gratitude

FORMAL SITTING: MARCH 27tH, 2019

CENTERING THOUGHT: I am gladdening my heart.

Sanskrit Mantra:  Ananda Hum. (“I am bliss.”)

Message of the Day:

“Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.”

- Karl Barth 

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After Oprah read a lovely quote by Melody Beattie, Deepak spoke more about today’s call to gladden our hearts. In order to achieve what may sound like a rather esoteric goal, he suggests we begin with the essence of gratitude:

True gratitude comes from knowing that you belong in the infinite dance of life...There is wonder in perceiving how the tiniest element fits into the whole, how your existence is woven into the existence of everyone you love, including every memory of love.
— Deepak Chopra, Manifesting Grace through Gratitude, Day 3

As I sat attempting to make my heart shimmer, I moved in and out of the glow of gratitude. When I summoned the warmth of love, I found ease, but between these thoughts F.O.M.O. reigned. Each time a fear arose - fears that time is slipping away from me, that opportunities would pass me by, and that I don’t even realize all that I am missing - I felt my body shift. I rose taller, as though attempting to peer over a fence, then resettled myself by reciting: 


“Ananda hum.”


I reminded myself that I am Divinely supported, and found ease until the next fear arose. I felt my solar plexus tighten, the left side of abdominal wall pinching, and I again recited: 


“Ananda hum.”


I reminded myself that I have all that I need to thrive, and felt the muscles release. When the next fear arose, I noticed I was leaning forward, like a runner in her starting blocks. Again, I silently recited:


“Ananda hum.”


I vacillated between states of ease and stress until Deepak gently brought the practice to a close. Although in the moment it didn’t feel as though this was a remarkably successful meditation session (I didn’t even feel as though I’d completed the assignment), I realize now the triumph in each return to ease, each time I was able to begin again. This is why we call what we do a practice. The hope is that becoming comfortable with returning to calm during my meditation will make it more likely I will choose to do so when fired up off the mat. 


May it be so.


Ashé.



Day 4: Grace is Replying

FORMAL SITTING: MARCH 28th, 2019

CenterinG Thought:

Grace is flowing back to me.

Sanskrit Mantra:  Twam Eva Mata (“The universe is our mother.”)

Message of the Day:

“The more you are grateful for what you have, the more you can live fully in the present.”

- Dana Arcuri 

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How beautiful is today’s Sanskrit inspiration?

To consider the Universe to be our {Divine} mother is to know that we are all made of the same elements found throughout the cosmos, capped with the unique carbon stamp that ties us to this planet. One thing I love about contemplating the spiritual and scientific dimensions of space is how easily it puts everything into perspective; every concern I have seems utterly insignificant in light of universal truth.

It was serendipitous that today’s contemplation revolved around motherhood. (No: I’m not pregnant.) Last night I spent my flight from Florence to London designing my 2019 Mother’s Day workshop/collaboration with Momentum Jewelry, to be hosted at The Studio at Athleta Flatiron. I was inspired by the bracelet Momentum generously sent me, which reads: “Strength, Courage and Wisdom.” Although I originally selected it as an homage to India Arie (whose music often finds its way onto my class playlists), last night it dawned on me that these characteristics represent motherhood beautifully, and am crafting my workshop around the three.

As I write this, I think about my own mother, who has thrived despite battling lupus for the last two decades; who had the courage to choose motherhood even without the support of a partner; and whose wisdom reveals itself to me like the petals of a blossoming flower. I give thanks for the unconditional love of my earthly and heavenly mothers, and pray:


May I carry their strength. 

May I find the courage to grow. 

May I yield to higher wisdom. 


May it be so.

Namaste. 

Ashé.

Day 5: Gratitude Awakens the True Self

FORMAL SITTING: MarcH 29th, 2019

Centering Thought:

My true self is always grateful.

Sanskrit Mantra:  Kritajna Hum. (“I am gratitude.”)

Message of the Day:

“The road to happiness starts with a deep breath and an awareness of the many blessings tied to that single breath.”

- Richelle E. Goodrich 

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In today’s offering, Deepak spoke about the reality of balancing our spiritual pursuits with everyday life. Graciously, he reminded us that it’s perfectly normal to feel as though we have “many selves” - aspects of our multifaceted personality that reveal themselves when among our friends, colleagues, peers, elders, and others, in turn, each requiring distinct levels of decorum. Rather than fostering anxiety that this is somehow schizoid behavior, he simply labels each of these manifestations our “passing self,” and that the homeostasis to which we return each time the situations pass us by is our True Self. To this I might add that the True Self is also the steady pulse beneath each of these moments. Because mindfulness meditation is an excellent training ground by which to learn how to recognize the patterns of our thoughts and actions, it is also the perfect way to become acquainted with our True Self. 

¡Ojo!

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the rub: I have also heard it said that self-knowledge isn’t always good news. 

One of my favorite concepts in psychology is that of cognitive dissonance. I like to define it as that uncomfortable feeling we get when we do, think, or say something that isn’t in alignment with our values. In other words, cognitive dissonance is a natural inner alarm system that warns us when we are straying from our ideal self - or, maybe in today’s language, our True Self. In my very frustrating experience, with the increased ability to recognize these nuanced moments of cognitive dissonance has also come the nagging sensation that I have a very long road to travel before arriving at the holy grail - in this case being the ability to be consistent with my ideal/True self/Self.

To my surprise, beginning a romantic relationship that epitomizes Gary Zukav’s concept of “spiritual partnership” has magnified these experiences, continually challenging me to go deeper. Earlier this afternoon, on the last day of our romantic getaway, my beloved and I humorously compared moving along a spiritual path to playing a video game: each level brings greater challenges. Each time we think we’ve achieved a spiritual milestone, it turns out it’s merely time to “level up” and keep growing.


And so tonight my prayer is that gratitude will keep me grounded, such that I can breathe through each blow to my ego and move with grace.


May it be so.

Namaste.

Ashé. 

Day 6: Gratitude Is in the Present

FORMAL SITTING: MarcH 30th, 2019

Centering Thought:

Every moment is filled with grace.

Sanskrit Mantra:  Samprati Hum. (“The present moment is my true self.”)

Message of the Day:

“Just be, right now, here; and breathe. Begin to trust the magic of yourself.”

-Nikki Rowe

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I woke up just before dawn in my own bed this morning for the first time in what felt like forever, and for the first time without my sweetheart by my side in two weeks. Missing her and feeling a bit lovestruck, I shared a picture of her on my social media feed, then projected myself into the future, delighting in the fact that the relatively sedentary season at home in New York between my winter and summer travel season had finally arrived.

As I listened to Oprah and Deepak’s sage advice about the power of the present moment, I felt myself nestled in time in a way that mirrored how my travel-weary body was nestled amidst my nest of bed pillows. By the time Deepak’s words about the present rang out, they were perfectly timed: 

If you’re really in it - not just passing through on your way to something else - you appreciate the joy of simply being here.
— Deepak Chopra, Manifesting Grace Through Gratitude, Day 6

As I breathed through today’s practice, coming back to the mantra was especially useful: 

Samprati hum.

I caught myself reflecting on the caption I’d written for the portrait of my beloved, and realized how different being in the moment was from reflecting on it later. As I’d written the post, I had been filled to the brim with joy: I’d felt energized, bright, and warm. Yet, as my anxious mind drifted during my meditation, it feared typos and grammatical errors, and I worried that I hadn’t spoken of my sweetheart in the proper tone. This time as I considered the mantra, I was set free: 

“The present moment is my true self.” 

And suddenly I understood not with my mind but with my whole being that when I am stuck in my memories, I am not connected to my True Self. I understood that I am not the anxiety that surrounds my thoughts of the past. Deepak said it clearly:

We find completeness in the present moment, because that’s the only place it can ever be found.
— Deepak Chopra, Manifesting Grace Through Gratitude, Day 6

As I continued to sit, each time my mind drifted I came back to the mantra, preferring today the English translation, which, in turn, became:

“The present moment is where my Truth resides.” 

And so, today I pray:

May this practice continue to teach me how to stay connected to my True Self. 

May this practice continue to teach me how to set myself free.

Namaste.

Ashé. 

Day 7: Obstacles to Grace Melt Away

FORMAL SITTING: March 31st, 2019

Centering Thought:

When I don’t resist, I am grace.

Sanskrit Mantra:  Prani Dhana. (“My individuality expands to universality.”)

Message of the Day:

“To live a life of gratitude is to open our eyes to the countless ways we are supported by the world around us.”

- Gregg Krech

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During the last work travel season I felt myself growing tense in mind and body, and incrementally cut off from my energetic body and soul. I was not diligent in cultivating a travel sadhana, and it took me more than fifty days to complete Sharon Salzberg’s 28-Day Real Happiness Challenge. I grew so used to being mentally and physically tense that I allowed the sensation of physical blocks to blend in with the landscape, and it wasn’t long before the mental roadblocks were met with emotional ones. By the time I reached the much-anticipated European Baecation with my beloved, I was so used to ignoring my discomfort that it took days for me to remember that it is not representative of Truth. I’d forgotten that as limited and inaccurate descriptions of who I am and the world around me, these blockages are mine to disempower. And so, in today’s sitting, it was then centering thought, rather than it’s Sanskrit mantra, that spoke to me: 

“When I don’t resist, I’m in grace.” 

Both Oprah and Deepak spoke sagely about how to approach the struggles of life. Oprah’s words gently reminded me that when obstacles arise, they are not to be ignored or simply pushed through. Instead, they are invitations to remember and reflect on my relationship to Truth. 

It is your graceful, True Self, tapping you on the shoulder a little bit trying to remind you ever so gently to look again, because you always get to choose.
— Oprah Winfrey, Manifesting Grace Through Gratitude, Day 7

Deepak spoke about the trap of entitlement, and how the belief that the good things are earned not only sets us apart from others, but robs the supportive Universe of the credit it deserves for the grace in our lives. I, like so many of us, have internalized the value of working hard to earn the blessings I seek. Never did I realize that the flip side to a “strong work ethic” is a belief in human rights, or the understanding that some things do not need to be earned and should be - or already are - naturally given. Deepak explained: 

We start to see how the universe supports us in countless ways. As this realization sinks in, the sense of entitlement dissolves. You see your life for the cosmic gift it actually is: a gift of grace that renews itself with every breath. From this shift in perception, optimism naturally emerges, because the ups and downs of daily existence pale beside the infinite generosity of nature as a candle pales in the noonday sun.
— Deepak Chopra, Manifesting Grace Through Gratitude, Day 7

As I thought about how I took ownership of my burdens as though they, too, had been earned, and had come as the price I’d paid for the blessings in my life, it became clearer to me that I had internalized the 80’s mantra of “no pain, no gain”. When things began to go exceedingly well in my life, and yet I clung to struggle, my therapist asked me if I believed that I deserve to be happy. Trained as a psychotherapist myself, I knew the correct answer is “of course”. But today’s lesson made me wonder if the question instead should be “Do you believe happiness must be earned?” Oprah and Deepak might say that as a form of grace, happiness is not earned, but simply is ours to embrace.

In thinking about how I have identified with the challenges and mental, emotional, and physical blocks in my life as much as (and sometimes more than) the joys and blessings, each time I returned to the breath in meditation in meditation today, I returned to the centering thought:

“When I don’t resist, I’m in grace.” 

Over the course of today’s sitting, this phrase-turned-mantra instead became:

“When I don’t resist, I am free.”

I like the sound of that.

May it be so.

Ashé.

Day 8: Obstacles to Grace Melt Away

FORMAL SITTING: April 2nd, 2019 (One day behind schedule)

Centering Thought:

Every thankful moment makes me healthier.

Sanskrit Mantra: Shara Vana Ya.

(“My awareness is aligned with the creative power of the universe.”)

Message of the Day:

“There is no prescription for finding moments of gratitude in every day; there is simply the choice.” - Gillian Deacon 

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Today’s sitting was delayed because I’d spent the last night of March in the emergency room of a VA hospital with my godfather. He’d begun experiencing nausea and dizziness and sweating so profusely that only an icy cloth could soothe him. After he was triaged and stabilized, I positioned myself awkwardly upon my makeshift bed of three chairs of varying shapes beside his ER gurney, awaiting more information about this diagnosis: vertigo. Eventually, the doctors asked the nurses to prepare him a room so that he could stay on for further testing, and I made my way home just before dawn and slept a little before diving into the personal and family-related tasks of the day.

And so, a day later, as I prepared to sit for Day 8’s meditation, relieved that my godfather’s sudden illness was not life-threatening, I was overcome with gratitude for the luxury of time to sit and write and meditate again. How fitting that today’s centering thought connects gratitude to health: 

Every thankful moment makes me healthier.”

Yesterday during a conference call I was asked what I do to recharge my batteries after each presentation I give when serving as a youth speaker every summer. As expected, I cited yoga and meditation, but I also realized that offering yoga and meditation to my team leaders during their limited downtime also makes me feel renewed. This was curious because teaching is, of course, labor, but I realized in today’s sitting that in order to effectively guide others through these centering practices, I must first at least temporarily disengage in my own unhealthy thought patterns. Equally importantly, when I am teaching yoga or guiding students through a meditation, I experience myself as a conduit, a vessel through which the tools are being transferred, and I am filled with gratitude instead of my usual somewhat repetitive quotidien thoughts. This sensation remains after I’ve taught a meditation or asana session; my mind is more still, and I feel physically rejuvenated. I literally feel taller, balanced and more expansive, and gratitude colors the rest of my day.

And so, today Oprah’s words rang especially true for me:

Just as our arteries expand when we exercise our hearts, our optimism and resilience become an even stronger essence as we exercise gratitude...We become our healthiest, brightest and most vibrant selves.
— Oprah Winfrey, Manifesting Grace Through Gratitude, Day 8

I pray that I remember to return each day to the heart space of gratitude, which connects me to health.

May it be so.

Namaste.

Ashé.

Day 9: Changing Your Personal Reality

FORMAL SITTING: APRIL 3RD, 2019 (ONE DAY BEHIND SCHEDULE)

Centering Thought: My personal reality begins inside me.

Sanskrit Mantra: Om Hreem

(“I am the reality that unifies diversity.”)

Message of the Day:

“The thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings.”

- Henry Ward Beecher

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In today’s session Oprah and Deepak explain how the power to construct reality resides squarely in our own hands.  

You can start a new chapter anytime you choose, so honor your authenticity and live the story - your story - that no one else can live.
— Oprah Winfrey, Manifesting Grace through Gratitude, Day 9

To preface her statement, she cited Buddhist thinker Joseph Campbell: 

The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.
— Joseph Campbell

Yesterday my sweetheart and I considered the distinction between privilege and choice. There are elements of this moment on my life’s journey that feel like gifts and blessings, things unearned (in accordance with Deepak’s lesson in Day 7’s sitting), that allow for me to live a life that feels like a dream come true. To me, this feels like privilege. For my partner, however, every experience is comprised of a series of choices that culminate in the decision to have each experience. (For the record, my therapist would agree with my beloved.) It seems today’s lesson invites us to consider both perspectives as two sides of a conjoined coin.

While I often reflect on the privileges of the incredible experiences that I have been able enjoy especially recently, I don’t know if I have ever taken the time to consider these as parts in the unified whole that is who I am. What a beautiful idea Joseph Campbell brings forth! What changes in my experience of Self, in how I perceive my life, and in how I perceive the world around me would result from making the subtle shift from being grateful for the experiences of my life to being grateful to be the person who experiences them and is also compromised of these experiences themselves?

Oprah’s call to consciously live a life that is authentic to our Truth is certainly in alignment with my sweetheart’s assertion that our experiences are inherently choices. As I write this I am sitting at 9:30am on the first Wednesday morning for April, after one of my favorite NYC activities: a formal meditation practice at the MoMA as part of the Quiet Mornings series. To me every element of this is a marker of privilege: not laboring on a weekday morning; access to the museum itself; the cell phone from which I flashed my digital MoMA membership card, and the access to have acquired said membership for free; a body physically capable of sitting comfortably for an extended period of time, and the cushion upon which I so cozily perched.

So, too, exists the element of choice.

Before the sitting we were told that this morning’s event was one of the final three before a six-month hiatus. I was grateful I had chosen to rise at 5:30 this morning to commute to this sitting, and when my mind drifted off during the practice, I reminded myself that I had chosen to be here, and that being here involves then choice to stay present. Taken together, privileges and choices make these moments possible. It’s justice ingrained in my worldview that the gifts given to me (privileges) far exceed any actions (choices) I have taken to cultivate the space for them to exist.

I know that life itself is a gift, and I am so grateful for mine.

I am grateful for my life as the breath inhabiting these cells.

I am grateful for my life as is lived through my sensory experiences.

I am grateful for my life as comprised of the people, places, and opportunities that describe it.

I am grateful for my life as the collection of privileges and choices that make it nothing short of a blessing of epic proportions each and every day.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Namaste.

Ashé. 

Day 10: Gratitude Expands Every Relationship

FORMAL SITTING: APRIL 4th, 2019 (ONE DAY BEHIND SCHEDULE)

Centering Thought: Gratitude flows in a loving relationship.

Sanskrit Mantra: Namasté. 

(“I recognize my true essence in every soul I meet.”)

Message of the Day:

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

- Marcel Proust

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This afternoon I watched my godfather’s face light up when I offered to heat his simple, two-ingredient lunch for him, and stars nearly shot out of his eyes when he saw I’d brought him water with lemon slices. 


Talk about the little things! 

As I bustled around in the kitchen I heard a sweet report on the news about a couple celebrating their 82nd wedding anniversary. When the reporter inquired about their secret to such longevity in love, the wife chuckled and said, “There’s no secret. Just be kind to each other.”

A few years ago, I realized with dismay that sometimes it can be easier to be kind to strangers and to demonstrate patience with acquaintances than it is to speak with kindness and show patience with our loved ones. I am grateful for the love that surrounds me, and want to honor that love with the grace it deserves. When I began this new romantic relationship with my beloved (we call it a “crazy heart experiment”), I decided I wanted to do my part to cultivate a relationship in which my partner and I would speak to one another with a generosity that Deepak and Oprah might celebrate as grace. 


One of the first books that my sweetheart recommended was Don Miguel Ruiz’s bestseller The Four Agreements. I bought it immediately, but didn’t begin reading it until our courtship began in earnest, and reading something that had been so impactful to her helped me to understand her so much more. Thinking about how Don Miguel Ruiz’s advice impacted her worldview lent a sweetness to the text akin to having been invited to read her love letters. 

Confession: I am reluctant to absorb others’ spiritual rules wholesale, and am vehemently put off by an omniscient tone, so I did little to incorporate it into my worldview. However, in honor of the first full month of spring, my beloved and I have decided to mark each day of April by (re)committing to honor the four agreements, which (to paraphrase Don Miguel Ruiz) are:

1. To be impeccable with our word;

2. Not to take anything personally; 

3. Not to make assumptions; and

4. To do our best.


Honoring these agreements without fail each day feels a bit like aiming for the stars; it’s my hope that the intention to move with grace will ensure that I at least land somewhere on the moon. Perhaps a side effect of the presence of mind required to speak and move from these intentional places will result in a space in which gratitude will be easily accessed, grace will rule, and our “crazy heart experiment” will thrive. 


May it be so.

Namaste.

Ashé.

Day 11: Nature’s Generosity is Waiting

FORMAL SITTING: APRIL 5th, 2019 (ONE DAY BEHIND SCHEDULE)

Centering Thought:

The more grateful I am, the more my life is supported.

Sanskrit Mantra:  

Om Purnam Adah.

(Universality is wholeness.)

Message of the Day:

“The most fortunate are those who have a powerful capacity to appreciate again and again,

freshly and naively,

the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy.” - Abraham Maslow

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Last night I felt a tickle in my throat and saw the writing on the wall. I woke up to a killer sore throat, and took it easy this morning. In lieu of formally perching upon my favorite zafu, this morning I sat on my bed, one arm draped over one king size pillow, another pillow running vertically up my spine. As I listened, watching myself drift in and out of dreams, I remembered Gil Fronsdal’s words about most people being so exhausted that they need sleep more than they need to meditate. I felt my muscles twitching - a sign of stress leaving the body - and noted that today’s sitting was akin to yoga nidra.


The quote Oprah & Deepak chose for today comes from Abraham Maslow, a psychologist whose famous Hierarchy of Needs has fascinated me for years. His theory is illustrated by a pyramid, with the physical needs of food & water at the bottom, serving as a base, and self-actualization serving as a pinnacle and ultimate goal at the top: 

Physical Needs (Tier 1)

Safety (Tier 2)

Love and Belonging (Tier 3)

Esteem (Level 4)

Self-actualization (level 5)

When I was a psychology teacher, I encouraged my students to consider to consider whether or not this theory made sense in their lives, and asked whether a building block model is the most accurate depiction of a human’s ability to delegate mental resources. As my Buddhist and yogic studies have progressed, I’ve wondered how a different image of this seminal theory might better illustrate the cyclical and symbiotic relationship each of these needs has upon each of the others and on our thoughts, pursuits, and lived experiences as a whole. Most importantly, a fixed image like a pyramid alludes to permanency, as though graduating from one level means you won’t have to look back. My experience couldn’t be further from this.

No one like you has ever existed, and you cannot be replaced.
— Deepak Chopra, Manifesting Grace through Gratitude, Day 11

**TRIGGER WARNING: The rest of today’s post involves surviving suicidal ideation.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 

1-800-273-8255


Confession: when I began my meditation journey, my experience of self-esteem was probably weaker than the self-love that propelled me upon this journey of healing - which is saying a lot because that love was almost undetectable. It wasn’t that I felt I deserved to be loved, or even that I believed in myself enough to have assumed I could achieve self-actualization through meditation (SPOILER ALERT: I haven’t!). Instead, I consciously used meditation to disempower suicidal thoughts, and sometimes sitting for two or three Headspace sessions a day until the episode passed. 


As it turned out, I had unwittingly lit a roaring bonfire when I’d only intended to ignite a candle.

After a few months of dedicated practice - tears rolling down my cheeks and all - not only was my life spared, but it was fortified. Life change after life change followed, and when I had my next big heartbreak, meditation not only offered me refuge, but gave me a real benchmark for determining how much my mind had shifted. It has been at least four years since the last time I experienced suicidal ideation, and I know that mindfulness meditation was an invaluable component of my journey, and led to a sense of self-esteem and self-love that was almost palpable. And, bringing the topic back to today’s lesson, as I began to heal, gratitude overflowed and I started to see beauty everywhere!

As a trained psychotherapist, I would be remiss if I didn’t urge anyone reading this who is considering using meditation as their primary form of mental health care to consider seeking the guidance of a licensed clinician - especially if you don’t start to see results, or if troubling thoughts intensify. Working with my own therapist in conjunction with my individual work on the cushion hasn’t been a healing combination for me, but if it doesn’t work for you, please know that the same faith that is driving you to try meditation will remain with you until you find a combination that does. 

{And if you need someone with whom to brainstorm additional resources, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly: pramanawellness@gmail.com.}

Sending wishes for health in mind, body, and spirit,

Selena 

Day 12: Loving with Gratitude

FORMAL SITTING: APRIL 6TH, 2019 (ONE DAY BEHIND SCHEDULE)

Centering Thought: Love is the truest sign of grace in my life.

Sanskrit Mantra:  Aham Prema. (My true essence is divine love.)

Message of the Day:

“The more grateful we are, the more connected we become to the universe around us.”

- Stephen Richards

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Today’s session was a beautiful call to consider how we relate to the love in our lives. Deepak raised the bar, stating:

Love is already part of your awareness. You can choose to express it, or not. To give only a little love, or a lot. If you choose to give a lot, something magical happens: you become more of who you really are.
— Deepak Chopra, Manifesting Grace through Gratitude, Day 12

Deepak has spoken throughout the last several days about grace as an expression of divine love, and today, as Oprah challenged us to love even those who have harmed us, I wondered if such love - unearned and seemingly undeserved - not only feels like grace to its recipient, but actually is how the Divine manifests grace in our lives. What if our decision to allow love to override not just our grievances but also our fears is, in turn, a decision to be more connected to the Divine within ourselves? After all, what could be “more of who you really are” than divinity itself?

Loving fearlessly through gratitude is one of the most courageous things a human being can do.
— Oprah Winfrey, Manifesting Grace through Gratitude, Day 12

I recently had an experience that felt very much like the crossroad at which I could choose to continue my journey moving with  love or moving with fear.

It was the last day of my work travels abroad, and the driver I’d met only two days prior arrived with a stranger. The man I had yet to meet took the wheel, and the driver I’d hired sat in the backseat, and I sat in front, as they’d suggested. Amidst the confusion, I grew increasingly anxious. The new driver, an enthusiastic speaker, was also demonstrative and used emphatic gestures that crossed over into the passenger seat, and often literally made physical contact with me. With hours to spend in the car traveling an unfamiliar road alone with two men, I can’t even front:

I was scared. 

And then something happened. 

As anxiety mounted in step with my macabre thoughts, I acknowledged that I had a choice. I realized I could l choose to take the cheerful, if eccentric, driver at his word, or I could spend the ride freaking out. It dawned on me that everything the young man had said since the moment I got in the car was exceedingly interesting. He spoke of the history of the city, of mechanical and civil engineering, and, eventually, of meditation. Watching my own breath, I realized I could choose to let go of my fear and be fully present to enjoy the conversation, offering my input where useful, or I could stay closed off in an effort to brace myself for the worst.

I wish I could tell you I was able to let every fear go with the ease of an exhale, but that would be untrue. But I did manage to stay fully present, senses heightened, and moved between moments of fear and moments that truly felt like love in the form of friendly admiration for the wisdom and intelligence conveyed in my driver’s monologues. Once I arrived at the airport completely unharmed, I was left with the saddening, maddening realization of what it means to be a solitary female traveler. Equally importantly, though, the souvenir I would take with me was this quandary about how to overcome my experience of fear, as I strive to move faithfully from a place of love.

May it be so.

Ashé.

Day 13: Succeeding through Gratitude

FORMAL SITTING: APRIL 7TH, 2019 (ONE DAY BEHIND SCHEDULE)

Centering Thought:

I find true success through inner fulfillment.

Sanskrit Mantra:  

Om Kleem Shreem.

(I attract all divine abundance and blessings.)

Message of the Day:

“Having contentment and gratitude in the moment is the surest way to achieve success.”

- Bryant McGill

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What I know for sure is that when you are grateful and when you believe you are worthy, you will attract unimaginable abundance into your life.
— Oprah Winfrey, Manifesting Grace through Gratitude, Day 13

Reading Oprah’s words in light of my reflections on yesterday’s session made me ask:

 

Is self-esteem really the doorway to success? 

Without giving it much thought, I would have said, “no.” After all: I was able to commemorate so many milestones - becoming the first person in my family to attend college; gaining acceptance to an Ivy League institution; moving and working abroad - before really knowing self-esteem. But, truth be told, each time I was congratulated on my success, I didn’t at all feel successful. Instead, when these achievements were highlighted, I silently numbered my failures: an incomplete Ph.D.; an unfulfilling career; suicidal thoughts after every argument with my partner. Although I intuited that true success was rooted in happiness - and not the other way around - I did not know what happiness would even look like for me. 

When I decided to end my marriage, doing so felt like a direct result of my meditative and spiritual practices. I knew I was doing the only thing I possibly could under the circumstances, and yet it was not a sense of worthiness that motivated me. I became keenly aware of and grateful for the selfless support of my family who had made sacrifices for me to live as I had chosen, and felt that all of their efforts would have been in vain if I lived in misery rather than the joyful life they thought I’d found. Yet, rather than a sense of freedom, after choosing to walk away from my marriage, I was broken, overly complicated, and unloveable. Yet, more quickly than I could’ve imagined, a six-month whirlwind romance ensued that inspired a series of spontaneous choices that put me on track to create a whole new life. 


When that short-lived relationship ended, I nursed my (re)broken heart, and, despite the pain, I could not help but to acknowledge how beautifully distinct my life was from the moment one year prior when I’d made my decision to leave my marriage. I had no idea what I would do next - neither the year prior nor at that moment - but this time I knew that I was Divinely supported. I realized that when, out of habit, my brain attempted to formulate a single suicidal thought, every fiber of my being rejected it. Instead of dwelling on all that was uncertain, I gave thanks for being able to nurse my broken heart without having to do anything else but heal, and when I was exhausted from the repetition of it all, I decided it was time to do something - anything - to get my new life started.


Within days of making that decision, I landed a job interview and started commuting to Manhattan for work just as spring began to bloom. On my long walks to the Long Island Railroad I noticed birdsong and leaves budding and by the time the flowers began to bloom, I felt deeply connected to everything around me. Living as I was - supported by family in such a beautiful place - made me so grateful to have been given a new lease on life, a new chapter to write in my own verse. Deepak said it clearly:

This kind of gratitude that connects you to your source is totally life sustaining. It allows you to experience a life that really is a rising arc year after year.
— Deepak Chopra, Manifesting Grace through Gratitude, Day 13

Since that time three years ago I have watched in awe as blessing after blessing has defined my existence. Opportunities to witness beauty beyond measure, to craft my own career, and to cultivate and deepen relationships with family and friends have made my life feel like such a gift. I had a moment of panic on New Year’s Eve as I temporarily lost connection to this love and gratitude and instead was overcome by a fear that there was no way 2019 could possibly be as touched by God as had 2018. It was a classic case of the Buddhist concept of attachment, and the first time in my life I’d ever dreaded a new beginning. But as midnight passed and I listened to the sweet voice of the incredible soul who was preparing to create a new life with me, I realized that time would keep moving forward - whether or not I was prepared, ready or willing. And so I exhaled, reconnected to what was right in front of me, smiled in gratitude, decided to keep riding that rising arc, and haven’t looked back since.

Day 14: Gratitude Brings Compassion

FORMAL SITTING: APRIL 8tH, 2019 (ONE DAY BEHIND SCHEDULE)

Centering Thought:

When I have no judgment, I see everyone with kindness.

Sanskrit Mantra:  Karuna Hum.

(I am compassion.)

Message of the Day:

“We are all of one light on this one Earth, and loving humanity makes all the difference.”

- Michelle Cruz-Rosado

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Confession: I have a tendency to be a little “judgy”.

I know that being judgmental is an ugly habit that robs my surroundings of their vibrancy, and creates a vicious circle that leaves me feeling afraid of being judged myself. It’s awful. I find it a struggle to override the tendency to compare myself and others to how things “should” be - despite how subjective I know such judgments are! 

I’ve been aware of and actively working on diminishing - if not outright abolishing - this bad habit for years, and the one thing that has helped most has been when I’ve been able to cultivate real empathy for the recipient of my judgment. Taking the time to think, “I know what that’s like,” helps to ease whatever policing attitude is overriding my better instincts. Eventually, the act of imagining myself in the other person’s shoes evolved into an understanding that the person is either acting with the best intentions I’m mind, or is simply doing their best. When I choose to remember that we all do the best we can at any given moment based on what we have at our psychoemotional disposal, the icy layer melts. Finding compassion has allowed me to start to back off from even the greatest target of my judgmental thoughts: myself. 

When I’m having a rough day or otherwise find it hard to conjure compassion, gratitude becomes the perfect reinforcement. If I am being judgmental towards a stranger, I take a moment to find gratitude for whatever resource that afforded me the privilege to be able to behave differently than the target of my shade. If the person I lack compassion for is someone I know, it can help to think of something I admire about them - and if it’s someone I love, frustration, anger, and other emotions blocking me from compassion begin to dissipate once I remember that I am grateful for their presence in my life. 

Compassion is recognizing what links us together. It’s the knowing that because you are human and I am human then we really are more alike than we could ever be different.
— Oprah Winfrey, Manifesting Grace through Gratitude, Day 14

Tonight I pray that as I continue my meditation journey, my first instinct when interacting with others will be to remember that we are all one, and when I’m being too harsh on myself, to remember that I have cared enough about becoming the best version of myself that I continue to walk this path.

After all, it’s called a “practice” for a reason.

May it be so.

Ashé. 

Day 15: Seeing the Big Picture, Becoming the Big Picture

FORMAL SITTING: APRIL 9tH, 2019 (ONE DAY BEHIND SCHEDULE)

Centering Thought: By living my wholeness, I become complete.

Sanskrit Mantra:  

Om Purnam Idam.

(Individuality is wholeness.)

Message of the Day:

“True wisdom is being able to say ‘it is what it is’ with a smile of celebratory wonder on your face.”

- Eric Micha’el Leventhal

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I have long interpreted the phrase “it is what it is” to be a 2000’s twist on the 1990’s “whatever”. It always feels dismissive when someone responds to a question about their feelings in this way, and even a little defeatist. Which is why today’s quote from Micha’el Leventhal made me pause. What would it mean to say this phrase not as a sign of giving up hope, but of joyously embracing the great mystery of life? 


The other day I wrote about how at times I wish I could summon the ability to be present, mindful and joyful even in situations that cause me fear or discomfort. To be able to say “it is what it is” in relief, knowing that I can only bring my best intentions to a moment sounds like true freedom!

But can I do it?


Today Deepak’s lesson about generosity of spirit seemed to epitomize what I would like to be able to achieve: 

Generosity of spirit mirrors grace itself...Generosity of spirit means that you are open with everyone...you see them with kindness instead of judgment and criticism. You don’t pass up a chance to show appreciation.
— Deepak Chopra, Manifesting Grace through Gratitude, Day 15

To be able to smile genuinely, enraptured by the beauty in each moment and every interaction is also an act of grace. And so, tonight my prayer is that as this journey of Manifesting Grace Through Gratitude enters its third and final week, I will begin to make heartfelt choices that imbue my days with grace.

May it be so.

Ashé. 

Day 16: The Hidden Secret of Being

FORMAL SITTING: APRIL 10TH, 2019 (ONE DAY BEHIND SCHEDULE)

Centering Thought:

Every day, my Being seeks new ways to expand.

Sanskrit Mantra:

Ananta Swa Bhava

(My true self has no limits or boundaries.)

Message of the Day:

“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”

- Thich Nhat Hanh 

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How beautiful is today’s Thich Nhat Hanh quote? To me it conjures images of dancers and butterflies, and a kind of grace that, quite frankly, until today I’d assumed was utterly distinct from the grace we’ve been discussing throughout this meditation experience. Today’s message serves as an invitation to reconsider what it means to be graceful. 


The first person who recommended Gary Zulav’s Seat of the Soul to me not only encouraged people to move from a place of love rather than a place of fear, but also to “move with grace”. Oprah’s messages today encourage us to be present for the moments of grace that serve as a reprieve and a reminder that even if we cannot see it, light abounds.

The secret of being lives in the moment you break through your own clouds, the clouds that block light, love, and warmth from filling your spirit.
— Oprah Winfrey, Manifesting Grace through Gratitude, Day 16

Perhaps one way we may consider moving with grace may be to simply permit ourselves to let go of the clouds that separate us from our natural state of joy. This act of grace cultivates levity akin to the gracefulness Thich Nhat Hanh suggests. And so tonight my prayer is that I will mercifully grant myself the freedom to be warmed by and imbued with the light that surrounds us all. 

May it be so.

Namaste.

Ashé.

Day 17: Making Grace a Way of Life

FORMAL SITTING: APRIL 13TH, 2019 (THree DAYs BEHIND SCHEDULE)

Centering Thought: Grace is perfect even when my life isn’t.

Sanskrit Mantra: Vratam Ahum  (I am the consciousness that accepts life with wisdom.)

Message of the Day:

“All that we have and don’t have is a grace.”

- Mac MacKenzie

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The last few days I’ve been caught up in the stress of the impending Tax Day. 2018 was the first year I made money entirely as an independent contractor, and was responsible for saving and anticipating my taxes accordingly. And I was, have been, and am terrified that I’ve been doing it all wrong. In fact, this fear - of moving along our paths incorrectly - is one that has come up within my circle quite a bit lately. One of my friends revealed on her podcast how the time between graduation and landing her dream job took a huge toll on her confidence. While my partner watches in amazed gratitude as opportunity after opportunity rains down upon her only a few months after quitting her day job, the short time frame of her wait in no way diminishes the anxiety that arose when she made her leap of faith. My own journey toward crafting a career path authentically bespoke to my soul’s purpose has been only comparatively longer. Sometimes F.O.M.O. gets the better of me as a worry that I’m growing too slowly, while often I am in awe of how I have received exactly as many blessings as I could assimilate into my life at any given moment. My mother once said that it sounded to her as though I were afraid of success. My neck was sore after she came for it, and I haven’t forgotten how true her words felt.

We are responsible for our own life story, and the responsibility grows when you decide to take charge of your story, not blaming, projecting, or depending on someone else...By taking control, you also claim rights to the joy and bliss of your story, to the rewards of a life lived in grace.
— Deepak Chopra, Manifesting Grace through Gratitude, Day 17

Today’s lesson made me question that which I do as acts of responsibility, and that which I perform as a celebration of my rights. My therapist has encouraged me to give myself at least a fraction of the credit I assign to the Divine for my achievements, and Deepak’s words help me to understand why such a choice could radically shift my experience of success. What I do know is that when I show up for my responsibilities and put in the effort with a pure heart by doing the work for the joy of the work itself, the Universe supports me by blessing me with even more. There is joy and bliss in the flow itself, and perhaps that, too, is grace.

And so it is.

Ashé. 

Day 18: The Awards of the Higher Self

FORMAL SITTING: APRIL 14TH, 2019 (THREE DAYS BEHIND SCHEDULE)

Centering Thought: My higher self is with me all the time.

Sanskrit Mantra: Sanatana Hum (I experience myself as ever-present.)

Message of the Day:

“You will never accept gratitude as a solution to your problems, until you have reached acceptance.”

- Shannon L. Adler

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We’ve mentioned ‘the higher self’ and ‘the true self’ several times. They are the same in essence: a self that goes beyond the ego.
— Deepak Chopra, Manifesting Grace through Gratitude, Day 18

Today’s lesson was positively serendipitous. 

Yesterday, caught up in the excitement of a day off with my sweetheart by my side, and I’d forgotten to check-in with myself to set an intention to honor the four agreements. Speaking of the cuff, I indulged in self-deprecating humor that was anything but funny, and by the end of the day my words had played a toll on my own confidence. Despite a sweet conversation with my beloved before bed, my dreams were fraught with struggles of the ego. When I awoke this morning my personal challenge for the day was clear: to use the four agreements to keep me connected to my higher self.

Your ego and your higher self behave differently, but they are intimately connected. The lower self dominates when you believe first and foremost in the material world. The higher self dominates when you believe first and foremost in consciousness.
— Deepak Chopra, Manifesting Grace through Gratitude, Day 18

During this morning’s sitting, I realized that holding both my ego and my higher self in one being is a little like a picture from the 1990s Magic Eye optical illusion books. When I’m intently focused, zooming in, I’m typically churning away on a project, attempting to be dutiful. I may see the hidden image, but it is fleeting and a struggle to maintain. But when I relax into to the larger purpose connecting each of my chosen tasks and my life as a whole, not only does everything become clearer, but I breathe easier and I am able to use my peripheral vision to take in the surrounding landscape as well as the constructed image. 

This morning my prayer is that I will hold work towards my goals with an easeful heart, gentle mind, and ample breath, moving with grace and faith in the direction of my journey.

May it be so.

Ashé. 

Day 19: The Path to Total Transformation 

FORMAL SITTING: APRIL 15TH, 2019 (THREE DAYS BEHIND SCHEDULE)

Centering Thought:

My inner light is guiding me.

Sanskrit Mantra: Atma Prakasha

(My True self shines with its own light.)

Message of the Day:

“It is only through thanksgiving that I can become myself.” 

- Kallistos Ware

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Once, when I was going through a rough patch and had no idea which direction my life would take, someone asked me how I pictured my future self. Instead of envisioning an older, wiser version of myself, I first conjured an image a woman who had the grace of Angela Bassett, the wisdom of Maya Angelou, and the patience of...well...a great-grandmother: gentle, nonjudgmental, and warm. I envisioned the woman I hope to become as a home to everyone. 


And yet, somehow in my mind’s eye, even this perfect figure of openness, surrounded by a village of loved ones, was apart from the others. When not sought out for guidance, she was alone. 

But she was happy!

Maybe this image of my ideal self didn’t experience sadness without a partner, children and grandchildren of her own because she was fueled by a connection to the Divine that was so integral to her experience of herself that she had no sense of lack. Her endless well of love was filled by her inner light.

Say ‘thank you,’ because God has put a rainbow in every cloud, and the rainbow is coming. Say ‘thank you’ even though you can’t see it, ‘cause it’s already there...Prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud.
— Maya Angelou

No matter which version of my future self awaits on the horizon, I know that I will grow closer to my highest Self if I am generous with my light, am grateful for the understanding that my light shines eternal, and remember that my light connects me to the Divine.

May it be so.

Namaste.

Ashé.

Day 20: The Highest Love is Grace

FORMAL SITTING: APRIL 16TH, 2019 (THREE DAYS BEHIND SCHEDULE)

Centering Thought:

I allow love to come to my aid.

Sanskrit Mantra:

Aroot Perum Jothi

(I am the light of divine grace.)

Message of the Day:

“Love is such a deep gratitude. When you are truly in love with life, every breath you take is gratitude.” - Bryant McGill

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The first time I felt in love with my life was not long ago. In the past I had certainly felt grateful for experiences I was enjoying, and grateful that I was living in this historical time and place, but being in love with my life itself was a novel experience.

As I began to pay more attention to the elements of my days - to the unique aspects of my surroundings, to the places I see each day, the restaurants I frequent, the exercise that I’ve built into my favorite commute, the people with whom I laugh and share stories - I began to realize how full my life is. Viewed differently, the more grateful I felt for all that formed part of the life I am living, the more in love with this life I became. 

You are an essential part of all there is and all that brought us here. You are one with the source of creation simply because you are here on Earth. That, my friends, is the truest of loves: enduring, everlasting, infinite love.
— Oprah Winfrey, Manifesting Grace through Gratitude, Day 20

It is a gift to see beauty everywhere, but it is life changing to realize that you, too, form part of that beauty. To consider yourself part of nature’s bounty is both a profound act of self love and an act of grace. Tonight my prayer is that we will each remember that we are nothing less than a manifestation of Divine love.

Namaste. 

Day 21: Seeing With The Eyes of the Soul

FORMAL SITTING: APRIL 17TH, 2019 (THREE DAYS BEHIND SCHEDULE)

Centering Thought: My soul sees only light everywhere.

Sanskrit Mantra:

Twam Eva Sarvam

(My true self is everything I hold dear.)

Message of the Day:

“Living in constant love and gratitude is the essence of spirituality.” - Akemi G.

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Seeing with the eyes of the soul allows you to unmask beauty and truth and everything that is real. You are awakened to life’s perfection at every moment.
— Oprah Winfrey, Manifesting Grace through Gratitude, Day 21

When it was time to select a mentor for my advanced yoga teacher training, I opted for one whose pedagogical approach reflects the deeply held belief that each and every one of us already has a great teacher within. This belief is reflected in the quiet, slow, and focused nature of his class, a space he carefully cultivates to encourage practitioners to focus within. The result of such a practice, on and off the mat, is that we learn to trust our inner guide. 

You may have noticed throughout my reflections on this meditation experience (as well as in my writings during Sharon Salzberg’s 28-Day Real Happiness Challenge), that I would sometimes ponder something inspired by that day’s lesson, but with words or phrases that popped up almost verbatim in the title, centering thought, mantra translation, or quotes of a later lesson. This is neither by design nor coincidence. Neither is it the result of memorizing nor peeking ahead at what was to come. Instead, what I’ve found over the last few years of practice and study is that people from all over the world and across traditions tap into the same set of truths, and end up speaking the same spiritual language.

During this morning’s sitting as my thoughts drifted for the fifth, sixth, or eleventh time to the quotidian decisions yet to be made for the day, I remembered Deepak’s description in an earlier lesson about how we can tell the difference between moments when we’re tapping into the ego and moments when we’re leaning into our higher self. With eyes closed, I zoomed out to the bigger picture, letting the tedious, mundane thoughts melt away, and was completely enveloped in light. I eased into a joy so beautiful that I had to remind myself not to cling to the experience. I felt as though I had expanded beyond the tiny focus of my daily plans, and the peripheral view was breathtaking.

Today my prayer is that I will remember to zoom out, to see with my soul’s eyes, and witness the greater beauty that connects us all. 

May it be so.

Namaste.

Ashé.

Day 22: Achieving Wholeness 

FORMAL SITTING: APRIL 17TH, 2019 (Two DAYS BEHIND SCHEDULE)

Centering Thought:

Separation is an illusion. I am whole and complete.

Sanskrit Mantra:

Aham Brahmasmi

(The true nature of my self is the wholeness of the universe.)

Message of the Day:

“This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.”

- Maya Angelou 

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Wholeness is the life we are born to live, a life of gentleness, love, grace, kindness, and beauty.
— Deepak Chopra, Manifesting Grace through Gratitude, Day 22

What does wholeness mean to you? 

In this bonus lesson and meditation, Deepak has chosen to define wholeness in a way that includes so much more than having all that we need to survive. For him, an integral part of living a whole life includes elements that we may be tempted to think of as superfluous. It may be helpful to consider:

How might valuing gentleness impact your interactions?

When, where, and with whom do you allow love to flow in abundance?

What would be different if you performed your quotidian functions with grace?

What were some of the kind thoughts you had toward others today? Toward yourself? 

How many beautiful moments and experiences can you notice, reflect on, and/or appreciate tomorrow?

The beauty, the wonder that exists all around us also lives in us. You - magnificent and unique - are every bit as awe-inspiring and whole as the night sky and as the waves of the ocean.
— Oprah Winfrey, Manifesting Grace through Gratitude, Day 22

Tonight as I draw this journey to a close, I share one final prayer:


May gratitude and grace fill your heart.

May you be happy.

May you be healthy. 

May you live with ease.

May you relish in your wholeness.

And may the light that sustains you and connects us all continue to guide you toward your highest Self.


Namaste.

Ashé.

Selena Brown