7 comments on “Nourishing the Way: Feeding the Birds”

Nourishing the Way: Feeding the Birds

Excerpt from The Magic Ten and Beyond by Sharon Gannon

The secret to wealth is to give generously to others. Whatever we give will come back to us many times over. 

Remembering God and being kind to others is the most important job that any of us has in this life. Being kind to others is the essential ingredient to being able to remember God— to be able to see ultimate reality. Developing kindness and compassion toward others is the sure way to happiness. But how does that work?, you might ask: Doesn’t being kind to others in a charitable way only benefit the others? No. Kindness benefits both the other and yourself. Others do not exist independently; they have come from your past karmas. They only exist in your life because you see them as existing. The Hindu sage Patanjali explains this in the Yoga Sutras: vastu- samye chitta-bhedat tayor vibhaktah panthah PYS IV. 15. This can be translated to mean: each individual person perceives the same object in a different way, according to their own state of mind and projections. Everything is empty from its own side and appears to you according to how you see it. 

When you are unkind to someone, you plant a seed to see unkindness. For example, you judge someone as a greedy person. As soon as you think or say that, you plant a seed that will ensure that greedy people will appear in your life. 

When you see yourself as poor, as not having enough to be able to share and be generous to others, you plant seeds for seeing yourself as a victim of poverty, and that will become your reality as you continue to nourish that perception of yourself. You have a choice: you can see yourself as an enlightened being or as a victim, but you can’t have both. If you eventually want to see yourself as an enlightened being, then begin that process by seeing others as holy beings. How you treat others will determine how others treat you; how others treat you will determine how you see yourself; how you see yourself will determine who you are. 

If you want to rid the world of greed, you must destroy the seeds in your own mind that cause greed to appear in the world. In other words, you must do your best to be kind to others— to take care of others as if they were your own self. Other- centeredness is the secret to overcoming the disease of self-centeredness. Put others before yourself. Be more concerned for the happiness of others than for your own happiness. This will dissolve otherness and reveal the oneness of being.

Kindness is the key to Yoga. 

Without the development of kindness toward others, you cannot make progress in yoga. Taking care of others is a sure way to increase your own happiness. When we do things with the intention, first and foremost, of making ourselves happy, we only increase our identification with our small self— our body, mind, and personality. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali cites this identification as the major obstacle to Yoga, calling it avidya, which means ignorance or mistaken identity. The yoga practices are designed to help you drop your self-centered concerns and become more other- centered. Being more other-centered expands your sense of self and increases true self-confidence. If you observe unhappy and depressed people you will find that they usually are self-obsessed. The key to uplifting yourself is to do what you can to uplift the lives of others. 

Why birds? When you feed the wild birds, you karmically assure that you will always have enough to eat and that wildness will not die inside you. Birds as well as other wild animals are having a hard time surviving in a world dominated by self-centered human beings. When you nourish wildness in another you keep it alive within yourself. Most people assume that birds, being wild, know how to take care of themselves, and feel that taking care of them should not be our responsibility. But the fact is, we have polluted with pesticides or destroyed most of the wild forests and fields where they might have been able to find an abundance of nourishing food. Birds require so little to live— a few good organic seeds and a couple of drops of fresh water— and while it may not be much, it can mean the difference between life and death for a feathered person. 

THE PRACTICE Before you feed yourself— even before you drink a cup of coffee or tea in the morning— feed the birds. Fill up a bird feeder outside your window or at least put some organic seeds or bread crumbs on a windowsill. If wild birds aren’t nearby, feed your cat, dog, or other family member.

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Editor’s note: Published by permission of the author.

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6 comments on “Should Yoga Become Part of the School Day?”

Should Yoga Become Part of the School Day?

Early in March 2018, the introduction of yoga into the schools of Denver, Colorado, hit the headlines. Instead of using the traditional, punitive approach in response to bad behavior, the schools are using the time usually dedicated to detention, in order to teach yoga. The overarching aim is to give children the necessary tools they need to to become aware of their emotions, and through self-regulation they can start to avoid making the same mistakes again. But while the benefits of yoga for adults are well known, can children find yoga enjoyable and beneficial? And if so, how can schools use yoga to help improve the lives of their students?

Yoga and Physical Health

The health of a child is undoubtedly a big worry for parents, and more broadly speaking for society as a whole. In the US around one in three kids and teenagers are classified as overweight or obese, creating a host of health issues that historically haven’t been prevalent in children. High blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and high blood cholesterol levels are all issues that are increasing among children, and while obesity isn’t always the sole cause for these conditions, they do increase their likelihood.

There are also the more invisible, but no less damaging problems with low self-esteem, depression, and negative body image.  One in five young people live with a diagnosable mental health condition and half of these develop the condition by the age of 14.  Many more also struggle with feelings of anxiety, body dissatisfaction, and sadness, even if they aren’t clinically diagnosed as “unwell.”

There are a variety of reasons why young people face these issues, from the much debated use and influence of social media, to a lack of emotional support and complex social groups, but one obvious contributing factor is a lack of physical activity. According to a 2009 study by Schulz, Anner, and Hills, only 42 percent of children six to 11 years of age met the daily recommendation for 60 minutes a day of exercise. This already seems fairly low, but by the time they reach the age range of 12 to 19, that number drops drastically to only 8 percent.

Children who are overweight are more likely to develop musculoskeletal problems, reducing their levels of activity further. From a physical perspective, introducing yoga into schools simply provides an opportunity for exercise. By supporting their own body weight through certain yogic poses, yoga can build strength and improve bone density, helping to prevent any musculoskeletal issues in the future. For children unused to exercise, yoga offers a gentle, low impact introduction to exercise that not only helps in the short-term, but can help to provide the foundation for future behavior and a lifetime of healthy habits.

The more you practice yoga, the more you become aware of your body and your thoughts, and it’s this increased awareness that can help to reinforce positive behavior in a child’s life. If you eat healthily for a couple of days or week, it’s likely that you’ll notice a bigger effect on your mood and energy levels after eating takeout or a burger.  Healthy habits provide contrast for the things that aren’t always great for us, and if children become interested and passionate about yoga through lessons at school, these healthier choices become easier to make, and easier to maintain.

Wellbeing for Young People

We all know that lack of exercise and being overweight carries health risks, but approaching children about this particular topic can often be fraught with complications. Studies have shown that parents who place too much emphasis on physical appearance and weight (such as, by putting a child on a restrictive diet and commenting on their size) can cause a host of emotional problems that can, at times, last a lifetime. In certain circumstances and at the more extreme end of the spectrum, it can even lead to eating disorders.

The beauty of yoga is that by its very nature, it’s both non-judgmental and non-competitive. Yoga is an extremely personal practice where the focus is internal, not on external forces or how our bodies compare with anyone else.  This can be particularly helpful for children who feel they struggle in competitive sports. Yoga really is for everybody, for all abilities and while everyone starts at a different place, yoga is an opportunity to teach children how their body is unique to them. While some may naturally have the ambition to get better at certain poses, others can simply enjoy yoga for what it is.

Mental Health and Yoga

It can’t be overestimated how much our mental health impacts our health as a whole, especially for the very young. A teenager who feels depressed or worthless is far more likely to neglect their own self-care, and their feelings can often color the way they interact with the world. A child who feels fearful or anxious may overeat for comfort, while another may avoid socializing and making friends.

Yoga doesn’t only give children the chance to take more care of their physical health, but a wealth of studies have repeatedly demonstrated how it reduces stress, helps with anxiety and alleviates depression. It can also be the source of confidence for young people, teaching kids to love and accept themselves for who they are. By providing a point of calm in their lives, the chance to develop an awareness of their feelings, and the tools to deal with any negative emotions (such as breathing exercises when they find their temper flaring), teaching yoga to children can help them regulate their own behavior.

Daily yoga routines teaches children that relaxation is both important and encouraged, and can offer a refuge from the stresses of an increasingly complicated world. This support to children’s physical and mental health doesn’t only benefit them, but can help to foster a school culture of calmness and understanding. Mindfulness programs that include yoga have been found to increase both self-compassion and empathy for others, and if all children practice yoga, then problems with bullying and lack of compassion should – to a certain extent – begin to improve.

Cost Effective Measure

Teaching is considered one of the most stressful occupations in the United States, and employee retention is increasingly poor; in Arkansas, 40% of teachers leave the classroom after just five years, and in the 2017/2018 school year, teacher shortages were affecting every state.

Stress is a major factor in absenteeism and high staff turnover, and fewer people are enrolling to become teachers due to its high-pressure reputation. All this increases the costs associated within the school system, and schools are finding themselves short-staffed. Put simply, teacher stress and burnout have been an ongoing challenge throughout much of the education system.

While there are relatively few studies investigating the effects of mindfulness training for teachers, a pilot study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that teachers who practiced mindfulness reported improvement in depression and stress, and a greater level of accepting without judgment.

While there needs to be more comprehensive scientific research, early findings strongly suggest that mindfulness (which can be achieved through yoga) within schools leads to improvements in: working memory, attention, academic skills, social skills, emotional regulation, and self-esteem, as well as self-reported improvements in mood and decreases in anxiety, stress, and fatigue.

The overarching hypothesis is that the practice of mindfulness and yoga is associated with a reduced risk of burnout, and the improvement of symptoms associated with stress, depression and anxiety,  could help to foster more effective classroom teaching practices.

When all these factors are considered together, making yoga part of school appears to be a sensible and beneficial approach, and one that can significantly improve the school environment both for children and those responsible for them.

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img_0353-1Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Heather Mason, a yoga teacher and founder of The Minded Institute, a center of yoga therapy in London who works with health professionals to create programs supporting those living with mental health and chronic physical health issues. Heather became interested in the use of mind-body therapies after her own experience of depression and anxiety, training over many years and across the globe in yoga and yoga therapy. Follow Heather on Twitter and Facebook.

3 comments on “The Transformational Power of Journaling”

The Transformational Power of Journaling

After surviving an emotionally and physically abusive stepfather, multiple arrests, six years in high school, and time in drug rehab, I managed to become a lawyer and business owner. In order for me to continue on the right track and cope with the trauma I endured  I needed tools to help me become the best version of myself. To that end, I created a morning routine that would set me up to be able to blaze my own path to true fulfillment.

After my morning meditation, I would go straight to my journal, pick up my pen, and write non-stop for three pages, or more, on whatever came to my mind. I wrote about anything as long as I was being honest and I was speaking truth to myself.  The key was, once my pen hit the paper, I didn’t pick it up until the three pages were written. At first, three full pages seemed like a daunting task. But, as I got used writing, daily, I could not only easily write the three pages I could surpass that if I wanted to. I noticed positive changes to my life almost immediately.

Here’s what happened after I started to journal on a consistent basis:

1. My Day Was More Focused and Productive. After getting all my thoughts down on paper I was able to set my mind to my daily tasks and activities. Without the burden of things I may be worried about I was able to see clearly what I needed to get done for the day and what I wanted for my life. I wasn’t bothered with all my fears and thoughts because I wrote them down earlier in the day.

2. I Was Able to Express Myself Better. Once I knew what was on my mind and what I wanted for my life–because I had written it down–I went out in the world with more confidence and better self-esteem. I was able to share what I wanted with others and knew how to articulate it.

3. I Became More Creative. Writing constantly provided me an outlet to share my ideas without being judged by anyone.  Sure, I wrote down some silly ideas, but I also wrote down ways I could become better, how to deal with people, and the best ways to resolve conflicts.

4. It Relieved Stress. Instead of keeping everything bottled up, journaling was an outlet that set me free. My worries were left on paper and that’s where they stayed.

5. I Was Able to See Things in a Different Perspective. When I was “free writing” I would write down things I didn’t even know I was thinking and learn things about myself and what I thought about a certain situation.

6. It Provided a History of My Life. Was I growing as a person? I can now look back at entries and see what I was thinking at a certain time in my life and how I addressed certain situations. Am I evolving and growing? My journal gave me the answer because I was always honest with it.

7. It Magnified Things I Needed to Change. If I kept writing the same issue or problem over and over again on a daily basis, it was clear it was something I needed to address.

8. It’s an Easy Way to Start my Day Off with Gratitude. If I couldn’t think of anything to write, I always had things to be thankful for. I’d just write down what I was grateful for and it would lead to other things to write about.

Grab a notebook and a pen and start journaling today–don’t wait!

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[Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Kyle Robinson. Kyle was born in Chicago, Illinois, and has lived all over the U.S. including Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Ohio, California, Michigan, and New York. Raised, in part, by a stepfather who didn’t know how to love, Kyle struggled through high school, was arrested several times, and went to drug rehab. Eventually, Kyle straightened out his life, attended college, and graduated law school. Ultimately, Kyle quit his corporate job and started his own business. Kyle received a B.A. in Political Science from Kent State University and his J.D. from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan. Kyle is a writer, speaker, and avid ultra runner. He currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio with his dog Booker. Follow Kyle on his website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.]

6 comments on “8 Things That Happened After I Meditated For 100 Days”

8 Things That Happened After I Meditated For 100 Days


I am not a yogi, a life coach, or a yoga teacher. In fact, I am probably the furthest thing from what you would call a yogi. I was raised, in part, by a physically and emotionally abusive step father. I struggled as a teenager and young adult. I failed my junior year of high school not once, but twice. I spent time in drug rehabilitation, and have been arrested more than my fair share of times.

But eventually, I turned my life around and became a lawyer, entrepreneur, and an advocate of a healthy lifestyle. I also want the best possible life for everyone I encounter. I know for certain that meditation must to be part of the equation to lead an amazing life.

I’ve only recently begun to experience what meditation has to offer. I’d read about the benefits of meditation for many years, but never really took it upon myself to develop a practice. I tried meditating here and there for no more than 5-10 minutes at a time, but decided to see what would happen if I committed to 20 minutes of meditation a day for just one week.

That first week turned into a month, which turned into three months, and before I knew it — 100 days. I meditated every day first thing in the morning without taking a day off for the entire duration.

When I first started meditating I couldn’t sit still, my back hurt during it and my legs fell asleep. It felt more like I was trying to adjust to the sitting, more than I was trying to focus on my breathing. It wasn’t long before I’d wish it was over and I would sit there trying to convince myself not to open my eyes.

I did eventually get used to focusing on my breath, though, and my body began to naturally adjust to what was initially an awkward posture for me. And the more I meditated, the more I found ways to sit that were even more comfortable. Meditation soon became a necessary part of my morning routine which I actually looked forward to and created a domino effect, positively impacting all aspects of my life.

Here are eight things that happened after I meditated every day, for 100 days:

1. My days started to become more focused.

As I started to think clearer, I got much more accomplished. My mind seemed more organized. I would focus on one task at hand, complete it and then move easily onto the next. My mind wasn’t racing about what I should be doing, or if what I was doing wasn’t being done fast enough. I just stayed in the moment and completed what I needed to, and then moved on.

2. I started to think more before I spoke.

Before developing a daily meditation habit, I would just react to people and situations with the first thing that came into my mind. But now I pause a bit, think about what I’m going to say, and then respond more mindfully. This pause helps me to articulate what I want to say and ensure what I will be saying is actually necessary and helpful. Then after I speak, I think back on whether I responded to the situation to the best of my ability, or if there was anything better I could do next time. I never had this level of self-reflection before.

3. I am nicer and more empathic. 

Things just don’t seem to bother me as much any more! During traffic, I am more patient. I don’t mind waiting in long lines so much. I started to look at situations from the perspective of others to see where they might be coming from. This completely changed the way I interact with other people.

4. I have more energy.

I am able sleep better at night and wake up fully charged ready to go. When I am finished with my workday, I still have more energy to go for a run or go out with friends.

5. I eat better.

I make better decisions when I am at the grocery store or at restaurants. I really ask myself how the food will really make me feel, and I base my purchase or decision on that answer.

6. I watch less TV.

My desire for watching television has decreased dramatically. Instead, I focus on the things which can make me a better person. I find myself reading, running, reaching out to friends, or working on my website.

7. I feel more connected to nature.

I take notice to stop and appreciate all the beautiful things that surround me. Whether it’s a tree or a sunset, I pause and realize that it is truly a miracle and I try to soak in that moment and be fully present.

8. I am an overall better version of myself.

This is probably one of the best benefits of meditation. I know who I truly am and what I am capable of. I share my feelings with others more openly. I have the courage to be who I really am — I take more risks, knowing that it the only way I can truly grow. I know what’s important in life and that I can accomplish anything that I really want.

These are just a few things that changed when I started to meditate, and I can’t say for sure all of this happened after one day, or 100 days. What I do know is that I am no longer the same person I was 100 days ago. I am a happier person because I am a more authentic version of myself.

If all of these changes happen after just 100 days, I can’t wait to see what happens after 200 or even 1,000! Try just 20 minutes of meditation every day for 100 days, and I’m sure you will never look at yourself or your life in the same way.

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[Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Kyle Robinson. Kyle was born in Chicago, Illinois, and has lived all over the U.S. including Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Ohio, California, Michigan, and New York. Raised, in part, by a stepfather who didn’t know how to love, Kyle struggled through high school, was arrested several times, and went to drug rehab. Eventually, Kyle straightened out his life, attended college, and graduated law school. Ultimately, Kyle quit his corporate job, started his own business. Kyle received a B.A. in Political Science from Kent State University and his J.D. from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan. Kyle is a writer, speaker, and avid ultra runner. He currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio with his dog Booker. Follow Kyle on his website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.]