BLOG: On the Lam
with Chrissie Lam
I’ve traveled a LOT. To over 100 countries. I can tell you from experience that my favorite part of traveling isn’t the food (amazing), meeting new people (even better), or the Instagram opportunities (they’re plentiful). No, my favorite part of traveling is this reminder that there are other cultures, other ways of life, that are so different from my own. Traveling has enabled me to discover worldviews and practices that resonate, and to incorporate them into the fabric of my own life and business.
One of these practices is yoga. I know what you’re thinking—it doesn’t take 100+ countries worth of airfare to discover yoga, especially in cities like New York and San Francisco where studios are popping up with more frequency than Starbucks. But I’m not talking about doing a few vinyasas to Macy Gray and grabbing a green juice after. When I think about the practice of yoga, I think about it in its purest form: as a lifestyle practice, rather than a one-hour class.
Did you know that there are eight limbs of yoga? These limbs serve as guideposts for living a meaningful and purposeful life, and help to connect to your true self, which is the ultimate purpose of yoga. They are:
Yama - Ethics
Niyama - Self-disciplinary practices
Asana - Physical poses (yoga practice as you know it)
Pranayama - Breathing
Dharana - Intense focus or concentration
Dhyana - Contemplation, meditation
Samadhi - Transcendence, bliss, or enlightenment
I could spend literal days talking about each of these limbs, because they are each distinct, complex principles, but for the purpose of brevity, I’m going to focus on a personal favorite: dhyana.
When’s the last time you heard the mantra “happiness is a choice?” It’s always dropped so casually, by a well-meaning friend trying to pull you out of a moment of despair, or by a self-help guru giving a pep talk. It always rang hollow to me until I discovered dhyana, and here’s why.
Dhyana is the practice of pure focus; of quieting the mind and controlling thoughts, of practicing mindfulness. We’re taught from a young age that we can’t control thoughts or feelings but can only choose how we react to them, and that’s really not true.
Meditation builds on principles learned in asana and pranayama (breathing) to allow us to learn to empty our minds, to watch thoughts float by without judgment or reaction, and to break the cycle of repetitive or stressful thoughts. In other words, meditation is a kind of exercise for the mind, one that’s at once incredibly challenging and incredibly rewarding. That strengthening allows us to naturally de-stress, and to do something so lofty as choose happiness.
How to Meditate
Meditation is something that true yogis spend tens of thousands of hours learning. It’s called a practice because there is no end; the benefit comes not from some accomplishment, but from repetition and consistency.
The good news is that meditation doesn’t require any special space or equipment, and it doesn’t have to consume a lot of time, either. You can do it at home on the couch, on a plane or train, and for just 5-10 minutes at a time to start reaping the benefits.
Starting is as simple as sitting. Grab a chair, place your hands where it’s comfortable, and close your eyes. From here on out, you’ll be focusing on your breath, acknowledging thoughts as they float by but not reacting. It’s the beginning of the process of learning mindfulness.
Where to Learn More
If I’ve managed to pique your interest on meditation, here are a few of my favorite resources for learning meditation in an approachable way.
- The Yoga Sutras of Pantajali by Sri Swami Satchidananda: The seminal work on yoga, and a complete guide to practicing meditation and mindfulness.
- The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice by T.K.V. Desikachar: An excellent exploration of viniyoga and developing an impactful practice that’s responsive to your own needs with regards to age, health, and lifestyle.
- Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda: Written by a yogi for yogis, and considered one of the most influential books in disseminating yoga practices in the West.
- Bhagavad-Gita: The Song of God translated by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood: One of the great religious texts of the world, and the gospel of Hinduism. This translation is approachable and understandable for everyone.
- The Tibetan Book of the Dead translated by Padma Sambhava and Robert Thurman: This Buddhist classic provides basic instruction on meditation and the use of prayers, appropriate for all skill levels.
- Meditation for the Love of It by Sally Kempton: With 40+ years experience as a meditator and teacher, Sally has practical advice on your meditation practice and connecting with your inner self.
- Tara Brach podcasts: Tara blends Western psychology and Eastern meditation practices in her guided meditations and exploratory podcasts.
While books, podcasts, and apps can be great resources, nothing replaces in-person instruction. These are some of my favorite studios and retreats to help you disconnect from the external world, and connect with an entirely new world within yourself.
- Bali Usada TB 1, 2 and 3: Learn health meditation in the lush forests of Indonesia under the dedicated tutelage of holistic intuitive healer Merta Ada.
- Self-Realization Fellowship Student Lessons: Founded by Yogananda, Self-Realization Fellowship teaches Kriya yoga and other aspects of spiritual living through their take-home Student Lessons.
- Buddha and the Yogis: Head to peaceful Phoenicia, New York to experience the joy of deepening the consciousness through relationships during a three-day workshop led by yogi masters.
- Insight Meditation Center: This well-reputed center in Barre, MA offers instruction and guidance in vipassana and metta meditations during structured retreats.
- SF Zen Center + Tassajara Retreats: The SF Zen Center is one of the largest residential training Soto Zen Buddhist organizations outside of Asia, in three locations through the Bay Area. Visit their city center location, take a trip out to Marin, or book a longer retreat at the renowned Tassajara monastery and retreat center.
- Anchor Meditation: Learn the basics of meditation and mindfulness under the patient tutelage of Kelly Ryan, who knows firsthand what it means to balance practice with a 21st-century lifestyle in SF.
- Mount Madonna: Nestled among the majestic redwoods of Santa Cruz is this studio, conference center, and retreat site. On-site retreats range in length from a night to weeks.
- Sally Kempton: Learn alongside the master Sally Kempton during one of her in-person retreats. She regularly travels through the US and Europe, teaching meditation techniques and the benefits of mindfulness.
- MNDFL NYC: Drop in for a class at one of these zen studios in Brooklyn or Manhattan for a half-hour meditation class starting at just $10.
I’m curious, do you practice mindfulness or meditation? Have you ever wanted to try it? I’d love to hear more!
The season of giving is upon us, and we can’t think of anything we like to give more than LOVE.
It’s that time of year: lights are going up, carols start playing, and everyone is making multiple gift lists and checking them twice. Here’s the thing about the holidays: we love the idea of giving to others, but we love it even more when those gifts keep giving and giving and giving some more…
It’s always a good time of year to spread opportunity, empowerment, and kindness—but it’s especially fun to do it during the holidays. Forget dancing ladies and turtle doves—’tis the season for dedicating yourself to 12 days of peace, forgiveness, and giving.
Whether you’re shopping for family or an acquaintance, a significant other or a friend, we’ve got the LOVE bracelet for them. Read on for our 12 Days of LOVE gift guide, and help us spread peace and empowerment to women and their families all across the world.
12 Love Signs Horoscope Bracelets, $15: Know your giftee’s Zodiac sign? You’ll probably want to find out. Each bracelet is designed to bring out specific energies and characteristics for the wearer based on their horoscope. They’re handmade by talented artisans in Bali, Indonesia.
11 Holi Moli Collection, $15: Light up the depths of winter with an explosion of color. Our Holi Moli are inspired by a Hindu festival of LOVE, produced in partnership with entrepreneurs from Access Development in India.
10 Bali Friendship, $18: We can’t get by without a little LOVE from our friends, so we asked our Balinese partners to make these bestie-ready beaded and woven beauties.
9 Cartagena LOVE, $25: Fall in LOVE with Colombia’s rich cultural traditions, no matter where you are. These lightweight colorful bracelets are handmade by an artisan family from Tuchin, and look like a Caribbean sunset.
8 Otavalo, $40: These seed bead bracelets are reminiscent of corn, which has brought nutrition and prosperity to generations of Ecuadorians. Your purchase continues that tradition: Faire Collection Workshop artisans receive fair salaries, parental leave, and healthcare.
7 Shining Seven: Choose a fail-safe gift from the crowning jewels of the Love Is Project collection: the silver Bali Offering in small or medium, the Dream bracelet, the Wish bracelet, gold or silver Darjeeling bracelets, and the Make America Love Again tote are all perennially popular.
6 Love Light, $15: Crafted from mini seed beads by our Balinese partners, these bracelets are as breezy as your fave spring break maxi dress.
5 Bhutan Happiness bundle, $128: Bring more happiness and LOVE into your life, inspired by Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index. Even better: Your purchase supports monasteries and Renew, an organization to support domestic violence victims.
4 Atitlan Love, $25: This collection is as colorful as the villages surrounding the hills of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. It’s produced by 500+ female artisans in the Mercado Collective, which takes a holistic approach to poverty reduction.
3 Trinity, $45: Upcycled cow horns and hand-engraved brass make these bangles unique. 40 years of craftsmanship experience by a Vietnamese family of artists make them stunning.
2 Good as Gold Bundle, $300: Split or stack this special bundle of two golden Alchemy bracelets, made in the heart of the Bali jungle.
1 Best Friend Bundle, $90: The original bracelet that started it all, plus a very special LOVE collar for your best four-legged friend.