Blog,  Mind

3 Ways to Find Comfort in Chaos

I’m Kayla, the creator behind The Balance Lab. I am a wife, soldier, surf bum, yogi and entrepreneur. I’m also a mom to the most adorable ray of sunshine – my daughter Ellie, who is 2 ½. I’ll be popping into your feed on the reg to offer you strategies, tips and stories dealing with topics ranging from new motherhood, to mindfulness, nutrition, goal setting, dealing with grief, and intentional parenting. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology & Human Wellness, and have spent the last 10 years of my life studying human fitness from the inside out, from competing in Ironman Triathlons to finding stillness through home yoga practice. 

Today I’m diving in deep to explore literal and figurative balance. We hear a lot these days about “setting intention”, “manifestation”, and “gratitude” and I want to unpack that for you so that you come away from this episode feeling refreshed and ready to move forward in your day and your life.  What does it look like to create a mindful schedule when it seems like every second of the day is planned for you? What even is “intention”? And what’s all the fuss about meditation?

I am sharing the top 3 strategies that I use to generate control in my life and how I am working to find contentment and invite abundance into the everyday.

So are you ready? Get comfy or get moving, and let’s peel back the curtain. 

Intention: When I first started practicing yoga, I heard a lot about “setting an intention” for your practice. I’m going to be honest here… I have been doing yoga consistently for around 5 years now, and I have only started to really understand what “setting intention” actually means. Intention as it pertains to the mind/body connection can be defined as activating your inner receptivity – essentially getting in a car with no direction. Now, while this CAN be a good thing, perhaps to invite more spontaneity into your life, having a focused intention that gently leads you in the direction you WANT your life to go can be an extremely powerful thing. 

I have only scratched the surface of intention myself, so I did a little research. Kelsey Patel, a leading meditation teacher, describes this in much better words than I can. She says “An intention is so powerful because it slowly shows people how incredibly powerful they are. Oftentimes people allow the day, or the week, or the month to happen to them, and when you set an intention, you are activating your receptivity and manifesting and putting out that which you intend to attract and call into your life, and that is the power behind it.”

This is all great, but how do we actually SET an intention? For me, I have been focusing on the higher levels of our existence which can be broken down into three things: Body, Mind, and Soul. This means I want to focus an intention around one of those things. This doesn’t mean that I don’t try to invite physical things into my life (I’ve imagined and drawn my dream home for example) but what I want for you to do is, if it is something physical you want to draw into your life, focus on the FEELING behind that desire. What feeling is it that you’re trying to invite in? Let me share a story. When I first started reading about manifestation and intention, it was my senior year of high school. I lived in a small town and grew up fairly poor, though I never went without a roof over my head or food. But I had this fire burning in the pit of my stomach. I felt out of place. I felt stuck, held down. So I explored this idea of manifestation and it worked. I was doing it haphazardly though, and I wanted things like a better car, a nicer apartment, physical things. It’s only been in the past year that I have truly started focusing on the FEELING behind those “things”. Nowadays, I invite abundance, joy, and contentment into my life. A bit about contentment – I am super type A, anyone who knows me can attest to that, so for me, everything has to have a plan, a goal, a purpose. This tended to create a whirlwind of negative emotions and experiences for me because I was always climbing so hard for the next thing. If you are a motivated, driven, go-getter type like me, I want for you to try inviting contentment into your life, and find ways to search it out in your every day. You might find, as I did, that this actually allows you to feel gratitude for not only what you have, but what you are striving to achieve, and it takes away a lot of that impatient tension that envelopes us when we are working tirelessly towards our goals. Learn to take off your shoes and lay in a patch of grass, warmed by springtime sunshine, and just watch the clouds once in a while. 

 

Gratitude : That Brings me to gratitude. It seems to be on the tips of everyone’s tongues, especially lately as we are experiencing the global Coronavirus pandemic. But what does gratitude mean? It turns out, it’s more than just saying thank-you once in awhile, and when we start to practice and discover how to actually FEEL gratitude (which I am totally still a beginner at, by the way, I struggle everyday focusing on the generation of the feeling.) Once we do this, we can truly experience the scientifically proven benefits of bringing gratitude into our lives. So, if this is all new to you, you’re probably thinking: This is great Kayla, but how the heck am I supposed to be grateful, especially right now? It all sounds so fluffy and rosy, how am I supposed to do this?

 

Let me share the 3 strategies I mentioned earlier that will help you find that gratitude (and intention). And I’ll preface them by saying: I discovered and honed these strategies over time. Changing the way we think and feel is not an overnight process, there is no magic answer or pill. Also, you have to do what’s right for you. What feels right. And even that simple statement took me awhile to get the hang of. I started by choosing to focus on “being in the moment” every time I sat in a cafe. That’s how I started. I picked a scenario, and told myself I would mindfully notice everything around me in that one scenario, and I built it from there. I really like cafes, people watching, etc this was useful for me to build a “being in the moment” practice.

 

  • Yoga: I started practicing yoga in 2014, as a way to refocus and stretch my body after 4+ hours of Ironman training. As I explored, I began to find a lot of comfort in yoga. It didn’t burn my lungs, for starters. It challenged me to be still, and after dealing with anxiety my whole life, stillness was at first incredibly frustrating, then blossomed into a welcome focal point for my meditative movement. Yoga is also, in itself, incredibly versatile. It taught me about enjoying a journey, instead of clawing towards a goal. Balancing goal setting with a mindful journey is how I began to move my life in the direction I wanted, without losing sight of the person I eventually wanted to become. Yoga will always be there in times of strife as well, and I leaned heavily on it in 2019 when my little brother passed away from opioid overdose. Aside from these benefits I’ve shared, yoga has proven scientific benefits.  The simple act of focusing our breathing actually invites our cells to regenerate. (sounds crazy, one thing i will always remember from my physiology book bachelor’s degree) Our cells have doors on them, essentially, and one door allows oxygen to come in and it actually changes the structure of the cell. CO2 is then released, almost a form of used energy, and the cell is able to regenerate in whatever way it needs to in order to fully serve the body. And with 37.2 trillion cells in our body, this means when we are intentionally bringing that oxygen in, we are taking control of our own cell regeneration and inviting chemicals like adrenaline into our systems that give us an immense power over ourselves and our minds. If you’d like to try it out for yourself, I recommend watching the youtube channel “Yoga With Adriene”, she provides so many free beginner and intermediate yoga videos and she does so with style and humor. I recommend her because she’s basically the only Yoga Instructor I’ve used aside from the odd in person class here and there, and the typical yoga videos on youtube put me to sleep. Another helpful app is Daily Burn, which has a small collection of beginner yoga videos as well as a plethora of other workouts, and as of the time of this recording, if you search “daily Burn” free trial, you can find up to 60 day free trials of their service. 

 

  • Meditation (can be walking, eyes open): Meditation is a rather newer thing for me, but I’ve already experienced a lot of benefits and good challenges from practicing it. The breath work in meditation carries the same benefits as I spoke about earlier. I combine meditation with Theravada buddhism practice, and for me, this is a full circle combination. The thing about meditation is that it’s a journey..but a journey to nowhere. (It’s hard to wrap your mind around, I know, but hear me out). Meditation is not about becoming a “better” you, or a “newer” version of yourself. Meditation is the practice of simply learning to observe your thoughts and feelings without attaching judgment. It is a practice of awareness and gaining perspective. I have used it to help understand difficult and complex feelings within myself, and while I am by NO means an expert, having a regular meditation practice has allowed me space to really grow in my relationship with myself and the world around me. I started with 3 minutes, then 5, and I’m happy to say that after almost a year of meditation, I moved up to 15 minutes as of the day of this recording. You see what I’m saying though guys? It takes time. I am in no way sponsored by them, but Headspace is the app I have used to build my meditative practice.  Other apps for meditation include Calm and Aura, but I have not used these and therefore cannot judge the effectiveness or usability of these apps. 

 

  • Routine: So, I have experimented with a lot of routines. I am an avid podcast listener, and I have heard just about every self-help and improvement podcast out there. Especially the ones that explore stories of uber successful people (I love those). One thing I have found though, is that they all speak as if this ONE thing will make all your problems go away. This ONE time to wake up, this five-step system that will make you an instant millionaire, only eat Acai and you will transform into an instagram star. And you know what? I don’t buy it. 

 

What I have found through hours of listening and reading, is that every life is a product of three things: Intention/preparation, opportunity, and luck. If you want to create a life that you imagine, or you want to just invite a little more joy into your currently satisfied home, you have to practice living with intention (and that includes intentional gratitude), seek and be open to opportunity (so don’t cling too tightly to your visions, but allow them to act as wind in your sails to guide you along your path), and embrace luck or circumstance.  

 

This brings me back around to routine. I have found what works for me. But I’m in the army, which means complete control of my life and my time essentially comes down to my command. Therefore, I know I have to be fluid and flexible when it comes to creating my routines. And let me tell you, I THRIVE on routine. I love it. And when I don’t get to control my routine, I am a little sad that day. So ensure that you are going into this, especially if you are a military mom like me, you allow yourself the grace to adapt to the everyday. I am working so hard towards a time where I do have final say in my daily routine, and I’m sure I will mention it often on this blog. But for now, I have to work with what I’ve got. So the way I structure my routine is based on where I am in the world, and what my current goals are. 

When I’m deployed, my routine is different than when I am at home. However, I try to implement small things throughout the day to keep me grounded. 

 

I am a morning person, so the very very first thing I do when I wake up – is meditate. Before checking texts/emails/ what have you, I ensure that I am giving myself the time to focus, breathe, and prepare for the day. You might feel better doing this midday, or even at night before you go to bed. Find what feels right for you, in your season, this body, your space. Secondly, I always do yoga. Whether this is 10 mins or 30 minutes, I find time to do it once per day. Sometimes I do it twice, with Ellie, because I want her to see everything I do to care for myself and my spirit. Toddlers are watching our every move, and I try to be very mindful of that fact and use it to teach her about herself and her place in the world. Also, when I’m home, I play soft music in the mornings to start our day with good energy flowing through our house. My current favorite is a playlist titled “Rise” on spotify, but I want for you to find something that resonates with you and your family.

 

So those are the 3 things I try to incorporate every day in order to remain grounded when things get  a little crazy or feel overwhelming.

 

SO a lot of this is very “new age” and totally against every army teaching out there, and I recognize that. My perspective and ideologies have changed with what I’ve witnessed throughout my army career, and I am moving towards becoming who I know I am meant to be, and this brings along with it some different methodologies that I hope you can appreciate, even if you don’t resonate with them.

I want to invite you guys into my life a little bit with regards to how this curiosity came to be. I was raised in the Mormon religion. And no, I don’t have 5 moms. I won’t go too much in depth here, but at age 15, I had grown weary of the pressures this version of spirituality was putting on me and the people around me, so I decided to look for something else. Fast forward almost 15 years. Yes, that brings us to this year. I have settled into a practice of Theravada Buddhism, which is essentially a sole practice of buddhism that takes hints from hinduism to build an ideology centered on improving oneself, overarching balance, and showing compassion.

I want to tell you guys this because I think it will bring context into why I choose to use certain words and tell certain stories. I was taught in a yoga class awhile back to allow whatever sound that was trying to come out, come out. This resulted in some funny signs and noises from the class, but it taught me an important lesson that I am only implementing now, through this podcast. I want to be as real as possible with you, so that you feel supported, inspired, and powerful in your own existence. You’ve got this mama, no matter what ideology you believe in, where you come from, or where you’re going. You have the power to change your entire existence, and I hope that this podcast has something to do with that. 

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Wim Hof Breathing Technique Challenge: Before I go, I’d like to guide you through a challenge. There’s this man called Wim Hof, and he runs marathons barefoot and plunges into ice water everyday. While I do not intend to ever make that a part of my daily routine, I’d like to try this with you guys. Then let’s explore what we felt, whether it made any changes to our perspective, and just have a general conversation on it over on our social media pages. 

Please like and follow us on Facebook and Instagram at The Balance Lab Experiment.

While sitting in a comfortable place or lying down under a blanket, take 30 quick, deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Then, take a deep breath and exhale; hold until you need to breathe in. Inhale again, as deep as you can, and hold it for 10 seconds. Repeat as many times as you like. Disclaimer, don’t do this while driving. 

 

Hi! My name is Kayla, and I’m so glad you’re here. I know firsthand what it means to be busy (I’m an active duty enlisted soldier, mama, surfer, yogi, business owner, the list goes on) and I want to help you find ways to make your journey a little easier. I started this blog as way to share meal prep recipes, and I cannot wait to see where it grows from there. My focus is less crap, less ads, less busyness and more actionable content, more things you can actually use without scrolling down a million miles to find a recipe or concept. I am sick of scrolling for ages trying to find a recipe, so here, I’m doing something different. It is the Balance Lab, after all. And you’ll notice I added “experiment” on the end. Life is a continuous experiment, and I hope through this blog you’ll feel free and inspired to try new things – as well as ground yourself in old ones.

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