Everyday Mindfulness with Martha McAlpine
Martha Wallace McAlpine is a yogi of 20+ years, a homeschool mama, a teacher, and always a student. Trained in Tantric yoga with Yogarupa Rod Stryker and Elena Brower, her studies include nutrition, athletic performance, life coaching, and integrative health. She is Innovative and inspiring, and her aim is to make ancient philosophy and modern research ideas integral aspects of our busy, modern lives.
“Follow her,” her students say. “It will change everything.”
We sat down with Martha to get her take on daily life. She is such a humble powerhouse, we loved getting a glimpse into her brain! Read on for a refreshing take on life.
What does mindfulness mean to you?
For me, mindfulness is knowing the right action for the right moment delivered in the right way. By ‘right’ I don’t mean correct – as if there was a wrong way to do something. But to be aware enough of myself and my context to act/speak/think/move in alignment with what surrounds me. Part of this is knowing my own habits of mind that aren’t in alignment – when I’m hungry for example, or tired, I can create really lousy reflections on my work in my mind. So right action is not judging my work when I am fatigued. When I take care of myself, pause, refuel, and then look back at a class, an event, a conversation, I am more likely to see it fully – from all angles. Mindfulness includes an awareness of what I am aiming to shift as well as the positive momentum that is evolving my thoughts and actions.
How do you incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life?
As often as I can I pause. Driving into the city to work or errands, when I stop at a red light, for example, I put my hands on my legs, slow my breathing, try on a little smile. I breathe in a sensation of Good. Not hurry, not where I’ve been or where I’m going, but my body is still and I really pause and breathe in a sense of Good. You can find this ‘Good’ by finding a memory of something that went really well. Or the thought of someone I love holding me or smiling at me. As you practice this, you’ll find that you don’t need the memory anymore, all you are doing is calling the sensation that the memory holds. Build that sensation of Good in your body and it will change everything. You will have more time if you feel rushed, you will have more concentration if you feel scattered, you will have more acceptance if you feel unworthy. It’s a mighty practice and possible ev-er-y-where!
I also try to love and support my future self as much as possible by having on hand what she needs to thrive and clearing out what will really bring her down. If I am buying groceries, its as if I am buying for someone I love who I want to succeed and who is working on fitness and health. If I walk through without intention or if I’m hungry, I’ll buy for the present tense. I’ll eat what seems appealing at the moment but that in hindsight will be an obstacle. So I buy what my future self can really enjoy and feel good about. If I buy chips and have them in my car, then when I get in the car tired and hungry I’ll eat the chips and 20 minutes feel really lousy about eating them. If I buy hummus and carrots and have them in my car for after class, I can eat them and be really grateful to myself for thinking ahead about what I would need and happy I provided so well.
What are your three daily staples for wellbeing?
Get moving. Get still. Be grateful and connected to something you revere and delight in.
What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Brush my teeth with salt toothpaste. Sounds crazy, right?! All night, the bacteria in your mouth have been multiplying. Getting up and brushing with salt toothpaste clears the enamel of your teeth – which is great – but I also brush my tongue, my inner cheeks, the roof of my mouth. Then I add water to swish and rinse well. The salinity of the toothpaste creates an environment where the bacteria can’t survive so that when I go to have a glass of water or a warm water with lemon and ginger (second thing I do when I wake up) I am not ingesting the bacteria of the night. I swear this keeps me healthy and free of colds every winter! [Weleda sells the salt toothpaste on amazon if you can’t find it in stores and want to try it out.]
What is your favorite part of your day?
Mornings are my most prized possession. They are how everything starts. I was taught as a yogi that we are capable of setting our own state through our movements, our thoughts, and our food. So I never think about waking in a good mood or a bad mood, tired or alert. Instead, every day I wake and start into the rituals of my day. I don’t take inventory – how do I feel today? How am I? Instead, I strive to create a neutrality of mind and rebuild the state I want for the day. Which might sound austere, but actually I am steering by my deepest pleasure. Maybe I am creating a sense of focus to get through a busy day well, or I am creating a state of rest to recover from a big output the day before. I am fortunate enough to live right beside the Patapsco River so I go out and stand barefoot beside the river and do a quick 15-20 minute kundalini practice then come in for breathwork and meditation. None of it needs to be long or belabored, but in 30 minutes I can feel supported, loved, and ready for anything.
What is the best advice you ever received?
1. “Set your state, because your state sets your story and your story sets your strategy.” – Tony Robbins
If I feel angry and out of sorts, I will perceive everything you say to me as if you too are angry and out of sorts. My story will be that things are sh*tty and I shouldn’t expect much from the day. But if I set my state to one of unwavering connection and support, then I will look for that story in all aspects of my day and my strategy will be to feel held and helped even in the thick of daily obstacles. It works. I swear by it. Even at the DMV.
2. “You have power. Get over your issues and get into your power.” – Guru Singh
Very similar to the first one! But a great reminder to get out of your own way. When you feel blocked or unrecognized or wanting more (job, romance, housing, attention, whatever…) you are the one with the power to change it. This was revelatory for me. I was ridiculously skilled at blame, shame, manipulation, playing the victim, and playing small and I was sure everyone else was causing it. Ha! I still catch myself sometimes, but now I can laugh at how crazy those choices are. No one has my power but me. Buck up, girl. Lay claim to the life you love.
What is your current mantra?
May I be held in light, may I be bathed in sacred love.
Any parting thoughts that have been inspiring you lately?
Every true desire of your body is holy. – Rumi