Today Is…

A lot has changed in the past year. I got married. I got pregnant. And I’ve gone from teaching 7+ yoga classes per week to one day of teaching. Right now, I’m teaching three classes, two public and one private, on Thursdays and that’s it. On Thursdays, my focus shifts away from my other job (at a small publishing company) and my other responsibilities, and settles on myself and how I can best show up. How can I best show up for the families that come to me to share yoga with their little littles (18 months – 3 years old, usually), and what I can offer of my own experience to the women who find their way to my prenatal yoga classes on their journey to becoming mothers? Usually showing up, for me, means being present and able to connect. Sometimes it means having a solid plan for what I’m going to do, but more often it means letting go of attachment to any plans I may have had and listening to what my students really need on that particular day.

That’s where I was on Thursday, and turns out that’s where I needed to be. Most of my mamas, whom I’ve been working with for over half of their pregnancy in some cases, are getting closer and closer to meeting their babies. This means weightier babies, which means more physical concerns to address. It also means they are bumping up against the big decisions that pregnancy brings in a much more immediate way. Figuring out how to tend to one’s own needs at the end of a pregnancy can be a challenge; we often put the needs of others before our own, and it isn’t always easy to let that go and put ourselves (and our babies) first. With all of the looming change in my students’ lives, I think what they really needed was for someone to be present, listen, and, when appropriate, respond. Just showing up as fully as I possibly could seemed much more appropriate than any scripted theme or class plan I could have put together.

So we focused on coming back to the breath even when there are pressing matters that deserve our attention. Interestingly, in my experience, being able to settle in to the moment and stay with the breath doesn’t mean that the things we want to be thinking about don’t matter; rather, it is a valuable tool in helping us make sense of the forces that are pulling us in different directions. It is often in the silence that the solution can be found. It is often in the space in between our thoughts that we can really recognize our instincts and intuition. If we can connect to that, those big decisions become a little more clear, a little less muddy. Not any less complicated, but at least a little bit less confusing because we have some sense of where we, at our center, want to go. Where we need to go. This is why I teach yoga, and this is why I choose to teach yoga to populations facing transition and deep personal growth (pregnant women, new moms, toddlers and preschoolers, middle schoolers and high schoolers…). So Thursday was worth shelving my other commitments and projects for. Well worth it.

I’m participating in the August Break this year, so I’ve been taking a lot of pictures. I’m using it as an opportunity to reconnect to creativity— photography and writing, primarily— and disconnect from TV and mindless surfing of the web. The August Break was created by Susannah Conway a few years back to give bloggers a break from blogging, but I haven’t been present here in so long, it feels like a good time to step back from what’s been distracting me and reconnect to who and where I want to be. A writer. A maker.

wpid-wp-1407624797374.jpeg

Thursday’s prompt was “today is…”. The only picture I took was of a cookie with a bite out of it.
But that’s okay because I needed to set aside my preoccupation with capturing moments to be able to show up completely. So I ran with it a bit more yesterday. It was a day of weaving in loose ends. Sorting through all of the maternity clothes I’ve been gifted lately.

wpid-wp-1407624805611.jpeg

Catching up on work at my “other job.” Tidying up a bit. Writing. Photo-ing. Making the effort to find extra little moments to revel in this journey.

wpid-wp-1407624814510.jpeg

It wasn’t picture perfect, but who cares?  My life has never been picture perfect. I value experience and connection over image and stuff, and there was connection in my day, too– an evening of Happy Hour and patio sitting with the husband. I was perfectly happy with my virgin drink, chowing down on half-priced chicken wings. It felt like we were able to carve through some of the mess, both literal and mental, that accumulates throughout the week and make space for ourselves to just be. Share. Explore. Wander. Enjoy. And Love Love Love.

Advertisements

Being Productive

Sometimes I follow the path of the unproductive. It is hard for me to leave the internet alone. It started in high school, when I first got my own computer in my room. Every morning for the second half of my senior year I would check in on AOL after my shower. It’s always been a waste of time, and it’s something I hear a lot about when I tune in to the minimalist/mindfulness communities. I even saw an article recently about the one thing productive people don’t do first thing in the morning: check email. I agree that time spent online first thing in the morning is time that likely could be better spent. I find myself taking issue with this article and this mindset in general, though, because of the insistent use of the word productive. I suppose using “productive” in the title draws in readers. We live in a very competitive era; our presence online compounds this. There’s a lot of value placed on getting ahead making a name for yourself.

Personally, when I start to think about life in terms of maximizing my productivity, it amps up my anxiety and fills my head with “shoulds” and I start to have a hard time being still and giving myself permission to do nothing. This is a problem because I’ve found that I’m at my most creative when I have space for unstructured time in my day; space to write, to practice yoga or just sit quietly, spaced to settle in and become present. Most often, since I’m a morning person, I find the space in the morning before my husband wakes up. I try to use this time to do things I wouldn’t do when he’s awake. Things like writing and yoga. Things that feed my spirit and help me find the best version of myself. Things that help me set mindful and present tone for my day. And yes, sometimes I still get sucked into my computer. Sometimes I get hijacked by my to-do list, but if I allowed my productivity to be my priority, my to do list would dominate me. When you live by to-do lists, there’s always more to add, always more to get done.

So, starting today, I’m going to try to remove productive for my day-to-day vocabulary I’m setting my sites on presence. We are made to thrive on our work drive on work that resonates with us and fills us, but we’ve been programmed to believe that busy is better. From now on, when I feel like I’ve made huge strides in my business in one day I’m going to call fulfilling instead of productive. When I feel like I’ve gotten a lot of things out of the way, maybe things I didn’t want to do or things I’ve been putting off, I’ll call it clean slate day. When Jack and I have a day full of adventures, that should be exciting, joyful, and memorable, not productive. I want every day with Jack to feel like that. Sharing our love, sharing the adventure. Not producing or reducing our time to a measure of how much we can get done. Productive has become a blanket term; by eliminating it we can be more specific, nuanced, and celebratory with our language, and, consequently, more honest in our communication.

owning the journey, owning the darkness

I have been absent here for too long. It’s funny, though, because I have been writing and creating a lot in the past year; I have just had it in my head that I need a vision, a direction for where I am taking this blog. My life has changed a lot in the past year. I got engaged in June and married in September. Those are the big ones! The huge life changes that have filled my heart and time this year. Then we went on our honeymoon in October– we spent ten days on Maui, and it only made me want to travel more. I have been absolutely loving the direction my life is taking me, but it has definitely seemed more busy and less simple this year, and, on the surface, this is a blog about simplicity, so I have taken a step back. At a deeper level, though, this blog is about process and imperfection. So I am here this morning, checking in. I am not working from a draft or with some higher purpose in mind. I just want to send some small shard of my voice back into the world. I also want to create some accountability for myself, to state to the world that, even when life is not so simple, I will show up. I will share bits and pieces and bumps along the journey even if I am too preoccupied to do anything grander.

There is another reason I have been absent, though, and it’s more of a question of ethics. I have been noticing lately that most of the blogs I used to read fall flat for me today. They are either too routine, pumping out how to series or weekly budget updates, or their message has worn thin. It seems to me that most people struggle in the long run when writing a blog that focuses on a specific topic; they have some really interesting posts in the beginning because all of their ideas are new, but eventually they start to repeat themselves. And eventually I get bored.

Boredom isn’t the real problem, though, it’s image crafting. As a yoga teacher, I seem to encounter a lot of people who want to change the world with their words. They want to make the world a better place, and I admire that. It seems unethical to me, though, to paint a picture of oneself as an authority on how to lead a rich life and to offer advice to others when, really, we are all on a journey and can’t possibly have it all figured out. This image building trend is pretty common these days, especially with social media, and man, is it easy to spot on Facebook. The friend who posts regular, ecstatic status updates about their wonderful life. The friend whose children are always well groomed and smiling. The many, many friends we have who seem to be living life to the fullest. Social media makes it so easy for us to control exactly what the world sees of us. No more bad hair days. No more darkness. The same thing happens in the blogging world when people get too wrapped up in offering self-help style advice. These writers are people, with dark and light inside them just like us. People with their own experiences and their own path, just like us. Yet, the only time they share the darkness is when they are telling a story about how they overcame it and how you can, too. I see all of these bright, shiny, blog posts, and I start to feel exhausted. Sunburned. I need to see the darkness in the world! It exists to balance out and allow us to appreciate the light!

I read other people’s blogs and I see what I don’t want to be, so I have just stayed away. I know that I don’t want to write a public diary, but I don’t want to fall into the overly didactic “I will change your life” camp, either. Nor am I looking to make a living from what I offer here. But I do have a voice and I am on a journey, and maybe there are parts of that journey that resonate with you. When I have an aha! moment, I will probably share it. Just know that I don’t have it all figured out; if you are looking for someone to offer a solution, that isn’t me. I care most about the journey; the scenery we pass along the way, the obstacles we face, and the creative ways we make our way through. The dark as well as the light. The way they interplay, and the shadowy spaces in between. I write about what I bump up against on my journey and how I navigate the bumps. I offer up what I am able to put into words in hopes that it resonates with someone, somewhere. Even if it doesn’t, I keep writing because I need a record of my journey. I need to remember the darkness when things seem to bright, and I need to remember the differing shades of my past and the maneuvers I came up with when the sea got rough.

Sailfish

The release has always been the hardest part. So much time is spent in pursuit, engines roaring, other lines reeled in. Anticipation and expectations build as the end of the rod dances and the ensnared jumps toward the sky, back arched, head tossing blues and greens back into the water. You were awed by the majesty, the power, the demonstration of will, because who knows what is required to propel yourself out of your element because, really, who among us has tried? Who has that kind of strength? It is only at that moment that you begin to notice the sweat gathered on your upper lip and the in the crevices of your eyelids. The damp and the sweat smell that have taken root in your shirt, the ache that has crept up your fingertips, through your biceps, and into your whole body, transforming itself into raw emotion, transforming you into someone you don’t recognize for all the compassion. But you can’t give up. You must ride it out and make sure no permanent damage has been done. You can’t tell what you’re doing. You can’t tell if the salt you tongued away from the corner of your mouth was sweat or tears and you just keep fighting until, slowly, it draws up next to you. Bigger than you imagined. Tougher, stronger, and more vivid, too. You begin to question what you know of love. Out of nowhere, you are holding a knife. Your life was just upended and already it’s time to let it go. Time for the release. There was no lasting damage done in the battle, so you reach down and slice through the microfilament in one smooth motion. It’s over. You watch him dive deep and you are filled with longing so deep and so instant you have to grab on to the hand rail. You begin to turn away, but the spray against your right fingertips draws you back and you watch him make one last leap against the sky before retreating to the shadows below the surface.

My Struggle with Insomnia (or How I’ve Re-framed my Thoughts to Create Personal Change)

I sometimes struggle with insomnia. I say struggle with, not suffer from, because it is most definitely a struggle. I struggle to get comfortable. I struggle to clear my mind of thoughts so I can sleep. I get very anxious and frustrated when I’m lying awake and it makes me want to sleep that much more. It’s a vicious cycle; the longer I lie awake, the more frustrated I become and the harder it is for me to get back to sleep. Since I see my insomnia as a result of an internal struggle or some reflection of personal resistance, I’m beginning to think there are a few things that I can do to make it more manageable. I’ve tried meditating, but that has never worked for me. I’m done with trying to force the thoughts out of my head because, for me, it’s never worked. Instead, I want to identify and assess the patterns that surround my insomnia, particularly the sense of frustration I feel every time it happens. I want to identify the subconscious messages I’m sending myself and intentionally shift them. For me, this is one of the most powerful ways to create lasting personal change.

Step 1: Identify Your Messages

It has taken me a long time to realize how very powerful our thoughts really are. Even once I recognized that the messages that I send myself play a huge role in what I see unfolding in my life, it’s not always been easy to identify the messages that I’m sending. So often the messages that really get in the way are subconscious, or at least buried under layers and layers of thought. The underlying thoughts, the thoughts that get repeated, begin to surface when you begin to look at patterns of events and emotions.

When I was in Costa Rica for my yoga teacher training, there was a particularly steep and slippery section of the jungle path we walked every day. Since I had to face this obstacle so often, and we were discussing intentions and thought processes in our training, I began to hear my thoughts more clearly. I realized that for years my thoughts in that type of situation were “Oh man, if I’m not careful, I’ll fall.” Every time that I can remember that I’ve fallen painfully, it was shortly after having those thoughts run through my head. It never once occurred to me that I was setting myself up; I just thought I was getting clumsier which made me all the more determined not to fall the next time. I never thought about the fact that the message I was sending myself was conditional. By starting this kind of if/then thought process with a negative statement, I was telling myself that if I lost my focus for just a second I would actually be very likely fall. In Costa Rica, I had to face this steep, slick path every day, and as I did, I began to hear my thoughts for what they were. I wondered what would happen if I flipped this if/then statement around. What if I moved the NOT to the effect instead of making it part of the cause? From that point on, every time I would walk this part of the path I would chant this phrase to myself: “If I’m careful, I won’t fall,” and it absolutely worked. I never once fell on the jungle path, and the only time I’ve fallen since then was on a very icy trail— so icy that once I was down I had trouble getting up again! I’m not sure there was anything I could have done to prevent that one.

Step 2: Reprogram Your Messages

As I mentioned earlier, I get really frustrated when I can’t sleep. This is an emotional pattern, and there are thoughts that go along with it. I’ve taken the time recently to notice them, and I’ve begun to wonder if they are actually creating my sleep problems the way my thoughts created my tendency to fall. So, this week I’m conducting a little thought experiment to see if I can re-frame the messages I’m sending myself about sleep. Instead of focusing on how much I want to go to sleep and how frustrated I am by the fact that I am still awake, I am actively thinking of some healthier messages that I could send myself. Here’s what I have come up with so:

“I have a hard time falling asleep when I’m lying on my back,” is now “I can rest most comfortably on my back.”

“The cat keeps waking me up early and I can’t go back to sleep,” is now “I can always choose to go back to sleep when the cat jumps on me or is purring by my ear.”

Most importantly, my response in any situation that would normally trigger those “I have a hard time sleeping when…” or “why can’t I go back to sleep?!” type of thoughts is now “I am good at sleeping through the night.” Period.

It seems to be working. There are still times where I don’t fall asleep immediately, but I’m no longer getting wound up about that. I think, in the past, my frustration about not being able to sleep only made the problem bigger.

Breaking the Patterns

What do you think? Are there patterns in your life that you’d like to change? Can you identify any pattern in your reactions when these situations arise? Are there specific thoughts that go with these reactions? Have you ever tried shifting these thoughts as a way of breaking the pattern?

 

Notes from a Quiet Grey Morning

the sky is grey, the sand is grey, and the ocean is grey. i feel right at
home in this stunning monochrome, alone in my way.

-Ani DiFranco, “Grey”

I’m alone in the house today, and I’ve found a moment between my various unfinished projects to share a few thoughts.  I mentioned the 30 day Change Your Vibration challenge in my last post, but at that time I hadn’t really figured out how I wanted to approach my thirty days.  It’s a very open-ended assignment, one that gives every participant room to explore and find small actions that create meaningful change on a personal level.  I am constantly striving to change my life for the better, so choosing one thing to focus on that I can carry throughout the month and that will make a noticeable difference took some thought.  I know it doesn’t have to be one thing, but if we’re talking about creating new habits and changing old patterns, one change is a good starting point.  I’ve decided that I’m going to hold myself to a thirty day writing challenge.  I am a writer.  Writers need to write regularly, and that is a truth I’ve pushed aside far too often in recent years.  I’m hoping to change that pattern.  Now, I may not actually post here everyday, but if I’m writing everyday, I will be much more likely to find things to share in this space as well.  Be on the lookout.

With that said, I must report that I’ve already missed a day.  I spent yesterday morning in the mountains, reading and teaching kids yoga.  Mornings are my usual time for writing, so once I missed that window, it was difficult to fit words into the rest of my day.  I know I helped raise the vibration of the 40 little yogis I was working with, though, so it seems like an even trade.

That’s the thing about changing your patterns and forming new habits.  It’s a practice in and of itself.  You have to be forgiving of your shortcomings and acknowledge that change does not occur over night.  For me, that means that I have to forgive myself when I do miss a day.  I have to circle back the next morning and try again.  I have to recognize that it doesn’t mean I’ve failed or that I should give up, it just means that I’m human and my work isn’t done yet.

Perhaps one of the best indicators of whether or not a habit has taken root is how it is affected by disruptions.  Once we get to the point where missing a day is simply missing a day, not the beginning of the end or an indication that we are backsliding into our old patterns, I think it’s a sign that the changes we’ve made are starting to stick.  Thoughts?

And I am grateful

I took a moment to unplug and write this morning, which is not uncommon. It felt particularly important today, though, in the wake of yesterday’s election. Social media has given us the opportunity to speak our minds with very little consequence, and many of my friends have embraced it with passion. I’ve been shocked, encouraged, and morbidly fascinated by some of things my friends and acquaintances have put forth in the past month. There is so much energy and electricity still hovering around the election, I felt it important to disengage and do a little reflection this morning. I’m ready to move past the friction of the election and move into a period of expansive gratitude. It is November, after all.

So much ugliness has bubbled forth in the past few months, on both sides of the political fence. I am not immune. I’ve had to fight the urge to lash out in response on several occasions, and I’ve realized it’s healthier for me to simply disengage. I started to block the people I know who are welling to offend their friends and family with insensitive posts and comments, the people who bring harsh emotion into their political views. In disconnecting from all of the rants and the rage, I have found myself drawn to the work of a few friends who are working to unite rather than divide. Friends who encourage everyone they know to meet the world with gratitude, positivity, and respect. And I am grateful.

First, there is Anna. The wonderful post she wrote yesterday was picked up by the Desert Sun. In it, she emphasizes her gratitude for all of the freedoms we have in this country, including our right to vote. She never once mentioned who she was voting for, but focused her attention on the weight that the act of voting carries in and of itself. We are so privileged to live in a country that offers us the right to vote. It’s a right that many people have fought for, a right that is often taken for granted. Anna’s post served as a reminder that we, as a nation, have so much to be grateful for. We are not perfect, but any of my 6th grade students could tell you that Utopias don’t really exist. Our country’s history is lined with people shouting from the margins and fighting to make things right. And I am grateful.

I can’t ignore Mary’s work, either. Mary is such a bright soul, and, in the face of all the negativity surrounding the election, she found inspiration. She has created a 30 day program that invites participants to work to change their vibration by actively meeting the world around them with more compassion, positivity, and love. Her idea, essentially, is that everyone does better when everyone does better, and she has create a space for anyone interested to join and take note of the ripples that conscientiously responding to the world around us creates. I’m going to join up, and I’ll be tracking my efforts here. And I am grateful.

Finally, I want to acknowledge Christel. I’ve known Christel since 7th grade. We were in beginning orchestra together, and, in spite of a few bumps along the way, we’ve stayed close. It’s been twenty years! Christel has played a huge role in helping me bring my yoga business online, and I’m grateful for that. But I’m also grateful for the way she conducts herself in the world. She speaks up and is willing to engage full force on any number of issues, but she also listens. She is respectful. She seeks meaningful dialog and refuses to lash out at those who disagree with her stance. Best of all, she holds others up to this standard as well. And I am grateful.

I am grateful for friends that lead by personal example. This is where I see real change in the world around me. I have so many friends who are out there, right now, doing this. Know that even if I haven’t mentioned you by name, I see you and the path you are walking through the world. And I am grateful.

I have been feeling overwhelmed with gratitude lately. There are so many little things stacking up in my life; it fills me with joy just to wake up in the morning. But, for today, I am going to limit my focus to my friends. I am grateful that I know so many wonderful, change-making people. Grateful and honored.

What are you grateful for in the wake of the election?