Thursday, April 27, 2017

#100daysofwriting: day 24- 11 screenshots of wisdom

Here's what I love about the internet. The wisdom out there is infinite. Every time I come across a gem, I screenshot it, save it, and keep it in a folder on my computer titled "screenshot motivation." Here are 11 of my faves. Caution: PG-13 Language ahead...

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

#100daysofwriting: day 23- letting go

Buddha in the Snow, Skagit Valley,
taken by my good friend & teacher.
Here's a joke for you.
Q: Why don't Buddhists vacuum in the corners? 
A: Because they have no attachments.

This theme continues to rear its lovely head. 
I wish I had no attachments. Wait. It's not that I don't want to be attached to anything at the emotional level, but I don't want my attachments to consume my being and mind. How do I do that?

Meditate. Be skillful. Be mindful of when you are feeling the grip. These are the things my teachers say in a multitude of ways. When I am on my mat or cushion, practicing with other like-minded spiritual do gooders, it makes perfect sense. I know that the only thing constant is change. I know that all of life is impermanent. I know attachment causes suffering. 

After those deep dharma talks, I make my way out the door of the studio, get in my car, and drive home and usually in that drive, I get angry about one driver. At least one. all the wisdom out the winder with maybe my middle finger. 


But here's what I know (it's not much). The effort is the gem. It's not about getting it all perfect. That's why they call it a practice. We live in the land of paradox.

We can have so much joy...and there can be so much suffering.
We can have tough & crucial conversations with our loved ones and our colleagues...and we can be compassionate in those conversations.
We can be disciplined in our living...and we can embrace flexibility and going with the flow.
We can be giving of ourselves...and still have healthy boundaries.

Attachment causes issues when we start to spin. One of my teachers has mentioned this idea of being hooked like shutting your jacket in a taxi cab and the taxi drives off and instead of letting go of the jacket, you are hanging on for dear life, creating a whole boat load of issues for yourself. 

I write this for a gentle reminder, mainly for myself that letting go can create an immense amount of freedom, space, and peace. I need this reminder more than ever. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

#100daysofwriting: day 22- all good things take some work

My brother Nate swimming in 30" snow, Dec. 2016
I was talking with my dad tonight on the phone and he mentioned something that really struck me. He said that New Englanders are gritty, direct, and know how to roll up their sleeves and work (i.e. shovel snow & shop wood). That piece wasn't the surprising piece, as I am very in tune with my inner New Englander, but the piece that was surprising was when he mentioned that those personality traits piss a lot of people off and make people feel uncomfortable. This got me thinking. And here's what I arrived at: it's kinda true, but it sucks that it's kinda true. 

Reflecting on my own experiences, especially in my jobs and career, I have been publicly and privately shamed for my work ethic. It used to bother me a lot, especially when I was younger and figuring out who I was in this crazy world. It would range from being called out as a teacher's/bosses pet to being a perfectionist, to the Ms. Know It All or more recently, the competent one. When one lives her whole life like this, it becomes a double edged sword; you get praise for the qualities of a hard worker and the results and outcomes of that archetype, but you run the risk of being shamed and criticized.

Here's what I know now that I would share with my younger self struggling with the paradox:
If you believe in the work, it's all worth it. If the work totally lights you up, then keep forging the path and don't give a shit about what people think.

Know that there is a fine line between engagement and burn out. Burn out is not a fun trip to go on. Ever. It happens before you even know it's happening, so find someone who can compassionately keep you in check. Don't lose yourself in your work to the point where you aren't taking care of your basic needs and getting time outside in nature.

Don't sacrifice who you are. Don't resign yourself completely and swing the other way of not caring. I tried this once or twice or a hundred times. My care-o-meter is either 0% or 100%. I don't have the middle guage, but that's me. I refuse to succumb to mediocrity in my own work as long as it's not holding up the end result or impinging on someone else to get their work done. 

Know who is in your corner. Whether it's your boss, your colleague, your spouse, or your meditation teacher, have someone who can pick you up when you are feeling down and doubting that this whole hard work thing isn't worth it.

Stop giving a shit about what other people think. Within reason of course. You can't just be a bull thrashing around expecting people to like it. But spend your energy on what matters versus what people think. That's plain blazing insecurity and it's not sexy. I promise.

All good things take work. Rome wasn't built in a day. Neither was your local yoga studio or the amazing nonprofit you support or the coffee you drink or the plants from your garden. Good things take some time and effort and some work. That will always be a reminder in doing our work out in the world. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

#100daysofwriting: day 21- nineteen

Image result for 19

There were 19 students in the yoga class I taught tonight. One of the biggest classes I have taught in quite awhile. The space can comfortably accommodate about 15, so we were pushing it. And the latecomers who tiptoed in were welcomed with open arms, "Here, there is a space right here," and "Let me move my mat over, one sec." It's this sense of community that is the reason I teach. When I was on my path to becoming a yoga teacher, I would hear teachers say they get so much more out of teaching yoga than taking yoga classes. It's true. It becomes the juice of my own practice.

I hear so many people talk about/post about/complain about Mondays. I look forward to Mondays because I know at 5:20pm, I pack up at work, head down to the studio, change into my stretchy clothes, and show up. Every. Single. Monday. Sure, every now and then I have to get a sub for a class, but the Monday nights are non-negotiable. It forces me to step outside of myself and show up in a big big big way.

I show up for the Muslim women to come to class and laugh during our balancing poses where even I wobble and smile.
I show up for the father/son pair who call it their "date night."
I show up for the landscaper, the retired couple, the elementary teacher, the newcomer, the retiree.
I show up for the ones who deal with chronic pain; emotional, physical, mental.
I show up for the athlete looking for a little more flexibility.
I show up for the old, the young, and everyone in between.

It's pretty amazing to witness 19 people showing up, breathing, stretching, and cultivating self-awareness. It's one of the most magical things I have ever been witness to and I am beyond grateful for the opportunity, Every. Single. Monday.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

#100daysofwriting: day 20- walking

Going for a walk is one of my most favorite things to do in the whole wide world. It goes back to when I was younger and would go hiking a lot with my dad. Just walking in the woods would make me feel as though I was in my home away from home. Being outdoors has always been so nourishing for me, a time to reflect, to turn inward, to breathe, to feel expansion. The seasons of spring and fall are especially potent as the change of the seasons is more extreme, and the air has a special quality to it. Recently on my walks, I have been enjoying the boldness of the tulips, the smell of the cottonwood petals, the emerging green against the backdrop of dark soil, the puddles left from the recent rainstorm, the pots and gardening supplies strewn about in yards that have been hibernating all winter, and the light. The more light, the better I feel. 

Getting on a walk allows me to process and reflect, taking a conscious time out from whatever I am doing, move, breathe, and take a break. It's in these moments where I have my best ideas...a problem or challenge that I have been pondering suddenly presents a new angle...a theme for an upcoming yoga class...a brilliant date night idea. A pause in the action allows us to get some space, some breathing room, and being in the outdoors is just a cherry on top, so why not?

Walking is good for our soul. It's good for our health. It's good for our senses and our brains. But most importantly, it's really great for our hearts. A time to reconnect and serve as a reminder as to what is possible. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

#100daysofwriting: day 19- what I think about when I am doing the dishes

Summer view from the kitchen sink
Being the family dish walla gives me a lot of time to have my hands in soapy water and do some deep thinking. So what do I think about when I do the dishes? Here's a snapshot.

I think about the amazing conversations I would always have with my mom growing up. When she washed, I would dry. It was always great time for us to talk about everything under the sun and we still have those amazing conversations when I am home. When she comes and visits, I wash and she dries, and still, it feels like yesterday I was about 8 years old helping with dishes.

I think about my Italian grandma and great grandma, two super strong women always whipping a wooden cutting board out of the sink and gracefully putting things away. My hope is that I embody as much grace and passion for cooking now and as I age.

I think about how grateful I am for hot water and that it comes out of my faucet whenever I want it. When I traveled to Nepal and India, the work it took to create hot water humbled me and I always think about the ease I live with. 

I think about the meals I share with the people I love. Whether it's a squash soup on a winter evening or a grilled salmon with The Man, coming together for meals creates a feeling in my heart that can't be replaced or replicated. I value this precious time and wouldn't trade it for the world.

I think about my day and how I showed up with my interactions and my work. Did I make a difference? Did I make people laugh? Did I empower people to live powerfully? Did the day feel like a win? Are there things I need to complete in terms of my interactions and if so, can I have some grace with myself around those things?

I think about the garden and the yard, and how there is so much to do, always. It's overwhelming yet exciting all at the same time.

I think about getting out on hikes more. The kitchen window above the sink looks out to the Olympics and I feel the adventurous spirit in me wanting to drop everything and go.

I think about the state of the world, the suffering, the collective pain and say a prayer for more peace and ease and compassion. 

I think about the last time I practiced yoga or sat for meditation. It always seems like ages ago and make a mental note about stretching the next morning. And flossing too.

This carved out time is a meditation, a time to reflect, a time to also just do the dishes. It's part of my spiritual practice, a time to slow down and just be. I always feel super proud when I finish, the stainless steel double sink gleaning with accomplishment. The dishes stacked high in the drying rack. Soon I will make my cup of tea, brush my teeth, put on my sleep clothes, and wind down with a book. And tomorrow will come and more dishes will be used because meals will be cooked and eaten with love. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

#100daysofwriting: day 18- on tenderness

What does it mean to be tender? What does it mean to be gentle? What does it mean to be kind? What does it mean to embrace all of these qualities for ourselves?

I have been asking myself these questions for the past few months and what I am constantly encountering is how self-compassion feels so clunky for me. I beat myself up. All. The. Time. I run the ______enough story; not good enough, not smart enough, not sexy enough, not competent enough, not healthy enough, not powerful enough. Even as I write this post, I am thinking I am not kind enough with myself. The brutal irony.

I remember when I first learned what it meant to have self-compassion. It was on my yoga mat in Colorado when I was heart deep in my Vinyasa practice. I showed up to my mat with armour-esque strength, very little softness. My heart hurt from being in deep depression and I was sad. I beat myself up daily for my lack of motivation, my lack of love and passion for the life I was living. I would go into strong poses which perpetuated the cycle.

More strength, more armour. More strength, more armour.

My teacher at the time, Miya, would come to me on my mat and whisper the words, "Soften, let go, surrender," right in my ear. It would fire me up, I would feel the heat in my throat. I didn't want to soften. I didn't want to be tender. And yet, I continued to come to class and each time I practiced, a little bit of armour fell off. It was during that time in my life that I learned what it meant to be tender.

It doesn't get easier for me. It actually gets harder to be tender, to express deep compassion to myself because now I know the other side and the true cost of what it means to live in a constant state of war against my own being. I shut down, I get cranky and resentful. I get mean.

In the pause between inhale and exhale is a moment that feels like magic. I use that moment sometimes to remind myself what grace is and what tenderness should feel like. A little uncomfortable, a little scary, but magical.