Sunday, April 30, 2017

#100daysofwriting: day 27- sundays

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For me growing up, Sundays were all about family time. Being raised Catholic, I used to go to church and Sunday School when I was little, and then soccer games replaced that, but we always had a family meal on Sundays. It was a big deal to gather at the table before the start of the week. Sundays have a special place in my heart, mainly because I used to book myself solid, starting the week completely depleted. Now, Sundays are dedicated to white calendar space, doing what feels good, and nourishing and renewing my space, which includes home cooked meals, opening a bottle of wine during an early dinner, and getting to spend lots of time outside and curled up with my book before an early bedtime.

Here's what I love about Sundays...
...not setting an alarm
...maybe a workout with the man
...cooking brunch at home
...hot tea
...making soup, a quiche, a sauce, or another batch recipe for the week
...inviting someone over to dinner impromptu
...spending time outside in the garden and getting my hands in the dirt
...talking with my parents on the East Coast
...folding clothes and getting things in order for the week
...spending time with my book or my journal
...writing sweet notes & snail mail to friends
...taking it easy
...slowing down
,..unplugging
...playing the Etta James Pandora station while I do the dishes with hot, soapy water
...clearing the surfaces of our common spaces
...changing the sheets
...sweeping the floors
...starting anew

Saturday, April 29, 2017

#100daysofwriting: day 26- notes on exercise

I am a devout cardiovascular exercise nut. I am one of those people who finds joy in going to the gym to workout, sweat, and "feel the burn." But here's the truth, really. I go for my brain, not my body. I have no interest in getting a chiseled abdomen (I like brie and prosecco and lemon bar ice cream wayyyyy too much). I have no interest in sculpting my shoulders or toning my calves. I mean, those interests are totally cool and I totally respect you and everyone out there who has those interests and goals, but that's not me.
Image result for beet vegetable
Okay, so back to why I go. For my brain. Something happens in the rewiring sense when I get exercise. My brain feels calmer, more at peace, more mellow. It works. It has been my medicine since I got off medicine. I know the science is piled high to support exercise being good for the brain. There is no doubt about that. But for me, it borders on survival. The fact that when I exercise, I feel like I am able to survive the world. Deal with the unknowns. Go with the flow. Sleep better. Be the turtle and let things roll off my back. It's magic.

So I try. I try to get there everyday. Which is highly and insanely unrealistic, just like someone saying I am going to resist the black of the hole of the internet for the rest of my life. I mean, come on, right? So, I feel successful when I hit my 3x/week minimum. Anything above that is a B-O-N-U-S. When I am on the elliptical, for example, I am actively taking care of myself, my brain, my nervous system. It's a radical act of self-care, compassion, and a reality check for myself. It gets me out of my head, into my legs. Out of my small self and into my big Self, able to see the world just a bit differently with a teensy bit more perspective.

And so that's why I go. Not everyday, but most days. And it makes a real difference. I may look like I am a beet vegetable ready to explode and drop dead, but I am smiling dammit. I am friggin smiling because I am at peace and it is in those moments the world and life feels doable.

Friday, April 28, 2017

#100daysofwriting: day 25- I stopped using the word busy

Image result for pig penI used to be one of those people who, when asked how I was doing, would automatically vomit the words, "I'm okay. Really busy." Just typing it makes me want to barf. It's boooooorrrriiiiinnnngggg. It's completely lame actually. No substance in that response. It's lifeless.

So I stopped using the word and I also stopped asking people how they were doing. Now, don't think for a minute that I am a total b*tch and am not interested in my people. I am most certainly interested. So I started asking people what is new and exciting in their world. And you know what? I never get the busy answer any more.

I feel it's imperative we stop getting caught in this paradigm. Busy equals frenetic, chaotic, out of control, soul sucking. We. Must. Stop. The. Cycle. We can do it through our language.

Our words have power. Our language creates our reality. What we say, we honor. So, in essence, we have complete control over the pace of our lives. We don't have to succumb to the 'natural speed' of how everybody else is living.

I am amazed at how caught we all get, including myself. As soon as my pace picks up in my life, things start to break down. I tend to knock things over, bump into corners of tables, forget the route I drove, get frustrated with technology, and get real snarky with the people in my life. I stop being present. There's a cost to that and it's not worth it for me anymore.

No day is ever perfect and it's not about 'arriving at an enlightened place,' but rather, taking the sweeter, slower approach. It tastes better, it feels better, it syncs up with my heart better.

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. 

Yikes.

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

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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.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

#100daysofwritng: day 17- enough

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It's late. It's been a long week. I am taking the day off tomorrow for much needed rest and nourishment. I worked a lot at my computer this week so my body is cranky. I didn't get a lot of physical activity in, nor did I meditate.

But here's what I did do: I continued my writing practice. I didn't eat at my desk at all. I got out on a couple walks and worked in my garden. I enjoyed some evening unwinding with some great comedies. I continued my coffee experiment. I had lovely home yoga practice. I kept up with the dishes and didn't accumulate a huge pile of clothes. I talked with my parents. I facilitated some great meetings and finished some key work projects. I enjoyed time with a visiting friend. I enjoyed time with The Man.

Our culture is so focused on the negative. Our brains just naturally go to the place of what's wrong. We live in constant scarcity...never feeling like it's enough. So I am trying to change my brain. To focus on what is working. Focusing on what matters most. The priorities. Small wins over time. Capturing and celebrating the wins is beyond inetgral to my peace of mind and my contentment. When I see all the things I did do, it's a radical act of compassion and grace. It isn't perfect and I didn't do all the things, but it still feels so good to validate myself for what is working and what is happening.

One of my most favorite mantras is something my mom shared with me growing up.
I am enough. I do enough. I have enough.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

#100daysofwriting: day 16- home practice


I never thought of myself as much of a homebody. I always thought of my home as a base camp, a place to stage my next adventure, my next outing. It wasn't until I got Lyme disease a few years ago in which I was literally home-bound at times due to the agony, fatigue, and paint, that I realized what a treat it is to be at home. I learned that my home is a healing container, a place for respite, a safe space to process all my feelings and experiences, a place of retreat and quiet. As an introvert, this is so integral to my well-being and my overall happiness.

Take tonight.

I spent a good chunk of time in my car traveling south for a meeting and then making my way north. It had been a long day, and my back and neck were not liking my being in the car. It was a bit late when I pulled in the driveway, so gardening was out of the question. It was overcast and I was just feeling the overall blah. I walked inside, unpacked my bag & lunch pail, and changed into some yoga clothes. I plugged in my iPod and unrolled my yoga mat in the living room, lit a candle, and gave myself a gift of a 40 minute home yoga practice. It totally was the remedy I needed.

For me, home is truly where the heart is. It's where we can restore ourselves, engage in daily practice of meal prep, cleaning, folding laundry, reading in bed, journaling, sipping hot tea, and conversing with a loved one. It is such a sacred container and must be treated with the utmost care and responsibility. I am so incredibly grateful for my home, no matter how tiny it is. I am grateful for all the super cozy nooks and spaces we have, a great kitchen to cook in, and outside space that is both nourishing and fun. 

Take a moment to reflect on what makes your home your home. What about it is nourishing, supportive and safe? It is in these questions that we can find our own sources of contentment, ease, and grace in a very hectic world. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

#100daysofwriting: day 15- my favorite poem

In 8th grade, my Honors English class hosted a beatnik-esque poetry night. It was great. We got to read poems of great poets and write our own poems and share those. We dressed in black turtlenecks and I stomped around in my Doc Martens. I found my all-time favorite poem that year, Fear by Pablo Neruda and fell in absolute love with Neruda after that. In 10th grade, I traveled to Spain and was enamored by romantic poetry and Spanish culture. It feels like a lifetime ago, but still so present and current for me.

The poem itself is a bit much to grapple with for an 8th grader, but I was always ahead of my time, contemplating mortality, asking profound questions about my purpose in this lifetime, less concerned with traipsing around the mall with my fellow peers.

So here it is. My favorite poem for a Tuesday evening.
Fear
By Pablo Neruda

Everyone is after me to exercise,
get in shape, play football,
rush about, even go swimming and flying.
Fair enough.

Everyone is after me to take it easy.
They all make doctor’s appointments for me,
eyeing me in that quizzical way.
What is it?

Everyone is after me to take a trip,
to come in, to leave, not to travel,
to die and, alternatively, not to die.
It doesn’t matter.

Everyone is spotting oddnesses
in my innards, suddenly shocked
by radio-awful diagrams.
I don’t agree with them.

Everyone is picking at my poetry
with their relentless knives and forks,
trying, no doubt, to find a fly.
I am afraid.

I am afraid of the whole world,
afraid of cold water, afraid of death.
I am as all mortals are,
unable to be patient.

And so, in these brief, passing days,
I shall put them out of my mind.
I shall open up and imprison myself
with my most treacherous enemy,
Pablo Neruda.

Monday, April 17, 2017

#100daysofwriting: day 14- thoughts on challenging times

It's a crazy, crazy, crazy world we live in. The energy is palpable, some of it really inspiring, passionate, uplifting while some of it is heavy, dark, and depleting. Now more than ever, I see myself vacillating between sadness and joy, holding the paradox of so much good and so much pain & suffering. I am puzzled by this constant straddling as to how to show up as my best self, the best partner, the best friend, and the best contributor in this world.

Image result for take a stand
Photo from NeoGAF poetry corner
I notice myself more tender, more sensitive, more in tune with the suffering.
I notice myself craving more alone time, more time reflecting and engaging in quiet activities.
I notice myself drawn to more one-on-one time versus big groups.
I notice myself prioritizing self-care, good food, hydration, and outdoor time.
I notice myself a tad more emotionally sensitive, sometimes agitated, and sometimes downright pissed off.
I notice myself wishing for peace and contentment.
I notice myself wanting to be more physically active.
I notice myself ditching numbing behavior like mindless social media scrolling or endless hours of TV.
I notice that I am noticing more, cultivating a deeper self-awareness of my own needs.

There is no right or wrong way to deal with what we are dealing with. We are all just doing the best we can to navigate the tricky territory of our communities, our workplaces, our neighborhoods, and our cities. I take a stand for you so that you can show up with a little more curiosity, wonder, and ease in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead. I stand with you and for you.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

#100daysofwriting: day 13- feeling my feelings

I used to hold my emotions and feelings with so tight a grip, true suffocation would ensue. It still happens, although not as often and a big personal growth intention that I have been holding for the past six months has been to feel my feelings. To let my feelings really seep in, like a good, thick coat of stain on a piece of wood. It's hard and I don't like it.

I read somewhere that the skills and habits and patterns you develop the first half of your life don't necessarily serve you in your second half of life. This makes things complicated. Or at least it has for me. So I have been on this adventure of feeling my feelings, all of them in fact; sadness, joy, frustration, depression, contentment, passion, worried, curious, happy, anger, and all the ones in between.

Image result for feelings truthbomb danielle laporte
My findings:

Naming feelings is quite powerful. Similar to meditation practice and naming thoughts as they arise, articulating my feelings by naming them adds a whole other dimension to the feeling itself. It's self-validating and gives them a container to be in, which sounds super woo woo and weird, but it has given me such an immense amount of positive power with the difficult feelings.

I have a new relationship to crying. I was never a huge crier growing up. If I cried, I did it behind closed doors, but would let it build up so much that it felt as though a tsunami came over and through me when I did let it out. Now, I find comfort in shedding tears and similar to passing gas, better out than in.

Holding my cards close doesn't let people in. When I don't talk about the difficult stuff, I don't give the people in my life an opportunity to support and hold me with tenderness, compassion, and care. When I open up, even just a little bit, not only do I find breathing room, but I get to have more love and support in my life. Can't complain about that.

Feelings are the ticker tape of life. Nothing lasts forever. Feelings are impermanent. Similar to the news ticker tape at the bottom of the screen, letting feelings move through me without getting stuck is a practice I continue to hone and develop. It's like riding a big ass wave.

I am constantly reminded that feeling my feelings is a constant practice. There is no end goal, finish line, or miraculous destination. It's a radical act of self-compassion and is super challenging at times but it's so worth it. So incredibly worth it.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

#100daysofwriting: day 12- saturday yoga

Saturday mornings have always been carved out for taking my weekly yoga class. I try to get to a studio class during the work week, but I quite frequently don't make it, unless I get to a early morning class. Forget the after work fiasco and stress. I tried that for a while and my nervous system said, "Oh nay nay." So, Saturdays at 9am is it. Sometimes I go to the 7:30am if we have plans for the rest of the day, but for the most part it's part of the weekend plan. I wake up while The Man soundly sleeps, I make tea and sit at my desk and make my weekend wish list, including both work and play into the mix. I then slip into yoga pants, tank, socks and a hoodie and head to the studio. The morning air quiet and cool. The birds singing. There is a quietness in the atmosphere. I try to get there early so I can get my back corner spot near the wall. I unroll my mat, grab my props, and sink in.

I sink in deep. 

I release the stress and worries of the past week. I connect with my body. I get really curious about my breath and my heart. It's one of the most sacred times of my week. 

This morning I went to a Level II flow class, a class I seldom frequent. Vinyasa yoga used to be my practice for so long. I craved the sweat, the music, the community. The challenging poses like side plank, reverse half-moon, headstand, and pigeon. I transitioned away and found more nourishing and supportive practices for my health challenges and mental space but every so often, I need to get my sweat on and this morning was it. It was a bit like riding a bicycle. My body didn't forget. I surprised myself at times, grabbing my ankles while on my belly and bringing my heart forward into bow pose. Having no qualms about turning upside down into headstand. I was aware that my left ankle, despite being about 10 weeks post surgery, felt strong & stable. I noticed a calming in my brain. I felt like I was home.

And so I drove home, made my eggs and tea, and felt like a new person, a new soul, like I was connected to my body and soul again. It was then I realized that's why Saturday yoga matters. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

#100daysofwriting: day 11- what self-care means to me now

Ahhh...the magical words of self-care. It has been such a buzz word for so long and the topic of so many thousands of self-help articles and books, that I notice a bit of numbness to it. For me, I was introduced to the concept of self-care back in 2004, specifically as it related to getting up close and intimate with my own struggles with depression. I had started going to yoga regularly then, and my teacher at the time was a big advocate for self-care. For a number of years, I held the belief that self-care was always an act of doing something. Another thing to add, like a massage, soaking at the spa, curling up with a blanket and a book, or adding kale and herbal tea into the grocery cart instead of pints of Ben & Jerry's, although, that is self-care too sometimes.


Self-care has evolved for me in some really fascinating ways. Yes, I still build in active self-care; massage, acupuncture, spa time for soaking and steaming, journaling, walks in nature, meditation, yoga, all of that. But there's a new energy to all of it and that energy is truly receptive and fluid. What I notice now more than ever is that unless I am deeply grounded, listening to my intuition, and keenly aware of how my body, mind, and spirit feel, there isn't space to hold a conversation about self-care. Period.

Doing stuff only gets us so far. We live on the hedonic treadmill for the most part. But we have choice whether we stay on it or go take a hike into a different way of living.

Self-care has transformed for me personally to really encompass self-compassion and kindness.

It's consciously taking a lunch break away from my computer on a daily basis.
It's being realistic about how long things will take, including traveling, meetings, and projects.
It's saying, "Tomorrow's another day and I get another shot."
It's also saying "This can wait until tomorrow."
It's not setting the alarm on Sunday mornings.
It's dropping everything to watch a sunset or sunrise.
It's choosing garden time over dusting,
It's being in communication with your partner.
It's finding solace in soup instead of a big mac after a late night of working.
It's taking it easy during my moon time.
It's browsing the library for a few minutes versus rushing to my next errand.
It's feeling into how my body feels and what it needs.

We all have a choice and that's what makes this so great. We can choose a new way and create our own definition of self-care.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

#100daysofwriting: day 10- what I read in 2016

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I love to read. I love books. It's my thing. Usually, I write a post early in the year talking about what I read in the previous year. My goal is always 52. I haven't reached it yet. 2016 was a good reading year, despite being in school for my nonprofit management certificate, but I got my hands on some great stuff. This year, my reading goal is the same, 52 books. It's been a slow start, but I know I will find my rhythm. I keep a reading log in Evernote, one of my most favorite apps ever.

I closed 2016 reading 26 books, all of them fabulous, touching, and inspiring in their own ways.

Fast Facts from my 2016 reading list:
  • Smallest Category: Fiction (1 book)
  • Largest Category: Memoir (10 books)
  • 15 of the books I read were written by women
  • I read for professional development for the first time (thank you school!)
  • 19 of the books I read came from the library
Fiction
  • Fates & Furries-Lauren Groff
Professional Development
  • Leadership On the Line- Ronald Heifetz
  • The Leadership Challenge- Barry Posner and James M. Kouzes
  • Deep Work-Cal Newport
  • Originals- Adam Grant
Lifestyle & Self-Growth
  • Hands Free Life-Rachel Macy Stafford
  • Everything That Remains-The Minimalists
  • The Gratitude Diaries-Janice Kaplan
  • Essential: Essays by The Minimalists 
  • Now Go Out There and Get Curious-Mary Karr
Memoir
  • Why Not Me? -Mindy Kaling
  • Vessels-Daniel Raeburn
  • Falling-Elisa Cooper
  • My Life On the Road-Gloria Steinem
  • Bedwetter-Sarah Silverman
  • Here if You Need Me- Kate Braestrup
  • Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It-An Anthology
  • In the Body of the World - Eve Ensler
  • Love Warrior - Glennon Doyle Melton 
  • The Geography of Bliss-Eric Weiner
Spiritual Self-Study
  • Taking Our Places: The Buddhist Path to Truly Growing Up-Norman Fischer
  • Fierce Medicine-Anna Forrest
  • Let Your Life Speak-Parker Palmer
  • Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living-Krista Tippett
  • The Great Spring-Natalie Goldberg
  • The Great Failure- Natalie Goldberg  

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

#100daysofwriting: day 9- how I show up in my commute


Commuting can be a challenge. I admit, it's probably up there in my top ten least favorite things to do, followed by cleaning my bathroom, dealing with forgotten food in the back of the refrigerator, and forgetting my rain jacket on days with downpours. But, like all the other stuff, it's part of life.
I used to have a big story about my commute and complained crazily. And then I realized I had a total choice in the matter and how I could be about it. 90% of the time, I don't have to commute during peak hours, but it happens and that's just the way it goes sometimes. So here are a few things that I have found really helpful and things I consider as part of my survival kit for my own commute.

  • I try and notice 1-2 new things each commute. Whether it's a new piece of construction equipment, a billboard, new graffiti, or even a mom walking her child to the bus stop, I try to notice something new.
  • Hot beverage. Essential for morning commutes. Need I say more?
  • Podcasts! I also had a huge story about me not being able to retain audio information (i.e. books on tape), but then I fell in love with some awesome podcasts and because technology is so awesome, I subscribe using the PlayerFM app, they automatically download and I listen to those. My faves: On Being, Unmistakeable Creative, Good Life Project, Kate & Mike Show with Kate Northrup & Mike Watts, and 10% Happier. 
  • I have intentionally limited my news intake in my life, but especially in the morning. What you digest first thing has profound impact on your cells and your energy. No joke. 
  • I ditch my jacket in the backseat. I am a firm believer in comfort. It's one of my core values in life....to be comfortable. 
  • Always have sunglasses handy. The weather in the PNW changes so fast so one minute it could be dumping and the next could be blaring sun. No fun squinting while driving in a machine at 60 miles per hour.
  • I use my evening commutes to connect with family & friends before I get home. Not always, as I find it challenging to talk and drive at the same time, but I do it. Hands free only though. 
  • I practice my breathing. Commutes are perfect opportunities for pranayama practice. I use the morning for energizing breath work and chanting sometimes, and the evening for more calming practices.
  • I keep a mala in the car. When there is absolute gridlock, I run my Nepalese mala through my fingers and pray and send my gratitude and wishes to the universe.
  • On that note, I do a lot of gratitude practicing. The fact that I can get in my reliable vehicle every day and drive myself independently to my awesome job and then home to my awesome husband and house is pretty freakin fantastic. 
  • I don't commute every day. I work from home on Fridays and The Man and I try to carpool at least once a week. It breaks up the driving and we get to spend a morning together, which is usually slim during the week. 
And that's it. What I think is important to acknowledge is that at the end of the day, we all get to be in a place of choice; in our commutes, in our work, in our lives, in our relationships. It's the cool thing about being human, at least from my perspective. Sending you love for your commute or whatever it is for you.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

#100daysofwriting: day 8- what I choose: a manifesto


I am currently reading a fantastic book, "The New Better Off: Reinventing the American Dream," by Courtney Martin. It's both fantastic and thought provoking on so many levels. In the book, Martin really looks at different ways to live, work, love, and create community in this new version of reality, our new economy, and the challenges we face in our lives. I am inspired and hopeful as she articulates such rich accounts of people choosing a different path, a different way. 

I've never been one who "keeps up with the Joneses," nor do I find joy in consumption, measuring my success or status by the amount of things I own, or working myself to the bone. That's just not my path. But it has got me thinking about my path and my choices and getting clear with myself as to what I choose and what lines in the sand I do draw. On my way home tonight. I was thinking about the idea of a manifesto of sorts and what it would like like to declare what I am choosing on this path we call life.

I choose integrity. Holding a deep honoring of my word has ripple effects into the world in which I live and the relationships that I am in.

I choose partnership. Life is richer and more abundant on a variety of levels when I living in alignment with a partner who is caring, supportive, compassionate, and who challenges me to show up as my best self.

I choose right livelihood. Doing work that is both challenging, fulfilling, and making a difference in the community matters to me.

I choose my shadows. There are dark parts of myself that are challenging to look at and I include all of them in a big hug.

I choose tiny living. I would rather spend my resources on a sustainable footprint and put energy into my garden, time with people I love, time unplugging, or time on my yoga mat.

I choose curiosity. I find so many things interesting and embrace the life-long learner part of myself.

I choose nonviolence, towards myself, towards others, and towards the greater whole in my actions as much as possible.

I choose self-care and compassion. Active kindness towards myself is integral for me to function at my optimal level. This includes good sleep, movement, nutrition, and rest practices.

These are the lines in the sand. This is what I choose.

Monday, April 10, 2017

#100daysofwriting: day 7- intentions


On Monday nights from 6-6:50pm, I teach a Gentle Yoga class in South Seattle. I have been teaching the same class for almost three years. Teaching yoga is my own holy elixir, bringing me tons of joy, gratitude, and challenge. I have developed such great relationships with my students and teaching always proves to be the learning ground for so much inner work. Tonight, I brought up the idea of holding intention. We went around the room, each student saying their name and what brought them to yoga. I was beyond touched, moved, and inspired by each and every one of their responses. To name a few:

"Discipline."
"Flexibility."
"I am a better person when I come."
"Mindfulness."
"Stress & pain relief."
"I want better connection between my mind and body."

As I drove home, of course I reflected on my class and about my own teaching. What are my intentions? What am I out to create in my life, my relationships, my work?

...spending more time outside than inside
...weekends devoted to yoga, gardening, and hiking ending with a big bowl of soup
...more time in the kitchen cooking
...expanding our family with a puppy (soon!)
...continuing to enjoy big gaps of white space in the calendar
...early morning yoga classes during the work week
...more delegation and trusting others
...intentional one-on-one time with friends
...laughter & walks
...nights in with tea and good movies
...walking in the world with more grace, gratitude, love, and ease

As I told my students, it's not about whether the intention comes true or not. It is about holding the intention in our heart space, as that is the most sacred place to hold it. It is then, only then that our intention can be brought into the world and held delicately by the universe.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

#100daysofwriting: day 6- experiments with coffee

I decided to give up coffee for the month of April. I do this at least twice each year (spring and fall), mainly to give my adrenals and thyroid a well-deserved break but also to practice restraint and build in a disruption of habit, a piece of spiritual practice.

I didn't start drinking coffee regularly until about 3 years ago. I had always been a huge herbal tea fan. I am still a huge fan of teas, mostly herbals, adding lemon & honey occasionally. For me, a hot drink in the morning signified a waking up, a connection to self, and is now an everyday ritual. At the end of each day, you'll find me with a cup of chamomile tea and my book on my night stand. Hot drinks bookend my life. Living in cold climates, it was essential.

Of course, living in the coffee mecca exposed me to some really good cups of brew and slowly over time, it replaced my morning hot tea. I will say, I don't suffer from the severe withdrawal symptoms of mind numbing headaches when I give it up but there are moments in the year when I know it's time. It's time to take a break when I listen deeply and hear that my body needs a break. That the coffee has become the only fuel to get me going. When one cup doesn't cut it anymore. I truly feel addiction is a charged word, and I don't know if get there, but I truly feel it within.

One of the yoga teachers I study with is a big fan of running "restraint experiments." He says we have to run these experiments to "get after ourselves to see who we truly are." I like his teachings because it can really be anything:

  • Alcohol, caffeine, sugar
  • Social media & mindless web browsing
  • Eating at our desk
  • Going to bed late
  • Letting the piles of paper or clothes pile up
When we commit to restraint or tyagin (Sanskrit for giving up), we can examine our life. We get to assess what serves us in our life or what doesn't serve us. It seems as though our culture doesn't necessarily naturally lead us to these questions, but it really is up to us. 

For me, there is a little bit of ego behind my restraint experiments and it comes from the, "Heck yes I can do that. It's a challenge and I am going to blow it out of the water!" And after a few days in, I feel really proud, but then something clicks and I realize that restraint is really about strengthening our own personal power in having choice. I will always have a choice as to my hot beverage, when I put in my body, what yoga poses I get into, what relationships I maintain, and my reactive emotional patterns. It's a ripple effect.

I encourage you to think about running your own small experiment and dive into this experientially so you can see for yourself. I think you might be pleasantly surprised. 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

#100daysofwriting: day 5- rest is no longer the dark side


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I have always been a mega-driver, one of those impact drills or wrenches that goes full-throttle all day, every day. Once my feet hit the ground, it's hard to stop me. Or so it used to be. 

A few years ago, I was battling full blown Lyme disease. My fatigue was so loud at one point, I would have to rest after my morning shower. My joints ached terribly, I had massive fog brain, and no stamina. All I wanted to do was sleep and eat broth. The antibiotics took a toll on my body for a number of months and some days would leave me in a puddle of tears fearing that I would never get back to my full life and spunky self. My calendar was stripped down to bare bones and a lot of white space. I worked as much as I could, was super grateful for paid sick time, and slowly started to surrender to this idea that rest was one of the biggest factors in getting better.

Although battling Lyme sucked, I am blessed beyond measure to have healed. Millions of people live with the chronic disease which can be debilitating, disabling, and so often wreaks havoc on personal relationships, finances, livelihoods, and dreams. Living with Lyme disease taught me about how to live side by side with rest and befriend the notion of doing nothing.

Rest does a number of things for us.

There is a re-calibration of our nervous system. We live most of our days in fight/flight/freeze mode. Reacting in the moment. Somewhat running life on autopilot. Our parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the response system to the stimuli in front of us and that is a big source of stress for most of us. Rest without stimulation (NOT sleep), helps us access out parasympathetic nervous system which is the juicy part of ourselves that allows that relaxation response to take place. A high functioning, low stressed nervous system = better life, better work, better sleep, better sex, better everything.

Rest encourages reflection. Because we live at the pace we do, we seldom have the time and space carved out in our lives for reflection. Reflection is a key piece in the experiential learning cycle. It allows us to examine our actions, ourselves, and also contemplate if our choices align with our values.

Rest just feels good. When we build in rest (i.e. choosing tea time & picking our feet up over dishes and e-mail), something happens to our happiness. I am not a scientist, but I read a crapload of self-help, spiritual growth, and self-actualization books and they all say that active self-care and kindness makes us happier people. Think: not the angry frankenbear that shows up at the dinner table every night or at the office every day. Sure, life still has it's challenges, but when we actively take care of ourselves, whether for 10 minutes or a weekend retreat away or somewhere in between, we are getting those neurons firing and creating new neural pathways that say "Heck yes! Rest feels A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!"

So my Rx to you is this: go rest. I promise it will change your life.

Friday, April 7, 2017

#100daysofwriting: day 4- sunrise faith

As I get older, I so enjoy getting up and starting my days early. The silence, the quiet, and peaceful energy that envelops the start to the day is quite magical in my opinion. I haven't always been a morning person (adolescence and my first two years of college), but I find solace in it now. Spring and summer in the PNW bring with it cool mornings that match well with hot tea and a garden walk or sitting on the deck for breakfast. On rainy days, I like to go out on my porch and hear the rain. One morning this past week, The Man and I were carpooling to work quit early and we saw this.


It kinda took my breath away and I really tuned in to how it felt in my body. I was overcome with gratitude, immense joy, and a sense of surrender that there is so much more I don't know about this world. And faith. Faith that there is something bigger than all of us. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

#100daysofwriting: day 3- garden life


I started getting serious about gardening about five years ago. As a birthday present, my lovely mum-in-law drew plans for a raised bed in collaboration with The Man who took on building them, with my enthusiastic support of course. I slowly started learning, experimenting, and understanding my new hobby. Veggies and flowers, more veggies, more flowers. An herb garden. Pots & containers. Trellis planting. Tow more raised beds just for dahlias. More dahlias. Hanging baskets. Garden boxes. As my passion for gardening grew, of course the work and the maintenance grew with it. But here's the thing. I abso-friggin-lutely love it. On nice days, I itch to spend time out in the dirt, whether it be planting, weeding, cleaning up, or just walking around and observing. It's an extension of my mindfulness practice.  

When the clocks spring froward in March, that's our cue.  At least once a week, we go into work super duper early and leave early-ish to get home, put on our digging clothes, and work side by side with each other tending to our outdoor space. Sometimes we banter and talk, other times we are silent, working on a project together or on separate projects. We get in about 3-4 hours worth of work and then we grab dinner out, come home and crash, usually by 10pm. 

This time is so incredibly precious and nourishing and lovely and rich. It reminds me about alignment and priorities. It reminds me that spending time with someone you love doing this work is symbolic of so, so, so much. Patience, non-attachment, love, gratitude, and hard work. It takes work to maintain our outdoor space and everything we love takes some work, even just a little bit and I don't mean work in the sense of nose to the grindstone, rather, I mean intentionality. That we bring ourselves fully to whatever the cause/hobby/relationship/livelihood is. And that is truly a beautiful thing. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

#100daysofwriting: day 2- my neck

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Today was another typical, rainy, grey, windy PNW day. I had to drive south for a work project and spent a good amount of time in the car which for me, isn't super great on my body. I had a lot of fear going into this drive and here's why.

Last year, I dealt with a nasty flare up of an old neck injury and spent months relearning how to be in my body without creating strain and pain in my neck. It was one of the most difficult experiences I have had with my own body. I had missed some work, couldn't drive for a few days, and was brought to tears by the immense pain, numbness, and feelings of helplessness and frustration. Fortunately, with a fantastic tribe of healers, body-workers, friends, and flexible work, I came out of it with a whole new level of understanding. My neck taught me three big lessons:

1. My neck (SCM), shoulder girdle, pectorals, traps, and scapular area are my stress baskets. Some people get upper respiratory infections or back pain or sore throats when they are under stress. My stress response is all neck and upper chest and back. Foam rolling, Yoga Tune-Up balls, and core work help all of this. Oh yeah, and breathing. Lots and lots and lots of breathing.

2. Immense pain is debilitating and chronic pain blocks life force. I have such empathy for people who deal with chronic pain on a daily basis. When I had Lyme disease, I experienced chronic joint pain for about a year and a half. No fun. Pain blocks our life force and I lost my spunk real fast.

3. I get to be active in my self-care and my preventive care. Each day I am totally in a place of choice in how I take care of my physical body. Despite my philosophy of being a spiritual being having a human experience, we are given this body as our vehicle in this lifetime. I am so much more aware of the signs, the signals, the internal feelings, and the routine that nourishes me and prevents me from going down the pain path.

So, tonight I came home, ate a light meal, and really tuned in. I asked "What do I need?" I dragged out the yoga props (bolster, sand bag, strap, block) into the living room, put my headphones in, and put myself in my favorite restorative poses. A 30 minute practice unwound my tight body from the driving. I directed my breath into my core and my back. I felt lighter, more present, and not so tight.

And the best part? I realized that I exercised that amazing skill of taking care and being tender. It's a practice. There is no destination with this stuff. We do the best we can with what we have and some days are better than others but today, to be pain free after a long drive like that felt like a huge win.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

#100daysofwriting:day 1- showing up

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Two years ago, I did my first #100dayproject in which I write a blog post every day for 100 days. I did it mostly for the ass kicking I needed to write, to hone my craft, and practice. Writing has always felt like my yoga mat - a coming home of sorts. And so here I am today, two years later and diving in again because, well, I need another ass kicking. I have neglected my writing practice. Wait. Neglect is not the right word. My writing has been hibernating and awaiting patiently for me to come home again. It has kept house, managed itself in such a tidy way, and kept the soup warm and fire stoked. But now I am coming home. Showing up.

On Friday night, I went and saw the one and only Elizabeth Gilbert speak at the Moore Theater. To say it was inspiring would be cliche. What it really was for me was a true intervention. It was like my basketball coach in high school sitting me down at halftime and kindly saying, "Okay Jen. Get your head out of your ass and stop getting in your own way and just go out there and play for God's sake!" And so here I am. Showing up. Not really sure how all this is going to work/feel/be. But here's what I know to be true for me. I need structure and accountability for my showing up. It's how I get out of bed in the morning. It's what keeps my little ticker ticking. So here we go. In the words of my most favorite Pixar character Buzz Lightyear, "To infinity and beyond!"