I’m on a journey to save my life in the most profound way possible. Three months ago I started to meditate. Meditation gives me the opportunity to just sit and breathe. As I sit and breathe, thoughts come and go that bump me out of my moment of zen. These thoughts range from being mundane to toxic. The mundane thoughts I’m able to let go without much ado because an errant thought on that level can be addressed after the final mantra. The toxic thoughts come through and my nature is to dig in and wrestle with it. Childhood traumas to adulthood dramas raise themselves outside of my psyche and demand I pay attention to them. I get angry, but I push them aside and try to focus on my breathing. I swallow rage as I try to nudge them aside and try to concentrate on the calming voice telling me I’m a feather floating on a cool breeze. I want to cry as I try to ignore the thought and exhale an empowering mantra.
If someone in fuzzy dreadlocks, dusty handmade sandals, and mandala beads smelling of legalized cannibis tell you need more time to actualize before you find zen, you may want to buy them a bus pass to pedal that daisy and moonbeam rhetoric somewhere else.
Pump your breaks. Don’t dismiss the modern day hippie so quickly. They’re right. They are also wrong. Finding serenity is a long term journey that will end only when you take that final breath. As you gasp that final OM, only then will your mind find that elusive quiet. The journey is being zen. You are with laser focus taking time to achieve a sense of inner balance. The find balance, you need counter balance. So as you focus on your sacral chakra, don’t be alarmed if you suddenly remember that your brother hates you for being the first born. Don’t think you’re a failure if you start to resent yourself for your birth order while trying to remember to say VAM on the exhale. Don’t berate yourself if you find yourself getting pissed at the manchild for prolonging his childhood insecuriites deep into middle age as you try to visualize the color orange. Just breath. Embrace the anger and pain, then try to focus because the next time these thoughts filter back, you will be ready. You’ll be stronger. You will realize being zen doesn’t mean negating your anger, hurt, and disappointment. Being zen means to embrace that part of you and change the way you let that rule you.
So sit on your stool, breath, and let those thoughts and emotions move within you and without you. You would not be human if you didn’t acknowledge it.
I’ve been on a yogi journey for 13 months and counting. What started as doing yoga for a 30 day program turned into yoga every day. I have been practicing yoga for years, but the yoga-every-damn-day movement took hold of me in 2017, and I haven’t looked back. Yoga helps me to stay centered. It feeds my soul in a way no religion has ever done. What to many looks like acrobatics and stunts, yoga is much more than a fancy handstand or a twisted pose with a Hindi name. Yoga is knowing yourself and your place in life. It’s about staying true to who you are and where you are going. I can get myself riled up with world politics all day long, but as soon as I get on my mat…I can breath. And as I breath love in and love out, I know being present on that mat is the most important thing for me.
Today I finished my annual 30 day program with one of my favorite YouTube yoga instructors, Adriene. The culminating practice has always moved me. In 2016, I was in tears on my mat because what started out as Yoga Camp became so much more for me. In 2017, I got a little choked up, but my connection to my practice was so that I wanted to keep that feel good feeling going everyday. Thus, I began my year+ journey. Today, I completed the class with half my mind on my practice and the other half on all of the things I had to do off my mat. Having the husband walk through my “space” while I floated into a standing splits sort of broke the intimate spell I had initially cast onto my practice. I mopped up my sweat, did a solemn “Namaste” to my screen, and got to the business of the mundane.
Well, as I went through my day, I felt like something was missing. I was anxious. I felt the need to do something, but I couldn’t think of what I had left undone. It wasn’t until I was watching my son’s basketball game that it hit me. It was 2016 all over again in a different expression. I was not in tears. I didn’t need the tears to express how I felt. I felt sad that my 30 day time with Yoga with Adriene was over, but I felt reborn in my body, mind, and soul. I felt a special kind of confirmation that made me want to cry tears of joy.
So as February slides into place being led by a Full Blood Super Moon, I feel genuine peace.
On January 1, 2017 I began a self preservation odyssey that centered around yoga. I have been practicing yoga off and on for decades. About 4 years ago I jumpstarted my yoga practice to a regular part of my fitness program because of a knee injury. The doctors prescribed painkillers and physical therapy for my injury. I prescribed yin yoga and became pain-free. Once I was rehabilitated, I continued to practice yoga twice a week with some minor stretching on the days I did not do a full practice.
On New Year’s Day, I decided to do yoga everyday for a month. I used podcasts, yogadownload.com, YouTube, and my own routines to establish a consistent practice. That month turned into two months. Now I’m looking back at nearly 7 whole months of yoga and my spirit is lifted. I have done this before, but the goal was to heal myself. This time, the goal is to push past my boundaries physically and build my boundaries mentally.
This year has been a challenging year. Many times I have found myself feeling trapped, manipulated, and punished for just breathing fresh air. My feelings are based on real and imagined offenses, and I recognize that with an open mind and heart. I realize a lot of these conflicts will never be resolved and some will need time to either heal or be resolved. No matter the conflict or offense, yoga allows me to rest my mind and focus on me. As I type this, I realize I need to get dinner ready and prepare to walk the dog. My office is hot and the air is humid. A flutter of a migraine is resting behind my eyes and this monitor is assaulting my vision. But I straighten my carriage, take a deep breath, and realize before the day is over, I will take my mental and physical struggles to the map and feel better for it.
I’m on day 15 of the 30 days Yoga Revolution lovingly presented by Yoga with Adriene. I discovered Adriene a year ago when I did her Yoga Camp which was amazing. Yoga classes can be pretty academic when you focus on doing the asanas without falling down or embarrassing yourself. Approaching yoga like an exercise class is more common than not for some people. Some yoga classes can be…a bit much with moonbeams shooting out of your 3rd eye while you chant words you don’t understand while inhaling the smoke from a healing herb that may or may not give you emphysema by the end of the class. Adriene presents yoga in a way that is accessible to all. Her classes are a perfect blend of physical, mental, and emotional challenges. I can take what I learned on the mat and apply it to off the mat.
Without fail, Adriene will announce that a certain variation of an asansa was yogi’s choice. This means the practitioner can decide which variation suited them. I love that phrase because it reminds me that I have a choice in how I proceed with any and all tasks put before me. Believe me when I say that that is one lesson learned on the mat I take with me off the mat.
So as I move forward in this life, I embrace my choices. My way may not be someone else’s way, but that’s alright. We are all special snowflakes. If we were all the same it would be quite boring.
Today I saw a rainbow. It was a sliver of color on a gloomy day. As I sipped my latte and gazed at this image, I felt a glimmer of hope. As I took the picture, I wondered about my hope. What do I hope for? Better.
Today I took many deep breaths and laughed in the face of conflicts that would normally have my blood boiling. Taking it easy is not easy. Changing my wiring is a challenge. So I smile and ignore the twitch in my left eye.
I know it was bothering you that I was not putting my soap on the conveyor belt like everyone else. I know you felt the need to put a second divider on the conveyor belt to leave me a foot of space for me to put down my purchase. Yes, I saw you, but I didn’t feel like putting my one item down. Actually, the waves of anxiety rolling off you was amusing. You wanted me to conform and be like everyone else, but I’m not like everyone else. I believe the conveyor belt is for people with many items to purchase. Holding the soap keeps my hands from fidgeting in irritation because the lines are long, the checker is slow, and the woman in front of me could’ve let me get in front with my one item since she had purchased about a hundred items. Holding my soap kept me off my phone. I like to stay focused during this time of year where the crowds offer the perfect cover for thieves and con-men.
Watching you yell out to the young cashier that the next group of items on the conveyor belt belonged to you was also entertaining. I guessed you figured I was too dense to speak up before the cashier grabbed your box of crackers. I had to shut you down with a well-crafted line peppered with annoyance and amusement. Don’t worry, lady, I got this.
Well, I hope my desire to hold my soap didn’t ruin your evening. I hope your retelling of the rude woman who was curt with you for trying to be helpful makes you look grand to your hand-wringing friends. The incident just gave me something to write about on my blog. For that, I thank you!
The Soap Hugger
While the world waits with bated breath for election results, I’m looking at dogs. There are so many dogs needing homes.
Twenty years ago was a horrific time in my life. Family and friends were dying. I found myself turning into a professional mourner. If I were to list the many people who had passed on, one may believe I was exaggerating. Death was everywhere and the toll it took was overwhelming. At the time I was not aware of the many little deaths I was suffering as I paid my final respects.
After travelling to the East Coast for a funeral, I vowed to never attend another funeral unless the person was an immediate family member or friend. Dark thoughts were crowding my brain as I tried to make sense of the deaths that were clouding the skies. Death is a part of living, but it’s not healthy for the living to cloak themselves in death. Paying respect to someone who is no longer here to witness you and your flowers is a cold way of painting a reality, but it’s true. Giving solace and comfort to the ones the deceased left behind is the purpose of a funeral or a memorial. Twenty years ago I was not cognizant of that aspect of the funeral. I was focused on me and my mortality.
The last funeral I attended was a personal and gut wrenching loss of a loved one. As I look back at that moment in my life, I realized that the funeral did not offer me an ounce of solace or comfort. For those of us who were close to the deceased, the funeral felt false and awkward. It was a distraction from the pain. So it makes me contemplate the true purpose of this ritual. Does a funeral/memorial really help bring closure? Can quiet contemplation and an intimate goodbye soothe the broken-hearted? These are my thoughts as I look back on dark days.