Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Judgement Day

I was gone again last weekend and spent some serious time away from activity the last four days to just give myself time to breathe and think and allow life to happen. And in that time I continued with my meditations and a few thoughts occurred to me regarding one of the idea of letting go. One of the things that I teach in my yoga classes is the idea of letting go of judgement. This is a very hard thing to do for anyone and I find that, while I can let go of judgement of myself (for the most part), I am still judging others.

A few weeks back I was out with my husband and saw a woman whom I used to consider a friend in what seems like a lifetime ago. I am not sure if she also saw me or recognized me, but either way, we both pretended that we didn't see the other person and continued about our night. After seeing her I commented to my husband, rather judgmentally on my part, about how the other woman seemed to be in less fit shape than when we were friends. I noted, again not my finest moment, about how if I were single and childless that I would take all of that spare time to workout and keep myself in great shape by doing all of my favorite things. How I missed the times when I could spend hours at the gym, pool, etc and, although I love my children, am really looking forward to the days when I can put forth a little more effort into my physical health by exercising like I used to without children attached to me in some way.

Then, I promptly thought (to myself) who am I to judge her? There are many a day when the weather is fine and I still choose not to go for a run even though I am perfectly capable of doing so. There are many a day when I listen to my body and say yes to a large bowl of ice cream when I haven't exercised (because I don't believe that food should be a reward and it's okay to treat yourself if it's what you're really craving and it has no emotional component to the desire other than you would enjoy the taste of some really good ice cream).

There has been a lot of discussion lately about feminism and women v women prejudice (see a list of blog posts at the bottom that I have enjoyed reading on these topics) and in some ways I am seeing that no matter what I am doing to help make myself a better person, it won't really do much if I can't see others as inherently good people by whatever my measure is as well. So, how do I measure if I am a good person?
Well, I'm no Mary Poppins, but I do try to give most people the benefit of the doubt and keep an open mind. Gates mentioned in the Day 13 reading (I did last week sometime) that instead of getting angry at himself over getting angry, that he would instead look to the light and stop judging himself for being human. So, when I catch myself judging myself or others, I will not beat myself up over it, I will instead stop, find something positive to focus on (the light), and let the negative fall away. You can't change all of your errors. You are, in fact, human and by nature error ridden. You can only be the best you that you can be and keep trying.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Shaking in my.....Bare Feet?

It's almost 630am on Friday and I'm sitting here munching on a pack of granola bar and juice and preparing to go to work. I am now teaching yoga for four hours every Friday morning for the local community college as a curriculum course in the Math/PE Department. Odd, I know! The semester officially started last Friday, but as you know I was in Asheville teaching the PT workshop and unable to attend my own first day of classes, so this counts as the first for me. And, although I have taught many workshops and college courses, I still sit here anxious.

In the Day 12 reading (I did this on Wednesday) Gates writes, "When we opt out of experiences that challenge us, it's usually because our pride is in the way. And "pride" is really another word for fear - the fear of not being enough." (p.17) So, today I'm going to talk about three fears that I have that all involve not being enough.

Every time I go to teach a class, a workshop, a college course, or any other instance in which I must stand in front of others and be the "expert", I find myself wondering, why me? What makes me the one that they should trust? I've gotten a lot better about this and now my questions tend to quickly turn to: Did I set this course up the right way? or Do I have to pee again before I start? No matter what, I still second guess myself and leave myself in that vulnerable space of self-judgement. Since practicing my yoga, this space has gotten smaller and smaller, but has not totally vanished. And, in the spirit of self-reflection, I don't think it will ever totally vanish because it's part of the human condition. So, teaching is one area in which I still find fear in my life.

My full-time job is as a stay at home mom....or really I should just say as Mom because it wouldn't matter if I stayed at home or not; the fear is still there as a parent. I think stay at home parents have a similar but different fear than working parents and that is that we worry we are messing them up by being with them all the time. It's a little easier to say that you messed them up by not being with them, but also put some of that blame on whomever you left them with, but a lot harder to find a scape goat when it's just you.

I know that my older son has had more of my attention over the course of his life vs the younger one. I was home with him all by himself for almost 2 1/2 years before competition arrived. I didn't work as much when he was younger either. So, number two has to struggle with an older sibling and Mama working both in and out of the house. I do not fear (so much yet) bad things happening to my children as I once thought I would based on my own past experiences (see a great post about these issues on Fit is a Feminist Issue here and their effects on childhood obesity), but I do fear other things with my children. I've read several blog posts of late on We Don't Chew Glass and the Bloggess about how mean girls can be, but I am worried about how mean boys can be too.

It has always been my intent not to push gender roles on my children. I let both of my boys play with dolls when they find them at other people's houses and if they ever asked for their own, I would get them one. I let them pretend to be whatever they want to be and put on both Mama's shoes and hats and whatever else they want to play with just like Da-Dee's. My oldest has a "purse" that he sometimes carries around the house filled with toys and he likes to tell me how he's going to live in a huge pink house some day. Am I worried that my 3 1/2 year old is gay? Not a bit. If he ends up being, so what, but for now, he's just a boy who likes to play with whatever sparks his interest at the time. And most of the time that means wrestling and crashing trucks into things. Normally I don't even take a second thought to what he's talking about when it comes to the color pink or playing with dolls, but I kick myself now that on Tuesday night, when I bought him is first bike, I hesitated for a second when he picked a pinkish one. I hesitated just long enough to text Da-Dee and ask his opinion. Da-Dee is also VERY good about not gender stereotyping and I think that's partly because Da-Dee is the kind of guy that just doesn't care. He's got gay friends and wears pink shirts. He's very confident in who he is and doesn't worry about other people's opinions. I hope both of my boys turn out just like him.

That's one happy boy on his bike! And if you're wondering what it is, it's a Glide Bike. Check them out here!

So, I'm running out of time, but I promised you three things I'm afraid of and the last one is this: white vans while I'm running. On Wednesday night we had dinner at my brother-in-law's house and he lives about 1.5 miles from us. I decided to run over there and let the rest of the family drive and I took the long way to make it 2.55mi. I was pretty happy with the new shoes. They were very light and comfortable and I had the right kind of socks for them this time around. However, they did make my legs feel heavy in comparison. I had never run to his house before and took a little bit of the long way because, how often do I get to run on my own? I hit a 9:14/mi pace for the whole run, but also ran on a new road. And while running and smiling and singing in my head and checking the time on my phone I was carrying (I really need to invest in a sports watch), I was passed by a white van....twice. And although I am a very confident woman who is in good shape and was on a well traveled road with people out in their yards and the sun still blazingly hot on my back.....I still feared that van coming too close and snatching me right out of the road.

So, as I head to class, I ask, what kinds of things are you afraid of? Are they pride based? Has fear kept you from challenging yourself with something new?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Good-Bye Old Friends

I traveled again this weekend, but this time for both work and pleasure. My husband came with me to Asheville, NC and we left the kids in the capable hands of their grandparents for a few days. I was teaching a workshop on Personal Training for NETA at the Woodfin YMCA. I had a really great group there and it made being away from my kids very bearable. My husband and I had a chance to be alone a few times too which is nice for us. We try to make time to spend together without the kids, but it's often just a few hours here and there, so two days plus was a unique change and something we haven't done since the littlest guy arrived last year in June. We stayed with a friend of his and got treated to a night out by another friend who owns a restaurant. If you're ever within driving distance, please stop by and enjoy one of the most amazing meals of your life! And I'm not just saying that because Mike is a friend; the food blew my husband and I both away and the atmosphere and staff were top notch!

While I was away, as is usually the case, I had little to no time to work on my meditation practice. I found a few minutes on Friday (during my lunch) to practice my Prasarita Padottanasana and to think more about renunciation (vairagya) and my practice (abhyasa). The Day 10 and 11 readings reviewed these concepts further noting that when you are ready to finally let go of something that it feels like a relief because you've been doing work up to that point to prepare yourself for that final step. Therefore, it does not feel like a part of you is dying or ending, but rather a birth of a new you. This was prevalent in my life this weekend when I found myself in the middle of an argument. Since allowing myself to let go of my long held grudge, I am finding that I don't feel the urge to fight about things that will bring me no great resolve....the petty things in life. By focusing on this and incorporating my practice with the mantra I adapted from the Amy Weintraub book, I told myself that I was in control of my emotions and I didn't get sucked into the argument. I honestly felt no desire to quarrel and was able to just brush the whole thing off and move forward without regret. It filled me with such satisfaction that I felt (as I find many people do when they experience success with one challenge in their life) like I was ready to tackle more and more and more. I started wondering what else I could renounce or let go of and how amazing I could make myself feel without other vices like holding a grudge? Then I reigned in my wild thoughts and remembered that along this journey I need to stay grounded and allow things to happen naturally. Gates notes that if something is a priority, you will find a way to do it. So, I'm waiting for the next big priority to show itself. I don't want to waste my focus on things that will come and go; whims of change, if you will.

As I say good-bye to these negative feelings, I am also saying good-bye to a pair of old friends....my running shoes:

These guys had had enough beating and had earned themselves approximately 278 workout miles. This does not include all the times I wore the shoes around all day long and during all the activities and teachings for which they were worn. So, over the last 7 1/2 months they have been the real support for helping me get back into things. And remember how I told you I had worn some holes into them.....

Bless those shoes as they now retire to be only worn for yard work and other chores that require a pair of shoes to be sacrificed. Before I left town I found a new pair of friends to share the road with.

My son calls them my watermelon shoes. I realize that my photos are not the best, but I still have a dumb phone and our actual family camera bit the dust back in June. So far they have taught one day of PT workshop and taken me for a short walk with my husband. I'm not getting in as much walking and running as I'd like these last few weeks due to the heat and humidity and travel. But I hope that my new friends are as worth as the old ones of the miles I plan to push on them before the year is out.

This is my first pair of minimalist running shoes (remember me talking about wanting to move toward a barefoot running style? Well I jumped a head a few steps because they were on sale at Omega.). A few things I can tell are different already include the weight of the shoe, the construction is less restricted, and the backs of the shoes come up a little higher so some of my short socks have caused a little bit of rubbing at the first. No matter what, this week these bad boys are hitting the road and I will be back to let you know how my Saucony Virratas (totally sounds like a Sanskrit word, but is Finnish for Flow....that's yoga-esque all the way!) are holding up. Until then, it's back to the mat and holding off on "trying to find something more to renounce".

What things have you been successful at letting go of this year?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Connecting the Dots

I love and cherish the moments in life when everything around you seems to be speaking to the same point and falls in place to help reassert your faith in your choices and beliefs. I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but it took me two days of meditation, reading, and thoughts to sum it all up in one.

On Monday I did the Day 8 reading which again pressed me to let go. In yoga Vairagya is the essence of letting go and I had spent all weekend looking for the answer on how to let go of the suffering I had kept for so many years. Thanks to Stef over at It's A Long Story I felt like I could share a few things with you regarding this, now that I feel like I have let go and accepted Vairagya a little deeper into my heart. Please read her post on a similar note here.

A realization came to me last night after reading in the Benjamin Lorr book and trying to sleep. Often I think about my earliest childhood memory and the one that always comes to mind is not of a special moment between a parent and child, it is always me sitting at the dinner table and I can't exact my age, but assume it's about 4 years old. It is summer time and my mom turns to me and says (I'm not sure this verbatim, but it's how I remember it), "Whatever happened to my good little girl?" I feel like this is how I have defined my life since. I know there were great times growing up, but mostly what I remember, from both of my parents, is a need for me to meet a standard....a high standard. My mom and I had many battles over the years. We have jokes between my siblings about her spanking us and I distinctly remember seeing her cry one time when I told her I hated her. I was a stupid kid. My dad and I had a different relationship. I always wanted to make him happy with me despite my despising him at every turn. I wanted to be the best athlete because he told me I wasn't working hard enough at it. I wanted to be great in school because he was so smart (or so he told us). He told me I was fat and lazy when I was under 100lbs and did most of the work around the house when my mom wasn't there. He always tried to make me feel inferior in every way. This weekend I shared a story with my father-in-law about how, when I was a freshman in high school I helped my dad get back into college by writing some letters for him and helping him with typing and grammar and the letter formatting. When he was taking a college level English course I would help him type his papers and when he got a low grade (B or C), it was somehow my fault. As I was in high school his and my relationship got even more toxic as his and my mother's fell apart completely. I started to draw more toward her as she did me, needing me as the other half of her relationship to hold the house together. I was the oldest of 4. At one point my parents were seeing a therapist who told me that it was all my fault that they had problems, that if I had only been a better child that they wouldn't fight so much. What kind of therapist puts that on a 15 year old girl who has struggled with eating problems and is pretty much the third parent in the household? Many other things happened within the next few years that culminated in my parents' separation during my senior year and eventual divorce. I have not spoken to my father since Thanksgiving break 1999 and I have no intention of doing so, but in the spirit of letting go, of Vairagya, I choose instead to see each of these items as stepping stones of life. This is the life that built me and brought me here. I feel "a sense of liberation and lightness as we begin to renounce the very things that have held us back." (p.12, Gates)

Last night I broke open the Lorr book to try and get it finished before it is due on Thursday. His entire Part V: Sickness of the Infinitude (p.191-214) covers narcissism. I thoroughly encourage anyone who has one in their life to spend some time reading this book about Bikram. Still this book doesn't make me want to become a competitive backbender, but it has pushed me to incorporate more bending poses into my meditative practice and to challenge me in how I looked at meditation. Last night I wanted to be in Camel and the Cow/Cat sequence. I wanted desperately to be able to do the human arch that most of my friends learned perfectly in gymnastics as young girls. It reaffirmed my practice when Lorr says yoga doesn't make you, it's a tool to, "amplify my ego....or humble me". The concept of practice popped up again yesterday in Gates' book as well. He spoke on Day 9 about Abhyasa, practice, and the commitment to the practice that you choose. It is something driven from within that comes as a natural progression and not from shear will to perform. Also in Day 9 Gates talks personally about his sister's suicide which coincided with the death of one of mine, and many people's, favorite actors.

The world around me seemed to be speaking to me all at once. Everything is here to tell you that you are making a good choice by letting go and continuing your practice. In all of this letting go and forgiving of others I read a passage in Lorr's book by Courtney Mace (an international yoga champion and Bikram teacher) that pulled it all together for me:

"And when you practice any discipline that requires this level of strength, you quickly discover that it requires you to forgive yourself....And to forgive you have to go outside of yourself. Forgiveness, surrender, the ability to see your actions without being at the mercy of those actions, being able to detach from your own expectations....It's all the same." (p.223)

 It doesn't matter if it's yoga, running, Pilates, or anything else that I choose. Because I see myself for who I am and what I am and have let go of all expectations of what that should be. Because I am accepting of myself and what I do. Because I practice and because I can let go of the bad and hold on to the good. Then, I am whole, I am forgiven, I have forgiven, I am free.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Weekends Away

I am back home, again, but only until Thursday and then I'm gone....again. This is making working with the meditations less of a literal 365 day journey and more like a yearish of transformation. When last I left you I was dealing with letting go of pain and suffering. I stopped reading the book for this weekend to dwell on this a little more and to keep working with the pose I was attempting. Thanks to those of you who emailed me privately or commented on my last post. It just reaffirmed what I already knew in my heart, that I have the power and the strength to just let go of what could be and to love and accept my life for how it is. I am me because of the experiences that I have had in life and in loving who I am now, I love those experiences too. I have always thought that I needed some big apology from my dad to move forward and then we could work toward him being a part of my life again, but I don't need to hear it from him and I'm not missing him in my new life. He is a part of my past that shaped who I am. I, like in my meditation, choose to keep the good and toss out the bad and live my life to the fullest. My kids, although still young, don't ask where their other grandpa is and are happy for the one Papou they do have. My husband asks, from time to time, about him, but it's of no consequence to me. I do not feel the brewing inside of me when I think of him today. No brewing anger, resentment, sense of loss. It's a peaceful feeling of wholeness of myself, and emptiness of that suffering.

We spent the weekend at my in-laws so I could work another race for the timing company I have been with since my graduate program internship. Check them out for races in Eastern North Carolina at Run The East. We did a kids' triathlon this weekend that I had worked the previous year as well. It was great fun to see the kids out there giving it their all. Some with fancy bikes borrowed from their parents and others with princess stickers on their helmets. It was a variety of age levels (5-17) and abilities/experience, but all of the kids were impressive to me. Their smiles as they crossed the finish line first place or last and celebrating getting a popsicle as an adult might a beer always make getting up at 530am worth it to me.

It rained on us at the race for a little bit and then off and on the rest of the weekend. I'm usually not bummed out too much by a rainy weekend, but it stresses me out at other peoples' houses because of the fact that my kids become a handful. My husband had had surgery on Friday and was laid up for the weekend and with little to do, there were a lot of time outs. There's also, as I've said before, no exercising and a lot of eating foods I wouldn't normally have when I travel. I find it very easy to practice my yoga and meditation at home or even a hotel room, but not so much at family members' houses. I feel like there is no good place to go to do it other than a living room and there I feel like I'm on display. The best part of practicing in the living room, though, is having my 3 1/2 year old copy my poses and "invent" his own that we need to try. I love that he has a great memory for most of the poses, but funny ones this weekend included The Tank (aka plank) and Crab (literally crab walking, not a yoga pose). I try to keep him doing the poses although his flexibility seems to be diminishing as he grows and is unable to sit still in the poses for a decent length of time right now. That will all change with age, I hope.

We also, like I said, ate a ton this weekend and tried out a new dessert recipe that I had found through Ambitious Kitchen for a no bake french silk pie. I'm just going to warn you right now.....don't click the link below unless you have a lot of people to share this pie with because it is sinfully delicious and you will want to eat the whole thing yourself.....which I don't encourage and was able to limit myself to one piece each of the two days that the pie existed at the house.
Click here for the recipe
So, it's time to head back to the mat. What did you do for yourself this weekend that made you happy? What did you do for others?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


There I stood, legs wide on my mat with my head trying to reach the ground. My hands were clasped behind my back and my fingers struggled to keep their grasp while my rings dug in deep. My upper back pinched between my shoulder blades and everything strained. My face felt like it was falling and my jaw did everything it could to clench as my mind told it to release. My mind was shouting to all parts of my body to release, RELEASE, RELEASE, but my body would not obey. I tried breathing slowly and making the sound of the ocean, but instead it sounded like I was choking, drowning, gasping through my nose. The air would only come in and out through the right side and my tongue drooped down blocking the air. I kept my eyes closed, but could feel that my left leg was still slightly bent. I breathed in and out 10 times in this fashion before coming up for air. I rested and then resumed, but by breath 7 my arms fell away from each other and rested on the mat. I opened my eyes for the last three breaths and was critical of how my posture looked. I felt stooped instead of folded. I wanted to cry. I came up again after the 10th breath and walked away from the mat. I felt broken.

This was my practice yesterday. My Day 7 reading asked me to let go of my suffering, for "when we are happy, we spread happiness." p.10   So, instinctively I went to a yoga pose that is meant to heal the heart, Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Leg Forward Fold). This pose is meant to help open your heart chakra by opening the chest while bringing you a feeling of grounding both physically (the feet) and mentally (the head placed on the ground). I chose this pose because it is also said to help open your throat chakra and sometimes, when thinking about pain and suffering, I feel like I need more freedom to say what it is I feel, I need, and I want.

I chose this picture of the pose for a few reasons. The first is that it's a very good representation of the pose without looking like it's impossible to get into. The second is that it was just a funny picture. And the third is that it spoke to me about the cycle of suffering. The same pose is on the front cover of the Lorr book I am reading right now, but that book is offering me very little inspiration at the moment. Instead, while I was in this pose I wanted to think very deeply about how and why I might be suffering in my life right now. Things are not always sunshine and rainbows shooting out my rear.

After I left the mat I took a few minutes to compose myself. I stopped myself before I started to cry. I don't know why I did this, but it's something I do a lot of. I hate to cry for so many reasons, but I think the biggest reason is that it makes me feel weak and vulnerable and that is a place that I try to keep walled up. I also hate the face I make when I cry and how I can't wear my contacts for two days after I cry because my eyes swell up. But, I stopped myself this time because I knew why I was going to cry and I wasn't ready to face that reasoning. I suffer every day because I hold grudges despite my attempts to let go of things that bother me. I am good at letting go of little things, but big things I tuck down deep and allow them to eat away at me. I don't know why I do this. I think it started out as a way to protect myself, but as I grow older, I know that it's doing more harm than good.

So, in that place of pain, while I was upside down connecting my mind and my body, I stopped and walled up yet again. It was hurting my practice, hurting me physically, and hurting me emotionally. My biggest grudge has been eating away at me for 15 years now, an anger at my dad for tearing our family apart. However, it is a pain and not a pain. I wonder how I might be different or where my life might have led if things had been different. At the same time, I no longer miss his presence in my life. He's like a friend from school that I didn't keep up with. I can look back on some fond memories and say, "Those were the days," but not feel the need to pick up the phone and reconnect because it was a lifetime ago....almost half of my whole life ago.

I wonder how I can reconcile this suffering and the effects it has on my every day life. How do I fully let go of this grudge? Do I let him back into my life? Do I accept that life is what it is and keep moving forward, but without that feeling of "what if"? If I could let go of this weight, this pain, this suffering, this grudge, I feel like I could feel free to keep an open heart. A grudge free heart. A happy heart. How are you suffering and how can you let it go?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

And Then You Get Smacked in the Face

So, yesterday I was all zen about how it was okay to miss a day of meditation, okay to take a break from my yoga and I wrote my little post and sent it off to internetland and then....I open my book and think...yeah, so today totally negates everything I just thought and felt and said. Why did this happen? Well, because the Day 6 reading was about renunciation and practice. Did you catch that last word? PRACTICE! The exact thing that I wasn't doing on Sunday. Then I felt like beating myself up about failing at yoga and my meditation, but then I thought, I'm not supposed to beat myself up, and it caused a whole vicious cycle.

In the end, this is the take away from yesterday's reading:
-If you say you're going to do something, follow through with it because if you don't you'll end up back where you already were
-Practice is important because if you don't practice living the way you want to live, you'll never get there
-Practice alone won't do the trick either, the two work together kind of like a yin and yang, and just practicing will keep you blocked in your attempt to grow

Remember way back to resolutions in January and all the tiny steps since then I've been taking? I keep moving forward in the direction of both renunciation and practice, but I'm not there yet. I know that this journey may seem a little insane and a little incohesive at this point, but give it some time if you're willing to try it too. Think about how each of these ideas is building upon the other. So, now I have given up my pretenses about who I am and what to expect while I do this journey. I have given up control over what happens and taken up everything all at once. I've vowed to practice and get to know my mat and myself better. And I set out in service to make the world a better place and my world a better place by making myself a better me, by discovering the power inside of me. So, this afternoon, as I step to my mat, I approach it open again, who knows what will come, but I won't ask what's in it for me, I will just let it be.