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Yoga can be a wonderful personal practice–body, mind, and spirit.  Through asanas we can bend our body, stretch our muscles, and flex our physicality.  Internally we can learn to quiet the mind, decrease anxiety, and find inner calm and centeredness.  In the intangibles of spiritual connection we can find through space to breathe we find connection to something larger than the self, something part of a collective whole and a union that persists inside ourselves and out.  From this we can, if we choose, extend that unity further.  If we choose.

I am coming to the close of my teacher training, beginning my “Yoga for Trauma Survivors” class and planning forward working and preparing for a variety of upcoming talks on mind/body wellness, yoga for mental health, and complementary therapies at the NASW Conference in Florida, at hOMe yoga in Mahwah, New Jersey, and in a graduate elective at a university here in Southern Florida.  As I prepare to move out of this phase of my life, an intensive training phase, and into an intensive action phase I think of the extension and arms of yoga.  How far can yoga reach?  As far as your mind and metaphors can reach–and much further forward than I can stretch in forward bend.

Karma yoga, selfless service, and yoga as action is becoming more and more synonymous as yoga communities are taking the internal calm of mind that comes from meditation and a quiet graceful posture and using that clarity to effect change in the world around them.  Such figures as Seane Corn and her “Off the Mat and Into the World” campaign highlight the ways in which yoga and a well-known voice can be channeled to create change both on the mat and in the world at large.  But we also don’t need to have a voice that is known to say something of value.  Yoga can imbue us with a sense of strength, empowerment, grounding, and centering and these essential tools of being can be taken by any yogi or yogini and be tailored for wherever your heart and passions might lead you.

I wrote earlier this month about Swami Padma, of the Sivananda Center in San Francisco, and his work to bring yoga to inmates in the California Prison System.  This is just another example of one person’s passion creating a ripple effect, a focus on a cause that might otherwise be ignored, and monies and services put in place as a result.  Imagine what you could do taking a combination of your passions, creativity, yogic centeredness, and spirit for action and creating change in the world.  Whatever your passion is, wherever your voice takes you, you have the potential to effect change for a population or a cause that otherwise could have been ignored.  What you believe in matters.  What you fight for can make a difference.  Lending your voice, even if it is just the voice of one, can change the hearts and minds of many.  We all have the potential to create ripples of change in this world; even ripples that could extend farther and wider than your imagination can imagine.

Lately, as I extend and deepen my own yoga practice, center inward more in meditative moments, follow my passion and lend my voice to what I believe in the more it seems that voice and these words of mine seem to blossom and grow branches upon branches.  I am still not sure how far this will take me or how much I will be able to do but I am setting my sights on infinity and anything along the way, on my pursuit, amazing and beautiful things are happening.  Connections are being made, changes are happening almost organically, and the contagion that is my own passion seems to spread as I open my mouth, write my words, and purvey my dreams for what could be.

My aspirations reach as far as creating a nonprofit and learning institute that could bring complementary therapies and yoga for mental health to a variety of populations at low to no cost as well as train persons in the field of yoga, mental health, and complementary therapies how to integrate the two and be sensitive to the needs and issues of mental health populations.  I believe healing and the capacity to heal can emanate from all manner of creative and holistic approaches and in my own trauma healing yoga, contemplative practices, and animal-bond/relational experiences have been profound.  I want to extend these tools to anyone I can.  So for now I will speak anywhere I can on the matter, create programs wherever I have the option to, and hope for a future where I can reach past the branches of my own dreams into something even more profound than I could imagine.

What do you dream about?  What do your passions lie?  What would you do to effect change in the world you are in, the life you have, and using whatever skills or knowledge you have at your disposal?  It is amazing the well of talent and internal resources we all have.  Every person is the authority on something or passionate for something that might be ignored by everyone else.  Every voice matters!  How are you going to use yours?

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Victor Frankl



 

I grew up in a Catholic household where following every waistline testing, engorged bellied Thanksgiving came the ritual setting up of Christmas trees, decorating, and beginning the countdown of the Advent season.  As a young girl all that really meant was getting out the calendar covered in glitter and surprises waiting behind every door.  You open a door every day of the Advent season (the month leading up to Christmas) and either candies or pictures would lay in wait behind every door opened, or cardboard cutout removed.  It was magical, scintillating joy that comes only from the simplest of places and requires so little tangibles, only a wealth of imagination and anticipation–of which I had in overabundance as a child. 

 

Today I find so many rich metaphors and symbolism in this past time of Advent.  Advent meaning in any terms, “The coming or arrival, especially of something extremely important.”  As we creep towards the new year and holidays for a variety of faiths and creeds that symbolize new beginnings, rebirths, births, renewal, and change we are all free to celebrate this season of advent, the advent of change in one way or another. 

 

I find myself at a precipice of so many things and at this precipice I find myself assessing so much that is and that which has been in my life the last year or so.  In the advent of change in my own life I find myself pondering the present and looking expectantly towards the future–something like the adult version of my childhood self, wondering what magic awaits me behind the next door I open. 

 

There is a freedom and beauty in this time of year to shed old skins, start fresh with new journeys and to return back, with childhood wonderment, to a place of memory and nostalgia of what holiday seasons and preparations can be. 

 

I hope everyone has filled their bellies and laughed with the ones they loved this Thanksgiving season and that everyone has something they are shedding and something new they are on the precipice of beginning.  Take time to sit in your own advent of change right now.  What is the arrival of something important you are waiting for, the new project, new adventure, new journey you might be about to begin?

 

I began this blog to catalog my journey through yoga school, a tangible and solid goal.  What I have realized is as I have written, as life has meandered on a course part created by me and part formed by that which has happened in my life, things have shifted.  I have realized that, like Advent, this story has taken a more symbolic and metaphoric route.  “Yoga School”, as it were, has become everything–it is my life, my journey, and the yogic path and insights that have imbued my every step. 

 

I owe many a personal revelation to this blog and the ideas that have sprung in the writing of it.  As I creep closer to the time that I will begin my literal yoga school I realize that, that journey is only a small pieces of this larger adventure and misadventure I am on–my yogic education is this whole process, this year of change, this advent season on the precipice of beginning new and wonderful adventures, everything that has come and everything that will come, in and out of a classroom.

 

Happy holidays to everyone and I hope we all can explore together as the year comes to a close the advent of the new that we may all be on the brink of. 

 

 

“Life is a constant Advent season:  we are continually waiting to become, to discover, to complete, to fulfill.  Hope, struggle, fear, expectation and fulfillment are all part of our Advent experience.”

Life Is An Advent Season, Connections, 11-28-1993

 

RED RAIN by Helah Al Helal on flickr

 

Metaphorically–Singing in the rain, metaphorically.  No one, trust me no one wants to see me sing, not even in the rain.  I save that glorious pleasure for solo car rides and loud showers. 

 

The intent of this post is to talk about, from a very personal perspective, trying to find the silver lining, see the bright side, look at the glass half full, and any other kitschy association to taking our unexpected roadblocks as opportunities to carve out new trails.  I am trying very hard to keep that mindset and, surprisingly, I find the more I search for the better the more “better” appears. 

 

 

Forget It by Helal Al Helals flickr

 

 

In the 48 plus hours since writing my bright and spirited “The Year of the Dog” post many things have happened and many subsequent decisions have been made–the initiator to all being that my husband and I found out that his guarantee transfer that had lingered in “on hold” for a month had fallen through due to beurocratic blah blah blah.  That left us wondering, “What next?”  This is what we came up with:

 

1)  My husband is going to continue working in New Jersey through November 6th and try to get a few more checks worth of money in before we, potentially, become a house no longer divided in half but one with a household income divided in half.  He will then move to Florida and actively look for whatever job possible, hopefully in his area of passion which is substance abuse counseling, but anything to bring some income in to supplement my salary.  He will also be returning, to my great pleasure, to school to obtain his Masters in Social Work starting next Fall 2010. 

 

2)  I will, to my great displeasure, have to postpone my Yoga Teacher Training by two months and begin the next series of trainings in mid January.  I will be a single doggie mama with three pups at home and cannot in good conscience (without ending up on Animal Planet Cops or feeling like I should) leave them home from dawn till past dusk so I can pursue my holistic dreams. 

 

3)  On a completely different note I have decided it may be necessary to look into Doggie Ritalin.  I am beginning to wonder if there can be a genetic marker in a certain breed for ADHD–if so Jack Russell is that breed.  My little Gracie is an unstoppable, unflappable, unending spring (literally, she bounces straight in the air like a spring) of energy and, possibly, psychosis.  O.k., so I may not be feeding her handfuls of puppy prescriptions anytime soon, but I may have to invest in some kind of doggie treadmill–if there is such a thing.  I think the only thing my Jack Russell birthday puppy has taught me about thirty is that thirty may be too old for a Jack Russell puppy.  But we will forge forward, my family of dysfunctional fur-babies and I:  Guinness the Neurotic, Gaia the Narcissist, and Gracie the Psychotically Hyper. 

 

 

A 48 HOUR RETROSPECTIVE…

Going backwards in time to 48 hours ago I was not sure what to do or what to think about our sudden family perdicament.  Part of me wanted to cry, part wanted to scream, part wanted to just give up.  Fortunately none of those were a dominant enough part of me to reak unproductive havoc although each part of me had its moment in the last couple of days. 

 

I thought about a thirtieth birthday in a real limbo and spent alone 1200 miles away from my husband and in a state of uncertainty about more than the number 30.  I thought about the potential pressures of getting all the bills paid and the scary prospect of not succeeding.  I thought of aspirations of sitting in a dimly lit room, breathing, learning, and meditating daily falling away as were my plans and hopes for all things related to this October. 

 

Money & Meditation: two completely converse distractions.

 

So, I thought, how could I feel so hopeful Monday and in such desperation by Tuesday.  I realized the only piece I could affect between the two was not the money or the postponed meditation but my perspective, perception, and state of mind.  All these strengths I have been building on the past month or so on this blog finally came to an application head–I needed full forces aligned to find the light in the storm, the brighter side, the inspiration to sing even in the rain. 

 

I thought about how my husband’s job falling through had gave him the final push necessary to actively pursue his masters degree–a very good thing.  I thought about how having the next two months to get our lives in order, the household in order, and actually have some time with my husband when he gets down here in a month was perhaps a bit of a blessing.  I thought about how much all of these trials of reality have brought my marital relationship to its strongest place and taught my husband and I an immense amount about ourselves individually, the other partner, and us collectively.  I thought that while I don’t know how I feel about the phrase, “Everything happens for a reason,”  that I do believe more and more, “We can find reason and purpose in everything that happens.” 

 

The best way to start the week it is with a flower by FL4Y on flickr

 

So I find myself 48 hours later in somewhat of the same state of mind as I was originally.  It took me a roller coaster of thoughts and emotions to get here and an immense amount of support, some unexpectedly beautiful, from friends, family, and coworkers, old and new.  And most important, the mutual support of my husband and I, for each other as well look at each other partner’s respective difficulties within this predicament. 

 

And to give a little bit of melodic sound (if not actual singing) to the storm, my husband called last night saying that he was able to find a dirt cheap flight for Thursday, October 15.  So I guess I will not have to resort to party hats for the fur-kids and dogfood cake for my birthday after all–yes, I contemplated it. 

 

But more than that I realized how touched I was by my husband’s gesture towards me, our relationship, and to the importance of a birthday not spent alone.  I found myself, last night, on the other end of the phone crying tears not of self-pity or anger but of gratitude–no one was more surprised than I at how much it meant to me to have him give such a gift to me and to our relationship. 

 

Those tears were like an emotional prize I had won for getting to where I had without the pitying tears. 

 

Tonight I sit, while somewhat emotionally exhausted, quite bright again.  Not Jack Russell psychotically bright, but optimistic.  And looking forward without trepidation…and counting down the days until I have a two parent team for this dog-full household.

 

All depends on whether you see the glass half full or half empty by FL4Y on flickr`

The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; the optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

Winston Churchill

watch me fly away, give me life like a butterfly by Te55

 

There are people who come into our lives maybe for a minute or a day but leave an indelible mark, an imprint in our heart and our soul–they teach us something about people, life, and ourselves that is unexpected and a blessing.  I thought I would take this Friday to focus on a few of those people who I have met and seen beauty through in some unexpected way. 

 

 

I am sure everyone has those people in their life history.  Often we remember our mothers, our fathers, our closest friends and they are truly jewels to have in a lifetime but there are also the more anonymous relationships that we have, in passing, which may be fleeting but I feel speak to the beauty and grace that exists in the world, not just from those that are close to us but from random strangers that flutter through our memories from time to time.  I wanted to take a moment and think about those anonymous souls that have stepped on my life path.

 

There are also those people we meet, equally randomly, in whom we see such pain in that may live with us and haunt us–change who we are and deepen how we can feel for someone else.  They may tell us a story, share a sorrow, or just exude such ache that they are permanently inked into some shadowy place in our inner selves.  Those people, as much as the former have changed my experience of the world.  They have helped me to be more empathetic, to see people even when they just pass by me, and to understand sorrow to be as universally human as joy, love, and kindness.  Sometimes people provoke kindnesses in us by the experience of knowing them in some deep and inner way.  I wanted to remember those people too–those who taught me about hurt in the human condition.

 

There are also those people who teach us about hate, fear, and misunderstanding.  Their bitterness seeps out into the world because of their discontent and they can touch our lives, hurt our hearts, and jade our worldviews.  If we try we can find our way back from those moments and away from those people but they leave their mark–like water damage on a page, the water dries, but it has seeped into the ink.  They permeate our memory in some way and we may recall them randomly and without warning.  They too teach us about the world, and ourselves, and give us an opportunity for resilience and empowerment in ourselves.  It may be a painful path but it is a worthwhile trip–so that we do not remains stuck in their bitterness or sucked into their darkness.

 

1.  Mama from Laos:

Mama was a lady who ran the guesthouse where I stayed during 5 days of my solo travels to Southeast Asia following graduate school.  While I was staying at the guesthouse I got one of my patented killer sinus infections and Mama was an angel.  Bringing me tea, patching my face with vicks patches, and praying for me at the local temple.  The morning I left Mama gave me a bracelet that she said she had blessed by a monk in the temple at sunrise and she placed it on my wrist, kissed my hand, and welled with tears.  Her kindness was profound and her impact on me so great I found myself on the plane to Ko Samui later that morning surprising myself as I welled with my own tears for a woman I barely knew and barely knew me but had treated me like a daughter nonetheless. 

She taught me that even anonymouos love can be unconditional–across and despite all the boundary lines that humans create for themselves through religion, language, culture, and familiarity. 

 

2.  The Colombian Police Officer In Bogota Airport: 

When I met him this man was probably in his early 20’s and I was in my early 7’s.  We were both pretty confident and assured and we clicked right away.  My mother and I had traveled to Bogota (city of my birth) when I was 7 years old to get my newly adopted sister Maria (aka Yolanda–that was her orphanage name).  We had just arrived, rumpled and tired at the airport arrivals area and found that we were stranded–the driver meant to pick us up had not arrived.  Not that I was aware of it at the time, wondering with  impatience why my mother was so on edge, but a woman and a child from the United States in the Bogota airport in the early 1980’s was like a stationary target.   The officer was well aware of that and went far above his required position in staying with us, as our personal sentry and my personal new playmate, until we were able to get a reputable taxi to take us to our housing.  He smiled wide, played my games, and probably gave my young mother traveling with a child a blessed gift of security. 

 

He taught me that men wielding rifles can wear unguarded smiles and that even, and maybe especially, in countries with such dangerous reputations  kind hearts and good deeds can still prevail.

 

3.  The Brazilian Guide In The Pantanal:

I can no longer remember his name but I remember him clearly, first and foremost, as the man who got me to swim with gators.  Now, lets just say that at that moment I needed little provocation just a small reassurance from my barefoot, machete-toting, jungle guide that, “They are fine, I feed them fishes,” to get me to edge into the cold river, flanked by alligators on both those sides.  It was a now or never and I foolishly went with the “now”.  That is a story for another day (a story I have written but fearfully never even attempted to get published–the same goes for stories I have written about many of these momentary characters in my life). 

 The thing I remember about him even more vividly than instigating my gator encounter was what happened later that night back at camp.  This scene is set in a deep and brush-filled region of the Brazilian Pantanal Jungle (northern jungle cousin of the Amazon) and the only inhabitants of the area are anacondas, piranhas, gators, snakes, lizards, jaguars, the jungle guides, and their guests that dorm in grass-roofed huts lined with hammocks.  And I cannot forget the corrugated shack of a jungle bar stocked with beer and sugar cane liquor enough to satiate both campers and guides for a night–or until the generator dies.  That night I saw my guide, once confident and adept by day–probably one of most well-versed natural ecologists using a wealth of training handed down by fathers and grandfathers–become a stumbling, aggressive, incoherent alcoholic.  He did so for all three nights I was there and on the third night his lifelong friend and fellow guide revealed to me, without knowledge of AA, and in portuguese accented english, “He has a problem and he has for a long time but I just don’t know what to do.”

He taught me that even in the deepest jungles and amid the most raw beauty anyone can feel emotional pain and numb themselves with addictive behaviors.  He showed me that human pain is universal and even men who brave alligator infested waters and carry machetes with ease can be weak and injured inside.

 

4.  Mama from Mississippi:

I met Mama from Mississippi in the very small town of Pearlington the year following Hurricane Katrina.  My mother and I had decided to volunteer over Thanksgiving to assist in clean up and found ourselves on a very eclectic bandwagon headed by a Catholic Priest who loved to play U2 Songs on his acoustic guitar.  He was a native Mississippian and had grown up in Pearlington, Mama was his mother and so there we found ourselves, crowded on the floor of Mama’s tiny FEMA trailer.  The trailer was parked alongside her once beautiful southern home which had been drowned from the inside leaving a hollow shell dripping with mold,  littered with shattered glass, and splintered in two with pieces of lifelong memories collapsed and crushed under the weight of water. 

The entire town had imploded and on every street there were pieces of pots, strips of photographs, and remains of family treasures.  Some people had fled and never returned while others came by daily to rummage what they could out of what was once their lives and now was mud.  And there was Mama, a sort of self-appointed town delegate, checking on families and making us food from whatever she had stocking her barely livable trailer home.  She cried when she prayed, and shook in a Pentecostal sort of way, beside her Catholic priest son.  But above all she had a beautiful soul, it shone through the dimness of dark times and town ruins with a hope that seemed unbreakable. 

Mama taught me what unwavering faith could look like and she reminded me that there were people, in unexpected places, who were strong enough to hope and pray and love even when even the world and the ground beneath her feet had given way.  She reminded me that there is a love universally found in God, in humans, in ourselves, that can not be broken even by the greatest of storms.

 

5.  The Widow In My  NonFiction Writing Class:

She sat there, often fairly quiet through our ten week creative non-fiction class.  While some wrote out pain in a group therapy type method and others held back emoting with the use of journalistic style prose, she lay somewhere in the middle–writing intelligently and beautifully but often just above the surface of something bigger.  I just couldn’t figure what. 

One day she read a story she wrote about the death of her husband just weeks before beginning the writing program.  She read about how she had taken this class as a means of reviving herself, finding life after his chronic illness and years by his pained side, and losing him finally at the end of it all.  She read how she had found some kind of spark of herself again in story-writing and reading with a purpose.  She had immersed herself in technique and storytelling and found something alive that wasn’t there before. 

It was the most beautiful story I heard in that entire class and is probably the most I ever got to know her–and in that I felt like I knew her both intimately and not at all.  Now I cannot even remember her face but the exquisite craft, melancholy and bravery in her story I will never forget. 

She reminded me how therapeutic writing can be and also that the best writing is made while straddling that fine line of telling the story, feeling the pain in the pages, but not indulging the pain in leu of the craft.  She did it perfectly with artistry and bravery.  In reading her story of mourning and her capacity to tell it, unwaveringly and honestly, I would have guessed years not weeks had passed.  She reminded me that writing has a power that extends beyond the author and becomes alive–her melancholy is still alive in me.  It also reminded me of the curative powers of words–writing and reading them have a capacity to revive and heal. 

 

6.  The Man On The Train To Amsterdam:

He was from Kosovo.  I was from New Jersey.  And we were both riding the night train to Amsterdam from Germany with a man from Austria.  It is a complicated beginning I know.  It was late summer of 1999 and the War in Kosovo had just ended.  We all found ourselves on a train to Amsterdam, me on my first backpacking trip, and the both of them headed somewhere with a purpose.  The Austrian man spoke English but the man from Kosovo spoke none.  He was wrinkled and tired looking with tanned skin and dark hair.  And we began to talk–me and the man from Kosovo–with the Austrian man acting as intermediary translator. 

I heard about his wife and his children who he loved dearly, who had been crushed in the bombing in his town.  I heard about his journey to find life and work and to try to find a reason to live with his family gone.  After a few hours I nearly forgot that the Austrian man was there, it was as though we were the only two people on the train and in the railcar corridor.  I remember feeling like part therapist, part mourner, and part historian hearing a tale of history in the making. 

He showed me what pain was, what war was, what trauma was and how excruciating it can be to be the one that lived when everything you loved has died.  He was my first touch of the existential of war and loss.  He was my first session, although unofficially, as a trauma therapist.  He showed me the value of just listening to someone’s story and the importance of hearing someone else’s pain and validating it.  He showed me war and the casualties of war in lives, in hearts, in souls crushed with love lost.

 

7.  The Montville Racist:

He was a teenager around my age who lived in Montville, New Jersey.  Beyond that I remember nothing distinctive about him as a person–besides being a racist, of course.  I remember that night and what was said very distinctly but in a backwards dream sort of way.  Mostly this was due to the fact that I only figured out what transpired and what it meant after the fact–with a sort of suburban child naivety which, thanks to him, was lost that night. 

I remember going to this anonymous boy’s house one weekend night because he was a friend of a friend.  I remember getting there and them arguing in the other room.  He was saying things like, “There is no way.  I don’t want her here.  I want her out of my house.”  I remember her shouting back that he was a “pig” and “awful” but I didn’t really understand why.  I remember we didn’t have a car and he had to drive us back to our town and to my friend’s house.  She was blush red when we got there and apologizing to me profusely.  I didn’t realize until half-way through her gushing what had even happened.  He didn’t want ME there.  He didn’t want a HISPANIC there.  He didn’t want someone NOT WHITE in his house.  Then I felt nauseous, disgusted, humiliated, and vulnerable all at once.  I wanted to pass out and go home and hide.  I was disguisted at myself for not “getting it” before and for having to spend an entire ride home, unknowingly, with a bigot who hated me just because I “was”, period.  I was horrified that, that kind of bigotry existed and that I had experienced it first hand and I was angry that he had shifted me in a way that could not be taken back or taken away.  I felt unwanted for my skin and the genetics of my birth–and that was a first. 

He taught me that hate can exist–be it for fear or learned stigma–just to exist; for no rational or real reason.  He taught me that bigotry was not just in history or somewhere else but it could be anywhere.  He taught me to be prepared but never ashamed.  He taught me to know people’s potential for wrong, but to not let that hold me back for seeing all the good and right.  I would not let him taint me…but in some ways, in just existing in my memory, as a memory he did, and he has. 

 

8.  My Birthmother–Imagined and Real:

I have thought of my birthmother throughout my life in a number of ways.  When I was young I idolized her as a perfect angel from impoverished circumstances who, with saint-like capacity, gave me up for some greater good.  When I was a teenager I despised her for feelings I had about myself, for not knowing where I came from or my hispanic lineage, and for not giving me the answers to why I was the way I was from the roundness of my nose to my racing mind and hormonally excited emotionality.  As an adult I just wondered–without answers.  After two private investigators and a number of dead ends I guess I came to terms with having nothing but questions without answers.  She is who I am, but also she is not.  She may be my hair or my nose but I’m not sure she has anything to do with my obsessive literary bent.  I blame that on my (adoptive) mother talking to me like I was 30 at 2 and reading me long, linguistically winded novels at 3.  I have found my balance between nature and nurture.  But there are days like my birthday that I still look in the mirror a little too long with a little too much melancholy laying on my heart and wonder about the questions. 

She taught me to love who I am even when I don’t know where I came from–not by example but by absence. She is someone who I have the freedom to imagine however I choose.  She is someone I thank for freeing me to live the life I have, and love the family I love and know that they love me.  But despite all that she has given me, without even knowing that she has done so, she is still a stranger.  She is someone I only see when I stare in the mirror a little too long. 

 

 

Footprints in The Sand by johncooke on flickr

 

My article “Yoga: A Healing Art in A Psychotherapy Context” has just been published in the Fall 2009 Issue of  THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER MAGAZINE

Check it out if you would like!

 

Yoga 49 by jf on flickr

               

                  Yoga is difficult for the one whose mind is not subdued.

                                                  Bhagavad Gita

 

Since moving to Florida I have been feeling like a bit of a faux-gini.  Literally translated this would be a Faux Yogini.  I have been so scattered, life has been so chaotic and bipolar with moments of high stress followed by solitary lulls and isolation that I have been feeling off my game in, well, life.  I haven’t managed to cultivate any sort of a routine or rhythm for my life down here barring the waking, work, home, dogs, blog, sleep.  This seems like a short-sighted and short shelf life kind of life plan. 

 

Part of this is due to the fact that I feel like life is sort of in a state of limbo; partially on pause.  With my husband not down here right now I feel like our Florida life is just maintaining on life support until full measures of resuscitation are activated.  But, in truth, I am the only force that can activate these measures and I can’t wait around indefinitely to do so. 

 

I can only spend so long staring at the walls of our new house, writing and researching all night with a background of Law & Order, NCIS, or Bones humming in my ear, and finding peaks of adrenaline with the moments I have to kill, shoo, or bury one manner of critter or another.  Last night it was a dragonfly.  I don’t even want to talk about the scene that was my livingroom during that five minute drama–dogs, wings, and a yellow broom.

 

In this life-support limbo I have been living in I have neglected all manner of healthy eating habits that I had cultivated, choosing instead to the easier route of whatever take out is most accessible and quickly edible.  I have abandoned all and any yogic routine that I might have cultivated using excuses (some real, others weak) including physical pain, exhaustion, and disorientation to the local yoga studios and classes. 

 

Well this is the week of life resuscitation–begun yesterday with my assertion to create healthy sleeping habits.  It is time to form this Florida life beyond insect slaughters and amphibian burials. 

 

As of this upcoming weekend I will have been in Florida for a month.  This is my deadline.  I am on the brink of making a life of my own in a house, while not literally my own, rented for a year to be my own–I have to Virginia Woolf this sucker and find a metaphorical room of “one’s”/my own. 

By Any Other Name by drp on flickr

 Sometimes the hardest, the scariest thing is moving forward and effecting change in our own lives.  Consistency becomes comforting.  Stagnation starts to feel cozy.  The idea of thrusting ourselves out of the norm and what we know–intentional inertia–seems like unnecessary extra trouble and work.  Sometimes, however, doing that work is what is necessary for real growth; to create a challenge we may need in our life and then force ourselves to rise up and meet it. 

 

Some might look at my life and say I did the hard part–change states, change jobs, change out homes and climates but in truth I have yet to make the real stretch or do anything much that requires a real shift.  I have yet to shift the practices and core focuses of my life.  A job goes from 9-5 or 8-4:30 in my case and so my routine, although locationally different, remains in the same sequence.  The scenery of my home and state may have exchanged palms for firs but I still drive down highways, sit at desks, eat at restaurants, and shop at stores that are similar. 

 

The changes we make that are really core shaking are, well, in the core.  That is the scary stuff: Soul shifting, heart opening, emotionally rattling core changes.  I know, in some fearfully intuitive way, that my yoga training will be such a shift.  And like an athlete preparing for a triathlon I know I have to prepare myself: mind, body, and soul.  I have to eat better, move more intentionally, sit more calmly, and be working towards the shift I am about to make. 

 

With a vegan, yogic, monastic lifestyle ahead on my horizon I have to start living intentionally and finding the yoga in every moment. 

 

How would you create a more intentional life with just one shift in your daily living?  That is a very weighty question but one I have been trying to sort for myself.  I believe I am going to start with mindful eating–eating more consciously, healthfully, and with more the pace of a gazelle rather than a sloppy, ravenous vulture (this would be my old method).  While this may be a small piece I have a tendency for impulsive craving satiation so this is probably one of my biggest hurdles of all. 

 

Starting with Saturday’s yoga at the beach class, which was postponed last time due to weather and abdominal pain, I will try to incorporate intentional movement into the mix.  Piece by piece, bit by bit…I am working my way to a shift in my core.

Mantra by jf on flickr

 

Yoga heals, nourishes, and challenges us.  The practice infiltrates every corner of our lives.

Valerie Jeremijenko

Caution Tape by Picture Perfect Pose at flickrCaution Tape by Picture Perfect Pose at flickr

 

I have learned a lot about lizards these past few weeks.  As of this morning I can add to my credentials “One who knows what dead lizards look like in my entryway”.  Tonight I can certify that I know what amphibious mortis (please forgive my rudimentary latin translation of dead lizard) looks like after a day on an entryway floor.   They deflate…rather fast.

 

Now, you may be wondering why would I wait about 12 hours to remove said lizardus corpus (ok now I am just making my own version of latin up).  There is a two prong approach to my reasoning: 1) I was not certain that being upside down with legs in the air was a definitive diagnosis of amphibian death so I wanted to give it some time to see.  2) 7:00 am is just too early in the morning for me to brave the task of scooping up and disposing of lizard remains.

 

I believe the dead lizard, “John Gecko Doe” is The Lizard Formerly Known As “Shower Lizard” .  He was meandering nearly lifeless around the bathroom floor at abnormally slow lizard speeds the last couple of days following the day I thought I had drowned him with my shampoo toxins.  Apparently I had caused him a much more sinister and drawn out death sentence.  I feel awful and I gave him a tiny lizard prayer as I scooped him up, flattened and scaly, and placed him into my garbage can.  Thank goodness for trash Wednesdays. 

 

But my short lived friend once fondly called “Shower Lizard” has helped me to create my own parallel from his death to my life. 

 

 I was in a little bit of a funk yesterday.  My pain had reached an all time high by sunset to the point where I felt the familiar sensation of shooting sparks of fire rippling down from my abdomen into my thighs–if you had not guessed, this is the bad end of the endometriosis pain spectrum. 

 

On top of that I had  begun work at my new office, having completed a week of prerequisite orientation off-site, and felt the sinking feeling of “First Day of School for the New Kid” with a sense of just having been thrust from my place as well-respected innovator to unknown, anonymous, new person with no history of much consequence.  Whether this perception was just my New Kid mindset or anything besides is irrelevant it was simply that feeling of being set off kilter and humbled by the death of one life and the start of another. 

 

Rebirth–professionally speaking. 

 

Death precedes rebirth.  Nature does it.  Faith and religions talk about it.  Our human lives exhibit it.  We are in constant cycles of renewal whether by catalysts we create or those we have inflicted on us.  We are made to adapt and change along with those things in our life that require it: stagnation can happen but it is in our own best interest to constantly stretch ourselves. 

 

My move, my new job, my new locale were all things I put into my life by choice but feeling the growing pains of that change in action is a learning experience which brings me new surprises at every step. 

 

I did not know that I would have such a moment of mourning at letting go of my old professional sphere and the comfort of the known I had found in it.  I did not know that I would be separated from my husband for this long and that the distance would bring with it unknown pains and unanticipated appreciation at a deeper and deeper level for what my husband means in my life and in my heart. 

 

Change brings with it struggles with the unknown, with our own insecurities, and the growing pains that bring us out on the other side changed but evolved in some way.  The death is always rebirth of some kind and fear can becoming invigorating awareness, although always with some struggles along the way.

 

I am appreciative of the distance and time apart from my husband (on my better days) because it has allowed me the blessing of knowing my love for him in a far more dimensional way than I had ever known before.  I am thankful for the new opportunities in a new place, a new job, and the new adventures that might be on the horizon as a result.  I, as all of us do, fear the death of the old but know that what is being born is not just a new life but valuable lessons about myself along the way. 

 

I thank my fond friend of only a few short weeks “Shower Lizard” for reminding me of the cycle of life.  I hope he finds all the shower drains his little heart could ever desire wherever he has gone to.  And I really hope he is the last deflated amphibious mortis that I have to scoop for a while.  It is a disheartening side job.

 

Life is change.   Growth is optional.  Choose wisely. 

AUTHOR UNKNOWN

 

Boken by MSIChicago on flickr

Boken Egg by MSIChicago

Starting Life by jimdeane at flickr

                                                     {1}Starting Life by jimdeane on flickr

underwater yoga by megan is me on flickrLearning to Swim

 

My lovely grandparents-in-law (is that a possible moniker?) allowed me to come over to their lovely backyard pool today, dogs in tow.  I was in desperate need of a geographic change after a week spent organizing, unboxing, and lugging everything and anything I own around the new house.  I was exhausted and testy; the dogs were spastic and antsy.  We needed a day of rest.  It was lovely.  Truly.

 

My husband’s grandparents are sweet, endearing people; his grandmother made me a plate of cheese, grapes, and crackers and his grandfather gave me dog care advice then they quickly retreated indoors to escape the heat and, I am certain, my over energized pups. 

 

The change of scenery was a starting point, a was finally absorbing some of the rich Florida sun and imbibing vibrant blue skies speckled with tufts of white but what really took me to another realm was the pool.  I have been what my mother lovingly titled “a fish” since I was old enough to walk and paddle through the shallow end of one public pool or another. 

 

I love the water.  I love to swim.  More than anything I adore the feeling of rocketing through deep waters, completely submerged, reaching for the rough cement floor, hearing nothing but the sound of limbs pushing through chlorine aqua and my own heartbeat.  It dives me into a silent internal peace that is akin to what I feel in the practice of yoga.  I feel in tune and rhythm with my body; swimming is like an aquatic dance of the body working in synchronicity with itself to create powerful motion.  Swimming to me is like flying; it makes me feel like I am transformed into something beyond human, something greater than myself. 

 

Yoga gives me a sense similar to that.  I feel in tune and a part of my surroundings in the water; the water and I are part of a large collective organism, working together.  With yoga I feel the fluidity of myself and the air around me, the ground below me; it holds me up and propels me from one pose to the next.  The two practices to me are moving arts and they take me to somewhere beyond me as an independent being. 

 

But I digress.  The day was just what was prescribed for all.  It was a feast for my senses and sun therapy to boot.  I read Julie & Julia (still avoiding reading my required texts for yoga school and beginning to feel the anxiety of a procrastinating delinquent) as I waded in the shallow end, putting it down every so often to swim laps back and forth from shallow to deep water. 

 

My big dog, Guinness, stalked  my every move like he was a hungry lion and I aquatic prey.  He followed every stroke and stared at me intently as I dove under and emerged again half way down the pool, longing to jump in but fearful to dive as he is still learning to swim.  The little one, Gaia, splashed and jumped in, swimming for her toy and then paddling frantically to the pool stairs.  She is definitely the bolder of the two of them, although their appearances deceptively mislead everyone into assuming the reverse. 

 

Completion of the day leaves me sufficiently tanned and satiated by the natural gifts of Florida life; the dogs are sufficiently exhausted and collapsed on their respective doggie beds.  I am also feeling acclimated and rejuvenated enough to brave my first Floridian yoga class tomorrow.  I am going to pick one of the few local studios and just dive in, having no option as of yet for home yoga as my husband, I have discovered, is holding my mat hostage in the great chilly north. 

 

So I revel in the new aquatic opportunities, both oceanic and chlorine-full, of this great warm state.  I am adjusting to the idea of year round warmth, year round sun, and year round access to cool waters to both lose and find myself in, in the best way: mind, body, soul.  Yoga & swimming–I could get used to this place.

 

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)

it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.

 

e.e. cummings

 

*Found this program Yoga Afloat online that is a certification to become a teacher of water yoga; specifically created by the inventor for her chronic pain illness, something I know well and a lovely concept.  I believe I am going to explore this aquatic yoga hybrid some more.*

I am now entering the final stage of pre-deployment, as it were. While moving to the beach along the southern Florida coastline is by no means a military deployment preparation from the known to the unknown involves similar preparatory work: saying goodbyes being the most difficult and taxing even when compared with packing and unpacking. Goodbyes are laden with a semblance of uncertainty because strong ties hold through time and space but the weaker tend to fall by the wayside & assessing our lives, relationships, and human connections for staying power is a loaded element of relocation.

Packing and unpacking also had a metaphoric and symbolic weight that exceeds cardboard boxes and packing tape. We pack our lives, ourselves, our strengths, our weaknesses, our habits, and personal histories with us wherever we go. This fact was of great shock to me when, at 20 years of age, I sought, for various reasons, to escape my life, my memories, my patterns of behavior, and ultimately my self in its entirety in Colorado.

I learned the hard way, as was my nature during that time, that there is no such “relocation cure” and with time and some pain I was forced to come to terms and confront myself and am forever grateful for the lesson learned. I retain a great affinity for Colorado with it’s great expansive fields, neverending skies, and crisp white jagged peaks for being (maybe by happenstance) a place of resolution between me & my inner self.

I was watching the movie “Finding Neverland” the other night which illustrates the plight of one man–the creator of Peter Pan, as played by Johnny Depp–searching for his happiness and he does so through imagination and a return childlike world view. I think a universal human plight is for inner peace and a sense of happiness: moments and glimmer may glisten in our lives, in the right light it may even glow, but living in the chaos of the world it is difficult to retain.

Finding neverland is fleeting, keeping neverland is the real work and I believe for even the most contemplative mind and open heart it is a lifetime’s journey.

I am constantly working, as a contemplative neophite, just to find the momentary rays of bright white light and hang on for the brief moment to the peace it can bring to be in a true state of calm.

As a moving meditation yoga is a dance with this light. It is a learned practice to help facilitate communication with the self: mind, body, heart, soul. And if nothing else, moving to a new place or stage pf life having packed all the parts of ourselves from strengths to weaknesses if we have a contemplative practice or a yogic practice it is a lifevest we can unpack & use to stay afloat as we shift through change and the uncertain.

I hope that I can enact this for myself. I have a huge propensity towards confronting newness with frenetic paces: I tend to run a 50 yard dash & lose my stamina fast. I hope that I can learn from my life and my patterns and the lessons of my life.

Professionally and cerebrally I know the importance of self care–I tout it it coworkers and clients alike. Through meditative and yogic practices I know the soothing and healing nature of stillness and internal communication in silence. If I can take what I know cerebrally and what I’ve felt experientially I think it has profound potential to help me adapt: to give me a lifevest for strange new waters.

I just discovered a few days ago that although I am moving next Friday and my husband is coming with me due to some issues with transfer paperwork he will not be moving with me at present with an indefinite timeline for us ahead.

Adapting to change is what I need to do and I will take any lifevest available to me.

March 2020
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