Rooted in the Present Moment

I tried to write my rent check early, just to have it ready to send with my roommates’, and this morning I noticed I wrote the check date for “January 1, 2012.”
Woopsies.
I was having “brain fog” moments all day long yesterday, as were many of the people I encountered. Small things…forgetting to give someone back their change, digging through a handbag for a mobile phone someone was already holding to their ear, asking a question and then failing to hear/comprehend the answer…it seemed to continue all day, and we were all in accordance that since Christmas, our attention span has seemingly gone on a bit of a vacation.
It’s like I’m rooted in the present moment (finally!).
Perhaps the vacation is between the holiday and the New Year? It’s the least we can offer our minds, really. We expect to be operating at high-speed all the time, our brains firing and absorbing information proficiently and in a timely manner. But what often happens as a bi-product of the holidays? Stress, fatigue, chaos (sometimes all three). It’s unlikely that we’ll be able to actually offer our brains a vacation between Christmas and the dawn of the New Year, but it’s acceptable to simply slow down.
No, the rest of the world won’t hear our plea and slow down with us (unless divine intervention allows such a glorious consequence of serendipity!), but we are in control of our own bodily vessels.
The rush that oftentimes occurs before the holidays is over, but our bodies are such exceptional little creatures of habit; the rush of december can easily carry over into the New Year, permeating “resolutions” and infusing a time that ought to be refreshing, restorative, renewing, with stress and unnecessary haste.
Let us slow down. Let us do this together.
Breathe. Inhale, exhale.
Count your change slowly. Be mindful of your phone conversation (perhaps choose not to speak on your mobile whilst check out at the market, a cardinal rule of courtesy in my book!). Listen to others. Give your attention span a break not by allowing it to go into hibernation, but instead by willfully not overloading it.
It’s up to us to not overwhelm ourselves. Remember that invisible shield I wrote about so long ago, the one protecting us from negativity? Same goes for chaos. The world might hurtle a hundred “obligations” or situations at us seemingly at once, and it’s the job of our mind’s little shield (or think of it as a goalie, protecting the world from scoring with stress balls one after the other, ha!) to deflect what simply can’t be processed. See it as the responsibility of that shield, or goalie, to shelter the mind from becoming overwhelmed.
Turn yourself to the “slow down” channel, and then sit on the remote 🙂
I’m reminded of a screen shot I took this morning of a part of the Yoga Journal email I received. It says that surrendering is a “practice” that one must consciously choose. Well, so is slowing down.
So, let’s practice in these last remianing days of 2012, offering this year the most respect and gratitude we can by simply slowing down.
Namaste

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Give the Gift of Kindness

If I may be so blessed as to be the brightest part of another being’s day, then I am serving my purpose; then I AM bright; then I myself am receiving a gift by being able to shed some light on the path of another.
My purpose above writing, above practicing and sharing yoga, above holistic nutrition and wellness, above promoting positive body image, is being KIND. Being a loving, compassionate and kind daughter, friend, sister, grandchild, co-worker, family member and HUMAN BEING is my purpose here on Mother Earth.
To simply be kind is not so hard at all. The first step is letting go of the little things. It doesn’t mean grinning so hard it hurts all day long and tripping over every person we meet, it simply means treating each person as you would a friend, or a loved one. Trying to see each person through the eyes of their own child, their own husband, what-have-you, and treating them gently and courteously.
I had this thought yesterday at about noon, and then my mind got to work manifesting. Around 5pm a man said to me, “You have a wonderful smile. I’ve had an awful day. Thank you for making it better.”
There it is.
I’d not even tried, I’d not even realized he was feeling the way he was feeling, and yet subtle kindness soothed the negativity that had clouded this person’s day.
Kindness is contagious, cyclical, HEALING. It is the greatest gift we can give to another being. So, this holiday season, give the gift of kindness. It will go much further than anything one could possibly buy.

I love you ALL!

 

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Dare Me to Say “Amazing” One More Time…

Sometimes the experience of being human proves difficult. Other times it proves deliciously wonderful. It seems that the two extremes – harrowing in one corner, amazing in the other – natural opponents. These polar opposites have a rather magnetic affect on our attention span, though, wanting desperately to avoid the harrowing and desperately to attract the amazing. All of the in-between stuff, the life stuff, the mediocre, the normal, even the “good” or “fine,” can easily get lost in the web of “being human.”
These experiences, this everyday “stuff,” can easily be lost on us, filed under “not noteworthy” because the day was neither horrendous nor incredible, it was just a day. But isn’t that the beauty of being human after all? That thread of life that stretches on, sometimes redundant, sometimes painful, sometimes blissfully boring, but always stretching on (if we are so blessed). 

I realize I’m rambling, but I’m working through a concept here, and you’re invited on this little mental journey as I hash it out. The concept is attaching with more depth to the everyday, seeing the monotonous as extraordinary in its simplicity. 

Think back on some of your most pleasant memories. I’m sure a great deal of them involve more leisurely, “perfect” days suspended in time, even over the biggest adventures you’ve experienced. Perhaps not. I’m sure they involve a lot of both, mine do.

I can’t help but recall the time I spent living in Italy. The experience itself, as a whole, is classified as one of my “amazing” life experiences, without a doubt part of the extreme category. Breaking down that experience into individual amazing memories, a few pop into my mind, polar opposites and yet equally heartwarming. The moment when my then boyfriend, whom I met and fell in love with in the Renaissance city of Firenze (romantic overload much?), first uttered those three little words standing on the ancient cobblestones of Piaza Michelangelo overlooking starlit Florentine perfection. . .an amazing experience to the extreme, and yes, one of my most pleasant memories. The other standout memory from my time abroad occurred in my flat, with my two girlfriends, making apple sauce from scratch. We’d lugged probably twenty pounds of apples home from the market, up our five flights of stairs, and unloaded them onto our tiny, rickety kitchen table. Pajamas, improper tools for the task, mountains of apple skins, stories told over coring and cutting, steamy faces as we boiled, stirred, mashed and waited, eating apple skins to pass the time. It was one of the loveliest evenings I experienced in Italy. Who could have known that an evening making apple sauce with absolutely none of the needed implements, two best girlfriends, and bottomless mugs of herbal tea could still, years later, be one of my favorite memories from that time?

While the “amazing” category of experiential extremes are fantastic, and swell our capacity as human beings to encounter future pleasure and joy, they are oftentimes outweighed by the simpler experiences. The simplicity of making apple sauce in a funny Italian kitchen, fingers aching from peeling dozens of apples with a too large knife, every single detail of the night carved into the grooves of my brain, is suspended in time as a warm, cinnamon-scented evening that will never leave me. I suspect it’s because this memory is not strangled by the overwhelming “amazing.” 

Does that make sense?

Amazing can be overwhelming. That’s not to say amazing experiences aren’t amazing, they’re the silver lining of life, they open our hearts to the wonder of this world. But, for most of us, the “amazing” is what we live for. We cling to the notion of vacation days, holidays, big events, romantic getaways, proposals, weddings, what have you…there’s nothing wrong with divine anticipation of those fantastic and, yes, amazing milestones. But they can all turn out to be a whirlwind and, in retrospect, short-lived bout of amazingness. So why place so much pressure on them to be perfect, so much emphasis on these “amazing” moments to uphold our joy and to carry us through to the next amazing experience we have planned?

If we allow ourselves to be open to amazing in the everyday, amazing in a different costume, we provide endless opportunities for living with awareness, for soaking up moment.
Think of it this way: a beautiful wedding is “amazing” and creates a picturesque memory, but amazing also comes in the guise of cooking dinner in underwear in the kitchen with your husband and eating by candlelight on a Tuesday night for no reason at all. Something as simple and spontaneous as that can be suspended in time as one of the most romantic nights you’ve ever experienced.
I’m not suggesting we lose our enthusiasm for the planning and enjoyment of really amazing adventures in our lives. I’m simply wondering how our lives would shift if we treated them more as the really exquisitely sweet cherries in a bowl full of ripe, juicy fruit. Allow the everyday, the normal, the “good,” to
take your breath away from time to time. Try to see an empty afternoon, free from plans or worries, as one heavy with potential to create a warm memory. It doesn’t have to be chock full of adventure or marvelous plans. Failing to fill each day with extraordinary plans and experiences is a gift; we are so much more able to soak up the simple wonder of a day lived slowly, with mindful attention, with gratitude.
So with as much fervor as you plan your upcoming holiday time off, plan a relaxing evening with your partner, children, or just for yourself. Whether it’s cooking a nice meal in a warm home, running a soothing bath and playing your favorite music, taking yourself to a film all by yourself, or an impromptu game night with your children…open yourself up to the little bits of amazing in every moment.
Now, dare me to say “amazing” one more time…
:)

“Not in My Nature”

The other day a friend and co-worker said to me, “You just have to relaaaaax . . . go with it.” She is a gift, I love her spirit so. I admire her relaxed, confident state of being, she almost never gets ruffled. I love that about her. I envy it at some points, and try to cultivate in myself the traits of hers that I admire, which I think is far more productive than feeling envy.
So, when she said I just have to relax and go with it, in her awesomely calm and mellow tone of voice, the little pessimistic voice in the back of my head responded with:

Not in my nature. I’m a perfectionist.
Translation: I obsess.
Sad fact, realistic truth.

One of my favorite quotes is “All good things in moderation,” and yet “moderation” is a concept with which I have always struggled. It is one I most revere, and yet proves one of the more difficult practices for me to hold onto.

Well, where’s the beauty in this predicament, you ask? Because it surely must be somewhere. Yes, the beauty is here, the silver lining in an otherwise frustrating debacle:

Nobody defines “my nature” but ME.

Nobody defines your nature but YOU.

That’s how it works. That’s one rule that can be set in stone. Yes, certain qualities are hereditary, some attributes are inherent, but for the most part, we can define (and redefine) our nature as we evolve in our own lives. It sounds like a beautiful solution, right? Well I’m not suggesting it’s easy, or even possible for all of us. I think to redefine one’s nature, or certain qualities, takes patience. I think it takes practice. I think it takes dedication of the deepest type.
But the way one dedicates oneself to a partner, a career, a yoga practice, what-have-you, is no different. Again, I am touching on this concept of putting oneself in the same priority category as one would put a loved one or cherished activity. All of the most beautiful bits of our lives take careful tending. Have you ever heard someone say, “Relationships shouldn’t be work.” I have. I’ve heard it from a significant other in reference to a previous partner, complimenting the ease of his relationship with me! I took this statement to heart because, the truth is, in a long-term relationship there will be work, there ought to be work, and it saddened me that he saw work as an end-all. Because I knew we’d someday get to the point where our relationship took some “work” to keep it harmonious, and that we might not make it. We didn’t; but that is not the point.
The truth of the matter is, one “should” work on any human relationship, romantic or other, with as much tender, loving care as one would a garden. Does a garden just grow itself, producing beautiful flowers and tasty vegetables without fertilizing, watering, weeding, maintaining? No, it doesn’t. Most don’t look at the garden as simply a piece of work because the fruits of their labor are so divine. The end-product, the true purpose of having planted a garden in the first place, is so enriching. The tending of the garden is essential to the beauty and sustenance provided by the garden.
The same is true for a relationship.
The same is, again, true for the SELF.

Let us see ourSELVES in the same light as we would a beloved parent, significant other, bursting garden or treasured practice. Let us see ourSELVES as deserving of the gentle, attentive, therapeutic nurturing and bettering process. Let us see ourSELVES as malleable, capable of accomplishing anything.

We can redefine ourselves at any point in our journey, several times over, or never at all. It’s up to us. The potential of the mind is more profound than we can even grasp. Can you imagine that? Even at your mind’s most open, there’s still so much more potential. There’s always something for which to strive. There’s always another step in the process. There’s always another fork in the road of life. You choose which one to take.

So, let me rephrase:

Relaxing and just “going with it” is not in my inherent nature, but stress is toxic in the body. If the alternative to toxically stressing and obsessing is to gently nudge my nature towards a shift, then I most certainly choose the latter. My nature is what I choose for it to be. So, I actively choose to relax. I actively choose to start learning how to “go with it.” I accept that it won’t be like flipping on a light switch, this shift in my nature, this change of my natural reaction to life’s obstacles. I embrace that it may always take me reminding myself in order to be able to relax and go with it when things get sticky; I’d prefer to need a gentle reminder than not try at all. I believe that I am capable of this shift, I believe in myself and my mind’s capacity to open, stretch and incorporate all of the qualities I most desire. I acknowledge that this evolution of “my nature” is exciting, it’s an act of preservation, it’s essential. I recognize that this growth is part of being human. I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in such growth. It is in my nature to choose, learn, accept, embrace, believe, acknowledge, recognize. It is in my nature to be grateful.

It is in my nature to grow . . . and to never stop being amazed by the power of the mind.

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Belly Breaths

I know I talk about breathing a lot, but the practice of pranayama is no joke. It’s powerful. I have practiced pranayama since long before I was even cognizant of its yogic title, since before I’d even unfurled a yoga mat at age twelve and taken my first class. 

My dad has always been an advocate of the revered “belly breath.” I remember him telling me in times of worry, “belly breaths.” I’d always listen, and I’d always feel soothed, calmed. My dad still reminds me to take belly breaths and I, in turn, find myself urging others to take belly breaths when life starts to get rambunctious. Perhaps this is my destiny, to become a yoga teacher.

I was having some anxiety at work today (the tune of my last few blog posts ought to cue y’all in on the fact that I’m having some über stress this week due to the nature of my current circumstances), so I carved out the latter portion of my lunch break to hide in the ladies room and practice some pranayama. If it weren’t arctic outside (this California girl would last not five minutes on the East Coast) I’d have taken my practice out there, but for the sake of time, the ladies room had to suffice today. 

I placed a hand on my belly and one over my heart and began diaphragmatic breathing. Pranayama. In through the nose rising first the chest, filling the lungs, slowly expanding the belly, filling with air from the crown of my head to the tip of my tailbone . . . and then firming the belly and slowly pushing the air up my spine, flattening the diaphragm, slowly letting the chest sink, and  releasing the breath, all the way up as though I could press the stream of breath out through my skull. 

I took several rounds, eyes closed, and instantly was calmed. Belly breaths.

I swear if insurance covered massage/body work, yoga/meditation, and therapy, there’d be a shocking decline in need for anti-anxiety medications. Heck, I reckon there’d be a massive decline in anxiety disorders in general.

I was very frustrated with my anxiety today. My mind worked it’s patient way rationally around the matter. Then it continued to do so about every eleven minutes, on the dot. 

I finally got the point where I said to myself, “Enough already! What is it you want? A magic remedy to the stress, the perfect answer? Because I don’t have either! How many times to I have to repeat ‘the mind is energy, regulate it’ for you to just be satisfied!?

I was having a mind/body disconnection . . . these really urk me.

I pretty much thrive on my mind and body being in pretty awesome harmony, with my spirit dancing evenly between them. The trilogy keeps me peaceful, keeps me bobbing along in the waves that are each day, each blurring moment. When they are out of sync, I flounder. I crumble. And they’ve been out of sync for days. For me, this is catastrophic.

The good news is this: I’m not depressed, YAY! (I was beginning to grow worries at the damper my spirits were becoming familiar with.) I’m simply learning a lesson about myself that I am meant to learn right now, at the exact moment, in this body.

I crave consonance. 

When my body steps out of line (as it has with my recent aches and pains) my mind literally says, “OH SHIT.” I do the same thing when I fear I’m coming down with something (notice the use of the world “fear” there). Instead of hunkering down and carving out some time for rest and recuperation, I proceed to saturate my system with every antidote, remedy and preventative measure I can dig out of my medicine woman tool kit. My mom will say to me, “Honey . . . just rest.” And I’m like, “I will mom, as soon as I finish making my vegetable soup from scratch, boiling water for my eucalyptus oil steam, brewing organic ginger root tea and using my nettie pot.

Ha! Except I’m not kidding.

Belly breaths.

I’m coming to the realization that this “fearful” existence, this being “afraid” of medications, of chemicals, of illness, of injury, of stress, of sadness, of failure . . . this “fearful existence” is an epidemic! Stress affects the body far more horrendously than a freaking ibuprofen! An anxiety attack will cram the body with toxins twice as fast as a drinking a cocktail, eating a processed snack or skipping a day of vitamins. Truly. Stress is literally poison in the body. And what is fear? Fear is stress. They’re fraternal twins. Fear eats away at the purity of the body, riddling the mind with “what ifs” and causing a person to chase their tail, trying to prevent all ills and defeat.

Surrender.

Give up the fearful living (I’m talking to myself here, but feel free to jump in if you are squinting at the screen right now thinking, “Oooh . . . I do that.”).

How do I suggest I/we do this? How do I suggest simply “quitting” the habitual thought patterns that circulate in the mind of a fearful liver?

Belly breaths.

We’re in this together. This mind is energy, and we can regulate it. But it’s a heck of a lot easier when you have a tribe of likeminded spirit warriors cheering you on.

So I’m here, cheering you on, cheering myself on, cheering on humanity. Step away from the fear, embrace the periodic incongruities as learning experiences, and live each day with the peace of mind that is so artfully cultivated in moments like these.

Inhale. Exhale. Belly breaths. 

…because it makes me HAPPY.

You know, it’s interesting. In light of my last post, I realized today that I religiously wear a fragrance that is by no means chemical free. It is not “all natural.” It’s not homemade. It’s certainly not certified organic. Dior Hypnotic Poison. Even the name of it sends shivers down my spine. I discovered this scent while living in Italy. My flatmate took me shopping, being the beauty and cosmetic genius that she is, and helped me choose a fragrance that I adore. I must have sniffed a billion fancy little glass bottles, with espresso beans in between to “cleanse the palette,” before falling in love with Hypnotic Poison.

I identify intensely with scent. An aroma can immediately transport me to another time. Certain scents remind me of my mom, immediately and profoundly, and I usually have to call her right away because I’m so moved by the experience. Some beings react this way to taste, some to sounds, some to the touch of certain fabrics, surfaces, what-have-you. 

In light of this morning’s post, I simply find it intriguing that I’ve chosen to obsess over the purity of things in the very recent months, and yet I’m spritzing on this fine perfume most days completely ignoring the health hazards. And you know what?

I don’t care.

I love my perfume. It brings me back to my time living in Florence, to a carefree time brimming with passion, heady romance, and the discovery of a deeply sensual connection to myself. The fragrance smells a certain way on me, mixing with my own body chemistry, producing an aroma that I receive compliments on everyday. Even if no one ever complimented my scent, I’d keep wearing it. It’s the single frivolous, overpriced “beauty” purchase that I succumb to, and I’ll continue to succumb willingly. It makes me happy

That being said, I feel like a dingbat and a half for freaking out over taking a half of an ibuprofen a couple times a day until the pain from my injury subsides. 

Like, really???

Chill out girlfriend.

My lifestyle is one of health and wellness, to the max. I am, however, not guaranteed longevity due to my ways of utmost wellness. I don’t mean this morbidly, it’s simply realistic. I don’t live the way I do simply for longevity, I live this way because it makes me happy (are you noticing a theme?). I make everything that I can on my own because it makes me happy. I recycle, conserve and care for the planet because it makes me happy. I eat a healthy, superfood rich, vegetarian, plant-based diet because it makes me happy. I walk and bike and practice yoga because – you guessed it – it makes me HAPPY!!!

So, the moral of my little OCD-driven, sadly “first world problem” story this week is this:

Cut the stress. Enough with it! Stress doesn’t make me happy! All of those things up there ^^^ THEY make me happy. This life I lead, defined by my own terms, makes me happy. Worrying over silly sh*t…no, that does not make me happy. So, just as I would switch the radio from the drone of a babbling ignoramus to something that makes sense, I change the frequency of my mind.

I love mantras, and the mantra of this new brain station is this:
I live my life, according to my own terms, because it makes me happy.