Friday, February 26, 2010

The Cusp

I feel like I'm standing out over a ledge and looking at the bottom of a steep, deep canyon below. The canyon represents where I need to be to be grounded and at peace with myself, and it's a long way down. I know that I have to get there to be at peace -- to have the proper love and respect for myself and others, even to feed and clothe myself properly, and to start to actually live my truth -- but I'm not ready to make the leap. Not yet.

I'm still reading Rolf Gates' Meditations From the Mat, and in the last few passages, he's really asked the reader, in this case me, to look at my addictions, my attachments, to where I hoard and where I'm looking outside for answers rather than inside. I know exactly where these things are in my life, and the simple truth is that, right now, I'm just too scared to let them go. To begin to let them go would unravel the safety net I've created and to face my underlying sadness, fear and failings. My life would change dramatically. I'm not sure I want it to.

I've realized lately that there are parts of my life that are lacking. Decisions I made in the past --which I believed were the right ones at the time -- have put me in a position of dependence, which I despise. They've also put me in a position as second best, number two, or the afterthought, which I also despise. This situation has left me feeling empty, unconfident and lonely. I'm filling this loneliness by consuming things, particularly pretty dresses and jewelry and other clothes to help me feel as fabulous as I once did as an independent woman in clogs and sweatshirts.

I realize this addiction, but honestly, I'm not ready to give it up. I'm not ready to stop the automatic mechanism that tells me it's okay to feel better, and that I'll feel better if I look awesome and throw around some attitude. It's not right, it's not honest, and it's really starting to eat at me.

My yoga asana practice and the hours of stillness it creates for me afterwards are the only moments in which I feel at peace by myself. I used to feel at peace with myself easily. I want to face this filler I have, this compulsion to look outside myself for answers, this addiction, but not yet. I'm not ready to make the leap into the canyon. I hope to, but not yet. Until then, I'll wait on the cusp of the path to my self-realization. And I'll keep practicing.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My back is back! Phase one of backyard sanctuary finished!

This is before the work.
These pics are after phase one of work!
Here's a few pictures of what all my non-yoga free time went to in the past two weeks.

Yyyyeeessss! YYeess! Yes! I felt like an Herbal Essence commercial as I moved through my first asana practice in two weeks yesterday. My body was giddy with excitement and moaning with pleasure as my muscles finally were stretched and strengthened, contracted and relaxed. It was like starting new in that I'd lost a little bit of strength, but also like picking up without missing a beat as my muscles were more than happy to stretch open.

Today, I awoke earlier than usual, 6:30, and donned leggings, a long sleeved quick-dry shirt, and a hot pink Lucy jacket. Complete with homemade crocheted hat and running shoes, I was ready for a romp in the cold-in-the-winter-morning-canyons of San Diego. This four mile loop, which I usually run, I walked today with Loki, my dog, mostly to save my back any additional stress now that its feeling better. As I entered the thicket of live oak and sage, I was filled with the magical feeling that comes with exploring the natural world in the wee hours of the morning alone. Slowing down for the trail was wonderful; I noticed so much more than I usually do! How the light changes the green color of the oak leaves from dark to light, how the creek meanders so slow it's almost stopped, how much trash is actually in the canyon, and how many times my dog stops to relish in a new and wonderful scent. As I walked, I contemplated my practice yesterday. I expected it to be harder to come back; hanumanasana felt too easy, almost too yummy. Handstands were right on par. What gives?

Some physical activities are funny like that for me -- I'm better at them if I give myself a little break. When I was a gymnast, it was always amazing at how much tumbling strength I had when I got back from a vacation. In fact, we noticed that trend for our entire team of gymnasts. Tumbling was better after a break, but balance (on that four-inch balance beam) was way off. I didn't notice my balance off yesterday, but I did notice a small cry of resistance from my upper arms and triceps during the late practice chaturanga.

Taking time off of yoga is difficult for me, but it was necessary. My back actually healed from the incident two weeks ago relatively quickly -- within the first weekend. But I wanted to give the injury more time to heal than I thought was necessary, because I'm usually one to jump the gun on those types of things. When I really thought I was ready to practice again, last week, all my free time went into yard work -- first prepping the yard for the landscapers who we paid to till and grade the back yard (we have a lot of dirt to push around), then to prep the yard for my parents arrival, then to work with Mom and Dad and learn how to put in a sprinkler system, lay sod, and plant about half the yard. Whew! So I have half a planted back yard now -- woo-hoo! Phase one completed, and what's better, when the sod is ready to be walked upon, it will be the perfect location for outdoor yoga classes. Keep your weekends open for that :)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Squeezing it in

Have I been meditating everyday? Yes. Have I created a routine for meditating yet? No. I've been squeezing it in wherever I can.

Yesterday, I took 15 minutes out of my work day to sit on a soft seat, close my eyes, and meditate. Mostly, I run energy through my body and see where I feel blocked, what's causing the blockage, and if I can release the energy causing the block. But sometimes, I have a hard time concentrating, and so I just focus on keeping the energy running through my body and listening, listening, always listening.

I taught for the first time in over a week and a half today. I felt rusty, but the most of the students seemed to enjoy it. I am starting to really look forward to practicing again, after this upcoming weekend of more yard work. I'm ready to move again in the context of listening, listening, always listening to what my body has to say.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day 2010

This re injury has been a brilliant wake-up call for me. A great big, "Hello, Stupid. Stop what you're doing and try something else." Last June, when I injured my back for the first time (well, not the first time - this has been a chronic problem that is just becoming more virulent), my goal was so slowly get better, and use the expertise of a physical therapist along with my yoga practice to get better so that I could get back to all the activities I was doing before I got hurt. I see now that is not the goal. Instead, the goal is to learn to listen to my body, really listen, to know when it is stressed, and to use modalities other than physical movement to release stress stored in the body.

When I injured myself last June, I immediately sought the help of others outside of me. I went to a sports med doctor who gave me lots of drugs - two weeks later, hopped up on muscles relaxers and unaware of the extent of the injury, I re-injured trying yoga again. I went to a chiropractor, who told me I was in complete alignment but kept asking me to come in until she suggested a massage instead. I went to the a masseur, who was too expensive but such a good healer that the next day I vomited out all the toxins she released. I went back to a different sports med doctor who finally sent me to a physical therapist who knew a lot about anatomy and what my anatomical problem was, and helped me to relieve the pain that way.

Unfortunately, we yogis know that there is more to pain than just the physical body. Every physical pain in the body has an underlying spiritual message. You can think of pain as the body's way of screaming at you. I say screaming because, undoubtedly, the body has given you many signs of distress prior that have been ignored.

Last Thursday when I re injured myself, I was very stressed. Works was stressful, as were things at home, as were all problems I was trying to solve for my friends. All this was taking a toll on my body. All of this in the same week that I was trying to introduce a very physically stressful activity - running - back into my routine. The morning of my run, I thought to myself, "I need to relieve this stress. I need to sit down and meditate. I need to get this stress out of my body." But I didn't do it. Instead, I did what I always do, which is focus on the physical - take the jog, or that intense asana practice, or that long walk with the dog. All of those things are considered healthy releases for stress, and all are in line with the externally and body focused culture that we live in.

So I got sick, hurt my back, and spent a day crying and thinking "why, why, why." Well, why indeed. Because I failed to listen. And if I fail to see the lesson again, then I've really failed. But I'm afraid of changing. I'm afraid of taking on a new routine that isn't linked to disciplining my body. Gates says, "Aparigraha (non hoarding or non attachment) is about recognizing our fears and letting them go. We hold on to that which is not really ours in the first place because we are afraid. We hold on to outworn beliefs because we are afraid. We are willing to believe that something outside ourselves will make us whole because we are afraid. Being afraid does not make us right, it only makes us unhappy."

And so I'm changing my goal. A year of yoga was appealing to me because it was physically demanding. But I have been told by my body time and time again that "demanding" is not what it needs right now, especially a practice of vinyasa or Astanga. I've realized that, while I love love love Astanga yoga, it is not as much about listening to the body as it is asking the body to perform more and more difficult tasks. While this is not a bad thing in and of itself, it's just not the thing I need to focus on each day for a year.

I will get back to yoga as much as possible when I'm healed. But in the meantime, I'm committing to a daily practice of meditation to drain stress from my system and check in with myself. I know that this will work, because it does work for me. I've just not committed to it because it's not physical. Yesterday, I meditated on my own and then swapped aura healings with a friend. The results were incredible. I was suffering from very swollen throat glands and within an hour after the healing, which basically is just assistance in noticing and draining energy and stress from the body, my throat was back to normal. It's stayed that way. My back feels better, too. I am confident that this is the path for me right now. Daily meditation sprinkled with conscious, healthy yoga workouts.

And, as always, I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Injury? Really?

I realize it's been a long time since I've written, and for most of today, I've been thinking about this great piece I was going to write about changing priorities and such. My plan has lately been to start incorporating all my favorite activities back into my routine - activities I've had to let go because of my back injury. So earlier this week, I went out slowly for about four miles, alternately walking and jogging, to see how it felt. It felt good, but I realized it maybe was a little too long a distance.

I practiced yoga on Monday and Wednesday, and today I went out for a shorter distance (somewhere between two or three miles, I estimate) and incorporated several of my physical therapy exercises into the run - stopping to do squats, one-legged golf squats with a bench, step-up knee drives, etc. The whole work out lasted 35 minutes, and I stretched afterwards.

I wanted to write a post about how I was going to try, slowly, to start incorporating running and other activities back into my routine. However, this afternoon, I started to feel my throat glands swelling and my throat got sore. A headache came next. I went home from work early, ready to take a nap, but decided to join the work party in my back yard of pulling weeds. I changed into my work clothes and as I was bending over to put on my tennis shoes, I felt my low left back twinge. The same twinge that I felt last June and has put me out for so long.

I thought it was okay at first, but when I came back inside and tried to sit in a chair, it wasn't. It's the same nauseating pain that radiates into my waist. I'm so frustrated that as we speak, I'm laying on my back with a computer on my lap. Tears have been shed. I'm not sure why my back pulled again; I really thought that with all the physical therapy and mindful yoga, I was past this. I wonder now if my attempt at jogging weakened something and made me more prone to injury.

I'm not sure what tomorrow will bring. I've subbed out my classes due to my throat, but I'm glad I have since I'm not sure if I'd be able to teach tomorrow with my back like this. I'm desperately hoping and intending that this little twinge heal itself quickly, with the help of my rest and positive thinking, as well as my knowledge of rehabilitation exercises. I desperately want to avoid the six month-plus healing time again. I want to be healthy and enjoy the activities I love. Why is this so hard for my body to do?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Need for Yoga

My body is not meant to sit still for very long. I know this about my body. I've spent years in my experiential college setting learning this. I spent many hours in 15 passenger vans bound for educational speeches given by different outdoor experts at different outdoor locations. Days of relative little movement by the body, but significant travel of the body via motor, are uncomfortable and unwanted.

Yesterday, I agreed to take a jeep tour of Anza Borrego State Park and the surrounding area. The tour was nine hours in the jeep, and the weather was cold and rainy, making exploring during our short stops undesirable. We saw beautiful things - ocitilla readying to bloom, beautiful barrel cactus and extraordinary feats of geology. It's truly an amazing place.

But the fact remains that my body is meant to be in movement for a good portion of the day. When the tour was over and I stood outside on solid ground, I still felt like the earth was moving beneath me, giving me the feeling of being on a boat. This is how my body reacts to all long car or plane rides, and it's not pleasant. The evening was cold, and through the night, my body stiffened up even more. By this morning, I couldn't wait to get on my mat and stretch out my stiff muscles.

I felt completely antsy by the end of the day, but what is amazing to me is how so many people are completely accustomed to being sedentary. How stiff they must feel without even consciously realizing it! How the body must must cry out in agony! I wonder if, after a while, the body gives up trying to give signals of its unhappiness and disintegrating health. Or maybe we're all built a little differently, and some of us need to move more than others.

Regardless, my practice was much needed today. I even craved back bends, which, if you know me very well at all, you know I almost never crave. I was tired, however - I had several very emotionally draining events occur this week, and so my practice wasn't necessarily rigorous. I worked deep into my hips and stiff hamstrings, as well as into my thoracic spine, opening up the heart with Urdva Danurasana and Ustrasana. It was beautiful, as was the much needed svasana at the end, when I was able to let go of the events of the week.

Movement of the body combined with stillness of the mind is a glorious thing.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Day 36: Letting go

While I understand and can see many of the items in my life to which I am attached, or things that I hoard - like sci-fi novels, coffee, and big earrings - there are other dimensions of attachment or hoarding that are harder to look at. Anger, for one. Fear, another. Resentment. Do I also attach and hoard these things?

Yes. It's obvious when a little sleep deprivation and a wacko on the freeway wind me up into a cuss-o-rama. To be truly well in our lives, we cannot harbor anger or resentment. In Meditations from the Mat, Gates tells a story about himself and the anger he held in his life. Even as he prayed, meditated, participated in therapy sessions and practiced yoga, he was still prone to irrational bouts of resentment. His teacher made him realize, "As long as I was angry with anyone, I harbored anger, and I was therefore an angry person." To be angry is unforgiving, and the first step to wellness is forgiveness.

This passage really made me think about who I needed to forgive. I immediately thought of my childhood best friend, who during the end of both our sixth and seventh grade years, turned the cold shoulder on me. Her excuse? She just "got sick of me." I was heartbroken, and didn't realize it for a while, but it gave me a deep distrust of women in general. The rest of my middle and high school years, and well into my first few years of college, I only had close male friends and roommates. To this day, I harbor anger that my childhood BFF could drop me so quickly and so heartlessly. It crushed me.

I have not forgiven her. It's been what, fifteen years, and I still haven't forgiven her. As Gates puts it, I'm harboring this anger and it makes me an angry person. Just this week, I've had some unfortunately situations that, had I not been so quick to anger and resentment, I may have flown through quite easily. I don't want to be angry or get frustrated easily, and so I must learn to forgive.

Gates says that he was instructed to go to each of the people he harbored resentment toward and speak to them, including a formal forgiveness. In my head, I'm making all of the same excuses about doing this that Gates mentions, especially, "Yeah, but So-and-so would never speak to me even if I tried." Plus so much time has gone by. But to these protests Gates says, "The spiritual life is always about letting go. It is never about holding on."

I'm not ready. Not yet. I know I'm not ready because if I were to act today, it would probably be in the form of a Facebook message or something, which, let's be honest, doesn't count. I hope I get there soon. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Day 33: Truth, Lies and Confessions

Can you tell the truth from a lie? When someone tells you a very convincing lie, a lie that tugs at your heart, a lie that you want to be truth, can you still tell that it's a lie?

We all have intuitive abilities that help us tell the truth from a lie. You've probably discovered a lie after the fact and then looked back upon it and said, "Dang it! I knew they were lying to me!" Yes, we all have that gut instinct, that little nudge inside of us that tells us when something is true or not. We all have it, but how often do we use it?

I had a lie told to me recently. A big lie. A lie that I wanted to believe, that if I believed, would further my path as a yoga instructor and may bring additional income. I wanted to believe the lie, and so did the teller - in fact I don't even think he realizes he was lying. But he was. And now I'm kicking myself for believing it and begrudgingly looking at the mess I may have to clean up because I believed it. (Note to the reader - until further notice, do not come to my classes at the San Diego Squash club. It's not set up for a yoga space. Yet. I haven't given up completely. Just hold out another week or so).

So why did I believe it in the first place? Well, for starters, I wanted to believe it. I respected the person telling it, and I wanted to share his vision of the outcome. But I had doubts. I had a lot of doubts (Emily, you know exactly what I'm talking about). Isn't it interesting that we chose to believe something we know is a lie; it's as if we lie to ourselves about the truth so that we can accept someone's untruthful vision of the future. It's like when Bush rejected the proof of global warming and asked the country to do so as well. He liked the lie better than the truth, so he convinced himself of the lie.

My meditation tonight is about the truth verses the lie. Obviously. I'm taking a look into my space to see what controls my space about truth and what affects my ability to see a lie. Anyone can take a look at this for themselves in meditation. Or if you're having a hard time seeing your own space, give me a call and I'll take a look for you.

Ah, and confessions. My confession is this: I didn't really do any yoga today. Gasp! I woke early for my last session of physical therapy - an hour of one legged squats, lunges, and abdominal work. Ouch. I spent an hour trying to set up a space for a yoga class that no one showed up to (although, to my credit, I did 15 minutes of sun salutations and flow while waiting), and then I went straight to work until the evening. I had intentions of attending an evening yoga class, but the look on my pets faces (and their body language) stopped me. I've realized that lately with all the new stress in our house (my husband entering into the teaching portion of his professorship plus my two new jobs), my pets are hard hit. My dog seems depressed, low energy, and sad, even. My cat can't wait to jump into my lap every time I sit down. In fact, above is a picture of Zoe "helping" me pay the bills this morning in my 15 minutes of sit down time.

So instead of yoga, I came home for the evening to spend time with my family. So maybe I don't get 365 asana. I thought of yoga. I did some yoga. But I didn't spend an hour on my mat. Instead, I spent an hour as the mat for my cat.