It’s Right There

The door is right there. It’s right in front of me. All I have to do is open it, and walk through.

And guess what? I’m not walking through. I see it. It’s very seeable. I’m standing there. I carried a watermelon.

I clicked on the link that said, “You Can’t Force the Release” and read this:

It feels unfair and wrong that someone such as you or me or everyone else we’re friends with should be intelligent and loveable and hard-working, with access to resources or full of ideas – and yet, we can’t seem to get unstuck from this one bit of stuckness…

Yes! It feels unfair. But “forcing the release” doesn’t work. Closing my eyes and clenching my fist and banging my entire body against the door won’t work. So, yeah, like a lot of things, I don’t really know what comes next. I think I’m supposed to trust that seeing the door is a good thing. And trust that it won’t disappear anytime soon. That it will be there when I’m ready to walk through it.

The Daily Show

A daily on-mat practice is not always the easiest thing to do. Every morning I wake up to my phone alarm, church bells clanging in the distance. Cling, clang, cling, clang. And each morning I snooze, snooze, snooze until I have to start crossing things off my morning must list (snooze: I’ll grab breakfast at work. snooze: I’ll do a short yoga practice. snooze: I showered yesterday!)

But lately I’ve been waking up excited about my morning yoga. I’ve moved away from easing into the morning with gentle stretching. And now I’m up and ready to kick some ass. Sometimes all it takes is a switch in the routine. And my routine-switching ass-kicking is coming by way of Dave Farmar power yoga podcasts.

He’s pushy, he’s funny, he’s calm and real. And somehow he makes me think that after 15 years on the mat, I’ll finally be able to float to the top of my mat without landing like a frog in a squat. Now, that may or may not be possible but, for whatever reason, his tone and guidance is resonating with me right now. I’ve extended my 20 minutes to 30. Let’s see if I can’t work my way back up to an hour and half practice. Daily? Well, we’ll see how it goes.

The Road Ahead

[Elowah Falls, OR]

I can’t come up with a comprehensible (or comprehendible) end-of-year post right now, but here are some random thoughts about things I’d like to do in the future. Some are specific, some are general. Some don’t really make any sense at all. But I was trying to keep them positive and otherwise not to limit myself just to see what would come out.

So, here it is in all its messy glory – some thoughts on the road ahead.

Write, write, write.

Practice yoga, yoga, yoga.

Take more photographs and learn how to take them better.

Teach.

Continue towards a kinder diet. Cook!

Speak French

Cut and paste and staple and craft. Crochet. Create.

Have some girls over for brunch.

Assist at PYTT monthly.

Assist at a travel program.

Create a warm home with laughter and love.

Take long walks with Kaylee.

Spend less time with the laptop in bed before sleep.

Sit. Reflect, don’t wallow. Learn. Be. Live.

Learn to ride a horse.

Practice Intuition

penelope illustration [image via penelope dullaghan at penelope illustration]

I keep on wandering and refocusing. Losing my way and finding it again. Lately, I’ll feel blue, and then remember what I’m doing and not doing to help or hinder myself. I’m doing a lot of second guessing, and a lot of not trusting myself.

In light of all that, it made me smile to stumble across a post on One Sadhana that brings up a simple way to stay aware, and one that I could use to help me not lose my way.

[Here’s] a little exercise in just becoming aware of how your choices affect you. It’s to ask yourself the question:

“Does this strengthen me? Or weaken me?” And then listen for your own answer.

[read the whole post]

I liked her examples: from asking if eating that extra cookie to checking Facebook, or staying in this relationship/situation will “strengthen me? or weaken me?” It’s such a simple approach to those daily, and sometimes mindless, decisions.

When I feel off, I frequently can’t quite figure out why without examination – and, frankly, when I’m blue I’m often lazy. Too lazy for real self-examination. But I like this micro approach.

Go out for a drink, or go home and cook dinner? Strengthen or weaken? Sleep in or hit the yoga mat. Strengthen or weaken? There’s no judgement there at all. It’s not about the right answer. It’s about checking in with yourself. I like that it’s just a simple way of listening to my intuition – to practice intuition.

Out of habit or fear, I still do things that weaken me. I think we all do, or else wouldn’t we all just ascend? That said, it feels encouraging to have a new, little tool at my disposal to practice my own intuition.

What makes you excited?

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine who was in the doldrums. Happens to the best of us. And I was asking a lot of questions, trying to see if I could get him to vocalize what his blah-ness was about. From the outside, there were some good things going on, and also some disappointing things. Anyway, I think they were canceling each other out to just create ennui, because none of the good stuff seemed to be registering.

So I said: “Well, what would you be excited about?” When I heard myself ask it, it was like the Edison bulb appeared over my head. It was hard to believe I hadn’t thought to ask myself this same question.

In the past six months or so since I’ve been home, I’ve been working hard to get back on my feet. All the good things come as a relief, but there’s always more to be done on the horizon. More things to be taken care of, more things to cross off the list. And I make these lists until they exhaust me, and then I stop, wasted, and slump down into a rut.

What would make me really excited? I didn’t even know how to answer. A bunch of things came to mind, but none of them really felt right. I have so many things on my list, but I’m not excited about any of them. No wonder crossing them off is unsatisfying – they aren’t things I really care about anyway.

So, it’s time to make a new list. An exciting list. No things I think I should do, or should want to do, or feel like I have to do. I have those lists already. This one has a completely different purpose.

Ego, Meet Anatomy

I tell my students that every body is different, and that yoga is not about looking like the pictures in the magazine.

When it comes to my own practice, though, ego rears its ugly head. Why in the name of all that is good and holy can I not externally rotate my shoulders in down dog?! My mind SCREAMS that I must do it the right way, despite the fact that every time I do, my shoulder pinches – sending heat lightning up my arm into my neck.

The other day I had a short clinic with my favorite yoga teacher (hi, Dad!) and we discovered that my elbow joint itself is externally rotated – almost as if I’m double jointed. Meaning that in order for my palms to face each other, my shoulders have to rotate inward. Therefore, in poses where my shoulders are opening, my palms flap out open to the sides. All of a sudden my downdog struggles made so much more sense. Even in bridge pose, my arms never lay comfortable on the floor underneath me. Elbows on the floor, my forearms hover in the air. And now I know why.

(If you are an anatomy geek, here’s an additional point of interest: my legs do the same kind of external rotation – leading to pronation and an odd ability to look like an amphibian or a chalk outline of some broken, splayed out body. One friend suggested I take up swimming. Or posing for chalk outlines.)

So, what does difference does this really make? I already knew that my body didn’t want to form the picture perfect posture; that for me, that arrangement of bones and joints just didn’t work. Just because an outside party confirmed this for me – showed me some kind of anatomical proof – why should that make any difference?

But it did. And while I’m open to the idea that this is some kind of scientific brain block – that you can’t always see what’s going on in your own body as easily as you could see patterns in someone else’s – I have a sneaking suspicion that ego plays a huge part in this revelation.

Someone else, someone I respect, has given me permission to follow my body’s needs. Now, why couldn’t I do that myself? I know that anatomy is individual. If I were my student, I would suggest downdog be done with arms open wider, or fingers facing the corners of the mat. Keep a soft bend in the elbows. Who cares what it looks like, as long as the spirit and the benefit of the pose is attained?

Well, apparently I do*. Anatomy comes up against ego once again. And ego never wins. What is right for the masses, is not always right for the individual body. I don’t know how many times I’m going to have to learn that lesson. So. Many. Times.

*And Iyengar, obvi.