I ran my first marathon about 5 months ago in Richmond, VA. There are times when I think about it and am amazed and awed at my power, endurance and willpower. I always felt like that kind of display of athleticism is for other people...you know - real athletes. There are other times when I think "duh, of course I ran a marathon". My body is strong, and I can do anything that I set my mind to. There's no real gray area - I'm either in one camp or the other.
There are times, in reminiscing about being pregnant that I am amazed by what a completely magical time that was in my life. For example, there was one particular weekend that I remember pretty vividly, that I took a weekend off to go to Denver for a Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training. So, I was pregnant at a Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training. That in itself was pretty wonderful, and I felt enveloped by this nurturing, earth mama, goddess kind of energy. But as another wonderful part of that weekend, a girlfriend of mine who was in school for photography was going to take as-naked-as-you're-comfortable-with pictures of me as a part of a project that she was doing for school. I didn't get down to my birthday suit, but, it was daring for me and also empowering to step into my feminine power like that. The whole weekend was really quite glorious. And, I also remember with shocking vividness the lack of preparedness that I felt, as one can never quite be prepared to give birth for the first time, no matter how much prenatal yoga, or birthing classes of any kind you've done. No matter how many books you've read. No matter how many people you've talked to, and informally interviewed. No matter how many strangers tell you their story of birth. There comes a moment, when the story becomes your own and you take the power in one way or another, or have it taken from you. There is no other choice. That moment was a make-it-or-break-it life moment for me. I wrote a whole blog post about it then. You come face to face with your power. Your inner goddess and also your inner demon. YOU choose who will prevail. And finally, hopefully, if all goes well, the outcome is remarkable, amazing, mind blowing and all-encompassing. Your child. And a life-affirming, transformational experience.
Long before I was ever pregnant, back when I was just a tyke myself, studying prenatal massage in massage school, I remember a teacher saying that often times a woman who has gone through labor and vaginal delivery (I imagine an emergency Cesarean birth after hours struggling through labor would lead to this too) feels as though she's just run a marathon. Well, back then, the idea of running a marathon was so far removed from my consciousness that I had no concept of what that could feel like. She said that arms and legs get sore from long holds in weird positions, and from gripping or pulling on beds or her own legs. Muscles would be tired, and energy zapped, of course, but those tales only served up a larger plate of conceptualization of what that could be like in my head.
Now that I've run a marathon, though, its a bit more than an abstract concept in my mind. And I can see the similarities from the side of the marathon too. You put in months of training and preparation, both physically and mentally. Then comes a REALLY hard few hours - you get in your head, you get in your body, you try to get out of your body, and then back in...., and finally, hopefully, if all goes well, you wind up with an AMAZING outcome. A feeling of accomplishment that is truly remarkable.
There was a time, on our 15 mile training run, that I entertained a shadow of a doubt that I could actually complete a marathon. It was a hard run. I bonked bad at the end. It took me about 20 minutes just to take off my running clothes and put on my going home clothes. I was completely out of it. Struggling to maintain consciousness for a few minutes there. And I thought, if I can hardly make it through 15 miles, how the hell am I going to add another 11.2?! It was a real downer. And of course friends encouraged me to keep on, and I did. I had a great 18 and 19 mile training run, and felt maybe even a little overconfident about the marathon. Most of the time, during my training I honestly felt, with my whole heart that I could do it. I went in, fresh, confident and ready to face the demons, and walk, or run, as it were, through the hot coals with the goddess by my side.
There was also a time, during my daughter's delivery that my belief in the possibility of this event happening did flicker, and a moment of "I might actually die here today" did darken my consciousness. It was one of the two scariest moments of my life. I walked with the demon for a while. We had a nice chat. She scared the shit out of me. And I decided to kick her ass. That I was going to make it to meet my baby. So I welcomed the goddess in. I gave her my trust and knew that the more I surrendered, the more powerful I became.
Just like running a marathon. Through the darkness of many miles spent in my head, I made it to cross the finish. Though my body was all used up for a while after, I had turned to my faith in my training, to the trust in my power and to my joy of running and playing on the earth to pull me through. And it did.
Not only do I get to share however long I get of this life with the most amazing sprite of a little girl, but on her birth day, I also was reborn as a mother. And, though I had run for years prior to running that marathon, I was then reborn into an endurance athlete. I pulled through, both times. My eternal gratitude goes to the goddess that not only walks by my side, but is in fact ME. The mystical, powerful, abundant light that has now shined into scary cracks and crevices of my consciousness and showed me the joy of embracing the scary, and standing up, standing in, and moving through to the transcendent.
Run on, witchyo bad self.
Being a people pleaser is hard. Mainly, because it a signals a deeply internal need to feel that everybody likes you. You try and try, but alas, we weren't made for everyone to like everyone else. Or everything else. Its not a big deal. Unless you have this nagging need for people to like you. So you try and try and bend over backward, whether they know it or not, and ultimately, life serves up this beautifully messily packaged lesson in the form of your hard work not landing right with someone. ...they don't like you. Oy, the injustice! What did I do to deserve this disdain?? I thought I'd shaped myself in the exact image that they would be able to accept.
There it is.
Did you catch it?
That fleeting thought, where I acknowledged to myself that I had momentarily deviated from the trueness of myself to create an alternate, shinier, happier, more productive, life-shopped self, that... well, isn't true. Its such a shame isn't it? Not every client will love my work. Not every yoga student will connect with how I teach. Not every person I meet will love my humor. Not every loved one will feel loved by how I love.
This lesson will slap me across the face probably a bazillion more times before I actually change the way I see myself in relationship to other people and despite all the practice I've had at seeing the world as a projection of my own and therefore all within my control how I see others and how I let this self-created projection shape my experience. Despite the knowledge that as one of my first yoga gurus reminded us often "if you walk away from your practice knowing what your neighbor was wearing, you were spending too much time focusing your energy outward, and not focused enough on your own practice" (which can be extrapolated to life too). In fact, I read blogs maybe every day, if not at least a few times a week, extolling the virtues of being in your own life - pay attention to the things you like that are happening and don't give so much attention to the things that are not going as you had expected. Focus on what is right, and it will increase. Move on from what isn't, and don't worry what other people think of you. See? I know all the right words. But, well, that is an idealism that just hasn't worked it's way into my worldview yet.
This is why the other day, I had a yoga private client that about crippled me energetically. She didn't mean to. It was 100% me. And if I had been paying more attention, we would've done about 2/3 restorative poses and called it a day with two happy and well rested campers walking away from the session. Instead, I did all that I could to find this pose and that gentle stretch that she could do, and finding none, proceeded to take her head shaking and negativity quite personally. When, at the beginning of the session I had asked her what her goals were in beginning a yoga practice and her response was not to be strong, flexible or spiritually enlightened, but rather to increase her sense of well being. I had listened, and tried all that I was used to trying to reach a similar goal, but not exactly her goal. Her goal could've been reached easily with restorative poses, and I was blind to it until the bitter end. I knew immediately that I had been insensitive, and acted with a complete lack of creativity and softness. And I realized one thing. Maybe I"m not a great restorative yoga teacher. Maybe I'm great at teaching a dynamic, flowing class that leaves one feeling strong and empowered, but for those that want to sink into a deep surrender, maybe I don't know how to guide them there.
So am I deficient in skill because I don't teach every type of yoga known to western man? My need to please people shouts a resounding YES!! Yes, girl, you are. My need to please people has woven a tapestry that is gnarled up with hopes dashed, with expectation that if I were just something else, something more - I could be the one that solves everything for you. That helps you see why to care more, open your eyes and change. But clearly the change must come from me. And I see that yes, in fact the deficiency comes from my lack of confidence. MY lack of confidence. Even that - taking possession of the lack of confidence, makes it that much harder to shake.
A lack of confidence.
One that may just begin to change if I can care more about loving myself than about what others think. If I open my eyes to the truth and beauty that is reflected back at me from the world and those I meet in it. Because it is indeed a reflection. And the source of that reflection is me. And the change, well, the change will never come from others in my life. It will only come in the form of how I see them. MY (and this time I do intentionally mean possession) interpretation of them. And if I can bring more joy, compassion and acceptance into MY eyes, then that is how I will in turn be seen. The more we uplift, the more we are lifted up.
This yoga client was sent to me from the universe to teach me. To help me begin to unravel the tapestry, and to accept my own self. To realize the worth that I bring to this experience and to begin to let go of the rigidity around who I think I am. As we blur the edges around who we think we are, we open ourselves up to the infinite potential of what we could be. What benefit we could share. What abundance we can bring into service.
So, at the end of the day, I must thank the universe for crushing my ego. (Oh, I bet there's a tiny bit left...) For breaking me down like a military drill sergeant, so that I may rebuild myself in a shinier, more content and more productive mold. And one that is less rigid, more organic, and most importantly, sees that I see the world as I see myself.
I have a whole lot of respect for stay at home parents. I used to be one of those that always thought it was easy... at least when your children were napping, you could shower or do the crossword, or something.
Ummm....think again lazy.
My family and I have recently relocated from Colorado to the Washington D.C. metro area, for a number of reasons, finances and family being the top two. We are currently staying with my parents while we get the lay of the land, see exactly which overpriced suburb we want to live in, where we end up getting jobs and generally getting things in order. My husband is the first to get a job. A more swanky, power suit-y kind of job than he had back home. So while that gets figured out, and we start to understand the demand on him for his time and energy, I am staying home with our 18 month old. My parents both work still, so while they'd love to help out all of the time, realistically, if my husband and I both got full-time jobs right away, we'd be back on the full-time daycare boat right away and probably in a similar one-of-us-is-just-working-to-pay-for-daycare (translated as: me) position. So I then, by default, am the one to become a stay at home parent. For now.
I have to preface what I'm about to say and iterate strongly that I ADORE my daughter with a love that knows no bounds. She is the brightest star in my sky, and having the opportunity to have so much quality time with her in her formative years is a blessing that I appreciate wholeheartedly. And, too, I acknowledge that many parents do not have this opportunity, with such a loving safety net under them as they rework the fabric of their lives to create something amazing for themselves and their child(ren). ....Ok, with that said, let us proceed.
Being a stay at home parent (SAHP) is THE hardest thing I have ever done. Harder than the act of giving birth, harder than learning to nurse, harder than trying to make a tetris-like schedule of work and daycare work to enable a somewhat functional life. It is non-stop demanding, for 10 hours a day, at least for now, divided into a morning and afternoon shift. And I happen to have what I'm starting to understand to be a very active, creative, curious and unafraid child. Which at 18 months translates into, you can't take your eyes off of her. At all. I can let her free play - I'm not trying to be a helicopter mom, but unless I want the walls (of my parent's home) colored in crayon, glass tables in shards in the living room, my child chasing a ball that got swallowed by a drainage ditch, or eating dog food, I have to keep her in my periphery, at the very least, all day. Oy.
Gone are the days when I could lay her down for three naps a day, do yoga, eat, take showers, plan classes, and catch up with friends on the phone. Gone too are the days when she was in daycare, and I got an entire half-day of vacation time when I went to work. And I did at least an hour's work at a time, blessedly uninterrupted. Even when the spa was slow, I could go work out in the gym (unheard of now), steam, shower and be ready for my next client. Sounds like a dream.
And I'm sure to the dedicated, selfless SAHPs out there it probably smacks of selfish egocentrism. It's ok. You can think it. Its nothing I haven't thought myself.
But I have to say, and I've been giving this a whole lot of thought lately - I think some people are really cut from a different cloth when it comes to being at home with their kids. Some people love that stuff! And I'm so amazed, inspired, grateful and quite frankly, in awe of those people. Because some of us aren't...and that is totally ok. It's not that I get immediately overwhelmed, tired and frustrated just as soon as my sweet angel wakes up in the morning - no, no, no. It's not even a whole day that does me in (well, I do suppose that depends on the day, now doesn't it?) but day in, day out, the same attention to detail - of which the object changes about every 15 seconds, give or take 15 seconds...is well, very draining for me personally after a week. I think back fondly on those days when I'd get V from daycare back home, and I'd have had a great day of adult time, focused work and just being able to relax that hyper vigilance that comes with parenting a toddler for a few hours, and be fairly refreshed and so excited to see her. And in the meantime, she'd had a stimulating day with other kids, with a different adult (one of those amazing specimens that has boundless energy and attention for little ones), learned, sang and colored many things that I probably wouldn't have thought to present her with at home, and she'd be tired, happy and so excited to see me! And we'd have a lovely reunion, eat some dinner, have a bath and off to bed for the both of us. Happy as clams, I'd say.
And it's totally ok.
There is nothing to be stigmatized about needing time away from each other. Of being stimulated by encountering many different people, places, things and ideas. By being able to express ourSelves in many ways, manifestations and contexts. This goes for the both of us, not just the adult in the equation. I believe that some children get bored in just one main environment all day, every day. Seeing just a few people all of the time. Interacting with the same toys, books, dogs, furniture and neighborhood features all week. It is ok to need space to be you, to breathe and to miss each other. To have something to share about your time away from each other when you come back together (even when they're too young to talk, they can communicate their feelings of safety and comfort in a child care setting with you when you pick them up). It's ok to need help, just because you need space. And believe me, I understand how privileged this comes off, as many people need to work, or need to stay home and don't have many other options, as I've had since my child was born, and I am only speaking to my limited experience of parenthood and nothing more here. But I will tell you this: I am beyond tired of the self inflicted judgment, comparison and critique that takes over my head sometimes on the topic of parenting skill. It is totally ok to listen to what your heart says and take the time you need to be the best you that you can be for yourself, your partner and your children. They deserve the best you that you can offer, don't they?
SAHPs I'm in awe of you. Your (inferred and projected) patience, gentle smiles, picnics at the park, and general ease with parenting. I bow at your feet. And look forward to the day when I can be only a part-time you. And be a better me for it.
I'd love to hear thoughts, tips and suggestions of ways being a SAHP has worked for you. Things you like and don't about it. In general, be a part of this conversation.
Big love, parents and children alike - Alex
I wrote this blog post on Vera's first birthday, and somehow it got logged with my drafts and never got published. Now I happened to come upon it on the exact anniversary of her being 18 months (or for you non-baby talk readers a year and a half). These words touched my heart to remember the place I was in just six short months ago. We are in quite a different place now, though that is for a different post. She continues to amaze me daily, and I'm so excited to share more soon! :
Today is my kiddo's first birthday. She's pretty amazing. Right on time - she's started taking her first few tottering steps and she lovingly says "mama", which melts my heart every time. It's kind of amazing to think just how fast this year has gone by.
When she was bon, she was very little - 5lbs 11ozs, and on oxygen for 5 never ending weeks. She had literally no fat on her, her skin hung on her skeleton. Now she's on the verge of walking and says "mama". It's pretty wild to watch a little human grow. To experience how they are born this blank slate (though not without anything at all...) and as they encounter new things, and begin to integrate experiences, they begin to shape their world. It's wild to watch her begin to become best friends with the dogs and share mischievous looks with them as she sneakily passes them food behind her back at the table. When, what seems like last week, though it was nearly a year ago, she wasn't even sitting up, much less eating at the table or acknowledging the dogs. I thought, in the midst of the long nights of nursing on demand, of praying to get the oxygen tubes out of her nose, of wondering if she was ever going to put a little weight on, that the hardness would last forever. And I guess in a way it does - it changes, but that particular hardness of very newborns is long forgotten. Her infectious smile and giggle have seen to that. When she holds out her hand with whatever I've just given her, to share it with me, I wonder if this child will change the world with her generosity.
I made a human being. One that is amazing. And this day - the day that commemorates her coming into this world to share her life with me is now my most favorite day. I love you Vera, and honor our relationship so much! Happy Birthday, my sweet girl!!
I was teaching a yoga class the other day. The name of the class is Hot Flow. Up until I took over this time slot a few weeks ago it was called Hot Power Flow. What about that isn't intimidating?? Not that I'm trying to intimidate people; in fact quite the contrary is true. I try to make people feel comfortable, at ease and in a friendly mood to practice yoga together in such a way that we stop judging and comparing ourselves and just get embodied already! Now, that isn't to say that this class is easy, but I don't make it excessively hard or show off, I just present a challenging sequence for people to come together, work hard, commit to their practice, their concentration, their focus and intention. I consider it my role to create a setting where we can feel truly like the channels; the conduits and containers for this ever changing and flowing life force that we call prana in Sanskrit to flow through us and simultaneously take us away with it's epic tidal wave, and also to bring us home to our breath and bodies. Ok, so enough with the esoteric yoga talk...apparently I'm on a tangent of setting the stage for you.
This particular class doesn't have a level associated with it. At least not on paper nor in the google machine. In my mind this is a solid level 2 class. So I suppose I should've anticipated some beginners to join in the fun at some point. And Murphy's Law never disappoints. And it is always an amazing reminder of beginner's mind...this mixed level class conundrum. And a humbling one at that, as I realize that the true qualities that I associate with beginner's mind - I still have, and quite unconsciously too. So let's now talk about Beginner's Mind.
There was a time in my practice where it seemed like out of every one of my teacher's mouths came the words "put yourself back in Beginner's Mind!" (The exclamation point is necessary, because this was always an imperative and not a suggestion). And it was always well received. I always tried to remember that open, curious, spacious quality of knowing absolutely nothing about this practice and making my mind open and spongy to receive whatever messages my teachers, my mind and body had to give. It was a lovely reminder.
That is not the beginner's mind I'm talking about now.
There's also a not-quite-beginner-anymore-but-not-too-far-into-this-practice mind that is super dangerous. And that is definitely the one I'm talking about. The mindset that says, "Hey, I've seen this shape before! Even though my mind isn't comprehending right now the process to get into it in an integrated and safe way, I'm gonna approximate it based on what I see around me anyway!" And here my friends, we exit onto the Highway to the Danger Zone. Cue sexy, bad boy Tom Cruise, before he got all culty on us. This smarty-pants-beginner's-mind is the one that ignores the warnings of the teacher when she says - "if getting here is not quite what your body or practice is ready for today, please back off to a variation of this pose that has previously been shown, that is still challenging but makes sense to both your body and mind". But oh, no...what does this particular bit of ego do with this warning....uhh - throw it out the window as the car hurtles down the highway to the danger zone. This aspect of beginner's mind is especially pernicious, because it makes us compare ourselves to others, despite how we actually feel in our own bodies. It's the little devil on our shoulder that says "hey, I know you're tired, shaking and so slippery because you're sweating profusely but everyone else is doing that third really deep backbend, so you should really try too". No, no, no, no NO! No you should not. You should listen with care, kindness and love to your body. This is what "advancing" in yoga looks like to me. Not how steady your handstand is. That is only a measure of how much time you've given a pose. Just like that, though, how steady your mind is, is a measure of how much time you've given it. And it shows.
So, when we check in with our ego every time we are hearing this little devil on our shoulder, and choose kindness instead of competition, when we are so embodied that the flow rocks our world and we notice nothing but our breath, movement and mind aligned in a oneness that is God her-gracious-and-mighty-self rocking our practice - this is the off ramp. This choice of kindness is the choice of a mature yoga practice. And may we all come to this place - because, at least the few times I've experienced it, it sure is a glorious relief to let go of the self-judgment, and dive into the compassion that yoga practice teaches us at it's heart.
Go forth and enjoy your practice yogis! Stop comparing yourself to someone else and chill out. It'll take you leaps and bounds further towards being an "advanced" yogi than a killer arm balance practice!
With infinite love - A
My sweet baby turned 10 months old today. It's pretty amazing how the time flies. I mean, everybody tells you that as you get older time seems to whiz by faster and faster, and I kind of got it before, but now that I have a child, this strange re-interpretation of time has taken on a whole new meaning. So anyway, to commemorate her 10 month-long life earthside, I put a sweet sticker on her shirt this morning with a little hot air balloon on it announcing to the world that she's now 10 months old. I snapped a picture of her and we sped off to daycare.
When we got there, I took off her jacket and set her down to play. As I was talking with our day care provider about details of her diet and what not, I noticed that she was crinkling up the shirt and sticker and off-handedly made a comment about how maybe a tighter shirt would have kept the sticker intact a little longer. Right away, an older girl came over to Vera as I mentioned the sticker, and promptly peeled it right off of her shirt and threw it away in the garbage can. I almost lost it. I curtly told our day care provider what happened and left as I was so angry and hurt that I was starting to tear up. And also, I didn't want to lose it on someone else's child. I just kept thinking to myself that that was such a mean thing to do. Now, I can't be sure this girl's intention was mean-spirited. I mean, she's older than Vera, but she's still a very little girl. But at the time I interpreted it as mean. And of course Vera could not care less, in fact I don't even think she really knew what happened, and as soon as the sticker was gone, I think she forgot it was ever there. It was my way of celebrating her, and nothing that she could identify with at this age.
So, this now brings up two very interesting problems for mommy to begin addressing within herself:
A.) How am I going to react and handle situations where someone else treats my child in a way that I deem to be mean, hurtful or in any other way wrong.
B.) Why did I even take something so personally, when my kid didn't even care? How much stuff am I constantly projecting on to her? Can I catch myself before I project said emotions/reactions on to her, and let her develop her own way of being in the world?
As far as how I am going to handle situations in the future where I think my child has been done wrong - I guess that must be a circumstantial answer. If it is something like another child hit her or hurt her, I imagine I will say something to that child. Now, the amount of grace I can bring to that interaction will depend on how much I've been meditating lately, how hurt my child really is, how contrite the other party seems to be, and how much of an impact I think I may be able to have on this child's future aggressiveness...I hope. I hope that I don't just fly off the handle as I was on the verge of doing today. It was my sense of social awkwardness in front of our day care provider at the thought of getting upset with someone else's child over something so petty, that kept me together until I got to the car. It feels decidedly childish to admit this in such a public forum, but it is unmistakably the truth. As I sit here considering the Great Sticker Debacle of 2014 I realize that the only thing that kept me from telling that little girl just how mean I thought she was was that our day care lady would think me a petty person, a horrible mother, and kick us out of her practice. ...Wow, that stings a little.
Now, if the circumstance in which I believe my child to have been done wrong is less offensive, like for instance, someone takes something from her (and let's say, as she gets older, she may care a little bit - though I am holding my breath, in hopes that she will always be as non-committal as she is now to "her stuff" and never really care if someone wants to play with a toy she has or use her things) I think I need to learn to be a little less affected. I mean, really, to think that after the years I've put into meditation and working on being less attached to things, the stark realization that a little girl taking my daughter's sticker got my goat so bad is a rough one to process.
Which leads me into the second issue that I need to work through - How can I begin keeping my stuff as my stuff and not putting it on my wide open, un-conceptualized, innocent little girl? The funny thing is that that moment that that other girl peeled the sticker off, walked over to the trash can and threw it away occurred to me in slow motion, much like the worst car accident I have ever been in, when the spinning of my car and flipping over happened so slow and so fast at the same time, that internally I had time to process what was going on, that I may actually lose my life, and also that I could do nothing to prevent it because it was happening so fast in actuality. That slow/fast thing about time and participating in the present moment is maybe, actually, could it be?...a testament to all of the mindfulness work that I HAVE done, and that I could see what was happening, understand that I cannot know another person's mind (the other little girl - or my little girl's either for that matter) and leave the thing alone to be processed by the parties involved and NOT, in fact "put my stuff on her".
The fact that I took it so personally, I think does show a bit of over-attachment to my kiddo, and something I hope to tether as I watch her growing independence. Her life is, in the end hers, and my connection to it, a lucky happenstance that I couldn't possibly be more grateful to the universe for - but I cannot create her personality; her reactions must reflect how she chooses to interact with the world. So, though I may still need to do a lifetime's (or a few lifetimes) worth of work on lessening my attachment to stuff, to my kid, to this blessed life that I get to live, a big part of that work now must reflect a desire to keep my stuff as the work of MY life, and not expect other people like my daughter, sharing my attachments to lessen the burden of that work for me. In fact it would just muck up their life worse, and we all have our own muck to wade through before we bloom into our lotus. So here and now, I embark on this journey to consciously keep my child's eyes as clear as I can - as unclouded by mom's stuff as I can, and let her find her own work.
I love you, little munchkin! Happy 10 months.
I recently read a blog post that really challenged how I view my yoga practice. This writer was positing that "fancy" yoga poses like handstands and arm balances are unnecessary in a practice and that the meat of the practice is in basic yoga . And if you get interested enough, you don't need to keep working yourself up for these really hard poses, when there is plenty of good work to be done in Warrior 1, or Bridge pose. That as a practitioner ages, their practice becomes more "boring". Yes, I totally agree. And I totally disagree.
She is 34 (ancient). I am 35, and have been practicing since 1998ish, so about fifteen years or so. I don't know if this puts me in the ancient category or if I've had enough practice to where I get to make my practice boring again yet, but I do not connect with her sentiment about coming back to a super pared down practice out of interest. Don't get me wrong, I am not uninterested in Warrior 1 or Bridge pose. These are my home base. This is where I begin and end my practice and find myself home. But one thing that has resonated with me over the years from my Buddhist meditation experience is the principle of equanimity. That is, treating your enemy as you would your friend. Not discriminating between attraction and aversion, as they are two sides of the same coin. And I try to apply this to my yoga practice as well. I do the poses that I don't like as much, and ones that I haven't mastered yet in a balanced way with the ones that have been in my asana toolbox since the beginning. They are the same. Discriminating one from the other is a nod to the ego as much as watching oneself do handstands in the mirror is. Lets get real about why we avoid certain poses. If I have been practicing Pavritta Bakasana, or Side Crow for years, just haven't gotten that pesky fulcrum point down yet, and can't hold it worth a shit, I may back away from incorporating it into my daily practice because it makes me feel inept. Ok, but does that mean that it wasn't helping me to be humbled by this pose every damn day? Absolutely not. This is as much a part of the practice as flowing confidently between poses that I love. It teaches me discipline, dedication, right effort, and concentration, humility and letting go. All valuable lessons, I'd say.
Take Handstand for example. We play a game of cat and mouse that is most intriguing. Most of the time she evades me quite effectively, maybe letting me caress her for a brief moment or two. Now and again my passion and hunger for her has lit me up so bright that I must find her and we embrace for a ferocious tryst . Our encounters have become longer and longer, by seconds not by minutes. And when we meet, it's like looking into the present moment so completely that I am left breathless. She hides, I seek. This is how we play. She has beguiled me, and I am too interested to turn away. Her wish is my command. This is deeper than ego. This is Rumi poem. And my tenacious pursuit enlivens my practice, makes me beyond interested; it brings me to the edge of the cliff, and every time, I dive...
Diving into that mystery is yoga.
Of course there is mystery in poses we've practiced for years. The fact that I could've done Warrior 1 for fifteen years and that there is still something unknown in it is, I think, this author's point. I completely agree.
That we should scrap all advanced poses in search of the mystery only in a basic practice...I completely disagree.
I have to choose to not discriminate what I love and what makes me feel like a bumbling clown. I have to feel both confident and humbled, in the course of one practice. In each practice. This is how yoga helps me uncover myself, and peel away the layers of pretense. The way this practice lifts me up and keeps me grounded all at the same time are a testament to it's enormity and inclusion of all types of practitioners. Lets give it the same respect.
When I was pregnant I was pretty self-righteous about how I hoped the birth of my child would go. I tried not to judge how others wanted or had experienced the birth of their own children, but I was pretty solid on wanting no drugs and no surgery unless the baby or I was in dire circumstances. Well, most of what I wanted got thrown out the window pretty quickly as I never really went into labor after my water broke. But I was, thankfully, able to avoid surgery to bring my sweet babe earthside. My OB knew my intention, and God bless him, tried his hardest to make my birth experience as close to what I wanted as he could. There was another doctor though. One who is a part of this practice whom I had dreaded during my whole pregnancy, and who happened to be on-call at the hospital during most of my labor and delivery. I had heard stories, that to me were horrific of her jumping to Cesarian quickly and unnecessarily, about her blunt comments to mamas about how much weight they'd gained during pregnancy, and even worse. I was terrified of her. I assumed that she was a cold, calculating surgeon, dazzled by the money that big business hospital work can bring. And I was told that she was on-call and that my OB had to go to his other office for a few crucial hours at the most intensely frightening apex of my labor. Well, this just sent me into a freak-out frenzy of "I don't want her!", "I don't want a Cesarian!", "Please don't let her cut me!". I was like a terrified, wild animal backed into a corner.
After a crazy half-hour or so, I got an epidural, and of course chilled the f out real quick. I was able to sleep, relax, dilate and push Vera out all by my little lonesome. (Well, with the help of my husband, doula and amazing nursing team.) And later that night, when V was sleeping in her Plexiglas bassinet, this doctor that I was so scared of came in to check on me. She was incredibly sweet and warm, while maintaining a professional neutrality (probably fuelled by the fact that she thought I hated her). I was immediately humbled by her demeanor in the face of my arrogance.
And the most interesting thing has happened since. Vera is now 8 months old, and for about three or four months I've been teaching yoga back at a studio where I was teaching before the baby came, but on a different day and time. And this doctor comes to my yoga class. And she seems so shy and sweet.
This may be complete hooey, but I think there's a lot you can tell about a person when, without words, you practice yoga next to them, (or even better - observe their practice from the standpoint of a teacher) weekly. Yoga brings out the truth within us. It unmasks us and lets us explore our vulnerability, our flaws, our victories and our grace. And, I must admit, I really like the doctor's energy. I was wrong to prejudge. Now, in the context of me having what is undeniably the most physically intense, emotionally and spiritually transformational experience of my life, where in fact my life was on the line, I may have been right to trust my instincts...who knows? It went down the way it did. But, now that there is some distance between that event and the person I am now, and the yoga teacher I am, claiming to value truth, integrity, non-judgment and grace, I see just what a hypocrite I am. I can't speak to how much of a hypocrite she may think I am, as I know that if I can't connect with a yoga teacher, I stop going to their class, and she keeps coming back (much to my pleasure and astonishment), so maybe she's forgiven me, and understood that when a mother is giving birth, she is in her most primal space and will do anything to protect her child and process. Indeed, she's been around a lot more mothers giving birth than I, and I only have my own experience to draw upon. But the fact that she keeps coming back is so impressive to me. It speaks volumes about her ability to forgive and apply non-judgment, and truly embody what I myself espouse. What a lovely human being. And a lovely, hard, ugly truth it is revealing to me. Thank the lord for teachers that make you stop in your tracks and re-evaluate the human being you are.
We've now had about 8 or so classes together, and the shame has been building in me since I first put it together who she was. Now I feel like it is imperative for me to confront this with her and let her know how much I admire her. I think without our shared yoga experience I never would have come to this, never would have needed to apologize, never needed to forgive myself for treating someone the exact way that I encourage my students not to. What a blessing mindfulness and insight are. Looking into oneself, acknowledging where we lack and then choosing to live up to our potential is the best part of the human experience in my opinion. I humbly bow to the wisdom of insight.
Big love to you spiritual seekers, to you inward divers, to you human beings!
Sometimes I think that despite all of the technological wonders of our modern world, and all of our conveniences, it might actually be harder to parent these days than in my parent's day (or longer ago). We have such access to information, opinions, forums, blogs, etc., that for every idea you have you can get 1,001 ideas on ways to do it, and an equal amount of criticisms as to why not to do it. It's enough to make you a little crazy in the head.
I, for one, was open to both attachment parenting ideas and also cry-it-out, child independence ideas during my pregnancy. I'm so glad that I was, because now that my baby is here, as most parent's might identify with, we have a very fly-by-the-seat-of our-pants outlook on things. As soon as the baby starts fussing, I go into an extremely present and attuned (most of the time) state of trying to really listen to what she needs and to be creative about how to keep her happy and entertained. (She's only 4 months - I doubt whole days will be spent trying to entertain an elementary school aged child!) But for now, my whole world is this sweet babe, who's whole world is me and dad. And it's pretty cool. We spend hours talking to each other, though her words are just sounds, we come to understandings together.
I've read so many blogs about how to sleep train, what cloth diapers are best, when to start making your own baby food, and how to stimulate a tiny infant, that I've realized now that there's no way to really do it all. Plus my kiddo might not want it all. Maybe she's simpler than all that. Maybe all I have to do is listen to her, and pay attention...and maybe there's no REAL right or wrong, but all a grey scale of options.
This whole experience has really shaken my sense of order, and need for control. It is very hard to control an infant's needs. And very easy to feel as though if you don't respond in the way you learned from a book to their needs, that you're doing it wrong. But what if the way of the book makes your child cry, and something-off-the wall and off-the-cuff makes them giggle and squeal? What to do then? Maybe then it's time to stop letting your expectations make you feel bad. Because it's not the book, or the author that makes me feel bad. Nor does it have to do with what the actual techniques are that I thought I wanted to implement. It's the fact that I had an expectation at all. It has something to do with all the reading of others' opinions that I spend her naptimes doing, that I allow to create these expectations of perfect parenting in myself. I read once that before our information age, if your child made it to adulthood *at all*, you did it right, and parents didn't have time to second guess their parenting style or compare their kids charter school to their neighbor's private school. If they made it at all, you were a success! I want to go back to that standard.
I'm still going to read lots of blogs, because I can't stop, but I'm going to be less attached to their opinions, and try to think of all of us parents as brothers and sisters on this magical journey that can take infinite shapes. There is no point to compare, because all of our kids are different and our families and circumstances are unique. My shape might be different than yours. And there is so much to learn from that.
I write a lot about being present, about ways to achieve presence, and the importance of not mulling over the past, which we cannot change and trying not to anticipate the future, which we have no idea what it will bring. But if you want a crash course in being present, in letting go of your agenda and being fully invested in the present moment, have a child. Or take care of an infant for a day, or even a few hours. It's revolutionary. I can start writing a blog, washing clothes, dishes, myself, or basically doing anything, then as soon as that little baby wail pierces my ears, it's over. As is anything else that I may have wanted to get done in the next hour. And as frustrating as that can be, it's also an amazing lesson.
You see, there are not too many things that I know, but one thing that I knew would be true before it happened was my baby's capacity to be my teacher. She teaches me every day, all day long to pay attention. And every time my mind strays, she reminds me.
Maybe because she was born really little, and had to be on oxygen for the first 5 weeks of her life, she was a little crankier than some of those mythical, super-easy babies that people speak of. It's not that she's particularly fussy, or colicky, she just knows that I tend to get mentally "busy" and need gentle or not-so-gentle reminders to notice this moment. And she's more than happy to oblige.
It's not as quiet as meditating, and it doesn't get me in the shape that yoga does, but it's equally, if not more effective. And not only effective, but joyful and satisfying. When I lock eyes with my baby and hold that innocent, open and spacious gaze with my child, it's transformative. It's like I can see her potential - to learn and grow and understand concepts and emotions and what life is, as much as any of us do. There is extreme wisdom behind those eyes. The wisdom of not knowing or posturing that she knows anything. A true open book. And it's lovely.
It will be a joy to stand by her and watch as she shapes her world.
As a student of yoga, massage, meditation , poetry and other such introversions, I figured some of my inspirations might also touch the hearts of others. Read, ruminate, digest, create...always returning to this well of deep love inside to renew ourselves and rediscover what we are. Enjoy!