Sunday, January 31, 2021

Day 6 of 21: Affirming the Affirmation


Did a quick family hike (spouse, son, dog, self) and it's always interesting to see how our discussions unfold with our 11-year old who has yet to come along willingly on our excursions. We usually have to let him air his grievances without resistance for a goodly part of the time, and my legs often echo his sentiment. It's good medicine to see him work through his anxiety of being taken away from his screen, and challenge his body in new ways, and try to get him interesting in flora and fauna. He usually has some deep philosophical issue that emerges, like "why do I feel at odds with myself about family time?" that we puzzle through. When he gets a bit aggressive with the "blame mom for all my difficulties" my husband steps in to diffuse the situation before Eli gets too insulting or perhaps my feelings are truly hurt. Oddly enough I don't take most of it personally (I find it interesting how he vents his frustrations) but it's fair to think that I don't need to swallow all of the venom, plus they do need to bond.

On the way down, Craig introduced the idea of comparing hypothesis to theory, and would you believe it, Eli sunk his newly emerged adult teeth into that conversation fully! To listen in on the two of them discussing "null hypothesis" and the scientific method, seeing the gear turn in Eli's head and actually getting it more importantly, completely distracted from complaining about hiking and from being away from his computer was swoon-worthy. To add sprinkles to the delicately drizzled cake, Craig worked in  Stoic philosophy, the principle of  "living according to nature." At one point Eli had said "I'm starting to appreciate us doing this," and if that doesn't put a tick mark in the life affirmation column, I sure as hell don't know what does.


Tried tapping in the shower again (why the heck not). Today's affirmation choice: "I am a beautiful  I accept myself for the vibrant woman that I am." Somewhat of all encompassing, but standing naked in the shower, a bit dirty from hiking, not feeling particular sexy or aesthetically beautiful, I figured it was the best time to assert that phrase, because I really really needed to hear it, not from anyone else but from myself.

After I got out of the shower I had this amazing epiphany. I remembered another friend online talking about feeling insecure about her writing, even though I have read her stuff and she is really good. She talked about always needed approval from others to fortify herself and I completely related to that. Then, I had a miscommunication with a dear dear friend of 40 years that stuck in my craw because it shouldn't have happened; I was making it harder to communicate than it should have been and I had to puzzle through why. 

All of a sudden, it hit me. If I'm craving approval from someone who is already giving it means that it's me that has the problem. I'm the only one not approving of myself. There it is, plain and simple.

It's almost funny, you know? Seeing the truth. All this time I kept thinking "They are wrong, I'm really not (insert good thing here)." But's just some farkakteh negative voice that really is just some small part of me that needs to take a damn nap because it has had the soap box way to long. If was the tapping, or the hiking, or the family time, or the affirmation that have shaken up the dynamic that gave that part the loudspeaker, then good, let's keep doing any and all of the above. Because the quality of my life is going to get a hell of a lot better, and by proxy that of those around me. 

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Day 5 of 21: Have A Sweet Week

Tonight I had the opportunity to lead a Havdalah Yoga class with a handful of families from my synagogue (via Zoom). The Havdalah service is short, where you say prayers while you: light a braided the candle, sip wine, inhale the scent of spices, notice the reflection of the flame (in your fingernails of all things), and at the end, douse the flame. The significance is to utilize all the senses - feel the cup, smell the spices, see the flame of the candle, hear the blessings and taste the wine - close the sabbath, and welcome a new week. Havdalah itself means separation which is semantically ironic as the braided candle represents unity; the name of the ceremony signifies the separation of the sabbath from the rest of the week.

Our beginning centering meditation included one of the havening hand gestures to focus on attention, and the suggestion that everyone embrace an affirmation to complement the idea of a sweet week, personal reflection, celebration, and appreciating blessings. After, I lead them them through a modified "sunset" salution with hip openers in seated poses, and slow generous breaths for deep hamstring/calf stretches. I also had us creates the shapes of the Hebrew letters shin, bet and tav (that spell Shabbat) with our bodies to add a little levity to the class.

I took a moment to explain that in a yoga we consider everyone to be part of the divine, and each forward fold is an opportunity to bow to your own inner wisdom, divinity, the "godliness" that lives in each of us.

At the end of the class I suggested everyone revisit their affirmation, repeat the havening gesture, and then as a group we big one another both "Shavua Tov" (Have a good week) as well as "Namaste," where we bow to honor the wisdom in one another.

Peace Peace Peace, Shanti, Shalom.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Day 4 of 21: An Affirmation a Day (rage against the cynics)

We live in a cynical world - Jerry McGuire

The World is a cruel place, Petrosinella, and it wounds the weak. - Kate Forsythe

The World's a cruel place,/ You are baptized as "body"/ The moment you stop breathing/ The soul appropriates your name,/ The physical you is set aflame. - Preeti Anand

He saw the world in its true light, as a place where nothing had ever been any good and nothing of significance done; - Kingsley Amis

Platitudes do little to combat the cynicism and bleakness, and generalized fatalist perspective that seems to pervade the internet, literature, and discussion forums these days. It breaks apart not just the way we see the world, but how we view ourselves. We, rather, I, lose our sense of who we are, at our core. 

For example, I forget that I am smart. I forget that I'm a good person, I forget that I'm capable. So much so that I find my self crippled with self-doubt, apologizing for every thing, and spiraling into a place of ineffective idleness.

Finding a calm yoga practice when there is chaos in one's head is a fool's errand. We need affirmations to combat the voices of negativity, but not ones that are nothing more than distracting smoke. Rather, affirmation need to be from a true sense of self, of checking in and remembering one's real value.

What am I? What do I know about me that I can assert, affirm, and accept as valid, that I can repeat daily IN THE MIRROR? I am in better health than I was 15 years ago (I am blessed, I am fortunate, I am grateful). I can make people laugh (I am funny). I like doing crossword puzzles (I am clever). I'm really good at giving gifts (I am generous, caring, sensitive). 

Here's a list of other affirmations I found that we all might try to get us through not just the rough times, but to keep reinforcing, building that muscle of self-import and inner wisdom to sustain us.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Day 3 of 21: What will I meditate on today?

I could ruminate on what I don't know about why there's so much "unfairness" in capitalism, and then I could ruminate on what smarter people than I would mock about my use of the word "fair" and I can already feel the acid in my stomach churn, knowing that my feelings are so very valid, because what I intend is to express the idea of balance, not fairness, and all the over-intellectualized lessons about how one must maneuver through life by learning the rules of others' games and play them accordingly start to overwhelm and I just want to get to some sense of ease...because none of that (gesturing wildly at the words above) is particularly inspiring. It is in fact, depressing. So how might one meditate on what that "stuff" is without allowing it to overwhelm. depress. disgust. dishearten. frustrate? 

Today I choose to NOT. It's that simple. 

I know yoga is not about avoiding discomfort, but finding a way to acknowledge it, label it, and see how you "feel about your feelings." It's also about knowing when you've maxed out with your ability to sit with discomfort and moving into a safer space.

In the face of all that is unbalanced (note: I'm not saying unfair because there is not universal sense of fairness), it's so important to find inspiration, beauty, joy, love, something at which to marvel. 

We are predisposed to remember and react to unpleasantness as a safety and survival feature. Being "content" can leave you vulnerable to, say, being eaten by a tiger. Stay hyper-vigilant, looking for problems, naysaying, and you'll always be ready for the next bad thing. But this might shorten your life span via stress-related illness, making yourself miserable, making those around you miserable, or at the very least ruin your quality of life. 

So today especially I need a hot minute to BREATHE and find something pleasant to welcome into my consciousness to offset the crap that has been all too generously heaped into my pre-frontal cortex.

Conscious effort is needed, not "whooshing" (my new description of how I seem to go about many things, flitting and swooping from one project to another with very little downtime, or processing time) (see, even yogis are works in progress) onto a mat and hoping that by plopping my hands into my lap some sorta OM chanting will banish bad thoughts.

Nope, I need to do this like I promised myself, my classes. What will be the inspiration tonight? Sitting down to type this was step 1. I gave the negativity its day in court - the attention it wanted, and frankly, I'm over it. So thanks for letting me do that if you read this far. I'm typing here, slowly breathing in adn out, using this creative writing process as a mindful catharsis. 

I think I need to remind myself that what's within my grasp, my sphere of influence- partner, son, dog, parents, friends, garden- I can tend with love today, and everything else, just for today, it's okay to not be able to fix. 

Tomorrow maybe I'll pick something else, but today I need to Keep It Simple. 

Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Day 2 of 21: How do you invite inner stillness?

One the one hand, you can use discipline to create habit, rituals, and schedule to make life easier. "A place for everything and everything and everything in it's place," as is attributed to Ben Franklin, I guess meaning that one can keep track of of stuff if you set up a way to keep it organized, and follow through with using that plan. Fight, chaos/entropy per se, right?

So, in theory, we commit to doing an action, like practicing yoga for 21 days, and we even set the actual time aside, with a plan for what we are going to do. We have our little mat, we have our basic moves, we know the right words to say, but then what? How do we find "yoga," that meeting space of  where inner stillness sweeps through and calms the mind, eases the body and soothes the spirit?

The book A Year of Living Your Yoga suggests, as do so many texts, that we invite it in. You cannot force stillness; that would be like trying to contain a boiling pot of water with a paper plate. You have to turn down the heat, gently slide the pot from heat source, and let it cool naturally, even using something to protect your hand from being burned when you move the pot. Overextended metaphor notwithstanding, the point is, inner stillness is something for which you can only make space, with no expectation that it will spontaneously happen. It's a feeling, a mood, an amorphous experience rather than a set place, or thing you can wear like a suit of armor (or pajamas).

Every class we take, teach, or do on our own, has moments at the beginning where we center, and have the opportunity to set an intention. Perhaps the best one, at this juncture, for me, would be to continue to extend that invitation to Inner Stillness. I've tried in earnest to set "good" intentions, like healing (for myself, and others), patience, strength, and being present, but they all end up feeling so esoteric and disconnected from my practice. So maybe the rule here is keep it simple; and what's simpler than stillness?

Make space for it, and it will find it's place. It's a practice. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Day 1 of 21: Without discipline, there is no art

From A Year of Living Your Yoga by Judith Hansen Lasater, PH.D., P.T., this is the daily practice for January 26. 

Living Your Yoga: The art of yoga comes from the consistency of discipline. Today resolve to practice for the next twenty-one days without missing a single one. Note it on your calendar. 

I read this to class today, and after wrestling with what it means, and whether or not it's important to take it at face value, 

I joked with the class today that as soon as I saw that words "discipline" and "without missing a single one" part of me immediately railed against the idea, defensively citing it as "too strict," "unrealistic," and "authoritarian." I had to take two steps back to remember the book we use as a guide to daily yogic ideas was written to plants seeds, not smash them. My reaction spoke more of my personal and controversial relationship with structured time and temporal commitments (insert my mother laughing here) than anything the author could have intended.

So because the idea of the challenge struck a nerve, it made it all the more important for me to accept it.

Today was day 1. I practiced with two classes. Tomorrow, I will teach another Zoom class as well as be a student in a two-hour Yoga for Mental Health training. Thursday I will teach two classes, Friday two as well, then Saturday if all goes according to plan I will log on to be a student in a rather active mat yoga class. Sunday is the day I must make the concerted effort to carve out some allotted yoga time, some mindful activity. It's been our family habit to take a walk, a hike, of some sort, and we usually conduct some philosophical discussion along our route (11 year old Eli included). 

The two weeks following will be similar. So I think I'll be able to do 21 days without too much difficulty. 

To keep myself honest, however I "practice," I also am committing to validating that experience on this blog - a public journaling of the journey. Often I have difficulty coming up with fresh content, so perhaps this experiment might help. At the very least, I'm finding discipline in my practice, and maybe inspiring someone else as well. 

Not sure if we'll be able to call the blog art, but the yoga, definitely. 

Update: I want to thank Christina Alexander for sending me this: