Friday, June 17, 2011
Life is partly what we make it and partly what it is made by the friends we choose. ~Tennessee Williams
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
On 29 January 2011 we celebrated Eric’s 37th birthday with a very spirited fiesta. There was a taco bar, margarita bar, and ice cream sundae bar. Not to mention an incredible cake and sparklers. A great time was had by all; so much so that we now affectionately refer to Eric’s birthday celebration as “THE day.”
Mother’s Day weekend, May 5, was spent at the Kentucky Derby (I forgot my hat!). I occupied a lawn chair in the Infield the entire day, but the people-watching was nice!
The next weekend (16 weeks) we celebrated Andrew’s graduation, Barrett moved, and Eric and dad began working on the nursery. The month of May also included visiting preschools which is possibly one of the most overwhelming tasks to date!!!
21 May we headed back to DC. The weekend included a trip to Annapolis to by the little guy a model sailboat, brunch with some of my favorite ladies, and DC United soccer.
Memorial Day weekend brought more work on the nursery, which has expanded to re-carpeting three bedrooms, re-plumbing the HVAC, new electrical work, some minor carpentry, and a new coat of paint on several rooms. It also entailed a major shopping trip with my mom and Hillary for maternity and baby clothes.
7 June Eric and I celebrated 8 years of marriage. It was also my 20 week appointment and the “BIG” ultrasound. Even though we had been told we are having a boy, it was still a big day for looking at all of his measurements and making sure he is healthy.
10 June we headed to the beach with mom and dad. It was a fabulous, relaxing trip, but we did make time for a little baby shopping!!
October 27 is quickly approaching and we are beyond excited to meet our little guy. It has been a very interesting few months!! I have realized that there is nothing that is unaffected by pregnancy…my nose is stuffy for no apparent reason, sometimes I don’t hear well, I’m sobbing one minute and laughing hysterically the next, and sleeping through the night is impossible. Eric has been the most amazing husband anyone could ask for…he hasn’t even gotten annoyed with my constant adjusting of the thermostat!!
I am positive that our life with a child, much like our lives to date, will be anything but conventional; I am also positive that it will be an amazing journey.
Friday, February 11, 2011
What is it that drives countless urban practitioners’ to work so hard in their yoga practice? Even as droves of people turn to yoga for health and healing, American students are often attracted to extremely physical, athletic styles of yoga, forcing their bodies into their imagined idea of a “yoga Olympian” and wrestling themselves into a wet, sweating heap. It’s as if the person’s mind gets into a Greco-Roman wrestling match with its own body. So, even as we reach for peace, many attempt to use the same aggressive tools we’ve learned in the business and sports world:
Since these methods are taught in business and sports, it is understandable that many people try and use the same mindset in their yoga practice—but is it working? Our bodies are changing but are we any happier?
What the philosophy of yoga suggests is that a constant state of pushing, grasping, and goal setting is not only counterproductive in yoga, but ultimately damaging to our very spirit. Using these aggressive tools for every aspect of our life is like using a hammer on every job including brushing our teeth. Even when our body tries to tell us we’ve pushed it too far, we justify our frequent colds, flues, and headaches as acceptable side affects of our sacrifice for our career. The unspoken Faustian deal we make with ourselves, is that by sacrificing health, sleep, and happiness today, we believe we gain something much more significant tomorrow; power, respect, money, and position. We convince ourselves that once we achieve these goals, then we can take that long overdue vacation, then we can sleep, then w e can slow down and spend more time with our family, then we can be happy. The problem is that our children don’t wait for us; they continue to grow up while we work late day after day. Our health deteriorates often manifesting itself in strange symptoms such as digestive problems, severe PMS, or skin rashes that we try and make “go away” with medications. And the danger that we all secretly fear is that by the time we get to the top of the ladder, our children will be grown and barely know us, our neglected partners will no longer be interested in us, our health will be ruined, and most terrifyingly, that our ladder may be leaning on the wrong wall.
Because of this syndrome, many of us are locked-up and holding tension in our bodies and nervous systems on the level of combat veterans. This is why we grind our jaws in the night. This is why we awaken at three in the morning unable to fall back to sleep. Is working hard bad? On the contrary, the yoga sages tell us that hard work is a virtue, as long as it is part of our transformation and not the avoidance of it.
There’s a wonderful metaphor from the yoga tradition that vividly depicts the plight of the average person and points the way to a more meaningful life. It’s the carriage allegory. The carriage represents the body, the horses pulling the carriage represent the emotions, the driver is the mind, and the passenger is the soul (Atman). The story goes that the state of the average person is as follows; the carriage is in terrible disrepair, the horses are half-wild, the driver is unfocused and drunk, and the passenger is asleep. The passenger, a king or queen, is asleep, dreaming he/she is a peasant. Yoga, it is said, repairs the carriage (body), tames the horses (emotions), sobers and focuses the driver (mind), and ultimately - reawakens the passenger (soul). The soul then remembers his or her true purpose and instructs the driver on which route to take to their ultimate destination.
This is the purpose of yoga, anything less is simply exercise.
So, then why would we take this obsessive drive into a yoga class and hope to obtain new results utilizing the same old dysfunctional system? The answer is we can’t. We cannot use the same methods that make us tense and anxious, in order to learn to relax and become non-obsessive. And that is the dilemma.
Solving the dilemma is a process of reprioritizing our goals. If we acknowledge that what we want foremost is to be fulfilled and happy, we must be willing to transform more than mere muscle tissue. Yoga appears to be primarily physical, but what makes it radically different from western “workouts,” is that yoga is the harmonizing of:
Intention; mental focus, self-inquiry. Learning to discriminate between pure awareness and the objects of awareness.
Breathing and emotional focus. Involving concentration of feeling, and relationship with one’s higher Self, or surrender to God, in whatever form you understand it.
Involving a physical regime including movement or postures that infuse our life force and intention throughout our entire being.
Transformation comes when we make the effort simultaneously in all three pillars: body, mind, and breath (or spirit). As all three harmonize, we begin to experience ourselves more deeply, and we also happen to become stronger, more flexible, and calm. We even sleep peacefully through the night.
THE 3 PILLARS OF YOGA
Here is a guideline of how to begin achieving a more meaningful practice and peaceful life:
The first thing to do is close your eyes and focus on your intention. In other words, aim at something. Dedicate your practice to a meaningful transition you wish to have in your life. An example here might be Peace, Forgiveness, or Patience. There is an old saying that if you aim at nothing you’re sure to hit it. But when you direct your mind and heart in one direction, it gives your actions great power.
Your spirituality, however you define it, can be infused into your body so your body radiates who you are from your soul – and what you stand for in this world.
Face it, one reason we are afraid to breathe deeply is because we know deep down that breath is connected to our emotions. If we are feeling stressed out and not paying much attention to our feelings, breathing deeply may be terrifying. So, we keep our breath small and shallow and erratic, no matter how many times our yoga teacher says, “Breathe deeply.” This can create two kinds of catastrophes. One is disease; unexpressed grief over decades can create diseases like cancer. Two, we can destroy our relationships; we tend to hurt the people we love the most because we are carrying our own emotional wounds that are invisible to the untrained eye.
Imagine trying to embrace someone who has open wounds under his clothes that you aren’t aware of. His reaction would be like a wounded animal lashing out. So, when we consciously utilize yoga breathing to heal, we heal these hidden wounds in this way, breathing practices can change our life because it changes our behavior, and that affects all of our relationships.
Practice your asanas (postures) with focus on your breath. Breathe into your heart center, breathe in light – filling the lungs completely, breathe out the past, that which you no longer need. If you have a spiritual practice, use your own visual image of God or name for God. Inhale as if you were inhaling the energy of God; exhale all that is not useful. Breathe into your entire body while in a posture, as you move, or as you hold in stillness.
When you begin to feel overwhelmed or fatigued, rather than push, rest a few moments. (Even machines need to rest.) Allow yourself to move into child’s pose at least four times in an hour and half practice. Learn the difference between an all-out state and a rest state. Many overachievers know only the concept of “all or nothing.” Explore the space between zero and ten. Try practicing at level seven, not ten. This will develop sensitivity, patience, and kindness.
Move your focus off your outer body and on to your inner body.
So, to really change how we practice, we need to first stop comparing and competing with ourselves and others, and start moving beyond thoughts of how our body looks. Many of us believe that if we were just a little more thin, a little more beautiful or handsome, our problems would be over.
Unfortunately, when we become obsessed and goal oriented with our appearance, we trade in one set of problems for another. We may “achieve” our physical goals but move even further away from joy and contentment. The obsessive drive seems to be getting us everything we want except happiness, and this is perhaps why two of the largest selling drugs in America are anti-depressants and anti-ulcer drugs.
One of the magical gifts of yoga is that whatever you apply yourself to and improve on in your practice, will be applicable to the outside world as well. So, as you learn to focus your mind in yoga – your focus will improve at work. As you become more patient with yourself and others in yoga, you will be more patient at home. As you become more joyful in yoga, you will be more joyful wherever you go. Imagine becoming a better person, and getting a healthier body as a side effect.
Remember, if mastering yoga postures were enough to transform us into spiritual masters, then people would be flocking to the athletes in Cirque Du Soleil to seek spiritual advice. The physical asanas alone do not necessarily make us happier, more spiritual, or more content human beings. But when one is inspired by an intent to transform, and from this intention we breathe, then the mind quiets and the energetic heart center begins to open. When this happens, grace happens - change happens. The yoga postures and breath are tools to rebuild ourselves. The goal is not to ties ourselves in knots - we’re clearly already tied in knots. The aim is to untie the knots in our heart. The aim is to unite with the ultimate, loving, and peaceful power in the universe.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Who would have ever thought that “Eat Less” would be the most earth-shattering recommendation the US Government has ever made with respect to the American diet. I think I actually asked “seriously?” out loud at my desk. You may be asking yourself (as I was) why it is that this is such a big deal. According to the New York Times, “While the recommendations may seem obvious, it is nonetheless considered major progress for federal regulators, who have long skirted the issue, wary of the powerful food lobby.”
After reading about the revolutionary work my tax dollars are funding, I was more than a little frustrated. Fortunately, the next item I opened provided a little solace. According to this blog, “researchers report that those who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in gray-matter density in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress.” My husband, co-workers, and friends have many times commented about what a different person I am when I am devoted to my yoga practice. I have fallen a bit off the wagon recently, but I now have inspiration to re-devote my time and energy to practicing regularly. Combine this information with the recommendation for meditation in The Joy Diet and I would think something was seriously wrong with me if I didn’t feel compelled to begin meditating again.
I was suddenly feeling incredibly rejuvenated as a result of the promise of improved memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. The next item I skimmed revived my hope for humanity: Bush’s Daughter, in a Break, Endorses Gay Marriage. I do not intend to tackle this issue here, but I will say that I agree that this issue is “a matter of conscience and equality” and as Barbara Bush stated, “everyone should have the right to marry the person that they love.”
Finally, a little hope for our planet (and maybe our government as well). Fracking is a process of hydraulic fracturing used to extract oil and gas. It has long been opposed by many, but it seems that it is finally getting the attention of the federal government. “’We learned that no oil and gas service companies have sought — and no state and federal regulators have issued — permits for diesel fuel use in hydraulic fracturing,’ said Representative Henry A. Waxman of California.” It is then explained by the oil and gas companies how it really wasn’t their fault at all: “Oil and gas companies acknowledged using diesel fuel in their fracking fluids, but they rejected the House Democrats’ assertion that it was illegal. They said that the E.P.A. had never properly developed rules and procedures to regulate the use of diesel in fracking, despite a clear grant of authority from Congress over the issue.” It is disheartening that industries will take advantage in any way possible even if it means destroying water supplies for entire communities. I visited Waxman’s office in DC almost 7 years ago and was very impressed with his initiatives and the competency of his staff; I can only hope that his voice will be heard and that this issue will finally get the attention it deserves.
In other news: Confessions Update
*I still haven’t finished (or even touched) the half-re-upholstered chair. Maybe this weekend…
*Last week I made major progress on one of our biggest renovation projects, the stairs. We are not quite finished, but I’m a step (actually 17 steps) closer to not having our renovation as an excuse. Plus, we actually did a really thorough job of cleaning most of the house!
*Still working on the hair washing thing…I have only worn a pony tail one day this week. This is a pretty good indication that things are improving!
*I cut all of my fingernails off and am getting a manicure this weekend. It’s the best solution I’ve identified. Progress!
I think I’m going to be taking a major step in the direction of “what I do when I grow up” soon. Stay tuned!
*I’m making an effort to challenge myself in situations where I don’t know what to do, I do know what to do but don’t want to, and everything in between. This results in existing in a significantly uncomfortable state a lot of the time. I hope it is actually worth it.
*I still haven’t run, at all. I’m not sure it is going to happen anytime soon.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
- I have a half-re-upholstered chair in my garage that I started 2 years ago.
- I use "we're doing a major renovation" as an excuse for always having a messy house.
- I consider washing my hair every other day a serious victory.
- I bite my fingernails.
- I have no idea what I want to do "when I grow up."
- Sometimes I pretend not to know how to do things just so I won't have to.
- I talk about how much I love running all the time, but I haven't run more than 2 miles in months.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Recently, I have been in the middle of some of the most ridiculous situations. Some very preventable and some just the luck of the draw. It's times like these that remind me why my friend Jeanne and I began declaring that we "suck at life." Although, I sometimes think that more than actually "sucking at life" we are just fortunate enough to be members of a very select group that attracts chaos. No complaints...when you attract chaos, life is always interesting.
Fortunately, Eric has been a superstar taking care of me while I have been sick; the snow has been interesting; we met our deadlines; and the UAB thing is kinda fun.
Even when considering the positive aspects of a chaotic life, I've often aspired to be one of those individuals who can weather any storm; someone who can emerge from the most horrific situation appearing as though they just returned from a spa weekend.
However, I am not one of those individuals, regardless of any efforts I exert to the contrary, I will always appear as though I am in the middle of a category five tornado at the first sign of trouble.
It's who I am.
It's how I handle things.
I wouldn't be me if that changed.