Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Awakening Your Body—Part 1

My last post was all about giving your mind a rejuvenating kick in the butt—a fresh start for the month of September.  This week it’s about giving your body a wake-up call.

A couple of weeks ago, while in class, the teacher whispered in my ear, “you have wonderful body awareness.”  I smiled and thought, how nice.  It’s true that I can control my body movements and tend to understand what muscles should be doing what and when.  That is not to say I do things perfectly (since there is no such thing) but I do feel in control when I move.  For years, I attributed that ability to years of sports.  Then the other day I was told by a co-worker that I seemed to have a very strong and comprehensive vision of self or great self-awareness.  I was flattered and yet humbled, because it was at that point that I realized a long and hard transformation was finally taking shape.

I had this feeling my whole life that body and mind awareness were intimately connected.  In fact, I have even said that before on this blog.  But this recent ah-ha moment takes this to a different level.  It’s more than just healthy body equals a healthy mind, since it is more than health that we are talking about. Just because you work out, don’t have high cholesterol, no diabetes, and decent BMI doesn’t mean you have strong body awareness.  This was something I had to realize myself.  Giving specific muscles attention and purposely pushing my body to do things—try things—it’s never done has awakened aspects of my personality and thought pattern. 

For example, for years I would suck in my stomach, leave my abs in constant tension, and constrict my belly with tight jeans.  I thought this would create strong, sexy abs, or at least give the allusion of such.  Not sure if that ever happened, but what I do know is that my mind was judgmental, harsh, tightened and unforgiving.  I would criticize my body in the mirror, I harbored jealousy towards others, and I thought nothing was ever good enough.  If I didn’t have the body I wanted, it was my own fault—and then I would continue to beat myself up about it.  My stomach would have constant aches, rumblies, and indigestion.  But recently (I would say the past year or so), I have begun to allow my stomach to relax and listen to what it needs.  

Just take a moment and lay on your back, close your eyes, and bring your hand on your tummy and the other hand to your heart.  Just allow your belly to relax and just watch the breath come in, filling your belly and lifting your hand.  Then release the breathe slowly and feel your hand lower.  Taking time out of my day to do that (whether before or after a yoga class) has been extremely humbling.  Your poor, poor belly gets all this anger thrown its way, but truly it wants to be treated right.  Don’t beat it up with harsh foods, over indulging, and too much alcohol.  And take time out of your day to reconnect. 

It seems so simple, but since I consciously stopped holding in my stomach, I feel much, much better.  AND I am still wearing the same size jeans from high school and they fit better.   Generally, I feel like I look relatively the same—if not finer.  Without getting too weird, I think that by changing my attitude towards—and image of—my body, my body finally began to cooperate.  Strange right?  But give it a try.  Dedicate time to awaken with your feet (take off your shoes!) moving and flexing toes or connect with your tummy and then work from there. 


Your body is such a precious vessel; it’s what allows us to get from one place to another, reach out to touch the ones we love, and allow a safe place for our great minds to work.  However, there is often a huge disconnect between what we do to our bodies and how we think.  Or—so we think.  Remember a moment in your life when perhaps your emotional state was not positive, how did you treat your body?  Or on the reverse, think about a time when you might have become overweight, developed an eating disorder, or often came down with colds—how was your mental state? 

I don’t want to make any guarantees, but I’d like to think that when you treat your body bad, your mind produces negative thoughts and vice versa. 

This is of course relative only to “self-induced” body sickness.  Other diseases like certain cancers, Alzheimer’s, and functional failures are deeper issues, often not explained or cured easily.  I do not pretend to know enough about this subject nor do I think a person’s condition in that state is due to bad-thought-karma.

The second part will talk about awakening your muscles, discovering your strength, and working towards a strong and positive awareness of self.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Look at me Now

So one year ago today, I began a regular, dedicated yoga practice.  September 7th, 2010 was the first time I had step foot into a private yoga studio, and my only experience prior was a limited collection of DVD’s, a college fit class, and one failed attempt at the Y.  Then my most current and continual yoga practice had been with Tony and his P90X version of Yoga X.  I worked hard to figure out the poses, but I was still in my bedroom, on carpet, using my make-up mirror for alignment, and blasting myself with a fan whenever I got remotely sweating.  All of which was quite different from the yoga I would begin when I started practicing at my current studio.
Truth be told, I actually had my first exposure to yoga at 14 years old.  One day I sneaked into the basement and popped in a Jane Austin “Power Yoga” VHS.  I did that tape almost every day for 3 weeks, and it wasn’t cool for a young teen to be doing workout videos in her basement—alone—so I didn’t want anyone to find out.  I was afraid of letting my friends do it with me, because yoga poses were a little strange and some made you fart.   I figured if I got flack for doing Tae-Bo at age 12, then yoga would not go over any better.   
Before long, yoga started to become more main-stream and I also grew old enough to not care what people thought.   By that time my VHS died on me and I had other DVDs to try and friends to try them with.  However, for the most part, yoga was still something that I did relatively on my own and randomly.
Ever since I physically could, I was a competitive athlete.   It was just natural to work hard and push through to the end—soccer, ice skating, softball, basketball, track, ultimate Frisbee, hiking, everything was competitive to me. 
This was obvious even at a young age. 
Easter egg hunts were not simply a fun, holiday game—oh no.  My cousin Pete and I could turn this and any other family activity into a full-blown battle.  It was necessary to warm-up and stretch before a game of Monopoly—and forget poker—you might as well bring your bullet-proof vest.  Don’t get me wrong, I love it.  But recently on my journey to adulthood (which I’ve barely started), I stopped fighting other people and I began fighting myself.  Not like in a good competitive way, but in a let’s-beat-myself-to-exhaustion-with-no-end sort of way.  With no particular sport to play anymore, I became the sport.  And I was losing. 
So it was a perfect time in my life to finally pursue yoga.  Despite my awkward start with yoga as a teen, I always knew in my heart that I was in love and it would eventually become a regular part of my life.  There was something different about it that felt really, really good even when I was immature and relatively unstressed in life.  Yoga practice was a chance for me to push my body, but still be kind to myself. 
What I didn’t anticipate were the enormous changes that would take place in my life from beginning my yoga practice.  Mentally and emotionally, personally and professionally, inside and out.  I would have never guessed that within a year I would be this physically fit, madly in love, engaged, working at a new fantastic job, certified to teach AND teach yoga.  To some these all might seem unrelated, but I know in my heart that it is completely related. 
Am I bragging?  NO. 
I was terrified to begin this journey, was filled with self-doubt and frustration, and even struggled to continue.  But I got through it and now—one year later—I am blown away by where I am. Shocked.  And there is nothing special about me; anyone can do this!   Maybe yoga isn’t your thing, but everyone has their thing.  Find it and get after it.
September is about fresh starts and new beginnings.  If you want something, NOW IS THE TIME. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Math of Success

When we are dealing with added stress, work, etc, I'm sure we've all heard, "it's all about the give and take."  When we have a goal in mind, sometimes reminding ourselves of this give-n-take is really tough.  It's more than just being patient with the progress we make--it's accepting loss for gain.


How could loss be progressive?


I started to think about this as I watched some students struggle with their Warrior 3 pose.  In this pose, you are working to create a perfect "T" shape with your body.  Your arms are together reaching out in front of you, while you reach one leg back.  Your goal is to be perfectly straight from toes to fingertips, all while balancing on one foot.  Often what I find is that students want to reach with their fingertips, bringing their torso down, but without working to lift their leg up.


When I look at these students in Warrior 3, they look like scales to me.  Which of course got me to think about the constant drive to find balance.    And when their torso has weighed down, but their leg doesn't lift up, they are visually imbalanced. I've talked a lot about finding balance, about learning moderation and patience.  But when I discussed this with my fiance, he simplified it for me:




"If you add something, you must take something away."


How simple is that?  So simple that I had never even thought of it!  The more I thought about the concept of addition and subtraction, I realize it really is all about the give and take.  If you get a different job, have an addition to your family, or begin a new relationship, you take attention away from some people in order to give attention to other things.  In terms of diet, add some veggies to your plate, take away carbs.  Add muscle, lose fat.  Add 2 hours of studying, lose 2 hours of sleep/TV.  Seems like a simple equation for success.


However, often what we are asked to give up is a comfort for us--a security blanket.  Going back to Warrior 3--students must lose the security of two feet on the ground.  That's a struggle!  When we move from having two stable feet to one, the new feeling of instability can be scary and/or frustrating.


But what we learn through practice is that the feeling of instability fades.  If we move slowly, lowering our torso only enough that our leg can lift in unison, then we are able to adjust with each change.  Eventually, it feels natural to be standing on one leg and reaching in opposite direction.


It will always be work, but hopefully a little less scary.  So in order to win, you have to be okay with losing.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How to Eat Heathy During Wedding Season

Wedding season is fully underway.  Its an exciting time, as I watch loved family members and friends take the plunge into a new stage of their lives.  There is something so moving about watching two people confess their love and devotion in front of a room full of people.  Not an easy thing to do! Weddings also bring family members together; we travel miles to make up for years of being apart.  As the countdown to our own wedding begins, we are also taking notes.   I love everything about weddings from personalized vows, unique entrances, hilarious speeches, and of course the food!  Every wedding has been different, such a pleasure!


Having a good time at weddings is simple...trying to maintain a healthy diet during wedding season is the tough part.  Let me explain, my family and I just came back from my cousin's wedding in Georgia.  We opted to save money and make the 14 hour drive, rather than fly.  So in three days I attended a yummy rehearsal dinner, tasty cocktail hour, an amazingly delicious buffet-style reception, and spent 28 of the last 72 hours in the car.  Not to mention lots of local beer and signature cocktails.  Needless to say, by the end of our wedding adventure, my body was screaming for a good workout.  But all the sitting and eating made me lethargic.  It is hard to recover!  It is three days since coming home and I am finally feeling normal.  Could you imagine if we had weddings every weekend?  By the time the poor couple gets married at the end of August, we would all have to be rolled on the dance floor!




So how do we have a BLAST at weddings (like we ought to) but stay healthy-ish?  Well, here are a few tips I picked up from the last hootin' tootin' Georgia wedding.  (Even though this wedding was twice as challenging due to the long drive there and back, we all will travel at some point this summer, so the advice is still relevant.)


1. Eating and Driving


First and foremost, before the festivities can begin, we must get ourselves there.  Starting our trip out right is an vital part to keeping us feeling great and ready to party.  If you can, pack as much food as you can and place it in a cooler for the drive.  I suggest grapes, apples, bananas, dried fruit, carrots, sliced cucumbers, celery, and your favorite veggie accessory (I like homemade hummus or tzadtziki sauce, but reduced fat peanut butter is also good).  The water in the fruits and veggies will keep you feeling hydrated and the munching will be low in calories.


For protein, pack natural, low-sodium beef-jerky if you are a meat eater and lots of almonds, walnuts, cashews, and peanuts for all my veggie enthusiasts.  If you are bringing a cooler, you can even pack string cheese, no-fat greek yogurt, etc.  If you need additional carbs, limit yourself to one small box of multi-grain crackers.  (Our favorite is the reduced-fat Triscuits)


Here is the key to successful car eating--pick one snack at a time.  How could I say that after I suggested all these fine snacks?  Well its simple, if you snack on everything you want in the beginning of a long car ride, then you will crave more as the trip goes on.  If you have only one snack in between each stretch-break, then you will pace yourself mentally and gastro-ly for the entire trip.


Drink LOTS of water.  Drinking water will help keep your body and mind from thinking about food.  Additionally, drinking water will force your body to have to use the bathroom, keeping everything in your system moving at the right speed even though you are sitting in the car. NEVER not drink during a ride because you don't want to use the bathroom.  Plan for bathroom breaks and use them.


Lastly, the stretch-break.  If you have packed correctly, then you should not need to buy food, your drinking lots of water, and so on breaks the only thing you should be thinking about is peeing and moving.  At each break take time to actually stretch and then try to do a mini power set: 15 squats, 15 lunges, 15 push-ups, and 15 tricep dips.  I like to do the dips and push-ups using the back bumper, so that I don't have to get on the ground in a dirty parking lot.


2. Hotel Food


If there is a buffet (and it's free!) try to keep it light and normal.  If you normally have toast at home, have toast.  If you have cereal, have cereal.  Do not let the temptation of endless bountiful breakfast food hypnotize you.  You know that at the wedding there will be delicious food in excess, so no need to stuff yourself first thing in the morning.


If it is a day wedding, skip lunch.  If it is a night wedding, have a Powerbar or something light for lunch.






3. Cocktail Hour


The only thing I can really say here is this.  Don't make any sudden moves.  Don't run to the nearest butler hors d'oeuvres and elbow your niece for the chicken skewer.  Don't pile your plate with everything from the cheese station.  You will stuff yourself to oblivion, no doubt.


This doesn't mean that you don't eat anything.  Instead you will eat the best.  My fiance always says that the best stuff comes out later.  Think of veggie dip and chips verses pigs-in-the-blanket, no one likes to fill up on chips.  Yeah, like that.  So my advice is to take one loop around the food stations and allow one round of the butler hors d'oeuvres to pass you by.  Then come up with a game plan; what looked the best?  What are people saying about the mini-quiches?  By waiting a bit, you can ensure you only get the munchies you really want.


4. Main Meal


If it is a structured meal--enjoy it.  If it is a buffet--make one trip.  That's all!


5. Bar Time


Shots, shots, shots!  When dealing with the open bar or cash bar, the only thing I can say is be mindful.  Obviously avoid added sugars in sodas, cranberry juices, and heavy beers.  Also, the more you drink, the more you may want to eat.  And if you are full of food and beer, can you really break into the shuffle or anything else for that matter.


6. DANCE!


This is the easiest one.  Just moving around on the dance floor with friends and family is the best remedy.


So, hopefully these little tips were helpful (even if only reminders) about how to enjoy all those wonderful weddings, while still looking your best!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fourth of July


On the Fourth of July fireworks rain across the skies, barbeque aromas ride the wind, watermelon juices drip down faces, and our nation’s colors soar in the breeze.  We gather on porches, in backyards, at parks, and monuments.  We are asked to slow down our daily routines and remember our nation’s history, our invaluable freedom, and traditions that have formed our lives one memory at a time.

As I child I remember being proud of my father, grandfather, uncles and aunts, and all others who served in the military.   I was proud to wear red, white, and blue.  I longed for fireworks all summer.   And there were never enough hamburgers and hotdogs to keep me satisfied.  At that time, lightning bugs and lemonades measured summer nights.  But now that adult summer is here, I am finding myself thinking about this holiday in a slightly different light.

On this day 235 years ago, our nation declared its independence from Great Britain.   It was an end of an great era and the start of something even more monumental.  Not only would our country survive against the odds, we would thrive—changing the world forever.  It’s hard to believe our Founding fathers had any idea what the future would hold for the country they created.  Rather, I imagine all the boys planning their big move, damming the British, fighting long and hard for years, signing the Declaration of Independence and then promptly asking, “Uhhh—now what?” 

More often than not, ending something is not the most difficult part—it’s beginning something new. 

For this reason, Independence Day is well-timed in my own life.  At the end of June I completed a two-year apprenticeship and entered July with a future unknown.  It felt like a day of independence when I finally graduated.  Countless hours, long days, and difficult work brought me to the moment of graduation—the completion, the end, the start of something new.  It felt like I was signing my own declaration of independence. 

When our Founding Fathers decided to fight to end British control, they did so in search of freedom.  They sought the freedom to grow into whatever they desired to become.   And they started a nation that has done just that.  America has explored, invented, expanded, and recreated.  We started out as nothing more than an idea and now we are a great nation known throughout the world.  That is simply amazing. 

And yet, here I am over two hundred years later, and my freedom scares me.  I keep asking myself, how could I be scared of the freedom to begin something new?  How could I dread the unknown?  American was built on the freedom to learn, the freedom to create, and most importantly—the freedom to be great.

Well, I refuse to let fear get in the way of becoming something great.  So on this fourth of July, I am breathing in the original American spirit.  In the words of Mark Twain:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Whose with me?!
Simply because Independence Day is a great film :) 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Outside Asanas


When it is 90 degrees outside, with 30% humidity, its hard to motivate people to come into an even hotter room to practice yoga.  Understandable, I would be lying if I said it was easy to find the motivation within myself on those days.  I usually get myself to the yoga center, but for the days I just simply cannot pull it together, I have found an equally rewarding option. 

OUTSIDE ASANAS!

This morning I finished yet another wonderful backyard yoga practice.  There is nothing better than feeling the sun on my shoulders, the birds chirping, and even the bugs buzzing as I move my body through my practice.  When I look to my fingertips in reverse warrior I see the bright blue sky.  When I sink into utkatasana I gaze at my newly planted African Marigolds.  When I am practicing outside asanas, I find myself noticing the small pleasures of my environment.  When the clouds momentarily drift across the sun, I have a moment of cool.  In my head I can picture one of my teachers turning on the fans for a brief moment.  For me, I find myself more in tune with my breathe and my subtle movements.  There is no space to worry about what you look like in the mirror, who else is in the class, and what you are doing after.   
Now I practice from memory or I experiment with classes I have put together myself and create a personal soundtrack for whatever mood I am in that morning.  However, anyone (even beginners!) can practice outside.  You can find plenty of yoga classes on iTunes that you can download and listen to while practicing outside.  Just take your time and be patient with yourself.  Worst case scenario?  You spend an hour outside! 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Learning from the Greeks

The streets smell of moussaka, pastichio, spanakopita, and dolmades.  Especially in the heat, the aroma of delicious Mediterranean food lingers and keeps me dreaming in food heaven.  I absolutely love all Greek cuisine.  Aside from tiny octopus legs, I do not think the Greeks got anything wrong.  This is one of the many reasons I am proud of my partial Greek heritage.  However, the magic of the Mediterranean is not limited to those with olive skin (I have pretty peachy skin).  Everyone can enjoy the magic!

In honor of the Greek Festival, which is taking place only a few blocks away from me, I have decided to post about all the reasons Greek cuisine staples should make it into your weekly diet.

First off, olives.  Olives have a long and rich history; they were mentioned in the bible, played a role in Greek mythology, and were even depicted in ancient Egyptian art.  They are estimated to have been cultivated as long as 7,000 years ago.  Whoa!  (Do you think they knew anything about trans or saturated fats back then?)  Today, the majority of the olives we eat come from the Mediterranean countries including Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Spain.  What they might not have known then, but we definitely know now, is that  olives are SO good for you!  One cup of olives is just over 150 calories, but has 24% of a daily value of Iron!  Olives also have 20% of our daily value of Vitamin E and 17% of our daily value of fiber and copper.  The fat that is found in olives is monounsaturated fats, which is stronger than polyunsaturated fats, keeping our fat-storing cells strong and better able to protection themselves.  Read more about olives, or just eat em!


Secondly, the oh so versatile, spinach!  Spinach's health benefits were widely known even before Pop-eye's massive forearms came to America.  Spinach is full of iron, but that's not even it's claim to fame.  The green leafy vegetable provides over 300% of our daily value of Vitamin A, 100% of Vitamin K, and 65% of our daily folate.  Its also jam packed with Vitamin B1, B2, B6, C, E, dietary fiber, protein, and calcium.  All together its pretty much a super food.  Spinach can be found in delicious meals like spanakopita, spinach and rice dishes, as well a many greek "casseroles."  Spinach is not alone, Greeks use many vegetables in their cooking including cucumbers, peppers, zucchini, eggplants, and artichokes. If you are looking for a delicious eggplant recipe, searching for moussaka and enjoy!


Although I do not normally advocate for dairy, if you want to look for the healthiest yogurt, Greek yogurt is the way to go.  I went to Greece when I was younger and every morning we got a large bowl of fresh Greek yogurt (unsweetened, unflavored), topped with a bounty of fresh local fruits, and drizzled with delicious honey.  Everything was fresh and local and there could not have been a better breakfast.  If there was a way to make dairy sustainable and humane in the U.S. I may even go back to dairy just for the Greek-style yogurt.  It has triple the amount of protein than Activia, naturally more creamy, and low fat.  If you'd rather not have sweet yogurt, try making tzatziki sauce or if you are vegan just get the delicious taste of it by making this version. 


 Speaking of sweet Greek staples, baklava will hit the spot every time.  Its flaky, buttery phyllo is the perfect compliment to the sweetness of nuts and honey.  But the ever popular baklava is not the only Greek dessert that uses phyllo, nuts, and honey.  Not surprising, since its a total devilish combination of yum.  Lucky for us, almonds and walnuts are great for us.  Nuts provide healthy fats, protein, fiber, and antioxidants.  So eat away sweet-lovers!  (Well...until your tummy screams noooooo!)


There are plenty of other healthy staples in Greek cuisine, but right now I am going to sink my teeth into some tasty dolmades.  You are on your own to explore...

Friday, June 3, 2011

Car Yoga, Corolla Style!

It has been a rough week for my poor old car.  I knew it was over-the-hill when my dad gave it to me, but the good ol’ Corolla was a real trooper.  Together we’ve driven down the east coast, out west, and even very far north.  He was patient with me as I learned not only to drive manual, but to drive at all!  That car drove me to meet up with people I love and has taken me far away from people I don’t.  It even puts up with the embarrassment of the occasional ticket.  Never punishing me for the shame it feels being parked on the curb during Wilmington street cleaning.  Ahhh, I really love that car. 

However, it has been struggling more lately and first needed a new clutch (the equivalent of a hip replacement).  Then, in an unfortunate series of events, he had his rain-guard broken, a violation of personal space, and was ripped of his 7 year old sound system.  I felt so bad for the old guy.
But despite his troubles, the car keeps on trucking (or Corolla-ing!)  That was, until the other day.   For work I had to drive down state (about an hour and a half) for a 2 hour meeting and then immediately turn around and drive back.  I knew it was going to be a hot day and that the drive was going to be silent and long, but even without the radio I knew the AC would keep me comfortable.  And it did! For the whole ride down I avoided the 90 degree heat and humidity with perfectly cold air.  In fact, I thought it was a bit chilly, so I even turned down the AC.  Lucky me.
After the meeting I hopped into the old guy to head back home.  I am sure you know where this is going, but I will tell you anyway.  The AC fizzled and stopped working about 5 minutes into the ride.  This was not ideal, but manageable since there was some wind.  Before long, I began to sweat in my work pants and blouse…gross.  But that was not the worst part.  Right as I reached a half way point, traffic came to a shrieking halt.   And with that, the heat lay on me like a wool blanket.  There was nothing I could do but embrace the sweat.  For the miles that I could see ahead there were two lanes of stopped traffic.  Trucks and cars and SUVs all jammed in together.  The SUVs began one by one turning around illegally through the grass median.  I thought about doing the same, but then I remembered I was in a Corolla.  Unlike jeeps, they are unfortunately not build for any form of off roading. 
So there I was—tired, sweaty, hot, stuck, and without any company.  There was a lot of potential to get very frustrated, very quickly. 
But something else happened.  Instead of getting more hot and bothered, I simply reached into my bag and began to read some magazines.   It was as if I took a lesson of patience from my old car.  As he was patient with me during terrible driving hours and teenage years, I too was patient.  Today was just not a good day for us.  It got me thinking about two yoga niyamas, santosha and tapa.  I have talked about santosha (contentment) before, but tapa is something that I have to continually work hard at.  Tapa meaning austerity or self-discipline, and in yoga philosophy has been described as the ability to withstand discomfort and struggle.  It challenges us all to work through things like hunger and thirst, discomfort of poses and postures, and for me on this particular day—maintaining calm and contentment through heat and traffic.  I had to come to a zen state, which was not easy. 

It was however possible.  My own contentment was reaffirmed when I finally reached the point that created the traffic in the first place—a terrible accident.  There were 3 fire trucks and 2 ambulances and as I took a glance down off the highway I saw an eighteen wheeler laying on its side, limp like road kill.  It had tumbled and ripped apart on its way off the highway and into the woods.   As I passed I was thankful it wasn’t me in the truck and I was glad I hadn’t wasted the last hour sitting in traffic angry and upset.  I may have been a little late to my next appointment, but I wasn’t early to die.   
I am not in any way claiming to be a saint.  Deep down I know that had I had company in the car, or if the radio wasn’t stolen, or if the AC worked, I may have ignited some serious road rage within.  I guess what I am saying is that the obviously bad situation I was in gave me some clarity; I was reminded about how fortunate I actually am.  The silence and the time alone helped me to reevaluate my presence.  All I can hope now is that the next time I am in traffic, I remember to do some yoga. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Job Searching

Job searching has ignited an identity crisis within me.  It starts out fine, with a simple question of “what’s next?” and then before I know it I am questioning my own vision of myself.  So, it comes to no surprise that I am finding it extremely difficult to find a job that I believe fits to who I truly am. 
So, what do I want to do?

That is a question I have been playing around with lately.  As the job search rages on and I look forward to next year, I must ask myself what do I want to do?  Sometimes this question gets mixed up with, who do I want to be?  The second question is easier than the first.  I want to be a great daughter, sister, and friend.  I want to be a wonderful fiancĂ©e (and future wife!)  One day I even hope to be a loving mother.  I also want to be healthy, fit, happy, caring, and a resource to others.   However, when I think about what I want to do it’s a bit more open.  I want to continue to write and let my words touch others.  I want to help others reach a better part of themselves, through healthy living, self-confidence, and encouragement.  I want to teach yoga to anyone and everyone who is curious enough to step on their mat.  I want to interact with people, I want to feel productive and helpful.  I want to work more with my hands (and no, typing doesn’t count).  But where is a job description for that?  I haven’t found one.

I believe this identity confusion is a result of centuries of evolution into our modern day 9-5 work schedule.  Often we find ourselves defining who we are based on what we do.  This makes our job choice feel like a hugely powerful and defining decision.  It’s not entirely our fault, as we are conditioned to think like this.  It is totally normal for someone to ask, “what do you do?”   But if someone asked, “who are you?” we would back away slowly, with a confused look on our faces.  It was much easier when I was a student.  I could always respond with what I was studying at school or what I enjoyed doing with my free time.  I was always just me--a wide-eyed college student studying ideas, thoughts, words, and actions.  I was a proud student of life.  At that point in my own life, it was impossible to separate what I did Monday through Friday with who I was as a person—they were intimately connected.
But as I grow up (*sigh*) and get farther from the physical classroom, there is a greater struggle to define who I am and what I do.   This evolution is natural and it’s all part of our journey.   So whether I hate it or not, I must face it.  Inevitably, those first questions about doing and being lead to the big question, what do I really want?  I’ve always known that I never wanted to be the person who is miserable from 9am to 5pm and then lives for the weekends.  That would feel like a life too rushed, segmented, and ultimately disconnected.   “There is more to life than increasing its speed,” Gandhi.    

For me, I must be mindful in my movements, but I cannot get bogged down anticipating the next step.  While practicing yoga, you cannot force or rush through the transitions from one asana to the next.  If you do, you risk getting hurt.  Therefore, I must be patient and yet determined to find a job that I believe in, that I am passionate about, and is in line with my values.  Working for a greater purpose.   
In order to work for a greater purpose, we must find a purpose from within.  Perhaps that purpose is providing for a family, perhaps its helping others in need, maybe it is buying a house of our own.  Whatever that purpose is, it is yours.  It is who you are and your reason for doing that can define you—not your job title.

So, as I work through finding a way to make an income, I must always remember my current job: a lifelong student of living. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

To all the Mothers


This is a belated (but much needed) dedication to all the mothers of the world.   As all of us know, on May 8th the United States became unites to celebrate all of our mothers.  This year on Mother’s Day, we had our mothers over for a delicious homemade brunch, mimosas, and lots of catching up.  In the past Mother’s Day has meant a lot of different things.  When we were younger, it meant bringing mom breakfast in bed (burnt toast and all).  We giggled and bounced on the bed while Mom pretended to enjoy her breakfast.  Then there were the years of flowers, homemade cards, and pancakes.   My sister and I had a knack for making lots and lots of crafts.  However, soon we became less cute and Mother’s Day became “Do-as-I-say-or-leave-me-alone” Mother’s Day.   (Looking back on it—totally justified).  As I teen, it was all I could do to remember a card and purchase a gift card.  Its sad to say, but I even began to believe that Mother’s Day was simply a Hallmark money-maker holiday and I was tempted to rebel.

But the truth is, mothers’ rock.  They put up with so much and ask for so little.  They build you up when you are down, tell you what you need to hear to press on.  My mother is one of the strongest people I know.  No matter she may be going through, she will always take care of me first.  I love my mother so much and this year, nothing I could do was going to be able to show her that completely. 

Maybe it about getting older and moving out, or maybe its about becoming wiser and more humble, but I respect my mother more now that I think I ever have.  She gives her all to everything she does and never sees a barrier to a brighter future.   In her free time, she will learn everything about anything.  Once after finding a strange cocoon, she researched it, protected it, and after some weeks she watched as the cocoon cracked open to reveal the most amazing polyphemous moth.  She had actually gotten a group of people interested in what this thing would become.  The students at Princeton University even named it.  So at first when everyone else was willing to just ignore or toss this cocoon, she saw potential for what could be.  


I think that is what is so wonderful about mothers.  When we come out into the world, we are nothing but screaming, pooping, crying blobs.  But they love us instantly!  A mother can see you for who you truly are and what you can become way before you do.   Even during our terrible two’s and terrifying teens, our mothers can see our potential to be great. 


So give thanks, as we only get one true mother.  Love you mom!

Friday, May 13, 2011

This is good, like something you really like to eat.


One thing I love is looking at something in a different way.  Its more than just being the devil's advocate every once in awhile; its about being able to see something as more than just what we think first.  In yoga,  we practice seeing something for what it is, which is not always easy to define.  For instance, when I put on a band-aid the wrapper is nothing but garbage, but to my cat Baxter its a brand new toy.  In another example, a spider to me is a scary, gross pest.  Yet in some cultures, spiders are a delicacy.  So nothing is just as is seems, as it is always so much more.


In work, you may encounter a similar situation.  You see something one ways, but your co-workers or boss see it an entirely different way.  You are all right, all wrong.  All eye-witnesses see a different crime.  While it may not seem so, it is truly an amazing thing!


Being an avid reader and writer, it's no surprise that I love seeing people write with this kind of open mind. Seeing one thing as being described in many ways.  So, I was glad to receive this email from a dear friend, which highlighted funny metaphors from high schoolers across the country.  Smile and ENJOY!


Every year, English teachers from across the country can submit their
collections of actual analogies and metaphors found in high school
essays.  These excerpts are published each year to the amusement of
teachers across the country.

Here are last year's winners.....

1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

3. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

4. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

6. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

7. He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.

8. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.

9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.

10. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

11. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.

12. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

13. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

14. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.

15. They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan's teeth.

16. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

17. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East River.

18. Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

19. Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.

20. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

21. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

22. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

23. The ballerina rose gracefully en Pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

24. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

25. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

This is good, like something you really like to eat.

One thing I love is looking at something in a different way.  Its more than just being the devil's advocate every once in awhile; its about being able to see something as more than just what we think first.  In yoga,  we practice seeing something for what it is, which is not always easy to define.  For instance, when I put on a band-aid the wrapper is nothing but garbage, but to my cat Baxter its a brand new toy.  In another example, a spider to me is a scary, gross pest.  Yet in some cultures, spiders are a delicacy.  So nothing is just as is seems, as it is always so much more.


In work, you may encounter a similar situation.  You see something one ways, but your co-workers or boss see it an entirely different way.  You are all right, all wrong.  All eye-witnesses see a different crime.  While it may not seem so, it is truly an amazing thing!


Being an avid reader and writer, it's no surprise that I love seeing people write with this kind of open mind. Seeing one thing as being described in many ways.  So, I was glad to receive this email from a dear friend, which highlighted funny metaphors from high schoolers across the country.  Smile and ENJOY!


Every year, English teachers from across the country can submit their
collections of actual analogies and metaphors found in high school
essays.  These excerpts are published each year to the amusement of
teachers across the country.

Here are last year's winners.....

1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

3. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

4. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

6. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

7. He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.

8. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.

9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.

10. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

11. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.

12. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

13. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

14. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.

15. They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan's teeth.

16. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

17. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East River.

18. Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

19. Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.

20. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

21. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

22. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

23. The ballerina rose gracefully en Pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

24. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

25. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.