Thinking Yogi

The intersection of two loves: yoga and writing.

A couple of years ago I wrote a Thinking Yogi post about an unwanted visitor in our home in the hopes that confronting her head-on would help banish her from my life for good. This visitor's name is Mean Mommy. You may know her, or someone like her (she is in cahoots with Mean Spouse and Mean Friend). She was back in my home for the better part of today, and let me just say that you do NOT want to mess with her.

 I know why she comes, I know what it takes to get her to leave, but sometimes she just lingers. Mean Mommy only shows up when life gets busy and I'm not taking enough time for myself. Whenever she's around, my perception of daily life is distorted so that what would normally seem like one of life's little hiccups becomes a catastrophic event. For example, one might expect that a sane mother of two wonderful children would patiently redirect their squabbles over library books rather than barking at them, running down the hall towards their room, and telling them how crazy they were making her. Mean Mommy thinks patient redirection is overrated, she thinks it will feel good to vent all that anger at young children who are on summer vacation, waiting around for something to do. She is, in short, a tyrant, and not someone I have much respect for.

My husband has unfortunately gotten to know Mean Mommy quite well over the past five years and he usually knows just what to say to send her packing. He starts with a gentle inquiry, something along the lines of, 'Are you okay?' Mean Mommy twitches to hear someone taking an interest, caring. Then he suggests that he might take the kids for a while and as the three of them walk out the door, Mean Mommy all but goes into the 'I'm melting...." speech from Wizard of Oz.

Today my wonderful husband did all of those things and I did a quick emergency yoga practice, which usually does the trick, but when he and the kids returned Mt. Mean Mommy still threatened to erupt for most of the day. I wondered why it wasn't working, why I couldn't get rid of her. Then my daughter politely asked for a glass of water and when I heard the cold hardness in my reply I realized I was just holding on to the meanness out of habit. I needed to take responsibility, decide to shift gears, quit frowning and slouching, and just make a change. So, I dragged my sorry self outside to play with the kids, we went to hear some music at Welles Park with friends that evening, and as I was racing down the block with my son on the way home, I knew we would come back to a blissfully empty apartment.

Mean Mommy or one of her associates visits all of us on occasion, so when she brings an extra large suitcase and wants to get her name added to your lease, just remember that eviction is a two step process. First, take time for yourself. Second, decide to let go of the meanness, the pettiness, the taking-it-all-for-grantedness, and just be nice and enjoy the people around you.

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Yesterday afternoon I sat at my desk, typing away, trying to get 60 things done in 5 minutes as my sweet children climbed on my lap to ask me questions about a book they were looking at. I answered them distractedly, just trying to keep them happy for another precious few minutes so I could respond to a some more emails. I knew I would later regret my disconnect, but I still couldn't make myself unplug enough to engage with them fully in the moment. I felt so frustrated (both with myself for not connecting and with them for needing me to). I felt powerless, enslaved by my own to dos. But if the busyness never seems to go away, how can I move beyond the busy from time to time?

A few weeks ago I had a fabulous shiatsu session with Jana, and I was remembering tonight the way it felt to let go of all the nonsense and busyness for an hour and just soak up the grounding, nurturing experience that is shiatsu bodywork. During my session I became completely attuned to the sensations in my body - warmth, tingling, pulsing, heaviness - and the thought occurred to me: in this day and age, truly paying attention is a radical act.

Think about it - how often do we really allow the busyness to fall away in order to tune in to a feeling, to a person, to nature? How often do we make the decision to turn off the phone or computer, to keep the TV dark and silent so we can zone in (instead of zoning out) on one small thing, on connecting?

For the most part, it has not been pretty around here this summer. It's a pretty simple equation. Too much to do + Not enough time = Distraction/Disconnection. But when I lose my way (and it happens way more often than I'd like), I've been returning to my shiatsu experience as a reminder of how I want to feel and be. We busy people need some kind of busyness antidote, some reminder of how good just paying attention can be. Maybe that reminder is taking the dog for a long walk, or rolling out the yoga mat, or having a long conversation with a good friend. Anything that nudges you out of the busy world and into the real world where things are slower and more simple, anything that provides you the luxury of a deep breath and a change of pace.

Last night as I tucked the kids into bed and forgot all about the emails flashing on my computer screen, as I looked my kids in the eyes and laughed with them, as I lost myself in the world of the story we were reading together, I felt that spark, that electric feeling that only true connection can bring. Not the internet kind of connection, but the connection of people breathing out words, pausing and giving pause, and the excitement of looking into someone's eyes and knowing that you are understood.

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Zach and I went to see our friend and fellow Bloomie, Robyn Okrant, in a fabulous storytelling event the other night. Robyn told an alternately hysterical and disturbing tale about her childhood fear of stuffed animals, and the whole event hit home why I love writing, reading, and the creative process in general: I also had a childhood fear of being murdered in my sleep.

I take great pleasure in the writing process, always have, and even in recent years as my energies have been pulled in many directions between the studio, my family, and trying to find time for myself, I have consistently made room for writing in some form or another. Often that only goes so far as recording something endearing the kids have said, but I like to think that because I carried them for nine months each I’m partly responsible for gems like Sabrina saying ‘my mouth is yummy’ while eating chocolate cake.

The creative process can be a thrill and a completely frustrating bore, often switching from one extreme to the other within moments. It requires practice and practice and a little space and then some more practice. But when it comes together and you transform an idea that was born in your brain into a flowing sequence of words that produce a shared experience, it's just the best. It's the in-between moments when a piece hasn’t come together yet that you simultaneously experience exhilaration and terror. But like yoga, my creativity practice has proven that the best remedy is to be okay with what is and to step back and allow things to work themselves out. The creative process is like tight hamstrings in a forward bend, there’s just no forcing it.

I love writing my Thinking Yogi posts, and have been feeling an itch to do more. But like many writers, I need deadlines and goals in order to complete a project. So, when we planned Creativity in Bloom at the studio I figured it was the perfect opportunity for me to commit to putting something together. That was months ago and I’m still not sure what I’ll be reading at the event (spoiler alert – it may involve a kite) but I’m counting on the fact that my creativity practice will come through again so I’ll have something cohesive to share with my Bloom friends. Either that or I will read aloud from the dictionary. The show must go on.

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