Thinking Yogi

The intersection of two loves: yoga and writing.

Posted by on in Yoga

As Bloom's very first teacher trainees came through the doors last Thursday evening, I felt as excited and nervous as they did. I still vividly remember the jittery feeling of committing to my first teacher training. I signed up though I wasn’t sure I was ready for it, though the thought of standing up in front of a group of people to call out yoga poses terrified me. There were so many gaps between what I knew about yoga when I started and what I would need to learn in order to become a yoga teacher. I couldn’t even articulate what I didn’t know, and had no idea how to get from where I was to where I wanted to be.

I've experienced this same overwhelmed feeling at the start of many big projects I've undertaken - from writing projects, to opening the studio, to changing long-held habits. I knew where I was when I began, but I didn't know exactly where I would end up, so it was daunting to figure out what steps to take in order to get to the desired goal.

My method used to be procrastination; when a big deadline loomed, I would wait until the last minute and then just cram to get it over with. But through the process of becoming a dedicated yoga practitioner and teacher, I’ve come to realize that the big ‘a-ha!’ moment I'm seeking in my work, relationships, and creative undertakings is just one of the many moments of effort I have put in over time. When we see our lives as a string of moments rather than a bunch of isolated high points, we realize that each small step is essential and meaningful, and there are no shortcuts when it comes to doing great work.

Our fabulous trainees have already started their work, they have already committed to consistent effort. They taught each other a few poses on the very first night of the teacher training program! I was so pleased with their courage, playfulness, and support of their fellow trainees. I remember how terrifying it was to teach for the first time in my own teacher training program. It’s scary to do something you don’t yet have experience in, but the only way to get the experience and confidence you need is by doing. Whatever your goal, however daunting the project, the path requires nothing more (or less) than consistent work, one moment at a time.

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Growing up my mom used to joke that while some people aspired to greatness, her father's motto was 'It's good enough.' She said it like it was a bad thing, like it meant he wasn't aiming high enough. It always made me laugh and struck me as yet another example of my family's self-deprecating humor. But now as a business owner and parent, I have a completely different take on things. Though I have less 'free time' today than at any other point in my life, I'm happier and more productive than I've ever been. I've reclaimed my old family motto and turned it on its head. 'It's good enough' now gives me permission to put work out into the world, rather than perpetually waiting for a few hours extra hours to make it perfect. It empowers me with the knowledge that small chunks of time spent well can lead to something big. Reclaiming 'It's good enough' has been a liberating paradigm shift. Below are 10 ways this philosophy can help you love your life and get more done, no matter how busy you are!

  1. Take on passion projects you aren't fully convinced you have time for (i.e. parenthood, volunteer work, creative pursuits, etc).
  2. Work your tail off because you love the things you're doing and the people with whom you're doing them.
  3. Let go of perfectionism, do your best, and adopt the 'Good Enough' mantra (see Good Enough is the New Perfect, co-written by Lincoln Square resident Becky Gillespie).
  4. Refuse to apologize (to yourself, to others) for things that don't matter; you are living to the fullest, you are accomplishing things that make a real difference in the world, so don't put yourself down with a flippant 'This isn't quite done' or 'I'm glad you could come even though my house is a total mess.'
  5. Give up bad TV and commit to spending more time in the real world and less in the virtual world.
  6. Make time to eat well and exercise regularly; both these things take a little thought and planning, but you'll be rewarded with extra energy to put towards the people and projects that matter most to you.
  7. Think for yourself and don't be afraid to disagree with group consensus if that allows you to stay true to what you believe is important.
  8. Spend time with people who inspire you and mirror the qualities you identify with your best self or the person you would like to become; we tend to rise (or sink) to the level of those around, so be wise about the company you keep.
  9. Make time on a consistent basis for an activity that brings you back to your essential self; for me, it's yoga practice, for some it's going fishing or taking long walks or sitting for meditation or something else. All that matters is that the activity provides a sense of grounding and reconnection.
  10. Be grateful for what you have and remind yourself that the day-to-day stuff is all there is; this life is your one chance to connect with great people and do great things, so you might as well make the most of it!

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Posted by on in Family

After years of dreading that annual piece of paper that arrives via US mail, alternately going through the whole standby call-in Russian roulette routine, and sitting in various airless rooms in governmental buildings all day in weird silence with a book and a bunch of strangers, I completed my civic duty this week and actually quite enjoyed it.

As I braced myself for the usual unpleasant jury duty experience, I went through the many reasons why I should be excused from doing my civic service: I have young children, I run a business, I only have part-time childcare, and so on. But then I got to the courthouse and saw the hundreds of other people who had somehow managed to show up that day because a piece of paper told them to do so. I listened as the head honcho of the jury room gave us instructions about how the day would go and how the process worked. Then they rolled tape and some really cheesy God-Bless-America-type music came on and Lester Holt introduced himself and his 80s mustache, and proceeded to explain in clear and concise terms the judicial process and the experience of being a juror. I soaked it all up and felt a strange pride at this incredible system that asks 12 ordinary citizens to apply the laws of our country to the facts of a particular case in order to make a decision, THE decision, about the guilt or innocence of the defendant.

Prior to all of the above, I had considered pleading to be dismissed due to childcare issues or even thinking of ways to make myself appear to be an unappealing juror in the interview process, but I'm glad I didn't. We spent a lot of time sitting and waiting in the juror room, during which time I pored over BKS Iyengar's fabulous book, Light on Life. Whenever I felt the urge to be impatient, to feel claustrophobic about this tiny room we twelve shared for hours on end, I had Mr. Iyengar to talk me down, with all his amazing insights and experience. It's not the waiting that's the problem, it's my reaction to the waiting, I told myself. As Iyengar said in his book, in Latin intelligence means 'to choose between.' So if I were to face this trial of patience with intelligence, I would have to choose between being miserable and fully immersing myself in the situation to extract some enjoyment from it. My book at my side, my yoga practice at my back, I chose to immerse and enjoy, and to leave all the other mental garbage behind. As a result, those three days will, as the judge of our case suggested, be remembered as a 'high point' instead of something I merely tolerated.

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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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Posted by on in Family

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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