One Inspiration at a Time

Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 5.01.36 AM

Silence is a source of great strength  –Lao Tsu

I write at 4AM. The moments before the birds sing bring me the most peace. My mind clears. Silence reveals the thoughts that drown in the clatters, jangles, and noise of the day. The fire glows, coffee sits to my left, and I think. I am inspired. As I start, I look for one inspiration each day. A quote. A blessing. A thought. Something to think about during the day. Sometimes I share them with a friend.

Today, caffeine is my daily inspiration. Hear me out on this one… After receiving “The List of No” from the doctor, he said “sure” on some caffeine. His colleague had taken it away. I suffered. I suffered a lot–not because I need the drug. I don’t need caffeine to live any more than I need crack or heroin. It’s just that decaf coffee tastes like a cup full of butt and I can’t find one that reminds me of coffee. I love coffee. It starts my thinking each day.

“There’s only so much I can make you suffer,” he said. “You can have some caffeine.”

I forgot to define “some” because my mind, celebrating the victory, was already onto the next negotiation. “I’d like to start running again.”

He gave me the look. He had been clear about the “no activity” mandate. I’ve obeyed, except I do forget things downstairs so I can run up and down the stairs to get them. The smallest exercise protest. Other than that, I obey.I negotiated. I begged.  I said, “You don’t understand. I’ve gone from 7-10 miles to couch instantly. I’m stir crazy. All my friends want your card so they can avoid exercise too.”

“You can go walking.”

“I hate walking. It bores me. I lack focus. I need to run. How about jogging? I’m not that fast anyway.” My jogging reminds people of walking. Semantics.

Hesitation. Slight opening of the mouth. Pause. “No………I don’t think so.” He’s Southern. Bound by law to be polite. “Nothing that gets your heart rate up. You could do stairmaster or elliptical a little if you take it slow.” I hate both of those things. And slow’s never been in my repertory. If exercise doesn’t beat me up, it’s not effective. I’ve run, played basketball, boxed, thrown, fought, done competition weightlifting (never competed–too scrawny) and played all the fast sports. Not well. That’s not the point.

Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 4.56.13 AMThe one activity that slowed me down–Japanese sword. It was good for me, meditation and inner peace combined with the ability to cut someone’s head off if I trained hard enough–a good combination. Then yoga. But I was highly, highly suspicious of yoga—what good could it do without pain? My friend of Indian lineage made me go on a yoga retreat. How could anyone of Indian lineage steer me wrong on yoga? He said “Experiences are everything,” and that I needed “to get rid of [my] monkey mind.” He was right on both accounts. Yoga centers me.

Yoga doesn’t really raise my heart rate. “How about yoga?” This was turning into a fierce negotiation. I felt the tone. I’d spent years in Career One negotiating with attorneys and body shops. Surely I could defeat one doctor on the issue of physical fitness despite the fact he had more degrees than me.

“Hmmmm…” He’d said a definite no to yoga the first time. But I obeyed his orders not to drop dead for an entire month, taken drug upon drug, and listened to his every command. Surely that gets a reward? “No, I don’t think so. Too much with the neck.” Defeated. Again. That’s when I asked him about caffeine.

He said yes.

Inspiration: Even when the list of “no’s” gets long, if we keep looking, we get one yes. Sometimes we have to look hard for it, not abandon the search. And when we find it, it’s golden;)

My coffee smiles in the mug my friend Kristen made. And it tastes very good.

[Images: Sarah Steenland and Kristen Runvik. Check out their stuff. Their art makes me smile]

Advertisements

Just Sit? That’s Deep. And Impossible.

I’m missing yoga. I’ve been put on the injured reserve list with tons of “no’s.” I’m active. I don’t sit still. Maybe it’s ADHD, maybe it’s the bad athlete syndrome….I’ve got something to prove. “You ran six miles, I’ll run sixteen.” I’ve got a car, distance is entirely unnecessary. But I do it.

I’ve given up the gym for nature. The gym’s too competitive–I’m always peaking at the person in front of me…She’s going 7.1mph, I can do 10. There’s no reason for it. Needless competitiveness tears people down. Exercise should be one of two things, team building, spirit building or both. Always leave exercise smiling.

Nature makes me smile. There’s nothing like running a solid seven miles leaping over horse manure in the street. It’s exhilarating. The feel of the cold going up my nostrils with my favorite play list…nothing like it. I miss it.

Naturally, I’m grumpy at my doctor who said, “No exercise.” What doctor says that? Next he’ll be saying, “I’d like you to start drinking, eat donuts and chips, and, oh, here’s a crack pipe from the pharmaceutical rep. Three times a day should do it.”

It’s not his fault. He’s just the messenger with the sheepskins on his wall. Delivering the letter of the law. No running, no kickboxing, and no….yoga? What kind of person banishes a person from yoga?

“Are you crazy?” my friend said, “I’d KILL to have doctors tell me to sit on a couch and not exercise.” My friends all want his business card. Most people go from “couch to 5K,” I’m going from seven miles to couch. Impossible for me.

So I turned to my yogi friends.

Yogini one, the person who got me into this yoga-loving mess to begin with, listened with compassion to the “letter of the law.” Yes, I’m looking for a loophole and an accomplice here…

She thought. She responded. “Just sit. Sit for an hour each day.” Who wants advice like that? I’m looking for something more like “Ah HA! Your doctor forgot to banish this. You can beat yourself up with THIS yoga, and it’s all perfectly legal.” But instead, she said “Just sit.” Like Gandhi, when his people told him his schedule didn’t allow him an hour to sit, reportedly said “Then I’ll sit for two.”

Yoga Friend Two told me I could stand in a tree pose forever. What?? No fun! They’re all afraid of lawyers, I think. They won’t help me be disobedient. I thought good friends were put on this earth to help us get dirt on our new clothing and get us in trouble.

I decided on “just sit.” Neither the spirit of Gandhi nor Yoga Friend One remembers to factor in The Boy. I meditate when Declan doesn’t find me. Lately I’ve been a little off. He thinks it’s “hide and seek.”

I plopped Declan in front of a good movie. I thought, “I think I’ll sit now. Possibly even meditate.” I shut down my work, taking a mental step toward the other room.

Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 5.45.09 AM“MOM! I need you!”

“What?”

“Come HERE!” The boy can sniffs out meditation like he finds yoga.

“Look. This is funny.” I laughed. Briefly.

“Watch your show, Mommy has to do…some stuff.” If I said “meditation” he’d destroy it.

“Okay.”

I went. I sat. I accomplished 2.5 minutes of sitting.

“MOMMY! I NEED YOU!”

“No you don’t.”

“I DO! I BROKE IT!”

I run for “I broke it.” I never know what “it” will be. Parts of my desk–the one supporting my computer, were strewn across the floor.

“It was an accident.” Dismantling my desk…an accident? I put it back together.

“Don’t do it again. Now, I need a minute.” Actually, I was hoping for a series of them, strung together. “Watch your show, please.”

I went. I sat. I looked up. There was a fire-breathing dragon in my face.

“Are you doing YOGA?” No, please don’t think I’m doing yoga. You’ll never leave.

“No, I’m planning dinner. I think I’ll make broccoli.” He ran away.

And so this continued I was able to attach twelve glorious minutes together. Twelve minutes of sitting and doing nothing. I never “do nothing.”

I fell asleep. Sitting. In a pretty good posture.

I heard a noise. I looked at the clock. Minute thirteen.

Yoga Friend One suggested I at least try for twenty minutes. That’s a 60% discount off the original full hour. “Have Rusty watch Declan so you can do it.”

If Rusty watched Declan and said “Leave Mommy alone,” Declan would know something was up. Sneaking is the only way.

Settling for ten minutes of sitting and two minutes of sleep I declared victory. The biggest win I’ve had all day.

Time to get up.

And make the vegetables…

Note: Yoga Friend One has an amazing blog. I especially liked her thoughts on “miracles” here.]

[images: http://oplkids.wordpress.com/2011/04/]

Sit and Eat Chicharones (Or Find Your Passion)

Screen Shot 2013-11-26 at 6.06.52 AM

“What is it that gets you out of bed in the morning and exercising?” 

“How do you write every day?” 

“Why do you teach even though the climate is so bad for teachers?”

These are three questions that crossed my feed this week. On the surface, they’re all unrelated, but in truth, it’s the same question.

“How do you….(insert habit here…)” There’s a one-word answer for every one of these. Passion. Stop reading. Continue drinking coffee. That’s really the essence of the solution.

Never having been one for brevity or one-word answers, I’ll elaborate.

Exercise:

I exercise because I love the feeling it gives my mind. Most view it as a chore. If you view it as a chore, you should sit on your couch and eat chicharones (fried up pork rinds…dead pig crisps apparently taste better than vegetarian things like carrots and chips). I love to run five, six, seven miles because it clears my spirit and gives me ideas.  I’m grateful when I can exercise–I remember being on crutches for months after a bad game of basketball wishing I could get off the couch and run. I try to see each opportunity to work out as a privilege. The feeling of freedom I get when I run, lift, do yoga, go kickboxing, or pick up a game of basketball makes my body and soul smile. Once, when my doctor grounded me, my friend said “Man you’re lucky. I’d love to have a doctor tell me I can’t exercise.”

If that’s the case, you’re viewing exercise incorrectly. See it as a privilege. Only then will passion develop. You will exercise. You will eat well. You will respect the limits of your body. And your body may decide to treat you well, too. Life’s too short. I try not to do much I don’t feel passionate about these days.

Write Every Day: 

Use the Nike method, “Just do it.” I write at the same time each day. 4AM. This means I don’t have to shove my family in a closet or ignore them to concentrate, and I can enjoy the most beautiful time of day, the sunrise. I sit with my cup of coffee and the glow of the wood stove. Because I carry a little notebook, I usually don’t run out of ideas. I scrawl them when they gift themselves to me, and I develop them when I have time–4AM. So many people want to write, but view it as a burden. It’s not. It’s a privilege. Think, “I want to do this every day…I’m grateful I can. I’m grateful to have something to say, and furthermore that someone out there might enjoy it or find it helpful.” I look forward to 4AM because I’m deeply honored by my readers–the friend’s I’ve made through my writing journey. I owe them my best. Life’s too short, I may have said, to do things about which I don’t feel passion. 

Teach: 

Sure, the climate’s bad. Awful. There are days I feel the press hates me, and times I’m convinced I should’ve majored in accounting or stat, because the pendulum has swung in that direction and–the kids say–away from all the things that made them love school. This breaks my heart. But to get in there, roll up my sleeves, and give them something to love anyway, even if I have to fall on the sword once or twice, gives me passion. To watch their eyes when I connect them with a noted scientist or author, or see them generate ideas about their future?  It’s worth chopping through all the vines in the jungle, I think, to give them that same passion. Remember, life’s too short to do things without passion.

Who knows, maybe the passion for these things will leave me. That’s okay. Then I’ll find something else to do every day. More art, more calligraphy, animal husbandry…rekindle old passions, and discover new…let a few present ones ebb away to make room for more. Nothing’s permanent, and there’s a ton out there to discover. To feel passionate about.

Exercise, writing, teaching–or anything else, really–it’s all the same. It all boils down to passion. Do the things you love. Because passion is what makes life so beautiful.

 

[image: famousquotes.com]

End of Summer Blues: Things I Failed to Accomplish

Teachers–ever feel that you need a vacation to recover from summer? That’s how I feel today.

I had a list, “Things to Accomplish This Summer.” Nothing is done.

First, I promised my friend Claudia I’d finish “The Book I Wonder if Anyone Will Read.” It’s not done. I removed spelling mistakes, inserted paragraphs and line breaks so my other friend won’t cry, and added a ton more sarcasm. Progress.

I planned to clean out the cellar. Also not done. In the spirit of good intent, I rummaged through a couple of boxes, consolidating and repacking them. I see a small dent in the pile. The size of dent that’d require the “f” word if a carriage dinged your car, but wouldn’t cause you to fix it.  There’s a path to the holiday decorations. Progress.

I failed to do my canning and preserving. To be fair, some of this was Mother Nature. The B-grade (irregular shaped, end of season, cheap) produce conspires to be ripe when I’m back in school. Something about harvest season which cannot be changed, even with the addition of global warming. School starts Monday. I’ll be moonlighting making your jams and salsas. I’ve contacted my farmer at least. Progress.

Some other things I didn’t do this summer: I didn’t see my sister’s new house in DC or visit my brother in Virginia. I wanted to, but I was tired. Not running around the universe seemed like the better deal. Teachers never listen to the urge to rest–there’s always 26 hours of work that must be done by tomorrow. When the calendar appears to give us a break, we insert something else. This summer, at the risk of being a bad family member, I didn’t travel much. Cutting down the schedule…progress.

Declan rides a stegosaurus.

Declan rides a stegosaurus.

We did fun, local things like Dinosaur Park in Connecticut. It has dinosaur statues, a water sprinkler park, maze, and a playground, and gem mining if you mortgage your house. Grandpa paid because he lost a bet to Declan, something about “You won’t eat a string bean.”  Never bet against six-year old in a high-stakes bet. This was a classic “house always wins” for Declan. Not that he’s eaten a string bean since. Eating veggies, having fun…progress.

We came back, driving under the biggest full moon I’ve ever seen. Turns out, it was a blue moon, a rare occasion–a concession from Mother Nature apologizing for the fruit delay. I unloaded the car, blue sky fading into black outlining the silhouettes of the trees, bats circling overhead. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a bat, other than the ones that live in my own belfry. Stopping to enjoy nature…progress.

Bats were always a favorite of mine. For four years, we lived in an old Victorian with a cracked attic window, where bats slept out the day. I enjoyed watching them hang upside down an inch from my nose. I love watching them fly more. Flying bats remind me of…me. Never flying in a straight line, they always look like they’re going to crash into something. They flit from place to place, in a zig-zags, and circles, avoiding trees. I wonder how they can survive. They look so scattered.

Yet, like me, they seem to get everything done–they eat, they fly, they sleep. Nice to see them flapping around at the full moon preparing for Halloween like a stock clerk setting out pumpkins and witches for the American consumer long before Labor Day.

Kripalu Center, Stockbridge, Massachusetts. You should go there.

Kripalu Center, Stockbridge, Massachusetts. You should go there.

I accomplished one thing on my list–another Kripalu yoga retreat. The retreat helped reconcile my failure to accomplish everything else with the true meaning of life.  Just as not accomplishing my summer list is an annual event, a yoga retreat to forgive myself will become one. Cyndi Lee presented “Strength, Stability and Clarity,” three things I can use in life.

I have three days to finish everything on my list and contemplate the beginning of the school year. I’m filing this under “Not gonna happen.” What will happen–I’ll take a minute to contemplate balance, so I can better understand the blessings my family, friends, and students bring to me, and save the extra time for them. Progress.

Do It My Way! (No Apples for You!)

Declan's tree

Declan’s tree

I am coloring with Declan. We are making trees. I start to make my usual tree, which will emerge with owls, a couple of flowers, a graveyard off in the distance, and maybe a kid fishing by a stream. The kid might even fall in. I never finish the picture. I never finish any picture because I am a mom, and it’s not allowed. It’s why I like sumi-e–the Japanese style that looks unfinished to the Western eye. I can’t practice sumi-e with a six-year old around. Permanent ink attracts six-year olds like when I try to do yoga or take a shower or anything that requires a modicum of modesty or meditation. Permanent ink is a disaster.

He starts a kid-style apple tree sans apples. He looks at me and screams.

“Mommy!” he says, “You can’t do it like that!”

“This is my tree,” I say.

“That’s the WRONG tree!” He is adamant. I protest.

“How can there be a wrong tree? We each can draw the tree from our imagination,” I explain.

“Your imagination is WRONG.” Funny, I’ve often been told that. “You must do it MY WAY.”  He hands me the crayon. “Do it like THIS!” He proceeds to instruct me as to the correct way to shape and form the tree. Even the coloring process has a method and direction.

My tree

My tree

“You CAN’T go around with the crayon in circles.” I have been shading the tree quickly. “You have to go back and forth like this, HARD!”

Kid, you’re starting to remind me of standardized test prep.

“Put the sky in here.” I pick out a pretty light blue.

“No! Not like that, like this.” His sky is a different blue, and goes back and forth along the top edge of the paper. I take the right blue and do it correctly. Soon, he discovers my paper is portrait, not landscape.

“Ohhh!! Mommy, you’ll never be able to make a tree. You’ll have to do it again!” Maybe he’s not like test prep at all–you only get one shot there.

My tree makes me a renegade. The world may judge me. I hope not harshly.

“Mommy, do it like THIS!” he corrects a finer point of my bark-coloring technique. I obey. I pick up the red crayon.

“What are you DOING?” He is concerned I might step off the beaten path into creativity again.

“I’m making mine an apple tree.” The red crayon in my hand heads for the paper.

“NO! There are NO apples in this picture.” No pie, no apple sauce, no jelly…

“There are no apples in your picture, but I’m putting them in mine.” He snatches the red crayon and places it back in the box. Instantly. He glowers. No apples. It has been decided.

We are done. My tree looks exactly the same as his tree. He smiles.

I want to tell him this is just the style of teaching from which I flee–in my class, you can put apples, oranges, or key limes on your tree. But key limes don’t grow here, you say? Just wait two years…global warming. I fear he won’t listen. And he has stolen my red crayon.

Alas, there are no apples on my tree today, but there are a few on my counter, and I’m hungry. I eat one. I’ll put the art aside…for awhile.

Yoga for Moms

Screen Shot 2013-07-05 at 8.38.11 PMI mentioned before that my son can detect the presence of or intent to do yoga. He is psychic. But today, he was watching a video. I give him way too much TV when I want to selfishly mediate or practice yoga. It never works. Usually, he pounces quickly. “I’m hungry.” “I have to poop–wipe me,” or “Oh, I want to do yoga, too!” Disaster.

Today, I hit a record. He didn’t find me until minute twenty-seven of what I hoped would be an hour practice. Most often, he doesn’t ask me for something when he detects the presence of yoga, usually he just Screen Shot 2013-07-05 at 9.11.17 PMpounces. This often ends badly, as my body is not in  alignment to absorb impact. I’ve been injured. So, I’m forced to channel my inner ninja like Inspector Jacques Clouseau waiting for Kato. This, I fear, may not be entirely Ashtanga yoga. I think it’s a hybrid. Psychic Ashtanga? Maybe.

Moms don’t often get to practice real yoga. There’s no relaxation. No savasana at the end. No restoration of balance. I often jump off the mat mid sequence to drain noodles, enter a computer password, or attend to a crisis like, “I can’t find the black crayooonnnn.” 

I need a new style of yoga. I may have to experiment and develop a few styles. I know I’m a new yogini, but one of the things I’ve learned so far is that yoga must be flexible and personal. These styles will fit me better, and I’ll be able to finish my daily practice.  I’m proud to share these new types of “Yoga for Moms.”

Combat Yoga This style integrates all the benefits of yoga with the awareness of the martial arts. When I studied Japanese sword, one of the primary lessons was zazen, or awareness. I learned never to drop things like car keys because I’d get kicked in the face. “Ha, ha, ha… where’s your zazen?” Hilarious. Combat Yoga will give you the awareness you need in order to defend against small and midsized children and pets. 

Hidden Yoga Sometimes you can achieve better yoga practice if you are invisible. Hidden Yoga incorporates the invisibility of the ninja within your favorite Ashtanga practice. Hidden Yoga allows you to hide in plain sight, improving your practice as people walk right by you with their empty juice glasses, shoes needing tying, and other problems that can wait until after savasana is complete.

Yoga for Multitaskers will have positions like “folding towel” “wiping butt” and Pouring juice. The Primary Series will hereby be known as “Cleaning the House” with the Secondary Series being called “Cooking Dinner.” Yoga for Multitaskers allows you to achieve a full sixty to ninety minute practice uninterrupted while still completing your household duties.

Speed Yoga allows you to enjoy a full 90 minute class in 10 minutes flat. Inspired by New Yorkers, who do everything fast, Speed Yoga is the yogi’s 100 meter dash. You won’t even have to hide from your six year old who’s bothering you for candy. You’ll be done before he figures out you’ve started and remembers he should interrupt.

It is my hope that these new yoga styles will help improve your daily practice, because yoga is about more than fitness, it’s about sanity, which is something every mom needs. When I’m screaming “GET OFF ME!” or instantaneously rolling off of my yoga mat in self-defense, I am most decidedly not achieving fitness or inner peace, both of which I need to avoid imploding. Try one of these yoga styles today–it just might help you achieve enlightenment.

 

[images: universal studios, and http://blog.zestpropertygroup.co.za/top-10-home-showing-tips-part-2]

 

No, I Do Not Want To Play Zombie Brain Suckers–I’m Trying to Do Yoga

What happens when I find the yogi?

What happens when I find the yogi?

I’m up to my eyeballs in stress. So is everyone in the universe. It’s time for some yoga. I’m grateful that I’ve learned enough for a routine–it’s sort of like watching Cool Hand Luke but with fewer beatings…a chance to “get my mind right.”  Today, I am reminded that could do better in my yoga practice.

My friend is puts daily “yoga tips” on her LinkedIn and Facebook Pages. I appreciate the gentle reminder, “Are you going to do your yoga, or WHAT?” I have been trying, but I have a serious problem.

Yoga is impossible with kids and dogs. That’s why all the good yogis climb mountains to escape them.  The other day, I gave it the old college try. I had some music. I unrolled the mat when everyone in the house was busy doing their own thing, transfixed by screens or hobbies. But yoga is powerful–it calls out like “the force.”  Everyone knows the minute the yoga mat hits the floor, even if it is silent as a whisper. That, you see, is the perfect time to interrupt.

If I were a yogi on a mountain, no one could interrupt–it’s hard, far, and cold. That’s the idea. But they always find me.

“Mom, are you doing yoga again?” Declan was in the doorway. A nanosecond before he was three rooms away hypnotized by the computer.

“Yes, I’m doing yoga. Please go finish your show,” I entreated.

“Mom, yoga’s stupid. Let’s do karate. REAL karate, like Poe.” He followed this proclamation with two minutes of kung fu panda theatre, chopping at my knees. Finally, he left the room. I resumed.

“Mom, can you take apart these gears?” Standing on one foot, balancing in tree pose, I separated the gears.

“Mom, are you balancing?” I ignored him, focused only on my spot on the wall. “Mom!” He took just one little finger, touched it to my hip, and pushed. I tipped. “You’re not doing a good job.”

Remember my post about patience? Never to wish for it, because situations will appear that will require the practice of patience–usually very trying ones? The same is true for focus and inner peace.

The dog, not to be left out of the fun, joined. Soon, both boy and dog were lapping me in circles like a I was the center of a centrifuge.

“Mom yoga is very stupid and it makes me want to yell,” he announced.

“Why?”

“Because it’s stupid stuff.”

“Well, you’re going to be left behind on the road to enlightenment. Go watch your show.”

“You’re moving to Enlightenment?”

“No, it just comes.”

“When does it come?”

“In its own time. Go…watch…cartoons!”

Today, I figured I’d try again. Declan was safely installed in front of a screen rotting his brain cells. Poor parenting, good strategy. Poor parenting equals good yoga.

Secretly, I signed off of a chat, saying “I’m going to do yoga.” Then, quietly, I unrolled my mat. Yoga radar cannot be defeated by silence.

Woosh! “MOM! Are you doing YOGA?”

“Yes.”

“Mom, do you want to play zombie brain suckers?”

Start the routine again. “Mom, I farted! Mom, I need a yoga hug. This is the yoga love position. Mom, let’s do dinosaur yoga. Mom, Mom. MOM!” I gave up. I laid down in savasana, the resting position, and tried to end my yoga right. Claudia said to do this to rest and avoid agitation. I was already agitated.

The boy left. Savasana isn’t very exciting. I relaxed. The yoga took over. Until… thump, thump, thump, POUNCE…a boy leapt through the air landing full-force on my abdomen. There is no contingency for this in yoga. I resorted to martial arts. A deflection.

I ended yoga beyond agitated, into the realm of angry and annoyed. Yoga isn’t supposed to annoy me. It’s supposed to bring me inner peace. I do not feel inner peace right now. I can only hope that if I keep getting disturbed and annoyed by this type of study that I will gain good karma and work toward inner peace, or that I will have an increasing tolerance for focus and patience in the end.

Otherwise, tomorrow, I’m going to start Googling famous yogis on mountains. I’m going to plug it into my GPS. Then I’m going to find a nice mountain, too.

[Image: AmazingSuperPowers.com ]