Meditation Monday #5 – Courage

It’s Monday evening after a long and tiresome weekend. I traveled to Vermont this weekend via Connecticut and stayed in New Hampshire. You have to love how close and small the New England states are. But after the holiday it was hard to be away from my family for another weekend. I am happy to know that I won’t be traveling again without them for at least a month. But it’s back to Meditation Monday today and I actually have a whole week planned out for you that links well with Gates’ book and more on the study of the fourth yama, Brahmacarya.

The Day 40 reading (where we’re starting the next five days of passages) pairs perfectly for my thoughts today. And it says that in much of his research Gates came across Brahmacarya in regards to bravery and courage. Remember that this yama or moral restraint is that of moderation. I’m sure that many people in our society would associate being able to live a moderate lifestyle by choice with some kind of superhuman strength of will. However, his examination of this idea took me somewhere else entirely. He asks, in a sense, to consider what it is that you are in need of courage to do in life?

My workshop this weekend was at a very nice facility and I would be very happy to find out that any of the participants had stumbled upon my blog. I really enjoyed their company and would love to keep in contact with them. But, overall I had lower participant reviews than I usually receive. I know I can’t get all top marks 100% of the time, but as a type A person this is what I expect for myself and eagerly strive for. As much as I’d like to say that I’m 100% intrinsically motivated, that I’m finding a few situations in which I want recognition. However, I also feel that I want top marks because that reflects that I have helped someone and that is what I feel is my ultimate goal in life….Help.

So, I spent some time reflecting on this question of what I need courage to do in my life and tried to get over my self-doubt as quickly as possible. And my meditation brought me to this: I need to find the way to stop procrastinating and to go after my dreams. Because, what am I really waiting for? I have pretty much a 4 year plan in order at the moment. But what happens at the end of that 4 years and what I do with some things I’ve been working on at the moment are keys to answering the question on courage. The simple gist of it all is that I want to teach at the college level, but in more than a physical education class. I want to wear real clothes to work some days instead of just gym clothes. I want to be looked at as a faculty member and not a staff member. The question of it all is as follows:
Do I wait until the baby is old enough to start school and then start applying for jobs that may move us away from here?
Do I hope that the current school I work for works out and eventually I become full-time there or at the other school in town where we end up staying in Wilmington?
Do I work on securing us financially so that when it’s time for the big man to go to school that I can foreseeably head into a Doctoral program?

I think I am asking myself to find the courage to finish projects in the next 4 years and to push for my voice to be heard when I am ready to switch my career from full-time mom to full-time professional again. I need courage to put myself first at that point and time and to know, truly in my heart, what my path will be. I need courage and strength to know how hard to fight to reach those dreams, but at the same time, courage to be accepting of the great life that I have and the amazing family that we have created. I need courage to trust my judgement that I had before I started considering (and really only focusing on) others in my life.

Four years may seem like a long time from now, but the days go by as quickly as minutes. I won’t doubt my ability to affect change and to help. I won’t look to others for the answers. I will live in moderation and see, truly see, the beauty of what my life has to offer me at every turn.

What do you need to find courage to do in your life?

Meditation Monday #4 – Thankfulness

Here’s another post that didn’t post yesterday, so I’ve updated it for today and this afternoon you can find your Tone It Up Tuesday post.

Meditation Monday on the week of Thanksgiving and we’re still talking about Brahmacarya. I have spent some extra time on this topic and my meditation because moderation is such an important part of how I live my life and the things I teach in my line of work.

I’m good enough; I’m smart enough; and doggone it, people like me!
In the Day 40 reading in the Gates book he writes that we (humans) live with “the mistaken belief that we are not ok as we are.” I took deeply to this reading at this time of year because what a better push to reflect on all the ways that we should be thankful than to realize that we reside inside of this misguided image of always needing to be more. That we are causing our own intemperance by doing more and seeking more that always ends in more strife. We view our lives as unsuccessful when we cannot find external validation for all of the hours we put in, the money we spend, the giving of ourselves. We live, very often, in a state of “keeping up with the Joneses” and very rarely in a state of contentment with what we have. It takes a lot of courage to walk away from the struggle that is life, from addiction, from the fear of not being enough. It takes mounds and mounds of courage to walk into a life of self acceptance and moderation. We realize that it is not about “thenwhat?” or “how does life get better?”…’s about “how great is this as it is?”
I am kind of behind in sharing this link, but purposefully waited until this week.
Let’s spend this next week appreciating what we have and not what we don’t. Don’t ask yourself what you could change to make yourself better, but what you could change about the way you look at yourself and your life to make your world better. Imagine if we stopped judging ourselves and others and just saw the light inside of each of us and were thankful that it was there. What if we let that light shine as brightly as it could without casting clouds of need and self doubt over it?
This week I am thankful to be here in Iowa. Thankful for my friends and their health (at whatever stage it is that has kept them to this day). I am thankful for my students and co-workers and that they exist to enrich my life in ways that are not measured in dollars and cents. I am thankful for my family and my children who are miracles beyond belief to me. I am thankful that I exist and that my lungs fill with air each day. I breathe in, I breathe out, I am in awe of the world around me.


What are you thankful for this year?

Meditation Monday #3 – Brachio whata?

Good evening, or late night, or whatever time of day you get around to reading this week’s Meditation Monday post. It may not even be Monday any more as I’m kind of behind on my day overall today. My kids have snotty heads and that means that no one is sleeping well at our house and when there are no naps, Mom doesn’t get a whole lot accomplished. However, I am making a little time in my night for you because you deserve it and I needed a pause from the manual I’m working on.

I want to post a little tiny bit here about the fourth yama, brahmacarya, because it’s probably the most misunderstood of all of the yamas and niyamas combined. Gates does a nice job of taking a chunk of time on this one and I’ll cover more of that next week and my thoughts on/responses to/meditations with this yama. But for today, a brief introduction to the yama that sounds like a dinosaur.

The yamas are the five moral restraints that must be practiced first in our actions, then in our words, and finally in our thoughts. Thus far we’ve been working with non-violence, truthfulness, and non-stealing, but now we get to brahmacarya which some yoga scholars have translated to mean “celibacy”.

Okay, so wait before you decide that yoga is not for you anymore. Other scholars translate it to mean merging with the one, but most often it is interpreted as a practice of moderation. Most specifically it is a moderation of how to use your energy and even more specifically, your sexual energy. Yeah, that’s why celibacy falls in there.

Think about it this way:

If you don’t use your energy and wall it up inside of you, it will build pressure until it eventually comes crashing forward in an uncontrollable outpouring.
But, if you use it moderately to connect to others around us in a loving way, then it can be a positive and spiritual experience which revitalizes and nourishes the body, mind, and soul.
And, if you use that same energy in a negative way, say to manipulate and use others then you create more bad energy and that can lead to feelings of hatred and jealousy, resentment and pain.
So, in remembering that moderation means not too much in either direction and before we get deeper into our study of brahmacarya, ask yourself:
Am I aware of my sexual energy? 
How am I using it or am I at all?
Have I ever used my sexual energy to get something I wanted?
Have I ever used it to hurt another person?
Do I use my sexual energy to hurt myself?
Have I been holding back from truly experiencing an openness with another person?

Meditation Monday #1 – Truth and Giveaways

If you notice two posts today it’s because I am not quite skilled at the whole “set to post” aspect of blogging yet and my Sunday post appeared this morning instead of yesterday. Oops! Well, here we are at Monday again. I am now only 50ish posts behind catching up on all of my favorite bloggers and have gotten a significant amount of work done outside the house, inside the house, and for work. I have still not “caught up” on life and know that I never really will. However, in my attempt to get to the point where I truly feel at peace with myself and my place in life, I’m still working on my meditations, my yoga, my fitness, myself…..

Here are some meditation thoughts for you that I haven’t yet had a chance to post about:

Days 23-30: The second Yama ~ Satya
 The second yama in the 8 limb path of Raja yoga is Satya or truthfulness. The yamas (if you recall) and niyamas are basically a code of ethics by which you should live. The first 5 (yamas) are restrictions while the second five (niyamas) are observances. Think about them as the yoga 10 commandments because they kind of align with the Christian ones.

In being truthful you need to keep your word, speak only the truth, and abandon all embellishment, minimization, self aggrandizements, omissions, rationalizations, and exaggerations. So, pretty much anything you ever use to tell any kind of story what-so-ever. This is hard for us and even harder if you have children. Think of all of the books you read to them that tell them untruths. Think of all the ways you “protect” them from life with white lies. Satya is so much more than this though, it’s avoiding untruths while letting go of your own pretense. It’s about humility that you feel when you have balanced your fear with your ambition.

In thinking about these concepts and trying to discover how to live in truth I came to a few conclusions and questions to ask yourself:

  1. Telling the truth about yourself to another is the hardest and most necessary thing to do in life. It may be easier to do to a stranger on a plane or through a blog than to the one you love, but all truth finds you again and if someone really loves you it won’t matter to them if you seem “uncool” sharing who you really are. Are appearances more important to you than honesty?
  2. When we truly examine our lives we find that we have misaligned priorities that add to the nontruths in our lives. Saying you don’t have time to do something in truth is I am choosing to do something else and not making the time for this. Are you fully connected to the truth you are living?
  3.  It is important to know yourself as a whole by practicing right action day in and day out. Know that you get what you need in life by not selling yourself short. Your journey is something you must discover on your own through hard work that cannot be done for you. And in the end you must let go and realize that there is nothing left to do….just move on. Am I ruled by a desire for pleasure, a desire for success, a desire for community, or a desire for liberation?

My truth is that I’m not perfect. I try to be as open and honest and exposed as possible. I try not to lie to my kids and my friends. I hold back sometimes and that is an expression of me as a nontruth in my life. It hurts me to be that way and I try to move forward and rectify that situation and not repeat it. It’s hard work for me every day as it is for everyone who tries to live in truth.

The truth also is that if you post a giveaway on your blog, I’m going to enter to win. So, Kristin Porter, challenge accepted! I totally want to find new ways to use rice in the ways that I eat and I want to win a $500 gift card to Amazon so that I can give my munchkins a swing set for Christmas that I couldn’t otherwise afford. If you want to know more about what I’m talking about, check out her post here and I will be talking about my porcupine meatballs some Sunday this fall. See you tomorrow for another installment of Tone It Up Tuesday!

What is the truth in your life? Do you enter giveaways? Do you tell your kids that there’s a Santa?


Weekend Update….not the SNL version

I sometimes wish I were on SNL and that the random occurrences in my life that seem humorous to others were just a script and not reality, but it’s not and the reality is that it’s Saturday and I feel like I’ve gotten so little done this week. Here is a week in review as well as some yoga and meditations to boot.

The week started off with a dud. I mean, I really wanted to just put my feet up and relax because we’d been on the move so much lately with traveling for three weekends in a row and helping friends move. I couldn’t even motivate myself to go out for a walk when the temps were in the low 80’s all day. That’s like miracle weather this time of year here! But I did motivate myself to get the grocery shopping done (two stores with two kids under the age of 4) and made my family a beautiful dinner, brother-in-law included, from a recipe posted by the fabulous Kristin Porter at Iowa Girl Eats. Kung Pao Chicken Lettuce Wraps…. and she was not lying about them tasting restaurant quality. My BIL said he would have paid for the meal I made, but the kids (usually very good eaters) weren’t buying it. So sad. 😦 I really want to make it again, but I will have to wait for more adults to be over to eat.

I managed to blog a little on Tuesday about a few issues that had been weighing on my mind and to get back to the mat to do some meditating. I took the kids to the park in an attempt to sign the oldest up for more of his beloved Little Explorers nature program, but they have discontinued it for the unforeseen future. This is very disappointing as it seems to happen quite often with activities that we love. So, instead we played and I got to see him really “imagine” with another kid for the first time at the park. He is kind of old for his age in that he thinks, speaks, and knows a lot for 3 1/2 and it sometimes makes it hard for him to interact with other kids his age. He was able to meet another little guy his same size, but a full year older and the two of them hit it off pretending they were running from a dragon over a bridge, to the top of a mountain, through a tunnel. It was GREAT! But his grandparents showed up and the play had to end. Good news is that we had lunch plans with a friend of ours and visited a favorite local freshmex place called Islands I love their list of “no’s” when you walk in the door and that the kids menu items are the perfect size for my two kids to share. After some much needed naps (and while Mama got some mat work in) we rushed down some dinner and then headed to the boardwalk at Carolina Beach for Family Fun Night. I wish I had a picture to share of the boys riding rides (Ike braved the double ferris wheel with Mama and Da-Dee) and bouncing in the bouncy house (both of their first time with that experience), it was worth the overpriced tickets 100%!

By Wednesday I was ready to get back into the old routine again, but still didn’t make my way back out onto the streets. A friend of ours was having a bug issue at their house and so we went to the Children’s Museum (one of our regular weekly hangouts) and then had them over to our house for a play date. I realized I’d been serving the kiddos the same things for lunch every day for the last few….dare I say months? So, I tried a little different version with some Annie’s Mac n Cheese and turkey sandwiches as well as the usual fruit and yogurt etc. Eli will NOT eat deli meat! I have tried different varieties and brands, but he is not having it at all. Oh, and I do microwave their meats to avoid the dreaded listeria bacteria and only give the boys deli meats without artificial preservatives and nitrates. After our friends left I tried out a new cookie recipe that I linked to from an Ambitious Kitchen round-up. She’s got a lot of my favorite desserts and I had some zucchini that I needed to use up before it went bad. These cookies turned out very good, but a little on the dry side because I wasn’t sure if they were done all the way and kept putting them back in. I used a medium sized scooper from Pampered Chef which made tiny cookies (perfect size for kids) and baked them on my stoneware. I don’t know if that may have had anything to do with it too. Either way, we got about 62 cookies out of the batch and have been snacking on them ever since.

So, one of the things I think about a lot when considering what is important in life is how I represent myself and alternately when to put myself first over anyone else in my life (including my kids). On Thursday I knew we had a packed agenda, but I was done with sacrificing my time and decided that no matter what….I was going running. You can see my run on my MapMyRun site, but it was a slow going almost mile and a half. I averaged 10:13/mile and felt every bit of it. I didn’t care, I needed it. And doing that run meant that I was going to spend the next few hours stinky as I toted my kids to different places we needed to go. However, my kids were clean and looked nice as I did not. Our first stop was the library where we returned most of our books from the previous week and our latest family movie favorite: Bedknobs and Broomsticks. If you haven’t seen that movie you are missing out on some quality family time and magic all around. Pick it up as soon as you can! WE also recommend Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang; 101 Dalmations; and Mary Poppins of late.

One book that was not returned to the library this week was the latest yoga book I checked out, because it still sits here next to me….unopened. It’s a translation of the Yoga Sutras and I will be talking more about that by the end of the weekend. After the library we hit up the dentist which is always fun because Ike is a super trooper there, but is disappointed that he now has to stop sucking his thumb. However, NO CAVITIES…for either of us. Eli hasn’t started seeing the dentist officially yet as he’s under 2. Thursday night we were supposed to go to a Wilmington Hammerheads game, but we were just too done in and decided to spend the night at home as a family. It was nice and much needed.

It was that time again on Friday, to rise early and head off to work. I couldn’t believe that the day had come again. And, again, my children cried when I was gone and hugged me fiercely when I returned. Who knew that working outside of the house for only 4 hours once a week would make them miss me so?! Well, it does and I love it! Last night my sister came into town and watched the boys so that the hubby and I could go out to eat another of our local faves, Copper Penny, and catch a show at Ziggy’s by the Sea. The main act was Alien Ant Farm, but they are not who I am raving about today. The group I am falling for is Kaleido for their talent and showman(“woman”)ship. Please visit their link and listen to them religiously. I fully plan to request their latest release on Monday morning.

So, in all of this chaos I have still been reading Gates book and sharing parts of it with my students on Friday mornings, but last night one of the meditations I did last week really resonated with me in a different way. The Day 14 reading talks about learning to rest in a pose and learning to accept rest as part of our practice. This week I have done less physical training than I have most of the summer, but my body has been tired and sore from other elements of life. I have been taking time to rest and recognizing that this is partly a rest period and partly a lapse. A lapse is something I can come back from easily. I will think about what Gates said in the Day 11 reading again, if something is enough of a priority, you will find a way to do it. I will get back on track soon, I have not relapsed into behaviors found after I had my littlest one where I needed to stay away from activity and let my body heal in that fashion.

But I also looked to this reading to think about how I could rest within the postures of my daily life. How can I “rest” or settle into my body as it is and love it always for what it is? How can I be comfortable with my body at all times? At the concert last night and the concert I went to the weekend before I noticed so many different types of people, dressed in so many different ways, but the one thing that I noticed that they had in common was that they all seemed comfortable there. They just were who they were and they were there to be moved by the music. I, on the other hand, often find myself worried about how I do not dress like many of the other attendees of the concert and wonder what to do with my hands. Do I stick them in my pockets? Do I cross my arms? Am I comfortable or is someone watching me when I’m clapping or punching the air? Then, I always tell myself, WHO CARES?! But yet I still feel that way.

In addition, I’ve noticed that when I am in public I find it hard to just stand with my arms at my sides. What a weird problem for me to have. When I am teaching (yoga or otherwise) I am very comfortable standing in front of other people in any position and being looked at. But, when I’m out and not leading the way, I become self conscious of what to do with my arms. Last night I used my yoga to help me feel more comfortable. I imagined I was in Tadasana (Mountain pose) and stood there comfortably, head high, shoulders back, arms at my sides. Yoga was changing my life again in little ways.

Where in your life do you need to find rest?

Who Gets the Glory?

I feel like I’ve fallen off the wagon a bit, which works well for Saturday’s reading. I’m having a hard time meditating and keeping my brain focused. Normally this would make me stressed out and want to run and hide and beat myself up for failing at this task I’ve set out to do. This time, though, I’m taking a different approach.

Friday’s reading said to give up control. This is something that has always been very hard for me to do. Even my profession requires me to be the leader, the manager, the one in control. I am a first born, type A personality, whose occupational aptitude tests leaned toward military drill sergeant and lawyer. I am good with math and science and love to read instructions before doing things. I am a hands on learner and always the first to volunteer to head a group project. I take on too much and love the thrill of completing a task. But now I need to let go and let what happens…happen. So, when I go to my mat and nothing happens, I have to accept that that is what was meant to happen that day. I feel like my mind is challenging me. Either that or giving me the finger and rebelling.

So, when I got to Saturday’s reading I was a little bewildered and nervous. Have I lost the ability to meditate? What will happen on this journey if I don’t meditate every day or at least every few days? Is meditation really as strict of a practice as I know it and have always taught it to be or is it/can it be something more?

In the Day 5 reading Gates talks further about this transition from dark to light, but focuses more on Patanjali’s intro to the Sutras. The idea is that if you’re in trouble, don’t beat yourself up, instead, build yourself up in order to move forward. ie: look to the light and not to the dark. Gates talks about his own issue with looking to get something out of everything he did and how he had to change his mindset to more of a JFK:

He notes that once he stopped asking what was in it for him that he found his way. I feel like I complain about this a lot, but I see that a lot of American’s have this self-serving attitude in life and it is a real turn off to me. I guess in some ways I must abide by some of it because my children depend on me. So, I can’t offer all of my services for free to benefit others and ask nothing for myself. I am trapped in asking “how can I be helpful?” with nothing in return. I turn, at that time to my goal of making the world a better place by bettering my children and their life. Not by showering them with gifts, but by providing a sensible life experience for them.

This whole conundrum makes me feel like Phoebe:

So, I look to the light and think, if you fall off of a horse you don’t avoid the horse with a defeatist attitude, you get back on the horse and ride and ride and ride until you get it right. Saturday I sat on the mat and tried. Sunday I devoted myself to my children and set the book aside. In doing so I told myself, it’s okay to take some time to live this yoga I am practicing. My travel schedule coming up will make it such that there will be days the book will sit still. My 365 will have to stretch a little longer than a year, but overall, I will not feel bad about that. I will just let my mind be what it is, let my practice be what it is, stay committed and explore while I accept. I will just let go of expectations and judgement about what my practice is.

What expectation can you let go of? Have you asked how you can help lately without expecting anything in return?

In The Beginning….

I bet some of you thought I forgot that I was going to start my Meditations from the Mat experience yesterday. Well, you were totally WRONG! I did it, but in doing so I realized that I needed that special pastel note card time to focus my thoughts before posting here.

So, everything has a beginning, even journeys that you’ve been on before. And, especially books with introductions. Seriously? When you want someone to get started on something, don’t put one more hurdle in front of them; just start with Chapter 1. Or, if you must write an introduction, just call it Chapter 1. If I ever write a book I won’t be writing an introduction, or, as my friend Sarrah suggested to me, I will secretly hide it after Chapter 3 just to throw you all off balance!

Well, since I am a thorough reader, I have read and did read again the intro to this book which basically explains that this book does not have all of the answers. Instead, Gates will now be my partner during my journey inward….less of a Shaman and more of my shadow walking along side me for the next 365(plus intro) days.

At the beginning of each day he presents a quote, verse, song lyric, reading, etc to set the tone for the day’s meditation. Intro day was about an ideal that most of us hold: make the world a better place. So, my meditative practice yesterday was on the image of backpacking. When I backpack or camp or hike or do any of those naturey things I always practice the “pack in; pack out” philosophy and try to leave little to no trace of my having been there. When I take my kids to play places I try to leave it in the same, if not better, condition than we found it. So, meditating on the image of backpacking left me feeling grounded, but also sad and missing the mountains. I will be taking my family camping at the end of September to help with that whole in my heart and to celebrate my birthday. In the meantime, I have come up with four ways that I plan to make the world a better place.

1. Bring my children up with love and kindness so that they may be better people than we are. Keep a close and open connection with them while teaching them to give back, love and respect others, and to try to leave the world better than when they received it.

2. Give to others around me. Give respect and share my talents and gifts in life. Donate time, money, resources and compassion.

3. Support sustainability of the world around me. Don’t support bad business practices. Recycle. Buy local and organic foods. Patron small businesses. Support the arts, education, and other qualities I value.

4. Educate by recognizing the possibilities in others and exuding the best of me. To lead with LOVE always. Love of myself, of what I do, of the life I live, and the world around me.

If you had to come up with a way to make the world a better place, what would you do?

And if you’re wondering about the video at the top, that was the song that popped into my head when I started this post. It was a random song that has been banging around in there since I was 17 and my brother found a random techno cd in our yard and we just stuck it in our pick-up and played it once in awhile. Because that’s what white kids in Iowa do for fun.