Meditation Monday #50 – Wisdom from Within

A lot of Gates’ writing in this section of the book talks about discipline (tapas) and turning inward. In Day 82 he notes that we all start out learning from others, but eventually have to trust our own judgements. Thus is the story of life.

Discipline is about creating our own path by following in the footsteps of others before us. Our parents probably taught us differently and therefore we have a skewed vision of the word. But think about it…..

If I am your parent, teacher, trainer, etc….and I want you to follow what I do, then why would I punish you? Instead I should model and teach you to be my disciple, to follow me, to cultivate your own discipline.

I’ve learned a lot about myself through yoga and I’ve learned a lot from others teaching me. In the end, it’s all about choosing what is right for me in life. This is a lesson I’ve learned along the way in blogging too. The “right way” to blog may not be my way.

So, this week I am taking off to enjoy Thanksgiving with my husband’s family. I am taking my own path. I have a pre-scheduled post for Friday, but other than that you won’t see me here until next Monday. My family, my friends, and myself have taught me that holidays are for enjoying. I encourage you to find joy this week….away from the news, the internet, and other things that force us to disconnect from those directly in front of us.

Happy Thanksgiving 2017!

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Meditation Monday #49 – Answers Within

In the Day 81 Reading Gates writes

….we always have everything we need. When we fail to believe this, we suffer. (p.109)

How many times have I looked inward for the answer, seen it, and still kept searching? External validation doesn’t equal internal happiness…yet, it’s a hard cycle to break.

Today when I was doing my 68 Sun Salutations (more about why I’m not further along on Thursday) I asked my youngest to help me finish them out….because doing them with someone else somehow makes them easier to finish. I suffered and struggled through the first 67 and there it was…ease on number 68 with his little arms and legs moving beside me.

But, I need to listen better to myself because I am sure there are signs that I’m ignoring. This takes discipline….tapas

Are you still stuck in the cycle of seeking answers outside of yourself?

Do you know that the end to your suffering is within you?

What is always easier for you to do with someone else?

Meditation Monday #47 – Will and Laughter

It’s Monday again! Did you have a great weekend? I did! We had our annual chili cookout on Saturday night. I squeezed in 46 Sun Salutations and a shower right before people started arriving. It was a wonderful night in which I learned a little something about making chili with dried beans…..don’t cook them with acidic ingredients until they’re soft….or else they’re never going to get soft! If you want my chili recipe you can go way back to here to find it.

But, enough about chili and parties and Sun Salutations for today….today I want to talk about Tapas some more.

Tapas is the will both to look at what we have lost and to see what we can reclaim. (p.106) Meditations from the Mat by Rolf Gates

So, I’m finally on the Day 79 reading because I have realized that I only have time, right now, for meditation once a week. This is part of my scheduling for my habits and my posting for the blog, so I am keeping things simple. I have looked at what worked in the past and what didn’t and I’m figuring out how to move forward in a more even mannered way.

While I’m constantly trying to move forward and plan ahead….I still need to acknowledge my past and all of the elements that have shaped me to this point. I still need to live in the present. That quote made me feel like a lot of the things on the blog have come together into one. My schedule, my need to meditate, my need to be active, my need to read and recenter myself, my need to write and get it out, and my need to be inspired.

My Word of the Day today is LAUGH. Why? Because laughing has healing powers. I plan to teach Laugh Yoga to the kids I have been teaching on Monday afternoons. They need some serious aspects of yoga, but they also need fun. Laughter is part of life and childhood and freedom! It’s happiness and sadness and anger and success and defeat all in one. The activity I’m most looking forward to doing with them today is to laugh a conversation with all of the emotions.

You should try it with a friend…..laugh the words you’d use to greet someone and laugh the words you’d talk with them about. Imagine that you’re nervous and excited and angry and happy and sad and hopeful and free and burdened. Explore your laugh as fake and genuine. Allow someone to make you laugh today. Laugh at someone or something, but not in a malicious way. Laugh as if no one is watching. And laugh to begin anew…

There were so many things that this quote from the reading made me think of….I could have written for days on this topic and in so many directions. The reading actually starts with a quote from Gloria Steinham about how the karma of her life circumstances have shaped where she is today. This immediately brought me to thoughts of the #MeToo movement that is in all discussions at the moment.

I don’t care to share my own stories of times I’ve felt like I was less because of my situation in life. Instead I choose to use my tapas to move on….to reclaim the life I have yet to live…to choose not to let external forces define me. I acknowledge the journey, I support those of you who have taken a similar path, I laugh to the future because it’s going to be a good one!

Fave Reads Friday #11 – Better Than Before

This is by no means my last post on the subject of habits. I have found this topic of Gretchen Rubin’s much easier to embrace than the idea of a Happiness Project…..it probably has to do a lot with my personality.

She ends this book with a story of how her youngest daughter wrote a sequel to a novel that Rubin enjoys. She titled it Every Day Life in Utopia (also the last chapter title in Rubin’s book). This is my ideal as well. I want to live the life I want to live and to be happier and more efficient in it.

The last section of Better Than Before talks about Clarity, Identity, and Other People and brought up a lot of great questions for me. Like, Is a habit important because everyone else thinks it is or because I think it is? This was a hard one for me because, as a Fitness Professional, there’s a lot of things that I promote for others to do. Where does this information come from? The heads of my industry. But, I also tell people all of the time that they need to find what works for them….find clarity.

Also on the topic of clarity, can I choose to do something that’s right for me, but also meets the needs of others? Super hard for me to do because I’m an Obliger and this means that I always want to do what’s best for others before I worry about doing what’s best for me. It ties into identity in that I identify as a giver, a mother, a planner, an organizer, etc, etc, etc.

Rubin writes about finding clarity on both the habit (good or bad) and the problem with committing to it. What value does it serve? Values are a big part of identity as well. Three quotes from this section that solidify that sentiment:

Our habits reflect our identity. p. 242

We can build our habits only on the foundation of our own nature. p.257

No simple, universal solutions exist. p. 258

Values are a big thing for me…..I feel like fundamental values of who you are don’t change much over time, but the way that you express them may. For instance, I’ve always been a feminist….my whole life! I remember hating the word “chicks” because women are not little, yellow, fluffy birds. It rubbed me the wrong way for so long when I was a teenager. I wore a Rosie the Riveter t-shirt with pride. I thought that those were the definitions of being a feminist.

Today I take a different approach. I still feel that women are equal to men, but my view on how to create equality is different. From a yoga perspective I try to find inclusivity for all instead of “fighting” for women. I work hard at what I do, support efforts of change, and teach my children that no one group is inferior because they are that group. My value hasn’t changed, my habits have.

Phrasing is also a topic on clarity that Rubin writes about. Fit is a Feminist Issue wrote recently about the phrase “Let me see what you can do”. I have been looking for an opportunity to use that in my classes, but haven’t incorporated it yet. In defining the problem with commitment to a habit, the value of the habit, and the habit itself she considers the words chosen. In personal training we tell people to consider not just what is being said, but also how it is being said (body language, tone, and the care put into the words chosen). In trying to adopt or adapt a habit phrasing can make or break you just as not being specific can sink a SMART goal.

This all leads to more questions of identity….

…..make sure that my life reflects my values. p. 256

My eternal question (and one I will continue to revisit as a part of my yoga practice of Svadhyaya) is WHO AM I? How are others affecting me and my habits? How am I and my habits affecting others? This is a big one when it comes to my children. They are developing their identity based on the world around them just as I did mine. I remember my one uncle always referring to my family as “The Loud Family” and that has definitely carried over into my life today. But, how else do I define myself and how do those definitions affect my habits?

Going forward (and trying to keep with some of the habits I’m working on) I plan to blog on Thursdays about habits and how they’re working for me or working against me. I would greatly encourage you to pick up this book from the library or bookstore and give it a read. I would love (as an Obliger) for you to comment here or on any of the other HABITS posts and join me in this discussion of habit formation.

Have a great weekend and I’ll see you on Monday for Meditation Monday!

Time, Values, and Habits – The Big Questions

This is my last post for the week on the subject of Rubin’s book Better Than Before. I’m still in the section on Self-Knowledge which is a big theme for me always. I’m a big believer in knowing yourself and the yoga Niyama of Svadhyaya.

At the end of the chapter Rubin talks about the big questions that don’t always seem big until you ask them. She breaks down questions into three categories:

  1. How you spend your time
  2. What you value
  3. Current habits

Some of these questions are easy for me to answer; like would I like to spend more time with friends or by myself? With friends. Would I be happy to see my children have the life I’ve had? No. If the people around me could change one of my habits, what would they choose? My controlling nature.

It’s hard sometimes to own up to the truth as in that last statement. I am totally type A and I’m a first born. I find that those are often my excuses for liking to be in control and from time to time I’ve wanted to change that about myself. However, I’ve come to realize that it’s part of who I am and that there are times when I need to be take charge and stand my ground.

Other questions were harder to answer; like do I like racing from one activity to another, or do I prefer unhurried transitions? Here I’m stuck and do not know myself. I think I like unhurried transitions. I like to take as much time as I need to explore a place or an event. But, at the same time, I like to have a lot going on. I’m not much for traditional “down time”. I don’t particularly like days of doing nothing and hours of watching tv or laying around. When I do spend a lot of time sitting and reading I feel productive because I’m usually learning something along the way.

What’s most satisfying to me: saving time or money or effort? Well, I’m always interested in saving money, but I feel like doing things right also saves time and effort. Sometimes researching the best and cheapest option will save time and effort in the long run. Also under that same category was: do I like to listen to experts, or do I prefer to figure things out for myself? Another hard one because I believe people are “experts” for a reason. I wish more of my friends and family would listen to me about living a healthy lifestyle and exercise because I have been an “expert” in this field for some time now. I’ve been a certified fitness professional for 13 years and had my master’s degree in the field for over 6 years. I work in the field and I live most of what I teach and know. But, I’m also a kinesthetic learner myself, so there are somethings that I need to try and figure out for myself. I’m also keenly aware of the fact that there is no “one size fits all” for anything in life other than Be Nice to Others.

And, if I could magically, effortlessly change one habit in my life, what would it be? Oh man, where do I start? I can imagine changing whole scenarios and situations and feelings and thoughts, but not one habit. I guess, as far as habits go, I wish I were more organized. My desk is constantly clutter and I have a lot of unfinished projects (despite being a finisher) that are of the crafty and memorabilia nature. I wish I could find a way to relax and give myself more time. I wish that I didn’t always feel the need to be on the go. And I wish I could work faster so that more time would appear to me.

My favorite question she asked throughout this all was:

What daily or weekly activity did I do for fun when I was ten years old?

Read, write, run.

I have always been an avid reader. I used to carry a notebook around and write in it. I used to run as did most of my family. And now, I still read, write and run. It’s telling of who I am. It’s an answer to the question: Of my existing habits, which would I like to see my children adopt?

With this in mind, I’m going to read over the weekend. I’ll be back writing on Monday. I plan to run again this weekend and all next week as regularly planned. I look forward to your responses to these same questions!

Head Problems

So, it’s Thursday and I’ve debated whether or not to link up with the Think Out Loud crowd and decided at the last minute to say yes I will. I’m still writing today about the Distinctions in Rubin’s book that I started talking about the other day. You can read the first part here and the second part here if you like.

Today (and yesterday) I have been suffering from a bout of depression and a migraine that is threatening my sanity. I don’t get them often enough for anyone to do anything about them. For the most part I can keep them from getting bad. I usually down a Mt. Dew at the first sign of a smaller headache and I’m good. But I know when the big one is coming and a caffeine laced drink isn’t going to stop the storm. So, I am suffering through with the feeling that part of my head is going to pop off and roll away. I hate all noise. I hate all light. I hate standing up because I feel like I’m about to collapse. I hate food as the smell and taste make me nauseous.  But I taught today and I’m eating and drinking and pretending to be normal.

It’s part of my baby steps. And one of those steps was a goal I had last year….to get back in the pool. So, today I donned my swim suit for the first time that I can remember (probably since before my first son was born over 6.5 years ago) and I got in the pool. The tightness of my cap and goggles aggravated my migraine and I almost gave up before I started. But I told myself that I could do 20 minutes….and I did. It wasn’t pretty, but I did it.

Why? Because I’m a finisher. I know that about me. I’ve had that same swim suit since I coached swimming in Colorado. I left that job in 2007. I like to wear things out….to see things through to the end. Starting new things on the blog and in life are always a little tumultuous for me. I think I’ve passed that trait on to my oldest. He cried today over old tennis shoes. I know the feeling….sometimes new isn’t as exciting as old is comfortable.

And that’s the last distinction… I think, that oddly enough, I’m a little more of a novelty lover. This seems to go against the idea of being a finisher and wearing things out, but I like things to be new in certain categories. This is part of the field I’ve chosen. I teach at colleges and universities…..each semester means new students. I might teach the same thing over and over again, but I tend to teach it slightly different than the semester before (or even the hour before). I like both the familiarity of teaching and the novelty of new ideas and experiences that it brings. I like the novelty of the ever changing fitness industry.

I like the novelty of moving to a new place and new faces and new running routes. But, it’s all the same at the same time. I like to see my same furniture in a new house against a new wall in a new arrangement. I like to see my same books on the shelves of a new office. I have had 20 residences in my lifetime, and yet, I still have the comforter that was on my bed in high school…..it’s been at all my residences since and still hasn’t worn out. I’m definitely a finisher.

What this tells me is that probably part of the reason I’m feeling down these days is because I have been in one place for longer than I’ve ever been before. My “new job” isn’t that new;  I’ve taught this class before….new school….same class….new students….same problems. I am still a little antsy about wanting my PhD and I feel like I haven’t been traveling much lately. Perhaps I just need a new adventure? Maybe it’s just a symptom of the moment?

What are your thoughts on familiarity vs. novelty and finishing vs. opening? Tomorrow I’m going to work on the next part of Better Than Before. I hope you’ll join me then.

The Word “DOWN”

I searched my old posts for the word “DOWN” today and found a fair amount for the past few years. Why? Because (although not currently formally diagnosed) I suffer from depression from time to time. It’s something I sought treatment for once in my life. Treatment that was offered didn’t work for me. It was a combination of medications and therapy. I found neither to be helpful. I’ve found exercise to be helpful and journaling to be helpful, but both are sometimes just patches on a gaping whole in my heart. Today the patch isn’t holding. Today I am down.

I decided to get on here and write instead of continuing to lay in bed and feel depressed. I can feel depressed and hopeless while not laying in bed. I also feel sad, scared, and angry. The anger is usually what motivates me to start moving. And then when I think about being angry and how it hurts to feel angry, I get sad again. And then I start crying and trying to figure out what would help. Time. That’s about it. I just need time to move from this state of being to the next state of being.

I read an interesting article on NBCNews.com the other day:

How Being Angry Can (Sometimes) Be Good for You

but I’m not interested in being angry right now. I want to feel good and good seems a million miles away, but getting out of bed is one of the first steps in the right direction. Writing here is my second step. This tells me a little more about how to be me:

I take little steps.

This was really evident in the way that I approached running awhile back. I wanted to get more consistent and faster, so I started running the shortest course I had and added on a little at a time. I need to remember that it’s not big steps that motivate me, it’s little ones.  And

I’m a marathoner.

When I work on a project, like myself or work, I take a long time to do it. Everything in life takes me time. And sometimes that means I have to step away from the work in order to better assess if I’m headed in the right direction. Today I needed to get in bed and just be for a minute….I needed to get away from life for a minute to reassess…and then start back up again. Even this far into writing and I’m already feeling a little more “normal”. Finally,

Sometimes I just can’t decide who I am.

When thinking about the promotion vs. prevention focused personalities I’d say I’m pretty much a split down the middle. Promotion focused individuals are looking for achievement; something I’m always seeking….to feel like I’ve finished something and done it successfully. Prevention focused people are seeking to avoid consequences like loss and punishment; this is also me. I am a health and fitness professional partly because I want to avoid the health problems that have been prevalent in my family members. I budget because I’m afraid of being in debt. I had a speeding ticket and am now terrified of getting another. Yet, I’m always looking for gains. Sometimes….I’m just not one or the other.

More of what I’ve learned about myself today is that it’s okay to be me, even when me is not who I want to be.

Please share a few of your thoughts and join me tomorrow as I finish exploring this portion of Rubin’s book.

Being Me

In her first book on happiness Gretchen Rubin writes about “Being Gretchen” as one of her personal commandments. It’s something that I have always been driven to be….authentically me. Today authentically me feels like someone who yells a lot….both to be heard and out of frustration (and sometimes a combination of the both).

In Better Than Before Rubin writes about going deeper than the Four Tendencies framework and thinking about how to better define the self. These are the distinctions that make us not like all others, but like some. Kind of how I sort my laundry at the end of each day…..some things I would wear again before washing (like hoodies) and things that definitely need to be washed before they touch me again (like socks I ran in). The world is a little simpler (and sometimes so are we) if we can define ourselves in one of two groups.

Here are the questions she poses:

  • Early riser or night owl?
  • Marathoner, sprinter, or procrastinator?
  • Overbuyer or underbuyer?
  • Simplicity or abundance?
  • Finisher or opener?
  • Familiarity or novelty?
  • Promotion or prevention?
  • Small or big steps?

Today I’m going to start with just a few of these and I hope that you’ll consider them as well and share your thoughts on where you fall in these groups.

The first one that stuck out to me is the overbuyer vs. underbuyer. I am most definitely an underbuyer which you can read about in my post “How Many Do You REALLY Need?” This is a constant source of pain in my life. I find that most people I know are always spending money or looking for more STUFF! I just can’t stand the stuff. I feel like holding on to sentimental items clutters my life enough that I just don’t have room for more things that I won’t use.

I have moved many times in my life. I am still in my 6th state, but this is the 3rd city I’ve lived in in this state. This is the 3rd residence I’ve had in this city. And each time I move I look for what more I can give up without actually wanting to get more. The funny thing is that my houses keep getting bigger…..

I guess that would make me also somewhat of a simplicity lover over an abundance lover. I do like things simple. That’s probably part of what has drawn me deeper and deeper into the practice of yoga over the years. It’s simple: be kind and good and that is enough. However, I love the feeling of abundance when it means that I am surrounded by friends and laughter. I used to think that most people felt that way, but I’ve met a large number of people who prefer time alone. I get it. It can be nice to have the quiet, but I wouldn’t change my rambunctious boys for a quiet house….ever! Even when they’re driving me up the wall and asking for more stuff! 😉

So, what do these things tell me about myself and why is it important to decide? I think that knowing myself in this way will lead to more happiness in my life. I like a small, uncluttered space, filled to the brim with friends and family. That is my ideal life. The question will always be….is that reality?

Please share a few of your thoughts and join me tomorrow as I talk about a couple more of these distinctions.

Needing to Get Better – Blog Changes

So, for those of you who follow the blog you may have noticed that I’m posting a little less and a little less each week. Well, that part of the blog is going to be changing because I need to post a few things here to keep me going in the direction that I want to. But posting more is not the only change. The content is taking a little detour as well. Why? Because I need to get better again. I have found myself in a not so unfamiliar place of “blah”. It might be depression (although I still really want to do the things I love like writing on the blog and running and being with friends). It might be stress (I have a tendency to take on more than I should). It might be just that season (Fall often causes reflection in my soul….especially because that’s when my birthday happens). It may be something completely different and undefined.

Whatever it is, I’ve decided to do a series of posts in which I journal a book. This is something I do on my own and then usually try to condense everything that I learn and experience into one or two posts. This time, I need more. I’ve been trying to read Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before, but every time I start I put the book down at the same spot…..because I want to journal…..but I fail to journal. I have three weeks left on my library loan and I plan to sit down as often as I can and journal my experience with this book.

It’s a lot like how my semesters used to go with teaching yoga. Each week I’d come in and teach a new topic to them, but a refresher for myself. It invigorated me and taught me something new about who I was that week. I have been trying to work with the Gates’ book, but I am not as connected to it as I once was. I need something different and I need to explore these questions with you. Many of my readers are my former students and I love to speak to and with you….in commune of the yoga spirit….to share growth and ideas. I hope that these next few weeks will be that breath of fresh air that I’ve been missing.

So, come back tomorrow for some questions, some thought, some insight….

My Body; My Mind

Another check in for MY BEST BODY challenge! It’s now the end of August and the start of the final month of this HAPPINESS PROJECT. At this point I can report……

  • That I am currently not battling any major or minor illnesses. My allergies are kicking up (as it seems happens at any time of year here in Wilmington), but overall doing well.
  • I am prepped for my race this weekend and have logged the most miles in a month for 2017 already in August (come back next Wednesday for a race report). I have had no injuries this year (knock on wood) and, despite my shoes being old, have great confidence in meeting my goal while still keeping up with my students’ training.
  • My overall perspective of how my body moves has changed. Through changes in my eating and exercise plans I have lost a little weight (even though it wasn’t the goal) and changed the shape of my body and the way it moves. But….I do find myself constantly saying this one phrase…NOT BAD FOR….

And because of that last statement, I feel that there’s another aspect of my body in all of this that I’ve neglected to directly focus on: My Mind. Continue reading “My Body; My Mind”