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Stay.Right.Here.

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Life seems to be serving up the same lessons that I seem to either forget or think I will eventually master.  In this week’s servings there was nothing over the top out of the ordinary, but none-the-less the challenges of parenting and adulting and relationshiping drudged up old responses that I thought I had out grew.  Just like an old, familiar space my responses were filled with anxiety and worry and a nagging voice that I-am-just-not-doing-enough and that I-will-never-be-enough.

These are the ghosts of my past who somehow fill my present and urge me to problem solve a future that still has yet to become.  

And so I do the old patterns that I’ve learned do not serve me well and this is that I try to control for the circumstances in which I have no control.  Usually how this looks is I try to out do myself– be better– be perfect– be a perfect mom– present a competent, well-put-together adult self for co-workers, be the best listener to my friends, have the patience of a saint for my children, stave off exhaustion or weariness, appear brave, commit to being a giver and resist being a receiver…

I know this is usually a fruitless, soul draining endeavor for me.  I know that the more I live in my head to be perfect and to present perfection the less I live authentically.  Authentic for me is to be in the moment– open to whatever life offers so that I can learn and grow.  Authentic also means that I am where I am… I’m giving what I have… I’m receiving what I can hold and I’m listening in the here and now.

And I’ve learned in the four decades of my life that the efforts to control exhaust me and wear me thin yet, I found myself doing this by default– just easing into this old pattern without giving it a second thought.  In my 20’s and 30’s this likely would go on for a long time, but thanks-be to the development of skills like mindfulness and self-awareness I was able to eventually notice that this pattern had snuck back up.  I was able to evaluate myself and make some different decisions regarding the anxiety and stress I was bearing and the response I wanted to extend to myself.

When I got down to it I realized that the anxiety I was holding was about an uncertain future that I have very little to no control over.  I mean to get really honest with myself I had to realize that I cannot predict or control what is to come and that scares the shit out of me.

I mean…

I can pour every ounce of parenting energy and wisdom into my children, but what they do with that… how they actualize is not in my control.

I can love with every ounce of love my heart and body can muster and I can’t control the outcome and the return of love or of loss or of illness or of death.  (Loving my mother meant taking care of her body and her health toward the fruit of her returning to complete health– I could not control for how her illness was going to compromise her and ultimately take her)

I can make all the ‘smart’, future forward career investment decisions to ensure a future of bright opportunities and financial security, but I can’t guarantee that these opportunities will be extended toward me.

And this lesson presented to me what it always presents to me– that what I have is right now.  I have today.

A few years ago, I did some crazy stuff.  I left everything behind: a marriage, a career, a community, a belief system– on the notion that leaving the toxic aspects of my life would lead to more health and growth.  I had a certain kind of optimism or hope about that decision.

In terms of my mental and emotional health I can say that I’ve seen the fruits of that decision produce the capacity for me to think and to breathe and to live in peace.  It’s in part, why I can presently be more mindful, but in terms of what the future holds I have no certainties and I think that some days I’m still waiting and watching with bated breath– I’m peering into the future, anxieties rising, lungs full– wanting, longing to control the outcomes.  And then life (sometimes in gentle ways and sometimes in not so gentle ways) brings me right back to where I am and says stay.right.here.  Don’t get ahead of yourself.  You have today.  You have this moment.  Stay right here and listen– don’t lose this moment.  Don’t let it slip away.  Bask in it.  Let the sun shine on your face and breathe, because this is what you have and this is what you can be certain of– this- right- here.

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ocean shores and dad

I’m a bit behind on posting this… Yesterday was Father’s day and I made this little documentary for my dad.  A few weekends ago we took a trip to Ocean Shores with the family and it was one of the nicest, most relaxing trips I’ve had in a long time.

During that trip I had time to reflect on my dad and the presence he’s had on my life. We’ve always had a special bond since I was a very small girl.  While I was in undergrad my father decided it wasn’t too late to expand himself and so he started his bachelor’s degree at the same university I attended.  Not many can say that they’ve taken Criminology or Acting 101 with their dad, but that’s our story.  It was a crazy blast.

This past year has been one of the most difficult of my life and I can say without hesitation– I wouldn’t have gotten through it without the unconditional acceptance and love of my father.

When I think about the measure of a steady father these words come to mind: generous, gracious and courageous.  My dad will be the first to say that he isn’t perfect, but these words describe, only in part, his beautiful soul.

Generous // It used to drive me crazy because we could never expect to have a holiday meal without every lone person my dad ran into at the grocery store joining us for dinner.  On Thanksgiving, there we would be with an assortment of misfits and loners gathered around the table.  As a teenager this cramped my style but over time I began to recognize just how deep my dad’s generosity flowed. We always had room at the table for anyone who didn’t have a home.  He’s still like this to this day and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Gracious // My teenage years tested the breadth and depth of my father’s graciousness– the nights I snuck out to ride bikes with my best friend across the street– the day I skipped 8th grade to ‘run away’ for a day to Everett… I’ll spare you the details.  These were the real testing moments and although my dad would vacillate in disappointment his grace found a way to embrace me.  I’ve seen folks wrong him– moments of rejection or hurt and he has always exhibited an openness to second chances.

Courageous // I haven’t met many who are willing to ask themselves where it is they need to change and then figure out how to make the needed changes.  He modeled that often. He owned his short comings and would get back up and try again.  He’s committed to an evolving process and that’s not easy to do or even encouraged in our culture, but he digs in deep to find the courage and take another step.

Thanks dad for who you are.  I am full of gratitude.

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Day 30 of 30-day challenge: Life is unpredictable and so is yoga

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We have completed the 30-day challenge!  I was disappointed towards the end of my challenge when my car gave me trouble and I was unable to drive thus, making it impossible to make it to class for four days.  However, I did finish strong and I’m grateful for the many lessons I learned along the way on this journey.

Life is so unpredictable.  Just when I think I have a solid plan something like a busted car comes along and shifts everything, but I learned that my yoga practice often imitates how I engage life outside the yoga studio.  Going into this 30-day challenge I thought I could will my body and my way through the journey.  I thought that at the end of it I would pretty much have this thing mastered or at least my version of mastering– I thought I’d be more flexible and be able to sustain asanas for longer, but what I found was that as the days passed the challenge became more challenging.  I couldn’t just plan or will my way through it and tell my body to just obey.  Instead what I learned is that in order to go deeper I had to have much more mental focus and energy and I had to listen in a concentrated way to my body.  This takes a great deal of exerted energy and it really is a different way of being present in the world.  

The last day of the challenge I took a few moments to reflect on what I was so grateful for. here are a few things that came to mind:

1) Community.  I never once felt alone in this journey.  There were people all around at different points and stages who even in our meditative silence were supporting one another and cheering each other on.

2) Encouraged.  The instructors at the Sweatbox really believe in their students.  They know the way our bodies respond to the postures and they bring awareness so that we can make the needed adjustments– this makes all the difference!!  I couldn’t have done it without hearing the encouragements from Laura to relax my shoulders or Frankie to notice the difference in my spine.  Thank you to all the amazing Sweatbox instructors.

3)  Expanding knowledge.  I’m at the stage in my practice where I need to incrementally, day-by-day, inch-by inch need to go deeper into my poses.  Most days I’m not sure how to do this.  The past few days I’ve been struck by how just in observing others I’ve learned to push myself to go a little deeper.  Every student has an amazing way of adapting and moving into the posture.  I can see the strength and wisdom in the movements and I’ve been able to borrow some of the wisdom to guide myself through the process, as well.  It is a slow work but entirely meaningful.

4)  Inspired by beauty.  I have gained a great deal in noticing my fellow yogi(ni)’s.  The strength and beauty in which so many move in and through out their asanas is inspiring.  I don’t know everyone’s stories but I see folks’ courage and integrity, as they show up each day– giving all that they can to each meditative moment.  This encourages me to keep coming and keep trying.  

5)  Perseverance.  My practice and my challenge didn’t always go the way I wanted it to go.  There were times I felt frustrated.  There were times when I felt like I couldn’t get myself up to do the last spine twist.  There were days when I felt fatigued.  But I learned to keep coming back.  I learned to guide my brain back into the room.  I learned to breathe and let the breath calm me.  I learn to savasana and let the rest re-energize me.  It wasn’t perfect.  I wasn’t perfect, but I learned to accept that about myself so that I could keep coming back and never, never give up.