Today’s Musings on Fate & Agency & Joy & Hummingbird Feeders

I see life as a John Irving novel, in which everything happens for a reason. Even the random, seemingly pointless things and especially the extraordinarily shitty things. They weave together to form themes and long-arching story lines for us to bonk around inside of, unaware of our own flow’s elegance.

From the inside looking out, life is just life to us; messy, mundane, confusing, exhilarating, fucking terrifying, fucking beautiful.

When you least expect it, some piece of the collage of your-life-to-date shines forth to save the day; you find yourself equipped with some tool or awareness (à la Slumdog Millionaire) all because you “randomly” endured, adventured, connected, or floundered weeks, months, decades before; e.g., (John Irving SPOILER ALERT), the fact that you’re a midget makes you a war hero.)

I’m not espousing predestination or grand design or fate even, just marveling at the serendipitous nature of nature.


I love believing that “everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

That’s not to say our ego will be particularly pleased 7/8ths of the way through… that same ego will very much want to know when to anticipate the end and will go so far as to despair that we’ve reached the end and all is lost and life is cruel, when in reality we’re so far from it still.


In our last new moon women’s circle, someone reminded us of the calm to be found in string theory; every possibility is already real, which sort of takes the pressure off of each new decision; why not BOLDLY make the one that FEELS the best and truest for us now? Write our own story, hustle for our own ideal “ending.”


You thought this post was gonna be about hummingbird feeders? About that…

A new acquaintance explained over dinner recently that, growing up, his folks maintained a number of bird feeders. The skies of his young life were full of hummingbirds. Ever since, these marvelous, innocent, brilliant creatures lit up his life every time their paths chanced cross.

You’re thinking: who doesn’t LOVE hummingbirds, ammiright? But from Patrick I get the sense it goes deeper. A portal to that blissful, youthful part of himself. To simpler times. To the magic of childhood. To the magic of the universe we lose sight of somewhere along the road to seriousness.

Finally, he explained, a few days prior, he’d bought himself a hummingbird feeder.

His very own.

Inexpensive, easily available.

He knew he loved hummingbirds yet he didn’t decide or take action to bring them into his life, to drastically increase the likelihood of a hummingbird encounter by like a zillion-fold, until age 45. Forty-five! And now all he does is work and watch them. Or play guitar and watch them. Or simply sit and watch them.

And he’s so happy.

And he’s so peaceful.

Something so simple.

Something so obvious.

“It has me wondering what my other hummingbird feeders are,” he trailed off.

I’ve wondered what my hummingbird feeders are ever since.


Now, I’ve got to be honest, this gave me a huge life coach boner. This is what coaches do! Pull forward the simple action steps you know to be inside of you that can make life more wonderful for you. Gently poking and prodding and holding you accountable to manifesting your bliss, altering your trajectory, course-correcting towards joy. A complete up-level.

The hardest part of my job is keeping my damn fixing, advising, know-it-all mouth mostly-shut while you uncover your own shiny, perfect truth. When you’re ready.

Anyway, I’ve finally, recently accepted a few of my own hummingbird feeders into my life and it is already forever changed. Forever better. Each ensuing decision now made from a higher platform, a higher self, a clearer sense of direction. Most recently…

  1. My very first mala. Finally! I’ve wanted one for ~a decade but felt like I wasn’t “yoga” enough (…the fuck??). IMG_4062108 beads to facilitate #singlepointedfocus recitation of mantra in morning meditation. Made with love in my forever-home studio (Dave’s), w/ 2.5 of my favorite people (Lulu + bebe & Kathy), and #blessed by a badass gong named Dragon. Not 5 hours old, it already helped ground and center me through some serious shit.
  2. The Untethered Soul. I’ve devoured longer books in a single sitting yet this one’s taken me years to purchase and months to read half of. IMG_4061Drenched in olive juice and jacuzzi water; streaked with highlighter, dark chocolate, and a rainbow of pens; partially eaten by my boyfriend’s dog; believe it or not, this book has already made more of an mark on me than I have on it.

What are some of your hummingbird feeders? Warning: once you identify some you might just grab them. Side effects may include joy, peace, enlightenment and a life forever changed. When you’re ready 🙂

Why I Write.

You couldn’t possibly understand the impact your own life has had on those who’ve touched it. The lives which interwove with yours for a time as well as those which only grazed yours for an instant; a blade of grass on the heel of the summer of your life.

I couldn’t count on a thousand hands the people who have affected mine. A seatmate on a bus ride. Author of a favorite book. A barkeep. A best friend. An honest glimpse of another soul. A kindness or a cruelty. A question. A lesson.

Half the time I’m writing, I feel I should be giving someone else credit, so grateful for the moments and people who’ve coached and catalyzed and challenged my world view.  And I doubt 90+% of them have the slightest idea they have.

So, in this, our birth month, I thank Arminu “ArminCharles Trish-from-Tower-Records Nalbeaudeaux” Nalbandian for introducing me to Henry David Thoreau. And for so much more than she could ever know.

Image result for armine nalbandian

Classy AF. A best friend when best friends meant everything. She taught me that the epitome of cool is to be silly and brilliant. That conventionality was overrated. That mosquito netting and plaid bell bottoms did in fact look completely insane, making the outfit all the more delightful to rock at our favorite olde time cinema. That I had been Gamed and that it was somehow actually a good thing (another story for another time). How to be a friend.

From sixth grade to post-grad, she’s been an inspiration, a voice of reason, a partner in crime.


Loathing my mundane, post-college, corporate-hellhole j-o-b, I declared myself amidst my quarter life crisis as though simply deciding so absolved me of all responsibility. A quarter-life-crisis I milked for quite a few years.

Wanting a change. Wanting a challenge. Wanting my life to mean something. Special snowflake shit.

Arminé, in her infinite wisdom, mentioned “Thoreau’s Walden‘s always helped me when I needed inspiration.” Never heavy handed, she left it at that.

And now, This.

Eventually I bought Walden from a favorite bookshop. Potentially the spooky-sexy one across from THE BEST froyo in the world (BerryLine).

It changed my life. Or rather encouraged me to change my own. Issued the challenge to do so. It’s taken a while to act on it but his words have burned urgently in my blood since the moment I read them. I want that.

In his opening passage which follows, Thoreau told me loud and clear, “come write for me”:

In most books, the I, or first person is omitted; in this it will be retained;

that, in respect to egotism, is the main difference.

We commonly do not remember that it is, after all, always the first person who is speaking.

I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well.

Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience.

Moreover, I, on my side, require of every writer, first or last,

a simple and sincere account of his own life, 

and not merely what he has heard of other men’s lives;

some such account as he would send to his kindred from a distant land;

for if he has lived sincerely,

it must have been a distant land to me.

What might he tell you?

MEDITATE

Most of us know by now that we should meditate. We may even mean to start… next week. But here’s the thing: we can all spare ten minutes. Today. Every day. Instagram and our TV won’t even miss us. And these ten minutes pay for themselves a million times over in stress-reduction, improved decision making, and increased creativity.

Make meditation a habit and you’ll meditate everywhere, everywhen.

I’m not there yet but I am a few months in to fairly steady practice and noticing an undeniable shift. I swear my peripheral vision is wider. I look up more. I can change my mind.

Practice and all is coming, right?

Here’s what mine looks like:

  • 70% Yoga Nidra (a.k.a. yogic sleep, a.k.a. meditation-training-wheels). You lie down (yes!!!), get insanely comfy, and stay awake and aware as the facilitator guides you in slowing your thoughts, witnessing them instead of engaging with them. I’ve practiced with Yoga Nidra every day for the past few months. Well, nearly every day. “Everything in moderation, even moderation,” right?
  • 15% movement meditation (getting into THE ZONE practicing yoga in class or at home)
  • 3% seated meditation. You guys, I get it. Who has the time??
  • 12% vacation meditations. This part’s getting really fun. More on this after I geek on Nidra again…

Geeking Out On Nidra Again

Because you stay awake, Nidra trains you to bring the peace of a dreamless sleep back to your waking life, granting you access to those drifting-off-to-sleep-sandy-and-happy-on-an-afternoon-beach brain waves when your boss is screaming, leaning over you in the board room.

This practice is helping me understanding by degree that responsibility for my reactions, emotions, mental state, and happiness is mine and mine alone, that no pill or person or situation or paycheck is a more powerful agent in this regard. As my favorite band The National sings, “I had a secret meeting in the basement of my brain, It went the dull and wicked old merry way.” That’s kinda where I lived before this shift. In the middle of what looked like the time of my life, stressed out of my damn mind for no good reason other than I just hadn’t stopped being stressed. It had become the only way I knew how to think; my go-to response to every situation and passing thought.

I’d gotten myself so stressed that everything overwhelmed me. For years, I packed my 15-minutes-to-deadline-and-the-fucking-printer’s-fucking-broken-FUUUUUCK brainwaves with my bikini, sunscreen, and underwater camera.

The habit of thinking is so difficult to augment because it lurks beneath our awareness. Not to mention all the momentum on the side of thinking the old way.

Nidra has supported me in seeing my thoughts. How can you begin to clean out a hoarder’s house if you can’t see (or feel, or smell, or (oh, oh god.) taste) their belongings.

I’ve met my mind up there.

Vacation Meditations

These vacation meditations are an exercise in being present. Living in the moment. You needn’t be on vacation to enjoy them. They work just as well sitting in traffic, in a completely useless meeting, dentist’s chair, or anywhere else your mind tends to wander and/or freak out.

Notice your thoughts. Where do you go when you’re not here. When you’re not now? Do you go to your past or do you go to the future?

For me, it’s a loopy-hybrid of both.  This Havasupai trip, I spent the long walk in watching those thoughts bombard me. The shoulds and the shouldn’t haves. To be honest, I was in a totally shit mood. And it’s no surprise.

“Tapas” is an essential element of success on a yogic path. It burns away that which no longer serves us. “Tapas” means fire. Discipline. Austerity. Burning enthusiasm. Red canyon walls. Direct sunlight. Hiking your dick off.*


Tapas helps us uproot this energy from where it’s stuck. Emotions are energy in motion. My work on the way down was to understand that what I did with those thoughts was my choice. I could tangle up in a cocoon of them or choose to look the other way. Trust me when I say I did both (it’s a really long walk). Often caught up in trying to solve whatever was bothering me and alternatively chastising myself for letting it bother me at all.

Ol’ Albert had it right when he said, “Problems cannot be solved with the same mind set that created them.” It was not necessary to mentally engage or grapple with these storms.

These thoughts got up to go.

Choosing to look the other way is not running from your problems but rather choosing not to let your problems infiltrate every moment and define you. 

Decide not to let them be bigger than they are.

Some will sneak back on the next train but each time I spot them in the Penn Station of my mind and choose to focus on literally anything else, the smaller they loom until they’ve all but faded into the background.

Like seeing an ex whom you’d rather not know anymore across a crowded train platform. If you focus on the fact that they’re there, they’re all you’ll see. You can almost feel their heat next to you, breathing down your neck, 14,000 times larger than life taking up the whole block. And the basement.

Every time we notice them and look away, the less real they feel. The less real they are. The less they command and consume us.

They got up to go and I chose to let them.

Happily, exercising this choice and even the seemingly straightforward acknowledgement that I have a choice has shifted lately from what I’d call a “struggle” (with a capital “S”… and a capital “TRUGGLE,” bolded, underlined, italicized) to a “practice.” Methods so simple it’s insane. Our work is to remember to try. Here are some I’ve used with increasing success, their effects bolstered through repetition:

    • Grounding myself in the here and now by using my senses. In this hiking example, I tuned in systematically to the
      • sounds (crunch of my boots, compilation of morning birds, subtleties of my breath),
      • sights (omfg Havasupai. But really, every time I looked up and really saw where I was I had to stop to take it all in, seeing more detail and curiosity with each passing second)
      • tastes (mmm… dust, inhaler, plasticine hydration pack water, pretty happy I remembered to brush my teeth this morning…)
      • smells (the highs of wildflower season flecked with the lows of horse shit)
      • feels (all of the feels. Bringing attention to how movement felt, to proper alignment, remembering to swing my arms like a cool-kid and feeling the dissolution of tension in my shoulders. Enjoying the breeze and the warmth from the sun and damn… can we go back tomorrow?)
      • Basically, just cultivating mindfulness, which I’ve defined for myself lately as Mind-Fullness. As in, mind too full of the present moment to have room for anything else. To full of what’s real right now to tarry with grocery lists and mommy issues.
    • Sometimes I popped my headphones in, focusing entirely on the beat, the words; parsing the instruments; observing how my carefully curated tunes altered my breathing, my energy level; watching as new thoughts arose to replace the old familiar ones, rewriting my stale and painful associations with THE GREATEST CARDIO SONG OF ALL TIME (if you’re an emo kid like me…)

 

“I find myself searching for old selves while speeding through a plate glass of maturing cells…” fuck. you guys. this song is so good.

  • Counting breaths helps, as does mindful breath control; e.g., breathing into the low belly, low ribs, heart space, and throat in order, holding at the top feeling the energy concentrated in the skull, and exhaling through the mouth from the throat all the way down to empty, allowing yourself to be devoid of air at the bottom for a beat. Body scans are another great way to come home to the moment.
  • My favorite meditation surprised and full on delighted me. To exit Havasupai, you walk 8-9 miles and THEN essentially climb Camelback mountain (a Phoenix favorite). Halfway up the interminable switchbacks, I stopped for a breather. Shut my eyes and zoomed in on my racing heart. Riding the waves as it gently slowed. A totally tubular experience that lasted a few seconds and changed everything.

I count myself among the vast majority intimidated by meditation. Aware of the benefits but daunted by the process. I can tell you that a year from now you’ll be glad you started today. Please reach out if you want to start a practice of your own. I’d be truly honored to help find something that works for you. If you’re in AZ, come to my Nidra class. There’s no shame in training wheels (fun fact: my friend Helen learned to ride a bike as an adult in a class with a bunch of strangers and they used them! Because they work! Also, she’s a badass.).

I intended this to be my shortest post yet, yet here we are, vying for longest…

In closing, go take a hike, ya crazy kids. See who you meet there.

*PSA: friends travelling to Havasupai, bring a blister stick and apply liberally to feet before any hiking and, gentlemen, make sure it can double duty as what my friend aptly dubbed “Thigh Gap Medicine” last week.

Now, the teachings of yoga

The Yoga Sutra is the defining doctrine of yoga, delineating;

  • what it is (“to still the patternings of consciousness”),
  • why it is (“so pure awareness can abide in its very nature, otherwise awareness takes itself to be the patterns of consciousness”), and
  • how to do it (you’ll have to read the book to find out!* JK, I’ll tell you. Or try to. It’ll take me a while. Years, decades. Because I’m just figuring it out myself. Or rather continually cycling through periods of striving, thinking I’ve finally got it, scaled the mountain and reached the peak of understanding (ahh, the attainments) only to find myself staring up to the base of a much larger mountain, peak obscured by clouds. And it’s cold. And its easy to forget and impossible to see how far I’ve come already. Allow me to explain… (get comfy, this too could take decades. I can already tell this blog post isn’t turning into what I set out to write. I’ve even changed the title already.)

I am eternally grateful to have dedicated myself to a daily sutra study just days before SHIT WENT DOWN last year.

The 196 Sutras (literally: stitches, each an integral part of one thread) were written by Patanjali (who was either one brilliantly succinct man or a conglomerate of contemporary yogis) and span four books;

  • I. Integration,
  • II. The Path to Realization,
  • III. The Extraordinary Powers (sign me up!), and, finally,
  • IV. Freedom (yes, please).

They begin simply and accessibly enough.

April 28, 2016: Sutra I.1: Now, the teachings of yoga.

A line I breezed over on first read, eager to tear into the meat of it.

My teacher, Cheryl Oliver, has already taught me more than she or I know. A drop in that bucket is the deep respect she aroused in me for sutra 1.1. Very early in my 200 hour teacher training she spent about half an hour on the first word alone. “Now.” Now, an auspicious beginning, a now which your whole life has prepared you for, speaking to your readiness, an eternal now as now is always the time for the teachings of yoga. There is always more to learn. We, eternal students attendant with beginners’ minds.

Finding that much meaning in a word I’d dismissed as filler, a formality, Patanjali’s “Once upon a time” sparked a fascination and respect for the rest. I knew there would be sutras I would not “get” for years and even then only skim their surface for decades to come. Like hearing and dismissing a piece of advice or vocab word 100 times before, finally, aha, I get it. I think.

What better time to start than now? So I did.

April 28, 2016. I fiddled around with each Sanskrit word’s definitions in my half-assed bullet journal and then wrote this: you’re ready. So you know how challenging it’ll be. How scary. You know you’ll learn to see challenge as encouraging; “scary” as exciting. You’ll learn how big enormous your heart is. And how to listen to it. Especially when it hurts. You’ll feel courage as a sensation. You’ll learn you are so strong and so blessed and so connected. So [and then the pen color changes, indicating I’d changed venues/mindset/pen (duh, detective) and was likely trapped in some interminable meeting] distracted and impressed by how his eyes match his neck tattoo in shading and depth [Major ADHD, reporting for duty!]

It’s funny. I got myself all stressed out yesterday, trying to get a 30 day jump on employing my counselor’s suggestion for warding off the birthday blues; celebrate the year that was rather than digging my grown-ass heels in, expression frozen in horror at the irrelevance, physical breakdown, senior citizenship and birthday candles I’m hurtling towards against my will; measuring myself against everyone I’m not and coming up wanting.

This exercise last year was easier. I had accomplishments I could point to.

And it was fun. I wrote a goodbye to all the shit I was done with. A letter I’d forgotten until just now actually.

This year, yesterday, I started freaking out. I should be so much better by now. And then I realized this last year was one of letting go. Of so so much. And I started to feel better, to LET GO of beating myself up (see??). I told myself the growth this year was subtle and immeasurable and so necessary. That though it may look like falling apart, it really is falling together; more and more so the more I trust and let go. And now, rereading what I wrote last April, I see it’s coming true. I haven’t arrived where I want to be but I know I’m heading in the right direction, that I’ll get there. And hey, it’s not about the destination but the journey.

I am so squarely in the journey that I can’t see the shore on either side anymore. Feeling more like I’m drifting (maybe even in the wrong direction, oh god.) than fearlessly, confidently speeding towards my dreams. And what are they anyway? What day is it??

I’m finally realizing it’s not about counting the miles logged or the battles won or the miles yet to go. It’s about being here, now, learning what there is to learn, enjoying what there is to enjoy and continually dragging my mind back to center, out of the past, out of the future, into the now.

* ha that’s how I ended all of my book reports up until third grade when my teacher told me it was time to cut the baby shit. Big kids finish their books (and book reports).

5 things I learned about downward facing dog from my actual dog

This blog has been more dirty than downdog….. UNTIL NOW.

Here goes:

1. It’s supposed to feel SO. GOOD. Blissful. Freeing. Watching her dangle her spine from her hips, you know she’s making juicy space between her vertebrae; stretching away the stresses of the day. That’s the point! The point is not to look like your neighbor, or to show off your kickass yoga hiney (though thinking about shining that fantastic boot to the ceiling can seriously help your alignment and energetics). So often, especially when practicing in public, we obsess over making the shape look a certain way at the expense of our comfort and expansion in it. Shoulders crunched up like earrings, lumbar spine hunched, tongue glued to the roof of the mouth. We are not fucking around.

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forward facing dog.

2. It’s okay to bend your knees. This pose is only about the legs insofar that the legs should be positioned (thighs internally rotated, pressing back) to support the release of the spine. Get that cockamamie image of grounded heels our of your head! If it happens, it happens, but it’s not the point. Yes, we want to press our heels downward, and slightly away from each other but only to optimally align the femurs to release the hips and spine.

In yoga, “it’s not about how far you go, but how you go.” I can’t tell you how many times I and millions of other yogis have injured ourselves trying to make a pose “look” a certain way; operating with that mentality (on and off the mat) is a surefire way to get hurt. I don’t blame you for trying. But stop it!

Do you think Winnie The Pup’s heels are down? No! Her heels are like a joint higher than we tend to think they are anyway. So, take your hamstrings out of the equation by gently bending your knees. Hell, bend them a ton. And if you start to feel the burn in your quads, BONUS. You’re getting stronger.

3. Her weight is 65+% over her haunches. Ever been adjusted in DD and the teacher latches onto your hips and leans back behind you w/ every ounce of their (albeit sometimes 90 pound) self?

You should be SO light on your hands. 

Um….. how??
In yogic alignment (and really when we’re trying to get anything right in any realm of life) we begin with the foundation; let’s start w/ the legs. And by legs I mean feet. Doe-Ray-Me-Fa’-Sew-La-Tea-D’oh

Feet are active, toes spread, arches lifting (achieved by pressing through big toe mound and lifting inner ankles), heels drawing energetically away from each other. That heel action has the effect of internally rotating our femurs, giving us more room in our hips to eventually straighten into our legs. For starters though, allow your knees to bend gently (especially if you’re one of my hyper-extenders).

The weight that is in your hands should be in your knuckles and fingers (which are clawing back towards you). Specifically, root down into the first knuckle of your index finger, where your pointer finger meets your palm. PLEASE. DO THIS. I didn’t for ten years and my wrists and shoulders are in bad shape because of it. Rooting down here grounds our shoulder blades onto our rib cage, home base. Safe. The rib cage then absorbs all the shock rather than the wrist bearing the brunt. Speaking of wrists, wrist creases should be parallel with the front of your mat.

Practice with your hands on the wall (making a square with yourself, the wall and the floor; wrist creases point strait up) to get the feel. Let your body remember this new way and rewrite your habits.

Finally, bring your gaze back. To thighs, navel, whatever your neck can handle while reaching crown to the mat.  Every time I give this cue in class, at least half of the hips shift back 2-3 inches, just by shifting their focus. Where attention goes, energy flows.

4. Navel is – wait…. do dogs have belly buttons?

No.

Right??

Okay, call it low belly – low belly is hollow, flying back to the spine and up into her rib cage, which is broad, full of breath and life.

5. This will feel more pertinent for my AZ brethren, as our fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk days feel just around the corner: I’ve been so hot in class that I knew I would pass out if I didn’t stop. I now know we come equipped with a remarkable thermostat regulator; our breath. When you see a pup panting, they’re releasing internal heat. Through pranayama (breath control), we can raise and lower our core temperature.

Believe it or not, downward facing dog is a resting pose. Let it be. Set your alignment up and then… Check in. Feel your breath, or, in my case, MAKE SURE YOU’RE BREATHING. If your breath is ragged or you’re too hot for comfort, open your mouth! Dispel heat the ol’ fashioned, four-legged way. We generally want to inhale through the nose, but please always feel free to exhale through your mouth and blow off some steam.

Try a Lion’s breath! Exhale with a roar through an open mouth reaching your tongue tip to your chin. You’ll sound insane so maybe save it for your home practice unless you have confidence of steel and give zero fucks (which, PM me, I want to learn your secrets and be just like you). Alternatively, just really give it your all whenever a teacher offers it. Let it feel good.

And there you have it. Please please please please please reach out if you have any questions.

I intended to include a picture of Winnifred in all her downward facing glory, and might have taken a brief intermission from writing this to chase her around the house and play bow at her. No dice. You can’t always get what you want. So, instead, here’s a video of her taking down a Great Dane (puppy. but still).

Peace, Love, and High Fives.

Do something that scares you every day: part 2

Here you have it, folks, my running list of daily big girl moves:

Image result for she did it anyway

3-17: today marks the first snowboarding trip I didn’t cry on the mountain. Never out of pain (though you can bet my black and blue ass there’s been plenty of that) but out of frustration and fear. Come to think of it, this was also the first trip I didn’t fall on my butt! Boom! My knees, however, took a beating and a half on my first run and I took a few majestic and accidental triple-flips but rather than letting that get me down (literally/cue ChumbaWamba) I followed my friends across the mountain and actually enjoyed it; turning down through my fall line (or at least attempting to) on even the scariest, steepest run; going faster than I’ve ever been comfortable. Eyes up, knees bent, upper body loose, drawing my energy down (out my over-active mind) with my breath.

3-18: driving an ATV for the first time …Over cliffs …In the snow …Downhill🏆

3-19: decreeing that I am not going to watch TV “for a while;” a decision I began caveat-ing before it even left my mouth. “…except for educational programs … like Last Week Tonight, and Girls…..” and deciding something so scary I didn’t even tell Steve (or anyone) about it until a day or two later: I’m doing a sober month. Full sober. Starting tomorrow. And unlike my cheat-a-rific “Booze-Free January” (sorry, Julia/I made it three weeks…) I really want and mean it this time.

3-20: pushing hard intervals on the stationary bike without my rescue inhaler handy (pedaling amidst my felling senior citizens). bike blogObserving the sensations, the tightness in my chest, and acknowledging them as fear rather than attaching to them as warning signs that something’s about to give, break down. The brilliant Wim Hoff (more on The Iceman later, I’m obsessed) explains that “cold is an emotion” and that “Emotion is good. But it can be controlled,” which has basically blown my mind/given me priceless perspective into how I operate. When exercising it is always my mind that gives out before my body. When really that fear is an indicator of what I have to do. Push. Grow.

I see yoga and Ayurveda (ancient life science/wisdom) as accessible magic so please know I call Ayurvedic practitioners “witch doctors” out of deep love and respect. Late last year my witch doctor diagnostically took my pulse, frowned as she informed me of the slippery weakness she felt there and asked me, “how’s your heart?” “Not good” came the whispered reply in my chest. A muscle I’d stopped using, stopped hearing.

Talking with a yoga teacher friend about my “past life” as an (over)analyst, she noted that studies have proven when we constantly engage our minds, we grow our brain, like a muscle, at the expense of the heart. Both are equipped to make decisions for us but the brain becomes the pushy, “pick me!! pick me!! I know!!” kid, outshouting/shoving the heart out of the way. To the point where the heart stops raising its hand. Disengages. Withdraws.

Sad.

The same can be found in the muscles that draw our shoulder blades together. The trapezius is innervated by a cranial nerve which makes it just a little quicker on the draw than the rhomboids. Over time, following the path of least resistance, with trapezius as first responder, the rhomboids give up, atrophy. Yielding Sad Office Body (S.O.B.), as the trapezius (that greedy bastard) also draws the shoulders up and forward. Hunchback. Boo.

3-20 part 2: I’m lying in bed half wishing I’d waited 20 minutes to hit submit on my article submission to Elephant Journal article so that could count as the scary thing I did tomorrow.

3-21: Breath of Joy. Have you seen the clothing brand Puppies and Yoga? Like, ooohhh, yayyy, puppies and yoga! No. Fuck that. So dangerous. 313 days had passed since The Incident before I finally summoned the guts to try this breath modality again. Away from my home. And from any hard surfaces or possibility of dog interference. And it felt glorious! Much more on this later.

3-22: volunteered to sub a class last minute at a new studio. They gave it to someone else but still… it took some sort of guts to throw my hat in the ring.

Do something that scares you every day: part 1

Last year at Sasquatch Music Festival I met a young badass there all by herself and generally sober. Attending Sasquatch alone fulfilled that week’s quota of “doing something that scares her” once a week.

Sasquatch 2017 countdown: T-68 days and counting! 

I’m such a scaredy cat I figure once a day is a reasonable goal for me.

By nature of the game, some days’ triumphs will be hyper-personal. I haven’t quite decided whether I’ll post those here… because I’m terrified of over-sharing. Isn’t it ironic?Cue Alanis. (FYI, I am now legitimately listening to Jagged Little Pill cover to cover… which brings me straight to Katie Murphy’s 1995 bedroom – repeat repeat repeat until we’d mastered the lyrics – and may or may not deeply affect the rest of this post. Also, I forgot how many bangers were on this album. And we’re finding out here that writing to music (at least that w/ lyrics) is not productive for me… which is something I’ve been wondering about so this is still time well spent in the lab.)

Anyway, time will tell how I’ll handle the horrifyingly honest daily wins. Maybe I’ll bullshit you and tell you the third scariest thing I did that day. Maybe I’ll just skip it and you’ll know I did something super scary that I’m too super scared to tell you about.

I’m hoping these don’t get repetitive for two reasons. 1. you don’t want to read about how I drove the same scary road day after day, and 2. the hope is that naming and facing these fears takes their power away (à la Voldemort). If it turns into a repetitive junk show, you’re excused and can go play; I will use it as information. Like the late great Dave Oliver said, “Pain is not good. Pain is not bad. Pain is information that something needs to change.” We can have fear of pain but fear is not pain. Acknowledging the difference between the two is key. A similarity is that both present valuable information.

When I was feeling particularly stuck and terrified, in one of those “fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck can I take it back? the old life wasn’t really so bad was it??” (it was.), I stumbled on The War of Art. One of those invigorating, devour in a day, change your world view books. Please read if you’re in a rut, or want to create, teach, or change the world in some way that you’re too scared to start; or maybe you’ve started but can’t seem to get out of your own way to make any progress. In this brilliant work, Steven Pressfield asks us,

“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. 
Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do.
Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

The judgier half (okay, two-thirds) of me is all, “basically half of your blog is about what a coward you are” but I know I’m not a coward (see: life choices to date). I think we’re all scared. I think we’re all so scared and the more we can talk about it, the easier we’ll breathe, the better decisions we’ll make, and the happier world we’ll live in.

Driving to teach last night, terrified I’d be late, obsessively running through that night’s planned sequence, I turned on the radio to drown my fear and serendipitously caught a chunk of Pete Holmes’ interview w/ TerrBear. He recounted the following exchange with TJ Miller that helped to set me straight/get off my ass and actually post this. (well, ok, if we’re being literal, it helped me to get on my ass/computer). In one of Holmes’ darker, doubtier times, TJ told him of comedians,

“You’re like a traveling priest … except you’re better than a priest because you’re not lying. You’re giving people an opportunity to laugh at their fears.” …And to experience solidarity … where you’re talking about how weak you are and how scared you are and how vulnerable we all are — that’s a very therapeutic thing for an audience.”

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s incomplete list of the scaries! Starting arbitrarily on March 17th and running for as long as I keep it up!

Fair warning: I created a “50 days of doing something ‘awesome'” challenge for my self before moving from Boston to Scottsdale and at least a week’s worth of “awesome” was frozen yogurt related… they can’t all be diamonds. (For the record, Berry Line frozen yogurt in Harvard Square is superlative. I have no regrets.)