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.)

I’m a MuthaFckn Star Chart

Ok, so apparently the cursing wasn’t an isolated, “I’m sleepy” event (see this post title… and presumably the rest of this post).

Know thyself, and to thine own self be true.

I am highly and unabashedly motivated by gold stars. Literally. The value of literal and figurative gold stars is highly inflated in my mind. Like how Girls Go Wild for t-shirts.

I also spend a weird amount of time worrying about whether I’m too much of a navel gazer and alternately assuring myself that svadhyaya, “self study,” is prescribed as part of the eight limbs of yoga and I just have a lot of catching up to do. Happily, from time to time this self-absorption bears great fruits, like the idea to employ gold stars as Liz Hacks (triggity trick yo’self to treat yo’ self).

Friends of mine used to run a seminar for young & motivated children (of their existing adult clients – which was brilliant. Create the need. Hello, wallet share). They let my old ass take it when I worked for them, when my ass was so much younger than it is now. It was a great kick in the pants and I learned some cool ideas. Ideas that rattle around in your head and subtly, heroically help you change your life by giving you a new paradigm to frame your decisions against. I learned to put the big rocks first. Or rather, I learned that it’s wise to put the big rocks first but was too in the throes of my self-diagnosed “quarter life crisis” to figure out how to at the time.

Basically, the story goes there’s this professor, he fills a big vase with rocks, asks his students (maybe engineers?) if he can fit anything else in. They say “no,” he adds pebbles. Asks again, they say, “no!,” he adds sand. Asks again. They say, “no?,” he adds water. Moral of the story? Schedule the big rocks first! The sand and water is the easy, innocent seeming shit that you don’t say no to that just creeps in and eats up all your time and head space if you’re not careful. I’ve wasted so much time lately putzing around in the sand (aka the internet/social media) and being frustrated at the end of the day that I didn’t do enough of what I want to. The big rocks are the the investments that get you where you want to be eventually.

Enter: my MuthaFuckin’ Star Chart! It’s like a mom away from mom.

Image result for gold star chart for adults
oh snapple, just realized I have an “I Can Do It!” activity in common w/ this child. Win. (and no, it’s not brushing my teeth I’m not a baby.)

I wrote down everything I wanted to make sure I did every day, or most days, and made a grid for each day for 34 days (until we went on vacation and the wheels fell off) gold Sharpie-ing in a gold star when a gold star was earned fair and square. I approached it w/ curiosity instead of self-deprecation which is a win in and of itself. Just notice. What am I voting for with my time?

I see now that my priorities fall into two categories. They are either A. so easy to do and SO easy to not do, and take no time at all in the grand scheme of things; e.g.,

  • use my inhaler,
  • take myvitamins,
  • Superman pose*,
  • don’t text while driving (STOP IT.),
  • write down 3 things I’m grateful for,
  • eat (enough) fruits and vegetables (when I started this we were striving for bare minimum – 5/day – so easy yet so much easier to not! and it’s not like I don’t like vegetables! I love vegetables!),or

B. so addictive that once I start I never want to stop and if I did it yesterday I’m dying to do it again today; e.g.,

  • read,
  • write,
  • asana (physical yoga poses – and yes, legs up the wall counts. 100%),
  • pranayama (breath work, or literally “life force control”),
  • play guitar

Or they’re both A and B, like “meditate,” “neti pot**,” “shoulder therapy,” or “poop!” (OMG. TMI.) The coolest part is… I did the things! My record to beat was a 10 star day (I’m king of the world!!!) and it really helped me steer for a while. TODAY, WE RESURRECT THE STAR CHART. Time to do the things again.

The best new year’s resolution I’ve heard was a friend of a friend’s resolve to “just be a little bit better this year.” That is, not counting my own 2010 “quit my job and shoot a gun” which set in motion my move to AZ. Cuz that was pretty bad ass. You may not give a fuck about gold stars… but if you do, and you just want to be just a little (or a lottle) bit better this year, it can’t hurt*** to try, eh? Yours probably won’t look anything like mine (lime green and full of yoga dorkery (and a few skull & crossbones when I did text while driving. BAD.)), just like that friend of a friend’s “better” likely looks nothing like mine (he was Morman, for starters).

It’s not the distance, it’s the direction.

havasupai treking.jpg

And it helps to have a map of where you’ve been, of your recent trajectory. Our past by no means dictates our future but our future is determined by what we do today, what we choose to make our life about, to include and exclude. We get to decide; “decide” meaning literally “to cut off.”  We decide what goes by deciding what stays. Big rocks first.

Maybe give yourself a gold star or a little mental self-five when you earn one today if you’re into that sort of thing, I’m gonna go play the guitar for the first time this year. MUTHAFUCKIN’ STAR CHART FTW!

 

******************************

Annnnd please enjoy these footnotes:

*My preferred Superman variation involves rising for an inhale, squeezing at the top for an exhale, lower on an inhale, pausing at the bottom for an exhale, rinse repeat. 15 lifts make a set.

**Somewhere in my house is a love poem I wrote to my neti pot when I was super sick last May. It starts like an R&B song and ends with “let it invade your holes.” Lusty.

***There are no absolutes…. Paper cuts are always a possibility but you’ll really probably be fine; it’s super unlikely your mothafuckin’ star chart will make you bleed.

Things I Do Differently Now

Image result for burning yes stephen coveyI’ve taught yoga “full time” for 3 months now (woah), and am noticing some fundamental changes. This list will grow but for now, just trying to get in the habit of posting without being an obsessive, perfectionist freak about it:

1. When I pet my dog I make sure to get both sides so she’s not uneven (thank you, Astanga)

2. I’ve only worn real pants ONE TIME THIS YEAR. I am not exaggerating. Big win.

3. I eat vegetables and fruit now! Fuck yeah!

4. I tie almost every waking second back to Patanjali’s yoga sutra or more generally to my latest class theme. Obsessed; e.g., it took me & Steve about 4.5 hours to watch The Matrix Reloaded (my first time!) because I kept pausing it every 3 minutes to rant about how yogic it is.

5. I finally for the first time in memory have tasted space between my thoughts. And I want more. Meditation is no joke, folks.

6. Holy cat-cow I’m sore every day. But I’m learning, getting stronger. Yoga is not a “no pain no gain” deal but we do break down to rebuild; burn away that which no longer serves; phoenix from the ashes. No surprise here. For over a decade I took my yoga a la carte; focusing only on the physical postures (“asana,” pronounced w/ short “a”s, not “asauna”) and trying to make them look a certain way, practicing on my mat all the negativity I had about my self. But the thing is, yoga is prescribed in eight limbs (think of them as rungs of a wheel rather than steps to be taken in order) and asana isn’t the first or even the second!

Believe it or not, the reason we make all these crazy shapes in yoga actually predates instagram! The reason is that they make us better containers for our breath. They prepare us to sit with a quiet mind, to be less self-consumed. The first and foremost limb is the moral disciplines, the “yamas.” Okay, yes, I said they don’t need to be taken in order but it helps to attain “the bliss” or even to just sit still and/or breathe if you’re serious about the moral disciplines first; non-violence, truth-full-ness, non-stealing, right use of energy and non-hoarding. The way to “achieve” certain gold stars in yoga is not to strive and struggle blindly but rather to practice the preceding rungs, find the new lessons for you there in this moment. Practice and all is coming.

7. I’m getting super serious about my health and am finally taking ownership of it, knowing that I can change my outcomes. What we put in (tangible and intangible; e.g., pizza, ice cream, tequila, sunshine, music, sleep (#bestdayever??)) is what we become. We literally are what we eat. I don’t want to be made of bullshit anymore.

#YOGAEVERYDAMNDAY (do hashtags work in blogs? Help me, I’m old…) shines a very clear light on just how much bullshit you’re made of on any given day. In the forward of The Goddess Pose: The Audacious Life of Indra Devi, the Woman Who Helped Bring Yoga to the West the author’s yoga teacher, on catching her smoking outside his ashram, takes a drag of it himself and tells her “Your {cigarette} smoking will not get in the way of your yoga, your yoga will get in the way of your smoking.” And sure as shit it did; she quit a year later. It’s having that bigger, burning “YES” that makes saying “no” possible, makes change possible; and not even possible, but obvious, mandatory, a foregone conclusion. It’s having the laboratory of yoga where I visit with my self every day and see what’s up, what’s working and what’s not, what’s causing a distraction. I want different results, which means I have to do something I’ve never done before.

Now that I’ve made the space in my life (I couldn’t have told you then but that was the easy part!), my big YES is becoming clear. I am saying yes to breathing easily. Simple, right? Not so much for me but I’m banking on the magic of those moral disciplines and all that follow to help change that. Easy, eh? But that magic won’t work on its own. They’re guidelines not babysitters. Ol’ Liz has to step up to the plate here in a big way. Put the work and awareness in.

And it goes a little something like this: Bitching about having asthma = wasted energy. Doing something about it so that I won’t die in May like I have for the past two years = RIGHT USE OF ENERGY! yoga for the win!

It’s time to take the blinders (or wine-ders as the case has often been) and get honest with my self about what makes it worse (cheese! alcohol! caffeine! basically all party & treat yo self staples…. fucking tortilla chips!!! The inhumanity!).

It’s time for non-violence – for starters, and perhaps the most obvious example, it does me harm to keep fucking up, so…. stop fucking up! 

Holding up the lens of non-violence illuminates myriad ways I’m a dick to my self (and sometimes, sometimes… to others); e.g., it makes me sad to think about how much it sucks that I “have to” eat healthy and just generally consume and therefore be less bullshit…. so why think like that? Those thoughts cause suffering. Instead, think about how much I love Trader Joes and how their veggie section is lit. Seriously lit; e.g., try their Healthy 8 Chopped Veggie Mix if you see it. We get it every week:

Image result for vegetable medley trader joe's jicama
I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I’ve eaten; even so, they have made me. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

(oh! and!  SUPER IMPORTANT: make sure you always eat cooked cruciferous vegetables w/ mustard powder. They lose potency/some of their healthiness when heated but the mustard powder adds it back! Science!

A natural extension of practicing not-stealing is that I’m robbing future me less and less, not selling my entire Sunday (& Monday) for a bender on Saturday… as often.

Right use of energy (often translated as “celibacy” though, c’mon folks, I’m married.) means respect and honor your resources. Don’t waste calories or thoughts but then also don’t waste time obsessing over perfection here… it’s a fine line. Balance. Luckily balance is a byproduct of yoga.

Non-greed, non-hoarding…. sounds to me like “stop binge eating entire bags of Tostitos. Just….. don’t do it! Don’t even buy them!” Purchasing any sort of junk food, I enter into a contract with myself that I will eat it before the sun sets on the third day (more Little Mermaid. Super formative; I logged at least 100 hours w/ it as a lass so… when you get Liz you get a little Little Mermaid, you lucky duck.) but really more like I’ll eat it within 4 hours and hate myself a little or a lot for it.

I love this quote instructing us to “treat yourself like some one you love.” Pregnant women are able to make major diet changes because they’re hyper-aware of the fact that they’re growing someone they love in their tummy (weird!). Do no harm. Thing is, is we’re growing our selves every day, it’s just a very easy fact to ignore in the face of gelato and second martinis.

8. I’ve always been obsessed w/ giving advice. It’s a big sister thing. So that’s not really new. But now people are asking me for it! Which is a major ego boner but honestly I’m just so freaking psyched to get to share all this super cool shit I’m learning. Super cool shit I’ve learned that I don’t even realize I retained until it comes out of my mouth. In other words, I LOVE MY JOB.

It’s now inexplicably 3:30 in the morning, all I want is tortilla chips, and I’m editing curse words out of every other sentence (“creatively” replacing them with “freaking”…) which means it’s time for bed.

Peace in the Middle East.

Somebody Call a Wah-mbulance!

Image result for fractal geometry

Welp, I was featured in my first ever Yelp review (that I’m aware of. it strikes me now that I could easily be unaware of someone who found my patronage of wherever remarkable in some way. Like, “ew, two stars, i saw a girl drop cake on the ground and then eat it. this place is for peasants… but the cake is bomb.” (btw that’s not, like, an example from my real life or anything… though I’m not above it for bomb cake.)

Anyway, it was one star. Predicated on a misunderstanding.

And you guys, this is so embarrassing but: I full on cried about it. It was that frustrated “I know this isn’t a big deal and it’s actually super silly and it’s not even really about that but I’m still totally crying and I know I’ll feel better once I’ve done that so, fuck it, here goes” therapeutic kind of cry. There’s just somethin’ about salt water, man.

I’ve always been obsessed with negative feedback, managing in my more creatively masochistic moments to find the negativity in the neutral and even positive feedback, too. Which is bananas. And super limiting. A big part of my recent and evolving detox from the rat race has been finally evaluating and getting really honest about my well-worn thought patterns/habits and owning the daunting, I mean thrilling, reality that we choose our thoughts. Where attention goes, energy flows.

The stated purpose of yoga is to still the turnings of the mind. I am not my thoughts. I can, however, control them. I’m done taking the easy way out, slip sliding down those old, cozy, familiar neuropathways in my brain, further entrenching the path of least resistance. We learned from Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit (READ THIS BOOK IT IS RAD & (bonus!) helped me stop picking at my cuticles – audiobook is really well done, too) that we can’t get rid of a bad habit (or any habit) but we can very successfully replace it with an intentional habit. It starts w/ shining the light of your attention on it, just start by noticing and then begin to cultivate the opposite, or really cultivate whatever you damn well please; it’s your mind garden; stop watering the weeds, cut off their sunlight (attention) and plant whatever you fancy, unicorn rainbow flowers? Sure! Our brain, like children and puppies craves exercise. And, like children and puppies, we can’t feed it junk or it will turn to junk. We’ve got to let it play, create, hew new pathways. Thinking the same types of thoughts (especially when they make you feel shitty) sucks.

So, this time instead of treating my self to a pity party I treated myself to Caffe Boa’s rabbit pasta #nomsohard and rapped w/ the 21 year old bartender about fractal geometry and vitamins and god. And just like that, today ruled.

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Okay and now that I finally found a pic of me looking like a cry baby I feel it’s important to share that

  1. yes, I was wearing a full tracksuit,
  2. that hat….. got a lot of mileage out of that hat. And then one day I released it into the wild (aka Goodwill), so some other special little snowflake could take a few spins around the sun in it. If you love something, set it free.
  3. the tank top said “I SNORE AND I’M A BITCH” (which, I don’t… and I’m not… it’s a long story),
  4. I lost a bet, and
  5. Beth Adams is an evil genius.
  6. oh and so I technically cried four times this weekend… which isn’t like… a normal thing. which is probably why I feel okay broadcasting it…
    1. when I fell off my bike and smashed my knee and hands up yesterday between bars 1 and 2 of the7 bar crawl/engagement party for two brilliant, neon-souled humans. Not drunk just #notanathlete (and Linds, I’m super sad you ate shit, too, but feel a little better about myself since you’re a spin instructor and all so I was basically biking like a pro)
      Image may contain: 9 people, people smiling, people standing and indoor
      Chris wins.
    2. watching Kubo and the Two Strings (animated feature length. 4 thumbs + 4 paws up from this household)
    3. watching the super cheesy alternate ending of Titanic (Bill!! and then Leo! and Celine! Too much.)
    4. the Yelp-cident.

So, there you have it. Here’s wishing you a week in which you cry fewer times than I did in the past 30 hours. But if you do happen to cry a little.. or a bunch, make it good. Get it out. You’ll feel better. It’s just like how animals shake once they get to safety after a traumatic event and how Core Stress Release* yoga is magic. We evolved to cry because it helps.

Goodnight y’all. Stay weird.

*From The Southwest Institute of Healing Arts, on Core Stress Release: This practice strengthens and stretches the lower back and stimulates psoas (hip flexor muscle, and the only muscle that connects our top and bottom half) release. CSR Yoga Therapy is presented within the framework of familiar asana sequences and tremor release of deeply held stress and samskaras (habits) that adversely affect the physical, emotional and spiritual bodies. This is a good workout and appropriate for practitioners of all levels. It’s so cool. It allows you to release all the wack shit that has stressed you out over the years. Deep-rooted shit. Childhood shit. Shit that doesn’t matter any more that you’re still hanging on to just because you never let it go, never put it down. And the cool thing is it’s purely physical. You don’t need to cerebrally engage with the shit as it gets up to go. The idea is that our body holds on to stressors and “traumatizing” events until it’s “safe” to deal with them, but we don’t let our selves physically release it because it’s unseemly. So we just keep cramming the vault full of shit to deal w/ later, without ever dealing with it. CSR allows the body to release that holding ugh I’m obsessed I think everyone should try it. Bye.