Monthly Archives: February 2015

SNOW WEEK

It’s been a snow week – for some more than others – but for most of us, we have been affected in some way by the snow and ice storm. Maybe you had the whole week off work, maybe you got to show up late for a couple days, or maybe you had to work extra to cover for someone who could not make it into work. Whatever the case, your schedule was likely altered, and your routine was surely interrupted. This was probably a positive thing if you had some unexpected time off, some freedom from being at a place at a certain time. Maybe you got to spend time with family or friends, maybe you caught up on sleep, maybe you had to be creative making meals out of the things that have been sitting in your cupboard or freezer, maybe you walked to the coffee shop instead of driving like you do most days. A spirit of adventure and spontaneity might have taken over as you lived out your day a little differently. You might have felt more connected to others as you all crowded into the one open coffee shop in your hats and boots. You might have even met a neighbor you never knew before!

 

It’s interesting how it takes a mild emergency to get us to slow down a little. I also found it incredible how I could make work for myself and create some routine even when I was “off the hook” for those very things. As always, I’m reminded that I have farther to go on my intentions and more mindfulness to practice. The thing is, there is a time to rest and a time to work. When we have a chance to rest, we should do our best to use it without thinking of the task we have to do after our rest is over. When it is time to work, we should do it 100 percent so that we feel we have done our best and feel a sense of accomplishment for that. Maybe we Americans just have a harder time with these concepts because we are told to work 40 to 60 hours a week so we do it sometimes begrudgingly, and our idea of rest usually involves the addition of distractions like watching Netflix or scrolling through social media feeds. When we have unexpected time without work, if we sit without a distraction for very long, we will inevitably start planning what we are going to do next. We put ourselves right to work again. I am one of the worst offenders at bad resting habits. I notice my habits often in savasana when I’m supposed to be resting but realize I’ve quickly turned my mind to planning, making lists, getting things done by just thinking about doing them. Being productive. But how productive is it to constantly be in motion or be distracted, even when I’m not actually moving my body physically?

 

If we can rest when it’s time to rest, it really is more productive in the long run, so I have to think of it this way to keep myself from making other work for myself to do while I’m resting. Fully resting helps us conserve energy so we can use that energy when it’s time to work. And we do love to work. That was apparent when 22 people showed up for yoga at 10 am after being snowed in for just one day. We like our work and our routine just as much as we like our rest. And we don’t have to feel bad about that. The thing to do is to be present in both. Enjoy the rest, enjoy a small indulgence, enjoy a day off of the routine with mindfulness. Minding the fact that it’s healthy and minding the fact that you can resume the work or the routine even stronger the next day. I do well with routines and goals but I tend to be an “all or nothing” kind of girl, so when I take a day off, it can turn into 3 or 4 days off or a few weeks off. Good thing my jeans don’t let me raise hell for too long. However, the point of all this is that it shouldn’t be the job of my jeans to keep me from going off the deep end. A little indulgence here or there is healthy, and it doesn’t mean the whole day or week is shot. It’s a state of mind. A state of mindfulness.

Wednesday was Ash Wednesday this week. I’m not Catholic but I’m familiar with Lent and the idea that people give things up during the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday to practice moderation and to preparation for Easter. It has always seemed a novel idea to me, even if it’s not my own tradition. First of all, structure and boundaries, but more than that, structure for a reason. Purposeful sacrifice and mindful moderation. With New Year’s Resolutions becoming foggy and after taking my snow days pretty seriously, I started to think that maybe I should try this tradition out for myself – 40 days of focused moderation.

I’m a day or two late to the game but as I consider picking 2 or 3 things to give up, I found the following questions and suggestions (from another blog by Rachel Evans) helpful.

 

  1.  What am I preparing for? How would I like to feel different when I wake up on Easter, after 40 days             without something I normally have?
  2. Is there something in my life— a form of excess, a habit, a grudge, a fear, a prejudice, an addiction, an emotional barrier —that keeps me from loving myself, loving my neighbor, or loving God fully? How might I address that over the next 40 days?
  3. Lent is a time to listen. To God or yourself or something you believe in. And to those who might show you something about yourself or God – particularly the poor, oppressed, marginalized, and suffering. To whom should I be listening? How can I cultivate a listening posture toward others whose perspective and experiences might differ from my own?
  4. Is there a discipline you’ve been wanting to try – prayer, meditation, reading a particular book? How might I alter my daily routine to include one of these disciplines?
  5. Other things you might want to consider “giving up” are things that might allow you more time or mental/emotional capacity to allow the things you do want: social media, sleeping in, TV, perfectionism, comparison, cynicism (replace with wonder, compassion, and hope).
  6. And finally, one ”fast” that has crossed my mind this week is the idea of giving up the consumption of people for Lent. Our culture (through social media, reality TV, celebrity gossip, etc.) has so profoundly commodified people—actual human beings— it’s become a phenomenon we hardly even notice anymore. If we practice mindfulness towards people over the next 40 days, can we start to notice when people, even ourselves, are being commodified and consumed and can we choose not to join in and propagate the problem. Can we stop the cycle when it comes to ourselves?

MINDFUL LIVING – WEEK 5

I am on a retreat. I am in-flight actually, but my retreat has already begun. I awoke to the new week yesterday morning, and my first thought was literally, “God, give me something to do this week.” I don’t usually have such lofty thoughts first thing in the morning, or really any thoughts at all…. it was certain to be an unusual day. Truthfully, it has already been an unusual year for me. In terms of my work and my time, I am closer to my goals than ever before. It’s a destination I’ve been running towards for about 3 years, with this particular point in focus, but overall, I’ve been running the race for much longer. High school – 4.0 and no less because I was planning ahead to get into any college I wanted. College math and science major (with no time for anything else) because I was planning to get a job in engineering. Master of Science and thesis in hydrogeology because I was planning to get a job in the Hydro Group at GeoEngineers. Eleven years of working as a consulting geologist because I was planning to start my own business later on. Selling everything, leaving my friends and bands, moving to Nashville, working 3 jobs at once, and risking the previous 16 years of effort to build this new life. A “simpler” life where my passion is my work, and I am my boss, and I have more time for hobbies and friends and me. Always planning ahead and looking forward to the future. We all do it. The next weekend, the next vacation, the next season, the next life event…. We are always looking forward and planning ahead. It’s natural. We have goals and they help us grow up and achieve things that we want and are proud of. But it can be hard to live mindfully in the present moment when we are so focused on the destination, which is always out in front of us, just out of reach.

After years of these habits, apparently, one day Future Life walks through your door unannounced, sits down on your couch and waits for you to look up from your very busy, important life. “Oh hello, I was just sitting here waiting for you to notice that I got here.” Of course, life is always there for the experiencing, but there are finite points in time when goals are achieved – some are momentous like receiving a degree, while others are gradual and take years to accomplish such that you may not realize when you are finally there. I am trying to figure out why Future Life doesn’t feel like I thought it would and how I can fully embrace Future Life without looking more. “Oh hey Future Life. Yeah, you’re alright but now I’m going to need to also remodel the house, fit into my skinny jeans the way I did after that one breakup, get a new tattoo, . . . Oh, and find my soul mate to hang with now that Future Life is here. It’s not really perfect until. . . “ It seems like we can say that forever.

It’s weird when you imagine the future – where you’ll live, what you’ll be eating for breakfast (including the table you’ll be sitting at with sun always beaming through the windows and the white cotton pajamas you’ll be wearing as you look and feel as fresh as a daisy), how you’ll arrive at your job ready to change the world each day, the friends you’ll share meals and laughs and walks with. And somehow, even if your reality comes close to achieving that scenario, it never quite feels the same as when you dreamed it playing out in your mind. It doesn’t feel as serene as we imagined. It feels normal. Average. It’s just me, I guess. It’s not that girl in the white pajamas. Maybe the answer to removing the mundane and revealing the beauty is as simple as Mindfulness. Being present to notice and enjoy what you choose to eat and are blessed to eat for breakfast – whether the sun is shining on you through the window or you are watching the rain watering the ground outside. Even noticing if you are focusing on the rain itself and the fact that it might make you cold when you go outside or focusing on what the rain brings – hydration and life to the earth and the promise of spring and summer. Being self-aware enough to know that you have never owned white cotton pajamas and you prefer your old sweats, thank you very much. Mindfully extending grace to yourself when you wake up looking less than daisy-fresh. Giving your all to your job – at every task, big or small – so that you can make a difference in other people and the world. If Future Life is here, or rather just, Life is here, it is time to practice Mindfulness. Not a moment to loose, not an experience to pass us by unnoticed or regarded as mundane.

So back to my question yesterday morning. I had 4 days ahead of me that were almost commitment-free. Since that never happens, I wanted to make sure I didn’t waste an opportunity. I wanted to do just the right thing with the gift of time and savor every bit of it. I had actually been thinking over this the previous night, and had only come to a point of frustration at the options to do nothing or to do everything and to do it in what order. I even started fantasizing about 60-hour work weeks, waking up at 6 am, speeding down highways and road raging to get to the next place, stressing out over what yoga class I could fit into my schedule that day… “wasn’t that exhilarating?” I thought . . . . Oh the irrational places the mind can go at night. . . . Mindfulness – sometimes the mindful thing to do is to remember that you cannot always make rational, mindful decisions late at night after a glass or two of wine. It can be very mindful to just leave the thing alone and pick it up again in the morning. I woke up picturing my ideal day – spending time at a coffee house reading and writing, doing yoga, eating amazing food, walking around a city, visiting friends – and then it hit me. Seattle. The place I can do all of these things, and now, without working the other 8 to 10 hours of the day. I always wanted to take a Stay-cation in Seattle but in 11 years, I never did. Now I can, which was indeed one of my defined and ultimate goals of the simpler, Future Life. And so, I will. Embracing Future Life without hesitation and without second-guessing. I will return to my homeland to rest and rejuvenate, to practice being present and mindful in Future Life here and now. A savasana.