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Fridays are fun days

24 Aug

The last few days have been tough, no time for such frivolous things as writing or breathing….

After a plane trip with a toddler, a couple glasses of spilled milk, and some QT with my life coach, I am due for some serious self reflection (svadyaya). After about 20 minutes of crying with my coach and wondering why my path in life is support others in attaining their goals and never my own, I just sat in silence for a minute. It is so easy for me to talk to others about these things. I make sense, I have humor, poignant moments of grace, and yet when it comes to myself, I am not even able to see that I am worth my own time.

The YellowBlanket made a comment about my last post and it struck a chord with me. “Sometimes I wonder, though, how we can tell the difference between the things that insult our soul vs. the things that insult our egos? I think it’s extremely important to be able to shake off criticisms and negative feedback, but how do we know what to choose to let IN? How do we allow scathing criticism with those little seeds of truth assist us in developing more wise, more informed, more well rounded self? Without self destructing, that is?”

As I was sitting in silence, I thought about those criticisms that come from the outside and how they are so tiny in comparison to the ones that come from the inside. That all that work and study are so personal, that very few others can be any more specific to what is broken than you are to yourself. That the ones that hit the hardest most often resonate with the hard hits you place on your self every day.

One of the things I love so much about yoga is the insistence on self love and acceptance, the repeated message that all the mindless chatter that you are bombarded with from within and without are complete and total illusion and that the truth of who you are inside is infinite.  My biggest moments of self reflection are around the deep searing personal criticism that I have for myself, whether physical, professional, or emotional.  There is this cool skill mentioned in the Sutras called pratipaksha bhavana, or “practicing the opposite.” It is an opportunity to counter a negative feeling with a positive one.

I am not advocating ignoring the hard stuff or pretending that there are not challenges, but instead suggesting that we sit with it and recognize it for what it is, just stuff, not bad or good, just stuff. And after practicing not reacting, allowing ourselves to see these challenges for what they are, an opportunity to learn, to let go, to grow, to change and be more truly who you are in the next interaction.

I have moments to grow and learn, like 200 times a minute. I have a toddler, he throws things at me, bites, me, and creates scenes in public. I am also pretty hotheaded, I come form a long line of mouthy, bossy ladies who want their opinions known. I practice things day by day, and if I end a day having been able to let several things role of my back and integrated something new into my way of thinking about the world, it’s been a success. My friend Megan says, “when you have a newborn, if you get dressed and take a shower in the same day, it is a success.” Yogic living, I think, is the same way. Baby steps.

Loving self love.

16 Aug


You can change anything.

15 Aug

I know IT IS really positive. I am hanging there these days, in positivity. Namely because it get’s things done. And, because it cuts down on headaches and backaches and silly disagreements. Though, let’s be honest, I am lured by sarcasm and irony from time to time, just because of their sheer hilarity.

But, you CAN change ANYTHING! So to drive this home, I’ll explain my little boy. When he is angry about something his breathing changes, it gets shallower, quicker, more ragged. In turn, he gets more and more agitated, more and more upset. On the other hand, if I hug him, belly to back, and breath deeply, evenly, and calmly, he slows down, drops into his own belly, no longer gasps for breath, and in moments, is over the possible tantrum.

I am sure that you have already heard a million times that breath can change anything, and I am reiterating the truth of that statement. Slowing down your breath, making room in your body; slows down the mind, makes room for following the breaths and the thoughts and gives you a chance to consciously make decisions about the how/what/when of anything under the sun.

So you CAN change anything by CHANGING YOUR BREATHING.

As an experiment, try out the pranayama (breath practice) that we did at Laughing Lotus this morning, Sitali:

1. Sit upright with your hands in your lap, eyes closed. If you use mudras choose the one that you are loving right now. Or rest your elbows on your knees and cradle your right upward facing palm in your left upward facing palm.

2. Stick our your tongue and curl it into a little flute (this is genetic, if you can’t do it, make a kissing mouth).

3. Breathe in, over your tongue, through your open mouth.

4. Seal your lips.

5. Exhale through your nose.

6. Repeat 10 to 15 times

You should feel calm, cool, and collected. I can think of so many uses for this. Maybe rush hour? You would probably illicit a laugh or two from other people on the interstate, changing something for them in the process. I use my breath before I make big decisions, or answer a question that really annoys me. I even watch my breath before eating the second (ok, really fourth) cookie. How could you use it?

Sometimes I do flip off the Prius driver

10 Aug

I can fight. I’ve worked for the city of Chicago and the city of San Francisco. I do community organizing. I have a chip on my shoulder about privilege. So I can fight, and I do fight. But for some reason I had a bird in my ear. In my yoga class at Flying Yoga in Oakland, yesterday during bow pose, my teacher just sorta whispered “what would happen if you didn’t fight?” After being a little bit, “oh yeah, easy for you to say, you can bend your spine in half miss dancer lady.” I thought, “ok, Gretchen, what if I don’t fight.” And I breathed, and my chest expanded across my shoulder blades. My legs pressed back against my hands, I ascended (and I didn’t cry).

This morning, as I was trying to print out documents at 7:50 am when I had to leave at 8:00 am. I remembered that the driver was not installed on my computer. It was a freaking mess, I was so close to yelling at my partner. I thought, what would happen if I don’t fight? Answer: no crying and I left at 8:03. Walking into Pete’s for a much needed cup of coffee, with 10 minutes to spare before my first meeting, I saw a line snaking outside the back of the store. No fight, really? Ugh. Left with 4 minutes to spare, no gnawing in belly and arrived at my meeting on time.

No fighting for me has it’s roots in the idea of ahimsa, or to do no harm. It is the place that yoga starts. And it is really really hard. Who doesn’t want to flip off the road-rager cutting across three lanes of traffic on the bridge, or the snotty retail clerk that insinuates that you are fat, tacky, and poor (no, really, happened) in the first five minutes that your in the store? How can I practice ahimsa with my constant conditioning to combat lack of access and unbalanced power dynamics? To start small and with the things that I can control, like whether on not I fall apart when my computer is on the fritz or I can’t find my keys. To decide in the moment if I can make my day better, or better for the people around me.

Of course, sometimes, no, I do flip of the Prius driver with the co-exist bumper sticker, that can tell by my haircut that I am from the mid-west. I mean really, how can you tell, do I really drive that slow? And, you NEED to tell me?

Wait sister, we are in this together, thanks for letting me know that I screwed up your day, I am sorry but thanks for the opportunity to remember that I don’t have to throw it back at you. Thank you and have a great day (today, I actually meant it.)

It’s real.

9 Aug

So my life. It’s a wife, a baby, friends, their relationship problems, my relationship problems, my love of wine, late late nights, and a deep rooted feeling that there is so so much more.

It’s 10:17 pm, the second day of my blog. I have an overwhelming urge to eat about six tons of salted caramels. I went to a 1 1/2 our yoga class today. I sweat it out for an hour in kickboxing. I’m good, right, tapas? Heat, hard work, constant and continuous, er, right. But I am feeling so off.

I titled the blog, prana project because I was thinking about the energy and life force that I was committing myself to. The thing is, I forgot about the other stuff that happens while I am sweating in my class, or working on my root lock. I forgot about all of the distractions that require constant and continuous attention, in order to attend to my feelings about them. No epiphanies, just a wrinkled brow.

And, as I write this sentence I think about my teacher, Emily, saying “sit back, take a breath (or three) and decide what you reaction is going to be, study what your habit is, let go of that habit if it doesn’t serve you.” Maybe today it’s my too quick wit, maybe tomorrow, my love of wine. But just like the challenges, it’s constant attention and continuous action.

A little bit of real everyday.

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