Category Archives: Zen

Engaged in Distraction

I’ve been trying to write this blog post for over a year now. I have jotted down half thought out ideas but never really sat down to ruminate over them.

Why has it taken me so long to get here?

I am of a generation with little to no attention spans. A generation constantly addicted to the rush of dopamine from every ping and vibration of our cell phones. Sitting down and writing something remotely meaningful requires the arduous task of focus. It requires dedicating myself to a set block of time to translate the garbage in my head into a coherent strings of words. It requires time to format, find photos, research relevant items, etc.

Who has time for that anymore? Who has time to sit down and read a novel? To have deep meaningful conversations with friends? To spend time doing nothing?

People wonder why I “exercise” as much as I do. In all honesty, I probably spend about 1 hour a day doing something. One hour where I leave my cell phone out of sight because it serves no purpose for me in that moment. It is probably the one hour of my day where I am forced to stew with my thoughts or the (weakness/strength) of my body – to focus on how much my core is shaking in megaformer, to focus on my alignment in yoga, and to focus on plummeting to my death in rock climbing.

I’m not even good at paying attention even then – my mind wanders, I have injured myself plenty, and I have fallen many times.

The secret is this: the moment you notice that you are no longer present is the moment that you become present.

Now that you know this, how present will you be?

(Inspired by this article by Mark Manson.)

Photo credit: Fernando took a photo of me taking a photo in Lapa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil circa 2014. I had no cell service in Brazil (except for emergency purposes) so we were forced to plan how to get around, and then wing how to survive since we had no idea where we were going or what we were doing. Lack of cell phones meant we were forced to engage in marital small talk and live in the moment.

 

New Year’s Resolution: Cutting Back

At my last job, during one of my performance reviews, my manager said that I needed to learn to push back against people who ask me to do too much. He says I have a habit of trying to take on more than I should. I never thought that it was a bad thing to want to do more, but I’ve come to realize that it’s a fast track to burn out.

I have spent the 2014 saying “yes” to more (yoga) sub requests and social engagements than I probably should have. I was perpetually glued to my phone and overstimulated by social feeds, news and emails. Towards the end, I started to cringe at the thought doing things that I used to look forward to – just doing yoga, rock climbing with friends, talking with students/friends/people.

At the end of the 2014, I took a trip to South America – land of beautiful landscapes and crap Internet. With the lack of Internet, TV and many modern conveniences, I was forced to unplug and just enjoy being. Enjoy being in nature, biking in the moment, laughing at jokes and suffering through some uncomfortable situations (yes, even those are enjoyable.)

I’ve noticed since I’ve been back I have a lot more enthusiasm to do the things I was once dreading. I’m happy to talk to people again and be social.

In lieu of waiting for my future meltdown (insert references to many celebrity meltdowns), I’m going to spend the next year saying “no” a little more liberally.

What do you plan for the new year?

Photo: Playing with perception on the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia. Quite literally blowing things off. Seemed suitable.

Overtraining + Learning to Relax

I’m not sure exactly when I realized I was overtraining – it does manifest itself differently for different people.

It could have been when my muscles continued to feel sore days on end no matter how much time I took off.
It could have been the weight gain (ok, ok, it wasn’t a ton of weight, but it was definitely the heaviest I have ever been) and the increase in body fat (mostly belly fat.)
It could have been the constant feeling of being unbearably cold at work (admittedly, it is super cold in general at work, but it felt arctic.)

In some ways, even though I knew that I was overtraining, I couldn’t stop pushing myself, lest I become weaker. In some ways, maybe I was addicted to the constant high intensity aspect of my regimen. I wasn’t listening to my body [the complete anti-thesis of what yogis preach.] I did try to cut back, but after a day or two of rest, I was antsy to get back to the yoga studio or the climbing gym.

Relaxing halfway up our hike to Sugarloaf. I guess it was a fairly brutal hike, but we rested lots and I had a lot of fun...
Relaxing halfway up our hike to Sugarloaf. I guess it was a fairly brutal hike, but we rested lots and I had a lot of fun. Stayed active without stressing out my heart and spiking those cortisol levels.

During my last vacation, I was limited to 2 whole yoga classes over a course of 2 weeks and lots of walking and hiking. The minimal high-intensity and large quantity of low-impact exercise reset my system. Coming back from my trip, I noticed that I was no longer freezing at work. I had managed to shed the excess weight that had crept on the previous year. I came back to my physical practice stronger.

Now my exercise routine is a lot less intense than it used to be. I used to teach yoga, take power yoga and then go rock-climbing all in one day. I beat my body with intense forms of yoga 5-6 times, climbed 3+ times and did whatever I could to just keep moving. I’ve cut everything in half and just try to get some simple low impact exercise (walking around a lot more) and it works perfectly for me.

Of course, this will vary from person to person. I have a co-worker who can run marathons without training and be 100% okay. Good for him. I would probably die (possibly, literally.)

This was all a recent occurrence/discovery (~2 months ago) so we’ll see how this sticks. If you don’t see me around the yoga studio, I may just be taking a simple walk around the neighborhood or just playing around with some simple yoga at home. I do encourage daily movement, but it doesn’t always have to push you past your boundaries every day. [I am chuckling now because if you had asked me 3 years ago, I would vouched for daily butt-whooping.] Learn to take care of yourself. For some, it means more exercise. For others (like me), I need to learn to relax.

To Music or Not To Music

I started a draft of this article awhile ago, but never finished. It seems like a good time to bring it up today in light of a story on The Atlantic that claims that people prefer electric shocks to be alone with their thoughts. Aside from the glaringly overstatement (in actuality, “a quarter of the women and two thirds of the men gave themselves a zap when left with their own thoughts…” which means that a majority of men, but not a majority of women), it does bring up a good point on how hard it is to just be with your mind.

For me, yoga asana can be a great precursor towards eventually learning to sit still. At the very least, you are given the opportunity to sit with your own body while adding some stretching and strengthening to it. All the while you can really focus on the extension and compression of muscles and joints and everything in between.

Which brings me to the title of this post: to music or not to music?

I take classes with teachers that play and teachers that do not. I have personally found a preference towards soft music or no music. This doesn’t apply to everyone though. I’ve seen classes with loud Lady Gaga, heart pumping, Zumba-esque musical soundtracks that are packed from one wall to another. To each his own.

I ultimately choose to not play music for a variety of reasons, and not all of them are what you think it is.

1. It takes a long time to create a playlist. Sure, I could slap together a string of zero 7 music with some xx, Ben Leinbach, and nature calls thrown in without much thought. But I have to make sure that the playlist tunes in to what I plan on teaching… and that it won’t push the class in any direction that will become unnatural. A lot of thought needs to go into what I want to play… and I’m not going to lie – somewhere between my full time job, my personal practice, my husband, my dog, traveling, rock climbing, eating, sleeping and everything else, I don’t want to make a half-assed playlist with my remaining time.

2. I’ve play had playlists that were very invigorating, which the class didn’t really appreciate since they were in a worn-out mood. I’ve had playlists that were soothing when the class needed a bit more pep in their practice. I can’t suddenly swap out the music like a maestro DJ so the class had to suffer through some awkward music before plodding through to savasana.

3. In my personal practice, I like to hear myself breathe. I’m not sure if all of my students feel that same sentiment though. Please let me know if you don’t. 🙂

4. I like to hear myself think. I think a lot of garbage and it’s quite fun. In my mind, I lead a life like “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” Outside of my yoga practice, I work full time at a fast-paced start-up. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and the people in it. But sometimes you need some space from the ones you love. For me, that means going out for a walk with my mind. Sometimes with and sometimes without music. But it’s mostly for me to be alone with my imagination.

I’m not sure if I fully convinced anyone if one way or another is better. The point I’m trying to get at is, I don’t play music because I want to let each student define their own practice. If they want to play music, they are welcome to tune up a soundtrack in their heads. I won’t know and I definitely wouldn’t disallow it.

[Also, I know the featured image is just of my dog running in a field. Bear with me while I test out some features.] [/expand]

Inhale, Exhale, Lather, Rinse, Repeat

I have a habit of overplanning things in an effort to mitigate any potential problems on the horizon. I try to overprepare and live with the container of the box I created.

Unfortunately, I married a fly by the seat of his pants/live in the moment/carpe diem kind of guy.

Well, crap, now what?

Neither extreme is particularly good. In my world, the rigidity of my plans leaves little room for the pop-ups that happen during our lives, trips, whatever. Something new and exciting may come up unexpectedly, but I am tied to my decisions. On the other hand, living in the moment completely may lead to a directionless soul.

As with most things in life, there are fluctuations in all directions in our moods, perceptions and choices. If the world and all of it’s inhabitants were completely perfect, then the middle ground would be easily attainable. But that wouldn’t be fun would it?

If what I wrote made absolutely no sense, I’m just saying that I need to learn to not be overwhelmed by spontaneity and overstimulation and he needs to enjoy the humdrum life. In both cases, we just need to breathe.

The burdens we hold.

The following was taken from my fellow yoga instructor, aka the undercover yoga.

A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?”

Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.”

It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses. As early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don’t carry them through the evening and into the night. Remember to put the glass down!

Lent or something like that…

I’m not Catholic, but I like the concept of Lent for a few reasons.

I know, I know. It’s a lot like setting unreasonably new years resolutions that fail because you have neither the means nor the resolve to get yourself there… or giving up a bad habit only to restart it after 40 days – which seems pointless. But, I’m still going to try. Doesn’t that count for something?

I’ve decided to give up buying unnecessary things (so I will really evaluate purchases that I make) and I am going to give up facebook. I think that’s pretty reasonable right? My townhouse of 1.5 years is starting to fill with clutter and I am in dire need of purging it – it’s hard to purge when stuff keeps accruing. Facebook? Well it’s a notorious time sink. It is filled with menial updates about people’s lives, makes me feel discontent with my life (when it’s really quite fabulous as it is) and has other garbage that I don’t NEED in my life.

I’m hoping that after 40 days I’ll be a little clutter free, a little more content and a little more focused.

Loving-Kindness Meditation

In Buddhism, there is the practice of loving-kindness meditation. In lieu of trying to attain the perfect meditation for yourself, you instead focus on positive thoughts towards others and build feelings of friendliness and altruism.

Now, I know thinking positive vibes to the world doesn’t seem like it can do a whole lot. How could wishing happiness for others really make it come true? I’m not wholly sure myself, but I think that people are more motivated by external stimulus. For some people, it’s God and the afterlife. I am not religious, so does this mean I’m screwed? Not quite. For me, I do yoga so that I can focus and be calm. I am normally an erratic, hot-tempered person. I still am. Doesn’t mean that I can’t try to be better. I try to be better so that Fernando (my fiance) can enjoy my happiness. I am trying to be more even tempered because I don’t want me future kids to have to deal with a chaotic environment.

Altruism drives are more motivating. I used to do yoga for myself – because I want to get better at a pose. I want to put my foot over my head. I want to do a handstand. Me me me. Now, I am motivated to try different teachers, different styles and branch out – not because I want to be better for myself, but because I want to be a better teacher.

Does this make sense?

Keeping is Simple

I know this page looks awfully simple – either like it was formatted for a phone or some website made in the 80s. But, my thought behind it was to keep is simple. Keep it zen. It’s a no-frills page with the basic details. No flash, no glitz, no glamour.

Wherein lies the appeal?

Sometimes when I get to a website, I am overwhelmed by the flash intro, the dozens of ads, the hundreds of links. What am I supposed to focus on? What is the point of the webpage?

This page keeps it simple – here I am. This is my schedule. Yes, I can do yoga. Here are some of my thoughts (in a somewhat organized manner.)

Got it? Good.