30 Days of “A Year of Living Your Yoga” — Day 26: Excitement & Fear

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Welcome to Day 26 of my blog series based on Judith Hansen-Lasater’s “A Year of Living Your Yoga.”

I will try to keep these posts to about 500 words.

Here is the quote:

August 29 — Excitement is the surface of fear. Notice today what excites you. Then look deeper and see what it is about that exciting thing that stimulates fear in you. Notice how your excitement is tied to your fear.

Hmm.

We used to have a principal at my kids’ elementary school who would regularly use the word “energize” -d, -s, -ing, to describe her various reactions to my open and fervent interest in my son’s welfare; or when I was PTA president, in the entire student body’s welfare. That was her passive-aggressive way of challenging you into an argument or stand-off. She was terrifically inept. The current, new principal seems at times equally uneasy around parents who happen to give a damn.

I’m not digressing, trust me.

So what would go on in me, emotionally at these exchanges, is excitement. I was not “energized”; I was excited. To me, “excitement” is a good thing, it shows enthusiasm and high energy; but I also use the word (although more sparingly) to describe an elevated energy level in a way that isn’t necessarily a good thing. I’m not quite sure I get what Lasater’s going after by connecting it all with fear though.

My mother would get terrifically excited, almost manic, about a movie, play, song, a visit, or a situation she cared deeply about. Her mood was usually positive and it included lots of clapping, multi-bangle jingling, scarf wafting, hooting, Andy Warhol-inspired-prescription-sunglasses tossing, and thigh banging. If a musical experience were being … experienced, then there was also equally impassioned but angered, “HHHHHUSH! QUIETTTTTT WILL YOU?! THIS IS JUST BRILLIANT!”-ing, head bobbing, “yessss!”-ing, and generally awkward body control to suppress in me (at least) any sort of feral instinct to get her to calm down. She reminded me of a Gilda Radner character or more appropriately Kristen Wiig’s hung-up stage actress:

Kristen Wiig's brilliant "Mindy Grayson" on SNL's Guess That Word! spoof. (c) NBC Universal

Kristen Wiig’s brilliant “Mindy Grayson” on SNL’s Guess That Word! spoof. (c) NBC Universal. I tend to wonder from time to time if SNL had a camera placed in my house as a child.

My father would lose his shit when he’d get excited. You don’t want to be anywhere near the man during a televised sports event. Gasps alert dogs blocks away, or he yells in a way which any unknowing or rational person would think means “Heart attack! I’m dying!” If his reaction were relative to good news, he’d laugh like a despotic hyena and bang his fist into any of the following (combined or solitary): table, chair, knee, ottoman, arm rest, desk, butcher block, steering wheel, phone book, wall, dashboard, hull, rudder arm, or countertop. If it weren’t good news, he’d impersonate Pete Townshend (without actually knowing who Pete Townshend was):

That of course would WAKE ME UP! and then excite me.

I was never really able to bring them, my parents, back to earth.

Often a witness to these emotional explosions, I would do my best to decipher the mood and … Smile? Laugh? Squeal? Hide?

So I think about my personal moments of excitement, including the negative ones, and I can say for the negative ones it’s certainly fear-based, that my world is about to turn upside down. But if I think about the positive moments, I suppose it’s fear-based too, eventually. Say, when a family member is in town and is going to stay with us… I am thrilled to see them, but then I get nervous about the linens, and accommodations and whether we will all get along OK and the rest.

I think, judging from the parents I had, my “excitement” is different from most. I don’t think it’s really the surface of fear; it’s more like the surface of insanity. Snort.

Thank you.

30 Days of “A Year of Living Your Yoga” — Day 25: Release Attachments and Expectations

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Welcome to Day 25 of my blog series based on Judith Hansen-Lasater’s “A Year of Living Your Yoga.”

I will try to keep these posts to about 500 words.

Here is the quote:

September 25 — Give up your attachment to the way you think things are, so you can experience things as they actually are. Our beliefs create a screen between what is and how we want things to be. Yoga is a practice to help us let go of that screen and live authentically. What believe can you let go of today?

So this is a great idea and I really needed to land on it for life. I was going to say “today” or “this series” or “this year…” but the fact is that my life would be generally more pleasant and less complicated if I simply accepted the way it is instead of preferring that it be something else.

Overall, my life is very pleasant and utterly endurable. I feel that my formative years were just that: shaping and demanding and grueling. I married a great guy and have three smart, clever, good, sensitive, and candid sons. I have managed to step blithely (I believe anyhow) into the depths of middle age and I hope that this “season” of middle age will last another 10 years until I will begin advanced age or the regret-less blue-haired lady age, like that Hallmark Card old lady, Maxine. My knees are already starting to resemble those of an elephant, and elephants are born looking that way, so I feel slightly advantaged.

So back to the quote: When we take away the screen (I’ll call it a filter, maybe Lasater is British), life takes on a certain seeming harshness. It’s not really harsh, it’s just reality. I have never been one who has looked at life as Daisy Buchanan in Gatsby (the only truly worthwhile screen adaptation of that book IMHO). Daisy had a white-knuckled grip on fragile idealism. The soft-focus lens effect on her in the film had a significant effect in my appreciation of her portrayal.

the fashion and the times. (c) 1974 Paramount Pictures

sigh… the fashion and the times. (c) 1974 Paramount Pictures

So while I admire Daisy’s feckless romanticism, i’s never been my gift. I have tended to usually be a realist, pragmatist and at times a fatalist. I remember saying for many years, “have low expectations, then you’ll rarely be disappointed.” I look back on that now and I see how much I’ve cheated myself out of living more fully and experiencing life instead of dulling it so bluntly. I have seldom encouraged idealism in myself. I wonder where that comes from: was it learned? Did I anticipate positivity and have it disintegrate and dissolve in my hands?

So my “screen” has been one of marginal safety. I would like to think I’m not fear-based (that’s an attachment right there), but the more I think about it, I suspect that I have become risk-averse instead of an adventuresome person.

This is a little troubling, actually.

So now what? Do I make a sky-diving reservation?

I guess I can follow her advice: give up my attachment to the way I think things are. This is a deeper concept than I am willing to explore in this blog post, but I suspect if you’re with me this far and you’re picking up what I’m putting down, it’s likely a curious concept to you as well.

In terms of yoga, I see this all the time: students comparing themselves with other students and trying to figure out if they’re doing a pose “right.” If your ego is in the pose properly, you really can’t be looking at anyone else anyway. Often the gazes are encouraged toward Heaven or beyond or behind us. In the forward-looking poses, your gaze is fixed, often for focus and balance. Some poses, such as Downward Facing Dog, encourage that your gaze rest completely in your present moment at the space between your hands on the mat. I actually like to close my eyes when I can (ACK: am I denying the present moment when I do that?? ARGH!). Let it go, let it go…

How do you tend to see life? How do you tend to live life? How do you attach to your past and your future while (gulp) dismissing the present?

Drop your filter: your fears, your preferences, your expectations, your needs. That’s the Work. Life doesn’t have to be perceived as something else than what it is; that’s our doing, and it’s likely making a mess of things for ourselves. When we release that filter, screen, then we are free.

Thank you.

 

30 Days of “A Year of Living Your Yoga” — Day 24: Butterfly Effect, Chaos Theory

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Welcome to Day 24 of my blog series based on Judith Hansen-Lasater’s “A Year of Living Your Yoga.”

I will try to keep these posts to about 500 words.

Here is the quote:

November 13 — The ability to understand the cost of my choices before I make them is the beginning of wisdom. Whatever choice you make, the choice affects the world in ways you will never know. When you makes choices today, make them with love.

Yes. So wise. So true and it is the beginning of wisdom, but to me, it’s also the beginning of so much more.

 

thing 3 loved this butterfly so much; he wanted me to take its picture.

thing 3 loved this butterfly so much; he wanted me to take its picture.

Have you ever heard of the “butterfly effect” regarding “chaos theory”? It’s quite simply: the phenomenon whereby a minute localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere (wikipedia). It stems from a theory originated in 1980 which posits the notion that a butterfly fluttering in Rio de Janeiro could change the weather in Chicago (wikipedia).

I absolutely believe in the butterfly effect.

I’ve seen it started and I’ve also seen it stopped (regarding human interactions).

When I know that I have to have a difficult conversation with someone, I try to anticipate how my side will be appreciated. I try to think of many sides, many outcomes. Most of the time, I’m pretty accurate. Sometimes I couldn’t be more wrong. Indulge me for a moment regarding the bullying episode this past spring.  Our approach to this dilemma was bonded with honor and love (as much as was possible given the situation) but absolutely with respect.

We attempted to handle it in a way that would be rational. In fact, we handled it in a way that was suggested by three separate school counselors (including the bully’s own school counselor who reached out to my husband to intervene). It was a disaster. We really had no idea the situation would go as badly as it ultimately did. I mean, I could’ve never predicted that.

So it happened.

The choices the other family made were successively colossal in their failures. To me, they were steeped in fear, judgment and anger. It’s ironic, because we were the ones who were attacked. You’d think we were the ones who would be fearful, judgmental and angry. But we weren’t. We trusted.

Anyway, as much as it’s water under the bridge, it’s a really great illustration point for many of these quotes I’ve been dissecting.

The choices we make will absolutely affect the world in ways we will never know. (Beware the ego trap of also thinking you can influence any outcome too — this quote suggests you can, but c’mon… keep your head on straight.)

In practice:

Be nice to the man who pumps your gas. Smile at him and say thanks. Maybe that will keep him from getting angry at the next customer* who might then feel safer on the road after leaving the station.

Choose to take a breath before sharing what’s on your mind with your partner if it’s heavy. That breath can be the difference between a disagreement or a resolution.

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Offer assistance to the exhausted mother of three. Hold the door open for her, walk slowly around her so her children stay close to her so her mind can be at ease.

Say a silent blessing to the homeless man on the corner, remember how much your stomach hurt the last time you were really hungry. Buy him a sandwich… (My brother does this: he doesn’t give homeless people money, he asks them what they need: shoes, food, clothes… and then he gets it for them.)

Don’t yell at the driver who just cut you off. Maybe *she just found out her child fell down the steps and is on the way to the hospital. (See? It’s all related, even if it seems like it isn’t.)

Remember that you’re NOT the only person on this planet.

All of these conscious actions require is the simple act of slowing down, noticing, interpreting and executing.

Just slow down. What’s the rush? Be nice. Take a breath. Don’t react. Think first.

Thank you.

 

30 Days of “A Year of Living Your Yoga” — Day 23: You Are Made of Stars

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Welcome to Day 23 of my blog series based on Judith Hansen-Lasater’s “A Year of Living Your Yoga.”

I will try to keep these posts to about 500 words.

Here is the quote:

July 8 — Finding God and finding Self are the same thing. Ultimately, yoga practice is about recognizing the union of Self and Divinity. Sit quietly this morning. As you inhale, invite the word “Divinity” within. With each exhalation, share your Self with the world. Practice this for ten minutes, and live it the rest of your day.”

Attending to this quote in a way other than declaring it as blasphemy is so going to get me in trouble with the devoutly religious.

I made a commitment to my Self to do this challenge and this is the quote which turned up. I could say God chose it for me, but that might get me into trouble. I could say Fate chose it but that would be calling God by another name.

Ech. My blog. My rules.

Ok: I get what she’s saying here, so well. Christianity (and other religions) impose that God is separate from us and we are separate from God. Yet we are also told that Jesus is in our hearts. But as a Catholic, I have seldom experienced an OK moment when I could refer to Jesus on a first-name basis.

I’m drifting…

I happen to be really OK with having God in my heart. I happen to love the concept. It makes me feel so safe inside. Breathe it in: DIVINITY. That’s good!

I will admit that sometimes I do a really crappy job of honoring God, honoring that Divinity inside me. Sometimes I yell. Sometimes I’m impatient and cruel. Sometimes I boast and exclude or shame.

Sometimes I rationalize to the point of guilt for excluding and I end up harming myself by choosing people around me who don’t have my best interests at heart. When we honor Divinity inside us, we can’t make any bad choices, it becomes quite clear: is what I’m choosing good for my slice of Divinity?

I believe what Lasater is going after here is to allow yourself the gift of Being a Product of Divinity: perfect as you are; love as you are loved; believe that it was an act of Divine Love (not your parents getting it on) that created you; that you are made of the same cosmic energy which lights the sun and Polaris and the Eagle Nebula — that you are ALL of that and that is so fantastic, so wonderful and SO COMPLETELY AMAZING that it’s all you need to know. Did you know that the same element, iron, which can destroy a super nova, is the same element that is in you? and when that super nova is destroyed, it creates carbon and platinum and gold and all the foundational elements in things we see around us — including us — that all those things are made of stardust? That you are made of stardust? That you are made of stars?

Take a bow.

the center star is Polaris, the "north star."  credit: http://nightvisions.ca/2012/07/polaris/

the center star is Polaris, the “north star.”
credit: http://nightvisions.ca/2012/07/polaris/

And it’s all you need to know to be kinder to others. We can not give what we do not have. But once we realize what we are made of: cosmic dust, energy, light, love, photons and atoms and cells and all that amazing stuff… then it’s IMPOSSIBLE to not recognize it in others, the rest of the day.

Maybe the rest of the week. Or the month or the year!

You are made of the same stuff as Polaris!

If we believed this, with all our hearts, all the time: I can’t help but be optimistic and propose that there would be no more addiction, sadness, depression, self-injury and -pain. We would transcend all that “mortal” stuff because we would recognize that we are more than carbon-based: we are made of stars.

It’s lofty. Supremely lofty, to think this way.

One might even say arrogant or blasphemy, to think this way.

If thinking this way makes you feel so radiant, so good inside that you have a hard time suppressing it, that you want to share it and feel the same way about your neighbor or your checkout clerk or your boss, that you allow these people to be made as flawlessly as you are made … how can that possibly be wrong?? That the same Divine energy, God, made you also made Polaris, how is that wrong? You’re not sinning when you are expressing that, right??

You can feel this way about others and not have to take care of them or be their silent partner too y’know. All you have to do is extend light and love … no commitment. No personal sponsorship, just feel love and you’re done. You can keep going on to the next person…

Everyone will think you’re on quaaludes. That’s ok. You’re just feeling good and that scares people. Sometimes if people don’t have something to complain about they feel lost. Let them feel lost; love them anyway. Move on…

You are made of stars.

Thank you.