Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Box

About a year ago I made a commitment to myself that I would no longer expect myself to be in two places at once. Perhaps your calendar looks as mine once did, with three simultaneous items listed in the same time slot. I used to have lofty goals of concurrent dental appointments, phone conferences, and yoga classes, and it will not surprise you to learn that I never managed to juggle those particular tasks at once.

Last week, my husband spent four days Communing In the Woods and left me in the big ol' house with my big ol' self. This is the first time in my (new) life that he has been gone and I have not had a fully jam packed schedule.

To be fair, I did try to fill my schedule. I scheduled roughly six hours of work each of the first three days, and four hours of work on the fourth day. I made some rather flailing attempts at filling my social calendar, but was luckily unable to schedule each blessed minute. And the strangest thing happened.

In a day filled with emptiness, I managed to stay away from the computer and the TV. I didn't even crack a book. Instead, I pulled up my boots and started digging.

For the last few years, I've let some things pile up. Like clothes. Paid utility bills. Free song downloads from Starbucks and a truly unreasonable amount of return address labels. In the fray that was my former life, I became well versed at shoving. Do you shove things? I think about the old infomercials about kitchen appliances that you "press one button and walk away" and return to a full turkey dinner, or smoothies and salsa, or whatever. These appliances never worked as they were supposed to (because you had to actually buy a turkey, or freeze fruit, or otherwise obtain odd ingredients and figure out how to set the machine). Turns out when you shove clothes and bills (and possibly an answering machine, music stand, ones mortgage closing documents, assorted cords and a box of oatmeal) into a box, they don't magically turn into a turkey dinner, nor do they vanish or magically become something useful. Each year I have addressed one particular box (some of the contents may be listed above) by simply placing the Christmas ornament box in front of/beside it.

I'm not writing to tell you that the box is empty. It is not. It still has the items listed above, plus a heaping helping of guilt (four years worth, to be precise). The reason I'm writing to you, is to tell you that I intend not to open it. This past weekend, I learned that I'm quite effective at cleaning around it. And so in this way it has become my cleaning altar. A shrine to the imperfection in myself and in my life. And a monument to the progress that is happening around it.

Tomorrow reminds me of this box. For four years we have waited for an extra day, and now we have it. Don't worry about squeezing the most out of every extra precious minute. Instead, consider this day a shrine. A monument to the life around it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Little Voices

There is a little girl who lives in the back of my mind. She's quiet, but firm. Confident. Her voice is pervasive.

Before you alert the authorities, I'm not crazy. She's not telling me to crochet tea cozies out of human hair, or to sell everything and move to Paraguay, or even to howl at the moon. She is not, however, rational. And for that, I'm grateful.

Tonight I was supposed to head home (a two hour drive) during rather good weather, already well rested and overcaffinated. And yet, she does not want me to go. After spending the better part of a day arguing with her, rationalizing away her pesky fears, her voice only intensified until the reflection looking back at me was just one shade shy of terror.

I am not nervous.

I am not worried.

I am afraid to listen to her.

I am afraid not to.

Is there a voice in your head who you would prefer to ignore? Does some backseat driver ever spring from the depths and grope for the wheel? Do you listen? What does she say?

Maybe for you this is the voice of God. Perhaps you call this intuition. More often, I fear, you quiet this voice with rational explanations, obligations, or helpings of guilt. I spent most of my day telling this voice to go eat a cookie and take a nap, and not to come back until she had something nice to say. It is possible that I also threatened to call her mother (who also happens to be my mother) and let her sort this squishy nonsense out over the phone.

In the end, I know I believe wholeheartedly in heeding this inner voice, and I do so because she is not afraid. She is calm. Firm. Confident. Right.

Isvara Pranidhana. Heyam duhkham anagatam. Surrender. The pain that has not yet come is avoidable.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


If you've ever hung around the front desk while yoga students register for their first class, you've probably heard them explain why they wish to practice yoga with the following expression:

"I'm so inflexible, I can't even reach my toes! I'm here so you can fix that."

There are many other reasons people come to the class, to be sure. A few of my favorites:

- To observe attractive people in tight pants attempt awkward positions

- To show other people how attractive they look in hot pants

- To change the way their bodies look/feel

- Because everything else is falling apart

I haven't been anywhere else where people so openly share the stories that have been cooking in their heads. Even if the story isn't verbalized, you can see the grudge match on the mat: me vs. myself. Me vs. tight pants. Me vs. mirror. Whatever the matchup is for this week, people arrive when they need to do battle with part of themselves, or part of their experience.

Please understand that I am not excluded from this melee. I have wrestled many classes against one particularly insidious pair of pants, the untimely death of a friendship, or my newest adversary: The Thirties. Whatever our battle or inspiration, we come to the mat and ask the teacher to help us solve this puzzle.

There are two ways to fix the student who longs to touch their toes/fit into their pants/rewind ten years:

The novice teacher bends, pulls, stretches, and sometimes breaks the body to get the fingers to the toes.

The experienced teacher helps the student release the want.

photo credit: Love Roots Photography