The whole heart of saying yes.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a doer.  And a thinker.  And a dreamer.  And a bordering on compulsive multitasker.  So deciding that saying yes to life should be one of my 2014 Practices to Enact wasn’t really a stretch at all.

Life has gotten pretty crazy as of late, largely because I say yes.  To everything.  I say yes to my amazing queer book group, and the queer board game group that has emerged from it.  I say yes to volunteering at two different book related places, and yes to moving my shift at the library because it’s better for their schedule.  I say yes to planning – retreats, summer bike weeks, local food asset maps, you name it.  I say yes to BUYING MY HOUSE, even when it is thrust upon me, rather than a process I have actively chosen to begin at this particular moment in time because I am financially and socially stable.

I love saying yes.  But I have a problem.  I rarely say yes to myself, yes to sleep, yes to hours straight of reading a fabulous novel I picked up from the library, yes to watching a show on Netflix that only I want to.  I set aside a handful of minutes to sew together a couple of quilt squares or to work out at the YWCA, but it’s scheduled time, planned time, MANAGED time.  Not relaxation, truly.  Thus I am not doing justice to myself, or my practice to enact, for wholly saying yes to life necessarily must also mean saying yes to calm, to contemplation, to slowness at times.

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Rico and Daria will help me on my journey, I do believe. No time is as present as kitty time.

2014 Practices to Enact

A couple of years ago I decided to begin recommitting to my best self each new year; I still find the calendar year somewhat arbitrary, and prefer my birthday and seasonal holidays (solstices and equinoxes and the like) as marking points in time for ritual and centering.  However, it is nice to engage in renewal in solidarity with others while still making it my own, so I began creating yearly Practices to Enact.  I’m sure I did them for 2013, but must have felt that they didn’t need to be publicly posted.  2012’s Practices are here though.

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May 2014 be this joyous without pause, and filled with the best friends anyone could hope for.

 

Each year, coming up with practices is an exercise in balance between the practical/measurable, and the nebulous big picture sorts of projects and self improvements that I am truly most interested in.  I refuse to set myself up for failure, so too many ‘I will do x thing y number of times per week/month’ is no good.  But if everything is huge and general then how do I check in later in the year to see where I am?  In a way I think I subconsciously modeled 2014’s Practices after my post bike tour life focuses, because it was really the first time I was able to make an honest assessment of myself and my priorities and set ambitious yet realistic goals for myself.

In 2014 I shall:

  • Commit to being a writer, to cultivating this skill, to practicing my craft, and to giving myself the gift of time to do this.  Perhaps at least a two hour, undistracted portion of time each week?  At least to begin with.
  • I commit to continuing on my path to fully loving my body, to treating this part of myself with respect through good food and continual strengthening through work outs and bike trips and really ambitious sex.
  • I commit to letting go of shame an guilt in my life, recognizing that these are a tragic waste of my life energy, and instead will love my Self and my emotions, as well as those around me.
  • I commit to solitude, to noticing when I want/need it, and to attending to that desire, recognizing that I am the best version of myself when I have time with myself.
  • I commit to saying YES to life, to new friends and opportunities.  This life in this body is short, and the time where I am this physically and mentally able is even shorter.  Memories are not made through routine and caution, and I will trust in both my intuition and my support network to keep me from harm.
  • I commit to continuing to expand the boundaries of both my patience and my vulnerability, so that I might be in deeper relationship with others.
  • I recommit to noticing and noting beauty, and to sharing those moments with others without embarrassment or expectation.
  • I commit to drinking less, and i am lucky to have many wonderful people in my life who support this. My body is already thanking me for this one.

What are you committing to this new year?

Breathe out.

This week I’ve been focusing on exhaling fully and deeply, releasing hours and days of stale air from my lungs.  So often meditative practices and exercise regimes are centered on breathing in, pulling air into the body, and while this is important of course, I have found that my personal challenge is for release, to expel tension from my body.  I find that I’m often holding my breath while doing any number of things which certainly doesn’t help for stress reduction.

Such a simple thing.  But so essential.  Today, breathe out.  Find serenity in stillness.

And here’s a different kind of serenity:

Positive Practices for Changing the World (and Your Life Too!)

I ended the work day yesterday by reading a few articles from Yes! Magazine, and would highly suggest the practice; Yes! is a perfect panacea for a day of drudgery, for the repetitive and downtrodden daily routine it is all to easy to fall into.  Positive yet not blindly idealistic, Yes! brought back my ‘this is what I’m supposed to be doing with my life’ fervor, particularly with this fabulous list of 31 Ways to Jump Start the Local Economy.

This list was affirming not only of my view of how the world and economy should really work, but because it lists several ‘how tos’ that I was surprised to realize my friends and family already pursue!

4. Pay off debts. Try life without credit cards. (even though so many people say it’s impossible)
12. Form a dinner club and hold a weekly potluck, or trade off cooking and hosting. (we don’t do weekly yet, but do host monthly potlucks)
23. Start a local currency or time dollar program to help link needs and offerings, those with time and those starved for time. (props to my mother for starting a Time Bank in Naperville!)

In addition to Yes!’s fabulous list of building community and the local economy, a fellow potluck attendee this past week had a marvelous ‘simplifying and clarifying one’s life practice’:
Write down everything you do for a week and divide the various tasks and endeavors into a ‘more’ and ‘less’ list for the future.

Through observation and intentionality we can live a life of joy.

A Practice for Creativity

A good place to start in regards to following through on creativity, one of my 2012 Practices to Enact:

Write every day.

Whether it’s a blog post, journal entry, poem, letter, or working on my book on home (very much in the idea stages as of yet, I assure you), I commit to writing at least a little bit every day.  I think I’ve read enough books on writing to have finally internalized that creativity is equal parts spontaneous muse and practice practice practice.

 

2012 Practices to Enact

The year has flown by, and an inordinate amount of change has happened in 364 days.  Many weddings, including my own.  Potential home ownership.  New friends.  Loss of family.  I hope to do more of a recap similar to my journaling last year of the good, the bad, and the flat out ridiculous, but in the meantime, here are my 2012 Practices to Enact, in illustrated form.


In thinking about what I’m desiring more of and want to keep at the forefront of my awareness and focus of in this next year, spirituality, creativity, and wellness are far and away the foundational concepts that spring forth.  In contemplating the relationship between the three, it made sense that wellness emerges from spirituality and creativity rather than the other way around.  Plus I enjoy nature metaphors for life 🙂

More details to come, including specific practices for each element.  What will you focus on for 2012?  How can we all hold each other accountable to living those ideas and practices through the whole year?

Week of Joy, Day 5: Yoga

I’ve been doing yoga in bits and pieces since early high school, and finally began a daily morning practice in late 2009.  The joy I find in yoga might very well be the most convoluted, however, because if often does not come easily.

Far too often my morning practice of sun salutations (Surya Namaskara) and tree pose is done out of obligation and routine rather than joy and presence.  I do my best to notice this whenever possible, and know that even being in the present moment for a single moment during my practice is a success, and presence builds on presence.  But it’s hard.  It’s hard to focus with the plans of the day running through my head, thoughts of coffee brewing in the kitchen (or, conversely, if it isn’t ready yet, when the teapot will begin whistling), and Su-Su the cat rubbing against my legs.  But those moments when I let all of that go and just breathe and move, even a single breath with a single pose, those are pure joy.

Ending my mini-practice with a namaste to the day and a chakra check-in has also proven joyful in many instances, though on occasion it too is fraught with other buried emotions and distractions.  Rather than necessarily feeling energy distinctly in each of the seven chakras (though this has happened), my check-in is a time to examine my emotional response to the different areas of my life represented by each chakra.  Particular ones are balanced- my red root chakra has felt good for the past year or two, and my blue throat chakra (the location of communication) has historically felt fulfilled and balanced.  Others are confusing- I have yet to feel as though I have a good sense of my yellow solar plexus chakra that represents power.

Joy in practice of something like yoga is just that: joy in the work of practicing.  Yoga, as with any meditation or spiritual or even exercise practice does not have an end, rather it is an ongoing practice toward betterment and ease.

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For months I had been musing over a desire to return to some kind of regular, instructor-led yoga practice in the interest of supplementing and refining my daily morning sun salutations.  This past Friday I finally did, and I’m excited about making a regular thing of it.

At the suggestion of a friend (who also attended the Friday class) I visited the Om Yoga Collective.  As you may have gathered by now, I’m somewhat of a sucker for any co-op/co-owned/shared space or endeavor, so the collective nature of this particular yoga studio was enormously appealing, on top of the great instructor.  Nikki, a friend of my friend, only teaches a handful of classes, but if this Friday was any indication she does them well.

The pace and challenge level was lovely, for I am not one for holding poses for many minutes, nor do I enjoy rapid fire flow type yoga.  After asking for permission to do physical adjustments during the class she stopped by each attendee from time to time to gently pull up hips in downward dog, straighten alignments in standing poses, or provide ankles to hold for this challenging yet surprisingly successful pose:

This is wheel pose, and coupled with several other back stretching and heart opening poses, it left me a bit sore yet satisfyingly worked by the end of the session.

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Practice alone is a joy, one that ebbs and flows with mood and stamina and presence.  The most important specific thing I can do to increase this joy is of course work toward being more present.

I have also considered extending my practice, however, likely to include another mini yoga session at another point in the day.  Has anyone done an end of the work day practice?  How about a just before lunch practice while at work?

Lastly, I can truly commit to attending group, instructor led yoga classes, at least once a week.  Whether they are at the Om Yoga Collective or one of the many other studios in South Minneapolis, by practicing with others I will not only nourish my body but my community-minded spirit as well as I meet and learn and connect with others.  Namaste, friends.

“The wave doesn’t have to seek out the water.  Water is what the wave has to realize as her own foundation of being.”
~Thich Nhat Hahn