Self care, day 2 & 3.

I’m still on the train, one way or another, but distraction comes easier than relaxation, it seems.

Yesterday’s self care involved a sojourn by Lake Nokomis, a place I visit not nearly as often as I might, considering its proximity.  I biked there from an unexpectedly lonely brunch, and found a perfect spot – half sun, half shade, tree to lean against.  Or so I thought.  A body board yoga class began not too long after I settled  in, and rather than finding a new space (and having to start my half hour over, so I told myself) I decided to try to relax through it, despite wanting to do the poses the instructor half shouted so as to reach her floating students.  So I sat, and left for work half an hour later somewhat more relaxed, but not as much as I’d have liked.

Today I drew.  As in, coloring without a coloring book.

ImageImage

It was the first time in weeks for sure, perhaps even months, that I brought out my sketchbook without trying to accomplish anything particular.  More of this needs to happen, this non-guided, easy handed Crayola time, as self care and then some.

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A letter to CON.

This weekend I embarked on the adventure that is one’s first comic book/sci-fi/fantasy/all things geek convention.  I went to CONvergence.

I’m still processing the experience, the multitudes of, well, everything.  Tamora Pierce‘s tattoos.  The incredibly complex costumes.  Yoga Quest.  The foam sword fighting.  The vast array of items one could purchase in the dealers room.  Everything Joss Whedon ever.  But before I lost the freshness of the weekend, I wrote a letter, a collection of first impressions if you will.

Dear CON,

First off, I’m glad you exist.  You give a home to thousands of people that in many other circumstances feel extraordinarily out of place.  Secondly, I am glad I attended you, glad I dove in relatively face first and met your denizens, listened to your speakers (Tamora Pierce, OMG), drank your alcohol, perused your wares, and just generally basked in your chaotic blend of costume, intellect, and connection.
HOWEVER… as noted yesterday [in my journal], I do not believe you are my tribe.  I wish you were.  I would love to belong somewhere so thoroughly, with people so filled with YES!  But I do not, unfortunately, and I’m beginning to believe I don’t really quite belong anywhere.  But that’s another story for another time.
There are many things you do so well, CON- you embrace the multitudes, not even regardless of particular predilections, but because of them.  You are unabashedly, inclusively sexual, something the world needs more of.  You provide for your people, with conversations of all sorts and sustenance for body and mind.
But CON, you also hurt my heart.  You produce a lot of waste after a lot of consumption.  You are very white.  You are excessively air conditioned.  You are internet-centric and astoundingly absent of nature.
In the end I stick by my beginning statement.  I’m glad I went.  I am not sure what future years will bring, nor am I certain of what I might want to pursue.  But thanks for loving the oft unloved, CON.

Love,
Lauren

Internal Audit: Yoga

Half moon pose
Half moon, one of my favorite poses recently.

I’m doing yoga.  I’m trying to go twice a week to two different studios that both have donation based classes, because while I feel it is totally reasonable and worthwhile to pay instructors for their skill and service, I also don’t feel like yoga classes should be expensive.  Yoga is both spiritual and physical for me, the latter beneficial as a counterpart to biking everywhere, a building of strength and increased confidence in the ability of my body, while the former generally has to do with being present, with absorbing myself so fully in something that I lose time and space and the constant soundtrack in my head of to-do lists, songs stuck in my brain, and the rest of the activity for the day, and can just be present in where I am and what is happening.  Cooking does this too, and sometimes biking though that more often is a time that allows me to think rather than escape from thinking.  I want to add a meditation and tai chi practice to yoga, but struggle with finding time to do it and committing with my whole being, though I know it is something I need and want that will help me be closer to the full person that I can be.

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

 

The decadence of mornings.

I am a lover of mornings.  Don’t get me wrong- each hour of each day has it’s charms, with the possible exception of the 2:30pm slump while at work- but mornings are special.  On days when I work I always get up at least an hour before I have to leave the house so that I can start my day with leisure.  After turning on the stove to begin the ritual coffee/tea preparation, I return to my room for sun salutations and whatever other yoga poses speak to me that day.  Breakfast is either eggs or yogurt and granola, and always fruit unless it’s the end of my shopping week and I’ve run out.  Lately I’ve been alternating between oranges and pears.  A bit of reading, and then before I know it 8:30 has come and it’s time to head out.

On non-work days, the entire above process might be stretched out to two, three, or more hours: the entire morning takes on a delicious decadence.  One cup of tea becomes two, or a cup of tea followed by a pot of french press, as I write a blog entry, read the poem of the day, work on various craft projects, or just gaze out the front window.  If I am very lucky, the morning becomes the entire day, a full span of contented waking hours.  These splendid mornings are not always spent making slow progress on books and writing over various hot drinks; frequently I end a non-work day feeling more productive than I have in weeks because I have made bread/started sprouts/patched pants/done my laundry/grocery shopped/any of the myriad of other things that must be done on occasion.  The essential difference is, all of the latter are done in morning mode, that is, without hurry or worry or stress.  I am productive while remaining relaxed, contemplative even.

I know not everyone has the luxury of relaxed mornings, or of a work schedule that allows for three days off rather than the traditional two (though I would highly suggest it if it’s manageable).  Nor is everyone a morning person (though I would argue many are that perceive themselves otherwise, for they have never had the opportunity to cultivate pleasant mornings).  However, everyone can find a time of day for the decadence of time contentedly spent.  A few moments upon returning home from work, the last minutes before sleep, or an afternoon snack and walk, all are an opportunity to be present, mindful, and released.

Namaste, friends.

Procrastination.

I’ve been noticing a number of blog posts lately about procrastination, and I think the universe is trying to tell me something.  For while I’ve never particularly classified myself as a procrastinator, I do often have surprising difficulty actually getting to the things I want to be doing.  Because there are emails to check, bread to make, floors to sweep, and a nap to take.

This procrastination, coupled with my near inability to focus on a single thing at a time, results in an occasionally crippling level of inefficiency.  I’m doing work, but it’s not the work I want to be doing, and what’s more I’m likely not doing it well because I’m doing at least two other things at the same time.  Le sigh.

One of the very few non-procrastination, non-multi tasking moments in the day is my morning yoga.  With the sun streaming in through the east facing windows (now a blessed hour earlier, so even when I get up at 7:13 it’s light, but not for long I suppose…) I go through my cat-cow stretches, my four sun salutations, sometimes a series of warrior poses, occasionally other seated poses as the mood strikes me, and always finish with tree pose.  And during the whole process I am centered, focused on the minute changes in my breathing and muscle movement.  When my mind does wander I notice it gently, and almost always am able to return to the poses I am pressing my body into.

Yoga is my time of solitude, of focus, of peace.  But it is only 15-30 minutes of my day.  As to the rest, it’s a toss up really, a mad dash to accomplish something, spend time over tea and in the out of doors as much as possible, and not berate myself too harshly for not accomplishing what I planned for the day.  Slowly but surely I hope to integrate the focus and presence that I experience while doing yoga into the rest of my day’s activities.

Until then, here’s a wonderful episode of Tales of Mere Existence on the subject.

Namaste, friends.

~Lauren