Tag Archives: gratitude

Risks

Via Flickr User Andreas Fetz

Via Flickr User Andreas Fetz

I’ve again been slacking in my blogger duties. At the beginning of the summer I was so concerned that I would not be busy enough–ha! Life has been surprising the hell out of me lately. I’m doing my best to stay grateful instead of letting anxiety take over–as I said in my last post, it can be difficult for any of us to let ourselves experience joy. There is certainly a part of me that is so freaked out that it compels me to want to quit everything and retreat into the Comfort Zone, where I can neither fail nor succeed.

But there is also the part of me that is exhilarated by this freedom. It’s terrifying and uncomfortable to be taking risks. Inevitably I will have failures, and I make mistakes. But how sweet it is to be in this place of growth, even if the experience isn’t always pleasant.

So much of this started with yoga. When I restarted my yoga practice back in January, it was out of desperation. I needed something to change. I had no idea how much it would help me heal; help me move my body and my mind and my spirit; help me process thoughts and emotions more effectively; help me learn about myself and about life.

The funny thing is that I don’t always want to go to yoga. Sometimes I even dread it. Because I don’t know what will happen on that mat. Will I feel strong? Will I feel weak? Will I nail this pose, or fall out of that one? Will any emotions come up? Will I cry, will I laugh, will I freak out, will I feel disconnected? Any of these are possibilities, and they’ve all happened–usually when I least expect them.

In yoga, as in life in general, you can’t know what to expect. It’s a risk to step onto your mat, not knowing what will happen there. Sometimes, yoga makes you feel like shit.

Yoga certainly isn’t the effortless experience some people believe it to be. Whether it’s your muscles shaking, your mind screaming, your heart swelling with a sudden onset of emotions you didn’t even know you had, yoga can be really damn difficult. I’ve had classes (and will continue to have classes) after which I feel awful. And some of those were even sessions I went into in a good mood. You never know what will happen. But the thing is–it’s always what you need.

And that’s why I’ve kept going. And that’s why I have begun to open myself to new possibilities–because yoga has helped me see how worth it it is to take risks.

I discovered a quote a few months ago by Peter McWilliams:

It is a risk to love.
What if it doesn’t work out?
Ah, but what if it does.

And it stuck with me. It not only applies to love but to everything. Daring to love in a larger sense is really daring to live–to make yourself vulnerable with no guarantees, to accept the possibility that it won’t work out. Because what if it does.

Advertisements

Letting Ourselves Feel Joy

Via Flickr User Danila Bedyaev

O blog, how I hath forsaken you. The past few weeks have been insane in the very best of ways. Since summer began, I’ve been able to enjoy Austin a bit more, soak in some delicious summer-ness, and work on some projects (I’m slowly learning some HTML/CSS). And quite unexpectedly, I met a great guy and began a new relationship.

So life is pretty damn good right now. Of course, the only downside to contentment is that there isn’t as much to write about, or at least not the immediate motivation to write about it.

But since I’ve written and reflected on depression quite a bit, perhaps I can now also write and reflect on joy. You would think feeling joy would be simple and easy, but it requires a willingness to be vulnerable that can be very difficult. When good things happen to us, it’s a lovely feeling, but then enters the fear that now we have something to lose. This can create a huge amount of anxiety that can lead otherwise stable people to self-sabotage. With the chance for happiness comes the chance for heartbreak later on–which is why there are a significant number of people who never allow themselves to take emotional risks. They protect themselves from sorrow and pain, but they also shield themselves from joy and love. Because to feel joy and love, you must make yourself vulnerable; you must be willing to accept both the darkness and the light in life because there is not one without the other. It can be immensely uncomfortable to extend ourselves beyond baseline emotions in any direction.

But if we want to love, to learn, to cry, to laugh, to explore, to discover, to try, to speak, to write, to move, to grow, we must take risks. Each one of these things is a risk in and of itself. But look at what they can give us.

So the challenge is letting yourself feel joy and trying to free yourself from the anxiety that surrounds it. Brené Brown’s suggested method is gratitude: being thankful for what you have when you start to feel that sense of anxiety emerging. Reminding yourself that you are right here, right now, and you will always have this moment regardless of what happens in the future.

Yoga, of course, can help. It gives us the chance to pause to just be in our bodies and our minds and focus on the present moment. If you’re anything like me, you suck at being in the present moment. But I’ve found that even just trying has made a difference, just taking the time to go to the studio and do nothing but move my body and breathe for an hour and fifteen minutes, even when I can’t get my mind to quiet down.

There is also the yoga of resting, though, which is what I’m (mostly) doing today. And there’s a lovely, simple joy in that too.

Gratitude…Thursday?

Image

Via Flickr User David Spencer

Well, I seem to have missed Gratitude Tuesday. Which means…today is Gratitude Thursday!

Things I am grateful for this week:

  • Being finished with school for the semester! Yayayay. I just sent in my term paper for one of my classes, which means I’m all done. Now the only problem is: what do I do with myself now?
  • All the beauty in the world (see photo above. Amazeballs)
  • Technology. Sure, it has its faults, but I love the ability to send my mom a quick message at any time and exchange videos with my faraway friends.

In yoga news: I’ve been making a little bit of progress on inversions, which is kind of exciting. Though the descriptions of said progress won’t exactly sound thrilling. Example: This week pincha mayurasana (forearm stand) for about a second and handstand for a few seconds. It may not seem like much, but I think most yogis will agree that it’s exhilarating to be able to hold a pose at all when you’ve been working on it for months–even if it’s just for a quick moment!

I’m becoming more stable in headstand as well. Slowly but surely. I have to remind myself every so often to be grateful for the progress I’ve made–physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually–in yoga; it’s so easy to get caught up in Things You Can’t Do Yet. 

A year or so ago, I never thought I would be able to balance on my head in the middle of the room. It seemed impossible

Yoga has made a tremendous amount of difference in my life, particularly in the last few months. It saved me, really. Or maybe it just helped me save myself.

 

Gentle Hatha

Image

I try to make it to a slower class once a week, one that’s not at my usual studio. It’s taught by an instructor who specializes in yoga therapy, and she’s very empathetic, easy to talk to, and compassionate. Her class is mellow and slow-paced, at least compared to my usual vinyasa flow classes.

So you would think going to these gentle hatha sessions would calm me down, zen me out, give me a refuge from the sweaty workout I endure in my other classes.

Ultimately, they do. But first, I get angry.

Yes, gentle yoga pisses me off.

After my first yin class, I swore off slower-paced yoga. It’s so dull, I whined. But that wasn’t really the issue. The issue was that it forced me to be with my thoughts and my emotions. Vinyasa can do that too, but in that case I can use the physical intensity of the asanas to quiet down my mind. With a slower-paced, gentler class, I cannot escape into the flow. Often we hold poses for a longer amount of time–“easy” poses which, as it turns out, aren’t so easy at all.

This is how gentle yoga brings me face-to-face with my ego. When you go into anything assuming it will be easy but end up contending with some struggles instead, your ego suffers.

This is a good thing. It makes you more aware of your preconceptions, your insecurities, your fears. Eventually, if you let it, it can serve to help you let go of things you need not be holding onto.

But it also kicks your ass a little bit. Or a lot. What’s that Gloria Steinem quote? 

“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”

Yoga brings me to my truth. And sometimes, it really does piss me off.

And I couldn’t be more thankful for that. Though vinyasa is still my favorite type of yoga, gentle hatha has also given me more than I ever expected.

Since today is Tuesday (meaning it’s Gratitude Tuesday, in Jeana world), here are also two more things I am grateful for:

  • Music. Somehow I forget sometimes how much music can help me, but it’s always a wonderful feeling to remember. In particular, it’s been helping me grow my at-home yoga practice a little more.
  • This semester of grad school. Though I’m still not sure there’s a place for me within the journalism world, I have come so much closer to realizing what my true passions are, and I’ve accomplished more than I thought that I could. At the beginning, I didn’t even know if I would be able to make it through one week of classes.

What are you thankful for this week?

I’ve been a bit out of the loop recently due to the end-of-the-semester schoolwork insanity, but I look forward to catching up on some blogs.

Namaste, friends!

Gratitude Tuesday #2

I’ve been meaning to update this thing for the past few days, but school has been pretty crazy. There are only weeks left in the semester, which means story and paper deadlines are approaching quickly. I’ve also been working on an iPad app all semester that my group and I will be demoing to about 300 people next week. Ah!

I’ve still been managing to get my yoga in, though, at least for the most part. I missed my gentle hatha class this morning, unfortunately, but I made it to a vinyasa class last night, and a vinyasa/Kundalini fusion workshop on Saturday. I had never done Kundalini before but was curious what it was all about. That portion of the workshop involved some chanting, meditation, and a CRAP TON of ab work, which was both great and a tad tortuous. I’ve been told that flexible lower backs and weaker cores tend to go hand-in-hand, which is definitely true for me. I can rock a lot of backbends, but when it comes to holding a pose like boat, I seriously struggle. So all of that core was a challenge, but as they say, your hardest pose is the one you need the most.

I would love to say that’s total crap and just avoid all of the poses I dislike, but I’ve had too many experiences that indicate otherwise.

It’s also Tuesday again, which means another three things I am grateful for:

  • YOGA. I know that’s just a tad obvious, but especially in these times of high stress, I feel so fortunate to have it as a tool to help me let go, calm down my ego, and believe in my own potential.
  • Having food to eat, clean water to drink, and a solid roof over my head.
  • This one today especially: the good in humanity. Yesterday’s tragedy in Boston bespeaks the darker side of humanity, the evil that grows from shame and misunderstanding and hatred. Though the lives that were lost are irreplaceable, and acts like this will weigh on all of our spirits, goodness and love are still alive: “When you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, ‘The good outnumber you, and we always will'” (Patton Oswalt). I’ve always had a difficult time hearing about terrible events like this one, and they’ve quite easily led me to believe that any faith I had in humanity was delusional. But the good is there, and I am so grateful for reminders of that fact. This is not to belittle the pain that so many are feeling in the wake of all of this. There is nothing that can compensate for lives being lost to violence. But we must not give up on humanity; we must remember what we are fighting for and know that it’s not in vain.

Much love to Boston and to all of you.

Gratitude Tuesday

Image

Via Flickr User shannonkringen

For me, gratitude has been one of the most important–and at times most difficult–practices to cultivate. I, like many people, tend to become overwhelmed by negativity much of the time, and I forget that I have so much joy in my life. There will always be the yin and yang of darkness and light, and we must try to learn to appreciate both. Without one, there would not be the other. Sometimes we try to live only in the light and try to evade the darkness; sometimes we become consumed by sadness or grief or anger and start believing darkness is all there is. In the latter case, we might even start avoiding or ignoring the light because we don’t think that it’s real, that it’ll deceive us by giving us joy and then stripping it away. That’s how it seems sometimes, but though both sides may shift in form, they are both always there.

As a recovering perfectionist (and, to quote Brené Brown, “an aspiring goodenoughist”), it serves me to take the time to remember the light in my life instead of focusing completely on what is “wrong.”

So I’d like to begin to post three things I am grateful for once (at least) a week. So here’s Gratitude Tuesday. Grati-Tuesday? Nah, I think we’ll just stick with the first one. 😉

Today I am grateful for:

  • My mom completing seven out of ten radiation treatments. She’s kicking ass!
  • The opportunity to be a maid of honor for one of my very best friends in July. The co-MOH and I are having a ton of fun planning the bachelorette party. Fortunately she and I are also good friends and see eye-to-eye on almost everything.
  • Living in the lovely, spirited, unique city of Austin, which is so full of good people, good music, and good yoga. 

How about you, friends? What are you grateful for today?

 

Plans

Via Flickr User Jennuine Captures

Via Flickr User Jennuine Captures

It’s another one of those days when I’m writing, deleting, writing, deleting. A fog has settled over my mind, and it’s always difficult to write through that.

It’s not that things are bad, in general. My mom got through her surgery and is recovering like a champion. I could not be more grateful for that.

Honestly, I’ve just been dreading this particular weekend for a while now, knowing that grief would come back to high tide at this time. And here it is, the waves lapping at my feet, chilling my toes, washing up the things I had wanted to forget.

We all make plans that never come to fruition. I’m always taken aback by how crushing it can be to try to accept that these plans won’t happen–even when they weren’t any big deal. Just some little things you got excited about. A trip, or a gift, or a surprise. Something you were going to share with someone, maybe. Simple. Trivial, even. Maybe just one tiny little thing. If it had happened as you imagined it, it would have passed through your life like a breeze, a diversionary moment that gives you the kind of pure, gentle joy that seems so natural that you take it for granted. We let so many of these moments go unappreciated, which perhaps is the reason we can’t stand to let go of unrealized plans, our perceived chances for fulfillment. People can spend their whole lives trying to find that feeling again, that joy they never even knew they had.

Of course, it’s likely that whatever your plan was, it would not have happened as you imagined, or even if it did, you still might not have gotten whatever it was you were really seeking. Mice and men, and all that. The result could have left you with disappointment instead of contentment. It could have left you with a feeling of emptiness, the sense that some unnamed thing is missing, and you don’t know how or where to find it.

We can get into patterns where we keep trying to fix something that isn’t serving us. We make plans that devastate us with our failure every time. But it’s still hard to give it all up, to let go, to move onto other things. Other plans.

And even when we do begin the process of trying to let go, there are always the seeds we never planted. Even if we know the soil was toxic, even if we saw a thousand seeds never grow in it, or grow into things they were never supposed to be, there is an excruciating pain in not knowing for sure, not having the chance to bury those seeds in the dirt, sprinkle some water over them, and hope. But at some point we have to seek different ground, or we could stay in the same garden forever, planting and obsessing and blaming ourselves for every failure.

Leaving dreams behind will never not be painful. But there are practices that can help bring us some peace. Gratitude is one such practice. We can be grateful for whatever it was that inspired us to want to create a garden in the first place. We can be grateful for the plants did that grow into something beautiful, even if they died later on.

And we can be grateful for our strength, for our ability to persevere, to keep on living after we’ve been hurt and betrayed.

Sometimes we can be grateful that the death of old plans gives us new space to explore, to expand. To make new plans.

Maybe not now. But someday.