Tuesday, February 24, 2009
"Daddy, you get to spend time with me!".
May we all recognize such wisdom in our own days.
I was waiting at a red light today and noticed two cars pulled off the side of the cross road ahead. Apparently they had just had a fender bender. Both car owners were out of their cars, inspecting the bumpers in what appeared to be a relatively minor incident. As I watched, I could have sworn that while dusting the dirt and grime off of their cars to check for dings, the drivers were sharing a few laughs.
Immediately, I felt a little more light-hearted. How wonderful if indeed both drivers were present enough to not be thinking about the past (I can't believe he wasn't paying attention; if only I'd left a few seconds earlier) or the future (now I'm going to be late; how is this going to effect my insurance?). And even better, to be in the present in a light manner - to realize that what is, is...and to see some possible humor in the situation.
As the light turned green and I drove past, I noticed no smile on the woman's face as she was handing over information to the other driver. Perhaps she'd returned to worry, perhaps the joke was over, perhaps I'd just imagined the previous moment. Regardless, for me the lightness lingers on. Amazing how a smile - imagined or not - can spread.
Friday, February 20, 2009
If I'm not living in my yoga, I am totally guilty of making a split second judgement on the driver. As I pass by and catch a glimpse of the person behind the wheel, all too often I'll think "...figures" and then feel guilty for doing so. I think so many of us make assumptions about what a driver of a car is going to do - or not do - just based off the type of car they are driving. Add to that a momentary behavior that fits the stereotype of the driver we are expecting (teenager speeding, older person driving slowly) and suddenly we are the omniscient god of the road - able to predict and judge whatever everyone else is doing.
You may have heard the joke: "Anyone driving slower than you is an idiot. Anyone driving faster than you is a maniac."
But really, the type of car nor the momentary behaviors of the driver tell me anything about the person behind the wheel. The car could be rented, the driver on the way to the hospital to visit a dying relative, the owner not financially in a position to fix the noisy muffler. Even if you drive past and see a teenager behind the wheel of the speeding SUV with radio blaring, can you really judge what kind of person s/he is? Try to keep this in mind (as I will as well) next time you border on the edge of road rage or get ready to honk at the driver annoying you.
And, if you are so ready, consider this: just as the car is a layer by which we can't judge someone, so are the clothes that person is wearing. (Do baggy sagging pants really make someone irresponsible? Does any type of dressing on the head make someone questionnable? Does a suit make them trustworthy or sweatpants make them lazy?) Go further. Does a hairstyle tell you what type of person someone is? What about their actions? How many of us have had a bad day and interacted with loved ones or strangers in a way that totally does not reflect who we are?
Is there ever really a layer where we feel we can truly know someone? Is there ever a time when we can judge another - to understand that person and their actions and motivations so deeply that we are ready to assert whether they are good or bad, right or wrong? Do we even know ourselves this well??
I've watched Shrek enough times to know that the outside doesn't reflect the inside. Often times, the inside doesn't even reflect the true self...the ultimate Brahman, God, Goddess, true nature, ...the one of which we are all part.
So next time you or I are ready to make a judgement, let's try to peel away another layer and just see what we find.
And FYI....I drive a minivan.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
There is the drive to "do it all". To be a mother, to be a full-time yoga teacher, to enroll the kids in classes, to bake calorie-free cookies... Yet, why? For whom?
Right now I'm taking a bit of time to reflect on what I already do and how much time it really takes. Driving 20 minutes to and from preschool, the hours per week laundry really takes, how much time picking up after the kids (and my husband!) takes, ... I don't count these things when I look at the calendar to start scheduling my classes.
I'll have to write more on this later. Apparently dealing with the screaming kids takes more time than I thought, too.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
My apologies to those who commented on my old blog - they were insightful and generous comments and I wish I could include them all here.
For those so interested, you can still view my old blog (for awhile) at io.icmb.utexas.edu/lisa.
I realize that the title of this post isn’t really a choice (i.e. you can have both), but this seems to be the challenge I am facing recently.
This is particularly for homeowners, stay-at-home parents, those facing responsibilities of housework, mortgages, ….ok, basically anyone. Many say that housework (laundry, dishes, cleaning, etc) can be put aside to attend to more important things - playing with the kids, exercising, yoga, etc. While I agree that these priorities are greater than cleaning, the clutter around the house doesn’t seem to understand that it doesn’t need to grow to get attention while I’m focusing on the kids.
It’s a non-ending cycle: I get low in energy (for whatever reason). Housework and related responsibilities get put aside as I focus on doing the bare minimum and things that will increase my energy. During this time, laundry piles up, clutter seems to increase, and projects around the house remain uncompleted. As my energy cycles back up, I find myself working on my yoga classes, taking the kids out to the library, drives, etc., and once again focusing on healthy living. The housework takes a back seat as I strive to take advantage of the energy to blog, connect with friends, grow my inspiration, keep up with the kids. Slowly the clutter comes back into focus and with my renewed energy, I clean, de-clutter, try to tackle some of the projects that got ignored before. (The typical spring cleaning) Because of the lack of attention the cleaning previously received, there is a LOT to do. Something has to be sacrificed due simply to time and energy - connecting with my soul or cleaning the house. You can probably guess which one I choose to let go. As it is does, energy cycles and drops and the cycle begins again…
I am well aware that clutter around my environment is directly related to clutter in my body, my mind, my soul. Yet I find trying to keep the dirties out of my physical environment just as challenging as keeping the dirties out of my body (prepackaged, cheaper, lower calorie food versus the much healthier but more time-consuming alternatives). Previously “success” was the signpost that determined which clutter I chose to focus on at the moment. Succeeding at maintaining a healthy environment (need to rid our home of chemicals, for us and the kids! get rid of these piles of papers and the clutter, for my mental health! guests are coming over-clean up the stains, for my social sake!) or perhaps succeeding at my passions (get the website up! Set up appointments to make those oh-so-important connections!). Enjoying what is took a backseat to enjoying what might be.
So now, faced once again with a turning point in this cycle, I reflect to see how I can break this habit.
Simplicity seems to be a key. Admitting that I can’t do it all (as my wonderful yoga teacher, Marsha once said, “my mind is writing checks my body can’t cash”) and honestly deciding what it is I want to do. The housework simply isn’t going to go away and will continue to grow if ignored. My husband helps around the house but we have chosen our primary roles. His is bringing in the income so I don’t have to find a job, mine is taking care of a majority of the housework so it gets done while he works. These are the roles we have chosen, and I value every gift of being able to not work. I need to honor these responsibilities and the beauty inherent in them instead of looking to succeed elsewhere. This does not mean giving up my self development (yoga teaching, photography, etc), but simplifying each role so that I have the energy to consistently devote time to my physical environment and my inner environment.
Speaking of….the kids call. The blog will have to wait.
I've been out of town and a bit out of sorts. In an attempt to rebalance, I’d visited a Starbucks to soothe myself with a Chai. I experienced a very unexpected benefit…the minute I walked in the store, I smelled the coffee (which I don’t drink and generally don’t even like the scent of), saw the crowd sitting, standing, chatting, drinking, doing, and being…and felt - at home. I don’t mean back in town, at my home, I mean at home in my soul. And before I get a bunch of complaints about how I’m falling into the Starbucks “marketing” trap, I want to encourage everyone to think about this for a minute.
It was a feeling, brought on by sensory cues, that reminded me of my truth. A scent, sights, perhaps colors or the sounds…I was taken from the rush of what was to the pleasantries of what is.
Perhaps someday I’ll create environments (my own home, a bustling and peaceful yoga community center) that I can constantly visit and in which to live to support and nurture these feelings, this way of being.
And yell at me all you want, but until that point…there’s always Starbucks.
There is something, something strong, about being joyful. I’m not talking about walking around with a smile on your face on the time, with rose-colored glasses, thinking everything is just fine. I’m talking about a much deeper way of being. Being peaceful in the face of tragedy, financial stress, relationship troubles, pain in the heart….there is something about that way of being that I am trying to tap into.
One of my beautiful fellow students in my yoga teacher training class once spoke to me about her family and how - even amidst the trials and tribulations of family life - they always have fun. I was deeply inspired by this. I think about all the times I’m at home with the kids getting angered by one more deliberate push between the kids or how off balance I get when a loved one (friend or family) makes a comment that hurts my soul. Each of these situations is just where that person is in their life. Instead of letting my ego get in the way (why can’t I just get my work done?! How can s/he feel that way - doesn’t s/he understand the hate they are spewing?), I’m exploring living with a light heart.
Yup, shit is still going to happen. But being light-hearted and taking things with a smile in my soul will allow me to at least crack a smile as I walk away to get the carpet cleaner because my son just wrote his name in crayon on the living room floor (instead of cursing and yelling at him). This isn’t about being wishy-washy, either. I heard a quote from Elizabeth Lesser today, “A spiritual warrior is someone who feels life deeply”. As I deal with the tragedies - big or little - that face me, I want to feel them. Yet I want to remain with my self, my smile, and feel the flowing river of change washing through me, knowing that “this too shall pass”.
I want to be joyous, peaceful, and REAL. Another quote, from a minister, Ed Bacon, “You cannot do this alone…you cannot be a human being alone”. I want to be emmeshed wish others who also want to be joyous, peaceful, and REAL…and regardless of how close we actually are to doing (being) this in our daily lives, I want to explore and experience together.
Ah, so many thoughts, so many places to record them. Here’s one for you:
Many months ago, I ran across CurlyGirl Designs. I LOVE this woman’s artwork and thoughts on life. One magnet I recently purchased states, “The world is full of people who will go their Whole lives and not actually Live one day. She did not intend on being one of them”. That about sums it up!
I know every time I look at this, the fire in my belly burns a little bit brighter, a little stronger. Even if I only sit a bit straighter to improve my health so I can LIVE how I’d like, it is something. (I fully intend to jump out of my seat, burst out my front door and run down the street yelling “YES” in my pink tiara and high heels…c’ept I couldn’t find my feather boa and I was afraid of slipping on the ice. Next time.)
I know how this hits me, how it makes me feel. Starting my journey as a yoga instructor, I am faced everyday with LIVING or, well…., sleeping. Seriously, it is quite the challenge these days. It is so easy to go back to doing versus being. My son still has preschool, my daughter still wants to give hugs all the time (yup, it’s adorable), and my husband still needs me to stand in line to get Tony Dungy’s signature. Life goes on. But whether LIVING goes on is up to me. I became immersed in my yogic self throughout teacher training, was reminded constantly of who I truly am. Now, it is up to me.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have my beautiful friends I gained throughout the training and loving friends and family who want to support me on my journey. But no one else can do it for me. No one else can tell me to work on contacting yoga studios if I’m slouching on the couch munching on Wheat Thins. No one else can make the decision as to whether a nap will refresh me or if it is a waste of time. No one else can live for me.
I’m fortunate. I’ve had glimpses of what it is to LIVE, what it means to be fully alive. Having tasted the delicious beauty, I can never go back to sleep again without at least longing to be awake. (Not to say I don’t - every day is another challenge, countless moments whizzing by that are either lived, or not.) But what does this mean for you? If you were to read this, would you just say “that’s nice” and go back to your coffee? (No judgments…I head straight to my chai after looking at it.) Would it spark anything in you? And if it does, just for a moment, do you intend on being someone who is ok with not LIVING?
Interested to know….
(Forgive me for my absence from this blog. My reflections have taken the form of homework for my yoga teacher training!)
We were recently assigned an article titled “Doing vs Being” for class. Very nice read but my mind is already there. Unfortunately, no amount of discussion, reading, logical conclusion, or even blogging will help me ultimately figure this out. It is only through experience, day-to-day, that I believe the true answer awaits my discovery. Fortunately, all the things I mentioned give different perspectives on and perhaps insights into the topic, so here I go!
First, with graduation only a week and a half away, I am once again awakening to the whirlpool that is life. What do I do now? It would be so easy just to go back to what was - just watching the kids day-to-day, longing after workshops that I can’t afford or for which I haven’t found child care, intellectually knowing the benefits of the life I studied but not living it. Not only would this be a waste of money spent on this teacher training but a disservice - a slap in the face - to me, and ultimately, my kids, my husband, my community. I know that I have gifts to share, I know that my uniqueness needs to radiate. Ignoring the progress I’ve made is falling back asleep. I refuse to do that.
Second, I find myself (when considering jobs, studios, solo teaching, etc) already moving again into the intellectual and fear-based decision making I have ALWAYS reverted to. This is not necessarily a “bad” thing, but particularly with this path, will not serve me well. I’m ready to start making a business plan, attempt marketing, designing a website. I’ve already started considering consequences - like students or colleagues reading this blog. (Being a teacher of course brings responsibilities. I’m 100% open and honest on this blog. I use language some would consider inappropriate, express things about myself, my views, and my parenting which could have consequences depending on the context in which the words are read.) And money? This is a whole other blog (being able to bring in an income vs being ok with Chris providing the income…too much of a tangent for this blog). Regardless, it feels energizing to think about all of these things but there is something obviously missing!! It is the same way I have approached everything else - going for the areas I know I’m already skilled, working on what is comfortable, getting excited about the start-up but not considering the follow-through. Doing everything I can but not being.
I had reflected last night (before even reading this article) and had a new set of insights on something that has been plaguing me for awhile. I’ve read a lot about setting priorities, knowing your values, living with integrity (values match your actions, even when no one is watching). Sounds peachy. I’m quite introspective and know my values, and even know that they change from time to time! What I realized is how much my intellectual self gets in the way of living an integrity-filled life, of actually experiencing those values. I am reeeaally good at logicaly justifying almost anything. (Thanks, dad.) Comes in handy in some situations, but in trying to live my yoga, an awakened life, one true to my values - it is quite an obstacle. Furthermore, I suck at discipline. I fight it, arguing that it creates binds, schedules, …
For example, I value community, health (physical and mental), wellness (spiritual and the unity of the 5 bodies), and family (not necessarily in that order and I don’t even want to think about something I may have forgotten right now). Thus, I need to discipline myself to maintain community (setting up dates with friends, etc); eating healthy foods and working out and reading; living my yoga; and being present with my family. I have many obstacles including clutter, ill health, fear, etc. My logical mind turns these obstacles not into challenges but reasons. “I can’t have people over tonight! The house is seriously a mess. I can’t get together with them! Where would we meet where the kids wouldn’t get too restless?” “I’m thin enough. These chips with dinner, this pizza, this diet coke…why not?” (Yeah, I can already hear the arguments back against these thoughts. But admit it - you have them too. And when these arguments appear in my head, at least, it is the most comfortable path that usually wins…my habituated path, my Samskara. I haven’t lost my values of community, health, wellness, family…they are just secondary.)
When I reach this obvious point of change (even though life truly changes every second) nearing graduation, Doing vs Being - doing more, less, the same, different OR being, becomes a crucial point of reflection. I could go out and find a list of jobs. I could create jobs for myself. I could worry about creating an income that I could live off of so I don’t have to have the argument in my head that I’m just riding on Chris’ coattails and don’t understand all that others have to deal with in this “doing vs being” conundrum. I could do so many things. But why? To what end? To succeed? To prove myself? To “become” more of who I am? To live a full life? No reason is better than another, really. But maintaining my integrity, the reason behind what I’m doing what I’m doing, the “being” behind the “doing”….ahhh, there is my challenge.
So I am trying to do things that remove or lessen obstacles and simultaneously choose to add those things to my life that discipline me to live with integrity. This involves so many continuing steps (continuously examining my values, doing what I can to rid clutter - through my house, through my body, through my mind -, choosing every single time whether the food I’m eating is healthy or an “acceptable indulgence”, practicing yoga on and off the mat instead of just knowing and promoting its benefits, practicing meditation instead of just knowing and promoting its benefits, determining whether it is my heart or my mind making the decision - or both - and how I feel about that, and on and on).
As I make choices about what to do now that I am a yoga teacher (how cool is that?!), I honor where I am and where everyone else is in this fluctuating examination of life. I want to consider and put into practice these deep ideals we’ve learned and make doing so no different from doing the dishes, cleaning up the toys (yet again), living cooped up in the house in sub-zero weather, disciplining and laughing with the kids, choosing expensive organic cotton versus regular, …
We all have our obstacles, our triumphs, our “situations” that put our decisions in a different light than that of our neighbor. We all suffer. We all have our “to-do’s” - be they taking care of kids, making enough money to cover the house payment, finding a way to make the relationship work (or get out of it), dealing with chronic health issues, cleaning the house, calling mom or a friend, … as well as our “to-be’s” - being more authentic, being more “successful”, being …well, just being.
As a yoga teacher (again, how cool is that?), a yoga practitioner, and just to honor my own values, I feel it important to live these questions every moment of life. I’ll still yell at the kids after hours of frustruation that I haven’t been able to have more than 5 minutes on my mat without getting kicked or run over by a “Mustang”, still get anxious that the dirty laundry is overflowing while I attempt to read my book on mindfulness, and still neglect to call yet another friend to set up a get together. But I practice, day and day again, continue to try for discipline, and look to balance doing and being.
May we all find ourselves and one another through this search.
I have several blog ideas running around in my head, but have to write a short one right now…if only for my sanity. This one is particularly to get other parents’ responses.
I have a long list of things to accomplish today - one of which is dropping off recycling (that is overflowing our bins) by noon before it closes. Tyler seems to not be sleeping well these past few days because he’s always tired and crabby throughout the day. Today is no exception. I’ve been trying to (hah - Dilana just bit my leg. That’s a new one.)…trying to be there with the kids. (Yes, I note the irony that I’m typing on the computer right now) Tyler has been fighting me every step of the way this morning. While I want to be gentle and responsive and in the moment, I keep finding myself glancing towards the clock and realizing that if we don’t get out of the house soon, I’ll miss recycling (until Friday…yikes).
Not the end of the world and I understand Tyler is more important, but when do I start to work on my schedule instead of his?
I think I just answered my own question. I hate having to learn lessons sometimes. They are painful (literally - Dilana is now pinching me. Time to turn to her.)
I’ve just finished reading yet another wonderful book, this one titled, “Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood” by Karen Maezen Miller. Karen is a Zen Buddhist Priest and mother who definitely knows how to keep it real. The book has certainly given me a lot to think about and to practice in daily life.
Allow me to quote a few passages:
“This is the absolutism, the certitude, with which we divide our view of the world. The either and or, the good and bad, the better and worse, the right and wrong, the sickness and health, the perfect and imperfect, the before and after, the flower and weed, the you and me. In Buddhism this is called dualism, the view of everything as part of a pair of opposites. The world, of course, does not really divide the way, only our egocentric views do. By good, we mean good for me. By wrong, we mean wrong to me. Ask your child to distinguish between a daisy and a dandelion to see that their is no distinction at all. We call it a weed because we don’t like it; we call it a flower because we do; we call it a tragedy because flowers fall. And so it is in life. So it is!”
“In the company of my child, I realize how much time I spend in some other place entirely. Indeed, how much of my life I spend in the reverie of my own thoughts and schemes. Her laughs and cries, her outbursts and calls, snap me back to where we are right now. Can I manage to stay here for a little while longer before I compulsively trail off again? It’s very hard to do. In my bleakest times, one more plea from her hooks me, and I thrash back, as if fighting for my life. I’m not really fighting for my life; I’m fighting for my way of life. Namely, the lost luxury of solitude combined with unlimited escapes into e-mail and the Internet. I know that all my daughter wants is for me to be present at every fresh, new moment of her life. How sad that I can’t give her that. My exits are so habitually ingrained that I’m no longer sure how much of my own life I’ve shown up for.”
I included the first quote because it beautifully explains some of the thoughts I’ve written about letting go, about imagining if there were no good or bad. Can you accept the beauty of both a “flower” and a “weed”? Can you accept that both will die? Can you be with the fact that you too will die - as will your parents, your children?
The second quote is one that has given me a great deal of practice over the past couple of days. I’m fascinated by the fact that no matter how much I study my ego from different angles, it always seems to hoodwink me again. My wise teacher from the past yoga workshop (Kofi Busia - check him out via the web) talked about “uninterruptedness”. One facet of this is being completely uninterrupted in our focus on that which we truly desire, who we truly are. It is in the moments we are distracted that we find ourselves tricked once again. (Think you’ve given up the habit of eating unhealthy foods? Of smoking? Drinking? What happens when a few stressful days build up, distracting you from your focus? If nothing else, thoughts of the habit flood back in…often leading once again to action.)
My ego is the same way. And good god, does it know how to fight. I realize that probably 99% of my stress through my days arises because I don’t want to be here, now. I’m thinking about not being able to get the clothes folded and getting quite upset everytime Dilana comes in again to grab another neatly folded shirt off the bed. I’m thinking about not being able to get my shopping done and how I’m going to have to come back and it isn’t fair because Tyler is throwing another fit because he can’t get the little Mustang that was so appropriately placed on a display round at the groccery store. I’m worried about others opinions when I yell at the kids in the middle of the mall because I can’t take it any more. I’d rather be anywhere - anywhere - else when Dilana starts her attitude-based screaming (think banshee-like and you’ll get the picture). I get frustrated when I can’t get my yoga posture chart done because Tyler wants to build yet another train set, when Dilana asks me to sing “Sunshine” for literally the 10th time, when Tyler wants to listen to the “Move It, Move It” song for literally the hundredth time. The trend here? It’s all about me. What I want, what I don’t want, where I want to be or not. Why not play trains? Why not just fold the shirt again? Why not spend a few minutes talking to the kids and calming them down instead of rushing to another store?
Ah, but the ego fights. A mean fight, too. They need to learn discipline. If I give in now, I’ll lose the battle. Why can’t they play on their own - my homework, my life is important too! My rules, my house, my shopping trip, my life, me, me, me! Instead of being with what is (the kids are tired, Tyler wants to play, Dilana is curious about the clothes that mommy and daddy wear), I’m struggling to be with what I WANT things to be like.
I’m not saying that I should give the kids everything they want. But in being with what is, it will be so much easier to relieve both my stress and theirs when our views differ. Another quote from Momma Zen (not exact - can’t find where it is in the book), “A friend of mine once said, ‘but if I can’t control what they eat, what can I control?’ It was in the silence that followed that the answer was found.” That’s just it - we can’t control. We can prod, urge, coerce, encourage, discourage, punish, reward, push, and tweak - but we can’t control. It is in this realization that bliss can be found. As parents it is our job to examine our own ego, determine how to release our grip on how we think life should be, and gently step moment to moment into the unfolding and ever changing present. As we do this, our children learn how to do the same.
I love analogies, and one I think of here is of driving. To get anywhere, we need to press the gas peddle - otherwise, we’ll just stay exactly where we are. To have some say in where we are going - and to avoid hitting rocks, trees, other cars, and mountains - we need to direct the wheel. But for the drive we’re on, we have no ultimate destination. We need to keep gas in our car. We need to accept the fact that we can’t drive through a lake to get to the other side. We can’t change how others are driving, and need to drive ourselves accordingly. Eventually, we will all stop and leave our cars. You never know where you’ll be when called to do this. Some choose to sit and idle and just look out the window, dreaming of being somewhere else. Others try to power across fields, crash through other cars, and drive across impossibly rocky terrain in order to get anywhere else but where they are. I’d like to keep myself moving with a firm grip on the wheel, but just enjoy the scenery and the awesome music playing on my radio. Other drivers will drive, the roads will change, the weather will keep me alert, and on I will drive until I, too, will be asked to leave my car.
Ok, maybe not the prettiest analogy, but you get the picture. I’m nowhere being a “Zen Momma” yet, but have had a beautiful couple of days trying. I’ve still lost it a couple of times (I now know that Dilana’s screaching is a sure way to get me unbalanced, no matter how calm I may have been before), but have rebounded fairly quickly. That’s the point, I think - knowing that as parents, we are human, and are bound to do human things every now and then. But it’s how quickly we can re-find our zen, our center, our calm, that matters.
The laundry still isn’t done. As I type this, I hear Tyler in his room bouncing around even though he is supposed to be asleep. I didn’t brush Dilana’s teeth tonight. I’m enjoying a glass of wine. There are dirty dishes in the sink. Yet, amazingly, life goes on. All I can hope for is that I’m present for every delicious, blissful, blessed moment of it - for my sake and for that of the kids.
NOTE: I was quite honored to have the author of Momma Zen comment on this original post. Her response? "Karen Maezen Miller said, on December 16th, 2008 at 11:36 pm I know. I understand. Me too. What encouragement you have given me! We have one and the same life! All my love to you and your family.It’s OK if the laundry isn’t done. The next book is called “Hand Wash Cold.” "
What a beautiful woman.
ORIGINALLY POSTED: 12/7/2008
Ok, first of all, for anyone who gets the title reference, KUDOS.
Second, there is so much on which I want to blog. One issue was brought up by Javi, my ever-thoughtful fellow seeker. How would I define “God”? Lest I offend anyone, please know that as long as your God doesn’t advocate killing me if I say the following, I’m quite open to whatever anyone wants to believe. The whole letting go of judgment thing? I mean it and try to live by it as I can. I may disagree with you, but just as I want you to still like me even if you disagree with me, I’d like to still like you, too. (Like, for real.)
So, God. God, goddess, spirit, “the force”…words always seem to get in the way. For those who don’t know, I was raised in a Christian background, though not diligently. We learned the basics and the morals, I was baptized Methodist, attended a year and a half of confirmation classes as a high schooler under the Lutheran faith, and attended church each Christmas and Easter. Beyond that, it was hit or miss. In college, I did the whole rebellion against religion thing (seems quite trendy these days) and studied Wicca (Paganism). I was introduced to this religion by a movie (The Craft, I believe) - I was fascinated that there was a religion that advocated everything as One.
That, my dear friends, was the true start to my understanding of spirituality. Everything as One FELT right. It went beyond logic - it was a spark that ignited every part of my being. Paganism, Wicca in particular, soon started to feel to ritualized and I let the practices go. (I’m not saying that it is, just that it wasn’t right for me at that particular time.) Aspects of it stayed with me - reverence for the earth, the belief in some form of energy that we cant understand but can somehow be tapped into…and many other things, including the Threefold Law (I can’t remember the exact title) - basically stating that what we does comes back unto us threefold. So don’t screw someone over cause it’ll come back to bite you - conversely, the more good you do the more that will come back.
I was married in a Mennonite Fellowship church by a husband and wife ”team” who were absolutely amazing. I was still questioning my spirituality at the time and still held a slight grudge against Christianity (and my husband didn’t really care one way or the other). Our ceremony included readings from the bible, but was very open and liberal (the wife often referred to god as “she” during the ceremony).
Then life, school, kids…the works. All throughout, I’ve held a deep longing to keep spirituality - that sense of “Life” - alive through the daily grind. Part of that is understanding “God”. For me, as for many it seems in my generation, I’ve forgone the view of God as a man in white robes sitting watching us all. (Kind of a bummer - he seemed like such a nice man.) As I’ve examined (very much so on the surface) various religions, I’ve fortunately come to love Christianity again. My main interest at this point lies with Buddhism. I mention these because my definition of God is, I believe, the same as the core beliefs of all of these religions.
For me, God is no different than you, me, the blade of grass getting stepped on as we cut across the lawn or the drop of rain that falls onto the tip of our nose and leaves its damp trail for us to contemplate. God is no different from the love that arises for our child or spouse or parent, the hate that arises towards our enemy, the lust that arises for the stranger we happened across, or the thoughts that accompany all of these feelings.
Buddhism asks us to accept nothing on mere faith - to question, examine, feel the answers as they come to us. It is exactly this that I do every moment of my being. God is the light glowing from my computer screen, the burn I feel in my eyes because I’ve been staring at it for too long, and the dreams that will accompany me as I fall asleep tonight. She is the motivation that will help me arise tomorrow. She is in every question and every answer, but is actually neither. It’s funny - only when I let go of asking do I really find her. (I use “she” here for lack of a better word. Just tired of using “he”, and I’m not sure of a word to use otherwise.)
For example, if I sit gripping the wheel of my car while Dilana screams in the back because Tyler just took her toy but he swears up and down she’s just hungry and I wonder where my calm is and why can’t I feel it and I’m a yogini I should be able to do this…I’ll only get more upset. But when I let go, be with the noise that is, the beauty of two healthy kids and the blessing of having a car (without actually “thinking” of any of these things) - the calm, the peacefulness - God - is there.
For me, without heaven and hell and sin, things just are. Chaotic, maybe, but in such a peaceful way. (Yup, chaos theory I think though I’ve never really read much about it.) All of these disciplines are starting to pick up on how interconnected everything really is - us to our environment, us to one another, our mind with our body, etc. How fascinating that science and religion seem to be coming to common grounds (albeit still quite a way to go).
I hope to expand on this more later, but I really need to get off the computer (or at least attempt my other blog). Stay tuned.
I’ve really started to realize how much stuff I have in my life that I’ve been hanging onto that no longer serves me. See if any of this sounds familiar.
First, the family went out to a park a week ago and tried to get a family photo. (Try doing that with a 1-year and 4-year old - fun times.) When I got home and looked at the photos, I was astonished to see a body I didn’t even recognize - my own! Now before I get anyone on my case, I’m not saying I’m horribly overweight or am going to become anorexic or anything. However, having said that, I am saddened by what I’ve let myself become. I’ve been holding onto my comfort foods, justifying it by thinking I’m active enough to burn it off. In reality, my yoga keeps me flexible but (the type I’m doing) doesn’t provide the aerobic exercise I need. I’ve been holding onto an image of myself as a “healthy” individual, even though I find myself getting more and more fatigued and my body getting in the way of things I want to do.
So I’m readjusting there. I’m not the type who is good about getting up every morning and working out. I make it to the Y often, but trips are split between cardio and yoga. And I am totally in love with my snooze button. For me, (as I think might be beneficial for many others) I have to make fitness a lifestyle. It has to become who I am. Instead of watching a show with the kids, I get to chase them around the house. Instead of choosing the oh-so-delicious heavy cream pasta whose enjoyment will only last as long as it takes me to eat it, I choose another healthier meal and focus on enjoying the symphony of tastes it provides (I’m totally a parent - thinking of “Ratatouille” here!!). You get the idea. It’s a process but I put this out there in part to encourage others and in part to have friends and family encourage me!
Similarly, we have so much STUFF around the house. (Stuff around the body, stuff around the house, stuff on the mind - it all relates) Stuff that is no longer serving us. We have a lot of baby toys that were great before but now are just clutter. I have ample magazines that I figured I’d sort through at some point to pull out the good articles for further inspiration. Well, I have inspiration everywhere but no room to do anything with it! It goes on and on. Trace it to a fear of getting rid of something that I “might someday use” or over-attachment … regardless, it is time to let go.
Anyone else find themself in this position? In what areas of life could you (honestly) stand to let go? What’s keeping you from doing so? What are the consequences of letting go and losin’ it…or not?
For me, I’m loving the process. One hour I’m back to watching tv with my graham crackers in hand, the next I’m on a cleaning spree and making trips to Goodwill. The latter is happening more and more frequently, though, and that’s what it is all about. So here’s to a little less flab, a little less clutter, a little less stress…. Here’s to losin’ it.
NOTE: Because I can't figure out how to import posts from Wordpress (my previous blog site), I'm going to copy a few of my more recent posts in this format. If a post was previously posted, I'll add the original post date at the top.
Today started off as one of those days that seemed it would be best to just crawl back in bed. My son just started on antibiotics for a possible sinus infection (his cheek hurt from it so he wouldn’t eat), my daughter’s nose is running faster than a hose, and I’m on the verge of getting a combination of whatever they have. It is a dreary day, seems like it might rain or snow, and it’s quite cold outside. Add to that lots of clutter that has been building up since our return from a 3 day vacation and it took all of my energy just to get us breakfast.
We kept the t.v. off, though, working instead on picking things up, playing a little catch, and being veeeerrry slowly active. At one point, the dog needed to be let out. My son is very into doing this right now as he likes to give the dog his treat after. As he was standing by the back door, I noticed a bit of sun peaking out and a gentle breeze blowing in. Apparently, my son picked up on this too - he commented on the “lovely day”. So we decided to turn off the heat and open the back door.
And THAT has made all of the difference.
With just the little bit of fresh air blowing into the house, I’m a little bit more picked up. I did a few rounds of Sun Salutations this morning (yoga for those who are unfamiliar with this) and that combined with this gentle breeze has revived my body and spirit. My son has been cleaning for almost an hour - something he generally balks at the second it is mentioned. And my daughter is quietly bouncing around in her own world. Her shirt is still soaked from snot, my son is still coughing something fierce, and I can feel the aches and fatigue that signal my body is ready to rest.
It is starting to get cold in the house so we’ll probably close up again soon, but it is amazing the difference a little fresh air can make - even when we are too ill to get out of the house. Something I need to remember next time I’m too tired to wake up, too stressed to play with the kids, too busy to get reading done, too overwhelmed to be…a little breath of fresh air can make all of the difference.
I hope to keep this blog updated on a regular basis. I'm going to copy a few of my more recent blogs over to this site for review. For those interested in past blogs, please feel free to visit io.icmb.utexas.edu/lisa.
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