listen to your heart

With all the change in my life lately and dreams for my future swirling in my head, it can be easy to feel a little overwhelmed or unsure…doubt creeping in, urges to just settle become strong. It can be hard not to be afraid. That’s why I need courage. Courage, it’s Latin root “cur” meaning not brave, but meaning whole heart.

What would I do if I listened to my heart?

What would you do if you listened to yours?

IMG_0301May you, too, find some courage today to just give it a try…whatever that means for you.

Lessons from Snot

I’m home from work with a cold today.

And it’s taught me something.

I’m snuggled in a blanket, tea in hand, just up from a nap, and through my foggy head things are seeming somehow a little clearer.

I often…very often…have this nagging sense that I am not doing all I could to spend my energy on that which is beautiful in my life. I work to make my life very full, but is it complete? There are many, many things in my life that I love, I cherish, that bring me joy and grow compassion and connection. But as a self-admitted Recovering Type A, I often spend my time doing other things… preparing for a presentation, thinking of a way to be a better friend, make more money, have a cuter apartment. I fill my life from top to bottom with plans, lists, and dreams, and my mind ends up filled from top to bottom as well.

No space to breathe, move, think, reset.

And then I get sick.

Shocker, right?

I was sick at my wedding (like, really sick), I had intense fatigue a year ago that led to two days straight of sleeping and a week of convincing myself I had mono, I got a fever in the middle of this summer. I do tons of yoga, eat a healthy plant-based diet, keep a regular sleep schedule, but yet I often find myself down and out…not feeling as great as I might. I can check off every box in the healthy person checklist, but yet I’m not feeling great. And I think I know what’s happening here.

My body is slowing my down because I won’t do it on my own.

I have a choice. I can choose to shove myself full of Dayquil and caffeine and head in to work. I’ll avoid feeling guilty, inferior, weak.

Or I can choose to listen to what my intuition is telling me about this sickness.

My life is full but I’m only flirting with making it feel complete as well, and that’s something I am going to keep working on. When I’m still for a day, the movement I miss is not the hectic pace of work but the movement of my body. Not my identity as an employee but my identity as a friend, wife, sibling, daughter. connection with loved ones. You know what happened yesterday? (SHOCKER COMING) The world didn’t explode nor did I melt into a puddle of water because George and I watched American Hustle on Sunday afternoon instead of checking our progress on sticking with our budget or running errands or cooking.

It’s okay to be still.

That is something I am going to keep telling myself until I believe it, feel it in my bones, and live a life that reflects that. This stillness, this silence, it’s very loud. There’s a very loud message of slowing down going on.

And I just might do it.

And until then, I’m going to use this sick day as a lovely justification to eat ice cream and watch Sex and the City for the millionth time.

misadventures in meditation

Even as I’ve become a yoga-loving, smoothie-drinking gal over the past few years, I always secretly kept judging meditation. Picturing a bald, smiling male in loose cotton clothing sitting a mat for hours on end, I always thought to myself “Please, who has time for that? Sitting around for hours? How uncomfortable, unproductive…un….realistic.” It felt like far from what could ever be a reality for me. Moreover, it seemed far from what could ever be beneficial. I’m all about mindfulness (focus your full attention on texting or Facebook – but not both at once!), body scans, a 5-minute catnap, etc. but never imagined that there could actually be any benefit to “sitting around” for that long.

Enter yoga teacher training and our assignment for 20 minutes daily of silent (vipassana) meditation. No mantra, no lovingkindness, no counting your breaths, just a silent mind.

Silence that really goes something like this in my mind:

“Godddddammmmmit my feet are asleep again. Ow. Am I sitting up straight enough? Do I look really calm? I’m getting centered, I’m getting centered. F–k I’m not supposed to be thinking of anything. Good-bye thoughts… I wonder if it’s been 20 minutes yet? Why does my elbow itch? I suck at this. NO! NO JUDGING! How is that one hair tickling my nose? God I want to move it. I can’t. Just do it! No one will see! NO NO NO! Ignore! Calm…. Silence…. Balance… It has to have been like 17 minutes, right? Did the leader forget their timer? This has to be done… I’m hungry. I wonder if George is making dinner…I’m thirsty. THAT DANG HAIR!”

And so on.

It goes like that. And doesn’t end when the timer beeps. Then I have moments of waking up my feet, feeling like 1,000,000 needles are stabbing me from within and sending streams of acid burning up my leg muscles as they slowly wake up. And in these moments we are practicing metta, or the meditation of sending love and kindness out through the world. IT HURTS, PEOPLE, IT HURTS! Lovingkindness to you all.

But because I am a type-A person who wants to be a “good student,” I meditate. I drag out my blanket and block when I first wake up in the morning and faithfully set my timer for 20 minutes. I spend my 20 minutes vacillating from thinking about grocery lists or work emails and my breath, noticing the sensations. I tolerate the pain of my feet falling asleep and then waking up again. I do it, I journal about it, and I do it again. I don’t feel high on life or magically changed after those 20 minutes are up, I don’t wake up with an excitement to do my 20 minutes, but I do it.

…and something is happening.

If I go one morning without meditating, I’m crankier, more agitated, and less calm by 4 pm – almost like a caffeine crash.

If I go one full day without meditating, I don’t sleep as well and wake up the next morning more stressed.

If I go two days without meditating, look out self – you’re in for some self-criticism.

If I go three days, look out George – you’re in for some b*tchy moments (YOU BOUGHT WHITE BREAD? – A story for another day…).

 

So I do it. I return to my blanket and sit and try to be okay with not being “good” at something. It’s a journey.  It’s hard. REALLY HARD. But it’s changing my brain for the better (seriously, click that link – the benefits to meditation are astounding).

Give it a try.

You won’t turn into a bald, middle-aged, cotton-wearing, smiling man, I promise. But you may just find yourself calmer, or happier, or getting much better at practicing kindness and non-judgment towards yourself.

And you will definitely find yourself some amount amused and appalled at what comes into your mind while you’re trying to have nothing come into your mind. Don’t judge.

 

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Meditation is actually extremely beneficial, and I would love to share the small bit I’ve learned with you all. Coming soon: How to Begin Meditating – from a novice, to a novice.

 

I don’t floss every day

The dentist is like that movie Groundhog’s Day, only more shaming.

“How often are you flossing, dear?”

“Er, um, ha ha, you know, like almost every day….. Well….maybe more like a couple times a week…month…well, occasionally. I mean, I’ll start.”

Caught in my lie. I’m not flossing.

Is it really so easy to floss daily that my dental hygienist should just assume I’m doing it? Are other people doing this every day (I can’t ask my friends lest they find out the shameful secret that this habit has never really caught on for me)? When did everyone start? Isn’t everyone too tired to add one more thing onto their bedtime routine (no way in hell I can stay up 20 seconds longer)? Don’t they find it awkward to reach both their hands into their mouth (do I have a small mouth?)? Isn’t it hard to do something with such delayed gratification? Is everyone a better person than me?

Sigh.

Flossing has always seemed like one of those things I will do when I’m “finally” an adult. Along with make my bed every day, never drink too much, be calm and composed at all times, and have plenty of money in my savings account.

Yet, the truth is I still have more mornings than I want where I wake up anxious and dehydrated from one-too-many cocktails the night before. There are full weeks…or two…that go by without my toilet getting cleaned (sorry, mom). There are days when I get really overwhelmed or sad about seemingly nothing and cry.

And I find these things to be problems. Things I want to get rid of.

Yet, these things in and of themselves are not necessarily the problem. The problem is my judgment and self-criticism of my behaviors and myself.

This all relates to a bigger struggle that I, and lots of people, have about tying my value as a person to what I do instead of who I am. (Sometimes, it seems like my dental hygienist does too – I’m a kind person, I swear! My plaque means nothing! – [also, my dental hygienist really is a lovely person, and I would highly recommend her]). This is a dangerous trap – to have some mostly-arbitrary external goal to judge myself by. It’s a dangerous trap to judge myself at all, really. So if I have friends over with clothes all over my floor, if I can’t do a handstand, if my ass never gets smaller (and it probably won’t no matter how much kale I eat), if I have a zit on my face or cry sometimes, or say no to a friend, or spend money on expensive bubble bath I “shouldn’t,” then I’m never good enough?

Eeek.

So this is why I’m practicing self-acceptance. I can love myself with an unmade bed or when I am embarrassed after making a really un-funny joke or when I snap at a loved one in a moment of frustration. I’m on a journey. I’m practicing. I want to shush that ever-present “not good enough” part of my brain and start teaching that little voice that dang it – I am good enough! And that’s not because of anything I have done or will do. It is because I am me.

And in the mean-time, I got those cute little floss-pick things.

But they are kind of pokey on the end, and I don’t appreciate that, so maybe it’s just not meant to be.

 

“Begin anywhere.”      -John Cage