Beauty – The Civil War in My Head

trenchesI’ve never really thought of myself as being beautiful. This is a problem because of my job.

I work in the beauty industry where I encounter women every day who have silky, shiny, deliciously coiffed hair; glowing, blemish-free, wrinkle-free skin; youthful, slender, tight and toned bodies; snow white, straight teeth and chip-free manicured nails with no hang nails or cuticles.

I feel an intense amount of pressure to look a certain way – from society, from the media and mostly from myself. Usually I wind up feeling miserable about the way I look compared to the women I see in the salon and in the media. I see beautiful women. They’re everywhere.

I’m also a yoga teacher where we learn to honor our bodies how they are now in this moment as being perfect. In yoga, we see all life, everything as beautiful and divine, a gift from our Creator.

It’s a civil war in my brain between my ego and my soul. I keep waiting for my General Sherman Soul to go marching through my ego and burn it all to the ground, saving the tiny little Savannah of goodness that lives in my ego. But mostly I feel like this battle is mostly at a stalemate but neither side is willing to surrender.

This is the ultimate lesson for me. Take something that scares the heck out of you and go work in that industry, like someone who’s afraid to fly becoming a pilot.

I look in the mirror every day and most days the image I see does not represent how I feel inside. In my mind, I’m a shimmering dragon soaring above the Earth; I’m a sneaky red fox jumping in the air; I’m a leggy ballerina hair neatly tucked up in a bun twirling until I fall down. In the mirror I see wrinkles, sun spots, oily skin, cellulite, a Buddha belly, gray hair and cobwebs.

I try my best to put on my face and go out into the world. I buy clothing that is somewhat stylish but doesn’t make my bottom look too big. I wear mascara and eye makeup even though I’m allergic and it irritates and burns my eyes. I use hot tools to keep my mop of hair in check.

Talk about being spiritually bereft in the most abundant nation in the world. I hate myself for not being beautiful and then I hate myself for worrying about it. There are days I wish I could go live on a mountain top as a yogi and just meditate this all away. But I still live here in Cincinnati, OH. No mountain tops here.

We exist on this planet, I believe, to learn lessons. This is still one of my lessons – not being good enough. That’s what this all boils down to – a deep seated belief that I’m not good enough and somehow being beautiful will change that.

I hope someday to embody beauty, to feel beautiful in all of my cells that I radiate, to know deep in my heart and soul that I am good enough, to sparkle. But for now, I sit in silent observation as my ego and soul dig deeper trenches, dreaming of flying off to my dragon’s lair.

 

 

 

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Accepting the New You – Part Three of the Pain Management Tool Box

raising my arm

This is me raising my arm after 6 months of not being able to move it more than 6 inches away from my side.

It’s February 7. This is about the time all of those “New Year, New You” resolutions to lose weight, change your hair or find a new job, usually have officially lost all of their steam. Change is hard and it usually requires a catalyst to instigate significant change.

While a simple number change of the year is usually not enough to motivate you past the first few weeks of the year; pain and injury will. No matter how hard you try, pain and injury will require you to make some unwanted, difficult changes to your life. Pain is an amazingly successful catalyst.

Most people, I am high on this list, will fight and resist this change. One of the most common desires people suffering from chronic pain desperately want is to be “normal” again. You want to be able to blow dry your hair, put on your bra, drive your car, go to the grocery store, etc…

I wanted to do all of those things and more. You have to accept that you will never be the same person again. You have to accept that your life will never be the same. You might not ever be able to do certain activities again that you once did with ease.

This was one of the hardest lessons for me to learn. Quite frankly, my struggle to do things the way I used to do them caused me more pain and suffering than I probably should’ve endured. You have to be willing to modify how you do everything to accommodate for your pain and/or injury.

As a result of my C5 Palsy, I couldn’t move my right arm for 6 months. But in reality, it was pretty much useless for 9 months. In that time I had to learn to do everything with my left arm. To understand what I went through, hold your dominant arm behind your back and try to go to the bathroom. Unzip your pants, pull them down, do your business, pull your paints up, zip back up, flush and wash your hands.

I had to lay down on my bed just to get a bra on. I learned to put a shoe string through the loops on my zippers just to be able to wear jeans or pants out in public for any length of time because you can’t lay down on the floor of public bathrooms to zip up your pants. I bought a rocker knife so I could cut my own food.

With each of these modifications, I would break down in tears. I felt so helpless and frustrated, angry even, that I struggled to accomplish simple tasks that a five-year-old could do. This lack of control, this anger, fueled my growing depression. And if you’ve read my other blog posts about pain, you know that depression and pain are linked. As your depression increases, so does your pain and vice versa.

Around the 6th month, I began to accept these modifications and even get good at them. I could get dressed in 10 minutes, not the 20 – 25 it first took me. I became proficient using my rocker knife. I could wear jeans in public and go to the bathroom. Coincidentally (or not), it was around this time, I finally started to be able to make small movements with my right arm.

When you are recovering from a serious injury or chronic pain, your body is working incredibly hard. You need to give yourself a break and give your aching, injured body some love. You need to accept the new you. You need to come to terms with the fact that your life will never be the same. The sooner you are able to do this, the sooner your body can focus fully on healing and not fighting itself.

I was lucky. I got my right arm back. Some people do not. Those people still go on with their lives. How they go on is their choice – accepting the new or fighting it.

Looking back, I wish my occupational therapist or my neurosurgeon would’ve told me this. I wish I would’ve celebrated each of my small victories instead of wishing for the past. It’s not easy to learn how to do activities a different way.

Accept that you now have a new normal. Accept that no matter how small a step might seem it’s still a step in the right direction. Accept that LOVING your body will always help you heal faster than hating it.

Get Movin! – #2 in My Pain Management Tool Box

childspose

I’m the one on the left. Or as I like to say the one in the crazy leopard print pants with the wild hair.

When you’re in chronic, debilitating pain, it seems counter-intuitive to move. All you really want to do is be as still as possible and if you’re lucky, sleep. My pain went away when I slept. It was like 4-hour mini vacation from Pain Island.

So why do people want you to MOVE when you just want to be still? Here is my second item in my Pain Management Tool Box – Gentle Movement Every Day.

One reason it’s important to incorporate gentle movement if you’re suffering from chronic pain is our lymphatic system. Lymph is a fluid in our body that among other things carries garbage away from our muscles. But unlike blood, nothing pumps lymph through our body. We have to move it physically through hydration, gentle movement, like stretching, swimming and rhythmic movement, and massage.

When lymph builds up in an area, especially one you’re not moving because it hurts, it will create swelling. This buildup of toxins and swelling is called an edema and it’s a serious medical condition.

How many of us learned the RICE method in health class? Rest. Elevation. Ice. Compression. It’s still being used by many people today. But if you talk to some physicians and physical therapists, they will not recommend RICE for a variety of reasons, one of which is that they know it will prevent the lymph from moving in the affected area, which creates swelling. And swelling is inflammation which is pain.

In a 2004 systematic review of 49 different studies regarding mobilization vs immobilization of the limbs Nash et al concluded, “Mobilization increases blood flow and so reduces muscle atrophy, disuse osteoporosis, adhesions, and joint stiffness. Early mobilization seems to decrease pain, swelling, and stiffness, and patients generally prefer it to immobilization. It results in earlier return to work, a greater range of motion, and fewer complications and residual symptoms. This systematic review of all upper- and lower-limb injuries, including fractures, consistently found in favor of early mobilization over rest. The best evidence at hand suggests the medical profession generally errs too conservatively on the side of immobilization.”

From Nash C. Resting injured limbs delays recovery: a systematic review. The Journal of Family Practice. 2004;53(9). Retrieved online on 3/5/14 from http://www.jfponline.com/Pages.asp?AID=1772.

Many physicians are starting to recommend MEAT = Movement, Exercise, Analgesics and Treatment. As I think about the HOURS I spent icing myself down after my surgery to numb my pain and the subsequent nerve damage I developed AFTER my surgery, I have to wonder how much that ice really helped me. It numbed my post op pain but at what cost?

Another benefit of gentle movement is that when you move, your body releases endorphins. These are the feel good chemicals that will give you a “runner’s high.”

When you’re in chronic pain, you’re probably not going to be running but by moving through walking, you will still release endorphins. Endorphins act like analgesics. They decrease how we feel pain without the horrible side effects many people experience from taking prescription opioid based analgesics such as morphine.

So what are some good gentle movements for people in chronic pain?

Walking – Walk in the mall. Take the stairs if you’re able. Park a little farther away in the parking lot at the grocery store. I used to walk up and down my street with my neck brace on in my PJ’s. No wonder my neighbors think I’m crazy.

Yoga – I really recommend restorative yoga or if you can afford it, a private consultation with a yoga therapist or a physical therapist who’s also a yoga teacher. I know some amazing people if you’re looking for a referral.

Swimming – If you’re able to swim, being in water takes the pressure off your body. It supports you and allows you to move more. I am not the greatest swimmer so I use a kick boards to give me extra support.

If there are other activities you LOVE, talk to an instructor or expert or your physician about ways to modify it to accommodate your body. Many times they’re able to suggest alternative things you can do. I’ve seen women in their 8th month of pregnancy in Zumba classes. They just don’t do the jumps or a lot of the arm movements. Good instructors/trainers want you to be healthy and are always happy to work with you to do a particular activity.

Find ways to MOVE your body and get the lymph and endorphins flowing.

Dear Diary … One Tool in Pain Management

Of course I picked a day I ate pretty healthy.

Of course I picked a day I ate pretty healthy.

Chronic Pain Management is something that I know a lot about – unfortunately it’s from first-hand experience.

One of the most important tools I used to manage my neck, shoulder and back pain after my surgery was a diary. Not a pour your heart out, stash under your bed, with a lock and key, Bridget Jones type of diary, but a small, spiral-bound notebook.

In this diary, I would write down each day what I ate, drank and did. Nothing fancy or that took any length of time.

  • Breakfast:
  • Lunch:
  • Dinner:
  • Activities:
  • Pain Level: scale of 1 -10

Simple as that.

What this allowed me to do was notice triggers for my pain. I could look back on when I had horrible pain and see if I ate, drank or did anything that day, or the day or few days before, that made the intensity of my pain greater.

You’ll see in the photo that I ate pretty healthy that day but the day before I sat a lot at work and then went to the grocery store and lifted heavy grocery bags. Those are two no-no’s for me.

My Triggers

After about a month of doing this, I noticed a few things I did that were contributing to my pain.

Eating Sugary Sweets and Simple Carbs – Sugar is an inflammatory drug. More people are addicted to sugar than many other substances such as alcohol (which is mostly sugar) or other narcotics. Inflammation = pain.

Drinking Alcohol – I love wine. But wine is made from grapes which are, sugar, and will cause inflammation along with dehydration. As I learned with my favorite sweets, sugar, in any form, will cause inflammation and inflammation = pain.

Inactivity – the hardest thing to do when you’re in pain is move your body but it’s one of the most effective and quickest ways to get more oxygenated blood to the area of pain. When I was having really bad days right after I got out of the hospital, my sweet BF would take me for a short walk. Literally maybe 30 yards, just up and down my street. He knew I always felt a little better after. Or maybe it was just his TLC that made me feel better.

The Results

I had to change my diet. I had to reduce the amount of pasta, cookies, candy, ice cream – all of those comfort foods I was eating to feel better. They made me feel better for the 10 minutes I was eating them but the hours later, they spiked my pain. I still eat foods with sugar, but I limit my consumption of them and am more aware that for every cookie I eat, I’m going to feel it in my neck the next day.

I gave up drinking alcohol. Many times when I would’ve had a glass of wine with dinner or a drink after work, I drank herbal tea instead with no sweetener. When I do drink wine, I limit how much I drink; I hydrate well before and after and I make sure I’m not doing other things that will trigger my pain.

I gave up a sedentary life. Sitting all day at a desk, hunched over a computer or on the phone is probably the WORST thing I could’ve done for my recovery. I move even when I don’t think I can. I started a yoga teacher training program just six months after my surgery because I knew that moving would help me. There were so many times I was in agony but I kept on moving because I knew it would help make me stronger and healthier. I did a lot of restorative yoga which is very gentle movement. Also, I walked outside when the weather was nice.

These are strictly my results. What triggers you might be something else.

The pain diary also showed me that I was in control of my pain or well-being. There were things I was doing that contributed to my pain and other activities that decreased my pain. When you’re suffering from chronic pain, you often feel like everything is out of your control; that the pain is in control.

This diary showed me that I was still in control.

It takes time to learn to manage chronic pain. I’m still doing it. This is only one of many tools I used. I’ll share more in upcoming blog posts. But I’ve given you clues into other ways you can manage pain through my triggers.

What triggers your pain?

Are You Blooming?

clearance cactus

Two years ago, I bought a Christmas cactus from Lowe’s on the clearance rack for $1. I buy these half-dead, clearance plants because I love being able to save them, bring them back to life from the brink of death.

I brought this little green beauty home, fed it, watered it and took excellent care of it. But it never bloomed for me. Not even a little bud formed. Despite my TLC, I had failed this beautiful plant.

Strolling on the Internet one day, I found an article about Christmas cacti. After reading the article, I realized that way I’d been taking care of my little clearance cactus had been all wrong. I overwatered it in the summer. I kept it too hot in the summer and let it get too much light. I’m a great Spider plant mom, but not so great with the Christmas cactus. Not all plants are created equally!

After six weeks of proper care, my clearance cactus bloomed – beautiful white flowers with a hint of pink.

For many years, I was my little clearance cactus. I was taking what I thought was good care of myself. I was eating what I thought was a “healthy” diet. I was working out a lot. I was doing all of the things Western medicine told me were good. But I wasn’t blooming.

That’s when I found yoga, meditation and Ayurveda – one of the world’s oldest forms of medicine and now the most popular form of holistic healing in the US, thanks to physicians such as Deepak Chopra.

Though Ayurveda, I was able to assess my body type, Dosha, and understand my mind and my body better. I learned how my body and mind work so that I can properly take care of myself. For years, I wished humans came with an instruction manual like my car did. With Ayurveda, I found that there was such a manual.

I’m a Pitta dosha, which explains why I:

  • love food
  • suffer from skin issues such as Rosacea and Acne
  • get incredibly cranky when I’m hungry
  • will never be able to skip meals
  • love spicy food
  • why I’m food obsessed (so many bullets about food – YUM)
  • always have to be right
  • get irritated with the way all of you who are not me drive
  • love Zumba
  • wake up in the middle of the night worrying about work or money

These are all classic Pitta traits. Here I thought I was special.

Through Ayurveda, I’ve been able to establish a better routine for my life, including diet, yoga, exercise, meditation and sleeping patterns. I sleep much better through the night without any kind of sleeping aids. My skin is clear and people even compliment me on how my skin looks. I’ve let go of my need to be right and much of the stress in my life is gone. My need to be right was creating so much tension. I accept that I need to eat three meals a day and plan my schedule to accommodate that. I feel healthier and stronger than I have in years. I am blooming just like my little clearance cactus.

Are you ready to bloom? Are you ready to make changes to your life so you can bloom? If you would like to learn more about Ayurveda, let’s meet for tea.

Lessons Learned from Going Upside Down

crow-pose

If you go to enough yoga classes, you will eventually hear your teacher talk about Ahimsa, the practice of non-violence to self and others. This is one of the Yamas of Yoga as given to us from Patanjali, the person credited with founding yoga. The Yamas are a set of guidelines that explain how we as yogis should interact with the external world.

So what does non-violence to self or others mean? It means not harming yourself or others, but not just by how we traditionally think of “violence,” with guns or fists or other weapons. Violence can be surrounding yourself with people who belittle or demean you; eating processed, fried, chemical-laden food; or abusing alcohol or drugs. These are a few of the ways we are violent to ourselves.

Violence to self can also include your yoga practice. Often times in a class, a teacher will tell you to push to your edge but not go beyond. But how can you find your edge, if you don’t occasionally go past the edge?

I was violent to myself last night in my yoga teacher training program. As a yoga teacher in training, I of all people, should know better.

In last night’s class, we were learning how to do and teach inversion poses, handstand and crow pose. Both are poses that require a significant amount of upper body and core strength. I am still trying to gain back strength in my right arm that was offline for most of last year due to my surgery.

I did the best that I could in all of the poses but I wound up pushing beyond my edge and injuring myself. I imagine I’m not alone in that. Looking back, I should’ve walked out about halfway through the class.

But I stayed because of my ego, my desire to learn the required poses as part of our teacher training program; my need to conform to the group; my desire to please my teachers and not let them or myself down.

That’s the problem, when your ego starts making your decisions, you’re not following your true path. That’s another valuable life lesson from yoga. I have no plans to ever teach either of those poses. I prefer to teach classes that focus more on Restorative and Gentle yoga practices. I don’t believe in putting anyone into a pose that I myself cannot or will not do.

I learned a valuable lesson in Ahimsa last night. As I lay here today in horrible pain, I found and exceeded my edge and yoga and did violence to my body. Also, I allowed my ego to control my actions instead of listening to my heart.

Where do you do violence to yourself? Where do you go beyond your edge and allow your ego to control your actions?

It can be more difficult to follow your heart and practice Ahimsa. You can feel like your letting yourself or others down.

Do you have the strength to live with your heart and follow your true path? Can you practice Ahimsa?

 

My New Obsession – Yin Yoga

photo (2)

I am OBSESSED with Yin yoga. In all fairness, I’m pretty obsessed with all things yoga but Yin has really captured my heart and my body recently.

I’m a huge fan of Restorative yoga and all of the health benefits from that practice. But as I look to deepen my own yoga practice, I’ve been adding Yin to my mix.

Similar to Restorative, Yin yoga uses props such as bolsters, bricks and blankets to support the body and you hold the poses for several minutes, some up to 10 – 20 minutes. Where it differs from Restorative is that unlike Restorative yoga, where you’re looking for a gentle opening or release in the muscles, in Yin yoga, you’re going deep into the poses to create more space and work the bones, fascia and joints.

I am not a naturally bendy person. So flexibility in my body and mind are things I strive to achieve. My first class was super challenging. Not only did we do pigeon pose (my least favorite pose) – we held it for like five minutes on each leg. So 10 minutes of pigeon pose. I thought I was going to die at first. But as I listened to the cues from the amazing teacher, Deana, and focused on my breath, something wonderful happened. I moved deeper into pigeon pose than I ever had done before in any Hatha yoga class. Also, I became more comfortable in the pose and stopped struggling with it. I let go.

Leaving that class, I noticed that a lot of the shoulder tension (still very common for me after sitting at a desk all day) was mostly gone.

Yin yoga pushes me to an edge that I can’t find in a traditional Hatha yoga class because my body needs more time in certain poses because I’m still recovering from my injuries and healing my body.

So as I continue down my healing path to happiness, I am definitely incorporating more Yin into my life. I even bought a book I was recommended about Yin. As I read more of it, I will share with you.

Where do you need to find an edge in your life? Does your edge need to punish you or could you allow it to nurture your body, your spirit, your soul? Can you allow yourself to just relax into something and not “work” to make it happen? Can you embrace your Yin?

What Do Snoopy, Leroy Jethro Gibbs and Tinkerbell Have To Do With Faith?

The Snoopy dance is really the only dance I can do!

The Snoopy dance is really the only dance I can do!

Today was kind of a crazy day. We all have them, one step forward, two steps back. Actually, it started last night.

Yesterday evening, I had a job interview with Company X and I didn’t have a great feeling about it. I left with more questions than answers. I also left feeling like the whole process was moving too quickly. Job interviews where you have to sit through an hour long sales pitch remind me of the “free” vacations you win if you listen to the hour long time share proposal.

I drove home with an upset stomach. Talking to my awesome BF after the interview, he could tell something was wrong. He’s smart that way and very supportive.

It was such a drastic change from how I felt on Tuesday, when I was in my zone, being productive and accomplishing new challenges. Confident, productive Kris was replaced by a Kris who was hesitant and fearful. In addition to the stomach pain, I could feel my neck incisions and my shoulders tightening up. It felt similar to the pain I felt for months after my surgery.

Driving back up today for my second interview, I still had that resistance in my gut. My neck ached so much, I had to get out my heating pad which I had put away three weeks ago.

I tried to tell myself to be open and think of the positive outcomes of this job. I tried to psych myself up and believe this would be a great opportunity.

During the half hour drive up there, I asked God to give me a sign. Is this the job I’m meant to have or is there something better, like the first interview I had with another company last week?

I pulled in the parking lot. Going over all of the positive possible outcomes of this job. “Yay – this job would be great,” I told myself.

Then my cell phone rang. It was a person from the first company, Company Y. She wanted me to come back for a second interview. Now that position I was EXCITED about. Minutes before I was supposed to walk into Company X, Company Y called me. That couldn’t be a coincidence.

I was so happy to get her call, I almost did the Snoopy dance in Company X’s parking lot, but it was icy and I had heels on. Seriously, doing the Snoopy dance is hard enough without heels and ice.

More exciting to me was that I got my sign. In hindsight, I got a lot of them: upset stomach, tense shoulders/neck, sadness and my phone call. But, I needed all of my signs because I’m still learning to trust my own inner voice. I’m pretty new to this thing called Faith, it’s reassuring to get that phone call from God or Company Y to back up my body’s signs.

Anyone can be faithful during the good times. That’s no challenge. Being faithful during the crappy times is hard. Trusting when things seem to the contrary goes against my nature as a somewhat rational being. But spiritual growth comes from the bad times, the hard times, times when things don’t go your way.

My life has changed so much during the past 18 months – the past four months particularly. But I’m learning so many lessons. So I am grateful to the lessons. I am grateful for my teachers. I am grateful to God for responding to my call to action and so promptly too!

Maybe the Universe has always responded promptly to my prayers but I’ve been too blinded or without faith to see it.

Getting in my car after the interview, my decision was made and I felt at ease. My stomach pain went away. My shoulders relaxed. My neck incisions are still a little tight but I think that’s from the cold weather. There is a lot of metal in a small area – I get colder easier than what I used to.

I feel a head smack coming on...

I feel a head smack coming on…

My lesson for the day is to take a page from Leroy Jethro Gibbs and listen to my gut.  Trust my gut and know that God does in fact give me the signs, if I can believe enough in them to see them, like Tinkerbell. I’m just all over the map in imagery tonight. Another sign that my creativity is back and I’m making the right decision.

You can only see fairies if you believe, Peter Pan!

You can only see fairies if you believe, Peter Pan!

I hope my interview with Company Y goes well next Monday. I’d love to be able to share with you all that I am its newest associate. But if I am not, I know that it’s because the Universe has something even better in store for me.

And this my friends is what Snoopy, Gibbs and Tinkerbell have to do with my lesson of Faith.

Cultivating the Silent Witness

mcgruff

One of the concepts taught in yoga is to cultivate the silent witness or silent observer. To get an idea of how foreign of a concept this is in our western world, the first few items that popped up on my Google search were for police tip programs, where they offer money for people to report information on crimes. I had to add “yoga” to my search to get the right silent witness information. Who knew there were stuffed animal versions of McGruff the crime dog? My kind of dog.

Deepak Chopra explains on his website that we each have two selves, the self that we present to the world, “our conditioned ego personality that eats, drinks, feels and senses life around us and in the process of experiencing each sensation, it is affected and overshadowed by it to the extent that it only knows itself in terms of that experience.”

Next we have the second self.  This higher self is “the silent witness that is awake and aware of itself and what is going without being affected by it.”

Why does cultivating this second self matter? According to Chopra, this higher self is “a pure, quiet Self inside you that is more authentic than the self you have constructed throughout your life.”

What the heck?

I’ve always struggled to understand this concept. How can there be something inside of me, that’s higher than me, more authentic than me? Where is my higher self that just watches without judgment or fear or anger?

Seriously, what the heck? I could really use this person.

I started practicing yoga and meditation to quiet my mind and reduce my stress. But I’ve always felt like I’ve been missing something because I haven’t felt this silent witness state. I’m smart. I’m doing the work. I should be able to learn this. But for more than a year, it’s baffled me.

Why can’t I find my silent witness?

I’ve been thinking about that a lot, wondering how can I be a good yoga teacher if I can’t find my own silent witness. Most of the time, I remind myself to live in the present moment and realize I don’t have to worry about being a good yoga teacher now because I’m technically NOT a yoga teacher yet. So I was creating stress about something that is in the future, not the present, which is another concept in yoga that I understand, but don’t always apply – live in the present moment.

Today, two people who are very dear to me, told me about problems they had at work. As they told me their problems with their coworkers, I listened to what they were saying. Then I put myself in the shoes of the other person and thought, for this coworker to act so inappropriately, so hurtfully, that he himself had to be in a lot of pain. It’s always easier to see both sides of the situation when you are not the one directly involved. I do that all of the time. I often find myself asking my friends, did you ever think this person meant this or is just really socially awkward?

That’s when it totally hit me. I was being a silent witness in that situation. Now I just needed to apply that to myself. If I could find that space in me where I’m able to step back from a heated conversation with someone and notice what in me was making me act in anger, what was affecting the other person to make them act out in anger, I would be the silent witness. It’s like being a friend to yourself instead of being yourself. It’s also a great way to diffuse a volatile situation. Cultivating the silent witness is being able to in that moment of anger, step back and see the whole situation for what it really is and act accordingly.

It’s so easy now that I think about it. I’ve been doing it for a while but never thought of it as being a higher self. I like to make things more difficult than they really are.  I guess I expected this higher self to turn me into this wise Buddha like being with sparkles and fairy wings. Or at least to make me 50 pounds lighter and have awesome hair. Wait, I do have awesome hair.

This journey of yoga gets harder every day. As I learn one lesson, it seems like I realize I have five more new ones to learn.

But it’s good because the more lessons you learn, the less you will repeat the mistakes you’ve made in the past. So I am thankful to my two friends who helped ME learn and grow today by sharing your experiences with me. I am so grateful that you helped me learn a complex lesson.

Namaste.

 

Yoga Is For Everyone

Since the conditions outside are snowy, icy and cold, I decided to go up to the mall about a quarter mile away from my house to walk. It was early enough this morning that the stores were closed, with the exception of Starbucks. I think it’s always open.

Malls are interesting places. The people watching is great. I’d guess there were about 50 people there walking. Some were older than me. Others were younger than me. Some people walked alone, like me. Others walked as couples, holding hands, very sweet. Some were wearing jeans and coats. Others were wearing athletic gear.

One of the first stores I walked past was Lululemon. On Sunday mornings, Lululemon offers a community yoga class in its store. Now, when I think of community yoga, or even yoga in general, I think of it being a safe space full of loving yogis holding space for each other and focusing on their practice.

I stopped in front of the store, looking inside at the young, fit bodied, yogis getting their mats ready. I wanted so much to join them. I thought, I am wearing yoga pants. I could easily take off my shoes and join them. I don’t have a mat but I would be OK.

I am unemployed right now, so I am really watching my finances which means I don’t have the extra cash to go to classes at my favorite yoga studio, Elemental Om. I thought how great would it be to go and move my body and share space with these yogis? Maybe once I walked in and told them my story they would embrace me and allow me to join in this open, community yoga practice.

As I stood in front of the door, trying to get up the courage to walk in Lululemon and practice yoga with a bunch of  beautiful, 20 year olds, I got shoved into the window of the store. Turning around, I saw that my assailant was a young yogi on her way in to yoga. She had to see me. She had to feel me when she shoved me. But she just kept walking on in to Lululemon. No apology. She didn’t even turn around to see if I was still standing.

For a moment, I thought maybe she’s autistic and doesn’t know how to deal with people in social settings. Maybe she’s very depressed and can’t bring herself to speak to others because she’s wrapped up in her own pain. Good for her for going to yoga. She really needs yoga. I believe yoga can benefit everyone.

Then I saw and heard her and several of the other yogis inside Lululemon do that loud squeal that young women tend to do when they greet each other. She seemed so happy and perfectly capable of speaking and handling social situations.

It made me so sad that I turned away from Lululemon and continued my mall walking. It seemed so opposite of my yoga experience at Elemental Om. I questioned how can you offer community yoga if it’s not for everyone in the community? Unless you live in a sorority because it seems their community yoga is for young, beautiful, 20-year-olds.

Yoga is for everyone. But not all studios are for everyone, which made me sad for those studios. I’ve learned and have been inspired by so many wonderful women and men of all ages, sizes, colors and shapes. They are the ones missing out by excluding others or making them feel unwelcome.

But then I thought, she really does need yoga more than me. I can find my yoga zone walking in the mall amongst the masses of humanity. So I sent her love and kept walking until I was able to release my anger towards her. By judging her, I was being as judgmental as I was silently accusing her of being.

Being a yogi is hard. But it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Maybe sometime soon, I’ll go back to Lululemon for its community yoga because yoga really is for everybody.