It’s Friday, December 30, 2016. I just walked 4 miles up to Cheshire coffee from my house. I’m siting alone with a yummy cup of green tea with a little honey & lemon. I’ve never been more content in my life. I did a lot of thinking on the way up here and wanted to capture my own thoughts. I don’t know if I’ll finish this or blog it. For now I’m just writing from my heart.
2016 was the best year of my life [so far]. I’ve been reading all these Facebook posts about the number of days until this miserable year ends, and the posting everyone shares about how they want to stay up this New Years Eve just to watch 2016 die. I don’t relate to this. I would have until this year, but I’m really a different person.
A few weeks ago on the first weekend in November, Daren and I drove up to Portland, ME with Koji in the backseat. We were on our way to see Thomas at college. On the way up there Daren and I were having one of our normal long car ride talks about life that I absolutely love and adore. At some point we hit traffic and Siri took us on a different route. It was off the main road through a shady looking neighborhood. The dog was seemingly upset. He was panting, walking back and forth and squeaking. We had some background music playing that suddenly seemed so inappropriate. Siri was directing my movements breaking into the music and into what seemed like insane directions with pop-up turns. The very yang, bright setting sun was shining in our eyes. The car was hot. There was loud construction work taking place just outside our tightly rolled up windows. Somehow we continued to talk through the chaos continuing what started out as a deep conversation when I needed to just stop. I realized it wasn’t serving me any longer. When Daren continued I gently said that we should pick it up a bit later, that I felt a little anxious needing to talk so loud over the noise, and it was difficult for me to concentrate on what Siri was saying. I turned off the music too. He understood. We continued driving in silence until we were back on the road, traffic lightened up and the dog was comfortably resting in the back. All the while I thought about how recognizing all of this was something that was new to me a few years ago. Before that I would have just started to feel irritated and angry and not quite understand why. Once I realized this type of scenario I would have pointed it out and grumbled about it. But actually doing something about it in a constructive way is new to me this year. I recognized the feelings of irritability and I didn’t feel the need to have a verbal running commentary of everything in my head anymore. I was thinking about how in general I don’t feel the need to comment on everything. I was going through so much of my yoga studies and homework at that point in time and really starting to put into practice the 3 checkpoints of is it true? is it necessary? and is it kind? I suddenly had a lot less to say. And I’m a better listener for it.
I was thinking about this and how different I am when Daren asked me in the car that evening what I was thinking about. How can I explain it to him? I told him I was just thinking about how different I am from the person I was just a year ago. He asked me why I thought that. I said yoga. In some very nice way I can’t recall, he questioned me about how. He said something to the effect of ‘I live with you every day and watched you go through this journey, but I don’t see anything different’. It’s probably true that looking at me, and even more so living with me one wouldn’t notice a difference. Not only are the differences mostly internal and subtle, but one doesn’t notice their pet or child growing up day to day. Only when you measure a height on a wall or look back at pictures can you really see a change. How can I explain to my husband how I’m different?
One part of me didn’t want to explain. I’m truly becoming a less is more kind of person. It seemed like work to talk about this. Why couldn’t we go back to the deep conversation we were having earlier? That moment was now lost. Why try to get it back? We were in a new moment. I was just asked a question that could lead to another deep conversation. Should I try to explain? Is it true/kind/necessary? It kind of passed my filter. The necessary part was plus/minus, but he was curious and I guess talking out loud would help me to actually quantify what I was thinking internally and have someone to bounce it off of.
Well…. I don’t remember exactly how I described the way I felt different, but it included a lot of the following:
- I listen more deeply. I resist the urge to dole out advice. Yoga taught me to listen to my body, other people, and nature. My teachers taught me to sit in a circle and just listen to other people’s stories sans weighing in. Without the pressure of having to respond, and the stipulation that you can’t; I learned to listen more deeply. Even though it was something I only practiced for a weekend a month for a short period of time during a check in; I took it off the mat and internalized it into my life.
- I am aware of my body. Panic attacks this year helped me to further listen to my body and even become aware of the anxiety I was so accustomed to, that I didn’t even realize I was walking around with it. All Of The Time. One of my yoga teachers who also has anxiety and is very open about it, helped me to realize that it’s ok and human to have a disorder. Listening to her and other teachers share their own stories of being human and battling various ailments (for lack of a better word) encouraged me to open up and share as well.
- Once I realized I had anxiety disorder and that it was way out of my control, I started medication. The medication helped to clear the fog and chatter of my mind. With that fog gone, I was able to actually hear my body, the messages behind my thoughts, and work through learning much more about myself. Once I started to understand myself, especially the way my body works through yoga practice, yoga study and self-contemplation; I began to love myself in new ways and just accept what is, my life experiences, and my place in the world.
- Understanding myself also helped me be in touch with what “amps” me up. I learned this year that I can run 8-10 miles… no problem! But I also learned that it also makes my anxiety worse. I can’t have more than 1 cup of coffee each day. Ginger makes me nauseous. I was too clouded with monkey chatter and anxiety to even notice let alone act upon these things before.
- I have a better idea of when to fight for something and when to let go. I was more of a fighter before. Taoism is something I’m only starting to touch upon through Yin Yoga. I love the concept of the yin yang and the balance between healer and warrior. Now I know there is no need to fight for everything. Some things are not worth it and others really are. Knowing the difference is key. At work I let a lot more go. I can’t change certain things and exerting energy toward doing so is fruitless. However, I knew when to keep going for myself and my employees at times; and when it was worth doing something for the greater good. At home I stood my ground with some blended family issues I knew are also for the greater good. Things that I would have handled more heatedly and immaturely before. I have a little more insight on how to stand my ground like a mature and calm woman.
- I’m moving slower – physically. When I find myself rushing (which is less and less these days), I question why and slow down. There is almost no reason why I’m doing it. My knee surgery really helped me to recognize this. When I had to move incredibly slowly around my house and workplace, I felt uncomfortable; like I was wasting time. I questioned what was not happening or what I was not otherwise doing while I was taking all this time to get from place to place. How would moving faster make anything better? I didn’t have a good answer.
- I usually realize I’m rushing because my deep exhales tell me so. I realized once I started to tackle my anxiety how much I exhale out deeply. I often do that when I’m anxious. Rushing and haste makes me anxious. And there is never really a good reason to rush. I had to question why was I uncomfortable with sitting still and slowing down. What I was running from? Meditating and sitting in yoga postures for a long time, especially yin postures helped me to learn to sit with discomfort and contemplate the thoughts that arise. In a class with others it’s harder to run away.
- Once I realized I when I was taking deep exhales and slowing down, I was so much more in touch with my breathing. Especially how often I breath in a shallow manner. Yoga taught me to breath. The 3-part breath taught me what a full breath was and the benefits of what proper breathing does to my body. I created a personal breathing practice varying with Sufi and Ayurvedic breathing. I feel fresh and cleansed after I do these practices. It helps me use my breath all throughout the day as I move about life to help channel my emotions in a more healthy way. I stop and think about my breath so much more now. It’s a beautiful thing that we all carry with us. It has so much untapped power that most people don’t know about. I want to share this with the world it’s so cool.
- Being in touch with my breath and slowing down has helped me think a lot more about my thoughts. The quality of my thoughts. How they are shaping my perception of the world. “Don’t water the weeds”. I catch myself all the time thinking about things I don’t want to be thinking about that don’t serve me. At first I would beat myself up for not having pure, beautiful thoughts. But the yoga sutras taught me this is normal and to just begin again. So I feel normal and begin again. The beauty is that the time span between beginning again is growing longer and longer. Catching myself happens more quickly. And the quality of my outlook on life is improving as a result.
- Being in touch with thoughts and clearing the fog of anxiety has helped me to also recognize the running background noise in my mind. Songs that I didn’t even like that would play continuously sometimes for hours on end. Conversations from earlier in the day or years before that were either good, bad or indifferent would repeat over and over. Why? What was I feeding my body by allowing the monkey chatter to take over? Yoga taught me about how thoughts have power and shape life experiences. I learned to help redirect many unconscious thoughts through mantra by putting the power of the mind and background noise to work in good ways. Saying a mantra over and over is directing energy toward something you actually would like in your life. I started replacing the music I listened to on the way to work with beautiful mantra music instead. Now the background noise in my head is often messages I intend to fill myself with. I hear mantras and the changes that I want to see in the world replaying instead of unhealthy messages. I’m aware of what I’m ingesting from the world around me, consciously direct it, and let that be the monkey chatter.
- In January this year I woke up one morning with a sty in my eye. I never had one before. It hurt and I couldn’t wear make-up. I had to go to work without eye make-up. No one really noticed. If they did, they didn’t say anything. Somehow over the course of the past year through conversations in my yoga classes with other students about healthy living I started to think about what I’m ingesting in all ways. Food is obvious, but thoughts, air (breath), products, messages – everything. I didn’t know anyone else in real life that I saw on a regular basis who even thought about using natural products. I’m now painfully aware of health & beauty products that seep right into the largest organ of our bodies (skin). I am weary of chemicals and not so hip on make-up anymore. I look and feel so much more natural. I get ready in the morning faster. I’m not blow drying my hair. I’m using natural food more often for health & beauty products inside and out.
- I’m me more. I didn’t even know me before. I was under the influence of my own thoughts and hardly noticing the world around me. In being more aware of the world around me, I’m more aware of others. A few weeks ago while walking to the copier machine in my old office I passed someone that I hardly know that I sort of peripherally worked with in the past. She was crying. On the way back to my office I don’t even know why, but I walked right up to her and gave her a big hug. She seemed surprised at first but then collapsed into my arms and let herself cry. I said I don’t know what it is, but I wish for you that everything goes the way you want and need it to. Between sobs she said me too. I hugged her extra tight, let go, and went on my way. I used to not do things like that. I tell people I love them, I listen with the intent to understand a lot more often. I’m present mentally with greater frequency. I feel more authentically me than I’ve ever felt before.
- I love my own company. I used to fear it. When I was 20 years old I drove across the country by myself while in the military. I had no CD player in my car. Cell phones didn’t exist. I was uncomfortable with myself. I hated going out to eat and sitting alone on that trip. I disliked being alone most of my adult life. I needed a book or something to do or watch. Now I love being alone just as much as I love being with other people. I need to do both to keep myself balanced. How can I ever have an original thought if I’m not alone? How can I ever hear if I’m always talking, listening, stimulated or having to respond?
Daren was right mostly. One can’t see these things. They are subtle. They are personal to me. On the outside I do look mostly the same. I’m imperceptibly different sitting in a car in traffic to the person next to me. Inside – not so much. The world tells us how we should be and behave from the moment we are born. It’s hard to know who you really are or how you really feel if society dictates how that should be. Humans are the only ones who do that. In the car ride on the way to Maine Koji acted upset when we were in traffic. Us humans tried to ignore what was around us and carry on. Why? Yoga was predominately responsible for bringing me so much more awareness. There are other things that started to shape my life in a different way that started a few years ago. Things that led me to the practice of yoga. Yoga itself worked it’s quiet magic on me over the past 4 years. Starting yoga teacher training last January really took it to a new level because I started to understand how it worked on me and the training enabled me to embrace it for it’s benefits that much more.
I feel very blessed and lucky to have had the time to dedicate to learning about yoga and myself. I’m lucky to be a citizen of the first world who is fulfilled in food, shelter, and clothing enough to be able to explore higher thoughts. I don’t want to take that for granted for a single second. I’m in NO way perfect. I fall off my own path. But I get up. And I fall less and less these days. 2016 rocked in that way for me. I only hope to keep going and maybe inspire others to do what they need to do to find their own path as well.
I will post this as a blog after all. If anyone is still reading – Thank you for doing so and being interested enough to finish. Hopefully that means it touches you too in some way. Comment, write, call me, text me if you are moved to. I love to listen. Love to share. And would love to learn from you. Peace. 2016 – out.