Lazy Win

I failed the first day.

  • No alcohol. Check.
  • Write 1,000 words. Check.
  • Morning practice. So, well, you see, it was the first, like January first, and, you know.

I mean, I did take a couple deep breaths, convinced myself I was meditating in the shower and did some forward folds while blowing my hair dry. It’s not exactly the pranayama/meditation/yoga morning practice I envisioned.

Today is different. Today I did it.

Today I sat for five minutes in meditation while silently repeating my mantra which was joined by a million urgent thoughts that really wanted me to open my eyes and write stuff down so I didn’t forget it, but I persevered. Five minutes can be a lifetime with a head full of really pushy broads.

I did 100 rounds of a breath called kappalabhati – or skull shining. It’s an energizing breath and probably my favorite. 2 rounds of 50.

Then I did a super abbreviated yoga practice, like 20 minutes, with one posture of each type: standing, balancing, back bend, forward bend, etc. But, I did it.

Why do we avoid what we know is good for us? Or is that just me? I fight yoga – the shape making part, the philosophy is woven into my every day, but the bending and stretching and ugh – but when I actually get onto my mat and move, I am so grateful for my practice. ‘Oh yeah,’ my body says, ‘this feels really good. I have so much more space and peace now.’

So, it was a slow start, but I started.

In the not so distant past I may have thrown the towel in altogether. ‘I blew it, ‘I’ll just start next month or next year or Monday, yeah, Monday’s always a good day to start.’ Honestly though, any good habit or major health- or life-altering decision I’ve ever made has probably been on a Tuesday or Saturday sometime between breakfast and lunch.

I’m calling it a lazy win. And I will gladly accept my trophy for just showing up.

 

 

Going Places

Man

The page – or in this case, the blinking cursor – is calling me back. I’m not sure what exactly it’s asking for yet, but I’m open and making myself available.

Mostly it seems to be inquiring about travel.

In the middle of reading another inspiring non-fiction book on self-mastery, the question was posed … really the author demanded, that I finish reading the current sentence then go sit with myself somewhere and write down my dreams. All the crazy, seemingly unattainable ones, the ones that make me shudder with excitement, fear or anxiety, the simple ones – like having a place for everything in my house, I mean super simple – and any rogue thought that happens to pop into my head that might be a thread that leads somewhere magical.

On it. Aside from discussing consciousness with Christians, yogis and atheists alike, dreaming is my favorite!

Travel writing.

That’s what the Universe handed me on a slightly smudgy, obviously dented, silver platter. Gifts from the Universe often have to make a few trips around the sun before I’m ready to receive them. This one may frisbee back out yet before it sits beside me each day.

And I had to really study those two words because I don’t think they mean what they seem to say. I believe, in my case, they are meant as two separate commands that intersect.

Here’s how I see it:

Travel is my blood type, a plane ticket, a new passport stamp? Those are transfusions. When I don’t get to go places (by which I mean, when I believe there is something more important than wandering like laundry or running my businesses) I get sick. It’s not a normal sick, I’m rarely that. I get bitchy and itchy. I grumble a lot like an old man who wishes those idiot boxes were never invented and what the hell is a sofrita anyway, what’s wrong with meat and potatoes? That guy. The only antidote is travel. I’ve tried other medicines; wine, chocolate, yoga, they only take me so far.

Writing too has been my constant companion my entire life. Mountains of journals sit heaving in my closet, eyes rolling when they find out they’re not so special. Each one has the same list of how I want to structure my day and all that I would like to accomplish. Day after day. They get bored, my journals. I hear them yawn, audibly breathe the sigh of disappointment when I start rolling out a new plan. But when I start to describe the view from my hotel room that includes a black-faced monkey and the Ganges they start to perk up. They’re totally fine with packing lists for European treks and they especially like when I confess how a place has revealed something about me to me.

And there are blogs, once organized, now somewhat willy nilly, and mostly lately covered in cobwebs and neglect. It helps me, the writing. The publishing is scary, but it’s part of the process too.

Travel. Writing. Travel writing. These will likely never be the kind of stories picked up by Afar or Conde Nast Traveler. I’m not likely to tell you where to eat or what not to miss or what time to be at the Vatican, and which gate so you can bypass the line. But I will tell you how standing on the banks of the Ganges made me cry tears of connection to everything and while sipping red wine at a vineyard overlooking the Mediterranean in Lucca, Italy on the most perfect day ever, I was so overwhelmed with gratitude for this life I couldn’t speak.

I will share the humility I have gained by talking to a man who had no home and no shoes but smiled nonetheless and even gave the dog sharing his tarp the piece of bread I offered him. How he had enough. He was happy. He gave up everything and now whatever he needs comes to him. I will tell you that that is true abundance and I may even give you a hint of yoga philosophy lesson on the tenet of Aparigraha or non-attachment. Mostly because it’s a reminder and lesson to me.

The more I tell you, the more I learn about me.

Travel. Writing. They are symbiotic in my world. They need each other. One does not describe the other. When I look at them I can see them each on the bulbous sides of an infinity symbol.  Traveling opens me up and reveals the dark corners that need to be energetically vacuumed out, as well as the covered bits of light yearning to shine and share.

Traveling is manna to me. Writing is how I process and share my experiences.

So this is my big, anxious, hairy, exciting dream. I mean, a well-organized house is also still on the list, but it just doesn’t curl my toes like going places.

What’s your dream?

Ayurveda, Blood Type, and Eat Fat, oh my.

Peacock Made From Avocado Palta And Avocado Tree Leaves On Gray

This food odyssey I’ve been on for decades is wearing me out. I started a health coaching business over 10 years ago because I had become fed up with food being my enemy and was bound and determined to make it my friend. I schlepped to New York City for over a year on various weekends to attend trainings (don’t let the tone fool you, I LOVE NYC and loved the training) to become a Certified Holistic Health Coach. And to learn more about food and me.

I came home, set up a website, hung out my shingle and commenced to help people navigate the treacherous food jungle. A few years into it I got frustrated with clients that seemed determined to stay stuck in their stories. Mostly I felt like I had to be someone I wasn’t. I had to be all nicey-nicey and compassionate and supportive and say all the positive things.

But guess what? I can be firm and bold and STILL compassionate and supportive. Maybe even nice sometimes.

This, I have learned through teaching and training others these intervening years. Authenticity is king, or queen in this case.

About that same time I fell back into those comfy TV watching pajamas we know as habits. I had lost weight, gained energy and embarked on what I believed to be the lifestyle and career to keep me healthy and fit, so I slacked. I stopped paying attention. I wore yoga pants – the enemy of weight management.

Then menopause.

Now, here I am again – on the other side of that hormonal high-wire act –  revisiting all the old ways that helped me in the first place and floundering about for purchase. Add to that, all the “new” ideas. Kinda. Whole30, Eat Fat Get Thin, Paleo, Keto. The sea has become deeper and more turbulent as each new author has found the cure for obesity, fatigue and generalized ennui.

So really, not much has changed.

Here’s my dilemma. Dr. Hyman (who actually taught at the health coach dealio in NYC and whom I have a not-so-secret crush on) says “Eat FAT lady! Lots of it, especially coconut everything. It’s sooooo good for you.” I seek out the approval of Dr. D’Adamo (Blood Type hero) who is moving his head oh-so-slightly back and forth with the ‘I’m sorry’ face on. Coconut everything, except oil, is on the naughty list. Ayurveda says “you must eat legumes for protein so you do not need meat” (I kinda just typed that in an Indian accent) and the blood type diet says, “Girl have you looked at the size of your ass already?”

Gah!

Yet, I continue to fall back on these very stand-bys, and when I do, I feel better and my weight begins to behave. I love using the combination of the principles and science of Ayurveda – a 5,000 year old system of health from India, that must be doing something right if it’s still here –  and the newer, more suspicious Blood Type Diet that tells people what is excellent, mezza-mezza or muy mal to eat for their blood type, and has done wonders for me and my clients. Add in a dash of fat from avocados – 100% approved by all – and I’ve got myself something to work with. If I decide to work it.

All of this to say, I hear you. I get it. We’re all just tryna figure it out.

In the meantime, the advice-o-sphere is pulling me back toward health coaching. Ok, it has dislocated my shoulder while yanking me into the ring. But this time, things will be different. This time I will not hold back my heart-felt desire to unstick you from your personal flypaper. And this time, there will be yoga involved. Not headstand or any flying anything upside down, but the philosophy. In particular, the Yamas and Niyamas – the 10 tenets of the yoga philosophy. You know, innovative ideas like kindness, moderation and discipline. Doesn’t that sound sexy?!

But seriously. Here’s a glimpse at how the path is unfolding before me:

12 weeks, 1 session per week. Beginning with what your intention is for your LIFE. We’re starting off all light and breezy. Then we’ll move into the 10 tenets, one each week and tie it all up in a recap bow that looks a lot like a newly minted, very best version of you!

Perhaps there will be some podcasts or live videos; definitely some one-on-one coaching; and, of course, some classes and group work. My fave.

Stay tuned. More to come…

In the meantime, if I can impart any advice on behalf of the 739 health books I’ve read, seminars I’ve attended or certifications I thought were necessary to love people back to health, let me know.

I’m here for ya!

PS: Give up processed food. That one’s on me. Oh, and, avocados are magic.

Purging for Your Life

Tree of Life, Amazing Banyan Tree.

Did you do it? Did you come up with your goal for purging? I suppose goal is not the best word, vision is better, I think. Maybe it’s both. The goal is to pare down as much as you deem appropriate to fulfill the vision of what your life will look like, in all aspects, once you’ve reached this goal.

What’s your why? What is bigger and stronger than the sway of your stuff? That’s what we’re getting to.

I promised I would share my process, but I don’t suppose it’s much of a mystery. I have done this before: at my home, helping friends and family and readying a home or two for an estate sale. I have read blogs and books on purging, organization, efficiency, minimalism and the Japanese Art of Tidying. I have tried and faltered, stopped just short of the magic. Now I am back with new purpose; the vision of space to create and breathe and find stillness nudges me along.

The one thing I know for sure is your process will be unique to you.

Before you begin to consider all of your things – those objects that occupy space on bookshelves, hidden in drawers, in boxes in the attic or garage or *gasp*under the bed (a big Feng Shui no-no) – understand that any and all of them can stay. Please know that.

But remember your vision and goal and measure each tiny treasure against that possible future.

Also recognize that each one of these precious-at-one-time things can also be anchors, tethering you to the past, sometimes with happy memories, other times in sorrow or pain, but holding you at arm’s length from the present nonetheless.

Imagine yourself as a banyan tree, like the one pictured above. The tree is sturdy strong and content, but it can never move. Each branch has a series of roots in addition to the trunk. It is forever tied to the earth, to that one place. If you have no desire to grow, expand or create, by all means, keep all your stuff and remain blissfully stuck.

I know that my study of the yoga philosophy over the past ten years has given me a unique perspective on the accumulation of stuff and I may come across unsentimental at best and heartless at worst. I will cop to the first charge, but assure you I do have a heart. A heart that wants to be unburdened and free to create in the present. And I am not completely without sentimentality, perhaps I just lean more toward pragmatic.

There is a tenet in the yoga philosophy that I’ve mentioned before, called aparigraha. It means non-attachment or non-hoarding. If we hold onto things with a firm grasp we cannot open our hands to receive more. We stop the flow of abundance physically, energetically, emotionally and spiritually.

Ok, enough woo woo, let’s get down to business.

Sharing the entire process – that I am still figuring out for myself, by the way – would be akin to asking you to order a dumpster and throw everything away. Instead I will offer some initial encouragement and guidelines to get started, allowing for space and time, tactics that have helped me get and stay on this [mostly] rewarding track. Then later we’ll dig a little deeper.

STEP ONE:

Create an unshakable vision for your future unencumbered self. Think hard on this one because it is this vision that will fortify your resolve to keep going.

STEP TWO:

  • Clear a large flat surface. This could be a dining room table, a bed or even the floor in a room (assuming you don’t have critters – human or beast – that will curiously poke at your things and possibly wander off with them).
  • Mindfully move from room to room removing anything that does not belong there. Clothes in the living room, scissors on the entry table, etc. and place these items on that newly cleaned off flat surface.
  • Once you have swept the whole home (or the areas you plan to work on) put the items back where they belong. If there are homeless items, leave them here.
  • Clean your home. Touch everything, dust it, notice the items you’re vacuuming around, how many personal care items you’re wiping down in the bathroom, you know, clean.
  • Take a break. And maybe a shower. Seriously.
  • Now, slowly walk through each room you wish to purge with a critical eye. Remove everything you know you no longer want. Don’t linger. Don’t try on clothes or jewelry or get lost in the emotion of things, simply walk these collected items to the big flat surface, then move onto the next room.
  • Gather the following: 2 boxes, a trashcan, a stickee pad and a marker.
    • Box 1: Charity
    • Box 2: Gifts for friends or items to return – the stickee pad and marker are to label each item with the recipient’s name.
    • Trashcan: you know
  • Once your items have found their way into the appropriate box, take them. Remove them from your home, all the way, not just into the trunk of your car. Actually drive them to where you intend for them to go.

You will feel lighter.

That’s it for now. This part of the process could take weeks or months and maybe should. Please take your time with the possessions you chose to bring into your home. Some items will be tossed without a second glance, others will grip you a little tighter. Allow for the process to unfold organically for you.

Still stuck? Go back to your vision.

 

Purge Surge

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The hubs and I went on a little road trip. It was just on the other side of 24 hours and a little over two hours away. But it created space. Head space and physical distance.

It’s true that wherever you go there you are, but just a short jaunt away for an overnight can dramatically shift perspective. You take your issues, prejudices, preferences and attitude with you, but not all your stuff. And stuff is something we’ve been working on greatly reducing.

Well, I have.

My husband flirts with hoarding, he calls it collecting, but tomato, tomahto I say. I keep him and his accumulation of stuff contained to the dining room and most of the garage. I have put up curtains on the opening to the dining room so I can close them and pretend there’s something magical behind them rather than the glut of books and paper that actually are. I also insist on parking in the garage so that keeps the clutter somewhat in check there.

But lately these two spaces seem to be overwhelming him, swallowing him. What was once his safe haven has become the bane of his existence.

Somehow, some where between home, the west coast of Florida and back home again he began to see what I was seeing and everything shifted.

We have a few antique spaces between us. He deals mostly in paper, I lean toward dark, primitive wood and creamy white things. I have one shelf in the garage where I keep “back stock”, he has those other two rooms. And sometimes things slip into the living room or a box is placed in the guest room “just for now.”

By the time we got home he couldn’t wait to tear through the garage and box things up for Good Will, recycle cardboard that seems to be breeding and drop well-intentioned craft project supplies off at the nearby artist studio. So far he has filled our enormous recycle bin (you could easily fit three bodies in there), a good portion of the trash can and dispersed a car load of things to new and grateful recipients.

And suddenly I can breathe better, he has more energy and those rooms seem a tiny bit brighter.

The trick, of course, is maintenance. Not bringing more in, not holding onto things just in case. Part of his shift in perspective is due to yoga. Not so much the postures, although he does do those, but more the philosophy that I’ve been sharing with him – in particular the Yamas and Niyamas – kind of the ten commandments of yoga.

There are pages and pages and pages that could be filled with the wisdom of these 10 tenets, but for now, I’ll share just the one that seemed to cause his head to tilt in that dog-just-heard-a-whistle-no-one-else-can-hear kind of way.

Asteya – non-stealing. It means exactly what it sounds like, don’t take other people’s stuff, but it has more meat on it than that. We steal time from others by being perpetually late (it’s not just how you are, unless how you are is rude, and I bet you’re not really). We steal joy from others by complaining or casting aspersions on their happy news. We steal the spotlight or thunder from others by sharing their news to others before they have a chance. We steal peace from others by talking incessantly, gossiping or intentionally creating conflict. Read: drama.

You get the picture.

In addition, when we take things we don’t really need and when we hold onto things because we might need them one day, we are robbing others of the opportunity to use what we’re squirreling away. There is a saxophone sitting in my garage and it has been there for 17 years. It has been unplayed for over thirty. Surely some young kid could totally benefit from a used or donated instrument.

It may have been that last statement that pushed the purge into action. Hoarder, pack rat or squirrel, whatever he is, above all else he is kind and he cares about the joy and artistry of others. I’m sure the sax will find its way to a new appreciative owner.

It’s just day one of the big push, but it is impressive and it is inspiring me back into action.

 

 

Island of Excellence

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I have been successful at creating and sustaining two morning habits (if you don’t count coffee). Journaling and reading.

The reading is non-fiction, usually something about writing, or the yoga philosophy. This morning it was both. And this time the messages were the same. That is to say my interpretation of them, while interrupted by a weather delay, was the same.

First, from Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg:

“Rather than following rules, have a friendliness toward existence… If you are kind you will naturally be doing the right thing… Don’t be a goody-two-shoes, just to be a goody-two-shoes, it’s not based on any reality.”

Permission.

As I was carefully inserting my Ganesh postcard from India between chapters, then placing the book on the short stack on the end table with the big wooden Buddha beside my sofa, to pick up the other book, I noticed a strange quality to the light outside. Yesterday the sky had announced itself by turning pink; this morning it seemed to be shyly hiding behind dusty glass.

Fog! I love fog!

Abandoning the second book for now, I grabbed my beloved iPhone – vowing as I made my way to the front door NOT to react to the red circles on the upper right hand corners of all my social media icons – and went in search of fog. It was so thick I could feel it on the surface of my eyeballs, like that first look underwater in a lake.

I looked down the street in one direction for a mystical shot – too many parked cars – then the other. Out to the main road I headed. I stood in my two sizes too big man’s t-shirt and baggy shorts with my hair in a scrunchy from the 90s, sans make-up or pride and pointed my phone down the curving main boulevard lined with oak trees heavy with moisture and black iron unlit street lamps.

After about 27 shots of basically the same thing I was approached by a man walking purposefully across his side yard directly at me. When I noticed him I turned in his direction. “You taking pictures of the house?” he demanded. “No, the fog,” I managed with a smile and a finger pointing down the street, as if the fog was hovering only there. Muttering as he turned to go back into his house, “Ok, cause I was gonna say.” What? You were gonna say what? Don’t?

I stood in place and lifted my phone with much less enthusiasm, to demonstrate that it was not pointed toward his home but indeed where that fog was living, just in case he went back to the same window through which he spied my suspicious activity in the first place.

It rattled me a little. I do not cope well with being accused of wrong doing. I am a rule follower. I want to be a rebel and in some respects I suppose my behavior and beliefs could be considered outsider, but mostly I’m a law-abiding good girl.

Perhaps this fear of misbehavior was a seed planted as a teenager.

While working at a clothing store in the mall I was accused of stealing clothes. I was shaken. I would never. I had made the mistake of placing my own clothes in a bag from the store and attempting to leave. I explained that my boyfriend was picking me up to go out and I had brought a change of clothes from home. They were from the Spiegel Catalog, I said with great pride. She said okay, but she never really believed me. Never apologized. And that left a mark on my goody-two-shoes permanent record.

I want to make sure all these mistrusting people know I’m telling the truth. But of course I cannot control what anyone thinks of me and in fact their thoughts and opinions of me are really none of my business, but rather a reflection of who they are.

Letting it go – the photo thing – I returned to my perch on the corner of my sofa, next to the big wooden Buddha and opened the Yoga Sutra book I have been studying. And found this:

From The Secret of the Yoga Sutra: Samadhi Pada by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD

“To be born as a human is the greatest achievement, and to die without knowing the essence of life is the greatest loss. The immense wisdom and power buried in our body and mind is clear evidence that nothing is beyond our reach… Our boundless intelligence and power of discernment give us access to the infinitely vast universe inside us and outside us. Nothing is impossible for us. We are extraordinary beings – individual islands of excellence.”

An individual island of excellence would probably not be so concerned with the fear and anxiety of others projected onto them. Compassionate, yes.

An individual island of excellence would move on, break a few rules, write the story that no one wants told, eat left-over cheesecake for breakfast. Ok, that last one maybe not really excellent.

It’s about breaking the rules for good, not for the sake of being contrary. So many of us follow rules that don’t even really exist. We do something because someone once told us to or told us never to and it stuck. They aren’t laws or even policies. It’s a very weak box constructed of shoulds and shouldn’ts that provides the illusion of safety and conformity.

Einstein’s greatest contribution to me personally was his edict to: “Question everything.”

Good advice. One question could collapse that whole silly box. Without walls it’s much easier to be an island of excellence.