Gratitude Friday

medicinebuddha

Medicine Buddha at Om Ananda Yoga Studio

1. Yoga. Teaching it, practicing, learning more, cultivating a relationship with my body and the present moment, embodying practice.

2. Meditation. The Daily Dharma Gathering, connecting to my breath and the present moment, cultivating a friendship with myself, learning how my mind works, understanding what it means to relax.

marionberrysyrup

Pancakes by Eric, Marionberry sauce by my aunt, dog hair on the plate by either Ringo or Sam, eaten by me.

3. Marionberries, and all the tasty things you can make out of them. They only grow in Oregon, were developed in the place where I grew up — Marion County. I can order jam online, but still haven’t figured out a way to get pie delivered.

With an arrow so I don't miss it.

Love note from Eric with an arrow so I don’t miss it.

4. Eric. Laughing with him, hugging in the kitchen next to the warm oven, reminiscing about how much work Ringo was a year ago, the love notes he leaves me on the counter, how he asks me “Are you okay, Packo?” (Yup, that’s our nickname for each other, long story).

standoff

You can really see in this picture how much bigger Sam is than Ringo.

5. Sweet Sam and Ringo Blue. I still miss my Obi and Dexter, wish I had them back, am not over losing them, but I sure do love the two I have now.

Bonus Joy: Warmer weather which was like a little taste of Spring, watching a live streamed reading from poet David Whyte, my CSU work going well, teaching a yoga class of 15 people, the new twist and balance series I created, finding out I can order the Marionberry Jam I like so much direct from the company that makes it, writing and lunch dates with good friends, honoring my limits by skipping or canceling some things, prioritizing what’s important, remembering how much I like Field Report’s music, watching Glee even though it’s not as good as it was in the beginning.

Three Truths and One Wish

morningwalk1. Truth: I usually write these posts on Tuesdays, but I had a lot of other stuff to do yesterday. I didn’t forget, and actually I could have found the time, but I felt like I was already doing enough, got to a certain point in my day and knew that I needed to slow down, stop, rest, and I knew I could write today if I wanted. This is how my days work: I find time for the things I value, and sometimes things that matter have to wait.

2. Truth: I have a lot going on today too. I started by getting up at 5 a.m. like always, spent half an hour writing, took a shower, then taught a yoga class, and afterwards stopped at the store to pick up some lunch on my way to work at CSU where I’ve been ever since. I’m tired. I already sent an email to say Ringo and I won’t be making it to our training class tonight. Every day, every moment is about assessing my energy levels, checking in with myself to see where I’m at, asking my body how it’s doing and what it needs.

3. Truth: I’m learning to be gentle with myself. For so many years, I pushed and bullied, wore myself out, smashed myself to bits. The person I was would have never skipped a blog post or missed a training class. She also wouldn’t have agreed to substitute teach a yoga class unless she thought she could do it perfectly. The me of today is going to finish my work, go home and and change into some comfy clothes, enjoy what’s left of the sunshine while drinking a big glass of water, then heat up some of the casserole leftover from last night and park her butt on the couch, cuddle a few dogs and watch some TV.

One wish: May we listen to our hungers. May we trust ourselves to know what we need. May we nourish ourselves. May our efforts ease suffering, in ourselves and in the world.

Something Good

1. Sunday sadhana from Kirsten Akens.

2. One of my favorite bloggers has a new space, Rita’s Notebook. I’m so glad she’s back, writing and sharing.

3. Neil Gaiman is doing a book signing in Fort Collins. I am f l i p p i n g out.
neilgaiman4. Man Shows Off Incredible Transformation Of 258 Square Foot Apartment.

5. The 10 Second Rule on How To Rewire Your Brain For Greater Happiness.

6. 8 Toxic Beliefs Most People Think Are Normal and 7 Habits to Start in 7 Days to Guarantee a Year of Happiness from Marc and Angel Hack Life.

7. Please don’t punish yourself from Danielle LaPorte.

8. I intend to soften from Mara Glatzel.

9. Truthbomb #715 from Danielle Laporte, “Forgetting who you are is only a temporary situation.”

10. Still, a site I’m pretty sure I shared before, but was reminded of by Susannah Conway and felt it was worth sharing again. Susannah also shared this post, Delilah S. Dawson: 25 Writing Hacks From A Hack Writer, and a link to this interesting site, My Morning Routine, on her Something for the Weekend list.

11. Technology Has Made Life Different, but Not Necessarily More Stressful.

12. live a story of wholeness from Patti Digh.

13. A lesson in finding joy and letting go on Medium.

14. Make Your Heart a Bigger Container from Meg Worden.

15. A Life Apart: The Toll of Obesity. A cautionary tale, but not for the reasons people might think. People most likely would assume it should caution you to eat less, exercise more, not be overweight, but really it should caution you to be more compassionate.

16. Mary Oliver on What Attention Really Means and Her Moving Eulogy to Her Soul Mate on Brain Pickings.

17. What My Yoga Therapist Taught Me About My Food Cravings.

18. Bruce Farrer, thank you for inspiring us | WestJet Above and Beyond Stories.

19. Twelve Habits of Happy, Healthy People Who Don’t Give a Shit About Your Inner Peace.

20. I Stood Up to a Fat-Shaming Bully on a Train Because I’m Tired of Fighting for the Right to Exist.

21. Gone Hiking, a tragic, beautiful story.

22. Masters of Love: Science says lasting relationships come down to—you guessed it—kindness and generosity.

23. See How Much the “Perfect” Female Body Has Changed in 100 Years (It’s Crazy!)

24. On Art and Life from Dani Shapiro, in which she shares wisdom like this,

To love is to risk heartache. To live is to withstand loss. At some point, we all suffer.

And this,

This isn’t a choice – it’s a way of being. Nobody becomes a writer who doesn’t have to.

25. 1000 Voices for Compassion: Are You In? from Flingo. I’m in.

26. Why Everyone Seems to Have Cancer on The New York Times, which says,

As people age their cells amass more potentially cancerous mutations. Given a long enough life, cancer will eventually kill you — unless you die first of something else. That would be true even in a world free from carcinogens and equipped with the most powerful medical technology.

27. Parents Share Their 3-Year-Old Daughter’s Quotes To Make The World Smile on Bored Panda.

28. The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think.

29. Grey Gardens Is Summer Rental for $250,000.

30. He’s Tormented By Bullies Until He Does THIS, And Teaches Everyone A Valuable Lesson.

31. What does it mean to be fit? from Yogi Sadie.

32. Baby Tortoises Found On Galapagos Island For First Time In Over 100 Years.

33. I love not writing books. Anne Lamott on Facebook.

34. A Letter to the Future From Kid President.

35. Root Down and Grow. One of my favorite humans has a new space, both on the ground and online, and they are both beautiful — as they should be, as they are manifestations, embodiments of her.

36. Why Do So Many Entrepreneurs Hate Their Lives? from Jonathan Fields.

37. How To Stop Making A Big Deal About Your Problems, Pema Chödrön on MindBodyGreen.

#YourTurnChallenge: Day Seven, Day of Rest

poudreblackriversnowtilopaA little over a year ago, I posted this image and quote. It was also a Sunday, also winter, also a Day of Rest. This morning, I watched the most recent Daily Dharma Gathering video and Lodro Rinzler referenced the same quote. The origins are a teaching Tilopa gave Naropa called the “Six Words of Advice.” Tilopa shared six words, which translated to:

  1. Don’t recall.
  2. Don’t imagine.
  3. Don’t think.
  4. Don’t examine.
  5. Don’t control.
  6. Rest.

Seems pretty easy, doesn’t it, kind and gentle reader? But as Lodro also shared, the Buddhist teacher Sharon Salzberg recently said the practice of meditation is “very simple, but not easy.” I find this to be true of all practice (which for me is meditation, writing, yoga, and dog), and of life in general.

Today’s Your Turn Challenge prompt, the final one, is: “What are you taking with you from this Challenge?” For me, the Your Turn Challenge, seven days of prompted blog posts, wasn’t as big of a deal as it may have been for others. I practice writing every day, whether I publish a blog post or not. Every morning, one of the first things I do is sit down and write, unprompted. I sit, and even if I don’t know what to say, I start writing, and keep writing until I’ve filled at least three pages, or until I’ve run out of things to say, which sometimes fills much more than three pages. This practice is essential to me. I feel “off” if I don’t do it, in fact it feels so wrong to not write first thing I haven’t started a day without it in years.

I’ve done a series of 30 day blog challenges that included a prompt for each day, so a seven day challenge wasn’t so hard. But it also wasn’t easy to to show up and keep at it during the first week of a new semester that included other commitments beyond my CSU work — four classes, daily practice and some teaching. There were days it would have been easier to skip it. I didn’t because I’d committed to it, it was good practice, it was a group effort, and it wasn’t really so hard.

It was good practice in equanimity, which is “mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.” Especially in a difficult situation. Continuing to practice even when it’s hard. The seven day blogging challenge was a good way to contemplate letting go of expectations — the goal was a daily post in response to a prompt. It didn’t have to be perfect or even good.

I wasn’t so successful in sticking with other recent daily challenges. I signed up for 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene, but only made it to Day Three before I got sidetracked by my own yoga teaching and attending classes with other teachers, and too busy on the days I wasn’t to find an extra half hour. The Daily Dharma Gathering happens, not surprisingly, every day, but during this first week of it, I’ve only been able to watch two of the videos. I was so busy with other things, I kept missing it, couldn’t find a spare 30 minutes. That made me sad, made me feel like I was missing out, and yet it was okay. I was able to apply gentleness and maintain a sense of humor, qualities essential to any practice.

We can get lost in fixed expectations and it’s not helpful. We “should” all over ourselves. It’s difficult to maintain a practice when we are caught up in our expectations of it, that it should look and feel a certain way, that there’s some sort of guaranteed outcome if we just do it right, that if we don’t do it right it means we have failed.

What I’m taking with me from the Your Turn Challenge is this: Practice is simply showing up with an open heart, allowing whatever might arise, without an agenda. There is no way to do it right, and no way to do it wrong. Relax. I’m so grateful for the reminder, for the opportunity to practice.

#YourTurnChallenge: Day Six

writingdateYour Turn Challenge prompt: “Tell us about a time when you surprised yourself.”

I was terrified when I first started teaching. My very first experience — getting up in front of a classroom full of students, leading a session based on a lesson plan I’d drafted — was during my Senior year as an English major doing my undergraduate degree at Oregon State University. I was completing an internship at a local high school, working with a class of Junior and Senior honors students. I believed the myth that as an English major, your only career options were to teach or to write, and even though what I really wanted was to write, I thought the smart, practical thing would be to get a teaching degree.

I took the internship at the high school to see if that was the grade level I wanted to work with. I wasn’t actually supposed to be teaching, was supposed to be doing things to help, like making copies and grading spelling quizzes and helping students with their homework, but the teacher really liked me, told me I could teach whenever I wanted.

After giving my first lesson, a short session about writing short stories, she told me “You are a natural.” I really wanted to believe her. I couldn’t judge for myself because every time I got up in front of the class, I freaked out. It took all of my self control to keep from running out of the room.

I didn’t end up teaching high school, but went on to get an M.A. in English instead. I taught writing at Colorado State University, first as a graduate student while completing my degree, then as an adjunct, and then as non-tenure track faculty. I was so freaked out by my first semester teaching, I took a year off and worked in the Writing Center as a tutor instead before I could get the confidence to try again. For the first five years or so, I would make myself physically sick before each class session. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I had panic attacks. I felt like I couldn’t breath and I was sure my students thought I was the worst teacher ever, or at least one of the weirdest.

I heard someone recently say that for an introvert, teaching is an extreme sport. I’d have to agree with that. But I’ve surprised myself. Once I started teaching a Writing for the Web composition course, a topic I felt like I knew something about, a subject I was interested in, something shifted. I was able to connect with my students from a place of real engagement. I started to enjoy facilitating their learning, discovering their specific interests and skills. I still got anxious at the beginning of each semester — it’s nerve wracking meeting 24 new people all at once, not being able to just sit in the back corner of the room and observe — but I started to enjoy the experience.

staceysyogaspaceEven so, I worried that when I started teaching yoga, I’d revert to freaking out. It was an entirely different subject, style of teaching. I was a complete beginner. Being the body at the front of a class so focused on what it means to be a body, move a body, and my relationship with my body was so complicated, I expected the panic to return.

But it didn’t. Rather than being an indicator of what would go wrong, my past teaching experience helped me. I knew what to expect. I understood that if I showed up, just as I was, whatever happened would be okay. That if I stayed present, in touch with my innate wisdom and compassion, I could adapt to whatever might arise. It was totally okay to fail, to make mistakes, to screw up sometimes. As my friend Aramati says, “teaching is part preparation and part letting go.” I can trust myself.

 

#YourTurnChallenge: Day Five

magicrockYour Turn Challenge prompt: “What advice would you give for getting unstuck?”

I know something about getting unstuck. I was stuck, on and off, from the age of about 11 until I was around 43. Move, get stuck, move a little, get stuck a little, break free only to get stuck again. I couldn’t seem to figure out how to free myself — until I did.

The most basic advice I can give anyone about getting unstuck is this: take one small step. That’s it. That’s all it takes. One tiny step, some kind of movement, anything, even just half a step — the half step that will change your life. It really is that simple, even though it isn’t easy.

We get hung up because we are able to imagine that far off distant place where we want to be, or the end result of a huge transformation, or the full scope of the big project we want to accomplish, and we get overwhelmed by the space, the vast distance between there and here. Somehow we think we have to get there in one giant leap, a lone action, a single grand gesture. All or nothing.

This leads to thinking we can’t get there at all, can’t do it because it’s too hard, too far, too much. Impossible. We forget the only way there is one step at a time, which starts with asking ourselves, “What is the one small step I can take in that direction? What can I do right in this moment to move?”

Part two is that as you are taking that small step, you focus on only that. You give what you are doing your full attention. You can’t allow yourself to be distracted by what you think an experience or project should become, where it should land. You can’t be worried about the details of how your effort is going to turn into a healthy body or whole book or successful business. You instead focus on just this moment, just this breath.

Part three is show up without an agenda. Sure you could have some sense of the bigger picture, but for now drop the plan. Allow whatever arises. Let yourself be surprised by the magic of something deeper, something else. If you stay out of the way, give up control, you might find your thing, or rather it might find you — something you never expected and even better than you could have planned.

As you take these tiny steps, as you focus wholly on each one as it happens and drop your agenda, you develop a practice that honors your desires, accumulates benefit, and allows you to make progress.

TL;DR: How you get unstuck — Take one small step. Focus completely on it. Show up without an agenda. This grows into an ongoing practice of movement.

Gratitude Friday

1. Friday. It was the first week of classes at CSU, the first week of a training class I’m taking with Ringo. I took on a seven day blog challenge, started a new Daily Dharma program, am gearing up to teach a bunch of yoga classes, and am taking part in an online writing class. I worked my ass off. I have a lot of work to finish today, but after teaching a yoga class Saturday morning, I’m not doing anything the rest of the weekend and I can’t wait. Sweet Sam is warming up the couch for me right now.

yum2. Peach jam, which I’ve been hoarding like my very own jar of sticky sweet sunshine and finally opened and oh my everything that is holy it is so delicious, the dear friend who gave it to me, and Lucille’s biscuit mix, (I make awesome biscuits, but sometimes you just want to eat them, not do all the prep work).

Doggie eye chart

Doggie eye chart

3. Sam’s Pannus isn’t as bad as it could be. It can eventually make some dogs go blind, but the eye specialist who saw Sam earlier this week said his case probably only runs a 1% risk of that happening as long as we keep treating it. Now we just have to figure out his food allergy.

bigboy

This still happens rarely enough it’s worth taking a picture when it does

4. Ringo keeps growing up. He still has a case of the puppy crazies, and can be so frustrating sometimes, but he’s getting so much easier. He’s so smart — if he had an owner who wasn’t so busy/lazy, he’d be a superstar.

hikinglory5. Hiking season.  I rarely go with them, but this is the time of the year when Eric does a lot of hiking with the dogs. Ringo is old enough to go with now, and I am either at work or get a few glorious hours at home alone.

Bonus joy: How much Eric and I laugh watching old episodes of Friends, new music to listen to while I work, my friend Amy’s sweet dog Burg probably doesn’t have cancer after all, finding where I bought those Hello Kitty socks for my niece so I can get her the right size, meeting with my new interns and them being just as awesome as the rest, all the TV that’s going to keep me company while I rest on the couch this weekend — new episodes of Downton Abbey, New Girl, The Mindy Project, Parks & Rec, Parenthood.