Tag Archives: Day of Rest

Day of Rest: Open Space Practice

Even during this timeless time, Sundays maintain a particular quality. They are still a reminder to rest, to slow down, to recover — which is important, no matter what day(s) you choose to honor it. And yet people, including me, are struggling right now to find the balance between effort and ease. Some feel frozen, fatigued, stuck. Others can’t stop moving, struggle with the need to “stay in place,” feel agitated by the isolation, the restrictions. My husband, in high demand right now because of his experience with online learning, worked close to 60 days without taking a full day off.

As a contemplative practice guide, this time has both limited and expanded my opportunities. I can’t teach in person right now and don’t know when I’ll be able to again, yet still long to offer something to ease suffering. I knew I could offer practices online, could record things and share them, but I’d never done that before, didn’t even know where to start.

Then one of my students from the weekly yoga class I was teaching “before” called with a request. She told me how much everyone was missing me, and asked was there a way we could put something together for them, so they could practice with me again? I had already been considering it, and told her I’d put something together.

It took longer than you might expect, as everything seems to with me. First I had to sit with my resistance. I was grieving my opportunity to teach in person. I am used to putting my body in front of a room full of people, having them watch me move, watch me sometimes struggle to move. Old me, with all of my body issues, still lingers, sometimes cranking up the judgment, even spiraling into shame, but I overcome that, am buoyed by the connection with other humans, comforted by their effort and openness, and I know that when I teach, it’s not about me. Teaching on video felt like it would put the focus back on me, my body and voice, the way I move and what I say, centering me, isolating me in a way I thought would feel lonely, weird, uncomfortable. I needed to work through that.

I decided the only way forward was to lower the bar. I’d start with a seated meditation practice first, then a seated asana practice before I did a full Hatha asana practice. I also kept in mind this was not a project or a product, and it didn’t have to be perfect. I’d been thinking about creating some teaching videos before, so people who weren’t geographically close could practice with me, and this seemed like a low stakes way of trying that. Also, who knows how long “this” will last, and, not to be morbid, but there’s no guarantee that I’ll be one of the ones to survive it, so this could also be something to leave for those who love me and might miss me later.

The next step was to find a place where I could film. This is harder than it may seem. Our house is only 1080 square feet, not “open concept,” so finding a space big enough to fit my mat and for me to move around but also where I could place a recording device far enough away that I could be seen standing or lying down wasn’t easy. And, Eric is working from home right now and is home most of the time. I did a “location scout” and there were two places where I could teach asana, one other I could use to teach meditation. This meant some clean up and rearranging of furniture and negotiating with Eric’s work schedule, but ultimately workable.

I spent a day cleaning up my practice space (so much dog hair and dust!), putting clean sheets on our futon and moving my yoga stuff into the garage, cleaning up the last bit of junk in the garage and putting a load of stuff to take to ARC in the car. I cleaned it up to use as a place to film meditation practices, but also just in case one of us gets sick and needs to quarantine ourselves. At first, Eric said that was dumb cause we’d probably both get sick at the same time so what’s the point, but I told him even if we could stagger it by a few days, so only one of us would be in the worst of it at a time, it would be better. I bought a humidifier, a pulse oximeter, acetaminophen, tissues with lotion, cough suppressant, chicken noodle soup, frozen orange juice, and Gatorade. Next I need to get a few folks to agree to take care of our dogs if we can’t and put together a file with our living wills and information so Eric could pay our bills and instructions about the dogs. I’ve been putting this sort of prep off because even though it will mean I’m ready, I’m so NOT ready, and I don’t think I’ll ever be ready.

Finally the day came when I was ready to try and record something. It took some time to figure out the best camera to use and the placement that would allow the best view. I still had no idea when I started recording if I could do a longer video on my phone and if I could do it without a secondary microphone. I was nervous, did one short test video before recording the real thing. I was totally sweating (an unfortunate side effect of the Zoloft), they were working on a gas line right in front of our house, and Eric was waiting until I finished to take a shower because our main bathroom is right across the hall from my practice space. Even with all that distraction, I recorded the video in one take. Any time I felt distracted, unsure of what came next, I simply paused and took a breath. I fairly quickly and easily settled into “teaching mode,” imagined my regular students watching, there with me, and I felt okay about it, was satisfied with how it turned out.

Here it is, kind and gentle reader. “A short practice (including a body scan, calming breath exercises, a heart-centered loving-kindness mediation for ourselves and as an offering to others, ending with ‘breath of joy’) to cultivate a sense of well-being (safety, ease, comfort, joy, etc.) to counter the unpredictable and stressful nature of current times.”

I had planned on waiting another week to do another video. But then Eric decided to take Ringo hiking yesterday, so I knew I’d have the house all to myself, that Sam would spend the time quietly sleeping on the couch, and if I was going to do another video, it would be a good time. I already had an idea for a seated asana practice with meditation, so I set up in the dining room and stared to record. Again, I was super sweaty, like one long hot flash, and I felt more awkward than during the first video. At one point, during the meditation, I mistakenly thought the recording had stopped, got up to check my phone only to see it was still recording, so there was about 30 seconds I’d need to edit out before posting, and for some reason the camera kept blurring and refocusing so the visual quality overall isn’t the best. It also turns out I didn’t have enough memory on my phone for the full 40 minute video, so I was going to have to splice two videos together. After a day filled with frustrating tech issues where I learned a lot about what not to do next time, I finally posted a finished video.

Besides technical issues, I had some more personal issues with this video. Old body shaming voices came up as I watched what I’d recorded, the ones who five years ago would have convinced me I should never share the video because I was too disgusting to look at, that people were going to judge me. The judgment came up but it didn’t lead to a shame spiral, I didn’t smash myself to bits because of it. I didn’t act on that feeling, didn’t make a plan to change my body, didn’t accept that there was anything wrong with me or that my body needed to be a project.

Here’s that one. “Practicing staying open to what arises, even when it’s difficult. A shorter, seated asana practice that can be done sitting in a chair or on the floor, followed by a short meditation.”

I still have a lot to learn, especially about how to make something of quality but with ease. People who do this more professionally have all the equipment to “do it right” but I just want it to be simple. I hope I never have the need to monetize my teaching in this particular way, that I can just give it away for free or not do it at all. It might be a mess but it’s true, take it or leave it. May it be of benefit, may it ease someone’s suffering — at the end of the world, in the middle of nowhere.

Day of Rest: Breathe Easy

I’ve been thinking a lot about the breath, about breathing. For whatever reason, not being able to breathe is one of my biggest fears. It’s why I didn’t really learn to swim until a few years ago, (I couldn’t put my face in the water, because I couldn’t BREATHE and was certain I was going to die), and why sometimes when I’m getting a massage and I’m face down, I have a full on panic attack, have to stop the whole process and can only finish if I stay up on my elbows, head raised. This adds a whole other level to my anxiety about COVID-19. I ordered a finger pulse oximeter to keep at home, (if I get sick and think I’m not getting enough oxygen, I can check my levels and I’ll either know I need to go to the hospital or have tangible proof that I am in fact okay), and I’ve been practicing these breathing exercises each night before I go to sleep.

In yoga, we consciously practice with our breath. It is so central to the practice, so essential, it has its own category: Pranayama. “Prana” is our vital, universal life force and “ayama” means to regulate or lengthen. Pranayama is the effort to consciously control our life force. As typically our body is breathing without us paying much attention to it, this practice brings intention to our breathing, brings our full system into balance.

Working with our breath allows us to be fully present. It brings our mind, heart, and body into alignment. Breathing nourishes our body. It also allows us to make space, literally and figuratively, for whatever arises. Consciously breathing can calm our nervous system and at the same time bring necessary support to our physical body, especially in times of stress or illness. There is no life without breath.

I’ve also been thinking about the double meaning of “breathe easy.” In relation to physical health, it’s a good sign when we can breathe easily, when our airways are unobstructed and our respiration is regulated, unlabored. Also, when we are in a calm and confident state, our mind clear and our emotions manageable, we breathe easy. In such a time as this, it seems even more important to be in touch with our breath, to practice soothing, restoring, and energizing ourselves with our breath.

May you and I breathe easy, kind and gentle reader. May we come home to ourselves on each inhale, surrendering what no longer serves us on each exhale. As Joan Halifax (an American Zen Buddhist teacher, anthropologist, ecologist, civil rights activist, hospice caregiver, and the author of several books on Buddhism and spirituality) posted on Facebook this morning:

May I be open to the true nature of life.
May I open to the unknown as I let go of the known.
May I offer gratitude to those around me.
May I be grateful for this life.
May I and all beings live and die peacefully.

Day of Rest: Burnout Recovery

The door to nowhere…

I’m categorizing this post as a “Day of Rest” because that’s usually what I post, if I post, on a Sunday. To be fair, it could also be a Life Rehab Resources, or What I Learned, or What I’m Doing. I’m realizing that after nine months of taking care of myself and trying to be patient, that if I was 100% burnt out nine months ago, I’m still about 87% burnt out now, and I should maybe be taking a more direct approach (instead of trying to “wait it out”), which for me typically starts with some deep research and contemplation.

I posted on Facebook and Instagram asking for books that had helped people through recovery from burnout, even if it wasn’t specifically about burnout. Some of the suggestions were:

One person on Facebook asked for clarification about the cause of my burnout, as that might help her make a more effective recommendation. As I told her, and I think have said here before, “the reasons are compound: just retired after 19 years in a stressful job, on year 11 of perimenopause, an autoimmune disorder, complex-PTSD, etc. So pretty much pick a reason and I’ve probably got it.” That makes deciding on a direct approach for recovery so much more complicated.

What’s been working for me so far, in terms of practices and support: Therapy, quitting my job, reading, watching lots of TV and taking lots of naps, eating what I want when I want it as much as I want, aqua aerobics, yoga, meditation, massage, having honest conversations with those close to me, asking for what I need, walking and napping and cuddling with my dogs, my infrared heating pad, our new living room furniture, flowers in the bathroom, cleaning out my office, getting more plants, limiting the amount of time I spend “peopling,” listening to music and podcasts, comedy, sitting in the sauna, reading in bed at night while Eric and the dogs are asleep, really good healthcare for my dogs (the better care they get, the less stressed I feel), writing, turning down the volume on bad news, cute animal and baby and dance videos, art, CBD oil, a small dose of THC before bed to help me sleep, the softest pjs in the world, my moon lamp, my HappyLight, and a sunrise alarm clock.

Another thing I have to do is cultivate patience and a willingness (which is currently reluctant) to accept that this could be permanent. I may never have more energy than I have right now and I need to figure out how to be okay with that.

All that said, I have a favor to ask you, kind and gentle reader: if you have recovered from burnout, what worked for you? What did you try, read, watch, do to feel better? If you don’t mind, could you post a comment or send me an email (lifewholehearted@gmail.com) and let me know? One request: as I am in recovery for not one but three eating disorders, even if a diet or nutritional supplement worked for you, could you leave that part out? I have to be super careful about how I handle anything having to do with nourishing myself through food or supplements, so not referencing anything related to that would be really helpful to me. Thank you in advance. You are the best!

Day of Rest: On Being “Good”

Ani Difranco performing at Washington’s in Fort Collins on February 8th, (image courtesy of Carrie Lamanna)

Last night I went to see Ani Difranco perform. It was an amazing show, full of energy and power and heart. Her opening act, Jesca Hoop (who was also amazing), said that the first time she saw Ani perform was transformative. “I never saw a woman hold space like that.”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately of what it means to perform “woman.” We are told not to take up space, taught the exact opposite: to be quiet and small and supportive and pleasing to look at. We are taught to be a thing, an object rather that an actual person. Our personhood, our truth, our power is too messy, too wild, untrustworthy and unreliable, and we need to control it, hide it, smash it to bits if necessary.

I recently watched a documentary about Taylor Swift, another singer/songwriter/performer. To be honest, I don’t really listen to her music (although “Shake it Off” was super catchy). She seems pretty representative of what it means to be a white woman, a celebrity, so she’s not someone I typically look to for wisdom or even entertainment. However, I was very interested in what she had to say about “being good.” She talks in the documentary about how that was always her central purpose, her main focus and goal in life: to be seen as “good” and to be liked.

This is a particular neurosis of white women living under the Stockholm Syndrome that is white supremacy. The “goodness” of a white woman supports and enables white supremacy (and in turn the patriarchy), allows it to continue. White women are conditioned to accept all the ways we aren’t enough, aren’t to be trusted, need to be controlled, and it keeps us frozen in shame and unworthiness and silence, limits our action, our creativity, our innate wisdom. We perform and please and fawn and smash ourselves to bits to be “good.”

What’s weird is even when we start to wake up, become more aware, that performance of goodness stays with us. That pattern we learned is so deep that we continue to react and behave that way. Our response to our new awareness of things like white supremacy, patriarchy, diet culture, etc. is exactly the same: to be frozen by shame and unworthiness, to perform and fawn while inside smashing ourselves to bits. In this way, we still serve the status quo because we remain trapped, unable to act according to our deepest truths, our fundamental wisdom, our real power.

I realized recently, with the help of therapy, that the two core beliefs I was taught were: I cannot be trusted AND I’m responsible. Let me tell you, this is a real mindfuck. If I can’t be trusted, how can I possibly be responsible? If I am supposed to figure things out, fix them, make things right, how can I do that if I can’t trust myself? This confusion is further fed by the need to be “good,” the need to be liked. It’s a mess, keeps me frozen in inaction, anxiety and despair.

The remedy, the antidote is to drop the shame and honor our inherent wisdom, our truth, our power. Just know, there is not much in this culture that will truly support such a pursuit. There will be resistance that at times even turns to aggression. We will make mistakes and get it wrong. Standing in our truth and our power, taking up space goes against tradition, puts the current system at risk, and make us vulnerable. But ultimately, “good” is useless, violent even. Nothing will ever change if we keep trying so hard to be good.

Women like Ani Difranco show us the way. She writes her own songs, tells her own story, holds space, even though there will so many who don’t like her for it. Every performance by such an artist reminds me of the power of story, of art, of telling the truth. Art embodies our story, personal and yet universal in the way it represents what it means to be human. This art, these stories, these humans are essential, have always been the thing that keeps me from giving up, gives me some sense that maybe things are in fact workable, that joy and ease and love are possible. Yes things change and die but they also come alive and are solid, tangible, real. There is suffering but there is also something else, both empty and illuminated.

Day of Rest

Today in my Facebook memories, a post showed up from two years ago, a list of the reasons behind what I post and share. It was particularly interesting to me because I’ve been thinking a lot about the how and why of my social media use. I was surprised to see that how I explained what I was doing two years ago is still quite accurate today. Nothing’s really changed.

20 Reasons Why I Post/Share Things

1. Because I’m a teacher and thus compelled to share what I learn in the hope that it will be of benefit to others.

2. Because I’m outraged or horrified and need company with that so I don’t give up, run and hide, sink into despair or shrink in terror.

3. Because I want to make it clear what “side” I’m on.

4. To dare someone, anyone to disagree so I can practice my dialogue skills (which are weak, I must admit).

5. To instigate a dialogue because I’m unsure or confused.

6. So I can easily find the info later.

7. To curate a collection of things for my weekly “Something Good” list (so far there are 365 of them, the same number as the days in a FULL year).

8. Because I want you to like me, think I’m cool.

9. To feel like I’m doing something.

10. To cheer you up, encourage you, share joy.

11. To motivate, inspire you.

12. Because I’m bored.

13. Because I need attention.

14. Because I’m overwhelmed and need you to help me “hold this.”

15. Because I’m trying to find my people.

16. Because I think I should.

17. Because it’s so funny or cute and I think it might make you laugh or even cry.

18. Because I think it’s going to go viral and I want to be “first.”

19. Because I’m getting paid to (I’m in charge of the social media accounts where I work).

20. Because I haven’t in a while and I want you to know I’m still here.

Day of Rest

I taught yoga twice last week. Just like if I teach yoga near Thanksgiving, I’m compelled to theme my classes around gratitude, when I teach around New Year’s Day, I feel like I have to talk about intention and transformation. As much as we might try to insulate ourselves from  external demands, in particular those coming from entities trying to sell us something, it’s difficult to escape entirely. And the message right now, coming hard and fast, is “new year, new you.”

And yet, there is nothing wrong with you. Exactly as you are, you are basically good – wise and compassionate and powerful, whole and well. You are not a project or a problem. And still, we can’t help but feel the constant pressure to make more of ourselves. We see videos like this one from DDP Yoga (which is NOT yoga, btw, imho), and the transformation, the way the drama of it is distilled into a short burst is so compelling. We watch it and believe that if we just sign up for this program, the size and shape we desire is easily within our reach. But what the video really shows is ONE human’s determination, ONE person’s process and resulting success – and that has little to nothing to do with the program the video is trying to sell us, the fix it promotes.

We all have to find our own way. Our truth is never the big T truth for everyone, and similarly just because something worked for someone else doesn’t mean it will be helpful to us. We are all on our own path. Certainly we can support and help each other, and there will be times when we share our path with others, have that in common, but ultimately we all must find ourselves, our own particular truth, our own way. As Buddhism refers to a middle path or middle way, but that middle is in a different place for every person, relative to our particular experience, and even then it is constantly shifting rather than a fixed point. It’s all a big experiment for each one of us.

Yoga as I understand and teach it isn’t about self-improvement. It isn’t about becoming something better or different, even though it sometimes unfortunately gets promoted as such. Yoga is about showing up with who we are and what is arising, having a sense of curiosity, cultivating an open heart and open mind, letting go of our agenda in order to meet what is, and meeting it with our innate wisdom and compassion. It’s about pealing away the layers of confusion. It’s not about putting our body in a specific shape but about being in our body, with ourselves, and becoming more and more authentically that. Through practice, we become more and more ourselves, and in this way we are on a path to wellness.

That said, yoga might not be your path. After years of doing traditional workouts, practicing from a place of self-improvement fueled by self-hate, I had to start over completely. I needed to find ways to move my body that felt good, that brought me joy. For me, that meant yoga, and also Pilates, aqua aerobics, swimming, and walking my dogs. It also includes things unrelated to moving as such, things like journaling and meditation, managing stress, healing trauma, getting enough water and sleep, and cultivating supportive and satisfying relationships and work. For you, it will be something else.

Soften towards yourself with compassion and trust your own innate wisdom. Let go of your agenda, turn away from external expectations, and tune into your intuition, your knowing, your longing. It is there that you will find the magic and the medicine, a kinder more sustainable middle path.

Day of Rest (NaBloPoMo Day 25)

In my Facebook memories today, there was a quote I’ve shared for the past two years in a row. It still rings so true to me. I reshared it on Facebook and wanted to do so here too. It’s a good reminder, as I said yesterday, that just because it’s the right thing to do doesn’t mean it will be easy.

Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors. ~Andrew Boyd