Tuesday, August 28, 2018

COMPLAINT DEPARTMENT

I don't meant to complain, but....

Ever notice: 1) any sentence that has "but" near the beginning eradicates any phrase that comes before it?  2)  complainers know they shouldn't complain, because they apologize for it before forging ahead?

Karen apologized for starting class a few minutes late last week because, she said, she was listening to complaints.  I don't know where the complainers were -- whether at her city council job or at the yoga studio, but I want to believe at the city job.  We yogis would be far too mellow to complain, wouldn't we?

Maybe not.  I've been known to be a complainer, more so when I was younger and enjoyed the adrenaline surges of immature self-righteousness.  Complaining inherently comes with an "I'm right and you're wrong" bias about a person, a situation, the temperature of the room, whatever.  As I've matured (grown older) my complaints are fewer as I've discovered I pretty much can accommodate any situation. They are all temporary.  Or I can take action on my own behalf and change what doesn't work for me.  I am not powerless.

Still, there are times when one does want to vent; like the hour it took me to get through to my credit card customer service departments yesterday to take care of one simple task!  We will be traveling soon and I wanted to notify them so they didn't put those fraud holds on my cards.  Turns out "Customer Service" was only truly easy for one of the three calls I made.  Frustrating.  But a cup of coffee, some focused attention, rising to a challenge, and refusing to be defeated made the task sort of a personal triumph when completed.

I also tend to complain about weather more than one should.  I've lived in the Northwest for 36 years and yet, the cool, dark, drizzly, gray days we endure (see? even that "endure" word is a complaint!) leave me longing for sunshine and warmth.  I've complained lately that August, one of the months I live for the rest of the year, has been lost in a cloud of wildfire smoke, to the point where I didn't even open doors or windows for a week or more.  Lots of grousing about that.

So what to do when things don't exactly go your way.  Yes, speak up respectfully and ask for what you want/need.  Yes, take action on your own behalf and change what you can.  Yes, accept what is real and let go of the fantasy of how you want things to be.  So often our complaints are that life doesn't live up to our expectations.  But where did those expectations originate?  From a TV show?  A photo on the internet?  A childhood dream?  Accepting what "is" in the real world helps us adjust our expectations to a more realistic level.

Another antidote to complaint is gratitude.  See my examples above:  Yes, huge hassle and time suck around the credit card calls.  And yet....I am fortunate enough to have the financial security to even have a credit card which I will use to take a lovely vacation!  And the weather: I am fortunate enough to live in the Pacific Northwest, one of the most beautiful, lush, green, vibrant areas of our country.  To get all that, a little rain's gonna fall.  And the smoke?  I'm fortunate enough to be retired, to have the option of staying in and keeping myself safer from the harmful effects of breathing smoky air.

As yogis we have the tools of concentration, breath, silence, and lovingkindness meditation to see us through the hard times.  Attitude adjustments and gratitude practices work wonders when you find yourself in a complaint cycle.  Try it next time and leave complaining behind.

Namaste,  donnajurene

Thursday, August 9, 2018

SMILE YOUR WAY TO HAPPINESS

"May I be happy; May my friends be happy; May my enemies be happy; May all beings be happy.  May I be at peace; May my friends be at peace; May my enemies be at peace; May all beings be at peace;  May I be free; May my friends be free; May my enemies be free; May all beings be free."

Karen began our practice meditation today with those words, a variation of the Buddhist Lovingkindness Meditation.  My mind, body, and soul are calmed every time I hear this.  Why don't I do this meditation more often?

We get caught up in the Monkey Mind/Busy Body rush of our days and forget to send a blessing to ourselves, to those we love and to all beings -- even our enemies (or those we really and truly do not like.  C'mon, admit it.  You can think of one or two...)

Throughout the practice Karen reminded us that happiness happens when we take action on our own behalf and when we change our mindset to embrace happiness.

She reminded us over and over to SMILE.  Just the act of smiling triggers an emotional response that causes us to feel lighter and more joyful.  Maybe it's the muscle memory of all the times our smiles have been in response to joy in our lives.  Try it.  It works.

At one point in the practice I found myself gritting my teeth and wondering how much longer I needed to hold the pose.  I've had some unexplained stiffness in one hip that is frustrating me and also is a bit painful.  I try to stretch it and ignore the twinges, but so far that isn't working.  Still, as we sat in Easy Pose, with Karen reminding us to breathe, smile, and take any action needed to fully relax I realized that I was holding that leg at a weird angle and all my focus (even though I was smiling) was on the pain I was feeling.  I grabbed a blanket, folded it, and put it under my knee to prop my leg.  Ahhhhh....that did the trick.

Having self-compassion in that moment allowed me to be truly happy.  I stopped pushing myself; stopped the incessant chatter that had come up questioning what is wrong with my hip and why it happened and how to fix it and when it will get better....and just relaxed with one leg propped and the other flat.  Sure, I want my old flexibility back, but in that moment and maybe for all the moments to come, I found a way to accept what is and to find comfort and contentment there.

A shift in thinking led to a shift in posture which led to a shift in emotion.  If it can work on something as easy as Easy Pose, imagine what it can do on the really big stuff.

May all beings be happy.

Namaste, donnajurene

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

THE SOUND OF HEAVEN

I just had a musical weekend.  Thursday my husband and I gathered with our grown children and their children to enjoy a picnic on the grass overlooking the stage at the weekly Music at the Marina performance near our home.  What a beautiful summer evening and a great band, LeRoy Bell and His Only Friends.  (Google them.)  At one point I felt my heart throbbing with love for my family, for the beauty of the surroundings, with gratitude for the choices and serendipity that had brought me to this place in my life, these people in it.

On Friday night my husband and I went to a local winery which hosts a summer concert series to see my all time favorite singer/songwriter/musician/band -- Jackson Browne.  I've been a fan since the 70's and his music has become the soundtrack for a big chunk of my life.  We had great center stage seats and I loved singing along to every word, dancing with the crowd, and screaming in appreciation after each song.  I haven't done that in a long, long time.  I was filled with memories of the many, many years I've listened to his music, seen him in concert, laughed and sang and danced with abandon. It was pure joy.

On Sunday, well, Sunday was the perfect musical finale.  Karen hosted a Jami Sieber concert at her magnificent home/art studio/community space.  You may know Jami Sieber -- if you practice at Yoga Circle Studio, you've heard her music.  Karen plays it frequently as the background music of her classes.

Jami plays the electric cello.  The first time I saw her I was stunned...what was that thing???  She calls it a cello having an out of body experience.  Funny, huh?  This time she was joined by her partner, Agu, who plays the singing bowls and chimes.  Together they were exquisite.

Jami is warm, funny, crazy talented.  She actually lays down backing tracks as she plays, layering melody and syncopation one over the other in a complex riddle of sound. Her music is transformative.  She invites her audience to take a "deep dive",  eyes closed, no need for applause...just let the music flow in and around, creating a peaceful and centering experience.  It's like floating on air.

When I posted to my Facebook page about this concert later that night, a friend from Boulder, Colorado surprised me with her knowledge of Jami.  She responded: "Ive been listening to her intensely for the past month.  Her music is the sound of Heaven."  Indeed.

May music fill your soul with love, with joy, with Heaven.

Namaste, donnajurene

Learn more and listen to Jami here:  https://www.jamisieber.com
Karen also has CD's for sale in the Yoga Circle Studio shop.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

YOGA OBSTACLES


Desperate times lead to desperate measures.   I was just in a small town in North Idaho for 5 days.  Number of residents -- 2247.  Number of yoga studios -- 0.

I'd spent 6 hours in the car getting there.  Over the next 5 days I didn't do much physical activity. The first day I walked around some, but mostly sat in my lawn chair, at a Blues Fest in the neighboring town.  My husband spent the next three days covering about 130 miles on his bike.  I didn't want to go -- too hot!  So, I sat a good part of each subsequent day while completing a big stack of Postcards to Voters (a get out the vote national effort) and watching the news of the Helsinki Summit between our president and the Russian president unspool.  I puttered around the house a bit.  A couple of times I walked nearly 3 miles in midday 90+ degree sun to the post office and back to mail those postcards, which was good for burning calories, but not so much for avoiding near heatstroke.   I knew another day would be spent in the car for 6 hours again on the return trip home.

So, defying the  heat and no air conditioning in our little house, on the last day I decided I needed to stretch and bend and MOVE my body.  I needed some yoga!

I'm not a fan of home practice.  Well, I'm a fan, of course, I just suck at it.  Everyone should have a home practice, even if a few Sun Salutations, to tide one over between yoga studio sessions.  But I don't.  I've tried.  I get distracted and I procrastinate and I just blow it off.  But I decided, "Hey, you lazy bum! Do your yoga!"

I hauled out my laptop and went to YouTube and searched for Yoga.  The choices are endless.  It's a hit and miss thing unless you are sure what you are looking for and which online instructor you like.   I'm not ever sure.  Like I said, yoga at home on the computer is not my thing.

I just randomly chose "Yoga with Adriene".   I don't know Adriene, but we spent almost an hour together and I found her to be friendly, a little goofy, and pretty easy to follow.  I guess I didn't choose very strenuous videos, because the ones I did were easy.  Still there were annoyances and challenges.

First, check out the room she is in!  Who lives like this???  Pristine white walls, shiny hardwood floors, one lone green floor plant and a little table, looking like she just created it in her woodworking shop, with little plants in pots she threw herself, looking vaguely alter-ish.  Also, I do not believe that is a real window.  Those trees do not move.

My room was downright cluttered in comparison and not at all pristine.  It's a vacation home, not my regular residence.  Standards slip.  Every time she led me into Downward Dog or Child's Pose with my nose buried in the decades old carpet I tried to remember if we've had it cleaned more than once since we bought the place 12 years ago.  I thought I might still be able to smell "dog" (our beloved companion has been dead for 7 years).

Every time I lifted an arm or leg I banged into a chair or an end table, causing me to groan in momentary pain.  Every time I moved into plank my feet slipped out from under me -- I had no mat with me.  Instead of keeping it in alignment, my neck got kinked from looking at the computer screen.  Standing up I could see the screen fairly well looking down to where it was perched on the table, but lying on my back I had to stop and reposition the computer several times.  The fan in the window was so loud it took several tries to get the video volume just right.

Plus, distractions abound.  It was morning and my coffee beckoned, so I hit pause and poured a cup.  A dog barked manically nearby so I hit pause to look out the window.  Same with the dump truck that roared by.  An unusual bird flitted by my window, so I hit pause again to try to identify it.  It was so hot in the house, I had to hit pause again to get a glass of ice water and a cool, damp cloth for my face.  I was suddenly afflicted wth Yoga Attention Deficit Disorder.

But I persevered.  Fifty minutes later, with eyes closed, thumbs at the third eye in anjali mudra, Adriene closed with, "I hope you feel awesome.  I feel awesome.  You feel awesome.  We are all freaking awesome. Namaste."

I'm not sure I felt "freaking awesome", but I felt looser and a bit self-righteous for having done the practice in spite of my bruised toes and wildly swinging Monkey Mind.  Like Nike says, "Just Do It." Can't hurt; might help.

Namaste,  donnajurene