Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Painful Progress

I have no idea what to write today.  There's so much going on that I just feel stuck.  Things too personal to share, things too overwhelming to articulate.

It's always incredibly hard to leave my sister and her family.  It's the most deeply painful illustration of how nothing lasts forever that I've ever experienced, and ever will until I have my own kids.  Whenever I go, it's for a full week, and I get immersed.  The outside world mostly ceases to exist.  I'm in baby land.  It's nonstop, it's exhausting, it's wonderful.   I know I can't stay there forever - I have my own life and a city that I truly love.  But when I'm in it, I want to stay there forever.

It was sort of a holdover, a respite from the stark and frightening post-election reality we find ourselves living in.  Coming back doesn't just mean back to work or back to a normal routine, but back to facing fully head-on the challenges ahead and how I can be of help.  It's overwhelming.  It's jumping back into the process of processing the results and what it means for the future all over again, only halfway through.

But - nothing lasts forever.  Life is change.  My heart breaks when I think about all the cute and funny things the kids say and do and how the next time I see them, some of them might still be but others will be outgrown.  Replaced by new routines.  Same kids, same personalities, but so wildly different from visit to visit.  When I leave, I'm not just sad that I won't see them again for a little while but that I'll never see that version of them again.

Marc and I were given a surprising gift coming back from the visit on Friday - our plans to meet our sweet month-old nephew Lucas and visit newly two-year-old nephew Caleb were thwarted by the nasty colds we got from Atlas, Zoe, & Kai - we wound up with a weekend together.  Two days in a row.  Off.  Together.  Not off with one of us chasing one kid in one direction and the other chasing the other two kids in two other directions, but off.  God knows the last time that happened.  A weekend to heal, to recover, to reflect on our wonderful week and the challenges ahead.  We did what any normal couple would do - we watched all six hours of the masterpiece that is Angels in America.

Everything it says about love, change, God, politics, family, relationships, New York City, America, good, evil, the world...it feels so relevant in every facet of life these days.  Go back and watch it.  Go back and read it.  It offers hope, comfort, catharsis, inspiration.  Go.

I'll close this disjointed, rambling, vague piece with one of the last monologues of Angels, one that never fails to bring me to tears.  Happy, sad - all at once.  Emphasis mine.

“Night flight to San Francisco; chase the moon across America. God, it’s been years since I was on a plane. When we hit 35,000 feet we’ll have reached the tropopause, the great belt of calm air, as close as I’ll ever get to the ozone. I dreamed we were there. The plane leapt the tropopause, the safe air, and attained the outer rim, the ozone, which was ragged and torn, patches of it threadbare as old cheesecloth, and that was frightening. But I saw something that only I could see because of my astonishing ability to see such things: Souls were rising, from the earth far below, souls of the dead, of people who had perished, from famine, from war, from the plague, and they floated up, like skydivers in reverse, limbs all akimbo, wheeling and spinning. And the souls of these departed joined hands, clasped ankles, and formed a web, a great net of souls, and the souls were three-atom oxygen molecules of the stuff of ozone, and the outer rim absorbed them and was repaired. Nothing’s lost forever. In this world, there’s a kind of painful progress. Longing for what we’ve left behind, and dreaming ahead. At least I think that’s so.”


The world only spins forward, as Prior says.  Let's keep doing the good work.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Deep breaths

It shouldn't come as a surprise that we say, "Deep breaths" to ourselves and each other at Karma Kids Yoga all the time when we know we're about to encounter (or are in the midst of) a challenge. Maybe it's a trying parent or an event with 30+ crazy excited kiddos or spending hours of our lives on hold with Verizon because the Internet is slow again -

Deep breaths, we tell ourselves.  Deep breaths, we tell each other.

Never have I - never has the nation - been more in need of that advice than right now.

Deep breaths, because while there is a time to process shock and emotion and disappointment, we have to keep taking care of ourselves - and taking care of each other.

It often feels like laziness or cheating (because it often is!) when I simply use the week's blog post to outsource to other articles or videos, but today it simply feels like the only work there is to do.

We are about to be led by a man who has no regard for the freedom of the press, among many other things.  Seeking the truth and protecting the vulnerable has never been more important in our lifetimes.  Let's take a few deep breaths and go do the good work together.

There's a lot of overlap here, but they're all great resources.

27 Productive Things You Can Do If You're Upset About the Election
Buzzfeed

How to channel your post-election anger, sadness, and fear into action
Slate

The election is over, and here's what you can do about it
Chicago Reader

"If you're overwhelmed by the election, here's what you can do now"
Huffington Post

Michael Moore's Morning After To-Do List
Alternet

Finally, the phenomenal John Oliver finds the perfect blend of terrifying truth and desperately needed humor - as always.

Last Week Tonight

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Discipline of Gratitude - Election Day Edition

Anyone else excited out of their minds for today?  It feels like going to vote for the very first time!

In honor of where I first heard the term, "discipline of gratitude," and in honor of election day, my blog is getting outsourced to the original source of inspiration.



Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Discipline of Gratitude

November brings with it my hands-down favorite holiday - Thanksgiving.  Food & Gratitude - two of the most beautiful things in life, in my humble opinion.

I heard a phrase that caught my attention a few weeks ago, and knew right away it was a thought/practice I wanted to explore.

The Discipline of Gratitude.

It seems like it deserves capitalization.

What I take it to mean at first glance is to not just take the idea of gratitude lightly - as the latest buzzword or the latest supposed key to instant happiness and contentment.  Keeping a gratitude journal is I'm sure a legitimately awesome tool for a lot of folks, but it can also turn very rote very quickly (or even start out that way).

We who are blessed to have enough in our bank accounts to feed, clothe, and shelter ourselves all know in an almost dismissive way that we have a lot to be grateful for, and that everything else is all the small stuff.  But in the thick of day-to-day life, the small stuff becomes the big stuff, and we do sweat it.  In that context, it can be easy to write down that we're grateful for the Basics, but how often are we stopping and reflecting and feeling not just gratitude for it but feeling humbled with gratitude?

I've been pondering similar things a lot lately with my foot injury.  It hurts much more than I wish it did today, and since I'm waiting very impatiently for MRI results, my mind is left to its own worrying, worst-case-scenario-writing, self-pitying devices.  The discipline of gratitude, to me, seems entwined with the notion of perspective.

As my beautiful friend Laura often will remind me - we do not live in Aleppo.  There is almost no problem that we are facing in our blessed, blessed lives as New Yorkers - who, while struggle to make rent, are not living in poverty by any stretch of the imagination - that even compares.  The same idea of perspective, in my more mentally composed moments, is what reminds me that even if it takes much longer than I want it to (like it already has), I will get better.  Even though I struggle with the financial burden of my medical care and the work that's sacrificed, I have access to medical care and I can still do some work.  Even though not being able to walk normally/without pain is crushingly dispiriting, it's not like I'm going to lose my foot.

It's so hard to have the perspective that it's temporary, and sometimes I don't even want to admit to myself that it is because I'm stuck in that negative loop - and sometimes the negative mindset you know is much more comfortable, even when it's making you miserable, than the very frightening idea of hope and positivity.

There's a lot more I want to say about the discipline of gratitude, but - there's a lot more November to go.  I'll close this blog by taking the opportunity again to wish my beautiful big sister the happiest of birthdays!  I never have to dig deep to remember how grateful I am that she is my sister.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Resilience and Rebellion

After a rough September, I decided to make my word (or intention or goal, if you like) for the month of October - Resilience.  I'm resisting the temptation to share the definition because you all have google and you pretty much know what the word means anyway.  But it's a word that really appealed to me, because if September (not to mention the latter half of August) was my month of being injured, then October was my comeback month!

It turns out I should've extended my intention of Patience a liiiiiiittle bit longer.

October hasn't quite been the bounce-back I hoped and expected.  I'm certainly better than I was a month ago today - after my cast came off, the smallest bit of pressure on my foot was agony, and I was still figuring out the mechanics of walking again.  But today, I still experience pain when I walk, I'm much farther from back to normal (to say nothing of back to running!) than I expected, and I haven't always dealt with the disappointment in the healthiest ways.

Last week I wrote about boundaries and my anxiety over the election, as well as my health.   One would just feed the other until I was a depressed and anxious pile of goo.

It helps that there are no more debates, thank the sweet sweet lord.

But the fact is, that boundaries don't help worth a damn unless you set and enforce them.  (Gotta build a wall...)

And resilience is just a pretty word if I keep rebelling against doing the things that I know will actually help my mental and emotional and physical health.  Following rules I know I should follow, rules that are for my own good for reasons that I do actually understand.  Limit electronics.  Have a book to read so my attention span grows from the 3 seconds it currently is as I constantly skim headlines or bounce from work email/text back to whatever else it is I'm trying to do at home.  When I write, actually pay attention to writing without interruption.  Eat foods that quell instead of increase inflammation.  Get up on time, even when the snooze button is calling my name.  Actually focus when I meditate instead of just using it as another snooze button.

Intention really is a powerful thing, and words do make a difference - but it's just syllables rattling in your head if you don't put a plan of action to go with them.  That's why the advice to "Be present" always annoys me - yes, that's great, but how?

It's also hard to find the motivation to do those things or follow those rules or dig deep and get perspective that I'm really okay when I'm truly just not feeling it.  If I'm particularly stressed or scared or depressed at the glacial rate of my recovery and I let myself cry or get down, I find that I automatically go to a place of feeling like I don't deserve to feel this way because I'm really okay.  I'm not dying, for God's sake.  So then by not letting myself have a moment (or even a day) where I'm just sick of it all, those feelings just continue to simmer under the surface and negatively impact every other decision, conscious or unconscious, that I make.

My beautiful friend Michael Bartelle, who is one of the most inspiring, kind, funny, beautiful, and loving people I've ever met, wrote something strikingly similar to how I've been feeling today.  He shared several methods and techniques and practices he's engaged in throughout the years (such as meditation, doing morning pages a la The Artist's Way) and how when he seems to need those practices the most, he's least likely to habitually do them.

It's a reminder, especially coming from someone who inspires me as much as Michael does, that we're all human and we all go through rough patches that knock us off our pedestals and practices and keep us from being our best selves.  No one has maintained perfection in their practice in life - if they are, they're probably living on top of a mountain far, far away.  It's just part of life.

I think that's why the phrase, "Take care of yourself," exists.  When someone says that to us, don't we tend to just sort of nod and agree and appreciate the warm thought without really thinking about what it means?

To "Take care of yourself" probably means, more often than not, taking away the short-term dopamine hit (ie checking Facebook for the 100th time in an hour) from yourself and replacing it with something that you probably don't feel like doing, but that will be infinitely better for you.  The emotional, spiritual, and often literal version of Eating Your Vegetables.

So I'm here toward the end of this month where my resilience has been tested deeply by my inner, struggling rebellion.  Today feels a little different, though, and it just takes a few positive steps and a few good days to shift momentum to a better direction.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Setting boundaries

In case you haven't noticed - there's an election going on.

For people like me, who have tremendous interest in and anxiety over it, it's very, very easy to get unhealthily preoccupied.  It's one thing to be informed, and quite another to spend every free moment listening to or reading about it - even when there's no new-news from the last time one checked (even though in recent weeks it seems like there's a new development every five seconds).

There's a lot of talk among parents and teachers over a great "screen time" debate.  Parents worried (or decidedly not worried) about exposing their toddlers to the TV and iPad, parents trying (or not so much) to have family meals without phones at the table, the idea of having time limits vs. total freedom on video games - there are arguments to be made for every kid, family, and situation, and people spend a gigantic amount of time judging each other over it and judging themselves, often, over failing in their goals. (And for the record, I have no judgement or opinion on what anyone does - it is 100% not my place, and I don't even have kids so I'm not coming down on any particular side)

We spend so much time analyzing the effect that screen time has on kids, but it seems we don't even put one tenth of the same effort into analyzing the effect that it has on us as adults.  Sure, there's a flurry of recommendations about having TV in the bedroom or using electronic devices before bed, but how many of us let that permeate into the reality of how we live our lives?

I go through phases with this. Sometimes I'm great about avoiding my phone before bed...but most times I'm not.  Sometimes I resolutely delete Facebook from my phone, thus removing the ability to constantly check so I can post whatever article has most recently articulated my views.  Then inevitably something pops up (like a day full of air travel) where I feel I need / deserve to bring it back again.

The bottom line is, we all ought to honestly look at our intake of and exposure to media, and assess how it really affects us.  At what point might it just be reflexive, addictive?  At what point is it truly helpful?

And more importantly - what do you replace it with?  For me, that's usually diving deep into a novel.  I tend to be a happier person when I'm reading a book.  I'm able to get absorbed into one long narrative, rather from skipping and skimming article after article after article.  Also - hey, music still exists!

I think part of my issue with this is that I'm so much less mobile than I used to be while my foot is still healing, and obsessing about the election is an activity that requires zero movement.  If I were still able to go for a run three times a week and jump into a yoga class every so often, I'd also have a much better outlet to let the anxiety physically get the hell out of my body.

In the meantime, I just have to rely on good old self-discipline.  Usually not a problem for me, but there's something about an injury that makes you insanely permissive to yourself, usually at the eventual expense of health or sanity.

And therefore - boundaries.  Hiding the phone from myself.  Deleting apps. Creating boundaries of time when I'm on and when I'm off - and the kicker is, I'll probably pay even closer attention to and be more present with the news that I'm reading when I'm finally reading it.

I'll confess right now that, with the election three weeks away, I don't have the highest confidence in my ability to stick to these boundaries.  But at least they're there.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Music Share - Hipster Playlist

Lots going on this week, but not for blogging.  Instead I'd love to share one of my most used playlists that I bring out for my Prenatal / Mom & Baby classes.

A lot of this was taken from the Acoustic Covers playlist on Spotify, which is always full of hidden little treasures.  It's bookended with some gorgeous music by Dustin O'Halloran from one of my favorite albums chock full of beautiful instrumentals for savasana.

My favorite song on this, though, has to be Bells by The Bengsons.  I first heard it in savasana after one of Elizabeth Barnett's spectacular classes at The Giving Tree (check her out on Monday's at 7:45 and Friday's at 6:30!), and it absolutely floored me.  Astorians especially will like the shoutout to our neighborhood in the song.

There's a lot of poignancy in the song as well as throughout the playlist...it's one that makes me happier when I'm happy and heartens me when I'm sad.  Enjoy!



Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Peg Leg & the Pool

Last week, I was dealt a setback to my foot's healing process that pretty well broke my spirit for a couple of days.  It's been hard for me to write about my emotional reaction and struggle with my injury because all I can keep thinking about is how much worse other people have it and how sort of inappropriate and gross it would feel to put that out into the world with so much else going on.  Because of that, I think I've been repressing my frustration and disappointment and heartbreak and anger in an effort to be as positive as possible.  As a result, when I had the setback (back to crutches instead of finally being able to walk again), I took it insanely hard.  Tears, pity party - the whole 9 yards.  (Shouldn't it be the whole 10 yards...?)

Luckily, I have the world's best physical therapist who gave me the best advice: get back in a pool.

Because I was in such a negative headspace last week, I kept focusing on the obstacles.  Figuring out how to join, how I should get there, when I should go, the pool schedule, what a pain in the ass it is to get around a wet locker room on a crutch and to change with the use of one leg, getting in and out, dealing with a wet towel and suit and goggles and swim cap when I have to go to work right after and have a hard time carrying a lot around...little things.  Petty annoyances that I let myself get caught up in and complain about.

And then - just like this summer, when getting to the pool was such an ordeal on the crutches - as soon as I got in the water, it all melted away.  The freedom that I've always felt anytime I get in the water is that much more healing and necessary and soothing with this injury.  When I swim, I can use my entire body, I can use my left AND right side at the same time in the same way!  I have freedom and symmetry in the water in a way that I just don't on dry land right now, and won't for a while, even once I get walking again.

My main homework in the water is to do some practice walking, in water up to my chin so I'm as weightless as I can manage to be.  As you can imagine, it's very slow work.  No other distractions - no headphones, no phone, no nothing except paying attention to how my body moves, how it feels, and the space around me.  It's the most meditative thing I've experienced in quite a long time, and it's so important that my brain be given that space where it's not engaged in anything else except what I'm doing at that moment.  No news.  No podcasts.  No Facebook. No reading.  No work.  Just my own brain and my own body.  It's the most yoga I've practiced since even before my injury, I think.

I honestly don't know if it was the feeling of walking, the freedom of swimming, or the forced mental freedom that's been the most impactful.  I've been mourning the loss of running lately for a variety of reasons - the primary one being what a huge outlet for stress relief it is.  The pool is helping me to fill that void in a totally new and totally needed way.

I've got another appointment with the doctor tomorrow.  I think the days of getting off my foot and back into the crutches coupled with the weightless practice-walking have paid off.  This process is still painfully, frustratingly, infuriatingly slow, but - I have my perspective back.  We'll just see what the next slow step is.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Breathing through anxiety

I'm hoping that every single person who is reading this watched last night's debate. This is the most consequential election in our country's history and it demands our very careful consideration and every possible vote.

It also demands, for me at least, that I constantly check the news, Facebook, political podcasts, and every other morsel of information until I'm a useless, jelly-like puddle of horrified anxiety, convinced that this time next year it won't be global warming that's the biggest threat to humanity, but nuclear winter.

What's a little meditation or breath in the face of this overwhelming existential anxiety?

Pretty damn effective, actually.

If you've been anxious like I have lately, even if it's unrelated to politics or injury, I've found this to be a very helpful grounding technique:


Take a comfortable seat, either cross-legged on padding or with two blocks between the ankles in supported hero's pose.

Align your spine - shoulders down and back aligned over the hips, chin slightly tucked and back of the head pulled back in space so the earlobes align over the shoulders.  The crown of the head is aligned over the center of the pelvis.

Imagine a long line, or a long column of light, running from the center of the pelvis up and out through the crown of the head.  With each breath in, that line grows longer in both directions.  With each breath out, soften your body around your tall spine.

Inhale as everything from the navel up grows longer, lighter, taller, more lifted.  Exhale to soften the expression on the face, the jaw, the neck, the shoulders.  Inhale as the crown of the head lengthens toward the ceiling.  Exhale to soften tension in the chest, belly, back, and to release any gripping in the hips or legs.

Imagine everything from the navel up grows taller and lighter, while everything from the navel down becomes heavier, more rooted, more grounded.

Allow the inhalations and the exhalations to be even - inhaling and exhaling for a count of 4 or any length of time that will keep it a calming, easy breath.

Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.

And then go vote.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Yoga Flow In A Cast




Better late than never...

My cast came off on Thursday (yay!  but whose skinny, dough-y calf is that underneath!?!?) but with the help of my magician husband, I've finally been able to upload my yoga class that I made it my goal to create during my weeks in the cast.

This can be done without being in a cast, of course - just don't take any of the necessary protective modifications.  If you're feeling like a challenging class that skips out on Warrior I and Warrior II, and standing in general, please check it out!