Thursday, January 31, 2013

To Do: Relax

I'm having one of those days where on the calendar, at first glance, it seems as though I have plenty of glorious empty space of free time.  Once I write down the to-do list and the day actually arrives, however, it seems like somebody sped up the clock to go triple-time.

I do have a few juicy blog posts in me that I could write about - I have a lot to say lately about fear, about self-study and facing the parts of ourselves that we're a) not so proud of and b) apt to ignore, and lots to say about the idea of resistance - resisting things that we not only know to be good for us (eating an orange instead of chocolate) but things that we know to be good for us and that we actually enjoy (doing some gentle before bed yoga instead of sacking out in front of the TV instead).  What is it that's resisting?  These are big ol' questions that take a lot more time to mull, pontificate, and articulate then I have to give to it today.  So instead of attempting to squeeze it in and do a half assed job, I'm going to let it rest and wait for another day.

For today, I'm once again going to pass the blogging torch to someone else.  This wedding planning stuff is no joke - the blog sometimes, sadly, must take a back seat.

This blog from YogaJournal.com took the words right out of my mouth.  Except for the "make baby food" part, I completely relate.

One Deep Breath by Erica Rodefer Winters.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Explanations in Charity

In the spirit of resolution-y January, I'm rereading one of my favorite new books - Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project.  I've probably mentioned it about 47 million times on the blog, and I hope to continue to do so for many years to come.  Reading this book is such a huge reminder of so many little things I can do to not only boost my happiness, but that of those around me.

It's also in the spirit of January that I'm writing about this particular part of the book.  It's so small but so significant.  January can often be all about "me me me," and primarily driven by the ego of self improvement.  While that's not necessarily a bad thing, we kind of forget about the whole charity and goodwill toward men thing we talk about in December.  (Although if you ask me, materialism started trumping the charity thing many Decembers ago and continues to grow stronger - but that's another post)

One of Rubin's resolutions for the month of June, during which she focuses on her friendships, is to Cut People Slack (it's actually a mini resolution housed under the larger resolution to Be Generous).    In elaborating, she refers to the "fundamental attribution error," which is, as she deftly explains:

...a psychological phenomenon in which we tend to view other people's actions as reflections of their characters and to overlook the power of the situation to influence their actions, whereas with ourselves, we recognize the pressures of circumstance.  When other people's cell phones ring during a movie, it's because they're inconsiderate boors; if my cell phone rings during a movie, it's because I need to be able to take a call from the babysitter.

Another way of looking at this is simple empathy and compassion.  We've all been guilty of this many times, especially in New York when you are surrounded by bazillions of people in all kinds of situations every day.  People walking slowly in front of you in the subway station when you're in a rush, tourists who don't realize that it's really okay to jaywalk when you're in a hurry (I'm sensing a theme for myself here), or a cashier seeming rude.  I'm not saying it's okay to be rude, but like Rubin says - who hasn't had a bad day?  It makes us less angry and therefore more peaceful and happy to give the other person the benefit of the doubt.  We don't know what's going on with them, and I'm sure when we have awful days we appreciate other people's compassion - and easily recognize how much worse hostility makes us feel.

Rubin most beautifully conveys this idea through Flannery O'Connor.  She quotes a letter O'Connor wrote to a friend:

From 15 to 18 is an age at which one is very sensitive to the sins of others, as I know from recollections of myself.  At that age you don't look for what is hidden.  It is a sign of maturity not to be scandalized and to try to find explanations in charity.

I'd say it's pretty damn charitable of O'Connor to limit the age of sensitivity to sins of others to only the years of 15-18.  Clearly, tmz.com didn't exist in her day.

This concept is one of the ways in which working harder to make yourself happier is one of the most unselfish things you can do, because you're directly contributing compassion and kindness (and perhaps happiness) to those around you.  Give it a try - the next time a stranger irritates you for whatever reason, see if you can find an explanation in charity.  Maybe even make up a whole story or excuse for them in your head.  If all else fails, just cut them some slack and take a breath.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

My Yoga BFF Blogs!

Today is one of those days where I just can't think of a single damn yoga related thing to write about.  It happens.  Whenever I sit down to write my blog - unless I have something very specific I'm just itching to write about - I always turn to other blogs for inspiration.  So today, instead of writing my usual term paper, I'm sending you off to enjoy another blog!

I mentioned last March about how I have one very, very special yoga friend - my very first yoga friend, in fact.  The beautiful Cassi Stuckman and I met in Sarasota, Florida four years ago this month - holy moly!

When I think of our time in Florida, I think of getting each other up at the crack of (or before) dawn for our early Friday morning yoga dates, early morning runs on the beach, over the bridge, or at the track, lots of laughing, lots of crying, lots of pasta, and lots of wine.  (Alcohol of any kind, actually. Just lots of it)  We've been through our own journeys since we were interns together in Sarasota - she's gone from Manhattan, Kansas to Chicago, Illinois and I've gone from Williamsburg, Virginia to Manhattan, New York!

She also, as you may have guessed, started a blog of her very own last May, and I absolutely love it.  Part of the reason I love it so much is that it's so different from mine!  She updates way more often than I do, and her often entries are super brief - a beautiful picture of her or her student or her awesome dog and a nugget of wisdom.  Sometimes she writes a little bit more if she's feeling it, which is always a treat.

So, enough from me - go!  Enjoy the beauty, wit, and wisdom of my yoga BFF, Cassi Stuckman.  And if you're in Chicago, get yourself to one of her classes STAT!  She's the best!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Rush

One thing I can't stand and avoid at all costs is feeling rushed.  I'm a planner, and I live to anticipate, coordinate, set deadlines, and be early.  When you're rushed, the layer of anxiety you feel can completely affect, and even ruin, whatever it is that you're going - whether it's commuting to work or squeezing in time with a friend.

The interesting thing is, though, I've discovered that out of my total fear and loathing of being rushed and overwhelm, I've started to rush and overwhelm myself.

When you get engaged, the world does a great job of convincing you that you're going to be a nervous, stressed-out, insane wreck in the weeks before you're wedding (if not for the entire period of the engagement!).  I certainly accept that it will be a crazy, stressful, and yes, likely rushed period of time, but I totally reject the notion that I can't be as on top of things and in order as humanly possible.

I've kept up with all 800 zillion bridal magazines and websites out there that all have a timeline of when to do what.  Some are fairly short and broad, and some are insanely detailed down to the T of things that will have to get done.  Even my amazing venue, which churns out over 500 (maybe over 600?  Is that possible?) weddings a year, has sent me a ginormous planning book with worksheets for every tiny little thing so that everything is in order.  The goal of all of these being, of course, that out of all the tedious planning I am gifted a smooth, orderly day where everything and everyone is magically, perfectly in place.

If all of that happens, awesome.  But right now, the arbitrary and totally made-up deadlines that I'm giving myself out of fear of being overwhelmed later are causing me to rush through things that I'm only going to get to do once in a lifetime!  Whether it be scheduling an appointment for wedding rings at a particular time because, dammit, it just had to be done in December or else, or rushing to send out the invitations the second they hit my hot little hands instead of taking my time with them, I recognize that this is something I tend to do in my life outside of wedding planning.

Where does this come from?  Fear.  Fear of...being late, being wrong, being overwhelmed, not getting it done, whatever it is.  It's important to step back and take a look at the big picture and the actual timeline of your life.  To me, this is a classic example of how we can get bogged down in the million things to do we have in our daily lives, and the almost religious way so many of us these days cling to our identity as being "crazy busy."  Are we really?  Lord knows I feel that way and so many other people with way more stressful jobs and lives than I do (not to mention kids) feel that way too.

How can we reduce that fear?  How can we create more space, more patience, more trust?

I'm not quite sure yet.  I'm certain yoga has a lot of help to offer, though.  In class, you take your time.  You breathe and you move, you breathe and you move, you breathe and you move.  And then you stop.  You do nothing.  And you go back in the world to discover that it kept moving along just fine without you, and your life is still right where you left it - only you have a little more flexibility.

We can access that little mini escape anytime if only we can identify when we need it and choose to take a breath and take a moment to reassess the urgency with which we're going through our day.  Be a little more flexible with your idea of what has to be.

I very much hope some of you out there can relate to this feeling, because I kind of feel like I'm just talking to my own neurotic self here.  Maybe I can just blame New York.  The point, essentially, is to stop, smell the roses, roll with the punches, and slow down.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Feeling Good

How appropriate that Pandora chose to give me some good ol' Nina Simone just as I sit down to finally write.  Feeling Good is a fabulous New Year's Day song!

Having just got back into town late Sunday night and having spent most of yesterday recovering in a blob on the couch, I'm just now starting to feel like myself again today.  Spending a week in Florida with the family was lovely but so intensely stressful and even more intensely alcohol-soaked.  I'm ready for every wonderful New Year's and detox cliche the universe can possibly throw my way, and I'm so happy to be back in my home city of beautiful, beautiful New York.

13 has always been my lucky number, and there are so many reasons why this year already feels lucky and tremendous for me.  I haven't been struck by a ton of resolution ideas, which is funny for me because I usually have to keep myself from making hundreds of them.  There are one or two little ones floating around, but the top two are most definitely:

Increase Presence

Decrease the Fear that leads to...judgement, negativity, complaining, gossipping, impatience - take your pick of any of that unlovely cocktail.

Feeling Good invokes a lot of imagery of springtime, and even though we're still a ways away from it (and still oh so bleak and freezing outside), this entire year already feels like one long, glorious springtime.  It's a good intention to set for it, anyway.  I hope everyone finds this year to be a year of more love and less fear!