Sunday, April 6, 2014

Signs of Spring

Today, while I was taking a walk, a sharp pain in my knee suddenly reminded me that I was rushing. It was a beautiful, sunny day but I was in a hurry to get home and finish some work. At the exact moment that my knee started “acting up” I slowed my gait and noticed a large, gorgeous stone in a rock garden someone had arranged on a front lawn. As my gaze traveled across the sparkling amethyst, I discovered two more such rocks. Someone had taken the time and care to create a lovely tapestry of stones and flowers. And I had almost missed it! Even more disturbing was my realization that I had walked that route at least a hundred times and never noticed.
Sometimes, when I’m speeding down a certain busy highway on my way home from here or there I notice a sign that says, “Drive carefully.” It’s in a perfect location, too; it always catches my gaze just as I’m about to accelerate. Yesterday, I came across a sign that said, “Time is running out.” That one was ominous—I think it had something to do with taxes, but it’s not the way I interpreted it. Instead, it made me think of a few things I really want to do soon—and a few things I really want to stop doing soon. At least we know when the deadline for taxes is—we’re not really aware of when that “other” deadline is going to crop up!
Springtime is a time of joy and renewal, but it’s also a reminder to keep our eyes open lest we miss the lilies of the valley, the lilacs, the pear tree blossoms, or the arrival of robins (or the departure of eagles). Last spring, in fact, I missed the blossoming of a frothy pink tree in my neighborhood because I didn’t make a point of getting out and walking along that path in time. I know for sure that if I don’t stop whatever I’m doing the last week in June and walk a certain route in my town I will totally forgo the scent of the linden trees—one of the most beautiful aromas I’ve ever inhaled (next to pizza bubbling in a brick oven, of course!). Maybe it doesn’t really matter if I miss these things (you may be thinking) but I know for a fact that if I neglect to harvest the blackberries in my backyard that always ripen on July 4th weekend, there will be no pie. And it’s a very long year until those blackberries are ripe for pickin’ again.
Tonight, as I went outside to dump the glass recycling in its bin, I stumbled across a message in my own front yard. I remembered placing it there last summer, and now that the snow has melted it’s in plain sight for me to see once more. I share it with you here (above) because it’s a lovely reminder and yet another sign of spring: “Be at peace with all things.” Namaste.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Button Up Your Overcoat...

Hopefully, we won’t be wearing any “overcoats” in the near future now that Spring is here, but for some reason I thought of this old-timey song (published in 1928) when I went out today for a walk in the blustery air. The words are actually, “Button up your overcoat when the wind is free, take good care of yourself, you belong to me!” Well, actually, you belong to you. So indeed, button up. 
       A dear friend mentioned recently that she was scheduling a self-care day. I like this idea, and I like the idea of scheduling it in—actually jotting it down or typing it into your weekly planner. And in addition to a self-care day once a week or so, I think it would be great to schedule in a rest and restore hour every day (in addition to lunch, of course!).
      Sometimes I feel like I’m running in circles and there is absolutely no time to slow down and take a break (which in the long run makes us more energized and ultimately more productive). No doubt you’re thinking it’s impossible for you, too, especially if you have a job and/or kids. God knows what would happen if you went out for a walk or took a snooze!
      But have you ever noticed that when you actually do get sick and have to stay home and take care of yourself the world does not end? I’m not wishing an illness on anyone, but it’s kind of amazing the way when something actually happens to thwart us from meeting all the obligations that we have in a given day, banks still cash checks, restaurants still make food, the sun still rises and sets, and those who we think are incapable of living without us even for a few hours (children, spouses, etc.) somehow manage to carry on? I’m not a proponent of shirking responsibilities, but the more I witness how responsibilities can swallow our time and our health, the more I believe that self-care should be just as important (if not more so) than everything else.
      Lengthy vacations are great, but it may be even more essential to take a vacation in your mind on a daily basis. Close your door, light a candle, put on some calming music, and breathe for twenty minutes or so. You don’t have to be at a yoga class to enjoy a Shavasana (this translates as “corpse pose” which may not sound very fun to non-yogis, but many yogis know it as their favorite asana!) and you don’t need an excuse to take a time out from your day. You belong to yourself, after all. That’s reason enough.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Things I've Learned From Snow

We’ve had a lot of it lately. Frankly, I’m sick of looking at it. But it’s taught me a few things. I thought I’d sum them up in a list.

1.     Slow down. While driving home from a yoga event one morning, taking my usual pace, I skidded on the ice and nearly hit a car. Fortunately, there was no one in the left lane so I was able to slide over without mishap. Sometimes we need to adjust our pace. We can’t approach every situation in the same manner. When there’s an obstacle in our path like black ice or fog, it’s a no-brainer to take our time. Icy, snowy roads teach adjustment and flexibility. Leave extra time or don’t go out at all.

2.     Be helpful. Snow creates problems for everyone. Sometimes we get caught up in our own issues and forget to look out for the other guy. Recently, I overheard an elderly woman exclaiming how relieved she was that an unknown neighbor had shoveled her walk. In my own family my husband noticed that our neighbors weren’t home during an ice storm and their dog was barking inside. He surmised that something was amiss and cleared their driveway and sidewalk. The next day my neighbor told me she’d been at the hospital all night with her sick husband and she was nearly in tears when she came home and found that she could get into her driveway. Snow teaches us how to be an angel for someone else.

3.     Be grateful to go outside (and be grateful to stay inside). My brother looks forward to snow because he loves to ski. I usually avoid going out in it, but this year I forced myself to take a couple of walks. There is nothing as clean and crisp as the feeling of walking in snow. Bundle up like your kids and get out there! Snow teaches us to play! On the flip side, snow teaches us how lucky we are to be warm and safe inside.

4.     Feed the birds before the snow comes down. For weeks I couldn’t get to my birdfeeder because the ice was so thick. Next time snow is predicted (any minute?) I’m heading out to my birdfeeder. There’s nothing more lovely than watching birds peck at their birdseed after a snow storm, and nothing sadder than looking out at an empty feeder and realizing you can’t get out there to feed your feathered friends.

5.     Have patience. It seems like it will never stop snowing, it seems like you will never be able to get to the store or back to yoga class, it seems like you may go crazy being cooped up all day. But…this will pass. This will melt. And spring will come (in just a few weeks!). Snow teaches us that patience pays.

6.     Be prepared. Not just be prepared in terms of getting milk and bread in the house (or chia seeds or whatever you think you can’t possibly live without), but be prepared to change your plans. Snow teaches us how to let go of whatever we were planning, to let go of our schedules, routines, and must-dos.

7.     And last (though I could probably keep going) snow teaches us to open our eyes, to take our gazes off our computer screens and cell phones, and marvel at the incredible beauty around us. Just about everything looks good in the snow (at first, anyway). It’s Mother Nature's makeover-- covering cars, trees, streets, homes, and everything else in its path with an incredible substance that transforms the world to a place that is fresh, clean, and still. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Me...and…My Shadow Self

Wonderful person, or terrible Bi*ch? It’s all about perspective, isn’t it? Recently I had the lovely experience of being called a “wonderful person.” I won’t go into the details, but let me just say that I had gone above and beyond the call of duty for a friend, for many years in fact. Being a yogini (credo: do no harm) who was raised a Christian (love thy neighbor), I’ve always made it my goal to help others. Actually, it’s not even a goal. It’s something that just comes naturally to me; it was the way my mother was, the way I was raised--to be loving, giving, and helpful to others.
            BUT…there is a dark side to every do-gooder, as I was reminded the other night when a woman accused me of being nasty, pushy, and unreasonable. I don’t even understand how this could have happened, but one moment I was trying to clearly explain my position, and the next moment I realized that the person I was talking to was regarding me as a horrible demon. “Wait a minute!” I thought to myself. Doesn’t this individual know that I am kind, loving, caring, and giving? Apparently not. Apparently, at this moment in time, I appeared to be a terrible, evil, Bi*ch (sorry, but my blog is G rated--er, most of the time, anyway).
            Now, most of you who read this blog are my friends or associates and know this not to be true (the part about me being the B word, that is). But there are plenty of people out there who may meet us once or twice and form an entirely different opinion. How to deal with these misguided folks? Convince them of our sincerity and worthiness? Pointless and useless. Probably just better to let them think the worst. And might as well get used to it; not everyone is going to like you. Not everyone is going to accept you, or experience you as a “nice” person. And, on some days you are probably not really going to be that nice, anyway.
            Sometimes, I think, it's good to remind ourselves that we are who we are no matter what others believe. Other people can be wrong (or right). We know in our hearts whether/which they are.
After the little incident in which I was (inaccurately!) perceived to be nasty and mean, I described the experience to my youngest son and asked his opinion.
 “You just need to Namaste these people,” he advised.
I loved that response. Don’t react, don’t combat, simply “Namaste” them. Kinda like giving the finger in reverse.
            Namaste: the divine in me honors the divine in you. Even if you think I’m a Bi*ch!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Fish Tales

The other day, while walking in a nearby mall (the weather outside was frightful), I happened upon this rather unusual looking fish. Compared to Arnold, our family goldfish, this fish certainly is extraordinary. After staring at it for a while, and taking its picture from various angles (he seemed to pose like a movie star or a famous model), I couldn’t get the fish out of my head. It was swimming around in my thoughts for hours, and it wasn’t long before I began comparing the fish to some people I know.
There’s been a lot written about introverts and extroverts lately, and although it’s quite possible that this fish is extremely shy, it seems more likely that if this fish were a human being she/he would be quite happy to take center stage. It seems logical that a fish (or a person) with this much happening on the outside must have one helluva story to tell.
But I also know from experience that some of the most interesting people and stories (and perhaps, fish) appear to be very ordinary and unremarkable on the outside. All those frills and gills may be impressive, but they don’t really mean that this fish has had a more fascinating life than say, the average trout. And if this fish could talk, who knows if he would tell a tale that would touch one’s heart or make one laugh, or whether the fish would just be chattering on about how phenomenal he is.
Would this fish (if he/she were human) have a “better” tale to tell than the average mother who’s just given birth, or the average guy who’s served in the army, or the average nurse, teacher, janitor, or homeless person on the street? Or…the average guppy?
On the other hand, just because the fish is glitzy on the surface, doesn’t mean he’s not deep. He is what he is, and that’s as it should be. Would that we were all so apparently happy with the way we are.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Just Around the Corner...

Recently, I was talking to a friend who doesn’t like to travel. She visits the same vacation spot every year and doesn’t enjoy stepping out of her comfort zone. She doesn’t like eating at exotic restaurants, has no tolerance for airplanes, and is perfectly content to sit by a lake and read a book. I can kind of relate to that (at least the book by the lake part).
            At the other extreme, I have friends who’ve traveled all over the world. They’ve dined in Venice, dipped in the Red Sea, gambled in Macau and hung out at ashrams in India. Part of me can relate to that kind of life, too. It must be nice to see the world as your oyster.
            As much as I’d love to do more traveling (actually, I’m trying to manifest a trip to Hong Kong right now), I’m always reminded that we don’t have to go very far to see our surroundings with awe and wonder. In fact, this realization popped up yet again when I was walking less than a mile from my house recently and passed by this eagle. I’d be willing to bet that most of the people in my neighborhood don’t even know he (she?) exists, as his favorite tree is off the beaten track, on a path that pretty much leads to nowhere. For several years now, he and his family have been roosting from November until March.
            Unfortunately, it sometimes takes a dramatic turn of events to get us to open our eyes and see the beauty that’s in our own backyard. A cancer diagnosis, a near-miss with an oncoming truck, or the loss of a family member or close friend can remind us that we don’t have time to waste and that it’s a good idea to take our eyes off our computer screens every day and look up at the sky, or into the trees, or into our children’s faces. And though I’d like to go to Bali or Japan, I also want to remain aware of the fact that there are hummingbirds, butterflies and yes, even eagles, just a stone’s throw from my house.
            A young man I know often tells me he doesn’t like to visit the same place twice. But I have found certain places that I could visit hundreds of times and always find something new. Along the river where this eagle winters is one such place. Even though I don’t need to buy a plane ticket to get there, I’m always amazed by the seemingly infinite gifts of the here and now.