Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Is Coming...

The geese are getting fat (I always liked those lyrics). Okay, I know I’ve touched briefly upon this before, but just to review: Christmas is only a week away and I don’t have a tree yet. Nor is my Christmas shopping done. Nor is the grocery shopping. The house hasn’t yet been cleaned. There are no lights in my windows. I haven’t brought out all the Christmas coffee cups with the little birds on them.  My cards have not been sent (in fact, I have no stamps). Yadayadayada.
            How did this come about? I’m not sure, exactly, but I think it has something to do with the fact that I’ve been so caught up in the present moment that I haven’t been planning for the future. Which just goes to show that you can go a little overboard with this yoga thing. Somehow or other I’ve been filling my days for the past few months with everything that has nothing to do with preparing for Christmas. So here I am, in a pickle of sorts.
            Looking on the bright side, however, there are certain things that I know that will happen that I have nothing to do with and no reason to worry about. For instance, my favorite (and only) brother, sister-law, and nephew are definitely going to show up at my house on Christmas Eve, as is my mother-in-law and other family members. My children, without a doubt, will be here. My husband will actually be taking the day off.  My little niece (who is not so little anymore) will be dressed in her finery and prancing around the Christmas tree (if I get one in time, that is!). The North Carolina segment of my family is going to call, and if I am very, very blessed (which I usually am) my pastry chef niece is going to send me a box of utterly amazing cookies from her bakery (The Underground Baking Company). Whether my tree is properly trimmed, whether each and every present is properly wrapped in a style of which Martha would approve, whether I manage to get all the laundry done before next Saturday…etc...doesn’t really matter.
            So why worry? Over my piano is hanging a beautiful snowman picture that my 23-year-old middle son made when he was in second grade; I have a warm, cozy home, and a family. Why sweat the small stuff, when the greatest gifts of all are everywhere we look?
            Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, and peaceful holidays to all! 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ask "the Experts"

Lately, I’ve been noticing that there are a lot of experts around. There are experts on parenting topics, on gluten-free diets, on traveling, on fitness routines, on medical issues such as diabetes and stress, and on, well, just about everything you’d ever want to know anything about. I’m quite certain that there are experts out there on buttons and belly buttons, and probably on the proper way to pop popcorn. Bookshelves these days are filled with books written by “experts.”
            I have a healthy respect for expert advice. I wouldn’t want to tackle a plumbing problem without consulting a plumber, nor would I try to master a difficult yoga pose without consulting a yoga teacher (those headstands can be treacherous!). I respect the knowledge and experience and commitment of doctors, lawyers and pastry chefs, and have a great reverence for anyone who knows anything at all about calculus or chemistry (two subjects I would surely have failed had I been forced to take them in college). And if you are passionate about something, and interested in it, then why shouldn’t you become an “expert” on the subject? There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I love knowing that there are people who are experts on Charlotte Bronte, or who have devoted their lives to the poetry of Longfellow, or who know every kind of fish in the ocean, or how to correctly dry flowers.
            Of course, I also know that when it comes to making important decisions in our lives, there is really only one expert: ourselves. An expert is not going to tell you whether you’d be happier on the West Coast or the East, or whether you should marry the girl next door or run away with the postman. And sometimes, I wonder, with all the expert chatter going on around us on TV, in books, on the Internet and so forth, how in the world are we going to hear what our “inner expert” is saying?
            I love gathering information and researching various subjects, but when it comes to my personal life, I know that there’s only one place to go when I need an answer, and it sure isn’t to Dr Phil, Wikipedia or As my first yoga teacher would say when a student was confronted with a decision, “Just sit with it.” 
Without even moving, in silence, it’s amazing how true expert advice bubbles up.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Spinning Season

It’s a bit of a miracle that I’m writing this blog, because I was pretty sure I’d never find the opportunity. This time of year—during the holidays—I, like so many people, have been spinning out of control. I’ve taken on way more than I can realistically handle, and I haven’t even started my Christmas shopping yet!
            As a yogini, I like to think I am calm, centered, focused, balanced and that I would never stress out, throw a temper tantrum, cry from frustration or exhaustion, stub my toe because I wasn’t looking, lose important papers or objects, forget to do the laundry, run out of decaf, or be late with a writing deadline. But this week, I’ve done all of these things and more (or less), and not in a very yogi-esque manner. I didn’t even finish the book I was reading for my book club meeting. For shame! (My excuse was that I had six other books I was reading that I had to review for work, but hey… “Excuses are self abuses” as Kundalini yoga master Yogi Bhajan liked to say).
            I was beating myself up about all this the other day on the phone to my best friend (I had taken a ten minute break from the madness to call her as we hadn’t talked in more than a week), when she suggested that I might fix myself a cup of tea and take a relaxing bath. What a novel idea! Of course, I never got to it, but I did come up with a nifty concept for slowing down: I decided to take an ax to my overflowing to do list. One side now says, “MUST do today,” and the other side says, “SHOULD do today.”
It’s amazing how many things were on that should do list—far more than I could ever possibly accomplish between the hours of 6 a.m. and midnight. But the must do list was much more manageable. In fact, the very next day I got everything done that absolutely HAD to be done. The rest of the stuff will just have to wait.
            My point? Why do we put so much on our own shoulders? Most of the things I have to accomplish (both work-wise and personal-life wise) between now and December 25th are self-imposed or are the result of me either taking on too much, being unwilling to say “no,” or expecting more of myself than is reasonable or necessary.
            Last week, at an early morning yoga class the teacher said, “You can take this hour for yourself.” Those words resonated with me. Yes, it’s okay to take one hour out of the day just for you. Stop spinning. Stop worrying. Stop doing. We are human beings, after all, not spinning tops.
            As a writer, I have a tendency to kill myself over meeting deadlines (why do they call it a deadline, after all?).  But sometimes, like everyone else, we yogis need to take our own advice. Slow down, smell the roses, and just breathe.