Not giving up

Overheard coffee shop conversation: “You’re not transformed by this,” she pointed to her head, “you’re transformed by this,” she pointed to her heart.

I’ve been grasping at tools, trying to think my way out of my problems, trying to convince myself I can “solve” them. I was compartmentalizing, which was helpful. I was dealing with one thing at a time, which was helpful. I was not engaging mentally with the thing that would instantly seize up my heart and clench my teeth, which was helpful. But as soon as I vocalized all the hurdles lined up in front of me I felt like my head was going to explode.

So I imploded. I couldn’t pretend they didn’t exist.

I can’t control them. I can’t solve them. I can only get through them. Depression makes everything seem impossible. Then I had an unexpected conversation with a friend that reminded me that I’m not alone and that I know how to help myself, I just haven’t been doing it. I had given up. I had given up on myself, my Self, because I was powerless to do anything about the difficult situations in my current life. I had lost connection, forgotten my most powerful ally, stopped caring about surviving.

I woke up the next morning, took my son to school, went home and decided to take care of myself. I danced around on my yoga mat and then sat for meditation, not because it is about stilling the mind or focusing the mind or finding peace with my thoughts, but because it is about taking a moment to sit in the experience of God.

I remembered who I am. I know that everything that is happening affects me but it does not define me, it should not change me. I shouldn’t attach to the outcomes or obstacles or ramifications of each uncontrollable situation, as hard as that is to do.

Not giving up on myself, my heart, allowed me to give up on trying to control my situation. I could let go (or try to, I’m working on it) of the stress and fear and anxiety.

I taught a yoga class yesterday after a few months’ hiatus from teaching, and it was so beautiful to have the opportunity to give again, to feel a shift into steadiness, to connect with sweet beings.

Yoga is about service. Teaching is sharing a practice. I wasn’t paid. I used to teach as my karma yoga for years. I decided at some point that I couldn’t afford to give away my time when I needed every minute to try to keep a roof over my head. But the potential income I may have lost in that time was worthless compared to the big deposit I made to my well being.

Resolute Excuses Dismantled

© gdbrekke - Fotolia.com

© gdbrekke – Fotolia.com

Why do we hinder our own progress? Why don’t we do what we know will help us? Why don’t I meditate every day? Sure, I’m overworked, exhausted, frustrated daily, and generally overwhelmed – those are my excuses for not only no time but more importantly no energy. While they are real, they are still excuses. I could find 10 minutes a day to breathe and meditate. What blocks my path to a minutely healthier me? Maybe the minute part and maybe the thought that this frenetic energy is what sustains me – otherwise I may fall apart.

Let’s take the first – small gain – in a life where nearly every minute is taken (even using the bathroom requires the accompaniment and entertainment of my 3 year old), every moment is weighted with a heavy importance. I need to get something major done in any spare moment I have. I need a big return on my small time investment.

This is my thought process and it is completely wrong. This is how I end up overwhelmed. Ten minutes a day may be small progress and the transformative effects of meditation may disappear with the first tantrum, but it is progress. It does have an effect and it is cumulative. The ability to sink quickly and effortlessly back into that peaceful state becomes easier and easier the longer we practice.

The second – sustaining frenetic energy – this energy stops me from thinking about my life as it is, a life that has been challenging especially in this past year. Climbing so many mountains last year on every front of my life would have been far scarier if I stopped to look down at the precarious precipice I could fall from at any moment. Keep going, keep moving, don’t stop, don’t think, grasp, strive, clench.

I’m wrong here as well, I am left overworked and exhausted. Sure a lot happened, a lot got done, but the toll has been great and lasting and not fulfilling. I have created taller mountains to scale to find contentment again, to find balance again, to find peace. How easy it is to find all of that in a moment of meditation. That practice I know will rebuild those parts of myself and open myself back up to the land of the living where I can connect and be acutely present in those connections with the world and the real me who seems to abscond at every steep climb.

So what’s stopping me? Only myself.

My resolution this year is to take those 10 minutes a day that I know I can find, however tired or distracted I am, and give those minutes back to myself – my True Self. With that gift, I hope to lessen the frustration, be ok with exhaustion, balance my work through the perception of that work, and discard feeling overwhelmed, replacing it with a space, lightness, and greater detachment from the perpetual trials of life.

Then I can breathe

giant-redwood-trees-in-california

“Meditation is the art of using one kind of energy to transform another. The instant the mother holds her child, the child feels the energy of love and comfort and begins to feel relief. Even if the cause of discomfort is still present, being held in mindfulness is enough to provide some relief.” Thich Nhat Hanh*

This is what yoga gives me. Whatever is troubling me, however difficult life seems – I can take some breaths, still my mind even just for a moment, and feel a small sense of relief. This allows me to open again to the world and the hurdles that must be jumped.

When I feel lost, I realize I haven’t prioritized time for this practice that at times is my life line. It’s too easy to be too busy.

Stress takes mindfulness and throws it out the window.

Out the window is where I stare longing to be in nature. I long to stand among ancient redwoods and hear nothing but the sound of growth. Smell nothing but the earth. Feel nothing but peace.

The slowness of the forest calms my frenetic mind, my sense of time passing too quickly, and the idea that my little life is somehow significant when in the grand scheme of things I am just a tiny sapling amongst a forest of giants.

My relief is being held in the embrace of nature. Then I can breathe.

*Thich Nhat Hanh, Teachings on Love, p43.

Photo: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=71804&picture=giant-redwood-trees-in-california