Avoiding Painful Emotions: Garnet Will Make You Popular

My fave piece: smokey quartz and bright orange...

My fave piece: smokey quartz and bright orange garnet crystals, China (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After years of driving past The Cave of Wonders, curiosity pulled me in. I stepped inside and magnificent gems encircled me. A sweet caramel and white pitbull named Bella shadowed me as I perused the stones. I showed Bella a black, shiny piece of tourmaline and explained its energy-absorbing properties. She sniffed and licked my hand, confirming my selection. I picked up a piece of smooth, rose quartz and felt its coolness and weight in my hand. The bin’s placard announced that it decreased stress and brought love into one’s life. Sign me up for that! I added it to my growing collection and continued browsing. Bella grew bored of examining my treasures and parked herself in the front entrance to greet unsuspecting humans.

When my stone collection overflowed the reaches of my palm, I decided to check out. I had gems to help me grieve, avoid negative energy and stress, and bring love and prosperity into my life. Yep, I was covered in the happy life department now. The shop owner handed me a complimentary marble-sized garnet – the stone of the week. He gave me a handout describing its properties and meanings. Garnet brings successful business, cures depression, makes a person popular, adds constancy to friendships, increases security level, cleanses and purifies and increases sex drive. I hit the jackpot! Now I could start a successful business, be happy, popular, confident, clear negative energy and be a sex goddess!

While the garnet claims appeared exaggerated, I think we all hope at times that one special thing or person can provide fulfillment, safety, and happiness. We all have experiences in which we wish a garnet could cure all our troubles. Simple fixes are attractive but no replacement to feeling our way through life. I keep the garnet in my purse to remind me of this fact. If life hands me a lesson, and I choose not to accept the challenge, it comes around again. The times I find myself wishing for a “garnet fix” are typically the times I want to avoid painful emotions.

Where in your life do you find yourself wishing for the garnet fix? What do you need to feel your way through?

 

Imperfectly,

Amelia

 

 

Be Here

A few days ago I visited the farmer’s market near my office.  The market lies in the heart of a working class Asian and Latino neighborhood. I enjoy strolling through the market while hearing the tonal languages of Vietnamese and Lao punctuate the air as the romance language of Spanish dances in between. I’m a bit of an oddity given I’m a fair-skinned red head in business casual attire. After filling my bags with figs, nectarines, and squash, I head straight to the pupusa stand. If you’ve never had this Salvadorian fare, it’s like heaven in a homemade, corn fried tortilla severed with a side of cabbage salad. I love mine stuffed with cheese and spinach. The stand owner enthusiastically greets me, “¡Buenas dias!  . . . ¿Espinachas y queso?” I reply with an enthusiastic, “¡Si!” (You correctly surmised I visit this stand regularly.)

After receiving my piping hot pupusa, I settle in at one of the three rickety card tables which constitute the dining area. It’s a perfect people-watching point. My eyes meet a diminutive, elderly, Asian man who stands about 5 feet tall. His face resembles weathered leather and his eyes twinkle. I smile. He approaches me and hands me a rubber ball with a globe printed on it. It fits in the palm of my hand. Between the mixture of English and Khmer and his missing teeth, I decipher, “For you!” I thank him, and ask if he would like some money. He places his hand on my shoulder, proceeds in Khmer and ends with “gift.” I grin and thank him. He explains I can use the ball to indicate to others where I come from. Then, he shows me his migration from Cambodia to the eastern United States. Through wild hand gestures and rapid changes in intonation, I learn that his boat sank on the voyage, and his wife died.  I say, “You had an incredibly painful and difficult journey.” He nods and averts my gaze. However, he quickly grins and continues speaking. He points to California and says, “You here, and I’m here.” I beam and reply, “Yes, we are!” Then, I proceed to show him Hawaii and explain I was born there. I illustrate my journey from Hawaii to Georgia to Texas to California. He laughs and smiles, “now, you here!” I joyfully agree, “Yes, I’m here!”

Often times, our minds resemble energetic puppies who want to be anywhere but Here.  The ball reminds me that Here is where the magic happens. Here is where we can have glorious, even if only brief, moments when we feel completely seen and in connection with another person. Where are you right now? Be Here.

Imperfectly,

Amelia

 

Acceptance = Handsome Marine on My Yoga Mat

Learn the alchemy true human beings know.

The moment you accept what troubles you’ve been given the door will open. –Rumi

 

The scene . . .I arrive early to yoga class and place my mat in my beloved spot. (Yes, I know I should relinquish having MY spot in yoga class . . . desire nothing, suffering nothing . . .another blog.)  I situate my towel and lie down in savasana. I close my eyes and focus on my breath. . . until something brushes my arm and the biting aroma of Old Spice highjacks my nostrils. I turn to see a neophyte yogi lying approximately 1.5 inches away from me. I spring up and move my mat a couple inches away. He proceeds to spread his beach towel over his mat and in the process covers half of mine! Does he politely move his towel from my mat. No! My inner perfectionist thought about quickly correcting him, “Hey you! Newbie! Move it to the back row! No beginners in front.” However, this statement was very unyoga-like given yoga means “union” and all that jazz. I discretely scoot his towel off my mat and push my mat flush to the wall. New yogi begins doing a series of stretches that remind me of a 1920’s calisthenics class. He also keeps crinkling his water bottle . . .now he’s snoring in savasana. Holy moly, it’s going to be a long class.

I return to savasana and attempt to refocus on my breath. However, my mind wanders into a bad neighborhood . . . what if his Old Spice only intensifies once he starts sweating? . . .it is heated yoga after all . . . where is his flinging sweat going to go? . . .oh yeah, on MY mat and body . . . . ewww . . .why did he have to put his mat next to mine . . . how did he get past the yoga teacher? . . .why didn’t I do the earlier yoga class?

STOP!!! Let this be a FOG (f$%*ing opportunity for growth) moment . . . If I can tolerate adversity in the yoga room, I can tolerate it anywhere. . . I should show some love and gratitude towards this gentleman.  . .It takes a lot of courage to come to heated yoga for the first time . . . he was probably trying to be polite by wearing Old Spice to cover up post-yoga stink. . .I am curious what brought him to yoga . . .I imagine that I’ve encroached on someone’s space in yoga . . . I’m sure that I don’t always smell like roses in class . . . I’m glad my classmates are gracious when I sweat on them and lose my balance and fall into their space . . . breathe in and out . . . send some yoga love to newbie yogi now doing windmill toe touches.

I quickly dash into the bathroom before class begins and come out to find an extremely handsome Marine lying partially on my yoga mat! Obviously, the teacher encouraged an experienced yogi from the back row to trade places with the new yoga student. Yay for the power of acceptance! This yogi, along with the entire class (including newbie yogi), have an amazing energy. We worked as a team in a very hot and humid room to stretch, strengthen and heal. Yoga is frickin’ awesome! After class, I call deep on my courage and approach handsome Marine yogi (HMY).  . .

Me: I hope I did not encroach on your space during class. It was pretty crowded.

HMY:  Oh no worries. You have a beautiful yoga practice. Your energy kept me from sitting out a few tough postures.

Me: (blushing) Oh, I’m glad I could help. You have a strong practice too.

HMY: Hey, I was going to grab a bite to eat at the market. Would you like to come?

Me:  Sure, I was planning to stop by there too.

Ok, the conversation didn’t exactly go like that. It was more like this . . .

Me: It was pretty crowded in there. I hope I did not sweat on you. (Smooth pick up line right?)

HMY: Oh no worries. I was dying in there.

End of conversation.

I love this amusing, little story of how accepting a difficult situation can lead to a positive outcome. However, I own several heart-breaking tales in which acceptance and open doors did not come swiftly.  My delay in finding open doors was partially due to staring at closed ones too long. We cannot avoid pain, discomfort and adversity. It is part and parcel of human being-ness. When we resist this pain, it only adds suffering on top of our ache. Accepting an arduous situation does not mean we like it, think it’s fair or deserved. It simply means telling oneself, “Given this is my reality, how do I move through it in a way that ultimately leads to a place of peace and does not cause further suffering?” If you are staring at a closed door right now, be gentle with yourself as you . . . take a deep breath . . . stop jiggling the door handle in hopes it opens . . . find the courage to turn away, and begin looking for a new entrance.

Namaste.

Imperfectly,

Amelia

My splendidly imperfect dog's version of savasana

My splendidly imperfect dog’s version of savasana

Do Nothing Day . . .Fail . . .Sort Of

A week ago, a friend of mine mentioned that he and his wife had a “do nothing” day. He explained they took a nice walk, went out to lunch and watched a cheesy movie. I thought, “That sounds really nice,” followed by, “How can you spend an ENTIRE day doing nothing! No plans? No lists?” Recovering perfectionists struggle with “being” vs. “doing.” Marking items off our lists and setting goals instills confidence that we are dedicating every precious minute towards success. However, this approach comes with significant costs including burnout, stress, anxiety, guilt . . . and the list goes on. Honestly, our “in-box” items spontaneously multiply (I think the physics law which supports this assertion involves Avagadro’s Law and some quarks). We may have the cleanest bathroom in the great 50 states; however, the next “to do” task quickly eclipses the temporary moment of elation.

An abundance of research supports the benefits of mindfulness and meditation (i.e., being vs. doing). Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness, as “cultivating attention in a particular area.” Renowned psychologist Marsha Linehan asserts mindfulness enhances our ability to make intentional choices about thoughts and feelings versus acting out of habit or impulse. The first step involves gaining awareness of what your mind is doing and gently beckoning it back to the present moment when it wanders away. My mind often reminds me of my splendidly imperfect dog in a new park. He lopes about, sniffs and explores. When I call, he will gleefully romp back to me for a chin scratch and then dart away to the next distraction. My mind similarly skips and scampers about. Particularly while I lay in shavasana (dead body pose) in yoga. As you fittingly guessed, shavasana requires one to lie still and quiet one’s mind. Here’s how my shavasana typically goes . . .

Mind: You need to take the recycling out when you get home.

Me: Mind, get back here you’re supposed to be in yoga class! Breathe.

Mind: I noticed during hands-to-feet pose that you have a big bruise on your shin and you’re a couple days overdue for shaving your legs.

Me: Shut up! Breathe.

Mind: You need to pick up some more paper towels the next time you’re in the grocery store. You should also check your toilet paper supply.

Me: Mind get back here!

Mind: When is this shavastna going to be over? Oh, the teacher has a really cool ankle bracelet on. Hands-to-feet pose would totally be more fun if I had a pretty ankle bracelet on.

Me: You’re supposed to be breathing and doing nothing else!

Mind: I can’t wait until the yoga teacher announces the next pose. This is torture!

Obviously there is a reason they call it yoga “practice” and not yoga “perfect.” Mindfulness practice is similar to building bulging biceps. You start lifting in small increments and gradually build up weight and endurance. Goodness knows I need more practice stilling my mind, enjoying the present moment and refueling my emotional gas tank! Hence, I decided implement a “do nothing” night. Given I am a recovering perfectionist, I knew better than to set the unrealistic and high-pressured goal of an entire “do nothing” day. I looked forward to my evening of NOT doing laundry, paying bills, etc. I decided to do whatever moved me in the moment . . . UNTIL . . . I received an email from my accountant asking me to review my taxes and return my efile certificate ASAP!!! I quickly thought, “I already failed at do nothing night, and I have not even left work!” Then I thought, “wait, this is a FOG (i.e., f#$%*ing opportunity for growth moment)!” I looked at my taxes as soon as I got home and then did nothing! I left my laundry in the overflowing clothes basket. I ate cereal for dinner (with a banana to keep it healthy of course). I danced to early 80’s songs in my living room and indulged in a cheesy romantic comedy and hot bath. Yep, definitely a FOG moment transformed into SWAG (i.e., Super, Wonderful Awesome Good-enough) moment.

 

“You might be tempted to avoid the messiness of daily living for the tranquility of stillness and peacefulness. This of course would be an attachment to stillness, and like any strong attachment, it leads to delusion. It arrests development and short-circuits the cultivation of wisdom.”

― Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life

 

Imperfectly,

Amelia

My splendidly imperfect dog has mastered the art of "do nothing" day.

My splendidly imperfect dog has mastered the art of “do nothing” day.