Forgive Yourself

I recently joined some yogi friends at a trendy all-vegan, organic restaurant. After enjoying delectable appetizers and a few glasses of wine, someone suggested we do a clearing activity. (Hey, what do you expect from a bunch of yogis after wine?) The yogi leading our exercise asked, “What have you not forgiven yourself for?” He added the caveat to only share that with which we felt comfortable (i.e., “don’t share shit that is too deep”). I thought, “can’t we start with an easier question . . .say what is your favorite color? . . .dog or cat person?”

The authenticity of my dinning mates created a sense of safety which encouraged me to share something beyond, “I need to forgive myself for using the last of the toilet paper at work and not telling anyone.” Themes which emerged from our conversation included forgiving oneself for . . . negatively comparing oneself to others, not meeting cultural standards of success, putting one’s self-care first . . . As the sharing continued, I felt more endured to this lovely group of individuals. Hence, my toilet paper response seemed, forgive the pun, crappy. Hence, I took a deep breath and summoned my courage. “I need to forgive myself for feeling guilty about setting boundaries with people who are suffering.” I went on to explain that I have a history of swimming out to drowning folks with life jackets and holding them above treacherous waters. The feeling of saving others feels good. However, in the past, I lost sight that treading water contributed to sheer exhaustion.

Now I’m learning to set healthy boundaries, so I don’t drown in my quest to exercise compassion towards others. I used to think this process was selfish and mean. However, I now know this process is incredibly caring. I cannot help anyone if I’m lying lifeless on the bottom of the ocean.

What do you need to forgive yourself for today my splendidly imperfect friend?

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.