be here (for) now: poco a poco

Little by little, this little life sneaks by us.
Little by little, these little moments stack up.
Little by little, the little things we do become the large stories we tell.
Little by little.

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking (and therefore, talking) about the way this season impacts the little moments that become our days. Nature is slowing down and curling upon herself for the winter ahead. The slowing of the natural world highlights the wild pace at which we live. While it may be easy to blame our chaos on “holiday madness,” what we’re really feeling is the whiplash that results from ignoring Nature’s hints to slow with her. As a kid I used to spend hours at the park with friends on a merry-go-round, pushing each other as fast as we could and jumping off into the grass to see who could keep their balance the longest. Oddly reminiscent.

Flash forward to current moment, and I’m struggling to stay grounded when all I want is to be swept up with the excitement of the season. I’m fortunate because I have a lot that I’m looking forward to. Every day feels like the first day or two of a week-long vacation…so much to do and see, so much anticipation, but also the desire to soak up every moment. It’s the edge of a cliff that you are so excited to jump off that you forget to stop and take in the view from the top.

Three weeks from tomorrow my bags will be packed, my tears will be flowing, and my heart will be bursting as I make my way from my beloved adopted home in Austin to my treasured first one in the forests of New York. I’ll spend another three weeks there saturating myself with the love and warmth of family and lifelong friends, and then set sail for an untamed and unplanned journey to the jungle with my main squeeze. After years of talking, thinking, and dreaming, we finally pulled the trigger and started making the real changes that would enable us to live a life on the road. My toes are so close to the edge of that cliff that I can feel the breeze caressing my face every time I close my eyes.

But then I open my eyes again, and the real work begins. How can I keep these daydreaming eyes wide open for the last few weeks of this chapter? Rather than rushing ahead to the next chapter and speed reading until I find out what happens to the girl (!)…I am slowing down. Reveling in each sentence, each word. Reading the details between the lines of each moment that will ultimately foreshadow the future. It’s hard work, but it’s work that I choose. Choosing to slow when I want to move fast, when others want me to move fast, I move slow.

It’s not easy, and I get distracted easily. I’m busy prepping my bags and cleaning out my closets; mundane work that is fueled by reveries of waterfalls and soundscapes of the wild. But then I remind myself, Be here…for now. Be present in these little moments. Feel the hot Texas sun on your bones. Enjoy your morning stroll, rich in appreciation for your neighbors near and far. Blast some tunes as loud as you can when you clean the kitchen. Turn the radio off and roll the windows down on your commute. Say yes to dinner with friends on a work night. Say no to the things that lower your vibration. When I began practicing this little bit of mindfulness, my energy shot through the roof. I had been spending so much time on the merry-go-round of routine that I felt depleted and depressed. Once I jumped off, caught my balance, and sat in the grass looking up at the sky, the energy started flowing. Little by little, the daily practice of staying present began to feed my inspiration. I’m still working on it, but little by little, I know it will become my freedom, my refuge, and the springboard to my next big chapter. But don’t worry, I’ll take my time getting there. Little by little, I’m building my story.

Here Goes Nothin’

Here Goes Nothin.

 

Gotta love when you hear that! We all know that means something that is very much NOT nothin’ is about to go down. So here’s mine.

2017 has been a year of learning. A year of emotional turmoil. A year of many personal highs and even more societal lows. I can remember this time last year, feeling desperately hopeful that we had hit the bottom and the only way left to go was up.  Haaa. While I could go down that rabbit hole (and I will), I’ll save it because there’s another something that’s not quite nothing a’coming.

Three months ago, I decided it was finally time to quit my day job. It wasn’t because it was a soul-sucking, ass-kissing, culture-squashing corporate job, it was quite the opposite. I was managing and Adult Education program for an amazing nonprofit organization with a fantastically supportive team at my side. However, juggling that plus teaching yoga PLUS trying to dip my newly licensed toes in the Massage Therapy world was too much. “My plate overfloweth” and something had to go, so I took my biggest responsibility (and therefore stressor, and therefore Self Identifier) off the books. I went on vacation and didn’t open my email once. I released myself of the need to put out all the fires. I thought it would be liberating. Exhilarating, even.  I did not expect all of my newly freed time to leave me exhausted under a heavy load of guilt, ego, and loss. Months after the clothes from that trip were put away, I’m still here unpacking what it means to no longer work in the nonprofit world, and even deeper, what it means to feel all of these crazy emotions about no longer working in the nonprofit world. I’ve come a long way, but the first few times people asked the daunting “What do you do?” question, I felt like I needed to give them a resume along with my new job title; as if I needed to explain why I’m more than a Yoga Teacher, or not just a massage therapist. It makes me cringe to admit how much value I inevitably put on my super-cool do-gooder past in nonprofit. Ugh.

“A real sign of progress is knowing that your natural worth does not change depending on what you do” –yung pueblo

I read this quote to myself just about every day. The first time I saw it was long before this big transition, I’ve quit many jobs that didn’t serve me and never looked back. Hell, I’d even coached my friends through leaving their own jobs, preaching this same ideal. This time was just so different, it was my turn for the lesson. I know that there are a lot of reasons why I felt defined by this role- I loved what I did. I believed in our mission, wholeheartedly. I left some of the most amazing coworkers I’ve ever had there. I spent a lot of time defending it to my friends and family who just “didn’t get it.” And then I gave it up for something of which they had even less understanding. Stated bluntly, wherever understanding is missing, respect often is unheard of. I am so happy with the work that I do now, but I know that many people that I love dearly cannot make heads or tails of it, and that’s OK.

The purpose of this post is not to defend the virtue of one industry over the other. Let this serve as a reminder that you are not what you do. That your worth is not defined by your paycheck or the hours you put in to earn it. That only your actions can define the person you are. And most importantly, that it works both ways. Everyone knows an asshat that does charitable work and a saint in a cruel industry. There will always be so much more to the story, and defining ourselves and others by our line of work is unrealistic. Just as working for an undesirable company does not automatically make you bad, long hours at a nonprofit does not automatically make you good.

Now I work at a spa. An expensive one at that. Each time I look at my schedule, there is a big part of me that aches for clients that don’t have “Spa Retreat” in their vocabulary. It’s not on my employer to make that happen*, it’s on me. I need to be the person I think I am and go out there and do the work that I value. After weeks spent chewing on these thoughts and cultivating this acceptance, I am finally out of my own way and re-energized on this path. The timing of this epiphany is impeccable too, because…and drumroll please…I’m moving to Costa Rica next month. More to come on that. Here goes Somethin!

 

*Special note, my spa does a TON as a business to give back in other ways, just sayin

Good Morning, Sunshine: 10 Ways to Make Sure You Kick Ass Today

This one has been on my mind for a while now, and it’s time to share.  Mornings are lovely and exciting times for everyone; the sun opens its warm shiny rays upon us, birds are singing, animals frolicking- the world is waking and YOU get to witness it!  Unless you are not a Morning Person…in which case mornings are your sworn enemy- a time when you are rudely robbed of your right to bask in the glorious cloud of dreamland.  If you hit snooze multiple times on your several alarms, rush out the door, and hope to someone there is coffee in the office, READ ON.  We’re going to take this slow, and we’re going to do this together.

Daily Disclaimer:  I am not naturally a Morning Person, so I (absolutely) do not do all of these things every day.  Some days it is difficult to drag myself out of bed and I have to eat my words for breakfast.  One thing is for sure, on the mornings that I hit the most of these targets, I have the very best days.  Think of this as a menu of options for your own daily dose.  And then expand. Grow.  Brush your Teeth.  Call your mom.  Okay, I’m done.

1.  Stop Pressing Snooze

This may seem obvious, but it is important to be honest with yourself the night before.  A good morning routine starts before you even get into bed.  Take a moment at the end of the day to rehash your experience.  Do this OUT of bed so that you don’t carry along as an obstacle to sleep.  Set your alarm clock for a reasonable (and achievable) time to wake up, not a reasonable time to start pressing snooze.  Give yourself a little pep talk about that time, and mentally set your body clock for the same time.  By eliminating the unpredictability of when you will wake, you increase your chances of a more meaningful sleep.  The simple act of anticipating a good night’s sleep actually increases the chances of it occurring.

2.  Move

An important first step to your morning routine is simply taking one.  Or maybe a few.  Go for a walk until your eyes open.  Focus on open-chain movements and calisthenics, finding rhythm in your mind, body, and breath.  Yes, I know that you don’t have time to exercise/go to yoga/run 5 miles…save the excuses and make time for just five minutes of movement.  Although I love to work my way through 30 minutes of the Ashtanga Primary Series followed by a solid savasana, there are (many) days when I don’t have time.  My favorite alternative is to take a walk while shuffling my legs like a Olympic hurdler and moving my arms like a crazy person pretending to swim along the sidewalk.  Bonus points if it’s raining.

3. Think

The same way you did last night before bed, take a moment to set an intention for your day.  That Morning Person I mentioned in the intro loves mornings because they serve as one a beautiful backdrop emanating a delicate balance of peace and energy that is marvelous in the truest sense of the word.  So do it; marvel at it.  Sit and listen to your body and the way your breath naturally dances with the nature around you.  Things are coming to life, and  you are lucky enough to bear witness to it.  Let it inspire you to be just as amazing throughout the day.

4. Drink

Don’t forget to hydrate for your day.  You’ve been sleeping for the last few hours and your body has been working hard.  Fill that gas tank!  Schlepping down some agua first thing in the morning will do wonders for the cells in your body and leave you feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.  Personally, I think it helps fend off the impending coffee jitters though I have no scientific proof of the relationship.  I’m chronically on the verge of dehydration because I get too distracted to listen to my thirst siren, but starting my day with a big Spring water has helped me stay privy to my needs.

5. Cold Showers

This one took me a long time to embrace, but I promise it is worth it- especially on those days that I only have time for one or two morning activities.  There are plenty of gnarly dudes in the Cold Thermogenesis field worth giving a look and listen, and finding your own way to incorporate it into your routine is key.  My quick tips?  Pay attention to your breath and your shoulders, make plenty of noises.  If you are holding your breath, your shoulders are raised- both no no’s in the stress-release world.  Once you mentally prepare yourself to hop in, continue breathing controlled, smooth breaths.  You’ll never need coffee again (stay tuned).

6.  Stay Naked

Who says you have to put clothes on the moment you dry off?  One of my favorite taboos on my To Tackle List is Nakedness.  The only way to get over your own aversion to it is to practice it.  Stay naked for as long as you can, wherever you can.  If you are lucky enough to get some sun on those buns, do it!  Pay attention to the way being naked makes you feel.  Does it feel wrong?  Sexual?  Embarrassing? Do you feel that your body is connected to your mind at all?  The art of being naked in non-sexual situations is incredibly energizing and equally intriguing if you take the time to analyze your feelings about it.

7.  Unplug.

Notice the punctuation here.  There is no question mark, and no room for ‘unless’es and ‘until’s.  Put the phone down.  If you are in a profession that requires you to be accessible, keep the volume on but seriously just put it down.  Emails can wait.  Texts can wait.  Facebook can absolutely wait.  If someone needs you as badly as you think they do, they can call you.  The only person able to enforce the work-life balance is one that makes a promise to their self about boundaries and enforces it.  No one else is going to do it for you.  If you want to fully dedicate yourself to your profession, make sure you have the best self to give.  Take your naked morning coffee moment and savor that shit.

8. Create

Make something.  Let your inherent ingenuity out of its cage.  You don’t have to paint a masterpiece or make a spectacularly crafted meal (but if you do, c’mon over to my house).  It can be as simple as making your bed.  Do anything that is a small accomplishment that you can take a bit of pride in.  It’s the proverbial “step in the right direction” that can set the tone for the rest of your day.

9. Learn

Spend a little time educating yourself about something you are interested in.  Read a book or newspaper.  Get those neurons firing about something that excites you.  Start thinking critically and write down ideas that pop up.  Clearing the fog in your brain before you get to work is an essential ingredient to the “How is she always so on?!” reaction.  Plus, you get to learn stuff!  Stuff and things (ie: passions) are good for keeping in touch with your youness and the world you plan to interact with today.

10. Protect

This one is admittedly general, but make your morning your thing and guard that bubble of gold to the death.  Stop telling yourself that you don’t have time for you.  I get it; I’m not a mother, I’m not an executive, I’m not responsible for your typically defined “high stakes” anything, but I am happy.  I work hard in an emotionally demanding industry, and I’m able to give myself to my work each and every day…Just don’t expect me to drop my morning for you (okay well once and a while, sure…but I’ll be sure to accomplish at least a few things first).  I’ve made this clear to those that depend on me, and I set that alarm early enough to be ready to answer their calls when they need me.  So yes, this may sound naive, but what if it’s not?  I dare you to try.

“I’m Not a Yogi” and other silly things people say

I see you over there.  You with the excuses.  You’re not fooling anyone.  The more I practice yoga, the more I hear my peers tell me how they ‘wish’ they could do the same.  I’m here to tell you that that is premium ba-lon-ieee.  I’m here to give you a little insight.  And, while I acknowledge your opinion, I’m here to give you a bit of tough love.

I’m not really a ‘Yogi’

Cool, me either!  What exactly is a yogi?  At what point do you stop being a regular person and turn into one?  Sometimes people have this image in their mind of what a yoga practitioner looks like but they fail to take a peak inside a studio.  It may come as a surprise to some, but you are not actually required to be vegan in order to roll out your mat in a public studio.  Yoga is an attractive practice because it is fundamentally individual.  There are no two identical practices, and yours can never be replicated…even by you.  So, while you may have a certain stereotype set in your mind, I challenge you to throw it away.  Find a studio that caters to the type of yoga you might be interested in.  There are so many “craft” studios around- from Senior Yoga to Death Metal Yoga (Jacob Stone, that one’s for you)- you’re bound to find something approachable.

^^ Still yoga

I don’t have time for that

You don’t have time for YOU?  This myth plagues our society.  We are constantly on the move, working multiple jobs and trying to still manage a family/social life/fitness regimen/etc.  There are never enough hours in the day.  Let’s talk less about hours, and more about efficiency.  Through my own personal experience, I have found that yoga actually gives me more time.  My mind is more focused, my body more energetic, and my heart more open.  I am able to be my best for others because I take the time to be my best for me, too.  This is a realization that snuck up on me- I started to see a pattern in my work productivity, attitude, energy and yoga practice.  The weeks when I convinced myself I was too busy or too tired to go to yoga were the weeks that I got the least done and felt the most overwhelmed.  I figured out that it wasn’t my workload that made me so stressed, it was the fact that I took away my ability to release that tension and recenter my focus.  If your schedule doesn’t coincide with your local studios, try a home practice!  That beautiful technology thing that consumes most of our daily lives can be re-purposed for good!  Double win!

Okay, but I’m not flexible

When it comes to yoga, this has to be the most widely used excuse..and it is such a myth.  I started practicing a little over a year ago and touching my toes was not in the cards for me.  I still have a long way to go before I’d consider myself to be physically “flexible” but I’ve learned that this is not a great metric of success.  In fact, learning to let go of all metrics of success is what makes yoga so open.  When you walk into a yoga studio, your fellow practitioners may be excited to meet you, but make no mistake- they are not watching you.  You could be front and center and sit in child’s pose for the entire class and no one will notice.  The most beautiful thing about yoga is that is not a competition.  The physical practice of yoga is only a teeny tiny little part of a the big picture.  The only flexibility required is an open, flexible mind.

I don’t know what “Adho Mukha Svanasana” is

You’re not alone.  With over 3,000 poses, it’d be amazing if any average practitioner knew all of the poses. You will inevitably hear some Sanskrit throughout your practice, but that yoga certification your teacher has means he or she has spent 200+ hours learning how to show you what poses look like through safe verbal, visual, and hands-on cues.  Don’t like to be touched?  No problemo.  We ask first.

I’m not …… enough

This excuse has a few permutations:  I’m not fit enough/I’m too old/I’m a dude/I have chronic pain (in which case you ABSOLUTELY should consider practicing) ect.  It all boils down to one thing: you do not need to be a young, beautiful, bendy female to do yoga.  You do not need to walk around the room on your hands to do yoga.  You do not need to move at all to do yoga.  Yoga is not for anyone, yoga is for everyone.  There are no prerequisites.  You are enough, and Yoga needs YOU.