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.

“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.