Wednesday Night is Trash Night

Nine years ago, my friend Mary and her husband, James, were fine dining in Buckhead, GA when James had “the most disappointing salad of his life.”

According to Mary, “James has been bitching about this shitty $16 salad for nine years; every time salad is mentioned, actually.”

According to James, he “hasn’t complained about that salad since the incident occurred nine years ago, but it really was a terrible salad, by the way.”

And there it is, folks–marriage.

I mention this because, from time to time, I consult one of those new-age psycho-therapists. His name is “Dr. Neil, PhD”, he lives in LA (of course), and was referred to me by a close friend (also from LA).

Our meetings are conducted by telephone and I tend to call Dr. Neil PhD when I need a non-biased opinion regarding some critical aspect of my life. Since I’ve never met him in person, it’s entirely possible that he also moonlights as a fortune teller or a stripper. But that’s neither here nor there, I guess, as he provides excellent insights and has a soothing Kiwi-accented voice that can talk me off of whatever ledge I’m teetering on.

It was during one of these consultations that Dr. Neil PhD informed me that, as a spouse, it was my job to field my husband’s complaints. He called it “taking out the trash,” and said that I needed to provide a safe and open channel of communication through which my husband could express his frustrations about whatever happens to be frustrating him.

My role was to do intake on that information and promptly dispose of it—not solve it, not internalize it, not analyze it, just toss it. And in turn, my husband would take out my trash. I could have suggested to Dr. Neil PhD that I was paying him, a THERAPIST, to take out the trash, but that didn’t seem to occur to him and it didn’t feel like the best time to bring it up.

However, I can’t help but wonder what sage advice Dr. Neil PhD would give to James and Mary should he overhear the “salad exchange”. And this all leaves me wondering what qualifies as trash versus say, toxic waste. If a salad complaint is “trash” then I must be a Super Fund Site.

Wednesday night is trash night in our neighborhood. Every Wednesday, my husband carefully moves through the house collecting garbage cans and methodically sorting their contents into recyclables and actual trash; a handsome banker in slacks and a button down, dutifully dragging the cans to the curb.

He does this in much the same way that he disposes of my “trash”–dutifully, with care, and without complaint.

This originally published on groundingup.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Women in U.S. plan to stay off the job, rally in anti-Trump protests—UMM, NO WE DON’T

Today, I’m demonstrating my value to the economy, my industry and profession, and to my family by going to work.

I don’t consider myself a particularly political creature and in most cases I keep my opinions to myself. But sometimes, I have trouble understanding what a particular political movement is hoping to accomplish by taking certain actions–like skipping work for a day.

Anyway, I’ll just be over here at my desk in the insurance world feeling grateful for the opportunities that are available to me today because of the activism of the past but also because I work hard every single day of my life to grow my knowledge and experience because I am responsible for my own success and failure.

Source: Women in U.S. plan to stay off the job, rally in anti-Trump protests | ReutersThis article originally published on www.groundingup.com

Science says a leopard can indeed change its spots (if it lives long enough).

Growing up, I often heard the proverb, ” A leopard cannot change its spots,” a line always used to confirm the fact that, like a leopard’s spots, a person cannot become good if their nature is bad. This is from the old testament and goes like this:

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“Can Ethiopians change their skin or leopards their spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.”

But, for decades, scientists have been looking for ways to prove or disprove Jeremiah’s theory about the spots and the people (because they are scientists and they had some left over grant money I guess).

And as it turns out, Jeremiah was probably incorrect. A recent study published in Psychology and Aging (2016 Vol. 31. No 8, 862-874) determined that your personality and the content of your character at age 77 bear no resemblance to that of your 14 year-old self.

“We hypothesized that we would find evidence of personality stability over an even longer period of 63 years, but our correlations did not support the hypothesis.” Harris, Brett, Johnson, and Deary, study authors.

This is all really great news because I was a self-absorbed a**hole at 14 and I like to believe that I won’t always be one. So what’s the catch?

THE CATCH:

You have to live long enough to experience a change in your personality. Their data indicates that as expected, our personalities change incrementally over time based on the life experiences we have and how we process them. This is the first time a study included anyone old enough to demonstrate a significant change in personality. So plan on living into your 80’s if you want to be fully self-actualized.

WHAT IS SCIENCE MISSING?

There are so many limitations to this study that I feel bad even pretending this data is legitimate.

There were only 171 of the original 1,208 study participants still alive at age 77 for the researchers to even talk to and collect data from. And, there is no mention of a personal motivation to change our spots over time, which arguably is the only way we can.

We must change our spots ourselves.  We must want to go on a journey, we must recognize that journey for what it is, and we must be willing to be changed by it.

Science cannot do that for us.

This article originally published on www.groundingup.com.

Daddy’s Handstands

My dad was a competitive swimmer and diver until the early 1970s when he became a coach. This is known. What is not known, not even to him, is that he is the most influential yogi in my life. Unintentionally, he gave me the gift of the mind body connection.

Power yoga, particularly Baptiste power yoga, is full of arm balances and inversions, none of which are possible without sufficient arm and core strength. Hence, the handstand prep, which is designed to build said arm and core strength. If you haven’t seen it (and there are several by the way), it looks like this:

It may not look like much is happening, but that is because you aren’t doing one right now.

In 2010, at my first power yoga class, I did an “official” handstand prep. I say official because I had been doing them my entire life, not because of yoga, but because my dad did them constantly throughout my childhood and I inherited his “quirk”.

His handstand preps showed up in seemingly odd places; conversations in the kitchen with my mom, at the office, out on his job sites (after he retired from coaching he started a construction company).

But years later, looking back at that strange behavior, I finally saw it for what it was; a holdover from the diving platform, a release of negative energy, a clearing out, a centering. Somewhere in his swimming days, he had made the mind body connection. And, I was completely blown away. 

Now, as I exhale my hands to the floor and rock forward onto my toes with my weight in my hands, balancing with my fingertips, I see my dad’s hands, not mine. Tan, veiny, well used hands.

He is nearly 70 now and has a total spinal fusion, so handstand preps are a distant memory for him. I need to ask him if he misses them. He would likely be surprised to know that I consider them his trademark.

I think about this now, as I handstand prep my way through my day. I worry less about the frequent impulse I have always had to put my hands on the ground and get upside down. I understand it now as a completely acceptable need to get grounded and release excess energy rather than some weird compulsive behavior I shouldn’t tell people about.

And I see it in my daughter. She clearly feels better when she is moving and it is my job to make her feel okay with that need rather than bad about her lack of self control. I will not tell her to hold still. I will teach her to use her energy for good instead of evil–to channel it.

We will start with handstand preps.

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Dad

This article originally published on www.groundingup.com

Is today too salty?

As I sit here, procrastinating the preparations required for the coming week, I think about a story I recently heard. It goes like this:

An old Hindu master had become tired of his apprentice complaining. So one day, he had the apprentice bring him some salt. The master instructed the apprentice to put a handful of salt in a glass of water and then drink it.

“How does it taste?” the master asked.

“Bitter,” said the apprentice.

Satisfied, the master asked the young man to take a handful of salt and and stir it into the lake. As they strolled in silence near the lake, the apprentice did as instructed. 

“Now drink from the lake,” the master said.

After the apprentice had taken a drink from the lake, the master asked, “How does it taste?”.

“Fresh,” stated the apprentice.

“Do you taste the salt?” asked the master.

“No,” said the young man.

With this reply, the master sat beside his young apprentice and offered the following insight, “The pain of life is pure salt; no more, no less. The amount of pain in life remains the same, exactly the same. But the amount of bitterness we taste depends on the container we put the pain in. So when you are in pain, the only thing you can do is to enlarge your sense of things . . .Stop being a glass. Become a lake.”

I think about this now as I gear up for another week of the trials and tribulations of a working parent, pondering the state of our divided country, and trying to be something other than burned out and disgusted.

Tomorrow, I’ll get mystical and consider our collective situations in the context of infinite time and space rather than another week of school pick up and drop off and office and government politics.

Right now, things are very salty. But in the grand scheme of things, what does “right now” even account for in the continuum? It is merely a blip. In time, the kids will become more independent, things will level out at work, and our country will preserver.

And so, tomorrow, I will be a lake.

No New Year’s Resolutions Here

I rarely make New Year’s Resolutions and I know that I’m not alone. Research indicates that only about half of Americans make a resolution and with an average success rate of 8%, we can see why that is.

Though resolution making is found most in Western cultures now, the custom originated thousands of years ago in ancient Babylon complete with a 12 day rager to honor the new year. Babylonian resolutions were more about repaying debts than the current Western resolutions of organizing the garage, saving money, or losing weight with that 30 day detox cleanse you are absolutely going to start next week.

As a matter of fact, I’ve made only two New Year’s Resolutions in my entire life that ever stuck. The first was the 2009/2010 resolution to take up yoga. The second came two years later when I resolved to end my miserable suckfest of a marriage.

Anyone who does yoga knows that it was successful resolution #1 (yoga) that led to successful resolution #2 (divorce). But, let’s not blame yoga. Yoga is what gave me the clarity to see what needed to be done for everyone involved to achieve happiness and fulfillment and the strength and resolution to finally do it.

And here we all are, happy and fulfilled and I haven’t made a New Year’s Resolution since.

I’m having trouble getting to my point because I’m a little bit drunk right now. So here it is:

  1. If you need to make a change, don’t wait until January 1 or until the moment is just exactly right. Do it now because that exactly perfect moment will never arrive.
  2. If you simply must make a New Year’s Resolution, then make it a realistic resolution. Take the time to get specific about what you hope to achieve, how you are going to do it, and by when.
  3. If you aren’t making New Year’s resolutions, don’t sweat it, the other half of America isn’t either. The 2016 version of you is good enough for 2017.

 

This article originally published on www.groundingup.com

 

 

 

Jesus and 3 Wise Men Do Yoga

In my imagination, Jesus is a white guy with a hipster beard dressed in a toga and sandals. This is the case because that it what I was taught as a child. As an adult, I have come to realize that there is no way that Jesus, a middle easterner, was even a little bit white.

I like to think about all of the things that I don’t know. Unfortunately, that is not the case for so many as evidenced by the fact that the world is, as I type this, tearing itself apart over endless disagreements of absolute truth.

And because this is Jesus’ birthday month, (also not true. He was probably born in a milder season than winter, what with shepherds in the fields and what not, but let’s not fight) I’m reading The Yoga of Jesus, by Paramahansa Yogananda.

Here, I found an idea that was completely in conflict with my well established Lutheran concept of the life of Jesus; the idea that Jesus was a yogi.

There is a very strong tradition in India, authoritatively known amongst high metaphysicians in tales well told and written in ancient manuscripts, that the wise men of the East who made their way to the infant Jesus in Bethlehem were, in fact, great sages of India. Not only did the Indian masters come to Jesus, but he reciprocated their visit. (The Yoga of Jesus, Paramahansa Yogananda, p. 11)

Okay, so I’ll admit that I have never ever wondered who the three wise men were. You know the Christmas carol, “We Three Kings.” That’s what I have been working with for 40 years.

And not only that, Yogananda posits that Jesus went to study with these three wise men in his early adulthood.

During the unaccounted for years of Jesus’ life–the scriptures remains silent about him from approximately age 14 to 30–he journeyed to India, probably traveling the well-established trade route that linked the Mediterranean with China and India. (The Yoga of Jesus, Paramahansa Yogananda, p. 11)

All the New Testament has to say about this time in Jesus’ life is that he “increased in wisdom and years, and in divine and human favor” (Luke 2:52). How can it be that there was nothing noteworthy about Jesus for 16 years of his life?  This is JESUS we are talking about! Where was he? What was he doing? Why doesn’t the bible have anything to say about it?

“At this time his great desire was to achieve full realization of godhead and learn religion at the feet of those who have attained perfection through meditation.” (Journey into Kashmir and Tibet, Cf. Swami Abhedananda’s translation of this verse from the Tibetan)

Yoganada writes of records found in a Tibetan monastery that tell of a Saint Issa from Israel “in whom was manifest the soul of the universe”; who from the age of fourteen to twenty-eight was in India and regions of the Himalayas among the saints, monks, and pundits; who preached his message through that area and then returned to teach in his native land, where he was treated vilely, condemned, and put to death. (The Yoga of Jesus, Paramahansa Yogananda, p. 13)

I really want to believe that this is true, that Jesus was a savior and a guru of the east and the west. There are other theories about the 3 wise men and what Jesus was up to as he was coming of age, but in the  end, it doesn’t really matter and we can’t ever know with absolute certainty. And so Yogananda offers us this advice:

Become identified with Universal Love, expressed in service to all, both materially and spiritually; then you …can say in your soul that we are all one band, all sons of God!

This article originally published on www.groundingup.com.

Yoga’s Guide to Gifting

It’s the Holiday Season, so the Internet is cranking out the 2016 Yoga Gift Guides with lists of mats, clothing, and anything bearing the word namaste including but not limited to, wall art, wine glasses, and throw pillows.

I find the yoga gift guides ironic because gift giving is actually extremely “unyogalike”.  We Western yogis are into gift giving; however, our ancient Hindu friends recommended that we refrain from exchanging gifts for any reason.

They believed that the act of giving a gift often bound or obligated the recipient to some future action, expectation, or reciprocation. Gifting disturbs the neutrality of a situation or a relationship–and yogis are all about neutrality and equanimity.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely have a Christmas List and I have yoga stuff on that list; this is just one of those times when I have trouble reconciling my yoga practice, which is 90% physical exercise and 10% spiritual inquiry, with my Christian practice which is, 90% Midwestern Lutheran and 10% Northern California Liberal Democrat.

For a technical read on what Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras has to say about gift giving, I will give you this:

The five yamas, a fundamental component of Ashtanga Yoga, are considered codes of restraint, abstinence, and self-regulation, and involve our relationship with our external environment.

Aparigraha is the fifth Yama and the one raining on your holiday gift giving parade. It basically says that we should not give gifts and that we should not possess anything beyond what we need for our daily bodily existence. I’ll go out on a limb and assume that your gift list doesn’t include anything that is absolutely necessary to sustain life.

Resource: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2:30 and 2:39

Luckily, I’m a German Lutheran and my people basically invented Christmas as we know it today. So, you are welcome for the ideas about the Christmas tree being INSIDE the house, stocking stuffers, and gingerbread.

And the 90 percent of me that is Lutheran has prepared a yoga gift guide for anyone with a new age Western Yogi on their shopping list.

Förliche Weihnachtenchten and Namaste!

YOGA GIFT GUIDE 2016

Manduka GO Play Yoga Mat Bag

manduka-bag

Jade Fusion XW Yoga Mat (5/16″ x 28″ Wide x 71″ Long)

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Yoga Crow Mens Swerve Shorts w/Odor-Resistant Inner Liner

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Yoga Joes

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Himalayan Singing Bowls

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Yoga Mat Bag Red Flowers Handmade

mat-bag

Personalised Premium Notebook Journal Diary

journal

Namaste Wine Glass with Namaste Gift with Bag

wine-glass

Monogrammed Yoga Towel

hand-towels

This article originally published on www.groundingup.com.

Ways in which real life is NOT like a yoga retreat

This is my seventh full day in the real world since returning from the Haramara Yoga Retreat in Sayulita, Mexico. I have spent the last week acclimating to my surroundings and reflecting on just how much my actual life is not at all like a yoga retreat.

I did yoga everyday, all day.

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Because yoga went all day; 8:30 am-9:00pm

I slept through the night, every night.

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I got a solid 9 hours of sleep every night; no 2:30 am negotiations with a toddler about the circumstances under which he will agree to go back to bed.

I walked.

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This was the walkway down to the beach from the upper trail and it is a great example of the walking you do at this retreat center. In real life, I spend 2 hours a day commuting by car; not here. Haramara is set on a 12 acre mountainside parcel with a beach at the bottom. Hike uphill you will if you want to eat, get to the pool, or do yoga.

I peed alone.

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My casita did indeed have a beautiful bathroom just for me as well as some strategically placed restrooms throughout the property. I used those bathrooms without a toddler accompanying me or my 10-year-old chatting me up through the bathroom door.

I ate in peace.

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I should do a BLOG post solely about the cuisine at Haramara. Not only was it world class, but I ate it without getting up to cut someone’s food in to tinier pieces, clean up spilled milk, or to do the dishes.

I socialized.

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In general, if I’m not working, I’m wrangling kids, which doesn’t leave much time for actual adult socialization. Our retreat group consisted of people from the ThreeDogYoga studio in Santa Rosa, CA so we were starting with familiar faces rather than complete strangers. It took me a day or two to remember what people talked about if it wasn’t kid or work related.

I watched an entire sunset.

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Start to finish.

I thought deep thoughts.

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While not a “silent” retreat, the immersion program included some strategically placed times of noble silence. This is the thing I miss most now that I’m back in the fray–time to process without the background noise or competition for my attention.

I appreciated.

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Being away from my people made me appreciate my people. For a parent, it is really hard to pursue personal interests or maintain a level of sanity without solid support. I was able to escape to Mexico only because my sweet husband was willing to keep the trains running on time while I was gone. A week without the chaos of everyday life gave me time to reflect on just what an amazing partner he is and how much I truly love the life we have together–but next time, I’m bringing him with me, because I mean, just look at him;-)