Gratitude for... This physical body that houses my unique spirit. This life force energy that propels me through the day. This mind that has thoughts both spacious and focused. These senses that absorb the world around me. These hands that work with dexterity. These feet that feel solid underneath me. This heart that has felt the spectrum of emotions, from complete desolation to boundless joy. For this life, I am grateful. I am complete.
We are living in fear filled days. Fires, violence, sickness and death seem to dominate our news and our conversations. And even if we try and filter our news and conversations, fear finds other ways to manifest itself. Fear can come from the idea of being separated from something or someone that we think we need in order to feel secure or happy. Fear can come from being threatened by others. Fear can come from ignorance or self grasping. Fear can come from a past traumatic event that leaves a lasting influence. And, of course, fear of death can also have a very powerful effect.
When we let our fear or anger based emotions take up residence, it gives those emotions more power than they deserve. In yoga, we call these impressions Samaskaras. They are often compared to grooves in the road that get driven over again and again. Over time, these imprints begin to contribute to behavior patterns that can then lead to the forming of habits. Then that fear takes hold and feeds upon itself. One way to combat this negative cycle is to acknowledge the source of the fear and ask yourself why you feel this way.
- Do you have a fear of losing someone or something?
- Do you have a fear based on a threat from an outside force?
- Do you have a fear based on grasping or ignorance?
- Do you have a fear based on a traumatic event in the past?
- Do you have a fear of death?
Once you ask yourself these questions and acknowledge their presence, say to yourself “I am feeling this way because of my fear of ______ and I am not going to allow these feelings to create a Samaskara.”
Let that fearful thought move through you and don’t allow it to stick or create a rut or groove. It’s as if your mind/body is a filter and you let the worst of it pass through, not allowing it to take up residence. Then see if there is something positive or loving to focus on in its place.
In the wisdom of Buddha:
The thought manifests as the word, The word manifests as the deed, The deed develops into habit, And habit hardens into character; So watch the thought and its ways with care, And let it spring from love. Born out of concern for all beings.. As the shadow follows the body, As we think, so we become. Buddha
This simple phrase is loaded with meaning. I am of a certain age, with an empty nest, and I have done quite a bit of letting go. I have written before about selling most of our household items and moving to an apartment in a new state. I continue to enjoy my minimalist lifestyle, and letting go of those items helps me feel light and unencumbered.
As we get older, I realize how much of life involves letting go. As we watch our daughter’s new family grow, I am reminded of our time as new parents. Infants are completely dependent on their caretakers. Yet with each new milestone, that baby is making his way to independence, and so begins the process of letting them go. The reward is seeing our children become independent adults. Now our role is supporter and cheerleader. We do our best to only offer advice when asked (easier said than done).
I have also been thinking lately about being too emotionally attached to “things.” For example, when we lose someone close to us, it’s obviously heartbreaking. But as the grieving eases, we sometimes find ourselves clinging to items they have left behind. There is true comfort in treasures from a loved one. They can be touchstones in the grieving process. But clinging to them can be unhealthy. I have small remembrances from my great grandmother, my grandparents, my dad, my brother, and my mother. These tokens do not bring back their love for me. That is stored in my heart and never, ever leaves me. Do I need every sweater, every piece of jewelry, every item that reminds me of them? No. I choose to let go instead.
So let’s let go:
- Let go of the story of your past. Let the present moment define who you are.
- Let go of material items that no longer serve you. Less clutter, less to dust.
- Let go of people that are too much work. You will know who they are if they deplete your energy rather than bring you joy.
- Let go of habits that have become ingrained simply because of repetition, not because they actually make you better.
- Let go of lingering hurt and hostilities. Holding on to these feelings only causes you harm.
- Let go of long held grief. Some losses are too big to ever get over, but consider trying to pivot to a place of gratitude for what that person brought to your life.
- Let go of the idea that you can control your future. Worrying about the future is the root cause of anxiety. When has worry every changed an outcome? Life does not happen in a predictable way. Never has and never will.
The heart yearns to feel light. Let go to make room for whatever is coming next. Most likely it is bigger and better than you can even imagine.
“You can’t reach what’s in from of you until you let go of what’s behind you.” ~Unknown
Our five-month-old grandson is in constant motion. Kicking his legs and waving his arms, all the while babbling like he has a very important story to tell us. In other words, doing the developmental things he is supposed to be doing. All of his movement is building neurological pathways that will eventually bring him to crawling, walking, and not long from now, running. Say a prayer for his parents.
I have just finished reading “Move! The New Science of Body Over Mind” by Caroline Williams. It was recommended to me by my friend and yoga teacher, Lori Gaspar. This book is about correlations between movement and the health of the mind, and how scientists have mapped the areas of the brain that benefit from different forms of movement.
For example, we have all taken a walk to clear our head at some point in our lives. Now there is science to back it up. Walking is said to be linked to activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is where our thoughts occur. The movement of walking has been shown to bring more clarity to thoughts. A literal clearing of the cobwebs that enables us to have more of those “aha” moments.
Dance and free form movement have been shown to be a mood enhancer. The inner ear, where our sense of balance is, is tied directly to the limbic system. This is the place that signals the sensations of pleasure. When we dance, we are taking ourselves slightly out of balance and each time we right ourselves the body comes back to a place of stability. Repeating this action over and over brings a sense of pleasure. No wonder so many of us love swings, rollercoasters, skiing, biking and any other activity that shifts us from standing on two feet.
A strong core from exercises like pilates, yoga and tai chi not only enhances good posture, but also helps alleviate stress, anxiety and depression. Scientists now believe a strong core also helps our minds. As we age, our chances of falling increases. This is often due to a change in posture, perhaps because our core weakens and we become more stooped over. While scientists have not yet found the direct link between an upright posture and having positive feelings, it makes sense that when we stand tall there is a sense of confidence. This then leads to a sense of well-being.
Whether we are walking, dancing, or working out, movement is good! Our lack of movement, according to scientists, directly correlates with a rise in mental health issues like anxiety, stress and depression. It’s time for everyone to get moving again. Our grandson does it on instinct. The rest of us need to make it an important part of our daily or weekly routine.
It’s often said that sitting is now the new smoking. I believe it, and scientists are proving that movement is vital to our well-being not only physically but mentally and particularly as we age. The saying “Use it or Lose it” is actually the truth. So let’s get up and move. I’m getting up now to go dance around my kitchen.
Spring Haiku #2
Life renews itself Spring brings rain, light, warmth and growth Nature in full force. Bird song, buzz of bees Babies at their mother's sides Buds shoot from the earth. Shed the gloves and coats Weary bones warm in the sun Heart grows lighter now.
"Enlightenment is when a wave realizes it's the ocean." ~Thich Nhat Hanh
I have just returned from a trip to Mexico. It was lovely in so many ways. Time near the ocean feeds my soul. My eyes are constantly drawn to it. I sleep to the sound of it. I walk along it and feel its immense power. Each night I watch the sun fall over the edge of it and am reminded of its vastness.
I am but one person, at this one spot, singular and unique. I am amazed by the contrast. The two words, vast and singular, kept coming to my mind all week.
Our lives can feel this very same way. We all see what transpires in front of us in our own unique way and yet we are all a part of something much bigger than ourselves. I think we forget that perspective sometimes. We are all part of something so vast we can’t even comprehend it and at the same time each of us is the only version of a human being to look, feel and live this unique, singular way.
I think we can all gain this perspective when needed. Some days the world can feel as if it’s closing in on us. That is the time to take a moment and look to the ocean or find the horizon, the night sky, or some other focal point that feeds your soul. Take a moment to remind yourself that you are both vast and singular.
Wrinkles mean you laughed, grey hair means you cared and scars mean you lived.
I had a spill on my bike the other day. I fell on my face, literally. My eyebrow split open and was in two places on my face. A good samaritan took care of me until Rob could pick me up and take me to the emergency room. All this man said in the face of my injury was, I think you might need stitches. His gentle kindness kept me calm even though I was bleeding profusely.
Having a gash on your face is humbling. Not knowing how it is going to heal makes vanity rear its head. It’s also an opportunity to be with what is. I will most likely have some small scar the rest of my life. I am doing all the things I am told to do hoping to not look like Harry Potter in such an obvious way. And at the same time I keep reminding myself that scars mean I lived.
As my birthday and the new year approach, my 58th time around the sun, I am filled with gratitude that I am able to lead an active lifestyle. Most days I live with an ease of well-being. Sure there are times when I feel every bit my age but not very often. I am fortunate that way and well aware that that is not the case for so many people. I have also had several reminders lately of just how precious life is.
In my birthday/new year’s blog last year, I talked about being an ageless goddess. Meaning, not attaching who you are to the age on your driver’s license. I hear many of my peers talking with a kind of resignation. Because I am this old, I can’t do this, or remember that or try this. Why let a number define who you are and what you can do? For 2022, my plan is to say YES. Yes to adventures, to trying new things and to continue to grow. And yes to babysitting! Our first grandchild arrives in Feb. and I can’t wait to see what this new chapter brings to our lives.
So cheers to wrinkles, grey hairs, scars and living life to its fullest.
New Years Another fresh new year is here... Another year to live! To banish worry, doubt and fear, to live and laugh and give! This bright new year is given me to live each day with zest... to daily grow and try to be my highest and my best! I have the opportunity once more to right some wrongs, to pray for peace, to plant a tree, and sing more joyful songs! ~William Arthur Ward
I am not my thoughts. I repeat, I am not my thoughts. What a liberating thing! I don’t know about you, but I can have some dark, snarky, petty thoughts. Sometimes they play in my head over and over again. That isn’t the real ME. It is my brain at work doing what it does…thinking.
As Judith Hanson Lasater says in “A Year of Living Your Yoga,” thoughts are just neurotransmitters locking into receptor sites: they are not the truth. Just as “movies are flickering pictures that appear to have form; so are my thoughts,” says Lasater. Our job, if we choose to do the work, is to become the master over our thoughts. We do not have to be ruled over where our mind tends to go. We can become aware and choose a more conscious path.
Our mind and our breath are linked together. If you notice during times of stress, thoughts come quick and breath is shallow. For many of us, this is our constant state due to stressful jobs, high anxiety and fast-paced lifestyle. In this place of stress, thoughts tend to gravitate to the negative.
When a dark thought comes to mind, become aware of it. You have the power to flip your own narrative. Notice where your mind went and think of an alternate, positive idea. Rather than react to a grumpy server with anger in your mind, consider how overworked and underpaid they might be.
When I first sit to meditate, my thoughts tend to be quick and constant. Then, I take my awareness to my breath and watch the flow of inhale and exhale. I link my mind to my breath as a focus. As my breath becomes slower, so do my thoughts. I feel as if I have hit pause on the incessant tape recorder of my mind. Even if you don’t have time to meditate, taking a break to breathe consciously can be an easy way to take control back from the chatter of the mind. By the way, folks that don’t have time to meditate would benefit from it the most.
“Simply by slowing down the mind- the first purpose of meditation- much of this tension can be removed. Then we are free to respond to life’s difficulties not as sources of stress but as challenges, which will draw out of us deeper resources than we ever suspected we had. A one-pointed mind is slow and sound, which gives it immense resilience under stress. With a mind like this, we always have a choice in how we respond to life around us.” Eknath Easwaran in “Words to Live By, Short Readings of Daily Wisdom”
Join me on the mat this month. Taking time for self-care is a lovely way to keep the holiday stress at bay.
A change in the air Leaves turn and cascade to earth Signs of fall's entrance Sweaters, boots and scarves Darkness comes earlier now Wet leaves under shoes Apples, pumpkins, squash Chilly days and cozy nights Football and tailgates Cycle of seasons Transition to turning in Earth's prep for Winter