My husband doesn't read my blog. In fact he agrees with a lot of people that most blogs are inappropriate sharing of private issues. This got me to thinking that perhaps he is right, but I'm not sure? After all don't I post so that others might see that they are normal? Don't I read other blogs and also see that I am human and normal?
Most people when ask the question "how are you"? Answer the same way "fine", or "ok". Even when they are obviously not. I'm not saying we need to open our souls to everyone we meet but maybe being honest sometimes wouldn't be such a bad thing. Telling someone that you are not having a great day or that you are going though something important, sharing might make us all feel better!
I have had several recent posts about the state of my life right now. It is to be honest in complete flux and a bit of a mess. I spent some time traveling alone and learned a lot about my self, not all of it did I like. I have been sharing. Mostly because as a yoga teacher and mother and prenatal educator and all the other things I do people think I must be the happiest person in the world and nothing bad ever happens to me. I used to think that way until I took a good look at myself, I and they were wrong. This is not to say that I won't be that perfectly contented person again, it's just going to take a little bit of work. I don't mind sharing the process along the way.
My current "career" as a day care provider has been extremely challenging lately. I've had a lot of physical pain from it and it has been emotionally draining. This is over 8 hours of my day being not thrilled. This daily work, of course will spill into other areas of my life. It is not where I envisioned myself being nor where I want to be for the next 5 - 10 years but I am working through it and planning for my future. I have goals that I have no doubt I will fulfill and as a result I will know and like myself better.
My life as a mother is not always what I had thought it would or should be. Some of you read my post where I locked myself in my car and ate chips and cried. Not my most proud moment but sometimes we do what we have to in order to cope. My brother and I were raised in a very quiet home. We are six years apart which meant that as little kids we didn't have a lot in common, we had a lot of alone time and quiet play. I thought that all homes were like that, until I had my own family. We have three loud, boisterous, comfortable in their own skin kids. They fight, they laugh, they play and they need me for what seems ALL the time. This means that I have little time for myself. Little time to know who I am, to find out what my true nature is, little time for me. I am told that this will come one day but now is not the time. I am working through this and finding the time, making the time! It is not always easy but it is necessary. For me to be a good mother I need to be good to myself.
Our marriage is less than perfect. I did not get married thinking that it would be perfect all the time but I can dream can't I. I think all couples go through periods in their life where they feel disconnected. Especially with all of the above things going on it is easy to lose touch with each other. How do you work through that? With three children a house and everything that comes with it all, it can be hard. As with yoga, it starts with you. I don't think a person can be happy in a relationship if they are not happy with themselves. My marriage is not perfect, I doubt it ever will be perfect but it is a relationship that I will have for the rest of my life. If we are married or not, we have three children that tie us together for ever. We can either chose to work through the difficult times or give up - either way we will always be a part of each others lives. I am working on the relationship with myself and my husband in order to find the other side. Finding that contentment that happiness, in me and then hopefully in us. I've mentioned to a few friends that we have lost our way lately and most of them either have or are going through the same thing. Most have suggestions or ask for advice. We are and this too is normal!
So to blog or not to blog - I guess that is the big question. To share personal information or not. To be and show that I am normal. I do not live the perfect life, I am not the perfect mother and I do not have the perfect marriage. Wow I am just like everyone else. I honestly believe that if most people shared even a little bit of what they were feeling, we would all feel better. Will I say I am fine the next time somebody asks me how I am, maybe? At least I know that I am working through as much as I can in order to provide a truthful answer.
As a parent of three children our house is usually... um... chaotic, busy, loud, creative, messy, fun and crazy, did I mention loud. As one can imagine as a yoga teacher and practitioner this is very different from the true nature that I hold dear. My dream day would be spent waking up early to birds chirping, sun over head and nice yoga asana practice, a lovely meditation then breakfast and curling up with a good book. My reality is very far from this.
Yesterday was a very hard day. Aside from my own three children I care for two toddlers. In addition to this my two older children almost always have a friend or two over to play. Our home is a bit of a revolving door and I welcome each guest into our home as if it were there own. However yesterday I did not feel this way. One of the toddler that I care for was having a hard day of his own. I always say that if you want to see violence in action watch a couple of toddlers having it out. They are ruthless and yesterday was no exception. I am going to say he spent most of the day in time out for hitting, pushing, kicking and yelling at the other children. He ate almost none of his lunch, in fact he threw most of it on the floor along with his milk and then barely slept. My own three year old (she'll be three in a week) was also having a day of whining and tugging and a lot of mommy mommy mommy. By the end of the day I had had enough.
This post is about being normal. I am tired of asking people how they are and hearing that they are fine or telling my friends I am fine when really I am so far from it. The thing is that yesterday was a typical day for us. Not much was different. Maybe a bit of extra whining and maybe I didn't get as much sleep the night before as I usually do and maybe there are some other things going on with me that I am trying to work through. But it was a typical day. I got creative with how I handled it. This was not so typical.
I eat a lot of healthy food. This is by choice and I enjoy it. My body feels like crap when I eat junk food and it makes sense but yesterday I needed it. When my husband got home I grabbed the bag of BBQ potato chips that he brought home from the store and took them outside. I sat in my car and munched. I could hear one of my kids crying for me at the door but I had to ignore it. I just sat and people watched. I saw my neighbors coming home from work, people walking their dogs, families out for a before dinner stroll. I did this and ate my potato chips. It was the silence that I craved. The silence that I get when I am underwater or in the shower. Nothing but the noises in my head - they were screaming "why didn't you bring they keys". I should have went for a drive. But no I just sat. When I finally emerged, half a bag of potato chips later I felt a little better but still drained. I fed my children and went up to my bedroom and locked the door. I cried. I think I cried until I was dry. I couldn't even really figure out why I was doing it? I just needed to be done. I don't usually cry, I hate crying in front of people and yet it still feels weird to do it alone. I could hear the hustle and bustle of the family in the house and I ignored it. I needed to do this for me. I needed to do this in order to have a better day tomorrow.
You know what it worked. I finished my alone time. Came back to reality. Went out taught an amazing yoga class. When I woke up this morning to a brand new day all seemed better in the world. I feel better able to handle the violence that is the nature of toddlers and I am not cringing every time my daughter calls "mommy". So the next time you say "I'm fine" when you are not - don't bottle it up - do something about it. Sit in your car or in your room and check in with your feelings. Let them out - you will feel better. I
Why do we stay so attached? We all seem to have these particular things that we just can't let go of. For me this is something that I struggle with on a daily basis.
I understand why parents are attached to their children. Without this attachment we would not have the desire to care for them, to love and protect them. This is an attachment that all mammals have. Although the human attachment for most seems to last a life time. As a mother myself I appreciate and love this reciprocal attachment that I have with my children.
Having recently lost a member of my family whom I loved deeply and was very attached to as a child and an adult. Even this attachment I understand. However the attachment for me with my grandmother was while she was living. As I held her hand while she passed I was grateful that because of my attachment to her that I was able to be there for her and help her go. I can honestly say that I miss her but I am not holding on to the idea or the longing to be with her.
As a mother with three children I struggle every day with the concept of need vs. want. We have a modest sized house but I always find it cluttered. There are toys everywhere I turn. The kitchen, the basement, the living room, the dining room, the bathroom even, I hate it most when I find them in the hall. I tried recently taking some of these neglected toys and putting them in a bin to either sell or give away. Well that did not go over so well. My children obviously have some serious attachment to their things. The tears, the screeching, the anger all because of a toy that I was going to get rid of because it had been collecting dust for over a year. Did I cause this? Is it because we have so much stuff in our house, too many clothes to wear, more than one pair of shoes to choose from? Or is this something that they will grow out of and forget about?
I have attachment issues myself. I know the things I hold on to. Some of them don't take up space but they are things I should get rid of. Emails for one. I hoard them. I keep emails from old friends, lovers and family members. A simple email from someone in my past that says "thinking of you". I will keep. Photographs in emails of family members that I never see. Recipes that I will probably never use. Links to articles and web sites, long ago visited and already read. I not only have emails, I have Facebook messages. Why the heck I keep those I have no idea, I never even read them. Phone numbers, directions to peoples homes, trip plans - all there just in case. Who cares? I honestly never look back but feel a sense of loss if I hit the delete button. I know this is not a physical attachment. They don't take up space in my home, but they are clutter just the same.
I have a strange attachment to china. Yes me the crunchy granola, is fine to drink her water out of a mason jar or measuring cup. Who will often eat her dinner standing at the counter, and eat it straight out of the pot it was cooked in (I had scrambled eggs from the pan today at lunch). I have issues with china. I have a ton of it. A lot of it was passed to me from either of my grandmother's but some of it purchased. Most of it numbered and "valuable". I also received china from friends and family when I got married. This I use whenever I get the chance. My guests love it and feel special when they come for dinner and whether we are having pasta or burgers they sometimes get to eat on fine china. I throw tea parties for my mom and my daughter and it is so much fun to pull out all the fancy dishes for them and I know we will remember these parties always. I have a huge party every year around Christmas and again I break out all these special dishes. They aren't just dishes for me many of them hold memories. Memories of my own grandmother's doing the same thing for our family when I was little. I love that some of the china dishes have been part of my celebrations since I was a baby. But how much of it do I keep and why do I keep it. I have these memories regardless and do my guests really care that their cup of tea is in a cup that is numbered and is 75 years old? Probably not.
Clothing and shoes are another strange thing that I have difficulty parting with. I don't have a huge wardrobe by any means but I do have a lot of clothes. I have spent the last 9 years of my life pregnant or breastfeeding and this means that my body has reflected these changes and therefore so have my clothes. I have held on to clothing that I wore before I was pregnant in case I fit into it again. I fit into most of it now but many of these clothes are for a 20 something with an active social life, and not a 30 year old woman with a very different social life. I no longer have a need for flashy club clothes or expensive suits from my former professional life. But I still hang onto them. I might need a business suit at some point. For a job interview or maybe for work some time in the future. Some of the reason I hold on to these is that I know how much they cost me. I had a great job before having children and thought it was nothing to spend $500 on a suit for work. Now I cringe at spending more than $10 on a t-shirt. So I have these clothes and don't know what I should do with them. Part of me wants to hold on to them, just in case. The other part of me says, "I will never wear them again."
Thoughts and ideas are the last piece of attachment that I want to talk about right now. We all have preconceived notions of how things are supposed to be and are often disappointed when it is not the way we think it could or should be. This could be wanting to achieve a certain posture in asana practice, or having your meditation go a certain way. More commonly for many people it could be body image. The wanting to thinking we should look a certain way, rather than accepting how we are. I am no different in this aspect. I feel that with my lifestyle of eating well and exercising I should look way different than I do. Not that I look bad, just not what I expect. Instead, I and we should embrace our bodies. Especially if we know that we are doing the best we can to care for our bodies. Body image is one of the hardest attachments to over come. Whether we are unhappy with our feet, legs, arms, breasts, bellies or anything else these are not who we are. They are parts of us but not us. The people in our lives who love us, those we are attached to love us for who we are not because we have pretty toes or nice boobs.
I have ideas about how things should happen all the time. I fell down and have a scab on my knee, it should be gone in two weeks. Or I'm going out for dinner with friends and it will end at 8pm and we will have 80% fun and 20% serious talk. It never happens the way we plan. Dinner ends early and we are able to walk home or it ends late and we took a cab. It is so important to release these expectations of what should happen and how and just be present to the process. It makes these moments that much more authentic. My children should act and behave a certain way. I have attachments to their behavior, this is something that I have no control over. I can give them the tools to be kind, polite and to enjoy themselves but I cannot impose my expectations or my attachment to their "good" behaviour on them. I can teach them the tools but they have to be the ones to act with them.
We are planning a garage sale in a few weeks. I have already started the cleansing. I won't be able to rid my in-box of too many emails or better my body image. I will clear my house of some unwanted or unused items and hopefully this will transcend. With my physical house clearer perhaps my
I am going out on a limb and becoming very open about my reality right now. Knowing that some people in or out of my life might read this and be surprised. I am not the person they think I am, I am not real....
Who am I? This is a very common yogic practice. The practice of self inquiry. One might sit in meditation for 10 or 15 minutes and then pose the question. Basically what happens is one will discover all the things that they are - for example, wife, mother, teacher, funny, calm, quiet, educated, etc... But really these things are more about what you are and less about who you are. More importantly these are fundamentally who you are not. It is a bit of a confusing thing isn't it? We all have these imposed labels on ourselves as to who or what we are. Some of these labels make us feel important or make other people think we are important. Really though we are all just oxygen, water and cells. We are light, we are love, we are a higher power. So in doing this self inquiry you can get to the root of who you are. You can delve further and ask yourself if you like and are happy with the what's. In practicing non-attachment to these labels you can affect change in the what to better reflect the who.
As part of a course I am taking we were asked to do the "who am I" practice for a week. Ironically this practice fell on me while I was leaving for a trip and continued while I was away. I felt easy about the practice as I had done it before. The deep who am I's seemed easy for me to digest. I noticed my body, my breath and my mind during the mindful responses to my repeated question. Answering to myself that; I am love, I am light, I am consciousness, I am nature, I am the breath - all seemed very easy to me. I believed them. I breathed easy and my body was calm and relaxed.
When I got down to the who am I's again and looked more at the what's and less the who's. My body and breath reacted differently. Things like I am a teacher, I am a yogi, I am a woman - were fine. It was the big one's that made me tense, I am a mother, I am a wife, I am a nurturer, I am a house keeper, I am a cook, I am, I am, I am. When it came down to the big things I realized by listening to the breath and the body, that I am unhappy.
The funny thing happens to some people when they come across a breakthrough in self inquiry. They either realize that they are happy and move forward or they discover the source of their unhappiness. For me I discovered I was unhappy and knew some of the source of my unhappiness. What I did next seemed uncharacteristic of me. I cried. I let the tears flow and I cried. I cried alone in my bungalow in Thailand, I cried alone at night on the beach, I cried in an airport of all places. I am still crying. Now I am crying and tired. Where is this yogic happiness I keep reading about.
I have heard before that tears help to heal. That the salt will wash away all wounds and you will come out of the ocean feeling better. Well I'm waiting. Until then I am changing some things in my life. I am turning to yoga again and again. It has always been there for me and will continue to be. At first I thought I was using my yoga practice as an escape. Many people do this. Now I think it is more of a tool. I am finding myself more and more in practice and in mediation. Right now it seems to be the only thing that truly makes me happy. I find that joy on the mat. Meditation is a different story, I am finding solutions in meditation and am coming out creative, tear stained and tired.
I will continue this process and will probably add other methods but I will again return to the who am I, and the what am I. I learn so much about myself and this is where change begins. Change is uncomfortable but this is how we learn about ourselves and this is how we grow, usually for the better.
People I know have commented over the years that I am one of the happiest people that they know. I am always smiling. Quick with a joke. Living and loving life. Maybe on the outside this was true. Now that I know what the inside is feeling and saying I can't ignore it. I know that happy person will come back to me. She is truly who I am. She needs to dig up the unhappy stuff, clear it out to be truly happy again. It will take some hard work and dedication but I will find her and happiness - where ever they have gone.
I teach a gentle class at one of our local community centers. There are 8 people in my class and they are all beginners. After the fourth class one of my students asked about moving to the next level. This question made me pause and think. My explanation was that yoga is more about a personal level. Unlike dance or martial arts one does not graduate and all of a sudden become advanced. A beginner yoga student should be able to attend an advanced class and be able to follow and like wise an advanced student should be able to attend a beginner class and be challenged.
Keeping this conversation in mind I started our next class talking about just this. The next level. I also thought that perhaps this group who signed up for gentle yoga was looking for more. I told them to go out and try lots of different teachers. Do drop in classes everywhere until you find something you like. Maybe that's me as a facilitator and maybe it isn't, but it is not about making the teacher happy.
I discovered a big box of blocks when I arrived into my room. Normally the room is set up for me and I just have to roll out my mat and start the music. I gave everyone a block and used it to build on some of the postures that we had been working on. Telling them they could use their own bodies or a block, whatever helped them out to make the posture more comfortable. They loved it. Some mentioned during class and others waited until it was over, but all seemed to appreciate the help and the difference the block made.
I had explained to them at the beginning that one of the differences between beginner and intermediate is that an intermediate student does not always have to wait for the instruction. They hear the name of the pose and can assume that posture without being shown or told what to do. I encouraged them to do that, if and when they could. This left many of them with smiles on their face. Especially when I said that the next posture is trikonasana/triangle. Most of them popped right into triangle without waiting for me to tell them how to do it. A proud moment for me as well. I love to see my students fly...
We continued on. They learned a few new postures. Fell over a few times. Laughed at themselves (with my encouragement). From what I saw, they enjoyed their practice. At the end I spoke about the blocks and how in the old days a teacher would take a phone book and each day rip a page out. Phone books have hundreds, sometimes thousands of pages, years in the life of a yoga practice. I use this analogy to demonstrate that yoga is a practice, that it can take years to learn or master a posture and that this is good. It's not about being advanced or beginner, it's about being where you are - today.
I was reminded of this myself the other day. I have been practicing Bhujapidasana/shoulder pressing pose for almost 15 years. I have never been able to attain the posture fully. However, I finally did it. I'm not sure why after so long I am able to balance on my hands while my legs are elevated but I can do it. Maybe my stomach muscles are stronger, maybe I am pressing my legs more, maybe it's because I am thinner, maybe my arms are stronger or my hips more open... who knows. This is all part of the practice, if you do the same posture as well as complimentary postures over and over eventually you will get it an it will feel right.
As a teacher and a student I too attend lots of different classes. I like to see how others teach. I like to try postures that I maybe avoid or don't think about. Mostly I just love the practice in all kinds of forms and venues. Blocks or not, beginner or advance
Jennifer is an RMT, long time yoga practitioner and teacher. Follow her musings as an RMT, yoga teacher, prenatal educator and mother of three.