The unbridled joy of a truly open heart

I was really tired today. I almost didn’t go to yoga. I thought of a whole slew of reasons why I might not go, gave myself tons of possible excuses for bowing out.

When I got home from work I cleaned up the kitchen and then tried to take a nap. I might have gotten twenty minutes, I’m not sure. I was still so exhausted and wasn’t sure if I wanted to go but Wednesday nights are yoga nights and I felt the routine of it seeping in. I signed up online for class. I told Mi.Vida to be home by 6pm. I started putting on my clothes while Isa took a bath and before I knew it I was walking to class.

I’M SO GLAD I WENT.

Yoga tonight was great. The pace of the class was prefect for me. I felt strong even though I was obviously challenged. I remember thinking multiple times that I was so glad I had come.

And then we did savasana.

That’s when it happened.

During savasana, or the final resting pose, I had what can only be described as a transcendental experience. I was lying there, focusing on my breath, when an intense feeling of joy and gratitude overcame me. The only way I can describe it is to say that my heart felt truly open, fully and completely so. I suddenly saw everything in my life and was overwhelmed by the bounty of it, by all that I had, by the limitless love I had the great honor of sharing with others. Everything in my life seemed absolutely perfect, just as it was, my family, my daughter, my partner, my parents, my job, my apartment – things I generally complain about seemed faultless, utterly perfect. My apartment wasn’t small or moldy or cramped or messy but warm, inviting, bright and safe. I literally could not conjure one negative thought about it.

As I sat longer and longer with this open heart, and realized it wasn’t vanishing as quickly as it came, I started testing other people and things that I was generally disgruntled about. The woman at my work whose political views chaff and who got pregnant on the first month trying, both times and who gets to had free child care from her in laws for the last five years, the one I can’t really stand? When I thought about her all I felt was love and an intense desire for her continued happiness. It was the strangest thing I’ve ever experienced. It was like she was a different person in my eyes.

This experience couldn’t have lasted more than five minutes but I feel like it transformed my life. To know that opening my heart in that way is possible, and to know how good it feels, has changed me. I came home and immediately sat down to write about it because I never want to forget how incredible this experience was or how momentous it seemed to be. I need to remember that a path towards that kind of awareness, either via yoga or mindfulness meditation or something else, is a path worth journeying.

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

The one where yoga teaches me a profound lesson

In my life I have learned a lot about myself and my body. One thing I learned early on was that exercise equalizes my emotions. If I work out I feel better about myself and my situation – it’s as simple as that.

Knowing that exercise tames my anxiety and lessens my depression is enough reason to find time for yoga right now. Despite requiring continually shifting schedules, I do everything I can to get to class two or three times a week. I literally have to go at least that much – if I don’t something inside of me shuts down.

I have practiced yoga, on and off, for almost a decade but my current practice has been, by far, the most beneficial. Returning to yoga again, a year after my daughter was born, not only gave me back my physical body, it also renewed confidence that had been shattered by a year of TTC and an ectopic pregnancy. After just four weeks of reinitiating my yoga practice I knew I could be healed.

And, in many ways I have been. I feel better about my body, and myself, than I have since before I starting trying to get pregnant. I don’t know why yoga seems to be more helpful to me in restoring faith in my body’s capabilities than successfully carrying a pregnancy but it has. Maybe it’s that yoga provides me with a control that pregnancy did not. I was fortunate my pregnancy ended happily – I could do nothing to assure that outcome. At yoga I have more control. At yoga it is my effort that yields results, not random luck. I think that has made all the difference in rebuilding my self-confidence along with physical strength.

Yoga is not only a good physical workout, it also provides an emotional release. Certain yoga poses open the hips or the heart, freeing stagnant energy and emotion. It is not uncommon for a pose to produce sudden feelings of elation, or trigger deep, emotional pain.

At the beginning of every class our teachers ask us to create an intention for our practice. My intention has been “acceptance without judgement.” I always embrace that intention because it is something that I hope to accomplish in my everyday life. But for some reason, today, when the teacher asked us to create our intention, something different came to mind. Today something inside urged me to focus on being honest with myself. I wasn’t even sure what that meant at the time but I decided to embrace it.

My practice was difficult today. Poses that I usually do with gusto felt labored and painful. I wasn’t able to hold variations that I always attempt. Instead of reveling in my physical strength, I felt weak and frustrated.

In the middle of class the teacher reminded up to return to our intention. This is not done in all classes – frequently the teacher won’t mention our intentions until the final pose – but today she reminded us with 45 minutes to go. As soon as I revisited my intention, I broke down.

Today I intended to be honest with myself during my yoga practice. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but half way through class, when it was obvious I was struggling, it became immediately clear. If I were being honest with myself I’d recognize that today I wasn’t able to do what I usually can do, that today I’m not as strong as I sometimes am. I shouldn’t have been pushing myself into poses that didn’t feel right just because I’d been able to do them easily during my last practice. I should have been listening to my body and only requesting of it what it was able to give. Instead I was pushing it beyond it’s facility and cursing it when it failed me. I was doing all of this because I was not being honest about what I could do, even though my body was providing very clear signals.

The break down was not inspired by this revelation, but by the subsequent realization, that I have not been honest with myself about anything that I’ve been experiencing lately. In the past weeks since we’ve started therapy I’ve been forcing myself to approach everything with a certain amount of discipline. In my mind I should be able to handle all of this in a certain way, with a measure of grace and gratitude that is befitting of who I am and what I have. After all, people have weathered more difficult storms gracefully, I should be able to similarly handle the loss of mere expectations. So I don’t get to have as many kids as I hoped for, or in at the time I wanted, or in a positive, anxiety-free way. So my relationship is not, in all ways, what I hoped it would be. These are first world problems. I mean, all in all, my situation is not that devastating.

Some days I respond to things in a way that feels acceptable to me. Some days I keep my devastation in check as I fall back on what I consider to be appropriate amount of gratitude. Some days I judge myself to be doing a decent job.

Actually all days I judge myself, but only some days do I approve of how I’m doing. Many days I determine myself to be failing miserable: I’m coping poorly, I’m not feeling appropriate amounts of gratitude, I’m incapable of letting go of my desires, I’m refusing to move on. On the hard days I deny myself love and support and forgiveness. On those days I refuse to be honest about how I feel in the wake of all the upheaval, returning again and again to how I should feel.

If I were being honest, I would have to accept the following, no matter how invalid I deem these feelings to be:

– This is devastating for me. Despite the fact that countless people have suffered far greater tragedies – and I still have so much good in my life – this experience, right now, is very difficult for me to deal with. I don’t always feel hopeful about the future. Sometimes I do, but a lot of times I don’t. Not feeling hopeful for a little while doesn’t mean I’m giving up, it’s just how I feel at the time.

– I feel anger towards my partner. Sometimes I feel resentment. Of course I feel incredibly guilty for these emotions but the truth is I do feel them. I believe this is easier for him and I can’t help but feel I am giving up more in this compromise. I also recognize that those are my interpretations and might not be accurate. I fully expect he feels some anger toward me and I accept that completely.

– And speaking of feeling incredibly guilty, I also don’t want to have sex right now. I wish sex weren’t so tied up in trying to conceive but it is. And after all the positive feelings I was having about trying again, the reality that sex will not be leading to another baby for a long time makes me not want to have it. I’m also frustrated and resentful that I have to figure out birth control again. I’m angry that I am stuck in my body, with its monthly reminders of fertility and possibility, while he gets to go about his days totally unburdened by all of that. It just seems so incredibly unfair.

– Finally, I need to have something to plan and look forward to. Whether I consider that to be understandable or acceptable does not matter, it’s the simple truth. In the absence of planning to build my family I will need something else to plan, work toward and look forward to. And I’m going to need to figure out what that is.

In the meantime I will be focusing on my new intention – honesty with myself. I’m going to force myself to recognize my feelings, even if I deem my situation unworthy of those feelings. I’m going to be honest with myself about everything that comes up and hopefully, in doing so, I will be able to move past all of this, even if it’s not with an adequate measure of grace and gratitude.

Mindful Mondays Return

I used to do an installment, every once in a while, called Mindful Mondays. In the beginning they were quite frequent but when I added Working Mama Mondays to the mix they kind of fell away.

Spirituality is something I long for in my life. In my quest for a deeper meaning I came across Buddhism and knew immediately that it was a good fit for me. When I was dealing with my ectopic pregnancy and my struggles trying to get pregnant I found a lot of comfort in the teachings of Buddhism, especially in the ideas of mindfulness and acceptance.

Turns out mindfulness can also help me combat the low grade depression I’ve been dealing with. Depression is a complicated disease, one that involves destructive negative thought processes – thought processes we feel we have no control over. By employing mindfulness, I can experience those thought processes for what they are, simple ideas and not nonnegotiable truths. This is the first step in breaking the cycle of negativity and depression.

It’s a simple step but not necessarily an easy one. It will require practice in mindfulness. The foundation for that practice is meditation. This is always where my search for spirituality has stalled. Meditation requires time and commitment in my busy life; it’s so very easy to set that practice aside for more urgent commitments like laundry and dishes.

It’s obvious that I can’t set it aside any longer. It’s obvious that I need to make this commitment a priority. I know that it might be hard but I also know the rewards could be great. Finding the time to go to yoga three times a week is no easy feat, but I’ve found that practice to be incredibly positive to both my mental and emotional health. I didn’t realize how positive it was until, in the past two weeks, I was barely able to go. Last night an hour and a half of yoga was able to sooth the extreme disappointment of the weekend and leave me feeling refreshed and energized. Yoga is an incredibly powerful practice for me, one that has it’s roots in mindfulness.

I have no doubt that mindfulness can help me move past this depression. I’m equally as sure that meditation is required to build my mindfulness muscles. I will no longer allow other priorities to crowd out a meditation practice. Just ten minutes a day can, and will, do me real good. I intend to explore this experience on the recently renewed Mindful Mondays.

I hope you’ll join me.

A New Intention

You might notice that yesterday and today’s posts lack their Thoughtful Thursday and Confessional Friday markers. I’ve decide to omit all “day” markers from further titles even though I will continue to post accordingly. Posts will still be tagged in the category for which they belong (today’s post is still tagged as Confessional Fridays).

Every night at yoga we talk about our intention during practice that day. What are we bringing to our practice? What do we hope to take away? This month I’ve been focusing on “accepting without judgement.” In order to be truly mindful we must see things and accept them for what they are without judging them as good or bad. This is very difficult for me.

Lately I’ve been looking through my posts, on both my blogs, and have noticed a lot of negativity. I espy it in my every day life too. I compare my life with others’, and generally find it lacking. Sometimes I need to think of what others who are less fortunate live with (or  without) to feel grateful for what I have. I expect too much. I want so many things. I struggle with so many aspects of my life. So many of my thoughts are negative, or at least have a negative twinge.

The thing is, I don’t consider myself a negative person but when I look at the written record of my thoughts it’s hard to argue otherwise. So much of what I write is expressed in complaints. I don’t make enough money. I hate being a work outside the home mom. I wish I could stay at home. I feel cheated out of having my second child. I want a stupid camera. It’s all what I can’t have and how I must go without. My blog is dumping ground for the selfish and egotistical and embarrassing.

If I were to die tomorrow, is this the legacy I’d want to leave? If these posts were all my daughter had to remember me by, what would she think? I don’t want to be a woman who has so much and looks past it, focusing only on what she lacks.

I need to find a new intention for my life, for this blog. I need to find a new purpose, a distinct direction. I need to step away for a little while and rediscover the positive and how to talk about it not forcefully but eloquently, not because I should feel joy because it dwells unencumbered in my heart and soul. I want to be the person who makes others feel better, not the girl who brings everybody down.

I didn’t used to be this person. I don’t know where she came from but somewhere along the way, during my struggles with TTC, after my loss, I stopped expressing that enthusiasm for life that I once cherished – that enthusiasm my daughter has, that I think, that I hope, she got from me.

Through this blog I have met many wonderful women, some I’m lucky enough to call friend. One of those women is J from A Half Baked Life. If you don’t read her blog I highly recommend you do. If you want to know the kind of writing and attitude I aspire to, look no further than her posts.

Sometimes poor J is on gchat and I start “talking” with her. She asks me a considerate question and inevitable I start spewing some depressing, woe-is-me diatribe and just as inevitably J has exactly the right thing to say. She always knows how to make me feel better without feeding my cynicism. She can validate my feelings while gently suggesting an alternate course. She does all this without ever complaining about her own life. She has a heart like a bottomless well, brimming with loving kindness. I’m glad we don’t live too close of I’d attempt to drink from it indefinitely and surely scare her away.

I want to be like J. I want to be a calm presence, unweathered by the storms of life, a beacon of light and warmth for those who need shelter. I don’t know how to become that person but doing so feels like a worthy intention for this sacred gift of a life.

This morning I dropped Isa off at my friend’s house and sobbed all the way to work. With every fiber of my being I wished to not be there. When I crossed paths with a colleague he asked me how my summer went. “It’s was okay, but it’s over now,” I sulked. I didn’t say, “it was wonderful, I spent so much time with my daughter and my family,” or “it was amazing, I saw friends and got away with my partner,” or “it was spectacular, I’m so lucky to have two months off every year.”

I don’t want to be the person who defines her summer only by its inevitable conclusion. I want to be the person who appreciates it for the wonderful gift that it is.

I don’t know what my plan is. I’m not sure how things will play out in this space, or the other. What I do know is I’m grateful for this place and for all of you and I look forward to a future with a newly inspired and more genuine intention.

Mindful Mondays: Reconnecting with my body

I’ve really let Mindful Mondays fall by the wayside. I’ve really let mindfulness, in general, fall by the wayside.

I’m trying to change that.

In May I made an investment in myself. I spent a considerable amount of money on a six month pass to a yoga studio not far from my apartment. The start date for my six month membership was a week ago today. I finally made it to a class yesterday.

Yoga used to be a big part of my life. I went quite frequently when classes were available at the climbing gym near where I worked. While I ceased other forms of exercise I’d once loved, I kept going to yoga for a long time.

Then even yoga became something I wished I did instead of actually doing it.

When I was pregnant I found a prenatal yoga class at the studio where I just recently bought the six month pass. Going to those classes were my favorite part of being pregnant. Every session twenty or so pregnant women and I sat around discussing our experiences and connecting with our new and ever-changing bodies. It was an amazing experience and I still see some of the women I met there.

Walking to class last week, for the first time in almost a year, I wondered what it would be like to return to yoga now, alone, without my daughter nestled safely inside me. When I was pregnant connecting with my body was miraculous, magical. Now I worried that I would feel empty, unrecognizable.

And while there were moments when my body did feel unrecognizable, and somewhat empty, I remained me, fundamentally.

Pregnancy has changed me in so many ways and generally the physical differences between my pre and post pregnancy body concern me the least. Maybe that is because they are easiest to ignore. I have my ten or so outfits that fit relatively well and I don’t have much time to look at myself in the mirror. Luckily I almost never have a reason to dress up or look nice.

At yoga I was forced to see body for what it has become. It’s softer, fleshier. It’s shaped differently. I carry more weight in my thighs and butt. I can grab whole handfuls of stretch marked flesh around my midsection. To say I was sporting a muffin top over my stretchy yoga pants would be a considerable understatement.

I knew all of this going in. I wasn’t really surprised to see how different I looked, though facing it in public, with others watching, chaffed more than at home. While how I looked wasn’t so shocking, I was surprised to notice how distinct my post-pregnancy body felt in the poses. I’ve lost strength almost every where. The balancing poses were especially challenging as I struggled to find my center. My mind was all over the place and my body felt tight and unsure of itself.

In the end I was glad I went. The longer I held the poses and the more sun salutations I completed the more familiar I felt inside of myself. I’m sure after a few months of weekly practice I will once again recognize this new body as my own.

In the meantime it’s interesting to become reacquainted, once again, with this vessel of mine. I have so much to thank it for and I hope it will perform many more miracles in my lifetime.

Thank you yoga, for helping me not take my body for granted.

Going home

This morning I went to a post-natal yoga class for the first time. I was so excited to return to the yoga studio, hoping that women I had met in my prenatal class would be there with their babies.

It was everything I’d hoped and I found out it was quite a serendipitous day. My teacher was there, after being gone for several weeks, and a woman I’d always loved at the classes was there for the first time too. Her daughter is only two days older than Isa. I was so happy to see them both! Prenatal yoga was one of my favorite parts of being pregnant; I cherished the community of common experiences I found there. I looked forward to class two or three times a week, seeing women progress in their pregnancies as my own belly swelled. It was an amazing place to be.

Walking through the doors today I felt like I was returning home. It was wonderful. Seeing my friend and my teacher, it just felt right. I felt like I had a place to be, and that can be hard to find for a new mom. Laying my daughter on the blanket in the middle of the room, chatting with other mothers, watching Isa wave her arms around next to the other babies – I felt like I had returned home. I felt like I belonged.

Moving my body felt amazing. I didn’t realize how much I longed for that reconnection with myself. Just like during prenatal yoga, we didn’t get as many poses done but each one felt amazing.

Isa also connected with her body and rolled over the for first times! I missed the very first one, finding her on her back after I’d placed her on her stomach. I missed the first half of the second roll over and for the third I watched her like a hawk. I cannot believe how proud I was of my little girl doing such a simple task. It was thrilling.

On the way out I saw another woman I’d always loved in class, now only weeks away from her due date. I had hoped to see her and was so glad to have the chance to rub her bulging belly. I know her son needs to have heart surgery only hours after he is delivered but she looked so happy and serene. I hope everything goes well for her.

I exchanged numbers with my friend from the post-natal class and promised to call her tomorrow to meet up for a street festival near her house. I hope we can become friends.

All in all today was a great day. As summer ends and all my teacher friends return to work, I need to find people to spend my days with. I hope that going to yoga today will be the first steps in forging some of those friendships. And even if it wasn’t, I still had a great time.

BUEANAS NOTICIAS – I went to a street food festival today and had a slider with brie cheese, mustard seeds and carmelized onions that was to die for.  I LOVE brie cheese.