The asana of the month at the studio where I teach is a tricky arm balance. The pose is one I work with rarely - if ever. It doesn't come to mind during a home practice, and it isn't often sequenced into classes I attend. But this month it has been part of EVERY. CLASS. I. HAVE. TAKEN.
In the first week of the month, I struggled to hold it for more than a few breaths. The following week, long archived muscle memory kicked in, and I stretched the hold a bit longer. Little by little I began to feel stronger and more confident, and while I won't be asked to model the pose for a magazine cover anytime soon, I am continuing to gain confidence and an appreciation for what our bodies (and minds) are capable of with persistence.
Some trials we face require strength. Some require flexibility. And some just need us to persevere. What challenge can you overcome with a little persistence?
Regular readers of this blog know we occasionally feature inspiring stories from people who are making brave decisions and charting their own course. When a student introduced me to the Beat Infertility podcast, I knew I wanted to interview its creator, Heather Huhman. When I reached out, she graciously accepted, then said she had been looking to find someone who could talk about fertility yoga. Would I be interested in being a guest on her show?
I was (of course) excited about the opportunity to share resources with those who need them and reach a new audience, but a live audio interview? That seemed risky... No matter how many times I tell the story of our struggles to start a family, it is never easy. Despite our happy ending, talking about the journey can still churn up unpredictable emotions. And without the training wheels of writing and editing responses before they are published, who knows how it would come across. What if I talked too fast or drew a blank? What if I stumbled over my words?
My husband convinced me of the obvious: Being brave is at the heart of New Beginnings, and I need to be able to practice what I preach. So I did - and I survived!
We all have opportunities to take risks - small and large - in the course of our days. How can you flex your bravery muscle today?
Last week, while traveling between clients and appointments, I stopped at a wonderful, out of the way bakery for a quick treat. My mind was everywhere but in the present moment. I hastily scanned the options, placed my order, and proceeded to the register to pay. I began digging through my purse while waiting for the customer in front of me to process her transaction, only to discover I did not have my wallet.
I immediately recalled exactly where it was. And while I was comforted by the knowledge that it was not lost, I was no less inconvenienced and embarrassed by my predicament. I thought of leaving my purchase on the counter and walking out, but not wanting to cause offense, I instead sheepishly handed the items to the cashier and explained the oversight.
Upon hearing my explanation, the customer ahead of me opened her purse and offered to pay my bill. The employee waved her away, saying she wouldn't think of letting her pay or allowing me to leave empty-handed. She handed the bag back to me and insisted that if I didn't take it from her she would chase me out of the store and put it in my handbag by herself.
Cheered by her humor and heartened by their collective generosity, I took the treat and left. I will, of course, go back to repay the debt, but in the meantime, I am looking for opportunities to pay it forward.
Benevolence extends far beyond material gifts, and its consequences are far-reaching. What can you do today to spur someone to love and goodness?
One of the many hats I wear involves coordinating teacher trainings for a yoga studio. In the days and weeks leading up to each training, I spend time chasing down details and people for last minute tweaks and loop closures. As the most recent training approached, I was on just such a mission and frustrated by my inability to reach two separate individuals from whom I needed critical information. When I relayed the difficulty to the Director of the program, he asked the simple, straightforward, and obvious question: "Have you called them?"
I was embarrassed to realize - and admit - that I had not... Because the demographic of students with whom we work skews young, I have become conditioned to communicating primarily via email and social media. The irony of my non-tech-savvy self failing to see beyond electronic means of communication was not lost. And - as you might imagine - by picking up the phone, I was able to track down the lingering information in a matter of hours.
We all find ourselves reverting to rote behaviors, and often our behaviors are (wisely) informed by experience. But sometimes an elegant solution lies one simple step away from the familiar approach. Next time you find yourself stuck in a project or interaction, pause and think beyond the confines of your conditioned response. The answer may be more obvious - and easier - than you think.
Once upon a time, my husband and I were movie buffs. Every Saturday morning we would scan the listings in the newspaper and decide which film (or two or three) we wanted to see. Depending on the theater and timing of our choice(s), we would plot the rest of the weekend schedule accordingly.
In our pre-parenthood years, we had it down to a science. We knew which theaters were best for independent art-house fare and what time we could see the latest blockbuster at the multiplex with minimal crowding. We knew which venues had the best concessions and who had the least restrictive policy for sneaking in outside treats. We eagerly anticipated the Academy Awards, using every category from Best Picture to Best Sound Editing as a benchmark for how well we had chosen over the course of the year.
These days we try to keep up from the comfort of our home, but seeing a film in a theater is a rare treat. So when it came to deciding how to celebrate our 11 (!!) year anniversary last weekend, we decided to revisit the "Shapiro Saturday" of days gone by. The day was full of simple pleasures: a coffee date, long walk, window shopping, and - of course - a movie. We spent the day reflecting on how far we've come, enjoying where we are, and dreaming about where our path may lead.
Sometimes, life calls for an extravagant celebration, but it often is even more meaningful to recognize the little things that take up the most space in our hearts. What "small" thing can bring you joy today?
One of the anticipated highlights of the past holiday weekend was dinner at the home of our dear family friends. We have traded dinners countless times during our 15 years of friendship, and it never fails to delight. When we arrived at the door, wine in hand and babe in tow, we were met with genuine smiles, warm hugs, and a greeting of, "What a nice surprise!"
I stopped cold. What a nice surprise?! Did I get the day wrong? Weren't we expected? I immediately put myself in the place of the hostess. Of course I would be happy to see our friends, but I would also panic. What could I whip up on short notice with the ingredients in the kitchen!? Do we have clean napkins!? How (un)tidy is the house?!
Feeling awkward about our intrusion, we offered our sincere apologies and started making our way toward the door, but our friends invited us to stay for a glass of wine. They then insisted we join them for dinner, and walked us out to the backyard to see the abundance of food already cooking in the green egg. Preparations were underway to host family and neighbors for a casual cookout. We were assured that adding us to the mix would be no problem - and, in fact, their pleasure...
As the evening progressed, impromptu appetizers appeared, a second table materialized, and the food and drinks seemingly multiplied before our eyes. We were overwhelmed by their kindness and humbled by the gracious welcome. The delicious meal and wonderful conversation that ensued served as a wonderful reminder of what can happen when you welcome the unexpected as an opportunity rather than a challenge.
We all encounter unforeseen events in the course of our days. How can you greet the unexpected with grace today?
While Hurricane Joaquin's arrival in DC last week proved more bark than bite, the storm did deliver a series of wet, grey days to our nation's capital. I have never been a fan of rain, and now that I count hours at the park a staple in my "wear the babe out" toolbox, it generates even greater distress.
So when we awoke to yet another dismal day on Saturday, I was eager to find a dry place to play. We made last minute plans to join friends at the National Building Museum, with visions of running around the atrium and playing in the kiddos area. However, when we arrived - wilted and soggy - we were disappointed to see the entire center area closed for a special event. And because every other parent in DC is apparently privy to our "secret" rainy day staple - and arrived much earlier - the play area was sold out for the next several hours.
With a dejected sigh, I popped into the coffee shop to buy some tea for me and a steamer for the babe and contemplate plan B. As soon as we stepped back into the hallway, she tripped, falling hard and dropping the cup, which sent milk spraying all over her, the floor, and everyone standing within a five foot radius. I immediately scooped up the startled babe (for the first time truly appreciating the age old admonition not to cry over spilled milk...), inwardly bemoaning what a poor decision this turned out to be. But as I wiped her tears and turned to survey the damage, I saw not only our friends, but also complete strangers on their hands and knees mopping up the milky pool.
I was thankful for - and heartened by - the spontaneous display of kindness. Immediately my attitude shifted from disgruntled to grateful, and we salvaged the dreary morning. The kiddos climbed stairs and played with new friends - completely unaware that what unfolded was anything less than perfect.
Small gestures have great power to improve our attitudes and our experience. What little spark of kindness can you contribute to someone's day today?
Part of the fun of being a wandering yogini is the opportunity to work in a variety of interesting settings. From a beautiful garden solarium to a historic church narthex to downtown office buildings to homes that range from cutting edge modern to cozily traditional, my work takes me to a wide and inspiring array of settings from day to day.
Last week, when I arrived at the empty office suite in which I had been working with a client for more than a year, I was startled to find an unfamiliar face sitting at a desk where her yoga mat previously had been rolled out. I paused, stepped back, and found my client, who ushered me to a new room. She explained recent office shuffling had reallocated our former space, and this would be our new yoga home. As the session began, it was clear she was frustrated by the disruption to routine and still struggling to find her bearings.
Objectively speaking, the new space is superior. The room is larger, brighter, and less cluttered. The layout provides greater opportunity to take advantage of wall space and various furniture can easily be re-purposed as props. We flexed our creativity muscles by exploring the new possibilities (handstand!!), and by the time she came out of savasana, she acknowledged the benefits of the new room.
As is so often the case, our yoga practice serves as a mirror of how we respond to challenges in all areas of our life. This particular session provided an opportunity to explore aparigraha (non-attachment) by letting go of our attachment to the familiar and recognizing new opportunities for discovery.
Next time you find yourself resisting a new environment or other change, take a deep breath and assess the situation without judgment. You just might discover some unexpected benefits...
A friend recently shared a parenting blog post entitled, "Don't Parent from Fear." I smiled when I read the title, assuming I knew exactly what the author was going to say...
We all have seen mothers on the playground shriek when their little one trips. We have heard fathers debating the merits of an emergency room visit every time a child coughs or reaches for her ear. We know parents who refuse to let their kiddo splash in a puddle lest they contract the norovirus. I offer these examples not to pass judgment - if I have learned one thing in my 2.5 years of parenting it is not to criticize a fellow mama! - but my husband and I have taken a decidedly non-alarmist approach to raising our babe.
We have gone out of our way to NOT overreact when she falls and skins a knee. We let her run fast, climb walls, and walk ahead of us on the city sidewalks. Yes, this has led to bumps, bruises, and tears along the way, but it has also (so far) yielded a brave and adventurous child.
As I read the post, however, my ego deflated. The fear referenced by the author had nothing to do with being overly cautious. Instead, she spoke of fear that our children won't thrive or be successful in the world's eyes. Fear that they will choose a dangerous path - or simply a path other than what we envision. Fear that we will fail them by getting it wrong. Fear that we can't give them enough love or attention or resources.
I have felt all of these fears - and more. And they extend far beyond parenting. If I am being honest, I have to admit I have allowed fear to pervade nearly every area of my life. At various times in my life I have allowed fear of the unknown to hold me back from trying new things. I have allowed fear of others' opinions to stop me from sharing a different perspective. I have allowed fear of failure to keep me from pursuing a passion.
In recognizing the prevalence and poignance of these fears, I can see how they have, at times, prevented me from living a full and fulfilled life. And that is not what I want for my daughter...or myself. So I am pulling the mask off this boogeyman once and for all. I am committing to acknowledge - and rise above - my fears. I will allow - even encourage - myself to look foolish, sound inexpert, and feel silly.
Where have you allowed fears to hold you back from living fully? How can you overcome them and live more authentically?
The past few weeks have been extraordinarily busy. I no longer use that phrase as a badge of honor: busy is neither my desire nor my aim, but it has been my recent reality. The circumstances were intentional and pleasant - a weekend out of town, back to back visits from family, and new teaching opportunities - but when added together and layered atop multiple project deadlines, I felt uncomfortably close to my limits. I found myself simply enduring experiences that should have been enjoyed and too easily exasperated.
I have such grand visions of preserving margin and not taking on more work than I can handle graciously and gratefully, but time and time again I lapse into the too-muchness of life and trying to be all things to all people.
Thankfully, a fellow teacher shared this quote at just the right moment. She helped me remember that the ongoing work of living mindfully is a courageous act, and one we must embrace anew every morning. Rather than allowing our missteps to weigh us down, we can choose to move forward with compassion toward ourselves irrespective of our ups and downs.
So I am trying again. I am taking this new day as an opportunity to re-establish boundaries and embrace whatever comes my way - and I invite you to join me. How can you flex your courage muscle today?