When I told a good friend I was planning to unplug from technology during my recent journey to the other side of the world, she responded, "I could never do that! I would spend the whole time dreading the work it would take to plug back in!"
She had a point, of course. Freeing ourselves from the grip of the technology that so often commands our time, attention, and energy can be liberating, but when we reconnect, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the out-of-control inbox awaiting us. While I don't claim to be a technology or efficiency expert, each year since starting this venture, I have taken at least one technology free week to relax, recharge, and reconnect with people and activities that nourish me. Through trial and error, I have developed a few systems and strategies that have enabled me to ease back in without anxiety, and I am sharing them in the hope you find them useful, as well:
As we near the beginning of the Summer travel season, consider whether you can turn a vacation - or even a staycation - into an opportunity to unplug. Don't let anxiety about plugging back in keep you from scheduling - and taking - a long-overdue tech break.
Last week a student from a previous fertility yoga workshop reached out to announce she and her husband had welcomed a beautiful baby girl into their family. Each time I learn of another miracle baby fulfilling the hopes and dreams of someone who struggled to become a parent I am filled with joy and reminded of what a privilege it is to walk alongside these women and provide encouragement during their journey.
Whether through birth or adoption, dozens of women I have met through my workshops have become parents. While each individual and each story is unique, they have all found comfort in connecting with community during the otherwise isolating infertility journey. Doctors, therapists, yoga teachers, and others can play an important role in facilitating healing, but something important happens when women are able to connect with others who are facing the same struggles. That is why I am thrilled to again partner with the D.C. Jewish Community Center and the Red Stone organization for their Pathways to Parenthood event, which takes place tomorrow, May 18 at 6:30pm.
This community-wide event will bring together experts in fertility, adoption, mental health, and more for a discussion of the different pathways to becoming a parent. It will also provide an opportunity to connect with others who are in similar circumstances. If you or someone you know is seeking guidance or encouragement related to building a family, I encourage you to check out this important event.
Among the questions I hear most often from women who are struggling to start a family is, "How do I know what I am supposed to do?" The diagnosis of infertility carries with it so many complicated choices. Medical intervention brings along physical, emotional, and financial stress - not to mention moral dilemmas. Researching complementary therapies can be overwhelming. Pursuing adoption seems fraught with an impossibly long timeline and so many unknowns... We all want a miracle baby, but how does that happen?
If you find yourself in this position, let me be clear: yoga is NOT a miracle. But there are significant tangible benefits in reducing physical and emotional stress, connecting with others who are facing similar challenges, creating a healthy relationship with your body and gaining an appreciation for what it CAN do, and learning tools to help you through this complicated and challenging process. Over the past four years I have experienced and seen firsthand how yoga can be an incredible source of healing for women who have been unable to conceive and/or carry a baby to term, and I am pleased to again be offering a Yoga and Fertility workshop series beginning Tuesday, June 7.
This Yoga and Fertility workshop series brings together women who are sharing the infertility journey - from those who are beginning to explore their options to those who have been struggling for years. Seasoned yogis and newbies alike come together to learn from one another and help facilitate the healing process. The combination of a therapeutic asana practice, time for meditation and reflection, and an opportunity to create community has helped dozens of women find healing and release from the burden of infertility. If you live in the DC area, I invite you to join me. If you are live outside DC or are otherwise unable to attend, send me a note. I would be happy to connect via Skype to help you develop a healing home practice and tap into a virtual community to support you along the way.
A dear friend and fellow blogger recently shared an article outlining productive ways to use unexpected free time. Several of the recommendations were appealing - including indulging in some leisure reading or self-care, but the one I most appreciated was playing "To-Do List Roulette."
Whether or not you choose to write it down, we all have a running list of tasks we need to complete but never seem to get around to: Returning a library book, cleaning out the closet and dropping off unused clothes at the local shelter, getting the car washed, or scheduling a dental appointment. Often the tasks are inconvenient, sometimes even unpleasant, making them likely to continue to slide down our priority lists or pushed off for some undetermined time in the future. But most take no more than a few minutes, and it can feel SO. GOOD. to cross them off the list.
For those of you who don't keep a physical list of things you need to accomplish, start one. Write the items on a post it note, jot them down in your planner, or type them into your phone. And next time you find yourself with an unexpected block of free time, close your eyes, point to an item, and tackle it. Then reward yourself with a little self-care. You've earned it!
In recent weeks, the babe battled the typical, lingering cough and stuffy nose that marks the change of seasons in our fair city. The symptoms were persistent, and after a few days I picked up something to help ease her discomfort. As with seemingly every product geared to the toddler set, the remedy came hidden in a sweet, fruit flavored syrup, the appeal of which was immediate and strong...
After her first few doses she began asking for medicine when offered the option of a dessert or special treat. No matter how many times I tried to explain that medicine is something we take to help us feel better, not because of its taste, she was undeterred. Throughout these deliberations I couldn't help thinking we are losing the context of what it means to "take your medicine." The grumpy voice on one shoulder muttered in my ear, "By removing every small inconvenience and unpleasant experience from our children's lives, we miss valuable opportunities to teach larger life lessons." The kinder and gentler voice on my other shoulder reasoned, "If the goal is to help our kiddos feel better and heal, why add an unnecessary struggle?"
I decided the latter voice had the stronger argument. Yes, it is important for our children (and ourselves) to encounter small challenges that prepare us for the larger and more consequential battles we will face in the future, but we needn't make things unnecessarily unpleasant.
We see this in our yoga practice, as well. At times we face discomfort when exploring our physical edge, which can help us grow and strengthen our bodies and minds. But just as often, we may realize we are making ourselves miserable for no reason and see that a simple shift in alignment or the use of a prop can help us more fully experience the benefits of a pose.
At some point everyone needs a bit of medicine. Often it comes in the form of a bitter pill - but occasionally it is sweet. What bitter pill can you replace with a sweet syrup? Try shifting your focus to the end goal you want to achieve and give yourself permission to choose the most pleasant way to get there...
During a recent conversation, a good friend shared that she was struggling to find time to dedicate to the many commitments in her life. This woman is in a high-pressure, high profile finance job; in the midst of her CPA exams; and training for a 50 mile hike. As she described her current routine, another friend asked whether she had considered waking up at 5:30am.
"Are you going to be my wake up call?" she joked. Without thinking I immediately jumped in, "I will." And so it began. We established the days of the week on which she needs the extra time in her day, and I set a calendar reminder to call or text her at exactly 5:30am on those mornings. It is a window of time at which I am already up, and it requires no effort beyond dialing her number. So far she has answered every call and text, and she has used the time to exercise and get a head start on her days.
In our too-busy-all-the-time, I-can-squeeze-in-one-more-thing lives, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. We know we are capable of doing what is necessary, but staying on track without accountability or encouragement can be challenging. Sometimes asking a small favor from a friend can be the difference between staying motivated and falling behind.
What small favor can make a big difference toward achieving your goals? What is stopping you from asking for help?
Saturday morning I woke up sick. And not just any run of the mill sniffly, sore throat, change of seasons sick. This was a vice grip on the head, pins and needles in every extremity, burning hot then freezing cold, zero appetite, blurred vision and shaky hands kind of sick...
As those of you who know me can attest: I. DON'T. GET. SICK. And those of you who know me VERY well can confirm that if I were (hypothetically, of course) to feel less than 100 percent I certainly wouldn't admit it. Mind over matter, right?!?
So I dragged myself out of bed, somehow assembled breakfast for the babe (though I have no recollection of what it was...), and staggered through a floor puzzle, willing myself to snap out of it. I consumed cup after cup of herbal tea doing my best to flush away the unwelcome intrusion into my weekend plans. Come on Angelyn - it is going to be beautiful out there today! The babe is excited about the Easter Egg hunt at the park! The Elite Eight starts tonight! You were planning to run to the Tidal Basin to see the Cherry Blossoms! Don't ruin this fantastic weekend!
But less than two hours later I realized I had no choice but to surrender. As bad as the physical discomfort in the moment was the psychological distress of turning to my husband to admit, "I need to go back to bed..." But I did. And every time I woke up throughout the day convinced I could "power through," I ended up right back where I started.
The initial moment of surrender was uncomfortable, but it opened up channels of support that proved incredibly therapeutic. I was heartened by the kindness of a fellow teacher who inconvenienced herself to come to my rescue by teaching my afternoon class. I was warmed (quite literally) by the homemade chicken noodle soup my husband and daughter prepared. I was healed by the 16 hours of sleep I was able to experience.
Often we need to surrender something - whether our pride, our plans, or our vision of how things "should" unfold - in order to receive what we really need. What do you need to surrender to be your best self today?
"Basketball? Um... really?!" Yes, really. Let me explain...
In 1994 I hopped in the car with my mother for what would be the first of many road trips to watch the first round of the NCAA College Basketball tournament. Before the end of the first game, I was hooked on the energy of the arena, the enthusiastic support of the crowds, and the exciting uncertainty of each outcome.
Throughout high school, college, and my early years in D.C., the tournament remained an anchor in the rhythm of my year. It was an opportunity to connect with family, celebrate with friends, and see new places. It fell just after my birthday and on the doorstep of Spring and seemed a harbinger of good things to come.
March Madness took on a new meaning nearly 20 years later with the birth of my daughter. Within hours of her arrival, my family was gathered in the hospital room marveling at the perfection of this tiny creature - and simultaneously providing updates on the progress of college basketball conference tournament games... For the first few weeks of the babe's life, we scrambled to establish some semblance of a rhythm around feedings, sleep, and getting our bearings as new parents. And the soundtrack for this first piece of our parenting journey was the squeak of sneakers on the court, the shrill whistle of referees, the swish of net, and the silence of a crowd holding its collective breath in anticipation of a last second shot.
As our daughter has grown, we have traveled back to the Midwest to watch our hometown team in action, and she may be the only three year old in the world who can claim three visits to the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden. In that time she has grown from being dazzled by the distraction of the crowd and shiny instruments of the bands to identifying players and mimicking their signature moves.
I can argue the merits of sports in general: lessons of competition, teamwork, discipline, hard work. I can point to the social value of being aware of an event that looms large in our culture each year at this time. But beyond any rational benefit of watching what is, at the end of the day, no more than a game, is the sense of tradition with which it is forever intertwined in my mind. This is what I want to share with my daughter as we watch and cheer together. To create a context for connection with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. To establish a sense of anticipation for an event that comes every year. To provide a platform for making memories.
And so, yes. Basketball. To watch. And cheer. And laugh. And love.
If we aren't careful, life can seem overwhelming. We know we need to slow down. We want to create more space. We would LOVE to be more mindful. We just don't know how. Starting each day with meditation or prayer seems like a lovely discipline. Incorporating yoga into our regular routine sounds wonderful. But putting these aspirations into action can be incredibly daunting.
For most of us, carving out an hour in our schedules seems impossible. Setting the alarm even 20 minutes earlier feels like a stretch in our sleep deprived existence. But I have yet to meet one person - even the busiest among us (yes I'm talking to you D.C. superstar!) - who cannot identify five minutes of unused time in their day. Maybe it is while you wait for the metro. Perhaps it is while the water in your teakettle comes to a boil. It could be as simple as skipping the snooze button on your alarm.
The question isn't whether it exists - it is how you choose to use it. Instead of checking your email again - or scanning Facebook - or falling down the Wikipedia rabbit hole, be intentional. Step away from the screen. Take a walk around your office. Sit still with your eyes closed and breathe deeply. The escape will look different for everyone, and it may change from day to day. Don't worry about perfection. Resist the urge to tally up your success or chastise yourself for a day missed. Just start...
A villager lived in a tiny house with his wife, 6 children, mother-in-law, a cow, and some chickens. It was making him crazy. So he went to the village rabbi and asked for help. The rabbi said he could solve the problem: he told the man to buy a goat. Thrilled, the man immediately went out and bought a goat. Now he had a wife, 6 children, a mother-in-law, a cow, some chickens, and a goat. The house was even more chaotic than before. The villager went back to the rabbi and told of the even crazier chaos. Again, the rabbi said he could solve the problem. “Sell the goat.” The man went immediately and sold the goat. Suddenly, all he had was a wife, 6 children, a mother-in-law, a cow, and some chickens. Things were much more peaceful without that goat…
In her book, Living Your Yoga, author Judith Lasater uses this story to explore the idea of perspective. I love the image of the crowded house and the simplicity of the rabbi's sage advice. How often do we lament how busy or stressed we feel only to add one more thing... then another...then another...until we find ourselves completely out of space - mentally, emotionally, and physically?
We can all benefit from a change in perspective from time to time. But rather than add a metaphorical goat to our bursting-at-the-seams household, I wonder if we could instead sell one of the chickens we already have. Is there a standing commitment that you dread every time it comes around? Is there one volunteer shift too many in your routine? Do you expect yourself to do more than is healthy? Or even possible?
Take a good look at your household: consider your commitments and evaluate your energy. Perhaps you have struck a beautiful balance - if so, congratulations! If not, maybe it is time to sell a chicken...