Friday, May 25, 2012

Week 20 for Juliet: Say Yes

Exercise:  In this practice we say yes to everyone and everything that happens.  When you notice the impulse to disagree, consider whether it is really necessary.  Could you just nod, or even be silent but pleasant?  Whenever it is not dangerous to you or others agree with others and what is happening in your life.

This week when I read the mindfulness exercise what immediately rushed into my mind was:  “Say YES to the magical spectrum of life!”  This is practically the mantra of John Friend and Anusara yoga.  I have heard it so many times and taught it so many times, that honestly I am tired of it.  It would be OK with me, in fact preferable, if I never hear that exact phrase spoken again.  With all of the drama surrounding Anusara yoga, practicing saying YES is the last thing I want to do.  I mean I have spent years practicing YES.  What I think I need is more practice saying NO.  (For you lovely readers, bless you, who have no idea of what is going on in the Anusara community, can catch you up on the John Friend/Anusara scandal if you are interested.)

But here is a secret that I learned that I want you to learn too:  Saying yes to something is the same as saying no to something else.  For example, saying yes to the donut offered to you in the meeting, is equivalent to saying no to your commitment to feed yourself healthy food.  Saying yes to an invitation to go out for a beer after work, is really the same as saying no to coming home on time for dinner.  My point is that there is no real yes or no, there are only choices.  Rather than focus on saying yes all the time, the best plan is to weigh the options and make the best choice you can in each situation.  If you make a bad choice own it up to experience and learn to make a better decision next time, but please don't just say yes to everything that comes your way.

I also disagree with the assertion that I should nod in agreement or be silent when someone says something I disagree with.  As a southern girl, I know how to do that already, I have mastered being polite, nodding to things I didn’t agree with, not adding my voice to the conversation.  To this request that I should say yes more often and agree to avoid being disagreeable, even for a week, I offer you a resounding NO.

For your amusement, here is the trailer for the Jim Carey movie “Yes Man”.  As I remember, saying Yes to everything didn’t work out so well for him either.

Week 20, Zanna: Say Yes

The Exercise: In this practice we say yes to everyone and everything that happens. When you notice the impulse to disagree, consider whether it is really necessary. Could you just nod, or even be silent but pleasant? Whenever it is not dangerous to you or others, agree with others and with what is happening in your life.

I truly tend to do this anyway. I suppose I should have made it tougher on myself by telling people what I was doing, but it's been a tough week without the added burden of smart-ass friends and family taking advantage of this "condition" (of course, I do realize it would have all been in fun...I tend to surround myself with people who are really decent people who don't wish harm on me or others... but they are smart-asses, and well, hi-jinks could have ensued).  I'd say, this wasn't a resounding success for me. We went geocaching for the first time in a long time (excluding vacation caching), and we just didn't have fun this time. We've been talking about it for a while, and this weekend we finally said, "let's do it!"  I'm still itching from the red bug hive we managed to find in lieu of finding a cache.  After we said "yes" to giving up, my dear husband decided he wanted to eat at a German buffet which, while tasty, left me feeling bloated and horrible.  Sunday I said "yes" to being a lazy butt and playing Skyrim all day. Finally, even though neither of us have been feeling it lately, Juliet and I said "yes" to writing this blog.  Not sure if we're getting anywhere with it, but at least we're going.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Week 19 for Juliet: Rest Your Hands

Exercise:  Several times a day let your hands relax completely.  For at least a few seconds, let them be completely still.  One way to do this is to place them in your lap and then focus your awareness on the subtle sensations in the quiet hands.

I will confess up front that my mind was somewhat preoccupied during this exercise week and not really focused on the mindfulness task of resting my hands.  I know that my nature is to keep moving and that staying still is difficult for me.  That I can keep a job where I sit at a desk most of the day is pretty amazing.  If it were not for my yoga and meditation teachers, I don’t think I would have learned the importance of being still. 

Even if I don’t have a formal sitting practice during the day, I try to remember to make time for moments to be still and reflect.  I have found that doing this is the equivalent of throwing myself a life raft, something to keep me afloat and above the waves of stress and busyness that want to pull me under.  How did I ever manage without this practice?  So much growth happens for me in the stillness.

Pausing I rest my hands, palms turning upward.  This is the gesture of the Buddha, a being who is known for his qualities of being peaceful, loving, and full of gratitude.  Today and everyday I am grateful for all my teachers and these moments of quiet reflection.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Week 19, Zanna: Rest Your Hands

The Exercise: Several times a day let your hands relax completely. For at least a few seconds, let them be completely still. One way to do this is to place them in your lap and then focus your awareness on the subtle sensations in the quiet hands. 

One thing this exercise made abundantly clear to me, is that I do not know how to relax.  I feel like I am constantly on the edge of my seat, waiting to jump up and deal with stuff constantly.  I'm better than I used to be. Back when I worked for the bank, I had what seemed to be permanent half-moons etched into my palms from constantly clenching my fists.  I'm not really sure what the ultimate goal of this mindfulness blog should be. I guess pointing out my shortcomings (like my inability to get a blog post done by my own deadlines, and of course, my inability to relax) is part of it.  I didn't come up with any insight on how to solve this issue of mine, but I guess knowing is half the battle.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Week 18, Zanna: Notice Trees

Exercise:  During this week become aware of the trees around you.  There are many aspects you can attend to, for example, their different shapes (round or slim, neat or shaggy in outline), different heights, ways of branching, and colors and types of foliage.  Don't let the mind begin analyzing; just notice and appreciate trees. (If you live in a treeless area, you can change this to becoming aware of cacti, bushes, or grasses.)
A good time to notice trees is when you are driving or walking, or when you look out windows.  If you have a chance, walk among the trees in a park, forest, or tree-lined street.  Look at leaves and bark close up.  Be aware that trees are breathing. What they breathe out (oxygen), we breathe in.  What we breathe out (carbon dioxide), they breathe in.

OK.  This is annoying.  I wrote a fairly long post and it just disappeared.  It was rambly and didn't make a lot of sense, but it was done... and now it's gone. I could tell you it was brilliant and insightful, but it wasn't. So I leave you with just this:

No. 1: The Larch. The... Larch

Oh.  And there's nothing funny about trees.  Nothing at all.  Especially the Bansai... or the tall, hard, and mighty Sequoia. Nothing funny at all.  So don't laugh.

Week 18 for Juliet: Notice Trees

Exercise:  During this week become aware of the trees around you.  Don’t let the mind begin analyzing, just notice and appreciate the trees.

The neighborhood I live in is well known for its older homes and mature trees.  In good weather, I love to go for walks enjoying the wide streets and cool shade provided by the trees.  To help me better appreciate trees, I thought I would take a few pictures to share with you.

This first tree comes from my front yard.  When my mother gave me a tree face, the tree in my front yard seemed perfectly suited for it.  Almost like this part of itself had been missing, and it was so happy to finally have its features visible again.  Years ago, when my neighbor’s daughter was very young, she told me that when they went on walks, her daughter would toddle up into my yard and pat the tree and have conversations with it.  I like to imagine that this old tree is quite wise and has been privy to many a conversation.

One of my favorite trees is the Magnolia.  On this tree the flowers are blooming.  Some of the blossoms so large it would take two hands to hold them.  The Magnolia is a true Southern beauty.

My hairdresser/landscape consultant (doesn’t everyone’s hairdresser double as a landscaper?) has drawn up plans for my front yard with suggestions for putting in new plants.  One suggestion was to put in a Japanese Maple tree.  She told me many houses in my neighborhood had them.  She was right.  I just hadn’t really noticed.

These next two plants are trees that I liked.  One because the shape was like a well formed Christmas tree.  The other because I was surprised at how soft and delicate the leaves were.

The office that I work in is pretty large.  On my indoor walks, I noticed these two trees living the life of never having to worry about bugs or the weather.  If I were a tree, I think  would hate living inside all the time.  I know that I enjoy being outside.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Week 17 for Juliet: Entering New Spaces

Exercise:  Bring awareness to transitions between spaces, when you leave one kind of space and enter another.  Before you walk through a door, pause, even for a second, and take one breath.  Be aware of the differences you might feel in each new space you enter.

I love the metaphor of the threshold being the place in the middle; the space between where you have been and where you are going.  That life is a constant movement from one threshold to another.

Spaces themselves hold a sense of energy.  When I walk through the door at City Yoga, I notice the beauty of the space, the colors of the room and the fresh flowers that are always at the desk.  It feels inviting to me, full of people inside chatting and laughing, just leaving class or waiting to go in.

In contrast, I go to work.  Opening the door, I am greeted by a cold blast of air conditioning and walls and carpet of neutral grays and beiges.  The slight hum of the noise canceling sound machine is always present in the background.  The energy of this space feels very different.  My energy here feels very different.  My mood is quieter, more introspective, contemplating what I need to do for the day and how I will work through my task list.

I don’t want to paint the picture that one is good and one is bad.  There is a reason for the design of both spaces.  While a contrast, both have their place.  In both places, I stay present with the breath, watching what arises in me from the inside.