Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Week 8, Zanna: Gratitude at the End of the Day

The Exercise: At the end of the day, write a list of at least five things that happened during the day that you are grateful for.  At the end of the week, read it out loud to a friend, partner, or mindfulness companion.

Which line do you choose?
As a rule, I tend to be a bit of a pessimist.  More like an optimistic pessimist, I guess.  Pessimism keeps me pleasantly surprised most of the time.  This exercise in gratitude made me focus more on the positive things in my life.  I am truly grateful for all that I have and all those that enrich my life... so thank you.

Here is my list:

1.       Work from home Wednesdays. Especially on beautiful days when the windows can be open.
2.       Chris taking out the garbage. I usually take it for granted, or get annoyed when he doesn’t do it the way I think it should be done, but I’m grateful he takes this task.
3.       My father-in-law for picking up our new tankless water heater in Florence, saving us a $50 delivery fee.
4.       A functioning washing machine and dryer in the house. Work from home Wednesday is also laundry day, and I’m grateful for these appliances that make the chore a relatively easy one.
5.       Catnip. After Tuesday evening’s cat tornado experience, and the general tenseness of the kitties, getting them stoned on catnip was just the thing to help them chill out.
1.       Warm February days (in the 80s!) I do have a bit of an issue with it being so warm when it should be winter, but on days like Thursday, I can overlook it.
2.       Old friends emailing out of the blue. Got an email from my dear friend Jen who I hadn’t talked to in almost a year, then had lunch with her on Friday.  It’s nice to reconnect. 
3.       Good chats with great friends. I stopped by Krys’s to give her some fabric that I’m never going to get around to using. We hadn’t had a good chat in awhile and I am grateful for the time talking.
4.       Friends who make me laugh.  Luckily that’s most of them, but I had a pretty bad week, and the friends that went out of their way to make me smile and laugh are definitely appreciated.
5. for the great rate on the Vegas hotel we wanted to book and for Kim for finding it.
1.       Umbrellas and reliable cars. The last time I saw a downpour this bad was 1985, and I was only riding in a car, not driving it.  This was insane.  The umbrella kept me from being completely soaked, and the car kept me alive. 
2.       Important phone calls being returned. Friday afternoon it felt like the weight of the world lifted from my shoulders as I received a very important return call.  I can’t talk about it now, but it’s a very good thing… hopefully I can share soon.
3.       YouTube on my phone. It’s just cool.
4.       Friend’s suggestions. We found a great, inexpensive, centrally located place to stay on our upcoming western vacation thanks to our friend Jason.
5.       Shrimp Buns, three hot at Golden Chopstix.  The aforementioned lunch with Jen allowed this gastronomical treat.
1.       Cheap Swedish furniture.  Thank you IKEA.
2.     Massages by Laura.  My amazing, beautiful, talented cousin/big sister is a wonderful massage therapist. After all the tension I carried around all week, I just knew it was going to be a little painful, but it completely wasn’t and was exactly what I needed.
3.     Cheap wine and coffee from Trader Joes.  Need to add to this after Tuesday night, the Organic Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper soup… so very delicious and pretty healthful.  Oh, and the sea salt and turbinado sugar dark chocolate almonds… I could go on, but this blog is already really long.
4.       Hawthorne’s pizza (and the “regret it the next day-no I’m not explaining why-figure it out for yourself” fried jalapenos)
5.       Random encounters with family. We ran into Angelica at IKEA.  Such a treat since I usually only get to see her at Thanksgiving and then only every other year.
1.       Friends that are really chosen family. Attending a memorial for my friend’s dad (she’s really more like a sister to me) with other members of our chosen family helped me really appreciate how wonderful it is to be part of such an amazing collection of people.
2.       Husbands who cook.  Chris is such a good cook.  I’m grateful that he does it and that he really enjoys it.
3.       Family dinners. Again with chosen family, but it’s always nice to sit around the table with people you love.
4.       Table manners. Good manners are how you tell people you care about their comfort as well as your own.
5.       My home. It’s a bit chaotic right now, but I do love it and it always welcomes me.
1.       The internet.  Makes vacation planning, knowledge gathering, communication, and most other parts of my life much easier.
2.       The Cayce Riverwalk.  Chris and I walked for an hour and a half on the Riverwalk before meeting our friends at D’s Wings for dinner.  It was a foggy and damp day, but I’m grateful to the city for creating such a wonderful space for being outside.
3.       Longstanding traditions. In this case Monday Night Wings.  Dondi has been doing it forever, but we just recently started going. It’s fun to hang out with such interesting people.
4.       Pho on rainy days. Pho is good soup. It’s especially good when it’s cloudy and rainy.
5.       Chris’s ability to spot geocaches.  On our way to the Cayce Riverwalk, we stopped to find a cache across the street from D’s.  I’ve looked for it twice by myself with no luck.  Chris spotted it in about 30 seconds.
1.       Nice weather, even when I’m not in it.  I didn’t get much of a chance to spend time outside, but I do appreciate a beautiful day.
2.       Cinco being well behaved at the vet.  We’ll gloss over the “Noh-face breaking out of the cat carrier” part of the adventure and focus on what a good boy Cinco is.  All 22 pounds of him.
3.       My job and the fact that I no longer work for “Q as in Cucumber” Mr. M.  Nicole brought him up at lunch and I finally decided to look him up again.  I’m so happy I got out of there as quickly as I did.  And even with occasional frustrations at work, I am grateful for the professionalism and ethics of the people I work with now.  Really. You have no idea.
4.       Once again thankful for my cooking husband… now with bonus washing up mode!
5.       The hot water heater lasting all week, even though it was in its death throes.  (It’s now Wednesday and there are workmen here installing the new tankless water heater.)

Week 8 for Juliet: Gratitude at the End of the Day

In November 2011, I set a goal to post something I was grateful for in my Facebook status each day for the entire month.  I encouraged other friends to do this as well and enjoyed reading their posts.  I believe that what we appreciate, appreciates.  The exercise for this week was at the end of the day to list five things you were grateful for.  Here are mine:
Wednesday, 2/22/12
1.    Grateful for project meetings with Will Jordan and Colleen Mallett.  Both of whom understand you can do work and have fun.
2.    Grateful that I only live 5 blocks from EarthFare and Publix since it seems I need to go to one of these places every day.
3.    Grateful for my new iPhone.  I seriously did not know how much I would love this phone.
4.    Grateful that my Dentist office was not mad that I goofed and forgot my 8:00 am appointment.  Grateful that they had another opening for me in the afternoon that fit my schedule.
5.    Grateful that I didn’t have to cook dinner.  Can you say welcome to Moes?
Thursday, 2/23/12
1.    Grateful to live in SC where there are warm February days.
2.    Grateful for the efforts of my body in the level 3 practice tonight.  Trying challenging poses helps me access my inner badass.
3.    Grateful for Epson salt baths.  (See #2)
4.    Grateful that my husband is a great study partner for my son so I can participate in #2 and #3.
5.    Grateful for my white noise sound machine.  Best $50 investment ever.
Friday, 2/24/12
1.    Grateful that the tornado watch was just a watch and there were no tornados.
2.    Grateful that I don’t have a job where I work outside.  Even though I sometimes complain about having an office job, it is nice to be inside watching the rain.
3.    Grateful to the 56 students who showed up for my free yoga class tonight.  Wow.  Just wow.  That sums it up for me.
4.    Grateful for an adult dinner out with Mark and Nancy Buchan.  It is really sweet to be friends with your son’s best friend’s parents.  (And as an added bonus you can compare notes.)
5.    Grateful to have the resources to go to Yogaville for a teacher training.  I made my reservations today for March!
Saturday, 2/25/12
1.    Grateful to be a yoga student in class this morning.  Great teaching, a challenging physical practice, and hugs and laughs with friends.  Does it get any better than that?
2.    Grateful for girl bonding time with Anne Marie Cockrell.  It was such a treat to get pedicures and have lunch with her today. 
3.    Grateful there was chili at the oyster roast party I went to tonight so I didn’t have to eat the oysters.  Bleh.
4.    Grateful for the free mapquest app on my phone that got us to the oyster roast on the other side of the world (i.e., Chapin) when the TomTom decided to stop working.
5.    Grateful for blue jeans with Spandex.
Sunday, 2/26/12
1.    Grateful to be able to sleep in late.
2.    Grateful for Clinique concealer which disguises the evidence of two late nights in a row.
3.    Grateful to my yoga teachers for giving me the confidence and skills to able to address the physical issues of many of my Sunday night students who are recovering from injury and/or surgeries.
4.    Grateful to my husband who made dinner tonight so I could eat and watch some of the Oscars.
5.    Grateful that my son did his math homework.
Monday, 2/27/12
1.    Grateful for the 5 cartons of my favorite Trader Joe’s Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper soup that were on my desk when I got to work.  Thanks Zanna!!
2.    Grateful for the variety of people that I count on to keep me healthy and sane:  some of whom include my hair dresser, acupuncturist, chiropractor, cleaning person, all the cashiers and service industry workers.
3.    Grateful that if I sit in just the right spot, I can see outside from my office. 
4.    Grateful that all the laundry is done.
5.    Grateful for a refrigerator full of food.
Tuesday, 2/28/12
1.    Grateful for my sense of humor.
2.    Grateful for my Tuesday night yoga regulars.  I look forward to seeing you all each week.
3.    Grateful for technology.  I can exercise on a machine that tracks my progress while watching a movie on my iPhone.  Cool!
4.    Grateful for the opportunities I have to learn something new each day.
5.    Whew!  This is a long post.  Grateful to all of you for reading this blog!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Week 7 for Juliet: Mindfulness of Posture

Exercise:  Several times a day become aware of your posture.  This has two aspects.  First become aware of what posture you are in and how it feels in the body.  For example, notice your posture while sitting, standing, or lying down.  How do these postures feel in the body?  With your eyes closed, tune into what part of your body feels the pressure.  Second, notice and adjust your posture.  If you are slouching, straighten up.
When I was 12 years old, I was 5’6”.  As a 7th grader, not only was I taller than my fellow students, I was also taller than most of my teachers.  So tall in fact, that my mother took me to a doctor to see if he could determine how much more I was going to grow and whether or not anything needed to be done to stop me from growing.  If you had asked me what I wanted most at that age, I would have said to be short.  What I really wanted was to fit in.  This meant giving up wearing the cool Candies’ platform slides that were in style and doing everything I could to make myself appear smaller.  I start with this insight to tell you dear reader that I have a long established habit of slouching.
Candies Shoes circa 1970s.
Fortunately for me, I did not need any doctor intervention to stop me from growing and I did not grow to be freakishly tall (unless you consider 5’9” freakishly tall).  Also fortunately for me I found yoga as an adult to help me improve on my posture and relieve the back and hip pain I had from years of bad posture and from my Scoliosis. 
I agree with the author of this book that our outward body is a reflection of what is going on in the mind.  Today for example, I am suffering from a lack of sleep and have just noticed I am slumped over my computer working to get this blog out.  As I purposefully sit up taller in my chair I do feel better, both in my body and my mind.  They are not separate.  When I roll out my yoga mat and practice, I am really focused on my posture in each and every pose.  I do this on my mat in hopes that it will stick when I am off my mat.  I do this because I know when I align my body and my mind, I also align to something bigger.
And so I will keep sitting up tall and correcting my posture when I slump.  I will continue to watch my alignment like a hawk in yoga class.  And while I am past wearing the platform shoes, I will remember to stand tall in my own light.

Week 7, Zanna: Mindfulness of Posture

The Exercise: Several times as day, become aware of your posture. This has two aspects. First, it means to become aware of what posture you are in and how it feels within the body.  If you closed your eyes, what would be the clues that you are standing or sitting or lying down?  For example, if you are sitting in a chair with your eyes closed, what tells you that you are in a body that is sitting? Where do you feel pressure or movement?  Being aware of posture also means to notice and adjust your posture many times a day. If you are slouching, gently straighten up.
When can I take this book off my head?
There's been a lot on my mind lately, so it was hard to pay attention to this weeks exercise.  But when I did pay attention I noticed that the stuff on my mind was weighing on my posture and pressing down on my shoulders as if the thoughts I've been carrying are parts of a hat made of bricks.  Straightening up my spine didn't do much for my mind, but it does help with my aching back.

I was in a meeting yesterday morning and caught myself with one leg tucked underneath me and slouching in the chair.  I started to right myself and sit upright, with good posture, but I looked around the room at the other people in the meeting and realized, if I did that, I would stick out like a sore thumb.  No one was sitting "properly" several people were kicked back lounging, a few people were slumped slightly on the table, the few that were anxious about where we were with the project were on the edges of their seat, leaning in towards the rest of the group, practically begging us all to pay attention to them. Of course I'm familiar with "posturing", I've just rarely been so aware of the postures of posturing.
I'm writing this from terrible posture. I'm semi-reclined on the couch with my knees up as a desk and a likely harmful pull on my lower back which is causing my butt to fall asleep.  It's awful, and I'll pay for it later, but it's darn comfy now.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Week 6, Zanna: True Compliments

The Exercise: Once a day, think of someone close to you--a family member, a friend, or a co-worker-- and give them a genuine compliment.  The closer the person is to you, the better, such as a child or a parent. )It doesn't count to tell a stranger at the post office that you like their scarf.) The more specific the compliment, the better.  Become aware also of any compliments other people give you. Investigate the purpose of compliments and the effect on you being given a compliment.

I was really afraid at the start of this exercise that any attempt to give genuine compliments would be met with sneers and eye rolls.  I'm generally regarded as a brilliant burro (or some thesauric equivalent) and as such have noticed a tendency to but a backspin on compliments.  It's tough. If Middle School taught me anything it's that both giving and receiving compliments puts you in a vulnerable position. Don't be too enthusiastic about anything lest you look like a dork.  Thanks, Middle School, you cold hard bitch.

I must say the results weren't noticeably dramatic on the giving side of the exercise.  One friend was complimented on his cooking skills, another on parenting choices, yet another on consistently good advice.  I'm not sure that it registered to them that I was doing anything differently. I compliment people fairly regularly, I just took off the backhand.  I didn't tell anyone that this was the mission until last night when I mentioned it to the Husband. Once I mentioned that I'd been making a point of it, he did say, "I guess now that you say it, I did notice more compliments than usual."
And then he complimented me... and I deflected it! Gah! Why do I do that?  It's been a big week for getting compliments for me.  We had the company bake sale fundraiser for the American Heart Association (yes, my eyebrows rise quizzically too) and I made my TruffleZ and received many compliments for the sweets.  In the name of sales, I need to be gracious about that type of compliment. No one wants to hear the response to "These are delicious!" as "Well, it's not my best batch ever".   It's worse when someone compliments me directly.  The Husband said to me this week, "You're so smart" (not sarcastically) and the first words that started to come out of my mouth were, "Not smart enough to do *insert random thing*"  This has long been a theme for me.  When I first met the woman who is now my mother-in-law, the first thing she said to me was, "You're very pretty."  And I responded, "Well, at least I'm stupid."  (This was a joke for years with my friends, you know, like... she's ugly, but she has a great personality... we played with it some... she's pretty, but at least she's stupid  *sigh*).   She was relieved to find out that I had just panicked.  Even writing this is hard... as though through reporting that someone said I'm pretty or smart, I'm being a braggart.
I guess it's a combination of my Scandinavian/German heritage, my Gasqueness, and the hard lessons of the Middle School playground.
I'll keep working on it. And thank you.

Week 6 for Juliet: True Compliments

“Kind words do not cost much. They never blister the tongue or lips. They make other people good-natured. They also produce their own image on men's souls, and a beautiful image it is.” --Blaise Pascal
The exercise for this week is each day to give someone close to you, preferably a family member or friend, a sincere, specific compliment and notice its effect.  (Telling a stranger you like their shoes doesn’t count.  I say this because I love shoes.  My eyes are magnetically drawn to women’s shoes.)  Also part of the exercise is to be aware of the compliments that are given to you and how they affect you.
First let me say that I could not have picked a better week for receiving compliments.  Having a birthday during this exercise time was a great cosmic coincidence.  I am still floating on the clouds of heartfelt love I received from my Facebook messages alone.  Along with that, teaching a yoga class on my birthday and receiving compliments, gifts, and flowers from my students shot my heart wide open.  This was a much needed boost in a week that has been challenging for me personally and professionally as a yoga teacher.
Giving compliments is the natural way I can express my desire to look for the good first.  When I complimented a student on their steadiness to their studentship of yoga I could see a physical change in how a pose was practiced.  When I complemented my son on how well he parked the car, he beamed with pride back to me.  Words matter.  They can make or break a love affair.  They can also fuel a movement or start a war.  Using words wisely is key to a mindfulness practice.
I want to hold onto the lesson of this week and remember to practice giving out kind words freely each and every day.  To not be stingy with compliments or in showing my gratitude or affection to those close to me.  May each of us use kind words to impress beautiful images on each other's hearts and souls.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Week 5, Zanna: When Eating Just Eat

The Exercise: This week, when you're eating or drinking, don't do anything else. Sit down and take time to enjoy what you are taking in. Open all the senses as you eat or drink. Look at the colors, shapes, surface textures. Attend to the smells and flavors in your mouth. Listen to the sounds of eating and drinking.

For some reason, I thought this would be relatively easy.  I knew it would be challenging to go out to lunch or dinner with anyone, so except for a few exceptions, I mostly ate by myself.  I know I should have kept up the exercise while eating with people, but after several half-hearted tries, I decided that recognizing failure could be part of mindfulness, and not answering my meal companions' pleas for conversation was rude. What I didn't expect was how difficult it would be to "just eat" by myself.  Normally, I use my breakfast time to work on my puzzles (back to doing them with my right hand now) or check what the denizens of the interwebs are talking about or sometimes I even work!  When I forgo the social lunch, and eat lunch at my desk, I generally do the same.  I eat dinner, I frequently watch the news.  I feel like I must do something other than just eat lest I fall behind and lose the plot of the epic saga of the "World".   Hi. My name is Zanna, and I'm a mediaholic.
A few mealtimes during the week, I did actually manage to sit, take time, and "enjoy".  I have a few observations based on the few successes.  A) The sounds of people eating have always made my skin crawl.  The smacking of lips, the sucking of teeth, the teeth-shattering crunches.... it turns out, that this also holds true for the sound of myself eating if I have nothing else to focus on.  B) I didn't eat as much.  Whether it was because I was bored or my stomach was too turned by the terrible noises to finish is still unclear, but I ate about half as much as I normally do in a sitting.
This second observation is worth holding on to, regardless of the reason I ate less.  I think I need to keep up with this particular practice, at least somewhat, in the weeks and months to come.

Week 5 for Juliet: When Eating Just Eat

The mindfulness exercise for this week was when eating or drinking, to just to eat or drink and not do anything else.  This exercise was hard for me and I experienced a lot of mental resistance.  In discussing it with Zanna, I immediately started looking for the loopholes.  Surely I could talk during meals, just not with food in my mouth.  Maybe we could agree that we only had to do this for the meals we ate during our daily work week that were not with our families.  Oh and when we went out with each other or other friends, obviously that didn’t count.
After remembering that I had this accountability thing called a blog where I had to tell everyone about my about my experience, I pushed though my resistance to this exercise and forgave myself for not being as diligent as I would like to have been.
The first thing I noticed was that I eat and drink ALOT during the day.  My meals tend to be small and frequent.  During a typical business day, I might eat three or four times (and that is just before I leave at 3:30), all of these meals alone at my desk.  These were the easiest ones to follow the no distractions guidelines.  Just turn away from the PC, no working or checking your Facebook.  Does reading things that just happen to be out on my desk count?  Yes, avert your eyes!
Eating in silence without distraction at home and while out with others was something ultimately I decided I was not willing to do.  I view mealtimes as social gatherings, a time I get to connect and hear about the day’s ups and downs, what is going on in someone’s life, and share my stories.  I get that mindless eating in front of a TV set is a bad thing, but I think mindful eating with people you love is a good thing and that is what I want to cultivate.
Honestly, do they look like are enjoying their meal?
My favorite part of this week was making a roasted broccoli recipe that was so good my family stood over the pan in the kitchen and ate it together.  We shared with each other what we liked about the food and teased my son that he was eating broccoli and liking it.  Should I have placed my food on a plate so I could eat it alone and consider for myself the complex tastes of the broccoli, lemon juice, and garlic.  Not!
My father, one of most conscious eaters that I know, would frequently say to me when I was a kid about to eat something not so healthy, “Do you eat to live, or live to eat?”  My answer is still the same, I do eat to live, but eating can and should also be a pleasure, especially when I eat with great company.
Oh, by the way, The New York Times featured an article today on mindful eating with a quote by Jan Chozen Bays, MD, the author of How to Train a Wild Elephant.  If you want to read the article here it is: Mindful Eating as Food for Thought

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Week 4 for Juliet: Appreciate Your Hands

The assignment for this week was several times a day while your hands were busy, to watch them as if they belonged to a stranger.  Also to look at them while they were still.
One thing I noticed when I watched my hands, was how amazingly functional they are and how they work to take care of my needs without much conscious attention to what I am doing.  Seemingly having a mind of their own, my hands move and gesture while I am talking, preparing food, and raking through my messy hair several times a day.
Watching my hands I am also reminded that my hands are the way I express the love that is in my heart.  I use my hands to touch those close to me; my family, my friends, my yoga students as I make an adjustment to their bodies in a pose.  So much feeling is conveyed through a touch.  If the eyes are the windows to the soul, then truly the hands are the extensions of the heart.  As a yoga teacher, I have taught entire classes on how to place your hands intentionally and with good alignment in poses.  What we do with our hands expresses what is going on in our hearts and minds.
Another part of the assignment for the week was to look at my hands and imagine them as they were when I was a baby and then imagine what they will be like when I am older.  When I look at my hands now, what I see is how much they look like my mother’s hands.  The same shape of the fingers and nail beds, hands that are dry and cool to the touch.  For fun I held my son’s hand up to my hand and was amazed at how at 15 his fingers are so much longer than mine.  He has his Dad’s hands; long slender elegant fingers, warm hands that contrast my cool dry ones.
Over the weekend, I was in Atlanta at a yoga workshop with Anusara yoga founder John Friend.  Walking through the retail area I looked at the murthis (statues) representing the Divine in its many forms.  While those unfamiliar with the Hindu mythology may find the images strange, I love how each part of the image has a story. I also love how so many of deities are represented as having multiple hands; each hand purposefully there to hold an item significant to their story or perform a gesture that has a special meaning.  Talking to Manosh, the vendor and expert on these murthis, he told me that he felt my archetype was Lakshmi, the goddess of abundance and beauty.  In the image of Lakshmi, two of her four hands hold lotus flowers, symbolizing that beauty can grow from any circumstance, even from the muddiest of water.  Her other two hands offer blessings and boons back to the world, gold coins flowing from her palm.

I like to imagine that my hands, which are morphing more quickly than I would like into my mother’s hands, can also morph into Lakshmi’s hands.  As I watch my hands, moving through daily tasks, I appreciate their work in creating more ease and beauty in my life.  In gratitude for the abundance that I have, may I use them to make a loving offering back into the world.

Week 4, Zanna: Appreciate Your Hands

The Exercise: Several times a day, when your hands are busy, watch them as though they belonged to a stranger. Also look at them when they are still.

Have you ever really looked at your
hands, Torgo?
Ah, the "Dude, have you ever really looked at your hands... I mean really looked at your hands" exercise.  Being about two decades removed from having any idea where to look for drugs, I had to do this one straight. This was nearly impossible for me. I even managed to pick up a small cut on my left hand this week and I have no idea how it got there. So much for mindfulness. I did try, however, and I have some observations.

Observation the first: I'm turning into my mother. I did manage to look at my hands a good bit while they were still, and they looked familiar (well, duh, they've been attached to my arms for 39 years or so)... but not as my hands. I was brought back thirty years.  These are my mother's hands. The same patterns of wear. The same webbing. The same wrinkles. When did this happen?

Observation the second: I tried to watch my hands while they were busy.  I really did try. My hands have performance anxiety.  I have trouble typing when someone is sitting in my office looking over my shoulder. Apparently this is also true when the person looking over my shoulder is me. My hands do pretty well doing their own thing, but the instant you look at them they freeze up and become bumbling idiots.  Unobserved they are amazing. Reaching into my purse, which in itself is an act of stunning bravery, they can instantly identify everything by the slightest touch. They can detect very slight variations in vibration allowing me to open master locks with my PS3 dual-shock controller in Skyrim.  They can absorb a tremendous amount of tension as they clinch and help me hold my tongue.  Thank you, hands, for all you do.

Observation the third:  I need a manicure.