Sunday, May 29, 2011

Balancing Truths

Balancing on the mat is difficult. There's swaying, adjusting, twitching, and, sometimes, falling. And when I fall, I tell myself, "it's ok... get back up and try again!"

I've learned to do the same thing in my life, which is usually a good thing. But sometimes, my "there's always tomorrow!" optimism can be a downfall. Like when I use it to rationalize my way into doing something destructive.

Have you ever been optimistically destructive? It can be as simple as having a piece of cake instead of some fruit by telling yourself that you'll go back to eating healthy tomorrow. Or it can be a little more destructive.

I'm really good at sabotaging my good intentions by optimism (it sounds like an oxymoron, doesn't it?). The really hard part is being honest enough with yourself to recognize the difference between optimism and optimistic destruction. Being honest with myself is harder than the balancing, and no one can really help me do it. Like everything else, I just need to practice.

One way I practice being honest with myself, though I didn't realize it until I really thought about it, is through yoga. Noticing feelings, whether they are physical or emotional, and deciding what I need to do with the feelings on a moment-to-moment basis, as part of being present during my yoga practice, is teaching me to recognize what I'm feeling and notice how I'm responding off the mat.

Now here's the really scary part... where I bare my experience. Tonight I really wanted to engage in my own special destructive tendencies--binging and purging. It's been a while since I've done it, and my partner was out having dinner with a friend tonight--which meant a few hours to myself this evening. First I wavered in the balancing: walking through the grocery store I picked up and then put down three different items that I thought about buying to take home to eat and throw up. Next, I played games: if I call Billy and he knows I'm thinking about it, then I won't do it because he'll be looking for the signs when he gets home. I also played the optimistically destructive card: "what's one more time; I won't do it for another few months afterward." Then still wavering, I took a long shower to delay my choice.

In the shower I thought about what I was doing, and I practiced being present and identifying what was really going on. I recognized the urge I was feeling as well as the optimistic destruction tendencies I was engaging in. I felt really uncomfortable with the urge, uncomfortable with the responses, and uncomfortable with being forced to make a decision. I felt like I'd lose if I binged and purged, but I'd also lose if I didn't fulfill the urge.

Then I realized that what I really wanted to do was get rid of all of the discomfort.

And, so, finally, I sat myself down in front of the computer to purge some emotions and balance the scales. And here we are. Do I feel comfortable now? Yes and no. I'm certainly standing back on two feet... but I've also exposed more than I typically like to. ...What I feel best about is the moment where I allowed myself to be fully present and honestly assess where I was and what I was feeling. Hey, it's practice.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Adapting to Extremes

Some weeks are crazy: exciting, stressful, emotional, upsetting, or busy... and some weeks are all of those things. This week was one of those weeks. The week began amazingly: On the weekend I went to an awesome Anusara yoga workshop with John Friend; went on an beautiful beach walk with a good friend; got "free hugs" from adorable young boys on the beach; and came home tired on Sunday night to dinner cooked by my husband. My heart was as stuffed as full as it could get.

Then there was Monday. Obama announced to the world that bin Laden was dead. My entire self felt full. But I wasn't really able to define the feeling--it was confusion about all of the responses I was feeling, a nagging reminder that bin Laden was not the entire anti-American movement, mixed with some sadness for the lost of a human life. Whatever feeling that might be called, it didn't feel good. And watching American reactions from Australia, as well as being one of the only Americans in my workplace and fitness environments, I felt extreme pressure to comment on the whole situation and to respond to the numerous questions I received.

The rest of the week seemed to follow the same pattern--intense highs and lows with tremendous levels of stress on top of the other extremes, with an injury thrown in for good measure. Maintaining my sanity throughout the week seemed to be secondary to just making it through the week at times. I felt proud of myself for making the small windows of time to get on my mat, but I also felt frustrated and unbalanced. My yoga practice was minimized to gentle yoga for short stretches of time to compensate for both the injury and the minimal time I had to devote to it this week.

I think that was the key to the "success" of making it through the week, though: adaptation. Even though it was, at times, unwilling adaptation, I adapted. And that's something we all have to continue to do: grow, change, accept, repeat.

On the Saturday ending this week of extremes, I woke up exhausted and unwilling to try to do anything. I didn't want to work, play, relax, or be. But I did a little hard-work-adapting, made it through Saturday, and on to a Sunday filled with love. Today (Sunday) I reconnected with an old friend: we met in a park and then came across a Buddhist festival where we created lotus lanterns out of paper. After we finished gluing the paper petals on the paper base, we were invited to write a wish on a piece of paper and to hang it from the bottom of the lantern.

Putting together the layers of the lotus lantern with my dear friend felt like the perfect ending to my extreme week. I think my lotus lantern wish will be for continual, but perhaps slightly easier, adaptation. And I'm manifesting it out to the rest of you--I wish that your adaptation is also continuous and that you are accepting of the changes you experience. That's a hard sentiment to fit on my slip of paper attached to my lantern, though, so I'm writing and wishing it here. x