Friday, June 22, 2012

How > What

I’ve really started to understand this idea quite a bit in the past several months since I started practicing yoga.  During this time I have witnessed quite a bit of change in my thoughts, feelings, actions, and outlook on life.  During many of my yoga classes my teachers have spoken the words “It’s not what you’re doing in a pose, but how you’re being while doing it that matters.”  At least to me, this gets to the very heart of yoga, and in a broader sense our entire lives on and off “the mat”.  Most of my friends don’t practice yoga, but I submit this message holds true just the same for each one of us.  


I’ll lead with this simple example of what I’m talking about. When I first started practicing I struggled quite a bit with the standing/balancing postures.  I am still working on these postures, and I anticipate the same will remain true for my entire life.  At least I hope so.  Yoga helped me realize very quickly, like in the first week, how poor my balance really was.  I loved the challenge of doing Eagle Pose (Garudasana), but couldn’t always hook my leg around my calf.  Well, that and squaring my shoulders and hips, aligning my spine straight up and down, lowering my torso, and pulling everything in together in order to work virtually every main joint in the body. I figured I wasn’t successful in the pose unless I could do ALL of that.  One of the hardest things for a perfectionist to do is to be content with “what is” instead of beating oneself up about “how it’s supposed to be.”  In the physical practice of yoga, or asana, there is no “should”, there only “is.”  I've been working hard on inversion postures for over a month now and cannot nail a handstand without a wall nearby, but that's quite okay.  One day I will be able to accomplish this feat, but I must say I think getting there is truly most of the point to begin with. Be content with your is. 
Locked away in each of us are the secrets of the universe.  Each one of us holds an amazing capacity for more than we could have ever imagined.  By letting go of expectations and refraining from ridiculing and humiliating ourselves we nurture room for growth.  The growth that happens will spread into all areas of our lives.  Our relationships with friends, loved ones, co-workers, and even perfect strangers will all change.  We will become more attentive, receptive, compassionate, and truthful.  Other people will start to reflect what we pour out.  If we are in constant turmoil with what is going on inside ourselves we will never be what we can be with all that is not inside ourselves.  Don’t let your circumstances pull you down.  A quote from a movie I saw recently comes to mind. “It will all be alright in the end, and if it’s not alright, it’s not the end.”

Putting our attention on the “how” helps eliminate a lot of the fluff that tends to reside within our thoughts. During yoga we strive to focus fully on feeling in the now, versus thinking in the past or future.  The rude person in line at the store from earlier in the day has no bearing on what is happening right there and now on your mat.  Likewise, nor do thoughts about what the rest of our day or evening will entail.  Shutting down the thoughts that may come from outta nowhere is not what we ought strive towards.  A more effective means is to focus our being on just being.  Replacing our thoughts of things that don’t matter at that moment (pretty much everything outside of your mat) with thoughts of what we’re feeling at that moment.  Above all, be grateful always

Life is not a competition.  There seems to be a prevalence in the importance of maintaining a certain lifestyle or standard of living among our society.  Bottom-line ~ some people have more than we do, and so very many have much less than we do.  Remember, it’s not what, but how.  It’s not what we have, or don’t have, it’s how we are with what we do have that is important.  It’s not about having the biggest house, the best clothes, the fattest bank account, or any of that stuff.  Quite frankly, I value my body and health far more than all of those combined.  
Most of all these days I’m feeling very grateful ~ grateful for all that I have been through in life to bring me to right here and now.  I don’t have all of the answers to life’s questions, but I do have a very important answer to help in virtually every aspect of our lives.  How is more important than what.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Water please

This is barely worth writing about, but during the past several weeks I have made a pretty drastic change in my life concerning the consumption of something that has been a hardcore staple in my life since I was a teenager.  No, I'm not talking about alcohol...  Those who know me fairly well know I'm talking about diet cola. There were infrequent times when I'd not have a Diet Pepsi somewhere around me.  It's fair to say I was easily drinking a six pack of a day for many many years.  I was the guy who in less than a week found the locals with the "Coke Light" supply in Baghdad.  The Iraqi, Ali, who purchased stuff on the economy for our unit used to pick me up 6-7 cases at a time to keep my stock up.  I've heard all the bad things about diet soda, the cancer, the acid, the caffeine, the link to obesity, etc, but none of those were enough to make me give up the stuff.  

So, onto the "why did I quit drinking soda cold turkey?"  I've been practicing yoga, specifically hot yoga, for the past seven months.  My water consumption, just plain H2O, was pretty much confined to my yoga workouts, brushing my teeth, the water in the one cup of coffee I have in the morning (and I'm not quitting that, just yet), and whatever my skin absorbed while showering or washing the car.  For some reason I just never felt like I was doing anything bad.  It was the hot yoga room that I believe gave me the wake up call.  I'm pretty sure my body was fairly dehydrated most of the time, and like clockwork, whenever I was in the middle of the standing/balancing postures I would usually always get light headed.  It was during my reading of meditations from that mat where a passage really stuck with me about our bad habits.  It basically said that when we want to remove a negative thing in our lives it's best to focus on not so much NOT doing the "thing", rather to focus on adding positive "things" to our lives.  Hmmm...   So, just do better stuff and the bad will magically go away?!  Yep, I started to carry a water bottle, a big liter sized water bottle, with me most all the time. I've now increased my water intake to easily a gallon a day, given up sodas without missing them, and had very few dizzy spells in the hot room.  I've determined that doing very difficult physical activity in a 105F/40% humidity room is likely  sometimes to make one feel a bit light headed, but if we do everything we can to help ourselves, and listen to our bodies, we can't go wrong.

Anyway, I gotta go, Vinyasa practice is calling...