Skimming Deep

Searching, traveling, talking, reflecting, and exploring. Read along with me as I continue on my journey through life.

Category: Yoga

#4: Surrender

This is a tough one for me: SURRENDER.

I’m a control freak. I’m a Virgo. I’m analytical, always thinking, always organizing, always trying to make sense of things and bring order out of chaos. So surrendering in any way is very, very challenging. But it is something I am working on (see, even in trying to surrender, I am controlling!).

This act of surrender is something I practice in yoga. Giving in to a pose and whatever it brings. Giving in to a practice wherever it takes me. Observing, noticing, not getting attached to pain or discomfort or the urgent desire to relax and come out of a pose because it’s too challenging. Surrender is easy when a pose is relaxing (like child’s pose or shavasana), but surrendering when a pose is challenging is where the practice really becomes practice. How do you just let something go and be without effort? At what point does trying to be become just being?

So I practice surrender in yoga. And then I practice surrender in real life. What’s the difference between giving up and surrendering? In some ways, they can be seen as the same thing. However, I think surrender has a bit more intentionality, discipline, and purpose than just giving up.

We’ve been searching for an apartment for the last month or so. It’s quite a feat, looking for an apartment that fits all our wants and needs, within a price range that is affordable for two non-tech-salaried people, in the Peninsula – the heart of Silicon Valley. It’s almost impossible. We’re competing with Google and Facebook employees, transplants to the area, who are making easily twice our salaries (combined). It’s discouraging. It’s frustrating. It’s infuriating seeing how much landlords will charge for a tiny one or two bedroom apartment, knowing that someone will take it at that price because they can and they have to! And yet, we try. So giving up would be literally just giving up and not putting in the legwork, the effort, and the research. I think surrendering means doing what we can and then leaving the rest up to the universe. Having hope, having a positive attitude, putting worry and anxiety aside, and thinking knowing that the universe will provide.

What comes to mind is the serenity prayer:

serenity-prayer

Serenity in surrender. Peaceful acceptance. Giving it up to the universe to provide.

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If You Build It…

field of dreamsDo you remember that line from Field of Dreams?  The movie with Kevin Costner from the late 1980s about a farmer who built a baseball field and brought back these ghostly old baseball players and ultimately his father.  It’s a bit of a hokey movie with some good moments, but that line is so relevant to my life these days:

If you build it, he will come.

In Kevin Costner’s character’s case, the “it” was a baseball field in his cornfields.  And “he” was at first thought to be his childhood hero Shoeless Joe Jackson but actually turned out to be his father, with whom he had had a tense relationship.  The story is all about resolving the relationship with his father through the magic of baseball.

In my case, the “it” is all this research, networking, connecting, intending, planning, yoga-ing, and willing.  And the “he” is my desired life.  And as I continue to do all that research, networking, connecting, intending, planning, yoga-ing, and willing, things are slowly but surely happening.

It’s amazing how when you put intentions out there in the universe, the universe provides in unpredictable ways.  I wrote about intentions and the universe giving before, and these themes just keep coming back in my life.  Working with intentions and putting my trust in the universe is constantly comes up in my yoga practice, too.  So I just can’t avoid these concepts, not only because they are in my mind theoretically but also because things keep happening that confirm the power of intentions.

Today I had lunch with a former colleague, talking about some of the work he’s doing and also about some of what I’m hoping to get involved with.  I shared with him that I had contacted a woman who was doing work that I really admired and wanted to get involved with.  I read an article about her, found her email, and just did a cold contact to her to see if I could meet and talk with her and get involved in her work.  So it turns out that my friend had had breakfast with her this very morning and actually was working with her on one of the projects that he had just finished talking to me about!!!  What?!?!?  What are the chances of that?

This kind of thing has been happening to me so frequently that I wasn’t even THAT surprised.

Another example is that I’ve been going to some yoga classes this week; and at each class, the teacher has shared a teaching or an intention that directly relates to where I am in my life.  I mean, spot on.  As if she is talking directly to me and me alone.  I think that’s the power of yoga teachings, that they relate to everyone in their own way, and great teachers can channel the universe to give each student what she or he needs at that moment in time.

One more example (there are more, trust me, but I have limited space)– I downloaded a book to read that I had on my list of books to read (referred by friends over this past year, especially)– Urban Homesteading by Rachel Kaplan and K. Ruby Blume.  It’s an amazing read so far, totally resonating with every particle and vibration of my being.  I started reading it yesterday and then today I got an email from a listserve I’m on that Rachel Kaplan is doing a workshop on urban homesteading and making a life that is more sustainable and connected to the earth and people.  I can’t make the workshop, but it’s just funny that I started reading this book and then got a ping from the universe that these women are alive and well and continuing with their mission.light-bulb-clip-art-4

I feel like there are light bulbs going off in my head everyday, several times a day.  Epiphanies.  Realizations.  Reminders that I’m onto something here.  Nothing really tangible like a guaranteed job or an apartment that is vacant and really cheap (those would be great signs!) but more like these gentle acknowledgements from the universe that I’m on the right track.

So I continue to build, even though I’m not exactly sure what I’m building.  Just trusting that it’s coming from my core and trusting that it WILL be something meaningful, worthwhile, and life-sustaining.

Willpower

Willpower is something I used to hear about when I was younger.  Willpower to give up something for Lent (I was raised Catholic).  Willpower to not open all the presents at once on Christmas Eve.  Willpower to save the good Halloween candy to draw out the enjoyment.

At the yoga teacher training I attended a month ago, our teachers brought back the concept of willpower; and it was like being visited by an old friend, a friend that I had mixed feelings about.  A friend that I was happy to see because I always learned so much when we were together.  But whose visit also brought up some pain because this friend pushes me to my limit and beyond.

I was at a yoga class yesterday, and the teacher said something that brought back my “friend,” willpower: the practice of yoga begins when you want to come out of a pose.  In other words, when we are at our edge of comfort and safety, starting to feel the pain and the burning of muscles, and we want to come out of those sensations– that’s when we breathe, notice and observe, and sink deeper into the pose.  It’s a huge test of willpower.  We want to come out of the pose to relieve the feelings of pain and burning– that’s the ego talking, saying that we might hurt ourselves or that we just CAN’T DO IT.  But we can.  And as we breathe and bring a calmness to the pose, we find that the ego is just talking.  And we CAN do it.

And isn’t life like that?

I think one of the reasons I haven’t heard the word “willpower” used in awhile is that we’ve created so many ways to avoid willpower.  We have machines, gadgets, technology to make things easier for us so we don’t have to exert any willpower because something else will work for us.  Machines to firm up our abs (instead of just doing 100 situps a day).  DVR and TIVO to record our favorite shows so we don’t have to patiently wait for our show’s regularly scheduled time.  Overnight shipping options so we can order something and get it right away.  Email and texting so we can communicate instantly with others.  Instant remedies (like surgery) to lose weight fast.

I’ve been learning to find my willpower these past months:

  • doing a morning sadhana (spiritual practice) every morning since the start of my yoga training.  An hour to an hour and a half of stretches and basic yoga poses, finding my breath and awareness each and every morning.  It’s not been easy, waking around 5:30 or 6am and doing the same poses everyday.
  • holding poses for longer than usual– sphinx for 5 minutes, downward dog for several minutes several times without coming down.
  • going on a hike or walk when I don’t really feel like it.
  • not spending hours on the internet, surfing absentmindedly.

downward-dog

They are little things, but I’m realizing how hard it is and yet gratifying to take each step.  By doing these little things and noticing what feelings and thoughts come up when I do them, I’m finding that I’m building my willpower.  I can hold poses longer in yoga.  I can wake up really early day after day.  And I don’t give up as easily.  Sure, it isn’t fun to wake every morning when it’s still dark out, but by the end of my practice, I’m so glad that I did.

Where do we have to use any willpower these days?  How can we cultivate more human willpower that isn’t technology based?

Uni-tasking

I recently participated in a yoga teacher training.  Yes, I am now certified to teach yoga (whatever THAT really means).  I learned a ton at this training, some of which I hope to unfold here.

One big realization was how stressed we are in today’s society.  Everyone basically lives with a baseline stress level that is normal, and anything above that becomes normal after enough time of dealing– work life, personal life, and even extracurricular life.  It all adds to our stress levels.  A big contributing factor to all that stress is that we’re multitasking EVERYWHERE.

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At home, we go online while watching TV while eating dinner.  We fold laundry while talking on the speaker phone to a friend while watching TV.  We cook dinner while talking on the speaker phone while thinking of the schedule for the upcoming weekend.

At work, we check email while participating on a conference call on the phone while eating our breakfast.  We chat with our colleagues while checking email while thinking about our to-do lists for the week.  We go from meeting to meeting to meeting while making notes on other matters and checking our email on our smartphones.

This culture of multitasking is celebrated and valued.  In fact, I remember having that as one of the interview questions I would ask potential hires– “Can you multitask?  Give examples of your ability to multitask.”  I pride myself in my ability to multitask well.

Some research shows that multitasking is actually “bad for us” or that multitasking shows an inability to focus.

What we talked about at this yoga training was that when we are multitasking, we are operating at a high stress level which taxes the sympathetic nervous system (adrenaline pumping, the “fight or flight” response kicking in) leading to adrenal fatigue and other stress-related illnesses.  In addition, we lose the ability to be completely present in any situation because we’re always attempting to be in multiple situations at once.

What a realization that was for me.  As I thought about it, I realized that I really was ALWAYS multitasking, and that includes thinking about other things when I’m doing something.

So I’m working on uni-tasking and being present with whatever I’m doing at the time.  Focusing on chewing and tasting when I’m eating.  Focusing on the feel of the ground under my feet, the breeze and sunshine on my skin when I’m hiking.  Focusing on breathing when I’m driving.  Focusing on being with the people I’m with when I’m with them. Focusing on every word when I’m reading a book.  Focusing on one web page at a time when I’m online.

And wow, it’s really hard.

My brain wants to jump to so many different things and to stay active and busy.  My life has  become like web surfing where I have multiple windows open at the same time, and I jump from link to link, spiralling deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of cyberspace with no real focus, losing myself and the present moment in the process.

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When I am able to get even a minute or two of real presence and attention to what I’m doing (because that’s all I can manage most of the time, before my brain starts off again on its search for multi-stimulation), it’s such a relief.  I’m in an oasis in the madness of today’s technological freneticism (is that a word?).

Yoga gives me that space to practice uni-tasking and awareness.  Just breathing in child’s pose with no thought of what came before, what comes next, what’s for dinner, what my neighbor is doing.  And from my yoga mat, I take that practice to my everyday life.  Just breathing while sitting in the car, while walking down the stairs, while taking a shower.

Can you uni-task?

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