Tag Archives: Ahimsa

Hangover

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We’ve all been there at one point in time or another.  Waking up and peeling your eyelids open and wondering at what point during the previous night did you eat a cat.  The light hurts, your stomach spins, and you pray to whatever you believe in that, if you could just hold onto the bed long enough to keep the world from spinning, you’ll never ever have another night like the one before. Until you do.

We often think of hangovers just in terms of alcohol consumption, but the reality is that we more often that not have hangovers that have nothing at all to do with booze.  We have mental hangovers, emotional hangovers, anxiety hangovers, trauma hangovers.  Those hangovers, believe me, are just as much of a bitch as the happy juice kind, maybe even more so because alka seltzer, a nap, and a greasy cheeseburger don’t do a damn thing to help them.

They say “hair of the dog” is what will cure you when you’ve had too much booze.  You know, the whole concept of “what got you in will get you out.”  Not so with the other kinds of hangovers.  While we might do things that feel or sound good or appropriate at the time, eventually the moment of reckoning comes and all we’re left with is doubt, guilt, shame, anger, anxiety, fear, or any combination of those.  In those circumstances, doing what got you there most certainly will NOT get you out, it will only get you in deeper.  It can be a horrible cycle of trying to explain things and that only makes things worse.  Kind of like when someone doesn’t understand what you’re saying, it does no good to clear up the situation by simply repeating yourself over and over again or, my personal favorite, saying the same things LOUDER.

For years, I have taught “hangover yoga” the day after traditional days of celebration: New Year’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day, Homecoming, Halloween, etc.  Those classes were centered around asana that would cleanse the body of toxins, lots of twists, pranayama, forward folds, gentle inversions.  About 6 weeks ago, I realized that we all need to detox from our emotional and mental hangovers as well.  We need to learn to stop beating ourselves up over and over again.  We need to let go of the shame or anger we feel for ourselves or for others.  We need to let go of the poison.  We need, in other words, to get the toxic shit out of us so that we can forgive and move on.  I can’t speak for anyone else, but forgiving myself is the hardest thing in the world to do.  I often do things in the heat of the moment that cause me to feel shame or regret the next day or next week or next whatever.  It sucks.  It REALLY sucks and I have long moments of absolutely hating myself for it, but you know what?  We all do that.  We all do that because we are human.

1378623_10153428801170192_1386442562_nOddly, it’s not the original act that hurts us the most, it’s the squirrel cage circular thinking that does the most damage. There is a basic tenet of yoga called Ahimsa which essential means Do No Harm.  Listen, like I said, we’re human.  We’re going to fuck up.  The sooner we accept that, the better we’ll all be.  BUT here’s the thing, we don’t have to keep harming ourselves over our fuck ups.  We don’t have to make the situation worse on ourselves by reliving our mistakes over and over again.  We don’t need to keep beating ourselves up.  If we keep ourselves filled with shame, there is no room for acceptance.  And if there is no room for acceptance, there is no room for love.  We have to learn to let it go.  We might never ever be able to remedy what we have done.  Somethings just can’t be fixed, sadly, but we can keep the experience from hurting more than it already does.  Sadly, there is no AA for emotional / mental hangovers.  They are going to happen.  We have no choice over that matter.  What we DO have control over, however, is how we deal with them.  Feel the pain.  Feel the shame.  Feel the embarrassment or anger or anxiety or whatever it is, because if you don’t feel it, it will come back to haunt you.  Feel it, and then step away.  Ahimsa – don’t pour salt on the wound. Salt is for margaritas.

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Are You Talking to Me? Obviously Not.

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I have debated writing about this for several days.  I have tried to gradually move this blog back into more of a yoga / mindfulness blog and less of a grief processing blog, but as I stated in my first Brian post, I just can’t separate the two.  Ultimately, this is a blog about my life and how I see it and what I learn from it.  Lotta strands in old Duder’s head. – and they are all tangled together.

While I wouldn’t say that this past week has been the hardest of my life (not by a long shot,) I can with certainty say that it was a fucking nightmare created entirely from the twisted minds of other people.  Yes, I know, I should be able to stop this post and my squirrel cage thinking with that sentence.  NOT MY DOING.  The end.  Easier said than done. While I have espoused for years the mantra of “what other people think of me is none of my business,” and I believe it, the fact of the matter is that when people take actions based upon their erroneous beliefs, the results can be devastating.

While my kids and I came out smelling like roses, there were about 36 hours of complete and utter terror in my house last week.  No one needs that in their lives, but it was especially traumatizing to us since we are all still trying to recover from the trauma of Brian’s death.  I won’t get into the specifics about it because to lend power to the events would be to lend  power to the instigators, but the details don’t matter so much to the lesson.  I will say this – one of the most painful parts of the whole thing is knowing that this egregious assault on character and lifestyle came from people who could have and most certainly should have spoken to me first, rather than making asinine, unfounded assumptions and acting out of misconstrued truths.

At any given point, the instigators of this horrible week could have spoken to me about their concerns, asked questions, voiced their opinions (not that their opinion would have swayed me one iota,) and asked for clarity and / or more information.  These people chose not to do that.  They chose instead to gossip amongst each other, gathering hearsay data and mixing it with their own judgements, and jump to ghastly inaccurate conclusions.  The result?  My children and I were hurt and traumatized and have taken the actions necessary to prevent ourselves from further injury.  The result for them?  They don’t get to be a part of our lives.  Honestly, I think we got the better end of the deal.  When someone shows you who they truly are, believe them.

Satya and Ahimsa.  Speak the truth and do no harm.  We need to talk to one another instead of talking about one another.  In this situation, everyone hurts.  Had there been open and honest communication, we could have all been saved some pain.  Sadly, the other parties involved chose to hide behind other people and sneak around like thieves in the night to fulfill their agenda.  I won’t lie – there were days when I wanted to lash out and retaliate against these people for the agony they caused and the fearful distrust they have created in me and my children.  I’m human.  I wanted them to hurt as badly as they hurt me, I wanted them to feel the slap of betrayal as clearly as we have.  I wanted them to suffer, but (gratefully) I have learned to give things time and space so that I can act instead of react.  As I write this, my feelings at this moment are those of pity for them (and, admittedly, righteous indignation,)  but also pride in myself and my children, in our ability to see through the fog, in our ability to stop playing the dreaded “Telephone Game” of our youth and go straight to the source, and in our ability to make the choices that are best for us and the lives we want to lead.

Talk to each other.  Speak the truth.  Do no harm.

It’s really that easy.

#365yoga Day 314: Tell the Truth (or Yama Yo Mama!)

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I have an injured wrist.  I am not exactly sure what exactly caused it, but I believe it’s from over use and was compounded by tripping and catching myself on my wrist.  I have been saying it’s a stress fracture, because I honestly believe that’s what it is – a weakness in the bone and joint.  When someone asked me if the doctor wrapped it and gave me good meds … I paused.  I was tempted to say, “Yeah, but you know I don’t like taking pills and the wrap drove me insane.”  I mean, that is most likely what would have happened had I actually gone to the doctor, but I didn’t.  I self diagnosed a stress fracture and am self treating it with rest and modifications and Ibuprofen.  In the blink of an eye, however, I nearly told a lie.  I didn’t, I did tell the truth that I hadn’t seen a doctor, but I almost did lie about it.  And I have absolutely no idea why.

When I was a kid, I lied all the time.  I lied to get out of school, out of trouble, out of homework, out of housework.  As I grew, I lied about other things.  When I was in the 5th or 6th grade, I lied about getting contacts.  My best friend had recently gotten them and I was so jealous I couldn’t see straight, so I spent a couple of days trying to make it through school without my glasses and looking like a fool until I was outed and I had to put them back on in shame.  Then when I was 13, I lied about sneaking out of my house in the middle of the night to hang out with some kids.  I never did that, but I said I did because I was living in a brand new town and wanted to make people think I was making friends and fitting in and having the time of my life, when really, I was sad and lonely and missed my former town and school and friends.  I lied about other things, too: where I got my clothes, what music I listened to, etc.  In high school, I once earned my entire Latin class extra credit on a test because I correctly guessed which song Don Henley played to open his most recent concert (the magister was a HUGE Eagles nut.)  I guessed correctly (“Dirty Money”, by the way) and said I had been there.  Total lie.  I hadn’t been there  – I just was lucky, I guess.  I lied all the time about little things like that – sometimes (although not often) about big things.  I never really thought about it— until someone I loved lied about a really big thing that changed my life forever.  I was never the same.  I felt betrayed, hurt … I felt lied to!  And that pissed me off like nothing ever had before or, frankly, ever has since.  I have been conscious of my words and actions every moment of every day since then and, while it would be a lie to say I never lie, I do it so rarely now it’s hard for me to remember the last time I actually told an untruth knowingly.

An odd thing happens when you decide to consciously live in, and tell, the truth: you start to be able to sniff a lie out a million miles away.  At least I can and, I have to say, I’m amazed at how many people lie and what people choose to lie about.  Just like I used to do, most people lie about piddly stupid things that don’t matter anyway!  “I don’t color my hair!” “Oh yeah, I read that book, too.” etc.  It makes me angry.  It’s one thing to lie like that when you’re a child, but as adults, it’s just stupid.  No one cares if you color your hair, if your shoes cost $20 or $200, if you’re reading a book for the first or the 40th time, if you can touch your toes or your nose, if you weigh 120 or 150 pounds.  No one cares! You aren’t impressing us.  In fact, by lying about those things, you’re cheating us out of knowing the real you.

But maybe we tell lies about ourselves because we don’t really know ourselves?  Or like ourselves? Because we don’t think we are good enough, smart enough, thin enough, social enough, pretty enough, strong enough, brave enough, enough enough?  Maybe all of the above.  And lying isn’t just about what you say, it’s also about what you do!  I caught myself holding my stomach in today in the shower!  I mean, COME ON!  It was like I was trying to hide from / lie to myself! Not good – and certainly not the life I want to be living.

Patanjali writes about the 8 limbs of yoga in his famous Sutras.  Satya, or truthfulness, is right up there at the top – it’s one of the Yamas and it comes in second only to Ahimsa – do no harm.

2.36 As truthfulness (satya) is achieved, the fruits of actions naturally result according to the will of the Yogi.
(satya pratisthayam kriya phala ashrayatvam)

Satya encompasses not only our words, but our thoughts and our actions.  If we think we are better than someone else, we are judging.  That judgement separates us from other people, but also from our true self which is the same as the true self of everyone else in the world.  If we do things that we are not yet ready or capable of doing, for instance a complicated yoga posture, we are harming ourselves not only physically, but also by pulling ourselves off our own rightful path. When we tell someone a lie about ourselves (what we do, what we think, what we feel, what we know,) we are depriving them of the joy of truly knowing us and we are denying ourselves the gift of true intimacy with another person.  And… if you hold in your stomach while you’re alone in the shower, ahem, you’re cheating yourself out of loving and accepting yourself exactly as you are.

The truth will set you free, so they say.  I believe it.

And just so we’re clear: Yes, I color my hair.  Yes, I do wear contacts.  No, I do not have a flat stomach. Yes, I can touch my toes and my nose and my nose to my toes. No, I didn’t go to the doctor.  Yes, I play one on tv.  No, I don’t.

Whew! I feel better already!

#365yoga Day 17: Honoring Dr. King

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It’s Martin Luther King day.  I am always emotional on this day.  I weep.  I pray.  I am grateful. I am humbled.  I am optimistic.  I have hope.  I feel my commitment to living a life of peace strengthened, my belief that we can make the world a better place reinforced, and my understanding and fervent conviction that we are ONE flames and glows like a beacon in the night.  I was not born until after  Dr. King’s life was cut short.  I never marched or felt the sting of blatant segregation or racism.  I never had to watch as people were beaten and murdered and belittled because of the color of their skin.  As a white woman, I have never been judged in such a way.   I have never known a life of such struggle and, while I am very grateful for that, I am still knocked breathless by the images and words of The Civil Rights movement.

I don’t know if Dr. King ever stepped on a mat, but I know that he was a Yogi.

Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and
violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge,
aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Stockholm, Sweden, December 11, 1964.

Man was born into barbarism when killing his fellow man was a normal condition of existence. He became endowed with a
conscience. And he has now reached the day when violence toward another human being must become as abhorrent as eating
another’s flesh.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Why We Can’t Wait, 1963.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies
hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction….The chain reaction
of evil–hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars–must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of
annihilation.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength To Love, 1963.

Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against
love.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, 1967.

Non-Violence.  Ahimsa.  One love.  Peace.  Om Shanti.  Lokah Samastah Sukinau Bhuvantu .  Jai ho, Dr. King, JAI HO!

Tonight I will be teaching Gentle Yoga in candle light, focusing on love, peace, non-violence, and the message of this day.  Join me – all are welcome.  7:30pm at Yoga Sol.